Thursday, September 06, 2007

Oh, y'all (and yes, I'm y'alling you) it's one of those long, meandering, I promise I do have a point at the end kind of posts

I got a comment on a post from a couple days ago about how I write about dating too much.

And my first thought was, "Oh, no! I'm boring! How come I write about dating so much?"

And then I got mad. It's my writing space. And so I commented back saying that the blog world is wide open. Find another blog.

The commenter replied with an explanation, which I read as: Basically, you have a good deal of depth and the capability of writing about more substantial topics. Why be shallow?

And this gave me pause. "Am I wasting the bulk of my time being totally shallow?"

Because, you see, if you criticize me, my first reaction will be to wonder if you are right.

I grew up conditioned to think that someone else knew more about everything than I did. That person for years and years was my father, who made all of my decisions growing up and the bulk of them until I was out of college. Mainly because I just didn't realize that I could make better decisions for myself than he could.

Sadly, I'm not exaggerating.

Despite the fact that I started college with enough French credits to bypass all the intro courses, and in fact, probably get out of the language requirement entirely, I kept taking it. I liked the language, I liked the literature, I liked the poetry. The French, it felt good.

And then on top of the French I took a year of Japanese sophomore year. Why? Because my dad said I should.

Since I didn't have a better idea, or really even the wherewithal to know what the fuck I was doing in college in NC, and because I was good at languages, well, when he said to, I went ahead and signed up.

My Japanese class, in which I got an A both semesters, took more time than all of my other classes combined.

I don't know how much you know about the language, but to start with, instead of an alphabet, Japanese uses a syllabary. Meaning each symbol stands for a syllable rather than an individual letter. Actually, there are two syllaberies - Katakana and Hiragana - and we began by memorizing both.

And then we started learning Kanji, which is beautiful but basically, you're writing with complex pictures. In order to look up a Kanji symbol in the dictionary, you have to know how many strokes it takes to form it. But some strokes are curved. So you might think one curved line is actually two strokes when it's not. Which makes looking up a 12-stroke character impossible when you're mistakenly looking in the 13-stroke section.

And then there is the grammar, where the verb appears at the end of the sentence. All this to say, all of it took a hell of a lot of work. I liked it, though. It was fun and interesting, and I love languages and I loved the teacher.

And then the school year ended and I went to Rome for the summer. My high school friend Kassie had taken a break from college - none of us had an easy time jumping into college straight from India - and her parents were living in Rome. So she went. And her dad got us both summer jobs at the embassy. So I went.

I loved being in Rome. Some of it was Rome, and some of it was getting out of Chapel Hill and being in a huge, international city. Oh, I loved Rome so much. And so I decided to spend a semester there. When I got home at the end of summer, I announced that I was going back spring semester.

This turned into a huge fight. Several huge fights. Because one, when did I ever have really strong opinions that clashed with my dad's? Almost never. Whenever I did, it was a struggle.

And two, Rome, as my dad rightly pointed out, made no sense. You know, with the Lisa speaking French and Japanese and not speaking any Italian and all. And why didn't I go to, oh, France? Or Japan? For example?

Why? Well, France I couldn't explain, except that it was not Rome, which was where I wanted to be. And Japan, well, at some point I realized I had no interest in going to Japan or Japanese culture or really much about it beyond sushi and Hello Kitty. I was just taking Japanese because he told me to.

Italian? Could be learned. Make sense? I wasn't trying to make sense. I just wanted to figure out how to be happy again. I'd been so very far from it since arriving in the US. I'd spent two utterly miserable years at Carolina and Rome felt like magic. I finally felt good again. I felt like me. And I was going to Rome, come Hell or high water (an expression I don't fully understand but love).

In the end, my dad said that it sounded like the right thing for me to do. And off I went to Rome.

I had to declare a major before I left. You know, as one does when they're in college. A not unreasonable expectation. Except that I was so lost and floundering the whole time, and so I'd been procrastinating on it. The last possible day to declare, I picked French.

Did I have plans for it? No. But I liked it and I was good at it. And I'd taken so much of it already.

When I got back from Italy, I had a year left of college. I went into fall with the knowledge that I just had to suck it up for a year and I'd be done. And I could take it easy - I had barely any French classes left to take, and very few credits needed to graduate.

Until my dad said, "You know, French alone isn't a very practical major. I think you should major in Political Science as well."

Because Political Science? Is an incredibly practical major.

And so I took, I don't know, five Poli Sci classes that year. Maybe six. Whatever it was that I needed to add it as a major and graduate that spring. And get the hell out.

The point of this eternal college angsty story is this. That while my decisions might not all be the best ones ever, in this, the best of all possible worlds, they're the best ones I can make for me. And I wish I'd had the confidence and the ability to make and stick to my decisions, regardless of who questioned them, years and years ago.

But now I'm no longer changing what I do because someone else thinks I should.

I did that for years and years. I even went out of my way to find the critical men. And spend a lot of energy trying to make them happy. But it turns out that if you find the unhappy people, it doesn't matter what you do. They can't stand themselves and they will take it out on you. It doesn't make them feel better; it just makes you feel worse.

But at this point, I choose people and things that feel good to me. Purely because they feel good to me. If something feels right, I strongly suspect it is, in fact, right.

Just because I could speak Japanese didn't mean I wanted to go to Japan. And just because I can get more profound on my blog than fretting over guys doesn't mean I won't spend a good deal of my writing time splashing about in the shallow end. If it is the shallow end. I'm not even so sure it necessarily is.

And there you have it.


  1. Good for you! I would never think LG is boring, too ingrained with humor and spot-on analysis of other to ever be boring.

    So jealous of all your travels. I've never been outside the US. Pathetic, really. This is why I watch so many movies.

  2. preface: this isn't mine :O)

    "Come hell or high water" makes clear that some future event will happen and no other event will stop it from happening. Example: "Will you be at the family reunion next year?" Answer: "Yes- we'll be there, come hell or high water!" Even if events became totally chaotic ("hell") or there were natural disasters ("high waters") the future event would still occur.
    *The word "hell" is informal and should not be used in polite situations."

    Fascinating but not overly yours truly [and I love that last bit about hell...really?]

  3. hi. mariecel sent me your blog link. you're a very good writer. you're relationship with your dad is exactly my relationship with my mom. huge fight when i decided i wanted to think for the ripe ol' age of 25 (better late than never i guess =P) keep up the deep and/or shallow postings =)

  4. oops i meant "your" not "you're." erg.

  5. Carolina sux!

  6. HKW - Thank you! And no, not pathetic - don't say that! I grew up in such a vastly different way than most people, and for a long time was way more comfortable outside the US than in it.

    HBMS - Ahh. Thanks! And I'll try not to use hell (or high water) in formal situations. :)

    H - Oh, I'm glad she did! Thank you, and thanks for commenting! It's very hard, I think, for parents to let go, particularly of daughters. It causes a lot of tension.

    gacracker - No arguments here.

  7. Oh this sounds like me and my mom. My major in college was Romance Languages (French and Spanish Language and Literature). Really practical.

  8. I've enjoyed your blogging no matter what you write about. And I had my take my life over issues with my father in my teens. After all how pratical is it being an archaeologist? Keep up the writing and thinking.

  9. Lis, I love your blog no matter what comprises your posts. More butter stories, please! ;)

    And ugh, I tried to major in PoliSci in college and was bored to tears after two classes. How did you do that?

  10. please don't change your writing! Your "shallowness" (I would never describe it as such) reminds me how to look at situations with humor and not as the end all be all - and your depth (notice no quotes there!) is always a breath of fresh air amongst blogs that are all about the funny and never about the reality of life. I love the balance and though I've never met you, I think it's a great representation of who you are - you don't owe anyone anything but to be exactly that.

  11. Anyone who says you write about dating too much (or any one thing, really) isn't paying attention. Or is being selectively attentive, at any rate. 56 posts out of 379 comes out around 15%, which is not high (yes, I'm a geek, way ahead of you there). Besides, you write funny stories, and write them well, which is something that should be encouraged even if it were a dating-centric blog.

    My mom got a degree in French, and proceeded to spend 25 years programming computers. Practical is what you make it.

  12. My turn!

    I can relate. :o)

  13. More dating posts please!

  14. Nobody I know actually does what they studied in school. And your blog? You make it anything you want to make it. I like you just fine!

  15. I agree with wib and others here -- it seems it's this "Doos" person who's fixated on the dating posts.

    And the reason we're here is because you write so well about oh so many things. I've heard it said there are only two topics: people and ideas. You've got both covered here. Keep writing what you want to write, Lisa! We love it!

    [end gushing admiration]

  16. I much prefer to think of you as "whimsical," 'cause you don't even vaguely resemble "shallow.

  17. Okay, I laughed at the idea that Poli Sci is a more useful major than French. Both are equally worthless. I have a B.A. in Psych, which is also useless so I'm not picking on you.

    Anyway, glad that you are now trying to make decisions to please no one but yourself.

  18. The wonderful thing about blogging is that you can do what you want and your audience will respond or not.

    You know what I think of your writing - it's excellent. Someone used the word whimsical. That's the perfect description for some of your posts.

    The impracticality of a French degree is not lost on me. My French degree has served me not at all in my career except for those occasional visits to New Orleans and French restaurants.

  19. Write what you want... we'll enjoy whatever. :-)

    Though if I may, I'd like to request more of your "growing up abroad" stories. Those fascinate me for obvious reasons.

  20. I have found your blog to be more full of substance that many others I read. You share emotion, decisions and laughter. Thank you for sticking with what you want. Now, can you tell me what to do with my English degree?!? ;)

  21. I mean 'than', not 'that'. We're all finger dislexic today.

  22. Holy cow! You guys rock!

    Jo - Sigh, yah. It makes us both well rounded though, no?

    Sean - Thanks for reading and thanks for the nice comment! Archeology sounds really interesting.

    Almost - Thank you! And truthfully, I didn't know any better. Was just used to doing what I was supposed to do, boring or not.

    MI - What a lovely, thoughtful, very Megan thing to say! Thank you!

    WiB - Oh, thank you in five different ways1 You are so grad school statistics awesome!

    Dagny - Somehow, that doesn't surprise me. :)

    Allison - Ha ha! OK!

    Jojo - Thank you!

    A.S. - I have no idea if you're bigger or smaller than me, but I would love to pick you up and give you an enormous hug!

    LMNt - I like whimsical. Thank you! :)

    HIN - I had no idea! I always think about your lawyerliness! And thanks!

    DCup - You know, you're absolutely right. And I do know you're one of my best supporters. As for the impracticality of the French degree, well, at least, as you pointed out, you can navigate the hell out of NOLA and restaurants.

    VVK - Hey, cool! I love that request! I will!

    Amisare - Wow - thank you! And hell, I have no idea. I don't find what I do all that compelling.

    Rich - It really pissed me off initially, and it wasn't that I was being criticized - it was the substance of it. I have the feeling that you have a strong sense of fairness and right and wrong, and like me get your hackles up when something seems unfair.

  23. LG I did not intend to insult you and I did not call you shallow.

    I apologise for putting my print on your blog.

    You have a lot of supportive folks here who love what you are doing.

    In the end, that is what counts. Still, I have enjoyed reading your posts, most of them.

    Two stick out:The one where you sat next to a soldier on a plane. Thought that was hilarious.

    A second was about your brother and a set of bushes in India.

    I think if you read me here you will know that I intend no insult.

    And yeah I just said that for the grammar watcher who corrected me on par for the course.

    Let me just say that "par for the course" may be golf terminology.

    But in South Africa where I am writing from, it is used as "power for the course."

    English is a colonial language and does not belong to the US or golf, of course.

    Depth obviously is a multi-dimensional issue.

    And I see it here LG.

    Again, I am sorry if I caused you stress.

    I should of worded my entry much different.

    Anyway, be well. I will leave it there.

    Best wishes,

  24. I love this post. Keep blogging how you want to. I'm glad you're not letting the anons get you down.

  25. D - Thank you. That's nice of you to say. As you see, I have a long history of being told what to do/how to do things and I get pretty defensive about it. Anyway, I appreciate the explanation and kind words and wish you well!

    mm - Thank you thank you!

  26. Good for you.

    I've been reading your blog for the past few months and, while I haven't dated in years, it's still fun hearing about/remembering what that was like.

    More importantly, it's fun to read posts written by someone who LOVES what they are talking about and who LOVES who they are. It comes across so well that you are you and you have your identity that you are still forging, but it's yours. All yours.

    I think that's something we can all work on.

  27. Wow, loved it! Boy, did I base ALL of my decisions growing up on what my parents told me I should do. That sentence about growing up with someone who knew more about everything than you did? That was my relationship with my father, in a nutshell. It took YEARS of therapy to be able to face him and say, "I don't agree with you, and that's OK".

    I even married the wrong guy because my parents wanted to see me married to a specific type of man. So you're not alone. Consider yourself lucky that you didn't marry the wrong type of guy just because your parents thought he was good for you.

    I, for one, love - ADORE - your dating stories. They're never boring or trite, and you always add a comic spin that makes them light and funny.

    It's your blog! Don't let anyone tell you what to write about!

  28. Suniverse - Wow, thank you! What a fantastic thing to say!

    G&D - God, it's a long, hard process, isn't it? And you make a very good point. Thank you thank you!


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