Monday, September 19, 2011

On making mistakes.

I had a childhood obsession with pencil erasers.

I don't use the word "obsession" lightly. Every time I saw an eraser my eyes filled with love, longing, and OMG I HAVE TO HAVE THAT OR I’M NOT GONNA MAKE IT.

I loved the standard pink brick erasers. Erasers shaped like strawberries and soccer balls. Lisa Frank erasers. Pencil cap erasers. Erasers encased in a plastic sheath and it had the side push-up thingy that clicked. (Go with it.) I was stunned when I first saw soft sketching erasers that you could mold into the perfect size for your erasing needs. My most prized eraser was given to me by a friend. It was a plastic tube that had five miniature erasers inside, but only one eraser was exposed for use at a time. You would take off the top eraser, push it through the bottom of the tube, and then the next eraser in the tube would emerge. Sometime after my friend gave me this awesome eraser tube I bought another one just like it...and then refused to use it. I would only hold it, smell the plastic and rubber, and inhale true happiness.

Me? Obsessed? I told you.

My erasers were sacred. To give another person one of my erasers was like awarding a Medal of Honor. It was a recognition proving the depth of my respect and love for the recipient of said eraser.

The day came when I felt the need to give away one of my beloved erasers. Her name was Esta, and she was my first kindergarten friend. Read: She earned the privileged title of "Best Friend." I loved my Esta like a sister and she deserved an eraser.

I had the eraser picked out. I wanted her to have it and know what it meant for me to give it to her. I wanted her to love the eraser the way I loved it.

The moment came. I fished the eraser out of my pocket. It was blue and glittery. It was time.

I said, "Esta, here, you can have this if you want it..."

Her response? Esta said, "Oh, I don't need that. I don't make a lot of mistakes."

To say I was stunned is to say J.K. Rowling has an “ok” imagination. erasers. I loved them. And...she doesn’t make mistakes?! Does this mean I make a lot of mistakes?!

Is my obsession with erasers a metaphor for my life?

Upon reflection, I think the off-comment my 5 year old best friend made has more truth than she or I could have ever realized. Like my boxful of pencil erasers would suggest – I am constantly worried I’m going to mistakes.

I am guilty of worrying that I’m doing things “wrong.” Was I a complete fool to move across the country? Am I an idiot for turning my back on my chemistry degree to pursue a writing career? Am I making mistake after mistake? If I am making all of these mistakes – is there an eraser big enough to pretend like they never happened?

Then I go through my line of questioning: What’s the worst that can happen? I fall on my face? I move somewhere else? I find a different career? I run out of money? I have to redirect my life?

Then comes the doubt part. Maybe I should live in the Midwest forever? Maybe I should pour things into test tubes all day? Maybe I should ignore the hundreds of stories and characters in my head?

Then comes the “But what about me?” part. Should I really live "safely" instead of happily? Should I live wondering about what could have been?

Then comes the part when I realize all of my “worst case scenarios” are not death sentences. They don’t mark “the end of the world.” It’s just life. Some things work out, some things don’t.

Then comes the part when I convince myself: Mistakes are a necessary risk associated with being human.

We all make mistakes. Some even have regret and remorse. Mistakes help us discover the most about ourselves. Mistakes test our perseverance. Mistakes gauge our ability to assess, regroup, and move-on.

It’s not about taking an eraser and pretending like nothing happened. Life should be about taking chances in pursuit of the life you want, stumbling, and then getting back up.

I no longer feel the need to hoard erasers. I also recognize Esta's comment was one of those things kids say before they realize what feelings are. (Ugh, still bitchy though, right?!) I have my perspective. I have indeed made mistakes and I continue to learn and grow from them everyday.

There's one thing I know for sure - you can’t learn from the mistakes you never make.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Screw you, Benjamin Franklin.

Look around you. Right now. If you’re reading this from your computer or your phone, I ask you to look up from your screen and think about what you see.

A cup of coffee. Stop signs. Furniture. Sidewalk. Clothes not made in the USofA. People talking too loud about things you don’t want to know. Lights. Your calendar. Cars. Pictures. Trashcans. Ink pens. Accents. Don’t not pass Go. Haircuts. Flip flops. Families. Food. Alliteration.

None of it is a product of the natural world. They are all things that have been created by someone else. They are not innate objects generated by Earth.

That’s because life is full of inventions.

Everywhere you look you find creations of humankind. Electricity, language, relationships, childhood, computers… all concepts and ideas formulated by a human brain.

In the wake of all the inventions, each and every one of us has the power to be the creators of our own life. We are constantly faced with choices – big and small – that have the power to invent who we are, where we’re going, and what we want to become. We are lost in a sea of human-made trickery and you’re supposed to find yourself.

One of the latest human inventions that annoys the shit out of me is how we communicate. Between the Twitter feeds, emails, texts, and Facebook statuses, we are running on a technological hamster wheel that showcases How We Talk To Each Other.

Here is a little “modern communication” example plucked straight from my Facebook News Feed:

“0mg my son! I bought pizza an hr ago Pizza & breadstickz. 0k he jus askd "Can we grill 2nite?" Im all confused sayn "4 what son" He tellz me "dinner" R U SERIOUS! lol wth”

I understand if it takes you more than one try to understand what they’re saying.

Here are a few points:

1. The Os are actually 0s – as in, the number zero.
2. “Askd,” "hr" and “sayn” – there is a global shortage of vowels.
3. “2nite” and “4 what” – numbers make it funner.
4. “breadstickz” and “tellz” – Zs have never gotten a lot of a attention, so why not go for it?
5. “0mg,” “lol” and “wth” – Ask any seven year old what these mean and they can tell you. Yes, we’ve already reached THAT point.

Is this really how we talk? Is this how we have reinvented communication in the 21st century? Do people really believe this is the standard way to communicate?

Are there any school teachers out there who get letters from parents that read:

“Hey Teach,

Plz excuse Asch’lye from havn 2 go 2 gym class. Her doc sayz she can’t do exercizez.

Asch’lyez parental unit”

I am all for self expression – except for this crap!! I can’t take it! I can’t take the your/you’re, its/it’s, to/too/two, there/their/they’re mistakes, what makes you think I can handle “R U SERIOUS lol wth”?!?!

How? Why? When did this happen? When did our communication method take an evolutionary spike towards Embarrassing and Is That Even Considered English? It's like everyone read Huckleberry Finn and thought, "OOoooOOOoo I'm gonna be typin like I talks, jus like this Mark Twain fella!"

I’m blaming Benjamin Franklin.

In order to correct the problem I need two things: 1. A time machine. 2. An iPhone. I will jump in said time machine whilst clutching said iPhone back to the 1730s. I will approach Benjamin Franklin and say, “I am from the future. Look at this.”

B-Frank will be a little confused, but then will remember he has a business mind and an inventor’s imagination. This will be our conversation:

Me: It’s called a G-P-S. Global positioning system. It tells you where you are and how to get where you’re going. It’s a navigation system that uses satellites.

B-Frank: What’s a satellite?

Me: Meehhh...I’ll tell you later.

(B-Frank continues to tap and slide his fingers about the iPhone interface)

Me: I use that app...

B-Frank: What’s an app?

Me: JUST LISTEN!...It’s a bank app, and I can take a picture of a check and deposit it in my bank.

B-Frank: This contraption takes photographs?!

Me: And video, too!

B-Frank: What’s a video?

Me: Damnit, Frank. Stop asking stupid questions.

(B-Frank’s face lights up. He has a crooked smile on his face.)

Me: Frank?


Me: Hey, uh, Frank? Can you hear me?

(I lean over to see what he’s doing.)

Me: Oh, yeah, Angry Birds. That’s real popular. But let me show you a thing they call “Facebook.”

B-Frank: Face? Book? What is its purpose?

Me: It’s a way to keep in touch with people. But really it’s just a way to shove pictures of your friends holding alcoholic drinks, obligatory vacation sunsets, and babies into the faces of people you went to high school with.

B-Frank: This is a communication device?

Me: Um, yeah...but no one really talks to anyone unless it’s their birthday. But I want you to read this “News Feed.” It’s where people post whatever random information they want to about their daily life.

(B-Frank takes several moments to read.)

Me: Are you ok?

B-Frank: What is this F. M. L.?

Me: It means “Fuck My Life.”

B-Frank: Oh...In the future, is 2nite no longer spelled t-o-n-i-g-h-t?

Me: Ugh, not always.

B-Frank: And the “Z” has replaced what is commonly reserved for “S”?

Me: I guess so. People think it’s ok now.

B-Frank: That’s curious. What is this O-M-G?

Me: Oh my god.

B-Frank: Quite peculiar. Does this mean the dominant religion is still of a Christian nature?

Me: It is. People just...say it.

B-Frank: But, how did this happen?

Me: Technology.

B-Frank: How could it create such effect on language so quickly?

Me: It’s how people receive information now. Do you know anything about that?

B-Frank: About what?

Me: Advancing how people receive information?

B-Frank gives a nervous laugh and then lurches for an iron rod. He then proceeds to beat the hell out of the Printing Press he just purchased.

Me: Yeah, six-eyes, you started this.

**Insert clever way to wrap up this long and slightly ridiculous post here**