Failure

I dislike failure. Not failure in general, but failure as it relates to me. If someone else fails, it’s interesting; if someone fails hard, it’s really interesting; and if I dislike that person and they fail hard, it’s almost rewarding (terrible human being = me). But if I fail, it’s the apocalypse.

It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular that I fail at, it could be a new recipe I try or a glaringly obvious and inappropriate typo in a work email. My mind starts reeling with what a pathetic human being I am and how it’s remarkable I’m permitted to walk the earth with such an incredible stench of failure encompassing me and all within a 10-foot radius of my incredible suckiness as a person.

I do not fail at a flair for the dramatic. This, indeed, I excel at.

Often, I find that I’d rather not try at something rather than fail. One could argue that technically, not trying means an automatic fail. But even more technically, one could argue that you can’t fail at something you don’t try. Moot point?

The situation I am faced with now is the worst kind of failure—the kind where failure was the unexpected outcome.

Oh confidence. You tricked me!

Before I continue on, I confess, I’m wary to share my failure. To any other person who isn’t me or isn’t involved in my little world it will seem like peanuts. And I mean peanuts to someone who likes peanuts, salted and unsalted, and not to someone who is allergic.

I’m a self-proclaimed ballerina, and I use the word “ballerina” very liberally. Three years ago, I put on ballet slippers and have casually haunted dance studios ever since. Yes, at the overripe age of 30, I’m getting my repressed ballerina on.

When my husband, child, and two cats moved to a new, smaller community, I found the best way to dance was to join in on the middle and high school classes. Because of my immaturity, I fit right in with the tweens and teens.

These classes require exams. I like to work for something, so I participate in these evaluations. I’ve been trucking through the ballet levels, surpassing my “peers,” but apparently too fast. My most recent exam resulted with an “F.” The only class I ever got an “F” in was 9th grade geometry, and let’s be honest, when do I ever use geometry? Shapes are dumb.

On the bright side, if this can be considered a bright side, I’m in good company. Half my class failed the exam and the other half of the class received what is known as a “pass conditional.” Dancers that fail together, um, stay together? At least to repeat the level!

I feel the failure hits me harder because of my age in relation to my fellow dancers. It’s embarrassing. These girls look up to me even though they are mostly taller than me (figurative look ups, everyone!). I feel like an idol fallen from grace, a loser, a coming-of-age disappointment to a generation.

Pride takes the worst hit when faced with failure.

The emotional result is that I’m ashamed I ever undertook trying to make my ballet dreams come true. What can it achieve but heartache and sore toes? But it doesn’t stop there, it shakes my confidence in everything I want to do, and let me tell you, I have been bit by the project, entrepreneurial, creative bug and I need all the courage and chutzpah I can muster to make it happen.

The idea of failing stops me in my tracks.

So what’s a fallen ballerina to do? Quit and cut my losses?

My dance teacher told me the best analogy to get me through this difficult time. She said that if I have a car with a flat tire, I don’t puncture holes in the other three.

So, it’s time to get the spare out, drive to the nearest service station, and get everything rearing to go because the road trip isn’t over yet.

Here’s to further failures, successes, and all the mediocrity in between!

You tell it like it is, Yoda!

You tell it like it is, Yoda!

What a PhD really means

Let me preface this by saying, I do not have a PhD. I don’t particularly have an ambition to earn a PhD. I mean, I guess Dr. Gingermermaid sounds pretty cool and everything, but I think I’ll manage just fine without the title as I do currently without the title Princess Gingermermaid. Both hold about the same stock of meaning to me anyway.

I’ve mentioned before that I work chiefly with academics. Some are fabulous leaders in their field, know their information, and have an open mind to boot! But the key word in that last sentence is “some.” See, most are not any of those things.

A PhD doesn’t equal intelligence, it equals hard work. I give lots of credit to those who earn their PhD because they do have a fabulous work ethic, or enough of one to get through the arduous process, and lots of tenacity. It’s not easy to get a PhD, but not for lack of smarts, for lack of heart.

Perhaps this is unfair of me. Since I have never gone forward to attempt a PhD, maybe I am out of touch. But just going through the motions and doing the work doesn’t guarantee a quality outcome, and this is what I am writing about.

Aside from my own collegiate experiences, in which I blindly trusted my professors and felt they were gods of intellect or some sort, I realize now, some were but most were not. They were human and made/make mistakes much like I do (well, at the pre-bachelor’s level, let’s be honest, most of my mistakes were drunken, youthful, and way beyond stupid—for another post). I also didn’t realize that most professors are less inclined to be teachers than they are to be researchers and publishers of their own works. That idea seems backwards to me since I’m paying many a dollar for an education to be taught by someone who would rather forward their own career than assist in developing my future one.

Part of the fault lies within the university system. In order for professors to get jobs, earn tenure, survive in academia, they have to do a lot of BS (and I don’t mean Bachelor’s of Science). If they don’t publish enough, they aren’t marketable. If they don’t get grants for their research, they have nothing to show but their PhD certificate. If they don’t conform to the political correctness and ideals of the university, they are cast out. It doesn’t matter if the school is Ivy League or in the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming (no offense, Wyoming).

Still, regardless of what the standards of conformity are in the academic world, I get a taste of the kind of people who decorate its many institutions on a daily basis.

What shocks me most about interacting with professors and independent scholars (what is that even?) is the lack of attention to detail, the ignorance of common courtesy, the forsaking of all things grammatical in correspondence, and the inability to follow directions. To top it all off, an ego that is difficult to maneuver around.

At times I’m shocked, that me, a lowly college graduate with just a BA must conduct a paint-by-numbers outline of instructions of a fairly intuitive process that practically conducts itself. Is it the use of technology? Is it the fact that these folks are so “important” and “busy” they have no time to go through trivial steps to complete a mundane task? Or do they expect anyone less than them to deal with these sorts of matters, thus are not troubled to read and follow instructions?

Each year I assist in a fellowship with 30 to 35 professors. I have to say, a lot of these folks are quite down-to-earth and even, dare I say it—fun? However, put them all together in a room to be instructed (the role reversal is not well-received) or to discuss intellectual but challenging matters, and the egos, commentary, ignorance, and spouts of achievements projectile vomits itself into fragile ears (chiefly, mine—the others are used to this kind of rhetoric).

It’s as if you can’t teach a teacher because they feel they have acquired all knowledge. That PhD, if anything, should give you the access of knowledge to go farther, ask more questions, and continue to learn more. We never stop learning because we can never know everything—expert or no expert. If you ask me, if there is a god, I doubt he’s all that omniscient and perfect (have you seen the craziness this world is in?) which means that a lowly professor is even less so.

So, dear PhDs, professors, academics, kindlers of knowledge, please remember a few things:

  • Be respectful of your colleagues and those who have only so high an education, it doesn’t mean they are dumb, it means their life goes a different way than yours.
  • Be humble because it is impossible to know everything and closing your mind only exacerbates the ignorance in education and society.
  • Take your position as educator seriously. You may want to write a book, you may want to research 23 of the 24 hours, but remember, you are also a teacher and your responsibility is to arm students with knowledge to go out in the world and assist in its development, not its demise.
  • Follow goddamn instructions. You are not above reading and performing them.
  • If you expect your students and colleagues to write emails with proper grammar, you should do the same. Capitalize the first letter of every sentence, use exclamation points responsibly, and don’t forget your punctuation!
  • You earned a PhD and this is nothing to sneeze at, but it isn’t your identity and people are only mildly impressed.

Yes, Twilight is stupid, but…

So like any self-respecting adult with a claim to loving the written word, I cannot stand the Twilight Saga. I confess, I read the entire series, and I use the excuse that I did this because I was interning at a teen magazine at the time and when I moderated comments on the website, I had no idea what “Forks” was. Now I know what “Forks” is and I didn’t need to read the other three in the series to find out, but once I start something, I want to see it through to the end.

I’m writing this post in response to a Freshly Pressed WordPress blog post that took the time to slam Twilight. The blogger who took considerable time to write the criticism seems take great, if not excess, pride in her literary tastes and writing styles. I can’t truly understand why she put aside writing time to delve into Stephenie Meyer’s work other than her disdain and anger against the series and she needed to vent. Similarly, I’m going to take the time to write on the topic as well. After all, Twilight hasn’t truly had enough press, now has it?

I give this blogger props on many points she addressed. Let’s be honest, the book is fluff, which is why I have no idea why she read (bedumchhhh) so much into it. It’s not a piece of literary art, its teenage angst portrayed to cater to teenage angst. It’s no Great Gatsby because it’s not designed to be a Great Gatsby. Twilight was written for a target audience of girls between the ages of 11 and 17, of which she and I are not.

From what I can tell from her post, the blogger stopped at book one. That’s fair and more than enough reading to judge the entire series. The other books don’t lend much more sustenance with the exception that  in book 4, whatever that one is called, Bella and Edward (spoiler alert) “do it.” Apparently parents were in an uproar about that because teenagers obviously have no idea what sex is until they read the Twilight series. Puuuuleeeeaaase. At 12, I was reading Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, now that is completely inappropriate for a tween, but sooooooo good.

Back to the blogger, who I think probably is a good writer, I mean, it’s a blog, but seems to have a chip on her shoulder about writing and literature. Writers are pretentious human beings, frustrated, dripping with opinions, and narcissistic. The word “humble” is not among the aspiring writer’s diverse vocabulary. It’s dangerous to play the authority on writing, or anything really, because regardless of achievements, merits, degrees, one can be torn quickly to shreds and, more importantly, be perceived as a prick.

As I was reading her interpretation of Twilight, I was surprised by the overall tone. It was downright pissed off. This book was published and, despite its lacking in many literary areas, became a sensational success.  Girls everywhere could relate to the non-dimensional character of Bella and this is the genius of the book. The characters, as mentioned by the blogger, are completely underdeveloped, and in my opinion, this is deliberate. Each girl sees herself as Bella. Each girl pictures her friends in the high school student population. Each girl imagines being in love with a badass and dreams to be fought over by a werewolf and vampire (or kinda, sorta like that). Girls are insecure, and if Bella has any character trait, it’s insecurity (and stupidity). Bingo. There’s the target demographic and there’s every girl between the ages of 11 and, let’s be honest, 30. The character was defined just enough that you, me, and my neighbor could fit that role.

I don’t know if anyone else remembers what it was like to be a girl between the ages of 12 and 18, but unfortunately, I do. I was pathetic. I constantly was trapped in my head, trying to be cool and failing by all accounts. I used to daydream about running away with a band member of Weezer or co-starring next to Elijah Wood in some romantic, artsy film. If my head wasn’t already in the clouds and out of complete touch with reality, it was lost in a book. Since I was ten, I had my nose smashed between the pages of a novel and my hand fused to pen and paper. If Twilight had come out when I was 15, I would be on that bandwagon, no doubt, and have all the paraphernalia that went with it. I was prime meat for this series. I try not to think about this too much. It scares me.

So many tangents, I’ll consider it ground work for the rest of this post. I already mentioned that I don’t understand why the blogger even took the time to try to analyze Twilight, but here I go analyzing her blog post about Twilight. Believe it or not, I do have a life—just not tonight.

The tone and style of the blog post turned me off, not because it was negative, but because it came off as catty and much of this had to do with superfluous swearing. Swearing too much or swearing when unnecessary just comes off as angry and unsubstantiated, even fucking uneducated. I love swearing as much as the next sailor, but let’s be honest, time and place, and yes, quantity. Too much detracts from arguments.

Now let’s break down a few of the sections she broke down: Folklore. The blogger mentions that “you don’t fuck with folklore.” My question is, why not? It’s a creative right and if we didn’t detract, all stories would be the same. Although, the glittery vampire in the sun is totally lame. I think the world agrees with that. Vampires are not intimidating, or sexy, when they sparkle like a disco ball.

Next, she brought up the severe underdevelopment of characters. I addressed this already. They are underdeveloped because that way a girl can imagine herself as Bella, making the book relatable and a place to associate her teenage angst. “Oh, that’s why I’m so wacky and crazy, I just need to find myself a vampire!” Many teen books are like this in terms of character development, which is why they appeal to teens.They certainly are not Pulitzer Prize or Newberry Award winners but that’s not why the books are written. Books can be written for other purposes, such as entertainment.

The blogger mentions “realism.” First, let’s point out that the book involves werewolves and vampires. I don’t think Meyer was overly concerned with the realistic nature of her content. The blogger mentions that any girl who enters a school in a small town is not going to be accepted. I went to a small school, I graduated with 63ish people. If we got a new person, we ATE THEM UP because we were starved for new faces. If they were pretty, they were welcomed by every group. If they were nerdy, they were befriended by the less stellar groups, but befriended nonetheless. We were all sick of each other by the fifth grade; we were ready to welcome any warm body as long as it was new. This argument that Bella wouldn’t have been welcome doesn’t fly with me as new kids in my school were the most sought after—fresh meat.

Here is an excerpt under BFFs and BFs, OMG!:

“How is it believable that this emotionally detached, romantically inexperienced young girl could fall in love so quickly with a guy she knows nothing about, when she keeps herself so guarded around everyone else she comes in to contact with? I suppose the underlying reason is that he’s special, blah blah blah…but basic human psychology dictates that a girl with her emotional restraint and closeness issues wouldn’t have just gone batshit crazy over a guy just cuz he was so darn pretty and mysterious.”

How can a girl fall in love so quickly? Hello-ooh. I was guilty of falling head over heels from the time I was 6 until 28 (current age). That’s not even a little weird regardless of “emotional restraint.” Young love is especially volatile and quick to bloom and quick to wilt. Add in the “pretty” factor and the “mysterious” factor, and hell yeah, that is something I can totally still relate too. Sigh…and, nom nom nom…bad boys.

I just lost myself in every impractical, fleeting crush and romance I ever had.

Let’s also note that the closeness issues would have been ideal in dating a vampire as in this way, she couldn’t get too close, lest he eat her! Can I get another nom nom nom?

Look, I get this book is no masterpiece to be shelved next to Dickens, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Joyce, etc. But this book, for a younger generation, gets them reading. It’s a gateway drug to a literary world. Will they always choose the “right” books? Hell, no. But they are way more likely to pick up and try a book, just to see what it’s like, skipping out on reality TV to escape into an imaginary world that stimulates the mind, increases vocabulary, and increases creativity.

I didn’t cover everything in the blogger’s post, mainly because the more I read it, the more irked I get by the vehemence in which she attacks Meyer and every other writer who doesn’t contribute “worthy” literary works. It’s not called for or justified and I think dismounting the high horse would do her some good.

This is the last line of the blogger’s post:

“Twilight is a slap in the face to every talented author who dreams of seeing their words in print. So congratulations, Miss Meyer. You are revered by your target demographic. But you are despised by those of us who know, respect, and produce good literature, good literature that will probably never see the light of day or reading lamp so long as people continue to believe that the garbage you write is worth reading.”

Seriously? For fuck’s sake. Get over yourself.

Life is too short to read bad books and fret about the success of “mediocre” authors. There are plenty of terrible pieces of literature we can pick apart. Rather than focus on the success of “bad writing” focus on writing and reading for you, for your art, and for your piece of mind. And calm down. This isn’t going to be the last piece of fiction to hit the shelves and hit it big, nor was it the first.

For those of you who enjoy the Twilight series, it’s your right and enjoying them doesn’t make you a bad person, a bad reader, or a bad writer—you just lack a bit of good judgement. 😉

Kidding-ish…