The Wanderer’s Guide to Life

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ~ Douglas Adams

Galaxies are so large that stars can be consid...

Galaxies are so large that stars can be considered particles next to them (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I graduated college nearly five years ago, I would not have considered myself a wanderer (or hitchhiker, as is the case with Douglas Adams).  I was a girl with a very narrow focus on life, and I thought I knew what I wanted: a steady 9-5 job as an Editorial Assistant at a publishing company where I would climb the ranks and, when I got married (who knows when that was going to happen!), I’d move out of my mom’s apartment.  In my spare time, all I aspired to do was catch up on reading.

Fast forward a few years, and my life looks very different than the less-than-inspiring version I was aspiring to as a recent college grad (Not that having a steady job is a bad thing, I’ve just since realized I want something more than that).

When I stumbled across the above quote earlier today, it got me thinking of all the sometimes frightening but always wonderful turns my life has taken, particularly in the past three years.  As another exercise in gratitude, I wanted to list some of those changes:

I have two Etsy shops: Remember when I said I used to aspire to simply catch up on reading? I’ve since opened up to online shops where I sell crafts and fine art (btdubs, I’m having a 15% off February sale in both shops now through 2/15!).  Because I have this outlet, I’m constantly thinking of new ideas for projects, which keeps the creative juices flowing.

I freelance, well, everything: I mostly copy edit, proofread, and babysit, but it’s so different than a 9-5.  I’m grateful that I can make my own schedule and even have time for lunch with friends 🙂

I am in a healthy romantic relationship: I used to be the jaded, single woman who thought that all the good guys were either taken, gay, or my best friends.  Nothing I did to garner a relationship seemed to work.  And then one day (like so many people told me, but I never believed them), it just happened.  A friendship I had for about half of my life blossomed.  And it’s been awesome ever since.

I think it is rare to find a person (and I am lucky to have friends like this too) who loves you, flaws and all.  (I know, I know. I’m probably giving most people a toothache right now, especially so close to Valentine’s Day. If you are not in a romantic relationship, let me encourage to live your life fully now, not in a holding pattern.  The right time and right person will come).

I am a professor: I thought this title only came after numerous awards, books, hard work, and lots of coffee (well, tea in my case).  I’m glad that a local community college gave me the chance to be in front of the classroom.  I am in my second semester of teaching, and it has been by turns challenging and rewarding beyond any of my expectations.

I have recently been commissioned to make art: This is something I thought would never happen. I’m comfortable calling myself a writer, but not an artist.  The painting commission I recently received was a really great confidence booster.

I am living on my own (well, with a roommate): For the past two and a half years, I’ve been living with a college buddy of mine.  We play video games and banter about poetry, faith, and Gangam Style (ok, fine, mostly Gangam style).

I have an MFA in Poetry: When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I determined that I was done with school.  But then I heard about the Poetry program that my alma mater was starting.  I knew I had to apply.  It’s been a little over two years since I’ve graduated, and spending two years breathing, eating, and sweating poetry was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I have a chapbook: A chapbook is a shorter poetry manuscript (about 18-25 pages).  I put one together a few weeks ago, and I’m pretty happy with it.  I didn’t think I’d ever have the time or discipline to put one of these together.  Now I’ve got one and a goal of mine for this year is to get it published with a press.  We’ll see how that turns out!

I find myself continuing to explore different possibilities.  I’ve signed up for bartending school and am looking into certification to be a teaching artist.  I’m also applying to and saving for writer’s residencies and art classes just for fun.  I feel that the world is open to me, and I want to try everything I possibly can!

Ok, so perhaps there is no “Wanderer’s Guide to Life” as the title suggests, but I think that’s because to wander means to explore.  If you have a five (or seven or ten)-step plan for it, the fun is sucked out of the adventures.

Of course, wandering comes with its own worries and questions (for me, some of those questions are: what should I focus my time on primarily?  Do I want a career? Can I pay the bills doing activities I love?), but I’ve found that these bigger questions tend to work themselves out if you put in hard work and pursue the activities that make you feel alive.

If you would have told me about my current life situation five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. My options at that time were few because I made it so. My life as it stands now was unthinkable to me back then because it’s completely different than the stereotypical picture I had in my mind.  But when I think about my current circumstances, I smile and know this is exactly where I needed to land.

What is one event in your life that was a pleasant surprise?

Divergent, Insurgent…Detergent?

Divergent

Divergent (Photo credit: prettybooks)

I recently stumbled upon the Divergent series thanks for a library friend of mine.  She said it was being heralded as the new Hunger Games.  I was skeptical.  I loved the Hunger Games and didn’t think anything could come close to it in YA fiction again.  But I have to say that Veronica Roth does a very good job.

The heroine of the Divergent series, Tris, is strong-willed and useful, the two qualities I love in female characters.  This is not because I am a Femi-Nazi.  It’s because I like tension in my characters.  While reading about Tris, I found myself getting frustrated with her.  This is not the frustration one feels when one encounters a poorly written character, but rather the organic frustration that inevitably comes when you get to know someone.  Their quirks bug you and sometimes (though you value their strength) you wish they weren’t so stubborn.  I have wrestled with Tris as I wrestled with Katniss.

Now for the obligatory summary (without too many spoilers, I hope): This dystopian series is set in a society where people are split into 5 factions which hold a particular virtue above all others: Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (intelligence), Amity (peace), and Abnegation (selflessness).  When children turn 16, they get to choose which faction they will stay in for the rest of their lives.  This means they will conform to the rules of that particular faction, wear faction-specific clothing, and if you choose a faction different from the one you were born into, you never get to see your family again.  No pressure, right?

This book follows Beatrice Prior, who is born into Abnegation.  She ends up choosing Dauntless.  This seems pretty straight forward — a young girl who feels too selfish for a life of selflessness tries to break out of her prescribed mold by being daring. To be sure, Beatrice, who renames herself Tris, faces many fears throughout the first book and really gets comfortable in her own skin.  She finds it’s ok to have desires, to have free time and spend it any way you want, and even (gasp!) get tattooed.  The first book is really about Tris coming into her own.  The end of the first book and the entire second novel are about the war (it’s a dysptopia…of course there’s war).  But it’s more than that.  Like Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth does a wonderful job of developing her characters.  I actually cared about what happened and that kept me reading.  Tris is a girl thrown into a war-torn society and has to make quick use of all the information she has learned while “growing up” in a few short weeks since leaving her primary faction.  The twist?  She can make it all stop.  You’ll just have to read the books to find out how 🙂

Courtesy of Goodreads.com

Courtesy of Goodreads.com

As you can tell from this review and others I’ve posted recently, I really enjoy character development.  While I definitely yelled at Tris quite a few times because of her unnecessary recklessness or stubbornness, I really liked her.  She meets so many people, like her love interest, Four, and various friends.  Not only does the political dynamic shift, but also the interpersonal dynamic.  People choose sides. People die.  And it’s what happens in the aftermath that I find so interesting.

One such event is her romance with Four, one of the Dauntless leaders.  I’m really not a fan of romance in novels because it’s usually done in a very cheesy manner, especially in YA fiction.  But Tris and Four’s romance seemed born out of necessity for authentic human contact, a longing that is ever present when everything around you is falling apart.  That is something I can believe and genuinely root for.  Kudos to Veronica Roth for doing romance right!

Now, you may be wondering about the title of this post.  The first two are the titles of the books of the trilogy so far.  Since the third is yet unnamed, my library friend has dubbed it “Detergent.”  I flew through the first two books.  I honestly can’t wait to see what happens to Tris and the gang.

The Divergent series has been a series of the most quotable books I’ve read in a while.  For a YA trilogy (well, the two books that are out so far), it’s got quite a bit of wisdom.  As we come up on the new year, I thought I’d share some of the gems I’ve found with you:

I do trust you, is what I want to say. But it isn’t true — I didn’t trust him to love me despite the terrible things I had done. I don’t trust anyone to do that, but that isn’t his problem; it’s mine.”

“It reminds me why I chose Dauntless in the first place: not because they are perfect, but because they are alive. Because they are free.”

“I am his, and he is mine, and it has been that way all along.”

“I read somewhere, once, that crying defies scientific explanation. Tears are only meant to lubricate the eyes. There is no real reason for tear glands to overproduce tears at the behest of emotion. I think we cry to release the animal parts of us without losing our humanity.”

“Grief is not as heavy as guilt, but it takes more away from you.”

“Noise and activity are the refuges of the bereaved and the guilty.”

“’May the peace of God be with you,’ she says, her voice low, ‘even in the midst of trouble.’
‘Why would it?’ I say softly, so no one else can hear. ‘After all I’ve done…’
‘It isn’t about you,’ she says. ‘It is a gift. You cannot earn it, or it ceases to be a gift.’”

I’m Just Not Into Romance in Book Form: A Review of David Levithan’s “Every Day”

English: A photograph of a heap of candy heart...

All the candy hearts. Yes, all of them.

I received my first Advance Reader Copy (ARC) in the mail about three weeks ago.  I subscribe to an e-newsletter called Shelf Awareness Pro.  I saw the add for “Every Day” by David Levithan and thought the premise was interesting.  A 16-year-old boy named A wakes up in a different body and a different life every day.  This is how it has always been for him.  So, he just coasts through life (or, in A’s case, multilife) and tries to make as few waves as possible.  Until he meets Rhiannon.

Ok, let me stop here.  Generally, I’m not into romance books.  But because of A’s unique situation, I decided to give it a shot.  I figured, “Hey, what if this Rhiannon chick becomes the catalyst for him to find out why he jumps from body to body and they become tangled in a search for a conspiracy?”

But this does not happen.  A is not interested in figuring out why he is the way he is or trying to stop it.  He’s not interested in finding out if he has a body all his own.  He’s only interested in seeing Rhiannon every day after he meets her.  This need comprises most of the book.  It was fun at first to see how Rhiannon would react to all of the different forms A takes.  But after a few encounters, I found these meetings to be a bit tedious.

That being said, there are a few qualities that I liked.  A says quite a few things that ring true, such as (and I’m paraphrasing here) that sometimes a moment or a situation just is and that’s ok; you can be content without struggling to change it.  He has quite a bit of experience what with living a different life every day and I found that really intriguing.  Though, since his circumstances are constantly changing, I had a hard time believing he could have all of the life experience and insight he claimed.  There is something to be said for routine and having the same parents/friends/significant other for an extended period of time.

Usually I have no stomach for romance, as I mentioned before.  But I thought the progression of A and Rhiannon’s relationship was done well.  Ultimately though, it lacked the adventure and curiosity I expected from these two youngsters.  It ended at a juncture that I thought was actually a good starting point (with A hungry to experiment with staying in a body longer than one day and delve deeper into what makes him the way he is, albeit with help from a somewhat shady character.  Lots of grist for the novelist’s mill here!). Also, there were no explosions.  I love explosions (Expendables 2 anyone?).

“Every Day” is well written and has the start of a really cool idea.  It just wasn’t fleshed out in a way that suited my taste, which doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. While it was not my cup of tea, I would recommend “Every Day” for those who like a good teenage romance story.