The Land of Listicles

Posted in 2013 on October 4, 2013 by Kristen

Recently, I read a great post by my friend Jessica that really got me thinking. She tackled the topic of lists–namely, the ones that have been suffusing the interwebs of late. Like Jessica, I’ve noticed that blogs, Facebook, the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and any number of other venues are loving the HECK out of lists these days. Lists for twenty-somethings, lists for new moms, lists for lifehackers, lists for college students. Everything was lists and nothing hurt. Especially when there were gifs. There should always be gifs.

oh yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve gotta say, I’m extremely okay with this current profusion of lists. My love for lists is deep and abiding, so much so that I generally seem to leave a trail of them wherever I go. There are lists in my purse, on my bedside table, in my journal, in each of my myriad email accounts, covering my desk at work in a vaguely decipherable patchwork of sticky notes. They help me capture my racing thoughts and tame the many stray bits of information that it’s essential for me to remember (which is important when you’re the kind of person who’d forget your own head if it weren’t firmly attached to your body…).

Because of my love for lists, I believe in the power of them, and I tend to put a lot of faith in their ability to make sense of things. Their structure, their simple elegance, their succinctness, the satisfaction they afford when it comes time to cross something off of them–it’s like taking a particularly confusing or amorphous piece of life and packing it up into a neat, easy-to-understand box.

And that, in a nutshell, is what seems to me to be the driving force behind this current list-mania. Silly, gif-laden lists like this one or this one are just pure fun, and they’re appealing because they provide a quick, condensed way to get a little dose of humor. But when it comes to how-to or advice-giving lists, we crave that sense of structure, even when it comes from some random denizen of the internet who could be making stuff up to amuse themselves, for all we know. There’s something so attractive about reading through such a list, about seeing how you measure up to the guidelines it lays out, about using them as a benchmark to see how far you still have to go.

I’ve realized that, when I encounter a list that I find particularly applicable–for example, the endless parade of “How to Life” lists for twenty-somethings, or similarly, the “Sucky Things about Being Twenty-something” lists–I immediately zero in and start thinking about the ways each item applies to me–or doesn’t, as the case may be–and what that means for me, even if it’s something completely trivial.

For me, the charm of these lists lies in the reassuring feeling of having something, anything, to use as a way to get my bearings–to take my pulse, as it were, during this wildly uncertain time of life. It’s a snapshot view of how I measure up to those like me and those who have gone before me. Sometimes the lists address something that I’m too afraid or embarrassed to ask about, sometimes they take something ordinary and spin it in a way I’ve never considered before, and sometimes they simply feel like a confirmation that I’m on the right track. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not patterning my life around random lists created by some Joe Schmo I came across on the internet, and they’re not the only, nor the first, place I go for advice; not by a long shot. I suppose what I’m saying is that, for whatever it’s worth, there are definitely a few bits of wisdom I’ve gleaned from these lists that have stuck with me long after I took in the pithy, staccato sound bites they comprised, and it’s the hope that I’ll find more such bits that keeps me coming back.

However, there is a downside to this desire for structure–amid my enthusiasm for lists, it’s sometimes hard to cull the good from the bad. As evidenced by this list about things to do before marriage that Jessica mentioned in her post, you may find gems like “Face one of your biggest fears. Be it skydiving, public speaking, or dining in public alone” (pretty decent advice, by all accounts), but there are also questionable items like “Try having a friend with benefits. If only to make sure that friend you always had a crush on doesn’t somehow become ‘the one who got away.'” (Um, no.), and oftentimes, both types even show up in the same list. Because it’s easy to take these lists in at a glance, sometimes the less-worthy stuff can slip by. The more I read these things, though, the more I’m aware of the fact that they should be taken with a big hunk of salt.

So what does it all mean? How should we forge ahead into this endless sea of lists? Well, I leave you with this one to sum it up. Because I love lame jokes, and so do you, or you would never visit this blog…

1. Like anything, this trend has its good and its bad points. Have fun diving into lists, but watch out for the occasional leech (and the occasional bad metaphor. They are also treacherous…).

2. Come for the gifs, stay for the epiphanies (few and far between though they may sometimes be).

3. There’s a definite difference between good advice and platitudes, though it’s a fine line sometimes.

4. Something that’s good advice for someone might not be for you; if something seems off, it probably is, even if the rest of the list is sound.

5. And most importantly, don’t take lists (or yourself) too seriously! Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Percy Jackson: An Epic Trip into Middle-Grade Land

Posted in 2013 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2013 by Kristen

I seem to be in the habit of scattering drafts across my blog dash and forgetting to come back and pick them up. I tripped over this one again today, and I find that I’m quite fond of it, so I’m posting it.

I’ve realized something significant about the books in my life: I am caught in a vicious cycle.

I seem to always have a collection of thirty-odd books that I own but have never read. And though I dearly love the library, I sometimes feel a bit silly going there these days, since I have all these books waiting patiently at home, staring plaintively at me from the shelves as they beg me to read them. But there are always new and wonderful books coming out, and I just can’t resist the seductive gleam of a shiny new paperback (or occasionally hardcover–so pretty, so expensive), so I buy it, adding to my already-large bunch of books to be read, and further lessening my need to go to the library. I think I have a problem, guys.

But eventually, I finally break the cycle and go to the dang library. I then proceed to check out a bunch of books I’ve been desperately wanting to read but still feel ambivalent about buying. A while ago, one such was Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

I’ve heard tons of great things about the Olympians series, and I’ve found their premise to be an attractive one–a modern-day summer camp for young demigods who go on quests and give the monsters of legend a run for their money? Sign me up! And despite the fact that the books are geared toward middle-grade readers, I’ve  heard so many people who are my own age rave about them that I had to give them a go.

This proved to be an excellent decision; The Lightning Thief is a pretty delightful book all around. But though I looked forward to reading it, I had a couple of misgivings about it before I began. The most significant of these was that I was afraid I might feel that I have grown too old to be able to connect with the characters. I mean, I’m a firm believer that YA is for more than just young adults, but maybe there are limits. What if the style of the book was too juvenile, or what if the concerns of characters who are ten years younger than me were too far removed from my current place in life? These are kind of strange things for someone like me, who is pretty much a perpetual twelve-year-old, to worry about. But regardless.

Quite honestly, there were moments where the book did make me feel a little old. But throughout the vast majority of the story, I found myself able to identify with the characters just fine. You see, one of the best things about YA and children’s fiction is that it’s almost impossible not to relate to it on some level. The fact is, even if you aren’t a child or teenager anymore, you used to be, so there’s bound to be something you can connect with in a book that features child protagonists. No matter how long it’s been since you were a child yourself, you can still remember going through all those changes and having to face things you weren’t remotely ready for and feeling like everything that happened to you was the end of the world.

That was certainly the case for me with this book. I may not know what it’s like to be a wisecracking, dyslexic boy, but I do know what it’s like to be teased and to wish I had special powers that would help me escape from unpleasant things. I know what it’s like to feel like you never quite know what you’re doing (boy, do I), and yet still be able to somehow make it through, even when you’re in way over your head. I know (albeit to a lesser extent) what it’s like to forge ahead even when the odds seem to all be against you. And those, dear readers, are excellent things to think about at any age.

A Year in Books

Posted in 2013 on January 5, 2013 by Kristen

Whew…it has been a ridiculously long time since I have graced this dear blog of mine with my presence, hasn’t it? Sorry about that, kids. I’d say I’m going to try to do better in the new year, but, well…we’ll see. I have high hopes. In my defense, my blogging energies have been largely taken up by the posts I did for the Loft during my internship (gonna miss you, Loft!), so now that it’s over, maybe I’ll actually find the motivation to post here with something resembling regularity. Cross your fingers for me, ‘kay? Thanks.

Anyway! I didn’t come here to give you a list of long, drawn-out excuses, so let’s cut to the chase. On January 1st, 2012, I set a goal for myself to read 50 books by the time the next New Year’s Day rolled around. I’m happy to report that the venture has been a profound success! I read a grand total of 52 books in 2012. Granted, a few of them were manga books. And a LOT of them were re-reads (because a book worth enjoying once is worth enjoying twice, dang it! Or several times…). But it was my reading goal and this is my blog, and I get to make the rules. So there!

So since I know you’re all dying to see it, here’s Kristen’s Fancy Book List of Doom:

Books of 2012

  1. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  2. Inheritance – Christopher Paolini
  3. Watchmen – Alan Moore (ill. Dave Gibbons)
  4. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
  5. Matched – Ally Condie
  6. A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
  7. Impossible – Nancy Werlin (re-read)
  8. Library Wars Volume 6 – Kiiro Yumi
  9. Library Wars Volume 7 – Kiiro Yumi
  10. Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine (re-read)
  11. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins (re-read)
  12. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins (re-read)
  13. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins (re-read)
  14. A Clash of Kings – George R. R. Martin
  15. Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead
  16. The Two Princesses of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine (re-read)
  17. Ouran High School Host Club 17 – Bisco Hatori
  18. The Scorpio Races – Maggie Steifvater
  19. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  20. StarCrossed – Elizabeth Bunce
  21. Smooth Talking Stranger – Lisa Kleypas
  22. John Carter of Mars; Book One: A Princess of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs
  23. Frostbite – Richelle Mead
  24. Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie
  25. Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  26. Daughter of Time – Sarah Woodbury
  27. Looking for Alaska – John Green
  28. Drums of Autumn – Diana Gabaldon
  29. Pirates! – Celia Rees
  30. Masque of the Red Death – Bethany Griffin
  31. Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned – Brian K. Vaughan
  32. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  33. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
  34. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  35. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters – Rick Riordan
  36. God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment – Scott Adams
  37. Abandon – Meg Cabot
  38. The Goddess Test – Aimée Carter
  39. Savannah by the Sea – Denise Hildreth
  40. Redeeming Love – Francine Rivers (re-read)
  41. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
  42. Library Wars: Volume 8 – Kiiro Yumi
  43. Ophelia – Lisa M. Klein (re-read)
  44. Forever – Maggie Steifvater
  45. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling (re-read)
  46. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien (re-read)
  47. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis (re-read)
  48. Graceling – Kristin Cashore (re-read)
  49. Legend – Marie Lu
  50. Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson
  51. First Date – Krista McGee
  52. Beauty – Robin McKinley (re-read)

Whew. Just look at all those beautiful titles! I’ve gotta say, 2012 was a pretty ridiculously fun year, reading-wise. I think it’s time for some reviews! Before you run away screaming, don’t worry; I’m not going to talk about every single one of these (no matter how interesting it might be to test my memory thusly), because that would be dumb. But I’m in the mood to write some of my patently vast, haphazard book reviews, so we’re gonna top-three it up.

Let us begin!

1. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

I’ll come right out and say it–this book broke me in the best way possible, and I can’t recommend it enough. You all know about my deep and abiding adoration for John Green and his works, and this book strengthened that admiration by quite a wide margin. TFiOS is the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old with terminal cancer that she’s managed to stave off for a while with the help of a miraculous tumor-shrinking drug. She’s coping as well as she can under the circumstances, but it’s only when she meets Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor and an almost impossibly beautiful human being, that she truly begins to make the most of her life, however much or little of it is left.

I know what you’re thinking; you’re sure this is one of those “cancer books” that takes a lot of emotional cheap shots and goes on and on about the protagonists’ heroism. But before you judge this book as a Lurlene-McDaniel-esque sap-fest, think again; TFiOS is so much more than a book about cancer. It asks some pretty huge questions, such as–how do we find meaning in a seemingly meaningless loss of life? How do we cope with something that’s unbearable? And what, in the end, does it mean to truly love someone?

Don’t be frightened off by all of these deep thoughts, though; there are plenty of funny moments to be had as well. Hazel and Augustus are two teenagers, after all, and are as goofy and witty and pretentious and charming as any teenagers you could hope to meet. In short, they’re some of the more realistic characters I’ve had the pleasure of coming across, and that makes the messages they have to share hit home all the more.

I will warn you, this book pulls no punches. I bawled like a baby through the last fifty pages or so. But like John Green has said in the past, “It hurts because it matters.” You won’t come out of this book unscathed. But then, why would you want to?

2. Watchmen – Alan Moore

Hey, look at that; I read a decently literary graphic novel among the manga books I consumed this year! And what an amazing ride it was. In my opinion, Watchmen is one of those “everyone-needs-to-read-it-at-some-point” books. It’s without a doubt the most interesting take on the superhero genre that I’ve ever read. It paints a pretty believable picture of what the world would really look like if superheroes existed, rather than the idealized worlds we see in most superhero comics.

The story consists of numerous plot threads that are woven together so skillfully that one’s mind is well and truly blown by the end of the novel. Just as in the real world, none of Watchmen‘s characters are fully good or fully evil, and everybody has their own agenda to follow, noble or vile as each may be. Each character has their own unique foibles, some larger than others, that tend to squelch their best efforts, sometimes before they’ve even begun, and though many of them band together to try and stop the insidious corruption that has infiltrated their lives, in the end, they find themselves in a place they never expected (and never wanted) to be.

Goodness…was that vague enough for you? As you can see, I’m finding this book to be a rather difficult one to explain. It’s just that there’s so much to take away from this book that one almost has to pick one thread at a time to follow in order to navigate it. Suffice it to say that this is one novel that would get better and better with multiple rereads, amazing as it already is.

3. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Why yes, I am still reading dystopian novels like there’s no tomorrow! This time, though, I veered away from YA for two seconds and read a book for grownups. I’d heard great things about this book from a couple of my readerly friends, so I decided to give it a go. The fact that I wanted to see the movie version that stars Andrew Garfield may also have influenced my choice. But I digress.

Dark as it is, I very much enjoyed this book. It’s set in an alternate-universe Britain during the 1990’s, and the protagonists grow up together in a boarding-school-style living situation, without parents or relatives. They know they’re being raised for a specific purpose, but only when they are older do they realize the truth of that purpose–as well as how sinister it is.

Though the setting and the protagonists’ way of life are far removed from the world as we know it, it’s incredible how deeply real everything feels. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the subtleties and difficulties of social interaction described with such minute accuracy, and even though my situation (or anyone’s, really) is nothing like that of the protagonists, I found them and their interactions with each other to be so relateable it was almost scary (stop reading my mind, Ishiguro!). It was like seeing a spot-on representation of all those little tiny moments between myself and other people that I’ve always wished I could describe but have never been able to.

More than that, the book is chilling and tragic without being overtly depressing. It deals with people who are caught up in, and completely shaped by, a system that is absolutely out of their control, despite their best efforts to find meaning and power within it. One can’t help wondering whether Ishiguro is asking us to examine our own lives and ask ourselves if we are similarly bound. And if so, if there’s anything we can (or should) do about it.

In short, this is one meaty book. I hope to re-read it sometime and delve even more deeply into it than I did during the first go-round.

***

So there you have it, folks! Though my top three ended up being pretty weighty selections, I’m proud to say that this has been a wonderfully varied and enjoyable year where books are concerned. Here’s hoping for even more awesomeness in 2013!

But enough about me; what are your readerly goals and resolutions for this year? Will you be striving for a 50-book list too, or something different? I’d love to hear about what sort of literary shenanigans you’ll be getting up to this year!

I Have a Love-Hate Relationship with John Green

Posted in 2012 with tags , , , , , , on September 11, 2012 by Kristen

The poor man doesn’t know it, but it’s the truth, my friends. As I discussed here, I recently discovered (well, re-discovered, really) his works, both literary and videologgy. And no matter what you think of him, you can’t deny this: The man knows how to use his words (And tells us to do the same in his vlogs, incidentally. I’M TRYING JOHN OKAY). Like, he seriously knows how. As in, I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve encountered in my life that are as articulate as he is. But while his thoughts about the world are always elegantly, simply, and beautifully stated, my thoughts about him are hard to define. And so, for your reading pleasure, the ubiquitous bulleted list:

  • I love the fact that nothing is off-limits for Green when it comes to his writing. The good, the bad, the ugly. The transcendent and the base. All of it is fair game; all of it is subject to the piercing clarity of his wit and apparently ridiculously spot-on understanding of life in general.
  • I hate the fact that nothing is off-limits. The stuff he talks about is IMPORTANT. Plain and simple. But after reading his work for a while, I get the same sort of feeling I get when someone pegs something about me, something uncomfortable and off-putting that I thought I had kept hidden. It’s a sort of mental nakedness that, while healthy and refreshing, is difficult to handle.
  • I love his beautiful, quotable, impeccable prose. I freaking LOVE it, you guys. The way Green writes is every reader’s dream, and after I’ve been reading his work for a while, it rubs off on me. Even my casual thoughts sound polished and erudite–and not even in a pretentious way, but in a satisfyingly clear and endearingly intelligent way. At least, I think that’s how it is. Perhaps you would disagree if you could see into my head. And it’s a good thing you can’t, because all of these thoughts make even less sense in there. ANYWAY…
  • I hate his beautiful, quotable, impeccable prose. It makes mine look like it was written by a fourth-grader, or possibly someone who is learning English. Like all artists, I experience a painful dichotomy when engaging with the masterpieces of others. I can appreciate wonderful art, but while doing so, I can never shake the piercing pain of longing when I realize how awesome I very clearly am NOT.

There it is, folks. My complicated feelings in all their glory(?). John Green will never read this, but if he did, I would tell him how infuriatingly awesome he is and what a roller-coastery yet satisfying experience it is to read his books and watch his and (the equally fantastic) Hank Green’s vlogs.

Oh, and by the way, DFTBA.

Notes from a Pathological Peacemaker

Posted in 2012 on August 16, 2012 by Kristen

Whew. There is a heck of a lot of controversial topics being flung around these days, you guys.

It’s getting pretty overwhelming. Gay marriage, abortion, healthcare, presidential candidates (and Chick-fil-A, I guess?). There are always legitimate concerns on both sides of issues like these, and there have been plenty of intelligent, thoughtful, peaceful discussions about all of these things. However, I’ve noticed something lately (well, longer than lately, to be honest, but it seems especially apparent in recent months). No matter how many great points are put forth by both sides, no matter how intelligent and reasonable the debaters are, it takes approximately two seconds for things to escalate into an all-out screaming match.

I’m gonna come right out and say it; I’m freaking sick of seeing this happen. However, I understand why it does. These issues are very important to all of us, and we build our opinions on them using the most closely-held of our beliefs as a foundation. And when someone challenges those beliefs, it feels like they’re trying to rip apart our very essence. When it happens to me, I want to yell and cry in frustration and give those I disagree with a good shake and ask “WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL GOODNESS ARE YOU THINKING?!” I want to scream my own views at them until they understand, until they see why the issue at hand are so vitally important to me. But I know that won’t help, so I revert to the more passive side of myself and try to let it slide off. I move on as best I can, wanting to convince the whole world but knowing I have practically no chance of convincing even one person.

Similarly, I know I won’t change anything by writing a post on a blog that about five people read. I have no illusions about my inability to start a peaceful revolution. But I have to say something.

So, in the interest of clarity, here is a more-or-less simplified list of the things I want you to know when it comes to bare-knuckle-brawling over hot-button issues.

  • You may very well have some great things to say in favor of your argument, well-thought out things that you have carefully researched and constructed. You may be the most informed person on the planet when it comes to the topic at hand. But even so, remember that you have about as much chance of changing someone’s mind on something as they do of changing yours on the same topic. In most circumstances, someone would have to change their entire worldview (or at least huge parts of it…sorry. I’m a bit given to hyperbole, in case you hadn’t noticed…) before they’d be able to agree with you. This is possible, but it can only happen by degrees, never all at once. Never expect to be any more than a step on a long staircase that leads to a new way of thinking, and always expect to be even less than that.
  • By all means, present your case when the situation calls for it. We need more intelligent responses about life in general. But don’t forget for a second that you have the power to ignite an inferno with the smallest word. Please, PLEASE, don’t do it deliberately, and if it happens anyway, stay calm. Feeding the fire just leaves gross-looking burns on everybody concerned.
  • Contrary to popular belief, naked hatred will never, ever make you a more convincing debater, no matter how wittily you present it. It’ll just make people stop taking you seriously, whether they agree with you or not, because ad hominem arguments have not and will not ever be legitimate as a debate tactic. If using hatred makes people cheer you on, they’re not the kind of people you want backing you up anyway.
  • Remember that the person you’re debating believes in their stance just as strongly as you do, and they feel that they have just as much justification for feeling and thinking the way they do about about a particular issue. As I said, most people base their opinions about these things on their dearest-held beliefs. Sometimes those beliefs deserve to be challenged, but this should only be done in love, not to mention extreme caution. Because you genuinely care about the other person’s well-being and believe that a new outlook is in their best interest, right? Right.
  • Make sure you fully understand someone’s stance before you try to disprove it. If you don’t, you’ll just end up looking ridiculous and/or crazy in the long run. For example, don’t call someone a homophobe just because they don’t support gay marriage. Nonsupport of an issue does not automatically equal hatred or fear toward the people the issue concerns. It simply means that the nonsupporter has a legitimate, morally based reason for feeling as they do. By the same token, don’t go around saying that pro-choicers are murderers and heathens. They, too, are acting on a moral code, and see their stance as the only viable option for all concerned when it comes to such issues. These are just a couple of examples of the sort of misconceptions that tend to fly around when these arguments come up. There are hundreds more. Thankfully, though, most of them are easy to recognize. Keep a weather eye out and don’t let them blindside you. And for goodness’ sake, don’t get caught up in them.

The last thing I want to do is come across as condescending right now. I can’t stand condescension when it’s directed at me, and I sure as heck don’t want to do it to you. I try to keep the above in mind when I’m faced with these situations, but I’ll be the first to tell you that I fail constantly at it. Nor do I want to discourage you from standing up for your beliefs. PLEASE stand up for them. The world needs you to, but it needs you to do it with intelligence and love. All I want to say is that, when we get into situations like this, we need to take a moment to step back and take a closer look at what’s really happening before we go off on a tirade. Tirades have their place, but that place isn’t everywhere, you guys. Even if you only take a few moments to breathe deeply and think about where the other person is truly coming from, you’ll already have gained a victory. And even if you only remember the tiniest bit of this pathological peacemaker’s overly earnest ramblings, then I’ll have succeeded.

As I have said before and will say again, it comes down to this: if you’re not loving others, you’re doing it wrong. I don’t care who you are; I am required to act in love toward you, because I know that’s the only way that anything in this world will ever get solved.

And now, my dears, go have some intelligent discussions while I pack up my soapbox.

TTD – The Olympics

Posted in 2012 with tags , , , , , , on July 30, 2012 by Kristen

Howdy, friends (Howdy? Where did that come from? Is Texas finally rubbing off on me?)! It’s that time again…Tiny Thought for the Day time! Have you missed them? Good, me too. Anyway! I give you today’s TTD:

Like most of you, I really love the Olympics. Something that can make me actually care about sports every two years is pretty phenomenal in my book. But after seeing that commercial (narrated by the ubiquitous Morgan Freeman) about how, in 2008, a millisecond was the difference  between Michael Phelps winning 8 gold medals instead of just 7, and after watching Jordyn Wieber lose a spot in the All-Around competition for virtually no other reason than because her heel slipped out of bounds on the floor exercise, I had to admit that there’s something deeply terrifying about the Olympics. Where else can a minor slip of a foot, a misplaced hand, a single millisecond determine the difference between lifelong glory and pulverized dreams? I admire those who are willing to put themselves under such a crazy amount of pressure, but I’ll take my low stakes and wide margin for error, thank you very much.

The Art of the Short, Sweet Friendship

Posted in 2012 with tags , , , on July 16, 2012 by Kristen

I wrote this post late at night some while ago and felt ambivalent about posting it. But you know what? It just felt right today. So here we go!

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Before I begin, I just want to say that I will try not to make this post too maudlin. It is three in the morning, and this is a subject that’s dear to my heart, so I’m not sure if I’ll succeed. But let’s find out, shall we?

Throughout my life, I’ve done a lot of moving around. Not as much as some people, to be sure, but at the same time, more than others. Some moves were big, most of them were small, but through each of them, I have learned the art of the short, sweet friendship.

Right off the top of my head, I can name scores of instances in which I’ve stayed in a place for a fairly short time and have come out of the experience having made great friends who I was not allowed to keep afterward. There’s something about being thrown in with a bunch of people your own age for a short period of time that makes it easy to form quick, intense relationships. I like to think of it as “friendship concentrate;” all the things that make people become friends are accelerated and exaggerated. When you know you only have a few weeks or a handful of months to spend with someone, things like mutual self-disclosure, the search for common interests, and making an effort to hang out with each other a lot become much easier. A sense of urgency drives you, whether you’re consciously aware of it or not, and suddenly you feel like you’ve known someone for years when you’ve only known them for a week.

This has happened to me time and time again in the past. I’d go to a week-long session of summer camp and come home having made friends (and sometimes enemies…but I digress) in the space of a few days. I went to a two-week apologetics conference in Colorado and made such wonderful friends there that the flight back home is still one of the most depressing days I can remember, because I knew I’d probably never see any of those beautiful people again, at least in this life. I went to college and was placed in an orientation club—after one week, I distinctly remember feeling as though I already knew those people so well. When I studied in Spain for four months, there were several people with whom I bonded strongly that first week over lost luggage and language issues and the terror of so many unknowns, and most of them became great friends indeed over the ensuing months. And yet, I can count the ones that I still talk to on one hand. And this July at the Denver Publishing Institute, I made fast friends with people from all over the country, and with a few, I shared things in a couple of weeks that it took me years to tell other people. But even though I still consider myself to be friends with most of them, it feels like some of those connections are already beginning to fade.

I have a very strange mixture of opinions about this bittersweet state of affairs. On the one hand, I still remember all these short, sweet friendships with great fondness, and I wish they were still a part of my life. If only all the people I love could be in one place at once. Wouldn’t that be nice? I’d like a zillion dollars, while I’m at it.

But on the other hand, this has happened often enough in my life that I’ve learned to take it as a matter of course, for the most part. I can let those friendships pass and still manage to remember and benefit from whatever it was that was so important about each. They were beneficial and wonderful for the time in which they occurred, but they’re over now, and that’s all right. It’s a fact of life that there are people who will only be with us for a short time, but who are no less influential on us than those who stick around. Like Legolas says somewhere in The Fellowship of the Ring (yes, I realize my nerdy is showing; pipe down), “…such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boats are on the running stream.” Things come, and they pass before we know it, and that’s just the way it is.

But whether we intend to or not, we exchange pieces of ourselves with those whose lives we pass quickly into and back out of. We might not remember all of the pieces as time goes on, but each one plays a part in making us who we are and determining how we grow. Each bit represents a little more inspiration, a little more love, a little more widening of the window through which we view the world.

Sometimes I think I hold to these short, sweet friendships more tightly than most people do, that I remember them long after the other person has forgotten. Maybe it’s because I have the ability to see the value of those relationships, however fleeting. Maybe it’s because I’ve had friends who’ve left me due to spite instead of leaving me due to benign circumstance, and I’m therefore less likely to take these things for granted. Maybe it’s because I’m bad at keeping in touch and the other person thinks I’ve forgotten them, too. And maybe I’m just clingy and awkward. I don’t know. But I like to think that I can see short friendships for what they are—necessary, inevitable, and all the more beautiful for their brevity.

Okay, so I clearly crossed the line into maudlin territory. But as much as I’m averse to cheesiness, I think I’m pretty much okay with it for now. To all those who shared short, sweet friendships with me, thanks for what you gave me. I can only hope that I returned the favor as well as you deserved.

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