27 August 2006

The Circle of Life

The last few hours have been frustrating ones for me, and I need to vent somewhere, so this is, as Brigham Young said, the place. If you are looking for bright, cheery, peppy Joni today-you're going to have to look elsewhere, because right now I am so frustrated I could scream.

Deep breath.

Here it goes:

I have pretty much sold my soul to working this summer. I've worked two jobs, six days a week with the ultimate goal of making enough money to get me on the road to the study abroad I want to go on next summer.

Maybe I should paint the picture a little more clearly so you can understand the depth of my frustration. This isn't just any study abroad. This is the study abroad of all study abroads. It is the England and Literature, spring 2007 study abroad that BYU offers. This means flying into Edinburgh next April, and walking to London, stopping in places like Oxford and the Lake District along the way to learn about different authors in context of where they wrote. Sound too good to be true? Well-it's starting to look like too expensive to be true.

Our whole lives revolve around money. Why do we go to school? People can give glorified answers about bettering themselves and wanting to learn, but ultimately, when it comes down to it, you can do all of that on your own. I can buy a Norton Anthology and make up my own essays and have friends grade them if I want to. Why does anyone go to college? To make money. To get a job, to make money, to support a family, who will grow up, and go to college, to make money...etc. etc. etc. The very cynical part of me is saying that The Lion King has it all wrong. Maybe African lions have this glorified, soundtrack-accompanied circle of life, but the modern day American circle of life revolves around money. Without money, we can't survive. We have to pay for literally everything. Nothing is, as they say, free. And there's nothing, in a way, wrong with that. Money is what keeps people in check, I suppose, from turning into a bunch of African lions. But from where I'm sitting right now, I'd throw the entire system out.

Back to where I started. I have worked all summer, sacrificing time with friends and family to earn money. Almost four months later, and I still can't afford the tuition for London-much less the plane ticket out there and money for food while I'm there. Not to mention the t-shirt to prove I've been there. And looking at my finances and thinking about that just makes me so blazing mad. It feels like all I've worked for has been for nothing. Why even try? Half of the money I earned this summer is going to go down the drain paying for food, and books, and gas, and all that. Maybe even more than half. By this time next year, I'll be even worse off than I am now. I feel like my time has been completely wasted. I have all the qualifications I need to be accepted to the program. I have the grade point, I have the right major-I know I have what it takes to be accepted-but because my parents make enough money, I can't get federal aid. And because I can't get federal aid, I'm living on this borrowed dream of seeing the world before I settle down and get strapped to one place by a husband and kids.

I will never have an opportunity like this again. Ever. I can travel, sure. I'm not afraid that I'll never go to London, but that's not the point. I will never again have this chance. To study with people who are there for the same reasons I am. To discuss authors and see the countryside and...now I'm just getting riled up again.

Well, for those of you still reading, don't think I'm a snob. I am blessed. I know that. I have clothes on my back, and plenty of food, and everything I need to live. I have made in one summer more money than some people will ever see in a lifetime. I have no right whatsoever to complain about not being able to go on a study abroad when I have everything I need and then some, but there it is.

If anyone has extra cash laying around, I'll be on the street peddling for loose change.

Just kidding.

20 August 2006

The Dating Game

I want to go back to school. Like...now.

For various reasons (none of which include my undying love for the testing center and midterms). The one that I've been thinking about recently involves one of my least favorite topics in the world-dating.

I'm not saying dating is a bad thing, I'm just here to explain that dating while in a family ward is terrible.

I have a friend who got home from his mission a few weeks ago. Since he's been back we've spent quite a bit of time together getting re-acquainted with each other and figuring out where we stand relationship wise. Part of this excess of time together is because there isn't anyone else around. Of our old "group" all the girls are either engaged or married, and the boys are either on missions or in other states. So we don't have any other options. And part of it is from just enjoying one another's company.

My problem with dating while in a family ward starts in the home. More specifically, mine. I love my family. But when I don't date, they tease me and pester me about getting out more and the importance of dating and all that. And now that I have been, I'm getting teased about whether or not I like him, and I can't get married yet, and make sure you go to your ward at BYU and he goes to his and...etc. etc. etc. It's one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't kinds of things. I hate it. I hate it.

Dating is something that doesn't come easily to me. This is hard for most people to understand, especially after looking over my book and movie collection, but it is. I don't know why, exactly, and the 'why' is, in any case, too personal for me to share in a public setting. Suffice it to say that I am really having to work at telling myself that dating is ok, when what I really want to do is put up walls and run. None of this is because he has done anything wrong-it's just me being me. I hate that my family-specifically my dad and siblings- pokes fun at me for this. It's hard for me. It's really hard for me to put my feelings at risk in a relationship. It's why I've never had one. And now, when I am finally trying to get past this fear, I am being teased by my family. I know they don't mean to hurt me, but it does. It hurts.

The other part of dating that I hate in a family ward, is that a ward is like a small town. Everyone loves to be part of everyone's business, at least in the Relief Society end of things. I don't know about the men. But I am so sick of hearing "are you dating anyone" or "when are you getting married", etc. I get the feeling that "when are you going to have kids" is probably going to go on that list too when I actually do get married. I don't know what makes people think that these questions are in any way appropriate. They can really touch nerves with some people. Is it really any of their business whether or not I'm dating someone?! If I was getting married, wouldn't I have some kind of rock to show for it? It's such a dreadful part of Mormon culture. You don't see that anywhere else, because Mormon's tend to marry younger than most others (no thanks to common law relationships and the like).

So for the sake of my sanity-I'm excited to be back in a singles ward where "who's dating who" isn't such a big deal. When *everyone* is having at that market, then whether or not I'm dating anyone won't matter so much.

14 August 2006

Stupid People

Kind of a broad title, isn't it? There are plenty of stupid people in the world. But my purpose today is to rag on two groups of people who annoyed me specifically this week.

I work at a bookstore. Two years ago a new Barnes and Noble was built in my area and I got hired. I spend most of my time in the children's section because that's where I'm comfortable. I know the area like the back of my hand (though the new head of the children's department would probably disagree. She always catches me looking up a book that she knows. It's a bit embarrassing). Working in the children's section, books are often out of order. Mostly because kids pull books off the shelves and look at them, and leave them where they looked at them. Stuffed animals are always on the floor, chairs are always turned upside-down, but that's just part of the business. It makes it fun-trying to hunt down a fiction novel that somehow ended up in the middle of the science fiction section when a parent tries to reshelve something quickly so they can leave.

In all honesty, I would rather parents let their children leave books on the tables. It's not good store etiquette, sure, but it's easier for me to put them back where they belong than to try and find them in the far reaches of the store. The part of the store that eats books like washing machines eat socks.


Last Saturday, a mother and her two children managed to pull 27 books off the shelf. 27! While their mother was looking at this month's enlightening magazines (People, US, Life and Style...Etc. All the ones that are obsessed with the Cruise/Holmes lack of baby), her children managed to do what no two children have ever managed before. Now, normally when kids pull books off shelves and they get left, I can understand. Shopping with children is hard. Parents often just don't notice. But this mother sat for about a half an hour reading through magazines while her kids did this, then left the five or six magazines on the chair and all 27 books on the table and left.

My point here is this: Whatever happened to parents teaching their kids manners in public places? I'm not talking just bookstores. Like I said earlier, I'd rather clean up after them then try to find where all 27 books went. But shouldn't she have made sure that it was only two books? Maybe four? I see parents letting their children boss them around, I see kids yelling and throwing fits when they don't get what they want. I see so many displays of bad manners everywhere I shop that it's starting to tick me off. I hear of parents letting their kids decide when they go to bed. Three year olds deciding on a bedtime? Ten year olds with cell phones? I guess this is my non-sequitur way of saying that our 'free thinking' society has gone mad. Traditional family units are out of date and values that were once considered essential are completely gone. I don't have time to go into a huge lecture about every flaw of American society right now-so I'll just settle for my original point. I'm not sure if I ever got there, but I was intending to point out that parents should take more interest in the upbringing of their children.

"And now for something completely different."

I spent most of my time at the bookstore last Saturday shelving books. It's not uncommon for me to stop and take a quick second to read the synopsis. Sometimes it's out of curiosity because the book looks mildly interesting, and sometimes it's because I wonder how certain books got published in the first place. Maybe I was reading more covers than normal, but I must have seen at least five books where a reviewer had compared a science fiction/fantasy type book to Harry Potter or used JK Rowling to praise the book. I'm only annoyed with one of these. Jo can review the books she likes-I trust her judgment.

What bothers me are the people who compare their books to Harry Potter by shoving a review on the back that says something like "read this while waiting for Potter" or "better than Harry Potter" or "the Harry Potter for grown ups!". It's like those people in high school who try and gain popularity by saying something like "I'm related to (insert movie star here)".

If a book deserved to be compared to Harry Potter, then it wouldn't bother me. But none of them do. They are poorly written and constructed, they have boring, simplified plotlines and flat, unoriginal characters that are extremely predictable. It's like a bad combover. The publishers try to give the appearance of hair (comparing the book to Potter), but really, the book is just bald (unable to do anything of merit on it's own, so it resorts to appealing to a phenomenon). It's ridiculous.

On a more positive note, Muggle Net has published the first picture of Tonks for Harry 5! I'm loving the purple hair.

10 August 2006

Curtain Call

This is all Liz's fault. I've been thinking about how little writing I've done recently. I mean, I write in my journal, but you don't bore a historical document like a journal with long winded tangents about the absurdities of life at BYU or about the latest Harry Potter theory or movie reviews or...etc. So why is this Liz's fault? Partly because I've always admired her. She's always been someone I've looked up to. So if I'm a copycat for trying out the blog craze at last, then so be it. But it could be a pretty interesting experience. This is the place where I get to talk, and you all get to listen! Granted, I don't know who "you all" are yet, or even if there will ever be a "you all", but I'd like to think that I may, at one point, have at least an audience of one. We'll see.

Along with this reflecting on why I haven't written anything interesting lately, comes the realization that I don't know if I can honestly call myself a bookworm any longer. I think I can blame college for that. Every day this summer I have gone to work at 7, come home at 4 and gone to rehearsal for Footloose or a performance. And now that Footloose is over I come home and nap. Or watch TV. Or any number of completely useless, brain cell killing activities. Whatever happened to my desire to read? I remember summers when I would plow through two novels a week. I remember staying up late at night to re-read my favorite books over again. And now I come home and sleep?! Whatever happened to my worm? I want him back. Next to my bed right now I have about five books piled up that I meant to read this summer. Sense and Sensibility...Ender's Shadow...The Voyage of the Dawn Treader...A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius...among others. I'm about four chapters in on Ender's Shadow. A little bit farther in Sense and Sensibility (but the chapters are shorter so it doesn't count). I wish I had that drive back. Maybe someday I won't be so tired. Every time I've tried to read I've ended up taking a nap because I'm so tired.

Which brings me not so gracefully to my third (and final) point for the evening. This summer saw the dawn of a new Superman to the masses. Superman has always been my favorite hero. Not that I could really pinpoint why. I remember loving Superman as a kid but I didn't know anything about him. All the characters and plot points were completely lost on me (except for Lois and Jimmy-I knew who they were). But all I really knew about Superman was about his different powers. And I think I managed to pinpoint why exactly I love(d) him. It's the same reason I love Peter Pan: both of them can fly. I don't know what it is exactly about flying that makes me hate gravity so much, but something about the thought of feeling so free just gets to me. If and when I ever pass the test and make it to the Celestial Kingdom, I'm going to ask for permission to fly. Just once-to feel what it's like. It's got to be incredible.