Being American

**

I’m pretty liberal about most things but this is something that actually concerns me. Seriously, what’s wrong with us? No one seems to care anymore about being American anymore. I mean, after Bush, I think a lot of Americans became disheartened, understandably–and we do have a pretty bad reputation as tourists outside the country. But why shouldn’t we stand when the flag goes by? You know, despite all our failures, and all our flaws, we’re a pretty amazing country. The things we have accomplished at such a young age… the colorfulness of each state.. we’ve got all types of people, land, cultures, foods, and we co-exist so well despite our differences.

When I left the US over 2 years ago, I was dying to get out and see the world. I was tired of all the problems we had in the US and I was almost embarrassed to tell anyone I met that I was American. But I’ve found that every country has its problems, and no one is perfect, whether you’re Japanese, English, German, French, Spanish, or whatever. Some countries (like Germany) don’t really fly the national flag because to them, patriotism is a reminder of past wars. Okay, I get it. But truthfully, it’s in the past. Who we are today is where we come from, but it’s also where we’re going. (The key word being ‘we’). We define what it means to be American, so being proud of your nationality shouldn’t be likened to fascism, nor should it be dismissed as unimportant. It doesn’t matter which country we come from. It’s who we are and that’s that. It’s just like being born with the body you have. Sure, some people decide to change their bodies through plastic surgery. You can change your nationality too. But if you aren’t willing to go that far, then you ought to be grateful for what you do have. You’ve gotta work with what you’ve got and be proud of it. Mind you, proud doesn’t necessarily mean pompous.

The point is this: Whether you like it or not, or whether you agree or not with anything I’ve said so far, we’re American and we’re damn good at being American. So why shouldn’t we be proud? Why shouldn’t we stand for our dear little flag when it goes by? It stands for us… the least we can do is stand for it too.

**I know this is an old photo, probably taken in the 70s or 80s, but it doesn’t make it any less true. People today still don’t stand for the flag.

A short thought.

Are we really unique?

Well as Oscar Wilde once said, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” Just to reinforce the point, the best I can give you is a quote from someone else. Even with looks and physical appearance factored in (hello doppelgängers), it’s true… each individual one of us isn’t really all that unique. But as depressing as that may sound to an American brought up on believing that everyone is supposed to be a special little snowflake, individualism isn’t the only or necessarily best way.

If, when you sit people-watching, you say you just think of all the countless people who you’ll never know, that’s okay. Maybe we’re not so unique on purpose. There’s no way to meet everyone in the world, so maybe we’re all a bit alike for that very reason.. the more you learn about people, the more you know people.

When it all comes down to it, though, what does it really matter how unique we are or aren’t? As long as we try to be good people and are happy with ourselves…

Cheers

I realise my last post made me seem rather depressed. I tried to include some good things in the post to dispel this impression, but that didn’t seem to work. So here’s the bright cheery side of things in its very own post: London ain’t so bad! It wasn’t London that was even bothering me to begin with but more so the rigid, rusty creakiness with which I was adjusting to my new environment. Two months seems to be my breaking point and I’ve since come to accept this city the way it is. I feel much more comfortable getting around and getting things done here. No more hand-holding for me!

Now Christmas is upon us and for the first time in my life, I’m not going home. Also for the first time, I haven’t written a Christmas list. Save for this, I think what I’d really like this year is to have my first ‘white Christmas’. And that’s the kind of present no one can promise you. If it really does snow on Christmas, then maybe that will be a sign of good things. I’m going to get myself a little tree, some ornaments, lights, and watch Christmas movies all day. I’ll have dinner at a friend’s home, so I certainly won’t be alone the entire time. But I am going to take advantage of this holiday season (alone and away from everyone I know) to make a special present that cannot be bought. (OOo I feel my creative senses tingling!) I’m not loaded with money, so the present will probably be all-inclusive. But money isn’t what Christmas is about anyway, right? It’s not about spending caps, or present leverage. I honestly don’t expect a present from anyone. All I care about is my own ability to give and the look on someone’s face when they open a present. That’s definitely the best part of Christmas. So I sincerely hope you all like my present. Of course, you’ll have to wait until Christmas for it.

Until then, I’d like to stop talking about myself for once and open this up to the rest of you. If you’d like to (and you should because there’s a surprise in it), I invite you to respond in the comments section with your answer (long or short) to the following question: What does Christmas mean to you? Be as imaginative as you like, but please answer by December 24th.

Speak Globish?

Is the English language getting stronger or falling apart?

I just read an interesting Newsweek article that one of my students brought to class for me. It’s about English becoming the lingua franca of the world and how it no longer belongs to England or America, but to the world at large. This new form of English is thus appropriately coined Globish.

See the article here: All the World Speaks Globish

I must admit–I have mixed feelings about this. I do think it’s wonderful that the world is finding a common means of communication. It’s part of why I’m teaching English in Japan. It’s not that I think everyone should speak English–not at all–but I do believe in the potential and opportunity to be gained by the world being able to communicate in one language. The fact that it’s English is convenient for me but I’m also apprehensive that mother tongues will be lost–especially the mother tongue that is English.

This article acknowledges that, “native speakers still cling fiercely to their mother tongues, as they should.” But, what of the English language? Already, English seems to be butchered and neglected by its own native speakers. It seems to me that unless one majors in some form of communication in college, be it Literature, Journalism, or so on, one will only have a meager grasp of grammar and a limited vocabulary. Having taught English as a second language for one year, I’ve realised how little I truly know about the language. The scary thing is that my studies and career revolve around knowing the English language through and through. Most Americans I know who never spent a lot of time studying the English language constantly make mistakes that I can only cringe at as though they were nails on a chalkboard. If I correct these persons, they look at me like I’m crazy and ask me why it even matters. The fact that anyone has to ask why grammar matters is just deplorable, if you ask me.

At the same time, I can say that having a serious lack of grammar is admissible if you’re still successfully communicating. There’s a point in my lesson everyday where my students have to practice a dialogue. First, they read it out loud, and then I have them do it again while standing and leaving the books on their desks. I want them to practice making eye contact and using intonation. Most of my students think this means they have to memorise the conversation before class but this is all wrong. I have to remind them that I don’t want them to remember every single word; I just want them to understand the situation and act it out. If that means they end up changing some words or using a different sentence altogether, so be it. The point is for them to communicate with each other in a natural way, using body language and intonation. They can use whatever words they know as long as they are communicating the right ideas and understanding each other.

It doesn’t take more than a semester of linguistics to know that language is a living thing and constantly changes. New words and phrases are invented all the time. Definitions get switched around from word to word as though they were pieces of furniture at a feng shui convention. I suppose I feel this is a necessary evil if we want to keep up with the changing world. Or perhaps it is just result of a changing world. But I still think it’s important that we hold on to the language whence our modern words came. There are histories and knowledge to be had from our predecessors’ parlance. We shouldn’t underestimate that.

The bottom line? Speaking Globish is a fine skill to have as long as we remember our mother tongue, English. Otherwise, I’m afraid we may lose one of the world’s most dynamic and wonderfully colourful languages.

This one’s about love.

Xavier: What’s all this sh_t about love? How do we get so nuts? The time we waste! When you’re alone, you cry, “Will I find her?” When you’re not- “Does she love me as much as I love her?” “Can we love more than one person in a lifetime?” Why do we split up? All these f_cking questions! You can’t say we’re uninformed. We read love stories, fairy tales, novels. We watch movies. Love, love, love…!
Isabelle: You could just call her back.

I just watched a film called Les poupées russes and while it didn’t really teach me anything in particular, it did have some great views of London, Paris, and St. Petersburg. That was the main reason I rented it. I liked the internationalism of it and the cinematic effects made it fun and modern. As for the main story line, the main character was a jerk, in my opinion. But then again, I’ve done a lot of the same things he has in a restless search for love and comfort, whether it be momentary or eternal. I, too, can be a jerk. It’s only because I want to find happiness as much as the next person.
I guess I’ve always felt that pure happiness could be found through true love. My two favorite movies when I was little were Pretty Woman and Father of the Bride. The idea of being rescued by the perfect guy (no matter who you were) and then having the perfect wedding always fascinated me. I want that to happen to me. I’m very well aware of the fact that these ideas have been ground into my subconscious and they’re not going away anytime soon. To be honest, that bothers me. I see other people in the world whose obsessions have nothing to do with l’amour but with their art, their livelihood, their religion or something else. Sometimes I wish one of these things were my pursuit in life. Maybe I’d feel a lot less like one of the proverbial lemmings. But since I was 4 years old, I’ve always known two things about myself to be completely and utterly true: I want to be a mom and I want to be a wife.
As of late, I’ve been reading a lot of books and spending more time at home. I’ve had no major interest in dating for a while and I haven’t felt like I’ve had a real connection to anyone in quite a long time. Years, it seems. I know it hasn’t been years, but sometimes I wonder if even my last two serious relationships, both involving many a serious discussion on marriage and even an engagement, were truly full connections. I understood these partners inside and out. I understood what they wanted and needed. I thought I could give them that. I cared enough about and loved each one enough that I thought the kind of dreamy relationships we had could stay like that forever. That I could fill those roles of everything they wanted forever. Something was missing for me though, and as much as I wanted to say “No! I love this person and I can make it work!” I knew I wouldn’t stay happy forever. Only about a minute ago did I realize that the first of these relationships was far too wild. It pushed all the boundaries I knew. The second of the two was much too comfortable. It was well within the boundaries I had known. I had a pleasant spark with both of these individuals when I first met them and it grew into love very quickly. But I was never 120% sure. 98% sure, yes. Which is fine for a school exam. But not when it comes to love. The reason why 98% sure isn’t good enough for me is that a couple times while I was growing up, I asked my mom how she knew my dad was the one. She told me she “just knew.” I couldn’t believe her at first. Of course that’s not the answer you want to hear as a kid. I don’t really know what else I was hoping she’d say, but what else could she say? “Well, kid, I just walked down to the perfect husband store and picked him in aisle 5. Right height, right price, nice eyes. When you’re 18, I’ll take you down there and we’ll see what we can find for you.” I guess that could have been easier to accept. But we all know, that’s not how it works and there’s no perfect partner store.
You see, when referring to my future partner, I hesitate to use the word husband. It seems likely, but given my past and my philosophies and especially my wonderings about love, I feel as though I would be ruling out a possibility if I just stuck to a husband. Who knows if I’ll find a husband, or just a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, or just a good friend who I hang around with a lot? I know some people find their soul mate in a best friend, and they never marry. Who says we have to marry anyway? Maybe I will find a partner, but we won’t marry. Maybe we can’t marry. Remember, my obsession with marriage (thanks, Steve Martin and Kimberly Williams). That and my parents have a perfect marriage—seems like it anyway. It’s been the model in my life. So, yeah, I want one too. And I want it to last forever. It’s an instinct for me: I want to find my one and only.
Here’s the thing, though: I’m scared that once I meet the “one” I won’t appreciate it. Or I won’t be happy forever and things will go awry. Worse yet, what if I already met the one and I threw it all away? So many times I’ve had that feeling I thought was the same as my mom’s when she met my dad and “just knew.” I thought I “knew” this was it several times. But I don’t trust myself to “know” anymore. I don’t know if I can love a spouse for the rest of my life. Or even for 50 years. I do know that when I have children, I will always love them, no matter what. I know that down to the blood and marrow in my bones. I’m far more sure about having kids than I am about getting married.
So what am I getting at here? I suppose I’m just expressing my confusion and bewilderment about love. I think most of us have, at one point or another, been frustrated by love. I want to know why it’s so necessary. Why am I obsessed with finding (or being found by) my one and only? I mean, at least lately, I haven’t felt as much of a rush to find love, but I still find this sentiment inside so annoying that I feel the need to rebel against it, kicking and screaming, saying “I don’t need you!” I feel the need to write a long, ridiculous post like this one. That’s how I feel about love. How do you feel?

Connectivity

Okay, okay, okay!  I know.  I’ve failed you and left you without anything to read for 4 (count ’em! 4) months.

I apologize.

In previous entry from yesterday, you’ll see a post I began writing two months ago and never finished.  The anxiety built up again and I put it off.  And then, I forgot about it.  So yesterday, when I oddly enough felt inspired to come over here and valiantly write a new entry, I was reminded of that poor little entry I wrote just 2 months ago.  I figured I should just publish what I had and then start with a new one.

So you know those memes we encounter online? Here’s a fun one that didn’t involve me spouting off information about myself in that oh so narcissistic way we all tend to do.  It’s called the Google Name Game.  Basically, google these and use the first entry.

1) Type in “[your name] needs” in Google search.
2) Type in “[your name] looks like” in Google search.
3) Type in “[your name] says” in Google search.
4) Type in “[your name] wants” in Google search.
5) Type in “[your name] does” in Google search.
6) Type in “[your name] hates” in Google search.
7) Type in “[your name] asks” in Google search.
8) Type in “[your name] likes ” in Google search.
9) Type in “[your name] eats ” in Google search.
10) Type in “[your name] wears ” in Google search.
11) Type in “[your name] was arrested for” in Google Search.
12) Type in “[your name] loves” in Google Search.

and here you go:

1. Emily needs a series of exemptions to Harvard’s administrative rules.
2. Emily looks like a very charming woman, with a natural beauty and a sparkling, unconstrained expression in her face.
3. Emily says that she and Richard are not getting back together.
4. Emily wants a pony, and she slings lemonade on the corner to get it.
5. Emily Does the Salmon Dance.
6. Emily Hates You 2.0
7. Emily asks Zander why he sold drugs.
8. Emily likes to wander the streets without much planning.
9. Emily Eats is proudly powered by WordPress.
10. Emily wears a cute outfit from Grandma while she plays in the house.
11. Emily was arrested for beating up a classmate!
12. Emily Loves Banana Custard!!

Funnily enough, about half of those are true.  I’ll let you guess which half.  The point of this meme, which I believe speaks volumes about society today, is that it’s a fun and interactive way of keeping up with each other without really keeping up with each other.  You know what I mean?  Allow me to explain:  Say one day you’re talking to a good friend and they mention someone from your past.  “Do you know Joe Schmoe?” they ask.  “Yeah I do.  Well, we’re friends on Facebook, anyway…” you start to trail off.  Joe, from your 7th grade science class, added you way back when and you have rarely, if ever, exchanged messages or comments.  But you’re friends on Facebook.

Every time this situation happens to me, I can’t help but stop and give myself a puzzled look, thinking, “How in the world did we come to this?”  I guess it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but back in the 1950s, for instance, did these acquaintances exist in such a way?  Maybe they did… “Yeah, I know Joe.  I’ve never talked to him, but we hang out at the same neighborhood bar.”

Maybe what I’m getting at here is the social phenomena of acquaintances and their interactions (or lack thereof).  What if you’re walking down the street or through the store and you see Facebook friend Joe Schmoe?  You’re not sure if he’s seen you yet, but if he does, what will you both do?  Will you smile and wave?  Will you walk up to each other and catch up on the past (or lack thereof)?  Or will you both pretend you didn’t see each other because you don’t want to get involved in what might otherwise be **cringe** an awkward situation?  But you are friends on Facebook.  And when you go home, you’ll look up Joe’s profile and find yourself clicking through every one of his photos and soon you’ll forget yourself and leave some kind of comment about one of his funnier photos.  And then the awkwardness sets in and you feel you should go ahead and leave a comment on his wall mentioning that you “thought” you saw him at the store today, but you “weren’t sure” if it was him. Hope he is well.

AAAAAGH!!!

I don’t know; maybe it’s just me.  (I did just find out recently that I have a high raw percentage of neuroticism, compared to most people).  Haha. Um.  Yeah, maybe that’s all it is.  But honestly, tell me you’ve never been in that situation before.

For a moment there I thought I was going somewhere with this post.  And then it all went to pot.  I could go back and edit the post and figure out what I meant to get at.. but I’d be here for hours… and I believe my readers are smart enough to figure it out for themselves.  Heh heh.. I do hope you got something out of it.

Oh well.  Hearts to you all for sticking around.  I’ll try to be better next time.

A fabric I might be a part of.

In my young adult age, I find myself wafting between a feeling of existential solitude and a feeling of powerful connection with the world around me.  As I sit here alone in my bedroom with no one around, I feel like I am untraceable; nobody knows exactly what I am doing right at this second and I can do anything I want without the consequence of anyone knowing about it.  I am unconnected to the world.  Yet at the same time, I have a cell phone in front of me and an internet connection at my fingertips.  I can hear the contractors next door working on the neighbor’s house and I saw the neighbor across the street take off on his Triumph motorcycle earlier.  I am aware of the world around me and just the simple observance of this world affects me and my day.

I’ve been rather busy lately, what with looking for jobs, working part-time and still looking for jobs, and dating someone with whom I spend quite a bit of my non-job-related time.  I’ve also been running errands and visiting with close family members, such as my parents and my grandmother, and yet I have not had a chance to keep in touch with my brothers.  This is an odd thing for me, because I am very close with all of my immediate family members.  However, half the time, I don’t know what’s going on with my brothers anymore.  It’s not that I’ve missed the boat and I have to catch up–I can get back into the game at any time.  But the point of the matter is that the world goes on without you and gets along just fine when you’re not there.  We (mostly) all know this to be true.  And I suppose I always thought it was a bad thing to let the world go on without you.  But lately, I’m seeing it differently.  Did you ever really think about what happens to those people that don’t keep up with the world they’re used to?

I used to be all over the internet.  I had an active account with almost every type of social networking site you could think of.  I still do have a lot of those accounts, but I’ve been busy with “real life” lately.  Some of my accounts, I often forget about completely.  Some, I feel a need to maintain activity on simply due to the fact that my friends (most of whom I haven’t seen in at least a year since I moved back to San Diego) use these sites.  But slowly, my site activity is lessening all the time.  My communication with my social network in all is dying down.  I feel slightly bad for neglecting my emails, comments, phone calls, and texts.  And yet, I have to ask myself why I should feel so bad about that?  I respond to people as necessity calls for it.  But otherwise, I find myself rather liberated by not needing to be online at all times.  Sometimes it’s nice to be alone.  And by that I mean free of social networking sites.

Another thing that is contributing to my progression away from the social internet is the fact that I’ve been paying more attention to the news and politics (rather than movies and celebrity gossip), as well as taking over certain bills and payments in my life (learning how to be an adult here, people).  Through this, I feel like I really am part of the real world, as opposed to before when I wasn’t quite convinced.  I am slowly learning that the taxes I pay and the votes I make and the way I drive and the things I eat really do have a large impact.  The last thing that’s giving me a hard time now is the way I communicate with people.  I know how to be courteous and polite, but I’m forgetting how to keep in touch with people.  The kinds of relationships I had with people before are not and cannot be the same anymore.  I’m unsure of how to approach it and all I can say when people ask me where I’ve been is, “I’ve been busy.”  And I have been.

This blog entry is one attempt to hash it all out.  I know this blog alone won’t help me understand myself or the world, but it helps a little.  You see, writing is a therapy for me.  Obviously, I don’t do it enough (as you can see by the date on my last entry).  But when I do write, it’s for a reason.  I do believe in the power of communication.  I preach this all the time.  But even I have my own problems with it.  And therein lies the beauty of communication: it is one of the few things in this world that can fix itself.  When you don’t use it, problems can happen.  When you do use it, problems can happen.  But either way, you can always use it again to right the situation.  That’s what I’m trying to do now.

As for my journey into adulthood, that’s a process that will likely take decades.  I’m okay with being a 23-year-old kid with hardly a clue of what to do.  It’s a learning process and I know it’s going to take time for me.  My values and priorities are definitely doing some changing and I’m learning how to accept that.  It’s okay to not be the person you once were.  It’s okay to become a new person.  It doesn’t mean you have to throw away your old world entirely for the new one, but it’s okay to move some things around (and possibly discard) to make room for the new world.  I hope people realize that.

Until next time.