31 Days of Introspection: Week 3: Relevant vs Irrelevant Information

Heya,

So…the oddest thing to think about is the fluidity of life. My thoughts from one week to another. The way things change just by a few well  timed words. It’s all incredulous and I’m in awe at how things turn about.

From last weeks summary, I remember an emotional rant about perception and deleting my Facebook because of my inability to externalize the opinions of others. This week, my guy and I were out on our upstairs porch, him standing with one hand tucked in one pocket, the other balancing a thick cigar between two fingers, and I, sitting on the roof with my knees pulled up close to my chest, two boxes of matches jammed between my sock and the edge of my sweats, my cigar dangling from my fingers.

We chat about life. Our goals, as if we aren’t already aware of each other’s aspirations, and any emotional hindrances from the week. It’s not until rain starts to patter on the porch, chasing us inside, silently down a flight of stairs (so as not to wake baby Naomi), and onto our screened in porch that we get to the meat of it all.

This is something we regularly did, him and I, before Naomi was born. It wasn’t just cigars. Often times we’d go out to hookah lounges, or our favorite cafe that serves hookah, and we’ll spend hours entwined in each other’s legs, our thoughts mingling. This night, we discuss minimalism and how I’m on this new journey of decluttering and keeping only the things that “spark joy” and how he’s a natural minimalist and doesn’t even know it. He tells me how appreciative he is that I’ve taken this huge leap to make our house more of a home. That it’s safer for Naomi to scramble about on fawns legs because I’ve gotten my shit up off the floor and gotten rid of piles of useless, unread books. There’s a compliment in there somewhere.

Our convo, now that we are in the throes of Our Time, turns to what he calls Relevant and Irrelevant Information. I tell him how I want to delete my social media. How it all just makes me feel like shit. Why do I need justification? Why do I need people to “Like, Comment, and Subscribe” (Blah blah blah)? Why can’t I just get on and happily watch cat videos without thinking no one cares about me? That no one loves me? That their opinions cut so deep without them saying anything? And yes, we are long since working on my aforementioned abandonment issues from childhood, but this is a deeper level of questioning. This isn’t just the want to understand. This is the want to change.

He flicks the ash from the end of his cigar and turns to look at me. I don’t know if it shows in my face, as I gaze back at him, but I need to know. “You can never change the perception of others,” he says. “It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Their opinion, negative or positive, is just that. Their opinion.” I nod but my mind wanders and I think about all the “branding” lessons I’ve learned in business and how it makes a difference when showing “yourself” to clients or employers/employees.

What he’s talking about is different. “If you knew someone didn’t like you, Jade, you’d want to know why…” he knows me so well. I’d have questions, internally at least. “I don’t want to know why,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to me. Even if they were  to tell me, what would I do with this information? I wouldn’t change myself to suit their needs. So why?” This -another thing we discussed at length- might make him sound arrogant but as someone who knows and loves him I can tell you, he is not. But that sentence right there tells you how much I care. What he was saying made sense to me though, or maybe it’s because we have a bond. He cares what Naomi thinks, I think, and the opinions of his parents but there’s little else that can shake him. I’m strong like that, but definitely not in the area. I care a little too much.

Later, when our cigars have burned down and I’ve had to pinch the lip end of mine with both hands so as not to burn my lips as I drag, I tell him an experience I once had with perception. “I once had this girl tell me she didn’t like me because I was too happy. Seriously, she was mad because I always walked around happy for no apparent reason.” Now, this was before the pregnancy losses, before the attack in college, before adult life chewed me up and spit me out again. I had a rough childhood. An angry one, and in that sliver of between time that was the last two years of high school, I had gotten to a place where optimism and light were my unspoken motto and she stomped all over it.

“So…” he flicked his cigar again, “ what did you do with that information? Be less happy?” He had that sly, sideways look. With one corner of his mouth tilted up and one caterpillar-like eyebrow raised.

“Right?” I smiled ruefully and handed over the scorching hot butt of my cigar. I folded my legs beneath me and tilted my head at him incredulously. Because I’d never thought of it that way. Yes, I always remembered that mantra that force into you as a kid ‘be who you are’ and ‘it’s okay to not be liked’ but I never took ownership of my own feelings in the matter. Responsibility of the part I played. I did dim my light for her. I remember seeing that chick in the halls and feeling like I couldn’t smile. Like I couldn’t be happy.

“See, the problem is that people aren’t honest with themselves. Be honest, Jade. You want people to like you. You want everyone to like you. Most people do.” I wasn’t offended but I did feel attacked. Damn, Bear (my nickname for him).

“Well,” I said. “It’s not that I want everyone to like me.” I took in a deep breath and he lifted an eyebrow. “I don’t have a problem with people not liking me! I don’t! I just…want to know why!”

”But it’s not Relevant Information,” he said. He went on this long monologue about how Relevant Information is the Information you get that you can actually utilize. Mostly from those you genuinely care about, and vice versa, and secondary players in your life that still affect you- like a boss or mentor. It’s constructive criticism. It’s when people build you up. It’s kudos. It’s even when someone is giving the harsh truth that might make you WAKE up, ask the hard questions, or the feedback that pushes you to strive harder toward your dreams.

“Irrelevant Information”, he says before taking a long drag on the remnants of his cigar and expelling slowly, “is all that information from the unimportant people in your life that you can’t use. it’s the opinions that serve no other purpose than to bring you down.” It’s what that girl said about disliking me because I was too happy. Was I supposed to dim my light? Why did I? What did I gain from that except heart ache! What did she gain except satisfaction — then she probably promptly forgot who I was. It’s the information from people who aren’t a part of your life, they don’t matter.

Now, it’s not to say negative information is always irrelevant. Like I said, if someone says something that does hurt you, but it pushes you to work harder, be stronger, move higher, then that is Relevant Information. It’s all crazy and feels like common sense, but me thinking of it in this way was like a light bulb moment. I was finally able to just let go of all the old friends, the sordid past and start over.

Keeping those people around will harm you, destroy you, dim your light. I realized I didn’t need this repeated social hiatus- not for this reason at least. I just needed to change my circumstances. I needed to change the audience. Get back to what my social media intention is really about— why I use it in the first place.

Minimalism. Declutter, not Deactivate.

I went from around 530 Facebook friends down to 32. (seriously? Old high school classmates that didn’t even like me back then and don’t talk to me now? Random people I met and never connected with again? Hundreds of people I’m dishing my soul out to and expecting them not to trample on it? Yeah. No.) I kept only the people I felt I truly wanted to keep. Then I deleted a few dozen more. As my guy suggested, join groups you like and the people who are into those topics will fill your page. It’s kind of like keeping the things that “spark joy” only…virtually.

I want my social media – my feeds – to be about Books, Writing, amazing places Traveled, and philosophy. Instead of my hiatus I’m re-tailoring with honesty in mind.

Week 3 Summary

Since you stuck around after that whole thing, thank ya thank ya. I’ll keep my summary of this week brief.

I met up with the Black Moms group for my area yesterday and it was amazing. I really feel like I might have found a community here that can help me and provide fun events that aren’t so solitary. I met several cool women with age variety – and a surprising amount of twin moms. We sat, had tea and cackled over all things culture. I definitely want to make it a point to attend more events in the future.

It really sucks not having a laptop. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to do the business, writing and editing, university work, and freelance work from my IPad. If anyone wants to gift me a laptop, I’d love it. I’m laughing but boy am I serious. Har har har. We’ll figure something out eventually. We always do.

I’ve read almost 118 books this year. My goal was 100 due to the baby and switching universities. Most of those were in the second half, and a ton of that can be thanks to audio books. I use Overdrive which is a free app you can link to your library card. Oh man, I’ve read/ listened to so many in the last three weeks. Y’all should check it out.

Lastly, I’ve been keeping the apartment clean!!! Yaaaaaas! I’m so happy because now that I’ve made it into this routine I can clean so much faster and so much easier. I’m loving this minimalist life and I know I still have more to get rid of but the hard work is done.

One more week of Introspection, guys! Then I’ll spend the last 3 days of December reflecting over the month. Cherchez La Vie is the last Sunday of the month. That’s the real holiday, I can’t wait to look over the last 6 months and set goals and plans for the next 6. Things are turning out better than I thought and I’m feeling like a better, mentally healthier, and lighter person already.

Don’t forget to let me know in the comments your thoughts, goals or aspirations. Are you a minimalist? Interested? Yogi? I want to know it all, let’s chat.

 

Good Readdance,

Jade

To help me with my writing skills, my guy suggested that at least 50/100 of the books for 2020 have to be in a genre other than Romance and Detective/Mystery. Game on! I’ve already dug into science fiction a lot this year and I’m ecstatic about it, taking any and all suggestions!

We Should Teach Creative Writing in Schools

This is a long one, so buckle up. (or in, or down, or whatever). Get ready. Stay for the ride, maybe you’ll learn something. Maybe you’ll…just pretend you did. Hehe.

It actually surprises me that this isn’t something we already do. I mean, yes, in the times of the past maybe ‘we’ thought that this was ‘all just woo-woo stuff’ that we were giving into. For some reason ‘we’ thought that encouraging our children to open their minds and believe in things that didn’t exist meant that we were not being good parents. It meant that we weren’t preparing them for the “real” world where things are hard, and tough, and fierce, and angry and streets were dirty. It was like we thought that we couldn’t allow them to fly free and they wouldn’t see the world around them. It was as if we never used our imagination to help develop who we became.

It’s widely known that ‘we’ believe you lose your ‘inner child’ when you get older. Only thing is…you don’t lose it, it’s suppressed, stolen, beaten and trampled by adults who constantly say “that’s not real” or “that would never actually happen” or “life isn’t so happy” or even “wake up!”. Yes, at some point we do need to have a discussion of this sort but we always fail to realize that children are smarter than we think they are.

How did we forget that when we were kids ourselves we had imaginary friends and we poured fake tea and we danced circles in frilly dresses or chomped wood with plastic saws? We knew we weren’t drinking anything. We knew we weren’t princesses or construction workers or true magicians. We just didn’t care. At some point, after the suppression of our passion we cross from being a “knowing someone who enjoys” to “a person who is unknowing, dying and actively disliking everything”.

Break here for a deep breath.
Okay, Go.

Well, I’m going to tell you a small story as to how my own experiences with school and writing and creating my own worlds changed my life. Then I’m going to share with you a few bits from others that I found while doing research for speech class. Yes, they will be credited and citations will be below. Far below. Don’t worry, I did my homework and I actually enjoyed it. Ha! These are the friends that I spoke of in the title, that are not really friends. Just those more qualified than me to talk about the subject of child development and the need for play acting in the kiddos.

When I was about 7 I wrote my first story. I wrote it down on crumpled paper and it took me forever to do it. At the time, I thought I was writing a book, which makes me laugh inside as it was only about 4 to 5 pages. It was about a dog and a cat that truly loved each other. They played all day and all night and everything was just perfect. It was all just perfect until the dog died. The cat was sad, it’s best friend was gone. What was the cat to do? It moped and cried. At the end of the “book” the dog came back to life and the cat was happy! THE END!

No really, that was the end. I was so proud of myself. My heart was full. I couldn’t believe it. I’d written a book! Immediately I turned around and went to my mother. Read it! Read it! I was so excited. She read it and I sat there with twiddling fingers and tapping feet. And then there was the Look. You know, the one someone gives you when they know you want good news but all they have is bad news and they want to let you down softly. That one.

“Umm…this would never happen,” she starts. She proceeded to tell me about how cats and dogs are never friends, how they don’t experience feelings of love and loss the way we do, and how once something dies it can’t come back to life. That’s JUST the way the world works! At first, I was broken. Then, I was angry. I was so defensive and offended. I can do anything I want with my story! I wrote it. It was my book and no one could tell me what to do with my book.

And that is how I knew I wanted to be a writer. For the next ten years I continued to write stories about opposing characters and things that ‘could never actually happen’. During this time, I didn’t let my mother read anything that I’d written. I couldn’t let her stop me from becoming a god to my characters and have their fearful bodies shaking in their boots. Couldn’t have her telling me I couldn’t resurrect my Lazarus and keep his humanity to fall in love with some chick with mousy brown hair and a big obsession with finger blades!

But it wasn’t just her, when I was a young troubled girl trying to make it through the ins and outs of my foster home I wrote like crazy. I filled composition notebook after composition notebook of character ideas and story arcs and I read as much as I could. Books of all genres were fodder for my tiny fast fingers and I soaked in as much of their imagery and filth as I could. Only to spew it back out in the form of inspiration and child like ambitions.

Ok, that just went on an odd tangent but you get the point. I didn’t even get to the part I was trying to say. I loved it and it changed my life. I had a teacher in the fourth grade who gave in to my childish wants and desires. She suggested so many books to me I can’t even remember them all. She said ‘one day you will grow up and be a writer’. From her I got Melusine, Summer of my German Soldier and the original readings of The Giver. She told me I was reading and writing on a high school level and she was impressed with me. Blah, blah, blah. Of course, at that time I didn’t care about all of that. I just wanted to write.

Then in eight grade, and I’ll never forget, Mr Vincent Potts awarded me with an English plaque at the end of the school year. It was my first time back in school with the ‘norms’, meaning I was no longer in the private school that had fostered my introverted nerdiness. He would read my writings and give me real feedback. He, too, told me that I would one day become a great writer. This was at the time when things were confusing, I didn’t believe him and yet I did.

I had an english teacher in high school that was mean as hell. To everyone else. Or at least that’s what I remember them saying. All the time. I loved her. She was great. I made my first friend in that class. I wrote a book complete from beginning to end at her request. She pushed me and pushed me and I knew, one day I would be a writer. And I am. *Mild shoulder shrug while throwing up in my mouth a little*

So that was me.

Now, from my fake friends I gleaned that this actually has an effect on children that should not be ignored. Not just expanding the mind by writing down things you create from your own imaginations but also pretending that there are things before you that aren’t there. No, not crazy speak, just childhood word vomit and seeing spies in sky.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” -Einstein. Okay, okay. I apologize for this one but we all know it. We know how important imagination, excitement and intriguing mystery is. We learn this from ‘woman is a grinch at Christmas’ or ‘CEO learns to love’ movies that we all watch as adults to make us think that rich people aren’t happy or sit around all day without an ounce of make believe.

Another… There are benefits to pretend play that involves “fantasy, make-believe, symbolism, organization, cognitive integration, and divergent thinking; it allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings” from Psychologist Sandra Russ*. This is one we also know. When you are allowed to create, to push the envelope back and forth, to bend the rules and then punish your characters for breaking them, you get to experience both sides of things. You allow yourself, and readers, to learn the consequences of life and how to react to betrayal, anger, excitement, the works.

Dr. Catherine Neilsen’s voice on enhancing the imagination and it’s effects through to adulthood can be reduced to 5 reasons as to why creativity is important. I’m just going to list these and put my summaries of each because…that article is long and I read it myself and gleaned what I could so you don’t have to. Here*:

  1. Social development- learning cooperation and compromise with friends! Yay!
  2. Language development- expanding vocabulary and understanding inflection.
  3. Emotional development- positive and negative feelings and working through things in a ‘made up’ world! Whoop! Becoming a god with a conscious!
  4. Physical development- using physical tools help with expression and muscle development. Writing! Typing! Wooden swords and play tea sets!
  5. Thinking skills- Children think in magical ways and use their imagination to stretch their minds. -and develop their own thoughts and personalities despite the adults proverbial sodomizings! (yes, I made that plural…and?)

So there you have it. We should teach creative writing in schools. I daresay we should. I say we go for it and we teach them what their mind can do, what it can create. You know…this might just work out for us in the end. (See above 5 ways). We MIGHT just get some decent human beings that are accepting of others (skin color, orientation, freaking accents (personally speaking here) and family situations). We MAY just come across an entire generation of people who want to think up all the mighty things they can do and actually DO them.

So many people say that focusing on the false and on creative writing is a waste of time and there are so many ‘more productive’ things we can teach children but I disagree. I believe that by encouraging them to be themselves, see their invisible friends and more we are actually setting them free. I believe that if we taught our children how to deal with their thoughts, use their own imagination to build worlds and as coping mechanisms, they would be better human beings and the earth would be a better place.
But that’s just me. A girl who dreamed she’d one day be a writer. Who took a few detours until she realized her dream was within reach. Who decided…hey! It will happen because I dreamed it so and now…I’ve done the work to do so.

So…let me know what you think below. Do you agree? Has creative writing effected you? Would you like to be a writer but never thought you could? Do you think that encouraging creativity and play acting in children can really cause them to become better humans beings? Tell me!

Happy Lifeness,
Jade

References:

  1. Wallace-Segall, Rebecca. “Plea for Creative Writing in Schools”. The Atlantic.com. The Atlantic Monthly Group. 4, Oct, 2012. 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/a-passionate-unapologetic-plea-for-creative-writing-in-schools/263212/
  2. Suckerman, Simone. “5 Benefits of Imaginative Play”. LivingandLoving.co.za. Living and Loving Magazine. 3 August. 2017. 2018. https://www.livingandloving.co.za/child/5-benefits-of-imaginative-play

Modernizing Required Readings for Students

Heya!

So I have been thinking long and hard about what I want to achieve in the world of literature. My want to go back to college and finish my degree was more about accomplishing my own goals and learning new things. I hadn’t yet figured out what I wanted to do with my degree, specifically, besides writing bestsellers. I’ve even played with the idea of getting my Master’s or becoming a Professor but those are ideas that I have romanticized since I was a child. Things that I hoped I could achieve under the label of personal success. I’ve been reading, writing books and creating new stories since I was a young child, since before I could remember. Despite my detours in life, I always knew this is where I would land.

To translate that into academics, I want to delve deeper into the literary requirements of our youth. I remember being a young girl, inspired by big works like Shakespeare and George Orwell and also the smaller works like Summer of my German Soldier (Bette Greene) and Melusine. I always found it fascinating to read works by authors who lived long ago but realized that my fellow classmates did not. They were disinterested, flighty and annoyed. This made me really think about the works that were required and what I could do to make reading more appealing to those who would balk at the idea normally.

So I’ve realized the best way to go about this, as so far thought, is to modernize our required readings. I am a firm believer that the best writers weren’t only born 200 plus years ago. Yes, we can learn great things from our past but we can also learn a multitude of things from the present. We have hundreds of amazing writers here in this century and we need to recognize them. Do not take this as I am wanting to replace the genius works of the past. I want to give an alternative modernized literary option for teaching those students who squirm and fuss at the thought of reading outside of a text message. These are students who naturally hate reading. I want them to be able to pick up a book they can relate to and learn the same skills of tension, mystery and cultural appreciation.

Once I embark on this journey I am going to compile a list of required readings and find comparisons in the modern world of literature. I want to develop a list of books that will still teach life lessons, broaden horizons and open the minds of our youth. I will be blogging my path with this and will eventually make a static post of the comparisons that I’ve done so that you guys are updated!

I would really like some suggestions that could help me on this journey. I found a really great list on GoodReads but it’s 500 books long! That’s a great start and I will be breaking them apart, following a specific criteria, and choosing the ones I think can really transform literature. If you’ve read a modern or contemporary book that you think could rival the literature of old please feel free to let me know! Also, tell me the book that you think it parallels. This is going to be a great journey!

P.S. To make a clear distinction, I am talking about new and original stories; plays and novels written now, not revisions or rewrites of old ones.

Good Readance,

Jade