Thursday, March 22, 2012

iambic pentameter and other such nonsense

I rarely like poetry. Maybe that makes me a bad English teacher, but I can deal with that if it gets me out of having to know the difference between a pantoum and a sestina. Occasionally I'll get on a limerick kick and send everyone I know a little rhyme, and I once held an entire conversation in haiku (the other half of that conversation is not my friend anymore, most likely because of that incident). For the most part, however, I stubbornly stick to prose.

For some inexplicable reason, I've been drawn to poetry lately. But not just any poetry, oh no. I can't be happy just reading a little ee cummings and going about my day. I like poetry slams.

I knew the concept long before I'd ever attended one; obviously I'd shown performed poems to my students before and I have had some friends that write in the slam poetry style. It's been creeping into my day-to-day for a little while now; from Jacob suggesting we write poems as a form of intercession, to Courtney bragging about the slam at her writers' conference, to Lauren having a competition on her DVR when I got here. I attended a slam in Columbus before I left, and last night Lauren and I made our way to a very artsy pub in Berkeley to watch some amazing poets compete. And now I want to do it too.

I've been writing poetry in my head since we got home last night, although none of it is even close to being worth performing. The thing with poetry is that it's so real; you can't hide behind clever anecdotes or verbosity. Poetry depends on precise diction and syntax, two things I'd rather just avoid in favor of telling lame jokes. When written well, poetry takes you places prose never could, introducing you to emotions drawn with words that feel as real as burning your hand on a stove.

No matter how many times I try, I can't seem to figure out how to write about India (or the end of Korea for that matter). Perhaps I'm just jobless and bored, but I think it would be fun to challenge myself as a writer and see if I can paint in verse what I can't seem to record in prose.

Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to watch videos like this and call it research.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

i know you mean well (i think)

I'm on a search for a new city to live in. I've been at my parents' house for a week and a half now, and after my vacation to visit Lauren in San Francisco, I have to figure out what comes next. I know I'm not going back to Seoul, but that only rules out one out of a few hundred thousand in the world. After living in Korea's capital, I really miss my big city, so I pulled up wikipedia's list of the biggest cities in the US. I scratched off a few I'm not interested in and called the rest my potential homes.

The thing is, the more I talk to people here, the more discouraged I get. Every time someone tells me that I need to "just get this out of my system" or that I should "do this while I'm young so I can settle down soon," a part of me curls up inside and hides away. I don't think that my desire to travel, my desire to make friends all over the world, my desire to see cultures other than my own and learn the way the world is so intricately knit together is a virus my immune system is working to get out of my body. I don't think this is some kind of inferior state, a mistake where I'll recognize my folly and come to my senses and have a "normal life." What if this is just me? What if these passions are part of my DNA, what if this is only the beginning of a life that seeks to know the world in a way you can't simply by reading about it?

I know people mean well when they tell me that they want me to live close by. I know deep down that they are just trying to find a way to say, "We miss you when you're not around. Please stay." But when I throw out a city I'd like to explore and it's met with a "eh, how about Columbus?", I feel like they're telling me I'm a failure. I'm not saying that everyone who chooses to live in Columbus is a failure by any means. What I'm trying to articulate is that when people tell me I shouldn't live in San Francisco or Chicago or Bangkok, I hear that I can't. I know they're just trying to keep me close to home so they don't have to drive as far to visit, but what I hear is completely different. I hear that I'm not clever enough, not strong enough, not brave enough, not capable enough, not something enough to handle living the life I dream of. And all it makes me want to do is prove them wrong.

Honestly, I probably wouldn't mind living in Columbus, but I want to move there because God tells me it's the next step on my journey, not because I "can't handle" living anywhere else. I want to know I chose my next city on my own terms, not because I was afraid of disappointing everyone who refuses to drive more than an hour to get to me. When things get hard (as life inevitably does), I want to stand firmly on the conviction that I'm living exactly where God told me to be and not have to wonder if I'm somehow in the belly of a whale.

I went to the doctor the other day, and the woman who checked my weight and blood pressure and such asked me if I was excited to be home. I told her I'm excited to start a new adventure, and she said she hopes I get this out of my system before I have kids. With the most polite smile I could muster, I informed her that when I have kids, they'll just have to come with me.

Monday, March 12, 2012

not really for you

I've been wanting to post on here nearly every day since I got back, but there's a little voice in the back of my head that talks me out of it every single time. You're not overseas anymore, it tells me. Your story isn't interesting right now. If your life were a movie, everyone in the theater would have gone to the bathroom or the snack stand for the time being.

But this morning, as I was surfing the internet, trying to figure out what on earth it is people do online for hours at a time, a thought struck me. Do you really write for them anyway? Or is this blog for you?

Oh right. It's for me.

With the blog being my primary means of communication with most of my family and friends while I'm overseas, I've gotten accustomed to the idea that things I post on here need to be interesting, exciting, entertaining. I feel like I need hilarious stories and breathtaking pictures to make my posts worthwhile, but honestly, I'm probably the only one who consistently reads my posts anyway. Well, me and my grandma. Hey, Grandma!

I know it's March and the last thing anyone's thinking about is New Year's Resolutions right now, but I've been thinking about them lately, and, as we just established, this is my blog. So we're going to talk about resolutions. Or bucket lists. Something about goals. Yeah.

The ever-present teacher in me came up with this really cool (note: "really cool" is subjective here) idea for a lesson about being specific in your writing. A car didn't just drive past; a 1969 silver Camaro roared down the windy country road. She didn't just fall down; the pig-tailed girl in the polka-dotted dress toppled out of the tire swing. You get the idea.

This idea of being precise in your descriptions can translate to being precise in your goals. "Go to the gym more" is ambiguous, hard to reach. So are "make more friends" and "travel." The goal is too vague to be practical; it's hard to wake up in the morning and think, "Ahh, today I shall be healthier." What does that even mean?

Our goals should be specific, concrete. Instead of "take more pictures," which is indefinite and difficult to measure, give yourself a tangible goal. Perhaps you could take ten pictures at every family gathering, or find one thing a week to take a picture of.

Yesterday I was in the car with my mom and little sister, and we were talking about bucket lists. My former roommate, Emily, had a "30 before 30" list that she kept in a spreadsheet on her computer (she made my heart so happy), and I always thought that was a fantastic idea. I'm discovering as I sit in my dad's big comfy chair day in and day out that adventure doesn't usually just happen to us; we have to go out and make it happen. Sure, it's challenging and we'll often be stretched more than we thought we could handle. But I'd much rather regret the things I did than the things I left undone.

I'm not going to force myself to write thirty goals for the sake of having a "30 before 30" list. I'd rather have five goals I'm actually passionate about than come up with thirty on the spot just to round out this blog post. I'm sure I'll get to thirty eventually. And I'll organize them all in a spreadsheet. And it will be magical.

Some (specific) things I'd like to do before I'm thirty:
- Perform an original poem at an open mic night
- Read a book in Central Park
- Hold hands and skip across the Great Wall (is this legal? eh, being in chinese prison can be a goal too)
- Teach at an underprivileged school in my licensure area
- Get five new stamps in my passport
- Perfect one recipe from each country I've lived in
- Memorize a book of the Bible
- Attend a conference or convention about something I'm passionate about once a year

Oh, and I suppose one of my goals is to finally write about my time in India. It'll show up here eventually, once I figure out how to boil three months of watching God do amazing things into a handful of paragraphs on a backlit screen.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

home, ish.

I've been awake for three hours, and it's not even six am. Oh jet lag, you think you're so funny, but I assure you that you're not.

I'm home, I guess. Back in America anyway, but I can't quite decide if that's home. I've lived in five different cities in three different countries in the last six months. I'm in Colorado Springs right now, tomorrow I'll be in Springfield, and less than two weeks from now I'll be in San Francisco. Then, who knows.

I know for a fact I'm not going back to Korea (right now). I don't know how or when I'll get back, but that little peninsula has stolen my heart and I know I can't stay away forever. Much to the delight of my parents, I'm staying in America for the time being.

The thing is, friends, America's pretty big. I've made a list of about fifteen cities I wouldn't mind living in, and the best plan I can come up with right now involves driving coast to coast sleeping on couches until I find the place that fits me next. Even though I'd drop this plan in a second if God changed his mind and sent me back to Seoul, I'm actually getting a little giddy about the prospects. I honestly don't know what comes next. I know I'm staying with Lauren in Cali for three weeks, then - nada. No plans, no agenda, no path.

I'm a big planner. Every time I've come up with a new passion, a new life plan has come with it. Decided I liked writing fiction? Bam - my imagination's already got me doing book signings and interviews on Ellen. Stumbled into teaching kindergarten overseas? Bam - started planning how to start a school in (arguably) the most hostile country in the world. Found out about modern-day slavery? Bam - dropped out of grad school before I even started to do a Justice & Mercy DTS and actually tried to get Not For Sale to hire me on sheer zeal. I, um, like planning.

But this next season, it appears that God's tying a blindfold around my eyes and whispering, "Just trust me." One of the girls on my team prayed for me a few weeks ago, and she felt like God was telling her that the passion I felt for Korea is nothing compared to how much I'm going to adore this next step, that I don't even know what love is yet. I'd be lying if I said I'm not a tiny bit thrilled. The only thing I like more than planning is brazen adventure.

So tomorrow morning, I'll hop on a plane back to my parents' house. I'll be there just long enough to maybe unpack a bag before I head off to the west coast to build blanket forts and tear San Fran apart looking for decent Korean BBQ with my favorite Lolly. Three weeks later, I'll fly back to spend Easter with my family, and that's as far as I know.

I'm unemployed, homeless, and ridiculously in love with Jesus. Let's go, God. We've got a story to write.