New Year, just me.

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I know it’s been a while since my last post. Or posts. But I though that now with 2016 here, it can’t be that hard to write something about last year, about me, about what I hope this year will be like, plus, of course, the whole cliché called Resolutions and anything else.

I had lots of moments I’ve been proud of in 2015, and I’d like to talk more about a quite recent one: I’ve written a book. Although I’m not sure this is the right term for it – it’s not published and it may not even be in a publishable form. But it’s a novel that I enjoyed writing, and with a clear purpose in mind: to enter it in a ‘Young Writers’ competition that was happening in my home country. Obviously, the desired language wasn’t English, which made things a little harder since I’m used to write on this blog. More obviously, there were a certain deadline and a minimum number of characters involved – not words, for some reason, which means that
supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (tell me you know the word)
counted quite a lot, and ‘to be or not to be’ not that much… So I tried my best not to write like Snoopy below, given the fact that I knew my editing time would be really, really short. And I used a really cool Android app called Writeometer to keep track of daily progress.

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Although the time was short and postponing the task made it even shorter, I managed to finish both the storyline, the (minor) editing and to reach the threshold number of words about an hour before the deadline. The whole process could have fit into the NaNoWriMo challenge, but somehow it went a little over it. If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it basically stands for National Novel Writing Month, and you’re supposed to write a little bit – or more than a little bit – each day of November, so that your draft / novel is finished by the beginning of winter. Did I write each and every day of November? Nope. Did I finish before the 1st of December? Nope, but I finished 11 days later, which was the deadline that interested me. Over 200.000 words, based on a much shorter story that I had written in high school, in my mother tongue – I wouldn’t have time for another proper draft anyway. Did I enjoy it? Of course I did. Or else I would have stopped… (If only this could be valid for everything else in life.)

I know I said at some point in an older article that writing a book is nowhere close to writing on a blog. But to be honest I realised there are more similarities than I would have expected – the question is, would people read it? Which is the same question for blog articles, in fairness. The only thing is perseverance and passion – plus a good plot and characters. I ended up typing most of the book on my phone: writing on the tube – just like I do now, paying attention from time to time not to miss my stop – writing before going to job in the morning, writing while having dinner, writing in the lunch break at the office. Because even if the actual typing doesn’t necessarily make a good book, there’s definitely no book without it. So I cared less about editing and more about letting the words flow – that’s how I write on the blog in the end, right? Sometimes that’s how I speak as well. Just my pure thoughts.

But anyway, for me meeting that deadline was the prize itself. I feel like I won my own, personal, intimate competition which was represented by the challenge of finishing the novel. Will it get short-listed? I don’t know, I’ll find out soon – but if not, it means I’ll still get the chance of improving it in the future, without thinking about publishing it until it’s ready.

About my other fulfilled goals from 2015… Well, they’re mostly usual ones, like starting a great, long-distance relationship (I know I said in an earlier post the “great” and “long-distance” can’t be used together, but maybe I’ll explain at some point how I ended up changing my mind), starting a job, finishing university and starting life in a new place. But the question is, how I’d like this year to be – comparing it with the past one, since it’s better to learn from our mistakes and past experiences in general.

Of course I have cliché resolutions like going to the gym and eating healthier. But I also wish for things that people don’t usually say – like feeling good about myself, being more confident (I’m also trying to stop using foundation on my face on a day to day basis, ’cause after all I shouldn’t really care that much about my imperfections), crying less, managing to find out the reason I’m crying when there’s no apparent one, feeling less lonely, making new friends, smiling, having more time for my hobbies which – unfortunately – are not work related so they have to be done outside work times: like reading, writing, drawing. I was thinking I could try read 26 books this year. Or at least 12. And write not only on this blog, but also for some creative writing contests. Maybe finish that website that i started half a year ago, which was supposed to be a better version of this blog… and understand that I can’t create a perfect website, but it should be as close to perfect for fitting its purpose.

I guess the whole idea of a New Year resolution is to get out of your comfort zone – which is never easy. But if you stretch out far enough, you’ll eventually exit it, right?

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The Versions of Me, of You, of Us

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I’ve recently finished a book called The Versions of Us, a title which sounded interesting enough to make me read the back cover, then buy it. There were three intercalated stories which actually related the same story, but, well, different versions of it. This article though is not going to be a book review – the book is just a background, a pretext to write, a mere inspiration for giving my thoughts some depth and direction.

A similar idea was written in some of my previous articles. One of them described multiple versions of me, but chronological versions, the ones you need to go through one by one – just as I explained here, such an event is called in computer science the depth first search, in which you just keep moving forward without looking left or right. But the opposite is called the breadth first search, in which all the possibilities are evaluated before taking the next step. And these versions of me, corresponding to breath first search, would be far more complicated that the chronological versions.

Back to the book, the two main characters are an aspiring painter and an aspiring writer, occupations which both require a large amount of creativity, and lots of patience and practice. But creativity and imagination are exactly what’s needed to have your mind wandering, in my case not to find answers for What if…? questions, but to find the questions themselves: which were the turning points in my life so far, what were the precise decisions which made me take this specific path in life?

The reason I’m not thinking about the answers, about different possible lives that I could be living, is that I don’t like being trapped in the past, nor in a future that will never happen. Not that it makes me sad to think about different versions, cause it doesn’t (or does it?), but it’s a bitter-sweet sensation, the kind that’s too strange to be classified as either sad or happy. Like this song here.

An alternative life was mentioned during a fantasy movie I was watching some time ago. Just a brief idea, but enough to make me think – and perhaps also make one of the guys I was watching it with, think. The main hero’s crush, which is, unfortunately for him, not a mutual crush, tells him something that sounds cliché but at the same time really profound: Maybe in a parallel universe we end up being together. And the worst thing was not watching the friendzoned hero’s sad eyes and sensing his broken heart, but knowing that the exact same situation was happening between two of the people whose eyes were silently glued to the screen.

So, yeah. I guess saying Yes instead of No is always a (major) change of events, a new opportunity which could push you on a whole different path in live. But no regrets means the right choice was made, I think. Cause that’s one thing that keeps us from being happy, regrets. Comparing ourselves with others and with other versions of us. Asking ourselves What if…? and then fantasising about a better path in life, when actually there’s no assurance that the current path is worse that the hypothetical one.

And the same happens about accepting an invitation to going out, to dinner, to a movie or whatever. In those seconds before answering, make sure you realise that, as strange as it may sound, that answer may push you away from a path and onto another. Choosing your high-school profile, your university course, your friends and job – anything is just another step on a specific path which will later form the current and authentic version of yourself – all the others are just possibilities that slowly disappear into time.

Of course, it is not always us who make the decision. Maybe the guy I never knew would have answered the way I thought I wanted him to. But that’s part of his versions, not mine, and unfortunately we can’t really know much about the versions of others that don’t involve us. Cause all the others around us have their own power of choice, and all the paths together create a spider web which is by itself so complex, that one shouldn’t even try to think about all the other versions of it…

What’s more, apart from the other persons there’s also something else that contributes to moving on a particular path: chance. There’s always a chance for something to happen, and some say that the more you fear it, the highest the chance for it to actually occur. And something such as unwanted pregnancy seems to be quite a major turning point into one’s life, so how can one not fear it?… (don’t worry, not a major book spoiler).

A situation when a complex life with lots of choices can be explored is… in computer games 🙂 Cause you can choose a path, or how to answer to someone, or not kill another character and then load the game and explore other possible versions of it. But you can’t really do that in real life, so you just have to live with whatever decisions you make, or do your best to move on a desired path.

Somehow thinking about this topic reminded me of the animated movie Hercules, or more specifically the sequence when he risks his life to save the girl from death, and becomes immortal – I still remember his life thread turning into a material that couldn’t be cut anymore. To be honest I’m not entirely sure how this relates to the rest of the article, but the idea is that we always have a choice for the overall life we’re living: our decisions, thoughts, how we act and react will define us, and in the end we’re just going to live the version of us that we shape ourselves.

Maybe another version of me was perfect for another version of you. Or is, or will be… Who knows?

The Book, the Bucket and the Challenge.

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If you are a social media addict (unlike me, of course!), I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about a new type of challenge, which followed the hype of the ice bucket one (which I haven’t done and I have no intention of doing it). The book bucket challenge, however, is not about throwing a bucket full of books in your head and then nominate some others to do the same. Well, the second part is true, and you can also try to throw some books at yourself if you think that makes you smart. But the book bucket challenge is about simply telling the world (or your Facebook ‘friends’) a list consisting of 10 books / authors that either changed the way you see life, or have a special place in your heart. I myself have been nominated to do this challenge – a few times actually – but I simply ignored it.

First of all, I doubt anyone is really interested in these lists. I mean yeah, X likes that, Y likes this, but in terms of raising the awareness for reading good books, I’m not sure it really works as intended. Well, perhaps some people will indeed read a book just because they’ve seen it in one of those tops, but let’s be honest, most of us just read the list and keep scrolling. Plus there are some who haven’t read those books they have in their list, but they just want to make an impression (on who, I don’t know). I detest that, pretending to have read a book just for showing off.

And about lists, indeed I have one. I’ve always enjoyed reading, and when the literature teacher asked us at the beginning of high school what books we read, I was surprised I hadn’t thought about such a list before; I’m into numbers and lists and keeping everything safe, so I realised I needed to keep a list of all those books. So I spent quite a lot of time searching for all the books I had read, in order to create that list and ‘impress’ the teacher. Then years passed and I continued the list without trying to impress anyone else except myself, cause after all reading for pleasure is more important than reading for quantity. But I do have lots of books on that list, and I still haven’t found anyone with more books read per the same amount of time (I haven’t actually searched for such a person, although to be honest I’d like to meet someone like me).

You may think I could easily create a top 10 and post it. But how could I…? How could I choose 10, out of so many? That’s the challenge, you may say. To try and reduce the number. I could for instance talk about 10 books just by Agatha Christie, starting with And Then There Were None, Endless Night, After The Funeral, The Murder of Roger Akroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, and then continuing with Five Little Pigs, A Murder is Announced, Appointment with Death, Cat Among the Pigeons, Evil Under the Sun, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas… and much, much more, in no particular order (actually there are 11 instead of 10, but oh well).

See? It’s hard. I like them all, but indeed some remained in my memories more than others. I’ve always said that some of them will always have a special place in my heart. Then why can’t I just post that top?! Well, to be honest I’m a little concerned about what people would say. I know I shouldn’t care about their opinion, I mean it’s my personal top 10, right?… But when I see so many posts which include such well known books, like, I don’t know, by Tolstoi, Dostoievski, etc etc, I kind of feel a little bit, just a tiny little bit ashamed with not having them among in my list – cause yeah, I’ve read lots, lots of books, but none of those… The thing with reading is that I’ve always read for pleasure. And I avoided difficult books, cause I read in order to escape from the ordinary life (cliché, I know), and I don’t really care if most of my list consists of fantasy books for teenagers. Yes, I did enjoy them. I enjoyed reading about assassins, detectives, dragons, Jules Verne’s adventures, kitesnannies, sorcerers/spooks, star-crossed lovers, Terry Pratchett’s world, tunnels, Ursula K. Le Guin’s fantasies, wardrobes, wizards, writing (and something else by Guillaume Musso), young women with specific problems… (this time, alphabetically sorted; and yes, you can hover them to see the specific titles – except the last category, which includes way too many, i.e. Jane Eyre). How could I choose, when all these and much, much more, are simply tangling inside my mind and represent the whole essence of what I enjoy about reading? They tangle until they all get lost, and I suddenly wonder what was that book about a magic forest, or what happened in The 35th of May anyway?

However I know that you really, really love some books when you decide you want more people to read them. But you’re just a middle school girl, you’ve started reading that series of books in your mother language, then, frustration, you have to order the rest of them in English, cause apparently they’ve decided to stop translating it after only 4 books. So, after finishing the series, what other better thing to do than starting translating it by yourself? And that’s what I did. I’ve managed to translate only two other books – obviously not for selling them. So another unfortunate event was added to A Series of Unfortunate Events: not all the 13 books are in my mother language… If, instead of Top 10, the challenge was about 13 books, I would immediately add Lemony Snicket’s series without thinking twice. What other better proof is needed than the choice for my profile picture? I’m not sure I can say those books changed my life, though. But they played with my imagination, and for me that’s the most important thing when reading. To open your mind for new worlds, new ideas, new perspectives, new types of people / characters (who didn’t find themselves really liking some character, as if it was a real person?), new adventures, even new words… They’ve all changed me, as a whole.

…and now about nominating. Should I use a cliché and say “I nominate YOU, whoever’s reading this right now”? Should I use kind of a paradox, and say “You’re nominated if and only if you haven’t read this”? Should I nominate the only person I know who could easily add some of our childhood favourites which I missed in this article? Or should I perhaps nominate myself, to try and create a proper top 10 for a proper participation to #thebookbucketchallenge?..

A Mate for Your Soul – Writing 201 Challenge

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‘My boyfriend’s thinking about marriage.’
I could feel the tears tickling my eyes already, so I took a deep breath.
‘…and not with me.’

I focused on his face, a little unsure that I did the right thing by choosing him, out of all the possible persons, to discuss such a delicate issue with. I’m not sure what made me tell him about that, actually – I tend not to talk about such problems. But his voice echoed with concern when he pronounced the same words that have been haunting me for a while, and suddenly all my incertitude dissolved. ‘Soul-mates…?’

I didn’t expect that, but I admit I should have seen it coming. To be honest, I didn’t even expect him to listen, to understand, or at least to try to understand. But I suppose it’s always shocking to realise your younger brother is not so young anymore. You blink once, and he’s grown so much… I forced myself to smile a little. ‘Perhaps yes, perhaps no. We will never know’.
‘We will eventually, in the end… Remember all the fairy-tales daddy used to tell us? The ones with happy ending, when the princess meets her soul mate and everything’s perfect… ‘

Yeah… That’s not how life really is. I mean… I’m not sure I believe in such things. Not anymore. I doubt two souls on this planet can match perfectly, like two puzzle pieces, and even if they are, I consider souls to be immortals; then who can guarantee my soul-mate and I would live in the same… century?! Plus I don’t see how you decide you’ve found your soul-mate. Maybe tomorrow you’ll meet someone new, who matches even more than your current ‘soul-mate’. I think the only thing that we can do is to find someone suitable for us, while we are aware that there may be others on this planet who are probably far more suitable. And people do change in time. No matter what they say, they really do. I guess it takes a while to see who changes accordingly to yourself, so that you continue to ‘match’ along the whole life.

It would be easier not to believe in soul-mates, I guess. Cause if you believe, you’ll spend your whole life searching for him. And you’ll miss all the others. All the others who you decide they’re not for you, cause you’re waiting for something else, without even knowing what. Something special, I guess. But perhaps that someone special just needs a chance from you, and you’re not giving it cause you decide you want to keep searching. Or waiting, or whatever. Maybe the guy you refused when he offered to help you with the shopping bags deserved a chance. Maybe that creepy guy who keeps talking to you isn’t that creepy. Maybe you should go outside rather than waiting for a miracle to fall from the sky.

I remember a book (now a really sweet movie) about true friendship and true love, about old childhood friends and their quest to find that best someone for each of them, when perhaps what they were searching for was right in front of their eyes… Cause what if you won’t find a pot of gold ‘Where Rainbows End‘, as the old legend says, but someone special instead? You can never know what waits for you there, somewhere. And another nice ‘quest’ is ‘In search of a love story‘, which made me realise that a romantic life which seems perfect may not be what you really want, and that being a ‘hopeless romantic’ which compares guys with personalities from books is quite a bad idea. There’s no prince charming out there. There’s no bad guy either, they’re all a mixture of both.

However, if you think you’ve found someone that is worth fighting for, good for you. Fight for him. Cause if soul-mates do exist, then nothing will stay in your way. But just make sure he’s the right one, for that moment, cause no one knows what will happen if-

‘Do you believe in soul-mates then?’
I blinked, still lost amongst my thoughts. I don’t like when someone interrupts my chain of thoughts, but-
‘I mean for yourself, not for your ex’.
That last word made my heart sank a little, exactly what I needed to make my mind focus. I even managed to force a smile.
‘A little faith didn’t hurt anyone, right?’ Although as soon as the words left my lips, I knew that wasn’t true – I could feel it, actually. Feel the faith going away, while disappointment took its place; and disappointment hurts.

‘Do you?’

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