Monday, July 29, 2013

Circuits and Nerves

Now Playing: Billy Idol - Cyberpunk (album)
Backdrop
In the sporadic years where we managed to be a traditional nuclear family, Saturday mornings in my house would be still and silent until my mother’s hunger and impatience somehow overpowered her tiredness and pushed her to the kitchen. The fridge door opening and closing, oil sizzling in the pan, water running over dishes, the microwave beeping at the end of its countdown, and silverware shaking inside drawers—these were the sounds that would make my eyes fly open on weekend mornings. I would stay in bed until the smell of fried eggs or bread baking in the oven slipped into my room and urged me to slide out from underneath my mountain of blankets. I would tiptoe out to the living room so not to wake up my baby brother. I’d go past the kitchen and say good morning to my mother (or endure a five minute lecture if I’d rudely walked by without greeting her) and then head to my parents’ bedroom.
My dad usually woke up five minutes after my mom, and so I went to see him in the mornings so we could wait together for breakfast. In that waiting period, he would head over to his CD player and fish around for an album. I know for a fact he never had a large collection, but in my memories, there were hundreds of CDs, from rock albums by Soda Stereo (his favorite band), to the soundtrack of the original Star Wars, to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. To me, there was infinite music at our disposal.
When I was six years old, I woke up and headed over to see my dad, as usual. My parents’ room always seemed to be operating on a different time than the rest of the house. The heavy curtains shielding the windows kept the bright sun from lighting up the room. There were birds chirping in the garden and breakfast simmering just outside the door. It was warm enough to be morning, filled with all the right sounds and smells, but it was dim and soft enough to be twilight. I sat at the edge of the bed, kicking my feet back and forth against the mattress, my hands clutching onto the blankets as I waited for the right moment to start talking his ear off about the heart-pounding adventures of my Barbie dolls, how much I’d read of Chamber of Secrets, my visit to Erika’s house, and the game I’d played the day before with my little brother.
The album he selected was technically nothing new, though he’d never played it for me until that day. I’d seen it lying around and the cover had caught my attention before. It was the face of a man. The left side showed his features as colored by a grainy purple, while on the right side his flesh disintegrated into green dots and dashes, like codes running down a computer. Above the man, in yellow letters with splashes of orange, the musician’s name read “Billy Idol”. Underneath, in significantly smaller font, the name of the album: Cyberpunk.
My dad slipped it into the player then went back to lie down on the bed. I bounced up next to him, my mouth open in anticipation to release a stream of incoherent words only patient parents could vaguely comprehend. Then the album began to play.

Opening Manifesto, Wasteland, segue of LA riots, Shock to the System.
First, rippling waves coming from a machine. A deep voice began to narrate. In English. I couldn’t understand a single word. I asked my father to translate.
My father knew basic, basic English. At that point, his education on the language mostly consisted of the elementary concepts taught to him in primary and secondary schools and things he picked up from subtitled American movies. He had no idea what the narrator was talking about, except maybe for key words here and there. Something about information no longer being free, megacorporations, and a nuclear war. He could have admitted that. But I would have asked dozens of questions, interrupting the music till I grew bored of it. The only thing in the world that could shut me up and settle me down was being told a story. So he lied. Or technically, he improvised. Armed with a growing knowledge of computer programming and a love for sci-fi works like Neuromancer, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Blade Runner, Terminator, and The Matrix, he began to create a cyberpunk tale. He told me it was a story set in a not so distant future where a nuclear war had torn apart the world. A new, unified government ran by an unknown but powerful leader was gathering humans and plugging them into a perfect virtual world while Earth fell apart. People were unknowingly prisoners inside their own minds. “No religion, no religion at all,” echoes against the first song, so my father explained to me that the hero was trying to bring about structure and faith to the last free humans. On the side, he was working with the resistance.
Tomorrow People, Adam in Chains.
I assumed, early on, that this was going to be an action packed adventure with thrilling explosions, rebellious leaders, and great triumph in every battle. I didn’t expect more. After Shock to the System’s defiant and upbeat battle melody, Tomorrow People drifted in slowly, a melancholic voice echoing along. Here, the nameless hero’s motivations became clear—he was afraid for the children born in the apocalypse, those who would suffer and die for their freedom or be captured and enslaved in a perfect world that didn’t exist. He had a son, a blue-eyed boy who had been born during the nuclear war. This boy was a young-man, maybe sixteen or so, but he was still just a child in the eyes of his father. Somewhere during Adam in Chains, the man fell in love. The woman in question was a resistance fighter like him, strong willed and brave, but beaten mentally and physically by the battles of yesterday and today.
He had people to lose. The hope he held onto grew weaker each day. I was frightened for him. He sounded so fragile now. I understood that this was not an adventurous, fun battle of the ages—this was a dark era of humanity. There were families born in the vast ruins of great nations, children who knew nothing but the debris and ashes of old cities. Whenever the man closed his eyes, he tossed and turned through his nightmares, terrified that there would not be a tomorrow.
Neuromancer, Power Junkie, segue prayer.
Then the antagonist was revealed: a mind within a machine. It was the one imprisoning the humans and forcing the planet to crumble in ruins. The hero learns of the core of this machine, the one area he must attack. It resided and operated within Earth’s last functioning, high-tech city, composed entirely of circuits, vast computer hardware in place of buildings, and neon lights that shone brighter than the sun. Everything within the city is controlled by the artificial mind. It enlisted the help of traitor humans and fabricated automata to defend and fight against free humans.
When I asked for details about the battles, my dad steered my imagination into things I’d seen in video games. I pictured armored men, impossible physics, and weapons bigger than the people carrying them, blasting enemies into chunky red pieces. It was perfect.
Perfect until the man and the woman were captured. When a battle went wrong and dozens of resistance members were murdered, the man and the woman remained as the last few survivors of their unit. They were sentenced away to the world within the machine’s fabricated cyberspace. They would never escape.
Love Labours On, Heroin, segue injection
I was a tiny ball of distress by that point. I wanted to bounce on the mattress and demand my father to tell me the man made it out okay, that he wasn’t really imprisoned, that this was all part of his plan! But I couldn’t move. I was shaking but waiting for more. The man was now plugged into a fake world where there was no war, no starving children born in the wasteland, no ruins of futuristic cities that had withered away in the last great conflict of humanity. Earth was at peace and the population was thriving within a paradise. The woman was there with him, her smiling face free of the scars and bruises that had marred her in the bleak, real world. He had no reason to question it all. This was the world he’d been fighting for, and now, he could truly live in it.
There’s a heartbeat in the music, followed by solemn words sang by a tranquil voice. The pulse is calm. Then the beating heart is replaced by the beating of drums, and the tempo increases. The voice grows louder, determined.
He could not be fooled. He knew his world was in ruins, and he would not abandon it.
Resistance members were planning to free him and the woman, but they wouldn’t get anywhere unless he initiated an attack from inside. It meant driving his body to a breaking point, somehow, in his sleep, turning the very wires that enslaved him into his weapons. He fried his nervous system, severing his connections to the virtual world, breaking free and tearing down the facility with him. He began to wake up. When the resistance members got there, they finished the job, freeing everyone from the outside. My hero was at death’s door. His friends gathered around him and put him back to sleep to operate on him.
Shangrila
This was a silent period, a moment in time where my hero was allowed to rest. My father said as the operation was going on, the man was granted a temporary sleep. He dreamt of a lifetime with his son and the woman, a time where the battles had come and gone, and a home with warm colors and peace. These thoughts came to him with the underlying knowledge that they were hopes and wishes rather than reality. He would finish the fight later. For now, the adrenaline was wearing off. I drifted with him. It was the only time my eyelids fluttered to a close.
Concrete Kingdom, segue galaxy within, Venus
It didn’t last long. He woke up with a wounded body but the will to continue on. He learned that the last free humans were being imprisoned or killed, the resistance growing smaller each day. The artificial intelligence grew stronger. With the aid of the remaining resistance members—as well as the woman and his son—he would destroy the machine. He had failed once, but he would not fail again.
Then the Night Comes, segue electronic presence, Mother Dawn
It’s impossible to describe the final battle. My father barely spoke during this song. I was no longer picturing things detail by detail—I just felt it all, simmering underneath the surface of my imagination. I was no longer watching the man’s story, I was there. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears, my lips curling up into a grin as I realized, somehow, someway, that he was taking down the machine. He was liberating everyone.
The world awoke as the battle came to an end. Both the man and his son were narrating this part. I could see colonies of people descending from facilities to witness a glowing orange sky. I asked my father if the man was alive. His voice echoed in the music, above the voice of the young man, distant and warm. I wanted to know if he had survived. My father had no answer. He said it didn’t matter, that the man’s journey was over. He said I mustn’t worry whether or not he had died because that did not lessen the greatness of his bravery and sacrifice, nor did it undo all that he had accomplished.
It was not uncommon for me to hate stories where heroes died in the end. Thick tears would roll down my cheeks, and I’d refuse to speak to my dad for not warning me such injustice was about to happen. But I did not feel that way about this ending. It truly didn’t matter if my hero had died. He had saved humanity.
Closing Manifesto
The machine was withering away, trying to hold on. It screamed—an action that should have only been capable from one of flesh and blood—then disconnected. But it had not been truly destroyed. It didn’t seem possible to kill something as complex as a mind without a mortal body.
But for now, it was gone, and humanity was safe.

Aftermath
My father had kept his eyes closed until the end. I had stared at the ceiling, a statue of a little girl whose mind was overloaded with the neon battlefields of humanity rising against a machine and the grey wasteland of Earth warmed up by a new dawn. I couldn’t move because every ounce of energy I held within me had been utilized to bring color to the story, to have the battles, the riots, the conversations, the embraces, everything come to life. I’d stared at the grey ceiling as if it had all been projected in front of me.
Then my mother poked her head in and said breakfast was getting cold. The story lingered with me, but I didn’t ask questions. I think I just assumed my dad didn’t know what happened next—he had told me only what had been narrated by the music.
My father left to the United States a year or two later, sent away by the computer company he worked for. In his goodbye to me, he handed me books, toys, and albums he wanted me to keep safe till he returned. Cyberpunk was amongst them. On days that I missed him the most, I’d put on the CD and lay down on the floor, staring at the grey ceiling with my hands against my stomach. I’d become a statue again, wide awake, barely blinking, the images pouring back to me.
After two years of being apart—connected only through the words exchanged in the early AOL chat and long distance phone calls—my mother saved up enough money to fly us to America and see my father. Her plan had been to spend the holidays together and then return as a family to our country. My little brother and I were allowed one backpack each, and my mother only took with her two suitcases. I don’t know why I packed away Cyberpunk when we were going to return for it and I barely had enough room for my toys and clothing as it was, but I shoved it into my bag and took it with me to Miami. After two weeks of being in the new country, my parents decided the future was bright in America even if the present was paved with hardships and struggles. So we stayed, never to return to our old home.
I didn’t speak and write English fluently till I was around eleven. On a whim, when I was twelve, I put Cyberpunk on for the first time in years to relieve the memories. It was going to be perfect. I could finally understand it all, hearing details my father might have missed in his translation.
But of course the story was not there. There was a structure to the album, little transitions that tied some songs together, but it was not the well fabricated narrative my father had presented to me. My hero was missing. I tried to read about it on the internet, wondering if I just wasn’t listening closely enough. The most I found out was that, enamored by a new science fiction genre and the rapidly changing technology of the world, Billy Idol had composed music that departed from his traditional style and then gone above and beyond in promoting it. He used his personal e-mail and early online communities to advertise it—something no other major musician had done at the time. Then it was released. It crashed and burned. Critical reviews that dubbed it forgettable were the highlight of its short career. Only his most loyal defenders purchased it. It took him thirteen years to bring his career back with another studio album.
I couldn’t help but see that Billy Idol’s fascination of cyberpunk science-fiction mirrored my father’s admiration for the genre and culture. I knew his admiration had begun early on in his life. While he was a fan of sci-fi as a child, at eighteen he enrolled into university and was granted the chance to use a computer for the first time in his life. His love for mathematics and the sciences (particularly physics) sprouted a love for technology. While attending university, he learned computer programming. Though both my parents were great students with promising futures, a lack of money and complicated personal lives prevented them from earning their degrees. Nonetheless, even if he doesn’t have a shiny piece of paper to prove it, my father continued to educate himself on the subject and seems to learn new things about programming and computers to this day.
Maybe Billy Idol hopes he’d never composed Cyberpunk, but I’m not exaggerating when I claim it means everything to me because of my father’s tale. I don’t think I ever understood the structure of storytelling or the impact it could have on people until that moment. My dad may barely pass 5’8 when he bothers to stand up straight and hasn’t even hit the age of forty as of this writing, but he is as much of a wise giant to me now as he was when I was a child. I still remember the many times he sat with me for hours, improvising characters and their adventures, while oftentimes even encouraging me to add in details or come up with new narratives on my own.
When I spoke to my father about it at the age of eleven, he said he remembered listening to the album with me and improvising a narrative, but he had no recollection of the actual contents. When I was twelve, I decided he needed to be reminded of it somehow, to know why it lingered in my memories after all those years. I set out to write it as my first sci-fi novel. I spent the next two years planning and crafting it, but I couldn’t recapture it completely. My writing made it too plain and vague. There was not enough world-building and the emotion was not the same. I steered that novel to another direction, using a slightly different plot and shifting the focus to the post-apocalyptic aspects rather than the cyberpunk elements. I didn’t try again after that.
           Oftentimes it feels like the story he told me can only exist in fragments inside my head. I cannot properly retell it with the impact it carries to me. It’s like the only way to free it at its purest form is to dig around my brain and watch the vivid imagination of a six year old girl, to listen to the music without truly understanding the language. It makes me sad that no one will ever see it the way I got to experience it. But I will never forget my father’s story of the nameless man and his battle against the machine. I’ll always be thankful that he chose to imagine such a tale just to entertain his daughter while waiting for breakfast one mundane Saturday morning.

~*~*~*~*~
Note, I really hated trying to come up with a title for this. Since I saw I mentioned circuits in one of the descriptions, I figured I'd use the title for my attempted short story/possible future science fiction novel, Circuits and Veins. Problem was I didn't have any references to veins and had a reference to the nervous system--and I realized then that nerves are better metaphorically compared to circuits. So I switched. But I like how Circuits and Veins sound when compared to Circuits and Nerves >.> There's just something off about that one :P
~Becky

P.S: I didn't add it to the top, but I listened to a bunch of Queen, Soda Stereo, and Gustavo Cerati albums while writing the first and last sections.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Almost There, Almost Done

Now Playing:
  • Soda Stereo - En La Ciudad de la Furia, Lo que sangra (La cúpula), and En el borde
  • Gustavo Cerati - Cosas Impossible
  • Héroes del Silencio - Avalancha
Figures I'd be in the final chapters of Ataraxia when finals week is about to hit me full on.

As far as first semesters go, this was an interesting experience. I'm deeply thankful that I was silly enough to pick summer term for FSU rather than fall. It was kind of a pain coming here all alone, totally lost, and fearing everything about the world. But you know what? It helped. A lot.

For one thing, I got a jobbbbb. At a sushi place. They were hiring for fall term only and the owner, Lawrence, was super nice. I could have picked the cashier position, but that means dealing with costumers, which is scary. So instead, I'm going to learn to make sushi. AWW YEAH. I'll have to wake up at 6 in the morning for it, and it's on the other side of campus, but I don't really mind since I'll only be working 16 hours a week. And it'll hopefully stop the guilt that hits me whenever I get a latte at Starbucks.

Another awesome thing that came from this term: I got settled into the dorm life smoothly. My roommate is an extremely sweet girl who's obviously enjoying the crazy college life more than I am (though it can be a bit worrying--our mutual friend and neighbor, Anya, has had to keep an eye on her a couple of times). Plus she's usually out super late on weekends, which means I have the room to myself to blast crazy music and write till one in the morning.

I'm happy that in terms of living situations, we were suppose to be three girls in a triple, but the second roommate ended up having to wait a year before attending, so we got a huge room, extra bed, extra drawers, extra closet, and an extra desk just for us two. I love the fact that the college bookstore has contemporary adult and YA novels (and that I got to purchase Cinder and Dune there). I love that the library closest to my residence hall is huge and has a Starbucks right inside, and I love that on Mondays through Thursdays, it's opened till two in the morning. The fact that it's opened so late meant I got to write a six page essay at the computer lab, print 25 copies at midnight, wait patiently for the 150 pages to slide out of the printer for twenty minutes, and walk out without even getting one odd stare. I'm guessing English majors are easy to spot.

Last night, bored of the dozen frat parties taking place and clubs raging downtown, Anya decided to pay me a visit and drag me out of my room at eleven p.m to do something different. We went to a sweet shop, wondered about the benefits between Milkshakes and Smoothies, went to the school's fountain, and then set out to walk to downtown. We did the stupid thing of breaking into an abandoned frat house that was being rebuilt. Then we walked all the way to a government building and ran around the grass when the sprinklers came on. I think our screaming woke up a kitten because we heard meowing. Anya got the bright idea to find the cat in between the flowers and bushes, so we walked around the silent, empty garden of said government building, shinning our phones' lights to vegetation, meowing like maniacs at one in the morning. We never found Biscuit--but we named him either way. Then on the walk back, we almost got kidnapped, but Anya's protective skills kicked in and she shoved some creepy drunk guys away from us and we charged down the street screaming and laughing like intoxicated oddballs. (But no, we weren't drunk. No fake IDs here, and either way, I look about twelve so that would have never worked).

But that's about as crazy a thing I've done in my time here. True to my nature as a boring Creative Writing major and aspiring novelist, I've spent 70% of my time at the library. I've been here either reading, writing papers, or finishing Ataraxia.

And as far as my classes go, I'm glad I didn't chicken out and drop one of them like I planned to that first week. Global Literature makes me happy because it forced me to read Jane Eyre, a book I didn't imagine would have such a badass leading lady. I'm glad I got to read Mansfield Park, even if Fanny was the farthest thing from Elizabeth Bennet but still a brave little girl. Granted, I'm not so happy that I had to read Wide Sargasso Sea. Stupid book and what it did to the Jane Eyre cannon @_@ but...meh....the writing wasn't half bad.

My Techniques in Essay and Article Writing class was nice as well. I was surprised by how young my professor and his friend (and substitute teacher) turned out to be. They were hosting this thing called Warehouse Reading Series at a local bar, and whenever they presented, I couldn't help but shake off the thought that those two could be in an indie, coming-of-age movie. Even their names sound too perfect: Vincent and Nora.

Turning in my first essay for that class was a disaster. It was the terrible letter to 47-year-old me. There was way too much abstract language and rambling, repetitive bits. I needed to implement more imagery and have more of a focus. It didn't exactly do much in terms of showcasing what little writing talent I have.

It bummed me out, but I decided to make up for it on my next essay. I wasn't exactly planning to make something incredible, just a little above mediocre. I wanted to add as much imagery as I could, and it ended up being terribly long. Nonetheless, it was perfectly nostalgic, and the concept and unique organization really entertained my professor and classmates. It made me remember the time I turned in The Magic Trick to my creative writing class at Miami Dade College. When a group of people say they've found my writing interesting, moving, or even perfect (I ACTUALLY GOT THIS COMMENT LAST WEEK--FROM THE BEST WRITER IN THE CLASS, DUDE NAMED CARSON) then I explode into a little ball of happiness and the joy doesn't leave me for days.

There were still problems with the second essay, but it made my professor laugh and almost cry (no idea why on that last one) so I call that a job well done. Plus, I'm fixing it up now. I fixed the letter to 47-year-old me as well, since part of our final project for the class is to turn in a portfolio. I'll probably post them here when I'm done, especially because the second essay tells a story that's always been important to me.

Overall, I'm terribly happy and also kind of sad that the first semester is ending. I'm eager to get back to Miami, but I'm glad I've still got time left here at FSU. Next semester I'm taking Russian Folklore and Fairy Tales, German cinema, a Creative Writing advanced workshop class, introduction to Modern British Literature, and possibly a multicultural cinema class (we'll see if it doesn't conflict with my work schedule).

And I should be done with Ataraxia before the fall semester starts. I've been taking forever with it, but I'm not very far from the ending. I'll write more about my time with that book when I finish it up to the last bit. Scary thing is, though, I've been seeing what happens for a while now. I always picture it up to the battle at Earth, then I draw a blank. It's scary not to know what's going to happen to Katya and Sonya, who dies or who's separated, but I guess that's part of the fun.
~Becky

P.S: So I wrote a little while back that I liked to pretend Nine Inch Nail's The Four of Us Are Dying was Ataraxia's unofficial theme song. I liked to wonder what "four" characters of mine were the ones the song (metaphorically) connected to. Since I'm fairly certain Caesar and Haider don't die (just a feeling), I'm thinking the four at risk right now are Katya, Sonya, Maria and Xuan. Hopefully they don't all die. Hopefully.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

One, Two, Three...

Now Playing: Stabbing Westward - Shame and Save Yourself 

First, the anger: GHA! I should have researched what a planet with rings like Saturn would mean for the population, their night sky, and their space travel. Why didn't I consider light pollution? Why didn't I realize space travel would be a bitch to go through?

OIaoprhawerhawperjaewr.

Ataraxia isn't even going to be published and yet I really, really don't want to leave behind a partial draft of a barely polished novel. So I'm researching that bit up there. I hit 90k...like...yesterday, after months of not working on the thing to revise the novella. I just emailed it to myself with the very helpful note of: good god finish this shit before the fall semester starts.

Because seriously. First drafts should not take this long! I got the idea for this almost a year ago. (Or well...for the characters. Everything else started to hit me afterwards).

Second, the update: Walking around this city is sort of nice but it's also a daily reminder of how nice and crazy people can be. Fourth of July, we got the brilliant idea to trek up to the mall and Target(we being my roommate, her friend, and our friend Anya--who's got a Russian background, btw. Anya. Katya. Sonya >.>) and that turned...disastrous. Granted, I got food and a ten dollar skirt, so yay for that. But the bus was over an hour late and the walk to and from the mall to Target was about a mile. Carrying groceries.

Reminder of why people are nice--two really awesome older ladies pulled up next to the bus stop at the mall and asked if we knew when the bus was coming. I think one of them hinted that she'd had to live through grueling hours waiting for public transportation, so they were kind enough to offer their sympathies as well as a ride back to campus. Usually, I would have declined, but I figured it would have been pretty difficult for human traffickers to grab four college girls and smuggle them out. At least three of us could have fought back, and/or were partially armed (with like pepper spray and rape whistles).

Reminders why people are crazy--because I couldn't figure out the bus from campus to Publix, I figured I might as well do the 40 minute walk and get all the vegetable stuff (plus more crackers) that I didn't get at Target. Of course there was an assortment of crazy older men dancing in the middle of the street and howling...for no reason. Me: terrified. And I got rained on again. I had to duck into a CVS and buy a 10 dollar umbrella because I wasn't going through that shit again (it rained on me while I was trying to make it to a poetry/short story reading at a bar) and I hate spending money like that. Especially because I already have an umbrella! WHY DO I KEEP FORGETTING IT?!

Also, I need to stop abusing parenthesis in this blog post.

Third, the congratulations to myself: This is the first time in all my years of schooling where I've done all my homework before 11 p.m. Sunday night so I'm gonna take advantage of that and relax. I don't know what compelled me to finish that Jane Austen essay yesterday rather than today, but I did. And turns out I can bribe myself with food. I sat in front of the library watching people eat sandwiches and brownies from Starbucks, and I just kept saying, "if you finish this essay and print it before six, you can go back to your dorm and EAT. FOOD. WE STILL HAVE THAT CANNED MICROWAVED CHILI*!" So I DID IT.

And turns out when I do one crazy homework like that, I get encouraged to do more.

Fourth, the new obsession: Oh Game of Thrones (the tv show, for now). I adore you. So much. Enough that I'm sneaking into my campus bookstore sometime this week to see if I can read the books there in one sitting.

Fifth, the practice query: So I tried to do this once when I was thirteen with Redemption. I can't remember if I was at a point where I thought I'd be able to publish it, or if I had already realized that wasn't going to happen for a few years, but an idea hit me then. I had just started learning more about the industry, and that was probably the first time I read up on what a query letter was. However, I got sent to a terrible website that said basically you got one bloody sentence to summarize your novel. ONE.

I panicked and spent weeks trying to figure out how to shove Redemption into one sentence. Then further investigation led to the discovery that sometimes people in the internet lie. Hooray! Turns out it's like two to three paragraphs. Uh. I guess... still hooray!

So I think I'm going to try and write a query for Ataraxia even though I'll probably never use it. I'll post it here to compare it and archive it. You know. Just for fun.

Before I start dreading the process, which will happen as soon as I start doing it for realzies and come to the realization that it's the first step to a lot of rejections.
~Becky

*Next to California roll sushi and greasy Chinese food, canned chili is my favorite thing in the world. I HAVE NO SHAME.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Letter To Future Me

So these last few weeks at college have kept me terribly busy, sometimes rather lonely, other times in extremely odd company, forced me to experience walking about in the terrifying dead of night after very hipster poetry readings, and made me go to the libraries and witness the wild LARPers of FSU more times than I imagined possible. It's been interesting. I discovered I can read Mansfield Park in less than two days and then defend it wholeheartedly because, idk, I guess I'll never hate an Austen novel even if I try. And I've discovered that being the only freshman in the Essays and Article class means my prose is awkward, ugly, and lifeless in comparison to my peers. Not that I think they're all David Foster Wallace reincarnate--in fact, sometimes some of the political commentary they did in the first assignment was...unnecessarily silly--but they're a thousand times better than I am anddddd that makes me feel like shit.

^Yeah, I know, I sound petty. But it's my blog and I'm allowed to.

Anyways, I'm running out of time to finish up an essay and then figure out how to print it at the library, so I'll wrap this up quickly. This here was an assignment given by said Essays and Article class (as a creative writing major, I hadt o pick between two out of three of these: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. When I was faced with the choice, I had to awkwardly remind myself which one I suck at and go fuck poetry.)

I've written letters to Future-Me before (first one being to 23 year old me from 13 year old me after I saw an episode of Cowboy Beebop that gave me the idea) so this is nothing new. I have, however, never written to a future-me that's older than the age of 40, so that was a bit of a twist. The assignment was just about using different types of forms. Because I have no imagination, I picked letter writing. I decided the content would have to make up for the lack of exploration in the actual form.

I hope it works. I'll give a better update when I'm not drowning in other stuff :P

Dear 47-Year-Old Me:
The plan, originally, was to write a letter to 27-year-old me. I wanted to point out in said hypothetical letter how different yet how similar it is to be 17 and to be 27. I wanted to talk about how similar words are used to describe the two stages of life, such as young, rather free, curious, little bit adventurous, naïve but not a child completely lost in life, etc.  I wanted to congratulate myself for having already figured out what I wanted to be at 17, a fact that would have hopefully made life at 27 a little easier.
            Being 27 scares me because ten years is a future too far away from now and yet not far enough. A lot can happen in ten years. I can only sort of imagine being out of college, on my own, pushing slowly to the age of maturity. It’s a blurry future, but I can picture it nonetheless. Maybe I graduated at nineteen, or maybe I decided to stay for all four years. Maybe I drifted into film school, throwing myself into unnecessary debt, or maybe I went down a different path. Maybe I moved to Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or New York, or maybe I just ran back to the safety of Miami. Maybe I finally published something, maybe I somehow got a literary agent.
            It’s all possibilities and speculations. And still I’ve decided not to write that letter.
Do you know what I can’t picture? Twenty years from now. Do you know what’s absolutely, terrifyingly impossible to see? Thirty years from now. I won’t even bother adding in more decades because it’s all the same from there. I can’t see it. I try to imagine far past post-college life as I’m moving up in the world, and my mind draws a blank.
All these questions are running through my head and I’m wishing I could ask them while also being embarrassingly thankful that you can’t pull me out of my blissful ignorance. You should know that despite having a rather optimistic view of life in your twenties as a 17 year old, you have a really pessimistic view of your middle-age life. While it’s impossible to really imagine what life is like in my forties, I’m going to guess it’s terrible. I’m broke, without a family (or a family that’s falling apart if you decided to get married), and the critics and the public hate my novels.
Does that sound terrible? Can you laugh now at the worries your teenage self barely considered one rainy night in her freshman year in college, or are you cursing at me for not choosing a more comfortable, financially stable path when I/you had the chance?
The only question I wish you could answer is: who am I at the age of 47? Did I stop being such a liberal, hippie, feminist? Did I make an impact in the mainstream media like I always wished I could do? Am I happy? More importantly, does one dream of the future at 47? I feel like the answer should be obvious. I feel like at 47 there’s no point in imagining life at 57 because by then, not a lot can change in those ten years. Not in the way time changes between 17 and 27. But I don’t know that. I don’t know a lot of things. I hope at least that much has changed for you.
I don’t know how the choices I make now have influenced your present. I don’t know if you are proud of where I took us, or if you wish you’d had a time machine to strangle me right about now. I do know that I won’t alter my course dramatically because I only ever want one thing, and that’s to be as happy as possible in whatever imminent future I have. I’m sorry if that means I have caused you great pain in these years. But maybe it’s not such a bad mentality to have. Maybe even now (your “now”, not my “now”), you can still find it in yourself to have the energy and will to chase for the dreams and happiness you wanted as an adolescent girl.
That’s all I really want to tell you while I’m in this cheesy, cliché little stage of my life.
Sincerely, from the past,

Becky
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.