I’ve been “writing” for the last two hours and this is all I have to show for it.

I started writing a really nice post about how I am returning to writing because I want to exercise that muscle again because I love words and the way it feels when you can describe something in a way that illuminates it in a way that readers who weren’t there go, “Goddamnit she’s right.” But I had to do a little bit of mental preparation first; Reading the archives of my high school xanga turned into reading the novel I tried writing at seventeen. That turned into laughing at myself turned into trying to validate myself again which lead in a temporarily fruitless search for the first piece that won me a flash fiction contest. I like the first one better, but the only one I can find is the second piece that won me a flash fiction contest. THE STRUGGLE IS SO REAL, YOU GUYS.

I found myself clad but naked that caramel August evening. With iced espresso bitter on my tongue, I watched as you arranged vibratos for strings note by note. For a dollop of a moment, you and your thoughts were mine to taste – tart and airy like a meringue. As your fingers volleyed the piano keys, the saccharine words slithered to my pursed lips: I love you.

I think I was hungry. At the very least, I really wanted dessert.

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This is where the magic happens.

I’ve been in my new apartment for about three months now. One of the things that excited me most about the place (other than the beautiful light everywhere, ability to paint the walls, lots of closet space, a garage, pleasant yard, french doors, and great location) was a closet off the living room that had potential to be a fantastic little writer’s nook.

Me being me, it spent the last three months as a closet housing winter coats, paint cans, an occasionally-used box fan, extra blankets (I own no less than 10 blankets. I have zero explanation for this fact), and partially unpacked boxes. I saved this project for a weekend when I didn’t have anything going on.

That weekend finally came around, though it was a pleasantly busy weekend – containing a baseball game, Fox Cities Jazz Fest, dinner at a new restaurant, baking new treats (B-Crox in da house), Lolita-reading in the park, late night whiskey & jazz, lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in months, and vinyl night (True story: I brought Hall & Oates) at a local pizza joint. I squeezed a lot into that three day weekend.

Look at all the Throwback Thursday content! That's only half of it.

Look at all the Throwback Thursday content! That’s only half of it.

I’m now writing from inside my writer’s nook. When this little space came together on Sunday morning, I was instantly inspired. Finally, I thought. This is where all of my writing will finally happen. This is where I’ll write my masterpiece. This is where I’ll return to my fiction-writing. 

I’ve been in here for about two hours. Fifteen minutes were spent writing the above paragraphs. Twenty were spent taking pictures with my phone and camera (gotta have one for the instagram & higher quality for the blog post!). Another twenty were spent on a phone call I had been putting off. A cumulative 20 were spent idly on Facebook. At least 10 were spent trying to find the perfect writer’s nook music (finally came to the conclusion that Belle & Sebastian is boring and cute in the most annoying way). Then another 15 minutes were spent scrolling on Pinterest.

It’s funny how much time I spend excusing myself for not writing. Sometimes I think I need idea books, method books, style manuals, how-to books, or just new books. Even though one of my shelves is dedicated exclusively to books of this sort, I’ll get a new one. Inevitably, I read twenty pages, get a great idea for an essay, but then toss it to the side after a half hour when I think of a clever tweet because I’m all about instant gratification. It’s way easier to write tweets than it is to write a full blog post or honest-to-god memoir.

I’m hoping that at some point during my evenings and weekend afternoons in my writer’s closet, I’ll relearn patience.

Till then, keep an eye on my twitter feed. Every now and then there’s a gem there.

Sign of genius, I'm telling you.

Sign of genius, I’m telling you.

Quiet: Fighting the Intro-Extro Battle

If I’ve talked to you about books or personality in the last two weeks or so, I’ve probably talked about Quiet: The Power of Introverts. I’ve read exactly 4 chapters and I keep telling people about it because I’ve learned so much. Essentially, our culture currently prizes extroversion above introversion and because of that, creativity and inspiration is lacking in day to day life.  Because the most innovative ideas come from introverts, we are doing ourselves a disservice with the constant fixation on group activities and teamwork. 

Quiet

I used to think of myself as an introvert, but I began surprising myself a few years ago when I started enjoying being in groups. Being center of attention intimidates me, but I like the idea of giving a worthwhile comment or having a lengthy and intense discussion about books or the possibility of music-making with an old friend over a microbrew. Bouncing ideas off friends, successfully creating something with a team, and acting as an authority (in a professional setting as well as social settings) are all things that appeal to me.

I don’t mind being alone, but if I go to bed without having talked to anyone other than coworkers (no offense to my cube-dwelling friends), I feel restless and disappointed with myself. I should have reached out to Nicole today. I wonder how Kaleigh is doing in her new home. I should have asked Jason to meet up for a drink. I haven’t talked to my aunt in a long time, I wonder how her kitchen remodel went. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Sam. I should have hung out with Nic. I should have taken Christina up on that idea about coffee. I pull my sheets in closer and turn on my Kindle and start reading, and quickly forget about all of that. 

My introverted nature is fighting with my freshly-cultivated extroversion.  I want the people around me to know that they matter to me,but it’s so much easier to just putz around my apartment, pretending to be productive. That sounds selfish because it is. What stops me from reaching out to friends? They’ve reached out to me multiple times and I rarely return the gesture. Am I afraid of the rejection? In a few cases, maybe. But I know that I have common interests with these people. I’m confident I would enjoy that show Nic has been telling me about. I know I would get a month’s worth of laughter if I talked to Nicole for twenty minutes. And I might find a new friend if I reached out to Christina. But there’s a part of me that is reluctant to face the potential awkwardness of hanging out with a friend who doesn’t know me as deeply as someone like my best friend, Andrea. And that fear is what stops me from reaching out to those people. 

But getting back to the issue here: my actual placement on the introversion/extroversion spectrum.  When asked to list my hobbies, they’re all of the introverted variety: reading, writing, knitting & crochet, running, baking, cooking, sewing…good god, I sound like a grandma who should be in fantastic shape. Though I truly enjoy doing those things, I feel a pressure to be surrounded. Where that pressure hails is a mystery, but I feel it stronger than I’d like. The times I’ve showed my extroverted side, I’ve been rewarded instantly – by the approval of an idea, laughter at a joke, or the gratitude of being understood. 

But it’s a quick sense of satisfaction. It takes very little effort for me to feel fulfilled in social situations. My default setting for social interaction is self-deprecation, and since people seem to enjoy that, I go with it. But the things that make me feel really good are things that require patience and focus on quieting my inner monologue to let the creativity flourish.

When I spent hours reading or writing, it was in high school – when I didn’t have much of a social life. I journaled constantly because I didn’t have a best friend to listen to my sometimes never-ending wordbarf. Reading allowed me to get swept away by a story. I wrote short stories and the beginnings of a few terrible novels, because when I was alone, I was able to cultivate and tweak those ideas. Without anyone else’s input clouding the development of my ideas, I was free to work as I saw fit, yielding some of my favorite pieces.

Having only read the first four chapters, I’m not sure what else I’ll find from the rest of Susan Cain’s book. So far, I’ve taken away that I’ve begun to prize the gratification of my extroverted efforts above my introverted ones, despite the fact that the latter gives deeper and longer-lasting satisfaction. After spending an hour writing this, I’m not sure if I want to go read more of the book or if I want to spend the rest of the night feeling guilty about not calling people. 

If you haven’t heard of Susan Cain or her awesome book, I’d recommend listening to her fantastic TED Talk. 

Throwback Thursday: Zen in the Art of Pooh Journaling

Every Thursday, I dig I out an old diary and share an entry sans editing (in hopes we’ll all see my grammar and apostrophe use improve) with a short commentary. If you like laughing with/at Young Ashley, feel free to use the handy search bar to the right and simply type “Throwback Thursday” and you’ll find the whole archive. Thanks for reading!

Exciting news, you guys! I’ve moved onto the second diary in my collection! We’re getting closer to my truly humiliating entries!

You're right, Ashley. These are two COMPLETELY different notebooks. You have such dynamic taste.

You’re right, Ashley. These are two COMPLETELY different notebooks. You have such dynamic taste.

Tuesday May 4, 1999

Hello. My name is Ashley Elizabeth Otto. I’m in the fifth grade at Clovis Grove Elementary school in Menasha Wisconsin. I play the violin. My instructor is Ms. Jane B—- F—–. My best friends are Ashley A, Ashley M, Katie B, and Malee L. In my family there are 4 other people, not including myself. First there is my Dad, Kraig. He works at “J.J. Keller”, and he works for My Uncle Mark, who is my favorite uncle. (I’ll tell you about him later.) Next my mom, Eileen. Her maiden name is H——. She works at “Piggly Wiggly”. Next Corey he is 12, he goes to Maple Wood Middle school. Finnally Ryan. He is 5, he went to “Tinny Tots”. Ms. F—- says that I have extraordinary talent in music. Thats good for my dream! My dream is to be in the New York Symphony, and a hairstylist on the side. I’d like to marry a doctor and live in a big house. My dream car is a VW Beetle. End. 

Saturday May 8, 1999

I feel great today! Even though its only about 10:40, I really feel great! I have a feeling today will be  a great day. Or a “happy day” as I used to call it. Corey would call it a “Rock and Roll day.” Today I slept in till 8:00. I got up, played a game of pool with Corey. (We got a 10 in 1 pool table, its got pool, basket ball, lots of games, a lego table, and more!) I had a toaster strudle for breakfast. Then mom went to Dawn’s house. (she’s still there.) While she was there I got into the shower, shaved my legs. Then I blow dried my hair, washed my hair, and now I’m writing in you! I will work out after this too. I don’t know what else to say. End. (for now!) 

I still feel great! Ok, so there’s this girl, Hilary Hahn. She looks like she’s 11, but she’s 19! 19! Well anyway, here’s here story for Time for kids: 

[i then proceeded to copy a short article about Hilary Hahn in unbelievably tiny print]

What’s really amazing is that at age 10 she got into a musical academy! I wish I could do something like that! Well I almost did. I’ll tell you the story of when I started violin. It begins last year…

“Please dad! I really want to play violin! Pleeeeeaase!” “Well I’ll have to check with your mom first.” Well after Dad talked to mom about it, they said yes. We had to go to Gegan to get fitted for our instrument. My cousin Kyle was there, he would play the cello. I was fitted with a 1/4 size violin. On my first lesson at 9:00 on a Monday morning we learned “twinkle twinkle little star.” Plucking. I did not want to practice plucking. “OH wow! I can pluck!” So, I practiced with my bow. When my mom came to my 12:00 lesson one time I passed “Mississippi hotdog.” (a twinkle variation) Ms. F—– stood on her head! I was the first one in my group to pass it. So while there were on song #1, I was on song #2. One day when I had passed “Perpetual Motion” the 9th song Ms. F—– called and said that song #9 was the song that she wanted her students to be by the end of their second year. So she was going to give me a scholarship to Suzuki summer camp! Well even with the scholarship it was to much for my parents to pay. So I didn’t go. Well, she said that if during the summer there were no lessons that I might get private lessons. Well I didn’t do that either. So in the summer school classes there was Strings Lessons. All because of me! Me! Well sometime in March we had our annual “Strings Festival.” We had a rehearsal at 12:30….

I proceeded to list more rehearsals and lessons that establish my excitement and apparent status as a Suzuki Book 1 prodigy. “Gavotte is a simple song, but hard bowings to it” was my grammatically unsound statement about my progress at that point. It wasn’t so much an entry about me starting violin so much as an overview of my accomplishments my first year. I just sort of bragged about myself. Sort of begs the question: have I really changed at all?

If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll notice the dates of these entries overlap some of my earlier Throwback Thursdays. I promise, I’m not going back, I’m just moving on to the next journal. I thought my excitement over new notebooks and journals started much later in life, but turns out it’s always been an issue. The cursive of this first entry is so tightly written that it makes my hand sore. Flipping through this diary, I find that most of my hand writing here is small. Maybe I’ll find that I was a passionate advocate for paper conservation while writing in this notebook. Or maybe it’s just that I was hoping the publisher would more favorably judge a neatly written journal when deciding which 10 year old’s journal to publish next.

Journal

I remember writing introductions for many of my early diaries, but I think this was the most deliberate one. It was as if I expected to have a conversation with it. “Wow, that’s really your name?” my diary would say. “No! Your dad doesn’t work there! And your brother went to ‘Tinny Tots’? What did they do there, study tin cans and potatoes?” For the record, it was actually called Tiny Tots – I was just a moron who didn’t know how to spell. I think these introductory entries were a sort of offering to the journal. It felt too assuming to just start writing about my days. I thought each journal needed a preface – as if anybody would read them and not be able glean the details from later pages. Obviously I was still learning the art of story telling. I’ve since learned a few things about writing.

Construct a story by establishing the plot (I needed to ask my parents if I could play violin because I wanted to join Malee when she left math for lessons), introducing characters (me, 11 and anxious; my father, work-weary with dirty fingernails; my mother, fresh-faced and wiping the counters), illustrating the setting (early fall, cool breeze brightening the warm air of my parents’ kitchen, we’re standing near the drawer with the telephone book), create tension (I had asked the year before, but my dad said no, that I was too young – maybe next year), sprinkling in dialogue (“Can I pleeeaaase, Dad? Can I?” “Your mother and I will need to talk about it”), and granting a resolution (they said yes, I kicked ass).

This second diary looks like a much more serious attempt to capture my place in the world. It was around the time I was first made aware of impermanence. I wanted something to leave behind – a collection of Pooh journals, apparently – that would justify my existence. At the time, I remember hearing my mother warn me about the end days, saying that the rapture was near. I was almost certain I would never make it to 18. I didn’t think I’d die, I would just never reach that age or I would just be raptured in a Jesus beam. I guess you could say these diaries were my gift to the sinners not raptured.

Actually that seems like more of a punishment. “For all of eternity, your only reading material will be a Pooh diary written in metallic gel pen recounting one girl’s greatest indecision: whose hotness is hotter – Leonardo Dicaprio, James Van Der Beek or Joey M? Hope all the sins were worth it, heathen.”

It’s obvious that my journaling began as a desperate attempt to stake a claim on my life. “I was here! I lived! I have thoughts that matter! My story has got to be important!” Though I don’t journal as often as I would like, I think I write for the same reason. I think this blog has established my stake (according to search terms, a claim whose only worth is its advice on encounters with ex-boyfriends), and my personal journal tackles much more personal issues. Now I use my journal for the venting I’m sick of bothering Andrea with. It’s for the thoughts not entertaining enough for Twitter and too depressing to make into Facebook statuses. I suppose my more recent journals would reveal an apparently depressed and often romantically confused woman whose biggest wish is to find a way to survive on fourteen hours of sleep each week.

Keep dreaming, Ashley. Keep dreaming.

Throwback Thursday: “I MUST HAVE LOVED YOU BECAUSE I KNOW YOUR SEVENTH GRADE LOCKER NUMBER.”

Every Thursday, I dig out an old diary and share an entry sans editing (in hopes we’ll all see my grammar and apostrophe use improve) with a short commentary. If you like laughing with/at Young Ashley, feel free to use the handy search bar to the right and simply type “Throwback Thursday” and you’ll find the whole archive. Thanks for reading!

Friday December 24, 1999

Dear Genna, 

Been a while, ya think? I’m still Ashley, but now I go to Maplewood. I still like Andy, but I’ve added a crush or two to my list. 

  1. Joey
  2. Andy
  3. Tyler
  4. Sam
  5. Todd

Joey is in seventh grade. Locker number 2632, Bus number 862, Bus route 66. 

<3, Ashley

Saturday December 25, 1999

Dear Diary, 

Sorry, but when I named you “Genna” I was a total freak! So now, you’re just plain ol’ diary, k, k!

For Christmas, (so far.) I got two pairs of Levi flare jeans, a tech vest, two shirts, the 98° Christmas CD, and a camera!

Either more later, or tomorrow, Ashley

Friday January 14, 2000

Dear Diary, 

I just got home from (it’s 11:35pm!) my first boy-girl party. And it was really fun. At first it was really boring because most of the kids were just sitting around. But then when people started leaving, it got better. (Oh yeah, this was my friend Ali’s 13th birthday.) When just me, Ali, Emily, Anna, Isiah, and Corey were left. (Not my older bro. A really cute and quiet kid.) I danced to some really funky, up beat song with Isiah, just a twilling thing, (Mom!) nothing serious. Ok, sorry Mom, but I was trying to get Corey to dance with me but he didn’t Corey said the only way he would dance is if we got his hat off, which he had, pracitcally glued to his head the whole night. I got it off twice! He barely danced! The first time I got his hat, I ran into the Girls bathroom, where I thought I’d be safe. But He ran in way in the back and said, nonchalauntly, “Can I have my hat back?” Emily and I were just shreiking. But I had a great time. I hope I’ll have parties that cool.

Ur’s always, Ashley

Good God. Young Ashley. You’re still a “total freak” even after renaming your Pooh book. I hope all 11-year olds are this psychotic.

I’m starting to hesitate with these posts, you guys. I often joke around that I’m a dork, but I’m offering you prime evidence here. Soon we’re going to be getting into my high school days. That’s going to be mortifying. Then college? Hot damn. You just might see me get truly vulnerable. I’ve been pretty nonchalant (or nonchalaunt, if you’re eleven and into phonetics) about sharing these prior diary entries, because in an abstract sense, I don’t think you should be embarrassed about anything that happens before you’re 18. Everyone was once an awkward kid trying to figure out their place in the world – navigating a new terrain of crushes, interactions with the opposite sex, name brand clothes and the relative popularity status. However, in a more concrete sense, I’m afraid my diaries will illustrate all the ways I haven’t matured.

These days, I don’t tempt boys into dancing by stealing their hats and running into bathrooms while shrieking, but I sometimes still feel that sense of unwarranted embarrassment when talking to a guy I find attractive. I’m picturing the shrieking now. I’m writing this on Wednesday night and in about an hour, I’ll be meeting the academic (yes, from the comedy club) for wine and live jazz. What would that be like? He’d put his arm around me and in two seconds I’d turn bright red, squealing when his fingers brush my shoulder blade. When the bill came I would try to pay my portion with exact change using crumpled bills and 37 pennies, completely unaware of the tipping concept. Thank god we pretend to be normal humans. Restaurants would be the most chaotic places on earth if we all acted like eleven year old kids. 

I’ve found that dating in my twenties is more refined than my obsessive crushes that seemed appropriate as a child. I memorized facts about my crushes the same way I did with celebrities. If it had been possible, I probably would have had posters of not just James Van der Beek and Leonardo Dicaprio, but also Joey, Andy, and Tyler –  obviously not Sam or Todd though. I’m not sure what my goal was by memorizing his locker number and bus route. Maybe I thought my diligence to remember digits pertaining to him would translate to devotion he would find endearing.

Reading this entry took some time. For those interested in the legibility of their writing, I would not recommend metallic Jelly Rolls.

Reading this entry took some time. For those interested in the legibility of their writing, I would not recommend metallic Jelly Rolls.

Clearly, this was when I used metallic gel pens and before I developed a sense of empathy. I don’t think I realized these boys were complete people. They were flat characters – ones easily learned by keeping in mind simple facts. Not that I would have been able to articulate it, but I knew that I was an emotional being, capable of containing contradictions and parts of myself I was unwilling to share or acknowledge. Everyone around me was just another character in my life. I had no desire to truly learn about another person. And anyway, how could I have kept them all straight? I had five crushes at one point – a girl can barely memorize five locker numbers, much less learn about five different boys.

I miss the innocence of the days when 11:35 was extraordinarily late and I was excited by the presence of boys at a party. I didn’t have the capability for discerning between boys I liked and didn’t like – they were all  just boys! Boys I could flirt with! Boys whose very presence gave me butterflies. I think the inability to discern emotions is so characteristic of adolescence. Everything I felt was so strong. Every joke a boy told me made me laugh. Every note passed to me made me feel adored. Every exchanged smile meant the potential for my first kiss.

Because it was all new, everything was a gut feeling until I was able to place them in a hierarchy. Even after I did this, I would ignore the distinctions because a boy was giving me attention. I still squealed (in my head) whenever a guy made the slightest effort to show me he was interested. It wasn’t till about 22 that I realized I didn’t have to spend time with complicated assholes if I didn’t want to.

Ahhh, growing up. You offer such good lessons. For my younger readers – WHY ARE YOU READING THIS, DID YOUR MOM GIVE YOU PERMISSION?! DOES SHE KNOW THAT I OCCASIONALLY SWEAR?! – I’d like to tell you to keep your psychotic behavior to a minimum and keep your standards high. If you’re wondering, yes you are a dork, but so is everyone else, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Also, read good books.

Aww shucks. I got nominated.

Earlier today, my cousin tweeted me telling me she was thinking about starting a blog. I told her to start with either WordPress or Blogger and to let me know if she had further questions. I said that like it’s the most important part of blogging, but really it’s not. What makes blogging fun and rewarding is the community. I’m happy to be part of the community here on WordPress and I love interacting with other bloggers. One especially cool thing are the reader-nominated awards, like this one, the Liebster.

liebsterblogaward

Melly, a self-described “30something Sydneysider” nominated me for this award. She requested that I answer the following questions.

1. What would you spend your last $50 on?

Honestly? Probably something silly like a bunch of Amazon mp3 albums. A week later when I’m eating the last of my canned soup, I’ll be kicking myself for buying a Nina Simone album – even if Wild is the Wind is an amazing song. At least my hunger will have an amazing soundtrack.

2. Favorite fashion accessory?

In the past, I had three weaknesses while shopping: cute coats, classy handbags, and superfluous shoes. For the most part, I’ve calmed down. I bought a very practical parka on sale last winter and have passed by many clearance pea coats this winter. I’ve purchased only two purses and one clutch this year. And I’ve stuck to clearance shoes – flats under $5, and a pair of $8 leopard print heels. My favorite accessory would probably be my cubic zirconia studs. When they’re clean, the 2-karat cheats could blind someone. I’ll stick with the cubic zirconia until I’m rich enough for actual diamonds.

3. If you were a character on The Simpsons, who would you be? 

I don’t watch The Simpsons, really, but I vaguely remember Lisa being a musician who read a lot. So that’s sort of a no-brainer.

4. What’s your go-to comfort food?

Bread. Hands down. Give me a loaf of warm, crusty french bread and I’ll be happy. I don’t even need butter or jam – just give me plain bread and I will be completely content. Until it’s gone.

5. If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Someplace that is not Wisconsin. Honestly, this winter is terrible. I’m not used to getting 3-5 inches of snow every week – we haven’t had winters like this since I was a kid. I don’t need to see a beach. I don’t need a sunburn. I don’t need rum-heavy drinks. Actually, I was lying about the rum drinks. I’ll take some of those. Anyway, what I need is some soft grass and a reason to wear sunglasses other than the snow reflecting and blinding me.

6. Do you prefer to work out in the gym, at home, or outdoors; what do you love about it? 

Bouncing around in my living room makes me feel like an ogre. When i workout outside, I sometimes get over ambitious and run or bike a ridiculous distance away from home, instead of staying within a reasonable radius. I prefer the gym because if I lose all ambition or energy, I can do a quick cool-down and drive home. Gyms can get boring, but that’s why it’s great to have Netflix on cell phones and tablets.

7. If you could pick 4 people (living or dead) to have a dinner party with, who would they be and why? 

Kanye West because it’s Kanye West. He would provide the comic relief without realizing he was providing comic relief. Lena Dunham so I could pick her brain and become her new best friend and she would want to pilot an HBO series based on my blog. Ira Glass so he could be the token jew-athiest who would provide all of the interesting and topical stories we’d discuss while Kanye said things like, “Why don’t you have any fur-covered pillows?” And to humble everyone at the party, I would invite Vladimir Nabokov. He would remind us that none of us are as smart or as talented as we think we are. Dude wrote Lolita – that trumps Kanye’s obnoxious tweets, the honesty of Girls, and Ira’s most heart-wrenching story about underprivileged children diagnosed with cancer who go on to be Nobel Laureates, or something.

8. What’s your signature cooking dish?

Something smothered in peanut sauce, most likely. Or dutch babies.

9. Favorite TV show?

This is so difficult! Arrested Development for its endearing portrayal of narcissists? 30 Rock for Tina Fey’s ability to mix the meta with the obnoxious? Breaking Bad for its shocking dissection of a man’s descent into evil with a super hot sidekick (Jesse Pinkman ftw!)? Community for its constant breaking of the fourth wall and disregard for comedy norms? I LOVE ALL MY CHILDREN EQUALLY.

10. Where did you go to high school? 

Good ol’ Menasha High School, home of the Bluejays. I spent a good deal of time hanging out at a coffee shop in Neenah (Menasha’s neighbor and rival) and made quite a few friends who gave me the adorable nickname “Metrashley.” They were clever. I told somebody this anecdote once, and he reacted with horror and pity. Maybe I got it wrong, but I think they called me Metrashley ironically. Dressed constantly in flats and pastel cardigans, I was the opposite of trashy. Aside from simply residing in a town sometimes called “Metrasha” (pronounced “Meh-trash-ah” for those of you confused), there is literally no way I could have earned this nickname.

11. What are you currently obsessed with? 

Gosh, where to start? Jazz, comedy, books about religion, zero-calorie Powerade, guacamole, the promise of spring, and rereading old diaries.

Since I accepted the Liebster Blog Award, here are the rules:

Rules for the Liebster Blog Award (if you choose to accept)
1. Add the award icon to your post.
2. Link in your nominator to say thank you.
3. Answer the questions the nominator has set for you, and create eleven questions for your own nominees to answer.
4. Choose eleven bloggers to nominate for the award, and let them know.

I’m going to nominate the following bloggers for the award:

  1.  Marcus, The Entertaining. [Voices in Heads]
  2.  Rachel, The Healthy. [her name is rachel]
  3.  Kristen, The Resourceful. [Five in Tow]
  4.  Katie, The Sassy. [Sass and Balderdash]
  5.  Jess, The Bold. [Mitten’s Kittens]
  6.  I Don’t Know Your Name, The Clever. [Thoughts and Rants in Jogging Pants]
  7. Amy, The Self-Aware. [It’s a Conundrum]
  8.  Anouchka, The Colorful. [Life of Bun]
  9.  Mindy, The Poetic. [Becoming Mindy]
  10.  Mer, The Adventurous. [loveplusthely]
  11.  I Don’t Know Your Name Either, The Determined. [A Girl Who Writes]

My questions for my nominees (if you choose to accept) are as follows:

  1. Are you a dog or cat person? Why?
  2. Growing up, what was your favorite cartoon?
  3. If you could meet one fictional character, who would it be?
  4. What is one of your guilty pleasures?
  5. You’re forced to relocate immediately; Where would you choose to live?
  6. Marry, Boff, Kill: Your first, second, and third romantic partners.
  7. What was your first car?
  8. What’s your homepage?
  9. Name two things other than your phone or computer you couldn’t live without.
  10. What is your favorite dessert?
  11. What are you currently obsessed with?

Thanks again for the nomination, Melly! To my friends who I’ve nominated: I listed you because I truly enjoy your posts and look forward to reading more – even if I don’t know your first names.

On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t deconstruct comedy…

Sometimes I confuse myself. This morning, I woke up knowing the only thing I wanted to do today was lie in bed, watch Netflix, and eat leftover thai. I didn’t have any expectations for the day – a refreshing change of pace. Something about not having a single obligation for an entire day feels liberating. I imagine some people use free days to reconnect socially by getting lunch with a friend or calling relatives they haven’t spoken to in a while. It wasn’t that I was completely against the idea of interacting with people today, it was more that I didn’t have a problem not doing that.

I’m wondering if this is a holdover from last summer. I spent so much time wallowing in loneliness that the sensation became sort of comfortable. It’s got me wondering if I’ve become too comfortable being alone. Furthermore, it’s making me wonder if there’s any harm in that. I think most people would agree that the cruelest punishment is solitary confinement, but that’s not what I’m really talking about. I’m talking about being okay with spending six nights a week mostly on my own with books, manicures, and Justin Timberlake on repeat. When my one social obligation came around on Saturday night, I welcomed it. But it came and went, and on Sunday morning, a day in bed on my own seemed perfectly wonderful.

This was taken around noon.

Last night I went to a dinner and a comedy show with an academic. The conversation prior to the comedy show ranged from classic literature to dealing with that dirty feeling you get after watching too much of something like Louis CK or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. At one point, he started to deconstruct some of the comedy shows I wasn’t very familiar with (Louie, Curb Your Enthusiasm) in order to persuade me to watch them. I followed this thread of deconstruction throughout the rest of the night. Over wine, I began to analyze our conversations, wondering if we touched on the typical date conversation topics. In those conversations, you’re each trying to decide if you want to invest more in each other. But listing favorite bands, movies, books, and television shows only reveal so much about a person, right? By the time we got to the comedy club, I was in full deconstruction mode, doing quick dissections of the jokes.

But my dissections were shallow and obvious. One comedian said he was saving up to buy a firetruck so he could safely drive home drunk. “Firetrucks are supposed to be speeding and weaving in and out of traffic. Have you ever seen a firetruck get pulled over? No.”

The dissection (which I kept to myself) was something like, “It’s funny because it’s absurd. The idea of saving for a firetruck to support alcoholism is absurd. The image of a firetruck being pulled over is absurd.” Though my initial comedy analysis was simple and obvious, it made me start to wonder why I enjoy it so much. I admire the way a good comedian can quickly illustrate a complete story well enough to make an audience empathize. I admire the ways some comedians make us laugh at ourselves and how others make us ashamed. Comedy is more than just laughter, it’s the acknowledgement of human nature and its ridiculousness.

Anyway, I ended up spending most of the day in bed trying to learn more about comedy. I started reading And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft. While reading, I compiled a list of movies and television shows to watch and re-watch, and books to read: The Graduate, To Die For, Louie; The Office (UK), Arrested Development, Spaceballs; Catch-22, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love…I expect the list to grow tenfold by the time I’m finished with the book.

The twisted thing about today is that I did exactly what I wanted to do: no more than read a good book and watch some funny television. Yet, now that the day is done, I’m a little sad because I feel like I could have been more social. I always get like this after spending a day on my own, even if I’m fulfilled and pleased with my endeavors. A couple weeks ago, I spent the day with e.e cummings’s six nonlectures, feeling myself become more inspired by each page. But just like today, after sunset, I was left feeling lonely. It felt like mental masturbation; as if I’d rather spend the day with a book – something I can interpret and manipulate for myself – than forge a connection with someone else. That’s not actually true, but I’m afraid resistance to reach out to people could be interpreted that way.

This was taken around 9pm. Way to go, Ashley. Day accomplished, I guess.

This was taken around 9pm. Way to go, Ashley. Day accomplished, I guess.

Yet I find myself telling you all about it here – an act that could be construed as a narcissistic indulgence – in an attempt to feel connected. Surely this must resonate with someone else. Other people must feel the tug of solitary pleasures while also craving deep connections, right? I’d like to think I keep posting for the same reason comedians take the stage night after night: to feel – or even just get a taste of – social resonance.