I’m at that point in my life where everyone I know is dating someone and I’m over here contemplating whether or not it would be illegal to marry wine.

It’s like going fishing with all your friends and one by one, they all catch something, some are impressive, some are just meh, but either way, they catch something. Turns out, if I don’t truly want a fish, it’s going to be even harder for me to catch something, especially since I am by ZERO means a natural fisherman. The fact of the matter is, fishing is hard. It takes time and patience, there’s a technique, and an art to it even, but you didn’t really want to go fishing in the first place so now you are stuck holding your pole halfheartedly hoping to catch something just so that they won’t all take selfies with their fish together, without you.

I have this serious FOMO nagging at me all the time. I’m trying to smile and be happy for everyone but I’m actually chipping away inside knowing that this is the first step where everyone starts leaving you behind. My dad was always paranoid that it was going to happen in middle school with algebra.

Everyone is figuring their life out and I’m just trying to cling to my youth as much as I can. I am straight up Peter Pan status at this point. I swear if I watched this movie now I would pretty much be bawling the entire time. I know I don’t want to be in a relationship right now. The mere thought of it gives me the heebie-jeebies because we’re at that age where people are starting to get “serious” about their lives. Not just with their significant others, but also in their jobs, and their hobbies.

I don’t have my life figured out and I shouldn’t feel the pressure to. It’s not like I’m a mess that’s falling apart at the seams, I just don’t have a specific plan. Moreover, I don’t want a plan. I think it’s silly to think that my life is going to turn out a certain way just because I say it will.

There’s definitely a slippery slope of adulthood. These people are going to start hanging out with more people that have their crap figured out, because they’ll be able to relate to them. You know, they’ll be able to talk to each other about their mortgages and health insurance and last night’s episode of the West Wing. And I’m still going to be watching Phineas and Ferb in my robot onesie talking about Hilary Duff’s new album (true story.) They are going to start talking about their weddings together and how their kids are driving them crazy while I end up buying Scooby Doo fruit snacks in bulk and binge watching sitcoms while being forced to babysit so that they can have “just one night of freedom.” Ironically, with every additional time I watch all ten seasons of Friends, the fewer I may have in real life. Sometimes I feel like if I don’t board this “adulthood” train I’m going to end up getting the short end of the stick a lot.

It happened with drinking. In college I didn’t drink until I was 21. It was a personal choice and I’m glad I did because it proved to me that I had some manner of self-control in my life. But that meant for the first 3 years I was watching everybody go shopping for an outfit, or do each other’s hair and makeup, or take group pictures looking gorgeous and maybe one pity picture with me in my Christmas old navy pajama bottoms in any given season. It’s even worse when I decided to go. I usually ended up being sober sister who gets to hold everyone’s hair back and take pictures of people all night long while having to deal with people who think that you are judging them for being drunk. I felt obligated to go to clubs or parties even though that “wasn’t my scene” at the time. It was either go to the party, or not be able to relate to your friends. This is an exceptionally tough thing for a very extraverted person to make — by the way. I couldn’t count the number of times I felt like everyone was hanging out without me and eventually gave up. I had to get on the bandwagon otherwise it would speed off without me.

To this day, my biggest fear isn’t that everyone’s going to start going to symphonies together and I’m going to end up at a Ke$ha concert alone — but rather that I end up going to symphonies and never buy that Ke$ha concert ticket in the first place.

I don’t want to abandon my youth at the expense of not being able to relate to my friends. It seems like a pretty unfair trade.

It’s definitely cool to be classy sometimes. Like be able to go to brunch and ordering mimosas. Or eat artisan cheeses and crackers from whole foods. My fear is the one day when doing things like that stops being special. When you do “grown up things” so often that it stops being a novelty and just integrated into your life.

I feel like the opposite happens to people who think they are grown-ups. One day they wake up and they do something that reminds them of their youth and they feel special. Like they’ll go see Tangled in theaters and then be like “haha, hashtag still a child.” I would rather be a child that does grown up things every so often, than a grown up that does childish things. The latter just seems way more sad and depressing than the other.

I just don’t like the idea of this unspoken social pressure to grow up. I shouldn’t be forced to do things just because all of my friends are doing them. And I know what people say, find better friends. The thing is I love my friends. More than anything. They are actually great and would never consciously make the decision to leave me behind, I just feel like it’s a natural part of life. There’s always the idea that one day people are going to look down on me for not having a clue what I’m doing with my life. I just know that the only thing you can count on is things not going according to plan, so it just doesn’t make sense for me to bother with one. Getting “serious” and “buckling down” for some reason seems like the most immature decision a person can make. One day a cup of coffee is going to spill all over that plan and it’s going to be the most difficult thing to ever deal with. As Jodi Picoult once said, “There are two ways to be happy: improve your reality, or lower your expectations.”

I know I’m being dramatic. I know my friends are not going to abandon me. I just can’t shake the feeling that this is all the first step — the tipping point- so to speak, and I’m just not ready to admit what this really all could really mean — that I, once again, will be the shining example of an extroverted only child with nobody to play scrabble with. Compromising my youth just doesn’t seem like something I’m prepared for and I struggle with the concept that everyone one around me is eager to make that sacrifice already. TC mark

featured image – Scarleth Marie

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When You Review A Book, What’s Your Motive?

Next week, I’ll be leading a session on criticism — “When To Listen And What To Hear” — at Writer Unboxed’s “Un-Conference” event in Salem, Massachusetts…where they know a few things about being critical.

That session and this column are not about the more extreme moments in consumer review that have been so avidly discussed lately.

Laura Miller
Laura Miller

You’ll be familiar, for example, with the strange case of the YA novelist Kathleen Hale whose stalking of an online detractor is given (finally) some sober, contextual consideration by my colleague, the Salon critic Laura Miller. In her piece, Battle Of The Trolls: Kathleen Hale Reveals The War Raging Between Authors And Readers.

And among the simplest but most important points Miller makes is a parenthetical line having to do with the online element of that tawdry business. Miller points out:

So much of the Internet’s nastiest manifestations come from those who view themselves as underdogs striking back in the only way they can.

While Miller goes on to reference the myriad dust-ups on the huge Goodreads site (which became so insupportable at one point that they triggered administrative intervention last year), for me the key concept she has introduced in her good essay is animus — as in intent, an objective. Sometimes it’s the negative ill will of animosity, but not always. In many cases there are ostensibly and apparently positive intentions behind some of the worst excesses of reviews encountered by readers and writers today.

I can give you a sense for what I’m talking about in a religious reference of all things. Among the great faiths, Christianity is sometimes said to be characterized primarily by its evangelical tenets: the mission. Trying to persuade others to believe what one believes and behave the way one behaves (“one way”) is not essential to all doctrines.

And what marks a lot of consumer review is mission. A purpose. An intent to cause one reaction or another in the reader of the review. Many people writing reviews today either consciously or unconsciously are trying to sway those who read their reviews to do one thing or another: read the book or don’t read it; see the film or don’t see it; buy the music or don’t buy it; eat at the restaurant or eat somewhere else; etc.

It might surprise some of those consumer reviewers to know that this is not, in fact, a part of traditional critical practice.

No one is talking about consumer reviewers’ rights here, by the way. Having the right to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do, but each of us has the right to mount a little mission as he or she sees fit.

Nevertheless, the noise and bad blood around a lot of reviews and reactions could be eased if everyone involved stopped trying to trigger one reaction or another in everyone else. A real critic doesn’t instruct you to go to a play, read a book, avoid a concert, or try a new gym. A real critic simply lays out what she or he thinks about something, then steps back and lets the reader of the review make up his or her mind.

And while this won’t be the crux of what we discuss in Salem next week, the Writer Unboxed community is the kind that will understand this point: asking yourself what your motivation is for writing a review can help you sidestep a lot of the troublesome tone that makes consumer reviews such a swamp.

Writers Unboxed in Salem

9780142437339BNo better place than Salem to be reminded of how easily a kind of pack mentality can overcome individual discretion and drive people to behave in ways they’d never entertain alone.

The late Arthur Miller, whom I had a chance to meet and interview late in his life, wrote an articulate precede to his playscript for The Crucible. His drama is about the madness that produced the Salem witch trials in the 17th century, and he wrote, in part, about the setting for such atrocities this way:

The people of Salem in 1692 were not quite the dedicated folk that arrived
on the Mayflower. A vast differentiation had taken place, and in their own time
a revolution had unseated the royal government and substituted a junta which
was at this moment in power. The times, to their eyes, must have been out of
joint, and to the common folk must have seemed as insoluble and complicated
as do ours today. It is not hard to see how easily many could have been led to
believe that the time of confusion had been brought upon them by deep and
darkling forces.

Needless to say, there’s an acute “out of joint” sense attached to many elements of the digital dynamic which has made it possible for books so many fine people to publish books. Most are amateurs to the professional world of publishing — not quite the Mayflower elite of the so-called “legacy” industry, at least in the eyes of many traditionalists.

And while they frequently celebrate their capabilities of self-expression in self-publishing untold numbers (we truly do not know how many) books of one kind or another, they also approach their own and their cohorts’ work with few of the guidelines and shared values that over many decades have outlined the rigors of a deeply flawed but highly organized publishing industry.

This is why the choice of Salem as the setting for the Writer Unboxed conference is of note.

Moon SistersThe event is organized and led by the author and Writer Unboxed co-founder Therese Walsh. Her The Moon Sisters has just been named a “best book of 2014″ in the women’s fiction category by the Library Journal.

And one of the most adamantly staged characteristics of this inaugural doing of the conference is that “there are no sessions on the business end of things,” as she puts it to me. “No sessions on finding an agent, self-publishing your book, platform, how to tweet, Amazon, etc.”

The primary interest of the Writer Unboxed community is craft. Probably no more than 30 percent or so of the daily posts blogged to its highly trafficked site in a month relate to business issues. Most articles are craft-oriented, many focusing on the struggle for inspiration and fortitude presumed or experienced by many of their readers.

In fact, so different from this group’s overall norm in its blog life are my own pieces — heavily informed by events in the industry! the industry! — that a special bit of branding has been created for my articles: “Provocations in Publishing” is meant to make it clear that my journalistic bent may indeed provoke some regular readers in ways that a piece on nurturing one’s protagonist’s sweeter nature might not.

Walsh’s development of the Salem program has some fun components relative to its challenging social setting.

Therese Walsh
Therese Walsh

For example, some if its 95 or so delegates will engage in sessions at the Nathaniel Hawthorne House of Seven Gables visitor’s center.

In one instance, the author Brunonia Barry will hold forth on the topic of setting in one’s fiction while walking the historic Hooper-Hathaway House property with the group. Barry will lead another session in “method writing” (as in Method acting) in which attendees will have lunch “in character” as one or another personage from his or her work.

In some instances (including my own about criticism), instructors will take a standard, programmed workshop approach. In others, attendees will drive the discussion with their own questions and interests — the source of the “un-conference” term being applied to the event, reflective of gatherings that are designed to be agenda-ed by their participants.

Lisa Cron, John Vorhaus, Liz Michelski, Meg Rosoff, Kathleen McCleary, Ray Rhamey, Heather Webb, Catherine McKenzie and Donald Maass will join Walsh, Barry, and me in the corps of session leaders. Maass’ series of several independent workshops will be followed on November 7 by a full-day presentation based on his seminal book — a tremendous advance, even in his own already well-regarded work — Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling.

With luck, I may have a chance to work one-on-one with a couple of attendees, as well,  on the #MusicForWriters material I use in my series of columns here at Thought Catalog.

The Critical Connection

21st century fictionNo, I anticipate no court being established at the Hawthorne Hotel to determine which of us has truly seen Goody Therese with the Devil.

However, it’s worth looking once more, briefly, at Miller’s timeless work’s opening essay:

The edge of the wilderness was close by. The American con-tinent stretched endlessly
west, and it was full of mystery for them. It stood, dark and threatening, over their
shoulders night and day, for out of it Indian tribes marauded from time to time, and
Reverend Parris had parishioners who had lost relatives to these heathen.

In our own time, we stand at no more than the edge of the digital dynamic’s ham-handed overtake of our media. Publishing, we like to say, is the last to go. As the wise Henry Volans at Faber Press said to me this summer in London, “publishing has taken the digital disruption very hard.” And so it has.

Few shoulders have no chips on them these days. Everyone is mad about something, most frequently an expectation unmet by the reality of a business all but pulled apart in the siege of aspirational effort crashing in from that “edge of the wilderness.” The Net itself can appear to stretch into infinite dark corners, “full of mystery” for us, “dark and threatening.”

And at times, surely, the sorts of unchecked rudeness, vulgarity, and undisguised hostility encountered in the consumer review setting can look to us very much like an assault. Discussions rage in many parts of the conversational arena online about “the tone” of online discourse today. It takes no sociological cleverness to realize that for some reason the electronic distance of our interactions on the Internet cause many people to dismiss the sort of self-restraint they’d probably (we have to hope) exercise IRL, in real life.

In my session on criticism, as I said, we’ll be focusing  not on the bad-part-of-town nature of customer reviews online but on the actual writings those things contain and on what to do with it — I did not say where you can put it, thank you.

 Donald Maass
Donald Maass

It’s worth just a moment going in, however, to consider that organizational preference among the Unboxed Writers for craft over the special attention to business that digital developments require. Digital is an engine of distribution, not of art or aesthetics. And while it’s just fine for this conference to eschew business considerations for a concentration on craft, surely Salem is a place in which we will know that we skirt “the edge of that wilderness” at our own peril.

The next time you get ready to write a comment on a post or a review on someone’s work, asking yourself what your intent is can help you clarify what’s really important.

If you’re interested in getting into words something of your own reaction to an author’s writings, an artist’s vision, a composer’s concept, this can be of immense use both to that maker and to your fellow consumers. The less emotion you bring to the task, the better.

But if you find that your instinct is animated by a desire to either promote sales or suppress sales of the work — if there’s something going on for you that makes you want to affect what others do in response to your review — taking a little time, mulling it over, checking what’s triggering that response for you can help you look for that mission, that ideology, however informal, that can skew your commentary and reshape its best values with intentions you haven’t considered.

I am a professional critic trained in critical theory and practice — a Fellow with the National Critics Institute, and I’ve worked as a critic in masthead positions with The Village Voice, The Dallas Times-Herald, The Sarasota Herald Tribune, The Tampa Tribune and other mainstream media.

And for the first time in history, our once joking line — “everybody’s a critic” — is devastatingly true.

How many acting in that new guise might see themselves, as Laura Miller says, as “underdogs striking back in the only way they can”?

If we can be of help, call on us, the folks who have sat in these aisle seats for so many years and learned to juggle what we really saw or heard or read vs. how we felt or thought or wanted something to go. Some of us, I’m sure, would like to be of help.

After all, my name — from the Latin, port-arius — means “gatekeeper.” TC mark

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From the minute Jessica Day, Zooey Deschanel’s character in New Girl, appeared on our screens, we probably all let out a sigh of relief that we finally had a character we related to. Whether it’s her phenomenal fashion sense (because we all know that Deschanel brings her A game, let’s be honest) or the way she earnestly cracks her ridiculous puns, there’s something about Jess Day that makes us feel like she’s one of us. Every episode leaves me in tears because of the amount of seriously funny quotes that she and the cast as a whole dish out.

I think we can all admit that we each have our own little quirks that make us who we are. For starters, if you ask any of my friends, they would tell you that I’m pretty much the queen of impromptu street dancing and will burst out laughing at the most random things (that aren’t always funny in the first place). Why spend time worrying about what other people think when you can borrow a chapter from Jess’ book and just be your awesome self?

Everything about this show is just spot on—which makes it really hard to actually take a break and leave the couch (because missing out on New Girl reruns should be against the law). That being said, this roundup of funny quotes from Jess Day that are totally relatable will hit you right in the feels.

  1. Shut it down! “If you feel things getting sexual say, “shut it down!”
  2. This is my crew. “And if you want to get with me, you’re gonna have to get with my friends.”
  3. That moment when food is BAE. “Oh my gosh. Look, it’s food. I love food.”
  4. The perfect catch, OBVI. “I’m only attracted to guys who are afraid of success and think someone famous stole their idea.”
  5. There’s nothing wrong with being girly. “I brake for birds. I rock a lot of polka dots. I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children. And I find it fundamentally strange that you’re not a dessert person. It freaks me out.”
  6. ALL the feels. “I just wanted to listen to Taylor Swift alone.”
  7. Stay classy, ya’ll. “I can drink at 11:00…a.m.”
  8. We’re all a little cray cray. “Well, I guess I can’t hide my crazy.”
  9. Sweet freedom! “My boobs are loving this unemployed thing. They don’t have to go to boob jail everyday.”
  10. Forever alone. “I’m gonna end up alone. I’m gonna be a single old lady, flashing people on the subway.”
  11. Smooth moves. “I missed the moment when everybody got cool about sex.”
  12. Ugh, couples! “Ugh, couples! Boo. Hiss.” TC mark

This post originally appeared at YourTango.


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Have you ever taken a moment to stop, sit back, and just reflect about life — the relationships you have, the people whom you share these relationships with, the friends you see and talk to every day?

We often take the word “friend” for granted. We call everyone our friend. We have friends whom we’re friends with just because we’re classmates, organization-mates, workmates, colleagues, blockmates, etc. We have friends with whom we exchange intellectual ideas and random facts with just to fill up a conversation. We have friends whom we talk to because we need something from them. And the list goes on. But what will happen when you’re no longer classmates or workmates with them? What’ll happen when you no longer share the common interests with them?

So, what exactly is a friend — a genuine friend? Try asking yourself: just whom among your friends are you comfortable sharing your personal problems and experiences with? Just who among your friends genuinely rejoices with you for your achievements and stays by your side during your downfalls? Just who among your friends can you ask favors from and would not hold it against you, would not make you feel like you owe them? Just who among your friends will have the courage to always be honest with you, despite sometimes having to hurt you just for the sake your own good? Just who among your friends can you have heart-to-heart conversations with, feel better and energized afterwards and not worse than what you’re feeling before the conversation.

A true friend would never hold your imperfections, weaknesses, failures, and honest mistakes against you. A true friend knows that you are human, that you have your own shortcomings, but will love you anyway. 

These for me are what a true friend is. They may not necessarily be the people you spend most of your time with every day because sometimes, we may have those friends whom we don’t really hang that much with, but in the end, are the ones whom we know that’ll always gladly lend an ear to listen. We know that we don’t have to see or talk to them everyday to know that they’ll always be on our side, especially when we need them the most. They are the ones who help you grow as a person, that leave a positive impact in our lives. But if your real friends are also the people you spend most of your time with, then lucky you. 

You don’t build meaningful and substantial relationships from talking about stuff like celebrity gossips, sports news, or scientific facts and discoveries. Truly knowing someone from the inside — someone’s personal life, experiences, problems, and aspirations — is the foundation of a true and everlasting friendship that I’m sure everyone one of us is aiming for.

To all of those who’ve luckily found their true friends, treat them the same way as they treat you, if not better. For those who are still looking, in the meantime, just be the person you are looking for. TC mark

featured image – Neil Krug

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Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: In what ways might Brooklyn be cooler than Manhattan? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.

Brooklyn has superior zoning.

Manhattan is over-stuffed with commercial real estate, much of it completely vacant.

According to a recent report in Crain’s, commercial vacancy rates for Class A buildings exceeds 10% and is above 16% for Class B buildings in 2011 in lower Manhattan alone (the most appealing area for office space in the city). Vacancy rates are even higher in other sections of the borough, including Midtown.

Brooklyn has a better mix of commercial and residential real estate, with few giant towers. This creates a more human scale for communities. Businesses can afford to serve smaller quantities of customers thanks to lower rents and a better spread of residential density. The smaller customer bases that they serve enable superior niche targeting, which develops greater customer satisfaction.

In Manhattan, commercial rents and the broad customer base make it so that if you open a coffee shop, you will probably fail unless you’re Starbucks. In Brooklyn, you can run a neat indie coffee shop and employ a cute barista with a nose stud and tattoos and still turn a profit.

Brooklyn also tends to be more youthful, at least in certain neighborhoods. Manhattan rents are too expensive for all but the children of the elite or mid-career professionals to live in. Young creative workers can only afford to take career risks if they live in the outer boroughs or in less expensive areas of Manhattan.

Manhattan could be cooler than Brooklyn one day if the city abolished zoning laws, allowing currently useless commercial real estate to be re-developed, increasing the supply of residential real estate.

Brooklyn has a slower pace of life than Manhattan. Part of being cool is not giving a fuck. Everyone in Manhattan must focus on making a great deal of money in order to avoid eviction.

Brooklyn is also more multi-cultural. There’s more cross-culture friction = than elsewhere in the city. Manhattan is gradually experiencing brown, yellow, and black flight from encroaching white yuppies, even in traditional strongholds like Chinatown. The same process is happening in areas of Brooklyn – especially downtown, now – but the population density and lower access to public transportation has retarded the process.

Note this race map from Gothamist.

Most of the fashionable areas of Manhattan are pure white, while in contrast, Brooklyn is rather miscegenated – which is cooler. TC mark

This answer originally appeared at Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge.

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