Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dear diary...

A few days ago while I was writing in my journal I had to wonder if my posterity are even going to be able to understand some of the things I write. I was listening to music and kept getting distracted, and when I got distracted I would start to revert to the shorthand I use to take notes when I'm interviewing someone at work. I can't write longhand as fast as people speak so over the years I've learned to write in abbreviations, so if someone says "The planning department will hold a community meeting next week" in my notes it goes down as "PD hold comm mtg nxt wk." That, combined with the fact that becoming a reporter has completely ruined my penmanship, means that if anyone ever subpoenas my notes they aren't going to be much help.

Even if my hypothetical children and grandchildren can't read my handwriting (who knows, maybe they won't even know what handwriting is in the future) they will still know about my college years, because during those years instead of writing in a journal I wrote emails home about three times a week, detailing what was going on in my life. My mom would print them out all year and when I got home I would re-read them as I hole-punched each page and put them in a two-inch binder (I was rather prolific). For some people this wouldn't work because they write deeply personal things in their journal, but really if it's something I wouldn't tell my family it's probably something I wouldn't write down where someone might find it and read it anyway.

Last week I finally got around to hole punching my emails from my senior year, which, for various reasons, have been sitting in a pile next to my bed for the past two years. It was pretty interesting reading back through them now that I have some perspective, and I drew the following conclusions:

1) I should never bet on anything, ever, because I am terrible at predicting the future. Really. Every time I said I thought I was going to do well on a test I bombed it and every time I said I was really worried about it I would get an A. There were so many things that I was really worried about that turned out fine and things that I said I thought would be no big deal that turned out to be life-changing disasters.

2) When you can see the future, irony is everywhere. When I was reading the emails I spent a lot of time shaking my head and thinking "Oh honey, if only you knew ..."

3) College students are so passionate. And angry. I forgot how much I walked around in college thinking the world (or the BYU administration or certain people in certain callings at church or professors or society or people sending me hate mail) was against me. Actually, I'm pretty sure the hate mail senders, at least, really were against me. But honestly, did I need to write an entire paragraph about what an idiot some guy is just because he said I was arrogant and smarmy and an example of "everything wrong with modern journalism"?

4) You're not as mature as you think you are in college. Or as smart. And you don't live in the "real world" yet.

5) Graduating from college is incredibly stressful and scary, especially if you haven't found a job yet. One of my last emails home went something like this: "Ahhh-oh-my-gosh-what-the-heck-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life-I-have-so-many-choices-to-make-and-I-don't-know-what-to-do-and-I-took-two-finals-on-three-hours-of-sleep-and-all-I've-known-is-school-my-whole-life-what-if-I'm-not-good-at-anything-else-no-one-is-going-to-want-to-hire-me-and-what-if-I-pick-the-wrong-job-and-my-personal-life-is-a-mess-and-I-have-no-idea-how-to-handle-it-and-no-one-understands-because-they're-all-staying-here-and-why-didn't-I-do-that-so-I-didn't-have-to-deal-with-this."
    My whole life I knew what I wanted (scholarships, BYU acceptance, RA job, journalism program acceptance, Daily Universe job, New York internship, diploma) then made a plan and did what I needed to do to get it. Suddenly realizing that for the first time in my life I didn't know exactly what I wanted and I didn't have a clear plan to follow was the most unsettling thing I've ever experienced.

6) It's amazing how you can want something so badly, and then later be so glad you didn't get it.

7) For someone who never got married in college, I sure spent a lot of time with guys. On the other hand, more than one of them came out of the closet after I graduated. So maybe that actually does make sense.

8) Speaking of marriage, people at BYU talk about it A LOT.

9) One day when I was venting about reader complaints about the paper I wrote "I am so sick of hearing 'At a real paper you would have been fired for that' or 'If the Daily Universe was a real paper it wouldn't do that.' Have they worked for a real paper? No. Have I? Yes, during my internships. So they should just shut up about it." And for the stuff I was talking about, I'm still right. But I do think that if I had been working for a "real" newspaper and I was as argumentative with my boss as I was that year, I might have really been fired. I must have really annoyed him.

10) I obviously didn't use spell check on my emails.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nerds are awesome

The other night Cole and I stayed up late reading his ACT prep book. Not because he had to do some last-minute cramming and I was helping him out of the kindness of my heart, but because we were ... kind of having fun. Which is totally nerdy, I know, but it's the truth. Cole was fascinated by all the new  grammar rules he didn't know existed and kept interrupting the novel I was reading to quiz me or say "Why didn't anyone ever tell me that it was 'all intents and purposes' instead of 'all intensive purposes'? That makes so much more sense!" And I was happy to explain why and give more examples because I adore words and the power they wield when you know how to use them to their full potential.

Despite our often normal appearance to outsiders, I live in a nerdy family. Mom and I love having literary discussions, Dad is fascinated by books and documentaries about natural disasters, Lance has a Star Wars spaceship collection and Cole builds robots and does Calculus problems when he's bored. Even Logan, the hipster, geeks out over jazz. We cut our pizza with a pizza cutter shaped like the Enterprise and have a copy of Excalibur hanging on our living room wall. Yup. We're those people.

But I'm fine with that. I'm glad, in fact. I once heard a definition of "nerd" that went something like this: a nerd is someone who gets more happiness out of life than is socially acceptable. And it's true. Why should someone be embarrassed because they actually enjoyed a math homework assignment or took great pleasure in debating the Hobbit movie versus the book? Why should they want to go through life rolling their eyes and sighing at how uncool everything around them is when they could go through life saying "This is awesome!" instead?

Of course, not all nerdiness is good. If you're a 23-year-old guy and haven't been within ten feet of a girl in years on account of being on the thirty sixth month of a video game marathon ... that's not good. You could stand to err on the "socially acceptable" side more often.

But generally being a nerd is a lot of fun. It's like being part of a secret society, where you can share a knowing smile with the stranger next to you when you see that they are wearing a red shirt with the word "expendable" printed on it. You can be in the fourth of the room that snickers over subtle jokes that leaves the rest of the room feeling slightly foolish that they have no idea what just happened. You can have way more fun at Christmas and birthdays, because while other people are getting a new sweater you're getting a Star Wars origami book. Your childhood memories include epic lightsaber battles in someone's back yard instead of hanging out in the field during Little League practice. You actually enjoy your Shakespeare GE in college and homework isn't a huge drag. Life is exciting.

I particularly enjoy being a female nerd, because being able to chime in to a discussion about the merits of Voyager versus Deep Space Nine or Green Arrow versus Aquaman will win you respect every time. That, combined with being able to talk sports, covers the spectrum and pretty much guarantees I'll always be at ease with any group of guys I find myself with rather than having everyone prattle on about the weather awkwardly.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a Christopher Paolini book to finish.