Once upon a time, back in my school days, I was on the staff of two literary magazines. I recently came across my copies of Perception (high school) and Confiscated (university) that I kept, so I decided to scan and share some.
Snippets from submissions on the front cover
The final quote from Battle Royale on the back cover
My involvement in these magazines was, at least at first, due to being dragged in the wake of the mad-genius creative tempest of two friends.
These two seemed to exist in a different reality, just slightly off from my own; it was a world I could see, could put my hand through the barrier, but dared not step into fully lest I start to come apart in the chaos. They introduced me to Rufus Wainwright and The Chronicles of Amber and Cowboy Bebop, and their idea of a party was eating ramen while watching Battle Royale, preferably followed by a paper simulation of the game using our own high school class as characters. They broke into abandoned buildings at night just to sit on the roof.
And they wrote. Even in high school, they wrote beautiful things that still stick with me to this day.
They put weird quotes on the back of every issue.
The three of us were in AP US History together.
These magazines are mainly a product of their creative energies. They did all the organization, design, and promotion. We published pretty much everything that was submitted (couldn’t afford to be picky) and our staff hand-stapled each copy of Perception to save printing costs.
We used a similar concept when we started this magazine at university.
I submitted some of my own work, both poetry and prose, for many of the issues; even back then I wrote under the name “Mei-Mei.” I’ll be sharing some of that poetry as well in the future.
Our story starts sixteen years ago, when I moved to Ohio against my will and started 7th grade at a new school.
There was no gifted program, just a program called PACE which was basically an excuse to let the smart kids out of class once a week. That’s where I met B, although I don’t really remember it. We were in band together, too. I made some good friends in 7th grade. I had a crush on a nice boy, but when I realized he wasn’t very smart I got over it quick.
Everyone knows 8th grade is the worst. I had a crush on a smarter boy, but someone told him, and then someone heard him laughing about it. I stopped telling my friends about my crushes. B sat next to me in computer class (our last names start with the same letter) and antagonized me by making all his Powerpoints in Comic Sans.
In high school, the band was like my family. I also did a bunch of other activities and had actually interesting, challenging classes. In advanced English sophomore year, B made a point of getting to class early so he could claim the one cushiony chair. I hardly ever got to sit in that damn chair. Junior year, he went with a big group of my friends on a trip to England led by our wonderful English teacher. After that he started hanging out with our group more.
Senior year I shared a seat with him on the band bus once or twice. I applied to college, and picked a good university two hours away. B chose the local State school because he didn’t even have to write an essay to apply. He gave me high fives in the band room, and he kicked the back of my shoe when I was getting books out of my locker. His was three down from mine (last names, remember?). I passed all my AP tests and went to prom with a group of friends.
He was the first person to arrive at my graduation party. We saw each other constantly that summer, and he gave me his AIM screen name so we talked online all the time, too. We saw Spiderman 2 at the drive-in, piled with friends in the back of my parents’ station wagon. I realized I missed him when he wasn’t there. I realized he was the easiest person to talk to I had ever met. Neither of us knows when we started actually dating; we picked an arbitrary date to celebrate, first by month and then by year.
Most LDRs don’t survive freshman year of college. He bought a new car so he could drive down to see me every month, and when we got tired of blowing through phone cards he bought us cell phones. My roommates called him “B” too (or “Bubba”) and helped him sneak into the dorm to surprise me.
Junior year I spent fall semester in Spain, which was one of the best and most difficult experiences of my life. For him, I think it was just difficult. He proposed to me the next summer, after I came home from another trip abroad. The first thing I said was, “Are you serious?” which he correctly took to mean yes. We were at the drive-in, in my parents’ newer station wagon, about to watch Pirates of the Caribbean 3. I could not have told you a single thing that happened in that movie.
I graduated and got a job near home with my degree, which was a minor miracle at the time. We got married in my church (six years ago this summer) and took wedding photos by the life-size X-wing at a local restaurant. We moved into a small apartment, then a bigger one, then bought a house. He leaves notes around the house for me to find when he goes on business trips. He keeps me sane when I’m anxious and depressed. He tells me he’ll read the stories I write, and he’s even learned to clean the cat’s litter box.
My parents sold their station wagon, but I have a hatchback now, and we still go to the drive-in all the time. Ten years is more than a third of my life, and every year that proportion spent with him keeps growing.
I read YA books. Some people believe that I should be ashamed of this fact—that it is indicative of a childish mind, and I am “less” because of it.
I read (and write) YA because it tells me more about myself. Teenagers are pushing their boundaries, learning their strengths as they become adults.
I am already an adult, but I still have plenty of weaknesses. Self-doubt and anxiety are my daily companions. I can feel helpless and overwhelmed. I like to see a character grow, find her courage, find love, find herself. I hope to continue to do the same in my life, and this makes Seraphina, Eleanor, and Katsa my kindred spirits, and very dear to my heart.
If YA readers are suspect, what does that say about YA writers? Much as I enjoyed my adolescence, I don’t want to re-live it. I just want to tell a good story. A story that makes someone happy, that makes someone see something in a new light, that gives hope and understanding.
Being an adult is sometimes overrated. Don’t you remember what it felt like to fall in love for the first time? To feel a sense of wonder about the world, and about your place in it? Why wouldn’t you want to go back and re-read The Westing Game?
I read comics, and I watch cartoons, and I will be this way for the rest of my life. I also go to the orchestra frequently, perform technical scientific research, and recycle my newspapers and bottles (sometimes from alcohol!) every week.
I own that I sometimes read for nostalgia or escapism. I also read to learn and improve my mind. I also read to feel.
There is enough room in life for all these things.
I got a long-overdue haircut this morning—a great way to start the weekend.
It wasn’t until after college that I discovered the joys of a good, salon-quality haircut. The whole experience is so relaxing: warm towels, scalp massage, nice smells, and that feeling of lightness when you shake your head afterward. And knowing you look good is a great confidence boost. It’s just an hour or so of blissful “me” time (and it doesn’t involve calories in any way!).
Then believe me when I say: as an introvert, I hate getting haircuts.
It begins with making the appointment. I have a nice salon in a nearby (kinda upper-class) suburb that I’ve been going to for a few years now, and they’re open on Saturdays, so at least there’s no big decisions involved. So once I’ve said to myself “I could use a haircut,” all that’s left to do is…pick up the phone.
Yeah. The phone. My least favorite method of communication. Below pigeons, YouTube comments, and semaphore. I don’t even know semaphore. Phone calls are quick conversations, so there’s not enough time to think before I have to react, and I also can’t get cues from the other person’s facial/body expressions. I try to practice what I’m going to say in my head before I call. Sometimes it helps.
The appointment itself is another challenge. Think about your stereotypical hair salon: it’s like a social center, a buzzing hive of feminine gossip and laughter. People’s hobbies, kids, love lives all in the air for anyone to hear as the stylists and customers go back and forth. As an observer, it’s pretty fascinating.
As a participant, it’s horrifying.
I don’t really want to chat about anything very personal with a person I only see 3-4 times a year. And while there’s plenty of time to get into an in-depth conversation as introvert prefer, I don’t think my stylist is interested in the minutia of heart disease research. Or anime, or YA fantasy novels. I don’t have kids to talk about, either.
I am not bad at making small talk; it’s an important skill everyone should learn. I learned it well as a campus tour guide in college. But it is still an effort, and 30 minutes straight (minimum) of small talk is pretty exhausting for many introverts. I do my best not to be awkward, but it’s a relief when she starts the noisy hair dryer and I’m spared the effort of conversation-making.
At first, I jumped around to different stylists, trying to find someone I could connect to. I felt so awkward that I was sure the stylists were like “Oh, not that girl again” if I went back to them repeatedly. But I think this actually made the experience harder because I was starting over every time. And it certainly didn’t help the stylists get used to my very thick hair with waves in weird places, which would probably make for a better haircut.
I do think it’s important to stretch my “extrovert muscle” from time to time—I hope it will make me a stronger person as I learn from these experiences. Already I’m thinking about what I can do better next time. We all know that fear is the mind killer, and for me preparation can help soothe anxiety.
Luckily, I go to a no-tipping salon, so at least that social quandary is eliminated 🙂
I had $30 in Kohl’s Cash and a pair of Chucks with holes in them.
Sometimes I start in the kids’ department when I go shoe shopping. It’s a technique that those of us with small feet know well: a women’s 5.5 (my size) is about a girl’s 3.5. The former is nearly impossible to find, the latter much more common (and cheaper!). But this strategy does tend to limit your options to things like white sandals and Spiderman sneakers. At my Kohl’s, kids’ Converse only come in boring pink and black.
So, hoping against hope, that day (the day I dragged my husband along with me), I went to the women’s shoes. I marveled at the long display of rubber-soled canvas. Red, black, blue, purple. I have a life-long love of Chucks. I wore plaid knock-offs for years in elementary school. I wore green hightops like a badge of honor to emo concerts in college. Emo street cred, heh.
I started checking boxes for my size and found grey with purple piping in a women’s 6; that would do nicely. I tried them on to check, and they were definitely more comfy than my current navy pair falling to pieces.
I was about ready to walk to the check out when I saw them: Size 6. Sky blue. My favorite color. They were beautiful.
This is a dilemma I seldom have; finding 2 pairs of shoes in my size is rare. I couldn’t justify buying both when I’d counted on the Kohl’s Cash to cover the bulk of the price.
Five years ago, I would have bought the blue with no hesitation. And that realization hit me in the gut as I sat there with a different color shoe on each foot. Five years ago, when I was in college. Do people with full-time jobs and mortgages wear blue shoes? I’m not in college anymore. I’m not a teenager. The grey shoes were less flashy and more…mature.
After sitting for many minutes as I struggled to come to grips with that, I asked my (very patient) husband what he thought. I wanted him to say, “The blue ones are so you! Your age doesn’t matter! You should wear whatever shoes you want!”
He told me to get the grey ones. When I ask him these things, he’s always right. I put both pairs back on the shelf while we finished our other shopping and I could savor the last 15 minutes of the time in my life when I still thought I could wear bright blue Chucks unironically.
Then I bought the grey ones.
And my husband will probably never go shoe shopping with me again. Maybe if I promise I won’t have a mental breakdown next time?