Thursday, September 16, 2010

I found my place!

Woohoo! I knew I'd find it. I needed to find a place to write that has wi-fi and is open late. And here it is (ugh, this photo taken at home is misleading). In my hood. No more getting kicked out of cafes at 9 pm. A cafe with wi-fi, late hours, relaxing classical music in the background, iced tea after a Thursday night hip hop workout...near perfection. It's a little loud. Not everyone is working quietly, but hey, I'll just have to adjust. Rifling through my bag now...voila! I found some little earbuds in my bag. Now I'm pumping Purcell choral music into my ears. Hmmm...not quite perfect -- can still hear a microbiology discussion bleeding through, but good enough. I admire hard-working students. I will feed off of their energy of self-discipline and dedication to their studies. I just hope I don't try to understand what they're talking about because it's way beyond me.

I like it that I'm not doing any serious writing right now. I tell people I'm working on becoming a writer, but I'm not pressured to show them anything, right? I immediately say, "I'm just starting out," or, "I'm way at the bottom of the game," and I can still go on feeling good about what I'm doing. No guilt, no pressure. Awesome.

I can only stay here until my laptop runs out of juice. I'm a little too far from the nearest outlet. I could look harder for another outlet, but I don't want to bother anyone right now. I'll come again during the day to really scope out this whole place.

It's pretty fun to be surrounded by all these laptops. Who knows what everyone's working on. Some people are probably just surfing the net. Other people might be writing the next best American novel. Berkeley is a hotbed of talent, and I consider myself to be so lucky to be living here, surrounded by all this creative energy and openness to everything.

Most people immediately show excitement and support when I share with them that I'm writing, but others are like, "Geez, is there anything you can't do?" which always surprises me. I mean, the things I do are not least, not to me.

Cooking and baking well -- that's not something I was born with. It's still something I'm working on -- there's lots of things I haven't tried making and would probably fail at first, but if I was dedicated to it, I would turn it into a quest to perfect it. My cooking was so bland before. I used jarred sauces. I couldn't cook fish (and I still can't do a decent job at it). My dishes improved so much after an expat friend in Paris taught me how to season properly. For fun, I read cookbooks and search the internet for easy, delicious recipes. I work at the cooking. It's not a natural talent.

My musical skills are decent. I'm not conservatory-trained, so I don't think I'll ever be at the par of the musicians I most admire. I never worked hard at music -- I wasn't disciplined enough in my youth to practice more than 30 minutes to an hour a day, but I took a hell of a lot of lessons over many years. I was persistent. I didn't stop lessons in violin and piano until right before college. I think I have a talent for sightreading music (being able to play sheet music placed in front of me for the first time), which has been both a blessing and a burden. It's helped me get lots of piano gigs, but technically, I'm really lacking so some of those gigs ended up with my faking my way through pieces (playing most of the notes, but rarely all). Made me feel pretty crappy afterwards -- like a fraud, and I was one! These jobs should have been given to real pianists -- not someone who stopped lessons her senior year in high school and didn't really practice until her junior year.

People may be misled into thinking that I'm a full-fledged dancer, but I'm really a beginner. Two years of hip hop workouts does not make one a dancer, does it? I did take ballet and tap for four years in my early childhood which I think did set up my brain for learning routines at an adequate pace. I did take a few months of jazz dance and ballet when Maylin was a baby which have trained my body to align and balance itself properly. I do think that the jazz dance classess that I now take on Sunday mornings will take me to a much higher level. The regular teacher (I've had two lessons with her and two lessons with three lessons with subs) is super-tough and notices EVERYTHING. I love it when she tweaks my positioning and tells me what I'm doing wrong. I'm definitely in the right place emotionally now to be able to take any necessary criticisms. And I sure learn the most when the teacher has high expectations for each student. And I love that I come out of the class with wobbling legs and have sore quads for the next several days. I am going to be so strong after a few years of this! The class is also very humbling because I'm usually the least experienced person there. It reminds me of how far I need to go. I also look at all the perfect, trim bodies in the room and think, "Someday, I'll look like that." I think I have a relatively slender figure, but dancing among these gazelles, I look rather like a gorilla. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but my mid-section could use some work for sure.

With art, I'm a complete hack. I admit it. Utterly no training. I think I've inherited a pretty good eye for balance and composition from my father, who is a self-taught painter, so that helps. I've always drawn for fun, and am adept at copying illustrations. Ask me to paint a realistic portrait or draw a human figure and I will totally flop on my rear. Cartoon-y stuff is what I can manage sans training. I do wish I could at least draw characters from different angles. I even have difficulty doing simple side profiles. I am not a risk-taker when it takes to drawing or painting. I do what's safe for me. Remarkably, people still like what I've cranked out, so that's nice.

Now teaching, I think I'm definitely a natural at. I remember helping my classmates even in the primary grades. I continued tutoring throughout my academic career, but I had to stop once I got to Cal because the material got pretty hard for me. I was the one who always needed help. This was hard because I was very proud and really struggled to ask for help. Anyways, homeschooling seemed to be the perfect fit for me, someone who wants to teach everything (not just one thing). And I'm always curious and find so many things interesting. I have a big opportunity now to learn anything, everything. Now, I've identified all the names of the birds who visit our yard, I've grown my own vegetable garden (officially, it's Maylin's, but I definitely did most of the work), I'm composting with worms (not well -- I think I almost killed most of them), and my Chinese is getting better -- all these are the by-products of homeschooling. I don't think I would have advanced this far without it. In the mission to educate my child, I have educated myself as well. How wonderful is that?

And life is too short to stop there. I think everyone can keep growing, becoming better can never stop learning. To stop learning is to stop living, in my opinion. I hate feeling like I'm stagnating. That's exactly where I was before we moved to Paris. I was too comfortable where I was before the move. I was a musician, but mainly because I didn't know what else to do and because that's what everyone expected me to do. I followed my abilities, but not my passions, which I hadn't figured out yet. I needed Paris to help me get on the right path to figure it out. I couldn't help but learn about myself as I gained much real self-confidence from learning a new language, adapting to a new culture and environment, and creating my life instead of letting it create me.

One of the biggest things I learned about myself is to not necessarily follow my abilities. My passions may involve skills yet to be developed. With patience and hard work, I will evolve into the person I was meant to be.


Anonymous said...

Caroline, just wanted to say it's nice to see you regularly back at your blog! Also, I have the vaguest recollection of you long ago sharing a book about the Renaissance soul? I just read it on my recent personal retreat, and it made a great impression on me! Anyhow, all the best as you continue in all your endeavors!


Caroline Jou Armitage said...

Hi, Marianna,
Thanks for your encouragement. It's funny but I can't recall the name of that book. My memory's horrible. Can you give me the title? :)

Anonymous said...

In a way, you and I are alike, even though we're very different. Apparently we both like to take on the world, keep on learning new things, taking on new and exciting projects.

lil bro