Why You Should Learn Something New, Even If It’s Dumb

I am trying desperately to listen to Rupi Kaur’s writing workshop on Instagram. She posted it this afternoon. This weekend, I also downloaded Coursera to follow a course titled “International Women’s Health and Human Rights.” I fell asleep last night listening to an interview. I will muddle through the course content. I ordered the textbook on Amazon.

I’m looking forward to browsing the book, cherry-picking the chapters I will read. Most of all, I look forward to the table of contents.

The Wall Street Journal weekend paper had an article in there titled, You’re Never Too Old To Become a Beginner. The author talks about juggling and triathlons and research experiments that showed five-year-olds do better than adults at certain tasks because children are the most fearless of all when it comes to failure. Learning new stuff is good for your brain. Plus it makes you feel cool. I was inspired to resume my attempt at learning to do the splits. P has since abandoned it. It was her idea to begin with, but whatever!

So tonight, I will sit around trying to make myself more flexible, listening to the lecture I fell asleep to last night, or maybe watching Rupi Kaur’s Insta video. You’re never too old, or too approaching middle-age, to learn something new.

How I Plan to Retrace My Mom’s Steps Once Covid is Finally Over

Tonight I’ve decided to cook dinner on my cast iron dutch oven thing. I usually reserve this tool for camping and cooking over a fire, but I want to cook outside. I’m trying it out on the grill.

This afternoon over pizza with my family and my parents, a novel idea came to mind. It started a few weeks ago when Husband was curious about what brought my parents to the United States. When he first asked me, I was amazed that I didn’t know the answer to the question. Surely I had heard the story of my parents immigrating. But no. I don’t think I had. Because when the answer to the question came out over dinner one night, the protests at the Francisco Jose de Caldas District University that shut down the univeristy right when my dad had matriculated did not come to mind.

My mom, it turns out, had also spent a few years in college before leaving it all behind for good. She was headed toward a degree in petrochemical engineering, priming for a career at Ecopetrol, the largest primary petroleum company in Colombia.

“It’s your alternate reality, mom.” I said, “And in that alternate reality, none of us are here.”

My great and novel idea is this: when all this Covid travel anxiety is behind us, I will travel to Colombia and retrace my mom’s steps. Maybe dad’s too if there’s time. I will visit the town my mom lived in, and the university she and my dad almost graduated from, and the streets where they grew up.

In the meantime, I will ask questions. And sit here while I wait for the results of my outside cooking experiment.

My One Tip For Meaningful New Year’s Resolution

Not too long ago, I sat down at my desk and created a Google document with everything I want to do before 2024. I even went a step further and shared my list. Sharing makes things official, after all.

At this point, my Google doc has evolved to include habits and rituals that I don’t want to forget. The funny thing is that all these little things add up to what I want my life to look like.

Google says vision is the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.

Here is my version: to have vision is to picture the future with imagination, possibly wisdom, and record it somewhere.

A vision for your life doesn’t have to be perfect. More importantly, it doesn’t have to be done. It’s a work in progress.

New Years Resolutions focus on one year, the one straight ahead. Imagining a year isn’t that hard.

So, work backwards: Create a vision for the year. Write it down. Make your resolution. Share it with someone.

Why Catherine and Elizabeth Are Great Characters

Emily Brontë invented Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights, and Jane Austen invented Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Both are subject to the same social conventions of late 18th century England: they enjoy no rights to land, title, income, or inheritance on account of their gender.

In Catherine Earnshaw, we see one response. Her world offers few outlets for her primal desires so she lives vicariously, split, between the wild, ill-bred (but bizarrely romantic) Heathcliff and the gentile (and boring) Edgar Linton. Of course, the two parts of her cannot be reconciled. Dissonance ensues driving her mad and leading to her demise.

Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet takes a different journey. Elizabeth uses her wit and intellect to distinguish herself from her silly sisters and mother, but despite her pride, she gets it wrong. She misjudges douchy Mr. Wickham and uptight Mr. Darcy based on first impressions. In the end, Elizabeth yields her pride and her heart to Mr. Darcy (who is both boring and romantic), not in a flit of girlish infatuation, but in gratitude and affection. Because it’s Mr. Darcy who offers Elizabeth a better understanding of herself.

So, Elizabeth learns more about who she is and changes. Catherine does not and goes nuts.

We women are a little bit Catherine and a little bit Elizabeth. Keep it together! Learning leads to resolution. And resolution leads to gratitude and understanding of self. Choose more Elizabeth, less Catherine.

Captain Marvel and Fun with Extended Metaphors

I have now arrived at what has become my favorite activity during the week. For about an hour, I get to sit outside in my lawn chair underneath a colorful open sky in what has lately become a cool Florida breeze all. At the same time, B and P partake in the joys of dribbling, passing, and kicking soccer balls in a field of about fifty kids wearing bright orange shirts. It might be time for me to quit wearing shorts—I don’t know? For all the deliberating we did about whether we allow the kids to participate in soccer because of COVID, at this point, I’m very, very glad we didn’t miss another season of fun team sports.

I have been thinking a lot about feminism lately. More on that later. I have also been wanting to want to write. Does that make sense? It means I haven’t wanted to write, but I’ve wanted to want to write. See, writing is something I must do every day. The tricky thing is we all write every day, I technically write every day, so I will go beyond the canned “write everyday advice,” and say that I must do the kind of writing counts, for me. It’s like running. Every week I plan to run 15 miles. It used to be 30, and when I need to prepare for a Physical Fitness Test, that’s what I’ll do. But for now, it’s just maintenance. Just 15. But it can’t be a brisk walk. And it can’t be zero for me. Zero miles is not maintenance. Zero miles is just me getting out of shape.

I watched Captain Marvel this weekend for the second time since seeing it in theaters, and I was pumped and amazed at the extended metaphor woven into the storyline of Carol Danvers. I suppose when I first watched Captain Marvel, it was obvious to me that this was a story packed with pro-woman, girl-power vibes. Still, this second time around in the final scene, where Captain Marvel faces off against the Supreme Intelligence, the details of the extended metaphor became more apparent in this bad-ass way. Here’s the scene in Captain Marvel. Below is some context:

1. Carol Danvers is an airforce pilot who absorbs the power of the tesseract but is abducted by an alien people (the Kree) in search of this technology.

2. The Kree people manipulate Carol, giving her a new name and identity, and convince her that she needs to control her power because it’s dangerous.

3. Her Kree mentor (played by Jude Law) installs a device on her neck so that whenever Danvers’ power threatens to overpower, he can subdue her. She allows this because he is her mentor, and it’s for her good.

Many other features are baked into the story, but I thought all of it was just incredible. And fun. Many movies try to speak to feminism, and many miss the mark being too on the nose (see Incredibles 2). And while there’s no mistaking what Captain Marvel creators are aiming for, the experience is still fun and validating. It’s just a lot of fun to watch her crush all those Kree and discover her true potential.