26 July 2012

choose your own adventure


There are some people who treat their blogs as their confessionals. While I don’t necessarily condone this behavior (except I do share things like my dislike of wearing pants) and try to maintain distance, I have something that I need to get off my chest.

I cheat at “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.

“But that’s not a game,” you say, “and so it’s not technically cheating. Also, do people still do CYOA?” However you classify my shameful behavior, I think we can all agree that I’m doing it wrong. Besides, I’m sure there are people out there who do the same thing as me.

Before I get into how I choose my own adventure incorrectly, I should probably mention how difficult it is for me to read. You would think that after all these years and all these books, I would have a better grasp of my favorite thing to do, but you would be wrong. The problem lies precisely in what keeps me coming back—too much excitement for reading. Reading becomes scanning because I am way too eager to watch the story unfold, and, unfortunately, seeing is not the same as understanding.

So, I have to go back and re-read the passages, reminding myself the entire time to pace myself. It’s easy to get carried away though (especially with someone as impatient as me), so sometimes I revert back to reading at a pace that makes some words look like keyboard smash (safnkdja). It’s not until later that I realize that I didn’t grasp anything, and safnkdja isn’t a real word.

Besides the aforementioned lack of control I exhibit when it comes to reading normal books, that undisciplined behavior is amplified when the reading material happens to be CYOA. I always tell myself that I’m not going to cheat this time, but I know that I’m just lying to save face.

Once I reach a fork, I have to know what happens with each option, and subsequently know what each option within that option leads to. Because of my curiosity, I end up with each of my fingers employed as a bookmark to mark where the plot branches off and me flipping furiously to read all the storylines.

It’s not necessarily that I don’t want to be wrong (though I don’t), but more that I want to explore every option and analyze how certain choices lead to certain outcomes. Plus, I would hate to miss the information relayed at different points in the book. In other words, I NEED TO KNOW EVERYTHING. And if everything I want to know is just there, an illegal page turn away, why wouldn’t I do it?

I know, I know. Playing by the rules, discipline, and all that stuff about how I’m only cheating myself. But, considering how such an opportunity is impossible in real life, why wouldn’t you jump at the chance to see how every decision you make could pan out, even if the stakes aren’t that high?

If you still don’t agree with me, then you would be a really boring protagonist in a sci-fi movie. It’s the truth. Sorry I’m not sorry.

24 July 2012

keep it sharp

I've accepted that there are a couple of things I do or care about that don't matter to anyone else. I'm also aware that I live in a bubble in which things I accept as normal are generally not. But since "mind over matter" is a widely accepted phrase, there have to be some of you out there who engage in behavior similar to mine.

Since physical fitness hasn't always been a strong (ha) suit of mine, I used to "train" myself mentally to (over)compensate.

I started this workout regimen with little puzzles and logic games. I made countless sudoku puzzles my bitch, and I obsessed over sporcle. Even then, I realized that the sense of pride I felt after completing something correctly was kind of douchey, but I continued nonetheless, lest my brain atrophy. I still indulge in the occasional brain teaser, but I keep it to myself (except for right now).

As awesome as those mental exercises were, they weren’t strenuous enough to count as a workout. So, I graduated to by experimenting with the control my mind could exert over my body. I had to have strength in something, and a mind was better than nothing.

For example, I would induce a yawn, then see how quickly I could curtail its development with my mind. The great thing about these training sessions was that they could be done virtually anywhere, so I commonly practiced during classes (especially in middle school) or at church. The same could also be done with itches, but I have found those to be more difficult to will away.

To this day, I don’t know how my face looks when I do this, but I think it’s for the best that I never know. You know, so I don’t retroactively die of shame.

I also used to do the same thing with sneezes, but then I read a terrifying article about brain aneurysms and stopped immediately. That would have been rather counterproductive.

18 July 2012

[insert obvious shakespeare joke about names]

While going through the piles of books in my room, I found a legal pad that I had hidden for some reason. I say some reason because it was completely blank, so I have no idea why I decided to hide it. I figure it must not have been that important, so I started doodling all over it. If it turns out that this legal pad is significant, I'm going to feel really really stupid. But, for now, I was going to have fun.

The problem I have with doodling is fundamental in nature. I can't draw. Period. Anyone who has play Draw Something or Pictionary with me can attest to this fact. Also, I don't think I'm creative enough to think of little things to doodle.

Instead, I do my version of doodling: writing the alphabet over and over and seeing which letters are the prettiest.

Oddly enough, the letter that is most awkward for me is the letter "k." Yes, the letter with which my name begins. It always looks like shit to me, no matter how many times I write it.

Actually, I think my name might be the ugliest thing I write. It just looks wrong. And no, I don't think that it looks wrong because I've written it so many times that it doesn't look like a real word (does that actually happen?). I just don't think that it fits my handwriting.

After all this fixation on my name, I started thinking about whether my name "fit" me. Keep in mind, I am terrible at determining whether names fit people or not. When you say, "oh, that person looks like a [whatever, doesn't matter]," I usually agree with you because I want you to like me. that skill is completely beyond my capabilities.

Considering how much doppelgängers creep me out, you can imagine the awkwardness that arises when I meet someone with the same name as me. Once, I met this girl who shared my name AND birthday, and I swear my discomfort was tangible.

But I'm sure that that sort of tension exists with other people and not just me, because it's weird that something that literally shapes your identity could be shared with someone else. There has to be some inherent competition present.

Other people are weird and petty, too. They just have to be.

12 July 2012

out loud


Some people talk because they like the sound of their own voice. I have a confession to make: when I write these posts, I read them aloud to myself. I like making sure that the words are arranged in a coherent way that still sounds like me. I don’t know when I developed this habit, but I do know that it is incredibly annoying to other people, hence why I spend so much time alone. I also make hand gestures, especially when frustrated (which is a lot).

my work nest. the tiger doesn’t judge.

But yes. Voice. Voice is important. Not only in writing, but in reading as well. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of my mother reading aloud to me, employing various dialects and pitches to signify different characters. To this day, I cannot pick up those books without hearing my mom’s voice or seeing her face contorting to accommodate whatever character she was portraying at the time.

Seriously though. Every letter/character in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom had its own personality.

In lower school, the teachers used to go around the room and have each student read a passage from a book according to where we were sitting. This scenario ought to have been terrifying for me, but it wasn’t.

I have vivid memories of counting to see which passage would be mine, how long it was, and if there were any words I didn’t know how to pronounce. I remember practicing over and over in my head so that my delivery would be flawlessly executed. I remember the rush of adrenaline when it was finally my turn, and the pride I felt after I finished. I remember waiting in agony until it was my turn again. Was I obsessive from a young age? Damn straight, but young Kayla had skills.

 pictured: skills

I may be a few feet taller and possibly a few years wiser, but I still find myself speaking aloud while reading. And I still like it, even if I’m the only one listening. Of course, an audience does make it better, if a little less weird.

Moral of this story? I will read aloud to my future children whether they like it or not.

11 July 2012



As I enjoy my (potentially) final summer break, I can’t help but think about a concern that has loomed over my head since I started my education.

It started out simply—if you copy another kid, you get called out and people like you less. You become a social pariah until someone else screws up worse than you. Or pees his pants or something else equally mortifying.

What scared me then, and continues to scare me now, was being falsely accused of copying someone else. However, that fear has shifted to the academic realm. Plagiarism is scary.

When I was in high school, one English teacher was particularly strict about plagiarism (not that plagiarism is something to be taken lightly). She mentioned a website that dissects papers and highlights every bit of text that came from somewhere else, like a passage from a novel or an opinion from another writer. But, the website also contains papers from other students, it can track whether the author of the paper copied it from somewhere else. After highlighting all the foreign text, the teacher has to decide whether each source was properly cited.

 Considering that teachers have been drilling proper formatting for citations into my head since I can remember, I shouldn’t have worried so much about this website. But, since I am who I am, I found something about which to obsess.

Think about it. There are twenty-six letters in the alphabet, and everything I have ever reading is just these letters, arranged in various ways. But there are only so many possible permutations, and there is a chance that the conclusions I drew from reading something could be similar to the conclusions someone else drew after reading the same thing. We might even express our thoughts in a similar way, using similar words.

But, if that person’s paper is fed into the website before mine, I could be accused of plagiarism, even though I’ve never seen the other paper. In this hypothetical, I would be screwed, and would sound like an idiot trying to defend myself.

As I extend the scenario further, dipping into things like doppelgangers and parallel universes and all that, I find myself freaking out more and more. It’s like that cliché about how I’m special, just like everyone else or whatever. It’s really unsettling to think about and as I start to think about clichés and how anti-clichés are becoming clichés too my mind becomes a mess of panic until I find something to distract me.

I suppose this would be where I would put something revelatory about how I’ve gotten over it and am completely normal now, but that would be a giant lie. I’m still terrified about being a copycat, and will continued to be terrified for as long as I continue writing. It’s just something I have to live with, like my frustration with eating string cheese (THERE’S NO WAY TO EAT IT SO THAT IT’S PERFECTLY SYMMETRICAL).

Everything will be okay.