Personal

100 posts and there are green leaves against blue sky outside my window

Well, it certainly feels like it’s been at least a year since I last posted, but it’s just been a month and a few weeks. Time is a funny thing.

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In this time, I turned 26, flew more than 10,000 miles, was invited for a scholarship interview and had that interview. Went from part-time to part-part time work (i.e. 8 hours versus 20). Celebrated Easter with my family. Celebrated my birthday, a friend’s birthday, and my cousin’s birthday. April babies= best babies; no bias there. Basically I lived and celebrated living.

In the meantime, I wanted to write a kind of special post. Seeing as this marks the centennial edition of my humble beginning in July 2014, I decided to reflect on blogging and what it means to me, and why I find it worthwhile to continue. Basically, I’m here to say “I’m back! And even if I take breaks, I will likely always come back.”

First of all, I thought long and hard about why I write. There are a lot of reasons, but in the end, I noticed blog writing is about celebrating ourselves and our productivity as writers. I see a level of egoism in this and a kind of consumerism, but on the other hand, I value the positive things blogging can bring, so I will focus on that.

I write to:

  1. motivate myself to get something done by asking for some implicit accountability
  2. share experiences I’ve had and things I’ve seen or thought, partially as checkpoint for others taking the same or similar journey, partly to record these things for myself. I do occasionally go back and read posts and am often surprised by the person I was then, and how I still understand this person like it was me, but see her as separate from me. I can always learn something from this person
  3. inform the few family and real life friends who do check up on me with this blog what I’m up to and that I’m still alive. I’m not as bad in staying in contact as I tend to make myself seem, though. Most of my family and friends don’t rely on my blog to know what I’m doing or how I am. That’s what coffee dates, Skyping, and lengthy personal emails are for, still these kinds of readers are at the back of my mind when I write
  4. find affirmation for the choices I’ve made and the person I present myself to be
  5. for therapy, I can work through certain fears and challenges by writing them out, but also benefit from the comments made at the same time… because otherwise, honestly I could just focus on my hard-copy journal
  6. gain practice in writing. 10000 hours, after all

Of these six reasons (too bad it’s six, but I didn’t want to fake a 7th for the sake of a nicer, for me, number), the one thing I learned over the past month(s) is that I don’t need to write for number 4 anymore. I mean, I still have my insecurities and brand of ego to share and fuel, but I don’t really think I have to anymore.

Of these six reasons, I plan to whittle the list down the reasons to 2, 5 and 6.

In other news, a three month construction project started in my apartment building, which has meant power-drilling at 7 AM and maybe is helping me wake up earlier even if I still have jet lag and need to work on getting to bed earlier as well. My mother broke her second bone in 5 months, got operated on, but is on her way to full recovery, I may finally have financial security to stay in Berlin for at least three years as of the Fall, I am moving forward with my dissertation, barely run more than 10 miles a week and have found my peace with that, and a lot of other things that will slowly become relevant as I post regularly (for me, it’s meant about 2 posts a month) again.

I still read a lot of WordPress even if I don’t post myself, but I don’t mind if you tell me one (or three) significant things that has happened since I last posted. How do you deal with in-house construction at what feels like o’dark thirty on a hangover? Do you do mental checks with yourselves to refigure out why you’re doing something?

Cheers,

Dorothea

My name and the number 69

Of course I can’t mention that English speakers tend to mispronounce my name without actually saying how to pronounce it. Sorry about that!

Dorothea

The two biggest issues are that English speakers like to pronounce their “th”s and don’t do well with hard “r”s. My name has both, plus four syllables, so I get why it’s an issue. Also, when you look it up on Youtube, you’ll get this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE2H-ldObAI. It’s not how to pronounce my name, though.

Here’s a sort of guide to how the name is pronounced, give or take a few stresses, nearly everywhere except by a mono-lingual English speaker:

doe (a deer, a female deer)-roe-tay-ah!

The exclamation mark afterwards is optional. So, it’s more like this: https://forvo.com/_ext/ext-prons.js?id=824150

Hope that satisfied some of your curiosity! Thanks for the interest.

In other news, this morning, I accidentally stumbled upon the stats for my wanderwolf blog and noticed I had a new “views” record for the blog. I had been staring at the previous record of 56 (or 57?/can’t remember) for about two years and wondered if it would ever be broken.

Turns out, it was broken by a number that I’m not too fond of: 69. It may seem immature, but I learned about what the number could reference late in my high school years and found it an awkward number ever since. I skip it on the treadmill in the gym (so no 6.69 paces for me) and I try not to include the use of the number in writing or speech. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to keep it away from me. It was part of my student ID for high school, studying abroad in Hamburg, and my pre-determined pin for several debit cards. Good thing I could change most of those (and the ones I couldn’t change I no longer have, so there).

So, while I think it’s really neat my site was viewed so often within a 24 hour period, I hope I don’t have to wait two years to change it again. Also, I’m aware of the irony that I decided to write about my disdain of the number 69, prompting the most I’ve ever used it in my life.

Thus concludes personal random facts day two for me. I hope to return to my regularly scheduled programming soon.

 

Diligence 

Can one still wish others a happy new year? I think one can, especially as long as I’m still writing 2016 for the date. 

So, happy new year. I notice that one usually wishes other things besides happiness for the new year, such as health (a biggie), peace, and strength to meet one’s goals. That’s what I wish for myself and you all as well.

The joke, though, is that while we all wish each other a happy year, there’s a parallel movement to say that January is the worst month of the year. Its winter weather gets a lot of people down (unless you’re in Florida) and unprepared resolutions make life as one knew it a bit miserable (i.e. a new diet, fitness plan, quitting smoking). Add to the list the impending apprehension of a new political leader in the US, and this year seems especially düster –a particularly useful adjective to describe a somber sort of darkness. 

On the other hand, one cannot deny the thrill of a new start. Sitting in a plane, miles above the Atlantic Ocean, I couldn’t deny that the new year marks a possible renewal. The date may be arbitrary (and I’m a fan of making changes at any point they seem necessary, not just the new year), but the period just after holidays filled with celebration, interaction, and lack of routine can bring one to reflect on things one normally does not notice. 

Under such conditions and awarded space and time to reflect on my way back to Berlin after a short stay home in Florida, I thought about what I had done in 2016 and was waiting for in 2017. 

Running was easy to reflect on, since that which was in my control I did pretty well, and I learned a lot. There is perhaps the least room for improvement in this area, but that actually means I need to work on not allowing it to be a priority. That is, I need to be more diligent about being flexible and recognizing that if I don’t do well in my running, it is not as bad as not doing well in other aspects of my life. I tend to procrastinate with the gym, and put more energy into running or weights because the stakes are lower. These are not the years for that. 

Academics for me in 2016 were hills and valleys of accomplishments and disappointments, and I am still waiting to hear about a few applications I submitted in the last year. More than I hope for anything else, I hope for a change in my financial situation that will allow me to focus my energy on PhD work. Furthermore, I have a lot of good habits and ideas for producing good work, but I need to be more diligent about enacting those habits. This includes making the effort again to write something at least everyday, and to do more reading that can be considered in light of my PhD project. This means, unfortunately, that I will likely do less blog reading. I have to; I appologize in advance. 

Health and character wise, diligence is the theme again. I have a lot of knowedge and good habits in regards to nutrition and taking care of my body, but I need to work on enforcing these habits. I have made a few changes in my attitude towards stress eating, which is the biggest road-block to my physical and mental health. I am also working on being a more generous person, and offering my time and resources a little more freely (within reason) without first having the anxious thoughts about how this will ruin my routine and plans. I need to be more flexible. At the same time, this work includes continuing to learn when and how to say “no.”

Finally, I want to be more diligent about taking advantage of the fact I am in Berlin. I can pursue academics in any ivory tower, but I came to Berlin convinced that I would be more inspired by the city’s history, social and literary life. I will make sure to visit at least two events every month. I think that’s a reasonable goal. I am visiting one today: a touring of world famous acrobats. It may not be intellectual, but visiting the MercedesBenz stadium is something I can only do in Berlin, so… 

This will also be the year that I finally make it to England. Date is tentatively set for sometime in the Spring. 

In writing these notes, I don’t share my (potentially boring) goals for the new year with you as much as I suggest that it is the recommitment to old goals that we celebrate in the new year. Time is marked by changes, and I think it’s neat how even small changes can lead to a shift that makes Dec. 2017 different than Dec. 2016. This effect can be dangerous, of course, but also motivating. 

Let me remind you that good things happened in 2016 as well by linking to this surprisingly useful Tumblr post. It wasn’t all bad, and we can still do the work to make 2017 better. 

When I see a lamppost in snow, I think of C.S. Lewis. When I think of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I wonder if Narnia as allegorical space can tell us something about a world doomed to perpetual winter. What needs to change? Can we change it?

A little bit of democracy: Election Season

A few weeks ago, I participated in the Berlin elections. Because Berlin is a city-state, this election was the equivalent of a US state election. I had received my voters invitation in the mail back in August. In the meantime, I watched how the city became smothered in campaign posters, each more eye-catching than the last. Every few days, volunteers for the parties would hand out fliers and pens or free cloth shopping bags to lure people into considering their party. Perhaps, because one does a lot more moving around the city in Berlin, one sees a lot more people and posters. It also helps that Germany has a thriving multi-party system. Unlike the US, with its winner-gets-it-all system, Germany’s national and state parliaments  are made up proportionally by the number of votes a party gets. There are certain rules, like you have to get more than 5% of the vote to get in- a rule put in place since WWII that may have prevented the Nazis from getting into parliament in 1932. However, the system means that even if you don’t vote for the popular party, your vote isn’t wasted. Unfortunately, that’s how many voters in the US feel, which is why we can’t get out of our stupid Republican/Democrat binary.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns in Germany either. Interestingly, German campaign posters almost always include a representative’s profile picture, as if how the person looks will affect if they are voted for (unfortunately, it kind of does work that way). There’s also a rising right-wing party that can actually get power in this country and white supremacists and nationalists get a voice again in a country where it shouldn’t happen again. In the name of democracy, we are supposed to let them have a voice too… so that’s also an issue.

However, the voting process itself was a neat process. Despite all the parties, it’s not as complicated as one imagines. In fact, the ballots are about just as long as in the US. The difference is that one doesn’t ignore everyone beyond the first two lines. Libertarians get considered, conservative nature lovers get considered, socialists exist and get considered… it’s a very diverse ballot for which citizens actually have to prepare themselves and inform themselves. That’s not to say that many people still don’t vote the two largest parties- Christian Democratic and Social Democratic, but these parties rarely get the majority of the vote at the state or national level, and that’s a good thing!

So, when I went to vote (and voting happens on Sunday in Germany, giving everyone- even people with 10-hour jobs- the chance to vote!), I parked my bike outside a historic music school, got in line with the other voters of my district, and pulled out a book. I had a bit of a wait, but soon enough I got to hand over y ID and voting invite for inspection, and then I was in a voting booth with my papers and a pen. I guess I was surprised that the ballots were not electronic, and I didn’t expect that I would be voting for my district representative as well. I was also amused that when voting for the representative, a little note of advice happens below the representative’s name saying: suggested vote: (insert representative’s party name here). I won’t say who or what part(ies) I voted for, but I will say that I was able to vote two different parties at the state and district level and feel good about it. I think that the German systems allows for more representation of all the different values a person can have… and I’m a happy voter in Germany. I can’t really say the same about the upcoming presidential election in the US.

Now starts a part of my post where I’m going to add my two cents to the discussion about those up for election in November. For those who have had enough of this, I understand if you don’t want to continue reading. For those mildly curious for what a 25 year old with degrees in literature has to say, I promise I’ve put thought into this post and I’m reasonable, someone who looks for compromise rather than antagonism.

Let me start off with a fun fact. I grew up in a bipartisan household. One parent carries a Republican voting card, the other a Democratic one. How does this work, you wonder? How can they have been married for more than 25 years? A lot of it has to do with the ability to find compromise, and that the basic values upheld by both my parents are the same.

One of my favorite philosophers is Kwame Anthony Appiah. I’ve written about him before in this blog, but his famous book Cosmopolitanism outlines what he believes should be a global philosophy: that we respect other people’s values and beliefs enough to listen to them and consider them. While the ability to communicate is inherent to this philosophy to work, I believe it is a good philosophy. Often, though, as I see in my own home, this communication often goes astray. One party has a harder time expressing why they do things or value things a certain way. There will always be one group who is louder, more articulate, or more logical. Still, as Appiah outlines in his chapter “The Primacy of Practice,”

Conversation doesn’t have to lead to consensus about anything, especially not values; it is enough that it helps people get used to one another.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve been engaging in conversation with me about Germans and US Americans. I try to share my observations about both countries, often working hard to keep my personal bias and upbringing out of it. I’ve never suggested that one country is the better of the two – such a vast generalization would be absurd, and I can only emphasize how Germans live and love living in the US and vice versa, without having to give up the cultural beliefs or habits they brought with them.

So, if the daily life of a person can be satisfactory, despite constant exposure to difference, why can’t we listen more to each other talking about politics? What happened to constructive debate?

Yes… of course I set up a segue to last night’s presidential debate, which I found less than satisfactory. Spectators are saying that Clinton won that debate, but only because she as able to keep her cool while Trump was revealed for being the incoherent, ill-prepared, narcissist he’s been for most of the campaign. Maybe this means Trump should not be head of state. Even if he supports the values of most Republicans, he’s not ready for the position. Can you imagine the state dinners with Trump at the head of the table? Do people really think the man knows how to be a diplomat? Money is power, and Trump has money. But he has none of the tact, intelligence, or basic human sympathy that we need in our political leaders.

So, that puts the US in an awful position, because while many Republicans of the US can’t vote Hillary Clinton out of principle inspired by their belief in honesty, good character, and following rules, they can’t vote Trump either. Many of these Republicans would also rather see the Republican Party in power, because even if it’s headed by Trump, at least their values will be represented. I understand their wishes for freedom, financial security, and less interference from government in their personal lives.

The funny thing is, I also understand the Democrat’s wish for security and less interference from government in their lives. After all, anti-abortion laws are government interference. Health-care and other “socialist” endeavors are endeavors for financial security for citizens of the US- that’s just addressing the obvious. There are many subtle ways in which the goals of all US Americans are the same- upholding basic human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s how we practice these rights that changes.

In the end, democrats have to compromise with republicans and republicans with democrats, lobbyists put their hand in the pot, and we end up with pretty much the same measures, regardless of who is the main man or woman in charge. What we can choose, however, is the first representative of our country.

Now, I return to the beautiful multiparty system, and ask, why can’t the US get out of its stupid binary? Why is the presidential debate only held between two people? Let’s not forget, there’s the Libertarian Gary Johnson. There will be more than three names on the presidential ballot in November. There’s always the write-in possibility (but, that’s a bit of a misnomer, since the possibility is so small).

My final note will maybe satisfy what those of you who did continue reading were waiting to see: where do I stand? Well, out of my upbringing, education, and beliefs, I think it is my responsibility to help all groups in society have equal access to opportunity and resources. The US party I believe comes closest to supporting this endeavor is the democratic one. However, I struggle with voting Clinton. It is hard to deny that there is something wrong about using personal email servers for state business. Every employee is able to separate the private and professional email. Why couldn’t she? There must be something wrong in her character to do this, and then not want to open up her personal correspondences as well as state correspondence for scrutiny. Right? Well, maybe. Maybe not. Retired army officer M. Thomas Davis (former Republican voter, I’ll bet) wrote a column I personally find convincing, but know has received its share of backlash: “Don’t let Clinton emails dominate debates.”

From here on out, until the election, I’m going to try and leave previous bias against either runner behind, and consider what each of the candidates have to say in response to direct questions about policies, how they will handle national and international security, education and health care reforms, and climate change. I encourage you to do the same with the issues you find important.

Just saying. Those were my two cents.

Cheers,

Dorothea

 

Shaky streaming quality for a while- on my relationship with WordPress

Before I address the content implied by my title, I offer this video as small mice-present-left-by-cat-on-doorstep. I think it’s a form of showing my affection for readers. 🙂 :

I like to show this video to my students, and to view it myself as a reminder one should be invested in the effects words may have.

Interesting linguistic note: “Sorry” is widely used in Germany right now as an expression of excuse without the same sentiment of culpability the German equivalent “Entschuldigung”carries. “Entschulding” is an expression that asks the target at whom the phrase is directed to relieve the speaker of the guilt s/he feels or should feel for whatever transgression s/he committed. I have a feeling, if our word had the root “guilt” in it, we would want to replace it, too.

But I do mean it. I am sorry that I stopped being very active on my blogs without at least providing a “pause” message. What I really want to apologize for, though, is for suddenly disappearing from other people’s posts. I was very active for a very long time in communicating with my small blogging community, and then, from one day to the next, I just stopped.

I would like to explain this.

I have a bad track-record with social media. I know that the millennials run on social media, and many of us spend an hour or more on social media sites posting, editing, updating, commenting, whatever. I’m not one of them. I got Facebook two years after all my friends did, and then quit it sophomore year of college. I haven’t looked back. I had MyFitnessPal for a while, and used it as my social media site for a while too, until I recognized similar patterns in myself that I had with Facebook. WordPress became a new start. Initially, I used it purely to get my ideas out, and that was it. After a month or so, I noticed though, that one way of getting more interaction was reading, “liking,” following and commenting on other people’s posts. So I did it. I became very active on WordPress because a) it was a great way to procrastinate on daily school/house work, b) I thought I was being a good community member, and c) I started to become addicted to the feedback I got in my comments and on my posts.

See, while we all say that we post for ourselves and would write whether we are read or not, a part of us does feel good when we see people react to what we write. Even the small “like” is a mini-high that, like with any other addictive substance, we look for more and more. What happens when no “like” appears? Some of us end up doubting the value of what we post, especially when we see how much feedback other bloggers get.

I can’t speak for everyone, nor do I mean to. I suppose there are people out there who really don’t care whether someone reads their posts or not. I mean, they really. don’t. care. However, a lot of us share our work for a reason, and we do want our writing to make a difference, somehow, even if it just prompts someone to think a millisecond longer about something that they otherwise would not have. Then, we also want to know about it.

Still, my issue really lies more with the way I participate in the blogging community. WordPress is a great idea. Bloggers can read each other’s blogs, find new ones to read, see what’s “Freshly Pressed,” and so forth. Then, though, one can follow a blogger and be updated on all his/her posts. One can “like” and comment. Through this, one gets to know the blogger, is updated on his/her ups and down and the cool things he/she is doing (most of us don’t blog about the bad things). I got to know other bloggers more and created a social network that’s not as easy to check out of as when I decide to stop reading the Washington Post for a little while. Thus, while 108  days of not posting on my main blog site is something I feel bad about, I feel even more guilty when I don’t hold up the communicating I do with other bloggers. It gets to the point that I’ll read a few posts, but be afraid to “like” or comment on any, because I won’t comment on all, and I worry that someone who reads the same blog I do, someone on whose blog I usually comment, will wonder why I commented on blog “A” but not his/hers.

It would be easier to run a blog site that has no “like” or “comments” section, and then just keep writing and posting. However, I am someone who feels a responsibility about my presence on the internet and to my readers, and I like the interaction and support fellow bloggers give. But sometimes, I need to check-out, and so that’s what I did. The good news is, unlike Facebook or MyFitnessPal, I feel more invested in my writing on my blog than I did with my shorter communications with friends or fitness mates, so I can’t just delete my blog. Recognizing my weakness, I am going to take a few leaves out of the books of fellow bloggers and not feel bad for reading without “liking” or “commenting.” If, in the future, you notice that I’m not being active again, it’s not that I don’t read your posts or like what you write. It’s just that I think it goes without saying that I was intrigued by your title and enjoyed the post. I hope this makes sense. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but because I feel this way, I also felt like I had to write this post.

Thanks for reading this far!

In other news, for a while, I really was too busy to keep up with WordPress. While I read my Reader at least once a day for almost seven months, I just didn’t have time to even log-on at the end of April; end of semester grading papers, my own finals to prepare for and pass, and then cleaning up a semester’s worth of crap on my computer and in my room took care of life through the middle of May. I also got a pretty cool mini-job assessing student’s writing and helping to evaluate my university’s writing program.

Then, I had to start preparing… packing, collecting all my research notes and info from and about books that I can’t justify lugging thousands of miles, all my doctor’s check-ups, etc.

Soon, I’m heading back to Germany, first for vacation, and then to start my PhD at the Freie Universitaet zu Berlin. It’s one of Berlin’s three main universities and the only one where I can pursue a PhD in comparative literature the way I’d like. I’m excited, but also  feel some trepidation about the project and being able to afford it (and then there’s all the self-doubt I’ll spare you from reading about). For now, I have minimal support from the university and scholarships, so until I can reapply for a better position and/or scholarships, I’m living off savings and whatever small job I can get. I know the situation will be improved by January, but right now, things don’t look rosy-pink. STILL, I’m excited and super ready to do the project.

I’ll also have more to post about, again.

After I arrive in Germany until mid-August, though, I’ll have sporadic internet access and likely won’t use it to be on WordPress a lot. This time, I hope I’m giving you enough fair warning about my “shaky streaming quality” so that you stay-tuned for when I get back! I have a few people who regularly read my blogs, and I hope you continue to want to when I’m regularly posting again.

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a great summer,

Dorothea

 

 

Thoughts on-air: heroes

Today, my mother asked me if I was in love. Answering would have been a good opportunity to tell her, if it were the case, about the boy I had just met. Unfortunately, my only answer could be “no, I’m not,” because the real reason for my sudden insecurity about my purpose in life and questioning my goals is actually too embarrassing to admit to her. Clearly, though, the world wide web seems like the appropriate forum…

Basically, I’ve proven once again that I am only a mere mortal and not immune to the prospects of binge-watching a show on Netflix. This happened despite my ego watching over my shoulder, telling me that I will indeed regret waking up three hours later, having to function as a normal, rational being whose mind is not filled with images of awesome fight choreography and strategic plans (those must be formulated while the hero is doing laundry or cooking eggs, because I can’t imagine he has much time otherwise). I think my ego has too much fun watching the show himself  to be much help in these matters.

I have discovered that I am obsessed with heroes. The first hero I can remember admiring was Han Solo, because after he undergoes torture and melting out of his frozen state, he continues as handsome and charming as ever, even if he spends a short while being blind. Then, my next real obsession came with Ralph Fienne’s character in The Constant Gardener, for a different kind of heroism. High school and the revamping of the Superman franchise made me wonder how a hero can continue being a hero even if there’s no one there to help him carry out the task he laid upon himself (i.e. taking a huge mass of maliciously self-multiplying rock-land and creating a meteorite for, assuredly an Earth in a parallel universe), the task nearly kills him and still he goes on, and then came Netflix and Marvel’s Daredevil.

A few things hit me in-between, for example, Sherlock as embodied by Benedict Cumberbatch… the first character I bought a t-shirt celebrating, and of course Frodo, Sam and Aragorn in the books and  movies, but it’s Daredevil, embodied by the actor Charlie Cox, who made my mom ask if I am in love. Is it possible to have a crush on a fictional character? Well, duh… But I think the problem is more that these men (mostly men, because even Jessica Jones hasn’t convinced me of a woman’s power in doing this*…) embody traits that I would like to see in myself. But then, reality sets in that it’s fiction and not the reality of the life I lead, and that fact depresses me more than anything after watching any hero show. There’s enough research out there about how superhero movies (and movies in general) act like a drug- one is high (watching episode after episode, because Netflix so conveniently has a continuous play-mode) and then stone-cold sober (like at 6 AM) a short period of time later. I don’t pretend that I can add to this body of research.

However, since there’s no point in hoping for Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock to come walking through the door, asking me to be his sidekick (being a girlfriend would come in as close second), I have to think about some of the positive benefits of having this show, this role model, and others like it, in my life. After that, I have to move on.

Until I went through the thought-process that made me write this post, one of my main concerns about my obsession was that it could be entirely unhealthy. Basically, I recognized that a character (with a strong sense of justice and moral code) needs to get in some dire straits (preferably life-threatening) for him or her to be interesting to me. Usually there is some pain involved with lingering shots of the hero’s body presenting a canvas of the pain that is inflicted on him or her.

I suppose the reasons for this should be obvious. I recognize that what I admire is not the hero in pain (that would be rather sadistic, right?) but his/her ability to recover from it and bravely face the next source of pain. Rather, s/he returns “as strong as ever,” perhaps with even more resolution. The bravery is enhanced by the fact that the hero has experienced a taste of the consequences, and is willing to risk those again to carry out the task. He or she returns as confident and life-defying as ever.

As someone (again, remember I am a mere mortal) who faces insecurity and doubt every single day, from what I wear to the way I respond to teachers or students in the classroom, to the things I write online, I, and likely all the other mortals like me, appreciate the reminder that it is commendable to be at the bottom of our mental and/or physical strength, take the time to recover, and then enter the foray again despite the risk that we end up in the same state or worse.

Yet the tasks presented to me and most** of my species are not as life-threatening and the powers we have are equally admirable as supersonic senses, flight, super strength, et al, but not as cool. This (and read carefully, because this is where my “questioning my purpose in life” comes in) is what depresses me. They say that most people are ordinary, and that the extraordinary things they do make them heroic; I know this. However, I also want to be fighting for good everyday, not just when the opportunity presents itself.  Unlike the thousands of professions where people actually make a positive difference in someone’s life at the risk of their own: fire fighter, police officer, soldier, freedom fighter/pacifist, to mention a few, I don’t think I’m pursuing a heroic line of work. However, if one considers the positive things doctors, psychologists, lawyers, do at the expense of their time, physical energy, and emotional energies like  compassion, then the options for being a hero are a much longer list. This list includes research and teaching.

An admitted oversimplification of the work of research would be that it provides us with the theories to explain the phenomena in our inner and outer lives and, where necessary, provides us with cures to continue living; teaching these theories allows those who master them to find even more knowledge. Both are done at the expense of time, energy, risk of fulfilling personal needs, and hence, both are meritorious.

That last statement is both self-serving and open for debate, though (as per self-serving aspect) I’m inclined to agree. These guys do too. 

Still, the bottom line should remain that our powers, our talents, can all be empowering with identification and training, and they can help dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people. Does it help to reflect on this from time to time? Especially in moments of doubt when we think we’re not doing enough (wait, is that just me)? Most definitely. It’s useful to remember that the phase after the nearly-dying part in most super-hero movies (if it’s worth it’s salt in box-office collections) features some sort of reflection or considerations of the work s/he is doing.

This reflecting part just happened for me for the third time in these past six months since I finished my Masters and returned from Germany, so I guess it’s symptomatic of my anxiety as I wait for the next phase of my life to begin with news of my PhD applications. Thankfully though, there’s no near-dying involved and I guess I’m doing some good in this world in the meantime, even if there’s no bad-guy versus good-guy involved. I think I should do less binge-watching though… that lack of sleep is probably affecting my mood more than anything.

If you’ve actually read through this, thanks for reading! I debated putting it online, and if it’s been interesting, I’m glad I posted.

*I’m actually a fan of women superheroes… just not the ones that I’ve come across so far. A quick search tells me though, that I should look into Buffy, the Vampire Slayer to help fix this problem… and I’m partial to Katniss Everdeen as well, so I guess I just have to look harder outside of the Marvel/DC comics to find my fix. I’m also impressed at the caliber of some of the women in the comic industry. Maybe there’s another calling for me after I’ve filled my commitment (at least for the next three years) to academia.
Part of my difficulty with Jessica Jones has to do with another aspect altogether, the fact that it’s too close to reality, as Dave Gonzales at geek.com points out. “Jessica Jones has relateable stakes” and “[v]iewers aren’t likely to know the scientist who invents shrinking or live to see a sentient robot lift a European city out of the ground, they’re not going to box their way to a crime boss to save their city or meet an alien claiming to be a norse god — but they know someone who has suffered from some form of abuse. That makes Jessica Jones not only relatable, but maybe the first Marvel Cinematic Universe entry that actually has something to say about the real world.”
Thanks, Mr. Gonzales. Maybe I like my escapis pastimes to be such without making me think too much about how actual lives are affected by similar things to what I see on screen… but then again, being a philosophical mouse man, I doubt such a thing exists for me anyway. So, I guess I’ll continue watching JJ. At least I’m not tempted to binge-watch.

** I am hyper-aware that there are thousands of people who risk their lives, freedoms, and security for what they believe is right. I support them in thought and prayer. And, should the opportunity present itself, in action. Just putting that out there

 

Frohe Weihnachten und guten Rutsch

Hi everyone!

Wow. It’s been a long time (and not in the Boston “it’s been such a long time…” way; looking at it again, though, maybe).

Anyway, it’s fair enough to say that since getting back from Germany, blogging about anything (but especially Germany) has taken the backseat.

Still, I have hundreds of feather-light memories that I have time to get lost in everyone in a while, when someone shakes the snow globe of my life, and then I get pulled back to Germany and my life there. This has been happening a lot more during the Christmas season. As you may recall (if you’ve stuck with me through these quiet times!), I‘ve posted about Germany’s customs before.

This year, the semester didn’t really end for me until Dec. 18th, even though classes were out on Nov. 25th. Still, I’ve managed to get into the Christmas spirit a little with Advent every Sunday, baking cookies, going downtown Delray and looking at the 100 ft. tree, and getting Christmas cards out (yup. still do those).

I’m really excited about tomorrow, but more so about what happens after all the guests are gone (if you recall, Germans have two days of Christmas, so we have guests through Saturday) when it’s just me and my family again. I have a grad school application to submit by the 31st, which is the worst time for a deadline, if you ask me (though I could of course always have been more disciplined and already been done with it), but there’s also time for catching up on e-mails, Christmas letters (from the other dinosaurs who still do them) and lots of card playing.

I hope everyone was able to prepare enough for tomorrow that it’s a relaxing start into a glorious three day weekend, that there’s moments of peace in the festive atmosphere, and that everyone arrives healthy into the new year.

I also hope to figure out a new way to use this blog effectively, so that it’s not filling up unnecessary cyberspace for the next year, so please stay tuned!

Tschüß!- Dorothea