Adulting

This post originated as a personal essay written for my Creative Nonfiction course in Spring of 2017.

The Tale of Celeste

I want you to think about a young girl named Celeste. She is your typical high school senior, and recently accepted to her college of choice. She went to the admitted students day, submitted her deposit, got a towel with new university’s name stitched  on it, and is now confronted with the idea of class placement. Every student must take an introductory writing course their freshman year, and according to most sources everyone hates it. The only prerequisite to the course is a composition class, and to test out of it requires completion of a timed essay. Celeste has always excelled on essays, but only because she revises them with the dedication of a cat with a mouse.

This is the little-acknowledged super power of children: they care allowed to make mistakes. Not submitting an essay on time in high school is frowned upon, but is easily made up for. But if Celeste doesn’t finish this essay within 60 minutes, she will have to take a whole extra course her freshman year that will ripple all the way through her college courses and beyond. It is quite possibly one of the most important essays she will ever write.

At this moment, Celeste realizes that she is an adult and needs to get things done and no one is going to do it for her, which will rattle most sheltered 17-year-olds. Hunching in on herself, she starts the essay, and with 20 minutes to spare it’s submitted. She passes with flying colors and her mother asks why she was ever worried.

The Child that Becomes a Woman

Thus, ends the tale of Celeste. Its purpose was to suggest that there is a point in one’s life where a fundamental switch is flipped. Celeste didn’t instantly become a responsible forward-thinking, committed individual who never put off something she shouldn’t have. But she wasn’t quite the child she had been either.

It’s difficult to talk about the differences between childhood and adulthood, because there are arbitrary lines that are hard to cross completely. Look at life as divided into slices. A person must act a certain way in each slice with repercussions if they step out of line.  Go to preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, grad school, steady job, marriage, children, grandchildren, retirement, death. This version of the ‘American Dream’ is a falsity, and I have known this from my birth. Many people have different visions for how they live their lives, but there is always a cycle and a way to find yourself. To look at it another way: “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?”

Anxiety

The thing is, once I get out into the world, I can get things done and in fact I’m quite productive. Apparently, most people consider me well balanced and for some reason think I’ve got all my ducks in a row, got all my shit together. What people don’t seem to realize is that I am a chaotic mess. Every night when I get home and get ready for bed I am consumed by irrational anxiety. The only thing worse than this is the fact that when I tell people this they ask me why I’m so anxious. I point them towards the word irrational.  Why it is so hard to understand that I don’t know why I feel this way? It is for the most part unexplainable. The issue here is my own inability to recognize my own limitations until I break them and I break down. My ducks are not in a row. They are in trench warfare against themselves and the trenches are full of shit.

Example A:

“Hey love, how was your day?”

“I had a great day, woke up at a reasonable hour after getting 10 hours of sleep and got work done and turned in my assignments and my meeting with my advisor went super well.”

Cue me bursting into tears.
Example B:

“If you’re so anxious why do you waste time by calling me and crying instead of doing your work? Pull it together.”

This makes me cry more.

Even writing this makes me even more anxious. I tend to write about nothing but my anxiety, but this makes me more anxious and then I don’t have anything to write about so I write about what is bothering me but then that makes me feel worse not better because it’s all a vicious cycle. I’m shaking.

The thing about irrational anxiety is that you never know that it is coming. I woke up feeling sleepy, but mostly refreshed, and I could slowly wake myself up as I gathered my bearings. Before my eyes were even opened the sensation of being awake started to dawn on me. There was a pillow squashed on my back. I was facing the wall. For one brief and warm second I dared to dream that I was in my childhood home. I opened my eyes and saw my dorm room. A sigh. I don’t remember what my dream was about, and I know it was a nightmare and filled with uneasy thoughts and feelings, but I want to go back to sleep anyway.

I don’t.

Agency

It is a truth universally acknowledged that children in want of adulthood no longer want it when they get there. Parents tend to prevent their kids from gorging on candy and staying up late. As an adult, I can eat candy all day and stay up late. But I don’t want to. Personally, I’d like to be asleep by 10pm and wake up early so that I have time for breakfast, a run, and be able to make my bed in the morning before I leave for class or work.

Obviously my 8th grade self is disgusted.

That is not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of nights where I stayed up late, took care of drunk people, was a drunk person, and drank enough caffeinated beverages that my blood was on the verge of turning into energy drinks and I became a 2am regular at the C Store after closing out the library. Most of that is in the past now, as I have started a nice little love affair with sleep and hot tea.

 Living Alone

I used to live alone. And as anyone who has ever lived alone can tell you, that left me with very little accountability.

I could go to sleep whenever I wanted, eat whatever I wanted, and have sex as loud as I wanted, none of it mattered to anyone but me. I went days without seeing another human, and if I forgot my shampoo before going to take a shower I didn’t have to bother putting a towel on. I didn’t have to do dishes until I ran out of spoons and if the salad I made the week before was fermenting in the fridge there was no one to call me out on it. No one could verify whether I had showered and/or did laundry because febreeze exists. If I decided to gorge myself on ice cream without taking any lactose pills, well there was no one to complain about the stink in the bathroom but my own squashed little nose.

I have a roommate again now, so this whole accountability thing has escalated.

Read: any dirty dishes stay in my room until I get sick of them.

 On Being Human

Due to the fact that I try my best to be human (most of the time) I have set myself some ground rules:

1. Clean dishes within 24 hours of getting them dirty. More dishes can be added to the general horde, but they each have an individual 24-hour limit.

2. No dirty underwear on the floor. Jeans and sweatshirts, whatever, but dirty underwear is forbidden. (So is clean underwear, but why would anyone keep that on the floor?)

3. Keep a maximum of 48 hours in between showers. If you forget the last time you showered, flee to the bathroom immediately. Semantics problem sets can wait, you stink.

4. If you decide to stay home all day and retreat from all outside world action get dressed anyway. It can be pajamas, but they must be clean (or at least different from the pajamas you slept in). Walking around naked is also acceptable, but keep a robe handy for surprise video calls.

4.1 On a related note, make bare minimum contact with the outside world. Texting, Skype, an actual phone call, or owls, whatever works, just make sure you engage with minimum two other humans.

5. Eat. Eat at least one vegetable, and one source of protein. Yes, lean cuisine can count. If you are feeling fancy you can even put it inside a real bowl instead of simply eating out of the plastic. (Then again that may contribute to rule 1, so perhaps not.)

Follow these rules and I daresay you will be successful at passing yourself off as a capital H “Human.”

 Looking Back

Almost everyone can find something in their past that makes them turn their head. Something done, said, unfinished, unsaid. Did I say I hated Harry Potter? Why did I write Jasper Hale’s name on five different binder clips? Is that really what my hair looks like from the back?

You’re not going to remember everything that has ever happened to you. Memories are imperfect, and a mystery. I remember being in elementary school, and asking my mum if she remembered people from her elementary school. It seemed unfathomable to me that she could forget people she saw every day for so many years. But even as I look back on that and think that I only remember a handful of kids from back then, and that’s mostly just the ones that pissed me off.

 You’re Never As Prepared As You Want To Be

The hardest part of adulting is keeping up with the pace of it all. Life comes at you hard and fast. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes less so. Often, I get the sensation that I’m a step behind where I need to be, constantly discovering things that are great to know, but two years or two minutes after I needed to know them. That said, it’ll always work out until it doesn’t because that’s just what life does. It goes on until it stops and I love every birthday.

Statistics show that those who have the most live the longest.

 

Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This is the GIF I sent to my group chat as soon as I finished reading The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller:

crying

Half of the tears were because of the story itself, but the other half were for the fact that I went a whole six years of my  life without having read this book. The Song of Achilles tells the story of the lives of and love between Patroclus and Achilles. Considering that the Iliad, together with the Odyssey serve as what some call the foundation of the Western canon, I think that the moratorium on spoilers is functionally non-existent, but I will do my best to make this a spoiler free-review just in case.

As a classics minor and more importantly a lover of mythology, I knew the basic plot of the story before I turned the first page, but I remained emotionally unprepared for this book that does so much more than retell Iliad. As a matter of fact, the Iliadic portion of the text doesn’t even start until chapter twenty-five. The book opens with Patroclus recounting the marriage of his parents’s marriage and his own birth and childhood. In many ways, The Song of Achilles, is a coming of age story, soaked in the mythic tradition that my professors have so kindly educated me with. We follow, from Patroclus’s perspective, his journey from his place as the son of a son of Kings to be the beloved of Achilles, the best of the Greeks, and staying by his side throughout the most famous war in literary history – that of the Trojans and the Greeks.

According to the back cover of my copy, the Wall Street Journal called this book “One of the best novelistic adaptations of Homer in recent memory,” and I have to agree. Madeline Miller’s text has reinforced my already fierce belief that stories are meant to be told and retold. I  believe that my knowledge of the Homeric tradition greatly added to my experience reading this book, as I noticed all of the subtle (and not-so-subtle!) nods to the myths I have grown to know and love, but I also strongly believe that someone with little to no familiarity with the source material would also enjoy this story.

The blossoming from friendship to love between Achilles and Patroclus is incredibly moving and quite realistic, both within the text itself and when considering its original mythic context. The two quite clearly share a close bond, but one that is not at all overdone or rushed. On a personal note, I am 100% here for literature that acknowledges and celebrates the fact that queerness is here and always has been. Beyond the representation present within The Song of Achilles, I find the cast and characters incredibly compelling and I enjoyed every second that I read through the text. I was so engaged that I read the entire book in one setting* and was hit with the “what do you mean it’s over??” feels. (See above GIF)

That is not to say that I have no criticisms of the book. While I wholly enjoyed the text and intend to read it again, I know that it is not for everyone. The text makes free and constant reference to both rape and slavery in ways that certainly unsettled my stomach. The presence of the content is not the fault of the author, but more the source material and time period. On the very first page we read of Patroclus’s who was arranged to be married to an abusive husband at age fourteen, and Patroclus tells us that his father didn’t care about her appearance because “if she was ugly, there was always slave girls and serving boys.” The text pulls no punches when referencing the treatment of women in the time period, and while Patroclus and Achilles do not themselves participate in such activities, and are uncomfortable at times, they still accept that it is a practice and do not publicly voice any concerns. Despite the fact that I read both Achilles and Patroclus as being bisexual, and thus we do have some queer representation there are class and gender issues abound within the world of The Song of Achilles and I’m not going to pretend that they don’t exist.

On the whole, I greatly recommend the book, though I issue a strong content warning for rape, slavery, gore, and the general violence that comes with close-combat warfare.

Happy reading!

Cheers,

Talia

*Excluding one Hogwarts Mystery break because my phone buzzed and I realized that class was about to end and I was still 2 stars short in regard to successfully brewing my herbicide potion.

Word-for-Sense

Some of you may be wondering why this website is called Word-for-Sense, particularly readers who are unfamiliar with Translation theory. I came up with the title one day during my literary translation class, where we were discussing the classic and most basic conflict in translation, word-for-word versus sense-for-sense.

A word-for-word translation is also known as a literal translation, where every word from the source language is replicated as exactly as possible from the the source language to the target language. Literal translation is known as word-for-word translation because it operates on a lexical level, translating each word independently of the sentence. A sense-for-sense translation is one where the meaning and sense of the source language is replicated in the target language by translating on the level of each sentence rather than each word.

These definitions are quite broad, and not at all comprehensive, but they get the point across in that my use of the term word-for-sense is one that tries to act as a bridge between the two. It represents my desire to find a way to create perfect translations, though I know that, like all the translations before mine and all those after, I will fall short.

There is a post on my old blog about my relationship with this title that I considered re-posting directly onto this site, but I had decided not to because it wasn’t refined enough for my taste. That said, it was representative of a truth I felt in April of 2017, and while I have gained much confidence since then, I would still like to take a moment to look back on it now:

The title for this blog is based on a classic and basic issue in translation: word-for-word or sense-for-sense. That said, even though the very name of this blog is based on translation, I haven't really been talking about translation on here. I suppose that is because for me, translation is an intimate process, and I don't always feel comfortable talking about it. It’s probably because of the imposter syndrome I tend to feel about anything and everything I've ever done or do. The feeling is an uncomfortable one, but confidence doesn't come easy for me.

My translations themselves, well, I don't particularly like sharing. I'm always terrified that I have mistranslated something, or that something is somehow 'not right' in ways I'm not fully sure I can explain. I worry that my fluency in Spanish is not good enough for proper translation and find myself hounding down words in dictionaries, picking at the poem until it is nothing but words. I tend to go for very literal translations, keeping faithful to the word, and yet my heart longs for giving instead the sense that comes from such rich poetry. Translating is maddening and sometimes I wonder why I ever thought I could do it, and others I wonder how I could possibly do anything else.

I'm doing an independent study on translation this semester and even though there are only five weeks left of class I haven't sent my professor any poems because I am terrified he will hate them. That said if I don't send him something soon he will probably fail me, so I have resolved to send him at least two poems by Friday, no matter how much I dislike the verse. (My translation I mean, the original poems are gorgeous). The only way I can improve is if I get feedback, but like most people, I am scared of rejection. Everyone fails sometimes, it's a fact of life, but that doesn't make it comfortable.

I’ve come a long way in terms of confidence about my own work since making that post. While I’ll admit that I might never feel fully secure in my own work, I am at least secure in that I am doing my best which gets better every day. My piano tutor and mentor from high school used to tell me “Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good gets better, and your better gets best.” I take the substance of his advice every day, even if not always to the letter. You might say that I take his word for it — or maybe just the sense?

Mandatory Sappy Graduation Post

Yesterday afternoon I graduated Cum Laude from Brandeis University with a Bachelor of Arts in Language and Linguistics and European Cultural Studies. I put a whole lot of work into the past four years, and I am happy to say that they have been the happiest four years of my life. I experienced many setbacks over my time at Brandeis. I suffered from personal injuries both physical and mental. Members of my family died or got sick. I failed classes and friendships fell apart.

Yet I had a thriving support system to carry me through, and I learned just as much if not more from the community at Brandeis as I did from my classes. I’ve been taught and mentored by professors who are as brilliant as they are kind, and the faculty, staff and student alike made Brandeis a true home for me. I’ve found people here who have helped me to find myself, a self who knows what she wants, and because of Brandeis knows how to get it. I am confident that the lasting bonds I have made will continue to carry me forward.

This is the last paragraph of my college admissions letter:

I haven’t had as many opportunities as some of my peers, but I have had much more than others. I am driven to succeed, I work hard, and I know how to make a lot out of a little. My life has been a tad crazy, enough to fill a several volume series. What I want more than anything is to start the next volume in this adventure series, and it should be titled Return to Brandeis.

That volume may have come to something approximating a close, but if you are interested in reading the next one, look no further than this blog/website www.word-for-sense.com. Let’s have some fun together.

Cheers,

Talia