Breaking my own promises

I’m all for setting goals and making long-term plans for myself. But my academic career kicked off when I started to break the promises I’d made to myself.

-Promise number one: I will decide on a major before entering college and never change it.

After a lot of indecision and self-induced pressure to pick a major in high school, I settled for English education. I reached that decision because I knew that I liked editing and talking about books, and I figured it was a pretty good bet since an inordinate number of my relatives are teachers.

After taking two semesters of education classes, it was time to officially apply to the department. The application included a 12-page essay about why I wanted to be a teacher, how I would motivate students and a number of ethical topics. As I began to write I realized I was lying to myself. I didn’t have the patience, the energy or drive to do anything I was writing about.

Thus began my quarter-life crisis. I knew I couldn’t let go of my English degree but worried about its stigma as an impractical field. Salvation came in the form of a panel of English major alumni. As they talked about their careers, I realized that almost all of them had my dream jobs–some combination of reading, writing and editing–which I never knew had existed.  And almost all of them had tacked a mass communications degree on with their English major.

I dropped my education major and added mass communications a few days later.

-Promise number two: I will not join the mass communications department.

In the midst of those education classes freshman year, I also took an introduction to media course because all along I was vaguely interested in the idea of writing for media. The professor and I, to put it nicely, just did not get along. He quizzed over information that was not in the book or lectures, constantly rambled about unrelated topics and graded according to some mystery system which no one in the class could figure out. He was one of those professors.

I knew that I never wanted to risk having this professor again and had concluded from his dull lectures that the field was unworthy of my time. After an episode of particularly unfair grading of the final exams, I declared to all my friends that I would never under any circumstances join the mass communications department.

Breaking promise number one led me to breaking promise number two. I’ve since abandoned the field I pretended so adamantly to be passionate about and joined one I once claimed to hate. Now, I’m not only in the mass communications department, but taking on one of the biggest and most time-consuming leadership roles it offers.

Oops. Too bad I love it.


Chick flicks are sort of like Shakespearean dramas… sort of.

When Elizabethans went out on the town for one of Shakespeare’s plays, they knew more or less what to expect. His tragedies end with deaths, and his comedies end with weddings or betrothals.

And when today’s audiences sit down to watch a chick flick, they know in the backs of their minds what to expect. A chick flick almost always goes like this:

  1. She is probably a publisher, designer or architect.
  2. He has an impeccably clean and stylish house…somehow.
  3. They meet in an “unconventional” way. A bus stop? A friend’s wedding? Who would have thought of that?
  4. The actors that play their parents look way younger than their characters are supposed to be, and the actors who play their teenage siblings look way older than their characters are supposed to be.
  5. Only the trendiest soundtrack with a few 80s classics or oldies sprinkled in. You know, for quirkiness.
  6. Unnecessary sex or make-out scene. Maybe two for good measure.
  7. Product placement, including fancy SUVs and shiny cell phones.
  8. Suddenly, tragedy. One conversation, one misunderstanding, ten minutes of sappy music and…everything changes. Will their relationship survive?!
  9. Her father dishes out some quirky advice and she follows it, because she’s daddy’s little girl.
  10. He realizes he can’t live without her and runs, drives, sails or flies to “get her back,” because that’s what men do.
  11. Dramatic makeup scene complete with inclement weather and declarations of eternal love.
  12. Wedding dance montage! All conflicts are suddenly resolved! Fade or freeze-frame to credits!

I guess if a certain formula works (by some people’s standards), why change it?

Weird Al, musical taste and personal values

“Look/If you had/One shot/To sit on your lazy butt/And watch all the TV you ever wanted/Until your brain turned to mush/Would you go for it?/Or just let it slip?” -Weird Al Yankovic, “Couch Potato.”

Dare to Be Stupid

Dare to Be Stupid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those are the lyrics of one of my favorite songs from the end of elementary school. Though I’m not incredibly proud to admit it, Weird Al was just about the only artist I listed to regularly at the time. My friends and I memorized line after line of his lyrics and sang them passionately whenever we could.

Looking back, this was not your everyday obnoxious childhood phase. In his own strange way, the man who wrote such memorable parodies as “Couch Potato,” “Trash Day” and “A Complicated Song” played a major role in the development of my musical taste.

During my preteen years I was (and to a certain extent still am) the type of kid who saw everyone else doing one thing and did the exact opposite. If I was a salmon (warning: left-field analogy coming up), while all my peers swam upstream, I would be the one smugly standing still or escaping downstream. For whatever reason, I could not justify doing something simply because other people it was cool.

So it makes perfect sense that I would be attracted to an artist who poked fun at what the other kids were listening to. I could have my own distinct taste without succumbing to “everyone else is doing it.”

But instead of isolating me, Weird Al’s music kept me in the loop. I knew the tunes and some of the lyrics to songs like “Lose Yourself” and “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” from the parodies, but I could still relish in my stubborn nonconformity by singing different lyrics. (And relish I did: Whenever one of those parodied songs came on the radio I would always try to sing Weird Al’s version as loud as I possibly could just to get confused looks from passersby.)

The past nine or so years have mellowed me out significantly; I am no longer the annoying dare-to-be-different kid I once was, but I still retain certain fragments of that mindset.

And every now and then I still pull out those old albums for a chuckle. It makes me blush to think that I once obsessed over those lyrics, but it makes me smile to remember how they taught me it’s okay to go another way.