To Be Or Not To Be OCD

I have never been the organized type. I’m not a candidate for “Hoarders,” mind you, but there’s always room for improvement (just don’t go into my bathroom). I’ve gotten better over the years. Not perfect, but better. Does this mean my pantry looks like Ina Garten’s? Or my closet is neatly arranged by color? Or that my desk is spotless? Nope. Not even one of these things.

Instead I open my pantry cupboards with caution so I’m not knocked unconscious by a flood of canned goods. My closet has more non-clothing items than clothes (oh, there’s that old hoola-hoop I’ve been looking for!). And my desk…well, there’s an empty water bottle from three days ago that I could easily throw in the trash.

Organization – or the lack thereof – goes for undergraduate life as well. Again, I’ve gotten better about organizing, and this full-time semester has helped.

Let’s take a look at the weekly schedule photo I posted above. This is about as organized as I get. Quite frankly, I’m particularly proud of it. Screw the ‘A’ on my 8-page auto-ethnography essay I just got back – that pales in comparison to the joy of this hand-written schedule.

When I look at it, I smile. My five courses are listed beautifully like a treasured family recipe. Under each course are the assignments I need to work on for the week. I highlight all that is important. Most important, I adorn it with cute little stickers, a suggestion from my 7-year old to make the paper “look happy.” And it does look happy, doesn’t it??

This would not have come about 20 years ago. I had an agile mind back then. My community college assignments were categorized right in my noggin, and I never forgot a one. And I was working one or two jobs. Now I’m lucky to remember if ate breakfast or, worse, if I made it but forgot to eat it. Hey, it’s happened.

This organizational skill is nothing to brag about, really. It hasn’t seeped into my normal day-to-day life. Just today I got a notification that my child’s eye appointment is tomorrow – an appointment I made two months ago. An appointment I should have cancelled because we’ve already seen the optometrist.

I’m just happy that being an undergrad at 45 means learning more than just academic knowledge. Who knows, by this time next year I might be doing something as crazy as, I don’t know, going to bed at a reasonable hour!

Hey, one can hope.


What’s the Big Deal About Hemingway?

In my U.S. War Literature class, we have read several interesting items. First, we tackled a little bit of Walt Whitman’s Civil War poetry. Next, we admired Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches (a far cry from the sappy Little Women). Quality work from both.

Then came A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway. Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning Hemingway. Hemingway, the guy who wrote a bunch of other stuff like The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Novels I’ve known about for years but somehow managed to avoid in my 45 years rooted on this planet.

A Farewell to Arms. I didn’t like it. At all. Turn your nose up at me, it’s ok. I understand Hemingway changed the way we read. I realize he took writing and turned it on its head (100 years ago). He’s a smart guy. War veteran. Highly respected. He even has his iceberg theory, after all:

“If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.” – Hemingway

The problem with Farewell, though, is that the other 7/8ths of the iceberg is buoyed with it. It’s dense and heavy. It’s slow. Often times it’s infuriating, namely the conversations between Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Barkley; the words are like an endless stream of Cupid’s arrows.

And I feel guilty for not liking it. It’s true. And I’m rarely prone to guilt (ask my mother). And I start sentences with ‘and’ more often than I should. But Hemingway is regarded as one of The Most Important Authors in History. Who am I to judge his work? What’s worse is I’m a f***ing undergraduate. I’m hardly a literary scholar.

Thing is, I don’t pretend to be. I know what I like, what I don’t like. I also know that to be a better writer, I have to be a better reader. I didn’t hate the novel, by any means. I can distinguish good writing from bad (I like to think). But still: the hills, the mountains, the rain, the mud, dead leaves, more hills, stones, and more damned rain. Don’t worry, I get it. I understand symbolism. For me it was his approach to said symbolism.

This is what I enjoy about school, namely in my major. I’m being introduced to so much reading from authors I would never have picked up on my own. There are daunting aspects, of course: this includes having to write a negative reader response to Farewell and turn it in to a professor who adores his writing. I still got an ‘A’, but my finger quivered when I clicked “send document.”

To quote Andy from “The Devil Wears Prada” (the film, which is totally out of place in this post, but I don’t care): “I know I’m still learning about all this stuff…” Now all I need is a tongue-lashing from Meryl Streep deriding me for that comment, and I’d be all set.

Next up: Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. I’m more than halfway through and this is a novel I can chew on.