Thursday, June 07, 2007

my (new) title

I felt like this new blog needed to be updated to better suit my current self. Don't get me wrong: I still feel like traveling teaches us about ourselves and that there are lots of fantastically cool ways to learn. It's just, after a few more years of school, work, loneliness, falling in love, traveling, changing, not changing, in general, after living and growing up, I've gotten to know myself a little better, and I've learned a few things.

I've learned that people are more important to me than most anything else. I don't think I did as well in school, read as many books, went to as many museums or lectures or concerts, or performed as well in my job as I could have had I not spent so much time being with people I liked and who made me feel good and valuable. I've also learned, and am no longer ashamed to admit, that I think its easier to get people to notice us and like us when we look decent-- not couture or over-done-- but I know I feel more confident and out-going when I'm not thinking about my old shirt.

Part of what makes this problem worse is that while I didn't do any of those things I mentioned as well as I might have, I didn't do them particularly poorly either. That provides very little motivation to really get cracking on my intellectual, spiritual, or career development. At some level, I'm having my cake and eating it too. And besides, most of the people I was spending my time with were much more diligent in their self-development than I and it was easy to just go along for the ride.

But when I finally let myself reflect, I still feel like I need to take a little more initiative in my growth as a human being. And when it comes to role models, I find several candidates in my favorite books. Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice. Anne, of Green Gables fame. Kitty from Anna Karenina. And Jo from Little Women.

My personal favorite is Kitty. She begins the novel as a flighty young woman, jealous and vain. Kitty gets so ill from the angst of unrequited love that she leaves the country to go to recover at a spa in Germany. There she meets a woman who is unselfish and self-sacrificing and yet so happy. Kitty tries to emulate her, but realizes she cannot maintain her friend's level of piety and service. Still, Kitty is changed for good.

It's at this point in the novel that I think Anne Shirley's comment that I've posted below my title is particularly fitting. Kitty wants to be good. She wants to be faithful. She wants to serve God and her fellow man. But she still wants to look pretty, and life's tests and trials seem to be marginally easier when we look good.

Kitty goes on to fall in love with a wonderful, hardworking man of the land. She's a doting wife and gentle mother. When her husband's brother falls ill, she immediately jumps in caring for both the dying man and her grieving husband, making everything better by the beauty and care she brings to their lives.

I guess I'm hoping my own story will have a similar ending. I probably won't ever read as many books, or have as many ideas, or know as many current events, or attend as many lectures as I could. But I hope I can make things beautiful like Kitty, and temper my pride like Elizabeth, and be full of gratitude like Anne, and make my big dreams fit my small life like Jo.


Mike Stay said...

That was beautiful and very thoughtful Heather.

D said...

I'm trying to think how one could take that subtitle literally, rather than just as something witty. Perhaps you would say that being fashionable is like mowing the lawn is for me: a way of saying, "I will subordinate my personal preference to society's preference in order to make peace with you." In other words, dressing by the same rules as a group is a way of being polite to the people in that group. What do you think? But then, it gets tricky because whatever you wear says to another group, "I do not belong to you people."
And there are many times when politeness is not good, when you need to stand up to society and say, "you are making a mistake," even though it makes your life harder to do it. (For example, the wife of the main character in The Constant Gardener by John LeCarre.)

heather said...

I agree that dressing like one group is both polite to that group and is an explicit statement that you want to be a part of THAT group and not another one. I'm aware of that when I buy clothing and use it as a tool. I bought my first pair of flared jeans so people would stop making fun of me in junior high. I wanted a suit so that I could fit in with powerful women and get jobs that I wanted. Sam and I recently bought him some new shirts for work that are just a little nicer than what is acceptable at work so he can seem professional and set himself apart as ready to move up with the managers who have to wear ties to work. And like I said, I personally feel more confident that I can make friends with anyone when I feel I'm dressed well, whether that's an employer, a girl I admire in my ward, or when I was single, a boy that I wanted to date.
That's not to say that those things are impossible to do if you aren't "fashionable" but I personally find them easier if I am.
I also agree about the need to make statements. My modesty is a statement. I also try to avoid very trendy things. I'm not going to buy something that would look silly 5 years from now; I can't afford it and I don't think it's classy. I can also see that it would be important to some people to not buy clothing that is manufactured in sweatshops (which I'm sure much of my clothing is), or to only buy second-hand clothing to avoid waste.
Finally, I DO NOT think clothes are the answer to making friends, getting jobs, or making statements, but I do think they are very useful means to an end, and are fun and make me feel pretty in the process.

lizzie said...

I don't have anything really deep to say, but I do know that it is so much easier to do good in the world when I am not concerned about myself, and the best way for me to do that is to feel good about the clothes I am wearing and to keep myself physically active. If I do those things I feel like I can be a much more productive member of society.

I am kind of surprised by the changes I have made in my dressing habits since I got married. I know Micah thinks I look great in jeans and a t-shirt, but I feel like so much more when I am with him that I want to look nicer than a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of girl.

Anonymous said...

As a result of your blog, I am adding Anna Karenina to my summer reading list. Do you have any other recommendations? I am interested in books that can easily be read poolside as well as thought-provoking material that leads to self-reflection and an Anna Jo more suited to the world's challenges... Thank you in advance! *Anna Jo*

DangAndBlast! said...

Heh - I delved way back into your archives to find this post. The reason I added you to my Google Reader (and squealed, to my husband's amusement) is that those four are my four tops as well -- in a somewhat different order, but still. I like the combination of real person and wholesome good influence in all of them, to varying degrees.