“quince (that’s a fruit)”

The world’s quite a place, really. If you think about it.

We totter about on two appendages—that are crowned with five much smaller appendages apiece—and we mutter syllables that we’ve decided to interpret in a given way, and we almost never bat an eye about how strange the whole scenario is.

What am I talking about?

I have no idea.

In an entirely different vein, it’s Saturday night, even though I just briefly thought it to be Friday, and I’m sitting at home rather than mingling with my peers at the theatre Halloween party. I was really hoping that more people might ask me today what I was going as so that I could wittily respond with some variation of, “An introvert! Because introverts don’t do parties and neither am I tonight!”

But hey, please don’t make my personality type a costume. This is serious and a key part of my identity.

(This is when I wonder if you’re going to be highly offended by my insensitivity, and I kind of hope that you’ll either laugh or roll your eyes, and I vaguely suspect that this is where some of you hit the back button on your browser and we resume our separated and opinionated lives.)

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me, between school and work and auditioning a show for community theatre and picking up a murder mystery gig, and I’m really just enjoying my evening off.

In case you were wondering, one of the many reasons that I choose not to drink alcohol is that, when I’ve had a long exhausting day of doing practically nothing and I just need to drink something out of a wine glass, I can have that third glass of cran-apple juice with no consequences other than the knowledge that I’ve consumed a bit more sugar than I probably ought to have allowed myself. Juice is my favorite.

Also, exciting news: I think I’ve finally made peace with the concept of a mouse living in my room enough that I might actually sleep in here tonight! I crashed on my housemate’s bedroom floor last night because I was having a breakdown for the second night in a row and it was just easier to avoid the meltdown. The night before that I had a meltdown during the breakdown and ended up sleeping on the couch.

All that said, I don’t know exactly what I want to say, so instead of writing something deep, thought-provoking, or absolutely hilarious, I have decided that today I’m going to share 10 Facts (that you may or may not be one of the five or so people to already know) about me.

1. I’ve had the same favorite color—purple—for my entire life, but I developed a fondness for the color orange in junior high simply because Abbie and I were sharing a room, and the color scheme couldn’t be pink (her favorite color) and purple because that combination makes her nauseous. So we settled on pink and orange and I claimed orange as my almost-favorite color.

2. I hate lady bugs. Truly. I’m also borderline terrified of them. I know the hatred of them stems from the disgust of having the chrysalises of Abbie’s escaped lady bug larvae around the rim of the dinner table, and idly messing with the edge of the table at dinner just to discover that you’d mutilated a pupa. So disgusting. The terror comes with the fact that they are a six-legged creature.

3. I’m not actually afraid of the dark, even though my nervousness about what’s in the dark can make it seem that way. Night is one of my favorite times and I wish we lived in a safe enough world that I could become nocturnal without worrying about getting attacked as I wander trance-like through the darkness.

4. I keep a spare jug of cran-apple juice on the floor of my closet. I’ve run out of juice one (or seven) too many times, and cran-apple is (as you may have gleaned from me drinking three glasses tonight) one of my lowkey addictions. Someday I’ll have a pantry full of the stuff, but until then I’m using my closet.

5. I’ve had quite a few lucid dreams (maybe 10% of my dreams?) and apparently that’s not super common? I saw some gadget on facebook the other day that’s supposed to help you have lucid dreams and I got super confused because…why? It’s not that great. It’s cool, I guess, but not spectacularly so.

6. I cannot eat tomato soup. And no, I don’t mean that I really don’t like tomato soup. I cannot keep the stuff down because it is that repulsive. Truth be told, even the smell makes me pretty queasy.

7. I don’t particularly love driving and I’m a total homebody, but I love road trips. Yeah. Try figuring out the logic behind that one.

8. I have always slept with white noise, and I find it genuinely strange that people can sleep in “silence”, partly because silence never is. Maybe out in the country where the only sounds are the wind and the ambient insects the whispers of nature are as effective as a box-fan, but it never is silent where I have lived and yet people persist on sleeping without a fan on…!

9. I have never broken any bones, but I have gotten three stitches because of a crazy accident at church. …I think I’m not going to go into details because it sounds so much more intriguing when left as a giant question mark.

10. I’m a total overachiever and I thought I could easily come up with 10 or more interesting facts and here I am completely out of facts so I’m just going to type a bit more rambling nonsense in case you’re not actually reading what I’ve written and you’re just skimming the page to see if I actually went ahead and wrote down 10 interesting facts about myself even though I haven’t really.

All that said, Microsoft Word has decided to throw ugly blue squiggle lines under a lot of my really fun adverbs, and it is making me mad. Verbs are much less interesting without adverbs, and I understand if you’re miffed about me overusing the word ‘really’, Word, but there are some great adverbs in this blog post that you need to just leave alone.

The end.

Good night.

– Melissa

P.S. The title of this article comes from the most memorable line in Reader Rabbit…Math? Maybe? I can’t remember which Reader Rabbit game it was. But I think of the line often and it seemed to suit the unsuitably disheveled nature of this post.

Okay, so maybe this is a soapbox.

It’s May. Halfway through May, actually.

By some wizardry or some something else we’re already partway through the fifth month of a twelve-month year.

Woah.

(This is where you insert a mental image of me, eyes unnaturally wide and hair sleepily disheveled, marveling about how it got to be so late into the year without my noticing it.)

The weather is being all summery here in California, and I’ve been here in California for a week and a half now, and my summer is in full swing.

No more sophomore year!

People keep asking me how college is, and I waffle between hemming and hawing my way around the question and just straight up telling them that it sucks. Usually I settle for something along the lines of, “Sophomore year is over and I never have to do that again. Hallelujah.” And then I get asked what was so hard about this year, and I don’t really know.

How do you explain that you just felt like crap for the majority of a semester no matter how brightly the sun shone some days and that you really weren’t entirely sure that you’d make it to May without dropping out and that you still pretty much feel like you’re going through the motions of going to college because it’s what you expect of yourself and what everybody else expects of you and you have no idea what you’d be doing if you weren’t in school? So I kinda shrug my shoulders and say, “I dunno exactly. It was just really, really hard. And I’m really glad it’s over.”

Nobody’s satisfied with that answer. Least of all me. But I go with it because church people actually don’t usually care about your deepest thoughts. We ask, “How are you?!” as we walk in opposite directions down the sidewalk.

I freaking hate that custom: ‘How are you?’ as synonymous with ‘Hello! Nice to see you!’ Because the response is either the general (and often dishonest [and also totally grammatically incorrect]) ‘I’m good. You?’ or it’s being obnoxiously honest and making someone uncomfortable by giving them an ‘I’m kind of struggling right now’ when all they expected was for you to mindlessly acknowledge their greeting and keep walking.

I know, part of this indignation is my really straightforward personality talking. Because if it were up to me, we’d strip all the pointless small talk away and only talk to each other when we needed to accomplish something or wanted to discuss the really relevant stuff that fills our headspace and is key to who we are.

But at the same time, why do we say this one thing when we actually mean something entirely different? Language is fluid; why has it moved to perpetrate a sham in our everyday speech?

Even on the days when I’m doing fine, I hate answering people’s greetings of ‘How are you?’ Whenever possible to politely do so, I will just smile in a friendly sort of way and keep walking (because that’s what the other person’s doing) and maybe that’s kind of rude, but…I dunno. I feel worse about it when I’m distracted and I unintentionally buy into that, “Great; you?” nonsense.

I’m sure that the classy response is to respond to this not-actual-question with a friendly, ‘Hi! Good to see you!’ or something like it. (But when am I classy?)

How are you today? Like, actually? Where’s your heart along the scale of Great to Breaking?

What if we made sure that ‘How are you?’ communicated something closer to ‘I see you—not just for your face, but for your humanity’?

I’ve stayed home for the last two days, trying to recover from a pretty decent-sized case of social exhaustion. Because small talk is hard and social cues are hard and being me sometimes feels like it needs extensive surgeries to be acceptable. I still don’t know that I’m ready to face the big, big world beyond my front door.

But social exhaustion is not all that there is to this sentiment.

This is a big deal because this is how we lie to each other and this is how the church makes the world think we think we’re perfect while they watch our lives come down in shambles around our ears.

I don’t know. I’m not an activist. I don’t jump in to get my hands dirty to get things done. I talk about change and then curl up in my room and think about it until the idea has died and nothing has come of it. At most I start a personal crusade and then occasionally get on a soapbox about what I think—AKA this blog post.

I don’t pretend that this little blog will take the world by storm. But I do know that if the few of us here would be conscious of meaning it when we said ‘How are you?’ that maybe we could make a difference in the lives of the few people around us.

And that should be our goal, right? To be as positive an influence on our tiny slice of the world as possible.

It’s my goal.

Or, at least, it’s the goal I pull myself back to when my heart quails at the impossibility of changing all the things I see wrong in the world at large.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find some food. Because if you were to ask me, right now, how I am, the answer would be that I am ravenous. And that would be an exaggeration, but that’s okay.

Love y’all!

– Melissa
If We’re Honest by Francesca Battistelli

Joy to the World

It’s been a good week, and as of yesterday I can officially say that I have made it through a semester of classes—I still have finals to take next week, but that’s not really the same as classes, so I’m calling this a victory regardless of what anyone else has to say on the matter. So there.

The weather this week has been lovely, mainly classes have been lovely—except for Tuesday when I ended up voluntarily singing out of the blue in Bible class to help out a professor who’d forgotten the words to the song he was halfway through singing to illustrate a point, and also got pulled to the front of the class in Speech so that the professor could give a blow-by-blow of my somewhat embarrassingly-high A to the class—and I haven’t hated people all that much.

Highlight of the week (maybe of the entire semester) was definitely reading the cast list posted yesterday to find out that I had been cast in my first college performance!

Adding even more substance to the joy this knowledge brings is the background of longing for the stage that I’ve experienced ever since my last not-directed-by-me-or-performed-in-our-itty-bitty-drama-club performance all the way back in April of my Sophomore year. Two and a half years is a really long time for a dramatist like myself to go without blinking into spotlights.

Of course, being cast in a show has brought with it the typical two-sided extreme of emotion that basically anything elicits from me: I am so overjoyed that I can hardly function and at the same time I feel so inadequate and insufficient that I just want to crawl under something and cry.

How is it possible to have a superiority complex and an inferiority complex at the same time?!

I dunno. It probably has to do with the fact that God knows that I am so prone to trying things on my own and that it takes crazy contradictions like these to get me to retrain my eyes on the only constant my life has ever known: the astounding love of my Creator.

But, yeah. The last couple of days have been emotionally turbulent.

Another highlight (not quite as high, but still great) was getting to see HSU Opera’s performance of ‘The Magic Flute—Abridged’. The performance was fabulous.

Let me be the first to say that I don’t know that I could typically sit through an opera. However, this one was (as I said) abridged, plus it was in English and was on a level that kids could understand—meaning that we uncultured people could understand it too. The costumes were bright and fun, the singing was great and not overmuch, and the whole thing lasted only forty-five minutes.

Yay, HSU opera!

After the performance there was still a set to strike (even though this show wasn’t the theatre department’s) and out of the goodness of my heart—and the sheer boredness of nothing else to do—I stuck around to help the shop workers with the strike. It only took us less than three hours, and it was honestly perfect.

‘Why perfect,’ you ask?

‘Don’t you have a blister on your finger from this ‘perfect’ strike,’ you skeptically wonder?

It was perfect because not-so-shy but very-introverted-and-almost-antisocial Melissa only had six other people to deal with, and one of them she already knew quite well and a second she’d worked with before. I can handle small groups, and it was great to get to immerse myself in a group of theatre peeps without feeling like I was drowning.

Tonight I get to go to a theatre party.

I am not nearly as excited.

Because there will be a lot of people in a small space.

Yay people.

Life could be so much worse, though. I’ve had an entire semester to have all (or at least a good number) of my insecurities pointed out to me, and I’m rather inclined to believe that I’ll be ready next semester to start vanquishing my foes. (The ones that are fears, that is. I’ll be very careful to avoid attempting the vanquishment of any humans I am inclined to consider foes. I do, you see, have some sort of self-control.)

All that to say, I’ll be acting, I’m excited, God is good, and it’s easy to remember all the reasons to be joyful.

Oh, so one last aside that made me smile, Sierra smile, and definitely amused some random gentleman yesterday. The two of us (Sierra and I) had to make a run to Walmart to pick up food for the party tonight, and as we were walking up to the store, I started singing. If you know me, you know how this goes: I take a common song and switch out the words until I’m singing stare-worthy nonsense completely seriously at the top of my lungs.

Last night I happened to pick up the The Band Perry line ‘If I die young, bury me in satin…’ (I don’t know what song this is from; I only know the chorus, and even that is iffy.) But I switched ‘satin’ to ‘cotton’ and went on to describe (in song) why this was a necessary choice. Sierra rolled her eyes as she has learned to do, but the man we were walking past cracked up laughing.

Maybe I’m not famous (yet) and maybe I do sometimes feel like my voice has an extremely limited impact. But I got the accidental opportunity to bring a smile to someone else—how cool is that!?

I guess my point is two-fold:

  1. It is probably a very bad idea for Sierra and I to be allowed to hang out together, because nonsense happens quite a lot and I sometimes fear for the safety of the world.
  2. Don’t be afraid to be yourself—however weird that might look. Someone might need to hear you singing about cotton or watch you waddle like a penguin down the sidewalk. You do you (to the extent that it glorifies your creator).

That’s really all I’ve got for you today. But in the words of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber: “Remember, God made you special, and He loves you very much. Goodbye!”

– Melissa
(If you need music to dance to, check this out!)

Participant or Prisoner?

Theater is eating my life.

I don’t mind though. Not really.

I mean, that’s why I’m here at HSU: because when I came to visit in February I fell in love with their theater. The building. I fell in love with a building.

And yeah, the scholarships the school offered me were good, and the small town atmosphere was what I was looking for, and the campus was the right size, and family is near, and Texas is a good place to be. But really, I’m here at HSU because GCU didn’t show me the inside of their theater and so my experience there was missing its heart.

Call me crazy. One day I’m going to be that crazy hobo living in an abandoned theater and you can call me even crazier. I don’t care. I won’t care. I am crazy.

But anyway, back to that whole consumption of my existence bit that I started off with.

Every night of last week was dedicated to either rehearsals or performances. I love that concept. Sitting on a dark stage for 2+ hours a night gets a bit dull though.

Plus it’s freezing cold. (I should be losing weight based on how much time I spend shivering. Sadly, though, that’s not happening. I hate exercise…)

But, hey, I sleep, I manage to get homework done, and I’m where I want to be. And I’m finally getting to know theater people! I know that I’ve had this opportunity since day 1 of classes, but being in the green room by necessity is so much more manageable for me socially than it is to just randomly show up amongst people I don’t know and be like, ‘Hey!’ (I’m still semi-convinced that I’m way too introverted to be a theater major.)

On Friday night a little kid in the audience exclaimed ‘Blech!’ in the middle of our performance when Hermia and Lysander kissed. It was adorable.

That’s another amazing thing about theater: the audience. Even though I can’t see anything from my lonely perch backstage, I can hear the people out in the house responding to what’s going on. They laugh and applaud and sometimes they get totally quiet because even a comedy has its tense moments that need pondering.

I recently saw this quote:

“Not everyone is going to like what you do or what you have to offer; however, if you can’t see yourself doing anything else, and you have the drive and ambition, get the training and go for it.” – Kristin Chenoweth

I think that’s me with theater. And I think I come under that first everyone.

I know I’ll keep second guessing myself, there’s no doubt about that. But the theater is where I feel alive and the stage is where I feel myself.

So I’ll keep on muddling through classes and auditions and late night rehearsals.

And I’ll bring gloves to the next show so that I don’t get frostbite.

Under-dressed and Overwhelmed

Today’s just been one of those days.

You know what I’m talking about: an awake at midnight, can’t crawl out of bed, things go wrong and the rights can’t overwhelm the wrongs and you’re just tired all day long. But you know what? God’s present on ‘those days’ too.

Like any good disaster, mine precipitated last night when I looked at my schedule to realize that the geology test I though was on Thursday was, in fact today. So time that would have been dedicated to one project had to get siphoned to studying for a major exam. Then I got to move on to the project I’d budgeted time for (two hours later, of course) and found that it wasn’t going to be as simple as I’d hoped. Of course. So finally I threw my hands in the air and—knot of dread still securely tied in my stomach—fell into bed. (I really need to get to the point of realizing that sleep isn’t the monster I sometimes think that it is.)

So that’s the backstory.

This morning I woke up on time, did all the things I needed to get done in order to go out in public without humiliating myself (I even had the common sense to devise the strategy of wearing a short dress in order to keep myself alert and awake), and muttered under my breath about the fact that this would have to be the day that the Irish hymn writers, Keith and Kristyn Getty, were talking in chapel because I obviously would not be going for any other reason because it’s too early and who needs chapel credits and…yeah. You name it, I was disgruntled about it.

But chapel really was good, and the music was nice, and I made it out in plenty of time to leisurely walk to geology. Where I took that darn exam. And did fine on it. (I think. There’s always the chance that my brain interpreted words wrong and I tried to write an essay on the scantron, but I’m pretty sure that I kept my wits about me and pulled off an A. Time will tell.) Because it was a test day, an hour and twenty minute class period was shortened to twenty minutes. Celebration point, yeah?!

Yeah.

So the unfinished assignments of last night were looming over my head and so, like any good college student, I came back to my room and fell asleep until lunch. I put off going to lunch until almost the possible minute…only to get to the caf and realize my student ID was in my room (from after the gosh-awful fumble of trying to get into my room after geology…). Dash across campus times two and I found out that they were having a fiesta for lunch…meaning no pizza…meaning that eating took twice as long…meaning that I was about 45 seconds late to a class that sounds like it started about 120 seconds early. Not this girl’s favorite way to do anything.

That class was fine, and so was the next one—except that some people need to respect the teacher and just learn how to shut their mouths. And I basically found out that all but one of my ‘sources’ for my outline (due on Thursday) are worthless and that maybe my topic isn’t so applicable to everyone but I don’t care because it’s too late to entirely start over and I know from experience that it’s all about how you pitch things. (Have you ever heard how I got six little children to help me shovel mud out of my horse’s pen on Thanksgiving? I tell you, you’ve just gotta know how to sell it.)

More stress.

Break and dinner were tolerable. (Though I have no idea what I ate…oh, yeah, a cheeseburger and cold French fries. So healthy.) I mean, I was stressed out of my mind and ready to burst into tears at the slightest provocation (so thankful for friends who love me when I’m messy), but I survived without incident and remembered my ID card when necessary.

And then came the bane of my existence: my 5:30-7pm fitness class. Scheduling that class is probably the worst decision I’ve made in my entire life (besides that one time where I dropped the Christmas tree box on Abbie not knowing whether or not she’d die and that one time where I threw the cat in the pool and somehow thought I wouldn’t get into trouble for it). By the end of the day, I’m drained emotionally and physically. And I hate fitness anyway. This is the formula for absolute grotesqueness. Plus I had to change out of my super cute dress into sports shorts and a t-shirt—not awful but not darling.

Guess what?

I survived fitness class. And had just enough time to dash over to the Getty concert in the auditorium.

People from all over town (maybe even out of town; I don’t know) came to see the Gettys. In fact, the older couple in front of me kept me smiling the entire time by holding hands almost constantly. But the thing was, they all had dressed up for the event, whereas I had dressed down for class.

I like to dress up.

I really like to dress up any time I attend anything in a theater.

And, even if no one else noticed, I felt totally out of place tonight.

Yet…it was a corporate worship service of sorts. I don’t have to fit in. Because we are the church. The vibrant, diverse body of Christ. In all our brokenness from all our walks of life. Which is crazy beautiful. And has nothing to do with whether I was in heels or in sneakers.

I can’t say that I was able to relax entirely. Not the whole time. But I was able to worship my Creator with words both familiar and new. And a couple of times I even forgot that I was underdressed and surrounded by people I’ve never met. And even though I only made it through half of the concert before I escaped to come back to my room to work on the troublesome homework I’m still behind on, it was a wonderful close to my day in the world.

I get so caught up in appearances. In plans. In wanting everything to be perfect.

And when I’m caught up in those things, I forget the things that really matter:

I am loved, I am redeemed, and I have purpose outside of surviving.

Tomorrow is going to be another battle against anxiety and too-high expectations. But tomorrow is also a new day, a new chance to define my focus and my priorities.

For now, though, I have an outline to prepare. And two exams to study for. And sleep to fit in there somewhere.

Goodnight, dear world. Be brave. Stay focused. And ever be distinctly you.

– Melissa
By Faith by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Having Very Little To Do With Mice

Sometimes I feel like being distinctly myself comes with a price tag of also being distinctly misunderstood.

Confused? (Me too.) Let me expound. See, it’s the first week of my freshman year of college. And I’ve been homeschooled all my life—well, except for that one semester in seventh grade, but that’s a totally different story and didn’t do much to prepare me for this crazy rush of 400 freshmen scurrying about on campus. In addition, I’ve never been quite sure how much of me is actually introverted, because it seems to vary greatly depending on the situation and the day and which direction the ladybug that lives in Normandy is crawling, (I hope there are ladybugs in Normandy…because if not, then that illustration was even more pointless than it, in fact, is) and this week I am very very introverted.

Not to mention that I am my own harshest critic. Which has nothing to do with what I’m trying to communicate, but I’m sleep deprived and emotional and DON’T JUDGE ME!

Throughout the past days of Freshman Orientation (here at HSU they call it “Stampede Week”) I have made myself be involved. I have attended every one of the events, no matter how overwhelming, and have had (I think…I mean, at least as far as I’m aware of…) a good attitude and talked with people even when I wished that they’d get turned into a mouse and get carried away by an owl just so that I could be left alone. Okay, so maybe I haven’t wished that, but I really like the idea now. I need a mousenator. Pronto.

bird carrying prey

Oh. Yeah. Topic. Right. So I’ve been involved. And it has been super rough on me emotionally. (Ask my best friend who’s gotten all my ‘SAVE ME FROM THIS CHAOS!’ texts.) And because of that, and sleep deprivation and homesickness, I am so exhausted tonight that I can’t even begin to cope. And so, partly in preparation for knowing that I must expend effort to get myself to a church tomorrow morning, I made the decision today to skip tonight’s activity. It’s off campus and I have no idea how late it will go, and there are going to be tons and tons of introvert-poison people that I don’t know. And I’m totally within my rights to not go. (I do actually have confidence in this. I’m not just trying to convince myself. Believe me or no.)

However… As soon as I told my upperclassman “wrangler”, she started pressuring me to go. I’m not criticizing her really; I get that HSU’s goal is to get us first-years involved in campus life. She was doing her job with my best interests at heart. Yet still, her words were my breaking point. Because it’s so hard to be somewhere foreign, somewhere not necessarily “safe”, and feel misunderstood. (Am I right, fellow introverts?) This time now—in the dark in my room in the silence—this is recharge. Over the past years I’ve read the articles, seen the cartoons, thought I understood what it meant to be an introvert in the world. But I think college is gonna totally redefine that ‘understanding.’ And hopefully I’ll get the privilege of redefining the way some other people view introverts too.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the night. G’day, y’all.

– Melissa
Isaiah 12:2