Hey all :).
Happy Labor Day! Yesterday, I was woken by my father pushing the door open and exclaiming: “I want to watch a movie.” Which necessitated, of course, going to watch Ant-Man at the swanky theatre near Costco, and then buying too many socks at Costco, and then eating at home, and agonizing over watches at Target, and working out at the YMCA, and shopping at TJ Maxx, and eating and packing and reading until rather early hours of the morning…. Long story short, I didn’t write the blog yesterday.
But I’m happy to be writing today :). For the last two weeks, I’ve been struggling with where I want to bring this blog. It’s a question I’ve been confronting to some degree since I started this personal blog, which, unlike my blog for Wellesley Admissions Office, doesn’t have a defined purpose. Is my goal to write thoughtful criticisms about situations I find around me? Is my goal to detail my weekly life in diary form? Is it to improve my writing, or to write in a professional manner? This is a convenient time to be wracking my brain about this, since I have nothing else going on in my life and thus have a lot of brain power sitting around for wracking.
I thankfully have a few other peoples’ brains who are available for wracking as well. I’ve asked my mother, my sister, my father, Karthik, and Tiffany. (Well, I whined to Tiffany earlier in the summer. This whole “what do I put into the blog” thing isn’t exactly a new fixation. Another one of my friends has remarked that it is astonishing how seriously I take it). And, to some degree, they all told me variations on the same theme, though the individual details of their answers are what make their advice “real” and applicable for me.
The conclusions were (in my interpretation, and thank you so much for taking the time to listen and explain your reasoning, all of you): be thoughtful. Be aware that your writing is available publicly and reflects on you and others. Try not to write this-is-what-I-did-this-day-and-that-day. Think about your goals in writing this blog (to reflect on events during the week, especially the good ones, and to communicate). And—this was probably my favorite, and issued across enough people in different ways that I have to abide by it—what are you doing obsessing about your audience, Monica? Write about what you want to write about. Write about what’s interesting to you.
And so, dear readers, though you have seen no evidence of the mild stress that I’ve accumulated trying to figure out what to write on this thing, we are going to go back to exactly the style you’re already familiar with, except hopefully with more thoughtfulness and more interesting events (thank you, Karthik) and less day-to-day affairs. Because though I’d love to use this blog to try to improve my writing style, or think heavy thoughts about societal inequalities, I’m just not cut out for it in certain respects: got to preserve some willpower for my quotidian working life, got to keep writing this fulfilling, and got to keep it fun :).
… That said, I think I’ll always be scrolling through other pieces of writing for stylistic perspective. I was reading the first page of the New York Times Book Review last week, and in the first paragraph there were six words I didn’t know. I was grumbling as I wandered over to the computer and started Googling them (with pronunciations, can’t forget those), and my sister Nicole looked up from the table and asked me what was up. She didn’t know the six words either (e.g. “picaresque”), and she writes stories on a consistent basis. On the one hand, yes, picaresque is an excellent word and I’m glad to have learned it. On the other, the author has high faith in my ability to read a paragraph with six unknown words, with Google open next to me by necessity, and yet resist the siren song of the Internet’s low-brow plunders.
One of my favorite short pieces of writing I’ve read recently was written under the aegis of the MIT blogs, which are pretty uniformly impressive. Michelle G. boggled my mind with how eloquently she wrote about stereotype threat (especially against females). It’s an incredibly well-researched and well-organized post, embellished with humor and figures and a masterful grasp of tone. This would be a worthy end-goal of my writing, I think: structured, journalistic writing in the intersection of science and positive action, with spades of personality. Someday, when I’m older and wiser… or, more truthfully, when I live outside my own head more. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the type of person who researches others’ opinions / studies for fun; I’ve always insulated myself from as many opinions as possible. It’s a personality thing, and why I embrace and admire people who are constantly curious about the world as much as I do. But natural tendencies hardly define a life. When someone informs me that I need to change, and that they understand it will be a lot of effort and to do it anyway, I will :).
The last piece of writing I’m going to bring up was suggested to me by Karthik, who I’ve never met before but who read all of my Wellesley + personal blog posts in a week of startling interest and/or terrific procrastination. Karthik kindly messaged me when I was asking for blog advice, and forwarded me Caroline Calloway’s blog—or more accurately, her Instagram account, where she writes wildly popular microstories about her adventures as an exchange student in Cambridge. She is the definition of an ebullient personality and writer, and she is literally telling, and is about to write a book on, the story of her life. What struck me particularly strongly about Caroline’s story, however, was the Time article written about her. The tone and message was fascinating—go look at this girl’s account of her fairytale life, and isn’t she “awestruck,” and so young. Because aren’t all of us, who are using social media this way, all so young? So naïve, and trying to figure things out, and making the same mistakes that everyone who has led the kind of privileged lives we lead made, over and over in different words and imperceptibly different ways? And isn’t everyone so kind to us, giving us support, reading our words, listening? That is the truly miraculous fact of it all, I think. That we, that I, have readers, that this is a forum we can use to figure out our thoughts and express ourselves, and that others will find something valuable enough in our ramblings to listen.
All right, readers, I’m done with talking about writing, since I did so for two whole posts and you must be tired of it :). This week has been a lot of time with family, a lot of movies, a lot of working out, and a lot of reading. Work, too—prepare yourselves for a description of the process of writing a research proposal as an undergraduate / post-undergraduate, which is amazing due to its sheer time consumption. It is as follows: one reads scientific papers for hours on end, bored out of one’s mind because it’s really hard to understand what’s happening in these papers but one must understand what’s happening before one grasps all the cool stuff. Then, around hour four, miraculous brain things happen and ideas for possible projects start appearing until one finishes up around hour seven. Rinse and repeat a few days, narrow down ideas, and eventually one will have a project proposal many, many hours / days later (I think it took about 30 hours to develop a rough outline this time, but it took a whole semester for a polished project when I was in school). Then one awaits judgment from one’s PI (Principal Investigator, the person who runs the lab) or teacher, and in the meantime one gets very excited about work next month in Cambridge :).
Happy Labor day, American readers—and thank you all, so very very much, for reading :).