My First Year of Teaching

I’ll probably have a lot to say about this year. Like, a whole lot, but this was on my mind tonight, 10 school days before summer:

At the beginning of the year, I would have said my favorite part of teaching was talking stories. All day long, reading and rereading and dissecting and gushing and arguing and editing and writing and recommending and comparing and living in fairytale land. Dreams do come true!

I still love that part, but it’s not my favorite part.

My favorite part is watching a kid who usually answers with “I don’t give a dump” say that the Lord of the Flies is a book about everyone wanting to be a leader no matter who they hurt. My favorite part is begging a kid to stay in school with tears in my eyes and finding them in his too. My favorite part is googling some inappropriate name and laughing because I couldn’t figure out “dixon cider” on my own. My favorite part is the girl who tells me she’s got a learning disorder and never liked English class until now. My favorite part is the quiet boy who can barely ask me a question write the most in-depth analysis of Jay Gatsby you’ve ever read. My favorite part is hearing “yes, ma’am” or better “yes, Mom” to a request. It’s seeing the F to C+. It’s hearing the speech. It’s her dissenting voice in front of her friends. It’s the unabashed British accent when he’s reading Shakespeare.

My favorite part is when I’ve done my job and a student is no longer a too-cool, confused, angry, hurt, apathetic teenager; my favorite part is when for a brief flash they become who they always were supposed to be—silly and smart and loving and brave and vulnerable and oh so very kind. My favorite part is not the books. It’s the kids.

It took me a whole year to figure that one out.

An accurate depiction of first-year teaching, thank you.

Day Five: Are We Dead Yet?

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TUBE: Gloucester Road to Embankment. Embankment to Waterloo.
TRAIN: Waterloo to Alton.
TAXI: Alton to Chawton. Chawton to Alton.
TRAIN: Alton to Ashford. Ashford to Guildford. Guildford to Gomshall.
TAXI: … nonexistent at Gomshall.
TRAIN: Gomshall to Guildford. Guildford to Waterloo.
UBER: Waterloo to the hotel, as fast as you can, please.

 

A conversation with Rhett upon our return to the USA:

Rhett: So, you went to Jane Austen’s House Museum?
Me: Yes.
Rhett: That was fun?
Me: Yes!
Rhett: You saw a dead lady’s house–a dead lady who probably didn’t have a happy life and it was just the house and that was what you went to see?
Me: Yes! It was a blast, okay? We practiced calligraphy! And made lavender bags! And we SAW HER WRITING DESK!!
(Rhett dies of laughter because he is heartless and doesn’t get it, but you do, right?)

Pub, Alton. Let me say something about the pub across the street from Jane Austen’s House Museum. The place knows what’s up.

We didn’t go to the Jane Austen themed tea room across the road. I read poor reviews online, and besides its name (Cassandra’s Cup), it didn’t really sound like anything was very Jane Austen-y. I don’t need a Darcy impersonator (or do I?), but if you’re going to have a Jane Austen themed tea room, the least you can do is make a bit of an effort, right? Emma’s match of scone and clotted cream. Fanny Price’s spooky tea (weak tasting). Something.

So, we went to the pub instead AND IT WAS AMAZING. Imagine a super old, classic English pub. Got it? Now fill it with female patrons over 50. Add the soundtrack to every Nancy Meyers movie ever, and you have yourself the best pub outside of London.

I guess I should say take this moment to point out that our waiter was almost cute and somewhere in his twenties. (Looking back, I bet he got amazing tips.) It’s important to note that I am not good at talking to people I find mildly attractive. (Exhibit A.) This is exacerbated by the fact that we are across the street from Jane Austen because honestly, was there ever a more perfect meet-cute moment?

Mom: What’s your soup of the day?
Almost-Cute Waiter: It’s roast vegetable.
Mom: What?
I have to take charge. He has to see that I’ll hear him even when my mom doesn’t.
Me: Root vegetable, Mom. He said root.
Waiter: No, roast. I said roast vegetable.
Me: Oh.

Mom and I break into giggles because it’s how we cope when one of us is an idiot. The waiter sort of slinks away, and magically another waiter has been assigned to us for the rest of the meal. I start feeling bad because obviously this dude thought we were super rude and we hurt his feelings. He’s probably trying not to cry. Look at him. He has to bite his lip when he pours the beer–he’s that overcome.

I start thinking about how this boy is probably super embarrassed because the girl he’s falling in love with made fun of him with her mother. The poor kid. I knew I had to do something. Anything!

Me: Hi, there. It’s me.
The one who you can’t stop thinking about.
Me: My mom and I were hoping you could call us a cab to get to the train station.
Waiter: Sure.
Gosh. Worse than I thought. He’s so… broken.
Me: Look, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry.
Cute. He’s pretending not to know what I mean. Bless him and his almost-cute face.
Me: For the whole root/roast thing. I’m so sorry.
Waiter: Oh, well. Roast vegetables are roasted like you’d roast meat.

He pantomimes putting a roast in the oven, and my heart. just. drops.

Not only is the almost-cute boy (who should be lucky I ever LOOKED his way) not hurt by the roast/root saga, but he thinks I’m the kind of dumb person who doesn’t know what a roast vegetable is. That’s, like, beyond Lloyd Christmas dumb. Suddenly, I want to die.

Me: Right. I just couldn’t hear you correctly. I’m sorry. It’s my ears and I’m not used to your accent.
Waiter: Okay?
Come on. At least look like this breakup is hard on you too!
Me: We’ll just, uh, wait for the cab outside.

Mom and I finally get back on the train and go to Gomshall for the sole purpose of heading to nearby Shere to see the town where The Holiday was filmed. (I’m not proud.) We expected to take an Uber to Shere. We got off at Gomshall in the fading afternoon light and… uh, where are we?

In the middle of nowhere is where.

Exactly one other person gets off at Gomshall, a station without a conductor or a real station at all. It’s more like a block of concrete next to the train tracks. The other person is a red-haired teenager who must be laughing his rear off when these two American women frown and say, “I don’t see any Ubers nearby.”

I call the advertised cab company. “We can have someone there in about an hour and a half. Maybe two.” Click.

Me: Well, hey. Shere’s only a mile and a half. I bet we can walk it. Right, Mom? Mom?

We walk into the bustling downtown of Gomshall (two pubs), and I decide that we will not be walking to Shere. Light is fading. We don’t know exactly where we’re going. Oh, and the train back to the train back to our hotel only leaves once per hour. So, we do what we do best and eat.

Then, it’s time to walk back up the hill to the train station, and here’s where our overactive brains take a detour. Mom is worried about it being dark at the station, which makes me worried about it being dark at the train station. We try to time it so we won’t be staying at the creepy, almost abandoned train station in the middle of the woods for very long.

I get so scared of getting mugged that I steal a fork from the restaurant in case I need a weapon. (Current Hilary to past Hilary: Um, really? And also, why not a knife?)

When Mom and I make it to the train station without dying (by some miracle) there are two adult men waiting for the train. Were those our soon-to-be rapists? We were convinced they were. Mom takes short breaths. I grip the fork in my pocket and my eyes dart to follow their movements. If they want to charge, they’ll have to charge me head-on. And then,

the train arrives and we get on and they get on and we have zero problems whatsoever our entire way home.

DAY FOUR: Notting Hill, Paddington, & Kensington

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17,000 steps. (I almost killed my own mother.)

We took a morning stroll through a rainy Notting Hill. I was only a little sad to miss Hugh Grant, but comforted myself by singing that Bee Gee’s song that plays during his sad-man montage:

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We bought Mom a hat. It’s adorable.

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Breakfast: We stopped at a quaint bakery, Gail’s. We found out later that Gail’s is a chain, but it was soooo delicious, I didn’t care. I’m convinced the scrambled eggs were made by someone who really loves what they do. Mom had delicious porridge. We also had a hot cross bun, which was the first time I can really remember having an actual hot cross bun. I loved it so much that I made them for Easter from a recipe Gail’s published here.

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Paddington Station just because.

My parents love Paddington Bear, and that inexplicable love has rubbed off on me. (Okay, embarrassing aside: I thought of Paddington as the British Pooh Bear for quite a while before realizing that Pooh is also British.)

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Victoria and Albert Museum. I love Victoria and Albert. I think it’s one of the most beautiful love stories. He gave up so much for her! She mourned his death for forty years! They had a million children!

That’s why it was a surprise when we finally got to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and instead of seeing Victoria’s gowns and Albert’s love letters, I saw signs for “Art Deco” and “Asian Fashion.”

Me: This is probably the stupidest question in the world.

Museum Curator: You’d be surprised.

Me: Is there a section of the museum on the actual Victoria and Albert? Because that’s kind of what I’m erm well here for.

MC: There are a few things on Floor Five.

Me: Well, that’s a relief.

Twenty minutes later…

Me: Mom, I made us walk here for a bust of Albert (that was rejected by Victoria) and a five-minute montage of Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

We walked from there to Kensington Palace. We got a little turned around in the gardens, but eventually made it there. It’s hard not to be just as enamored by the wildlife as the palace, honestly. There were so many swans.

From there, we were hangry, so we made our way to Goat’s Tavern.

We walked home, tired and full and tired.

 

Day Three: Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath

“Please be back on the coach at the time requested. We will leave you if you’re not back on time. Be here on time.”

Okay, Norma. We get it.

“And no hot foods. Cold food only.”

What? Norma, you’re out of your mind.

Norma was our tour guide. I’m fascinated by the idea of being a tour guide. It’s a very unusual kind of life. The people you work with are constantly new. You have to be nice to them even when they’re idiots. You go to the same sights weekly (daily?). And you perform the same jokes on people over and over and over. Maybe this isn’t unusual. Is this kind of every job? Are we all Norma?

Windsor Castle.

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St. George’s Chapel. Do we walk on the graves or…? Okay, people are walking on the graves, so I think it’s okay. Oh, gosh. I just stepped that one. I don’t feel good about it. I’m sorry, sir–er, Your Majesty.

I’m over the walking thing and would now like to be buried in St. George’s Chapel, preferably next to George VI (who I can’t get to not look like Colin Firth in my head).

I could’ve spent all day in St. George’s, but Norma had us on a tight schedule. We wanted to see the State Apartments, so I was forced to mow down school children on a field trip to rush through Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House to get to the coach on time. I wish I were kidding. I didn’t knock kids over, but I did knock them out of the way.  I didn’t see a problem with this until now and all I can think about are their cute school uniforms and gleeful accents and I’m the worst.

The State Apartments were cool, I think. Norma really put the fear of God in us, I guess. We BOOKED it. I call it the Chandelier Run. Come back next year for our Painted Ceilings 5K.

Stonehenge.

Oh, this is so cool and strange and in the middle of nowhere. I think the best picture is from the other side, don’t you? It really smells here. Very farm-y. What was that? Did you feel that? Norma talked about “vibes,” but I swear I just felt something. Oh, that’s wind. Oh, wow. That’s really windy. It hurts my face. Is that sleet? Oh, gosh. It is. It hurts. It hurts everywhere!

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Okay, one thing I found really interesting about Stonehenge is that there are mounds for miles around the rocks that are burial grounds of prehistoric people. In Indiana, we have Native American burial mounds. Not kidding. I find this fascinating and strange. People are people no matter where they are, you know?

Bath.

 

After the speed-walking disaster at Windsor, Mom and I flew through the museum portion of the Roman Baths to get to the actual bath (which is at the end of the tour btw). It’s neat. I’m sorry that I don’t have more to say about it. To be honest, I felt I was looking at a giant green pool straight out of National Lampoon’s Vacation. On the upside, I’m apparently cured of all ailments after tasting the purified version of the magical healing spring water. Still waiting on my bacne to get that message.

So, we saw the big pool. Woo. Our clothes were soaked from the sleet/rain at Stonehenge and Norma wasn’t allowing us hot foods/drinks. It’s no surprise that we felt we needed a beer.

The Ale House was a gem of a find. It was the kind of place I imagined getting lost in on a UK vacation–an old pub full of regulars with approximately four tables. Mom and I got our beers and made friends with the man next to us. He was waiting for his daughter to come back from class. We laughed with him and had a really good time, and when he left, Mom said, “Do you think he really has a daughter?” And I said, “I thought the same thing.”

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Me [while buying pork rinds]: I feel bad buying these after seeing all of those piggies on the way here.

Bartender: Oh, don’t worry. It’s just their skin deep fried!

I’m sorry, Norma, but in order to appear complicit with your crazy rule about hot food, I did, as you suspected, lie to you. The bag was full of hot food, not a souvenir. It smelled like shepherd’s pie because it was shepherd’s pie. I’m sorry, but in our defense, Mom made us wait until we were back in our hotel to actually eat it. I think I know what you’d say: The only thing better than hot food is cold food!

Day Two in London

DAY TWO, or breakfast breakfast breakfast.

I love breakfast, and it seems that London–in its heart–really gets that (and really gets me).

Breakfast at the Raison D’etre.

“What can I get for you, sweetie?” Sweetie? Me? This guy’s ridiculous.

“For you, sweetheart.” Thank you, darling.

He calls Mom Cleopatra. Am I in love with him? It’s hard to say. We have at least a decade between us, but what’s a decade when he can make hot chocolate like this:

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“The Very Naughty,” indeed.

Things are all very French and sophisticated until my eggs fall on the floor. I cover them with my shoe before the waiter can see. Good thinking, Hil.

Double-decker bus. Mom and I are on the top level even though it’s freezing and raining. “I’ll mark down the places we want to go back to.” “Great idea.” “Do you have a pen?” No, do you?” “No…”

Thames River boat ride surrounded by a school group of French children. It turns out teens are teens are teens, no matter where they come from.

Tower of London. Okay, but really, can someone explain Henry VIII’s armor to me? CHILDREN SEE THIS.

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Speaking of crown jewels. Hello!

(Also, photo cred here because I was waaaaay to embarrassed to take a photo of that.)

I didn’t realize I was on this trip to see diamonds, but yeah, it was the actual crown jewels that showed me I’m only in it for the stones. This is sounding very weird if you think I’m still talking about the armor. Get your head out of the Tudors’ gutter! I’m talking about the diamond rings and the sceptres and Queen Victoria’s little crown (that I think I really could wear every day).

They don’t allow you to take pictures of the Crown Jewels; it’s kind of nice to be told no photos or phones. I liked not having to worry about getting the perfect photo.

Dinner/lunch: fish and chips. Feeling right British, we are, we are.

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Buckingham Palace coming in hot with breathtaking light. I’m not sure the house is much to look at without it. (Sarcasm.)

Day One in London

For Spring break, my mom and I went to the UK for eleven days. This is our story. Dun Dun.

DAY ONE.

The tickets were on sale. Cheap, they were. The kind of cheap that allowed me, a true cheap skate (who is not above walking the Costco samples for lunch), to buy them instantly. The only catch? The flight to London flew out of Chicago. Chicago is three hours away. Four and a half by train.

I always say that a breezy, five-hour train ride is the proper way to begin any international vacation. If you’re leaving before dawn and the train station smells like liquor and weed? Well, that’s even better.

We really did things right.

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My mom and I went on the trip together. We were so excited. Sitting in the Amtrak station going over the week’s schedule, we felt like no one alive had ever done something so cool, so… unique. Then we said hi to the people next to us, an aunt (around the same age as Mom) and a niece (around the same age as I am).

Okay, so there were other female duos out there. That’s great! Room for everybody! Oh, you’re going to London too? That’s good. Good for you. Good for us, right? You’re going to Stonehenge? Well, everyone goes to Stonehenge, right? Right? Suddenly, Mom and I realized we were like Lorelei Gilmore hiking the PCT à la Cheryl Strayed. We also realized it didn’t matter one bit.

We were so keyed up for the trip, we thought we’d go from Union Station to O’Hare via the L. Six bags + four hands + public transit = NO PROBLEM. We made it, but some of our knee skin didn’t.

Food from Indianapolis to London: two (three?) Pop-Tarts, Cliff Bar, one cheese/nut pack, Auntie Annie’s cinnamon pretzel, two airplane meals, so much coffee, another couple of Pop-Tarts in there somewhere.

In London, we arrived at this very strange hotel, the Avni Kensington, that would become our home. Not exactly a home in the sense of welcome place, but more like a home is a person—that person being the great aunt you know you’re supposed to like, but you kind of hope you never have to smell again.

We couldn’t check in since it was six in the morning, so we got ourselves on the Underground and went to Westminster bridge and walked around for a bit. It turns out, not much is open at six in the morning. We found a breakfast spot that as far as we could tell was run by exactly one person.

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Purchases so far: Breakfast. Touristy London sweatshirt (because I thought it was a good idea to not wear my coat?).

Double-decker bus. Brief fight with the ticket man over printing our tickets. Mom’s phone died, and I only had the confirmation number. I was explaining this to the man, and he walked away from me. Walked away! You don’t know how almost mean we can look like we’re getting until you’re super rude to our faces, sir. It’s the kind of half-committed, near-death stare that makes people rethink their decisions, okay?

London Eye. Waiting in line for hours means getting to watch two nine-year-olds touch (feel up?) and almost knock over a wax figure of Angelina Jolie. It’s only a week later that I question why a wax figure of Angelina Jolie was at the London Eye at all.

The view is gorgeous, even in a little rain.

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“Is it fatigue?” you wonder. Or are you really the kind of person who gives a stink eye to the little boy hogging the computer that tells you about the buildings? What does this say about you?

Every wild trip starts out with a 6pm bedtime.

Send in the Publishing Kit

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I am enough.

A few weeks ago, I totally thought I believed this about myself. I mean, hello, I’ll make a fart joke in some pretty inappropriate places. (Years ago at a funeral, guys. SORRY NOT ANYTHING BUT SORRY.) That kind of thing takes confidence.

But, I realized something the other day; when it comes to writing, I’m still petrified.

Something you need to know before we go back in time: My parents give cool gifts. They’re usually things that I’ve never thought to ask for, but they’re always a reflection on how much they know me. It’s all very Leslie Knope.

When I was ten or eleven, the amazing gift was a publishing kit.

I was supposed to write a story on this special paper, send it off to the company, and wait for it to come back as a book, with binding and everything. Totally awesome gift, right?

I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. At the time, I was living off the writing-glory fumes of a picture book, “Man in the Clouds,” that I had written at age seven. This felt like my chance to make a comeback.

I was so excited about it. I wrote fifteenish story options to consider for “publication.”

But… I never sent in that kit.

I felt like none of the stories were “good enough.” I felt like they were all unworthy, and I didn’t want to waste my super-cool gift on a story that wasn’t good enough.

And fifteen years later, it’s still unused.

How freaking sad is that? Sad enough that I might be crying a little bit right now.

I’m crying because here’s what I want to say to that kid: Little girl, you’re being dumb. How could you think that they’re not good enough?  I get that they might be Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter FanFiction (after all, Orlando Bloom’s portrayal of Legolas was the love of your life), but just go for it. Your dreams are good enough. You’re good enough.

This reminds me of My Mad Fat Diary. Have you seen My Mad Fat Diary? If not, put it at the top of the never-ending list of things to watch. At the end of season two, there’s this scene where Rae realizes that she would never say all the crap she says to herself now to a version of herself ten years ago. It’s profound and emotional and holy cow does it resonate. How I talk to the ten-year-old writing fanfic? That should be how I talk to myself now, right? So, why don’t I?

I found the publishing kit a couple of months ago, while cleaning. It was under my bed with other things I never use like old cello music. #humblebrag  And when I saw it, I thought, “Thank goodness I don’t do that anymore. Thank goodness I believe in myself now.”

But then, I realized that I’ve been leaving publishing kits unfinished my entire life. I’ve been saying things like “it’s not quite good enough,” “it’s not quite there,” “maybe the next story” for forever.

But a few times, I’ve been brave. There have been moments—incredible moments!—when I allowed myself to think my writing was enough, and amazing things happened: A VFW writing award at eight (yeah, I went there)! Teachers telling me I could be a writer! Two MFA acceptance letters! An interview for Conan! An interview with John Green! An associate producer! The FAC! This freaking blog!

Cool stuff happens when I say, “Look, self-doubt, I can’t play with you anymore. You’re pretty uncool, and I actually am good enough. Nice try.”

And the cool stuff is cool, even among the plethora of rejection letters. The cool stuff is worth the rejection. Heck, sometimes the cool stuff is the rejection.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that even when I haven’t read all that much lately, even when I didn’t write every day from age five, even when I am too dumb, too fat, too poor—I am enough. All that other crap is just crap trying to keep me down. No more. I’m going to let my light shine LIKE THE DEMIGOD FROM CAMP HALF-BLOOD THAT I AM!

(Warning: My confidence may have gone too far.)

(Confession: I once made a Facebook account for Perseus Jackson… Then I made him my Facebook boyfriend.)

It’s not just about saying that I believe in myself anymore. It’s about acting on it too.

So, in the next month-ish, I’m going to send this manuscript out: a real, all-or-nothing effort.

I might fall flat on my ass.

I will surely be rejected. Multiple times.

People might hate it and by some warped extension, think less of me.

BUT I’M DOING IT ANYWAY.

I know this might not sound like a lot. I’ve got friends who have been doing this (in full-force) for YEARS.

But I’m not going to let how it sounds belittle it in my mind. Not anymore.

I’m going for it, even when I don’t feel ready or smart or accomplished. And I guess I’m saying this because I hope you’re going for it too. Whatever your dream is. It’s time.

Fill the pages. Send in the publishing kit. Do it all over again. It’s enough.

(Editor’s Note (from Hilary, let’s get real): I almost didn’t publish this post because I thought it was choppy and confusing, and then I was like HILARY, YOU’RE DOING IT AGAIN!!!!)

Things You Learned While Writing a Manuscript:

Microsoft Word’s default setting is a zoom of 100%. You need to change this. Changing this means changing your life because you are now old and need 150%.

It’s okay that you don’t like Scrivener.

You haven’t spent enough time learning Scrivener. That’s the reason you don’t like it.

Giving yourself permission to write a crappy book is really freeing. You may find that it allows you to write a not-so-crappy book.

Writing a book is hard.

Writing a book is possible.

Writing a book is fun and dreadful. It is work and play.

Amazing things happen when you do something for one hour every day. One hour, Hil. An hour a day!

It matters less how you write a book; it matters more that you write it. That’s always the more important thing.

Writing a book in a month, while a month for the books (ha), is not sustainable for your entire life. Really. No, seriously. Don’t do this again (until next year).

When you’re feeling extra dreadful and don’t want to “burden” other people, “burden” inspiring podcasts and books before “burdening” inspiring movies.

Go to these podcasts first: Magic Lessons, The Narrative Breakdown, and The City Church.

Go to any book first.

You won’t miss wasting time every evening after a while.

You can do real-life work in far less time when you strategize.

You have to plan lunches. Like, go to the grocery already. Make the muffins. Buy the water bottle. (Use the water bottle.)

Writing isn’t alway magic, but it definitely isn’t when you don’t show up.

You’re allowed to dream big. You’re allowed to be different. You’re allowed to write in whatever genre you want.

You’re allowed to not know what in the world you’re doing, and you’re allowed to do it anyway.

You’re going to make mistakes. SO MANY MISTAKES. It’s all learning, okay?

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I Demand Better Toilets.

We can come up with five hundred modifications to headphones, but we can’t revise the modern-day toilet. Really?

This is a subject I’ve been wanting to address for a while because I LOVE inventions.

When I was a little girl I had a book full of really awful and unnecessary inventions with equally awful illustrations. I would draw these bad drawings of bad inventions like I was freaking Leonard da Vinci designing a helicopter, all hunched over my wide-ruled notebook, pushing up my glasses habitually.

(This was the weirdest part about getting contacts; I would constantly push up my glasses, only to find that I wasn’t wearing any and was only poking my nose repeatedly.)

But I was not designing a helicopter. I was most likely drawing a “safety safety break,” which was essentially a set of rubber sticks that hit the ground behind a golf cart when the driver pulled a lever. I’m not that much better of an inventor now: I more recently came up with an idea for an online dating website that sets up NHL hockey players with girls with good personalities. (Really not good at inventing. Really.)

But I love inventions. I believe in inventions. I believe in invention–that moment when you think of an idea that’s completely new. It’s a moment of creation. And since I’ve been listening to a lot of the “Magic Lessons” podcast by Liz Gilbert (thank you, Jill), believe me when I say I know a thing or two about Making Things.

All of this finally brings me to my point. Inventions are awesome. I have nothing against the five hundred different types of headphones and new earbuds and Bluetooth technology designed specifically so that people like me have to buy five hundred pairs because I will repeatedly lose them. No problem with that at all. But if we have the time to develop these cutting-edge personal sound systems, why in the world are we neglecting our poopers?

Seriously. Are toilets now that much different from when they were first invented? They put the handle on the back. Whoop-de-do. The most innovative toilet I’ve seen is at an airport in Chicago. The seat cover spins in a circle, passing through some flashing device at the back and supposedly sliding a new seat cover on the ring. Which idiot is falling for that? You’re not going to convince me that some sanitization occurred in the beeping matchbox. I’m not buying it. Literally.

So, to recap, I can buy a pair of headphones that would allow me to sleep through a nuclear blast, but the most modern restroom I’ve ever been in was at the O’Hare airport.

Maybe you’re someone who’s seen the whole “squat toilet” (do not Google) thing, and think that’s great and modern and natural. If I wanted to poop in a hole or pretend to poop in a hole, I would go did a hole.

Maybe you’re someone who thinks toilets are being tweaked and improved right now. To you, I say look at this Kickstarter fund. This is an industry crying for help.

Maybe you’re someone who thinks this is all coming from some sort of deep hurt in my heart. You would be partially correct. Yes, I have broken a fair number of toilet seats in my day. Yes, I did get a large gash from a cracked toilet seat. Yes, I hate public restrooms and have anxiety about the whole (daily) experience. Yes, I once feared that I learned to use the toilet the wrong way (long story). BUT this is about more than just me! This is about progressing as a society by elevating the most basic parts of ourselves.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, Hilary, you seem fired up about this; what are you going to do to be a part of the change?

Nothing. Yes, nothing. I’m not going on a toilet campaign. I’m sorry. I will share my story, but I cannot take up the toilet torch. I just can’t.

Plus, did you read my idea for an online dating website? My toilet inventions would be the worst. (So far they involve a lot of weird suction, which seems dangerous.) I just want the actual inventors out there to work on this, so can we take a few headphones designers off of their task for a bit while they sort this out?

This is what it boils down to: I do not get how we’ve cut a hole in a chair, put some water in it, stuck it in the corner of our house, and said, yeah, that’s good enough.

I say we can do better…

 

Coming this fall: Johns by Dr. Dre.

Two Kinds of Happy

2016-09-06

In one picture, I am twenty-two and way too liberal with my photo filters.

I’m happy that my short hair finally returned to a normal color. I vow to never dye it again. I will break this vow less than a year later.

I’m independent. It feels insanely independent. I have my own apartment without roommates. I already have enough roommate stories. I make crazy slow cooker dishes and plan my meals days in advance. I spend so much time by myself.

I write for school. I write for me. I waste so much time not writing. I blog regularly.

I make friends. Good, life-giving, life-changing friends.

I spend Sundays with my church family. Entire Sundays of lazing and talking and playing miniature golf.

I see Jill three days a week for eight to twelve hours each day, and I start to realize this friendship should have started a year earlier. Katie sleeps over once a week. When she brings the space heater, I know we’ll always be friends.

They convince me to go to the Big Sur Writing Conference over Google Hangout. I agree and start writing my novel in the middle of class: “Did you see that clown?” I finish the masterpiece four weeks later.

The FAC is born and rocks the conference. Big Sur never heard such impassioned renditions of “Roar.” Jill and I blackout for twenty minutes on the way home in what can only be described as a manic episode.

Everything is possible. Everything is happening.

I live next to the ocean, next to friends, and five minutes away from Matthew McConaughey.

In the other photo, I’m twenty-five.

I’m happy that my hair has returned to its normal color. I vow never to dye it again. I will probably bleach it all before my next birthday.

I teach English to high schoolers. I literally get to talk about stories all day long. I bring in things that I love as often as I can. I show them clips of I Love Lucy; I take polls on the likability of Matt Lauer. (I show them clips of Matt Lauer because they’ve never heard of Matt Lauer, which I’m thinking could be the ultimate insult to Matt Lauer. Please let him know.)

I live with my parents. There is always someone around the house. I’m constantly talking. I try to listen.

There is food everywhere. The fridge is always full. I never plan meals, but I occasionally cook when I feel like it. I don’t know where my slow cooker is.

I attend family cookouts. I update people. I get updated. I remember the names of cousins, of second-cousins, and so-on.

I have a Fitbit. I am mildly interested in my step count and completely obsessed with my sleep pattern.

I have nieces who make me laugh. I play Polly Pockets and board games and tickle monster.

I waste so much time not writing. I never blog, but I renew my domain in the hope this will change. I write on the second (and a half) novel and seventh script sporadically. I think of new ideas constantly. I try to find a rhythm. I don’t do it for class. I do it for me.

Not everything is happening, but everything is still possible.

I live next to the woods, with family, and ten minutes away from Gray’s Cafeteria.