Song Analysis: “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of a Bay” by Otis Redding

Otis Redding has been noted as one of the greatest soul singers and composers of all time. Also known as the “The King of Soul,” he is remembered mostly because of his powerful voice, soulful lyrics, and who he inspired.
Redding did not only influence the masses, he influenced many famous musicians. Some artists that Otis Redding have inspired or have covered his songs include The Grateful Dead, The Doors, Willie Nelson, Al Green, Pearl Jam, Etta James, Rod Stewart, and Kanye West. Even if Redding had a seemingly-short career, his sound will carry on for many generations.

The song I chose to analyze lyrically is “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of a Bay.” The reason I chose this song is that it is unlike his many romantic and love-centered tracks. This song is more introspective and discusses an inner battle as opposed to having problems with a significant other. Although it could be thought of as a song he wrote in a moment of happiness and peace, my impression was more pointed towards defeat. Redding wrote it after being influenced by The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He listened to the album during a week he spent at a houseboat in California while performing at San Francisco’s Fillmore West Theater in 1967.

There are some noticeable influences The Beatles had in this song when comparing to Redding’s former music. Like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, there were moments of musical simplicity and lyrics that mostly talked about oneself, instead of a proclamation of love. He was unable to finish writing the last verse though, as he passed away just four days after recording began. His co-writer Steve Cropper decided to fill in the last verse with Redding’s whistling. Before learning this, I thought the whistling was intentional and fit perfectly, representing how the meaning of a song could be understood without words being spoken.

“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” sold over one million units and was Redding’s first number one single on Billboard Magazine’s pop chart. The song also won two Grammys in 1968. This song is credited with further influencing the soul movement by combining R&B and folk.

Inspiration is Fleeting

Inspiration, that fickle little beast that makes you unable to concentrate, let alone do anything else until it uses your pen to leap onto the pageor at least that seems to be how it feels for me. Don’t let it fool you though. Inspiration is something that doesn’t show up often, and most times you might have a deadline.

You might not have time to wait for inspiration to strike. Don’t be waiting for it, lure it out with the following ways: you could sit down and determine to write on a writing prompt every day; you could get with your friends and pose hypothetical stories through brainstorming (a verbal Madlib if you will); you could read your favorite genre and use that as a jumping off point.

Never let lack of motivation or inspiration not firing paralyze you, because it will stop your dreams quickly, if not immediately. Sitting down and writing on somethingeven if it is a promptdoes many things for your imagination. It stimulates it, and keeps it stimulated so that you can go from prompt to writing project, whatever form that manifests itself in. The brainstorming just gets the story generator pumping through the system checks it needs to push out something for you. Reading your favorite genre usually does a little more though, simply because it reminds you of the necessary rules and limitations of the genre, as well as it puts you back in the role of the reader.

Interview with John Granger, Dean of Harry Potter Scholars

John Granger, given the moniker of “Dean of Harry Potter Scholars” by TIME magazine, is a published author and internationally renowned lecturer on the artistry of J.K. Rowling’s writing and Wizarding World. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago then proceeded to get his Master of Fine Arts from Oklahoma City University in Creative Writing. Currently, Professor Granger is seeking his doctorate through Swansea University in Wales. He’s been a featured speaker at a plethora of Harry Potter conferences globally, including conferences in Boston, Orlando, Los Angeles, Toronto, and St. Andrews in Scotland, and a guest speaker at universities such as Princeton, Yale, Cornell, and Baylor.

He’s published seven works on the subject of Harry Potter including The Hidden Key to Harry Potter: Understanding the Meaning, Genius, and Popularity of Joanne Rowling’s Harry Potter Novels (Zossima Press), Looking for God in Harry Potter (Tyndale House/SaltRiver), Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader (Unlocking Press), How Harry Cast His Spell: The Meaning Behind the Mania for J. K. Rowling’s Bestselling Books (Tyndale House), The Deathly Hallows Lectures: The Hogwarts Professor Explains the Final Harry Potter Adventure (Unlocking Press), Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: The Great Books behind the Hogwarts Adventures (Penguin), Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle (Unlocking Press). Professor Granger is an editor, contributing author of, and essayist for several other collaborative works as well. He was also one of three “Potter Pundits” (along with Travis Prinzi and James Thomas) for The Leaky Cauldron’s “PotterCasts” (2007-2010) and helped create over fifty podcasts on MuggleNet Academia.

Alexandra Savage (AS): Which single literary text or tradition do you believe had the greatest overall impact on the Harry Potter story and J.K. Rowling?

JG: Rowling’s favorite author is Jane Austen and favorite book is Austen’s Emma. I think the manners-and-morals tradition and its parody writers—Rowling’s two other favorites are Colette and Nabokov, both like Austen parodists—are the places to start when trying to understand her artistry.

AS: If the Harry Potter series could be summed up in one quote from a character inside the story, which do you think it would be and why?

JG: Rowling has said that Dumbledore’s final words to Harry at the otherworldly King’s Cross Station in Deathly Hallows were something she waited seventeen years to write and act as a key of sorts for the books. Why? Because it all but says that Rowling’s objective has been a transformation of her readers’ understanding of understanding.

AS: You lecture around the world about the structure of the Harry Potter story arc. Can you briefly explain the structure?

JG: Rowling is a ring writer; as her name suggests, her stories work in circles. The ring structure has a beginning and end match that latches the circle, a turning point roughly halfway that points to the latch of start and finish, and the chapters going out to and coming back from the turn have to reflect one another. This chiastic structure is evident in each of her books and the seven book series as well.

AS: Plenty of fans are clamoring for spin-off stories about the Marauders or Severus Snape. Are there any characters or plot lines you wish J.K. Rowling had gone or would go further into?

JG: If you get the integrity of the individual books and their relationship with one another, it’s hard to ask for extras that will violate the symmetry and unity of it all. A beautiful building isn’t improved by add-ons not tied to its architectural conception—and Rowling’s story will almost certainly suffer for profit-taking or fan-servicing extras.

AS: J.K. Rowling deftly imbeds nods to other novels and authors in her books. Which hat-tip do you think is the most fascinating? Alternately, which do you think fans of the series overlooked the most?

JG: If you read Nabokov’s Lolita or Pale Fire (and as part of my class [at the University of Central Oklahoma], you will read the latter), Rowling’s debts to the puzzle king of parodists is pretty astonishing. My favorite hat-tip? Grindelwald. There’s a Grindelwod in Pale Fire.

AS: As a premier Harry Potter scholar, you have a sound ear for plausible theories surrounding the stories. Do you have any fan theories or “headcanons” that you favor? Any that you dislike or love to disprove?

JG: I enjoy the Snape theories, e.g., that he is a half-vampire (Rowling has denied he is a full-vampire) and that he and Dumbledore had a plan in place to take down the Dark Lord in Volde War I [the First Wizarding War] but that James Potter’s and Sirius Black’s idiot idea of making Peter Pettigrew the Potters’ secret keeper blew it up. There’s no proving or disproving any of that sort of speculation.

AS: The new Fantastic Beasts movie series is subtly shaping up to be another one of J.K. Rowling’s signature rings. Having seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, where do you think the series might be heading? Do you have any predictions for the next movie or possibly the last movie?

JG: The Boy Who Lived in this series, Credence Barebone, will be the hero and Jacob Kowalski, whose initials are important, will become a wizard by story’s end. One or the other will be master of the Elder Wand, by plan or accident, which will lead to DDore’s [Dumbledore’s] win over Grindelwald.

AS: Of course, there’s one “Wizarding World” story that lacks the finesse and structure we’ve come to expect from J.K. Rowling—Cursed Child. How does it fit into the established canon, if it does at all?

JG: That’s the big question, isn’t it? We’ll be looking at it in the “Artistry of J. K. Rowling” UCO class to see if it does or doesn’t show the characteristics we’ve found in her novels and screenplay.

AS: J.K. Rowling has begun writing another book series, the Cormoran Strike novels, under the nom de plume Robert Galbraith. Do you have any insights into the future of that series?

JG: I’m still hopeful that one day Harry Potter fans who have not read any of these books will discover Cormoran Strike. They’re written in parallel and, I think, as commentary on her Hogwarts Saga numbers, so I’m really looking forward to Lethal White, book number four; it’s set at the time of the London Olympics so I’m pretty sure we’ll see Goblet of Fire and Quidditch World Cup echoes.

AS: Lastly, for fans of Harry Potter, what further reading would you suggest for them to gain a deeper understanding of the series, its structure, characters, and symbols?

JG: Beatrice Groves’ Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, my Deathly Hallows Lectures and Harry Potter’s Bookshelf, the Harry Potter for Nerds books (I and II) by Travis Prinzi and Kathryn McDaniel, and The Ravenclaw Reader by John Patrick Pazdziora and Micah Snell. And the “Reading, Writing Rowling” podcasts on MuggleNet.com!

You can catch up with Professor John Granger over on his blog, HogwartsProfessor.com, where he posts regularly about the goings-on of the Wizarding World and all things Rowling, and welcomes comments and discussion from the community on all posts.

Top 5 Kurt Vonnegut Novels

Most people who know me well know that my all-time favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve taken many a trip to Half Price Books solely to buy out every copy they had of his books. I’ve almost finished collecting every book he’s written, including an encyclopedia of his characters and made-up words. I even have a tattoo of one of his many famous doodles. In honor of Vonnegut, I’ve compiled this list of his very best novels, number one being his absolute best. I’ve also included a weird scale for each novel, on a scale of one to five; Vonnegut is sometimes a lot to handle. Happy reading!

5. Player Piano

Vonnegut’s first novel takes place in a dystopian world where people’s jobs have been taken over by machines while they were fighting in the world. This novel is almost in the vein of Brave New World or 1984.

Weird rating: 2 out of 5

4. Breakfast of Champions

This novel had me laughing out loud. I believe it was only the second book of his that I had read and I was shocked at the crudeness of it. I was not prepared for the winding plot line, inappropriate doodles, and insane characters.

Weird rating: 5 out of 5

3. Slaughterhouse-Five

The very first Vonnegut I ever encountered. I had heard about this book for many years, but had no idea what it was about. When I began reading, I was afraid it was all going to be a boring war novel, but it was so much more than I could have ever imagined. Aliens, time travel, war. This novel ignited my love for his work.

Weird rating: 3.5 out of 5

2. Cat’s Cradle

This book hit me so hard, I even wrote my senior capstone paper over it. There are so many themes he deals with, including religion, apocalypse, love, science. I’ve read it three times and I’m sure I still haven’t caught everything he’s trying to say. This is definitely one that should not be read lightly.

Weird rating: 2.5 out of 5

1. The Sirens of Titan

And the number one pick is not only my favorite of Vonnegut’s works, but my favorite novel of all time. I have also read this one at least three times and I would still read it again anytime. It made me laugh and cry and question my entire existence. Very weird, very beautiful.

Weird rating: 4 out of 5

Post-Halloween Writing Exercises

Hey there, poets! Many of our prose writing comrades are beginning to burrow themselves into the leafy soil of NaNoWriMo. You may be sitting on your bathroom floor a half-eaten Laffy Taffy stuck to your face, wondering if there are any special post-Halloween writing exercises that are just for poets. The answer is no. These exercises are for prose writers too.

1. Candy Wrapper Ransom Note

Before you get too excited, you can put away rope and duct tape. This exercise is more ransom note inspired than felony.

What you’ll need:

  •    paper
  •    scissors
  •    double sided tape
  •    the growing mound of candy wrappers you been collecting in your bed

Cut letters and words out of your candy wrappers. Use them to compose poems, flash fiction, novels (the more candy you eat the more options you have). Use double sided tape to attach them to the paper. Don’t use glue. Don’t do it.

2. Correspondence of Fears

Halloween is the perfect time of year to be reminded of all the things you fear. What scares you the most? Clowns? Ghosts? Student loans? Write a letter to whatever or whoever it is that scares more than anything. Try writing multiple letters. One could be a formal declaration of war. In one you could extend a hand of friendship. Another could be a break up letter. You could also try writing it/them a love letter. Get as steamy as you like.

3. The Method Writing Writing Method

Spend the day looking at the world through the eyes of your Halloween costume—metaphorically. Go to work, school, the grocery store—live your normal everyday life—but from the perspective of whatever or whoever you dress up as this year. If maintaining your personal and professional relationships is a priority for you, you might consider only imagining what your costume persona would say or do in certain situations. When you get home write about all the bizarre experiences you had as your costume that would have been commonplace for you as yourself.

4. Costume Crossover

I’m only going to give myself half credit for this last exercise, because it’s so similar to the previous one. Write about what you did on Halloween, but do it as your costume. Describe everyone in costume as if they really are whoever or whatever they are dressed up as. Describe all of the Halloween decor as if it is real. You can stop with just the description, or you can write a semi- or entirely fictional narrative using those characters and settings.

5 Less-Known Spooky Short Stories

Halloween may be over, but the incoming cold, overcast weather is still perfect for bundling up by a fire and reading some spooky stories. Perhaps you’re tired of reading the same old Goosebumps book you’ve read since you were in elementary school. There’s too much going on at this point in the semester to have time in your schedule to read your favorite horror novels anyway. But you still want something scary to read under the safety of your covers at night, don’t you? 

Here are five of my personal favorite short stories that will be sure to scare you. Here’s the catch though—these weren’t written by the likes of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. These were written by folks just like you! That doesn’t mean they are of lesser quality, oh no my dear readers. There are plenty of these short stories out there that’ll make your skin crawl. Now, onto my top five!

1. BEN DROWNED

Ben Drowned is one of the many haunted video game stories out there, but it outshines them all with how the author sets up their story. The narrator makes a stop at a local garage sale and goes home with the Nintendo 64 game The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Once he plugs in the game he notices a file from the previous owner. All hell breaks loose from there as he documents every strange and terrifying moment that happens within the game and outside of it. What makes this haunted video game story unique is how the author created videos as “proof” of his experiences in the game. Majora’s Mask is already a dark and unsettling game, but Ben Drowned manages to up that by twenty percent and sprinkle some paranoia onto it by the end of its story. Fans of the game will never look at it the same way again. Be sure to have the lights on when you watch the videos.

Link: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/BEN_Drowned

2. NOEND HOUSE

Tired of going to the same old haunted house attractions with the same old boring scares? NoEnd House has something new and terrifying for you. The trick is you need to make it through all nine rooms. The treat? How does $500 sound? Totally worth it! But can you get to the final room? It’s been said that the house got its name because no one ever has. Just what lies in each room that manages to scare everyone away? You’ll have to find that out on your own. Put on your brave face and step through the first door in NoEnd House.

Link: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/NoEnd_House

3. PSYCHOSIS

Something has gone horribly wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but your gut instinct warns you to not leave your room no matter what. You can’t trust your friends anymore. You mustn’t let them lure you out, no matter what they tell you. You set up a webcam to see what all is happening outside your door. Can you even trust your own eyes? This is the tale of Psychosis, told through journal entries by our narrator going through these terrifying events.

Link: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Psychosis

4. My Brother died when I was a child. He kept talking.

It’s just as the title says—the narrator shares a time in his life that was both heartbreaking and disturbing. Strange people examine his brother and encourage the narrator to talk to him, to ask him what he is seeing, where is he, if there is a heaven or hell. The more the narrator’s brother speaks of his journey, the more maddening it becomes. Definitely not the story for those who are looking forward to a happy afterlife. Definitely the story for those who want a reason to not rest peacefully for a while.

Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3f3te1/my_brother_died_when_i_was_a_child_he_kept/

5. TED THE CAVER

A rather long story with a slow burn, but trust me when I say to not skip this one. The atmosphere and slow build-up is worth the read. Told through blog entries, a couple of friends discover a small hole in a cave they’re exploring. They decide to chip away at it until the hole is big enough for them to get through and explore the uncharted side. With each day they revisit the cave to enlarge the hole, it becomes more evident that they are not alone. Something is lurking on the other side, and it is well aware of their presence. Pictures of the cave are included as a bonus. Just be sure to cuddle up with your closest pal, as this is one story you do not want to explore alone.

Link: http://www.angelfire.com/trek/caver/

 

 

A Guide To The Magical Worlds Of Tamora Pierce

Have you ever found yourself wanting to start a new book series, but haven’t had time to find an author worth your time?

Tamora Pierce has been in the writing game long enough that she’s written something for everyone, whether you prefer knights in shining armor, antics of magical teenagers, or a good-ole spy novel.

Most of her books are set in either the fictional world of Tortall (think of kings, knights, and the appropriate accoutrement) or Emelan (which is more suited for mages of all sort and skill), and written in either sets of two or four.

1. SONG OF THE LIONESS

Arguably the books that Ms. Pierce is most famous for, this quartet follows young Alanna of Trebond as she takes her twin’s place among the knights-in-training of Tortall. Yes, that entails having to hide her true identity in much the same way Mulan had to. Acting like a boy isn’t a problem for Alanna – she can fight with the best of them – but problems truly begin to arise once the boys around her start hitting puberty.

The Song of the Lioness quartet, which begins with Alanna: The First Adventure (http://a.co/gAEskxl), follows Alanna from the age of ten to young adulthood. I’d recommend this series to anyone who enjoys political intrigue, a slow romance, a good deal of magic, and even more fighting. If you like Merlin, this is the series for you.

2. PROVOST’S DOG TRILOGY

Set a few years before the events of Song of the Lioness, a prospective reader really doesn’t need to know much information about the world of Tortall before delving into Beka Cooper’s story. Beka is a rough-and-tumble “watchdog,” tasked to watch over the slums of the kingdom. Her job is both that of a cop and a detective; she has to keep the peace among the people and resolve any problems that arise. These problems range from serial killers in the streets, to plots to kill the king. Beka does have some help, however, in her limited ability to speak to the dead.

This series, starting with Terrier, The Legend of Beka Cooper (http://a.co/0V3WVHt ), would be best for those who enjoy watching true crime drama like Criminal Minds or NCIS. If you choose to pick up this series, you’re sure to have a good time. Just keep in mind that it was written for a more mature audience than Song of the Lioness, and the gore level has been adjusted to match.

3. CIRCLE OF MAGIC

The Circle of Magic quartet is the first set quartet in a set of books that follows four children – Sandry, Daja, Tris, and Briar – as they learn to handle unique and volatile magical abilities. Each child has their own ghosts and troubles, so it’s no question that there’s going to be conflict between the four of them. Living in one house with their two teachers, they have to learn to live and work together if they have any hopes of ever getting their magic under control and becoming full-fledged mages.

This series is set in Ms. Pierce’s other world, Emelan, and begins with Sandry’s Book:

http://a.co/6tGYVAv

Each child narrates a book, and an actually diverse cast makes for an experience where everyone can find someone to relate to. If Harry Potter holds a place in your heart, you might want to think about checking this series out.

TO TOP IT ALL OFF:

If any of her works sound interesting to you, I’d highly recommend that you go ahead and check them out. Ms. Pierce’s target audience may be teenagers, but she’s put enough thought and care into crafting the intricately detailed worlds of Emelan and Tortall that there’s bound to be something to catch your eye. You can find out more about Ms. Pierce and her books here:

http://www.tamora-pierce.net/

 

5 Reasons It (2017) is Better Than Stephen King’s It (1990)

In honor of the recent remake of Stephen King’s It, here is a list of why this version trumps the original (in my humble opinion). In order to keep everything fair, I am only including the first half of the original, since part two of the remake has not been released yet.

WARNING: SPOILERS AND HORROR IMAGES AHEAD

1. The Production

Yes, I understand it was the ‘90’s. There is a distinct campy quality to the original that will always be near and dear to my heart. However, you just can’t beat a movie that is as well-made as the remake.

(1990)

(2017)

2. The Humor

I have never before seen a movie that made me jump and genuinely laugh all in one scene. The original focuses more on the terror of the kids’ faces, rather than their relationships with each other. A huge element of the story is the coming-of-age element, and Muschietti nailed their interactions with each other. For the first half of the movie, I forgot it was a horror film because he did such a good job building their group dynamic with humor.

3. The Iconic Scene

You know which scene I’m referring to. The pivotal scene that sets the entire movie in motion- the arm-ripping scene. As soon as I heard this version would rated-R, I braced myself for this. Obviously the original couldn’t do it justice, as it was a mini-series on TV. But it cannot even compare to this version. I was completely prepared and could still barely stomach it. Well done, Muschietti.

4. The Clown

Okay. I had nightmares about Tim Curry’s Pennywise as a kid; he terrified me. I obviously got over that fear the second I saw him in a corset and fishnets in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I experienced Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise as a 22-year-old woman and was afraid to drive home alone afterward. He plays the character as Stephen King intended: a dark, ancient evil that enjoys taking the form of a clown. Tim Curry’s Pennywise was just a clown to me, it didn’t have the depth that Skarsgård’s does.

(1990)

(2017)

5. The References

All. Of. The. References. As a die-hard fan of the book, this was the final factor that completely won me over. There are so many references to Stephen King’s novel that I’m positive I didn’t catch them all. The “I Heart Derry” balloon. The several mentions of the turtle. The Paul Bunyan statue. The deadlights in Pennywise’s throat. These subtleties were all missing from the original; everything was laid out very clearly without any underlying meanings. It sadly fell flat compared to the remake.

It may seem as though I hate the original and want to steer people away from it, which is not my intention. This movie was a huge part of my childhood and helped shape me into the person I am today. I will always love it and will always remember it as one of my favorites. My only intention is to commend the remake on everything it did to create a more satisfying experience for the fans. I know my opinion is far from a professional one, but I loved this movie, and am very satisfied with the adaptation Muschietti created.

5 Reasons to Read in Every Situation

Looking for proof that reading is still relevant? Searching for an excuse to read that tawdry, Romance novel instead of doing the dishes?

Here are five straight-forward and practical reasons to read anywhere and anytime. So settle in, adjust your spectacles, and get that pug firmly situated in your lap, because I have lain before you ample reason to read as long as you wish.

1. Reading is a great way to waste time while being productive.

Looking for a way to waste your life, but without the haunting pangs of guilt? Read. If you are looking for a road to escape from your upcoming exam, then pick up the nearest book and lose yourself in it. A few minutes, or hours later, you will have the same mischievous feeling of having “gotten out of work,” while having bettered your mind and discovered what happens to Billy Budd.

2. Reading increases your vocabulary.

Tired of being stumped by tenacious, pompous, and pernicious vocabulary words? Be bamboozled no longer! Simply crack the nearest classic and lose yourself in a world of higher learning and better diction. Next thing you know, your reading comprehension will rival even the most pretentious in your acquaintanceship.

3. Reading gives you the ability to be literally anywhere.

Looking for a great cover for why you are idling next to the Hope diamond after hours in the Smithsonian? Simply bury your nose in a book and everyone will look on you fondly. Clearly, you are lost in the twentieth chapter of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire–there’s nothing sinister about that at all. For whatever reason, reading, or seeming to read with abandon, allows you to be wherever you wish, whenever you wish, for as long as you please.

4. Reading can save your life.

Chances are, if you are the type who reads literary blogs, keeps up with grammar “trends,” or says words like, “indubitably” on the regular, then you are just the sort of person who will be chased down by a deviant clown, axe murderer, or trigger-happy sociopath. In these harrowing games of cat and mouse you will be tempted to run idiotically around and eventually entrap yourself. Stop. Slide inside that covered rowboat, secret alcove, or second potato cellar, then crack open Dickens and escape to England while your would-be assailant wails in agony at the fruitlessness of his search. In a couple of hours or days, they will be gone and you will be all the wiser and more cultured.

5. Reading will make you hate yourself.  

Now before you throw your prim, metallic tablet in disgust, wait.  It makes sense…Reading shows you all the things you should and could do to better yourself, others, and the environment. It draws the drapes of new horizons, and forces you to look out your window into the vast expanse. Out there, in no-man’s land, there are people who are paid to walk dogs, tales of talking pickles, kingdoms won and lost, new inventions, different types of Velcro, and even the recipe for the cake that Marie Antoinette lost her head for…But you will never know. Unless you turn off the TV, take out an earbud, and open a flipping book. Let the self-loathing pour in. Let it consume you. Then you can simply read another book on how to improve yourself.

Fall: Season of Innovation

You’re in the heat of the semester, midterms are approaching,  and three of the biggest holidays of the year are coming in hot. Do you visit with family or stay home and recover in solitude? What about that art challenge everyone’s doing? Or maybe this is the year you finally make plans for Halloween like the social human being that your schedule says you are.

Each year, questions like these seem to come out of the woodwork simply to make life harder. However, the one that keeps me up at night is probably the vaguest of all. Do I have time?

This became a real issue for me this past weekend. It began with a text on Wednesday, and a pretty unassuming one at that. On any other occasion, I love to receive texts from home. With a family like mine, a text or phone call comes maybe once every few months. Unfortunately, this text put an end to my day off before it even began.

Are you available this weekend?

That’s how I ended up spending a weekend working in a stifling and cluttered back room, helping my parents move their business. This was an event that a more mature individual might consider “character building,” but after three days of hard labor with my family, I can only describe it as hilarious, frustrating, and exhausting. I felt like I had strolled into some 1980’s buddy-film where all the kids go through some cliché experience that alters their perception on life.

Let there be no illusions. The work was gross and strenuous, and staying in a crowded building with three teenagers and two would-be adults is never conducive to a healthy family-dynamic. However, over the course of three days, I revisited the location of a significant chapter of my life, and shut it down alongside the same people I began it with. If that isn’t closure, I don’t know what is.

I’m still just as busy as I was, but I was able to make the most of my seasonal stress and turn it into an amazing experience. Autumn is a season of change, and more people need to take advantage of that. Whether it’s writing about the changing of the leaves or tackling some annual home improvement, this season has so much potential!

Now, I’m not implying that you need to actively search for some new activity to pencil into your schedule. I hate reading through an inspiring article only for the grand takeaway to be “do it” and “if you don’t have time, make time.” In fact, if I manage to clear my schedule for an afternoon, I’m more likely to catch up on sleep than anything else, and I will never regret that. Instead, take a step back and look at what you’re already doing. Why is it important to you? What is the best you can make out of this moment? How do you want to look back on this moment?

It’s up to you.