Monday, December 3, 2012

Stroking My Ego

You were warned. ;)

Today is one of those self-validation days. I frequently forget how awesome I actually am in between all the humdrumness of daily life and the video games I bury myself in. A conversation with a woman to whom I’m going to be giving dance lessons reminded me that I am, indeed, pretty awesome.

First off, hey, people are willing to pay me to teach them how to dance. I have been paid by a university to teach accredited dance classes, non-profits to teach general and private classes, members of the community at large wherever I have been, and volunteered countless hours of my time to teach for other non-profits. I can teach and dance a decent list of dances: East Coast Swing, Lindy Hop, Charleston, West Coast Swing, Waltz, American Tango, Cha-cha, Salsa, Rhumba, and Foxtrot. I can fake my way through a few others. More importantly, I can actually teach people how to dance, not just go through prescribed moves without learning to connect, without learning how to actually lead and follow. Not only are people willing to pay me, since money isn’t that important, they recognize that I am really good teacher. In the student evaluations I received while working for the University of Idaho I had such a high rate of responses and more importantly, positive responses, that my supervisor’s boss couldn’t believe it. A few bits of awesome there, but we’ll just put one up under Dances and another under Teaches and call it good.

The piece of conversation that inspired this slightly self-obsessed piece of writing regarded living in foreign countries and speaking foreign languages. As I said to Miss A, we’ll call her, I have lived in Belgium, Germany, and Japan besides the United States and been to most countries in Western Europe. At least one of which no longer exists as a unified entity. Though I guess Yugoslavia counts as the Eastern block?

In terms of languages, I studied French for four years, Japanese for two (the first year twice, slacker attitude plus katakana = bad), German for one year, taught myself the Cyrillic alphabet and dabbled in Russian and Portuguese. I am not fluent in any of the above, but fluency in at least one is on my bucket list. I have the best grasp on French, and though Russian is probably the hardest language I have ever studied, I kind of liked it. Probably for the challenge. We’ll chalk up another under Foreign Language & Living and call it good.

Have I mentioned I recently wrote a book? That’s been on my bucket list my whole life. Admittedly it’s not done, nor published, but that’s coming. A complete first draft is a great start. It feels pretty awesome. I’ma put a mark up under Wrote a Book too. While I’m at it, I might also mention that I’ve started another while I’m waiting for my alpha readers to get back to me. This one should be even easier to write, since it’s a fictionalized version of my greatest romance. I might change the ending. Wouldn’t want my characters to have to live through the hardest part of what I did. We’ll see.

I also Read a Lot. Excuse me while I cover the chalkboard in marks. Reading is awesome. Literacy is a beautiful, beautiful thing. So are words. They’re so tasty. I saw some ticker thing where someone had a goal of reading one book a month for 12 months. Great goal. . . but a little on the short side, I thought. Contrary to popular belief, however, I do read things that aren’t science fiction or fantasy as well. Particularly Positive Psychology texts. Which leads me into the next awesome.

Must desperately Love Learning. Who was Abraham Maslow, I wonder? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Hello wikipedia! And before you balk at using wikipedia as a source of information, the Encyclopedia Britannica is wrong barely less frequently. In fact, Wikipedia has an entire page dedicated to things wrong in the E.B. that are correct on its web site. What is this positive psychology thing? A link to flow? Who is Mihalyi Csziksentmihalyi? Must read and research! Must kill the cat! Awesome? Check.

A subset of love of learning but still pretty bad ass in its own right and worthy of a categorical checkmark of its own: I taught myself how to Play Guitar. And I Sing. Frequently in public. I was also in choir for 8 years. And I write my own songs, both lyrics and music. Sometimes I even consider my lyrics poetry. Win.

Meanwhile, I am currently working on the Raised a Puppy life project. Mira, for those of you paying attention, is now a week and a half over 6 months old. She’s taller than my knee and weighs around 70 pounds. Last I weighed her she was 65 pounds. That was two weeks ago and she’s growing at an average of 2.7 pounds a week. My puppy is huge, but you should see her brother from the same litter. He weighed 70 pounds a month ago. Mira is pretty awesome, so I’m taking a little bit of hers vicariously.
To be quite honest, I highly recommend attempting a project like the one I am sharing with you right now. Even if you don’t have the confidence, (or conceit), to share it publicly, it is actually an extremely healthy exercise to do for yourself. We often focus far too intensely on what we’re not doing well. Any strong relationship has a much greater ratio of positive than negative statements. Your relationship with yourself is no different.

From here, the list continues. I was tempted to cut it short and just make a bland list of things I’d missed so far, but I changed my mind for the very reasons I stated in the last paragraph. If you didn’t want to read about how awesome I am, you’d have stopped reading a while ago. Or you can stop now. I will never know.

If you’re new to me, you may not know, but I know how to Sail a boat. It’s not something I do nearly as often as I would like to, but owning a sailboat is also on the bucket list. That’s one of the reasons I checked 4WD vehicle off the list this summer. No point in owning a boat if you can’t tow it. Historically I took sailing lessons for two summers when I was in middle school, spent a summer casually racing J24s almost every Thursday night a few years back. I didn’t manage to get out on the water sailing this summer, but the summer before a friend of mine and I took her 16’ Hobie catamaran out on the lake. I did do some kayaking this summer, however, which is also neat.

Ooo, I almost forgot that I am Cultured. At least to some degree. I’ve seen some of the more famous operas, such as La Boheme, Die Fleidermaus, and The Barber of Seville, as well as quite a few I’ve forgotten. I saw Starlight Express in London, Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables in Seattle. I also have The Man of La Mancha, Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Camelot, and Miss Saigon under my belt. (I really, really want to see Wicked and The Lion King.) I can recognize and appreciate famous pieces of art, sans art history courses at any level. I was astounded when I discovered that it is apparently not normal around here to recognize a picture of Michaelangelo’s David. Most of the people I know just see a statue of a naked man.

On top of being cultured and enjoying art, music, theatre, good wine, and such, I am also a Thespian. I was in three community plays last year, two well known and one by a local playwright. When I was younger I took part in quite a few more. I enjoy acting, and at least at a local level I appear to be good at it. That’s what people tell me, at least. I don’t really consider it acting. They keep casting me as an arrogant ass. I can’t figure out why. ;P

The next item isn’t quite awesome. Neat, and extremely educational in terms of life lessons, though. I owned a house built in 1918 for four years while I was in college. I learned all kinds of fascinating things about paying mortgages, how much I am not a do-it-yourselfer, and how freaking expensive it is if anything breaks, like your heater or plumbing. Definitely an experience. I’m going to put off having it again for a while.

I also Know How to Ride a Horse. Not the most useful skill in this day and age, but it’s still fun. I love horses, actually. I go horseback riding less often than I go sailing, but I love it. It’s right up there with Snowboarding. All three are activities in which you can leave the world and its burdens behind until you come down off the mountain, in off the water, back from the trail.

Philosophically I am extremely proud of being a Humanist and a bit of a Minimalist. I believe in doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. In other words, I believe morality is intrinsic. As a semi-minimalist, I don’t enjoy owning a lot of stuff, and I don’t like owning things that don’t provide me with a means of enjoyment. The things I own are either practical, entertaining, or both. I still have way too much junk from when I was younger I need to pass on or get rid of. I don’t need, nor want it.

While there’s more, I think three pages of my awesomeness is enough for one day. You couldn’t hear it, but I laughed every time I said that I am awesome. That’s something you should know about me. While being overly confident is a lot of fun, I think it’s funny. It’s a difficult thing to take seriously, so I don’t. It’s a game to me as well as a personality trait.

I am awesome. But let me assure that I don’t think I am perfect. I wouldn’t want to be. I am human, flawed, broken, healed, scarred, maimed. I ache, I hurt, I live, I love and I will die, just as we all will. But when my time comes, and my life is measured in the Aristotelian fashion, I want it said that I lived well and did much. “Here lies one who achieved life’s most worthy goal: a Renaissance Man,” would be a pretty decent epitaph.

And a thousand words, goodnight.


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