Monday, December 5, 2011

Enjoying Misery (ables)

Joo and I spent Thanksgiving this year at my sister and Bob's house, along with my parents. Heather shouldered the task of preparing most of the dinner, with Joo and Mom contributing a couple dishes each. We had ham, turkey, green beans, cornbread casserole, salad, stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon, parmesan artichoke dip with pita chips, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, fruit cups, pumpkin mousse, pecan pie, and probably more, as well as a whole spread of appetizers that Heather prepared for us.

After dinner, we piled into the cars and drove over to Yellow Springs to a small independent theater where we watched Force of Nature, a documentary on the life work and discoveries of the Japanese biologist David Suzuki. Dad seemed to enjoy the movie the most, mentioning that it had felt like going on a journey back through his own life. For me, the documentary touched on several issues that resonate with place-based education. For example, David said that the most powerful words anyone can say are, "I'm staying," because of the revolutionary commitment to a place that involves.

But the surprises weren't over. As an early birthday gift for Joo, the family had gotten Joo and me tickets to see Les Miserables the following day (I just got lucky by being the spouse of the birthday girl). It had been a long time since Joo or I had been to a professional musical, and Les Miserables is perhaps my favorite novel of all-time, so we were quite excited.

The performance was stellar- not only by the stars, but also the minor characters, such as the lady who played Madame Thenardier (pictured below, between our heads).

After the musical, we met up with the rest of the clan at the newly renovated Wympee Diner, now known as The Olive.

Joo has continued to pour herself into her teaching of the Korean children at the church, to the point where they are now eager to invite her into their lives outside of church. One such case was our outing to see Junu play ice hockey...

Another was a trip to the local elementary school carnival.

Although my classes have been out for a couple weeks now, Joo still has another week or two to go and so she has been hitting the books hard. Unfortunately, I am no longer able to provide her with much help in her Personal Finance and Accounting classes, because she has gone beyond the realms of what I know. Of course, that doesn't stop me from listening to her questions, pretending like I need to go do something while I actually Google the question, and then returning with a thoughtful answer. Shhhh...

And, as promised in the last post, some reflections on the past few months...

Throughout my twenties, I took great pride in viewing myself as counter-cultural, unique, quirky, adventurous, etc. At any given time, I had a couple interesting projects that I could discuss, and another 20 in the planning stages. When I was 21, and back living with my parents during an engineering internship, this creativity was formerly incorporated into my lifestyle. Every month, I picked a new skill and devoted myself to learning it within a month. If it stuck, I continued it afterwards; if not, I at least had a month's worth of something interesting that allowed me to connect with others. Months I remember include sign language, calligraphy (Old English), French, German, guitar (alternative tunings), piano (jazz improvisation), and frisbee throws (I learned 23 of them). Other months, I just picked a random topic- like the country of Hungary- and spent the month learning everything I could about it.

During my 14 month Round the World trip, I carried a notebook that succinctly captured my eccentricities. It included my graphical theories of social interactions; my lexicon of neologized words; recommendation pages for little-known music groups, books, and movies (I used these lists as conversation starters, but also to explore beyond mainstream); specific things I wanted to emulate about certain travellers and locals I met along the way; psychological experiments; my labyrinthine artwork; a ten-category quantitative ranking sheet for each place I visited; the basics of the language for every country I went to, etc.

Anyway, the reason I'm mentioning all of this here in this post is because I have felt much more like an Everyman recently. I'm throwing myself headlong into my studies. When I do slow down momentarily for a treasured social interaction, I often find myself lacking anything interesting to say. In my marriage with Joo, I find myself fulfilling the same stereotypical masculine roles that I used to criticize so harshly. I feel disconnected with Nature, despite the fact that I'm living in the foothills of the Appalachians in an area where parks and forests abound. All that said, I really do enjoy the content of my coursework and research. I'm just a bit disturbed at how little of what I treasured during my twenties is present in my current life. Maybe this is a natural progression of life and I'm being haunted by a past Daniel who held different values, maybe it is just a temporary situation because of my studies/research, or maybe I am simply failing to be true to that which I value most in life. I wouldn't label it depression; depression, ironically, was much more a part of my twenties. In fact, it probably was the depression of my twenties that fueled my values and lifestyle of that time, so perhaps I am just experiencing one of the disadvantages of contentment. Certainly, when I consider my life as a whole compared to what it was ten years ago, I am much happier now.

So, those are my ramblings for the moment - not representative of my overall world view, but an important portion of my life these days that probably has not shown up enough in my blog entries in order to give an accurate picture of who I am and how I'm doing. Who am I? I'm Daniel Showalter! (cheesy allusion to Jean Valjean's line in Les Miserables, the musical ^^)

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