Don’t Call Me Brave

Hufflepuff. That, I am sure, is the house I would be in if I attended the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And although we Hufflepuffs are the butt of every joke, I think I would be happy there. Certainly, I am not smart like those in Ravenclaw, nor cunning like those in Slytherin. And I am definitely not brave enough to find a home amongst the Hermione Grangers and Harry Potters in the Gryffindor house.

Perhaps that is why I am so suspicious when someone comments on my bravery. When they suggest that I am brave, I assume they mean stupid or, at the very nicest, foolish. Surely they don’t really think moving across the country solely because I wanted to is brave. They must think I am out of my mind. What? You moved to a city you don’t know without a job? Hardly with a plan or excuse other than that you’ve lived in one zip code your whole life and it was time for a new one. Were they all out of zip codes back home? That they express jealousy of my freedom in that sense only says to me, “We are of the higher minded houses. We Gryffindors, Slytherins, or Ravenclaws plan, scheme, or strategize before buying that one way ticket. Sure, that may be holding me back from what I want right now, but it is the better way to do it. Just because you are happy doesn’t mean you are doing it right.”

And maybe that is what some of the people think. Those who care about me, I am hopeful, really are envious and really do wish they could do what I am doing. Because who doesn’t want to be happy? Why shouldn’t you go after what you want? And because I did that, does that make me brave?

Let me answer how I experience it: no. I am not brave. I am not stupid. I am not foolish. But I have that Can-Do attitude we Americans are so known for coupled with that cowboy Get’er done mentality from growing up in the west; from growing up with parents who expected a lot. And maybe just a dash of YOLO, for good internet measure. With that, and the knowledge that it’ll probably all work out and if not I can always go back to 85719, I will always leap and wait for the net to appear.

Fast forward to now, four months into this little adventure of mine. I’m wrapping up a handful of projects from NaNoWriMo, an internship, and a teaching contract. The next few months are a little frighteningly devoid of an income. Looking forward, well, frankly, (with the exception of a new zip code) I’m in the exact same place as I was a few months ago, and am poised to jump all over again. Because if that net doesn’t appear, and if I don’t land on my feet, well, I don’t have much choice but to jump again and again, until I get it right. What is it we Hufflepuffs are? Unafraid of toil?

er...Just to really tie up any loose ends, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists bravery as:  having or showing courage (and courage as: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty). Wait, by that definition…

Look, I have a younger brother. If nothing else, I am able to withstand difficulty.

Scaredy Cat? Present and Accounted For.

I’m not afraid of mice. So when a pair of them magically appeared in my house one Halloween, I wasn’t terribly alarmed. (I think there is some irony in there somewhere- Halloween, not being scared…) Granted, they were pets. That I purchased. More or less on an impulse. Here’s what happened: my roommate at the time and I had gone searching for the final pieces of our costumes at a Party City. Next door was a Petco. We decided to go in and look at cats we couldn’t have. Not finding any cats, we stopped at the rodents. In the male mouse container, amidst a few dozen other scurrying pests, were two running, fairly unsuccessfully, in opposite directions on the same wheel. One was white with orange patches and the other was brown with a white stripe on his head. I pointed them out, “If those were my mice,” I said, “I’d name them Harry and Ron.”

Ron Weasley and Harry Potter, mice

And so we did. And they were great. Harry, tragically, died young. But Ron hung around for a while and was one of the best pets I ever owned. And while that may be the case, this is not a blog about pet mice. And it isn’t about being superior to my fellow writer – besides, I have more than my fair share of things that scare the daylights out of me.

Point in case: the cracked doorbell button. I will not push it, although probably I won’t get electrocuted. The “probably” is the issue. And I don’t want to hear about the current that runs through such a device. It’s lit up and rings. That sounds pretty potentially deadly to me.

Oh, and I’m not keen on loud noises. As you can imagine, rock concerts and the 4th of July aren’t really my thing.

And since we’re on the topic, I don’t really like cockroaches,  riding my bike next to buses or train tracks, riding my bike across train tracks, gutters in pools, gutters in streets, cattle guards, cattle, stopping and mooing at cattle, or the dark. And that is the tip of the iceberg.  My fears can get even sillier: like the paranoia that I will use the wrong “your/you’re” in a tweet. Just a few nights ago, I had a nightmare that a murderer was going to target one of the units in my building. With only six doors to choose from, my odds weren’t good. Legitimately scary, sure, but just a dream. Except that when I woke up I was worried my subconscious had picked up on something and was trying to alert me to my impending doom. The only way to be sure the killer wasn’t waiting in the living room was to check. Except that was too scary (see above: afraid of the dark). I compromised and locked my bedroom door, under the assumption that the tiny push lock would slow the deranged serial killer down long enough for me to wake up and find some means of protection. Luckily, it never came to that. But it illustrates just how much of my day to day (or night to night) is influenced by irrational fears.

And that is really what I have been trying to get to this whole time, the term: “irrational fears”. Talk about trivializing. Yes, it may seem silly that I’ve never been stung by a bee and yet I’m afraid of bees while I have been stung by a jelly fish and am not afraid of jelly fish (which, I’m told, feels a lot like a bee sting). But does telling me it isn’t scary make the bee (or the mouse) any less so? It doesn’t. Hello, ladies, we are all afraid of things, from big bugs to never owning a designer purse, and just because it isn’t going to kill us, is no reason to think less of it, and as a result, less of ourselves.

We are only as strong as our weakest link. That link isn’t our fear, legitimate or not. That link is the way we judge ourselves and tear ourselves down. Eff mainstream trivialization. Besides, rivers are on my list of things I’m afraid of.

It’s Irrational, But I Do It Anyway: Comparing Movies to Books

When I was 14, I was thrilled to be sitting in a darkened movie theater, about to watch Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It was my favorite book in the Harry Potter series by far, and I couldn’t wait to see the movie version of it. I left completely disappointed and crestfallen. All of my favorite scenes from the book had been taken out, and the stuff that was added in felt childish to me even as at fourteen. This was my first experience with being disappointed by a movie adaptation of a book I loved, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. I have felt that way with almost every movie to hit theaters that was once a book, and I can assure you, in the past seven years, there has been a significant amount of them.

Recently, I have changed my tactic when I go and see a movie adaptation of a book and it has worked wonders. I always read the book first, and usually, it’s not intentional. Before a movie came out, I would always make an effort to reread the book. I went into the midnight showing of The Hunger Games not having read the book in four years. I remembered what happened and the big details, but I didn’t remember specifics. This worked wonders for me. I left that movie completely in love with it, and thinking it did such a great job adapting to the book.

A lot of fans that I have since talked to had a hard time appreciating the movie. I was lucky, because I had read and loved the book, and I watched and loved the movie. I looked at them as separate entities, and it made a world of difference. Since seeing the movie, I have gone back and read the book, and I understand a lot of reader’s complaints; the movie and the book are more different than I had remembered. However, I refuse to be upset about this.

Being disappointed that your favorite book wasn’t your favorite movie is absolutely irrational. Plain and simple, books and movies are different. A two and a half hour movie can’t include everything from a 350 page book, and you wouldn’t want it to! Even excellent book-to-movies like The Lord of the Rings cut out so much, and most fans are able to appreciate both. A movie needs a more straightforward narrative – all the asides that books are able to logically include don’t work in a movie. Movies also reach a wider audience of people.

A lot of people who didn’t read The Hunger Games have seen the movie. Instead of being upset that the movie wasn’t exactly the same as the book, we should be excited that more people are beginning to love something so awesome. If you’re that type of person who needs every single detail in the book to be included in the movie, just don’t go. I would argue that even with all the cuts the writers made, I still felt the same emotions watching the movie that I did reading the book. The intensity and horror was still alive and well, and the ability to see the fight scenes allowed me to better understand some of the more confusing passages in the book. The Hunger Games, despite its cuts, was still a great movie.

While waiting in line for the movie, my friend Ali reminded me of the first midnight showing we ever saw together: Harry Potter and the Half- Blood Prince. I left that movie so disappointed, because I had been comparing it to the book. She told me that that made her hate it, too, because I pointed out differences that she hadn’t remembered. So, if you have read the book and then go see the movie, don’t ruin it for everyone else. Let your friends enjoy the movie, and try to accept it for what it is. Trust me, in the long run, I am sure you will leave much more satisfied.