On Self-Improvement and Movies
As everyone knows, the world is divided into two types of people: book lovers and movie lovers. This is how it was in my family, and the dynamics in your own family usually reflect without error the dynamics of the rest of the world. I am a book lover, my sister is a movie lover, and so on until everyone has been assigned.
I’ve been reading a lot since June when I read On Writing by Stephen King (breaking my vow to never read a book on writing by anyone) and vowed to beat his record of seventy books per year. Since I majored in English, you might think I’d read quite a few books per year anyways, but everyone knows English is a bullshit major and you don’t need to read more than one full book per semester to do very well. Looking back, I wish I had read more.
This brings me to self-improvement. There are things I accomplished in undergrad that I am very proud of, and other things that I’m not so proud of and would like to improve upon in the future. As college is a micro-cosm of life, this holds true there as well. For instance, I read probably 1/3 of my required reading in college; I have probably completed about 1/3 of my life goals. Self-improvement can be tricky because the people inclined to improve themselves are also probably inclined not to know when to stop, and the double-edged sword of self-criticism can be very harmful. Of course at the beginning of every semester I vowed to read all of my reading. Does the fact that not once since freshman year did I do all of my reading mean I am a horrible person? Not likely, says my rational self. Absolutely, says my self-improvement voice. To some self-improvers, criticism seems to lead to improvement. This is a lie and a farce. Criticism only leads to guilt complexes, anxiety and failure to perform. Fortunately goal setting, as an act of self-improvement, does not have to come from a place of self-criticism.
Circumstances more than anything else can shape how well you can keep a vow. In terms of setting a reading goal, circumstances were favorable for me this summer. At the time I made my vow to read more, I was working at a doggy day care in Southie and living in Newton, so I had an hour commute to work. Now I am living in Brooklyn and working in the Bronx and have an hour and a half commute to work. This gives me a lot of time to read. Since June I’ve read 35 books, counting three books I didn’t actually read (Empowering Women, Working With Women of Color, and Engendering Power) but checked out of Widener and skimmed before interviewing for my current job (empowering and engendering women of color).
Fortunately or unfortunately, the quest for self-improvement never seems to be satisfied. But you can tweak it so that it’s coming from self-love, so that your life long quest to be a Renaissance woman or man turns into a lifelong celebration of loving yourself. At the beginning of the year everyone makes the resolution to become a completely different person. I am no different. This year, however, my resolution will come from a place of love rather than hate: “I would love to be Cormac McCarthy” rather than “I hate being me.” Ha Ha just kidding. I’m not trying to change because I cant love myself until I change, I love myself so I want to better myself. Self-love was something I struggled with in college. My success with my reading list (and not being in college) has helped me with that. I was a very succesful book person in 2008. Circumstances have been good to me and I’ve chosen good books. So the things we need to keep our vows are self-love, favorable circumstances and positive reinforcers (Cormac McCarthy, unlike Psuedo-Dionysus, is a pleasure to read). Success with old vows can help us make and keep new ones. And so I am proposing my New Year’s Resolution for 2009. My sister has a larger combined movie/book knowledge database than I. As all siblingries are at heart competitions, this is unacceptable. Fortunately, in the time it takes to read one book, you can watch a lot of movies.
I am resolving to watch better movies this year. Unfortunately, circumstances are not favorable (I work/commute long hours, I don’t have a TV, I don’t own many movies). To combat these circumstances, I am watching The Silence at work, and killing two birds with one stone. Coincidentally, it is a movie about two sisters. I wonder what will happen when they review our browser histories. Did anyone know that “outube.com” is a porn site?
Other resolutions: be more positive, love myself more, start writing a poem a day again, get to work by 9 so I can (ethically) leave by 5, have better posture