Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Image

Blog title and photo will make sense right after the following paragraphs! Stay tuned!

Yesterday I realized it was April 1st, and that it is just under one month until my 28th birthday. Realizing that gave me sort of mixed feelings. 27 was a year filled with incredible highs—I started a great new job, got married to an incredible man, went on an amazing Thailand honeymoon, and started this book club. But it also had its lows—losing said “great new job” and struggling to pay for the little luxuries that I thoroughly enjoy. (Fear not parents. We are still eating. I’m only bitching about the fact that currently my roots make it look like I’m wearing a dark brown yarmulke made of hair on top of my blonde highlights.) Anyway, because of this mishmosh of life events, I will remember 27 as a year of learning.

Back in November, I had so much pent-up energy from unemployed life, if I didn’t channel it into something positive FAST, I’d be forever trapped watching TV in my pajamas, wrapped in blankets of self-pity. But once I chose to start this book club, something changed. I learned to love reading again. I learned new ways to fight boredom. And I slowly learned how to build something from scratch.

Now, building something from scratch had always felt foreign to me. For example, when I was in high school, I desperately wanted to be a famous musician (I mean really, who didn’t?), which eventually led to me going to the Berklee College of Music. But once I was there I quickly became discouraged. Not only was everyone more talented than me, they were also way more motivated than me. They were in the process of building up their musical personas and perfecting their skills, while I just wanted to be “discovered” on a street corner or something ridiculous. I wanted to go from A-Z without hitting all the letters in between. Needless to say, I didn’t make it through music school.

Image

Music school dropout.
I can’t help but feel a little gipped because when I dropped out, no Frankie Avalon person came to sing to me. The nerve.

My husband on the other hand, pursued his passion for music in the complete opposite way. He had been in bands since he was about 15 years old and in 2009, he joined a band called This Good Robot. Now I know this may sound biased, but they are ridiculously awesome and watching them play live is one of my favorite things to do. I adore them and all the hard work they put into the band, and I am forever flowing with pride whenever I see kids screaming along to all their songs. Anyway, this band didn’t always have a following. They earned that with hours of practice, long trips to hole-in-the-wall venues, and enough sweat to fill an olympic-size swimming pool (seriously, after shows they are drenched and it is disgusting). They worked hard to slowly build their success from scratch.

Image

TGR power stances all the way.
If you’re curious, my man is the fella performing a half-squat with a guitar on the far left.                    Photo credit: Hingwa Moy

The same thing goes for the characters in the books I love to read. I think about Eli Brown’s “Cinnamon and Gunpowder” (a NSBCBC January read), and the character of Owen Wedgwood. To remind you, Owen gets kidnapped by a wild group of pirates and over the course of the story learned to slowly adapt to pirate life. The character of Owen learned to prevail in this new lifestyle, but he had to earn that with hard work. He pushed himself to grow and take risks and eventually he learned to fight when he would previously cower. In Gabrielle Hamilton’s “Blood, Bones, and Butter”(a November NSBCBC read) Gabrielle pushed herself to open her own restaurant even though she didn’t have experience owning or operating a business. Starting with nothing but her love of food, she learned how to run a business and she worked tirelessly to make it happen. Hell, even Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series is an inspiration to me! He was a completely average boy who decided to work hard by putting his fears aside and pushing himself to bravely challenge the evils around him.

Image

The evolution of Ron Weasley. From little scared (albeit adorable) boy, to total dark lord-fighting bad ass. Only took 7 books but hey, he too had to build himself up from scratch! You go Ronny!

In all of these situations, all of these people (my husband’s band included) did something amazing. They were ordinary people who chose to do something extraordinary, and they did it by building it themselves.

And so, I envy them. But instead of being jealous, I choose to use them as motivation. I want this book club to grow. I want more people to participate. I want to keep on writing in this blog, and I cannot wait to record next month’s podcast! I believe that even ordinary Me can do something extraordinary with this club.

I know we started this book club from scratch, and I know we have a long way to go. But I can’t help but feel that with all this motivation in my back pocket, and the great inspiration I see from the people and characters that surround me, this coming year is gonna be even better than the last. 

So, thank you for supporting this while we build it up.

– Nina Sclafani

P.S. - For those of you who missed it, this past Sunday we recorded our first Not So Book Club Podcast. Joined by a group of fantastic teachers, we had a great time recording it.  Stream it here for free at: nsbcbc.podbean.com

P.S. – For those of you who missed it, this past Sunday we recorded our first Not So Book Club Podcast. Joined by a group of fantastic teachers, we had a great time recording it.
Stream it here for free at: nsbcbc.podbean.com

Advertisements

You Do You – Satisfying the Different Parts of Your Personality with Books

In the same way that people have figurative skeletons in the closet, I have skeletons on my bookshelf. These are books that I once loved but now am slightly embarrassed about. Case and point: The Twilight series (I refuse to call it a “saga.” It’s just too much!)

Let us rewind to 2008. I was in the final semesters of my teaching program at Stony Brook University, and up to my neck in serious lit and education courses. I was also involved in a wonderful but long distance relationship with my boyfriend (now husband). My life bordered on being somewhat dull. It was a life filled with poetry I didn’t relate to, and phone conversations that recapped the monotony of our daily lives apart. Because of that, I began to long for some excitement. And so, in came the Twilight books.

Just like that, I fell into an exciting world filled with vampires, and werewolves, and Washington state (oh my!). I found myself involved in lengthy conversations about who I felt should be cast as Edward, and even went as far as creating a Facebook sticker (yes, these were once a thing) that said something along the lines of “I’d rather be dating Edward” (Good God Andrew, I’m so sorry).  And for the last nail in my Twilight-obsessed coffin, I went to the book release party at Barnes and Noble for “Breaking Dawn” sporting a Twilight t-shirt!

Image

2008 – Here I am with my beautiful friend Alison, sippin’ on pure sugar “Edward” slushies, fully decked out in Twilight t-shirts, because that’s how you do Saturday night! No regrets!

Now, although I write this with a face that is slightly red from embarrassment, I have to be honest—at the time, those books were a lot of fun and gave me what I needed. With my boyfriend living 4 hours away and my days spent in the classroom, I craved excitement and romance, and I found that within the pages of the series.

Fast forward to 2014, although I pretend to have refined my taste in literature, I still essentially do the same thing. I feed my mind and soul what it wants. Last month, I wanted to experience what it felt like to be in outer space, so I picked up “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” by Col. Chris Hadfield. This month, I wanted to quench my yucky need for gossip, so I read “Most Talkative” by Bravo executive and host Andy Cohen. With each book, I satisfied a part of my personality that yearned for that element. (Sidenote: It’s a lot better to pick up a book and fulfill one’s need for gossip, rather than invite that sort of thing into your real life. Truth!)

Image

My spirit animals, Donna and Tom from Parks and Rec, reminding us all that it’s OK to “treat yo self” to what you want…. even if that treat is a book that is widely panned by critics and friends alike.

I’ve learned to accept that it’s OK to like what you like, and that you should always feel free to read what you want because 1. You’re reading (which is fantastic) and 2. You’re satisfying something that your mind is craving. Although I don’t really relate to the Twilight books anymore, there was a time that I did. They gave me what my mind needed and so I’m thankful for those books. I’m grateful for Twilight! (I never thought I’d hear myself say that… at least publicly).

And so in short, I suppose if there’s a lesson to be had, it would be that no matter what a critic says about a book you love, or no matter how bad your friends make fun of you for liking a book, you should never feel ashamed for liking what you like, because there is no better judge for a book than you.

– Nina Sclafani

Image

You do you! Satisfy your needs and embrace what you like!

Meeting the Challenge

I feared this would happen. The second I ordered the book off Amazon and received the email saying “Out of Stock! Will send as soon as possible,” I knew I was at risk. As per usual, I set up my NSBCBC reading goals, but I knew this shipping snafu would leave me with barely enough time to complete all three books. I feared the missing book would require the most time and energy, and that it would be sent to my house too late, leaving me with a meager week or two to tackle this Goliath. As predicted, this is exactly the situation I found myself in.

“S.” (the interactive concentration-requiring novel experience by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst) became the (enjoyable) bane of my existence. Every day I slowly sifted through the mystery and allowed myself to get completely wrapped up in the experience. But with only a few days left in the month, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated at myself for barely being able to reach my reading goals.

I voiced these concerns to my best friend and she pointed out how (and I paraphrase) these goals were all self inflicted and that

I made these goals,

I created the challenge,

I’m meeting the challenge,

and I’m bettering myself by doing so.

I realized that she was right, and despite my frustrations, these goals have led me to a new positive place in my life. They have led me to a path of self education.

I have enrolled myself in a school where I am both professor and student. I assign the writing assignments (the blog), I give the reading assignments (set daily goals for reading), and I have a strong desire to share the experience with others (others I want to “teach” or “learn with”). I have even found myself reading with a highlighter! And why do I do this? Because I have developed an intrinsic desire to learn.

Image

This is how I feel on the tiny campus that is my home. In my fantasy world, there is signage and shirts with logos, so I can properly show off my self-ed pride.

Even subjects that I once despised, I now yearn to learn more about. When I was in high school, I absolutely hated the subject of science. Although I learned what I had to in order to pass, I did not feel the desire to have my questions answered. I was apathetic to the subject. But now I find myself reading National Geographic magazine… with a highlighter… and a pen…. for note taking! What has happened to me?!

Image

This month’s National Geographic magazine is teaching me all about the brain! Note the highlighter and additional notes.
Prior to reading this article, the extent of my knowledge about the brain came from the 90’s classic film, The Babysitters Club. (“The brain! The brain! The center of the chain!”…. Anyone? Anyone?)

I think it all stems from my first months of unemployment. Post wedding, I allowed myself to spend days watching television while feverishly hitting the refresh button on facebook. I’d sleep in, not exercise, and not feel like socializing. (It’s ok. You can judge me for that. I judge me for that too.) I got so wrapped up in mundane, solitary life that when I spoke, I felt like I couldn’t even form intelligent sentences. My brain wasn’t working on all cylinders because it didn’t have to. I wasn’t challenging myself.

Then right before my husband and I went on our honeymoon, I instagrammed a picture of the three books I was taking with me and threw together a paragraph about wanting others to read with me. And so the Not So Book Club Book Club was formed. From that moment on, I felt I had a responsibility. I made a goal and a challenge to myself—to keep up with this project and to help it grow.

Since then, nurturing this project has made me want to nurture my mind. Meeting the goals I set for myself has given me purpose. It has made my days fulfilling, and although at times it can be frustrating (e.g. see paragraph 1), it has given me the desire to learn and better myself. And come the day I am once again gainfully employed, I will try my hardest not to lose sight of this feeling, because to me this is what life is all about.

Creating goals, meeting those goals, and bettering your mind.

So What Did You Do Today? A Honest Look at the Life of an Unemployed Reader

Image

It had to be a selfie due to my dog’s lack of picture-taking knowledge and because I’m not crazy enough (yet) to think I can pull characters out of books to do my bidding.

2013 was really working out to be a stellar year. I had a new job, a new house, a wedding on the way, and a dream honeymoon booked for Thailand. Everything was falling into place. And then at the end of August, I got dealt quite a blow. 3 weeks before my wedding, my company made major cuts to the staff and fired 10% of the employees. Just as quickly as it came, I was let go from a job that I loved.

With the wedding 3 weeks away, I didn’t have time to dwell. I focused all my energy on the upcoming nuptials and when that was done, I focused solely on the honeymoon. Throughout that time, people would ask if I was nervous about how I’d feel when life slowed down, but I would respond that I wasn’t concerned. I was too wrapped up in all the fun. However, upon my return from Thailand, I began to feel it —the isolation from the world around me. The loneliness that comes without being able to chat with coworkers and the laziness that creeps into your body when you lack structure in your day.

I would soon find myself with unkempt hair, spending entire days in pajamas. I’d look at the clock, and the hours would simultaneously fly by when I yearned to be productive, and be painfully slow while I awaited my husband’s arrival. Unfortunately, even today I am still struggling to fight this. It’s been about 4 months since the layoff, and though I’m still searching for more structure to my days, I’ve been able to turn to my books for a place of solace.

Everyday when my husband asks how my day was and what I did, I almost feel hesitant to answer. To him, the answer would be that I sat on the couch and read, and then I read while I cooked dinner, and then read in our bed while drinking coffee. To me, I traveled back in time to the 1950’s and visited Kabul, Afghanistan. I flew to Paris and interviewed an Afghani-Parisian poet just days before her death. I lived in California with a doctor and his family while he tried to justify the life he led. I cried at the sorrows I heard and laughed at the things that brought my new companions joy. I learned, felt empathy, and felt motivated, all by the characters of a book. To me, I felt as though I spent the day living with purpose. I no longer felt alone.

That is the gift of literature, and it is this magical quality that I will never stop loving about the experience of reading. When we read we become students of life. These books can transport us through time and space, and introduce us to people we would have never met otherwise. It is through them that we are given the opportunity to think and feel, and question the opinions we have. And perhaps it is this opportunity, and the ability to fully embrace it, that is the silver lining to losing what I had.