attention!

I have got some awesome news. After a good two years hosted at wordpress.com, Well Begun Is Half-Done is moving to alexlaughlin.com.

Of course, being me, I have to make every ending significant and sentimental. This is where I learned how to blog, and it’s been a great two years. I think the most important thing I’ve gained has been the self-assurance. Whenever I begin doubting myself, I only have to think back to the encouraging things and flattering complements you all have given me because of this blog.

It’s important to note I’m not actually going anywhere. My new site looks exactly the same as this one; I just have more freedom to design my page, which I will take advantage of when I have a bit more time. Also, it’s just pretty fancy to have my own domain name.

This is my last post on wordpress.com. I’m excited for new beginnings! Come with me!

See you on the web.

meeting ira glass

[I wish I knew the origin of this image]

I once met Ira Glass. I know, how could I have met my hero and not even blog about it? Well, here’s how: I got back to Athens that Sunday and the boy I was seeing at the time very politely bought me coffee and soundly broke up with me in the most romantic spot on campus.  And apparently I had caught a stomach bug over the weekend, because I spent the next 20 hours throwing up absolutely everything inside of me.

This happened back in October. Understandably I just couldn’t get to this story intantly, but gosh, couldn’t I have squeezed some time in to talk about it before? Like over Christmas break? The answer is yes. I definitely could have found the time to write about how amazing it was to meet my idol. I could have found the time to write about how it felt to shake his hand and speak to him — how it felt to know that words from my brain were reaching his brain and he was responding to them! I think these are things only a true fangirl could imagine.

But this blog should be the place where I tell the truth, or at least most of it. And the real truth is that I didn’t want to write a long post on how it felt to meet Ira Glass. Truthfully, it was amazing. I consider it one of the best three nights of my life. But if I had blogged about how he looked older in person than I imagined, I believed I would have just become one of the crowd of 150 or so in the auditorium that night.

Of course there were other people there. And how could I have been his only huge fan? He is a celebrity, an innovator, a big name in journalism — especially for those who are trying to breathe life into their dying, adjective-less newspaper stories that no one wants to read. He is the guy who made things interesting.

[Ira on left, age 20]

There was a journalism class from Augusta State University in the audience that night. He came out after his presentation to answer questions specifically for that class. I hung around the back, pretending to be in the class, too. They were quick to pick his brains on the journalism industry purely because of his position as an established name in the field. I watched as hands went up and students asked again and again for advice on how to be professional journalists. They were all so self-serving. After he gave his email address to one person with an interesting story idea, everyone swarmed, trying to get his email for themselves. Eventually, he told them to just pitch stories to the TAL website.

“Why do you need my email?” he asked.

Well. No one could say. None of us had good story ideas. Not even the guy running for mayor in Macon. He was just trying to get free publicity by an adorable radio softie who could not care less about small-town Georgia politics. Unless the story said something greater about the human condition.

The thing is, everyone in that little crowd was trying so hard to one-up the person before them. They each wanted to be remembered for being the funny one, the clever one, and or the promising one. Because Ira is just the guy who could appreciate a diamond in the rough, like so many of these people felt they were.

Yeah, me too.

When it was finally my turn to meet him and to talk to him, all  I could say was, “I’m Alex. I go to UGA. I want to be you when I grow up.”

He smiled, and he said, “You mean you want to do something like this?”

I looked at the stage behind him where they were cleaning up back, pulling the curtain away and revealing wires and other mechanical-looking things that made the show as magical as it was.

“No,” I told him. “I want to be you. I have that mug, that TAL mug, with you and with the robot host on it. I want to be the robot.”

(Here’s the mug, in case you were wondering.)

He seemed flattered. Or tickled at least that I’d say a silly thing like that. He shook my hand, saying, “Well it’s great to meet you.”

We took a picture together. And then I walked out, my hands shaking.

I’ll admit I was slightly bothered by the girl who held a worn copy of his Radio: An Illustrated Guide. She said she had produced some audio projects on her own through Transom. She hung behind everyone, clearly trying to save herself for his last impression.

Well I can’t go through life worrying about the girl who might be more prepared than I am to meet Ira Glass — the girl who thought to bring her copy of his book so he knew she had been reading it. My only comfort can come from knowing how I felt when he spoke to us about storytelling.

As I sat in the dark auditorium listening to his voice from a few feet away, I knew we were made of the same stuff.

a music post

So normally, I post a song at a time whenever I blog. Usually it’s a song that applies to the post in some way. Maybe it inspired my post. Maybe its lyrics can describe my feelings better than I can. Maybe I just happen to be obsessed with the song at the time.

Today my friend Cynthia asked me to make her a playlist and what a coincidence — I’ve been putting this playlist together on Spotify for a couple of weeks! Sorry to disappoint though, it’s mostly full of throwbacks to those high school days when we explored music for the sake of finding a new “favorite” band no one had heard of. Apparently some of them stuck.

I’m more excited because this is the first time I’m posting a Spotify playlist to my blog. Let’s see how well this works out. Maybe this could become a thing.

PS – if you don’t have Spotify yet, download it! It’s great. Really. You can integrate your iTunes library and the universe’s library all in your computer! You know what that means… no more going to Youtube to sample new songs.

coming to

The birds outside woke him up before he was ready. Annoyed, he came into consciousness, opening his eyes to the bright light in his room and a splitting headache. Oh drunk —-, what did you do last night? The sepia playback from the night before was interrupted sporadically by blanks in the story line and finally the story cut short right before the end. The film must’ve fallen off the reel. Or something like that.
He parted his sticky lips for the first time and licked them, checking the clock by his bed. 12:30 pm. He could have gone for another hour or two for sure if it weren’t for those stupid birds. He didn’t brush last night and his breath was rank from the nighttime. He could also taste remnants of the night’s drinks and cigarettes. Stretching out across the slightly yellowed sheets, he made a mental note to do laundry in the next week. His shirt from the night before was damp from sweat and the sheets could stand a wash.
Not wanting to move but too thirsty now that he was awake, —- swung his feet onto the cold floor. The cold November air managed to spread past the thin walls of his house and settle itself everywhere in his room but the small pocket of warmth in his bed. The floor was the most hostile of them all. Head still throbbing, he winced at the cold but grabbed a gray cotton sweatshirt from his dresser and pulled it over his head as he walked into the kitchen.
The lukewarm water ran straight from the leaky tap to his plastic cup – and also all over his hands. His roommate had tried to fix the leak in the faucet by tying a washcloth around it, but the cloth had since soaked and the water shot through again.
The cup filled and he drank it all in a few gulps, imagining each swallow could somehow undo the things he didn’t remember doing from the night before.
He dropped the empty cup in the sink. His heart was beating, and his lips were cold and moist.

She brushed her long, dark hair and dressed for the cold, putting her book in her bag and double-checking her reflection in the mirror on the way out the door. Jaw set and mind cool, she had made up her mind to get to the bottom of this, one way or another. She waited until she was certain he would be awake to call him. She figured 12:45 should be fine, even though she had been awake since 9:00 that morning. She dialed his number as she stepped into the cold, holding her breath from her nerves and from the temperature outside.
The shower was warming up and he was pulling off his shirt when he heard his phone faintly buzzing from his bed.
“Meet me in an hour,” her voice said nervously over the phone. She sounded so much younger than she was.
Curious, and now committed, he hung up the phone and stepped into the hot water. —- stared up at the steam curling toward the ceiling and the ruined paper on the walls while the water soothed his headache. He wanted to know why she called. Those few nights in the summer had been all right but he had never been particularly invested in the relationship.
He brushed his teeth hoping to freshen his breath as best as he could, but knowing that there wasn’t really much he could do.
Pants, shirt, sweater, socks, shoes. Wallet in pocket and keys in hand, he stepped out into the cold. The digital clock on his car’s dashboard said he had fifteen minutes to spare.

She sat there in the coffee shop hidden under a scarf and cradling her book like it would offer some kind of advice for what was to come. There was a couple at the table next to her having coffee and reading magazines. She had dark hair and thick bangs; he wore round glasses that reflected the light. There was an older woman poring over a thick textbook and taking notes in big, slanted cursive. There was a table of three teenage girls who hadn’t quite grown into their looks but who did their best to impersonate the models in Seventeen Magazine. One girl’s hair was haphazardly straightened and her split ends stuck out, making her hair look more like a straw broom from afar.
There was a low chatter in the room. The girls laughed at jokes amongst themselves and one in the couple would occasionally point an article or an advertisement out to the other.
She heard his footsteps before she saw him walking toward her. He looked the same, though his hair might have grown a little and he may have gained some weight. His blue eyes were as bright as ever, even inside the shop. He settled across from her and she sat in silence for a moment.
“Well, the ball’s in your court,” —- said.
The room went quiet. She could smell the alcohol on his skin.

symmetry

In religion today, we talked about intuitively spiritual events — the clash of the mundane with the divine which creates religion. My professor tells me that religious experience doesn’t necessarily have to be reasonable. Actually, in the reading we’re doing right now, Rudolph Otto says human nature is inherently unreasonable (if I’m interpreting this correctly…). It’s strange to hear an academic speaking of religion in a way that isn’t concrete in the slightest; it’s frightening and comforting at once, if that’s possible.

On the one hand, it scares me because I am forced to accept that there may be facets of the human experience that cannot be explained by reason. It scares me to know that my professor, who has been in school longer than I have been alive, is telling me that I can’t reason my way into religious thought. I suddenly feel like everything is unstable and the floor was ripped out from beneath me. How am I supposed to wrap my head around this?

But my professor said once, “faith without doubt is madness. A mature faith can ask these questions.” Again, I don’t know what I am growing faith in, but I wonder if I am beginning to feel those inklings of intuition again that will eventually tip the first domino. It shows up when I take a moment to look at the symmetry in my life.

Really, it’s scary, although maybe it’s completely inconsequential. But how can I explain the prevalence of the number ’27’ on significant occasions in my life?
Or the ending of two sub-par relationships in the exact same place.
Or the fact that I now spend significant amounts of time each week at one of the first places I ever visited in Athens — a place I never thought I would return to.
Or my sharing a name (first or last) with people who eventually replace me.
Or the way my life seems to run parallel to another’s without either of our meaning for it to.

I’m running the risk of being cliche by posting this song, but…oh well. I can’t help loving Conor. And anyway, with this small bit of introspection I think I’ve earned some shallow interpretation of the title of a Bright Eyes song.

moonlight

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.”

- Allen Ginsberg

Leonid Tishkov’s Private Moon series. 

He installs these glowing moons in places and photographs them, and they’re absolutely stunning. I particularly like this video because it shows how tedious it is to install the moon somewhere to get the gorgeous photo.

what i’ve been up to:

Today is the third and new years resolutions are being made left and right. I realized recently that I see my birthdays and beginnings of school years in the same way that people see New Years. And I have enough resolutions for now, I think. But I can’t discard that fresh, clean, brand new feeling that comes with a writing a new year by hand at the top of a journal entry.

     So in this new year, I hope to bring more beauty into my life.

I hope to be more organized and more conscious of where my thoughts wander to and what that wandering does for my sanity and happiness.

I’ve set a limit of 45 minutes a day for social networking (oh dear) and I predict my Self Control app will become my best friend and my worst enemy in the coming months. The limit is to keep myself from fixating too much on what other people are doing with their lives and wasting time scrolling blankly through my Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest dashboards.

I’m thinking of training for another half marathon this summer. It seems to be the only way I can actually stay in shape.

I set a food and coffee budget for myself. No more impulse Two Story stops.

I will write down something I’m grateful for, every day.

I will learn something new each day, even if it is simply a new word from the dictionary.

I will organize my things every night!

I know, these sound an awful lot like resolutions, don’t they? Well, they’re actually stolen from this list, which my friend Amanda sent to me last summer. 100 days from my starting date will be April 11. Maybe I’ll improve my life a little at a time.

In Other News, Here Is A List Of What I Am Currently Up To

- Being ridiculously vain and playing with my chopped off hair every second my hands are free. And even when they aren’t. It’s amazing I didn’t dedicate an entire blog post to it.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

- It’s been on my kindle for a year now. It’s about time.

(That’s Ingrid Michaelson)

- I like how sweet she sounds, like all of her songs are the secret things all girls think while in their rooms strumming a guitar absentmindedly. She just makes it sound prettier. I particularly like The Chain. I like all the voices.

Run Happy.

- I’m missing that new shoe feel. I can’t consider training for another crazy half marathon without new running shoes! :)

There’s not a whole lot going on right now. I leave for Georgia in two days now and then the craziness will pick right up again.

Hopefully by then, I will only need one cup of coffee to get through my day.

how i survived new years-

Happy 2012, everyone! This new year marks the beginning of my second calendar year inhabiting this lovely corner of the internet. I’ll admit I’ve been a bit awol lately, but I’ll have you know that every day I go without posting on my blog is a day that I am tormented by a little nagging child tugging on the hem of my dress whispering, “Alex. Alex! Remember me? Why don’t you play with me more?”

I’ll spare you my WordPress “2011 in Review” analytics because they’re just plain depressing.

So hi. I am giving you some attention. You all know how I feel about New Years so I’ll just skip over that rant. This year though, anticipating the not-so-sudden bought of depression that was sure to rear its head in my quite little life, I decided to avoid the concept of New Years altogether.  I admit it was rather difficult because the radio station would incessantly play an obnoxious advertisement for the “biggest party in Hawaii” at the Aloha Tower — even though LMFAO songs were playing behind the guy screaming this at me, both of which are absolute repellant.

Since I was pretending it wasn’t New Years Eve, I didn’t even try the annual logic-war with my mom in which I try to persuade her to allow me out just until midnight so I wouldn’t feel like I am missing out on anything important. Nope, this year I stayed home and pretended nothing was happening. Things went on that night, I’m sure. I have the text messages in my phone to prove it. But I’d imagine the events were probably akin to that LMFAO CRAZY PARTY ALOHA TOWER advertisement. Headache.

Here’s what I did instead:

I finished this book-

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

I learned never to eat Sunday buffets and to always be nice to your waiters. And your chefs. And basically everyone in the food industry.

I made cupcakes-

Chocolate with mint marshmallow creme frosting. Recipe found here (#8). They were delicious.

I knit a scarf-

(loving that color)

Actually, the lighting in my room made the picture turn out funny. Trust me, it’s a nice color.

I watched Mean Girls-

(Tumblr really, really loves this movie, by the way.)

I had a productive not-New Years Eve and went to bed at 10. I’m actually a grandma.

But on the bright side, there was no sadness and no disappointment, which is more than I can say for the majority of New Years Eves I have had.

for the tenth time:

It’s Thanksgiving, and I have spent this week in Maui at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua hotel, and let me tell you, the word, “ritzy” found its root in this hotel. I have seen restaurants where the night’s special was a $45 glass of Dom Perignon champagne. $45 would be my week’s foot budget back in Athens. I’ve seen bottles of water for four dollars and I have seen on-demand movies that cost $13. Without tax.

And what have I gained from this week? (Other than it’s fun to pretend to be a movie star for a week, of course.) I’ve mostly gained a perspective on how the other half of the world lives. Well, maybe not the other half. Maybe more like the one percent. Ha ha.

But in all seriousness, I’ve seen nice things that cost more than I have ever seen things cost before, but seeing all of these wealthy people does make me wonder about my own life’s plans. I worry pretty frequently about my future, mostly because my major doesn’t point to a career at all, unless I want to be the bald man with bad teeth on the History Channel or a sweet old lonely docent at a stuffy museum.

I have women’s studies in Sanford Hall, which is a part of the business school at UGA. I’ve always seen my class as a safe haven from all of the depressed business majors in the classrooms surrounding my own, and I would always have a private laugh at those poor people who have sold their souls; who have already given up on the light and the beauty in this world for one color: green.

At the same time I do worry, and quite frequently, about what I’m actually going to do when I graduate. Yes, I’ll have a house this summer and I’ll live in that house for two years until I graduate college but then what? I can’t imagine a time when I will be able to pay my own rent, because I can’t imagine having a job that I love that will pay me enough to be self-sufficient. Everything is so competitive these days. How can I possibly beat out those people who are doing everything right? And so I wonder whether the next best thing is to go on graduate school, to stay in this safe college world forever, where I can at least live in this naïve bubble of idealism for a bit longer.

Well. What do I do? I’ll be honest here, my standard of success is not being able to comfortably stay at a Ritz-Carlton resort and shrug off a $45 glass of champagne. All I want from life is to never stop learning, and to never live in a stagnate environment in which the people around me are content or have given up. Maybe that’s the college student in me talking. But I think I’ve always been able to tell the difference between those who are content running the same circle for the rest of their lives, and those who thrive on constantly shifting states. Those are the kinds of people who look for new ways to create and bring light to their lives and those are the kinds of people I have always found most interesting.

So yes, financially, all I want is the freedom to learn forever.  I don’t need lots of things and I don’t need to take fancy trips like this. So how much is that?

Luckily, I already have a fantastic base and people who support me. I can’t imagine that after thinking these things and writing them down like this I could work backwards from here to complacency. I am thankful for that.

If anyone has any answers or any insight into the things going through my mind, I’d be so glad to listen. I hate losing sleep.

#1 — how harry potter defined the direction of my life.

This post is part of a big project I am starting, which I’m hoping to complete in the next year. I’m open to any stylistic criticisms for these. 

The first time I had ever heard of Harry Potter was in the third grade. There was a new girl in my class at St. Michael’s that year named Madeline Dahl. If I couldn’t tell from her white skin that she was a military child like me, then I realized when our moms started a carpool to and from school. Madeline was exceptionally good at imitating accents, and recently, her favorite thing to say was “Expelliarmus!’ Which, apparently, was from this Harry Potter book.

Mom took me to the PX one day after school and I made a beeline for the book section while she filled her basket with whatever she had come for. That day, a wire shelf held a display of the first four Harry Potter books. As I stood there in my St. Michael’s uniform, my life changed. I had never given Harry Potter much thought but that day, for some reason, I decided it might be worth a shot to pick up one of these books.

When I got home I held the book in my hand and wondered what the story could be about. Reading the first few lines, I felt as if I were being inducted into a secret club of those who know — those who understand, who have read, and who love.

The first chapter was slow, but gradually the story drew me in and I became infatuated with the skinny boy with glasses who didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. I began to stay up late at night reading and wake up early with only one thing on my mind.  I felt smart when I pulled the hefty books out of my backpack at school when we had free reading time after lunch and recess. Every moment was delicious.

Since this was 2002, only the first four books in the series had been written. I devoured each one quickly and then had to wait patiently for the next one to be released. In that time, I pacified my anxious mind by learning to use the Internet.

Our house on Schofield Barracks had one computer in the very back room. The desktop sat on a big, official-looking wooden desk for which we had no better location. It had squeaky drawers with gold handles that I would keep my floppy disks in when I brought them home from computer class at school. I liked to spin around in the leather chair with its armrests, my feet dangling in the air. To my memory, the room was always dark and cool, so it became my new favorite hide out – and I liked hide outs. There, I would play with my dolls for hours, creating elaborate narratives for each character that would consume an entire afternoon.

But sometimes I would power up the ancient desktop and explore this new world inside that bright screen, which was often the room’s main source of light. I had learned to use Google in computer class at school, so I typed in the name of the woman who wrote Harry Potter, one letter at a time.

J. K. Rowling. There wasn’t much online at the time, but I did find the title of a biography on her, written by Marc Shapiro entitled “J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter.” I found the book at Borders and read it over and over again. I had never considered the woman behind the story before, but now it amazed me: she had created the world I had fallen in love with. The biography told of her lonely childhood when she had to switch schools and make all new friends. She came up with stories to tell the girls at her school and that was how she made friends. I felt connected to this little girl because I had had to move to a new school and I would likely have to do it again in the future, although I tried my best to put that thought out of my mind.

Before I finished the biography on J. K. Rowling, I resolved to become the creator of something equally as beautiful. I had a purple, hardcover Harry Potter notebook, the kind you could buy at the Scholastic book fairs that toured elementary schools around the country. The lined pages were blank, and that excited me.

I gathered up some pens and pencils from my pencil box and, inspired Harry Potter’s under-the-stairs living space, I made myself a little writing niche in the cupboard of my bathroom. I brought a pillow and a blanket from my bed and I shut the door of the cupboard, hiding out for hours. I must have brought a flashlight or something in with me; I don’t know how else I would have been able to see.

What resulted in those many hours of solitude, locking myself away from the greedy fingers of my little sister, was a 20-page long beginning of a novel – Harry Potter fan fiction, to be precise. It was a story about Harry’s long lost cousin, who attended another wizard school. I focused a lot on her appearance; I felt as if that was the only concrete description I could create of a person that would solidify their existence as a legitimate character in a piece of work.

After a particularly spirited writing frenzy, I sat on the couch in the living room completely spent from the passion I had just put my young mind through. My mom looked over my happy smile as I curled on the sofa cradling the purple notebook as if it were the most precious possession I owned — because at that time, it was. Although I never finished the story, I was proud of the work I had done. I fanned the worn pages over and over again, and I ran my fingers over the indentions on the backs of pages. This was the first time I realized that something material could come from the silly things that ran through my head and I got such satisfaction from the tangible evidence.

I always promised myself I would come back to that story because I saw some real promise in those twenty pages. But the words were written in pencil and the plot was based on a world someone else had imagined. I hadn’t yet realized — or maybe I didn’t want to admit it to myself — that the story was never to go anywhere further than the first twenty pages of my purple Harry Potter notebook. The final three Harry Potter books and film versions of all seven would be released over the next nine years. Madeline would move away the next year and so would I. I would buy new notebooks and pens and I would grow another six inches, but the desire to create would remain inside me, causing my fingers to itch routinely for the pen or for a willing keyboard.