(revision) un-interest it: saying what you mean in college discussion

“I think it is interesting that…”

This prompt, this stutter in student brain-to-speech process, has obfuscated almost every college-level discussion I have had. Four years, eight semesters, five classes a semester—that’s a lot of discussions. I want to say: I hope. I genuinely hope what you are about to say is interesting, or else I would rather not hear it. Typically, the declaration of interesting is followed by something insightful but not necessarily related to the word interesting at all. Ready for the dictionary definition? I know; it pains me that we have come to this point, too. I’ll go to the OED, because I’m a Boston College student with full access, and I’ve heard rumors that Dictionary.com (the free dictionary!) hoards your information upon each click.

“Interesting: adapted to excite interest; having the qualities which rouse curiosity, engage attention, or appeal to the emotions; of interest.”

The definition is very vague. “Interesting” describes (I hope) the whole college experience. We gather to discuss things that should engage our curiosity, attention, and emotions. Great, I’m glad we are all glad to be here. And despite its superfluity, this phrase persists. No one mirrors my corner-of-the-mouth frown when they hear “interesting” recycled over and over, mouth-to-mouth, in an hour span. So why the constant profession of it?

Clearly, I have spent a long time stewing about this miraculous redundancy; I have a theory. It has three parts:

  1. We have trouble pinpointing the value in what we are saying.
  2. We are not listening to each other.
  3. We have been allowed to speak carelessly.

The first point. Before we raise our hand, we have not found the thesis in our thought. Everyone lets a thought go of the rails time to time (“Oh wow. I don’t know if that made sense”). This is not what I mean. Rather, I am talking about times when we are not sure what we are saying is important. So we (not me, I have been enlightened!) feel the need to qualify what we say. Instead, we could lead with the actual thought, the sparking thing exploding at our forehead—a thing we have just discovered and are sure no one else has discovered about this text, about history, about that painting.

“The women in Jekyll and Hyde are surrounded by light imagery. There aren’t that many women in the book, so the light makes them more noticeable when they do appear.”

Hey, someone in the class says, I never thought of that. That is so much better than: “I think it is interesting that women in Jekyll and Hyde appear with light imagery.”

To be frank, no one cares if you think it is interesting. They care if the thought is a good one. I’m actually not interested in Medieval Literature at all, but when I took a class on it, I did not say, “I don’t think it is interesting that Sir Gawain has this adventure. But the language used to describe his armor mean xyz.” But people do care if you can discover something valuable in the work.

The second: Not. Listening. I am shocked that after the first “I think it is interesting” no one decides to switch up their tactical game. I mean, in sixth grade we scurried to the thesaurus to deliver us from the sins of “awesome” and “great.” Why not “interesting”? Because we have tuned it out. And that makes it easier to tune more things out, which does not bode well for maintaining vital discussions; discussion and conversation is pointless if everyone is tuned out. Think of your class participation like the hook of a good story. You are legitimately gambling for your classmates’ attention if you raise your hand. Especially where face-hiding laptop screens are concerned. Make them listen.

Finally, we have been allowed to speak carelessly. Personally, though, I don’t think professors are much at fault here. Some of us are 21 years old, legally old enough to drink and serve in the military. You would think we could trim our sentences a little. Say a coherent thought. But I haven’t seen one Professor stop the madness. It is a habit; now, it is a habit everywhere. And I wish it would have been beaten out of us during freshman year, so that by the time we got to be supposedly articulate seniors, we could say what we mean.

That’s what it is really about, saying what you mean. Someone else might try to pitch you some inspirational fiction about job marketability: “Don’t say the word interesting, and you too shall be employed!” This is not my point. My point is: say what you mean. Say the thought in your brain, turn on someone else’s thought machine, and go somewhere outside the broken tape loop of interesting. You only get so many sentences. The opportunity to speak and get someone’s attention is a privilege—is the greatest privilege. Live up to the hype.

 

 

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final proposal

Because of this class, I have developed a magazine-hoarding problem. My most recent purchase is the Fall 2015 issue of Good “A quarterly journal for the global citizen.” It has a wide variety of content packaged in neatly designed pages with a unified theme. This issue is the fashion issue, and includes artist profiles, a photoshoot on sustainable clothing, and fiction by Aimee Bender called “The Memory Store,” which also fits the clothing theme. I was so enchanted by the menagerie-style curation, the clean aesthetic, and the conscise but quirky writing styles presented that I felt inspired to base my final project off this publication. At this point, I am torn between producing an issue of Good called The Suburban Issue or creating my own publication called Suburbia (or perhaps Suburban Legend) using Good as a design inspiration.IMG_6449

I’m sure the Suburban theme might sound a little curious, but it is something I have wanted to try for a while because I am constantly in the world of a big city, the big glamorous city, when I read glossy magazines. So I thought it might be a little strange to see what it would look like if I applied a high quality magazine aesthetic to places that are a little shabby—to “hole in the wall” stories. Over Thanksgiving Break, I have three interviews set up to work off the multiple profile model Good employs: a former single mom who just quit her 9-5 job to open a traveling vintage boutique called Couture on Tour; a community-adored diner owner who recently received a TV makeover for his restaurant but decided to not uphold any of the menu changes; and a high school drop out who has recently found success in the electrical trade. Depending on how the interviews go, I might end up sticking with one, two, or all three profiles. I plan on using InDesign to input my text and images so that I can have a print magazine.

un-interest it: saying what you mean in college (or any) discussions

One sentence. One sentence, has obfuscated almost every college level discussion I have had. Four years, eight semesters, five classes a semester—that’s going to be forty classes, except I haven’t taken my last five yet (so maybe there is still time to fix this grave, grave misfortune). One sentence that everyone, at this point, is numb to. No one mirrors my tiny corner-of-the-mouth frown when they hear this same word recycled over and over again, mouth to mouth, in an hour span. I keep wanting to count the number of times I hear it, but I find (this is four years of this, remember) that I always forget to count until I have heard it at least five times—about the time acute annoyance sets in. And then I feel as though I have to wait until my next class so that I don’t botch the count, because I am fairly certain that the actual number would be staggering.

“I think it is interesting that…”

No matter what the student is about to say, this prompt, this stutter in their brain-to-speech process appears over and over again. I want to say: I hope. I hope what you are about to say is interesting. Genuinely, I do, or else I would rather not hear it. And usually, the declaration of interesting is followed by something insightful but not necessarily related to the word interesting at all. Ready for the dictionary definition? I know; it pains me that we have come to this point, too. I’ll go to the OED, because I’m a Boston College student with full access, and I have heard rumors about Dictionary.com (the free dictionary!) hoards your information upon each click.

“Interesting: adapted to excite interest; having the qualities which rouse curiosity, engage attention, or appeal to the emotions; of interest.”

This is very vague. This describes (I hope) the whole college experience. We gather together to discuss things that should rouse our curiosity, engage our attention, and make us emotional. Great, I’m glad we are all glad to be here. So why the constant profession of it?

Clearly, I have spent a long time stewing about this miraculous redundancy; I have a theory. It has three parts:

  1. We have trouble pinpointing the value in what we are saying.
  2. We are not listening to each other.
  3. We have been allowed to speak this way.

The first point. Before we raise our hand, we have not found the thesis in our thought. Everyone has a thought they say out loud that goes off the rails at some point (“Oh wow. I don’t know if that made sense”). This is not what I mean. Rather, I am talking about the fact that we are not sure what we are saying is important. So we (well I guess not me, I have been enlightened) feel the need to qualify what we say. Instead, we could lead with the actual thought, the sparking thing exploding at our forehead—a thing we have just discovered and are sure no one else has discovered about this text, about history, about that painting.

“The women in Jekyl and Hyde are surrounded by light imagery. There aren’t that many women in the book, but they appear significant.”

Hey, someone in the class says, I never thought of that. That is so much better than: “I think it is interesting that women in Jekyl and Hyde appear with light imagery.”

To be frank, no one cares if you think it is interesting. They care if the thought is a good one. I’m actually not interested in Medieval Literature at all, but when I took a class on it, I did not say “I don’t think it is interesting that Sir Gawain has this adventure. But the language used to describe his armor mean xyz.” But people do care if you can discover something valuable in the work.

The second: Not. Listening. I am shocked that after the first “I think it is interesting” no one decides to switch up their tactical game. I mean, in sixth grade we were all sent running to the thesaurus to deliver us from the sins of awesome and great. Why not interesting? Because we have tuned it out and that makes it easier to tune more things out. Think of the way you introduce your thought in class like a hook in a good story. You are legitimately gambling for your classmates’ attention spans if you raise your hand. Especially where face-hiding laptop screens are concerned. Make them listen.

Also, we have been allowed to speak this way. Personally, I don’t think the professors are so much at fault here. Some of us are 21 years old, legally old enough to drink and serve in the military. You would think we could trim our sentences a little. Say a coherent thought. But I haven’t seen one Professor stop the madness. It is a habit, now, it is a habit everywhere. And I wish it would have been beaten out of us freshman year so that by the time we got to be supposedly articulate seniors, we could say what we mean.

That’s what it is really abou, saying what you mean. Someone else might try to pitch you some inspirational fiction about job marketability. How much employers care about your vocabulary. Don’t say the word interesting, and you too shall be employed! This is not what I mean. What I mean is say what you mean. Say the thought in your brain, turn on someone else’s thought machine, and go somewhere outside the broken tape loop of interesting. You only get so many sentences. The opportunity to speak and get someone’s attention is a privilege—is the greatest privilege. Live up to the hype.

yak-ety trax, the ice talks back

When snow hits the ground and normal people reach for snow boots, you reach for running shoes. It is obviously ridiculous—to run through waist-high snow in a pair of mesh running shoes when the world, the actual rest of the world, is wearing water-proof, knee high winter boots. And yet you are running.

This is the antithesis of sense.

So about one third of the way through the epic 2014-15 Boston snowpocolypse (never forget), I needed a solution. Particularly for this one sidewalk: at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, there was a point where the shoulder disappeared and the only options were to either turn around, or try and run through a shoddily patted down trail of snow that covered the sidewalk like thick icing. Trusting the bottoms of my Mizuno Wave Riders and my careful balance to work through the snow; I chose the latter. About three steps in, I ended up walking—angrily—until the shoulder reemerged. I ran as far as I could on the shoulder if only to buy some time before turning back into the fray. But I had no choice.

Thankfully, Heartbreak Hill Running Company, a beacon of shiny windows and showroom light, sits at the mouth of that treacherous sidewalk on the opposite side of Beacon. I prayed they would have some magic solution to save me from these elements.

Yaktrax. Everyone is using them.”

Skeptically, I looked down at the jumble of rubber and metal my shop floor savior brought out from behind the counter. He explained that they were coiled springs to increase traction—even on ice. He sat me down and fitted them around my slushy sneakers so that the rubber toe and heel pieces lined up with my shoes and two Xs of springs lined up flat with my sole. It felt like a little hug around my foot. I paid my $35 and hurled myself back into the snow, eager to find the iciest terrain to test these things out.

And they work.

They are so light that I feel like I am wearing nothing, but when my heel strikes the snow, it feels like I am running on pavement. It is an entirely different surface. The thin, criss-cross spring design is genius, and they come in size ranges to fit every foot. A Velcro strap tightens over the top of the running shoe so that they are adjustable and so that you couldn’t lose them if you tried. I used them over and over again in the salt and muck and sludge as the winter got worse. They only require a rinse and towel-off and storage indoors so that they don’t rust. And no running with them when there is no snow; that could ruin the springs or ruin your knees. A few times, when the snow was melted in some places but was still thick in others, I had to take them off and strap them around my hands, which (because they are so light) wasn’t even that annoying given how badly I needed them in the snowy stretches. Otherwise that $35 will carry your feet for years.