Things I Know to Be True: The Phone Rule

I am, without a doubt, a talking on the phone master.

And I’m not talking about my ability to press buttons, something I learned how to do when I was four and my mother spent the afternoon training me how to place a call. (Once again, I am sorry, random people in D.C. who I accidentally called and promptly hung up on in a panic.)

I mean that I am very good at clamping a slowly warming phone between my shoulder and ear and talking for eons.

I’ve tried explaining this before to my mother, who looked at me as if I was touched in the head, but I’ve always felt like when you talk on the phone, you enter this other place. The only sense you get to share with the other person is hearing. So much could be going on that you’re not aware of, but it doesn’t matter because it isn’t part of the shared interaction.

You don’t have to worry about looking as professional as possible when doing work. In fact, I usually call people while I’m lying down in my bed. And if you’re telling or listening to something difficult from a friend, you don’t have to worry about body language or facial expressions–all that exists is the words. And then, there’s the tremendously fun aspect of trying to describe something so that the other person can imagine what it would be like to experience it.

Perhaps it’s because I love reading and writing so much, where you don’t get anything more than the author’s descriptions and explanations the same way you only hear the other person’a words on the other end of the line. I love the freedom of interpretation and the way you have to be both careful and creative with your word choice. It’s like improv writing, if you will.

And maybe it’s because that other place feels safer and people often let their guard down more, particularly if it’s nighttime and you’re both tired. I love the way that the phone strips away those barriers. No one can see you fidget, turn red, or tear up. It’s okay to be visibly emotional, because the other person can’t tell. Just say it.

I suppose that I’m only thinking of this now because I just spent over an hour on the phone with George and another hour before dinner with my aunt. But it’s true. The other place is close to the top of the list of The Things Eleanor Knows to be True About Her World, right under “vulnerability is the key to happiness” and above “you will always feel weirdly calm after sobbing.”

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In Which Ella Can Fit Both Feet Inside of Her Mouth

I was at a college interview this weekend and was asked what were three areas I need to work on. The first one that sprung to mind was my tendency to say too much, often without thinking any of it through.

It’s amazing how easy it is for me to just start spouting things that don’t make sense or that I don’t even mean. And while you can apologize and ask for a do-over when you’re with family and close friends, that isn’t exactly an option in most situations.

About a year ago, I was speaking at a Model Congress conference and somehow managed to suggest that unemployment rates were the fault of immigrants. Now, this is something that I absolutely do NOT believe. It’s xenophobic, hateful, and more than a little untrue. But it somehow managed to come out of my mouth while I was talking about problems with immigration. I don’t even remember doing it, but all of a sudden I was being asked questions about what I meant by it and how I would back it up, and I was trapped. It turned into one of those situations where I could lie or look like an idiot. I lied because it was a competition and somebody needed to be the devil’s advocate to make the debate more balanced, and later made it clear that I didn’t mean anything I had said following and including that remark.

It’s not that I can’t keep a secret–that’s never been a problem–I just have this inability to shut up when I’m nervous or excited. I know that I’m doing it, too. But the moment that I stop talking, I’m no longer somewhat controlling the situation, and on some level, I’m sure that I’m scared of what will happen. And if I’m very enthusiastic about the topic, I immediately become a little convinced that you too surely want to know every single detail about English rhotic accents around the world, no matter how disinterested you appear. But now that I’m eighteen, I do a fairly good job of catching myself before I go overboard, and I’m no longer the chatty and preconscious eight-year-old of yesteryear.

I only bring this up today, because I said something unintentionally mean, and I can’t take it back. The words seemed fine at the time, but it wasn’t until I walked away and thought about the interaction over an hour later that I realized how they were probably going to be interpreted. I feel terrible now.

So this is me, once again trying to come up with an adequate way of apologizing for saying something I didn’t mean.

In other news, I wrote well over 5,000 words today!

I also hang out at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, where I almost never put my foot in my mouth.

On Being a Mammal and Making Noises

I’ve been thinking a lot about something that Doc said to me right before our group was up at the regionals for the government and politics competition. It was something along the lines of: “Just remember that we’re a bunch of mammals, sitting in a room, making strange noises, and somehow deriving meaning from it.”

Doc’s right. He almost always is. Ever since I started my psych independent study, I’ve realized exactly how true that statement is. We are only animals. Animals who have big, complex brains that were able to organize those sounds into something we call language.

This notion gives me a lot of hope. Whenever I stand up to speak in Congress or somewhat impulsively audition for a play, what I say doesn’t really matter. The noises I’m making are essentially no more special than a cat’s meow.

A Green Volvo, Frozen Yogurt, Cecelia, and Me

Yesterday, Cecelia and I went to out to get frozen yogurt. And boy oh boy did I need it.

It had been raining all day and was as dreary as could be. By six o’clock it was completely dark out, and the rain was pounding the side of the house so hard that the raindrops were sticking to the windows and sparkling. I was exhausted. A long day at school and rejection from a school that you really wanted to go to will do that to you.

I had dragged the giant micro-suede ottoman over to a table and was perched on it trying to write an essay on a Cornel West quote and failing miserably. First of all, I think that he is a pompous twit, and second, writing expository essays without freaking out is near impossible for me. But despite all of these depressing factors, I was still a tad happy. Cecelia was coming to pick me up soon.

While she waited in Jeff the Stationwagon, I performed my usual mad dash through the house, trying desperately to put on rainboots and a coat and grab an umbrella all at once. Needless to say, I nearly fell over twice. Stomping my way through the water pooling in the yard, I hopped into the car, and we were off.

I love being in the car at night. Something about driving in the dark screams fun adventure. I can’t pin down why, but if I’m in a car at night, I never want to get out again. When we got to the yogurt place, we dashed through the pouring rain, umbrellas tilted a bit downwards to prevent the wind from pushing them inside out. Inside, I filled a cup with dulche de leche and chocolate yogurt and piled some blueberries on top, because they looked pretty.

Sitting at a white table, spooning the yogurt into our mouths, we talked about this year and what it means for everybody, how exhausting school can be, and how far I’ve come. It felt good to talk candidly. The hubbub and busy-ness of school prevent that sort of conversation a lot.

And the whole way home I just yapped about trivial things like the way that boys don’t seem to like me and how jealous I am of everyone who is getting into amazing colleges. But Cecelia is a good sounding board and always says the right thing in reply, so everything felt a little better.

And when I got back home, I felt less exhausted, a bit more possitive about writing that stinkin’ essay, and way more ready to conquer the world. Thank you frozen yogurt and Cecelia.