Why I’m breaking up with a beloved New Years resolution…

…6 or so months into the year!

“Confession: I have read Pride and Prejudice two hundred times. I get lost in the language, words like: Thither. Mischance. Felicity. I am always in agony over whether Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are really going to get together. Read it! I know you’ll love it.”- Kathleen Kelly, You Got Mail (1998)

And so began my confused relationship with Jane Austen’s authorship; watching Meg Ryan so eloquently discuss literature I deemed far beyond my 8 years of life well-lived, on my grandparents VHS player.

As explained in this post, I’m not very good at New Year’s resolutions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still give it an honest go every single year. A resolution that’s followed me around ever since getting to visit the Jane Austen House in Chawton (on three lovely occasions in 2018, you can click here to watch pictures and read last year’s Andrea chatter on excitedly about it), has been to read all of Jane Austen’s books. I’ve never read any of her work to completion, but I love the idea of her as a writer. The woman who sharply criticised the society she knew, who challenged the notion of a women’s role in relationships and in societies, and who published her first novel not by her own name, but signed “Written by a lady”.

The resolution was to finish all of her books, but as I still keep restarting Pride and Prejudice, I haven’t gotten any further than I was in February 2018. I had a real boost where I read it all up to where Darcy writes Elizabeth the letter (slight vagueness to avoid any spoilers of this much loved and 206 year-old narrative) but then life got hectic and I didn’t sit down with the story again until it felt wrong to pick up where I left and so I had to start all over again. Cue this happening multiple times, and come July 2019, I’m none the further.

So, let’s get into what this post is really about.
I am breaking up with this new years resolution, as I think maybe I’m not ready to delve into all of Austen’s books just yet. I do love the stories of hers which I’m familiar with, and I love hearing people talk about them, but I think right now they may not be for me. I don’t want them to be books I just get through, I want them to be stories to be cherished. 21-year-old me was so sure that I was finally ready to understand what Austen wrote about, but 23-year-old me isn’t so sure. And so I’ll remove this point from my list of (rather lacking) New Years Resolutions, and get to them in my own time. May be when I get back to uni over the summer, or in a couple of years, and who knows, maybe I won’t ever read all of Austen’s books. The ones I do end up reading, however, I will read properly, slowly, and with a big mug of tea in my hands. I’ll process the story and grow on it. In my own time.

Hope you’re having a wonderful day,
-Andrea

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Swimming at the deep end of an adverbial phrase and the challenges of learning something new

When was the last time you learned something new? Jumped in at the deep end, went in completely blind, arms open, eyes wide, to learn something you had no earlier knowledge or skills in?

I’m doing a new ba now, and I’m struggling. Not to the point of wanting to stop or give up, just to the point where I have to work harder than I have in years. It feels like I’m back in school, learning definitions by heart and practicing phrases and rules again.

This got me thinking about how I haven’t actually learned something completely new in a very long time. My last BA was definitely challenging, and I certainly got to develop new sides of myself and my “craft”. However, those sides were to some extent already there; they just needed honing, practice, to be cared for, seen and worked on. Now I’m studying grammar and politics and intercultural communication. Every day I’m learning new phrases, new words, new concepts and ideas that I’ve never heard of before. That is exciting! It’s difficult and frustrating but also so so interesting.

As kids we learned something new everyday. Even better, when we were kids, we were great at learning. We hadn’t yet gotten into the arms race that are having better marks than everyone else, we had no concept of always needing to be the best, there was so much less fear of failure. A scraped knee from learning to ride a bike only hurt until mum put a plaster on it and kissed it better. A glossary test gone wrong only meant going back over the words and nailing it next time. But as we grow older a lot of us lose the ability to look at learning as a process, we want to be the best at everything the first time we ever try. There is this notion of being a natural, we want to be great without needing practice, because practice is difficult and more so, practice makes you look bad, like you don’t know. This is of course not right at all. Practice doesn’t make you look stupid, it makes you look determined. And no one can know anything, unless they’re taught. If we were only ever supposed to do what we learnt as kids, so we never had to practice and “look stupid” as adults, we’d have a very small array of skills and experiences to pick from in our lives, and that, in turn, wouldn’t make us very well-rounded and happy people, would it.

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Yesterday I spent five hours at my dining table, pencil in hand and notebook in front of me, trying to make sense of in-depth sentence structure again. Subjects, adverbial phrases, demonstrative determiners, I know I’ve got it somewhere in my brain. I know a teacher from maybe eight or so years ago managed to lock it somewhere safe in my head, but it takes so much coaxing to get it out, to get those words back down on paper. Some of what I read was also completely new to me, linguistics on university level isn’t something I’ve got a lot of experience with. It took time, a lot of reciting out loud to myself, and a lot of tea.

But the feeling when I got it right! When I could highlight my answers, recite the rule and reason, and tell myself that I properly understood it; that was such a good feeling.

It’s a feeling I haven’t felt in years before this BA, but that I’ve been experiencing a lot these past couple of weeks. The feeling of being able to swim when you jump in the deep end, of keeping your balance when you go in blind, of seeing all the wonderful things the world throws at your open arms if you only widen them a little bit.
(Yes, I know I’m only talking about grammar right now, but the feeling still applies, haha)

I hope you learn something cool today!

-Andrea