Does My Voice Really Sound Like That?

Good to know I’m not the only one who dislikes the sound of their own voice. I mean, I already knew why it sounds different, but I’m even quieter than I thought. Going by what SciShow’s Hank is saying, maybe I just need to hear it more often to get used to it…

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Words Without Voice

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about expression. Specifically, how you express yourself creatively. This one’s pretty simple for me, because writing is practically the only way I express myself. I spend most of my time either reading or writing something, and I’m really shy. I absolutely thrive when I’m exploring and wandering alone. I’m fine in a professional or one-on-one setting. But adding lots of people makes things…messy. If you met me at a party (probably hiding in a corner with a book), you’d rarely get more than politeness and a smile out of me. I never know what to say in social situations, and my voice is too soft for most people to hear. Some people have said I’m intimidating. I also think much faster than I speak, so I have to make a conscious effort to slow down verbally. Otherwise, it can come out as gibberish. With all that trouble, why bother wasting my breath? Writing is much more natural to me; I can collect my thoughts and focus without worrying about scaring other people away.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m okay with that. It’s really frustrating to be the quiet type. Human beings are social creatures, and the Internet takes it to the logical extreme. We’re constantly bombarded with tweets, videos, ads, etc. about everything we can possibly think of. While it’s a great snapshot of the modern world, it’s tough to sort out all the ideas and find the individuals buried beneath it. That’s especially true for writers; I could weave together an incredibly detailed narrative about the history of a game company, but it’d probably get overshadowed by the latest funny cat-related video. I’ve been laying the groundwork for a Let’s Play channel on YouTube or Twitch – I even have a microphone and recording software – but I’ve found that my voice really is as soft as I feared. You think public speaking is tough? Try talking into a mic and making your live video gaming sessions sound interesting. It’s harder than it looks. I just don’t have the personality for it. Since there’s no way I can be as loud or obnoxious as most players, I’ll inevitably be drowned out.

It’s the same thing with music. I’ve memorized dozens – if not hundreds – of songs in my head, but I can’t actually sing them out loud. I’ve got Bohemian Rhapsody and Under Pressure down perfectly, but only a tiny fraction of Freddie Mercury’s range. I’ve tried karaoke exactly twice, and I ended up just reading the words onscreen. Yeah, it’s not fun being booed and laughed offstage. My sense of rhythm isn’t much better; I have trouble with dancing and even simple music-based games. I fare much better when it comes to capturing moments via painting and photography. In my college years, I could sit for hours with a canvas and a set of brushes and colors. I’ve got a good eye for shading and perspective. Drawing is much harder, though. I’ve grown accustomed to taking my camera with me everywhere, just in case I stumble across something fascinating. All of my photos – including the ones I’ve posted on the blog – are taken with no preparation whatsoever. Judging by the feedback I’ve been getting, I’m pretty good for a newbie. If I keep at it, maybe I’ll be great someday.

Until then, writing is all that counts.

Mirror, Tell Me Something…

Hey, folks. Yesterday’s Daily Prompt was all about appearances. Basically, it’s about the discrepancy between the person you see in the mirror and the person you feel internally. That one’s kind of tricky, because it assumes that that you actually know the identity you’ve internalized. I don’t. At least, not completely. I’ve had to adopt and utilize so many personas over the years, that I’m not sure which one of them is real. Or more confusingly, maybe they’re all real, just different pieces of a larger whole. Like a jigsaw puzzle. And some of those pieces definitely don’t fit with what’s gazing back at me from the mirror.

The reflection in front of me is a 20-something somewhat androgynous fellow with olive skin. Could use a bit more sun. The build is above average at best; nowhere near an Adonis, but still in good shape. The age is hard to pin down; he looks young, but too serious and focused to be as such. He stares at me with dark brown eyes beneath a pair of black, thick-rimmed glasses. The eyes are intense and give off sense of utter awareness and mental calculation. There is no trace of a smile on his face, but he can fake one like a pro. His mannerisms and stances change fluidly; calm and relaxed (and maybe even seductive?) at one moment, sweet and pleasant the next, powerful and confident after that, and all-out vicious and terrifying when his buttons are pressed. His face is capable of surprising articulation, allowing him to silently glare, scowl, grin, and playfully mock with a few muscle movements. Two feet of curly, wavy hair spill down the back of his body, giving him either an air of either regality or wildness. He would not look out of place in a heavy metal band, or maybe Game of Thrones. It’s hard to tell if this reflection is just being haughty and aloof, or just in deep thought. Regardless, it’s easy to tell that he is a character, and will draw your attention the moment he steps in the room.

Appearances are so deceiving.

Part of the reason I grew out my hair was to mess with people’s expectations. I’ve never played in a band – let alone an instrument – in my life. I don’t even watch Game of Thrones! The long hair is just my way of muddling gender roles and refusing to let myself be victimized for it anymore. Apparently, I have the attitude to make it work. Heads turn and backs straighten when I enter a room. The hair is an indicator of confidence, something that doesn’t come so easily for me. I can pull off the regal, intimidating look, but I’m much more shy and quiet than that. It’s not so much about aloofness as it is oh no I have to talk to someone what do I say please no leave me alone. I’d rather be curled up with a book in something soft and comfy.  The shy/confidence thing is an ongoing paradox for me; I may not be amazing socially, but I’ve got an adventurous streak a mile wide. The only things that really match are the eyes. I’m fancy myself serious and scholarly, like professor or philosopher sans stuffiness. I’m always picking little details and observations, like some kind of cheap Sherlock Holmes ripoff. And while I may not smile much, anyone who’s had a good conversation or watched movies with me knows I will snark and mock with reckless abandon.

*Sigh* It’s such an incomplete self-perception. I need to learn more about who I really am.

Close, But No Cigar

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Close, But No Cigar

In a desperate attempt to try something new, I decided to check out Oktoberfest By The Bay last year. I figured out exactly where it was, how long it’d take to get there, etc. I don’t drink or party, but I thought experiencing something new would be great regardless. So I strode confidently into Pier 48…

Only to find out I got there five hours too early.

I didn’t stay. My commute home was ridiculously long already, so being out that late wasn’t an option. Instead, I took what pictures I could of the would-be event, then spent most of the afternoon enjoying the scenery nearby. I got a much better understanding of the layout of the area, and discovered a few new places to visit. I can’t say I was ecstatic, but at least it gave me the chance to explore more. Had I been able to stay out longer, I probably would’ve stayed an hour or so to take in the atmosphere and get some great photos. Maybe next year.

All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Hey, folks. Yesterday’s Daily Prompt is all about perfection. It’s worth noting that perfection is inherently impossible. Perceptions are subjective; “perfection” could mean “fair to middling” or even “abysmal” for someone else. It’s a matter of standards, realism, and common sense; if you have so much riding on a single thing or moment, you’ll probably be disappointed. If your expectations are too low, it’s easy to miss the real value of an experience. It’s really rare for something to turn out exactly as you’ve hoped. And while I can’t say that I’ve seen perfection, I’ve come pretty close a few times.

My visit to Paris was one of the most enthralling and awkward trips of my life. It was early March, and winter still held France in an icy, iron grip. It never went above 25 degrees the entire week I was there. It was the coldest temperature I’d ever been in; imagine a kid raised in California suddenly having to stumble around in five layers of clothing. Now imagine that same kid standing in line for the Eiffel Tower elevator for an hour and a half, trembling against the wind chill and the ice forming on his nose and cheek. Yes, the view was definitely worth the wait, but my face literally ached when I showered later. The Eiffel Tower is a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge here; they’re both amazing marvels of engineering and symbolism, and they’re huge tourist magnets. The Arc de Triomphe was slightly more enjoyable, only because there were less crowds and I’m a history geek. Its massive scale and unbelievably intricate designs almost made me forget that it stood in the middle of a gargantuan, noisy roundabout.

I could say that wandering around the city was perfect. I love exploring, so I was drooling at all the stuff to see and do. Stumbling across Les Invalides about an hour after it closed, settling for pictures of its front instead. Checking out Musée d’Orsay, specifically Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone and Rodin’s The Gates of Hell. And managing to talk the guards into letting me view a special Impressionist exhibition, for that matter. Wandering down and crossing the Seine, coming across Notre Dame without even realizing it. Walking down the seemingly endless line of cafes and restaurants as evening fell, a boisterous maître d’ trying to coax people inside with promises of amazing French cuisine. Retreating into a quiet Greek place and wolfing down my first gyro. Catching the last train back out to Marne-la-Vallée, and desperately trying to keep myself warm while waiting for a hotel shuttle.

Speaking of which, Le Métropolitain deserves a special mention. Before that, the only trains I’d ever ridden were BART, New York City Subway, and the Washington Metro. Paris’s subway system trounces them so much (the horrible, wretched stench at Les Halles notwithstanding), it’s not even funny. It’s not because of its size, but the layout. On a map it looks like a gigantic multicolored spiderweb, but it’s surprisingly easy to navigate once you’ve gotten the hang of it. I got lost on it for a few hours, mainly because I didn’t speak a word of French. It took some trial and error, but I eventually got it down. At one point a beautiful young woman approached me:

Her: Bonjour.

Me: (Glancing up in surprise) Huh?

Her: Savez-vous comment atteindre cette station?

Me: (Looking around awkwardly) …Uh, no parle vous français.

Her: …Oh. (Moves away)

Me: (Mentally) Damn it. WHY? Why didn’t you study French before coming here?

Any missteps were promptly forgotten once I visited The Louvre and the Palace of Versailles. If you’re a history and art geek, you already know how awesome they are. The former is the museum; 35,000+ items spanning across the whole of human history. The place looks huge on just the street level, but it’s much, much bigger once you enter that little pyramid and go underground. You’d need at least a month to see everything. If I could, I’d totally live there. I distinctly remember making a beeline for the Winged Victory of Samothrace, one of the greatest masterpieces of Ancient Greece. I was positively giddy at seeing The Coronation of Napoleon, The Raft of the Medusa, and Liberty Leading the People, and so many more. It’s very different from reading about them in history books or on a computer screen; you’re confronted with their sheer size and scope. Some of them are literally bigger than the rooms in my house. The amount of effort and skill required for those works must have been mind-boggling.

That’s also true for Versailles. If you want to see “living like royalty” taken to its logical (and historical) extreme, the palace is probably the best example. It doesn’t look like much when you’re approaching it from the front; its sloped entryway looks bland and aged. But that changes really quickly once you step foot inside. I spent hours gaping at The Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Chapel, the ornate drawing rooms, the Battles Gallery, the gardens that seem to stretch out into infinity, that ridiculously detailed bust of Louis XIV…it just went on and on and ON. Of course, it was also a reminder of why living so lavishly isn’t such a good idea; the amount of upkeep required for a place like this must have been staggering. This palace had so many fountains that it created water shortage issues. Such extravagant living was just one of the many factors leading up to the French Revolution. It may have been completely wasteful and unsustainable, but the king lived in style.

Looking back, the only thing that kept my trip to Paris from being perfect was the timing. I went about a decade too early; there were no digital cameras back then. I forget how many rolls of Kodak film I went through, but my pockets were stuffed with them. There’s a photo album somewhere down in storage, and there’s no feasible way to upload it for posterity. One of these days, I’m going to go back and do the adventure over. It’ll probably be better the second time around.

Being The Weird One

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about being an outsider. This one’s such an omnipresent theme in my life (and probably in everyone’s in some respects), it’s harder to pinpoint parts where I’m not an outsider. You know how every family has that one strange relative? The one you always shake your head at and tell stories about during holiday dinners? Yeah, that’s me. I’m the weird one. On both sides. On one side, I’m the second oldest in my generation, and the only one with a university degree and who reads, writes, and studies regularly. On the other, I’m one of the older, quieter kids with an apparently rebellious, anti-religious streak. Never mind all that fancy know-how about science and the arts; why don’t I do all the stuff normal guys do? Family gatherings and birthday parties are ripe for awkward questions and confused stares. Conversations typically include gems like:

  • Sooo…do you have a girlfriend? Boyfriend? Any romance whatsoever? No?…Oh.
  • Uh, are you gay? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • When are you going to get married and have kids?
  • You still go to church…right?
  • Did you see what so-and-so posted on Facebook?!
  • Ugh, you still have that long hair? I’m gonna cut it while you sleep!
  • Whatcha reading? …Oh, never heard of that. I loved Twilight, though!
  • Still doing that writing thing, eh?
  • See any good movies lately?…Who the Hell is Hayao Miyazaki?
  • Traveling again, huh? I…um, went to Las Vegas recently.
  • You still play video games?
  • You don’t watch football?! Uh, what sports do you watch?
  • Whatcha doing here in this room all by yourself? It’s too quiet! Don’t you want to chat with everyone?
  • What do you mean, you don’t drink alcohol?!
  • Hey, I can’t figure out this puzzle! Let’s see YOU do it!…showoff...
  • Oh…hi, cousin! Didn’t know you were here! I’ll be, uh, over there with everyone else. Bye!

Yeah, it’s so much fun being the weird one.

I think it has a lot to do with the way us kids are grouped together. Both sides of my family have always had their own little cliques based on siblings, proximity, age, and petty drama. I’m older than most of them, and I live pretty far away. I’m also the lone one raised as an only child, which means I didn’t get the benefits of sibling interaction or anything like that. Many of them attended the same schools and made the same friends – they’ve literally had the identical groomsmen and bridesmaids for their weddings – so they’ve already had years to build strong foundations. As for me, I’m the quiet loner from out of town that shows up maybe once or twice a year. Since I’m the clever and artsy one, I’m apparently too strange for normal interaction. At least some of the kids think I’m cool.

It’s not limited to just family, either. There are people at church who won’t even look me in the eye. I’ve been nearly excommunicated a couple of times. I could regale you with dozens of stories about being the “strange” one at the office. Apparently, bringing my homemade lunch is absurd when I can spend dozens of dollars per week on local fast food. And that there’s something inherently wrong with not owning a smart phone and checking its messages every free second. And that not going out for drinks on Friday nights is a sign of mental instability. Someone incredulously asked what planet I was from. It was very surreal being the only one on the staff who bothered to read books, news, and anything at all. I once had to explain to a college-aged worker that yes, Germany is, in fact, a country.

No, seriously. That conversation happened.

I wish I was exaggerating. I really do. Maybe I really am just too weird for people to accept. I know that I’m part of the problem, too. I’m shy and introverted, so it’s not like I’m going out of my way to talk to people. I should probably cultivate more mainstream interests. It’s just that I’m so much more used to doing and experiencing things alone. It’s not about superiority or anything like that. I just have different interests. And I usually enjoy being the mysterious loner…until the awkwardness sets in. I guess I should keep looking. Maybe I just haven’t found the right place yet.