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Five Lessons Learned

April 14, 2011

This week I’ve been manically reading through different texts to use in various essays, and lucky for me one of those texts happened to be The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I read this book during undergrad, so I was pretty excited to give it another read now. Alexie truly has a gift with writing, and I absolutely adored every minute of the reading. In the novel, the main character Junior is traveling through his journey of self-discovery. He’s learning his own idea of right and wrong and forming his identity. This week, Junior and Alexie inspired my lessons learned.

1. There’s a beauty to the slow reading of written word. This week I was able to actually read a book for fun. I was able to slowly internalize Sherman Alexie’s words, and they were so beautifully crafted. I’m an English nerd, so it’s no surprise that I found enjoyment out of this, but it is such a rare occasion in my life since my days are now filled with reading educational essays that I had to stop and be thankful for that moment.

“That’s right, I am a book kisser.”
— Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian)

2. People can surprise you if you let them in. I have many acquaintances and few close friends. I’ve had various issues with previous close friends, so I’m pretty talented at keeping people at a distance. Obviously, this doesn’t always work well for me. I know I’m missing out on opportunities to be friends with great people, because I keep most people at a distance. My eldest sister was diagnosed with MS in February, and my family decided to walk in the MSWalk event near where I live. A girl who I had classes with during undergrad and had hung out with socially a few times signed up immediately once she heard about it. She really wanted to be there to support me and my sister. Sometimes I think that people won’t care, and when they show that they do I’m totally surprised. In this case, it’s a great thing to be proven wrong about my fear of letting people in.

“If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing.”
— Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian)

3. Validation. I’ve written about validation before, and how hard it is when you don’t receive it. I’m constantly working on validating myself and not relying on others to define my successes and failures. But there are also times that I receive validation, and then ignore it or down play what has been said to me. I suppose this is due to me trying to make it okay if I do fail, but I’m realizing I need to start listening to what people say to me. To believe in my work, I need to understand the value of it as my work, and I need to hear others’ opinions on it, and when that opinion includes validation or praise, I need to take it and accept it and rejoice in it. I don’t know why that is so hard for me, but I know it’s something I need to work on.

 “Do you understand how amazing it is to hear that from an adult? Do you know how amazing it is to hear that from anybody? It’s one of the simplest sentences in the world, just four words, but they’re the four hugest words in the world when they’re put together.

You can do it.”
— Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian)

4. I can’t always do things the way I want to do them, but that doesn’t make what I do less special. I found out this week that a girl I was friends with in high school (Kay) made a fashion line dedicated to the memory of a mutual friend of ours (Mac) who died when we were in the 10th grade. Kay knew Mac since they were little kids, but I only met the both of them when I was in the 7th grade. They both made a huge impact on my life and when Mac died I was devastated. When I found out about Kay’s fashion line, I was hugely impressed with her willingness to work through this loss in a very public way and for honoring Mac through her art. I’ve tried many times to express my feelings about Mac’s death through words, which are my form of art, but I could never express it. There are times when words do fail. I let things like this bother me, and sometimes I just need to let it go. Mac accepted me and my very imperfect ways, and I think she’d be happy knowing I tried.

 “We all have to find our own ways to say good-bye.”
— Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian)

 5. I will never know everything.

 “You read a book for the story, for each of its words,” Gordy said, “and you draw your cartoons for the story, for each of the words and images. And, yeah, you need to take that seriously, but you should also read and draw because really good books and cartoons give you a boner.”

I was shocked:

Did you just say books should give me a boner?”

Yes, I did.”

Are you serious?”

Yeah… don’t you get excited about books?”

I don’t think that you’re supposed to get THAT excited about books.”

You should get a boner! You have to get a boner!” Gordy shouted. “Come on!”

We ran into the Reardan High School Library.

Look at all these books,” he said.

There aren’t that many,” I said. It was a small library in a small high school in a small town.

There are three thousand four hundred and twelve books here,” Gordy said. “I know that because I counted them.”

Okay, now you’re officially a freak,” I said.

Yes, it’s a small library. It’s a tiny one. But if you read one of these books a day, it would still take you almost ten years to finish.”

What’s your point?”

The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don’t know.”

Wow. That was a huge idea.

Any town, even one as small as Reardan, was a place of mystery. And that meant Wellpinit, the smaller, Indian town, was also a place of mystery.

Okay, so it’s like each of these books is a mystery. Every book is a mystery. And if you read all of the books ever written, it’s like you’ve read one giant mystery. And no matter how much you learn, you keep on learning so much more you need to learn.”

Yes, yes, yes, yes,” Gordy said. “Now doesn’t that give you a boner?”

I am rock hard,” I said.”
— Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2011 5:29 am

    This was beautiful.

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