Friday, October 01, 2010

Going for Goals

I'm in the plotting stage for something (a book, not world domination, at least for this week), and I find that this tends to make me really scattered, like that takes all my mental energy. But ideas are flowing, and it's a fun process of discovery.

My shoe-shopping trip yesterday was something of a failure. I didn't find anything that was what I really wanted. There were a couple of options that fell into the "okay, this could work" category, but they were more expensive than I liked, and I didn't like them enough to consider them worth the money. Instead, I ended up at the bookstore next door to the shoe store, where I found a CD set of complete Glenn Miller recordings for four bucks, so at least it wasn't a wasted trip. I hit the mall briefly, but it appears that this fall's fashions are mostly made up of strips of rags put together with a hot glue gun, and in such charming colors as "oatmeal" and "gray." Maybe it's supposed to look eco-friendly? There was one dress that intrigued me because it was a stunning design, but on closer inspection it proved to be made of shoddy material and with poor worksmanship, and it was not inexpensive. I guess I'll be shopping my closet this season, and maybe I'll hit the import shop to find some interesting scarves to change things up a bit.

Sometimes I find strange congruences in things I'm watching or reading, though that could be because I like finding patterns in things. Lately, I seem to have stumbled upon the theme of goals, or lack thereof.

I recently watched the movie Flashdance on HBO (would you believe, I'd never seen it?) and found it remarkably boring, but then realized that it was essentially a movie about someone who was actively not pursuing her main goal. The heroine wanted to be a professional dancer with a dance company, but she kept chickening out because she wasn't a "real" dancer, since she'd never taken a dance class. She'd learned only by reading books and imitating what she saw on TV. It wasn't exactly a realistic goal, at least not in the way it was presented in the movie. She might have been able to do modern dance that has a less-formal structure, but everything they showed her watching was classical ballet, and whenever she went to get the forms to audition for the dance company, all the other dancers she passed were wearing pointe shoes. Not to be a dance snob, but classical ballet is one area where you pretty much have to have formal training. You're not going to be able to do a glorified aerobics routine for a classical ballet company audition and get in. But the thing that got me is that there was an obvious solution to her dilemma. Every time she whined that she couldn't be a real dancer because she'd never taken a real dance class, I screamed at the TV "Then take a dance class, idiot!" She'd talked about having money saved, and while ballet training isn't cheap, the community college here lets you take the dance major classes as a non-credit course for very little (if I didn't like my class so much, were younger and were more serious, that's what I'd be doing). Plus, most dance studios let you take an initial class for free and then offer a pay-by-the-class option, so she could get a fair amount of training just by going around town and taking free classes or picking up a class whenever she had time or money for it.

It reminded me of a Dr. Phil show I saw once (back in the early days before he went into the reality-TV-style freakshow approach). A mother had written to him about her pre-teen daughter who desperately wanted to be a cheerleader and who was planning to try out at the end of the school year. The daughter was obese and couldn't do the physical things required of a cheerleader, like gymnastics or even making it through a whole dance routine, and the mother was asking where to draw the line in supporting her daughter's dreams. Should she encourage and support her in trying out even though she knew it would only lead to failure and humiliation, or should she not let her try out and stomp on her dream while sparing her the failure and humiliation? Dr. Phil pointed out that these weren't the only options, then talked to the girl about her dream, asking her what she'd done toward achieving it. It turns out that all she'd done was talk about wanting to do it, and he said that was a dream, not a goal, because if it's a goal, then you have a plan toward achieving it and are taking steps toward it. So he worked through with her what she'd have to do to be a cheerleader, including getting in good enough physical shape that she had the necessary endurance, taking gymnastics classes and going to cheerleading camp. That's stuck with me so that whenever I catch myself dreaming about something that would be nice, I give myself a reality check about whether I'm doing what it takes to get there.

So, it seemed like this character in the movie had a goal she wasn't doing anything about. She was avoiding the audition because she didn't think she qualified, but wasn't doing anything about qualifying. Not that this was the most ridiculous thing about that movie. I was cracking up about the regulars at a blue-collar Pittsburgh bar avidly watching artsy, message-laden modern dance routines performed in silhouette by decently clothed women.

Meanwhile, I've been reading the novel Villette by Charlotte Bronte. This whole books is about someone who refuses to have goals or dreams because she's afraid of the pain that comes with goals and dreams. If she doesn't want anything, then she won't be hurt, but then that means a very constrained life that doesn't really suit her. The spoiler-laden introduction (that I read last) hailed this as a great achievement in writing to convey this kind of character and how it represented the options available to women of that era. I guess this would be the literary novel compared to the more "commercial" Jane Eyre, which actually has a plot. As a character study it was interesting, and there seemed to be good reason for the heroine's fear. Plus, she didn't whine about it or use it as an excuse. You had to read between the lines to figure it out. But not the most entertaining of books.

Which is why next in the queue is a new-to-me Terry Pratchett.

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