Construx xonspiritorx: Andrea Shockling

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This week's guest is Andrea Shockling, owner and operator of a personal blog of hers about cooking, nostalgia, and whatever else pops into her head. Andrea was one, if not my very best friends in high school. Andrea, and I (and a select few people) lived in our own universe which was amazing; it was filled with all kinds of things which helped shape my personality today. I remember talking with her on the phone for endless amounts of time (this was before AIM/texting/skype mind you) talking about all the trails and tribulations of being a teenager. We even had our own written language called Garcon (pronounced garr-kon) which was a simple cryptogram only a few people could read and understand.

Searching out Andrea for a guest writer was a no brainer for me, she is a brilliant artist, and one of the most creative people I know. Also if you want a laugh follow the musings of her son Avi on twitter @zerolollipops its good stuff.

In (Sort-Of) Defense of Pop Culture
or, How I Learned to Stop Being A Snob and Start Enjoying Life

For a great many years - including all of high school and even some of
my undergrad - I was secure in the knowledge that I had better taste
than you. I definitely listened to better music, without a doubt
appreciated quirkier movies and (duh) watched tv shows that were so
countertrend you probably hadn't even heard of them.

I was a culture snob, and it was really fucking annoying.

While I never went so far as to hide my guilty pleasures (Star Trek:
TNG, anyone?) I absolutely shunned things that I probably would have
enjoyed just because they were too accessible, too mainstream, too
consumed by the masses. And likewise, I sought out experiences and
tokens of those experiences that would deliberately not fit in, at the
expense of missing out on others because I was too insecure to admit
I'd have maybe liked them, too.

I don't mean my whole M.O. was a sham. I genuinely dig a lot of the
music I listened to in high school; I happen to still think punk is
the perfect style of music to run to, for instance. But even though
I'm pretty confident I wouldn't have ever joined a sorority in
college, I didn't even explore it as an option because I was "so sure"
it wasn't for me. Meanwhile, some of my closest friends now were in
sororities then, so what does that tell me?

People change. Yup, that's my big lesson, that's what I've learned.

For some of us, the "change" goes through a "trying too hard" phase
(see also: "really fucking annoying", above). For me, it permeated not
only pop culture enjoyment but also life experiences. That's the part
I really regret. The only part, in fact.

I've told this story before, but it's worth repeating here. When I
arrived at my college freshman orientation, the theme for the week was
"It's What You Make Of It." Sure, sure, I said. I get it. I have to
spend a week doing ice breakers before I get to the real college part
(I was excited for that), and I have to have the right attitude. It's
not that I had a bad attitude, either - I just couldn't let go enough
to have some fun with strangers playing Two Truths and a Lie. What I
made of it was just enough to get by without being a complete asshole,
and just enough to make me want to go back fifteen years and smack
that girl upside the head. Stop thinking you're too cool for school!

What else did I miss out on because I was too busy being snarky to
have fun? It took me years to turn on the top 40 radio station to
listen to catchy (and unquestionably singable) pop songs in the car.
I've even purchased a few of them. Popular television shows usually
make me laugh; I find their easy accessibility appealing after a long
day of being a grown up. When a friend of mine called me a "cruise
director" recently, I laughed because she's right - a lot of the
programming I do as part of my job isn't so different from those
orientation ice breakers. Could it be that deep down I was actually
not as much of a culture snob as I thought I was?

Coincidentally, another personal passion that was
so-uncool-it-was-cool-to-me (musical theater) when I was younger is
now not only part of my career, it's also dominating the airwaves
(Glee). Rather than going all surly hipster over this development, I'm
thrilled. Surprise.

I look at my almost-six year old (!!) and think about how much I want
him to be confident in the choices he makes as a young adult. I want
him to surround himself with what makes him happy, be it music, media
or experiences, and be open to trying all kinds of things - whether
everyone else is trying it, or not. I'm not raising a follower, mind
you, I'm trying to raise an investigator, willing to find out *why*
everyone wants to follow before he does, and one who knows his mom
will think he's pretty awesome either way.

I know the reason I've remembered the theme of my freshman orientation
all these years is that it took me so long to really get it. It's not
just that one week that was what I (poorly) made of it, it's life.
Shared experiences and common ground is what keeps us from going
under. Try it, you may like it. And stop being a snob, because life is
too short to be so judgmental.

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