Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Meh

I really feel just as bad as I did senior year.

Redo

I've decided to start over. I'm gonna go back to the moment when I was 4 years old, BEFORE I got unwillingly thrown into the forced education system, and I'm going to do all the things I liked to do back then. I'm gonna bite people. Seriously bite people. I'm gonna bite, hit, kick, pinch, scratch, scream, cry, and throw Legos at people when they do things I don't like. When people lecture me, I'm gonna make silly faces at them. When I'm stuck at an assembly or meeting, I'm gonna start singing or doing something silly to get attention. I'm going to do all the bad things I want to do and I will NOT listen to anyone about proper behavior or being good. I will do all the bad things I want to do until I find a personal reason not to do them, until I decide that they actually produce a result that is undesirable. I never got to make that choice because adults made it for me, but now I am making that choice for myself. And if I don't find a personal desire to change, I will being biting people and throwing Legos until the day I die. I have no reason to believe that I ever wanted to stop doing these things because it was not a choice I made.

>:-(

I really wish you would write more on Facebook, Twitter, or someplace where I could stalk you. How the hell am I supposed to brag about how I'm gonna have a way better New Year's Eve than you if I can't even see what you're planning to do? How can I brag about having a better sex life than you if I can't even see how yours is? I think you do this on purpose. Fuck you.

January 9th falls on a Friday this year. Of all years. I'm definitely gonna have a better day than you that day. I'm gonna go out and do something really wild like have sex with tons of different people or go to a play party or something WILD and I'll be having the time of my fucking life while you remember what day it is and miss me. I won't miss you, I'll be having way too much fun that night.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

I'll Miss You

You're heading forward
And I'm heading back
I don't think in this lifetime
We'll cross the same path

I'll miss you.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Relationship in a Nutshell

Him: You have chocolate. I want chocolate!

Me: Hmm. This is very expensive chocolate. I'm not sure you really want to pay the price for it.

Him: I want chocolate!

Me: (Holding a piece of paper) Here is what you would need to do in order to have this chocolate.

Him: (Tosses paper aside) I want chocolate!

Me: I don't think you're listening. (Grabs a very long sheet of paper). Here is a more detailed outline of what you're really getting yourself into by accepting this chocolate.

Him: (Tosses paper aside) I want chocolate!

Me: (Hands him a thick hardcover book). Here is a 100-page manual explaining everything that you'll have in your life, all the new burdens that you'll be carrying, once you have the chocolate in your hands. And don't worry about reading the fine print - I've especially highlighted the parts I think you won't like.

Him: (Tosses book aside) I want chocolate!

Me: Wow. You really still want the chocolate after everything I've shared with you? You must be awesome. (Hand him the chocolate).

Him: (Takes one bite. Pauses.) Aaaaahhhhhh!!!!! I don't want all this burden and baggage get me out get me out aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!

Me: (Glaring, ready to smack him).

Him: Can I keep the chocolate?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Haircut

I'm getting a dramatically new haircut tomorrow. I honestly haven't thought this through much at all, I just want to try a wild new haircut because I've worn the same hairstyle my whole life and I want to try something different, and I think it will make me feel new and fresh and more Amelia-ish. I just figure if I don't like it, I can always grow it back. I was hoping I could get the same person I had last time, but she wasn't free and I really want to get the haircut this weekend. But it seems like a good hair salon so I trust that anyone I meet with should be good and can talk to me about what will look good.

I don't know. I don't feel well. I don't really feel well enough to even drag myself to get the haircut tomorrow but it seemed convenient since I'm meeting my friend at the mall later anyway. I just want to do something dramatically different and I've never had a short haircut before.

Hmm

How the fuck does someone get to have an MBA and not know how to use a comma???? Man, if anyone else saw what I saw getting handed in to that program...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Not okay

I AM NOT OKAY. Not the tiniest bit okay. I'm not getting my emotional needs met and I am moving to another planet. This time I'm really gonna do it, no turning back, I'm gonna be Amelia and do wild things and never ever ever behave or function. I am not okay and I will not act okay because of anything.

Friday, December 12, 2014

More Personality Patterns






This is a quiz that shows why my ex and I weren't compatible. He was a guardian and I'm an artisan, and guardians and artisans DO NOT mix. Well, maybe that's not true. I just always had to pretend to be more of a guardian around his family. They never accepted that I was almost 100% artisan. They wanted a guardian type like them. They wanted a good, hardworking citizen which is not what I am at all. They wanted someone who's down-to-earth and I am the opposite of that. 

This quiz had you rate your answer choices, with 4 points for your first choice, 3 for your second, 2 for your third, and 1 for your last. But I didn't need the rating system to know what I was - I answer "B" as my first answer to every single question except for the first one because I don't like gym class. (On the second question, B is honestly the only one that fits at all, so I had a really hard time coming up with an order for the others, which are all equally untrue for me).

Now that I'm done pretending to be a good citizen around people's families, I'm celebrating being an artisan like this:


Remember when I showed those pictures from the personality patterns book? Well, I wanted to make my own personality patterns. I've always liked visual stuff like pie charts and bar graphs, so that you can tell at a glance what the results are without counting up points. So I decided to express my artisanness with stars. I color-coded each of the quiz results. Blue for guardian, pink for artisan, purple for idealist, and green for realist. Then I drew one star for each point I got. (Note: the quiz scores are inflated because they use 1-4 instead of 0-3, so I changed this to a 0-3 scale instead of 1-4. In this case, for me, that makes more sense because my last choice was usually something I had zero interest in). Out of all the stars, 46% are artisan, 29% are idealist, 17% are realist, and 8% are guardian. (What on earth was I doing dating someone who pushed me to be a guardian?)

Now here comes the even more fun part...


Two of my close friends took this quiz also, so I added their patterns next to mine. (My pattern is in the far left corner; I folded the paper to take the first picture). One of my friends is dominantly idealist and the other is dominantly realist. I really like how the patterns look all together. We each have a different dominant color, but they all seem to fit perfectly together. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why I Deleted My Old Accounts

The reason I deleted my old Facebook account when timeline started was NOT because I felt ashamed or embarrassed by what I wrote in college. I am not, nor will I ever be, ashamed of what I wrote. That stuff was all a true reflection of what was going on. The reason I deleted my old account was because I did not want to have such easy access to what had happened at college because it hurt me. It hurt me to have such easy access to what happened back then. Not how I reacted - what happened. I didn't want to keep reliving it. I do wish I had those records now, but they were too painful to keep at the time. 

The reason I deleted my online journal was again, NOT because I was ashamed of what I had written. I did that because my online journal contained a lot of false positives. False positives meaning that I wrote a lot of positive, hopeful entries that were NOT a true reflection of what was going on at the time. And I'm not talking about accentuating the positive, or only writing about true positive stuff and just not including negative stuff. I'm talking about convincing myself that things were great when they were not okay at all. I was experiencing a lot of cognitive dissonance, or lying to myself, and convincing myself that everything would be fine. I had the expectation that college would eventually be fine once I got used to it and did not always admit to myself that some things were just not okay with me.

Some entries made things sound good when they were actually really bad. Some entries just had false hope about things getting better. Some entries accurately reflected how I felt at the time but directed my feelings at the wrong things. I was so scared to admit the Colby was the problem that I often made it sound like I was just having a bad time in general but that I did like the school and wouldn't be any happier if I left. Some of the entries I wrote when I was really depressed sound like they are about absolutely nothing. The two reasons that I eventually deleted my online journal were that:

1. It hurt me to read that false positive stuff even more than it hurt to read true negative stuff. It sort of felt like watching someone about to step off a cliff and not being able to do anything to warn them.

2. I was absolutely terrified that anyone who found what I had written would use it against me, to try to say, "See, you did have some fun times at college," or something like that. No one I knew at the time believed me about how horrible everything was. Not one single person. I was already having such a hard time convincing people that my experience was real. Letting them read journal entries that sounded like I liked Colby would have destroyed everything. If I couldn't trust anyone to believe me about what happened, who would ever believe that I could have actually written something positive that wasn't true? So no, I was never ashamed of anything I wrote in my journal, I was just afraid that YOU ALL would use it against me to claim that my experience wasn't really as bad as I've said it is! That's the main reason I got rid of my journal years ago. I couldn't take that risk.

Hmm. Now that I have trusted friends who understand that cognitive dissonance happens, I might be interested in sharing some of those journal entries (they are not online, but I have printed copies). I think it would be an extremely deep bonding and cleansing ritual to actually trust someone to read those things and believe me when I say that that's not how it happened.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tone-Policing vs. Editing

I've figured something out that has been mixed up in my mind for YEARS, ever since I took my first college writing class back in 2009. I've been confusing editing with tone-policing.

I was not familiar with the term "tone-policing" in college. If I was, I might have understood why the "editing" advice I was being given was totally wrong. But I didn't, so I soaked in the advice like a sponge because I was hearing from professional published writers and I wanted to be professional too.

The first time I learned about tone-policing was on a Tumblr blog about thin privilege. The blog shows lots of examples of thin privilege and discrimination against fat people. The blog authors also get a lot of hate mail, and sometimes they get these innocent-sounding questions which they will post and respond to, telling the people who wrote the questions to fuck off. At first, I was a little put off by this tactic. I thought that they were giving rude responses to polite questions, and that this was no way to gain followers. There were other readers who thought like I did and wrote in advising them to be more polite, and the blog authors responded that they were not going to tone-police what they said. I read more about tone-policing on this website and in other places, and it is very common for members of a privileged group to tone-police people who are speaking out about discrimination by telling them to sound nicer or less angry. This is horrible and extremely invalidating! This tells people that they do not have the right to feel how they feel.

When I looked more closely at the "polite" questions that got "rude" responses on the thin privilege blog, I realized that the questions were really not respectful at all. Even though the tone and word choice might have sounded polite, the actual content of the questions was discriminating against fat people, automatically implying that being thin was "better" than being fat, that there must be at least "some" circumstances in which it was okay to be disrespectful or non-inclusive to someone because of their size, or that it should be okay to treat people like shit if you somehow know that they are not healthy.  Some of the "polite" questions asked things that were in the FAQ. Now, I have nothing bad to say about people who ask questions that are already in the FAQ in *most* circumstances, like calling customer service to find out why your computer doesn't work or something like that. But the questions on this website were sort of worded like, "I'm normal and you're different, so you *owe* it to me to explain this." And then there were lots of "polite" questions like, "Why don't you be a body-positive site instead of only talking about negative stuff," in response to lots of posts about really horrible discrimination that is *happening* to people for real. So, yeah. Those "polite" questions don't seem so innocent anymore, and the harsh responses don't seem so unfair anymore.

It was at least a year or two ago when I learned about tone-policing, but I still had not made the connection to my own writing. I had not realized that the kind of "editing" I tried to do was actually tone-policing. The main writing advice I got when I was in fiction and poetry writing class was that I needed to write about stuff that I was not emotionally close to. I didn't listen and kept finding ways to squeeze things that were important to me into my stories and poems because I had a lot to say and I wanted to express myself through writing. But I always felt like I was doing something wrong and that to be a "good" writer I had to write about stuff that I was not emotionally invested in at all. I went into my writing classes looking for channels to express myself and had all of my channels blocked. The same thing happened a bit when I tried to express myself through the dances I choreographed. The first time I showed my dance, the club officers were signaling to us to smile without even listening to the music and watching the dance and at least being *open* to the idea that this might not be a smiley piece of art. They told me that my dancers needed to smile, I told them that the story of the dance was very serious and did not involve smiling, and they told me that maybe I could squeeze in *some* smiling somewhere. (Good advice in this case would have been to make our facial expressions stronger to better communicate the emotions that we were expressing).

Outside of college, the only people I got feedback from on my stories and poems were my parents. This was not good because my parents are not into angst stories at all and are more likely than the average person to complain that a story is to whiny. Some of my favorite books are books that my parents don't like because they think they are too whiny. I should have never taken their feedback on my stories so seriously because I know that they have this preference and I know that some of the books that they dismiss as too whiny are extremely popular. But I did not have feedback from anyone else.

I majored in psychology, so I learned how to write psychology papers using a the neutral tone of an outside observer. I attempted to use this same tone when I first began this blog. I wrote angry things on Facebook, but I wanted to keep this blog "nice." I thought "nice" meant well-written. I was actually censoring and tone-policing myself because I thought that was the only way I would get readers and be taken seriously as a writer.

When my ex broke up with me, I said, "I'm not a suck it up and deal kind of person, so you can expect a major drop in writing quality from here on out." And I stopped editing and started writing straight from my heart. And the people closest to me have said that I sound better this way, that I always sounded like I was trying to be neutral before.

I had confused good writing with censored, tone-policed writing, and I'm not going to do that anymore. Good writing is effective writing that communicates what you are saying to the reader. If what I want to communicate is, "This is a major problem that fucked up my life and it needs to STOP!" I am not going to achieve that goal by saying, "This is my nice passive observation of human behavior which I have no emotional investment in. It would probably be a teensy bit better if we maybe did things a little bit differently."

Your ideas are your own. Your experience is your own. When someone advises you on how to edit something, the editing should involve getting your original point across in a more effective way. If you find that your true message is lost or getting buried beneath polite language, you are not making your writing "better," you are tone-policing.

I will never tone police myself again. My goal is to scream louder.

Personality Patterns

This is a page from my Personality Patterns Quiz Book, where instead of just checking off your answer, you get to make a pattern. For this quiz, you colored one square pink, blue, or yellow depending on your answer to each question. I really, really love this quiz book because I like visual things, and it's just so cool that I can look at this quiz instantly and know that I answered mostly blue without having to count up the questions. You fill out the pattern as you go. This does have some downsides, like making it hard to change your answers. The first two blue squares on the left, I had originally colored yellow and I had to go back and color blue over them. But still, I like how you create a picture of your personality or interests with each question. This first quiz is about whether you prefer to have fun with lots of people (pink), with a smaller group of close friends (blue), or by yourself (yellow).


This quiz is about how independent you are. Purple means that you do your own thing, orange means that you go along with what your friends want to do, and green is somewhere in the middle. This came about about right for me, and I like how it makes a nice pattern. This was coincidental because I colored the squares in question-order.




This quiz had to do with finding a talent based on your interests. You colored in one flower for each answer. Purple is writing, yellow is music and red is cooking. I think this was my favorite quiz in terms of the way the results were presented because you get to fill in a picture rather than plain squares, and the picture makes sense with the quiz - you can imagine your interests or talents blossoming like flowers.







These were the only quizzes that involved coloring in a pattern, but I'm thinking now that I should make pictures to go with some of the quizzes I've written, because it's a fun way to look at the results. Or maybe I'll write my new quizzes with pictures instead of letter choices. I'm curious if I would end up wording the questions differently, and if that wording might be better. I'll need to experiment.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sneakers and Coats

I got these in Vegas - hottest sneakers ever!
I was thinking today about how much time I used to spend shopping for sneakers and a winter coat each year when I was younger. My sneakers always had to be really bright and colorful and shiny and sparkly, which is hard once you get to a certain age. The styles of sneakers I liked the best only came in sizes for really young kids. At a certain age, everything that came in my size was white with colored stripes, sporty rather than sparkly. I went from store to store and would never settle for sneakers that didn't stand out from the crowd and show off my style. When I really couldn't find anything I liked, I added bright-colored shoelaces and hooked safety pins with beads onto the laces. Winter coat shopping  was the same way. When I was younger, I had a really shiny, sparkly blue coat. It was warm and toasty on the inside, but the material on the outside looked like it came from a princess dress. But at a certain point, they stopped selling pretty winter coats in my size and the only choices were plain solid colors with more of an athletic look.

It's been a long time since I've shopped for the perfect winter coat or sneakers like I did when I was younger. Aside from these awesome sneakers I found in Vegas (in the picture) back in 2008, I haven't been wearing shoes that flaunt my style. I have a classic black winter coat that's really warm and goes with everything, and I like it just fine even though I never wear black otherwise. I started wondering at what point I stopped caring so much about sneakers and coats. When did I get over the idea that these things had to flaunt my style so perfectly?

The answer to that is simple: I never "got over" these things because I grew up and matured and decided that it didn't matter. The reason I cared so much about sneakers and coats when I was younger was because I had to wear a uniform to school. We wore plaid jumpers or skirts four days a week with school shoes, which you could pick out yourself but they had to be black or navy blue. One day a week we wore our gym uniform with sneakers. Sneakers were the one part of our uniform that we could choose for ourselves with no regulations. And outdoor clothing like coats, hats, gloves, and boots were also entirely our choice. The reason it was so important for me to find the perfect sneakers and the perfect winter coat was that these were the only pieces of clothing I got to choose for school and my only opportunity to show off my style. My outdoor winter outfit of ski pants, boots, a winter coat, a hat, and gloves or mittens had to be bright-colored and make me stand out in the crowd because it was the only school outfit that I ever got to choose.

My first few years of high school, I still spent a lot of time hunting for the perfect shoes and the perfect coat, mostly out of habit, but once I got used to the fact that I could wear whatever I wanted, even jewelry and nail polish, shoes and coats just didn't matter as much. Not that I would get these things in colors I didn't like, but I was fine wearing plain, solid-colored shoes I liked without stripes or polka dots or sparkles.

People often talk about maturing, and that when you're older, certain things won't matter to you like they do now. But what I've found for the most part is that I don't really outgrow things. I only change because my situation has changed. Because honestly, if I were back in that school uniform situation again where the majority of my social life took place at that school, you can bet I'd out there right now searching every store for a hot pink glitter-covered winter coat.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Am an Unschooler

From this moment on I am identifying as an unschooler even though I was forced to go to school. I do not forgive the adults who forced structure on me, no matter how young I was at the time.

So, I think I've internalized a bunch of icky school stuff that I need to purge out of my system, and the first is the idea of needing any kind of structure in my life. From this moment on, I intend to run wild and free, doing what I want when I want, and not have one ounce of structure in my life.

I something HUGE that I internalized from my writing classes, but wasn't true, was that the reason I didn't finish any of the cool things I was writing when I was younger was because I didn't have a structured schedule, and now that I was writing stories for "real" in a graded class with deadlines, I could finish what I started and do a better job. BULLSHIT!!!!! I cannot believe that I ever believed this lie. I'm glad I took writing classes because they were fun at the time and helped me get back into the routine of writing (which I would not have gotten out of if I hadn't gone to college in the first place!), but there is no way in hell that the structure and grades made anything better, and the grading part forced me to change cool-topic stories into ordinary stories about the three "universal" "only-stuff-worth-writing-about," themes of love, sex, and death. (Nothing against these themes, but they are not universal and not the only things worth writing about).

Something very important that I realize now about the things I wrote when I was younger, on my own, in a completely unstructured way: I never had a serious goal of finishing any of them. Writing was a just-for-fun activity for me. If I'm reading a book, and I get bored with it or more interested in other things and decide not to finish, I don't consider that to be "failing" because I never had a serious goal of finishing the book in the first place. I get interest in new things all the time, and get bored with old things, so I end up having a lot of unfinished projects. This is not a problem unless I seriously want to finish something, and when I was younger, I didn't want to. I was perfectly happy working on projects for fun and then moving on when they got boring and something else became more fun. I had a really fun time with all of the cool projects I worked on when I was younger, and having fun was what wanted to do, so I did accomplish that goal.

What I realize now about finishing stories because I had deadlines in a structured class is that I should have never thought that this was the *only* way for me to get things done because I had never really set a goal of finishing anything completely on my own unstructured schedule. I hadn't failed to do that, I had just never tried. When I wrote The Unencrypted Truth (100 pages long), I had a serious goal of finishing it, but I did not have a deadline or schedule. I finished in about three months. This taught me two things: that I am perfectly capable of finishing what I start when I want to without having any kind of externally-imposed deadline or structure, and that I have a natural, comfortable pace of about 10,000 words a month, and I should use that as my guideline for writing goals rather than trying to copy what "real" writers do. I am a real writer and this is my pace. Most books nowadays are between 50,000-100,000 words. That means I'd be finishing the bulk of a book in 5-10 months. That is perfectly awesome and nothing that I should feel bad about!

I've also learned that I don't like the imposed structure of having a to write a certain word count per day. I've always felt like that was the "right" way to do it because in school we were always supposed to break projects down into pieces and use time management and stuff like that. I realize now that this doesn't work for me, and what does work for me is having a monthly goal rather than a daily goal. That way I have a lot of freedom within that month. I can have times when I'm really engaged and times when I'm less engaged, and it comes out the same in the end.

I am never willing to put more time, effort, and energy into something that I don't care about than I put into something I do care about. (Work is different since I get paid, but there's still a limit). What this meant for me back when I was a student was that, because I was burning myself out, losing sleep, and missing out on fun things I wanted to do because of my schoolwork, I basically had to do the same thing with whatever mattered to me. I was forced to care about school and treat it like a priority when it was nowhere near the top of my list. I never felt like I had a choice about that. So the only way I could fight back, fight for what I truly cared about, was to treat what I really cared about the same way I treated school. I needed to drink caffeine, pull all-nighters, and miss out on other fun things I felt like doing in order to spend a ton of time writing.

Sometimes people saw that I was stressed out and recommended that I ease up a bit, but I thought that was bullshit because if I had a big test coming up, I don't think I would be advised to just study when I was in the mood or felt "inspired." If I had a paper due on Friday, I don't think anyone would suggest that I just decide to spend a certain amount of time on the paper each night and not worry about how many pages I produced. I was given advice like this with stuff I did care about, and it just showed me how little anyone accepted that my personal goals were more important than school. I do write when I'm not in the mood and I do keep track of quantity rather than time spent. I'm not going to treat what matters most to me like it's just a hobby or something I do on the side.

But here's what I have learned from not being a student anymore: I am not a fast lane kind of person. I like my life to go at leisurely pace without any pressure. When I think about the sleep-deprived zombie I was during midterms and finals in college, I realize there were two things wrong with that: One was that I was putting in all that effort for something I never really cared about, and the second was that I was doing that at all! I do not ever want to be sleep-deprived or missing out on fun things for any reason. If I need caffeine to keep me going, that means that something is wrong with my life because I do not want the kind of lifestyle where I need caffeine. Back when I was a student, the only way I could fight back against school was to treat everything else the same way, but now that I'm out, I can finally say that no, I'm not going to burn myself out over writing a book because I do not want to burn myself out for anything.

Other important thing I learned: What really motivated me about fiction writing class, what made me want to do the best I could on my stories, had nothing to do with grades or structure. What I cared about was the attention. Everyone had a workshop for each of their stories. When it was your turn, everyone spent an entire half of the class talking about your story. It was like a performance to look forward to. I got to be a superstar. That is what I really liked best about fiction writing class and why the class motivated me to do a better job. My writing classes taught me just how important it is for me to have a performance type of event to look forward to when I'm doing something on my own. When I finished my first novel, I was absolutely craving a big party or celebration afterwards and didn't really have one. I was also craving a celebration after writing The Unencrypted Truth and didn't have one. This time is different. As soon as I finish writing this book, as soon as I've done my absolute best with it and I'm ready to get feedback from my friends before sending it off to a publisher, I'm going to have a celebration! I'm going to invite all my friends over and have a reading! (The reading was my friend's idea, and it sounds awesome!) Now that I understand just how important this big performance event is to me, I can be sure to always have one planned when I'm trying to finish a book.

I also know that I'm an instant gratification person, not the delayed gratification type. Schools always pushed me to be more of a delayed gratification and long-term oriented person, but that was never for me. The way to accomplish long-term goals when you're more short-term oriented is to give yourself lots of short-term gratification along the way. Now, when I say short-term gratification, I'm not talking about external rewards that are unrelated to writing, such as buying something special for myself if I complete a certain number of pages. This tells my brain (and often rightfully so) that I must not really want to do whatever I am doing if I need to bribe myself, and I start to lose any genuine interest I had in the activity. The short-term gratification I need has to come straight from what I'm doing. Basically, I need a chance to show off what I've accomplished before the big final performance. Kind of like when I was in plays, and I'd look forward to going to rehearsals and showing everyone how much I'd practiced. I don't like to work on personal projects in total isolation - I need those "rehearsals" leading up to the performance. So I've read sections of the book to my friends and I've been sending drafts to a friend who is going to help me edit. Sharing parts of the book ahead of time has really helped me to stay motivated and engaged.

And I should mention that I don't think there's anything wrong with showing off as long as you're not arrogant or putting other people down. I love to show people what I've done and feel like a superstar, but I don't think I'm better than other people, and I love to see my friends be superstars and showcase their talents as well.

So there you have it. This is what I'm learning about how to do stuff my way, as the unschooler I am at heart. Don't listen to anyone who tells you there's only one right way of doing something.  Find what works for you, even it's nothing like what you've been told.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Small World

When I was in high school, one of the directors at my summer theatre program was very against the self esteem movement. She claimed that in the world of theatre, there was no room for self esteem and actually said to us on the first day, "If you're concerned about your self-esteem, get out!"

I should probably clarify that this is not a widely held belief in theatre, as far as I know. This director is the only person I've met who talked this way, and evidence shows that doing theatre can help people develop confidence and self-esteem. But I was fairly new to theatre at the time - too new to recognize that this was just one person's opinion rather than a fact about the theatre world. And yet, I knew she was wrong. Not because I had read studies about theatre and self-esteem, not because I had heard different opinions from professionals, but because I was extremely passionate about theatre and also cared deeply about self esteem. I knew she was wrong to claim that these values could not coexist, because they coexisted in me.

I was a bit taken aback by what this director said, but I immediately starting thinking about how this was not true for me, how I was definitely a theatre person who cared a lot about self-esteem. I started thinking about contrasting values, and how it must somehow be okay to have them. (I know now that theatre and self-esteem are not contrasting, and that theatre is not a "value," but this was how I thought of the issue at the time). I starting writing an essay called "Blue in the Orange Club," where everyone is a color, and each color has a club, and someone who is blue has no interest in the blue club and instead wants to join the orange club, which is the opposite of blue on the color wheel. I don't remember exactly where this essay was going or how it ended because I only have the beginning written down in my journal.

But what really gets me is this: when our director said that there was no room for caring about self-esteem in theatre, even though I was very new to theatre and in a position to believe whatever she said, I never once considered the fact that I did not belong in theatre because I cared about self esteem. I knew that I belonged in theatre, and therefore I knew that my director was wrong.

I just want to be that way again. I want the world to feel smaller again, where I feel like I can stand up to anyone, no matter how much more talented or experienced they are than me, and say that the "universal" statements they've made are wrong because they do not include me and my experience. I know I say this kind of stuff all the time, but I don't feel it as often as I say it. I don't feel it instinctively the way I did at the time of this theatre incident. I don't have this inherent, subconscious sense that my own experience is rock-solid and that if someone makes a "general" statement that doesn't include my experience, then that is wrong just like it's wrong to say today is Monday when it's Tuesday. That's how I used to feel, and I'm tired of feeling like the whole world is bigger than me and that other people can decide stuff about what I am. I may write a long essay about why a piece of advice that's supposedly good for everyone is actually really bad for some people including myself, but I don't believe myself the way I did back when I was a teenager. I still feel less adequate inside. And I am so sick of it. I just want to be the teenager who would say, "That's not true because it's not true for me!" and sincerely believe it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

"We're all Adults Here"

I've decided that I want to stop using phrases like, "So-and-so is an adult" or "We're all adults here" because:

1. Saying that you or someone else is an adult in certain contexts can imply that children are less deserving of respect, privacy, freedom, or whatever you are talking about. Of course there are some things that children can't do on their own, and it is understandable to use the "I'm an adult!" argument with your parents/guardians to mean, "I'm now capable of doing something that I couldn't when I was younger, so I should be allowed to do it," but there are also plenty of times when people say that it should be okay to eat what you want, dress the way you like, keep your living space the way you want, and basically make your own choices because you are an adult. This is not okay because it implies that children shouldn't also get to do these things. You should be able to do these things regardless of your age - there is no reason that being an adult needs to be a part of it.

2. Saying that someone should be able to handle something because they are an adult is not okay because it puts pressure on someone to "handle" or be okay with things that they might not be okay with at all and might not be willing to do. It imposes standards on the person because of something they didn't even choose (you don't get to decide how old you are). "Act your age," is commonly used to pressure people to behave differently than they want to behave. There is also an implication in such statements that children are not as good as adults, because saying, "If you act this way, you are not really an adult," clearly implies that you should behave like an adult and that it would be bad to behave more like a child.

3. I don't like using the word "adult" or "mature" in place of what we really mean to say, because these words are full of social standards and discriminate against children. I would much prefer to say what I really mean, such as, "We are all respectful enough to listen to this talk without making fun of the speaker," "We all have enough knowledge of the situation to make our own choices," or "We are all able to give consent because we have an equal, trusting, consent-conscious relationship without twisted power dynamics that would make us feel like one of us has to obey the other when we don't want to." There are plenty of adults who would not be respectful, there are plenty of peer-relationships that do have messed up power dynamics, and that last description makes it clear that consent is not about being "mature" but about not having other people in power over you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Difficult Balance

I think what I really mean to say in my post on integrity and fun is that I'm morally against guilt-tripping people.

But I'm also morally against tone-policing.

Hmm...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Out of It

I am ridiculously out of it right now, still sort of high from all the awesome trip stuff. I still feel like everything's moving. Sometimes I have a slight headache but it doesn't even bother me. I'm looking forward to seeing my friends this weekend! I've got two friend-dates scheduled.

Random thought: I think I was talking like an outside investigator before, like I was studying tree frogs in their natural habitat or something, taking notes and observing the behavior of another species. Except I was talking that way about people, about situations I was directly involved in, but talking like some outside researcher. Part of this probably came from being a psych major and all the psych papers I wrote, which doesn't bother me at all. I became fluent in that language, so it makes sense that it would leak into my other writing. I'm a non-code-switcher after all. But I know that wasn't all that was going on, I know that I was purposely using psych-writing to sound like a neutral outside observer, like, "You humans are so fascinating." Not anymore. Now I talk like I'm part of what I'm part of and include real emotions in everything and I don't have any goal of sounding different unless I'm actually writing a psych paper.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Planet Earth

Have fun down there on planet earth everyone! I will not be heading down there anytime soon!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Integrity and Fun

I was recently listing some guidelines I have for the book I'm currently writing - things like being clear and easy to understand, and what I want the overall tone and message of the book to be. One component I listed was that I'd like the book to be entertaining, fun, light and fluffy, and an easy read, even though the topic is serious. I want the book to sound non-accusatory, non-confrontational, and basically treat everyone like they have good intentions and might just not know what to do in certain situations. I don't want to make the reader feel bad about themself. (This may happen anyway, but I don't want the tone of the book to make people feel bad). I want this to basically be a fun and pleasant book to read.

This can absolutely be done - I've read lots of fun books that give good advice for serious things (mostly American Girl books). But when I wrote this quality down on my list, I did question whether or not this was the right way to go. Was I lessening the importance of the message? Was I turning something essential into something optional? Was I tone-policing myself because I didn't think people would listen to me any other way?

Well, the last one is definitely true. But there's more to it than that. Making sure my book is enjoyable to read is not just about appealing to the masses - it's actually an integral part of the book itself. One of the issues I focus on in this book is that thinking something is good for someone does not make it okay to pressure the person to do it when they don't want to. I discuss how we often don't recognize outright bullying and harassment when it comes in the form of pushing someone to do something "positive." I can almost guarantee you that if my ex-college had a discussion about affirmative consent, there would be just as much pressure to go to the event, just as much pressure to drag along people who don't want to go, and just as much shaming of people who don't feel like going as there is at all the Important Issue events at Colby. I just don't see the students hosting the event actually applying affirmative consent to the way they treat the event itself.

I understand that it is a person's choice to read my book, that they can always put it down if they don't like it, but that doesn't mean that I don't have the power to make them feel bad about themselves. I once read a blog post which claimed that there were only five types of blog posts "worth writing," and one of those types was a post that pushes people to make lifestyle changes. The blog author explained that this kind of post should make people feel guilty about whatever they are currently doing and shame them into making changes. And I'm sitting here thinking, okay, I can see how this might be alright for a blog that is about a specific kind of lifestyle change and is marketed towards people who both want to make this specific change and are motivated by this particular tactic. Otherwise, this is a direct attack on both people who do not want to make this lifestyle change, and people who do want to make it but are struggling and find this type of post berating. It was funny that this blogger was claiming that everyone should be writing posts like this, when the entire premise of my blog is about NOT doing all of the bad things that this post does.

If I'm writing a book about not pushing people, I need to not be pushing people in the book. I know that's not entirely possible with the kind of book I'm writing, but I want to be the least pushy that I can be while still maintaining the importance of the topics. People may end up feeling bad because they realize thing that they haven't been as validating or consent-conscious as they could have been (this has happened to me a lot), but I want this to be a personal realization that comes from the information presented in the book, not from me saying, "You've done this horrible thing - now feel bad about it!" (I will say this regarding specific people in my life, but I don't want to put it in a book marketed to people I don't know).

You probably know by now that I've been in countless situations at Colby where I was shamed for not doing stuff I didn't want to do - joining clubs, going to events, reading what other people wanted me to read, knowing what other people thought I should know, etc. Being part of a bunch of pretentiously-less-elite subcultures within that elitist culture taught me something about myself: I am your "average" reader. I'm the average reader who only wants entertainment and not information. I'm the average reader who only wants to feel good and doesn't want to read stuff that makes me feel bad about myself. I'm the average reader who knows nothing about the topic, who would only take an interest if it were really exciting and fun. I am the reader that everyone complains about having to appeal to. And you know what? I WANT to appeal to the average reader. Because I do NOT support telling people that they have to care about learning, read stuff that they "should" read, be okay with being called out and not feeling good, or anything like that. I am the average reader and I do not want people pushing me to be anything else. I do not want to push my readers to be anything else.  I want to appeal to them because I support people's right to like what they like and to avoid things that make them feel bad. And if I'm not going to push people, then I need to appeal to them.

Easier said than done of course. If I tell people to let others do what they like and not push them to do things they "should" do, that statement itself is a "should" statement. So...I'm not exactly sure how to mix the gentle and fun appeal with the actual content of the book. All I know is that keeping the book entertaining and fun and non-pushy does not compromise the integrity of the message - it is part of the integrity of the message.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I AM UNTAMABLE

I once took a quiz that had this question:

What do you reach for to quench your thirst?
A. Ice cold soda.
B. Gatorade.
C. Diet soda.
D. Water.

Now, my answer to this question is unequivocally water. I drink water all the time and only drink soda once in a while. I've just never been into soda very much. But I had a lot of trouble answering this question. Why? Because of the words "ice cold." These words make soda sound like the most appealing choice, the thing that you really want, which makes me feel like I'd be making a sacrifice or doing what I "should" do by selecting water. I know that this is not true for me. When I feel thirsty, an ice-cold glass of water is very refreshing, and is definitely what I would want. Soda is like candy to me and actually makes me feel more thirsty. But the tone of the quiz really makes me want to pick soda as my answer.

A while back, I posted an American Girl quiz about whether or not you would do inconsiderate things while you were out. These things were:
1. Picking flowers when a sign says not to.
2. Littering.
3. Throwing a rock over the edge of the Grand Canyon, when a sign says not to because it's dangerous for people below.
4. Picking up a bird's nest with eggs in it to put on your dresser as an ornament.
5. Carving your initials into ancient ruins.
6. Playing your radio really loudly at a crowded beach.

I explained that I said "I might do this" to all of them because the quiz made them all sound so tempting, when I know that the only thing I actually might have done when I was younger was playing the radio too loud. But what I wanted to clarify now is that my reason for not doing these things has nothing to do with understanding that the rules are in place to create a positive environment or anything like that. It's not about someone explaining the good reasons for having rules as opposed to saying, "because I said so." I DON'T FOLLOW RULES!!!!! I am NOT a rule follower and I have no respect for authority AT ALL. Any ounce of respect you think I have for authority is just me being too chicken to tell them off. The reason I wouldn't throw a rock off the Grand Canyon is that my mom explained to me that can kill someone if it hits them on the head, and my PERSONAL DESIRE to not kill someone is much stronger than my desire to throw a rock off the edge of a cliff. This quiz made it sound like your only personal desire was to do the bad thing and that not doing it would be sacrificing what you want to do for what you should do and that is just not something that I do.

So yeah, I'm going with "ice cold soda" as my answer because it's clearly the most hedonistic, non-sacrificing, irresponsible choice you can make on that question. The fact that I don't literally like soda much is not relevant.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Major Green Flag

I wanted to talk about a particular green flag I've noticed in some of my closest friendships, a quality that tells me I should proceed forward with someone. I don't know the word for this quality, so I'm going to describe it.

We all have different needs, different things that matter to us, and different things that are okay and not okay for us. Sometimes you learn that something you never think twice about is a major problem for other people. Sometimes you teach someone that something they never think twice about is a major problem for you. Most of us have a cognitive bias where, when we receive new information that is inconsistent with what we already know, we alter the new information to make sense with what is already in our minds. If you previously held the notion that, say, dodge ball is fun for everyone, but you meet someone who tells you that dodge ball is very stressful for them, you may be inclined to deny what they say because you are attached to the belief that dodge ball is fun, and if you truly accept what they've said, you may need to change your behavior and ask people before assuming they want to play dodge ball with you. You may invalidate the person and say, "How can anyone not like dodge ball?" or you may be polite but secretly think they're weird and that what they've said is not worth making room for in your mind. OR you can believe them, and make a conscious effort to rethink what you thought you already knew, to change what's in your brain to make room for this new information that not everyone likes dodge ball. And by doing this, you're going beyond just validating this one person's feelings - you are going to be much more understanding of other people who don't like dodge ball. The more you let new information like this enter your mind, the easier it is to accept other things that you didn't realize before. Once you start accepting other people's experiences, you won't be as weirded out when someone tells you about an experience that's very different from yours.

This quality of accepting and valuing a person's experience to the point that it changes the way you think and act even when that person is not around is a huge green flag for me. A close friend told me that reading my college story helped her to understand something she might have done wrong with another person in the past. I've always wanted to have that effect on people - to have them read my college story, or other things I've written, and actually become more aware of the issues I've raised and change their behavior because of it. And when I thought about it, the impact I had on my friend went beyond this one incident that she mentioned. I had known this friend for a long time before we became really close. We used to only see each other at group events, but we'd always hang out together and talk a lot. And ever since we both opened up about our secrets and I told her my college story, I noticed that she often clarifies that she doesn't want to push people to do things. If, for instance, she is talking about how a particular thing is very important to her, she will especially clarify that she is only talking about herself and that it's okay if it's not what everyone wants to do. I've always appreciated this so much, but I had never stopped to realize that it pretty much started after she read my college story. Reading that story wasn't just a one-time thing. It wasn't just one instance of giving lots of hugs and cuddles and saying, "I'm sorry that happened to you." We refer to Colby all the time as an example of how not to be, we have inside jokes and quotes about it, and we never refer to Colby casually without at least cracking a joke about the horribleness of it all. My story left a permanent impact that will be a part of us forever. And her stories have had a permanent impact on me as well. I understand a lot more about what I did wrong in high school, how wrong it was for me to push everyone to be happy all the time and act like happiness was a choice, and I don't want to ever do that again.

My friend Eli taught me a lot about neurodiversity and how to be more consent conscious. I've stopped using the concept of "empathy" interchangeably with kindness or not being a jerk, and I've stopped thinking that a lot of things are universal. When I asked Eli if ze had learned anything from me, Eli said that ze learned a lot from me about social pressure. Eli does not experience social pressures zemself, so my experiences are a big part of their morality surrounding pressure.

The ultimate green flag for me is when we can learn from each other's experiences. When we go beyond saying what will make someone feel better in a given moment, but we actually learn about the issue they're describing. We change our own ideas to make room for this new information. This goes beyond just how we treat our friend - we change our behavior towards everyone so that whatever problem our friend has been through, we won't cause for someone else. This is one of the biggest ways that I know I can trust someone. It's what I'm going to look for in all of my relationships going forward.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween

Five years ago this week was the absolute worst time ever, and now I have the bestest friends in the whole world. Yes I learned who I couldn't trust, but I also, more importantly learned who I COULD trust. Last year's party was awesome even though I got a breakup threat a few days before it, but this year there are no breakup threats and no getting kicked out of school threats and no one pushing me to be responsible or self sufficient or anything. Nothing horrible is going to happen this Halloween. I still can't get over that: nothing really really bad is going to happen this Halloween. Wow. I really felt like this holiday was cursed for the longest time. Planning a party by myself/with my friends is so much better than doing it with my ex on his turf. This is my turf and it is awesome, and I just love getting to write my own community guidelines and getting to choose who to welcome into my space and into my life. Happy Halloween everyone! It's gonna be a great one.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Five Years and 300,000 Words Later

My book is coming along pretty well so far. I'm actually right where I planned to be in terms of the date I was hoping to finish by and how much I've written so far. It's going way better than my first novel, not just in terms of the writing itself, but in terms of how I'm feeling about it. Here's why:

I set a realistic goal for when I want to be finished this time, and that has made all the difference. When I was working on my first novel, I set a completely unrealistic goal and literally spent the whole time I was working on it feeling like I was failing horribly because I wasn't where I wanted to be. It's hard to know your writing pace before you've written anything so long before. Writing a whole book is not a gradual task that you work up to. You don't go from writing 10-page papers to 20-page papers to 30-page papers and so forth. You are going from 20, maybe 30 pages to trying to reach 300, with absolutely no stepping stones in between. (The longest story I had ever written before my first novel was 34 pages). So, it's not exactly easy to know what your normal pace would be.

I tried to guess my book-writing pace from my short story pace, but I didn't realize just how different these paces were. When it came to short stories, I was able to write 10 pages in one sitting - sometimes even 15 - so I assumed that I would do the same thing when working on a bigger project. When I was in college and I had to read or study a certain number of pages or complete a problem set, I would automatically divide the pages or problems by the number of days that I had to do them so I'd have less work to do each day. But whenever I have a paper to write, I always dedicate a certain number of days for research, write most of the paper (usually 8 out of 10 pages) in one sitting, then finish the last few pages and edit the next day. It has never worked for me to divide those 10 pages over the course of 5 days the way that I would divide other homework assignments. I'm really used to writing the bulk of papers, essays, and short stories in one sitting, and my novel was the first time I had worked on something so long that I couldn't physically do that, that I actually needed to pace myself over a long period of time. But it wasn't until after I had finished my novel that I really accepted this. I kept having these nights where I'd drink lots of soda and stay up late thinking I could write 50 or even 100 pages in one night, and I'd feel really bad every time it didn't work. It was after I finished the book when I really accepted just how different this process was, and that there was nothing wrong with me if I couldn't write it all in one night.

My writing pace has to do with whether or not I can get a firm grip on an entire project all at once. When I wrote short stories for fiction writing class, I could write them pretty fast because they were short enough that I could have them mapped out entirely in my head. There was one story I spent so much time daydreaming about, that when I went to write it down, I felt like I was just typing it from the draft I had written in my head. When an entire story is contained in only 15 pages, it's easy enough to have it mapped out before I've written anything down, if I have enough time to think about it. But it's impossible to have 300 pages mapped out like that. I can have a firm grip on the general premise of the book, and on individual parts at a time, but for the most part, I'm not going to have 15 pages in a row smoothed out in my head, to the point that I can write them all in one sitting. That was something I had to learn from writing my first novel - I needed to accept that I was not going to have one night where I finished the bulk of it in one sitting, and that it is a long process.

When I wrote "The Unencrypted Truth," I didn't set a deadline for myself, and that was how I learned what my normal pace is for a big project. I based my goal date for my current book on this pace. And ever since I started, I've felt good about where I was. I spent most of my first novel feeling behind, putting a lot of pressure on myself to be fast, and comparing myself to where I "should" be based on what other writers do. This time I've actually managed to feel good about what I've accomplished each day.

I've also established that I do not like structure of any kind, so I've stopped trying to impose a daily word count on myself. I instead have a general idea of where I should be based on when I want to finish, and I've managed to keep the pace that I wanted to keep. I have a lot of leeway built into my end time in that I know I could finish the book faster if that I was all I wanted to do, but I've allowed time to slow down my writing pace when I want to focus on other things like spending time with friends and planning parties. When I was working on my first novel, I used to feel guilty for doing other fun things in my free time when I felt like I hadn't gotten enough work done on my book, and this is not a way that I ever want to feel again. I would not consider these six months to be successful if my book prevented me from fully enjoying everything else I like to do.

The other thing that's different this time is that I'm not a student anymore. I don't have to worry about going back to school or having midterms or finals or anything that would inhibit my ability to write. Even if we have a busy time at work, I'm only doing that during work hours. I am truly free to set whatever date I want as a deadline because I don't have to factor in times when I would like to write but won't be able to. The main reason I set such an unrealistic goal for my first novel was because I knew that I had to finish during summer vacation because I wouldn't have enough time once the school year began. I didn't stop and think about my writing pace because I really felt that I had no other option but to finish over the summer.

In my social psych class, we learned that sometimes, giving yourself a reward for finishing something by an earlier deadline than when it is actually due decreases the chances that you will finish by the real deadline if you miss your personal deadline. We read a study on procrastination where students were offered bonus points for handing in a paper by an earlier date, but the actual due date was later. Most of the students handed it in by the earlier date and got the bonus points. But of the students who didn't make the earlier deadline, fewer of them turned in the assignment on time by the real due date than when no reward was offered and there was only one due date. So, some of the students who would normally turn in their work on time didn't have it finished on time when they missed the bonus points. These students who didn't finish on time when they normally would have increased as the bonus points increased. The idea here is that those bonus points have become your primary motivation, your reason for getting the assignment done. And once that reason is gone, you aren't motivated to get it done at all. I can definitely see this happening with my own behavior. When I try to get something done by an earlier deadline for a reason, like finishing homework before the weekend so I can go out with my friends, I find that when I don't make that deadline and have to stay home, I usually don't get all my work done because I have no reason to. My reason for getting it done was so I could go out and have fun on the weekend, and with that gone, I don't have any reason for getting the work done.

This was the problem I had with my first novel. I kept setting deadlines that had external rewards attached to them, like finishing by the end of the summer, by winter break, by the end of winter break, before graduation, etc. These dates all had either symbolic meaning or practical reasons why they would be good times to finish, (but no correlation to my actual writing pace), and when I missed my deadlines, I had a much harder time continuing.

My deadline right now is my birthday, which has a lot of symbolic meaning and has a practical reason behind it, but I understand how this could negatively effect me if I miss the deadline, so I have a backup plan. Basically, I want to celebrate finishing my book. When I do something like this that I'm really really proud of, I have an immediate urge to go out and celebrate it with my friends. I never really did that with my first novel, which left me feeling kind of empty inside, but I am doing it this time. It would be convenient if my birthday party could double as a "Yay I finished my book!" party, but I realize that this probably won't happen because the exact timing is just too difficult to work out, so I am planning to do something else with my friends to celebrate, either a party or some other get-together, even if it is really close to my birthday party. It will be sort of like having a cast party at the end of a show. And I'm not adhering to any kind of social standards that you're not supposed to throw yourself a congratulations party - I'm not expecting presents or anything and I'm not going to *call* it a congratulations party, but I absolutely want to celebrate right away as soon as I finish, and I'm going to. I'm not gonna let something this awesome go uncelebrated just because I don't live with a boyfriend who can take me out the night I finish. I have friends who will really, truly appreciate what I've done, and we are absolutely going to celebrate this together. And when I get published and get my first paycheck from the book, I'm treating my friends to a full two-hour jump session at the trampoline park.

Next, if you haven't already noticed, I've decided to go ahead and jump the gun and count my chickens before they hatch this time. Why? Because that's something I've always enjoyed doing. Daydreaming about how awesome something is going to be when it happens is FUN, and something I basically stopped doing in the college aftermath. Whenever I was in a play, I always loved to imagine the performance. I would imagine it over and over again constantly, and that was a big part of the fun. I think I held myself back with imagining how awesome my first book would be because I didn't want to count my chickens before they hatched. When you're in an organized activity like a play, there is a set show date, and that date is happening no matter what. It doesn't matter whether you've learned your lines or practiced enough - the show is going on. With a personal project it's different; if you decided to stop working on it, there will be no opening night, and that's what I was afraid of with my first book, I kept thinking that I shouldn't jump to conclusions and assume this was going to happen when it might not. But you know something? I have every right to assume that this will happen because it is under my control. I am absolutely going to finish this book and publish it (if I can't get an agent or publishing company then I will self-publish). And in the meantime, I'm going to daydream all I want about how awesome it's going to be because I like to do that, and it makes me way more interested in writing the book.

Finally, I think I'm also just better at writing now than I was 5 years ago. Which makes sense since I've written over 300,000 words since then (for real - I just glanced at my blog backup files :-) I've written fiction, poetry, quizzes, blog posts, sex blog posts, everything. I've had way more writing practice in the last five years than I ever have before. Practice writing things that I actually *want* to write about. I was holding back so much when I wrote my first book. I had become really self-conscious from my writing classes, and I was under the impression that I had some sort of an issue with clarity, like I wasn't capable of communicating clearly and that's why Colby kids didn't listen to me, I wasn't capable of writing relatable characters because my college classmates couldn't relate to them. I don't believe this anymore. I actually feel confident in my ability to do what I'm doing.

This is where I started after Colby: http://yourownkindofmusic.blogspot.com/2010/06/my-first-blog-entry.html

And this is where I am now. Five years and 300,000 words later.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Random Stuff

It's hard writing a book sometimes, but this time is going much better than my first novel.

American Girl's Guide to Knowing What to Say is by far one of their best books ever, in my opinion. I've found it really helpful, and I know it would have been even more helpful when I was younger. I like that it's not so focused on being polite. It's really about how to get to know people, how to make other people feel better, and how to say and establish your needs. It's all very much based on doing these real things and really doesn't involve adhering to formalities.

Something I've discovered recently - not that this is going on now, but when I think back on it in middle school - is why American Girl always said that three was a bad number. Apparently it's really common to have friendship trios, with three best friends. You see it all the time in stories, movies, and TV shows - three is just a good number. But whenever someone wrote in about being left out by two friends, American Girl would say that three is a bad number and that it would be better to expand the circle of friends. I never understood why, because friendship trios always seem to work in stories. But it makes sense now why this doesn't work as well in real life. When you have a bigger group, say, six friends who all hang out together, you expect to have individual relationships with the other people in the group, and you don't expect them all to be equal. You can have some people in the group that you're really close to, and others who you're less close to, and that's okay. The larger the group, the less you have an expectation of everything being equal. The problem in a group of three is that if two people happen to be closer to each other than to the third person, the third person is going to feel very left out. Whereas in a larger group, it's more okay if two people are closer to each other than to you because you can be closer with other friends in the group. If you have a group of six friends and two of them go someplace together without you, you probably aren't going to feel like they left you out specifically since they didn't invite the other three friends either. But if you're in a group of three friends and the other two do something without you, you will probably feel much more left out because now, the whole friend group is doing something without you. It's natural for some people to just click more than others, and in a larger circle, that's okay. But in a triangle, there is a lot of pressure for everything to be exactly equal, for the three individual friendships to be the same, and it doesn't always work out that way. I was in triangles a lot in middle school - I've been the one who was left out and the one who left someone else out, and now I see why three can be a difficult number.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Relationship and Close Friendship Essentials

There are lots of qualities I look for in a friend, but these are the top qualities that matter to me, and these are essential qualities for anyone I'm going to date or be super-close friends with:

1. Validation. If I indicate that something is of a certain importance, you accept that it is that important. If I say that something is not okay, you accept that it is not okay and that just living with it is not an option. I never have to worry that you're going to push me to suck it up, stick it out, get over it, grow up, or accept a situation that I have made it clear is not okay for me.

When something really major happens (like Colby), we should be able to refer to it as something horrible and possibly have inside jokes and quotes about it. Basically, we will always refer to it that way, and there will never be any pressure to refer to it in a normal way, as if nothing happened there. Because that's like saying, as Eli would say, "The torture chamber serves really good coffee!"

One way I can really tell that someone takes an issue seriously is that their validation goes beyond just how they treat me. I notice them acting a little differently with everyone because of their new awareness of the issue I've told them about. 

2. Non-pressuring. I am looking to be with someone who will not pressure me to do something I don't want to do, even if they think that thing will be good for me. The only kind of encouragement that I consider positive is encouragement to do something that I really want to do, so it's more like support. If you pressure me to do something positive that I have said I don't want to do, that is not okay at all, regardless of how good the thing is.  

3. High tolerance for weirdness. I need to be with someone who doesn't buy into a lot of set standards about what's normal and what isn't, someone who doesn't have a hard time meeting someone who is very different than anyone they've met before. Validation and non-pressuring both involve accepting someone's personal choices, what matters to them, and what is okay and not okay. The high tolerance for weirdness means that it is fairly easy to accept these things when they are very different from your own. I don't want to be with someone who just tries to be polite when I'm very upset about something, when inside they're thinking that it's not a big deal. I want to be with someone who honestly does not have a hard time accepting that something can be a big deal to someone else even if it isn't a big deal to them. I want to be with someone who doesn't flinch when I say that all I care about is getting constant cuddles, or that I'm living like a kid again and playing with my toys. Someone who doesn't tell me it's a "bad reason" to quit college because I can't get a single room, or quit my job because I want to live closer to my friends. Someone who is not just being polite about it, but who honestly does not have a hard time accepting these things.

I have other things that matter to me, but these are the top essential qualities, and I cannot date someone or be very close friends with someone who does not have these qualities. All of my close friends right now do have these qualities, and they are awesome!

Monday, October 6, 2014

This Fall

Fall semester of 2009 was one of the worst times of my life. Around Halloween, I got into a lot of trouble for lashing back at the people who'd hurt me for the first time in 4 years. Someone who had no idea at all about my situation tried to tell me that everything happens for a reason and that I wouldn't remember any of this 5 years from now, which I knew was not true. I had to literally run away from her, across the street without looking, to avoid saying something really horrible to her.

Fall of 2010 wasn't much better. I mean, it was loads better because I wasn't a Colby student anymore, but I was having daytime nightmares about Colby almost constantly. Fall was worse because I was still Facebook friends with lots of Colby acquaintances and my newsfeed was FLOODED with status updates like, "Yay it's time to go back to Colby! We love hot chocolate and fuzzy sweaters and cuddly kittens and smiling all the time, Welcome to Colby, the Way Life Should Be, YAY COLBY!!!!!!!!!!!!  Halloween time brought me back to the state I was in the year before, and I had nothing to do. I didn't have anyone to celebrate with or Halloween parties to go to or ANYTHING to make it a fun Halloween. I was having flashbacks constantly and had no one to talk to. My mom had this new attitude like, life is short and you can't spend all your time feeling sad, you need to be responsible for your own happiness. This was not inherently bad because it honestly helped my mom to cope with a lot of things in her own past, but it was detrimental for me. I never got to grieve.

On November 8, 2010, my now-ex boyfriend noticed that I felt sad on Facebook and invited me to go on a walk with him the next day. So we had our first date and that's how it all began. I always referred to this as such a special, lifesaving day for me, the day I met someone who really understood. But he didn't understand. He never really was the absolute validator that I said I needed. What he was was neutral. He didn't have anything bad to.say about what I went through at Colby, but he didn't have anything supportive to say either. All he ever said to me in the line of "supportive" was "You're not there anymore." He never really, truly, on a deep level, accepted how bad it was. When I look back on our first talk, it seems unreal to me how great I thought it was at the time. It's like, you tell someone you've been through hell because of what other people have done to you and don't know if you'll ever feel whole again, and their response is, "*shrug* That's okay, I still like you." But I was straight out of hell back then. Only six months out with absolutely no new life experiences to make me feel like Colby was in the past. And when you're surrounded by people who are constantly putting you down and telling you that your experiences don't matter and that you're just imagining things, having someone simply NOT say anything really bad to me about not liking Colby felt like a miracle. I literally thought that my ex boyfriend's neutral response to my experience was the best I would ever get. I didn't think I'd find someone who accepted it for real.

And just to be clear, my boyfriend was NOT trying to take advantage of me when I was in this vulnerable state. I don't think he really understood where my mind was at the time.

In March of 2014, a new friend and I met in a coffee shop and had our first one-on-one conversation. We shared secrets that we had been afraid to tell other people, and it was a turning point for both of us. It was when we began to feel safe trusting other people again. I wrote my Colby story that summer and shared it with everyone. My new friend really, truly understood my situation on a gut level that no one else had before. We had our semi-jokes and digs about the school all the time. We quote the ridiculous things people have said to me there. Those things were really hurtful at the time, and quoting them now, pointing out the ridiculousness of how anyone could say those things to someone, has been the biggest cleansing ritual ever. This was what I needed all along. I never had someone to just acknowledge how bad it was and talk about it for what it was. I can actually refer to really bad Colby stuff now without having nightmares because I have someone who believes me, I have that affirmation that yes, it really was that bad, and it's not something I should have to prove to anyone. 

As our friendship developed, I began to develop higher standards. I decided that it wasn't good enough anymore for someone to simply not say anything bad. Granted, not saying something hurtful is better than saying something hurtful, but sitting there doing nothing is not the same as being supportive. My Colby experience had fucked with my mind so much that I would be thinking, "Wow, what a nice person to sit there politely while the house is on fire instead of pouring more lighter fluid on it! We should totally be friends!" Yeah, that's how messed up my standards were coming out of Colby. And that's not directed at my boyfriend specifically - that was how I felt with everyone I met who didn't say bad things to me. And let me tell you, when you start assuming that everyone is a supportive, validating person simply because they sit there and don't say anything, you're going to get betrayed. A lot.

I always say that my boyfriend got sick of me, which was true, but I never wanted to admit to myself that I was having problems with his behavior too. Because with my higher standards, I could see that he wasn't the absolute validator I thought I was dating. It didn't mean that he was a bad person, but it became very clear that he did not have any of the top qualities that I need a person to have in order to date, or even to be very close friends. Those top qualities haven't changed for me, but now I could see that he didn't have them. He would never give me the validation that my friends were giving me. Not even on the very basic level of always referring to Colby as a horrible thing. Last October, he threatened to break up with me literally the same week that I had planned a Halloween party with all my friends and already had his apartment decorated and we had planned to wear costumes that went together. He said I could still have the party, but he knew I wouldn't really be able to do that. It was also shortly after I had launched the sex blog and was intent on making that my new serious project of focus. Way to make everything come crashing down. I never told anyone about this because I wanted to just have fun with my friends at the party.

So this past summer, I was at a folk festival with my friends, when my friend (from the coffee shop) said that we had to have a huge Halloween party this year because this would mark five years since my horrible Halloween experience at Colby, and the night that that girl told me that none of this would matter five years later, because it's five years later now and it absolutely still matters. I was elated at this thought - the fact that my friend actually remembered that this October would mark five years. I hadn't even thought about that myself! But yeah, in 2009 I had the worst Halloween ever, and last year I had that breakup scare, although I did still have a fun time with my friends. This year, we're going to have the best Halloween ever!

So, I was thinking back to my Halloween of 2009, and how my friend Eli and I became friends around that time. I remember that we got close shortly after my Halloween incident, and that was when we really became friends. We actually had a specific conversation where I told Eli how I a lot of people had betrayed me and I didn't have anyone to talk to, and Eli said that ze would be my friend. We decided that we would be friends. I was recently thinking about the timing of this, and of when my boyfriend and I had out first date, and realized that the timing was close. Eli said that ze could check zir notes to find out the exact date when we had the conversation. You know when the exact date was? November 8, 2009. The EXACT SAME DAY that my boyfriend had asked me out one year later. Wow. That just...I don't even know. It feels so surreal to think about.

Here's the interesting thing: I always referred to the day my boyfriend asked me out as the day that he saved me from the Colby prison I was trapped in, but once I connected with other friends who were truly validating, I realized that that was never what had happened. Granted, I did meet some of my closest friends because I started dating my boyfriend and we had lots of fun times together, so he still gets some credit for pulling me out of a state of complete dysfunction and inactivity. I'll give him that. If I had been feeling great inside when we met, I probably would have seen him as someone who'd never keep up with me and all the fun stuff I planned to do. But I wasn't feeling great, so he helped me out of it. But at some point, I realized that I had built up that first date to be more than it was. Any person who wanted to hang out with me and do stuff when I was lonely would have helped me a lot, but he had never saved me the way I thought he had. Not like the way my friends had. The whole, "I don't know if I'd be here without you," has more to do with my own obsession with him - being able to get really deeply focused on something non-depressing - than it does with anything that he actually did to support me. I never meant it the way that I mean it with my true friends.

I remember the first time I meet people, but I also remember significant moments when we really connected and felt like now we were friends. When Eli and I first met, I had decided that I was done making new friends at Colby. Pretty much everyone I talked to hurt me and everyone I had trusted betrayed me, with a few exceptions. I decided there was only one friend on campus that I felt safe with, and when I couldn't eat meals with her, I'd eat alone, which was often since she was busy. But Eli kept pursuing me and wanting to sit with me, so I let zem. Ze was clearly interested in being friends, and that wasn't something I got a lot of at Colby. Especially not in the state I was in senior year. The conversation I had with Eli was very different than the one I had with my friend in the coffee shop. With my other friend, we were both sharing similar experiences that we were afraid to discuss with other people, and we felt a connection right away. Eli and I didn't exactly have shared experiences, and I wasn't scared to share with zem. I was in a mindset of pushing people away before they got too close, but Eli was drawn in, not pushed away by what I shared. I told Eli that ze was one of the only people I could talk to and how no one else would let me express myself and so many people had betrayed me. Eli pointed out that this was not so much a compliment to them, but a really bad thing about everyone else. I didn't know Eli very well at that point. I was literally trusting zem because ze seemed to be accepting me for who I was and hadn't said anything hurtful to me, even though ze hadn't experienced the same things I had...kind of the same way that I trusted my boyfriend in the beginning as well. Not that the two of them are similar at all, but there are similarities in the situations. It's kind of a cool parallel, when I think of it now. That November 8th can still be a happy day for me. I used to think my boyfriend had made this time of year a positive time again, but it never really felt that way. But when I think about that date, when I think about where I was in fall of 2009 when Eli and I met, THAT was someone actually saving me. The same way my friend saved me in March 2013 and I've felt cleansed of Colby ever since. Of course, things were still horrible at Colby, so it wasn't like I was doing well by any normal standards. I don't think anyone who knew me then would have said I was okay. But I was better than I would have been if Eli hadn't been my friend. I don't know where I would be if we hadn't met, and I mean that. When I look back now at my Halloween of 2009, I can actually remember the very special connection we had back then when we decided to become friends, and that is what makes this time of year a good time again.

This year, we are going to have the absolute funnest Halloween ever with no breakup threats, no getting kicked out of school threats, and no flashabacks - just ghost stories, painted pumpkins and cider donuts. But most of all, true friends.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Feeling Better

Last night my friend and I went to this really cool restaurant with lots of art on the walls and live music and organic food - it was the kind of place you'd think you have to go to Boston for, but it was right in my friend's hometown. We drew outlines of our dream houses, which was a really special bonding experience. I've had at least part of this dream house in my head my whole life. I'll probably post the picture on here soon and explain what each room is. We also went geocaching for the first time! Well, my first time, her 18th time, although this was her first time going at night. We found this little magnetic key case hidden inside a street sign. It was really cool - I was so excited that we actually found it.

Also, I love my coloring book. I got this really intricate detailed coloring book from American Girl with a "sweets" theme, and it includes pictures of stuff like cookies and cupcakes and candy and ice cream - there's a big poster of a bunch of kids at a party with lots of treats, and another poster of kids in a candy land made of sweets! I feel like I've uncovered a whole new interest, because it's been years since I've done a coloring book. I'm getting really into this one, and I like trying different things. One of the pictures, I'm using to practice blending different colors together. I've only finished one picture so far, but when I've done a few more I might start taking pictures and posting them here, and talking a little bit about what I did.

On another note, when you're writing a book, I always find there's something really special about the 30-page mark. Basically, when you've just started writing a book and you have only a few pages, it seems only natural to reread what you've done already each time you start writing again. It's sort of an automatic thing to do, to remember where you left off. As you write more pages, it takes longer to read what you've written. And somewhere around the 30-page mark is where I stop doing that automatically. Where I feel like it would take too long to reread what I have every single time I start writing again. Not to say that I'll never read over what I have, but rereading has become its own activity, rather than part of the daily writing process. And when I reach that point, it's pretty exciting. It's like, wow, this is becoming a real book. The 30-page mark is the first benchmark that feels that way. After that, every ten page increment feels like a big accomplishment. And it never really changes proportionally either. Like, I don't feel like the gap between 50 and 60 pages is bigger than the gap between 150 and 160, even though it is proportionally bigger. Ten page differences always feel really good.

I'm not quite at the 30-page mark yet in my validation book (although I have a ton of outlining work done), but what I've realized from trying to write a book that references a lot of my blog posts is that I'm at a point where I've written so many blog posts that I literally have to google my blog address with words from the post in order to find it, because unless I remember when I wrote it, it would take way too long to find on my own site. (Luckily I usually remember when I wrote different posts, but there have been some recently that I had to google.) I don't remember exactly when my blog reached that point. I can't really judge with time because the years aren't consistent, but I know there was a long time when I could easily go back and reread all of my blog posts just for fun. It was somewhere in the middle of 2012 when I felt like the blog was too long to do that very often, somewhere in 2013 where it started to feel impossible - not that it would actually be impossible if I wanted to do it, but going back and rereading everything from the start seemed like too much work to actually be fun. (Well, rereading every word would be a lot of work, but it is still fun to go back and glance at what I was writing at different times.) When I wrote The Unencrypted Truth, it was getting a little difficult to go back and find stuff, but it was still doable. I think it was this year, 2014, when I had to start using google for my own blog. And it's kind of the same feeling of realizing how much of a job it will be to go back and reread all the pages you've written. You just can't believe how much you've done.

Oh, and just a disclaimer, because it matters a lot to me: I started my sex blog in 2013, so my actual total blog posts for that year are 116 (91 this blog + 25 sex blog). And this year so far, I've written a total of 119 posts (57 this blog + 62 sex blog). And I've got three months left, so I'm still on track with having this year be higher than the year before. I did not write any less because of having a full-time job or anything like that.  It's going to look like I had a drop this year because I've divided my time between two different blogs, but I actually already have more total posts than last year, with three months to go :-)