Friday, February 28, 2014

Going Forward

It's 2014!!! Okay, you probably know that already. But this coming Sunday it will be one year since I made that close connection with my new friend and really felt like I was healing from Colby. I had a hard time with turning 26 this year and having flashbacks and feeling like I didn't really have my early 20's, but I've made some decisions about moving forward:

1. I want to state my goals in terms of what they actually are. This was Eric's idea. So many of my goals are about getting back to where I was before Colby. Part of that is a "Fuck you!" to society, to everyone who says that you can't move back and have to keep going forward. But Eric thinks that there's also some guilt embedded in those goals, that I feel like I've failed already. If I decided right now that I want to learn how to skateboard, I'm not going to feel guilty or angry or like I've failed by not already knowing how to skateboard, because it's just not something I ever tried. But I do feel upset by the whole getting back to normal aspect of my goals. So I'm going to try to think of my goals in terms of specifically what I want. Like, instead of saying that I want to be able to do something the way I used to do it, I'll explain how I used to do it. If I used to share my writing freely without fear of judgement, then my goal would be, "To share my writing freely without fear of judgement," rather than "To share my writing like I used to." They are both the same thing, but one of them sounds like I've already screwed up and the other doesn't.

2. I want to keep sharing. Let's say that when I was eight years old, a classmate punched me in the face. I'm probably not upset about that right now. It's probably not something I think about on a daily basis. It might not even hurt me to talk about it because it was so long ago and because that person is no longer in my life and going to punch me again. But I will never, EVER look back and say, "Come to think of it, it was actually okay that that person punched me. I don't know what I was so upset about at the time." That last statement is what everyone at Colby expected of me. When they talked about getting over it, they didn't talk about healing. They didn't acknowledge that there was anything to heal from. They expected me to look back and see that there really was never anything wrong. When I think about getting over Colby, a part of me feels very threatened because I start to think of "get over it" in the invalidating sense, in the sense of "it wasn't really that bad, it's not worth talking about anymore." I WANT to talk about it. That's the whole point - recovering isn't about pushing Colby aside and saying I'm never going to talk about it again and I'm just gonna focus on other stuff now. Recovering means being able to talk about my Colby experience without getting depressed. Part of the reason I didn't share stuff earlier was because it hurt a lot. I want to be able to talk about Colby without it hurting; I want to be able to say that it was wrong for that kid to punch me in the face without having flashbacks and feeling like I'm back there again. That's what healing means to me - not that I'm going to stop talking about it. On this note, I'm thinking I'm going to share the poetry I wrote at Colby on this blog.

3. I'm going to keep having fun. Back at Colby that seemed impossible, but now all that fun is right within my grasp. I have the absolute best friends in the world, and we're going to keep making pillow forts and having snowball fights and sharing intimate secrets and anything else we think of. Best friends in the world.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Reasons I Don't Ever Plan to Be Mature

1. It doesn't sound like any fun. Seriously, being mature sounds all serious and all focused on responsibilities instead of fun stuff. Fun is my priority and always has been, and I have never heard the word "mature" associated with anything that I actually want to do. When someone talks about being mature enough to handle something, that something is never anything fun. Seriously, I can't recall one single time that someone said you had to be mature to do something that sounded like fun.

2. I act how I feel, and being mature means not acting how you feel. People always say "Grow up!" when they want you to get over something and not be as upset as you are about it. Remember in elementary school, when the teachers would tell you to "Act your age" when you were fooling around or really upset about something that they didn't think you should be upset about. Telling people to grow up is all about telling them to behave and not be so upset over things and get over themselves. I don't ever plan to suck it up, tough it out, or get over myself. I will always act how I feel.

3. I will NEVER give up my childhood dreams to be a productive member of society. I have a job now, but I'm only staying there until I get my books published. It makes me sick to my stomach when people act like my job has anything to do with who I am, or that all the things that really matter to me are less important than my paying job.

4. I will NEVER leave anything behind that I still enjoy. I will always do the things I enjoy until they stop giving me pleasure and I will never give up something that I still want to do because of my age or stage of life.

5. I don't invalidate anything I've done in the past. I don't have that experience of looking back at something I said or did or felt when I was younger and thinking it was silly. I know a lot of writers who are like, "Oh god, I don't want anyone to read what I wrote five years ago." I can't relate to that at all. Okay, I am  embarrassed by the writing quality (or lack of) in my earlier works, but I never feel like the basis of what I was trying to say was silly. Ever. I don't look back and think my coping mechanisms were silly or "Why was I so upset over that?" or anything along those lines. The reason that I deleted my old Facebook profile and the online journal I kept during college was that it made ME feel bad to look back. I deleted that stuff for my own mental health so that I wouldn't keep reliving my worst memories. But I am not ashamed of any of it and it's not anything that I think is silly now. I don't even have the concept of "my younger self" because I am always the same person. When I was thirteen, I was me, the same person, at age thirteen, not a different person. I don't have any kind of disconnection, and I don't plan to.

6. I am moving backwards. Before college, I had already found myself and I liked who I was. I was never interested in changing. Even if I had gone to a college that I liked, I was just already happy with who I was and wasn't looking to go through any kind of transition or identity change or finding-myself journey. I've been trying to recover from Colby since I graduated, and I've made a lot of personal progress. But I'm not moving forward - I'm moving back. Every step I take "forward" is an attempt to be the way I was BEFORE Colby. I am trying to unlearn most of what I was force-taught. I am trying get back to the mindset I had when I was younger. Not 100 percent obviously, not like I want to give up all my insights on everything, but in a lot of ways, yes, I am moving back.

Like I said for reason #4, I am never going to stop doing something that I like to do until it stops giving me pleasure, but when I went off to college, I stopped doing a lot of things that I hadn't lost interest in. Lots of Colby students talked about how they had changed and were happy about it, but I never wanted that change. If I started eating salad with every meal, it was not because I had developed a taste for salad - it was because I felt pressured to put it on my plate because that's what everyone else was doing. Oh, and any articles that I linked to on Facebook before the year 2012 were BS. I did not care about sharing any of that information with you - I just felt obligated to post some "important" stuff to counter-act all the hyper-personal stuff I was posting. Anyone who didn't know me might think I had grown up, but I hadn't. I was faking it. And I am done faking it. Every life goal I have is basically to get myself back to the mindset I had before I got college-educated. So no, I'm not growing up.

7. This is not a phase.

One time, a friend was showing me pictures of her other friends on Facebook, and she told me that one of her friends was in a crisis. "What's going on?" I asked, not knowing what kind of crisis she was talking about, and she said, "Well, look at her pictures. She wants to be all like, 'Ooh, I'm a party girl.'" Looking back on this now, I'm sure my friend knew more about her friend than you could judge from some pictures. Her friend may have even said to her, "I'm in a quarter-life crisis," and it wasn't a judgement at all on her part. But at the time, it really got me thinking about how we judge people who are having a mid-life crisis, or a quarter-life crisis. My first thought when my friend said this about the pictures was, "What if your friend IS a wild party girl? What if that's really who she is inside? The fact that we're viewing her as being in some kind of crisis because of it is the problem - not the fact that she's still doing what she loves." And that's what I see now. I used to throw the term "quarter-life crisis" around freely, but I'm not so sure I like it anymore. It makes it sound like this is my problem, like I have to get over it the way you'd get over the flu and accept that I'm going to be an adult now and everything else that that implies. If that implies any of the things I've just discussed in this post, then I don't accept it. And I don't agree with the way we treat growing up. Like, if we see a 60-year-old woman wearing a tight mini-skirt and going clubbing, we'd say she's in a midlife crisis and needs to get over it. We can't accept the fact that she likes wearing a tight mini skirt and going clubbing, and it's okay to do what she likes. If someone's going to tell you that you can't do something you love anymore because of your age, that is THEIR problem, not yours. Don't ever let anyone tell you that something's wrong with you because you want to keep doing what you're doing. I do feel like I'm in a quarter-life crisis right now, but honestly, the fact that not being in my early twenties anymore has any real meaning in our culture terms of what I can do or how much fun I'm gonna have - that in itself is a problem. I'm not accepting it. I'm not going to be any different when I turn 26 next week.

I am 18 with 8 years of experience. I will never grow up.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Facebook Issue

In the spirit of starting this year off on the right foot, I'd like to share something that I've been wanting to share for a while but was always afraid to share because I thought people would judge me or pressure me to change.

I don't get Facebook newsfeed. I haven't since 2012. Basically, I don't like it when social interaction is forced on me, and Facebook, being a social network, feels like social interaction to me. If I wanted to just check to see if I had any notifications or wanted to write to a particular friend, I automatically had to hear from everyone else. I never liked that. I wanted it to be my choice to interact with people. I tried limiting the number of people I got newsfeed from to my closest friends, but I still didn't like that. So I stopped getting newsfeed altogether. My home page is blank and I like it that way.

This doesn't mean that I don't read people's walls - I check in with all of my close friends regularly. It just means that when I check on you, I'm looking up your name and going to your profile page, rather than automatically seeing your updates in my newsfeed. I went through about a 6-month phase in 2012 of not reading anyone's walls, not posting anything, and only checking FB for notifications, but right now I am regularly checking in with my close friends. 

This is not a big deal. The reason I wanted to share this is because I want you to understand what I'm seeing on Facebook. Back when I got newsfeed from everyone, I assumed that I knew who had read my status updates based on when they were online. Now that I don't get newsfeed, the fact that I wrote or commented on a post within minutes of when you posted something does not necessarily mean that I saw what you posted. If we are close friends then I will most certainly see your post soon, but it will be when I go to look at your profile. I don't automatically see the post just because I was on Facebook at that time. Think of my being on Facebook as just being online. If I updated my blog around the same time that you sent me an email, it's possible that I will have read the email while I was online, but it's also possible that I didn't check my email. 

This is something I've wanted to say for the longest time just for practical reasons, so no one assumes that I've seen their post and I'm ignoring it when I may not have read it yet. I was always afraid I'd be pressured into accepting newsfeed. It's a relief to finally share this.

Edit: I actually started getting newsfeed again shortly after writing this post. 

How to Be Anti-School without Being Sexist

A while back, a lot of people were upset when T-shirts were marketed to girls that said things like:

"Skool Sux"
"Allergic to Algebra"
"I'm too pretty to do math."
"I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me."
"My best subjects:
(check) Shopping
(check) Music
(check) Dancing
(no check) Math
Well, nobody's perfect."

There were protests and eventually these t-shirts were removed from the stores because they're sexist and push the idea that girls shouldn't be smart and do well in school. I understand the problem here, but it really upset me to see anti-school stuff being pushed out of the stores like that. I personally hate school, I would have LOVED to have had any of these t-shirts when I was younger, and I hate to see adults pushing out the anti-school movement, like it's not okay for us to stand up and say that we're not interested and we'd rather be doing anything but learning.

I do see the problem with these t-shirts, but I think we need to separate the sexism from the anti-school-ism, and realize you can have shirts that express your dislike of school without being sexist. Here's how:

1. The shirt must be marketed to everyone. Honestly, ALL clothing should be marketed to everyone, not just to one gender. But in the case of anti-school t-shirts, sell them in all colors, with sparkles and without, and make it clear that disliking school is open to everyone and is not something explicitly marketed to girls.

2. Don't focus on math. I know a lot of people hate math, but there is a huge stereotype of women not being good at math, and anti-math t-shirts will perpetuate that stereotype. Also, a lot of people think of math as a hard subject, so, while I love the alliteration of "Allergic to Algebra," it comes off sounding like, "I can't do algebra; it's too hard," when I think what we really want to say is, "I don't want to do algebra; it's boring and I'd rather be doing something fun." Math always comes off sounding like a hard subject. Instead of math, focus on school in general. "Allergic to school," clearly comes off as "I don't want to be there."

3. NEVER talk about being "too pretty" to do schoolwork. That sounds really sexist, it perpetuates the stereotype that "pretty" and "smart" are mutually exclusive, and most of all, it's very offensive to anyone who doesn't think they look pretty. It basically says that you have to be pretty to be above doing schoolwork. The messages of these t-shirts shouldn't be that we can't do schoolwork, but that we don't want to be doing it. And looking "pretty" isn't really relevant to that. Being pretty isn't doing anything, the way that doing your homework is doing something. So instead of focusing on looks, think about things you'd rather be doing than going to school: playing computer games, dancing to music, playing outside, etc. And say "I can't go to school, I'm too busy____" And you can insert whatever you like to do. Or you could say something like, "I Majored in Having Fun."

If you don't like school, you have every right to express that. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. It's really not that hard to make anti-school statements without being sexist.

I Really Regret that Workout

I've seen this meme going around that says:

"Wow, I really regret that workout" - Said no one ever.

I'd just like to inform everyone that this is not true. I am someone, and I have regretted working out on numerous occasions.

A lot of times, people regret spending their time a particular way. Maybe you spent all night watching TV and you wish you had called your friend. Maybe you spent all day running errands and you wish you had done something fun. This is a very common human experience. I have certain things that I never regret doing, such as writing or spending time with friends, but working out just does not fall into that category for me. Working out is not something I love so much that it's immune to all feelings of regret. There have been times that I went to the gym and later wished that I have left myself more time to do something else instead. A minor regret, but a regret all the same. To claim that no one ever regrets a workout is to say that everyone shares the same priorities as you.

But more importantly than that, this statement also implies that working out is always a good thing, that nothing negative could ever happen as a result of working out. That is not true. Here is an excerpt of my essay about Colby from sophomore year, when I went to the campus gym:

**When I entered the gym, I felt like I had walked into an advanced calculus class without having taken pre-cal. I felt really self-conscious because I wasn’t serious or athletic like everyone else. I couldn’t daydream in the gym because there was music playing and a lot of noise, and daydreaming was my only reason for wanting to exercise in the first place. In the gym, was hyper-aware of not belonging at Colby, and my mind would ruminate about that as soon as I got on the equipment. There was no harm in my trying the gym. The problem was that I continued going back knowing that it made me feel bad. When I talked about these feelings with other people, they told me that going to the gym was a good thing, that I “should” be able to daydream with the music playing, and the endorphin would make me feel better.  Maybe, but the endorphin would not counter-act everything that entered my mind as a result of going to the gym. My friends pushed their own priorities on me, ignoring me when I told them that I had no interest in workout goals, that this was just for fun, that I didn’t want any pressure to go regularly, and that I absolutely, positively did NOT want a gym buddy.  I explained that anyone who “motivated” me to work out when I didn’t want to would not stay my friend very long, and people still tried to be gym buddies for their own motivation.  Sometimes when I got on the elliptical machine at the gym, I would imagine pushing myself until I collapsed, then getting up and doing it again and collapsing again until I couldn’t get back up at all. And when I had to go to the hospital and someone asked me why I did it, I would say that I was just trying to be a Colby student.**

Going to the gym at Colby made me feel really, really bad about myself. Every time I exercised on purpose at Colby (meaning that I did it to get the exercise, not like walking to go somewhere), I felt horrible afterwards. I don't care what studies tell you about exercise curing depression - going to the gym made me feel so much worse than I did before I was going. It literally amplified every bad feeling that I already had and just created another thing for everyone to pressure me about.

I'm not alone here - there are plenty of people who have experienced body-shaming in gym environments. The claim that no one ever regrets a workout is bullshit and is offensive to those of us who have suffered negative consequences of exercising. No one listened to me about how bad it was. Everyone encouraged me to keep going back. I desperately needed just ONE friend to tell me, "You should stop going to the gym if it makes you feel bad." But no one would say that. Because they all believed the lie that no one ever regrets a workout.

If you personally never regret a workout, that's fine. If you want to write, "I never regret a workout" in your own personal space as a motivation for yourself, that's cool. But don't think for a second that this applies to everyone. I am someone, and I regret working out.

Post Secrets

I think every institution should have a postsecret event, because you can learn a lot about a culture from its secrets. Take Colby for instance: when we did a postsecret event at Colby (meaning that members of the Colby community made postsecret postcards to hang in the student union, rather than mailing them to Frank Warren), there was one secret that just said, "I'm a republican." Now, you might see something like that on the real postsecret website with some background information, like, "I'm a republican, but I pretend to be a democrat because all my friends are," or something like that. You really can't submit a secret like, "I'm a republican," to postsecret without background as to why it's a secret, because for plenty of people, that's not a secret at all. The fact that, "I'm a republican," works as a stand-alone secret at Colby College tells a lot about the culture. When Colby did "two truths and a lie," as a secret-sharing event, I saw a person who wrote "My family uses coupons," as one of their truths. I thought everyone used coupons. Okay, maybe not everyone, but the fact that that's even a thing to say tells more about the Colby culture than you could ever find in a pamphlet or on the website. And that's why I think it would benefit people if every school and every workplace had a postsecret event just for their own community that outsiders could see. You can read all the information you want about a company and ask every question you can think of, but I feel like there's something you get from a community's secrets that you just can't learn any other way.

Party Decorations

My birthday party theme this year is "Feeling Special" and we're going to celebrate feeling good about ourselves as an end goal and purely for the sake of it, not as the means to an end and not dependent upon any accomplishments. I found these awesome self-esteem-boosting posters and note cards I can use as decorations. They used to be decorations in my bedroom and for the longest time I've been keeping them with my party supplies, but I had never used them as party decorations because I assumed everyone was too old for them. But now that I'm turning 26, I can use them because I have friends who will appreciate them.  I need to sort through the cards, though, because my idea of "positive" now is slightly different than it was when I got these self-esteem cards back in high school. I want to focus on the ones that are about entitlement: "It's okay to cry," and "I don't have to agree with everyone," and steer away from the ones that put too much responsibility on the individual, like, "My life is a result of choices I make," because it's not like someone can choose to have their loved ones die or be born into an abusive family. There are lots in the middle that I'm debating about. I want to make sure this party is all about pure entitlement without the contamination of personal responsibility.