Sunday, August 17, 2014

I'VE FOUND MY CALLING!!!

I'm going to write a book about validation. A real book, and then get it published and shared with the world.

For the longest time, I've had my second novel on the back burner and kept telling myself that I should work on it, that the novel is my real goal and should take priority over blogging. Getting published is my life goal after all. But time and time again, I've just been drawn more to writing nonfiction stuff about validation and social pressures than I have been drawn to writing my novel.

Things have been going well recently. One of my best friends just got a job she really wanted. I've gotten the stuff I ordered in the mail to start Project You Matter, which will donate care packages to foster kids to make them feel special. I had really nice time at the beach with my parents yesterday. When I got home from the beach, I started making decorations for my new apartment - colorful snowflakes (to signify that everyone is a special little snowflake), and I made a poster that says, "Every song the world sings each was once unknown." (From the the song "One Small Voice"). I'm still not back to normal, but I was feeling much better, much more like I could do something.

So this morning, I woke up and finished my latest blog post about being non-meta before even getting out of bed. I read it over, thinking about my goal of spreading validation to the world. I thought about some of the really important posts on this blog, posts I've glanced over recently and thought, "This is really good! I just wish more people would see it!" All of the accomplishments I've been most proud of in the last few years have been my best posts about validation. And I asked myself, why am I fighting this? Why do I keep pushing what I care the most about to the side and tell myself that I need to be working on my novel because that's my *real* goal? I still want to write my novel, and I will return to it. Writers do that all the time. It's normal to be working on lots of projects at once. But what's really, really inspiring me right now is the need to teach others about validation. I think the reason I put so much pressure on myself to prioritize my novel is because I always saw writing fiction as the only way to get published, make a living as a writer, and not have to do some unrelated job on the side. But self-help books are popular nowadays. Non-fiction does sell! And what's important is that this is a problem-solving book. I will use examples from my own experience, but the primary focus will be on how to be more validating. It will sort of be like one of those books about how to deal with bullies - there are examples of bullying described, but the primary focus is on what to do about it and the right words to say when you're standing up for yourself. This book will give people the words to say to *become* validating, rather than simply saying "you're being invalidating and that's bad." This book will counteract the recent phenomenon of pushing people to be happy all the time, but it will do so in a positive way that doesn't make the reader feel like they're being attacked. (That is not to say that certain people shouldn't be attacked, but I'm writing this book in the way that I think will be most effective at promoting change).

I have wanted to do this since I left Colby, but I couldn't have done a good job on it if I'd written it right after graduation because it would have just been me complaining about all the bad things that had happened. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with me complaining about all the bad things that happened, but in order for the book to change other people's behavior, it needs to be more positive and solution-focused.

Another important aspect about this book is that, while it is friendly and non-attacking, is very much about how to validate other people rather than how to react when someone doesn't validate you. It puts the responsibility on how we treat each other rather than making it your own responsibility to be strong inside when someone does something really bad to you. There are is a lot of advice out there about how to deal with bullies - and that is very important - but we just don't see as much advice on how not to BE a bully. We treat other people's behavior like a weather condition, like, "We can't control when there's going to be a hurricane, so let's prepare for it." People are not weather conditions. The way you get treated is NOT inevitable. This book is going to be very, very focused on how to be validating towards others rather than how to protect yourself against those who invalidate you.

I have TONS of material, enough to write a book, so that's what I'm going to do. This is my calling, this is what I need to do, and I can't ignore it any longer. I'm going to start working on it today. I haven't been this excited about something in a long time!!!

And I want to say a HUGE thank you to all the friends who have been validating to me through all of this. You are the best friends in the whole world and I could have never done this without you!

A Serious Goal

Ever since I graduated Colby in 2010, my goal has been to be non-meta. What I mean by non-meta is feeling free to talk and write about whatever I want to without feeling hindering by invalidation and social pressures, by people telling me, “That’s not a real issue – get over yourself,” or, “Why are you wasting your time on that when there are more important issues in the world?” I wanted to talk about things without sounding defensive, without mentioning that I was scared I wouldn't be taken seriously, without having to emphasize that yes, what I'm saying IS that big of a deal. I wanted to speak and write with the assumption that people would accept that everything was as important as I indicated it was, just like I did before college.

2013 was a breakthrough year for me. I connected with some very close friends and wrote my essay about everything that happened at Colby. I managed to do it without sounding defensive, in that non-meta tone where I trusted my readers to take me seriously. About a month later, I started my sex blog, which was the ultimate non-meta project. I made a point to write about sexual things as though it was perfectly normal to discuss them, barely acknowledging the taboos about what I was writing. I wrote a very long post about how cured I was at the end of 2013, and said that I finally had the confidence to write a super-long post about getting my hair cut without worrying that people would judge me for the importance that I gave to this topic. My first blog post of 2014 was a long post about hair length, and I thought this meant I had succeeded. That Colby was a thing of the past and I was prepared to trust people fully again.

As 2014 progressed, things between my boyfriend and me started to fall apart. He didn't accept who I was like he pretended to in the beginning. I could see very clearly when I shared my poem at the poetry slam and my post secrets at my birthday party that he didn't accept any of it. I started to realize just how many of my recent blog posts on pressure and invalidation were not directed at Colby, but at him. Our apartment-hunting experience taught me that he was not someone I could trust to take me seriously about things that I was not okay with. He had encouraged me to trust people again, and yet *he* wasn't someone I could trust. People like him are the reason that I’m afraid to trust people to take me seriously. At the beginning of March, my boyfriend finally admitted that he wasn't willing to get an apartment with me. That was when I started using Facebook as my diary. In the middle of April, he broke up with me. Our final fight was over a message from someone else who was pushing me to accept tough love, after I had CLEARLY stated that I was only looking for warm fuzzy cuddles and I was NOT willing to accept what was going on, and my boyfriend agreed with it. If he had said that from the start, I never would have dated him in the first place.

I recently wrote on Facebook that I would never be non-meta again because I have no reason to be. The breakup was another Colby scenario where people didn't take me seriously. Some people tell me to talk about what’s wrong, but so many of them don’t take me seriously when I do. I have friends I can be non-meta with, but for the general public, I don’t think I will ever be non-meta again.

The other day, I was talking to a friend who, like me, was afraid to talk about her feelings because she been invalidated so many times. I suggested that she begin conversations by saying that she was afraid the person wouldn't take her problem seriously because other people hadn't, and then see how they respond. That was what I had always done at Colby. When I got off the phone, I couldn't believe the advice I had just given. I had spent 3 years trying NOT to start conversations that way, trying to speak with the assumption that people would take me seriously, and now I was advising someone else to do the opposite. But then I thought about it, and realized that maybe being meta isn't such a bad thing. Maybe being meta is actually necessary for saying what you stand for and creating a culture where people are free to express themselves however they want to.

When I was straight out of Colby, being meta prevented me from doing a lot of things I wanted to do. Like, I would write a long piece about how damaged I was after Colby and how I would never be able to write about stuff like my hair length freely again…but I would do that *instead* of writing about my hair length. The problem was never the fact that I was writing about the issue of feeling safe to share – it was that I didn't have the courage to write what I really wanted to say. Because it’s possible to do both at the same time. When I really think about it, what would have been the harm in starting off my hair-length post with a message asserting my right to post it? I don’t see any harm there at all. In fact, that might have helped other people who've been pressured to do more important things with their lives feel safer talking about what they really want to talk about as well.

When you’re an activist for something, you speak out about that issue. For instance, you point out instances of sexism in the media and call people out on sexist comments they make, rather than just trying to treat everyone equally on a personal level. Being aware of how you act on a personal level is important also, but you need both. You wouldn't tell someone, "Stop writing about serious issues that affect millions of people! All you really have to do is treat people equally in your own life, and everything will be fine." I mean, I'm sure there are people who say that, but it's really not good advice. We need both.

What I realized from talking to my friend is that not feeling safe to talk about your feelings is a very serious issue that affects a lot of people. We have a huge movement in our culture to suck it up and deal and act happy all the time, and that is something that I need to be fighting against. Getting to a point where I felt safe to share my own feelings again was a huge step, but it is just the first step. Some topics, such as what I write on the sex blog, are taboo enough that there is no need to *say* "This is something that should be okay to talk about" - simply writing about the topic says it all. But I don't think that everyone who writes about negative feelings online is necessarily making an active statement against the suck-it-up-and-deal movement. In fact, several people who have pushed me to just accept reality and be happy also post lots of complaining-emotional stuff online. My friend Eli says that with something socially undesirable like laziness, for example, you generally have people who are lazy and people are against laziness, and that’s it. You don’t have anyone who is pro- laziness. But I’m pro-laziness. I'm pro- feeling how you feel and expressing yourself however you want to. And that issue is something that I NEED to talk about, and my goal is to promote sharing feelings as much as I can promote it, validate other people's feelings every chance I get, and teach other people how to be validating in their own lives.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Unbalanced

The concept of "balance" is so strange to me. Strange because people use balance interchangeably with having a personal life and having fun. I feel like every time I've talked about my life being taken over by work or school and just wanting to have fun and do what I want to do, people tell me that I need a balance. Everyone talks about work and life balance. If you want a personal life outside your job, you have to look for a place that encourages "balance." But the thing is, I don't want balance. I have NEVER wanted balance. I have always just wanted to have fun and do what I want and I have never wanted to balance my life by including work or education into it. Never. When people say that work is taking over their life and they need balance, I understand that. But I don't want balance because balance indicates that work or school still has a place in my life, that I am making time for that also. I don't want to. I want my personal life to be my ENTIRE life to the point that I am unable to focus at work. If I am able to focus at work, that is a problem. When I say I want cuddles all the time, I mean ALL THE TIME. I want to be getting C's and D's and partying all weekend, not getting A's and B's and balancing my personal life with studying. I really get tired of people assuming that when I say I want to have fun and cuddles, it means I want balance, when I have never given any indication that I care about anything else. Generally when I really want something, I'm not looking to balance it with anything else.

Friday, August 8, 2014

How Are You?

In American Girl's Guide to Knowing What to Say, there's a quiz about whether you should say something now or later. One of the questions is: You're calling your friend to tell her that you get to go to New York for spring break. When you get on the phone, she tells you that her parent just lost their job. Do you tell her about New York now or later?

The obvious answer is later. When I first read this question, I remember thinking, wow, this is why it's so important to ask the other person how they're doing first, rather than just starting the conversation with, "Yay I'm going to New York!"

I realize now that I haven't always done this. I've gotten so accustomed to writing stuff on Facebook and on this blog without it being a conversation, and I often do the same thing when I'm emailing or texting. And I realize that everyone doesn't do that - everyone isn't necessarily as vocal about what's going on with them and going to send me a message saying "My mom lost her job" if I don't ASK them how they are doing. I need to remember that a personal conversation is not a Facebook or blog post. Unless I'm having an emergency or a crisis, I want to make a conscious effort to always ask people how they are doing before getting into whatever else I was calling about because:
1. I care how they are doing, and asking is the only way to know. I can't be relying on the fact that someone tell me that something is wrong at that moment, especially while I'm talking about something else.
2. Like the New York vacation situation, it may not be the best time for them to hear whatever I was planning to say, so I should find that out first.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

I'm afraid to even say anything right now because I don't want to be in trouble for other people's help not working or being enough even though is is helping me a lot. What's going on with me isn't gonna end anytime soon. I may start a third blog where I can write all my darkest thoughts and don't have to put them on the back burner.

I honestly almost broke something in my house when I found out that my ex wouldn't meet in person like he said he would, that was a big fucking deal.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

new management

Sup yall, this blog's under new management yo, no more little tiptoein ballerina no more takin no bullshit from bitches no more and no more recitin grammar drills from forcefeeders this Amelia talkin now and Amelia dont do no good for no one Amelia says what Amelia wants to say yo. i aint sorry what i did way up in dullsville 5 years ago, i say that to dodge the man but now i dont give a fuck what the man say im gonna take em down. i aint eva gonna be no more good girl, aint eva gonna be no more smart school girl. i aint neva like all that grammar spelling math history academic forcefeed junk and i aint never okay with turnin the other cheek when i want revenege, so i done all a that and i do what i want now. i always wanna be famous and told no, no you dont be celebrity you be good college academic girl, well i aint gonna be that no more, i gonna be famous however it takes. i gonna be a reality tv star trending or im gonna go to la and be a pornstar. it always look fun and i aint gettin enough action now. i aint gonna write no more academic college educated posts here, i aint no educated girl im just lookin to have some fun and do what i want yo. i only gonna post bout bitches i wanna slap now. i aint no good girl no more.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New York

I need to go to New York. My friend from New York is dating someone and they've exchanged hit lists of who they want to beat the crap out of for each other because that's a normal thing to talk about there. Politeness is regional. I need an overly attached girlfriend from New York.

Trust

When I first started living alone, I wanted to give my parents' contact info to my friends in case I had a medical emergency, since I now spend more time with friends than I do with my parents. I have decided not to. Why? Because I have lots of thoughts on my mind that other people don't accept, that I get steered away from, and I feel like the risk of a friend calling my parents when I don't want them to call my parents is much higher than the risk that I will have a medical emergency. Much higher. I really do have a desire to run wild like my mom did when she was a kid and that is not going away, and I am not interested in ignoring people who hurt me or only doing "healthy" things about it. So in conclusion, I will never fork over my parents' info even though I originally wanted to. It's too risky.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I Want to Punch Someone.

I wanna punch someone for real. I wanna have a physical fight with someone and win! I never got to fight with anyone. I never played in the street unsupervised. It was always supervised recess in our goody goody Catholic school uniforms where we all had to play nice. I never wanted to play nice. I hated playing nice. We never got to fight. I want to beat someone up. They say the pen is mightier than the sword but writing is not giving me enough satisfaction as beating someone up would. And even writing is quite suppressing. At Colby art classes were all like, you can't be angry, you have to be all kind and loving and warm and fuzzy toward your reader. There was no place to write stuff out of anger. No place to do anything out of anger it's like let's all hold and hands and roast marshmallows around a fucking campfire. Well you know what? I don't want to do that I just want to punch someone for real.

If I had one day to be a kid again, I would get in fistfights with all the kids I wanted to hit back then because I'd be too young to get arrested, and when I got sent to the principal for hitting I would tell her to fuck off because I wouldn't be scared of her anymore. I never accepted anyone's authority over me, I was just scared of getting in trouble.

I am seriously praying I'll get on a reality show where I can punch all the people I want and get famous for it. I never wanted to play nice. I've always wanted to punch someone.

No I Won't Keep Calm (Part 2)

My friend Eli says that whenever you say that you "need" something, what you really mean is, "I need A to do B." Like, "I need food to live." "I need to pass this class to graduate." "I need cuddles to feel better." There is always a "to" statement that follows, even if we don't say it out loud. And when you think about it, adding that "to" statement allows us to decide whether we need something based on whether we want the result. Like, most people assume that passing the class is something you need more than you need cuddles, but I personally would put feeling good ahead of graduating and would therefore need cuddles more than passing the class. When you examine the reasons, you can see that. My boyfriend couldn't accept the fact that I was not willing to do things I didn't want to do that "needed" to be done, but the fact is: you need to vacuum to have a clean floor. If you don't care about the floor being clean, you don't need to vacuum! It's that simple!

Now let's say you hate the sensory experience of drinking water, but you need water to live. You could choose not to live because you hate the experience so much. That is a personal choice. But if you do want to live, you would find a way to deal with drinking water or an alternative way to get fluids into your system.

Let's assume that living is something everyone wants to do, so we eliminate the needs that are crucial for survival. Let's examine the other things we need to do. Most of these things are social constructs that we've accepted all our lives as things we have to do whether we want to or not, whether we agree or not. Take these two examples:

1. I need to practice for soccer tryouts in order to make the team.
2. I need to finish my homework in order to go outside and play.

The first statement is a direct result. Practicing will cause you to get better and be more likely to make the team. That's a fact rather than a social construct. The second statement is not a fact. There is no reason that you are incapable of going out to play without finishing your homework. This is a rule that someone else set for you because they are controlling your life and that is not okay!

Most things we "need" to do fall into that second category, the category of things that we've been forced to do all our lives. But these aren't facts of life. It's not like needing water to live. If you're doing something because you don't want to get in trouble, the fact that you could get in trouble is a PROBLEM. Most things do not need to be done!!! You hate the sensory experience of wearing clothes? You SHOULD be able to not wear clothes. Your naked body is not hurting anyone, not violating anyone else's rights. The only reason you need to wear clothes is because of stupid social conventions that will get you into serious trouble if you don't.

We don't have to live in a society with mandatory education. I don't care how much fun people try to make the learning experience - it does not change the fact that kids are forced to be there. People have compared schools to prisons and I agree with that because kids are forced to be there. School CAN be optional. And jobs don't have to be essential either. We can have a basic, livable income that everyone gets and people can choose to have a job if they'd like to or if they want to make more money than the basic income. A lot of work can be done with machines, and over time we could gradually decrease the need for human labor. There would still be jobs for people who wanted to work, but it wouldn't be necessary. It could be optional.

Most things really, truly CAN BE OPTIONAL but we're stuck in this rut of believing that we can't physically get up and go play without finishing our homework first because that's how things are done. Fuck that! I know that mandatory education and the need for jobs won't be eliminated in my lifetime, which is depressing, but I will never say that it can't happen. I won't accept that this is just the way things have to be. We CAN create a place where people of all ages can make their own choices about their lives, and not just in the limited, pseudo way that we do now. It is possible. No matter what everyone says, it is possible. We don't have to be trapped like we are now, and I will never accept that we're stuck this way forever.

No I Won't Keep Calm (Part 1)

When I was younger, I didn't like yogurt. My mom kept thinking that if I tried the right flavor of yogurt, I would like it. I tried regular flavors like strawberry, dessert flavors like key lime pie, and even cotton candy, which is normally a favorite flavor of mine. Finally I realized what the problem was. I said, "Mom, yogurt has a flavor of yogurt, and that is the flavor I don't like. No matter what flavor the yogurt is, it's always going to taste like yogurt."

I am all in favor of making things more fun and enjoyable for people, but sometimes we have to realize that not everyone likes something, no matter what you try to do to make it better, and we need to just stop forcing it on people. 

When I was in elementary school, my friends and I got on a discussion of whether we liked school or not, and the general consensus was that everyone liked pre-K. Everyone except me. My friends all asked me why I didn't like it. Pre-K was mostly fun and games after all. But the thing is, there was nothing especially bad about my preschool. Before I started school, my grandma used to take care of me, and I liked that. I liked being just with my family, I liked playing by myself, and I liked being able to do what I wanted when I wanted to. I didn't like having to be with other kids and be on a structured schedule. There wasn't anything wrong with my specific preschool - going to school just wasn't for me.

When I was at Colby, a classmate was talking about a boy in the day camp she worked at who kept acting out. He would do things like grab markers out of other kids' hands without asking. Eventually his mom pulled him out of the camp and said that she didn't think it was good for him because there wasn't enough down time. My classmate rolled her eyes and said to us, "Well, I'm sorry we plan lots of fun activities for your kids!" Everyone else was in agreement with her and didn't see what his problem was. But I understood exactly how this boy was feeling. Day camp just isn't for everyone! When I was younger, I didn't have much interest in organized activities, especially programs that took up the entire day. I liked being home, playing by myself, and being able to do what I wanted and not be on a schedule. When I was young, I only did summer activities that lasted an hour or two a day, and that was enough. When I got to be about 11, I enjoyed a couple weeks of day camp during the summer for a change of pace, but again, that was enough! If I had been at day camp all summer, I would have been absolutely miserable and probably would have behaved exactly like this boy did. Kids aren't always at summer camp by choice - parents have a jobs and their children need to be taken care of somehow. And some parents push their kids to stay at camp when they don't like it because they think it will be a good experience. No matter how much fun you try to make a summer camp, it doesn't change the fact that the day camp experience just isn't for everyone. I was very glad that this boy had a mother who was able and willing to pull him out.

Colby has this program called COOT, which stands for Colby Outdoor Orientation Trip. You go on a camping trip with other freshman for a few days before school starts and you're supposed to bond over it. I hated COOT but everyone else loved it. They loved it so much that they couldn't even conceive the possibility that someone else might not like it. When I tried to talk about how horrible it was for me, they kept saying, "But you had fun." Not a question, a statement. Because nobody doesn't have fun on COOT. Whenever I said that I didn't like COOT, everyone always asked me what was wrong with it. And what I realized after talking to lots of people was that they always expected that it was one issue that could be fixed. And while it was true that there were a lot of different things wrong with COOT, a lot of elements that could have made it better, the fact is, NOTHING could have made it okay. I just don't like camping and there is no amount of fun or bonding that can change that. And I will take it a step further and say that I probably still wouldn't have loved COOT all that much if we were all staying in a five-star hotel room together. While not camping would have been a HUGE improvement, I still just don't like that experience of being isolated with people I don't know and being forced to bond with them for the whole course of the trip. Everyone I talked to kept insisting that there must be just one thing wrong with COOT that could improve it. The problem is that IT WAS COOT and there are some people in this world who don't like COOT! There is nothing you can do to fix that. Cotton candy flavored yogurt still tastes like yogurt!

And quite honestly, the yogurt metaphor applied to Colby as entire school. There wasn't just one thing wrong that could be fixed. Every thing was wrong with it. Colby IS a very specific flavor that is not for everyone, a flavor that everyone thinks IS for everyone and if you don't like it then you must just not like anything. Everything had the Colby flavor. I wasn't in dance club, I was in the Colby dance club. It wasn't a Harry Potter fan club, it was a Colby  Harry Potter fan club (okay, that was technically a book seminar, but with Harry Potter it's kinda the same thing). You get the point. "We don't offer pizza here, we only offer pizza-flavored yogurt, which is even better! Yum!"

I do support making things more fun and enjoyable, but at some point we have to accept that everyone doesn't like yogurt and just stop forcing it down their throats.