Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Facebook is NOT evil.

I love Facebooking, blogging, tweeting (albeit infrequently), and staying up until the wee hours of the morning watching stupid YouTube videos.

There seems to be a backlash against social media lately, so I wanted to throw that out there first.

It has been eight years since Facebook first launched and Twitter first tweeted, and blogging is so grown up now that some people do it for a living. Musicians and performers are getting their big breaks through viral videos. It's only natural at this point that we're going to take a step back as a culture and ask ourselves and each other, "What does this say about us?"

The conclusion that I've observed many experts and non-experts making (if the articles my Facebook friends link to their profiles are to be believed) is that we are the most narcissistic generation ever, and that such websites have only exacerbated our collective exhibitionism and navel-gazing. Never mind that parents and grandparents have begun using these sites en masse. Never mind that most people still prefer face-to-face interaction over any other form of communication. Never mind that the world is still spinning and making its way around the big fireball every year, just like it did before we started tweeting each other cat videos and pictures of what we ate for dinner.

Never mind that I found most of the articles I've read on the subject through links posted on blogs and my Facebook news feed.

It seems that, in order to allow ourselves the indulgence of social media, we first feel the need to assuage our sense of guilt by conducting, publishing, writing about, interpreting, and re-posting all these studies about why it's bad. On news outlets. Which contain links at the bottom that allow thousands of readers to instantly "share" the news of such studies with our social networks.

And why do we, the common users, keep posting and re-posting links to such stories? To distance ourselves from social media and deny our very human hunger for validation? To communicate to our little universe, "Yes, I use these sites, but I'm not like that"? It's like admitting that one watches four hours of TV a day and then adding quickly, "but only PBS," in order to secure at least a little intellectual high-mindedness. It's a little silly, and definitely unnecessary.

Every decision we make in how we dress, what we say, and which actions we take originate, in part, in the identity we're constructing. The same goes with our online selves: the photos we post or allow to be posted by friends, the status messages and tweets we write, the number of "friends" we add (and how many of them we really feel we know), and - I've realized lately - the types of articles we share. Think about what types of articles you read, and which ones you ultimately post on your blog or profile. You don't just post what you read; you post what you want other people to know you read.

What I'm trying to say is that our online identities are a reflection of who we are, but don't make us who we are. Some time after this what-does-it-all-MEAN??? hysteria blew up, narcissism inextricably linked itself with social media in the eyes of the public. I was mostly a B student in math, but the correlation ≠ causation thing from Stats 135 has stuck with me over the years, and I'm pretty sure still applies in this case. Were there not self-absorbed people before the 21-st century? Did people not talk about themselves to excess? Did young people not display arrogant bravado and change friends every two minutes and say things for no other reason than to create shock waves?

Social media did not start this behavior, or increase it; it simply provided a novel and public way to display it. Narcissism was clearly not invented yesterday, kids. The word's origins are, after all, ancient.

Let me own up to my own narcissism, readers: I, like each of you, am self-absorbed. Every action I take is done with myself and my feelings in mind. I post on my blog so other people will read and appreciate my words. I write status updates on my Facebook that I think will make people laugh, and am thrilled when they get "liked." I scribble in my notebook for self-indulgence and catharsis. I choose clothes, cosmetics, and accessories that make me look as attractive as possible, and post pictures of myself in which I look my best so that other people might think me attractive. Every "selfless" act I have ever performed has been done to make me feel warm and fuzzy, and every relationship I've ever had with another human has been entered into with the end goal of feeling loved, validated, needed, just good. Every itch I scratch on my body, every adjustment I make in my seat, every food or drink I consume is for my own relief, my own satisfaction.

I don't think this is wrong, or bad, or scary, or the result of my generation's deplorable upbringing. I think it's normal. I think this is how it's always been, but we're too busy pretending like we care more about our gods, families, lovers, and friends to admit that this is reality.

Social media is self-expression, and while it's not for everybody, it seems to be addressing, in a small way, a need that billions of us have. What's the result? We can control what we present to others, and in turn possibly how they see us. Sometimes we make shitty, and even destructive, choices to that end, but the choice is ours to make and put out there. 

I have been contemplating all these ideas for a while, but felt inspired to discuss them after reading and commenting on Chio's post on How To Stop Being A Douchelord on Facebook (or in general) (also because I think "douchelord" is one of the funniest words I've ever heard). I write about this because I think that the role of social media in our lives is an important discussion to have, but that the conversation need not be dictated by the aforementioned backlash - especially because my generation seems to bear the brunt of the criticism for what it has brought to light.

What do you think, readers?

30 Letters: Day 14 — someone you’ve drifted away from

Kevin,

Oh, the good times we had freshman-junior year. You were my best gay, and I your favorite fag hag/flame dame/fruit fly. Pretty much all of my good stories from college involved you, Laura, or Chris, or some combination thereof. And yet, there was some substance to our friendship; we both confided in one another certain things we couldn’t tell others. You told me I wasn’t like your high school girl friends, that I was “real” and “genuine.” I felt that you were a friend who would care about me unconditionally, and without judgment. 

There was always an undercurrent in the friendship, though, that kept it from really flourishing. You had this need to be part of the “in” crowd (and, yes, there is one, even though we are adults now), and I always got the sense that if you had to choose between them and me, you would choose the former. It turns out I was correct.

Four years ago, after not having seen each other for a long time, you came over, drank a little too much, and told me (crying, of course – you always had a flair for the dramatic) that while you had partied with your “other” friends (read: catty, tanorexic, high-fashion-loving, spends-parents’-money-on-unnecessarily-luxurious-apartments friends) during the preceding months, you had lost a sense of who your “true” friends were, and wanted to get back to us.

That was the last time I saw or heard from you.

Back in the prime of our friendship, when I would watch you screen your phone calls, sometimes rolling your eyes and sending the callers to voicemail, it should have occurred to me that that might be me one day. I guess I believed you when you told me I meant more to you than the “fake bitches” I would later notice you reconnecting with once our friendship was on the decline. I know I’m not the only one, and try not to take it personally. People who were once on our speed dial can very quickly become nonentities in our lives, and this is just a reality of adulthood. That still doesn’t make it fair. But it was your choice to make.

I held out hope for a while, because you had a habit of disappearing and resurfacing either weeks or months later. Finally, years passed by, and I decided that there was no reason for me to wait around being ready for someone to decide I was worthy of his friendship again. It’s difficult to say who drifted away from whom, and when; all I know is that we both drifted pretty far.

Wistfully yours,

Latrice

Monday, March 26, 2012

30 Letters: Day 13 — someone you wish could forgive you

Classmates,

I cannot be certain of who belongs in this category. I guess that depends on how accurate our memories are. Some of you may not remember clearly enough to know that I owe you an apology, while others might remember more than I do, and would therefore deserve one without my knowledge. So, this goes out to anyone I ever said or did hurtful things to when I was young.

You see, I was generally a nice kid. But I was also an insecure kid. Until I reached high school, I wanted nothing more than to be popular. I wanted to be pretty and have a nice body and have boyfriends. For some reason, that mattered to me more than the good people and good things I already had in my life. I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t exactly unpopular. I was average, and like most insecure, average people, I tried to make sure that those I considered beneath me stayed there.

I wasn’t exactly a bully. I didn’t generally go out of my way to find people to pick on; I simply went along with whatever the established opinion was of a certain person, and acted accordingly. I’ve come to realize that I was just as cowardly as a bully; not only did I pick on kids who didn’t deserve it, but I didn’t even have the balls to decide for myself who it would be.

For anyone who was ever hurt by me, for whatever reason, I am truly sorry. I wish I could say I didn’t know better, but I did, and made my choice anyway. I hope you find the peace, success, and dignity as an adult that some of us denied you as children.

Apologetically yours,

A (Semi-) Reformed Asshole

Sunday, March 25, 2012

30 Letters: Day 12 — the person who caused you a lot of pain

Readers, I put this one off for a while. I considered writing a watered-down letter in order to have something suitable to put up, but any letter other than the one I came up with would have turned out weak and contrived. Finally I wrote the thing, because I want to stay true to the prompt, but I just can't post it on here. I hope you understand. I will post the remaining eighteen letters starting tomorrow.

[Name],

[Letter]

[Adverb] yours,

[Another name]

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

10 Reasons

I know I don't usually get political on here, and have hardly been following politics at all this election year. (It's just too depressing.) But my sense of moral outrage has really been stoked lately at some of the shit these candidates are saying - particularly regarding religion, morality, sexuality, and women's rights.

I think everyone should read this article. Thank you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

30 Letters: Day 11 — a deceased person you wish you could talk to

Dear George,

It will not come as a surprise to any of my friends or family that I would want to talk to you, of all dead people. Ever since my high school boyfriend introduced me to the wonderfulness that was George Carlin (just a few short years before you left us), I have been a huge fan of yours.

I’m not exactly a big connoisseur of standup comedy. I could be happy watching any halfway decent comedian, as long as (s)he has some good one-liners and a talent for getting the timing just right. Very few comedians, however, have made the lasting impression on me that you have. I think this is because you were more than your official job title, and represented an ideal that all comedians should strive for: you were a brilliant social critic, wordsmith, historian, writer, and prophet. You recognized the fucked-uppedness our society had devolved into, and were wise enough to comment on it in a funny way so that people would actually listen. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve seen many of your interviews and serious pieces as well as your standup routines, and find these to be equally as compelling as they were frighteningly true.

I remember one day, on my study abroad trip in college, when I was feeling kind of down about some things that were going on and needed a pick-me-up. I turned on my mp3 player and put on your Complaints and Grievances HBO special, and by the time you got to your list of “People Who Ought to Be Killed,” I was laughing so hard I was crying and drooling into the pillow. Your wit and dark humor have always allowed me to think critically about the world, but without getting too depressed over it. A part of me wishes I could be the female version of you as a writer, but I really don’t think you can be replicated.

Wherever you are, I know that you are either “smiling down” or “screaming up” at me (hopefully you appreciate the reference). Thank you for sharing your erudition with the world.

Laughingly yours,

Shitpissfuckcuntcocksuckermotherfuckerandtits

Friday, March 16, 2012

30 Letters: Day 10 — someone you don’t talk to as much as you’d like to

Abby,

It makes me so sad that we don’t talk or hang out anymore, because you were one of my favorite people in college. You are creative, bright, and funny, and I never met anyone who didn’t like you. I’m not sure when or why we stopped hanging out – we just did. You make yourself difficult to get in touch with, and I simply stopped trying a couple of years ago. Whatever the case, you know you can call me up anytime you want to have a beer or watch a dumb movie.

Reflectively yours,

Kelly (not the shoes girl)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

30 Letters: Day 9 — someone you wish you could meet

Future Me,

I’ve been dying to meet you for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I wondered who you would be as a ten-year-old, as a teenager, as a college student, as a 20-something. Now I wonder who you will be a year from now (hopefully a happy, productive, 26-year-old graduate student), or as a 30-year-old. I hope you’ll be a fun 40-year-old, a hilarious 60-year-old, and a cool 80-year-old.

I want to meet you today, mostly because I stopped believing in God a few years ago. I’m pretty okay with this, except that I am at the disadvantage of having to take full responsibility for how my life turns out, rather than leaving it all to a higher power. Not to put too much pressure on you, Future Me, but that kind of makes you my higher power. I want you to come to me as a 90-year-old, or even a 26-year-old, and tell me that I’m on the right track. You don’t have to whip out the crystal ball and tell me the name of my future book or future spouse (and hopefully they come in that order), but I would appreciate some guidance.

There are times I wish I could talk to my old self too, so I understand what it’s like to be in your position. I want to go back to 5-year-old me and tell myself that my life is good, and that there will come a day when I laugh at all the problems I thought I had. I want to find 9-year-old me and tell myself to quit measuring my waist already, and to just take care of myself as I start puberty instead of fretting about my shape. I want to talk to the middle-schooler me and reassure that popularity is artificial and fleeting, and a total sham. I want to tell the high-schooler me that while it is true that college will be way better, there are plenty of good things and good people in high school, and to slow down and enjoy it. I would tell the 24-year-old me that I do know what I really want, but that I just need the courage to actually admit that I want it and go for it.

Hopefully you can understand better why I yearn for your sage advice, even though I know it’s not possible to get. Maybe it’s just something I’m not meant to have. Perhaps learning is really only learning when you live through it. I wonder – if I heard it from you, would my understanding be the same?

Anachronistically yours,

You

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Acceptance

The first rejection letter is the easiest. No writer goes through life without receiving at least one, you think. The best ones receive hundreds. It's like you are joining a club, making it real. All it takes is that short, apologetic e-mail from the program director, and you can highlight the school name in red on your spreadsheet, write, "REJECTED" right underneath "Fee: $45 PAID," and move on.

Except that you are awaiting letters from graduate programs, not publishers and agents. You have sent your delicate manuscripts all over the country, not to be re-printed in a literary magazine or a shiny new bestseller, but to be validated by masters of the craft. To be told, yes, you can come here and learn from us. You don't yet have the audacity to try for anything more than that.

The second rejection letter comes from a school that is nearly as selective as the first. You nod and tell yourself that it is okay. Those schools had had the earliest deadlines, and therefore received the weakest applications from you. Or, at least, that's what you're telling yourself, now that you can look at what you submitted and find those early mistakes. You concede that your submission had a couple of typos in it, and that your personal statements were pompous and God-awful. I wouldn't have wanted me, you think, but it would have been nice if they did.

The third letter is the first correspondence you receive on actual paper, wherein the interim director tells you that while they received many promising manuscripts, some students were just better prepared and more talented than others. You place the letter on your desk, posting a poll on Facebook on which you ask your friends to vote on what you should do with your rejection letters. The most popular answer is to make them into a hat. What sort of hat, you wonder? A sailor hat? A yarmulke? That hat that the Pope wears? Perhaps this hinges on the number of letters you will receive. You almost want many, in order to construct a truly fabulous hat. Almost.

About two weeks later, numbers four and five arrive, also from highly-ranked programs. You think, this is still not a high enough number to lose count. You tell everyone that it is probably simpler, and faster, to send out a rejection e-mail than to put together an acceptance packet, and your friends and family indulge you and praise your optimism. Good news will hopefully be arriving soon.

Won't it?

The sixth letter comes through your web application. You receive a blink-and-you'll-miss-it e-mail from the school, informing you a decision has been made (although your sharp, paranoid eye couldn't possibly miss anything from a .edu address anymore), at which point you log in and read the brief "thanks but no thanks" message. This is the first school you have heard from that isn't listed on any fancy MFA rankings, so it's time to come up with some new justifications.

You are beginning to wonder, after half a dozen letters have arrived, if this graduate school thing will turn out to be a crazy idea you once had, a silly delusion that you and your loved ones had entertained until you would eventually be unilaterally and resoundingly told "no." In fact, you're now almost certain of it, because you just typed three adverbs in one sentence, even though it has been made clear to you that they are out of fashion. Fuck this, you think, I'll publish something with or without an MFA, and I'll use all the goddamn adverbs I please! 

You go out with co-workers on a Thursday night for happy hour. They ask how the school stuff is going, and when you tell them, their faces drop just a little bit. There is a visible shadow of doubt over the very people who have been assuring you that this will be okay, that you are overreacting, that you will be successful in the end. You wonder if you've somehow fooled them into thinking you're someone you really aren't. You wonder if they're thinking the same.

Happy hour turns into six very happy hours, and one grape-flavored shot and four rum and Cokes later, you promise everyone that you will publish a novel by age 30. At seven the next morning, when you are going into work, you wonder if there is even a ghost of a chance that it will happen. You conclude that it will, mostly because you're still a little drunk.

On Monday, you arrive at your mailbox with an armful of materials you checked out from the library. You pull the two items out of the box and lock it back up, immediately discarding the credit card solicitation and inspecting the envelope underneath. It is a packet from DePaul University, in an 8 1/2" x 11" envelope that says "congratulations" on the outside. You run up the stairs toward your apartment, shaking the lobby with your heavy steps, unlock your door, push inside, and drop everything on the table, tearing apart the envelope like a kid at Christmas. 

The department, the letter says, has recommended that you be admitted to the graduate school.

You jump up and down, like the most crazed of game show contestants, eventually collapsing onto your couch. You sit quietly for about a minute, absorbing the potential energy of this moment. This is the first and last time you will be in this part of the process, post-yes, but before you tell your family, visit a school, sign the paperwork, quit your job, leave your hometown. You then call and text your entire immediate family; you post on Facebook; you begin fretting about money.

It doesn't feel real. You think maybe there was a mistake. Maybe the department recommended you, but someone else could still reject you - nope, sorry, you imagine them saying, we don't have a place for you after all. Your brain works as hard to deny the good news as it did the bad. But none of it works. You're accepted.

You remember when you were given an offer letter at your job a year and a half ago, and how you worried that someone would take it away from you. You were so scared that you went back to your home office, two weeks before your orientation, to drop off your paperwork and signed offer letter. You called your new boss until he got back to you, just to make sure he hadn't forgotten about the offer he'd made you in the conference room. There was too much at stake - you would only be making $0.65 more per hour, but more importantly, you wouldn't be making sandwiches there. You would be wearing grownup clothes and working in an office. The increase was in your ego more than your salary, and you needed to be validated, to be told you were good enough.

You want to call the office of admissions today and ask them if they really mean it. You want to call the English Department and see if they will give you an assistantship. You want to call the Department of Education and say, "Tell me, oh wise ones, can I afford to go here?" You want to call God and ask if this is your destiny. But everyone has gone home for the day, probably including God's receptionist, so you have to trust that this will be okay. You try to remember what that word is that those religious people are always throwing around. 'Faith,' they call it. You don't have a precise translation, but you're pretty sure it means, "I don't really know if things will be all right, but I'll believe they are until they aren't."

You turn on some salsa music, because nothing feels wrong when salsa is blasting through your apartment.You putter around and continue with business as usual, remembering that you are still waiting on letters from eight other schools.

You are still waiting, but waiting faithfully.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

30 Letters: Day 8 — your favorite internet friend

[Name Withheld],

Saying you’re my “favorite internet friend” is a bit of a stretch, considering we only had a real conversation one time. We have been Facebook friends since 2008, when we worked as computer lab monitors at school, and never talked in person except when we were changing shifts. We never even communicated online until one random day about a year ago, but the conversation we had reminded me of how awesome the internet is.

I don’t log into Facebook chat very often, but on one lazy day, I turned on the feature to talk to a few friends and see who’d message me, and there you were. We started with a little small talk, and just as I was wondering where else the conversation was going to go, you seemed to be angling to tell me something more significant. You told me I “seem like an open-minded person,” which naturally piqued my interest, and then asked me if I would be willing to give advice on a situation that involved you and your girlfriend. Now, I don’t know how you managed to figure this out, but I was the perfect person for this because 1.) I’m very curious about other people’s lives and love to hear stuff I normally wouldn’t (read: I’m nosy), 2.) I do consider myself an open-minded person and it takes a lot to make me squeamish, 3.) I’m pretty good at giving advice, and 4.) I hadn’t heard anything juicy all week. So you told me, and man…you did not disappoint.

Out of respect for your privacy on this public blog, and because certain readers may blush, I won’t post what you told me. But I will say that I found it surprising and fascinating, and if I do say so myself, you came to the right person to tell about it because I am a firm believer that what consenting adults do with other consenting adults is a-OK.  So, from me you got 100% support to be who you are, and  from you I got a good story from one of the last people I’d expect to hear it from. In all seriousness, I left that conversation feeling like I’d really helped someone, and I was glad you chose to tell me instead of someone who would judge or pathologize you (yes, I know I’m patting myself on the back a little, readers – just bear with me).

Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to talk since then – this is mostly my fault because I’m never on Facebook chat. But the truth is, I’m dying to hear what happened after…well, you know.

Curiously yours,

Random Facebook Girl

Friday, March 9, 2012

30 Letters: Day 7 — your Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/love/crush

Jon,

It is a horrible cliché, but a true one in this case: what we had was pure. It lasted three weeks, a period that back then felt like an enormous, life-changing stretch of time, even though in our minds today it just feels like three quarters of a month, a paycheck-and-a-half, a blip on a vast landscape of defunct love affairs. But we were sixteen and seventeen, and we took it seriously because it we were the ones in it, and because it was our first. A summer arts camp relationship – how silly! But how real.

We were parted by circumstance, complete with a tragic goodbye scene: we held each other and sobbed, you were admonished to just get on the bus already, and I watched your face through the window as you rode off toward the airport to return to Toronto. It wasn’t fair. Everyone else had seemed to have a relationship by then, and now that I had finally found someone for me, he had been snatched away. I wondered if anyone in my own country would ever love me. 

We tried to keep in touch, of course. We IMed and wrote back and forth; we may have discussed the possibility of visiting one another. I tried to envision us being together in the future, and entertained the fantasy for a while, but knew in my honest moments that you would find a nice girl and be with her instead. I would find…well, I’d just have to see. I don’t remember when we stopped saying “I love you” and pretending we’d never move on – we just did.

You went off to college a year before I did, and our communication eventually ceased. I accepted the demise of our relationship (not just the romantic one), just as I would accept that my cabin mates were no longer my best friends. I now wonder from time to time about whether Harvard, or New York, or your nice job, have changed you. I wonder if you still think of that silly little relationship we had.

I still remember our first kiss on the soccer field (it was both of our first kisses ever), how awful it was at first, and how much better it eventually got. I remember our first “date,” when you bought tickets for us to see a performance of Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto; you even bought me a flower from the gift shop with what little spending money you had. I remember you holding my hand, and how you would stroke the back of it with your thumb. I remember how we got made fun of because people thought we looked like brother and sister, and how we didn’t give a shit because we were too happy to care. I remember how devastated I was when the reality of having to leave became evident.

I look at our relationship as I would a snow globe. It was a snapshot of who we were then, a moment brief enough to be left unadulterated by fights and bitterness and talks about commitment. We asked nothing of one another, because everything we needed was already there. It was our first, and only, perfect relationship.

Reminiscently yours,

Sweetie (yes, you really did call me that, and I loved it)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

30 Letters: Day 6 — a stranger

Stranger,

I want you to know that I find you fascinating. Yes, you - the guy on the bus listening to that terrible hipster music, the lady herding her four kids through the cereal aisle, the old man ordering coffee at Starbucks and looking lost. I want to know everything about you: where you’re from, what you dream of, who you love, where you think you’ll go when you die. You interest me because you’re not like me, and maybe I can learn something from you – even if, and perhaps especially if, I wind up hating you.

I’m sorry I’m staring. I was told long ago that it’s not nice, but I can’t help it. I’m not doing it to make you feel self-conscious. I just want to know something I didn’t know five minutes ago. If you say or do anything interesting, I might even stick you in a story somewhere. So keep talking, and I’ll keep listening. And I promise I’ll try not to judge.

Sketchily yours,

Another Stranger

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

30 Letters: Day 5 — your dreams

Dreams,

Look, guys, I know I have been flaking on you over the last few years. There are so many of you, and so many obstacles in life, that it can be difficult to give you the attention you deserve. I know I’m plagued with doubt and worry, but that’s no excuse for leaving you hanging the way I have. I want to take care of you properly, and I will. I’m making some changes that will hopefully give me the means to do that. Just sit tight a little longer, and I promise you’ll grow big and strong some day.

Hopefully yours,

Your Ever Neglectful Parent

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

30 Letters: Day 4 — your sibling

Fer,

I have realized recently, similarly to my discoveries about many an unfortunate peer’s situation with his or her parents, how lucky I am to have you as a sister. A sister who taught me the slang terms and fashions of Older Kids, who played Barbies and dollhouse with me even after she’d kind of outgrown them, who drove me to school in the morning, who shared a room with my messy ass for 12 years, who loved me even when I was being an asshole. Perhaps if I’d realized as a kid how rare the quality of our relationship would be, I would have been nicer sometimes. But I do still think it’s pretty much a requirement, as a little sister, that I be at least a tad annoying.

I often wonder how differently I would have turned out if I’d been the oldest, or an only child, or had had a brother instead. At the very least, I would have done (if not been) different things, because pretty much everything I ever tried was because I wanted to be a little more like my cooler older sister. For anyone who knows me, there is simply no other way to explain what would possess me to want to join the cheerleading squad, or pretend to be into football for so long, or have as many obscenely girly toys and clothes as I did. I finally grew up enough to strive to be my own person, but I continue to admire so many things and still sometimes try, just a little, to be more like you.

But there’s no need for that, because our differences are what make the car trips and family vacations and, yes, comparing the overall tone of our blogs, fun (read: yours is positive and peppy and mine is…nihilistic and sometimes hateful). Other things that make car trips and family vacations fun: quoting Luda, ganging up on David, long walks on the beach (not just for lovers anymore), playing with the pups, and calling each other ‘hooker’ and making our relatives uncomfortable.

Once again, Family Values.

Lovingly yours,

Sis

Monday, March 5, 2012

30 Letters: Day 3 — your parents

Parentals (all four of you),

I never told any of you how happy I was the day you helped me move into my apartment last July – or, more specifically, why. I was excited about the move to the first place I would have all to myself, and naturally appreciative of your help, but there was more than that. I never told you that it made me happy that we were all together – that my mom and stepmom greeted each other, that my dad and stepdad helped each other haul furniture, that my dad drove my mom’s 9-year-old step-kid in his 21-year-old step-kid’s pickup truck to my lot, because she just wanted to ride in a pickup truck. It was a day that, ten years ago, I thought I would never see.

Plenty of people are crowing in the media about “broken” homes, implying that a family such as ours is somehow inferior to those with parents who stayed married and did everything “right.” I always want to tell them that I don’t feel broken, and haven’t in years. That the decisions each of us made brought us to this point, and it seems like a perfect place to be. This doesn’t mean that the past is completely fixed or forgotten, but that there is plenty of happiness and fulfillment to be found when people figure out what they really want and move on.

I want you all to know that I’m glad you found each other. Some people can barely find one reliable parent to lean on, let alone four. There are few other people I know who have multiple supportive, intelligent, good-natured parents they can go to for advice and help whenever they need it.  To me, this is far from broken, and I pity the “Family Values” fools who don’t get it.

Filially yours,

Bug

Sunday, March 4, 2012

30 Letters: Day 2 — your crush

B,

Almost six and a half years ago, I spotted you from across a very large room and thought, Oh dear, I'm in trouble again. As your eyes flicked past me, I demanded from the universe a place in your world and, while I eventually found one, I'm still not sure where that place was.

I remember sitting behind you in class. You smelled so good, and I thought you were brilliant. You were (and are) funny, too. You once made me laugh so hard I peed my pants, but I never told you that. Few things elated me more than making you laugh, too.

You should know it was always you. I went through four years of college and had my fair share of momentary obsessions, as well as serious relationships. The whole time, I ran into you often, and tried to forget the way you made me feel.

When I was a teenager, I let the boy I liked copy my homework; at the time, my dignity and self-respect never came into question, and all that mattered was that he needed something from me. I would do the same for you even now, a fact that can't be healthy, but neither is the dulled passion that is borne of compromise. In any case, you would never need to copy from my homework, and that’s just one thing that’s so great about you.

But over and over again, I watched you fall in love with other girls, some of whom you could have, and some you couldn't. I'm not sure which made me feel worse, but I always wanted to tell you how good I'd be to you if you would just let me.

I last saw you three summers ago, that time I ran into you on the bus. I said, “Maybe I'll see you around” instead of, “We should hang out.” I knew that the latter would be pointless, but the former may happen accidentally, with good fortune.

So why am I still thinking about you, even now? 

Obsessively yours,

The Other Synesthete

Saturday, March 3, 2012

30 Letters: Day 1 — your best friend

Laura,

There aren’t many people who can say at 25 that they’re still friends with someone they met at college freshman orientation. I think I knew this back then, which is why I seemed barely moved when you pointed out we were wearing the same shoes. But then, it turned out that we would live on the same floor, be in many of the same classes, and – as it turned out – pretty much have the exact same sense of humor.

I love talking to you, because I don’t have to perform rhetorical gymnastics or draw diagrams to get you to understand why I feel the way I feel about something…I just explain it, and you get it. You’re someone I always know I can count on to listen when I have a problem, or, to laugh your ass off when I find something funny that I’m not supposed to, and will probably go to hell for laughing at. At least we’ll be in hell together, right?

We have so many good memories. I can’t expel from my mind the image of Kevin throwing up on your bed at the stereotypes party, and then getting his blackface paint all over your bathroom, or the time you endured the full horrors of Ranch Dressing Guy. I tell just about everybody about the pirate party and Slash. You were, of course, my favorite person to skip class and have coffee with. It must be said, though, that we did not spend all of our time in school together engaged in delinquent activities. We also studied, played music, talked literature, and made fun of people together. And when it all came to an end on graduation day, you were the first (and, as it turned out, only) fellow alum I went to hug. And you and I, we’re not “huggers.”

I was so excited when I found out you were starting law school, and even more so when you told me you’d be staying in Columbus for it. It’s been awesome having a friend nearby, especially someone who’s been so supportive of my own post-undergrad academic journey. And though I may leave the state next year, know that I will call to harass/seek advice/share a geek joke from time to time.

Amicably yours,

The Bagel Fairy (thanks for coining the name, by the way)

Friday, March 2, 2012

30 Letters

In order to write more and to allow all two of my readers to get to know me better, I am doing one of those gimmicky bloggy prompt thingies, albeit a fun and thought-provoking gimmicky bloggy prompt thingy. I first came across the 30 Letters project on this lovely lady's blog, and liked it so much that I thought I would try it (although it's been well over a year and I'm just getting around to doing it, but hey, you wouldn't have known better anyway). There isn't much to it, other than writing 30 letters to the following people or groups of people:

Day 1 — your best friend

Day 2 — your crush

Day 3 — your parents

Day 4 — your sibling

Day 5 — your dreams

Day 6 — a stranger

Day 7 — your Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/love/crush

Day 8 — your favorite internet friend

Day 9 — someone you wish you could meet

Day 10 — someone you don’t talk to as much as you’d like to

Day 11 — a deceased person you wish you could talk to

Day 12 — the person you hate most/caused you a lot of pain

Day 13 — someone you wish could forgive you

Day 14 — someone you’ve drifted away from

Day 15 — the person you miss the most

Day 16 — someone that’s not in your state/country

Day 17 — someone from your childhood

Day 18 — the person that you wish you could be

Day 19 — someone that pesters your mind—good or bad

Day 20 — the one that broke your heart the hardest

Day 21 — someone you judged by their first impression

Day 22 — someone you want to give a second chance to

Day 23 — the last person you kissed

Day 24 — the person that gave you your favorite memory

Day 25 — the person you know that is going through the worst of times

Day 26 — the last person you made a pinky promise to

Day 27 — the friendliest person you knew for only one day

Day 28 — someone that changed your life

Day 29 — the person that you want tell everything to, but too afraid to

Day 30 — your reflection in the mirror

Get excited.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bodies and Breakthroughs

Something absolutely amazing happened last month.


It was another unseasonably warm, clear Saturday in Columbus, and I decided that I ought to go out and get some exercise. I had slept for ten hours and felt groggy and sluggish, but that was no excuse not to run – something I have been trying to re-incorporate into my routine. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I warmed up at home and didn’t feel particularly energized, but promised myself that I would run at least a mile without stopping – which, in this case, would be about four or five songs (I have to go by my approximate speed and the approximate length of songs because I don’t have a pedometer…and, yes, I know I’m slow). I walked down the sidewalk toward the bike trail near my apartment, speeding up to get my heart rate up and get ready to jog. I ran until I got to the trail, and continued to run until my five songs were up.


I can keep going, I thought. I continued to run, stopping to walk a few songs later just long enough to catch my breath and gulp some water, and then ran some more. I jogged all the way to the next trail entrance; I knew from seeing the cross street was a couple of miles from where I lived. I could either turn back the way I came, or complete the loop by taking the cross street up to the main road that would lead me back to my complex. I hiked up the hill, and then ran again once I got to the main road. I ran almost all the way up the main road back to my place, until I finally reached a hill and had to stop. I was really excited and impressed with myself; I had run well over half of that loop, when my original goal was to run only a mile. I got on Google Maps to approximate how far I’d gone (I really need to invest in a pedometer!), and…


…the loop was five miles. Five miles, and I ran over half of it.


This obviously wouldn’t be a big deal to a seasoned runner, or to a fit person in general. But I’ve never been much of a natural runner; I have short legs and do not come from a family of runners. I’m also back in the worst shape I’ve been since I started college (thank you, sedentary office job).


I have been trying to get back in to running and conditioning lately, after a period of about three-and-a-half years during which physical activity was…sporadic, at best. One of the sites where I work, and have been covering almost non-stop for several weeks, has a fitness center that they allow employees and contractors to use. Seeing as it’s the middle of the winter and I can’t afford a gym membership, I have no good excuse not to work out there. For about a month I’ve been hauling my ass there after work, logging a painful 20 minutes on the treadmill and sometimes doing some Pilates and strength training afterwards. I had a couple of decent workouts, but to tell the truth I spent most of them miserable and fatigued. I stuck it out because I knew it would get better, like it always does, but I was beginning to wonder when the day would come.


It seems that every time I go for a long stretch without exercising and get back into it, I have a tough time until I have a breakthrough workout that changes everything and gets me motivated. I had one freshman year of college, when I was at my heaviest; I had added Jazz I to my schedule for winter quarter in hopes of getting into better shape. After my second class, I decided to go to the gym. Dancing had felt like a warm-up, and I wanted more. So I did an hour on the elliptical, and after that began a regular routine. Over two years later, after another lapse, something similar happened. I was taking Jazz II at the time, and after biking back from class one day, decided that I could do more. I ran around the block a few times, and then practiced my turns in the alley behind my house. After that day, I spent the rest of the quarter and summer afterwards running, biking, and doing yoga regularly.


I had a similar breakthrough on that recent Saturday, minus the dance class. I went out to exercise with minimal expectations, and realized that I could do more. I couldn’t believe I’d actually run the better part of five miles, especially considering I typically never went that far, even at my fittest. It makes me wonder what I will be capable of once I get my fitness back.


And I will get my fitness back. The truth is, I have felt awful the last couple of years. I have been subsisting on a diet that is mostly crap –crappy packaged food, crappy frozen food, crappy restaurant food, crappy food that’s barely food – and exercising very little. I’ve been telling myself that it doesn’t matter as long as I’m not overeating (even though I often do), and that I get some exercise when I work in mailrooms (although I don’t do it enough to count for anything). Meanwhile, my weight has crept up, I can barely fit into my pants, and my stomach is upset all the time.


Four summers ago, I got into really good shape – or, at least, really good shape for me. I was running every day, biking everywhere, taking yoga classes, and feeling awesome. I tend to downplay now just how awesome it was, partly because it’s hard to admit how far I’ve devolved from that point. But I can’t deny how great it was to go to the beach with my family and not feel like a beached whale, or to go to functions and not constantly worry about how much my love handles were spilling over my pants. My back hurt less, my appetite was more controlled, and I slept better.


But at the end of the summer, after having been in between jobs for a few months, I was hired at the café where I would work the next three years. I was on my feet during workdays, so I started skipping workouts because my legs were tired. Then fall quarter started, and I exchanged a light course load for a fully crammed senior year schedule. I could have made time to work out, but didn’t. I could have been more careful about what I was eating, but stopped paying attention. Before long, I had gained most of the weight back, and since then it’s only gotten worse.


After I went on that run, I decided that I needed to re-commit to my health. I had one last “anything goes” meal, and then went to the grocery store to stock my empty kitchen. I bought mostly vegetables, fruits, and grains, and decided to limit eating meals out and to only have soft drinks once in a while. Also, I decided to make exercising a priority.


That was about two weeks ago, and I’ve had a few hiccups since then. First, I hurt my foot running, so I took a break for a few days. Then, I got really sick Tuesday night and staying home Wednesday to rid myself of whatever strange thing that had found its way into my stomach. I also had soft drinks a couple of times this week. However, in spite of everything, I feel better, and have lost four pounds already. My goal is to lose 20 by the time I go to the beach in July, which would average about a pound a week.


This is not a fitness/weight-loss blog, and I have no intention of making it so. I hesitated to even bring this up because 1.) I think we need something to talk about in popular culture other than the shapes and sizes of women’s bodies, and also because 2.) I’ve struggled with my body image for almost as long as I can remember, and it’s a highly personal and complex issue that I don’t like to get into very often. However, it’s something that many of us will struggle with in our lives, and that I certainly struggle with in mine, so it does warrant a mention from time to time.


In the interim, I will update occasionally, and if I reach my goal on or before July, I will buy a new dress to wear to dinner while we’re on vacation. I also took a “before” photo, but will wait to post until there’s a much more flattering “after” photo to go with it.