Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rape Is NOT the Victim's Fault

This is an important post on rape and sexual assault, from The Pervocracy blog:

We Are the 95%

Quitting Is Okay

If someone bit into a piece of fruit and realized afterwards that there was mold growing inside of it, would you recommend that the person finish eating the fruit because they are almost done?

Quitting is not bad in principle, and sticking with something is not good in principle. Sometimes quitting will make you happy, and sometimes quitting will make you miserable. Sometimes sticking with something will make you happy and sometimes sticking with something will make you miserable. It all depends on the individual situation. You should continue something if you a) still enjoy it or b) still think it's worth the end result. But don't ever feel like you have to finish something just because you started it. Sometimes it takes biting into that first piece of fruit to know what's really inside.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

When I'm Not the One Screaming

My mom always tells the story of when I was baby and didn't cry or react at all after getting a shot. For some reason, shots don't hurt me as much as they seem to hurt other people.  I was always told that this made me a tough cookie and I should be proud. But I'm not proud, and I'm not interested in being tough. If I'm in enough pain that I feel like screaming and crying, I will scream and cry. The reason why I never cried when I got a shot was because I just wasn't experiencing a lot of pain. Different people feel different things. My earlobes really hurt when I got them pierced even though my friends said it didn't hurt them at all. It's the way my body is, and that doesn't make me better or worse than anybody else.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Decision Making: What You already Have

People are always telling us to be grateful for what we have, but knowing what we have is also an important part of our self-understanding.  Any time you make a life decision, it takes a lot of self-understanding to know which choice you will be happy with. Often, we (myself included) are more focused on what we want to have than what we already have. This creates a skewed understanding of ourselves, in which we are more likely to look for the things that we don't have, rather than looking for the things that we already have and want to make sure we keep.

I loved high school and was happy with my home life. But when I applied to colleges, I was very focused on the few things that I hoped would be different. I ended up being miserable all four years of college because I never took into account all the things I had at home that I wasn't willing to live without.

When you're making a decision that could change your lifestyle, list everything that is important to you - things you're looking for and  things you already have - then figure out what is most important. You might find, like I did, that keeping something you have is more important to you than getting something else you want.

Not on the Sidelines

Imagine a party with lots of people. Some are dancing, some are playing games, some are talking, and some are just hanging out and enjoying the party atmosphere . If you were going to guess who the introverts in the group are, who would you pick?

I am an introvert. I love acting, singing, dancing, swimming, snowtubing, jumping on the trampoline, playing games, and lots of other things. What I don't enjoy is being out just for the sake of being out. I don't go to parties or events where the main activity doesn't interest me because just being at the party is not fun on its own. I will do things just to spend time with friends, but spending time with specific people is not the same as just wanting to be social. If I were at the party in the scenario above, I would most certainly be dancing or playing games or having a conversation with a friend, because if I weren't interested in any of those things, I would not be attending the party in the first place.

Lots of people think of introverts as being on the sidelines, but for me, being introverted means that I never like being on the sidelines. I like to be really involved in what I'm doing, whether it's alone or with other people. If I'm going to be on the sidelines of an event, I'd rather stay home and do something else. But if I love the event, then I'm going to play.


From elementary school through high school, my birthday always fell during February vacation, and I usually had lots of fun planned. There was one year - sixth grade - when I had one of the best winter breaks ever, with something fun planned for 6 of the 9 days we had off.  That year I was also in the school musical, and our dance captain wanted to schedule a dance practice during winter break. When she asked if anybody couldn't rehearse at all during winter break because they were going somewhere, I raised my hand and explained that I was busy for most of the vacation.

Looking back now, I had more time to rehearse than I thought at the time. For my birthday sleepover party, I counted both days as booked, even though my friends were leaving before noon on the second day. And a few other events, like the day that my aunt was taking me to the movies, were not going to last all day. But I've never been someone who liked to be super busy, and it would have been stressful to try to squeeze in a rehearsal on a day when I had something else planned.

I'm bringing this up now because, while I may try to fit things into my schedule because I feel like I'm supposed to, I really feel threatened when I already have plans and I have to try to squeeze something else in. I've done it, but it's not something I want to do - it's something I'm trying to stop doing. Because inside, I'm still the same person I was in sixth grade when I said that my winter break was booked.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Happiness and Individual Needs

There's a lot of generic advice about being happy: exercise more, go for walks outdoors, do yoga, meditate. While these things may work for a lot of people, it's really important to keep the individual's needs in mind. When I was feeling depressed in college, I got the standard advice, and I tried it. I went to the gym. I went walking in the woods. I went to meditation class. And you know how I felt? Worse. Worse because I was already unable to do what I wanted to do at college, what I knew made me happy, and all those other things I did just added to my schedule of things I didn't want to do and took away from the little bit of time I had to myself.

It's really important to listen to why a person feels bad before prescribing them standard advice. I can't tell you how many people told me to get out more at college, even when I told them I felt like I was "out" all the time, which was a problem because I wanted to be alone.

I once recommended exercising to a  friend who was depressed and was lacking energy, but that was because I already knew that working out made that person feel good. When someone I don't know as well is depressed or lacking energy, I ask them what things normally make them feel happy or energized. I know studies will tell you that nature and exercise and mediation make people feel better, and they're probably right, but that doesn't mean those things are the solution to every problem, or that every individual enjoys them. Most people have some knowledge of what makes them happy, even if it's been a long time. Try to find that out before giving a standard recommendation.

Dance Performances: My Videos

I have always had a passion for singing, dancing, and acting. I became more involved with dance in college because I couldn't get into many plays or singing groups, and dance club didn't require an audition. I liked dancing, but meeting just a few times a week wasn't enough for me - I really wanted my life to revolve around performing like it did in high school. My friend suggested that I try choreographing my own dance, and that's how I really fell in love with dance. I like the dancing itself, but choreographing my own is even more fun!

My 1st dance: How Can I Not Love You
I chose this song because it has a clear story line. It's also not an extremely popular song, which I thought would make it more interesting. I used only the second half of the song so there was less space to fill.
No one signed up for my dance originally, but my friends were really sweet and volunteered to do it. There were four of us originally (two on each side), but one person got sick at the last minute.

My 2nd dance: Heat Wave
I figured the reason no one signed up for my first dance was that they weren't familiar with the song. For my second dance, I picked a song that most people would have heard. Since my last dance was more lyrical and emotional, I thought I'd try a more upbeat and fun song this time.

My 3rd dance: Reflection
After choreographing "Heat Wave," I realized that I enjoy lyrical and emotional dances more than upbeat dances. "Reflection" is one of my favorite dances because the story is really personal to me.
One of my best friends joined this dance also, since I wasn't sure if I had enough people. Again, there were four of us (two on each side), but someone got sick at the last minute.

My 4th dance: The Voice Within
This is my other favorite dance - this story has a personal meaning to me, just like "Reflection."

Also, a special thank you to my boyfriend Eric who put these videos online for me.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Group Work and "Slackers"

Whenever I had to work on group projects in high school, there was usually someone who didn't do their share of the work, or any work at all. In one of my graduate classes, we had a group of 4 people, and one person didn't participate in the project very much.  But this time, although I was annoyed, I found myself trying to figure out why she wasn't doing her share of the work. There are a few possibilities:

1. She might have had something serious going on, like depression or a death in the family or something like that, and didn't feel comfortable telling us. When I was going through a really bad time in college, I never felt like I could tell my group members that those things were affecting my performance - I was afraid they would write it off as "just an excuse."
2. She might not have understood the project. When I was in college, I had several friends complain to me about their "stupid" classmates who didn't understand what was going on, so I would have never considered asking a group member for help when I didn't understand something. Since the other three of us knew what to do, she might have been afraid of saying the wrong thing.
3. She might be introverted or just not like to talk in groups. I'm willing to take the lead if no one else is saying anything, but if someone else takes the lead and talks a lot, I have no interest in competing. I hate competing to talk. I was once working in a large group in college and, even though I prepared ahead of time, said nothing at the group meeting because it was just too many people talking at once for me.
4. She may not have had internet access at home, which would have made it hard to contribute since we exchanged everything via email. We could have accommodated, but it can be very hard to say that you don't have something when everyone assumes that you do.

Perhaps some of my own group-work experiences in undergrad college - being the least interested, not understanding what to do, being afraid to say the wrong thing, not checking email 24/7, and just having a hard time keeping up - made me more empathetic towards people who appear to be free-riding.  This was a temporary project, but if I ever have to work with someone like this long-term, I'm going to ask them if they need help.

Invalidation: Telling People What They Should Want

One common invalidation I have experienced is when you say that something is a problem for you, and someone tells you that your problem is actually a good thing, like this:

Person A: "I'm really annoyed that the bakery across the street is closing. Now I can't get my strawberry cupcakes!"
Person B: "Maybe that's a good thing because you won't eat as many cupcakes."

While people sometimes try to make their friend feel better by saying something positive, these are better examples of being positive:
"I know another bakery that makes pretty good cupcakes."
"They're putting in a bowling alley where the bakery used to be, so that could be fun too." (if your friend likes bowling).
The comment about eating fewer cupcakes is not a positive statement because if the person wanted to eat fewer cupcakes, they would probably not be sad about the bakery closing in the first place. To further emphasize this point, what if Person A said:
"I'm really upset that the gym across the street is closing. Now I won't get to work out anymore."
Now, would anyone say, "That's great that you don't have to exercise anymore," or would everyone suggest other ways that the person could exercise besides going to that gym?

The bakery may be a minor example, but I have gotten similar responses to more serious problems.  If you respond differently to the gym and the bakery scenarios, you are using your own (or society's) opinion of what is good and bad and invalidating your friend's feelings. If you respond the same way to the gym and the bakery scenarios, you are respectful of what matters to your friends.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I Care about Now

If studies showed that people who wear a lot of green do better in school, get better jobs, and are more well-adjusted, I would not wear more green because green is not one of my favorite colors. If studies showed that people who wear a lot of pink are more likely to have health problems, drop out of school, or be unemployed, I would wear just as much pink as I always have because it is my favorite color.

I always find it strange when people talk about the long-term benefits of things like joining a sports team or playing an instrument. It's nice information, but these are things that I would do because I want to do them now, not because of a long-term benefit. I don't care about long-term statistics; I care about what I like to do right now.

A Survey Question

 Imagine that you're artist and you love to draw pictures of cities and people.  One day, someone offers you an art kit with some great tools and supplies, but if you accept it, you have to draw nature scenes. You can still draw what you like best, but nature has to be your primary focus, and everything else secondary.  You have no desire to draw nature scenes, but that art kit would be really helpful. Do you accept the offer?

How many of you said yes? How many said no? What is this offer, really? Why, the mandatory education system to which we have been instructed to apply our talents.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Writing about the Past

Image that you're trying to write a 100-page book.  Once you've reached 25 pages, people start to criticize you for spending so much time on one thing. When you reach 50 pages, no one can understand why you're still working on it. You plan to finish the book, but everyone keep saying that you should drop it and write something else. How would that make you feel?

I often get criticized for writing so much about college when I graduated two and a half years ago.  What you don't understand is that I have a lot to say, but for those four years, I didn't say it. I expressed a lot of emotions, but I didn't write very much about what was actually going on. You may think I did, but you don't know all the things I didn't say. This blog explains more than I ever said at the time.

That's why I started this blog in the first place - to spill my guts about everything I held inside for four years. I'm sure that someday, college will no longer be the main inspiration behind this blog, but I don't know when that will be. All I know is that I have 4 years worth of stuff to say, and it has only been 2 years. Telling me that my writing shouldn't be so focused on college issues anymore is like telling me I should stop writing my book after 50 pages because that's enough time spent on one thing. If I had listened to that kind of "advice," I never would have completed my first novel.

I'm not done.

How Long It Takes

Imagine that a particular city is an hour from where you live. It's not because you drive really slowly or always go at rush hour - it just takes you an hour to get there. Now let's say your friend lives in this city and asks you to meet them there in 20 minutes. When you explain that it will take you an hour, they say, "No it doesn't. You can get here in 20 minutes." They don't live where you live, they don't know any shortcuts, yet they keep insisting that it should only take you 20 minutes, and that you must be doing something wrong if it takes you an hour. Before you had this conversation, you never thought twice about how long it took, but now you start to wonder what's wrong with you that your drive takes so long.

That's what it's like when I say that I have so much homework and it's going to take me all night or all weekend, you ask me what I specifically have to do, and then you tell me that it won't actually take that long, when I just told you exactly how long it will take.  You keep insisting on it, and then ask me why it takes me that long, like I should have some kind of reason. Why does it take you however long it takes you to do anything?

I've got a great idea: No matter where you are in the world - meet me here right now, in 5 minutes! And if you can't do that, I'll assume something is wrong with you.

Community and Personal Issues

I read an article about an event at my former college, which ended with a statement like, "See, students here do care about issues outside of the college bubble."  There are statements like this in lots of articles that I've read about activism and community involvement at my school. This is wrong for several reasons:
1. The focus should be on the issue itself, not how awesome we are for caring about it.
2. Articles that focus on the fact that we are doing something, instead of on what we're doing, sometimes have the tone of, "If you weren't there, shame on you!" which promotes pressuring people to do things they may not want to do.
3. Articles that focus on students caring about something instead of on what they care about are sometimes used to invalidate other issues. I once read an article about how students at our college complain a lot, noting that we aren't really that petty or self-centered because lots of us do volunteer work and get involved in causes. This article was extremely invalidating because it basically said, "You only have the right to complain about personal problems because you've shown that you care about other issues." No, that's not true. Your feelings are valid no matter what, and you can express them no matter what. Don't let anyone tell you that you have to do anything to earn that right.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Getting Used to Something Does Not Make It Okay

Getting used to something does not make it okay. There is a huge difference between something being a problem only until you get used to it, and something being a problem period. For example: If the drive to your new job is confusing, getting used to the drive will make it not confusing anymore. But if the drive to your new job is too long, getting used to the drive won't make it shorter.The more long drives I have, the less tolerant I am of long car rides. Many people I know feel the same way.

When my friend moved into her new apartment, the landlord told her that it could get loud on the weekends. My friend replied, "I've lived in a dorm." But what she really meant was, "I've lived in a dorm, and I know from that experience that I'll be okay with the noise." Just having lived in a noisy environment before doesn't mean that it's okay, because I also lived in a dorm and I know from that experience that I would not be okay with the noise. I'm much more sensitive to subtle signs of problems that I have already experienced. All the unacceptable things that I "stuck out" in college are much bigger problems for me now than they were before. Certain kinds of problems can be resolved by getting accustomed to an activity, but other problems can't.  And having a longer unacceptable experience can put a person more on guard for smaller instances of the same thing.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Time Is Not a Doctor

It's very condescending to tell someone that they'll forget everything later on and it won't matter. Here's what I have to say to everyone who has used the passage of time to invalidate how I felt in a given moment:

This won't matter 10 years from now.
Whether or not I'll care about something in 10 years has absolutely nothing to do with how important it is to me now. Even when something no longer elicits an emotional reaction in me, I still care about what happened at the time. I NEVER look back and invalidate my own feelings of the time, no matter how young I was.

You won't remember any of this 10 years from now.
I remember perfectly well what went on 10 years ago and how I felt about it.  See previous answer.

You'll look back at this and laugh. 
I may laugh about a situation that was embarrassing or just ridiculous, but I'm laughing at the situation itself, not how I felt about it or reacted to it at the time. Usually I can tell in the moment whether or not I'll look back on something and laugh later on.

You'll look back and realize that there was nothing to worry about.
Say I was afraid to enter a person's yard because they have a mean dog that might chase me, but then I enter the yard and the dog isn't there. Yes, I know now that there was no real danger, but that does not mean that I had nothing to worry about back when I didn't know whether the dog was in the yard or not.

You'll understand why [authority figure] did what they did when you're older.
If someone pushed me into the pool when I didn't know how to swim because they knew that it would teach me how to swim, that would not be okay. Even if there was a lifeguard standing in the pool so it wasn't dangerous, just the fact that the person caused a really miserable experience for me makes it not okay. The fact that something "worked" on me will never make it acceptable to me.
If something sucked for me when I was younger, I'm happy if kids don't have to go through the same thing anymore. I never think that someone should have to go through something just because I did when I was their age, especially if that something was not okay with me at the time.

If you run into your former classmates when you're grown up, you'll just bond over the fact that you went to school together and all the negative stuff won't matter anymore. 
This one is possible, but for a different reason. When I fought with other kids when I was younger, I did a lot of hurtful things that I wouldn't do now.  So if a classmate hurt me when we were younger (nothing severe or traumatic), I assume that they might not do the same thing now that we're older. I am more likely to give my peers a second chance than adults. Also, sometimes you don't get along with someone because of the situation you're in. At my middle school, we had a dividing line between popular and unpopular kids. I knew that some of the popular kids were nice, but because our cliques weren't nice to each other as a whole, we never really talked to each other. When I met up with one of my popular classmates outside of middle school, we got along really well. The passage of time doesn't mean that everything is okay in spite of what happened - it means that things might be okay now because they might have changed.

Don't you ever read something you wrote in your journals years ago and feel like you've moved on? Like it doesn't elicit the emotional reaction in you that it once did?
If I read in my younger journal:  "I can't wait for my friend to come over tomorrow! We're gonna play hide and seek and make pillow forts and have so much fun!" I would not feel as excited about it right now because, well, my friend isn't coming over tomorrow to play hide and seek and make pillow forts.  But I would feel happy remembering how much fun we had at the time of the journal entry. I would not look back and think it was silly that I felt excited just because the same thing doesn't excite me now. The same is true if I were upset about something; I may not feel upset reading about it now, but I would never think it was silly that I was upset at the time.

Don't you ever look back and think you wouldn't feel as bad now about things that once upset you? 
If someone were pressuring me to cut my hair every time I saw them, it would bother me less now than it did in middle school. But that's because we're not in middle school. Now, I would have much more control over how often I interact with this person, even if we were working together. As we get older, our situations change. It's like moving a plant from a dimly lit room to a sunny room, watching it grow and blossom, then deciding that because it's strong and healthy now, it will be fine going back into the darker room.  That might be true, but it may just be blossoming because now it's in the sunlight.

If you could go back, don't you think you would react differently?
When I look back and wish that I had done things differently, it usually involves standing up more for myself and my friends, and taking more drastic measures to solve problems and get out of bad situations. So yes, I would react differently to the same problems, but I would do more about them, not less.

You can't write well about things you're too close to. You need to wait a few years.
This is somewhat true, but when I read things I wrote a long time ago and say, "What was I thinking?" it's in response to how I said something, not what I was trying to say. I don't ever think, "This conflict is really exaggerated and the main character gets upset over nothing." I think, "I didn't describe the conflict and the characters' motivations well enough for an outsider to understand, possibly because I didn't fully understand them at the time. Now that I've been away from the situation, I'm closer to being an outsider myself and know how to communicate the same idea more clearly to outside readers."

In any case, what matters is how a person feels right now. It's both condescending and invalidating to tell them that something is a non-issue because it won't matter as much later on. Time may be your doctor, but it's not everyone's, and it's certainly not mine.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

If I Wanted to, I Would

If I wanted to change my eating habits, I would.
If I wanted to get more exercise, I would.
If I wanted to be more social, I would.
If I wanted to wake up earlier, I would.
If I wanted to spend more time outdoors, I would.
If I wanted to watch less TV, I would.
If I wanted to get a haircut, I would.
If I wanted to join a website, I would.
If I wanted to try to lose weight, I would.
If I wanted to try to stop biting my nails, I would.
If I wanted to get drunk, I would.
If I wanted to hook up with someone I don't have a relationship with, I would.
If I wanted to participate in class, I would.
If I wanted to spend time learning about something I'm not interested in, I would.
If I wanted to join a club or activity, I would.
If I wanted to attend a school event, I would.
If I wanted to get away from my hometown, I would.
If I wanted to pay more attention in school, I would.
If I wanted to spend less time in my own world, I would.
If I wanted to try to live a more balanced life, I would.
If I wanted to share less information about myself, I would.
If I wanted to stop talking about something that matters to me, I would.
If I wanted to present myself in a way that does not reflect how I feel at a given moment, I would.
If I wanted to try to learn to like something that I don’t, I would.
If I wanted to work on something that I don't care about being good at, I would.
If I wanted to endure a miserable experience for an end result, I would.
If I wanted to do something that I don’t like because it might be good for me, I would.
If I wanted to put my priorities in a different order, I would.

And unless someone tells me, "I want to do x, but I haven't because of y," I assume the same is true for them.