Write+Read

HOW TO BE A WOMAN!

Hey, so, I’m not one to berate other women, but when you’re putting the feminist cause back, like, 50 years, I’m gonna need ya to pipe down.

So when I found this intensely infuriating Thought Catalog entry titled “50 Ways to Be a Woman,” I wanted to scream “HAVE A VAGINA?!?! OR NOT?! IT DOESN’T REALLY MATTER BECAUSE IF YOU IDENTIFY AS A WOMAN, YOU ARE ONE!!!!!!!!!”

But instead, I thought I should give public, livid, and perhaps humorous retaliations to all 50 pieces of advice on how to be a rEAl WomAn!*~ You will actually have to read the prior-mentioned demeaning piece of journalism to understand my responses, but if you don’t have the time, that’s cool.

1. Practice good personal grooming habits because we are all humans with noses, and it’s kinda nice to not make other humans vomit because you smell like toe cheese. Also, “take care of your body ’cause you only get one” is probably the best reason to wear sunscreen and bathe.

2. Dress however the shit you want.

3. Fashion staples are a basic thing in life if you care about style… but not having them doesn’t make you less of a woman or a man or an alien with 25 purple heads.

4. Say thank you all the time because that’s how the world works. You don’t have to go through some elaborate song-and-dance to do so. Do whatever shows appreciation for the person at hand.

5. Don’t sit on your ass and let shit happen that sucks.

6. Don’t spend your money like a child whose just won the lottery would.

7. Don’t talk about things you don’t know about aka get an education, and don’t let anyone tell you one type of education is less than another.

8. Hold your ground when assfaces try to sway you from yourself.

9. For some reason, there’s more about education here. I think the best way to be educated is to be in-the-know about what’s offensive as fuck to women of all types if you’re going to write an article about them.

10. Apparently women can’t handle their liquor so they should either be cool drinkers or non-drinkers. NO MIDDLE-GROUND HERE, LADIES. WE’RE EITHER LUSHES OR WE’RE SAINTS!!!! Jk, drink what you want, how you want as long as you’re being healthy and if you need help, ask for it.

11. High heels make you sexy so walk in them or something. Or don’t or something. How about you wear whatever you want to wear, okay girl? I don’t care if you can’t walk in them. Whoever does is a dick.

12. ALERT, ALERT: THE ONLY WAY FOR A MAN TO TREAT YOU LIKE A HUMAN SHOULD TREAT A HUMAN IS TO ACT LADYLIKE! …… except that if a human doesn’t treat you like a human, that’s on them, not you. And even though I am far from always being on my June Cleaver, my boyfriend is still doing things like opening the doors for me and respecting me and treating me to dinner, soooo… theory of gentleman-hood disproven, Catilin?

13. Yeah, you should keep your business to yourself, especially if you have weird opinions about what “being a woman” is. You’ll have a happier life that way. But what does that have to do with being a “real” woman? NOTHING, BABY; NOTHING.

14. No, you won’t agree with everyone. Yes, you should avoid conflict. But when someone is an asshole, spreading their gospel like it’s fact, you should definitely say something to them. Or, if you don’t know them, you should write a blog to say “HEY CAITLIN, I HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR PATRIARCHAL-INDOCTRINATED VIEW OF WHAT WOMANHOOD IS!” Don’t be a doormat just to look “lady-like.”

15. Share whatever the hell you want on social media. You’re smart enough to figure out what will fly and what won’t with the people in your circle. Some of us don’t really care if it flies or not; that’s no mark of femininity.

16. Yeah, ask for help…. from anyone, of any sex, gender, non-gender, race, orientation, religion, etc. That’s, uh, how humans survive?

17. Answer your phone how you want. Answer your phone at work differently. If you hate the phone, don’t answer it. Glad we got that one handled.

18. Be kind to humans because the struggle is real. All humans. Of all creeds. Not just women.

19. Find faith or don’t, brah, just don’t push it in anyone’s face.

20. HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHA. Ah, sorry. This is the one I found funniest. It was about not confining yourself to gender stereotypes but not “defying them for sport.” I dunno about you, but this is extremely offensive, and I refuse to acknowledge it as a thing that a human would actually say.

21. Don’t be a sore loser, like when you write an article that is an epic fail.

22. Be who you want to be so you find yourself fun. Fuck anyone who thinks you’re uninteresting; your life is about YOU.

23. BE THE HERO THAT GOTHAM DESERVES! Wait, what? I got confused.

24. This is another thing about not being a doormat. I’m reiterating it because it’s good to not be a doormat, especially if you’re being told you’re not a “real woman” because you don’t fit some arbitrary, bullshit list of criteria.

25. Leave your legs wide open. Cross them so tight you can’t uncross them. Shape them into a pretzel. Lift them above your head. Do whatever you want with your own god damn legs.

26. Another repeat–this is the third pair–about not lowering your standards. You shouldn’t, but remember: to be a woman, there are no standards!

27. Do what you love. Don’t waste your life doing stuff you hate.

28. Follow the rules or don’t, just don’t hurt other people.

29. Oh. My. God. DON’T talk about Becky’s butt. That’s mean body-shaming and no one likes you. But if you do, that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly a bearded dragon instead of a female.

30. Don’t let your sig other define you, but also don’t assume that everyone is straight and has a “boyfriend” or “husband.” Open your eyes to the beautiful spectrum of people in this world who love each other.

31. I don’t think a woman has gone to college actively seeking a mate and a mate only in a solid number of decades, so for this one I will say: don’t repeat old adages (that aren’t technically adages anymore) as fact.

32. *See #20 for my reaction to basically the same offensive statement.

33. There IS a time and place for everything… like not EVER telling the whole Internet that you only view women who do {insert weird, outdated list here} as women

34. Laugh. Most importantly at this woman’s awful advice.

35. Find beauty in every day by finding the beauty in all types of women, not just women who wear pearls and cross their legs.

36. Be happy if you can. If you’re not, that’s okay, too. Some of us are depressed and need drugs to help us feel happy which is apparently “unattractive,” but it’s okay. We all know by now that this list is the biggest pile of malarky since Joe Biden called Paul Ryan on all of his in 2012.

37. Yes, please do put yourself (and whatever version of a woman you are) first.

38. Ah, the old stay-at-home versus career-woman debate. I knew it was coming. Either one is fine. In-betweens are fine. Completely different things are fine. What you do does not a woman make.

39. She actually caught herself on #38 and tried to remedy it on #39. Yay?

40. YES, RESPECT YOUR FELLOW WOMEN, EVEN IF THEY DO NOT FIT YOUR PICTURE-PERFECT DEFINITION OF WOMANHOOD. RESPECT WOMEN OF ALL RACES, ORIENTATIONS, RELIGIONS, CREEDS, ETC. RESPECT WOMEN ENOUGH TO NOT PUT THEM IN BOXES (or binders, as Romney would say). RESPECT YOUR FELLOW WOMEN ENOUGH TO CALL THEM ON THEIR SEXIST BULLSHIT SO THEY CAN BECOME MORE ENLIGHTENED HUMANS.

41. No, you shouldn’t be afraid of being a woman or wearing pink, but I fucking hate pink. So I will still embrace my femininity by wearing whatever I want. I will also embrace the chosen level of femininity my fellow women do or do not feel comfortable with, whether that has jackshit to do with the color PINK.

42. Uh, yeah, I think we all know by now all the women who independent throw your hands up at ‘Yonce. But there’s not a specific thing that makes someone more independent, really. For some, independence is just being able to walk on their own, so check yo’ privilege. (Also, WHO ARE YOU THAT SOMEONE IS TRYING TO PUMP GAS FOR YOU SO LATE IN YOUR LIFE? WHERE IS THIS PLACE? PLEASANTVILLE? WHERE ARE YOU? DO YOU NEED HELP?!?!)

43. This is a reminder (uh-hum… repetition) that you shouldn’t spend your money like a dickweed.

44. HELL YEAH, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SAY NO! There you go, gal. Now you’re getting somewhere. Say no to things you don’t want to do as furiously as you would say no to unwanted sexual advances from another human. You have every right as a woman to say no to AN. Y. THING.

45. I think #44 is where this girl starts realizing the entirety of what she just wrote was incredibly horrible, because this is about being a fortress against manipulation. Then again, this implies that we are easily manipulated, sooooo…..

46. “BE AN ADVOCATE FOR OTHER WOMEN. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.” Now Caitlin’s talking. We are in this together, which is why I felt so incredibly cut by this article. I thought of my friends who had never felt good enough before thanks to men or other women or non-gendered folks, and it made me furious that a woman would… AGAIN… be shooting other women down with her impossible (and not truly applicable) standards. So Caitlin, I’m sorry if this bites and stings, but you have to know that what you wrote is the OPPOSITE of this, THE most important number on your “real woman” list.

47. I think the best thing to say here is never let a human make you feel inferior, and never let other humans make others feel inferior as well.

48. YAS, BITCH, YAS! Be a role model for other women. Be a role model for men. Be a role model for every different kind of gender and sex and all the in-betweens we have. Start by not being a douche, then take it from there.

49. Ugh, Caitlin, NO! You had made so much progress. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to be a mom or a Sunday school teacher or the first female pope or a dinosaur on Mars, you have no one to answer to but yourself about how you live. Yes, care about what your choices will do to you and the people around you you give two shits about, but other than that, if you look too far down the road, what stories will you have to tell your kids or students or the Martians when you’re old? Be you, and don’t worry about your mistakes. Everyone, even women, makes mistakes. Don’t let them rule you or your decisions.

50. RESPECT YOURSELF……. but also respect others and the way they live their life. Respect the life they were born into and the lives they have created. Respect women from all walks of life. Respect women who are transitioning. Respect women who are struggling. Respect women with vaginas. Respect women without vaginas. Respect women enough to never, ever, ever tell them they are not good enough.

You’re welcome for my sage advice. Also, you’re a woman if you feel you are, end of story! You don’t need 50 rules from me or anyone else. Now go on girl. Do yo’ thang. xo, Reyonce

Williams Wednesday

This www. Wednesday is a special tribute to the warm man we all loved who finally escaped a pained life. I’m glad he’s found peace, and truly hope this changes the stigma against suicide, depression, and mental health in general. However, I wish this tragedy isn’t what it took for this country to do so…

What Robin Taught Us All:

1. Live life to the fullest, no matter how short.

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Jack

2. Fulfill your dreams, but don’t forget your heart.

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Good Will Hunting

3. Stay close to your family, no matter what it takes.

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Mrs. Doubtfire

4. Fight for true love; it’s worth it.

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What Dreams May Come

5. Laugh, even when it hurts, because it’ll always make life a little better.

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Patch Adams

6. Put your friends’ needs before you when you know they need what you have.

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Aladdin

7. Be environmentally conscious.

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Ferngully

8. Always feed your inner child… aka grow older, but never grow up.

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Hook

9. Keep learning forever, not just about sciences, but about the arts and the written word.

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10. Life will go on, even with horrendous curveballs like losing our beloved Robin.

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Life According to Garp

…And so much more. We’ll never forget you, Robin!

Bad Romance

One of the things I will whole-heartedly admit Gen Y has radically fucked up is romance. We all want love, but somewhere along the way marketing fed us the idea that it “wasn’t cool” to settle down. Be a rebel, ride the breeze, run away from everything!

Don’t get me wrong: it’s pretty awesome that we actually have the opportunities we do. If we DO want to live a life of random hookups, open relationships, no relationships, or polyamorous relationships, we have the choice in a way not many generations did before us. Sure, there were summers of free love and sexual revolutions past, but the stigma of non-tradition in romance is starting to fade.

That being said, for those of us who do still decide to search for love, who do want to settle down against our animal nature, who maybe still naively believe in some kind of soulmate or fate or destiny, we are doing it all wrong.

We are having these weird relationships that aren’t relationships: “Oh, her? She’s not my girlfriend. Yes, I took her to meet my parents, and we only sleep with each other, but we are NOT. DATING.”

We are all about some friends-with-benefits: “He’s nice to me, we have everything in common, and we have great sex, but I could NEVER date him!”

We have no qualms with the on-again, off-again idea. We run when we’re scared instead of sticking around. We play strange games with each other, but last time I checked, this was a planet and not a massive chess board.

We truly make everything more complicated than it should be. If you’re one of the Gen Y’ers who wants to engage in monogamous romance, stop what you’re doing and listen to me: Just. Be. Happy.

It’s really that simple. Stop letting the hangups in an age of worry keep you from something good, something real, something that might be… dare I say it? TRUE LOVE!

Oh, and because I know I myself have the attention span of a fruit fly thanks to years of information overload, here’s a handy list for navigating the murky romance waters:

How to Know You’re In Love, or “Quit Bullshitting Around & Just Be Happy, Moron”

  1. If you were on a crashing plane and had time for one phone call, and your significant other/ex/f-w-b/on&off again/etc. is the last person you’d want to speak to, YOU ARE IN LOVE.
  2. If you have had a shitty day and your person does special things to make it better, like buys you a DVD of “The Avengers” or yells at someone for you, and that action makes you feel all tingly inside, YOU ARE IN LOVE. (You are also lucky.)
  3. If you look like you just stepped out of a jungle or a Quentin Tarantino film, but your person still thinks you’re smokin’ hot, YOU ARE IN LOVE.
  4. If you can survive a road trip of 5+ hours alone together and still like each other, YOU ARE IN LOVE.
  5. If you can genuinely enjoy watching the same TV shows together, YOU ARE MOST DEFINITELY IN LOVE.

I’m sure there are some more romantic, less neurotic ways of knowing you’re in love, but take that plane crash scenario for example. If you give it the thought it deserves, it has some serious weight to it. I can tell you who my person would be right now without reservation. (I’m lucky he has the bravery to put up with my “if I were dying in a plane” anecdotes without jumping out of the nearest exit.)

If you can tell me your person, too, go Lloyd Dobler them while you still can. It’s never to late to be crazy in love, Gen Y. (And not in a Christian Grey/Anastasia Steele kinda way.)

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Dirge for The Dreamcast

Oh, ye gracious game system, how I will miss you so.

It wasn’t an easy decision to let you go. In fact, I had to ask my sister all the way across the Pacific if she was ready to sell you, our second childhood system. I was reluctant and needed her blessing to go through with the disposal. She, too, found it hard to come to terms with the fact that we have, well… outgrown you.

Nay, this simple fact doesn’t discredit your meaning to us. In fact, it just means we’re ready to pass along the joy you brought us to others because we survived the struggles of life between acquiring you and letting you go.

I remember first playing you. We got you fairly soon after we moved into a new home. I suppose it was supposed to be a cleanse-like purchase, perhaps a consolation for uprooting us from our childhood home. We both sat in C’s bedroom, she on the bed, I on the floor. We played Sonic for hours, never getting past the first level and never caring all the same.

I’m sure we squabbled as young sisters do, debating our hearts out about whose turn it was and why. However, I just remember the sunny days spent playing a game about a blue hedgehog with my baby sibling.

Perhaps you weren’t as great as I remember you being, a fact I quickly noticed when I rescued you from under C’s bed and plugged you up to my first generation plasma TV. Sonic was buggy and only the first two levels were fun. After that, everything was glitchy and weird. Maybe we were never meant to get past those first few levels back then. We weren’t ready for them, just like we weren’t ready for teenagedom.

But now we are. Hell, we WERE; we’ve already made it through the rough sea of teen life and segued into some semblance of early adulthood. Sonic just isn’t fun anymore. Keeping you around is only a reminder of simpler days, but with or without you, those simpler days would still exist.

The memories are with each other, not with you, Dreamcast of yesteryear. And so it is with bittersweet confidence and simultaneous nostalgia that I will be taking bids for you from all around until I find someone who appreciates your worth.

Someone who isn’t yet ready. Someone who needs you.

{Check out my sister’s coinciding post written to our Dreamcast. We wrote them without seeing each other’s first; the sisterly similarities are CREEPY!}

Champagne Talk

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by things I can’t even really identify. I had an amazing day at work, and then the further I got away from the parking lot, the more lonely I felt.

I thought maybe it was the idea of coming back to an empty home, but I got here and I was comforted to see my digs and hear my dog whining for me.

I thought then that maybe it was because I’d missed them–my home and my pup, so I spent some time wandering the grounds with him and felt at ease, but still found no relief.

I thought perhaps it was that I missed my other half, but then I talked to him and though my loneliness was alleviated, the emptiness remained.

I thought maybe it could be that I haven’t seen too much of anyone in a while because we’re all growing up, moving out, living life… but then I realized that I don’t want to see some of those people, and those I do, well, I’m happy we’re all making and thriving in our own spots in the world.

I thought it was that my students, who have become family, are graduating in less than a month, leaving me with this vastly empty nest. And while I think that’s most of where this feeling of being a lone island stems from, there’s still this lingering sense of longing I can’t brush away.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m not living my dream, not reaching my full potential. Maybe I’ll never know.

Whatever it is, even the champagne can’t quench the loneliness it brings.

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My Night with George and Neil

via The Unchained Tour (Seester is in this pic!)

Last year, I quit my job. I had been changing for months, as had the company. Those shifts made me unable to give what I should to a job that was no longer mine, nor to a great group of people who cared for me. Early in the morning of September 19, I gave my notice of resignation. It was scary, but necessary. It was freeing in the most exhilarating way, but also incredibly terrifying. What would I do? Where would I go? What did I want to be when I grew up?

I showered and tidied the house, trying to clean slate the whole of everything; of me and of my surroundings. I wanted to clear my head of the rough month I had just barely dragged myself through and the many months of political job shift. My brain felt defogged for the first time in months, and in that moment of clarity, my brain went straight to…. my sister?

My sister? Why was I thinking about my sister? There was static in my brain for a moment as it remembered how to think at all about something other than work and heartbreak warfare. And then, like a lightening bolt, it struck me: my sister was down off the mountain and in my town. I called her immediately.

“ARE YOU IN WINSTON?!”

She laughed and told me she was, that she was about to call me. She had been willingly taken by a traveling hoard of raconteurs on something called The Unchained Tour.

“Want to come? I can put you ON THE LIST!”

Not a girl to turn down a visit with her sister (or a VIP experience), I took up her offer. And not a girl to go anywhere uninformed, I looked up the tour.

It took me about 10 seconds to start squealing like a 14-year-old fangirl when I saw George Dawes Green’s name on the roster. THE CAVEMAN’S VALENTINE, IS LIKE, MY JAAAAAM!, I imagined myself saying to him. Nice. Poised. Eloquent. Rachel.

I didn’t know any of the other names until I got to Neil Gaiman, someone I admired for his stories adapted to screen, but also someone whose work I had never had the chance to read. I figured it wouldn’t matter, as the tour was a not-so-rag-tag rag tag group of storytellers, orally giving the audience a snippet of their lives and pieces of themselves along the way. My body started revving up in the anxious-excited way it does before something new and unexpected, so I decided to head over to the venue and bide my jitters and time ’til the performance.

Showing up to a full parking lot only aided to the anxcitement in my bones, but seeing my baby sis quelled the nerves. She was hard at work, but looked like she had been having the time of her life doing it. I left her to do her cd burning as I went to the auditorium to find an end seat. I always pick the end seats.

What ensued deserves pages and pages of descriptions, but I almost can’t bring myself to write it. The storytellers opened a vein and bled on the stage. They gave us the dark and the light, the heartwarming and the heartbreaking. They made us laugh ’til we cried or just cried. There were stories of love, sexuality, writing, fighting, life in general, and storytelling itself. The whole audience was just as engaged as I was. You could almost feel the room move together like a giant organism. I could have sworn I felt a calm heartbeat all around me. Trying to write about it is like trying to take a photo of a Pacific sunset: it will be beautiful, but no one will understand how it felt. You weren’t there, man! 

When I was done, I hung around and watched the people clamor to meet the storytellers, Neil in particular. It was moving in a way, how much they admired Neil, though I couldn’t help but wonder if if ever got daunting for him to deal with. I hung out at a table alone as my sister ran back and forth from the merch table. The documentary crew came over to film me, but my answer seemed lackluster for the director who soon moved on. Her assistant looked like a kid, then made a release form from a napkin and a marker, perfectly appropriate for the age I imagined him to be. I signed the hell out of it. That kid had moxie.

The room started to buzz less, and I barely had time to relish in it before I realized my sister bringing George around a group of people to meet me. I immediately broke into a sweat and threatened myself silently: DON’T YOU DARE TELL HIM THE CAVEMAN’S VALENTINE IS YOUR JAM, RACHEL! DON’T YOU DO IT!

I took the man in I had earlier seen on stage. He was lithe and handsome, dressed in a green velvet suit. I reached out my hand to shake his as I heard my sister introduce us, though she sounded trapped in a bubble.

“It’s nice to meet, you,” I said. Yes! I CAN DO THIS! “I’m just trying not to throw up on your shoes.” Oh, god dammit.

I thought he would laugh, but instead he asked me to repeat what I’d said. Ever the honest one, I did as he asked. His face was one I will never forget, somewhere between disgust and laughter. I think I awkwardly sat back down and tried to make some kind of intelligible conversation, but it wasn’t long before he slunk away from me. Strike one, Rachel. Strike one.

Sis eventually saved me from myself by introducing me to Neil. At that point, I was dripping in shame, so I had no more pride left. It worked to my advantage, as I managed to get out a couple of meaningful sentences that didn’t involve the words “vomit” or “jam.” He introduced me to his daughter before the two of them went off to gather their things.

That was about as far as I thought the night would go. I would say hello, shake some hands, have some family time, and go home. But then the crew started asking me where they should eat when they couldn’t quite remember the name of the place they had initially intended to go. I managed to sputter out a couple of suggestions before they started to leave. It was that awkward quick exit some people make out of a conversation that leaves you not exactly knowing what you’re supposed to do. I finally just turned around, and George was standing right behind me with my sister.

“You’re coming with us, right?!” he asked, smiling all the while.

“YES! Y…es.”

“Good! Let’s go!”

He cut right, and I just stared at my sister in awe. She did the signature giggle-shrug both her and my dad possess. We geared up – for some reason there was a lot of gear that night – and started walking around downtown with the crew. It was magical, not because some of them were renowned authors, but because the night was cool and the lighting was perfect. This group of amazingly talented people had first taken in my sister and now me with open arms, and they were wandering in my pretty little Southern city beside us. The crew and cast of the tour were seamlessly moving around one another, joking and laughing in the way a family would. It was clear the strangers and friends and strangers who had become friends had all become a fucked up little family, too… in the best way possible.

We wandered around in a noisy, rambunctious pack until we picked a table at the local microbrewery. It was mostly abandoned by that hour on a weeknight, so our party of 15+ was easily accommodated. My sister and I headed straight for the middle of the table so we could sit side by side, and George headed straight to the seat beside me. What ensued was an unbelievable late dinner full of Double IPAs and conversation with some of the coolest people I’ve ever met whose names I can’t remember.

I got to know the people who made up the team of storytellers, even those behind the scenes. They were all so high off the energy of one another, and relished bringing new people into the fold; a rare quality to find in one person, yet alone a group of them. I got to know Neil’s daughter, a fabulous young woman who just radiated happiness. I got to whisper with my sister about how surreal and stellar the night was. And to top it off, I got to share my own story, and the entire table listened. They all drank their libations and ate their pub food, but every one of them was staring at me and hearing every word I had to say. I hadn’t realized how much I needed someone to just pay attention.

After my story, George pulled my shoulder in a signal for me to turn around. He leaned on his elbow on the table, breathed out, and looked me square in the eye.

“Tell me about your writing,” he said.

I almost screamed in his face out of sheer disbelief. Luckily, the Double IPA packs a lot of alcohol, so I had enough liquid courage to play off the freak-out and come up with some sort of savvy reply about majoring in journalism and where I wanted to see this very blog end up. Even though I’m sure in the present that my savvy response of past was probably more bumbling than brilliant, he encouraged me with genuine kindness the entire time. He saved my life with that compassion; all of them did. I had been in a pit, and they had just thrown me my long-awaited rope.

The merrymaking was coming to a close as the bar was. As we signed off on our tabs, George jumped from table to table, telling everyone not to leave, for we had to race the buses! And oh, it would be no ordinary race: whoever’s bus reached the finish line last would win. That was the moment when I started to question whether or not I was living or dreaming, but the realization it was the former was almost overwhelming it was so exciting.

We practically ran back to the venue to prep the buses for race time. George was running like a sprite from each one, assigning roles and reinforcing rules. I watched as he got the two repurposed school buses in prime race position. Before I knew it, he had raised his arms and dropped them in a signal for the buses to start moving. Those of us watching started a chorus of laughter almost immediately; while required to actually move, the buses had no other speed requirements. George had already reached us across the parking lot at the finish line before they had barely moved four feet. I watched his face as he reveled in the idea he had thought of only minutes before come to life before his very eyes.

I turned to one of the storytellers. He, in fact, had been the MC of the show.

“I loved your stories the most, I think. I just quit my job, today, you know?”

He looked at me with kind eyes and smiled.

“Thank you! I heard. What are you going to do now?”

I thought I knew the answer, but I really didn’t. I had to steep in his question for a minute before I could respond.

“To do this. To focus on my writing, and really do something I love. I’m tired of doing things I hate just because I’m supposed to.”

He nodded.

“It’s just… crazy. Today I quit my job, and 12 hours later, here I am with all of you.”

“It’s so cool how that works. It’s definitely fate,” he said.

I nodded and smiled, but had to turn. My eyes were filled with grateful tears. I looked around: at the cast, the crew, my sister, the slow moving buses. All of it was moving beyond measure, and it really was fate. It was fate that I should meet such an inspiring group of strangers. It was fate that I should have people listen to, support, and believe in my dreams. It was fate that I met them that day at that time because it all led me to where I am now, which is on the path to making those dreams come true.

Those buses finally crossed the finish line to the cheers of many. I will cross my own finish line the same way, and I hope when I get there, George and Neil and my darling sister and every single one of those traveling artists know how much of my finish I owe to that night and to them.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Boston

As a blogger, I feel like I’m required to write about Boston. However, I didn’t want to write about it at all really, at least not until all the facts were fleshed out.

I was in class when one of my classmates announced the news. She said she wanted to prepare us and let us know in case anyone had family in Boston. It was scary to hear, but heartwarming that a classmate wanted to give us time to build a levy for the incoming onslaught of anxiety, fear, and media coverage.

As soon as I got home, I surfed the Internet in friendly places for answers. I didn’t go to CNN or Fox News; I went to Tumblr, a place I know is safe for people of all walks of life and an overall supportive community. I knew there I would only find helpful information and a distinct lack of racial profiling regarding who had actually done the bombings. It was sad to see such gruesome images on the site, but it was heartwarming to find messages of hope, links to help, and stories of heroic acts rather than finger pointing.

I stayed away from the media coverage after that. It didn’t matter to me the religion, or race, or whatever unimportant details people would focus on about the person or people who bombed those runners; what mattered was healing, lending a helping hand, leading a fair investigation, and recognition of those who were heroes in a true moment of horror.

Since then, all I know is the ethnicity of the suspects at hand has been discussed far too much than is appropriate. I have heard both that one and/or both of the suspects were killed during a city-wide shutdown and manhunt. I have heard there were robberies, more murders, more suspicious packages, more paranoia, more fear. I don’t know what to believe because everything is contradictory and fueled with emotion.

To be honest, that’s why I don’t care what the present facts are. That’s why I’m still not really talking about it. I’m more interested in waiting for information fueled solely on facts. Until everyone can take a step back and objectively look at what happened, the information we get will be tainted, biased. It will be injected with our hurt, our anger, our fear, our sadness, our political opinions. That’s not healthy or helpful for media messengers or receivers.

And even as a blogger, one I hope you all view as somewhat informed, I feel it’s my duty to remain quiet about the whole thing until some clarity can come. It won’t arrive for a while, and that’s okay. We need time to be angry and grieve. We need time to investigate. But first and foremost, we need to take this time to take care of each other instead of blaming one another.

My thoughts and heart have been with Boston since this happened, but my words? My words have been locked safely inside, waiting for the day when writing about the events of April 15, 2013 will be objective and fact-based. Until then, I hope everyone finds their peace and helps if they can.

Taylor Swift Syndrome

Taylor Swift is ruining our lives.

Aside from dominating the iTunes Top 100 and therefore ruining my browsing pleasure, she is seriously and negatively affecting society. How you say? I’M GLAD YOU ASKED!

This girl, for some reason, has a great deal of power. She’s like a baby Hitler for tween and teen girls, and no matter how much I protest, even some of my own gal pals. She pulls them in with her poppy (not country-y) songs and relatable lyrics, because let’s face it, who hasn’t been 15 and heartbroken? And if you grew up in the South, it’s unlikely you don’t have “Tim McGraw” in your music library, even if you’re a 20-something who wants to teach the world about the dangers of Miss. Swift and her teardrop-covered guitar.

But these tunes are all propaganda for this darker, deeper thing that scares the shit out of me. T. Swift has been dubbed this cute little girl next door, but if Janis Ian taught me anything, it’s that Taylor Swift is a mean girl. She is a mean girl in nice girls clothing, and she’s doing a really good job of tricking a lot of people into believing that clothing is the real deal. That trickery is dangerous. That trickery makes girls everywhere believe it’s okay to act the way Taylor acts. And the way Taylor acts is manipulative, disrespectful, and far from nice.

Of course I haven’t sat down and discussed philosophy and ASOS with the girl, but I don’t need to. I don’t need to because she airs her dirty laundry via song, even if that means airing other people’s dirty laundry, too. And trust me, you can tell a lot about a person by what they’re willing to discuss publicly.

Taylor is of this breed of person who doesn’t mind sharing her whole life with the world. That’s fine to an extent, because she can choose to share whatever she wants with whomever. But when other people come into play, when other people’s private lives get thrusted into the public eye just because they intersect with ol’ Swiftys, a line gets crossed. When Taylor does things like discuss another woman’s sexuality or directly name men in her songs, she is taking away the right of those people to choose what they want or don’t want to share with the public. And that’s bullying. That’s disrespectful. That’s mean.

That deeper, darker thing I mentioned earlier? The scary-as-hell thing that Taylor has done? She has created this environment where she is essentially giving the OK to put anyone who slights you on blast, simply for your own selfish wants, but turn around and say “Oh, but I’m hurt, I couldn’t possibly share any of the blame, and it’s totally fine because I’m the victim!”

Wrong. So wrong.

People are going to hurt you, my little ladies. You’re going to get shit upon and jerked around, and probably even worse. But unless there is a true evil to expose – a molester, a rapist, a beater – you’re not helping anyone, most of all yourself, by putting people on blast. You’re just prolonging your own torment, creating it for others, and disrespecting the boundaries of other human beings.

Your private life is an amazing, beautiful thing. It’s something you get to keep close to you and you alone. Once you give it to someone else, you taint it. You can choose to share things with the person you love or even thousands of people if that’s your bag, but the choice should always be yours, and you should never feel like someone has taken away your right to privacy. You should never, ever feel like you’re allowed to take it away from someone else. And you should never, ever, ever let Taylor Swift Syndrome let you think it’s okay to be an asshole just to make yourself feel better at the expense of one or ten or hundreds of other people.

There might be a fleeting sense of satisfaction Taylor’s way, but there is such a prolonged, beautiful, peaceful bliss in caring about other people’s feelings, letting things go, and keeping your dirty laundry in the nice, warm wicker basket in your bedroom at home.

Don’t let Little Miss. Swift pull that polka-dotted, J.Crew sweater over your eyes. Being a disrespectful dick isn’t cool, no matter how rockin’ your bangs are. In the words of some much better songwriters, let it be.

Loyalty

Loyalty is one of my top priorities in life. A lot of people don’t get it, especially since I was probably horrible at being loyal in high school (and most likely a touch after) because I was a teenager with a serious case of teenager brain. But loyalty is everything. Without it, you’re an island floating in the middle of the sea. And not some cute little island full of natives who live in beautiful harmony, but a no one can find you because you’re a magical, disappearing, time-traveling “Lost” island in the middle of fucking nowhere. Nobody wants to be the “Lost” island. Nobody. Except maybe Ben.

While my concept of loyalty is most likely the same as the world’s as a whole, my expectations of how others should show it is probably where any differences lie. Those expectations seem reasonable to me, but they often leave me disappointed. But hey, no one can know what I consider an unfathomable breach of loyalty if I don’t first define what I expect. Let’s fix that, shall we?

1. Have my back. You can still disagree with things I do and even tell me you think I’m wrong, but that doesn’t mean you have to rescind your support. Be on my side, even when I’m not there to remind you to do so.

2. Stand up for me. If you love me, like me, or even just respect me, say “Yo bro, back off” if someone is being an ass or saying ass-y things about me.

3. Be honest. I’d rather be mad at you for five minutes every time you tell me the truth than shocked and mad at you forever because you couldn’t speak some facts.

4. If we’re dating, don’t cheat on me. You can just break up with me first. It’ll suck, but it’ll suck a lot less.

5. If we’re friends, don’t try to bone the person I love, whether we’re together or apart. There’s a whole world of other people to date. You can even date anyone else I’ve ever dated. Just don’t make moves on the one I actually give a shit about.

6. Be my dog. Applicable only to members of the canine persuasion.

I’m most likely forgetting a great portion of my Loyalty List. I’ll probably still find myself saying “Man, loyalty these days!” to Cooper as we cuddle on the couch. But then I’ll think “Oh yeah, it’s right here in my arms………………………. god dammit, Coop, FLEAS?!?!”

Success

Thinking about success is what really sparred this entire project. While driving through our quaint little neighborhood, I pointed out my favorite house to my roommate. I talked about how though it wasn’t much, and though I’d prefer a huge plot of land around it, it was enough. It was perfect to me. It was all I needed.

In a culture where big houses often equal success, what am I to make of my dream of a modest, yet absolutely adorable home? I never really thought about the fact that there is a societal definition of success my definition absolutely doesn’t coincide with.
That’s because to America, success is money, work ’til you die, bigger-is-better for things, smaller-is-beautiful for bodies, and fame is the ultimate goal. Hey, I’ll stop being polite and start getting real: all of these things have appealed to me. I’m a human, and I live in the U.S. of A. But as I’ve grown and changed and become the person I’ve learned to find is myself, I have also discovered that American success ain’t really my bag.
Success to me is:
Being with the people I care about. I used to think there was something wrong with me because I chose real life over my career, and like WHO DOES THAT?!?! But a successful life in my book means building my home life first, career life second, and no amount of bullshit culture pressure can make me doubtful.
A modest home on a big plot of land with animals, gardens, and the person I love. Forget cars, mansions, yachts, and private jets.
Working a job I love. My ideal job means being able to write and use all my other passions in creativity, having independence, using my hands, being surrounded by compassion, and making a difference for someone else. That means salary is secondary, and I only need just enough.
Overcoming fears that block me from doing the billions of things I long to do.
+++++
Really, that’s all success is to me. Anything you could possibly ask me about success (“What about starting a family? Your TV pilot? SKYDIVING WITHOUT DYING?!”) will ultimately be covered in the four clauses above.
Success to me is… simple.