Friday, June 6, 2014

On The Importance Of Your Life

I just walked in the door from seeing the film, "The Fault in Our Stars." Like, literally just walked through the door. All I've done so far since being home has been to take off my signature shrug and black flats and sat down at the computer. Because I have some thoughts. Not on the quality of the movie, though I am extremely pleased that it was excellent. Instead, the film left me thinking of different things, which, frankly, I did not expect. It should surprise no one that The Fault in Our Stars is one of my favorite novels. I've written about it just on here numerous times. I've read the text and listened to the audiobook so often I've lost track. I thought I knew the story. I thought I'd gleaned everything from the narrative that I was ever going to. This, it turns out, was not actually the case.
The main message the film left me with was one of the necessity of acknowledging what is beautiful about your life. For a long time, I was not thankful for my life, I didn't value it or see its worth. But it has value. I have been so lucky. I have loved and been loved so deeply, by so many. At 23, I have seen beauty, felt loss, and experienced joy that I realize is incredibly hard to come by. If everything were to end tomorrow, I would be genuinely happy with what I have had.
That being said, there is still so much more I want. I want to grow roots. I want to teach, and I have the audacity to want to change lives. I want to fall in love, share a life, and build a family. I want what I have been privileged enough to have to be a foundation, not the whole structure.
This seems like a fitting enough final post to this blog-thing: I started this as a way to chronicle my life abroad, and it has been a repository of thoughts for me during the single biggest transition period and time of personal transformation so far.
And it has been, and continues to be, a good life.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Red Wheelbarrow


so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white
 -William Carlos Williams

So, this poem. I've known about it for a while, ever since it was used as first a flirtation device then as a way to heighten the tragedy in John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, a book I have to come to absolutely love. Now, I am not an English teacher by any stretch of the imagination. Ask me to analyze novels or poetry for symbolism or meaning and I'll distract you with a description of the work's historical context or just start running in the opposite direction. My relationship with poetry in particular throughout my life has been one marked by severe disdain and avoidance. In general, I despise pretension, and in my mind, poetry is the epitome of that phenomenon.  

(Let's all ignore the fact that I just contradicted myself when I said I hate pretension and  talked about enjoying TFIOS in the same paragraph.)

When I first read this poem in Green's novel, I didn't put much thought into it because 1) I was way too caught up in the plot of the book and 2) I straight up had no clue what it meant. I didn't get what it was about, why it was used in the book, or why the hell it was even a thing. 

I just came back across it in a book of poems intended to inspire teachers. Once again, I had no idea what it was about or why it was included, and just trying to think of explanations made my head hurt. But then I did a little research on it, because I don't like not understanding things. And I went from, "Oh man this is the worst poem ever all I want is for it to die in a fire," to "THIS IS THE BEST POEM EVER," in about the time it takes to skim a Wikipedia article. 
Basically, this poem celebrates the everyday objects that make your memories and your life yours, and promotes observing your world in greater detail. And I LOVE IT. Seriously, I am all about it. William Carlos Williams is the man, and not just because he has a boss double-name.

I then started thinking about what my version of this poem would be, what objects my life depends on so greatly. And I couldn't really come up with anything. I guess I need to pay better attention.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

There's a Face Behind Those Peek A Boo Hands

In the past few years, I've tried to learn more about the world, and consequently a lot of my opinions and thoughts on certain topics have changed dramatically. Regarding two topics in particular I hear the same argument being made over and over and over again and I just need to write about it because I have held in YEARS OF FRUSTRATION. Ok, so.

I keep hearing the argument of, "Well, it's not happening to me, so it's not happening at all" being made time and time again on the internet, on the news, and, worst of all, in conversations with people I love and respect. I think of it as kind of like how infants see the world before they develop object permanence. If something is not physically in front of them, it simply does not exist. So to these rational, intelligent adults, when the problems are shielded behind their mother's hands of distance, culture and inexperience, they are not hiding, but are instead absent.
 It comes up most often when talking about 1) women's rights and 2) global warming. And this is just a really problematic way to look at both of these issues because of REASONS.

Women's Rights
Really this shouldn't even be called "Women's Rights," it should be called "Equality" or "People are F@*#ing People Treat Them Like It DEAR GOD WHY DO I NEED TO TELL YOU THAT" but this is the world we live in so there it is.
Granted, we live in a blessed society, in a progressive time. Looking historically, signs of inequality are now far scarcer than they were even a few decades ago. Many people, including friends of mine, see this progress, and notice little to no discrimination in their own lives, and argue that the work is done. I have heard the progress that has been made used to support arguments that male feminists are objectionable or even that feminism itself is outdated and unnecessary today. The problem with these arguments is that they are based on a very limited view of the world.
The truth is, you don't have to look very far internationally to find dire women's rights issues. They are extremely rampant in places across the Middle East and India. But even domestically, within the United States, the issue still persists. Whether it is the color-coded pink and blue toy aisles in your local Target, the rape culture prevalent at your university, offhand sexists comments made while on your commute or at your workplace, or hateful comments spewed toward women or authors of feminist articles online, the problem exists. (Regarding that last example- it's a pretty prevalent problem. I've heard it time and time again that the comments under any article about feminism justify feminism.)
 Believing women's rights aren't a big deal is not only blatantly ignorant, but is detrimental to those who are victims of or are trying to change the problems in society.

Global Warming
I've actually heard this argument used to justify denying global warming for a really long time- I have a distinct memory of one of my best friends in
high school trudging through the snow with me, talking about how this was proof that global warming wasn't true. I suppose part of the problem is in the title. "Global Warming" is misleading, because it really deals with a plethora of changes to weather and climate and sciencey shit I really shouldn't try to act like I understand.
But it's the same issue- people have blinders on and as a result, make arguments that don't include global implications. Sure, it's cold at your house today. But there are more hurricanes and droughts somewhere else. Stuff is melting and shifting and all of it has to do with how climate is changing all over the globe, as a direct result of human actions. Once again, believing change isn't happening because it's not happening directly to you is harmful, ignorant, and ridiculous.

It needs to be stated that I am neither a scientist nor an expert on gender issues and sociology. I am just a person trying to align my understanding of the world with a sense of logic and morality.
When you don't see beyond your own life, when you don't even try to include the broader human experience, you miss most of the picture and the truth.

As a teacher (kind of almost), I tell students it's vital for them to back up arguments with sources, facts, and material so I suppose I should probably practice what I preach.
American Gender Pay Gap:
Example of Women's Issues in India:
American Rape Culture:
Climate Change Stats and Info:
Videos on Climate Change (the second video inspired me to write this post, actually):

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bad Advice: How to be a Third Wheel

Two of my  best friends have been dating now for almost three years, and throughout their time as a couple, I have tagged along on countless adventures and excursions. When they did the long distance thing, I acted as a sort of stand-in replacement for one of them, in every way but the fun ones. Using my wealth of knowledge and expertise in third-wheeling strategies, I have compiled a number of tips into a convenient resource so others may learn and benefit from my experiences.
How To Be An Effective Third Wheel

1. Be Loud and/or Aggressively Persistent
It is easy for couples to be consumed by their love like an astronaut being pulled into a black hole of unrealistic expectations and acoustic John Mayer songs. Do not allow this to happen. Constantly remind them of your presence. Whether this means being incredibly interested in whatever bullshit topic they're discussing or snapping your fingers in their faces every five minutes, so be it. Being committed to the cause of drawing attention to yourself is vital.

2. Look Disgusted at Their Displays of Affection
Couples will undoubtedly reveal their affection toward each other while you are present. For whatever reason, people in love feel the compulsion to, like, show it. Lock that down and let them know their happiness with each other is not only disgusting, it will not be tolerated. More subtle versions of this include, "Ugh, what is that smell? Dismembered possum and sewage quiche?" facial expressions. More blunt strategies include asking them, "CAN YOU NOT?" so loudly the whole cafe turns to look and even sticking your hand or even your whole body in between them.

3. Look Interested When Things Are Not Interesting
If a friend is in a long-distance relationship, they will want to talk to you about how much they miss the other. While this is understandable, it gets old. Hone your skill of looking interested in what someone is saying when you are really having a nice, introspective moment. This is valuable because you can look like a social person, out having lunch and catching up with a friend, when in reality you are taking valuable time to yourself, thinking over important things while your friend drones on about whatever sentimental shit their boyfriend spewed while Facebook messaging last night.

4. Invite Yourself Along On Their Dates
This one's just for fun. Surprisingly, disrupting a romantic mood is actually incredibly fun and satisfying. It's kind of one of my favorite pastimes. We all need to get our rushes out of life wherever we can.
*Disclaimer: doing this too often runs the risk of getting slapped repeatedly. Employ with discretion.

5. Remember You Love Them
Just like you would for a friend going through a dubstep or meme phase, you must always remember that you love your friends in relationships unconditionally, and will take them by the hand and help them through this dark and emotionally trying stage of their life. If nothing else, remember that, regardless of how obnoxiously into each other they are, and even if their love somehow prevails against all odds, it will still eventually, inevitably, end in divorce or death. ROMANCE!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stuff that Happened in Europe

So I graduated from college.
All things considered, it was a relatively uneventful occurrence.
What was a little more notable was that 24 hours after I received my empty diploma-holder to scattered applause, I boarded a plane with others in my program, on my way to a 2-week tour through Europe. Considering I created this whole blog the last time I was abroad, I figure the least I can do this time is write a little post about my European excursions. We traveled to London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin and visited important World War II sites, so while it was not an altogether incredibly cheerful trip (at least academically), it was unforgettable. Here are some of the more memorable and entertaining anecdotes from those two weeks.
Stuff that Happened in London
- Of course I started crying the moment our plane touched down at Heathrow because I am just that embarrassing. I really tried to keep it together, but no.
- I went to a Spoons pub with Emily within three hours of arriving in the city. In my opinion, it was three hours too late.
- I was complimented on my restaurant suggestions not once, but twice. Expectations were pretty high for me to know my shit, and I did my best.
- I met a very cute fellow-teacher British boy, which was just kind of depressing, as it reminded me of the potential future of me being alone forever, as it will be impossible for me to teach American history here all while being married to an attractive, funny, intelligent British man.
- I led a few friends around the city one evening and I 1) took us in the wrong direction at least three times and 2) got us caught in the rain for hours. Here's the thing about that- during the four months I lived in London before, it rained when we were out probably just a handful of times. What often happened was it would rain at night while we were sleeping and by the time we left in the morning, it was cloudy and the pavement was a little wet, but it wouldn't rain. That was not our experience this time. Now, it can be argued that's just part of the London experience, and there's value to that theory. Though it's also true that that perspective lost a little of its validity for me when I left a puddle on my Tube seat and then couldn't wear my soaked sneakers for days following the nighttime excursion.

Stuff that Happened in Paris
- We as a group were on the receiving end of countless, "Ugh, Americans," looks.
- I sat under the Eiffel Tower at night with friends eating cheese and cannot recommend this activity enough. I wish we had done it last time I was there with friends, but it was February then and probably thirty degrees too cold. Hanging out for hours under the Eiffel Tower is really a warm-weather activity.
- I ate fondue (that included NO CHEESE much to my surprise) at a restaurant that serves wine in glass baby bottles because apparently beverages served in bottles don't get taxed. Besides losing hunks of meat in the pot and the constant threat of serious oil burns, it was incredibly fun and delicious.

- On our way to the beaches at Normandy, we stopped for a break in small village, and that place just happened to be Bayeux, where I stayed with friends in 2011. I never thought I'd be back in that beautiful town, and being able to see the cathedral there again, even from a distance, was pretty great.

Stuff that Happened in Amsterdam
- Rain. A hell of a lot of rain.
- Seriously, I didn't pack a sufficient rain jacket, boots, or an umbrella. .The rain was an issue.
- We were tossed around and sprayed as if we were being fermented while touring the Heineken factory, which was much more fun than it sounds (that I don't think that's saying a lot).
- I had my first Indian food experience over dinner with a few people in what one of my friends described as an, "Indian Restaurant Spaceship" due to the many gilded chairs, intricate decorations, and neon lights.
- I listened to a part of my favorite book set in the Anne Frank house right before touring the actual Anne Frank house and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Stuff that Happened in Berlin
- We stayed in a hotel in what was formerly East Berlin (and the architecture and general morose atmosphere made it was clear it was East Berlin) that didn't have free wi-fi and there were many, many Communism jokes.
- I'm sure I made my former German 4 teacher proud as I told people how to say "Thank you" and "excuse me," and explained how this one weird symbol just means a double-s.
- I became thoroughly uncomfortable watching the American soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie pose and flex dramatically for paid pictures. I don't know if they are real military personnel or just paid actors, but that whole situation they have going on there is too weird and "tourist photo-op" for me.
- We went to some museums and stuff too, obviously. But all that's too heavy to discuss here. We all know how I like to keep it LIGHT.

So Europe's kind of the greatest and my only wish is that getting there was not such a major event. I'm thinking of starting a petition to trade the continent of Europe for Baltimore. I might even throw in Cleveland to sweeten the deal. Think it over, European Union. We all know you don't have anything else going on right now.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Cynic's Guide to College

With two weeks left until graduation, and the vast majority of my undergrad work behind me, I feel I can safely say I've gotten through college. I've gotten some questions from the teenagers where I student teach about what life is like after high school. These questions have gotten me thinking about my last four years here, and what follows are the tips I came up with, none of which I will share with my students. Their idealism is still so intact and refreshing. Ah, youth.

-Don't believe the hype.
Despite sweeping generalizations that permeate culture about, "this IS  what your college experience will be like," being at a university is kind of different for everyone. Personally, I didn't really start having fun in college until halfway through my sophomore year. Some people love it from beginning to end. Some people drop out or transfer. Some people set couches on fire. Some people study too much and make the whole 200-person class look bad. It varies.

-(A lot of) Professors don't care about you.
Especially at a research university, the #1 priority of most professors isn't student achievement or teaching content well, but getting published in academic journals. It is not uncommon for professors to not email students back, not show up for pre-scheduled meetings with students, or for them to simply be really, really bad at teaching. This is certainly not the rule for every professor, and I've met some really great, compassionate educators at college, but unfortunately, these people were the minority. College teaches you to proactively accomplish things because oftentimes you are the only person who really cares about your own success.

-Grow up.
By all means, do stupid shit in college. I certainly did. Multiple times and in multiple countries. However, at this point in life you have to be held accountable. Everyone is an adult there. Walking around campus some days, that thought is concerning. But everyone is complex, and you can certainly have fun, do ridiculous stuff, and embrace that side of yourself, as long as your alarm is set for responsibility o'clock the next morning. Also, always get a sober driver and drink a lot of water. Surround yourself with people who give a shit about you.

-Change your mind.
The plan I came into college with doesn't correspond at all to the degrees I'm now leaving with. And many of my friends are in the same boat. Two of the best decisions I made in the past four years, applying for the school of education and going abroad, were not part of my plan. They kind of just came up, I thought, "Well, ok." then did them. While I wish I'd been a little more organized about the whole thing, taking chances on stuff I wasn't sure about led me to the best experiences I've ever had and the best people I've ever met.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Cynic's Guide to Social Media

So I've discovered myself becoming more and more cynical these days. Blame it on old age (I'm like, legitimately in my 20's now), blame it on stress, on global warming, on running out of Star Wars fruit snacks, whatever. I've made the decision to blog about these grievances instead of talking to a trusted confidante because that seems healthy. I mean, if you constantly complain about the minutiae of your life in person, you're a bore and a bad friend. But if you do it through text, you're a writer.
The first area I need to vent about is social media, or Facebook and Twitter specifically. People seem confused about what is and what is not interesting and funny, and I thought I would clarify, being an expert on saying things that are not interesting or funny.

(DISCLAIMER: If you do these things, please know I do not hate you. I just judge you to varying degrees.)

Updates or stories about interesting trips you have taken: interesting.

Updates or stories about your meals: not so interesting
example: "BRRR it's so cold I'm so glad I made this organic basil, Parmesan, dragonfruit stew to warm me up! Aren't I so hip and interesting? *blurry, instagrammed picture of suspicious looking gunk*

Celebratory or proud updates about accomplishments/engagements/graduations: post it up, I'm proud of you, boo.

"I'm so tired!! I also don't realize that most other people reading this are around the same age and I guess I can't figure out that EVERYONE is perpetually exhausted right now LOL.": not interesting.

Pictures of your pets: interesting and ENCOURAGED BECAUSE CUTE

Postings of random "thoughtful" or "deep" quotes set on a hipster background because I guess you think Facebook is Tumblr: not interesting.
Links to interesting articles or postings/discussion of topics you're passionate about: interesting

Music lyrics with a little heart after them: always and forever not interesting

Posts about the good times you have with your friends: go for it

"It's Valentine's Day and my *significant other* is just so adorable I love them so much I spent a whole minute crafting this status/tweet proving my everlasting devotion to this person *LESS THAN THREE LESS THAN THREE* *filtered picture of convenience store flowers posted to make other girls jealous of how much people love you*: please God stop we get it

Wordplay/Jokes that don't suck: the world needs more of this

"Can you BELIEVE what Dr. McLickMyFace just did on 'Hospital Teenage Vampire Love?!' I have friends I watch this show with, so I'm guaranteed some likes! And that validates my self-worth!": no thanks.

And, because fair is fair, here are a few examples to prove not even I am immune to these insufferable offences. Never-ending shame.