Week of 9/15

Hi!

I’m really sorry, but I will not be updating this week. I am trying to enter a fiction writing contest, and I only have enough focus for one writing project right now.

In the meantime, you can catch up on all my other posts or go do something that YOU love (like I am.)

Maybe, if you’re extremely good this week, I’ll throw up the finished piece on here. (Well, not vomit it…you know.)

I’ll be back next week with some awesomeness!

Love,

Bailey

When Words Fail

I’m a writer. Words are kind of my thing.

There isn’t really anything that I can’t turn into a story (or a darkly humorous joke, for that matter.)

Except today.

13 years ago, we endured a devastating tragedy. The world was robbed of so many lives due to the hatred of a few evil people. America has never really recovered from 9/11, but I do not think the world has, either. I know that I haven’t, and it will continue to haunt me for the next 13 years and the next 13 after that…

You see, words are failing me. There is not much I can say that can sum up the events of that day. Even a decade and some later. At the age I was, I could not comprehend what was happening when it occurred, and even at the age I am now, I cannot seem to wrap my head around any part of it.

All I know is that I am still amazed at the sheer violence of it all. And I am also in awe when I hear about the valiant efforts of (extra)ordinary citizens who ran toward the danger instead of away from it that day.

In honor of the lives that history must never forget, I will end it here. As I’ve mentioned before, the world is too inundated by words. And what we really need now is some peace (and quiet.)

Adult Middle Finger with a Child’s Bandage

Actions always speak louder than words. Especially when a certain action is representative of a certain choice phrase that is incredibly offensive (at least in American culture).

I mean, flipping someone the bird can really be a slap in the face. Literally. It is basically the equivalent of taking off your glove and slapping someone to start a duel. Really, can you think of a quicker way to start a fight with someone than giving them the finger?

Which is why we need to be really careful about who we flip off. Not just because you have no idea who has a gun (or a crossbow for that matter) these days but because we need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. 

And here’s how to put this into some perspective.

Every day I have a commute to work. Inevitably, every day I encounter idiots, imbeciles, and people on cell phones. I would like to believe that my tolerance is much higher, but occasionally (usually), after the third time I get cut off, I feel like speeding past the parade of a**holes and giving them a piece of my mind. That is, without rolling down the window. 

But when I thought about doing that today, when I thought about giving the car next to me a righteous glare and a certain digit (not a number), I looked down and saw the How to Train Your Dragon bandage over my precious finger, that I had to have from the grocery store a few months ago. And I absolutely needed it over the weekend when I cut myself with a potato peeler. 

Suddenly, I realized I had no grounds, (I mean no grounds whatsoever) to be giving the middle finger to anyone. To the driver next to me, I was just a girl who didn’t know how to keep her obsessions out of her first aid choices. I was just an overgrown child sloshing through rush hour. But most of all, I realized that I knew what it was like to (accidentally and intentionally) drive like an idiot, and I certainly have known what it is like to be late.

And somehow, my tolerance of people grew three sizes today.

So, I don’t really care how you do it. If you need to wear a really childish bandage on your middle finger to remind you that we are all just one step away from barbarism and that we are all one step away from our childhood at any given time. But the overall message I want to convey is that we need to be kinder to each other. We need to put the middle fingers down and put the thumbs up! (Too cheesy, even for me?)

Okay, maybe that’s not going to happen. But at least we can be more patient with each other as we walk (and drive) this earth together.

When Writing Was Relevant

Ah, wouldn’t it be wonderful to go back to the days of minstrels and ballads? When your only form of entertainment was hearing about the derring-do and exploits of some roguish knave, spun into lyrics and cooly couched into a lilting melody? Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to the days of AM radio, when family members put aside their differences to huddle a little closer to a small speaking box that delivered their news with finesse and enthusiasm? To be blunt, what happened to the power of words? Has it all but disappeared into the dust that could fit on the dot of an “i”?

Well, I spoke with a professor of mine tonight, and he made an incredibly poignant point: forensic scientists are not tossing and turning at night trying to decide whether they should follow their passion. But those in the humanities are faced with a difficult decision: pursue it or eschew it.

Indeed, society’s pendulum has swung back, and we no longer treasure the humanities or the arts. We perceive people who want to develop a career as a writer (for example) as selfish. But forensics science? Well, you are contributing something to society then, if that is your major. And you are putting the needs of society first (because we need CSI: Omaha, Nebraska), so you can have a fat paycheck as well…

After all, the English majors are just as important as the pre-med/pre-law students in the world, just in different ways. You may be discovering a cure for cancer, sure, but we are the magazines in every treatment waiting room. We are the stack of books you can escape to while receiving your chemo therapy. Hell, we are why you chose the hospital you did. It was because they marketed themselves to you in a way that you couldn’t refuse. That all exists due to language, my friends. And it has power, and the people who wield it have power. Even if society refuses to acknowledge that.

Or perhaps, we acknowledge it too much. Now, with everyone playing the author and everyone existing as a reader through social media, maybe we are putting too much on blast. Maybe we are so surrounded by words that it becomes difficult to distinguish what we should pay attention to. And yet, by the same token, wouldn’t that make the most inspiring prose or uplifting poetry all that more refreshing?

It’s sort of like when you are swimming in a pool, and you feel a warm spot. You notice it, and suddenly you are trying frantically to find its source. That’s what good writing should do: make you feel kind of warm and make you want to know more. And in this way, we need to make writing relevant again.

After all, the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

But more importantly, the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Happy Birthday, Mom

When you have your own blog, it is only customary to highlight your mother on the day of her birth (because, you know, she sort of birthed you).

I could not think of a better way to honor you, mom, and thank you for the gift of life than to use my own gift. Most of the time, we act like two different people, and we don’t see eye to eye. But it is hard to see eye to eye with yourself sometimes, and I know we are very alike. (You may not understand the reference, but I am kind of your horcrux. Just trust me on this one.) We both remind each other to be the best that we can be time after time. And so without further ado…

Blank

The words do not come so quickly

this time

(and how could they?)

I’m condensing a lifetime in a few keystrokes

(you made a lifetime in a few brushstrokes)

and we were 

hoping that I would arrive into this world, swirling with so many stars

from captured constellations, made from galaxies you could pinch between your thumb and forefinger…

and then I arrived, all thumbs

and

blankness.

You suddenly realized you would have to 

impart   imbue   improvise

your knowledge 

upon    in    through  

me. So, you started to knead out your ideals

you started to flatten your flaws beneath your knuckles

hoping to disguise them under the rug

but

other mothers have done the same

with varying degrees of success

and by success, I mean

prayers and pleas to the gods and goddesses that you would not

could not

pass down the bad with the good.

But like I said,

it does not work that way,

and I soaked it all up

like your bread in the milk 

before you squish it in the bowl.

 

As your daughter, I am familiar to you,

and so strangely cold,

that you

take off your rings 

as to not lose them when you

mold me.

 

And now, that my shoulders have grown to their full wingspan

(I had to stretch my skin to fit my own dimensions)

I find the star stuff that you wanted for me, in the beginning.

Because it was in you

the entire

time.

 

I love you, Mom. Happy Birthday.

Don’t Listen to Anyone

Don’t listen to anyone. Ever. Because no matter what they say, they are always going to be right because you believe them.

How so? Let’s think about this for a minute. There are people, right now, in the world, that are making money by telling other people, no, strangers, that they are or, more often, are not good at something. We actually pay and want people to pass judgment on us. I mean, Simon Cowell has millions of dollars right now because he was rude to a couple people. Well, accurately rude, rightly rude. But yes, rude. 

And you have to wonder, as he is looking up at his gold ceiling, lying on his revolving heart-shaped bed at night, does he ever feel bad about it? 

The answer is undoubtedly no. He’s mean, and he gets rich because of it. Simple equation even for a non-math major here.

But let’s imagine a quick little scenario. You’ve been singing your entire life. I mean, since the time that you could hold a microphone. You grow up, learn to play guitar, and moonlight as a solo act in a few bars in your hometown. You’ve got stars in your eyes when you finally get an opportunity to sing in front of the American Idol panel. And then some British guy with a bad haircut says that you’re rubbish and that you shouldn’t quit your day job. And that’s it. POOF. There goes any chance that you’d actually continue singing because there it is. One of the most popular talent coaches in Hollywood just told you that you can’t sing. And of course, if you do sing again, all of the pigeons in NYC will burst in a puff of feathers a la Shrek. 

Except that isn’t the conclusion you should come to at all. Simon Cowell can afford to be mean. But you? You can’t afford to give up your dream, the one you’ve had since you were a child. 

So, what are you supposed to do? Well, you shouldn’t listen to Simon Cowell, for one thing, but, then again, you should never listen to anyone. Once you hear their side of things, suddenly they’re right and you’re wrong. You can make people right just by following their advice, by assuming that they know something that you don’t. But sometimes they aren’t right. Actually, people are wrong a lot. And mostly, they aren’t right about you because, well, you’re the only person who is you. And you know you best. I know, mind blowing.

Yet, people are still told everyday that they can’t do something by someone else, and they believe them. It makes me want to add a footnote to every millionaire’s net worth explaining how many times they doubted themselves or were rejected by the “right” people (who turned out to be the wrong people because look where they are now). The amount of times they failed would outpace their fortune ten times over. I think it is so interesting that people forget and forget and forget how many times J.K. Rowling sent the HP manuscript out or how Stephen King would spear rejection letter after rejection letter on one of those short-order cook nails. Do you honestly realize how many people were told they couldn’t do something time and time again and did it anyway? If anyone was stopped from doing something simply due to the fact that it “could not be done,” we would have nothing to show for modern civilization. I sincerely want to shake really angry, loud maracas at anyone who has ever believed that you can get something right on the first try. So loud would my maracas shake that I could drown everyone’s fear of failure and that little critic’s voice in our heads.

So, in the end, don’t listen to anyone. Not even me. In the end, I should be like a car passing you with my speakers blaring bad 90’s rap. You hear my mix tape (full of Notorious B.I.G.) really clearly when I am directly in front of you, but when I start to speed on down the road, I start to fade. That is how you should perceive all advice. It’s clear and direct in the moment, but what does it sound like down the road? Maybe it doesn’t apply so far ahead in the future. 

That’s where you come in. You start to make decisions for yourself. And you don’t have your ear pressed to the highway, waiting for someone to ride along and tell you what you should do and think. All advice eventually runs out of gas. And when it does, you’ll have to pick up the slack with good, old fashioned intuition when you turn your ignition. 

5 Things That Are the Same in the “Real World”

What can I say? I love living in my fantasy world, which includes copious amounts of books, a large amount of blogging, and tons of tea.

But when I do come up from air and onto “the Facebook,” the number one complaint I hear from my peers is that the “real world” is something they are just now experiencing. From what I can discern, to live in the “real world,” you have to pay your own bills, obtain a job, and balance several activities at once. However, from my perspective, there are many things that seem very familiar and similar about the “real world” compared to the life of a college student. Luckily for recent or soon-to-be graduates, you can take some comfort in the fact that your transition won’t be as turbulent into the “real world” as you would have thought upon completing your degree. For instance, adults will still attend events if there is free food. After all, we’re only human.

But let’s take a look at a few things you can (and already) expect from your life as a young person in today’s “real world.”

1. You’re Exhausted. All of the time. 

-I’m not sure if you thought the sleep fairy would finally visit you once you got a full-time job, but I can assure you that she will remain conspicuously absent. If you’re looking for the bags under your eyes to disappear from all those all-nighters you spent writing last-minute papers, you will need to keep, ah… dreaming.

2. You Will Work Every Day on Something…and Not Finish It.

-With homework, you had to stop working on it at some point to eat or sleep. (Or maybe not if you see number 1). But at a 9-5, there is nothing to do but keep chugging along. You’ll finish your work because you have to (deadlines are a part of the “real world,” too), but you’ll be surprised to see how long you can work on something without making much visible progress. The trick is, and always will be, to keep going, even when everyone else has already stopped.

3. You Can Still Have Some Fun.

-Don’t worry, kids. Just because you are paying your own bills doesn’t mean there isn’t room in the budget to let loose once in awhile. Now that you are an adult, that old saying, “it’s 5:00 somewhere” will actually mean something to you. 

4. You Can Still See Your Friends.

-Of course, it was pretty awesome in college or in high school when your friends lived in the same hall or town as you, but you can always see your friends on your totally open and homework-free weekends. What’s more, you can afford to do something besides rent movies and eat ramen. (Not that that wasn’t the best time of your life, either. It’s just better for your heart if you slow down on the MSG.)

5. You Still Eat Poorly.

-Speaking of ramen, I’m usually trying to jam something down my throat at my desk so that I don’t break the flow of creativity. And rarely is the food sliding down my esophagus as healthy as I would like it to be. However, we all feel a certain nostalgia (and sense of pride) when we mix a few ingredients that wouldn’t normally go together to make a whole new dish. Who could forget my mac and cheese concoction, complete with avocado and pesto? Duh! Yum! Let’s call it resourcefulness instead of what it really is: laziness.

And so, I’m a little skeptical when people talk to me about the difficulties of the “real world.” I say, if you can get a few things done, see a friend every couple of weeks, and eat something for dinner that hasn’t been microwaved, then you can call yourself an adult. If not, well, we’re all in the same lifeboat. You know, women and children first.

(Writer’s) Blocked

As I’ve mentioned before, everyone has their way of interpreting/interacting/dealing/making sense of/ the world. When painters try to make sense of their world, we get impressionist art. When musicians try to escape themselves, we get blues (oddly, a collaboration in suffering.) But when poets try to interact with their reality, society, more often than not, receives really bad metaphors. Like these: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/08/high-school-analogies-20-_n_1332745.html

However, as bad as these analogies are, they represent a solid attempt. They exist, and therefore, can be edited into something great. They are proof that these students tried to make sense of their world and won. They are the first step.

And therein lies the problem with writer’s block: it is an unaffordable luxury. It would be nice to think that every time we didn’t know what to say or write or do, we simply wouldn’t have to say or write or do anything at all. If we could just button our lip until the moment passed us, or keep staring at our phones until the person we don’t want to talk to passes, then maybe we wouldn’t have to think about anything for the rest of our lives.

Except, those moments and people keep coming. And at some point, you are going to have to embrace the world. Interpret/interact/deal/and make sense of it, too. And trust me, the world doesn’t play nice with people who consistently say, “I forgot my homework.”

Dealing with writer’s block is as easy as admitting to yourself that it doesn’t exist. It is as easy as saying that I choose to stop suffering from it. (Which, of course, is like saying that it is exactly that easy and exactly that hard. Since you are relying on yourself, you determine the speed with which you are able to erase writer’s block from your life. This could take minutes, hours, or a lifetime. Results, however, will not vary. You will be free of it as soon as you want to be free.) It’s just about deciding not to accept it.

Oh, and in case you were thinking that this doesn’t apply to you because you don’t “write,” I use “writer’s block” in a more general sense to mean a drought in creativity or otherwise lack of liveliness and enthusiasm that one possesses to reach certain achievements and goals. So, this means you are suffering from writer’s block any time you are stuck in a situation you don’t want to be in but are unable to get yourself out of.

And here’s the cheesy metaphor part of this: you are the author and the hero and the villain of your own story. If you need to write yourself out of a particularly painted corner, then you can do it. It’s just a matter of not accepting writer’s block for what it is (a temporary obstacle, a self-imposed limitation) and allowing yourself to overcome it. Write your life’s story in permanent ink, believing that you can truly make no mistakes and you won’t.

 

To All The Teachers In My Life (And In The World)

It’s September 1st.

It’s that time again. You’ve double-checked your supplies, your outfit, your class schedule. You take deep breaths, but you still feel some anxiety pressing in that keeps sleep far behind a high fence that you can’t seem to reach.

And I’m not even talking about how your students are feeling. This is you. The elementary, high school, even college teachers/professors who must once again return to the classroom for another year. This is you.

But what I am about to say is for you.

I loved school. It was the only thing that I was truly good at. I liked obediently reading and working on homework assignments. I liked the relationships I forged with teachers who saw that I truly liked to learn. I loved filling my head with new things and applying them to new scenarios.

So, thank you, teachers/professors. Thank you for spending a little more time each night creating your lesson plans and perfecting them. Thank you for getting up early to be in the classroom before homeroom. Thank you for pushing back and caring when you did not think that you could give another drop of yourself. Thank you for going beyond the roles of teacher/professor and delving into the realms of friend, parent, disciplinarian, role model, but most of all, supporter of dreams. No one asks you to do what you do or to make it stand up to your personal standards. Worst of all, you are rarely thanked besides a week where you can get a few dollars off what you need to buy for your classroom.

And truly, my thanks cannot be enough. But I hope you keep going. In the face of angry parents. In the face of misunderstood students. In the face of adversity.

 

I hope you remember that you are appreciated and loved. Have a great year. You’re going to be terrific.

Beyonce, I’m Going to Let You Finish, But…

I really need to clear some things up for everyone and set the record straight.

For many, Queen Bey can do no wrong. She sings, she dances, she wakes up flawless. But many others have called into question the sexy songstress’s lyrics due to anti-feminist sentiments and have even accused her of encouraging domestic violence by directly referencing Tina and Ike Turner’s marriage. In order to counteract this bad publicity, Beyonce recently performed at the VMAs with the word FEMINIST in large letters behind her. Most of social media regarded this as an excellent endeavor to ward off the “haters.”

But let’s be real. Posting a sign behind you makes you as much a feminist as sticking a Post-It note to my forehead with the word “Beyonce” written on it makes me talented and famous.

That is to say, not at all.

However, despite Beyonce’s best intentions, I still have to come to her defense. I, personally, do not partake much in Ms. uhm…Z’s music, but I am a feminist in my own rite. And I know one when I see one.

Now, I can understand Beyonce’s hesitation in declaring herself a feminist because unfortunately, like many “isms” out there, most people associate feminism with its most extreme form. However, feminism, at its core, means that women and men are equal. If you are a feminist, it simply means that you support the idea that men and women should be equal. Which is to say, all women, all races, all abilities, all sexualities, all religions should be able to make as much money, receive the same opportunities, and be perceived by all of society as equal. Notice that I did not anywhere make a claim that the world should be ruled by a bunch of amazon women overlords with no bras. We just want our fair share of the world. What is rightfully ours, as people of this earth. 

If you’ll stay with me, I’m going to describe my own belief in feminism because like feminists, like people, there are many schools of thoughts and different opinions about the subject. This is why you probably don’t think you’re a feminist because what you may believe may not conform to current feminist thinking. But if you want to find out, just answer this question: do you believe women are and should be treated like people? Then, congratulations! You’re feminist positive!

Now, my own idea of feminism is centered upon empowering women. Every single woman. Even if I personally don’t like what they stand for, I will defend their right to stand for it.

Take Taylor Swift. She is giving dorky white women a horrible reputation. As a dorky white woman, I recognize this. But I will absolutely support her when she decides to dance awkwardly (and repeatedly) at her concerts. This is because I recognize that we shouldn’t be putting other women down. And it isn’t women against men, either. It’s people striving to make this the best world they possibly can.

So, when I see Beyonce up on stage with FEMINIST written in big letters behind her, well, I support her. But do I believe her?

Yes, I do. Because there is another aspect to feminism outlined in The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. It is called the “cult of domesticity.” This essentially meant that all women had to stay home and clean and make dinner and not pursue careers. But not only that, they had to act interested in the best vacuum and window cleaners. As if these activities were all they were capable of doing.

Now, do not confuse me. I know plenty of women who do not work so that they can stay home to take care of their families. This is a respectable choice, and I have nothing against it. However, there was a time, not so long ago, in the 1950’s when women did not have a choice. They had to stay home, period. At the time, having a career was revolutionary and outlandish thinking and wholeheartedly discouraged.

So, if we fast forward to when this all changed and when women began to enter the work force, around the 1980’s, there became a new problem when society began to ask: could women raise a healthy, happy family and still work a 9-5? Nothing was said about how the men would manage, but these issues were suddenly heavy on the shoulders of women. Were they being selfish pursuing careers instead of their children’s future? Could women ever have it both ways?

And after this extensive history lesson, this is where Beyonce comes in. Listen closely because this is my point: Beyonce is a feminist, whether she knows it or wants to admit it. Why? Because she has managed to do what most women thought was impossible only thirty years ago: balance a (really successful) career with a family. She did not stop making music when she had her child. She found a way to do both, which, admittedly is not very hard when you are rich, beautiful, and talented like Beyonce. But as far as feminist role models go, there are worse. Way, way worse.

In the end, Beyonce’s tale is one of “follow what I do, not what I say.” Maybe if women stopped yelling at each other for stealing one another’s “man,” maybe girls could really “run the world.” In the meantime, you don’t have to sing along to Beyonce’s songs, but you should respect her.