The “u” in “Truth”

The Countdown pic

If I were to be completely honest with everyone around me, I would probably not have as many friends as I do now. You might LOL at this a little, but you know it’s true for you too.

I already devoted one blog post to the topic of honesty, and how full honesty isn’t always appreciated. However, being honest with yourself, or putting the “u” in “truth” is what I feel to be the most important sort of integrity.

I’m the type of person who seeks to please others, and can’t stand it when people dislike me (although I have a few names in mind of people who do). I regret to say that the time I’ve spent bending over backwards to gain approval in any or all areas of my life – whether it be in looks, grades, popularity level, etc. – was largely time spent unhappily, and amounted to nothing.

I matured quickly in terms of realizing that appearances and popularity weren’t all that important. I wasn’t willing to put in time for half-baked “friendships,” or anyone who didn’t give me the time of day because frankly, they weren’t worth my time of day. I happily don my college sweats and relish in my unpopularity without a hitch because that stuff doesn’t matter. But I’m still in school, so grades are something I still keep my butt in gear for.

Unfortunately, this newly-acquired I-don’t-need-to-impress-anyone mentality didn’t transfer into my writing life.

When I was thirteen, I had an epiphany – I wanted to be an author, and write dozens of novels that would bring even Stephen King to his knees. Over the years I decided that this was never going to happen, and that being a full-time novelist was not something I wanted as a part of my destiny; if I wrote one or two books, I would be more than fine with that. But at fourteen, I decided to write my first fiction, one of what I hoped would lead to many others.

The problem was, I spent all my time typing with the thought of rejection haunting my thoughts. I had to write well enough to get a “yes” from a publishing company, which is a difficult feat. If I didn’t, all that dedication, brainpower, printer paper, and precious time will have been for naught.

After long nights of brainstorming, battling with my computer system, dealing with several bouts of writer’s block, and ultimately feeling empty inside after writing a chapter, I stopped writing [the fiction] altogether for a good three years.

Awhile ago, I spent some time catching up with old acquaintances after having parted ways for a good amount of time. It was during this encounter that I realized that I had outgrown them, and was not enjoying myself at all. I don’t mean to sound conceited or haughty, since everyone’s rate of mental/spiritual/emotional growth occurs at different speeds. But I also came to the horrible realization during the time spent making awkward small talk and meaningless exchange, that if I was spending this time knowing that I would be happier alone, my time here was wasted on what could have been an opportunity to enjoy some other aspect of my life. Maybe I could have created something meaningful during that time. Or worked on becoming bilingual in Spanish like I keep telling myself I will do. Perhaps I could’ve caught up with some old friends, engaging in enlightening conversation over tea as I had the immense pleasure of doing today. If only I had been honest with myself.

After that day, I decided to write again. I was going to write a book like I had always promised myself I would, but I was going to start from scratch. And this time around, I was going to be real with myself. My other story ideas had been too complex and too wordy. I had been writing for an audience, and writing to be published, which was what had made me so depressed the last time I had picked up the pen. This time I was writing for myself. Not writing for the sake of having my name slapped on the cover of the published package, but for the sake of finishing, even if I was the only reader.

I’m on Chapter IV now, and I’m not sure where the story’s going next, but I haven’t had any post-chapter-writing-blues yet, so that’s a good sign.

*Just a side note, please don’t ask me what my story’s about. It’s a little complicated, and  it’s in its infant stage, plus I’m just private about my stories. If you do ask, I’ll likely just get flustered and change the subject.*

Life’s too short to devote wasted hours to trying to impress people who ultimately aren’t worth impressing. Life’s too short to worry about pursuing a “practical” major rather than one that brings one the most joy. Life’s too short to not question everything you once thought to be right.

And in my case, life’s too short to lag on the next chapter of my book (this is both literal and a metaphor).

 

Abercrombie, Fitch No More

Abercrombie pic

Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries recently received some backlash for controversial statements made while discussing the characteristics of his ideal customers. In a nutshell, bro doesn’t want any “fatties” or “uglies” to don the surfer/beach bum-inspired apparel; A&F is meant to cater to the beautiful people that walk through the store’s doors (and toxic wave of cologne). After all, according to Jeffries, “… good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

The only A&F clothing I own I bought secondhand from a thrift shop. Macklemore would be so proud. It’s not because I’m too cool to shop retail or anything like that, or even because I find myself offended by Jeffries’ above comment; I’m just a cheap shopper, always have been. I never really got why people are so drawn to A&F, Hollister, American Eagle, etc. I get that the clothes are expensive since they basically last forever, but do I really want to wear the same blue Henley for the rest of my life?

But I guess now I have another reason to avoid Abercrombie. Or should I say ABSercrombie? I don’t even understand the advertisement strategy…if you sell apparel, why not advertise it? Save the abs for a gym membership ad. No point in marketing jeans on an ad space that shows 10% denim and 90% flesh.

Jeffries says, “We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

I understand various clothing companies being exclusionary when it comes to scoping out “top-quality” models to show off their apparel, while ignoring the plus-sized demographic. As bad as it sounds, that’s understandable. I’m more likely to invest in a pair of kicks modeled by a stick-thin chick than the alternative, although yes, I definitely identify more with the plus-sized girl in terms of body type. Carl’s Jr. does the same thing in their commercials, if you think about it. What hot blonde model eats a burger? Perish the thought! But customers are probably going to be less inclined to purchase a whopper when shown the actual demographic that frequents Carl’s Jr.

In answer to who A&F’s target customers are, Jeffries responded, “Abercrombie is only interested in people with washboard stomachs who look like they’re about to jump on a surfboard.”

I mean, I see his point, but business is business, no matter how unattractive the person wearing the A&F logo may be. And I’m pretty sure as the CEO of A&F, money isn’t exactly an issue for Jeffries, lucky guy. So why is he Fitchin’ about it?

Don’t get me wrong. I cringe internally when I see old ladies in tube tops and plastic heels, or overweight men in great need of a full body wax donning European swimwear, or my classmates repping the awful combination of socks and Crocs. My eyes might be bleeding, but hey, it’s a free country…

…Except when you’re in Jeffries’ territory. When it comes to companies mandating who can or cannot wear your brands – aw, HELLZ no. What you wear is up to you, unless you have to abide by a dress code, of course. If you want to rock the streetwalker look tonight, that’s fine by me – I mean, it’s not affecting me, so whatever. Want to wear your “Free Hugs” tee to the first family reunion you’ve been to in ten years? Cool. Hope you’re not a germaphobe.

Personally (as if this whole post isn’t personal already), I think Mr. Jeffries should be FLATTERED that people – washboard abs or not – are still willing to put in 90 bucks for one of his moose-emblazoned sweaters, despite his asinine comments.

This isn’t a campaign to get everyone all riled up to stand outside Jeffries’ doorstep and pour red paint (although a vat of A&F cologne would be more appropriate) on the man. I don’t have anything against anyone who chooses to wear the brand. Nor am I going to create a let’s-all-donate-our-Abercrombie-stuff-to-the-less-fortunate event on Facebook. I’m in no position to declare what you should or shouldn’t wear.

Which is my entire point. The government, schools, churches, and businesses already give us more than enough rules to abide by. Leave our closets alone, Jeffries.

Gray Scale

Gray Scale pic

Years before I graced the Trude household with my presence, my dad and grandpa used to smoke. Often, according to them. But they quit, my father instilling the reasons why smoking was bad every now and then during my childhood years, long after he quit. I can easily remember the “Just Say NO!” campaign held at my school in second grade, holding my breath when walking through a veil of secondhand smoke, and being internally judgmental as a child towards those I saw puffing away outside the local Target. I vowed to never inhale.

Fourteen years later, and I’ve still never had a cigarette. Those recent anti-smoking commercials on TV? Super effective.

Though I don’t regret not having ever smoked a joint, I do regret the prejudiced outlook I had towards those who did.

Let me just say, this is not an anti-smoking post.

They say that childhood innocence is a shame to lose when that child grows up. Generally, children are seen as being non-prejudiced creatures early on, not taking race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. into consideration when scouting out a playmate at the sandbox. Blind to the stereotypes and cruelties that the world will grow them into with each passing year.

I still believe this is all true. But I also think that in childhood, everything was simplified. Babies came from Mr. Stork. Blue was for boys, pink for girls. Naptime sucked. Sharing, caring, and coloring inside the lines were good. Lying, hitting, and name-calling were unacceptable. Black and white.

It wasn’t just smoking that I had strictly black and white views on as a young little thing. There was stealing, discourteousness, gay rights, women’s rights, dropping out of school, addiction, blah blah blah.

For example, with stealing: Wrong. But I won’t be so quick to point a finger when I see a poor boy in a war-ridden third world country sneaking a loaf of bread into his knapsack for his family.

As for dropping out of school…As nerdy as it sounds, I like school. I hate writing research papers and tests, but I love learning. But I know not everyone shares this mentality. Sometimes life happens. Sometimes you have to work three jobs to pay rent for an overpriced studio apartment. Sometimes backpacking in Europe after high school is preferable to going straight to college. Sometimes we just don’t know what the story is.

Now, whenever I’m with a group of friends and a few of them start to feign-cough loudly as we pass by some smokers on the corner, I feel embarrassed. It might be true that the kids we encounter are ditching class in favor of this “study break.” It could also be true that the headaches from quitting were too much, and they relapsed. Perhaps we caught them at their weak moment. Unlikely, but not a possibility I can totally rule out, because I’ll never know. So why jump to childish black and white conclusions?

Throughout high school and now college, I’m proud to say that I’ve become a very open-minded individual thanks to various encounters and experiences I’ve come across. Of course, that’s my own opinion; you’re free to think whatever you want. Some people in my life might consider this a dangerous path to tread, but I regret nothing. Freeing my mind (no, not with drugs or anything like that) to base my opinions on a gray scale rather than a black and white chess board has given me more shades to work with in shaping my views.

Life in a Suitcase

Life in a Suitcase pic
School ended for me about three days ago. Well, I guess you could say that the actual “school” part of school ended last Tuesday, but I didn’t actually pack all my belongings until about three days ago. Who knew I had so much stuff? And an apparent boot addiction?

Having spent the last two days in Phoenix, I didn’t get the chance to fully unpack my things until a few hours ago. I dislike the whole unpacking process. For one thing, it’s a chore and secondly, it marks the end of an adventure. I’m not talking about my brief stay in Arizona, but the past year’s events.

This last week was full of last hurrahs before the end of the semester, along with the accumulation of boxes and duct tape, and goodbyes. I watched as the girls in my building tightly hugged their neighbors-turned-lifelong-friends, choking back tearful goodbyes, making promises to visit/write each other as often as possible during the four months of summer.

Of course I too said my goodbyes to my friends, roommates, and neighbors, but for some reason couldn’t force myself into sadness over the ordeal. It’s not that I won’t miss these good people – I will – but perhaps not to the point of tears. Like I said before, I’m not much of a crier – I didn’t cry during Les Miserables, and I still feel bad about that.

Maybe just the knowledge that it would only be four months until we’re all back in the same place again is what kept me from being downcast. I wasn’t overly excited about going home either, so I know that’s not what allowed me to keep a cool demeanor during my goodbyes. Or maybe I’m an emotionless cylon?

Or the fact is, I like to keep moving. To live out of a suitcase, not staying in one place for too long. I adore the anticipation I sense in an airport, or train or subway station of those who have somewhere to be and a list of adventures to tackle during their time abroad. It doesn’t matter if it’s a business trip or an exotic getaway  – I love the idea of traveling the road less traveled by that particular traveler.

I’ve seen the Grand Canyon, gone through the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, strolled the streets of Minneapolis covered in beautiful snow, wandered LA and Hollywood at night, snorkeled in Maui, traveled through the poorest parts of Mexico, skied in NorCal, hiked among the Sequoias in Yosemite, dipped my toes in the Floridian waters, and am quite accustomed to the gas station bathrooms and low maintenance motels I’ve encountered on far too many road trips. I’ve collected a myriad of postcards over the past eleven years. I also attribute my love of trail mix to the long hours of road tripping.

I’ve seen a lot, so what’s the problem? I haven’t gone everywhere.

The other day, my sister made an [admiring] comment about how much traveling I would be doing during my stay in college. As a science major, she has less leeway when it comes to making credits earned abroad count for her major back in the states. I merely replied, “I spent weeks mapping it out that way.”

I like constancy, this is definitely true of me. But I also like hitting the road, anticipating the next thing. And if I can implement my love for new adventures into my academic life, so be it. APU will be there for me in four months, and so will all the great people I’ve come to know. But until then, I’m already Googling what shenanigans I can get into with my friends here, and in what new hotspot.