Don’t Hate, Appreciate

Don't Hate Appreciate pic

I’m imagining all the possible reactions I’ll get for this particular posting (if any) but here goes nothing:

Whenever a major political event goes on in the world, the virtual world is put through a frenzy of bold, patriotic status updates, heated Facebook debates, and the occasional meme to provide some comic relief. This was definitely true of the 2012 presidential election, and the same goes for this week when the Supreme Court struck down DOMA.

I’m not writing this week to highlight the importance of equality, though it may seem that way. I even considered titling this week’s musings “Don’t H8, Appreciate,” but ultimately decided against it, as to keep the writing from sounding too one-sided. What I will do is reflect on the importance of maintaining respect or “appreciation” for your fellow humans whether you are for or against gay marriage.

If I have learned anything in the past few years, it is that tolerance is a two-way street. I’d like to think that one day we can live in a world where everyone can have an opinion, and be tolerant of opposing views without resorting to calling those whose views differ “ignorant Neanderthals” when their backs are turned (or even when they’re not).

I’m not the biggest philosophy fan, but I am rather fond of what Aristotle had to say about keeping an open mind – “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

I grew up in a conservative Christian home. But I am not conservative myself – nor am I liberal. I am however, open-minded. Vague? Perhaps. But to me, it’s perfect sense.

That said, a lot of people assumed (and maybe still do assume) unfair things about me as well as some of my friends based on our upbringing. They assumed that the only type of music I listened to was “Jesus music” (hipsta, please), they assumed that I was a judgmental stick in the mud, and they assumed that I hated homosexuals, though I never acted in a way that indicated such.

Don’t assume. You know what they say about people who assume…it makes a complete ASS out of U and ME (but mostly U).

That last assumption was incredibly hurtful. Like I said before, tolerance is a two-way street. I tolerated it when people unconsciously offended me when they referred to all Christians as “awful gay-haters” during the height of the Prop 8 legislation. I deal with it, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me. When you blatantly categorize me among those “awful gay-haters” without even knowing my story, that makes you the intolerant one. Not fun, is it?

Allow me to clear the air. I’m not a homophobe. At all. I might get some backlash for this later, but I believe that people should marry whomever they want to marry. I don’t care whether or not you believe in equal marriage. What may be right for you personally doesn’t justify it being forced on everyone else; the only “right” that really matters is the right for each to choose for themselves, so long as no one is getting hurt.

The seemingly automatic assumption that anyone even remotely associate with the church must hate the gay community is such an ignorant one. Truth be told, I don’t really like to disclose my religious affiliations sometimes because I hate all the preconceived notions that come with it. Just like how a gay person doesn’t want to be prejudged based on their sexual orientation, I don’t want to be prejudged either.  I mean, it’s obviously not the same thing, but you get my point.

For example…I was completely and utterly mortified when the Westboro Baptist Church held a protest at a military funeral, claiming “God hates fags!” amongst other things I’d rather not repeat. Talk about a major face palm. The God I identify with doesn’t hate anyone, and certainly wouldn’t use derogatory terms like that. Not to go all Bob Marley-reggae on you, but I was taught to love (“and be alright!”).

I can’t stand homophobes. It shouldn’t matter what your belief system is, no one deserves to be on the receiving end of hate. My heart breaks every time I hear yet another story of a gay student committing suicide due to bullying, or even when I hear someone speaking disrespectfully about a guy who happens to have a preference for other guys.

During dead week last semester, I decided to procrastinate via internet because let’s be honest, it’s so easy to do. One of my friends had put up a video link entitled “Love is All You Need,” a short film in which there was a bit of role reversal, and being gay was the norm whereas being straight was not. Go look it up on YouTube. I cried, which I almost never do.

Straight, gay, lesbian, bi, whatever you are, it doesn’t matter to me. And it shouldn’t matter to you either and how you treat people. Unless you’re seeking out a potential mate, of course.

To Backpack in Europe

To Backpack in Europe pic

I like to keep busy. This is why I don’t always look forward to summer break the way I did as a youngster; i.e. last summer I took some junior college classes before going to uni last fall. During the regular school year, I’m plenty occupied with homework and such, and had planned to take more classes this summer before going back to school for the fall 2013 semester.

However these plans changed (as plans often do) when Team Thailand accepted me onto their team for our summer mission. Because my trip will take up 5 weeks smack dab in the middle of summer, I wasn’t able to sign up for summer classes, nor able to procure a summer job either, since most employers don’t see the logic in hiring someone who will be gone during most of July and August. Which makes sense.

Thus, I was forced to get my creative juices flowing to figure out what exactly I would do to keep myself occupied for the first two months of absolute freedom. I would continue to blog of course, work out, and read, but those things only take a few hours to complete. Sadly, most of my friends are MIA at this time, either doing summer term at uni, working elsewhere, or having some sort of other adventure. I definitely did the whole gym-sleep-Netflix-do nothing routine for awhile, but eventually got more creative in terms of switching up that routine. As I mentioned a few blogs ago, I did pick up the pen again, and am almost a third of the way finished with what I hope will become a novel, should I be diligent enough to keep at it. I started to dance on and off after being mostly “off” for nearly a year. I had been conditioned to forget how much I missed these things throughout the year. These old loves of mine.

School is the thing that has made me put some of those loves on the back burner. I don’t doubt that much of this is true for you as well. I like school. I really do, but the price of learning can come at a ridiculously high price, both literally and metaphorically. The late insomniatic nights wondering if what I did was good enough, or having to prove myself and everyone else that I’m still a top student despite having had the worst possible week. Then of course, there’s school being the main source of time-consumption, leaving very little leeway for much else.

“I can go back to the things I want over Christmas break,” we students say. They often get postponed to spring break, and summer break, or not at all. The dreams often are put back on the shelf, dusty from years of going untouched.

I have two more years until my undergraduate degree is completed, then I can go back to all those dreams I’ve saved. But what if I take on grad school? That’s at least another two years. Can I handle the cycle for another prolonged period of time? Can you?

I used to dismiss the post-grad backpacking in Europe stereotype, thinking it unwise for someone to “throw away” their future for a short-term escapade. Now looking at it, that’s not an unwise investment of time at all. If I was to die tomorrow, I would regret not having done or finished all those things on my bucket list (https://thatsclassyfied.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/kicking-it/). If the backpacker in Europe was to die tomorrow, he’d probably have loads less regrets than I would.

I’m graduating a year earlier than I had initially planned, with the intention of having to pay less for tuition and getting a jump start on life. Thinking about it as I write this, I’m starting to believe that my reason for accelerating my education has more to do with that jump start than with reducing tear-inducing college costs.

Maybe it’s just a phase, but sometimes I wish I could just drop out of school and drop into another place for awhile. Can I get paid to just sit around and type, drink copious amounts of tea, dance, and be all touristy wherever I’m at?

I haven’t traveled across continents (yet), but in my mind, I’ve been to a lot of places. But only in my mind and in my writings.

Mid-Year Resolutions

Mid Year Resolutions pic

You might find this post odd for one of two reasons – 1) it’s June, not July so technically it’s not the middle of the year, and 2) resolutions are for the new year, not the middle of one.

In January, I had four pretty basic resolutions: work harder (whether at school, in the gym, or at actual work), read more, write more, and just overall be more. Nothing too ridiculous. And I would say that I’ve been successful thus far into the game.

But I was reading an article in Psychology today, which highlighted the middle of the year as being a better and more effective time to commit to new resolutions rather than in January (when everybody’s too flustered or drunk – or both – to really commit to their goals). Also, my current “mid-year resolutions” reflect some of my previous ones, so I’d like to think of this as more of a renewal of past resolutions rather than wholly new ones.

Obviously this blog is going to be more about me, so not everything will apply to you, but hopefully by writing this all on a public forum, I’ll be all the more motivated to keep to my commitments. And maybe, just maybe anyone reading this will put their game face on too.

1)      A Healthy Kick in the Pants. Lately I’ve been on a whole different kind of health kick than usual…I was most recently inspired by the documentaries “Vegucated” and “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.” I don’t eat terribly, but I know my diet could still use some improvement – especially since I’m looking to lose extra poundage while gaining extra energy at the same time. And I was really fascinated by the information “Vegucated” revealed about the vegan diet as it relates to the economy, and of course, the treatment of animals in a country that relies heavily on the meat industry. I’m not vegan nor am I vegetarian, however I would consider myself as having maintained a pescetarian diet for awhile now, and would ideally like to transition into a vegan diet. Obviously this all goes out the window when I’m in Thailand next month, because it’s rude to refuse food in other cultures, but on American soil (and eventually European soil) this is my hope. Another health “epiphany” I’ve had involves juicing – a juice fast to be more specific. 7-10 days of drinking nothing but fruit and vegetable juices to detox the body. Detoxing is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time, so there you have it.

2)      The Next Chapter. Also recently, I mentioned that I’ve been working on a book. No starting over, or tearing up old drafts; for now I’m just chugging through until I finish, and then I’ll make edits at the end. I don’t care if I’m the only person who ever reads or enjoys my own work, so long as I can finish what I started. No details except that it is a fantasy (and by “fantasy” I mean set in a fictional dystopian society) fiction. Think Hunger Games meets 1984 meets some elements from Harry Potter and maybe even some Star Trek.

3)      In the Heights. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be lucky enough to be studying the works of Jane Eyre and the Bronte sisters, as well as some creative writing for prose when I study abroad next spring. But…I don’t want to seem totally ignorant about classic British literature by the time I meet my professors in our one-on-one sessions, so I am attempting to get ahead with the Brontes this summer. I adore the film adaptations of both the Brontes’ and Austen’s novels, but have yet to read through each work, other than Emma. I’m putting Jane Austen on the back burner for now in favor of the gothic literature novel, Wuthering Heights. Some literary experts claim that Wuthering Heights is one of the most romantic works in the history of literature…I just think that Heathcliffe and Catherine are some seriously messed up fruit loops.

4)      Not the Absence of Fear. Sara Bareilles recently came out with a new single, “Brave,” which compelled me to rethink the ways in which I should implement bravery into my own life. I’ve always admired bravery as a quality, and do my best to exhibit it, but I know I can do more. I want to say what I believe in without fear of being treated with contempt or condescension. I want to be more truthful instead of finding myself feeling cornered. I want to be bolder, instead of slipping into the shadows. I want to stop running away from my past, and allow myself to confront it, and let it be a part of me.

5)      Continuation of “Being More.” And what is probably going to be the hardest to implement – become an overall better person. “Oh stop it, you’re such a sweet person!” some might interject (the word “sweet” was written in my high school yearbook no less than ten times). This could be true if you know me because I do try to be nice,  but perhaps you know me not well enough to have gotten on my bad side. I’m not a bad person (I hope?), but I don’t consider myself an entirely good person either, unfortunately. I’m a committed person, but mostly to my own goals. I’m selfish in this way, I suppose. I can be cold and slow to let you in. I am a workaholic (except these last few weeks), perpetually shy, and extremely skeptical. I don’t laugh at every joke, and smiling is something I have to actually think about, even when I’m in the best of moods. I could go on, but I’m starting to get sad now, so I’ll stop there.

Now as you’re reading that last one and thinking to yourself, “Hey yeah, now that I think about it, Caitlin is all of those things.” Hey now. That’s probably all true, but you’re no saint either…I’m just the one openly admitting to it. Judge not lest ye be judged.

 

Interrogation Room

Interrogation Room pic

Ever feel like you’re being watched? Not in a creepy way, but as if someone or some people make their assumptions about you based on observation;  faulty observations. It’s like – hence the title of this post – not making use of an interrogation room for its intended purpose. Instead of being questioned, the overseers utilize the room for a psych evaluation. But what you see isn’t necessarily what you get.

Even though I profess to hate poetry (*gasp* – I’m an English major, this simply shouldn’t be!), I like to dabble in attempting to write my own.  Some of these lines ran through my head while I was sitting in a church service, and this is what I came up with…so here’s “Interrogate.”

“Interrogate”

They are on the outside looking in

Whisper an array of words and theories

Which could not be more wrong again.

This time I stand silent and patient

No longer do I strike the glass

Window in the room of my interrogation.

She haunts me, my own reflection

Along with your cold stares from

Within, as I try to deflect them

With less success than in the past.

Your judgment consumes the questions

You never thought to ask.

The weight on my shoulders bears

The world and every soundless sleep.

A single light bulb, a lonely chair,

Tempers flare and tensions rise.

They attribute my condition to

Another insomniatic night.

The bulb flickers, another day passed

I rise, eager to leave this room as

Each time seems longer than last.

He knows my name well, the warden

Who holds me here; my name has been

Etched on the wall of my cell.

With immediacy I transition from ice to fire

You don’t see, you don’t understand

When you need only inquire.

Hot and cold, but perfectly sane

You tell me I’m harder to predict

Than a runaway train.

With tact you observe but fail to see

The answers lie beyond your window,

They have always lived with me.

A fact that has not occurred to any of

My observers, for no questions are asked

Inside my interrogation room.

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Shoulda Coulda Woulda pic

“You should be more outgoing.”

“You should wear brighter colored clothes.”

“You should’ve done music like your sister.”

“You should wear your hair like this; it wouldn’t look as bad.”

“You should go to college at _______.”

“You shouldn’t associate with those people.”

And on the “should’s” and “should not’s” go. Sadly these above quotations aren’t hypothetical like the ones I usually use.

I’m usually perceived as maintaining a rather quiet demeanor (which is what makes that first “should not” so annoying at times), and I suppose I’ve always been that way. If I was more vocal, I’d hate to see how my verbal reaction to the above scenarios would have panned out. Thus, I blog.

I like and appreciate guidance. I really do, but I’m just exhausted and sick from being told who I should be and what I should do, as well as how much “better” I could have been had I listened to all the “should have’s” in my life. Aren’t you?

“You shouldn’t drop out of school.” Okay, I agree with that. “You shouldn’t smoke crack.” Also agree with that. “You should consider all your options carefully.” Yep. “You should have been like _________, and done _____________.” Slow your engine, Speedy Gonzales. I should do nothing of the sort. But thank you for implying that my best is nowhere near being as good as so-and-so’s.

But maybe all these – let’s call them suggestions – are made with good intentions. Maybe if I did take all your suggestions to heart, I would be more like you. Why stop there – if everyone was like you, the world would be a much better place. And once everyone is unique like you, no one is!

Let’s take a real-life example. If I had taken Calculus in high school as I had been suggested by numerous well-intentioned folks, I would not have been able to take AP Psych, pass the exam, get college units from it, and be able to accelerate a year in college. Good job me for having poor Calculus skills and jumping ship within the first week, though it came as a disappointment to some others initially.

Yes, a lot of the “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” are perfectly valid, but even still, don’t you think that it’s already tough enough as it is to reach our own personal bests without having to think about the rest of the world? Obviously I care about worldly opinions. Unfortunately, this caring has driven me to obsession, and it’s made me become a person I’m not entirely happy with.

So before you tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do, consider where it’s coming from. Does it come from kindness, or some deeply-rooted need to control things? Not everyone is you. What is good for you may not be good for everyone else.

Maybe I should be more outgoing. Scratch that, I KNOW this is true. But don’t make me feel like some sort of freak if I’m not there yet. Thanks for the suggestion to brighten my wardrobe, but I’ll stick to my darker hues. Excuse me, I should have done music? I am so very happy in my current studies and hobbies, thank you very much. I have no desire to be like anyone else, even if my sister is pretty cool, but disregarding what I have chosen as my path of life is a slap to my face. Plus I cannot carry a tune anyway. Thanks for the tip to get a new ‘do, but although sort of dry at the moment, my current hair may not be desirable but it is manageable. As for the tip to go to that school rather than the one I am not now, too little too late. And finally, do not dictate who is worthy of being associated with. At this rate, they’re much more enjoyable to be around than anyone who addresses me with a pointed finger.

Now after ranting about how people shouldn’t tell each other what to do….you readers – all three-ish of you – have a good weekend. Why yes, that is in fact an order.