Thursday, February 27, 2014

I've Been Published!

The thing that I thought would never happen has happened. I am a published writer! I was contacted last April to see if my blog post "Where Did Our Clothes Come From?" could be included into a college textbook called Sustainability: a Reader for Writers. Obviously I jumped at the opportunity. I was a couple months away from graduating with a degree in English with intentions of pursuing writing when they emailed me, and it could not have come at a more perfect time. It seemed the closer I got to getting out of college, the more self-doubt crept into my head telling me that I wasn't a good enough writer to pursue it seriously. So to have a college professor (of English, no less) find something I wrote and want to include it into his book, was such validation that I wasn't as bad as the voice in my head was telling me I was. The downside, though, is that I never wrote the post with the intentions of it being published anywhere other than my own blog and therefore wrote it very casually like I do most of my posts. After I gave permission for them to use the article I quickly went back and read it over trying to find and fix all the grammatical mistakes that were sprinkled throughout the article, in vain I'm sure, since they probably had the post already included 'as is' in the book before emailing me. Even since getting a copy of the book, I've never been able to actually read the article myself for fear that I'm going to be overly critical about something I wrote 4 years ago and then obsess about how differently I would have written it now, or how there is a comma where there should have been a semi-colon.

This is where I wish I had known about Grammarly, a website that's like spell check for grammar, sooner. I'm now going to use Grammarly to correct grammar in all my blog posts from here on out since having grammatical errors in your writing is like having food stuck in your teeth: everyone sees it, but nobody wants to be the one to point it out to you. Grammarly is like that friend who not only tells you it's there, but helps you get rid of it so people won't laugh at you behind your back.

The point is, is that I'm over-the-moon that something I wrote was deemed good enough to be in print, even if I am still a bit self-conscious about my writing abilities. The best part about being published in a textbook though, has to be the questions at the end where students have to discuss what I wrote (and even having to do an exercise of going to the mall!).

Sure, I've been self-publishing stuff I've written on this blog for years, but there really is an unexplainable feeling of seeing your name in print and the words you've written in ink on paper. I hope it's a feeling I'll have many more times.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Diluted Experiences

The other night on my way home from work I hit a dog. I was driving through my neighborhood like every other night when out of nowhere I see a ball of fur dart out in front of me. I slammed on my brakes and felt a thud under my right front tire followed by a blood-curdling cry. Oh my gosh, I killed it I thought to myself, frozen in shock. Immediately I looked out my passenger side window realizing the crying was moving away from my car, and I see the poor thing running back up its owner's driveway holding up its left front paw. Holy crap, it's still alive! I couldn't believe it. I thought for sure I had just killed it. I fumbled to get my car in park and get the keys out of the ignition before I was walking up the driveway to where the owner was now holding the dog in the garage. "I am so sorry, is she okay? Is it her paw? I didn't even see her; I am so sorry. I feel so bad." I kept saying over and over. The owner was extremely nice, telling me not to feel bad, that it wasn't my fault, that she ran out in front of me. Still, my heart felt heavy in my chest. Losing two of my own dogs last year, and knowing how awful it is, I did not want to be the reason for someone else losing theirs. The dog was no longer crying, but the owner was saying how he was going to take her in just in case. I kept apologizing until I felt like I may be annoying him, and when I felt like there was nothing more I could do, I got back in my car and went home.

I sat at the kitchen table in a daze, thinking about it, replaying it over and over in my head. I thought about it in the shower, while brushing my teeth, while laying in bed. I kept thinking of the dog's face in my headlights and the sound of the thud. And even though I knew I hadn't killed the dog, that I hadn't been speeding, that I didn't do anything wrong, and even the owner himself told me not, I still felt bad. I felt awful.

Suddenly, my thoughts turned to one of my old co-workers. A woman in her forties who was so nice and so pleasant and whom I liked so much; and how a few years ago she had struck and killed a twenty-year-old guy after he drunkenly ran into the street in front of her car.  Like me, she hadn't been speeding or drinking or doing anything wrong, but unlike me, it wasn't just an animal, it was a person. I had a whole new level of sympathy for her. Here I was beside myself because I accidentally ran over a dog's paw, and the level of guilt I felt must have been a mere fraction of what she went through.

I'm a strong believer in things happening for a reason. Sometimes that reason may just be that you were at the wrong place at the wrong time, but I believe that God will use these misfortunes for good. Whether they teach us lessons or better our character, I do not think he ever wastes our pain or experiences. I could drive myself crazy thinking how maybe if something were different I would have missed hitting that dog. If I had driven faster or slower, if I had lingered at a stop sign longer. But what if lingering at the stop sign meant that the dog would have been further out into the street and instead of just its paw, I ran over its whole body? The what-ifs are not only endless; they're worthless. It happened how it happened. And that's when I had the thought that maybe God gives me these serious, yet diluted experiences to teach me empathy towards others. That he wants to grow my ability to feel others' pain, even if only in little pieces. He knows that if that had been a person instead of a dog, it would have sent me to a mental hospital. So He handled me with kid gloves because I am a fragile person, but he also knows my ability to feel things deeply is also a gift. So he lets me feel the pain and guilt of hurting a dog so, not only am I more cautious, now I have a memory that I can draw from and tap into when I come across someone dealing with something similar. Because sometimes hearing someone else's story of how they went through what you're going through makes you feel a little less alone. And even more importantly, it makes you look at them differently, now understanding the pain they, too, hold inside.

photo via lomography

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Are Terms of Endearment Actually Endearing?

I asked some of my male co-workers the other day whether or not they use terms of endearment to people they don't know. You know, words like: sweetie, babe, hon, sweetheart. They seem nice enough, they mean nice things, so why do they bug me so much? They answered, "yeah, sometimes." Like it was no big deal and perfectly normal. Really? I asked in disbelief. Why?!

I have never in my life called someone "sweetheart" or "hon" that wasn't meant to be blatantly ridiculous. It feels weird and unnatural coming out of my mouth. Sure, I'll send my best friend an occasional "Hey, sugartits" text but that's besides the point. One of my biggest pet peeves is when anyone under 70, from either gender, refers to me as "sweetie" or "babe". I take it as extremely condescending, even though I know that they probably aren't trying to be. I see these words as something you call a child; so in my book, if you're not an elderly person, knock it off.

My hangup about this may have started when I was 14, and I was an office TA at my school. During my 3rd period, I would answer phones, deliver call slips and do other tasks for the school staff. There was one lady in particular that worked in the front office who I always hated being around because she was mean and acted very entitled. In the adult world, I would describe her as a customer who always complains about something and is never happy with anything. Every time she needed me to do something for her she would address me, "Hey, mija..." which I knew was a term of endearment but it always seemed so fake and condescending coming from her. From then on I always saw these types of words as something people used to sweet-talk you into doing something for them.

My co-workers, all males in their 20s, admitted that they usually say it in a flirtatious, yet harmless, way and are more likely to use it to a person they know they will never see again. Then what's the point? You're never going to see her again, therefore, butter her up nice and douchey? Do you wink at her after you say it, too? Don't get me wrong, I'm sure the majority of people who use these words to perfect strangers do it to be nice, but I can't help but get the willies every time they're said to me. I can't be alone in this. Right, babe?

Here is an entertaining list of terms of endearment that people should start using. My favorites are big-daddy-yum-yum, honey-toast, and shabookadook.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Things From Around The Web

Happy Monday, everyone. How was your weekend? Mine was spent working and catching up on Downton Abbey. Not even complaining. Here are a few links to start off the week:

How to pass time on the train.

What your dog's really thinking.

For all of you who work in retail.

Zoo lets you have a tug-a-war with tigers.

Made me laugh.

What security cameras also catch (try not to tear up).

Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron was a topic of discussion among my co-workers and I this weekend. The story takes about 15 minutes to read, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.  

                                                       Have a wonderful week!

Photo via alkeemi

Monday, February 3, 2014

Crushes are like purses and other reasons why I'm single.

I've had a crush on a guy for the last six months. I know how long it's been because it happened the week before I graduated college last July. I remember thinking it was the worst yet perfect timing to develop a crush on someone. It was the worst because I had been counting down the weeks until I was free from all academic obligation and could totally immerse myself into anything I wanted. I had plans to go for hikes and visit museums and watch 45 movies a week and read book after book and do everything I had always claimed I didn't have time to do. Yet within the course of a couple days all of that free time was suddenly filled with anxious energy that made it hard for me to do anything at all. This is why it was also perfect timing; I had no obligations, like papers or tests, that were going to suffer because I couldn't concentrate on anything other than this guy. The only thing that was going to suffer was my sanity.

Let me take you back to how it started. It started when I somehow developed a crush on someone I had never seen before, and someday I wish I could explain how that's even possible. He lived down the street from me and I had always assumed he was around my age, yet I had never actually seen him. With my immature mentality, I automatically thought, well if he's my age then he must be cute, and we probably have a lot in common. (This thought process alone makes me realize that I'm more in love with possibility than anything else.) The week before I graduated was the first time I saw him, and that's when I realized I had seen him before. I'd seen him a lot actually because he came into my work all the time. Or at least it seemed like all the time, but of course once I started waiting for him to come in, he never did. You know, a watched pot never boils and all that. I immediately recognized him, and admittedly, let out a 'noooo' in my head, because this was the guy who I always dreaded helping at work because he always made me so nervous to the point where I would be really short and almost bitchy with him and I don't know why. For the life of me I can't remember if he ever did or said anything to make me act that way or if it was just my normal defense mechanism I use against guys I'm in denial about being attracted to and therefore intimidated by.  

So here I was, going to work and passing his house every day, trying to think of how I would start a conversation if I saw him, getting myself more and more nervous about it. It was like waiting in the wings of a stage for a performance that was never going to happen. But the worst part about it, and why I hate having crushes on people at all, is that I couldn't stop thinking about how my life would be different because of him. Here, I take a perfectly innocent stranger, someone I know nothing about and give him all these qualities and characteristics until really, I just have a crush on a fictional person who just happens to have the physical appearance of this guy. Then I start to think if we do end up together, maybe I'll just magically be more outgoing and adventurous and I won't be as nervous anymore, like all my personality quirks are just going to miraculously disappear once I start dating someone. 

This is when I started to think about the purse I got when I was 8. It was right before Christmas and like every 8-year-old I was being sneaky with the presents under the tree. After fiddling with one in particular I could finally lift the paper enough to see that it was a purse. A black vinyl double shoulder strap purse with the whole Peanuts gang on the front, to be exact. I was ecstatic. In my head, this purse was going to change my life. For the next week all I could do was think about how much better my life was going to be with this purse in it. It wasn't the purse that was going to make my life better, it was who I was going to be because I had a purse. All my daydreams consisted of different scenarios where I had to look annoyingly through the purse to find something. Because in my 8-year-old brain, where there was a purse, there was always a frustrated woman trying to find something in it. Having a purse meant that you were old enough to need to carry things with you. You were mature. You had places to go and things to bring. And all of these things were just going to come to me simply for having this purse in my life. 

This is the same way my brain works when I like a guy. Even more than daydreaming about being in a relationship, I daydream about who I'll be because of it. Like having a significant other will automatically make me like to travel and drink wine and go on road trips and bungee jump. It won't, but because liking someone suddenly fills you with this hope that maybe you aren't doomed to be alone forever and there might be someone out there for you, it starts to spill over and fill you with hope that other things are possible too. Seeing his car parked outside his house suddenly became this symbol of hopefulness and anticipation the way Daisy's green light was for Gatsby. It was a sign of them and that they were there, but it was also a symbol of the possibilities of what could be. That's what I love and hate about having feelings, especially towards other people. I love that it fills me with this optimism that maybe there's someone out there that will get me and accept me and fill in all my gaps. But I also hate how it drives me crazy not to know whether or not someone is even worth putting that hope into.

But then I realized, just like that purse didn't make me into a different person when I was 8, a relationship isn't going to turn me into a different person when I'm 26. I didn't have much use for a purse when I was a kid because I didn't have a need for it.  I had nothing to carry around. Yet over time my life changed to where I did have stuff to carry with me and that's when I started to rely on a purse to help me tote everything around. So maybe one day I will develop a crush that will turn into that one person who will be there to help me carry around other types of things, like emotional burdens and future goals. Because sometimes it gets heavy carrying around everything by yourself. Not that you can't do it, but that you don't want to anymore.. And not that having a purse means you aren't still carrying your stuff, it just makes it a little easier to do so. So instead of being bummed that I never got to talk to him, or that we never developed some once-in-a-lifetime connection, I'm choosing to look at it like this is God's way of saying that I don't need a purse right now; it's the carrying of these things, not the being with someone, that's going to make me into that person I hope to be. He was just the catalyst. 

I've been reluctant to write about all of this in the rare occurrence that he ever stumbled across my blog and read it. But two things give me somewhat peace of mind about it: one, the fact that he rarely even comes into my work anymore makes me think that if he isn't even interested in seeing me, he's probably not interested in Googling me. And two, when I was 16 I accidentally came across my brother's friend's Livejournal where there was an entry about him having a crush on me, even using my first and last name which I thought was such a crazy and vulnerable thing to do, but what I remember most is being insanely flattered by it and my self-confidence going up about 1000%. So, the best scenario is that I get this off my chest anonymously, and the worst is that he reads it and takes it as a compliment and is flattered by it. But if you are reading this, I promise I'm not a psycho and you're welcome to come talk to me at my work anytime. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Can't Relate

One of the things that I've asked myself many times while dealing with anxiety is why nobody else ever seems to be dealing with anything. Every time I go out somewhere I can't help but look around and notice how together everyone seems to be. People always seem like they're genuinely enjoying their lives, or if not enjoying it, they at least aren't bothered by it. I asked my mom this once, why everyone else seemed to go about their day without a problem and I could barely function outside of my home. She told me, "Everyone has a cross to bear, people just don't usually show it. Everyone is struggling, you just can't tell. Nobody would ever think you're struggling by looking at you just like you can't tell they're struggling by looking at them." It reminded me of that quote by Plato that says to be nice, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. I truly, truly believe this. We all have our issues. We all have our crosses. We shouldn't assume anything.

But, with that being said, I find it perfectly acceptable that I can acknowledge everyone is struggling without accepting that everyone understands what it's like to endure our particular struggle. For example, whenever I would confide in someone about my panic disorder, people would tell me about how they or someone they knew deal or have dealt with anxiety. I would feel a sense of relief, letting out an internal sigh and think, they get it, only to have them say something that made me realize that they kind of get it without actually getting it. When people tell you that they understand, they understand their version of your struggle, but they don't understand your uniquely-shaped struggle, and that is where lies the difference.

A lot of people know what it feels like to be nervous, so they understand what anxiety feels like and they use the term interchangeably, which is fine, they essentially mean the same thing, but at the same time it can also lessen the intensity of the meaning. I've heard people say they thought they "were going to have an anxiety attack" before a presentation when really they meant they had some very reasonable nervous jitters before standing in front of a large audience. This reminds me of  Louis CK's bit about over-using words like 'amazing' and 'hilarious'. When 'anxiety' and 'panic' are used to describe very healthy bouts of situational nerves, what word do you use when the feeling of impending doom overwhelms your mind and body to the point where you think you might be losing control of your sanity and it stops you from participating in everyday things? Unfortunately, there is no word for that.

But I digress. This isn't about the terminology surrounding anxiety. This is about when people say they understand what you're going through but don't really or when people try to make you feel better by saying EVERYONE feels like this. But you know that can't possibly be true because you're around people all the time and you watch them do stuff and they do things that you cannot fathom doing yourself and you look at them and think, if you feel like how I feel how can you be doing that? I started noticing this after some people at my work invited me to go to the movies. When I asked what movie they were seeing, they said whatever scary/paranormal/horror movie that was out at the time. I thought to myself, who would ever want to subject themselves to seeing that and purposely make your adrenaline go through the roof? My imagination is crazy enough without a movie lending suggestions of things I didn't even know I should be worried about. That's when I realized that not only could people not relate to me, as long as the Saw franchise was making hundreds of millions of dollars from people like my co-workers who willingly wanted to see stuff like that, I couldn't relate to the majority of people. Then I started to mentally list other people that I can't relate to:

People who read in cars.
People who drink venti frappuccinos with no stomach discomfort afterward.
People who drink any coffee before going somewhere for a long period of time, especially on an airplane or amusement park.
People who have no problem going to concerts and not feeling overwhelmed by the
vast amount of people and noise.
People who have no reservations about trying random ethnic foods.
People who can wear a bra for hours without feeling like they're suffocating.
People who have no problem having a phone conversation in public.
People who enjoy talking on the phone at all.
People who think going to Times Square on New Year's Eve sounds fun.
People who have numerous consecutive boyfriends/girlfriends, especially in a short period of time.
People who really look forward to traveling.
People who can drink alcohol without panicking about feeling lightheaded.
People who can watch horror films or look at disturbing images.
People who have no problem falling asleep while home alone.

But this doesn't mean I don't like these kinds of people, or even need these kinds of people, because I do. I need people who are okay doing the things I'm not because if everyone were like me, we'd all be up the creek and nothing would get done. What I'm saying is that not everyone feels like everyone else, and we shouldn't lie that we do. It's okay to admit you can't relate to what someone is going through. What bothers me might not bother someone else and vice versa. But just because we can't understand, or relate to, or even see a person's struggle doesn't make it any less real or any less valid. And just because someone does something that is our own anxiety trigger doesn't mean they don't struggle with something else that we can do without a problem.  The truth is: we will never fully understand someone else's hang-ups no matter how much we think we do, and nobody will fully understand ours no matter how much we wish they could. The key then is to be compassionate regardless, and to be patient both with people's struggles we don't understand and with those who don't understand ours. But one thing I know for sure: Someone who drinks a venti caramel frappuccino before boarding a plane clearly fears nothing.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Film Styles: Frances Ha

How would I describe Frances Ha? Well, it's pretty much an 80 minute episode of Girls. Don't get me wrong, I like Girls and I liked Frances Ha, they just feel very similar. I liked Frances because she made me feel better about myself, like I'm not the only 20-something that isn't a real adult yet. She's a 27-year-old out-of-work dancer living in New York City, trying to figure her stuff out, but she does it in a way that still kind of makes me wish I was her. I loved how she was just so effortlessly herself, if that makes sense. Her hair's a mess and she looks like she just grabbed whatever was lying around and threw it on, but it works. I yearn to be that cool. To throw on a dress and a bomber jacket like I don't even care and people look at you like, yeah, that totally make sense. Here are some pieces that you could add to a Frances-esque wardrobe, but of course, in true Frances fashion all these pieces should probably be thrifted or hand-me-downs and a couple of sizes too big.

Current/Elliot button up, $248
Dorothy Perkins pencil skirt, $21
Bomber jacket, $35
High-top Converse, $55
Black leggings, $15
Topshop floral dress, $68
J. Crew cardigan, $50
Ballet flats, $19.99
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