Friday, October 28, 2011

"The world spins madly on."

Yesterday was weird. Really weird. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and got online. The first thing I saw was a tweet about Occupy Oakland, and my immediate reaction was to just start sobbing. This inevitably led to more of that-- half an hour of it, exactly.

Then I made a pot of coffee. After I drank it, I attempted to start my day over again, so crawled back into bed for a bit and pulled my four-month-old kitten close to me.

Back on the Internet: Read, cry, rinse, repeat. So much for starting over.

One of the things I found was an article in USA Today titled As NOW marks 45 years, is feminism over the hill? Never mind that Shelby Knox, now 25, was the subject of a documentary on the importance of comprehensive sex education. Or that Katie Stack, 23, who won this year's Speak Out for Choice Award from NARAL, is the president of a chapter of NOW which consists mostly of young women. Or that my good friend Stephanie Sutton, 22, was one of the main organizers of SlutWalk Chicago & then traveled to New York City, where she bravely shared a poem she wrote about her sexual assault in front of ~4,000 people gathered there for SlutWalk NYC. And if I may connect this to the subject of OWS, my friend Stef--who lives in Brooklyn and can't find a job even though she had a master's degree by the time she was 22--has been actively involved in OWS and sent me a text message yesterday that said, "I'm running Occupy Student Debt on FB and @OWSDebtDay on Twitter to help have a Generation Debt rally on 11/12 at all OWS events!"

So here's the thing: I actually think that the USA Today article is directly linked to what happened in Oakland earlier this week. If people truly think that no one really cares and it's all just a game, then yeah, cops are going to get away with sneaking up on people and beating the shit out of them. It's not that no one's working hard to change things. It's that it's simply more convenient for people to say that no one gives a shit so that they can continue to uphold the status quo.

Anyway, by that point it was well after 10 a.m. I decided to get some homework done. I actually tend to do better on schoolwork when other stuff is stressing me out, because I use it to keep myself distracted from reality. Except um, I'm a women's studies major. So basically, I'm getting a degree in not turning away, in caring too much. "Distraction" really isn't part of my vocabulary these days.

I had to babysit at 3:30-- pick up the girls (ages five and eight) from school, help them with their homework, feed them dinner, bathe them, and put them to bed before their mom got home. So on my way out the door, I went to grab a book to bring with me; I'd have time to read it after they fell asleep. And I have tons of reading to do for school, but I couldn't decide on anything. My options were to read about this kind of oppression or those other people over there who are being discriminated against or all this other heartbreaking shit that's going on in the world.

And that's when I lost it. Sat in my car outside of the elementary school and cried until the dismissal bell rang. During that time, I used my cell phone to post the following to Twitter:

I really can't cope with shit today. I don't know what my deal is, but I feel like all the work I'm doing will amount to nothing. #mope

Between my women's studies classes & the news & other activism, everything is disheartening. Idk. I don't feel very strong today.

Other thoughts that were running through my head: Why do we bother? History just keeps repeating itself; this obviously is not the first time that there's been news of police brutality at a peaceful protest. And not only that, but it turns out that if we do care and we do work hard and we refuse to give up, PEOPLE WILL STILL FAIL TO ACKNOWLEDGE US.

And then I think of the kids I work with, and how I can't deal with the fact that they're growing up in a world like this-- where they're told that they can be anything they want to be when it flat-out isn't true. The government doesn't give a shit about them. They can grow up and work their asses off and, like Stef, have master's degrees by 22. But then what? They could, like so many already have, realize they've been lied to all along. And then they could protest and raise hell but it won't matter. They'll just be ignored.

I'm posting this because I think that if you deny that you feel helpless and desperate, you'll never be able to work past those feelings and make something good out of it. And, if I'm going to frame this as a response to that USA Today article I read yesterday: Maybe people are failing to recognize that we're here because they're looking for burning bras and rage but THERE ISN'T ANY LEFT RIGHT NOW because feminism has changed over time and currently takes the form of despair.

I'm a young feminist. And I'm angry. But I'm also profoundly sad. The problem isn't that young people don't know what's at stake. All you need to do is take a brief look around to realize that. Instead, I think that because of the current political climate, compassionate people who believe in equality are, in some cases, shamed into keeping their mouths shut. And those who are brave enough to speak out just aren't being heard over the noise of those who insist on holding all the power.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shifting gears

There are a lot of things I've been thinking about. And writing about.

But not here.

I've kind of neglected this blog recently. Sure, I've updated from time to time, but mostly just to say that I'm still alive and (miraculously!) haven't burned down the kitchen in my attempts to keep myself fed.

This is a far cry from what I was doing with this blog a year ago, at which point I was an active participant in feminist blog carnivals (This is What a Young Feminist Looks Like, NARAL's Blog for Choice Day, and I Stand with Planned Parenthood, among others). I also wrote posts reflecting on books I read, and shared my thoughts on things like education, young adult literature (because I will not-so-secretly always love it-- no matter how old I get), and general 20-something-type stuff: feelings of inadequacy, uncertainty, etc, etc.

But I think it's important to put those posts against the backdrop of where I was at in life last year. At the time, I'd just transferred colleges, moved in with my parents, and was--even though I was hesitant to admit it then--incredibly lonely. My self-indulgent blogging habit (as I came to call it) helped me not only to organize my thoughts and figure out what the hell I was doing, but also kept me connected to people who shared my interests.

And some of those online connections turned out to be far more profound & long-lasting than I would have ever expected. This year, I've had the chance to meet and work with feminists from across the country, and have gotten involved in a couple of projects that I'm really excited about.

(And yes, I've also made some friends at my new school. I couldn't be more glad about that.)

Anyway, I've thinking of making a zine. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got the idea from my friend Lucy, who, in the editor's note of her inaugural issue, explained her reason for replacing her blog with a zine: "Every time I try to do a blog it ends up feeling like I'm pulling teeth to say what I want and make it politically correct for any future employment. This zine is created on my terms and with my own words."

I have been very busy and active-- infinitely more so than I was a year ago. As I mentioned, I'm incredibly excited about the stuff I've been doing, and have a lot to say about it. But here just isn't the place to share my thoughts on those things.

So I've been looking for a more appropriate venue for sharing my thoughts with a few friends and fellow activists. And just as I was pondering that, a copy of Lucy's new zine arrived in the mail.

I've spent the past couple of weeks reading up on zine-making. Lucy's also given me a few tips. She and I are both former editors-- she of the student newspaper at NMU, and I of two art/literary magazines (Looking Glass in high school and Cardinal Sins at SVSU). And yet this is an endeavor very much unlike either of those publications. I have some graphic design know-how, but don't really intend to use it. Lucy's zine was a mix of things: typed stuff that she photocopied, pages of handwritten material, and a few images. She took pages of 8.5 x 11" computer paper, folded them in half, and stapled the pages together. I will likely do something similar. I like that what she made looks very much like a scrapbook. That, I think, is well-suited to what I hope to accomplish by doing this: something tangible to show for what I've been up to lately-- a more interesting way of communicating with people than Facebook messaging. Maybe it'll eventually evolve into something a little bigger than that, but who knows; it's all a big experiment for me right now.

I'll still update this page from time to time; unlike Lucy, I have no plans to delete my blog anytime soon. When I joined Google+, for example, I didn't leave Facebook. I just post whatever's most appropriate for the audiences on those respective sites. Same thing with this. Assuming my zine actually materializes, it'll certainly have a much more limited audience than my blog does. Therefore, it'll contain different information.

Anyway, that's all for now. See ya around, Internet.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Things I think

This past weekend, I received a zine in the mail from my friend Lucy. It was really cool; she mentioned in her "editor's note" that she'd been inspired in part by the Riot Grrrl movement to create it. Parts were handwritten, others were not. And then she'd photocopied pages from books she's been reading lately. And there were a few images, too.

My favorite page was one where she'd written "Things I think" at the top. And then she just listed stuff. From reading it, I learned that she'd growing out her hair and that she's taking an Arab Islamic history course right now that she loves.

One of the things she really emphasized was the importance of not just embracing chaos, but creating it. That spoke to me because even though I hide it well, I'm pretty uptight, and panic if I feel like I'm not in control of a given situation (even one that I'm not supposed to have control over in the first place).

In an attempt to loosen up a little, I'm going to make a list of things I think. Here goes:
  • I really want swoop bangs like Mary Weiss (lead singer of the Shangri-Las), circa 1965. This is something I've been thinking about for years now, so maybe I should just do it already.
  • I want to go back to creating music. Singing & playing piano were two of my very favorite things when I was younger. I'd like to go back to it.
  • Sometimes I take a deep breath and remind myself that I will not be babysitting forever, because the kids I watch will not be children forever.
  • Iron & Wine-induced naps are so, so great.
  • Some days I wish that the Internet didn't exist so I'd be forced to get up and go after what really matters to me. The web is the only way I stay connected to the people I care about, most of whom live far away.
  • "Super Bass" by Nicki Minaj is my happy song.
  • This is slightly morbid, but just like anyone else who writes, I have to admit that I think about death a lot. And I'm convinced that traditional funerals are unnecessarily expensive (I feel the same way about weddings, but that's another rant for another day). I think a great way to stick it to the man would be to research exactly what a traditional funeral would cost and then give that amount of money to a cause that the deceased person was passionate about. And then instead of having a normal wake, just cremate the person and gather at someone's home to reminisce.
  • The sound of people talking over each other makes me really anxious and panicky. I don't watch TV for this reason, or listen to radio talk shows. Everyone in my family loves to watch TV though, and there are often several TVs on at one time. It's overwhelming and awful and sometimes I wonder if there's something physically wrong with me, because other people seem to be able to handle a shitstorm of noise. But I just can't.
  • I'm constantly being made aware of my own blinders, my own preconceived notions about things and people. I live in a notoriously conservative town. So when I decided to wear overtly political pins on the strap of my tote bag, I assumed that I'd get nothing but shit for it. While I have gotten some (a lady at Kroger told me that she'd pray for me), I've also gotten into great conversations with like-minded people because of the pins I wear. Shame on me for making assumptions.
  • Public transit > driving.
  • I have a thing for 80s sitcoms. My favorite show of all time is The Golden Girls. I spent my summer watching all 7 seasons of Family Ties on Netfilx (yes, really).
That's it for now, I suppose. I've decided to stop making excuses and just write as much as possible, because no matter how much I try to deny it, writing is and always will be extremely important to me. I need to write more often. And maybe I'll post some of it here; I've kind of neglected this blog lately. :-/ I've felt annoyed with myself because I've had this blog for over two years now and still don't know what the hell I'm doing with it. Can't seem to focus.

But maybe that's because I care about a lot of things. And that can't be bad. Embrace chaos. Create it.

Thanks, Lucy. :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall 2009 semester, two years later

Those who know me even remotely well know that I have a pretty astounding memory for numbers, especially dates. I don't know why this is, exactly, but it usually comes in handy. Like on people's birthdays, for example.

There's a downside to this, however. And that's that I remember bad things, too.

For the past couple of years, October's been rough. This is because in October of 2009, I was going through a really hard time. But I'm not going to get into the details, because it's been done before.

Thanks to my memory for dates, I spent October of 2010 replaying everything that had happened a year prior in my head. It sucked. I woke up on October 1 of this year and started to do that, but decided that I just couldn't waste a whole month on that again.

So I've decided to write down everything that happened that month, sans anything negative.

And I've come up with quite a bit. :)

As background, I'll say this. I was twenty years old and in my third year of school at SVSU. I was majoring in creative writing, and working as the editor-in-chief of the campus art/literary magazine.

Friday, October 2: I drunkenly stumble into a Saginaw coffee shop and loudly declare (to friends of mine who are gathered there for a poetry reading) that I'm a lesbian (which, at this point, is something that very few people know). My ex-boyfriend's mom (of all people) drags me out of the coffee shop, puts me in her car, and takes me to her house, where I run into my ex-boyfriend. Because I'm classy, I throw up all over myself. And because he is a saint, he washes my puke-covered clothes for me.

Monday, October 5: My friend says to me, "You know how you bite your nails when you're stressed out? Well, I couldn't help but notice that all ten of your fingers are bleeding."

I see that my friend is right; I am stressed out. So that night when I get home, I decide to dye my hair bright green. It turns an awful chlorine-shade of yellowish green instead.

Wednesday, October 7: The Director of Media Relations (otherwise known as the guy who interviewed me for my editorship) runs into me at Starbucks on campus, takes a close look at my head, and says, "But according to your Facebook status, it's supposed to be green. This doesn't look very green to me."

I shudder and tell myself to be more careful about who sees what I post on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 14: I run into an English instructor who tells me that I look stressed out, so should come to her office for chocolate sometime.

Thursday, October 15: I show up in aforementioned instructor's office for chocolate and a pep talk. I end up doing this several times throughout the semester.

Friday, October 16: I'm eating pancakes at my friend's apartment when her roommate says that she wants to be an atheist for Halloween because atheists are scary. So I look her in the eye and say, "Boo."

Saturday, October 17: The same friend who invited me over for pancakes the day before comes to my apartment to cook me dinner and bring me a bottle of Witches Brew. I tell her that I think I want to change my major. She looks surprised and says, "Never saw that coming. The next thing you know, Travis [our extremely responsible, conservative, predictable friend] will come rolling in on a motorcycle and tell us that he's joining a commune."

Sunday, October 18: I post the following Facebook status: "Amelia is having that crisis she assumes everyone has at some point in their lives. You know, the one that goes, 'Oh no! I don't want to be doing this for the rest of my life, but it's too late to change things!'"

A friend comments with, "Dude, you are TWENTY."

So I take a chill pill.

Tuesday, October 20: After class, I head over to my friend's apartment. Her sister works as a hair dresser, and has offered to give me a free haircut. While I'm waiting for her to show up, I check my email, and receive a really upsetting message. So I spend half an hour lying on my friend's lawn, sobbing. She takes a picture of me, which, to this day, pops up on her cell phone every time I call.

Saturday, October 24: I plan to spend the day in my office, laying pages for the semester's issue of the art/literary magazine. Because Starbucks is closed on the weekends, I bring my coffee maker with me to the office. I am absolutely certain that this is the best idea I have ever had. When my roommate wakes up an hour or so after I leave and discovers that the coffee maker is missing, she is not pleased with me.

Monday, October 26: After a day of classes, I walk out to my car and find a note tucked under my windshield from a friend who senses that I need a bit of encouragement. This makes my whole month.


People took such good care of me. I forgave the friend who took a picture of me having a meltdown on her lawn because she's also the one who invited me over for breakfast and then invited herself over to my apartment the next day to cook me dinner. Plus, she's the one who made the comment about my bloody fingers. And she frequently refused to hang out with me because she was worried that I wasn't getting enough sleep.

And they let me cry. I didn't mention that every afternoon, I called my mom from the backseat of my car, where I'd sit between classes and cry. One afternoon, I called her at the same time I always did, but for whatever reason, was in an uncharacteristically good mood. I was surprised by how exhausted she sounded when she answered, like she was bracing herself for another meltdown of mine.

She could have ignored the call, but she didn't. She always picked up, always listened.

So many people did that (see above). So maybe I should stop thinking of it as the worst time of my life.

I'm not going to look back at that time and beat myself up for being an ungrateful brat. I was far from ungrateful, and I do think that I had every right to be as angry/confused/depressed/frustrated as I was. But I am, from this point forward, going to try to focus more on the lovers than the haters. That's the mistake I made then. Instead of ignoring the people who were trying to bring me down, I spent my time trying to please them. I should have known that I wasn't going to win that battle. Instead of spending what little energy I had crying, maybe I should have focused on the areas where I knew I could succeed.

I can't go back in time, but at the very least I can say that that's what I'm doing now.

People have noticed that I've fully embraced a "Haters gonna hate" philosophy. I guess they assume that I did it because the cartoon guy who struts around saying it is totally adorable. But the real reason is that I learn everything the hard way.

Which is better than not at all, I suppose. :)