Thursday, July 10, 2014

Childhood Innocence

Yesterday afternoon I sat perched on a bench, nursing my cup of coffee, feeling the sunshine soak into my skin. I sat observing and listening to my surroundings, when I noticed a little boy prancing around, followed by his mother. They walked into the library then stopped in front of Star Fountain. The boy climbed up onto the edges of the fountain and started walking around it, taking big, full steps while singing, “I’m free. I’m free as can be in the waaater!” He walked around a few times, continuing to sing and swing his arms as his mother stood there expressionless. She kept telling her son, come on, come on, we have places to go, but he just kept dancing around the fountain lost in his own little world. A few weeks ago I walked along the canal downtown and saw a group of kids walking on a raised ledge near some steps. They were so excited and yelled out, “Mom! Look at me! Woaaaah!!” In both instances, these kids were so excited about life; just existing in a space where there was a wall or fountain to climb, and the fact that they could climb it if they wanted, brought them so much joy. 
Me as a child.

I oftentimes find myself completely enamored by children because they are so free. This little boy was so happy and full of life by simply walking around a fountain. I love that. Kids are so excited about living, and they act upon their impulses to find excitement, then seek out opportunities to do so. Children get so excited over the simplest things; things that exist in the world already that we often don’t notice because we are too distracted by our own lives. They explore these things in different ways than adults because they don’t feel inhibited, and they don’t have to worry about jobs, conflicts, making dinner, or paying bills. They see a wall that seems good for climbing, so they climb it. They hear a tune in their head, so they sing it. That’s such a beautiful thing. They’re still young enough that they don’t know curse words, and the worst thing they can hear in a day is that their favorite television show is playing a rerun tonight. (Do you even remember the last time you didn’t say or hear a curse word? Wouldn’t it be magical to revisit a time in your life when “shut up” was the meanest phrase you knew?) As cliché as it sounds, they don’t know the realities of the world yet, and I’m jealous of that. I still don’t know many harsh realities, but I oftentimes wish I knew fewer than I do. I wish I was so innocent and free that climbing up on a wall would stir up so much excitement inside me that I’d have to call out so someone could see me and share in my joy.

I enjoy being a 20-year-old, and I am aware that being my age gives me more opportunities and knowledge than a 10-year-old, but I am a little envious of childhood splendor and innocence. As a child, life seems so grand and exciting, and every afternoon holds an adventure in your neighborhood. This is still somewhat true in my present life, and I try to keep my inner-child alive by wearing my Forever Lazy to class, or by talking to strangers and asking people weird questions, but never again will walking and singing around a modest-size fountain be the most dazzling part of my day. I kind of wish it could be.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Routine Reflections

As I mentioned in this post, I’ve been living in Indianapolis these past few weeks teaching art camp. I decided to come home on Thursday to spend the Fourth of July weekend with my family. Being home, even very briefly, made me realize how quickly humans settle into routines, or ways of living. Tomorrow will mark the beginning of my third week living in Indianapolis. Even though I’ve just been there for two full weeks, it seems as if I’ve been there much longer. I’ve talked to friends a few times since I’ve been away, and it seems like a lot has happened in these past two weeks. Being home this weekend made me realize this even more. Even though I haven’t been gone long, I feel kind of out of place being back home. 
Fourth of July with my bros.

Before I left for Indy, I’d been at home for almost two whole months. Obviously I fell into the routine and comfort of being home, seeing my home friends and family on a regular basis, and hitting up Peoria spots to keep myself occupied. Despite being at school for nine months, derping around my house and hometown felt normal again pretty quickly. Strangely enough, after being back at Butler for only a few days, and having a routine totally out of my school routine (living in a house I’d never lived in, and spending time with people I didn’t spend a lot of time with during the school year), I still fell back into the comfort of being at school. Being away for just two weeks readjusted me to a schedule and lifestyle that was completely different from what I’d been living so far this summer. Being home now for a few days, living my life out of the routine and context I’ve been living it for the past two weeks, feels strange.

Even though we like to think that routine doesn’t rule our lives, or that we are free beings who can do what we want, when we want, if it feels right, “routine” does rule us in some ways. I’m not saying that I’ve done the exact same thing every single day for the past two weeks, but I’ve been in the routine of a consistent living space and environment, so that's governed me in some ways. Although I enjoy being free and having room to explore, I find that my life feels more fulfilled, and my creative juices flow most freely, when the rest of my life has some sort of structure. Having some sort of consistency makes us feel more comfortable, which aids us in living our best lives. 


I find it interesting how I can feel thrown off my game by being taken out of the setting I’ve been living in recently for a short amount of time, and be put back in a setting where I’ve done most of my living up to this point. Our bodies and minds subconsciously adjust to our external world in ways that we cannot control. I think that’s kind of rad.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Stereotyping Shenanigans

Last night I went to a party with some of my roommates and two new friends. I love making new friends and learning about people, so whilst at said party, I struck up a conversation with a kid we will call Billy*. “Billy” complimented my outfit: a black and white polka dot dress with red high top sneakers, complete with my house key tied to the laces, and then we started chatting. We talked about what we each did that day, our majors, where we worked, movies we liked, music we listened to, and things we enjoyed doing; you know, classic party small talk. When he asked me where I was living next year, and I replied that I’d be living in Theta, my sorority house, my new acquaintance was taken aback. Billy kind of jolted his head back a little bit and got a funny look on his face, then said something along the lines of, “Oh really. You’re in a sorority? That surprises me.” I’ve gotten that response from people many times before, but Billy said these words as if he had a bad taste in his mouth; like he’d just drank a whole gallon of prune juice. I told Billy, “Yes, I am in a sorority. I lived in the house this past year and really enjoyed myself, so I’m living in again this coming school year.” Then Billy oh so eloquently replied, “Ehh, don’t you kind of feel like a sell-out?”

After noting my funky fresh outfit, having a surface level conversation with me, and knowing me for no more than approximately nine minutes, Billy really knew everything about me: all of my interests, everything I’m involved in, and of course why I’m involved in the things I am. Not to mention the way my brain works, and what joy I do or do not get from the activities I participate in. Billy was like suuuuper perceptive and really knew enough about me in that moment to know if my participation in anything would be considered “selling out.” (If you don’t note the sarcasm here, I’m gonna punch something). I politely replied, “No, not at all. I mean, I really like Theta, but it’s just another thing I’m involved in. I’m involved in a lot of stuff, so it’s just another thing I do.” Billy acted as if he didn’t believe me, then said, “Ah, well you’re probably the only girl in Theta rockin’ high tops with a key attached to them.” Apparently in addition to knowing me super well, he also knows the personal style of every member of Kappa Alpha Theta. SOMEBODY PUT THIS KID ON TV! HE’S AMAAAZING! After that sentiment, Billy and I said our polite nice to meet you’s, then parted ways.

My interaction with Billy really ruffled my feathers, not only because he was being rude and assuming things about me, but also because I’ve met other Billys before, as have many people. Your involvement or un-involvement in a Greek house does not define you. I view Greek life literally as another club or activity I participate in. I am involved in way too many things as is, and I will admit that my sorority isn’t at the top of my priority list, and that’s a-okay. I put as much time into it as I want to, and that works well for me. Some people do value their Greek house as their main activity, so they devote more time to it, and some people don’t want to participate at all, so they don’t join a house; these are both great options too.

I really enjoy Theta and am glad I’m in this house, but my house does not define me. Just because there are some people in the house who might like Lily Pulitzer and pearls, or some that really like going on five mile runs and wearing baseball caps, that doesn’t mean I necessarily enjoy those things too. Just because I have my nose pierced and like putting funny colors in my hair, that doesn’t mean that other girls in my house enjoy that too. Just because some people in the house do or do not like that stuff, that doesn’t mean that everyone in the house enjoys those same things. As with any club or group you’re involved with, there will be a diverse group of people with diverse interests, and it would be wrong to assume that every single person in that club shares those same interests in all aspects of life. Yes, I surely have things in common with the girls in my house, that’s why I’m in that house, because we get along, but I don’t live my life the exact same way as someone else in the house does; no one in the history of the universe has ever lived their life in the exact same way as someone else. Let’s stop assuming that just because someone is in a certain sorority that they have a certain type of personality or certain interests, or dress a certain way. That is wrong and ignorant.

Consequently, just because someone isn’t in a Greek house, let’s not assume that they hate Greek life or that they don’t have friends in houses, or any other silly assumption one could make. That is equally wrong and ignorant. Let’s realize that individuals make up any club or organization, and individuals make up Greek houses. People need to STOP stereotyping houses based off the behaviors of just the people in the house you know, and stop associating a certain personality or behavior with a whole house. This kind of thinking irritates the living daylights out of me. I’m not exactly like anyone in my house. No one is exactly like anyone in my house. I’m not exactly like anyone in any club I’m in, and no one is exactly like anyone in the clubs either. My house does not define me, nor does it define anyone else in the house. Through all of our individual interests and personalities, we all help define it, just as would happen with any club.

Let’s all stop being stereotyping, close-minded individuals, and let’s stop judging people for liking the things they like. Ya dig?


*Billy isn’t this dude’s real name. I changed it for story-telling purposes. Ooooh, creative license! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Garnering Good Vibes

Today was an incredibly inspiring day.

I’m currently living in Indianapolis for the next month teaching art camp at Butler, and today between teaching, my teaching pals and I wandered over to Clowes Hall to witness a 40 foot by 20 foot mural being painted by artist Phil O’Malley. This mural will be hung near the main entrance of Clowes, and it is incredible! Erin, Ali, and I wandered into the auditorium where Phil was painting the mural on stage. We explained we’re art students, and he kindly greeted us and proceeded to enthusiastically describe his inspiration for the piece, as well as the process for his painting. 
The artist at work.

The electricity and passion for which he holds in his craft was incredibly evident. His eyes lit up as he explained the field of the canvas he’s painted on so far. Each time he’d lead us to explore an area of the canvas, he’d discover a new way the colors he laid down played with one another, surprising himself. He credited the paint for the work so far, and personified the paint and canvas in a way that brought the whole piece to life. Phil talked a lot about the process in which he paints. He uses different layers of oil paint, spray paint, and turpentine, all of which he squirts onto the canvas in ketchup and mustard bottles, then lets drip. He allows the paint to kind of do what it wants, and he only controls the colors he puts down. He also plans on painting a good deal of the canvas with mops. He said he got this idea after he saw some people mopping up dust on the stage where he’s working. How cool is that?

Talking to Phil and having him show us his technique inspired me so much. The way his entire being lit up as he explained his piece, and observing him as he created, reminded me once again what I love so much about art (and artists in general). I love that art has so much soul in it. Anytime I speak to artists, they get so visibly excited talking about their work and inspiration, that it’s clear they truly love what they’re doing; that they’re creating not only because they love to create, but because they have to. They have to create in order to feel complete. That’s such a beautiful thing. I’m so thankful Phil shared his passion with me today, and helped remind me what I love about creating. 
A close up.

The piece should be up in August, but until then, Phil will be painting every day over the next few weeks, so feel free to stop by if you’re in the area.

Another inspiring note: Indiana legalized gay marriage today. This world is pretty cool.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fantasyland Friendships

I worked at a summer camp last week, and whilst there, it made me think back to my own time attending summer camp. I went to Camp Tecumseh, a camp in northern Indiana, the summer after eighth grade. I had never been to camp before, so I was anxious to explore this uncharted territory and do some cool stuff. While at camp, my friend Ally and I bonded with two girls in our cabin: Natalie and Brenna. Natalie and Brenna were cousins, and Ally and I were best friends, so the four of us bonded hardcore and quickly became great pals for the week. We even met up and kept in touch after camp ended. I had a similar experience the summer before my junior year of high school. I participated in a scholarship recognition pageant, and quickly became great friends with three girls there: Katie, Miranda, and Dani. Similar to my experience at camp, the four of us became friends really quickly and kept in touch after the pageant was over. 
Miranda, me, Katie, and Dani

Besides these two instances, I’ve experienced situations where I meet someone in a context different than my everyday routine, and I feel especially connected to them in that moment. I think we feel a different level of connectivity to these people we meet and know only for a short amount of time because we meet these people outside of our existing reality. In my case, I attended a summer camp and a pageant that were both several days long, and totally took me out of my routine of my every day life. Since you’re removed from your existing reality and everything you hold constant in your life, you and everyone involved have nothing to worry about but the experience you’re all set up to have together. Once you feel an initial spark of friendship with this person, you know your time with them is limited and will end whenever your conference or camp together is over. You recognize that, and subconsciously avoid small talk and dive into deeper, more meaningful conversation and experiences together as a means to feel close to this person faster. Plus, you know you likely won’t see them again at the end of the week, so you feel a little less embarrassed or nervous about the relationship. At the time you meet them, your realities are both pretty similar. You’re both at a conference for similar reasons, you’re both away from home, and you’re both excited about it. Your current realities line up nicely, so you’re able to fully dive into friendship without the interference of your real life outside of this experience getting in the way. You already have something in common with this person by being in the same, isolated place, and since you’re there for a limited amount of time and you know of nothing but the people and place surrounding you, you’re living in a mini fantasyland.

I’ve found that these types of relationships are extremely meaningful, and you often notice qualities in these people faster than you would if you met them in a different context. You leave the place you met them feeling as if you were supposed to experience this person in your life, and even though it was for a short amount of time, it was still extremely significant. Perhaps we should all employ this same zealousness in all of our friendships, not just in the ones that exist in alternate realities.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Things I Learned My Sophomore Year, Part Two

I posted part one of things I learned this past year yesterday, so check that out here. Here's the rest of what I learned my sophomore year of college.

10. Finding a new study spot is refreshing and can increase productivity. Going along with not liking being comfortable, changing up the where you do your homework can make a mundane task a wee bit more exciting.

11. Sneaking into the dining hall whenever possible is always a great idea. I live in a sorority house and have my meal plan through that, so I wasn’t able to experience the greatness of the university dining hall this year (I'm being completely serious. I love Atherton). Towards the end of second semester, however, I snuck in several times and enjoyed some delicious soft serve ice cream.

12. If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try. I began a new minor this year in a subject I knew very little about, and changed my second minor at the end of the year to another subject I know very little about. I was quite terrified to do both things, but knew that doing so would ultimately challenge me and make me happier. *Again, note not liking feeling comfortable.
Reading my poetry at an open mic night. I was terrified.

13. You can do hard things. Just because you’ve never done something before and the challenge of breaking ground on it seems difficult, that doesn’t mean you aren’t capable. I discovered my love of writing poetry this year, something I never thought I could do in a million years. I also helped organize a protest. I never thought I’d do that either.

14. Now is the time to explore. When else in my life am I going to have the opportunity to learn so many different things from so many different people with little to no real-life responsibilities in one contained environment? Probably never, so if I want to take a philosophy class just for funzies, I should. If I want to road trip across state lines to see a concert when I have class the next morning, I should. If I want to eat nothing but ice cream all day long while my metabolism is still bumpin’, I should.

15. Now is the time to be selfish. Similar to the above point, now is the time to figure things out about myself and do stuff I won’t be able to do when I have a real-life job and other adult responsibilities. I should take advantage of this feeling of being suspended in time between having some freedom and responsibility without having to pay bills or mow the lawn or have a full time job.

16. Leaving people anonymous notes makes you feel as good as it makes them feel. Hardly anyone has even gotten upset for someone telling them how awesome they are. This year, I fell into the habit of telling the people I love what I love about them, whether that be by verbally telling them, or by leaving them an anonymous note. It made me feel good to outwardly express my love for the people in my life, and I hope it made them feel good hearing it.

17. Time is weird and will alter your relationships with others. If you go months without keeping in touch with your friends from home, your relationship with them will be different when you meet up again. If you are close with someone for a certain amount of time, but then go a while without speaking, they won’t seem like a real person when you talk to them again, rather an idea of the person you once knew. The way we measure time is essentially made up, but it still governs so much of our lives, and that is weird.

18. Do what feels right. Nothing really matters but doing things that make you happy, and doing things that make others happy. If happiness and avoiding being an asshole are really all that matters, ignore the small stresses and just do what feels right. Trust me, it will feel right.

This past school year was an incredible time for self-growth and reflection, and I am conscious of the new discoveries I made in others and in myself. Thanks to everybody who inspires me every day, and thanks for caring enough about what I have to say to read this. Y'all rock. 


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Things I Learned My Sophomore Year, Part One

I did a lot of self-reflection this past year of school, and I feel I learned a lot about myself. To avoid losing your attention by making the list too long, here is part one of my discoveries. Check back tomorrow for part two!

1. It’s okay to feel how you feel without knowing why you feel it. If you can be happy for no reason, it’s okay to be sad for no reason too. Emotions are too powerful to be rationalized, so don’t try.

2. You choose who you’re friends with. You don’t have to be friends with someone just because you have class with them or because they live near you, or even because you've just always been friends. If they don’t inspire you or make you a better person, why bother?

3. Always welcome real talk from people, no matter how well you know them. If someone you don’t know super well feels comfortable telling you personal things, you should welcome it and take the opportunity to deepen your friendship with them. Plus, you can gain a new perspective and learn something.

4. Doing things on your own is sometimes better than in a group. Wandering on your own and experiencing things in solitude can be a lot better than doing things with others and having to keep up with the conversation of the group. Alone time rocks.

5. You can never get bored if you talk to your brain. If you allow your brain to speak to you and you observe things or talk out loud to yourself or just sit and doodle for hours, you can never be truly bored. Your brain and a pen and paper is all you need to keep yourself occupied.
#FannyPackFriday

6. If you are your authentically strange self, people will be excited about it. If you declare every Friday to be Fanny Pack Friday and you forget to wear a fanny one week, people will miss the fanny and encourage you to continue next week. Also, if you and your friend wear onesies to a party, you’ll make so many new friends. *Note: these are both known from real-life experience. 
7. I don’t like being comfortable. I’ve discovered that I thrive and feel more inspired and excited about life when I’m not doing the same thing over and over every day. Being in an environment where each encounter you have with someone varies drastically, and you can change the course of your day at the drop of a hat makes me excited. I’m an art major for goodness sake; nothing is comfortable or secure about that.

8. Coffee is actually really great, and so is tea. Few things are quite as comforting as a slightly caffeinated warm beverage.

9. Everyone else will freak out a lot more over you not shaving your legs than you will. If you want to go four months during the wintertime without shaving your legs, then by golly you should do it. Ignore the haters who will tell you you’re “gross,” or “look like a man,” or “really need to go shave.” Yeah right, nobody needs to shave.

Check back tomorrow for numbers 10-17. OOOH THE SUSPENSE!