Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Stop Bashing Your Body!

It’s Tuesday afternoon, and as I walk through the hallways of my sorority house, I encounter a friend trying on a dress. She looks in a mirror in the hallway, and in my humble opinion, she looks great. The dress is champagney-pinkish with an intricate fabric with a nice design woven in. Basically, she looks lovely. Clearly dissatisfied with the fit of this dress, the friend calls out, “I hate myself!”

About five minutes later, walking through the hall in the other direction, I overhear two other friends talking about borrowing each other’s clothes. Friend One asks Friend Two if she can try on a dress of hers to wear to formal this weekend. Friend Two says yes, but I don’t know if it will fit you, implying that Friend Two’s clothes would be far too large on Friend One. Full disclosure: friends one and two both have great bods and could definitely share clothes any time they want to.

Are we sensing a common theme here, people? Within a period of less than ten minutes I heard two friends of mine talking negatively about their bodies. Now I don’t think that my friend trying on the dress actually hates herself, and I know that once Friend One tried on Friend Two’s dress they would both see they are indeed capable of sharing clothes. I think this “bad-talk” isn’t necessarily always serious, as displayed in these two examples, but whether or not it is, it’s damaging for young women to so readily and casually bash their own appearances. (I think it’s also important to point out that men also experience bad-talking themselves and self-image issues, but since I’m a female and have experienced mostly my female friends exhibiting this kind of behavior, that’s what I’m going to focus on.)

As long as I can remember, I’ve encountered my friends and acquaintances bad-talking themselves…like I’m pretty sure back in like fourth or fifth grade this was a thing. Let’s think about that for a minute: that means young girls pointing out things they dislike about themselves from the age of about nine or ten years old. What the flip, Chip?! I remember hearing friends casually say things about their bodies that they disliked, and I remember feeling weird when I had nothing to say about myself. It's like that scene in Mean Girls when they're all in Regina's room looking in the mirror saying things they dislike about their bodies and they all turn to Cady and wait for her to bash herself too. It’s such a normalized thing for young girls and women to dislike certain aspects of themselves that when we don’t, we either feel like there’s something wrong with us, or someone else does. That’s messed up.

I’ve always been passionate about practicing self-love, and I think it’s essential for fully loving your life and others. If you don’t know how to love yourself well and accept the not-as-great aspects of your being, then how in the world can you know how to love others well? How will you know how to give a friend a meaningful compliment when you can’t compliment yourself? How can you truly feel someone love you in a way no one has ever loved you before if you’ve never allowed yourself to be loved by the person who knows you best?

Surely there are things about my outward appearance that I’m not always super jazzed about, but I try not to dwell on it. There are so many more important things in life to worry about! And there are way better reasons to be dissatisfied with yourself than if your stomach sticks out more than you think it should. I’ll condone disliking oneself if you’re a major asshole to everyone you meet, or you shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. I will not, however, support you disliking yourself because your thighs rub together when you walk. Dude, EVERYONE’S thighs rub together when they walk. 
Excited to digest spicy foods!!!!

Our bodies are far too magical and intricate to truly dislike them. We breathe without thinking about it, we speak without thinking about it, we move our arms or scratch our face or laugh without thinking about it. That’s incredible. We are able to feel sensations and taste food and experience happiness, sadness, fear, excitement, and all these other great emotions throughout our entire beings. We can properly digest food for crying out loud! Seriously, next time you eat spicy food, thank yourself for breaking it down properly so you’re able to enjoy it.

My point is, human bodies are beautiful, and incredible, and far from perfect. Everyone has off days where they feel crappy about themselves, but don’t dwell on things you dislike about your outward appearance. Your body is doing secret magical things in order to work well, so allow yourself to love and appreciate that. Focus on being a kind person who loves what they do and who they know. In that process, allow yourself to love who you are and accept that you are not perfect, and that no one is.

Rather than focusing on how your dress doesn’t fit like you want it to, take a moment and rejoice that you can eat spicy Indian food whenever you want and your body won’t explode.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

My Crying Consciousness

I cried yesterday. I teared up a few days ago. I’ll probably cry again sometime in the near future. Am I abnormally sad or upset about something? Am I weak because I keep consistently crying? No and no. I’m simply human.

Until fairly recently, I never was a crier. Whenever I got upset about something, I would internalize it and feel sad enough to cry, but never actually allow myself to do so. No matter how badly I wanted to feel the release of sobs and water dripping from my eyeballs, I couldn’t quite allow myself to feel it. One of my best friends is really good at allowing herself to cry. My friend is an incredibly passionate person and thrives on deep connections with others and with things she does for herself. Since she feels everything so deeply and intentionally, she does a great job of allowing herself to feel tears as well. I admire anyone who allows themselves to feel their emotions so intentionally and purely. When I used to struggle with crying, my friend would always congratulate me whenever I’d allow myself to cry about something. That’s a sign of true friendship, folks. For whatever reason, basically since the end of the summer, I’ve been able to allow myself to cry whenever the feeling comes over me. Crying when I’m upset, or when I’m happy, or sometimes when I’m not sure why I’m crying has become a thing more familiar to me recently than it ever has been.

Since before winter break I had been watching Gossip Girl on Netflix (I blogged about that here, check it out). The other night I watched the final episode of the whole series, and I teared up when Chuck proposed to Blair. What the heck? Why in the world was I emotionally moved by fictional characters in a sub-par television show, doing exactly what every audience member knew they would end up doing anyway? These people aren’t real. The show wasn’t particularly moving or emotionally gripping. Any do-do bird watching from the first season would assume Chuck and Blair would end up together. So why did I tear up? The simple answer is I have no idea, but it was weird and cool to feel something in an instant that made water fill my eyes, even if the reason behind it wasn’t super profound. 

Allowing myself to cry lets my emotions explode into a physical, tangible expression, allowing me to partially rid myself of whatever feelings are hiding inside me. Just because I cry doesn’t mean I’m sad or depressed; it means that emotions take over sometimes and cannot be explained. I still feel surprised by my visceral reaction to an emotional situation every time I cry, but I truly just need to accept the fact that me crying about things has become more and more a part of my current self, and that’s a-okay. Just because I haven’t always been one to cry doesn’t mean that me crying is unnatural or unwelcome. I used to never like pickles, but recently they’ve been tasting pretty nice to me; same kinda thing. Just because an aspect of your human person is slightly different than it always used to be and causes you to understand yourself in a different way does not mean this aspect is wrong or needs to be rejected. People change their likes and dislikes all the time, so why can’t emotional aspects and self-perceptions change just as naturally?

This isn’t to say that I just walk around crying all the time, because I definitely don’t, but I certainly do feel my emotions in a more profound way than I ever used to. This deeper understanding of how I’m feeling in a particular way might in fact lead me to tears. Whether they be happy tears or sad tears, I’m glad I’m feeling something deep enough to make them happen.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Breaking Outside the Bubble

At the end of the summer, I realized that this past summer was definitely tied for the best summer I’ve experienced so far in my existence (the other contender is the summer between junior and senior year of high school. Shout out to The Gals). Coming off such a great summer, I was anxious to begin another school year, learn tons of new stuff, see my friends again, and probably make some new ones. After feeling so free and full of inspiration and life over the summer, I’ve found myself not feeling that same bit of magic since school has started.

Since I’m a junior now, all of my classes relate to my major and minors, meaning I’m in all English and art classes. That sounds so prime, right? Well, for some reason it’s not as fulfilling as I anticipated. Although I’m enjoying creating and reading in all of my classes, I’ve realized that for the first time that I can recall, school isn’t the main thing I want to focus my energy on. After being at school for part of the summer, working a little and having time to spend hours in a coffee shop writing (I’m not an asshole, I swear), or spend the afternoon sitting on my front porch sketching, I kind of wish I had that same bit of time to freely create and do things that make my soul happy. School certainly does make my soul happy, but I suppose I got too used to being more in control of my time. 
The Gals, this summer

I write and edit for a beautiful online magazine called the Lala, and that is quickly becoming something I wish I could spend more time with. I’ve also done several commissioned art projects over the past few months, and I wish I could spend more time on those, rather than squeezing them in between school things. Even outside of creating things on my own time, I crave more time to create and sustain relationships with others. I live with two of my best friends in a small room in my sorority house, yet there have been several times throughout this semester where we’ve gone days without seeing one another because we’re all so busy. Outside of that friendship, I have other relationships that I wish I had more time for as well. It’s just a strange place to be mentally, where I know that all of the people and opportunities I have are because of me being at school, yet I wish I didn’t have school to distract me from these people and opportunities.

This feels a bit like I’m coming across saying I’m not enjoying school, and that’s not the case. I can’t properly articulate how I feel. I guess I’m just lazy and wish I didn’t have things to do all the time. I feel like school is something I have to do, rather than something I’m excited for. I still get excited about school, but not as consistently as I have in the past. I think it’s because I’m straddling the idea of being a student and being in the so-called “Butler Bubble,” and wanting to break out of this bubble and do things “in real life” that I want to do.

I know next year as a senior when “real life” is quickly approaching, I’ll crave more time in the bubble, but this is how I feel now. I’ve concluded that just because I feel differently about school and my focuses are changing, that doesn’t mean that’s not okay. I still love learning. I still enjoy all my classes. I’m still creating things and improving my creative skills because of my peers and professors. I just would like the space to apply these things to projects outside of school.

Do you feel the same way? Stuck in a rut between doing school things and wanting to do outside of school things? Not sure? Think about it. Self-reflection is fun.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fairy Dust Friends

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the people in my life, and I feel so full of happiness that I might explode. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching a lot of Real Housewives lately and all they do is argue with their friends rather than enjoy one another, or maybe its because I’m feeling really pensive, but I feel so, so good about all of the people in my life. I feel as if everyone I’m lucky enough to have around me is dusted with fairy dust. They just bring so much joy, magic, and inspiration to my existence.

It’s a truly magical and powerful thing that we get to choose who is in our lives, and it’s even more magical when we find a friend whose soul holds hands with ours; a friend who you can talk to about anything and they just get it no matter what. I have a few friends with whom I can talk for literal hours about important stuff in life, and when I leave these conversations, I feel so incredibly refreshed. I also have a few people in my life with whom I can spend hours sitting around doing nothing, or doing something as simple as getting coffee, or spending hours at a park, but as I’m experiencing this time with them, that cup of coffee is the most fun, magical cup of coffee I’ve ever shared with someone, and that park is even more enjoyable than any park I’ve been to before.  I feel so inspired and lucky and overwhelmed by the fact that I have those people in my life, and even more overwhelmed that I can feel so joyful from simply existing next to another human, no matter what it is we're doing. Just the fact that as human beings, we’re able to make those sorts of connections with other people without even trying to connect so deeply makes me want to explode with happiness and awe. 

I’ve always been intrigued by human connectivity, but since starting college and being around a whole slew of different people, I am even more fascinated with how human beings relate to one another. I’ve found several people this past school year with whom I’ve unintentionally connected with deeply, and in a short amount of time. Being lucky enough to encounter people who engulf your being with positive vibes, while you engulf theirs, is so incredible. How cool is it that through our relationships with others, we are able to gain so much knowledge, inspiration, and happiness? And it’s even cooler that this intense connection, happiness, and pleasure come from such simple things. If you and your friend love dancing, dance together. If you two really love drinking coffee and talking about feminism, drink coffee and talk about feminism. If you really love talking about your feelings together, talk away. If you really love kissing each other's faces, kiss until the cows come home. These straightforward, everyday opportunities are so simple, yet they bring such intense awe and happiness into our lives. I just can’t get over how lucky that is. I feel very overwhelmed by the accessibility of happiness in my daily life thanks to my surroundings.

I just feel so full of life and light, and surrounded by good people releasing good vibes, and for that I am grateful. 

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!