as my college career nears its close, i keep thinking about the amazing opportunities i’ve been given as a result of my time at Ball State University. i began my time here as an English education major, pretty swiftly realizing kids and i do not mix well, so i changed my major to creative writing. i eventually added a couple minors, women and gender studies and literature. i had to drop the former due to a conflict of schedule and thus an inability to take the capstone course. nonetheless, i wouldn’t trade the time spent in that department for anything. it was eye opening. at any rate, the English department has been filled the brim with opportunities. of course, being my shy and nervous self, i rarely grasped too many of the opportunities, opting to be a part of the audience during readings rather than up there bearing my own soul. i digress. the point is, i’ve been published numerous times because of courses i’ve taken over my four years here. a blog post i wrote for a course focused on renaissance literature appeared on Dr. Miranda Nesler’s blog, Performing Humanity; i had a poem initially written for Mark Neely’s advanced poetry writing accepted for publication by The Mochila Review (issue forthcoming, hopefully soon, i’m getting anxious); i acted as an editor on The Broken Plate, my name appearing alongside my classmate’s on (i may be biased) what could be considered the best issue yet; i contributed to, edited, and formatted an anthology for Dr. Lyn Jones’ creative writing in the community course; i had three blog posts published to a “Viki Wiki” over characters of David Copperfield for Dr. Joyce Huff’s Victorian literature course; and i just recently learned that a piece i wrote for an advanced creative nonfiction course taken with Todd McKinney, who encouraged me to submit to literary magazines, has been accepted to Prairie Margins (issue forthcoming, Fall 2015). in short, LOOK AT ALL THIS AWESOME OPPORTUNITY AND THESE LOVELY PROFESSORS. i honestly would be nowhere without the amazing professors the Ball State English department has to offer. i even ate lunch with Michael Martone thanks to Sean Lovelace. it wouldn’t seem right not to give a shoutout to Cathy Day, a professor i once tweeted about saying, “i don’t know Cathy Day, but she seems like a gem.” well, now that i know her, i can say without a doubt she is a gem, and she works her butt off for the BSU English department, spreading the love of English all over Robert Bell and the rest of campus too! i don’t think my last semester would have been so memorable without taking her senior seminar course. as much as i’ll miss idling in the halls of RB, it’s the people i’ve met here that i’ll truly miss. everyone is awesome, but i’m stoked for what the future holds.
We all have strong opinions on topics close to our hearts. One topic that I have found myself truly fed up with lately is that of models in the fashion industry. Even the plus sized models are relatively thin/attractive. Personally, I would like to see a runway show or a photoshoot where around twenty women are taken off the street, put into clothes, get their hair and makeup done, and look fierce in their own skin. No photoshop. Not even models in the industry look as they appear in magazines and advertisements. When did it start being okay for women who are already slim, already gorgeous, to be molded into a singular definition of “beautiful”? It isn’t fair to young women, young girls, or even older women for that matter. I want to see real women in my magazines, not women who have been entered into a computer program and fooled with. It’s time we fed women reasons to love themselves rather than reasons to look in the mirror and think, why don’t I look like that? Because the truth is, nobody does.
“I want every little girl who’s told she’s bossy, to be told instead she has leadership skills,” said Sheryl Sandberg. I say no to this. There is a distinct difference between being bossy and having leadership skills. That difference is this: if a little girl is friends with a bossy girl, that little girl has her feelings hurt a lot because the bossy friend always dictates everything. That is not a display of good leadership skills. Good leadership is taking account of what all people want and making an informed decision based upon that information.
I had a bossy friend when I was in elementary school. I was horrible at saying what I wanted especially around her, I felt like I could never say no to this girl because she always got what she wanted, and if she didn’t, she was persistent in a negative way. This girl was an only child, which I suspect had quite a bit to do with her bossiness. (Which isn’t to say that all only children are bossy, merely that it’s a common trait of only and eldest children alike.) If this friend had good leadership skills, she wouldn’t have made me or any of our other friends feel badly on numerous occasions. Leadership skills aren’t about what’s best for one person (i.e. yourself), it’s about what will benefit a group as a whole. To make that decision, and to make it based upon information provided by the group, is the trait of a leader. To make a decision solely for yourself without thought as to what others might prefer and forcing them to go along with said decision is bossiness.
For these reasons, I cringe when I see the above quote. Why would we teach little girls that it’s okay to make people feel poorly about themselves and to belittle the ideas of others merely because we believe ourselves and our ideas superior? Would that not make life more difficult for this girl later down the road? If we teach little girls that it’s okay to be bossy, they’ll be called far worse things in adulthood than bossy in childhood. To be called a “bitch” in high school hurts worse than being called “bossy” in elementary school. I propose that we teach our children, boys and girls alike, the difference between being a leader and being bossy. How being bossy can lead to more hurt feelings and broken friendships than being a good leader can. It’s up to us to mold our children and teach them how to transform their bossy tendencies into profitable skills for the future instead of teaching them it’s okay to hurt others for personal gain.
After reading both Sinéad O’Connor’s open letter to Miley Cyrus and Amanda Palmer’s open letter to Sinéad, I have to say that I both agree and disagree with points each have made. Miley is, in my opinion, getting out of control with how much she chooses to show off and the ways in which she does so; for this reason, I agree with Sinéad, Miley’s body should be shared between herself and her boyfriend. However, Amanda Palmer brings up some valid points about Miley needing to be free to explore her sexuality, how she and Sinéad don’t truly know what it was like for Miley growing up since she grew up in the spotlight. So now that she’s old enough to explore certain aspects of herself, she’s doing so under the magnifying glass of the public.
Miley has been watched from day one, she needs to assert her independence and womanhood somehow, so she chose to do so through shedding some fabric. This would all be fine by me, save for the fact that so many of Miley’s fans are young girls who have grown attached to the Hannah Montana squeaky-clean image she used to represent. Don’t get me wrong, I love all three women in their own respects, but Miley’s recent actions worry me just as they’re worrisome to Sinéad. While Amanda shares her opinion that unless we allow some of the boundaries set for women in the business to be broken, women will never get anywhere beyond the stereotype that older women cannot be sexy (disagree with her somewhat shaming Madonna for her plastic surgeries etc….I digress), I think it’s also wholly important to remember Miley’s age. She’s currently twenty years old. She’s not thirty or forty, so that whole “older women should be able to prove they can be sexy too” argument doesn’t fly with me.
Obviously at twenty Miley’s going to want to do something to move away from the goody-two-shoes image Hannah Montana set for her, but is getting naked on the cover of a magazine and on Terry Richardson’s blog the best way to do so? That’s a difficult question, one that I won’t answer because I can’t answer it without complication.
Twenty is a delicate age, it’s an in between area, not fully grown up, but no longer a child. Is Miley old enough to make her own decisions? Certainly. Is Miley actually making her decisions or being coerced into them? The only person who can answer that question is Miley. Not Sinéad. Not Amanda. Miley.
I suppose my point here is to let Miley be Miley. No matter how much we may disagree with the way she’s going about asserting her independence. Twenty year old women do not listen to anyone. Not even to their idols. So when Sinéad is, in a sense, lecturing Miley on her nudity and allowing the record executives to “control” her…what’s Miley most likely to do? Here, I agree with Amanda: “There’s no way Miley is going to read your letter and turn around saying “holy shit, they’ve been taking advantage of me this whole time!” She’s been taking advantage of herself, of her youth, her fame and her sexuality…and she knows it.“
The only thing anyone can do for Miley is to stop slut-shaming her for exploring her options, for taking the reigns of her own sexuality the only way she can (i.e. publicly), and doing a pretty damn good job of getting the attention she wants from people. Miley said herself, regardless of whether or not you’re watching her videos so you have something to talk shit about, you’re still watching them. So Miley wins. Miley wins the whole damn thing because attention is attention, controversial, positive, or negative.
i see so many people, male and female alike, who sob about being “forever alone” and how no one can love them unless they love themselves. truth is, none of those things are true. i’ve never met a person who was so in love with themselves that they made someone else love them more. frankly, people who love themselves and see no flaws in themselves are annoying. don’t strive to be that person, strive to be the best YOU you can be. nobody is perfect, it’s okay to dislike certain things about yourself. it’s okay to be upset with your life. it’s okay so long as you try every day to be better. try to smile, try to be happy, but know that you won’t always be able to.
someone will see you somewhere and want to speak to you. maybe they will. maybe you’ll have to make the first move. it won’t be like the movies, there’s no such thing as perfection. but you will have someone who will accept most of your flaws and be willing to work through the others. we all will find this person in time. they will smile at our scars, inside and out, and promise us they don’t matter. it does happen, keep the faith. focus on you and they will stumble in unexpectedly and you will know it’s them. they are the person who will love you unconditionally. you just have to give it time.
it’s hard, and i mean immensely difficult, harder than getting a cat to do what you want, hard being a self obsessive person who lacks confidence. yes, this is a confusing statement. and yes, it makes sense to me. you see, what i mean by this lays buried in the squares of my instagram, for amongst the woman crush wednesdays, throwback thursdays, and what i (and others) fondly hashtag as “catstagram”s, there lie a few
hundred selfies. for those of you unfamiliar with the term (this is the internet, i doubt you’re unfamiliar with it, but just incase), Urban Dictionary defines the word selfie as: A picture taken of yourself that is planned to be uploaded to Facebook, Myspace or any other sort of social networking website. You can usually see the person’s arm holding out the camera in which case you can clearly tell that this person does not have any friends to take pictures of them so they resort to Myspace to find internet friends and post pictures of themselves, taken by themselves. A selfie is usually accompanied by a kissy face or the individual looking in a direction that is not towards the camera. (among other definitions, this is, after all, Urban Dictionary). everyone who has ever partook in the taking of a selfie has had their own reasons for doing so. some to show off, others to be dumb on purpose, and others still in an attempt to hold firm what little self confidence they may have. i partake in selfie taking for the latter reason. and hey, it’s really helped. there is nothing better than getting likes on a picture of myself, especially if it’s a picture where i’m not wearing makeup and i’m looking incredibly bored with homework or something. basically, i am a self obsessed person with a low self esteem, but the self obsession is slowly balancing out the self esteem issues. and there’s no better feeling than not caring what i look like enough to share it with people i barely know on the internet. (it sounds creepy, i know. oh well.)
often, when my thoughts run away with me, i wonder where i would be if my relationships had been different. who would i be if only my mother had showed me how she loved me, if she actually loved me at all? i sometimes doubt that she did or does because she has always had a precarious way of showing love. perhaps i could reason that she doesn’t know what love is, or maybe it is only that we love so differently from each other that i fail to recognise the emotion in her. thoughts of my childhood with her linger in the back of my mind washing over me a sorrow i forget exists for long periods of time and a thought pops suddenly into the forefront of my mind (isn’t that how thought most often works?) and the wondering begins. does she only claim to love me out of a motherly obligation? is it because her own mother left her when she was sixteen with her stepfather? is it this abandonment she experienced in her youth that creates such difficulty for her when it comes to showing love to her own children? how strange it seems that the past generations can effect the younger ones so, that the mistakes they made are so easily repeatable. yet, somewhere along the way, someone must break the cycle. i am determined to love, should i have them, my own children and to show it and to share it. not necessarily to speak the words “i love you” for they often seem empty and hollow coming from my own mother, but to show them through actions and in the small things that i do love them, that i always have and always will. i am determined to break the cycle of the past. the cycle of the difficulty of my family showing love for their children. i will learn from their mistakes and i will be better for it.
i want to be a good mom, the opposite sort of mom my mother was. as my boyfriend and i were standing on the balcony of his apartment, he held me close to him and told me, “if we make it that far, we can make mistakes with our kids, but let’s not make the same mistakes our parents made.” both of us were disciplined physically with spankings as young children and i do not agree with parents who choose to discipline in this matter because in the end it doesn’t really help with behaviour, it only makes the child more secretive, more rebellious. i should know, i’ve been there. i was afraid of my own mother when i was young because she would often cross the line between discipline and abuse, of which there is a very thin line between them. should i ever have children of my own, i don’t want them to fear me. i want them to respect and love me and feel as though they can tell me anything and know that i won’t be upset with them for doing so. i want to instill in my children values which i had to learn on my own because nobody taught me otherwise. i want to be a good example of what love and commitment means in relationships, unlike my parents, who split up before i was two years of age. i long so desperately to be a fun mom, but a good mom. someone who my children can look up to and be proud of, even in the rough patches, the years of school where you’re either picked on or propped up, those awkward teenage years where your parents are your worst enemies, and into adulthood. i only hope that i can be better than my mother at mothering because, while i have a solid example of what not to do, i haven’t one of what to do. i have to set my own example in that regard, and when the time comes, i will be ready to learn by doing.
it’s probably wholly accurate to say that “i’ve been afraid of changing” but for different reasons than what the song dictates. i haven’t built my life around any one specific “you”, but i am getting older, and as we get older, we do tend to change no matter how afraid we are to do so. i haven’t noticed a change in myself so much, but i’m certain i’ve changed and it’s easiest to tell when i go back to even a year ago and look at things i’ve written. i can see a whole new side of me, i’m growing up and maturing and realising that life is more than what fits in a small box that others will try to force you into.
life is a series of decisions, even if you choose not to decide, you have still made a decision. every decision we make in life leads us down a path and each path has side roads and ends in a fork. the fork is where we must make a decision, there is no choice to bypass the decision, it’s an answer to a yes or no question without the option of maybe. with every decision, every side road we take or bypass, every time we are forced to choose which path to walk down, we are changing. how could we ever be afraid of something that we do every single day without realising that we are doing it?
the truth is, life is scary, decisions are scary, changes are scary. it’s the uncertainty that makes it scary. there’s no way to predict with 100% accuracy where each decision will bring us. it may seem like the right decision at first, but a month down the road it could reveal itself to be a terrible mistake. that is why we are afraid of change. that is why we are afraid to answer tough questions and make rash decisions. maybe if we followed our hearts instead of our heads, we would wind up in exactly the right place in life. over thinking things is wasting time, and wasted time is wasted life. i would rather live free than to allow the fear of making a decision to keep me cornered in a place where i don’t want to stay. from here on out, i am going to answer questions and make every decision without putting too much thought into it. i want to see where life will lead me instead of attempting to control every aspect of life.
when i say i want someone to turn me on, i don’t mean physically. i mean intellectually. light up my mind as no one ever has before, and you will also win my heart. it takes so little to turn a person on in the physical sense, but it takes a special sort of person to make the gears of the brain turn. create stimulating conversation, not stimulating situations. touch my mind, not my body. use words to entice me, use thought to win me over, use conversation in bed. these are the ways to turn me on.