Musings from Megabus

Traveling solo and traveling alone – they seem to mean the same thing, but they feel quite different.

Not too long ago, I felt awkward whenever I went anywhere by myself – restaurants, concerts, any kind of travel. I was terrified of being by myself; partly because I have a terrible sense of direction and a tendency to get lost, but also because I feared being lonely. I felt that traveling alone, with no one to share my experiences and thoughts with, would be a waste of a trip.

How very wrong I was.

I’ve traveled quite a bit this year – a lot of short trips, weddings and long weekends away for music, now working from New York and soon crossing the pond to London and Vienna. I’m incredibly lucky that wherever I’ve gone, I’ve had the chance to either reconnect with old friends or meet new ones. And though I see familiar faces at each destination, I do spend a lot of time by myself on planes, buses, and in airports.

This alone time would have once bothered me, but these days, I relish it. It used to be a signal to me that I wasn’t worthy of a partner in crime, someone who would be by my side no matter where I went. It was a reminder that I had been abandoned, deemed lesser than an alternate choice, or not enough of a priority for someone to accompany me.

Now I see it as a luxury –  I decided where I wanted to be, I did what was necessary to be there, I made my own wishes come true. I am exactly where I wanted to be, because I made it happen. (I also get a lot of reading time in sans cat-centric interruptions, which is a miracle on it’s own.)

Without consciously doing so, my source of validation shifted from outside sources to myself. You could argue that posting pictures and sharing tidbits of travel on social media or with friends is still searching for validation, but there is no inner hunger for likes and comments that I used to have. If a status gains attention, great – but if it gets passed over, no worries, I’m still pleased that my picture came out that well or that yes, I do find myself that amusing.

I see now why so many of my fellow travelers love to traverse the world on their own: even as you’re exploring new places physically, you discover so much internally that it’s almost as if you’re taking two trips – one of the body and one of the mind. But perhaps that’s how all travel should be – for what is knowledge of the world if we do not know ourselves?

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#RaveLikeNoOneIsWatching, or, How Dance Music Saved My Life

I’ve been doing a lot of defending of dance music lately, and I’m learning a lot of it comes from people not understanding why the fans are so nuts over this lifestyle. So, I’m writing this post to help explain this to the people who are curious, and to have something to point to in order to avoid repeating myself the enxt time someone asks why I love this music so much. ^_^

Now, I don’t expect this to convert any of you to die hard fans –  that only comes with a connection to the music that, if you don’t get it when you hear it, no amount of study or research is going to grant you.

On to the story:

I’ve suffered from depression for years – the kind that will hit hard, out of nowhere, for a period of time. And then suddenly – it’s gone. In the meantime, very little helps: I’ve taken meds, I’ve cried it out, I’ve crafted, gotten lost in shows, tried to be active – none of it helped. But recently, I’ve found two things that help keep it in check more than any pill ever could: therapy and dance music.

The therapy helps for obvious reasons –  having a weekly forum to sort through the things that can trigger a phase are a huge help, as most of the time problems are resolved before my mind can enter into the spiral of negativity that provokes many of my depressive episodes. But the dance music is a little harder to explain to people, especially as it’s often written off as mainstream druggie crap that bros only listen to because they have shit taste and want to roll at music festivals (never mind the decades of rich history and how it influenced a lot of modern genres, but I digress). Though that sub-section of fans exists (as does a stereotypical type of annoying fan of ANY genre), for the most part dance music fans are just awesome people who like a little extra groove with their music. And for many of these fans, dance music holds a special place in their heart, because more than the music, the genre is built on an all-inclusive, come-as-you-are community that has saved countless lives.

I know that sounds like I’m being dramatic, but I’m not. Dance music has one reigning philosophy, commonly referred to as PLUR: Peace Love Unity Respect. Those four words contain the heart of dance culture, to the point where many of the members live this mantra in their daily lives as well as on the dance floor. It’s a culture that accepts EVERYONE for who they are, as long as they come ready to dance and spread the good vibes. (At EDC last year there was a massive billboard that hung over the festival that simply read, “Love and care for each other” – still wish I had taken a picture of that). Personally, I had never found this kind of acceptance – not in my church community, not in my school environment, and sometimes not even in my group of friends. Until dance music, I never really had a place where being myself was met with open arms rather than jeers.

And then I found Swedish House Mafia.

Going to my first rave was kind of an accident – “Don’t You Worry Child” was at the peak of it’s popularity when I first moved to LA, so I heard it pretty much any time I turned the radio on. I’d always loved dancing, and had been into some electronic music at different points in my life, so hearing this genre on the radio made my music-loving self happy from the get go. Additionally, alone and overwhelmed in my first real industry job, the song was intensely comforting – to hear the message of “Relax, everything will be okay, you’re still loved” when you’re adjusting to the intensity and ego of the music industry was a moment of calm in the storm I was experiencing.

One night while walking to House of Blues, I looked up to see one of those overly massive, building-length ads proclaiming the “One Last Tour” before SHM broke up, and their show in LA would be their second to last (the last being the insane set they played at Ultra Miami 2013). I saved up birthday cash to buy a ticket. sure that SOMEONE I knew was going to be just as excited as me and I would have someone to go with, because who would miss such a historic event?!

Well…. all of my friends, it turns out.

I was TERRIFIED of going alone. I had only been to rock and indie concerts before, both environments that are not very welcome to loners. I contemplated selling the ticket (the price of which had significantly gone up), but luckily a few friends pointed out I would regret not going, so I sucked it up and prepared to be lonely for the evening.

That night changed my life – I had little to no cell signal, my phone ended up dying, it was raining, and I kept getting shoved around in the massive crowd. A couple of taller guys saw what was going on and invited me to dance with them to avoid the rougher people – something I would normally regard with suspicion. But I stood and talked with them between sets; one of them had recently survived major brain trauma and was lucky to be alive, and he and his friend were there to celebrate his recovery. Throughout the night neither of them tried anything untoward, and when they found out it was my first rave they encouraged me to dance (which I had never really done in public before) while they stood to either side and made sure no one bothered me.

I can’t really put the emotions from the night into words – the feeling of love and joy that pervaded the crowd while showers of golden sparks rained from the stage, Axwell standing on the decks encouraging us all to raise our voices and sing together – even thinking back on it still makes me cry, because it was in that moment I knew I had found something that was more than music. I had found a place that looked at my emotion and my weirdness and my fangirling and cheered it on rather than trying to suppress it. I had found my people, and damn did it feel good to be truly accepted for perhaps the first time .

The following two years were a complete submersion into the dance scene: I got into A State of Trance (where fans often use the phrase Trance Family to show the connection amongst everyone), started digging into new artists on SoundCloud and Spotify, bought tickets for EDC (which, when I broke up with my boyfriend, led to my work friend from New York flying out to go with me – talk about the best way to meet someone for the first time), started helping DJ friends produce some of their tracks, and have made a ton of friends simply through sharing a love for the music.

And the same community isn’t just at raves – it’s online, as well. I was the insanely lucky fan who won a chance to meet Gareth Emery (my absolute favorite DJ ever) as he was launching his new show, Electric For Life. Me being the overly excitable person I am, I took to Twitter to flip out over it every week, not realizing that in doing so, I was going to connect so well with fellow fans that we would become actual friends. Like, discussing meet ups and planning birthday raves level of friends. These are all types of people, all ages, all over the world – and we’re all connected because of the music. I’ll finally be meeting a few of them in person when I head out the EDC this year, which I might actually be just as excited about as the actual festival itself, because these people have become my EFL Family (we stole that from the Trance Family but it’s true so I’m keeping it).

And since I went to that first rave? I haven’t slipped back into depression once. It’s definitely still there – there have been moments where it threatens to come back. But whereas three years ago I felt like I was fighting it alone, now I can simply listen to the music and remember that I have support from an entire community if I just say the word, and usually, that’s enough to come back from the edge.

I’m not the only one with this kind of story, either – for so many people this is an escape, a lifeline, a connection, a way to feel alive and forget the worries of the world for just a few hours. We don’t expect everyone to understand that – it would be great if everyone did, but to each their own! Just, next time you’re tempted to dismiss the genre as a whole, remember that there’s more to dance music than you see at first glance.

But no matter what, you’re always welcome to dance with us. ❤

Raw Wounds

It’s not socially acceptable to speak publicly about breakups, especially when a lot of your friends are still in daily contact with your ex. So, if discussions of such things make you uncomfortable, you should stop reading.

Seven months and one week ago, I left my now ex-boyfriend (we’ll call him The Ex). Even though I was the one who technically broke things off, I left because of two major reasons: he had decided to quit pursuing his PhD, which had a lot of financial ramifications that he hadn’t discussed with me first; but more importantly, he had fallen for one of my best friends, and couldn’t decide which one of us he wanted to be with more. For me, when we had been discussing marriage just weeks prior to this, such indecision was a sign that our relationship was over. My Ex and my (now ex) best friend stayed together, and from what I know through mutual friends, are still together as of this writing.

I tell you this not to make him a bad guy, or to say that I have no blame, but to give context to the rest of this.

Tonight, I broke down in tears. It was sudden, and unexpected: I’d had a fantastic afternoon with friends, a productive evening, and a cup of Mexican spiced sipping chocolate while watching Orange is the New Black. Then, as I began to get ready for bed, I picked up Syrio (who had been the Ex’s cat, but stayed with me and his feline brother through the breakup), and sat down to get some serious kitty snuggles in before I fell asleep.

That’s when I began crying.

There’s a lot of emotion attached to Syrio and his presence with me. Part is that I know how difficult it is to leave a pet, and though I know that Syrio staying with me was the best decision, I can still tell that the loss of my Ex deeply affected him. He was moody and depressed for several weeks after, and though he’s still a cuddler, he’s lost a lot of the demanding behavior he would use to make sure he received pets when he wanted them. Since the Ex and I no longer speak to each other, there is no chance for the Ex to see his cat, and as he was possibly more in love with this cat than he ever was with me, he had to have wanted out pretty badly.

I believe this was the thought process that hit me hard, and so quickly, and thus blindsided me with a wave of emotion that I didn’t expect to feel tonight.

It made me realize, though, how much that breakup is still affecting me. Since January, I’ve become incredibly close with new and old friends, closer than I expected to with betrayal having been so fresh. But in moments of vulnerability, I realize that, as open and trusting as I am with them, part of me is still holding back, waiting for the moment when they’ve realized they’ve used me as much as they can, and leave without a moment’s notice.

This isn’t fair to my friends, as not a single one of them has shown behavior that communicates this intention (okay, all except one, I did have one incident where I got a lame excuse from a person who didn’t have the eloquence to say she was uncomfortable with me and ex-best-friend being at the same event, so gave some half-assed excuse that was completely negated by her comments literally minutes before, but I digress).

Having put that much trust in two people – two of the people that were closest to me – to then be shown that my trust was worth so little, makes it difficult to consider that I can place that much trust in people again without a similar situation happening in another few years. For the Ex to want out, literally a week after packing up his life and moving across the country to be with me, and then walking away from so much of his life in order to get away …. it hurts that someone that you’ve given so much to thinks so little of your love that they’ll abandon their own pets to be with someone else.

I even had the horrid thought last night that I’ll never be able to introduce any romantic partners to my single friends, as I don’t know if I could trust them not to try to steal that away in their own jealousy and loneliness. This is ridiculous, on so many levels, because I’ve received nothing but good-natured support from every person in my life in regards to getting back into the dating scene, yet no one has seen my date and attempted to weasel their way between us (and I’ve seen a model a few times recently, if it was going to happen with anybody, it would have happened with him). But the paranoia is there, like a poison that colors all intentions, a weed that will not die.

I know that “time heals all wounds,” and perhaps it will someday, but I think I’m going to need significantly more time before this one scars over.

On the UCSB Shooting and why it freaks me out so much

I’ve been trying to get back into writing more – I have this whole list (an entire sticky-note full!) on my desk of topics that I’ve been musing over lately that I’ve been wanting to flesh out on paper when I had more time, but I kept getting distracted by Kitten Coulson or Bob’s Burgers or yet another book that I’ve been meaning to finish but just haven’t gotten around to yet.

However, I’m feeling incredibly unsettled by the UCSB shootings, and one of the best ways for me to calm down is to write it out. Twitter wasn’t giving me enough space, so I turned to this dusty ol’ thang.

So. I’m 25. I’m female. I’m single. I participate in online and real life dating. As most single females who engage in either activity can attest, there are guys who express interest (either politely or not) that you turn down or just don’t respond to. This could be for many reasons – in online dating, you haven’t had the chance to read the message yet, you don’t find anything of interest on the profile, a few messages in and you can tell that you personalities don’t match, they’re asking you out based on characteristics that you don’t want to base a relationship on (“You’re so pretty, please date me,” isn’t really the start of a deeper connection), etc. The list can go on for ages.

But you know what? It shouldn’t have to.

If I say no, for whatever reason, that should be the end of it. Yes, we all have moments where we wonder “Why?” and “What If?” and yearn to beg for the person to give us a second chance. And in some cases, in mature, adult relationships, there is room to discuss this second chance.

But between strangers (on or off the internet), when I have given you no indication that I’m interested in pursuing anything, and I turn you down, that should be the end of it. I shouldn’t have to give any excuse; if I’m not interested, I’m not interested, and I deserve enough respect that my desire to be left alone is all the “reason” you need.

There have been three major manifestations of this recently – once at the Renaissance Faire and twice online.

1) Faire Boy: A female friend and I were practically cornered by a group of guys, one who kept my friend busy while the other desperately tried to get me to go out with him. Every no was met with a, “But why not? Just give me a chance!”; it even went so far that he was getting in my face and physically blocking me in, no matter how many times I politely turned him down. Eventually, I had to lie and say that my friend and I were partners, and that he had no chance because he didn’t have the right bits. Luckily, as an actress, she caught on and went with it. However, I shouldn’t have even had to go there – when I said no, he should have backed off.

2) OkCupid Boy #1 (OKCB1): Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some good dates and great luck on OkCupid. Online dating as a whole is not a complete cesspool (at least not compared to the /generalchat in WoW or even some of the comments sections on articles). However, as you’ll see in a (much more humorous) post to come at a later date, there are a lot of fails in the dating world. Some have good intentions and miss their mark, such as OKCB1. We chatted back and forth a little, before I mentioned that I would be out of town for a few days and thus couldn’t respond. He seems fine with this, tells me to have a good time …. and while I’m non-responsive, sends me several pages worth of messages, stalks me and finds me on Facebook, and starts checking in “just in case I wanted to chat while I was gone.” 

It was plain, simple obsession – and it’s freaky. To have someone so focused on you that, on a dating site where you have no mention of your name, they somehow have spent enough time researching you to track you down, you start to realize that there really isn’t much privacy in the online dating world, even without names. This is not sexy, it’s not endearing –  you ignored that I hadn’t offered private information, stalked me, and thought that I’d be okay with it. In what world does this come off as okay?

Luckily, with a lack of response to the friend request and subsequent messages, he backed off. However, I wasn’t so lucky with number three.

3) OkCupid Boy #2 (OKCB2): Here’s the creepy one, the one that has caused me to contemplate closing down my OkCupid account. A random guy with no profile information, no picture, no identifiers or personality indicators reached out and couldn’t help but “stop and just say how gorgeous you are!” (which, to you non OKC members, is as generic a first message as you can get). Thinking it was another mass spammer who was sending out copy/paste messages to as many girls as possible in order to get a hit, I ignored him. 

He kept messaging, as if we were having this imaginary conversation inside his head that he felt like he needed to respond to. Eventually, I told him that with no picture and no profile information, he was going to have a hard time getting a response, as the people he was messaging had no idea who or what they were responding to.

This was my mistake – I never should have engaged, I should have just blocked him. This was also the only reply I sent him.

He took this as license to start sending me a message every 2-3 days, most of which I missed because I stopped checking OkCupid for days at a time. However, by the time the creepiest message came in, I had decided against blocking him as I needed to have the ability to save screenshots of the messages he was sending, just in case I needed proof of harassment and/or stalking.

The final message, which I’m just going to paraphrase, essentially speculated that it would be sexy to sneak into my apartment at night and do sexual things to me (read: rape), all without me ever engaging him further or exhibiting any indication that these types of behaviors would have been welcomed. He simply assumed that I wanted to hear these things; it never crossed his mind that a lack of response meant that I wanted to be left alone. The behavior was that of obsession, and bordered on that of a stalker. Finally, I decided to risk engaging him and asked that he leave me alone, explaining that a lack of response for over a month should have been a signal that I wasn’t interested. I, luckily, have not heard from him since, and am hoping that my explanation caused him to realize how inappropriate his behavior was.

Until the shooting, and having other women come out of the woodwork, I passed all three off as annoyances of being a somewhat attractive single female – they didn’t ruin my day (though they did bother me enough to mention to friends, and obviously, they stuck with me). But after the events of last weekend, I realized that not only was I scared (as any of these incidents could easily have escalated if the person on the other end was anything like the shooter), I was angry. Angry that I had to put up with this, angry that these people considered this behavior acceptable, angry that I’d been conditioned to accept this behavior as normal (even if I never found it attractive), but above all, angry at myself for thinking that I should just “deal with it.”

I shouldn’t have to deal with it. I should not have to hold my keys in my hand when I walk down the street at night, I should not have to tell a male that I have a partner in order for him to back off when I say no, I should not have to feel like I need to keep weapons near my bed as a security measure, I should not have to question whether or not the person I’m conversing with is only interested in me for sex rather than as a person in my own right. I should not have to, yet I do, because there is a rampant mindset in our culture that men are entitled to women’s bodies and sexuality, even without being given permission.

The world is never going to be a perfect place, no. However, if we could start seeing each other as people to connect with, rather than objects to be acquired, it would go a long way towards fixing a problem that we can’t leave festering any longer. Thus, I charge you with this: next time you’re meeting someone new, treat them like a person, not someone to convince that you’re worth bedding. Look beyond their appearance, dig into their multi-faceted lives, and realize that reducing someone to solely an object of sexual desire will cause you to miss out on so many connections with incredible people who are worth so much more than that behavior.

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“Your Sky. Your Limit”: An Entry on Why You Sometimes Shouldn’t Listen to Your Mentors

Today’s post is going to be a reflection on a quote from Tom Hiddleston. Not just because he’s my favorite actor – we all knew this already. But because, talented and attractive as he is, he’s also incredibly wise.

Quote in point:

““Never, ever, let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Prove the cynics wrong. Pity them for they have no imagination. The sky’s the limit. Your sky. Your limit.” 
― Tom Hiddleston

I’m not sure what it was this morning that took me back to my college classrooms for a moment. Maybe it was the gorgeous, cloudless sky, or the hint of fall in the air that I haven’t quite stopped associating with endless readings and group projects. Whatever reason, I paused for a moment in the middle of primping for work and realized that I am incredibly lucky to be working in a field I had dreamed of being in, with coworkers who I can count as friends and family and loved ones who support me wholeheartedly. On a daily basis I correspond with people in at least three different countries (as a result of which I am learning Swedish and German), help independent filmmakers perfect their projects, and support some of the greatest songwriters to have ever contributed to the music industry. 

I’m pretty damn lucky, and I love (almost) every second of it.

Yet if I had listened to my teachers, to my classmates, to my friends, I would have never achieved this.

I remember sitting in one of my honors leadership classes, where almost all my peers were going into teaching, social work, politics, philanthropy, charity work, Christian outreach, or something along those lines. At a college where the majority of students were involved in music and the music industry in some way, it was one of the few classes in which I was the minority degree seeker, which was often refreshing. As immersive as the music and film industries can be, it was helpful to have alternate perspectives to bring issues and discussions to my attention, especially in fields that I otherwise didn’t explore on a daily basis.

But there was a downside to this, as well: my passion, music and film, was often treated with derision and became the butt of many jokes. You would never want to be “like the music business majors.” We were self-centered (benefit concerts, anyone?), didn’t want to get our hands dirty with the problems of the world (never mind the rich history of protest music and the wave of pro-gay marriage support in modern music), and none of us were going to get real jobs, just leach off unemployment when we graduated because the industry was in tatters (forgetting about the innovation and new perspectives that fresh blood faced with tough challenges brings to a stagnant industry). Music business wasn’t worthy of being considered something that leadership would excel in, it was all for profits, and there were no redeeming qualities that would attract anyone who really wanted to make a difference in the world. Because, you know, all those people who went into politics and are supporting a divided, deadlocked Congress are really helping to make major strides for the American people.

I get it: in terms of measurable difference, me hitting send on a few song approvals is much harder to quantify than joining the Peace Corps (which I don’t qualify for – I looked when I was unemployed), flying to a third world country, and digging wells. [By no means is this meant to devalue that work, as it is sorely needed.] But what I do, though it often feels more like business, is a support role in the making of art. A lot of it is a money-making venture – I am not referring to Wipe Out as an art form. We’re a business, and our first job is to represent the interests of our writers, which means helping them make a living.

But those aren’t the projects I get excited about. Anyone who knows me knows that the best ten days of my year are spent in a bright, puffy vest, standing in the cold for hours on end, with 1,500 other crazy people who think using vacation days to volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival is the epitome of an epic vacation. Outside of those ten days,  I help make the dreams of those filmmakers become a reality so that they can enter into those film festivals, so that those heart-wrenching personal stories, thought-provoking dramas, and disturbingly true documentaries can make it out into the world.

With the ubiquity of technology, media (film and television included) is helping to change the way interact with our surroundings, from documentaries about GMOs and the suppression of free speech in countries such as Russia, to animated shorts that can show the benefits of selflessness and the consequences of broken promises. When the world is preaching at you so loud and so often, sometimes it takes something special to break through, something much more subtle and delicate and palatable, and often that something comes in the guise of entertainment. 

If I had listened to the professors, the music teachers, the friends who (often not-so-subtly) suggested that perhaps I could make more money, make more of a difference, be happier doing something else, I wouldn’t have followed my passion. In the months after graduation, when I couldn’t find a job in my field and money was tight, the deprecating words of my classmates and professors came back to haunt my depressed thoughts. In the moments of wondering whether struggling through a life of feeling worthless and being a financial burden to my parents and boyfriend was better than just taking myself and my troubles out of the equation, the negativity I had experienced from others in regards to my dreams made me feel as if my life had ended at twenty-one because I had made a poor choice at eighteen regarding my career. I doubt they realized it at the time, but the opinions of those I had worked closely with for years stuck with me for much longer than a single class period, and the effects went far beyond the implications they expected their throwaway words to have in the few seconds it took to utter them.

Luckily, I’m stubborn enough to do what I want in the way that I want, and to have an inner voice that would start panicking or throw up warning signs any time I contemplated giving into the pressure to do something more tangible. And then I was intelligent enough to move away, physically and emotionally, from the people who wanted to extinguish my dream rather than nourish it, and become closer with those who supported the vision I had for my creativity and my life’s work.

There’s another quote from Hiddleston that fits well here:

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.” 

― Tom Hiddleston

It took months, enough tears to dehydate a camel, and emotional and financial sacrifice, but I followed my dream and ended up in a job (with benefits! Those mythical beings that few people my age have ever encountered!) that not only brings me happiness, but allows me to do the same for others who are following their passions as well. In a search for real, live employment I was able to further entrench myself in the film community through again volunteering at Sundance, an opportunity that led to having a number of friends in LA before I even moved in, as well as being the resident film festival expert at my job (they even let me go to film festivals as work. I cannot convey what an amazing opportunity this is for someone like me). And I even used the time to take advantage of an internship at NPR headquarters in DC, which, no matter what industry you work in, is just freakin’ cool (especially when you get to be the contestant for the dress rehearsal of a new quiz show, win said show, and meet geek music icon Jonathan Coulton in the process.)

I haven’t kept up with most of my classmates – I fell out of contact during the deepest stages of my depression, as I was too ashamed to share any part of my life with these people who had seemed to have it all together when I was falling apart.  I’m not sure if any of them are doing what they set out to do: followed their dreams to become junior political staffers, teaching screeching parasites small children, or traveling the world to bring Tom’s shoes to every barefoot child in need (that’s not a dig – it was a huge movement at Belmont). But if any of them have been half as successful as I have been in starting the journey towards their ultimate goals, then congratulations – there are a lot of factors out there keeping you from fulfilling those passions, and keeping your eye on the end result can be difficult when the harsh factors of life constantly strive to pull you away from achieving anything more than the immediate gratification of being able to pay rent each month.

To close out this long, rambling post, I’ll include one more quote, as I like things that come in threes and also the chance to use the word trifecta:

“Haters never win. I just think that’s true about life, because negative energy always costs in the end … Never stop. Never stop fighting. Never stop dreaming.”
– Tom Hiddleston 

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September Update and Current Writing Projects

It’s been a long day and I’ve had way too much coffee to get me through it, so of course I’m on the internet chasing after wisps of sleep. I’m sure my cats would rather I fed them, but they can wait five minutes until this burst of productivity ebbs.

Update 1) I am now on Tumblr under the same name, but warning: I use it for fandom, specifically fanfiction, much of which is very, VERY NSFW. It’s pure fanservice and guilty pleasure indulgence. Anything of consequence will be posted here, so no need to bother with that unless you feel like navigating the annals of Loki obsession.

Update 2) In preparation for NaNoWriMo (which I always try and fail miserably at), I’m starting a September writing challenge. I’ve had multiple stories taking shape in my mind recently, but I’ve either been too busy or too lazy to write them down, and the lack of creative endeavors is beginning to drive me crazy.

Thus, the September challenge: to get back into the habit of writing regularly and writing well, I will write every day for the next month on whatever topic comes to mind. It could be a continuation of a story in progress, and entirely new tale altogether, or even a blog entry. It doesn’t matter what it is, but I have to have something by the end of the day, even if it is just a paragraph or two.

In this vein, I’ll be starting a sub project – on days when I can’t conjure any topics to write about, I’ll pick a Missed Connections post from Craigslist and create a story from whatever is in the post. I’m open to suggestions – any relationship, any emotion, send it my way! Try to find a post that leaves a few unanswered questions or evokes a strong emotional reaction. These stories will most likely not be polished, but shared here for feedback and just to involve anyone who wants to participate in the project.

Now let’s hope I can make it through one month of intense writing!

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Possibly the Most Volatile Post I Will Ever Make

Those of you who know me well probably know that religion and spirituality have been a constant struggle for me for a number of years now. I have a very hard time reconciling the ideal of the church with the reality of the institution, and it seems like every time I try to give it another chance, something goes horribly wrong and I regret spending the time on it in the first place.

However, this post isn’t about my personal thoughts on religion, or whether or not I agree with anyone who subscribes to a belief (institutional or otherwise). Instead, it is about how I, as someone who refuses to “claim” a religion as my own, feels that society doesn’t quite know what to do with me.

I grew up in a very Christian family, and have lived in the South long enough to experience religion as an intensive part of social interaction and culture at large. I understand that a significant portion of Christianity is to “go forth and spread the good news.” Thus, I understand why many of my Christian friends and family members feel compelled to speak with me, an agnostic, regarding religion at every chance they get.

To be brutally honest, it’s quite annoying.

I welcome respectful discussion (on a personal level) of varying beliefs, the reasoning (or faith) behind them, and where one side may take issue with the other side’s arguments. This is part of exploring religion – questioning issues that may arise, reaching out to others for advice and guidance, and possibly changing our views and beliefs in the process.

However, in the years since admitting that I was possibly not Christian anymore (which eventually progressed to leaving the Church and identifying as agnostic), I have experienced a lot of prejudice, even from close friends, who do not respect my decision. In discussions between people of different, but institutionalized faiths (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, etc), I have witnessed polite and respectful discourse. Not once in these conversations was someone told that the speaker “hoped they one day found the true love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” They were not told that their decision to be of a different faith was borne of laziness, as they were not willing to make the effort to see “the Truth.” They were not degraded, made to feel less than anyone else, or treated as if they were making the wrong choice. 

I cannot say that my experience as an agnostic has been the same. From classes in college (admittedly at a Christian institution, which was not the best cultural fit for me) to daily interactions with friends, I have experienced a lot of tension with others because of my personal beliefs. Each time I talk through my reasoning with someone, I leave frustrated, as the discussion evolves into a “give it another chance, don’t base your opinions on that kind of Christian” or an “I’ll pray that you see the light.” (Please note that I use these examples because it is what I have heard; I have not had a friend or family member attempt to tell me being agnostic is wrong and I should be Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist.)

Here’s the thing: in saying such phrases, and thus refusing to respect my decision, you are being “that kind of Christian.” By having the mindset that I will see the error of my ways, repent, and eventually see things the way you do, you are embodying the exact mindset that has kept me from feeling welcome in the church.

My personal beliefs are my own, and I (usually) prefer to keep them that way. I have my moments where I become angry or frustrated over a religious issue and mistakenly paint an entire group of people with a brush meant for an individual, and I have apologized for those. But it would be a welcome relief if those whom I love would start respecting my beliefs and stop treating me like a possible recruit, when I am pleased with where I currently am and not interested in joining with anyone new.

Boiled down to its purest form, all I’m asking for is the simple Golden Rule that was taught to us all in Kindergarten: If you want me to treat your religious beliefs with respect, then I ask that you do the same for mine.

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To all my young engaged/married friends:

I’ve been debating whether or not to post this for a while, because I know it’s going to piss a few people off. But as I watch friends and classmates chomping at the bit when it comes to getting engaged, married, and starting families before they can even find full time employment, I really start to worry.

I’m not condemning those who have decided to marry early; if you’re with the right person, and you understand both the difficulties and the joys that lie ahead, this post is not directed toward you. Instead, it’s directed toward the “Disney princesses”: the ones who never left the “honeymoon phase” of their relationships, the ones who think that marriage will solve all the problems that are currently there, the ones who have finally felt the stirring of desire that goes beyond butterflies in the stomach and think that immediately means “this is the guy I’m supposed to marry” before they’ve even had their first kiss.

Does the “date one person, kiss one person, marry one person” thing work for some people? Yea, and I know a couple of people it has happened to and support them completely. But the number of girls in my circle of acquaintances that have that EXACT same story? Well, the odds really aren’t in their favor.

Bad Reasons to Get Married:

A) After a few weeks: “We want to move in together, because it would be more economically feasible, but I would never do that unless we were married.”

Yes, one of my friends actually SAID this. Seriously?! I get it, times are hard, and money is tight. Hence why I’m living with my boyfriend and using a lot of my dad’s frequent flyer miles. But there is a major difference between moving in and dedicating your life to someone both legally and spiritually (for all you religious people). Move in with your boyfriend and want to break up? Okay, pack your crap and leave the house. Get married and want to break up? All that “economic feasibility” crap gets massively offset by your lawyer fees and possible court costs.

As much as I wish things would work out perfectly in the long run, they don’t. And this couple was married just over a year from when they started dating. At such a young age, people change fast, and the “honeymoon stage” lasts longer than it took them to get married. Once the routines are set and the reality of being tied to a person, and thus their geographic location (if they’re the primary job holder), hits, life isn’t going to look quite so pretty.

B) “We’ve been together for three years, and we’ve been fighting a lot, I don’t want to have wasted all the time we’ve invested into our relationship.”

……

But you’d possibly rather waste years of your life struggling to make a difficult relationship work, and then figure out how to deal with a split that has not wasted even more of your life, and perhaps left you with children?

Yea, good luck with that. Marriage does not solve your problems, it amplifies them. So figure your shit out BEFORE you go through the trouble.

C) I’m 23 and he’s the only guy who’s ever shown interest in me, and I can’t afford to wait for someone else.

Wrong. For a minute, forget all that crap about fertility rates falling and how much you want that dream wedding that you’ve been planning on Pinterest. Really think about this: are you getting married because you want a wedding, and any decent guy will do, or are you getting married because you honestly cannot imagine a future without this person by your side?

A few years ago, about a year into dating my now ex-boyfriend, a cousin mentioned to me that she had dated the same guy all throughout college, but by the end, they  had grown apart and decided to stay good friends. At the time, I couldn’t imagine such a thing happening with my boyfriend: he was the only guy who’d ever really been able to connect with me, and the idea of losing him was incomprehensible. Three years later, we broke up, mutually, because we’d grown into really good friends, but nothing more.

Moral: People change a lot, especially when they’re young. The twenties bring about a lot of life experience that shapes personalities into the more stable people of their later decades, and you may not recognize the person you’re with after a few years, especially if you’re both 18-25.

There’s so much pressure to date these days (and in the South, where many of my friends are, to get married ASAP), that not having a significant other of either sex seems like a big deal. You don’t want to be the odd friend out at dinner, the solo girl at a bar while your friends seemingly rub their dates in your face, the spinster chick living with her gal pal and a couple of cats at 35, alone for almost half her life. But the desire to not have that happen shouldn’t be so strong that you end up making poor relationship decisions that will make your future even more bleak.

D) You’re religious, and you’re ready for sex, but you want to wait until you’re married. But you’re ready for sex, so you must be ready to get married, right?

This last point is going to be the most contentious for a lot of my friends, as most of them are very devout in their particular faiths, while I am an open agnostic. I completely understand and support each individual’s decision to have sex when they are ready; no one should ever feel pressured to go through the experience before they’re ready, as it is a very personal experience. However, a burning passion to jump in bed with someone that you care deeply for is not love, it’s desire. Desire comes in a few different forms, as a devoted couple will have experienced: it can be triggered by a slinky outfit or a glimpse of skin, but more often it follows a feeling of intense connection, of selfless love. In these cases, it is a signal that you truly care for someone, more than you do for the majority of people in your life, and you need to take that signal seriously.

However, speak to people who have been in several long-term, committed relationships, and you’ll hear that they felt that desire with several, if not all, of their partners. Whether or not they acted on it, it shows that you can love someone so deeply that your physical response to them is incredibly strong – multiple times throughout your life. And though you should make sure that feeling is there before you commit yourself to someone, just because it exists does not mean that marriage should be six months down the road.

I do truly wish all my friends happiness in their relationships, especially those for whom engagement and marriage is around the corner. But I urge you all to use your head, even in matters of the heart, before you go to far without giving things a second thought.

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Sundance Post: Reviews (Part 1)

So Sundance is in full swing, and day four has found me with  small break in between marathon movie watching and my shift this evening.

I won’t have time to review everything I’ve seen so far in this sitting, so I’m going to keep a running list of what I’ve watched with a grade, and then come back and review it later.

As a heads up, volunteers are discouraged from posting negative reviews of films, as many at Sundance may be picked up for wide release or digital distribution based on their performance at the festival. A bad review from someone associated with the festival, even a volunteer, can have a massive impact on that decision. Thus, if I don’t like a film, I’ll just put a dash in the “grade” area and leave the reasoning up to the scouts.

Volunteer Screening: Ethel A-
Day 1: Escape Fire A+
The Invisible War A-
Day 2: Red Lights A
Wuthering Heights —
The House I Live In A
Me at the Zoo B-
Day 3: Robot and Frank A
Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry A

Reviews:

Red Lights

Red Lights stars Cillian Murphy (hello eye candy, definitely worth getting in line at 7:30 for), Sigourney Weaver (favorite actress ever), Elizabeth Olsen, and Robert deNiro. Why is a film with such a star-studded cast premiering at Sundance, the champion of the underdogs? Well, it’s still an independant film, and the director is still fairly new. You may remember the film Buried, where Ryan Reynolds is trapped in a coffin the entire movie? Same director (Cortes), but this time with a supernatural twist to his thriller.

Given the quality of the film and the cast, I have a feeling this one will be hitting theaters soon, so I won’t give anything away. The main plot line involves Murphy and Weaver as supernatural investigators, or the people who debunk all that crap you see on American Horror Story. DeNiro plays a telekinetic performer who has come out of retirement after 30 years, and Murphy’s character becomes obsessed with trying to find a rational explanation for DeNiro’s seemingly authentic “powers.”

Sounds like the run of the mill, Hollywood thriller, yes? Cortes warned us before the movie began not to have any expectations, as everywhere you think the film is going, it’s not. There are a few clues here and there throughout that will help you maybe piece together what is happening, but you’ll probably be too absorbed in the film to think ahead. And when you get to the end of the film, you realize that that the answer has been sitting in front of you all along, just like it has for the researchers, but you were too caught up to question the things you always take for granted.

I’m not even going to bother with commenting on the acting, because it’s obviously top-notch. I will highlight the music, however; I have never heard of this composer (and I’ll be researching him more later when I can get my hands on a full production crew list), but the score supported the movie effortlessly, making your breathing quicken in anticipation and your heart seize up during tragedy. Major applause.

Final Verdict: It’s not the best movie ever made (it had a little too much blue filter for me), but it is a fresh take on a thriller, and one that might make you think a little about how much is hiding in plain sight all around us.