My First Love

Writing is an ongoing, enigmatic process.

Every individual has a different method they employ when they write; everyone writes with different tools—with a pen, pencil or keyboard—and on different forms—in a diary, notebook or computer. My mood affects my ability to write. I have to feel it. I haven’t been in the mood to write this for several days.

Writing is difficult. And writer’s block is a bitch.

My relationship with writing can’t be described with just one story. I’ve been forced to write my whole life for school, yet somehow, within these restrictive academic environments, I managed to discover my inner voice. This voice was powerful enough to withstand years of critique as my teachers encouraged me to embrace my individuality—all the while expecting me to succumb to their standards—but every teacher had a different standard, and it grew too complicated for me to try and fit into their mold. So I chose me, over them. I liked how I wrote; I like how I write. I am an individual, and my writing is reflective of my unique experiences.

Writing gives me confidence.

I was 10 years old when I first realized that I had a passion for writing; it came naturally for me. I distinctly remember my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Deann Sweeney, reading us The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi, in her expressive voice. The historical fiction novel recounts the story of a sheltered 13-year-old girl who embarks on a voyage from England to Rhode Island. During the first-person account, Charlotte relates how she is forced to relinquish her strict upbringing in order to survive—and she eventually realizes the dishonesty of the Captain of the ship, whom she previously respected, discovers his role in a tragic murder, which he framed as an accident, and witnesses his brutal abuse of the crew.

Writing in a diary was Charlotte’s way of maintaining her sanity as she documented her experiences.

Mrs. Sweeney assigned our class a poem about Charlotte’s transformation from a sheltered teenager to an assertive woman. As fifth graders, I’m sure Mrs. Sweeney’s expectations for our developmental analyses weren’t high, so she was shocked when she read my poem. She even read it to the class the moment I handed it to her. I don’t remember the poem in its entirety, I only remember the last two lines—they were, verbatim:

“I am no longer a weak-minded girl,

but a woman with strength I thought I’d never have.” 

Writing reveals our inner selves.

My cheeks burned as my teacher casually read my poem to the class. Their stunned faces turned towards me in envy, admiration and shock. I, myself, was in shock. I wrote the poem the night before. I sat down, cross-legged, on our living room floor, and wrote a first person account of how I perceived Charlotte’s development—with a pencil, and a piece of computer paper (that all seems so ancient now). It ended up being double the length my teacher had asked for, but it still hadn’t taken me very long—30 minutes tops. I didn’t even realize that it was well written. When my teacher read it aloud, I couldn’t fathom the idea that those were my words. I wrote that. Without any help. It was the first time in the world I felt truly special.

Writing was second nature for me.

Over the years, I forgot. I simply forgot how much I liked to write. Through persuasive essays, we were taught to think in the restrictive structure of binaries. The world was black and white and we had to back up our narrow-minded thesis statements with one-sided claims and a bunch of bullshit analysis in order to get that sought-after “A.”

Writing became a systematic task I did for a grade.

I knew what I needed to do to get the grade I wanted. Yet, I still enjoyed writing for fun. I joined our student-run newspaper in middle school and wrote opinion pieces, sports articles and movie reviews. It was a form of stress relief and it made my dad happy—and, trust me, it’s better when he’s happy.

Writing was fun.

Yet, as I transitioned to high school, my development grew stagnant. Nothing I wrote was good enough. My voice was too blatant. My papers were too comprehensive. I used too many concessions. I was too balanced. I didn’t use enough vocabulary. I used too much vocabulary. My paragraphs were too long. My paragraphs were too short. Every teacher had a different standard, and yet, they never gave me clear feedback on why my paper didn’t meet their expectations. I consistently got “B+’s” on my writing assignments until junior year—when I met Mrs. Judy Swift.

Writing made me feel inadequate.

I failed Mrs. Swift’s first writing assignment. Mrs. Swift told us that everything we’d ever learned about writing was null, and needed to be disregarded. Writing is not black and white—there are lots of grey areas, and acknowledging the gray areas would only make you seem more knowledgeable as an author; as you address the opposition’s main concerns, you strengthen your claims. But it was incredibly hard to get myself out of the systematic mind-set. It was mind-boggling. For the first time, I was encouraged to write how I wanted—I could actually acknowledge that the opposition had valid claims, and then allow myself to address those concerns with thoughtful, respectful and controlled retaliation.

Writing reflects our lives, and our lives are never simple.

I was coming back to life. Mrs. Swift challenged me, uplifted me, but mostly, she taught me to embrace my bias. As humans, we can’t ever be completely objective—especially when our lives are so subjective. We each have varying experiences that affect our identity and what we believe. Our experiences, our parents and the community of people we’re around shape our personalities, characters and belief systems. We were all constructed, if you will, by our life experiences. Yes, we made individual decisions that have repercussions, but we ultimately don’t control what family we are born into, or what happens to us as children. I learned more about myself in her class than I ever had in my life, up until that point. And I am so incredibly thankful for her (I miss you, Swifty).

Writing is manufactured, by people, and it can be improved.

After we took our Advanced Placement Exam, Mrs. Swift shifted from teaching us how to write effective argumentative essays and analytical pieces, to how to write a narrative about ourselves—especially since we were soon going to start college applications. These applications ask students to write a “Personal Statement” about themselves. For most students, this is a foreign concept; students’ entire writing experiences, up until that point, were dictated by narrow-minded assignments and structured outlines they were instructed to follow. These instructions conditioned students to hide their identity when they wrote, and often, making the switch from an academic assignment, where “I” statements are frowned upon, to a personal narrative, where adding personal beliefs is welcomed, was too complex for them to fathom.

Writing is enriched by experiences.

To counter this, Mrs. Swift introduced the Six Word Memoir project. The task was simple at face value: write a story in six words. She used the famous example, allegedly by Ernest Hemingway, “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” This short story is complete, despite its length, and it’s sad—so sad. There are so many questions I want to ask: How did the baby die? Is the mother okay? Is she even alive? It’s powerful, emotional, and proves that length doesn’t define a good story—content and style do.

Writing reveals my intimate emotions, and helps me cope with tough situations.

Even though I tend to be an elaborate writer, I absolutely fell head over heels in love, with Six Word Memoirs. I compensated for the word restrictions by writing hundreds of these short stories (some of which can be found here). These short stories helped me get through one of the most difficult times of my life. My first boyfriend and I broke up the week before the AP Exam, and meanwhile, my father had just filed for divorce. Needless to say, I was filled with lots of emotions. I didn’t know how to handle the situation—my boyfriend had been my best friend for two years before we began dating—and he was my first kiss. Mostly, he was my confidante and my pillar of support (which is what ruined our relationship). A couple of months before we broke up, Jared told me he loved me. I loved him too. I really did. But it was the kind of love that develops between two hormonal teenagers—puppy love. At the time, I was distraught, and thought I’d lost the one person who ever really cared for me. I thought I’d lost my first love. But, then I realized, he wasn’t my first love.

Writing will always be my first love.

Writing is how I come to know myself. Words just pour out of me when I’m sitting down in front of a blank paper. I feel emotions I didn’t know I had, laying there, underneath the surface. Like right now, I got teary.

Writing became my weapon, and it will always be there for me.

I had a similar experience with writing in college as I did in high school, before I met Mrs. Swift (I call those dark days, the pre-Swift days.) I am a Political Science major, and was thus forced to write a lot of objective research papers, with an apathetic attitude, for a grade I ultimately didn’t care about. I lost interest in words, in language, and in the beautiful rhythmic flow that used to comfort me in times of stress. It became a dull chore I had to do in order to remain in school.

Writing, for Political Science, is dull.

I was a walking and breathing zombie. A person without a soul, going through the motions, silently hating their life. I did the bare minimum to get that “A.” But I didn’t care. There was no passion in anything I did anymore. I began to hate college, and truly resented Political Science. It wasn’t until I randomly signed up for a General Education class, to satisfy a writing requirement I didn’t need, that I started coming back to life. The class was a lower division Written Inquiry called “Composing Self.” I finally got to write again-really write- about myself, and my feelings, and subjects I actually cared about. My professor, Morgan Read-Davidson, provided me with insight to help me improve as a writer, and I was so appreciative. It was the first time I felt like a professor truly cared about my development (I now call the dark days in college before Morgan, the pre-Morgan days). I reclaimed my passionate nature once more. “Composing Self” made me human again.

Writing can be empowering.

But it can also be humbling. After taking “Composing Self,” I declared another minor- Writing and Rhetoric (I am also a Film Studies minor). I’ve taken a lot of courses since then that challenged me both academically and emotionally. I’ve realized that no matter how much I love writing, and regardless of how much I think I know, there is still so much more to learn. Writing is an ongoing process that doesn’t have a set ending. There is no finish line or end goal. I can write an entire novel and still not be finished, because then I could start on another novel, and another one. You’re never truly an expert, because writing is so subjective. You always have to keep an open mind. Even if I do get my PHD in Writing or Rhetoric some day, I must always remember that my future (hypothetical) students will have fresh perspectives from their lives. They will be of a different generation, full of new talents and insight.

Writing can always be improved.

I hope I keep writing for the rest of my life. It leads me to self-realizations, and helps me begin to understand my enigmatic persona—but trust me, it’s an ongoing process.

R.I.P. Mrs. Sweeney

I write this in loving memory of a wonderful teacher. She was the first teacher to make me feel like I was worth something. I love you Mrs. Sweeney, and thanks to you, I’ll never stop writing. 

&

Thank you to Mrs. Swift and Professor Morgan. Without people like you, I would be lost.

 

My Body Image Project: Counter Beauty

Beyoncé has been a body-image heroine to many people for nearly a decade. Her refusal to succumb to the societal expectations of beauty is admirable. But what makes Beyoncé so alluring is the fact that she puts actions behind her words. She promotes positivity through her music and she embraces her body. Overall, she is a perfect example of a woman embodying beauty in every aspect of her life.

Beyoncé released a new self-titled visual album this past week. While I never worshiped Beyoncé like most of my friends, I finally understand what all the hype is about. This new album won me over. Beyoncé released a 14-song, 17-video album with zero promotion and publicity. I mean, literally nothing. Nobody had any idea that she was secretly recording and filming music videos to go along with each song. The album is Beyoncé’s most successful debut to date, and is paced to be the biggest-selling album of the year.

Beyoncé proves that you don’t have to be overtly obnoxious to be successful. While other artists like Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga are out pulling publicity stunts to promote their work, Beyoncé trumps them all with her impromptu release that captured the No. 1 Billboard spot this week.

R E S P E C T

The song that truly hit home for me is “Pretty Hurts.” Beyoncé sings about the societal epidemic I’ve criticized all semester—the intense scrutiny of our own physicality even though true beauty is internal.  Our self-confidence is dictated by our physical appearance.  We let our selves diminish by disregarding everything about ourselves that truly matters—our hearts, our characters and our souls.

Even if you just listen to the first minute, the message is clear. (This version is sped-up to avoid copyright issues.)

This song is amazing. My favorite part of the lyrics is:
Pretty hurts,
Shine the light on whatever’s worst,
Tryin’ to fix something,
But you can’t fix what you can’t see,
It’s the soul that needs the surgery.”

I’d like to particularly highlight the word soul. A soul is the nonphysical aspect of a person. It is our essence and our feelings. Beyoncé is emphasizing that our problem lies inside. We can’t fix this problem through exercise or plastic surgery. We need to work on developing a relationship with ourselves.  At the end of the day, “when you’re all alone,” it is your “reflection [that] stares right into you.” Beyoncé tells society to “strip away the masquerade,” shed the “illusion” and be “happy with yourself.”  We must work on self-love. Beyoncé has immense influence over women today and hopefully her words will resonate with society.

Beyoncé also places blame on our society: “Perfection is a disease of a nation.” We must break away from the idea that it’s wrong to be imperfect. We are human. Imperfections come with the package.  Even worse, we associate our self-worth with our “flawed” appearance, rather than our character. I’m not saying it’s our fault; it’s just the reality. Society conditioned us to believe that how we look is what ultimately matters. Even body-image campaigns take this approach. Just look at “Dove Real Beauty Sketches.”

This video alone has over 61 million views on YouTube. I understand why. It’s reminding women everywhere that we individually judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty prefaced their video with: “Women are their own worst beauty critics… Dove is committed to building positive self-esteem and inspiring all women and girls to reach their full potential.” While I appreciate the message, I must criticize the approach.

Dove relates that our ability to reach our potential is dictated by recognizing our external beauty. It focuses heavily on appearance (regardless if it is positive or negative) as a sign of self-worth. It reflects the societal discourse that how we look is more important than who we are. As I was reading the comments on the video on Dove’s website, I particularly liked what John Baumgaertner said, “I wish one of the woman would just go up to her portraits and say, ‘I’m a Mom, I’ve got lots of friends, I run marathons, I started my own business and I run a charity on weekends. F*ck either one of those sketches- I’m awesome anyway.’”

This experiment is literally only skin-deep and superficial in every sense of the word. Like Baumgaertner said, “beyond loving the SKIN you’re in, it’s important to love the PERSON in the skin regardless of any external validation of your physical beauty.” We need to stop ranking beauty above personal achievement and character. This intense focus on how we look nullifies all our unique skills and qualities. It’s as if nothing about us matters if we can’t market it to the world under an attractive façade. Never mind the fact that beauty is subjective, or that society markets one body-type, we are told that we must strive to reach that societal ideal even if it may not be natural for us and ultimately compromises our health. Our sense of self-worth is intrinsically tied to our physical appearance. And this is the essence of the problem. We are so focused on our vanity. Whether or not we are admiring beauty, or criticizing the lack-of-beauty, we are always focusing on beauty. It is counter-productive.

I think we should all strive to escape this paradigm, and aim to focus on something beyond beauty. While Dove’s experiment reveals our intense sense of dysmorphia, there are underlying issues in the way we judge ourselves based on our beauty. It would be way more empowering for us to realize our beauty WITHIN regardless of what anyone may think. That is how we build true confidence and thick skin. That is how we will gain true empowerment.

I always remind myself: Complain if it is just, but don’t just complain. So I decided to put these thoughts into action. I rallied a few of my friends and asked them to describe what they loved about each other, without using physical characteristics. While I’m an amateur “film-maker,” I was really happy with the resulting video simply because it makes me feel good.

I wanted to focus entirely on inner beauty and I was really touched by everything that was said. This video reminded me just how blessed I am to be surrounded by my sincere, loving and compassionate friends. They don’t care about how I look just as I don’t care about how they look. We love each other because of what’s on the inside. As corny as it sounds, it’s true. Yet, I find myself forgetting this sometimes. I forget how blessed I am. I forget that internal beauty trumps physical beauty. I forget because I get sucked into the societal vortex of physical judgment.

I found myself embracing old habits and criticizing myself again. I realized I had to do something else that would remind me that I’m worth something beyond how I look on a consistent basis. My own sister yelled at me saying, “You can’t make a video talking about self-love and internal beauty, and then do nothing but talk about how ugly and fat you are. You’re such a hypocrite.” And I realized, I am. My sister reminded me that loving myself is a daily battle. I responded to her, “You’re so right. But it’s a journey, you just have to keep reminding me to practice what I preach.” After all, I’m still human. I’m inevitably flawed, but I’m constantly trying to improve. We define our characters by our consistent actions. My sister and I thus made an agreement. If either of us starts to say anything negative, we simply say, “Video.” This simple reference to my video keeps us focused on what really matters—our hearts, characters and relationships. My brother is now in on it too. It turned into a familial affair, which I love.

But I wanted something more tangible to remind me of my commitment to defeat the power that physical appearance has over me. So I made a twitter: @Liveandmuse. I tweet inspiring quotes promoting positivity that you can see on the right column of this blog. The tweets keep me grounded and hold me accountable. They are a daily/weekly dosage of the positivity I tried to convey in my video and on this blog. I aim to focus entirely on our inner beauty and our mentality. The tweets help alleviate the guilt stemming from my prevailing internal negativity. For every negative thought, I force myself to write up a positive tweet. I hope the consistent positivity will trump the negativity. Just as the consistent focus on internal beauty will trump physicality. It’s a quick way to remind myself of everything I write extensively about. It is an exercise for my soul. We must bombard ourselves with positivity, because only dedicated practice will perfect our habits. It uplifts me, and I hope people reading the tweets feel similarly empowered.

My sister’s comments made me realize that by making the video and maintaining Live & Muse, I have a responsibility to anyone who watched the video or reads what I write (even if it’s just a few people). I was shocked just now to see that the video has 99 views. I received lots of messages from friends thanking me for making the video, saying that it pulled them out of a really dark place and helped them get through their day. It was so inspiring to me. It made me realize how powerful positivity can be.

So many women are fighting a similar battle because we construct our self-esteem through beauty. And it hurts us. “Pretty Hurts.” We hurt ourselves by trying to be the “pretty” that society perpetuates. Rather than fight fire with fire, by countering our societal idea of beauty with alternative images of beauty, I instead criticize how our self-worth is dependent on physical beauty. This needs to change. Baby steps.

I only hope that anyone who watches the video, reads this post or reads the tweets is motivated to pursue a higher self-worth, based on internal beauty. The messages of appreciation my friends sent me gave me hope that even if I’m not Beyoncé, I can still make a difference. It gives me hope.

Let’s all work to embody beauty, we can do it together.

IMG_9962

Embody Beauty

Dear World. Yes, I am a SENIOR in college. NO, I do not have my life together. But I am getting closer every day.

I am inherently insecure. I think too much. And I allow myself to get lost in our superficial society by letting the societal ideology of beauty dictate my own ideology of beauty.

Throughout the course of this semester, I’ve studied, analyzed and reflected on the issue of body image in our contemporary society, particularly through the framework of new media.

New media is a manipulative platform. In this digital age of the Internet, nothing is impossible. The Internet shrinks our world. Social media sites, YouTube and Google give our society endless and instantaneous access to information about other people. And with the growing popularity of social media, privacy is a thing of the past. We all post pictures, status updates, tweets and even blog posts documenting our lives and composing a persona for the outside world to see.

See/ observe/ judge—there’s no difference really.

This constant communication and feed of information across cities, countries and even continents creates a society poised for competition. Especially among women and girls. We are shown constant images of women with perfect bodies, and feel guilty and disappointed in ourselves for not also looking so perfect. Society intends to make us weaker by dictating our ideology on beauty. They manipulate us into allowing our physical appearance dictate our self worth. They have so much power over us.

This power creates detrimental effects.

I believe this video encompasses everything I’ve been trying to convey this semester about women and body image.

But, I believe we contribute to the problem just as much as the media. We buy the magazines, watch the movies and obsess over the celebrities with the “perfect” bodies. It’s not necessarily our fault. Our ideology on beauty is dictated by our upbringing in society and what we are conditioned to believe. We are ultimately powerless until we become aware of the power structures between the media, celebrities and us normal people. We are prisoners of our preconceived notions on beauty, dictated by a society that perpetuates the ideal female body every day throughout new media.

The media further manipulates us by using technology and Photoshop to digitally perfect the female body, and label these false creations as attainable, flawless and inspirational. We should all strive to mirror the ideal. Our inability to do this makes us feel inadequate. This inadequacy is a reflection of our own insecurity about our bodies. The insecurity that society wants us to have. If we’re insecure, they win.

I firmly believe that my insecurity is my greatest shortcoming. I am my own worst enemy. This intense focus on body image over the course of the semester made me realize this.

And frankly, I’m sick of body image issues. Let me clarify that: I’m sick of our superficial society that creates the environment for females to feel like their self worth is based on physical appearances. We are so much more than our bodies.

And I fall victim to it too. Every day I allow myself to become a victim. Yes, I allow myself. I think that we all play a role in our feelings of insignificance. I wish to be thinner, I put myself down for missing workouts when I’m cooped up in the library and I compare myself to celebrities constantly. My problem is rooted in my inability to celebrate my strengths and view my flaws as temporary issues that can be worked on, and improved. This is what I’ve learned from analyzing body image campaigns throughout new media this semester. Self-love is a process… It’s a constant journey.

And heck, if you want to improve your body, start exercising. But do it because you want to be healthier, not look better. Do it to feel better. But remember that getting fit takes time. Our current bodies were not created over night and our desire for a healthier body cannot be accomplished immediately. Our mindset has developed over years of exposure to the ideal female body. Accepting our own bodies as beautiful in their unique shapes will take time.

We should all strive to celebrate our strengths and be grateful for our blessings. It’s not an easy task, and it definitely cannot be done overnight, but I think its possible.

We must always remember that the bodies we see throughout new media are constructed images with digital enhancements. They attach words challenging us to mirror the deceptively perfected image, and make us feel like we suck because we can’t do it. News flash, it’s because those bodies are fake.

Projects dedicated to promoting a healthier body image aim to counter this falsehood by projecting sincerity and “real” bodies.

"Real"

But, YOU ARE REAL just as I AM REAL. Regardless of our differing shapes. We exist and we don’t suck just because our bodies aren’t perfect. And honestly, I think these new media projects take the wrong approach, because they are still focused on our physical bodies.

Women are constantly reduced to this one characterization of our body type. As if nothing else about us matters. It’s the first thing anybody ever sees, and often, our beauty is powerful enough to affect how we interact with other people. It can create intense insecurity if you don’t fit the ideal mold of beauty, just as it can create a sense of entitlement. We are prisoners of our own image. An image that is so heavily skewed by the societal discourse surrounding beauty.

Our generation especially suffers, severely. We simply don’t like ourselves. And for what? So that industries can make profits from us.  So that they can sell their products, or clothing or magazines or movies… It’s not worth it. Society creates a battlefield where we are the soldiers fighting against ourselves. We never reap the benefits. Instead, our insecurity heightens.

We’re so insecure and so judgmental, yet we don’t want anybody to judge us. It’s such hypocrisy. Rather than uplift the community of women we’re surrounded with, we compete with one another, because that’s what society implants in our minds. Every advertisement directed towards women is trying to tell us that we lack something. We need such-and-such product in order to compensate for our lack of natural beauty—the lack of physical perfection.

Nobody is perfect. Let’s not hate on ourselves for our imperfections.

You are inevitably flawed and perfectly human. You are wonderful. BELIEVE IT.

As I’ve previously said on this blog, “I believe all of my issues stem from a strong and powerful self-hatred. I’ve known this for a while. I am disappointed with myself. I lack self worth. I let [other peoples’] opinion of me dictate my personal views. A number on a scale has immeasurable power over my moods. And I seek comfort in food. Yet, I’ve never done anything about it until now.

I retract that last statement I wrote 3 months ago. I instead say with full confidence today that I’ve never done anything about my insecurity until now—this very moment. I’m having an epiphany people.

Let’s associate our self worth, instead, with our minds, hearts and souls. Our characters define us. Get to know yourself! What makes you, YOU? What are your passions, your goals and your favorite personality traits? Write one thing down every day that you like about yourself, outside of your appearance, until you grow to like yourself. But remember, it’s a process. We can start the journey together.

Here is mine: I like my ability to relate to people and make them feel comfortable through my honesty.

So, even if society is making you feel inadequate, remember that they don’t know you. Use your list, because it’s your secret weapon. Your soul is REAL, and your mental health is most important. Your heart is full of warmth and love. Your mind is beautiful.

Society expects us to be perfect, and we waste so much time trying to reach that impossible ideal. It’s not feasible. Humans are not perfect. Beauty isn’t objective. We are more than the physical bodies that we inherited through genetics from our parents. We had no control over this. Beauty is so insignificant. I’ve met beautiful people with ugly souls.

Be the best you, and your inner beauty will shine through.

Embody beauty, you beautiful person.

The Body Image Project

Over the course of this semester, I’ve grown more aware of the prevalence of Body Image issues in our society. Especially among young women.

Body Image issues affect all women in one way or another. Approximately 91 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. Unfortunately, only 5 percent of women naturally possesses the body type often portrayed by the American media. (More facts about Body Image can be found here.)

It is important now more than ever to encourage young women to embrace their bodies and love themselves for who they are. I realized that this issue is tragic because of its widespread effects. Its not uncommon to discover that another young woman is suffering from an eating disorder. We hear about this stuff every day, the seriousness of the situation is thus forgotten. It doesn’t even phase us. Individuals are categorized into statistics. We forget that they have individual stories to share and that each situation is different. These women are unique, and they all have a story to share.

This is why I really love The Body Image Project.

The Body Image Project

The Body Image Project is “an online project searching for women and girls of all ages to share their individual experiences and feelings about their own body image perceptions.” All of the stories are posted anonymously. These very personal relations allow women and girls alike to realize that they are not alone. The site asks women and girls to include their age so the reader realizes and witnesses the diverse range of ages and the diverse range of issues that women and girls face. Often, these issues are faced silently.

Daily tasks like eating, brushing your teeth and looking in the mirror can be daunting. So many females struggle through these tasks with a hateful self-loathing. These women and young girls are unnecessarily suffering alone, silenced by a society telling them that there is something wrong with them for not having their life in order. This site gives females a voice, if they so desire the medium of expression. And the truth is, the people who mock eating disorders and body dissatisfaction issues just simply don’t understand. They discredit the seriousness of of an obvious and prevalent societal problem. Their own ignorance contributes to the problem. After all, all they need to do is look at the facts.

The Body Image Project asks women and girls to: “Share your story. Keep it short and simple – the impact will be huge.” It’s a very basic idea, but the words carry power, because they’re real.

Although I have an inherent bias because I love writing and reading raw personal accounts, I believe this site allows females to privately seek help in the comfort of their own home. This is therapeutic for it allows them to realize that they are apart of a community aiming to simply feel better about themselves.

I began reading some of the posts and truly admire these women who are willing to share their vulnerability on the web, even if it is anonymously. I literally googled “Positive Body Image Projects” and was able to find this site on the first page of my search results. And what I love the most is that women take this seriously. The most recent story was posted on October 21st, 2013 by a 29 year-old woman. She wrote: “Slowly, as reality set in, I saw my future husband and children disappear alongside the cessation of my menstrual cycle. Grad school no longer an option because I wanted to lose weight and become ‘thin.’ I couldn’t eat many of the foods I once loved because I was terrified of keeping it in my body.”

It’s heavy stuff. And it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around it.

Here’s another excerpt written on December 20, 2011 by a 19 year-old: “Throughout the years, my weight has fluctuated, but my perception of myself has not. I had gotten to the point where I could not see pictures of myself or I would break out in tears and would only eat around 500-800 calories a day and exercise for 2 hours in order to lose weight.”

The Body Image Project allows women and girls to express themselves however they want without the fear of judgement. I read these posts with a hurt in my heart and a yearning to help others feel better about themselves, only to realize that I commit the same crimes towards myself. It’s self-inflicted torture. It’s as if I believe that I deserve to suffer because of an internal guilt I carry about my own character. This inherent insecurity translates to my personal self-image.

“Body image dissatisfaction is a growing epidemic in our society.” Truly. Our society is obsessed with obtaining the perfect body. I believe it reflects on our societal narcissism. This idea that how we look means more than who we are, or even the quality of our character. We are slaves of our own image. We are constricted by this beauty myth of perfection. All the while, we are trying so hard to fit the mold.

This project showcases the war we are at with ourselves. The casualties can be seen in our weakening spirits, nonexistent confidence and unhealthy methods we employ to lose weight.

Put yourself first. Read these posts and identify with your own self-loathing. Realize that there are women who feel like you do. You’re not alone, you are not stupid and you deserve credit.

Let’s work to fight the epidemic stemming from Body Image dissatisfaction, starting with giving ourselves a little self-love.

Think Pretty

Digital Manipulation

The media is a powerful communication tool.

When I say media, I am particularly referring to print, TV, cinematic and electronic media. Print and electronic media images today blur the boundaries between fictional ideas and reality. There is often a sub textual, if not an overt, message that one must resemble or duplicate the images in order to reach our societal ideal of beauty.

Media is manipulative.

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty created this film, Dove Evolution, in order to emphasize just how manipulative the media can be. We constantly look at images of perfect women in magazines, and accept these depictions as reality. We forget that there is a literal team of people who are paid to make these people appear flawless. We forget what happens behind-the-scenes.

This video effectively calls us, as consumers and normal women, back to reality.  Our self-perception is skewed by what I like to call the collective reflection effect. Even though this may not be the most creative title, the collective reflection effect is a thing. Hear me out. Our self-image is skewed by images our brain has stored over days, months and even years of constantly looking at ourselves in the mirror. We’ve seen ourselves at our worst: when we first wake up, through every awkward stage, after sobbing, hard workouts and incredibly stressful days. Our brains form a collaborative image of every reflection a mirror has ever shown us. And it prevents us from seeing ourselves realistically– how the world sees us. We forget that all of these reflections happened behind-the-scenes. 

Dove Evolution puts the entertainment, fashion and advertising industries into perspective. Not only does the media have the power to create spectacles through elaborate production processes, it has the power to hide their work and effort. It ultimately causes us normal women to believe that the model is some kind of super human. And there is something wrong with us for not having the same self-control, discipline and motivation.

This video effectively communicates this message of media’s manipulation by portraying a strong contrast between the bare-faced model and the finished product she became on the billboard.  The billboard aims to convince us that the model embodies that image naturally. The video reveals the truth behind the image by taking on the strategy of transparency.

The video incorporates a set design that is typical of photo shoots with bright lighting that is ideal for retouching and editing. It then allows us to literally watch the transformation of the model from normal woman to retouched perfection by speeding up the process of hair, makeup and digital editing. It reveals the step by step process that goes on in order to beautify an average women. We identify with the woman in the beginning of the video, and then we watch her become the idealized image we all strive to be through the help of her beauty team.

It allows us to realize that the billboard could literally be any average woman. The power of photographic techniques such as airbrushing, editing and filters creates carefully manipulated and artificially developed images out of ordinary women. The woman at the beginning of the video could be any one of us.

This video went viral in a matter of days. It’s simple and the message is clear: don’t believe everything you see. The combination of the length of the video and the positive messages on body-image directed towards women resonated well with our society starving for validation. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others, and we don’t believe that we’re good enough because of it.

We are simply not enough. Our bodies aren’t thin enough, our eyes aren’t big enough, our legs aren’t long enough, our lips aren’t pouty enough… It’s this idea that we lack something because we don’t embody the ideal. It’s why we love it when celebrities defy the norm and don’t conform to the Hollywood persona. Like Jennifer Lawrence.

Jennifer Lawrence

Lawrence works to promote a positive body image by committing herself to defying the Hollywood ideal and fighting the pressure to lose weight. Her nonchalant attitude towards the media’s intent focus on her body generates media attention constantly. She is presented as heroic, admirable and truly beautiful from the inside-out.

This news reporting reveals her success in her efforts to promote a positive body image. The media admires and supports her efforts. ABC News is a national and well respected channel and news show with a huge societal following. They are well known and they appeal to almost every age group through their morning and evening show guests– from boybands to political candidates. This news story emphasizes their respect for Lawrence’s efforts to promote healthy body image. The report is biased and presents Lawrence as a brave warrior in the battle against the entertainment and fashion industry, as well as the harsh media.

ABC references an Elle magazine article that featured Lawrence, and thus combines both digital and print media. They quote her several times with powerful statements, “I want to look like a woman. I don’t want to look like a little boy,” presenting her as powerful and confident. Additionally, they prove their point that Hollywood has taken it too far by including a controversial tweet by a Victoria’s Secret Angel before the fashion show with a clear concave stomach and protruding hipbones. Within this context, the Angel looks a bit pretentious and dim-witted. ABC continued on to admirably discuss Melissa McCarthy and Lady Gaga for their efforts to promote positive body image for females.

The report literally forces you to ask yourself if our societal obsession with beauty has indeed gone to far. The desire to fit this skinny mold and conform to the unrealistic standards are putting us at risk. They successfully convey this message by using Jennifer Lawrence as a case study. She is a talented, beautiful and successful actress. She has a wonderful body, and anyone who criticizes her must be crazy. That is the point of this news report. They dare people to defy their claims.

The media’s intent focus on physicality has detrimental effects on our mental and emotional health. The media’s ruthless critique of celebrities emphasizes their unrealistic expectations for perfection from human beings. And in turn, we demand perfection from ourselves, at the expense of our health and happiness.

It’s not worth it. Advertisements are filled with artificially created images. Actresses are made to look perfect by a team of people devoted to constructing an image. Photos are constantly retouched and edited. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t believe everything you see.

And stop comparing yourself. It’s not fair to you. We will always be at a disadvantage when pitted against the power of digital editing and beauty teams.

Let’s all take these videos in, smile at ourselves in the mirror and then have a good laugh because we deserve it. Fight the guilt. Fight the feelings of insignificance. Fight the voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough. Cause you are. You are good enough. I don’t care how corny this sounds. Corny rocks.

Stop inflicting torturous negative thoughts on yourself.

Fake it ’til you make it, or in this case, until you believe it!

Wikipedia’s Take on Body Image

I’ve spent the last hour on Wikipedia reading about body image and physical attractiveness. It hasn’t been fun, as you can probably imagine.

Wikipedia is a crazy world. It allows a whole range of people from a variety of different backgrounds to collaborate together and create a page of information about almost anything. All the information requires a citation and must be fairly objective. So no matter what your teachers or professors may have told you about it in the past, Wikipedia is pretty legit.

My English professor has given our class the challenging task of editing a Wikipedia page and become a productive contributor. I immediately found the assignment intimidating. And now it’s just plain daunting.

The Body Image page on Wikipedia is so thorough. I didn’t think there was anything I could add to it. There are just so many details already there. So I tried to see if I could create a page for an organization that I follow called “I Am That Girl” that promotes a positive body image for women. The organization emphasizes self-confidence through celebrating features outside of our exterior physicality.

Yet, Wikipedia has very specific requirements for pages devoted to organizations. Wikipedia has you answer a number of questions to aid you in weeding out unsuitable article proposals. Among these requirements is a description of what is considered “notable.”

Organizations on WikiI searched a lot to see if “I Am That Girl” could meet these requirements. But I was ultimately unsure. So I went back to the initial page on Body Image.

Then, I had a revelation.

There are many sections under the Heading of Body image, including Media impact on Body Image, but there is nothing under that section about Body Image campaigns that counter this impact. Hence, my task!

I am aiming to edit the Body Image article and link to other pages on Wikipedia about Body Image campaigns, as well as research a variety of different body image campaigns to include.

I’m actually kind of excited now. I feel like this could actually be approved and I may actually find success. So even if our society’s intent focus on physicality frustrates me. The fact that I went through and read through the number of Wikipedia articles on superficial subjects like Facial symmetry, Sexual Attractiveness and Female Body Shape, says something about me as a person. 

I buy into the superficiality of our society by associating my value as person with aesthetics. I’m superficial for focusing on my Body Image. I hope to take a different route and instead begin to focus on Self-Love campaigns.

Step one: Wikipedia.

Social Media and Self-Perception

Everyone has gone through an awkward stage.

That awful part of your life that makes you cringe when you recollect the terrible decisions your past self made. Whether it was the way you looked… Braces, frizzy hair, oversized glasses… How you carried yourself… The things you said or the stuff you pretended to like in order to fit in… We’ve all embarrassed ourselves time and time again.

Sometimes I have to close my eyes super tight when I think about these embarrassing moments. As if I can squeeze the memory out of my head. I get squirmy.

There are certain parts of my life I really would love to forget. Like middle school for instance, or freshman year of high school, or any part of high school for that matter. These are times of my life where I was figuring it all out. I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t have friends I could trust and I tried way too hard to fit in. Lucky for me, my time in middle school is when Myspace made its huge breakthrough.

The original look of Myspace.

The original look of Myspace.

With the advent of the Internet and the expansion of new media, my generation has had the ability to direct how others may perceive us by personalizing our own social media web pages. In other words, we allowed people to judge us by what we chose to make public about our lives.

Myspace was my first real social media experience. When I first got a Myspace page, I was 12 years old.  I remember having to lie about my birth date in order to create a profile. I was a seventh grader in middle school. Eight years later, I can’t fathom a 12-year-old having so much access to the unfamiliar realms inside cyberspace. Granted, all anyone needs is a computer and the Internet. Just as these two necessities become increasingly accessible around the world, social media’s popularity is elevated more than ever before.

Social Media Obsession

Social media is ingrained in our lives.

It’s hard for my generation to remember a time before Facebook was popular. Facebook is so simple. There is a universal white background and layout for each profile. There was once a time when things were way more complicated. On Myspace, we had the ability to personalize our web pages by choosing different backgrounds, music and even which of our friends we wanted to be included on our “Top 8” list.  When I first got a Myspace, I got caught up in all of this. For the first time as a tween, I had total control to do whatever I chose.

I went a little crazy.

Almost immediately, Myspace became a bit of a competition for my friends and me. We began to judge ourselves through our Myspace pages. It is the effect of social media; it makes us hyper-aware of ourselves. We all started spending countless hours trying to make our profiles as elaborate as possible with the most original graphics and videos.

I specifically remember how hard it was to learn how to manipulate the language of the Internet—otherwise known as hypertext markup language (html). These were blocks of texts that initially looked like gibberish. Different parts of the textual code controlled a different visual on your webpage. There were tons of sites that designed backgrounds and images and provided the html codes for people to copy and paste into their Myspace settings. Most of them came with a small advertisement that was encased within the coding. I would go through and read the html code and manipulate the design by changing specific colors—like change a border less than a centimeter wide from blue to teal. Or change the shape of my cursor from the standard arrow to an obnoxious flower. I constantly experimented. I even managed to eliminate the advertisement sometimes.

There was one day where I legitimately spent three hours looking for sparkly graphics and their html codes to put on my page. I ended up putting about five gigantic pictures of Tinkerbell, Winnie the Pooh and other ridiculously girly visuals:

WELCOME

Tinkerbell

Don’t you think this says so much about me?

Winnie the Pooh

If Tink wasn’t enough, I bet you really feel like you know me now.

On top of these overwhelming, bright and glittery graphics, I alternated between a webpage background of either pink hearts or bright diagonal stripes. Picture that visual in your head for a second. It’s honestly pretty embarrassing to think about. But it was all out there for the world to witness– social networking allows us to document our lives, including the embarrassing moments.

Myspace made my awkward stage public.  I didn’t realize how ridiculous my concoction could appear to the outside world. I was 12. It was exciting to design my own webpage. I simply found anything and everything I could and shoved the html code into my personal settings. My Myspace reflected my awkwardness. I didn’t really know what I was interested in or what I wanted my page to look like because I still didn’t know myself and how I wanted people to perceive me. All I know is that my Myspace made me feel important. As if I was famous. I was important enough to have an online webpage that had information about me. It contained my interests and even my body type. Myspace made me feel like a celebrity.

I initially got a Myspace to follow the trend and feel included. But I kept it because it provided a medium of expression for me. I felt so lost and unnoticed in middle school. I realize that’s why my Myspace was so ostentatious. I liked how bright it was. I didn’t think anyone really cared about me. So I posted tons of information about myself. I used to take these extensive Myspace surveys and post them on the bulletin, which is what the Myspace form of a Facebook newsfeed was.  The questions were random and could range from the age of your first kiss to your favorite color. Looking back, these surveys were so stupid. I thought they were stupid then too, yet I wanted to follow the trend.

It was the trend of over-sharing.

Facebook

Myspace was less about social interaction and more about personalization for me. I would post pictures of popular shows on my “interests” section so that people would think I liked what everyone else liked. I wanted people to want to know about me. I wanted people to see the version of myself that I could control at all times. I saw my Myspace as a reflection of me. It was my attempt to put the best version of myself out there. Maybe if people saw my Myspace, they would want to be my friend. It was all a giant manipulation.

Social media sites invite judgment from others. But it also causes us to become the judge as well. We compare our lives to others based on these artificial profiles we create in order to showcase the best parts of ourselves to the world. Myspace became a societal obsession for my generation at the time. The previous popularity is similar to the Facebook epidemic today. We are constantly seeking out information about other people. This mirrors the societal obsession with celebrities. We constantly want to know who is dating who and what dress was worn to such event… We focus on trivialities. And it’s unhealthy.

I’ve done this. I do this.

Social media psychologically legitimizes our existence. Nothing about us is relevant if people cannot read about it online. It’s as if our social media page is our very own publicist. My generation visits Facebook, the contemporary Myspace, more often than any other site. Facebook is the number one most-visited site for young adults according to a ranking done by Google. We want to share information about ourselves. We want people to know about us.

The constant feed of information causes us to compare ourselves to others.  I ultimately end up feeling badly after reading about other people’s lives. It is such a waste of time. I find myself vicariously living through others or wondering why I don’t enjoy the things other people my age seem to enjoy. I’m done reading useless statuses about what my acquaintances are doing. I don’t need to know these insignificant details about other people’s lives. Yet my generation psychologically feels the need to share.

Social media alters our perception on privacy. I used to abuse Myspace and post way too much. Because of that, I feel like I don’t post anything personal today. Yet I realize that my idea of privacy is skewed because of social media. I don’t think pictures of myself are something to be kept private. I don’t necessarily hide what I’m doing or where I’m going. I feel the need to be “private” on my instagram and twitter accounts, but I am uncensored on this blog. Live & Muse is public, but I don’t publicize it to the world. It serves as a diary and a release. Excluding this blog, I mostly post useless thoughts and short updates about what I’m doing. It’s very nonchalant for me. 

Twitter 2Tweets

But I am not a nonchalant person… This is why it’s important to distinguish reality from the persona we create on our social media pages.

I deactivated my Facebook several months ago because I felt so disconnected from the persona I created. I simply don’t feel as happy as my pictures indicated. My Facebook didn’t accurately represent my reality and I felt insincere exposing that kind of falsehood to the world. Especially since I refuse to use Facebook as a type of digital diary. I mock people for doing that. (TMI, dude.) I perceive Facebook as a superficial site for one-dimensional expression. I only ever want it to showcase the best parts of me, when I’m feeling my best. Otherwise, I tend to obsess over other women’s appearances through the pictures they post.

Facebook is heavily focused on pictures. Women in particular tend to post album after album of photos. The constant feed of photos didn’t help my persistent body-image issue. It ultimately made me feel badly about myself and compare myself to others. I hated looking at endless pictures of people I didn’t even know and assuming that their life is so much better than mine because of their physical appearance. Realistically, it’s probably not. We’re all going through hardships underneath the superficial exterior we put out there for the world to see.

I forgot that people only posted pictures they wanted other people to see. The pictures taken at the most flattering angles that make them look the most attractive. The same thing is true for me and my instagram. I only post pictures that I like.

My Instragram

InstagramEven if this sometimes includes quirky pictures, I won’t ever post a picture that makes me feel outright ugly. I’m willing to share this side of myself to the world. It is the best side of me. The days I took the time to get ready. I felt confident enough to laugh at myself (note that the the picture was taken 8 months ago- top right corner). I post less pictures on instagram now because I feel badly about my body. I look at these past photos and feel so disconnected from the girl in the pictures. The girl who exuded happiness and who actually liked her body. I never have the motivation to share pictures anymore. And this is stupid. But the internet gives me endless access to look up pictures of perfect women. I don’t want my photos out there to be compared. I don’t want to be judged and I’m unwilling to put up a false attitude of happiness for the world to see. I much prefer that people don’t focus on me as I work on loving myself. I don’t want to call attention to myself.

I’m sick of triviality and I need a break from social media.

With my Myspace long gone and my newly dormant Facebook, I feel liberated. There is less pressure to enjoy my life because I’m not constantly engrossed in how others are enjoying their lives. I am more productive with schoolwork and I am performing great in soccer. When I focus on what other people post on Facebook, I lose sight of what’s important. I become a spectator of other people’s “happiness.”

I refuse to continue to point out that our society is superficial, and then participate in the superficiality. I refuse to let my self-worth be dictated by physical attributes. I refuse to succomb to the twisted validation of Facebook “likes.” I used to need a Myspace to feel legitimated, and now Facebook makes me feel insignificant. It makes me feel awkward. I shouldn’t have access to everyone’s life. I no longer care to interact on social media through posting endless photos, but I still use it as a medium of expression.

Social media gives me power to express my thoughts. Photos may capture beauty, but beauty fades. We should focus instead on our hearts and characters. We are so much more than our physical attributes. We are so much more than the one-dimensional persona on our social media pages.

Social media does not define me; I define it. It’s an odd relationship.

I guess I’m going through my social media awkward stage.

Beware of Body Image

Body image is a hot topic in our contemporary media. Especially in recent years, there have been a number of campaigns conducted to try and promote a healthy body image for women. These campaigns are often controversial because they tend to target a specific shape and disregard other body types.

Real Women Have Curves is a popular phrase within the body image campaign community. Despite its positive intentions, it still receives immense backlash for the use of the adjective real. Naturally thin women feel as if they are delegitimized and excluded from the community of women because of their thinner body type. These beauty campaigns imply that it is easier to be too thin than too fat in our society. They are criticized for their insensitivity and for hurting thinner women in the process of promoting self-love for women with curves. It is deemed counter-productive.

MjAxMi0zOGIwOTEwMmQ5OGE5NWQw

Yet the campaign is merely a response to the glorification of thin in our society. The ideal female body type tends to be skinny. The body image campaigns develop to counter this ideal. The use of real is meant to imply healthy and natural. It is promoting self-acceptance of the physical body of the “average woman” who does not devote their lives to food and fitness. These campaigns are few and far between compared to the media’s constant reportage of beautiful celebrities with perfect bodies. This image of skinny perfection is perpetuated in magazines, news articles and blogs where skinny is the projected goal for every woman.

Love My Body

Victoria Secret’s I Love My Body Campain

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty provides a perfect example of body-image campaigns that directly oppose the societal ideal of beauty. They photographed “average” women to encourage women to love their bodies as they are—flaws and all.  The idea is to infiltrate the media with depictions of women that are more identifiable and realistic.

Dove-Real-Beauty-Campaign

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty

While the message is positive, we must remember that Dove’s ultimate goal is to sell their products. They are a branded industry with monetary goals—and they are successfully reaching those goals with these advertising techniques that target real women. They’re smart. Body image is a hot topic and insecurity for women is at an all-time-high. This emotional appeal to women’s confidence helped their products sell. However, I recently found out that Dove is owned by Unilever—the same company that owns the Axe brand. The conflicting advertising messages of Unilever’s brands also strike controversy. Axe objectifies women and portrays models throwing themselves at average men, completely countering Dove’s campaign to uplift and celebrate natural beauty with real women as models. Dove aims to increase women’s self-value while Axe portrays men capturing the ideal women as a sex-crazed being.

Regardless of who the body-image campaign is funded by or what the ultimate goal may be. Women constantly deal with depictions of ideal women, and body-image campaigns are fighting a losing battle against the media. These body image campaigns incite criticism from people based on their own individual insecurities. Curvier women criticize the media for their depiction of ideal women because they do not embody that ideal body type, while skinny women criticize body-image campaigns for implying that they are not proper women. No matter what is said, we are always offending something. Everything is met with backlash. It is inevitable. The problem lies in our societal view of ownership over other people’s bodies. We all feel like we can judge others, and yet we don’t want anyone to judge us. We should work towards celebrating the efforts of these campaigns promoting healthy lifestyles.

Most of all, we should all work on loving ourselves.

It is not a competition. We can collaborate to help each individual women celebrate her own unique body. We are all real women with pulses and emotions. While one campaign may appeal to you, the other may not. So lets work towards being a little less sensitive.

quote-Lucille-Ball-love-yourself-first-and-everything-else-falls-5471

Blinded by Bright Colors

I value sincerity above all other qualities. I hope to exude this in all aspects of my life, especially through my writing and on this blog.

When I finally realized that the negative thoughts going through my head were unhealthy, I began to look for sites to answer some of my questions and offer emotional support.  Through my research, I realized that my habits reflected a more serious issue.

Hello Eating Disorder.

I found myself surrounded by heaps of scientific research that generalized my condition. I am a product of this society—and worst of all, I am not alone. There are millions of others who suffer from the same issues. When I initially discovered how much information there was out there, I began to look for blogs that promoted healthy attitudes towards food. I wanted to see personal accounts of recovery.

Since this is not a unique problem, it was easy to find blogs that discussed the matter.  The blogs I am attracted to are usually about health and fitness. They generally post healthy recipes and discuss exercise plans. They do so in a positive manner and attempt to motivate people through pictures of skinny women, healthy recipes and ways of becoming more and more active.

Be Skinny Visuals

These methods represent the techne within the community of blogs promoting self-love through healthy lifestyles. Techne is a Greek word for the concept of making or doing. It essentially reflects the art or craftsmanship—I can more easily understand techne as the style and methods used to achieve the alleged purpose. In this case, I am looking at the techne of blogs that promote healthy lifestyles by analyzing their posts, visuals and writing styles.

I have over ten blogs bookmarked on my Google chrome webpage that are written and run by women promoting healthy lifestyles. Some of these women dedicate their lives to being skinny—skinny and healthy are often used synonymously. These blogs like Eat Yourself Skinny, The Skinny Confidential and Skinnyms focus collectively on “healthy” recipes that utilize low-calorie ingredients to provide alternatives to common indulgences as well as exercise tips and occasional fashion tidbits. They contain recipes with lots of pictures of colorful foods embedded in the mix. The blogs are overall super bright and vibrant. They want the reader to feel positively when looking at their pages. They frequently discuss how much they love their life and urge others to adopt their eating habits and achieve similar happiness. They are not designed to document reality and feelings, but rather to focus on feeling good through looking good.

These bloggers are happy and satisfied with themselves—especially how they look. They devote these blogs to promote the habits that maintain their bodies.  The stories are always upbeat and focus entirely on physical appearance. They are clearly designed for other women who care about their figures more than their health…  Whereas being healthy is implied, skinny is the ultimate goal.

BE SKINNYIt’s as if you can only be healthy if you are thin and have a flat stomach. It sends women and young girls the wrong message. These blogs perpetuate the societal obsession with being skinny. 

There are other blogs I follow that are run by women who previously suffered from eating disorders such as Undressed Skeleton and Oh She Glows. They dedicate their blogs to their newfound lifestyle and the methods they use in order to remain mentally healthy. These blogs are similar to the aforementioned ones, except for the inclusion of an “About” page in which they relate their past journey of defeating their eating disorders and achieving contentment and happiness. They exude positivity through their bright colors, legible fonts and aesthetically appealing pages.

Undressed Skeleton

Although I enjoy these blogs and will glance at them for occasional motivation, the parts of these blogs I find most helpful are the “About” pages relating their past struggles. The majority of these blogs however are dedicated to current healthy lifestyles—not personal journeys to contentment. But even when reading these sections, it is obvious to me that these women have already recovered. Their tones are reflective. The emotions are not fresh, and this affects their writing style and ability to relate a purely raw account of what life with this kind of struggle is like.

They lack truth.

These blogs are glamorized compilations of what a “Happy Ending” from a Disney movie would be like if the main character suffered from an eating disorder and began blogging after she recovered. The focus of the blog isn’t to discuss the methods in which the person employed to become mentally healthier; it is to focus on how great they feel now. It’s less honest and frankly isn’t as helpful for me. It kind of makes me feel like a failure for not already feeling better about myself. For not already getting my act together and losing weight and maintaining it.

Ironically, I sometimes feel that these blogs are mechanisms for these women to deal with current eating issues. They claim to have recovered, yet they intensely blog about food and exercise schedules in a mechanical manner. The blog provides an outlet for them to focus on while they subconsciously focus on food and their bodies. Taralynn McNitt from Undressed Skeleton was featured on The Skinny Confidential as the Skinnista of the Month. 

Look how happy I am when I'm skinny

It’s just ridiculous to me. Taralynn’s weight loss was extreme and she works hard everyday to maintain it. She often blogs about everything she eats in a single day. Every. Single. Thing. She also provides pictures and recipe descriptions. Documenting my calorie intake is what caused me to spiral downwards into a pit of constant food awareness. Her alleged intent is to aid other girls who want to adopt her lifestyle. She essentially encourages everyone to lose weight and develop happiness simultaneously.

That’s not the “Happy Ending” I want.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not putting these blogs down in any way. I often look through these blogs and read their daily entries. I enjoy reading them, but I don’t get much besides superficial encouragement out of them. It’s not raw. It’s not relatable because these bloggers are in a different emotional and mental stage of life.

I respond best to honesty. I try to surround myself with people that make me feel comfortable and secure. I want them to uplift my sprits. I approach blogs with the same mentality. I want to read a blog that is going to make me feel good about myself right now. Not blogs that imply that I will feel good after I lose tons of weight and begin to maintain the weight loss. I want to know how to rationalize the innate thoughts embedded in my head due to my family upbringing. I need methods and tools to achieve success.

I found these characteristics in articles like this one on First Ourselves—one of the only blogs truly dedicated to connecting with women aiming to recover from eating issues.  The design is simple and the focus is on the writing and the message. There are no overwhelming motivational pictures. It is raw and honest and provides clear-cut advice on what steps to take to move forward after making a mistake.

I am committed to this honest style. I don’t want to focus my blog on being skinny with an underlying perk of achieving self-confidence. I don’t want to document my journey in a short “About” section with pictures that document weight loss. Live & Muse is not a weight-loss journey. I want to discuss personal realizations of my developed issue, and what tools and methods will help me improve it. I hope for this blog to provide support through honest and confessional postings about how I work towards self-contentment. I hope my techne reflects that. I don’t want to overwhelm my readers with positivity. Sometimes positivity isn’t helpful, it’s annoying. Life is full of highs and lows. Passion is reignited by periods of disillusionment. You are allowed to feel upset sometimes. Get it out of your system.

Let’s get real.

Yup

Critical Discourse [Self-] Analysis

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” –Wiliam Shakespeare

Although Romeo and Juliet is one of my favorite plays and I attribute a lot of meaning to this quote, I am hereby challenging Shakespeare. My name is Aisha Jasmine Elmasri, and I don’t think I would be me if I didn’t have this name.

I am going to perform a critical discourse analysis on myself and the implications of my name. Norman Fairclough, author of Language and Power, would be so proud.

I tend to introduce myself using my full name because I really love the way it sounds together, and also, because I have an odd obsession with Princess Jasmine. I realize now that I love this Disney princess because of my middle name, and the fact that she is Arab like me. I was conditioned to like her. It is all a gigantic societal ploy.

We attribute meaning to words. Every word is connected to an ideology that is reflected within the discourse of the subject. I think my mother named me Aisha with an expectation of the type of person she wanted me to become. These expectations are based on her ideology of the name Aisha. My name has shaped my familial discourse surrounding me, and can thus be related to Fairclough’s framework for discourse analysis.

Aisha is of Arabic origin and can be defined as “alive and well.” I was named after my paternal Lebanese grandmother. My mother chose Aisha because she loves and admires my grandmother, and thus associates this name with a woman she highly respects. My father chose my middle name, Jasmine, because he perceives it as beautiful and feminine. This name thus relates to the experiential value of words—it is a “cue to the way in which the text producer’s experience of the natural or social world is represented” (Fairclough, 92). My mother had also recently converted to Islam before my birth; Aisha is the name of Prophet Muhammad’s wife. She was a pious and accomplished woman who is highly respected in the Muslim faith. My mother associated this name with these qualities because of her newfound knowledge and beliefs. She gave me this name with hopes that I would embody these characteristics. My father is also very religious.

Aisha also maintains a relational value for my mother because it literally embodies a “social relationship” (Fairclough, 93). My father always says that my mother named me Aisha because she wanted to kiss-up to my grandmother. Although this is more of a testament to my dad’s twisted sense of humor, it is true that my mother would not have named me Aisha if it were not already my grandmother’s name. The name has emotional significance.

The experiential and relational value of Aisha directly relates to its expressive value within my life. This name caused me to be “constituted as [a] subject” and has greatly affected my social identity (Purvis and Hunt, 482). I am the oldest daughter in my household and have been constantly compared to my grandmother my entire life. She is a homemaker and prides herself on being a mother. She is loud and opinionated and constantly makes her presence known. Even beyond character traits, both my immediate and extended family constantly say that I even resemble my grandmother. My mom says I’ve always resembled my grandmother. But its impossible for my mom to have thought this when I was born—no one can tell what a newborn baby will grow to look like. Everyone expects me to be like my grandmother because of my name. My dad tells me constantly that I “walk exactly like [my] grandmother.” I can’t remember my grandmother ever walking without a limp or a cane in my lifetime… Yet, this expectation caused me to want to be like my grandmother. I convinced myself growing up that I was like her and that I did indeed look like her.

I only began questioning the validity behind this comparison after reading Fairclough. Some similarities between my grandmother and me are uncanny, but there is such a huge generational and cultural gap that is prevalent in our differing personalities. My grandmother was raised in a small village in Northern Lebanon. She was married to her cousin at age 18 and gave birth to her first child at 19. She devotes her life to housework and cooking. This is all she knows. Although she values education, she still constantly asks me when I will be getting married.  It is evident that she still thinks I need to learn domestic duties.  No matter how educated I may become, I am always reminded that one day I will have to care for a household.

These domestication reminders were not subtle, and they began early. My grandmother came from Lebanon to live with my family for a few years when I was 8 years old. I distinctly remember how furious she would get with me for demanding that my brothers be given household chores as well. A boy doing housework was a foreign concept to her. My sister would obediently finish her chores, and I would argue until my voice grew hoarse, and then finish my tasks. My dad used to manipulate me by saying that my grandmother was getting upset with me for arguing. So I would get to work. I wanted to make my grandmother proud. I subconsciously wanted to live up to my name.

Even on my most recent visit to Lebanon in the summer of 2012, my grandmother wanted me involved in the kitchen. She would tell my male cousins to give me their dinner plates for me to wash. This type of behavior always infuriated me. I became visibly irritated and complained in English to my cousins since my grandmother would not understand. But I still followed her directions out of respect. Little did I know, I gave my grandmother power over me through manufactured consent.

Yet despite all of my bad Arab-female behavior, I am still my grandmother’s favorite grandchild. On my 15th birthday, my grandmother chose to give me her solid 24k gold wedding band that is worth thousands of dollars. My grandmother has over 17 grandchildren, and even more great-grandchildren. Nonetheless, I am her favorite grandchild because of my name. She thinks I am so much like her. She favors me over my sister, even though I was a stubborn little girl who constantly fought my family on doing household duties while my sister obediently performed her tasks.  My grandmother still views my personality as a reflection of her own.

It’s because of my name. It’s because of Aisha.

Aisha caused my own interpellation. I was “situated and placed within [this] specific discursive context” (Purvis and Hunt, 483).  Aisha formed my own personal ideology.  Although I despise the expectations as a female in my Arab family, I still do household duties. My ideology constitutes me as a subject. No matter how much I mentally fight it, I still subconsciously accept the female subjection in my household.  I internalized the ideology of Aisha. I am accustomed to the role of being a female. I worked with my grandmother in the kitchen when I was in Lebanon last summer. Every time I visit home today, I begrudgingly do housework because it pleases both of my parents. They expect it of me.

I was interpellated in and through this ideology associated with Aisha. It has psychologically affected me. I accepted the comparisons with my grandmother. I have taken on the responsibility to both educate myself and learn the endless amounts of family recipes that were taught to my mother. I must be both a phenomenal cook and an academic. My grandma Aisha values these attributes in a “contemporary woman.” So I, Aisha, value them as well.

It is my duty as an Aisha to embody these diverse skills.

The expectations are all in the name.

Take that, Shakespeare.

The Journey

Dear World. Yes, I am a SENIOR in college. NO, I do not know what I want to do with my life.

I think I’ve realized over the course of my college career that I am undoubtedly a wallflower. I am an emotional introvert who hates on my emotions and tries to avoid discussing anything relevant. And when you get to be twenty years old, this type of behavior is no longer considered charming. Everyone wants to talk seriously with you about your future and your goals and what’s coming up next for you.

I don’t know what’s next for me. I don’t even know what I want to wear today. Or how I’m going to get through soccer practice later.

I’m really good at having structure and taking direction. Tell me what to do. Tell me what you want done. I will do it. I will do it extremely well and I’ll definitely exceed your expectations.

It’s not that I’m not talented or intelligent or capable. In fact, I am all of those things. I’m good at talking to people. I’m good at analyzing. I’m a good writer. Or at least I used to think I was.

Until I lost passion for the life going on around me.

Talent is nothing without work. Intelligence is useless without motivation. And capability is wasted without direction.

Hence, my problem.

My name is Aisha, and I’m completely lost and confused.

I just had an amazing semester abroad in Madrid, Spain. I call Spain the land of happiness. I felt incandescently happy in Spain. I woke up every morning with an appetite for life. The happiness was effortless. I was confident and completely at peace with myself. It was the first time since my parents’ almost-divorce that I felt so content with myself.

But I don’t know how to get that feeling back.

Ever since I came back from Spain, I reverted back to my old self. The confused girl with low self-esteem and eating issues and an endless pit of disillusionment. But this time around, I’m worse.

This summer was probably the worst few months of my entire life.

I lost interest in everything that used to excite me. I wasn’t extremely sad or angry or anything. That would have been okay. Better even. Those are emotions. I literally experienced nothingness. I was numb. I came back to the authority within my parents’ house after living on my own in Europe for four months. I was surrounded by the constant negativity, stress and criticism once again. This environment was the reason I sought escape. The familial treatment that pushed me to study abroad.

And yet, in Spain, I forgot about that part of my life.

That’s the thing about your past. It always catches up with you.

The only difference now is that I have the trace of that happiness in my memory. It was sweet and delicious and guilt-free.

And I want it back.

I made the courageous decision to seek out help to become healthier mentally, physically and emotionally. I refuse to let myself stoop so low again. I know how unhappy I am, merely because I know how happy I can be. Spain taught me that. Spain helped me realize that I have the potential to be at peace with myself. I don’t have to struggle with eating disorders and constant guilt and personal confusion. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Adversity brings triumph.

I don’t know what I want. I only know what I don’t want.

But I don’t think I’m alone. I know I’m not the only twenty year-old who is lost and confused and trying to find a place in this world.

From here on out, I am committing myself to this blog. I am going to record my journey to becoming healthy. In every aspect. I don’t want to be miserable anymore.

I believe all of my issues stem from a strong and powerful self-hatred. I’ve known this for a while. I am disappointed with myself. I lack self worth. I let my parents’ opinion of me dictate my personal views. A number on a scale has immeasurable power over my moods. And I seek comfort in food.

Yet, I’ve never done anything about it until now.

Here’s to setting goals…. And finally giving myself the tools to achieve them.

I’m seeing a therapist. SO for an hour every week, I’m forced to do the one thing I dread… Discuss my feelings. Respond to questions. Explain myself. I can’t just say “I don’t know” to gloss over heavy subjects. Because that’s what therapy is all about. I have to dive head first into my soul, past the solid stonewalls of evasion, and into the deep pit of memories I’ve worked so hard to bury. Because these are where the answers lie. The reasons for my personality traits and self-perception issues.

Until then, I must compartmentalize. And try and avoid this pan of freshly baked brownies my best friend just made.

I must not eat my feelings.

The journey to a healthier me begins today. Right now.

Quarter-Life Crisis

I think I am going through a quarter-life crisis.

Lately, I’ve just felt like blah. I don’t even have the words to explain why I’ve been feeling so bored. That’s how weird this is. I am always able to explain how I’m feeling.

I never did a “Farewell” post to Madrid. I meant to write about how I was feeling upon leaving my home of 4 months, but somehow, I don’t think I was ready to sit down, collect my thoughts and accept that I was truly leaving. The worst part is, I left and I don’t know when I will return.

In a way, Madrid was an escape from reality. I felt SO happy every day in Madrid. Just so happy. It was easy to feel happy. I even would wake up in the mornings and roll over with feelings of incandescent peace.

Madrid helped me realize my potential to be at peace with myself. I’ve struggled so much in the past with self-acceptance and self-esteem. But in Spain, I felt beautiful, confident and relaxed. Not only did I not harshly judge myself, I never felt the need to criticize others. It was my goal to lift people’s spirits every day. I wanted the people around me to feel as great as I felt. Looking back, I realize that is the true indication of confidence. When you can look at yourself in the mirror with content– a contentment that stems from the inside-out– you have realized your worth. I would aim to spread this feeling to those around me. I wanted everyone to feel the same greatness. A greatness that is only attainable through peace of mind. That peace of mind was a great achievement for me. I don’t think you understand just how amazing it was.

It was a rare feat, particularly because I grew up in such an intense household.

The only pressures I had in Madrid were my school work (hardly a problem) and maintaining a budget (a much bigger challenge). Otherwise, I was completely in control. I controlled my schedule, my activities and MY LIFE. I didn’t have my parents there to criticize me. No one was hurting my feelings or providing not-so-subtle criticism in casual conversations. I didn’t have to dread mood swings or outbursts from my father. I wasn’t given an endless amount of tasks from my mother, of whom never acknowledges that I do so many tasks for her. I wasn’t being badgered by my newfound extra-conservative brother. I didn’t have to share my space with my disorganized sister. My little brother wasn’t there to create unnecessary conflict. I only had to confront myself. And without any external factors to alter the playing field, in the battle between me and my meaner-self, I always come out on top.

I don’t put myself at a disadvantage. I don’t enjoy being insecure. I much prefer happiness.

I realize that coming back home is the ultimate test for me. It is testing my strength to maintain the self-love.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. My family can be harsh and I am overly sensitive. I am aware of my hyper sensitivity, but I can’t and won’t change it. I refuse to make myself less sensitive. My sensitivity is what makes me compassionate. it is apart of who I am. It is the reason for the best parts of myself. However, I can choose to be sensitive while avoiding the other adjectives that are often associated with sensitivity. I will not be delicate or fragile or defensive. In fact, I decided to look up sensitive in the dictionary. I found that an antonym listed was resilient. I refuse to accept this.

I choose to be both sensitive and resilient. I will be the best kind of contradiction.

Here’s to hopefully getting through my quarter-life crisis and re-adapting to my judgmental and harsh family.  After all, nobody should form an opinion about themselves based on what anyone else thinks. Especially if the people around you are notorious for taking advantage of you. I am not trying to throw myself a pity party. My family is just kind of mean to me. It’s true. One could even say that its factual. Everyone who knows my family recognizes the hostility towards me. But its okay. I am happy that I’m given the most responsibility because it is the reason why I am able to handle the challenges life throws at me. So I must perceive this transition back into my family household as another challenge. Although my family doesn’t realize that this challenge goes beyond mere spacial annoyances, this is a mental battle more than anything. I will not relapse.

The happiness is here to stay.

“Promise Yourse…

“Promise Yourself…
To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.”
― Christian D. Larson, Your Forces and How to Use Them

Musings Before Bed

It’s been a while since my last post. Usually I will open up a word document and type and edit and relax and take days to collect my thoughts… But for some reason, at this moment, I was motivated to open up Live & Muse and write away.

I am feeling frustrated today. I am feeling sad, confused, lonely, pathetic and miserable.

Oddly, I am happy that I feel this. I’ve been so happy. TOO happy. Happiness is constant and I had nothing to write about. No motivation. After all, hearing about why someone is so happy can get excessive. Even I was getting bored with feeling so peaceful. I am happy that I feel something different- even if it is a tad negative. Negativity counteracts positivity. Eventually it’ll attract the good. Magnets taught me so.

None of these feelings have to do with Spain. I still love Spain. In fact, there were days when I wondered how it was fair for me to feel so happy while knowing that there are people around the world struggling to find food for themselves and their families. I would wonder how it was fair for me to feel so blissful when my Dad was back home struggling to make payments on our house and his business. I felt so happy that I felt guilty. I didn’t understand how it was fair for me to feel that good.

But now, I understand. And somehow, God always helps me find clarity.

The world is oddly balanced. There is an indescribable harmony that is formed from the intricate amount of human emotions I experience. That sounds confusing. So let me explain. Today, I am sad. Yesterday, I was over-tired. But a week ago, I was incandescently happy. Everybody needs a balance. The sadness I feel today will only seek to heighten the happiness I hope to feel tomorrow. I need variation.

I am a passionate person.

If there is one thing I can say that I’ve learned form being in Spain, it’s that passion is not constant. One cannot be continuously passionate about everything in their life. A person needs to experience highs and lows in order to reignite their passion. I realized that disillusionment and passion are similar. My current disillusionment towards my major and my academic responsibilities reflect my passionate nature. In regards to that aspect of my life, I am feeling immensely low. I was so high-strung in high school. I never gave myself time to recharge and analyze how I was feeling. I went a thousand miles an hour all the time. To the point where people didn’t even take me seriously anymore. I never want to be that person again.

I am happy with how I am now. I am real. I am me. I am not always happy. I am not always sad. I am energetic when I want to be and I am monotonous when I am tired. I am always real.

Despite all of that, I am so irritated with myself right now. Although I’ve grown to accept my personality, I still have days when I want nothing but to scold myself.

Today is one of those days…

I’m pretty over myself today.

When people describe me, words like nurturing or caring or loving always somehow get thrown into the mix. And I can’t say I disagree or don’t understand why I get described with those adjectives… Cause I do understand. I think at this point of my life, at age 20, I can finally say that I know myself extremely well.

I am passionate, loyal, loving, excessive, energetic, intense, emotional, logical, impatient, tolerant, insecure, socially oblivious, empathetic, and most of all, passionate.

I also used to be driven… I don’t know what happened to my limitless motivation. I think I am in a stagnant state of academia. I don’t know why I stopped applying myself. Well, I think I do know. But I have yet to fully face that. I haven’t even confronted myself about those issues. But tomorrow is a new day… So I’m going to let procrastination win yet again.

On the other hand, for the first time in a long time, I think I can say that I know what I want. Although that sounds uncertain, it’s true. I know what I want out of life. I know what type of person I want to become. I know what type of person I want to end up with. And I know what I want to do with the rest of my life.

First and foremost,  I want to learn how to put myself first. (True Story: I forced myself to put this in after I was already finished writing.)

I want to find the love of my life. (So I may put them first.)

I want him to care for me, to protect me and to force me to put my guard down. I tend to mother everyone around me and neglect myself in the process. I need him to put me first, even before himself sometimes. Of course there is always a balance. I need this future man of mine to realize when he needs to focus on himself, and when I need him to focus on me. I will never demand attention from someone. Instead, I need them to realize when I am in most need of affection. I need them to force me to take the affection. I tend to fight every form of comfort around me. I am so insecure about comforts. They never seem to be stable. I hate temporary things. I hate relying on temporary comforts.

I want to be a writer.

A speech-writer. A free-lance blogger. All I know is that I want to write for the rest of my life. I want to write about my emotions and the world around me and the experiences I encounter along the way. I love writing. It’s the only thing in this world that helps me collect my thoughts and feel worthy. I am so bad at expressing to people how I’m feeling. Most people don’t believe this. Although I can be eloquent with people and analyze and react and respond to certain situations… I am completely incapable of talking about relevant and important feelings I am having. I have never fully discussed my previous (current?) eating disorder with anyone. I have never discussed how my family makes me feel. I spend hours every day talking about useless stuff to everyone around me. I talk about my family or my friends or people I love (not useless- but not what needs to be discussed). But I won’t talk about how I am feeling. People never realize that. It is rare for me to describe, in detail, how things make me feel. I’ll express anger or frustration at an event, but I won’t talk about my personal thoughts or past events. It’s really hard to get me to do that. Writing is the only time I do that. The only time I pour my soul out. The only time I can soothe my tears. Or hold them back… By providing an alternate release. Words. I love words.

I want to be a mother.

I want to care for someone. A mini-me. A little combined version of me and the future man I love most in the world. I want to tuck my little future piece of me in and let him or her know that they are so loved. I want to embody my parents but refine the things that struck me negatively. I want to fix their mistakes. I want to make new ones- that aren’t too detrimental. I want to learn from them. I want the chance to teach someone everything I know so that they may be better than me. I want to instill them with morals and love and the desire to put others before themselves. I want to motivate them to leave a positive mark on this world.

I always have to remind myself that there is so much for me to do before I can realize my life-long aspiration of being a mother. I need to do volunteer-work, travel, and find myself… Do as much as I can while I can so I have minimal regrets. Yet fighting my maternal and biological instincts and the need to get settled and start a family is getting harder and harder year-by-year. And I am only 20. I think this is somehow attributed to my very traditional and Arab familial upbringing.

I want to love myself again.

I want to value myself.

I want to people to describe me with a loving fondness and an upbeat disposition. I want to be there to lift someone up when they’re feeling down.

Most of all, I want to leave a positive mark in this world.

Dear world, I am here. And after I die, I want the world to know that I WAS HERE. And I made a positive difference somehow. Even if the only thing I manage to do in this world is make other people feel self-assured and loved, that will be enough. Even if the only time I am remembered is for a brief laugh or a reminiscent smile, that will be enough. As long as the memories bring a small surge of love into the person’s heart- that is enough.

Sometimes I only wish that a person would make me feel that way. That a person would sit me down and make me talk. Make me open up.

Force me to open up. Tear my walls down. Make me cry. Break my dam and let the water flood out of the locks I’ve put on my heart.

Kill me with kindness, and I just might reward you with love.

A love unlike any other.

I want that. And I am confident that I will get what I want.

I think I feel my passion coming back. It’s seeping through my veins and filling me with a warmth that feels refreshingly familiar.

It has to be real. Cause there is definitely no sun to mistake it for in Spain.

Oh hey you, it’s been a while.

Favorite Pictures of Last Week

New Favorite Dress at Mango that I didn't buy... :(

New Favorite Dress at Mango that I didn’t buy… :(

Via Umar Issa from Morrocco

Via Umar Issa from Morrocco

IMG_4014

Oh So Casual near El Parque de Retiro

Oh So Casual near El Parque de Retiro

Architecture

Architecture

Got lost and stumbled upon this

Got lost and stumbled upon this

Sassy statue in El Parque de Retiro

Sassy statue in El Parque de Retiro

Lake in El Parque del Retiro

Lake in El Parque del Retiro

Apple Dessert I Made

Apple Dessert I Made

Apple and Sweet Potato dessert!

Apple and Sweet Potato dessert!

One more look

One more look

Beautiful balconies

Beautiful balconies

El Rastro Flea Market off of La Latina

El Rastro Flea Market off of La Latina

El Rastro
El Rastro

El Rastro

El Rastro

El Rastro

El Rastro

El Rastro

El Rastro

El Rastro

El Rastro

El Rastro

El Rastro

Beautiful streets

Beautiful streets

Earring for One Euro!

Earring for One Euro!

Dinnnna

Dinnnna

Nothing

Nothing

Plaza de Espana in Madrid at Twilight

Plaza de Espana in Madrid at Twilight

Different Dinna

Different Dinna

Suffolk University

Suffolk University

Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad

Cutest Cupcake Shop

Cutest Cupcake Shop

Mexican dinner

Mexican dinner

Oh... That's where I am

Oh… That’s where I am

On my walk home from school

On my walk home from school

I LOVE WINTER ATIRE

I LOVE WINTER ATIRE

A run I did

A run I did

Chamber of Secrets

Chamber of Secrets

SALAD

SALAD I made

Lipstick

Lipstick

tumblr_m5ft86RzrP1r2qkf9o1_1280

 

A Message To My Family Regarding Domestication

Dear Family,

This is in direct references to the millions of times that you ALL doubted me.

But, let’s be real, I am mostly addressing my very own father: Fawaz Rachid Elmasri. HEY BABA, I AM A DOMESTICATED YOUNG WOMAN AND I KICK ASS AT LIVING ON MY OWN. Although this is the very first time I am officially living on my own with my own kitchen in an apartment with adults… I have always been forced (yes, forced) to help out around the house and especially in the kitchen. You see, my father is a traditional man from a small village in Northern Lebanon- Traublos (or Tripoli- no not Tripoli, Libya). This part of Lebanon is as close to glamorous as Lady Gaga was in her meat dress (I’m not the biggest fan of either). Before going to Lebanon, I was brainwashed by all of my Saudi friends telling me it was the most beautiful and extravagant Middle Eastern country… While all this is true, they were most definitely referring to Beirutthe Paris of the Middle East. Traublos is a tad different.

I actually visited Traublos last summer to visit my Grandma, whom I was named after, and adore and love with all of my heart. I didn’t have any expectations upon leaving- except for the comfort of being around family. While staying with my Uncle was… colorful to say the least, I am so happy I went. Because I learned A LOT about my father, his upbringing and his personality traits.

Baba grew up with a mother who enjoys overworking herself for the sole purpose of being able to complain to everyone around her… about how she is overworked. Although this is hilarious and ironic to say the least, I do not want to undermine her accomplishments. My Grandma Aisha raised eight wonderful kids who she tirelessly worries and stresses about—doing all she can to ensure that her children’s lives are better than her own. Even though she is almost 87 years old… My Grandma still cooks and cleans every day. She cares for her 47 year-old-son who has a mental disability, and also a heart of gold. (I miss my Uncle Azaam.) She hates when people try to help her and she loves her independence. She is all about doing things on her own. Although this can be frustrating and scary to those around her, I can’t help but sympathize and understand my Grandma because I am just like her. If there is anyone on this planet I share commonalities with… Even down to my very own name… It is she. Our hands are even the SAME.

I love her.

I love her.

THE SAME.

THE SAME.

 

Love.

Love.

 

She is so beautiful

She is so beautiful

I am so blessed to be her Granddaughter. I learned so much about her last summer. She got married when she was 18 years old and had her first child, Asya, at 19. I would sit with her on the couch, play with her fingers and ask her question after question. There is no doubt that she drove me crazy at times, but at this moment, all I am filled with are good memories and an indescribable and thorough ache and longing to be around her…. Snuggled in her arms. It is a rare comfort to know that you are with somebody who loves you wholeheartedly and unconditionally. I will never forget how lucky I am to have my Grandma. I only hope I get to see her again soon. I love you Taita.

She also loves to do things for other people. My Father was catered to as a child. I am not undermining his own work rate and all of his accomplishments… But when it comes to household domestication and meals… His mother spoiled him. My father learned his good habits from his mother. She is extremely clean and her entire life revolves around the house. She constantly cooks and caters to her children. She knows nothing else. Her life is Islam and her household.   My father was thus used to a strong domestic female presence. He obviously is completely supportive of my sister and I pursuing an education… but he has high expectations for us. Because of his upbringing, my Dad expects me to get good grades in school, be a good soccer player and be the exact replica of a typical Lebanese housewife from the village of Traublos.

No matter how ridiculous this may sound to the rest of the world. AND how frustrating and annoying it was at times. It is because of my father’s high expectations that I became the young woman I am today.

Thank you Baba. I love you more and more every day.

In Lebanon, I could only hope that my Grandma didn’t actually think me as incapable of a woman as the people in Lebanon permitted me to be. I was pretty cooped up and catered to. I hated every minute of it. But I did develop an extremely special bond with my Uncle Adnaan and my Auntie Maryam. I am so appreciativee of them. In fact, I made my favorite eggplant dish that my Auntie Maryam taught me to make today. It came out fabulously.

My Auntie Maryam

My Auntie Maryam

My Uncle Adnaan

My Uncle Adnaan

My Eggplant, Zucchini, Tomato and Onion medley-- Thank you Mommie and Auntie Maryam.

My Eggplant, Zucchini, Tomato and Onion medley– Thank you Mommie and Auntie Maryam.

Here in Spain, I am finally able to put all the years of criticism, lessons and frustration to the ultimate test… Living on my own.

I am in love with independence. And I think that I’m pretty damn good at it.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, I prepare either a chicken or vegetable dish and buy fresh spinach so I may have lunch and dinner already prepared for myself for the following days. I love cooking. I cook every day for myself.  I cook the dishes my mom taught me. I cook things I like. I buy what I want. I am eating the healthiest I’ve ever eaten in my life. Because I have full control. I love this control. I would never eat out if I had the choice… But going out is a social escapade that I need to force myself to indulge in every once in a while. It’s also nice to get things like frozen yogurt and chocolate… (Like I did yesterday).

It almost makes me angry that I love domestication. I wish I hated it. Like other business/ career women often do. But I don’t. I love school, and I get good grades. But I also love children, cooking and cleaning after myself. I love when things are spotless. And I never make a mess in the kitchen. I clean up as I go. Just like my Dad taught me.

Twins

Twins

But I am a good cook because of my wonderful Mother. I love you Mom. You’ve shaped me in more ways than you’ll ever know. Your compassion is what drives me to treat others graciously and lovingly. It is precisely why people tell me that they are so immediately comfortable around me. I got it from you Mom.

I am so blessed.

Have a fabulous day!

Xoxo,

Aisha

Spanish Culture: Inside Look

I am taking a class in Spain at Suffolk University on Spanish Culture. It has quickly become one of my favorite classes. I thus combined some class notes with some personal observations and decided to put this together. Spanish people are just so interesting.

Culture- Anything produced by humans, relating to Spain or just by Spaniards in general.

  • Tie your experience in Spain together

  My Professor’s Advice on Spain

  • Love or hate: Spain tends to provoke strong emotions from people. It will literally drive you crazy with epic stupidity.
  • My observations in Spain are tainted but I can attempt to reduce my subjectivity.
  • I must realize that there are people living in Spain for 600-900 euros a month. Don´t let your social groups- hang outs keep you completely isolated from the reality of peoples´ situations in Spain.
  • Ethno-centrism:  There are things that we overlook.
    • Try to keep an open mind.
    • Experience as much, that is actually Spanish as you can.
      • Go to dirty bars, engage with people and learn about Spain
      • Go to a place of worship
      • Spanish Libraries
      • Public Squares
      • Dusto mayo in the Malasaña area
      • But don´t go to Irish bars. (Apparently they suck.)
      • Read books on Spain
        • Don Cioqote
        • Fortunata and Gisenta
        • Catalonia by George Orwell
        • Gibson on Spain (1992): Fire in the Blood
  • Realize that being passionate requires variation. You need highs and lows. There must be a base level so that something may strike your passion.
  • Watch the Daniboy late late Show.
  • Be more British
    • The British know they´re superior to everyone else… They just don´t let people know that they know that. For example: If you get in trouble, play stupid and apologize. You will most always get a sympathetic release.

Quick Notations/ Observations

  • Italy and Spain are relatively similar because of their prior relationship with the Roman Empire
    • Language is similar
    • People do not smile to one another here.
    • People stare at you. They are not embarrassed about it. They will not look away if you make eye contact.
    • Parenting Styles in Spain are more relaxed. They don´t blow up at their kids. They correct their wrong doings as they happen.
    • There is a phenomena-> weekdays are busier than weekends. The weekend is for sleep and catching up on other things.
    • Spanish people possess an infuriating set of pre-conditioned reflexes resulting from having been deprived for centuries from security, stability and dignity.
      • This leads to an automatic distrust of authority.
      • Spanish people often close off their home to the view of others.
      • In Spain, most of the houses have bars on the windows.

7 Deadly Sins of Spaniards

Learn to be comfortable with generalizations, and embrace them. There are exceptions to everything. Just know that you can never be certain or always correct. Do not rely on them.

¨Survival of the Fittest¨: Fit – as in Fitted. A triangle will fit into a triangle, but a square won´t fit the shape. Thus, it depends on what the environment demands.

  1. Generous and Incurious People… The incuriosity- 500 years of not asking too many questions… This was in order to keep your job and stay out of trouble. There was a huge emphasis in Spain placed on not asking questions. This reminds me of the fallen Arab dictatorships…
  2. They lack Self-consciousness
  3. Insensitivity to being caught/ called out.
  4. Relaxed…Peace-mil means of aggression. They release aggression bit-by-bit
  5. Anglo-Saxon… N. Europeans tend to live peacefully, unt8il there is extreme brutality within the Anglo-Saxons. Spain- constantly being aggressive to everyone around them
  6. Lack of Snobbishness… There are no lower class accents in Spain. Accents aren´t associated that way in Spain as they are in Britain. Spanish people are very proudly independent. Friendly: Friendships are superficial
  7. Feverishly nocturnal…  Nobody sleeps here. They take lots of naps- the siesta.

A Tribute To My Parents

I went on an amazing hike today about an hour north of Madrid. On the bus ride over, I couldn’t help but think about my family.

I have a large, emotional and loving family. We yell as much as we laugh, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because at the end of the day… We are always there for each other.

We also communicate.

This may sometimes be loud and abrasive communication, but it is nonetheless face-to-face contact. I have been to friend’s homes that were uncomfortably quiet because the family members stick to themselves. They don’t even have family dinners. I never realized how spoiled I was until I came to college and got a glimpse of life on the other side. I used to be upset about my family. I hated that we were so direct. That we spent so much time together. That I never had a moment of peace—that I never got space.

Space—is a very American idea.

Yes, I grew up in the United States. But it is an indisputable fact that my household was run by two traditional immigrants. My father is full Lebanese, with Egyptian ancestry. My mother is Mexican with Spanish and Syrian ancestry. They were both born outside of the States. I am a first-generation American.

And I am so incredibly blessed.

Truth.

Truth.

My mother was a stay-at-home mom. The only difference between this and a full-time job is that there are no breaks, you do not get paid and the reward for your time, love and effort does not come for another 18 years… at the very least. Because no one understands what it’s like to be a mom until they hold their child in their arms for the very first time. I don’t understand, but I’m hoping that one day I will.

For now, I am merely capable of appreciation.

There is a hadith in Islam that states the following: “A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim).”

My Mother and Me

My Sister, Mother and Me

Mothers are amazing. And my mom is the best.

My mom made dinner for us every single day, without fail.

I remember sitting on the floor of our kitchen with her rolling dough from scratch in order to make my Dad’s favorite Lebanese spinach and cheese pies. I remember sitting on the counter for her and stirring the milk for the yogurt… that she made from scratch. It always had to be stirred in the same direction, or the texture wouldn’t come out right. I remember the smell of the Velveeta cheese for a household favorite—Macaroni and cheese. I remember my favorite tomato soup. I remember how she would get me to drink milk by mixing in some teaspoons of Nesquick. I remember homemade cookies and the most amazing colorful cakes. Yea, we were fed well.

My mom was there for every single milestone we’ve ever encountered in our lives.

I remember my mom walking me to my first day of pre-school. I remember the day my mom opened up our hideous Chevy van to show me the purple dress she purchased from JC Penny for my kindergarten graduation. I remember my mom rubbing pink calamine lotion all over my body when I got the chicken pox at five years old. I remember when my mom comforted me after I fell of the monkey bars in second grade. I remember my mom making her famous ranch and sour cream dip for my holiday party in third grade. I remember going uniform shopping with my mom before my first year in public school. I remember my mom spoiling me at Hollister in middle school the day she bought me five shirts… That I never really needed. I remember my mom locating missing soccer uniform articles constantly in high school. I remember my mom dropping me off at my dorm in college. I remember endless volleyball matches, constant hiking trips and her ridiculous tolerance.

My mom was always there. My mom is always there.

My mom has one of the best hearts in this world.

She always goes out of her way to help people. She makes my friends feel comfortable and at home. No one ever comes to our house and feels unwelcome. No matter how terrible my mom is feeling, how mad she may be that day… She never took out her ill feelings on those who were innocent.

My mother is amazing. I love you Mommy.

There is another verse in the Quran that states the following: “And your Lord has ordained that you do not worship anyone except Him, and treat your parents with kindness; if either of them or both reach old age in your presence, do not say “Uff”* to them and do not rebuff them, and speak to them with the utmost respect.And lower your wing humbly for them, with mercy, and pray, “My Lord! Have mercy on them both, the way they nursed me when I was young.” (17:23-24)

[I have said "uff" many-a-times in my life. But I am working to improve.] Parents are the only people in this world who want us to be better than them. Not the same. BETTER. That is what a parent’s love is like. And we cannot forget the importance of a Father.

My Baba and Me

My Baba and Me

My Father is my role model. He is the person I admire the most and strive every day to not only mimic—but refine in my own inherited personality traits.

My Father migrated here, alone, when he was 20 years old. He got a job and put himself through college at Cal State University Long Beach. He did it all by himself. No one helped him. He paid for his rent, books and food. Not only that, he graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering—at a University that wasn’t in his native language—and then bought a Chevron station, which he owns and runs. With the salary and livelihood he accumulated for himself, he never forgot his roots. He always used his income to support his family back home. My Dad works to support his parents, his single sister and his mentally disabled brother. He has also helped every single one of his siblings in some way with their lives.

My Dad taught me what generosity is.

My Dad can come off harsh, but his heart is always in the right place. And that is the most important thing. Through him, I learned the value of siblings and the indescribable connection God forges between us at birth through our DNA. I am blessed to have three wonderful people that will unconditionally love me and support me for my entire life. No matter what, I will always have three friends. And I should always reach out to help them in any way I can. Whether it’s financially, emotionally or just physically—by being there with them when they are sad. Just like my very own Baba (Dad) does for his siblings. His heart is one of a kind.

My Dad sacrificed his happiness for our family.

My parents have gone through a lot to say the least. No matter what happened between my parents… Even when divorce was a serious possibility, my Dad has always honored the principles of Islam on both marriage and divorce (I hate that word). He’s always assured my Mother that he would support her and my siblings and me for as long as she may live. Thank God things are better between them… But still… Even when there was nothing but bitterness, his heart was in the right place.

My Dad does everything with God on his mind.

My Dad prays five times a day, every-day—without fail. No matter how hard life is getting, he always references a surah in the Quran that guides him and gives him strength. I love him so much for it.

My Baba is the smartest man I know.

He honestly knows something about everything. He reads extensively. The best part is, my dad doesn’t have the personality where he is bragging or trying to prove to you that he knows what he is saying. My Father is confident. His self-assurance radiates. He doesn’t need to speak for hours to prove his point. He is concise, articulate and realistic. It literally blows my mind that English is his second language… He is just so knowledgeable and expressive.

I will strive every day, for the rest of my life, to be like him.

However, I am most thankful for the way in which my parents instilled religion in my siblings and me.

My Dad was born Muslim, but his father was very liberal. His mother was the religious one. Even though he had a colorful youth… When he came to the United States, he found his Islam. He took courses with Dr. Maher Hathout and was taught what moderate Islam is like. And how intention and faith are stronger than appearances and reputation. I am so blessed to have grown up with him as my spiritual guide. He never forced it upon us. He merely taught and encouraged. I have friends whose parents were forceful… So they rebelled.

I am so proud to say that my siblings and me are committed to our faith.

Yes, we may not pray five times a day every day. But we LOVE God. We believe in the last prophet, his messengers and the Holy Scriptures… And we work every day to be good people.

I cannot dismiss my Mother’s influence on us though.

My mother grew up in a Christian household. Her brothers were less-than-religious to say the least. But my mom was a committed Christian who taught at a Sunday school. She was pious, loving and sincere. It was as if my mom was Muslim… Even before she was Muslim. When she met my Father, she was hesitant to learn a new faith. But after seeing and experiencing how committed my father was to his faith… She decided to learn for herself. And she converted. She did it though, because she wanted to. And because she felt it in her heart. It was meant to be. Her morals did not change. She merely altered her belief on the oneness of God.

My mom has instilled abstinence, piety and modesty in me since I was a little girl. (I literally remember her telling me about abstinence when I was three—no joke.) Although her methods have been more forceful, and on occasion, abrasive. Whatever she did, it worked. I value sexual integrity immensely. I respect my body, my religion and myself. I also work to be sincere and kind to people. My mother is so kind, and so loving.

Sometimes I wish that I didn’t know better. I have those days when I wish I was oblivious of Islam (only rarely—I am human!!) Because, quite frankly, it’s easier to be immoral. It’s easy to be insincere and hateful and antagonistic. But what kind of life is that? Without God, without principles and without motivation to be a good person for a higher purpose… Life has no meaning.

I was endowed with Islam by my parents. But I am sticking with it because I unconditionally love God. Even when I think of how crazy it is that a higher being can exist. A higher being that we are literally incapable of understanding because of our human limitations… It is difficult. But life is a struggle. I need to have faith.

And every day I struggle to do the right thing.

I strive to exemplify the type of young woman my parents brought me up to be.

My parents are the best. I thank God for them every day. Especially in Spain… I can’t help but look around and thank God and my parents for this wonderful opportunity.

I am so blessed.

My Baba, Mom and Me

My Baba, Mom and Me

Have the most wonderful day.

Xoxo,

Aisha

Last Week in Pictures

Random order- simply because I am too lazy to go back and correct it. 
In the Tower of the Cathedral in Sevilla, Spain.

In the Tower of the Cathedral in Sevilla, Spain.

I love snowy hikes

I love snowy hikes

Me and Jenna

Me and Jenna

Asha, me and Nicole

Asha, me and Nicole

Night out in Madrid, Spain

Night out in Madrid, Spain

In Nicole's Apartment

In Nicole’s Apartment

Plaza de Espana-- Sevilla, Spain

Plaza de Espana– Sevilla, Spain

Plaza de Espana

Plaza de Espana- Sevilla, Spain

Bull Fighting

Bull Fighting

Palace built by the Moors in Sevilla, Spain

Palace built by the Moors in Sevilla, Spain

Arabic

Arabic Writing- God is One on Palace designed by Moors in Sevilla, Spain

The Palace-- AMAZING architecture

The Palace– AMAZING architecture

Night out in Sevilla, Spain

Night out in Sevilla, Spain

Looks like the Shire!

Looks like the Shire!

Cercedilla

Cercedilla Hike– Amazing greenery

Cercedilla

Cercedilla Hike and Snow!

Cercedilla

Candid at Cercedilla

Cercedilla

Cercedilla– Stunning

Cercedilla

Cercedilla– First time seeing real snow!

Cercedilla

Cercedilla– Spanish architecture amazes me

New Apartment and Roomies

So I am moved in. I love the apartment. There are four bedrooms, a living room/ dining area, a kitchen, 2 bathrooms, an entre and one very long hallway! I am very excited. I have never had so much space.

I am living with four other girls. I know this sounds like a lot, but three of them have their own bedroom and I am in a very large double with a very sweet girl named Judy. The other three girls are named Corienda (Cori for short), Liah and Chandler. I was super skeptical the first day because all of these girls have initial stand-off-ish personalities… But I love them. Liah is the sweetest and is super helpful with everything. I actually am not feeling well right now, so she just brought me some Advil. She’s so sweet. Cori taught me where to go grocery shopping and Judy and I were already friendly before I moved in. I feel like I have yet to crack Chandler, but I know it’ll happen soon.

I just have to buy groceries now so I can cook and I will post pictures soon!

I’m feeling really happy and good about everything!

Madrid Updates- Off to Espiritu Santos!

I am moving today to an apartment on Espiritu Santo off of the Noviciades metro stop today. I am really excited because the area there is much more exciting than my area and it is much closer to everything I enjoy! The famous and huge Parque Retiro is only 12 minutes away on the same metro line, whereas from Calle de Panama, I had to change lines twice and it took me 35 minutes. It is also way closer to school! It will take me half the time to get to school than it did before. I will also be living closer to the rest of the students. Overall, I am extremely happy.

I am sad to leave my host mother, Teresa, though. I really like her a lot. We bonded and she even showed me her childhood pictures. (The other student Rachel hadn’t even seen them and she’d been here for 5 months—I’ve been here for 5 days… My life.) It was just such a struggle to get her to make me food without dairy. She could adjust to the pork thing more easily. There is another student here whom she also cooks for, so she would have to prepare more than one meal. We both cried when we talked about me moving. She told me that she agrees that it is best for me to go to an apartment because I am uncomfortable with people waiting on me and I don’t need someone doing my laundry and cooking my meals for me.

True story bro. It’s my parent’s fault I am so independent! Which tends to drive people I am closest to nuts, because I am a terrible communicator. I am working on it guys.

Although, I am ecstatic to leave her sister—Christina. Christina fell backwards down stairs for 4 meters and is thus injured and being taken care of by Teresa. Cough cough… Karma. ( Half kidding—because that is terrible.) Christina is a colorful person to say the least. Even though Teresa already knew about my dietary restrictions, she lectured me on how this is a good host family to live in. And how in Ireland when she lived with a host family, they served her cold meals. I also shouldn’t expect a restaurant. I was thoroughly insulted. I love Teresa with all my heart. She is so sweet and loving and very maternal even though she doesn’t have any kids. I never demanded anything. I merely told her that I couldn’t drink milk because I get very sick. I even tried to drink milk and got very sick! I also do not eat pork for religious reasons. When she continued her attitude, I told her that I wasn’t sure if it was because her English wasn’t as thorough as mine, but she had sincerely hurt my feelings and I needed to leave the situation for a while. So I went to my room and contemplated, and decided to move. Because living with Teresa means living with Christina. And I am unwilling to deal with that.

Christina however is unaware of the implications of her comments though. I saw her this morning and we had a nice chat over coffee and she asked me to please visit after I move.  I will visit, but I am definitely not coming to see her.

Teresa, Christina and her ex-husband Jose Luis are all also heavy smokers. They smoke inside the house. I am sensitive to cigarette smoke. They also have an indoor dog. I love puppies, but I prefer to stare at them lovingly as opposed to snuggle in my bed with them. It is just my own personal preference. I am more of a fan of outdoor pets. So going to this new apartment means no more smoke and no more pets!!!! I also won’t have to wait until 9:30 PM to have dinner every day. I will be given cheques and credit cards to purchase/ cook my own food. Needless to say, I am so excited.

I fully plan on visiting Teresa once a week for lunch with my (now former) roommate Rachel, whom I also love. We are planning on getting lunch, and maybe even our nails done together! Last night she helped me fix my nails and we talked and had a great time. I am so comfortable with Teresa. She is so wonderful. But there are times when you just know what is right for you in your gut. And moving will be better for my experience in Spain. I always look at both sides though, which is why making decisions is usually so hard for me.

I know I am making the right one.

Here’s to a new beginning (only a week after my last), a sense of comfort and a learning experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Love,

Aisha

Life Lessons in Trust

Trust is a difficult concept.

I never realized how fragile my own trust was until I came to Spain and experienced upfront deception. It was thoroughly transparent, inexcusable and it taught me a very important lesson about myself.

I am a strong believer in equality.

While some people may criticize my ideality, I don’t think that it is outrageous for me to expect the same treatment from others as I present to them. Equal treatment. I try my best to treat everyone with kindness, respect and love. I make it a point to make people feel comfortable around me and I have a knack for making shy people open up. Some of my closest friends were once the most difficult people to carry a conversation with. I also take pride in my sincerity.

I am a good friend.

Trust can be defined as having a sense of reliance, hope for the future and compassion towards another person, object, organization (etc). Trust is the most difficult feeling to develop between people, but the easiest to destroy. For some reason, I have always been the person people go to when they need someone to listen to their personal problems.  I always thought this was a bit ironic growing up, since I had such a big mouth. As I’ve matured, I understand the importance of secrecy. I ensure that people’s confidence in me is not wrongly given. I value when people trust me and I do everything in my power to ensure that their faith in me remains steadfast. This is done with nothing other than sincerity. I think sincerity is easy. It’s easy to be honest. Lying is messy and only leads to repetitive negativity and chaos. I love being honest. Sometimes I am too honest. Although I would rather be known for extreme honesty as opposed to insincerity.

Sincere people are rare, difficult to find and overtly underrated.

I had a recent encounter with a [previously] close friend of mine who betrayed my trust. I was immensely disappointed. I hadn’t dealt with a situation like this since middle school—where the girls are awkward and the drama is amplified because everyone is merely trying to be accepted. So they mask their insecurity with a false confidence that translates to unnecessary malice. Middle school girls suck. Anyhow, after my encounter with utter betrayal, I had several realizations.

I used to be a pushover, but I’m over it.

I am too forgiving, and I always try and make excuses for people. But I am done. I don’t care if you had a bad day… Or if it is merely your personality to be rude to everyone around you… Or if your parents were terrible to you… Or you had a bad familial situation… OR ANYTHING ELSE. There is no excuse why people cannot treat other people with kindness. We are all humans. We all have feelings. We all are capable of cordiality. I’ve gone through so many hardships in my own life, but I don’t use this as a lame excuse to treat everyone around me badly. In fact, it is the main reason I try to be overly kind to everyone around me. I know what it feels like to be sad, lonely and miserable. I don’t want anyone feeling that way.

There is a difference between immaturity and character traits.

One’s true character is revealed when they believe they are alone, when they are frustrated or when they are confronted with challenges. While some people may just be rough around the edges, there are others who are simply just mean. Or rude. It may be difficult to tell the difference. But this time around, I know in my gut that I am right to keep my distance.

I am not perfect, but at least I always have good intentions.

I can forgive nearly all faults or bad traits that other people may possess, as long as the person is good hearted and means well. People may be annoying, too talkative, have bad breath… Honestly anything. But if the person is mean or simply does not wish happiness upon another, I am unable to accept that. I believe that if someone has good intentions, everything else doesn’t matter. With good intentions, there is potential for improvement and maturity. I am fully aware that I can be annoying, difficult and ridiculous—but I always try and treat others the way I would like to be treated.

I treat others with kindness and respect, because I appreciate when others reciprocate the gesture.

And this is how I build trust.

I try to be rational and realistic. This is a constant struggle. I am emotional. My feelings guide me. But I’ve gotten so much better at realizing when I need to take feelings out of the equation. Compartmentalizing is also a daily work-in-progress. I am not perfect, but I am trying to be the best me I can be. I don’t think I’ve changed much through this process, I have merely improved myself. I think this is why people tend to be comfortable around me. At least I hope people are comfortable around me.

Be you. But be the best version of yourself you can manage.

And be nice. Just be nice. I don’t want to come across as preachy, but I think kindness is underrated. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a bad day—this is never an excuse to treat another person badly. Be conscious of what you are saying. Cause it takes a single moment of you saying the wrong thing to shatter someone’s trust and ruin a great relationship.

In reference to my previous close friend—I am incapable of seeing him the same way anymore. I am not angry with him though. I wish I was. Anger is easily alleviated. I am hurt. So thoroughly hurt. I am fine with cordiality. And I don’t engage in drama. But I will forever keep my guard up with him from now on. I don’t think it’s difficult to be sincere with people. Simply be honest. Because being honest with people is the basis of forming good relationships.

Make sincerity habitual. You will feel better about yourself, and you will naturally be rewarded with great friends.

To all of you reading this, I miss you guys. And I appreciate my trustful friends a million times more than I did before.

Like my favorite imaginary husband said: “I find it hard to forgive the follies and vices of others, or their offenses against me. My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.” –Mr. Darcy

Trust is a difficult concept, but it’s easy in practice and application.

Xoxo,

Aisha

Sevilla Updates

For Suffolk’s Welcome Orientation trip, we came to Sevilla in Southern Spain on a high speed train that only took 2.5 hours- when it would have otherwise taken 7 hours. We had to meet at the Atoche Train Station in the morning. My roommate (thats already been here for a semester) was a little nervous about it because there are frequent worker strikes. We left at about 8:20 to get to Atoche (about 10 stops collectively and one interchange away) by 9:45. We got there with impecable timing. There was no crowding and I am just a metro pro.

[Side note, I am using the word impecable all the time here now for some reason.] 

After getting to Atoche, we boarded the train at 11 and the ride to Sevilla was beautiful. All the public transportation in Spain is impressively clean and practical. It was also really cool to see the Spanish countryside on the way to Sevilla. There were some beautiful castles and gorgeous greenery, as well as lots of pretty little houses and crops. There were particularly a lot of orange fields. I just put my iPod in and enjoyed the ride. It was so nice to reflect, daydream and relax. Especially since I hadn’t slept well the night before. I only got four hours of sleep and gave up around 5 AM.

The most challenging part about studying abroad so far is finding people I connect with. I am never sure if people are being sincere with me and I’m scared of deception and vulnerability. I also can’t fully fathom that I will be here for four months. That’s a long time. And this is only the beginning. I have made many friends. It’s also surprisingly easy to converse with people. I sometimes say that I’m terrible at making friends, but I’m actually pretty good at it. It’s so easy to make someone feel comfortable by asking them questions, and it’s almost impossible to not find commonalities. People also appreciate when another person is sincerely interesting in learning about them because it’s make them feel adequate and worthy. Suffolk is an extremely small university (about 140 students), therefore there is a lot of drama. Although I have a dramatic and expressive personality, I do not engage in drama. It is easier to act cordially to someone you dislike as opposed to putting effort into acting negatively.  So I’m confident that I won’t have a problem with that. Overall, it’s not that I haven’t been making friends. I have. It’s just that I don’t know if I can trust them yet. My roommate for this Sevilla trip is a sweet heart. I love roommates. I honestly think they are so easy.

Anyways, I did have a brief home-sick/ real-sick thing going on. But I don’t have time to fully explain that now because I am about to go out with my friends to explore Sevilla. We’ve gone on so many long and lengthy tours, it will be nice to just walk around on our own.

Side note, I am so happy my friend Josh is here with me. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before… But he’s honestly just like my brothers and it’s great to have someone who cares about me here looking out for my wellbeing.

Until later,

Aisha

Just Call Me a Madrilena

Today I learned how to find my way around. I can now successfully get to and from the metro from home, navigate the metro no matter where I am, get to and from school on the metro and sort of find my way around Madrid! I also found a new restaurant that is decently cheap and has good sandwiches. AND I made new friends.

I also think I found my ACTUAL mind twin. She’s my new closest friend here and loves Lord of The Rings, hiking, old ancient castles, going on adventures, chatting about random stuff. She is so non-judgmental and just plain great. This is a terrible description. But it’s almost 10 PM and I have been out of this house and on my feet since 8 this morning. I also have a lot of confidence in my people-reading abilities. And I have such a great feeling about our new-found friendship!

We also went on a 4 hour tour of Madrid! It was insane and beautiful and there are so many places I want to head back to. But I am too lazy to post pictures right now. I may or may not gain energy later.

Anyways, tomorrow we head to Sevilla for 4 days where we are going to be spoiled with a fancy hotel and awesome dinners. So I am really excited and am about to pack.

[My roommate is talking on the phone and is seriously pissing me off more than you can imagine. She is a sweetheart... yadi yadi yadaaaaa. BUT SHUT UP.]

Until Later,

Aisha

My Roomie

Really quick post before bed… I met my roommate today. Her name is Rachel and she is 18 years old. She is a freshman and is from Connecticut and goes to Suffolk University in Boston. She is pretty crazy. She goes out a lot and is way more experienced than I am in every realm of the word. Nonetheless, she is as naive as they get. She is good hearted though. Low key though, she will probably start to annoy me soon… She is pretty obnoxious. But I really can’t plant this seed in my head because it will quickly manifest into a tree of perpetual irritation. Fight it Aisha, fight it! I also have to remember that she is a freshman and our maturity levels and morals are just at different extremes. Whereas she can casually hook up with someone, I value things like sexual integrity. Quick judgements? Probably. I am always quick to judge and analyze people. But I am always willing to change my opinions. So, they balance out. At least I think so. And that’s all that matters.

It is 1:35 AM and I don’t expect her home until 7 AM!! I am heading to bed though because I am SO tired. I went out with Rachel today and her friends that she introduced me to. It was fun but I was just going for the experience rather than to actually have a good time.

[Also, my host mom wants to kill me because of my eating habits. I'm sorry I don't drink milk that often. Sorry that when I drank it, I was uncomfortable for the entire day... Not sorry. She actually doesn't wanna kill me. I'm just paranoid.]

Anyways! Buenos Noches

About My Host Family

I totally forgot to explain my host family.

So, here’s the deal.

I am living in an Apartment near the Real Madrid Stadium on Calle de Panama with a single lady in her 50s named Teresa. I was given this info prior to arriving: “Teresa is a lovely Señora in her 50s, who lives with her dog in large apartment. This will be Rachel´s second semester with Teresa so I am sure she can help you find you way around and if you have any question about Teresa and her house, I am sure Rachel will be able to help you.You will share a double room and have internet access. I hope that you are as happy in this home as other students have been in the past…”

This is all true. BUT HERE’S THE SKETCH PART: So Teresa was married to Jose Luis (her ex husband) for 18 years. About 10 years ago they got a divorce. They did not have any children together. I know this because Teresa told me, and made it a point to ensure I understood that he was her “ex-husband”- Entiendes??? I told her I understood. Obviously. She only repeated it about five times… In both Spanish and English. Anywho. So as I came out of the bathroom yesterday morning, I heard a man’s voice. This startled me.

[See, Teresa's sister, Christina, has a room in Teresa's house and often sleeps over. Also, Rachel lives here as well. But she is also a female. I didn't expect to hear a man's voice so early in the morning.]

Apparently it has become evident that Jose Luis and Teresa are good friends and he comes over often. In fact, yesterday night as I went to Teresa’s room to ask her a question. I didn’t find Teresa. I found Jose Luis casually laying down in the bedroom. Teresa was apparently in the master bedroom. The only reason why this irks me is because Teresa and Jose Luis don’t have any kids together… So I don’t understand why they divorced if they obviously still enjoy each other’s company…

Anyways. After being startled. The man’s voice came closer to me and spoke to me in very fast fluent spanish about “Tu eres Aisha! Mucho gusto. Me llamo Jose Luis…” And then there was beard in my face and I was getting kissed on both cheeks.

That’s the end! I am SO tired. Have I mentioned that?

I am so tired.

Hey, how are you?

I decided to ask you how you are since I am going to ramble on about myself for the next hundred words or so.

(Cue your response… Then I pause…)

And, here I go.

I AM SO TIRED. Today I got up at 8:30 to take the metro to Suffolk. Like I said yesterday, I am a metro pro. BUT I am terrible at getting around here because there are NO street signs. Anyways. Taking the metro is a serious work out. I probably took about a million flights of stairs, and I am just so tired. Too tired to run. I know that’s bad. But I haven’t been eating much because I am not the biggest fan of Spanish food- and I am just completely out of energy.

Anyways, so after I got off at the metro stop Guzman El Bueno, I got lost. AGAIN. I went left instead of right. Went in a few circles. Then I phoned a friend, who passed the phone off to some guy. Who told me to stop where I was. He came and rescued me and I finally made it to orientation. My savior’s name (completely secular in this context) is Neil. I am actually going to hang out with him tonight and a few new friends I made.

OH YEAH! I made friends!

After orientation, I went with Josh, Rose and Shampagne to their apartment near the Cuatro Caminos stop. It is so cute and spacious, but I am still very happy with my choice of living with my host family. Side note, my roommate showed up today but she is out right now so I haven’t met her yet. All I know is that she doesn’t have that much stuff (I may have peeked).  Also, I talked to my host family about smoking! (Look at me go!) She was so sweet! I love her!

More later! xoxo

Quick Thoughts Before Bed

It is 12:31 AM in Madrid. I know it is super late, but I really wanted to write before I officially went to sleep.

I got lost twice today.

I decided to go on a casual jog earlier today. It was 34 degrees outside!!! I accidentally switched off my mapmyrun app that allows me to track where I am running. I figured that by using this I could easily follow the tracking lines back to my apartment. I decided to explore… And I found this beautiful park named Canal Isabel- which is pretty similar to an Arboretum. However, when I left the park, I exited on the wrong corner and went in circles for about 30 minutes. As I was wondering the streets of Madrid, a lady came up to me asking me for directions to some store in very quick and fluent Spanish. I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculously good I am at pretending to know what is going on. I had to politely tell the lady, “Lo Siento Senora, perro no hablo epanol mucho. Hoy es mi primer dia en Madrid.” (I honestly don’t even know if that is grammatically correct.) The lady was surprised and said sorry before leaving me… still lost. I eventually found my way home, but I was so cold and confused. I honestly have no idea how I made it back. The street signs are so confusing here. They are not very visible. And there also aren’t a lot of them. To top it off, there are about a million and one of the same small places- like Farmacias and Cortes de Ingles… But I somehow recognized land marks and got back home. To the warmth. Just in time to shower and head to orientation. 

I also took the metro for the first time today. I am a pro at underground transportation. I was a dwarf in another life.

After orientation, I went with my friend Josh and his cousin Chelsea, who has been here already for 4 months, to a nice little restaurant off the metro stop Iglesia, although I don’t remember the name of the restaurant. I didn’t have dinner because they served tortillas at orientation– which are essentially spanish omelettes. I also can’t eat a lot of food here because it is made with pork. Can you say buzzkillingtonnnnn?

On my way home from the restaurant, I had to separate from my group. This is the second time I got lost. I took the metro perfectly fine, but when I exited the metro. I had no idea which direction to go. I roamed the streets at 11:30 for about 15 minutes before seeing my very own promised land through the tall building “Euro building”… I realized I made a right instead of a left, or a left instead of a right?… I am still confused. I know that you go the opposite direction of the place Santender. Lucky for me, I look like an Espanola and everyone leaves me alone.

I am so exhausted. I am also getting a bit sick. But I LOVE LOVE LOVE Madrid. I am also so happy I chose to live with a host family although the family dynamics here are interesting (to be explained later). My friend’s residence just made me feel lonely and miserable. It was so empty and there are only a few community bathrooms (kill me!) I am also going to tell my host mom that I would prefer if she didn’t smoke around me. I found out today that they are not supposed to do that anyways. So I don’t feel bad about it anymore. I hate smoking. A mi no me gusta la fumar. No me gusta nada. 

Look at me go! My Spanish is literally improving by the second.

P.S. It is now 12:43 AM.

Goodnight!

First Official Day in Spain 1/8/13

I don’t know how to describe Spain yet, because I’ve probably spent about an hour total outside. If I had to use three words, they would be freezing, beautiful and strange. I literally sit on my bed and just stare outside of my window. The girls are just insanely unique looking. They all have dark hair, or fake light hair (like me) and beautiful eyes. They don’t wear a lot of makeup. They are just so unique. I find myself staring. The men are beautiful too. It’s all a gigantic joke. I can’t believe that anyone has ever compared me to these gorgeous people. I am literally flattered. But in some ways I can sort-of see it. People just assume I am Spanish here. Aesthetically, Spain looks like the East Coast to me. The particular place I am at is very urban. I guess in many ways, I am finally getting what I want. But like a classic female, I don’t really know how to handle getting what I want.

I’m feeling… shocked. But not in a bad way. I am not feeling the same culture shock I felt when I went to Lebanon last summer. I am not surrounded by tons of family, whom I think I am supposed to share similarities with. I am in a place where I know I have been raised and ingrained with differences. I am challenged with the task of adjusting. I am thoroughly confident that I will not only adjust, but fall in love with the place. That scares me. But I can’t get ahead of myself. I am forcing myself to live day by day. Just like I began doing back home.

Spain is so different from Southern California, and especially Orange County… that it is ridiculous. I am living in an apartment that is literally less than a block from the Real Madrid stadium. Which is HUGE I may add. It literally looks like a big grey, gigantic theatre from the outside.

SO far, I am happy. I went to a store named Zara yesterday with my host mommy, who won’t let me call her Senora or Dona. All the clothing is similar to the clothing I bought with my real mommy before coming here (Thank you Lupita). The girls are just way too chic though. They all casually wear heeled-boots. I don’t even own a pair of heels…. Oh well! I am about to have desayuna- which I hope is the right grammatical form of breakfast! I am then heading to the university I am attending here, Suffolk, with my host-mommy so I learn the ropes. After that I am then going to try and figure out the streets for a nice little run that I am going to try and make habitual like it was for me back home! I then have orientation at 5:30 PM, where I will head to Suffolk on the metro, by myself.  Here’s to adventuring!!

My bed!

My bed!

View into my bedroom

View into my bedroom

My Shelves (I know you were so curious)

My Shelves (I know you were so curious)

Wardrobe

Wardrobe

View from my window

View from my window

The Salon

The Salon

The living room

The living room

Kitchen

Kitchen

Table

Meal times

There is also a long hallway, my bathroom, 2 bedrooms and a master bedroom and bathroom, a laundry room and a storage place that I did not include… Although I may include later if I get the energy!

Hope you have a fabulous day!

My Life in Relation to Me

Existing is easy.

I can exist without passion or purpose in this world, and fulfill the definition of living—merely being alive. And yet, every day on this world is a struggle. A struggle to find the motivation to lead a life I can be proud of.

Living is another story.

This is an ongoing challenge. An everlasting investigation. The only confirmation of personal progress is found in self-assurance. I struggle to achieve personal peace every day. I struggle to be truthful with myself. I struggle to fight my persistent disillusionment. The voice in my head that tells me everything I do is pointless. I struggle to find my calling.

My struggles are continuous. My confidence is fragile. And society is harsh to say the least.

Society plays a major role in affecting self-confidence. Society shapes you. How people perceive you can affect your role and ability to affect change. Society is also necessary. I have to participate in this society to maintain a livelihood and feel validated. Human relationships help ease the stress of society. It provides me with a place of comfort and a sense of belonging within the larger spectrum of this complicated world.  This world that works to define me, when all I want to do is manage a comfortable existence in my own skin.

Wilted Rose-- The Break Down

Self-Definition.

I choose to define myself. Others will define me through my actions, appearance and overall self-perception. Yet I possess the power to steer these perceptions in the right direction. I am a strong believer in the idea that actions define character. Every day I resist the temptation to indulge in activities I know will only prove detrimental to my future emotional and physical health. I do this by thinking of my conclusive feelings. Feelings guide me. They inspire, torment, burden, uplift, complicate and validate my existence.

I used to hate my feelings. I was told to resist them. To calm down. To use rationality. To eliminate them. That my feelings were too much. And there was a time when I would have given anything in the world to not have to deal with my emotions.  I just wanted to be apathetic. I wanted to feel what feeling nothing felt like. Yet, I fell asleep every day for months listening to this song.

I rejected myself.

In this everlasting battle between Me and Myself… I am the only one who ever suffers a loss.

Don't be your own worst enemy.

I am my own worst enemy.

It is exhausting, and I am slowly working to get over it. There are too many people in this world trying to tear me down. I refuse to rip myself out from the inside out. I refuse to let other people in this world indulge in that kind of self-hatred. It’s kind of ironic that I’m writing this now. I’ve been on both sides of the confidence spectrum before. I’ve experienced oblivious confidence and innate insecurity. I work every day to stay somewhere in the middle. Maybe one day I’ll be able to indulge in the childhood innocence that once kept me so unabashedly blunt, self-assured and happy.

I was a pretty obnoxious kid. Scratch that, I was ridiculous beyond belief. I distinctly remember feeling mature, strong and beautiful at my kindergarten graduation. My purple dress was killing it. I didn’t walk across the tiny gazebo to get my diploma; I strutted like it was the runway of my existence. I loved being the center of attention that day. In a family of four children, it was always a challenge to get my parents’ full focus.  At that point, I had a six-year-old brother, a two-year-old sister and a newborn baby brother. I became immensely independent.

I went from an obnoxious kid to a self-conscious teen. When I moved out on my own and embraced young adulthood, I developed an eating disorder. I am still dealing with it today, and am not able to talk about it. I haven’t fully confronted it. I barely even admit to my friends that I have an issue, even though they’ve known it for over a year. They’ve tried and failed to get me help. I know I have a problem. I just avoid it. However, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. But I am improving, day by day. And I can say now, after 2 years of struggling, that I now feel happy about my mental state. It may not necessarily be healthy—but it is getting there. And I am finally going to seek help. I think.

Self-hate

I perceive this personal issue as my personal breaking point. It was the climax to my hardships. Everything can only get better from here. My self-perception has already improved. Although I have my moments.

It took me years to get to this point.  A point of quasi-self-confidence. And it has been one ridiculous journey.

Cup of Self Love

Always make yourself a large- and drink it slowly.

There are certain things about myself that I love.

I love my ability to read people. I love that I can make people laugh by talking in circles. I love that I tend to make perfect sense. I love my willingness to admit I am wrong. I love that I love so easily. That I can make people feel comfortable and worthy, merely because I pay attention. I love that I see the good in people.

I love when people notice me, even though I’ve never admitted that to anyone. It is honestly embarrassing. It makes me feel special when someone addresses me by my name. When they look at me as they talk to me. It’s such a weird feeling. It’s like validation—I actually do exist in this world. I am a person who some people can remember. I always feel overlooked and under appreciated  When someone makes it a point to get my attention, I can’t help but get a glimpse of internal pleasure. It makes me feel good, because even it was just for brief seconds or a few minutes…  I mattered to someone. I often feel like I don’t mater.

I love that am honest. It is impossible for me to lie. This may seem preposterous, but I will awkwardly excuse myself from a situation instead of telling a falsehood. I am just not comfortable with it.

I love when I smile, and especially when I can feel that it is coming from within. The sincerity of it. I love the mole next to my eye, and the one next to my nose and the one above my lip. I think they give my ordinary face character. I love my hair. I love my waist. It reminds me of my own femininity.

Fragility

Self-Esteem is fragile. Don’t knock your blocks down.

But I assure you that there are many more things about my self that I hate.

I hate that I need people to notice me in order to feel better about myself. I hate my quick judgments. I hate my lack of assertiveness. I hate that I sell myself short, even when I know I am right. I hate that I can’t focus after someone makes me feel badly. I hate that I get hurt so easily. I hate that I let people take advantage of me. I hate that I am paranoid. I hate that I am so guarded.

I hate how I feel like I am a bad person. Even when I do something good for someone, I always question my motives. Even simple things—like editing someone’s paper, or buying my best friend a keychain for no reason or even helping someone study for a test after their blatant laziness, when they don’t deserve it whatsoever. I hate how sometimes when I do these things; I am consciously trying to prove to myself that I am not a bad person.

I hate that I love people so easily. I hate that I love making people feel good about themselves, but overtly reject the notion of trying to praise myself. I hate that I get upset when people over look me… Even though I overlook myself. I hate how people would respect me if I demanded it. I hate that I don’t feel worthy of demanding it. I hate that I question myself. Altruism doesn’t exist.

I hate that I am the root of most of my problems. That if I applied myself, I would never get anything less than an “A.” That if I wasn’t so mean to myself, people wouldn’t be so mean to me either.

I hate my tiny eyes, and how they get even smaller when I smile. I hate my nose, the scar above my eyebrow and my disproportionate lips. I think they make my face look unbalanced. I hate my muscular legs, arms and body. They all convey a sense of masculinity.

random facts about me

And then there are things about me that are just factual.

I know this because I’ve observed myself. And also because I asked my family and closest friends over the phone to brutally describe how they perceive me as a person (I learned in Research Methods that people are more inclined to be honest over phone interviews).

My father described me with a million different synonyms for the word: motivated (ambitious, determined, strong-willed, strong character etc). He said I was opinionated, bold and confident. That I know what I want and am passionate about how I express myself. He also hesitantly said that I am independent. Independence came early for me. At ten years old, my mother got a full time job. I was forced to make my own lunch and my six-year-old brother’s lunch… As well as walk and pick him up from school. My father entrusted me with this large responsibility. All he did in the morning was get himself ready. I am the oldest daughter, and in my Lebanese father’s eyes—this is not a big deal. My father never talked about me personally. He never said anything about my personality beyond my strength… The strength I inherited from him. I feel like he doesn’t know me. My father doesn’t realize that I am like him in more ways than one. I have his ambition, his strong character (that he once referred to as masculine) and his harshness. I am so hard on myself because my father has always been so harsh towards me. After every soccer game, even when I played phenomenally—there were always areas of improvement… “That one time in the first half you took an extra touch before passing it down line…” I am hard on other people the way I am hard on myself. I am so brutally honest. I sometimes feel like I am watching myself be too honest… I never realized that parents are sometimes unconditionally supportive. My father has always told me I could be better. My father migrated to the United States when he was 20—all the way from Lebanon.  Yet he criticizes me for isolating myself from my family—46.7 miles away from home.

My mother began almost identically to my father.  She told me I am determined, persistent and strong. She said that once I “excel at something, there is no stopping [me].” She said that when I reach a glimpse of my potential, I always want more. She said I am her most independent child. She then went on to say that I am “feisty like a cat,” but then utterly surprised me when she described me emotionally… “You are very sensitive and you always shy away from your feelings. It is extremely hard for you to accept compliments.” My mother doesn’t realize that I can’t accept compliments because she put me down for so long. Our relationship has been rocky to say the least, but I know my mother loves me more than she loves herself. She hates aspects of my personality, because they are the same characteristics that cause her to clash with my father. But my conversation with her made me realize that she actually does somewhat understand me. My mother pays attention. It also made me realize that she probably realizes how much I love her, and how hard it is for me to express that. I wrote her a long letter on Mother’s Day one year expressing my appreciation and telling her how much I love her. I ended it with the sentence: “I never want to talk about this ever. I just wanted you to know how I feel.” And she does. I can’t express how elated I felt hearing her describe me. She knows me. 

Parents

I look at this almost every day to remind myself to appreciate my parents.

My brothers describe me as intellectual, hardworking and “a beautiful young lady who needs to stop being mean to [myself].” They both said that they see me being a successful lawyer one day, and that they admire me. My older brother said that he appreciated me. He said that I am a good, Muslim girl. He said that I am a good athlete. That I have a bright future. He also said that we have a great relationship and that he can always come to me for advice, because he trusts my judgment and knows that I care. For so many years, my brothers would side with my mom in putting me down. They used to tell me that I needed to lose weight and change my attitude. They called me selfish. They blamed me for our parent’s issues. When I was experiencing backlash from both my parents, and all my siblings. It took a toll on me. After several years, my family noticed a change in me. I isolated myself. I was disillusioned. My grades dropped. I just didn’t care about anything. As time went on, I got closer to my older brother, who realized how hard he is on me. For some reason, when he is upset, it tends to be my fault. I am so close to him that he is willing to unleash on me at any given moment. I think my brother is slowly starting to realize how much our family has negatively affected me. He now does everything in his power to compliment me every time I am with him. He is honest with me. Since my brother played semi-professional soccer, it makes me feel amazing when he emphasizes to me that I am a good soccer player… More so, he knows I have had eating issues… And so he is full of positivity and love—a complete and total transformation from the past. I love my brothers. More than they can imagine. They both have the BEST hearts. 

My sister is a nonchalant and care-free person. She doesn’t take anything seriously. When I called her, she was with her best friend (whom I’ve tutored and acted as an older sister to) and immediately asked her for her opinion. They both determined that I was a “strong woman who is very smart.” Honestly, my family thinks I am way smarter than I am. She said, like the others, that I was determined, and had good work ethic. I really don’t though. I mean, I tend to take way too long on basic assignments. She told me I was mature and beautiful and that I know what I want and am willing to work for it. Not true. I have no idea what I want. Lastly, she told me that I was loving and protective. It honestly made my day when my sister told me this. If anybody in the world were to hurt her, or my family, I would be devastated. I often have dreams of bad things happening to my sister. I wake up in the morning in utter and complete shock and devastation. My sister is beautiful and innocent and has such a great heart. Even though she is spoiled, stubborn and unwilling to compromise… She loves people with a sincerity that is rare. She is so confident, and I have always admired that. I love her like she is my young child. I perceive her that way, and sometimes treat her that way. Which is why she takes advantage of me. I often just give in to her to avoid a stupid fight.

I also admit to being extremely jealous of her. This jealousy translated into admiration… but when I was little, that was not the case. I was constantly called the “ugly” daughter. Lebanese men are obsessed with beauty. It hurt me, especially when my immature sister would throw it in my face.  I would try and compete by spending time getting ready with my mother’s beauty products, while my sister was effortlessly adorable. I would thus indulge in various activities that I could excel at. Like reading and playing with my dolls. I stopped competing, because there was no competition. Now that I am older, it still gets to me at times. When I went to Lebanon last summer and saw my father’s friends, who I hadn’t seen in years… They all stared at me in shock. Like I was alien. “I can’t believe it’s you, you are so cute now! You are so pretty. Seriously so attractive. When you were little, oh gosh!” Then they would wait for my reaction… As if I would be thrilled. Like they validated my existence. Like being perceived as beautiful by people was the only thing in the world I cared about. It was sickening. But I have grown more comfortable in my own skin. I also realize that beauty isn’t everything. There is a beauty in me that delves deeper than appearances. The Disney princess I was one obsessed with, Jasmine, may be beautiful and thin, but that is not what generated my interest in her—even as a child. Princess Jasmine stood up for what she believed and didn’t succumb to societal pressures. She is also Arab, stubborn and intelligent. She is the only Disney princess who isn’t obsessed with obtaining a man. When Aladdin lies to her, he is forced to prove his remorse by risking his life for Jasmine and her father. But, let’s be real, men add a dramatic touch that is irresistible. 

Princess Jasmine

The face of my childhood. Come at me.

Speaking of men… My best friend, who I refer to as my fake-boyfriend­ (no he is not gay, we just have a complicated relationship) described me as loyal and loving. He told me, “Your family drives you crazy, but your love for them trumps everything else you feel. It is your defining characteristic. When you love someone, you go out of your way for them. You even sometimes put yourself at a disadvantage to make sure that you are there for them. Your loyalty and love trumps your own desires and wishes in certain situations. You are hard on yourself, but recently, you’ve been reflective. Self-reflective as well as analytical. You’ve turned this harshness into being more reflective and improving yourself… And growing in a good way. You are constantly changing and growing into a more mature and confident person. I think you are becoming more confident at least. But definitely when I think of you, I think of your love and passion.” Yea, he loves me. And he’s biased. He’s also a second-year law student at the University of Southern California. So he is a bit eloquent… Just a tad. He is one of my best friends in this world though. I’ve known him since I was two years old and we have kept in touch, even when he lived in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and D.C. when he went to Georgetown. I hate him, and I love him. I’m actually scared to love him. He pisses me off more than anyone in this world. That is all I have to say about that.

Note to Self

Note to Self

I asked other close friends to describe me as well. After I got off the phone with my fake-boyfriend, I needed less-biased opinions.

Best Friends: “You are a good friend and a good person. You are really hard on yourself in more ways than one. You are very caring, super sensitive and understanding.” I honestly have no words for this. I feel like my friends tell me I am a good person because they know I think that I am not one… “Crazy.”  … “Good listener… You give great advice on situations. You can be a little crazy.  You are probably one of the smartes people I know. You really know how to put a smile on people’s face.” Literally everyone thinks I am way smarter than I am. They confuse eloquence with intelligence and hard work with natural ability. 

Soccer Teammates: “You are a good listener with good vocabulary. Hardworking. Passionate. You are particular and neurotic. You are a great teammate and super supportive. ” I really am neurotic though. I edit papers even after I turn them in. Even though it means nothing anymore. I can endlessly work on a task if you allow me. I am always seeking perfection.

After all of those conversations. I realized that the people I spend most of my time with generally perceive me the same way. It made me feel good about myself. My friends know me. I also realized I have great friends. I am so blessed. I often forget that I even have friends. I am constantly reminded of this, and often think to myself: Wow… I have such great support. My friends are so great. There was a time in high school when I had a large group of friends, but never felt more lonely. I was 15. I began to stop making effort to see my “friends” as much, only to realize that I was the reason why we were friends all along. I thus isolated myself completely and made new friends. I started fresh. The new friends I made that year are still my best friends today. I love them with all my heart. They make me feel worthy and loved, and I only hope that I do the same for them.

Best Friends

Fact: I am passionate about everything.

I love people completely, and I hate people furiously. It goes both ways.

Fact: I am highly insecure.

I forget I have friends. I sometimes feel like I don’t deserve my friends because I can have negative thoughts about people.

Fact: I am a very guilty person.

I think about past mistakes, even years later. I can’t handle the feeling of knowing I caused someone pain. I also am quick to hate people, like fully, with every fiber of my being. Then I get to know them, and I see the good in them. It’s in my nature to love. So I start to sincerely love them. Then I feel so guilty for ever judging them. I need to realize that it is okay for me to make judgments… it is natural. I must applaud myself for being able to change my judgments. Not everyone is so open-minded.

Fact: I love when people love me.

Talking to people who love me about my characteristics made me feel worthy and wonderful. I love that when I asked my friends to be brutally honest with me about how they perceived me… They mostly had good things to say. The bad things are mostly things that I have to actively work to change. But I’ve accepted that.

Fact: I am so very blessed.

I am alive and I am free. My life isn’t perfect, but it’s good. I am so thankful for the people around me. The wonderful people who give me strength and keep me going. All of my past difficulties merely shape me into the person I am now. I am so strong. I feel strong. But mostly, I feel empowered and ready to take on new challenges, and embrace the future.

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I am confident that I know myself.
I grew up in a sheltered and conservative Arab-American bubble. I believe that relationships bring happiness. I love people more than they love me. I am sensitive like both of my parents. I am harsh because of my father. I am out-of-control because of my mother. I enjoy education because it provided an outlet for me to escape the comparisons to my sister. I read so much to have an excuse to be alone. I played soccer to please my father. I play soccer because I am good at it. I need to remember that I am a good player. I generally can accomplish anything I set my mind to. As long as I apply myself, I usually come out with a good end result. I usually don’t apply myself. I am easily disillusioned because negative feelings, like positive feelings, can overpower me. I may procrastinate, but I always come through in the end. That is how I am. It takes me forever to warm up to people because I am scared that they will reject me. I am so fearful of rejection. I avoid relationships, because my parents’ relationship is less than spectacular. My parents were too hard on me. They expected too much. I am never satisfied with myself. I am always looking to improve. I could write about this for hours.

I am strong. I am weak.

And I have an eating disorder. I don’t say this out loud. I bury all my emotions within. I don’t ever actively seek out my friends for advice on how I feel. I am too hard on myself. I don’t think people will care to hear me. I am also so accustomed to relying on myself.

I am going to become the person I used to be—the person I am meant to be. The obliviously confident girl from my past. She was great. She told people how she felt all the time. She felt good about herself. I feel great right now. Writing is always so liberating.

I am emotional. I have feelings. But I have learned to balance this with rationality. I need to let myself feel, and express how I feel. Just like old times.

Acceptance.

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Dear Girl of my past: Don’t reject your feelings. To reject feeling would be to reject the one part of you that makes you most beautiful. The ability to read people and their intentions. To lift someone up when they’re sad. To give advice to your closest friends. To identify with people around the world. To understand and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. All of these things that make me who I am. Thank you for getting through everything your family put you through. Thank you for suffering. Hardship leads to happiness. Believe me, I am getting the feeling back. The feeling that makes me want to better this world.  I want to connect to people who have felt as terrible as I have. Because feeling is what makes us human.

Feelings keep me alive as I live. They’re here to stay.

All I want to do in life is write and inspire those people who are struggling with the same stuff that dragged me down for TOO long. Trust me when I tell you that self-hatred gets you nowhere. It dragged me lower than I could ever have imagined myself. It amplified uneasy situations. Nothing good can come from it. It’s not worth it.

Life gets better. I promise.

To the world, I only have one thing to say: Be you and BE PROUD.

Today, I choose to be nothing but myself. And I feel pretty good about it.

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Life Lessons from Dr. Suess

Dr. Suess was one of my favorite authors as a kid.

My favorite childhood show & Hilary Duff, my favorite actress.

My favorite childhood show describing my middle school experience perfectly & Hilary Duff, my favorite actress.

The forever wise Dumbledore.

Life Lessons from Harry Potter.

Elizabeth Bennet- my alter ego and the epitome of who I was for most of High School.

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice- The epitome of who I was in High School.

My favorite quote today

My favorite quote today

 

If you ever feel down:  Who’s the cutest?

 

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Chris McCandless (or Alexander Supertramp) in a self-portrait he took of himself next to the school bus he took refuge in.

Passage highlighted in one of the books found with Chris McCandless’s remains: “I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love. I felt in myself a superabundance of energy which I found no outlet in our quiet life.” –Leo Tolstoy, Family Happiness (Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer, 15)

Chris McCandless, the man whose story forms the premise of the novel Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, and otherwise known by his preferred name—Alexander Supertramp, kind of reminds me of myself… I know that’s kind of scary.

But I strongly sympathize with Alex.

Alex was a young man who just graduated from Emory University and desperately wanted to find meaning in his life. He was passionate beyond measure and overtly intelligent (his intelligence isn’t a characteristic I associate with myself).  He entertained his time reading profound novels and living a simple lifestyle. Yes, he took his passion and frustrations to a major extreme by deciding to venture off into the wilderness in an attempt to reject society. Yet despite all of his outrageous actions, I wholeheartedly believe his frustrations with society were legitimate.

Because I am similarly disappointed on a daily basis.

Within the first twenty pages of the novel, it is revealed that Alex died. (Reading about his death overcame me with immense and immediate sadness.) He was found in an abandoned school bus where his remains caused an “overpowering odor of decay” (Krakauer, 12). After discovery, it became evident that Chris McCandless had been dead for two and a half weeks. “The body was taken to Anchorage, where an autopsy was performed at the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory… At the time of the autopsy, McCandless’s remains weighed sixty-seven pounds. Starvation was posited as the most probably cause of death” (Krakauer, 14). Ironically, Alex donated all the money in his college fund prior to his departure to OCFAM America—a charity dedicated to fighting hunger.

But society needs to know you are starving in order to help you.

Since it is revealed early on that Alex did not survive his ventures, it is evident that the meaning of the novel lies is in his story and the lesson in his experiences. Alex hated society, yet every time he nearly died, he sought out society for essential assistance. He worked for money and often was taken care of by kind citizens of the world he rejected. He was fed, clothed and housed on more than one occasion. His ultimate end happened because he finally isolated himself completely.

He did seek out society’s help right before his death however.

The letter found on the bus when Chris’s remains were discovered.

Although I understand the book thematically, I learned more from Alex as a person than I did from the emphasis placed on the importance of society. Alex was seriously disillusioned. “Westerberg reflects, ‘He read a lot. Used a lot of big words. I think maybe part of what got him into trouble was that he did too much thinking. Sometimes he tried too hard to make sense of the world, to figure out why people were bad to each other so often’” (Krakauer, 18). Alex could not accept human nature. That he was merely one person who must focus on his own positivity rather than the world’s shortcomings. He understood the messages seeping from the pages of his favorite novels incorrectly, and used his misinterpretation as motivational fuel for his ventures. Alex was overwhelmed by the inevitable problems in a society maintained by imperfect individuals. Alex channeled his passionate nature into a selfish venture that caused his family distress and sadness for those who cared for him along the way. Rather than use his passion as an opportunity to make a difference, he rejected civilization and died too young.

Alex was merely young and confused. He was ironically described as “extremely ethical” (Krakauer, 18). Yet he took existentialism to an extreme. “He had pretty high standards for himself” (Krakauer, 18). He needed to merely find himself. He instead lost his life and never got the chance to live up to his own expectations.

In the end it is Jon Krakauer who uses Chris McCandless’s tragic story to positively influence society.

Alex teaches me to always have faith. In myself. And in society. Disillusionment is dangerous if it is overly focused on. I need to ensure my passion is not unfortunately wasted. Political Science may be a frustrating major, and people may prove disappointing through their contemporary and historical actions, but there is always hope. I may not be able to change the world in its entirety, but I can work my entire life to positively affect those I have the pleasure to encounter.

It is my goal to work in the Peace Core sometime after graduation.

“It may, after all, be the bad habits of creative talents to invest themselves in pathological extremes that yield remarkable insights but no durable way of life for those who cannot translate their psychic wounds into significant art or thought.”-Theodore Roszak, In Search of the Miraculous (Krakauer, 70)

The Calm After a Storm

I think I’m prettiest when I’m sad. I think my eyes are most sincere when they shine with tears. Tears are honest. They are cleansing. Tears are apart of me. Every tear I’ve shed in my life has gradually formed a pond at my feet. A pond I thought evaporated. As time went on though, the tears would come back. Not new tears. These were old tears. Recycled tears . Familiar tears… That never fully went away. That didn’t get the pleasure of release. Sometimes they find their escape now. In moments when I least expect it.

In moments I believe I am most happy.

My tears are sincere. Especially when I’m alone. These are the moments I have no one to face but myself. It’s personal surrender. A concession to previously repressed feelings. I have no reason to question whether or not they are just pretend. Whether or not I am seeking attention. These are the times when I sit back and reflect. I listen to songs, mindlessly busy myself with easy tasks and doze off. These are the times when I am susceptible to waves of reminiscence.

Shock waves.

Waves of memories that are still alive. Living through me. Inhospitably inhabiting my body. I am the victim. A mere host of the past person I wholeheartedly disregard. The girl I leave behind.

Every day I try to forget that girl. The girl who feels pain with every fiber of her being. The one who refuses to acknowledge it. The girl who wholeheartedly loves her mother. The one who can no longer express emotion comfortably to her. The girl whose family is broken. The one whose sadness is so prevalent, that each memory causes a slight reverberation so deep within her, that often, all it takes is a slight aversion of the eyes to miss it.

The moment of her ache.

The moment she unwillingly tears into the scars on her soul.

Then come the tears from my past. The memories are recurring. They exist to teach, dictate and torment my life. They engross me. I didn’t realize that these moments would all come back to me. The moments—now so real—would be relived.

Scattered.

I am six years old. The girl is sitting on the floor in the front of an unnecessarily large beige Chevy Van her dad brought home one day against her mother’s will. She is staring forward at the black shiny pavement. At the soundless twinkles of water slightly sprinkling the street against the headlights. The parents do not force the child to sit down properly and buckle up. They are caught up in their own dispute. She sits in between them. I will remain in between them for the rest of my life. The young girl doesn’t fully grasp the premise of the argument. Yet, she understands that the words carry a heavy load. They are cognizant of past disputes. My father held grudges against my mother because of past events that were completely out of her control.  The little girl’s tears start slowly at first. They are silent. Always silent. Even then, I tried to hide my sensitivity. My parents are going to get a divorce she thinks to herself. Her mother, noticing her tears, asks what is wrong. With a quivering voice, the girl articulates her fears. The Mother assures the girl that everything is fine. My mom used to be my source of comfort.

She felt the tension. I feel the hurt. She was a child with grown intuition and mature concerns. I am an adult with a childish desire for familial stability and unconditional support.

I am seven years old. The girl sits in her room, playing with her dolls. Her thoughts are consumed with the shouts she hears from the other side of the house. I eventually learn to tune sound out. I develop an uncanny ability to read in any noise-infused situation. She tries to preoccupy her mind, fixating on the house she has just built for her large Barbie collection. Then, comes silence. She knows something is wrong. She walks across the large house to find her mother bent over the washing machine. Her mom is crying. Her mommie—the one she loves with all her heart and soul. My mother was doing my father’s laundry as she cried over him. She loves him so much. In times of stress, my mother always resorted to what she knew—cleaning messes she made. The mother couldn’t fix her character over night, but she could fix every thing else in the house. My father has never been realistic. He expected perfection from a woman who raised herself and her little brother on her own. These are things I didn’t discover until much later on. The little girl would soon unravel the mystery of her mom’s past. She would learn the reasons for her mom’s personality traits, obsessive protective nature and intense discretion. The girl was obsessed with learning about her mom.

She knew there were secrets. I know why my mother tried so hard to keep them. The Father demanded perfection. More information was fuel for his harsh criticism.

I am five years old. The girl tells her mother, “Mommy, if you die, I’m dying with you. I never want to live in this world without you.” The mother has the best heart of anyone in this world. It’s hard for me to go back into the state of adoration I once felt for my mother. My mother was so loving and compassionate. I would lie in her arms just so she could tell me how much she loved me as she caressed my hair. It almost makes me uncomfortable to think about that now. So much has changed. The girl loves people with an extraordinary passion. I work to contain my passion every day. The girl is intense, dramatic and sensitive. I sometimes lie down and cry at the thought of losing those whom I love. She is too young for such complicated thoughts. I hope I die before everyone I love.

I am six years old. The girl holds onto her mother’s apron and follows her around the kitchen as she makes dinner for the family. I can remember wanting nothing but to protect my mother and offer her the support I thought she lacked. The girl never wants to be separated from her mother. Her father made her mother cry. He yells at her mother for her and her sibling’s shortcomings. My father never realized that we were children. We were bound to make mistakes. He never taught us how to fix our faults—he merely verbally ripped apart my mother. I am too scared to make a mistake today. I strive for perfection in all that I do. The Mother does nothing but tirelessly care for the girl and her siblings. She clothes them, feeds them and unconditionally loves them. My mother had no life outside of my family. She was the best mom anyone could ask for. She got so caught up in being a mom, and so afraid to displease my father, that she eventually forgot how to be a wife. My mother let go of herself. She never looked presentable—sweats, too large shirts and no-makeup were her daily attire. She didn’t even discover she had a thyroid issue (explaining her rapid weight gain) because she wouldn’t even make time for personal doctor check-ups.

The little girl only saw her mother’s side. Her mother’s tears.

I am nine years old. It is the girl’s birthday. Her parents got in a severe argument a couple days before. She yelled at her father for being so harsh with her mother. For being so menacing. My father was overreacting. I actually feared my father would hurt my mother. She is brave. She stands in the asphalt driveway of their little home. Facing her father. She needs lunch money, but he hasn’t spoken to her in days. He hands her a mere four dollars and tells her, “You’re not my daughter anymore. I am no longer giving you anything beyond what you need. This is for food. So I’ll give you that.” My father never treated me like a child. He never realized my childish fear of seeing my parent’s fight so aggressively. He was immature. All he saw was that I took my mother’s side. She is momentarily frozen. But she is young, so she takes the money.

She cries to herself later. I cry a little writing this now.

I am 10 years old. The girl’s mother brings her a blue coveted stationary she laid eyes on weeks before. The mother tells her that she’s earned it because of her grades and good behavior. I feel so disconnected from my previous joy now because my mother was responsible for that joy. The girl is thrilled. She counts on her mother. She is appreciative.

I can’t appreciate my mother when I’m around her.

I can’t quite grasp when it all changed. I can’t recall when my unconditional devotion to my mother transformed into a petty disdain.

I remember constant fighting. I remember being insulted and feeling inadequate. I remember being called fat. I remember being blunt and confident and ruthless. I had to be ruthless in order to maintain sanity. I remember shutting myself in my room to tune her voice out. The voice that had nothing positive to say about me. That hated me—what I became. That did it’s best to try and tear me down in an attempt to regain control of me. To break my stubborn spirit.

The spirit I inhabited from both my parents.

I remember my mother’s relentless screech—like nails on a chalkboard. I get goose bumps thinking about this now.

I am 12 years old. The girl is outside in the dark talking to her friend on the phone. “She called me fat…” The little girl will later develop an eating disorder. “She called me a bitch…” I think I’m a terribly mean person.  “She told me she hated me…” I have trouble accepting love from anyone. These petty insults continue to take a toll on me today. Her mother screams at the girl from inside the house to stop telling “the world their business.” Her mother is embarrassed of her own imperfection. My mother always tries to make her world appear perfect. It’s not perfect and her mother is not perfect. The girl is hurt. Her mother is hateful, mean and antagonizing. My mother was so mean because my father was so mean to her. My mother was so mean because she missed her little companion. My mother didn’t understand what went wrong. The girl hates her mother.

I love my mother.

I am 13 years old. The girl is talking to her father. He tells her he admires her work ethic, intelligence and strength. She is different from her three siblings. She is like him. He emphasizes that the girl must do everything in her power to avoid becoming like her mother. She has too much potential. This is around the time my adoration for my mother became abhorrence. My mother constantly put me down.  She became the epitome of what I didn’t want to become. The girl listens intently and nods in a naïve desire to be accepted. All she wants is her father’s approval. All I ever want is my father’s approval.

Even now that I realize his antagonist nature—all I want is for him to be proud of me. Even now that I understand what my mom went through—I cannot perceive her the same way.

The girl is so deeply hurt. I am so thoroughly damaged.

I am 14 years old. The girl is cornered in a small bathroom as her mother slaps her repeatedly in a feeble attempt to earn her respect. The mother was furious. She was earnestly trying to discipline her child. The only way she knew how. I couldn’t value my mother anymore. I couldn’t trust the person hitting me. The girl is psychologically suffering more than anything. The Mother is frustrated. She doesn’t understand why the girl is so obnoxious. If I listened to my mother, I would be accepting all that she said about me. The girl is stubborn. She doesn’t back down. She continues to scream. Eventually, she runs. I continue to run. The girl becomes vile. The girl tells her mother “If you died, I wouldn’t care. I hate you.” I feel tainted by the arguments I had with my mother. The girl sincerely believes that she no longer loves her mother. She cries all the time for fear of her mother dying with their issues remaining unresolved.  I carry that same fear with me today.

Emotional baggage.

The girl couldn’t believe the things she dared say to her mother. I merely repeated things my father said.

I hate writing about this. I feel like a complainer. I know the world isn’t perfect… But the young girl knows that her family’s disputes are not healthy. I know parents shouldn’t fight the way mine did.

Ruthlessly.

Especially not in front of their children. It was insensitive. They were selfish.

I am 15 years old. The girl’s parents are screaming at each other. It is different this time. The mother is literally in her father’s face. She is aggressively threatening him to “hit me, HIT ME.” The father makes feeble efforts to back away, but his patience is being tested, his masculinity is being challenged. My mother has no sisters; her three brothers constantly treated her like a boy. The father finally stepped up to retaliate. The girl looked at her older brother and they both stepped in between them to mediate. I calmed my father down as my brother told my mom to “shut up!” I legitimately feared a brawl. The parents were animalistic. I now realize why my siblings and I used to fight so aggressively. The apples don’t fall far from the tree.

The girl’s mother was broken. My mother had changed. Years of criticism and harsh disapproval from my father—the husband she loved deeply—had taken a toll on her.  The mother doesn’t even object when the father says he’s moving out. The mother grows more insecure. Every prominent male in her life rejected her. My grandfather literally abandoned her. My father emotionally abandoned her.

I am 16 years old. The girl’s father vents about her mother, once again, during the seven-minute drive to her school. It is 7:35 in the morning. He has no filter. I was my father’s sole confidante. My father has no family in the United States—he migrated here all alone from Lebanon when he was 20 years old. I am 20 years old now. I can’t imagine leaving everything I know to pursue a better life for my future family and myself. The father talks about his lack of sexual satisfaction, his lack of attraction to the girl’s mother, his disappointment in his life, his regret of their marriage, her mother’s weight, his hate for the Mother’s family, her unmotivated character, his utter hatred of the mother, and even, his anger with the mother for getting pregnant during their first year of marriage. My father never loved my mother. The girl questioned whether her father loved his children—their mother existed in them. He tells the girl that she must remember that the Mother is not completely bad—she is still her mother. The girl needs to try and respect her. I can’t help but think of the irony. I can’t help but sympathize with myself for my growing disrespect towards my mother. I was constantly being manipulated.

My mother never once talked negatively about my father. It is his fault I was involved. I struggle because I know how great of a person my father is. He is generous, sensitive and loving. He is just wrong for my mother. They both bring out the worst in each other.

My Father didn’t comprehend that the life he built with my Mother is the definition of my existence. The Mother’s family is the girl’s family. The Mother is apart of her. The girl cannot fathom that anyone could feel that amount of hate. The teenager exits the vehicle and slowly walks down the hallway of her large high school. She makes her way to her favorite teacher’s classroom. She sits down. And cries. She never stops crying. My tears are always internally there, beneath the surface.

She, like her mother, slowly begins to break down.

Deterioration.

I am 16 years old. The girl has changed. There is a prevalent sadness. She understands that her parents can’t love each other. She is dealing with the pressures of advanced placement classes, club soccer and the daily hardships of being an awkward teenage-girl. She is also singlehandedly carrying the weight of her mother’s failures and Father’s unhappiness on her shoulders. She is powerless. She is unhappy. She wants her parents to divorce. She wants to stop fighting so much with her mother. She stops listening to her father. She tells him she doesn’t want to hear his complaints anymore. This is when I lost both my parents. My father took my plea to be neutral as deception. My relationship with my mother was destroyed beyond repair.

Disillusionment.

She lacked support from both of her parents. I crave their affection but shudder at the thought of vulnerability.

I am 16 years old. The cops come to the girl’s house. She overtly denies any familial problems. My father threw me against the wall a week before. The cops tell the girl’s parents that she needs intensive therapy. My mother encouraged him. The girl needed to be disciplined. She needed to learn respect. “There is something wrong with your daughter.”

There is something wrong with me.

I am emotionally compromised. My parents verbally abused me to make themselves feel better about their own lives. My mom swore at me and called me fat, terrible, evil, sick… I once cried so fiercely after being locked in my room that I broke a snow globe in the midst of it all. I don’t even remember how it broke. Everything that happened in the house was my fault according to my mother. My siblings blamed me for my parent’s problems. Even family-friends recognized her harshness towards me. My mother would hit me, but I could never retaliate. She was the Mother, and that was just wrong. So I would respond with words. I would say what was on my mind. My father merely compared me to my mother—the worst insult in his book.

I don’t feel like anything I write on this matter is worthy of being read. I don’t feel like I have a right to be heard. I don’t value myself. I never think anything I do is good enough. I am afraid of commitment. I don’t believe in love. I don’t think I am attractive. I am insecure about everything. I ask my friends constantly if they still love me. I push people away. I secretly want them to fight to stay apart of my life. I isolate myself from my family. They talk about how they will never understand me. I am too afraid to open up to my family for fear of being misunderstood.

I am 17 years old. The girl buys her own prom dress because her Mom refuses to take her shopping for it. I secretly envy my younger sister whom my mother adores. My mother bought my sister’s dress. My mother realized she was treating her children unequally, but she, like me, was too hurt to try and make it right.

I am 17 years old. The girl is still wearing her cardinal cap and gown as she greets her family after the ceremony. The girl’s mother looks at her with a melancholy that delves deeper than watching her eldest daughter grow up. There is regret, fear and uncertainty in the Mother’s eyes. The mother stopped hitting the girl a while ago. The girl agrees to take a picture with her. I was not sad to see my mother’s pain. I was too hurt from her constant neglect and intentional insults. She needs her mother. I need a mother.

I know my mother loves me. I don’t know how to let her love me.

I am 18 years old.  The girl has left home. She never calls her family. The girl misses her mother. The girl goes home to visit but continuously argues with both her parents. She accepts that nothing will ever change. I love my mother, but hate her actions.

I love my father, but hate how he treated my mother. I hate that he ruined our relationship. I hate that I am so much like him. I am just as cruel. I am just as sensitive. I am just as critical.

I always make a little effort to improve my familial relationships. But my tolerance for pain is so low, that I can’t let myself be vulnerable for too long. I quickly get hurt, which translates into anger. All I reveal is anger.

I am 19 years old. It is the night before the girl’s birthday. The family is having cake at a restaurant. The girl’s mother tells her she is proud of her. She dismisses the compliment. The family criticizes the girl’s insensitivity. As if I could ever be apathetic. The family asks the girl, “Why do you isolate yourself from us?” The girl attempts to explain herself for the first time in her life. I am hurt. She takes a deep breath and looks at her parents, “Your problems took the greatest toll on me. You dragged me in the middle. My relationship with both of you changed. I think we need family therapy. There are so many unresolved issues between us all. We need to talk about it with an unbiased mediator. Only then can we move forward and become a strong family. I know we love each other. But we have communication issues.” The waiter awkwardly approaches the table. Silence. The girl’s younger brother is the only one who sympathizes with her. I often forget that my little brother lived through all of this too. He was so young. It sickens me to think of the pain he must have felt.  He was forced to grow up so fast. My father vented to him after I refused to listen…. The rest of the girl’s family disregards her suggestion. Therapy is outrageous—“Do you think we’re some wealthy white family? Therapy doesn’t help anyone. You are so unappreciative of our family. You are not the only one who suffered.”  The girl has no words. She gets upset and angrily responds, “just take me back to school.”

The girl cries for hours that night. I shut my entire family out. I make effort to open up, but I am dismissed. I can’t figure out how to communicate with my mother. I can’t prevent myself from getting angry with her.  I lose control of myself when I’m around her. I see the hurt in her eyes when I yell at her. When I dismiss her. But I can’t stop. It’s like I am watching myself shut her out. I need her. I have so much of my Father in me that it scares her. I am the epitome of what has hurt her. I frighten her.

I begin to understand her.

My grandfather abandoned my mother when she was young. My grandmother was a less-than-spectacular example of cleanliness and organization—things my father values. My mother was forced to raise herself as my grandmother took several shifts in hopes to support her four children on her own. My mother’s grandfather committed suicide. Her older brother had a child when he was 15 years old. Someone close to the family raped my mother’s niece. I even question whether my own mother was sexually abused. My mother’s other brother abused drugs.

My mother knew nothing but chaos. My father knew nothing but order. His mom catered to him. He grew up in humble circumstances. My mother was wasteful. She spoiled us because no one ever spoiled her as a child. My grandmother had several unsuccessful marriages. My mom never knew what a relationship consisted of.  My father was used to the women always conceding. My mom was a strong Mexican woman taught to never back down. This is the same tenacity that prevented my grandmother from having a successful marriage. Pride was more important than peace.

It was a recipe for disaster.

It ultimately destroyed my mother. It destroyed our relationship. That is the greatest tragedy. I remember loving her as a child. I can’t deal with her now. I am so angry and hurt. I alienate myself. I never talk fully about this. Personal realizations come in short spurts during intimate conversations with close friends. They are always sudden and quick.

My friends are always shocked. They give me a look of genuine affection. They understand me a little more. They love me. And it makes me uncomfortable.

I quickly work to repress the memory afterwards.

There is so much more. So many more details I cannot begin to explain. I am tired. So tired of it all. I can’t come to terms with my past—even through writing. This is all I have so far. These are the moments I can remember. I subconsciously work to understand myself in relation to my parents and their terrible relationship, even now, when they claim everything is better. I will never accept that they are back together. I cannot grasp the idea of my parents maintaining a marriage. I will always doubt the sincerity behind my father’s decision to stay with my mother. It was obligation.

I know too much.

I am 17 years old. The girl repeatedly defended her father after the Mother accused him of adultery. My friend later told me that she saw my Dad at the movies kissing an unfamiliar woman. My friend had no reason to lie—she thought my parents had separated. The girl’s siblings have no idea this happened. I no longer know how to perceive trust. Everything I believed was shattered that day. I have commitment issues.

No matter how hard I may try to deny it… I am the girl. And I am sad. So deeply saddened. I am incredibly hurt.

That’s the thing. The fundamental problem in my relationship with my mother. I can’t forget my past. I can’t open up to my mother in the same way I did before. No matter how hard my mother tries to make it right, I am just not ready.

There is too much guilt. I am too ashamed.

I miss my mother.  I miss our relationship. I tell myself never to look back. I am looking forward. But the girl from my memory is vying for attention. She is telling me to be cautious and avoid vulnerability. She reminds me of the disputes.  She reminds me of my pain. I ache for that girl. I remember her so vividly it hurts.

Sometimes I have to close my eyes to forget. To see the black-nothingness. To regain composure.

A momentary sting of sorrow—then it’s gone.

I am 20 years old. I remember myself at the lowest of lows. At the most pathetic, pitiful and heart wrenching moments. When she was cuddled into herself in fetal position with no desire to live on. Wishing only to fall downwards and spiral and become apart of the earth. To evaporate into nothing. To become air, or mist or transparent. I had to feel the complete depths of sorrow to know true happiness. To enjoy happiness. To be happy.

Only then did I appreciate my past. I was raised by both of my parents. They did the best they could. I have a home, a hot meal every day and the comfort of a bed. I feel liberated and strong. I am blessed. The girl got through the worst time of her life in order to reach this moment of bliss. She has grown. She has merely had a productive lesson. She is better because of it.

She is me. I am she. And you are me

We are all facing the perils of life. Rather than bring another person down, lift them up. No one understands what someone else is going through. I’ve never fully explained myself to anyone.

Let’s try and love one another.

I do my best to make everyone around me feel as fantastic as they are. I do not hesitate to give compliments. I don’t care if they are excessive. My compliment could just make their day. My affection could provide a glimpse of happiness. I remember how the girl once felt, and I never want anybody to feel like her. Lonely. No one deserves that kind of pain. We are all suffering in silence.

The girl looks towards her future and I find that she is facing me. There is strength in each of her tears. Signs of renewal and recuperation. I see a beauty in her that she doesn’t yet see in herself. We are opposite one another. I am smiling.

And she is proud of me.

I am confident that one day I will make things right with my mother. For the first time, I am hopeful. The story is not finished.

At least for today, I have no more tears. This was therapeutic.

Film Adaptation of The Lover

I’ve been obsessed with reading for as long as I can remember.

When I was 9, I devoured all four available Harry Potter books in a week. On one occasion, I left my book in my desk at school, and was distraught as soon I realized it. I begged my Dad to drive me back to school where I persuaded a janitor to open my classroom for me so I could retrieve my literary treasure. I was even convinced that on my 11th birthday an Owl would come flying through my window with a letter that would confirm my destiny of becoming a witch and attending Hogwarts. I was devastated when I realized I was a muggle. I’m convinced the wizarding world does exist under wraps. It’s all a huge conspiracy that our government works daily to cover-up. (Okay, okay… so I don’t believe that anymore.)

I’m a little bit of a nerd.

J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” was my favorite book when I was ten. Bilbo Baggins fascinated me and Gandalf was always just so insightful. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” motivated me to make up secret languages with my best friends in middle school. I had hoped my friendships would last the test of time—like Bridget, Lena, Tibby and Carmen’s did. I even admit to reading “Twilight.” Judge me.

Name a book, I’ve probably read it.

The Hunger Games.” “Romeo and Juliet.” “The Chronicles of Narnia.” “Fahrenheit 451.” “The Scarlet Letter.” “Of Mice and Men.”  “Charlotte’s Web.” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” “Holes.” “Speak.” The list goes on.

Adding to my collection more recently is “The Lover” by Marguerite Duras.

All these books previously mentioned have since been turned into films. (The Hobbit comes out this December. I am stoked!) It’s a pretty common occurrence. It seems that producers and directors run out of ideas, so they turn to books. Or simply, that books are able to capture the world in a unique light that only well written stories can elucidate. These stories are beautifully presented. Directors feel that film adaptations work because they are translating their personal interpretation into a visual artistic piece. A book-turned-film is ultimately a subjective interpretation of a beautifully written novel.

Jean-Jacques Annaud—director of the film, The Lover—attempted to do just that.

After reading the novel, I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the classroom to watch the film–adaptation. Maybe because I’m a 20-year-old female… But I wasn’t embarrassed reading the novel to myself at all. I didn’t think the sex was graphically described—there was so much self-reflection interwoven within the book as well.  The past recollections and present realizations are what stood out most to me. I think that’s why I was so shocked when I sat watching the film.

Jean-Jacques Annaud was obviously more intrigued by the sex.

The film was so heavily exploited sexually that it seriously overwhelmed me. I think I’m honestly just not mature enough to watch such graphic scenes in a classroom setting. (Yes, go ahead and laugh at me.) There are just so many other aspects of “The Lover,” besides the sex, that make it such a successful book. (Her personal reflection on her inadequacy, desire for love, guilt from colonialism, sadness about her familial situation…) I mean, Playboy Magazine is one of the critiques included in The Lover’s film trailer. I think that pretty much validates the tremendous sex.

Isn’t it just charming?

The film was depicted in a linear fashion with voice-over narration from an older woman reflecting on these events from her past whereas the novel is written in a stream of consciousness style. I don’t think there was any other way the film could have been made without completely confusing the audience. Her growing maturity and personal identity development was obviously more clearly presented in the novel, but otherwise, the themes of the film could be realized if one looked beyond the sex and searched for them. The film purposely tries to appeal to both men and females by adding the graphic relationship and the emotional development. I think certain people could read the book though and be overwhelmed by the movie (Like me).

Despite this, I did appreciate the non-sexual scenes adapted from the book into the film. I thought they were done extremely well. The scene where the young Duras fights with her brother at the dinner table, the family dinner with the China Man at the restaurant and the last scene where she completely breaks down all resonated deeply with me.

The cast consisted of incredibly attractive people with outrageous bodies whereas Duras described the “little white whore” as plain and the “China man” as feminine. Annaud clearly wanted to ensure the film would be appealing.

I do recommend reading the book before you watch the film though. I believe the film is an accessory and can’t necessarily stand on its own. It doesn’t do the book justice. There are other books-turned-films like “Memoirs of a Geisha” where I thoroughly enjoyed both the novel and the film separately and collectively. Directors who realize that films are a visual medium that simply cannot encompass every last detail of a novel accomplish these successful films.

People must ultimately realize that a novel and a film are completely and utterly different. If you demand an exact replica, you are doomed for disappointment. (Been there, done that!) I approach novel-films with realistic expectations, and am rarely disappointed. My relationship with a film does not compare whatsoever to my relationship with a book. I expect less out of the film. My favorite books have supported me through childhood woes of happiness and heartache. I have grown attached to them.  They were my private sanctuaries and mediums of escape. Even though I am a Film Studies minor, films are less personal for me. I watch them for entertainment, and I admire them for their visual and artistic representations.

Annaud definitely made sure the sex was both visual and artistic in The Lover. I could go as far to say that I didn’t completely hate the film. It wasn’t bad by any means. In fact, the film was intriguing. I probably wouldn’t watch it ever again—but that’s because of my blatant sexual immaturity.

Books are special. Films based on books are rarely able to fully capture their essence.

I accept film adaptations for what they are. And I accept The Lover for all that it is.

I’ll definitely remember it.

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

I love reminiscing.

There is a certain comfort in knowing that a situation has passed, that it has finished and that absolutely nothing in the world can change the events.

Reminiscing provides the mind with immeasurable power.

I am my own ultimate authority. I can relive a moment as often as I want with any modifications I may choose to employ. There are no limits—everything is subject to my imaginative retrievals. Reminiscing is the most magical human capability. It is the key to accessing human memory.

Memory is manipulative.

Through memory, I can enjoy an outside perspective on my life. I like this external position. I like watching things unravel. I love getting lost in my thoughts. Even more so, I love getting lost in other people’s thoughts. Especially when their thoughts spark personal revelations of my own.

The randomized stream of consciousness of Marguerite Duras’ writing within the first half of The Lover directly reflects life’s recollections. In hindsight, nothing is chronological. Duras’ complex representation of self-perception and the continuous change in point-of-view causes me to reflect on my own similar tendencies. Every event in my life played a role in shaping my character. I controlled the decisions, behavior and actions that collectively preoccupy my memory.

Memory isn’t always tangible.

I tend to bury unfavorable memories deep within. I choose not to access these select events. After all, “it’s over, I don’t remember.” I choose not to remember. Yet, “that’s why I can write about it so easily now, so long, so fully” (Duras, 32). I often have trouble remembering past feelings and thoughts until I collect myself enough to focus. To write about it. Through this outlet, there are no hideouts. I am defenseless against these revelations.

Writing can be daunting. It forces me to deal with emotional repercussions of past events. I am forced to dissect the truth from my memory. Truth is a rarity that seeps through my writing. Truth is personally unavoidable. My mind doesn’t allow me to lie. I am forced to confront reality within the confinement of my torturous psyche.

I can’t lie about my feelings for The Lover. I can’t even express them eloquently. I think I lovingly hate Duras right now. Actually, I think I’m angry with Duras.

Duras evokes strong emotions in her writing.  Even if I don’t always enjoy the complex descriptions, I am able to identify with the emotional outlook. I’m pretty emotionally aware. In fact, I’m pretty emotional right now. Duras caused me to think about my family, my relationship with my parents and my personal growth. My life is flashing before my eyes right now. It’s stressing me out.

I am able to identify with the use of the third-person point-of-view. I often narrate my own life in third person. I also identify with the constant reflection. I have trouble living in the moment because I am constantly reflecting.

I am able to identify with specific descriptions. I was always inquisitive and over-analytical. I’ve always been too old for my age. I was able to apply the following quote to my own life by replacing sadness with maturity. “I say I’ve always been [mature]. That I can see the same [maturity] in photos of myself when I was small. That today, recognizing it as the [maturity] I’ve always had, I could almost call it by my own name, it’s so like me” (Duras, 44-45). It’s my defining characteristic. Moreover, I often feel most alone in large groups—“alone and in the crowd, never alone even by themselves, always alone even in the crowd” (47). My life is a series of contradictions. I’ve accepted it.

But I can’t seem to accept this novel.

After all of this random reflection, I realized that I’m all over the place. Just like the novel. I was temporarily inspired, and now, I’m just especially frustrated. Thank you, Marguerite Duras. I had this entire idea of what I learned from the novel thus far, until I questioned whether it was fiction or non-fiction. This threw my idea of memory retrieval out of whack, because I’m uncertain if these are real memories being retrieved. Each website I look at tells me something different. Another blogger even coined the term autofiction to describe it. It is fiction with autobiographical aspects. It is semi-autobiographical. Yet, the novel itself says fiction. I am thoroughly confused.

When I look back at my own life in search of defining moments, I just think about the years of unhappiness I experienced as a result of intense and dramatic familial issues. These waves of memories also frustrate me. Most of all, they sadden me. They bring me down. I’ve repressed them for so long. And the novel brought them back to me.

There’s no escaping your past. Memories always come back to shock you.

I hate reminiscing.

A Letter to My Mother

I wrote this letter to my mother a couple years ago. She’s a wonderful woman, and lately, I’ve been feeling down about how I’ve treated her. I needed to remind myself I’m not all bad.

Aren’t mothers great? They essentially raise us to to defy them. They teach us to speak so that we may use harsh speech against them. It always makes me sad to think of that.  We should all show our Mothers some extra love. Mothers are amazing.

Dear Mommy,

I just wanted to take some time out of the stress of finals to reminisce. The more I sit down to think, the more I realize how amazing you are.

Mom, I hope you know that you are appreciated for the near 21 years you’ve spent nurturing, educating, and disciplining your children.

I need you to know that I remember. I remember all the little things you’ve done for me and not one of them is taken for granted.

I remember the princess birthday party you threw for me in Kindergarten with our sprite for tea and the lovely manicures you gave us all.

I remember you buying me a purple dress for Kindergarten graduation. You knew how much I loved purple, and you wanted to make me happy.

I remember the Alison doll you bought me. I remember loving her because she looked like you, but most of all, because you bought her for me.

I remember you slaving away for weeks making me my Snow White Costume to go Trick-Or-Treating with Omar—the Power Ranger.

I remember you sitting down with me on Saturday morning back in ’99 to teach me the 50 states (in Alphabetical order) for Mrs. Dean’s ridiculously hard First Grade Class. I also remember being the only student in the class who knew the proper order for the 7 days of the week. (Sunday comes before Monday, who knew?) I knew because you had me clarify what the order was. I got it wrong. You corrected me. Little did I know… you would correct me for the rest of my life.

I remember falling off the Monkey Bars in second grade. In the midst of crying, I asked Mrs. Budge to walk me over to the Library so you could hold me and make me feel better. You always make me feel better.

I remember the time I made you cry with a heavy heart. I regret it every day.

I remember you driving me to soccer practice all the way in Santa Clarita as I complained about how much I didn’t want to run and how I just wanted to quit. You encouraged me to stick with it because you knew I was speaking out of stress rather than concrete feeling.

I remember you driving me to get my hair, nails, and make-up done for Prom.

I remember you telling me I looked beautiful.

I remember you picking me up at 5:00 AM after Grad Night.

Most of all, I remember the ache I felt after you drove off after dropping me off at Chapman that first night. I wanted nothing more than to be held by my mother and have her tell me I was going to get through everything, and be great—that’s all you’ve ever wanted from us.

I know every year when your birthday or Mother’s Day comes around, and you say you don’t want anything, you’re telling the truth. You’re the most selfless woman I know. The best gift I can give you is being successful, but most of all, being happy. I try and work hard every day so I can give you that gift. I never want to let you down.

I want you to know that you’re the cutest person in the world. I love your secret obsession with face book and how you learn about all the new language we use. I know all my friends love you. I love that they love you.

I love your excessive, in your face, attitude. You are so involved in our lives because of how much you care.

I love you for raising my 3 bestest friends in the world. My 3 siblings are the people who will love me unconditionally despite all of my annoying tendencies.

I love how you love me even when I say horrible things out of anger. You know I don’t really mean it.

I love you because you are worthy of so much more than 4 children who don’t always express their appreciation. We didn’t always understand the tough love. My younger sister and brother still may not understand. But, I do. I understand, and my older brother understands. We know, and we appreciate you so much for it.

I know of all the things you continue to do. You constantly worry, think and pray for us. You love us.  The thing about love is that you can feel it. You can feel it across countries, across states, across cities… I can feel it, here at my University, 41.8 miles away from home. I hope you can feel it too.

You are so beautiful inside and out. You have stunning eyes and the cutest smile. You are a truly outstanding woman.

I know you know how emotional I am and how I like to pretend I’m not. I don’t want to talk about this… Ever. I just wanted you to know that I love you more than the very sustenance I need to survive. This love is more than a necessity; my love for you grounds me to this universe. It humbles me. It reminds me how blessed I am. It reminds me that there is a God, and he is amazing.

I wanted to say Thank You. You don’t understand how much your faith in me has helped me to constantly push myself to be better. You’ve given me the gift of your presence, and that can never EVER be replaced.

One day, you will be the best and most involved grandmother, but for now, please know… You’re THE best Mom.

I love you.

Happy Mothers Day!

What A Girl Wants

I was so caught up in thought that I decided to write this. I hope it resonates with someone. After all, I’ve learned that the safest way to prevent disappointment is knowing what you want.

My absolute favorite quote of all time.

Love.

I’m pretty in love with love. I love to love people and to make them feel special. I love to tell people why they are so great. I love making someone terribly sad feel even the slightest glint of happiness. I love the positivity that comes out of the emotion. I love that the negativity stems from a zealous passion. Most of all, I love that love is something you have to prove—not merely state.

I want to find my person. The special person I love differently than everyone else.

I want a relationship. Not just any relationship. I want him to always make me feel beautiful, reassured and worthy. I want to constantly miss him when he’s not around. All the time. I want there to be an electrical attraction between us—clearly visible to anyone around. I want to be so smitten that any other person I meet will never compare. I never want to consider meeting anyone else. I want to be willingly trapped in a fiery love.

I want him to conquer my fears.

I want to forget I ever even had fears. He should never take advantage of me.  I need him to make me want to commit. I need him to make me feel that relationships work. I want our love to prevail. I need him to be the reason it does. I know I give up on people too easily.

I want him to complete me.

I want him to love everything about me. He doesn’t have to like everything, thats impossible. I know I have annoying tendencies. I just need his annoyances to be minimal. He has to love being bothered by me. These annoyances can never be too evident so as to create animosity. They should never create hurt. They should never be presented in a way that makes me feel inadequate or insecure. I want him to be gentle. I want him to love even what he hates about me—with a doting manner and a tender sigh of disapproval.

I want him to disregard his pride.

I want him to apologize. Even if he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. I want him to consider my feelings. He must accept that he can’t win every argument. I want him to want to lose, because he loves me. I want him to value me more than his personal satisfaction. Sometimes a simple apology is all I need. It is reassurance of reciprocated feelings.

I want him to pay attention.

I want him to be genuine. I want him to stare into my eyes. I want him to be observant. I want him to find cute quirks about me and point out these things. Things I may not even notice about myself. Things I probably hate about myself. I need him to put me at ease. I need him to dote on me and listen to what I say.  I need him to understand what I don’t say.  I need him to always make me feel like my feelings are legitimate. That they are logical. And if they are illogical, I want him to understand why I may be feeling that way. There is always an underlying reason.

I need honesty.

I want him to express how he is feeling. I want him to swallow petty responses. I want it to be a productive honesty. I want him to tell me he loves me when he feels it. I need him to be tender when he is angry. I need him to be fondly upset with me.  I need him to be fully faithful. I never want to question his loyalty.

I want big gestures.

I need to distinguish him from my friends. He needs to treat me like I am special. I want him to smother me when I’m utterly disillusioned and thoroughly miserable. I need him to give me space when I’m putting thoughts together. I need him to know the difference. I need him to put my feelings ahead of himself. I need him to be selfless.  I need him to force me to let go. I need to feel comfortable enough to disregard my insecurities. I want to be so comfortable that I become oblivious to ever even feeling them. I understand I repeatedly build walls. I want him to be strong enough to tear the walls down every day.

He needs to be stronger than me.

I want him to force me to let him take care of me. If you give me the choice, I will always choose independence. I want a relationship that is passionate. I want him to calm me down and to rile me up. I want to scream at each other when we’re mad. I want to cry. A lot. I want to always be invested in us. I never want to be apathetic. I never want to feel indifferent. I want him to kiss me after every argument.

I want him to love me more than he loves himself.

I want him to love me when I’m most vulnerable—when I don’t even love myself. Especially when I don’t love myself.  I want him to love me more than anyone else in the world. That is the type of person I am. I love people whole-heartedly. More than I love myself. I would do all of this and more. But I need reciprocation.

I want to believe in love, instead of fear it.

I want a love so evident that it’s almost corny. I want to forget that perfection is impossible. I want my hypothetical-future-relationship to feel outrageously perfect. Maybe not perfect in actuality, but perfect for me.

I want him to change my mindset from the first-person, I, into the less-lonely point-of-view: we. 

I want him to prove he loves me.

Woo me.

I listened to this as I wrote this. It’s a FANTASTIC song.

Letter From a Blessed College Student

The Israeli Haifa Court,

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is ancient, complex and deeply rooted in perception. These many different versions of historical perception have caused the repetitious power struggle to amplify into a full-blown political conflict.

I urge you to try and look past this political conflict. I hope you can identify with me as a human being for the remainder of my letter.

Rachel Corrie got caught in the midst of this conflict. Rachel was an average American with extraordinary compassion. She was a student at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in January 2003 to pursue nonviolent resistance in Israel. Her passion for peace led her to the war-torn town of Rafah, near the Israeli-Egyptian border. She exemplified non-violent direct action.

The controversial political conflict in Israel has given people an “us versus them” mentality. The conflict has been so extreme as to erupt into violence, wars and death. Lost lives are tallied. Casualties are overlooked. Human beings forget that every single person who dies because of a political conflict has a mother, maybe even a daughter and a family who can’t merely just forget about their death. It affects their everyday life. Death isn’t something they just hear about on morning reports. It is their unfortunate reality. The value of life has ultimately been diminished. I value human life, personal safety and the right to prosperity.

Above all else, I value justice. I do not take this lightly.

This is why I choose to address your Israeli Haifa District Court. I believe you committed an act of injustice. The worst crime one can commit against humanity.

Rachel Corrie believed in humanity. She lived her life for the benefit of others. She lived, until the end of her life, in the pursuit of justice. On March 16th 2003, Rachel was killed in the town of Rafah. While acting as a human shield in an effort to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza, an Israeli Defense Force bulldozer crushed her to death. She was just 23 years old.

Rachel Corrie

Rachel’s parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, filed a lawsuit accusing your Israeli military of either unlawfully or intentionally killing Rachel, or of gross negligence. Her family claimed a symbolic $1 in damages and legal expenses.

This lawsuit isn’t about revenge. It isn’t about money. It is simply about accountability. This lawsuit is about ensuring justice.  In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (Letter From a Birmingham Jail). Justice has no bias. Crime deserves punishment. Regardless if the one committing the crime is Israeli or Palestinian.

Your respective court dismissed the civil law suit on August 28, 2012.

I believe passionately and whole-heartedly that the ruling was under investigated and purposefully dismissed in order to protect a guilty soldier from exposing systematic corruption and illegal occupation.

Your respective court ruled that the state bore no responsibility for the death of Rachel Corrie. Judge Oded Gershon of your Haifa District Court said that the death of Rachel was a “regrettable accident” for which the state of Israel was not responsible. She “put herself in a dangerous situation” and her death was not caused by negligence of the Israeli state or army. The 62-page ruling claimed no responsibility for the Israeli military investigation, completely clearing the driver of the bulldozer that crushed Corrie to death (the Haifa court would not release the driver’s identity). Judge Gershon further said that the driver could not have seen Rachel from the cab of the bulldozer and that Rachel “could have simply saved herself by moving out of the zone of danger as any reasonable person would have done.” He said that the area was a combat zone, and the United States government had warned its citizens not to go there. These international activists were set on obstructing actions of the Israeli military and acting as human shields “to protect terrorists.” Ultimately, the judge ruled that no compensation would be paid and the family would not have to pay the costs of the case.

There is much controversy surrounding Rachel’s death, however, I strongly believe that the evidence of intentionality is overwhelming. The driver of the bulldozer ran Rachel over for vile reasons that Rachel’s loved ones, nor I, will ever be able to comprehend.

Judge Oded Gershon and your respective Haifa Court have reduced Rachel’s life to become a mere product of political conflict. Rachel is too valuable to be so overtly dismissed.

Rachel’s death was not a “regrettable accident.” It was an intentional political attack. On the day she died, the Electronic Intifada released a photo of Rachel from that same day wearing a bright orange vest and holding a bullhorn to amplify her voice.

This is a picture taken the same day Rachel was killed. You can clearly see her fluorescent attire.

The same website also published sworn declarations taken within days of the deadly incident by three other international activists present when Rachel was killed.

Among the witnesses was a Briton named Tom Dale, who now works in Cairo, Egypt as a journalist. He released the following statement: “On 16 March 2003, Rachel could not have been more visible: standing, on a clear day, in the open ground, wearing a high visibility vest.  On that day, she had been in the presence of the Caterpillar D9 bulldozers used by the Israeli army for some hours… Even going by the visibility charts provided by the Israeli state during the case, in my judgment, the bulldozer driver must at some point have been able to see Rachel, during the period in which his vehicle approached her… I do not find it plausible that he did not see her.” The driver of the bulldozer wanted to ensure that he taught these peace activists a lesson. If they intervened in the Israeli military’s actions, even peacefully, they would suffer consequences.

In Rachel’s case, her consequence was death.

Rachel did not merely “put herself in a dangerous situation.” Nothing worthwhile was ever achieved without dedication. Rachel was implementing her American values into proactive and peaceful direct-action. At the time of her protesting, hundreds of homes had already been bulldozed in the area. Her bravery took her to the origin of the problem. She wanted to be on the forefront of the protesting—that is admirable, not reckless. The beauty of freedom is etched in every line of our constitution. She was merely emphasizing that the quality of human life is ensured through one’s right to personal safety, to the protection of their home and through the application of justice. Rachel fought for equality. She personified her American beliefs. As a citizen of the United States, she sought to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty” for the Palestinian people of Gaza (Constitution of the United States).

Rachel did not intend to commit suicide. She did not plan to remain rigid and face the blades of a menacing bulldozer. She tried to move “as any reasonable person would have done.” But by the time she realized the driver would indeed crush her, Rachel was unable to escape. Tom Dale recalled, “As I told the court, just before she was crushed, Rachel briefly stood on top of the rolling mound of earth which had gathered in front of the bulldozer: her head was above the level of the blade, and just a few meters from the driver.” Rachel was unable to catch her balance and escape the situation.

Joe Carr, another American activist (who used the name of Joseph Smith during his time in Gaza) released the following record in an affidavit to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR): “Still wearing her fluorescent jacket, she knelt down at least 15 meters in front of the bulldozer, and began waving her arms and shouting, just as activists had successfully done dozens of times that day…. When it got so close that it was moving the earth beneath her, she climbed onto the pile of rubble being pushed by the bulldozer…. Her head and upper torso were above the bulldozer’s blade, and the bulldozer operator and co-operator could clearly see her. Despite this, the operator continued forward, which caused her to fall back, out of view of the driver. He continued forward, and she tried to scoot back, but was quickly pulled underneath the bulldozer. We ran towards him, and waved our arms and shouted; one activist with the megaphone. But the bulldozer operator continued forward, until Corrie was all the way underneath the central section of the bulldozer.”

Rachel did not intend to “protect terrorists.” Tom Dale explained, “She stood in front of the home of a young family which was under threat of demolition by a bulldozer. Rachel was seeking to protect her friends, with whom she had lived.”

Despite the Israeli Haifa Court verdict, Rachel’s story has not been dismissed. It will not be dismissed until justice has prevailed. If anything, the lawsuit has revealed your corruption. This type of injustice perpetuates. This single tragedy, deemed accidental, is symbolic of an entire nation of Palestinian people who are denied basic human rights daily. Because they are the other. Because they are the non-jew. These indigenous Palestinian people are often disregarded because their country is no longer listed on a map.

But Rachel did not disregard these people.

Rachel discusses the atrocities she saw in Rafah, Israel.

Rachel is the reason I became interested in human rights. She is the reason I am addressing your respective court. I was ten years old when I met her parents at an event held by the Muslim Public Affairs Council honoring Rachel and her parents’ activism. Her story corrupted my innocence. It shattered the crystal ball of perfection associated with my childhood world. Initially, Rachel’s death merely made me aware of the injustice in Israel. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized the amount of media attention her death generated, and still generates today— nine years later. She proved to me that one lost American life is valued more than thousands of Palestinians’ lives.

On the night of Corrie’s death, nine Palestinians were also killed.

We never heard their stories.

Deaths in Israel have become normalized. These people suffer in silence. This is why Rachel’s family founded a non-violent direct-action organization, The Rachel Corrie Foundation. Rachel’s parents ensured that her death would not become a forgotten tragedy. They continue the work she “began and hoped to accomplish, and carry out that work with her vision, spirit, and creative energy in mind” (rachelcorriefoundation.org).

Albert Einstein said, “It would be my greatest sadness to see Zionists (Jews) do to Palestinian Arabs much of what Nazis did to Jews.” Rachel fought for the nation of Israel through her desire to implement justice in the region. Israel will only seek to strengthen itself by allowing Palestinians to live freely within their defined national boundaries. They will earn international respect through abiding by international laws and ending the forceful occupation of the region. Oppressive tactics are not ideal for the maintenance of stability.

Even more than international awareness, Rachel’s story has become personal. Rachel’s bravery through her work for the ISM has given my life purpose. As an American, I was taught that freedom is an unalienable right. The United States boasts of these principles, yet unconditionally supports your nation of Israel. A nation that allowed this injustice to occur. A nation that dismissed a lost life in an effort to maintain a respectable reputation. A nation that has rejected justice.

That is the true tragedy.

I refuse to accept your Haifa Court ruling as conclusive. Rachel Corrie is my hero. She inspired me to live my life for others. The end of Rachel’s life marked the beginning of mine. I didn’t begin to truly live until I found something to live for.

I am committed to fight for justice in Israel. Rachel’s case will never die. Rachel’s cause will not be forgotten.

Even more than The Rachel Corrie Foundation, Rachel lives through me every day. I write with the emails she wrote to her family in mind. I exist with the understanding that I am blessed to live in a free nation. I prosper in the tranquility of my consistent safety. She reminds me that there are wonderful people in this world. I pursue a future of activism through her example. As I approach my 20th birthday this Monday, I realize just how young Rachel was at the time of her death. She was too young. Her life cannot go to waste. We must ensure that the work she started is finished.

I write this in loving memory of an extraordinary human being. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live simple, so others may simply live.” Rachel did that.

Rachel’s mother, Cindy Corrie, stated at a press conference after your ruling, “I believe [that] was a bad day, not only for our family, but for human rights, humanity, the rule of law and also for the country of Israel.”

Don’t let a political conflict become so extreme that your Haifa Court forgets the value of a human life.

With all due respect,

A Blessed College Student

A 5th Grade Speech Rachel made. She was always an activist.

From Girl to Boy

This is a not-so-hypothetical unsent love letter. It is pure and raw and un-edited. I wrote it almost a year ago. I was having an I wish I lived in Jane Austen’s time period moment. And an I’m gonna be a stereotypical girl kind of day. I was in a a very odd state of mind. I don’t know if this mood will ever hit me again. Setting that aside, I like the finished product and I love letters. So I decided to be daring and post it.

A scene from my favorite book-turned-movie “Pride and Prejudice.” I base all my unrealistic expectations on this.

Dear Boy,

I first want to let you know that this is the most embarrassing and upfront letter I have ever written in my life. Take a deep breath, and read with an open mind.

You distract me. I hate it, but I’ll admit any day that you’re my favorite pastime. If you are so miserably oblivious, hopefully this will pull you out of the dark…

I am in love with you.

I will wait for you for as long as it may take. You’re worth it. I don’t want anyone else, because I know in my heart that you’re the one. I feel like I’ve been gravitating towards you my entire life.

I want to spend the rest of my life with you. You are the center of my universe. You bring the best and worst out of me. You are so perfectly imperfect. You challenge me. You compliment me. You calm me down. You rile me up. You make me feel like the only girl in the universe. You ground me. You humble me. You drive me insane. You keep me up at night. You occupy my thoughts, and I lovingly hate it.

I am certain that I love you. I realized it for the first time shortly after turning eighteen. I looked into your eyes as you were talking about something I’m sure may have been important at the time… I stopped listening and just stared at your eyes. Those beautiful light brown-greenish eyes. I got lost in them. Then the thought hit me, “I want to spend the rest of my life with this person. I love him.” Holy crap. I love him.

I googled it to be sure. Google didn’t have the answer I was looking for. It had a series of quotes about love. All of which described the way I feel about you, no matter how they were written. I realized I didn’t need Google. I just enjoyed thinking of you.

The realization rang clear that day. That moment is etched in my memory as the most extreme clarity I believe I will ever experience in my life (second to my belief in God). Through my love, I have reassured my faith in God. His mercy allows us to love one another. He encourages us to love one another. Through relationships, he wants us to increase our knowledge and refine our potential to spread goodness throughout the world. I believe that. I believe in us. I believe in our potential to forever bring out the good in one another, and spread it to those around us.

You’re the person I want standing next to me on my wedding day. You’re the man I want to cater to. To dote on. (Yes, this feminist wants to dote on a man.) You’re the person I want to grow old with. I want to cry in your arms when I’m upset. I want to share my good news with you. I want to cure you when you’re sick and make you feel better when you’re sad. I want to love you when you feel lonely and insignificant. When life hits you hard and things feel unbearable, I want to remind you of your goodness and bring you out of any funk you may experience. I want to be the woman who cares for your mother as she deals with the perils of life and old age. I want to listen to her when your sister refuses to and when your brother and her are inevitably bumping heads. I want to be the best daughter-in-law to your father who works way to hard for his family.

I want to have our children. I want them to look like you.

I want to love you whole-heartedly, even through our worst arguments. Even when I’m crying like it’s the end of the world… I want you to be the only man to ever have the power to make me cry. I want you to realize that I have confidence you wont abuse the privilege.

You inspire me. I feel that my dreams can only come true if I am alongside you.  I love how easily we can talk. I love that you always say more than you need to. I love how easily you can make me laugh, and how you can use that same ease to make me furious. I love that you root me to the spot whenever I’m with you. I love that you’re kind to my mother and that you talk politics with my father. I love that you care about my brothers and that you’re an angel to my sister. I love that the only time you’ve made me cry, is when you’ve left.

I hate that I’ve come to need you. I hate how it feels like something is missing when you’re not around. I hate how you make me cry when you leave. I hate being constantly concerned about you. My thoughts always circle back to your well being.  I hate not knowing how you’re feeling. I hate the thought of these feelings being unreciprocated.  But I’m willing to risk it.

I love you. I hate you. My feelings have gotten more simple to understand as I’ve matured, but more complicated when I think about the future. There is just no winning.

This is the most vulnerable I have ever been in my life. I am willing to give you that. I am willing to give you all of me. The good. The bad. The gentleness I rarely reveal to people. I’m giving you the capability to increase my fragility.

I realize I am only nineteen. But I don’t think I am too young to feel this way. Nor do I think my feelings will change. You’re my clichéd “one.”

I want you to tell me how you feel and end this uncertainty that has been eating away at me. But if you don’t feel the same, I still wish you a life full of happiness—whether or not I’m the one that brings you that happiness. I hope all your dreams come true. You deserve it. You’re the most wonderful person I know.

I can’t believe I let you read this. I am thoroughly embarrassed.

Love,

Girl

Online Personas

I have 923 friends on facebook. That is ridiculous.

I can’t even fathom the fact that I’ve met 923 people. I don’t even really like people that much. I’m pretty awkward and anti-social.

Yes, I understand the irony.

One day,  I went facebook crazy. Yes, it’s a thing. I went through every single one of my friends and made the decision that if I couldn’t remember them within seconds, they were getting deleted. I delete people off of facebook like they are getting wiped off the planet. Well technically, they are. They’re getting wiped off my planet. This seemed like such a great idea, until I realized…

I have great memory.

I remembered meeting every person. I even remembered the conversations we had, and sometimes, what I wore that day. At the end of my little mission to cleanse my life through the elimination of “online friends,” I had only deleted five people (who I later remembered—insane.) Three of the five ended up re-adding me on facebook. (I think people may find me interesting.) I then had the brilliant idea to deactivate my current facebook and create another facebook account. It was my way of starting over and keeping my facebook as intimate as I could.  I decided to use my alter ego’s name, Scarlett, and only add my close friends. Obviously when one is feeling overwhelmed by social networking, the logical thing to do is create yet another site.

That proved to be a tad problematic.

I’m good at staying connected to people so my definition of “close friends” got a little hazy. Facebook also became boring for me. I couldn’t log on and creep on the people I am no longer close with, yet still find incredibly entertaining (in a they are so outrageous kind-of-way). I received friend requests from all the same people. They figured out my genius plan and realized it was me. THERE WAS NO ESCAPE. Facebook is a black hole.

So, I ignored all my friend requests. Reactivated my old facebook. Actively kept both. Mixed them up. Got messages of confusion from people. And, it only took two weeks for me to go OUT OF MY MIND.

I then wiped Scarlett off my planet.

I realized that facebook is not an accurate depiction of who I am. Facebook is my source of entertainment. I’s not a private sanctuary. I don’t post revolutionary epiphanies. I don’t need it to be a personal sphere. I log on to waste time, submerge myself in other people’s lives and stay connected with friends I know longer see on a daily basis. I realized I can be private—even with 923 friends. Facebook isn’t truthful. We manipulate facebook to meet our goals of how we want to be perceived. Everyone tries to look perfect on facebook.

I am less like myself on facebook than any other social networking site I use.

I never consciously think of how other people may perceive me through my facebook. I think this is because I am never truly myself on facebook anyways. I don’t mind people judging the false persona that I put out there. This can be seen through my profile pictures. All of my pictures are of me smiling insincerely from the same “flattering” angle. There is just one candid picture where I am turned away from the camera. On the surface, I may come off as a bit superficial. No one is happy all the time, and I certainly am not. I’m an open book with people I trust, but pretty closed off otherwise. These pictures reflect that. I want the facebook world to only see that one side of me.

Nonetheless, if anyone took the time to delve a little deeper into my site, they would realize that I’m all sorts of ridiculous. I try to put up a composed front, but I’m terrible at it.

I’m a little obsessed with my family. My siblings joke that I love them significantly more than they love me. (But it’s not a joke.) It’s in my nature to care about people too much. I’ve taken over my siblings’ facebooks through obnoxious wall posts, pictures and comments. In fact, I’m more inclined to be myself on my family’s facebooks, than I am on my own. My true personality comes out through my interactions with other people. I usually will only post statuses on days where I am unusually happy or unusually irritated about some sort of human rights issue. I do not perceive my facebook as a pitiful diary. (Believe me, these harsh words reflect lots of judgement.)

Besides my one active facebook and my sad dormant facebook (RIP Scarlett), I have a twitter. I also now maintain this blog.

My twitter username is my first and last name. I feel like that somehow makes me less inclined to go crazy. On twitter, I mostly indulge in health and fitness articles, celebrity gossip and guilty pleasures. I am obsessed with nutrition.  I love soccer. I have a girl crush on Hope Solo. But, I tend to follow many political newscasters that I should ideally be interested it—and I do my best to maintain this interest by refusing to “unfollow” these people. The truth is, I usually gloss over their tweets without an ounce of interest. I remain a follower because I want people to believe I use twitter for academic reasons as well. It’s all a lie. I won’t tweet everything I want to because of the people who “follow me.” I am instead the queen of re-tweets. For this reason, my twitter isn’t an accurate depiction of me. I am too shy on twitter and fearful of being judged. And, let’s be real, I could never fully express myself in 140 characters or less.

This blog is probably the only place where my true self is fully revealed. I wish I started a blog years ago. I don’t believe that facebook or twitter permits this amount of creativity. There are too many restrictions.

I have no filter when I write. I’m a little crazy. I think I do a good job of presenting that here. I am passionate; it is my greatest vice and highest virtue. All this white space allows me to express every aspect of that passion. Writing is personal. I write for myself. But, I am comfortable with people reading about my personal revelations. I am comfortable with the vulnerability and the potential judgment because I know that I am being true to myself. I’m comfortable being me. Although I still choose to use the pseudonym missjasmine. Go figure.

I am a free-spirited, insecure and quirky gal. I hope this blog reflects that.

Oh, and by the way, I really love the word shenanigans.

I think I just may post that on facebook. I really hope my 924 friends enjoy it (just accepted a friend request). Look at me go.

My Favorite Quotes

I wanted some type of concrete record for my favorite quotes. They keep me grounded.

“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” -Benjamin Franklin.

“Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.” -Abraham Lincoln

“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.” -James Earl Jones

“Love is one of the hardest words to say and one of the easiest to hear.”

“Love is a puzzle posed by the emotions and not likely to be solved by reason.”

“They say love is blind… and marriage is an institution. Well, I’m not ready for an institution for the blind just yet.”  -Mae West

“If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you don’t have it, no matter what else there is, it’s not enough.” -Ann Landers

“True love is eternal, infinite, and always like itself. It is equal and pure, without violent demonstrations, it is seen with white hairs and is always young in heart.” -Honore de Balzac

“The difference between friendship and love is how much you can hurt each other.” -Ashleigh Brilliant

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

“Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them.” -Publilius Syrus

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved the state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

“Joy brings you tenacity and endurance.” -Todd Hunter

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, but who knows great enthusiasms…so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”  -Theodore Roosevelt

‎”The greatest moments in life are not concerned with selfish achievements, but rather with the things we do for other people.” -Walt Disney

“He who finds diamonds must grapple in mud and mire because diamonds are not found in polished stones. They are made.” -Henry B. Wilson

“You can’t save the damsel if she loves the distress.”

 

 

“Letter From Birmingham Jail” – A Response

I’m a Political Science major, and I hate politics.

Hate may not be a strong enough word. I literally despise the ridiculous power struggles within political campaigns. The constant coverage of misfortunes occurring all around the world. The false promises of instigating change. The eventual semblance of principles. And, the ultimate popularity contest. Politics creates division.

Political Science has made me pessimistic. I’ve learned about repeated historical mistakes, innocent casualties and ruthless tyranny. I’ve analyzed the roots of civil war, the tactics dictators use to maintain control and the inevitable violence that occurs within each country. Everything is ultimately a power struggle. It is thoroughly and sincerely depressing.

I also hear a lot about war.  I deliberately choose to use the word hear. I will never learn the necessity of a war. I will never learn to accept that human lives were lost to pursue governmental interest. I will never learn to discuss war apathetically. I refuse to learn that a world full of human beings is incapable of solving issues diplomatically. Violence is never the answer.

War is brutal. War is disappointing. War is destructive.

This is why I admire Martin Luther King Jr. so much.

Martin Luther King Jr. was tangled in a web of war. He was stuck in a hateful society determined to prevent justice. They battled with “vicious mobs [lynching] mothers and fathers at will and [drowning] sisters and brothers at whim; [and through] hate filled policemen cursing, kicking and even killing [their] black brothers and sisters…” (Martin Luther King Jr.).

Yet, despite all of the insufferable treatment, King emphasized the importance of nonviolent direct action in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” He never faltered. He fought fire with water. King had a passion for justice, and he lived his live in pursuit of the inalienable right he was denied. He put action behind his statements. There lies the rare power of truth in his words. King revealed his truthful character through his political practices. He defied the norm, and made history because of it. King gives me hope that change can be brought about through hard work and conviction. He reminds me of the progress we have made.

I have strong political opinions.

I’m a passionate person. I strongly believe in justice. Every human being deserves respect. Shelter, sustenance and healthcare are not privileges—they are undeniable rights. Poverty saddens me. Inefficiency infuriates me. The realities of inequality on this earth motivate me to make a difference.

That is precisely how I hope to live. I believe in purposeful protest. I wish to instigate change. The best way to do this is through education and the development of credibility. Knowledge is power.

This is why I am a political science major.

I may hate politics, but I believe there is a beauty in justice that can only be established through politics. I love the potentiality of politics. Politics is the key to justice. Reading “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” once again has reminded me of all the trivialities I can get caught up in. I feel grounded once more. It makes me realize that everything in life is a struggle. The Civil Rights Movement may have encountered aggressive hate, but it was ultimately triumphant. African Americans won their rights to freedom, integration and suffrage. Yet there is still progress to be made. After all, we just elected our first black president four years ago. Life is an ongoing struggle.

With this, I have a message. Dear world… Complain if it is just, but don’t just complain.

Even though I hate the insincerity of politics and the disappointing realities of human nature—I refuse to merely join the masses. I refuse to be just another complainer. I refuse to succumb to my disillusionment. I strongly believe that more people in our contemporary society need to look towards King’s example in their struggles for justice. It is human nature to dispute. That is the beauty of peace—it is always a struggle. Peace is the perfection of human nature.

I am passionate about living a life with purpose. I am confident that political science is the path I must take in order to pursue my dreams.

I’m a Political Science major, and I will use my knowledge to pursue justice.

Six Word Memoirs

When I was in high school, my favorite class was AP English Language. In order to help prepare us for writing a personal statement for college admissions, my teacher had us practice through writing “six word memoirs” inspired by The Six Word Memoir Project. The concept is rather simple: Tell a story in six words. At first I thought this was rather ridiculous. Then I realized that I not only enjoyed writing these quick little stories, they were liberating.  Writing a few wasn’t enough, I ended up filling notebooks with them. Here are some of the ones I’ve written over the years- as well as others I think of as time goes on. I’m usually in a distinct mood of frustration when I begin to write them. My frustration translates to inspiration. Then I grab a pen and release…

I tend to think in six words. This is mostly when I’m frustrated.

Life is beautiful, live it fully.

Loving me forever was short-lived.

Trust me, I have trust issues.

Keep it short and sweet, bitch.

Reminiscing achieves nothing, just move on.

Best friends, first love, not anymore.

Adversity brings triumph, triumph brings prosperity.

No hard feelings, but she’s hideous.

Broken promises, broken family, broken hearts.

Lead by example, love my mother.

I can’t remember a happier time.

Just another Mexican-Lebanese culture clash.

Caring less means power, not happiness.

Passion: greatest vice and highest virtue.

Tear down the walls I build.

Passion comes from within- Natural Motivation.

Let’s grow old together- our fairytale.

I work instinctively, it comes naturally.

Writing this healed me, unconventional therapy.

Skeptical at first, love it ridiculously.

Then I knew. It was you.

You were my destination all along.

Accepting differences. Loving Imperfections is perfection.

True Love. Accepting imperfections is perfection.

Only you can piece me together.

You are my missing puzzle piece.

Eating away my feelings feels good.

Feeling sad. Cake. Desert. Immediate satisfaction.

Short-term comfort. Long-term obesity.

Falling asleep to the ocean swish.

Sand. Waves. Ocean. Endless view. Peace.

Dad moves out. I shut down.

Keeping the world at arms length.

Instability brought out my strength within.

In your arms is my forever.

Chasing you naked in my dreams.

Dreamed of chasing you naked— awkward.

Grown closer as we’ve become different.

I hope you see through me.

Tear down the walls I’ve built.

I feel safe looking at you.

The moment I realized—it’s you.

Fully content with everything around me.

Happiness: Feelings of contentment and acceptance.

Not six words, just the three.

Just tell me those three words.

May 18th, 2014 11:00 PM

Nobody even noticed you were gone.

Curly-haired, Africa-lover, Peace-Maker. (I’m lucky she’s my best friend.)

Guess which finger I’m holding up.

I dedicate that to Carol Hunter. ^

I really should write my paper.

“The sky’s awake, so I’m awake.” -Frozen (Go watch it, seriously, you must.)

Sometimes I forget I have friends.

When people love me, I’m surprised.

Bitch, you don’t know my life.

All right, that’s enough for now.

Why I Write

Proud is not an adjective I would generally use in self-descriptions. In fact, I often think that if I stopped speaking for an entire day, it would be easy for me to melt into a transparent abyss of isolation. I’m convinced people overlook me.  That is, however, the first time I’ve verbalized that.

Writing helps me do that. It stimulates realization.

These feelings of insecurity don’t come from a lack of involvement or an outrageous desire to be victimized. It’s just that I have always felt different. I have an old soul. I’m too old for my age. I’m too young to be almost 20. I’m too overwhelmed for my familial responsibilities. I’m too complacent to be heard. Most of all, I’m too complicated to be understood.

Writing forces me to confront my complex feelings.

I’m a very dismissive person. I am the queen of evasion. I tend to say, “I don’t know” just to avoid explaining why I’m feeling a certain way. If my parents call me, I’ll let it go to voicemail. I like to keep thoughts to myself. I believe I have too many thoughts. I enjoy listening to elaborate stories but feel people will disregard a lengthy tale of mine. I love being alone but I hate being ignored. I prefer to be uncomfortable for fear of even slightly inconveniencing anyone else. I have an unrealistic belief that I am the only person willing to compromise. I can be a bit of a pushover.

I have a lot of feelings.

Words are fun, and I like to overuse them a bit. I think of multiple ways to describe something and putting that on paper is the only way I can get all of those thoughts out. Writing helps me sort out my feelings. Once I lay all my thoughts out on a paper, they tend to look like a bunch of scattered sentences and jumbled grammar errors. Then slowly, with patience, I always solve the puzzle of my mind.

Writing is my escape.

I come from a large family of six. Their huge personalities often overshadow my own. I’m not the type of person to walk into a room and demand attention. I’d rather lay back and observe the chaos around me. In fact, I tend to narrate my life in my head as situations unravel before me. I love analysis. I love the idea that I can lay everything out on a piece of paper and hand it to someone else without having to actually talk about it.  It is my preferred choice of expression. In fact, I often hand my friends letters recollecting events or explaining past feelings with the disclaimer that if they want to read it, they are not allowed to ask me any questions about it afterward. I hate talking.

Writing is the one thing no one can ever take away from me.

One’s voice seeps through the written word. I have a strong voice. This strength cannot go to waste. I can’t only perceive writing as an escape. After traveling to the Middle East, I realized that I have to use writing to make a statement. Writing is power. Writing is influential. I have the privilege to write and be heard. It is a responsibility. I am obliged to describe the injustices I saw firsthand to the blogosphere, and make people realize how blessed we are. I hope to unravel some of the feelings of culture shock I experienced abroad, as well as to come to terms with personal issues I’ve successfully avoided. I know that no matter how isolated I may feel, there are other young women who may identify with me. There are other people who will find meaning in my jumble.

Writing forges bonds.

This is why I have a special relationship with my keyboard. This is why my notebooks are covered in ink from my favorite purple pen. I enjoy writing. I look at finished papers with confidence. I pour my heart and soul into them without the fear of judgment. The blank page is the only place that I am truly myself. I am happy to be myself.

Writing gave me self-worth. It helped me realize that I don’t want to be normal. I am different.

I am proud when I write.