Why today makes me sad.

I want to scream.

I want to react.

I want to call the people who deserve it “racist”…

I am sick of seeing the partisan reactions to everything.

I am sick of seeing reactions to everything.

You want to know what social media is?  It’s REACTIONS.

That’s it.

You may see a news story, but it’s tied to a reaction by someone who thinks he is worthy enough to voice his opinion like anyone gives a fuck about what he is ranting about.  (Additionally, that’s what allows me to post this like anyone gives a fuck about what I am ranting about.)

It’s okay not to say anything, you know.

It’s okay to quietly shake your head and disagree with behavior, but you don’t need to voice it, especially when you don’t offer up anything but disdain, hate, and ignorance.

No one is perfect.

And everyone’s idea of perfect is different.

Therefore, NO ONE CAN BE PERFECT.  NO IDEA CAN BE PERFECT.

SO WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO FORCE MASS AMOUNTS OF PEOPLE INTO AN IMPOSSIBLE AND NON-EXISTENT PLACE?

I am sick of seeing white people say that these thugs are horrible people for rioting, for getting violent.  Yet we have white people who get drunk and then when slurring their speech do things like light an effigy on fire after a football game (witness to this happening at an IA versus ISU game in 2007).  I had a drunk man at the same football game tell me he was going to kill me for wearing the wrong colors.  Another drunk man at a sporting event called my mom a cunt and spit at her.

Both these people were white, by the way.  Not black men.  Not “thugs”.  They were twenty-something whites guys.

Why is one acceptable?

Why is one not condemned by media outlets?

How come in one scenario the media calls it “celebrating” when they are igniting fires, ruining property, and destroying sections of big cities, yet when OTHERS (read any disenfranchised persons) ignite fires, ruin property, and destroy sections of big cities it’s a show of disrespect?

BOTH situations need to end, because I disavow violence.

I advocate for peaceful protests.

But I also advocate for the disenfranchised and want them to have a voice.

You see, I am privileged.

I am white.

I grew up in an upper-middle class family.

I have never had to wonder where my next meal is, because even when I had no money to my name, I had a family who was willing and able to help.  That’s the big thing.  My family was ABLE.

You want to know what the problem is?

THE PROBLEM IS THE LACK OF EQUALITY.

THE PROBLEM IS THE LACK OF CIVIL RIGHTS.

But the biggest problem is the willful blindness of the masses when politicians blame OTHERS, and the acceptance and repetition of that rhetoric.  We have voters who blame their lack of money, their lack of mobility, on poor people, because their view is poor people will misuse and abuse the system.  In reality, most of the error is wrought by administrative assistants and clerks through human error, and less than one percent of real fraud occurs with programs like SNAP.  But more people are willing to look at the recipients of these social programs and call them lazy.  If only, they say, if only they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps!  If only they tried.  If only they made something of themselves.

I make just marginally over $36,000.  My fiancé is a student.  We will have approximately $500/month of student debt, along with other necessary payments.  In Iowa, where the typical cost of living is significantly lower than other metropolis areas, we will still be barely scraping by unless my fiancé manages to land a job where he makes as much as me.  And even then, saving will be difficult.

So what about living wages – what about raising the minimum wage if you are against social programs to help people?

A living wage is a wage in which people can afford to pay basic living costs (think along the lines of rent/mortgage, some type of food, some type of energy so you aren’t in the dark, and POSSIBLY some type of transportation – such as a bicycle, money for the bus or train, etc. and that’s about it).

When I came back from California, I had at most $300 in my checking account.  I was unable to find a job for over three months.  At one point, I had -$600+ (that is NEGATIVE SIX HUNDRED PLUS DOLLARS) in my checking account, $0.00 in my savings, and no job or job possibilities.  And I was lucky.

I was lucky because I had parents who not only could AFFORD to take me in, but WERE WILLING to take me in.

THAT IS CALLED PRIVILEGE.

The reason: NOT EVERYONE HAS THIS.

In-fact, I have had more privilege in my life than even some of the people I work with now, who did not grow up in a large house, who did not have the option of a private school, who did not have college paid for by a fund; in-fact, I am more privileged than many of the people I know in Iowa, because of the upbringing I had.  And it has nothing to do with solely financials, but it also deals with the possibilities and doors open to me from living in a suburb and not inner-city; from having a two-parent household; from having a household who encouraged extracurriculars because we didn’t have to worry about me finding work to help the family survive.  The list is long.  And they are all items that are not “givens” in society.  I know my children will not have the same luxuries I did because my fiancé and I are not only pursuing careers that make much lower amounts of money, but because we are not focusing on solely making money.  We are liberals.  We are Progressives.  We want social equality.  We want social mobility.  But we realize it does not exist now.  Especially for those less fortunate than us.  And no amount of “hard work” can overcome years and years of systemic racism, sexism, and hate.  THOSE are the items we need to reform.  THOSE are policies and issues that should be blazon across a headline.  Not some picture of a guy losing his shit on top of a cop car because a kid who did NOTHING WRONG but run when he saw cops had his fucking NECK BROKEN (almost complete spinal destruction at the neck).  If someone died in police custody when they did nothing wrong, I would lose my shit, too.  And here’s the thing, when the anger, the sadness, the oppressive factors of your life get to that breaking point, MANY of us would lose our shit in similar fashion.

What would you really be thinking if Freddie Gray was white?  Uncomfortable thought, isn’t it?  Would you still call him a thug if he was white and poor?  What if he was a middle-class white kid who was in a bad part of the city and saw a cop and spooked and ran and the cop ran after him.  Would the cop even run after him?  Would there be chaos and anger and confusion if it was a white boy?  If somehow in police custody a white boy’s neck was snapped?  Thing is BLACK LIVES MATTER.  Because ALL LIVES MATTER.  Isn’t that what all the pro-lifers say?  Isn’t that the Christian Word?  Hell, it’s not just Christian, it’s the base of religion around the world, that LIFE – ANY FUCKING LIFE – matters.

The reason this is a race issue is because of the inherent racism of the system.  The reason it’s a race issue is because we’ve enacted policies that TARGET minorities so the same fucking ridiculous behavior happens because WE ALLOWED IT TO – WE ALLOWED COPS TO GO UNCHECKED FOR SO LONG.  WE ALLOWED RACISM TO FLOURISH IN OUR POLICIES AND THEREFORE INSTITUTIONS.  And sadly, even after the civil rights act, we allowed these things to continue.  We made it illegal in regulated institutions, and that’s it.  If there is a person out there who wanted to plant the seed of racism and water it, they have every ability in the world.  We know.  We’ve seen it.  It’s alive and present over at Fox News.

I am just so tired of this all.  I am so tired of people who are more willing to look down on their neighbor than to help them.  I work for a living, but if my tax dollars go to help feed a hungry person, even if it’s to treat themselves to a steak, I would probably throw in some extra money so they could get some greens in their diet, too, so they have some nutrients.  And I’ll eat leaner this week.  Because they need it more than I do.

Random Thoughts on February 23, 2013.

I dislike that when I have a job, my writing goes to shit.  Luckily I am taking a writing class, which forces me to practice, but if I did not have that constant push each week, I am not sure I would write nearly as much.  And, to me, that is unacceptable.  The problem still is, though, that I would not write if there was not a reason to write.  Not because I don’t have ideas, not because I don’t like it, but because at the end of the day I am typically so exhausted that my brain feels like a big, heaping pile of oatmeal.  There are some days with this class that when I attempt to write a scene (and believe me, it is reflected in my “grades”) and I sit and stare at the screen for what seems like hours without producing something.  Or I’ll start six or seven different possibilities and stall, miserably, in the middle of them.  Though I love fiction (to read), I am not sure fiction writing is for me.  Non-fiction, however, suits me well.  I like all non-fiction, ranging from memoir to (gasp, shock and awe!) textbooks.  That’s right people, I enjoy reading something as dry and non-imaginative as a textbook.  For example, I kept some of my academic books from undergrad and they sit on my bookshelf.  I was an English major, so of course there are fiction books (more Virginia Woolf than I would care to ever reread), but I also kept some of my general education class books.  Knowledge is sexy, people.  Big, beautiful brains outweigh brawn in my opinion.  Intelligent conversations with someone are far more stimulating than to sit and drool over someones six-pack or hair or whatever (I know, strong way to end that statement).

I am sitting on my couch, cat pajamas still on (yes, its middle morning, but I’ve been up since six this morning getting stuff done), massive mug of coffee (from my infamous Iowa Hawkeyes mug, which I think is actually a soup bowl), dog at my feet, and cat curled up on the sofa leaning her butt against my neck (she is a built-in headrest).  Music is coming out of my iHome (I know, fancy, right?), and I feel very content.  Though content implies a deeper serene with everything in your life.  I am not that content.  I wish I was in a bigger place (though I am on my way to procuring that), I wish I was in a different place (i.e. geographical location, like Portland, OR), and I wish I had… I don’t even know how to articulate what I wish I had.  The best I can think of is “calm” — not constantly wishing for something, not hoping to find something, I wish I had that settled feeling, not this restless, listless nagging in my gut about everything.  Should I stay in Iowa?  Should I move to Portland?  I have something good going with school, but does that outweigh what I could have in another part of the country?  Can I stand three to four more years here when every time I drive to class I go past the place Jonathan proposed and still feel this twinge of …hurt, pain, anger, sadness, guilt, self-flagellation.  It’s been almost two years since we broke up, and I can safely say that I know it was for the best and that I think we are both on positive paths for our own lives, and it’s sad that after five years together we realized that our lives are separate, but I cannot say that it wasn’t the right thing to do (which is to say that our break up was the right thing).  And I always feel guilty saying that, because I know if I was in Jonathan’s shoes, it would feel like a slap in the face.  Or at least that is how I would feel, not saying that’s how he does feel.  However, I look at my dog, my cat, and my apartment, and think, “I would have none of these things, my life would be so much different, I would not be pursuing my goals,” if we had remained together.  And even more, I am not sure I would have discovered those wants or fulfilled those desires.  I was living in a shell, and it fractured, and now I am learning how to walk, opening my eyes to the brilliant sun, and ready to try to fly.  (Wow, okay, over dramatic metaphor aside, I am just hoping to find my path.)

To jump from thought to thought, in my writing class we do these in-class writings with prompts and every time someone shares what they’ve written I always make notes and typically one of the notes I write in the margins of my own in-class writing is “clichéd,” or “over-dramatic,” or “too sappy,” and even one time I wrote, “you think that’s what love is?!?”  (Yes, even with the question mark, exclamation point, question mark punctuation.)  I feel like I am in the depths of lost love and I really don’t even want to claw myself out.  I was somewhat romantic, asking to find a Darcy to my Elizabeth, but as time passes I feel like it is bullshit idea.  There is romance in small things, like someone bringing you a coffee when you have to work early, or letting you have half of a carrot cake pastry, or giving you eighty-five cents to eat a bag of Doritos when you feel like your stomach might eat itself, and those gestures are wonderful, but when I see people get all worked up over things like Valentine’s Day it makes me gag.  I was never one to truly get into that holiday to begin with (even when I had a fiance and thought he was the end all, be all), but the idea of going all gooey eyed over a box of chocolates makes me question a lot of relationships.  A better present would be a sheet of paper that says, “Hey, I love you.  And to help you out, I will walk the dog, do the dishes, and make the bed for a week.  Boom.”  Partnership, camaraderie, and mutual respect means far more than a heart-shaped balloon and chocolate to me.  Though chocolate can go a long way when you are PMS-ing on that day.  Just saying.

I feel like life has jaded me.  There are certain things and beliefs and ideals that I had as recently as three years ago that are gone.  They disintegrated as my life kind of fell apart.  It’s grand to believe that you can find love, and absolutely an attainable idea, and emotion, but I think I have shut myself down so much that I am finding it more difficult to come out of that hole.  Every once in a while I will get that rush of emotion, but I have become so self-contained that I am not sure I can support it for any length of time.  Bottom line, truth of the matter, any other cliché associated with this subject: I am scared.  It’s such a typical response, but it’s the truth.  There is time the fear is paralyzing.  Everyone always comments that I am strong person, but all I feel like is a quivering lump of anxiety and fear.  Like negative reinforcement, it always seems that when I begin to get attached, when I begin to let the wall down, something happens that devastates me.  Even if I never let on.  Even if I don’t show it.  Even if I remain silent or say everything is okay.  And the sad part is that is becoming exhausting.  To hold that shield up takes some effort, but it is just as exhausting when you let the shield down and get volleyed by different emotional arrows.  (If you can’t tell, I’ve had a week of I don’t even know what.)

I’ll leave you with those thoughts.  Right now a pile of laundry the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro is requesting my attention.  Along with Chewbacca and Auri.  And more coffee.  And a myriad of other things that I haven’t gotten done (even though it feels like I have worked, and in fact have worked, for hours).

When things begin making sense…

The saying goes that things happen for a reason.  There is a similar saying that states things happen when meant to, not necessarily when we want them.  I feel like my life for the past two years has been an experiment in these common thoughts.  Hell, probably even longer than that.

I have been meeting with different individuals in the academic world, and in the process explaining my personal academic history.  I graduated in 2008, half-assed attempted to apply to graduate programs knowing full well that the effort I put into the process was half, if not a quarter, of what was needed to fully impress someone, because at the time my goal was to stay with my boyfriend, soon to be fiance, of the time.  In retrospect it is obvious that I blew whatever chances I had at graduate programs because my sole concern was making sure Jonathan and I remained in the same town, in the same place, glued together like I thought relationships should be.  It has taken four years, a rather unconventional job (for a mid-twenty woman), and unknown, but really known, support of family and friends.  I don’t have fear to hinder me, aside from that positive fear that floats in your belly; the kind that you get before making a big move to a different and wholly new place, or the fear that excites you because you are beginning a new relationship and you have no idea what will happen.

My first fledgling steps into academia include applying, getting accepted, and registering for non-degree graduate work.  The longterm plan is to take classes that can aid in applying to the Nonfiction Writing Program at Iowa.  When I was an undergraduate with the University, the course work for those interested in creative fiction and nonfiction was slim.  I was a year or two too early for the advancements they have in place now.  I took full advantage of what they did offer, though, filling my class schedule with fiction and nonfiction writing workshops, as well as taking a multitude of English course work that spoke to my interests.  In the end I found the ability to take criticism like a pro, to give positive criticism (like a pro), and the knack to speak about tough stuff to a wide audience.

My nonfiction teacher was the one who thought I should approach a nonfiction program.  He encouraged me more than any other professor and even tried to hook me up with classes that could aid a potential graduate writing student.  I, of course, was flattered, but did not take full advantage of his kindness, because of the aforementioned naivety.  If I could go back and kick 21 year old me in the butt, boy would I ever.  But, I must live in the present to make sure I have a future I want.

This morning I had a meeting with an individual from the NWP at Iowa.  I came away from the meeting with this energy, these positive vibrations.  When I was 21, I would have been too afraid to set up a meeting with anyone, I would have gone in acting nonchalant (and therefore, I assume, appearing very disrespectful), with no questions ready, no thought to what I actually wanted or how to get that, and probably would have come across like just another undergrad going through the motions.  Life and experience have proven a wise teacher.  You can be book smart, educated and well versed in what the latest academic journal says, but there is no single greater instructor than experience.  Something that was wonderfully confirmed this morning.  That’s not to say what I did at 21 was right, but it definitely help proves the theory that things happen when they’re meant to, not when we want them.

I have a great support system of family and friends to push me through the insecurities, along with lessons learned from my job with Public Outreach.  Always an extremely nervous and shy girl, the ability to walk up to anyone on the street and start talking to them was an important lesson.  When fear about your next paycheck, how you will pay your next bill, where you will get your next meal pushes you forward, you can accomplish anything.  There are no barriers unless they are the barriers you create yourself.  This learned (or maybe nurtured) ability has given me the confidence to reach out to people I would have, at 21, shied away from.  Canvassing, my job with Public Outreach, also coached me on how to communicate points effectively.  A skill learned in my undergraduate work, but refined, highly refined, as a canvasser.  Talk, get to know the person you are across from, standing next to, or sitting with, mention your goal or objective, but do so in a relatable way.  Don’t go straight to the point outside of letting this person know upfront there is motive, but it’s not as important as talking with them, getting to know them, listening to their likes, dislikes, and finding ways to relate your message to them in a way they would understand.  These benefits may be diagramed, but there is no better educator than going out and performing them.

Also, learn to pick your battles.  Completely unrelated to my future hopes with the NWP, but a valuable lesson nonetheless.

It has felt like my life has been one large jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing and gaping holes obscuring the finished picture.  Don’t get me wrong, the picture is still incomplete, but that one area I was stuck on because everything smeared and I wasn’t sure where the delineation was, is getting better.  I am starting to see the fine lines and put the puzzle pieces into spots.  It’s helping form the larger picture, not necessarily complete it.

It’s official.

Today I registered for my first course as a non-degree graduate student with the University of Iowa.  I have to admit, when I stepped on campus to go to a meeting with my academic advisor, the force of it, the memories, the fear and excitement, the, well, everything, hit me like a physical punch.  I literally had the wind knocked out of me as I crossed in the shadow of the Old Capitol Building.  I simultaneously wanted to cry and laugh.  How far I’ve come, how I am the same; how long it’s been, and yet there are times where it feels like no time has passed.  I hold the old memories dear, but I do not necessarily miss them.  The saying is hindsight is always 20/20.  And it’s true.  I realize how little I put an effort into applying to graduate schools because I was afraid I would lose my boyfriend.  Imagine if I hadn’t half-assed it.  Imagine where I would be, what I would be doing.  But then again, had I not gone through the experiences I did, I wouldn’t have half as much confidence approaching people and talking to them and instigating conversations, a benefit from Public Outreach and a great skill to have when applying to graduate programs.

I feel it is very fitting that my first class will start on New Years Eve.  As if that is not poetic enough, my first class is Introductory Topics Mass Communication: Online Election 2012: Social Media and the Presidential Race.  It will discuss the campaign in terms of social media, focusing on “lessons learned” about online social interaction (i.e. blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) and the important roles they played in the election.  It quite literally combines my interests and packages it into a neat little class.  Kismet, I tell you, Kismet.

Even though I am not sure where my life will take me, I decided to register for Spring semester classes, as well.  I looked at the guidelines/handbook for the Graduate Non-Fiction Writing Program at Iowa and decided to sign up for classes with the clear thought  I will have some coursework under my belt if accepted.  That, and I had to, HAD TO, sign up for a Writer’s Workshop course.  I get to dip my fingers into the acclaimed program by taking Creative Writing for New Media.  Again, it is a class that explores social media and it’s impact on Creative Writing in modern society, among other ideas.  I am literally thrumming with excitement.

 

Saturday fun day.

It seems that today is a day for updates. Resumes, cover letters, blogs, itunes, awesome new games like Scramble with Friends and Draw Something. Did I mentioned that for my twenty-sixth birthday I received an iPhone from my parents? How freaking sweet is that? And they took the family out to this great little wine bar in Chicago called Webster’s Wine Bar. Amazing food, amazing wine, amazing time with friends and family. A bill that probably should have paid for a small studio apartment, but with nine people and four bottles of delicious wine, can’t really complain too much. And I must, again and again and for the seventy-fifth time, THANK my Dad for being the wonderful host. The last couple of years have been difficult, and it has made me realize the importance of family more and more. With my parents getting older and, well, let’s face it, my sister and I getting older, I think it is extremely important to hold on to those familial ties. Granted, sometimes the annoyance level sky-rockets, but it never seems too dramatic anymore. Maybe life experiences like leaving your fiance, starting over, and moving across the country will do that to you. Big, huge, ginormous things in the past just seem small potatoes in comparison. The only real thing I wish was different was my residence. I miss Chicago terribly. And I miss my friends there. And I especially miss that alive feeling I got when I was there. Poor, but more alive than anything I feel here in Iowa. And I think some of it has to deal with wanting to surpress those uncomfortable memories of when Jonathan and I were here. It’s been over a year, but when I drive through Iowa City, it feels fresh and painful. At least I am not biting my nails anymore! Huzzah!

Since I have no internet at home, I have been sitting at the local Starbucks hoarding the connection. They appear to be cleaning up for the evening, so I think I am going to scoot. Hopefully more updates will happen. I need to make more of an effort to get my ass up and moving in the morning. Peace out guys. And thank you for reading.

Belief and love; real faith.

I am currently reading a new book called “By the Iowa Sea”.  It is a memoir written by Joe Blair about the Iowa floods of 2008 and how they affected his life and his marriage and his family.  So far, as I am only 36 pages in, I am greatly impressed.  He writes as a modern day Hemingway.  Short, blunt sentences that carry more meaning than what is on the page.  I want to share something that he wrote, something that hit me and I wholeheartedly agree with:

“This is how love works.  It’s belief that brings love into being.  As if from thin air.  Belief.  An ethereal notion.  An idea that has the power to create and destroy.  We need it, this belief.  This prayer.  This hope.  So that, in time, when the future is worn away by the present, the past might show that we have held up some kind of light, however dim, in the darkness of the world.”