What I’ve Learned From Three Days At College

Hello again, folks! I have been absent lately because I just moved into my college dorm and it’s been a chaotic week. Turns out college is just a bunch of waiting in lines and climbing stairs. I’m going to have unbelievable patience and buns of steel by the end of the month. I don’t have a lot of time, so I’m keeping this post brief and I haven’t gotten to plan it out, so I apologize in advance for the disorganization.

In three days of college, I have learned the following:

1. Silence is not an effective method of social networking.
2. If you don’t want to walk from the front desk of your residence hall to your room carrying two rolls of toilet paper, out there for everyone to see, be sure to bring a bag when you go to replenish your t.p supply.
3. No matter how well advertised your university’s food is, it will not exceed, or sometimes even meet your standards.
4. Everyone seems to think that all college kids ever eat is cheese or pepperoni pizza
5. Walking across campus will always take longer than expected.
6. Not all residence halls are created equal
7. It is entirely possible to discover standing water within your shower’s drain within the first two days of college
8. Alone time feels infinitely more sacred when you live with a roommate and two suitemates, even if your roomie and suitemates are pretty damn cool
9. The R.A may forget to tell you how to get ahold of him
10. People actually expect you to memorize your university email address even though the only thing it’s proven itself good for is notifying you of financial aid issues that you don’t actually have
11. Finding private time to journal is as difficult as finding a trace of logic in Donald Trump’s campaign speeches
12. Colleges love to throw around the word ‘mandatory’ a lot when referring to events that they have no way of holding you accountable for attending

Hello Again! Let’s Talk About Journaling!

First and foremost, sorry for the hiatus, folks. I’ve been backpacking with some fellow college freshmen, preparing to move into my dorm next week, losing sleep over getting tuition and everything paid for, but also, in some weird, paradoxical way, managing to feel very at peace with everything. I returned from the backpacking trip feeling like a new person for some reason, and I’m still working out why that may be, and I promise when I know the answer, or at least have the slightest idea, I will try to write a post about it, because it was a really pivotal experience and I want to share it. For now though, I want to talk about journaling again, because I’m thisclose to filling one of my own up and starting a new one, and I am totally, extra all about the journaling thing these days. Also, don’t expect this post to be a very organized one. I’m just trying to get back into the headspace for blogging, so I don’t know what I’m doing.

I realized recently that the kind of journal I keep is actually not really the norm. Not that there is a norm. It’s just that, when I read blog posts about journaling that are written by people who seem equally passionate about the activity, they all seem to have really different ideas of what journals are for. For me, it serves as a convenient place to hoard my memories. I write about moments that matter to me, and read into them and suck all the emotional nutrients out of them. Then two or so months later, I decide I want to relive them and flip back a year in my life story and reread them because I have a nasty habit of dwelling in the past. Journaling is my way of making sense of everything that happens to me. I rarely use prompts. I choose to record my creative ideas elsewhere, usually. My journals are my life stories. They are full of my thoughts about the reality I am living in and dreams for the future that I want to have. But they really aren’t that creative. I feel bad about that. Like, what kind of journal keeper am I? There’s no poetry in my journals (I take that back actually… there are some pitiful attempts from 2012. I try not to think about those though). There are no little stories or beautiful drawings or inspirational quotes or romantic observations of the world. You might find a corny joke or two or an awful pun though. It’s likely that you will find pages of my languid, numb, depressed musings. Or the word ‘fuck’ engraved into the page twenty one times along with bits of broken pencil led and murderous holes stabbed in the paper (I do not miss my days of being a suicidal wreck).

It’s like every other journal keeper has a way more creative approach to journaling though. Among those people, there is a vast diversity in journal types, but I was so sure I was the majority. So I don’t know whether to feel like I’m missing out on a type of journaling that could be super awesome, or to feel proud that my simple approach to journaling is something that is apparently out of the ordinary, even though I was so certain it was the norm. Or maybe I should stop fussing over it altogether. I don’t know. What do you do with your journal?

I Dream Of A Glorious Day When Menstruation Is No Longer Considered Taboo

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Deeming menstruation socially unacceptable is damaging. I cannot continue to pretend that the stigma surrounding periods doesn’t impact me. I am exhausted and annoyed (really more like infuriated, but I chose a less intense word lest some ignorant douchebag play the ‘psh… you’re just pms-ing” card) and actually find it really sad that those of us who have periods are taught to be ashamed of such a natural process.

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My problem with, what I’ve come to refer to as ‘Period Shame’ is not just about the fact that this stems from a long thread of deeply rooted, historic misogyny. That aspect of it is certainly awful, but at least it’s getting talked about more and more these days. What I’m not seeing enough awareness brought to, is the health risks that can arise as a result of Period Shame.

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When I first started menstruating, I was twelve. There was a lot of anxiety surrounding it because it happened on literally, the first day of seventh grade (’cause I didn’t have enough to worry about then), so, I shit you not, overly-cautious 12-year-old-me panicked and ended up crafting a bizarre safety-net of multiple maxi pads ‘just in case.’ Being inexperienced, I didn’t realize how hilariously excessive that was.

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However, I was also slightly relieved that day. Part of it was because I’d intuitively known it was coming. The days leading up to it had felt different to me, both physically and emotionally, so I had a clue, despite being new to all this. But most of my relief was rooted in the way periods remind you that you’re healthy. I was growing up, my body was changing right on schedule, and as inconvenient as it was, I had a concrete reminder that I was a healthy, ‘normal’ girl. What I can now draw from this experience, is that Period Shame is not natural. No one is inherently ashamed of this process, we are conditioned to feel that way.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to make a simple list of ways Period Shame has impacted me, as well as people I know, instead of diving into a cumbersome paragraph-form explanation. People who menstruate are often affected by Period Shame in the following (as well as many other unlisted), ways:

-May be afraid, embarrassed or uncomfortable telling a parent/guardian when they first get their period

-May not have an adequate understanding of how to hygienically take care of their periods

-May fear seeking help if there are complications (example: getting a tampon stuck)

-May be afraid/uncomfortable voicing concerns about their periods or asking important questions

-May find that the emotional variations that often accompany periods are exacerbated by this belief that when you’re menstruating, your body is doing something ‘gross and unmentionable’

-May not be aware if their menstruation is indicating health problems

-May not even know what menstruation is, and believe they’re dying or experiencing some kind of severe health problem/injury when their period comes. I know someone who got her period at age 9. This was her experience, because parents are often afraid to tell their younger kids about periods, despite the fact that hearing about this will not scar them or instill fear. This is problematic for early developers.

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The stigma surrounding periods is unhealthy, inconvenient and often leads to unnecessary embarrassment. In a worst case scenario, silencing people about menstruation can be fatal. We, as an entire society (all genders, all different bodies, all people) absolutely must destroy this harmful, misguided notion that periods are taboo. Aside from having damaging results, it is ridiculous and illogical. Those of us who experience menstruation, need to feel comfortable talking about our periods and asking questions, those who don’t, need to be aware that it’s never okay, and often inaccurate, to accuse another person of PMSing in attempt to invalidate feelings, and should also be aware that no matter what your sex is, you have hormones too, and your emotions are influenced by them whether you know it or not. Just because your mood swings aren’t correlated with a specific bodily function, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. In short, it is the 21st century. Maintaining outdated beliefs that negatively impact a large portion of Earth’s population, is unacceptable.

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A Question Of Perceptions, Reflections And Happiness

We all know those people who have absolutely nothing nice to say about anything. I’m not talking about pessimists. There’s nothing wrong with being a bit pessimistic, or even more than a bit pessimistic. I’m talking about those people who may seem totally pleasant at first, but as soon as they open their mouths to voice their world views, they turn into these rancorous, penurious hate mongers. I’m sorry if that’s offensive, but I cannot hold it in any longer. I am tired of hearing these people spitting their miserable, acidic opinions out as if they’re facts.

“Nothing in life is free!”

“There isn’t a fully altruistic person on this Earth! They’re all out to swindle you!”

“Human nature is fundamentally evil!”

I mean, gee, I’m sorry, who pissed in your coffee today? And yesterday, the day before that and every day before that one? Can you prove any of what you just said? Because in my opinion, thought and will are free, altruistic people do, in fact, exist, and we know so little about human nature that as of now, it is near impossible and entirely foolish to place attributes on it. But I’m not going to go around trying to pass those opinions off as facts and trying to indoctrinate everyone with my nauseatingly optimistic propaganda, so kindly refrain from doing the same with your resentful horseshit. I can’t tell these people to stop viewing life the way they do, and that wouldn’t make sense anyway, because that’s not my objection. I object to the way they make everyone else miserable by preaching their hate and professing that everyone else is at fault for being so ‘blindly optimistic.’ I believe that most humans are trying to be good people because whether or not I’m succeeding, I am certainly putting forth a great effort to be a ‘good person.’ I believe that thought and will are free because I feel that my own thinking and desires are independent and within my control. I believe in altruism because I strive for it.

Perhaps the way we view the world is more a reflection of who we are as individuals, and not the rest of the world. If you’re a frigid person, it’s no wonder the world seems like a frigid place to you, and maybe that’s why these people who are so bitter and so eager to educate everyone else on the evils of humankind never seem like very happy people. They can accuse me of seeing the world through rose colored glasses all they want, but sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m not the one whose viewpoints are tinted– maybe I have clarity, and it’s them who see the world in gray.

Am I A Victim Of Materialism, Or A Perpetrator?

Here’s a nice, disturbing topic to delve into: materialism. I’ve spent my entire life taking great pride in the fact that I am not materialistic. It’s been the one thing that I remind myself of when I start to question whether or not I’m doing an A+ job at life.

“I forgot to floss my teeth, have been ignoring my bank statements for three months straight, didn’t signal on the on ramp this morning, ripped a contact lens and lost my glasses, but at least I’m not materialistic!”

I mean, maybe I suck at some things, but at least I’ve got enough depth of character to not be materialistic, right? If I was materialistic, then there would be no redeeming qualities about being me. So at least I’m not materialistic… but I’ve been beginning to question that lately. This September, I’ll be a freshman in college. That means I’m buying a lot of college prep stuff that advertisers have convinced me I need. I can’t just take my sheets from home to my dorm room. No, I need XL twin microfiber bedsheets in light teal so that they can match the new, overpriced comforter I’m ordering on Amazon. And there’s a lot of slippery red brick on campus. It’s rainy here in the PNW, so I need a solid pair of waterproof boots. Could I have just settled for a practical, reasonably priced, favorably reviewed pair from one of the lesser known brands? Oh no. I scrolled past two pages of perfectly suitable, inexpensive, five star street boots and clicked on a pair of four star, goddamn Doc Martens. To be fair, they were fifty percent off, but for fuck’s sake, why did they have to be Docs? They had to be Docs because Docs are cool. Docs are recognizable. Docs will go well with those new dresses I bought, and the leather jacket and the wool sweater.

Back to school shopping is entirely acceptable, especially when you’re a college freshman and you’re scared about living on your own, but also excited, eager to find new friends yet desperate to make a glowing first impression. But it doesn’t have to be this marathon of materialistic desires and impulse spending. There is a fine, but clear line between wants and needs, and usually, I can make that distinction quite well, but lately, I feel as though I’ve been trying to medicate my college-freshman-apprehension with new clothes and unnecessary dorm supplies. Part of it is because of the marketing ploys. Walk into a Target sometime. There will be a full section of the store devoted solely to college supplies. You can have your pick of ten different kinds of shower caddies and get half-off on dorm decorations that will seem cute and clever until you realize that half the people on your floor have the exact same ones. Advertisers are fully aware that this time of year, the stores are crawling with fussy mother-hens, willing to shell out the entirety of their retirement funds on superfluous dorm accessories just to make sure their baby chicks will be comfy when they leave the nest. And they prey on that. Relentlessly. They also know the baby chicks will pay any price to be cool at school, so they make sure to set plenty of expensive bait for them. As a result of this, I have relinquished my integrity and authenticity and allowed myself to get sucked in to the materialism trap.

But maybe it’s irresponsible of me to blame the marketing ploys. I mean, at the end of the day, it just comes down to a poor, innocent, starving CEO who just needs a wee more million to install a mini bar on his family’s private jet. We all need money, don’t we? What really bothers me is that this entire time, I’ve known about the marketing ploys. I was fully aware of how excessive the college shopping was getting, and for this reason, I cannot call myself a victim while still maintaining an ounce of personal fidelity. I know that I encouraged and supported these marketing techniques. I know that when the college shopping season comes to a close, some middle aged man in a suit and tie is going to stand in front of his advertising crew in a meeting room and congratulate them on a job well done, clicking through PowerPoint slides of graphs and diagrams illustrating the success of their marketing ploys. I will be one of the millions of people who made those ploys successful, and it makes me wonder if it’s more because the advertisers took advantage of me, or because I am weak on a moral level and allowed those marketing ploys to ensnare me.

This raises a question that I’ve never really thought about: Is materialism an external quality that befalls the unwary or is it something from within, that comes out when given the right circumstances? Or is it a bit of both? Maybe that’s an obnoxiously pseudo-philosophical question, and maybe there’s no answer, but either way, it’s one that has been crossing my mind a lot lately when I get those intermittent moments of clarity in this frenzy of college-prepping, where I find myself disappointed with my actions and confused about why I’m behaving so out of character lately.

What’s So Political About Political Correctness?

When I was in driver’s ed., my instructor used to find every excuse he could to attempt to indoctrinate the class with his conservative values. Often, he would pace arrogantly back and forth in front of the class and remind us all that, “two things will ruin America.” I don’t remember what the first one was, because I fervently rejected his propaganda, but the second ‘thing that would ruin America’ was political correctness. Every now and again he’d slip up and accidently blurt out some kind of twisted racist or homophobic bullshit, and carelessly excuse himself with his ‘political correctness is going to ruin America’ speech.

Driver’s ed. was not the first time I’ve heard conservatives protest political correctness, and certainly was not the last. In fact, I do believe Mr. Donald Trump voiced his own concern about political correctness recently. Every example of ‘political correctness’ people give seems to revolve around basic human rights. It is politically correct believe black lives matter. It is politically correct to pay women equal wages. It is politically correct to refrain from using homophobic slurs. It is politically correct to use people’s correct gender pronouns, to treat trans people with respect, to acknowledge more than just the binary genders… the list goes on for miles.

What I find somewhat disturbing is the fact that the things listed above are apparently political. It seems to me that treating your fellow human beings as equals is not a matter of politics, it’s a matter of basic human empathy and compassion, something that I hope all people feel for one another, regardless their political leanings. Working to create a more respectful, safe and inclusive society for all people is not politically correct, it’s fundamentally correct.

“Why Don’t You Wear Dresses?”

Raise your hand if you’ve been asked this question: “Why don’t you wear dresses?” Yep, that’s a lot of hands. And I’m willing to bet good money that everyone who has been confronted with this strange, obnoxious, unanswerable enigma of a question is perceived as a woman. I’ve been asked this all my life and have always kept quiet about it because I could never quite identify why I despise this question so much. Today though, I want to talk about it, partly because it’s just annoying, but mostly because I think this question often has its roots in some harmful assumptions about gender and self expression, and many times, well-intending askers inadvertently cause a lot of annoyance and discomfort for their unsuspecting victims.

I used to be very confused when people asked this. Having grown up in a house surrounded by five acres of towering trees, squishy swamps and bushy salal, my childhood activities largely consisted of tree climbing, bushwhacking, making forts, terrorizing the local deer population (read: attempting to befriend Bambi), riding my bike through the wooded trails and making twiggy, uncomfortable, but fully functional hammocks out of cedar bows. Naturally, I dressed appropriately for my feral flower child activities so, dresses were never a part of my everyday wardrobe. I often associate them with formal-wear, but more than that, I just never really grew accustomed to the feeling of wearing a dress, so when I go clothes shopping, I tend to gravitate towards pants.

Lately, I have been trying to ascertain the correct answer to “Why don’t you wear dresses?” What does that even mean? Do people think that just because they’ve never seen me wear a dress, I have some kind of moral opposition to it? Truth is, I do wear dresses. I even enjoy wearing dresses sometimes. I just prefer pants usually, and somehow that answer never satisfies the inquirers.

Average Inquirer: What are you talking about? You never wear dresses! I’ve never seen you in one!

Me: Yes, but you’ve only known me for 2 years. And you don’t even see me that often. I do wear dresses, it’s just that I haven’t worn one around you.

A.I: You should wear them more often then, you’d look so pretty!

And you know what? I look bitchin’ in a dress. I feel bitchin’ in a dress. I like the flowyness and the old fashioned vibe and the fact that it excuses me from having to match two pieces of clothing in the morning before I’ve even had my coffee. But there is more to life than looking and yes, even feeling sexy. Sometimes I want to wake up, drag my groggy body to the bathroom mirror, look at my Clearasil dotted face and purple insomniac eye-bags and think, “I’m not sexy today at all. I don’t look it, I don’t feel it, and that doesn’t bother me, because I have things to do and thoughts to have and a life to live and those variables are completely independent of my sexiness.” There’s got to be some kind of healthy level of positive-body-apathy for women to attain. I’m not suggesting that women suddenly become negligent of our health, I’m just saying that this obsession with feeling sexually appealing often feels like nothing more than another polite way of binding women to our bodies.

This question calls a lot of attention to gender expectations. Am I, as a girl, supposed to just naturally feel compelled to wear a certain type of clothing? Why does my explanation of “because I prefer pants, they’re more practical” never satisfy people? It often seems like, as a woman practicality is not a valid reason for my actions. As a woman, I am expected to blindly surrender to whatever beauty standards society sets, regardless of its suitability for my lifestyle. Why is the follow up comment always about how pretty I’d look in a dress, and why is it assumed that beauty should be my motivation for me to wear one? If I wear a dress, it may be because it makes me feel attractive, but more likely it’s because it’s hot outside, or I’m attending a formal event, or I’m out of clean pants. Might I also add that this question reinforces the primitive and damaging concept of gendered clothing, something that I believe to be counterproductive in terms of social progress, as well as absolutely preposterous (save for the reasonable sizing variations that arise as a result of anatomical differences). Not to mention, unless they have explicitly asked you, it’s safe to assume that most people are not particularly interested in hearing your evaluation of their expression and style.

More than anything, please consider this: If I like what I’m wearing, kindly let me wear it in peace. This question is uncomfortable for me, because I usually don’t think I’m weird (at least, no weirder than the next person), yet I am forced to question that and wonder if there’s something wrong with me, every time someone asks this. “Why don’t you wear dresses?” may be asked with innocent intentions, but it perpetuates the same benighted stereotypes and societal expectations that humans have been working decades to annihilate, and I hope to see less of this dreadful inquiry in the future.

Diversity In The Social Ecosystem

Have you ever heard of biodiversity? It’s the variety of different types of life found on Earth. Biological diversity is a strong indicator of a healthy ecosystem and should be conserved and appreciated because of this. I think the concept of biodiversity is absolutely beautiful, because it shines a much needed light on the importance of diversity in general. But diversity isn’t just important in the natural ecosystem. I believe it’s equally vital in the social ecosystem, and I wanted to write about that because I feel like this is something that needs to be talked about more.

This is actually a wonderful time to be alive if you value diversity, because there is so much attention to human rights lately. Same sex marriage was recently legalized throughout Ireland, and shortly after that, in all fifty of the United States. Transgender people are coming into the public eye more and more, people are refusing to ignore racially motivated police brutality… the list grows. The point is, that now, perhaps more than ever, the range of people who our respect and acknowledgement is given to, is expanding rapidly, and hopefully, will continue to do so.

Originally, this post was going to touch on how underappreciated diversity often is and how much I want to see that change. But I want to focus on the positive today, so I’m going to take a little different approach to this subject and point out why diversity’s importance automatically makes you important.

Just by existing, you are contributing to society’s diversity because you are a unique person with unique talents, skills and perspectives to offer the world, and therefore you are important. Your gender, sexuality, race, genetic makeup, your upbringing, the environment and conditions you were born into, the experiences you have had, the people you’ve met, the things you have done, have all shaped your mind and thoughts in an entirely distinctive way and make you your own, individual person. That should be valued and appreciated every day, by the people around you, but also by yourself.

Whether you know it or not, you are beautiful and you matter because you are different. You have something significant to contribute and all you have to do is share yourself with the world. We need you and love you more than either us will ever know.