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Monday, January 19, 2015

This I Believe essay #2

Same approach, second week:

Please post your essay here before class on Tuesday. Please also remember to bring a printed copy of your essay to class and practice so that you are prepared to read it aloud.

31 comments:

  1. I do not believe in time.
    We are educated through human culture to think that time is what we exist in. We put a restriction on ourselves because we felt it “natural” and needed a way to organize ourselves, to make things understandable. A way to believe that we had control over our existence and that our existence actually matters and is created for some magnificent reason thanks to some higher power. Than HE or SHE or THEY created this great space in which they play with us from above, on a one way scale going towards death and age.
    Time is linear, which is incredibly depressing when you think about it for too long. And when I think about it like this, it actually can make perfect sense as to why people do drugs, or drink a shit ton, or hurt people physically and emotionally and mentally, or jump off of cliffs and murder people and don’t have values. Because we are all going in the same direction, because even if you think death is beautiful (which it definitely can be), it’s still death. And out perception of this life, of this one way set of time, and who we are as people, will just disappear and no one knows where to.
    There are so many different theories on where we go, and why our time is linear or if it is not linear at all but rather, a circle or a sphere. I believe in those ideas of time a lot more than this one that we all are thinking in right now. The fact that I can even think about it is exhausting; humans are just lucky that we even have a consciousness. Scratch that, humans just have a consciousness and an ego which makes us feel like we are smarter than all other living and breathing organisms; makes us feel like we are entitled to something.
    Maybe when time ends we just dissipate back into rocks and dust that formed off of rolling balls of gas in this big, great open space that we float in, that is just created and we have no idea where it came from or what we are within.
    This is all terrifying to think of. We live in a big open space. WHAT THE FUCK.
    I do not believe in time. I just want to exist and not have to do things like bills or school or like feed myself and just float. Maybe I would like to float in that big open space and just do nothing.

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    1. Time, as we understand it, can be oppressive and it typically moves too fast, for sure. But without our understanding of time, we wouldn't be able to reconstruct an understanding of the past, or memories. As someone with an emotional connection to my own past, this is enough for me to tolerate the trouble that comes with knowledge that time never stops. At least that is what I think right now. In three hours (at the tail end of this day), I will likely feel quite different.

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    2. A belief in linear time comes with the baggage of age and ageing. It is heavy. Maybe too heavy. Maybe unnecessary altogether.

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  2. Listening to NPR one day (I don’t know the program), I heard two women talking about how one of the most annoying things to hear as a parent from other parents was the phrase “my kid is such a good eater.” I agree that this phrase is annoying, but not because I’m a parent who struggles with a picky kid. It’s annoying because there’s simply no way it can be true in comparison to my niece.

    Lola is one of my favorite people in this world. She recently turned four years old, and even though I've only gotten to hang out with her on a handful of occasions, I can confidently say that she is one of the greatest humans I have ever been around. One of the reasons she brings me nothing but joy is because of her love of food. When I say love, I really mean love. I have never seen anyone be so unapologetically enthusiastic about every single edible object they encounter. She gets as excited about kimchi as she does about a veggie plate as she does about a spoonful of mustard. Maybe that makes her weird, but something as pure as the delight food brings her seems too light and too good to be anything but awe-inspiring.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are mean to others about their choice in food. For example if someone says something about the smell a food has or how it looks, it deeply deeply upsets me. I believe this stems from an experience I had when I was very young at the café in Joseph Beth. An old man stood in front of me in line, alone, waiting to be seated. As the hostess was getting ready to seat him, he informed her he was looking forward to the special they were advertising, which was chicken and rice soup. She informed him that that special was from yesterday, and they were no longer offering it. He then told her never mind, and walked out. Even at my young age, I understood what had happened as something very sad. That man just wanted soup, and he didn’t get it.

    I believe people should be allowed to enthusiastically enjoy whatever food they want. That old man didn’t get his soup, but if people have access to the food they love, weird or not, they should be allowed to eat it without judgment. I can’t help but think of Lola when I consider this pet peeve, or worse, when I see it in action. I usually try to speak up and defend someone’s right to eat whatever the fuck they want. But when I watched Lola, two years old at the time, try to eat a banana stem first because she was simply too excited, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sadness because of the knowledge of the world she will eventually become aware of. Her mother, my sister, posted a picture on facebook of two avocados in a grocery cart, with three of the tiniest, cutest bites taken out of them pre-check out. Lola knew what she wanted, and without even waiting for the “ABACADA!!” to be peeled at home, she tried to eat it as soon as she could get her hands on it.

    Lola, I have hope for a world where you can eat spoonful after spoonful of mustard and enjoy the heck out of it, and no one will say a word to you about how perfectly strange that makes you. I believe in your love for food, and I swear, even from far away, I will defend your right to eat whatever your heart desires. Because I love you. And you love food.

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    1. Lola is likely far to young to benefit from reading this essay now, but maybe consider giving a printed copy of it to her parents so that Lola can find it and read it a few (or several) years from now. I suspect that it will mean a lot to her.

      Also: I once knew a child that audibly moaned with pleasure with every bite of her food, no matter what it was. An unusual habit, for sure, but it was sad to see that habit diminish and then disappear as she aged. Hopefully it isn't because she enjoys food any less.

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  3. I believe that coming up with something to write about believing in is much harder than it ought to be.

    One would think that with the uncountable thoughts I have, answering the open question of, “What do you believe in?” would be easy. The problem I have is in its openness. It is just like when my mom would ask, “What do you want for dinner?” Food is answer, but an unsatisfactory one to her. But how am I to answer a question with missing data and no limitations? When she asked about dinner, I wanted to ask her questions right back. Will you be cooking or will I? Are we having something heavy for lunch? If so, I want a light dinner to follow. Is eating out an option? Take out food? Will my sister be home and eat with us? She is the picky one.

    When told to write about what I believe, my head goes clean and blank. I have beliefs, but there are so many things to believe in that it cannot begin to sort through the possibilities.I believe that false spring days in January are the best days of the year. I believe that you can say something important in one silent walk with a loved one than you can in most other situations. I believe that hushed conversations after bed time are the fun ones. But I never have a story to share with these thoughts and I cannot pick one to write about. Instead, I stare through a piece of paper while the graphite of my pencil scratches aimlessly.

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    1. You write these with pencil on paper rather than typing them directly into a computer? That act alone must be fueled by some sort of belief (one for the materiality of graphite or against the posture problems caused by computers)

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  4. I believe in a person’s happy place.
    I do not say this in regards to a person’s funny bone (which isn’t actually a bone), but in regards to spaces and places. I believe a person’s happy place reveals the person the lies deep within themselves and even allows for the manifestation of positive ideas in others. This happy place may not be what people expect, but it is real, alive, and valuable.
    My happy place is revealed in nature. There is a place that is mildly cliché, heavily attended, and relatively close by. This place, though not original, is my happy place. It is called Raven Run. I arrive to this place first by car, then by foot. When I walk through the various, wooden terrain I am reminded of the importance in being in balance with my self, without the forces of other people, stereotypes and judgments. I walk down, around, and up hills until I arrive at the end, overlooking an absolutely breathtaking view. This is a place that overlooks a river, and has a place for me to sit, close my eyes, and allow the negative lies, thoughts, and feelings purge out of my body like breath on a cold night. This place remains as my happy place because its solitude, and ability to bring me back to myself and away from other unfavorable mindsets.
    I believe in the ability of this happy place to manifest itself for the good of others after I reflect. If I am balance with myself and allow negative comments and thoughts to bounce off of me like repelling batteries, then I am contributing to the positive equilibrium of those I come in contact with.
    Once I went out to Raven Run after my mom and I had gotten in a big fight. I do not like yelling at her or degrading her comments, but when anger overtakes my patience I am filled with selfishness. I hate when my pride controls my entire body like a cold chill running through my veins, but it does. I sat overlooking that river at Raven Run for close to two hours before I had enough harmony to go back and apologize to her for my words and tone. Because of my (recent) habit of apologizing to her for my actions and words, she has been taking accountability of her words and actions towards others as well.
    I believe in the ability of a person’s happy place.

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    1. I too so enjoy Raven Run...My happy place would have to be a place full of people who love people, strangers and friends alike. Nature is too solitary to be my happy place :)

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  5. Yukio Mishima once wrote about the dark of night as a bag tied at the mouth. Stars were “tiny, almost imperceptible perforations.”

    Today we hold stars to the wall with strips of blue tape and smooth them into place. Made permanent with paint, our stars spread open the paper bag of darkness, pasting the light to a wall 29-feet wide. At the center, stars flicker to the incantation of poets who proclaim their love for the cities and the planet they call home.

    Four months ago we tied on gingham and filled a pail with small suns to scatter in the Nevada desert. Some of them have returned to us, others have traveled around singing our love story in different languages, to people we may never meet outside the small screen of a computer.

    Two years ago we designed a secret with circles and dots stitched to the woven lines of an invisible net. Later we used the same net to enfold suns and stars.

    Stars, suns, circles, and diamonds spread across the museum walls as they’ve already spread on the skin of a thousand people around the world. Though I imagine Yukio Mishima’s bag still tightens around us, I believe we have drawn to us a constellation, captured with our invisible net.

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  6. I believe in length and depth, I believe that in length and in depth there is time for contemplation and meditation. I see that in times that seem too drawn out that we have a choice; we can either sit and be bored or allow ourselves the time to process our own reflections. There is really long movies or even short films where there’s a shot that seems to really take the viewer nowhere, rather it’s just a scene that we can either accept as being boring and having no place, or time to reflect on what we have already seen. Those times are pivotal towards my life, staring off into space feeling like there is nothing there and getting lost in thought it is meditating, and a form of self-medication. I feel at around age 18 I really changed, the ages between 18-25 or so seem to be definitely the most defining and growing, and the use of self-reflection ever since I left the house to come to school has become a major part of what I do. I watch different movies, listen to different music, I write new and expansive poetry comparatively to home. It’s as if a new mindset of depth and longing has come over me.
    I remember another transitional period where people in middle school would find my staring off into space or closing my eyes and listening to music to be somewhat interesting, girls found it slightly off putting especially if they thought I was staring at them, chances are I wasn’t, girls were never particularly interesting in the scope of what I was most likely thinking. But depending on the circumstances what knows where the thoughts went? But in middle school I slowly became self-conscious to the idea of zoning out and really just taking a quick mind break, so I started managing it, slowly it became no existent.
    I find that length of time is always pivotal towards anything really; I find that doing anything particularly fast isn’t great in the long run, of course I do most things like that, surprisingly in my nature I tend to do things in a relative fast manner, writing assignments, projects, etc. I end up getting to that point way to late in the game because I’ve already been meditating on my thoughts, taking my time listening to music, practically procrastinating in order to put things off for a longer amount of time. So even in college managing has become a major part of life, I believe that despite my nature to zone out, or put my energy into writing for fun should be managed to be balanced with everything else. I have to believe in time for contemplation and meditation, it’s a form of self-medication, I believe in that.

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    1. I hope you will consider, once or twice, writing your This I Believe essay in the form of a poem--if that can work within your habits of writing poetry

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  7. I don’t remember when I stopped closing my eyes when I pray, but I know I used to feel bad about it.

    Maybe it was when I was young, and my parents would leave church yelling at each other and would not stop the entire way home. And I and my brothers would sit in the back seat carefully studying the floormats, fighting to avoid making a sound. I know I was praying then, but I can’t remember if my eyes were closed.

    Maybe it was when I was just a little older, and I saw my father cry for the first time. His mother had died, and though I don’t think I ever met her, I cried too. Because that’s what you do when you see your dad cry and you’re young, you cry too. He didn’t cry the next sunday morning, but sat stone faced as the words of the sermon and prayer washed over him. I don’t think his eyes were closed when we prayed.

    If not then, then maybe it was when I started to hate going to church every week. The mass produced faith spoon fed to lost middle schoolers added only to my causeless guilt and confusion.

    It might have been the first time I reluctantly went to camp. When we prayed in the morning, I definitely did not close my eyes. Instead I watched as the sun poured warmth into the valley while the oaks and pines shook off their sleep and basked in the promise of a new day. And when we prayed at night, I couldn’t take my eyes off the thousands of stars, whose light traveled for thousands of years just to share a warm summer’s evening with us, long enough to even blink.

    I usually don’t close my eyes when we pray in church anymore. Instead I like to look around at the people there in the pews with me, and wonder about their lives and why they are there. Every now and then I’ll make eye contact with someone and we will both act like it didn’t happen, that we both had our eyes closed.

    The last time I prayed was Christmas Eve dinner. I opened my eyes about halfway through and looked around at the table. I started at my left hand, wherein my brother’s was, and in his other his wife’s. On her other side was my other brother, who balanced his sister in law’s hand on his right and our mother’s in this left. She rested her other hand firmly, steadily in my father’s as he prayed for all of us. I lastly looked at where my father held my hand, smiled and closed my eyes again.

    I don’t feel bad when I open my eyes during a prayer. I believe whoever or whatever is listening doesn’t really care either way.

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    1. There is much to this act and to this essay, Kevin. Indeed I think you could probably write an entire essay about the few moments at the Christmas Eve table, looking around from hand to hand.

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    2. You write beautiful prose...

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  8. When we become adults it is our responsibility to understand and forgive the people who raised us. Once we can do that, we have truly grown up and freed ourselves from any fear or anger left over from not getting what we needed when we were small. Mothers and Fathers are also fallible beings who are just trying to do their best, just like you.
    We all express love differently. Some people focus on words, others touch or action. In families and in partners we often are surrounded by people who express love in a similar way to us. My biological family is one that says, “I love you,” every time we hang up the phone and gives lots of hugs. When I am in relationships I see love in the way my partner chooses to hold my hand and the words they to speak to me.
    When my father divorced my mother and remarried, I had to learn how to understand the love language of three other children and a new mother. My step siblings and I were young enough to learn to communicate as we played. We learned from ridding razor scooters in summer, spending hours at the pool, building forts, these experiences lead to understanding. It was more difficult with my stepmother. My stepmother shows love by keeping our schedules, making sure she is always there to pick us up on time, finding us the best doctors and taking us to church. When I was younger I didn’t know this was her way of saying, “I love you.” In my mind because she did not reach out to me through words and hugs, I thought all of her background work in my life was just done out of a sense of obligation. I thought I was a burden. As I have grown older though I have learned that all that she had done for me has been out of love for me. That all the mistakes she had made along the way with me were not because she didn't care about me, but because she is human and we all get scared sometimes. The ability to understand this has made me able to give that same acceptance and appreciation back to her. I have forgiven her for her mistakes and forgiven myself for not seeing her love sooner, in this way we have healed more in our relationship and in our lives.

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    1. Yours is a tremendous realization--beautiful and mature and full of compassion

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  9. I believe in loving yourself and keeping yourself healthy not only physically but even more importantly mentally. Yes, this may sound conceited but it all depends on who you include in your self. For example, in my self there is my family and my very close friends; like your actually self these people will always be there for you and they have overcome unique obstacles which you may encounter in the future. So, what I am trying to say is if you treat yourself and your self right then you are in for a grand journey people call life.

    In highschool there was a poster in the fitness room which read, “If you don’t take take care of your body, where will you live?” At first my friends and I took it as you would be disowned by your family and friends if you are not healthy, which would be terrible because everyone should have a place to call home regardless of their health. After thinking about we realized it meant if you do not take care of your physical self then your mind will not have a place to stay and if you do not take care of your mental self then your body will be an empty house. This poster has really stuck with me because there are times when all I want to do is become thinner or work myself till perfection and other times when all I want to do is eat donuts and procrastinate; it has helped me realize that it’s not one or the other it’s both, hence, why I am the way I am today.

    The reason I stress having a healthy self because when a person you include in your self is not healthy you can be there for them and when you are not healthy then you can lean on your healthy self-ers. Finally, if you love yourself and yourself/self healthy then 1. your obstacles will become less obstacle-y, 2. life will be more enjoyable (see 1), and 3. when yourself and your self are all healthy you create this mega-self and tears start flowing from immense happiness and joy.

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  10. I have always felt anxious around the elderly, and so when slow thawing puff pastry stranded me in my grandmother’s kitchen last Thanksgiving while the rest of the family struck out for a walk around the perimeter of the Glenview property, it was with apprehension that I looked across the island to engage Auntie Rhet in conversation. A connoisseur of felted hats and cheap brandy, my great aunt was content to soldier on for a while in silence – me dabbing here and there at a still unbaked brie, her picking at a plate of kalmata olives – before either of us ventured to speak. In the exchange that followed, she asked me about my plans for the coming year and told me about her own pre-war youth – about how she left the orpingtons and bantams of the Martinsville farm behind for greener pastures, how in the end it wasn’t pastures at all that she was after, but the blistering sun and dusty nightlife of Phoenix, how she’d drive all night to California and take no notice of the crime wave that filled the headlines left on the stoop when she returned to her apartment late in the morning of the next day. It was not because of mistrust that I asked my grandmother for more of the story later that night, when she filled in some of the gaps – how one night at the club lead to a baby and a dropped suit against the father for the rights to a surname, how one marathon drive was to California by way of Martinsville to share a young woman’s burden with aging parents, how the boy grew and was lost to AIDS in the first wave, how the new landlord still complains about the chicken bones added to the fertilizer of front porch petunias.

    I believe in the double lives of Great Aunt Retas and in family histories left too long untold.

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    1. beautiful. I am glad you made the time to listen to Great Aunt Reta--and that you shared it with us.

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  11. Light is fast and finite. Take a look at the sun for example, even though it looks like we are seeing it as it is, the vast distance from earth to the sun creates a latency period where we only see how the sun was eight minutes ago. Take another eight minutes, and then you would see it how you originally wanted to. With this fact in mind, I hope aliens from a distant galaxy never see Earth when I was a teenager at Hart County High School.

    I made the mistake last night of unearthing my hard drive circa 2010-2011 and went on a digital excavation. Most of the drive consisted of old tunes, assignments and pictures of sorts; overall they were somewhat pleasant and nostalgic sites. I got to my English work however and that is where I found the carefully preserved bones of my true adolescence. Movie reviews of art house films that my sixteen year old brain obviously knew EVERYTHING about, poorly written short stories that consisted of nothing but inside jokes with one of my friends, and, what I like to call the magnum opus of my blunders, a book review on how my ‘niceness’ is why I am in the ‘friend zone’ and how some shitty self-help book was what was going to save my adolescent love life. I can assure you all that none of the contents belong in a museum.

    While I am glad that those years are done and gone, I can’t help but think that somewhere out in space, the Earth will look as young as I was back then. For this reason alone, I believe that somewhere in some place, I am perpetually a twelve year old.

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    1. I hope this is true for me as well even though digital memories were not captured in this same way (old hard drives) when I was 12

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  12. I believe in cats. Cats, much like unicorns, are a fictitious creation of our imagination according to sources. However, despite all the surmounting evidence that they do actually exist including, but not limited to, historical references, personal stories, news articles, videos and images, we as a nation continue to deny and condemn the existence of cats. Now, to the credit of the world, we do acknowledge the big fat cats such as lion and tigers and bears oh my! Don’t even try correcting them on the bear thing, they’ll defend it till they are green in the face and red of cloth. Anyways, back to the cat thing. I believe in cats because I had a friend when I was little who happened to be a cat.

    Before I moved to Kentucky, I lived in state known as North Carolina. There, my dwelling was a double wide trailer. In that double wide was a little room I shared with my brother, and in that room was a window. Out that window little three year old Christopher would stare and often times an orange tabby (a type of cat) would be on the other side. Now I wasn’t permitted to go outside and play with him, but through the window in secret, I could talk to him. We would talk about a lot of important stuff. Y’know, like which toy was the best or whether or if dinner was yucky. Important stuff. Alas, one day it abruptly ended when I found out I was moving. With all the movers coming in and out my feline companion was too afraid to come out and talk. I didn’t get to say goodbye, but I did manage a wave in his direction when I left.

    I’ll leave out the next couple of years because they don’t particular pertain to the story. In the new place I made friends with a new cat but my parents didn’t like how wild he was so they got rid of him. After that my parents didn’t want to hear talk of any cats. Unfortunately for them I’ve always been a little bit of a rebel rouser, and a now six year old me manage to fall in love with a cat that I called Liberty. She quickly became my adopted younger sister and all though my father hated the idea he ultimately consented to it when he saw my heart was in it. Liberty was my absolute best friend I even wrote a poem in sixth grade in her honor:

    Liberty

    When most hear
    this word
    they think of justice
    or maybe freedom

    But I think of something
    something that means a lot to me
    just like freedom
    but different

    This is my cat
    Liberty
    for she plays
    plays of freedom

    Yet thats not all
    she speaks of truth
    walks of peace
    and attacks justice head on

    This is my cat
    Liberty
    for she is
    Liberty

    She was there for me when I needed her most. When my brother passed away when I was ten she sat on my couch and let me hold her as I cried. She was there for me when I didn’t need her. When I would go to sleep she would often sneak into my bed and gently fall asleep next to me, but god forbid you moved because she would take that as a sign to play. As she grew older she became less dependent on me and would go find her adventures. But no matter how many years passed she was still my little sister, Libby. Even this past summer when I came home after my first stroke and when I came home after my first surgery. She would curl up and rest with me. I just wish I had been there this summer when she curled up for the last time.

    That cat was my life. I loved her more than most people I know. She was with me at the best and she was with me at the worst. It infuriates me that people actually still believe that cats don’t exist. They love and they laugh, and they eat. They just do it in their own way, and that’s okay. Not acknowledging them entirely is not okay. I believe in cats and I will until we fix society’s perspective.

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  13. I believe in short-shorts and no bras.

    For as long as I can remember, being physically attractive was taught as the best thing you could possibly be. In school, you'd have lots of friends if you were pretty. People would ask you out if you were "hot". The popular kids were always and only the most visually appealing. But most people did not meet this criteria in the eyes of unmerciful middle and high schoolers. Many people were talked about and ridiculed covertly - and not - on a regular basis. Many girls. Mostly girls.

    It's no secret that adolescents are a frenzied mess of hormones, but the degree to which girls at this age - and all other ages too - experience prejudice based on their projected sexual worth was something I didn't understand until relatively recently. I too thought "it's stupid, but that's just the way it is" for a
    very long time. I remember my anger and surprise when a good friend of mine told me a conversation that had gone on between him and another boy in our class. My high school friend Drew, who had "liked" me for a long time, told this information to another of his friends, John. And of course, his response was a curt, bewildered "But she's fat."

    And that hurt a lot. But I thought...you know, it's okay. John's an asshole. It doesn't matter that he said that because anyone who does matter won't think things like that. It's okay because I don't care about him, so it shouldn't bother me. But it still hurt anyway. Because when all the males in our society are
    raised to care about is how sexually valuable the women they see are, and all the females are raised to think that their worth only extends to how sexually appealing they are to males, how the hell are we ever supposed to build any sort of meaningful relationships that aren't completely built upon or otherwise heavily colored with racist, sexist heteronormativity?

    When we build up these "values" from birth, whether we mean to or not, we're creating a frame of mind for that child that can hardly ever truly be changed, even if the child grows up and wants to. If you've been taught something and had that reinforced from ever since you were small, it's going to remain in your mind, even if you are able to force your actions to go against it. Even if you learn that it's wrong, those tendencies will still be at work, and you will have to fight hard to break them on a daily basis. When you grow older, you can understand that women should not be placed on a value system of "how much do I want to have sex with this persion," while at the same time automatically doing it despite the fact that you know it's wrong. And that's the terrible thing.

    Thus, a lot of people harbor the belief that overweight women, women who do not meet the societal beauty standard, should not act in certain ways because it is inappropriate and even shameful. One of these actions is wearing tight or otherwise revealing, "sexual" clothing. Because the way women look is supposed to be catered to how males want them to look, and "fatness" is not a part of that. Well, I have only two words. Fuck that. I love wearing short-shorts, and my nipples aren't offensive. I'm not going to wear constricting devices and garments to "support" body parts that have their own ligaments
    to do so. I don't need to bind myself to be proud of my body. And I'm not going to. I don't need anyone's approval for how to show myself - and no one else does either.

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    1. I love the passion and power that move your words! You are a strong woman and you write out of strength. And I too love short-shorts and no bras.

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  14. I believe that my job brings me independence. When I moved away from home, and I came to college I hated how close Transy was to my house, just barely two hours. I craved the independence that I thought automatically comes with college, and in many ways I did not find that in my first year at Transy. Being a school with so few people means you still get personalized attention when it is needed. It means that you live in a dorm, and you don't learn how to fix things, or to cook for yourself,or even clean your own bathroom. Living in a dorm is a typical college experience. But it wasn't one that I wanted.

    My second year I worked more. I had a car, so I could venture off campus. But I still was working campus jobs, and that kept me locked in. I realized I wanted to live in a house, and have a chance to discover myself outside the realm of Transy. I did not need to spend more time on campus, working, eating, and sleep inside the Transy bubble. So at the end of my Sophomore year, my friends and I piled into the car multiple times, to look at multiple houses. We found the one we loved, and moved in. It was my first summer of independence. I had monthly bills, a job, I cooked all of my own food. It was a fantastic summer. I truly learned how to be independent.

    This brings me to the reason I am able to live off campus, my job. I work in a restaurant, which is a very humbling experience. I have made friends who are no longer students. In the restaurant, we are all equal. No one is better than the other. We all work independently of each other, each having our own set of tables. The job brings responsibility. Accountability. Independence.Without this job, I would still be more independent than I was in high school, but I believe that I am independent because I can work, and live off campus. I believe this is where I am happiest, at a high level if independence.

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    1. Restaurant jobs, it seems, give people a long list of options in terms of moving and easily finding work in any new place--either long term or while looking for other kinds of work.

      This is another enviable form of independence and freedom.

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  15. “I am twenty one freaking years old”; I am little crazed looking at Ben, the boyfriend, now, yelling from the passenger’s seat on our drive to Richmond. “I am mature enough to make the choice that I may need to miss going to church because I am going to fail my class if I do not. I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t think it is unreasonable to have your own opinions about your faith. I told them I plan to come to bible camp in the summer. It is not like I am running away here. I just want to make my own connections to my faith, not have them forced down my throat! Now tell me, is any of that crazy?!”
    For context, I should say this: I was raised in a religious home by my religious mother. She is no zealot by any means but she certainly does not cuss or drink, if that says anything. Do not get me wrong, I think that being raised this way did have many benefits. But before I get too far, I should be clear, this is not about my mother or about how much I never had fun growing up being under the thumb of religion, this is about what I believe is true. I believe the harder you push beliefs on someone, the more they will push it away.
    My mother does not realize it but yes she pushes her beliefs on me. Tell her and I am coming for you all! She of course does it very gently, in subtle way like asking if I would mind terribly if I could just come home for a weekend to come to church with her. For the amount of nudging I get, it is a surprise I don’t have bruises. I don’t mean to complain but I want to explain that for every time she does this I wear down a little. I nod in agreement, comment that I should, and move on. But the longer I have done this, the more I have thought that she is getting more and more cryptic with her asking me to be a good Christian girl. It is point blank trying on a young adult. We are still learning how we tick, who we like or love, and how we can sustain what we have learned up to this point. I cannot handle that she continues to mistrust my ability to make these decisions on my own. It is a hard thing to explain but if you were raised this way, you know your friends who were not held to such rules. There was no extra happiness gained from the stress but instead when college rolled around these people rebelled in various ways. I can’t speak to all folks who are raised by strict parents but I know one or two things to always be true about after they leave that pressure. Like a balloon relieved of its pressure, humans who are pressured into their beliefs or positions break under the stress. By physics standards, we know that objects with less resistance will do this under pressure. But what we forget most often is that the more we push on others, the more we will find them not pushing back , but simply letting go, popping at their seams from the imposed pressure.

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  16. I felt slightly embarrassed when she paused in mid-stride, hitching her dress high enough to adjust the tops of her stockings. This was my grandmother: a woman who bore the stigma of extra weight in a society fixated on thinness. A woman who followed the ways of wifehood and motherhood prescribed by a Party few thought to defy. A woman who protested against expectations only through private similes hurled at the back of my grandfather. “Don’t be such a Turk,” she muttered under her breath. I still don’t know if he heard her.

    Back then it was hard to find nylons large enough for her oversized thighs. She asked friends to tell her if they found a pair her size. She repaired the pairs she owned multiple times, telling me no one would notice the places she’d already fixed them, “No one cares about old women’s legs.” Against better judgment, she asked for new stockings for her birthday and for March 8, Women’s Day. She got lavender shampoo instead.

    Even the nylons she owned gave my grandmother a headache. They would slide down her legs. So she knotted elastic bands into circles to secure her nylons over her knees. This did not work perfectly. My grandmother had to stop frequently to adjust the top of each stocking. Maybe this was the reason my grandfather walked two steps ahead of her.

    My grandmother’s nylons were the cause of my frequent embarrassment. I knew women were not supposed to expose their bodies in public. Communism demanded purity.

    Years later, I developed a fondness for over-the-knee stockings. Unlike my grandmother’s nylons, my stockings boasted many colors and shapes. Like my grandmother’s nylons, my stockings would not keep over my knees.

    Last winter I remembered my grandmother’s solution from years ago. I decided to try rubber bands to keep my socks up. The bands came manufactured 200 colorful circles per bag. I slipped a yellow one over each knee under a rolled stocking.

    I cannot talk with my grandmother about the bands that connect us. She suffered a stroke two years ago and lost most of her memories. But I remember her well: an oversized woman stopping mid-stride to adjust wayward stockings.

    I believe in makeshift solutions: my grandmother’s legacy.

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    1. This essay may be what your grandmother needs to find a small piece of this same memory and even if it doesn't cause that to happen, it seems it would be worth sending to her. I hope you do that.

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    2. My grandmother doesn't speak English. And there is no way I can translate this into Bulgarian. My Bulgarian just isn't that good any more :)

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