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Monday, February 9, 2015

This I Believe essay #5

We are certain you have the hang of this by now:

Please post your essay here before class on Tuesday. Also, don't forget to make some time to read the other essays posted. Leave a few comments. It is powerful to know that people are reading when we share our stories.

29 comments:

  1. From a poem you wrote for me: I wanted to lecture you about holding such a large dark thing so close to your heart.

    I remember flying down the road behind my house. I had my entire upper body plus a leg dangling outside of the car window. I would lean my head back and would feel the air rushing over me. How easy it would have been to let go of that car. I would have been flung into one of the seemingly endless trees that flew past me. But I held on. Thoughts of you kept me tied to that car.

    From a poem you wrote for me: How can I see these things and feel this way without it being new?

    When I would try to recreate the feeling but in the car with you and Burt, he would bring his car to a complete stop and you would plead with me to stay seated.

    From an essay where you mentioned me: I tell people at parties about you.

    I tell people at parties about you, too. They are all people who have heard your name before. I tell them about the time you punched your little sister’s tooth out and god I wish you could hear the pride in my voice. (I swear I mention the fact that it was an accident). I think about tiny you sitting in a circle of “Sunshine” and “Daisy” and “Rainbow” and your announcement of “Boulder”. Lori and Todd still call you that. I know you think it’s embarrassing but I promise it is nothing but entirely endearing. I think about the “Cicadas” on your foot and how it fits perfectly in the curve of your mother’s, whose reads, “a choir of”. I say your name every time I see one of the winged things.

    From a poem you wrote for me: awkward and inconsistent in my affections

    Perhaps more than anything else, my signed copy of Matthew Zapruder’s Sun Bear reminds me of your physicality. You stood in line and you told him my name and you asked him to draw me a picture. I have that now. I have the physical manifestation of my name leaving your mouth and exiting through a pen in the hand of another living body.

    From a note you wrote in your phone: Don’t stop being shocked by cruelty. Don’t get used to the way people are.

    I made you cry over Skype. You were fragile, framed by my laptop screen.

    From a note I wrote in my phone: sometimes it is hard to remember that there is an animated body on the other end of this letter. Other times it feels like I am writing directly on your skin.

    I wrote that in June of 2014. I thought of it and thought it sounded good and so I wrote it down to save for a future letter that needed it, though that never happened. I think it accurately depicts what I believe in regards to you. Some days I feel more connected to you than others, and though you wrote an entire essay on why you believe old texts given to you by friends shouldn’t be revisited too often, I look at these bits and pieces and I become painfully aware of the empty space next to me where you should be sitting. I believe in the day it will be filled.

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    1. what a lyrical and cryptic essay. Hopefully, you have already shared it with the owner of "cicadas"...

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  2. I believe in fictional characters.

    Trying to pinpoint any one instance of the significance of this fact in my life is difficult... For as long as I can remember, I have always felt unnaturally close to the fictional characters I've loved. The degree of that love has grown a lot, as much as I have grown over the years, and today I would say that my best of best friends are never real people, but most often the characters of Japanese animation. I receive just as much – and more – satisfaction from them than most actual humans. This is not to say that I do not value human relationships at all – because I do. I just happen not to be disgusted by, but rather, to understand completely those people in Japan you hear about who marry fictional characters. (It happened.) Because I've felt to that degree, and I feel to that degree now...

    Part of this ability to bond with such characters however stems from, of course, needing a coping mechanism for some hard parts of my life. But rather than simply being a form of escapism, I learn about, and expand greatly upon these characters through various forms (art, writing, etc.) because to know them intimately like this makes me happier, even when I don't feel particularly in need of cheering up. It's my version of “spending time with my friends,” but even deeper, so of course I like it. Part of this enjoyment is because I feel these relationships are far more intimate than any real one could be; fictional characters can become a much closer part of me than real people can. But I know a lot of people do not understand these feelings – that's okay.

    It does hurt my feelings to hear “that show is for kids!” or “but they're not real,” because has anyone ever actually watched any season of Yu-Gi-Oh! at all? It most certainly is not “for kids,” and even if it was, why dismiss it like that? The 5D's season of this show means more to me than most things... I can't actually watch it or even think of it anymore because it hurts me so much and makes me so happy all at the same time. There are so many wonderful things and wonderful people going unnoticed in these shows because of a reputation like “for kids” or “for weird people.”

    I want to repeat that I'm not against relationships with real people at all, because people and fictional characters are different, and offer different things – and I love the real people I do know. But these characters are decidedly more “real” to me than most people believe they should be, and I don't devalue my strong feelings toward them just because of that. So maybe you can try not to either.

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    1. P.S. I'm sorry if these don't count as "stories" sometimes... It's hard to always think of a specific event. :(

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    2. these ARE your stories, Kristen--such as they are :). Stick by your beliefs. And your best friends.

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  3. I woke, at the second request of my alarm, from a dream of Jeremy Welcome, a man now—for sure—but living on in my dreams as the kid we knew unable to find pants or belts with the fortitude to cover his ass-crack, the kid who would offer his half-eaten orange sincerely after pulling it from under his bed where it sat half-covered in twice-worn socks and stuck in the crack that grew between the wide-plank flooring every winter when the dry heat of wood stoves tightened the grain of even the oldest boards. Summer now, the boards expand, the crack shrinks and what little juice remains in the peeled and shriveled orange that once filled the toe of a Christmas stocking is pressed through a small broken spot of skin.

    “If you step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back.”

    Your choruses rang behind me as we walked to the car from swimming lessons, my eyes weeping from chlorine and bright sun. The car waited for us both by Tin Bin Alley and your self-fashioned song began with the ignition of mom’s Datsun.

    “Set me in a trap, CRACK, and I’ll never come home again”

    Another day you whined your way to the front seat as we delivered PennySavers. I bagged them from the back and passed them to you. Still too small to reach the sharp hooks we installed on each mailbox—to hold our deliveries packaged in clear plastic and pierced then left swinging in the wind as mom sped on to the next house—you stood on the seat to lean out the window. Your new role had earned you the front seat but it also made each stop last an eternity. You opened your seatbelt. You cranked down the window. You stood clumsily on the seat. You accepted the bagged newspaper from me. You leaned out the window and then realized that mom was not close enough for your short arms. She had to reposition the car. In the time you took to hook one package and prepare yourself to go to the next mailbox, we would have typically hooked four. Standing and reaching to hook one newspaper, you saw a butterfly. You wanted us to see it, too. Wanting, desperately, for you to bring your head back into the car and sit down, mom pulled you. Cracked on the rolled-down window, your lip bled. I got my front seat back.

    In the years you and I worked together painting, wallpapering, and renovating the homes of others, I saw you become a most skilled person of the third kind. Do you remember the three types of people?

    1. Those who sweep and re-sweep until every ounce of dust is in the dustpan
    2. Those who load the dustpan once then push the remaining dust back into the air with a quick stroke of the broom
    3. Those who find cracks and fill them with the finer bits of dirt not captured by the dustpan on the first pass

    Though we are now separated by years, great distance, and the silence of adult siblings, I know you still sweep creatively into cracks. I know your lip still bears the scar of a crack earned by your interest in butterflies. I believe in cracks.

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    1. love these super long, breathless sentences that carry memories of closeness, memories that now embody this closeness.

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  4. Big Doug or just Doug a lot of my friends had different names for my father, at first I found it rude that they didn’t call him Mr. Watson, I mean they called my mom Mrs. Watson so I always wondered exactly why it caught on. Eventually I believe in the fact that there was friendship that my father built with my friends, he was pivotal in shaping everyone in my friend group solely based off of the way he showed interest in all of us. There wasn’t anything that they were interested in that slipped his mind, if we were playing ball outside he was there to play as well. Do you need a ride to basketball or soccer? he would ask. He would most likely do that for you and also he was most likely the coach as well. He wanted to see every kid around him succeed I realized all of this as I got older. I remember moments where he would take certain players under his wing and try to work with them to maybe make a shot and if not that somehow contribute to the team.

    I know as I got older that attitude shaped they way I played sports, once I reached high school he was no longer a coach rather he just took me to everything and sat on the sideline, he would cheer on constantly trying to give advice. Slowly my desire to play sports faded as things became more and more political, I watched friends go away as they got replaced by more wealthy and sometimes better players and eventually my demeanor or maybe lack there of to influence the coach or push fellow teammates to the side became draining, eventually I quit. After soccer and up until now me and my dad talked about how the nature of sports became so cut throat when it got to division 1 status, it seemed that all these kids life’s were slowly being dictated by adults that weren’t their family or friends just coaches that could either be invested in them or not.

    My father always hated this aspect of sports, he felt that inherently men in power aka coaches that didn’t care about the passion and comfort of the kids were pretty much shit individuals lacking what he thought was manhood. This always felt good, the shit talking of the 30 something guys that I now realize didn’t have much going on in life, because coaching club soccer and sometimes destroying players and kids esteems isn’t that great. He taught me that I need to care and find something enduring in the people around me in some way. I believe that this aspect of my father has been pivotal in shaping me, I believe in my Dad the coolest dad on the block.

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    1. surely your dad would love to read this essay :). Indeed, you should share it with him. Consider fixing the grammar first-as it is, it gets in the way...

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  5. I believe in siblings.
    I think having siblings is a beautiful thing. I do not have anything against families who have one child, but I do think I have an advantage having siblings, especially two older brothers. When I was young, very young, I looked up to my brothers more than they will ever know. I thought they were the hippest, slightly rebellious, most put-together fellas around. I knew one fought with my mom all the time and had some drug and alcohol problems, but as a younger sister, he was my hero in my eyes. I used to want to be just like them. I used to copy everything they did, which scared my mom senseless. Finally, she had a baby girl to dress up and spoil and I was copying the boys. I always wanted to wrestle and eating burgers and beans watching baseball on Sundays only because they did it. For too long of a time I even decided to go to the bathroom with the door open while I was peeing in the toilet just like they did. My mom quickly caught on (because I refused to shut the door) and panicked, “my baby girl WILL NOT be like this.”
    As most of you can hopefully tell I grew out of this phase. I stopped copying them, and even stopped worshipping them and started to criticize them instead. I started to think they smelled, were always short-tempered and mean to mom. That phase, I also grew out of. But in my middle school, high school and even college days our relationship has changed. They knew my dad was not in a position to parent, but only to be a friend. It was not his fault, of course; he just landed on the wrong end of the court-ordered divorce rules. My brothers quickly took over the protective attitude that my dad was supposed to fill. On family vacations as a child they would run, literally, into the ocean and say I was way too far and it was dangerous for me to be out there like that (the water was just at upper thigh). My other brother would answer every single phone call, house or cell phone, that was from a boy and say that they were never allowed to call me back.
    In some twisted way, although I am not perfect, they made me a better version of being a woman in this world. Although they bring home girls, do not respect them, and constantly idolize their standard of women having to look like a magazine cover, they never, ever wanted me to look, act or think of myself in that way. They believed in me having quiet, humble confidence. They believed in me not dressing for the world’s standards, but being modest and let my giddy, playful, smiling personality to shine instead. I believe in my siblings.

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    1. I have two older brothers too, I really related to how you described looking up to them and then pushing them away, but now I love them so much. Even how the divorce in our family changed our relationships. I know my older brothers made me a better woman too. Thank you for sharing this story, it made me smile!

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  6. I believe in my name.

    The way my parents tell the story, it was a toss between Katia and Kremena. The initial K was a given: my father’s first-born, I was to be named after my father’s mother. Thankfully, even back in the 1970s my parents found her name too old-fashioned to give to a newborn. I never met another Kalushka, but I inherited her initial K: a letter missing from some European alphabets.

    I grew up wishing I had been named Katia, a name common both in Bulgaria and in Russia, a softer name that translates well into English: Kate. Instead, I wore a name that had fallen out of favor by the time I began high school. It was small consolation when I discovered that it derived from the Bulgarian word for “flintstone”: кремък. “You’ll grow up to be as hard as the hardest of stones,” my Bulgarian Language teacher assured me. I wished I had been named after a flower instead.

    Growing up, I knew one other Kremena. She was my neighbor. She lived 2 floors above me. 3 years my senior, she had little use for my company. I grew up wishing I was thin like her. Unlike the rest of us, Kremena was always trying to gain weight. She was eating honey-and-walnuts for breakfast at the time I began dieting to lose weight.

    I was the only Kremena at the American University in Bulgaria. Founded in 1989, the year “the changes took place” in Bulgaria, my university was just as uncertain about its personality as was I. I was part of the class 1992, the first one to welcome foreigners: 2 American exchange students and a handful of East Europeans. My foreign-born friends called me Flintstonka, the Bulgarian version of the well-known Flintstones. Maybe it was the connection to Wilma that made me like “Kremena” a little bit. A Kate would not have thrived in a family of Stone Age dwellers.

    After I came to America, I had to fight for my name. At times, well-meaning foreigners wanted to call me “K.” Others heard “Atlanta” instead of “Kremena.” I insisted on all 7 letters, which I would not trade for a state.

    In my new country, I learned how to say no, how to question unearned privilege and my skin color. I learned that the other Kremena lives in Brooklyn, that she has managed to gain weight. I learned, too, that my name day is Palm Sunday, the day of flower names in Bulgaria. As it turns out, Kremena is also linked to крем, the Bulgarian word for the calla flower. According to Wikipedia, fresh callas are highly poisonous; their roots become edible after drying, grinding, leaching, and boiling.

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    1. This was really wonderful to read. I grew up hating my name, and didn't really feel comfortable in it or with it until high school because I got teased for it a lot. So I really appreciated this, and related to it and it made me smile a lot :)

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    2. This was my favorite of yours so far, Kremena! They have all been good but this one just really stood out to me.

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  7. I used to spend forty minutes on my make up in the mornings when I got ready for school. It was freshman year when I thought every interaction hinged absolutely on me being attractive and pleasant to talk to. I was called pretty and bubbly and cute. I wanted everyone to think I was always happy and always beautiful. This was a lie because on the inside I hated myself. I thought I was fat and ugly, I hated my personality, I was so lost. I had the best outfits and the funniest quirky jokes, I died my hair to look like pop stars and people ate it up. I had a 3.8 GPA and boyfriend, but I was so deeply unhappy. It took me three years of self harming and two months in residential treatment before I figured out that loving myself was more important than being pretty. After I got back from treatment there were days when I did not wear make up to school, when I did not pick out my elaborate outfit the night before, I let myself look as tired and as angry as I felt. This was one of the most important string of choices I had ever begun to make. Now I am over two years clean from self harming, three years away from the choice I used to make every morning to put on make-up in the mirror instead of band-aids on my cuts. I am so much happier now though. I realize now that there is so much more to life than being pretty and looking happy. That yes, I may not be as popular or as put together as I looked when I was a freshman in high school, but I can look in the mirror most days and be proud of the women staring back at me. This is a momentous victory for me and I can proudly say I would rather be messy and proud of who I am, than pretty and miserable.

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    1. Max, yours are always so sweet and succinct. Messy and proud all the way.

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    2. yes to looking angry when you feel angry. And to looking beautiful in ways that make YOU feel beautiful. And to being a strong woman.

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  8. I believe in cluttered living spaces. The entire time I grew up, my room was a mess. Usually, consisting of a myriad of clothes strewn about the floor. I was always being told to clean up my room. Whenever I did, during the cleaning process., I always found stuff I forgot existed, but as I finished cleaning, I could never remember where I had put them. My headphones? No idea where they end up. They used to be under the pile of clothes, the one by the window, not by the closet.
    Now, I just don’t have time to clean to unclutter. Though I left most of them at home when I moved to college, I have piles and stacks of books, overflowing from the bookshelf. And I can’t get rid of any of them, so there they sit. Somehow, within two weeks of moving into a house off campus, I acquired a hamster. His name is Hamlet, and while he doesn’t take up that much space, his bedding, food, and hamsterball is a different story. Have you ever tried to find a good space to store a nine inch sphere? It isn’t easy. So there it sits, cluttering the top of my dresser.
    Joining a sorority was definitely not a bad decision, but when it comes to space, my walls and drawers are filled with my letters, so it maybe was a bad decision in regards to clutter. All of this adds up though. The small clutter, knowing where that specific shirt is, even when it somehow ended up behind the bookcase, is part of what makes home, home. I know that anywhere I will ever call home will be inundated with all of my clutter, and it is in no way a bad thing.

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  9. I believe in hands on activity. This morning at Arlington Elementary we decorated some wood scraps for them to practice painting on this surface and get an idea of how long it takes for the paint to dry. For most of these kids it is their choice to come and paint with us, others come because it is what their teacher picked for them. I believe in hands on activity because growing up we lived near a creek and woods to explore in, which I believe has had some sort of impact on me even today.

    Kids today are going to grow up surrounded by touch screens and social media. When we [me and my siblings] were little we wanted to play by the creek because it was fun to get our feet wet or pretend we were in the middle of the ocean, not because a pic of it would get begillian likes on instagram. Yes, it is fun to edit pictures in share them with the world but I do not want my kids to feel only appreciated when they reach 20 likes on a post but appreciate what their post is of, the nature and texture that is beneath their feet not the smooth glass in most kids hands.

    I believe in hands on activity because it gives a learning experience that a touch screen can’t. It was reassuring for me when the kids [most] at Arlington chose to paint and stamp on wood when they had the choice of computer time.

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    1. Digital culture is peculiar beast. Although we reap the benefits of (such as posting on this blog), it would be frightening, amusing, and frustrating to see what would happen if the global internet spontaneously went out of just dumb luck.

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  10. I believe in serendipity.
    I believe in this intangible, totally subjective, and wildly optimistic idea that sometimes fortune smiles on every poor human soul at least once in a while. It speaks to me on a personal level I can barely express in words at times. In fact, serendipity is the most magical thing to me. The short definition is a pleasant surprise or when luck takes the form of a happy accident, a valuable gift, or an interesting occurrence.
    I, who consider myself hyper-conscious of the feelings of most living creatures, see serendipity as fate’s way, or if you believe in a God or gods,serendipity is your creator's way of giving back, of saying the pain and the hurt was all worth something, because I give you this "pleasant surprise". That makes my heart grow two times in size like the Grinch when he heard the Whos singing down in Whoville.
    Let’s be honest, life can be utterly awful. I am often embarrassed to acknowledge that despite how enormously wonderful my family and closest friends are, there are just some days that are simply too difficult to bear, even with their help. Yet, despite this misfortune of daily life, I can’t help but be warmed by the thought that karma might actually exist, that there is hope that fate will someday pay it forward. Truly the best feature of serendipity is that you never know when you reap the good you sewed. It is like those daytime talk show giveaways, the ones that feature an outstanding community member that lost their home but the host and the community come together to give them a brand new home. The family will cry, the host will cry, and you watching this program will tear up a bit that someone so deserving is now reaping what they sewed and that it is a bountiful harvest.
    Serendipity does not always manifest itself in the grandest ways like this. Sometimes it happens when you are down on cash but stumble upon some extra money that you tucked away long ago and forgot. Just yesterday I got wildly excited over the simple fact that one my favorite food establishments was not only selling my favorite guilty pleasure snack that day but the cashier had just placed a new fresh-baked plate out just in time for me. It was all I needed on a hard day.
    We all cannot be as fortunate as myself with my sweet treat but the fact that there is hope, even in your lowest moment, to happen upon a sweet treat or run into a friend when you need them the most, is the most encouraging and uplifting thing I can imagine in a single day.

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  11. Transylvania University on A Winter Night
    A Couple Degrees Too Warm for Snow

    There’s something about this wet winter weather that makes me think that I was in love with you. Whether it’s the glow of streetlamps splashed across 2nd street, all-color sparking up from the glassy pavement, or the warmth of hand-knit scarf twined around my neck, I’ll never know – but it’s something, something about the way classmates mutter in the mist and shuffle across the Broadway, hunched to protect class logs and wire-framed glasses against the fog. Something about the quiet in the heart of campus, where the world outside the halo of classroom lights and fresh paved sidewalks seems to extend, darkly, forever. There’s something about walking on nights like these that makes this place seem to exist nowhere and everywhere at once – a school anywhere and anytime, caught up in its own watery self-importance, every brick in competition with those titans of New England that you for years now have called home. It’s easy to imagine you like this, hands in pockets, fingering some token (a receipt, a pebble maybe) as you find your way aimlessly from one errand to another, and there’s something about this school and this city and this season makes me believe that maybe, way up north, you’re maybe thinking about me too.

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    1. This was really beautiful, and I think you created a really delicate and distinct atmosphere. Made me feel warm inside.

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  12. When I was a kid my friends always made me play the bad guy during our marathon make believe sessions. I don’t really know why they picked me, but I never really complained. The world needs bad guys. To this day I still consider listing mad scientist, russian mastermind, or bloodthirsty vampire on my resumes for all my summers spent practicing the art of doom and misery. I built more bombs, derailed more trains, and robbed more banks than criminals 10 times my age.

    But I never got away with it.

    Every time the timer winded down to zero, every time the train went off the tracks, and every time I reached the vault and saw the piles of money before me, some spy/cowboy/cop came over the hill or around the corner and my plot was ruined. Every time I would grunt and submit, but eventually it became too much. So one June afternoon, after being caught kidnapping the President’s daughter and sentenced to life in high security prison in a volcano, I finally spoke up.

    “Good guys don’t always win.”

    If they did, then the Yankees would have won game 4 against the Red Sox in 2004, Clay Aiken would have won American Idol, my father would not have been cheated and robbed by his friends, and two towers would still stand vigilant watch over the manhattan skyline. The Bad Guys win every now and then. They have to. A world of James Bonds without any Goldfingers is a world of complacency. It is when the bad guys win that the good guys understand why the fight in the first place. Of course, I didn’t really think about any of this when I was 8, I was just tired of constantly losing. But now I believe that this world needs bad guys, humans need enemies, to know who the good guys are.

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    1. While he is more of a 'good' bad guy, have you watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog?

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  13. Robert Cialdini, author of influence, describes it as a click whirr motion. Do you ever sub-consciously label or 'tag' people just from what they wear? Say it is your best friend, maybe they always wear some shirt or scarf and without thinking, you see your friend! I have recently become a victim of this motion.
    It all started in BSC; I was battening the mental hatches for the upcoming chemistry exam so the chemistry textbook was the only sight for hours. Glance to the right and I see forest green pants and brown boots. Maybe it is because it my bias for nature colors, but that combination always reminds me of my friend Hannah. Add that to the fact any person who does not come into BSC regularly is seen as an 'outsider', I was completely elated! Glance to textbook, glance right again; this long haired friend of mine turned out to be a short-haired dude who was considerably taller. Not knowing what to think, I go back to what I already can't think about, Chemistry.
    Although visual ques makes life easier and prevents sensory overload, it is honestly a bit scary! While it is said not to judge a book by its cover, it can be a bit difficult to apply that in a world that is simulating most of the senses (save for taste) all the time. Although I believe in visual ques, I would also like to believe that when one see's an object, take an extra second to make sure things are the way it is, the eyes can ,and will, lie!

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  14. I do not believe in money. I do not like the idea of ever being controlled, or having rules that hang over my head and hold me back from being stress free. And that seems to be all that government and money seems to do. I don’t like using anything to prove my worth, or even using it to purchase things that I need or want just seems ridiculous when I think about it for too long. I would prefer to trade goods and services for anything, and feel more fulfilled and happy in that way, rather than use money and earn it just because it is what we are expected to do and participate in because we were born in this place that functions with it. The things I do for money, like be an RA and make donuts, I do because I love doing them. And I truly believe that I would still do those things if we didn’t live in a world like this. I don’t like wasting money on an education, when I wish I could work with people who would just want to train me in my field because they know I would be good at it and want me to do it. I might be idealizing it, but life just seems like it would be so much better and happier if I didn’t need money. Or lived in a different world. I believe in vikings. And yea, I probably totally am idealizing their lifestyle. But they just had gold and weapons and animals and babies and were strong, and had a strong core set of values and beliefs that they believed in 100% and worked together to make a society and home that was full of strength and love and honor. I wish I was a viking and was able to hunt for my food, and physically defend the things I loved, and that I didn’t need to worry about rent or car payments and getting to class on time. I would definitely be more fulfilled.

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    1. *I'm sorry, I know this is super late, so I understand if I do not get credit for it.*

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