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Saturday, March 4, 2017

This I Believe #8

Same as always - post your eighth TIB essay here before Tuesday's class, and be prepared to read your essay aloud in class.

16 comments:

  1. My computer is limping its way to graduation. I was given my laptop by my brother when I was leaving for college. He got it from a pawn shop when he started college three years previously. This poor machine is close to ten years old and has never gotten a break. This disk drive pops open at the slightest provocation, sometimes it forgets how to connect to wifi, and it frequently shuts itself off with no warning. It’s covered in stickers that let everyone around me know who I am without ever having to speak to me. Stickers that embody my outdoorsy, feminist aesthetic. I think you can tell a lot about a person from how their computer looks. My laptop is probably not going to make it past May and while I’m grateful that it has served me well for so long, I’m also upset. I’ve invested a lot of time in choosing the perfect stickers and deciding exactly where they should go.
    When my computer wheezes its last mechanical breath, I’ll start using the desktop I share with my boyfriend. That computer is fine. It does everything it’s supposed to do. It never shuts down in the middle of a very important Facebook search or decides it just doesn’t want to connect to the internet today, but it’s boring. It gives no suggestions as to what its owners are interested in (unless of course you go to the search history) and half the time there is a steering wheel set up in front of it for gaming purposes. The only thing currently keeping my computer alive is an elastic headband. Without the headband constantly exerting pressure on the charger, it won’t even turn on. Without the headband I would have to resort to using an anonymous desktop. I believe in elastic headbands.

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  2. I remember night drives,
    So many night drives,
    With you,
    Featuring the best music I've ever heard in my life.
    Music I never got over,
    not even years later.

    Some songs I remember vividly.
    I search for them and listen,
    And for a second, I swear I can see right back into the past.
    I picture it all, you right next to me.
    I want to tell you that you've always had the best music taste.
    Most of my favorite songs are ones you led me to.

    Some songs I remember but their titles and lyrics are lost to me.
    This morning, I searched through lists of every song Miley Cyrus has ever written and still couldn't find the one I was after—a song you showed me a year and a half ago.
    I had to google the time period it was before it eventually came up.
    It was cut from an album and thus was never really released, but it had made its way to the internet nonetheless.

    On occasion, little puzzle pieces of song lyric lines pop in my head.
    Just when they're perfectly relevant.
    When this happens, I find the songs they come from.
    Among my favorites is a song that says:
    "Life is never fair. None of us can see beyond our eyes."
    I remembered it out of nowhere. I know its significance now.

    I believe there is truth in music.
    I believe in its power to express emotion flawlessly.
    But most of all, I believe in its power to bring people together.

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    Replies
    1. "Life is never fair. None of us can see beyond our eyes" comes from the song Upswing by Prinze George, by the way. I recommend it.

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  3. I’ve never been one for the outdoors. Muggy weather exhausts me, I am not fond of getting dirty, and I have an unnatural hatred for the mosquitoes that find me irresistible. I appreciate the spring air or the bite of winter as much as anyone, but outings with the sole purpose of connecting to nature are simply offputting. Giving my respects to what the outside world has done for me and my species, I have many times passed on opportunities to “get out there.”

    While I am usually unmoving to changes in opinion, I am relatively susceptible to peer pressure. So, after an especially hectic week, I am pulled along on my very first hike: just a short, leisurely trip through a nearby sanctuary. No huge plans are made, few snacks are packed, and no specific sights or paths are decided on prior to our feet touching the dirt. But then again, nature is gloriously unplanned.

    A bit of a dawdler, I find my comfort zone near the back of our miniscule pack. The three more serious naturegoers pridefully lead me along, not minding my plethora of questions about tree species and trail mileages. Of course, he brings up the rear, partly to make sure I don’t fall behind and partly so he can guiltlessly stop without notice. Frequently, he halts his progress and turns around to take it all in, focusing on nothing and everything at once. He says something about the beauty of it all, the fact that we are all made of the same atoms as that creek or that rock or that beetle on the path. He doesn’t mind that the others are leaving him behind; he knows that he’ll catch up eventually. Most of the time, I wait with him. In the quietest places, he stops, looks around to observe the stillness, and offers a booming clap of his hands. He knows how to make an impact. He comments that dozens of times today he’s wanted to pluck a pleasing flower from the earth and give it to me, but jokes that nature’s immaculate beauty takes precedence over my own. Like his hand clap, my laugh pierces our serene surroundings but leaves no mark. It is still left perfect. It’s too early in the year for mosquitoes.

    I still don’t understand nature, but I’m starting to suspect that that is the point. It is almost comforting to be able to turn to something older than you could imagine that is going to outlast you by millennia. It is broad and vast and not quite understood by any one being. But as long as I can surrender my ego at the gates, I see the potential of a new home for me. I believe in breathing in the particles that are no different from myself. I believe in peer pressure and the forces of nature.

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  4. January 24th, 1995. My mom brings me into the world, and I am surrounded with love.

    Summer 1999. At four years old, I experience what I would later understand as arousal from watching Disney’s Tarzan.

    Fall 2000. I come to believe that as a male, I am only to ever have relationships with women. I make a journal of my female “crushes,” some of whom are fictional video game characters.

    Winter 2005. I watch The Chronicles of Narnia. I am attracted to the two boys in the film, but I say that I like the girls.

    Spring 2010. I develop an emotional attraction to a gay boy. My parents pick up on it and forbid me from such feelings.

    Fall 2010. I begin dating a girl that I greatly care about. I pray that God allows this relationship to crush my desires for men.

    Spring 2011. My relationship with said girl fails. She says she needs to be closer to God. I perceive myself moving away from God. I admit to myself that I might be bisexual.

    August 2011. I have my first kiss with a boy. I begin dating him in secret.

    Christmas Day, 2011. My dad discovers my messages to my boyfriend, tells my mom, and I am verbally and emotionally abused for months.

    I wonder what it would be like if I could will myself to stop breathing and die.

    January 2012. Searching for anything that will validate my existence, I discover Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. The truth---my truth---comes alive. I have hope again.

    April 2012. Having lunch in a Qdoba, my mom says she wants to understand me. She’s still my hero.

    October 2013. I begin a rollercoaster of a relationship that takes me to the brink of mental self-destruction.

    August 2015. After being diagnosed with clinical depression, I decide to change the course of my life to the direction of loving myself above all else. I shut out everything that is leading me astray from that, including that boy.

    March 2017. I stand before you as a gay man who is happy, healthy, loved, and above all else, loves who he is.

    This is my queer history. And the last entry in this history is quite profound, unfortunately, because of the psychological horrors LGBTQ people have to endure throughout their lives.

    In his article “Together Alone: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness,” Michael Hobbes explains that “Gay people are now… between 2 and 10 times more likely than straight people to take their own lives. We’re twice as likely to have a major depressive episode…. In a survey of gay men who recently arrived in New York City, three-quarters suffered from anxiety or depression.” So, my queer history falls in line with some good company who are enduring bad circumstances.

    I believe in knowing, acknowledging, and respecting our histories. However painful they might be to reconstruct, they allow us to understand who we are and why we are.

    For me, knowing my queer history keeps me from falling backward.

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    Replies
    1. Jared, I love your writing. And so appreciate your strength. And I hope you can share this history with others, your mom included.

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  5. So this year I decided to take Biology and Human Concerns with Doctor Fox as my required science course. I’ve always been a fan of science, and from what I’d heard from other students the class was a simple one about the environment, and other relevant science to non-sciency people. I WAS SO WRONG…..THE CLASS ENDED UP BEING ABOUT DINOSAURS AND HOW BIRDS ARE MODERN DAY DINOSAURS!!!! (apparently this was in the course description, and I should’ve paid more attention to the fact that the required texts were about dinosaurs and birds...but sometimes things just don’t happen). So fun fact, I really love dinosaurs. And let me tell you all this class has been a hype train from day one. We got to watch Jurassic World, look at bird feathers under microscopes, go bird watching outside, dissect owl pellets, and play games to learn about reproduction! I really feel in the environment she has set up that we can ask any crazy question we have, and we can freely voice our excitement and shock about what we are presented. For a first time in a long time I am having fun learning, and I have found that I’ve absorbed so much more knowledge in the fun environment that it is. Dr. Fox drives the class with her own evident passion in the study and that helps us all just continually excited about the things she shares about being excited about the class. Most wonderfully I have found a new appreciation for the natural world. Through her class my eyes and ears have opened to all the awe and glory that is the fact that over millions of years every piece of a animal has been crafted, well selected, through natural selection. Instead of being passive about singing bird, or feathers on a bird, I’m now like “damn….that feather took so much time to get to perfection”. When I wake up, when I look around, when I hear the world around me, I am able to love it all little more than I used to.

    This is why I believe in nature and passionate professors.

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  6. My glass of Prosecco and my Vitaminozna salad finished, I notice that there is a fish head on the plate next to mine. Though I am full, I reach over and scoop the fish head into my empty bowl.

    This is my first day in Bourgas, Bulgaria’s second largest city on the Black Sea. I am here with a small group of American writers and artists after visiting my mother and grandmother who still share the apartment I shared with them as a child.

    Twenty-two years after my grandfather died and twenty years after I left for America, my grandmother, too, is dying. Her name is Maria. She is 91 years old. I’ve always called her Baba Mimi.

    Babysitting did not exist in Bulgaria when I was a kid. At the time, we all had grandparents who retired at 60 and looked after the kids. As did Baba Mimi. On special days, she made banitsa for me. It took her an entire morning to prepare and roll out the dough, filling a pan with the flaky-cheesy-buttery dish I loved. Home-made fries, stuffed grape leaves, and fried meatballs were treats she dispensed more frequently.

    Tonight I look at the fish head on the plate next to mine and decide I should eat it. My grandmother always said the head was her favorite part. I could never before see how a fish head would be delicacy for anyone.

    Even as a child I knew my grandmother was overweight. At the time, Bulgaria was a country of skinny people. Not as skinny as everyone looks in 1970s Bulgarian movies, but skinny enough that my grandmother felt bad about her weight all her life. And she loved food. So when she announced the head of the fish was her favorite part, I didn’t question her. We rarely ate fish. Seafood was a delicacy in my hometown three hours away from the Black Sea. I was glad she liked the part no one else wanted.

    Tonight I eat fish head for the first time in my life. I find out there is hardly any meat in a fish head. There are lots of bones and some flavor. My grandmother ate the head when a single baked fish fed the entire family. I pick out the meat carefully and remember Baba Mimi, her large figure hunched over a plate full of bones picked clean.

    I see my grandmother one more time before I leave for America. At the time—one month before she dies—her skin is a few sizes too big for her. She is losing weight fast and, for the first time, wishes she were not.

    I believe in grandmothers. And I believe in Baba Mimi.

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  7. My early thoughts about women’s roles were not shaped by words. They were formed by a mother who taught me to open and attach fresh-fallen seeds of maple trees to my nose using the natural adhesive inside of them, a mother who also taught me to mix powdered adhesive and to spread it evenly on the backside of wallpaper. She managed a wallpapering business and taught all her children, and many others, how to make a living with practiced and skilled labor. When I was 8, she spearheaded a campaign to keep controversial, high-voltage power lines from passing through my rural Otsego County. She won.

    My paternal grandmother, who lived on her own for 30 years after my grandfather died, opened a ceramic studio on the first level of her house. She hosted weekly ceramic workshops and forged a community of women who advocated for one another in a state that was typical in the ways it supported women in the late 70’s—not well. She also always had a stick of Beech-Nut gum to share with me from her purse, a perk of working at the Beech-Nut factory.

    My early thoughts about women were not shaped by women vocally committed to equality. They were shaped by my mother’s creation of a baseball league so my two sisters, my brother, and I could be part of a team. They were shaped by 4 years of playing on a team in that league with my sisters. In my 5th year on the team, we played the National Championship Little League team of Japan. They tried to cancel our game when they realized our team included girls. My mother wouldn’t let them cancel. They crushed us. We played them again the following two years. The coaches, all men, never again challenged my mother about the girls on our team. My team never won but my mother clearly had.

    I believe in Gohde women.

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  8. In high school I used to wake up with scratches on the backs of my hands, small traces of blood under my fingernails. Each morning that I would wake up and find scratches I would think of a This American Life episode I had heard that opened with a poem by a man who had woken up with a scratch on his face that made him question why he would raise a hand against himself in his sleep. I was haunted by this question, and my need to tear at my own skin while I slept. It hasn’t happened in years but I still return to that feeling sometimes. Was I that unhappy with my own skin? Is that restlessness manifesting in any new ways?

    It took me a long time to come to terms with myself, to unlearn internalized misogyny in its many forms. A big part of my success with this lies in cutting my hair. I’ve never chosen a haircut based on what I think will actually look good, but rather what I think I need to feel okay again. Almost every single drastic haircut I’ve gotten has followed a trauma of some sort, and it has always worked to help ground myself again.

    More recently, I’ve started taking polaroids of myself. Sometimes they’re just of my face, other times I’m doing ordinary things in them, like putting on deodorant, brushing my teeth, or yawning. I have over 30 now that I’m happy with and proud of. I don’t know what to do with them all. I sent some to Teddy and she texted back, thanking me for sharing my art with her. And I’m still not sure I accurately expressed how grateful I was to hear that, how validating and reassuring it was.

    I wonder if this is a direct result of my research on Vivian Maier. If my outrage at the contemporary discourse surrounding her has inspired me to take more control of my own image, my own face. I took a picture in the mirror, my camera pushed against my cheek, and I found myself wondering if Vivian felt the same intimacy towards her camera I was experiencing in that moment. If the reason she didn’t develop them is because she was also just at a loss with what to do with such a personal, private exploration.

    I believe in trying to look at myself in each mirror I pass. I believe in relinquishing control, taking more pictures of myself with film, less with my phone, but only because it forces me to see the result as something unchangeable, forcing me to be okay with something I maybe wouldn’t be otherwise.

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    Replies
    1. Katie, I'm glad you shared with us how you've dealt with misogyny, and come to think of it, I think that's the reason why I got my nose ring. My dad used to say (and still says sometimes), that I look like a bull with it on. The ring isn't "pretty" or "feminine", but I think that's why I love it so much. Also, taking polaroids of yourself doing basic everyday chores is such a great idea to obtain another form of self love. Your strength is admiring.

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  9. Though the air is cold my lungs felts like fire. I am going nowhere fast yet they burn like I have run a marathon. The others run past me determined to have to fastest time yet I am just trying to survive. The farther I go the hotter the flame.
    My time 16:09. The worst I’ve ever done. The others bragged about how they made it in 12 minutes or so while I was trying to catch my breath, yet every breath I took burned worse than before to the point where I could only take short quick breaths. Then we were off again running around the track while the fire grew despite my coughing and wheezing. I needed to only make it around 3 times to be able to finish for the day. It was easy to finish 2 laps but the third was the hardest. My vision started to falter and I began to see stars but I persisted hoping to a least finish within 12 minutes.
    My lungs burned hotter than ever but I managed to finish. Crashing to my knees I felt a something block the back of my throat that inhibited my ability to swallow or breath causing me to go into a coughing fit. My chest tightened and anxiety struck. What if I choked?
    Thankfully someone had notified the nurse 15 minutes ago when I was first suffering and was able to bring me my inhaler. I should have had it on me yet I wasn’t allowed. Thanks to this I was told I didn’t have to run again the rest of the semester. I believe in asthma attacks and inhalers

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  10. When I was a quiet fifteen year old in high school, I only had a handful of friends whom I mostly saw in the classroom or around the lunch table. Most of my friends were, like me, rather withdrawn, and I became a bit of a social shut in. Seeing others from school having fun with their friends over social media made me feel lonely.

    To combat that loneliness, I turned to books. I’ve always been drawn to the world of fantasy ever since I was a young child, and my favorite pasttime was (and still is) to spend hours perusing the shelves in bookstores. My favorite haunt in particular as a high schooler was the young adult fantasy section of Barnes & Noble. Over the years, I learned how to discern the generic, uninspired novels from the better, creative ones. Just because the blurb on the back cover seems intriguing does not guarantee that the novel is. But with persistence, you can get lucky and find a real gem.

    I found such a gem one November day during my sophomore year of high school. The title Seraphina, embossed in gold over a burgundy spine, caught my eye. On the front cover was a sketch of a dragon flying over a medieval town, soaring over the cathedral towering in the background. I was immediately intrigued, but I had learned the hard way not to judge a book by its cover. I skimmed through the blurb. A murder mystery? A female musician protagonist? Dragons that can take human shape? The ingredients for a fantastic novel were there, but was the author able to use them effectively? I eagerly read the prologue. I was thrilled to find that the signs pointed to yes. I decided that it was worth taking the risk, and I bought it that night.

    Over the next few days, I happily immersed myself in Seraphina’s world. The more I read, the more I felt like the book was written just for me. I shared the same sense of dry humor with Seraphina, the same passions for music and knowledge, and the same self-doubt and loneliness. I felt so understood, and I could not put it down. I found comfort in tracking her character growth as the novel progressed, similar to my own. And the final scene - no spoilers - left me in tears, sad that the story had ended, but inspired and filled with the hope that maybe I could have a happy ending too.

    Though I am older and am much more confident in myself than the lonely teenage girl who first read that novel, it is still my favorite book. Say what you will about the YA section, but it is partially responsible for shaping the person I am today. I believe in the value of young adult novels.

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  11. An abyss of darkness
    the absence
    the fault
    a lack of pure brightness
    yet beauty lies in its depths
    The murky waters beneath the shining surface
    of the vast ocean.
    The glittering above only a hint
    of the intrigue below.
    The chill of fear
    of relief
    of refuge.
    Those brief worlds
    Flashing into being
    and as easily broken
    as silence
    gives pause to those
    in the light
    Curiosity delves into the
    unknown of the Shadow.

    Sometimes it is interesting to really stop and think about the things that we often take for granted that are truly awe inspiring. Just looking at the leaves dancing in the wind or the perfectly marred surface of a pebble. Taking a moment to look at and observe the simple gives you a chance to put your own life into perspective. If a shadow is a wonder then that paper you have to write but are dreading doesn’t seem so important. It’s as simple as stopping to smell the flowers or luxuriate in the cool breeze on a warm day. I believe in the beauty and wonder in the simple things we often take for granted.

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  12. Villanelle for Spring/This I believe in Spring


    in the garden, the wild violet bleeds
    like a weed, though she let them stay
    to swell underneath your feet

    the same girl who praises leaves
    if they held their home when things were white
    in the garden, the wild violet bleeds

    the man grows too old to feed
    and shovels his sins to bud a blue
    to swell underneath your feet

    the petals dilate in the sun and plead
    “in little time, everything will be new again”
    in the garden, the wild violet bleeds

    a billow of gray with no ends to see
    winged shadows like mother’s memory
    to swell underneath your feet

    in the morning they call them to reap
    before the flower becomes a pest
    in the garden, the wild violet bleeds
    to swell underneath your feet

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    1. also, i really tried to make sense of this poem, but I still sort of weary about it. I guess what I'm trying to say is that even for our love of spring, we still manage to find something (wild violets) to complain about or get rid of because it's considered a pest in someone's yard. So this I believe in all things that come with rebirth in springtime.

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