Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to take over the world

Step 1: Open your social media platform of choice.

Step 2: Type the words "Today was a good day."

Step 3: Come up with one simple reason why day really was a good day, whatever "good" means to you, and write that down.

Step 4: Hit enter.

Step 5: Go to sleep.

Step 6: Wake up.

Step 7: Do at least one thing that makes today a good day.

Step 8: Repeat steps 1-7, indefinitely.

Step 9: World Domination

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Open Letter to the Chapman/Doggett Family

(Note: Corey is exempt from this letter. Corey is welcome to read, but I will always be here for him, because he has repeatedly demonstrated a kindness and selflessness that is almost supernatural. I hope that he can make his own break for freedom before you all get a chance to tear him to pieces, because I have never met a more caring, loving, and kind young man in all my life.)

When I was a little girl, I was taught to believe that family is everything. Family comes before all else, and that when a family member is in need, you should give up everything and come running.

I believed this lie from the bottom of my heart. While it is not the only lie that I believed with whole-hearted conviction, it is probably the most hurtful. To think of how many times I have bragged to friends about how my family takes care of their own, it makes me a little sick.

For those of you who have been too self-centered to notice, for the past 2-3 years, I have been engaged in a fight for my life. The core of my problems have stemmed from a recurring suicidal depression, interspersed with periods of quasi-mania. I have no doubt that a qualified psychologist would have diagnosed me as bipolar. The point is that through all of this, I have tried to stay strong and deal with things the best way I know how. I don't want to be a burden. I don't want to be another crazy Chapman. I have only rarely asked for help, and only when there was truly no way that I could find to help myself. (For that matter, I think Aunt Nell is the only one I have asked to help me, prior to recent events. She has always been kind to me, even if her son and husband have not. Most of the rest of this letter will not apply to her. If anything, Aunt Nell served the same function in the past that I have served in recent years. That is, she has been the person everyone turns to for help, but that everyone quickly forgets as soon as their own needs are met.)

Meanwhile, during this time, I have never failed to answer the phone when one of you called to talk about whatever stupid problems you were having lately. I was happy that I could provide a place for you to vent. In a way, I guess it made me feel useful in a world that increasingly seemed to find no value in my existence. I made a valiant effort never to judge, to see things from your perspective, and to always be kind and considerate of your feelings, regardless of how racist, rude, or selfish I felt you were being. I glossed over the fact that I never received a call just to ask how I was doing. I attributed this observation to paranoia or depression, and tried to disregard any hurt that may have been caused.

I have repeatedly taken the needs of the family as a whole into consideration when I made plans for my life. For my troubles, I've been yelled at, abused, manipulated, had my apartment trashed, and generally been made to feel like a stupid and worthless person for ever bothering to exist.

Maybe it doesn't seem like I've given much, but in the context of what I have to give, it's everything. How many people are there in your life that you would climb in a dumpster for, for example? Not only climb in a dumpster, but spend hours and hours picking through the most disgusting garbage for? Rotting meat, toilet tissue, used feminine hygiene products... I dealt with all of this just to make someone I loved happy, without an expectation of repayment or compensation of any kind.

Last month, for the very first time in years, I asked for real help to achieve something that I really wanted. I didn't feel that what I was asking was huge, but if someone had said 'no', I would have taken it at face value and moved on. (Hell, one of the people to whom I refer actually offered their help without me having to ask.) For the first time in my life, things seemed to be going off without a hitch. This time, it seemed that there was some truth in the statement that "family sticks together."

Unfortunately, it all fell apart. It wasn't just that I was left to fend for myself with whatever friends might be willing to take me in with little to no warning. I could have handled that, and would likely have just berated myself for handling the situation poorly. What really opened my eyes? It is the petty, selfish, manipulative, and overall mean things that have been said to me during one of the darkest times in my life. I jumped into the safety net that I had always believed to exist, only to find that it was gossamer. So I fell on my ass and it hurt. No big deal, I've survived worse. What I can't tolerate is that the people who are supposed to love me unconditionally have been extremely hateful and ugly to me while I struggled to stand up and walk again.

Maybe I would have forgotten how all of this hurt. Maybe I would have allowed myself to be convinced that I was the bad guy. That I wasn't deserving of kindness. That I was really the one being a thoughtless, terrible person for daring to be imperfect. Maybe I would even disregard the fact that only Corey seems to care where I've ended up. But out of the blue, the father that I've never known shows up. The father that never knew me, has no clue what's going on, or why I'm in trouble, emails me and offers to let me live with him and his family.

This man that I've been raised to believe was a shiftless, unreliable person has shown up in my hour of need to help me, without condition or expectation of payment. His wife, who has no reason to want me around, and a pretty significant reason to be resentful of my very existence, has hugged me and let me cry on her shoulder. They've been kinder and more understanding than anyone in my position has a right to expect.

It's a disorienting thing, really, to realize that the reason your father was never around was not because he didn't want to be, but because your crazy family repeatedly chased him off for daring to be human. I never believed it before, but actions speak louder than words. And now a lot of little puzzle pieces that never made sense before are suddenly falling into place. The Chapman/Doggetts are very good at walking the walk, but very few of you are able to talk the talk, and you've shown time and time again that while you may say you want me around, it's only when I'm cleaning your house, helping raise your children, giving you a place to stay (with no consequences if you walk away leaving piles of garbage and ant nests all over the floor and in the furniture), or generally having very few needs of my own.

I can no longer be this person that you want me to be. If you cannot be kind and considerate to me when I stumble, why should you have the benefit of my presence when I'm standing tall and able to help you?

In conclusion, I can no longer consider myself to be a Chapman/Doggett. I don't know yet if I will come to consider myself a Cantwell. Who knows? But I'm willing to try. And if that doesn't work, I'll build a family that deserves me, because frankly, you people do not.

To be clear, I don't wish any of you harm. I hope that you are deliriously, wonderfully, blissfully happy for the rest of your lives. I love you all, and you have no idea how much it hurts to realize that my unconditional love is not reciprocated. Unfortunately, I cannot live your lifestyle and stay psychologically healthy.

Good luck, and may you have a happy life.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How to survive the end of the world

We all have times in our lives where we feel like the roof is about to cave in on us.

Maybe you’ve been searching high and low for employment with no prospects on the horizon, and your unemployment just ran out.

Maybe you have 42 cents in the bank and you’re down to your last bowl of beans and rice.

Maybe you just got served with a lawsuit from a credit collection agency.

Maybe you had a grease fire that destroyed the kitchen of the apartment you just moved into.

Maybe all of these things happened to you in the same week.

The one thing all these scenarios have in common is the feeling that all hope is lost. The feeling that nothing will ever get better. If you haven’t been in a situation like this…trust me, you will. And when it happens, you’ll feel like you can’t possibly move forward. Game over. The end.

Fortunately, unless you are actually dead (in which case, zombie/ghost/ghoul/what-have-you…. Thanks for reading!), then chances are very good that your life isn’t really over.

I know, it will be hard to believe, but trust me. Life goes on. It will suck, but you will survive, because survival is really not that difficult. People do it every day. You just have to keep moving.

Sure, I could sit here telling you to think about all the people who have it worse than you do… But you know what? That won’t make you feel any better. If you’re like me, it may make you feel worse.

What you should keep in perspective is that these hard times will end. Just like good things, all runs of bad luck must end, and sometimes help comes from the most unexpected places. Just remember that if you've given up by the time help arrives, nothing can make a difference.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to stop looking at the "big picture" and focus on the very next step that you can take to make yourself feel in control of the situation, not matter how small that step is.

So send out that next resume, look through your couch and see if you can scrape up fifty cents for a few more pinto beans, call a lawyer, toss out that burnt up pan, and sign up for some grief counseling.

Because tomorrow is another day, and things can only go up from here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Feeling Better...

To start with, I should probably apologize for the previous post, and all the whiney posts I've made in the past. It happens. I started to delete them, but in a way, I think it would be dishonest. So I'm one of those people who has a blog that occasionally gets self-pitying and whiney. So what? C'est la vie. People can't be perfect, and trying to be perfect is what causes my eventual descent into that kind of crap. I'll try to avoid it in the future. :>

I'm back on top of the world, today. I had a visit from a cousin (second cousin? One removed? Have no idea, actually.) last week. We went out to the lake and took photographs, and we ate cheese crackers and sausages, and we sat around talking about crazy spiritual theories that may or may not be true, but sure make life a lot more interesting. Basically, we had a blast. I'd forgotten what it's like to have family that you don't have to guard against, so it helped tremendously.

One thing that came to my attention while he was visiting is that I was completely unaware of how much energy I was spending on other people. I think that's part of what drags me down. I mean, I knew I was one of those people who occasionally wastes energy, but this is kind of the equivalent of a starving person giving away the last of their food. It doesn't help me, and it probably doesn't help the other person, either, because it leaves me in a position where I can't help /myself/, much less other people.

So I'm working on that. Today I made some money writing. I have the potential to make a lot more, so I'm going to spend the afternoon writing. It's not the most "fun" writing job...but heck, I'm getting paid to write! That's pretty wonderful. (Actually, just getting paid is pretty wonderful...)

I also have another internet writing project in the works that will be much more fun, but I'll probably make a more official announcement later through Facebook, where more people will see it. For now, it's a secret. :>

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anybody out there?

I don't feel like me.

I look back on recent events, and I feel like someone else has been living my life, lately. I'm not sure I like her very much.

I've always roller coasted between extremely productive highs and self-destructive lows. A couple of years or so ago, I accepted this about myself and made a decision to do something about it.

I won't say it's been easy, but I was improving. I've worked hard. Some people may not realize how hard I was working because I've had to refuse certain opportunities. I was busy with 'behind the scenes' work, much of which I kept to myself. It's been a struggle. However, it's been worth it. I could see progress being made, slowly but surely, and at the beginning of this year I started trying to improve more than just my psychological health. I really felt ready to get my life back on track, and I started making plans and taking actions to do so.

Lately, though, things have been different. I don't really know how to describe it.

It's not a 'low' as I traditionally have experienced them. Or at least, not what /I/ mean when I say I'm on a 'downswing'. I don't know if you could call it depression. It's not pessimism. It's not really an emotion at all, so much as an absence of emotion. It's like a vacuum has opened up somewhere in my brain and I can't quite figure out how to fill it with air again.

One part of my brain tells me that if I don't get that article in or get that project done or go hunting for another part-time job, I won't be able to pay whatever bill or buy groceries, etc... But the part of my brain that's in control just goes, 'Meh. Whatever.' The scariest part about this is that I catch myself doing this when there are some pretty serious consequences for it, that I /should/ care about.

It's been affecting my work ethic more and more, and by degrees, I feel like I'm losing myself. I've experienced this before, but only in short spells. It's rarely affected the quality of my work to the degree that it is affecting it now. (The worst that I can remember was a poorly written article for Wendy Lee, and she let/made me rewrite it.)

Today, I'm a bit distressed to see how little I've accomplished lately, but I'm scared that by tomorrow I may fall right back into the same apathy.

How does one work to overcome a lack of desire to work at /anything/?

I've rewritten this article more times than I can count, and it still feels like hollow whining. I don't know if my perception is screwy or it really is that way, but regardless, I've got to figure out a way to recharge my willpower and desire to climb out of this hole.

Any thoughts?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Myth Busted: Cars = Freedom

As of tomorrow, I will have been car-free for about two weeks, with two exceptions (both visits from a family member who needed my assistance driving around town). I've gone to the hardware store, the music store, grocery shopping, the library... The truth is, I've been all over town.

In the space of two weeks, I've realized that I really want to get rid of my car entirely, and I don't want to be in a situation where I'm forced to own a car again. Perhaps when I get old and infirm I will change my mind, but in a town this size (which I think is just the right size for me) I can't see myself missing my car. Perhaps inclement weather will change my mind, but so far I've had no troubles. Those who warned me about the heat will be happy to know that not only have I not suffered a heat stroke, but it's actually been quite pleasant, as long as I avoid riding in the heat of the day.

In fact, I did some calculations and came up with some surprising numbers.

$1,310 = Minimum amount that I spend just to own a car each year (even if it's mostly sitting in the parking lot). This is including gas, oil changes, registration, inspection, etc. I own my car outright, so this does not include car payments, which most people would have. It also does not include brake pads, or occasional expenses for things that may crop up, like broken O2 sensors, oil leaks, cosmetic touch ups, fixing of broken door handles, etc. The number also would go up dramatically if I had been driving more, due to the price of gas.

$660 = The amount I will have spent on bike travel by the end of this year. This includes the entire cost of the bike (which is a Trek that I bought new, so I could have probably brought this figure down a bit), as well as a generous budget for chain grease, tubes, and miscellaneous equipment that I have added or plan to add to the bike (pannier, trunk, kick stand, etc).

$250 = The approximate amount that I will spend on bike travel each year without including the cost of a new bike. (This does include things like water and a savings account to buy a new bike once this one wears out.)

15 minutes = The amount of time it took me to get to the grocery store in the car (including the time it took to get in the car, drive there, park, and get into the store).

15 minutes = The amount of time it took me to get to the grocery store on my bike (including time to carry my bike down the front stairs, ride to the store, find a place to lock up, and get into the store).

2 weeks = The amount of time it has taken me to get so used to biking that I don't even get tired on the hills or when I'm facing a headwind.

0 = The number of times I have felt a lack of freedom for not having a car in the past 2 weeks.

So someone tell me... How does it make you more free to spend 5 times as much money on transportation, just so that you can drive a glorified umbrella? How does it make sense to continue designing our lives around a system that is expensive, unhealthy, and ultimately unsustainable?

Think about the state of the USA right now. The obesity epidemic, the budget crises (both at the federal and local levels), environmental crises... How does it make sense to continue spending billions of dollars maintaining motor vehicle infrastructure (and some people contend that even this isn't enough) when a fraction of this expenditure could create all the infrastructure we'd ever need to create a viable community based around bike, pedestrian, and public transportation?

Monday, May 23, 2011

PSA: Have your cake and eat it, too

I'm pretty sure that "You can't have your cake and eat it, too" may be one of the most misunderstood sayings on the face of the planet. I frequently see people who are otherwise very intelligent misusing it, to the point that it's starting to become a pet peeve of mine. (Personally, I blame the public education system.)

Basically, what I frequently see people saying is, "Why shouldn't I eat the cake? Why else would I have cake? It is my cake!"

Granted, some of these people probably know very well what the saying means, and they are trying to be funny. However, it has started to get to the point where people are using this logic to try and make a serious point, and it really bothers me.

So, for those of you who may not realize, the saying does not say that you shouldn't eat the cake, or even that there's anything wrong with eating cake. The point of the saying is that once you eat the cake, it is eaten. If you eat the cake today, you can't expect to have cake to eat tomorrow. Trying to defeat this logic by saying "But why shouldn't I eat the cake?" is missing the point entirely.

The only thing this saying was ever supposed to mean is that you can't have two things that cancel each other out. For example, the phrase would be accurately applied to a person who was married and having an affair. You can't be monogamous, while still having lovers on the side.

It also is accurately applied to secretly gay ultra-republicans. But that's another post entirely.

Granted, people often use this saying when they feel like someone is getting too much of a good thing. If someone uses this saying on you in this way, a more accurate response would be, "I'm not. I'm just baking a new cake." This response also has the added benefit of being original enough to distract the ignorant person. I suggest running away while they are busy figuring it out.

Once again, NO ONE IS SAYING DON'T EAT THE CAKE. They are only saying that once you eat the cake, you can't decide not to eat the cake. But please, do eat the cake before it goes stale. No one likes stale cake.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Red Herrings

At what point can we say that a person has accumulated such an obscene amount of money that they are actually hurting the economy by taking that money out of circulation? When 1% of the population controls almost half the wealth, doesn't it stand to reason that the economy will suffer as a result?

How much of the nation's money goes in the pockets of CEOs who care nothing about the economy, but are only out to grab as much as possible for themselves? How much of our education budget is tied up in ridiculous administration costs? How much of the cost of our medical care goes straight in the pockets of an insurance company CEO? How much of what we pay for food goes into the pocket of some executive instead of into the pocket of the farmer?

Wouldn't it be better for the economy if that money went to the person actually providing the service, rather than some middle man who has nothing to do with it?

We're living in frightening times. With the divide between the rich and the middle class growing ever wider, I would not be surprised to see a civil war in my lifetime. We have the chance to change our fates right now, but I'm not sure that we will. I think that by the time people realize what's really going on, it will be too late, and revolution will be the only way to make any changes.

Why are we letting such a minority control our economy? Why aren't we standing up as a people and saying "enough is enough"? We outnumber them! How is this happening?

Well, it's all about the red herrings. This is the biggest threat to America that we've seen since the Great Depression, and everyone is allowing themselves to be distracted.

OMG GAYS MIGHT GET MARRIED.

OMG POOR PEOPLE MIGHT GET HEALTH CARE.

OMG THE PRESIDENT IS A FOREIGNER.

OMG IMMIGRANTS ARE TAKING OUR JOBS.

WE CAN'T ALLOW THAT!

When are we going to wake up and see past all these red herrings and realize what's really going on in this country? The very rich want you to be distracted by public health care, gun control, gay rights, abortion, etc. Because if you're so busy worrying about all that nonsense, you'll never have a chance to realize that you've spent your life working at a job you hate for peanuts, a slave to a credit card company, with no hope of making a better life for yourself or your children.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hippo's Hope

I felt like sharing a poem. I grew up on Shel Silverstein poems, and every once in awhile, you just feel like going home again. :)

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Hippo's Hope
There once was a hippo who wanted to fly --
Fly-hi-dee, try-hi-dee, my-hi-dee-ho.
So he sewed him some wings that could flap through the sky --
Sky-hi-dee, fly-hi-dee, why-hi-dee-go.

He climbed to the top of a mountain of snow --
Snow-hi-dee, slow-hi-dee, oh-hi-dee-hoo.
With the clouds high above and the sea down below --
Where-hi-dee, there-hi-dee, scare-hi-dee-boo.

(Happy ending)
And he flipped and he flapped and he bellowed so loud --
Now-hi-dee, loud-hi-dee, proud-hi-dee-poop.
And he sailed like an eagle, off into the clouds --
High-hi-dee, fly-hi-dee, bye-hi-dee-boop.

(Unhappy ending)
And he leaped like a frog and he fell like a stone --
Stone-hi-dee, lone-hi-dee, own-hi-dee-flop.
And he crashed and he drowned and broke all his bones --
Bones-hi-dee, moans-hi-dee, groans-hi-dee-glop.

(Chicken ending)
He looked up at the sky and looked down at the sea --
Sea-hi-dee, free-hi-dee, whee-hi-dee-way.
And he turned and went home and had cookies and tea --
That's hi-dee, all hi-dee, I have to say.

Friday, May 6, 2011

"Should" you care?

There's an interesting debate that pops up whenever the topic of money and charity are involved.

On one side, you have people who feel that each individual has a responsibility to the success of the community as a whole. These are the people who feel that a person "should" give to charity, "should" care about hungry people in Africa, "should" contribute to fund cancer research, etc.

On the other side, there are people who feel that the world is a jungle. That the only responsibility one has is to oneself and (perhaps) one's family. These are the people who are likely to argue that giving to other people just makes them dependent upon the giver, and that you shouldn't have to give away your hard-earned money to people who haven't worked for it, etc.

Obviously, there are varying stances in between these two extremes, but for the sake of discussion, let's accept this simplified view of things, for now. From a purely objective and rational point of view, this comes down to an emotional appeal vs. logic.

Logic dictates that if you give away less money, you will have more for yourself. Logic also (seems to) dictate that if you have more for yourself, your life will be happier, particularly if you are below a certain threshold. (Research has shown that this threshold is about $40,000 per year.) You will be able to provide better for your children. You will even be able to buy more consumer goods, which will create jobs for people who are less fortunate, and eventually make the world a better place. If you eliminate a religious imperative to tithe, there's really no ethical reason to think that you "should" give away what's rightfully yours, whether you worked hard to earn it, or just happened to inherit it.

However, upon further inspection, I feel there's something that's always missing from these discussions. At some point, you will need help from your community. Whether you are a wealthy executive who needs advice on how to handle a marital dispute, or a poor divorcee trying to figure out how to keep your house and raise your kids on a single income, you will want to have a community of supportive people around you who care about you as much as they care about their own interests.

If you are a person who gives to other people, doesn't it make sense that you will gather people around you that are also giving personalities? However, if you are only out for "number one", doesn't it make sense that you will drive those "givers" away?

We create the world we have to live in by the people we attract. What kind of world do you want to live in?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Are We Bad People?

Osama bin Laden is dead, y'all.

Think about that for a second. Soak it in. Let yourself /really/ understand it.

When I first heard the news (caught the live feed of the announcement, even), I started to feel happy. In fact, I was almost in a celebratory mood.

Then I started to realize what I was doing. I was celebrating the death of another human being. Then came the guilt.

I started to wonder what's wrong with me. I started to wonder what's wrong with all of us. How can we be happy about the death of a fellow human being?

This lasted a day or so. But now I've given it my due consideration, and you know what? Yes. I'm happy. Fuck Osama bin Laden. This is a man who directly set out to kill as many Americans as he possibly could. Not because we'd done anything to him, but because we're different. For the same reason that a lot of Americans want to nuke the Middle East or get us involved in some kind of holy war. Osama is a wanna-be Hitler.

And it wasn't enough to kill as many Americans as he could, but he sent videos bragging about his actions. No only that, but he promised to do more in the future. He hated our guts, y'all, and you know what? He and all his followers would be celebrating if he succeeded in another attack on us.

So will I celebrate Osama's death?

Probably not.

Will I feel pleased about the death and the timing?

Yes. Yes, I will.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Hiker

First of all, I want to thank all of the wonderful people who have given me work over the last week or so. Because of you guys, I'm going to be able to pay my rent. Since I now also have a job, you all also have the satisfaction of knowing that you really did make it possible for me to get through a transitory period of difficulty. And that makes you guys pretty darn awesome.

That being said, I kind of want to tell something that happened today that has really changed my perspective.

Today, I was driving to Brownwood to visit my aunt. I'm carrying some things to the trailer house, and will stick around to watch her choir sing at the Easter service tomorrow morning. The drive from the city to Brownwood is extremely long. Long enough that if you forget to get gas, you may actually run out before you reach a gas station. Right in the middle of all this, I passed a woman walking by the side of the road. Normally, I don't stop for people by the side of the road. I don't really feel that it's safe for me to do so, and in general, I figure the worst that can happen is that they have to walk wherever they're going. In this case, however, I had a bad feeling about it for some reason. I didn't think there was anything within on day's walking distance, and it was easily 93 degrees out. To make things worse, there was a thunderstorm rolling in, and it was extremely humid.

So I stopped and offered her a ride. This woman was more tan than any woman I've ever seen, with a sunburn across her nose. Her hair was bleached blonde by the sun, and the pants she was wearing had holes worn through in places. She didn't even have any kind of water with her.

She seemed reluctant to talk, but her story came out in short answers to the occasional tentative question. She had come from Miami, Florida, walking and hitchhiking when she could get a ride. She claimed to be on her way to New Mexico. I don't think she had a penny to her name, and when I asked her where she planned to sleep tonight, she told me that she'd been sleeping by the side of the road.

Maybe it was unwise, but I ended up feeding her dinner and offering to let her sleep in the empty trailer house tonight. I offered to get her a bus ticket to New Mexico, but she turned me down. I suspect that she was lying about New Mexico and may even be suffering from some kind of mild mental illness, but I have no doubt that she has been living and sleeping out of doors for a significant length of time. I'm naturally tan, and I spent nearly all day of every day last summer out in the sun, and I was never that dark. I can't imagine how much time you'd have to spend in the sun to get that tan.

I'm not sure if she'll still be there when I get back to the trailer house tomorrow. If she is, I'll offer to take her wherever she wants, at least as far as Abilene. That's the most I can do if she won't accept a bus ticket to wherever she's going. As depressing as the encounter is, however, it has reminded me of one thing... I have it pretty good.

I have a place to live. If I run out of money, I have friends and family to fall back on. I have skills that I can use to make a living, if I just keep hacking away at the job hunt long enough. I never have to worry about going hungry or not having a place to sleep. There's always a couch or a living room floor open to me, if things get that bad. Basically, life is pretty darn good.

It's funny how the world has a way of smacking you down when you start to feel too sorry for yourself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

But what do you really want?

This has been a hard month for me, as probably anyone who has been around me knows, but I'll try to make this post less depressing than the last. :>

Last night, I started venting with a distant relative on Facebook who was very kind to listen and offer some feedback to help get me thinking about my situation.

At one point, he asked what my long-term plan was. My immediate response was to detail my plan for the next year that involves finishing my degree and paying off my student loans while living rent-free. (Well, it's not /free/. I have to work on the house while I'm there! You know, and probably babysit from time to time.)

I felt like this was a pretty good plan, all things considered. This plan will certainly reduce my financial stress, and will even improve my quality of life faster than just about anything else I could do. That's a valid goal, right?

His response was, "But why did you go to school? What do you really want to do? Your ambition? Your dream? Your passion?"

His question kind of pulled me up short, because he makes a valid point.

I have lost my passion.

You're supposed to want more. You're supposed to have ambition. You're supposed to have a dream.

But let's get real and think about it for a second. Isn't wanting more what got us all in this mess in the first place?

Isn't it misplaced idealism that put our country massively in debt?

Isn't it ambition that crippled our economy?

Isn't it wanting more that caused the housing market to crash?

Why isn't it okay to just want 'enough'?

I might as well be an ex-convict. Then at least I would have had fun getting here...

I am intelligent and resourceful.

I am a person of many talents, with something valuable and unique to offer the world.

I am a good daughter, a good older sister, a good student, and a good neighbor.

I am willing to work harder and longer than any 26-year-old woman that I've ever met.

I accept that I've made huge mistakes in my past.

I accept that naivete is not a valid excuse, and I have to deal with the consequences of my mistakes.

So I share a 500 square foot one-bedroom apartment with my brother.

I have learned to scrape by on $10 a week for groceries, without even sacrificing my health. No problem.

I started washing my laundry in the bathtub to avoid paying the laundromat. Hey, it's even good for the environment.

I started riding a bicycle to work and the grocery store. Who can afford gas these days, anyway?

I continue wearing worn out clothes. I don't really care about clothes anyhow.

I learned to make my own soap for a fraction of the retail price. Fun!

I learned to cope with extreme heat and extreme cold to keep the electric bill down.

I avoided the dentist because I just didn't have the money. I'm not in pain. (Yet.)

I stayed home instead of going to the doctor when I got sick.

I only recently replaced my decade-old glasses. For the past two years, I've been compensating by zooming the computer screen to 200%.

I really am willing to work my ass off and do without to pay for the mistakes I have made.

I've even been willing to live on barely $12000 a year (much of which goes to minimum student loan payments), while my boss pulls a six-figure income and lives a lavish lifestyle paid for by the hard work of her employees.

But you can only stretch so far. 5 hours of work per pay period won't pay the bills.

The company I've worked so hard for is dying, and there's nothing I can do about it.

I can't rely on this job, so I go to look for work.

Any work.

And I send in resumes.

And I make phone calls.

And I attempt to tap my network.

I even go to networking events where I am so badly out of place that it's laughable, just on the off-chance that I might find /something/.

Anything.

But for some reason, despite how much I beg to be put to work, my past comes back to haunt me.

As it turns out, employers do get your credit report as part of that standard background check.

Forget working hard to pay for and overcome past mistakes.

According to Them, I'm stupid and lazy.

According to Them, I'm irresponsible and a liability.

According to Them, I'm a bad citizen and a bad investment.

According to Them, I'll probably be a bad employee.

At 26 years old, is it so wrong to want a future?

Is this the America my ancestors envisioned for me?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lessons learned from Nazi Germany

I've been watching a six part documentary about Auschwitz during World War 2, and at the end of each "part", there is a discussion with scholars who have studied this period in history. Today, the discussion revolved around what elements have to be present in society for genocide to occur. It was so fascinating, I thought I'd share part of the transcript. I feel this is especially relevant today, with the attitudes that I've been hearing (on the news and on the street) toward certain groups of people.

Pay special attention to the implication that this was not a situation that evolved overnight. It took /decades/ for the right attitudes to evolve in the general public, and anyone naive enough to think it can't happen today is fooling themselves.

Notice also that EDUCATION played an important role. There are so many implications here that I could almost write a whole other article, so I'll just let you read the transcript. Feel free to comment with thoughts. :)

---------------------------------------

< Host > Germany, before Hitler, was not a small nation. It was also one of the most cultured, educated, and creative societies in history. How was it so easily transformed?

< Scholar 1 > Civilized and moral states have the ability to produce fine things, but they also have the capacity to destroy. And Germany, under Hitler, typified this very important irony.

< Host > But it's so hard to believe. I need to know more about the process by which the Nazis transformed the Jews into "The Enemy."

< Scholar 2 > By 1939 when the war began, they had been taught by schoolbooks, by textbooks, that the people who stood in the way of German progress were a threat, and that didn't only mean Jews. It meant, Polish people who got in the way. It meant handicapped people, disabled people, anybody who was so-called, "undesirable."

< Host > Gypsies, homosexuals...

< Scholar 2 > Exactly. These people visually looked like the material in their textbooks that said, "Jews are different. They're alien." And that, I think, facilitated killing with a clear conscience.

< Host > Is it a good idea for kids today to question their education?

< Scholar 2 > A good education teaches kids to question their education. To /look/ at the occasions in American history when our government, convinced it was right, virtually exterminated American Indians, enslaved millions of Africans coming to this country against their will. To be alert to the varied forms that genocide can take.

....

< Host > You know, I don't hear either one of you saying that the answer to the prevention of genocide is to teach people to stress the sanctity of human life.

< Scholar 2 > That's the bottom line. Not only to value human life that appears to be "like us", but /all/ human life. To respect differences. To love strangers. To take risks on behalf of people we don't know. This is a global world. We need education for a global ethics.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spent

There's a game called "Spent" that one of my Facebook friends called to my attention, and I'm feeling a little irrationally offended by it. The purpose of the game is to try and educate people on how difficult it is to poor, and how much those people need help. I have a feeling the game is going to achieve the opposite.

As a person who has survived some pretty desperate financial situations, I'm offended by the implication that it "can't" be done. I know that it can be done because I've done it. For the record, right now I survive and mostly support my younger brother on less than what they're claiming you can't possibly live on. :P

1) You don't spend $800 on rent if you don't have it. I live in a decent one bedroom apartment that is almost half that, and a couple with a kid could easily live here, if they had to. It would be cramped, but it's doable.

2) Don't spend $30 at the laundromat if you only have $400 in the bank. There's a thing called handwashing, and I've done it when necessary to survive.

3) Don't have a cell phone if you can't afford to pay the bill.

4) "With these groceries, you're going to have a hard time getting enough to eat." Bullcrap. When I live alone I spend about $20 a week on groceries, and that's only because I buy a healthy variety of food. With my brother here, it ends up being more like $45 because he's a bottomless pit. When I was in dire straights, I was able to survive on about $10 or less per week by eating things like beans, rice, ramen, etc. That's not a long term solution, but it will get you by until you can find a way to get more grocery money.

5) $30 on a babysitter... So you have friends who will go to a concert with you, but you don't have a single friend who would be willing to give you a much needed night off by babysitting for you? Maybe you should reevaluate who your friends really are.

6) When the other kids were bullying my kid, why was talking to the teachers about the situation not an option?

7) This person needs a free checking account that doesn't charge fees for going under a certain amount. Yes, they exist. Yes, you have to do some research and look for them, and pay attention to the fine print. No one said being poor was easy.

8) I'm a little offended by the way they try to intentionally tug at your heart strings by making the constant "child wants this or that" stuff. Give me a break. Maybe you should take the opportunity to teach your child about money management, so that the next generation doesn't get into the same trouble you're in? This particularly applies to situations like the one where the child wouldn't eat the free lunches. (For that matter, why wasn't talking to the teacher not an option when the child was being bullied? I mean, come on.)

9) If you are in this much financial trouble and you start smoking, you deserve to be homeless. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

Basically, the person you are playing in this scenario doesn't really know how to be poor. It's tough, I'm not saying it's not, but it /is/ doable. If you are a charity and want to say that you're helping out people who are having a tough time, I'm all for that. I think that's wonderful. But don't say that you're helping people out of impossible situations, because unless the person is mentally ill or retarded, it's not an impossible situation. It's just difficult. By making it look impossible, you're just encouraging people to look for hand outs instead of teaching them how to help themselves.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Questions I ask myself

What is the point of avoiding controversy?

Is it to avoid discomfort? To avoid hurting someone's feelings?

If someone must be silenced to avoid controversy, does that really avoid hurt feelings?

Why are my feelings somehow less important if I'm in the minority?

I wonder if my professor recognizes the irony of vetoing a talk about civil liberties in a country that supposedly values freedom of speech so highly...

I think I've officially gone from pissed off to offended to depressed. Guess I should go do something about that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Welcome to the real world

When we're children, we are told that we can grow up to be anything we want. We are told the sky is the limit. We are told that everyone is special. If we are disabled, we are even told--if only through the actions of the adults around us--that this should not pose any hindrance to our functioning, and the world should bend over backwards so that we don't have to work harder or feel "different".

Is it any wonder that we live in a world where lying, cheating, and stealing are so rampant that no one feels they can trust their neighbor?

Is it any wonder that we live in a world where every time something doesn't go according to plan, someone decides to sue?

Is it any wonder that we live in a world where people leave passive aggressive notes demanding other people change their habits, rather than discussing the problem respectfully, face-to-face?

Is it any wonder that we live in a world where people regularly cheat the welfare system when they don't really need assistance?

Is it any wonder that we live in a world where people are so convinced that everything will work itself out that most people don't even bother to vote?

Is it any wonder that we live in a world where someone can somehow be smart enough to end up in a career making over $100K a year, but is still too ignorant to make ends meet because they have never been taught the difference between a "need" and a "want"?

I don't know what the answer to this problem is. But I know that the first step is to teach our kids to work hard and to take responsibility for their mistakes. Teach them to be mature, independent, thinking adults. Teach them to have empathy without throwing good sense out the window.

Above all, stop teaching them that they can have something for nothing, and stop teaching them that life is ever easy. You aren't doing them any favors.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Planting seeds of success

When I was a little girl, my grandfather had a garden. When I was very young, this amounted to an acre of land where they basically planted a small patch of some kind of beans or peas.

After my grandfather had ploughed up the yard, I can remember walking barefoot down the neat rows of long, piled up soil. My grandfather would punch a hole in the ground with his thumb, and I would drop in three beans.

One time, I asked him why we put three beans in instead of just one.

"Because some of them won't grow. This way, hopefully at least one will make it."

This seems like a great life philosophy to me. I figure that if you are constantly planting the seeds of success, it's inevitable that some of those seeds will start to bear fruit.

For the past few months I've been operating on this philosophy, and I think it may be changing my life for the better. I've stop looking for immediate results, and when one of my seeds does start to grow, I'm able to feel thankful for that small blessing, instead of feeling disappointed that the other seeds failed.

Basically, I'm more patient with myself and with the world. I'm less frustrated. In general, I'm happier. I highly recommend this paradigm shift for anyone who finds themselves stressing out at the "perfectionism" end of the scale, or frozen for fear of failure.