Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Last Night I Called My Ma...

Last night I called my ma.
I didn't call to catch up and I didn't call on a whim. I called because I was scared and that's what you do when you're scared; you go to mom for help. 

And you know what, she really did her best to hold back on mounting panic I knew she was feeling right then. She was scared too. Just like my dad, our friends, and about half of America. I don't think there's anything as emotionally shattering as listening to the people you love forcing themselves to stay positive in the face of overwhelming disappointment in a country that had been, just hours ago, seemingly headed towards real progress. 

More than the mix of disbelief and fear, what made that conversation so incredibly heartbreaking is the sheer effort it was taking both of my parents to keep that note of hopelessness out of their voices. Something about listening to my dad's trying-to-keep-control deadpan tone was so much more painful than the numbers I was seeing on my computer. And it brought me to tears because I knew his efforts were done for my sake. I don't think he'd forgive himself if my loss of faith in government and people were due to his own feelings of helplessness in the knowledge that people took a look at their two options and then chose wrong.

I'm not one of those people who assume all Trump voters are misogynistic racists. I don't think they're bigoted hillbillies either. Don't get me wrong, Donald Trump is one of the most vile, dishonest, shudder-inducing men that exist, but that doesn't reflect on all of his supporters. 
 
I grew up with Trump supporters, they're still some of my best friends. That doesn't mean I won't hold them accountable for mess coming our way, and that doesn't mean that race wasn't a heavy influence. A person doesn't have to be blatantly racist in order to want things better for themselves. However, the white people voting in this election are attempting to make things better for themselves at the cost of others, and I think they know what that cost is and have accepted it. I think they let themselves be blinded to the faults of a man in return for a promise he can't keep. America was only ever great for a single group of people, and most of the white, male voters who carried Trump here, to President-Elect, did not and never will belong to that group. It was great at the time for those at the top, and at the top is where they'll stay. For the rest of us--women, minorities, immigrants, members of the lgbtq+ community, the working class--this country was only great because we were able to fight for what we knew was good and right in the world. The presence of hope and the faith we had that we could continue forward and make things great for everyone, not just a predetermined few.  

I'll admit it has now been tested. I've never been religious, I don't believe in anyone's god. My faith has always rested in people themselves. There is nothing more to have faith in than the presence of human decency in a world that is so deeply committed to individualism and greed. Last night gave my faith a huge blow. I'm bleeding and don't know when it will stop. What I do know is eventually it will, and then comes the fight. If nothing else, this election has shown me how much work we have left to do in our country and those who care need to be ready to work for it. We can't give up. We can't let them destroy the progress we've made. I thought we were better than this, that's for sure, but now I've seen we aren't and we should strive to be. 

I know that's what I'll be doing, along with being eternally grateful I have my mama to call when things get rough. 

Stay strong, friends.

-E.B.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Drunk Nights: A Poem


I'm bleeding and I don't care.

This  rivulet of blood stretches down my face,
across my skin and shows something
I can't quite grasp
in it's own way of silent steady flow.
I want to disturb it.
Disturb the way it stretches down
the impossible length of nose to lip.
Even now a finger reaches up and touches,
with the lightest of intentions,
the red silk.
Grooves come away doused,
while the river flows on.
It flows on.

I feel nothing
but the cold of air on white blood cells.
Are they protecting me, do you think?
Are they doing the job for which they were so lovingly created?
That's what the world would have me think.
These small creatures of fire and air
were the works of something greater than I.

It makes me laugh
because we are all creatures of random thought
and coincidence.
Some wish we were more,
but that's all we have. 
The most bizarre of happenstance
is what binds us together.
We're all just large bits of smaller matter,
joined together in a torrent of need and
bizarre gratification of our desire to mean something.

But it's possible, isn't it?
to mean something
without being created to do so.
I can give myself a definition
that defies all logic and reason.
Others disregard,
but I can fight on with my words and thoughts.
So determined to carve a real semblance of life
out of this haze of chemical reactions.
We find order in the meaningless and meaning in the ordinary. 
Meaning in the ordinary. 

Meaning in our blood.

-E.B




Monday, October 24, 2016

Valuing My Femininity




The more I become aware of myself as a woman in today's society the more frustrated I become with all the standards we put on ourselves. These are standards and high bars that are coming at us from a different place than the usual kind launched daily from media, politics, and ads. Those are bad enough, but then comes the inner workings of our own motivations and how they're so likely to clash with each other. 

Let me give you an example. 
I recently read "The Miseducation of Cameron Post", an amazing read for anyone wishing to be exposed to the hardships of the LGBT youth in rural America. There's a scene where Cameron's conservative aunt has successfully set herself up as a saleswoman for a company that provided tool kits specifically for women; so small electric drills in pretty colors designed for our dainty hands. My reaction to this was the reaction the author intended; why the fuck would I need a different tool set than a man? Am I so weak and in need of sparkles? My second reaction was an unexpected bit of guilt. Unexpected because I've been pretty secure in the knowledge that I've risen above the stereotype of linking my sex to fragility, and guilt because I'd just caught myself in the act of shaming other women. 

You see, for so long what feminism has meant to me is I can achieve what the boys can. I'm strong like boys are. Use tools that boys use. But I've noticed a transition in recent years that's not entirely unwelcome; I can be like girls too. In other words, should I really judge someone for enjoying a pink hammer rather than the typical brand? 

In comes the newest standard I now must meet; juggling my disdain for products marketed solely to women based on color and size along with my respect for women who don't give two shits what others think when they pick up that glittery allen wrench. Our femininity isn't something we need to be ashamed of, yet I'm still fighting off my enjoyment of pink pens. I was educated in a community that prized masculine tendencies over everything, whether you were a boy or a girl. Yes, we had the cheerleader and football player stereotypes, but we also had a state championship girls basketball team, a regional championship volleyball team, a girl on the state championship baseball team. The focus was on athletics, excellence, and tough attitudes for everyone. It gave me a love for sport that continues today, but it also gave me an aversion to showing off my feminine side. We made fun of girls for wearing makeup during games (despite the fact that we ourselves made our hair pretty and put gunk on our eyelashes) and scoffed at the idea of wearing anything but sweats and spandex during the season. When I look at that now, at my behavior towards girls who actually embraced the idea that they were girls, I really do become uncomfortable. I've come a long way for sure, but there are still negative thoughts like that lingering despite my best efforts. 

One of the more frustrating parts of this line of thinking is I actually have a solution to the predicament I find myself in! I would stop hating the idea of enjoying colorful tools if they weren't specifically oriented towards a single sex. For one thing, that's not how gender works; there's a spectrum, not just a binary. For another, if we stopped saying those cute hammers are only for girls we'd actually be helping everyone out. Anyone can have their own preferences and there's no reason they need to be directed at just girls or boys. I can still value myself as a woman while wearing flannels and playing rugby, just like a man can still value himself as a man while wearing his hair in braids and using a bright tool kit. It's just silly to limit yourself based on what sex is on the packaging. 

So while I may be frustrated at the standards I put on myself it's infinitely better to think critically about all this and deal with the confusion instead of buying into everyone's bullshit. 


-E.B

(for those of you who don't quite get why products marketed only for women are so infuriating)




Friday, October 7, 2016

Injuries That Make You Dumb: a Concussion Experience


Let's talk about concussions.

Concussions are also known as a traumatic brain injuries, happen when you strike or jolt your head, and are currently fucking up my life. When you're diagnosed many doctors say you're "suffering" from a concussion; take that word literally. Take it as literally as you are able to, because it encapsulates the rough experience that is recovering from a head injury. 

While rugby has contributed to the many incredible parts of myself and my life, the one area it's not done such a great job is in maintaining the mint condition of my grey matter. I've had two concussions so far; one last year which was comprised of multiple face-to-ground collisions ("multiple" because I'm an idiot and decided to play through the first impact) and one that occurred last week (this time back-of-the-head-to-ground collision, which thankfully saved the integrity of my eyebrows).

While there are several typical indicators and symptoms of concussions, one of the parts that makes them so much fun is everyone reacts and heals differently. One person can even have different reactions to different concussions. For instance my first one was marked by some lovely emotional issues that culminated in a few trips to a shrink's office (side note: always seek help for depression. There's body doctors for body issues and head doctors for head issues. Use them). This time I've managed to escape the darker mental side effects and instead feel consistently nauseous and dizzy when required to do physical and mental labor. Imagine the joy I feel every time I have to attend a class designed to make me think critically and can't exert myself mentally. It's not an ideal situation, though infinitely better than having no feelings or interests throughout the day. I will always prefer the struggle to concentrate over the struggle to find energy enough to smile. 

We tend to put a lot of emphasis on concussions in sports, but the more I talk about my experience the more I realize how many people are with me in this club I once thought was exclusive. We're a group of people who, whether it was done by hurtling towards another person and getting thrown to the ground or by straightening up to be intercepted by a rogue cabinet door, know exactly what I mean when I say the most simple tasks have now turned into a hot mess of horrors. This is important, because one of the most damaging parts of my bout of impact induced depression was my feeling of being completely alone. No one understood. No one could relate to me. No one knew how to help because I alone was stuck in this dark place. 

Except so many people understood. 

So many people are aware of the frustration that comes when I know the word I'm looking for but it won't come to my head. So many people know exactly how it feels to excuse yourself in order to cry in a bathroom stall because of trivial inconveniences. So many people are aware of how embarrassing it is to reach for a handle and instead slam your hand into the door. Do all these things suck? Yup. There's a reason the number of fuck-bombs dropped increases exponentially with a head injury. But does it also suck less because I have the support of other people who have and are going through the exact same thing?
Yup, that too. 

My point is concussions blow. They're hard to deal with and hard to heal. This is an injury that literally makes a person stupid and I'd highly recommend avoiding them. If you can't follow that advice, know that there's always support for you somewhere and that I totally understand how fucking terrible that test is where they make you count backwards by seven. Fuck that test.

Keep your brains safe friends,
-E.B




Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Memories

A thing I've been working on. Enjoy.




I'm running down the tracks by Adams house. The gravel is spraying out behind me with every step as I hurtle past the yellow dirt hill the railroad was carved into a hundred years ago. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm happy as only a child can be. I stumble to a stop as a glint catches my eye; a single, rusted penny is laying on the track, squished into the tiniest layer of copper by hundreds of steel wheels grinding their way across it. I pick it up and promise to keep it forever. 
It's lost within a week. 

The four of us are lying on the grass with our eyes to the stars. It's 2 in the morning and our parents think we're curled in bed. Not that it's ever stopped us before. We think we're rebels. We think we're feeling everything for the very first time in the world, and it's true because in that moment all the world is only us. The park is our ultimate sanctuary of loneliness and open sky. Mike breaks the silence, guys, right now I think we should just get in the car. Let's just get in the car and drive and never look back. There's a pause, a beat of breathless silence, and we burst into fits of laughter at the absurd cheesiness his statement encapsulates. We laugh so loud I hear it echo back from the hills. I am so happy I can't put it to words.
I'm discovering the indescribability of deep feelings. 

I broke his heart and now he won't stop looking at me. Controlling my pity is much harder than controlling my anger, but harder yet is shoving down my sense of satisfaction. I'm driving a boy to the ends of his mind just by entering a room. The sick glee is only matched by my shame. It's been two months and I can't understand his desperate attempts to hang on to me. We're driving down college parkway, chasers in the back and Windows down to drown out the painful silence that fills the car. He turns the radio on and his movements are slow, like he's trying to keep a wild animal calm. It's a valid concern; I'm practically vibrating I have so much tension in my spine. A wrong move will send us both into oncoming traffic. A song comes on, the latest love ballad of the latest music star and I can't change the station quick enough. Why did you change it? I hate him for playing dumb, and my anger loosens my tongue, because I'm sick of hearing about lost love. He spends the rest of the ride staring at his hands.
Our good memories are being replaced, one by one, by his obsession and my resentment.

This place isn't the same. I'm staring at her house, at the empty patch where the blackberry bush used to be and it's not. the. same. Even worse, it's not terrible. The garden is fine and the house has a new coat of paint. The restaurant down the street still has great food. The lake is still cold and beautiful and soul stealing, the small stacks of rocks remain balanced across the beach. My grandma was a breath of life in this small town, and while hers is gone this remains as bright and vibrant as ever. 
Will I leave behind a string of reminiscing family members to stare at my old garden too?

This is not what I thought I'd be doing tonight. I'm staring at Steven as the music swells around us. We're sitting in cheap folding chairs while lasers pierce the darkness and the Transsiberian Orchestra plays above us. This is not what I thought I'd be doing. I'm thrown by this boy. This boy who's making me break all my rules. That should be a problem, but I'm having a hard time caring about his age or his past right now. He catches my stare and holds it, sending my already stunned mind further into the insanity that comes with young feelings. I know what I want and slowly move in. The band is playing only for us in this moment and I'm fully lost.
It's the first kiss of a relationship that will break me. 

My feelings are absurdly peaceful as I hang 200 feet in the air. The rope slides gently through my fingers and I dip backwards in my harness, staring past the cliffside, past the safety monitors, and into open blue skies. There is a wild joy in this and I extend it as long as I can, gently swinging from a cliff in a country that is brand new to me. I'm ignoring the gentle reminders to continue downward and remain stretched out, parallel to the single cloud drifting along with me in my moment. 
When my feet touch the ground my heart stays up high, still soaking in the sun. 

While the mass stares ahead I keep my eyes on my mom. My dad's hand is clenched in hers but neither he, nor I, nor anyone can stop her tears from flowing. That task can only be done by the one who brought us here, the one whose casket is mere feet away. As my mom mourns for her sister I mourn for her. Surely a sibling takes a piece of you with them when they leave forever. 
A piece of my mother is gone, and I cry as much for it as for the lost member of my family. 

I can't stop staring at his message. Of every shitty thing that's hit me this past week, of all the stares, the whispers, the laughter; they're the pin pricks of pettiness. This is a shotgun to my soul. You disgust me. Bang. It hits again, and again I'm bleeding on the floor, or are those just tears? You disgust me. I can't breath. I don't want to. Is this what I get for my one night of distraction. My one night of liberation from the steady heartache. I save my begging for our messages. I won't let this desperation creep into the real world. But now I can't even message him, he won't answer. I never realized a person could do so much damage.
It takes years to shake off the cloak of shame he draped over me so cruelly.

My grandpa is frail and fading. If he could he would leave us right now; save us the hassle of cleaning after him, of paying for his dying moments. He knows it's his time but I want more of it. I want his heart to beat strong and his legs move forward. I am full of selfish desires that he can never fulfill, and for that I'm glad. We know we'll never speak again. We know there's no heaven to reach out for. We know to fully appreciate these last moments because it's all I'll have left. We understand each other, he and I.
He is the first loss I've never been able to shake off.

I'm seeing her, really seeing her for the first time and it is not a pleasant experience. This girl was once my friend yet her words indicate the pent up anger of a slow boiling spite. In our heated exchange I find myself reveling in my anger. She is the target I've needed, a thing to destroy and laugh while I do. Her final insult, slut, gives me a triumphant victory. She receives no pity, and the end of our friendship is not marked with sadness.
I no longer accept the presence of pettiness in my life.  

I'm sitting on this new couch that isn't mine in an apartment that doesn't feel like home surrounded by three girls who barely acknowledge my prescence. I'm sitting here knowing that I should be feeling fine, feeling anything really, but all I have is a deep and unblinking interest in the small knife in my hands. And now, suddenly, the realization that I've never been so deeply unhappy in all my life for no reason at all. I'm tricking myself into thinking that my darkness is just what nothing feels like, that I'm slowly cutting a line in my hand out of curiosity, that crying myself to sleep every night is not worth a closer look. 
Drowning out of water is so easy to overlook.

I've never been stunned by architecture before. My scarf is not quite up to the task of containing my curls as I tilt my head up and up, wholly appreciating the effect of blue and gold hitting my eyes. It fills my heart up, the amount of beauty surrounding me. It's easy to see how a person could connect the feeling of awe with their god, and I can appreciate the effort it took to embody that with brick and tile. This is a place of strange customs and language, yet I feel no discomfort. I take pictures I know cannot capture the true essence of this place and find I cannot stop smiling at the thought. I'm somewhere magical, right at this moment, somewhere spectacular.
I am finding myself inside this adventure.

He is...fascinating. Unstructured. Intimidating, though he doesn't believe that last one. It begins with a drunken kiss in the search for a quiet moment but does not end; only changes. I have never had someone with whom I can share a friendship and a bed and as his hand brushes mine I find myself happy to experience the unique moments of conversing with a person who is smarter than I am. I'm glad to have met such an incredible person. 
He marks the reemergence of my creative mind.

We are each other's first and last friends in Istanbul. I try not to cry as I remember our first fateful walk to campus. We're sitting on our bags, holding each other steady against the stream of commuters who are wholly unaware of the importance in this goodbye. Our tickets are ready, though we are not, and I hug her close. We don't let go and minutes pass by. I put all my thoughts, my appreciation into our final embrace and I know she does the same.
Our friendship of dark humor and bright adventures will never truly leave us.

It's finally time to acknowledge this house is not my home. I embrace my family, my animals, my old bed. I embrace them but find myself unable to shrug off this new feeling of need. It's a desire to leave and fully accept both the old and new of my personality. The girl who belongs in this purple room is not me, not the almost-woman who stands here now. I run my hands across the wall, stopping at each poster and drawing so as to truly feel the shift of perspective. This was a good place to be raised but the rest of my upbringing must be elsewhere. The thought makes me sad, but hope is present as well. 
I think I'm finally ready for the future.


Thank you to whoever kept reading this thing. I appreciate your perseverance. You're now privy to some of the deeper moments of my life; use your knowledge wisely. 
-E.B



Friday, September 23, 2016

A Love Letter to Rugby




There are moments, moments everyone has experienced, that end up making a huge impact on our lives. It's not something we can usually understand as being life-changing; more often we look back at a specific decision and realize the consequences that came from it later on. Well this is my moment of looking back. Enjoy.

Last year when I arrived in Tucson, ready to meet my new roommates and enjoy the semester before I studied abroad, I was not in the best place emotion-wise. The combination of losing a group of friends, finding out my roommates weren't the kind of girls I could mesh with, and the realization I'd gone through three years of college without joining any clubs in a real way led to what I'm describing as a funk of day to day unhappiness. It really chipped away at me to be surrounded by people who didn't care enough to invite me out and who gave my invitations a half-hearted "maybe next time". Not the most fun of times.

And it was because of those shitty feelings I found myself wandering around the university's club fair, stopping at a booth labeled U of A Women's Rugby. Here's how that conversation went:

"Hey! You should play rugby!
"Okay!"

With that kind of salesmanship how could I resist? Two weeks later I found myself on the pitch for my first ever practice of a sport that literally saved me from what can only be described as crushing loneliness. I became a part of this amazing group of ladies who are tough and loving and loyal. They're some of the best friends I've made here. And those are just the people. The sport itself gave me this kind of unshakable confidence that comes when you know you have the ability to literally bash through obstacles. 

Rugby is hard. This is a full contact sport with no pads. Each game lasts for 80 minutes of continuous play. There's no pausing for a breath after each tackle, no stopping the clock unless a timeout is called. No one starts out the season in good enough shape to do all this, but you have to get there as quickly as you can. All of this sounds intimidating, but in that first practice I knew I'd made the right decision because I felt happier and more accomplished sucking in air after conditioning than I had in months. I didn't realize how much I missed being a part of something until I filled that hole in my chest. Rugby started me down a great path of trying new things, getting a new job that I still have and love, and reconnecting with people I was worried were out of my life for good. 

Now that I'm back in Tucson I've been faced with quite a bit of guilt over this sport. I've explained all the ways it helped me when I had nowhere else to turn, but this year is different. I actually have things going on in my life. I have roommates who I care about and enjoy being around. I have my writing, drawing, and blogging. I'm working more hours and taking more credits. When rugby was the one thing keeping me from falling over the edge it was easy to devote my life to it, but I'm in a much better headspace now and that makes it difficult to put in that same level of commitment. I needed to reevaluate my position.

What that came down to is a question to myself; is losing out on other areas of my life worth my all or nothing mindset when it comes to the sports I play? I used to be able to fully commit myself to my teams in high school because the system was designed to work around that ideology and support me. I had parents to pay for everything and give me rides, teachers who would extend due dates, and it was all paid for by boosters. That kind of attitude doesn't work in a world with multiple high priorities of the (semi) real world. All or nothing doesn't apply to my life anymore, and I'm kind of okay with that. Getting rid of that mindset is what helped me maintain this blog so far into the school year and I think I should start applying it to other areas of my life. Basically, the answer to my question is no. It's not worth it. I need to be okay with devoting as much time as I need to rugby, but also to other areas in my life. There's nothing wrong with taking a day off every once in a while. The world won't end if I skip practice because I'm not feeling well. I can still call myself a player of one of the greatest sports ever thought up while eating an unhealthy meal. With this mentality I'll never be the best player on the pitch, but I will be able to continue playing and improving my skills while having a ridiculous amount of fun.

I hope when I look back at the decisions I make I can take pride in who I become. Rugby already changed my life for the better (see below, a picture of us playing tug o' war in the mud, definitely something I wouldn't have been able to do without this beautiful sport), and here's to hoping the streak continues.

End of sappy post.
-E.B 









Monday, September 12, 2016

I Wrote a Thing Despite My Mind's Best Efforts

I'm having a bit of an issue. By that I mean I'm having a wildly frustrating experience that's producing a lot of pacing, listening to the dark corners of Spotify, and a general lack of order in my curls. Writer's block has hit me good and hard. 

Yet here I am, typing away, because I'm so sick of staring at my computer screen doing nothing I've decided to shut everything down and type. Nothing more. No thinking about how to frame the next sentence, no worrying about word choice and vocabulary, no writing about my intended topic (my weekend trip to the Salt River), and definitely no wondering about the productive things I'm missing out on by writing this. Nope. I'm just letting the words flow. And would you look at that, it's working. Two paragraphs down. 

Writer's block is not a new phenomena in my family. I come from a long line of poets, songwriters, novelists, and English majors. My mother writes in her journal every night. My dad types away about history and the moral/legal issues surrounding fighting a mine. My cousin performs his songs at a local bar. My Grandpa, before he was a "was" made a living from poetry, painting, and teaching others how to art. And in that intergenerational, interfamilial mushpot of words there are sure to be a few wooden blocks thrown in the mix. Maybe I should be proud of continuing on in the long line of writers bogged down by our own minds. 

For now I'll keep writing. Laziness + a mounting pile of homework = blog posts that are incredibly basic and/or super rambly (much like this one right here!) So I could either write a post that involves some number of ways to do some random thing or I could go full steam ahead on this train of thought post and see where it leads me (guess which one I chose. Go on, I'll wait). I'll try and stick to this lovely topic of not being able to write because it seems to be going well so far.

I'd forgot what a horrible experience writer's block is because the last time this happened to me I was in middle school rewriting whatever fantasy novel I'd been reading that week. Basically I ran out of barely original ideas that failed at separating my pathetic attempts at new creations from the creations other authors who actually put in the hard work of coming up with new, brilliant, entertaining ideas for the rest of us plebs to enjoy (good lord that sentence was a mouthful). I was a bit of a horror, but I had fun with it and it led me here, to semi coherent thoughts all on my own. I'm grateful to my book loving, androgynous, pre-pubescent self. I'm genuinely curious about what causes people to become so entrenched in their own thoughts they can't put words down on paper. The human mind is so backwards sometimes. I'd assume the one thing it could do is think without having to be tricked into the action by loosening up an entire writing style. Before I got into this frame of mind I was typing out and then deleting the same paragraph over and over again. Not a fun experience. 

Well, I think it's time I wrap this post up. Thank goodness the rest of it is such a mess that I don't have to bother writing a solid conclusion (though let's be honest, when do I ever?)

-E.B





Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Book Review: Out of Darkness


Of the many perks college has to offer, being exposed to something new is the one that provides me with endless pleasure (even if that pleasure comes from hating on Brother Dean's "you deserve rape" sign). That right there is one of the negative examples, but thankfully there are plenty of stunningly lovely ones as well. Of all the great things that have entered my life I'd like to focus on a passion I'd put on the back burner the past few years: reading. Particularly reading the book "Out of Darkness" by Ashley Hope Perez. 

What you need to understand about this book is it's wildly destructive. From the moment it begins with the East Texas town of New London digging through a collapsed school, pulling the tiny bodies of children out of the rubble, through the story that takes place in the months leading up to the explosion, all the way to the final pages; I found myself emotionally invested in a narration that I knew would be damaging. But this damage does nothing to diminish the fact that I loved every second I had this book in my hands. 

Perez did a fantastic job in her story-telling. She didn't gloss over any rough patches, yet she found a way to bring out the brightness and hope in a setting of racism and abuse, even in the darkest moments (hence the aptly named title).
 
The book revolves around her main characters, Naomi and her half siblings Beto and Cari, and their relationships with the world and people around them. There's the way the little family becomes a little bigger with Wash, a black boy native to New London, and the way it struggles with Henry, the twin's father and born-again Christian determined to bury his past mistakes by making a perfect family. They interact with a world that draws lines not only between white and colored people, but between the various shades of black and Mexican that exist in the town together. There were even lines drawn between the family as the twins are accepted into society while their darker sister is left as an outsider. These relationships, and the consequences of their very existence, are the heart of this novel.

If this were just a love story I would not have found it so intriguing. It's a story that places you in every facet of the community through Perez's use of different points of view. We transition between Naomi, Beto and Cari, Wash, Henry, and The Gang to see the whole of the narration, and I consider it a genius move to make. She puts us as readers into the story as The Gang, the only chapters in "Out of Darkness" narrated in the first person. We become a central piece of New London, a motivating force in the plot and not in a good way. I was made to feel uncomfortable with the racist, sexist, and toxic thoughts running through my head as I read, and I believe that was an intentional move by Perez. 

Part of our class discussion around this book focused on the question, "would you teach this book to high schoolers?" I was disappointed in many of the negative reactions I was placed next to, mostly using the reasoning that it's possible to teach teenagers hard lessons in less graphic ways. My answer to that is why shouldn't we teach lessons in graphic terms? This is a point in life where everything is graphic. There are new experiences to be had and emotions are always, always high. Why is this the time to hold back on why some people drink, or the harsh reality that blood doesn't always mean loyalty and protection? This is a book I would teach to high schoolers ten times over, a book I'd recommend to any number of adults as well. It's no worse than giving a 15 year old a book about two people whose love is so deep and passions run so hot that they end their own lives. No worse than a man who builds an entire life to get close to a woman he loved once only to discover some choices in life run deeper than others, like the choice to stay. And also he gets shot in a pool so that's cool. 

My hope is to teach and treat high schoolers like thinking human beings, not a collection of wild thoughts that need control. While I'll probably never get the chance to assign something like this as a social studies teacher, I will be able to recommend it to anyone who's interested and do so gladly. 


-E.B

Friday, September 2, 2016

My Interests: A Comprehensive List

In a supreme effort to avoid completing anything resembling homework I've decided to expand on my last post (read it here if you're so inclined) and give a comprehensive list of things I consider worth being passionate about in some way or another.

So here you have it; what I consider worthwhile in no particular order

Books:
Harry Potter (the entire series) - J.K. Rowling 
Bel Canto - Anne Patchett
Anthing by Tamora Pierce (Song of the Lioness and Protector of the Small Quartets, and the Trickster's Choice books in particular)
The Book Thief -  Markus Zusak
City of Thieves -  David Benioff
The Tale of Despereaux- Kate DiCamillo
Watchmen - Alan Moore 
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald 
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (her other books are also amazing but this one makes me swoon)
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (again, his other books are pretty good too)
The Bastard of Istanbul - Elif Shafak
Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson
Out of Darkness - Ashley Hope Perez
Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

Music (mostly artists and the occasional song)
Young the Giant
Alt-J (especially Breezeblocks, Taro, and Every Other Freckle)
Three Days Grace (their older stuff is best)
Lana Del Rey
Cam
Brad Paisley (Whiskey Lullaby and She's Her Own Woman in particular)
Twenty One Pilots
Electric Love - BORNS
The 1975 (especially If I Believe You and Somebody Else and Chocolate)
Amy Winehouse
The Black Keys
Painting Greys- Emmit Fenn
The Struts
DNA - Clairity
Alessia Cara
Linkin Park (older stuff)
Street Lights - Kanye West
Alabama Shakes
The Chainsmokers
The Birthday Massacre
Justin Timberlake
Queen
Pink Floyd
Friends - Chase Atlantic
Royksopp
I Think I Like You- SirenXX
Seven Lions
The Kill - Thirty Seconds to Mars
Slow Love Slow - Nightwish
Hozier (especially Work Song and Take Me To Church
How to Train Your Dragon Soundtrack - John Powell
The Weeknd
Windows - AWOLNATION
You and I - Lady Gaga
Mr. Brightside - The Killers
I Found - Amber Run
Handclap - Fitz and the Tantrums
Big Data
Lent Et Douloureux - Erik Satie
Tove Lo
Since We've Been Wrong - The Mars Volta
Rihanna
All That Gold - Elohim

Movies:
Sunshine Cleaning
The Lord of the Rings (NOT THE HOBBIT TRILOGY. JUST DON'T)
Silverlinings Playbook
Captain America: Civil War (I'm a sucker for all superhero movies and will always be team Superman but this one was by far the most impressive I've seen)
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mulan
Brave
Star Wars (all of them, yes including episodes I, II, and III)
Spirited Away
Indiana Jones (not the newest one. Fuck that one.)
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Best Exotic Merigold Hotel
Catch Me if You Can
10 Things I Hate About You
A Knight's Tale

Ideas:
Feminism and how to pursue a version of masculinity that isn't so toxic
Environmentalism and its clash with the economy
Black Lives Matter
All forms of racism, including the subconscious prejudices we all (including myself) carry around and how we can fight those on a personal and public level
What would I say if I was interviewed on the Ellen show
The benefit of atheism and secularism to society
LGBTQA+ rights
Social justice in general 
How to be politically correct without pandering/patronizing (ha that was a lot of P's)
Alcohol
Drugs and the benefits we might be ignoring based on society's expectations
How to make the perfect sandwich
Teaching techniques 
Science
Balancing health and fun
Travel
A desire to walk barefoot and the tactics of accomplishing this in Tucson
Politics
Writing creatively 
How to make a sweatshirt quilt
mhm food

If nothing else I hope these lists give you some ideas for yourself and I'd gladly appreciate any suggestions you have book/movie/idea/music-wise. I think you can learn a lot about yourself and others by the kinds of things they're interested in (I will never understand those who say they have no interests/stick to the most basic of subjects), so now you know me a little better, and I was able to remember some books I'd like to re-read! It's a win-win for everyone, look at that. 

-E.B









Passionate People Deserve a Passionate Response



Let's talk about how amazing it is to see someone who is truly passionate about something.

Personally, I rarely feel more attracted to someone than when they're open and sharing something they've worked hard on, or deeply contemplated. Something that makes their eyes widen and their bodies tense up with the effort of not splooging all over the place with the joy and excitement they're feeling. You have not felt frustration until you've sat across from someone sharing their work and the only way to express your appreciation is to kiss them. Except to kiss them requires them to stop which would be a disservice to humanity so you just have to sit and suffer in all their glory. 

That example might have been a little extreme, but you see my point?
This is something I've tried to convey to multiple people and I'm genuinely surprised by the lack of response I get. You see, I bring this up whenever I notice it. Whenever I notice someone pouring their heart out over a topic without caring what people think, or even better, when they care deeply what someone thinks and push ahead past that anxiety, so great is their need to share. As my good friend Michael once said, "THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW" in the calm, measured way that is his nature. But when I point it out, I usually get a pretty lackluster response. It's possible (definite) that I'm a weirdo, but you'd think people would be quicker to notice how a person shines when they love something. And I'm not just talking about getting worked up about feminism, or the Black Lives Matter movement, or a really interesting, life-changing article (though all of those are ridiculously awesome). It's also when my friend does a complete K-Pop dance that she taught herself watching music videos, or the sketches thrown up on Instagram, or when a discussion pops up about the Disney Renaissance princesses versus today's princesses, or when we talk about what music truly moves us. It's anything and everything! 

For instance, there are few things that get me so excited as sharing the impact Harry Potter had on my childhood. The late night releases at Borders, the sneaky way J.K. snuck in morals and socially forward thinking, the tears I shed over the death of my favorite character. Or how incredible Alt-J's music and videos are. I have never been so enthralled in a music video as I was watching Breezeblocks, and Taro has some of the most stunning imagery I've ever seen (also the fact that anyone would write a song about one of the first female photojournalists is just so incredible). There's also the rage I feel towards teachers who don't put books with harsh lessons and mature subjects into their high school syllabi because they don't want to give teenagers the wrong impressions, LIKE HOW LIFE DOESN'T ALWAYS WORK OUT AND THAT'S OKAY, OR HOW DRUGS, MASTURBATION, AND ABUSE IS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS AND THERE'S ALWAYS SOMEONE WHO CAN UNDERSTAND THE FEELINGS YOU'RE GOING THROUGH. But sure, no, who wants teens to know any truly valuable lessons, whatever. Let's read Romeo and Juliet again and talk about how dumb 14 year olds are, that'll do a lot of good. 


The list of things I can get talking about is long and constantly expanding (hence the blog), and that's something I love about myself. I hope this will encourage all of you to invigorate your lives with passion and add another reason as to why you're ridiculously attractive to the world.

-E.B

And if anyone's wondering, the guy in the picture is my dad, showing off the raging strangeness he passed on to his daughter



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Down With the Sickness

I have the immune system of a mouse. Or a sick, cancer-ridden child. Or possibly a tiny newborn baby that literally just popped out of the womb and hasn't experienced the world enough to have immunity to anything. Whatever kind of thing I can compare my immune system to, the point is it sucks. A lot. 

And so, with my shitty immune system, I just spent the first part of my second week of school in bed. You'd think, as someone who spends a majority of winter and a big chunk of summer in bed with colds, I'd be used to it by now and could push through the pain. You'd be thinking wrong. I usually pride myself on my ability to push through anything, but I have two exceptions: head injuries, and colds. One is because of safety/depression reasons, and one is because I'm a huge baby. I'll leave you to guess which belongs to which. 

The thing is, when I'm sick it's not like I can just lie in bed and do my reading. I can't. It hurts to move, it hurts to sit up, and it hurts to lie down. I need sleep to get better but I can't sleep for too long because my nose and throat get clogged up with mucus if I don't blow my nose every five minutes. So now I'm four days behind in my reading, and I'm putting myself even further behind with the procrastination skills of a demigod. Seriously, people should worship me. 

Anyways, I'm officially done using my blog as a way to blow off homework. 

Stay healthy friends.

-E.B

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Look at my First Day

My first day in my Freshman dorm


I just experienced the last first day of school I'll have as an undergraduate, and if I'm being honest with myself, it wasn't exceptional or noteworthy in any meaningful way. My bike to campus was special not because of the day, but because I was riding with friends by my side. I experienced a momentary thrill of fear (and definitely anger) because a number of idiot pedestrians don't seem to realize the damage a bike can do when it hits them and not because this is the beginning of the end. I didn't enter the room of my first and only class of the day prepared with the brand new case of pens and pencils, the syllabus already printed out, books fresh from the bookstore the way I'd attended that very first lecture my freshman year. Instead I pulled out my tablet (the one thing in my backpack at the time) and typed out a few haphazard notes. 

I found myself wondering if this is the experience of seniors all over the country. Have we all been going through this surreal experience of unmet expectations. I was more concerned about whether my backpack had given me sweat stains than I was with the looming deadline of tuition. It was with great reluctance that I started marking future midterms and group presentations into my planner, something that'd provided an excellent source of stress and excitement in the last few years (I gave up halfway through my second class).

Is this something that others can relate to, or have I run into yet another unintended side effect of my semester abroad. Turkey taught me a great deal about remaining in the present and enjoying the moment. This attitude has obviously filtered into my life in the US, could it also be impacting my attitude on classes and graduation?

It's giving me pause, that's for sure, but overall I'm considering it a positive thing. I think I'll be able to focus on what makes me happy this year. Previously I was overwhelmed with guilt every time I blew off studying (which I did constantly). I couldn't read a book, couldn't draw, couldn't even write in my blog for fear of my time would be tainted by my own negative thoughts. I'm very sure this is the reason I was so susceptible to the depression that accompanied my concussion last year. The gentle hope I can feel filling my chest at this moment reassures me. I don't believe I'll be dealing with those same problems, which leaves me free to tackle any new issues I'll experience in the coming year. 


-E.B

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Moving Away to Move On



Anyone who has been reading this blog for the last few weeks has been a spectator to the emotional turmoil that I've been directing towards my ideas of home and belonging. Perhaps not the most fun of times, but for sure they've been interesting. Also absorbing.

Absorbing because I found myself, not for the first time, just sitting around thinking about the many detrimental parts of calling a place home (stoically ignoring the benefits too, but that's for another time). And a new reason to get the fuck away from whatever comforting area you've found yourself in has just occurred to me: being in a new place has come with the added benefit of not dwelling on my old fling that happened last semester as much as I had been doing over the last part of the summer.

I can come up with a few reasons as to why this might be happening. For one thing, I've been extremely busy. The last week has been full of unpacking, buying new furniture, lining up a job, and any number of small menial tasks that take up the day and don't leave a lot of time for reminiscing. For another, there's been quite a lot of drinking to go along with my busy days and, I'm happy to say, I'm very much the happy drunk. I don't call exes, I call my best friends. In the 7 years I've been drinking alcohol I've cried twice. Once was over a boy (I still cringe at how incredibly embarrassing that was) and once was when my Grandpa died (no shame there). Lastly, and I think this is the most prominent reason, getting away from my comfort zone has allowed me to shed off the things I was allowing myself to dwell on and give me a place that feels new. New enough to not want to tarnish it with the thoughts of a person who was recently taking up a huge piece of my headspace. 

Comfort for a short time is rejuvenating. Comfort for a long of time is stagnation. That's what was happening, ever so slowly, in Nevada. I was just sitting and torturing myself with events I can't and don't want to change. There is nothing about my situation that I should be complaining about, and moving to a new area is the perfect way to remind myself of that.

And yes, every once and a while I sit and force myself into the what-if game, or just start remembering all the good and bad that's stuck in my head all day. I'm okay with that. I don't want to wipe the past away, I just want to be able to move beyond it, and a way I'm accomplishing that is by physically doing so. Homes are great for safety and comfort but not so much for the type of daring needed to keep the past in the past. 

Don't stagnate friends.

-E.B

I'm Thankful For A Mattress

Yesterday as I was lying in bed, trying not to close my eyes because I was exhausted but it was barely 9:30, the most amazing realization came over me; I am lying on something I own. 

You have to know some things in order to understand why this is so significant to me. My parents are incredible people who are doing everything they can to ensure I'm happy, successful, and focused on what matters. Because of that mindset they do their best to pay for everything they can, and while that is the exact opposite of a problem, a side-effect of it all is I've never felt self-reliant. Thankfully they're good about letting me live my life and make my own decisions, but in the back of my mind I know I wouldn't be able to make these decisions if they weren't there helping me out. 

Again, this is not a problem, but it does mean that I get ridiculously excited about the fact that I OWN THIS MATTRESS! I worked, saved my own money, and then used that money to buy something functional for myself. This was the first official step towards claiming my independence!

Something I'd like to point out is that I am incredibly lucky this is the reason I'm excited to own a mattress. If I didn't have the parents I do, or they didn't have their solid middle class income to help out, I might be excited for different reasons. There are a lot of kids out there who are ecstatic at the idea of any mattress, owned or no, because they can't remember living in a real house before. There are some kids who were forced out of their homes and away from their comfortable beds who now live in refugee camps. There's a lot of poverty and displacement happening in the world today, and I can only be thankful that of all the different reasons why someone might be happy to own something for the first time in their lives, mine is that I just happened to have loving parents who ensured I didn't need to buy my own mattress until now, because they were there with it already. 

Thanks mama, thanks daddy.

-E.B

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Escaping Shades of Brown



I claim this place as my cage,
a thing I would deplore if it were not mine.
I lie awake every night listening to the coyotes laugh
and can only think the desert drove them mad.
They were so beautiful
so late at night
but with dawn they slide away into hills
that crumble apart beneath my fingers.

My version of grass is long stemmed weeds,
my love of rain comes from its absence,
and I want to think this life is ugly.
I want to see all the bad and none of the good
because that would make leaving an easy,
simple task. 

But it's not easy when life has been tinted
by shades of brown and gray.
That sagebrush smell has creeped its way 
into the facets of my life.
My car reeks of serenity after rain.
My hair is forever windblown.
My eyes match the blue-grey of small leaves that weep
with the blood of my childhood.

If only it were black and white I could merely hate this place
I no longer wish to call home.
Sagebrush roots are deep
and twisted into hearts like wire.
They are no easier to remove than the longing I feel
for those hottest and driest of days.
That blistering heat sinks into my soul and my heart
beats so much stronger for it.

I hate myself for my love.
I hate this place for its beauty.
I hate so I may forget,
and I hate to feel some form of distance
that long drives cannot provide. 

I embrace the coyote's madness as my own. 

I run to other deserts only to be pulled back by the mountain's call;
dragged back.
I shake in my bed and smooth dirt over the cracks in my heart.
Are they caused by the people or the place?
      I can't tell anymore.

I knew it was the moment I would remember
with such bittersweet feelings,
even if they all would not.
I look back on these people I used to know,
people who never knew me,
and laugh with the wild dogs in my backyard. 

It's time.

It's time to move on and run wild with another pack.
Instincts mean more than a heart's desire
so I follow them away from my nest.
I fly on dark pavement,
weighed down with thoughts of houses on hilltops
and the small leaves on sage,
but still I fly on.
Heartache and fear are my growing pains,
and I can only hope they'll never fade.

True passion cannot reside where we lay our bodies lay to rest.
Dreams don't take the form of where we are,
only where we strive to be.
It's time to find myself out in the craggy hills of the southwest,
in the crashing waves of undiscovered beaches.
I find saltwater in my tears
and wonder if it's enough to draw the tide to me.

If home is where the heart resides then no place is my home.
I have my beautiful cage in the peeling blue paint of my childhood,
I have the temporary love of a desert home
full to the brim of knowledge,
I have the creeping greens over ancient stone walls
far in the distance.

But I don't have a home. 
A home is for somedays,

and these days are now. 



Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Mad Ginger's Packing Tips



There are a few things I'm known for in my family. Procrastination, lateness, and messiness being three of many (just to give you all some examples). So it just goes to show just how excited I am to be moving to Tucson that I am partway packed a full three days before I'm actually leaving. Three days! Do you know how often this happens to me? I didn't even have this much done before I left on a life changing journey to a different country! An entirely new continent couldn't even get me packing up so early! And yet, here I am. My room is now the kind of messy that says a person is leaving rather than the kind of messy that says some creature has been living in its own filth for the past few months.

That's a big step for me. 

And I know a lot of people are going through the same things I'm going through at this moment. Universities are starting soon all over the country, prompting our mass exodus from the safety of our own homes into the nonsense that is sharing your living space with other young people. For those of you who, like me, are able to snatch up housing with roommates you actually know, congratulations! For those of you who, like me last year, have to take the gamble of unknown roomies, may the odds be ever in your favor. 

I have a packing list I'd like to share, but hopefully it won't be like the many that are strewn around pinterest. Those are all useful, but also they're all exactly the same. Of course you need a laptop. Don't be a dummy and forget your laptop, you shouldn't need to consult a list on the internet for that. No, the things I'll be mentioning are what you need to bring to keep out the crazy that will inevitably come knocking at some point in the semester.

I'm bringing a shit ton of books. Some are literary classics and some are the fantasy novels I've been reading since I was 8. I firmly believe in taking the time to read books that aren't assigned to you in class before you lose all the joy that comes from running the pages through your fingers so you can smell that amazing book smell. Bring books. (My favorites are Harry Potter, anything by Tamora Pierce, and a history of cancer)

Art. Get yourself some nice paintings. Not stupid paintings of flowers you get from Ross. Get yourself some actual art that grownups buy. I got lucky; I come from a family of artists who just loved sharing their work with their granddaughters. My inheritance from my grandparents came mostly in painting form, something I'm eternally grateful for. Art gives me pride in my house; in my room. It makes a house feel like a home without a lot of effort. I refuse to live in a trap house. I did that shit already and now it's time for something nicer that reminds me of my amazing family every time I look at it. 

I have a memory box that I take everywhere I'll be staying long term. It's for those times when nostalgia hits and going through Facebook isn't enough (so, always). The "diamond" my very first boyfriend gave me is in that box. So is the letter my grandma wrote to me when she found out she was going to die. By those are the family pictures my ma keeps printing out and sending to me. And under all that paper are my journals from high school for when I need to laugh at myself. Memory boxes store everything that, you guessed it, you want future you to have for eternity. The number of times I've cried over the contents of my box is slightly embarrassing, and it's worth having it around. 

A piggy bank. I don't know about you all, but I'm the worst with money. I spent over seven months with my credit card a mere 3 dollars from maxing out entirely. In Turkey I actually had to choose between food and booze because I couldn't pay for both. That is not a choice I make lightly as someone who loves both those items more than a lot of things in life. So a piggy bank is necessary. I want to go places and do things! I can't do that if I put all my cash on my cards and then blow it on trips to the mall because my love of flannel overrides my common sense. Flannel is amazing, but travel is better. 

This one might be a little on the common side, but whatever, it's important to me. I have my fancy camera charged, packed, and ready to go by the door. That is not something I'll be forgetting. Having a camera simultaneously encourages me to be present in the moment that I feel is beautiful enough to capture while fulfilling my nostalgic urges when I go back and look at all the pretty pictures. It also helps me keep up with this blog when I run out of things to say but still want to share what's happening in my life. It's a handy device my ma got me and I plan on making her proud of her investment. 

Yes, it is important to bring a planner, and that cute bathroom tote you bought on Amazon, and your pillows. But those are things that come in handy rather than keep you sane. Free time isn't something a lot of college students have, but it's important to carve some out. Take a mini trip with the money you save in your piggybank. Take lots of pictures with your camera. Put them in your memory box! And when you're done with that sit down and read about the first lady knight in the realm of Tortall next to the big abstract painting that gives you something to admire in your room. The little artsy things are just as important as a printer and computer, mmkay? Remember that. 

-E.B


Monday, August 1, 2016

A Bit of Creativity: Home and its Impact on me

I'm in a very sharing mood for some reason tonight. This is by no means a finished project, but I thought I'd put it out in the world before I go back to work on it. I'm leaving home in a week, but I'm not sure it's really home anymore. This has been causing me a not insignificant amount of doubt and nerves, so I wrote about it. I hope you all enjoy. 



"How can a place I claim is my cage be so damn beautiful? I lie awake every night listening to the coyotes laugh and can only think the desert drove them mad. They were so beautiful so late at night but with dawn they slide away into hills that crumble apart beneath my fingers. My version of grass is weeds when I'm here, and I want to think it's ugly. I want to see all the bad and none of the good because that would make leaving an easy, simple task. 

Leaving is never easy when life has been tinted by shades of brown and gray. That sagebrush smell has creeped its way into everything. My car reeks of serenity after rain. My eyes match the grey of small leaves that weep with the blood of our settlers and the lives they took, although they never admitted it was a human splayed across the dirt. Just another threat to rub back into the desert wild. 

If only it were black and white I could merely hate this place I no longer wish to call home. Sage roots are deep and twisted into hearts like wire. They are no easier to remove than the longing I feel for those hottest and driest of days. That blistering heat sinks into my soul and my heart beats all that much stronger for it. I hate myself for my love. I hate this place for its beauty. I hate so I may forget, and I hate to feel some form of distance that long drives cannot provide. 

I accept coyote's madness as my own. 

I run to other deserts only to be pulled back by the mountain's call. I shake in my bed and smooth dirt over the cracks in my heart. Are they caused by the people or the place? I can't tell anymore. We all knew it was time to lose touch but that makes it no less easy. I look back on these people I used to know, people who never knew me, and laugh with the wild dogs in my backyard. 

It's time.

It's time to move on and run wild with another pack. Instincts mean more than a heart's desire so I follow them away from my nest. I fly on dark pavement, weighed down with thoughts of houses on hilltops and the small leaves on sage, but still I fly on. Heartache and fear are my growing pains, and I can only hope they'll never disappear. True passion cannot reside where our bodies lay to rest, and dreams don't take the form of where we are, only where we strive to be. It's time to find myself out in the sands of the southwest, in the crashing waves of undiscovered beaches. I already find saltwater in my tears and wonder if it's enough to draw the tide to me.


If home is where the heart resides then no place is my home. I have my beautiful cage in the peeling blue paint of my childhood, I have the temporary love of a desert home full to the brim of untapped knowledge, I have the creeping greens over ancient stone walls far in the distance. I do not have a home."

Still very much a work in progress, but so far I'm happy with what I've got. This is the kind of thing I crank out in a single night when I'm feeling particularly creative.

-E.B

Working With Kids



Working with kids is hard. 

It's the hardest thing I've ever done. I've taken care of animals, worked as a museum attendant, and drove around giving people pizza but this, working with children, is fucking difficult. People underestimate those of us who are in this field because there's this weird idea that every childcare worker needs to be perfect and also they're job is easy so why aren't we all perfect?

Fuck that line of thinking. This shit is hard. I'm not even teaching yet, I'm running group games and helping out with emotional issues and I'm so worn out. 

See, I have to deal with your children getting in "wars" with each other. And that's not me calling it a war, that's them. They're all either at an age or just about to reach the age where every situation they're in is this serious, life or death matter that will always have dramatic consequences. So when two little girls are best friends one day, and not talking the next it's not just a matter of ignoring each other and finding better people to hang out with; it's a fucking war to them (something I find eternally frustrating). I also have to play the same game every.single.day. The number of times I'm asked to play knockout is pure insanity. And I like the game, but not a three times every day kind of like. There are certain kids who aren't allowed to play certain games, certain siblings not allowed to be on the same team, certain little guys I have to make sure get enough attention and ball time that they don't get discouraged and quit. There are teens I can rely on to make good decisions as leaders to include everyone, and there are teens I won't take my eyes off of even if my hair's on fire because I know for a fact they'll pull some kind of shit. I have to explain why it's okay to hug for a short time but not too long or else it's not appropriate. I have to explain why it's okay to hug me but not climb on my arms and swing around. I have to explain that even if you're having fun and joking around it's not okay to hit someone in the nuts (also I have a genuine question: does it hurt boys as much getting hit in the nuts before puberty as it does after? Cause the way these little ones carry on when they get junk punched by their friends is just ridiculous). 

And that alone would already be a lot, but then we add parents to the conversation and shit gets real. Because yes your kid was hit by someone but no I cannot tell you who because it is not okay for a grown adult to hunt a child down in the building and berate them for something they were already punished for five hours ago. And yes it is necessary to punish your child for threatening other members and staff because it's not just "boys being boys" it's a serious thing. Just the other week I was yelled at by a parent because her son didn't make it home on the bus from summer school. Was it my responsibility to make sure he was on the bus? No. Was it my job to look after him for free even though he's not a member of the club? No, but of course we're not going to turn him away when he obviously needs help. Did this parent threaten to call the cops on me (for what, I'm not sure)? Yes, yes she did. That's the kind of shit we deal with on a daily basis.

We deal with it because it's worth it. I love these little guys. I love the little ones that pretend they're werewolves and howl around the club. I respect the older siblings who take it on themselves to include their little brothers and sisters even though it slows them down. I admire the ones who have anger issues but do their best to control it and take a step back when they need to. The teens are sarcastic and pretend they're uninterested while the little ones go through the daily dramas of winning games and losing best friends (only to gain them back within the hour). I've held a girl trying to deal with her parent's divorce and had a meaningful conversation with a boy who thought hitting a kid was the right way to handle a bad situation. I don't think I could ever work with elementary aged kids full time because they are truly ridiculous, but right now they're perfect and funny and wild. It's great looking at the parents who care so deeply about their children and it means something to be there for the kids who don't have that kind of love and commitment at home. 

So even though this is the hardest job I've ever worked, it's also the best experience I could ask for. Also I get paid to go to Wild Island and Lake Tahoe, so that's pretty awesome too.

End of sappy post.


-E.B