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!

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.

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?)


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. 


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

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
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
Pink Floyd
Friends - Chase Atlantic
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
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
All That Gold - Elohim

Sunshine Cleaning
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
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

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)
Drugs and the benefits we might be ignoring based on society's expectations
How to make the perfect sandwich
Teaching techniques 
Balancing health and fun
A desire to walk barefoot and the tactics of accomplishing this in Tucson
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. 


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.


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