Thursday, September 29, 2011

Excerpt from Angry Women

My Women and Gender Studies class (affectionately referred to as "angry women") was actually thought provoking today. Unfortunately, I couldn't even decide what I think about all this on the spot so I didn't contribute anything to these discussions, so I'll discuss them here after I had the 20 minute walk from class to think about her questions.

What is the difference between romance and romantic love? I don't even know what romance is. I don't like it, so it's hard for me to define it. I think it's a set of actions someone takes that are part of society's...courtship ritual? Sounds terrible, but that's really what it is. Everyone agrees that these are the rules of dating. Romantic love I guess is just love for someone you want to be with "romantically?" See that's hard too. What if you don't want romance, but you love them that way? Is it possible to love someone romantically and not want any romance?

This led to another question. Can you love someone romantically if you're not physically attracted to them? I want to say yes, but if you aren't attracted to them, what's the difference between romantic love and platonic love? Platonic love by definition is love for someone you aren't sexually attracted to. If you don't need attraction for romantic love, then what distinguishes it from platonic love?

Can you love someone who doesn't love you back? I thought this was obviously yes, but some people said no. This led to the question of whether you can love someone who has never loved you or will never love you back. Does it have to be reciprocated at some point to love that way? What if the person loves you but not in the same way you love them? Does that count? I think you can love if it isn't reciprocated, but a lot of people in my class disagreed.

There are more but this post is already too long. It's interesting to think about.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Take this quiz!

I'll explain at the end. It's a spectrum, so you pick the number that corresponds to the place between the two personality traits you think you are.

1. Not independent 0 1 2 3 4 Very Independent

2. Not emotional 0 1 2 3 4 Very emotional

3. Very rough 0 1 2 3 4 Very gentle

4. Not competitive 0 1 2 3 4 Very competitive

5. Not helpful to others 0 1 2 3 4 Very helpful to others

6. Not kind 0 1 2 3 4 Very kind

7. Not self-confident 0 1 2 3 4 Very self-confident

8. Give up easily 0 1 2 3 4 Does not give up

9. Not understanding of others 0 1 2 3 4 Very understanding of others

10. Goes to pieces under pressure 0 1 2 3 4 Handles pressure well

Now add up the numbers you got for 2, 3, 5, 6, and 9. That's your score for feminine qualities.

Add up the remaining ones (1, 4, 7, 8, 10). That's the score for your masculine qualities.

We did this in my Women and Gender Studies class to talk about personality traits that are assigned to certain genders. I got 18/20 for feminine qualities and 3/20 for masculine. Unbalanced much?

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Lately, things I never thought about before have seemed beautiful to me. On my way to class, I notice all the spiders on webs strung across trees, and I think it's beautiful that so many people walk by every day and see those spiders. They do their thing and we do ours. We all notice the spider and continue with our day while the spider continues with its life. I see some little kids running around and think that childhood innocence and inhibition is really beautiful. Hearing about my friend's first kiss. Exchanging smiles with a stranger. The lake in the middle of campus early in the morning. The way my family hugs me when I see them after time away. The sincere eyes of someone who is happy to see you. Engagements. The way my cousin plays with her two-year-old soon-to-be stepson. When someone who loves you plays with your hair. Deep conversations with friends late at night. When someone verbalizes exactly what you're feeling and in that moment, you realize that you aren't alone. Beautiful.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Each is an island.

I was watching melodramatic 90s teen show called My So-Called Life, and in the pilot the main character says:

"It just seems like, you agree to have a certain personality or something. For no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you think about it, I mean, how do you know it's even you? And, I mean, this whole thing with yearbook -- it's like, everybody's in this big hurry to make this book, to supposedly remember what happened. Because if you made a book of what really happened, it'd be a really upsetting book."

This show is too dramatic for me to get into, and the teen angst is sometimes overbearing, but it often hits these existential notes that make me think. How much of who we are is determined by others' expectations of us, or our expectations of ourselves? I think people are really too complicated to express the confusion in their own minds, so they make choices every day about how they want to express themselves to the world. From the clothes they wear to the things they say, their Facebook statuses, their friends, the things they keep secret and the things they broadcast, and the lies they tell to mold their public selves into something they're not.

I guess I've talked about this before, about the concept of normality and this human desire to fit in a stereotype while at the same time rejecting the idea of labels. This made me think about something different. Are we really independent and unique, or do we simply mold our interests, likes and dislikes, behaviors, and preferences just to make it easier, just so everything makes sense? Quoting The Breakfast Club, "in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions?"

Everyone has these thoughts, whether they be happy, sad, irrational, strange, embarrassing, whatever. They don't share them with others because they don't fit this image they choose to project, or people won't react well to them. Maybe they can't quite explain why they feel that way, and they could never make anyone understand.

Maybe someone has irrational thoughts that they know they can't justify, and logically they know they shouldn't feel that way, but those thoughts stick like a leech and drain them of happiness. Maybe they have dreams of traveling and exploring a far away place, and this makes them happy, but other people just don't understand why they want to do it. Maybe they have feelings for someone that they can't explain, and they know there isn't an English word to correctly pinpoint the emotion, so they pick one that is misleading but simple.

All these things make someone who they are, but no one else can really understand. Instead, they create this outward persona because it makes it easier for everyone else. They make their feelings fit into a category, assign inadequate words to complex feelings and give people a false image of themselves.

Here's an example. I don't want a boyfriend. I know I don't, but people ask me why I like to be so close to guys. I really don't know. They think that getting cuddly with a friend means I actually like them and won't admit it. That's not true. There's something about it that I really like, even though I don't know what it is. Instead, I label myself as a touchy person who just isn't ready to be in a relationship. It's true, but not completely, and know one knows the half of it. The whole situation is so complicated in my mind that there is no way I can make anyone understand, so I just don't try. No one knows how I feel because I can't make them understand.

There's a quote from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad that I really like, and I just realized it describes this perfectly.

"It is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence—that which makes its truth, its meaning—its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream—alone."

No one knows what it's like to be you, but what I think is interesting is that everyone has more in common than they know. Our experiences are different, but we feel the same. We're all alone in that no one can ever totally understand us, but humans naturally have the same fears, desires, feelings of pain, and the same intrinsic feeling of loneliness that inevitably washes over them when they realize they can't let someone into their mind the way they wish they could.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Purple-Colored Glasses

I know I went from not posting anything for a long time to posting twice in one day, but I had lots of thinking time as I wandered around looking for my Spanish professor's office.

I look at the world through rose-colored glasses, or in my case, purple ones. I'm not sure if there's a name for this in psychology, but I have a tendency to view my own life as better than it is and ignore the imperfections while viewing the problems of my friends as worse than they actually are. I worry a lot about outcomes, but I think in general, I'm optimistic. I think my life is great, and I've always thought so even in my worst moments. I have never once thought "my life sucks."

Since many of my major stressors are behind me now, I was thinking the other day about laying off my anxiety medicine. I don't like the idea that I'm dependent on drugs to maintain my mental health. I started thinking about the reasons I needed the drugs in the first place, and I came to the conclusion that senior year of high school was in fact the worst year of my life.

I hit my lowest point, and I remembered the days I spent crying uncontrollably, the ways I would hurt myself or think about hurting myself, how "punishing" myself actually made me feel better. It brought back memories of times when I was catatonic and would stare at a wall or lay in the grass for 30 minutes, motionless, and not realize how much time had passed until I was interrupted. There would be days when I literally couldn't eat, and I never wanted to. I know now that I hurt a friend who means a lot to me, and sometimes a trigger will set off that emotional pain and give me just a glimpse of what I lived with for months last year.

The funny thing about all this is that I never thought I was unhappy. Even when my neurologist asked me, I told him I think I'm a happy person. The rational part of me weighed everything in my life and decided that it was all good, that I had no reason for any of my behavior. I told him I was just always worried, which was true, but this constant anxiety caused me serious unhappiness that, even though I didn't recognize, instilled guilt in me that ate away at my already damaged psyche.

I love my life and everything about it. I wouldn't change a thing. I don't always love myself, in fact there are times when I hate myself. Last year, I hated myself every day. In a new light, I realized that my optimism about my own life and heightened concern for everyone else's was exactly my problem. I can't see things for what they are. I'm not realistic, I'm idealistic, but I'm not sure this is a bad problem to have. I would rather never realize my own unhappiness than live with both the nagging depression and the acute awareness of it's presence.

I didn't remember what it's like to want to get up in the morning. Now I feel like every day has the possibility to be an adventure or a new experience, and I think that's exciting. I really love life, and what I find very sad is that my friends from home have made me cry more since I've been here than anything at college has.


Perfect Day

I think there's this thing about bad days. If you start the day off with something bad, then every little thing that happens later seems so much worse because you're already starting that much further down. Bad things just compound and their effects are exponential. Is the same true for good things? I don't know. I think people are less likely to notice the good things. Once you're already up, you're in such a good mood where nothing bothers you. Everyone has days when you start low and feel like the world is imploding with you at the center. Then there are days when your euphoria is like a force field around you, blocking anything that tries to ruin your good mood. That makes me think of this song from Legally Blonde.

I didn't have a great day today, but I reminded myself that people make too big a deal out of bad days. Even if everything is going wrong, but it's only one day. Maybe tomorrow, everything will be perfect.