Monday, March 23, 2009

Reaching Out

So a friend of mine recently talked me into getting a Twitter. I'm not sure why, and I don't think I'll actually use it, because the idea of shrinking down anything of consequence that I ever have to say to 140 characters is rather daunting. But it started an interesting conversation that I have been pondering ever since.

Why is it, in this day and age, that we seem to have this fixation with putting ourselves out there on the internet. Through blogs, twitter, facebook statuses, myspace, etc. so many of us just throw ourselves out there for the world to see. I mean, the entire idea of Twitter is to let people know what you're up to. It made me wonder why we have become so obsessed with letting people know what we're up to, and how we're feeling, and why we care.

I think it's because we all want to feel like someone is listening, or like we are a part of something. We want to feel like we are noticed, and we want to believe that we matter to someone. Maybe blogging, or facebooking, or twittering is our newest way of reaching out. Maybe it's just our way of saying "Please, someone listen to me."

We all have a lot to say. Even if you don't think that you have a lot to say, somewhere inside, you do. And you can't say it all out loud, and you can't say it all to people you know. They'll judge you, they'll look at you differently, they'll offer you advice that you don't want to hear. This isn't always true, but it's the way that we all perceive things sometimes. So instead of saying it to the people around us, we throw it off into the vastness of the internet, hoping that eventually, it will ricochet off someone else who will understand and we won't feel so alone. Maybe it's just a longing for connection, and for understanding. Maybe we want to find someone with the same problems we have, because we no longer know how to fix them. Or maybe we just want someone to share in our happiness without making them feel bad. Maybe we just all want a little attention.

I know I personally have a hard time keeping my emotions to myself. I tend to wear my heart out on my sleeve, which gets me into trouble a lot. A lot of times, I blog about things just because when someone agrees, or offers advice, or comfort, I don't feel like I'm the only one who feels this way. And logically, I know I can't be, but that doesn't make it any less meaningful when someone can step in and put an arm around your shoulder, whether literally or metaphorically, and say "I know how you feel. It will be okay."

So, if you're here, you have a blog. What else? Do you use Twitter, or Facebook? Do you make honest updates about what you're doing, or do you use it strictly to keep in touch? Do you think you use it to reach out to others?


Bottoms Up!

I spent Saturday night in a bar.

I don't drink. I don't like the taste of most of the alcoholic beverages I have ever tried. I'm too much of a wuss to actually get drunk because I'm afraid of what might happen.

But nevertheless, I went to a bar. I went to a bar, because that's what people do when they have a bad week. They go to a bar, and they drink until it doesn't matter anymore. Or they go to a bar, and they loiter around until they find someone who makes them feel a little less empty inside, at least for the night.

I went to a bar because somehow, I got it into my head that doing so would make me feel better about the fact that I'm losing the person I am trying hardest to hold on to. Like somehow, if I could get someone to buy me a drink, it wouldn't matter that the happiness I had for a few beautiful months is fading into nothingness. As if there was some comfort at the bottom of that beer bottle that was going to plug this hole. It didn't help.

Have you ever gone to a bar to cheer yourself up after a rough week, or a bad day? Did it work? What do you do to try and get out of a bad mood?


Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Femininity Is On My Head

I am not a very girly kind of girl. I wear makeup and jewelry if I remember, or if I have time. My wardrobe has more blue and green than it does pink. I enjoy looking pretty, but I favor looking comfortable, and mature.

All my girliness comes in the form of my long hair. I've been considering even just cutting bangs for a while, but I can't bring myself to chop off any of my hair. I get the ends trimmed every few months, but that's about it. But there's a reason behind it...

My hair is what makes me feel girly, and sexy. I love tossing it, styling it, braiding it, curling it, brushing it out of my face, tucking it behind my ear, or throwing it over my shoulder. I generally hate when people touch it, but I love when a guy I like runs his fingers through it. Long story short, it makes me feel beautiful.

This wasn't always the case.

When I was younger, I was going through a lot of bullshit and something I decided to do was chop my hair really short. A lot of you have probably heard me talk about this before, because I realize now what an effect it had on my personality and my self-image, but few of you have ever seen it.

At about age 13, if I had to guess

It was an interesting decision. I can't bring myself to regret the decision, because it forced me to find my personality. But I also wonder if I would be a more secure person if I didn't spent those years of my life being ridiculed because of my hair. For years, I was mistaken for a little boy, and teased relentlessly because of it. I tried to compensate with makeup and jewelry, and took those two concepts to extremes. Children are cruel, and I was unhappy a lot of the time, and when I made a new start in high school, the very first thing I did was start to grow out my hair.

Last November, up in Massachusetts

My hair isn't what makes me a girl, I know that. It isn't the only thing that makes me beautiful. In fact, I had more boyfriends with short hair than I have with long hair. But it's something that makes me feel pretty, and confident. When I'm feeling sassy and spunky, I'll give my head a shake to throw my hair out of my face and show you that I'm feeling that way.

Do you have one specific feature that makes you feel girly or manly? What is it? Why does it make you feel that way? Is it something obvious, or something more subtle? Would you ever change it? Do you feel like you would lose something important if you did?


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Because I Want To Believe; Or, Why I Am Sometimes Jealous Of People With Faith

Any seriously religious subscribers I have are all going to dive for the "unsubscribe" button after reading this post.

A bit of backstory before I truly begin:

I was raised Catholic. I attended church, and catechism classes every week for pretty much as long as I can remember, up until I was confirmed at age 14. For a time, I assumed everyone else in the world was also Catholic. Then I went to school, and met one of my earliest best friends who was Jewish. We shared our religious traditions with each other (well, as much as you can at age 7, anyway) and I first started to question my belief. I remember going home one day and asking someone, probably my mother, "But if Jewish people believe this, and Catholic people believe this, who is right?" It was a few more years before it dawned on me that not only was everyone else in the world not necessarily Catholic, the concept of religion extended far beyond the ideas of being Christian or Jewish. I was about 10 years old when I first started reading about other religions, and realizing that I no longer believed in my own.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way...

What is religion anyway? It's not the easiest thing to define. What makes a religion a religion? A professor of mine, in teaching my Puerto Rican History class, recently said something during a lecture that struck me. We were discussing a variety of religions, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, etc. He said that religions that do not have a god are not religions. I very much disagree with his claim. While a god or gods may be a central part of many religious traditions, I do not believe they are a make-or-break factor. I think that religion and philosophy are very closely related, and that many belief systems - Taoism, for example, comes to mind - can be considered both, not just one or the other.

So back to the original question, the definition of religion. My first instinct when writing this entry was to run over to Merriam Webster's site and see what they had to say. Unfortunately, their definition suffers very much from the common problem of defining a word with itself. I turned instead to good old for a definition I prefer:
"Religion - a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."

Okay, so now you have some idea of the concept I'm thinking of when I think "religion". I'm thinking large scale - Eastern religion, Western religion, monotheistic, polytheistic, all that good stuff.

I have been interested in religions pretty much since I realized I didn't believe in mine anymore. I don't know exactly what it was that finally disintegrated my faith, and belief in god. Maybe it was when I found out the truth behind the Bible, and who had written it, and when, and who had revised and edited it over the years. Maybe it was when I found out that people had been waiting for 2000 years for the supposed return of some messiah, and he still wasn't here yet. Maybe it was when every single time I'd pray and talk up to the sky, there was never any answer to be had. All I know is, I got to a point when it dawned on me that, in my eyes, my religion was nothing more than a nifty bedtime story someone made up thousands of years ago to make sense of something that they didn't understand, and to comfort them in times of hardship. When I was about 10, and started reading about other religions, I began to find all sorts of religions, beliefs, and traditions that interested me. From the time I was 10 until the time I was about 15 or 16 I'd guess, I had "converted" probably about a dozen times. I was constantly looking for something, and in every new religion I'd read about, I'd think that I'd found it. From Paganism, to Buddhism, to Wicca, to Judaism, to Hinduism, to Taoism, even back to Catholicism from time to time. I'd think that I'd found some mighty answer. But I never did. I learned many things. I incorporated many new philosophies into my lifestyle. But I could never find any faith.

And finally, many paragraphs later, we reach the conflict that the title implied. For those of you who are wondering why I chose such a title, I promise, I'm getting there. In my religion class, entitled "Religious Ideas In Modern Literature", we are reading a novel called 
Barabbas, by Par Lagerkvist, and as those of you who know your Bible may have guessed, it's about the man who was freed instead of Jesus at the time of the crucifixion. There's no real historical basis for the character, but I found the book to be incredibly moving, and perhaps it is because I could relate so much to Barabbas' character. There is a scene in which Barabbas, who has become a slave in the Roman empire, is brought before a governor with a fellow slave because they have both carved the name "Christos Iesus" on the back of their slave disks, the pendants they wear with the stamp of the state showing that they belong to the state. The governor asks the other slave about the inscription, and he says it is there because he is not a slave to the state, but rather that he belongs to his god. The governor then turns to Barabbas, and asks him if he believes in this same god. Barabbas is silent, and finally replies by saying "I have no god." The governor is confused, and asks why he wears the disk with the name carved in it. Barabbas replies "Because I want to believe."

"Because I want to believe."

I don't consider myself part of any religion right now. This doesn't mean I'm an amoral heathen who is bereft of ethics. It doesn't mean I have no soul, as my mother once told me in the midst of a heated argument on the subject. It doesn't mean that I have no purpose in life, or any lack of motivation to do what is right. I wish sometimes that I could find the comfort of believing in something. I wish I had faith in some higher power, because I see it bring such comfort to so many people. I want to have that security blanket of truly believing that there's some god up there who will make it all turn out right in the end, or some universal energy that will put things in balance. I do everything that I can do to make myself a better person, but at the end of the day, the only thing I can believe in, and the only thing I can truly have faith in is myself, and the power that lies within me. And sometimes, I'm jealous of people who can believe in something more.

Are you a religious person? Do you have faith? Do you believe in god? What god? Why do you believe in whatever god you believe in? If you don't believe in god, why not? Do you wish you did?


Monday, March 2, 2009

Inexperienced; Or, Why I Want To See It All

I will be the first to admit that my life experience is not at all what it should be. Idealistic as it may be, I want to experience everything in life. I want to go out and see the world, and everything in it. I don't really know why; I can't explain it. I just want to see and do everything, big and small. I want to go climb mountains, and swim in all the oceans, and walk through a tropical rainforest. I want to stand at the Athenian acropolis and look up at the Parthenon. I want to touch a real Egyptian pyramid. I want to visit the Louvre, and walk through Venice, and ski in the Alps. I want to walk on the Great Wall. I want to see wildlife in Madagascar, and drive through the Australian outback, and see the sights in New Zealand. I want to see the cities, and the museums, and the monuments, and the artwork. I want to experienced nature in its most free and beautiful state. I want to meet the people, and eat the food, and hear the music, and feel the rhythm and motion of someplace new.

I want to see all the beauty the world has to offer, and I want to do the things I've always been too scared to.

It has dawned on me recently exactly how little I have experienced in life. I've really travelled, seen, and done very little. I have left the country once, and it was on a cruise to Canada. My passport, which was obtained specifically for that trip, sits otherwise untouched. I look around at people I know and realize that I have not seen or done half of the things many of them have. And it's not as much a jealousy I feel when I realize this as it is simply disappointment at my own inexperience. In a world where there is so much to see and to know and to do, I sit here on my couch wondering what it would be like just to even see the Pacific Ocean for myself. And I guess when I say I want to see the world, it brings to mind thoughts of grand trips and big goals, but the things I want to experience in life range from the grand to the seemingly insignificant. I have never bungee jumped, or gone scuba diving, or hiked to the top of a mountain, or seen a volcano, but I'd like to. I have never watched a meteor shower, or been in a helicopter, or watched an eclipse, or caught a fish, but I'd like to. I'd like to go on a really, really big roller coaster, and scream my head off the whole way down. I'd like to build a sandcastle on a beach in the Caribbean. I want to play poker in Vegas. I want to try absinthe. I don't want to look back and my life and feel like I wasted it by not trying as many things as I got the opportunity to try.

It kills me that I spend my days in a classroom, looking at photographs of works of art, and ancient buildings, and mountains, and cities that are all out there for me to see for real. I remember last spring, as I studied for my Archaeology final, I joked about how frustrating it was to be sitting there staring at a photo of the Parthenon in an art history textbook when a friend of mine was visiting it, and actually seeing it.

And maybe what I'm looking for is a little perspective. Maybe I feel like if I could see and do all these things I would be able to look at my life and myself differently and be a better person for it. Maybe I feel like I could finally understand how small I really am and how nothing I worry about actually matters in the grand scheme of things.

I wonder if we all get to a point that we realize that sitting on our couch watching it on TV, or in a classroom looking at a book, or on our computers reading about it isn't enough. I know that the whole world isn't beautiful. For every beautiful place in our world, there is someplace else that is tragic. But it's all there. What good is the whole world if you never get to see it?