How To Fail

Life is an ice rink, and we’re all children trying to learn how to skate. There will be stretches of fast, smooth gliding–and plenty of tripping. Enough bloggers have written about “the key to perfection” and “secrets to success”. It’s time to learn how to fall and how to fail. 

First off, we must expect to fail and accept that failure is not a sign of personal weakness. Assuming that a new skater will be able to glissade across smooth ice as soon as her skates have been tied is simply unrealistic. It doesn’t matter how old you are–we’re always being exposed to fresh circumstances. Would you scold a little child for falling on the ice? Of course not! Refuse to treat yourself badly. Say nothing to or about yourself that you wouldn’t say to your dearest loved one.

Next, we learn how to fall. Have you ever taken skating lessons? There are techniques you must learn that will ensure falling safety. Such is true in life. One of the best things I’ve learned to do is come up with a list of ways to cope with sadness and disappointment to avoid resorting to self-hatred. Spend time with yourself. Run a hot bath, light some candles, and listen to some Debussy (an hour of Debussy here). Take a walk and engage your sense of smell. Do anything that relaxes you and lightens your mood. This way, you’ll know what to do when you fail.

Finally, take a look around the skating rink. Observe the ice. Pay attention to the skaters in your proximity. What caused you to fall? Was it just a bump in the road of life? Did somebody slam into you, shaking up your world? Once you’ve examined and reflected, it’s time to take action. All action requires getting back up. You cannot stay sprawled out on the rink. It’s dangerous–you could get hit in the head by a blade of hopelessness. Who are the skaters closest to you, and what are they doing? Are they holding on to your arm and pulling you down? Will they disparage you in your learning process? Avoid these skaters. Surround yourself with those who care about you. Those who will forgive you and love you, despite your flaws. 

Most of all, keep on skating. You’ll get the hang of it soon. And when you do, it will be glorious–you will jump and pirouette like never before.

 

 

The Preteen Need

When I was ten, I frequently commented on the lack of services and programs geared toward the preteen audience. I saw plenty of clubs, sports, outreaches, and volunteer opportunities directed at teenagers, but of course, I was too young for all of them. On the younger end of the spectrum, there were copious events and groups for children–most of which I was too old for. The opportunities I was young enough to participate in were alarmingly childish. I felt babied. There was virtually nothing and nobody specifically targeting my age group. The ones that were failed to resonate with me, or inaccurately portrayed my stage of life. (I wrote on this topic a while ago, found here.)

The thing is, I was absolutely right. It’s hard to find literature, music, and social events that really influence the preteen age and address their unique concerns. Body image, puberty, the internet (especially cyberbullying), preparing for and adjusting to secondary education, and feelings of opposite and same sex attraction are all issues that may be new to that audience. And while many of the concerns listed apply to teenagers as well, it is crucial that these topics be addressed to preteens differently, as they are younger and have a different perspective. 

Overall, we really need to do a better job of reaching out to the preteen population. (Also, I avoid using the word “tween” because even though it accurately describes the stage between childhood and the teenage years, some preteens find it offensive and childish, and the term is most often used as derogatory.) Their concerns are just as valid as those of any age, and it’s important to address them in an informed and sensitive manner. 

Unseen Killers

A few weeks ago, while washing my hands in a public restroom, I overheard a conversation that went something like this:

Elderly Lady 1: I just can’t believe the number of suicides that have happened at [high school]!
Elderly Lady 2: It’s a spirit, for sure. It has to be cast out.
Elderly Lady 1: My friend’s nephew killed himself just a little while ago. I just don’t understand why he would do such a thing! He was such a smart, handsome young man.

I felt a sort of simmering energy inside–the kind I get before going into my radical lecture mode. I wanted to. I desired so much to march right up and metaphorically vomit on them. How would they have reacted if I had intruded upon their conversation and debated them? How would they have responded if I’d told them my story? God only knows. The only thing I can do at this point is discuss the fallacy in their little bathroom chat. 

First off, I wouldn’t describe the issue of teen suicide as a “spirit”, and certainly not a thing to be “cast out.” Such a statement brings to mind a scene of misinformed radicals performing an exorcism in front of a high school. We don’t need exorcisms, here. We need awareness, information, and compassion. The statement I had more of a problem with, though, was the second one. What was being implied by “I don’t understand…he was such a smart, handsome young man”? Was it that only people considered by peers and society to be dull and ugly would think of committing suicide? It’s almost as if the two women would believe people deemed dull and homely would have a reason to commit suicide because they were considered as such, which I find horrifying. “Oh, she was stupid and ugly, she had a reason to die.” What a shameful thing to say.

It’s important to mention that most problems remain unseen. Of course to those two women, the young man had no reason to commit suicide. They only see the image he portrayed and the work he produced. Could anyone’s inner pain be displayed outwardly to two strangers? Doubtfully. It would be worth it to mention that among high school students in the county which I live, 33 percent have been depressed based upon survey results. Depression is a silent killer, and it’s not necessarily readily apparent. A destructive misconception is that depressed teens will be dressed in all-black attire, crying all the time, and failing every class. And while a student who fits that description could very well be depressed, it’s rare that a depressed teen will appear as such. 

Take me, for instance. I was a rich school, straight-A student who wore Tommy Hilfiger oxfords shirts. My entire English class looked up to me as a writing prodigy, based on excerpts of prompt responses I read aloud each day. Nobody would have suspected that I was clinically depressed. I never fit the stereotype. Teachers never thought to ask if I was alright, because everybody assumed I was. Who would complain? I did my work, and I did it well. On the outside, I appeared alright. Nobody asked questions until after I’d been gone for a straight month in the hospital. And even then, a few people hadn’t even noticed I had been gone.

We need to realize how destructive stereotypes and generalizations are. Depression can strike anyone. Any student could die by suicide. How many more “smart, handsome young men” will it take until we realize how serious of a problem this is? Inner pain and unseen illnesses can kill. The failing student. The star student. The jock. The wallflower. It could be any student, and you could never tell just by looking. 

We don’t need more stereotypes. We don’t need more misunderstandings–and certainly not an exorcism. How long will it take until our eyes are opened? One can only hope that it won’t be long.

 

 

She Was

She was the type of girl who cried at the littlest reprimand or stern look. Her whole world was a fragile house of cards supported by false hopes; and harshness, rejection, and malice were never included. Everything was a daydream: sticks were spears, creeks were oceans, sheds were skyscrapers. Her mind was always on things she could never hold in her hands, concepts far beyond her years. All around her mind were metaphors. Cereal pieces floated apart in her bowl of milk, and her heart broke–to her, they were two friends shattering a beautiful bond. How could they be so cruel? she wondered. But she never stopped to answer her own question, because the next fantasy was waiting, and there was no room in her busy mind for sadness. 

Four years later, she was ten, feeling the weight of some cruelly, carelessly uttered insults collapsing her fragile, idealized worldview. Suddenly, she understood. Rejection, exclusion, and sadness painfully squeezed their way into her brain. And in that distressing process, more than a few daydreams were pushed away. The years brought bumps and bruises, wounds that refused to turn into callouses. By thirteen, she was lost. Who was she? Where could she find more hopes to build another house of cards? She looked into the mirror one day and decided that she was nobody. All she considered herself to be was an item for someone else. Countless times she offered her heart and her body to anyone who would take it. She wanted to be loved, and to belong somewhere–anywhere. Nobody could satisfy her deep hunger for attention, connection, and attachment. The highs and lows, the fear, and the insecurities commanded her until she fell to her knees and quit. Once again, she found herself on the bathroom floor shaking, her shabbily duct-taped heart bursting from her chest.

I am nothing and nobody, she sobbed into her hands, praying desperately to a God who she felt could never love her after all she had done. I have been everybody’s, but I have never truly belonged. How can I find who I am when I given myself away more times than I can count? Everything I ever was died years ago. Why weren’t you there? Why couldn’t you save me? Now it’s too late, because I’ll never love or dream or heal again. I am broken beyond repair, defective, and hopeless. 

And the moment she gave up, she felt a warmth deep within in her. There was a voice, and somehow, she heard it not with her ears. It spoke with love–real love, nothing like the cheap imitation she had been filling herself with for so long. Every dollar wasted, every stolen glass of alcohol, every self-loathing remark, and all of the countless mistakes she’d ever made melted away. As she realized that all her prayers choked out in moments of the greatest pain had been heard and treasured, she broke. And somehow, the breaking was more beautiful than words could ever describe. 

She was the type of girl who had finally felt what it means to be truly loved. She was the type of girl who could finally let herself begin to heal, despite roadblocks along the way. And right now, she wants you to know that nothing you do could ever make you worthless, and nothing could ever separate you from the loving arms of Jesus. Because you are worth dying for. 

 

 

 

 

Want a follow? Look no further!

Hey guys! I’m desperately in need of feedback. I care about what you have to say. Disagree with something I’ve written about? Tell me. Have a personal story you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments. I want to know what YOU want me to write about. So, in order to promote more comments and responses, I will follow any blogger who leaves a well thought out comment on any post, and I’ll check out your blog. I also guarantee that from here on out I will reply to each and every comment. 

Here’s what I mean by well thought out. If you comment something like “Awesome post!” or “Great!”, I will appreciate your response, but I won’t give you a follow. Now, if you point out specific things you liked, I will. I’m not a following machine, here. I’m doing this because I want to hear from you. Without my readers, I’m talking to a wall. What do you actually want me to write about? 

This new policy starts right now, 1:15 PM EST on August 6th, 2014. Come on, guys! Leave some comments! 

Don’t Do Your Best

Don’t do your best. I mean it. Let yourself fail to live up to your full potential. Shocked? It’s okay. I would be too. But hear me out. I want you to think about your very best. Not just a good effort–I mean everything you have in yourself, every last scrap of effort and stamina you’ve saved up in your entire existence. Now imagine exerting yourself that much for months–in a school or work setting, primarily. You’d quit like a rickety minivan with no gas. You’d have nothing left in you at all. But you did your best, right? That’s all that matters!

Not. You know what matters more? Your physical, mental, and emotional health. Your well-being is infinitely more important than any job or task you have. I’m not telling you to slack off. I’m warning you not to do your best if you care about your health at all. Do the best that you can without sacrificing yourself. There is no need to push yourself until you give in to exhaustion, because it will take forever to gain back that energy. Doing the best that you possibly can means neglecting yourself and your basic needs. It means ignoring any opportunity to relax and have fun. And that’s not a sacrifice you want to make, trust me.

Don’t do your best. Work hard while keeping self-care and well-being a priority. You are a human being with limits. Don’t let your boss, teacher, or anyone tell you to neglect your needs. Fun and relaxation are requirements to healthy living. And healthy living is what we should strive for. 

Meaningful Lives

Are you living a meaningful life? Honestly, I’m going to assume you aren’t. What have you done? You’ve broken promise after promise, ignored resolution after resolution. Sure, you go to school or work, check your emails…but is that living? Are you living? 

Most of us are just average people, simply faces in the crowd. We believe in causes, but we don’t stand for them. We’re full of ideas that never take form. Our hopes and dreams don’t become realities–and most likely, they never will, at the rate we’re going.Think about what you did today. Were you writing letters to people in power demanding change? Were you saving wildlife? Were you standing up for disadvantaged minorities? No. You were lounging around your house marathoning your stupid TV show. You were at work, or paying bills, or doing your summer math packets for school. Sure, those things are important. They’re practical matters. But when was the last time you took a stand for something? Have you actually done anything with your life? What about your goals? You want to exercise regularly, eat healthy food, and support animal rights…but you don’t. And you never have. The most you’ve ever done for your cause is sign a petition on Causes.com. It’s all in the comfort of your warm living room and your cheap Kmart lounge pants. 

Look at us. We’re a bunch of lazy slobs, overworked students and employees, and idle human beings. Reflect on this past year. Kudos to you if you’ve gone to South Sudan and helped starving teenage mothers, organized a local pride parade, or tutored children in poor inner city areas. You’re a small percentage of the developed world. The rest of us are good-hearted people who would love to do all those things, but won’t get off our sorry asses and actually start doing them. We’re more concerned with Netflix, tumblr, and back-to-school shopping.

I’m sick of being the idle majority. I want to do something with my life, because I’ve done nothing. All I’ve done this year is sit around, write a few lukewarm blog posts, and hurt everyone I’ve ever loved. I don’t want to live my life like this. I want to be meaningful. 

Anyone with me? 

 

 

 

Ad Analysis 1: Clean and Clear Acne Wash

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-X-PU784x8

Okay. I’ve had a problem with this ad since the first time I saw it. Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I’m overreacting. But I feel the need to discuss it anyway, because something just sounded off about it. 

“When I have a huge zit on my face, everyone’s talking to that part of my face.” 

Okay. In the first five seconds of the ad, we’re hearing insecurity. I get it, nobody likes acne. But honestly? Do people really stare at your zit when they’re talking to you? Of course not. Now, I would understand that it could feel that way, but it’s not. It makes me sad that a product is being sold to me on basis of insecurity. Why the insecurity? Why? 

“I don’t want people to remember me as the girl with the zit, I want them to remember me as me.”

Let me ask you something, readers. When you talk to somebody with a zit, do you remember them as the person with the zit? I think it’s pretty safe to assume that no, you don’t. Most people understand that stuff like this happens. Hell, most people won’t even remember! They will remember you because of what you said and how you said it. Not a zit.

I’m not discouraging the use of this product or any similar products at all. All I’m saying is that I think products like this should be advertised better. To me, this ad could be harmful to young teenage and preteen girls who are already feeling very insecure in their bodies. It’s implying that if they don’t use that product, people will remember them solely for their acne, which is an inaccurate representation of how most people feel, and planting seeds of doubt in our girls’ hearts about their faces. There is so much more to you as a person than a simple pimple (rhyming, hello!), and anyone who fails to recognize that is not worth your while. 

Overall, use this product like you would soap and deodorant. It’s something used for hygiene, that’s it. Nothing more. Does that make sense? Does anything I’ve discussed make sense? I hope so.

Love yourselves! 

 

Lessons from School

In just a few weeks, I’ll be beginning my eleventh year in the public school system. To add to that, I had two years of preschool before heading into kindergarten. I’ve been in school almost as long as I’ve been alive. With all those years, you’d expect I’d learn a lesson or two about school–lessons one couldn’t find in the textbook. Here are some bits of knowledge I’ve picked up over the years (in no particular order)…

  1. Watch your back. School is a massive ocean, and you’ve got to watch out for the sharks. I’ve learned not to trust just anyone. Any student could be a backstabber. 
  2. Trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Stay away from the people who give you that nervous or icky feeling. Avoid the hallway you’re terrified of unless you absolutely have to tread there.
  3. Make sure the bathroom stall is locked. Please. I’ve had far too many awful experiences where I thought the door was locked, but it wasn’t.
  4. Fend for yourself. You have to be self-sufficient. Nobody’s going to hand anything to you. Learn your way around, find your friend group, and stay on top of your work. If you can’t do that, you’re on your own. 
  5. Learn when to forget manners. A shyly whispered “excuse me” won’t get you through a jam-packed hallway. Push. Shove (lightly). It’s the only way you’ll ever get anywhere, especially in a crowded school.
  6. Image is everything. Don’t slack off in the first quarter. The beginning of the school year is the best to time to get a good reputation. Work your ass off. Show up on time to class. Be extra nice to everyone, plan crisp-looking outfits, take every opportunity to help out. Now is the time to join clubs. Impress, impress, impress. You’ll need it later on.
  7. Be assertive. If you think something’s unfair, say it. Justice is vitally important. Don’t be afraid to make a bit of a scene. Demand honesty and integrity–without making yourself look like a snobby asshole. 
  8. Know when to shut up. Don’t try to be the class clown. Trying will only make you annoying. Avoid responding to every question and let someone else speak for once.
  9. Respect your teachers. You don’t have to like them, but there is nothing more disgusting than the people who treat their teachers like shit. Don’t be the kid who won’t listen to anything. Your teachers are human beings, and honestly, they’re not even getting good pay for putting up with your crap all day. 
  10. Finally, stay true to yourself. Refuse to fit into a box or a social category. Be who you are, whoever that is–and you’ll be alright.