Books I’ve Read: 13 Reasons Why


I have a habit of adding books to my reading list and only getting around to them when someone decides to turn them into movies and tv shows. This is no exception. I heard about 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher months ago on another WordPress blog (I would link, but I can’t for the life of me remember what blog it was!) and immediately added it to my growing list, then never picked up a copy. Fast forward to the future, and I finally got my hands on the book now that Netflix has made an original series out of it.

I have not watched the series. I wasn’t going to start until I finished the book. But I don’t know if I want to watch it now. I don’t think the series will be able to compete with the power of this book.

Synopsis: High school student Hannah Baker committed suicide. Before she did, she recorded 13 stories on tape and sent them posthumously to 13 people explaining how their words and/or actions contributed to her decision. Clay Jensen is on those tapes, but he has no idea why. And so he spends the night listening to this story to which he only knows the end, following the path that leads to it.

This story is dark. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. If you’ve ever been bullied, heard rumors, or really even gone to high school, this story might sound familiar. And that’s why it’s so powerful. Everything in it is real, plausible, believable, because these things have happened to us, or to someone we know, or we’ve read a news story or heard someone speak on the issues in this book. And while this story is set in high school, it could have happened in college, or at work, or across several settings. It’s relatable. And it hurts.

I will provide a trigger warning. If you have been bullied, or sexually assaulted or harassed, or are suicidal or know someone who is or has killed themselves, this book might not be for you. But it could be a good tool for reaching out to people, for helping them understand your struggle or the struggle of others, and just how impactful words and actions can be, long after the fleeting moments in which they occur.

Would I recommend this book? I cried and wanted to stop reading because it broke my heart, but I had to find out what was on those tapes. So yes, I think you should read it.

An Ode To My First


We always remember firsts. And my dear, you were wonderful.

The late night drives. The road trips. The moves. The karaoke sessions. You were fantastic through them all. We traveled so well together. You got along so well with my friends. You pulled me through some tricky situations. I didn’t always treat you the best; there were things I could have done so much differently. I know this now, and you have taught me how to do better as I go forward.

Many told me you weren’t worth it, I was putting too much time and money into you. But to me, you were everything. “You can do so much better,” they said, not knowing that in that moment you were what I needed, you gave me the ability and confidence to do so much, and I loved you. I couldn’t do better then because I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to give you up, and I wasn’t prepared for better. I kept you until the time was right, and then we parted ways.

There were tears. It was hard. I still wasn’t ready emotionally; I wanted to keep you forever. But I was at the point that I needed to let you go. I had gotten all I could out of you, and though I know we could have stayed together longer if I had taken better care of what we had, it was time. We both needed to move on, you to someone else who you could help, who might treat you better, and me to something new, something practical instead of emotional, something else I needed to learn.

This new fling may offer more, may be less used and abused by the world, may be better suited for who I am now and last longer, but you were perfect for who I was then, and you will always hold a place in my heart as my first.

I will always love you, my beloved 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe. I miss you already. Thank you for all you helped me accomplish as my first car.

Books I’ve Read: You Are A Badass


I have been in a funk recently. Okay, probably for a while now. School, work, relationships, money, FOMO (that’s fear of missing out for those out of the loop), and so many other stressors have really impacted my mental state and my self-confidence. There’s been a lot of crying, anger, sadness, and stagnation.

I finally reached out to a counselor, and talking through some of the things I’ve been feeling has been helpful. But I’m definitely more of an introvert, and much more into helping myself where I can. So lately, I’ve been supplementing those sessions with various self-help methods– exercising and eating better, reading countless books and articles, attempting meditation and yoga, and exploring several spiritual paths (with little success, unfortunately).

I really feel like self-help gets a bad rap. Which is so confusing, because so does going to therapy or taking medication. There’s this stigma about mental health and stress, and EVERYONE has some sort of mental health issues at some point, yet we act like no one should. I’m convinced that even the most zen Buddhist monk has some stress at some point after they decide on that path. They just found a way to help themselves handle it. We here in the West are not good at that part, even though we’re great at creating the stress.

I decided to ignore all the judgment around self-help books and picked up You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. And I loved it. It’s a little out there, but it’s very real. It doesn’t read like the books that likely gave self-help the stigma in the first place. Yes, she uses profanity. But she does it in such a way that it sounds like your enlightened friend walking you through a break-up or getting laid off or amping you up for a job you really want but are absolutely terrified of going for. Stress can come from positive events too.

So what does she talk about? There are three big themes throughout the book.

She starts with the phrase “raising your frequency.” The first thing I thought when I read that was that I was getting self-help from a hippie yogi– not totally inaccurate. But this mystical phrase is merely a way of saying that positive people attract other positive people and things, whereas negative people attract negative.  A low-frequency person is just going through the motions, blaming the universe or others for the negativity in their life, and not doing what they want or what makes them happy. A high-frequency person is doing things to better themselves, engaging in activities that they enjoy and interacting with positive people, and understanding that life really is all about what you make it, that the only thing working against you is you. To feel better about yourself and get what you want out of life, you have to raise your frequency.

The second big theme is trusting The Universe. Again, some esoteric mysterious mumbo-jumbo– but it isn’t. What she’s advocating is pretty common in many religions, whether it be Buddhism, Wiccan, or Christianity. The Universe can refer to any number of things depending on your belief system. For instance, in the Christian system, this is the same thing as handing it over to God, praying over it and waiting for him to give you a sign or make it happen. Sincero advocates getting in touch with The Universe through meditation or prayer, really just sitting quietly and opening ourselves up to words from God or hints from our subconscious or whatever it is that we experience when we empty our minds of to-do lists and bank account figures and social media drama. This allows us to more easily surrender to forces that we cannot control. When we try to control every little detail, it becomes counter-productive to getting what we want.  It’s subscription to the belief that The Universe/God/your deity or driving force helps those who helps themselves. Take steps to reach your goal, but trust that there are things out of you control and that by doing what you have to, what you want will manifest itself.

The third and most prevalent theme is simply love yourself. Perhaps the most self-helpish phrase in the book, but ridiculously important. You can’t have a high frequency if you tear yourself down. You can’t do what’s necessary to let The Universe know you want something if you’re constantly thinking of all the reasons why you aren’t capable or deserving of a better job, a quality partner, a new car. We are not perfect, but dwelling on our flaws is such a disservice. We have so much power, and all we have to do is open up our eyes to how awesome we are to start using some of it. Let’s be honest. We are all pretty badass.

I reflect on many of the points Sincero discusses on a daily basis. I’ve started “meditating,” really just lying in bed at night or sitting if I feel so inclined, and focusing either on nothingness or on a specific goal. I fall asleep so much more easily, and I feel more focused the next day. I’ve reached out to people who are so much better than me at the whole “trusting The Universe” thing, and people who are very positive and doing their part to help themselves; it’s easy to see exactly how The Universe has helped them. It’s helped me to take steps toward letting go of control on things I really have no control over in the first place. I’ve got a long way to go, but I love what I got out of this book.

Do I recommend this book? Most definitely.

Back To It


So I logged in today for the first time in quite a while. And next to the bell in the top right corner was that little orange dot signaling a notification. I click on it, and what awaits me? An anniversary notification.

6 years. I registered here on WordPress 6 long years ago and started writing. Because that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I imagined I would be a poet first. I moved on to novelist. And then I decided I wanted to be a journalist. None of those have happened at this point. I tried out each for a bit, with moderate beginner’s luck as both a poet and a journalist, but I couldn’t find my niche– at least, I don’t think I ever did.

Now here I am, with an itch to put more words to paper, to create something out of nothing, to write the story that I’ve started and given up on at least 7 times, to send my written ideas out into the void, to influence someone with the symbols I’ve strung together to provoke emotion and conversation and deep thought. Will I keep it up this time? I hope so. I’m even juggling the idea of freelancing.

Maybe this is still what I want to do with my life. I guess I just have to get back to it.

 

The Parables of the Internet


I love clickbait, by which I mean all those stories designed to tug at a heartstring, either to make you cry at the dark parts of life or to rejoice in the bright parts.

“Snopes it, it’s all fake,” say the cynics.

To which I say, “So what?”

We see true stories all day, every day in our 24-hour news cycle. We watch the bombs exploding and the riots developing and the pollutants billowing into our environment. In fact we see these so much, and on such a broad scale, that we become desensitized.

“It’s just another destroyed village.”

“It’s just another oil spill.”

“It’s just another shooting.”

It’s horrifying, is what it is.

In a world where we see hardly anything worthwhile or inspiring, where the “upbeat topic” for the day is a parrot that can waterski, we need that clickbait. It gives us hope. It keeps us compassionate. It keeps us human.

We become numb to the plights of humanity at large, so clickbait gives us the plight of one, it personifies it, it gives it a face and a name and a story we can care about. And as any good story does, it makes us feel. We need to remember how to feel.

The story of the cancer patient who placed a sign on her window and had strangers bringing her pizza and singing to her. The story of the dog that not only saved his owner’s life, but the lives of countless others on 9/11. The story of the Syrian girl who fought through a terrorist regime and an immigration nightmare only to be denied access to freedom from fear. The teenager that invented a device so that someone with a disability can feel able again. These stories are important, whether they’re true or not.

Think of them as parables. Think of them as motivation. Think of them as goals. Because if we can be more like the good, kind, hardworking, caring people in these stories, then the world can fully become the beautiful, harmonious place that we see through them.

Read clickbait. Feel something. Stay human.

 

 

America Is Not Free.


I am a patriot. I love living under the Red, White, and Blue. I love patriotic marches and songs. I tear up at the great things America has been and done. I am grateful to the soldiers that sacrifice so much. I’m proud of the ideals and the opportunities and the liberties that we have represented to the world for so long.

That’s why it’s hurting so bad to be an American right now.

We loudly proclaim to be the land of freedom and opportunity, equality and diversity. Then what do we do? We call for illogical limitations or deregulations that end up hurting more than helping. We demand closed borders  and the deportation of “foreigners” and refuse to fund programs that aid and better our society. We want to unite as Elitist Patriarchical Vanilla Believers who don’t want to help anyone who can’t/won’t help themselves or don’t fit into the mold we’ve created. We claim this to be the vision of our founding fathers but we’ve twisted and corrupted it seemingly beyond repair.

We have liberties we can take advantage of. But we are not free.

Freedom would be a government and society that allowed everyone the complete control of our own bodies, free from criminalization or judgement of how it’s used or packaged. Freedom would be understanding, compassion, and respect for all human life, regardless of race, creed, gender, sexuality, education, or economic status. Freedom would be a system of green, sustainable practices which helped rather than harmed the planet. Freedom would be complete affordable access to education, healthcare, housing, and food and water for everyone. Freedom would be equal rights and opportunities and pay across all spectrums. Freedom would be the combination of empathy and knowledge in coming up with solutions rather than governing with greed and personal bias and reintroducing or creating more problems. Freedom is living completely without fear of discrimination, starvation, bankruptcy, homelessness, disease, violence, incarceration, or limitation.

True and complete freedom is Utopia, Eden before the Fall, the Marxist doctrine on paper, a post-apocolyptic society that has actually learned from the past, perfection that can never truly be reached.

But we could at least try. We could attempt to do what is right not from a religious or economic standpoint, but from a humanistic one. We could take care of people rather than criminilizing, marginalizing, or dehumanizing them. We could put our money toward better education, better health care, a better food industry, more renewable resources, and redistribute the wealth. Do we really need to spend billions of dollars on weapons and debates that lead nowhere, or worse, backwards? Is it really wise and equitable in the grand scheme of things to have resources and power controlled by such a small group as they are right now?

Call me a liberal, a dreamer, a hippie, delusional, blasphemous, whatever. But I think we can do better– at this point, that shouldn’t be surprising.

So tell me. What’s stopping us from being the America we were originally supposed to be? Why are we stopping ourselves from truly being the land of the free?

Thoughts While Resting Through A Summer Cold


I am sick. While in the midst of my summer adventures. And 75 miles from home. Yay me! What have I chosen to do all day?

  1. Worry about how much I need to go to the gym, do dishes, and clean up my now roommate-less room
  2. Briefly glance at job openings for when Cedar Point comes to a close
  3. Attempt and fail at registering for classes at Cuyahoga Community College
  4. Go to the doctor, to no avail because Flonase allergy medication has not helped my supposedly non-infection sinus issues
  5. Take pictures of the fly I’ve come to think of as a pet because it spent a whole episode (I think the second of four so far) of Criminal Minds on the corner of my laptop. If I sleep on the couch tonight, it will also try to curl up with me. It’s buzzing is more annoying than dogs barking, so it will be swatted away.
  6. Listen to the singular cricket stuck in the heating vent in the living room and thought about the melancholy chirping of a single cricket with no chance of escape, since I have no way to get it out or even see it in the vent, and it has no friends trapped with it. This would be day two of imprisonment. Also, I think the chirping has stopped. Which makes me sad and grateful all at the same time. Hopefully, because it died of natural causes, it will not be bad luck for me.
  7. Eat a bunch of stove-top and prepackaged food because I have no desire or energy to find something healthier, which is why #1 happens a lot.
  8. Brought in supplies for a miniature gardening project, except half the plants I bought might be dead because I waited so long, so the supplies might sit in my room for a while now that they’ve sat in my car for about two weeks.
  9. Coughed, sneezed, and blown my nose so many times that I might already be close to filling the trash can with a box of used tissues.
  10. Contemplated religion, humanity, the lessons of Harry Potter and how much I want to be J.K. Rowling, the sadness of my financial situation, fear of the future specific to myself and general to all of humanity

So I’d say it’s been a fairly productive day for being sick and not wanting to pass germs on to people at work. At least my brain has been working hard. Or as someone so politely put it, I’m going stir crazy. I did shower, dress, and brush my teeth, so life can’t be too bad, right?