Why the Kesha Ruling Matters

This week has been one hellacious week, as far as my reaction to court cases and life in general. You could say my faith in humanity wavered for a moment in time. But I write to you today from the perspective from someone who found the passion to pull herself from the depths of a hell-like depression into a full blown fighter. I have always been a fighter and now I’ve found my purpose.

Pocahontus Compass

I can no longer sit idly by and let our society, which I have endeavored to learn about and discover seek to oppress me by legislation which forces me to conceal that which is most basic to my existence: my biological sex.

I was born a female, and that is what I will stay, as feels right for me. But for whatever reason, that has been enough to condemn me. Michelle, are you talking about yourself personally or as a generality? Well, reader, I have to say both. And I can think of no more a potent case than the one recently involving Kesha. Kesha is a pop singer signed to the Sony label. She is known for song like “Tik-Tok” and “Crazy Kids”. And earlier this past week, a judge (more specifically Justice Shirley Kornreich of the Manhattan-New York Supreme Court) ruled that Kesha would continue to be legally obligated to fulfill her contract with the man whom Kesha has accused of sexually assaulting and raping her.

Michelle, you don’t even KNOW Kesha, nor anyone even remotely close to that case. How could it POSSIBLY affect you? Well, reader, pull up a chair and let me tell you a story.

—-Before I begin, I actually started this post 4 days ago, and had to stop because it emotionally drained me to the point of insanity. I would now like to finish what I started.

Womens-rights-are-human-rights

If the law says that a woman must stand by her accused rapist (or alleged assaulter, or abuser) for the sake of upholding a piece of paper, on which words are printed and names were signed, you are doing two things. First, you are saying that a contract is more important than a woman’s safety. Second, you are saying that women are not to be respected or believed if they come forward with accusations of assault, abuse or rape. You are saying that a women is expected to be grateful for the opportunities she has and that any reason she may have to want to remove herself from that opportunity is not good enough, and that maybe she shouldn’t have brought it on herself.

I was in class yesterday, and as I usually get there a couple minutes early, I found myself in a super emotional conversation about this very topic. I promise I didn’t start it, but I can proudly say I did pitch in. But because it pertains, I will record the pertinent parts.

Person A: My theater class was talking about the Steubenville rape today and Kesha got brought up. There are 4 women including myself in that class and I’ve never been so emotional in a class before.

Person B: What happened?

Person A: The men in the class all grouped up to say that Kesha should have had the wherewithal to know that she was being given date rape drugs instead of sleeping pills and that she deserved to face the consequences. Then one of the 4 women took their side and said that Kesha getting raped was like a person standing in front of a mass shooter and asking to be shot.

Now, I’m gonna stop my relay of the conversation there, because Person A and the rest of the class were getting into the problems of rape culture (some of which I will bring up in a moment) and because I made my point. Person A was physically shaking, and by the end of the conversation, more than just them was of that same response.

So when I say “rape culture” what is it that I mean? According to the Women Against Violence Against Women, here’s the backstory:

“Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.”

rapeculturegraphic

Uh-oh! Did I just say feminists? YES I DID. And the Google definition of feminism is:

Feminism: noun: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Feminists are simply people who think that all people should be equal, and have equal rights. That’s it. Not men-hating crazy people. Just equality. It says nothing about what job is “appropriate” or what fashion a person wears or beliefs or anything. Just equality. Seriously. SO MANY people use it the wrong way and have no idea what it is. Educate yourselves!

gender_balance

Anyway, back to my point.

If we as a society are telling one young woman that she cannot escape her alleged attacker, then we are telling ALL women that they are stuck in the cycles of inferiority because of the sex they were born as. We are saying that women do not have the right to feel safe, or to expect to be protected by the laws which seek to govern them. We are telling women that their voice is to be muted, so that no one is to ever pay attention to it because all women are doing is seeking attention without having anything worthwhile to say.

And yes, it IS possible for women to be awful people and just make stuff up for attention. But one bad person is NOT justification enough to punish all women and oppress their needs just as it is not justification enough to punish all of MANkind for the actions of Hitler or John Wilkes Booth.

I try to keep my blogs from being overrun by politics. My husband is the political one and in fact, I think he may eventually come around to the idea of going into politics as a career. I’ve always seen myself as the justice keeper type. But I want to also welcome discussion. I don’t want to exclude views just because they are not my own. I want to know why people think what they think.

This topic is so personal for me. Not because of who is involved, or what happened, but because I am a woman. My husband and I have decided that kids would be great-one day in the distant future. The thought of having a kid now TERRIFIES me. I’m not ready, I’m not financially stable enough, I still go to college and that’s reason enough for me.

Why am I bringing up kids in my blog about the Kesha case? Because I need you all to see the pressures on women. And part of being a woman is being pressured about your biological clock.

I had a professor who told me that my experiences were not correct because they seemed to him to be wrong. He had asked about the pressures of having children on married women. I offered my story because I thought it would help the class understand. Here’s the transcript.

Him: I don’t know. Do any of you married women feel that there is pressure on you to have children?

Me: I had people asking me if I was ready to have a kid five minutes after I got married. And some of the congratulatory Facebook posts also contained questions about it.

Him: I don’t think that happens.

Another woman came to my defense, saying that it does happen and that people also force their ideas of how many children you are supposed to have on you. But the point is, I was told that my experiences were invalid because he didn’t believe them. How am I supposed to combat that?

The CDC recently released a report about women drinking and pregnancy. If you took health class seriously, you know that alcohol and babies do not mix. It’s bad for the babies. But I personally think the CDC is taking it a little too far. Yes, I think that baby health should be at utmost priority. But I also think that if women who are of “sexually reproductive” age and not on birth control have to have their alcohol consumption monitored, then maybe so should men. After all, men are more likely to become alcoholics and if we’re really so concerned about baby health, then why would we want to be unconcerned about alcoholic dads?

The state of Ohio (in which I live) has recently passed a bill stating that abortions will not be funded unless it is necessary for health or in instances of reported rape or incest. Michelle, you just said you weren’t going to get political-what’s this? This is me showing you why Kesha matters.

So let me list this out for you.

ALL THE THINGS WRONG ABOUT THE KESHA RULING AND RAPE CULTURE IN AMERICAN SOCIETY

(The consequences spelled out for you by: a woman.)*

-Women are not to be believed in the event that they accuse someone of rape or assault because they are probably just seeking a better opportunity.

-Women are not to be believed about their experiences because they are probably lying.

-Women are not to consume alcohol because they are going to damage their unplanned children. (There is, to-date, no regulation on men though.)

-Women are not allowed to get an abortion (in several states now, not just my own) unless they have poor health, have been the victim of incest or have been the victim of a rape that they probably just want because they had the opportunity to have “consensual” sex and not worry about the consequences (and they probably lied about being raped anyway).

_________________________________________________________________

And now, you maybe see why the Kesha case is so important. It isn’t about Dr. Luke, Kesha or even Sony. It isn’t about Hollywood’s biases, intolerance, injustice (well, it kinda is) or anything like that. It is about the implications of a ruling based on sexism and oppression in a land where being a woman is already treated like a bad thing. I’ll be graduating Spring 2017 with a degree in Anthropology and then in 2020 with a degree in law. And I’m aiming for the laws which limit women’s rights. That will be my legacy.

female-power-anyn-rand.jpg*This explanation does NOT reflect my personal beliefs. I believe that the scenario I have explained is how the facts are being interpreted. I believe that ALL accusations of rape and assault should be looked into with respect and integrity, and am looking into a career in rape prosecution. The explanation I give is NOT how I believe the world should work and is in fact, just the opposite of how I want society to  be.

Advertisements

An LSAT Update

I took the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) one week ago tomorrow. And you know, for all my thoughts on the matter, it was an entirely different experience than I think I prepared for. I know you all are super excited to hear about this experience, so I will tell you all about the Week AFTER the LSAT.

Saturday (last): I woke up early, double checked my bag, made sure I had everything that I was pretty sure I would need, refrained from grabbing 7 more pencils (just in case) and headed to the test. My husband dropped me off and said he would be a building down from me, until I was all done. I ate a grand total of 6 walnuts during my break, as well as my bottle of water. I walked away from the test a grand total of 5.5 hours later and I didn’t feel too shabby. Honestly, the only thing bad about that test was the endurance needed to finish it. I didn’t understand why everyone online complained about how awful it was. I left the school around 2, made my way home after getting dinner (I was REALLY hungry) and then sat on my bed, drank my glass of celebratory wine (red for the antioxidants) and played some solitaire. By 6, I was droopy eyed and almost asleep. Adrenaline crash, I supposed.

Sunday: I sluggishly woke up, surprisingly exhausted from the day before. But I managed to be up by 10, and then left my house with a friend to go to the mall and see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. That subject will be an entirely other blog, but long story short, I LOVED it. Anyway, we spent 2 hours just shopping and then we watched the movie and I came back home, milled around a bit, made some dinner and then fell asleep rather early once more.

Monday: Normalcy returns. My husband and I awaken before the sun, take the dog out and then head to school/work. My body feels like it’s preparing for the flu. I feel sluggish, drained and entirely lethargic. I can’t possibly imagine why that is (sarcasm) and I wish there were an 8th day of the week.

Tuesday: the break day. I honestly don’t even remember what happened on Tuesday. I know I didn’t get as much sleep as I wanted and can only assume that I spent it doing the obnoxious amount of backlogged homework from the week before. I think maybe I ate something. I assume I did.

Wednesday: back to the grind, again. This time took incredible effort to get out of bed. It was chilly, it was snowy and it screamed “go back to sleep!” I remember going to work, having done something productive and taking notes in lecture. Thankfully, those notes are legible.

Thursday: I was supposed to have another break day, but the IRS seemed intent on taking it away. That’s right, my husband and I did our taxes. I made our appointment for noon. We arrived at 11:40. They offered coffee, I took some. Neither of us had eaten yet, and we decided to grab lunch after our taxes were done. TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER we walked out of the tax office deliriously hungry, grumpy and tired. Seriously, I felt more confused than I did going in. And let me just say that sometimes, tax codes are stupid. I feel that there needs to be a much simpler way. And they charge by the hour to do taxes, so imagine my surprise when the bill was mentioned. Never again, I thought. I would rather do everything myself! Good grief. But we survived, and I mean, I guess I’m happy it’s over at least. Now to make the corrections to my FAFSA. But not today, we’ll save it for another day. At 8, I finally felt mentally recovered enough to work on more homework. 

Today: I find myself filled with anxiety and dread and concern over theses scores. I do not even get scores until March and I am already seeing negative impacts. My sleeping has been thrown out of normalcy, because my thoughts are completely on the LSAT and my future. My body is incredibly angry that there is a growing sleep debt that must be paid. I’m not sure I have regular eating habits any more. And honestly, I just want to know. I do not care if the scores were bad or good. I just want to know so that I can go about my life planning my future and worrying about other things, like homework, student loans and the political crises of the world. Is that too much to ask?

So, in short, I understand why all the “I took the LSAT and here’s what I have to say” websites suggest finding a bar after taking it. It could be because sometimes the test runs 7 hours long. It could be that sometimes youjust don’t feel prepared. But I think the most likely reason of all, may have been that the week after testing is honestly harder to recover from than actually preparing for the test in the first place.

And yes, I will be going to see PPZ again this weekend (at least 2 more times!).

Why Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

I don’t know about you, but I look through Pinterest and there are days when I get so revved up about what I see that I have to stop looking at it for a few hours, or I’ll keep going back to it and get all worked up. Especially when I look at the feminism stuff or mental illness pins. And I am very much for both of those sections. But you know as well as I do that any old fool can post things without having an inkling of knowledge to back up those words. And it is that ignorance that gets to me. So, let’s jump in the time machine and I will tell you all about why.

I’m a proud Pinterst fanatic. I have over 20 thousand pins. It’s taken LARGE amounts of my time to get that far, but I consider it an invaluable resource to my life. For those of you (are there any?) who don’t know what Pinterest is, it’s kind of like a networking site for ideas. You “Pin” ideas to a “board” and save recipes, DIY projects and so many things. But it can also be used for keeping ideas together. I belong to both camps. Today, I’m going to focus on how social media (specifically Pinterest) perpetuates incorrect information about mental illnesses and disorders: namely EDs (Eating Disorders).

I doubt there are in here, but I know how this works, so just in case.

***TRIGGER WARNING*** Some symptoms, stories and elements may cause flare ups of conditions. The author does not condone or suggest any actions which may cause bodily harm.

I know that if you go into Pinterest and type in “Eating Disorders” into the search bar, you will most likely get a different result list than I will. So I’m going to do this the only way I know how: screen shots! I will caption them with WHAT I want you to pay attention to and then WHY it’s important to today’s blog. This is going to be a personal one today, and I hope that means it helps more than I rant.

  
First off, I like this. I mean, I’m not really sure why I couldn’t immediately connect to Pinterest, but I’m ultimately glad I didn’t. And it goes to show, that the moment I try to prove my point, something inevitably happens that changes my mind. Sort of. So thank you, Pinterest for being on the ball. I appreciate that.

  
 
I want you to look at the top left “hand” picture AND the one right beside it. Those two pictures I am calling into question because although you cannot sum ANY disorder up into a single picture, these only scratch the surface. ALL of these pictures do. The focus is on being skinny. But this screen shot shows my point as well. Looks can be deceiving. And the truth is, you really may not ever know who you are until you break away all of the pieces you thought you were made of.

  
 
This time, focus on the gentleman , and the woman at opposite corners. The great thing is that it highlights men having EDs too; a topic we need to focus on more! The problem with the gentleman’s picture is the same as above: it focuses on the skinny issue. And granted you could argue that that is the “basis” of eating disorders, but I would argue it is merely a facet of some of them. The problem I have with the second one actually requires more than a caption so I’ll bump down a paragraph.

Yes you do. You absolutely do decide one day that that is the course of action you are going to take. It may be subtle, like backing off, extreme dieting or eating less and less. It may be abrupt and one day you just stop eating solids, or anything at all. But you DO decide it. And it basically happens in a day. You just can’t take the pressure or the shame or the guilt and you decide you’re going to do something about it.

I was 14 when I first started dabbling with EDs. Almost a decade later, I’m not sure I’m any better.

The first thing I tried was Bulimia. I can make myself purge on demand and I enjoyed the taste of food so I thought: At least I can still taste the things I love. But the thing is, I HATE puking. I really do. And no matter how much I convinced myself that it would help, I dreaded each meal for the sole reason that I would have to throw it up. I maybe lasted in this phase a grand total of 2 weeks. Any extraneous symptoms were not entirely present. (Or had been present BEFORE onset.)

  

So I moved to Anorexia. By the “height” of my time in this disorder, I was only eating an apple a day and that is why I became a caffeine addict. I fought so hard to stay awake every day. And since I have many years worth of experience in this disorder, let me tell you some things.

  

First. While the motivation to be skinny is a big draw into this disorder, it isn’t the thing that keeps you there. You become trapped, like you cannot stop. You feel like it’s your life now and that is all there will ever be. And did I mind that my collar bone stuck out, that my ribs were exceptionally visible? I lived for those signs that I was making progress. But those are the “sexy” side effects. I’m here to tell you about the not-so-sexy ones.

I began to pass out. Sometimes at home, sometimes at school, always without knowing it. It was kind of like narcolepsy-it just happened. And on top of the literal black outs, I began to loose whole chunks of time. There are, even still, very large portions of my memory that are not clear because I didn’t feed my brain enough to make them last. On top of that, I have little hairs all around, which were not there before. You wouldn’t know it, because I take care of it, but even now, they remain. And the hair on my head falls out in great clumps, just as it did before. I missed menstrual cycles-sometimes for 6 months or more. Not because I was pregnant, but because my body couldn’t succeed in normal functions. My fingernails would constantly chip and break, but the worst thing was how weak I felt. I felt slow, my head felt too big, it was like being stuck in extreme gravity for months on end.

And the thing is, no one even noticed. I wore baggy clothes, bundled up, and tried to hide from everyone. This photo was taken of my in my junior year, I believe. I was trying to catch up on some caffeine, clearly. (I said I was a caffeine addict. And I remember this. It was during prom planning, when I had to try hardest to fit in.) The shirt I was in was a medium. 

  

I was 5 foot 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall at that point, as I am still,  and “look healthy”. But what you can’t see are the constant struggles with food, the endless exercises,  the constant state of pain. All you can see is laughter. A facade.  The me that I outwardly projected. Which is exactly what my primary care physician saw when I went in with the complaint of forgetting chunks of time and passing out. She told me that it was all menstruation related and that I needed to “focus harder”. She could have inadvertently killed me with those words, but luckily I saw a psychiatrist soon after.

And now?

That’s what everyone wants, right?  The triumphant “I survived. And now I’m better. ” story. But I don’t think that’s the story I have for you.  Not today.

I currently fall into the “obese” category of the BMI chart. And does that bother me? A lot. I stay so far away from the starvation diet that I jumped right into the other band wagon. 

  
Puts an interesting spin on things, doesn’t it? Like a big fat slap in the face. I didn’t even know there was a name for what I was doing to myself. And the thing is: I’m not so different than I was before. I spend a day eating whatever I want followed by a day of not really eating, or by a week of heavy dieting. And the people who know me know that I diet a LOT. We’re talking everything shy of weight loss pills. And the cycle repeats. And I’m almost afraid to call it what it is, because I still can’t decide if it’s a lack of willpower, self control or if it’s just lazy, “emotional” eating. With Bulimia and Anorexia, I could relate to 90% of the psychiatrist’s symptom list, but only about 80% of the list I supplied. (More with AN than B.) But I can check off every single symptom up there for BED) and if that’s not saying something, I’ll tell you what is.

I’ve had some variety of ED for HALF MY LIFE (almost-we’re short by 2 years). My hair, even though it is thick (as we discussed a couple posts ago) falls out in large clumps. My nails break often (but I try to compensate with the vitamins I take). My body still has little hairs from being anorexic, I feel sluggish and exhausted a LOT, and I cannot say that I enjoy these decisions. By being anorexic, I ruined my body. I broke who I was as a person and watched the pieces slip away. But with B.E.D., I’ve hidden any growth behind a wall of food, shame and pain trying to avoid crushing my soul into oblivion (all while sabotaging it instead). 

So all in all, what I have to say can be boiled down into two parts. First, the Pinterest issue. Not all EDs are about being skinny. I didn’t even touch on orthorexia. Not all EDs are publicized, but ALL of them need to be taken seriously.

And second, I make a public promise to myself, that I will never stop fighting for people who need it, even if they do not look like anything is wrong. Because for years the only thing people were concerned about was the physical harm I was inflicting on myself, and noone even saw the neglect and torture behind it.

So although this isn’t an update for you all, I’ve been working on this post for over three weeks, and I want everyone to know that I am getting help I don’t know the future, but I have to take back control.

The Day I Found Out What it is to be a WOMAN

  

Today I was going to blog about eating disorders, but then I had an experience that changed my entire outlook on life-and all that it means. While I do not have everything figured out, I need to explain a lot of background first.

I’m taking a lot of “human” classes this semester. Human Variation (or the study of genetic differences in humans), Communication Theory (how humans communicate with each other),Women and Democracy (how women come into play in things like government, politics, and social contracts) and Human Sexuality (the theory and practicality of humans and sex). And there is a lot of overlap in these classes, namely in what it means to be a woman in several contexts. Now, having lived my entire life as a woman, I thought I knew most everything. I carry my keys like weapons, I have a self-imposed curfew, I know what it means to vote, how the basics of government is run (thanks to my high school government teacher!) and other bits and bobs I’ve picked up over the years. But I have been incredibly fortunate to never be in a position where my power over self if compromised. And that is where today comes into play.

Now, a note before I continue. ***This is the most easy going, least violent way possible that my power over self was compromised. And I want to explore the thought process behind it more than the actions.I am NOT AT ALL comparing this to situations where bodily autonomy is forcefully taken away in any capacity. I just want to talk about the thought process, as I said.***

I went to the mall with my husband, because we were out today anyway and I wanted to walk around. I enjoy the mall, often find little things to pick up and usually find it a fun place to be. As we were getting ready to leave, a woman at a kiosk stopped me and handed me a free sample. Not wanting to seem rude, I took it and said thank you. She asked if I had a moment, to which I replied we (my husband and I) were already running late and I couldn’t stay. She said it would only take a moment and so I followed her to her station. She asked me to sit down so she could show me her line of hair straighteners. I have hair down to my shoulder blades, and I NEVER use straighteners or curling irons on it. My hair is so thick that it has a mind of it’s own and several stylists have refused to work with it because of that. I’ve dyed my hair so much that it fries my hair too hard to straighten anyway. So she inquired about the colors and told me her straightener didn’t damage hair and was a 2-in-1 product. 

I didn’t want to seem rude, so I silently took down my hair and let her show me.

I could see the steam, I could feel the heat and although I was fidgeting uncomfortably the entire time, I said nothing. My husband watched patiently. She put clips in my hair and I felt trapped. I had planned on just bolting, but I didn’t want to run away with her clips in my hair. So as she kept talking, I sneakily took the clips out and laid them on her station. She kept talking jovially about how my hair was so soft and she took the comb up my hair to frizz it and then tried to calm my cottonballs hair once more. She stopped for a moment, having done about a fourth of my hair and asked what my favorite color was. I barely made eye contact with my husband before I said: 

“I told you I was running late. Thank you.” 

And I ran away as fast as my shaking legs would carry me.

Now, afterwards, I met up with a friend (who works a kiosk) and explained to her what he happened. I also found out that my husband had been listening to my pleas of self-confidence and hadn’t wanted to barge in and make it seem like he was in control of me (which I thanked him for). My friend said she’d also had a similar experience and that she had bought one of the hair straighteners for $250!!!!! She then told me that it really does burn your hair and isn’t worth the price.

As we were leaving the mall, my husband made the astute observation:

They didn’t have a sink, wipes or sanitation instruments. When did they wash the combs and clips? What if I got lice?

So we had a deep, philosophical conversation on our way home about all this and that is when it hit me.

I’d been in an uncomfortable situation because I didn’t want to seem rude. And instead of immediately getting out of it, I stayed put because I thought:

I sat down and this is all my fault. I got myself into this mess and now I have to deal with the consequences. And on top of all that, I didn’t want to be there, but now I might have a parasite.

I feel like I just stumbled onto the key of understanding. While I may not know and understand the full implications of being held against my will, I now understand why women feel like they have to blame themselves for the bad things that happen. This is where our culture is letting down women. We are teaching them that it’s to be expected that being polite at our own expense. We are expected to internalize the blame, even if it really isn’t our fault.

And for the record, my hair IS burnt. And it smells like vanilla got lit on fire and then sprayed onto my hair. My hair is a disaster . If I do end up with lice, I’ll be finding a lawyer. Because I may not have violently said no, but I never asked to have my good health in jeopardy.

The Science of You…and Me.

I’ve been trying to get acclimated to the new semester, and I think it’s okay to take a break from constantly ranting and raving. Today, I want to speak honestly about life. But the stuff that weighs on my heart is the issue of self-identification.

In one of my classes this semester, we’re discussing classifications of organisms (as a prequel to the rest of the material) and the question was asked: Why do we classify things? The answer was: to order a chaotic world. I think that for the most part, that’s pretty true. But I think we, as human beings, also want to belong. We have a sense of longing to be part of something greater than just our own individuality. And maybe that seems a little naive, but maybe it isn’t.

  

I think I’ve mentioned this a couple times throughout the life of my blog, about where do I as an individual fit in to life’s big puzzle. But I invite you all to also think about it. How do you identify yourself? Is it just through your name? Your preferences? Your associations? What about who you are as a single individual, without regard to someone or something else? How would your identification change? It’s no difficult task to put yourself in a category. It’s an entirely other matter to design the category that you alone fit in.

Allow me to demonstrate. I am a pretty much run-of-the-mill midwestern woman. I tie my hair up in ponytails, I drink coffee, I know how to shovel snow, care for sick animals and even how to field dress carcasses (I really don’t enjoy it though, but if the great earth mother gives unto us, it is disrespectful to waste that gift. And I try not to partake either.). I am a wife, a cat-loving-dog-owner (he’s my little cat-dog), a sister, a daughter, a student, an employee and a coworker, a friend, a dreamer, and I’d say most definitely an extroverted introvert (yea, I know. It gives me problems too.). But take away anything that has to do with someone else (so-daughter, wife, sister, worker, etc) and take away the references to religion, geography, capabilities and preferences. What is left?

I call that “left” stuff the essence of me. But I don’t really know what it is. Is it emotion? Because I have quite a bit of that. Is it personality? I think I have a decent amount of that too. Is it what I am made of? Atoms, cells, blood, skin, organs, memories? I mean, I suppose that would have to be included. So what am I that no one else is? I am me and you are you. And I couldn’t be you if I tried, but I wouldn’t want you to be me either.

I know, you were all expecting for the meaning of life. And I shan’t disappoint! Because each and everything that I have said is both true and false. And I hope you’ve stuck around long enough to see why.

In the very beginning of time, before history, before science, before everything we know, there were stars. And these stars grew until they could grow no more, exploding when they reached their peak. When these stars explode, they create a bunch of atoms, in the order of the periodic table. First Hydrogen, then Helium, then Lithium, Beryllium, and so on and so forth until at least Iron (which is the 26th element). Each atom mixes with the others, out in space, combining and pulling apart. Now why am I telling you this?

  

There is a law in science called the Conservation of Energy. Now, in science, a law means that hundreds, if not thousands of test have been done and for all intents and purposes, the law is a scientific fact. This is why no one disputes gravity-even though you can’t see it directly. Anyway, the Conservation of Energy can be simplified down to the following: no energy can be created or destroyed in a system. There is also the law of the Conservation of Mass. This also is simplified down to: no mass (the stuff everything is made of) can be created or destroyed in a system. So what does that have to do with anything?

Well, we know that a human is made up of a lot of water, but what else? If you look at the most common elements that a body is made up of you get: Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sulfur, Sodium, Chlorine and Magnesium. Now if you look at a Periodic Table of Elements, you’ll see that those elements are numbered: 8, 6, 1, 7, 20, 15, 19, 16, 11, 17 and 12. Iron, as I said is 26, which means that all of the elements that make up most of us come before Iron. That further means that the stars that exploded made the elements I have listed here.

  

If I haven’t lost you yet, I’m very glad! Because the laws I mentioned, they come into play here. Since absolutely nothing can be made or destroyed, the atoms (which make up the mass of everything) which make up you and I came from the explosions of the stars. So here’s the deal. We are all made up of the little tiny particles which first originated in stars. So when you hear people say “We are stardust”, believe them. Because although this information is all paraphrased from other sources, it remains true. And just incase you wanted to know more about the meaning of life, let me explain death.

Before I really go on, let me tell you a story (you know that’s my thing!). I once went to a funeral of a family member and sat in the back, just observing. I watched the widow sit in the front row, the handkerchief crumpled in her hands, her eyes puffy and red from crying. But what I had not expected to happen, was the moment I caught her eye. I looked away immediately, not out of shame, but out of the understanding that I could not bear the weight of her pain. It would have been far easier if her eyes had been dead, the windows to a soul lost to the oblivion. But they weren’t. They were the windows to summer basketball sessions between her late husband and her kids, the early mornings when snow would lightly fall and she would watch him sleep. They were the windows to a thousand more “I love you’s” which would fall on deaf ears and the echoes of petty fights that would haunt her recollection for years to come. And at the funeral of a childhood friend, I remember looking at his body, thinking about how many times that might have been me, how even in death, he didn’t seem so happy, but maybe that’s because his body was pumped full of gallons worth of chemicals and the makeup could not hide the way his neck curved ever so violently, the ghost of a rope ever so snug around the collar of his dress jacket.

  

If no matter and no energy can be lost or created, what happens at death? Quite obviously, there is still mass. You have a body almost always, a quiet shell of a person lying still. But a person while living maintains the energy of thought, of breath, of circulation. And once ceased, that energy cannot be destroyed. The body heat rises into the atmosphere, reuniting with the clouds, the rain and the air. The breath that once ran through them now runs though the atmosphere. The memories which gave fuel to their every move, their every sense of self, they belong now to the people who need them most, to those with whom they were shared before. And I think that is a lovely thing. We are both part of the universe and made up of it. We cannot be created from nothing and we cannot disappear to nothing. The life of each and every one of us was determined by the star explosion, the energy and life of others, the ability to continue on. And that’s why it’s entirely okay if you could not define yourself as just yourself before. Because in all honesty, you really can’t be you without others. But it’s okay. Because the others couldn’t be themselves without you either.