Role Models and Hope For A Messed Up World

I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say right away, so this post is coming almost a week after the incident, but the concept has been stuck in my head for quite some time. As an individual, I love being a singular version of myself. But I look often for someone else who is also a trailblazer. I wanted to write about why I look for and who I select as a role model for my life. I think it’s important for people, women especially, to have someone who is an upstanding, respectable example of the lives we want to lead. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people from older stories who could be role models (I frequently look to Joan of Arc, personally). The problem with using people from the past is that things were different. The world was not the same then as it is now, and we need people who are more like us than sword bearing warriors or queens from afar. 
  There is the social media factor, I suppose, which lends itself to a certain realm of role models, some good, some not. But it seems that the news represents best those who are not good role models for the young (and young-ish) people of today. I am of course talking about the celebrities like Nikki Minaj, Lindsey Lohan and to some extent even Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. They all represent the pandemonium of fame and the pit falls thereof. We could also examine outlets like Disney or Matel, who have presented the world with prestigious Barbie, Cinderella, and Ariel (just to name a few). It is these three which are both a great help and a hindrance to young women of today. I want to explore them and then propose my list of four individuals who are better role models for our generation. 

  Barbie: In almost every household you might find her, or a cousin or a friend. She is blonde, brunette, red headed, light skinned, dark skinned. She has had a plethora of jobs, donned an impressive collection of costumes and even manages quite a large variety of accessories. Over the years, people have yelled at her for being too skinny, too unrealistically proportioned and too shallow. I mean, there was even a brief moment in Toy Story 3 where she was introduced to public audiences as a complete and utter bimbo, followed by a weak attempt to reclaim her dignity. But the thing is, she’s too uniform. She has no individualized flaws. No scars, stretch marks, beauty marks, wrinkles, pimples, or really flaws of any kind. Her makeup is always done, she’s always smiling and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

  Cinderella: She’s Disney’s star princess. I mean, who didn’t want to be a princess because of her? She came from rags to riches, found a guy, married Royal and viola. She even had a set of killer shoes. But what does she have as far as personality? She’s got wishes, desire. But she lacks motivation and drive. She “asked for a dress, shoes and a night off”. I get it. But that’s not real life at all. And why do you need a man to provide you with everything? I mean, independence goes a long way. I know in the original story she was a teenager, but isn’t that kind of the point? In her time period, that made her basically an adult, and I know she would have been in need of a man, but this is the 21st century and we don’t need that anymore. Say it with me: I am a strong, independent woman who needs no man, but can have one if I so desire.

  Ariel: With a golden voice and perfect hair, who cares about anything else, right? Wrong. Again, you don’t need a man to be the best woman you can be. The thing is, Sebastian was right. Giving up everything, your soul and life included, just to get a man (or attempt to) is not the way to go. And by this point, wouldn’t you also need to make exceptions for finding the right partner-be it woman or man or just a good friend? As with Cindy, sorry Ariel, but there’s nothing that warrants me looking up to you if you’re going to change everything about yourself for someone else.

So I’ve given you a basic run down of my issues with the above, but I do want to mention that I know these characters are fake, but they are widely distributed and influential. I do not want to come across as impossible to reason with so the last person (it’s actually two people) are fictitious as well. And I also realize that the women I am looking at have flaws. But that’s exactly why I chose them. And I will go over them as well. These are, of course, my own personal opinions and you can take what I say with a grain of salt. I would love to hear your opinions in the comments, as always. So,without further adieu.

Michelle’s List of Role Models for Women of 2015.

  Judge Carolyn Walker-Diallo: You might not have heard of this woman, but she is the reason I’m doing this post. Seven days ago, she was sworn in as a judge in New York. She wore a headscarf, because she is Muslim and she was sworn in on the Qur’an. Now, none of this even really seems like anything out of the ordinary. But the amount of hate mail she received for being sworn in on the Qur’an is astounding. This woman vowed to uphold the law, as she has done her entire career. She is an upstanding citizen who was voted into office. I came across this story in my FaceBook news feed because of how many ignorant people are accessing social media to tear her down. You are permitted to swear into office on any holy book and even the constitution of the United States. She has done nothing above and beyond the average expectations I have for a law abiding citizen, but she is my candidate for a role model for the simple fact that she stuck by her faith, even when people threatened her and heckled her about it. She stayed true to herself, even though that path offered great resistance.

  Adele: Let me say that I am a huge fan of Adele. Her voice is so beautiful, and she’s gorgeous. She’s not stick thin, and I love her for it. She says what’s on her mind and once again, stays true to herself. She took time from her career to take care of her baby. We’re almost the same age and that means a great deal to me. Why, you ask? Because she’s proving that not all 20 year olds and 20-somethings are wild and crazy and awful. She’s a credit to our age group. She even works at a record shop. Her flaws? She’ so soulful in her music that she really only sings sad songs. Which isn’t like a huge flaw, but I don’t associate anything other than sad love songs and break up songs with her. 

  Angelina Jolie-Pitt: Did this one take you by surprise? I really thought that this spot would be occupied by many other people, and indeed it could have been, but there are lots of women who could have taken this spot who simply aren’t as well known. And while you are all entitled to have your own individual role modes, for the purposes of this blog, I needed someone visible. She adopts underprivileged kids, she works with charities and organizations, speaks on behalf of underprivileged people to the UN. And on top of that, she preventatively had a mastectomy so that she didn’t have to worry about breast cancer. I mean, that sounds like a very personal thing and she’s known for her body. I remember a lot of people were upset at her for taking charge of her own body, and that is why I commend her for doing it. She did what she had to do so that she could live her life to the fullest. Also in this spot, Emma Watson for similar reasons. 

  

  Molly Hooper/Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I told you I would bring in some fictitious characters. I chose one from my younger adult life and one from my current adult life. So I will start with Buffy. She was a kick-ass teenager who saved the world a lot. And the thing is, that was badk when TV series were filmed with people who looked like teenagers playing teenagers, and incorporated flaws and diversity of character types. Buffy had an attitude, she was impatient and made mistakes. She needed help and asked for it, she complained about life and then grew up and made sacrifices. She represented real teenage life, apart from vampire hunting. And her friends were just as painfully realistic. But they all had a moral code and they represent a lovely era of beautiful story telling.

   Molly Hooper. I have great aspirations to be Molly Hooper. For those of you who do not know who Molly Hooper is, allow me to tell you. The BBC produces a show called Sherlock, based off of Sherlock Homesfrom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the BBC version, there is a medical examiner by the name of Molly Hooper.  She has an enormous crush on Sherlock, does everything dignified she can to get him to notice her including buy him a present at Christmas. He’s rude about it and she calls him out on his bad behavior. Later in the series, she also tells him he’s throwing away his gifts and that he should apologize for various actions. Sherlock comes to respect her. And she didn’t change herself. She stayed true to her personality and persona, all while being a valuable asset to a team. Honestly, I know that this is all fiction, but really, if I were ever to model myself after someone who never existed in real life, it would be Molly Hooper. If you haven’t watched Sherlock, I HIGHLY recommend it. I can discuss all manner of theories with you. I’m a true and devoted CumberCookie and Sherlockian.

Anyway, this has been my short list about female role models in modern society. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. 

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The One With All The Problems

I’ve been trying to come up with a blog that isn’t preachy or condescending or depressing or overly critical, and I’ve come short almost every time. I know that my interests and passions are not those of others, and I respect that there are people out there with different opinions. I try to be understanding and accommodating of those differences. We all have different backgrounds, different vantage points and different futures. Each of them is valid and it is something of a marvel, truly. 

And then I remembered that this is my blog, and if I want to complain or preach or whatever else it is that I so choose, I can. I do not live in a country where I feel the need to be afraid of my words and ideas, and for that I will always be thankful. And it is with that in mind, that I would like to engage in a soapbox rant. But first, a little side note: I chose the title, because I’ve been binge watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. in my spare time (when I have some) and I have a little bit of a nostaliga problem. Anyway.

If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you claim to be an adult, act like it. If you live in the apartment below ours and you feel like having a party in the middle of the night in the middle of the week, grow up!

But I guess that’s all besides the point, isn’t it? I mean, my real frustration right now isn’t necessarily the lack of responsibility shown by a lot of people, it’s the general lack of respect and common decency.

My parents were not perfect, are not perfect. But I know that. And as an adult, I know that they gave it their very best, every day. But the one thing I am exceptionally grateful for is the fact that no matter what they tried to teach me (I was a stubborn child), the lesson that stuck was respect. So naturally, growing up in a small town, with small town values and settings and friends, I grew a little too fond of the way we all knew each other’s parents and values. Some got a little rebellious, and that, I suppose you could say happens. There are also the people from that small town who never understood what it meant to be considerate and respectful.

I’m not perfect, and I will always be the very first person to admit that. The stubborn streak I had as a child, it only grew and with it, little spurts of anger accompanied by a large amount of ranting. But I know that when someone asks me to keep a secret, I do. When someone needs a hand, I lend one. When someone needs an ear to bend, a kind word or a healthy dose of reality, I am there 100%. Sometimes I need those things too. But I’ve found that outside of some of those lasting friendships I made in the small town I grew up in, not too many people understand that.

It’s all take and no give. And I can’t seem to wrap my head around that. 

 You see, the thing is that of all the things I listed up top about “understanding”, not having a code of conduct which follows a general “Don’t be a dick.” guidelines doesn’t make sense to me. How is it that you cannot seem to understnad that being an adult means being responsible, but also so much more than that. It means understanding that you aren’t the only person in the whole wide world who matters. It means working toward a compromise instead of calling in someone older or bigger than you to solve your problems for you. It means helping out, even when you think you are better than the task at hand (In which case you NEED to be helping out). Being an adult was never about a show for power-that’s being a child. Being an adult means taking the hard way every time so that you will be refined into a success story.

I also don’t understand people who leech off of their parents even though they are “adults”. My parents, whom I love, were not exceptionally wealthy while I was growing up. They worked hard for everything we had, and I saw that. I may not have always understood, but I do now. When I was an only child, I remember Christmases where presents stacked almost higher than the tree. When I turned 4, my brother had just been born and I was still well-gifted. By the time I was 8, my sister had been born, and there was a slight change in Christmas. By the time my brother and I were teenagers, Christmas was more intimate, more family oriented. And you know what? I knew at the age of 15 that my parents were working harder than ever to make sure we had everything we needed, let alone what we wanted. I understood. 

And when I went to college, I moved out on my own. I understood why life was so hard. Money comes from 16 hour shifts three days in a row, followed by a full day of classes, homework and then more work. It doesn’t just appear, it (like respect) has to be earned. When someone who didn’t understand that got in between my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and I from moving to a new apartment, I spent my  21st and 22nd birthdays back with my parents. It just so happened that my husband and I needed to move closer to campus and found two other college students who did as well and we all became roommates.

I’ve met people since then who need their parents for just one thing-money. They go out to eat every day, buy things they don’t need and have no time for, waste resources that could be conserved. I watch people, you see. And it greatly influences my perception on the world. Or maybe it just increases how confused I am by it. And there continues to be more confusion.

I spent my first year of undergrad thinking I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist. I had the grades, the study habits and the desire. A year later, I thought I wanted to be a nurse, because that was who I felt would help the most people. A year later, I settled into anthropology. I didn’t pick it for the fame or the recognition or the reasons I wanted to be a doctor or nurse. I picked it because, well, it picked me. And now, I get to look at cultures-but more specifically, I get to look at religious hate crimes and religious extremism (as well as the occult and all things mythological and religion based).

But why am I telling you all this? Because I have come across quite a few kinds of people in my short time on this planet, and I have only ever found three types I didn’t understand.

1. The ones who don’t know how to respect someone else, have some decency and responsibilty.

2. The ones who use thier parents for money, and cannot stand on their own.

3. The ones who are so filled with hate that they cannot fathom each other as equals.

When I look around, I see huan beings, filled with potential, open to the world. And it hurts my heart to see people hate so much that they do not see it too. It hurts my heart that there are people who only look out for themselves, their own best interests. I don’t understand, and I feel like maybe that’s okay.

  

I’ll Never Be

I’ll never be good enough, will I?

Excessive demands around every turn,

Lies that we all tell 

But noone believes.

I’ll never live up to the bar, will I?

The one I set so very high

All starry eyed, 

Looking for that hint of perfection.

I’ll never be perfect, will I?

The way you thought I should be,

The way I should look, or behave, or think

But I don’t.

I’ll never be that girl, will I?

The one with her life together, 

Making strategic moves to get ahead,

Even at the cost of others.

I’ll never be so lifeless, will I?

That when all is said and done,

You’ve lost the me that I’d always bee,

That I always wanted to be.

I’ll never be far away, will I?

Just below the surface of the one

Who was forcefed all the bullshit excuses

About why I could never fit in.

I’ll never be the winner, will I?

Making my way across a size zero, plastic stage

With crimson grimaces in place of 

Raw emotion.

I’ll never be a work of art, will I?

The pristine capture of a timeless tragedy,

Wraught in crisp jackets and perfect makeup

Like a mannequin.

I’ll never be like them, will I?

The ones who think that the only thing that matters

Is the size and color of the skin I wear

Like a toy in a skeeball game.

I’ll never actually care about those things, will I?

I’d neer forgive myself for being a carbon copy

Of the unnecessary lies told by everyone else

When all the world ever needed was someone who told the truth.

But that’s never been my strong point.

So maybe you were wrong.

And the truth was something you murdered a long time ago.

I never gave up.

You did.

You gave up listening, seeing, believing in the truth.

You gave up unconditional love for the immitation.

You gave up looking at the heart inside, didn’t you?

But don’t worry, so did they.

And when they buried me in artificial waste, 

They didn’t know:

I was a seed.

  

You Got Me There

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Today is the day that I come out of my shell once more, and tell you all about a subject that I believe needs more sincere attention. It is National Bipolar Awareness Day. I have some helpful infographics here for you all, and I think that Ineed to be the change I want to see in the world, so I’m going to discuss why YOU and I and EVERYONE needs to start talking about mental health.

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5.7 million Americans. “There are 321,271,372 people in the United States of America.” according to howmanyofme.com and that means that there are roughly 2% of Americans (1.77%) living with this disease. Comparatively, there are  10 times as many people who simply live with some mental illness diagnosis. Since this day is dedicated to Bipolar Disorder, I will focus thusly. (These numbers all change depending on where your sources are and who actually did the research, so keep that in mind. These are “low” estimates.)

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So what IS Bipolar Disorder?

I can promise you that it is NOT a crutch. People who live with this disorder are not seeking attention because they have very little else to do-it is a chemical imbalance in the brain.

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Sound like fun, right?

It isn’t. There are moments when you feel like you are invincible. You can go for days, live life freely. And then comes the crash-the moment when life isn’t your oyster, it’s your cage and you’re running out of oxygen. And there’s more than one kind. There are more than 2 kinds. But the 2 which everyone seems to be “familiar” with are:

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So what can we do to help?

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All in all, having a mental illness is not much different than having a physical one-because as a human, we are both the mental and the physical. You see, there are not too many people who would go to a cancer survivor and tell them to “get over themselves”, but there are plenty of people who passionately do that to someone with a mental illness. It’s time to change these stigmas and reclaim healthy lives.

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Passion Will Get You Places

The biggest change I’ve made this year is accepting and embracing the passion which makes me tick. And because I’m a passionate kind of person, here’s some things that I’m sure you all wanted to know I advocate for. This list isn’t complete, but I’m well on my way to changing the world.
Things (and people) that I advocate for:

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-Rape victims and domestic violence victims: they need help, not judgment
-Equality and Equal Rights: Treat people like people
-Feminism: As a woman, I am equal-not superior and not inferior
-Literacy and Reading: It’s the most powerful tool we have
-Mental Health and Care: End the stigmas
-The Right to Choose Your Life: Be an individual, don’t force others to live according to your beliefs
-Environmental Rights: we only get one earth
-Animal Conservation (but NOT holing them for entertainment purposes): each creature is vital to the cycle of life
-Eating Disorder Recovery: again, help not judgment
-Suicide Survivors (and those contemplating): These individuals need hope, as much as help
-Artists: they see the world as beautiful and share it
-STEAM not STEM: Art is a vital part of science, as science is of art
-Religious Rights (and not just Christian): your way isn’t the only way
-Herbalism and Nature Appreciation: the earth is our mother, she supplies loads of good stuff
-Vegetarians and Vegans who don’t hate on Omnivores and vice versa: this goes back to the “you don’t decide how I live my life”
-Well-Informed Decision Makers: because ignorance flatters no one
-Culture Diversity: Because each individual makes up a glorious place in the world, and we need these differences in order to thrive.
So now you know!

I’ll See You Tomorrow

It is this day.

Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day.

Before I get into what I have to say, I want to focus on you. You who are downtrodden, broken and hurting. You who have traveled and fought and muddled your way through the vast recesses of your mind only to find darkness, fear and loneliness.

You don’t have to be alone. You aren’t alone. And you don’t have to be afraid. We are here.Brain Hands

As I sat through class today (anthropological theory) we touched on Emile Durkheim. He was one of the first people to really study suicide and the reasons why someone would take that option. The professor looked around and asked “Is it today or tomorrow?” Knowing what she was referring to, I told her it was today, voice hushed and reverent. The words which came out of her mouth next will stick with me for the rest of my life. She said:

“I’m not going to tell you it will get better. That’s bullshit. What I will tell you is that you’re not alone. That’s the truth.”

Bipolar 2

I saw a tumblr blog (I believe) which said something like:

Today my anthro professor said something kind of really beautiful: “You all have a little bit of ‘I want to save the world in you’, that’s why you’re here, in college. I want you to know that it’s okay if you only save one person, and it’s okay if that person is you.” I feel like a few people I know could stand to read this.

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Now, firstly, as an anthro student, I’m excited we all have professors who just “get it”.

Anyway. The people at TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms) have a theme for today, which is conveniently located in my title. I want to tell you where that came from. This was taken from the email I received.

“Above all else, we choose to stay. We choose to fight the darkness and the sadness, to fight the questions and the lies and the myth of all that’s missing. We choose to stay, because we are stories still going. Because there is still some time for things to turn around, time for surprises and for change. We stay because no one else can play our part. Life is worth living. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

Bipolar 3

I know you are all carrying about your day and you’ve got a hundred thousand things on your mind. But remember this: At some point, your actions could have been the one thing making someone hold on when they felt like there was nothing left for them.

I was a freshman the first time I wanted to die. I was a little overweight, I felt the pressures of the expectations others had for me a little too greatly and I had excessive expectations for myself. But the thing is, no one told me that it was okay to be afraid and to let go of the things which were holding me back. No one told me that at the end of the day, it didn’t matter what society told me was needed from me. All I needed to hear was that I wasn’t alone: that I was loved and that there was hope. But then again, I’m not even sure I would have listened. Sometimes depression sucks that way.

Starry NIght

I carved the words “hope” and “love” on the insides of my forearms with razor blades. I had cut slices into my thighs. I had taken pills. The kind that when you take too many, bad things happen (like death). I took a LOT. I expected that in the end, someone would be glad that they didn’t have to clean up my blood, that they wouldn’t have to do much to make me look like I was sleeping. Inside, I was a scared little girl who had been pushed too far, had cried too much.

And then I threw up. I threw everything up and I kept on heaving. I tried and I tried to empty my stomach, empty my heart of feelings, empty myself until there was nothing left to hurt. And what I was left with was the quiet void of someone who felt a little too much and couldn’t go any further.

Into therapy I went, and if you look at the me who types here today, you can see that there are still some moments when the little empty shell pops out, waiting for a moment of your time. You can see the hurt and the pain which emptied me out all those years ago. But you can also see the me that faces my fears every single day. That pushes my boundaries and tries even when that little shell comes out. The little girl looks up at me with hope and love, kissing the scar tissue that remains on my skin.

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The thing is, no one gave me a reason to live, so I thought that that was a reason to die. But then I found out the most honest, sincere truth I’ve ever learned:

When I found no one to give me a reason, I gave myself the chance. I had to learn how to give myself love, how to open up a beacon of hope for myself.

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And here I sit, in my pajamas after a long day of class, drinking sweet tea and eating some zucchini thinking back on that dark time in my life, reflecting on the words of the two anthropology professors.

It isn’t that life stays bad forever. You just have to learn to see the good even when no one turns on the light.

So, my dear world, I would like to thank you all for existing. And I want you to know that I look forward to seeing each and every one of you tomorrow.

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I’ll Follow You Into The Dark

Public perception and stigma. (Yep. I’m taking a break from the mental health blogging to bring you an insight on something else I’m big on.)

I’m writing today to bring attention to the saddest bits of information which have become public.

Why is it that children who have two parents are treated differently than those with one? Or with non-biological parents?

Why is it that children who have parents of different “races” are treated differently than those with similar?

Why is it that children with two gendered parents are treated differently than those with two parents of the same gender?

Why is it that children who do not look like others are treated differently than those who look like everyone else?

Why is it that children who practice one religion are treated differently than those who practice a different one?

Why is it that children who dress one way are treated differently than those who dress differently?

Why is it that children are taught to conform to gender roles instead of embracing whatever roles they wish?

Why is it that children with non-hetero preferences are treated differently than those who are heterosexual?

Why is it that children with mental illnesses are treated differently than those with physical illnesses?

Why is it that children are pressured to conform to standards set much too high for their own good?

Why is it that we, as adults, do not foster beliefs that individuality and imperfection are the qualities which matter not only in life, but as a way to keep ourselves alive. Being different is not a curse, nor is it a negative thing. Being different is what makes us special, what gives us a chance to be who we were meant to be.

And the thing is, it isn’t just children that we treat differently. It’s ourselves too. We shame others, we shame ourselves. We need to realize that the only one who hurts when we give into these stigmas isn’t “one” it’s “every” one.

So instead of watching people commit suicide because they are bullied, instead of judging those we deem differently than ourselves, instead of forcing everyone to be replicas of us-celebrate the diversity and the uniqueness of all those around you. Celebrate the you that you wanted to be, not the you that you felt pressured into.