May 31, 2014

a year later

I haven't written here in over a year.  I'd forgotten my compulsion to write into an empty, mostly confidential space.  But something about being back in this corner of my bedroom, blue walls and blue emotions, makes me want to talk into the only place I know will listen: the blank expanse of white on my computer screen.

The computer screen doesn't have its own perceptions of me and what I should be, so it can't be mad at me for not being something.  I can't hurt it and it can't hurt me.  I can't disappoint it with my weakness or anger it with my strength.  I can just what I feel.

I no longer feel like I can say what I feel to anybody.  Granted, what I feel is a rabbit hole of shitty emotions and I understand why nobody wants to hear them.  But I have to get them out of me sometimes or they will just slowly rot at my insides until I can't take it anymore.

I'd somehow forgotten that I can't rely on people to help me feel better.  They only let you down. They have all their own problems and can't see around them, just like I can't see around mine.  But I also forgot I could just write.  It feels good already just to write it down, get it out, and not do any damage that makes me feel worse and pushes people I care about away from me.

I don't know why I'm so unhappy right now.  Objectively, I should be happier than I've ever been, but I'm the most miserable.  Maybe it's because all my moments of happiness are followed up shortly by being scared of losing it all. 

I'm constantly scared of losing it all: losing what remains of my relationship with my parents, losing the friendships I've managed to maintain this long, losing any pride in my meager academic accomplishments, losing any hopes of a career I respect myself for earning, and most of all, losing the person I love most in the world to my depression or to the allure of a fancier life without me. 

I have never been so deeply sad because I've never found it so hard to hope.  I'm just scared all the time.  I can't sleep.  I don't know how to get through it; I just keep hoping it will pass.

It would be better if I didn't feel so alone, but I am and I do.  But at least I can write.

May 3, 2013


The end of semesters always want to make me cling violently to my youth.

I had an internship interview a couple of days ago, and the sight of my resume printed out and stuck in the front of an official-looking binder freaked me out.  It looked so adult, so important.  I typed out that resume kicked back in my dorm room desk chair surrounded by my ubiquitous clutter, including two not-yet-washed shot glasses, a family of stuffed chickens, and a half-eaten Christmas candy cane container of Reeses Pieces.  These things shouldn't coincide in a world with my resume in the front of an official binder, and questions like "where do you want to be in five years?"

I went to the newly admitted student reception at the journalism school.  Three huge television screens scrolled pictures of accomplished alumni on an endless loop of intimidation: New York Times reporters, MSNBC employees, the guy who invented Hulu.  This was the back drop for the dean's inspiring speech about how the answer to people's endless questions about the gloomy future of journalism is us.  The fresh-faced college undergraduates eating catered dining hall cookies and hot lemonade will decide the future of an entire industry because we are going to become the best of the best.  Us. Me.

Me with my socks that never match, my clothes that never fit quite right, my hair that never lays down properly.  Me with unevenly applied make-up and papers that are always crinkled up from being squished in my unorganized bookbag.  Me that frequently eats waffle fries, pickles, and corn bread for dinner. Me that has gone to class an hour early on accident so much that my friends call messing up the time of something a "Samantha." 

How am I supposed to "network"?  I'm going to have to squish my over-sized right foot into an acceptable high heel (damn it, society/patriarchy/shoe companies), pay a million dollars to get a suit tailored to my stumpy legs, find a product to smooth my hair even on rainy days, and buy a brief case that doesn't have a cat on it.  I'm going to have to learn how to small talk and how to swallow my feminist rage rants and Republican rage rants; I'm going to have to learn to talk about the weather and Current Events From Major Media Perspectives with patronizing old guys.  I'm going to have to learn how to sip wine without gagging or commenting about how it tastes like stale Wonderbread or spilling it on my $300, tailored suit skirt. All so I can spend five minutes impressing some random person with my facade of put-togetherness, so they'll give me a chance to have to prove myself all over again.

I can't help but wonder if adulthood is worth it, as if it's optional.  All these visits to University Career Services are giving me the hives.  And they aren't really helpful. They tell me how to google job opportunities. If there's one thing is this world I feel perfectly competent at, it's googling.  What they don't tell me is how not to throw up my unhealthy breakfast in the workplace because I'm so afraid of failing at being an adult.  They don't teach how to time when  you stand up as an important person enters the room to shake his or her hand so that you don't awkwardly stand too long while they walk toward you or too soon so it looks like an afterthought.  They don't teach you how to stop interjecting "like" into your everyday speech or how to keep your mascara from bleeding onto the piles of concealer you put under your eyes to cover up the bags, making you look like you have black eyes instead. They don't teach you what kinds of questions are appropriate when the interviewer asks if you have any questions.

Basically, I'm not very good at selling myself and that's all adulthood is.  All I want to do is pay my rent. Why do I have to invent a persona to do it? 

Apr 1, 2013


I love the period after you finish a book and nothing taints it in your mind.  All that exists is a conversation between the text and your brain.  There's no livid rants from goodreads pointing out everything that's wrong, no tumblr fan art telling you what all the scenes and characters look like, no jstor articles sucking all the beauty out by analyzing the author's unresolved daddy issues hovering between the lines.  It's a brief moment, between when my eyes fall off the last page and covers of the book make a satisfying sound as they smack back together and when I tell my friend I read it or log on to the internet that everything is perfect in that book's little world.

I love the fleeting but endlessly breathtaking moments when a small, unspoken piece of your life is represented on the page, born of somebody else's brain a million miles or years away, but they've captured a part of you that you irrationally thought was only yours. I read the sentence, pause for a moment while it sinks in. I try to read the next lines but those few just capture my brain, which abandons my eyes as they scan mechanically down the page all alone. I can't keep reading until I greedily write the quote in my little yellow notebook, hoping as the words flow from the pen back up into my arm and into my head that a little piece of that greatness is in me, just for that fleeting moment.  We're connected.

I love the way books look all lined up on a shelf.  They are so patient, standing at attention, proudly bearing their titles.  They remind me of houses all quiet in a subdivision at night.  They're still and unobtrusive on the outside, neat and tidy in a row.  But you can see a hint of activity through the windows, a tv flashing, kids running by, signs of life.  But you can't really know what complex reality stirs on the inside unless you go up and knock on the door.  You pass by a hundred houses easy in a day, never knowing what you're missing inside each one.

These things can never be taken away from me, no matter what I study, no matter what I do for a living.  I love books, and I always will, and I always can.  They aren't going anywhere.  I can always read. I need to hang on to that, remember that.  All the times I've spent up all night reading, all the times I've retreated in a book when I'm upset or sad or nervous, all the time I've spent puzzling out character motivations, envisioning settings, and existing in fictional worlds. Even all the time I spent arguing about hypothetical situations in hopes of shedding a bit of light on the tiniest bits of humanity.  None of it is in vain because it's all mine.

Mar 19, 2013

I Want

Since I've abandoned the life plans that previously kept me tethered to the ground,  I've been floating around in the sky like a balloon some little kid let go at a birthday party.  Whatever direction the wind blows me, I go, narrowly avoiding trees and power lines along the way.  Eventually, I'll hit the atmosphere and pop, and now I'm just living in perpetual dread of that day.

The grand plans are hopeless. They're too big for me to imagine, much less obtain.  So maybe I should shift my focus.  What do I want for my life on a small scale

I want to have a job that makes me feel like it actually matters whether I roll out of bed in the morning or not, as cliche as that sounds.  It seems like the worst thing in the world to me that I could have a job that contributes nothing, a replaceable cog on an assembly line.  I want to fill up the position I have with all of me; I want to leave some kind of mark. I want people to know me by my first name first and my job title second.  I want to utilize my meager talents and apply them to a cause that in my heart I know is beneficial.  Generally, this means writing and literature or education because that is what I think is most beautiful and perfect in this world.  To disconnect myself from it feels like unplugging my own life support.

I don't much care about the money.  I would like to have money, though.  Money enough to buy subscriptions to The New Yorker and Rolling Stone.  Enough to spoil a cat and take him or her to the vet too much and buy an unnecessarily luxurious scratching post and the name-brand kind of cat food and treats.  Enough to have a lot of tv channels and NBA League Pass and NFL Sunday Ticket.  I'm very selective with my luxuries--cats, sports, reading material--but I'm very attached to the ones I'm accustomed to.  But they pale in comparison to the cost of being happy in my work.

But perhaps if my job must suck and I must be poor, I could make up for it with a good family.  A good husband.  A man who I believe when he compliments me.   A man who appreciates low brow and high brow pleasures equally, without too much discretion.  Who doesn't give me that itchy, uncomfortable, "must run" feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Who makes me feel like a whole person, not just a body and not just an amusement or accomplishment and not just somebody to tell his friends about for some false validation.  Who doesn't make anti-feminist jokes not out of fear of my disapproval but because he just doesn't.  Who never make decisions based on my disapproval.  And who weaves himself into my little family without much ruffling and doesn't make my dad get all stiff and awkward and doesn't mind my mom's occasionally racist comments.  And who doesn't care that I'll never look very impressive on his arm, because my hair is frizzed out or my clothes look like a librarian's or that I'm not good at putting on make-up.

I want a few good friends who love me and know me and can talk for hours without doing much else.  I want to always feel the urge to write beautiful sentences in my little yellow notebook.  I want to always care as passionately about the world as I do now.  I want to travel, even if I have to always stay in hostels.  I want to stay up late occasionally and experience the solitary hours while the world sleeps and  I want to mourn each season as it's about to pass and I want to always notice the feeling of walking out of a cold air conditioned building into the warm sunshine.

I don't want to be full of regrets, even though I'm probably already about one forth full.  I want to look back on this rant in thirty years and smile instead of cry.

Feb 26, 2013

I Stand With Justice

I can't stand it anymore.  I have to post this somewhere. I have to get all these thoughts off my chest.

This "Stand with Landen" thing at my university is growing widely out of control.  Everybody needs to calm the hell down.

First of all, sometimes I want to obliterate the idea of retweeting and sharing and all the click-and-the-whole-world-knows functions on the internet.  Yes, they're great when you're sharing an amusing grumpy cat meme, but when you think you're propagating a social movement when actually you're mindlessly pretending to stand up for a cause, it becomes a very bad thing.

Suddenly everyone is ashamed and disgusted by this rapid rape culture at UNC.  This is obscene.  UNC doesn't have more rape culture than anyone else. I do wholeheartedly agree with changing rape culture, but pinning the entire issue to this insane case is not the way to eliminate rape culture. It's just a way for a million facebook users and UNC students who don't even read the Daily Tar Heel to pretend they're fixing UNC.  People like to get up in arms over stuff, especially when they have no idea what they're talking about.

That's the problem. NOBODY knows what they're talking about.  The contents of the honor court hearing are sealed.  Nobody, besides Landen herself and the people in the court, know what happened that day. Of course, we have Landen's version of events spewed all over the media.  While her accusations should be taken seriously, they should not be treated as the gospel.  She is one person, and she is hardly objective (understandably) in this matter.

I just want somebody to step back and look at this.  Why are we assuming the UNC administrators are trying to ally themselves with rapists?  Why can't we give them the same complete trust we're giving Landen?  Why can't we assume everybody is doing their best?  Or at least assume everyone is doing their worst?  This isn't black and white, good versus evil, honor court vs little girls.

What if there actually wasn't enough information to convict the guy accused of rape?  You can't convict people of rape lightly!  Nobody knows why the honor court made that decision, so nobody should assume it was wrong. 

The media keeps reporting that UNC is going to expell this student for saying she was raped. THAT IS NOT TRUE.  She received a form letter stating that she was being accused of an honor code violation, the same letter everyone gets when accused, that says that expulsion is possible because expulsion is always possible when facing charges.  She HAS not been formly convicted of those charges, and is not anywhere close to being expelled.  UNC IS NOT EXPELLING RAPE VICTIMS TO PRETEND RAPE DOESN'T HAPPEN.  Landen has made it very clear that her ex-boyfriend, who many friends and acquaintances surely know she dated while at UNC, still lives on campus. He can VERY EASILY be identified. So the fact that she has not formally identified him does not mean that he has not been harassed.  He was never convicted of raping her.  He has not lost the privilege to attend this university.  There is some validity to those charges.  I think it was unwise to level them anyway, but what is done is done.

I believe in the power of students to make positive and lasting change in their universities. But they need to make informed, rational decisions.  Sticking the entire student body's nose into something they don't have the information to properly understand is not productive.  UNC deserves a lot of the bad press it gets, but this is not one of the reasons.

I'm sorry if Landen was abused and raped.  I'm sorry if the honor court has failed her.  But this was not the proper way to handle the situation.

The real fix here is for the university to let the real court system handle sexual abuse cases.  The university should continue to Haven and OneAct train its students to properly deal with this when the behavior is exhibited.  If a student close to Landen and her ex-boyfriend had been able to identify the signs of an abusive relationship while these events unfolded, maybe it could have been prevented in the first place. If Landen had the resources to deal with her mental issues, maybe she would have been able to leave a toxic situation before it became criminal. 

Maybe everyone needs to worry about the real cause of problems instead of becoming facebook activists. I don't know more about this situation than anyone else. I just want people to act according to their ignorance and not baseless assumptions.

I want to believe in my university and I want to believe there is justice in the world, and I want to believe there are better ways to achieve it.

Feb 11, 2013

50 Years

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Sylvia Plath's suicide.

I've been calling Sylvia my favorite writer for years now.  People who aren't English majors return the name with blank stares, and English majors look a little concerned, especially if I footnote it with "Viginia Woolf."

But I can't help it; I just love the crazy ladies.  There's something so completely honest and brave about their writing.  Their deeply introspective melacholy just rings so true.  Though fifty years seperate me and Sylvia, Sylvia and thousands of people like me, her words still have the power to pierce me through the heart, to tie up exactly how I feel, to put into words those misty foggy feelings that are so hard to capture.

I don't find it so alarming that I can relate to Sylvia.  I'm not clinically depressed, but I do have a tendency toward melancholy, and sometimes that makes me feel utterly alone.  Nobody cares enough to listen to my spiraling thoughts of sadness, and I don't really expect them to because such things are inherently illogical, so I just end up being lonely.  Somebody else can't really understand the throught process because it's not rooted in any of kind of transmutable logic. 

Though I understand that intellectually, I can't help but want to tell somebody about it.  But the words don't seem as important out of my mouth as they do in my head, and people don't care, so I just end up feeling worse after. 

I think a similar compulsion spurred Sylvia to write so much: a huge mass of journals, tons of poems, scraps of novels, and one beautiful gem of a complete novel.  There are all shades of the same kind of sad introspection, attempts to feel the emptiness.  A place to talk where nobody had to listen.

But we are listening to her now.  She's given me so much, including peace of mind.  It seems wrong that somebody who stuck her head in an oven can provide peace of mind, but she does.  There are Sylvia quotes written all over my life, both physically and mentally.  A little companionship, even with a dead author from fifty years ago, can go a long way.  I wouldn't be leading the life I lead if I didn't believe in the power of written word, and Sylvia personifies that power for me in a very real way.

I'm so glad I picked up The Bell Jar because it was on sale at Barnes and Noble however many years ago.  I hope one day I can write something, even if it's just a page, that echos with the transcendent, cerebral, relatable, and beautiful words Sylvia gave to us.

Dec 20, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

I was afraid I'd be disappointed with J.K. Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy.  After all, the vacancy Harry Potter left in my reading soul was anything but casual.  I was afraid my beloved Jo would be a one-hit wonder, capable of only masterfully painting one great world, unable to inhabit the real one with the same thoughtful care and attention.

And I was disappointed, but not by Jo Rowling.  If anybody else had written The Casual Vacancy, I'm not sure the critics would be quite so lukewarm about it.  I was excited when I finally finished reading it, after delaying for months due to school.  After I stayed up til three in the morning, enthralled by the ending (much in the fashion I've read many of my favorite books, including Harry Potter), I happily cued up the episode of Mugglecast where they talked about the book.

None of them even finished it.  I was dismayed.  But I understood, since it wasn't as immediately spellbinding captivating as Harry Potter.  I decided to give them a few more minutes to redeem themselves.  Then one of the hosts said "I just don't think this story is one that needs to be told."

THE STORY DIDN'T NEED TO BE TOLD?  I couldn't disagree more. First of all, these people clearly don't know how to read a book that isn't dressed up in wizarding robes or vampire fangs.  Second, they don't realize that when they're reading about magic, they're reading about disguised real life.  If you want to criticize Rowling for The Casual Vacancy, you could criticize her for writing a book with virtually the same themes!   If you don't think The Casual Vacancy is a story that needs to be told, then you don't think Harry Potter is either. 

Both books are divided into an (almost overly simplistic) world of class warfare.  The Mollisons and the Malfoys, the Wheedons and the Weasleys (look, Jo even set up that alliteration for me).  They're about the struggles of adolescence (we all know that Ron was thinking the same things Andrew Price thinks about Gaia while he's looking at Hermione, we just don't read that part of the story).  They're about doing what is right even if it's not the most convenient or appealing option for yourself.  Only this time, there's no magic to save anyone.   The Casual Vacancy really is Harry Potter all grown up.

And the fans don't like it.  We're grown up too, and everyone was hoping that Jo's new book would be a swift return back into the fantasy of childhood.  Instead, she delivered a sobering dose of reality.  The characters and problems in The Casual Vacancy are so real it's painful to read in parts.  Not painful like "how sad is it that Harry's an orphan?" but "how sad is it that I'm implicit in this world of gross injustice?"  The second is the more important, real, and adult question. 

Literature is supposed to make you squeam, tear your heart out, pierce your soul, call you to action.  If The Casual Vacancy did none of this for you, then you're not reading it right.  You're looking for an escape, not a good novel.  Jo wanted to grow up her image, and she definitely succeeded.  She did so not through the vulgar language and sex scenes in her new novel, but through stripping the magic away and unveiling the harsh reality of the real world.  Grow up, Harry Potter fans.  Hogwarts may always be there to welcome you home, but in the meantime, figure out what really matters.