Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

With the coming of the new year, it's time to bid this year goodbye. We say goodbye to the various news stories of the year and a few fads. For some people, the coming of the new year can mean the coming and going of various times/things in their life (including myself) . Some things, of course, remain constant including our crappy economy and the beauty of high school [insert comment here]. 2011 has been an interesting year for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways. and I have mixed feelings about seeing it go.
This year has been a roller coaster for me. It started on a rather down note, I'll admit and as of January 2011, I was a very unhappy eighth grade girl with low self-esteem and a best friend in the high school. That, fortunately, changed. As of the end, I am now a happy freshman who is able to be fulfilled mentally and emotionally in a high school setting (much to my surprise) and has a decent amount of friends (most of which go to my school).

I have to admit I had a lot of milestones. I went to high school for the first time, got published in Teen Ink, started a blog, got interested in some stupid celebrity case for the first time (the Casey Anthony trial), got involved in my first debate... I'm sure that there are even some more important ones that I'm leaving out here too.

It's been a great year for a lot of other countries too, especially those in the Middle East. A lot of ugly dictators were brought down in Arab Spring and, telling from the uprisings in Syria, may still be brought down. For this country... Eh, not so much. We're technically out of a recession and Wall Street is doing well but for the majority of Americans? Well. Not so much. With the quelling of Occupy Wall Street by the government and the media (a movement they totally misrepresented, I suspect), any change in the system is probably not going to happen.

I suspect that by now people are quite upset about the resolutions that never ended up being fulfilled, resolutions that will probably become this year's resolution. My three resolutions are to finish The Face Behind the Mirror, the novel I've been working on forever, finish that goal of losing ten pound since I started exercising (I've lost seven) and make some more friends (also, maybe a boyfriend would be nice though I don't have the best feeling about that). I also hope (not sure if this counts as a resolution) that I continue to challenge things, take risks that I'm scared as hell to take and to live life to the fullest.
Of course, I'll be kind of sad to see this go and a little scared to venture into slightly new territory. Yet what can I do?

This year will bring forth a lot of opportunities, as the beginning of all things bring. Hopefully the majority of people take advantage of those opportunities and don't just let another year pass by hoping for something they need to put the incentive in. Hopefully, I will be a part of that majority and not a part of some sad excuse of people.

Also, let's hope to I get in my New Year's resolutions and a bunch of awesome things in before the world ends (just like my oh-so-humble-and-super-intelligent sister says will) next December.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bursts of Creativity

They happen on the good days, good periods of time when our muses are free and our fingers eagerly tap on the keyboard to capture it all. Bursts of creativity. I imagine that the average non-writer imagines that these are quite common with us writers, us creative people.Of course, life writing isn't always that easy and can be incredibly frustrating.

I've been in a good patch for a long time now. I've been generating a lot of ideas both in my prose and poetry pieces, leaving me scrambling to write them all down. I haven't been stuck for a while, which always leaves me running to come back to it. I almost feel that this means I'll hit a dry spell soon so I'm trying to suck all this up while I can.

In the good writing life, I can write and write and write without being interrupted. If one idea isn't working out, I can jump to my next piece. This means that I can fulfill my writing deadline for the day (at least two pages on Word) fairly well. Bursts of creativity leave me eager to come back and thirsting for words more than I usually do.

Of course, even the good writing life- life in this creative stage- can have its downsides. It often means a great increase of ideas, ideas that I am not always equipped to handle (such as greatly involved ones or ones that involve a great deal of research). In addition, it can also mean that I cannot possibly write so many of them at once, leaving me to prioritize. I also have to go days at a time without even touching one. As ridiculous as it sounds, all this can also cause a great deal of stress.

That sounds ridiculous, stress. On top of trying to perfect a story and worry about its details, I have to do this for a couple of stories. While I enjoy doing this, it also leaves me worrying about them and whether I did a good job with it.

To demonstrate to the reader exactly what these bursts entail, below is a list of my writing history. The following are my writing projects, not including the ones I still plan to write. Keep in mind that the novels take precedence over the short stories but that I work avidly on both nonetheless:
1) The Face Behind the Mirror. I've been working on this since seventh grade and it's about to hit the six-hundred pages mark and end soon. There's a lot of rough edges to work out.
2) The Freedom Wars- Relatively new but I've been making somewhat good progress. I'm just getting over a rough patch with this. In the process of the bursts of creativity, this story has often been abandoned because of these very rough patches.
3) Standing in Hailstorms- I'm still in the beginning with this one but it's making good progress. I wrote this before I meant to because I just felt like I would burst with all of my ideas inside of me.
4) Untitled fantasy novel- I picked this up after ditching it in seventh grade. My major issue was delving into the mind of a male adolescent but I think I can fix that now.
5) Untitled short story- I'm at a bit of a rough patch because I don't know what to do with this one to bridge the beginning to the end. It's basically about a college student's descent into this world of angels and demons, which is brought full-circle at the end. Inspired by watching the terrible movie "The Beaver" (I wanted to make something better).
6) Untitled short story 2- I decided to make a mental illness series after my friend reviewed my story about a girl about to go off to rehab to deal with her anorexia. It's about a husband who is dealing with the fact that his wife has Dissociative Identity Disorder, which she developed after repeated sexual abuse as a child.
7) Miscellaneous blog posts here. Pretty much self-explanatory.
In addition, I also have a numerous amount of ideas that are in the waiting list but fortunately these happen to be short stories.

I'm attributing this flow of ideas to my new perspective on the world lately. When I am able to read more things and see thing, I can analyze them and it can get me thinking. For example, a combination of an article I read in Huffington Post that popped up on my AOL screen and my trip to New York City yesterday, I am inspired to write a short story about a homeless lesbian teenager named Andi who was kicked out of her home upon discovery. That's only one of the many examples I've had for inspirations.

 I'm also contributing the easiness I've had with writing to many of these stories being in their beginning stages. The beginning stage of a story, of course, is the honeymoon period where stories come easily and you only want to focus on them. When the story progresses and things get harder, the original lust fades into a more solid dedication. Sometimes, when the lust fades, the story crumbles and I am forced to move on. Making a story is kind of like making a marriage, I guess.

Being as I do have quite a deal of time off this week, I'm hoping that I will be able to have quite a bit of time to write. This has come at a good time for me, being as I will probably need something to entertain me for the week.

Now dear reader, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my works. As you can see, I have quite a deal to catch up on.

Ah, bursts of creativity. Like all the things in my life, they certainly keep me busy.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Songs (and Why They Suck)

Today is Christmas Eve, the day before that special holiday that undoubtedly has children everywhere riled up. This makes me excited for multiple reasons, the chief one being how close it is to Christmas. A smaller one may sound a bit less of a big deal but still important all the same. Christmas Eve marks one of the last days I'll have to hear those stupid Christmas carols on the radio.

Christmas songs are some of the most cloying, grating pieces of "music" that I have ever heard. Instead of "getting me in the spirit", it makes me want to cover my ears.

Christmas carols are either sung by super-old singers or very modern, trashy ones. Think of all the mainstream singers that have covered Christmas songs over the year. Some of them make them slightly more bearable to listen to but others only make it worse. Think Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey. Nothing makes me want to change the radio more than the sound of their voices. Even some of the good mainstream singers make me want to do this for they often cover songs that don't suit their voices.

That probably sounds incredibly cynical of me. However, can no one can seriously tell me that no one else feels the same, though.

It's always happy, happy, happy. The saddest these carols get are about singers nursing broken hearts during the holidays. Do I care? No. Maybe I might if it was done in a way that actually made me care (as in well-written song or a decent, emotion-filled voice). I've always appreciated emotional resonance in pieces of art(which is often only found in sad pieces) and Christmas carols lack this to the extreme.

Christmas carols highlight all of the terrible things about the music industry today, such as the terribly-written lyrics and the terrible singers who cover these songs (singers who often employ Auto-tune). I would really love it if there was a more nuanced Christmas song, such as a singer singing about a loss they are experiencing or something that they are really grateful for (such as a new baby).

The problem with this, I would imagine, is that most are not like me. Most do not appreciate depth and the issues people face, especially during the holiday season.

I suppose that those who don't appreciate Christmas carols can avoid the radio or turn on stations without these songs. Of course, for the past couple of weeks, I had to experience these songs day in and day out on the bus on both ways home. This disrupts my usual time for reflection when I'm on the bus. It doesn't help that the same songs are played over and over and over again. I kind of feel bad for those who don't celebrate Christmas. It's almost rubbing it in when these songs are played.

Leaving this on a happy note, I am so excited for Christmas. Not even terrible Christmas songs can ruin this for me.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Break! Random thoughts

It's here, finally. I have been toiling away day in and day out, counting down for it to finally come. I have been rushing, rushing, rushing, waiting for me to finally be awarded the chance to take a break. And now it is here.

I feel as if a huge burden has been lifted off of my shoulders though I do confess to still worrying about some little things. I'm trying to forget about it for a little bit (it will come back and overtake me like it so often does, though).

Life just can take so much out of a person. I feel that all I've been doing is rush, rush, rush. I have so much that I have to do and so little time to complete them. On top of that, I have to deal with the anxiety that comes in waves about the stupid little things. A break is definitely much needed on my part (I only wish that it was longer).

Not only do I have a break but I actually have some time to relax and to recuperate again. I have a homework-less time in which I am free to do whatever I want. Plus, I have the joy of the holidays around the corner.

Breaks, of course, allow the necessary time for recuperation (as I stated above). It has allowed me the ability to breathe and move freely. Breaks are like breaking free from a cage for a breath of fresh air. Of course, it would be nicer if I had longer than a week but beggars can't be choosers.

Right now, I can't help but feel a huge sigh of relief. With that relief also comes worry. I am still worrying about my grades, about my families coming over the holidays, about being able to hang out with my friends... When I say that it never ends, it really never ends.

Breaks should mean breaks. Of course, I imagine that for many that the holidays are far from breaks. For many, the stress lurks underneath a smiling facade. For some, that smiling facade hides so much inner turmoil and family dysfunction (my heart goes out to those people). Also, it's not even a break for some high school students like myself. My crazy English teacher is also my friend's crazy English teacher and he gave her four chapters to read.

Speaking of the holidays, the holiday bug has taken a little long to bite me but it's here. I am definitely excited for the holidays themselves. My mom said that she has some surprises for me under the tree and part of me is squirming in anticipation. It's almost like Christmas when I was a little kid again (I haven't felt really excited for Christmas in a long time).

I can't believe that the break came so late, though. It's kind of ridiculous. I totally say that I should celebrate Christmas Eve Eve.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take my break.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Being Sick

Right now, I'm sniveling as I right this. I am sure that colds are evil, especially after the two bitter pills that I forced down my system. I am officially prevented from iceskating and from any sort of exercise because of this ailment.

Colds suck. Being sick sucks. There's simply no other way to put it. As I write, I am captive to something that makes me feel tired and sick. According to my sister, I look as terrible as I feel and she wonders whether or not I'll be able to go to school tomorrow.

Of course, I can't stay home from school in high school. Not with all of the tests that I'll miss and all of the things that I'll have to make up. In elementary school, staying home sick was kind of fun because schoolwork was so easy to make up. Unfortunately, middle school took away that luxury and high school is even more impossible.

It could be worse. I mean, there technically is a chance that I'll go to school tomorrow even if I have to struggle through it. I've been through worse before.

Of course last time I did this, in sixth grade, I turned out to have a head cold. This doesn't feel like it did then though I certainly still feel bad. I mean, I guess it might be beyond a cold if a headache and tense shoulders accompany it. Yet I cannot consider such things because that would be bad luck and that would surely mean that I would have to stay home from school.

I hope that these sick feelings don't persist into the holidays though it really does seem to be just the passing cold. The irony of this is that I specifically remember suffering from something similar to this a year or two ago and I took it as a bad omen.

There is no cure for the common cold. Of all the medical miracles that science has brought, there is no cure for something as simple as this.

I'm afraid this is something that I will have to suffer through. Oh joy.

Friday, December 16, 2011


It's a part of life. It's the little things that give life its rough patches, that make you groan in frustration and raise your blood pressure. We wish we could smooth them out or delete them but such things never seem able to happen. Those things are the inconveniences that life throws our way.

These inconveniences can be anything from waiting in line or having a flight cancelled. They are minor things but on bad and/or stressful days, they are enough to make anyone burst.

I have been having a series of inconveniences lately. Inconveniences are much better than catastrophes of course but still enough to make anyone's teeth grind.

My major one has been my anxiety and that unfortunately has been consistent. Thankfully, the meds seem to be effective and the physical systems are only minimal but... The anxious thoughts still persist and they are like the gnats that constantly pick at me. I'm starting to learn how to manage it better but it's still quite annoying and hard to deal with sometimes.

Writing block, it should be of note, is another inconvenience that is not fun to deal with but fortunately I've been having some good luck with my creative juices so I've been somewhat lucky there.

Of course, it didn't help when another inconvenience came into play. The debate bus came much later than it was supposed to. The inconvenience came in waiting when I would have otherwise been at home chilling out and doing what I do best. It was loud, I was tired and the seats in the cafeteria were uncomfortable. Plus I had to deal with my rumbling stomach, which usually eats dinner at 5:30 (I live with my grandparents. They eat early dinners." Of course my anxious mind was thinking in run-on sentences like it usually does when I'm in/or on a verge of a panic attack (or lately, without the physical symptoms, a panicked string of thoughts). That was a big one.

Then of course, there was the three tests I had today and the super-hard one in Spanish, my last period class. A lot of tests planned on the same day... that's always a nice touch, especially at the beginning and end of a week.

What I've learned about inconveniences is that they bring you down to Earth. They teach you patience and they ground you even in your worst days. Without them, I suppose that we would all expect instant gratification. That, of course, would make us pompous, arrogant and a little hard to deal with. After all, who would we without all of those daily mishaps? What would fill them?

Perhaps the thinking above sounds a little silly but hey, it's somewhat true. Life would be too easy with a smooth path and that would be incredibly boring.

So I will push through those inconveniences and be thankful for them in some warped sort of way in the back of my mind because they are what make life the way it is.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Divisions and Labels

Human beings constantly put up divisions and they constantly put labels on things. Divisions are walls that exist throughout society to keep us apart and to make human beings feel better than one another. Labeling is the next step, when these divisions have been made. Once society has put up divisions, those on one side will belittle the other. They will make up exaggerated stereotypes and titles, losing sight of the fact that another person exists on the other side. When people on one side happen to the minority in a country, they are persecuted.

People divide others in all sorts of ways. Sometimes, people are labeled on things that they cannot help such as skin color and what people they're attracted to. Yet, other times, people are labeled by things they can help like what religion (or lack thereof) or political party they ascribe to.

Really, divisions limit our scope of possible experiences and make is lose sight of every person's worth as a human being. Labels diminish to one thing when human beings tend to be so much more complex than that. They turn us into caricatures and cut-out cardboard pieces.

This weekend, I was watching an episode of The Tudors. The show always gets me thinking (and, I admit, other things. The show isn't for the prudish and weak-stomached) and it has definitely done that for me this weekend. Not only did the show successfully bring the historical figures to life, it also managed to bring up the issues they had to deal with. In that episode, people were being tortured and killed for being "heretics". A "heretic" was basically anyone who didn't accept the ceremonial cracker and wine as the literal blood and body of Christ. I couldn't help but think how ridiculous it was that people were willing to kill and be killed for such a basic concept (as well as some other Protestant beliefs).

After I watched the show, I noticed the divisions and labels present in our society and I was quite troubled by it.

In some cases, labels are seemingly harmless and go by without a thought. Yet, these thoughts seep into our subconscious. While they might not actively hurt people, they do fence us off much of the time. That, of course, is a missed opportunity yet a missed opportunity alone.

Yet, other times, they do far worse damage and breed prejudice and hate. Currently, people are still fighting over religion and over long-time divisions (e.g. the Irish and North Irish, Israelis and Palestinians, Sudanese Muslims and Sudanese Christians). These fights are deadly and have led to heinous crimes against humanity and individuals. This is where the real trouble starts. Hate starts with a few words that become a lot of words that eventually form thoughts. When people start thinking, "I'm white and they're black so therefore they must be [insert adjective of choice here]" or something like it, that's when things start to get to get heated. Often it means that these bigoted thoughts turn into action.

Obviously, people aren't all the same. People will pair up and define themselves in words but that is language. Yet when these teams become divisions and when these definitions become labels that we live by, that's when things go wrong.

As I said before, "society" includes each and every one of us. It's not a vague concept but people that we all know. We are all guilty in at least some of these thoughts and we all need to work on correcting that. Some of the things I believe we can do are eliminating stereotypical thinking from our thoughts, keep open minds and refuse to define ourselves by solely labels (especially by one label or by a group label). This is a complex human problem that we all need to fix.

Labels and divisions should not exist in a civilized society. Let's work on trying to fix it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Skepticism Vs. Faith

There are two ways to view the world. You can view it through the eyes of a someone who takes everything on faith or you can through the eyes of a skeptic. This relatively easy decision has ramifications greater than many are willing to believe, life-altering consequences. With that very decision, a series of other decisions must be made with it. Do you choose to believe everything you hear or question things (or, the third option, you can choose to believe what you want to hear and question what you don't)? Do you choose to shut out all differing opinions or do you choose to open your mind to varying worldviews and seriously try to at least understand them (or, do you choose to do this with selective opinions)?

Faith and skepticism are often terms applied with religion, but not religion exclusively. As I have stated before, I am a proud skeptic. I question everything that I hear, even things that I don't agree with. My analytical nature has made me seem quite cynical to others and at times too mature for my own good. Sometimes it's exhausting. I wouldn't take it back for the world, though. When I see other people who cannot open their minds and their hearts, I am only more reminded how of great of a gift my skepticism really is.

Today I told my grandmother that I'm an atheist. That's right. After a full two years of questioning my belief in God, I finally outright said my position. I think she's been putting the pieces together but nonetheless, I stayed silent on the issue even though she rambled about it. I wish that I could have been more articulate but I was too nervous to form words. My sister applied to a Catholic school and got in so of course the conversation came up.

Of course, my grandma made a big deal about it. She kept trying to make me promise that I would pray because God would answer my prayers. I said I would. Then she tried to blame my mom for not taking me to church enough.

I'm glad that I told her, even though I am still stressing out about it. I know that she loves me but she will continue to shove it down my throat. That's just the way she is. Unlike my mother, she won't even try to see why I'm thinking the way I'm thinking or see where I'm coming from. She just sees that I don't believe the way she does and that I have to.

Of course, if she did, she would see that I would need solid proof or at least a string of events. She might even see how fine I am without believing in a god and how I do not have that same need. She then asked me what I would do if I met and fell in love with a Catholic boy. I told her that I would discuss things with him and that I might sort things out, but I wouldn't let him shove it down my kids' throats (they would have to make their own decisions about it). Personally, I don't see myself falling in love with someone who has so many contrary viewpoints to mine (I wouldn't be very cool if he didn't want to use birth control with me or wanted to donate a significant portion of our money to the Catholic Church).

I have yet to meet an open-minded devout person. I've talked to one on the Internet a couple of times but I've never actually met one (before everyone goes all stranger danger on me, I read her story on the Internet and I've had a discussion about it a couple times. Religion is a big part of it and the writer is a devout Catholic. I've learned a lot about Catholicism from her). Religion seems to influence their whole worldview in general and the way that they think.

My maternal family members seem to have a very closed-off, narrow-minded way of thinking. If it doesn't make sense to them or goes against what they believe, they won't hear it. Both my grandmother and my aunt have denied the legitimacy of GAD and told me just to "stop worrying" (what kind of logic is that? That's like telling a person with depression to "be happy").

The problem with this kind of thinking- this narrow-minded, faith-driven emotional reasoning is that it leaves people gullible and with poor critical thinking skills. They are also extremely gullible and will believe anything that they hear. Anything that the priest tells them, they'll take for granted. They take these beliefs to heart and then they just can't let go of them.

The beauty of being a skeptic means that while you question everything, you are also open-minded possibilities. With faith, you are close-minded and can only accept the few things you hear but that still fits into what you believe.

Life with that kind of thinking is a path. There's only one option, one way, and its the one that fits with your beliefs. No one else fits. Skepticism and open-mindedness open your mind. Under that way of thinking, life is a maze with a variety of paths. There are multiple truths. It gives you a greater understanding of the world and a greater sense of self. It's like color as opposed to black-and-white.

If I try to explain that to my grandmother, she wouldn't believe me and she wouldn't understand. She might say that she does but she wouldn't understand.

I can't change the way my grandmother thinks. I can, hopefully, make a difference to the people in my own life and attempt to remain the way I am now.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Death. It's the natural end in the cycle of life, something unavoidable. Some people believe that it is only physical and that the "soul" will transcend it; others think that the spirit dies with the body. Either way, it's always hard for those it leaves behind. I've been thinking about this after an incident at school where someone I knew was dealing with her dying grandmother, and after watching a YouTube video about dealing with death as a nonbeliever by speakers at Skepticon.

Death is a hard topic for me to think about as an atheist. I personally think that the brain works like a machine. When the machine dies, it dies. That's it. It shuts off for good. I don't think there's anything after that because all of what I have seen so far has led me to that conclusion. Originally, I was afraid of my own death. I can't say that I'm as afraid now. Death may mean a literal end but... I do not think that I would like to live forever. At some point, I hope that I will feel as if I have served my purpose in the universe and die in peace. That very hope is what makes me live my life to the fullest extent now. I don't think nothingness is so terrible; I imagine that it would be like the time before it was born. That doesn't necessarily mean it's good or that something isn't lost. What it means is that it isn't painful or anything.

What's harder for me to think about is the idea of my own loved ones dying. I've never officially had to deal with grief yet, though I've had close calls. There's no way to take some comfort out of that and no way to talk about any good that could come out of it. When the time does come for me to deal with it, it will be difficult (isn't it for believers, too, though?). I, however, don't want to have to force myself to believe something out of comfort. At least I can say that this has forced me to think of and deal with the concept of death, unlike many religious believers.

Like I said, I have had some experiences with death. My first and most alarming experience with death was the death of my former classmate, Avery. She was coming back from vacation and her father was the pilot of the small plane she was on. It crashed as he was trying to land it, and she and most of her family were killed along with the babysitter who accompanied them (her half-brother stayed home to watch the Superbowl game). She and I were both in third grade. I can't say that I grieved for the girl I barely knew, though I was quite alarmed. Avery was young and healthy; there was no indication that she would die before her tenth birthday. But she did. It struck me that if she could, it meant that I might too. Sure, other kids have died before but she wasn't some statistic that I didn't have to deal with but she was a girl I knew. A girl whose signature was in my yearbook, a girl who worked with me on stuff in class, a girl I had once seen every day. Just like that, she was gone.

My second experience was with my grandfather, who almost died a while back after his bowels ruptured. Afterwards, my mother had said that God had saved him (I find that belief erroneous and a bit immoral for a variety of reason but that's a different story) He was older (though he was healthy and pretty strong) so it wasn't as shocking for me. Plus, it wasn't as sudden and I didn't have to deal with it actually happening.

My final one was with my great aunt, who passed away from lung cancer earlier this year. While I was fond of her and did like her, I didn't know her enough to truly grieve for her. At this point, I was already an atheist so once again I had to think about death and what it meant. When my grandmother and my other great aunt talked about how she was in a better place, I could say nothing.

I'm not sure if comforting (or trying to comfort) a grieving person counts as an "experience with death" although it made me confront it. In sleepaway camp, I met a lot of friends. In the span of two weeks, somehow we managed to share our demons/struggles with each other. Her friend's mom, a second mom to her, had passed away a few days before camp started. She's told me she's agnostic so I'm not sure what her beliefs on the afterlife are. I felt absolutely terrible for her though I wasn't very good with consoling her.

It hasn't gotten easier. Each time, I have been left shocked and without words. Death is looked upon society as an awkward, painful subject best swept under the rug. Yet I refuse to do that. I want to think about it so that I can deal with it. I don't want to view death as something painful and scary. Dealing with grieving people as if they are contaminated is a mistake, and dealing with death by not talking about it is too.

Recently, I began to deal with the concept of death through my story, Standing in Hailstorms. The protagonist has to deal with the death of her father. She, like me, is an atheist and has to deal with everything that goes along with that.

There's no way to get around the horror of death. There is, however, a way to talk about it and confront it. As a society, we should. I have taken my first step. Reader, can you?

A side note: If you want to read a great blog post about death and how we deal with it in a society, read this.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Facing Demons

It's walking in the doors of a classroom of people unlike me. It's admitting to things you never wished I did. It's finding the courage to put my hatred at the side of the road and finally begin to forgive the people who made me as flawed as I now am. Facing demons is a cliché phrase used by people to describe the things that haunt them. I do think it's an apt term because that's what they are. Demons. Ghosts. At this point in our lives, most of my peers must surely have them.

Last night, I had a dream. I was choking on algebraic expressions alone as I was hunched over a book (when I told my friend this via text, she was quite concerned). Well, if I was to be more specific, the alegebraic expressions came up and choked me. It wasn't fun but fortunately I woke up and promptly went back to bed without incident.

My struggle with Math, as well as a few other things, has made me had to face my demons. It's made me feel tired, stupid and just frustrated. If Math was a person, I would have long been arrested for murder for killing her (if she didn't kill me first). It's set off a string of self-hating thoughts and anxiety attacks quite often. It's been making me start to doubt myself again but at least I can control those thoughts better.

Math, I'm afraid, isn't the only thing that has made me feel this way. Lately, I've been trying to win over these group of girls and make them my friends. I've tried everything but I don't feel as if it's working. I feel like even if I did make friends with these girls that I would be the friend who cares more once again. I keep worrying how they see me, if they think I'm a pest, if I really am the terrible, pathetic person I've so often seen myself as. That's not enough of a reason to give up, I know, but still it has required me to man up and face my demons.

And, of course, there is what led to those feeling of insecurities around them. Or, at least, what exacerbated those insecurities. There's seeing the girl I've mentioned so often on this blog (I'm sick of it but she comes up quite a lot) every day in some way and having to deal with the lingering feelings of anger I still have for her. I'm about to perform a poem about my feelings over what happen. This poem is obviously quite personal to me and I'm starting to wonder whether or not my decision to perform it was a mistake. It's also forced me to deal with some repressed feelings and each time I practice reading it... Well, the hurt comes each time as well as some of the other feelings.

I've learned from all of this that facing your demons is an unfortunate but necessary task. Your past, and those feelings from the past, are with you whether or not you try to face them. If you don't face them, they will only come up in unexpected and unforeseen ways. The ways that you do face them, of course, can be varied (I prefer writing).

Facing my demons has been a daunting task I wish that I did not have to take. My writing has lately been a confused jumble of words that, while cathartic, probably doesn't make much sense to the outside reader. And that's alright.

I will continue to have to face my demons. We all will. We will have to face them when they pop out unexpectedly, when they sneak up on us in quiet moments, when they spill out of our mouths as we confess it to a friend. They are varied, different in scope and they mean different things for everyone but they are real all of the same.

It hasn't been easy but... I am ready. I have to be.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Facts about Evolution

When it came out a hundred and fifty years ago, it brought forth a fire storm. Often, when it's talked in school, it still brings forth a fire storm. Only a few states explicitly teach it. It's been called "just a theory", been misconstrued in every way possible and is even rejected by biologists whose fields make without it. That is the "theory" of evolution.

On Friday in Social Studies, the topic came up. We were talking about Social Darwinism which, of course, is the theory of evolution being applied socially. My Social Studies teacher as well as those in my classroom were using language that was incorrect. This may seem like a minor thing but it really irked me anyway. It's intellectual dishonesty and as a scholar and skeptic, that irks me.

The following are common misconceptions and misunderstandings of evolution and the language surrounding it.

1) It's "just a theory."
I put the word "theory" in quotation marks for a reason. It's been misused and manipulated so many times. It's been made to look like evolution was just a guess Charles Darwin came up with. In every day vernacular, a "theory" does mean a guess. However, in science, the word "theory" is the closest thing to a fact. A fact would be the sky is blue (that would also be considered an observation). A theory is not so easily observed but is accepted as true. Rather, a theory is an explanation coming from a series of facts. It's what the facts put together. When something becomes a theory, it basically has been questioned extensively by scientists and no one has found holes in it. It means that scientists, with the information that they have at that moment, can find no other explanation. Take this example. There are clouds in the sky. My hip scar throbs as does the scar's on my knees and my grandmother's arthritic joints. The weather man predicts rain. It isn't necessarily a fact that it's going to rain but considering the facts, that's the most reasonable thing we can conclude. Unless new evidence comes into light, there's no reason to believe otherwise.

This belief has lead to the belief that evolution shouldn't be taught in a science class as fact or that it should be taught alongside intelligent design. "Intelligent design" is a guess. This isn't about "both sides of the story". Intelligent design hasn't undergone the same degree of scrutiny as evolution and hasn't got nearly the amount of evidence for it. I do agree that intelligent design should be taught. It just should be taught in a Social Studies classroom under the title of "religion". Evolution is far more than "a guess."

Gravity and germs are theories too. They are equally as valid as evolution. Rejecting evolution is equivalent to rejecting those. In America, you are free to believe what you want. However, your beliefs should not be taught in a science classroom if there is no scientific evidence to back them up.

Teaching evolution is considered a guess because some people think it is is wrong. There's a lot of facts that people don't believe. Can you imagine what the following would be like if "both sides of the story" were taught, even if one side went against evidence? Elvis is dead. Or he might be alive. The Holocaust might have happened. Or it might not have.

2) "In evolution, something comes from nothing."
"Something comes from nothing" is an incredibly misleading statement. First off, the people who say this usually are combining the Big Bang theory and evolution. These are two completely different theories that should be treated as such. Evolution states that species gradually evolve over millions and billions of years through the process of natural selection. Basically, the ones more suited to adapt will survive to produce offspring while those who aren't suited to adapt die. This, over time, means that animals with certain characteristics will survive and gradually all of those in that species will have those characteristics. This isn't "something coming from nothing." It's not like this happens overnight or even over the process of centuries. This happens over a period of time longer than we can imagine. Anyway, isn't that what creationism is? Something coming from nothing? I mean it's nothing, God, and then bam! There's something, created by God in only seven days. One creationist girl I met said that God was always there. If God was always there, then what was He doing? Where did he come from? I digress, this post is not to criticize creationism but to bring about the truths about evolution.

3) "According to evolution, humans come from monkeys."
This isn't even true but it's blatantly false. Biologists DO NOT think that people come from monkeys, although humans and monkeys share 99% of DNA. Humans and monkeys are believed to both come from the same ancestor.

4) "Evolution is survival of the fittest. Survival of the fittest means the strongest survive."
This doesn't necessarily come from people who don't recognize the validity of evolution but from people who don't understand it. "Survival of the fittest" means "survival of those most able to adapt". That doesn't necessarily mean the strongest. My Social Studies teacher used this to mean the smartest but it doesn't mean that either. It means the ones most able to adapt. For example, in the business world today, social skills and ability to work with technology are also needed. The person who is super book-smart will not win over the very sociable person who works great with technology but may be of mediocre intelligence. This wouldn't be limited to the smartest person.
5) "Evolution is immoral."
I never understood this one, though I've heard it often enough. Evolution states nothing about morality but simply about the way nature works. Maybe it's because it doesn't come with a set of moral code with it. Creationism, on the other hand, is a part of a religion which does have a set moral code. Is gravity immoral? Evolution, unlike creationism, does not come with a set of code. That is an entirely different thing.

6) "Evolution isn't compatible with [insert religion here]."
It's not just atheists who buy into evolution. Plenty of Christians, Muslims, Jews and those of other religions accept it. The Catholic Church has even accepted it. Of course, I can't answer for them but they made it work. Obviously, there must be some way they've made it fit.

7) "Evolution isn't important."
Evolution is the core of biology. Without it, the rest of it doesn't make sense. Biology explains the natural world and it explains to us where we came from. Many may find it boring (which is fine. I find a lot of science boring too) but that doesn't make it any less true or any less important. When evolution is not taught, children are being cheated out of the truth.
Evolution is probably the most misunderstood part of science but it's also one of the most important. Rejecting evolution is rejecting science. There's no way around it. No amount of politically correct language is going to change that.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Story Ideas

My head swirls with them day in, day out. They are welcome companions though, like close friends, they can be a little overwhelming and hard to deal with. When a new one comes, I must scan it and map out the basics of it before polishing/adding to it again and again. And then, if I feel like it's complete and if I'm not too busy, I write it down on paper. And then it's a toss-up to see whether it sticks or whether it fails. Sometimes it even fails before I write it down, either being too insubstantial to stick or not enough to go on. Most of them, in fact, fail and many of those failures end up becoming future short stories.

It's an exhausting process but it's a part of being a writer and I don't know what I would do without it. My story ideas, those flashes, are what keep me up in gym class and in every day life. They are the glitter in my life and everything would be so much duller without it.

Coming up with story ideas, unlike story titles and character names, is an exhilarating and freeing process. It doesn't even feel like I'm coming up with it but it feels more as if I am discovering it. My characters come to me after random things and it's just so interesting to meet all about them.

The more I think about them, the more I feel that I know them. Coming up with a story idea is like fitting pieces of a puzzle together. I see scenes in the book I'm planning to write and then I find out about them. Sometimes I see random scenes that I think are different stories and I connect them later.

Lately, I'm in a bit of an overload right now. Most of them are short stories but they are still overwhelming all of the same. Now, since I've been delving into realistic fiction, most of them require research. Which will take even longer and make it even harder to write. Some of the research, especially historical research, seems a bit difficult but fortunately I have found a way to blend it into an actual story.

The worst part about coming up with a bunch of different story ideas is sorting them all out and writing them all at once. Often, I try to limit myself but I feel such an anticipation to write them. A new story idea is like hot food and it too cools down with time.

Coming up with the story ideas are half of what make writing so fun, though, so part of me wants to do it as often as I can. But then capturing them, putting them down on paper exactly as they're seen in my head... That's breathtaking.

What's so great about story ideas is that first month when I write that story idea. A story idea, of course, is best in the first month or so like any human relationship is. I have that jittery feeling writing it and it's great. Then, of course, I get used to it after a while and my relationship cools. Writing can be fun but it's just not the same. When I've been writing a novel for a while, I really yearn for that feeling and that's what makes it even harder to resist a story idea.

Ah, story ideas. They're that beautiful scent that I just breathe in, in, in.... They're that great, surreal thing that eat up my time and suck me into another story commitment.

Unfortunately, I have my hands full right now so I will finish some of the projects I have right now. No matter what, I must resist their call at least for the moment.