Saturday, March 30, 2013

Rollercoasters

For the past few days, I've cruised my way through many the theme park. Naturally, a common theme of said parks was rollercoasters. Even as I go back home, I am still thinking about the buzz that a good one gives.

So what makes rollercoasters so great? It definitely has to be the adrenaline rush and the anticipation. They're the best when you get to the park early enough to just run up and get on.

A good rollercoaster is fast. So fast that you can't even think, just feel. So fast that the wind pushes your cheeks back. So fast you can hardly stand up when the ride is over. And to make it even faster, it goes up and down and around and takes sharp turns. You never really know what to expect next after it. It's especially cool in the dark because you truly don't know what to expect, especially when things pop out at you in the dark.

A good rollercoaster is also unpredictable. It's full of loops and twists and all that. It's a really awesome feeling when you feel your stomach drop right as your cheeks are pushed back. Sometimes, it can feel really uncomfortable as well as awesome/ unpredictable to have your body jerked around the whole ride because when you get off, your neck and back hurt and you realize you just escaped paralysis.

But it's not too fast or otherwise, it wouldn't be safe. I'm not entirely sure how they manage to do that but somehow, they do. I always wondered how that engineering stuff worked. They must have to be pretty careful because any wrong move and someone's head gets chopped off or they fall out or they become quadriplegic (maybe that's what my mom thinks about when she looks all scared whenever I'm about to go on a ride.

At the end of the day, rollercoasters are concentrated insanity. They are a release from reality and that is why it's so excellent.

I will miss that release from reality. I will miss rollercoasters.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Countdown

Three, two, one day to go until Florida! Yes, that's right, Florida. I didn't even do anything but turn sixteen (and I didn't even do that yet) but now suddenly, I am worth going to Florida for. And not just Florida too but Universal Studios (and yes that includes Harry Potter World!) and Epcot.

This is what always happens before a countdown. A one, two, three, four kind of idea. An anticipation gripping you so tight it almost kills as you pace, pace, pace. The anticipation can almost be too much because you just want it to happen already and finally get everything over with or started. It's pretty crazy if I'm honest with myself and it feels like that dizzying, crazy feeling won't go away.

The countdown almost seems to slow down the more you want it to speed up and vice versa. Life is totally unfair in that regard. I know it's going just as fast but it doesn't really feel that way. It almost doesn't even seem to feel that way.

The more I think about it and talk about it, the more that I end up feeling it. And that makes it even better for me.

In this particular situation, my past experiences are making the anticipation even more intense. Of course, this kind of anticipation is really the best but still... It feels so good that it's torturous somehow and it's absolutely nuts.

But it's coming. I know it is. Orlando here I come!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bands Breaking Up


All good things come to an end. That extends to bands. The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel (okay they were a duo but still)... They all had their day. This, however, one of the most tragic band ends has happened. My favorite band in the world, My Chemical Romance, has officially broken up.


It's always such a tragedy. All of that great music... Over. Ended. Their pulse flat-lined. Sometimes, band members join new bands or have solo careers but it's just not the same. All of that potential is gone. Being as MCR (from what I know) was in the middle of creating another album, it was even more heartbreaking. I am so regretting the fact that I was never actually able to see one of their concerts even though I really wanted to. Wow, what a blow!

I have always connected to music in such a personal way so this in particular seems personal for me too. It's always great to find a band that I can really, really connect to and this is just one of those bands. Music has saved my life and each song has helped me hang on a little bit more. So that end of songs, that end of coping mechanisms, that reaffirmation that I'm not alone in how I feel? That seriously blows. I would rather have them making sub-par albums than have them quit altogether (I'm not dissing Danger Days although many have. That album is only my least favorite simply because I can relate to the other ones a bit more). The prospect of new albums seemed like such a thing to look forward to but now I can't even do that. I can only be thankful that those series of previously unreleased songs (Conventional Weapons) ended up being released after all.

Being as music is such a personal extension of expression, it almost feels like I was able to know each member of the band simply by listening to their songs. It was performed with so much heart and soul that I couldn't help but feel its vibes. This almost feels like a death.

Bands change your life. MCR personally has saved mine by putting words to what I have felt and making me feel less alone; the healing words of Gerard Way himself helped me too, by giving me someone to look up to and something to grasp when I feel alone. If they are a good band, they are more than just a band. They are an experience, an idea, a feeling, an image, a representation of people previously forgotten about. So when they break up, all of those things do too.

So long and goodnight, MCR. The MCRmy will march on.

(Oh and the Wikipedia page about them has changed to "was". NO!).



Birthday Parties

There are three crucial ingredients for a good birthday party: cake, people and fun. That's about it. Maybe some balloons and some fancy decorations but that's optional. Presents are somewhat of a given but not always. Yesterday, I had my birthday party. Being as my birthday happened to be right near my cousin's wedding, my out-of-state relatives were there too. I'm not turning sixteen until the 28th but such trivialities hardly matter.

Apparently, sixteen is a big deal. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but it is. The presents and the attention paid to me was even more lavish than usual and everyone was so excited about the whole thing. I racked up even more money than usual. So, in that regard, this birthday party was much different than other birthday parties were. So when it was time for presents and thanking everyone, I was a bit overwhelmed by the flood of presents and money. But I'm incredibly grateful that I have such a supportive (and generous!) family to help support me. I got a few new (beautiful!) journals and some money.

The people part can be a bit overwhelming, I admit (it will be even more overwhelming when I have to write thank-you cards to everyone about all of the gifts). I didn't know how to respond to everyone there and relate to what I was talking to. Social interaction can always be a little exhausting. On one hand, it felt good but on another, it felt like so much at once. Luckily, it was positive attention but still, I'm not the best at it. But I did my best to be the perfect little hostess and talk to everyone there.  I tried to show how appreciative I was. But the fun part came with that because I enjoyed interacting with them. At birthday parties, the nice thing is always being at the center of attention so it's almost always fun for you unless your party happens to be lame.

The cake, the centerpiece of the whole event, was absolutely delicious. I wanted an ice cream cake because those always taste the best. I got that but this particular ice cream cake also had pieces of cake in it, which was interesting. I got a lot of awesome shots of it too as well as a lot cool shots of my family members doing various things.

The one awesome part about birthday parties is that they really lift your spirits. They can really make you feel loved. This, of course, is exactly what I needed. The general aura of the whole thing can be quite healing when you have been isolated for so long.

Birthday parties, I suppose, are also an interesting cultural insight. How many other places put sticks on a cake and then light them on fire. It's strange when you think about it. But the whole idea of a social idea/celebration is nothing new. The particular customs might have changed quite a bit over the years but the feeling remains the same.

Birthday parties are awesome.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Disabilities

Note: The names I mention are of puppets not people.

There's a reason we have ramps at the sides of the stairs, handicapped parking, special services in schools and at work. They're for people with disabilities (note: DISABILITIES as in not perfectly able people who are just lazy) and it's a federal crime not to have accomadations for these people. The word "disability" can be applied to many different things but mainly, it's used to describe someone who has some sort of impairment that interferes with daily life. 36 million people in America (12%) have some sort of disability according to census.gov. Obviously, this means that you or someone you know probably has some sort of disability.

Today, I went with my puppet troupe to teach third graders about disabilities. Besides the fact that I get to miss class and receive free volunteer hours, it is a truly fulfilling experience. I am teaching them about another people's way of life and instilling a bit of tolerance into them.

It's so interesting to learn about different disabilities and learn about the different devices that they use. There's almost a different subculture around the whole thing (this is especially true for the deaf/hearing impaired community). It really makes me feel informed.

The two main things that I have learned about people with disabilities is that they are just like everyone else. They aren't freaks; they aren't different; they aren't some sort of cool spectacle to look at. They are people, only they just have one different thing about them but are pretty much normal in every other regard. With help from modern gadgets today, they can even do many of the tasks that normal people can do and without much trouble or assistance whatsoever. 

I also learned exactly how important so many of these social services are in ensuring that people with disabilities get the same treatment as everyone else and this is especially true in the educational system. In the case of Melody and her learning disability, her assistance in school enables her to succeed in school when she would have otherwise been left behind. Without someone to teach him braille, Renaldo would never be able to learn the curriculum other kids learn. With Mandy, the case is also true for her sign language. While opportunities in the educational system are important, they are also important in society too. The changes in public facilities help people like Mark and Renaldo function somewhat independently. Independence, of course, is important for the emotional foundation of these people because, like everyone else, they want to grow up and be able to do whatever anyone else does. Back then, many of these people were condemned at home or to insane asylums despite the fact that they are perfectly functional and even sometimes very intelligent adaults. 

I remember after I got my hip surgery when I was ten (the second; both were a result of hip dysplasia caught too late) and I had to go in a wheelchair. It was a temporary experience but I'll never forget it. I was able to experience the experience of a handicapped person for a little bit and it brought so much insight to me. I was still the same person but I was treated so differently and my life became so different. I realized how important handicapped parking was as it took my mother an incredible effort to push me in my wheelchair and to maneuver the bulky thing. That's why it became so much more frustrating when there was no handicap parking available and she had to walk even further. And that was even in my own school! In addition to that, I learned to appreciate the ramps alongside buildings and began to loathe being near old historical buildings that were "grandfathered in". Then, on top of that, all of the sudden, people felt entitled to butt in front of us when we were too slow or walk around me or stare at me or cluck in pity.

Disability awareness is an incredibly important cause. It is the responsibility of all of us to be informed about it and to be as helpful as we can. Remember, people are people. 

My puppet!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hardship


Hardship is a funny thing. Sometimes, we feel crushed by it but somehow we carry it, carry it, carry it on our shoulders and survive it (or we don't) until there's a brighter day. It hits us in the strangest of ways, comes when we least expect it. The repercussions are often what we do not expect. We've all went through it and some of us are going through it now. Everyone deals with it differently. After watching Perks of Being a Wallflower (and considering what I've been going through right now), I've started thinking about this. So many cultures and so many people have so many different interpretations of it, so many coping mechanisms. Hardship is the basis of so many books, poems, movies, songs, paintings... just art in general pretty much. So it's very important.

I've heard it said that hardship makes people strong. I'm not really sure about that, though. It can, after a while, make people strong if it doesn't totally pull them under. I've been told that what I've went through over the course of my life has definitely made me stronger, stronger than I think that I am. I don't know, though. I feel like scars give you vulnerabilities. Sometimes, if those scars aren't healed, they only form cracks on your heart, making them more susceptible to bleed once again. Sometimes, hardship can wear away at what a person is especially if it's repeated and if you don't put down another layer of sediment (coping skills or an inner well of strength) to prevent that from happening. If they just shove all of their inner problems under the rug and don't deal with it, it can just come back to bite them in the ass again and even stronger than before. It can weaken their foundation (if there was even a foundation to begin with). And thus, it affects them even if they haven't dealt with it.

I do agree that hardship plays a large part in forming who we are, especially when we are young when it happens. It can teach us a lot even if it does so in an incredibly hard way. And that is bound to affect you even if it's in the littlest ways and you haven't connected the two. It can change your personality and the way that you view the world. Sometimes, it can make you into a better person but sometimes it can make you into an even better one.

It's amazing how much some people can go through and how much that they can handle. The human spirit is so often incredibly resilient and it has an incredible will to live. Some incredible things can be birthed from the darkness in ways that can be hard to imagine. So many turn it into a positive, using their experience to help others or to channel it in some form of expression. Sure some people crumble and break but so many rise up and say, "I survived this and I haven't let it defeat me." That, at least, shows that it's possible for people to heal and for humanity to get better.

It's not an easy thing (hence the word). It doesn't feel pleasant and it can feel like too much. But there's hope from it, some silver lining. There's the beauty in overcoming, in rising up after being knocked over. We may not be able to choose the lot we get in life or the hardship we get but we can choose how we react to it and how we make to it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hugs and Hugprints

Every person has a hugprint, the unique way in which they hug, their essence. Or at least I'm convinced they do. People just don't notice it right away. A hugprint, of course, is like a fingerprint: unique to every person even in identical twins. This might sound unscientific and ridiculous people but it's true. Most people don't savor their hugs enough to notice it but I do. Hugs are a great experience but the best part is savoring the person's hugprint (which is great if you have really missed them).

It's slight but still very distinctive. 

One major influence in the formation of the formation of hugprint is the shape and size of a person's body. Their hug will feel different depending on how big or small in comparison to you, their amount of fat and/or muscle, their body type, etc. Occasionally, their posture will also affect it. For example, my late grandmother's arthritis made her hunch over a little bit, which made a difference. In addition, her weathery skin caused a soft, sagging sensation like that of settling into a particularly nice reclining bed. Both of those characteristics distinguished her from anyone else. One might attribute this to her being elderly but even then, I've hugged a number of elderly people who all hug differently. My grandfather, even though he is the same age/ similar appearance and a notch above her former condition, hugs differently than she did. 

Also, each person hugs with a different amount of pressure. My father hugs my sister and I tightly, clutching us with his strong arms. This is definitely different than my mother, who hugs us somewhat loosely and is soft.

Each person also hugs differently. Some people hug over your arms and some under. Some people pull you to them and some keep you away. Some press you against their chest or against their cheek. Sometimes, their air will swish past your cheek.

Everyone also has a different smell. This is the hardest to pick up on but occasionally, there are distinguishing scents of a person. Sometimes, they wear perfume or cologne or they are or are around a smoker. Sometimes, they smell of some smell associated to their profession.

All this combined makes a hugprint, a unique way a person hugs.
 
The hugprint is enough of a reason why hugs are awesome but hugs are awesome for a variety of reasons too. The sensation of a hug makes them super awesome for one. It's more than that, though: it's what a hug represents. Hugs represent affection at the very least and each hug is an affirmation of love and support. That feeling can be very comforting for one who is down. And that's what makes them so important.

Man, I love my hugs. More than the average person. Each hugprint is a trace on my soul. I may forget your name, face, voice but I will never forget how you hugged me.



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Introverts vs. Extroverts


Well it looks like I'm back doing the whole Myers-Briggs thing again. This time I'm pondering the "I" within my "INFP". My teacher argued that I am an ENFP, which is a compelling argument if it were not for the fact that I purposefully act like an extrovert to get friends and not get hurt (because let's face it: introverts are screwed in our society). I realized that this has to do with the misconceptions of what being an introvert actually entails.

Introversion does not mean "shy" and extroversion does not mean "outgoing". Many introverts know how to socialize and do so quite well; many extroverts do not know how to socialize and do it poorly. The difference between an introvert and an extrovert is this: the introvert gets his energy from being alone while the extrovert gets it from being with others. Social situations tire the introvert while energizing the extrovert. The extrovert is in his natural element in public spaces while the introvert is in his natural element in private spaces.

While some people are ambiverts (somewhere in the middle), most people fall somewhere on these lines but learn how to adapt to a variety of situations. Given how the quiet and shy in Western society are demonized and seen as "geeks", it's no wonder that they develop extroverted qualities: after all, it's the only way they'll be noticed and respected. Introversion is a quality to be overcome rather than properly channeled.

Of course, people skills are necessary to prosper but so is introspection and self-motivation. And that's where introversion comes in. While there is an absolute positive in knowing how to deal with people, there are negative aspects to being an extrovert.

Many extroverts that I have seen (being so focused on the external rather than internal) do not initially have that quality and have to work to develop that. This can cause a lot of stupid decisions on their part. Sometimes, they also can develop a constant need for acceptance to get their social fix... at any cost. While this applies to introverts too, the problem seems worse to me among extroverts and extroverts also seem more willing to sacrifice more of themselves to do so. I think this is because introverts tend to have naturally developed a sense of self: they know who they are and are generally more in touch with their emotions. Their feelings, however chaotic, are anchored. Many extroverts, on the other hand, attach their sense of self to an external source and so their sense of self has no foundation.

Not to mention that while the ability to understand and work with the feelings and thoughts of others is extremely valuable, some extroverts use this for evil rather than good. For this reason, some of them can be manipulative in certain settings, convincing people to do things that they wouldn't otherwise have done and believe things they wouldn't have believed.

It's not that introversion doesn't have its negative traits; it does. The field of social skills is not one where mistakes are forgiven and introverts (being as social skills tend not to be as natural for us) tend to make many at first. Also, many introverts (myself included) can be much too hard on ourselves because we scrutinize ourselves TOO much. We can also be afraid to take risks, which can cause us to hold back from opportunities we would have otherwise enjoyed.

Ultimately, introverts and extroverts compliment each other. They balance out each other's negative traits. It is wrong that any society would hold one above the other or try to make one seem like a negative trait needing to be changed. Neither are wrong. This has been an age old battle but it shouldn't be. We should live in a world where children's natural proclivities need to be honed rather than admonished and discouraged.

It is not bad to be an extrovert or an introvert. It is only bad to be anything other than you.



Thursday, March 7, 2013

Courage


What is courage? What is cowardice? What makes some people brave and some not?

Many philosophers have discussed it; the Strange Familiar has written a song about it; poems, specifically "epics" have been dedicated to "brave" people.The quality of braveness looks different in the eyes of different people. Also, what one person might not be afraid of another would be very afraid of, so which parameters can we use then? How many acts of bravery does it take to make one brave or a coward? Does it all depend on the magnitude or, at least, the amount of courage that that person needed? I don't know.

I've been thinking about courage while going through this whole grieving process/depression thing and while learning more about the civil rights movement. I'm wondering which one really is courage because they're both so different. My struggle almost pales in comparison. Yet does it still count?

Maybe courage is whatever you want it to be. It varies from person to person because people are so different. My anxieties may not be a lot to most people but it takes everything I have to push past it. For other people, juggling grades and entering social situations and taking risks isn't nearly as difficult as it is for me. Is that still an act of courage? Or is courage reserved for the very best?

I have been called "brave" in a variety of contexts. Yet how can I be considered brave when so many people have accomplished much more? Me standing up for what I believe is nothing compared to, say, civil rights workers standing up for what they believe in. Me being myself is nothing compared to gay kids in small town Texas being themselves. Yet does that scale really matter? Brave is still brave no matter to what extent, especially considering the cowardly route is still there.

Sometimes, I admonish myself for not being braver. Yet I am only human and I am doing the best with what I have. Perhaps that is courage onto itself.

Yet what is the bravest thing of all? It is easy to say some stupid breakneck stunt but that is stupid, not brave (there is a very thin line between those but it exists nonetheless). It is easy to say saving someone's life or sticking to your convictions is but I don't know. Sometimes, I feel the bravest people are the ones who go through daily struggles. So, for them, the bravest thing is deciding to keep holding on or, sometimes, letting go.

Yes, sometimes I have acted cowardly. Sometimes, others have acted cowardly towards me. Cowardice is more easily defined than bravery and so much more hurtful. So many people on the news have done terrible things because they were afraid. But why? Is it because fear is primal? Easier? Does it make it right? I'm not sure and I don't know if that even matters. I must forgive myself and them for that, though. We are only human after all.

Courage is doing the right thing. Courage is letting go and letting loose. Courage is speaking up. Courage is so many things, so many different people, so many actions. Is there really a point in defining it? All that matters is that courage keeps the world going and we have enough brave people to keep it from plunging it into chaos.




Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Funerals and Viewings

 My grandmother died on Tuesday. Her funeral was yesterday and her viewing was Friday. It's been my first time dealing with death so I didn't really know what to expect before this all went down. But I've been going through the very best that I can. And, after doing it, I have to say that I've come to one conclusion: death is weird. Or at least Western traditions surrounding it are.

The few days after she left happened in a haze. A black haze. Nothing seemed completely real but somewhat distant. And it was moving so fast, so fast that I could barely keep up. I could barely focus and could thus barely process what was going on around me. I almost half-expected for her to come into my life again and then realize with crushing despair but I never could.

The viewing made everything real in the most horrible way. Mom thought that it was "perfect" and "beautiful" but it was anything but to me. Instead, it was traumatizing. It was just too much stimuli at once. So much going at once. I had to see her dead body and I had to deal with all of the emotions swirling around inside of me and, on top of all that, I had to socialize. When all of the gloom in the atmosphere engulfed me, my cousin took me home. It didn't bring me any closure really but just brought trauma. It's such an awful and morbid concept to me and it also seems quite bizarre.

The funeral was a different sort of feeling entirely. It was super cold outside and I was too cold to be sad. But I was laughing half the time as everyone stood around her ashes and recounted funny stories and talked about who she was. It felt good to talk about who she was and everyone thought I did it well. That felt peaceful especially with the beautiful landscape. I'm sure that it wouldn't have been that way for me if we had allowed friends to come or if we had allowed someone to give a service or something like that.

Everything is so strange. Funerals and viewings are just remnants of Western culture, more for us than for the dead.