Sunday, May 26, 2013

Confessions of a Rat Owner

Ha ha... Daisy vicious?
No one is perfect. That includes rat owners. And well, since I am someone and a rat owner, that includes me. I feel like I've made a few string of mistakes with her lately and all of them have made me feel guilty as hell for everyone involved.

The first mistake happened last night. I didn't shut the gate on Daisy's cage properly so she got out. Of course, on her stroll out of her cage, she decided to chew up the spine on one of my books and say hello to my parents. At 1:40 in the morning. I, amazingly, was asleep. My parents were too. And then my dad rushed into my room, furious. "Get up," he snapped. "Get up. Your fucking rat woke me up an now she's running all over the room. We have to catch her."

I groaned. Seeing exactly how angry he was, I got up as quickly as I could. Shit, I thought. Shit. I knew that if we gave her enough time, she would probably go back to her cage on her own but my dad was too impatient and pissed-off for that to happen. On the way, he ranted about how he woke up to her crawling all over to him and how traumatic it was having her tail swipe over his face. Oh and how irresponsible I was and all that.

Conveniently, Daisy decided that she liked playing around under my parents' king-size bed and was playing around under there. In other words, completely unwilling to come out. Both of us were sleepy and grouchy so it wasn't fun. Neither of us could catch her running out of there for quite a while until Dad finally did.

Yeah, I got a lot of shit for that one. Better my dad being woken up than my sister who threatened to "chop her and [I] up in pieces" if Daisy so did that to her (and she claims to love the creature). I'm still getting shit for that, with each retelling of his becoming more and more exaggerated.

If that wasn't bad, my second mistake was even worse. I recently got Daisy a companion, Buttercup. The only problem is that Daisy and Buttercup aren't really getting along. After a few plays for dominance, Daisy decided to get away from Buttercup as far as possible. But Buttercup kept pestering her and Daisy kept getting more annoyed. Eventually, Daisy started to puff out her fur and get a hunched back: not good. Daisy, doing the rational thing, decided to cool down and retreat to the third level of the cage. But this was worrying me. Daisy was supposed to be reveling in her social interaction, eating it up. Instead, she was doing the opposite. I knew that she only had one more chance after that and that was with the dumbo rat in the store she was supposed to have less of a chance of getting along with. So I wanted to make this work.

I gave them some space. I did. Or at least I tried to. But me, being the chronic worrier that I am, started to think of all of the terrible things that could happen if they were left alone or if they didn't get along, so I wanted to interfere. So... Regrettably I did.

Again and again and again, I tried bringing Buttercup up to the third floor with Daisy. And then... It almost looked like something was going on between them because Buttercup always went down to where she originally was. And Daisy, as cute as ever, pressed her little paws against the cage and begged for me to take her away.

So I did, mistake number uno of my handling of that situation. But it got worse. I decided for a little tough love and took Buttercup out too. With one of them each in my hand, I set them on the table near their cage. And... A fight broke out. A fight chock full of hissing and biting and whimpering and all that goodness. Not that playful wrestling I was told might happen. So I was forced to set them and they went on their own separate ways. I yelled at Daisy, who came to me, for her appalling treatment (sure, Buttercup was being annoying as hell but surely there was no reason for her to be so cruel). Yeah, I'm lucky one of them didn't get seriously hurt. Stupid me. They were doing fine and I decided to meddle. I guess poor Buttercup will have to be swapped out for Dumbo, who might very well have to get swapped out too :(

Why does my sweet, loving Daisy always have to be the one to start all of the problems? And why can I barely handle them.

Yeah, that's all pretty bad... But, like I said, no one is perfect. Newbie rat owners least of all.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Ageism is the unspoken form of discrimination. When people think of discrimination, they rarely think of ageism as an issue. Yet, while people view racism, homophobia and other forms as discrimination in a negative light, ageism gets a free pass. Ageism is largely misunderstood and rarely talk about but at the same time, it's arguably the most common types of discrimination.

Today, I was confronted with ageism right in the face. My friend and I had traveled to shop at the Christiana Mall in Delaware. We were doing absolutely nothing wrong; we weren't even loitering but actually shopping. Suddenly, we were stopped by two security guards. We were asked, "Are you over eighteen? We need to see some ID." Of course, we couldn't produce any as I am sixteen and she is fifteen. They then told us that we weren't allowed at the mall because there was a five o'clock curfew for teenagers Friday, Saturday and Sunday; we needed to have to call our parents to pick us up and they would be watching us until we did. We told them that our parents were in another part of the mall and they said they still had to follow us there. So, like total creepers, they did follow us until we met up with my friend's very outraged mother when we finally neared closer.

In western society, it seems like the elderly and teenagers are most often prey to it. Society says that teenagers are stupid, moody, annoying, bad, irresponsible, rude and generally untrustworthy while old people are useless, grumpy, senile, loopy, and out of it. Neither groups are to be taken seriously by anyone.

These are absolutely ridiculous. Seriously, has anyone ever stopped to seriously think about any of those statements? Any of those thoughts? At least for the elderly, people tend to have some sympathy for their plight (although in many cases, their cases of ageism are worse and have more drastic consequences). But nobody cares about teenagers.

While the elderly are objects of scorn, we are the object of fear to some degree. People see as threatening. We are suspected gang members, vandals, shoplifters, druggies... All that. Adults were teenagers once too as hard as they might find it to believe. A lot of adults justify this by saying that teenagers today are "different" but I honestly don't think we're all that much different: our obstacles are the same and many of us are very similar to them. Yes, there are plenty of teenagers that give us all a bad rap but guess what? We're not all bad and we're not nearly as incompetent as many adults think that we are. My opinions shouldn't be invalidated because of my age; my age does not automatically make me stupid or unqualified. Hell, our age doesn't even mean we're "inexperienced" because I know some teenagers who have had far more experiences than the average adult.

I know the elderly face a lot of crap too. It actually really angers me that people think they have the right to look down on the elderly and make fun of them like they do. Just because an elderly person happens to be physically incapacitated doesn't mean that they are mentally so: they have so much to offer and so

To be honest, one of the biggest problems with ageism is its effect on the group in question. Often, the treatment of said groups by other people is often internalized and these stereotypes become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ageism is wrong and stupid; it needs to stop.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Pitfalls of Public Education

It's that time of year again. The time of standardized testing. Sure, here in Pennsylvania, they might call it a different name now for high schoolers but it's still pretty much the same thing. Being as I already wrote about that last year, though, I thought that I would explore a different side of things: the pitfalls of public education.

Of course, being of one of the better schools in the country, I get to avoid many of these down sides. While I have the occasional shitty teacher, for the most part, I'm able to understand what my teachers are teaching me, however boring it might be. Also, my school is also generally clean and free of vandalism (no thanks to the students that go there but to the money we have to clean it. Thanks, janitors! I know they don't make it easy). My school is also free of crime and gangs and all that minus the few drug deals that happen to go on in, near or off campus that the faculty seems oblivious too; to prevent said crime though, we have security on campus. So, yes being an upper middle class girl has caused me to avoid many of the problems many other American kids have to deal with in their public schools. I'm certainly better off than my parents, who had to work their asses off to get away from a school with police dogs, gangs and race riots.

That in mind, I'm sure I've lost the respect of most of my readers. Because really what have I got to be complaining about? Why do I have the right to complain about a shitty high school experience when everyone else has had it much worse?

To answer the above questions, it's because a lot of the shitty experiences of high school are universal. I still have standardized testing to worry about, still have 180 days of school I'm legally required to get through, still have to pack my lunch because of the shitty quality of my school lunches. Did I mention all that college prep that really doesn't prepare us for college?

It's also all within a traditional school model, which, however well done, is still immensely flawed. I'll say this before and I'll say it again, I love education but I hate school. It's meant to mirror a prison with its beige walls and its bells and its tracking of you wherever you go. The teachers mostly act like prison guards.

With a few notable exceptions, most of my teachers teach to the textbook, causing their lessons to be ultimately uninspired and forgettable. Instead of learning life skills and information I'll actually need, I learn complex but ultimately useless information. I'm tested on that information mostly with multiple choice and the occasional short response questions (which is the same format of the state tests. What a coincidence!). The strange thing is that I'm actually considered smart just because I'm able to cram well and happen to be a good test taker. Will I remember that information and apply it? Probably not. But no matter, because at that time the teacher has already gone on to teach the next bit of useless information they're supposed to cram in before the end of the school year. The only place my lack of proficiency shows is math, where I actually have to learn the concept.

Despite this, we're never taught any practical skills. Basic grammar? No. Study skills? No. Stress and time management? No. We're never required to do anything great, either. We're required to volunteer but only to look good for colleges. Even our gym class is made as boring and useless as possible when that might actually be useful under the right circumstances.

Did I mention that it's so huge, it's so easy to be lost in the crowd? To be unnoticed, just considered a number? Rather than treated as individuals and caring about us, the school stamps a number on us and then smiles with a fake grin and pretends everything is alright. Our problems, whatever they are, are largely unnoticed in such a huge place and we're not given the attention we need. Instead, we're scurried along in the most efficient way possible. Really, it would be impossible to improve this considering the sheer volume of students the system has to deal with but still. The fact remains that you're not noticed unless you're a problem, unless you're a cog on the machine that only gets caught and creates problems for the other cogs. You're practically dehumanized.

Oh and did I mention how awful the kids are? Teenagers are awful despite socioeconomic background everywhere but where I live they're a special kind of awful. The star students make sure to be the best cog possible, walk right along clutching their Vera Bradley handbags and Juicy Couture jeans. They're mostly crude and cruel but they get a pat on the back because they seem to follow the formula best. Never mind how two-sided they are, viciously bullying and snorting drugs behind the backs of faculty. No, they're stars, their honor students, unless they happen to put something stupid on Facebook.

Now, I know this post was essentially a lot of whining. I shouldn't be one of those people who bitch but never actually do anything about it. But the thing is, I don't know what to do about it except pack up and leave for private school. There's so much to fix that it's practically impossible. To fix the system, you have to fix the people in the system but that probably won't happen unless they want it to (which they won't).

Yes, I sound bitter and whiny in this post. I know I do. And I'm not trying to take on the victim mentality because i am so not the victim here. Really, I'm just one of many people who aren't getting as much out of public education as they should. And I'm just sick of everyone in my school acting like peaches and sunshine because it's not.

Something needs to change. Students need to be inspired to learn, not uninspired. They should be free to explore, not closed off and closed in. Their creativity needs to be honed not stifled. Yet in the race for efficiency, somewhere along the line this isn't done because we become a number rather than an individual. Standardized testing just pretty much sums up so much that's wrong with the public education system.

(Note: as I briefly touched on, there are still a lot of benefits of public education and I've had a number of good experiences. I'll write about those if requested and/or a comparison between the private, Catholic and public schools I've attended over the years).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Watching What You Say

 Most people don't understand how powerful words really are. Sure, they might acknowledge how powerful words are but they don't really get it. They say things so much more powerfully than they really mean or what the moment requires, thus diminishing the actual meaning of that word or that phrase.

That's why it's so important to watch what you say. To really stop and consider each and every thing that you say and consider the power behind each word. To think before you speak or to do anything that you really want to do. Because sometimes we take for granted that our meaning is clear but sometimes, it isn't. Sometimes, our words and actions can have unintended consequences for sure.

At least, I think people need to take a good look at themselves every once in a while and ask, Is this the person I want to be? Are my actions reflecting who I really am? Am I doing anything that I find cruel and unethical? I think if people did that, did that giving honest answers instead of living in denial (and honestly gave a shit about the answers and what they meant) the world would be a much better place.

Of course, it's easy to let something slip every once in a while. Everyone makes mistakes; it's inevitable. But at least watching what you say can help you understand that you just made a mistake. And to fix those mistakes sooner rather than later.

So many times, people take it for granted that someone understands what they are saying is a joke. Or they won't acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, some part of them really intends to make what they say a jab. So many times people say phrases thoughtlessly, common ones like "Ugh, [something unpleasant] really makes me wanna kill myself" or "Ugh, that's so gay/retarded" or "Oh man, I really got raped in that video game." Never once do these people seem to realize that their comments might actually impact someone near them. It's just stuff like that. Or just thoughtless, bitchy complaints in general."

Sometimes, people even want to hurt someone. They want to insult someone to make themselves feel good. They want to unload on them every once in a while. They say cruel things on purpose but don't realize how actually cruel that they are. They forget how truly hurtful their words are or how they might appear to be hurtful. Or sometimes, it just appears that way and that you really didn't mean what you said (or the person misconstrued your meaning). But it doesn't really matter because you did hurt someone.

So watch what you say. It has meanings far beyond what you might realize.


Photo: daisy :)
I love my rodents. I'm sure that's pretty obvious by now but I figured I would mention it. So many people are put off by them, especially rats, so they ignore many of their redeeming qualities. The rodent to the right is my rat, Daisy, that I just got.

There's something so unique about them, so incredibly beautiful. A quality to them that isn't like any other type of animal. Rats are especially marvelous because they are so friendly and social and just generally so sweet you can't help but want to cuddle with them. Seriously, they are the essence of unvarnished love and loyalty. Their curiosity and intelligence rivals any that I've ever seen. And that's not just Daisy too; the same seems to be the case with the other rats that I've met. Dogs are the same way in a lot of ways but there's something different in the way a rat does it.

Hamsters, on the other hand, are skittish. They take a while to warm up to you and they aren't as intelligent as hamsters. They are shy and they are much more easily startled. However, once you win over the heart of a hamster, it's yours.

Add to that that they are completely dependent on you and you learn what it really means to be responsible for something... To love something and to have it love you and to really appreciate, even temporarily, that evanescent moment with them. They can really teach you a lot.

I love my rodents.

Update: My new rat, Buttercup, is wonderful as well and is making a great companion to Daisy (despite some rough patches).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Persistence Pays

 Persistence pays. I know that sounds cliche but it's true. It really pays. If you want something enough, you're going to get it. You just have to keep trying, trying, trying, even when you tire from it. You have to fight it.

I've fought for so many things in my life. When it's come to my writing, I've fought to get my things published despite rejection. I've tried to convince people of things too, especially my parents: Facebook, cell phones, all sorts of things. And bigger things too, like trying to convince myself of my worth. Bigger things too like trying to convince myself of things and trying to accomplish certain tasks. Bigger things like changing my circumstances, my surroundings. Trying to fight a mindset, trying to fight people who want to bring me down, trying to fight my inner demons etc or even the more positive things like trying to accomplish a dream (even a pipe dream). The list goes on.

But anything's possible. Anything if you want it. Some things are hard, really hard, and they seem impossible but they aren't. Hell, if we look at technology and all of the crazy things man has done, it's a sure sign of that.

My Daisy is a sign of that. She's just one tiny sign. Daisy, the pet that I just bought today. What's so different about Daisy? Daisy is a rat. Yes, a rat. I know how most people talk about rats with their noses up in the air. My parents were the same way. But the thing with Daisy is that she's not like other rats. She's so playful and energetic and sweet and she has such a big personality that it's so calm to contain. It literally took so, so much to convince them. For weeks, I tried to. Daisy caught my eye when we were picking up Cheerio. I wanted her but my dad dismissed it. I thought that I could choose one or the other so I chose Cheerio. Still, I couldn't give up the thought of her. Cheerio was great but I worried for her, wondered whether or not she had a home. So I kept nagging my dad, nagging him to check up on her and so I finally convinced him. We would check on her and then, if she was still there, maybe (just maybe) we could go and see. He put it off forever but I wouldn't give up on her. He said, "But oh it has a tail. I can't get past the tail. Can't I chop it off?" Finally, I wore him down. He went today and she was there. Then I held her and he held her and he softened a little bit towards her enough to buy her.

So persistence pays. It does. And that's only one example out of so many. I'm sure if you look closely on my blog, you can find so many others. And that's just me. I'm sure so many other people have inspiring stories too.

I've always been a determined person, often to the point of incredible stubbornness. But this, I believe, is a good thing. Without my persistence, I wouldn't have gotten as far as I have. I wouldn't have been as strong as I am now. I wouldn't have stood so firmly by my ideals, wouldn't have been the person that I am today. My persistence drives me, emboldens me, adds passion to me. Sometimes, it does that too much but I've come to the conclusion that it's better than not enough persistence at all. In a world with so much apathy in it, it needs as much passion and persistence as it can get. And so my persistence definitely pays off.

Some battles, I have learned, are not worth fighting. I cannot use my persistence on everything because then that cheapens it. Also, many battles do not deserve so much persistence. And yet many do. Fighting for yourself and those vulnerable around you is one of the most important things you'll ever do and yet people don't give it enough.

So, dear reader, if you're thinking about giving up right now, don't. And if you can't find any more fight in you, try to find more want. And if you can't do that, well it probably was never meant to be. But the last thing you should do is roll over and let it slip you by.

(Now, I just have to tap into that persistence and work on my parents letting me get a Monroe piercing... That's my next stop. But that will take an act of Congress, I'm sure. But like I said before, anything's possible if you want it enough).
My girls

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reuniting with People

Reuniting with people is... strange. Cool, much of the time, but still strange. It happens at the strangest of places too, making it even more bizarre. The supermarket can even bring about the sighting of someone you haven't seen for years and years. That's what I did today with so many people when I went to my old elementary school today.

I went there with the puppet troupe I volunteer for and I happened to have spare time afterwards. So, of course, I figured I would visit everyone. It was quite strange to me going back there because everything seemed so much smaller. Nothing had changed and yet everything had changed.
Right before the show, I saw a familiar form. I thought, Is this it? Is this really him? But then, as he walked closer to the cafeteria, I knew that it was him and that he hadn't changed a bit in terms of appearance. And so I met up with him and we talked and it was quite cool to catch up with him. He didn't recognize me at first (unsurprising considering that, in addition to growing, I cut my hair, started to wear makeup and got my braces off).

There's so much space to cover that it's hard to cover especially since it's been years since we've last seen each other. I could say "Nothing much" but that's not really true. So much has happened, little and big both, that I didn't even know how I'm even supposed to respond to what he had said. So I told him the basics about my writing awards and how I got into photography and all of that good stuff. It wasn't like I had that long of a time but it was long enough for me to feel waves of nostalgia rolling through me as I did.

How do I explain how different that I was anyway? I was such a strange sixth grader and I am so, so different now. Could he even get that in the span of a few minutes?

And that's the true disconnect in reunions. You don't know that person at all and they are now a practical stranger and yet... You still have those feelings for them, that connection through memories. You had a memory of them frozen in time but things have changed, so many things have changed. It's hard to start off on somewhat new footing because you don't even have scratch but something worse than scratch. The new person in front of you is in so many ways unfamiliar and will be for a while. No words can really bridge that.

It is, of course, always interesting and enlightening to catch up and find out where a person is. To see an update on things. Sometimes they can be in the craziest of places really and completely shock you. It's cool, of course, and yet... The lingering sense of weird still stays.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Human beings lie all the time. We lie for reasons deep and shallow, lie to protect ourselves and others, lie to keep something hidden or to keep up the facade, lie to get what we want, lie just because we can. We lie to strangers, acquaintances, family, friends, children, and perhaps most of all, ourselves. Most of the time we don't believe the lies we spew (which makes it all the harder to tell them) but sometimes we do. Or at least, we believe them overtime.

Today, I went to this art festival for teenagers where I performed a piece of poetry. The theme (and perhaps quite a foolish one considering the targeted audience) was "What's really on your mind?" And boy did we find out what's really on some people's minds! Obviously, given said theme, the stuff was mostly terribly depressing and angsty but there was also an incredible amount of honesty and vulnerability in all of that. That, I realized, is rare. And so it got me thinking.

There are so many lies that we tell to others but, more than that, there are so many lies that we tell ourselves. Worst yet, there are so many lies that we and others believe. And, sometimes, that makes our lie somewhat real. Cemented. Some lies are easily peeled off but some need to be ripped off like a Band-Aid. In this way, Self-deception is the worst kind of all.

Oh how numerous are those lies! We are happy, our family is happy, they love me, everything will work out, everything is good. And how far is that from the truth. Those lies sound so sweet that we believe and those lies have a hard time being reversed. Denial is so easy and so sweet, even if it can prove to be exhausting over time. The lovely thing about an artist (any sort of lie), at least, is that they usually don't lie. They tell the gory, ugly truth and force it on you like a leech.

Yet sometimes, those lies are ugly lies too. Lies like, I am not good enough. I am [insert insult here]. Lies like, I deserve this. Lies like, It is my fault. Lies like, Things will not get better. Lies that we stuff deep inside of us and carry like a boulder in our backpacks, lies that tend to surface eventually but usually within the worst of ways.  All sorts of lies that wear us down inside and erode us until our jagged fighting edges are beat down into submission and we are whittled down into people we do not recognize.

Oh there are so many lies in our fucked-up society! It is easier to lie, after all. And yet, over time, that kind of lying proves to be deeply destructive to us, working society deep into retrograde. But why are there so many lies when there could be truth?

Yes, the truth may be scary because it is so unknown. Uncovering may be like gorging your very flesh with a knife because it's under so many layers of skin. But it's worth it. In the long run, it is less painful.

But what do we do when there are so many different layers of truth, so many possibilities? Why, I suppose we find our own. That's what I'm doing now. I'm trying to find my truth and I'm also trying to find my truth. Hard to do when I have to work through years of lies that I have told myself, memories that I have pushed deep inside of myself. I'm still doing it, though. because it's worth it.

Let us end the lies we tell ourselves. Let's face it once and for all. It may be hard but it is needed, definitely needed.

The Lies We Like

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I Got In

This Thursday, I got incredibly exciting news: I got into the private school that I have been yearning to get into for a while. It is a very small, very artsy high school located right near a very quaint, very artsy town. When I shadowed there, the people were kind, the landscape was gorgeous and I felt at home in a way that I haven't felt in quite a while.

Yes, I know that I have been going to public school for two years now. This move to private school might be a little strange and random for some people and many might wonder why I didn't try for it earlier. My sudden enthusiasm about this might appear to be even stranger. They might especially wonder why I didn't try for this particular school earlier. All of which are good questions.

My reasons for going to this school are pretty simple. I could say that this school has a great art school, that the people there are strangely friendly, how it's so strange to see so many different people in one place who dress and act so differently from what is mainstream, how everyone knows each other by name and calls each other by first name (yes, the students call their teachers by their first name and it's not because they're Quaker but just because), how the whole place is so liberal and casual that it feels so freeing. All of these things are true but they aren't my primary reason for going to this school. At the end of the day, the real truth is that I don't belong at my public school and I need to get out. ASAP. I don't know how much different this school will be from my current school but it seems much better.

I don't belong at my public school. I just don't. I don't belong there and I don't believe that most of the other kids want me there. So my move will be mutually beneficial, I'm sure. The negativity of most of the people around me only serves to bring out my own depression and their artificiality only makes me want to gag. Even though the school is big enough that I should find people I connect with pretty easily, I'm pretty much isolated from everyone and can't seem to connect to anyone that well. My friends from before have started to become people I hardly recognize, getting into hobbies that I can't connect to and also becoming so bitter and cynical about everything that being around them makes me go away feeling better and not worse. My grades, for those reason among others, have went from A's and B's to B's and C's (as well as one near D). I probably should stop there before I start to sound whiny and angsty. Yes, I've been trying to shrug all of this off and get by but I can't seem to do this. And I don't think I should have to. I shouldn't have to just get by, watch my back with every step I take and just persevere. That's not living; that's just surviving. And so I wanted something better for myself.

I started looking into options and found this school. In eighth grade, when school was even worse than it is now, I looked into private schools but found their atmospheres just as horrible as public school but the brats happen to be even richer. I dismissed this school because I heard that the academics weren't as great (and that it was for less intelligent kids) and also because it's pretty far from my house. But I found out that their academics are just fine but absent of the ridiculous amount of pressure in most schools and also, my sixteenth birthday enabled me to be able to get my learner's permit (so I can drive there rather than take the ridiculously long bus drive).

So I'm pretty excited to go to this school. It will be a fresh start for me, I think, and I'll be around misfit, artsy kids like me. Maybe the smaller space will even make me feel not quite as lost as I do now. I'm still scared of the unknown, of course, and my anxious voice is thinking of everything that can possibly go wrong. But I got another sign that this school will be great for me. Not only was I told about my acceptance via personal phone call, but I was also given a free T-shirt, a personalized note and piece of artwork by one of the teachers. I considered it an incredibly sweet gesture and a sign that the people there really do seem to care.

I can only hope from here that everything will work out.