Monday, June 30, 2014

A Letter to all of you Twenty-Something’s

I’m sad to say I’ve reached my late twenties. That point in one’s life where the struggle of being an adult becomes real. No more partying on the weekends (or after classes during the weekdays) because you have to get up and work the next day. No more sleeping until noon (or possibly later depending on the state of your hangover) because you will most likely get fired if you do. No more Ramen Noodles, Easy Mac, or cheap Chinese food (well maybe higher end Chinese food. I refuse to give up lo mien) because you probably should start thinking about your health and let’s face it: there is massive amounts of sodium and fat in all mentioned. You have to be an “adult” now. That means you have to learn how to do “adult” things. What in god’s name is an “adult” thing? How on earth can I do it if I don’t know what it is? Am I even old enough to be qualified as an adult? I still sleep in “Superman” pajamas for crying out loud!

            Personally, I don’t think one should be considered an adult until they’re at least 35. That seems like a legit age. But I digress.

            So what qualifies as “adult” things? Paying bills, managing your finances, buying groceries (beer no longer qualifies as your top “grocery” item guys, sorry), signing up for health insurance, paying bills…paying bills…paying off the inevitable student loans that you’ve probably racked up during your college years. Holy crap. This is getting scary. Life is starting to creep up on you. Slinking its long, gnarly fingers around your wallet and mind; threatening to drive you mad! Life! You thrust the skull high and dramatically say: “Alas poor Yorick I knew him!” Then you realize that you not only don’t know someone named Yorick, but someone else said that first. So you sit down in the corner and fall into the fetal position crying out: “I don’t want to be an adult! I can’t handle all of this!”

            Take a deep breath. Uncurl yourself from the fetal position, and sit up. You’re going to be fine. I know it’s a lot to take in and it’s scary as hell, but you are not alone. There are thousands of people going through the exact same thing as you, maybe not at this very moment but trust me they’re definitely going to feel it soon. I am one of those people; I’m terrified of becoming an adult. But being an adult doesn’t mean changing who you are completely, it means making a few tweaks here and there to make sure you’re successful and most importantly: happy. Let me explain:

First off, people unfortunately need and require money in order to survive. Wouldn’t it be better if we all could pay with pocket lint or something? Or pennies? There are probably more freaking pennies than there is pocket lint. Sadly, that’s not the case so one needs to find a job and become a contributing member of society; a taxpayer. Preferably, you want a job that makes you happy but alas, that doesn’t always happen. The truth is you’re going to have to work a few crappy jobs before you find one that makes you happy. I truly believe that if you keep pressing on, you’ll find that job. Just keep going kid, you’ll make it.

Secondly you’re going to have to learn how to manage your money. I feel so hypocritical saying this because I am awful with money. But it’s something I am learning to do. If you have to, talk to someone about planning a budget or finance management. There are people out there who do that sort of stuff for a living (I know, shocking right?) so they’ll be more than happy to help you out.

Lastly, never lose track of where you came from; whether that place is lower class, middle class, or first class. Where you come from is an important part of who you are and it’ll keep you grounded. I’m blessed to come from a wonderful family who supports me in all I do, even when I screw up royally I’m able to come home and find my bearings. If you’re not as lucky as I am, then remember where you come from and become better. Remember that someone can’t be more human than you, if a human being did it than it is attainable for you. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Maleficent and Feminism

I don't normally do two blog posts so close together, I'm lucky if I do two in one month. However after seeing Disney's recent film Maleficent for a third time I felt that I just had to record the many observations I had during multiple viewings of the film. Spoilers ahead for those who haven't seen the film.

Maleficent tells the tale of the classic "villain" in a new way; it gives her back story and why she became evil. As it turns out, Maleficent had wings. Her wings represented freedom and identified her as a fairy, they were massive and glorious; they were strong and reliable. Utter joy and elation was on the characters face as she soared through her homeland the Moors, they gave her the freedom and the identity of a fairy. The Huffington Post recently posted an article comparing the loss of Maleficent's wings to rape. Now at first I thought it was a bit harsh, after all it is a Disney movie, however when I really sat down and thought about it and after my third viewing of the film...I'm inclined to agree with them. Here's an excerpt from the article:

Imagine you're drugged by someone you thought you trusted. You wake up in the morning with your face down in the dirt. You're aching. Your appearance has changed and you can feel that you're different as you try to stand through the pain. Beyond the physicality of it, your power was stolen from you. Your flight response. Your dignity.
You're confused. Enraged. Devastated. Angry. You set everyone on fire around you. You wish hatred on newborn babies. You want to hide in an evil shell of darkness where everything is black and no one can touch you. Or ever hurt you. They talk about walls on reality TV shows. Oh, you build walls -- they're walls of thorns with armed towering guards that will crush any man who tries to approach it.
 The story goes as follows: Stefan and Maleficent were childhood friends, this lead to young lovers. Stefan was ambitious and headstrong, he had a huge set of blinkers on and could only see what was in front of him. Maleficent coudn't understand the greed and folly of men's world and though she was hurt by Stefan's actions at times, he had never given her a reason not to trust him.
Recently defeated in battle by Maleficent and her comrades of the Moors, the King stated that anyone who could avenge him for this loss and his imminent death would be named king. Well this was the opportunity that Stefan had been waiting for and he was willing to do anything to get it. The whole scene is absolutely horrifying to me: Stefan goes there with the intent to kill Maleficent, he drugs her, and when the knife is high above her head he finds that he cannot bring himself to kill her. So instead he takes iron chains (we find when they first meet that iron burns fairies) and literally saws her wings off; he rapes her of her ability to fly. He takes her very identity, her freedom, he alters who she is, and wounds her both physically and emotionally.

Sounds a lot like a sexual assault to me.

I had to write this because I myself am a victim of sexual assault and it took three viewings of this film for my mind to finally accept that I was seeing an action of assault. So what does this mean? The Huffington Post has an idea:
But Maleficent is a commentary on current male and female relationships. It's a commentary on rape culture. And much more, it's a story that allows a woman to recover. It gives her agency. It gives her power. It allows her to reclaim the story. And this is something that can't be ignored.
Maleficent was able to reclaim her story, she was able to rise above what happened to her and get her wings back. Her wall of thorns came down and she was able to let the light in again. I think this is probably one of the most important movies that Disney has made thus far, even if this wasn't their intent. It shows that they are taking a new direction and telling more stories that women can relate to instead of roll their eyes at the classic patriarchal fairy tale.

I like the direction that Disney is going, I hope they keep on this track because lets face it, women are powerhouses and they need to adapt to the changing times.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Preventable Tragedies: Mental Illness and Violence

It seems as though lately we have been living in an incredibly violent world. The recent shootings have prompted a heated conversation on gun control and how we need stricter gun laws. It seems to me that we are talking about everything else EXCEPT the one glaring similarity between the shooters: they all have a severe case of mental illness. A recent report on CBS News Sixty Minutes noted that most of these gunmen all have reported or we have found out about them hearing voices in their head telling them to do horrible and unspeakable acts of violence. This symptom is commonly diagnosed as schizophrenia, a disabling mental disorder that causes people to hear voices other people don't hear. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. This can terrify people with the illness and make them withdrawn or extremely agitated. Its a dark, abysmal world that they inhabit, one that no one can understand unless you have been there. In the case of the Washington Navy Yard shooter, he went and told someone that he had been hearing voices and he was worried that something bad would happen. Nothing was done and he ended up succumbing to his illness and killing twelve people. Every single shooter that has killed mass numbers of people has had a red flag raised against them and people have been told that they were not only a danger to themselves but could possibly be a danger to another person as well. Nothing was done. 

In the late sixties when state hospitals were shut down, the patients (we're talking about a half of a million of them) there were supposed to be housed in residential treatment centers, supervised, and medicated. What happened? Well the programs were never adequately funded and so a half of a million severely mentally ill people were left to fend for themselves. Most of them are not being treated and suffering with their ailment. Instead of funding these residential treatment centers, we are worried about other things and not looking at the real problem here: These people need help. They need to be medicated, monitored, and have regular psychiatric care. Now I am not saying we bring back the state hospital system. That's a terrible idea. What I am saying is that people need to start paying attention to the fact that mental illness is a real issue when it comes to the safety of others. Its not the guns that are the problem, its the people pulling the trigger. 

It is incredibly difficult now to get help for someone suffering from either a psychotic break or having suicidal ideations, etc. Take the case with Virginia Senator  Creigh Deeds, whose 24-year-old son, Gus attacked him and then died by suicide in Nov. 2013. His son was suffering, and there were no beds available for him. This is a U.S. Senator, he has resources that average people don't and yet his son could not receive the attention he needed because of this messed up system we have for people with mental illness. 

Lets take me for example. I suffer from depression and anxiety, while now I am on medication and am doing okay, before I was medicated I suffered severe anxiety attacks which led to severe depression, and that led to suicidal ideation. I was so close to taking my own life last September that I nearly didn't make it to the hospital. Once I was there, the doctor said that my insurance would not cover my stay at that particular hospital and they said that they may have to send me up to Cambridge, MD where they have a hospital for people with mental health issues. Basically, I could not stay at my local hospital because my insurance didn't think it necessary for me to do so. I ended up staying at my local hospital thanks to my doctor's persistence but I couldn't help but wonder how many people that happened to. 

People with mental health issues also face a stigma that they are not "normal" or they are "special" in a bad way. This needs to stop. It's causing people to not go get the help they need, or even worse deny that they need help for fear of being ostracized. This world is tough and not everyone handles it the same way when life gets really shitty. There's not a day that goes by where I don't feel normal; I feel like I have to constantly apologize for my condition even though I know I can't help it. Because of this stigma, I feel like I'm...different, and not in a good way. 

So what do we have here? We have a broken system in need of repair, and a stigma that's permeated our culture. What can be done about it? Plenty. Write to your Senators, raise your voice and for gods sake remember that we are all human beings. Human beings are the same, no one can be more human than you. Just because someone has bipolar disorder, or depression, or schizophrenia, or anxiety doesn't make them alien. The world is a very difficult place, think of how much more difficult it is for them.