Keep the Change

I want to change the world one day!

That’s it? You can do that in the next 10 seconds.

How?

Scootch your chair in a bit.

*Scootch*

And thus, the chair distribution of the world was altered.

That wasn’t much of a change.

You’re right. That was a small change. You’ll make more of those than any other kind.

As long as you keep scootching and talking and touching and buying and using and exhaling and appearing–or not–I guarantee it. Some for the better and some for the worse and some for neither.

Sometimes you won’t be able to tell which is which, and I’m not sure there’s always an answer, but I hope you keep remembering to ask. Even if you go looking for bigger changes to make: don’t stop seeing how you are always changing the world, and always have been, and sometimes get to choose how.

 

 

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15 Things I Learned in 2015

Well, since I made lists for 2013 and 2014, I guess I should make another one for this year (or at least everything since my last semester-ly list).

  1. A one-month trial of Microsoft Office can last forever if you never restart your computer.
  2. Cooking sounds a lot more appealing at the beginning of the semester.
  3. Don’t underestimate how much people can change (in all the best and worst ways).
  4. Don’t underestimate how much the world can change (in all the best and worst ways).
  5. Professional success is sometimes more about making friends than being the “best.” I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.
  6. You don’t have to be everything that you admire in other people.
  7. I need prioritize taking care of my body or this “young and invincible” thing is gonna run out fast (i.e. sleep and adequate warm-ups are not optional).
  8. Yoga is awesome.
  9. Perceiving things categorically (starting with sounds and colors) is neurologically efficient, but that doesn’t mean it reflects reality.
  10. Those who don’t learn history are destined to make up their own version of it.
  11. The person grading your paper actually does want you to do well–it’s so much easier and less of a downer to grade.
  12. Things which may actually be a contest to see who avoids quitting the longest: dance, blogging.
  13. If you can make five-year-olds learn something, adults are a breeze.
  14. If you want to see our society’s sexist and racist assumptions spelled out without the usual coding or denial, listen to kids. And sometimes presidential candidates.
  15. Comedy is really a nuanced, powerful, and generally underrated art. No joke.

Happy New Year y’all! Have fun and don’t make too many resolutions!

Let’s Talk About Hair

Today I got a haircut. Nothing too exciting–just a few inches off, straight across, like I do a couple times every year. Sometimes, I think that one of these days I’ll go for something more stylized, interesting, or funky. It hasn’t happened yet.

—–

Between the ages of 9 and 15, I grew my hair out. Or more accurately (since “growing out” sounds too much like an active process), I just didn’t cut it, besides the occasional trim. I started out with the intention of making a better ballet bun and kept going until my bun required two packs of bobby pins to stay in place. Eventually, when my hair was pushing waist-length, I decided that I was going to cut off 10 inches to donate to an organization making wigs for cancer patients. It was still reasonably long after the cut, but the change was enough to make me cry as soon as I got in the car.

—–

When I was 12, I read that hair was dead cells. I liked to bring this fact up whenever someone or something referenced keeping my hair “healthy,” whether it was my mom encouraging me to trim my split ends or shampoo labels promising “healthy locks.” Describing something that was literally dead as “healthy” seemed like a particularly distorted example of misusing the language of health to describe aesthetics (If you want to make hair shinier or prettier, why can’t you just say that?). But I still use that same brand of shampoo and get trims.

—–

It’s funny how hair is so attached to our idea of femininity. At one point in my toddler existence, I believed that the distinguishing factor between boys and girls was hair length. Which isn’t really that strange of a misconception, considering that we still base so much of our perceptions of masculine/feminine, butch/femme, etc. on haircuts, probably more so than any other factor like dress or behavior.

The automatic equation of long hair to femininity always seemed a little strange when I thought of my own hair. It’s not that I particularly wanted my hair to be seen as not feminine, but my long hair was mostly a product of avoiding haircuts and beauty salons, something which hardly matched up with typical (or at least commercialized) associations of femininity with a concern for beauty and appearance.

—–

Granted, my vague discomfort with the commercial beauty industry was not my main reason for avoiding haircuts. Sometimes I didn’t want to get haircuts because I was busy or lazy, or because the water was too hot when they shampooed. But more than that, haircuts were a change, specifically a change that involved cutting off part of my body–part of me.

I guess when I was a teenager who had recently moved across the country, even superficial constants in my identity were feeling particularly important.

Of course, your hair still changes when you don’t cut it. It gets longer. But that kind of change is subtle enough to forget about most days–until you wake up one morning and realize that your hair reaches your butt instead of your shoulders.

—–

When I cut off those 10 inches, I was most shocked by the sense of permanence. Technically speaking, this obviously wasn’t accurate: hair grows back. But compared to the few seconds it takes to chop it off, the amount of time it takes to grow back is enough to seem like forever. And that’s a scary idea to face: that something which took years to gain can be lost in a moment.

—–

Some people use haircuts to symbolize big changes in their lives: “new ‘do, new you.” But I think that there is also something to be said for hair growth as a symbol for another type of change: slow, inconspicuous, unintentional, yet constant and inevitable, leaving you never quite the same as the previous day; the “new you” quietly emerging from the base of the old, until one day, you realize that you have something there which wasn’t before.

You Know That Feeling?

You know that feeling when the season changes? When you’re exhausted and unhappy about being awake at 8 AM until you step outside and taste the bright, breezy, and thoroughly not freezing air. And you just start feeling things. Like hope and relief and excitement bubbling under your skin cells. You also feel your fingers, because they’re not frozen numb. So with your circulation unimpeded, you stop walking so fast and just stand there to think. And you think it’s funny how you feel so different now, even though nothing is really different. Except the weather. 

And then the memories come. Every spring in your lifetime comes flooding back. Well some of them flood–the rest drip, or trickle or ooze–but it’s hard to make the distinction when you’re trying to stay afloat in the cumulative puddle. There’s some scattered images and sound bites, but mostly sensations tickling your body and head. The close touch of people you may never see again (and those you no longer want to). The warmth of places that used to be home. The pulse of old dreams. And you start to smile and cry and laugh all at the same time so that your face looks really weird and people around you wonder what’s wrong with you (and you think that’s actually a really good question). And you think it’s funny how you feel all the same things now, even though nothing is the same. Except the weather.

You know that feeling? Maybe not.

I want to change the way people see the world.

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Yesterday, when we were walking around the city on this absolutely gorgeous day and taking a ridiculous amount of pictures, my friend asked me “So what do you want to accomplish in your life?” (It made sense in the context of the conversation, trust me.)

In the moment I wasn’t sure how to answer. That kind of Big Question that ends in “life” feels like it deserves one of those Big Answers like “change the world,” but those seemed trite and didn’t fit me quite right. And I don’t think I can honestly claim to be someone who consistently places “the world” over my personal goals and relationships.

I kept thinking about it on the train ride home and my favorite of the answers I came up with was “I want to change the way people see the world.”

Maybe it sounds pretentious, but it seems to cover a lot of what I do. Or what I want to do.

Maybe a few people. Maybe a lot of people. Maybe a little change. Maybe a big one. Maybe it’s the first step to creating actual change in the world. Or maybe not. Maybe the change in perception itself is just as important and real as “actual” change is.

I want to make people see the world differently. What about you?

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It’s Not You, It’s Society: “It’s Just a Phase”

“It’s not you, it’s society” is a series of rants about socially acceptable and polite comments that bother me. Read more here.

“It’s just a phase.”

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. It’s a common way to dismiss some aspect of a person’s identity or life that you don’t want to acknowledge, while claiming to know that person better than they know themself. It can refer to sexuality, gender identity, interests, career aspirations, political/religious beliefs, and basically anything else. Younger people tend get it a lot.

Usually, people defend themselves by trying to prove that the aforementioned quality is not a temporary phase and is instead a permanent part of who they are. This is completely valid and I have done it in more than one context, BUT I also believe that no one should ever even have to make that argument because the entire idea behind “it’s just a phase” is really an awful and illogical reason to trivialize someone’s identity, experiences, or desires.

Like this guy.

The assumption is that whatever someone is right now is more of an transient experience on the way to becoming the fully-fledged, real, predestined, unchanging “true” self. They’re more of a pre-person than an actual current human being.

But when exactly do people turn into their “real” self instead of some less-real self-in-transition. When they’re 30? 40? When they completely stop changing? For how long? 5 years? 20 years? Forever?

If we’re going to take those standards to their logical extension, pretty much nothing is real. Imagine these conversations:

  • Yeah, he retired from his hospital job. He always told me he was a doctor, but I guess he was just going through a 40-year “practicing medicine” phase.
  • At 90, he doesn’t seem to be into women in the same way he used to be. I guess he was just going through a 80-year heterosexual phase.
It's okay, we all go through hetero phases.

It’s okay, we all go through hetero phases.

  • Turns out she’s dead now. I knew she was just going through a little “alive” phase.
This guy knows.

This guy knows it.

Sorry, was that last one too morbid? But lets be real, the only permanent state in human existence is death (maybe–even that one is arguable). If we’re going to use permanence as the golden standard of legitimacy and “realness,” we’re left with a very narrow and pretty depressing view of reality.

Of course, no one claiming “it’s just a phase” actually comes to this conclusion because they don’t actually apply that permanence standard universally. It’s not exactly a coincidence that people only declare qualities that they dislike or don’t understand to be “phases” while automatically assuming qualities they like or identify with to be legitimate. Since we’ve established that permanence isn’t an actual thing, can we agree that “it’s a phase” is just a method of dismissing a present reality that you don’t like/understand by assigning more legitimacy to an imagined future which you like better?

So, yes it may be very likely that “it” (what ever it may be) is actually not a phase (relative to a person’s life span, anyway). But so what if it was? Even then, it still wouldn’t be “just” a phase. People have every right to go through phases, because humans are living, breathing, dynamic beings who are don’t have to be the same people today as we will be tomorrow to prove that we exist.

If phases aren’t real and important . . . what is?

So go along with your little “living” phase and make it as real and fabulous as you want to, without challenging the existence of anyone else’s. Have fun!