Just an Update

First: my new year’s resolutions did NOT work out as planned. Yes, I am running.  Yes, I am buying seeds and dirt.  NO, I am not going to the gym every day.  And even though I’ve been trying to eat better, I still have a tendency to carb-load.  I guess it’s true when they say that you just can’t change over night.  Maybe my goal should be to change all of these things by next new years.  That seems a little more manageable.

I’m also partway through my second semester of senior year, and let me tell you right now: it’s a nightmare.  I love my classes, and I love what I’m learning in them.  Sometimes I just have no motivation though.  Now I always thought I wouldn’t succumb to senioritis just because I would be so dedicated.

WRONG!

Senioritis is probably the worst feeling and the best feeling I’ve ever had all mixed together.  I’m extremely ecstatic that I’m graduating in May.  This feeling of ecstasy (not to be confused with the drug…I’m sure the effect is nowhere near the same) rushes to my head when I’m in class or doing homework, and BOOM!  I don’t want to do what I should be doing to be productive.  This would all be well and good if these were classes  I could skate through.  And maybe one of them is…but not all of them.  In fact, I need pass all three of my Spanish classes to graduate.  And I need to excel in my history class to boost my future career.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely going to pass all of them.  And I’m going to put all of my effort into my history class.  But this mix of excitement and stress leads to a lot of weird nights.  Let me describe the scenario for you.

It was a dark and stormy night.  (Ok, maybe just dark.)  As I sat before the fire in my luxurious (read: decent) townhouse, I thought to myself, wow…this paper will be so cool!  I’m going to write something really moving about…legalizing prostitution…in Spanish.  Then comes the inevitable hour of moaning to whoever will listen about how much I DON’T want to write the paper that could be amazingly moving.  At around 10pm I’ll snap out the paper after copious amounts of dictionary checking.  This occurs every Tuesday night in my townhouse.  You can witness the exhibit this Tuesday: join me for cocktails before witnessing my descent into chaos.

Tonight, however, is a special case.  This is the night my four to six page paper of a survey of oral histories will be born.  At the moment I have a shocking two pages written.  As it is five minutes away from 10pm as I write this, I am indeed impressed with myself.  This is an interesting mix of both ingenuity and procrastination.  So here I sit, once again in front of the fire, practicing my writing skills on my blog instead of on my oral history survey.  Well…I guess this is simply another way of being productive.  Either way, I WILL finish it, and it WILL be good.  In the meantime though I’m going to see just how much I can stress myself out before actually writing this paper.

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Feeling Good for Me

While my boyfriend was out of town for a couple days, I read quite a few books of the chic-lit genre and even succumbed to Drew Barrymore’s Never Been Kissed.  I also noticed how the majority of what I read was about girls who thought that they just weren’t pretty and drastically changed to get the attention of the perfect guy.  If the guy in question really was perfect then he would take notice and quickly assure the girl he liked her the way she was before.  It’s a very sweet plot sequence, but after reading three stories in short succession with that same basic story I started to feel bad and I just couldn’t figure out why.  Why was I drawn to these books and movies when I felt guilty afterward?

Cover of "Never Been Kissed"

I actually really like this movie! She becomes more confident and then gets the guy.

Once I got to thinking, I realized that quite a few popular books for women center around the trials of an insecure woman seeking validation in her life via a significant other.  Let me begin with the Twilight books.  I’ll be honest: I read them when they came out.  I had no shame at the time, because they were, dare I say it, entertaining.  After the phase had passed and I’d relegated the books to a dusty corner shelf, I wondered what it was about these books that left a strange aftertaste.  Then I read a particularly clever blog post from The Oatmeal (found here: http://theoatmeal.com/story/twilight) about the reason Twilight is so addictive.  The main character is severely under described and laden down with an extreme number of self-image issues.  Why is this non-image appealing to so many women?  Why should women, particularly young women, be drawn to a heroine with absolutely no self-esteem and no self-worth unless  she has a man (excuse me, vampire/werewolf) validate her existence?  Sure, it’s something that any awkward preteen can relate to, but I don’t want to stay an awkward preteen and I certainly wouldn’t consider one to be my personal hero.

Cover of "Twilight (Twilight, Book 1)"

Twilight: Epic Saga of Self-hate in the Face of Inhuman Boy Drama

Now, the morals of all these stories (with the exception of Twilight) are generally good.  The female discovers that she doesn’t need make-up to be pretty, or she really is pretty already without even trying, or her dream guy actually does already like her when she’s being normal.  The problem is that the characters never seem to figure this out until the end when the (perfect) man tells them how it really is.Then I read a short story where the teenager in question started wearing make-up because her boyfriend asked her to–so as to amplify her beauty.  In the end, of course, said boyfriend was a bad influence.  I have no issues with a little make-up. I don’t even have issues with a few tips and tricks from the bf.  In fact, mine is a helpful source of feedback from plucking eyebrows to the new haircut; and I appreciate it.  What I don’t like is the idea of protagonists who are women with no sense of self-worth until someone tells them otherwise.

Insert: my confession.  I used to be that girl, which is probably why I enjoyed Twilight so much.  I didn’t grow up being confident in who I was or what I looked like.  In fact, I’d say I was raised to be modest to the point of being down on myself.  That said, part of my insecurities are just genetic.  It’s a fact of life, there are just some things you can’t help inheriting.  Having made strides to overcome insecurity and self-doubt, I find it disturbing that the books that sell are the ones featuring women with the problems I have sought to overcome.  The problem that I have with these books is that even if the right man assures the protagonist that she’s beautiful, if he ever leaves any time in the future she’s going to be a complete wreck.  She won’t be broken up inside because the man she loves is gone (scratch that…maybe she will) but she’ll inevitably question: was I pretty enough?  What did I do wrong?  So in the end, they didn’t learn the right lesson.  What they learned: He said I was perfect.  What they should have learned: I am beautiful and I don’t need him to tell me so, but the compliment’s nice all the same.

I can’t very well write to the publishers or editors and ask them to remove all the books about insecure women from the shelves, because that’s actually what sells.  And they sell because there are insecure women in the world.  I can say that as a woman in the proverbial “Insecure Women Anonymous” group.  My resolution to stop the cycle?  To not read books that foster the ideal of a woman who is worthless until told otherwise.  Perhaps I should clarify that reading books like this doesn’t make women insecure.  If you’re confident, they aren’t going to bring you down.  And if you are insecure then you immediately identify with them.  However, I do think that they promote a cycle.  I want to be a woman who understands my own beauty and worth without needing someone else to tell me.  And I want that for everyone, no matter who you are.

New Years Resolutions

This is the time of year when everyone is making those famed New Year’s Resolutions. Of course the most common is usually losing five pounds after the holiday binge.  And sure that’s going to be one of my resolutions, but overall I’m going to shoot for a healthier and more productive life style this year.  An improved lifestyle in my book means a little more than losing weight or working hard.  It’s also about doing something every day that makes you feel competent and in control.  It’s about challenging yourself every day to try something new or perhaps get better at the new thing you tried yesterday.  So I’m writing a list of my resolutions for 2012 (and beyond) on this blog.  Maybe writing it down will keep me in line this year!

  1. Yes, dear reader, I am going to make the dreaded resolution of losing pounds.  To be more precise, I’m aiming for losing the holiday binge pounds that I gained while the gym was closed.  More than just losing a couple pounds though, I’m resolving to go to the gym at least four days a week every week.  (Unless holidays interfere. I mean…come on!)

    What I'll be thinking about when I'm burning on the elliptical.

  2. Resolution number two: get outside!  I guess that’s a pretty broad resolution, so I’ll narrow this one down to doing work in the garden.  When the bf and I started the garden….oh who am I kidding.  Let me start over.  When my bf decided gardening was a good idea, I went along willingly until I figured out how much hard work was going to be involved. It was a rough couple of months until the garden was fully established filled with me sitting in a lawn chair complaining while he did the work.  Fortunately we made it past this stage (by which I mean he survived, and I got over myself) and now we’re both fully devoted to gardening and reaping the benefits.  Plus, I’m now much more willing to do the hard work.  So my resolution for the garden is to be more on schedule with seeds, weeding, pruning, and harvesting.  Also, I need to eat what we grow.  There was the incident last time where I had food rotting in the fridge because I didn’t really know what to do with it. That is called homegrown failure.  No more!  Every little thing that comes out of the garden this year will be devoured.  This is my take on eating local and healthy.

    The lovingly constructed garden of 2011. Pictures of a new and improved garden will be arriving later this year!

  3. Numero Tres: Improve my Español.  And I don’t mean learn just one thing.  I mean that I really plan on dedicating myself to Spanish this year.  Sure I’ll be in a class every day that will be improving my Spanish, but my goal is to take it more seriously than ever and actively try to get something out of it.  I plan on learning beyond the classroom as well.  My plan: go talk to the homeless man under the bridge, Jose.  While I’m not entirely sure Jose is his real name, the man’s a pretty colorful character all the same.  And even though I had trouble last time I talked to him, I think that conversing with him on a regular basis will be extremely beneficial.  Besides, maybe I can help the guy out.
  4. Perhaps this resolution falls in line with the first, but I think it’s still important to make a distinction.  I would like to see myself eating healthier foods on a regular basis in the coming year.  Healthy eating habits contribute to losing weight but there are other benefits as well.  For one, the type of foods we eat affect our moods, emotions, and mental states.  For example, if you are a woman with low iron, eating a healthy spinach salad will fill you up and leave you feeling boosted with energy.  Probably a more common example is that of carb loading.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love my carbs as much as the next person: pancakes, waffles, toast, bread, dumplings, bread, and did I mention bread?  Carbohydrates are a filling food that spike the blood sugar, but then lead to a much earlier crash.  I’ve found that when I base my daily meals around carbs, I get grumpy and draggy earlier on in the day and begin to feel listless around 4pm.  I’m also much more likely to feel depressed in that draggy, listless part of the day, so….NO BUENO!  Eating a healthy amount of carbs is natural and appropriate but it should be balanced with proteins that boost the body more steadily throughout the day so that I don’t crash at 2, 3, or 4pm.  I’ve learned this lesson the hard way this year (multiple times), so my resolution is to eat more vegetables and more regular proteins.  This should perfectly provide the energy I’m going to need for resolution 1!

    This part of the meal won't be all bad for me as long as it's only a PART of the meal.

  5. Finally, for my final resolution, I am resolved to take whatever steps necessary to be the happiest person I can be.  All of the above will contribute to this goal, but I also mean taking other necessary steps such as therapy or even the random day off.  I’m devoting myself to being a more confident and happier person this year.  But I think this year is looking pretty bright so far.  Happy New Years Everyone!