Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Because of Pablo Neruda

"Oh no. Is this happening?! Awww, this is happening. Are you serious?!" - Me when I get Inspired at midnight when I'm actually trying to go to bed. I don't even know what this is supposed to be about yet, but I suspect it will involve significant and uncharacteristic sappiness.

Today Gabe needed to study for his most qualitatively elusive exam, so I offered to leave him alone and occasionally text him inspirational/interesting/sappy quotes. He took me up on the offer. In the mix was (one of, if not) my favorite "love" quote of all time:

"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close."
~ Pablo Neruda

It's sappy; it's dramatic. And yet, it is what it feels like to love Gabe.

Love for Gabe didn't sprout up one day and then grow; I just noticed one day that it existed, like looking into the sky after dusk and wondering when exactly all the stars appeared.

Loving Gabe has been the clearest, most natural and uncomplicated thing I have ever done. I love him with my strange and fractured soul, but somehow still Simply. He has never made it difficult or dangerous to love him. He has never Lied to me; he has never Hurt me; he has never Manipulated me. The commitment of his love and the depth of his transparency allow me to love him simply.

It is not a Problem to love him. My love never causes me to compromise my faith, marginalize my family, or sacrifice my freedom. Loving him never gets in the way, but rather opens new ways for me to succeed. I like who I am with Gabe. I suffer no identity crises, but feel radically confirmed and affirmed in myself through him.

I don't have to guard my heart from him:  he guards my heart from all its adversaries--even from myself. And I let him.

For the first time in my life, Pride is no barrier. My arrogance (my aggressive self-sufficiency, my marriage to mockery) has no place in our relationship. It was never banished; it never dramatically lost a battle; it just...never came into play, never really fit into our dynamic, and I never missed it. Pride--the stilted, destructive, derisive kind--feels obsolete between us.

I think this goes back to the unguarded heart thing. Pride, no matter what it tries to tell you, is a defensive strategy. It isn't really something you can use to move forward, rather it's something you throw up to avoid losing ground. Gabe has never pushed me in order to conquer me. He pushes me as I push him:  as an exercise in strength, awareness, resolution...sport :)

The only part of Neruda's quote that does not apply is the unawareness of other ways to love. I think I do know other ways to love. I have loved in a exhaustingly complicated, relentlessly problematic, bitterly prideful way--and that is no competition for this.

Gabe's and my love isn't always perfect or exciting, but in a way, it actually is. It's always perfect in that it always feels Right, and it's always exciting in that every day is different. The tiny differences in every day--the weather, the traffic, our breakfasts, our dreams--branch into different thoughts, feelings, revelations, passions, questions, desires, and goals. Every day isn't "driving to Boston" or "meeting Gaston" or "seeing KoRn," but every day is Something, and it's never quite the same.

I think I could go my whole life living with the unconventional perfection, the mundane excitements. I could go my whole life with the refreshing simplicity and radical wholesomeness and joyful dignity. I could go my whole life falling asleep with the close of his eyes.

~Stephanie

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Dare You

This is one of those moment where I feel in myself the potential to write something profound, but I'm not sure if it will come out that way.

In church last week, we had to write on a sheet something we were thankful for. Easiest task in a long time: I wrote "words."

This week at church, we had a time of prayer where everyone was supposed to call to God by one of his names. I didn't say anything out loud, but the same thing leapt to my mind. My tongue silently traced the word inside my mouth: "The Word. You are the Word."

I know I've written about this before, about how in the beginning there were only God's words, and from them came...well, absolutely everything. I know God--though unchanging--is many different things to many different people; I know that he meets us all where we are, and maybe I am just constantly in the words, but it just seems to me that Words are the single most important thing in the entire world.

I know that Love is important, and Compassion and Peace and Forgiveness, but what would those things be without words? What would Love be if we couldn't say "I love you," or "I miss you," or "You look beautiful"? What would Compassion be if we couldn't say "I am so sorry for your loss," or "Would you like to talk about it?" or "Please help me"? What would Peace be without hearing "Everything will be okay," or "Yes, I agree to those terms," or "I'm here now"? What would Forgiveness be without "I'm sorry," "I forgive you," "I understand now"?

Sure, actions speak louder than words, but we know actions by their words. The difference between "hugging" and "restraining" someone is not so much in the action, but in its name, in the intent behind the gesture, a meaning we dictate and understand through language. Tears come from happiness and sadness both, but happy tears stream through a smile, and a smile signifies happiness only because we know the word "happiness."

Everything has a name, which is what gives it meaning. We name our towns, our pets, our children. We name our body parts, our moods, our possessions. We agree to things by saying Yes; we object to things by saying No. We explain ourselves in letters, essays, text messages, songs.

We express things in art and music as well, but they have "messages." They communicate Words to us, through colors or sound. We say a piece of music "speaks" to us; it makes us feel empowered or sad or pensive or inspired or exhilarated. The piece might be too complicated for words, but we try, because otherwise the meaning evaporates. There is nothing so frustrating as hearing something too beautiful to translate into language. We have to try, or we can't quite share it--with others or even with ourselves.

If I want to show you my new house, I might point at the building, but your mind processes and organizes the sight with words:  "It's a house. It has windows and doors and a wrap-around porch. I love what they've done with the yard. And look at those barn wood shutters!" Without words, what would you think? How would you even know what you were seeing? Without names for the impressions of the world, we would live in blind chaos, not even able to articulate our confusion and longing for order.

We have national anthems to promote patriotism.
We have names to call each other.
The Berlin Wall fell with words:  "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall."
Rosa Parks expressed her freedom with a word:  "No."
We detest liars; we crave truth.
Famous dictators and famous prophets alike make speeches to win followers.
Words are the most powerful--and arguably the only--tools of persuasion.
Companies use mottoes; politicians use slogans.
We use words to exchange marriage vows and write treaties.
We give our word in promises.
We ask "how do you feel?" and then expect a verbal explanation.
In court, we convict and acquit with words:  "Guilty." "Innocent."

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Of all the things in all the world, God chose Words as the first synonym for himself. The powers to convict or acquit, commune or deny, praise or scorn, love or dismiss, all lie within in God himself; all lie within Words. In giving us the power of language, God has given us a part of his very self. Who knows what God looks like, but we were made in His image because we were made from Words, and we exist on them daily just as God lives on Words, lives on Himself.

If Words are not the absolute foundation of existence, the most beautiful and precious and powerful thing on earth, then what is? I dare you to find it and convince me without them.

~Stephanie

Sunday, November 1, 2015

If You Have No Internal Crises, Is It Really Senior Year?

I had a small breakdown today.

My roommate and I went to see the play "Anne of Green Gables" this afternoon. I LOVED those movies as a kid. We have the entire movie series on VHS and I think I can probably still quote whole sections even though I haven't seen them in years.

Actually, before the play, I hadn't even THOUGHT about the story lately: the story of a little orphan girl with an unparalleled imagination, a big mouth, and dreams of authorship. I forgot how much Anne felt like childhood, felt like a legitimate part of MY identity, felt like home. Anne found a home in Green Gables, and I found my home today in her.

Suddenly I remembered how inspired I would get when I watched movies set in "olden days." I would start getting up at 7am and making my bed and eating an "old-fashioned" breakfasts and doing my chores right away and trying to wear dresses. I would make vows like ones Anne would make, about being a more conscientious person. I would try to be Polite and Well-Mannered and Hospitable.

Then my stomach started to sink with the startling realization that I am sort of grown up. There will not ever be another time when I can wake up and reinvent myself while my mom actually keeps my real life spinning. I actually DO have to get up at 7am and do my chores, because no one else is going to do them for me. I can't just lose myself in whatever pretend game I want anymore. I have to live my own, actual, real life.

And then--at the time it somehow seemed directly related to the above--I got really homesick. Lately I've been plagued by a gnawing feeling of homelessness. The couch and chair in my apartment living room are SINFULLY uncomfortable (the arms are bony, the leather seats stick to your skin, and the cushions come out the moment your butt touches them). My room is always messy because 1) it's small and 2) I never have the time or energy to keep it neat. Our kitchen sink is too shallow to wash dishes in and we don't have enough counter space to cook real food comfortably. My apartment does not feel like home.

But Gabe's dorm is even worse. He's in your typical freshman dorm:  roommate, cinder block walls, loud AC unit, muggy as heck (the dehumidifier they just bought collects TWO GALLONS of water a day), and his bed is all the way lofted. You cannot sit up in bed at all. You're like 18 inches from the ceiling. It is like living in a prison cell. A humid, humid prison cell.

So, naturally, Home--my parents' house--is where my mind wistfully wandered.

Except that "Home" doesn't feel right anymore either. It has actually just started to feel like "my parents' house." Sure, it's familiar and the couch is comfy and the sink is deep and the counter space is fantastic and Mom's cooking is delicious and my room is clean (mostly because I don't live there anymore) and I can sit up in my bed, but...I don't know. It doesn't feel like a place where my soul is relaxed and snuggled up in a blanket anymore. It feels a little bit empty.

Although I'd give anything to be there now, of course. I really miss my family. I miss Mom's cooking and our inside jokes and her just "GETTING" me. I miss hearing Daddy's newest philosophical and political insights and going to the antique store with him and letting him show me his latest woodworking project. I haven't seen my sister in...a really long time. I miss her being there.

But anyway. "Anne of Green Gables" made my heart and my throat ache with homesickness. And then my brain engaged and snorted at me:  Homesick? For where? Where is your home? And I didn't even know what to say.

My parents' house isn't Home anymore, and yet, I can't imagine feeling at home without my parents. This whole semester I've been excited to graduate and make my own "home": an apartment with all my books and my clothes and kitchen utensils where I cook food and watch TV and sleep and live real life. I've been so ready and so excited to make my own home.

But now I'm afraid that nowhere will ever feel like home, that I am incapable of creating "Home" by myself. I don't know how to do that. I'm afraid I'll always be a little homesick.

And I just started crying, right there in the play, right there in the dark theater house.

I'm not crying anymore, but I do feel lost and confused. What does Home really mean, anyway? Where Gabe is? Where my books are? Where the damn couch cushions don't scoot out?

If I ever figure it out, I'm sure I'll let you know.

~Stephanie

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Between Two Trees

Everything felt crisp and happy. The whole world was biting into a cold, sweet apple; opening a fresh, blank notebook; sliding between cool, clean sheets. The air touched her skin and set it free:  she felt infinitely open and infinitely comfortable and infinitely light. The sun watched from a distance, throwing down light--clean and clear--without heat.

She swung her arms as she walked. Well, at least she did in her mind; it was hard actually to swing them with a drink in one hand and a heavy bag on her shoulder. She felt good. She felt at peace. She had just enough control of her life to feel safe and optimistic. She felt capable, though challenged; unburdened, though busy. Her life was, as always, a beautiful conglomeration of oxymorons and ironies, paradoxes and asterisks. Everything was overwhelming, but nothing overwhelmed her. It was a good feeling.

Her comfy boots hit the brick path in a perfect steady rhythm, carrying her between two rows of young trees. The wind whispered to them what a good day she was having. In happy response, they sent two red leaves twirling down in front of her. She knew they were for her and she smiled.

Out of the corner of her eye, between two trees, she saw the world ripple and shimmer. This took several seconds to register, and when it did, her mind labeled it "spiderweb." But a second later, she slowed her steps and glanced back. She did not see any spiderweb, and as she recalled the peripheral memory, it seemed less like a glittery web and more like a thin, shiny, warped window.

Her smile twitched wryly. Not too long ago, she would have taken the sight as a portal to another world.

This thought stopped her. She stood on the brick path, a few paces past the mysterious shimmering space between trees. It had to have been a web. But...was anyone watching her?

She noted no one in front of her and no one behind her. Someone might be watching from a building nearby, but that would be okay. She felt too happy to feel foolish.

In a fragment of a moment--so sudden that she startled herself--she must have decided to go back and look again. Her bag bumped her hip and the ice in her drink rattled as she turned and trotted back a few steps.

She did see a spiderweb, but it was small and strung among the leaves and twigs of one tree. Nothing filled the empty space between the two trunks. She must have imagined the shimmering; it must have been a trick of this beautiful sunlight and clean air. She allowed herself just moment to be sure before continuing on her way, bag bumping and drink rattling. There wasn't anything between the trees. She knew that.

But it bothered her. She didn't go back, but it bothered her. She should have stepped between the trees to be sure. She should have put her hand there. She knew it was silly; she knew it was the light.

But she didn't, was the thing. Years ago, she would have gasped, run back, and reached her fingers into the shimmering space. She would have half expected to see her hand disappear into the force field and feel some alien air on the other side. She would have followed her hand with her body and been Who Knows Where. It would have been magic--maybe. Maybe.

But she didn't, was the thing. Today, she didn't think to try, really. It hadn't been a spiderweb; it hadn't been anything. Just a trick of the light.

Maybe this was the time, she wondered, fully joking--but fully distracted by an unnamed loss. Maybe this was the time it was real, the first time I did nothing, the first time I didn't try. Maybe that's how people miss things: they grow up and stop trying. Maybe it was Narnia and I wasn't looking for it and I could have gone. But if I think so, and I try, aren't I looking for it? Doesn't it then go away?

It wasn't really anything, and she knew that. But it bothered her.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Omg The Lion King is Hamlet

Tomorrow night I am going to see a live-streamed version of the play Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Be jealous.

In honor of getting to see my favorite play of all time, I would like to address a popular myth that absolutely fries me. It is the myth of


"Omg The Lion King is totes a retelling of Hamlet"

I would like to unmask this ridiculous falsehood by replying

"Um no it is not"

And, of course, providing evidence to that effect. So here we go.

WARNING: SPOILERS. I assume you know the story of The Lion King and don't mind some ruined "surprises" in Hamlet, but I believe there is a special circle of Hell reserved for people who spoil stories, and I am all about not going to Hell. So proceed at your own risk.

Similarities Between Disney's The Lion King and William Shakespeare's Hamlet

1. Both stories revolve around royalty. Congratulations, you have identified two works that feature royal families. This is only like one of THE MOST common elements in literature, and basically the MAIN element in classic Disney.

2. In both stories, the uncles kill the fathers in order to take the crown for themselves. This is a much better parallel, but, again, it's a common theme in stories. The little brother who wants his big brother's crown is pretty much a classic plot line.

3. In both stories, the ghosts of the dead kings appear. This would be a pretty convincing similarity if their roles weren't vastly, vastly, fundamentally different. See Differences...

Differences Between The Lion King and William Shakespeare's Hamlet

1. In Hamlet, the Queen Gertrude is involved in plotting King Hamlet's murder; in The Lion King, Queen Sarabi is clueless and loyal to King Mufasa.

2. In Hamlet, the uncle and the queen get married--rather quickly. In The Lion King, Scar and Sarabi never seem to have a positive relationship.

3. In The Lion King, the uncle frames the son, Simba--and Simba DOES play a role in King Mufasa's death. Yeah, it was Scar who orchestrated the whole thing, but in Hamlet, the King's death is presumed to have been from natural causes. Hamlet isn't even implicated.

4. In Hamlet, Ophelia and Hamlet are discouraged from marrying. In The Lion King, Simba and Nala are betrothed.

5. In The Lion King, Simba genuinely feels guilty for his father's death and flees. In Hamlet, the son sticks around and actually develops an investigation plan. Yeah, Hamlet goes to England for like four seconds, but that is not his idea, and he comes back ASAP.

6. In Hamlet, the love interest, Ophelia, goes crazy and dies. In The Lion King, Nala is a feisty and persistent character who makes Simba man (lion?) up.

7. The secondary characters are all completely different. Pumba and Timone are on Simba's side; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's job is basically to spy and tattle on Hamlet. Nala doesn't have a brother (Ophelia has Laertes). Nala's father isn't in the picture at all (Ophelia's father is adviser to the king). Simba doesn't have a strong confidante who actually survives the play (Horatio).

8. In Hamlet, there is no Rafiki character.

9. In The Lion King, the ghost of Mufasa appears to Simba to give him strength and hope. In Hamlet, the ghost of King Hamlet appears to Hamlet to demand vengeance. Mufasa encourages peace; King Hamlet brings unease and frustration.

10. In Hamlet, everybody dies at the end (I mean, it is a Shakespearean tragedy). In The Lion King, it is pretty much happily ever after for everyone except evil Uncle Scar (and the hyenas).

And there you have it.

So next time you hear people say "Omg The Lion King is Hamlet," please slap them for me. And then make them read this post.

Sincerely,
Such a Nerd

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

As Told in Pairs

{Did you read the title as "Paris"? Because I've done that like four times since typing it. Anyway.}

Personally, I don't drink.

I don't mean "I don't get drunk;" I don't mean "I don't use alcohol to solve my problems." I mean I have never tasted alcohol and I plan to be able to say that for the rest of my life.

And I am tired of people making assumptions when I tell them that.

So, I am writing this post to debunk myths about my stance on drinking/alcohol.

2 Reasons That Are NOT Part of Why I Don't Drink

"Because drinking is morally reprehensible." False. Jesus drank. Jesus turned water into wine. Yeah, I think there's something about how the alcohol back then didn't get you as drunk as fast, but still. I don't think that I can use being a Christian as a reason to condemn all alcohol all the time.

"Because drinking is always irresponsible." I also don't believe that drinking is inherently irresponsible. Obviously getting drunk in public and hitting on a stranger/throwing up in the bathroom/trying to drive home/airing your friend's dirty laundry is irresponsible, but if you know your limits, you never have to reach that point. As long as you make logical arrangements, you can drink safely and smartly.

2 Reasons that ARE Part of Why I Don't Drink
My family has a history of alcoholism--on both sides. I am genetically predisposed to become addicted to alcohol. Maybe I could taste it and walk away. But it is very likely that my body would demand more and my brain would wire itself to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. For me, drinking is just not smart.

Do you even know me at all? Let's be honest guys:  if I were to drink, I would drink too much; I don't do anything halfway. I am passionate and mischievous enough while sober; I dance enough, talk enough, laugh enough, and put my foot in my mouth enough while sober. I need no enhancement of my "drunk-on-life" state. If I were to get drunk, I would probably end up taking my clothes off, starting a fight, and making out with a stranger.

2 Additional Myths About My Position
I think everyone should adopt this stance/I judge people who drink. False. Because I don't have any inherent or moral problems with alcohol, there is no reason for me to think no one should drink. I will be your DD. I will help you find the bathroom. I will advise you on when you've probably had enough. And I will think no less of you when the night is over.

I think I'm better than people who drink. *rolls eyes* Seriously? If anything I am genuinely jealous of people whose personalities and biologies allow them to drink responsibly.

2 Additional Truths About My Position
It is difficult to maintain. I love to have a wild good time. I look around at parties and clubs and concerts and I see people laughing and loosened up and I wonder what I would be like on a little bit of juice. Would I be a silly drinker? An angry drinker? A sad drinker? I'll never know, and that's difficult to live with as someone who likes to leave no experience unknown.

My best friend and boyfriend drink alcohol. My two closest friends in the world drink, and I have no problem with it. In fact, I maaaaaay live a little vicariously through them:  "Ooooh, Cass, you should get that drink. That blue one. Yeah. Cool. How is it? Is it good? And, Gabe, get that weird lime one because it looks fascinating. Please?"

And that's pretty much it.

:)

~Stephanie

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What College My Professors Have Taught Me

Dr. Thornton taught me that I CAN do it. Whatever it is, no matter how LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE it seems, if I just put my head down and conquer one step at a time, I WILL get to the end. I cannot thank him enough for such a valuable life skill.

Mrs. Parker inspired me in one of my darkest times. Fall of my freshman year, when I was angry and jaded and lonely and depressed, she brought the light of Words back to me. Her untarnished passion for stories ignited joy from the center of my heart. She Loved words with a capital L and her Love could not help but overflow to all her students. I am convinced that every single student left her class with a better appreciation of language. I will never forget how much she meant to me and encouraged me.

Dr. Stanke taught me the powerful beauty of genuinely engaging with people and committing them to memory.

Mr. Salsbury taught me how to understand what a professor wants from me. He taught me the value of going to your professors' offices and letting them help you. He taught me that sometimes, people just want you to read their minds and you have to figure out how to do that. I believe this to be another valuable skill as I seek post-graduation employment XD

Dr. Peterman taught me the value of mentor relationships. She taught me that I am allowed to speak like an adult and be treated like an adult. She taught me the benefit of building goodwill and actually trying your best. She's taught me that Loving and playing with words does not have to be an artsy-fartsy, wishy washy, gray area, but can be an exciting, clever, and concrete world that requires agile intellect and logical thinking skills. She helped me wed my love of beauty with my love of reason.

Dr. McNair reminded me how much fun it is to surprise people with kind-spirited irony.

Dr. Dunnum taught me to See words deeper, to look not only below the word's surface, but behind and beside and above it. He taught me to ask deeper, bigger questions. He taught me to ask How? and then prove it. He taught me to ask Why? and then try to find the answer. And he taught me that not finding the answer does not constitute a failure.

Dr. Morefield taught me how to love books better. He taught me to savor the language, the story, and the people (good characters are not just "characters," but real people to be understood). Reading Emma in his class was probably the most fun I've ever had reading for school.

Dr. Truffin taught me that having wild style does not preclude being hired as a professional. She taught me how to be professional without compromising or apologizing for who you are. She taught me how to facilitate discussion, be an active listener, appreciate others' work, and participate in great arguments.

Dr. Schroeder taught me that it is possible to get an A in a class where it is allegedly impossible to get an A. He taught me the most Greek I've ever learned in one place, which basically makes him my hero. He taught me to wrestle with FREAKING HUGE ideas and come out sane. He taught me to love Aristotle even more. I only had one class with him (Ancient Political Thought), but it is one of my favorite classes of all time. I can't even describe how cool it was.

Dr. Poe taught me that not all psychologists are the same, and that if I ever go to one, I want him/her to be like her.

I honestly believe that I could not have gotten a better education anywhere else.

~Stephanie

Thursday, August 13, 2015

No Regrets

"O let not Time deceive you / You cannot conquer Time."

As I sit here, about to do laundry and get some stuff together for school, I feel like writing. I don't have any complete thoughts to share, just a lot of fragments. At least, I think they are fragments. You know how I get when I write: one thought will sometimes keep unfolding before my fingers until it's a real post. Right?

In three days, I will move into college for the last time. I know everyone always says this, but seriously, how was it three whole years ago that I moved in as a freshman? I was so...unhappy. I wasn't excited to be going to Campbell at all. I was mad at the perceived failure of not going to Wake Forest. I was jaded by my weird romantic relationship. I was lost in my spiritual life. It was awful. You could not pay me enough money to go back to freshman year.

{Of course, my roommate, Bekah, was actually awesome. We went to bed at the same time, watched the same TV shows, liked the room at the same temperature, listened to the same music, needed the same motivation to go to the gym. She was gorgeous and funny and did not care for drama. I'm convinced it was the most successful random roommate pairing of all time. But other than her, life as a freshman mostly sucked.}

But now? Now I am Happy.

My suite mates are the college girl friends everyone promised I would find. They're the people who will go with me to Walmart at 2 o'clock in the morning because I need frozen pizza. They're the people who will just sit down in the hallway with me and hang out there because I'm too stressed and depressed to make it to the living room. They're the people who I can take stupid BuzzFeed quizzes with for hours. They're the people whose opinions matter to me, whether about my earrings or dinner decision or my boyfriend.

I hope I will be friends with them for the rest of my life; but if I'm not, if we drift apart and fall out of contact, I will still never forget them. I will look back on "college" and hear us laughing and feel us walking across campus and remember us dancing and smile at our late night talks.

Gosh, I'm going to miss them. I'm going to miss congregating in one our rooms to pick out clothes for the next day. I'm going to miss "family dinners" where Harley makes chicken or spaghetti and the rest of us throw together some sides. I'm going to miss movie nights where we talk over most of the dialogue. I'm going to miss messing with each other and memorizing all the weird quirks and habits to make living together as easy as possible.

I'm not sure what the point of this post is. Reminiscing, I guess. But it could also serve as a reminder to y'all and to my future self that things get better. Freshman year sucked. But I didn't run away; I stuck it out, and my life is beautiful now.

If I had left Campbell, every single thing about my life would be different. I wouldn't have my suite mates, I probably wouldn't be dating Gem, and I wouldn't have had such amazing professors and therefore an amazing education. I wouldn't have had the same internships or tutoring experience or copy editing position at the paper.

Everything is worth it. My one real regret in life, the one thing I've said I would change (not getting into Wake Forest) ceased to be a regret. It is hard to say that given a do-over I wouldn't apply to Wake Forest. But it is a no-brainer to say that I am overjoyed to have gone to Campbell.

Senior year, I'm {getting} ready for you.


~Stephanie

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Some Kind of Validation

"I think I've figured something out," I said to him. The market was hot and loud and full of beautiful things. Every booth demanded attention, especially the jewelry one at which we'd found ourselves.

"What?" he said absently, running his fingers over a bright gem.

"I think it has to do with me being an Oldest and you being an Almost the Youngest," I continued, scanning his profile for attentiveness. "but I have to show people things in order to have fun. Like, if I see a cool piece of jewelry like this," I pointed to a Celtic cross. "I want to show it to you. I want you to be excited about it and think that it's beautiful. If you're not around to see it or you don't reciprocate my enthusiasm, then it loses its beauty to me."

He made a thoughtful sound and kept looking at the merchandise. I continued:

"I guess it's because when I was little, I always had a younger sibling who I could 'perform' for, who wanted to see what I was doing and like what I liked. But you were the youngest, so probably no one would pay as much attention to you. You had to figure out how to have fun completely by yourself."

No response.

"Are you listening to me?"

"Yes!" He made eye contact. "I'm processing. I think it has to do with being Extroverted versus Introverted, too."

"Yeah, exactly! My experience of fun is dependent on other people. I can't enjoy myself in a vacuum. If I don't have someone to share things with, I honestly might as well not go at all. It's kind of frustrating, because you have fun so independently." I swallowed hard as I lost his eyes again. "You can pick up something pretty or fascinating and enjoy it 100% by yourself. You don't have to tell anyone about it or show it to anyone. But I can't do that. Nothing is fun or worth it to me unless I get some kind of validation."

I didn't know if the conversation would change anything. I didn't know if I was wasting my breath. My revelation was just another example of something that was useless without affirmation.

Maybe since I'd noticed the weakness of my codependent enjoyment, I could do something about it. Maybe I could learn to enjoy things by myself, without having to show another person.

But I couldn't imagine that. I wilted inside as he wandered away, to another booth where he would find cool things and not show them to me. Where I would seek out cool things and try to show him, but he'd have moved on.

~Stephanie

Friday, July 3, 2015

I Have Black Friends

I have black friends.

Of course, in my day, we just called them "friends."

My first "boyfriend" was black (age 4, we ran that preschool). One of my best friends is black. My best friend at college is black.

For 21 years, I have interacted with "people." Some people I like a lot. Some people annoy me to death. I think some people are really attractive. I think some people are pretty dang homely. Some people make me uncomfortable. Some people make me feel at ease. For 21 years, the world has been made up of "people," each unique, each uniquely shaping my life.

But now, I see color.

I have never been a racist. I am not a racist now. But all the screaming, raging, and fighting about racism and political correctness has shifted me from racially colorblind to racially anxious.

Now, if I bump into a black person, I make sure to say excuse me AND that I'm so sorry, lest she think I have a white elitist attitude. Now, if the cashier at the store is black, I push myself to be overly friendly and smile a lot, lest he think I take him for granted because he's black. Now, if a black man is walking behind me at night, I make sure to go slowly and smile if he passes me, to make sure he knows I made no weird assumptions about being unsafe.

I used to have friends. Now I have "white friends AND BLACK FRIENDS, WHICH I DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN NONE AT ALL, BECAUSE THEY ARE TOTALLY THE SAME AND EQUAL, EXCEPT THAT THE BLACK FRIENDS ARE ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT BECAUSE THEY PROVE THAT I AM NOT A RACIST."

I'm sorry, but what the hell?

I agree that racism is a real issue, in that it should not ever be an issue. People are people. Black people are people, and white people are people, and everyone has the ability to be funny or attractive or arrogant or stupid and it has nothing to do with skin color.

I already understood this, and I think a lot of other people did too. However, all the recent shootings and media uproar and Confederate Flag ridiculousness and a HOST of other junk have made it really hard to be colorblind. Instead of encouraging equal treatment, I think all the fuss has actually encouraged and exacerbated racism. People like me, who have been non-racist almost to the point of obliviousness, now find themselves noticing skin color. Isn't that the very thing we're trying to avoid?

Slavery was horrific. I am tremendously glad that it is in the past. We must remember that it was terrible and wrong and never gloss over it in a history lesson--but can we also remember that it is history? I did not personally enslave anyone. Neither did my parents. Neither did my grandparents. I would not do it now if I had the chance. Neither would my parents. Neither would my grandparents. Slavery was and is WRONG.

Slavery was horrific--but it was not my FAULT. No white American alive today is personally responsible for institutionalized slavery. No black American today has been personally abused by institutionalized slavery.

Obviously, true racists do exist, and they should be ashamed of themselves. But I really don't think all the pettiness and anger and guilt-tripping is the way to make racists change--white racists or black racists. I truly believe that racism does not make sense and that the truth of equality will prevail.

We fight for equality so that everyone can be treated equally. But I think it's time to stop FIGHTING for equality--we've been doing that for fifty years--and time just to start treating people equally. Let's all assume that people are people, and shut up about the rest. Imagine raising your kids in a society where no one has to say "white people and black people are equal," because the kids have never known otherwise.

Morgan Freeman said it best last year when asked "How are we going to get rid of racism?"

"Stop talking about it."

Come on, guys. I want to be colorblind again.

~Stephanie

Monday, June 1, 2015

I've Been Reading

Since school ended, I've been able to start reading for fun again.

"Read," is the advice always given to budding writers. Actual practice helps your writing improve too, but reading... It seems to train your mind to Hear and See the world with capital Hs and Ss.

When your car rushes through a rain puddle, the sound registers as "a lush hiss" instead of not registering at all. A dance recital audience reaction becomes "an appreciative rumble of laughter" instead of just "chuckling." You have conversations and naturally detect things like others' "clunky giddiness"or "apologetic authority."

To me, words give the world more substance. When I read a lot, I start to sense the depth in the molecules around me. It's not like the world is brighter; it's like I start to see new colors. Everything isn't more beautiful, but everything is more intentional, specific. I'm not sitting on my couch; I'm sitting on My Couch, where I had a kiss that tasted like ramen, where I first fell asleep on Gabe, where I once cried a tear stain into the cushion.

When I immerse myself in words, everything feels more real. It's like tapping a secret source of energy.

I guess this makes sense, seeing as the entire world is Words. "In the beginning...the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep... And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."

This entire world is literally words. There was nothing, and then God spoke, and from His words came the existence that I now try to describe with my own words, like "lush hiss" and "appreciative rumble." Is that redundant? To use words in an attempt to express/describe/create a reality that is already so perfectly linguistically expressed that it is actually tangible?

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning."

Jesus is--maybe literally, maybe figuratively, maybe spiritually (which is probably some inexpressible middle ground there)--Words. God is Words. He made our world of words with His words. We are in this world, made in the image of God. We are spoken. We are words. The light is words; the water is words; the land is words; the day and night are words.

So yes, it makes sense that everything gets more beautiful and more real when I connect with words. Don't you understand the ocean better when you jump in?

Words are fun and powerful and persuasive and enduring and endearing and funny and piercing and beautiful and satisfying and frightening and dangerous. I like words, on principle, because I am a writer and a reader and I like to reason and persuade. But even deeper than that, I like words because I think they are cosmically important. When it all comes down to it, the world is just atoms and energy and space.

But when atoms and energy and space come down to it, they are all words.

~Stephanie