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How an eating disorder survivor is healing in a society obsessed with diet and exercise

TW: eating disorders

It’s been some time since I was in the worst of my orthorexia. I have written about this twice before on my blog, but the last time was in 2016 and I think it is important to bring it up again. For those of us who have survived or are surviving eating disorders, the struggle never ends. This is my experience at least. Once you take on an unhealthy, obsessive mindset around something and stay that way for a while, you can always fall back into it. I do. Although I no longer cry over eating sweets or work out over two hours daily, I still often have obsessive thoughts about eating and exercising.

For a little background of my story, in mid-2016, at the age of 18 years old, I discovered I had orthorexia, which is defined as the obsession to eating pure. While researching for this post, I also discovered another condition called anorexia athletica, which is an eating disorder characterized by excessive and compulsive exercising. I realized before I conflated these two conditions, which are different from each other, but both of which I have suffered from. When I was in junior high school I got really into fitness and healthy eating (which I know is really bizarre for a child), and my passion turned into an obsession. In high school I went vegan and thought I was on the path to the “perfect” diet. I tried raw vegan, no sugar, gluten free, oil free, and many other ways of eating that I heard promoted online because I believed they were better than what I was doing, even though I was already eating so well. In high school and the early years of college I worked out for a minimum of two hours a day. I didn’t have my period for over a year in high school, and I didn’t question it for many months, until I went to my doctor and she told me I had something called “the female athlete triad,” which is a combination of three conditions: disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis. This is when shit got real. She told me that if I were to continue working out so much and eating so little I would be on a fast track to various health issues, including weak bones and osteoporosis, infertility, my uterus could fall out, and I could even die. I wasn’t having a period because my body was burning more calories than it was taking in, and my internal processes were not running correctly because my body was in starvation mode. She told me I either had to stop working out for a little bit or start eating more. I agreed, but had no idea how I could possibly muster doing either of those things. Exercise was an integral part of my identity, and I didn’t have the appetite to eat more. Besides, I didn’t want a period. When I told my mom about this, I played off the severity, until many months later when I realized I had an eating disorder.

When I finally found resources on orthorexia and what I was going through, I was moved to tears. I didn’t feel so alone. I found so many others suffering with the same obsessive lifestyle I did. I was finally aware I had a serious problem, and I could finally start working to fix it. I didn’t want my life to be controlled by healthy eating and exercise anymore. I wanted to enjoy life, and restrictive eating and compulsive exercise was not how I was going to do that. So midway into my college career I started working against the thought processes I had formulated for so long. I disappeared from social media for a while to heal, but reappeared at the end of 2016 to post a selfie of one of the first times in a long time I genuinely felt happy and free while working out. The response was very supportive. I was learning to speak the word “orthorexia” aloud. I was moved to share my experience with others. I wanted people to know that anyone is susceptible to developing an eating disorder, and they are not always obvious to others. I released the pain and mental suffering I experienced for years, and set myself on a path to a healthier lifestyle-this time, mentally.

It’s been three years since I put words to my pain from my eating disorder, and I have improved greatly. Recently I got ill at the end of a week of traveling and I did not work out for four days. I was disappointed, depressed, and wanted to work out despite my extreme fatigue. But someone who might have previously forced themself to work out or wallowed in self-pity because they couldn’t, accepted their body’s call for rest. I told some friends how upset I was that I couldn’t work out and they reminded me how irrational and cruel to myself I was being. This has been very helpful for me in all of mental health issues: speaking my thoughts aloud, either to close friends or just to myself, so that I could realize how irrational and unhealthy they are. Once I bring my ideas out into existence, I can recognize how negative they are and let them go. Luckily I have a wonderful partner who has grown to be very aware of my capacity to fall into obsessive healthy eating and exercise and he reminds me to be easier on myself, to enjoy a sweet once in a while and let my body rest after a long week. Healing from conditions like this is so much harder alone. When I was silent about it, I was suffering immensely. I had no validation of what I was going through. I was even praised for my obsessive habits by people who had no idea the amount of mental struggle that was behind living so strict a lifestyle. Being open about it has been the best thing I could do to get better.

I don’t think I will ever truly feel “healed” from this. I have anxiety and have the ability to think very compulsively, and this is something I constantly work to minimize. I still struggle with these disorders. I still feel insecure when someone is stronger than me, or fitter than me, since I have been working out at least 5 days a week for the past five years of my life. But I am not an Olympic athlete. I am not on a sports team. There is no reason I should have developed the female athlete triad, and that should have been a big clue to the way I was running my body. I have always been my own motivator, which is great for a lot of reasons, but in terms of working out, it means I never think I have done “enough.” I can always work out longer, push harder, be stronger. And that’s true for everyone, not just me. The only people who need to be the absolute strongest, fastest, and fittest they can be are athletes. I am not an athlete. I am someone who wants to live to at least one hundred years and look great and feel confident doing it. The lifestyle to do that has been ardently adopted by me and I will never give up on it, so there’s no need to push myself to a point that transcends what I need for my health.

My whole thinking on working out and healthy eating has shifted. I thought before that I should do those things mainly for appearances, and so I could feel superior to people who didn’t have as good of habits. Now I realize how horrible that is. I have realized also how problematic my thinking was, which I still fall into, that I thought being fit made me more valuable and beautiful. That is extremely fatphobic. Thanks to Instagram, I am more well-versed in fatphobia and the common ideas many of us believe that are fatphobic. Fat people are not necessarily unhealthy. They don’t necessarily need, or want, to lose weight. Fat people may eat healthier than me, and work out too. I had so many misconceptions in my head and feared more than anything becoming fat if I let my habits go, but that is so insanely offensive to fat people, who are as beautiful, powerful, and valuable as anyone else. I consider myself beautiful and love my body and appreciate all the assets I have toned with exercise, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also respect the bodies of those who are not as fit as I. Making exercise a key part of my life is my personal choice. Not everyone has to do it. Of course it is great for your health, but as human beings we have the freedom to decide how we live our lives. Many of my close family members and friends do not regularly exercise or eat that healthy, and while before I looked down on their decision to neglect healthy habits, now I detach myself from others’ lifestyles and just focus on living the healthiest one for myself. What others do for themselves is no business of mine.

I still struggle, mostly with the compulsive exercise rather than clean eating. I have improved my obsessive thinking by starting to do workouts not on my own. I got really into POPSUGAR Fitness videos on YouTube a while ago and they really help me not work out for hours, because they’re short and very vigorous. I also just started going to the gym, which is great for me because again I realize how abnormal it is to work out for hours, and because I can focus on certain goals each day, like building strength with weight training or endurance with running. Working out with a friend is also really helpful because they help me complete a workout in a normal amount of time. I eat gluten free because of my digestive issues, and eat mostly whole foods like starches, fruits, veggies, and grains. Being with my boyfriend who enjoys chips and ice cream every now and then has helped me loosen up my diet. I do enjoy unhealthy foods once in a while, and I have no shame in that anymore. Before if I ate something unhealthy or a “large” amount of anything, I would eat alone so no one else could see me and judge my habits. I judged others’ habits so harshly because I thought others were doing the same to me. The truth is most people don’t care. Before I believed the purpose of eating was for only for health and never for pleasure, but I think that idea is a load of triggering crap now. I would only eat bland, super healthy foods before and planned my meals obsessively. I had to “stay on track.” There was no pleasure in eating. I am here to say that eating should bring us pleasure. It is a huge part of our lives: a means of connecting, sharing culture, and often a labor of love. We should enjoy what we eat, and eat food that is good for our bodies too. Having pleasure makes life worth living. I could write a whole other post about this, but I also thought before that it didn’t matter if I was happy, as long as I was leaving a profound impact on the world. I stopped believing that once I realized how long I had gone without having genuine fun or laughing. Being happy and experiencing pleasure give us the motivation and energy needed to be change agents in the world. Being a numbed, starved soul makes it a lot harder to work so passionately and selflessly to benefit others. We can both care for our own souls and for others, both enjoy the unique lives we live and realize there is more to our purpose than personal enjoyment. We can celebrate and dance while we exist, but do the work to make sure our legacy doesn’t die with us. Life should be enjoyed.

Still being in this state of “healing,” I have noticed so many disturbing cultural trends that are both triggering for me and I assume others who have survived eating disorders, and also contribute to the ideology that gives people eating disorders in the first place. It’s no one’s fault I suffered but my own; however, I do think our culture is obsessed with fitness, health, and appearance, and the influences around us can lead us onto unhealthy paths before we even realize it. Instagram is a huge perpetrator of this, which is why I seriously limit my time on there. When I was working through the worst of my issues, I had to take a break because everywhere I looked on Instagram there were photos of people’s abs, perfect salads and acai bowls, and incredibly hard workouts. This is especially an issue in the vegan community. I went raw vegan based on fake science, because Instagrammers and Youtubers convinced me it was the way to go. That is extremely dangerous- I have read many stories of people who got very sick on raw diets. I have definitely learned to look more into everything I see online. It’s not Instagram’s fault that social media is like this, it just is. The nature of social media is for users to show the best parts of themself and leave the rest unmentioned. I have later found out that many health and fitness “gurus” I looked up to suffered from eating disorders too. My role models were promoting health and fitness from a mentally unhealthy place of obsession! Let that sink in.

We have to be very careful with the influences we surround ourselves with. When I say triggered in regards to my eating disorder, I mean things I see or hear will make me fall back into the obsessive way of thinking that wreaked havoc on my body. It’s not just online either. In the past year I got into the idea of intermittent fasting, and while I mostly follow it by keeping a small eating window, I do not stress over exact times because it can lead me to obsessive eating patterns again. I have to be careful of the people and media I surround myself with, so that I don’t take in an overwhelming amount of promotion of a certain lifestyle or eating pattern. I often overhear people or find myself in conversations with people who are bragging about their eating and fitness habits, or are even saying fatphobic things. They have no idea the impact this has on me. Before I probably would have tried to make my routine seem better than theirs and prove I was fitter, but now I usually don’t say anything about myself. I’m not in a competition with anyone. I am so happy with my routine and I love my body and caring for it, and I don’t need to prove this to anyone.

If there’s one thing I hope you take away from this article it’s to be very careful of the way you talk about many things, like health, fitness, and even mental health, around others, because you never know who has trauma around those things and could be triggered and spiral into their illness again. It’s not always easy for the person suffering to speak up and ask people to stop talking this way either. It is so ingrained in people’s brains, and I feel like it would take a lot of explaining to get them to see health and fitness as something that should be good for all parts of you, and not just your physique, like I too used to overly focus on. It’s not our faults; it just reflects the society we live in. But we do need to take responsibility to think better and act better on these things. To be kinder and more accepting to our own bodies and to everyone else’s. To watch our language around others whose histories we are unaware of, and to whom our words may come off as shameful or judgmental. I am only in control of myself and my own healing, but it would make a lot less people suffer if we all put in the work to be more body positive, less fatphobic, and less problematic in our ideologies on healthy eating and exercise (among many other things).

No, there is no such thing as “clean eating,” or a “perfect” diet. No, a little bit of sugar once in a while will not kill you. Yes, sugar is unhealthy. Yes, it is okay to eat it. No, you are not less valuable if you do not work out or eat healthy. Yes, you are an autonomous being who is free to live your life as you choose. No, you are not better than anyone because you have stricter habits. Yes, everyone deserves to know they are beautiful. Yes, our beauty standards are a load of crap. Yes, social media can negatively impact your psyche and you should log off when needed for your own mental health. Yes, your mental health matters. Possibly more than anything else. Yes, you matter. No, you should not feel immense stress and pressure to eat and live healthily. Yes, working out can be fun and is great for you. Yes, if you are anyone you know are suffering from an eating disorder, help is out there. Follow the link below for resources. Stay aware. Love yourself.

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

This is the original post I made in 2016: https://laughinginloafs.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/coming-clean/

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meditation over my death

I feel like I am opening up even when I am closed

I feel that my words are falling on deaf ears even when I am silent

I feel every part of me is disintegrating with each passing moment

I feel I am becoming my own nightmares, and dropping my organs off cliffs one by one

Destroying my own body, which is only a shell, only a case for who I really am

Bleeding my own blood, which is only a paint which etches my pain into other surfaces

Constricting my own veins; I am my downfall

I am immortal until I agree to succumb to otherworldly forces

I often do not feel I am the same as other creatures, and lively beings, on this earth

I often wonder what happenstance combination of atoms and matter created so provocative a being

How thoughts rose from lifelessness, and how my revolution will cease the same way it started

How one of these days I will meet you all in the grave, although I never wanted to be in the ground

I wanted to decompose, I wanted to biodegrade, I wanted to fertilize the soil of someone who can continue the dream I once had

I wondered when the instant of my termination would arise, and how I would grapple with its reality

Now I don’t.

I have accepted everything that happens to me as happening precisely the way it should

I am living and dying at precisely the same time

I reek of both desolation and ecstasy

I am embodied by nothing; there is no single word, or symbol, or parameter that could contain the fragments of my soul, strewn about they are inside of me

The place in which I reside can be inhabited by no more than one. With one it already faces the danger of overpopulation

Too much happens here, and none of it is reported

Sometimes I believe I am living the most interesting life to have been lived

Sometimes I stop everything for a moment to bow my head in silence,

Breathing in the essence of exactly who I am.

It’s been twenty-one years and I still can’t put my finger on it.

 

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The Best Movies, Shows, and Albums of the Year- In My View

Movies

Sorry to Bother You

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This was my top movie of the year. It was a shock to I think everyone who saw it, but an important one. With themes ranging from animal rights to capitalism and racism, this film had a strong message delivered in a smart and memorable way with help from stellar performances and a genius story line. See this movie, maybe not even because you want to, but because you have to. Dark comedy delivered the strongest message of the year about the state of this country and you can’t miss it.

Black Panther

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This history-making film is a no-brainer for the list. I never really cared about superhero movies because they always feature white men as heroes and never seem to focus on world issues. Black Panther turns the superhero movie on its head, with black and female representation and a thought-provoking story line which depicts Africa had it never been colonized. The leaders of Wakanda must decide if they should threaten their peace and stability to help other nations. I love this movie for many reasons but mostly because it provides representation which is vital on the road to equality, and because the heroes are accurate to who has contributed positively to the world- not even in the slightest white men. With comedy, action, and a relevant message, Black Panther couldn’t have come out at a better time.

Roma

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Roma is a painfully beautiful movie set in the political turmoil in Mexico in the 1970s. The cinematography is remarkable and the moving story line qualify it as a masterpiece. Though some critics say none of the actors’ performances stood out enough to make them a star, I disagree. The actor who plays Cleo, the protagonist who survives much turmoil, did an excellent job portraying her persistent character and I can see her gaining many more roles after this one. Roma to me started out as visually intense, but hit me with emotional intensity towards the end. Heartbreak, disloyalty, and chaos don’t stand up to the central theme of the film: unbreakable love.

A Star is Born

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I definitely cried the most in this movie out of all the movies I saw this year. I’ve been a Lady Gaga fan since her debut and I was so relieved after watching this that it wasn’t a flop and that both her and Bradley’s acting and singing abilities shone through. Their chemistry was impressive and Gaga showed a true gift for acting by acing her emotionally complex character. The soundtrack to this movie is probably the best movie soundtrack I’ve heard in a long time, which makes sense considering it was co-produced by the pop star of our generation. I gauge movies by how much they make me feel, and this one was like a kick to the heart, but one I didn’t mind getting because of how beautiful and painful the story line was delivered.

Mid90s

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Mid90s is like a love letter from Jonah Hill to his childhood, full of skating, friends, and growth. The young actors kept up great chemistry the whole time and the movie reeks of the 90s, with every detail meticulously tailored to reflect this era. The film is provocative and uncomfortable at times, but it’s 100% real and I appreciate that authenticity. It is nostalgic and a fair portrayal of youth- as confusing, rebellious, and painful as it was.

A Quiet Place

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This inventive horror film was not very horrifying in terms of disturbing content, but the idea of safety hinging on silence is thrilling and enough to keep you on the edge of your seat for the length of this movie. The ASL representation is important and John Krasinski did well crafting an original nightmare of a movie that definitely gave its viewers an irrational fear of monsters with supersonic hearing. His experiment in horror was daring, and it worked because it is frightening, but you can ultimately fight back. Family vs. beasts. It’s a hell of a fight.

Bohemian Rhapsody

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I chose this one mostly for the music and Rami Malek’s astounding portrayal of Freddie Mercury. I’ve heard much displeasure over this movie, from complaints that it fudges facts and glosses over details, to that it doesn’t show Freddie’s sexuality enough, and while these are valid complaints, I don’t know enough about the history of Queen to join the naysayers. Instead, I revel in the fact that a whole new generation can now learn to cherish one of the greatest bands of all time led by a queer, brown man who was intent on making history.

BlacKkKlansman

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This was another movie that made me bawl my eyes out in the theatre. Spike Lee did an incredible job presenting this unbelievable true story, but not only as something in the past, but as a part of an ongoing issue of systemic racism which is being so vehemently advanced by the Trump administration. David Duke is portrayed as charismatic and charming, and it’s important for people to realize that white supremacists can be our neighbors, peers, and president- because so much of the hatred is implicit and when we treat racism as only an explicit thing, we allow it to dominate even further. Amerikkka is presented as its true self in this film and it’s something everyone needs to see to realize their role in dismantling white supremacy.

Beautiful Boy

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While this movie did not receive as much praise as I had hoped, I chose it because of Timothee Chalamet’s performance. He is young but he is oh so talented, and from what I’ve read the real life Nick of this story was pleased with how his struggle with addiction was portrayed. I was disappointed by Steve Carell in this one, and I think he should stick to comedic roles, where he comes off far more naturally. The movie wasn’t perfect, but it did a good job showing the repetitiveness of addiction and Chalamet is undoubtedly a star.

6 Balloons

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This Netflix movie starring Dave Franco did not get enough recognition and with a year of movies about addiction I feel it could have stood out amongst them all, had it been released more widely. It shows a very real, very complex view of addiction and uses a unique approach to describe a sister who is coming to terms with the fact that she is not in control of her brother’s struggle. Franco really shined in this movie and I appreciated the realness. It is important to show these story lines and I’m glad Netflix is investing in important and impactful movies like this one.

TV Shows

The Bisexual

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This was my favorite show from the year because of the queer representation, realistic storyline, and artful execution of each episode. It reminds me of Master of None in how real it is, plus it is similarly inspired by creator and main actor’s life Desiree Akhavan. As a queer person, this show meant a lot to me since it showed the confusion and discovery associated with coming to terms with one’s sexuality, which is also fluid. I’m also sort of in love with Desiree Akhavan, so there’s that. And British accents and cool lesbian bars we don’t have!! This show has everything: weird love triangles, fluid sexuality, and multilayered characters. You can find Season One on Hulu.

Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj

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This show is awesome! I’ve loved Hasan since I saw his standup special and it’s incredible seeing a brown Muslim man get a platform to speak on social issues- and people actually listen! The topics of each episode are varied but they all show in an unbiased way how unjust the world is. Hasan delivers information and jokes coolly and confidently, and he genuinely seems to be learning along with the audience. You can’t walk away without experiencing the full spectrum of emotion. You can find Season One on Netflix.

Sick Note

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I haven’t actually finished this show yet but I included it because it is pretty great even from where I am at. Again, the accents sold me as well as the fact that half of the main characters are black. In this show, no one is simply moral or immoral, good or bad, which is a more accurate portrayal of humanity. Rupert Grint portrays the panic of a man faking his cancer convincingly, and the show keeps you on your toes as his plan, and the plot, becomes more tangled. You can find both seasons on Netflix.

Black Mirror- season four

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I’m including this because it came out in the last days of 2017 and, wow, is it haunting. The story lines are widely varied, but all intriguing, thrilling, and thought-provoking. This show disturbs me to my core at times, but it takes the modern world we are living in and amplifies things to show the danger we are headed in if we allow certain technologies to take over our lives. Each episode is its own story, and each one is executed artfully enough for it to stand on its own. This is definitely one of the smartest shows of today. You can find all seasons on Netflix.

Queer Eye

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Queer representation, improving people’s lives, and fashion. What more do you need in a show? Funny and heartwarming, authentic and caring, this show is a hit for a reason. The people on the show aren’t just changing their appearance, but they are changing their habits and building routines that make them happy, healthy, and confident. This is a makeover show done right, and it is meaningful because it convinces us that the results for each person are not just for the camera, but something that will last and actually improve their lives for good. You can find both seasons on Netflix.

Impractical Jokers

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I really got into this show later in the year and now it’s probably one of my favorites and that’s just because it’s funny. This is Tru tv’s best show by far. The pranking shenanigans of four lifelong friends are hilarious because of the real chemistry of the Jokers, which is why every prank generates laughs, regardless of its outcome. You can find it on Tru Tv and Netflix.

Albums

Kids See Ghosts, Kid Cudi and Kanye West

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No album impacted me this year as much as Kid Cudi and Kanye West’s collaborative Kids See Ghosts. It came out while I was living in LA for my internship and I was going through a period of great growth, so of course I took to this album like my lifeblood. “Reborn” is my favorite song on the album. The triumph of Cudi and West despite both of their mental health issues is such an inspiration to me, and them two together talking about their demons and their survival is pure poetry. The effect is mesmerizing- the songs hook you in, with constant additions to each one, building up to the end, creating a heavy emotional effect, and piecing together an ode to the human spirit.

Ye, Kanye West

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Ye came out around the same time as Kids See Ghosts and was also pretty impactful for me. Since both albums were produced by the same two artists, there are both lyrical and stylistic similarities. For example, “Ghost Town” and “Freeee” are like two different versions of the same song. I’ve been a Kanye fan for years, and I’ve struggled defending him after he’s had some problematic behavior but I’ve realized it’s not my job to defend or attack him and regardless of his actions I have to give it up for him for being so honest about his mental health struggles and for being, in my eye, the greatest artist of our generation. He pours all of himself into his work and it shows. While Ye did not receive mainstream recognition, Kanye isn’t making music for critics these days, and he may not even be making it for fans anymore. He’s creating something for himself, something he can be proud of, something that is evidence of his greatness despite the world trying to get him down. This album is evidence of that. It is deeply personal, with no radio bangers but with 7 songs straight from his life experiences. He bares his soul to us and doesn’t worry about making it easily digestible. Say what you want about Kanye, but he’s a black man who has reached God-like status because of his devotion to his art, not because of his personality. Kanye is making history. Favorite song: “Yikes”

Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B

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I became a huge Cardi B fan this year and played this album on repeat for weeks. Cardi B is a stripper turned rapper and a total icon and badass for being a great mom and strong woman who owns her sexuality (see: Money music video). She can really rap and it’s her strong personality that brings it all together. She is becoming a star for being totally, unapologetically herself, and I’m excited to see where she goes from here. Favorite song: “Get Up 10”

Astroworld, Travis Scott

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Astroworld is the psychedelic dream of a young rapper who is aiming for a spot at the top. While the lyrical skill is nowhere near that of my rap idols, I don’t consider Travis one of my rap idols, but this album is honestly great. It has never ending energy, a million different beats, all-star features, and the gusto of a young man determined to make his mark. Favorite song: “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD”

KOD, J. Cole

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KOD is not only one of the best albums of the year artistically, but also one of the most important albums of the year. KOD stands for “kids on drugs,” which is a huge issue in our society right now and which J. Cole tackles with understanding and warning. He knows he has certain influence over kids due to his stardom, and he uses it for good, and always has. J. Cole is definitely one of the greatest lyricists of today and he is purposeful and impactful with his art. KOD came out at the perfect time, as the prevalence of kids self-medicating has blown into epidemic proportions. J. Cole is a gift to the music industry, and I just hope people heed his warning in this album. Favorite song: “Friends” (feat. kiLL edward)

Everything is Love, The Carters

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Everything is Love by the Carters is a beautiful montage of love, forgiveness, growth, and success of the most successful couple in Hollywood. Beyonce is the true queen of music, and she dominates on the album (and, presumably, in their relationship). I have loved witnessing their evolution together, and this moving portrait of their relationship is so intimate that they did not have to share it with us, but I am grateful they did. Black excellence. I bow down. Favorite song: “Heard About Us”

Nation of Two, Vance Joy

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This is one of the only non-rap albums on this list, but it earned its spot. This heartfelt and intentional album brings me feelings of joy and warmth, and it is great for my yoga practice. The moving lyrics are poetic, and the combination of various instruments creates a sentimental work. I can’t help smiling while listening. Favorite song: “Call If You Need Me”

Bobby Tarantino II, Logic

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Logic is one of my favorite artists. He is so positive, passionate, and powerful with his words and messages. He has truly used his position to bring awareness to racial injustice, and to help remedy it by embracing his blackness and encouraging others to do the same. His honesty about his mental health struggles has meant a lot to me, since I have struggled from many of the same afflictions. He released two albums this year and both made my list. Any album Logic releases is guaranteed to be on a Best of the Year list. Bobby Tarantino II is like Bobby Tarantino and Everybody in it storytelling. It has several bangers and strong features. My favorite track on this one is “Indica Badu” but there are definitely more meaningful songs on the album, like “Midnight” (choosing the “best” Logic song is hard, okay?).

YSIV, Logic

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YSIV is a love letter to his fans, beginning with the heartfelt “Thank You.” Logic details all he went through to get to where he is and thanks those who have helped him achieve his dreams. I’m not sure if he will actually be done with music any time soon, and if he is, I’ll be heartbroken, but for now, I am thankful for all his music has meant to me and the inspiration he has been to so many young kids who are struggling with mental health issues, poverty, and general oppression. Logic worked hard to get where he is, and he is proud of his success but humble and recognizes how fortunate he is to be one of the ones whose dreams work out. My favorite song on YSIV is “Everybody Dies.”

Isolation, Kali Uchis

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I got really into Kali Uchis’ music this year and even went to her concert. While she doesn’t share all the intimate details of her life, she finds clever ways to discuss her struggles in her music. Her voice is mesmerizing, her personality is enchanting, and the sound of her music is a perfect blend of retro and modern, with killer hooks and a killer “with me or without me” vibe. She is showing young women how to own their sexuality and their talent, while gracefully moving on from anyone who isn’t on their side and harnessing their pain to create something beautiful. I love her first album as well, but this one is more produced and shows her evolution as she becomes more of a star. It’s awesome to see a Colombian woman who came from poverty on a path to stardom, and I’ll continue supporting her on her journey. Favorite song: “Dead to Me”

TESTING, A$AP Rocky

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A$AP Rocky has a great gift for creating music, and I’m not sure how much of this album was created by him, but we can definitely attribute the artistic vision of it to his mind. The features on this album are stellar, and each song really does stand on its own as something special. I hadn’t been huge into A$AP before this album, but I definitely am now. He is an icon for our generation, for his fashion, for his cool personality, and for his serious talent. For my favorite song, how could I pick anything other than “A$AP Forever REMIX”???

OnePointFive, Amine

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I have been a fan of Amine for some time, and this album is a great follow-up to his debut. It is a lot more personal, and he speaks of love, heartbreak, strained relationships with family, and sadness. Amine presents himself as a real, authentic person and I enjoy his humorous approach to his fame. Each song has a catchy hook and genuine lyrics, and Amine as a person and not just a star shines through. I love them all, but my favorite song on this one is “Dr. Whoever.”

Glory Sound Prep, Jon Bellion

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I have been a fan of Jon Bellion since he was only releasing music on Youtube, so it has been so awesome watching him become more known and have a wider reach. He is truly a storyteller with music, and he uses a unique blend of rap, electronic, and pop to create music that can’t really be justly labeled as one thing. Nothing from his life is off limits for him to mention, and it seems like he can turn any experience into a song. I’m grateful to have witnessed his evolution, and I’m glad that he has stayed himself throughout his journey and has worked hard, waiting for the fruition of all his work, rather than selling out and creating something he didn’t believe in. Favorite song: “Cautionary Tales”

Amala, Doja Cat

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Doja Cat became one of my most listened-to artists in the last months of this year. I absolutely adore her fun, sexy, and extremely danceable music and think she is building a persona that has great potential to become widely recognized. As I started owning my own sexuality this year, this album has been my go-to for dancing and feeling myself. I love her confidence and security in who she is and the bright energy she exudes by doing so. I’m interested to see if she will become a mainstream artist, but either way, I will keep up with her music. I should say half of her music is only on Youtube, so make sure you check that out, and if you say anything called “MOO!” do not, I repeat, DO NOT, click on it. Favorite song: “Wine Pon You”

HOOLIGANS, Vic Mensa

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Vic released this one right before the end of the year and made the list! Vic Mensa is one of my favorite artists, and I don’t want to be redundant and say I have been a fan of another artist since they first came out, but it’s true! I’m a loyal fan! Most people only know Vic from his collaborations with mainstream EDM artists and other rappers, but I think he shines best on his own. He’s not only a talented artist but a racial justice activist and someone I really admire for his vocalness on important issues and his undying love and commitment to better his hometown of Chicago. This album is brief, but packs a punch and shows Vic’s dark side. He hasn’t hidden the struggles he has gone through, and I appreciate his honesty and ability to admit his own mistakes. HOOLIGANS has well-executed features, strong lyricism, and killer beats. Hopefully I will finally be able to see him on tour for this album! Favorite song: “In Some Trouble” (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)

 

2018 was a great year for entertainment and art! Thanks for reading, and look out for my round-up again next December!

 

challenge · experience · inspiration · life · positivity · self help · society · support · tips · truth · Uncategorized

College professors: please worry less about our grades and more about our mental health

TW: suicide, depression

I just got my final grade for a project in one of my hardest classes of this past semester, a project that put me through several panic attacks, crying in public computer labs, pulling out my hair, and contemplating suicide. Even in typing this I am in tears that probably over 50 hours of work rendered a “C.” That telling my professor the hell I went through and the technological difficulties that were out of my control meant nothing to him, meant that my work was just passing quality. I am still upset. I tried to emotionally detach from the results of my project, but when I opened that email and read my grade I couldn’t. He trashed the image quality of what I turned in, something which was out of my control since I wasn’t taught how to use the program we were required to use for our final project. I don’t want to go back to college next semester, especially not to take one last class with him. I think my waves of wanting to end my life have passed, but the fact they even came at all is extremely alarming. And I am not alone. While I was in my darkest place, I did some research and found out that there’s a sickening trend of college students that commit suicide near finals week. I am not alone, and this is a huge, huge problem.

You could say that only already mentally unstable people would be driven to kill themselves because of college, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Even if those of us with mental illness are more likely to be destroyed by the stress of college, college can make anyone reach their breaking point. In college, it is the norm to eat poorly, not sleep, and have constant anxiety and panic attacks. Mental health falls to the wayside as professors assign more and more work. And it doesn’t have to be like this. I have taken classes that are great examples of classes where homework is minimal, and in-class learning is emphasized. Obviously some homework is necessary, but if most college students take 5 classes a semester and each professor expects 3 or more hours in-class a week plus 10 hours outside of class a week, that’s 65 hours a week just on school. Now there’s only 168 hours a week, and we are supposed to use 56 of them to sleep. That leaves us 112 hours to do 168 hours of schoolwork, plus work around 10-20 hours at a job and around two hours for clubs and other involvements. That’s impossible. Why professors don’t realize this, I don’t understand. I have heard countless students crying to professors I’ve had, telling them how their class is driving their mental health into the ground. Does the professor change the format of their class? Never. When we as students come to professors and reveal that we have been mentally suffering because of the amount of work they give us, that’s a cry for help. That’s a chance for them to do something about our suffering, but instead they pin the problem on us and say we need to manage our time better and relax. It’s impossible to do those things when the time to do those things literally does not exist. They think college is the same as it was when they went to school, but it isn’t. We have so much more work, and we are already depressed and anxious enough. What we need from them isn’t harsher grading and harder work, but empathy and understanding. We need them to see us as humans, instead of some abstract idea of a student whose only purpose is to submit high-quality work. When someone is experiencing so much anxiety and stress that their body is in survival mode, their prerogative isn’t to get an “A” and finally earn their professor’s respect (despite the fact that they should already have it for busting their ass all semester), it’s to survive. When professors refuse to have empathy for their students and adapt their classes to their students’ needs, the opportunity for a valuable student-teacher bond is lost, as is the opportunity for that student to really absorb all of the information they are expected to. We aren’t given enough time to learn and do work; we must pick one.

For a long time I thought that this was just how college is and I had to suck it up, and I did this for a long time. But it’s been too many years of losing sleep and transforming into a savage-like version of myself for me to believe this is how college should be. We are living in the most advanced society ever, and we have the power to sculpt our own realities. The current reality is that those in power continue to let those without power suffer under systems that do not function for the rest of us, such as capitalism and white supremacy, and often those who suffer do not question the systems they live under, because we are made to believe that it is out job to not suffer. College does not have to be the most stressful years of a person’s life, where mental illness and unhealthy habits reign. Professors do not have to make classes incredibly difficult, especially because when we are working in our profession we will be able to look up any information we forget, and it is highly probable that we will need to, since we can’t and won’t remember half the things we learned in college. College can be a place for learning about different topics and yourself, a place for personal and professional development, and a place to explore the possibilities the world has for us. College should not be a place we crawl out from screaming on graduation day. I told myself for so long I couldn’t criticize college because I was fortunate enough to get a full tuition scholarship, but with this privilege I am precisely the person who should criticize this institution. Most people end up tens of thousands of dollars in debt for their degree, and they shouldn’t have to suffer to get it. This modern world gives us enough mental illness, and college shouldn’t add to it. Despite mental health awareness campaigns, therapy dogs every once in a while, and a counseling center on campus, college students are suffering under the stress of their classes. College students want to escape the one thing they came to college for-classes. None of the other mental health components a college offers will matter if professors continue to treat us like numbers- just another group of students that will pay their bills and hopefully learn a few things. Professors need to be emotionally attached to their students’ success, and this is more than a letter grade.

At the end of the class I was referring to at the beginning of this post, I had to stop putting work into my project. I was running out of time and I was running out of mental stamina. I had cried so hard I had a pounding migraine and I was convinced I would have a heart attack due to the chest pains emanating from my body (I’m sure college students having sudden heart attacks isn’t rare). I had to put my mental and physical health over my grade, and when I told my professor what happened I was hoping that they would understand. Instead, they bulldozed through the humanity I showed them and decided the amount of work I put in meant nothing if my final product wasn’t exactly how they wanted.

Professors need to care about their students’ mental health. I’m not sure if it would have made a difference if I told my professor the deep depression this class drove me into, but I shouldn’t have to tell them I kept thinking of killing myself as the only way out for them to care. It shouldn’t be so hard for them to see their students as human beings who need time to rest and care for themselves, which is impossible if we are given endless work from our professors. I always remember my grade school teachers being there for me. If I had a bad day, I could talk to them. If I was really sick or there was a family emergency, I could make up my work the next day. They saw me as a multi-faceted human being who had other purposes in life than to produce work. I don’t know what happened when we became adults but our educators decided we no longer deserved the same allowances. There was no longer any valid excuse for not turning in quality work on time. Not a single valid excuse. Our only purpose is to be a student. I am not foolish enough to believe this. I know now more than ever that college isn’t for everyone, and they say more and more jobs require a degree now, but I know there are still opportunities for those without a degree. College will continue to not be for everyone as long as it is so expensive and the stress is nearly unbearable. Professors will fail at rendering awakened human beings; instead, their students will walk out of that classroom on their final day and breathe a sigh of relief that their nightmare of a semester is over. For something that is supposed to be the best years of a person’s life, college sure brings us a lot of dread. It fails to promote the idea of a higher purpose for each of us, and seems to be geared towards the same goal as the rest of society- turning us into one more cog in the machine.

I know one day none of this will matter and I will be relieved and happy to walk away from my university with two well-earned degrees, but right now it matters enough to put this out there. I had to suffer mentally and emotionally for the better part of my college years. I will be glad to leave and focus on feeling alive and purposeful, like I do in the summers and breaks between semesters. College students shouldn’t have to reach their breaking point to turn around and feel grateful for their college experience. It’s unnecessary to make the experience any more stressful and distressing than it already is. We are planning for an uncertain future and have enough on our minds and schedules without apathetic professors making their classes as hard as they possibly can. I am thankful for the opportunity to attain a higher education and it has definitely opened up a world of possibility for me. I am proud of the hard work I have done, how I have not procrastinated or been irresponsible, how I have juggled at least two jobs, two clubs, and 5 or more classes per semester. I can look on the positive side and say all of these things about my college experience, but it is only after countless unnecessary tears shed and panic attacks endured. I don’t want to be thankful for my degrees because I had to overcome so many mental and emotional challenges to get them; I want to be thankful for them because of how academically challenged I was to get them. For how much the institution of higher education expects from us students, I expected more from it. And I don’t just expect it now, I demand it.

advice · challenge · diversity issues · experience · inspiration · life · Uncategorized

Black Friday means we’re suffering, not selfish: The big, deep, dark, ever-present disease of capitalism

Black Friday passed recently and it got me thinking about the psychological effects of capitalism on our society, about how some people are shamed for their consumption while others are not. Now to state from the start, I am not a supporter of mass consumption and consider myself to be quite minimalist and frugal in my shopping habits; however, I recognize that capitalism is the system our country operates on and it is nearly impossible for us to escape. This system maintains a great wealth gap, meaning millions of folks can’t afford school, healthcare, or food, while the top 1% could pay for these things 1,000 times over. The wealthy can have whatever they want, whenever they want it. They could help solve social justice issues by redistributing wealth into marginalized communities, since dismantling systems of poverty would do so much to bring marginalized folks to a level where they are in control of their circumstances, but they don’t. There is no “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” if you are just trying to survive. Poverty is a cycle which few people are ever able to escape. White supremacy keeps money in the hands of white, mostly male, elite who lead our corporations and our governments, which hold the power to oppress or equalize our society. Corporations and the government beat down on marginalized folks wherever they turn. They are unable to achieve what they want, because they can hardly find what they need to survive. When you are trying to survive, self-actualization isn’t even a thought in your mind. Realizing your full potential and being a positive influence aren’t your goals, especially if you have other family members to provide for.

Humans in this society are caught in a web of capitalism, working endlessly to provide for themselves, and thinking that making enough money to buy anything beyond necessities is success. If everyone was provided for in our society, our goals would shift, and we would focus more on what really matters: learning experiences and our positive impact, not material objects we use to fill the voids that real fulfillment should be filling. We crave instant gratification; it’s cheaper and easier in the short run to make ourselves happy with our purchases, but the happiness doesn’t last. In the long run, we have less money and we are still lacking from what will truly make us feel successful. Now everyone does define success differently, but I wholeheartedly believe success goes beyond financial success; while this is important, without emotional growth and a personal sense of accomplishment, it isn’t worth much. Even if we attain wealth, we will still be grasping for straws by using our consumption as a means to our enjoyment in life.

If we lived in an equitable society, with hard work anyone could be wealthy. We live in a class hierarchy, and poor folks often work significantly harder than wealthy folks and can never advance enough to not have to worry about money anymore. If we had everything we needed provided for us, we could work to earn the things we want, but don’t need, like travel and other leisure activities. The concept of leisure is dead in the U.S.: we work to live and live to work. In some socialist countries, the average workweek maxes out at 20 hours- leaving significant time for people to do the things that make life meaningful. Most people are at least bilingual, have traveled to multiple other countries, and their mental health is much better. Although I recognize a factor of depression is biology, I believe our culture makes us depressed. We are living in a way we were never intended to: one where we are constantly under pressure to work, constantly in a hurry, and constantly overwhelmed. Most older adults I know have spent their lives working jobs they don’t enjoy, looking forward to the one day they can retire, and forget all of their adolescent goals for their life. We are psychologically ill, and the effects of our society bleed into all facets of our health, as well as that of our future generations. The fight against capitalism is the fight for a world where we all have the time, energy, confidence, health, and safety to pursue the things we want to, instead of selling our souls to fund a life we never wanted.

So Black Friday had me thinking…In this society, what kind of messages do we send about who deserves to have the things they want? Although most wealthy people have not “earned,” but rather inherited, their extreme wealth, they are not shamed for their excessive consumption. They could use their money for a thousand other things that would benefit society, but their consumption becomes an addiction and their lifestyles become emblems of excess. Poor folks, however, are expected to continue to make sacrifices until they somehow magically earn enough money to have the things they want, or finally “deserve.” But no matter how hard they work, they will always be light years away from the financial freedom of those born into wealth. Poverty is an ever-looming weight for those who live paycheck to paycheck, and things like homelessness are only a few bad circumstances away from a reality. On Black Friday, we shame lower class folks for seeking out things they want. Although the consumption is not good for the environment or the enslaved workers who make most of our cheap goods, it is interesting how the narrative turns to shame when we speak of lower class folks’ consumption. It is true that some consumption is necessary to exist in this society, and that some consumption can be good for our psychological well-being, for instance, being able to afford a membership to a gym or yoga studio, or some workout equipment to workout at home. These are investments for your physical and emotional health, and everyone deserves the ability to do this. Many people cannot afford the things they need, let alone want, for the entire year, and Black Friday might be the one time they can. Black Friday is only evidence of how broken our system is. People who feel deprived of their financial freedom most of the year overly consume because they feel they are gaining something in their lives, but marketing ploys and corporations are tricking them into thinking that their products are beneficial, and poor folks end up spending money they can’t afford on things they don’t need. People are deprived, and live waiting for the moment where they can feel like their hard work has paid off and they can buy the things that they want. For our society to be equitable, everyone should have everything they need, and everyone should be able to earn the things they want. True equity would be a society where consumption does not come at a price for the environment, non-human animals, or human workers, but we are far from this becoming a reality. It says a lot about our society that we feel we need Black Friday, but it shows how much our working class is suffering, the voids they are trying to fill with material objects- which is not a behavior of only the working class, but one which only the working class is shamed for.

The financial consequences of living in a capitalist society are evident: our lives revolve around work. It’s the psychological effects that are understated. Folks who are already marginalized, such as people of color, face the absolute worst consequences: they succumb to early death due to the stress of living in an oppressive society. Economic injustice feeds into food injustice, meaning many marginalized folks only have unhealthy food options, and their poor health makes it harder for them to work, all contributing to poor mental health and quality of life. Capitalism follows us throughout our entire lives, beating us down. The media perpetuates the myth of individualism, that anything is possible if we work hard enough, but this is a lie. When we realize this, it depresses us, but we continue fooling ourselves into thinking that working hard is what we owe society. Society owes us a lot more than we owe society, and if we were given all we deserved as human beings in a society that preaches advancement, we would truly have the freedom we think we do, meaning how hard we work would determine the success we have. We have the right to define success the way we want to, and as long as we are not guaranteed basic human rights like a livable wage, housing, and education, we will keep holding these things as the ideals of success, and depriving ourselves-and the world- of all things beyond that that we could and should be able to achieve, those great acts that actually make up our purpose.

So who deserves to have the things they want? How does it feel to live an entire life without ever actually being fulfilled? Fulfilled, which does not mean spending our hard-earned money on things we don’t need for happiness that doesn’t last. Fulfilled, which does not mean earning the things we should have been guaranteed from birth. Fulfilled, which does not mean dismissing your higher dreams for your life in place of something more “realistic.” Fulfilled is something we all should be able to feel, but capitalism deprives us, robbing us of a psychological health that is achievable through a healthy, equitable society. Right now, we are expected to be happy “in spite of” the poor circumstances of our lives and our society. In spite of the oppression we face, in spite of the corporations and governments which do not have our best interests in mind, in spite of the continual destruction of our world by these powerful folks. Money is power, and while I do not believe it is the key to a happy life, it is the start. Having the bare necessities of life is essential to start to work on one’s own happiness and true fulfillment. The pursuit of survival and the pursuit of self-actualization will never be parallel. Until we dismantle the racist, sexist, colonialist system of capitalism, we will have no choice but to sell ourselves short to survive. We will all suffer as talented, intelligent, and inspiring individuals are denied the chance to use their passions to better the world, because they can’t afford to- emotionally and financially. We will continue to live in a society that is sick, unable to self-actualize, unable to bring all of our struggle, the hard work that is supposed to amount to something, into a productive fruition.

 

experience · life · Uncategorized

What music means to me: “Sadnecessary” album by Milky Chance

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I discovered the band Milky Chance in high school. I was working at Panera Bread at the time, and somehow my indie tendencies led me to discover the German group described as folk, alternative rock, reggae, electronic, and indie. I don’t know what any of those mean. What I do know is that few bands have shaped me as profoundly as Milky Chance has. I bonded with a coworker over our love for them, and envied that she had just seen them live at an intimate venue, just weeks before I stumbled upon them. The fact that this band meant so much to her encouraged me to listen to all of their work, memorize their discography, and find that kernel of meaning she had found. It didn’t prove a difficult task. Milky Chance is comprised of lead vocalist and guitarist Clemens Rehbein, producer and percussionist Philipp Dausch, guitarist Antonio Greger, and drummer Sebastian Schmid- all who come together to produce emotionally rich, aching music that speaks to every inch of my soul. At the time, their only album out was called Sadnecessary, also one of the songs on the album. DJ Phillip Dausch said of the song, “On the one side, you’re sad now, but on the other side, you’re happy, looking forward to turning that sad feeling into a hoping mood. And that’s just what it pictures in the music: a sad melody with sad lyrics, but the whole song has a happy and danceable mood.” This song hit me hard. I was struggling with depression and finding silver linings in my life, and somehow the lyrics conveyed to me a sense of triumph. They expressed a deep sadness, but their overall effect was liberating, authentic, and whole. I could own my pain, rather than letting my pain own me. Before I hid myself from sadness, not wanting to amplify its long-lasting existence inside me, but now I drenched myself in it. The sadder the lyrics, the better. I felt happy, like I had something to celebrate. Artists have pain, and they function well enough to put out beautiful art that I am fortunate enough to consume. I am an artist, and I have pain, and I can harness that to create something impactful.

Since then, they have released another album, named Blossom, which is equally as remarkable, but I guess not quite as sacred to me since it was not the premier of them into my life. I had already been enchanted by their music; it was now like family to me, rather than falling in love. How can I dance, cry, and smile obnoxiously all from the same album? There is something magic in their music. Milky Chance’s music transports me to another time, another place, and another life, full of varying possibilities. Whatever their music pulls out of me, it is available for me to access, so long as I push myself to do so. Sometimes I forget about them altogether, and put my Spotify on shuffle, surprised and overjoyed to hear their familiar lyrics come on. It feels like home. If I ever met Milky Chance, I wouldn’t know what to say. I could say something poetic, something pre-written, like “you taught me how to build a home with my words,” or “you helped me realize my sadness is something to harness, and build upon to create something much better,” or “your talents coming together sounds like all the goodness in the world met in one room.” I could say any of those things, but I’m sure they know the effect they’ve had. I think I’d just say “thank you.”

 

My favorite Milky Chance songs:

“Flashed Junk Mind”

“Sadnecessary”

“Loveland”

“Sweet Sun”

“Indigo”

“Fairytale”

“Blossom”

“Doing Good”

“Cocoon”

challenge · diversity issues · experience · friendship · inspiration · life · society · truth · Uncategorized · writing

On being oppressed and problematic at the same time

I am a queer woman. I am not always unproblematic.

I am a white female middle socioeconomic status college student who identifies as pansexual. I hold some privileges, and lack others. The reason I’m writing my truth is that I want people to understand that just because you belong to an oppressed group doesn’t mean you never participate in that oppression. Black cops kill innocent black kids. Women argue against the rights of sex workers. Gay and lesbian folks are often transphobic. We’re all socialized in the same society, so not one of us is immune to the biases that are ingrained in our culture. That’s why it’s impossible and pointless to call someone racist or not racist, sexist or not sexist, homophobic or not homophobic. We all have the capabilities to think in oppressive ways, even towards ourselves; however, what matters is that you learn to stop this thinking before it starts and actively resist oppression. I learned from the brilliant Beverly Tatum that most people are either actively or passively racist. To most, passively racist people would not be considered racists because they don’t wield Tiki torches or publicly harass people of color- but this is not the case. Passively racist people consist of a majority of the population, and this mindset includes behaviors such as laughing at racist jokes, locking car doors as a person of color passes outside, not trusting people of color in high up positions, and not dating people of color. Passively racist people may have POC friends, may have voted for Obama, and do anything they can to not be seen as racist. But it’s not that simple. I used to be passively racist as well, and I didn’t see a problem. I was internalizing all of the things society told me about people of color, but I wasn’t directly harming anyone, right? It took me getting to college to realize that you can be racist without realizing, that it’s not simply a matter of racist or not racist, and that to really not be racist you must be anti-racist. You must work actively every single day to address your implicit biases and work against what society tells you about people of color. This can be incredibly challenging. Most people, especially liberals, would never consider themselves to be racist or have racist tendencies, and that’s a huge problem. Unless you live in a different country that was never colonized and doesn’t operate under white supremacy, you have racist tendencies and you must do all you can to stop them. This includes educating yourself on racial oppression, reading the works of POC, unpacking your implicit biases and noticing every time you fall into them, listening to the experiences of POC, joining the movement for equality as an active participant in fundraising, marching, and advocating, and taking any comments of how you’re problematic seriously and changing yourself accordingly. It is a tough process, but it is necessary if we will ever build a formative enough nation to ensure equal rights for everyone.

The fight continues on all fronts, and I’m writing this post to admit that, although I am a progressive social justice activist I still make mistakes. I still internalize my own oppression. I only recently recognized the oppressive thoughts I’ve had about women and queer folks, which is bizarre considering I identify as both. But that’s how oppression works. It’s sneaky. I only recently decided to openly talk about my sexuality, and still am struggling to be more open about it. Why am I scared to come out about being queer? Because I’m scared of the stigma. Being pamsexual in a hetero relationship, I’m someone no one really would consider queer. They either think I’m confused, or experimenting; I’m not gay enough to be included in queer spaces but I’m not straight enough to feel comfortable in straight spaces. It’s a weird feeling. There’s a lot of discrimination within the queer community. Biphobia is a huge issue. I saw a meme that said if a man is bi they consider him actually gay and if a woman is bi they consider her straight but confused, because no one can accept a sexuality that doesn’t revolve around men- and that really stuck with me. I’m nervous to be open about my sexuality because people have only seen me with men and I fear they’ll think I’ve been hiding something or I’m actually just straight. Just because I’m in a hetero relationship doesn’t mean I’m not queer. I feel like I have to somehow prove my queerness, like post a photo kissing a woman, just so people get it through their heads that queer people come in all shapes and sizes, and, yes, you can know someone your whole life and never know they’re queer. I am learning to be less problematic. I’ve always secretly and silently felt some discomfort towards masculine lesbians and trans women and I’m unpacking why that is. I believe it’s due to my underlying lifelong fear that I would be stigmatized as severely as they are. I resent their confidence despite their oppression. Deep down I want to dress more masculine sometimes but fear being categorized as a masculine lesbian, even though I know this isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. The bias comes from the messages I’ve been exposed to: women should be feminine, but I know this isn’t true and I am working to stop believing this.

As a woman, I’ve messed up too. I’ve judged women for being attention seeking, for the way they dress, for the way they talk and act, and for embracing traditional gender roles. I’m a feminist, and I’ve still fallen into the pit of sexist thinking. This is what I mean when I say no one is immune. It’s how you handle it that matters. I’ve learned to question my automatic thoughts if they support oppression and get them out of my head. I’ve learned that there are many people in these communities who support their own oppression and do great harm to themselves unknowingly. Unlearning what society tells you is a process, but we all need to start now. Wherever you do and don’t hold privilege, learn how you can be less problematic. Just because you don’t hold privilege in an area doesn’t mean you’re not problematic at times! All oppressions are interconnected, so we must address all our biases against all groups of people (including non-human people).

I know how exhausting and defeating living under this system is, but we must take personal responsibility to do the work to take this system down. You will make mistakes, but if you take all feedback from others to heart and improve, you will be helping create a more equitable world. Don’t be afraid to admit you’ve been problematic; this is a lot more genuine and helpful than denying it. Sitting on the sidelines and staying silent won’t do anything for social justice- use your various privileges to amplify the voices of oppressed folks and actively join their efforts. I’m proud to finally embrace another aspect of my identity and I will continue learning about systems of oppression and becoming a better activist every step of the way. It’s not a matter of being problematic or not; as humans, we all are at times. It’s a matter of making amends for any harm you may have caused, learning better, and doing better, and doing your absolute best to be the least problematic you can be. As an activist, that’s all I demand, and I hope you demand that from yourself, your peers, and your communities as well. Let’s turn everyone from passive supporters of oppression into active advocates for social justice.