Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Children are not for amusement

As long as there is money and fame to be made from the internet, there will be child stars. Those children will grow up dysfunctional, particularly the ones on movie sets. These kids will experience a life differently than other kids. A life of recognition, attention, and "love". All of which sound like positive things, until fame eludes them or leads them down a dark path.

There is no false stigma or stereotype to celebrities. The fact is, when you're a known and beloved face, people want to be the ones to provide you with your drugs, sex, and alcohol, just to get in with your posse. This means excessive drugs, sex, and alcohol. Not necessarily an enemy when done in moderation, but since when has fame and moderation gone together? Say that fame doesn't stick; the child who was once fawned over and seen as perfect is not so perfect anymore. Maybe even a disappointment? No matter how much someone claims to love their child, there is bound to be disappointment or letdown if fame and money don't last forever. Even a child who becomes otherwise successful or average, this won't be quite the same. The kid will notice how much less attention they are getting.

Next problem, keeping up appearances. For the family to appear perfect, for the individual to appear perfect. This person is always ON and representing what is good and right and best. Their time and interests being swayed by sponsored products and having to always look put-together, thin, without acne or inappropriate hairs or messy hair or saying or doing anything that can be misunderstood or overly understood. Lack of privacy, late nights, early mornings, the online comments, the sexism, discrimination, the judgment of every life choice. Nothing is sacred.

While there is an ever-growing awareness and attention on these young people, there is never enough that can be done. There is an inherent trauma to fame.

Heck, let's say we're in a perfect world. Maybe 10 years down the line, maybe cruelty and harassment and expectations of famous people has changed. Maybe the kid's self-esteem can tolerate falling down the ladder of fame or they eventually duck out of the business. What kind of parent feels so empty and meaningless that they need their child to be someone worthy of note? Think about it. You had a kid, your body produced another human being and what do you do with this superpower? You throw that kid on a screen and use him/her as a tool for likes and comments and gushing. Which is one thing when it comes to family and friends, but it's another thing when everyone and their mother decides everyone needs to know their kid is beautiful and funny and "gifted". Apparently, every child that was born after 2000 is gifted. What a miracle.

Not only do I really not care and want to hear about it, but it makes that parent or those parents look really sad, stupid, and desperate (to me!) Maybe other people who eat up social media like a can of soup love getting involved with every adult and child's life and hearing about the adventures and misadventures of the ScoopPoopopalous family (they're Greek), but I think a child, a baby, a kid needs to have a life with their close family and a relationship before everyone starts freaking out about capturing everything on camera for an audience.

Maybe it's become even more obvious after I gave social media a try for a year. Between Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and Insta Twitface, I realized that it was exposing my life and me to people who have no right to see into my life. My privacy was cut off and I was being presented to the world like a desperate salesman begging to be chosen and loved. The only approval I seek is that of my loved ones, people I choose to be in my life and to whom I must show my best, my worst, my love, and hurt. Much like my other private parts, these are parts that I do not need or want to show to just anyone I meet. I respect myself and care about myself, so my private parts of all kinds remain hidden away and protected. It is nothing less than cruelty and mistreatment to put a child on display or to use them as a parent's product. If the internet pays you for your child's face, body, or opinions or even just seeks the approval of others, you've already done something unfair to your child, whether the kid "understands and likes it" or not, that kid is now in internet history and cannot escape it. Think about that before you post his/her face on social media or on a stage. Remember the long and short-term implications and what it says about you. Is that the parent you want to be and is that who you want your kid to be?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

How to Open Up

Privacy is a rare commodity these days... they tell me. As far as I can tell, if you just stop telling everyone about yourself, your privacy remains private. I know this to be true because I did it for a long time.

For many years, I didn't tell anyone much about myself. Small talk was never something that seemed enjoyable and random fact-sharing was of no interest. Thus, I was labeled "mysterious" or "an enigma". The truth is and was, I found saying "I" or "Me" to be uncomfortable. You know what was even more uncomfortable than that, though? Being called out for being private.

This is why in the past few years I've been trying to catch up with the rest of society and my peers. Not that it's easy to collect years and years of pop culture references and it's certainly not wise to change oneself entirely. The plan was never to turn into an entirely different and self-obsessed person, nor do I wish to do so. However, getting into social media and talking about myself and my past isn't really the worst thing in the world. There are still details about myself that I avoid sharing and sometimes fun facts go unmentioned, but these are baby steps.

The thing is, not everything has to be about oneself, but not everything has to be completely alone, either. There's an in-between space where a person can share and not overshare, socialize but not go wild, and interact with the world without being a total sell-out version of the person they actually are.

Aside from social media, with which some people become obsessed or their privacy is completely taken away, there are other methods of being involved in the world. A lot of feelings and experiences are shared through music, for example. Art, photography, acts of kindness or cruelty, and everything else a person does expresses something about the individual; some more obvious than others. Not everyone can read body language and subtle hints, though. It all depends how much you are ready to share.

If you just want to jump into the pool and make a splash, try something like blogging or vlogging! Of course, these are just more ways of editing and controlling what you're sharing and how others will see you, but it's a start. Eventually, you may feel comfortable unedited and unfiltered. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready for this, but it sounds like a great goal!

Just try to remember, being a quiet or private person occurs for a reason. Not necessarily "survival", per se, but it serves a purpose. Your upbringing and past experiences have given you an armour for various reasons, so there's no shame in making use of your protection. You're not a bad person for it, but because you're not a bad person, people should have the chance to get to know you! Despite lack of confidence or self-doubt, fear of rejection or criticism... it can be very liberating to feel vulnerable and at-risk. After all, all things must come to an end, including that shame. In 80 years, what will it matter? As for today, you're not likely to leave such a great impression on others that they cling to your embarrassing moment. It's probably just you. Silly you!

Obsessive anxiety and fear of judgment will leave you lacking. Imagine you can do no wrong. What would happen if you stepped up to bat and acted like that outspoken extrovert you envy? Would people be shocked or horrified or proud of you? Would they notice at all? Maybe you fear being ignored and forgotten despite trying to speak up.... In all fairness, there is a lot about which you can worry. There's also a lot of good that can come from it. New relationships, new opportunities, a smile or laugh, a great experience... the things that happen when you take chances and switch things up.

Often, we feel discomfort in colouring outside the lines. Being someone other than we are expected to be. As if someone drew a map of who you are and if you place a toe outside your designated quarters, you can't predict what will happen next. Will they focus on you for too long? Not long enough? Will something tragic occur? ...maybe something wonderful? Sure sounds like a lot more fun and adventure than just remaining the same.

Blushing, panic, sweating, racing heart, trouble breathing or swallowing, stuttering... the list goes on. All these physical manifestations of the racing thoughts of terror in your mind. Then, what- death? Unlikely. Maybe you'd rather be dead than face those consequences or whatever could come next. It's that unknown abyss of what happens after life or total embarrassment.

The witnesses will have two options: they can become/remain your friend or they can walk away. In the end, however, you were authentic. You released a true self; a secret; a locked away version of yourself who is going to get more and more resentful the more you ignore it. Act on it.
In any way you can, any chance you get. Share, tell, give in, try things. What that entails can be as big or small as you wish, but at least it's movement. Standing still has never accomplished anything.

UPDATE: It's funny how the mind works. After writing this piece, I felt an odd sense of unrest. I felt dirty and shameful, maybe even overly-vulnerable. It occurred to me just how much one exposes themselves through actions and words online. I tried to ignore it and recognize that it was my anxiety eating away at me. However, last night (aka this morning) around 3 AM, I had an obsessive thought in my mind. I felt a compulsion to delete all social media. Not Facebook, as I store my photos there, but Twitter, YouTube, Instagram.... Even though I used them for educational/career-focused goals, I felt exploited, by my own hand and the addictive media qualities. Unable to fight the urges, I went to my laptop and everything was deleted. Goodbye. No regrets so far. I don't miss the 2,000+ random people who served me no purpose. Their voyeuristic tendencies overwhelmed, angered, and bored me. What I saw of their minds and lives was not much better and I had no desire to know what they thought and felt... not if they weren't willing to share it with me in private. It was all meaningless data and I have no use for it. Or maybe, I just felt my privacy was being taken away and it was clearer upon writing about it. Fare thee well, social media!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Current Status

I am sitting here.
Waiting to live.
Or maybe,
waiting to die.

One has to happen,
or the other.

My mood is stable
My thinking is straight
I am optimistic
and dreaming.

But they tell me life is short
That it could end any moment
To live like today is my last.

Yet, here I sit.

How bizarre.

Friday, February 23, 2018

I was supposed to be....

I was supposed to be a travel writer,
But instead I tried to kill myself.
Shot down by fear, anxiety,
and the voices outside my head.
The plan was to go and never look back
Forget defeat and the 9-5.
All it took was one rebuttal
and I hid back in my shell

My dream was to travel for money
or to travel until money came;
To work and focus and see it all
and not give up when things got tough.
This proved to fail, just like me
I saw the flaws in my itinerary.
Just as I fell to the ground and shook,
but I have not given up.

The plan still remains just the same,
I know what I must do now.
All it will take is some deep breaths
and honesty to those whom I love.
They’ll doubt me, fear it, and condemn me,
Make me think I can’t make it on my own.
The good thing about dreaming big is,
there is no such thing as failure, only learning.

Safety and certainty aren’t what I seek
Stability and sanity were never meant for me.
Instead, I just need a world in which,
I can be whatever I believe I am.
Just when I spread my arms and fly,
I’ll see all of which I am capable.
So much more in the world awaits me,
and so I must take off.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beyond Labels: Reviewing Diagnoses

There is a widespread misunderstanding when it comes to depression; what it is and what it is not. This is because people will often label others' conditions without understanding their condition nor the label. What madness is this?

It seems that, if anyone questions or doubts existence and how humans typically go about it, it is suggested that they are depressed. If someone isn't radiating "positive energy", smiles, and optimism, this is assumed to be depression. The general public has such a great fear of those who are not faking bliss and joy that they prefer to make these people into outcasts and rejects from society. An "exception".

Meanwhile, autism has a spectrum. A lot of good that does, but at least it acknowledges all the nuanced differences between those who have the disorder. It's a huge spectrum, nearly everyone is included. The entire category of "anxiety" is on the spectrum. It does not get much broader than that. For everyone else, it's either "high-functioning" or "low-functioning". This means, either you're doing a good enough job at living or you're considered a total mess. You had one job, to function as a human, and you're messing it up.

That's not fair and it's not accurate.

With most mental disorders or illnesses, they're seen as 'on' or 'off'. Forget episodes and degrees of illness, you're just depressed or anxious or bipolar, or you're not those things. We forget that being depressed doesn't mean you have it. Just like, if your father's great-uncle's mother was Native American, it doesn't mean that you're Native American. We all have a little something in us, a little  something weird, a little "off".  We're just very quick to box these people up and ship them off.

When I look at my own feelings, I feel I am more confused or perplexed by the world than I am depressed by it. Occasionally, this causes me to retard. I slow down and reflect. By my own experience, I can tell you, I don't feel down until someone points out that I seem down. Until then, I am just turning down my senses to avoid unnecessary distractions and I am zoning in on what I would like to improve upon in my life and in the world.

The usual and deemed offensive understanding of retardation is when someone is intellectually challenged. That seems like a complete misnomer to me. When we say someone is slow or retarded, we are assuming that the information we are giving them is of any import to them or their lives. We are deciding what they need. Aside from some source of nutrition and remembering to inhale and exhale occasionally, there are very few things we must do in order to survive. We tell others what they need simply out of the assumption that they need what we need, when that is hardly ever the case.

Think about it, our brains decide which tidbits of information are worth retaining. While we may not always deem retained information as important, for some reason or other, our brains decided it was something worth holding onto. For people who are incapable of memorizing or learning the same skills the rest of us learn, I think it's entirely possible that the information was simply not included in their must-have list. Sure, it makes things more challenging for the rest of us. We have trouble communicating with them or teaching them things. Sometimes their family members and friends have to work a lot harder to get them going, but all those practical things don't mean anything when it comes to nature. Nature doesn't take into account that others will expect that person to function the same way as they do. Nature doesn't have a blueprint and a list of goals. It simply gives and we receive. Yet, it is only "retardation" when it comes to mental development. We expect others to think and learn as we do, but when it comes to the body's functionality, we are much less demanding.

Society is nit-picky. Mental illness is deemed bad. If you're displeased with the body or orientation society has deemed appropriate for you, or the religion that is popular, this is all deemed bad.  However, we sympathize when someone has something like cancer or diabetes. We are rooting for them and will try to give them all the resources they need to order to feel better. We assume that the body's needs and functionality is more important than that of the mind. The body seems less intimidating for some reason, so it's easier to understand. Even when it presents the most challenging problems, at least we can relate to them, see them, go through them with the individual. These are easier issues to swallow, so we can face them. With such little understanding of the mind, it tends to go ignored and under-served.

One doesn't have to look too far to see how we are mistreating our species. We expect the most obnoxious and boring things from one another. There is so much humans could do, so much more fun we could have, so much more knowledge we could attain... if we stopped being so scared. We are literally a huge group of potential friends released on a planet with no rules or expectations. We have the choice to do everything or nothing or whatever we please. What do we do? Let's put on suits and sit at a desk all day! Let's write reports so we can receive more green paper with which we can buy a house to sit inside and watch television. Maybe twice a year we'll go somewhere different. But most of our lives will be spent on one tiny part of the Earth, hating the same things, regretting what we don't do, and yet, wanting more. This is what healthy and normal looks like.

Everyday, people are labeled as depressed because they're not okay with this; they are not willing to accept these expectations. To want MORE and do MORE sounds more functional to me. We don't have the option to change the entire world's view on these issues, we only can change how we live our own lives, with whom we surround ourselves, and the everyday choices we make.

Monday, December 25, 2017

I Can't Even Christmas.

Hello, there! Just your local Jew here! Sitting in my pajamas on Christmas Day, being a curmudgeon about this silly holiday. Come on, even Chanukah, one of the least important Jewish holidays has a better story than Christmas. The Christians can market a holiday, but if the Jews can't come up with one impressive story....

I talk big about hating Christmas, it kinda becomes my shtick this time of year. But, honestly? I don't hate Christmas! Everyone seems extra happy and positive and kind. Imagine if we could have that all year long? We wouldn't make it a month, but it's a nice thought.

The problem with this time of year is the countless greetings of, "Merry Christmas!" I'm one those horrible people who prefers nice, politically correct snowflakes to Christmas trees and Jesus staring at me everywhere I go. I have no qualms with Jesus, I imagine he'd be pretty cool and pro-Israel. Albeit, a commie with a huge ego, but we could chill. The problem is seeing his empty eyes as he Jew-shames me from the comfort of his little cross. Then, there's also people like the one I overheard at the mall the other day yelling, "Like the Jews from Christ, your friend is GONE!" 
What the heck, lady? We don't need that kind of slander and propaganda making rounds again. 

To recap, Christmas is great, Jesus is cool, and everyone loves the holiday lights. The problem is, I don't celebrate Christmas! Neither do other Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, Sikhs, Jains, and tons of other people. Of course, we don't expect you to know that, but we also don't need you to assume otherwise. Because we are SO over it. We are over being clumped into your religion and your holidays and your assumption that everyone lives the life you live. 

We get it, we're not like you. Our heritage and traditions aren't as big and bright and exciting as yours. We don't get you, you don't get us, that's okay. We're not as popular and we don't fit in quite as well. I mean, come on, you guys literally looked around nature, spotted the biggest, most space-consuming thing, brought it INTO YOUR HOME, and covered it in bright lights. You're the boss, the winner, good job!

When someone assumes I celebrate Christmas, I feel two things. First, I feel like that person is forcing themselves upon me. Not literally, obviously. It's just a feeling of being coerced into something without my consent, as though it's so important that every human being has to be involved. Meanwhile, my own interests and choices are meaningless to you. Maybe 5 people text me on Chanukah to wish me a good holiday. Meanwhile, everyone, their mother, and the pope text me on Christmas. Most of those people know I'm not Christian. This tells me that you know better and you just don't care. It's a complete disregard for a huge part of who I am. Is it spiteful merry wishes? Or do you think that if you make me feel included and welcome, I'll convert? What's the game plan here? Let me be clear, I will never choose an Italian sub over a bagel, I will never choose Coachella over a cousin's Bar Mitzvah, and I will always use my obnoxious "Jewish name" as an ice breaker. These are the things in which I firmly believe.

The second feeling is that of being identified incorrectly. Quite honestly, it's kind of racist/anti-Semitic. I mean, if you're Japanese and someone assumes you're Chinese or you're Bangladeshi and someone calls you Indian, that's not acceptable, right? This is the same situation. I'm proud of my heritage, even if I don't believe in its religious aspects. I believe in my traditions, I respect my ancestors, and I love my culture.

It's disrespectful, ignorant, and insensitive. I am not Christian, and there have always been people making me feel lesser for that. There's a lot of hatred out there, many people trying to end diversity! When someone assumes we ALL celebrate Christmas, all I see is someone who expects me to be just like them and assimilate. Do you know I couldn't find a single dreidel for sale this year? Wait, that's not true. I saw a SANTA CLAUSE DREIDEL

Sorry, friend, I'm a Jew. This Christmas, I'm gonna Jew so hard. Matter of fact, I'm gonna chat with Buddha, Mohammed, Vishnu... heck, I'll bring in some Greek Gods, I don't care! All of us are going to be here and we aren't going to celebrate Christmas. No trees, no jingle bells, and no freaking reindeer! How do you stake claim on an entire species of animal!? 

This is not a war on Christmas, this is a plea. Until the day when my Google Calendar tells me when EVERY holiday is, and not just Christmas and Easter, I will still hold a grudge. When people stop asking me about the "Jewish language", then I'll be more sympathetic. If a time comes when Bible-thumpers stop going around trying convert or kill everyone, maybe I'll hear you guys out.

Keep singing and being merry, but I want nothing to do with your glazed ham, and don't even mention a Chanukah bush! Unless it's an olive tree and it's going to light my Hanukia, I don't want it.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Porpoise of a Purpose

Ugh. The age old question about meaning and purpose, it's so overdone and so futile to attempt an explanation. Life just is. I've accepted that, French cats have accepted that, why can't we all?

Well, maybe because it is a really difficult thing with which to come to terms. That was also a really difficult sentence to write, did I do it correctly? GRAMMAR!!

Let's think about this. The "purpose and meaning" issue, not the grammatical accuracy of my sentence. We are on Earth because of atoms and cells and sciencey-science and whatnot, yah? Yah. Now, why, or better yet, how would anything possibly give meaning to that? That would require thought, and thought requires a functioning brain, and that requires humans. Humans which are too small and insignificant to create anything... or, are we? We create more humans! And by doing so, we create an entire new universe upon which we assign meaning as it best fits our own needs and desires. This is why so many children grow up to do just what their parents do, with the same morals, ethics, politics, and priorities. Yes, "rebellion" may lead them astray, but in there, there is still a parental figure guiding them. As opposed to someone who doesn't have a parental figure or guardian offering them their wisdom and leadership, who then end up without a path, without a sense of purpose. A child without proper guidance is a dangerous thing. It must rely on instinct; survival.

I watched two videos of children being let loose in a house for a week and saw this in action.
I'm obsessed and fascinated. 

Maybe it is not how you let your kids dress that determines their overall success and your parenting skills, but more so how well you give your child purpose. This may be the very reason parents stress about math class and dance class and hockey practice and "never giving up". Why fitting in and being normal are so imperative. These are things that help a child to adjust and settle into their individual worth, awareness, and presence. Without the stable and sturdy stepping stones and really good alliteration, children are led astray, on the wrong path, a confusing path, or no path at all. This may lead to failure to launch. After all, what sense does it make for a child to launch without any clue where they are headed? If absolutely necessary, said child will most likely go whichever way instinct leads the poor, confused kid.

This also reminds us that what we say to kids matters. When it comes to their goals and dreams, there's no benefit in telling them at what they're bad. Believe me, they have enough people doing that, especially themselves. Don't tell them what they are bad at, they'll figure it out. It's what they're good at- that's of what they need reminders. Mediocrity is only mediocre if you present it as such. Which is not to say you should coddle your kid, sugarcoat everything, and act like barely passing classes is good enough. Instead, let the difficult subjects counterbalance the good ones, even if it's just making paper airplanes. Who knows, maybe one day, they'll build metal ones or get really good at physics! Encouragement is key. Telling someone else that the thing about which they care and put work and thought into matters!

I believe that, at a very young age, children start searching for their place in the world. Once they recognize it, they can thrive in it or they can easily be discouraged. If you don't like their choices, don't worry that it will determine their entire future, but remember that you have a big influence. You have more power than you think, so let your kid share some of it.

If you are looking for your own purpose, stop searching for it. Whatever you're doing, whatever matters to you, whatever convinces you to get out of bed, get out of the hot shower, get out of your comfortable pajamas, and get out of the door- that's all you need. Whether it's your pets, your passion for coffee, your grumbling stomach, your fear of upsetting loved ones, or a job that means a lot to you, that is it. Like it, love it, or hate it- that's you. There's more to you, of course, and it will always be changing, but even when you don't feel and see it, it's there, happening. It's absolutely frackin' magic!

As the song goes (the song I wrote that no one knows) :

I’ve been leaning on these lies, praying heavily towards the skies
Making wishes overtime, looking all around for signs
Gotta make things happen, Aching wings are flapping
Make it over one more fence, don’t wanna fall from lack of strength
But I know I’ve gotta try and try   
Tell self-hatred and doubt, goodbye