Saturday, March 22, 2014

Three Words

Here is an essay I wrote for class last term about how I identify myself. I titled it: Three Words. 
A totally random, but awesome gif. 
Survivor. Adventurous. Creative. My identity summed up in three words. What I find most fascinating about these characteristics is how they all intersect in some way. Over the years I’ve found that you are never just one thing, but rather many, and every thing that you are has a story behind it. This is my story.
Ask any one of my friends to describe me and the first thing they’ll tell you is that I am an unapologetic bookworm, which is absolutely true! On average I read about twenty books a year.  Books helped me survive high school. Between the ages of fourteen and eighteen I was constantly in and out of the hospital. With a screwed up spine that required several operations my social life was nonexistent. During my senior prom I wore a hospital gown because that’s the day my second back surgery was scheduled. Mostly, I just laid in my mom’s bed, medicated, with pillows propped underneath my knees, and a heating pad placed behind my back. Sure I’d watch TV once in a while, but I quickly discovered that it really depressed me. Maybe it had something to do with the brightly lit screen or more likely that it didn’t engage me enough intellectually. So, I turned to books. Through books I lived vicariously through another character. George R. R. Martin once wrote, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies … The man who never reads lives only one.” I absolutely love this quote and find so much truth in it. Through books I have had the incredible opportunity to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, fall in love with a sparkly vampire, and was placed in an arena with twenty-three other kids whom I was expected to kill on a national televised program.
Catching Fire Midnight Premiere. 
Speaking of The Hunger Games, I have to admit that this book came out during a perfect time in my life, September 14th, 2008, exactly 2 months before my first back surgery. Both Katniss Everdeen and I were sixteen-years-old and while I was not forced to fight to the death I was terrified of the idea that I could possibly die or become paralyzed during surgery. Spoiler Alert: we both survived! Next came the sequel Catching Fire, which came out September of 2009, around three months before we discovered that two of my four titanium screws cracked completely in half and now I had to get another more invasive surgery. Now, looking back, it was kind of a miracle that I read these books right before my surgeries. In a way, I think they prepared me mentally for the challenges ahead.
I’m not going to lie, all of these surgeries made me equal parts angry and depressed. I felt a sort of certainty that I was never going to experience a painless day of ever have a normal social life. The film Little Miss Sunshine changed my way of thinking about having a disability during high school. One of my favorite scenes involves a teenage boy Dwayne and his Uncle Frank. Dwayne starts the conversation off with, “I wish I could just sleep until I was eighteen and skip all this crap—high school and everything—just skip it,” which is something I could totally related to (Arndt). However, Uncle Frank argues otherwise, that suffering is actually beneficial, that it develops character. He says:
[Marcel Proust] French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he’s also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh… gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, Those were the best years of his life, ‘cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn’t learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you’re 18… Ah, think of all the suffering you’re gonna miss. I mean high school? High school—those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that.
The Hunger Games and Little Miss Sunshine gave me hope for the future. I started calling myself brave instead of weak, a survivor instead of a victim. This newly found inner strength lit a fire inside me; it’s what helped me graduate high school with a 3.64 GPA and an award in Language Arts. I started living more deliberately and optimistically and I craved life like never before.
Paragliding in Switzerland. 
Now that I wasn’t living in sheer agony from day to day I wanted to catch up on everything I missed. At eighteen-years-old I finally got my driver’s license, started my first term at Chemeketa Community College, made new friends, and decided what I really wanted more than anything was to travel, so that’s what I did. About a year after my last surgery, I went on a study abroad trip to Florence, Italy. Through traveling, I learned to step out of my comfort zone. For example, my mom suggested I take a train to visit her friends in Switzerland and Germany all by myself and at first I was like: No way! I’ll die. However, after much thought I decided you only live once, so I went for it. Let me just say that backpacking through Europe by yourself is totally doable and is actually really fun!
            During this trip I received an email from the editor of Chicken Soup for the Soul telling me that two of my essay were going to be published in their upcoming book Chicken Soup for the Soul: ToughTimes for Teens. Obviously, I was ecstatic about this, especially since my back surgery essay would be featured first. Also, during this time I kept up a weekly blog and it was surprisingly getting a lot of views and comments. It solidified my belief that I was indeed a creative person and could possibly have a career in writing.
Champion film crew & Lance Henriksen. 
However, writing is not my only creative outlet. I’m also passionate about filmmaking, especially with my younger brother Andrew who is a very talented cinematographer and editor. In the summer of 2012 we were asked to work on an independent film down in San Antonio, Texas for five weeks. You see, our next-door neighbor is an executive producer and his fifteen-year-old daughter worked on a film prior to the one we worked on with the same director. She showed the director our YouTube films and he said we should come help out too. Drew was hired as the first assistant cameraman and I worked as a production assistant. Even though we worked mainly outside in over 100 degree weather, had to wake up at five AM most days, got food poisoning one weekend, and were eaten alive by mosquitoes, it was one of the best experiences of my life!

Recounting my story, I am reminded of how lucky I am and what an amazing life I have led so far. Sure, I’ve been through hell and while it was totally unexpected and completely unwanted it was how I rose to the challenge and decided to be a survivor that ultimately defined me. Had I not endured that horrible experience I probably would not have as strong of an appetite for travel as I do now nor would I be the adventurous risk taker that I am today. Also, writing gave me a creative outlet for the pain I experienced. I wrote poems about it and now incorporate what I’ve learned into the novel I am currently writing. Our experiences and how we respond to them are what make our identity. I am very proud that the events in my life have identified me as a creative adventurous survivor!

Otherness


Hola! Here is a blog post I wrote for my Writing 323 class last term.We had to write about how one of the readings we chose made us think differently about concepts of otherness and difference.

Out of the four readings, I reacted most strongly to Richard Wright's "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical" because of the way he was so badly treated and how he was constantly in a double bind (a situation in which you are damned if you do and damned if you don't). I hated how he had "...to play that dual role which every Negro must play if he wants to eat and live."
One of the many moments that made me sick to my stomach was when Wright's boss and 21-year-old son beat up a black woman in front of a policeman. And the policeman did nothing! Instead, he just stood near"twirling his nightstick." That kills me! He should have intervened to see what the trouble was about, but nope, didn't do a thing because she was black. She was other. It didn't matter. When the boss later declares, "'Boy, that's what we do to niggers when they don't want to pay their bills,'" he makes the word "nigger" sound separate from the human race, which is exactly how whites treated blacks during this time, they dehumanized them.
Thankfully, times have changed, but I still think we have a fear of the other and I have a feeling that we always will, but it's how we deal with this fear that will ultimately define us. Recently, I've noticed that this other is someone crying in public. People don't like dealing with emotions. It's vulnerable and terrifying so we like to stay as far away from it as possible. 
Last summer I went to pick up some ceramics I had painted and the lady who worked there was crying as she wrapped up my ceramics. And I, unfortunately, said nothing, grabbed my paintings, and headed out the door. Where was my humanity in that moment? Why had I been so cold? Why hadn't I just asked the obvious question: Are you ok? Maybe because I already knew the answer and didn't want to deal with it. So, feeling guilty, I told my mom who was waiting outside for me in the car. She immediately went inside and asked what was wrong. The woman told us that she and her son were having a fight. Although there wasn't anything we could do, my mom was brilliant: she gave her a hug. It was so simple. So human.

This made me think about all the times during school when I'd cry due excruciating back pain and how even though no one could do anything about it it was the ones who said "I'm thinking about you" that made so much more of a difference to me compared to the ones who just ignored my suffering. Sometimes all we want in life is to be acknowledged and so do our emotions, especially the not so fun ones like pain. There's this great quote from The Fault in Our Stars that goes, "That's the thing about pain. It demands to be felt." 
As I age I try to look at the other and seek out their humanness and in doing so discover my own humanity. 

Blog to you later! 
Love, 
Amanda 

Winter Term Summary & Resolution Check Up

Hola!

I have officially completed Winter Term, meaning I can blog some more! I definitely have a lot to say and am honestly a little overwhelmed as to where I should begin. 

How about an overview of how this term went? 
Sure, let's do that!

So this term was incredibly stressful. I think the consensus is that Winter Term often sucks. It's darker and colder out and that often impacts people's moods. It definitely affects mine. This term I took Writing 323, Psychology for Women, and Statistics 244. Basically, I did a lot of reading, writing, and statistics. 
Earlier I believe I mentioned that I had to write a blog as a part of my Writing 323 assignments. I have and will be posting more of what I wrote in that class here on this blog. 
Psychology of Women was really interesting. I've taken Women Studies before, but I definitely learned a lot more from this class as well! I read an insightful book by Cordelia Fine called Delusions of Gender: How Are Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference. I wrote a research paper on how bipolar disorder affects women's creativity that I really enjoyed writing. I was also introduced to Brene Brown who is an incredible person! I loved her lessons on vulnerability and shame. 
Lastly, Statistics was a fascinating class and the teacher was this happy-go-lucky guy that always made me laugh, however, it was an extremely difficult class. The best thing about Statistics was the friends I made!
Kind of felt like this at the end of the term... 

Ok, now an overview of my 2014 New Year's Resolution.

1.) Volunteering at least once a month. 
In January I volunteered for the Red Cross; I did stuff like give donors drinks (water & juice), snacks, stickers, and t-shirts. My favorite part about this was all the amazing conversations I had with people, both the donors and the other volunteers.
Sadly, I didn't get a chance to volunteer during February. February was a little insane...
But I volunteered at the beach today! Pacific City to be more specific. My friend Becky and I worked with SOLVE and picked up some trash. It was fun! There honestly wasn't that much. We went on a pleasant walk along the shore. We woke up at 6:30am this morning, my step-dad made us chocolate chip pancakes, we hopped in the car, picked up some Dutch Bros, got to the coast at 9:30am, picked up trash until 11:30am, ate lunch at the Pelican Pub, left by 12:17pm, drove up to Portland (listening to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis), dropped her off, and then picked my mom up at the airport. I had a great day today!


2.) Write 2 blog posts a month. 
Yeah, still need to work on that. Haha.

3.) Send query letters out to literary agents once a month for Novel #1. 
Yep, I've been doing that!

4.) Read at least 20 books. 
Kind of behind on that, but working on it! Love to hear your book suggestions!

5.) Write a letter to someone who inspires me once a month. 
Totally been doing this! Already wrote two letters to two people I normally wouldn't have written to, but who nonetheless inspire me. I think it's incredibly important to let people know when they inspire you! I still need to decide on my March person.

6.) Complete Novel #2. 
I still have the rest of the year to complete this, but yeah... along with college, my social life, and getting the house ready to sell... I'm working on it.

7.) Graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from PSU by the end of 2014. 
Still on track!

8.) Treat myself nicer. 
Yes, definitely being nicer to myself! Not comparing myself to others as much. Accepting that it's ok to go at my pace and be myself. On Valentines Day my friends and I definitely had a Treat Yo Self Moment!
9.) Take care myself, especially my back. Keep up with Yoga & Water Aerobics. Walk more, sit less. Eat healthier. Drink lots of water daily. 
This happened more at the beginning of the term and as finals approached it quickly declined, but I will for sure get back on track for Spring Term!

10.) Take a self-defense class. 
Um, so, I totally forgot I even made this goal. So yeah, I need to get on top of this before the end of the year. Haha.

11.) Secure an internship for 2015. 
Um, no. This hasn't happened yet.

12.) At the end of the night write 5 things that went well that day.  
Yep! I do this every night and it makes me very grateful for what a lucky life I have.

Alright, I think that's all for now folks!

How was your Winter Term and/or how are your 2014 New Year's Resolutions going?
Blog to you later!

Love,
Amanda