This is a story about a girl who is not me

“My whole life is a delicate cycle, a delicate cycle…” -The Uncluded (Kimya Dawson/Aesop Rock)

This is a story about a girl who is not me.

This girl was your typical, regular sort of little girl growing up in American middle class suburbia.  She had a mother and a father who were married and lived together and loved each other, and who had children whom they also loved very much.  They loved their children so much that they worked hard to provide for them.  These children wanted for nothing.

The little girl grew up in a nice neighborhood of a quiet town, with trees and houses and people who were friendly and trusting but not trusting enough to leave their doors unlocked while they were away.  This was not Mayberry.  Her house had nice furniture, and her bedroom was pink with a white bookshelf that her Daddy built, full of books with pretty pictures of girls who looked like her.  And she and her sister played outside together on the swing set that their Daddy also built, and they slid down the big yellow slide and made sandcastles, and everything was normal and everything was good and they were happy.

And eventually the girl got older and went to school with other girls who looked like her, and some of them had long hair and pretty dresses and she wanted to be friends with them.  She became friends with the girls, and they played house on the playground and chased the boys around the jungle gym and they laughed and laughed and laughed.  And everything was normal and everything was good and she was happy.

Suddenly the girl was twelve years old and she was in middle school.  She noticed that her friends were getting taller and leaner and more grown-up looking, and she was not very tall and not very lean and her face was round.  And her friends began buying dresses from the fancy stores where grown-ups bought their dresses.  And she learned about money.  And they let her try on their grown-up dresses during P.E., and many of the dresses did not fit her, and her round face turned red and she learned what skinny was.  And she told her parents she had decided that she wanted to be skinny so she could buy pretty grown-up dresses and look like the other girls.

And her mother told her she was beautiful.  And her father taught her how to play tennis, and she played tennis with her father and her sister.  And she became good at tennis and joined her school’s team and won many of her matches.  Her parents told her they were proud of her like they always did, even when she didn’t win her tennis matches because they loved her very much, and they told her that, too.  And everything continued to be normal and everything continued to be good and she was happy.  But the dresses still did not fit her.

And in 7th grade she went to tennis camp in the summertime and her friend from school went with her and they shared a room.  And she and her friend thought the boys at camp were cute, and they sat with them in the cafeteria.  But the boys made fun of her when she ate cake for dessert, and they told her she shouldn’t do that or she would be fat.  And the boys did not like girls who were fat and ate too much cake.  And the boys were not very nice boys.

So the girl decided she would not eat cake anymore.  And the friend of the girl asked her if she wanted to know a secret about being skinny, and the girl said yes.  Her friend told her about a television program she had seen where girls who did not want to be fat did not eat very much.  And sometimes these girls would eat more than they wanted to, but it was okay because they had learned how to “fix it.”  The girl said this did not sound like a very good idea, but she wanted the boys to like her so she tried it.  And she became good at it and she became leaner and she did not want to stop.  And she could not stop.  Still everything was normal and everything was mostly good and she was mostly happy.

Then it was time for the girl to begin 8th grade, and finally she grew as tall as the other girls and her face was less round.  And at lunch they would eat sandwiches together and talk and laugh and the girl felt happy.  But after lunch her stomach would hurt and her heart would pound and she would begin to feel very bad inside if she did not “fix it.”  And the girl did not like feeling this way, and she began to become afraid.

And one night after supper the girl went upstairs into the bathroom and her sister followed her, and she did not know it.   When she came out of the bathroom her parents were there with her sister and they were upset.  And she became angry with her sister and they did not speak for seven days.  The girl’s parents took her to a doctor in the city who told her if she did not stop this she would die.  And the girl cried and her mother cried, and she felt sorry and afraid and she did not want to die.  And nothing felt normal and nothing felt good and no one was happy.

And for the whole year the girl’s mother drove her to the city to meet with the doctor.  And the girl took a pill every day that the doctor said would help her feel better.  And after awhile the girl began to feel better.   She went to school and she played tennis and her stomach did not hurt when she ate sandwiches in the cafeteria with her friends and they laughed and laughed and laughed.  And she was no longer angry with her sister.  And everything began to be normal again and everything began to be good again and she was happy.

And the girl continued to feel better, and she did well in school and she played sports and the boys were nice to her, and eventually she went to a good college and her parents continued to tell her they were proud of her, like they always did, because they loved her very much.  And everything was normal and and everything was good and she was happy.

But every now and then when the girl looked in the mirror she would remember what the boys at tennis camp had said.  And she would fix it.

This is a story about a girl who is not me.

For more on this topic, check out this brilliant blog: http://beckysaysthings.com/2013/07/30/becky-says-things-about-the-epic-fail-of-an-eating-disorder/

Technapocalypse

“Precious metal lines
Molded into highways
Running through me
So microscopically
Days and nights
Weeks and months and seasons
Rolling through me
So chronologically.
Computer age…” -Neil Young

A week or so ago, Scott and I were having a drink with a friend when the subject of technology came up.  Well, actually, the absence of technology.  We discussed how critical technology is to our daily lives and speculated about what would happen if we woke up one morning, and, say, the Internet stopped working.  Permanently.  For everyone.  What would happen?  Would it be a return to the Dark Ages? we wondered.  How much of the world’s vital information and archives – not to mention money – would be lost forever?  Would the world just simply implode?  As silly as it sounds, each of us expressed a legitimate fear that a world without technology would pose a serious issue for future generations…and would potentially erase much of the proof of our existence and accomplishments.

Now sure, this is a bit far fetched, and, after a couple of beers we were probably being somewhat dramatic, but it really got me thinking.  What would it have been like to live a life without the Internet?  Or TV?  Or computers, radios, phones, calculators, video games, etc.?  Well, go ask your grandparents.  Or your parents, even.  I’m sure they would be more than happy to enlighten you.  Despite the fact that technology is relatively new to the scene in terms of the world’s history, an obscene portion of our lives today depends on it.  Even the remote villages in Vietnam and India that Scott and I visited on our travels had a TV in every hut and access to the Internet nearby.  How is it that an entire planet’s inhabitants can transition so quickly from depending solely on their own knowledge and skills to complete and utter dependence on a box plugged into the wall?  Oh, wait, we don’t even have to plug them in anymore!  We have a wealth of useful information (mixed with an even bigger wealth of useless junk) at our fingertips.  Want to learn how to play an instrument?  You don’t need a real teacher for that, just click here!  Don’t know how to file your taxes?  You don’t need an accountant for that, click here!  Want to go to college?  Learn another language?  Officiate a wedding?  Buy…anything?  You don’t even need to leave your couch.  You could literally become a hermit and never interact with another human ever again and be just fine.

I don’t know about you, but, now that I actually stop and think about it, I’m not okay with this.  When did life become so impersonal?  Who decided that texting from across the room was a reasonable way to communicate with someone?  Why do we (and I am super guilty of this one) feel the unrelenting urge to go out and have life experiences just so we can plaster them all over our Facebook pages?  Apparently the notion of having good, old-fashioned fun with actual people while participating in real-life activities dissipated while we were all looking down at our phones.

I know I’m not the first person to have this “insightful” revelation, and I surely won’t be the last, but perhaps we should pay attention to how much we rely on technology and see if we can’t do something about it.  Obviously I’m not advocating the destruction of the Internet – I mean let’s not get extreme here – but rather just encouraging each of us to reevaluate how we spend our time.  For instance, instead of texting the old friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile, maybe give him or her a call.  Or, better yet, pay them a visit.  Instead of staring at your cellphone during dinner with your significant other, try turning it off and making some eye contact.  Or instead of surfing the web, spend your lunch break going for a walk with a co-worker.  Breathe in some fresh air.  Read a book.  You never know, the technapocalypse could happen at any moment…  (Oh, but I certainly hope not.)

Ramble On

Got no time to for spreadin’ roots, the time has come to be gone. 
And to our health we drank a thousand times, it’s time to ramble on…

It’s funny how extended travel can bring on such nostalgia and fondness for the foreign that, at times, it tempts one to pack up and catch the next flight out of town.  Take me for example.  In the months leading up to our wedding, my then fiance proposed we take an unconventional honeymoon – that is, postpone the whole “settling down” aspect of marriage and take to the skies for a minimally planned Asian backpacking adventure.  …Naturally, I panicked.  You see, on one level I think of myself as the adventure-seeking, free spirited nomad who would drop everything without a second thought to experience the world in this way; at least, that’s what my collegiate self would say.  But my now Master’s in Higher Education possessing, grown-up self begged to differ.  Academically, I had graduated – twice – and, in my mind, this meant the time had come to advance to the next level of maturity; in other words, I had to trade my flowing skirts for a pantsuit and find myself a job.  There was no time for this “traveling the world” business.  That would be irresponsible.  Right?

As for my grad school cohort, the job search frenzy had begun.  One by one, they announced the news of their gainful employment and hopped on planes bound for the college towns that would be their new homes.  And there I was, torn.  What was I supposed to do?  I cringed at the thought of setting my beautiful, crisp graduate diploma aside, putting my long-time-coming career on hold and spending my crucial 26th year bouncing from one third world village to the next.  But, yes.  That was exactly what I was supposed to do.  And that’s what I did.  Excuse me, we did – my husband and I.  Despite my resistance, my ever-logical husband won me over with a pragmatic spiel about how this was our one chance – before the obligations of jobs and children – to see the world together while we were still young.  And I knew deep down that he was right.  So I agreed.  And let me tell you, it was glorious – life changing even.  Two weeks after our nuptials we found ourselves in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with two giant backpacks and a hunger for adventure.  That was how we lived for almost five months.  No plan extending beyond three or four days, no jobs lined up for when we returned to the States – heck, we didn’t even have a plane ticket home.  We saw Vietnam.  We saw Thailand.  We saw India.  And we didn’t just see, we experienced.  We talked to people, we stayed with locals, we simply lived.

I found out what “back to basics” really means on this trip.  Each day presented new obstacles and our only task was to overcome them: nourish ourselves, find shelter, get from point A to point B.  Life was simple, yet incredibly complicated.  Sure, “nourish ourselves” seems easy enough – as long as you don’t drink the water; “finding shelter” poses no problem – unless you’re in a tiny, remote village with zero technology and booking ahead is not an option.  And then there’s “getting from point A to point B.”  Whew.  Where do I begin?  On any given move, we’d have to flag down a rickshaw, bargain with the driver, then take a train or a bus or both, usually over the course of an entire day.  A whole day just for traveling a distance that would take a few short hours in the States.  Exhausting is the word that comes to mind.  But no matter how exhausted or frustrated we got, we knew that if we pushed through it we’d reap the rewards that so often accompany cultural enlightenment.  And boy did we.  We saw the most beautiful sights, both natural and man-made, and we met some of the kindest, most gracious people I’ve ever encountered.  I now know what it means to fully immerse oneself in another culture, to close one’s eyes and take a giant leap into the unknown and uncomfortable.   I can also boast the achievement of adding a good many pushpins to my framed world map.

But no matter how many moments of enlightenment we experienced, we knew that each passing day was bringing us that much closer to the inevitable.  Eventually we would run out of money, and the responsible adults inside of us thought it would probably be a good idea to return home before then.  And despite my new found eagerness to ditch the predictable route and continue wandering through life on a whim, I was homesick.  In every possible way (just ask my husband – ref: Christmas, 2012).  I missed my bed, my family, pizza.  And on March 26, 2013 boarding the plane back to my home state was just as exhilarating as leaving it.  Well, except for the ride to the airport, but I’ll touch on that some other time…

Ultimately, my point is this:  * Cliche alert * The life choice that I feared would veer me away from the path I’d chosen for myself actually steered me onto the path I was meant to be on.  Life is funny that way.  Now that we’ve “settled down” and have our jobs, our apartment, a steady income – the whole nine – we often find ourselves planning our next big trip.  Where will we go?  When will we be able to afford it?  And then we remember our careers, our plans for children, our “responsibilities”… There will always be some good reason to stay put, to settle.  And, don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fine to listen to that reasoning.  But I can promise you this, when you feel life tugging you outside of your comfort zone, sometimes the best thing you can do is let it.  Who knows, maybe you’ll end up with some stories like these… http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/kellyhodo

Thanks for reading, and happy rambling!