Friday, December 20, 2013

A Story of an Introvert in Denial

A few weeks ago a person I follow on Tumblr was having a really hard time and I found myself relating to a lot of the things she was posting. I decided to message her my own experience with what she was struggling with. She said it really helped, so I decided to post it here for anyone else who might need to hear it.

For quite awhile I had been convinced I was doing college wrong. I wasn't making enough friends; I wasn't involved in enough organizations on campus; I spent most of my weekends at home instead of going out with all the people I was supposed to be meeting.

And the thing was I wanted to be doing all those things. I really did. I wanted to meet a ton of people and be super involved and everything else. So why wasn't I? Why wasn't I making a ton of new friends and hanging out with them all the time? Why wasn't I going out and getting involved in all the things on campus that interested me? This became a vicious cycle. I would become determined to get involved; I'd join a few clubs; I'd eventually stop going; I'd blame myself for not doing enough; Depression; Repeat.

I got extremely involved this past semester. This was the semester I was going to change everything. I was going to stick it out finally do things right. And for awhile I did.

The beginning of November, everything fell apart. I went to a Writing Center Conference in Tampa, FL, with about 10 of my colleagues. I was already a bit warn out because I had spent the previous weekend in Illinois at a Quidditch Tournament, and now I was in the car on my way to Florida. It was roughly a 22 hour car ride to the conference, followed by an amazing but stressful day of presentations on Saturday, followed by another morning of presentations- mine included- before packing back into the car for the 22 hour car ride home. Now for the person I thought I was, the person I thought I was supposed to be, this would not have been a huge issue. For the real me however, it turned into quite an ordeal. About half way home I couldn't handle being around people anymore. This had absolutely nothing to do with the people I was with; I love my fellow writing consultants, especially the people who I went to that conference with. I just could no longer handle being around people in general. It was too loud, too overwhelming, too much. I put my headphones in, turned my music up as loud as I could stand in an attempt to drown out the voices around me, and cried until I fell asleep.

The following weeks were unlike anything I had ever experienced. My anxiety spiked. The most innocent of comments had me thinking I had done something wrong. The tiniest confrontation- even when I was perfectly aware that we were joking around- made me feel like I was being verbally attacked. I almost cried in one of my classes simply because it meant people were talking around me. For the first time ever my anxiety started manifesting itself physically. I felt confined. My chest felt tight as if no matter how big a breath I took it would never been enough air.

I stopped going to everything outside of what was mandatory. I went to class; I went to work; I went home. This was the first big thing that forced me to realize that I couldn't go out and be around people all the time, even if I wanted to.

A few weeks later, while procrastinating on writing my papers, I decided to take the Briggs Personality Test again just for fun. The test had been circling the writing center, like it does every couple of months, so  I figured why not? This time, however, I focused on answering the questions the way I actually felt and actually did things, rather than what I wish I did or "would if I could". This time, for the first time ever, it rated me as an introvert. And not just slightly introverted, but 67% introverted. Now I know this test isn't wholly accurate or anything, but seeing the results and reading the INFJ description and seeing how well it fit me really helped me to accept myself as an introvert. It helped me to realize that there is nothing wrong me; it's just a part of who I am.

With this realization came the realization that there was also nothing wrong with not spending every Saturday night out with friends. If I want to stay in my sweatpants and have some quality time with my Netflix account, I will. My favorite books and television shows and fictional characters are important to me in ways a lot of people don't understand, but that doesn't make it bad. For so long I was convinced I was wasting my time by staying home on the weekends. I wasn't doing enough, or being productive enough, or seeing people enough. I was wrong, though. I'm not wasting my time if I choose to spend my Saturday night watching Sherlock; I'm doing what makes me happy.

The other important realization that came of all this is that there is a reason I don't have huge groups of friends: I am rather selective about the people I will spend my time with. I only have so much social energy to go around and I want to spend it on people I can really connect to. And that's okay. Because while I might not have a huge group of friends that  I hang out with all the time, the friends I do have, the people I choose to surround myself with, are absolutely amazing. And every moment I spend with them is time very well spent.

For so long I felt lost. I didn't know who I was and I didn't know how to figure it out. I felt broken, like there must be something wrong with me that made me not quite fit. I cannot even begin to explain how much better I feel after these realizations, about myself and my life. I can appreciate my down time so much more now that I'm not constantly feeling guilty about it. And I appreciate the time I do spend getting involved or hanging out with my friends so much more too because I'm not forcing it on myself anymore.

We live in a very extrovert-oriented society. One that tells us something is wrong with us if we don't act a certain way. But the thing is, not everyone is meant to live that way. Not everyone is meant to go out all the time, or have huge groups of friends that they spend all their time with. And that is okay. If you would rather spend Friday night curled up in bed with a book, then do it. Don't let anyone make you think there is anything wrong with that, or with you. I tried doing things the way the world told me I was supposed to and it doesn't work. You are so much better off accepting the way that you are and doing things that make the most sense to you. There is nothing wrong with me and there is nothing wrong with you either.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: Slated by Teri Terry

Title: Slated
Author: Teri Terry
Pages: 346 (Hardcover)
Publishing Date: May 3, 2012
Reason for Reading: Personal Interest
Synopsis:
Kyla has been Slated- her memory erased, her personality wiped blank.This is the government's way of dealing with teen terrorists: give them a fresh start as a new person. They teach Kyla how to walk and talk again, give her a new identity and a new family, and tell her to be grateful for this second chance.
It's also her last chance, and to ensure that she plays by their rules, Kyla is fitted with a Levo, a bracelet that monitors her mood and will stun- or even kill- her if her levels of anger or violence rise too high.
As she adjusts to her new life, Kyla can see she is different from other Slateds. She asks too many questions and is plagued by nightmares that feel like memories- even though she shouldn't have memories. Who is she, really? Has her Slating gone wrong? And if only criminals are Slated, why are innocent people disappearing? Torn between the need to understand more and her instinct for self-preservation, Kyla knows a dangerous game is being played with her life, and she's determined not to let anyone see her make the wrong move.

Let me start by saying I very nearly read this book in a single sitting, and that the only reason I didn't is that I had his 6am and was in some serious need of some sleep. I finished the book shortly after waking up.

I love-love-love dystopian novels. The Hunger Games and the Divergent series are some of my favorite books of all time. I just love the whole concept of imagining what our world might look like in a dystopian future. I also really love the kind of commentary these books are able to make on our society today, as we can often see exaggerated aspects of our world in these dystopian futures.

Needless to say I was immediately drawn in by this book's premise. The idea of a government erasing people and sending them back into the world as an entirely different person with a new family and a new life was both terrifying and fascinating, and I needed to know more. The book did not disappoint. Throughout the book we are introduced to strange concepts that, within the realm of the story, are completely normal. Kyla is expected to call her new parents Mum and Dad and accept them and her new sister as her family without ever having met them before they pick her up from the hospital. She cannot experience emotions freely, because too much anger or sadness will drop her Levo levels and put her at risk of blacking out or even dying. It is even stranger to find these concepts being normalized in your mind; the more you read, the more you adjust.

Character development- or rather character perception- was another thing I really loved about this book. There were characters that I didn't like at the beginning who I came to love the better I got to know them, and there were characters I liked and trusted at the beginning who had betrayed me by the end. Terry masterfully allows you to learn more about characters as the book goes on, enabling you to form- and change- your opinions on a character just as you would if you were meeting them in real life.

I will admit there is some cliche description throughout the book, particularly concerning Kyla's romantic interest. I was turned off a tad by the typical 'overly attractive, dazzling smile, golden brown eyes' description when he was first introduced. However, the more I learned about him as a person, and the more their relationship moved away from the typical YA romance, the less I minded his cliche introduction and appearance.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I'm looking forward to picking up a copy of the next book in the series and seeing where Kyla's investigations take her next.


Caitlin Moran and the Sherlock Fandom

As some of you probably already know, there was a bit of a stir-up in the Sherlock fandom yesterday. For those of you who don't, allow me to fill you in with the short version.

Caitlin Moran was chosen to lead the Q&A portion of the BFI Sherlock Series 3 Preview yesterday. For part of the session, she decided to bring printed copies of a portion of a JohnLock slash fic and had Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman read it out-loud. The two played along, most likely because they didn't want to appear to be divas for refusing, but they quickly became very noticeably uncomfortable, as you would expect. As if this wasn't bad enough, she used this fanfiction without permission of the author, who was humiliated and rightfully angry to see her work mocked and used to make the two actors she admires so uncomfortable. You can find the authors exceptionally classy response to the event here.

Initially, I had intended to write a response discussing how potentially detrimental Moran's thoughtless actions could be to the writing community. However, an insightful Tumblr soul has already summed up everything I could say in a post that you can find here.

Instead, I want to discuss everything that is wrong about mocking a show's fandom- the Sherlock fandom in particular, something Moran has done more than once. I direct you to a tweet from a few days ago:

I won't bother going into the fact that our supposed feminist is accepting "lol ur a virgin" as an insult. I will however say that I was offended to see the fans treated this way simply because they were excited and dedicated to something important to them.

Anyone who is an active member of any fandom, anyone who is passionate about a television show, movie franchise, or book series, knows that we get crap from all directions. We're told we're obsessive, weird, over-involved, over-analyzing. We're taught by society that it is wrong to love what we love the way we love it. That is why we created fandoms; that is why we find each other. 

Caitlin Moran was given the privilege to be a part of the fandom experience, a part of the passion and excitement that revolves around this show we love. Instead, she defiled it by coming into a safe place, a place where we should be free to love the show openly and passionately without the judgement of people who don't understand, and mocking us.

Sherlock means a great deal to me, more than any of my other fandoms, more than any of my other favorite characters. Sherlock is a character I have a very real and very deep connection with. He is a constant reminder that despite every person out there who doesn't understand me, despite every Anderson like Caitlin Moran, there are also John Watsons. 

Caitlin, most of my John Watsons are people I met through my fandoms.

Caitlin, you may be a critic. You may think you are awfully important in the world of television. But let me explain something to you: No matter what you think about a show, no matter what you say or write about a show, the fandom will always be more important than you. A show will not get cancelled because you hated it; a show will not continue because you love it. A show's survival depends on us.

Sherlock is lucky to have one of the most enthusiastic, passionate, and loyal fandoms I have ever seen. Most shows would never last after a 2 year hiatus. Most shows would never dare going on a 2 year hiatus for fear of losing their viewership. But it has been 2 years since Reichenbach and the Sherlock fandom is bigger and stronger than ever. We didn't dwindle away while waiting for the show to return; we continued engaging with it. We made fanart and gif sets. We wrote fanfiction, just like the author you had the audacity to mock at BFI. We re-watched and re-examined those 6 episodes over and over again, coming up with new theories and learning more and more about the characters we loved. We continued to love it and we continued introducing it to other people who we knew would love it too.

 #SherlockLives because we kept him alive. Remember that the next time you consider mocking a fandom.