Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On Gettysburg, briefly.

Last summer, my mother and I took a history nerd's dream vacation to Gettysburg, PA. We took a six hour self guided battlefield tour, spent an entire day in the museum (I sat in a room with Lincoln painted on the walls where they played the Gettysburg Address on a loop for about twenty minutes) and, on the last morning, before heading out of town (and South towards Jefferson's Monticello, naturally), we walked through the National cemetery. 

That's where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address 150 years ago today. The President wasn't the big speaker that day and the Address is only 268 words long. Walking around the cemetery that morning, we found the unmarked graves. My Civil War obsession is recent, because it wasn't something I grew up around. That War feels more like it belongs to the South, to Virginia, because that's where so many of the major battles took place. But part of what is so beautiful about the Gettysburg Address is that it attempts to make us feel okay with these deaths, to understand that the War, despite its violence, was worth the sacrifices. It attempts to bring us together and make the War worth it for all American citizens.

Over the course of the three day Battle at Gettysburg, more than 3,500 Union soldiers died (as did more than 4,000 Confederates).  The Address is still so powerful to me because I feel like we can be so apologetic about the Civil War when in reality it was a necessity for the progress of our nation.

I love the Gettysburg Address. I am fascinated by Abraham Lincoln. I want everybody to take the time to read it today (or, watch/listen: LearnTheAddress.org) because I am such a nerd and I want everybody to be as excited about this speech as I am. But also because, like Lincoln says, "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." Of course that isn't true--because we remember "four score" and not things like Pickett's Charge on day three. 

The Address getting all this attention today and this past week is a good way to spread a little light on the violence that took place that day and what it really meant. I like to believe, because it makes it easier for me, that all those people died at Gettysburg and the war in general for that "new birth of freedom," for the beginning of the end of slavery. That's enough for me. Slavery had to be abolished, the North had to win the War, and a lot of people had to die. I am just doing my best to take the Gettysburg Address to heart and not take those deaths for granted.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Being An Aunt.

Living on my own has been fun and exciting and stressful so far. I've been in Madison for about two months and I am completely in love with how busy and full it is. There is so much to do and see and eat and I get to work right on State Street at the center of it all. That being said, I miss my family a lot. 

There are tons of kids in my family. Among those, I count myself and my little  brother Evan. Evan is one of this people whose personality and presence is so large that when he's not around it is always obvious to me. I can imagine his snarky comments constantly. I also miss my big sisters and their seven kids. Seven. 

My big sisters filled that "Aunt" role for me when I was growing up. They have a different Mom than I do and are both ten+ years older than me. Both of my parents have siblings, but my mother's family stayed in Wisconsin and my father's siblings weren't around as much--I saw them at family gatherings but was always closer to my sisters. I love my sisters. On top of how amazing they are individually, they are also both great mothers. Motherhood is hard, you guys. You don't get to give the kids back. 

When I get to spend time with my nieces and nephews, I am a happier person. They always make me happy. Without fail. Great kids are like that. From the two adorable three year olds to the brilliant older ones, they have never annoyed me as much as other human beings. And human beings in general annoy me. The fact that I get to give these ones back to their parents helps. I value my relationship with every single one of them. Only being home for a few months in the summer and one at Christmas has been hard. Little kids don't remember who you are when you go away that much, and it hurts. Even though you know they're one year old and literally don't have the capacity to do so, it hurts.

And so I'm supposed to be on my own and growing emotionally and mentally and "finding myself" but all I wanna do is hang out with my family. I've been living in Wisconsin since January of 2009. Am I due some time at home? Even though its super lame to live at home at 23? A lot of my mom's side of the family still lives here, and I see them sometimes, though not as often as I'd like. My Favorite Aunt when I was growing up was my Aunt Arlene. She was always the highlight of my childhood visits to Wisconsin. (Other than the barn cats and kittens, of course.) She died in 2008, before I started at Beloit. More than anything I wish I could have the Aunt relationship with her that I hope to have with my nieces and nephews as they grow up. I wish I could have spent my fall and spring breaks at her house. I wish I had an adult to confide in face to face. But I found a few replacement families at Beloit--ones who treated me with so much kindness that it's almost unbelievable to me now. I am appreciative of and couldn't have made it through college without those Midwest families, but I miss my own. I wanna be surrounded by babies and know all the Nick Jr commercials by heart. I miss going on swings all the time because I am unashamedly juvenille. I want to hang out with my brother before he goes off to college in the fall. I want to get to know my sisters and parents better before I start grad school next fall. I've got until mid-August to decide, I guess. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

On Black Power, The Butler Medal and My Third Tattoo.

I really want to get a new tattoo. It will be my third. I have one on my arm that says "Joy" because that's my mother's (and my own) middle name. She has the same tattoo in the same place but on her right arm instead of her left. (She's left handed.) My right wrist has "fear itself" because, simply, I love FDR and I have an anxiety problem.

I read James M. McPherson's The Negro's Civil War: How American Blacks Felt And Acted During the War for the Union for a class with Danny Noorlander (congrats, SUNY Oneonta) because he let us choose any non-fiction book about the 19th Century on which to write our final paper. The Negro's Civil War uses a wide-range of primary sources to investigate the obvious myth that African Americans lacked agency during the Civil War. McPherson pulls from speeches, newspaper articles, diary entries, etc, to prove that African Americans (free, freed and slave) from all over the country, were aware of what the Civil War meant for their social status in the United States. McPherson serves as a narrator because the book is made up of almost entirely primary sources. For being only like 400 pages, it does a good job (especially for it's time, 1982) covers politics, battles, emancipation, and the fight for equality and civil rights, and always gives multiple opinions on each major event in the War. 
All you have to do is ask to borrow it. 
What I'm trying to say is that I feel like I know and have thought a lot about the topic of African Americans fighting in The Civil War. I even wrote this poem, which I read at Beloit baccalaureate in May of 2012:
After 150 Pages of James M. McPherson’s The Negro’s Civil War

Learning about the Civil War from the African American perspective means taking your Abraham Lincoln poster out of its frame and rolling it up under the bed. 
You can’t look at his face now that you know what he believed.
It means trying to learn patriotism. 
You lived through September 11th and saw all of those flags but loving the country that enslaved you is harder. 
You find out that angry white people lynched freed blacks on the streets of Brooklyn, blocks away from where you almost went to college.  
You have to stop yourself from crying in the library, because just when you think it can’t get any sadder, ten pages later it’s sadder. 
You force yourself to sit on the porch at midnight in 30-degree weather and read Paul Laurence Dunbar and you aren’t allowed to Tweet about how cold your feet are. 
It means you start pretending that last Halloween when you went out dressed as Frederick Douglass and got blackout drunk—that was a political statement.

It means realizing that if you were a slave you would have let all of it happen to you. 
You thank your grandmother for moving up to New England during the Great Migration.
You wouldn’t have learned to read or write but at least you would have known how to complain about real things, instead of just looking out of your bedroom window and groaning when you see it’s snowed overnight. 
It means wondering how you ever managed to have white friends.
You learn to be grateful that the capacity to forgive was passed down genetically. 
You wonder if you could have fallen in love with any type of master. 
You wonder who would have found you beautiful with matted hair on your head and dialect in your mouth.
The brilliant thing about my Beloit education is that so much of it overlapped. A year after reading The Negro's Civil War, I took a class with my favorite professor (who first introduced me to McPherson and is probably the best professor at Beloit College fullstop), Beatrice McKenzie, where we learned about African American history through reading tons, basically. We treated the black power movement with the same amount of thought as we did the nonviolent moment, and yet I found myself (and still do, although I took that class in the spring of 2012 (the semester after first reading The Negro's Civil War)) more able to comprehend the hostility better. For me, the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement are clearly connected by violence. The violence of slavery, of the War itself, of Mathew Brady's photos, of beatings at sit-ins, of the Edmund Pettus bridgethey all sort of morph together into one big mass of white-on-black violence for me.

That violence makes me angry. I'm not necessarily as angry as Newton and Davis were at my age, but I consider them both to be huge influences on the way I think about race. I think all people of African American descent deserve to be as angry as they need to be, whatever that means. I don't know how productive that anger is, but I know that that anger has been a constant undercurrent propelling me towards all of my American history classes and the poems I've written since I took them. (By the way: add, to my anger, my guilt for "only" being half black and not even "acting" black and being feeling like I can only connect with the "black community" via history. I am thinking about all of these things almost all of the time.) How I feel about the white-on-black violence of the last few centuries is the reason why I believe that slavery was the number one cause of the Civil War and that the deaths of Confederate soldiers and citizens during the War were absolutely necessary. I believe that we should be proud of the Civil War because, you guys, we won. I am a proud Northerner and a proud African American and a proud citizen of this country because Lincoln entered a War he knew would result in (eventually) freeing the slaves (when it was politically viable) and the North, with the help of African American soldiers, won. If Lincoln had been a steadfast liberal advocating for abolition he wouldn't have won the presidency in the first place, and it was politically necessary for him to wait as long as he did. I wish he (and all the presidents before him) hadn't waited, but like every other American citizen, I'm not happy all the time about history or politics. 

That brings us to the Butler Medal, which I don't remember reading about in McPherson and that I discovered while google imaging "US Colored troops badge" and thinking about tattoo ideas. If I can save up some money, I want to get the Butler Medal (or an adapted version of it) tattooed on my body.

All donations to my "get this tattoo" fund can be directed to sashadebevecmckenney@gmail.com
All reasons why I shouldn't get it can be directed to the comments below.
"Inscribed with the Latin phrase meaning “Freedom will be theirs by the sword,” this Army of the James Medal was awarded...for gallantry during the 1864 Richmond-Petersburg Campaign. It is one of two hundred medals commissioned by Union general Benjamin F. Butler and remains the only medal in American history designed specifically for black soldiers. After Butler’s removal from command, black troops were forbidden to display these “unofficial” medals on their uniforms."
First off, I'm not sure that my more radical black power beliefs mesh well with the idea of a medal "commissioned" by a white Union general. Then again, Butler's "removal from command" and the fact that "black troops [were] forbidden to display [the] unofficial" medal kind of do. I'm conflicted. I don't want the tattoo to be too big, but I do want it to be in a fairly visible place. Visible because I am young and stupid and angry about what white people did to black people (side note: not to mention what citizens did to immigrants, people like my mom's side of the family) and want to get a tattoo that shows off how I feel. I know that's stupid and reactionary but I am 23 and I want to remember this version of myself. I want to remember the US Colored Troops, and for other people to ask and remember.
 If I end up getting it, I intend the Butler medal tattoo to be a black power symbol because Colored Troops killed their own Confederates. (For lack of a better word, how badass is that? And how badass is the phrase "freedom will be theirs by the sword"? ) The version of history taught to us in school is whitewashed in order to instill artificial and unsupported patriotism instead of the alternative: keeping people informed about the horrible things that have happened to minorities and women in this country and challenging them to love their country despite it. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

On "The West Wing" and Turning 23.

This is my return to blogging for real, you guys. I finished my Honors Term at Beloit College and am now living in Madison.  I work at Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream as a Scooper three days a week. I watch The West Wing and help my cat catch bugs. We are an amazing team; if she can't reach the bug I swat it down and she gets it in her paws. I love scooping ice cream because I get to make little kids happy. I'm living away from home on my own and I miss my nieces and nephews and my little brother every single day. But when I see a kid's eyes light up and his mouth drop open when he goes into Chocolate Shoppe, it brightens my day. That's cheesy. I know.

Birthday outfit. Before I changed like four times.
I turned 23 yesterday, which is almost 24, which is almost 25. I slept in and woke up to a Whole Foods gift card from my Dad, and so I rode the bus to Whole Foods. I bought a rotisserie chicken. I don't know why. I also bought a demi-baguette, which is French for "I'm going to eat this entire baguette on the premise that it's only half of a baguette." Or something. I came home to find flowers from my Aunt Sara, which made my heart swell a little bit more. I went to dinner with some of my favorite people in Madison and had drinks at my favorite bar, Forequarter. Then I watched the most recent episode of "Game of Thrones," which, if you've been on the Internet at all since Sunday, you'll know was...emotionally devastating to fans of said show. My throat hurts from trying to keep myself from crying and, from, well, the last shot of the episode.

"Catelyn Stark Side-eyeing George RR Martin"
Anyways, 23 is the same as being 22, except without a Taylor Swift song. Living alone is nice, but I am getting way too caught up in "The West Wing." Here's my main problem: President Bartlet has MS, which we find out pretty early on in the series. He doesn't disclose it to the American people until he starts considering reelection. If Bartlet was really the good, honest president the show wants us to love and believe that he is, and not a power hungry ego maniac (as all presidents are, to varying degrees), he wouldn't have run for reelection. Right? And I love the other characters, too, but the fact that none of them really had a problem with Bartlet running for reelection (because they're blinded by his "good, honest" president thing, like the viewers) or because they're also all selfish ego maniacs who care more about their jobs and opinions than actually helping the American people. And yet, despite the constant exposition, I've continued to watch the show. That's how much I love the characters, and am swept up in what I want the White House and the presidency to be. Bartelt admits that he's wrong and takes a censure from Congress; the American people forgive him.

I'm so wide-eyed and romantic about the office of the President. I'm only 23 and one day old! I want to believe that the people in Washington are like they are on "The West Wing" instead of how they are on "Veep" (openly selfish ego-maniacs, but just as brilliant). I want to believe that I won't ever have to bring my cat to the vet, and that she loves me as much as I love her, even though that's crazy because she's a cat, not a human, duh. I want to believe that, seriously, I can stay away from home for years at a time and not miss it, or that my two beautiful three year olds will remember me if I'm not there. I guess if you're 23 you're allowed to be wide-eyed and romantic about the world, so please, nobody tell me any of those things aren't true. I get to believe them for a few more years.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On My First College Paper, and my Last.

My dorm room, freshman year.
 It's Tuesday night, and I'm about to start writing a ten page paper due Friday. The topic of the paper is race and poetry, the two things I have been the most fascinated by in my time at Beloit College (and in life, I guess). What I've enjoyed the most about writing papers at Beloit is that the prompts are (especially in the case of research and longer papers) often open-ended. I've written papers imagining Malcolm X's ideal political community through the lens of Plato's Republic. I've written papers about my favorite poets and presidents.

The shrine Emily and I made in the library sophomore year. I think the photo
 in the cow's mouth is a photocopy of Emily's passport. Everything else speaks for itself.
Once, I wrote an eight page paper about FDR's fireside chats, and I sent it to my mother to proofread the day before it was due. She sent it back to me with a ton of really legitimate criticisms around 7 p.m. that day, and I had plans to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 at midnight that night. It was opening night and those plans weren't going to change. So, after the movie, Emily and I wrote a review for The Round Table and then I rewrote my entire paper. (I cared about FDR too much to not write a great paper about him.) Since then, papers haven't seemed that difficult.

I took this while writing that FDR paper.
My ironic "Ke$ha" phase coincided with reading Uncle Tom's Cabin 
I almost didn't graduate from high school on time. I never wrote any "essays" or did homework or even went to class, really. My first essay at Beloit terrified me. It was a compare and contrast of two movies we watched during my Freshman Orientation retreat. (I started at Beloit in January of 2009 and it was negative 40 degrees for pretty much that entire week.) The movies were Amelie and Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, neither of which had anything to do with the topic of the class, "Creativity, Jazz, and Entrepreneurship."

My computer desk, Junior year. (I think?)
Back then, I thought writing good papers was about, apparently, making large generalizations and hoping the professor just didn't read very carefully and being very, very corny and verbose. That's what made it so bad (that, and the numerous typos I just found while re-reading it). Anyways, here are some of those generalizations from the first paper I wrote at Beloit College--turned in on Feb. 1, 2009. Hopefully, this last one will be better.

  • "Amelie plays for fun, for love;"
  • "a strong need to not be lonely controls almost everything they do."
  • "Colin is extremely haunted by his father’s death" (Extremely haunted? How?)
  • "along the way, she realizes that she has to make herself happy, as well." (This exact end to a sentence has had to have been in about ten thousand different reviews of Amelie, I'm sure.)
  • "Colin, on the other hand, can hardly even slightly agree to get a job when Audrey suggests it. He’s selfish and stubborn and starting to reek of his father’s sort of choices." 
  • "Amelie and Colin are both young, independent people, trying to make more out of lives that always seemed doomed." 
  • Colin’s movie ends in a dark room, dirty, working-class hands pulling at gas masks. (This is the last line of the paper. Yes, I've always been a positive person.)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

On Haitus.

It's March and I haven't posted since the end of January. That's bad. I want to publish at least twice a week--something that won't happen until I finish school in May. See you in May, then. (Or maybe before that, depending on whether or not I learn to stop over-committing myself and start delegating.)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

On Being Bullied.

I was bullied in high school. For the majority of my freshman and sophomore year, I was teased in the hallways and called a bitch and laughed at. I failed a bunch of my classes because I skipped school constantly, had very few friends, and withdrew emotionally and mentally. I've been out of high school since 2008 and I am not even remotely over being bullied. Someone screaming, "You're fat! You're ugly!" in your face doesn't go away easily. It doesn't get better. It gets different. I will have social anxiety and panic attacks for the foreseeable future, and although a lot of that is surely biology, I can trace most of it back to high school. High school fucked me up.

When I was a junior in college, I was seeing a therapist who told me that what I think people think of me and what people actually think of me are two entirely different things. I was 20-years old and I legitimately did not believe her.

This is incredibly immature of me. 
Over winter break, aged 22,  I saw a lot of people from high school--and, surprise, they were all cool and nice and fun to hang out with. But in the back of my head was the fact that none of them would have been caught dead with me if it were 2005. I should get over it, right? 2005 was literally eight years ago. I can't. I'm trying. I still have moments when I walk into a room and assume everybody was just talking about me. I don't think those things because I'm self-centered (although I am)--I think them because it actually happened to me, all the time in high school. It wasn't a figment of my narcissistic imagination.

A year or so ago I got a facebook message from the girl who did most of the bullying. I never responded. I never even read the whole thing. I'm bitter and immature and I can still feel the anxiety in my stomach when I drive past my high school. I hate that it still gets to me, that I can, with ease, place myself back at my locker in 2006, to that girl walking past me and making fun of my clothes. My palms are sweaty now. As far as I know, she never got into any serious trouble, and I still hate the teachers and administrators who knew what was happening and chose not to care or do anything about the bullying. I hope it haunts them the same way it haunts me. They aren't--and that motivates me. I want to succeed and stick it in their faces, show them that I made it This far without their help, despite being bullied.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

On Class Discussion.

The piece of writing below was originally writtenfor The Round Table, Beloit College's student-run newspaper. Now, in my real last semester here, I've already got my degree and discussion is about ten thousand more times frustrating. My writing style is a little less snarky, but, I am also a lot more jaded than I was, so it still rings relatively true. Enjoy:

   As a Creative Writing major, I am obligated to take literary analysis classes. I don’t mind the reading or the lectures, but often find myself rolling my eyes and clenching my fists constantly during class discussions. I’ve had a few bad experiences in history and political science classes with discussion, but nothing near as bad as discussions on literature.
   You will hear a comment similar to this one thousands of times in lit classes: “What we read reminds me of this other thing I read once.” Anybody who says it never has much to say after that, because it’s never a relevant sentence. It’s not helpful. It’s nothing but a way for an eager and pretentious student to let the professor know how smart they are. I would hear people make this comment and not understand how they continued to do it—I thought it was common sense that outwardly bragging about your intelligence isn’t exactly good manners.
   But even in my sixth semester at Beloit, I am haunted by bad discussions. I dread classes that are otherwise great. I walk into the classroom preemptively annoyed. Sometimes I’m scared to speak in class because I don’t want to be the person at whom everybody rolls their eyes and clenches their fists. The following list serves as my attempt to make class discussion more successful for me, but also for the rest of the campus.
   Discussion can be a really constructive way to learn, and we are lucky that we don’t have to constantly take ScanTron exams instead.  Take advantage of the type of education we practice at Beloit, and make class discussions better for everybody.
—Talk. Contribute. Say something. Silence is awkward for everybody.
—Do the reading.
—If we’re talking about something that relates to your other classes, or experiences you’ve studied with other professors, they could be interesting to bring up. You can steal points from a discussion in that class and bring them up here. Liberal Arts in Practice.
—Give exact quotes, not just general claims. Have page numbers ready if you can. Especially if you think what you’re about to say is controversial (even though it probably isn’t).
—Cite your classmates, get their names right, and build on what they’ve said instead of just repeating what they just said.
—Kiss your professor’s ass during office hours. Not class time.
—Say “I don’t know” if you’re questioned on something you’ve said and you don’t know the answer. Bullsh*tting your answer is just awkward
—Think about what you say before you say it. Please.
—Talk about your study abroad experience if its relevant, but not more than three times over the course of a semester.
—If you don’t understand something, ask questions. Asking questions is brave; if you’ve done all the work and still don’t get it, it’s not your fault. Other people are probably wondering the same thing but are too nervous to ask. There is no shame in not knowing everything.
—Reference a movie, ever. Unless the class is discussing a movie, or is discussing a book that has a movie. (Side note: I had a special request from a friend to say not to reference “Family Guy.” So don’t reference “Family Guy.” Just don’t.)
—Nod. You can nod a little bit, but nodding too much is annoying. We get it—you understand. You don’t need to show everybody you understand by aggressively nodding.
—Talk for more than about 30 seconds. After the 30 seconds are up, these two things are true: (1) nobody is listening anymore, and (2) you are repeating yourself. (This is why you need to think before speaking.)
—Say things like: “I looooooved it,” or “I hated it” and then not back it up.
—Interrupt, especially in an aggressive or attacking way.
—Use too much anecdotal evidence, especially if it’s not something you heard from a friend’s friend’s friend.
—If you need to preface your comment with a, “now, I don’t want to offend anybody,” then you shouldn’t say it.
—Tell us the obvious: that anything written in the 17th, 18th or 19th century was sexist or racist. Duh, of course it was.
—Use these words/phrases unless you are 110 percent sure you can define them: “satire,” “hetero normative,” “false dichotomy,” “ironically,” “pragmatic,” “ethnocentrisms,” “TRON,” “devil’s advocate” etc.
Call people out on their sh*t. You are the professor. You’re allowed to interrupt people and tell them they’ve talked enough. If somebody in the class has been speaking on the same subject for more than 45 seconds, and we’re all sitting around waiting for them to stop, you have the power to tell them to stop. We, as students, don’t have that power, as much as we might want it. You have a Ph.D., you can tell people with a high school degree and some college that they should shut up.
Please, tell us to shut up. And do it early in the semester so that we all know what you will and will not accept from your students. On a more positive note, when somebody makes a good comment, or  asks a good question, tell them what they said was interesting. You have a Ph.D. and we want to impress you with our ability to ask good questions. Doing things like this will make the discussion better for everybody in the long run. I can only do so much, so please help.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On My First Cat, Eleanor.

This is my cat. Her name is Eleanor. (After Eleanor Roosevelt, of course.) She is about seven months old, and I adopted her from a family in Wisconsin who couldn't keep her. She chirps instead of meowing, she loves to play, she's missing a little bit of one ear, and the spot on her right side is in the shape of a heart. She's quirky and I couldn't have found a more perfect cat.

Cats are just as cute on the internet as they are in real life.
I have wanted a cat of my own for a long time--my family has had two cats, but they always liked my mom best.  My father never let me have a cat at his house, and so I have been relatively cat-less my entire life. That has changed, and it is just as wonderful as I thought it would be. I clean the litter box and feed her twice a day and I don't find it tedious or boring. Eleanor makes my life better, and taking care of couldn't be a chore.

Almost literally too-cute.
I've written about my anxiety disorders here before. I thought having a cat would help with that, but I had no idea how much. When I wake up, she is always there--and I wake up earlier, too. Her purrs calm me down. Petting her calms me down. Instead of laying in my bed staring at my phone or computer, I'm laying in my bed bonding with my new cat. On the weekends, I'm more likely to go to bed earlier, and subsequently not drink as much, because I know she's waiting for me at home. The first cat I grew up with, Arabella, was my mother's, and she lived until she was nineteen. Their bond was strong, I could tell how much it hurt my mother when Arabella died. I look forward to having that much time with Eleanor, to bonding and chirping and playing and having her curled up on my lap while I read.  I'm living in an apartment for the first time and learning how to be responsible in so many different ways--a cat is just the best one. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

On The Proust Questionnaire (Illustrated by My Instagram Photos).

Sometimes, I am in a particularly comedy-nerd-ish mood, and I end up reading Louis CK interviews at 3 a.m. That's how I learned about the Proust Questionnaire. (Am I late on that?) Vanity Fair does a series where they have celebrities fill out a modified version of the questionnaire. (So does Inside the Actor's Studio.) Louis CK's answers are hilarious, but he also seems genuinely pissed off about how personal the questions are:
What is your greatest fear?                                                                                            You think I’m going to tell you that? You think I’m going to let you print my greatest fear in a national magazine? No sir. I will not, sir.
I think Louis CK is right--if I were as famous as he is, I wouldn't necessarily want my answers in a national magazine-- but, at the same time, I've written pretty personal stuff on the internet. The other day, a friend asked me why/how I wrote about such personal things on this blog. So, here are my (un-funny, all true) answers to the Vanity Fair version of the Proust Questionnaire. 

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Watching The Last Waltz, any time--but especially in the afternoon. Cleaning my room, with the window open, while listening to The Kinks. The first time any of my nieces and nephews really recognized me as somebody they knew/loved. My sports team winning. Kisses while laughing. When the episode before the finale ends, and all you have to do is click "Next" on your DVD remote to see the finale.  Walking and talking with friends while a little bit drunk. Re-reading something I wrote earlier and it being good.

Instagram of The Last Waltz in the afternoon.

What is your greatest fear?
Dying in a plane crash.

Which living person do you most admire?
My parents, for different reasons, but also for creating my brother who is like a smarter, funnier, wittier, more attractive version of me. The world is lucky to have him, even though he's a real jerk sometimes. 

Instagram of my baby brother and me.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My utter selfishness. 

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Of the "Seven," chastity (for obvious reasons, its the 21st Century) and kindness. Because kindness is relatively easy to fake. Also kindness, for the most part, usually means boring.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
My thighs or my nose. But really, I try not to focus on those. My hair and my butt are great. That's what I focus on.

Instagram of my self-esteem.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I'm 22, so I don't think this question is fair. I've only been in love once, and it was pretty great. But, if I get to answer one question non-seriously, I'll answer with Torii Hunter. I was obsessed with him during high school when I was severely depressed and introverted, and his smile is so pretty.

When and where were you happiest?
Ever? I don't know. Isn't that a boring answer? Recently? When my father picked me up at the train station after a 22 hour train ride and he hugged me. Then we stopped by my sister's house and when we opened the door I heard Sophie, 3-years old, say, "Is that Auntie Sha-sha?" Then I got in her bed and we cuddled and read a book. Also, watching the second episode of series eight of Peep Show, "Business Secrets of the Pharaohs." Its one of the funniest episodes of television I've seen in a while, and the Hamlet joke is absolutely beautiful. 
Instagram after getting off the train in CT.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I were crafty. Not arts and crafty, but I wish I had an eye for interior design and DIY.

What is your current state of mind?
I drank coffee all day and now I've had one beer. 

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wouldn't have depression or anxiety. 

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
I wish that sickness, death and financial problems would bring them together instead of keeping them apart. I wish people could get over their petty bullshit.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Graduating from college with Honors and a 3.6 after almost not graduating from high school.
Instagram of my parents and me after I walked in May.
If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
A human being. Like myself, but richer and better at everything I like doing now. 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Honestly, Gollum.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Stability and/or height. And at the risk of sounding like my hero, Ke$ha, a beard.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
I don't know how to answer that question--because I really admire women who are confident, but I wouldn't necessarily want to be friends with them, because I'm sort of jealous.

What do you most value in your friends?
Friends have to be funny and interesting. Interesting here means at least as fucked up as me, so we can trade fucked up stories and not be too embarrassed. Also, good friends call me on my shit.

Instagram of a little drawing by Joy Belamarich, of her and me. 
Who are your favorite writers?
All-time favorite TV writer = Armando Iannucci; poet = Lucille Clifton. 

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
I just finished watching Return of the King earlier today. So, Aragorn, obviously. Also, I'm currently reading Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep and Private Eye Philip Marlowe seems pretty absurdly heroic, thus far.

Instagram of my newfound life as a LOTR fan.
Who are your heroes in real life?
My first heroes were probably the UConn women's basketball team, circa 1995. My big sister Lynn has also always been one of my heroes. She is funny, smart, compassionate, and has raised four wonderful kids (age 2-12) , all while working the overnight shift at her job. That's insane to me. I could never do that.

What is it that you most dislike?
Too many things are tied for first place. However, more than anything, I dislike waking up early. 

How would you like to die?
Nope, can't answer this.

What is your motto?
Even I am not self-obsessed enough to have a motto. 
Instagram of, just kidding, I have been self-obsessed since birth.
(But, even then, no motto.)
Also, I reccommend you check out Vanity Fair 's online archive of their Proust Questionnaire. There are some really great ones. Way better than mine.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On Divorce.

I was talking to my mother the other day about how all of the people I've been hanging out with all 19-year olds. She said to me, "It's okay Sasha, both of my husbands were a couple years younger than me." My Dad is that second husband, and they divorced when I was about nine years old.

I went through old photo albums and found these.
I'm sure my parents discussed, for a long time, how to tell my brother and me that they were separating.  But I don't remember it. All I remember is coming home from a week or two away at camp, and them sitting me down on the couch. I don't even remember what they said. But then, we went out and bought stuff for my Dad's new apartment and everything was normal again.

That being said, I also don't have that many memories of all of us together as a family. But I don't really care. I have great childhood memories with my Dad and with my Mom that are surely a thousand times better than the ones we would have had together, especially if they were unhappy. I believe that I am closer to my brother because my parents are divorced. Whenever I got into a fight with my Mom, I could go to my Dad's house, and vice versa. I can pack everything I need for four days in about five minutes.

I have also never had one place where all of my things are. That's the only thing I regret about my parents' divorce. Everything I own has always been scattered. At first it was just scattered between my mom's house and my dad's house. Now its scattered between my mom's house, my dad's house, and the closet in my apartment in Beloit, Wisconsin.

All of my Beloit things, right now.
Outside of my room at my Dad's house are the four small boxes of dirty laundry that I sent home from Beloit. I should open them and wash them but the idea of more stuff gives me genuine anxiety. I will just have to send them right back to Beloit, where I will have to unpack again, and in May, I'll have to pack again. I'm a kid of divorced parents, and I can pack better than anybody else I know, but sometimes it gets exhausting. I'm guessing that growing up with two parents who clearly weren't happy would be much more exhausting. I am always amazed by people who are brave enough to make the right decision for themselves. I know them, and I know they are very, very different people. Getting divorced is the right decision sometimes, and I am pretty sure it was the right decision for my parents. I'm happier for it.