Who Decides?

How do babies choose their families? Is it a game of chance – the roll of a dice, or a pick from a hat? Or is it the stork, who flies down and delivers each baby bundle to warm, expecting hands?

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Sure, babies are genetic. We’ve all heard about the birds and the bees. Each family will have a child made up of an assortment of their genes (with the exception of adoption, donor insemination, etc.) But I’m talking about what’s inside. Look past eye color, or skin tone. Everybody has a soul, or a spirit – whatever you want to call it. Everybody has something inside, something intangible, that makes them truly them.

And how does each soul end up where it does? In some families, all members fit together like puzzle pieces. All their spirits fit in and work together, and it is clear that each soul is meant to be there. But in other families, souls just clash. One might belong to a puzzle depicting a mountain, but the other to a valley. They clearly don’t fit together – so why did these contrasting souls end up together?

Is the work of some greater force, with a reason for bringing certain souls together? Is it an occurrence under the pretense that everything happens for a reason? Or is it just that game of chance? Maybe souls land where they do for a reason – through a complex, calculated plan that is fueled by purpose. Or maybe souls just float around, and wherever they happen to land is correct. For some, it is where they are meant to be. And for others, it’s not.

Branded Feminism

When I was five, my mom bought a silver iPod with bulky, rounded corners and a perpetually dirty screen. I would always listen to her vast array of songs while sitting in a shopping cart at the grocery store or in Walmart. On special occasions, like my birthday and Christmas, she’d let me pick songs that we could buy the music videos for. And more times than not, I’d pick a song by Taylor Swift.

Back in her country days, Taylor Swift was a drama-free, curly-haired bundle of joy. I thought she was just the coolest anyone could get. However, as she got older, (and I as well) my opinion of her changed.

I grew up with my sister constantly educating me about different aspects of feminism, from the everyday struggles of women of color to how to have inclusive discussions about class, race, sexuality, and gender. So, when Taylor Swift proclaimed herself a feminist, I was excited to see what a person with her following could inspire. To my dismay, her “feminism” did the opposite of inspire.

In fact, recent studies have shown that when a major celebrity calls themselves a feminist, it makes people care less about feminism. Feminism has become a hot topic of discussion over the past few years. When a celebrity talks about feminism, it usually is just to build their image, not to bring awareness to its issues. Even if Taylor Swift is a feminist, some things she does demonstrate outdated views in equality, as feminism changes every day.

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For example, while her “girl squad” may promote girl power and sticking together, to many in Hollywood it is just like a high school clique. Stars, such as Miley Cyrus and Chloë Grace Moretz, have spoken out about it. One such star is the Disney star, Rowan Blanchard, who said, “The ‘squads’ we see in the media are very polarizing. Feminism and friendship are supposed to be inclusive, and most of these ‘squads’ are strictly exclusive. It makes feminism look very one dimensional…’Squad goals’ can polarize anyone who is not white, thin, tall and always happy.”

Mostly, this band of models and singers is just a way to uphold Swift’s pristine image. I mean, if Swift were really about girl power than why would she use her group of friends to diss other women, like in the “Bad Blood” music video?

As a women who believes in empowering other women, Swift is in plenty of celebrity feuds. With a list including Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, among others, she can’t just be an innocent girl getting bashed on. Naturally, people are going to disagree on social media, but the fact that remains is that Taylor never really owns up to her mistakes, and yet she still has a pristine image in the eyes of many.

Finally, she doesn’t have the best track record with treatment of people of color. The reason she invited Zendaya and Serayah McNeil (two very successful women) to be in her “Bad Blood” music video, was probably because she had recently been called out for only having white friends. In her “Shake It Off” music video, she had black women twerking all over the camera, but no black ballerinas. Of course there would be black girls twerking in her music video, but generally that form of dance isn’t seen as very classy, as opposed to ballet. Ballet is graceful and fluid, and there are plenty of black ballerinas that could be included. In Taylor’s “Wildest Dreams” video, which is literally set in Africa, there was not a single black person. While these examples aren’t very apparent and could be skewed in many ways, they reflect the microagression that people of color experience on a daily basis.

With all this said, I really hope Taylor’s feminism grows in the future. It’s been quite a while since she’s been on tour or released new music, so maybe she’s taking the time to think of new ways to help educate the masses about inclusive feminism.

Labels

“You know it doesn’t work like that,” I say, trying to keep the shakiness from showing.

I feel cold and my eyes burn. I grasp the hemline of my loose tank top. The air around me swishes menacingly through the hair around my ears. I purse my lips making sure I don’t say anything I’ll regret. I nod as a way to say I’m not continuing the conversation, then stalk off down the hall.

I feel the faint sting of a layered label along my stomach. I know immediately what it is: odd. I frown, looking down trying to see my collarbone. I close my eyes, willing the red shadows away. I close my eyes and let out a breath of hot air. The hallway is small, confining, making it hard to expel the blackness rising in me.

The pastel yellow door of the bathroom mocks me. Smiling garishly at the obsidian ice building in me, I grab the handle pulling the door open violently. I get ready for a shower, careful to not bump the new lacerated label. I stare at myself in the mirror. There is black scrawling all over, at all angles.

I begin to rub the new label, causing twinges to run through my legs. As I turn the water on scalding, I scrub it gently at first, then furiously to where the pain is almost too much to bear. I keep scrubbing until it starts to bleed again. The sobs start coming as fast and easy as breathing. I sit down carefully, the snowy porcelain of the shower floor slowly becoming a pale pastel pink.

The tears and the hot water are mixing together. The water shuts off – the allotted time over. “There are other living souls in this house that need the shower!” my mom calls from outside the horrid yellow door. 

I don’t justify her calling with a response.

I quickly stand up to grab the heavy-duty band aids out of the cupboard, praying that my mom doesn’t open the door and come barging in like a freight train. I struggle to cover the entire surface area of the label. “Sawyer!” I finish the sad attempt to bandage my leg and sling a towel around myself. Trying to look as dignified as possible, I leave the bathroom.

The path from the bathroom to my room is even narrower and lined with mirrors. A knot forms in the base of my throat. I stumble halfway to my haven without looking at a mirror. But I can’t help it.

I glance up at the mirror. The person that glances back is me but darker, more attractive, and has a murderous gleam in its sinisterly blackened eyes. Its elegantly sculpted brows raise, asking ‘what do you think?’ A slender finger beckons, a full red mouth pulls into a grin, revealing teeth sharpened into points. I can feel it pulling me forward. I struggle to pull myself out of its grasp, until I’m once again staring at my scrawled-on feet and the smooth clean floor.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

I lift my heavy, leaden feet and shuffle the rest of the way to my haven, my room. The dark wooden door opens without so much as a whisper. I make sure to turn on all the lights so there is no shadow left anywhere in the room. The rich cobalt walls reflect all the light, making it seem like I’m underwater.

An Open Thank You to the President

Thank you for the past eight years.

Although I’ve only seen two presidents in my life, thank you for all that you’ve done.

Thank you for allowing people to criticize you before and after winning the election.

Thank you for being a benevolent spokesperson of the United States, and for meeting other leaders with dignity and class.

Thank you for letting me decide what I can do with my body. Thank you for opening some up to the idea that women deserve free rein of their bodies just as much as men do.

Thank you for creating an affordable healthcare option, so that we can have a healthier country. Thank you for disregarding the talk about money and future, and for providing safety for those who didn’t think they’d have it.

Thank you for your comedy, from talk shows to the White House Correspondents’ Dinners.

Thank you for your light-heartedness around children. It’s not every day that the president opens the White House for a Halloween party.

pete souza white house obama favorites (9)
Photo Credit: twistedsifter.com

Thank you for talking about tough issues with an open outlook. Thank you for disregarding taboo and speaking about what truly needs to be heard.

Thank you for sharing the love story between you and your wife for all the world to see. Thank you for sharing your elegant family with the public.

Thank you for being historical and inspiring people of color to pursue their dreams.

Thank you for showing me the good in the United States, and for accepting the bad.

Thank you for running down the halls of the White House with your dog, Bo.

Thank you for appreciating and lifting the spirits of people of color, LGBTQIA people, disabled people, and every other kind of person.

Thank you, Barack Obama, for being this country’s humble, kind, and amazing 43rd president.

Polarized America

It’s no secret that the United States is a nation with a political gap between its parties – one that has only gotten worse with the recent controversial election. This division within the nation has shown its ugly face through protests, fighting, and through media outlets.

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The media paints a picture of one side versus the other, leaving very little wiggle room for any moderates. In other words, moderates in media are not found, and any voice of reason must have backing from a political party, or else it will simply fall on deaf ears. There will likely never be a rise of a moderate party, leaving the United States in a rough two-party system.

George Washington, the first president of the United States, forewarned the rising of political parties, telling, “they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”

Whether or not this is happening today through either candidate is up to the reader, but the fact remains that political parties have far too much power. They are far more interested in pushing their agendas than the good of the nation they are supposed to serve. Polarized America, land of the indifferent, ruled by the Donkey and Elephant.

Laziness is in my genes

Looking around school, a workplace, or on the street, you may find some people who are incredibly lazy, some seemingly addicted to exercise, and others addicted to food. For certain people there is a strong correlation between genes and how active, lazy, or addicted to food they are. These people may have one or more genes that are deactivated, causing some practices to be less entertaining than others.

Healthy practices release dopamine within the brain, which makes the individual happy. This release dramatically changes the mood of the individual, often making them feel good. This great feeling can be addictive – if one feels good when eating food, (which everyone does) over time they may eat more food than they should, due to the feeling released by dopamine.

It’s not rocket science, just addiction.

These deactivated genes make it harder to get out of bed early, keep up a healthy diet, or hit the gym. This doesn’t mean you should use the excuse: “laziness is in my genes,” instead you should try a little harder, and make positive habits that help you break you bad habits. Drive makes you, not just your genes.

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School Fatigue & Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving is almost here, and with that comes a week-long break from school, which I am truly grateful for. Lately, to be able to make it through the school day I have had to go to bed at 9 pm.

I am basically a grandma.

But soon, everyone, including myself, will get to take a break from school, and hopefully, will get to go without alarm clocks and schoolwork for a week to recharge.

For those who celebrate Thanksgiving, we can stuff our faces full of turkey (or Tofurky for the vegans?), stuffing, and pie. And then we can all fall into a deep food coma.

Photo Credit: Giphy

There’s also Black Friday, which is just a shopping free-for-all, where people lose their minds over the sales and rip flat screens out from other shoppers’ hands.

And, right when Thanksgiving ends, it’s basically Christmas, so I’m pumped.

Now all California needs is COLD WEATHER (and rain, obviously).

An Intramural Scrimmage?

After voting for the first time in my life, I was shocked by the result of the election. When I woke up after the results came out, I felt like I woke up to another world. To me, the outcome was not predicted and was surreal. I know friends who cried, not because they were happy but because they were scared. I read online that 8 transgender teens committed suicide on that day. It is very sad to see so many people depressed and heartbroken, and even taking their own lives because of this election.

It’s been almost a week now since the election, and my thoughts have changed – I am more motivated and positive about the future. As Katy Perry tweeted, “Do not sit still. Do not weep. MOVE. We are not a nation that will let HATE lead us.”

President Barack Obama told the nation that it is time to come together. “The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy.  And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world. Everybody is sad when their side loses their election. But the day after, we have to remember we’re actually all on the same team. This is an intramural scrimmage.”

I am going to hope for the best, and I want to play a part in bringing people together.

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I am the Wreckage Left Behind

There is no feeling in the world like finishing a good book.

It’s like a slap in the face, or getting a bucket of ice water poured on your head. It’s a jolt that causes me to realize that I haven’t been in my body for the past – a glance at the clock – seven hours.

Nothing mattered. I was running through the streets of Ketterdam, a thief fighting the odds alongside Kaz Brekker, I was battling he who must not be named with my fellow students and professors, I was Aelin Galathynius and no one could stop me.

But once my eyes greedily devour what’s left on that page, I’m back to being me.

Just a girl with cold feet, a stiff posture and the most marvelous one pound object in front of me.

I’ll spend the rest of the day in a blind daze. Wondering why I am no longer in Ketterdam, or at Hogwarts.

And it hurts. A physical ache in my chest. Why isn’t this me? Why aren’t I living this kind of life?

And its an awful realization that I’m not.

For the rest of the day I’m shaky, seconds away from crying for no good reason. I’m hyperaware of whatever I’m doing in the world around me, but lost, aimlessly drifting in a world that seems like it’s not quite real.

I’m lost, just wanting to be able to read the book for the first time again. To get lost all over again.

I wander through the house, wanting that life, wanting to just disappear into the books that I love, to live these incredible lives.

Despite the struggle, the scars, the damage, the truly horrendous pasts that give dimension to the people who I am closer to than anyone else in the world, I want to be these people.

And **** the writers who create these worlds and these people. I run from my emotions and yet I can’t run from reading, and emotions are all I get from reading. I can’t bring myself to run from these writers. I’m like a junkie who hates what they do to themselves but loves the ride too much.

All I want to do is read and never reach the end. But equally so, the end is the best part. I am constantly tempted to rip out the last page and toss it to hell but I can’t. I always walk through the fire for it.

Photo Credit: BBC

It’s not like finishing a movie or a show. That is me watching someone else doing something. When I finish a book, I have been put through the same ringer the characters have. I have lived the same life.

Part of my soul is fulfilled and yet a larger part of it is missing. Finishing a book is losing a part of myself. A part of myself that I have committed hours to, I have paced for, I have lived for.

When I finish a book, I finish a lifetime. I say goodbye to friends who never knew me but I knew them. I say goodbye to a family that I loved in that time more than I have ever loved. I say goodbye to a reincarnation of myself. I say goodbye to something that doesn’t even know I exist and yet has wrecked me.

There is no feeling in the world like finishing a good book.

It is a feeling akin to finding the one thing in all of life that you search for, and losing the one thing in all the universe that you cannot stand to lose.

Women of Our Future

Following Trump’s win in last night’s presidential election, about half of the country is in complete distress. Now, most women, people of color, LGBTQIA, people with disabilities, and other oppressed people are starting to fear for themselves and their futures with the reality of a completely Republican-controlled government. But, those minorities didn’t take a complete step back. Five strong, capable women were voted into various positions, all of whom are hopefully the first of many.

California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Photo Credit:  www.latimes.com

Kamala Harris was elected as California’s Senate representative. Along with that, she has been Attorney General of her state since 2011. She is the second black woman to ever be in the US Senate and the first ever woman to be California’s Attorney General. This comes as a huge accomplishment, especially because both her parents were immigrants – originally from Jamaica and India.

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Photo Credit: latino.foxnews.com

Former Attorney General of Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto became the United States’ first ever Latina Senator. She is representing Nevada in the Senate. This wasn’t a small feat: as the granddaughter of a Mexican immigrant, she had a tough battle defeating her opponent, Republican Joe Heck.

"Because I’m a mom, that makes me concerned for the future," Omar said. Photo by Conrad Zbikowski.
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Ilhan Omar became the nation’s first Somali-American lawmaker, when she was elected as a State Representative for Minnesota. She is a fantastic role model for young East African girls, who she actively empowers, working as the director of Women Organizing Women Network. Her win is a bright sign for all her fellow refugees as she symbolizes hope for women who want to be in politics.

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Kate Brown made a wave of change as the United States’ first openly LGBT governor, when she became Oregon’s 38th Governor. She is an activist not only for LGBT rights, but she also wants to see reform in gun control, women’s rights, and clean energy. In a speech she made about a month ago, she opened up about why she was running. “If I can be a role model for one young person that decides that their life is worth living because there’s someone like them in the world, it’s worth it,” she said.

Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, at the World War II Memorial in Washington in 2010. Duckworth, now an Illinois congressional candidate, became a double amputee when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq in 2004.
Photo Credit: http://www.military.com

Last, but certainly not least, Tammy Duckworth, a veteran of the Iraq war, became Illinois’s new Senator. Born in Bangkok, this former Hawaiian resident defeated Republican Mark Kirk. Her choice to join the army was probably influenced by her former marine father, Frank Duckworth. Her win marks almost the 12th year since she lost both her legs in a plane crash when fighting in the Iraq war.

So, no matter how you feel about the outcome of this election, I think these women deserve some recognition. Their successes show that even when women are put down, ridiculed, or deemed weak and undeserving, we still prevail. I’m glad that these women (and other women) will be representing who I could be, if I work hard and believe in my capabilities. These women are the future of our nation.

Inspiration from: https://www.good.is/articles/women-elected-across-america