complaints, musings, poor judgment, YouTube

What happened to Britt?

I’m having some trouble coming up with a fresh topic this morning. I’m not sure why that is… Maybe it’s because I don’t want to write about what’s really on my mind today. Let’s face it. Things are kind of dark these days. It’s especially depressing to read all of the embarrassingly unscientific whining I’ve seen from people I used to think were really smart. But anyway, today’s post is kind of on two themes that are sort of loosely connected. I am all for freedom of expression and airing of opinions. Sometimes they lead to deep thinking and good conversations. And sometimes, they lead to head shaking and scratching.

For instance, there’s a guy I knew in school who went to an excellent university and went on to become an architect. Obviously, science and math are strengths of his. But yesterday, he shared a post about how Southwest Airlines’ pilots deliberately called in sick as a protest to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Um… I don’t think so.

I did consult Snopes about this post. Snopes says this is bullshit. Stop and think about it for a moment. A whole lot of people in the airline industry were laid off in 2020. Now, things are opening up again, and airlines, like a lot of other would-be employers, are scrambling to hire people. Moreover, SWAPA, the union for Southwest Airlines’ pilots, had this to say…

Hmm…

I find it particularly interesting that the author of the first post I screenshot cites that “80% of Southwest’s pilots are ex-military” (in my experience, there’s no such thing– that indoctrination doesn’t wash out in most people). Anyone who has served in the military knows that when you join up, Uncle Sam owns your ass, and you WILL be taking any and all vaccines that are required, unless you have a damned good and mostly medically based reason not to. That’s just how it is. Those who refuse the vaccine will likely end up discharged or they’ll get a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand, or GOMOR, which is usually a career killer.

At least for part of any servicemember’s time in the military, there will be indoctrination and a temporary loss of freedom. It’s hard for me to understand how so many people in the military are so politically conservative, when their jobs basically require them to submit to the government and all of its requirements for service– everything from staying at the right weight and health standards, to not mouthing off at your boss, to going wherever in the world Uncle Sam sends you (and sometimes your family).

Aside from that, the military offers quite a few programs that, if you think about it, are pretty socialist… especially if you happen to live on a military installation. Maybe a few pilots or staff members are striking over vaccine mandates, but I don’t think this is a widespread thing… and even if it is, the writing is pretty much on the wall worldwide. The vast majority of people are most likely going to have to be vaccinated if they want to be employed.

My husband has had to prove he’s gotten the vaccine, as have all of his co-workers. His company even stated that anyone who doesn’t want to get vaccinated will have a tough time moving to another company, because all of the contractors are requiring that employees get the vaccine. Why? Because the government is also requiring it. The U.S. government is my husband’s company’s client, and they want everyone to get the shot(s). So everyone is either getting vaccinated, or looking for new work.

I know that’s not what some people want to hear, but it’s the way of the world. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I suspect that if COVID-19 isn’t under control soon, people who refuse to cooperate may find themselves in the same situation that many people who don’t cooperate with tuberculosis vaccines and treatments are in… basically detained, so they can’t spread their sickness to everyone else.

Someone else I know shared this post…

This lady’s mom was my chemistry teacher. She also taught my sister. Apparently, my friend and her mom, a science teacher, are against the vaccines, even though they evidently complied.

My friend had COVID-19, and posted that it was horrible for her. She writes that she had to go to the ER more than once. And yet she evidently thinks that the vaccines are solely about making money. I am as skeptical about the motives of Big Pharma as a lot of people are, but so far, the vaccines have been offered to the general public (at least in the USA) for free. Yes, the pharmaceutical companies are charging governments for the vaccines. Someone has to pay the cost of employing scientists and the materials that go into making the vaccines. And I also agree that natural immunity certainly has its place… although when it comes to COVID, people didn’t have natural immunity, which is why so many have gotten very sick and/or died.

I might have been alright with taking my chances with COVID-19 before the Delta variant came along. At this point, count me among those who are glad there’s a vaccine.

Anyway… on with the title of this post. I promise, the first paragraphs relate to it.

Three years ago, before all of this COVID crap started, people were mostly talking about Brett Kavanaugh, who is now a Supreme Court Justice. I was one who was against his confirmation, mainly because I didn’t think he was worthy of the job. Donald Trump was talking about how “scary” it was to be a man in 2018. In response, a singer-songwriter named Lynzy Lab wrote a cute song called “A Scary Time”.

She’s got a point.

Somehow, I found a woman named Britt’s response to Lynzy Lab’s ditty. Britt was young and pretty, and she made a video on YouTube about how Lynzy Lab’s song was mostly fallacious. Her overall point was that all of the things Lynzy claimed she can’t do because she’s a woman were, in fact, things she could do if she wanted to. Britt did allow that some of the things Lynzy sang about were things that might be riskier for a woman to do, like walk alone at night. But yes, if Lyzny really wanted to, she could walk alone and likely wouldn’t be accosted.

Of course, we all know that when it comes to doing things like walking alone at night or leaving a drink unattended or getting a little drunk, women are statistically at a higher risk of being victimized. Lynzy was simply pointing out that Donald Trump and his ilk had no business complaining about being “scared” to be men, when guys like Brock Turner can rape an unconscious woman behind a Dumpster, get sentenced to just six months in jail, and then be released before the six months had passed!

I noted in my post about this subject that Judge Kavanaugh was outed for being a drunken boor in high school and college, but he still gets to be a Supreme Court Justice. He has a sweet gig for the rest of his life, even though there’s compelling evidence that he has hurt women in the past. It’s not such a scary time for Kavanaugh…

And Donald Trump, who is a well-known and admitted abuser of women, got to be the President of the United States for four regrettable years! People STILL want him to be president, even though he has publicly stated that he admires dictators and would happily kiss, caress, and grab beautiful women by the pussy, because he’s entitled as a “star”. Not such a scary time for him, either, is it?

I guess the one thing these guys all have in common is that they’re all privileged white men with access to money and political connections. And at no time in U.S. history has it been “scary” for privileged white people (especially the ones with penises). That includes people like the ones I posted about above, who feel quite free to lament the COVID-19 vaccines because they think the pandemic is a bunch of hooey. These are people who, statistically speaking, will probably fare better if they’re wrong about COVID. They’re more likely to be able to access medical treatment and have adequate support as they recover. Although sadly, even some of those who are privileged are still dying of the virus.

So anyway, about the YouTuber named Britt. I initially didn’t want to listen to her video in October 2018, because I disagreed with her, and found her singularly unlikable. But back then, I was glad I heard her out, because some of her comments, at least on the surface, made some sense. I used to be more like her when I was much younger. Or, at least I had similar political views, even if I wasn’t as camera ready. What can I say? I grew up in a small, southern town in Virginia, and the vast majority of people there are southern conservatives. Most of them are basically good people, but they have deeply ingrained views about politics and religion, and they don’t trust alternative perspectives. They see no reason to change their views, which to me, now seem pretty limited. I will admit, though, that there was a time when I was with my southern conservative friends and neighbors. It took getting out of that environment to change my perspectives.

This morning, I noticed that Britt’s rebuttal to Lynzy’s song was no longer available, so I visited Britt’s channel. I see that even though she still has over 83,000 subscribers, she currently only has three videos available to the public, with about 16 more that are now private. All three public videos are basically about how women have unrealistic expectations about dating. She also doesn’t like fat acceptance, and she evidently thinks women in America need to stop embracing body positivity when they’re “fat”.

I disagree with Britt’s take on overweight women, and how she apparently conflates body positivity/fat acceptance with feminism and being “unattractive” (see today’s featured photo, which appears on Britt’s channel). But I will agree that obesity can exacerbate health problems and can cause or worsen a lot of mental health issues. People should try to be as healthy as possible, and for a lot of people, that means that weight loss is a very desirable thing (as is vaccination). I just don’t like the way Britt presents her message, which is just offensive, snarky, and shitty. I can see that Britt is very young and pretty, at least circa 2016, and I remember she was still young and pretty when she made her video about Lynzy Lab, back in 2018. I seem to recall she was in college at that point. I wonder how Britt will feel when she’s a bit older and life kicks her in the ass a few times.

I also wonder where the rest of her videos went. Obviously, she was once a very popular v-logger. She has a link to Instagram, too. But I see that her Instagram is now completely defunct. What happened? Maybe she migrated to Parler? Maybe she got sick or fat? Maybe she ended up with COVID? Hard to tell… but I do remember that back in 2018, she stated that Democrats need to be “voted out” of office. Why? So we can have more misogynistic, power hungry creeps like Donald Trump running things?

I don’t disagree that sometimes feminists and, in fact, people on the left, go a little too far. Personally, I’m much more of a political moderate than a liberal. I don’t embrace all liberal concepts. I do, however, believe that compassion is severely lacking in today’s society. I think Britt’s content lacks compassion and understanding, and while I can see that she was popular before her channel’s content got so severely reduced, I notice that many of her followers are spewing the same mean spirited and unkind things she says.

I remember being young and cocky. I agree that a lot of young people, at least until today’s current weirdness, were probably a bit “soft”. On the other hand, I think we should try to be kinder and more understanding to each other, whenever possible. A lot of people are hurting… even, and maybe even especially, young people like Britt, who appear to have everything to live for. Just this morning, I read about how the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has canceled classes today, because one person on campus committed suicide and another attempted it. Things are looking bleak for many people.

Britt probably ought to thank a feminist for the fact that she was able to go to college, and can now publicly present her conservative, feminist shaming, and fat shaming opinions on social media. If Trump and his ilk had their ways, women would be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, listening to Trump supporting guys like Reid Baer singing songs like this to them…

Jesus Christ!

I will close this post the same way I closed the last one I wrote about this particular YouTuber…

I hope Britt wakes up and smells the “covfefe” soon… (but maybe she has, since most of her videos are either private or gone…)

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musings, rants

Repost: Hate my blog? Bite me.

Here’s a repost that was originally written on November 2, 2018. I’m reposting it because I still think it’s relevant, and because I have a stomachache. I’m waiting for my stomach to settle before I write fresh content. The featured photo is actually my very first passport photo, taken when I was two years old. It cause quite a stir when I finally canceled the passport in my 20s and picked up the canceled passport as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Today’s post is inspired by a blog post I just read entitled “Why I Hate Bloggers“.  It was posted on June 8, 2009 by Lisa Barone.  I don’t actually read a lot of blogs myself because, like Barone, I don’t really find most of them that interesting.  But, because I am myself a blogger, I am aware that a lot of people hate what I do.  I can’t say I really blame them for that, although I maintain that no one is forcing anyone to read a blog post.  If blogs aren’t your cup of tea, find something else to read.  Seems pretty simple to me.

Although Barone’s title is provocative, I could sort of identify with what she writes in her post.  She writes of a New York Times news article about people who were once fervent bloggers and eventually abandoned them due to lack of interest.  A lot of people put their stuff out there and expect to get a lot of comments and interaction.  When it doesn’t happen, they get discouraged and quit writing.  Sometimes people get busy in their offline lives and the blog falls by the wayside.

Other people find their blogs becoming too successful and it unnerves them when someone recognizes them in public.  I have been recognized in our local community, thanks to my travel blog.  Although everyone around here has been really nice, at least in person, some people can be total assholes, especially on the Internet.  When drama erupts, you learn that writing stuff for the masses has a significant downside.  (edited to add– since we moved to Wiesbaden, I’ve made an effort to stay out of the local social media and now mostly let people find my stuff. I no longer get recognized where we live now, and I prefer it that way.)

Barone writes that blogs fail because most bloggers are “boring”.  She resents bloggers who are boring because they give her “profession” a bad name.  She maintains that most bloggers write the equivalent of “their Christmas letter to Aunt Millie”, which not even Millie wants to read.  So, for that reason, Lisa Barone (at least in 2009), says she “hates” bloggers, even though she apparently is (or was) one herself.

According to the New York Times piece I linked, a lot of bloggers apparently thought they’d someday end up famous.  We’ve all heard the legends of people like Heather B. Armstrong, who writes Dooce.  I first read about Dooce on Recovery from Mormonism, otherwise known as RfM.  Armstrong is an ex Mormon who grew up in Bartlett, Tennessee, interesting to me because that’s where some of my husband’s family members live.  I don’t regularly read Heather Armstrong’s blog, although I can understand why some people do.  She’s wickedly funny and profane.  Dooce became a very popular blog and Armstrong was evidently able to make money from her writing.  Advertisers began to notice and she started selling shit on her blog, which generated more money.

I must not be like a lot of other bloggers.  Although I mostly like it when people read my blog, especially when they enjoy what I write, I have never had any visions of it someday turning into a book deal.  I have a friend who knows me offline and reads this blog who thinks I should write a book.  He’s often nagged me to write one, and has even told me he’d market it for me.  But I feel like a book should be about something of substance.  Also, I don’t like dealing with most other editors.  I know they’re a necessary evil, but sometimes editors don’t quite capture the gist of what I’m trying to communicate.  As long as I don’t have to write to survive, I’d rather not deal with them.

In spite of accusations to the contrary, this blog is not just about my husband’s ex wife.  It has a pretty broad focus.  How could I turn it into a book?  And why would I want to?  What if I wrote a book and it failed?  Or… what if I wrote a book and it became really successful, and then I had to deal with people like “Wondering Why” all the time, criticizing me for writing about subjects they think are “inappropriate”?  I do wonder who made those people the judge of what’s considered “appropriate” subject matter for a personal blog or a book.  Seems like “appropriate” is a subjective term. (edited to add– “Wondering Why” left me a very negative and critical comment about how “inappropriate” she thought it was that I blogged about my husband’s ex wife. I vented about her a couple of times and, if you look, you can find those reposts in this blog.)

Blogging, to me, is kind of like keeping an open diary.  Exciting things don’t happen every day, but writing is something I do almost daily to keep my mind active and kill time.  I’ll read something in the news and decide I have an opinion about it, but I don’t want to post my opinions on social media.  It’s mainly because when you post on social media, you invite people who want to debate.  A little of that is fine, but some people are really tenacious and don’t know when to stop arguing.  Or they get into fights with other people and it turns into a flame war, which quickly becomes annoying.

The blogging platform is better for me, because I can organize my thoughts into text.  I may or may not get any comments on what I post, but I’m able to put it down in a format rather than keep it in my head.  Sometimes my posts are like a letter to “Aunt Millie”, but sometimes they’re thought provoking and even helpful.  I have a few posts that are “evergreen” and continue to attract hits even years after I wrote them.  I get satisfaction out of seeing those posts succeed.  My travel blog, in particular, has quite a few posts within it that make me proud and are legitimately useful.  This blog, by contrast, is more where I dump my spew, some of which is “toxic”.  Some people come away with the idea that I’m nuts.  That’s nothing new.  Many people offline think I’m nuts, too.

I enjoy the process of writing and editing.  It’s like a puzzle.  I like to write a paragraph and find ways to edit it creatively.  I might find words or phrases I can omit, or come up with synonyms to words that might fit better or offer a different shade of meaning.  It’s almost like creating art.  I’m not necessarily a very disciplined person in most areas, but when it comes to writing, I can be disciplined.  I cut out unnecessary words and remind myself that readers appreciate brevity.

When I find readers who like what I do, it’s a bonus.  I’ve “met” some nice people through my blog.  I’ve also run into some real assholes.  The assholes tend to be people who read one or two posts and leave me scathing comments about how I’m a “bigot” or “crazy”.  I’ve even had someone accuse me of being a racist because I once used the word “savage” to describe uncivilized behavior.  My response was to post Dictionary.com’s definition of “savage”.  There’s a difference between calling someone “a savage” and using the word savage to describe certain behaviors.

I fully admit that a lot of people dislike blogs and some people assume bloggers are “vapid”, “whiny”, and “self-absorbed”. I can’t necessarily disagree with that characterization. Nevertheless, I’m one of the five percent of bloggers who continues to update regularly and has done so for over eleven years. Why? Because it’s something to do, and something that brings me satisfaction. I like to write stories and don’t have anyone to share them with, other than Bill. Bill works hard all day, so there’s limited time to share these things in my head with him. He’s heard most of the stories before, anyway. And… even my “crazy” posts about Ex are somewhat constructive if they keep me from mailing her Fecalgrams.

To find Barone’s post about why she hates bloggers, I Googled “People hate my blog”.  I found a lot of blog posts about things people hate about bloggers.  I understand why people “hate” blogs and bloggers, but what can I say?  Meh… hate me and my blog if you want to.  You’d probably feel the same way about me if I didn’t blog.  What you think of me is none of my business, anyway.  This is my way to make a mark on the world.  Maybe it’s more like a shitstain, but it’s all I’ve got for now.  I’m going to embrace the stench.

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Ex, musings, narcissists

What a crappy weekend I had…

If you read yesterday’s travel post, you might know that I was felled by some kind of stomach virus over the weekend. It started with a fever, progressed to vomiting, then watery diarrhea that continues today. I do feel somewhat better this morning, although my guts are still rumbling and my head hurts. However, I’ve been up for about two hours and so far, have mostly managed to stay off of the toilet. That’s already an improvement over yesterday.

One thing I have noticed about this virus is that it seems to have made my sense of smell super acute. Last night, Bill came into the bedroom and smelled like he reeked of beer. He’d only had one. I could also smell the carbon from the stove all the way upstairs when Bill made me some mashed potatoes. I also notice that I can really smell the laundry detergent more than usual. If I weren’t 49 years old and living the sex life of a nun, I might think I was pregnant. But that’s definitely not possible.

So here I sit on a foggy Monday morning. The sheets are in the washing machine, because they definitely needed refreshing after the weekend. I was in bed the whole time, hence my decision not to write a post for this blog yesterday. I couldn’t really think of anything to write about that would make me feel better. Let’s face it. A lot of my material is not all that uplifting. I suppose this blog could have used an uplift after Saturday’s book review. I guess I can be grateful to the sickness for helping me finish that depressing book at long last. 😉

The weekend did have a few moments of levity, though. For instance, yesterday, I decided to watch a couple of episodes of The Love Boat that someone thoughtfully uploaded to YouTube. One of the episodes was about a special dog show, in which a dog would be chosen to be the face of dog food brand. Our dog, Noyzi, was previously terrifed of the TV. He comes from Kosovo, so he’s being exposed to a lot of things now, that other dogs get exposed to when they are much younger.

Anyway, one of the guests on The Love Boat for that episode was a fluffy white dog named Tundra. Noyzi took a liking to her and immediately perked up when she was on the screen. It was hilarious to watch him. He still hasn’t seemed to figure out that the figures on the TV aren’t going to come out and attack or play with him. Just a few months ago, he would run out of the room if a man was on the screen. As you can see, he does that less now, especially if there are dogs to watch!

I think he’d like to be Tundra’s boyfriend.
Tundra definitely has a new fan.

I also watched Gimme A Break and WKRP in Cincinnati. I’m glad I was around when those shows were on TV, especially WKRP. Even 40 years later, it’s still a hilarious show that never gets old. Even the music they used is timeless. I would not want to relive my childhood, but I sure do love the stuff that was on the radio in the late 70s. Hey… what do you want? I was a little kid! Also, I had spent three years in England and, prior to that, had no memories of the United States. At that time, it seemed like an unusual place. Now, it seems like an unusual place for entirely different and much sadder reasons.

On a snarky note, and because I’m feeling kind of mean… I took a peek at Ex’s public social media the other day. There was a time when it would have pissed me off to look at it, but now I’m just amused and somewhat sad for older daughter, who bears a striking resemblance to Bill’s mom. Ex posted a couple of pictures of her, along with some schwag she got from a “box of the month” outfit. Ex’s latest thing is her claim to be descended from an aristocratic clan from Scotland. And you know, she may very well be a descendent of the Scots. Lord knows I have lots of Scottish ancestry myself. It wouldn’t be unheard of.

On the other hand, I’m not sure she would know for certain what her clan history is, since she was adopted, and even if her bio mom told her about any family history, I’m not sure I would trust that source. According to what I’ve heard, Ex’s bio mom gave her up because she’s a product of an affair and bio mom’s husband didn’t want to raise some other guy’s child.

Interesting that she’s suddenly so hot on Scotland, though… and that she has the money to spend on “boxes of the month”, when she ripped off her children’s college loan money to pay for household expenses. But that’s none of my business, of course. 😉 I was tempted to leave her a comment about how much older daughter looks like her *real* paternal grandmother, whom she hasn’t been allowed to see or talk to since she was a small child. But I decided I felt sick enough as it was.

One thing I’ve noticed about people like Ex… they all seem to have a compulsive shopping habit. Many of the most dysfunctional people I’ve known have had a shopping habit that was downright destructive. When Ex and Bill were married, she was always buying useless crap like Disney plates or depression glass, claiming she would later sell it and make a killing. But all that happened was that it piled up in the house, and made big credit card bills that they couldn’t pay. It used to drive Bill crazy, since he was chronically underemployed in those days, mainly because of where they were living, the location of which was entirely of her choosing. She chose it because of the lifestyle she envisioned, not because it would offer plentiful work opportunities.

I’m sure Ex’s shopping habit has something to do with trying to fill a void within her. There’s a part of her that may feel empty or depleted, or perhaps second rate. So she cheers herself up by buying stuff she can’t afford and doesn’t need. And she leans on other people in her life to pay for all of her useless crap, which they often can’t do, because she sabotages them. I don’t know for certain this is what happens in her home now, but I would bet money that’s how it is… because that was how it was for Bill. It was as if she was threatened when he succeeded. And based on what we’ve heard, that dynamic hasn’t changed.

Believe it or not, there’s a part of me that feels a little sorry for Ex. She’s never satisfied with what she has, and always has to show off her “stuff”. It’s as if she is consumed by getting people to admire her for having “stuff” and this facade of cheer. But it’s all an illusion, and the vast majority of people don’t give a fuck about it.

If she hadn’t hurt Bill and his family so deeply and profoundly and had such a direct effect on my life, I might have genuine compassion for her. But I know too much about the truly evil things she’s done. That, and I know that everything she posts on social media is to enhance her facade. She cares much more about what other people think of her image, than loving the people who are close to her. She makes her children’s pain about herself. Below is a direct quote from her… (again, this is entirely public stuff– I did nothing nefarious to get this intel.)

Och aye!!! JE SUIS PREST!!! What a treasure trove! I think my new favorite color is purple!! Swipe to see what kind of treasures have arrived as my bonnie daughter, B, and I unbox our latest WeeBoxes! (As you can tell, we have a hard time letting go of the boxes from months past!!) From our favorite cookies, to a gorgeous tartan shawl for B, see the types of goodies we enjoy each month! That one little purple box each month is the most exciting day for us. I have a severely autistic child and he requires so very much of our time and our spirits that often sadness and frustration rule our days. This little peek into Scotland reminds us that one day we WILL find a way to travel to the home of our ancestors and walk the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh and the beaches, scattered with ancient memories. We are of the Fraser du Lovat clan and long to learn more of our family.

This– from a woman who forced her older children to leave high school and start college courses so they could take out loans, and she could coerce them into giving her the excess money. And now she’s made them pay back the loans all by themselves! What she doesn’t seem to realize is that if she had only been a team player, she could have gone to Scotland a bunch of times. Bill and I have been there four times so far!

And how very sad it is that she blames her sadness and frustration on her severely autistic child. Especially since we have it on good authority that Bill’s older daughter is the one who actually takes care of him. Ex pressured my husband to get “snipped” because pregnancy was so hard on her, but then she remarried and had two more children, one of whom is apparently the source of daily “sadness and frustration” for her. She’s never been one to enjoy what she has… she always has to go for more, even when there are tremendous risks or there’s no logical need for more. Oftentimes, it leads to needless pain and suffering for other people.

Anyway… that’s enough about Ex. The more time passes, the less her antics really matter to me. And I don’t really care too much that she’s blowing money on Scottish schwag. It’s none of my business. But if she had been a better partner to Bill, she probably could have gone to Scotland and picked out her own schwag. And she could have done it unhindered by a special needs child who causes her so much daily “sadness” and “frustration”.

I just realized that I’m suddenly feeling much better than I did even just a couple of hours ago. Maybe today, I can even eat something besides potatoes and bananas. So, on that note, I will end this post, and get on with my chores for the day. Hope your Monday is a good one.

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education, music, musings

Repost: There’s life beyond your senior year… confessions of a C student

Here’s a repost from the original blog, written March 28, 2018. It appears as/is. I know it’s not currently college application season, but I think this post could be useful for some people.

Yesterday, my alma mater did a fundraising drive called #LoveYourLongwood.  This is apparently a new development.  For many years after my graduation in 1994, Longwood University was rather relaxed about fundraising efforts.  I’d say in the past ten years or so, they have become much more assertive about pushing alums to donate money.  I usually ignore the pleas, although I did donate during the holiday season.

I probably would have made a donation yesterday, had I not looked at our rather paltry bank balance.  March still has three days left in it.  Still, as I get older and our finances have improved, I have given some thought to donating more money to my college.  The truth is, I owe a lot to Longwood.  Maybe my time there didn’t lead to a smashing career, but it did leave me with a lot of intangible gifts like wonderful friends, some excellent experiences, and the opportunity to study music simply because I love it.  It was a warm, nurturing place to go to college.  Today, almost 24 years after I graduated, I still reap the benefits of my four years there.

I have written about my college admissions experiences before, but I’m going to briefly repeat the tale for anyone out there in Internet land who is currently experiencing the pain of rejection from college.  I’m inspired to write about this after reading an article in the Boston Globe about the immense pressure high school seniors are dealing with at this time of year.  It takes me back to the spring of 1990, when I was myself trying to find a place to go to school.

I may call myself “The Overeducated Housewife”, but the simple truth is, I was a very ordinary student.  I didn’t earn great grades in high school and didn’t have super high SAT scores.  I did do well on standardized tests, particularly in writing.  However, I was a singularly unimpressive student in high school, even in English class.  I would get praises for my writing, but I didn’t care enough about the books we were reading to put a lot of effort into my papers.  Consequently, I earned average grades.

My parents, who had already raised my three sisters, didn’t really care too much about my performance.  I got through high school pretty much on my own efforts, with lots of Bs and Cs and the occasional D.  I remember working hard in school, particularly in my math and science classes, but not as hard as I probably should have.  I didn’t have any extra help, nor did I have anyone pushing me to excel.  I was also completely unmedicated, which isn’t a bad thing, but I think if I had grown up ten years later, I probably would have taken meds for depression or perhaps ADD.  I was encouraged to get good grades, but it was entirely up to me to accomplish that.  I didn’t really know how. 

In high school, I spent most of my free time riding horses.  I did do well in that activity, although I wasn’t particularly talented.  My success in riding was mainly due to my fabulous pony, Rusty, a dedicated riding coach, and a lot of dogged hard work.  I was definitely not “born in the saddle”.

When it came time to decide on a college, I had sort of a beer budget and champagne tastes on every level.  I didn’t have the money to consider attending private schools.  I didn’t have the grades or impressive resume to consider trying to get scholarships or applying to super competitive schools.  My mother, ever the pragmatist, told me I shouldn’t bother applying to the one school I really wanted to attend.  She didn’t think I’d get in there.  She was right.  In fact, Longwood was the ONLY school out of the four I applied to that accepted me.

Looking back on it, I think I would have had more choices if I had applied to a couple more schools.  The other three that I’d applied to, besides Longwood, were in a slightly higher league– too high for me at the time.  I do think I would have ultimately succeeded if I had gotten into any of the other three schools, but they were very popular choices among my peers.  My crummy grades and mediocre test scores were simply not competitive enough and I got the dreaded rejection letters.  Even Longwood accepted me conditionally, mainly because I was struggling in math.  Fortunately, I had a wonderful math teacher my senior year who made sure I got through with the required C.

My trend of mediocre academic performances mostly continued at Longwood.  I never once made the Dean’s List; however, I did blossom in other ways.  It was at Longwood that I finally started doing what I was probably born to do.

People who knew me when I was growing up didn’t know that I could sing.  My mom knew that I had absolute (perfect) pitch, because I took piano lessons when I was very young.  My piano teacher noticed I could name pitches without a reference note.  But I would never sing in front of anyone because I was (and still am) very sensitive to bad singing.  I knew I could sing on key, but didn’t think I sounded particularly good.  So I wouldn’t sing in front of other people, and was never encouraged to try.  My parents were both musicians, though, so it makes sense that I’d have a knack for music. 

To earn a bachelor of arts degree at Longwood, I needed to take a course in one of the fine arts.  I chose music appreciation and a one credit voice class.  I ended up excelling in the voice class and my teacher invited me to study privately.  Before I knew it, I had joined Longwood’s Camerata Singers, which required an audition.  I was soon singing with people who had been in choirs all through high school.  That experience was truly life changing for me.  Making music is now something I do most days, even if not many people hear my efforts.  It’s made me a much happier person.

It may seem like a minor thing now, but that one voice class opened up a whole new world to me.  I only wish I had taken it sooner.  I might have majored in music instead of English.  I both excelled in and loved my music classes.  I got straight As in them, with the lone exception of that one music appreciation class I took.  By contrast, I was a mediocre English major, except when I took writing classes.  In my writing classes, I excelled like I did in music.

It was an adjunct music professor at Longwood who cared enough about me to encourage me to study music, even if she couldn’t persuade me to change my major. I can’t help but wonder if I would have gotten the same attention at any of the other schools I had considered.  Looking back on it, it seems as if I was destined to go to Longwood.  Maybe I wasn’t a superstar student, but I think I flourished there.  Even today, I communicate with professors who knew me in the 90s.  My husband, Bill, attended much more prestigious American University and he hasn’t seen or spoken to any of his former professors since the 80s.  Sometimes, the less famous college offers a better value.  I know I’ve often mused about how much more I got out of my time at Longwood than I did the University of South Carolina.

After Longwood, I joined the Peace Corps kind of on a whim.  I was soon exposed to people from other parts of the country and then the Republic of Armenia, a place that had been mostly off limits to Americans only four years prior to my arrival. I used my music skills a lot in Armenia.  Then I went to graduate school and earned those two master’s degrees that I don’t use… which became the reason I call myself “overeducated”.  Still, I recognize that I was able to compete with people who went to “better” schools, both as a Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate student.  I don’t regret any of those experiences now, but sometimes I wonder how in the world I ended up here.  In some ways, I have been extraordinarily lucky.  I often feel kind of like a fraud, but I know deep down that I’m not one.   

I empathize with high school seniors who are now dealing with the hell of trying to get into college.  I don’t envy them at all.  They’re dealing with so many things that I didn’t have to deal with.  Life has gotten super competitive on many levels.  I thought it was bad in 1990, but my generation had nothing on their generation. 

It’s harder and more expensive to go to college these days.  So many young people are racking up huge debts, and competition for well-paid work is stiff.  Young people are having to worry about gun toting lunatics invading their schools and killing random people.  We have a total buffoon in the White House who doesn’t care about anything but making rich people even richer (ETA: Remember, I am writing about Trump, not Biden). 

I don’t envy you young folks at all, although I am very impressed by how young people are standing up and making their voices heard.  And young people today are doing such incredible things… things that perfectly average, mediocre people can’t conceive of doing.  I would imagine that the pressure to stand out must be insane… and yet it gets harder and harder every year.

I’m impressed by that insane drive to succeed that some young people have, but I have a heart for those who were perfectly average folks like me.  It’s true that life is not a dress rehearsal, but most people end up okay, even if they aren’t stars.  These years on the brink of adulthood can be tough going, but eventually, most people come to a place where grades and test scores no longer matter.  So take heart.  There’s life beyond the spring of your senior year.  You just have to get through it and keep your eyes on the prize.

A musical project I completed at the time I wrote this piece. Lately, I’ve focused more on playing guitar than singing. I’m better at singing than guitar playing, though.
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expressions, lessons learned, musings, YouTube

“You should never meet your heroes…” or should you?

A couple of days ago, when I was watching the movie, Camp, I was reminded of a famous saying. “You should never meet your heroes…” ostensibly because the reality of who they are will always be a disappointment. The character, Vlad, actually says those words when he runs into his hero, Bert Hanley (played by real life musician, Don Dixon), who is rip roaring drunk. Vlad idolized Bert Hanley for being a great musician and songwriter, but he didn’t know that Hanley was a cynical drunken asshole. And he was disappointed when he found Hanley, who was supposed to be directing the camp, completely bombed. Adding insult to injury, Hanley vomits on Vlad as he tries to help him up. Real class.

I ran into that quote myself a few weeks ago on the Cruise Critic messageboard. I was reading SeaDream Yacht Club’s board and joked that I really wanted to meet a regular poster named Jim Avery. And another regular poster wisely pointed out, “You should never meet your heroes.” He’s probably right. I’ve met a few people on SeaDream cruises who were posters on the messageboard. Some of them legitimately turned out to be people I wish I’d never met. I love SeaDream cruises, but I have to admit that it’s a line that attracts a fair number of entitled twits. In all fairness, though, some of the other passengers probably think I’m a twit, too. Especially when I’m in the piano bar. 😉

Some of the people on SeaDream probably think I’m not unlike this guy… I even have a similar physique.

I do love being on a SeaDream cruise, though. I haven’t been on one since 2013. I honestly thought we would eventually do another cruise with them, but Bill was going to be retiring in 2014, and I wasn’t sure what his employment prospects were going to be. Also, I knew that he would likely be starting a new job with limited vacation time. Then we ended up moving to Germany, and the rest is history. We have done three more Hebridean cruises, though, and Hebridean is as expensive as SeaDream is. I booked those cruises because of the themes and itineraries… and unfortunately, thanks to COVID, I’m not sure when we will be cruising again. So I will probably never meet the famous Jim Avery. I might be better off for that, since he might turn out to be a mean spirited jerk. Or maybe he won’t. Maybe I would think he’s funny and witty. I may never know.

Wonder if, when she has a quiet moment, Anna regrets being a “super fan”…

This topic comes up, in part, because Katie Joy on her YouTube channel, Without a Crystal Ball, did a video about how Anna Duggar was a “super fan” of the Duggar Family, back in the day. Katie Joy talks about how Anna admired the Duggars, having seen their public persona. She was dazzled by their images. I wonder if she now thinks the reality of being a Duggar is anywhere akin to what she imagined when she first saw Josh and his family. Especially now that it looks like Josh is going to be heading for prison soon. Maybe he’ll manage to get off, but I have a feeling he’s going to be wearing a striped uniform soon.

Then again, sometimes the opposite is true, and you should meet your antiheroes because they’re not nearly as bad as you think they are. You think someone is a real jerk, and it turns out they’re the opposite of being a jerk. Reality is often unlike what we think it is. I’ll give you a real life example.

For years, I thought Bill’s daughter was as hostile as her mother is. I was angry with her for a long time, mainly because she and her sister rejected Bill and refused to speak to him. It pissed me off that a man who is as kind and loving as Bill is, was being treated the way his daughters treated him. I was tired of people giving them a pass for that behavior.

But then Bill started talking to his daughter again, and he started to learn about what was behind that seemingly cruel behavior. And now I know I was wrong about Bill’s daughter, and fully admit that I was wrong. She’s turned out to be a very resilient and empathic person, much like her dad is. She is the very opposite of her mother. It had only seemed like she was a mean and judgmental person. The reality is, she’s not like her mother at all.

This week, Bill’s daughter wrote to Bill expressing her worry and dismay at seeing the crisis in Afghanistan. She wanted to know Bill’s thoughts on the situation. Bill explained to her that he never went to Afghanistan; he did his time in Iraq. But he has many friends and colleagues who served in Afghanistan, and they are devastated by the news. It’s heartbreaking to see that all of the time, money, effort, and lives spent on Afghanistan have seemingly gone to waste.

Bill’s daughter has decided to do what she can to help. She says she’s learned how to say “Hello” in Farsi, which is lovely, although Bill wrote back to tell her that most Afghans speak Pashto or Dari. She says that she knows that it means a lot for people to hear their language. Bill’s daughter is even putting together hygiene kits for refugees. She’s turned out to be a very good person, in spite of everything. She’s finding out that her dad and grandmother, both of whom were demonized for years by her mother, are actually excellent people who love her.

I often wonder what it’s like for Bill’s daughter now. She missed knowing Bill and his mom for most of her life. She was told many lies. Now she’s old enough to seek the truth, and she’s been brave enough to do it. I’m sure that as exhilarating as it is to know Bill again, there’s been a lot of pain. It’s not easy to find out that your mother lied to you, took advantage of you, and was completely abusive and horrible to so many other innocent people. Bill’s daughter has children of her own, and I know she wants to protect them from her mother. That’s got to be hard, especially when so many people have bought into the false story.

I have also gained more respect for Mormonism. I still don’t like the doctrine and I think it does a lot of damage to people who can’t fit into the mold. A lot of people have been harmed by people in the church. But Bill’s younger daughter managed to find good influences in the church, and some good hearted members helped her escape an abusive situation. Granted, she could have found help elsewhere, but in her case, it was the church that helped her. Going on a mission humbled her and broadened her horizons. She started to see perspectives that had been kept from her for so many years. In her case, the church actually helped her grow. It filled a need for her like the Army filled a need for Bill.

Now that I think about it, the Army has also damaged a lot of people… like those who fought or died in Afghanistan for what seems to be naught… But was it really all for naught? I read that some Afghan girls on a robotics team were rescued from Afghanistan. If not for the war in Afghanistan, would they have been rescued? Would they have ever had the chance to study robotics or be on teams that were successful in North America and Europe? What about the other girls who got the chance to go to school during our twenty years in Afghanistan? If not for the war, what would have happened to them?

What about the people who were born because of the war? There were romances between Afghans and Americans. Surely, there are people who exist now because we went to war, just as many people died because of the war. Those relationships help bridge understanding of the cultures. They add stories to the collective… and everyone does have a story. The war seems like it was a huge failure on many macro levels. But on micro levels, maybe it wasn’t. I’m reading about people in Afghanistan defying and protesting the Taliban, despite their fearsome reputation of being brutal in the face of defiance. Would they be doing this if not for the war? To be honest, I think Afghans are the only ones who can save their country from the Taliban. It can’t be up to any other country.

I think sometimes we get lost in what appears to be, rather than what is. It happens when we worship an image over what’s real. Or when we assume we know the truth about something when we really only have some of the information. The situation in Afghanistan looks very bad right now. I can’t deny that. But there are always other perspectives and other ways to look at things. Every new situation brings with it new opportunities. Hell… Bill’s daughter is using the situation in Afghanistan for inspiration. She’s learning a few words of a new language in hopes that maybe somehow, she can help someone. Maybe she will be an actual hero to someone, rather than a hero based on an image, reputation, or facade.

Maybe a lot of people view the United States as “heroic” on some level. And sometimes the USA is heroic. But more often, it’s comprised of fallible people who are living life as best they can. They look to their heroes for inspiration. Sometimes, that view is much better than reality is. And sometimes reality is better than we’d ever hoped or expected.

Well… I guess it’s time to wrap this up. Arran and Noyzi are breathing on me, hoping for a walk. The sun is finally out this week, so I guess I better take advantage before the weather turns shitty again. Have a happy Friday.

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