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Violence

I have been seeing some things circulating lately about a killing spree at the end of last week. I have been trying to hunt down where these commentaries and editorials have been springing up from as well as looking through the “news” to contextualize and form a coherent opinion of my own.

What happened: A seriously disturbed young man went on a killing spree May 23 in California. After stabbing his three housemates, he shot and killed three strangers before shooting at random pedestrians from his car. After a gun fight with law enforcement, he drove off and shot himself.

The disturbing parts: this blogger re-posts and discusses the block of text that has gone viral in assorted arenas. I contemplated adding a link to a news article that provides links to the content that the killer posted, but stopped myself for reasons that Charlie Booker goes over in this excerpt from his show. Go ahead, and read and watch.

So these two things form an interesting conundrum. There is an unacceptably large group of people, men and women both, who are willing to believe that this is some how a woman’s, or women as a whole’s, fault. Rejection is not concordant with assault, it is not a justifiable provocation for violence. No woman should have given in and “taken a bullet” by sleeping with this guy. No one should be expected to relinquish autonomy to fulfill another person’s entitlement.

I can’t say that I’m not guilty of acting entitled. I’m a young white male. Society has conditioned me to believe that the world should be delivered to me on a silver platter. I’ve been clingy and jealous and I’ve said things to people that caused pain. And I’m sorry, I really wish I hadn’t, and I can’t take those things back. The more I think about it, the worse I feel, and then I hear about things like this, where someone has gone to violent, violent extremes comparatively, and that they have supporters, the more I begin to feel physically ill. No human should accept the open threat of violence against them for demonstrating their own autonomy and preferences. I do not wish to belong to a group of people that is willing to perpetuate that standard of living. These are my decisions based on the evidence that is available to me.

I also feel confident that it’s the only decision that one can logically make.

The other half, of course, is openly discussing this. Putting the national spotlight on a mass murderer results in the glorification of his actions, without necessarily condoning them. His motives were his, his actions were his, he is now dead, the story should die with him. Instead, we have a media circus revolving around the event. We have people condoning his motives. I am here speaking of my experience and warning against this horrible state of affairs where this has become something we need to discuss. How do you fix this without making another problem worse?

Reflecting

It was hitting me on Saturday night as I sat at Dempsey’s attempting to learn sports by osmosis, my fleshy frame’s surface area exposed to discussion of basketball statistics, attempting to draw the knowledge in through my cell membranes, that my life has turned into something I didn’t really expect. I am becoming friends with professional fighters. I’m looking at getting a motorcycle. The thought of donuts makes me sick to my stomach (I will still totally eat them though, lets not get too crazy). I think about running two miles and I get a mild buzz of excitement and not dread. I have business cards, they even have my name on them. It’s a bunch of little strange things that confuse me, and of course that makes me think about where I have been. So a brief recap of the last year:

A year and a day ago, I graduated with a Master’s degree in Linguistics. My sister got married the day before. I was never as upset about it as the other people I knew. I started talking to my girlfriend about getting married. Eleven months ago I switched anxiety medications and everything seemed like it was going to be great. They were actually helping instead of making me feel worse, all of which came from the fact that I was still anxious after grad school ended. Ten months ago, my girlfriend left me in the middle of the night, my life started to fall apart. Nine months ago, I adopted my kitten. Shadow has been, well, my shadow ever since. Eight months ago, with no prospects of employment after getting a significant amount of debt and doing a lot of work to prove I could be an academic success, and reeling after being left by someone I thought I wanted to spend life with, I thought very hard about the benefits of no longer existing. Seven months ago, I got a part time job that paid a ridiculous amount for being a part time job, but still wasn’t quite enough to make ends meet on my own. But it was something. I turned 27 and I could get out and do things occasionally again. My dad retired, they named a building after him. Six months ago, I had a brief encounter with someone who had meant a lot to me before my girlfriend, and who still means a lot to me today. 5 months ago, I kind of screwed that up. Neither of us were in the right place to even be thinking about dating someone. This made Christmas kind of rough. Four months ago I got my camera. Instead of sulking I started to go out and practice shooting. I wanted to explore and get better. Three months ago, I made it 5km on the elliptical trainer for the first time ever in my life. I was starting to actually get in shape instead of just punishing myself at the gym for being a fuck up in his late 20s. Two months ago, I got my motorcycle license. I had gotten up to doing 5k three times a week on the trainer and could do 3k on foot without stopping. I knew I could go further, I don’t stop because I’m out of breath, but because I’m hell on my knees. Last month, I decided I wanted to get serious about becoming a fashion/alt photographer. I’m slowly collecting gear and kit to make that work. I actually did some work painting for the first time in a long while. I had forgotten how much I liked painting little mans, and how good I was at it. This month, I hardly believe its been a year.

The truth of the thing is that eight months ago, I may have really died. Whoever I was stopped existing, because he was defeated. All the work he did and all the plans he made fell apart and failed, and he had to let go and admit that none of that was solely his fault. It takes two to tango, and I admit I screwed up a fair number of times in that relationship, but you can’t control how someone else feels. She just wasn’t feeling it any more. I couldn’t have fixed it. The economy and politics have been severely mismanaged by a small group of greedy individuals, especially here in Kansas. I am not alone in the substantial amount of debt that I left school with, and am not alone in the fact that it will crush my ability to function in society for years to come. Things in this country have stagnated, and the work I do now, funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health, is threatened further by short sighted budget cuts and anti-intellectual agendas. How many students out there are now highly trained scientists and problem solvers that can’t get hired because they lack job experience? How will we ever get job experience if no one is willing to train us or let us train ourselves? Every graduate student in America, unless they finished their degree by being a mindless sycophant, has demonstrated that for a minimum of two years that they are capable of learning and adapting to any situation under their own direction. They can identify and deconstruct problems and work through innovative solutions by doing research and through systematic inquiry and investigation.

And hell, even the mindless sycophants have proven that they are spineless and well documented yes-men, and there are people who want that, too.

There are plenty of people feeling guilty today because they are in their 20s and they had to move back home after school and society says that is a sign of personal failure. Well guess what, we are becoming a majority of people, we get to decide what society says, and I think we should be saying “No, fuck you, we never got a chance to buy cars and houses like you said we should. The problem isn’t us, it’s you. We haven’t failed you, you failed us. You told us the only way to get ahead in life is to go to school and get an education, and then hung us out to dry after you got our money. You sold us into slavery, and we refuse to go quietly.”

Point being, I hit an extreme low, and I think because of it I have started to think and feel significantly differently. I have become a person I did not expect to become. I’m an activist and an advocate, an artist and kind of a bad ass. If people want to call me a self important internet asshole, or cry “Social Justice Warrior!” let them. What people think about you is not important, but what you think about yourself. I’ll keep volunteering and donating, making calls to the FCC Chairman everyday until he fixes the net neutrality rules, and you can make your own decisions. You always have been able to, and that’s what I’ve wanted my readers to do all along.

I hope you stick around, though. We can get a lot more done together then we can alone.

Bipolar

I promised I’d write a post about bipolar. Also, I promised a podcast. We are working on it. Me and my cohort work for a university, and May is the time at universities where people are trying to finish and graduate. This translates, for us, that we have to do a ton of extra work. Which would normally be an awful time to start a project.

This helps move us on to the topic I promised. Bipolar. I’m not explicitly bipolar. My personal problems revolve around anxiety, that hasn’t got a lot of real basis, and the resulting depression. Being frightened most of the time takes its toll on you eventually, it’s harder and harder to feel good about things. This occasionally leads to a severe disconnect from your feelings. If you have not, you should check out what the lady at Hyperbole and a Half has to say about depression. It’s not simple to explain to people what it feels like, and more than once have I had someone tell me “Well stop, just pick up and feel better!”

That’s hardly an option when you no longer feel the need to continue existing. Like it’s optional, you wouldn’t be upset if you stopped. It’d be largely OK. Also well described in her comic, there is a dam that tends to break during your recovery period. This is a hypomanic episode. Everything you were unable or unwilling to feel for the period of time before doesn’t go away. It gets deferred. It all will pour out at once in an unpleasant rush. The greatest thing is that you may not even know you are having this happen to you. I don’t notice my manic swings until someone else says something. When I write an e-mail at 3AM that is so densely written and full of information that it is difficult to understand, it seems perfectly normal to me. In hindsight, of course it sounds silly.

So do most things in hindsight.

My problem is minor. I have to deal with the unpleasant feeling of being at the complete mercy of my emotions, many of which I don’t understand or can even trace back to a trigger in reality, with no real reason to believe they will subside, or if this is a good sign or if this is the straw that finally breaks your resolve. I only had to suffer with it for a couple weeks at a time, very rarely will I have a phase where I’m not in control, that I make impulsive decisions and start up projects I can’t possibly finish. Some people go through cycles of feelings like this on a daily basis. They are under constant assault by their own feelings. They likely feel as though something is wrong, and will self medicate. Addiction to the manic phase, the knowledge that the depression that will follow will hurt beyond reason, will try to stave it off pharmaceutically. Impulsive and destructive consequences are better than the nothingness that comes with depression. It’s easy to see how things would fall apart quickly, how hard it would be to function in society, but people with this problem get little understanding and support from the people around them who just don’t understand, who haven’t ever had to deal with the fact that their emotions aren’t necessarily theirs; they are fake, not related to the world around you, and they never stop coming.

This blog is about awareness. I write things that I know about, I talk about things I see that make me worry. You or someone you know has a mental health problem related to depression or some other mood disorder. Specifically the NIMH gives statistics for reported cases at about 10% of adult Americans suffer from major depression or severe bipolar disorder. There is a severe stigma that surrounds admiting that there is something wrong, or asking for help. No one wants to admit they can’t handle how they feel on their own, we are full of shame if we appear needy, so that number is probably disgustingly low compared to the number of people suffering. The simple truth of the thing is that is the biggest lie that was ever sold, we need each other more than any of us will ever know, probably one in five of us needs some kind of help.

That’s a lot of needy people out there. Shame we don’t seem to do much about it. And the thing to do is so simple; listen to each other and recognize that its a real problem that people can’t just “get over” without help.

First of all, what is Ink Master?…

Second of all, why is it even on television? Today, we are tossing a link to a Facebook group that can go over the goings on in more detail. Quick recap: There are a pair of gigantic assholes that have prominent places in Viacom’s cable television station Spike! TV. Pretty publicly in their television show, they are somewhat abusive and sexist. Apparently behind the scenes they are bordering on criminal and largely indecent.

 

In a surprise turn of events, Viacom, when asked by a female employee to mediate a dispute over sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, refused to intervene and then terminated the woman.

 

This is a good day for the doctor, because I get to stand on two different soap boxes. AT THE SAME TIME! I am beside myself. It’s like Christmas when I get a double feature; Viacom networks are part of the increasing crush on free speech and the war against net neutrality. So when they go ahead and open themselves up to some substantial legal trouble, I am pleased.

 

Forces at work here are two fold; we have in one hand two highly publicized misogynists perpetuating a culture that is violent towards women, which we have talked about as being equally destructive to the men that perpetuate it, and we have a telecoms giant attempting to supress someone that is protesting the sad state of their external message. It’s an often referenced adage from a book that a lot of people adhere to in their daily lives; “You shall be judged according to the least among you.” Normally, I get this tossed around a lot when struggling against wage inequality, but here, here we something a little more awful. Viacom is represented by the content they decide to broadcast, so they have received one black mark for condoning this sort of behavior on national television. Alright, so no one would ever consume any media if we boycotted every outlet that contained a misogynist or a homophobe or a racist. Modern society would collapse. What a company should do is terminate those people, or at a bare, bare minimum fine, demote, or otherwise censure the specific problem individuals. Remove the cancer from their organization. Instead, they have tipped their hand. They don’t find this offensive. The money is too good, the cancer is the product, and instead of correctly vilifying the offenders and their behavior, they suppress and punish someone with the courage to speak out against them.

This is something that we have to make clear is unacceptable. With the rampant conglomeration of media outlets, consumers and activists must send a very clear message now, not later, now that these behaviors will have repercussions for companies. Support the boycott, stop spending money with Paramount Pictures, stop watching Viacom television, and stop supporting their advertisers until they put pressure on Viacom to make this situation right.

 

For more news: A story published on Jezebel (largely NSFW pro woman Gawker site), and reporting from the local news outlets in New Jersey.

You want to know which advertisers to pressure? Well have this:

Verizon, Skittles, HealthCare.gov (BECAUSE WHY THE FUCK NOT, LETS GET THE GOVERNMENT IN HERE TOO!), US Army, South Park, Red Cross, Subaru, Jim Beam, Paramount Pictures, Guinness, Allstate, and RelativityMedia.

The Rotting Core

I promised pictures from ComiCon. They will come, fear not. First, I have to talk about this madness first.

I want this to be the fiction that it sounds like. Apparently, one Susanne Atanus had decided to run for House of Representatives in Illinois. Great, good for her, even if I don’t agree with you, go you for getting out there and trying to be the change you want to see in the world. Oh wait. You’re insane.

Insane to the point that the rest of the GOP revoked their support of her. Apparently publicly stating that God is killing Americans for allowing gays to have rights is a step too far. Well have any rules for stopping her from saying that or running. Good thing we have this whacked two party system. For once, this is going to help out; when there is more than one interested person running, inside the party there will be a primary. That will weed out this crazy woman.

But then she went ahead and won that. I used to really like Chicago. Liberals and democrats are dancing on their desks this morning. They are convinced that they have this one in the bag, surely no one in the general will vote for this woman.

There is a more disturbing trend here, however. This woman, who is on record saying that Autism and Dementia as well as severe weather, are direct interventions by our loving God to punish us with indiscriminate slaughter and degeneration because some of us support that people should be allowed to spend their life with whoever makes them the happiest, has won a major election. She. Won. No one is recognizing the serious threat that that actually is to all of us. The majority of her constituents agree with her standpoint to have voted for her to oppose the incumbent liberal satanist. This woman, who has openly stated that the great depression and stock market crash in 1929 didn’t actually happen, is a symptom. Everyone is confident that she will loose to congresswoman Jan Schakowsky in the general election, as am I, but that is only treating a symptom.

Do you know what happens when a doctor only treats a symptom and not a cause?

Dead patients. Patients with low quality of life. Patients that don’t have hope of getting better, that know the next symptom will come along or the side effects of the treatment will make them worse.

This woman and this kind of thinking and the support that it has clearly gathered is the result of a disease. The treatment has been the progressive battle cry from time immemorial, and that is provide better education. An educated populous is a progressive and powerful populous. The more understanding of issues, disease, mental health, sexuality, the less we will have to deal with repercussions of people not understanding how these things happen. STD’s will drop, unplanned pregnancies will dwindle, prisons will cease being overpopulated, drug use will diminish, people will spend money and spur the economy. When we refuse to educate, we get this, we get the blind devotion and the refusal to take responsibility for things like climate change and for the care of people who are ill and for the fact that we can’t provide human rights to everyone.

This is some sick shit people. Everyone wants to laugh this off as an oddity or an outlier of some sort, that this perosn is a joke. Well here’s the punchline: This sort of thing is not going away and will continually get worse unless we do something about it.

Crime Stats or How Silence Took Root

I had a good weekend. I went to a show that had music I enjoyed. I had a lot of tasty beers and hung out with a lot of cool people. I made a new friend. Less good, I lost an hour of sleep.

And then I got to work and I read this press release from the University of Kansas.

I was a little stunned. This is the Culture of Silence at work. Over one million violent crimes have gone unreported and investigated. That’s approximately 0.3% of the entire population of America that has been the victim of a violent attack and violation of their person, and that number is likely small. Reading this article, it is likely that this is simply the number of failures to investigate and prosecute but otherwise reported to authorities. If that is the track record for law enforcement to investigations, how many people simply refused to acknowledge their own attacks? It suddenly doesn’t become difficult to imagine that percentage creeping upwards of 1%, 30 million people, that have been the victim of a sexual assault.

“Society has an obligation to stop rape and prosecute rapists. The current practices are incredibly far from that basic precept. What is worse is that the extent of rape in America has been covered up— rape victims have been denied basic dignity, so that some police could manipulate statistics to simply achieve artificially designated crime benchmarks,” Professor of Law Corey Yung states in his press release. He’s clearly right, but what has happened that this has so grossly become commonplace in our culture? The effectiveness of the system for recording these crimes is flawed. This data is used to make policy and budget decisions, which I know as a scientist, is a recipe for disaster. Ideally any sort of statistical reporting needs to be free from bias, and a diligent record of the actual, observable nature of things. The minute that money and ego come into play, here in this case continued law enforcement funding and re-election of our woefully under equipped and variably inept political representatives, their is an enormous pressure to doctor the observed measures of your data. In my field, this has a low cost. I would lose personal credibility, and any claims I could make would be questionably valid unless someone could repeat my results. Only me and my pride suffer. But this? This is a situation where police and politicians are playing fast and loose with human lives.

In another post, I talked briefly about a case where a girl ended up committing suicide because of a lack of response to her claims of rape, and the general backlash of victim blame that she got from a police department that didn’t care or found the behaviour of the accused acceptable. This was a preventable death. I don’t find it reasonable to place blame on others for suicides in most situations, but would that girl be dead if someone had simply done the job that they were hired and expected to do? Rather than do their job, they wanted the problem to go away, to make the community appear safe by covering up an ugly problem.

This is not even a woman’s problem. Sure, the most frequent victims of sexual assault and abuse are women, and are by far at greater risk. Now think for a moment. If a woman is afraid to report that she has been a victim for fear of the report being dismissed or that she’ll get victim shamed, how likely is a man to report that he has been the victim of a sexual assault? How likely would it be that he gets laughed out of the police department? You are supposed to be tougher than that, how did you let yourself get raped? Suddenly 1% seems small.

We need to focus less on the failed war on drugs and other high profile initiatives, because we have falsely reported a decline in a violent crime that is festering in the soul of our culture. Instead of supporting and helping victims we blame them or disregard them. We covered it up. We are all complicit in this when we claimed we lived in safe communities, that we were turning the tide on crime. Worse, we hid a real cost in human lives to protect those claims, those delusions of a healthy, strong nation.

This, this here. This is the sickness and the silence that has taken root.

We strike at the root.

“But Not All ______ Are Like That!”

Welp. This is about as close to the discussion I was having today is. I spent a few minutes absolving myself instead of thinking about how to fix a problem.

The Belle Jar

I see this happen all the damn time.

Someone describes the actions of a privileged group of people and how these actions, purposefully or not, encourage the marginalization of a less-privileged group. Most often this description occurs within the context of trying to explain to the privileged folks how this dynamic is hurtful and oppressive. The hope is that the privileged group will listen to the marginalized person, examine their own behaviour, and try to do better in the future. The reality is that the person doing the explaining is nearly always met with a chorus of, “but not all men/white people/straight people/cis people/able-bodied people are like that!”

Look. I get it. You, whatever privileged group you happen to fall into, are a good person. You want to remind the marginalized group that you view yourself as an ally. You want them to know that not everyone is against them…

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Online Dating

I’m an introverted adult. I have a professional life and I don’t just bum around in bars or at the union or the library or wherever else I used to frequent as a student. As I get older, there are fewer and fewer options for clubs and activities with people I don’t already know. Consequently, I don’t necessarily meet a lot of single girls, so I have tried online dating. I actually met my last girlfriend through OKCupid, and we had a long term, fairly good relationship for two years before things fizzled. I sort have talked about her before, but short recap, after two years I wanted to get married and she didn’t, and so she decided to end it. It sucked. Prior to that however, I had managed to go on several first dates, this being 2010 and 2011, usually if I wanted to, every weekend or so I could meet up with someone new for drinks or bowling. Just recently I’ve actually considered trying to meet someone new in earnest and I have had very close to no success. At first, I was under the impression that I was doing something wrong. Maybe my e-mails are too cookie cutter. Maybe my profile isn’t very interesting. Maybe I’m actually just ugly, that’s possible too. When I actually arranged a date, I ended up getting stood up.

I told my sister that, her response was to blink at me and say “People actually still do that?”

Anyway, it had seriously started to get me pretty down. The somewhat classical trap for the intelligent and resourceful is to consistently assume that because you are resourceful and intelligent, failure is solely your own responsibility. You didn’t do it right, or maybe you just need to be better, you still aren’t good enough. This is a dangerous and self destructive line of reasoning. Quite frequently, this will, in fact, not make you reach higher goals. It will actually outweigh any or all achievements that you do make with a looming sense of doubt and the knowledge that whatever you did, it will never, ever be enough. That’s shame, and it is a weight around your neck while you are drowning.

Then however, I saw this article about a man who posed as a woman on the same dating site I was using and it greatly altered my perspective of what was happening. (Yes, it’s a Gawker site. Sometimes they do good stuff.) Tl;dr: A guy from Reddit had similar woes; the imbalance between eligible women and eligible men on the site should make it easier for women, they have a huge selection of men competing for their attention, and they get to pick the cream of the crop. Wonderful, no? Well, turns out, that large pool of men is full of ginormous assholes. A guy who bums around the internet consistently and has been to the cesspool that is 4chan’s /b/, the guy running the experiment should have had relatively thick skin. He lasted only 2 hours before the deluge of obscene and desperate messages forced him to delete his account.

My lack of progress finding new people to spend time with was now cast in a very different light. There is a ton of dangerous themes at play here. The bizarre entitlement of the dudes who start by fawning and immediately switch to borderline criminal desire when they don’t get what they want immediately is disturbing. The fact that anyone, let alone a large number of people, are that vulgar and insulting to strangers bothers me to a great extent. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around. Someone like me, with (what I’d like to think) are reasonable expectations for online dating, are operating on the basic assumption that a woman on a dating site is looking for the same thing that you are, they are interested in meeting some new people because they have busy lives and society isolates us a little more as we get older. I approach each new person with the same level of respect that I would provide any stranger, that they are another human being with thoughts and feelings and rights, and that if we share that we can start a conversation and try spending time together. Apparently that assumption is bad, and somewhat naively idyllic. In truth, there is a very vocal group of people operating under the assumption that because they are on a dating site as a man, they can immediately treat others like meat, and when they don’t immediately get what they want, they start to abuse people. As a linguist, I am acutely aware of the power that words have on people. Each one of us is endowed with the limited power of mind control; words are processed largely autonomously by the brain, and they activate associated memories and sensations. If by saying or writing words that you know will result in a physiological effect like nausea or revulsion, it is equivalent to physical assault.

Digest that for a moment. Those disturbing words are (to me, just are) very close to physical assault. A not small group of people in a population that is looking for companionship try to initiate relationships with physical assault. How and why is this even possible that these men think that that is socially acceptable?

I still feel down, but now for an entirely different reason. Where I was convinced I wasn’t good enough, the backlash of this culture undermined my self esteem, it may have to do with the fact that I am in a minority of people that approach this whole prospect with respect. I am folding up paper airplanes and tossing them out the window at people I think are interesting and then sad when they don’t respond. What I didn’t realize is that those paper airplanes with notes written on them have to fly over a tremendous ocean of shit and abuse only to arrive with a pile of other paper airplanes full of razor blades and poison. That’s just a horrible state of affairs for everyone, and a very solid example of how anti-feminist thinking and attitudes among men really hurt men just as much as they hurt women. Why is it hard to approach women as if they were just another person, just like you, for such a large number of people? Do they never ask themselves how they would feel if they were approached that way? Is there that little empathy in people?

Food for thought.

Star Trek

I decided to write a post about how to not be afraid of posting regardless of who is reading what. I promptly then started not posting. Well let’s fix that.

Kansas City is home to Planet ComiCon, which is apparently becoming more and more of an important thing. People have talked about it, but I have never been a comics person. However, I found out this year that William Shatner, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn, Levar Burton, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, and Wil Wheaton will be in attendance. This seriously made me giddy for a bit Monday evening. That is very much the kind of nerd that I am, and I sat for a while and thought about exactly why I was so excited to see a couple actors at a convention for something I don’t really care about.

I never liked comic books. Super heroes didn’t really make a lot of sense to me. It was difficult to get into, and felt like a boys club that I didn’t really fit into. DC was by far the worst, they have a stable of established characters, paragons of good and hyper manly to the point of being boring. Recently in movies and collections I see that they spend a lot of time “darkening” these characters, as if making them more edgy and sad would make them more relevant. That sort of just muddies the message they are sending further. Marvel was always a little more interesting, their heroes consisted of a bunch of rag tag misfits barring Captain America. The first comic I really loved was Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which is far and away from the normal comic book fair.

Star Trek, however, had me hooked from the time that I could form memories. The major themes were always of inclusion, it didn’t have the walls to entry like comic books did. It wasn’t an exclusive club. People wanted you to be there, because in the Federation, everyone had something to contribute, big or small, regardless of gender, skin color, creed, or even species. And that really meant a ton to me! Maybe more now than it did then. Understanding that gender is a spectrum instead of binary, that might be why I never felt like part of the comic club, but felt more comfortable there beyond the stars. As a youth and a teen, I don’t think I felt any different from anyone else; generally alienated and acutely aware of what made me different from other people, which we realize, as we get older, is absurd. Sure everyone is different in several cosmetic and superficial ways, but in the core of people, we are mostly the same. We have the same needs, similar wants, all we want is to feel accomplished and appreciated, to live with some comfort, and share our thoughts, lives, and bodies with others, with variations in specific tastes and preferences. Watching those adventures each week on the Enterprise gave us a glimpse of a world where that was embraced, where everyone can come together to accomplish much, much more then they could have alone.

I watched both the documentary hosted by William Shatner where in he interviews each captain, and the Trek Nation documentary hosted by Gene Roddenberry’s son. It really amazes me just how much a silly TV series means to not only me, but possibly millions of people. We all watched those heroes, who were just normal people, we all saw how much they meant to each other. The characters all being of radically different backgrounds and opinions came together to form families. Star Trek changed lives. It was really interesting to watch each actor talk about how at first they didn’t like the attention, how they didn’t like being conflated with their character on TV, bit as they saw that their show actually made people’s lives better, even if it was just giving them a hopeful feeling that there is a place for everyone, it was meaningful. They had done something good.

That’s why I’m so excited. I get to see the people that might have changed my life.

Beta Blockers

Now it’s coming to it. I posted that TED talk last week and I’ve been trying to ride that high, that elated feeling of knowing what shame feels like and being able to tell it “No, you can’t stop me.” with that thought in my head, I went to the gym on Valentine’s day, a day that had very special between me and my ex, and I refused to feel bad and made it through a 5k jog in 30 minutes. Fantastic feeling of accomplishment, I’ve never even been close to being able to jog that far, not even in middle school. The dopamine flooded my system, I didn’t even care I’d been stood up the night before and I went out by myself and saw some awesome metal bands!

OK, well, local metal bands. Awesome is probably not the right word.

image

… It was better than sulking?

It was alright. I managed to swallow my fear enough at one point in the night to introduce myself to a girl. I promptly became terrified. The shame had returned. It promptly plagued me the rest of the weekend. I found myself wanting to write an article, but the thought that there were people that actually follow my blog froze me.

What if I say the wrong thing? What if I’m not actually interesting? Maybe I should just ghost away as if I had never even started.

“No, it’s just stage fright,” I keep telling myself, as I write this now. “You clearly have good things to say. You are taking interesting pictures.” But it just keeps coming back. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why. In middle school and high school, I was pretty overweight, awkward, had horrible skin, and just generally wasn’t the best looking, but I performed in every play, in every band, and every choir I could, I tried out for each solo (and even got a few of them!) and I never thought twice. I performed in front of the entire school, all of my friends and all of our parents, and I never even broke a sweat.

So why now, at 27, a learned professional, who was the instructor of record of several classes, afraid suddenly of a bunch of strangers on the internet?

I realize, now, that this is important to me. That I want this to succeed, that I want people to come together to help each other and I want to make that happen. I started doing all of my hobbies and my art and my writing as therapy for the things that had gone wrong in my life. They made me feel like I was back at the helm of a life gone out of control, and I’m frightened now because I wrested the wheel back and immediately headed for uncharted space. I’m trying to build a community and I’ve never tried to do that before, and I certainly don’t have a road map.

Scary, no?

In theory, the only wrong course of action would be to say nothing, so here I am, having crawled out of my hole squinting into the sun to tell you all, “This is hard.” Let that nugget of wisdom sink in. Yeah. Savor it.

Other news, we played some board games this weekend, I managed to win both! We did some Lords of Waterdeep on Saturday night, and for some weird reason I don’t ever get sick of this game. It’s moving parts on the surface should be everything I hate about euro games, but something about the aspect of recruiting adventure parties to send out to do your bidding takes all of that away. Monday we played Euphoria, which while having a disturbing theme, is a ton of fun. Another Euro style worker placement game that I should hate, I think I actually managed to get the hang of it. I feel much less like I’m behind by two actions compared to games like Agricola. Which I hate with a fire. I hate to say it, but the standard version just wasn’t as fun as the Kickstarter version, even though the changes are all superficial. The little metal chunks for the bricks and gold just add a certain tactile enjoyment that little wood blocks can’t replicate.