My Elementary School Didn’t Teach Religion and I’m Not Going to Kill Anyone

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It was two in the morning and I couldn’t sleep. Naturally, I decided to resort to the internet.
Then this pops up on my news feed:
Screen shot 2012-12-19 at 3.42.54 PMMike Huckabee set me off. I couldn’t believe he was saying this. Actually I couldn’t believe he was using a massacre to bring up yet another religious debate. I could understand why people were expressing their opinions on gun control since this was a horrific shooting, but bringing religion into this was taking it a little too far.
And then I got a little more upset, because right under that link, I read a comment that said, “Agreed!!!”
Oh, that pissed me off. I could go off on a rant about what Huckabee said, but I’m not going to because I want to stay neutral and I don’t know anything about his childhood.

My anger at Huckabee’s statement is not necessarily a political one. I’m upset about what Mike Huckabee said because my childhood proves otherwise.
My elementary school never enforced any set of beliefs on its students. There were children who weren’t raised religiously at my school. There were also Christians and Jews at my school, and everybody got along. We were good kids. Despite not being educated in Christianity (I’m just going to assume Huckabee is pushing for that particular religion being taught in schools because, well, he’s Mike Huckabee), everyone I know who went there turned out fine. And do you know why? Because my school taught a certain value heavily.
Peace. For the majority of my academic life, there was some part of the lesson plan that was designed to guide students away from violence and remind them to embrace the many differing facets of the world. There were so many concepts of hate that I had no idea still existed until I got to high school. On my second or third day of freshman year, I heard somebody use the word “beaner” for the first time and thought, “these kids are terrible.” I had no idea racism was still so bad. I had no idea people could disagree on things so heavily.

Since my high school was Catholic, every student had to take multiple religion classes. But did it make a difference on our actions? I don’t really think so. We were still people, and teenagers at that. Who were we to carry on sinless lives? People at my school had sex. I’m sure a baby or two was conceived there. We had parties. My school was known as the druggie school. A girl got raped at my school, and a few years ago, a student was expelled for threatening to bring a gun to school and shoot our principal.

Is it because we were taught about Christianity? No. It’s because we are people. Sin is inevitable. Even the Bible says so. Remember that, Mike Huckabee? These things are going to happen regardless of what the school system teaches. Anyone has the potential for violence, no matter his or her set of beliefs. Activities that fit under the sin category are going to exist no matter what. They always have, and they did in the days before religion was around.
Of course, people also have the potential to be good, and that definitely isn’t limited to what set of beliefs they adhere to or what kinds of things they are taught in school. Just because people aren’t educated in religion doesn’t mean they’re horrible people.
If you don’t believe me, then you should visit a Montessori school and see for yourself.

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Major Discrimination

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This past weekend, I went to an art major party with my roommate. It was a pretty great time – I dressed up like a little kid on Christmas morning and everybody loved it, and they served hot chocolate with whipped cream vodka that was incredible.
There was one thing I hated, though.
My roommate got into an argument with a couple of guys who had decided to pick on her for being an art major, because apparently majoring in something liberal like art indicates stupidity. First of all, these guys didn’t even go to UGA (or any school as difficult as UGA), so who are they to question her intelligence? They weren’t smart enough to get in. They were being friendly in that douche bag way, but as soon as she answered the ominous “what’s your major?” question, they retracted any behavior that could be identified as civil.
These guys don’t know who they’re dealing with. My roommate is far from stupid. She’s good at about just every subject in school – math, literature, science, philosophy, you name it. She even got a full scholarship to a local college for physics, which she turned down because she’s wanted to pursue art her entire life. Oh, and did I mention that she’s a creative genius? Because she is. And she’s not a single major, either. My roommate is a double art major, which means she works her ass off. Half the time I don’t even see her because she’s working on multiple projects and doesn’t have time to come home. This week she stayed away for two and a half days consecutively to finish projects in both of her majors.
These guys would never know that, though, because they refused to believe that someone with an unconventional major is still intelligent.

She isn’t the only one who faces the stigma. As an English major, I don’t feel like a lot of people take me seriously. Even my own grandmother doesn’t understand why I don’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer. Whenever somebody asks me what I’m majoring in, I never say only say “English.” Unless I’m around another English major, whom I fully know will accept my decision, I always say I’m a journalism major first. If I say I’m an English major, whoever asked me the question in the first place will respond with something like, “wow, that’s interesting,” or ask me, “oh, do you want to be a teacher?”
Then I have to mention that I want to be a writer, and that makes things even more uncomfortable.
But if I say “I’m majoring in journalism… and English too,” I suddenly become so much smarter. Not only am I pursuing a career that people take more seriously, but I am also demonstrating my intelligence and time management skills by completing two degrees in the time it takes to get one. By adding journalism to my answer, I become fascinating, as opposed to what I’m sure people think when I say I’m just an English major.

Stupid. Unrealistic. Screwed when it comes to finding a job or making it in the real world.
And to be honest, part of the reason I’m double majoring is so I can have something to fall back on, because I don’t want to be a teacher and I can’t see myself churning out novels.
But it’s only part of the reason. I’m majoring in journalism because I’m nosy and love knowing things that other people don’t. I love writing and sharing what I write, and I love magazines – that’s they key here, love. And love is exactly why I’m majoring in English.
I may hate school (okay, not really, I just hate being overwhelmed, which happens a lot since I’m a double major), but I love what I’m learning about. I love writing and stories and words and pens and paper and mechanical pencils. I love learning about the greats in both spheres. I complain about school a lot, I do. But when I’m writing something I’m really proud of or falling in love with a book, I feel more certain about what I’m doing than I ever have before. It’s what I love, and more importantly, who I am.
As cheesy as it sounds, college is a time to make greater progress in discovering and defining who you are – not who others want you to be.
So what if my roommate and I aren’t majoring in something “more useful” like science or political science? Have you major-downers out there ever thought that people major in a certain subject because they love it, and not because they’re too stupid to major in something more conventional? Just because there are a lot of science-related jobs out there doesn’t mean there aren’t any art-related jobs or english-related jobs. Besides, nobody ever said whatever profession we ultimately go into has to directly reflect what we majored in. We could go to grad school – we both are, actually.
I’m not going to be a doctor because I would be miserable as anything else other than a writer. Plus I’m really clumsy, so I would probably injure somebody severely in the process. And do you know what? I’m okay with not being a doctor or going into science. I got myself into college, so I’m going to do what I love. And you should do what you love too. This is your one big shot, so take it and immerse yourself in whatever you enjoy most.
I’m an English major, and I’m proud – and it’s not your problem.

 

The Freeman’s Journal

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This is for all the Ulysses nerds out there.

  1. I made this. I wrote all the stories, compiled all the images, and conducted the layout all by myself without breaking a computer or anything.
  2. This was my final.
  3. I am proud of it.

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Lycidas 3: Have Fish, Will Travel?

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Before you read this, please know that despite the absurdity of this post, I am being completely serious.
You all need to know that I adore my fish. I think he’s the cutest thing in the world. I talk to him every time I see him. I even wrote a haiku about talking to him (talking to my fish/probably is not okay/oh well, what the hell).

But I have a problem. As of two hours ago, it is officially December in this time zone. The last day I need to be here is the 10th, unless by some strange turn of events I finish my Ulysses project three days early – and that isn’t happening, because this project is worth half my grade and I want to make an A in the class, dammit!

For me, being on break isn’t just about being back in my hometown and hanging out with my sister and her cat – it’s also about much greater things, like free food, going downtown and begging my friends to get pizza with me, and sleeping until noon every day. The holidays are such a special time, and I really want Lycidas to be a part of my winter break, because let’s face it: if he isn’t, then he will die.

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If only this guy could take care of Lycidas.

Who would be in Athens to take care of my fish? Nobody. And it’s not like I could just give him one of those big fish food pellets that can keep a fish alive for a week, because I will be gone for at least three weeks.

Then there is the whole water question. I have to clean out his tank biweekly because the water gets really cloudy and Lycidas does not enjoy swimming around in a rave from the 80s. And do you know what else water does? It evaporates. If I were away from Lycidas for three and a half weeks, then half the water in his tank would evaporate in my absence. I could ask somebody to watch him for me, but I don’t really know anybody who would be here the entire break.

It may be crazy, but I feel like the best option here is to take Lycidas home with me. There’s just one little issue: Lycidas lives in a filtered tank – he needs those little air bubbles to live. He can last in a vase for 15 minutes whenever I clean his tank, but I don’t know if he’s strong enough to take on sitting in a plastic cup for two hours while I drive to Macon. To be honest, that probably classifies as animal abuse. Plus there’s the whole issue of him dying in my car. You guys know I believe my capability as a responsible person completely depends on my ability to keep Lycidas alive, and since I’ve managed to do so for three months without any trauma, it would break my heart if I killed him when I was doing my best to keep him alive.

Isolated of the gold fish on white

Note: Lycidas is not a goldfish. I just like this picture.

I am truly in a predicament. Do any of you know anything about fish care? What about fish transport? Would it be better for me to leave Lycidas in Athens with some kind of pet-sitter? Or would he have a stronger chance of surviving through Christmas break if I took him home with me? And this isn’t the only time I would be away from Athens for a long time. Even though it’s far off, I still worry about what to do with him when the school year finally ends and I go home for the summer.

What is the best way to handle this situation? Will my baby die if I put him in a plastic cup for two hours? Is it possible for him to handle the stress that comes with long-distance travel? Can I make the possibility of spending Christmas with my fish a reality?

My Top 10 Literary Influences

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I promised I’d make things up to you, and I think this list might just do the trick. Also I have a terrible habit of coming up with great things to write about right before something (or in this case, lots of things) is (or in this case, are) due.
But I am a huge literature nerd, so I think this is appropriate. I rave about books all the time anyway, so I think I should share the pieces of literature that influenced me the most.


10. The Inferno, by Dante Alighieri

I skimmed through The Inferno in high school (I was a senior. Can you blame me?), but put in a much greater effort when it was assigned in my super-hard-and-intimidating-mythology-class-that-a-valedictorian-from-my-high-school-was-in. It paid off. If I hadn’t thoroughly read The Inferno, I might have not decided to emphasize my English major in radical religious literature.

This book also influenced me because Dante had nerve. Even though his majorly unrequited crush on Beatrice was unrequited and kind of creepy, Dante was gutsy as hell (ha!), and I really admire that. It takes a lot to criticize your own religion.

9. The Natural Order of Things, by Antonio Lobo Antunes

If you know me in real life and have ever heard me rave about Portugal, this book is why (this book is Portuguese). I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with Portugal, and I’m really hoping to go there in the near future.

This book isn’t exactly famous (at least not here), so I guess I should explain it a little. From what I remember, the story spans over several decades and has about eight narrators. It’s also one of the only postmodern books I actually like.

You should read this book – I’m not very fond of the ending, but this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Top five, definitely. It’s brilliant. Look at it, at least.

8. Ulysses, by James Joyce

This book was… an experience. I hate it and love it at the same time – it’s brilliant, but it’s just not fun to read. If you know me, then you’ve probably suffered at least 10 doses of my complaining about it. I once had a teacher who said Ulysses is a book that nobody should have to read for the first time. Now I can say that I agree with him on the whole concept of losing my Ulysses virginity. But it would be wrong of me to say it isn’t incredible. I’ll read it again later in life. I don’t think I was developed enough this go around. Joyce put an incredible amount of thought into Ulysses – nearly every word is an allusion. I hope I can have a pinch’s worth of that talent one day.

7. Cathedral, by Raymond Carver
This isn’t my absolute favorite Carver story – “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” has that spot – it was a close race, though), but it is the very first one I read. There are some works that just strike you and have so much power. For me, Cathedral is one of those pieces. Carver’s realism is just so good – if I didn’t enjoy it so much, I wouldn’t have purchased a complete anthology of his work which happens to be over 1,000 pages. Yeah… I kind of have a long way to go with that one. But I love his work! I actually tried to be Carveresque with the last short story I wrote, and it actually happens to be my best. Thanks for inspiring me, Ray.

6. The Oven Bird, by Robert Frost

I have a huge fascination with the Fall. *See numbers 5, 2, and 1 for further explanation* But this poem actually influenced me in another way too. On the day I toured UGA, I sat in on an English class that happened to be taught by my current poetry teacher (I did this on purpose). Want to take a stab at the poem we learned about that day? Yes, that’s right, The Oven Bird. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but that poem is part of the reason why I took the Milton class and most of the reason I am in the poetry class I’m taking. Robert and Susan shaped my life, guys.

And that is why I am going to be my poetry teacher when I grow up.

5. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

When I was 16, I went to Iran to the first, and as of now, only time. I found this book on my mother’s shelf and brought it to read on the plane. I had read and loved Steinbeck before (The Grapes of Wrath actually almost made this list), so I thought it would be a good choice. I was actually thrilled to find this, even though it’s a giant book. I ended up depending on this book while I was on vacation because I was parched for contact with the English language. I read it feverishly.
And oh, how I loved this book. It got me into the Fall before I even realized it!

It’s kind of funny how my taste in literature has worked out.

4. Howl, by Allen Ginsberg

I can’t think of a writer more irate and pissed than Ginsberg was, and I love him for it. Now obviously, I love this poem. I’ve seen the movie, and I’m a little obsessed with it. I listen to Ginsberg on Spotify. I have a book of essays on the poem, for god’s sake. I would have written a huge essay on Howl, but we didn’t even cover it this semester. I’m actually really upset about it. I hope that one day when I’m really pissed, I’ll remember to think like Ginsberg and just spin a beautiful web of poetry out of my anger.

3. It’s Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini

I was in a pretty dark place when I stumbled upon this book – and the cover art is what caught my attention, so that’s why I hate the phrase “never judge a book by it’s cover.” Covers are meant to attract readers! That’s how it works!
You probably think I’m lame since there’s a movie of this book, and it’s pretty cheesy. Well I read this book years before news of a movie reached me (I’m so goddamn indie, I know).
The reason I like It’s Kind of a Funny Story so much is because I relate to Craig so much – not just because of depression, but also because of the crazy expectations he puts on himself and his masochistic thought process. And once I realized that Craig could become better, I decided that I could overcome my mental instability too.

2. Paradise Lost, by John Milton

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that Milton is my homeboy. A semester ago, all I blogged about was this poem. I have a fish named Lycidas. I’m referencing Paradise Lost in a paper that’s due next Tuesday.
But I really do love Paradise Lost. Once you read it, everything changes. I can see a Miltonian interpretation of almost everything I read because of it. Ulysses, Portrait of the Artist, the huge amount of poems I’ve had to read this semester, you name it. Oh, and Paradise Lost solidified my decision to emphasize in religious literature, so there’s that too. And it’s beautiful. Don’t forget that.

My nerd is coming out. Sorry, guys.


1. His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman

These books, guys. Yes, my top choice is a trilogy. I can explain.
Three years ago, when I was taking adolescent literature at Harvard nerd camp, I had no idea how much these books were going to shape me. I came to these books much later than I should have – by this I mean “I saw the Golden Compass movie months before I ever read the book.” And I didn’t think the film was that great, because I don’t think anybody did, but I really loved the story. I’d still watch the movie today even though it’s disappointing, out of order, and inaccurate just because I’m such a huge Philip Pullman nerd.
These books have shaped me tremendously. They have made me laugh, fawn, smile, throw The Subtle Knife at a wall, and shed some of my hardest tears. Although I didn’t know it until a few years later, they sparked my interest that turned into my major concentration. In the years since I read them, I’ve made efforts to get other people to read them in the hopes that they would be as struck as I was. I got The Golden Compass on a class curriculum in my very Catholic high school. I lent copies of the trilogy to friends – and sadly, lost a book or two in the process. I took that Milton class just so I could understand the books better. I even read these books and Paradise Lost at the same time. I think it’s safe to say that these books influenced me more than any other pieces of literature.

Sorry….

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It’s been ages, I know. I feel terrible for staggering so badly and that I at least owe the people who read this some kind of explanation.

School has taken over my life. Worse than usual. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on here before, but this is the worst semester of my life. School is kind of kicking my ass – well, I’m not doing badly, but I have to work much harder than I ever have before, and to be completely honest, I hate it.

Double majoring is a blessing and a curse at the same time. I love being able to look at different styles of writing from other perspectives. It actually gives me a huge edge in my classes. Then there’s the bad side – because I have two majors, I have to split my priorities. When I’m really busy, I’ll work on something for one class for about 20 minutes and then grab my other notebook. It kind of sucks, especially when four drastically different projects get thrown at me.

But I won’t complain about school anymore today. At least not here.
Since I’ve left this dry for the equivalent of a semester, I’ll try to give you a few updates. There are a couple things I have actually managed to stick to. Here are the more important things going on:

  1. Lycidas is alive and well. I can’t believe he survived Thanksgiving break, and now that finals are approaching (well, one-final-and-three-huge-projects), i’m being sent into a frenzy over how I am going to care for him over Christmas break. I would really like to take him home so he could spend the holidays with me, but I’m terrified that if I take him out of his filtered tank for two hours he will die.
  2. I managed to keep up a few of those goals I made for myself back in August, and I’m happy about it. I went back to using multiple day planners, but it hasn’t really gotten my life back in control.
    The best thing I have done this semester is make a point to write something every week. Ever since I started writing for The Black Sheep, that hasn’t been an issue. Hopefully I won’t be judged by whatever jobs or internships I apply to. And if nobody in the workforce takes me seriously, I can at least applaud myself for having a knack in writing crude humor pieces. You can read everything I’ve written for The Black Sheep (and a story about Thanksgiving, which I did not write but for some reason has my name on it) at theblacksheeponline.com
  3. I tried to be cool and use a link but it fucked everything up. I don’t know why the internet is being so terrible to me right now.
    This is some of my project.

 

  1. I don’t know if this actually constitutes as good graphic design. I just can’t believe I actually made something that looks good with a computer. And I made that cover on Paintbrush for Mac, so you have to be impressed with that, right?
  2. Another good thing I’ve gotten into is working on my culinary skills a little. I’m definitely not a lady-beast by any means, but I am growing. I can make pretty good grits, and I made a salad for lunch tomorrow, which I don’t think I’ve done… well, ever. See? I’m progressing already. 

But… I should probably back away from my laptop. Even though I am trying to apologize and make amends for skimping so hard lately, I’m also procrastinating a little and kind of have two huge projects due on noon on Tuesday. You know, just 3000 words to write, no big deal (okay, I lied about complaining.) But one of those projects might end up on here, because if everything goes according to plan, it’s going to be an awesome story about the increasing popularity of bacon in high-end restaurants, desserts, and culture. Yeah. Hopefully.

Hopefully I’ll have more time to write things soon. And if I don’t and the world decides to hate me, at least there’s always Christmas break to look forward to. Brace yourselves: My Big Fat Iranian Christmas is approaching.