Note: This is a long one and more of a look inward than that of a page ripped from a diary. No need to read unless you want a lot of background on me and some philosophy.
Lately, I’ve wondered about how much consistency there is in my life. I’m naturally a creature of habit, stuck in her old ways: I sit in the same seat each day for my classes even though I’m allowed to sit where ever I wish (and I always sit in the middle front for each class, too), I awake the same way each morning, listen to the same music repeatedly, and I refuse to change around the furniture in my room (I’ve had the same set up in my bedroom since I was six). Yet, I’m also changing quite a bit and in ways that I didn’t recently realise.
For starters, I’ve changed a great deal in the past three years. In fact, I often tell people that the person I was in eighth grade or freshman year is a completely different person from who I am now. The major changes started with a new outlook on music. My mum had listened to country music throughout my childhood, and I naturally grasped that style as what must be the best type of music to listen to. After all, my mum listened to it–how could it be bad? Granted, country music isn’t bad. But it wasn’t fitting with my personality and lifestyle. Slowly, I forced myself to start listening to the soft-rock station that my step-father would sometimes play. I learned some softer pop songs through it and eventually moved on to some pop music by the middle of eighth grade (I was a Gwen Stefani addict, whaddup?). I also started listening to MTV’s music videos in the morning during the end of my eighth grade year, and guess what songs caught my fancy? Well, there were two songs in particular: “Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fallout Boy and “Rebellion Lies” by Arcade Fire. The former was fun and an introduction to poprock, and the latter was an introduction to something completely different and amazing. In fact, so amazing, that it is still amongst my top five favourite songs (maybe I’ll elaborate on them later). This opened my eyes to a lot more rock and pop music, and freshman year was filled with Coheed & Cambria, Fallout Boy, Panic! at the Disco, and Foo Fighters.
Gradually, over the next two to three years, I picked out more music to suit me and dropped others. I completely dropped pop, poprock, and country music, finding it rather unoriginal and immature, and picked up a combination of alternative rock, indie, newgrass, and rock. I was introduced to The Postal Service, Nickel Creek, Cobra Starship, Imogen Heap, and Regina Spektor. My tastes became refined as I began piano and voice lessons so that I developed a strong appreciation for classical, Celtic, and soft new age. And these new outlooks that I searched for helped mould my personality and find a sense of personal identity within pop-culture.
Meanwhile, I was changing physically. During the beginning of eighth grade, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a degenerative joint disorder causing my joints to pop out of socket. It was painful, but being used to the idea of being physically handicapped may have been more painful. I remember crying as I pushed my wrist against the cold car window, hoping that it would ease the pain of it being out of socket. I remember being thrown to the ground during volley ball in gym class as my shoulder wrenched itself from socket and momentarily stuck there. To this day, I cannot watch volley ball. It’s literally physically painful as my heart-rate rises to new heights.
I was also increasingly dorky. And not in the cute way, but in the way where it deterred people from even speaking to me. The girls in school would snicker at my back, sometimes at my face. They would make fun of my lack of personal style, that I was awkward, that my hair was fuzzy and in a pony-tail every day because of this. It was torture, and I learned to hate myself. I wished so much that I could be physically fit and not lanky and awkward. My red hair seemed like a curse; if only it could have been blonde and straight. I was also pale and freckled, which was definitely against the rules of tanned society.
Toward the middle of eighth grade, I was pulled from gym class because of my EDS, and I quickly gained twenty pounds. It made me feel self-conscious that I could no longer fit in my size five jeans and would need to wear nines, and I began to look at my hips and curves as curses–something I dealt with for three years and still relapse to at low times.
But, between eighth grade and freshman year, I spent a week at my aunt’s house in St. James, Missouri–a small farming town between Jefferson City and St. Louis. While there, I attended a basketball camp (horrible idea) and four days of running around with my cousins in the woods, farms, and horse fields. Even though the week was a great thing for me, a small discovery that I made was far more important. During one of the days, I took my hair from its usual slicked back pony-tail and stared at the fuzzy strands in the bathroom mirror. In front of me was the sink, and I suddenly had an odd idea. What if I wet my hair and let it air dry? Well, I tried it, and something fairly magical happened–my hair was suddenly not fuzzy, but curly. I tried wetting my hair again the next day, and found that it would curl again. I wet it again an hour later, and it got even more curly and less fuzzy. This was amazing! Suddenly, I was wearing my hair down as much as up, and controlling the hair that I had hated became increasingly easy.
I still had doubts about my hair into the beginning of freshman year, but something changed as I looked at the hair of the girls around me. I realised that I didn’t have to be them, and, over night, I completely got rid of my pony-tail.
Today, I love my hair. I love wearing it down. I love the red curls. I even love it when it gets fuzzy. And that love means more than I can convey in words; it was monumental in learning to love myself the way I am naturally.
At the same time, I really started thinking for myself. Growing up, I was raised in an extremely devout Baptist family, and my mother pushed my brother and I into church activities and even thought about putting us in a Baptist private school. So, my strong Christian roots determined a lot about my personality and beliefs. I was staunchly conservative, an advocate against Harry Potter, and someone who judged others harshly for any infraction that I found unholy (being liberal, smoking, reading non-Christian literature, listening to music aside from country, dressing immodestly, etc.). I was a drone to my mum’s news shows on Fox, specifically Bill O’Reilly, and extremely against John Kerry. I even dropped contact with a friend when I found out that he was liberal.
Yes, it was that bad.
But, during that same summer between eighth grade and freshman year, I had an interesting conversation with my eldest sister, Jessica. At the time, she was going through some personal development, and she ended up telling me that she was pro-choice. To be honest, I had never heard of the subject of abortion before, and to be like my sister (since I admired her), I picked up a pro-choice attitude. Now, this was not thinking for myself–I fully realise that–but it did open my eyes to other views. Suddenly, I looked at Bill O’Reilly differently and realised that I didn’t agree with everything he said. I looked at Bush three days after his re-election and was overcome with grief for supporting him. And it was because I realised, for the first time in my life, that I didn’t actually agree with the Republicans that I had been told were correct.
I quickly started thinking a little bit more for myself and was extremely liberal by end of freshman year. It was a new outlook on life, and I rather enjoyed it, but there was still a major problem. I now judged conservatives the same way that I had judged liberals back in middle school. This became something very difficult for me to break and actually continued into highschool until the last semester of my senior year.
During that period of time, I began to see faults in my thinking. How was I against the death penalty but pro-choice? How could I support Obama during the election but be filled with doubt? What were my reasons for being an advocate of welfare, free medical care, and high taxes? I started studying how other countries worked (specifically Germany and Great Britain) and learned a lot about myself. For starters, I realised that I was not liberal or conservative–I was libertarian. And a moderate libertarian at that. I became aware of the faults in our government–why welfare wasn’t working as it should, how high taxes helped fund things but also impacted the way people spent their money in a capitalist society, how capitalism in and of itself could have negatives, how large government could control personal liberties.
I also reworked my thoughts on abortion. I’d always known that, while I was pro-choice, I would never have an abortion for myself, and it made me wonder whether that made me for or against abortion. I’d never liked the term pro-life since most people who used it were actually not (to be pro-life, you must be against abortion AND against the death-penalty), and pro-choice didn’t fit me. So, I became termless: against abortion and not wanting it to happen, but completely open to others making their own informed decisions on the matter. If someone else is pro-life or pro-choice, I think that’s fine. It is their decision to make, and I don’t want to influence that since I learned first hand that you have to think for yourself to come up with the right philosophy for your life. That’s why, if someone came to be and said they were pregnant, I would ask their opinions first and then help. I would see if they were aware of all options before choosing one, because that just seems the most fair. You have to think: will I keep it? will the child get adopted as a baby? will it go to an orphanage? will it live in foster care? will I be negatively impacted by pregnancy? will the child have a bad life if I keep it? There are so many more questions than the simple abort/adopt choices that we have been spoon-fed. And other people need to make that decision.
My more moderate stance in life really helped me stop judging others based on politics. Sure, if you’re close-minded and brain-washed, I may shake my head at you, but it’s because I’m upset that you aren’t thinking for yourself. You can have any belief you want–just have a reason. Don’t allow yourself to be someone else’s puppet; be who you are and believe what you think is best. Thinking for yourself makes such a difference.
And these revelations with politics and religion helped me a lot. It helped me identify with myself rather than a party or church. And it allowed me to stop judging others based on trivial things (something which I now advocate to extreme levels). To summarise, I’m a Christian who is very open to all other religions (we each need something to believe in; but that doesn’t have to be God), and I’m a moderate-libertarian. To each his own! It’s so much more pleasant on the mind and soul.
With my slightly new mindset, I also became more tolerant of Harry Potter. My friends were all Potter freaks, and I eventually started wondering about the series. In fact, I was so interested that, when the last book came out, I called up a friend to ask if Harry had died. It got to the point where I told my friends that I would eventually read the series. And, one morning, I awoke from a strange dream. It concerned Hermione murdering Harry and running away. It was stupid, trivial, but I gave up that day. With a deep sigh, I walked into the school library and checked out the first copy of Harry Potter. And with heavy steps, I walked to my friends’ morning table and just held the book in front of my face.
There was much rejoicing.
It sounds silly to say that a book changed my life, but maybe it did. First, it was a series of simple things: Harry Potter was not evil like the church had always told me, Hermione was a great role-model for school work, and a good vs. evil showdown was rather uplifting. Later on, after re-reading the series a few times, I became aware of some deeper meanings. First, Dumbledore had some great teachings for life. Second, Harry Potter was an amazing Christian allegory.
I was inspired to write my senior research paper about Harry Potter supporting the teachings of the Bible and good moral values, which helped me understand my religious views, win a prize for English, and even face my first online battle. Missi vs. Extreme Religious Lady from Australia. It was an epic showdown via YouTube comments, email, and website forums. And I really questioned my faith for a couple weeks. But, in the end, I was all the stronger and a lot more sure in my thinking. Plus, my friend J helped me a lot. Her religious insight is truly amazing, which is a neat realisation since we don’t even share the exact same beliefs (I’m protestant, and she’s Catholic).
And, even with all of these changes, there was the most life-changing of them all. Drum roll please: I stopped watching anime and television and started getting into books and having friends. What an incredible difference this makes! Having friends is one of the best things that can ever happen to someone; they are the family that you get to choose. And they have helped me more than they will ever know.
My transformation was severe, but because of it, I love myself so much more as a person–something I had never done as a middle schooler. And, even now I’m changing and for the better. I’m still perfecting my accent since I refuse to speak with a midwestern twang (whaddup perfect diction). I’ve started dressing much better since college started, and (trust me) that helps my image of myself so much since I can be confident in what I wear. And, on top of everything else, I’ve started reaching out even more to other view points that differ from my own.
Changing is an amazing thing for one’s self, and it can bring a whole new world to your thinking. So, even if you are a creature of habit, there’s some hope. You can be both continuous and pliable. Plasticity of the mind, and just not in a neurological sense, is where it’s at. Get some.