Tuesday, August 1, 2017

So that happened

Yesterday, following family home evening, Rose received a phone call. Because she is a good citizen, she politely consented to complete a political survey instead of hanging up. So here's the situation:

Rose is in the kitchen on the phone.
I am sitting at the kitchen table, still holding my scriptures from family home evening.
Anthony and Luca are three feet away. Luca is in time out and Anthony is kneeling on the ground, supervising time out.

I can tell from Rose's end of the conversation that the survey guy is asking her opinion about Trump. She begins a level-headed response, something beginning with "totally unprofessional..."


With absolutely no thought or consideration, I looked up from the email I was reading and added my two cents in case the survey guy was allowed to input responses shouted at him from the background.

Said I, none too quietly...

"He's an ass!"
Cue me seeing the shocked look on Rose's face, realizing that Luca is, in fact, right behind me, and desperately trying to recover.


Rose started laughing, Luca had no visible response, and Anthony gazed on me with a steely look brought on only by inappropriate input in his child's life. And then I sat there with my hands over my mouth in horror until Anthony took Luca upstairs to bed and Rose stopped laughing and got off the phone. She complimented my "nice save." I decided that I've become too comfortable expressing my feelings about political leaders to my siblings in the middle of the night, because the combination of those three things leads to the very worst language I ever use.

The whole thing reminded me of the time I showed my students a youtube video with an F word on accident. Maybe I need to reevaluate some things.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Conversations with Sophomores

I am currently in the process of compiling snippets of the hilarious daily entertainment provided by my school children, but in the meantime, a conversation I had in class today for your amusement....

Boy: My mom says I shouldn't kiss people, but I am just a kisser. I do it anyway. I've kissed 23 girls!

Me: Seriously? That's more people than years you've been alive.

Boy: Yeah. I do it all the time even though my mom says not to.

Boy's sidekick: Really? My mom gets upset when I don't kiss girls.

Me: What now?

And later on....

Me: Nope, you are not speaking about girls that way in my class.

Boy: What are you talking about? I already told you I've kissed 23 girls and I wasn't in trouble then!

Me: You can kiss whoever you want, but you cannot refer to this girl as "a homework assignment I've got to get done!" Do you see how that's different?

Boy: Okay, but! Listen..

Me: Alright, moving on! Which rhetorical strategy was strongest in the documentary?

Boy: Fine. Pathos.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Grapplings with Nihilism

I have a recurring dream.

In my dream, I am blind. Not so blind that everything is black, but enough that the sight I have left seems to be a cruel joke meant to taunt me. I can see just enough to know what direction to go in, maybe.

And then something else happens. That barely perceptible goal in mind, I reach. I run. I exert all my energy, but I cannot move of my own free will. My movements seem to be controlled by some outer force- like someone is watching me struggle and gleaning enjoyment from the experience, lowering the resistance at times for just a moment to increase their own amusement when I struggle harder.

Everything is faded. Everything is still, but me. My mind is working triple time, as if to compensate for the uncontrollable slothfulness of my body. I panic. I plead. Whatever I am searching for drifts farther away, and I am left to drown. I am all alone.

And then I wake up. Shiver, and pray. Move on with my life, until the next time.

I don't know exactly what this means. I'm aware that eventual blindness is a legitimate possibility, but I can never decide if this dream feels literal or existential in nature. Deciding which often seems important, which of course does not translate into doable.

Besides this recurring dream, I have also sometimes dreamed of things before they happen. More specifically, people. I dreamed of Emma before I knew she was coming. When Bekah was pregnant, I dreamed of a little boy and knew that he would be alright. I dreamed that something terribly wrong was happening with my best friend, and found out later that this was, in fact, the case. Sometimes this has been a comfort, and sometimes it frightens me a bit. These dreams feel different than the ordinary ones, more real.

This is what the blindness dream feels like. Literal or existential, I don't know, but real.

New story.

When I was in High School, the Drama Club had season tickets to Pioneer Theater. Every other month, I would sit on the front row with my friends, enthralled at the artistry occurring in front of my eyes. Each season they would premier a show never before produced, often directed by the writer. One such show was titled Touch(ed). This play explores themes of traditional madness and how insanity is influenced by human connection.

The story focuses on two sisters, one ultra focused, responsible, a bit high-strung, etc. Not a relaxed individual, but clearly what we would call "sane." This sister is the caretaker for the other, a woman who is schizophrenic and has spent much of her life in and out of various treatment programs following suicide attempts. During this story, the schizophrenic sister (who is a little "touched' as they say) moves in with her sister and the sister's boyfriend. While the sane one is out of town, the schizophrenic one, with the boyfriend's support, begins a regimen of healthy eating, exercise, and stops taking every single one of her medications. When her sister comes back, she finds a healthy, high-functioning, lucid person in place of the crazy one she left behind.

Though she is skeptical of this new undertaking, she is persuaded by her sister's success and seeming happiness, which seems legitimate for a long enough period of time that they begin to hope it may be permanent. The neurotic, uptight, responsible sister stops worrying and calms down enough to get happy and engaged. While she and the fiance are out celebrating, the schizophrenic sister is at home, sitting in silence. The lights go down, the door opens, and we see the silhouette of a man, large and imposing, enter the room. He stands behind her and waits. She curls into a smaller ball of weathered resignation, and without looking up, says this:

"I've been waiting for you."

When the couple returns, they find the house burned down, and the sister dead inside it.

Now, listen.

The threatening, aggressive figure taking over is so unexpected that it kind of shocked the audience into silence. Everyone seemed to hold their breath at once. I remember feeling like I had had the wind knocked out of me. The usual swirling eddy of my thoughts abruptly ceased, and I remember one feeling, insisting to be heard; this was shocking not because of the contrast, but because it felt so familiar.

I am not schizophrenic. This is an extreme comparison, I know But in a much smaller way than a woman with schizophrenia suddenly succumbing to suicidal tendencies despite all healthy prior indications....that man, threatening and aggressive, who functions as a symbol for mental illness, is a figure I know well.

This part right here, this is the healthiest I've ever been in ten years. All that time, depression and I gnawing away at each other, has been filled with various victories and defeats. That constant struggle has been ugly and often unexplainable. No matter how hard I worked or how much I won, I always ended up in a puddle on the bathroom floor in the middle of night again.

So, I pull myself off the bathroom floor and get back to work on this thing called happiness. And when this goes well, I do fabulously. I have all the good advice. I've done the therapy. I have answers, but answers and execution are different things. When things are going well, it still takes constant effort, and I always have this nagging question at the back of my mind. How long can I keep this up?

Sooner or later, to some degree, the silhouetted man comes back. He seems to have a key for all the locks. He stands near the windows to block out the light. Without looking up, I hear myself say, "I've been waiting for you."

Of course that response has other layers. Sometimes, that weathered resignation wins out, and I decide that as long as he's blocking the light, I'll just rest for a bit- no need to hurry back to daylight. Other times, I stand up and scream. "I told you not to come back here. Get out!" With the darkest anger I've ever experienced, I tell him I've been trying so long to kill him. I'm generally against violence, but he is an exception I feel good about. Other times, I ignore him, step gingerly around him to throw the curtains open wider and pretend he isn't following me. I continue on. His stamina is impressive. He never speaks, but he doesn't need to. If he spoke, I could argue; I'm extremely articulate and I have an excellent shouting voice. His silent looming is more frightening than an active assailant. A fight I can handle, but he doesn't fight back. He simply is.

So here's the thing. What does that all mean?

I know for a certain fact that fighting depression, clawing to shove him out the door, buying more deadbolts, is basically struggling for survival. It's fighting to feel something. I also know that this struggle is a big part of who I am. I am different in a lot of good ways because of all that crap. And the pure "good ideas" part of me says of course fighting back is the correct response. I should do the things I can to be a healthy happy person. But always, there's that knowledge that whatever I am doing to cope is not going to last forever. No lock ever does. This is always going to be a part of my life.

Thanks to the antidepressant that miraculously works better than any other I've taken in my life, I can fall off the wagon of unsustainable healthy habits every so often without being a volatile freaking mess like I used to be. In the past couple of years, I have discovered that there can be a middle ground between happy and a happiness sucking black hole. I never really experienced that before. And sometimes I rest from all the unsustainable healthy habit work because it is nice to know that I can do that without falling off a cliff.

But then I feel guilty.

I was talking with Bekah about this the other day, and she said, "You need to give yourself a break, kiddo."

Do I? Or is that getting too comfortable with the guy blocking the windows?

Back to the dream. This has a point, I promise.

So that dream, the real one. I have been experiencing this dream with dread for quite some time, and it always makes me afraid. As Emily says, "Today is bearable, but to always be afraid of tomorrrow!" I'm always a little bit afraid of the tomorrows, because of the drowning dream.

But a couple of things occurred to me recently.

 If that dream is not literal, if I'm not going to go blind and get MS all at once, what does it mean? I think that dream is how depression feels. Maybe I haven't been dreaming prophetically, and that dream was just a response to how I was actually experiencing life. ( I do sometimes dream in poetry. I guess this could just be metaphor dreaming?) Maybe it isn't something to be dreaded because it's something I already lived. Something I will keep on living to some extent for all my life, but nevertheless something I know I can survive.

Have you guys read The Hiding Place? In this book, Corrie Ten Boom has a vision of herself and her family and some of their friends being arrested by the Nazis and taken away from their home. This dream is frightening, of course, and she takes the matter to her father to discuss it. She, also, is afraid of what may happen. Her father asks her what the purpose of the dream might be. What he told her made me gasp out loud in a room full of people.

If this is a dream of things to come, then maybe the point is for you to know that God knows. Because He has planned it, there is no need to fear.

This does not, of course, mean that the experience couldn't be in some way horrific. Nazi imprisonment was no less real to her because she had some inkling it might happen beforehand. But what a comfort to know that a horrifying and difficult experience is not the product of pointless chaos. This dream is frightening to me. It is deeply uncomfortable. It feels like something I have worked so hard to overcome that will just keep coming back like the silhouetted man. But it is also not for nothing. There is a point, and God knows it. He is not unaware of the silhouetted man who stalks me. In fact, they might know each other.

Because God created the waster to destroy, I can dream of blindness and drowning alone that feels very real, but wake up, shiver and pray, and move on without the fear of tomorrow hanging over my head. God created the waster to destroy- he lets me suffer from depression for a reason, but He also gave me a Savior who is far more persistent than any shadowy figure can be. He gave me a Savior who won't simply lock the door, because that isn't the point. Instead, He will stay inside with me and make me strong enough to fight back.  Maybe that point when I fall off the wagon for a bit is a tool to help me know that there is a middle ground that is solid enough to rest on. And when I get back up to grapple with that dark figure -who will keep coming back because he's really only a part of me- I'll be able to do it because the Savior will be there, asking to be a part of me, too.

Friday, August 26, 2016

If you could leave tips over the phone...

Greg from Progressive would be a richer man. That was the most helpful and patient insurance agent I have ever encountered. And I hope he gets to go home soon cause he sounded tired. And I don't know if I believe in blog karma, but Greg, you deserve good things.

Good people get stuck in really crappy phone jobs late at night and have to answer questions from crazy people like me. Four phone calls and a Herculean effort on his part later, I have new car insurance.

The Illusion of Man

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman of four and twenty in Logan, Utah must justify singlehood. All. The. Time. (Also, not being a True Aggie. People are shocked to hear that I've gone six years without making out with a stranger on a ritual cement platform at my college campus. "You're missing out!" they say. "The horror!" I reply.)

Singlehood can be awkward here. I am no longer a tiny freshman who is clearly too young to marry regardless of absurd cultural standards. I'm about to enter my third Senior year of college, just shy of done. I live in a Young Single Adult ward which is fabulous and filled with good friendships, but the boys also scatter reliably and consistently when they discover my age. While 24 is clearly not spinsterhood, I live in the midst of many, many, young men whose average age is years younger than mine. 

I guess their thing with the age is pretty comparable to my thing with height. There's my comeuppance for being shallow!

The past couple years have been filled with uncomfortable, sometimes painful, albeit hilarious dating experiences. I focus on the hilarious because what else are you supposed to do? We all know about awkwards hands by now, right? I am trying to own the awkward and revel in the "double hands way in the air" storytelling moments. 

Like the time a friend of many years and I decided that we should maybe, actually, try out that dating thing that everyone has been teasing us about since we were sixteen. And then he dated someone else and didn't bother to tell me, instead opting for the "radio silence for months" option. We finally figured out that mess, and it was fine. He is married now. I was in the wedding party. This wedding day was a truly happy occasion wherein I felt not a shred of jealousy for his gorgeous wife, who I actually really like. But the principle of the thing stung a bit, if I'm honest. 

Or the time my boss tried to set me up on a date with her husband's coworker, twenty miles, an entire canyon, and a different county away. What are the odds he would live in my apartment building and attend my ward? They were slim, but they won out. I had private intel from the husband that the coworker was pretty excited and intended to call. And then he figured out he knew me and proceeded to never call. Instead, we've spent the last year in a silent mutual agreement that we will never speak on the bi-weekly occasions we are in the same place, doing the same thing. Awkwardly avoiding eye contact. 

There was the pride-shattering and unexpected deep discomfort when Facebook informed me that my ex-boyfriend was dating somebody new. Three years later, you'd think that wouldn't matter. I thought it didn't matter. But, sheesh. Nothing like an innocent photo to knock the wind out of you for a bit. 

Or the other time my boss tried to set me up with this guy we both know, and then asked me about it every day while I tried to list all the evidence that nothing is going on with this guy. When dating came up in a group conversation yesterday, I said something about being single and she looked at me wide-eyed; "Are you single?" I'm confused about what part of  "never been on an acutal date with this man" makes her surprised that we haven't made it official. 

There's the whole family demanding details about the man I met on the internet before I go to meet him in a very public place. After a few minutes of the Spanish Inquisition, I finally said "This is sort of humiliating anyway. I'm done answering questions right now." Mom did not understand why internet dating would be humiliating. My sister understood, and said "Yeah, I can see how you wouldn't want to talk about that." I appreciated her backup, but I'm still not sure which of their points of view is less flattering. 

Anyway, we're done with the internet's input. 

The thing that is sticky about this point in life, see, is that the first thing people ask when we see each other after a long while is "Are you dating anyone?" Then they get upset when I laugh involuntarily. My mom is offended on my behalf."Why is it funny that you would be dating?" But everyone also gets happy, wide-eyed surprised, and actually literally "proud!" when I tell them I am going on a date. That expression is always the same, and while I appreciate my mother's argument on my behalf that it is not ludicrous to suppose I might be in a relationship, there are some mixed messages going on here. In the past year or so, when people ask me if I'm dating and I say no, there is also an added "Well, that's okay." 

Which really means, "It's a little weird at this point, so I have to reassure you that it's not weird." Nobody reassured me at twenty one, but here we are. 

I live in a place where I am encouraged to date and to marry. Our Bishop is famous. The year before I moved into my apartment complex, more than half the ward got married and moved out, and the Bishopric is proud of their success. Tithing settlement is called "dating settlement" here in the 27th ward. We spend all of 12 seconds on tithing and the next questions are, consecutively, 
"Are you dating anyone?" 
"Do you want to be dating anyone?"
"Who in the ward do you want to date? I'll tell them." 
(Cause there's not enough awkward avoidance of eye contact in Sunday School.)

Every year it seems, we are begged from many and multiple pulpits not to "date through our twenties," but instead, to be serious, and look for marriage. Don't waste time. 

I gotta be honest. I am being begged not to stay someplace I can't even get, because that miles ahead point on the road that is called "dating" isn't good enough, they say. If only I could just get to "not good enough" instead of "failing so miserably." 

Don't wend your way leisurely along the highway, cruising in the center. Get in the left lane. Commit. That's great. I love the left lane. I don't want to wend leisurely in the center. But I don't have a lot of options, cause I'm in the right lane impeding traffic, trying to get up to speed. 

Remember that " focus on the hilarious" thing I'm going for? I realize I just fell of the wagon. But the point of this whole thing, before my accidental venting session, was to tell a story that is focused on the hilarious. 

A few days ago, my roommate Krysta and I were in the Walmart, shopping for light bulbs and various apartment cleaning sundries. We stopped at the aisle filled with scented wax refills and smelled them all. Cause who doesn't, right? We always do. 

There was a lot of  "ohhh, smell this... wow, that is nice!"and "HOLY Cow, that is disgusting!" 
Then Krysta held up a package to me to smell. It smelled really good. 
"Wow!" I said. 
"It smells like man!" Krysta said. "What's it called?"
I turned it over to look. 

I have never laughed so hard in a Walmart. "That's about right." said Krysta. 
"Yep. Accurate." 

There. I made it back to humor. We bought the wax.

Friday, September 18, 2015

So I was walking with my friend Adam today...

Adam: "Oh sorry! I just spit on you a little. That's awkward."
Me: "Eh, I didn't notice. We've endured much more awkwardness. That doesn't even count."
Adam: "That's true. We almost kissed once."
Me: " Yep.  And then Dr. Kinkead told everybody about it for the next year."
Adam: "Yeah, that was great."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bipolar, but leveling off

Once upon a time, I had this extremely busy semester. And it almost killed me. Stuff happened. Some terrible stuff.

Aka, last Thursday I found myself sitting in my car, which wouldn't start, trying to do homework on my phone, which wouldn't work, and trying not to panic about my computer, which is broken, or hyperventilate about my wallet, which was lost. "Pure Satan. Like, Comcast Evil."

And I called Erin and she told me to be calm. And that worked, which surprised me. That was a whole week ago, and I have discovered since then that my computer is worse than I thought and I have to buy a new one. And my car isn't fixed yet, so this week has been fun like that. But I don't feel like hyperventilating. Which is a big deal, which you know if you have been reading this blog....

This lack of panic has me wondering some things about myself. It is only one of the many stark contrasts I have noticed between this semester and that last time I was in school full time. These drastic changes are one reason I am really glad I moved away for a whole school year. Now I am back, and I think that huge gap is the only reason I really noticed how different I am. I have been trying to figure out which changes are good and which are not so good, but also why I am different. What changed me?

I have some proposals for this specific and odd "Not panicking" thing.
1. I am way too exhausted. My energy, previously absorbed in being worried and falling off of emotional cliffs no matter how hard I tried not to, seems to have been diverted, in large part, to getting things done that I wasn't getting done before. I am way more productive, and I sleep about half as much, and maybe I am just too tired to panic. Somebody told me once that happiness is, in large part, being too busy to be unhappy. I think I believe that.

2. Maybe I grew up a little bit? Maybe I figured out some bigger things, and I can handle problems more effectively now? I know I have a better idea of what I believe and why I believe it than I did before, but does that influence panic attacks directly? I don't know about this one exactly. I'd like to think this is the reason, but I suspect it's a little bit this and a lottle bit exhaustion.

3. I quit drinking diet coke and started exercising. Could this reduce erratic emotions? I am healthier. That has emotional impact, right? Maybe it is the physical impact and a little bit of the immense battle of self-discipline I had to win in order to overcome what was beginning to be a severe and prohibitive addiction. Maybe self-discipline is the important factor.

Maybe it's this. One of the differences between now me and 2011 me is that I feel differently about miracles. I had a lot of miracles in my life before, and a lot of people willing to help me, but I didn't ever feel like those things came naturally. Even though I was grateful, those things made me uncomfortable. I think I had an odd definition of self-reliance. I think I thought that meant that you never should have to rely on other people. But that isn't true. If that was true, what do we have families and friends and loving relationships for? We aren't supposed to do everything by ourselves. We are supposed to work hard and take help and give help as much as we can, and I feel better about my ability to accept with gratitude and to give. I feel more confident not that miracles will come, but that I can work hard and make things happen with the help of people who care about me, and that is a miracle.

For instance:
Six people have jumped my car battery in the last two weeks, because sometimes I really need to use my car and I haven't had a chance to put in a new battery yet. Last week my car wouldn't start and I was stranded at Walmart, about to be late for a group project that was kind of a big deal. So I texted my friend Adam from the group to tell him I would be late. Surprise! He just happened to be at Walmart at the time and came and got me. And then Shane took me back and started my car the next day, and Katie offered to take me to buy a battery anytime. My friends are miracles.

And my broken computer? Mark transferred stuff from my hard drive onto his computer so I could take a computer back to school with me and do my homework until I could get mine fixed, and Ben interrupted bedtime to hash out my computer problems with me and find a solution. And now I know that I can't fix my computer because I would have to buy a new motherboard. I just have to buy a new one. But you know when that happened to occur? Two weeks before Black Friday. Miracle? I think so.

And my job! I was worried I wouldn't get enough hours, and then I got a promotion, and a raise, and another promotion within a month. And I got to handpick my schedule for next semester and choose as many hours as I wanted. MIRACLE!

Things are working out even when I don't have the time or energy to pour into excessive anxiety. What a gift! We all know that this hasn't been completely consistent. Sometimes, like a month ago, I have stress attacks, and I slammed some doors and swore a little bit, and I burst out crying in the middle of a room filled with fifteen people because of one innocent comment, and mom sat down and had a talk with me about my emotional health. That all happened in one day. But even since then I feel like I've made good strides in being calm. I have learned to ask for blessings instead of slamming doors and swearing. Progress, right?

Of course right.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Not always, but sometimes...

...drivers in Logan give me dirty looks when I am in their way. Nevermind that they are the ones driving on the left side of the road. Nevermind that this happened twice in the past three hours. Nevermind that we are not in England.

(But seriously. Let's not think about not being in England. It will make us sad.)

....I want people to do their job, because I am doing mine, and also, you are getting paid. When things in my life depend on you, and I have never met you yet, and the only thing I have ever heard from your employees is how you are pissed off at them even though they are literally doing your job, I get grouchy. Not that that is your problem, but your job description is, actually, your problem.

... I am grouchy. Not always, but sometimes.

....I remember to write in my happiness calendar, and Zane snapchats me stuff, and I make a lot of money in two hours, and I dance on a streetcorner with a new friend, and I get all of next week's homework done in advance for my YAL class, and I find twenty dollars I forgot I had, and I suck up the grouchiness and make my bed, and then I feel better.

...I remember the boy from England who can't pronounce Tater Tots to save his life and also that he winks at me a lot, and I feel better about not being in England, cause he isn't either.

Take away message:

 (Cause randomness has to mean something. That is what they taught me in Lit Analysis, so it has to be true for the sake of my sanity. )

Ahem. Happiness is sometimes a precarious state of things. But we have more control of it than we realize most of the time. Happiness is hard work. Good thing I have a whole lifetime and that's the point of it.


*Dear family, I realize this is, as we used to say, pretty rich coming from me, the door slamming cusser with the tiny black soul filled with rage you all spent last weekend with. But I am making progress, so thanks for all the niceness and putting up with that psycho wielding a lawnmower in spite of the rage.  Y'all are great. Love you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Library Sleepers

Sometimes I am one of them. Like today. They just put pillows in the chairs lining the east windows, and that was a beautiful thing that turned out to be the arch nemesis of homework time. I had an hour and a half break between classes and sixty pages of Gulliver's Travels and rms errors to study and instead I took an hour and twenty minute nap. And the amazing thing about this is that I woke up and didn't even feel that guilty.

You hear that, mom? Not guilty. Boom. Roasted!

We're making progress. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Word Vomit and Why I Abstain, Courteously

Not in the usual sense of dumping any words on a page you might feel like at the time with no regard for applicability, coherence, or appropriate boundaries.

No, my friends, this is me realizing that I want to vomit because of the textbook that wants to teach me how to be an English Teacher. I just read a chapter on censorship that made me want to vomit. Such self-righteous language as I have never been fed from a legitimate source! Such self indulgent and exclusive Messiah complexes! Wowza!

I understand the point. We believe in the right to read.  I get it. I agree with it. I read a lot of stuff in school that wasn't necessarily 'appropriate' for my age group. I believe that being 'appropriate for an age group' is a subjective thing, and I certainly defined that for myself. That's cool. My parents were fine with it, and they were involved in it and I talked about a lot of it with either my parents or my teachers. Go Right to Read! Yay American Library Association!

 However, one small qualification: I absolutely believe in the right to read, and I absolutely believe in advocating the right to read for other people, especially children. What I don't support and can't understand is that a campaign which claims its purpose is to support the free thinking and trust the intelligence of the individuals they work for also refuses to accept the fact that these people may exercise that free thought and intelligence to choose not to read a work they find inappropriate or disturbing. The Right to Read is valid only when accompanied by The Right not to Read.

 I would like to think that I am not a close minded puritan who hates anything remotely offensive in literature. I read Les Miserables and Crime and Punishment and Beloved, for crying out loud. I had no problem with reading an uncensored text of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I support the sentiment as my Writing Professor expressed it; "If you're gonna be offended about something, be offended that this is rooted in history, that this type of thing existed to be written about in the first place." Truth. There is value in literature that contains things we may find offensive, immeasurable value. There is a reason I have never had an issue with reading the things he assigns. There is a reason we talk about things like racism, and violence, and as abhorrent as it is, there could even be a reason to use the N-word in a book. We should have the right to read.

But what if there isn't a reason? What if vulgarity, or obscenity, or extreme violence, and there isn't a purpose for it? What if there is a purpose but I just know that I'm not ready for it? What if those kids in high school who we hope are learning to think for themselves and make their own decisions actually do just that when they say "I believe that this material is degrading and offensive for no reason and I choose not to participate."? What if their parents decide with them that they are willing to say it out loud and find an alternative assignment? Maybe we should knock down our pride a notch or two, enough to realize that they are applying the critical thinking skills and independence we've been trying to teach them and get over ourselves enough to accept that they are doing it in ways we may not personally agree with. Maybe we respect that, or if you can't, suck it up anyway. 

This is all on a case by case basis, of course, There are absolutely students and parents who abuse that right not to read, who try to impose it on other students who have no problem with what they've been assigned, and that is a shame, and when it extends to the rights of others to read, then absolutely educators should fight such attempts at censorship. But if a student chooses not to read something and has legitimate reasons and cares enough to address them with you, perhaps the respect and open-mindedness you've been preaching could go both ways. Maybe you could refrain from demeaning, belittling, and self aggrandizing vitriol. Perhaps you could recognize that 'censor' is not a term automatically synonymous with 'Beelzebub'.

I never realized before taking this class that the field might involve some things I have deep personal issues with. I didn't realize I might be one of those people they are preaching against in this book they made me pay for. And it makes me nervous. I didn't realize it might be such a difficult task to support the Right to Read and the Right to Abstain simultaneously, but maybe if I can pull it off, I'll have something to be proud of.

Though it is not always an option, and we don't want to be New York, sometimes it is appropriate to abstain, courteously.