Life Rants

Forever a Loan: Reflections on Higher Ed and Debt

As a librarian in higher ed, the cost of college has been on my mind a lot lately.  In his Netflix series Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj recently did a really great episode about the awful business of student loans and those who profit from them.

Because my student loan payments are set to increase another $50/month soon, I do admit my feelings of anxiety and resentment are amplified just thinking about it. And it does make me sad that I may not be able to buy a house or feel confident that I can retire comfortably in part because of student loans (and partly because our world is so fucked).  It’s frustrating (not to mention unsustainable) that it’s become accepted and expected to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans for an education.  It holds back progress in so many ways when talented, passionate graduates have trouble making a living wage or even finding a job at all–not to mention sending an incredibly damaging message about who deserves to learn and succeed in our world.

I have a friend on another social media platform who regularly rants about how people who can’t afford college shouldn’t take out loans, and it drives me up the wall.  To give you some context, this is also a person who says fat people should be kicked off of health insurance to make it more affordable for everyone else…

And I absolutely urge people taking out private loans to consider how unforgiving debt collectors are in that arena—the government as a lender is bad enough, yet it doesn’t engage in some of the more extreme practices of predatory private lenders.

It’s helped me immensely to think about student loans as medicine; like all meds, there will be side effects, but sometimes you need to take them.  Even with the cost and the side effects, ask yourself what you gain by taking them, and whether those benefits outweigh the negative consequences.

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Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

I do find it frustrating that 5 years after earning my master’s degree, I still don’t have a long-term contract.  I’m not sure what I’m doing after July of this year.  But I love the profession of librarianship, and I love the number of thoughtful, caring, social justice-oriented colleagues I’ve met.  I should have perhaps waited to have more experience before pursuing my master’s degree, and I don’t love the amount of money it cost me.  But I do love this profession, and I love the path that earning my master’s degree has led me on.  I know librarians are stereotyped as joyless authorities who demand complete silence—and I’ll be honest, we generally do like rules.  However, just mention banning a book or the profession’s problem with race or demonstrators protesting drag queen story hour and you’ll see there is a solid foundation of strong convictions behind the work we do.

I have seen the emotional and financial burden student loans have placed on current students, and I bitterly regret that.  And college isn’t for everyone, and it shouldn’t be expected that everyone attend college–though this is really a problem with the fucked up ways that we value different kinds of work.

But honestly telling people not to pursue college because they can’t afford it is another way of saying “I have very much bought into our current social order and am committed to maintaining it.”  The problem is not with the students taking out loans—it’s with the entire higher ed system and the business of student loans now inseparable from everyday college functions.  And, more broadly, it’s a problem with a capitalist society that commodifies education and undervalues the work of the public service sectors.

I do wish I could be more financially stable, even as I acknowledge I enjoy an amount of financial stability that places me in an extremely privileged position.  And there’s a lot of BS in higher ed, I fully recognize that.  But I would never work on Wall Street or as a part of the military industrial complex or in any number of jobs that benefit a small group of people while actively making the world a worse place for everyone else.  I wouldn’t change where I am or how I’ve gotten here.  And it will be people who push the boundaries, who reach for things that they cannot afford, that were never meant for them—they will be the ones to show that they are not wrong, that they do not need to change, but it’s the world around them that needs to change so it can catch up to them.

That being said–sign me the fuck up for free college if I ever live to see it happen.

Header image by Good Free Photos on Unsplash
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Life Rants, TV Reviews

If 10th Kingdom Had Been Made Today, It Would Have Been a Viral Sensation

The cancellation of Community.  Airing the American version of Prime Suspect.  The inexplicable, enduring popularity of Friends.  There have been so many NBC decisions I’ve found unacceptable from a cultural and personal standpoint.  Perhaps the one I will carry to my grave is the failure of the 2000 mini-series 10th Kingdom to gain traction–or to get the fucking sequel it deserved!

10th Kingdom was a fantasy/adventure show based on the premise that fairy tale characters live in another dimension and occasionally cross over to our world.  When the great-grandson of Snow White arrives in New York to escape his evil stepmother, waitress Virginia and her father Tony decide to help him.  As they are transported to the fairy tale kingdoms, all Virginia and Tony want to do is get home, but trolls, dwarves, wolves, and huntsmen stand in their way.  Will our heroes win out against evil schemes or is happily ever after a thing of the past?

It’s been close to 20 years since the show first aired and, rather than move on and become a productive member of society, I will cling to this injustice and air my grievances in the form of a blog post with a rather click-baity title, as internet conventions dictate.  (Internet conventions probably dictate that I tweet about this, but I just can’t.  Word limits cannot contain me!)

In honor of this series, which will forever live in my heart, let’s examine some reasons this timeless classic still deserves a second part…and some ways it maybe hasn’t aged so well.  Prepare for lots of SPOILERS ahead.

10 Reasons 10th Kingdom Deserves to be a Viral Sensation with a Million Sequels

  1. The cast!  Holy shit, the cast is incredible here.  Dianne Wiest, Rutger Hauer, Ann-Margret, Warwick Davis, Camryn Manheim, Siegfried from All Creatures Great and Small…I could go on!
  2. Once Upon a Time borrowed so many pages from this show’s formula.  Should we not reward it for actually being creative and not just a vehicle for Disney to further expand its empire?  Whereas OUAT took itself overly seriously and cranked up the angst, 10th Kingdom was always fun to watch and wove together different fairy tales much more seamlessly.
  3. Dianne Wiest!  I know I already highlighted the cast, but Dianne Wiest as the Evil Queen is everything in this.  She’s incredibly calculating, cold and thorough as a villain.  Yet I deeply relate to her schemes to turn more people into adorable golden retrievers and poison all of her party guests.  GTFO, everyone.  Also, true story:  I used to quote her lines to telemarketers in the days before caller ID.
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  4. Camryn Manheim as curvy Snow White — a casting decision that certain corners of the internet would still find offensive to their sensibilities.  In addition to being gorgeous, this Snow White is wise AF, and her spirit just kind of hangs around ice caves dispensing advice?  I’m on board with that.
  5. The dog!  One of the main characters is turned into a dog fairly early on, and he’s so so so cute!  The dog is ridiculously well-trained to cover his face with his paws, stand regally on his hind legs, and throw side-eye.  I’m not even a dog person and I’m obsessed with this dog.
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  6. The landscape — quite a lot of this series was shot in France, Austria, and the English countryside, and it makes for some gorgeous scenery.  The series could’ve just been our main characters wandering around Europe for 7 hours, and it still would’ve made for a decent show.
  7. Wolf’s mannerisms — probably one of the reasons I loved this show so much as a pre-teen was Wolf’s behavior:  closer to a puppy than a garbage 2000s man.  Boys, who needs ’em?
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  8. The swears!  I was sooooooooooooo cool that “what in the fairying forest?” and “suck an elf” made it to my regular rotation (at least in my internal monologue).
  9. The theme song!  It’s so very early ’00s, and I’m here for that.  You can call it cheesy all you want; I know full well it secretly gives you goosebumps.
  10. It’s just fun!  Admittedly this is maybe a reason 10th Kingdom wouldn’t work today; it’s much more committed to being a fun romp than getting overly dramatic and serious.  As much as I love a gritty drama, I appreciate the sweetness of this show and dedication to world-building that’s not always there in a sci-fi/fantasy show.

10 Things That Are Problematic AF about 10th Kingdom

  1. Lack of characters/actors of color — admittedly this problem hasn’t gone away, but the issue in 10th Kingdom becomes more pronounced in light of the increasing number of shows today written, directed by, and starring people of color.  The only characters of color are trolls, which is…uh, not a great look.  I also want some LGBTQ fairy tale characters in this.
  2. Jokes about women’s issues — when Wolf is on trial for murder, the argument Virginia sets up in court implies the victim was asking for it.  There’s a lot to unpack here surrounding victim blaming and rape culture.  There are also a few times when Wolf’s monthly transformation is compared to menstruation and it pisses me off.
  3. Representation of the Roma people — literally the only thing they’re here to do is tell fortunes and put curses on people.  It’s such a stereotypical representation (which probably wouldn’t be any different today, honestly) and most of the actors just appear to be vaguely Italian.
  4. Tony — I don’t even know where to start.  First of all, when he’s given 3 wishes, the first one is to enslave his boss’s family, and he feels totally fine hitting on his boss’s wife, who is hypnotized to believe she’s his slave?!??!  SO FUCKING PROBLEMATIC.  His character in general is insufferable in a ’90s sitcom dad kind of way, and he causes like 95% of the issues our heroes encounter.
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  5. The special effects are so bad.  Like, even for the time they were bad.  The human/dog transformation stands out as especially horrendous, but there are also some pretty tacky effects when certain characters are invisible or speaking through mirrors and other reflective surfaces.
  6. Virginia’s wardrobe!  Seriously, skirt + hoodie has never been a thing, so no early 2000s fashion excuses!  As a side note, it also feels extremely dated that Virginia is this sad loser who still lives with her dad at 21 since this seems to be much more common than not today.
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  7. The overacting — in particular, there’s a scene in which people are being poisoned that just hurts to watch.  And not because I feel pity for their plight; I just really want the cringey over-the-top acting to end.
  8. The weird sexual vibes — there’s a scene where Virginia is petting Wolf’s tail that I just don’t get (I mean, I do, but I wish I didn’t).  Also, there’s an awkward amount of attention given to Virginia being a virgin.  Wolf is a virgin too, but that gets so little time compared to the fuss that’s made over Virginia’s lack of sexual experience.
  9. No dragons!  This might not be as glaring if the series didn’t have an entire subplot based on finding Dragon Mountain where THERE ARE NO ACTUAL FUCKING DRAGONS.
  10. The singing ring.  This is absofuckinglutely unforgiveable.  Virginia receives an engagement ring with a pearl that SINGS about true love in an incredibly aggravating falsetto.  This is a dealbreaker as far as I’m concerned, though probably a really good way to annoy the fuck out of your coworkers.

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    Fuck you, you smug little motherfucker.

In spite of its flaws, in my heart I still feel 10th Kingdom deserves a sequel or at least some form of atonement for its vague, cliffhanger-y ending.  If we live in a world where Zoolander can get a sequel 15 years later that no one asked for, who’s to say it won’t happen for a beloved fantasy series with a sprawling, multi-talented cast that’s overly fixated on the sexual experiences of its characters and not quite as subversive as it thinks it is?  HBO, are you listening?

What TV cancellations have left you emotionally devastated and in all likelihood changed the course of your life irreversibly?

Life Rants

Advice from the Bard

“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” –William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

May I suggest this thought applies so very well to that noble profession, that (and I quote) “work of heart,” also known as teaching?  Though lacking in the poetic elegance of Shakespeare, I stand by my statement.

With a new job this year, a large percentage of my responsibilities has involved teaching those tenderest of college students who (among other gender identities) are not girls, not yet women:  first years.

And I barely remember being a freshman–not, as you may imagine, because I spent the year on a months-long bender, but because I spent that year (as I spent all of my college years) intensely ignoring my symptoms of social anxiety and depression.

I can remember my poor, poor college instructors who tried so hard to encourage me to participate, recommended me for a job at the writing center, held one-on-one conferences outlining plans for me to speak up in class.  And those who, perhaps simply to move discussion along or out of their own discomfort, called on me in class without knowing the immediate panic I would feel as I strung together an incoherent jumble of words.  It was so much easier for me to write, to take tests, to read chapter after chapter, than to learn to speak in class or make small talk with my peers (which I of course had no idea I was supposed to be learning).

Now this is the kind of thing students can get support for, and I’m sure it was then.  But I wasn’t going to do that most shameful of all step that akin to a confession that I wasn’t really supposed to be there:  ask for help.

For a long time, I thought things would have been different if just one instructor showed some compassion.  They did–but I didn’t recognize it because I needed to show compassion to myself.  I did eventually go to the counseling center, and I learned what a gift it was to enter a space where I always had an attentive listener, where what I said mattered.

Another piece of my college experience that affected me unexpectedly was my campus job, which I still wish I had gotten sooner.  Rejection’s a bitch at any age, isn’t it?

I had always wanted to work in libraries, so it perhaps wasn’t too much of a shock that I loved my job in the library.  Beyond the work that I did and the slightly stern but calm environment of the 7-story building, the job was much more than the shelving or pamphlet binding I did.  It was a place where people were happy to see me, grateful for my help, and always said thank you (if you ever supervise college students, the extreme gratitude for common courtesies will make so much more sense).

Now that my job is at least to some extent being an instructor, I can appreciate how those silences in class can be crushing.  I understand how frustrating it can be when those really smart students with a lot to say refuse to utter a goddamn word (a lot of them women, first-generation college students, of racial minorities).  And I really, really get how making a mistake can be such a great learning experience, though it may not feel like it at the time.

I don’t have words of wisdom for students, and I definitely don’t have advice for teachers.  The only thing I can say is if you’re in college, go to that fucking counseling center.  You have no idea what a beautiful thing it is to be able to take those services for granted until you’re paying $50 or more every time you want to speak to a counselor or how difficult it can be to schedule those sessions when you’re working full-time.

As for teaching…there’s a reason this meme was created.

Featured image by Marco Secchi on Unsplash

Life Rants

#Goals

I’ve been blogging here for over 4 years now.  And while it’s been so worth it in terms of meeting my blogging partner and internet love of my life, A Voluptuous Mind, I haven’t become a social media influencer, the voice of a generation, or even the kind of blogger who every now and then gets free samples of all-natural snacks to review.

According to a widget on my blog’s side bar, I have 172 followers, a number I don’t understand (but choose not to question).  What I do know is this number in no way accurately reflects the number of people who regularly read this blog, which is approximately 3% of that number (looking at you, whoever is Googling “hillbilly woman murderer from the 1800’s” and “does the cat die in hush”).

I can’t say I’m sad about the lack of a following most of the time, since any large group on the internet seems to be composed of about 30% (or more) trolls and/or Russian bots.  But I do at times aim to write and post more on this blog than I do, and I wonder if that lack of followers holds me back in spite of myself.  One of the first questions people usually ask about my blog is how many readers it has.

Tim Wu has written this wonderful article, “In Praise of Mediocrity,” that asserts the way we talk about hobbies has gotten absolutely out of control.  It’s not enough to dabble in sketching; you must illustrate and animate a 12-minute short film to prove you have a true passion for your hobby.  And it’s out of the question you keep at something even when all evidence suggests you may not have any talent for it whatsoever.

I keep meaning to write more, but I worry what I write will be garbage.  I have been telling myself to do more sketching or actually focus on a fucking practical hobby like knitting or give sailing a go since I’m surrounded by water now.

And admittedly, I’ve had a lot going on lately and am trying to be patient with myself.  But I also want to avoid falling into a routine before I’ve had the opportunity to try different things and absorb new experiences.

Wu writes “to permit yourself to do only that which you are good at is to be trapped in a cage whose bars are not steel but self-judgment.”

There are a lot of chances I haven’t taken because I was too busy feeling like shit about myself or worried that others would see too clearly what a talentless hack I was.  But goddamnit, I want to learn to sail.

Photo by chuttersnap

Activism, Life Rants

Bad Dreams

This week brought to you by vivid dreams about drowning in water parks and having incredibly detailed screaming fights with members of my family (admittedly the latter isn’t always an invention of my unconscious).

Among other things, last week’s shitshow of a Supreme Court hearing has really gotten under my skin.  Accompanied by a sense of doom ahead of November’s midterm elections, this hasn’t been great for my psyche (or the tension headaches that lie in wait when they can sense I’m feeling overwhelmed).

I don’t have anything to add on the Kavanaugh hearings and the composure of Dr. Blasey Ford that hasn’t been said by others much more eloquently:  here, here, and here to name a few.  But (geographically) closer to home another disturbing political development has been on my mind.

This weekend saw my alma mater, Kent State, unwillingly become a rallying place for ahem, “grassroots” gun rights activists very much sponsored by extremist right-wing groups.

Coverage of the event is detailed by the student news site, Kent Wired:  http://www.kentwired.com/latest_updates/article_998c22ac-c597-11e8-a33d-bf61db148c4d.html

If the name Kent State is familiar to you, it’s likely because of the infamous Kent State shootings of 1970 in which members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam War, fatally wounding 4.  As a place of historic importance, the area where the shootings occurred looks almost identical to its appearance in the 1970s, and there is a center on campus dedicated solely to educating students and visitors about the tragedy.

Of course I take issue with the idea that more guns are needed on college campuses in light of the number of students who have opened fire on their classmates in recent years.  And of course I take issue with the idea that the so-called Constitutional right to bear arms should receive so much coverage when the growing number of college students who are homeless or regularly go without enough food are much more pressing concerns for anyone in higher ed.

But honestly it’s most concerning to me that some of the protest signs suggested the Kent State shootings could have been prevented if the victims had been armed.  I understand this type of statement is meant to provoke outrage rather than make sense, but to me nonviolent protest is an integral part of democracy and the identity of the United States.  Civil disobedience is a value to strive for rather than scorn–whether or not those participating in acts of civil disobedience receive civil treatment in return.  I find it disturbing on a fundamental level that the appropriate response to threats of violence seems to be more threats of violence.

If there’s one silver lining here in a very troubling story, it’s that many students on campus expressed opposition or annoyance in response to the protestors.  Students rallied with signs and chants, forming a human wall to prevent the march from proceeding across campus.  As a librarian, my favorite response was one student’s sign indicating outrage that the library was closed as a safety precaution.  Image is on Twitter:

 

Stay golden, library sign boy.

Featured image by Michael Weidner on Unsplash
Life Rants

On Counseling, or: How Does That Make You Feel?

Six different counselors have listened to me, and I don’t think there will be a seventh.  At least not for a while.

Some terminology first:  I use the word “counselor” over “therapist” because counselor to me suggests someone advising you versus someone “fixing” you.  Therapy inevitably winds up alongside concepts like physical therapy, which you do for a set amount of time until your muscles have healed.  Sometimes this is how counseling works—you do it until you no longer need it.  But I haven’t ever felt “fixed” so much as I’ve learned some new coping strategies and some ways to recognize when I’m not coping well.

I’ve had counselors I’ve really clicked with, and others not so much.  My latest taught me two things:  1. Sometimes the counselor is wrong for you, and 2. I have the tools I need to be my own best counselor.

I should clarify the first point—I don’t think my counselor was under-qualified or giving out bad advice, but it wasn’t advice that made sense for me.  The best counselors for me listen and help bring me to my own conclusions, whereas this one told me on several occasions what I should do and, implicitly, how I should feel.  She told me about the solace she has found in religion.  I honestly wish I could say the same, but I don’t, and the tone she took made me feel inexplicably guilty.

At the time, I was feeling inadequate about starting a new job, managing one of the worst family conflicts I’ve ever dealt with (and that’s saying something), and feeling extremely isolated.  According to the counselor I spoke with, the key to unlocking all of my problems was forgiveness (and, I swear, The Secret, but I will try to refrain from being overly snarky in this post).  I do know that I hold onto grudges and don’t forgive easily, but telling me that I should be more forgiving does absolutely nothing to help me feel better about myself.

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We weren’t even halfway through our 6 sessions, and I already knew this counselor didn’t understand where I was coming from.  She told me I was adorable and angelic, both of which made me feel worse.  I catch myself being fake nice all of the time and suppressing the shit out of my negative emotions, so being complimented on how sweet I am just makes me feel like complete garbage.  She asked me if I love myself, and I don’t know how to fucking respond to that.  I’m human.  There are things I like about myself, and things that I don’t.  I know that one of the people I’m most reluctant to forgive is myself.

The worst was when I told her my reasons for coming in, and she paraphrased, “So you’d say you’ve had a pretty easy life.”  Would a single fucking person in the world say they’ve had an easy life?  Life is damn hard, no matter who you are.  I’ve certainly had privileges others haven’t, but I felt so obliterated when she said that, so completely invalidated.  In retrospect, I should’ve said that it wasn’t working out and asked to see another counselor, but I am so goddamn stubborn and feel like I’ve failed if I quit something.

Even though I don’t think of the sessions with this counselor as successful, being unable to connect with her gave me room to connect better with myself.  I realized I didn’t need these sessions at all—what I really needed was to give myself time alone to unravel my feelings, space to breathe, and compassion to be fair to myself even when I don’t like who I am.

I’m not particularly good at trusting or forgiving people or feeling like an authentic version of myself, whatever that actually means.  Sometimes I dig myself a pit of self-despair and don’t know how to get back out.  But that’s part of who I am, and I’ve gotten better at recognizing when I’m doing those things and trying to refocus my energy.

Believe me, I’m not saying you should ignore the advice your counselor gives you or skip out on counseling.  I am most certainly not an expert on mental health issues.  Besides, I really clicked with a couple of my counselors, one of whom I still imagine having conversations with when I’m feeling really low.  He really understood me and pushed me to follow through to conclusions I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with.   But even psychologists are only human.  Like all human relationships, some work out better than others, and it’s not your fault if they don’t.

fashion, Life Rants

Fashion Blog, Part Two: Judgment Day

I had about 10,000x more fun sorting out my wardrobe when I blogged about it (approaching a year ago, I believe?!?).

I’m taking a page from Hollywood and creating a sequel long after anyone needed or expected one.  That’s right—the Fashion Blog You Never Knew You Needed returns for part 2, in which I expand my wardrobe and buy clothing of a business casual nature.

My obsession is ModCloth, but I also managed to get a bit of thrifting done at my local Goodwill and put together some pretty nice outfits if I do say so myself.  Allow me to introduce you to my recent-ish fashion acquisitions.

  1.  The Spring Weekend:

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Shirt from ModCloth; jeans from Goodwill

2.  The Librarian with Too Many Sweaters (Or Not Enough???):

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ModCloth sweater (I’m obsessed with this one); same jeans from Goodwill (also note Bertha Mason’s tail featured in this photo)

3.  The Vintage ‘80s Chic Colorblocking Throwback

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Apparently ’80s fashion is old enough to be vintage now.  Sweater and dress pants from Goodwill (Bertha Mason featured in this photo as well)

4.  The Weekend at Woodstock

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Shirt and yellow pants from Goodwill; I love the shirt, but it’s made of rayon and gets hot really quickly (which is surprising considering it doesn’t really have a back)

What about you?  Any fashion finds you are particularly proud of lately or on the prowl for?  What I would really like is a pair of sweat pants that look like dress pants, honestly.

Featured image via Unsplash; all other photos by me (obviously).