Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quarter life

I've posted about how my birthday today is not going to be quite the celebration I'd hoped due to the horrific execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.  Now, I want to post about how, well ... I'm twenty-five.

It's weird to think about how much my life has changed over these twenty-five years.  I remember when I was a kid, I had ... no friends.  I was teased a lot, and I don't know why.  I've never been super cool by any standards, but as a six- or seven-year-old, I'm really not sure I was terribly uncool.  I mean, yes, I was hugely bossy, but I don't think I was being teased for that.

And then we moved, and I made friends for the first time.  Many of these people I'm still friends with today.  All of us have changed a lot, and yet we're still together.

I went through weird phases with clothing.  When I was young, I loved wearing pink, and I loved wearing skirts and dresses.  Then I switched gears; I cut my hair to my chin and refused to wear skirts, insisting that my favorite color was orange.  I didn't want to be a boy; I just didn't want to be a girl either.

In late elementary school and early middle school, I dressed extremely unfashionably, even for the late nineties.  I mean, really, really, really unfashionably.  Even throughout high school, I struggled to find a way to dress that I loved.  I went through my punk phase (giant Hot Topic pants and everything), and then settled on boring.  Experiments in fashion failed frequently.  It wasn't until this past year that I've really put myself together, to the point of receiving actual compliments on my outfits.  Huh.

My love life has had its ups and downs.  First was the epic crush I had on a friend who had a crush on me.  The crushes faded, returned, faded, returned, etc., never turning into anything, until we grew apart (or fell apart, more accurately).  My first kiss was at camp, as was my second.  My first boyfriend was a fellow musician, a member of the same Boston groups as I was.  Looking back, I see how UNserious we were, but when I was sixteen, I felt like he was totally perfect for me.  Our break-up threw me into a tailspin, and was the catalyst that brought me to therapy.

My first huge relationship was in college; it was with this boyfriend that I had sex for the first time, and learned how difficult it can be to balance principles with practice.  The relationship ended in a huge emotional mess, and it took me almost a year to pull myself out and move on.  It was then that I finally started dating for the first time, and even when dates sucked, I enjoyed it.

About a year later, I started dating my most recent boyfriend.  It started out with boring dating, became a moderately interesting relationship, and then fizzled.  I still had a tough time when it ended, but moving on was much faster and easier, especially when I realized that there was so much I was ready to give, and that I deserved someone equally giving.

Finally, I learned not to hook up with friends.

My heath has also done some weird-ass shit over the years.  From PCOS to idiopathic hives and angioedema to ulcerative colitis to compartment syndrome ... it's been pretty ridiculous.  Right now, it looks as if I might be emerging from this mess with my health intact.  PCOS seems to have ... well, no impact anymore.  I do have my LOVELY acne back, now that I'm off the pill, but so much of my weight gain was from the pill that I don't think it was fair to think that my PCOS was somehow in full force because of my weight all these years.  Meanwhile, my periods are coming somewhat regularly, or at least every 35 days or so.  Compared to before the pill, this is unprecedented.  I used to go months without a period.  So I guess ... it's gone?

Hives and swelling haven't reared their ugly heads, although I know that going off my antihistamines will change that.  I was having some mild hives along my waistline, from the pressure of my belt, but I realized that my Zyrtec had expired several months before.  New Zyrtec and POOF, hives were gone.  But they're so well under control, I feel as if I'm finally free.  I just have to take an over the counter pill.  That's easy.

Colitis came back last summer and lasted about six months, but hopefully that's the end of it.  I've been fine since January.  And compartment syndrome?  Well, that'll either be cured or not.  We'll find out in a few weeks, when I can run again.

My professional life is so much different than I ever could have expected.  Wasn't I going to be an artist?  An animator?  A flutist?  A veterinarian?  A farmer's wife?  Even in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I still don't know what I want to do, but the difference now is that I'm getting my PhD.  I never thought I would do that until maybe a year and a half ago.  And here I am, in a program at BU, still in Boston.

My family circumstances have also changed.  I went from being super close to my siblings, in a home with two parents, to living with just my mom and sister while my brother was at school, to living on my own and not speaking with my dad or his new family.  My relationships with my siblings are ... complicated.  It's a bit sad, realizing how far from ideal my family is.  But at the same time, I still have a family that cares about me, that supports me.

I lost Lady, our dog since I was seven years old, back when I was twenty-one.  I didn't think she would necessarily be around when I was twenty-five, but losing her was still one of the worst things that ever happened to me.  Our bird, Kiwi, died when I was sixteen, and I didn't know how to mourn.  Now, I have a beautiful parakeet, Loki, who is endlessly adorable and entertaining, and while sometimes I just want to bite his head off, he's very sweet and loving.

Didn't I used to want to own a lion?  Yes.

Speaking of which, my obsession with the Lion King faded with time and was replaced by a similar, albeit more intelligent obsession with the Legend of Zelda video game series.  My favorite TV show went from the Simpsons to That '70s Show to House to Friends to Scrubs to Bones.  Somehow, I'll still watch any episode of Forensic Files that's on.  My musical taste started with the Goo Goo Dolls ... and is still Goo Goo Dolls-centric.

I didn't know how INTO politics I'd be at my age now.  I'm open about being a feminist and an atheist, two things which were absolutely not always true.  I'm working every day to check my cis, white, straight, able-bodied, neurotypical privileges.  I'm so liberal, it hurts being an American right now.  My first time voting, I voted for Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election.  We all know how that went.

When September 11th happened, it was maybe the third day of high school, and I was in class.

My best Halloween costume was when I had swine flu and stayed home as a "sick person."  Okay, no, it was probably last year, when I was Hit Girl, but no one got to see :(

I will celebrate my birthday by teaching lab, going to my classes, and holding office hours.  Then I'll have dinner with my mom and go out with classmates.  Friday, I'll go to my classes and then go out with some friends.  Saturday, I will do work and laundry, and go to a friend's party.  And Sunday, I will have lunch with my grandparents and then be surprised by my childhood friends.

And hopefully, in another 25 years, I'll look back and think, "Wow, look at what's changed and what hasn't!"  It's sort of inevitable, isn't it?

Birthdays and deathdays

On the evening before my 25th birthday, at 11:08pm, Troy Davis was executed.

There's a lot I'm feeling about this.  I'd rather not go into tons of details about the case, which are widely available through online news and Wikipedia.  The gist of it is that Troy Davis was tried and convicted in the murder of a policeman in 1989 based on witness testimony, and he was sentenced to death.  One of the witnesses was a suspect in the same case, and seven more out of the nine total have recanted their testimony, citing police pressure as the reason for their testimony.

I have never felt good about capital punishment.  I don't quite see how it actually makes any sense.  Perhaps if we were absolutely sure of someone's guilt, with no evidence suggesting otherwise, overwhelming evidence suggesting truth, and no sign of remorse on the part of the person convicted, then maybe, maybe, I'd say ... "Maybe."  Because even then, what good does it do?

The person murdered is still dead.  Capital punishment is purely for revenge.  "You did this, and now I'll make you pay."

So what happens when we're not absolutely convinced of guilt?  In the case of Troy Davis, the people with the power to stop his execution acknowledged the lack of evidence for his guilt.  They acknowledged it and didn't do anything about it.

His execution was scheduled for 7:00pm, but he sat on the gurney, with the needle in his arm, for hours, waiting for the US Supreme Court to save him.  They did not.  And no justice dissented.  Before tonight, I considered Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be something of an idol for me.  Now, I'm just too shocked to even process the complete lack of dissent.

And that was the night I went from disliking the death penalty to actively working to abolish it.  I don't know what's so different this time; I've already known I've disliked capital punishment, but really didn't DO anything about it.  But something's changed.  Maybe it's because I'm older.  Maybe it's because I have friends and acquaintances who have been sharing and retweeting the heck out of this case.  Maybe it's because I'm no longer ignorant about so many issues.

Or maybe it's because those people in power, people who had the ability to grant clemency, knew there was doubt as to Davis' guilt.  They acknowledged there was a good chance he was innocent.  And they murdered him anyway.  They did it anyway.

Meanwhile, I've turned twenty-five.  I've had an extremely difficult week so far; major family illness, news of a friend's imminent deployment overseas, and now the government-sanctioned murder of a man who was likely innocent.  I've been missing someone whose friendship I lost this summer, and I've been struggling to take care of my legs.  All in all, I feel much, much older than twenty-five.

And this morning, I have to teach biology to some first-year students, many of whom might not even be aware of what happened last night.  It's so strange.

It's difficult that I've just started my PhD, and now I want to run off and get my law degree so I can fix our broken justice system.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Two towers, ten years

It is really weird to be in my apartment this weekend, reading textbooks and papers, and realizing how much time has past.  Not only that, but it's unnerving to think how the course of my life and the lives of all Americans have been irreversibly affected by one major event ten years ago.

I have actually been dreading this day for about eight years, which is the day I realized that September 11th, 2011 was going to be a day full of politics, where my identity American, ten years later, would still be questioned.  All throughout this August, my heart sank as I saw all the retrospectives.  It's not that I'm against remembering, against mourning those lost, against uniting as a country.  It's that I'm angry at the way that this event has been used, much like a weapon, to tear apart the country I live in and give political leverage to men and women who would see the lives of so many Americans destroyed.  And I'm not talking about terrorists.

Ten years ago, I was fourteen years old, and it was one of the first days of high school.  When the World Trade Center in New York City was struck by planes and collapsed, I was in early morning classes.  I left band class to find that there were TVs set up all around the school.  We saw the smoke and flames, but like so many people, we had no idea what was going on.  No one knew how this had happened.  No one knew why.  Even worse, no one was quite sure exactly what had even happened.  And, to make matters even worse, I remember the very, very real possibility that other cities would be targeted, including Boston.

I remember watching the news a lot for the next several weeks.  I remember that the radio that night played zero music; there were just people talking about what had happened.  One young man called in to say that his father had died in his office at the Pentagon, and that he would avenge his father's death by joining the army and destroying the people who had done this.  I remember flipping through channels one evening to find that nearly every single channel was showing a memorial concert.

In this one horrible, terrifying day, I feel like our country was destroyed.  We have not been able to unify in the wake of tragedy.  We were not able to effectively punish the people who did this.  Instead, we're in ruins.

We have politicians who do not help us, who instead have petty arguments, abuse their power, and ignore their constituents.  These are the kinds of people who would deny healthcare to the first responders, who are dying because they were heroes.  Poorly executed and illegal wars have bled us dry financially.  These politicians, through their decisions, have killed innocents, illegally imprisoned suspects, and tortured people.  Instead of unifying our country, and standing up and defying those who hurt us, we're vilifying entire groups of the population for not being appropriately "American."  Our consumerism still permeates every facet of life.  Instead of being able to say to al-Qaeda, "You were wrong about us, and we will, as a whole, avenge the deaths of those you took from us," we have fought amongst ourselves, we have done a disservice to those who died, and we have validated the justifications in the eyes of extremists.

It's been ten years.  Ten years ago, I was a freshman in high school.  I believed I would one day be a professional flutist.  I had no sexual experience, I lived at home with my parents, and even "college" was only a distant milestone.  I had no politics, only strange feelings as I watched the coverage and mourned the loss of life and our collective sense of safety.

Ten years later, I'm a first-year again, this time in graduate school.  I haven't thought of being a professional mucisian in years, and am fulfilling my subsequent goal of becoming a scientist.  I have sexual experience, as well as a desire to be involved in sex education; I am living in my third apartment, with three roommates, far from my hometown; my parents have been divorced for several years; and college feels like a distant memory.  I am passionately political, and dismayed to see my feelings from ten years ago have been identified ... and validated.