Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Free-Time Shaming

"Oh my God, i can't remember the last time I read for fun!"

"Wow, you're going to another concert? I wish I had that kind of time!"

"How do you write on top of all of this?"

"One day, you won't have time for pleasure reading."

These are things I hear all the time. All day, everyday, from everyone. People in my program, people online. Everyone who hears I'm doing something widely considered to be "leisure activity" has to counter with an explanation of how busy they are. These statements, while often genuine, are also thinly-veiled expressions of envy that are meant to shame the subject--re: me--into feeling bad for not having as many commitments. And I do feel bad.

Or I did.

Not anymore. Now I'm calling bullshit. Because, here's the thing, I have commitments. I'm finishing my final semester of grad school. I have a job. I have medical issues that, frankly, take up a lot of my time. But I also read, and write, and go to concerts. I go out for drinks with my friends and coffee with my coworkers. And when these things slide--until yesterday, I hadn't read a not-for-school book in a week--I don't shame the people whose lives haven't offered them that opportunity. Because I understand that we choose the way we spend our time. It's not shameful that when I manage my time, I factor in at least an hour every day to wrie, or revise, instead of watching reality TV. It's not shameful if you marathon Top Model every weekend.

It's a choice, and it's a choice I make with sanity in mind. I'm a much happier person when I'm regularly seeing live music and if I'm writing. And I arrange my schedule around it. I write papers late at night, I do my reading for class in the doctor's waiting room. Whatever it takes. And if I complain about being busy, it's not okay to counter that with a "But, wait, didn't you go to three concerts this week?" because, yes, I did. I made that choice. It doesn't mean that I'm not still swamped, or that I choose to be swamped, because my choice to go to the concert is, to me, just as valid as my choice to go to grad school, and people complain about that constantly. Don't say I wouldn't feel so overwhelmed if I didn't constantly sleep past ten, because not only am I up past two most nights writing--which is a huge part of my life--it has to do with my medical issues, and I compensate. My time is differently-shaped, and my use of it is my business.

I'm not saying you shouldn't complain about being busy. I'm saying stop shaming other people because their "busy" doesn't look like yours.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Identity Shift

There's a haunting picture that came out of the bombings. If you've seen it, you know it. If you haven't, I don't recommend clicking. It shows a man who was severely injured in the bombing, and it makes me realize that a fairly significant amount of people who joined the ranks of the disabeld on Monday. I'm hoping that they get the services they need. The media will turn away from this. It will be gradual, it will get mentioned, but in the scheme of things, it will happen. In the meantime, many people, some of whom are runners, will have their lives changed fundamentally.

I am proud of being disabiled. Acquring a disabilty is the horrible thing that both media and literature points it out to be, but it is a different lifestyle. I presents challenges that many able-bodied people do not think about, and that can be circumnavigated, but that often the majority do not know about. I hope that there is outreach happening to the people who were injuried on Monday. I'm sure they are being approached as victims of tragedy, but I also hope they are being approached as people with disability, because those are two different, disparate things.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Theory of Moral Sentiments

I went to a pretentious liberal arts college. The kind that claims to be teaching you how to be a human being, instead of how to recite facts. I was/am a die-hard believer in the company line, but I never got it. I never knew how much I applied the intellectual BS I learned, until today.

In his Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith says "Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connexion with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people... If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own." To paraphrase: You are always going to be more affected by your own pain.

I've always quoted it whenever people complain about how we give more attention to events in our country than to loss of life abroad, but that's not the point of my education. The point is to understand the philosophies, but also to apply and challenge them.

Today, I'm thinking about what Smith left out. What if the tragedy happened near you, within miles of your apartment, but not to you? What if you do have "connexions" in "China"? What if your friends have complex relationships with the event that happened, but your own understanding is empathetic, yet superficial? How does your pain rate?

I believe in not comparing tragedies. I believe that the relativity of pain is how we stop ourselves from being overwhelmed by our own narcissism. It's a direct result of an ability humans lack--the ability to experience someone else's consciousness.

And yet, when I consider my own fear of getting stranded in Dedham yesterday--I didn't--or get upst about our troubles finding a roommate for next year, I feel wrong. I feel like I'm a callous European conceptualized by a dead white man. I don't want to be. There's an in-between that Smith doesn't consider, and I think in coming to grips with that, I am actually utilizing my education.

For an account by someone who is from here, rather than lives here, see Amanda Palmer's post.


This should be a post about the Taylor Swift concert I went to this weekend, or taking the train from Boston to Orlando. It's not. Those posts will come. Later.

Right now, all I can think of is Boston. It's the city where I am living, but in the past twenty-four hours, it has become the city "where I live." It's so easy to abstract occurances like this. I wasn't at the marathon. I was on a train coming in from Penn Station, and my biggest worry was how I'd get home if they didn't take us all the way into the city. But these bombings happened in a place I go all the time. A place that I love. A place that will never be the same. So, today, that's where my thoughts are.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hammers and Strings

Last night, I was back at the Paradise Rock Club, seeing Andrew McMahon in concert. Andrew was once the frontman for Something Corperate, followed that up with his own proejct--Jack's Mannequin--and is now touring under his own name. He's an incredibly lyricist who can bang magic out of a piano. His ability to mix rocking pop songs with heartfelt rick ballads is incredible, makiing his music my go-to in good times and in bad.

My roommate was supposed to go with me, but there was a mix-up, and I ended up bringing my friedn Andy, who is not usually a rock show person. We snarked the openers, and had a lot of fun there, but once Andrew came on stage, Andy got to deal with my unironic, seventeen-year-old girl-style enthusiastic. I'm a fan of a lot of things, but I am not your classic fangirl about many of them. Andrew's music and his story--he had leukemia at twenty-two--mean so much to me. I hate the word "inspiring," but his ability to fight sickness and pain to come out at the end still passionate about making art helps me feel less hopeful and less alone.

I had that weird disconnect at the show where you realize that all these people love the music you love, and they all have their personal reasons, and sometimes their love is bigger than yours. And yet, you're all drawn there by the same thing, affected by the same thing. It's a magical, almost religious experience.

I wrote him a letter and waited outside inspite of my leg doing its pain spazzing thing. He tucked it into his back pocket, hugged me, and we took a picture. He may not remember me, but he will have my words. And that's enough. I believe in telling peole when their art has affected me. One day, I hope to affect other people with my art. Actually, I think that's basically my thesis statement, replacing the one I came up with at the Amanda Palmer show on Friday night, which was "I want to meet Amanda. I do not want to get trampled." Last night I got to meet Andrew, and I was not trampled. I was lifted up. I know that sounds chiche and ridiculous, but music does that to me.

This is my favorite Andrew song, from the second Jack's Mannequin album. I listen to it all the time. I'm sure I'll wear it out one day, but that is not today.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

To The Woman Who Thought She Owned the ADA Section

Last night I went to see George Watsky perform at the Paradise Rock Club. I'm a new Watsky fan. He played The Middle East this summer, and I didn't make it out, but his new album made me want to see him live. Having been to The Paradise several times--all for Amanda Palmer--I knew that they had an ADA section for every show, and I didn't bother calling ahead. Lesson learned.

They'd put the ADA secton stage right, behind the soundboard. It's not the best view in the world, but if you're in the front of it, it's not horrible. Unfortunately, the section it was only two people wide and a girl who used a wheelchair plus her boyfriend were already up front. I sat behind them, next to the boy's mom.

Let me tell you how ADA sections usually work: You get one seat plus one for your "companion." From something this woman said--when she rudely asked me about my pills, which were antibiotics--she had recently had surgery and would have needed to sit. Fine. You get to sit here.

You DO NOT get to bring four other people into the section. You do not get to move my chair because I have decided to stand for a few songs, because there is a reason I need that chair, and when I need it, I need it RIGHT NOW. And your son does not get to try to climb on stage whenever Watsky's letting people on, because he's right in front of a speaker. (A bouncer grabbed him, and he practically fell on his girlfriend. So much stupid.)

At one point there were probably eight people crammed into a space meant for eight. For someone with a decent amount of crowd anxiety--particularly concert crowd because I fear getting whacked in the head--this was NOT okay. Luckily, said bouncer cleared it out, but it made the last few songs not very fun for me.

I'm going back to The Paradise to see Andrew McMahon next week, but I'm calling ahead. That crowd, though, will probably be less rambunctious. And hopefully that lady stays far, far away.