Maybe Don’t Follow Your Gut This Time

If you read my post on Monday, you know I have a new roommate named ScarJo. She’s a black widow and she has (we think) already killed her mate/best friend in our basement. It’s a tenuous situation. We’ve kept our distance for now and are still determining whether or not we need to take any kind of landlord-tenant measures.

My first instinct when I saw ScarJo was to recoil. She has long, spindly legs and has spun a seemingly haphazard web in a shadowed corner to entrap her prey. She looks exactly like something I’ve been taught to fear. My apprehension is compounded by my own overwhelming and unreasonable anxiety about creepy insects crawling into my ears. Seeing her shot a tiny jolt through my brain and I had to take a breath to compose myself.

I really do like spiders. I know they’re important to our ecosystem and I appreciate that they eat bugs I really don’t enjoy being near. If I find one inside where I’d rather it not be, I catch it and take it outside. I am not generally afraid of them, but ScarJo is particularly spidery. She looks just like the sleek terrifying arachnid superhero you’d expect.

Awhile ago I read a tweet that said something along the lines of: People kill spiders because they’re afraid of them. I hope that if I happen to wander into a place where I’m unwanted and someone there is afraid me because of how I look, that person won’t decide to kill me.

I can’t remember who wrote it or exactly how they phrased the thought. I tried to track it down again, but I couldn’t. (If you can, please let me know! I would love to include it here.)

This unknown person’s brilliant but sad thought has stuck in my brain. I am a big proponent of trusting my gut. I’ve decide a lot of things that way—everything I don’t choose by running through an endless mental pro/con list and wavering back and forth until I collapse in exhaustion. It’s never anything in between.

While I always advocate a good gut-check in any decision-making process, I think it’s important to step back and check ourselves. Where is that gut feeling coming from? Is it legit? Is it lying to you? Is it being fueled by years of divisive political schemes and derivative media?

Every day people make choices out of fear. They’re electing politicians who fuel it because they hope they’ll provide an answer to it. They buy guns because they’re overwhelmed by it. They bully people so they can push it away from themselves and on to someone else. They hide from their truth because of it. It makes them stay inside the comfort of their own bubbles. It pushes people into rash and illogical actions.

Fear loves to be the boss—but it’s a terrible one. It’s ignorant, manipulative, and greedy. It definitely doesn’t want the best for us. Don’t let fear be in charge. Let the spiders live.

A Dangerous Living Arrangement

Scarlett Johansson is living in my basement. She’s hiding inside a tiny corner of my utility closet. I didn’t notice her at first, because she was very quiet and unobtrusive. A few days ago, though, I had to go downstairs to check on some pipes. After I turned on the light and moved my face closer to the floor, I caught a peek. I was startled at the sight of her, but I think she was more scared than I was during the whole interaction. As soon as she noticed my presence, she scurried away, escaping under a piece of wood at the corner of the closet. I went about my business and, I assume, she went about hers, then we both went our separate ways. I mean, I went my separate way and she stayed there.

A few days later, I went back downstairs and opened up the closet. There she was, a few inches away from where’d she gone to escape me the first time. I thought if I’d let her be, she might rest a bit and travel along. Nope. She’s taken up residence. Turns out, I don’t have a guest, I have a roommate.

Since we were apparently going to be spending some together, I took a closer look at how she was keeping up her portion of the home. She’d done some redecorating, and it wasn’t quite to my taste, but everyone has their own preferences. I let it go. Until I saw that she’d brought a friend to stay with her. I was just getting used to have one additional roommate. I wasn’t sure I was ready to have four of us living in this house. I tried to meet this new friend, who looked like a smaller version of Scarlett, but he wasn’t moving. At all. I was beginning to think this fourth roommate was a little too quiet, if you know what I mean.

After some further investigation, I determined that he was, in fact, too quiet. He was dead. ScarJo had either brought a dead friend into her new home (I know I said I was open to other opinions on decor, but this was taking it too far) or she’d lured a friend into her room and killed him (While there’s no specific no-murder clause in most leases, I feel like it’s a fair expectation). This was getting serious. I was starting to think my new roommate wasn’t so kind and unassuming after all.

I haven’t confronted her about the incident. Who can say how she’d react? I think it’s clear she’s capable of a violence I’m just not sure I can defend myself against, so I decided it’s safest to calmly maintain status quo. I’m a bit uncomfortable with the arrangement, but she’s laid her cards on the table—and she most definitely has the upper hand. I’m not the one who sleeps next to the carcass of my best friend.

So I have officially stepped down. ScarJo is now the boss-lady of the house.

The shorter way to tell this story would be to say we have a black widow living in our basement and we named her Scarlett Johansson.*

*Yes, this was the cheap way out name-wise, but the new comic-book movie trend really is infiltrating all aspects of our lives.

The Meaning of Yesterday

I was looking back at old drafts I wrote on this blog to see if I had any interesting ideas I might want to expand upon. Ultimately, I didn’t find anything worthy of deeper analysis, but the exercise was not entirely regrettable. I got to reminisce about time last year when the country panicked over a massive Netflix outage, reconsider whether robo-bees could solve the world’s pollinator problems, and dig deeper into important topics like the kind of squash in your cans of 100% pumpkin (hint: probably not pumpkin). It’s possible there’s a reason these ideas stayed in the drafts folder—but I have ignored that reason and shared them with you now, because I’m a rebel like that.

The most mysterious post, though, was one that said only: Yesterday. It didn’t have a period at the end of the word, but I had to put one there because I’m not a maniac.

I don’t know what that draft post means. Was I so distracted by something amazing that happened the day before that as soon as I started to write about it I went into a daze? Was I so horrified by what had happened I couldn’t write anything more? Did I start writing a post and then get hit in the back of the head by a stranger who was trying to hide the truth?

We’ll never know for certain. So let’s all just agree that I probably became aware of some significant international espionage secrets and decided to share them with you on this wide-reaching blog. As soon as I started typing though, the spies who had been following me realized I was going to let the cat out of the bag. They sprung into action, snuck up behind me, put me to sleep with some classified gas-like substance, and deleted everything I’d written—everything but the first word. Before they could erase the entire post, I woke from my stupor, and they rushed to disappear back into the night. Now, all that’s left of those valuable state secrets is just one word: Yesterday.

Basically, I’m Jason Bourne, but instead of trying to track down answers, I’m just going to eat toast and read a book. Like Jason wishes he could do.

My Firewall Needs Reinforcement

I keep getting ads on Facebook for audiobooks that I am VERY uninterested in. It’s really throwing off my groove when I’m just trying to watch videos of puppies running down stairs and listen to women telling their stories of badassery.

Here’s the series that keeps popping up:

  • How to Build Self-Discipline to Exercise: Practical Techniques and Strategies to Develop a Lifetime Habit of Exercise
  • How to Build Self-Discipline: Resist Temptations and Reach Your Long-Term Goals
  • Self-Discipline Dieter: How to Lose Weight and Become Healthy Despite Cravings and Weak Willpower

This is extremely uncool. I don’t know what Facebook knows about me, but if you’ve been following along the past week, you know my phone has also been really judgmental lately. Between my phone’s food-shaming alerts and Facebook’s ads for what seem to be phony self-improvement audiobooks, I’m not sure what kind of vibes I’m sending out into the world. I’m not specifically looking for these kinds of things, but I feel like I might need to reassess a few things. This is not what I’m about, and yet, it keeps finding it’s way to me.

Is it because the internet world knows my demographic and believes I’m obsessed with my own self-discipline? Is it because I sometimes like to watch fun kickboxing videos while I flail around embarrassingly in my basement? Is it because I google a lot of dessert recipes and Google-search engineers think I have a sugar addiction?

I mean, sure, I may have uncontrollable cravings, weak willpower, and an inability to resist the temptations of my couch, but I don’t really feel like those are issues that rank higher than taking down the patriarchy, destroying racial inequality, and righting our world’s economic wrongs. I’m offended that this is what the technological world thinks I need to see. I know I played a part in bringing this craziness into my feed. I’ve read about insane celebrity diets or weird cleanses online, so somewhere an algorithm has led this nonsense to me. I can ignore it, but I’m more bothered because there’s someone else out there getting these ads and feeling worse, feeling like they probably need to buy some self-help tape to curb their eating habits, feeling like they probably should join Weight Watchers if their phone keeps pulling up the ad.

I’d like to enlist the help of a kind billionaire to right this wrong. If someone could fund a massive ad-spamming project that only sends out messages of self-worth and joy, that might make a dent in this ridiculous trend. Here are some of my ad ideas:

  • Feeling kinda blech? It’s ok. We all are.
  • You are awesome, even if that person driving behind you on the freeway doesn’t agree.
  • Eat what makes you feel good because you’re going to die eventually anyway.
  • You are right where you need to be. Unless you’ve been kidnapped. If you’ve been kidnapped, call for help.
  • Don’t think too much about that weird thing you just did. There will be a different new weird thing for you to think about soon enough.
  • It’s ok to be alone on a Friday night. At least you don’t have to listen to Fred explain his theory about the ending of Lost again.

Anyone know a benevolent advertising executive?

Enough With the Judgment, Tiny Computer

For awhile, whenever I came home my phone would ask me if I was at Pizza Hut. It happened for two weeks straight and every time it drove a stake of disappointment into my heart. I wasn’t, in fact, eating pizza. I was just sitting at home in my pajamas trying to figure out which leftovers to warm up.

The restaurant carries some good memories for me though, so I wasn’t hating the mistake. I started daydreaming about my elementary school days, when I could read books, log my pages on a placemat-style map, and earn a free personal pie at Pizza Hut. I, along with the rest of my peers, could fill in a certain number of boxes on a paper that looked like black-and-white Candy Land board, and when I’d completed the whole board, I could turn it in for a pizza coupon. I spent a lot of time reading as a kid, but it still took me awhile to finish each map—you needed a ton of pages to color each block.

I shared memories of my hard-earned meals with Dave, who informed me that his school also participated in this program. His class, however, had a much more student-friendly coupon redemption program and he just kept racking up the personal pizza trips. In fact, I don’t think they followed the guidelines at all, which just goes to show you that the world is inherently unfair. He also read The Hobbit over and over again instead of choosing a new book, but that’s basically the same as reading The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings trilogy, since they’re identical stories, so I gave him a pass.

Anyway, that was a major distraction from the point of this post, which is that my phone thought I lived inside Pizza Hut for two weeks. After getting multiple alerts, I started to wonder if my house was built on the ancient ruins of a pizza shop.

Just when I was coming to terms with the idea of being haunted by the ghost of a dead pizza chef for the rest of my life, my phone started to make a different assessment about my whereabouts. And things took a real judgmental turn.

It started to ask me if I was at Weight Watchers when I got home. That’s when I knew my phone didn’t have my back. It wasn’t trying to warn me about my new pizza-ghost friend, it was becoming that passive aggressive acquaintance who asks if you’re doing ok when you aren’t wearing make-up. It was that girl who bakes cookies for you but won’t eat any herself. It was that guy who says he likes a girl who can eat, but also says he can’t help that he’s just attracted to thin girls. My phone was a jerk.

So I did what I always do when faced with someone who’s being rude and judgmental. I walked away.

I came back later because I’m not a maniac. Duh. I need a phone. How else would I do my crossword puzzles on the bus and text my sister good morning? I just asked Dave to turn off the locator alerts. TLDR: I showed that little know-it-all mini computer who’s boss.

Twitter Can Be Sad

I’m going to post a picture here, which I have never done before. This one is worth it though because it basically sums up the heartbreaking reality of what it’s like to live in this modern world. Here it is:

Yeah, I get it. No one liked it. I’m not perfect. Not everything I write down can be excellent and clever. Most of it is nonsense. Do we really need to resort to public shaming just to call out my inadequacies? Apparently, yes. Twitter really wants me to know when I fail.

Well, joke’s on you, Twitter, because now I’m liberated. I have nothing to lose. I’m going to say so many ridiculous things and they’re going to live on your face forever.

Thanks to no one.

 

 

Too Real

Last night my favorite zombie-related program came back. And oh was it great. My Walking Dead friends finally came together to start their journey against evil. It felt really appropriate for this moment in all our lives.

The group had been separated, both physically and emotionally, by some serious trauma. Things have not been good. A really terrible leader took over the land by intimidating a communities and making them think he was their only option for survival. Also by killing a bunch of people weaker than him. He’s putting everyone the group cares about at risk and destroying the relative progress they were achieving. It’s been a disaster and it felt kinda hopeless for awhile. Also maybe a little like real life. Or a lot like real life.

But now they’re back together and getting stronger—hopefully strong enough to take down the self-righteous, violence-prone current head honcho. Cause he’s got to go.

The episode was a great reminder that if we connect with the awesome people we love, we can battle evil—and we will probably win. It might get a little gross, what with all the stray rotting arms and legs flying through the air, but it will be worth it. If we look something terrible in the face, if we don’t ignore the horrors, and if we decide to actually do something about it, we can change the course of our lives for the better.

See, parents and teachers, we really can learn everything we need to know about life from TV.

Technology Is Hard

I’ve been away for a while, working on lots of stuff for my real-life job and a few things for myself. One of those things in the second category is a digital portfolio. It was super challenging, because technology is both a friend and an enemy. On the site, I have an awkward bio, some of the print and digital work I’ve done for National Geographic, and a link back to this blog. I’ve also integrated it into this site, so you can click on the link if you’re interested in seeing some of what I do when I’m not sitting on my couch or exploring the world.

In the process of creating my portfolio, I spoke to a lot of WordPress associates. I talked to eight of them and spent approximately 3,784 hours chatting about how to make this site work for me. Seven of those people were really nice. One of them was very rude and made me feel I was an idiot. For a few seconds, I started to feel bad. Then I remembered that I’m a valuable human being and I don’t need to let a stranger make me feel terrible. I quickly but politely ended that interaction. Luckily, the next person I spoke to was great, which is a lesson for life. Just keep moving until you find the great one.

The biggest problem of the entire process, besides my almost-total lack of comprehension, was Dave’s feelings of neglect. Apparently they’re lasting, because I just mentioned something about building a website and he said, “Psh, you’ll just chat with the WordPress people for seven hours and then say, ‘Oh, Dave, I picked a theme.'” I told him that maybe if he knew more about technology I’d talk to him. Then I threw chocolate chips at his face because that’s how we solve problems in this house.

Code Red

I’m convinced the Earth is revolting against us. Last week, China issued a environmental red alert in a bunch of regions because of the terrible fog, which really means smog in this case. Red is apparently the highest level they use and, right now, many areas that aren’t at red level are at orange.

Orange is obviously just below red. That makes perfect sense. What doesn’t make sense is why their lowest level in this environmental rating system is blue and not green. Silly Chinese government officials. Don’t they know green means go and go means get in your car for a drive and that’s certainly the beginning of this pollution ladder? I suppose we all have the right to choose whatever color scale we want. I’m drawn to grey and black, so my preferred scale might get a little confusing. Reporters would be like, “It’s code black on hostile rodents in the city today.” That sounds threatening, but it would really mean rat levels are way down. People would eventually get the hang of it. Still though, I think my grey scale makes more sense than the blue-yellow-orange-red system. Blue could maybe be used as the standard for tracking water pollutants, but it’d have to go blue-purple-pink-red. A red river is extra dangerous and plague-like, so people would take notice. Though in my experience when a river has reached maximum danger levels, it’s really a code murky brown. No one wants to say that on the news.

Well, that’s not where I planned to take this. Let’s get back to business.

The important thing here isn’t the color choices of the Chinese government. It’s the fact that we are filling our atmosphere with dangerous compounds that hurt our lungs and kill our plants. I don’t think anyone in China is reading this blog, and I’m not a climate scientist, but I feel like it’s unlikely my taking public transportation is going to help clear the smog over Hefei. That said, we should probably all care and do our best. Otherwise, we have to just admit we’re ok with kickstarting some kind of post-apocalyptic universe where we can’t see what’s right in front of our faces and giant smog monsters come out of the sky to attack us. Because that’s the next step in this story.

Insect-somnia

For the last week, I’ve been hearing this crackling noise every time I take a deep breath or yawn or move my face. That’s disconcerting on its own, but Dave made it much worse by telling me my worst fear had come true.

When I was young, I saw a clip of this sci-fi movie at my grandparent’s house. I don’t remember much of it, but there was a space queen who got angry at some space visitors. To punish them, she ordered her minions to bring out some earwig-like insects and put them in the offenders’ space helmets. Then the bugs crawled into their ears. Obviously. They’re named earwigs for a reason.

I don’t know what happened after that because I walked away from that nightmare. I was not waiting around to find out how the insect-brain-invasion situation resolved itself. Now, though, I always sleep with my ears covered, because I’m not a fool.

When I told Dave about my crackling ear, he said a bug had probably crawled into it. So now my life is over and I will never sleep again.