2016 & 2017 Musings

Although in a global sense, 2016 has been pretty bleak, for me personally it has been a good year. A hard, rewarding and tough year, but good nevertheless.

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Every past year I would write out resolutions, make plans for how to be better in the New Year. These plans frequently involved me lessening, reducing, preening myself, to simply embody my illnesses, rather than the person I am. But for the first time, this coming year is going to be different. I don’t wish to become less, I wish to become more.

This year took many leaps and bounds. We loved and we lost, in every way imaginable. My fiancee and I have grown so much stronger together. He becomes my best friend more each day. We have also been saving hard for our wedding, which is in little over a month now. Our excitement is over the moon, but nerves are also wracking!

We both took steps to rise up against our mental illnesses. I finally stopped fighting against help, and through a combination of therapy and medication am far more able to manage the depression and generalised anxiety. These steps have also enabled me to stop self harming, which I am hopeful is for good, and to believe that I am fully recovered from the eating disorder. Our healing journeys have been really, really difficult. But to be able to be where we are now is invaluable, and we have learnt so much about each other through our experiences.

University has been one of my favourite parts of this year. Studying science, and with such a heavy focus on the practicality of it, has given me a pure awe of our world and life itself. I also met some beautiful new friends in my classes, and it’s so inspiring to be around people who are passionate about the same things, and are like-minded in that way. We would spend hours in the labs each week, and at the beginning it was quite daunting because I have never really had that sort of freedom with education before, but it turned out to be one of the best parts. Being able to try out things myself and to make mistakes has been immensely helpful at challenging my perfectionism, it has given me both courage and joy. I am so excited to return next year, and to be halfway through my degree!

Something unexpected happened with my grades this year. Previously, and normally while unwell, my grades were of upmost importance to me (second only to weight), and no mark was ever good enough to meet my impossibly high, and incredibly damaging standards. Having failed all my exams and leaving university in 2015 due to being unwell, I was determined to make this year different, but not particularly in terms of passing. Therapy really helped challenge these ideals I held, so by semester two of this year, I was determined to simply do my best, and most of all to care for myself though it all. And unexpectedly, my grades were the best I have ever got, and I’m the healthiest I have ever been. And that, is definitely now good enough for me.

So for next year, I don’t have a set of resolutions or goals designed to control my year. I have had enough of that for a lifetime. I wish to be so much more than restraints. There are just some things I want to do, to experience. Not necessarily next year, but just in time, because why grow tomorrow when you can grow today?

I would like to read as a hobby, and am currently waiting in excitement for The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and Mosquitoland by David Arnold. Also to start my own business eventually, and to swim in every ocean. I would also like to become open, somehow, with my story, to stop hiding from the past. To play with so many dogs, to start a family, to experience many sunrises and sunsets.

Overall, I would just going to continue being me. Loudly, unapologically, messily me. And to see where life without restrictions of my mind takes me. I am so hopeful in today.

Love & light,

Kaitlyn.

Fortesa Latifi / Poets I Love

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Reading and writing poetry is something that makes me feel the same as walking beneath fairy lights, dancing without a care, and swimming within the ocean. These things all sound so cliche, but they each help me to feel present within the moment, something that my mind struggles with greatly.

Poetry found me in the middle of my teenage years, right when everything was too much, and these formations of words gave me so much understanding. I began reading poems, and becoming entranced at the voices of others so eloquently explaining what I couldn’t even form thoughts for. Within poetry I found understanding, vulnerability, and joy.

Because there are so many poets I admire hugely for different reasons, I’m going to start writing a little about each one, to try and spread the meaning they have gifted through their work.

Fortesa Latifi’s poetry blew me away right from the start. I came across her work by stumbling upon dull pieces of truth, and from there, I loved and kept loving.

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Fortesa gave me the words I so desperately needed to hear for my mental illnesses; the overwhelming and inexplainable were less daunting when others understood. Her work on relationships is also nothing less than heartwrenching and soft. Fortesa writes with a magic, a spark, with words for when I cannot see beyond the jumbled darkness.

Love & light,

Kaitlyn.

Trolls & Gender: A Work Observation

Working in customer service roles over the past few years while studying has proven to be insightful about many aspects of human behaviour.

Recently my attention has been drawn to some archaic gender roles still standing strong. Gender roles that I too optimistically believed to be primarily a feature of the past, rather than endowed to our children today.

I work at a cinema, and we constantly have merchandise from the latest films to upsell. Dreamworks’ Trolls is the latest kid on the block, and we are selling cups of the main character Poppy, aimed at children.

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(Pictures from: https://www.dreamworks.com/trolls/explore/trolls)

This is Poppy. She’s pink, crowned with flowers, and wears a dress. Now I haven’t watched Trolls, but based on Poppy’s appearance alone, it is very traditionally feminine. The customers who see or purchase the cup most likely make their decision based upon appearance too, as it is unlikely they will have already seen the movie.

It’s nothing about the physical representation of Poppy as a cup that is wrong, or rather, provoking of controversy. It’s the decisions that I witness parents making based solely upon the appearance that are problematic.

At first I believed it to be an isolated incident. But then it continued to happen, again and again and again. Parents and children will come up to the counter. The boys will see the Poppy cup, and ask for one. The parents agree, but immediately after they order one they ask me

“But do you have a boy one?”

Assuming that they are under the impression that obviously boy equals blue, and definitely not pink, I then have to break the news that I now know will become a dealbreaker. We only sell Poppy cups, and not Branch too, her blue companion.

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Sometimes the situation turns around, slightly. The parent will hesitate and look uncomfortable before saying to their son, “there are only girl cups here, are you sure you really want one?” And their son will absolutely agree, and be over the moon at the idea of getting his own Poppy cup. The parents will look skeptical, go through with the payment, and seem unsure about their decision.

Then there are the other parents, the ones who are so firmly stuck in their beliefs of boys liking blue and blue only, and boys being the right sort of masculine. “You don’t want a girls cup do you?” or “it’s for girls!” are common phrases. Their sons are crestfallen, disappointed in the social constuct they cannot see, yet face and bear such limitation. It is obscuring to their development. There are even the parents that will by the Poppy cup for their daughters, but refuse for their sons. They are afraid.

There are of course the parents too that are completely okay with their child’s reaction to something pink, but these instances aren’t prominent. These don’t stand out because they aren’t outrageous. They are how we should be.

Occasionally children disregard the Poppy cup, saying “it’s for girls”, and why individual choice is rightfully important, this reasoning for their choice is questionable at best. It is a direct consequence of influential figures in the child’s life teaching that gender, and the connotations it holds, to be limiting and harmful.

The reasoning behind influencing a child to feel that it is abnormal or wrong to desire a colour or toy not designated for their gender baffles me. I truly don’t understand the concern of the parents I see daily.

Perhaps they are concerned by both how their child will be perceived by others, and also how interacting with the object will affect them. Pink, which is always associated with femininity, is further associated with weakness, with softness, with sensitivity. And undoubtedly, all of these range back to the negative perception of being a girl or being a woman. Perhaps these parents are afraid that others (in a movie theatre for goodness sake) will view their sons as feminine. And alongside this, the underlying, all encompassing, shouted yet silent preach that femininity is undesirable, inferior. Perhaps they are afraid that their perception of strong masculinity, even in young boys, will be tarnished.

And then it comes down to how the individual child will actually be affected, or thought to be affected. Through conversation with coworkers, the topic of sexuality kept arising. There seems to be the wild goose chase of logic of some, that if boys play with “girl’s toys” or “girl colours”, then this would develop them to be more feminine, and in turn tainting their apparent heterosexuality. Number one, ridiculous. As far as I am aware, drinking Fanta from a Poppy cup will not determine who you are attracted to. Number two, why on Earth is being anything other than heterosexual a terrible thing anyway? Why is it seen as lesser, when it is a brilliant part of the human experience?

If the tables were turned, I believe it these issues would still be apparent, yet not to the same severity. If we only sold Branch cups, would there be parents who would disprove of their daughters having them? Probably. But perhaps not to the same extent. Because where girls and women are seen as weak, boys and men are seen as strong. Where we fall short, men are seen to make up the strides. Perhaps a Branch cup would be seen as endearing and adventerous, typically generalised masculine traits, for a girl, as these traits in the eyes of many are not of her own.

Let boys be boys, beautiful, adventrous, fairy winged, pink-blue-golden boys, let them be soft before the world teaches them they must be tough. Let girls be girls, loud, bright, fast, dressed as dragons, with long hair, short hair, and dirt beneath their painted nails. Let children be children, without subjecting them to invisible, impossible, immoral rules that can break them before they can break free.

Love & light,

Kaitlyn.

All The Light We Cannot See / Review

A few days ago I finished reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and where do I begin?

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This book was beautiful from start to finish. The prose was captivating, it took me away from the world that I can see, and into a unique story within history.

“We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as a microscopic electrical swarm. The lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother’s birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us.”

The plot follows a blind French girl,  and a young German boy, whose paths intertwine so delicately within the chaos of World War 2.

Doerr’s style was stunning, with well developed progression, characters, and a desire to continue reading.

A highlight of this book was the broad spectrum of knowledge scattered throughout. Biology as a context was prominent throughout the book, as well as physics and geography. The arts and sciences are mearged beautifully, with accessible understanding. It softens science in a way to make it relatable, and intricates art to make the wonder of science accessible.

“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”

The footsteps of this book will echo throughout your world after you have turned the last page. It lingers, softly, and will stay with me forever. It was a true pleasure to read.

Love & light,

Kaitlyn.