Lavish Linguistics

Language is a fascinating thing. From the way that different people all over the world have different ways to say the same things, some with drawls, some with clicking and some with endless abbreviations. For awhile now, I’ve become increasingly aware of languages that are not recognized as such.

For a more popular and noticeable example, you may see how best friends or family members seem to be able to communicate without speaking, and sometimes without even being near one another. As someone who is fascinated by human behavior, this is something that I try to pick up on when I’m around other people. There are the obvious things, where parents make eye contact when their kid isn’t looking as if to say “this is such a bad idea” or “do something about them!” Then there are more subtle things, like when you are at a social gathering and someone leans across another person, who has their arms folded and leans away in response. It’s a definite bubble burst.

There’s the communication with words that always seems to say something different. The infamous, “I’m fine” coming from most girls seems to be a sure sign of trouble. “What do you want to eat?” is always followed by “I don’t know” as an obligatory response because being too decisive comes across as selfishness.

One part of communication that seems to be increasing and developing its own rules in our modern culture is that of pictures as communication. Not photos, but rather emojis and gifs. When I am texting, I can replace punctuation at the end of my sentences with emojis and it will still be understood and read as separate sentences. I can send a wordless gif to show how I feel or what I think. These methods allow for text which previously was thought to be lacking tone, to be indicated by images or lack thereof. For example, if I am upset with someone, my text messages to them will grow shorter and contain no emojis. My messages with my best friends, are super long and have lots of emojis and are sent at a much more rapid rate.

All of these are still pretty popular and well understood ways to communicate. I happen to have a few ways to communicate that not many people understand. A very uncommon language of my own, if you will.

“Language may refer to the cognitive ability to learn and use systems of complex communication, or to describe the set of rules that makes up these systems…” -Wikipedia *insert eye roll here at baby boomers and comment about how ya’ll relied solely on encyclopedias and wikipedia isn’t that terrible of a source for some information*

My first additional “language” that I am pretty well versed in is dance. Now there are tons of quotes and people that say ‘dance is universal blah blah blah’ and to a certain extent, they are correct. But more specifically, ballroom dance is my language. To most people, I have to explain ballroom to them in a way that they know, referencing pop culture and movies that make me cringe. No, what I dance is¬†not like Dancing with the Stars. I prefer watching Blackpool and WDSF. This response is followed by “oh” or “what” and I have to stop myself from getting frustrated because there was a time when I didn’t speak this language either. This is why when someone new in a dancer’s life says that they like to dance ballroom, the dancer usually responds with “Oh? What do you dance?” The response gives the dancer all the information they need to know if this person¬†actually¬†speaks their language. If they say something like “I love to dance the waltz!,” they probably don’t know a whole lot. But if they respond with “International, mostly standard,” then they know at least some of what’s up. The language continues quite extensively with vocabulary like “shoe brush” and “Swarovski” and “backing center” being terms that mean nothing to the general population.

Ballroom is a multi part language with facets of dialect in different areas not limited to speaking with words. There’s technical language, where when the coach seems to pull a hair from the top of his head, we know to stand up straighter. Where a nose pointed towards the ceiling is not (always) a sign of a petty person thinking they are better than you. Where the flick of a finger or pretending to reel someone in with a fishing rod at social dancing is not rude, but often flattering.

Then there’s the dancing itself. I have struggled many times to explain to new or non dancers how I know which way to turn my head based on how my lead’s ribs move. How do I explain that the slight movement of a single finger on my back can tell me where to move and my feet what to do? Or how despite dance being a connective communication between me and my partner, that them turning their head while we dance standard will throw me off balance; we have to rely on feel only. A push or a pull tells me to step back or forwards. A rotating wrist can mean styling or a move. My hands can be soft or have more energy based on the dance style, my partner and the song all at once. In what way do you communicate that latin dresses are shorter not to increase the provocative nature of dancing, but simply because that’s what the dance calls for? Can you imagine cha cha in a full ball gown?

There don’t have to be words in dance. I can dance with someone I’ve never met, without ever learning their name or speaking with them, and yet still communicate. Blindfolded, I could recognize a friend by their lead (honest side note that I may just recognize them by their smell because I tend to associate smells with nouns).

I could go on forever about the ways I communicate in dance. One of the more necessary parts of dance communication that is necessary to understand though also happens to be my next language; music.

I don’t play any instruments although I have in the past and I don’t really like singing. So how/why music? I have an ear for music that I lack most explanation for. Throughout the last few years, I’ve made dozens of playlists on Spotify. They’ve become a way for me to communicate, and songs are something that I wish I could use to speak my words. I was explaining this to a friend awhile ago, how I would love to be able to send someone a song and have them understand exactly what I am thinking and feeling through that song. This is not based only on the lyrics, but by the exact sound and everything about that particular sound. The only way I’ve found to be able to explain my ability to do this, is with a parallel to Remy on Ratatouille. This is exactly how I feel and experience my music and playlists. It’s truly a feeling that I have an inadequate feeling to explain.


This is often a struggle for me as a popular get-to-know-you question seems to be “What kind of music do you like?” I always seem to kind of choke when it comes to answering this question. I don’t know how to explain that genres are restricting categories that stigmatize their listeners and cause people to make assumptions about me? Usually, I provide a cop out answer consisting of “lots, not country, favorite band=Parachute.” That usually shuts the conversation down after a minute which I am grateful for since I don’t know how to explain my experience with music.

Needless to say, my playlists are not categorized by the specific genres or moods that they fall into, but more by¬†sound. This began with a playlist of a few songs that¬†just went together. I had no other way to explain. I had lots of different people in my life listen to the songs in an effort to recognize what it was that made them fit like puzzle pieces. The songs were not the same in length, key, gender of singer, time signature, or even topic. I just did not understand, but somehow, they still went together. This became somewhat of a hobby, to find other songs that fit together with or without reason and thus an endless creative streak of playlists were born. (Not exaggerating, I made a new one yesterday). I have a folder of dance playlists, which consist of relevant songs for each dance, but I’ve had dance friends even argue my choices on some of these, claiming that they aren’t right for that style of dance. There are so many different songs that can be used for different dances whether they fit the common mood of that dance or not. To combat these arguments, I’ve picked through those playlists with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that the tempo and time signature works for the dance whether the song relays the suggested mood or not, because all of them, for me, fit.

I have a list of “Complete” playlists that will never truly be complete and then a list of “In Progress” playlists waiting for me to discover more songs that connect. Some of them are more general and some more specific, but either way once someone actually sits down and listens all the way through, they can find some understanding of the message I try to convey with these playlists. For example, I have a playlist with songs currently all by females that is super powerful. Several of the songs talk about love or relationships and other’s about independence but to me, as a whole they all convey the message that forms the Playlist title: Feminism doesn’t mean hating men. There’s another Playlist, The Dreams that leave you Shaken, that through music is the exact way that I feel when I have a dream that isn’t a nightmare, but isn’t exactly a good dream either. It’s the dreams that I keep coming back to in my mind the day after, trying to understand what was happening. There’s a Playlist of songs that are not all West Coast Swing songs, but perfectly describe how I feel when I dance West Coast.

On any given day, if asked, I can provide¬† at least one song to describe me and where my mind is that day. Some of those songs repeat a lot. Some show up once and then never again. I’m not consciously aware of the song everyday but I always know when I find it. Sometimes it’s more than one. It’s a song that if I share it then maybe with effort it can be understood. So far, most everyone doesn’t seem to. This language dialect of music seems to be one that only I speak. It makes regular communication more difficult for me, because I’d prefer to speak this way.

And I certainly try to. Within my array of playlists, there is a folder containing 20+ playlists made for people. I could probably make one for everyone I know, but some of them would only have a song or two so I stick to the people I know best. I’m sure most of these go unused, but still, it’s my way to explain that person. If I were going to show who someone close to me was and what they mean to me, the best place to go would be my playlists. It’s often different styles of music than that person usually listens to which loops back to their lack of understanding and my lack of explanation as to why that song fits or even¬†belongs¬†to them.

What’s my song today, you ask? “Don’t Blame it on Me” by Something in the Night. I can’t tell you why. I don’t have the words. But today, in this moment, that’s the song that my soul clicks with. How do you know who I am through my music? You don’t. My music language is one that exists within my soul and I try very hard to share it with others, but there are no words for it in the way that there are for dance. Dance can be learned. I haven’t yet learned how to teach my language of music in a way that people truly understand so for now, I leave “Hide and Seek” by Amber Run, and I return to my playlists.

Sing a tune, little baboon!

‚̧ Annee


Jenny Han, Joy Williams, and the Whole Lot of Them

I’m sorry I had to do it. I’ve done it so many times before. I tried to warn you and something inside me tried to shout but the only way I knew how to communicate my words was through song and I couldn’t do that either. I was too much of a coward then and I still am now. Joy Williams really put it perfectly. And she’s right. I think I knew all along for every one of them. That’s right, I knew from the beginning. I’m sorry. I really hoped, for a minute that something would be different.

So here’s my pretend Jenny Han. It’s not a complete list and not a totally serious one either. Don’t take my fictional list of nothings to heart.

  1. Life isn’t fair and you showed me that first. At least I follow through. Carsten.
  2. You were a dream and a safety net and just not real enough. I still believe in you.Seth.
  3. You left a hole in my heart that won’t ever be filled until I see you again. Tonka
  4. Sometimes it’s hard to ignore a kind smile when everyone around you has someone smiling at them. Your eyes were closed. Andrew W.
  5. You were the first time I realized it was sometimes healthier to get rid of people. Zach
  6. You were the one to decide and I had to learn to be okay. We don’t get to decide for others and I certainly am not one to be decided for. Mitchell.
  7. I don’t even know how we stopped being friends. That blues dance is still my favorite. You were fun and it was so much better than serious but when it’s all fun and no serious, it can’t last. Charles.
  8. It turned out for the best, don’t you think? And I really did help you find your happiness. Andrew S.
  9. I wish I had been the first to let go. He who shall not be named.
  10. I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that. You were the kindest of them all. Jared.
  11. I didn’t even give you the time of day. I should have. David.
  12. You’ve been coming and going for awhile now. The timing never works. Probably not for the best but I’d still say yes if it meant dancing with you again. B.
  13. I ran and you didn’t run after me. I shouldn’t have expected you to. I’m glad we talked about it, even if it was a year later. M.
  14. I’m sorry we used to fight. You are my best friend. Klaus.
  15. Where did you go? Fictional characters.
  16. I won’t answer. I’m sorry. I tried to tell you. It’s you. It’s me. It’s things you do/don’t do and it’s things I won’t settle for. B.

The list probably isn’t over. Maybe someday I’ll become brave and tell the person that really matters why I choose to Delta Rae. Maybe someday someone will tell me to OneRepublic or take me to Ed Sheeran¬† and tell me a Calum Scott and maybe just then, Joshua Radin. Or maybe not.

Can’t Stay, Blue Jay.

‚̧ Annee

Capricious Compliments

Them: You’re so pretty.

Me: I know.

I don’t handle compliments in the same way that everyone else seems to. This development has been something acquired over the last few years as I’ve come to realize the lack of truly sincere compliments in our society. Part of this started with a book called, “I Am Not a Serial Killer.” The main character in this book had some issues to say the least, but I learned something from that book that has been incredibly useful to me and become a tool in my life used basically every day. First though, I have to explain why this is even applicable for me.

I’m not so fond of society and the human population. I find most of them dull and their actions questionable. I study sociology because I try to understand why people in groups do what they do. It’s something I truly don’t understand and thus their interactions become fascinating. In addition to this, I’m frequently finding myself annoyed by other humans and the stupidity that laces their comments and actions. Anyways, in this book, the main character, in order to stop his intrusive thoughts, forces himself to find good things about people and compliment them on those things sincerely. At very least, he might tell someone he likes their shoelaces or socks¬†but generally, he tries to go deeper than that and say something about who they really are as a person.

After reading this book, I experimentally adopted this technique and it stuck. To this day, whenever I find myself disliking someone, I find something that I like about them and tell them. The trick is actually telling the person because it holds you accountable for acting in kindness towards them and the people recognize that. Sometimes I explain this action to people and then they think that every compliment I give is simply because I don’t like that person which is not always the case. This is simply my extra effort to always find something good in people and it really works.

In addition to this method of changing my thinking, I changed another way that I handle compliments. I began to notice a large quantity of situations in which people were complimented and the person argued the compliment, making it lose it’s meaning. The giver of the compliment has to either agree with the receiver, or defend their comment with more than they probably ever intended to do. There’s a few reasons that this seems to happen. 1) The receiver is fishing for more than just a few words. (This is stupid and shallow; don’t do it). 2) The receiver truly disagrees (accept the compliment anyways, then you can choose to ignore or internalize it). 3) The receiver doesn’t want to accept the compliment as a compliment (This usually happens with debatable things. I’ve been told a lot that I would make such a great Mom. Which okay…What is that supposed to imply?) OR 4) The receiver doesn’t want to accept that compliment from that giver (usually a compliment regarding something specific that the giver is lacking knowledge in or has too much knowledge about).

Another frequent pattern of compliments seems to be saying thank you and then returning a compliment of their own. An example might be someone tells you that they like your shirt and you respond by saying thank you, and then that you like theirs as well. The ONLY situation in which I allow myself to give a return compliment as such is if I was already thinking the comment before they spoke. If it’s something that pops up after, I remain quiet and just thank them for their comment. I will not minimize a compliment given to me by feeling obligated to give one in return.

This being said, the pattern of thank you’s and your welcome’s after compliments is also sometimes over done. I don’t want to constantly be saying “thank you” after every comment and in the same way as a return compliment, “you’re welcome” seems to almost minimize the compliment given. Thanks is reserved for quick passing compliments from strangers or people that I look up to and of which I value their opinions. However, those compliments from those I look up to usually come in a more formal way, where rather than “I like your shirt” they say something meaningful about my actions, behavior or personality. These compliments are something deeper and something I earn, not a material possession.

Sometimes I’m not even thankful for the compliment. Like I mentioned earlier, many have told me that I would be a great Mom. I don’t know what they are trying to imply, so I’m not grateful for that comment. I usually respond with an “Oh” in those situations because I’ve already discarded the thought. If I do return to it later, it’s simply to decipher what the heck their comment meant. There’s other situations as well were I’m not grateful for the compliment and my thanks depends on who the giver of the comment is.

After acknowledging these patterns of compliments, I started responding in a new way. At first, this was only with compliments given through messages, but it later branched out and now is how I respond to most. Instead of arguing or saying thank you, I just say “I know” or “I agree.” Sometimes I don’t agree, but I will respond this way anyways because in my own way, it is a way of saying “thank you” for noticing something that I made/found/did/have/love/etc. The responses I get from this are baffling sometimes. People have literally stopped talking to me because I agreed with a compliment they gave me.¬†Most of the time, people just laugh because they know that that’s just how I am. Sometimes they think I’m arguing and tell me it’s true, to which I agree again. People don’t know how to respond because they expect one of the actions aforementioned. I catch them off guard by responding in such an abnormal way that sets me far apart from the crowd.

All of this might seem selfish and conceited and rude, but to me it makes sense. Even with my words, I refuse to be what others expect if I disagree with it. For me, this way is the kind way. This is the way that I recognize the good that others see in me without trying to diminish their thoughts.

Switching gears for a moment to a random last thought, complements are interesting things in contrast to compliments. It’s the only situation I can think of where somewhat opposite and often contrasting things come together aesthetically and it¬†works.¬† It’s the contrast of all of the things that creates the unity. This really should be more focused on in our world. If we could learn to complement, rather than compliment each other, things might change. We would be working to play off of each other, to become stronger as one rather than solely noticing the achievements of others. To complement instead of compliment would require observation of each other’s behaviors and reactions rather than just words.

Hasta Ma√Īana, Iguana!

‚̧ Annee

Intravenous Interview

Today I’m bored and I may have reached a new level of absurdity. Hence, I’m going to interview myself.

Me: Hi, what’s up?

Also me: Literally nothing today. My cat has been napping on my bed for like 7 straight hours now. I’ve been sitting next to him and in that time I’ve finished a book, wrote, watched 2 different tv shows, spent an hour and a half on the phone with a friend and tried to come up with more things to do.

Me: Why don’t you go out and do something?

Also me: Like what?

Me: Good point. Okay so let’s just jump right into this. If you were a part of a burrito, which part would you be and why?

Also me: Easy. The tomatoes. Because on the outside I’m all cute and holding it together but on the inside I’m a mess *winks at camera.*

Me: *laughs* Good one! Which Hogwarts house are you in and is that important to you? Many don’t find it to be relevant in this day and age.

Also me: Oh heavens, yes! It’s so important. Hogwarts houses tell so much about a person’s character and who they really are when it comes down to it. For myself, I am a Slytherin and I agree with that completely. The words generally used to describe Slytherins are cunning, ambitious, resourceful and shrewd. I’m nothing if not those.

Me: Even shrewd? And you, cunning? Really?

Also me: Absolutely. Most people just say I’m intimidating and manipulative though.

Me: Ah. Difficult descriptors indeed. Next question; what is your absolute dream job?

Also me: This is a difficult one for me. There’s so many things I could be good at, but it all comes down to cleaning mirrors. Yeah, that’s something I could really see myself doing.

Me: Very true. If you were an animal, or had a spirit animal, what would it be and why?

Also me: An elephant. Because an elephant never forgets and an elephant is faithful 100%.

Me: Good one. Okay let’s find some hard one from the internet now…*opens google because I was not prepared for this interview*

Also me: Let’s just switch things up for a minute. If someone you loved was killed in front of you, but someone created a copy of them that was perfect right down to the atomic level, would they be the same person and would you love them just as much?

Me: They would be the same, but I sure wouldn’t! I’d probably love them more after watching them die but also be sneakily suspicious…and wonder who this other someone was.

Also me: Yeah, I agree.

Me: Okay here’s one from google.¬†Would the world be a better or worse place if everyone looked the same?

Also me: It would certainly be a more confusing place. And probably worse. Despite the equality, it would be extremely difficult to hold anyone accountable for anything because who’s to say that it was actually that person doing that?

Me: So kind of like us. Whenever you do something, I get blamed for it.

Also me: The reverse is also true.

Me: Fair enough. What’s your favorite emoji to use?

Also me:¬†√į¬ü¬§¬∑

Me: You don’t have one?

Also me: No, that’s it.

Me: What’s it?

Also me:¬†¬Į\_(„ÉĄ)_/¬Į

Me: Okay nevermind. *Snickers* Next question. Wait, can you hear the cat snoring?

Also me: Yeah and he keeps flinching too. He’s been in dreamland all day.

Me: What’s the last dream you remember?

Also me: I dreamed about the dentist and TMJ doctors a few days ago.

Me: Of course. Someday our jaw will be healed. Anywhoo, what’s on our mind right now?

Also me: So many things. I want to talk to someone, but not the people I talk to everyday. I want some new friends to talk with constantly through text. I don’t even do that with the few friends I do have. I want to listen to some sort of music or something but I don’t know what. I have really weird headache right now that isn’t really a headache but I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s like a brain freeze without the freeze part. Also I want it to be warm so that I can go do things (sit outside) in the sun. I’m sort of hungry but also not really but I haven’t had much at all to eat today so I should have something. How is today only Thursday. The weeks go by so much faster when I’m working.

Me: Okay, okay that’s enough of that internal monologue although I’m sure there’s more. What do you need to get off your chest today?

Also me: That I obviously might be just a tad lonesome.

Me: Okay good. I was afraid you might say something deep and even more true.

Also me: Nah.

Me: How can I uplift myself?

Also me: Well I think I’m gonna go shopping tomorrow. And maybe eat a fancy lunch. And sit in the sunshine.

Me: Yes. Let’s do it. What answers am I seeking right now?

Also me: Which career(s) am I actually going to do? What show should I be watching on Netflix? Should I even care to get married? And if yeah, who should I marry? Where do I find him? What should I eat for dinner?

Me: A great mix. What is going well in my life lately?

Also me: Work has been great.

Me: As of today, what is my vision for the next three years?

Also me: Work dang hard and reward myself with (limited) oreos and travel and books.

Me: So looking forward to that. How can we reduce current stress?

Also me: Let’s not talk about that. Also I just remembered last night’s dream. I was dog sitting but also watching a person.

Me: Ohhhkay then. So what makes you most qualified for this position?

Also me: I think we’re done here.

Me: This was weird.

See you later, alligator!

‚̧ Annee

The Epitome of Anxiety

You won’t like this post, so go ahead and stop reading here. It’s not for you; it’s for myself. You is the collective you, as in everyone.


My stomach hurts and turns and you can’t even tell that I’m constantly on the verge of puking. I can barely even choke down water. Food disgusts me and it’s unappetizing and you couldn’t convince me to want my favorites, but I force myself to eat something, so that I can pretend to function.

On the palms of my hands are scratches and little half moons from my nails. Up my wrists are more scratches. The hairband on my wrist isn’t for my hair. It’s to snap myself back to reality discreetly, when I’m losing touch again. I used to draw on my hands but I can’t do that now. It’s easy to say the table scratched me. It’s not easy to explain a mess of scribbled ink on my hand. There’s more scratches on my legs. I like to hold sharp objects.

My eyes are greener today. It’s not for any other reason than that I was crying recently. I hate crying. My medicine stops me most of the time, except when it’s all too much. When it’s a little bit of everything.

My words start to change. I become more sophisticated in speaking when I am like this. Contractions start to leave my language. I am unable to control it. My tongue becomes raw from the way I slide it across my teeth. I speak slower, more carefully but again, this is not in my control. My jaw is tight and despite the constant pain, I will disregard this and clench and grind my teeth harder and harder, just to¬†feel something. My laugh isn’t real; even if it came naturally, I will convince myself that it didn’t.

My head feels heavy, with the achy feeling that comes from taking a drowsy medication or crying too much. It’s like this for days. There are dizzy spells where I’m not really dizzy, but almost rather out of control of my body. I can see my hands do what they are told, and my mouth say what I need to say, but I’m not making any of that happen. Thoughts come and go. They are thoughts no one should have but still they come, and sometimes I welcome some of them. Not existing would be easier than this.

My feet still know what to do. They are heavier than normal and it takes more effort, but the muscle memory of dance forces them to be where they need to be. But when I sit, my legs bounce. It’s uncontrollable and when I notice it, I always try to stop them. It’s a different kind of pain.

Sounds and sights are everywhere. They are loud in my ears and bright in my eyes. I can hear you chewing from across the room. The tap tap tap of your pencil hurts not only my ears, but my eyes too from the repetitive movement. I can’t go outside, because it’s too bright. But the artificial light is almost worse. The glow of other screens‚ÄĒmovies and computer‚ÄĒinvades my vision. I can hear the cars, the heater, the water dripping, the clock, the shuffling of blankets, the creak of the wood, and every other little sound. Fast movements make my eyes feel like they are being stabbed. But slow movements make a dreadful ache. The only fix is when all sounds are of my choice, my creation. The clicking of keyboard keys, gentle songs that I choose. The light of my phone is welcoming even with the pain it causes, because it means that I’m escaping. The ringing in my ears drives me crazy and the thoughts in my head are shouts. Every little thing is bothering me. It all is causing me physical and mental pain.

When my skin is touched by anyone else, it leaves an invisible rash. It physically hurts and almost burns. It leaves my skin crawling and makes me flinch sometimes. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an okay touch or an undesired one; it still echoes for hours to come and if this becomes a memory, I’ll remember how uncomfortable I was. Even my clothes and blankets hurt my skin sometimes. But water does too. And lotion.

I tell you I don’t like country music. I tell you that I don’t like this person or that. I don’t like going to this place or eating that. I don’t like these animals or like to go to that person’s house. I don’t watch that movie anymore or I don’t walk down that street. Some of these truly are dislikes. The rest are triggers. They cause me many of these symptoms. They aren’t the only cause, but they certainly affect how bad they are.

It’s called sensory overload. It comes with my anxiety. Sometimes, I am having a panic attack right in front of you, and you don’t even know it. Other times, I will disappear for the same reason. Those times, I usually need some help to recover from it. But lately, no one is there. No one notices and no one asks.

People say they are looking for attention. It’s not that kind of attention. The only kind of attention I want is comfort. I want someone to tell me they are there and to help me through it. I’m not looking to be popular. I just want someone to care enough to give me a reason not to hurt.

Sometimes my thoughts are a constant loop of how I am the definition of anxiety. It’s not just that though; sometimes I am the epitome of anxiety.

Take the time, baby mine.

‚̧ Annee

Mr. Fox is in the Building

“Mr. Fox is in the building…” It’s a code one of my previous schools used for lockdowns. Looking back, it wasn’t the most discrete code, but all of the students knew what it meant. We had a real lockdown at one of my schools and I don’t really remember it being scary. There had been a situation blocks away with someone in a hotel. They’d kept us afterschool though, and I remember parents everyone, showing up and wondering where the heck their kids were.

It’s really different to be a staff member during lockdowns now, rather than a student. I’m the one making sure the door is locked and the blinds closed. I’m the last one to the designated spot.

A week ago today was the Parkland shooting in Florida. It was the biggest school shooting since Sandy Hook. Since then, the media has predictably and figuratively exploded. Everyone is talking about it. There’s at least one conversation about it each day at work, and more at home. Since yesterday alone, there have been 2 districts within 100 miles that have reported threats. At least 1 additional district had a lockdown today that was reportedly not a drill. Police presence on campuses has increased. More doors have been locked. Name tags are required of staff. Students are watching their words and asking what they should do if they see a threat on social media. Class debates on gun control are a daily staple. Classes are never left unsupervised. And some students are certainly being handled as fragile. Less conversations happen around them and everyone is more wary.

Blame is thrown every which way. Of course, with my background in Sociology and having taken criminology, terrorism, and specifically studied school shootings, a lot of staff and students come to ask me questions. “What’s different with this one?” “Do they know the motive?” “Where?” “How old was the shooter?” Having kept up on the news articles and other reports, I’m usually able to give answers to a lot of these questions, particularly what’s different. I’ve spent the time analyzing statistics on the topic. I’ve ran the tests myself to look for significance and understand what the¬†common shooter,¬†and the shooting¬†“looks like.”

What I struggle with is the speculation and redundancy of “solutions” and blame. I wish I had a word analysis of frequent use in articles, media, speech and news following instances such as this. If we did, I think a lot of the common words (besides the obvious shooting, shooter, school, etc.) would include: Gun control, violence, video games, motive, here, my kid(s), they should be in trouble too, why didn’t they…, what if, why, liberals, conservatives, republicans, Columbine and (insert whomever is currently President or FBI director here).

A lot of times, I keep my mouth shut tight while these conversations go on. I know that if I get involved, I will get frustrated and have difficulty explaining in simple Facebook-layman’s terms the statistics and other things I have studied. I also like to take the time for the event to cool down so that I can formulate my thoughts, hence the reason this post hasn’t come out sooner, even with a previous shooting. Additionally, I always find it incredibly useful for controversial situations to focus on supporting the argument opposite my opinion. This allows me to see the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and gain understanding of where everyone else is coming from. Altogether, I feel I’m able to come up with some decent arguments for either side that I like to use to counter conversations with. Let it be known that each of the articles I will cite in this post will be scholarly peer-reviewed articles with actual studies unless otherwise stated.

For the argument of “video games cause/bring/encourage violence” (one of my favorites to counter) I’d like to bring to the table the article,¬†Video Games and Youth Violence: A Prospective Analysis in Adolescents by Christopher J. Ferguson (2011) which findings conclude that both violent video games and television are insignificant in comparison with crime (not just shootings, but¬†all violent crime among teens).¬†The sample size for this article was 300 youth. Not enough for you? Here’s another:¬†Violent video game effects on aggression, empathy, and prosocial behavior in Eastern and Western countries: A meta-analytic review.¬†by Craig A. Anderson (et. al). This study additionally found very limited correlation. The samples that did have a correspondence were few and far between. There was no differentiation between males and females, which I would say is another big part of this argument, that males are more subject to video games to lead to violence than females. This study says differently. There are countless other articles studying the same thing with different samples and different focuses that have resulted in very similar findings. So tell me again how video games and/or television is the cause of violence? And why is your personal experience better than a study of hundreds of randomly selected teens? Oh, I didn’t realize it was you yourself that feels more violent when you play video games…carry on then….

For the argument of “it’s this idiot generation that spends their time eating tide pods. It was different in¬†my day.” With this idea, I’m not going to go out and say that kids are smart, however I am going to say that you probably weren’t much smarter in your day. One thing I will agree is different: stress and the way mental health is handled. I’m not going to focus on that a ton right now, but I personally believe that stress levels have changed. Students, particularly teens have an immense amount of school work and pressure placed upon them. It’s often said that Generation Z (current elementary-high school students) are the ribbon generation, where everyone gets something for their participation. That had to come to be somehow, and who is it that is giving those ribbons? Who is pushing their children to win and putting that pressure on? Blue participant ribbons aren’t enough for many people, and we push student to do more. They are drowning in life and in school work and in the mere controversy on every topic surrounding them every day. This is not to say that this all hasn’t existed previously, however it is amplified by ever present social media and communication. With this argument, I hear a lot of “kids brought guns to school when I was a kid and no one did anything then.” My article to help with this point is not a scholarly approved, however I believe the purpose will be served the same with a mere Wikipedia article, focusing in on the dates of school shootings. The first one listed is in the year 1764. Take a moment to think about that. The United States was founded in 1776. Over a decade earlier IN WHAT BECAME THE UNITED STATES, there was a school shooting. 10 people died (more than just guns were used). Jumping ahead past several instances, into 1900-1910 there are 17 schools shootings. In a single decade. This continues on. There are 479 reported shootings listed on this page. There¬†were¬†shootings when you were in school, no matter your age. You may not have heard of them, but during this time, news was very local or very world based. It was not until the 1980’s into the 1990’s where broadcasting became more available and constant. 1980 was the year of the first 24 hour news broadcast and at that point, it was boring. This is why media began spinning stories. They were bored. Their viewers were bored. They wanted money. Now we have constant news from hundreds of sources. You are certain to know within hours, if not minutes of an event’s happening. This has it’s pros and cons, but again, that’s another post.

Moving onto our beloved topic of gun control. It is really difficult to take something away from people that already have it, particularly when that something is a given freedom. But let’s play with that idea. Take away guns. What happens next? Suddenly there is no way to hurt people? I always like to tie this idea into motive. Motive is never a clear idea because there are so many factors that influence everything we do. However one thing is common, and that is that events like this take place to create chaos, pain and confusion. Attacks work because they do that. The media, again, helps in this by spinning stories and spouting off even more things. If you take away guns, violence and attacks do not go away. In an article by James Alan Fox and Monica J. DeLateur in 2013 titled Mass Shootings in America, analysis found that enforcing more gun control would have limited results in prevention of mass murder. There have been a number of situations, including terrorism situations in recent years where guns were not needed to create chaos. Other weapons like knives, can create this same chaos. Sure, there aren’t as many deaths, but this still induces fear. Another common one is driving vehicles into things. For this reason, most government buildings have really large flower pots outside them, and it’s not for decoration. Those are blockades to protect. This problem will not go away with guns being taken away. If this situation were to play out and cause guns to become illegal, the underground sales would initially skyrocket and likely level off later on. In addition to that, grandparent laws would prevent current gun owners from losing their guns. That’s the same thing that keeps people in prison even if a law is altered in a way that would have made their crime legal or less of a punishment. So then we decide not to take away guns. Then what happens? Nothing really changes….unless, there is another solution. But what is it?

This brings me to motive, my least favorite question to be asked when incidents occur. Every single time though, someone inquires, “Do they know/have the motive?” No is the answer. It’s always the answer. Even if there was a note from the attacker, deliberately laying out the motive, there will still be questions. You are asking to know the cause of the effect when it is much more complicated. Why do you do anything that you do? It’s a complicated collaboration of influences from a variety of sources, values, beliefs, peers, learned and observed behavior, and so, so much more. No one and nothing is without influence, both conscious and subconscious. You may not even know what is motivating you to do whatever it is you do. This is where I like to turn my attention away from the media and away from the attacker. I like to look at those in the community/area/school. A student may commit an act of violence like this, but why, did the other kids in their class¬†not¬†act in the same way. Sometimes in order to best understand why a behavior happens in some, you have to look at why it¬†doesn’t happen in others. What is causing these other kids to not act out violently? Is it their beliefs? Their friends? Love? Family? Goals?¬†What is it?¬†I don’t think that there is a clear answer to this question either. There is no one answer and as far as I know, it hasn’t been studied in depth (likely due to sensitivity around students within the premise of what the study would include). What is it that motivates people to act in accordance with the boundaries of comfortable society and maybe more importantly, should they?

I don’t have all the answers; I don’t even have most of them. I can’t say what the solution is to stop things like this. Perhaps there’s an underlying problem/theme altogether that we are missing; something that is broken and has to be fixed. I can say that I don’t think situations like this will decrease. With each one, it triggers another set of discussions and situations. Sometimes the tipping point for one person is for another to act. I don’t enjoy watching all of this unfold in the world, but it¬†is our reality and we have to learn to either accept or change that.

Be sweet, parakeet.

‚̧ Annee

Listen Loud

If you listen with the Spirit, you will find your heart softened, your faith strengthened, and your capacity to love the Lord increased. ‚ÄĒPresident Henry B. Eyring

This post is going to go in two extremely different directions. There is always more than one side to a story and sometimes different stories, happening at the same time can be like alternate sides of a coin. That’s kind of how this last week has been for me. It’s been a pleasing reminder and a rude awakening all at once.

This last weekend I went on a spontaneous trip to New York. It was fantastic as most random adventures are. As before every trip, I prayed for safety and guidance. This was particularly important in this instant due to the rare nature of the trip and my lack of familiarity not only with my travel companion and people I would see, but also with the place I was going. New York is often seen as a busy city, somewhere to hold on a bit tighter to your wallet. I was aware of what I was walking into, and knew that I would need heavenly guidance to get me on my way and avoid negative situations. I’m happy to report that there were no problems or altercations of anytime. I felt totally safe the entire time I was there and for that I am immensely grateful. However, this serenity did not come without my own decision making.

There were times where I was prompted to go one way or another, to wait or to cross the street (kind of a big deal in NYC where pedestrian and driving rules are skewed). This was little guidance that I’m familiar with receiving. I did find myself in some situations I had not anticipated facing at this current time, but from the time I was young, I was told these situations would come someday. For the first time this last weekend (yes, the first), I was offered alcohol more than once, despite being underage. I was amazed and strengthened by the ease at which my ability to say no and explain my reasons for the refusal came to me. Immediately, I recalled how my young women leaders had taught me for years and years that if I decided upon such things while I was young, that the choice would become easier and easier when it came. And it was. It was incredible how easy it was, and how much I was edified by a choice I had made years ago.

In addition to this whole experience, I had a missionary moment at the most unlikely of times. This is where part of my other side of the coin comes in, because as I had been packing, I’d contemplated how I would read my scriptures in New York and whether I should bring a Book of Mormon or just read on my phone like I do at home. I decided to read on my phone, but looking back, I really wish I’d had a physical copy with me. I can’t say that it would have changed my missionary experience at all, but it would have given me the choice. Anyways, this experience. My friend and I went dancing, etc. etc. and we ended up having a couple of guys we’d met walk us back to our hotel (it was late, dark, cold and New York). I felt completely at ease with this and it really was totally fine. As we walked and I talked to one of the guys, the topic of religion came up. I shared some of my beliefs and such and he realized I was a Mormon, and not only was I that, but I was also the first Mormon he’d ever met.

He had many questions due to his limited experience and despite my sleep deprived state, I found the spirit taking over and I was able to explain to him things about the church in a way that he could understand. There were analogies I couldn’t have thought of on my own, but the spirit so strongly helped me. He asked about my belief in the Bible, and how true/literal/commanding I found it to be. With all of the news and discussions that happen today about whether everything in the Bible should be taken literally or if some of it was only for the people of that time, this was a totally valid question. He had trouble wording it and I have trouble even trying to explain it but despite this, I could hear and understand what he was wanting to know. I talked about how the Bible was like the original smart phone and while much of it was true, there were also parts that may have happened more figuratively than literally. The Book of Mormon, I related, was like an update on a phone. It gave new information and somewhat of a new operating system that helped perform tasks better. General Conference, or the words of modern church leaders were like more frequent updates that we received to help us keep up to date with the changing world and have things specifically apply to us.

He shared with me some of his family’s beliefs and how he was areligous, that is, he didn’t not believe in things, but he didn’t practice or specifically stick with one thing. He was so open with this and told me how his family practiced Judaism, but he didn’t really know much about it. At once, I was able to recall some of the similarities I’d previously studied between Judaism and Mormonism and told him about these. This made so much more sense to him and connected the conversation even more.

Many missionary stories similar to this one consist of dispelling rumors, but this guy was just so open to understanding and asking questions. He may have had predisposed thoughts, but with me being the first Mormon he’d actually met, it deemed as though he dispelled these and relied on me as a source. I can’t say that this will go anywhere for him, or that he’s even given it a second thought after that evening. For me though, the experience was so enlightening into the way that the Spirit can guide me through a conversation on a whim. I was not prepared for a conversation like that one. I hadn’t been studying vigorously, but I knew enough and that felt good.

My weekend spent in New York was a grand one and I loved it all. A few things bothered me though and it wasn’t until I got home and felt more relaxed that I realized what it was. This feeling of “relaxation” wasn’t that at all. It was a feeling of privilege and it really upset me. Having spent the last seven plus years in small Idaho towns filled with small town farmers, I’d grown accustomed to the ways. In these towns, it seems as though there is a basic level of equality wherein people only fall below if a) they make choices that lead them there or b) they are immigrants and are working to move up to that equality. I’ve recognized these two populations for years and work to respect them and try to understand where they come from. In New York though, I was reminded of all of the other inequalities. It didn’t seem to bother anyone there, that in the bitter cold wind with below freezing temperatures, there were homeless people sleeping under the shelter of construction zones. No one seemed to notice the people digging through the trash or looking for their next meal. There were comments about how people didn’t feel sorry for them because their own choices had led them there and if they really wanted, they could change their situation. There were comments about how money given to them would be used to buy alcohol and drugs. I can’t say with certainty that these are invalid, but they weren’t proven either.

I didn’t do anything though. I didn’t stop the comments. I didn’t spout off my usual round of statistics declaring how the majority of homeless populations suffer with mental and/or physical disabilities. I didn’t give away change or leftover food. I didn’t give away the second hat I had with me. I didn’t do anything to make these situations better, and for that I’ve been upset with myself. I let my own middle class white privilege get in the way. I let my fears be stronger than what I spent my college career studying. I let myself down.

It wasn’t just coming home that made me realize this. It was my brother, years younger than me. He’d also spent the weekend in a city, albeit much smaller than NYC. He spent his night there walking around the city and talking to the homeless. He shared food and such with them. He learned their names and addressed them by such the next day when he walked around and saw them again. He did what I should have done.

This struck me so hard, because of the struggles my brother has had. I’ve worked so hard for everything I wanted (college, jobs, etc.) and I’ve been thinking of myself as being so great. And then my brother, who’s lost so many things from making decisions, did the better thing. He didn’t let his skin color get in the way. He didn’t let his money, his time, his friends, or anything else stop him. He was the Samaritan, and I was the Priest and the Levite.

I spent my weekend thinking I was in tune with the spirit, and at times, I was. I don’t know how closely I was truly listening though and the residual sting of this has left me thinking all week. I can’t go back and change what happened, but next time, I don’t think the trip will be for me. It won’t be for the sights that I get to see wherever I go. It won’t be just to have fun. Next time, it will be to open my eyes, and to see what life is truly like. Not for the majority population, but for the people I ache to be more for. It would have hardly taken any money, any time, any effort, to change just one more person’s day. It would have been so easy.

This weekend served as a reminder; A reminder of the spirit I have with me and the skills and abilities I’ve been blessed with. Also, it was a reminder of what more I can do, every single day.

Give a hug, Ladybug.

‚̧ Annee