Sunday, December 30, 2012

My New Year's Resolution is Better Than Yours

The sun rises and sets 365 and 1/4 times before the Earth reaches a complete revolution around the Sun, and a lot of stuff has happened on this little planet between those 4,540,000,000 journeys.

At midnight this Tuesday, we begin a new orbit, assuming that a meteor doesn't crash into us. (And if that were the case, the government would assemble a ragtag team of dudes led by Bruce Willis who would save everyone, so don't worry.) 2012 will become 2013. Despite all the symbolism people attribute to it as far as new beginnings and resolutions go, the new year really means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. That is, unless you own a gym (in which case you should expect to profit from impressionable fat people looking to drop $$$$ on the use of communal stationary bikes until mid-February) or a frozen yogurt bar (in which case those same impressionable fat people will resist the urge to eat their feelings until mid-February).

I don't think I need to spend a lot of time convincing you that New Year's resolutions are futile because they don't really work, because we all know it. The reason for this is that they are based on the following mentality: We assume we'll be better at [weight loss/saving money/less stress/not picking at split ends/laying off the liquor] because culturally a new year gives us a "clean slate," but despite that our brains haven't actually been conditioned to learn the skills necessary to reach these goals. In addition, when it comes to resolutions we tend to expect nothing but perfection beginning on January 1st, and once we make a mistake we feel that we've ruined it and just give up. The beginning of a new year is, in reality, just the beginning of another new day--why not live each day with a resolution? Why wait for a four-digit-number to dictate when we make a change?

Most popular New Year's resolutions are completely off the mark because people are out-of-touch with what makes them happy in life, or what makes those 365 and 1/4 day-increments "good" years or "bad" years. Losing weight, getting out of debt, curbing negative thoughts, attempting to salvage one's over-processed hair, and not drinking a bottle of white Zinfandel in bed alone every night are all good goals to have that can increase our quality of life. But if we don't ever achieve them, then what's the point?

I've been making resolutions since I was about 14, and I could never stick with them. I find that it gets depressing. So I'm making a resolution about resolutions: This year, I resolve to do good things, but specifically good things that are attainable, that don't involve box-checking or scales or measurements. I really just want to point to 2013 and say, "Yeah, that was a great year." I know myself, and I know how to make that happen, and it probably has nothing to do with a jeans size or a bank account or how shiny my hair is.

The following are some of the most common New Year's resolutions that I've turned upside down with my new mindset:

  • Get Skinny: I'm about to leave the United States for 27 months, and that means leaving cheeseburgers, burritos, curry, pizza, barbecue, sushi, subs, fried chicken, frozen yogurt, mozzarella sticks, enchiladas, wontons, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, Oreo truffles, get the picture. Why would I get on that plane without relishing all the foods I love beforehand? And why would I turn up my nose at the delicious Mediterranean cuisine my host family will serve to me in Albania? What good is it for me to stress over calories-from-fat ratios when basil, feta cheese, braised lamb, olive oil, and baklava that I've never experienced is within my reach? Bring on the Peace Corps 15, I know I can lose it later.
  • Get Rich: I already know this year will not be about making lots of money, since I'll be in a volunteer position, and that my student loans (which thankfully I can defer because of my service) will be waiting for me in 2015. But the good news is that I have PLENTY of experience in being poor. (When I say "poor," of course, I mean the upper-middle-class-white-person version of poor, not the real version with the no food and stuff.) You could probably say I'm an expert in being cheap and grumpy. Being poor means people can't ask me for money (unless you work for Greenpeace on a college campus), which is great. Not having a lot of money to spend means less distractions and less responsibilities. A good situation to be in when you're a single 23-year-old trying to soak up the world before real life starts.
  • Get Busy: I'm interested to see how I'll deal with leaving a culture that is so obsessed with work and productivity and appearing "busy." When I ask RPCVs (returned Peace Corps Volunteers) for advice about my service, the most common answer is to take it slow and soak up my experience without worrying about the grunt work. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm really bad at taking just about anything "slow." I guess this will be the part of my anti-resolution that doesn't come so naturally.
  • Get "It": More than a few people actually resolve to get a boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife in the coming year. I find this to be a little desperate, because I am a firm believer that those things occur only when you are content with yourself--as evidenced by everyone I've ever known who has participated in a healthy relationship. As I've made the decision to be a PCV, where I will be far away from anyone I've ever known, my goal is to fall in love with myself. As sad and cliché as that sounds, I want to get to know me a little better, learn how to deal with myself when I'm a cranky bitch, and figure out what I really want and need. (Naturally, I want to take myself to dinner and give myself presents, too.) But then there's this.
My life is going to change drastically this year, so I figured my approach to life could stand to change too. I'll see you in 2014 possibly a little thicker, scrappier, and hopefully happier.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pinterest Creepiness Scale

Let me start off by saying that I LOVE PINTEREST. I am on it probably more than any other site except Twitter. It's just so...pretty. I love finding beautiful clothes and ideas for hair and makeup and memes and witty quotes and recipes and pictures of lightning storms and other cool stuff. There are so many things I never would have known about if it weren't for Pinterest, and in some ways it has actually made my life better. But like with all social networking, I have a "love-hate" relationship with Pinterest--and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.

There is definitely a Pinterest "culture." It is a female-dominated site and, as with anything female-dominated, it is necessary to make life look glamorous and perfect. There is nothing ugly on Pinterest. Every workout tip features a toned, ponytailed beautiful woman smiling way too widely for someone mid-burpee, every crockpot recipe is extensively photographed with a $2500 camera balanced by a housewife with a cutesy blog, and every comment underneath an armpit stain-removal technique boasts, "OMG!!! BEST THING EVER, DOING THIS IMMEDIATELY!!!!!" So. Much. Enthusiasm! Pinterest, like every other social media site, allows us to be ourselves but simultaneously refuse to acknowledge the realities of life. And it's fun, okay?!

But, as is the case with every other corner of the Internet, I regularly scroll across pins that make me cringe and/or roll my eyes. Unfortunately some elements of the female-dominated Pinterest culture include obsessions with unrealistic fantasies ("dream" weddings, "dream" homes, etc.), perpetuating annoying stereotypes, and coveting wildly expensive objects ("WANT"). This culture can make me crazy...but not so much so that I'll stop pinning! :)

In summary, here is my take on Pinterest: every pin you see falls somewhere on the scale of completely awesome to objectionably creepy. For your reading pleasure, I have outlined my personal awesome-creepy Pinterest scale, while acknowledging that the creepy stuff finds its way even onto my own boards at times:

Completely Awesome
  • Memes, Ecards, funny pictures, etc.
  • Food Porn (mostly cheesecake recipes)...right next to the "Fitness" board, where it belongs
  • Fashion, fashion, FASHION!
  • Cute animals
  • Beauty, especially makeup
  • Portraits of sexy famous people
  • "Simple" hair tutorials that are actually pretty simple
  • Devices & gadgets that make things easier/more comfortable/etc.
  • Links to blogs & useful sites
  • Gift ideas
  • Art & Photography

Kinda Cool
  • Beautiful vacation spots that you can't afford :-/
  • Crochet bathing suits that look great on the model but you'd probably never wear
  • DIY projects that are somewhat useful
  • Cheesy motivational quotes in cool fonts & colors
  • Cheesy quotes about "life" with smiley people and/or sunsets in the background
  • Workouts that you will never actually get around to doing
  • Outfit ideas that are actually pretty basic but the girl wearing it looks hot

A Little Weird
  • Mason jars? Lots and lots and lots of mason jars
  • Replace EVERYTHING with Greek yogurt
  • Parenting advice pinned by people who are actually parents (You wanna trust the Internet on this one?)
  • Fancy, expensive wedding ideas re-pinned by someone who is engaged and probably can't afford such a wedding
  • Uncomfortable family portrait poses
  • Crafts that take way too long to make
  • DIY projects that aren't actually that useful
  • Gigantic floating princess-cut diamond engagement rings

Irritating/Slightly Disturbing
  • Those long-as-hell pins that go on for like 5 pages and get in the way of all the other pins
  • Pins that get you really excited but when you click on it the 502 error message comes up saying the link is broken/spam
  • "Simple" hair tutorials that DON'T FRIGGIN WORK on my hair
  • Terrible life/relationship advice (i.e. quotes by Drake, Marilyn Monroe, and other people we should strive to be nothing like)
  • "Gender reveal" ideas? (WHAT IS A GENDER REVEAL?)
  • Random creepily, impossibly toned women

Objectionably Creepy
  • Gigantic, unrealistically luxurious homes. You can stare at that lazy river all you want but it's not gonna appear in your entryway, honey.
  • Any and all midriff-baring/topless/nude pregnancy photos
  • Parenting advice re-pinned by people single people--"Someday this will come in handy!" Yeah, when you're raising your cats.
  • Eating disorders passing as diets. "Eat only raw celery for 3 days and you'll lose 10 pounds!!! Chew sugar-free gum or smell some pound cake if you get hungry."
  • Cliche sayings that make sweeping generalizations about gender: "REAL women [look like this]"/"REAL men [do this]"
  • Fancy, expensive wedding ideas re-pinned by very, very single people
  • Tips on how to "not get raped"
  • Anything involving Taylor Swift

In my opinion, the awesome stuff makes having an account well worth it...and on some days, it's even fun to snort at the stuff that's not. I take Pinterest with the good and the bad, the awesome and the creepy, as we must with most things.

Also, you should follow me.