The Easy Way Out?

My dog, Gracey, is really old. She is 16 or 112 in dog years to be exact. Last week we took her up north with us to our family reunion and the hardest part of having her along was not at the reunion as we had anticipated, but the car ride. Over the past year or so her hips have given her plenty of trouble, as she has hip dysplasia. All we wanted was for her to sit, stand or lay down, but instead she crouched in the most awkward position imaginable and when we stopped at a rest area partway, she limped out and could barely walk. (The other people there must have thought something was terribly wrong with our dog…) The rest of the ride we had to force her to lie down and my dad commented, “no matter what, it’s like she does exactly what you don’t want her to do.”

That comment stuck with me–partly because I’m an introspective, pensive person and partly because of the truth behind it. Doesn’t that remind you of yourself? It definitely reminds me of myself. On one hand, as a Christian I think about my sin, and how my mind or my mouth goes directly where it shouldn’t go. Too often my anger flares up and my patience depletes. God sits beside me while I take the reins and the burdens and everything else I shouldn’t and can’t handle.

On the other hand, it reminds me of how humans tend to settle for things that we shouldn’t. We choose the easiest and most convenient path. But guess what? That’s not the best path for us. I see this trend in my life and other people’s lives. I’d rather sit around on my phone doing nothing productive than try to write a novel with characters that mean a lot to me. In fact, I’d rather do anything than write my novel, even though I know for a fact my excitement grows when I actually sit and work on it.

Most people don’t face my particular struggle, though, so let me put it into other terms. We would rather settle for a job that pays than a job that we are truly passionate about and can fully use our unique skills in, so we don’t have to put ourselves out on a limb. We would rather settle for the convenient people placed in our lives at school or work than go out and seek friends that really bring out the best in ourselves, because that involves making ourselves vulnerable. We would rather accept a belief system that’s easy to follow than one that’s hard, because we’re too afraid to truly stand for something. Do any of those resonate with you?

Don’t settle for what’s convenient and easy. We think we’re taking the easy way out throughout all of these things, when really it’s making us increasingly unhappy. You and I have hopes, dreams and aspirations of all kinds, whether that includes what we want to do, who we want to live our lives with or what we want to obtain from this life. You and I were not made to settle. This means sometimes we have to put ourselves out there, sometimes we have to fail and we can’t expect to please everyone (that’s a hard truth for me to swallow). Easy and convenient things are just that, but difficult things require hard work, effort and the best part is that it will be rewarding.

~Annah

Dear Terrorists,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that the world has angered you in more ways than I can imagine. Sometimes it’s hard to see any good when people are frustrating, acting in ways or expressing views you disagree with. I understand that there are many frustrations in the world.

Your life is valuable and you matter. But so does everyone else. I wish you could understand that.

I also know you might feel ostracized from the rest of the world. But you are still a human and the God I believe in still seeks you out and invites you to be his ‘beloved.’ I’m sorry if some people lose sight of your humanity amidst their anger. However, they have reason to be angry and I’m saddened that you are apathetic about the pain you are causing others, and ultimately, yourself. I may not know all your motives (and maybe they make perfect sense to you), but know that I think you’ve lost sight of others’ humanity too. Remembering each other’s humanness is what will solve our issues as the human race.

Would eliminating everyone with different viewpoints really be effective? You would become very lonely, grow restless and still not be satisfied at the end of the day. If you learned how to communicate more effectively face-to-face with others that would help heaps more. Talk to others about why you hold such a strong opinion and why you think they would benefit from acquiring your viewpoint. People would fully hear out your argument that way and you could potentially gain supporters. Whereas, if you killed everyone who disagreed with you sadness, anger and emptiness within yourself all increase. Argue with words, not weapons.

The other day one of you committed an act of terrorism at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. This was not only tragic because of the lives lost, but because it was at a concert of all places. I’m going to go out on a limb and say you all appreciate some music; every human loves music. The thing about music is that it shows people they are not alone, it provides community regardless of political or spiritual views, and it connects people from all parts of the world. This empathetic art is something we can all agree upon and appreciate—it has been part of societal rituals like weddings and funerals, provided a great stress reliever to all who seek it, and communicated messages our hearts cannot put into words.

As an avid concert-goer myself, this act broke my heart because I know that people wait weeks, months and even a year in advance for concerts. Precious money is saved up for a night of bliss when everyone can sing in harmony in one room to musicians that have cheered them up on gloomy days or even saved their lives. Hundreds and even thousands of people waited in excited anticipation for that concert just to end up dead, hospitalized or traumatized for life. That was the last place they ever expected to die. Concerts are safe havens for so many. Does that really not register any emotions within you? I hate that you’re plagued by apathy.

I hope you have all been moved by music at some point in your life; those are beautifully indescribable moments. If you haven’t, I hope you do soon. Music is a timeless beauty that comes in all shapes and forms.

It is never too late to communicate your feelings in a more productive way. I hope you understand the weight and sadness of your actions someday. I hope you start feeling sympathy for people with different viewpoints someday.

You are still human and I will always treat you as such. I’m upset you have such discontentment in your heart and I’m sorry fulfillment has not flooded into your life. I will pray that you find peace in peace someday.

Sincerely,

A Woman who Loves Music and People

Female Objectification by… Females?

You’ve heard it all before: how many male musicians, especially prevalent in rap or hip-hop genres, are well-known for objectifying women. Obviously treating women in this fashion is not okay.

However, I’m more disturbed by the fact that women are so against this, yet many famous female singers and bands do the exact same things to themselves. While I believe they generally have good intentions, some female musicians who claim to be empowering women and showing their gender’s capabilities occasionally do the exact opposite.

It’s one thing to sing a love song to someone you care about, but it’s quite another to sing an overtly sensual song, where the body is flaunted and seeks to be controlled by a man. Music videos can sometimes be a problem on their own, where women intentionally or unintentionally glorify their bodies for anyone and everyone who watch the video. Yes, it’s great to be comfortable and confident in your own skin, and we as women should continually work on helping each other love our own bodies. However, I don’t think showing your nearly naked body off to thousands or millions of people on the Internet is the best way to exemplify this self-love. Women are worth more than their bodies but these videos are putting everyone’s focus on their bodies! Even if your intentions are to portray confidence in your body, there is no way people are going to see that and not be reminded of something sexual. Nakedness will always have a sexual connotation.

I am not looking down on any certain musicians; I still enjoy some of their music and think they’re talented. That being said, I will not be including names and songs of those that sang these lyrics, because that is not what matters within this topic. What matters is that female objectification is an issue that is so incredibly commonplace in music we have turned numb to it. We inhale these videos and exhale these lyrics daily. Is no one else concerned by that? Do these lyrics and trends bother anyone else? I know these ladies are not trying to objectify themselves, but nevertheless, they are.

Here are lyrics from randomly chosen songs females sing that have this sensual quality:

“Bang bang, all over you, I’ll let you have it.”

“Gonna wear that dress you like, skin-tight… I just want to look good for you.”

“Since the last time we danced I’ve learned some brand new moves… I want to try them on you.”

“You can touch me with slow hands…”

I used to not mind these kinds of songs, honestly, because they were catchy and fun to dance to. But strip away the beat and it’s quite sickening to digest these lyrics, personally. Is this how we want to represent ourselves? When people think of women in music, are these the songs we want them to think of? Is this the extent of our lyrical depth and human experience? By writing and singing songs like this, female musicians are perpetuating this theme that we are first and foremost sexual beings. We tell men not to sexually objectify ourselves and then turn around and sing about the same thing. Just because the female is the one talking about sex and is consenting to it doesn’t mean the overall message cannot objectify her body.

I don’t know about you, but I am worth far more than sex or a romantic relationship. My life is filled with much more complexity and purpose than seeking marriage or intimate love from another human being. Sex is a gift given to us, a regular part of life and we are naturally attracted to it, but women are not living on this planet for that sole purpose. However, that is what these songs convey, especially when some of these artists write almost entire albums with similar themes.

If you want to truly empower your fellow females worldwide when you have such a vast audience, female musicians, work on emphasizing that they can do anything. But not that they can get or forget any romantic partner they want, no. Don’t even mention those things. To truly empower women we need to convey that our worth and identity are not even dependent upon romance and relationships.

~Annah

To Every College Student

This is something I desperately want you to hear and truly understand, as I am part of your population. I don’t think anyone stops to tell you this or remind you of this. Here’s the thing, sweet college student reader (or really anyone in their twenties): there are so many question marks in your life and I think you put at least one too many upon yourself. There is one too many burdens on your shoulders.

We are constantly on the move, constantly planning, constantly trying to hang out with our large spectrum of friends. There is a need to keep socializing, meeting new people, and branching out. You scroll through social media and everyone is posting pictures with their groups of friends or talking about friendships through written posts. That is all well and good, there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. Believe me when I say we were made for community.

However, I’m afraid we’re not stopping to love ourselves. I don’t mean stop and find some alone time once in a while, because I think we’re all decent at that. I don’t mean we hate our outward appearance, I think we all have at least okay self-love. What I mean is that I want you to slow down, disconnect from everyone else, and really observe yourself. Take time to journey on your own now and again. This is not because I want you to be antisocial or self-centered, but I want you to establish confidence and knowledge of who you are and what being you truly means. In this time when we are figuring out who we are, I think it’s crucial that we have confidence in our individualism in order to do that. Too often we are in groups and in community, so we forget the importance of establishing ourselves in our own unique capabilities when no one else is around.

Why do I think there is a lack of self-confidence and individualism? I see it constantly and have experienced it numerous times. Sometimes when eating alone people become oddly self-conscious. Or on the flip side, people see others eating alone and feel bad. Almost no one attends church, clubs or events alone. There is an unspoken thought that solitude equates loneliness. Therefore, we remain constantly surrounded by friends.

When you go out in public, it does not need to be a group outing. Go out alone, dare I say it. Enjoy being on your own, and if it’s uncomfortable, continue to push yourself to loving you.

You have a presence that is all your own. Your identity is not in your friend group. Push off the burdens of insecurity and uncertainty about being alone and embrace the experience. There is nothing wrong with solitude, there is nothing wrong with not being in community all the time, and I just wanted to make sure you heard that.

So to answer your unasked question: Yes, you are good enough as an individual.

~Annah

To the Harolds

The other week I watched Harold & Maude for the first time and I have never laughed so much during one movie before! I loved it, along with the characters of Harold and Maude. After I finished the film I kept thinking about Harold’s character and the people I’ve encountered who seem to resemble this troubled young man. I’ve run into a couple Harolds—people who feel insignificant and doubt whether their lives truly matter. So whether I know you or not, my Harolds, this one’s for you.

I know you’ve been through a lot of rough relationships and I can’t even imagine how people have hurt you in the past, whether family or friends. I’m sure some people get frustrated with you because you’re not up to their standards and you might not always communicate in ways others want you to. But I know reasoning runs deeper than attempts at being inconvenient to those around you. When people are coming and going in your life so frequently I can only imagine how difficult it is to try to open yourself up to some.

There are many question marks in your life. Dang, life is complicated; it can be rough and monotonous. Sometimes you would rather stay in the background where you can blend in and skate through life unnoticed. You may feel invisible and insignificant at times, but you are so loved, more than you can even fathom. I know there would be broken hearts if you were gone, so please never convince yourself that would be the best plan. Your importance goes beyond the value you place on your daily life.

Harold.jpg

Photo credit: listal.com

You matter. I can’t say it enough and you can’t hear it enough. Keep searching until you find those people that make you feel important. Find people like Maude, who help you look outside of yourself to the world around you and allow you to see your place in it. Don’t be afraid to share your emotions; I know you aren’t too keen on doing that. Tell someone your heart is still hurting from years ago. Tell someone you don’t know where to turn next. Yes, it’s difficult and you’ll probably be uncomfortable being so vulnerable, but it will reap such beneficial rewards. No one wants you to feel isolated. Keep telling yourself that until you believe it.

Keep being you at the end of the day, because you have unique traits to offer the world. You have so much potential, more than you see in yourself. When the going gets tough, don’t look inward, look out. You are going to do great things and people will flock to you just for being you. Yes, you with that quirk you don’t like and those intolerable characteristics you seem to find in yourself. Not everyone sees you the way you do.

Harold and maude.jpg

Photo credit: film4.com

Sometimes the world moves too fast, Harold. It’s okay to slow down and stop sometimes. It’s okay to say ‘this is too much right now.’ Just promise me you’ll stand up tomorrow and try again.

But one thing is certain—you will figure it all out eventually. Maybe you won’t live out the life you had envisioned, because bad things get in the way, but joy can be found every day if you look hard enough… and I know you want to find it, even if you can’t see it right now.

Hang in there, friends. And remember:

“Well if you want to sing out, sing out / And if you want to be free, be free / ‘Cause there’s a million things to be / You know that there are.”

(…but being you is the best.)

~Annah

My Heart, My Passion, My Dream

I’m a writer and I hope to write books someday. Chances are there may come a time when someone asks me who inspires me to write. I think about all of the writers I admire for different reasons: J.K. Rowling, Victor Hugo, J.D. Salinger, Jane Austen… I could name those people, but if I’m truly honest with myself those are not the people who mostly inspire me to write. To be completely honest with you, I’m a really weird writer, because the people that inspire me to write are not novelists, they’re musicians.

Music has always been my favorite way to unwind and find comfort in other people and the beauty the world has to offer. I experience inexpressible joy in music, whether that’s hearing my flute join the dialogue of the rest of a symphony band or listening to the plot line of lyrics my favorite singer is spitting out of my iPod. These people are sending out emotions and messages that are going straight from their recording studio to my heart and I am so in love with this art God has created.

When I was in elementary school my musical palette was either my Spirit movie soundtrack or Jack Johnson (I know… I was a pretty cool kid.) I have so many sporadic memories of moments in my life with music, whether that was clopping like a horse in my living room to Spirit or listening to Switchfoot’s “Learning to Breathe” album on the way to my dad’s high school men’s varsity basketball games. They’re random snippets of my life that my brain has decided to store away and when I think back to my childhood, music is what I remember first.

My neighbor, Nathan and I would always put albums in his television and literally run in circles in his living room, instead of dancing. First of all, what kinds of kids do that? We were so weird. But we did that all the time. Sometimes if we were feeling really rowdy, we would stop at the couch as we were running and try to do cool jumps and kicks off of it.

Then in middle school I started playing the flute, which I still play in a weekly concert band group at my college. Band was and still is such a nice break from my other classes. It’s incredibly refreshing to use a different part of my brain after hours of reading, writing, and memorizing constantly. I also started singing for fun in middle school. This is a well-known fact to my family, but an unknown fact to almost everyone else. (Thank you to my family for putting up with hours of singing.) I would spend hours almost daily listening to my iPod and belting out songs. This was almost a daily occurrence during high school too! But only in my closed bedroom or basement when no one else was too close within earshot, because otherwise it was too embarrassing. Honestly, whenever I come home from college I still go to the basement and sing. I can literally do it for hours… it’s my security blanket. For some reason I enjoy and am addicted to singing, even though I know I’m not the greatest.

But perhaps my favorite part of music and my best memories of it are concerts. I’m not kidding when I say I live for concerts. I get the worst post-concert depression too. My first concert was in eighth grade, when I saw Allstar Weekend on November 13. I counted down to that concert months in advance—I was a full-on obsessed 13-year-old girl. Side note to musicians: watch out for the 13-year-old girls. They are the most intense, I promise. It’s kind of scary.

Last year I went to my two favorite concerts of my life: Twenty One Pilots and Switchfoot (with Relient K as their opener). For those of you who don’t know, those are all of my favorite bands. I could write entire blogs dedicated to each of those concerts, so all I will say is there was so much love and joy for Christ radiating onto those audiences. The only difference was one crowd was not aware of the source of this joy and love, and one was.

Alternatively, the other week I was at a local concert expectantly awaiting this band I had newly fallen in love with. They definitely live different lifestyles, yet there was still beauty to be found in their music. Maybe we don’t live the same way, but we still share a passion for the art and that’s what matters. Their opening band was not at all my style, with intensely loud drums and bass, on top of inaudible lyrics. But for some reason, while I was standing there next to people starkly different from myself and the smell of alcohol wafted through the air, I found positivity. Despite my personal tastes, it is still music and there is still beauty in it for some people. I’m always in awe of this art we have been given to express ourselves in any manner we choose. No matter what, there is passion behind music, and that can’t be said for a lot of other things.

This creative outlet and these musicians are what drive my desire to write. Music makes me want to squeeze everyone I love close and show them why life is good. On top of my English major I have a Communication major. Besides the fact that Comm. pushes me out of my comfort zone, I took on this major because I want to combine what I love most: music, writing, and communicating with my fellow human beings.

I have no idea yet what my specific career will look like. It could be public relations, it could be marketing, I have no idea. All I know is I love music and if I’m going to live my one life and have (in theory) one career, I would be pretty upset if it didn’t involve music.

There have certainly been doubts and fears, which will continue throughout my journey to whatever is next. Sometimes I don’t feel cool enough and sometimes I feel like being a female is a hindrance to my dreams, but I’m going to push through the lies. All of these memories and thoughts are filled with joy, because music has been with me through it all… innocence, joyful times, hardships, awkward middle school years, angsty teen years, frightening transitions, uncertain adulthood. There is an innumerable amount of people that need loving in the world and the best way I can offer my love is through this passion. So music: will you have me?

~Annah

Care About Apathy

“Yeah, being apathetic’s a pathetic way to be. But I don’t care… what matters to you does not matter to me.” ~Relient K [Apathetic Way to Be]

We live in an incredibly individualistic culture. Everyone talks about pursuing their own personal dreams and forging a path in the world for themselves. So many people have started acquiring this mindset that you stick to your own life, I’ll stick to mine, and don’t you dare touch my life because it’s not yours.

We have become an apathetic and emotionless people. But this isn’t about something trivial like where to go to dinner or how to fill our time. No, it’s something much more important—we don’t make an effort to care about anyone else’s lives. It’s as Relient K sings: “What matters to you does not matter to me.” Whether college students rushing to complete their personal checklist for the day or traffic jams of impatient people all in a rush to run personal errands, I look around at my fellow self-centered humans and it’s kind of terrifying. There are times when I do the same thing out of habit because it’s easy, and that’s scary. It’s so easy to be self-centered.

We are fine sticking with the shallow and the surface level. No one wants to dive deeper into the uglier or more serious parts of others’ lives. Don’t mess with me if I have to head to work or I’m in the middle of my me time. Not to mention electronic communication is easier for us to use over face-to-face or even telephone calls. We skip the hard conversations or if we touch upon them it’s not in person, because that makes us too vulnerable, doesn’t it? We don’t want to prove we have deep emotion and we are not satisfied with our lives. We don’t want to be anything but apathetic. We want to keep our cool around other people.

This results in many things, including depression and feelings of isolation. People suffer in silence alone in their houses with their joyless possessions. My heart aches because we all fall prey to self-centeredness or self-pity—we love focusing on ourselves day in and day out. This apathy for other people persists. It’s a trap that is so easy to fall into and almost impossible to get out of.

I want to challenge this idea of apathy and individualism. I believe we were made for community. We need other people to thrive and we need to spend more time doing things for other people. We all have a desire to be wanted and to be loved. That means having intentional conversations, it’s going to be hard, and you’re going to have to open yourself up to others and show your weaknesses.

When I’ve felt super down about my life it has always helped to pour more of myself into others’ lives. There are so many hurting hearts and they need the love we can give them.

We were made for passion and emotion. If nothing else, you should care about apathy.

~Annah