Written Gems: NaNo-Not-Mo

NaNoWriMo ends tomorrow, and all I’ve been able to write is about how I can’t write.

I’ve been trying to write a book since I discovered the library and the English Language. I’ve been trying to do National Novel Writing Month since I discovered it existed in 2010. I have yet to succeed.

I thought I’d be free this month. I thought I’d have time to write. 2014 would be my year.  But then this happened, and that happened. I discovered a new game and there was always another assignment, another report, another group project, until bam.

It’s November 30th, and I’ve written exactly 849 words of a supremely narcissistic piece of crap.

It’s supposed to be a memoir of my life. My life? Hah. I’ve lived twenty some odd years and I haven’t done anything interesting except be born in another country. In a country of immigrants, it ain’t that special. How’s that going to read? Why did I think for a second that would be interesting?

And yet the sad thing is that it is more interesting than anything else I’ve been able to write so far. Besides one disastrous experiment of a finished novel in grade 7 (which you can resurrect if you look hard enough, but please don’t), I haven’t been able to complete anything. Every time I try, they become…. too.

Too not right. Too not wrong enough. My male characters are too wooden, and my female characters are too caricatured. This world is too simple. That world is too complex. One plot is too twisted. Another plot is too straight-forward. One scene is too detailed. Another is too plain. It’s all just too, which is worst than it just being twee.

With this memoir, as plain and dull and as uninteresting as it might be, it’s been the first project I’ve felt like I can continue. I won’t ever get stuck for a plot, because it’s already happened. I won’t ever have to worry about crafting characters, because they’re already crafted themselves. I’ve gone back to writing fanfiction, playing with someone else’s sand castle because mine keep falling back into the ocean.

I think I’ve learned two important things this NaNoWriMo, despite having written hardly anything (I haven’t even set up my novel profile). First of all, I don’t have the luxury of waiting for writing time. I write when I can, when I have words, not when I have time.

Second of all, I’m going to go back to prefab. I started writing by borrowing other people’s characters, and I was excited about that. I wrote pages and pages on that. They weren’t very good pages, but they were pages. I think that I started to drift away from it because I decided that now I was getting older and more mature, I should be making my own. But maturity is not something conferred by age, and in this area, I am still a tiny babe in arms. So I’m going to go back to using characters who have already developed, and write about things that have happened, when I don’t have to make up a world or a plot or anything else, and I can just be a story teller, not a world builder or an omniscient god. Maybe some day, I’ll move back to fantasy. Someday.

All I want to do right now is to write.

Written gems are pieces of my life, polished and shined up a bit. Read more here.

Written Gems: Sketches of a Frustrated Writer

I want to write again.

But when I reach to put word in front of word, phrase in front of phrase, it slips away from me. I delete, and delete again, because nothing, nothing I write seems fit to see the light of day.

If I were still a chicken scratching on paper, I would have laid so many paper eggs of failure. Instead, I leave those stupid, trite, idiotic phrases on the page because I am frightened of nothing, having nothing to show that I can create, that I am still alive.

I am afraid of a blinking line and white space.

My old eloquence is a cloak too moth-eaten by time and misuse that it it might as well be a hanky for all the good it will do. I have no clever turns of phrase to arm myself with, no similes to direct like a veteran general, no metaphors to shelter my trembling, creative soul under. Nothing.

It’s naked. It’s withered. It’s dry.

It’s nothing.

I try to reassure myself that I am still creative, that I can still create. I’ve been knitting, crocheting, drawing. I have a whole bag and half a shawl to prove that I am not a great big fraud.

Liar.

Everything I’ve done has been a facsimile of someone else’s work. I want to build iridescent castles on glass mountains with my bare hands, like I used to, but all I can do now is build cheap little copies of suburban cardboard boxes following someone else’s pattern. I can do nothing, nothing of my own.

I feel like I am back in preschool, trying to build towers out of three lopsided wooden triangles no one else wants. Instead of rough plastic and the click of keys, I feel worn varnish and the thunk of wood on wood (knock knock) under my fingers. Instead of musty college student, I smell five-year-olds, fresh tears and stale piss. Instead of tasting that I’m too lazy to get dinner, I savour the hope of jam sandwiches for lunch. Instead of fearing emptiness and failure, I fear nothing, nothing at all.

I was so determined to make that tower, even if I only had three triangles. In the end, I laid them on their sides and laid down too. There. The tower was taller than I was, even if it was tall in the wrong direction.

Then it was clean up time, and they put my tower away. But I had done it. I still remember it. Given mediocre talent, mediocre inspiration, mediocre materials, I had still built the damn thing. Given mediocre talent, mediocre inspiration, mediocre material, I have still written this damn thing.

It’s something, something after all.

Foxy Insights: What Canadians (and the Rest of the World) Can Learn From Ferguson

Social media campaigns and hashtag activism have usually been derided as a load of crock by venerable and wise observers, and most of the time, they are right. When raising awareness really can do some good, however, that is when hashtag activism works. The ALS Ice Bucket challenge and Ferguson, Missouri, are two campaigns sweeping social media right now, and both are very successful, in their own way.

The Ice bucket challenge has raised $70.2 million dollars (and counting) dollars for ALS research. Basically, the idea is that if you get challenged, you have to either dump some ice cold water over yourselves or donate 100$ to combat Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, AKA Motor Neurone Disease, AKA Lou Gehrig’s disease (read more and donate here). While I haven’t been challenged (and really can’t right now due to tight student budget plus ongoing surgical complications) and I really want to roll my eyes at the whole thing, it has accomplished its mission of raising money and awareness for a truly terrifying disease (Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom touches on it, and is an excellent read), with the bonus of not being offensive or hypocritical like the whole NFL pink ribbon, so I can’t be too cynical.

Ferguson, on the other hand, has succeeded in a very different way in raising awareness. Again, for those of you living under a rock, Michael Brown, a young black man, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white cop, in Ferguson, Missouri on Saturday August 9th. Protests have been on going, and all kinds of conversations have been renewed, over excessive police militarization, and especially systemic racism. What’s really interesting about #ferguson is that we observers get to see the point of view that we don’t usually get to see: that of the black community, the “rioters”, the wronged. They’ve been challenging police reports (keeping them honest? Maybe? Although I suspect the truth, per usual, is somewhere in the middle), and creating a national conversation that very much needs to happen.

As Canadians, we sit very comfortably back and watch, but like the rest of the world, we assume what’s happening in America is a uniquely American phenomenon, made in Murica. That racial strife is something that we don’t have to worry about, not in the civilised regions where we live, because of our charter and great history of human rights.

Oh really?

On August 20th, 2014, 15-year-old Tina Fountaine was found floating in the Red River, like the 1017 murdered or missing aboriginal women between 1980 and 2012. Her body has sparked calls yet again, for a study as to why so many aboriginal women end up dead. If you don’t think 1017 is a lot of people (first of all, screw you), think of it this way: Part of the reason notorious pig farmer and murderer Robert Picton managed to get away with it for so long was because a lot of his victims were aboriginal women, and the Vancouver Police Department failed to act due to systemic bias. Canadian aborigines account for about 4.3% of the population, but account for 16% of murdered females.

Yeah. Let that sink in for a bit.

And yet our glorious leader doesn’t think there’s cause for concern. Nor does his right-hand, sexist unmentionable whose nominally in charge of these things (In case you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of either Stephen Harper or Peter McKay, the Canadian Justice Minister, for various reasons detailed here for Stephen Harper and Peter McKay because he seems incredibly out of touch, in my opinion, which hasn’t been improved by this debacle). They probably just don’t want another report telling them they’ve done something wrong.

Now, admittedly, it’s not systemic violence against a disadvantaged group, like it is in America, but according to the UN, it’s a crisis. It’s systemic ignorance about a disadvantaged group, which can be infinitely more dangerous because we pretend it doesn’t exist. Violence against women is only part of the problem, sadly enough. Aborigines as a whole in Canada tend to be less educated, poorer, in poorer health, lack basic necessities on reserves, more likely to become alcoholics or substance abusers, and more likely to become convicts or the victims of crimes, and we, the rest of Canada, are by in large ignorant of the issues.

I’m not asking you to carry the white man’s burden here, or pay for the sins of our forefathers or whatever. For one thing, I’m not white, nor am I a man, and my forefathers certainly weren’t involved in defrauding natives of their land. I am, however, very proudly Canadian. I am asking you as Canadians to be aware and to be mindful of these issues, and most of all, to be humble. We may live in a country of free healthcare, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and tolerance, but we still have our social gaps to bridge.

That’s the lesson that Ferguson has to offer the rest of the world, Canadians included: this is what happens when you let biases become too ingrained, too systemic. This is what happens when the social gap becomes too wide.

Foxy Insights is a series about a normal person’s view on everything, not necessarily sexy. Read more here.

Written Gem: Ode to Dandelions

Now that I’m not working in a downtown core any more, I’ve been relishing the ten minute walk through suburbia to my morning classes, even if it’s obscenely early by night owl university standards. Not only do I feel virtuous for getting in this (admittedly brief) exercise in (at least!) twice a day, I’m really enjoying the scenery.

You see, Mother Nature has graciously allowed Canada to escape from one of our two seasons, Winter, and ushered us into our second one, Construction. As the choking dust comes with sunshine and blue skies (being necessary for the work), and the loud noise gives me an excuse not to work during the day, I’m thoroughly enjoying this season. But my favourite part of the season are the flowers.

My love affair with flowers is a life long affair, one that quite literally started in the cradle with my name flower, which was also my grandfather’s favourite flower. I love the bright, cheerful bursts of colours, I love the their sweet scents, and most of all, I love the smile they put on everyone’s faces (mine most of all). If I’ve inherited my mom’s green thumb, I fully plan on creating an extravagantly smelly flower garden that she would probably turn her nose up at, my mom’s pride and joy being her vegetable garden that I hope my mint hasn’t strangled yet. But as I love lilacs, and orchids, and peonies, and lilies, and most of all, roses (I have an especial fondness for the coral pink ones) and as I’m blessed with no allergies (except for a really weird metal one across the bridge of my nose), I see no reason not to enjoy burying my nose in flowers and indulging that habit whenever practical.

I can’t do this in the morning, being a habitual night-owl, and thus usually late to my morning classes. But there are little white tree flowers (No, I am not a science student, I am a Math one for a reason) that always make me smile, and a general profusion of green with little bits of colour peeping out makes me want to throw my books away and engage in a treasure hunt (and hope I end up finding more than last night’s solo cups. I do live in a University Town). On the way home, I do enjoy indulging in a bit of a treasure hunt and smell the lilacs hidden in that cul-de-sac, and the roses stuffed in a wine bottle on my desk (I know, so cultured, right?).

But all the showy, fragrant blooms aside, dandelions hold a certain special place in my heart. They’re not smelly or especially extravagant, but they’re so bright and cheerful, and they’re everywhere, this time of year, including all through the park I walk through to get home. To me (since I don’t own a perfectly manicured lawn), a field of blooming dandelions an invitation to roll around in sunshine (which, due to my dignified and advanced years and more respect for my sartorial standards, I can’t do any more, but I wish I could). And I love when they go to seed. Instead of an invitation to roll around in sunshine, it’s an invitation to make a million wishes, and that’s an invitation I do take up. My boyfriend laughs himself silly over me stopping a conversation to run through a field, which I do regularly while the fields last.

Because they’re everywhere, dandelions are also memory markers for me. They mark when my dad was trying to teach me how to ride a bike by basically just pushing me down a grassy hill of dandelions yelling “Peddle! Peddle!” at me. They were there when my mom laughed her head off at the face I made when I accidentally chewed on dandelion leaves instead of the more edible leaves she was trying to teach me to forage (In the case of a zombie apocalypse, my family is the first people I’d like to have on my team. Sorry dearheart). They were there when I played games like making innocent, virginal floral crowns, or the “Do you like butter?” judgements and the more blood thirsty “Mary had a baby and her head popped off” one. Dandelions are a metaphorical smorgasboard to me; signifying innocence and mischief, childhood and sunshine, mistakes and perfection, perseverance and ephemeralities.

Recently, though, I came home from school to find the mat of yellow dandelions in our front yard had been mowed down by a house management company that doesn’t believe in fields of sunshine. I was really looking forward to the twirling bit. But then, upon closer inspection, I realize that the field of dandelions had actually been hiding a field of clovers and was immediately subsumed by the urge to sit down then and there (in the middle of the day in broad daylight) and look for a four leaf clover. My schedule being what it is, I didn’t, but clovers last longer than dandelions, so it’s there for me in the future, when I get a breath or the world was a little too insane. I’m sure there’s a metaphor buried somewhere in there, about luck being hidden or perserverence leads to luck or something, but really, it’s just a nice image.

I suppose that’s why I’m writing this post, even though I have so much work to do. I have a hundred tests to write, a thousand assignments to finish, and a million notes to make, but I’m pounding away on this keyboard anyway, writing about trivialities, because I badly need to. I need to remember the sunshine and blue skies that I rarely see because my nose is constantly in the grindstone. I need to cling to childhood memories of fun and play when all I can remember is the never-ending slog of work. And most of all, I need to roll around in the fields of sunshine and wishes in my heart while my mind is buried in the fields of papers and books.

Written gems are pieces of my life, polished and shined up a bit. Read more here.

Written Gem: My First Baseball Game

To be perfectly honest, I’m not much of a sports fan. Being Canadian, I am a hockey fan out of sheer patriotism, but as my hometown team has been doing poorly for the past forever, I’ve been spared the necessity of actually watching the little black dot zoom around the ice and the beefy men trying to beat each other up. The only sporting events that I ever watch are the Olympics, but I never watch Olympic Hockey – I always seem to jinx it. In 2010, I managed to see all of the American goals (even the one thirty seconds at the end of the game where I just wanted to see if it was over) and in 2014, I watched all but the last five minutes of the women’s gold medal game, and we all know what happened there… No, I rely on nice people in my facebook feed enthusiastically over-posting, friends who will obligingly text me with the score, or (this being Canada and Hockey) the yelling in the street for my sports news.

Dating an enthusiastic sports fan, however, leads one to attend at least a few games out of sheer curiousity if not a desire to explore each others interests (I drag him to various art events, so we’re calling it fair). My first sporting event was curling, which was fun and fascinating, despite the fact that all I really saw were a bunch of people sliding down the ice (as I was sans glasses and thus, effectively blind), and all I really heard was that damn moose. We got to see the beginning of Brad Jacob’s gold medal journey though, so that was fun.

My first baseball game, however, was more a matter of serendipity than anything else. I discovered Michael Lewis and devouring everything he wrote, including Moneyball, introduced me to the very tantalizing idea that numbers could, with some accuracy, predict the outcome of a sports season, and the Jays (The only Canadian team, patriotism being a given) played a home series when I could actually go watch it. So off we went.

We grabbed hot dogs outside the stadium, which I figured was somewhat of a tradition. The sign on the food truck and one of the customers before us proclaimed the vendor as the purveyor of the best hotdogs in the world. Whether that claim is true is debatable, but what isn’t debatable is that his poutine certainly isn’t (Poutine just doesn’t taste right unless you’ve just come off a hard morning crashing down the moguls or finding yourself on a black diamond, only to realize that you’ve only ever been on blue squares before). However, I might’ve been a bit biased, since the wind was so strong I kept getting gravy in my hair and the cheese curds were cold and not at all properly squeaky by the time I’d taken two bites. So after we’d eaten the dog and I’d given up on the poutine, we went into the stadium.

Now, I had a moment of panic when we started to go into the stadium, because I had my craft supplies bag with me (don’t ask) and security was checking bags. What if they accused me of covert knittery or assassination by wire? What if they thought I was going to gouge out someone’s eyes with my earring hooks, or brain several furry creatures with my tiny bags of beads? What if they didn’t let me in, or worse, confiscated my bead supplies (no body touches my crafting supplies. No. Body.)? But security did a quick check, and very sensibly assumed that it was a bag of crafting supplies and that I couldn’t do much harm with it, except maybe wield the thing as a club (although since half the bag was yarn, it wouldn’t do much damage anyway, and anyhow, you can wield any bag as a club if you try hard enough). They did look at me funny, but I’m rather used to it, and they let us in.

My boyfriend and I had seats on the 200 level, nearish to the foul line on the third base side. I thought we had fairly nice seats, as we had a perfect view of the stats ticker, a decent view of the diamond itself, and a terrible view of the jumbotron, which means we could cheerfully pretend ignorance if some well meaning cameraman tried to kiss-cam us. I also thought we were in a decent position to catch any home runs, but I was proved wrong; in a game of home runs, not a single one had the decency to even land in our section so we should try and gain a black eye as a souvenir of my first baseball game. Oh well.

I have to confess, I didn’t even realize that we’d missed the ceremonial pitch, and we were already two hitters in before I realized that the game had already started. My boyfriend pointed out R.A. Dickey’s walkup music (he’s a really big Game of Thrones fan), but this being my first baseball game, I didn’t realize what walkup music meant. I get the impression that the first four or five or even six innings of a baseball game usually isn’t that interesting, because most starters (pitchers who start the game) are pretty good, and don’t usually let anyone score runs until they get tired.

I learned a lot of baseball lingo, though. Walkup music is a quick blip of music that plays when a player from the home team walks up to the plate (or mound, in the pitcher’s case), hence the name. While they were fun, and set a great tone, I really want to hear some guy walk out with something like BABYMETAL. Everyone’s heard of a strike out, but I learned that there exists a ground out, a line out, and a fly out as well. I finally got it through my head that a lot of baseball games are played indoors, utterly destroying my ideal of the burning sun, the yellow grass, the droning bugs, and the lazy, sweaty moments broken by the crack of the bat and a moment of frenetic energy and running. The field actually looked very small and well manicured from our vantage point, and I’m pretty sure I missed the first couple hits, they were so quiet… Ooops.

There was a funny moment in between us taking our seats and something interesting happening in the game. I felt like the only Asian in sight that didn’t work for the Bluejays, which is a nice change from my usual environs. My boyfriend and I happened to be in the very front seats of the 200 level (to his dismay, I enjoyed hanging off the side to look at the Jay’s bullpen, which was right under us), and I’m short, so from behind, it’s easy to just see the tall, blond guy with his arm on a seat and miss the black spot which happens to be my head resting on his shoulder. So there I was, minding my own business, waiting for something interesting to happen, when I hear this guy say something really loudly about Chinese girls, in a certain disparaging tone of voice. As I happen to be a fairly confrontational person and, you know, a Chinese girl, I spun around to figure out who was. At the same moment, the speakers, a guy and his date, met my dirty glare, and the two of them promptly turned bright red. The look on his face, something between intoxication, surprise, mortification, and hilarity was too funny to me, so I let it go. It’s not like I could go up to them and demand they tell me about their private conversation, anyway. For the gentlemen who are trying to impress their ladies with potentially racist Asian girl jokes, however, there is a lesson to be learned: you never know where a small Asian girl will pop up.

So the first really interesting baseball thing that happened made the Jays look kind of stupid in the sixth inning. Since the Jays were at “home,” they were pitching the top of the sixth (the first half of the sixth switcheroo).  It’d been pretty much run-less until then, and the crowd was getting restless. In the fine, bloodthirsty tradition of mankind, the crowd wanted action. And they got it – it just wasn’t the kind of action they wanted.

One of the Orioles, Lombardozzi, hit the ball really, really high, which I think in the usual run of things, should’ve been at least a fly out. Thing is, he hit it right between the infielder and the outfielder (which is what we call the sweet spot in badminton, and the reason I was trained as a mixed player to yell at my partner a lot), and neither knew who was catching it. Instead of it being a relatively easy catch, the ball dropped between two guys on the field, and Lombardozzi took a double (got to second base). There was this moment of sheer, stunned silence, as everyone took a moment to process, and then the stadium erupted in loud boos.

Now, up until this point, the pitcher had been doing a pretty good job, and the dropped ball wasn’t his fault according to my boyfriend (remember, until a week ago, all I knew about baseball is that they throw a ball and run around in circles). Then, he allowed a walk, which in the general run is not a terrible thing, except when you have no outs and what happens next, happens: the third Oriole player hit a home run.

If the crowd was displeased by the dropped ball, they were livid now. Two things you have to remember: people drink at baseball games, despite the ridiculously high price for beer, and the pitcher’s name is R. A. Dickey. As a Canadian from a town where our hockey team sucks, I’m not surprised by how personally people take sports teams failure and success, nor how vindictive they can be. However, I am surprised by how creative drunk people can be with the name R. A. Dickey. I think I have an even better appreciation of the control and mental fortitude professional athletes must have; people who don’t know you as more than an image or a position or a stat line feel entitled to judge you, revile you, and hurl invectives about your sexual relations with your wife at you (My boyfriend kept me from punching that guy, which in retrospect, was probably a good thing, because I’m tiny and out of shape, and he was a big, beefy, drunk guy).

Anyway, R.A. Dickey held it together and, after a bit of fumbling, managed to strike out an Orioles hitter with the bases loaded and two outs. Now we were holding our breath for the bottom of the sixth when the Jays are at bat, hoping that the near perfect pitcher the Orioles had had on their mound before would lose his moxie. It’s kind of terrible to think of a stadium’s worth of people waiting for you to screw up, but nevertheless, we did.

The crowd snickers when a kind of irony happens and Lombardozzi commits an error and lets Melky Cabrera get on first. It cheers when Bautista singles (gets to first), and holds its breath when Encarnacion steps up to the plate. My boyfriend tells me that Encarnacion is the designated hitter for the pitcher, so that he takes the pitcher’s place in the batting line up. He tells me that Encarnacion is known for being a huge home run hitter, but he hasn’t been doing that well this year.

We watch. Ball. We keep holding our breaths. Strike. We grumble. I looked down for a minute to check my phone, as it’s not rare for players to receive three balls and two strikes, and I figured I was okay to peek away for an instant. The next instant, the whole stadium is roaring, and I look up and wonder what the hell just happened. The men on the field are running, but it takes my boyfriend yelling “We’re tied!” and shaking my arm to realize that Encarnacion hit a homer. I’m happy, because we’re tied, but I’m kind of grumpy too, because I figured it would be the same thing as my experience with hockey, that I’d never see the team I’m rooting for score.

The crowd settles back down. A tied game is always a delicate moment, as the game could go either way at this point. The Jays didn’t have anyone out, so we could concievably still score again. We don’t; the Orioles’ relief pitcher makes sure of that.

R.A. Dickey starts the seventh inning, but he’s pulled when he gives up single and a double. The crowd boos him out. I personally want to applaud him, especially since my boyfriend tells me Dickey named his bats after fantasy swords (Yes, I have priorities. Can he please name his next one Kring, from Terry Pratchett’s Colour of Magic?). They bring one guy in to pitch against a lefty, and then immediately switch him out for Cecil, who happens to be one of my boyfriend’s favourite relief pitchers. Cecil closes the top of the seventh with no more runs scored, which the crowd cheers for.

The bottom of the seventh is uninspiring, with two strike outs and a ground out (when the ball gets to the base before the player does). We’re disappointed, but there are two innings left. The top of the eighth ends quickly with Delabar, who has since replaced Cecil, striking a guy out, walking one guy, and the defensive team wraps it up with a neat little double play (where the defensive team gets two players out), and we all cheer.

The bottom of the eighth starts auspiciously, with a single by Francisco and the pitcher walking Rasmus. The first and second are loaded when Lawrie steps up to the plate, and again, we all hold our breaths. At that point, my boyfriend says something about how Lawrie should just bunt, because we just need one run right now, and Lawrie hasn’t been hitting well either.

Foul. We groan. My boyfriend frowns a little.

Ball. We cheer, a little.My boyfriend is muttering “Choke up already, everyone knows he’s going to bunt.”

Just as he says this, Lawrie hits another home run. This time, my eyes manage to follow the little white ball as it soars right through the middle of the field into the stands. The whole thing feels like a slow-mo movie, and the whole stadium isn’t breathing but it happens, and we’re up by three! The mostly home crowd is exhuberant, yelling many complimentary but also, for some reason, crude things about Lawrie.

We settle back down, and I, for some silly reason, expect the ninth inning to start. My boyfriend laughs at me, and points out that we still don’t have any one out. I blush, and shut up to settle back to watching the game again.

Thole singles. Diaz strikes out on a foul bunt. Reyes singles. Then Cabrera steps up. At this point, we’re all more relaxed, but part of me is being superstitious, and whispering, “Remember the last time we had two guys on base?” So I watch closely.

Ball. Ball. And then with what looks like relative ease on the Jumbotron, Cabrera hits the ball and it soars. We all watch, not believing our eyes. But it keeps going, and going, and going. It’s just enough.

The stadium erupts.

The score is 9-3, at the bottom of the eighth inning. Everyone else is going insane, but remembering what I’d thought after the last homer, I realized that we could still score: we still only had 1 out. Apparently, the next two players didn’t share my point of view, as they both swung out. Oh well; we were still up by 6 points, and the Orioles only had one inning left in which they could score points.

My boyfriend watched the mound closely, wondering if the Jays would bring out their closer (the guy designated to finish the game strong by not giving up any more runs). On one hand, we were still up by 6; on the other, being a badminton player, I’ve seen 10 point leads disappear like mist. They didn’t bring out their closer.

At this point, the crowd was restless, and I was too. It was late, and I wanted to go home. The crowd booed when Lombardozzi singled. It cheered at the next fly out, and booed again when the third hitter singled. Now a little demon was whispering in my ear, saying again “Remember what happened the last time we had two bases loaded?” The crowd was getting antsy, and got seriously annoyed when the pitcher gave up two balls. We did not want another walk happening, especially since it would set us up for a grand slam (scoring 4 runs), and perhaps more importantly, make us stay for the bottom of the ninth. Luckily, the Jays caught the hit.

The Orioles have two out, and at this point, I was about to just pull my boyfriend out of there. Then the pitcher throws a strike. The player swings and misses the second pitch, so another strike. At this point, you can feel everyone in the stadium hoping for the hitter to strike out. The next pitch is a ball, and the whole stadium hisses. You have to feel bad for the Orioles player; a normal person probably would’ve crumpled up and given up already. But the hitter showed the high mental fortitude I now associate with pro athletes, and he hits it. The whole stadium is horrified, and you can feel every eye on the place pushing the ball into the hands of one of the Jays. Someone catches it, though, to all the fans’ considerable relief, and the Jays win!

I should probably thank the Blue Jays for winning that game, because they go on to lose the other two games they play in the Rogers Centre against the Orioles. Still, if they could only win one, I’m glad they won that one in such style, because it made my first baseball game awesome. They definitely have a new fan, and as soon as I eke out the time to figure out SABRmetrics, a new critic. In the meantime, I’m definitely a new fan of, as my boyfriend put it, “people throwing a little ball around, chasing it, and chewing on sunflower seeds.

Written gems are pieces of my life, polished and shined up a bit. Read more here. If you care about things like names and what happened in all the other innings, check out ESPN’s more comprehensive recap or play-by-play.

Foxy Insights: No, You Really Do Need to Check Your Privilege

So the Princeton Privileged Kid op-ed has been circling for a while, and I read it and was pretty much inarticulately angry about it (which, anyone who knows me will to tell you, is rare). Then this article from Jezebel (yeah, yeah, leftist schill, rampant feminist, blahblahblah) finally loosened my tongue, or in this case my fingers. It makes a lot of good points I won’t, about privilege being a macro thing and not a personal one, but it did give me somewhere to start.

I read that op-ed and was this close to snarling, because the author totally missed the point of privilege. While people shouldn’t be shamed or silenced for their privilege, my problem is when people don’t bother to recognize their privilege and then try to offer their opinion on something they don’t fully understand because of their privilege. That, I’m sorry to say, is when your opinion isn’t really worth the air that exits your derriere.

As terrible as they are, your ancestral struggles are second hand. Sure, they’ve probably shaped how you think about your family, and you’ve probably grown up with these values and mindset, but you’ve never experienced them. You have never grown up with parents who don’t value education, nor have you cherished the smell of garbage because at last you have a mattress to sleep on. You have never been told you can’t do something because you’re a girl, or that your appearance is more valuable than your brain is. You’ve never been told that your love, your sexual health, and your identity are wrong, immoral, and illegal. Growing up, you’ve had your pick of role models; Society has told you you can be anything, not just the brainy Asian or the sexpot or the girl next door.

I know my privilege. Just because my uncle had to jump trains to bring food to my grandfather and avoid being shot by communists during the early Chinese revolution, just because my mom’s family could only afford a dozen eggs a year, just because my dad came to Canada with $26 in his pockets and started TA-ing Chemistry with next to no English, doesn’t mean I am any less privileged now. My struggling parents still valued education over all else. I’m straight. My family now is firmly middle class. So every time I talk to a gay friend about sexual politics, every time I meet someone who struggles with learning something I find very basic, every time I meet someone who can’t afford their tuition, I try and stop and realize my biases, and more often than not, I find myself keeping my mouth shut, because I can’t offer anything worth listening to, and I usually learn something.

It’s not to say that if you have privilege, your opinion is not worth listening to. Some of the best thoughts on being Asian I’ve ever had come from my blond, Caucasian boyfriend, because he understood my viewpoint, but also had his own viewpoint to offer.  Those without privilege also should not dismiss insight out of hand because of the offeree’s privilege. A guy with a study about female urinary cones, is still a person with research on female urinary cones. You can question the validity of the research, or the methodology, or the source of the research, or the contradicting source, but check your own privilege as well, the “privilege” that you have as someone with insight in the situation. What I mean by that, is that you need to understand your own biases, and recognize that while you might have insight that the other person doesn’t, the other person might also have something to add. They might not, but they might actually have something to add.

Saying that we should all be equal and thus you’ll act like such is laudable, admirable even. But ignoring the reality, that by an accident of birth, you’re born with advantages, and a certain mindset, is not. When someone tells you to check your privilege, they shouldn’t be asking you to shut up. They shouldn’t be telling you to be ashamed of being white, being educated, being straight, or being anything. What they should be asking you to consider the different backgrounds, values, and advantages you’ve had in life, and then consider your input through someone else’s lens and ask yourself if it’s really valuable. You might find, more often than not, you don’t have much to add.

I guess it’s kind of appropriate to start the Foxy Insight series with a post on this one, because I need to be careful that what I’m writing might add value, and that I consider my own biases and experience. While I think they’re valuable, I think I also need to be aware of them. I’d also like to be aware of the other side, and accept that someone might write me a response telling me that I’m all wrong, and that’s okay.

Foxy Insights is a series about a normal person’s view on everything, not necessarily sexy. Read more here.

Letters to Myself: Dear Self in August 2014

Dear Self in August 2014,

You’ll have just finished another school term. With any luck, it’ll be a busy and successful one, but who knows? I hope you’ve enjoyed it, but there are a few things I hope you’ve done. Most of them have to do with habits. I’ve developed bad ones this term, and they’re going to be hard to break. Sorry; you your work cut out for you.

So, in a nice list form, so you can take satisfaction in checking them off, these the goals I hope you’ve accomplished this term.

      1. Do three 20 minute sessions of cardio and three 20 minute sessions of strength training a week: I know it’s probably not enough to get you totally in shape again, but it’s a start and more importantly it builds a habit. I’d like you to hit the gym before breakfast, but I know you’ll get busy, so just try to do those three sessions a week. Mark it on your calendar!
      2. Discover ten healthy dishes: It’ll be an adventure! You know you’d rather make food in giant batches, because you’re a student. And I’m hoping you’ll develop some healthier, faster, and better alternatives to what you’re eating. Try to make at least three of them vegetarian (Not vegan, there are only so many ways you can cook tofu and soybeans), and hit the farmer’s market for ideas!
      3. Declutter: You will thank me for this when you have to move again. Just try to tackle a box every two weeks and start chucking stuff out, and move most of your craft supplies back to your parents house. Trust me.
      4. Study three hours a week for school related stuff, and keep going to class: I’ve survived (sort of) on brains, cramming, and smart friends. This term, I’d like you to build a habit of just studying and taking notes, and doing more than the bare minimum to stay ahead.
      5. Study three hours a week for professional exam: It’s in six months. You have 120 chapters. The book’s sitting on your desk. No excuses. GO.

 

We’ll keep it simple for now. There are other things I’d like you to do, but they’re not as important. I want you to have blogged at least weekly, I want you to have tried yoga at least once a week, I want you to have brought lunch at least three times a week (ideally all five days). I would like you to have very rarely left the house dressed casually (I know, exams, but you know dressing well makes you feel better), I would’ve liked if you’d gone to church at least a few more times, and I would like you to attend at least one meeting of all the extracurriculars you’ve wanted to for the past two years. But if you have to choose, do the list first. They’re the important things to focus on right now.

Don’t worry, you’ll still have had fun. You’re back in your city, your courses promise to be…. interesting, if not fascinating, you have your friends again (must be more proactive here). People are planning to visit (eventually – you know who you are…), and you have a huge list of fun dates that you want to do with your (mine? ours? This pronoun business is tricky) boyfriend. You’ll meet new people, you’ll see old friends again, and you’ll still find plenty of time for fun – you always do. Just don’t forget the important stuff.

Here’s to a great term, and let me know how you do,

Terra

If you’d like to know more about why I’m screwing up my pronouns, and read more letters to myself, click here.