Fic Obsession

It takes me much pain to admit this, but yes, I am an avid fanfiction reader. One Direction only, of course. See, I discovered fanfic almost three years ago, after first becoming a Directioner. I hadn’t understood, or really even taken the time to check out, the obsession until I clicked on my first Wattpad discovery. And it was all downhill from there.

I do not want to tell you all what my favorite fanfics are, because if you were to search them up and read them, for me that would be mildly humiliating. What I will acknowledge is that most of the fics I obsessively indulge in are absurdly popular on and off the internet. See, one certain Harry Styles fanfic has been developed into a book series. Can you believe that? The all-powerful internet, meshed with the unbreakable and insurmountable power of fandoms, has turned into one of the most powerful toolkits for writers and readers today. What is it about fanfiction that makes so many teenagers, so many people, go perhaps literally insane with weird and unpredictable emotions?

Dreams.

We all have that one brilliant ambition, our dream, to do whatever we are passionate about while having someone alongside us. Our other half. Our person. And yes, of course, when we young people haven’t found that person yet, we imagine them to be someone we idolize. Celebrities. We need someone to put our hope in, so we chose those who we perceive as perfect. Someone, perhaps, like One Direction. Of course, we don’t actually know these people. I could read every tweet, every Instagram caption, every article, learn as much as I possibly can about one of these celebrities and I would still not truly know them, every inch of who and what they really are. To us fans, they have no fatal flaws, no hamartia to dwell on. To us, their “flaws” are small and make them even more perfect. Of course this isn’t the truth. I desperately wish I knew those five boys, but in all honesty, I really don’t.

So fanfiction allows us a gateway to our dreams, written out on screen for us to bask and live in. We live out our dreams in a story that has been so generously shared and created for us by someone carrying the same dreams. We share our sometimes seemingly insanely unrealistic dreams, passions. It makes us all feel as if we know these celebrities, like we actually might have a chance with them. We feel like we can really connect to them, relate to them in different and uncommon ways. Of course, the personas of these people that we read about probably are not even remotely true. They’re guesses. They’re what we want them to be, our deluded illusion of who they are. But they are truly just people, tragically and numerously flawed, screwed up humans, like us. As Niall Horan says (indeed, I memorized this quote), they’re normal people with abnormal jobs.

I love reading fanfic not just because it allows me to “get to know” my idols, but because it really and truly shows the creativity certain celebrities inspire. You can say whatever you want about One Direction (just don’t say it to me), but you can never say they don’t have the most dedicated and talented fans in the world. I don’t like how condescending people can be, the agonizingly patronizing way adults shake their heads at me when I say I’m a Directioner, smiling and saying “You’ll forget all their names by next year. It’s just a stupid phase.”

Maybe that’s so, but guess what! I don’t give a damn if it’s a phase, maybe it is (trust me, it’s not, it’s lasted almost five years) but what does that even matter? Why does it matter, if I truly and deeply love something, how long that love lasts? It’s very damn rare to actually find a feeling, in adolescence, that makes you unspeakably happy. Fanfiction is the nearest escape route to calm. The exit sign of the internet.

Adolescence is the constant stage of always searching for something, but never really knowing what that something is. All I know is that I want to want something that will make the muted voice inside of my soul scream so loudly that I will be deaf to anyone else’s voices but my own, and those who I have to try to hear. And though I have not found my passion yet, reading fanfic helps me have a passion. I am a crazy Directioner because they let me feel something great, something beautiful and maybe reckless and naive, but it’s still something. I feel that too often, teenagers feel like we have to be silenced and indifferent to everything. What’s wrong with feeling insane once in a while? What’s wrong with turning that insanity into something good, something that you can share with all of those other people who feel the same way? Feelings aren’t going anywhere, are they? So why pretend that we don’t love something all for the sake of being perceived as indifferent?

To reiterate all of my endless rambling, fanfiction is the blissfully accessible gateway to feeling things other than nothing. It’s acceptable, when we read/write/devour fanfiction, because all of our “crazy” feelings can be channeled into writing. We’re in our own world of feeling happy. It’s quite incredible, the way we have taken our favorite idols and turned them into our own works of art. And of course, there’s always going to be badly written, idiotic/offensive fanfic, but there’s also always going to be quality, incredible writing out there.

One Direction, as well as many other celebrities, have inspired so much… art and change and pure unity, within people, mainly teenage girls, but for me, being a teenage girl is EXACTLY the time when I most need this inspiration, to keep on going, to simply keep breathing. Being a teenager, much like being a messy human, is sort of impeccably hellish, as it should be. And fanfiction serves the purpose of giving us a little escape from hell into something better. It inspires something in me, to start something, to… believe that one day, I will be able to have my person.

Preferably, one out of those five boys.

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A Long Time Ago

Middle school was a tempestuous time for me. I know how naive that does sound, because all it was was middle school, a part of life that should be easy to forget, a period of time that that is ubiquitously painful for every awkward preteen, and I do not have such a right to claim that it had a greater effect on me than anyone else. I know that it was simply middle school, trust me, I sincerely do know this. Yet I cannot help but reflect upon those three, quite tragic, years with inordinate penitence. Can anyone help what they possess pain for? Can we ever truly move past our mistakes, and most unforgettable wrongdoings? I do not believe that we can simply “let go” of whatever it is that is ensnaring us in our pasts, notwithstanding the countless songs (cough cough, Frozen) and culture preaching for us to let go of our mistakes, let go of who it is we used to so honestly be, and move the hell on. And perhaps this is a personal feeling, but I do not want to let go of who I used to be. Quite bluntly, for me, who I used to be is not a part of me that I can just so easily and regardlessly dismiss away, banish from myself. I can’t. I wish I thought that I was even able to accomplish such a feat, but I am not a person who likes to lie to myself. And so I know that I will never truly forget who I used to be. Over time, though, I’ve come rather slowly to realize that perhaps that isn’t such a terrible thing after all. Maybe our endurance of ourselves is a sign of strength, not loss, not weakness.

There are so many people who I have lost over the past few years, not in the literal meaning as in the terms of tragedy such as death, but there are losses that hurt just as horribly. And believe me, I have felt these losses all too prominently over the past few years. I never imagined that I would ever hate anything about myself, but I do. I hate abundant aspects of myself, traits of my personality, darker thoughts that cross my mind repetitively, not simply because I have recognized these darknesses in myself instantly, but rather, I have learnt so much of my weaknesses because of what I have been through. In times of crisis, I understand myself better. I know how to anticipate my reactions to certain things.

That’s the thing. The past will never disappear and dissipate into thin fragments that are gone with the wind. That will never happen. I know this. And I know that sometimes, many times, we may want certain parts of ourselves to vanish without a second look. And this makes sense, when you look at it like that. But here’s the thing: why would we want to forget what made us us? All of the strenuous horrors that you may have faced in your life, all of the weak feelings you wish you could surrender to, they make you who you are. But at the same time, they do not define you.

The past does not disappear as it ends. However, the past also does not define who you are. Your present self is who you are, but your past self led you up to the present, didn’t it? Had you made one choice differently, your life could be irrevocably different. And that is somewhat frightening, but also somewhat relieving. What’s life without uncertainty? Why would you waste your entire life questioning the inevitable what ifs and instead question the right now? This is where you are, this is who you are, and every single thing that you have done in your life, every single moment that you chose to spend doing a certain something, have helped lead you to where you are now. And if where you are is not where you would like to be, well, you do have to let go of what you are unable to change. We needn’t burden ourselves with the past, but we also must accept our pasts, because they are the most unchangeable parts of ourselves and our lives.

I miss so many people, so many things that I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve done if I had the chance or choice now. But I don’t. I simply am not Marty from Back to the Future. The past is utterly irreversible. The past is gone, but the future can be whatever the hell you make it to be. Opportunities are rare but they are also present in this world if you can allow yourself to stop holding onto what holds you down. Do not let your past self shove you down. You are worth so much more than a few choices you made, a lost person, a heartbreak or a few. You’re worth trying. And god, this all sounds terribly cliche, and I generally despise cliches, but you know what? Right now, I know that I am using a cliche and I’m owning it. Too bad. It’s one that I believe we must all do at some point in our lives. We must accept our pasts, without them ruining our present.

spotify:user:sofsea:playlist:5QuA1Geng51Gc96xcr8Txa

Mental Misconceptions

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There is a silently prevalent issue that I feel so outrageously strongly about, an issue that has consistently pestered at me for a long period of time, an issue that I have unequivocal passion for. This issue is the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Mental illness is an extremely misunderstood and universal problem in society, one that is very commonly and immensely misinterpreted as well as misconstrued throughout not only the United States, but many other countries, such as the UK, as well. My fueled passion lies in correcting the many misconceptions about mental illness, without blame or pointing haughty fingers at those who simply do not understand. I am a big advocate for empathetic education, meaning that I wish for everyone to be able to empathize and at least attempt to understand one another, rather than living in oblivious ignorance with no regard for those who struggle to be heard. I truly hope that you all will at least continue to read my humble little piece here, because even if this issue is one that doesn’t seem to be of utmost importance or interest to you, trust me, it is so important. It may not seem to affect you, but it does, indeed, affect many, many people in this world. In fact, nearly one in five people in the United States are living with mental disorder. It is a silently prevalent health and cultural issue in our world. And I want to expose you to the truth of the problem, without the typical stereotypes that surround these illnesses today. I have no room for stereotyping here.

I will first start by stating this: I am not going to write about my personal struggles here, but rather, I will attempt to encompass the many problems that I have noticed within the stigma surrounding many different mental illnesses. I am so passionate about this problem because, like any other stereotype, it really does hurt people. All of the prejudiced isms in the world are harmful to our society, and this, most definitely, is one of those. I wish I could say that we were more informed about this less talked about issue in school, or somewhere we are forced to listen, but unfortunately, we aren’t. I think that this is the root of the problem: we don’t fully educate people on the severity of this problem.

I hope I can educate you all, a little bit- I have tried hard not to write about this, but it’s been bothering me for so long, that I decided I just had to. And I’m not embarrassed for my feelings about this issue, because I believe that you should all understand it as I have personally understood it. You have to know the importance of this.

The most prominent problem that I’ve noticed, not only recently, but in the last few years, is that many people seem to trivialize mental illness as something much smaller and less significantly impactful than it actually is. The most common example of what I mean is this: Someone, perhaps in class, will need to have a mark erased on the board that the teacher left, or maybe they need their pencils all collected away in a neat pencil pouch. Or maybe a better example is someone who needs their closet to be perfectly in order. During this, someone will inevitably say, “Oh my god, I’m just so OCD right now,” or “This gives me such bad OCD.”

Okay, I’m going to be blunt here:

I call BS.

I mean this in no hurtful way towards anyone (unless you purposely try to hurt those with mental illness, than yeah, you’re not such a great person), as I myself admit I have been bad at calling people out on this, but this HAS to stop. I am not blaming any of you, we’re all guilty of misunderstanding, we’re only human. Humanity has a long history of complete and blatant ignorant misunderstanding. And I am assuming that those of you who use obsessive compulsive disorder as an adjective don’t do so to intentionally offend anyone, but most likely because you don’t understand what you’re saying. And I do get that, completely. I’m here to clear all this misconception up.
Obsessive compulsive disorder, in no way, can ever be used as an adjective. Besides the rather obvious fact that saying “I’m so OCD” isn’t grammatically correct, there is a huge issue with using mental disorders as adjectives. Obsessive compulsive disorder is, by definition: (this is from the New York Times) Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).

Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts. But this only provides temporary relief. Not doing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety.

A better and more detailed explanation of this paralyzing illness can be found in the powerful Hank Green video, explaining in depth the illness, which I recommend you all must watch (it’s Crash Course, it’s short and simple). Hank explains a mental disorder, such as OCD, as follows: “ A deviant, distressful, and dysfunctional pattern of thoughts, or behavior, that interferes with a person’s ability to function in a healthy way”.

One of the most important things that Hank says about obsessive compulsive disorder is this: “We tend to minimize those disorders, using them as nicknames for things that people do, think, or say.” THIS is exactly what I mean when I say that people use mental disorders as adjectives. Obsessive compulsive disorder is a seriously intrusive illness, that does not cause cute quirks in people, but rather debilitating anxiety and worry that causes victims of the illness to sometimes be unable to leave their home, or even unable to participate in a normal life, due to the severity of the anxiety. We cannot trivialize and downplay these disorders to be used as words to describe, well, anything. We can’t. It’s hurtful and ignorant and uncomfortable for those who actually have these disorders.

Many people think that being neat or orderly, or very clean and liking to have things a certain way, constitutes the use of the word OCD. This could not be farther from the truth. Another thing Hank brilliantly points out in the beginning of the video, is how he makes jokes about horrible diseases such as polio, and asks if you’ve ever made those sort of illness-related jokes to your friend. And then he goes on to say that no, you probably haven’t. This may sound farfetched to you, but using mental illness as an adjective is just as harmful as using cancer or a physical illness as an adjective. Mental illness is a terrible, crippling thing that intrudes a person’s ability to simply live. In many cases, in fact, mental illness causes one to take their own life. It is a complete and total loss of control over one’s mind, just like a physical illness is loss of control over one’s body.

I will sum the invaluable importance of my words into one simple summary: Being a generally fastidious and orderly person, or rather, being fastidious about certain things, or liking to have things a certain way, does not, in any way, mean that you have obsessive compulsive disorder.

Another commonly misunderstood mental illness is bipolar disorder. I have heard, countless times, people say their teacher is “so bipolar” or, the weather today is “bipolar” because it’s unpredictable. This is a problem, because bipolar disorder is an incredibly serious mood disorder, which is marked by “emotional extremes and problems in regulating them”. This disorder was once known as manic depression, which you might be familiar with. Bipolar disorder is defined as follows, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, is as follows: Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.

I will reiterate what is also true with what I have said about OCD: shifting from happiness to sadness quickly does not constitute bipolar disorder. In fact, using this disease as an adjective is so incorrect because people with bipolar disorder have extreme manic episodes where they experience both mania and depression, which can cause them to do extreme and impulsive things, such as emptying their bank account, or even in many tragic cases, commit suicide.

We must end this widespread and prevailing stigma of mental illness. Remember that mental illness rarely, if ever, looks like what you see in the movies and in pop culture. Ignorance is the cause of such misunderstanding, and I’d like to change all of your perspectives on this ignorance that perhaps you were unaware of. Next time you are about to tease your friend about being so OCD about her color coordination, think twice. There are people living with these illnesses, and the insult of their crippling disorders being trivialized is painfully silencing. I know how difficult it is to speak up against this, as well, I myself have had much trouble with it, but in the end, you are not blaming the person misusing the word: you are simply informing them of their misunderstanding. And that is nothing to be embarrassed about, in fact, I believe it is something to be very proud of. Raising your voice is no easy feat, and I commend you for being brave and intelligent enough to educate others.

I advise you all to end this common stigma with mental illness. Mental illness is horribly insidious and can silence a person living with one, as the misunderstanding around it can cause one to not want to admit to their illness. You may know someone with a mental disorder, or perhaps you know someone but are unaware of their illness because they feel like they have to hide it. I encourage you to take small steps to finally end the prejudice, and this is truly so easy to do. Stop using mental illnesses in trivializing manners, stop using them as adjectives, and start listening to those who have the illness without bias, and with full respect.

This was only a brief and blunt piece about all of this, and so, I suggest you research much more about this issue, because there are abundant charities for this as well as many ways that you can help. I promise, understanding this stigma will change your perspective remarkably. I understand mental illness so much better now, as well as being able to recognize bias and misunderstanding in general. It’s really damn important to know how to do this, no matter how hard it may be.

I will leave you with some extremely helpful links about this subject that you should look into:

http://www.rookiemag.com/2014/10/ocd-and-me/ (powerful piece from Rookie on OCD)

http://iocdf.org/ (International OCD Foundation)

http://bringchange2mind.org/ (Bring Change 2 Mind)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aX7jnVXXG5o (one of two Hank Green videos on mental illness)

http://www.buzzfeed.com/kasiagalazka/why-you-should-stop-using-words-like-ocd#.btmnjj4Ob

And on that note, I will end with a beautiful quote by one of my favorite authors, Toni Morrison:

The function of freedom is to free someone else.

Honest Perpsective

Here is a post that I recently wrote for The Living 360. please, go check out the website, it’s quite an eclectic bunch of interesting stories.

Being female is hard.

I am not being sexist. I am not being biased. Simply, being female is hard, just as intolerably as being human is hard. It just is inescapably and irrevocably hard. We have every right to be upset, to be horrified at how this confusing world of ours works, every right to be frustrated with the lurking sexism for all genders, and misogyny that occurs, even now, even after such a long, long, time. And these prominent and sometimes, not so clear, worldwide problems that we still have yet to truly fix, feel as if they are somehow a million times more confusing when you are a teenager. Adolescence sucks perhaps 86% of the time, for me. Maybe I’m (obviously) biased since I still am quite new at it, but I have to say, so far, I am so not impressed.

Here’s the gist of my, as so many other girls’, issue: We don’t know how to simply be. What is considered, by society, by our ever-pressuring peers, acceptable? What’s “likable”? There are just… So. Many. Questions. Questions without any immediate answers. Sure, I could subscribe to Seventeen and scan through their advice columns, I could aspire to be just like some YouTube celebrity, I could do a lot of desperate things that would not exactly get me to be… me. I don’t want to come off as over-opinionated and spiteful against anyone, but this piece is especially for young women. I am one, and so, I feel like I can relate to you most. The most important question, I feel, is this: How do I stay true to who I am rather than who I am expected to be?

It surely (obviously) isn’t a black and white answer. I could tell you every single day of my life, an incident of sexism, perhaps against me, perhaps against a male, but even the tiniest things remain in my always over-analytical mind. It’s almost unhealthy, to the extent of things I seem to notice, but it also gives me awareness. So many people don’t seem to be aware of the most obvious issues going on around them. And while, I could most definitely go on for an eternity about all stereotypes (my least favorite thing ever) and assumptions, and my strongest beliefs in feminism, but this topic is one so vague and wide that those would all need at least a separate article for each. I want to help guide you, who are struggling just as I am, to know your “place”.

What makes a successful young woman?

A question I always ask myself. And living in westside Los Angeles, the answer is a bit different than the typical answer. A successful young person, in my community, is generally someone who owns at least one handbag over $200, has more Instagram followers than Obama (kidding…sort of), and the forever magical word: popularity. Of course, this isn’t always true, but it is what is quite prominently felt in my life. The influence that Gossip Girl has over my school is sort of ridiculous (watch it if you haven’t, you will completely understand).

So, it’s been pretty difficult for me to understand just exactly how I should feel successful and proud of myself at the age I am at right now. Proud is a strong word, but what I mean is comfortable in your own shoes- or barefoot, if that’s more your style. There are several qualities that I try for desperately, just to feel comfortable in who I am, and these are them.

My drama teacher has a very matter-of-fact rule she addresses as soon as we walk into the room to audition for anything: “Leave your ego at the door”. And damn, do I wish I could everyday of my whole life!! Humility is so incredibly key to any single person’s life. Now, I’m not saying to be the most self-deprecating person in the world, or to completely be down on yourself forever. What I’m suggesting that there is a very fine line between arrogance and pride. Pride is something so magical. The fact that you can work so determinedly, excessively hard to accomplish something you want is amazing. And after all of that tireless, insane work (and unhealthy consumption of caffeine), you should be able to feel something other than the shitty feeling of stress. And pride is the best cure for nervousness. Pride is the most fulfilling feeling ever, for helping yourself, for helping others. Pride is freeing, in moderation. So own your triumphs, but please, don’t own. Every. Little. Thing. I understand that you are a great human being, but must you bring your “awesomeness” into every single conversation? Please, do not be that person. Being bold, brilliant, and proud is an awesome, awesome thing that makes me instantly wanting someone to be my friend, but arrogance is just so itchingly annoying. I don’t think that even Beyonce is arrogant. I mean, at least not to us fans. She’s such an amazing badass role model, and inspiring, and she’s aware of it but she uses herself to make everyone else feel good about themselves, too. When you shine, you subconsciously give other people around you to shine, too.

Another thing: understanding that not everything will go your way. One thing that has been so hard for me is the ability to be flexible. I am so not a “go with the flow” girl, spontaneity is sooo not my niche. But throughout time, I’ve learned that life is the definition of spontaneity. Literally. There is absolutely nothing in life that is one hundred percent predictable. The planet could get hit by a comet while you’re reading this, I could find out that my Hogwarts letter just got lost in the mail (as I’ve always secretly known, duhh). Nothing is definite- well, except for dying, but I’m trying, thanks to my parents’ begging, to not be so dark. I mean that when life throws big, disgusting chunks of crazy shit at you, grab it and twist into something managable. Complaining and doing nothing is an option for about ten minutes before those pesky little things called consequences come into play. So do something, even if it’s little, still figure the freaking problem out. So never expect the best. It may be cynical, but as the song goes, “Hoping for the best but expecting the worst” is key.

I don’t know what else to say, because to me, humility and adaptability are things I am really always desperately trying to acquire currently. These things are important. But you know what else is important? Being young. Being hormonal. Being stupid. So use this piece as a guide to, well, how to not be one of those more aggravating demonic people in high school. Trust me, I know quite a few. Go out there, be you. But why not be the best version of you that you can be?