Sunday, 10 January 2016

Je n'est pas Charlie

The one year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks has resulted in a barrage of articles talking about how Hebdo represented freedom of speech, and at least one idiot with a knife and a fake bomb vest tried to cause problems on the same day and time as the Hedbo attacks. Apparently, the guy had documentation’ from ISIL and shouted Allah Ahkbar, but given that it was one person and he was not a real threat, I’m thinking either the guy is a wannabe, or ISIL is really diminished and is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Last year at this time, I was teaching two courses at two different universities, I remember at one of them, one staff member had a ‘Je suis Charlie’ poster on their door, and I remember thinking, ‘Je suis un racist?’. While I support freedom of speech, Charlie Hedbo did not seem like hard hitting political commentary. Jews are drawn with big noses, terrorists with over-exaggerated turbans-the kind of stuff that I thought went out of style with the Mad Men era. So, when does freedom of speech trump being a racist asshole? I guess at the end of the day, it comes down to this-you can say, and I can tell you that you are a racist asshole and should shut the fuck up. But no one should be killed for either of those things.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Why are people so mean?

The problem with trying to write regular blog posts (or regular writing of any sort) is trying to decide ‘what will I write about’? Some things might write themselves, and some days writing is easier than others. Other days (which is most of them quite frankly) I sit in front of my computer and feel like the dog in the ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’ meme. I’m ruminating on a blog post about the challenges I’ve faced in my (limited) CRM experiences as part of a blog sharing thingy. But today? Yesterday I had a ton of ideas. Now, not so much.
I was going to write about how mean the conservative political movement has become. How once upon a time, conservatives in Britain believed that people of different cultures should not be forced to assimilate, but be allowed to with the own beliefs.  The Republican race in the US is more than a race to the bottom, it’s a race to see who can be the meanest.  It’s hard to believe that a party whose leading candidates are falling all over themselves to prove who hates brown people the most, was the party of Abraham Lincoln. Even in Canada, our own conservative movement, which was supposed to be about free trade, low taxes and small government (although they failed miserably at the last two), was never, at least to my memory, nasty. Brian Mulroney was probably an asshole, but you never got the sense that he was mean. However, there’s many a good journalist (some of whom are former conservatives who are unhappy with the direction of the movement) who has written eloquently about this topic, so what wisdom could I possibly add?
However, it makes me ask myself-what makes people mean? The obvious answer would be say, poverty, except that plenty of rich people are pretty nasty. Lack of education, perhaps, which you might believe unless you’ve ever been to a faculty meeting at any university probably anywhere in North America and realize that there are a lot of miserable, nasty, mean well-educated people. Racism, then. It certainly makes people angry, although the conservative movement seems to be most popular among white men, which also negates rampant sexism as the cause. So why are people so darn mean?
I can be mean-but usually it’s a mood. I have a bad day, I’m snarky on the subway, I make a comment under my breath, I think very bad thoughts. But would I pee on the belongings of a homeless person like a group of men did in Philadelphia recently? Would I leave racist comments on the #blacklivesmatter Twitter feed? Would I shout FHITP at a female reporter? No, and I’ve done my share of shitty and stupid things. I have felt bad about them after, and I think I’ve tried to at least apologize. But this meanness that I see, it’s like it’s done without any thought, any feeling for our fellow human beings. I mean, these people could be classified as psychopaths. Do we have that many psychopaths running around?

Maybe a solution. We need a war-between the mean people. Not invading a country-I’m thinking something like the Roman Forum. People who make horribly racists comments, beat up homeless people and rape women should all be sent into the ring and fight to the death. I know as a good person, I shouldn’t feel this way-perhaps the meanness is contagious. I need to go cuddle my cat.

Monday, 4 January 2016

First Day Back Blues

I love it. I haven’t even gotten to work yet on my first day back after vacation and I’m already feeling so much anxiety I want to cry.
Of course, delays on the subway made an already stupidly long commute even longer, I’m not sure whether I’m even going to get a paycheck next payday and I’m already broke, and I’m still trying to resubmit an article that has been a bogeyman for almost three years. Oh yeah, and I quit smoking as a New Year’s Resolution. I want to curl up in a blanket on my couch and not move.
The real issue that has triggered all of this is the article. This fucking article that has been rejected and revised I don’t know how many times, and is a symbol of my failed academic career. You can’t take three years to get research published anymore and get a job in today’s market. There are lots of arguments to be made about how unfair the market is, gender bias and lack of jobs, but at the end of the day, I’m just not good enough. There are lots of things I do very well, but writing articles is not one of them, and it’s kind of a big deal as an academic. I thought that maybe it was just an issue of practice-that since I have been writing so much as part of my current job that it would get better. It hasn’t. The crippling anxiety that basically screwed up my postdoc is still here, roaring in my ears and making my chest feel like someone is squeezing it from the inside.  But this realization that I have failed, and that I need to move on is not really working as a cure for my ills, either. I feel like a failure, and I am, in the sense that I failed at y goal of becoming a professor. Despite the fact that I applied for two positions this year and there is still a faint hope in my chest, I really have to face up to the fact that it ain’t gonna happen, and I have failed.

So, now all I can do is try and finish the academic commitments I have made, while trying to find a job that pays decently, doesn’t require a three hour commute and is not on a month to month basis. I guess that what I should be focusing on, even if I feel like I will just fail at that too. Needless to say, this is probably not going to be a good mental health day.

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year's Resolutions

One my New Year's resolutions is to start writing more regularly, so here is my attempt to do so- we'll see how long it lasts, as my resolutions have a tendency to last approximately 2 weeks.

Speaking of New Year's resolutions, I do have a few this year. I can't help it, I'm a incorrigible list maker, and there's something about starting 'fresh' that always appeals to me, at least for a few weeks, until the lack of sunlight renders me useless by about the third week of January. So what's on my list? Pretty similar to most people's, I think. Lose weight, Quit smoking, Budget. Although this year I'm trying to be more concrete with my resolutions. For example, I bought some nicotine gum to deal with cravings, a notebook to write down everything I spend, and  I've designed a 20 minute workout routine for myself I can do in my living room. So maybe this time I might actually be somewhat successful in keeping them!

Losing weight is always a tricky one. My weight has been an issue since I hit puberty, although it wasn't as bad as it was made out to be, mostly because I was a figure skater, so I was considered 'overweight' even when I was fit. It was the  80s, and there was still this idea that you had to starve yourself as a female athlete, which we now know made absolutely no sense when you are burning hundreds of calories as an athlete, but as they say, those were the days.

I have body issues, which I'm pretty sure 99% of North American women have (I can't comment on Europe, Asia and elsewhere, having not lived there). My issues are a combination of our asshole society and always being told I had to lose weight as a skater. The real issue became my relationship with food- I'm not sure if you would call it abusive, or that we are 'frenemies', but needless to say, it's complicated. Since I turned 40, it does seem to have gotten better. My main issue has been that I was (and still am if I want to be honest with myself) a binge eater, I think because I tried to starve myself into looking a certain way (which never worked-the only time I ever reached the 'correct' weight was in my early 20s, when I lived on black coffee and cigarettes). My binge eating has diminished, and I don't hate myself-or food-the way I used to. I still do hate my body. I think I always will.

What has been frustrating is that despite eating relatively healthy, cutting back on alcohol consumption and being reasonably active, my weight remains stubbornly high. It has dropped slightly since my hypothyroidism is being treated, but I have to realize that I may always be overweight, and unless I can get a job that pays me more and has me work less so I can work out for an hour every day and eat organic kale smoothies, I am simply not going to look the way I want to. And maybe if I could do nothing but work out and eat smoothies all day, barring major plastic surgery, I will never look the way I want to. Period.

Here's the thing. No matter how much I say to  myself  'Just be healthy' and 'Love your body' and 'Do it for yourself' and all those mantras about body positivity and even when boys tell me they like how I look, I will never quite believe it. It will never be good enough, because for years, I was told that I wasn't. So how to deal?

I wish I knew, But, here we go again.