Friday, April 19, 2013

An Open Letter to Youth Around the World

I am so sorry. I’m so sorry about the world we’re passing down to you. We’ve broken it. We’re leaving you this planet in worse shape than we received it. We’re not doing what we can to sustain our resources or undo the damage that generations of people unknowingly (and knowingly, to be honest) caused. We’re not creating lasting solutions to any of our problems with each other. We’re not taking care of each other the way we should. We haven’t considered that emotional and mental stability matter just as much as economic stability—not that we’re helping much there, either. We’re handing you some pretty big messes to clean up.

It is easy to be cynical when confronted with these realities. Today I read news articles about the Boston marathon attacks, a bombing at a cafĂ© in Baghdad, the failure of Congress regarding gun control, the negative effects standardized testing has on our schools, and a fertilizer plant explosion in Texas. I read all that before 10am. It is so easy to say we’ve failed and let yourself harden and expect less and less of people.

Don’t. Please don’t become cynical about the world around you. There is so much good in people. It can be seen everywhere. The unfortunate part is that often it takes a tragedy for people to step outside their comfort zones and help. People open their homes to strangers, offer whatever help they can. People run towards disaster to help those who cannot help themselves. Earlier this week the New Zealand parliament passed a marriage equality bill and then spontaneously broke into song. A friend accepted a donation for the American Cancer Society from three children who lost their parents, “so maybe other moms and dads won’t die.” Kids from my secret life as a summer camp counselor contacted me with plans for Global Youth Service Day. Friends from around the globe contacted me about my family in Boston. There is good around you. Have the courage to look for it, and to show it off to others. We are more connected than we think and we are more alike than different.

Instead of being cynical, I ask you to be critical. Don’t accept that the world we are handing you is the world you have to keep. Question the status quo. Educate yourselves and look at the big picture. Look past your own community. Ask yourselves and each other if that is the world you want. Do what you can to change what isn’t working. Ask us to provide you with the tools you need to change it. Demand more from those who are making the decisions right now. You might not be in charge right now, but you will be one day. Don’t let anyone forget that. You are inheriting this planet from us and you deserve more. It is our job to take care of you and we’re not doing our best. Yet. But we can—I truly believe that. You have the potential to do amazing things. I can’t wait to see what you do.

Demand better from us. Speak up. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other.
Amanda (who is trying to be less bitter today) 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On tragedy.

I'm having a hard time writing a new post. Everything I start to write feels forced, like I'm trying to type something louder than the news I have on in the background, full of press conferences and briefings. So I try to write about what's happening, how the world is spinning slightly off-kilter because we keep killing each other. It reads overly emotional and overly patriotic, or it doesn't come across like I wanted to write it...none of it felt right. 

A lot of emotions are kept hidden. (Unless you frequent tumblr. All the feelings are there. Allllll the feelings you ever wanted and didn't want. I love tumblr.) Tragedies force some of that out in the open while people try to deal and grieve and sort it all out. It also shows...well, it shows that some people are self-righteous assholes. 

People were quick to jump on the internet and inform their fellow Americans that hey, shit went down in the Middle East but 'you don't care about that, do you?' I don't understand the point of that. Yes, it's true, and yes, it gets far less coverage than anything happening at home. (For US readers, anyway.) It's terrible. We, as a people, need to stop accepting that these things happen. It shouldn't be easy to change the channel when an attack in Afghanistan is scrolling across the bottom. We should be incensed that people are still doing this to each other. We should care--and we do. We might not care with twitter icons and facebook cover photos and wearing something particular in solidarity. But people care. I really believe that. I don't believe what men tell me in bars and I don't believe romantic comedies, but I believe that people are generally good. 

There is value in reminding people to look at the world around them, past their area code or national boundaries. There is value in remembering that above everything, we're all sharing the same space and we're more alike than we are different. Men lie in bars all over the world.

There is, however, no value that I can see in trying to make people feel badly for dealing with their feelings about this sort of event. People all cope differently. Some people want to watch the news coverage and forage for answers because they need that order. Some people need to watch a stupid sitcom on TV and turn off the pictures and images. Some people need to refresh their twitter and facebook feeds, checking off a mental list of people they know in Boston, waiting for everyone to check in. And it's all ok. It's a great strength to know yourself well enough to know how to take care of yourself. 

People are taking care of each other. As the illustrious John Green reminded his YouTube viewers today, there are always people taking care of each other. I think it's important to keep reminding ourselves that yes, there are some terrible people in the world.** They are terrible in all different kinds of ways, but they are by no means the majority. There are more people helping those in need than the people who put them in need.

I keep reminding myself of that. Some days, it's hard to remember. 

**I don't mean terrible in the ways we generally talk about here. This isn't about exes who moved or texted too much or never rescheduled that blind date--is 16 months too long to wait for that phone call?

Monday, April 08, 2013

I have a lot of feelings about weddings.

By now I'm sure many of you know about the absolute plague of weddings and babies going around my circle of friends. The news of such events has slowed briefly, but the save the dates and invitations and color scheme updates has not. **Married/engaged/etc friends: See disclaimer below. 

I'm not here to criticize marriage. Again. I mean, don't get me wrong--my feelings there have NOT changed. But my point today is something altogether different. 

Bridal showers. Let's talk about those for a minute. For guys reading this, unless you're married you probably have very limited knowledge of this ritual. (Also, I'm not sure how this works in other countries or cultures--anyone know?) Let me break it down for you: 

The bridesmaids or the bride's mother or an aunt decide to throw a bridal shower. All the female friends and female cousins and aunts and the future spouse's female family members get invitations that are usually covered in flowers and maybe a poem about celebrating the bride. So you get a gift from the registry and you go to the shower, probably on a Sunday afternoon. It is at someone's house or maybe a restaurant. You put your delicately wrapped gift (because these things matter--"ohhh you wrapped it in our wedding colors!!!!!") on a table full of other fairy princess gifts. You mingle with the other ladies, meeting the bride's coworkers and her childhood best friends and her grandmother. You compliment the floral arrangements on the tables. You flip through an album of the happy couple's engagement photos, wondering how often they find themselves prancing around a sunflower field, really. You drink punch and play some games about guessing how the couple met, then you quiz the bride about her spouse's favorite color and preferred cut of underwear. You wish you had slipped a flask in your purse. You eat salad and tiny food and make small talk. You might fill out a Bridal Shower Bingo card, guessing what gifts the bride will open. You fill out a whole row with things you and another friend brought because even though the prize will likely be that floral arrangement, you play to win. You listen to the married women reminisce about their own bridal showers. You debate whether live tweeting a bridal shower is rude. You turn your chairs to watch the bride open all her gifts. She acts surprised over each one, despite the fact that most of them are straight off her registry and come on, that's like being surprised at what's in your grocery bags when you get them home. She is gracious, though, and all the guests fawn over each gift. You wonder if anyone is buying your "oh look bath towels!" face. You make a bet with yourself about how often she will use that creme brulee torch. The bridesmaids dutifully write down each gift and collect each card. One ferries presents from the table to the bride's perch. Another steadfastly makes a bouquet from all the ribbons--her rehearsal bouquet. Someone appears with black trash bags for all the wrapping paper and the bridesmaids continue to work their magic. You take a picture of the bride holding up your gift because it's the thing to do. Once the wreckage has been cleared, you eat cake. It's the highlight of the party. The groom shows up and probably the fathers. They pose for a few pictures with the bride before carrying all the gifts to the car--their main job today. The bridesmaids pose with the bride for a few pictures, her ribbon bouquet in hand. You take a picture with the bride. You pick up your floral arrangement, find the end table where you stashed your purse, say your goodbyes, and make your escape. There goes 2-3 hours of your life. 

You want to know my big problem with bridal showers? (And right now you're thinking, well, all of the above was fairly illuminating. Did you hold any feelings back, there? And yes, I did.) It's the huge gender gap involved! I mean, I get it--it's a whole ladies' tea party vibe. Fine. But you can't go to a bridal shower without a present! That's right--it's a financial injustice. Men don't get invited to these! If they do it's like, the groom and his dad. Seriously. That's it. I'm buying one more present than all the male friends! 

It ends here, readers. If I ever get married...haha...can you imagine?...haha...ok, let's focus...there WILL be two showers. One for ladies, one for dudes. We can call it something more...masculine, if that would help. Wedding tsunami? Nuptial hurricane? I'm open to suggestions there. But that's it. That poor sucker is having a party. And his groomsmen can invite his coworkers and friends and my dude friends and my dad can go and my brother and they can have lunch somewhere and play games and open gifts. I'll show up at the end to take a couple pictures a piece of cake or have a beer or whatever and then peace out. Let's bring some gender equality to wedding traditions! Who's with me? 

(Guys, I'll teach you how to find a wedding registry. And then we'll talk Wedding Gift Bingo strategy. You'll get your centerpiece.) 

**(FRIENDS WHO ARE MARRIED/ENGAGED/WILL BE MARRIED ONE DAY: I'm not offended that I bought you a shower gift. I did that because I think you're awesome. And for cake. I'm offended that the men didn't have to! I'm offended that I stood in Bed, Bath, and Beyond looking for your wine glasses while they screwed around.) 

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Norway Review (10 out of 10, would recommend for future travel.)

Sure signs I've been away at summer camp (although this one was a spring camp):

  • a wrist full of new bracelets
  • mysterious bruises everywhere, a result of sitting on the floor, running around, and playing random games with teenagers
  • all my yoga pants are in the laundry
  • non-American currency jingling around in my purse
  • whatsapp is blowing up on my phone
  • a crop of strange pictures on facebook (seriously, am I ever prepared to be photographed?) 
I'm home now, having spent 10 days hanging out with some awesome new people, giving teenage boys much-needed relationship advice, gossiping, exploring a fjord, portraying the murderer in an elaborate murder mystery, and talking about human rights with teenagers. I was also interviewed for a Norwegian newspaper. A pretty solid 10 days, if you ask me. 

It's back to regular blogging now. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture courtesy of one of my campers. I was unaware I was being photographed. This was just a face I was making.