Tuesday, August 30, 2011

We ALL Need Support

I've had a lot more spare time than usual over the past few days; those of you who know me know exactly why. It's usually during times of sheer boredom that I do my best thinking, and the past seventy-two hours or so have been no exception. I've thought this through more times than I can count on one hand, and I think I've gotten the hang of what I want to say.
As usual, I'll start with a story: In 2005, the (alleged) finale of the Star Wars saga, Revenge of the Sith, came out in theaters. People flocked to the cinemas, and both professional critics and regular movie-watchers were singing its praises. Some conservative reviewers had one problem with it, though. Since battles between good and evil are present throughout George Lucas' space opera, it's very popular with people of all faiths. However, the notion of religion got insulted by the scene where newly-Sith Anakin says, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy," and his mentor Obi-Wan replies, "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." It was especially offensive to those of the Christian faith, since Jesus himself once said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." (Matthew 12:30, NIV)
Why do I bring that up? Simply because what Anakin and Jesus said applies to the people I regularly interact with as well: they're either with me or against me. I don't consider anyone who isn't my friend to be my enemy; Jesus also said, "Whoever is not against you is for you." I'll admit that I do have right many friends, and I'm not talking about Facebook friends. Between my weekly small group, the library where I volunteer, and my church family, I have a large amount of them. You may be asking: How do I know who, among the people I associate with, is my friend and who isn't? Simple: if they support me, they're with me...but if they don't, they're not. I'm not talking about financial support; I'm talking about emotional support.
As usual, I'll use some stories to illustrate my point: There was a person who I (unfortunately, I might add) had to deal with quite often who often showed his/her disdain for my favorite things. Remember the story from my "Don't Mention It" post about how I was "punished" by someone for saying, "Na nu, na nu," to my Sunday school teacher? Well, that same "someone" treated the old 80's sitcom Growing Pains, my number one favorite show at the time, like it was pornography, saying, "I'm sorry; we don't watch that show in this house! Turn on the news!" Even one brief mention of my favorite computer game series caused an angry response from him/her. Another person--who will also remain nameless--was just as unsupportive, but in a different way. He/she was essentially the sole leader of a group I was in, and he/she sat there and repeatedly condoned what the other members did, even things such as lying or spouting off at the mouth, while continually putting me on blast for anything that he/she found the least bit inappropriate. That probably doesn't sound very supportive to you, and it isn't; one can only conclude that those two individuals--at that time, anyway--were not on my side.
Conversely, I have a friend named who is in charge of the magazines at the library where I volunteer. Just like everyone else who knows me, he/she knew I was a big Victoria Justice fan, so, a few months ago, when a brand-new issue of Seventeen arrived with Vic herself on the cover, my friend thought of me and (almost) let me read it before anyone else. (The only reason he/she didn't was because I'd already left for the day by the time it came in.) It may not have been anything big, but I really appreciated such a kind gesture. To me, that's a perfect example of what support is.
Believe it or not, most of the people I interact with on an at least somewhat frequent basis fall into one of those categories; that is, supportive or unsupportive. I'm thankful that the majority of the people I communicate with regularly are supportive; I don't know what I would do without them. Still, it pains me to think that some people could be my friends...if only they'd support me.
Now, let me be clear on one point: Money will not buy my friendship. Most of you know that I am a child of divorce, and that my biological father is the quintessential jerk. In fact, I'm quite thankful that my mom left him when she did, because that decision gave me a better life. Even though I almost never saw him, one thing he used to do quite often was send me gifts. Most of it was sports-related, which made it worthless to me. Occasionally, though, he did send me some good stuff. My mom warned me--and, remember, she was married to him for fifteen years, so she knew his ways--that he was probably trying to win my love with things. The same could be said of some people who were regularly unsupportive. Seriously, you can shower me with presents on Christmas or my birthday, but all those material things don't mean anything if you're not emotionally supportive of me.
In conclusion, let me say this: I get that many of you don't understand why things such as entertainment, celebrity crushes, yard/garage sales, libraries, etc., are so important to me. If I were to guess, I'd say it's because, compared to many people my age, I don't have much going on. Most of my coeval friends are in some sort of relationship, have a job, and/or are taking a lot of classes. However, I'm not involved in any of those things right now, unless you count my volunteering at the library as a job, which I don't. I need something to fill my time, and the aforementioned things that are important to me currently fit the bill perfectly. In my opinion, a true friend would already understand all that and would do just like that librarian friend did in the story mentioned above. Yes, I need emotional support; we all do. If, however, you're going to repeatedly tell me why my favorite things are stupid, or that I'm always wrong about everything, then you are not being emotionally supportive of me. If you're reading this, I'm either already your friend or want to be, but friendship goes both ways. I can show respect for what you're into; can you do the same for me?

Friday, August 26, 2011

To rejoice or to mourn? THAT is the question.

Of all the topics I've talked about on this blog recently, there's been one glaring omission: the Bible.  The Good Book deserves to be talked about, so, I'm posting about it now and hope to make more posts about God's Word in the future.  I hope all you readers of my blog enjoy this post; it's been days in the making.
The Bible is full of teachings that are hard to live out:
  • "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:28, NIV)
  • "Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5:22, NIV)
  • "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." (Romans 12:19, NIV) 
I don't know about you, but I struggle with following those commandments quite often.  However, there's one other commandment that is almost as hard to keep from breaking: "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:15, NIV)  It's one that I keep repeating in my head to make sure that, the next time an occasion which requires rejoicing or mourning comes up, I'll respond appropriately.
Most of you who know me know that I don't always have the same response to things as most people do.  Two such examples are Napoleon Dynamite and The Last Airbender.  My opinions of both of those flicks differed greatly from popular opinion.  My feelings on films are small potatoes compared to my response to big announcements and/or events, though.
Sometimes, I have found it easy to mourn with others over the loss of a loved one, even when I never knew or even met the deceased individual.  I can remember being quite upset after looking at pictorial tributes to people who died quite young.  However, that hasn't always been the case.
I think you friends of mine know how much I dislike dogs, right? Well, a few years ago, my old neighbors had gotten a brand new canine that was even more of an annoyance to me than others of his species.  Every time I went in my backyard, he barked like crazy at me, even when I was sitting on my parents' swing, facing the other way with headphones on my ears and my nose in an Anne McCaffrey novel.  Not long after they got him, he ran out into the street and was killed.  Part of me wanted to be sad, but a bigger part of me was thinking, YAY! Now I can go in my backyard and not be sonically assaulted by that dumb animal's barking! I shouldn't have been thinking the latter, though, because that wasn't a Christ-like attitude.
As bad as that may sound, I've had more cases where I broke the first part of Romans 12:15: "Rejoice with those who rejoice."  I'm sure you all know that my lack of a relationship has been one of my favorite topics of online discussion.  Well, being on Facebook too much has led to me being among the first to find out about friends' engagements, and, I'll admit, I haven't always acted appropriately.  I've done everything from unfriending the newly engaged friend to pitching a hissy fit (no joke) to making violent threats (again, no joke), all of which I shouldn't have done.  It seemed like I was unable to look past my own immediate needs and wants, which made me unable to rejoice with my friends like everyone else.
I've said enough about what I've done.  Now, let's talk about you; that is, my friends.  I think pretty much all of you know that I rejoice over things that don't even affect anyone else.  A perfect example was the crowning of Victoria Justice as my new top celebrity crush earlier this year; despite me being quite elated about it, most (though not all) of my friends seemed totally indifferent about it, as if I was celebrating a completely unheard of holiday.  Other big events, whether happy or sad, that have happened to me over the past year or so, such as the Love and Other Drugs trailer incident, "Electricity" and her rather ugly rejection of me, Rachel Zevita's unfair early elimination from American Idol, or finding cool, unique items at local yard sales, have elicited similar responses.
You may say, "But those incidents you mentioned mostly deal with entertainment, which isn't all that important." Well, maybe not to you, but books, movies, television and music are my passions, which is why I want to work at a library one day, and hopefully will soon.  To illustrate my point, I'll use a story about one of my family members: My sister, for those of you who don't know her, has always been a big-time animal lover.  At one point, she and my brother-in-law owned three cats and two (big) dogs.  It's no surprise that she works at a vet clinic, right? Well, her passion for animals goes beyond that.  Over the years, she was able to find quite a bit of memorabilia that had cat(s) and/or dog(s) that were the same breed(s) as hers; she had everything from a framed photo to notepads to even a panhandler.
You bet, she loved her pets! Now, if some tragedy had happened to one of them, it would be easy for a fellow animal lover to understand the pain she was going through, right? However, how would someone who can't even stand the sight of an innocent, sweet house cat or a cuddly little basset hound--and, yes, I have known people like that--feel?  Would they even begin to understand what that was like? Probably not.
What's my point in saying that? Simply this: Although many people like entertainment, I've been hard-pressed to find very many people that take it as seriously as I do.  If you go in my bedroom, the walls are covered with various movie, TV and music-related images, and my shelves are overflowing with books.  That's proof of my dedication to it, right? So, naturally, when a celebrity I like does something seriously wrong, I mourn, and, when one of my favorite actors, actresses or singers does something great, I rejoice.
Going back to the verse in Romans: "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." It really couldn't be any simpler.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that you don't have to rejoice (or mourn) with someone if you think what they're all excited (or dismayed) about is stupid.  When I'm happy (or sad) about something, I don't want to hear, "You need to get over it!" or "Just move on with your life!", even if the reason for my feelings is entertainment-related.  That kind of response is very immature, like that of a middle schooler.  If you don't like having to rejoice (or mourn) with me over something related to an actress, movie, or book, don't blame me, because I'm not the One who commanded you to do it.  The New Living Translation says it even plainer: "Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep."  Yes, it does apply to me, but it applies to you as well.  I'm going to try to be better about following that commandment; will you join me?

Monday, August 8, 2011

How "Lizzie McGuire" Changed My Life

Believe it or not, I owe quite a bit to that show!
Okay, question time: When you hear the name Lizzie McGuire, what comes to mind? A classic sitcom that you wish newer shows on the Disney Channel were more like? A horrible television program featuring a dumb girl who fell a lot? A cash cow that had Mouse House executives rolling in the dough? A show you rarely or never got to see when it was on because you didn't have cable? Part of your childhood that you've since grown out of? The lead actress, Hilary Duff, whether you love her or lump her?  Truth be told, it's been quite a while since I've even seen any clips from Lizzie McGuire.  It must still be popular, because I've had to shelve books based on that show countless times at the library.  Most of my friends know that I used to be a huge fan of that show and Hilary Duff; I had her picture plastered all over my binder and desktop.  She and fellow Disney starlet Christy (Carlson) Romano (Even Stevens, Cadet Kelly) were my top two celebrity crushes back then, just like Victoria Justice and Jennifer Stone are now.  However, Lizzie had a wonderful lasting effect on me, and, even though I ditched Hilary in favor of Anne Hathaway over six years ago, those effects are still going strong.
What was it? Well, when I was younger, before I became a Hilary Duff fan, I had certain forms of entertainment I liked, just like I do now.  However, instead of it bringing me and my friends together, it mostly drove a wedge between my classmates and I.  Why? Well, all the entertainment I liked was at least one of four things: classic, obscure, a computer/video game, and/or widely seen as immature and/or childish by my peers.  What made things even worse was that I didn't want to talk about anything else, leaving all my classmates wondering what on earth I was talking about, if they even wanted to talk to me.
However, Lizzie McGuire changed all of that.  I still remember what led to me getting into it: Back in fall of 2002, I was lost because my then-favorite show, Growing Pains, was taken off of ABC Family quite abruptly.  I didn't know what to do; I felt like throwing my TV into the dumpster.  That all changed when a kid my mom was taking care of, who was a few years younger than me, showed me a little show called Lizzie McGuire.  It took more than one viewing to make me a fan; in fact, the first episode I saw was all about Aaron Carter, which led me to think it was the stupidest show on the planet.  Boy, did my opinion change on that one.
It wasn't just that show, though.  It was that it led my notions about current, non-obscure, non-gaming entertainment had been completely shattered.  If it hadn't been for Lizzie McGuire, I wouldn't care at all about Star Wars, superheroes, Victorious, Amy Adams, American Idol, celebrity birthdays, or most of the other things that I currently talk about profusely.  That Hilary Duff sitcom was the catalyst that started it all.  This may sound stupid, but here it is anyway: If it hadn't been for Lizzie McGuire, I don't know where I'd be right now.
Any comments?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Cranberries' Mentality (And Why We Can Do Without It)

I'll admit it: I'm a big-time lover of most kinds of music. On my iPod, I have everything from Josh Groban to Glee to the Beatles to dc Talk to multiple American Idol finalists to ABBA to Elton John to Matchbox Twenty to Victoria Justice and then some. However, there is one genre that, to me, continues to be in a league of its own: classic rock. I've always been a fan of older media, so it should come as no surprise that my playlist is littered with songs that are well over a decade old. One enduring band is the Cranberries, whose music still gets played on the radio to this day. They had an album with a very unique title that I like because it's easily parodied, but dislike because of its implications: Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can't We?
Most of you reading this have already seen my spoof of that album's title, so I don't need to ramble about it. Instead, here's why I dislike it: The title implies giving in to peer pressure and/or jumping on the bandwagon. I've seen that "everybody else is doing it" mentality rear its ugly head throughout my life, and I don't care for it all that much. That's why I refuse to conform to what society says. If some people had their way, I wouldn't do anything that I personally consider fun.
In fact, I have the perfect response to the Cranberries' titular statement, and it comes from my childhood. It happened all the time when I was younger: Some kid (sometimes me, sometimes not) would see other kid(s) doing something, and he/she would proceed to join in. An adult--usually a parent or teacher--would come by and see him/her doing that, and then ask why he/she was doing it. He/she would respond, "Because ________ was doing it," and the adult would immediately quip, "So, if ________ jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?" I expect parents are still saying that now; if they aren't, they should be.
So, what's my point? Simply this: Just because everyone else is doing something does not mean that you have to do it, too. Being different is not a bad thing, despite what some of the denizens of this planet would have you believe. I've lived my life by that rule, and I hope people who are reading this will start doing so if they haven't already. As the song says, "I am but a small voice," but maybe this post will encourage one person. If it has, I've done my job.
Any comments?

Monday, August 1, 2011

You're Making a Spectacle!

Okay, everyone, it's question time: What do you find attractive in the opposite gender? You ladies like a man in uniform? You guys prefer a woman with a certain hair color? I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of all natural hues of hair; if you go back and look on my celebrity crush list, you'll see redheads (such as Amy Adams and Anneliese van der Pol,) blondes (i.e., Traylor Howard and Krystal Meyers) and brunettes (e.g. Victoria Justice and Jasmine Richards) throughout it.  However, there is one thing that I love to see a woman in.  It's not a certain color of clothing, although I have found that women of certain hair colors or ethnicities look really good in particular shades of apparel: redheads in green or purple, blondes in cobalt blue, Hispanic women in black, etc.  This, though, is one thing that applies to all women.  What is it? Glasses.
The above statement is not a joke; I really do like a woman in glasses.  It might sound stupid, I know; I can't really explain why I'm attracted to bespectacled females.  It might be that I grew up around them; my mom, my sister, and my grandmother have all worn specs for as far back as I can remember.  It also might be that certain kinds of glasses give a woman a brainiac/librarian-style look; I was a big fan of Scooby-Doo when I was a kid, and what fan of that show doesn't remember Velma "The Brain" Dinkley and her thick-rimmed spectacles? It might be something else entirely; I don't know.  What I do know is that I've liked women with eyeglasses for a long time, and probably always will.
Any comments?