Monica Lewinsky: “The Price of Shame”

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You have no idea how I could not wait to turn 30. You had absolutely no idea what was going on through my head when I was approaching 30.

Most people dread turning 30. Turning 30 represents so much in our culture…in our society. Turning 30 means you are 20 years closer to 50. Turning 30 means that you are no longer in your invincible 20s. Turning 30 means a post quarter life crisis because you have to evaluate where you are at…if you are at where you should be or wanted to be instead of wishing where you want to be.

I did not dread turning 30 at all. I couldn’t wait. For me, I wanted my 20s to be long gone. I did not want to feel the guilt, the shame, and the hurt that I had gone through in my 20.

I cringed a lot in my late 20s thinking about my early 20s. I felt like I did not live up to my idealizations in where I wanted to be during that time in my life. I felt like a complete failure. When the 2008 recession/economic collapse happened, it made me kick myself especially during my late twenties. How could I have been so stupid? Why didn’t I have the foresight to plan better? Now, I am behind while my other peers who decided to go ahead, finish up their graduate degrees, and got jobs right after they finished their degrees, they have jobs and time vested.

All that time I planned in not getting behind…it ended up biting my ass because I did get behind. I went into a spiral depression. I felt so lost. At the time, I was devastated.

However, I made a promise to myself when I turn 30. I was going to get my shit together. All the living inside my head…well, I told inner child Sophia that I was going to take care of us, and we will still keep our eye on the prize despite feeling lost and a bit insecure.

I was able to make good on my promise to little Sophia. Now, we are here. As I said in another piece of writing, I also commented how the show GIRLS really helped me forgive the decisions I made in my 20s as well. I realize that I was being way too hard on myself in what I did.

When I watched the Ted Talk that Monica Lewinsky gave this past Saturday, I realized that forgiving yourself is very vital to your growth.

For those who don’t remember, Monica Lewinsky is a name that still thrives in popular culture. Pretty much, for those who know about Monica Lewinsky, most remember her as the slut that had a sexual affair with Bill Clinton.

But that’s not how I see it…not after the Ted Talk and especially the experience I’ve gained now.

Behind how the media have caricaturize Monica Lewinsky, one would just dismiss her as being a home wrecker. As being an opportunist. As being someone who got all she deserved for having an affair with the president.

Let’s look at this objectively.

Monica Lewinsky was 22 years old when she began her sexual affair with Bill Clinton.

People want to say that 22 year old show know better. 10 years ago, as a hard-nosed 23 year old about ethics, I would have said she should have known better for having an affair with a married man. She got herself into this, and it is her fault. She should have preserved her reputation and resist Clinton’s charms if he came on to her.

I don’t condone Lewinsky’s behavior, but I certainly have a degree of empathy for her…and compassion. No, compassion, empathy, and sympathy doesn’t dismiss someone’s behavior especially if it is harmful behavior that’s continuing. However, the past reveals a lot when you reflect on it. When you do, you realize there are evident reasons why you or other people make the decisions that they do…or you speculate why the person decided to make that decision that changed his or her life…and continues to affect his/her life for the rest of his/her life. After listening to Lewinsky’s Ted Talk, I have realized that…compassion, empathy, and sympathy are required in helping others aid from their mistakes.

Even Lewinsky says in her talk, after being hit on by a 27 year old, she would not want to be 22 years old again: “But the night of my speech, a surprising thing happened. At the age of 41, I was hit on by a 27-year-old guy. I know, right? He was charming and I was flattered, and I declined. You know what his unsuccessful pickup line was? He could make me feel 22 again. (Laughter) (Applause) I realized later that night, I’m probably the only person over 40 who does not want to be 22 again. (Laughter) (Applause)” (https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame/transcript?language=en#t-62914)

Lewinsky got me right there. She got me with she doesn’t want to 22 again. And let me tell you, I know how she feels. You couldn’t pay me to return to my twenties. No, not all was bad. It was a mixture of the good, bad, and the ugly. However, it is the ugly moments where your lips drop down intensely upside down. It is the moments where your burrow furrows something intensely because you think about those ugly moments and how they may come back and haunt you if no one hasn’t discovered them.

However, the entire world discovered Monica Lewinsky’s and Bill Clinton’s affair on January 17, 1998 that broke from an online news website, Drudge Report. Linda Tripp decided to release recorded tapes of conversations between her and Lewinsky about Lewinsky’s involvement of having a sexual affair with Bill Clinton. The Washington Post officially broadcast the story on January 21, 1998.

Once the story spread like wildfire, it is pretty much it. Lewinsky spoke in her speech how she fell in love with her boss, but her reputations was ruined at 24 (when the news broke that she had an affairs with Clinton):

“At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss, and at the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences” (https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame/transcript?language=en#t-62914).

Yet, as Lewinsky speaks in hindsight, her actions would result in over a twenty year imprint that has not been forgotten for what transpired during that time:

“Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of my mistake, and I regret that mistake deeply” (https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame/transcript?language=en#t-62914).

Lewinsky continues her talk expressing her this mistake haunted her. In a subtle way, she understands her huge her mistakes was:

“Can I see a show of hands of anyone here who didn’t make a mistake or do something they regretted at 22? Yep. That’s what I thought. So like me, at 22, a few of you may have also taken wrong turns and fallen in love with the wrong person, maybe even your boss. Unlike me, though, your boss probably wasn’t the president of the United States of America. Of course, life is full of surprises” (https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame/transcript?language=en#t-62914).

Yes, she is right. I have never had an affair with my boss or any married committed person; however, there are others who have. For those who have, I would safely assume some of them regret that decision today. It haunts them in so many ways as it should since they have a conscience. It is a major mistake; some would say unforgiveable. Yet, I just don’t believe that. I believe with time and looking at it from a matured perspective, you see what you did was incredibly wrong and incredibly stupid, but you own it and apologize and put in the effort every day not to do it again. You realize that you were being a selfish idiot, and you hurt yourself and the other people who are involved in your life as well as the family of the person you had the affair with.

But is it fair to get crucified for twenty years for a mistake you made especially when you did not make that mistake alone?

I am starting to see the cyberbullying that Lewinsky is voices in her Ted Talk. As she expressed it, it all started when the Digital Age began. Her story flew like an epidemic, and the aftermath has us even discussing it today.

Yes, she made a mistake, and she pointed out, and I told at the beginning of my introduction, I am a part of the 22 year old experience of making a mistake. Yet, the difference between Lewinsky and me is that my mistakes have never made it nationwide. Unlike Lewinsky, I never made any mistakes to where it left a linger regret from keeping me from living my life and growing.

It is challenging topic to discuss. For those of us who stand by our moral convictions of people being honorable, it is difficult to let anyone like Lewinsky off the hook for committing a grevious sin, but can we think about Bill Clinton?

And his part in this? Yes, the media had their day with him, but it wasn’t a field day like Monica Lewinsky. Bill Clinton is not remotely discussed as Lewinsky has been. The scandal is not called “Clinton & Lewinsky” scandal…it is called the Lewinsky Scandal.

Who paid the price for the affair more? Certainly, not Bill Clinton—not in public terms concerning the media and discussions. He wasn’t impeached for his actions. He got to serve a second term as President of the United States.

Again, what Monica Lewinsky did is not condoned. However, what Bill Clinton did was not condoned, but he hasn’t gotten tarred and feathered like Lewinsky. Lewinsky has been slut shamed. She has been exploited in rap lyrics and pop music. She has been talked about as if she is the same slut she was during that time.

But what we all tend to forget, and what I didn’t realize either until I heard her Ted Talk, that 22 year old was a person. That 24 year old was a person. That 41 year old is still a person.

Did she know better? I believe she knew better but talked herself into believing that it was love. However, looking at Lewinsky’s past and how she grew up…and how her parents’ divorce affected her, I suspect that she was looking for love in all the wrong places. Her father is a powerful figure. Bill Clinton was a powerful figure. She was a young woman who most likely felt lost. Most folks don’t have an affair out of the blue. Something is wrong in their lives, and the way they deal with is sleeping with someone else. It is not right; however, when a person is lost, they make the stupidest decisions.

Yet, when it comes to age and experience in this situation, Bill Clinton should have turned Lewinsky down. He was not thinking about her being 22 and impressionable. All he thought about was…I want someone to make me feel good. She looks up to me….

Maybe he didn’t think of it that way because as humans we don’t contextualize emotions in the moment. Yet, we certainly feel those emotions when we believe we need someone or something…just to feel momentary pleasure as such in this situation.

It is tragic in some ways. And no, I am not being fucking dramatic. It is still a continued double standard. Monica Lewinsky’s story is the 1990s version of The Scarlet Letter. The letters, “S,” for slut, “W” for whore, and “H” for Homewrecker flows through. If she is brought up, I am sure that there are still people who say so.

There are many women who have made and are still making this mistake. I’ve learned early on that female parties in affair situations should not be the only ones to blame. It takes two to waltz, and it should not only be the female parties who are responsible for causing an affair.

I feel like cyberbullying, shaming, and harassing anyone for a costly mistake is not justified. I would presume that some of these people regret their choices, and it haunts them. Should we throw stones at them until they take their lives?

I understand bullying. It is the most horrifying feeling in the world. Your torments stalking you to the point where you are hollering in the air “Please, please help me. Someone help me.”

I understand others will say that she brought it on herself. She should have known better and why should we show her any compassion?

I tell you why. A part of being human is emoting compassion. If you don’t, then, it says a lot about your character.

Judge the person by their actions. However, don’t eviscerate their character over and over again. Some of us want to learn from our decisions and become better people after. Mistakes don’t define who we are. What we do afterwards should define who we are continuously.

It seems to me after the scandal, Monica Lewinsky was very lost. She didn’t know where to turn. Then, she suddenly disappear for a decade. To me, I think she was tired of being in the media. Yes, afterwards, she took advantage of opportunities that didn’t make her any further sympathetic with the public, but I think, after this speech, I would like to presume she was lost.

Is this a cautionary tale?

I would tell all young people…don’t sleep with your boss. That’s just common sense. Second, if you do, you need to really think about the consequences and the repercussions of it because it can NEVER take it back not in the Digital Age which has been solidified with the subsidiary of the Social Media Age—and that’s what we are in. The Digital Age begin in the mid-90s, and the Social Media Age was cemented somewhere around the mid-2000s.

But most of all, it will hurt everyone involved including you. You are going to have to find some way to live with it because it will at times come back and haunt you.

I would also say that anyone who is your boss that comes on to you…they got major issues. 99%, you will not be a major part of their worlds. Bluntly, you are not a permanent fixture, your are a temporary feel good solution because their egos are hurt.

Most of all, we still live in a sexist, racist, and elitist society. Due to how you physically look…what your physical anatomy is…and how this will be discover and who will discover it, you are in a higher chance of getting humiliated and bullied…and harassed. It is easy to condemned people than to have compassion and empathize with them. It is easy to judge harshly because to really empathize with someone, you have to place yourself in their shoes.

Cheers,
S

The Forbidden Comfort Zone

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What is it that they say…

Oh yeah, that’s right:

Misery loves company.

Well, I like to revise that to fit…

I remember the time where my comfort zone was my misery was my company.

I can remember over three years ago how I reached an apex of being miserable. Before then, I rolled in my own misery. It was like rolling in my own vomit because I had gotten tolerate of the smell. Just like when a person becomes so use to the perfume or cologne he/she is wearing…that he/she continues to dose themselves with more and more…like he/she bathe in it.

However, what tends to happen is the over the top scent repels people from coming around you—and does not attract them.

I remember that’s how I was. I also knew I was stinky as hell, and I didn’t want anyone around me. I knew my shit did not smell roses.

However, the stink was coming from my inner spirit. It was stained with hopelessness, unhappiness, sadness, and depression.

It was not bad as those yesterdays as a teenager where I cried absolutely extremely hard to where I was racked with exhaustion.

Yet, even then, I had my eye on the prize. I had my eye on the prize since elementary school. Maybe even before elementary school…because I became fascinated with the dictionary in the cardboard box.

However, after I graduate with my BA in English, somehow, I lost myself when I attended graduate school.

Wow, did I just admit that? Did I just admit that I was lost while starting and attending graduate school?

Reflecting on that time, I thought I was so sure of what I was doing. I thought that I knew enough and was trained well enough in writing to breeze right through.

Oh I was so fucking wrong. Just like my Freshman year, first semester at MGC, I was so lost. I didn’t feel like I fit at all, and I also felt like I wasn’t competitive enough. I had one professor tell me my writing was not good, and I did not belong in the program. I would be better suited for getting a Master’s of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education. She thought my writing was inferior, and I should switch to another program.

That hurt really bad, and it took a hit on my self-esteem. As always, I revert back to working hard. I equated if I learned the secret to what 1+1 was, then, I would be fine.

But I wouldn’t change it all. Graduate school actually taught me to become a better writer. It toughen me up. Now, at this time, it has made me see that I didn’t fully understand what writing was overall. That I did not fully understand what the power of writing is.

I needed that education. I need that process. Looking back, it would have been better to wait, but now, I realize…it was best for me to go to graduate school because I needed to learn more. As I become older, pieces of the puzzle of critical understanding has fallen into place.

The process has shown me that even though the tough time, all I had was the words, my thoughts, and my ideas. What I also have learned, while I was reveling in my inner misery…putting damage on my spirit is that…

I am the visionary, and I choose writing as my tool. Writing didn’t choose me. I choose writing. Wow. Wow and wow….as I write that, I realize that the talent comes with in trusting my gut and assessing all situations so well that when I make a guess…it is usually right.

However, for a while, I lost sight of that vision. Being a writer. Being a creator.

When you get bog down with adult responsibilities, working, cooking, getting into a relationship and being a dedicated friend, you lose yourself. Or you allow yourself to become lost because it is easier being and doing those tasks and roles. It was easier to play super girl and support Rupert while he was finishing his nursing degree. It was easier coming home and making a meal instead of further focusing on my writing. It was easier to get lost in other peoples’ problems than confronting my own.

Because it is easier to hide behind other matters and other people than actually being honest with yourself. It is actually easier to forget about the very choice you made…wanting to get a Master of Arts in English…with I have completely choked because I do not have what it takes. Instead, you got into temporary part time work…and you are happy that you are doing something with what you learned over the years, but you realize with each job you have, it is not good enough. When you become depress, it is only because you know, you know that you are not fulfilling your destiny.

I was not fulfilling the vision. My confidence feel from complete grace. Instead of being that depressed teenager, I was a very fucking angry Sophia. I was so fucking angry. I was so fucking angry that negative side of me that I had kept in check since my undergraduate days burst forward. I was so fucking angry with myself and very mean to myself. The anger came from…I had plan and plan years on end…since I was a kid that I would become a high school English teacher or college English professor. That I was going to teach and do my own writing while doing it. When the 2008 recession hit, it changed the entire game and my plans. It gutted me, and I felt like a complete ass fool. I felt like despite all my planning, it blew up in my face because I believe in the myth that I was special. I am a part of Generation X…and Generation Y. I am a part of the ME generation. The generation that promised that I would be a professional just like my other peers.

Then, after the anger, comes the depression…and feeling numb. However, I still beat myself up for miscalculating.
One day, two years ago, I decided…this is going to be my year to get a full time job. 2013 is going to be my year.

When I claim that, I got a full time job. Most of all, I got a job where people respect me and like me. The graduate students in the department depend on me and trust me. So, do  my co-workers and the faculty.

However, although, I am happy that I am in academia serving students, now, I fall back on what I was really taught.

I was taught you always had a job to pay your bills. To feed yourself. To have a roof over your head. Clothes on your back.

BUT your passion, you keep working on it until you strike gold.

After my mother’s friend passed away, I finally stood up to myself and realize that I was eviscerating myself. I look deep down inside and questioned…

“Where’s that Sophia back in her college days? You know, the one who reinvented herself. Who had a lot of friends and acquaintances? The one who raised her hand in class and asked fifty million questions? The one who was known to be inquisitive and effervescent? What happened to her? What happened to the Sophia that was a fighter NOT JUST a survivor…the one who kept fighting until she reaches being a Victor?”

Man, oh man, I realize in that instance how much I miss that Sophia. And when that one day claim, I rose my fist up within myself and promise I would reclaim her.

I’ve been reclaiming her piece by piece.

What is brilliant about this is that I am older now. I realize my own power through my own experiences thus far. What I know is true is that…

I am a visionary.

I am a creator.

I am a reader.

I am a writer.

I am a leader.

I am a mentor.

However, all these work together and are interrelated. I am just starting to understand my superpowers. You know…

For those who are Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans like me, look back on Buffy. She knew she had power. She knew she was supposed to defeat the monsters in Sunnydale. There were many moments as Buffy grew older. Many moments were she wanted to be someone else and not the slayer. Many times that she didn’t understand her power….

Remember season 5 when she wanted to start to understand what a slayer really is. Who she is as a slayer? Remember she realized that she wasn’t invincible? That she wanted to know where her power came from? The origins of it…and to fully understand how to embrace and liver a longer and fuller life?

That’s how I relate to Buffy Summers even though I didn’t realize until now. I want to live a longer, prosper, and fuller life. I want to live to be an old ass woman…I want to live over a 100. I want to outlive my great-grandmother. In the key to that is…learning everything about who I am…and my superpowers. Where do they come from? Why am I am what I am and who I am?

The responsibility of great power comes from within. I want to know why I have this drive as a visionary….and why did I choose writing?

I am excited about getting older. I am excited about becoming an extremely old woman. I am excited because the more I learn, the more I know…the more powerful empowered that I am.

The forbidden comfort zone is to get into a rut where it causes you so much of who you are.

We all need heroes/heroines to inspire us to greatness. Most of all, we need to find our own ways to become our own heroes and heroines.

I order you to get unstuck from your rut. Trust me…little by little, it leads to self-destruction.

Cheers,
S

What is it that they say…

Oh yeah, that’s right:

Misery loves company.

Well, I like to revise that to fit…

I remember the time where my comfort zone was my misery was my company.

I can remember over three years ago how I reached an apex of being miserable. Before then, I rolled in my own misery. It was like rolling in my own vomit because I had gotten tolerate of the smell. Just like when a person becomes so use to the perfume or cologne he/she is wearing…that he/she continues to dose themselves with more and more…like he/she bathe in it.

However, what tends to happen is the over the top scent repels people from coming around you—and does not attract them.

I remember that’s how I was. I also knew I was stinky as hell, and I didn’t want anyone around me. I knew my shit did not smell roses.

However, the stink was coming from my inner spirit. It was stained with hopelessness, unhappiness, sadness, and depression.

It was not bad as those yesterdays as a teenager where I cried absolutely extremely hard to where I was racked with exhaustion.

Yet, even then, I had my eye on the prize. I had my eye on the prize since elementary school. Maybe even before elementary school…because I became fascinated with the dictionary in the cardboard box.

However, after I graduate with my BA in English, somehow, I lost myself when I attended graduate school.

Wow, did I just admit that? Did I just admit that I was lost while starting and attending graduate school?

Reflecting on that time, I thought I was so sure of what I was doing. I thought that I knew enough and was trained well enough in writing to breeze right through.

Oh I was so fucking wrong. Just like my Freshman year, first semester at MGC, I was so lost. I didn’t feel like I fit at all, and I also felt like I wasn’t competitive enough. I had one professor tell me my writing was not good, and I did not belong in the program. I would be better suited for getting a Master’s of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education. She thought my writing was inferior, and I should switch to another program.

That hurt really bad, and it took a hit on my self-esteem. As always, I revert back to working hard. I equated if I learned the secret to what 1+1 was, then, I would be fine.

But I wouldn’t change it all. Graduate school actually taught me to become a better writer. It toughen me up. Now, at this time, it has made me see that I didn’t fully understand what writing was overall. That I did not fully understand what the power of writing is.

I needed that education. I need that process. Looking back, it would have been better to wait, but now, I realize…it was best for me to go to graduate school because I needed to learn more. As I become older, pieces of the puzzle of critical understanding has fallen into place.

The process has shown me that even though the tough time, all I had was the words, my thoughts, and my ideas. What I also have learned, while I was reveling in my inner misery…putting damage on my spirit is that…

I am the visionary, and I choose writing as my tool. Writing didn’t choose me. I choose writing. Wow. Wow and wow….as I write that, I realize that the talent comes with in trusting my gut and assessing all situations so well that when I make a guess…it is usually right.

However, for a while, I lost sight of that vision. Being a writer. Being a creator.

When you get bog down with adult responsibilities, working, cooking, getting into a relationship and being a dedicated friend, you lose yourself. Or you allow yourself to become lost because it is easier being and doing those tasks and roles. It was easier to play super girl and support Rupert while he was finishing his nursing degree. It was easier coming home and making a meal instead of further focusing on my writing. It was easier to get lost in other peoples’ problems than confronting my own.

Because it is easier to hide behind other matters and other people than actually being honest with yourself. It is actually easier to forget about the very choice you made…wanting to get a Master of Arts in English…with I have completely choked because I do not have what it takes. Instead, you got into temporary part time work…and you are happy that you are doing something with what you learned over the years, but you realize with each job you have, it is not good enough. When you become depress, it is only because you know, you know that you are not fulfilling your destiny.

I was not fulfilling the vision. My confidence feel from complete grace. Instead of being that depressed teenager, I was a very fucking angry Sophia. I was so fucking angry. I was so fucking angry that negative side of me that I had kept in check since my undergraduate days burst forward. I was so fucking angry with myself and very mean to myself. The anger came from…I had plan and plan years on end…since I was a kid that I would become a high school English teacher or college English professor. That I was going to teach and do my own writing while doing it. When the 2008 recession hit, it changed the entire game and my plans. It gutted me, and I felt like a complete ass fool. I felt like despite all my planning, it blew up in my face because I believe in the myth that I was special. I am a part of Generation X…and Generation Y. I am a part of the ME generation. The generation that promised that I would be a professional just like my other peers.

Then, after the anger, comes the depression…and feeling numb. However, I still beat myself up for miscalculating.
One day, two years ago, I decided…this is going to be my year to get a full time job. 2013 is going to be my year.

When I claim that, I got a full time job. Most of all, I got a job where people respect me and like me. The graduate students in the department depend on me and trust me. So, do  my co-workers and the faculty.

However, although, I am happy that I am in academia serving students, now, I fall back on what I was really taught.

I was taught you always had a job to pay your bills. To feed yourself. To have a roof over your head. Clothes on your back.

BUT your passion, you keep working on it until you strike gold.

After my mother’s friend passed away, I finally stood up to myself and realize that I was eviscerating myself. I look deep down inside and questioned…

“Where’s that Sophia back in her college days? You know, the one who reinvented herself. Who had a lot of friends and acquaintances? The one who raised her hand in class and asked fifty million questions? The one who was known to be inquisitive and effervescent? What happened to her? What happened to the Sophia that was a fighter NOT JUST a survivor…the one who kept fighting until she reaches being a Victor?”

Man, oh man, I realize in that instance how much I miss that Sophia. And when that one day claim, I rose my fist up within myself and promise I would reclaim her.

I’ve been reclaiming her piece by piece.

What is brilliant about this is that I am older now. I realize my own power through my own experiences thus far. What I know is true is that…

I am a visionary.

I am a creator.

I am a reader.

I am a writer.

I am a leader.

I am a mentor.

However, all these work together and are interrelated. I am just starting to understand my superpowers. You know…

For those who are Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans like me, look back on Buffy. She knew she had power. She knew she was supposed to defeat the monsters in Sunnydale. There were many moments as Buffy grew older. Many moments were she wanted to be someone else and not the slayer. Many times that she didn’t understand her power….

Remember season 5 when she wanted to start to understand what a slayer really is. Who she is as a slayer? Remember she realized that she wasn’t invincible? That she wanted to know where her power came from? The origins of it…and to fully understand how to embrace and liver a longer and fuller life?

That’s how I relate to Buffy Summers even though I didn’t realize until now. I want to live a longer, prosper, and fuller life. I want to live to be an old ass woman…I want to live over a 100. I want to outlive my great-grandmother. In the key to that is…learning everything about who I am…and my superpowers. Where do they come from? Why am I am what I am and who I am?

The responsibility of great power comes from within. I want to know why I have this drive as a visionary….and why did I choose writing?

I am excited about getting older. I am excited about becoming an extremely old woman. I am excited because the more I learn, the more I know…the more powerful empowered that I am.

The forbidden comfort zone is to get into a rut where it causes you so much of who you are.

We all need heroes/heroines to inspire us to greatness. Most of all, we need to find our own ways to become our own heroes and heroines.

I order you to get unstuck from your rut. Trust me…little by little, it leads to self-destruction.

Cheers,
S

Empire Exposes Destructive Stereotypes of Masculinity

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For a few years, it has been on my mind about television storytelling. That’s because I grew up watching what I call old school nighttime soaps like Dallas, Dynasty, and Knox Landing. I remember as a kid my mom getting me hooked on these shows. You saw the glamour, the glitz, and the power of these nighttime soaps…and as a kid, my mind just raced a long with all those diamonds and sequins.

Now, we got a modernity of continuation of a nighttime soap. It has been a minute since we’ve seen something this popular attracting millions and millions of viewers every week.

And the final two episodes of Empire did.not.disappoint. Boy, they did not disappoint at all.

My interpretation of “Die But Once” and “Who I Am” exposed the depths of Luscious’s evilness, Jamal’s acceptance from Luscious, Cookie’s desire to hold onto her boys, Anika’s pain and vengeance, Hakeem’s not being taken seriously, and Andre’s burden of beast. Empire has set the record of exposing the extremities of each character and leaves a lasting wonder of what will go down next season.

Luscious Lyons. Season 1 has brought Luscious in a full circle. Who is Luscious Lyons? He is a villain. He’s a businessman. He’s a thug. He is a lover. He is father. He is an ex-husband. He keeps his friends closer and his enemies very close. He is hater…and most of all…

Luscious is that lost orphan boy who had to create an alter ego and change his name so he can survive on the streets. And to share this with his middle son, Jamal, before the feds cart him off to prison because Vernon snitched on him (who ended up being accidentally killed by Rhonda because Vernon would not stop being the shit out of Andre), makes Jamal and Luscious finally understand each other.

Luscious and Jamal know what it is like to be outcasts and having to rise above what everyone thinks you are …and for you to actually define what you are and show it. There were many instances were in the last two episodes where we see Luscious and Jamal aren’t as different as it appeared in the earlier episodes of the first season. What kept father and son from connecting? It is what Luscious shares with Jamal…it is hard for a black man to make it in American society…and to know that he’s gay makes it harder for others to see him as a man. This is especially true. James Baldwin wrote about it. Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, and Michael Brown are living proof of it in a postmodern 21st century culture. If black men, overall, are still not looked in this country as being a part of American culture…as being American citizens in every form, what chance do homosexual black men have then if heterosexual black men have gotten lynched, shot, killed, or murdered?

Luscious becoming a successful black man is black America’s dreams come true. However, the underlying issue, and where the imbalance lies is how Luscious treats his family.

What Empire continues to expose is the brokenness of a black family…it is the continuation of history of what is the broken black family. It also shows the imbalance of Luscious Lyons.

Again, appearance vs. reality comes into play again. Typically, when I think about appearance vs. reality, I think about Shakespeare, and Empire has Shakespeare written all over it especially with the final two episodes.

Appearance wise, Luscious expresses he cares about his family because he cares about saving Empire. For Luscious, Empire and his family as synonymous with each other. What is quite sad about this is that Empire comes first…saving Empire comes first than saving or keeping his family. Everything that Luscious has done is for his art which started Empire. The issue is that Luscious uses people as chess pieces on his board to make sure the game keeps going…and to make sure what Empire symbolizes continues. For Luscious, Empire is the physical representation of housing all of Luscious’s dreams, ideas, and accomplishments. To see Empire crumble or destroyed is for Luscious to see that his talent is not as special as the next person in line. He would return to being that orphan…that all the time and effort it took to build Empire would go up in smoke…and it would figuratively kill him.

And maybe that’s why Luscious distances himself from Jamal by using his sexuality against him. Luscious never has said that he is jealous of Jamal, but there are moments in the series he is jealous of him. I believe not accepting Jamal’s sexuality aided in Luscious in not wanting to admit that his son is better than him. In the last episode of the first season, at the beginning of the episode, Luscious realizes that Jamal is the best of both worlds when it comes to him. Jamal is creatively talented and has a business sense and maturity about himself than Andre and Hakeem.

Once close as thieves, Luscious and Hakeem are estranged. Luscious’s move in getting rid of Hakeem’s girlfriend, Camilla, has sent Hakeem over the edge. It also illustrates that Hakeem’s immaturity prevents him from being the successor of Empire. One immature move is Hakeem sleeping with Anika. Another immature move is Hakeem dissing his father on stage. Hakeem’s two decisions proves not only maturity but how clumsy his calculation is in getting back at his father. It also shows that Hakeem cannot come up with ideas on his own when it comes to actually trying to ounce Luscious from Empire.

Then, we have Andre who Luscious tries to drawback into the Empire fold. Andre pulls away and leaves the company. He joins the church that his “friend” Michelle is a member of…but when push comes to shove, Luscious actually proves to his son that the church is no better than working for Empire. Individuals’ money and fame are powerful Gods—not religious God and his words. As Andre thinks that Luscious couldn’t touch him in a church space, Luscious walks up to Michelle and offers her to create a solo gospel album which she says yes to. In a double fold, Luscious proves to Andre that the majority of people can be bought off with the right price. He also shows Andre that the church is just as corrupt as business is. Look at Michelle. She falls easy prey to Luscious’s offer because of her admiration of him and the opportunity presents itself.

The reality is that Luscious is only great because he knows how to play the “chess of life” well. He knows how his best players move and how to control them to move wherever will give him the advantage. Empire is the Queen on Luscious’s board, and he must protect it at any cost. Cookie sure as hell isn’t the Queen on Luscious’s board. Luscious has always treated Cookie as a pawn; she is readily sacrificial. And in Luscious’s world, an individual on his chess board, at any time, can change position. Look at Jamal. He was the bishop that Luscious kept in reserve…and then, all the sudden, he becomes the Knight of the board. Once before, Hakeem was the suppose bishop…and Andre the knight. Now, Hakeem is just a pawn like Andre is.

The two defining moments for me about Luscious are:

When Cookie witnesses Luscious’s confession about killing Bunkie in his drug state. Luscious’s expresses in his mini-monologue that he sees himself as a God that will never fall—that’s from the second to last episode.

During the last episode, Luscious falls. He ends up in the hell he tried to avoid all his life…

Karma’s never lets you slip by.

Cheers to Empire’s Season 2,
S

What Does Fanfiction Achieve?

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This essay resulted from a short piece of writing commenting on me researching what kind of fanfiction that the bestselling trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey has spun from. In reading several of these fanfictions, my conclusions are that it would be difficult to create a whole new story from the Fifty Shades of Grey fanfictions I’ve read.

I understand that some readers and writers have quite a huge disdain for fanfiction. From readers/writers comments I’ve read about fanfiction, my conclusions are these readers and writers view fanfiction as absolutely the lowest form of lowbrow writing and reading.

However, I argue, from my experience in participating in fanfiction that it helped me to reclaim control and confidence over my writing abilities. I’ve been writing for twenty years…and what fanfiction actually did for me is made me realize what kind of writer I am…and help me move past some old ghost.

I am including the short piece I originally wrote and how it led to the longer essay.

Cheers,
Sophia

I can hear someone saying it now… “S, I need for you do better.”

In the case of doing all this research on Fifty Shades of Grey, it is not a matter of doing better. It’s a matter of needing to know what is going on.

Okay, Folks, I am sort of using that an excuse.

I have delve into the dark world of Fifty Shades of Grey fanfic to see what is out there.

And let me tell you, I’ve been shaking my head shamelessly at what has been written. This is going to come out snotty because I am a snotty person when it comes to degrees of how writers’ write.

I am not too impressed by what is out there.

There is one fanfic author actually EL James writing. The only differences are there are many run on sentences, there is not explicit sexual situations, and it just sounds really elementary. Don’t get me wrong. The fanfic author has great ideas, but the writing suffer.

Some of you may be thinking…what in the hell are you talking about you being a writing snot? You read Fifty Shades of Grey for goodness sakes! Well, what I will say about EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey is that it is decent high low brow fiction. Yes, it has annoying occurrences in the writing. A lot of repetitive language, and Ana’s first point of view could have been constructed better. However, compared to some of this fanfic I am reading, it is way better.

Listen, I participated on a soap opera fanfiction board several years ago. I wrote fanfiction for a Young and the Restless couple, Colleen Carlton and Adrian Korbel. I wrote a prequel basically about Korbel’s life because viewers didn’t know much about his life.

When I write something like fanfiction, I play writing detective…and I write about what isn’t really cover.

One of the Fifty Shades of Grey fanfiction writes about Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele Grey having four children instead of the two the readers know about at the end of the original Fifty Shades Trilogy (Fifty Shades of Freedom). Anyway, the writer throws out some good ideas, but the execution when it comes to having the writing technically smooth…it is rough.

It is a bit mushy story, but compare to what else I’ve discovered on that fanfiction forum, it is better than what I’ve read afterwards.

I was challenged by a friend to write my own fanfiction. I may do it still…

Hear, Hear to fanfiction!
Sophia

*********

The discussion continues about fanfiction. I received a great comment from a Proseboxer about, “How does one write fanfiction about fanfiction?” This particular example is from the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

I answered the comment starting out with…how I view fanfiction writing functioning as:

1) Fanfiction writing can help existing writers who have long standing writer’s block.

2) Fanfiction can help new writers practice on their writing skills.

3) Fanfiction can help writers build up their confidence about their writing

4) Fanfiction can help writers learn how to revise a story (the fanfiction itself) and turn it into something completely different.

The reason why I made this point is because I was in this vote in 2006. For so long, I’ve been doing writing regular journal entries (actually keeping a physical journal ) and writing blog/diary entries (OpenDiary). However, I started writing creatively in elementary school, but like most adolescent writers, I would mimic my favorite writers. And I am astounded actually….looking back on it, I participated in some type of “fanfiction” writing. I am a huge horror fan; my mom turned me onto horror films and books as a kid. Anyway, my first “books” were about the Friday the 13th series. As a young writer, you are learning the ropes.

Anyway, 2006 and 2007, I begin to hit a slump while attending graduate school for a MA in English. I felt lonely even though I was in a relationship. Being I na relationship triggered an identity crisis…and I felt like I didn’t know who I really was. I participated in a soap opera forum where you could post critical opinions about the storylines. Well, a member of that soap opera forum actually invited me to a more exclusive soap opera board where a couple was the central focus.

Like on the general soap opera board, I participated with my own thoughts about the characters and storylines. There was a section on the board called fanfiction. You could write fanfiction about the couple. It was a challenge because I was studying a graduate degree in English. What I read all the time was highbrow literature—maybe sometimes middlebrow…and at rare times lowbrow depending on what literature courses I signed up for.

I wanted to see if I was able to mix a low/middlebrow genre (soap opera shows) with highbrow writing. I also wanted to explore how good I was as a writer. I wanted to test my confidence with an audience to see how good I was writing fiction. For so long, I’ve been in the zone in learning how to write critical papers about literature.

I was one of the first ones on the board to really delve into writing fanfiction…and taking it somewhere different. Through the process, I learned a lot about myself as a writer, and I actually learned to become a better writer. You had other writers on the board who were professional writers telling me that my story was good but giving me constructive criticism in how I could improve it. The couple broke up on the soap opera…and slowly, I lost interest in writing fanfiction. Why?

Because writers who are interested in storytelling will always return to being interested in telling their own stories. They want to tell their own stories and create their own universes and their own characters. Sure, I can take what I’ve written from the fanfiction and heavily revise it. Even though I used both fo the characters as a base, what I did was extended the storyline and made it into a prequel. Yet, for years since, I’ve thought about taking the entire story, revising it entirely, and finishing out the own story and make it my own story.

What I am saying is that if done correctly, fanfiction can help you cure your writer’s block, but I also have touched on point 3: “Fanficton can help writers build their self-confidence about their writing.” Writing fanfiction on that soap opera board helped me realize that I can write, and I should keep on writing. Even though I’ve been writing for over 20 years, it also helped me to self-edit my work, practice self-constructive criticism, and made me realize a true writer’s work is never done.

What it also proved to me is that I can take an idea…write it well, but I also have the power to create stories myself well. And that is the true wisdom I learned when I was writing fanfiction. I want to tell me own stories…and revise someone else’s. I want to create my own work. I’ve always been searching in how I would do that…and now, I can do it.

However, some people do take advantage of fanfiction writing in such a way that…it ends up not being great writing. As I’ve been thumbing throw the Fifty Shades of Grey fanfiction…as this Proseboxer inquired, “How does one write fan fiction about fan fiction?” The several fanfiction I’ve read or read through so far haven’t been that great. This is how I responded on that:

“Yet, I will also say that, as being a seasonal and experienced reader and writer, it is rare to turn something, I believe I would coin, low, lowbrow into something high-middlebrow or highbrow work (if that’s what your aim is). No, I don’t look down on low and middlebrow literature or culture for I read across genres and dread different types of writing. However, from what I read with these Fifty Shades of Grey fanficitions, I am not too impressed because I don’t think you can turn these fanfics into workable writings. They lean too much on the original story.”

This is a problem. I would categorize Fifty Shades of Grey as high lowbrow or low middlebrow fiction. I mentioned some of the reasons in video blogs when I started critiquing the first book what problems I see with the first book…and with the trilogy itself. Basically, the male character who is dark knight type hero is more interesting than the actual main protagonist who is telling the story. Overall, the language is low quality due to a lot of being repetitive which makes it easy to read if you have an open minded to this type of reading. There are also holes in the story that need to be developed as well—major holes like we never see Christian Grey and Dr. Flynn….an actual therapy session with them discussing questions problems. We never see Anastasia actually address herself esteem issues again with Dr. Flynn.

There is much more improvement in the story. However, due to the nature and how the story is setup, it is difficult to produce even a good fanfiction from it. A lot of it has to do with how the story is structure. Yes, one could go in the story…and rewrite it filling in the holes…or writing a short piece on what I mentioned above. Some of the examples. But how much time and value is that worth to you when you could probably logistically work through a story with just that and craft something entirely new.

From my own personal experiences and reasoning, I didn’t like how Ana got pregnant in the third installment because if EL James were to write another installment, she would have to write about Christian’s and Ana’s life as parents and how they balance that. For a reader/writer like me, I would read that book just to see how she deals with it, but personally, that’s not what I like to write. I am more like Toni Morrison in the fact that…if I haven’t read it yet, then, I should write it or want to write it.

To me, transforming a fanfiction into a revised, different story from a fanfiction that was transformed from an original story…I would say would be absolutely difficult but not impossible.

Cheers,
S

Dark Girls

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Race. Racism. Racial.

What is race exactly? What is racism? What is colorism?

Race2

noun

1.

a group of persons related by common descent or heredity.

2.

a population so related.

3.

Anthropology.

  1. (no longer in technical use) any of the traditional divisions ofhumankind, the commonest being the Caucasian, Mongoloid, andNegro, characterized by supposedly distinctive and universalphysical characteristics.
  2. an arbitrary classification of modern humans, sometimes, especiallyformerly, based on any or a combination of various physicalcharacteristics, as skin color, facial form, or eye shape, and nowfrequently based on such genetic markers as blood groups.
  3. a socially constructed category of identification based on physicalcharacteristics, ancestry, historical affiliation, or shared culture:

Her parents wanted her to marry within her race.

  1. a human population partially isolated reproductively from otherpopulations, whose members share a greater degree of physical andgenetic similarity with one another than with other humans.

4.

a group of tribes or peoples forming an ethnic lineage:

the Slavic race.

5.

any people united by common history, language, cultural traits, etc.:

the Dutch race.

6.

the human race or family; humankind: (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/race?s=t).

How I self-defined race?

My definition is a constructive view of one’s color due that is used for control, authority, or hierarchal purposes. To me, race is a constructive theory perceiving how certain people are. When I hear about race, it is about the superiority and/or inferiority of a group of people. Hitler called the Aryan (pure white race) the master race. That any other individuals…any other races, were inferior. Growing up in a rural middle-Southern town, I knew one reason why I was difference because of my “race.” Seeing how my mom was treated by other non-black people, well, it cued me in on racism.

Racism:

noun

1.

a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various humanracial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usuallyinvolving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right todominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to theothers.

2.

a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such adoctrine; discrimination.

3.

hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racism?s=t).

I did feel that growing up. I felt like white so better that I believed, in inner Sophia’s mind, that it was true. Can you imagine a kid believing that their skin color was nothing the dirt that shoes track? That whiteness was pure. That the lighter you were closer to white the more opportunities you gain? That people of non-color would take pity on you if you didn’t look so dark. It’s twisted because you can’t be yourself. You have to adapt to ideologies and use what you think you have as an advantage to get to where you want to get.

However, what if you have a little black girl who wants to feel a part of her community because she feels internal racism. Yeah, there is a term for that: Colorism.
Colorism:

Colorism is a practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin. In the African-American community, this traditionally played out via the paper bag test. Those lighter than the standard paper lunch bag were allowed entry into fraternities, sororities and other realms of black upper class life, while dark-skinned blacks were excluded. The Spike Lee film “School Daze” is an exploration of colorism (http://racerelations.about.com/od/understandingrac1/g/definitionofcolorism.htm).

Oh, did I feel the colorism in Cockroach. Whew…all I wanted was to be an accepted BROWN girl, and I wasn’t. I didn’t act the part of what a black girl was. I can’t testify evidently if it was what my other black peers saw. I can’t provide evidence if it is what they saw strictly in our small community, but I didn’t fit the bill, Yo. I guess I didn’t fit that I was funny, that I was loud…that I didn’t act black enough. Due to not acting black enough, I was excluded from the black club.

And that’s one part of colorism. You know, racism, if you are a person of color, you know right away. It is a pretty blanant difference. However, it stings when brown people like you don’t choose to relate to you and actually exploit and expose your uniqueness. Instead of celebrating your uniqueness, they make you feel like an alienated freak. You feel like a freaked misfit…and that doesn’t belong because you aren’t good enough in your own ethnic group.

Dark Girls brought that home to me. Watching it yesterday on Netflix brought me in an awareness focus. It not only reminded me but confirmed to me that colorism is real. It is a reality just like after I read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in the summer after my freshman year of college. The power that The Bluest Eye showed me is that I was not alone. I was like Pecola in so many ways. Feeling like the dandelion in the crack of the sidewalk…feeling cracked apart in my childhood. The fragmented Sophia is this: the inner child who was never accepted for who she was….and how the adult Sophia processed all that. How the inner child and adult Sophia felt fragmented to the point where they couldn’t synthesis…that they could not merge into one Sophia.

The power of feeling lesser than by a macrocosm is apparent. It is much powerfully hurtful when the very microcosm rejects you. You feel like you have nowhere to go at all. You feel like you don’t belong to NO group. And it rips apart any foundational self-esteem you have. It nearly torn mines asunder to the point where it took me years to merge it.

I cringed when I watched Dark Girls as a 33 year old woman. I cringed because of the stories. I cringed because I know how those women felt. You come into this world, and you don’t expect these beatings. The beatings from all corners. You expect somebodies to be in your corner…and you realize that a group aren’t going to back you. What if you are a brown or black girl…and you feel like you have no one? You are totally lost in oblivion of pain…and for some of us, out of all those who are exposed to that pain, to become successful and happy with ourselves. Some of us still struggle…so viciously…and to the point where, some of us just lose hope and get lost in the oblivion of pain.

Slavery was a horrific event in our country where it still has it after effects. The legacy of slavery trails behind this nation. With it, the aftershocks of, not only racism, but colorism as well.

There needs to be more documentaries, fiction, non-fiction, etc. discussing colorism. Yes, we have racists, but we have colorists, too. Racism is fear as colorism is as to bullying. When you feel oppressed, you attempt to oppress other people. Empowerment comes from realizing that there is pain…and that you are causing…and it is doing something constructive about that pain positively.

More than ever, we all need to find ways to heal our own wounds so we can help others heal theirs.

Cheers,
S

 

Book Backbreakers

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I was too nice of a kid growing up.

I was quite polite and wanted to please my peers because I wanted friends. When I stepped my tiny brown feet in the school system, all my innocence of what I knew…completely vanished.

What you don’t realize as a kid is that everyone has a certain smell. And that kind of smell attracts predators to you in the guise of being a sheep; however, they are in wolves’ clothing.

I was tormented by more than one kid. Every space or corner I occupied, there was a different kid there to bully me. To call me poor. On welfare. Trash. Stinky.

Even the kids that were nice to me and I lend out my books, most didn’t take care of them. And that was when I was introduce to book backbreaker.

What are book backbreakers?

They are folks you loan books to. If you ever see them again, whew, they have broken the backs of your books.

I confess. I used to be a book backbreaker who was ignorant. I just didn’t know better. As I grew older, I realized that when you broke the back of a book, it didn’t last long. After about three to five readings, pages would loosen…and then, your book wouldn’t survive as I should.

When it was done to me, when a lender back broke my book, I quit lending it out. Oh, there are other reasons why I don’t lend out books.

They just don’t come back like they should. As someone who is a prissy about the class and state of her books, I don’t lend them out.

Yeah, if it is me who damages them accidentally, no problem. Yet, if it is someone else who I lent it to…and returns it looking like it has been a complete rollercoaster tornado, I am going to get pissed 10 out of 10.

And that’s why gals and guys, I don’t lend out books.

Book destroyers and book backbreakers are out there. I rather just buy you books, and you do what you please with them. Yet, I really hope that you don’t harm them.

Cheers,
SMF