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Post College Reading List: Perks of Being A Wallflower

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Being not even two weeks out of my academic career, I now find myself facing dozens of new challenges. Where will I find a job? What kind of job should I look for? Where should I live? How will I take care of myself? Will I ever see my friends again?

Oddly enough though, one of my biggest dilemmas is, “How have I not read so many books in my 16 years of schooling?” Maybe it’s just the English degree coming out here (okay, it’s totally the English degree), but I feel like I have missed out on so many great works of writing. How could I have gone through high school and college and not read classic books? I began making a list of just the titles that came to my head, and when I got to the bookstore that list grew even longer. The bibliophile in me wanted to buy all of them, but the unemployed college graduate told me to calm down and just pick a couple to start out. I picked the four cheapest ones (unemployed college graduate was pleased) and took them to the register to check out. The check out clerk asked if it was for summer reading, and I replied, “Sort of.”

The first book I chose to read from my list was Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

perks

I started it last night and I am almost done with it. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do. It’s an epistolary novel (written in a series of letters), which not only makes it a fast read, but allows the reader to get inside the mind of Charlie (the protagonist), since all the letters are from him to an unknown “friend.”

While the main characters are all in high school, the subjects they deal with are far from immature. Sex, drugs, alcohol, abuse, suicide, and abortion are all themes with which the characters struggle, and they are presented with incredible honesty and bluntness. Chbosky doesn’t sugar coat the negative side effects any of these, which makes for compelling characters and narration.

I haven’t finished the book yet (that will most likely happen tonight), but unless the book goes downhill fast, I would say it is definitely a book you should read if you haven’t already.

And as a side note, I thought the movie version that came out last year was pretty good too. The book is better, but then again, it always is.

And as another side note, I am aware that I basically just wrote a book report. Old habits die hard. At least I didn’t use quotes or MLA formatting.

So, It Has Come to This

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I just turned in my last final paper this morning, and I can now officially report I am done with college, which honestly is crazy, because I still feel like I should be a sophomore or something. But it’s true. Four years ago I was about to graduate high school, and now I’m about to graduate from college. Come to think of it, a lot has changed in four years.

This was me at high school graduation:

Yikes. Thank god that cap is hiding my middle part.

Yikes. Thank god that cap is hiding my middle part.

And this is me now. Okay, about a month ago, but still.

It was a themed race. I don't normally wear tutus when I run (although I totally should).

I don’t normally wear tutus when I run (although I totally should).

This is where I thought I would be working once I graduated:

Getting paid to go on vacation and write about it? Yes please! And entry level jobs totally include jobs like that. Especially when it comes to journalism...

Getting paid to go on vacation and write about it? Yes please! And entry-level jobs totally include jobs like that. Especially when it comes to journalism…

And this is more my job prospects now:

Life of an English Major.

Life of an English Major.

I had rather high hopes for college me when it came to a love life. By senior year, I expected my life to be revolving around this:

Because everyone knows senior year of college you get engaged and then get married right after graduation, right?

Because everyone knows senior year of college you get engaged and then get married right after graduation, right?

However, my love life looks a bit more like this:

Except I'm not nearly as awesome as Tina Fey and I have to buy my own drinks and mozzarella sticks.

Except I’m not nearly as awesome as Tina Fey and I have to buy my own drinks and mozzarella sticks.

High School Me graduated with honors and a 4.0 GPA

womens-smarty-pants-logo-hr

 

But college is different from high school. Your goals in life tend to shift a bit.

dont fail

There’s more to college than just academics. High School Me didn’t realize this. Everyone tells you that you have to make sure you study enough and use your time wisely, because you don’t want to get behind. But what they don’t tell you is that if you put a little less effort into an assignment or skip a reading every once in a while in order to hang out with your friends, you’ll have a lot better time. I don’t remember the ending to Moll Flanders, because I decided to go sledding with my friends when a blizzard hit instead of staying inside my apartment to read it. But you know what, ten years from now, I will remember going sledding. I won’t remember having to read Moll Flanders.

At my high school graduation, I (thought I) knew exactly what my future was going to look like. University of Missouri. Studying Journalism.

Now at college graduation, nothing is certain. I mean, I will have a degree from Mizzou, but apart from that I don’t know what life entails. Part of it is scary, not knowing if I will get a job, or even what that job may be, or where I will live. Who knows what will happen in the next four years of my life.

I could get a great job. I could still be unemployed.

I could live in Austin, Texas, like I’m hoping I will. I could be living in Chicago still.

I could be engaged or married. I could still be single.

I could run a marathon. I could break my leg and never walk again.

I could develop a taste for olives. I could still hate them with a blinding fury.

The point is, I don’t know, and that’s alright. If there is one thing I have learned from college, it is this: things will happen when they happen, and when they happen, there is a reason for it. You may not understand it at the time, but looking back, you will see that helped you get to where you are today.

It’s weird to think that my life won’t be measured anymore in terms of years of schooling. Homework won’t exist. Summer and winter break are gone (sadly). I’m still trying to wrap my mind around all this. But I know that whatever the next few years brings will be awesome, and will shape me more into the person I’m meant to be.

I also know that in a few years I will look back at this post and think, “Wow, I was so naive, I didn’t know anything back then. What a loser.” Looking forward to that, Future Me.

So in summation:

dogs

The Unintentional Anti-Feminist

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This semester I am taking a Women’s Studies class all about the history and overview of feminism in the US. Now while some things are entertaining to learn, for the most part I find myself sitting there thinking, “This seems a bit over the top.” Now please don’t get me wrong, treating women like an object and property is never okay under any circumstances, and abusing them in any way is absolutely unacceptable.

I think it’s great that women can now vote, own property, inherit from their parents, hold any job they want (although they still aren’t paid the same as men), and wear pants (if that’s the kind of thing you want to wear). I like knowing that I can do all these things.

But here’s the thing: I don’t really consider myself a feminist. I’m sure if true feminists were to look at my stances on things, they would say I set the feminist movement back fifty years. And honestly, they’re probably right.

Just how anti-feminist am I? Let’s take a look, shall we?

I hate wearing pants. Given the opportunity, I would wear a dress or a skirt every single day. I love feeling girly and feminine. Add a cute pair of heels (kitten heels, not stripper heals, let’s be classy here) and a headband and you have the perfect outfit. I hate the cold because I have to wear pants. Pants feel so restrictive and it is so hard finding pants that fit well.

I would totally wear any of these dresses, and not even for a special occasion, unless Tuesday counts as something special.

I would totally wear any of these dresses, and not even for a special occasion, unless Tuesday counts as something special.

I love to cook and bake. I make dinner every night for myself and one of my roommates, and I don’t mind doing it. It isn’t a burden. I bake sweets on a regular basis and give them to my friends. If I am upset or stressed, nothing calms me down more than cooking or baking something. I love it. I don’t mind making a boy a sandwich so long as he asks for it nicely. I don’t think it’s demeaning when my guy friends call me up to ask me to bake them banana bread or “show them how” to make meatballs. Cooking for others is one of my favorite things to do. There are not too many things that I am really good at, but I know I can cook. It’s one way I can show others that I care about them.

And for those wondering, yes, that is Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony. And yes, I do sing that song every time I make cupcakes.

My life’s ambition is to be a housewife/mom. Not kidding. Given the opportunity, I would be a soccer mom in a second. I want to stay home and take care of my kids. When they’re at school, I want to run errands and do laundry and clean the house and have dinner ready by the time my husband gets home from work. I want to have one of those calendars where each kid is color coded on there to show who has to be where at what time. I want to be one of THOSE moms. With graduation so quickly approaching, I keep getting asked what my plans are for the future. Somehow, “Stay at Home Mom” isn’t exactly the answer people are looking for, especially when I am currently single and have no prospects for a husband on the horizon.

Charlotte York. She understand me.

Charlotte York. She understands me. And those cupcakes look delicious. 

I love Disney Princesses and think they are actually pretty great role models. Before you all grab your pitchforks and yell, “KILL THE BEAST!” or some other word that starts with ‘B’ hear me out. Honestly, I could write a whole blog post about how great Disney Princesses are, but that is for another time. No, I don’t think they are passive women who just allow men to save them. They were dreamers. They had dreams far bigger than what their families or societies had for them. They took risks and even when things looked dim, they still believed in a happy ending. And what’s so bad about a happy ending? I don’t know of a single person who says, “Man, I hope things turn out badly for me in the end.”

My favorite Princess. Booyah.

My favorite Princess. Booyah.

Now please note that what I believe is strictly in view of my own self. If a woman wants to wear pants, more power to ya.  If she only uses her oven to store sweaters (I’m looking at you, Carrie Bradshaw), then go ahead. If she wants to have a high-powered job and work 60 hours a week at a super competitive job, by all means follow your dreams. I applaud the women before me who fought so hard for women to have the option to take advantage of all these choices. My  choice though is this.

It’s not as though I was told as a child that I had to be this girly girl. My mother is very driven and worked very hard to be where she is today. My grandparents told be from a very young age that I could be whatever I wanted to be. My mom signed me up for a full arrangement of park district classes, from ballet to soccer, from cooking classes to amateur aviation classes. Clearly the ballet and cooking lasted longer than soccer and flying (You got to wear tutus in ballet! And you got to eat everything you made in the cooking classes! I got muddy and bruised in soccer, and aviation wasn’t very fun when you weren’t actually allowed to fly the plane. Apparently you must have a pilot’s license to that). I just always gravitated towards the more girly things. And for the record, I did not choose to be an English major as a cover up for a MRS degree. I chose English because I like to read and write. And nothing else seemed like me.

I’m sure there are going to be people who read this and feel bad for me or become angry with me for thinking this way. I hope you don’t. Like I have said before, women should be whatever they want to be. Don’t let me stop you. Trust me, I live with two very driven young women who I am sure will go very far in their fields and I cannot wait to see where they will end up. I would never try to push my feelings about feminism on them, because they would never buy into it. And that’s totally fine. I love them for their drive and spirit.

This has totally happened to me before. Whatever. At least I'm not a thief like Eugene!

This has totally happened to me before. Whatever. At least I’m not a thief like Eugene!

I have no idea where I will be in ten years. Hopefully I will be married with a kid or two, or maybe I will be single working somewhere awesome (or not so awesome. I can be realistic sometimes). I don’t know. What I do know is that no matter what I do or where I am, I will always be girly. And I will always have these likes and desires. It’s what makes me who I am. And really, how weird would it be if I was a tomboy who couldn’t even make so much as a grilled cheese? That would just be weird. A lot of people would be missing out, myself included. No, I think I will stick to skirts and cupcakes.

Stomach Flu Revisited

This is a sort of misleading title, but it’s almost 11:00 at night and I haven’t written for a while, so give me a break. I am not in fact sick with the stomach flu, but rather I am referring to a blog post I wrote back in November, in which I chronicle the twelve stages of the stomach flu. When I wrote the blog post, I was fresh from finally reaching stage twelve, feeling well enough to actually sit at my computer to write something instead of lay in bed and wish that my stomach would calm the crap down.

What I had no idea was the popularity that post would receive. Because of the title, it appeared in google searches when people would search stomach flu. What they thought was WebMD was in fact a twenty-one year old’s account of her illness. Initially, it was mainly garnering views, but then the comments started pouring in. People writing about what stage in the process they were, thanking me for writing such a well thought out and humorous post that made the feel better in their time of sickness. The view count soared–in this past week alone, I have gotten over 600 views of just that post, not counting any of my other blog posts I’ve written here.

It’s exactly what a writer wishes for: popularity and fans. The writer in me becomes so giddy when I get an email saying some random person in Canada commented on my blog. My writing is meaningful to someone, and that someone is not related to me in any way, shape or form (Sorry, Mom, I appreciate your support too!). It makes me think that writing is what I am supposed to do. It makes we want to blog more, but when I sit down to write about something, nothing comes to mind. Nothing seems worthwhile to dedicate an entire blog post to. At this point I think the Drafts queue on my dashboard is almost as long as my published posts queue. How can a writer be a writer if she has nothing to write about?

That is the question that keeps burning into my brain as I am getting ready to graduate in a few short months. I will have a degree in creative writing, and I’m not even sure if writing is what I want (or can) do. What could I write that would make people want to read it?

I never expected to have such popularity in writing about being sick (On a side note, my blog post about Lyme Disease is far less popular), and yet it has. Maybe that’s the key to writing. Whatever is on your mind at that moment, that is what you write about. Sometimes you get a gem, and more often you get a nice piece of writing that your roommates and grandmother read. But in order to find those gems, I’m going to have to keep writing, that much is for sure.

The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.

Quote by John Bingham

Let’s just skip the whole “Sorry I haven’t written in forever!” crap and get right to the meat of this post. Today, history was made. I, Bethany Weathers, willingly participated in a 5K run/walk to benefit Susan G. Komen breast cancer research.

For those of you that haven’t known me long (i.e. less than two years), this may not seem like a big deal. But for those that knew me back in high school/early college, this is HUGE.

Why?

fig. 1

This was me on my senior trip. It was taken in Colorado, about a quarter mile up a mile long trail. It took me nearly an hour to reach the top of the trail because it was too hard for me to walk (yes, walk) up the trail. When I reached the end, it took me so long to catch my breath I had to sit down and missed playing with my friends.

Gym was by far my worst subject in high school. It was co-ed (which never helps the fragile self esteem of any high school girl), and both of the gym teachers were avid runners. Because of this, they would make us run a lot. I would refuse. Seriously. I would walk the mile every year. When we had to run laps around the gym or soccer field I would walk them and make everyone wait for me to finish. Countless times my teachers would threaten to fail me if I didn’t run, and my reply would be the same: “Go on a fail me, because I’m not running.”

But really.

When I got to college, things didn’t really get any better.

 

fig. 2

That’s me at the Eric Hutchinson concert my freshman year. To be honest I wasn’t even sure I wanted to put that photo in this post because it is quite possibly the worst picture of me. But it needed to be added in order to fully grasp the gravity of today. When I got to college, I couldn’t care less about the amazing rec we have, or the fact that there were Tiger X classes. Just walking to class was enough of a work out for me. I had shin splints the first few weeks at college because I wasn’t used to walking so much. Why would I go work out? People would look at me, and I didn’t want them to see how unfit I was (although you wouldn’t need to go to the gym to figure that out; it’s pretty easy to see from that picture that I was NOT doing myself any favors).

End of sophomore year, something changed. I changed. I got fed up with hating myself and I decided I would do something about it. I started small. I did the elliptical for 15-20 minutes at the lowest resistance level possible. I (reluctantly) joined my friends when they went to zumba classes, and would trip and stumble my way (huffing and puffing) through the routines. But still I was too afraid to run.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. For years I was told that I was built like a runner: tall, long legs. But something inside me held me back. I wished I could be like those girls I’d see running past my dorm or on the treadmills next to me at the rec.

So finally, I decided if I really wanted to learn to run, I’d have to do something about it. I downloaded a podcast to help you build up to running for 30 minutes straight. The first day, I ran for one minute intervals with two minutes walking in between. I thought I was going to die.

I didn’t even have the energy to raise my arm like that, so this squirrel is even better off than I was.

But with the help and encouragement of my friends, I started to get better. Then I got Lyme Disease (which you can read all about here), and I had to quit running, despite the fact that I was actually starting to enjoy it. As soon as I got the okay from my doctor to resume physical activity, I was back on the running track.

Which leads me to this morning. After some minor coercing I managed to convince my roommate Rae to run the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. We began to train for it as often as we could, and we got to the point where we were getting pretty good. Still though, I had never run an actual race before and I was terrified out of my mind. Sure, I knew I could run the 3.1 miles; I’d done it many times before in work outs. But I’d never done it in a race with tons of other people trying to get around me (because, let’s face it, I’m still not very fast). I knew I’d have Rae running with me, but I needed more reassurance than that.

Cue God.

I wrote Hebrews 12:1 on my hand so every time I looked down I would see it and be encouraged. The verse says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

It didn’t cure all the nerves, but it definitely helped. As we walked around the sponsor booths before the race getting as many free goodies as we could, the atmosphere began to calm me and soon I was getting excited to run with all the people around me.

Finally, we were told to line up at the start line. Rae and I got a spot towards the middle of the un-timed runners. We picked our playlists, limbered up, and took off at the sound of the announcer. We made our way around the people who were walking and found a spot to run. We maintained a (relatively) steady pace the entire race. When we came into the stadium  and saw the finish line, we took off and gave it all we had. The Mizzou Golden Girls (who consequently wore pink) and breast cancer survivors cheering me on made me feel like I could finish, and I did. We had made it. I had done it. I ran a 5k, something that only a few short years ago I would have thought impossible.

After much high-fiving and bro-hoofing, Rae and I asked a random lady to take our picture.

Victory.

We beat our best time by 2:30. The euphoria surrounding me was amazing.

So yeah, I’m probably going to talk about this for a while. But when I think about how far I’ve come, I can’t help but feel proud. I know I still have a long way to go, but I know I can do it. It won’t be easy, but if it were the payoff wouldn’t be as great.

Next goal:

Disney Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World.

Okay, maybe just another 5k first, but one day, I am running the Princess Half Marathon, because I know I am capable of doing it.

The Problem with Princesses

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I overheard a conversation a couple of days ago between what seemed to be a couple having a disagreement. I’m not quite sure what the disagreement was about, but what I do know was that the girl was quite whiny and demanding, and the guy was very sarcastic in his responses to her. The argument ended with the guy saying, “Whatever you want, princess.”

It always annoys me when people call a woman “Princess” as a negative term. Being a princess is not a negative thing. At least it shouldn’t be.

A true princess is kind, gentle, poised, and a good role model. She puts others wants and needs before her own. She looks out for those who need help. She serves her community (and country). She is mature, classy, and (almost) never finds herself in bad press.

A True Princess. Okay, technically Duchess, but we all know she's a princess.

The term “Princess” has become the opposite of that. It describes a spoiled little rich girl who throws tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants. She is frivolous in her spending and her lifestyle. She is selfish and immature and more often finds herself un-tagging photos of herself underage drinking on Facebook than she is posting fun pictures of her weekend. No young girl should look at her and say, “That’s exactly what I want to be when I grow up.”

NOT a princess. For goodness sake, put something over your bazoombas before you have a wardrobe malfunction!

95% of girls grow up believing they are princesses. Disney movies sear into our brains the idea that we are beautiful and deserve to be happy. I am still waiting for Prince Charming to arrive with my glass slipper, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t acquired quite the shoe collection myself. Princesses don’t necessarily need a prince to rule. If you think about it, in every Disney movie was the prince desperately trying to find the princess because he couldn’t live without her. She had learned to take care of herself (Except for Aurora, who went into a coma. She was however under a spell by an evil witch when she pricked her finger, so we can’t put all the blame on her).

That's some crazy in her eyes.

The point I’m trying to make is that yes, girls and women should aspire to be princesses, but they should be a true princess. Being a spoiled brat is not something that should be celebrated. Being a good role model is.

So the next time you consider using the word “princess” to describe a woman, stop and wonder if “ugly stepsister” would be a better description.

Letter to myself, circa December 1997

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Dear Seven Year Old Me,

Last night one of our dreams came true. We finally got to see Titanic in the theaters. We went with our friend Julia. We drove ourselves. Mom didn’t come with us. We snuck a pint of ice cream into the theaters to eat because we’re hard core like that. We whispered our favorite lines along with the characters. We cried when Jack wouldn’t wake up when he was floating in the freezing water, and cried even harder when Rose met him at the top of the staircase at the very end. It was everything we ever dreamed it would be and more, because James Cameron (the director) re-released the movie in 3D. We wore our 3D glasses over our regular glasses (yeah, we get glasses, and we still wear them), and we marveled at the movie that we’ve loved for 15 years.

As I was sitting there watching the movie though, I kept thinking of you, and how much has changed in these few short years. I know the idea of being 21 seems really far off, but it’s not. And trust me, we go through so much between then and now. Some of our dreams come true; others not so much. For example:

We do not:

  • Get the replica of the Heart of the Ocean. But trust me, we would never have worn it more than once or twice. It would have gotten lost in one of our drawers never to be seen again until Stupid Teenager Us finds it one day and decides to sell it in a garage sale.
  • Hold onto our Beanie Babies and get rich off of them. Again, Stupid Teenager Us sold them in a garage sale for $1 each. I know, we paid $5 each for them initially. Trust me, we will regret this decision later on in life.
  • Meet/marry Zac Hanson. He never knows we exist. He is, however, still very attractive and he and Taylor and Isaac are still playing music. Unfortunately we haven’t gotten to see them in concert. Yet.
  • Get a boyfriend. Not yet at least. But before you look at me and say, “But you’re 21…” remember that we are a princess and frogs simply do not make the cut. There are only so many princes out there and we must be patient to find him.
  • Become a teacher. This is a GOOD THING. We are an English major now, and have no idea where our path may take us. We are both excited and terrified at that idea. On a side note, Mom DOES become a teacher. Weird, right?
  • Chew Tobacco like a man like Rose. Again, this is a GOOD THING. We will NEVER do this because tobacco is ICKY. We will STAY AWAY from it. Our body does not need that put inside of us. DO YOU UNDERSTAND????
  • Go to University of Texas. No Longhorns for us. Instead we go to University of Missouri, which is a pretty awesome place. Trust me. And trust Mom. She’s the one that found out about it.

We do, however:

  • Get to see the Titanic exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry with Alexis. It will be one of our favorite days ever, and we will still talk about it when we’re my age.
  • Visit five countries in Europe and five countries in the Caribbean. Plus Canada. All of these (minus Canada) will be without Mom and Dad. We survive. Our only child independent skills kick in.
  • Get our heart broken by a boy. By two boys, actually. No, neither of them was our boyfriend, but they still crushed our crushes. And while we went through these heartbreaks we believed that no boy would ever truly love us, but there is one out there. We just haven’t found him yet.
  • Get our hearts broken by many other things too. I don’t want to tell you all of them, because that would a long list, and some things are best left to getting through on our own. There will be times when we question everything around us, and wonder if there is any good in the world, but believe me when I say there is. We will never lose the hope of a happy ending. Never.
  • Ride a roller coaster, like Rose. A lot of them. We don’t throw up on one though. We will almost lose our glasses and/or phone (yep, we have our very own phone now) on multiple occasions. And upside down roller coasters really aren’t that scary. We won’t fall out, I promise.
  • Ride a horse, one leg on each side, like Rose. We do this on multiple occasions, in many different places. Yes, it is a bit intimidating, but if we relax, it’s actually really fun.
  • Drink cheap beer, like Rose. We will hate it though. Beer is icky. We will love wine instead.
  • Try to spit like a man, like Rose. It won’t turn out well though. There’s too much princess in us to do it properly.

There are so many things that I wish we knew at your age. But then when I look back, I realize that learning them will be half the fun. Seeing Titanic is certainly an experience that we will never forget, but it pales in comparison to some of the other wonderful things we get to see and do. I can only hope that we never let go of that passion and drive for our desires. After all, every princess deserves a happy ending, and we will be Queen on the World one day. We must remember to never let go of our dreams. Never.

With much love,

Twenty One Year Old Me

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