just call me raegen

STUPID, MEANINGLESS LIVES UNITE TO DISCUSS UNPOPULAR OPINIONS

Month: June, 2012

Teh Sade Stat of Journalism Today

This blog is a consideration of the state of journalism today from the point of view of a non-journalism major/MFA recipient/magazine writer/editor/feminist/idealist/brunette/crusty 30-something. And as is the case with most of my blogs, this will likely take me several paragraphs, goofy pictures, and sarcastic captions to get to my main point. And if you didn’t realize my title was part of the joke, I don’t blame you; for the record, though, it is. You’re welcome.

This topic was initially inspired by a friend’s bad day with the news-reading experience. Finding truly unacceptable typos and/or grammatical errors in the following two (one, two) mainstream news articles, she expressed her angst on Facebook, naturally — where all of today’s angst finds a happy home.

Profile shown on Thefacebook in 2005

Status update: I’m pissed, brah! (And that, my friends, is what’s known as a pun.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The offending quotes:

1) “Oh, how you disappointment me my Aussie friends.”

2) “‘[I]t was hard to tell whether it was with faux or guanine naiveté,’ Losse writes.”

To which I replied (partially, at least):

‎1) “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” When it comes to editing, this is true! Granted, even if Chase had a proofreader review the piece, depending on the quality of the proofreader, these errors still might have been missed; but I’m guessing Chase worked alone on this… But, hey, what do I know? This is only my job… and I’d be out of it if there were fewer illiterate or just plain lazy people out there.

English: Chicken cooking on a gas grill rotiss...

Chicken Little, you were delicious! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2) Part of the problem — not to make excuses in any way — is that writers for today’s publications are a) on crazy deadlines to keep up with Twitter or some other news outlet breaking stories before they do, b) generally pulling a lot more writing weight than they can handle, and c) grossly underpaid for handling such a large workload, if they’re even willing to take the job for such a pittance. So quality suffers either because of overworking, apathy, lack of qualifications (aka recent grads who didn’t have a writing gig in school… and even some who did, based on some articles I’ve seen), or all of the above.

Slaughtre to lupin popup typo 04

Your attempted contributions fail. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having moved on from her rage for, oh, a day or so, my friend then went on to ask her Facebook followers what they felt were the most unbiased, reliable media sources out there. Among the ones cited: Reason, The Guardian (though left-leaning), NPR, Consumer Reports (which I found to be a pleasant and surprising candidate for “news”), and Link TV.

While considering this query, as fate usually likes to have it, I stumbled upon this in my Twitter adventures:

@BostonReview

28 June: “Grab dinner with BR editor and political philosopher Joshua Cohen in San Francisco: http://kck.st/KEptL1  #kickstarter

Hmm… Boston Review piqued my curiosity — and followed me back (which was hot, by the by) — so I clicked on the link. Bam! This is what I read there:

“Are you disappointed by the tone and depth of public debate?”

Check…

“Are you frustrated that sensationalist political coverage and talking heads drive our public discourse?”

…and mate.

“You are in good company. And it is a big problem. The media — old and new — are not providing honest, thoughtful, open debate on key issues like economics, war, and justice.”

Yeah! Eff that!

“Our democracy is suffering as a result.”

Viva la Revolucion! (Wait, I got carried away. I’m just a little white girl…)

Postcard or print of a photo taken during the ...

Postcard of the only two journalists present during the Mexican Revolution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Naturally, I recommended Boston Review to my friend, but I’ve been thinking about this BR statement ever since. Yes, they’re looking for funding, so yes, they got a writer talented in PR and the art of persuasion to inspire readers to donate to the cause. But honestly, people, are you going to hold it against them?

Consider the following: One major flaw in today’s journalism is the fact that most media outlets are owned by a) major corporations or b) their advertisers. And I use the term “owned” loosely here, because when an advertiser threatens to pull its ad campaign — and, subsequently, its funding — from your publication in an attempt to dictate what you will and won’t print (e.g., you will not under any circumstances print something your staff wrote that, while factually accurate, it doesn’t like), and you give in, you are essentially owned.

Let me bring you the real, dear little journalism undergrads: Journalism today ain’t no Woodward and Bernstein shiz — not with most publications, at least. Back then, a journalist had to fear retaliation from, say, Richard Nixon. But today, if you work for, say, the fictional outlet of Flox News, do you know whom you have to fear? Your bosses. And their bosses. And even your interviewees. Because you can forget about getting another interview with Joe Blow if you didn’t let him see your article before it went to print (in to the sane!) and change his relevant yet controversial points to self-promotional, meaningless drivel. With the exception of all the fluff you can handle, you will write and report what these people tell you you can write and report — nothing more.

English: Flipped censorship.

Hi! I’m acting as this blogger’s representation of censorship. Point illustrated. Can I have my junk back now or what? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And perhaps you already know this. And if that’s the case, is it any wonder to either of us that you’re fresh out of the gates with your cute little degree all rolled up in your hand, completely apathetic about what you’re planning on spending the rest of your life doing?

Knowing things like this make me infinitely grateful I pursued studying my passion — creative writing — instead of doing something “safer,” like a journalism major. Because even when I have to stop caring that I likely won’t ever be paid (let alone allowed) to write accurate yet abrasive material, I still have the love of language, the love of writing itself, to keep me fulfilled, to keep me pounding out the paragraphs, inserting those commas and correcting those typos. And, of course, writing whatever I very well please on the side.

English: Poetry

I didn’t actually write this, but it’s pretty hilarious. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which brings us back to that initial complaint my friend made about the lack of proofreading and editing in journalism pieces. This here — this thing that you’re reading right now — this is called a blog. Is it a blog because it’s online? Partially. If it’s online, does that make it a blog? No. A blog — especially a personal one such as this — has one editor, typically: the writer. I don’t excuse any mistakes I may make herein, but I am the only set of eyes looking at it (albeit multiple times) before I hit “Publish.” But a news blog should have at least one editor — and one who knows what the heck grammar is and can spell properly without the squiggly red line. And a news article — also online, but not a blog — should absolutely have at least one editor reviewing it as well. The fact that it’s online for the whole world to see is no excuse for laziness on the part of the writer or acceptance of said laziness on the part of the reader because, “Oh, it’s just a blog”; in fact, because an online presence tends to completely replace or at the very least supplement — not subtract from — a print readership, to me it should be even more critical that everything in the text be accurate from not only a factual but a grammatical standpoint.

In other words, Yahoo!, Huffington Post, you have some work to do. Get to it!

English: Glue

Here’s some glue; get your shiz together! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mistakes will be made — sure. But seriously, this is why we have proofreading and copyediting. This is why we have editors. Find at least one good one, and here’s some additional advice on that: Since most college grads period (even English/journalism majors) are not learning proper writing skills in school these days, test and choose wisely.

You’d be amazed if you saw what some of the stuff coming through my work door looked like before we beat it into submission, because you see it in its prettified state. And that’s the way it should be. If it still looks like something a third-grader wrote by the time it’s posted to your website for all your readers to see, you got problems.

Test your writers, invest in your writers, and invest in more writers. And for g-d’s sake, let them do their jobs! That’s what you’re supposed to have hired them for!

Thank you, Boston Review, for (hopefully) representing a publication of integrity — one everybody in this country can learn from. I hope you are successful in your mission.

If I find out you’re owned, though, I’m going to retract every kind thing I ever said about you here. You’ve been warned.

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Virtues of a Private Blog, and Why I’ve Gone Public

Before I start on the actual subject of this blog, I’m going to do a shout-out to a band some friends of mine from high school invented that I think of every time I hear or see the word “public”: Public Hair.

Best. Band. Name. Ever.

And now, my blog.

As some of you already know, I maintained a private blog for two and a half years (2006-2008). Some of you even read it, as you (hopefully) do this one.

I’ve been thinking about it lately — why I stopped, why I started again, why I started a new (yeah, “a new” — get it? Not a typo.). While I do like WordPress — you know, now that I’ve figured out what all these new, fandangled tools are and how they work — somewhere deep inside me, I’m yearning for what I know is an impossibility: Myspace will once again be the social networking site everyone’s wasting their lives away on. (Yes, no matter how much any of us hate Facebook, it seems the only “cool” choice at the moment. And who doesn’t want to be cool? ::gags::)

Teenagers

What are they looking at? Oh, right — the gods have smiled down upon them, homogenizing their looks to today’s standard of attractiveness, thereby making them all popular! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why do I feel this way? It’s simple.

1) Privacy. As implied — well, actually, specifically meant — by the phrase “private blog,” I was able to control who could read my blogs. There were even different levels of privacy, so some blogs were accessible to everyone on my page, some were accessible to a smaller list, and some were accessible only to me. (Yes, I realize WordPress offers similar functionality. But not in the same way as a social networking site does, because the two are not the same.)

This is icon for social networking website. Th...

I, for one, miss you, Myspace. You were a gentleman and a scholar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why is this control over accessibility important?

2) I’m a hater. I don’t deny this in the least. I won’t say I’m proud of it, though obviously cavalier. In order to spare the lives of those I despise and stop myself from going on a one-woman moron-extermination spree, it is necessary for me to vent. Vent I must, and vent I shall. This can be done on a private blog, where trusted friends — those who can keep their mouths shut about not only the existence of a blog, but also what is written in it — are the only ones who can read it.

I know what you’re thinking: One of these people could easily bust me out even from a private blog. True, but that’s why I said “trusted friends.” Have I misplaced trust before? Sure. But my friends today are actually amazing, not to mention the fact that they have better things to do with their lives. Uploading my blogs to public spaces in order to expose my innermost sentiments, gentle readers, is more along the lines of some stupid shiz a few of my choice ex-lovers might’ve done — if they hadn’t been deleted eons ago, that is.

I'm All Petals

“She loves me… She loves me not… Wait, she loves me not? SABOTAGE!” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a public venue, I have to be all cryptic and shiz. Sometimes that makes for better writing. Other times it just makes for a headache.

3) My friends were more vocal in private. Turns out my friends are haters, too — which is probably the thing I love most about them. But everyone nowadays fears the repercussions of personal political, religious/spiritual, sexual, and all sorts of other beliefs being found inadvertently by family, friends, employers, potential employers, etc., and later held against them. And what’s worse is that these fears are completely justified. I completely respect them.

Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fash...

— I had HR cyberstalk you, and it was discovered that you used the word “boss” in your blog… — Sir, I meant it in the ’80s way, as in, “Your toupee is…” — You’re fired. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess I’m either just totally bold or irretrievably stupid to even write what I’ve written thus far, all things considered. I wouldn’t go as far as to say public blogging makes any of us writers brave; we either don’t care about the repercussions or we care more about what we have to say than suffering said repercussions. I’m sure it’s clear to my regulars which category I fall into.

Still, at this point, you may feel I’ve built a convincing enough argument in favor of private blogging. You may also be thinking, “Why did you change the formula here, lady?” You are right to ask a question like that. I am still asking myself questions like that.

English: "The Thinker," by Rodin, in...

Why am I here? Oh, right — I’m a statue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A journal might be a good place for your thoughts,” you might say, to which I’d reply, “A community is as well.”

See, I chose a public blog this time around. No one held a gun to my head. Yes, writers do just write for the write of it, but they also write to communicate with others, to give voice to the unspoken, to hear a response from outside the encapsulated mind. Call me shallow, call me narcissistic, call me downright egomaniacal, but I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I genuinely believe my thoughts have value. I know I don’t think like most people, and while it took me a while to figure this out and accept it, I’m not ashamed of it. I see that my thoughts may be different for a reason, could have some meaning and purpose in the world — but they’re useless if I don’t share them.

Care Bears Movie II introduced the Care Bear C...

Sharing is caring. The Care Bears taught me that. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And I feel the same way about the thoughts of friends who’ve approached me recently because of this blog to talk to me about starting or restarting their own sites. You know I’ve encouraged you, and I’ve done so not only because you think outside the box, too, but because you’re actually skillful writers as well (unlike so many out there, which is why I have the job I do). So get to work! I, for one, will read you.

I know there are people who won’t ever read my blogs. I know there are people who will read them and not give a crap. Neither of these facts discourages me, and they shouldn’t discourage you. Because there are souls out there in the world searching for someone else to understand them. We are those people they seek. We have something to offer at least one of them.

White van man, Bolnhurst

Come here, little reader. I’ve got some candy for you… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t only want to talk smack in my blogs (I said “only”), so it occurs to me that writing publicly might actually be a practice in maturity for a person like me. Again, I will never claim to be mature, and those of you who know me in the realie know how absurd it would be if I tried. I will never be mature. I’m not even sure I aspire to it, but I can attempt to practice it, at least.

But I don’t believe you shouldn’t say anything or keep it private if you have nothing nice to say, because if we all did that, all of the injustices in the world would continue on without ever being questioned, let alone stopped. I may never have anything nice to say to or about particular people or things in life, and to them, I may remain silent, but this — this is my domain. I own this.

John Betjeman's gravestone

I call this spot, yo! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So here I will be my crotchety 30-something self in all its offensive glory, because I’ve spent too many years of my life not quite “fitting in” (::gags again::) to not have figured out how to carve out a special space for myself. I will continue to tell anyone who reads this what I find wrong in this world — agree or disagree, which is your right. And I will give voice to these things because it is my right, my way of expressing the personal responsibility we all have to at least try to change this world for the better, though some of us refuse to claim it.

I love my family and friends, and I want to hear from them. I want to hear from people like me as well, strangers looking for a kindred spirit. I want to hear from people unlike me, too, because hey, I have plenty of enemies; what’s one more?

So here I am, and here I plan to stay for a while, in all my public glory.

Just don’t tell my boss. 😉

When You Can’t Unknow Something

I had an epiphany this week. Not a general understanding that’d been lost to me, nor a new perspective on a familiar situation.

Well, maybe it was those things as well, but it was beyond them, too.

English: Artificial boundaries for an atom.

The atom is like the honey badger; it knows no bounds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s the difference between a clearer understanding and an epiphany? Well, I can only speak for myself here, but here goes…

There’s been something that’s been bugging me for quite some time — at least a year, if not longer. (I don’t mean to be cryptic here by being nonspecific, but it’s necessary.) I’ll wake up in the morning with my mind on my tasks, what I have and want to accomplish in my day. Somewhere along the line, though, something will happen that will trigger my brooding about this particular annoying thing; it’s the proverbial wound that someone keeps pouring salt in, if you will. Nearly every day, I put ointment on the wound and bandage it, and nearly every day, I’ll find by the time I’m getting into bed that the bandage is all gray and fuzzy and icky, having separated from my skin and collected lint, and there’s that salt that worked its way under my raw skin again.

English: sticking plaster Français : Pansement...

“I try not to think about what might’ve been…” Anyone? Anyone? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been incredibly frustrating, and I know I’m not the only one to have experienced something like this. It could be anything to any of us, really, and most of us have at least one of these annoying things we just can’t seem to shake at any given point in our life. I can think back to my 20s and recall, for example, drama over a roommate’s boyfriend. I can recall even earlier drama over the cheerleading squad. (Stop laughing, you jerks!)

Cover of "Bring It On (Widescreen Collect...

Admittedly, I’ve never seen this, but I imagine my drama was similar — an as epic, of course — regardless. Ha! (Cover: Amazon)

The poor people nearest to us at these points in time — in this current case, that would be my boyfriend — have to listen to us drone on and on and on about how tragic and terrible our lives are even though 1) they’re not — not by a long shot — and 2) they very clearly see the problem and usually its remedy as well, having the necessary distance from and lack of emotional investment in it. Most of us have been on both sides of this coin — the bearer of the cross as well as the person who points out the cross is actually a pebble in our shoe that can be picked out quite easily — so I’m guessing you can relate to both sides here.

And like my boyfriend — putting you in the Captain Obvious role here for a moment — you probably wouldn’t have been able to figure out why I just had not figured this thing out yet. Am I stupid? (Don’t answer that.)

And so it has gone with poor Jesus, who’s been grinning and bearing it, reiterating what the real problem has always been since a few months after I started having it. I may come to him with, yes, a different complaint, but inevitably, it’s still one that can be filed under the category of “Main Issue I’ve Been Complaining About for X Months.” He gets it. So what’s my problem?

Clueless (film)

‘Nuff said. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess it just boils down to time: time I needed to snap out of my own denial about — yet again — another case of genuine disregard and lack of investment on the part of another. In other words — like some people, although I’m not sure I can qualify it as “most people” anymore — I have a very difficult time understanding how someone else could carry on not considering the consequences of the things they’re planning to do during the decision-making process as I would. Or, as Jess would say, I have a hard time accepting that other people just don’t think like me.

True story.

But it goes beyond that. I actually don’t expect that others will think like me (although, admittedly, I’d like them to). I’m an overanalyzer to the Nth degree, so I know that my kind of thought process is not likely occurring among the majority of people. However, I do expect that others will consider those around them when making their decisions to some degree — you know, giving others a little courtesy and empathy. It’s the humane thing to do, right?

Maybe. But that doesn’t make it any more likely to happen.

Don’t get me wrong. If we’re talking about kitties stranded in trees or little old ladies crossing streets, sure, we can expect that at least one person passing by will use their heart and help the helpless out. But people truly considering the impact of their actions on the lives of others on a daily basis? Turns out that’s idealistic.

English: A cat on the tree. Italiano: Gatto su...

U do knowz Ill claw ur eyez out aftur u reskewz me, rite? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess some people need the impact of their decisions on others’ lives to be so blatantly apparent to them in the moment (i.e., have kitties and old ladies in their faces) just to even trigger the thought that hey, maybe they should, you know, perhaps consider the implications of their actions (or lack thereof) on other people’s lives. Some need to be spoon-fed an extremely obvious case of “your help is required in this situation” to even spark the notion that their decisions affect the lives of others positively or negatively… or even, in some cases, both.

Nurses and nursing

Open up for this airplane now, Billy. It’s called “compassion.” Vroom! Yum-yum-yummy! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And sometimes even then, they don’t care. (Ever tried to reason with practicing addicts about the impacts of their decisions on others? Anyone? Anyone?)

Don’t get me wrong. I understand how difficult it would be to consider all the ramifications of each and every decision one makes. I’m sure I’m plenty ignorant of the full breadth of consequences of the choices I make in my own life; I’m American, after all, and that’s the American way.

American flag

And I’m proud to be an American! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But if you find yourself in a certain position in life — like a leadership position at a school, a church, or a company, for example — guess what? Considering the impacts of your choices on other people — students, parishioners, stockholders, employees, etc. — is actually what you were hired to do. You get paid to do it. It’s, like, your job. No one should have to tell you to do it, and no one should have to tell you how to do it, either. And we’ve seen plenty of examples of what’s happened to leaders who didn’t do their jobs. And while in some extreme cases, such charlatans have lost their very freedom, those who still walk free, those who haven’t been caught, and even those whose “crimes” are really more just indiscretions (impactful but not criminal) have lost one major thing that they can likely never get back: the respect of others.

Playing in cage

Who cares about respect? Do you know what happens when I drop the soap in here? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, circling back to what I started talking about eons ago at the beginning of this blog…

It was June 7 — this Thursday. I texted Jess when I noticed that my adorable little bandage with unicorns on it had come unpeeled again. I’m sure he was expecting me to come home from the gym and give him another earful of my broken-record-esque complaints.

But something happened on the way to Anytime.

Something Happened on the Way to Heaven

No, Phil, on the way to Anytime. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All the pieces finally started clicking in my head. I’d been looking at this thing for so long under a microscope, I never fully acknowledged the person who’d been slipping the slide under my lens all along — smoke-and-mirroring shiz and throwing me off the scent. Going back to my 20s example, for instance, I really didn’t have beef with my roommate’s boyfriend, who I was picking apart on the stage; I had beef with her. Again, I’d been taking for granted that a person close to me in my life had my interests in mind, at least to some degree.

And I was wrong.

(Yes, certain family members — you know who you are — I do admit I’m wrong sometimes. There’s your proof.)

And I realize that 99% of this was probably obvious to you, gentle reader, but it wasn’t to me, so jump off my balls.

This person’s actions — and this lack of consideration when it comes to me — are not personal. They’re extended to others as well, and I have plenty of examples of this. This whole thing boils down to the fact that some people just won’t or don’t care enough to consider deeper ramifications of their choices. I haven’t determined whether or not this is a conscious choice yet.

A Night at the Roxbury

— “You can’t take away our dreams!”     — “Yeah, because we’re, like, sleeping when we have them!” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But it doesn’t matter. I came home from the gym laughing to myself. When Jess came to meet me at the door, he knew right away that it’d finally clicked, and he started laughing, too. Because real epiphanies, though sometimes they have sad elements to them, ultimately make you smile, because they set you free — free from your brooding thoughts, free from yourself, and eventually, even free from the situation that sparked all this drama in the first place.

English: one of many knots

“Maybe I’m supposed to undo these outer knots so that my inner knots will come undone, too!” Anyone? Anyone? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which brings us to the “downside” of epiphanies — which I clearly use loosely here (I mean, what else are those quotation marks for, right?). You can’t fall back into denial once you’ve had a true epiphany. You can’t unknow what you learned in you heart. So now you have to deal with it. Now you have choices to make.

Such choices weren’t there when you were in denial. But now they are, and you know you have no choice but to proceed forward with one of them, because you know you can’t unknow the thing that would’ve kept you from even knowing there were all these other choices available to you out there, let alone making one of them. (Confused yet? Okay, good.)

But these choices don’t have to be daunting. They don’t even have to be hard work. They can and should be viewed as opportunities. And that’s what I’ll be trying to keep in mind now as I proceed forward with this new little awareness of mine. Wish me luck!

Who’s Your Guru?

In this time of New-Age philosophy and the true globalization of religion via the Internet, I’d like to share a little about my own search for truth, justice, and the spiritual way. Oh, and guru douchebags.

The Love Guru

Did anyone ever see this? Yeah, me neither. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll try to give you the short version. (You know how unsuccessful I am at this, but I’ll try.)

Age 13: One of my grandmothers is diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. My mom is also diagnosed with breast cancer. Raised in the Catholic tradition, I naturally send my prayers to Jesus/God, questioning why this was happening, begging for both of their lives to be spared. (One out of two ain’t bad.)

My grandmother dies after over a year battling her disease. This is the point where I lose my faith. The universe seems unjust, and I can’t accept life’s unfairness. This is how my mind and faith as a 13-year-old works.

Age 21: At a party held by my then-boyfriend and his brother, I meet a man — we’ll call him H — with fiery, penetrating eyes who begins a conversation with me — again, at a party, while people are doing party things — about our futures.

Italo-disco party in The Hague!

I’m off to the left… far left… like, out-of-the-picture left. (Photo credit: David Domingo)

“What if all you ever wanted to do was be one thing, but someone told you your role here on Earth was to do something else?” he asks. “Would you do it?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I’m not sure I believe in the premise to begin with. Can’t say I’d do what someone else told me to blindly like that. Plus, I have too many questions about what I’m supposed to be doing with my own life.”

After another hour of conversation, H suggests I speak to someone he thinks can give me some insights about life. Curious enough, I agree.

English: Vladimir Kush looking through a cryst...

Look into my crystal ball… What do you see? Oh, my giant eyeball. Right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I meet E the very next day. E knows things about me — things no one could’ve told him, because my only connection to him was through H, who’d I’d just met the night before. I wouldn’t call it psychic, exactly, because psychics are wrong sometimes, and E was 100 percent accurate — past, present, and future. So perhaps he was psychic-plus.

Anyway, for the sake of argument — and because I know there will undoubtedly be skeptics out there, and rightfully so — let’s just say he did somehow have access to facts about my life somehow: things about my family, friends and even lovers. No unexplained mysteries behind a dossier of information, right?

As I’m sitting there in front of E that day, my stomach — problematic nearly all my life — is experiencing its familiar waves of nausea and upset. It has no outward symptoms, though, so I’ve mostly suffered in silence, drinking Mylanta for breakfast most mornings of my undergrad life so I can get on with it already.

Mylanta mint chocolate chip ice cream

Mylanta mint chocolate chip ice cream — delish! (Photo credit: Lisa Brewster)

E and I couldn’t have been sitting there more than 15 minutes when he interrupts his story by saying, “Breathe so your stomach stops churning.” Throughout the rest of the conversation, as he tells me things and answers some questions, he also continues interrupting himself, providing play-by-play commentary on my stomach’s game: “There, your stomach’s upset again.” “OK, now your stomach’s settling down.” And it’s not like he controlled my stomach by saying what he did, either. His comments always occurred after the physical happening.

Naturally, I ask him how he knows. He explains being able to see energy fields and whatnot. He even teaches me how to control it so I can save a little money on my Mylanta investment. I’m not sure if further details here are necessary. Suffice it to say, I am now wholly convinced that there is something more to this world than what I’ve been seeing, something more than most people see.

English: The astral leaves the body Deutsch: D...

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I won’t claim to know what it is. All I can say was that this, for me, marked the beginning of my true faith. I spent only one day with E out of my whole life, but he changed it irrevocably for the better, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

Age 31: Finally starting to recover from the worst two years of my entire life, I embark upon a quest to find a set of spiritual practices that resonate with my beliefs, given the experiences my life has presented me and the way those have shaped me and my path. I begin reading a couple different religious texts and subsequently become a vegetarian for the second time in my life — repeating another bad mistake from my early 20s — and get violently ill. It takes me over a year to recover, but this lesson was finally learned.

Amongst others. As I begin digging deeper into the various religions out there — and some you don’t have to dig very deep into at all, because the filthy hypocrisy is all over the news — I begin to realize that none of these religions/philosophies/whatever you want to call them are without their scandals and indiscretions, I think because they all have the human element. And even though I believe the divine is perfect and we are divine beings having human experiences, humans are imperfect — bottom line. I think this is why I gravitate toward the teachings of Cheri Huber and Don Miguel Ruiz, who don’t believe in following gurus. Teachers, maybe; gurus, not so much.

Real Racing (video game)

Follow me across this road now! I command you! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And note I said “teachings” up there. The truth for me — at least at this point in my journey — is that the message can be good, but I don’t trust any person or any religion to be the flawless, perfect iteration or incarnation of God that my spirit truly seeks.

But man, there sure are a lot of people out there today who claim to be! And if they don’t claim to be gurus, they claim to have fully “awakened.” Now, “in a perpetual state of awakening while on the planet” I can believe; that just means you’re learning from your life. Go you. But fully awakened? Doubtful. And in spite of the accessibility of information on the Internet, the truth is you never know which of these allegedly “awakened” persons you might choose to “guide” you as a “master” might have, say, continued to compulsively lie, disowned family members, had a consensual incestuous relationship, and engaged in other behaviors no person living an enlightened life of love would. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

There’s a metric spit-ton of guru douchebags who have actually fooled themselves into believing they’re awakened — and worse, tricked people around them desperately seeking to make sense of their world… or gain more control over it. Having had experiences with a few people who were, perhaps, a bit more awake than others, all I can say is be careful whom you turn to and what you’re asking for.

Rash caused by an unusual reaction. Taken by E...

This certainly wasn’t what I asked for… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my opinion, your life will give you multiple opportunities (which usually indicates you’re making the same mistake, by the by) to learn everything you want or need to know… or more importantly, have the capacity to understand in this lifetime, if you believe thusly. It makes sense if you really think about it: You wouldn’t dream of teaching a two-year-old rocket science, would you? No, you’d probably start with reading first. And this isn’t a judgment of whatever place any of us are at in our own personal spiritual growth; that just is what it is — common sense.

Point being, you never need to turn your personal power over to another person — which happens in many ways, shapes, and forms — to become “enlightened.” (True gurus, in my opinion, would by definition have no use for that anyway, would they?) In fact, you’ll likely achieve the exact opposite if you do. Just ask Buddha.

Little buddha

She might be on to something, dude. Just sayin’. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Look, there are going to be a ton of people who cross your path who will tell you how to live your life. So why not listen to one more? (That’d be me.)

Seriously, though, be careful whom you place your faith, trust, and personal power in the hands of. A lot of people claim to know things you don’t, and they may. A lot of people claim to be able to heal others, and they may. I’ve known a lot of gifted people in my life; I’ve also known a lot of narcissistic, sadist douchebags. With rare exceptions like E, they’re usually one and the same.

At the end of the day, if you are meant to have knowledge, you will. If you are meant to heal, you will. Even if you are meant to have religion, you will. Whatever your spirit really wants and needs will be within your power, keeping in mind that power can corrupt. People never think that maybe they’re being protected from themselves by having the full extent of their capabilities harnessed, but I firmly believe that’s true. Example: You have no idea how many people might’ve been set on fire with my eyes Carrie-style had my magical psychokinesis abilities not been harnessed by the powers that truly be.

Carrie: Sissy Spacek

Prom was awesome. Killed some people. You know how that goes. (Photo credit: Jon Rubin)

Focus on your heart. Focus on your soul. Focus on your happiness. Close the door on all forms of douchebag — guru and otherwise — and open the door to your self and loving that being; that’s when the real magic happens.