The Realities of Possibilities

(Dear Reader: I realize I haven’t posted in quite some time. I recently underwent wisdom teeth removal (fun stuff) and college midterms; thus, my long absence. Please forgive me, and enjoy the new content I upload in the coming days and weeks!)

Luke 1:37 (KJV)

For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Throughout my life, I’ve been met with two, somewhat opposing ideologies concerning hopes and dreams: the actually pessimistic “realists”, and the über-optimistic “realists”. Of course, everyone thinks they are a realist, when in fact reality is a grey area. If we’re being honest, reality is kind of like a spectrum; it is a manner of perception that changes and fluxes between individuals, rather than a strict worldview. That being the case, how do we know what to expect from “reality”? What is “realistic”? Well, it’s hard to tell, but most of it depends on your outlook.

As a child, I had big dreams. Scratch that, I had huge dreams. I once told a great-aunt that I wanted to be “Britney Spears, but also a TV meteorologist”. Over the years, my goals have become a bit more “realistic”, but I have found that living a life based on the “realistic” is not nearly as fulfilling as shooting for your dreams, because, SPOILER ALERT! … Your dreams are realistic.

Now, of course, being Britney Spears and a meteorologist at the same time is unrealistic. That’s a given. But, think about your other hopes and dreams: your dream of traveling to Europe, your dream of living in a big city, your dream of publishing the poems only your boyfriend and mom ever read… Those were some of my dreams that have actually come true. In other words, those “unrealistic” dreams of mine ended up being very realistic, after all. Here are some examples from my own life:

Last summer I lived in New York City with my boyfriend and his mother. We all split rent, and I spent nearly two months gallivanting around NYC, living like a local. This was, of course, something that most people told me would be impossible. The fact is, though, I only ever thought it was impossible because people told me it was. In the end, I saved up some money and I went. Period. It was that simple. (Saving up money is not “simple”, per say, but for the sake of my point, it was a one-step solution to something I thought entirely impossible).

Last summer, and again last winter, I lived another one of my dreams twice over: I travelled to England, France, Spain, Italy, and The Vatican in late July, and Iceland in December. I traveled to Europe not only once, but twice in a single year. I had always imagined that traveling to Europe would either be 1.) impossible, or 2.) something I could only do when I was older, and much richer (which may never happen). After traveling to these places, I asked myself: “Why did I ever think this would be impossible?” Once again, my answer was this: because people told me it was. People told me for years that traveling to Europe would be “too expensive”, or “too dangerous”, and so on. The fact of the matter is that my travels were reasonably priced (Iceland was as cheap as a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for my boyfriend and I), and my lengthy trip across five countries was paid for with the money I had saved up for college. Thanks to budgeting, and to getting a LOT of scholarships based on my good grades, I was able to achieve two of my big dreams also fairly easily.

Now, something has to be said about privilege here: I understand that I am a very privileged individual. The ability to save up money rather than living paycheck to paycheck is a privilege. The ability to go to college, and virtually for free, is a privilege. The fact that I am from a white, middle-class family is a form of societal privilege. I understand this. But, my point is this: maybe your dreams, within reason, are not as unattainable as people make you think. 

Despite your socio-economic status, you can make your dreams a reality. Sometimes it’s a stretch, but sometimes it’s quite possible. We all come from different walks of life, but we can all start small. I gave two huge examples of my dreams becoming reality, but I’ve also had countless “small” dreams come true with hard work, belief, and dedication. For example, I was able to lose eighty pounds at the age of thirteen and change my life. I dreamed of being fit, of being health and strong, and with hard work I achieved that dream. That dream became a reality, despite the hoards of middle-school bullies reminding me how “fat” and “lazy” I was. Another “small” example is me getting the part of Rapunzel in a high-school production of the musical Into The Woods. Acting had always been my passion, and I got the role despite telling myself how bad of a vocalist and actress I was. I worked hard, I put my negative thoughts aside, and I got the part. I did it. It became reality.

Whether your dreams are big and more difficult to attain, or small and more attainable, they can become reality. Through hard work, dedication, and refusal to be brought down by other peoples’ perceptions of “reality”, you can make your dreams come true to some extent. I know that life is not always in our control; hard work and the sheer force of will cannot get us anywhere in life, but why not try? Why not see how far it can get you? 

Overall, I do not believe it is unrealistic to shoot for your dreams, no matter who you are or where you stand on the spectrum of reality. As the old saying goes:

“Don’t be afraid to shoot for the moon,

You might just land among the stars”. 

My First Impression of The Beckley Area Derby Dames

“I grew up here. I learned how to kiss on those bleachers over there.” – Yula, President of the Beckley Area Derby Dames

As I walk into the MacArthur skating rink, I am undoubtedly a little nervous. I have been invited to interview the Beckley Area Derby Dames, and I am feeling a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I haven’t been to this place in many, MANY years, and I was never much of a “skater” (i.e, I was more of a “faller-overer-and-bust-my-butt-er”). Essentially, I’m way out of the roller-skating loop.

I head inside and approach the rink. I see a huddled group of ladies, ranging from ages twenty-two to sixty-six, getting their sneakers on and preparing for some warm-up drills. I know nothing about roller derby (well, I saw that Ellen Page movie Whip It back in the day), and I’m afraid of showing my ignorance. Luckily, my fears are quelled; the gals are exuberantly kind and inviting, each of them introducing themselves to me and cracking jokes as soon as I hit the door. I feel right at home, and the ladies take off for a run. I sit back against the wall and watch, taking it all in.

First of all, I had no idea how intense this sport can be. Roller derby requires a ridiculous amount of strength, skill, agility, and physical endurance. Very few sports require all four of those components, and derby is one of them. Not to mention, derby requires an intense amount of team work and devotion to your teammates. I sense the familial atmosphere as the gals run side by side, encouraging one another and keeping up the pace. They run and run, never stopping, until they achieve a mile. They stretch, then they go again. Altogether, they run for the first thirty minutes of practice. I don’t know about you, but someone couldn’t pay me to run for thirty minutes straight. I’m already impressed, and they haven’t even put on their skates yet.

As the Derby Dames complete their run, they gather around the benches and gear up for the skating portion of the practice. The BADD (Beckley Area Derby Dames) President, Yula, looks at me and says, smirking, “I grew up here. I learned how to kiss on those bleachers over there”. She then asks me what questions I have for the team, and for a moment I am at a loss: what do I ask first? I have so many questions.

The conversation happens pretty organically, which helps me quite a bit, and I ask the team what they think about movies like Whip It. “I definitely think it’s helped with the resurgence,” Yula tells me. I ask her if she thinks films like Whip It give off the wrong impression of roller derby at all, and she concedes to my sentiment to a degree. “It helps with the resurgence, three hundred and fifty seven official derby teams have popped up across the United States since 2007,” she says, putting on elbow pads, roller skates, a helmet, etc., “but, it is unrealistic. Maybe the derby your mom grew up with was like that, but not anymore. No more fishnets and tutus.” Another Derby Dame chimes in, “people think we’re like WWE on skates. It’s not like that. Not at all. The fake names, the costumes… all that is being phased out. Roller derby is a real sport, and the players are demanding it be taken seriously.” I go on to ask what has been on my mind all night, which ends up being another Whip It-style myth; “so, like, do you guys hit each other a lot?” The answer is immediate and unanimous, “there are rules. It’s like hockey. No elbows, no ramming into someone… basically, from the elbows down, you can’t hit someone with that. You also can’t hit someone in the spine. That kind of stuff gets you put in the box. That stuff gets you taken out of the game.” This opens my eyes quite a bit; I had no idea roller derby had so many rules. I go on and ask, “so, you guys don’t hit each other and get covered in bruises like people might imagine?” Once again, I’m corrected. The ladies chime in, “oh, no. We get injured. We still make contact with one another; that’s what the blockers do.” Yula adds, “Yeah, I’m surprised I don’t have a black eye right now. Oh, and you fall a lot. I once had a bruise down my entire leg.” The coach (and only male in the room for the entire practice), Chuck, laughs, “Yeah. That bruise was the most righteous purple”. I laugh, and the Dames head out to the rink to start skating.

One Derby Dame stays behind, though, and talks to me a bit more in-depth. This Derby Dame’s name is Lulu Mason, and she is a jammer. Super friendly, open, and hilarious, Lulu tells me any and everything I want to know about derby, and her own experience with it. Lulu tells me about the familial nature of derby; derby is a sport that is ultimately team building, as each individual player accepts their teammate for who they are and where they are in the sport. No matter your race, sexual orientation, gender identity, whatever, the team accepts you. Lulu tells me that she knew nothing about derby when she joined the team. Rather, she learned to be “coachable”, and her coaches and teammates built her up. Now, she seeks to do that for new teammates; Lulu tells me that she “wants (her) team to be talented. I want us to win. I don’t want any of them to fail. They’re my family”. Lulu explains to me how derby embraces people from all walks of life, but she also tells me that derby is a merit-based sport. When asked about competitiveness or condescension between teammates, she remarks, “We don’t play that game here. That doesn’t fly here. You earn your spot. If the new girl works hard and she takes your spot, then step your game up. We don’t tear each other down. We build each other up, and if you want to be on our A team you have to earn it. But, we won’t give up on you if you can’t skate at all. We will teach you, we will help you grow. I get so excited when new girls join, even if they’re starting from scratch, like I did. It’s all about being teachable; it’s about being coachable.”

Essentially, Lulu tells me that derby is a sport that encourages close-knit relationships between teammates, and that also serves to build confidence and skill in each individual member of the team. Lulu tells me something else, though, that impresses me most of all; “Most people don’t really know about us, but we have a lot of community outreach. Actually, philanthropy is a huge part of what we do. Hell, fifteen percent of our ticket sales when we have a bout goes to a charity. Every time. We’ve worked with the Women’s Resource Center, The Humane Society, and more. We care about this community and we want to help and build those connections as much as possible.”

I realize that I haven’t gotten into all the intricacies of the actual sport of roller derby itself in this post, but this post is all about my first impression. Next time, I will outline more of the rules of derby, the aims of the game, and how teams are ranked/filed, etc. Overall, tonight was so much fun and I never realized how integral a part of our community the Derby Dames really are, until now. I’ll tell you guys more about it in my next post. I’m excited to learn more about this sport and grow in my understanding of it, along with my readers!

God bless,

– Miranda Woody, xoxo

 

Relinquishing Control

“And I am done with my graceless heart,
So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart;
‘Cause I like to keep my issues drawn.
It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Florence + The Machine, Shake it Out

When it comes to my OCD, the one thing I’m particularly obsessed with is having control… over any and every little thing… all the time.

I know this is not what God intends for my life, and I know that this is not the way to live if I want to live peacefully, but sometimes it really feels like it is (ironically) beyond my control. I literally feel as if I cannot help it at times, even though I know that my struggle to gain control causes more problems than it actually fixes. So, what do I do? What do I do when I feel helpless at the behest of a nasty, mean, non discriminating, and ultimately indifferent mental illness? I call upon my God, who is kind, loving, compassionate, and caring.

Something to pray for every day that had not occurred to me until more recently is the ability to relinquish control. In your relationships with others, in your job, in your schooling, and (most importantly) in your relationship with God it is absolutely necessary to relinquish control, and to surrender completely.

I know what you’re thinking: WHAT?! I’m supposed to just lie down and surrender?

And my answer is: in this case, yes. Yes you are.

Some things are within your control: your performance at your job or your school, your dietary choices, and the clothes you wear just to name a few. But, inevitably, there are things you cannot, and should not, control in this life: your relationship with God, the weather, other people, the little things that tick you off or hurt you or generally bother-you-to-no-end, just to (once again) name a few.

So, now that we have established what kinds of things we should not control, we come back to the initial question: what do I do about it, then? For one, as I said above, you should call upon God to give you the strength necessary to learn such a foreign-feeling skill. It is human nature to want to control everything, so we must ask for the Divine guidance only God can give. Our desires and our intrinsic, human nature can be overcome by our need to please Him, and do what HE alone wills for us, if only we ask for His intervention. That’s step one.

Step two, for me, is putting this into effect each and every day. In other words, I try to focus on starting my day with a prayer for strength and guidance (refer to step one), then surrendering to that strength and guidance (which is greater than my own) in order to fully relinquish control during the little, overwhelming moments I experience throughout the day.

For example, when I feel a big, overwhelming emotion come on in the middle of the day, I try to tell myself that it is okay to feel that emotion, and I try not to control it. Alas, I also cannot allow the emotion to control me. That is the art of acceptance and the process of mindfully living in the moment, which can be tricky to navigate and hard to do with our limited, mortal understanding of the world. It is difficult to see beyond our own reactions to our respective experiences, because we only see life from our own point of view. This is when you have to look outside of yourself, and be fully present. Drawing too far inward can lead to overthinking, looking toward the past, etc., and it is a control mechanism that we should seek to avoid. We must be present, looking neither too far behind nor ahead. For help with that (aside from asking God for his guidance and strength), I often refer to/tell myself that saying about meditation that goes something like, “meditation is not about learning to control your thoughts; meditation is learning to not let your thoughts control you”. I find that keeping sayings like that in mind helps me remember what I’m attempting to do in the first place, and when I feel my mind wandering I stop and ask myself: “am I present?” 

This is, of course, something I struggle with more than just about anything. It’s one of my stumbling blocks, but I know that with God all things are possible. I can, after all, “do all things through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13)! Although I have just recently started this journey of mindfulness and relinquishing control, it feels good to share this with you all and to put into words the things I aim to do/focus on during this process. I know some days will be better than others and that this is a journey, not a destination, but I am eager to see where this leads me and to share my experiences with my readers.

God bless,

Miranda Woody, xoxo.

Make Every Day the Best Day Ever (Or At Least a Little Better than Average)

Every morning, I wake up with a choice. I live with OCD and clinical depression, so each day I must ask myself; do I give in today, or do I fight this? (SIDE NOTE: Sometimes it’s much less of a choice and much more of a mandatory course of action, of course, but quite a bit of the time I am able to choose what kind of day I’m going to have.) 

Some things are beyond my control (in fact, most things are), and one of the biggest struggles I encounter daily is coming to terms with that undeniable fact. Generally, I like to think of it this way; even though I cannot choose what happens today, I can choose how I am going to react to it. Every day, with every moment, I can choose to either feed the positive energy that flows through my life, or the negative energy; I cannot feed both, and one is bound to starve the other out.

With that in mind, it should be noted that I have a cute little tumbler from Starbucks that holds my (delicious) coffee and/or tea each morning, and etched upon it are the bold words: “BEST DAY EVER“. The words, flaunting shiny, golden letters, are surrounded by bursts of confetti in a plethora of rainbow colors. I bought the cup when I worked at Starbucks because it made me happy to look at; I never realized until recently how much those words have come to mean to me. Each morning I see those bright, happy words, “BEST DAY EVER“, and each morning I unconsciously internalize them.

If you’re wondering what the point is, it’s this: why not make today, or any day, the best day ever? I know it’s not always that easy, to just wake up and choose happinessbut sometimes… it is that easy. Honestly, some days our entire mood, the entire course of the day, etc., depends on our reaction to it, our thoughts, our meditations, and so on. So much can depend on what energy we choose to feed into each day, and I encourage everyone to try their very best to feed the positive and starve the negative as much as possible. Like I said before, it won’t always be possible to do that– some days will be cruddy, and you will feel cruddy, and that’s that- but I do believe in the power of positivity, generally, and its ability to transform our daily lives.

When you think good thoughts, practice mindfulness, show love and kindness to others, and try your best to smile in the face of adversity, you may just have the best day ever. Even if you don’t have the best day ever, your bad days will seem a little less… well, bad, and a little better than usual. 

God bless,

– Miranda, xoxo

 

Forgiveness, Or “No Record of Wrongs”

Today I was going to write a big, long article about how the Internet seems to bring out the worst in us. Social media, for example, has created a huge spike in divorce rates, cheating, etc. Being able to hide behind an anonymous YikYak handle, or send a photo through Snapchat that conveniently disappears in ten-or-less seconds, has given us the deceptive “luxury” of being sneaky, and ultimately getting away with it. Although that stinks (and I was totally going to rant about how much that stinks) I realized this; binding ourselves to the things that “stink” about the world only makes us more miserable in the long run. In order to set ourselves free from all that we must learn how to forgive others, accept failures (whether our own or that of others), and try to better ourselves, and our own lives, instead.

This morning as I was preparing to write my article, I stumbled across some scripture. It was one of those moments in which God totally showed me the error of my ways, and stopped me in my tracks. I was humbled, and heartened by this scripture that reminded me to focus on love, forgiveness, and keeping “no record of wrongs” rather than complaining about the pettiness of modern, American life. The scripture was 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, which reads:

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

Verse five stood out to me in particular, especially the parts that say love “keeps no record of wrongs” and “is not easily angered”. It is so easy, at times, to become angry, to hold grudges, etc. when people hurt us. It is especially easy to do that when it is someone close to us, whom we claim to “love” yet take for granted time and time again.

The bottom line is this: everyone will hurt you, and you will hurt everyone. It is the inevitable nature of human relationships. Only Jesus Christ is perfect; we, as human beings, are not perfect. We cannot realistically expect perfection from others. We do not have the right to become angry with others when they do not meet our expectations of “perfection”. We can, however, expect to give love and (hopefully) receive love in return, which means we have to forgive one another and learn to let go of any hurt or wrong doing that may be clouding our judgement. I’ve learned this the hard way more than once, and I constantly have to be reminded that love is “patient, kind” and that love “keeps no record of wrongs”. Who do you need to forgive, and love, today?

Keep that in mind, and have a great day. Don’t focus on your heart; focus on putting love in your heart, forgiving those who have hurt you, and moving on with your head held high.

God bless,

– Miranda, xoxo

 

 

Why I Can’t Just “Get Over” Trump’s Actions

“I am not an angry girl, but it seems like I’ve got everyone fooled; every time I say something they find hard to hear, they chuck it up to my ‘anger’, and never to their own fear.”

– Not a Pretty Girl, Ani DiFranco

In the past few weeks, a plethora of people have told me to “get over it”; they tell me this, of course, in response to my comments on Donald Trump’s (disastrous, thus far) presidency. My opponents always seem to tell me, “the elections are over, so get over it!” My question is this: why should I “get over” it, when Muslim, LGBTQ, female, and/or other POC Americans are being treated like second-rate citizens? Why shouldn’t I fight for the rights of all Americans; moreover, why shouldn’t I fight for the rights of all people? Even if I do not agree with someone’s lifestyle, does that give me the right to treat them like less than a person? Even if I believe someone is committing an act of sin, can I rightfully condemn them for sinning differently than me? We are all sinners who have been redeemed by Christ. We are ALL God’s children. With that being said, as an American, and (most importantly) as a Christian, I will not “get over” Trump’s presidency. In fact, Trump being president is only one part of the equation; as a citizen of this earth and moreover as a follower of Christ, I will not “get over it” until all people and this planet are treated with love, respect, and dignity.

Focusing on Trump’s administration specifically, I am fearful of this; the American ideal of representative democracy is legitimately being threatened when a single party takes control of the House, the Senate, and The White House. Checks and balances become useless when any and all alternative opinions are pushed out completely, and a “democracy” becomes more like an oligarchy when the richest 1% of a nation control 90% of that nation’s financial resources (as is the case now, in modern-day America). The behavior exhibited by Trump and his rich/powerful pals is, simply put, not democratic. Nor is the majority of their political and social behavior humble, peaceful, kind, etc. The rich ruling over the poor with an iron fist, the concept of shutting the door on needy immigrants, the state taking away rights from people who view life differently than them… all of this seems very un-Democratic, and un-American.

America’s values are clearly printed on the Statue of Liberty herself, and I quote:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This poem, written by Emma Lazarus, is inscribed on Lady Liberty. We, as a nation, used to live by these words. I can only imagine how my European ancestors felt as they arrived, huddled on the shores of Ellis Island, eagerly awaiting entry. I can also only imagine how my other, Native American ancestors felt as they were killed en-masse and forced off of their own land by colonial powers. We are all immigrants, and those of us who lived here in the first place (before foreign colonization) were forced to adapt to the white, European, immigrant style of life. That is simply a fact. Despite this, though, this nation once resembled and boasted the ideals of acceptance, religious freedom, and hope. I fear that now, as the days pass, this nation will come to resemble closed doors, paranoia, and totalitarian power.

Essentially, I’m asking this: as legitimate citizens of the United States (and human beings in general) lose their basic rights to equal treatment and equal opportunity, as immigrants lose their hope of making a new life here… what does America have left of its original self? What ideals does America claim to boast now? And, moreover, why have we not learned from history?

When I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I saw this poem by Martin Niemöller inscribed on the wall:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

That poem spoke volumes to me, but it spoke even louder to the Holocaust survivor I met at the museum. She told me that she cannot believe what is happening to modern day immigrants (the immigrants from Syria, for example) and that she is devastated by watching history essentially repeat itself. Just as America feared to let in any Jew during WW2, America now fears to let in any Muslims during ISIS’s terror. Many parallels can be drawn between the two situations, whether that makes you uncomfortable or not.

The next time you consider telling me, or someone like me, to simply “get over it”, ask yourself this; is “getting over it” the American thing to do, when so many Americans before have fought, died, marched, protested, and boycotted to earn the basic rights many Americans are in jeopardy of losing today?

Why Are People Angry at Modern Feminism?

I’ve received so much flak and vitriol lately for being a woman and simultaneously being a… wait for it… a FEMINIST!

First of all: of course I’m a feminist! I’m a woman! EVERYONE should be a feminist in my opinion because it economically, socially, and generally benefits us all. (Plus, it’s kind of the right thing to do, ya’ know, not denying basic rights and equal treatment to HUMAN BEINGS.)

I’ve been faced with so much opposition lately for posting my thoughts (constructively and calmly) on the Women’s March, and on the current wave of feminism which seeks to enhance the lives of all people, everywhere. In my experience, you could straight up lay the facts, figures, stats, literature, etc. on feminism and women’s rights issues in front of people’s faces and they would STILL try to tell you that women “have equal rights to men” (at least in this country). Well, they don’t. Not even in this country. Sure, women in the US have it a LOT better than women in some less socially progressive nations, but that does not mean that women in the US are held in equal esteem to men AT ALL. That is not my opinion, that is just fact.

My question to everyone getting up in arms over/opposing the women’s march is this: HOW DID THE MARCH THIS WEEKEND NEGATIVELY EFFECT YOU IN ANY WAY? My best guess is this: it didn’t.

As you ask yourself that question, remember this: the women and men who marched all across the country this past weekend marched for everyone; feminism is about equality, not women overcoming men. Let me reiterate: it’s about us ALL. They marched peacefully, without any arrests or any violent incidents occurring. None. The people who marched were marching for you, too, whether you’ve been hateful about it all weekend or not. They marched for your rights, too, even if you’ve called them “stupid” or attacked their character for doing so. They marched with dignity and strength, and not even your hateful words were able to stop them. So as you sit and sulk on your social media, bemoaning the women’s march, ask yourself again…

HOW DID THE MARCH THIS WEEKEND NEGATIVELY EFFECT YOU IN ANY WAY?  (Because most likely, it didn’t.)

Why I Study Literature (And Why You Should Too)

Tonight, amongst the Trump administration’s media censorship frenzy, my boyfriend and I had a meaningful conversation about civil liberty, and… literature. 

Say what? Yes, you read that right- literature. In George Orwell’s famous novel 1984, there is a quote that reads:

“By 2050, earlier, probably – all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron – they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like ‘freedom is slavery’ when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now.”

The quote is referring to the idea that if the government censors what content the people are fed, the government controls the people’s minds. There is another quote, perhaps even more important (and relevant), from the same novel that reads:

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control,’ they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink.'”

The latter quote is the one that my boyfriend brought up this evening, as we discussed the Trump administration’s criticism of the media outlets that were *honestly* telling the truth about the number of people who showed up for Trump’s inauguration. They claim, of course, that these media outlets are lying… and they aren’t. Trump’s administration is lying, and even worse, is threatening to crack down on the media for spreading “lies” (which is, in fact, the truth in this case). That is terrifying. When a governmental institution controls what is true and untrue, not allowing any room for dissension, the people they govern lose the liberty of choosing what to think, believe, etc. That is a violation of civil liberty at the most basic level, and as an American, it is a concept that terrifies me.

This is one of the many reasons I study literature; literature doesn’t tell you what to think, but it does tell you how to think for yourself. Literature has always been the platform for the free-flow/spreading of ideas, and whether you agree with those ideas or not, you have the privilege of being exposed to many different viewpoints and philosophies. Essentially, through literature and other humanities, you are given the choice to think for yourself… and that is important. That is a precious thing, and I hope I never live to see the day in which that privilege- nay, that right– disappears from our society.

All Around the World: Part One

In the past year I have seen corners of the world I never thought I’d see. I spent my entire summer in NYC, then spent two weeks gallivanting through Europe, all before finishing my year off in Reykjavik, Iceland (under the Northern Lights, might I add). I never thought I’d be able to accomplish this much travel in such little time, but I feel like I’ve carved my niche, and I have no plans of stopping now.

Travel is not nearly as expensive as people make you think it is; i.e, don’t stay in five star hotels or fly first class. That’s just not necessary. You’ll be alright staying in an AirBNB for dirt cheap and flying economy into a tiny airport. Trust me, it works, and it saves you a TON of money. With that in mind, I have been trying to map out (and budget out, of course) what countries I would like to see in the next ten or so years. I have a few ideas up my sleeve, and my sights are definitely set on a few specific places.

For one, I want to venture outside of Europe next time I go abroad. I would love to start out my Asian travels with an excursion to either Thailand, or India.

Why Thailand?

Credit: Jose Manuel Gonzales

Dude, why not? Bangkok, Thailand is one of the cheapest places for Americans to travel. The US dollar gets your very far in Bangkok (in fact, you can stay five star in Bangkok without breaking the bank) and the whole country is absolutely gorgeous. Thailand is famous for its beaches, its interesting architecture, and its ELEPHANTS! You can visit buddhist temples, swim in the crystal blue Pacific Ocean, ride elephants, and eat a big bowl of pad-thai all in one day. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

Why India?

Credit: Let’s Travel

Once again: WHY NOT? A few friends of mine have traveled to India, and they loved it. India exports more tea than any other country, boasts one of the richest cultures in the world, is full of MONKEY TEMPLES (OMG), houses the famous Taj Mahal, and so much more. In India, you can meet snake charmers, Hindu priests, stray monkeys, etc., all without leaving New Delhi (the nation’s capital city). Although I don’t know much about the logistics of traveling to India, I do know that you have to jump through a few hoops before the US government will allow you to travel there (assuming you’re reading this as an American citizen). For one, there are certain restrictions on what kind of food and drink you are allowed to consume while in India. You may also be required to get a few vaccinations by the CDC, or at least strongly recommended to get the vaccines. I know this sounds a little scary, but it’s cool; *eye roll* India is not some jungle wasteland, guys. It’s a really cool place to travel, but it is different than the United States. The climate, the animals, etc. are different than what the average US citizen would be used to, and that is why certain vaccines are recommended.

Thailand and India are definitely two places I want to visit in the next five or so years, and in my next post I will detail some more European and African nations that I would like to see before 2027! Stay tuned (and please, hold me accountable for this)!

God bless,

– Miranda Woody, xoxo

Playing Nice

As a child, people always tell you to “treat others how you want to be treated”. As an adult, you realize just how important that rule really is. In a world of varying political views, religious beliefs, etc., it is hard for us adults to “play nice”. Have we forgotten our most basic pre-school level skills, such as sharing and caring? Sometimes I wonder.

Being kind to others (even when they are being intolerably rude to you, or to someone else) is a virtue. As a Christian, I think the verse Matthew 5:16 sums it up pretty well: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”. If you want to bring light into the world, you must bring kindness along with you. Good deeds glorify God because He is the source of goodness, and without goodness in our hearts, His light does not shine through.

Our flesh (i.e, our human thoughts, desires, etc.) always wants to stir up trouble. Ever heard the saying “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”? When you log onto Facebook, you may want very very very badly to comment on someone’s post, and give them a mouthful about your latest discovery in politics, fashion, parenting, dieting, etc… but should you, though? Are these people not entitled to their opinions, just like you, even if you disagree with them? I often find myself itching to cause trouble with my more “conservative” Facebook friends. I sometimes think, “what are they thinking?!” or some other, nastier comment. This is wrong of me, and I realize that. It hit me one evening that, as I freely post about my liberal points of view on MY Facebook page, they will post whatever they want on THEIRS, and that’s fine. We do not always have to agree, and someone is not automatically “wrong” or “stupid” for not echoing something that is truly our opinion. Like I said, I am guilty of this myself, and by not showing the light to others I am only hurting them (and myself) more than I am helping. Rather than rudely offering a rebuttal to their opinion, why not just ignore it, and get on with your life? Sometimes it’s okay to agree to disagree (and it’s always okay when something is only an opinion, anyhow).

This blog is (honestly) a follow up to a rant I posted on Facebook last night. I realized that so many people took it personally when I shared my own political views on my own Facebook page; then I realized, I am guilty of doing the same thing when others post their own, oppositional views. Luckily, there is always time in life to learn and to “do better next time”. From now on, I am resolving to try harder; I am resolving to attempt (as best I am able) to understand the other side of the issue, and to let by-gones be by-gones if my opinion clashes with someone else’s.

Trust me, over these next four years, we will need some more kindness in this world.

God Bless,

– Miranda Woody, xoxo