Archive for February, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I caught bronchitis, for some people this is just a hassle, but being asthmatic, it is something a bit more serious for me.  For two weeks I barely slept, coughed my throat into tenderness and was generally miserable.  It seems like nothing good can come from this story, but something did.  Getting sick was really a wakeup call for me: I wasn’t living, I was simply existing.

It might sound crazy to you, but the first couple days that you can get out of bed and return to your normal life after a couple of weeks in bed are euphoric.  You get to live life again, and life is so precious.  Prior to getting sick getting out of bed was a struggle.  Some days it all seems so pointless.  Right before I got sick all I wanted to do was just be finished with school, now I have a new appreciation for what I’m doing.  If I going to spend 2-8 years of my life specializing, then I better love it.  I know there will be bad days, but there are always bad days in life.

In some ways, that is the back story to this blog.  Being sick made me realize that I did not just want to exist; I wanted to do something and be a complete person.  Since I started school in June, I have struggled to find balance.  I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for the jump from undergraduate to graduate academics.  Somewhere in the shuffle I lost myself.  I would come home daily frustrated because I was discovering things I hated, but with the exception of my boyfriend, I had given up everything I loved.

In some ways this is all about rediscovering who I am, but as I have heard it recently argued, every couple years people change into new people.  I guess I’m just trying to direct my new person in a way that will lead to an actual enjoyment of life.  Some people take life so seriously, as if they work hard enough nothing bad is going to ever happen to them.  The reality is that things go wrong in life, so you have to embrace the days that go really well to help you get through the really bad days.  As Churchill said “If you are going through Hell keep going.”  If you keep moving forward, hopefully you can escape your bad situation.

Some of the changes I am making are small, for example, I am striving to eat breakfast every morning.  Others are a bit bigger, I have taken up playing the guitar again, I’m writing, and I’m trying to overcome my more diplomatic nature and actually develop solid opinions on things that are important to me.  I might fail, but I figure what is the purpose of living if you don’t take at least a little bit of time every day to do something you love.  So my question for you is what do you love and how often do you get to do things that make you genuinely happy?  Right now, “Die Trying” by Art of Dying makes me happy.


Learning to Be Human

Gentle readers, today I have been slapped upside the head with a truth so obvious that you will probably laugh at me when I tell you.  Today I realized that I am human.  Now I know you are probably considering changing blogs right now because this one is pretty obvious, but I think this is something that people, especially perfectionists like me often try their hardest to overlook.

In the past year, I have learned that I am an anthropologist by nature.  I like to observe people and understand what makes societies work and why different cultures are unique.  Anthropologists sometimes begin to believe that they can avoid standard human biases, but the truth is that they are human.  The biggest human bias that anthropologists struggle with is the idea that everyone is just like you at the core.  I will confess that I believe there is a certain connection between all human beings, something that makes us different from my cat or any other member of the animal kingdom, but it is so much deeper than that.  Every human, me included, seems to believe that they are absolutely unique and that everyone should want to be just like us.

Today in archaeology class we were discussing the roles filled by women in the Bronze Age and like most of my classmates, I assumed this was a pretty cut and dry issue. Turns out it is not.  Sexism is not inherent in all cultures and in many cultures, women are not expected to stay at home and rear children.  In many cultures there are entire sub communities of children who essentially raise themselves. It’s just that we live in a culture that centers on Judeo-Christian doctrine that tells us specific things about the roles of men and women.  I have no probable with Christianity, most everyone I know is Christian, I just struggle so deeply with some of the assertions made by both the Church and Christians themselves that I do not feel comfortable calling myself a Christian.  Being human means choosing how to define yourself, and this is something that I struggle with mightily.  I hate being labeled.

The point is that as Westerners we seem to think that every culture is at a stage of development that ultimately leads to what we have.  In America, we believe this so strongly that we try to force other nations to conform to our economics, our values, and our system of government, even during times when it seems to be failing the average person.  The truth is that government is not really there to help the individual citizen; in most cases the government is there to help the people in power stay in power.  Perhaps this is another example of what it means to be human.

Until recently, anthropologists argued that the slave trade is what ended power for women in Africa.  After all, in such a manly profession as trade, what room was there for women?  It turns out this was a fallacious argument that was based on trends that occurred because of cultural interactions and assumptions of the European traders.  The African tribes would introduce the traders to their queen, but the traders could not fathom trading with a woman and as a result the Africans developed an entire class of male traders.  You see, it wasn’t that women could not be slave traders, it was that the European traders could control the terms and therefore exclude women.

Every once in a while I learn something new about what it means to be human.  Accepting that I’m human should not have been all that enlightening.  What was enlightening is that despite my human weakness, I have the ability to grow and change, and isn’t that really what makes human beings unique?

Leningrad The Band

I can’t bring myself to do my Russian yet, which means my first video share.  Enjoy Dorogi by Leningrad!

I’ve never been much for blogging.  Certainly I have written a few over the years, usually blatant attempts at trying to inform my friends of something that I thought they should know more about, such as the conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008 or something as mundane as a great new song I thought someone should listen to.

Generally, I am the kind of woman who wants to be in the center of things, but ends up spending a lot of time observing others, sometimes at the expense of her own needs.  This is going to be an attempt at dealing sorting through some of these issues.  I welcome comments from anyone who should stumble across this, but be constructive.  Name calling is childish and will not be tolerated.

I am graduate student.  I hope to focus my research on the effect of rock music on revolutionary activity in Eastern Europe.  I play guitar, though not particularly well, but I am making an effort to put more time into playing.  I live with my boyfriend in the Midwest, which generally means I tell a lot of older people that I’m married even though I’m not because I get frustrated by the judgmental comments made when older folks discover that I’m 27, unmarried and living with a man.  I am a feminist, but probably not in the way you think of feminist.  I believe in equality.  I believe that society treats women unfairly and tries to force every woman into a tiny little box that encourages her to disappear.

I’m also a NASCAR fan, which depending upon your perspective makes the feminist comment an oxymoron.  After one particularly educational trip to Talladega, I have observed that at their heart, most NASCAR fans are very nice people, who have a world view that does not jive with my own.  That does not mean that I cannot enjoy racing, it just means that I’m not going to throw my beer at someone who likes a driver from a foreign country (it happened to me, cheering for Juan Pablo at Talladega could probably get someone beaten up pretty badly).  As I result, I only enjoy certain race fans.

I love metal music.  It is music the way music should be: passionate, intense, driven and emotional.  It took me years to embrace this.  I’m a contrary, stubborn, dark humored woman who listened to Metallica in secret because she figured the people around her wouldn’t like it.  I’m an adult now though and as such am embracing my love of music that is so intense that it demands attention.

So I guess that’s it.  From crazy commentary on Russia to poetry, this blog will be my way of connecting with myself and hopefully a few new friends along the way.

~Crystal Wraith