Why Negative Labels Are Still Worth Hearing

Why Negative Labels Are Still Worth Hearing

“Don’t label people!”

“I decide for myself how others see me.”

This is not a discussion of gender/sex labels or self-identification in that respect. It’s a discussion of the labels we use to classify people other than those.

Labels are helpful. They give simple and clear classification to things as well as people: brown hair, introverted, funny, short, cute, talkative, creative, green eyes, obsessed, loud, expressive, etc. These are all about what someone looks like, how they act, what their character is. The labels I mentioned are not exactly negative although anything can be seen as negative if shared in the right (or wrong) tone/context. These more positive labels are almost never disputed. In fact, I would say they’re rarely even seen as labeling at all.

So what about the not-so-nice labels? Fat, rude, annoying, boring, ugly, etc. In some ways, these labels are still helpful. Before you get up in arms, let me explain. I’m a Christian, which is a self-identification. No one else can really say whether it’s absolutely true or not. It’s all between me and God. But what does the Bible, a Christian’s handbook if you will, say that a Christian should do?

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you. Jesus said to honor your father and mother. The Bible says to keep your promises.

Now what if I learned that many of those around me had been labeling me impatient, impulsive, willing to hold a grudge, untrustworthy? These things are not what Christ has called me be. So is there something wrong with the perception of those around me or is there a problem with me? If I examine my own character and find these flaws then the fault lies with me. My self-identification of Christian doesn’t mean anything without the evidence in my life to back it up.

You can’t choose how others see you. You don’t get to decide how others label you. That can be bad, obviously, when labels are filled with hate and negativity. But it can be good when you really look at yourself.

I’m naturally very introspective. When I hear something about myself, I immediately file it away and consider it. Am I like the description they gave? Is that how I portray myself? If I don’t like what they said I consider if I did something that would make them think that. Was it how I spoke? Was it a mannerism I wasn’t before aware of? Sometimes that results in me changing my behavior, sometimes that results in me changing nothing. I have to just as equally consider that the person who spoke negatively (or positively but about something I don’t want to be associated with) is simply speaking out because of their own character flaws.

Someone who spews negativity about others can’t exactly be trusted to put realistic labels on others. So I’m not saying to take everything that anyone says about you to heart. I’m saying to listen (to some extent. Shut out those who have done nothing but spew negativity) and consider their words before throwing comments away. I’ve heard many people complain about someone saying something negative about them but what the person said holds some kernel of truth about their character. It’s a possible flaw and whether presented negatively or positively, it should at least be considered.

I feel like I talk a lot about balance in my posts. This topic is no different. You should listen to others but you also need to have a level of confidence in yourself regardless of what others say about you. It’s about those people who do nothing but spew negativity.

You don’t always get to choose how other people see you. It’s a balance of societal ques, personal history, and their own self-identifications. People are making a million tiny judgments about each person they come into contact with and that’s their right. You do the same things. Reasons range from assessing safety to seeking compatibility to a host of other descriptors.

The problem comes when stereotypes or previous bias becomes the only way those judgments are made. But I’m going to leave this post here, though. Watch others, watch yourself, pay attention to how others perceive you, pay attention to how you perceive others, and don’t forget that you’re a human being who deserves a level of respect. Be confident in yourself but don’t forget that there’s always room for improvement.

Sometimes You Should Give Up

Sometimes You Should Give Up

I have tried many things over the course of my life. My mom made me take piano lessons when I was young. Then I tried the clarinet. Then I wanted to be a photographer. Then I tried my hand at magic/slight of hand. I really enjoyed watching Doctor Who until a few years ago. I’ve dabbled in baking, candy-making, book reviewing, knitting, criminology, psychology, etc. I was watching every one of Markiplier’s Youtube videos for a while. I tried to learn a language foreign to me.

All of these things take time. Now that I’m working two jobs I’m seeing what it really means to make time for what you want to do. I’ve only been at both jobs together for a few days but I can already see that 12 hour days are not going to end anytime soon. We all have a limited amount of time on earth and a lot of it is filled with work and other obligations. The time that isn’t filled for us becomes a balancing game between doing things that we want to do and things that we need to do. I want to work on learning Spanish but I need to do laundry, clean, and feed myself. I want to write my for-fun short stories but I need to go to my job and make money for my loans.

“You always make time for what you really want to do.” I’ve heard that for a lot of my life and I still fully believe it. Now, that comes with sacrifices. I’m sacrificing the time I could be writing my short stories so that I can pay off my loans. I want to pay off my loans more than I want to write my stories. I want to write this blog post more than I want to go downstairs and start making lunch. I need to eat so that I don’t die, but I’m not going to starve to death in the next hour. I need to show up at my jobs consistently or I’ll be fired. Life is a constant battle between wants and needs. Sometimes needs outweigh the wants, sometimes it’s the other way around. The saying isn’t meant to be applied to every aspect of life. It’s meant to remind you that your time is your own. What do you do with those moments you have no needs to fill? People like to say they don’t have time to read a book you recommended yet they talk about how they marathoned Orange is the New Black for six hours yesterday. The TV show was a want that outweighed the book.

Christians like to say that they had really busy weeks so they didn’t have time to read the Bible at all. Yet, more than once in that week they had time to sit on Facebook for three hours. Time slips away faster than we realize at times but in the end, you will always make the time for what you really want to do. I make time for this blog every week. Some weekends are crazy busy for me and I don’t write my post until Saturday morning. Some weeks it would be much easier to just not post because I don’t feel like I have anything to say. Yet, here I am. I do it because I want to do it. I don’t need to write this blog. Maybe you would be disappointed if I stopped but the world wouldn’t end.

What does all this have to do with giving up? Well, let’s do what I seem to very consistently do on this blog: circle back to the first thought.

I gave up on things as I grew up because I lost interest or I moved on or I didn’t have time. Sometimes I miss watching Markiplier on Youtube. I think about how maybe I should have pursued criminology. Maybe I could’ve been good at slight of hand if I’d really practiced. But I didn’t want to do those things enough to stick with them. I wanted to get a degree in Creative Writing so I didn’t pursue criminology. I wanted good grades and time for other things so I’ve basically given up watching most let’s players online.

I still have interest in many of the things I gave up on. I enjoy psychology discussions from time to time. I like taking pictures still and I try to better my photography little by little. But these are things I don’t do or plan to do for a lot of my time. I have to sacrifice wants so I can do what I need with my time. Sometimes I sacrifice needs to do wants.

For the life of me I can’t remember if I read about this or if I heard someone talk about it but at some point I learned that a good way to get yourself to manage time well is instead of saying “I didn’t have time for that,” say “It wasn’t a priority.” It’s just like needs/wants. If you really want to do something then it becomes a priority and you make sacrifices to get it done. You have time for everything you need to do and everything you want to do. It doesn’t always feel like that but I firmly believe that it’s true.

I’m still working on balancing my wants and needs and figuring out how to prioritize. I don’t expect to be perfect at it but hopefully I can get better than I am now.

I Didn’t Want to Write a Political Post

I Didn’t Want to Write a Political Post

I want to write about something not related to the election but everything feels related to the election. It’s like, because it’s only been a few days, I don’t think I can talk about anything else. I could share an opinion that is not politically charged. I could talk about something that matters to me but isn’t about our president or other representatives. However, since it’s what’s on everyone’s mind right now, it feels like someone will spin it into a political post. It’s like if a TV show was going to run an episode about a school shooting but then an actual school shooting happened three days before it was supposed to air. The show wasn’t making any kind of commentary about the school shooting but now it feels way too relevant to put that out there.

This isn’t exactly the same phenomenon but it’s similar. Big events seem to taint your opinions. People start reading into your comments and thoughts as if they must be referencing the event in some way. If you do manage to talk about something completely unrelated to the event, people may see you as out of touch or maybe that you don’t care about what happened. Maybe you don’t care about the event, but is that what you want to tell people? Maybe you’re just trying to move past it. Maybe you made an obligatory comment about it already and now want to keep life moving.

It’s starting to feel like this is less of a problem with posting an opinion or comment and more about other’s perceptions about what you’re trying to say. After a major event, you tend to read into things a bit more. At least I do. Why wouldn’t something at the forefront of your mind influence how you read and think about media and conversation? Someone could say something completely unoffensive but under the circumstances it has become offensive.

Maybe what I’m doing here is just expressing how I’m starting to feel a certain amount of pressure from this blog. It sounds a tiny bit silly, even to myself, but I feel the responsibility of writing well and writing what I believe. I want to be clear and real with my readers and though you readers are few right now, I can already see you are growing. It makes me really happy but at the same time, a bit nervous. I have a responsibility to God to write the truth, I have responsibility to myself to write honestly, I have a responsibility to my readers to continue writing and live up to at least a few expectations.

While I’m pretty good at taking criticism and not taking negativity too personally, I sometimes think about the future of this blog. Will it continue to grow? Will I keep writing about the same things? How will newcomers react to my work? How many new opportunities will open up because of this? I sometimes think about, when this place grows more, will people start being very negative? I’m all for good discussion but I know that bloggers can get a lot of hate for writing things that seem innocent. I’ve never had to deal with anything like that before.

Perhaps this is cart-before-the-horse thinking, or maybe I’m arrogantly thinking I’ll become famous (I don’t want to be famous), but it’s hard to ignore. I’ve chosen to make some of my life public through this blog. But I know from seeing other people start off small (on Youtube, Instagram, etc.)  and grow bigger and bigger that if my blog and other works grow there will be a time when a lot of people will be reacting to what I say. That’s a little scary in a world with as much accessible information as ours is.

Just look at the recent election (HA! Tricked you! This IS ((apparently)) political in some way!): there are people being attacked on both sides. Whether you didn’t want Trump to win and you’re devastated or if you did want Trump to win and you’re elated. Trump supporters are feeling threatened by protesters who talk about beating up anyone who voted for him. Clinton supporters are feeling belittled and humiliated by attacks on social media and the barrage of news about what’s going to happen next. When you put your beliefs and opinions in the limelight, so to speak, there are those who think it is their job to either affirm or tear down. Regardless of who you supported, we have to think about the good of the country and coming together after such a divisive election. You don’t change people’s hearts and minds by electing the official you wanted. You change them through love and conversation and information.

This post went from talking about events influencing how people interpret innocuous information to how I feel about the growth of my blog to being calm and understanding about the outcome of the recent election. I’m not sure what to leave you with this week. I generally try to give a good, coherent thought at the end of my posts but this was a progression through several thoughts.

I know that the election will not be as poignant a topic for my readers in other countries (I am curious if anyone outside the US reading this followed the election at all?) but I hope that there is still something positive to take away this week.

Be understanding of those who want to move on quickly and not talk about events for very long. Be understanding of those who need some time to consider the event and figure out their feelings about it. Be kind to those putting their opinions out there. Basically, do good, regardless of who that good is for.

Snapshot of My Life #2

Snapshot of My Life #2

My first post on my blog was a “Life Update” type. That was six months ago which feels crazy. I’ve been maintaining this blog for half a year now! I don’t know if I find that intimidating or encouraging! I’ve been getting more visitors on here from more places around the world which is really cool!

So what have I done in six months? I’m going to update you on what I mentioned in my last Snapshot then move on from there.

Well, I finished the front porch for my dad. It took about 4 weeks longer than I had expected it to and dad had to help me with some of it but it’s done and it looks good. I don’t think I’ll be taking on any more large household projects for a while. I’m going to be living at my parents’ house for a while longer. I had a writing job opportunity that I really wanted to take but when I sat down to figure out what I could afford, I couldn’t pay off my loans and also survive on the pay. So I applied in the area and got a job at a bookstore in the mall half an hour from my house. I am also officially hired at one of the craft stores in the same area though I haven’t started there yet.

The bookstore is pretty good. It’s only 18 hours a week but I’m pretty happy with the work. It’s not writing but with my loan payments starting soon, I need something that’s going to pay that bill. It’s slow right now but business should pick up soon with the holidays rushing closer and closer. I like being around books and it’s encouraged me to get back into reading. It’s even helped my writing because I tend to work on stories during my breaks. I haven’t decided whether I like dealing with customers all the time but my coworkers are great.

If you’ve been following my blog for the last couple months then you know that I finished and published my ebook! I can also finally check some of my stats so I can see I’ve made a few dollars on it already! The stats aren’t up to date (they are only available quarterly) but it’s encouraging to see that I’ve made something off my writing already!

I’m definitely still feeling a bit stagnant. I’m still reminding myself that I’m in a decent place right now. I’m being responsible, trying to pay off as much of my debt as possible before moving out. Although I wish I had decided to do this as soon as I graduated (I could have been working for the last few months instead of waiting so long to find work in the area), I can’t change the past so I’ll be focusing on the future for now. It feels… anticlimactic to have made these decisions five months after graduating. I did things in the last six months, but I didn’t know what I was going to be doing then. I didn’t have a concrete plan beyond writing. Which was an okay plan but I hadn’t really considered how crippling my loans are to my plans of moving out on my own.

Once I get my loans paid down a good amount and hopefully have some savings, I can think about moving out. Oh, also I’ll need to get a car at some point. *sigh*

So I guess I’m moving along, slowly but surely. I’m building a readership, selling a few ebooks here and there, working at a bookstore, helping out around the house some, and still downsizing my room/possessions. There’s not really a lot else to say but that. I feel like it’s all just day to day life now. Like, “What’s new?” Literally nothing. Still doing all the same stuff.

But I’m not discouraged by this. I’m working on my writing, going to start paying off my loans soon, reading a couple new books, participating in my church, and overall just doing well. I don’t know all that the future holds for me right now and though I had wanted to be in a different place by now, I feel like this is where God wants me to be and that’s enough.