shit i have learned through bumbling around, pt 2

All over the land the kids are finally startin’ to get the upper hand.
They’re out in the streets they turn on the heat
And soon they could be completely in command.
Imagine the sensation
Of teenage occupation

– ‘Teenage Rampage’ SweeT (1974)

Welcome!  Come on in.  It’s time again for me to share some things I have learned from  my constant international flailing before I turn 21 and can drink the Devil’s Water in America! Never mind, that at 18, I could already vote in state and national elections, get married, join the military, or, you know, show up to Walmart with an expired ID and buy an assault rifle.

I started this post with lyrics from a song written by the 1970s arena rock band SweeT.  They’re also know for ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and ‘Fox on the Run.’  Both very good songs that I highly recommend… but anyway.

To celebrate 2018 being the ‘Year of Young People’ here in Scotland…

The topic of this post: Young People and Potential 

Remember that bit in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when the Ministry of Magic refused to do something about Voldemort and instead it was Dumbledore’s Army, a bunch of kids, who actually did something?  Yeah, more on that.

Growing up, there were few things I was told I couldn’t do.  And, this isn’t meant to be construed as me being a spoiled brat.  I mean it more in that my parents had total and complete faith in my abilities to accomplish whatever I sent my mind to.  And because I knew they believed in me, I believed in myself.  At 8, I have a black belt.  By 14, I published my first book.  I made the JV/Varsity basketball and track and field team in my freshman year.

In my junior year, when I saw gender discrimination in girls’ sports over guys’, I wrote to the Athletic Director and then met with the Principle to ask why Title IX protocol wasn’t being followed.

Title IX if you are unfamiliar:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

— Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute (20 U.S. Code § 1681 – Sex)

At the meeting, I was told that my high school didn’t have a Title IX director (which is Federally required to qualify for funding btw) because apparently we didn’t have any Title IX issues… despite girls’ teams lacking funding in comparison to their male counterparts, were denied equipment due to cost, weren’t sufficient publicity, and had a lack of general respect from our peers.  But you know, I’m not bitter or anything.  I just wanted to be treated fairly like the rest of the sports teams.  Which is why, even now, I’m a massive advocate for equality in sport.

But, now, at 20, I’m sitting in Edinburgh writing this and, arguably, I am still being a massive public nuisance.

And just to be clear! I’m not telling you all this to pat my own ego.  I’m telling you all of this to explain where I stand on issues and why I do the things I do.

So, flashback to the 2016 election, I felt so alone.  I could not understand why it seemed my country didn’t care about me.  Why they voted against their best interests.  Why they chose to represent themselves to the world in this way.  But, at least, I had a vote in that election.  The worst part of that election was explaining to my, then 17-year-old, sister why her country didn’t care enough about her to vote for her future as well.  I reminded her that it won’t be forever. We have the chance to do something.  We just can’t sit still.  And, I think a lot more people realised that as well.

More recently, I have seen young people feel a thousand times worse than what I felt in 2016.  I’m going to be frank, the circumstances that have put the young people of Parkland in the spotlight are fucking awful.  I wish they would have never been put in that situation.  But, they have.  However, they are refusing to accept that ‘this is just how things are.’

I could go on and on about gun safety.  For example! Did you know you often have to go through more background checks to adopt an animal than to buy a gun?! Or, how people care a whole awful lot about making sure a baby is born but once it’s here they do nothing to protect the kid?  Or, you know, if you really want to shoot guns, you could join the military instead of playing military?  Guns are tools.  There is not a job in today’s society that warrants the need for a civilian to use or own an assault rifle.  It was not designed for recreational hunting, it was designed to kill humans.  And sorry if that came across as preachy, but it’s the truth.

… but that’s not the point of this mini-essay.  It’s always too soon to talk about guns, isn’t it?

Anyway, young people are refusing to accept that this is just how things are.  They are putting the pressure on companies, local politicians, and national leaders to reject money from the NRA.  (The NRA which comprises roughly 5 million members out of 323.1 million Americans.  Truthfully, they are nothing more than a loud minority.)

It is sad that so much pressure has been put on today’s young people.  It’s forced too many to grow up a lot faster than they should have.  But, sadly, when the adults aren’t doing their jobs, someone has to.

This is not the first time and it won’t be the last.  I like to remind people, important figures in history weren’t the grumpy old people we see in museums.  In 1776, Alexander Hamilton, who later established the National Treasury, was 21.  Joan of Arc was 17 when she was leading the French army during the Hundred Years War.  Henry V was 29 at the Battle of Agincourt.  Victoria was 18 when she became Queen.  Alexander the Great created an empire at 18.  Phillis Wheatley published her first book at 20.  Mary Shelley, also at 20, published a book you may have heard of, Frankenstein?  The book that created the horror genre.  At 23, Nellie Bly was exposing poor conditions in asylums.  She also traveled around the world in 72 days… just to beat Jules Verne.  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were 28 and 29 when they exposed the Watergate scandal.  Nadia Comeneci scored a perfect Olympic 10 at age 14.

So please, just give the younger ones time to be old enough to vote, and us older ones time to be old enough to run for office.  Young people have a lot more power than they think.  I truly believe that.  Gift or curse, the internet generation is using their voices to unite for something greater than themselves.  I think it’s really amazing how high school and university students from around the world can come together in solidarity.

And maybe it’s a warning, but probably more of a promise: Change is coming.  It’s coming from the ones too young to vote in 2016, but foaming at the teeth to vote in the bi-elections this year and in 2020.  it’s coming from the university students who grew up reading Harry Potter.  And, it’s coming from the older millennials who are a realising that things are still to be done.

So, that’s what I’ve learned is the true power and potential of being a young person.  We don’t see limitations as walls to stop us, but something to be climbed over.  Just because something works does not mean it cannot be made better and just because something has been that way for a long-ass time, does not mean that it is not time for change.

Progress happens whether we want it or not.  You can either fight it or help us out.  Your choice.

And sure, my generation made eating a spoonful of cinnamon and TidePods national news but we also are going to be the leaders of the future.

 

shit i have learned through bumbling around, pt 1

‘unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. it’s not.’ – dr seuss

Hey pals!  This is the first part of a blog series I plan on writing leading up to my 21st birthday in April.  The topics will be on ‘shit I have learned through bumbling around.’

This week’s topic: ‘giving a fuck’ v. ‘not giving a fuck.’ And how, at nearly 21 years of age, I have discovered that you need to give and not give both simultaneously. 

Forward, I’m not going to write deeply about politics this time, I’ve done that before and if you want to read that you can go back to the November 2016 or January 2017 section of this blog. It’s no secret that I, a twenty-year-old student who lives in Europe and studies history and archaeology, is left leaning.  If that was a shocker to you it’s okay to sit down.  It was a shock to me as well.  That being said, politics shroud everything and to ignore them is naive and will be a point of discussion below.

First, as any academic analysis demands I will define my terms.  ‘A Fuck’ will be treated as a noun.  It is the feeling, idea, or concern given or not given by someone about a given topic, object, person, etc.  To ‘give a fuck’ means that the individual expresses interest or care about a given, topic, object, person, etc. Reversely, to ‘not give a fuck’ means that the individual does not express interest or care about a given topic, object, person, etc.

Okay, definitions out of the way.

In the following essay I will explain why an individual should first, ‘not give a fuck.’  After, I will counter with why they should ‘give a fuck.’  Lastly, I will take this dichotomy and create a new thesis based on why ‘giving’ and ‘not giving’ fucks can and should coexist peacefully within an individual.  The basis of my study will be from my own personal experiences.  This is what I’ve experienced and should not be treated as the be all end all guide.

Part I: ‘Not Giving a Fuck.’

So long as an individual is happy no fucks should be gifted to the surrounding community.  If the individual is acting independently and without harm to themselves or others, they should exist as a balanced atom: all valence fucks intact. 

I was never a popular kid.  For a long while, I cared a whole awful lot about what others thought of me.  I used to tailor who I was to fit some sort of idea I thought others thought of me.  It was wildly twisted and really confusing.

I did not fit in with the jocks because I was too much of a nerd.  I did not fit in with the nerds because I was too much of a jock.  I felt like I was constantly shifting how I presented myself because I wanted to fit in and did not want to be seen as weird.

It was a disaster that had me running between the locker room and the Latin room.  Each time I left a part of what made me Kennedy behind and I really hated it.  I knew that I couldn’t be one part without the other and that I needed to figure out how to be both.

It was not until I decided trying to tailor myself was just too much work.  Instead of being a weakness, I turned it into a strength.  I stopped caring about what others thought of me and just did what I wanted.  I continued about my day filled with things that I enjoyed.  I spent a lot of my time reading, going to museums, playing basketball, and running.  While I do admit, that did make things lonely.  I had rejected a large part of what made being a teenager such a ~dramatic~ time.  But, it wasn’t for long.  By continuing to do things that I enjoyed regardless of whether or not people thought it was cool, I soon found others like me.  They did exist!  It just took a while to find them, because like me, they thought they were alone.  And so instead of going to museums alone, I went with friends.

Now, I still do things that I enjoy without really much worry.  I like going to museums, so I go.  I enjoy studying, so I do that.  I enjoy mountaineering, so I do that.  I also spend a lot of my time alone, but I enjoy that too.  I’m here to learn so I’m not really concerned with asking questions that may make me look like fool.  I’m not particularly afraid of making fun of myself or making a fool of myself.  Within reason, of course.

Which, I think, is how I learned to ‘not to give a fuck.’  I finally reached the paradise of ‘No Fucks Given Nirvana’ when I realised it’s not about not caring about anything, it’s about caring about what makes you happy and not letting other people convince you that it isn’t worth your time.  It’s about fully being yourself and accepting all aspects of yourself all the time versus certain aspects of yourself some of the time.

Part II. ‘Giving a Fuck.’ 

Once I learned how ‘not to give a fuck,’ the next lesson I learned was when and for what I should actually spend my precious amount of fucks.  I care deeply about history and archaeology and my cat and my family and my friends.  I would drop anything at any moment to help a friend in need, that’s true.

It’s about caring for things that are important to you.  It’s about standing up for things that mean something and it’s about representing yourself the way you want to be respected.  My dear friend Betsy always says that ‘you attract what you exude.’  She’s totally right, if you spend your fucks wisely on things important to you, you’ll live a pretty happy life.

And, here’s a truth.  If you give a fuck about someone, chances are they’ll give a fuck about you too.  But obviously, don’t spend time on people who don’t care about you.  That’s fucked up and will just make you sad.

For myself, I’ve spend a lot of my fucks on caring about what’s going on in the world around me.  Personally, I don’t like to live in a bubble.  I like to understand what is going on in my community.  I like to help.  I don’t like just standing by and waiting to see what happens.  I hate feeling like I can’t do anything.  I need to be involved and a large part of what I care about it making sure that everyone gets a fair chance.

And just for me personally, I think it’s pretty damn selfish to not care about others.  Just because it might not personally affect you doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care.  Maybe you shouldn’t be in the front for the issue, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a place in it.  You can help by listening, clearing a path for others to speak, or sharing what they say.

But, I always ask myself if I’m giving a fuck for the right reasons.  If it’s to pat my own personal pride, I need to sit the fuck down.  I’ve learned quite a bit from growing up in a military family and one of those things is that the most important shit happens without anyone knowing.  So, maybe no one will ever realise how many fucks you’ve spent… but to be honest, that’s not why you’re spending them.

So, yeah.  Personally, I’ve spent a lot of my fucks on politics and current affairs.  After all, actions speak louder than words.  I’ve written my fair share of words about topics I care about both to this void of a blog and to the relevant government offices.  I don’t know if anything ever gets read, but they might one day… but if I stop then they won’t ever.

Tldr; spend your fucks on things you care about, be active in you community, care about your fellow humans.  But do it for your own reasons not just to look cool. 

Part III. Living Harmoniously

I often point dramatically toward a window and and ask people if they see it too, my last fuck fluttering away into the open, summer breeze.

Of course, that’s not entirely true as I still harbour many a fuck within my heart.  But, those are the good ones.  The ones I spend caring about people and things important to me.  The reasons I get up and bumble about.  They are the desire to learn and not be afraid to ask questions in class.  The ability to meet new people and not feel as if they judge me straight away.

The fucks flying away are the bad ones: the ones filled with insecurity and fear and anxiety.  I wave to them as they drift away.  But, in a way, I am thankful for their existence.  They taught me how to react to change, how to stand up for myself, and how to be proud of myself.  By leaving, they make room for more time for things I actually should be caring about.

So I’m going to close with the quote that I started this post with, scroll back up if you’ve forgotten (shame on you!).  It’s not about not caring about anything, just caring about the right things and for the right reasons.  You can’t control what others think of you, but you can control what you think about yourself.  So it’s not that I don’t care.  I do care, I care a whole awful lot because I know that it’s the only way things are going to change for the better whether that’s being more self confident or working to better my community.