thoughts

Shoes and Prejudice

Well educated, not as much formally as informally when it comes to hobbies, foreign languages, exploring other cultures and wast interest in popular culture in general. These are the self confessions of a snob. Never the materialistic, fashion label obsessed kind, but the more subtle, equally annoying specimen. Lurking from the dark, sitting in a semi comfortable seat of an old art cinema, reading Le Mond and Le Nouvel Observateur in public transport, having coffee and initiating discussions on existentialism, judging you for your ‘too mainstream’ way of wearing Docs and rolling eyes so hard it hurts when someone proclaims their love for Starbucks.

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Huhhh, try typing and then saying all of it in one breath, it was as exhausting on paper as much as it is in real life! And it’s just the tip of an iceberg. The persona behind the mysterious description is me, of course, but it’s not a post only about me. There are many ‘me-s’ around me: educated, somewhat intelligent young people who are often subconsciously looking down at different lifestyles and interests. At the same time, we will be the first ones to raise our hands when asked if we believe in diversity, tolerance and acceptance through breaking the mental and physical borders that our world is constructed on, but fail to lead with an example in our closest surroundings.

The unusual part of this millennial paradox is that, unlike in case of other flaws and misconceptions, I’ve noticed it in my own behavior on many occasions before even thinking of looking for it in other people first.

Living In a Bubble

I know I keep returning to this topic, no excuses, it’s because I feel this has been a problem of mine for a long time. The simplest way to function in every aspect of life would be surrounding ourselves with people who are similar to us. Similar background, habits, level of education, interests, whatever. Everything similar, not too many surprises. We are drawn to that concept, mostly led by past experiences and the usual, just go with the flow of what is already close to us attitude.

No matter how much time and effort you put into creating that firm bubble of safety, there will be a time when you’ll just have to break it and step out of it. Or life will break it for you just because it can. Luckily.

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All of this is closely connected to the overused but true ‘it is important to step out of your comfort zone’ mantra. What I’ve learned from my humble experience is that people are the most challenging, but also the most rewarding part that comes with the discomfort zone. The range of emotions, both good or bad, can’t be overpowered by any experience that doesn’t include dealing with people.

The Rule Book

I used to have rules. No, that’s a lie, I still have them, but some of them are fading away. Not strict, army type rules, but more like a list of details that served as an elimination system in meeting new people. The places people like to go out, music they listen to, movies they watch, the way they dress (shoes are the biggest deal breaker for me), how much make up a girl wears, what school did they go to, etc. Those are all either visual or superficial traits you can check by scrolling through someone’s Facebook profile for a second.

‘No way I’m hanging out with him!’ In under 10 words it’s done like it’s a no big deal, like there may not be any missed opportunities behind it. The number of times I’ve jumped to conclusion combined with the number of times someone didn’t want to have anything to do with me based on the first impression leads to….  a pretty big number I guess. But anyways, that’s not the truly sad part, what sucks is never realizing how inefficient our personal scanning machines are.

Becoming more opened towards people with different tastes and thoughts about how to live a life doesn’t mean forcing an introvert into turning into a very loud, outgoing person or abandoning your firmest beliefs and passions. The trick is letting the guard down, at first by focusing on it until it finally happens spontaneously. New experience begins with letting other people’s ideas come in and out again, like taking deep breaths while trying to relax.

What’s the worst thing that can happen? I can only think of not liking and completely disagreeing with someone’s way of thinking and it’s totally alright,  as long as it’s respectful.  I like to remember situations where I had to collaborate with different individuals which led to a pleasant surprise, making the grumpy old me admit I learned something new and useful from the horrible shoes wearing people.

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This Is My Party, I’ll Cry If I Want To

I like to sit and sleep in weird positions making my limbs go numb and weak or even lead to painful sensations. When I sleep it’s mostly on my stomach with both hands underneath my full body’s weight because that’s when I feel safe. If I lay flat on my back my chest could get split opened in the middle and cold, stiff air would keep me awake forever.

I often clench my fists inside the pockets. It happens on tram stops when I’m on a ‘no smoking cigarettes for a few days’ break not knowing what to do with my hands.

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Zoning out is a special talent that requires years of practice and comes in different forms. I pick at my skin, not in a self harm enjoying the pain way, but as a obsessive compulsive urge that is sometimes easier, sometimes harder, sometimes impossible to repress. During the summer me and my skin both go crazy, we don’t like the sun. But avoiding it completely is not a solution, even though a dermatologist once told me I may be allergic to sunlight. I don’t think that is the case, but it made me laugh because my brother often states that I’m actually a pretty well adjusted vampire.

I zone out for different reasons. Like when I used to stop in the middle of whatever I was doing to closely observe my thumb’s finger print lines with the help of my laptop’s lightning. The OCD part of the brain is upset with the uneven texture of the skin, wishing it was completely smooth, no dents. I had to google the word ‘dent’ after I wrote it down because it looked suspicious even though it sounded right in my mind. The aesthetic part is impressed with body’s appealing (im)perfections.

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I don’t bite my nails because it damages the teeth but I don’t let them grow, either. When under bigger amounts of stress I grind my teeth while sleeping. It damages them, but it’s out of my control so I guess it’s alright. Waking up with the clenched jaw requires a special morning exercise routine. It happens every time when I dream of loosing all of my teeth in an accident or by a weird experiment, waking up scared, but relieved because getting a new set of teeth would be both psychological and financial drag. They say it’s one of the most common dreams, or nightmares if you like.

On one too many mornings I tend to convince myself coffee is a better choice than herbal tea and sometimes regret it later.

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I can’t keep the same gum in my mouth for more than 30 minutes because it makes me nervous. A high school chemistry teacher told us gum chewing destroys the jaw. She always had a really bad breath.

I choose passive aggression over direct conflict and that is one of my greatest flaws. In attempt to change that, my goal is to start as many fights as I can.

I often express my affection with physical aggression which can cause misconception.On the other hand, I tend to express my politeness with gentle physical contact or affection which can also lead to wrong conclusions.

Imposter syndrome is a stubborn part time roommate turned full time friend.

Almost every paragraph and sentence starting with the word ‘I’ is a telltale sign. Occasional self obsession is necessary, but killing the ego is a long term goal. That is my manifesto.

 

Ilustrations by Elliana Esquivell

 

 

 

Those Rare, Magical, No Internet Days

The crash may last between nine hours and four days,  the symptoms are generally the opposite of the stimulant effects. A person in the crash phase of  withdrawal may sleep for days, notice changes in appetite, and feel depressed and agitated. During acute withdrawal — which may continue for 1-3 weeks — irritability, fatigue, depression, insomnia, anxiety, and cravings are common.

Imposed by deliberate decision or due to the unwanted technological obstacles I’ve experienced quite a bit of internet free days since the beginning of this month. A week ago I was forced to stay in this new state of ‘freedom’ for the whole weekend (tragic, I know, I’m fine now).

Long story short: after some signs of anxiety started to kick in, it was time to start making phone calls. What does an internet provider have to possess in order to be an internet provider in the first place? That’s easy – a shitty costumer service. After a couple of warm exchange of words, we had to agree to disagree in where the problem seems to be coming from. Conversation ended with their promise that Someone will call me and come over to check the router. Naturally, mister Someone never arrived, or did anyone call me, but luckily on Sunday evening my brother managed to fix  the cable problem or whatever and bring me back to life, make me feel like a member of something greater than myself.*

* this may or may not be a complete irony, just like everything else I ever wrote

Phase 1: Hysteria

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During those two and a half days, I was freaking out because:

a) I didn’t collect all the necessary exam materials

b) The new Jim Jarmusch film I thought I had on my laptop wasn’t really there (it was paused after 12% of the movie was downloaded)

c) I couldn’t send pictures of our dog to my sister 😦

d) How am I supposed to know what’s going on in the world?! Don’t tell me to turn up the TV to watch the news, never!

e) How am I supposed to keep up with the mostly unknown people’s lives on Instagram?

f) I didn’t know what to do when I get that sudden, insatiable desire to stream an episode of Seinfeld or It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

g) How do I make plans for going out with friends? Do I still have friends?

After finally reconnecting I downloaded the movie, but realized I don’t feel like watching it, answered a couple of ‘ARE YOU ALIVE??’ messages (ignored some of them, let them wonder you know, that’s sexy, mysterious and shit), turned the laptop off and continued reading the book I started that afternoon.

 

Same thing, different day

Sally Nixon: What Women Do When No One’s Watching

I would be chopping that book into little bits and pieces and dragging it around with me for the next two or three weeks until finally finishing it if I didn’t take another day off yesterday.

The thing is, I wasn’t feeling so well, I had a fever, headache, dizziness, cough – the whole disgusting package and even my poorly functioning brain realized staring into a screen trying to keep up with the Kardashians  complicated relationships in a certain David Cronenberg’s historic drama doesn’t work. I fell asleep, woke up, started thinking about stuff, got depressed a bit, stopped thinking about stuff, got up and grabbed that wonderful novel ( Life Is Elsewhere by Czech author Milan Kundera), started thinking about important, good stuff and finished the book. Even though I felt so beaten up, I could sense that my focus is back, alive and well, almost like it was when I was a kid that could easily devour a 400 page book in less than two days. I know those days are now far behind due to my Internet brain and some other reasons, but I also know there is a way of escaping the modern life shackles for a while.

In order to have an illusion of control, I made a list of what I need to start and or finish in the next week or so:

  • one horror movie review
  • watch two French New Wave films
  • watch David Lynch documentary
  • finish the essay on how Third-wave feminism lost its sense a while ago and is actually being contraproductive
  • start paying attention in my online literature class
  • Dedicate at least 10 minutes of the day to learning some Spanish (DuoLingo)
  • Finally start that small Tristan Tzara/Dadaism inspired post
  • Tell everyone how Kundera is the GOAT ✓

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Today, I am back online and while writing this I’m also watching three hot dog memes slowly dancing to Rihanna’s Wild Thoughts. Loving it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, educate yourself.  Also, do yourself a favour and shut.it.all.out. from time to time.

Btw, that introduction quote is taken from a ‘recognize a drug addict’ website and is all about the cocaine withdrawal symptoms. Cheers!

I Am a Hypocrite, But So Are You

I love animals, all of them without the exception, except for snakes, fish and some types of birds, especially chickens, they freak me out almost as much as snakes do. Let’s start again, I love cute, playful animals the ones you can have as a pet and teach them a couple of tricks  – dogs, cats, bunnies, hamsters. I’m not totally crazy about hamsters, I wouldn’t like to own one as a pet but I don’t mind visiting someone who owns them and play around a bit if they are in the mood. Can you teach hamsters some tricks?

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Oh and I used to be obsessed with getting a skunk as a pet, that was my main goal for like a year or two, but I gave up eventually because my only pet at the time was a mentally unstable cat so I thought getting a skunk who is known to be at its most energized behaviour just before the sun comes out would be a bit of a drag to say the least. I postponed my ‘getting a skunk’ mission until my cat runs away or dies or whatever. One fine spring day the cat disappeared, which was normal because if you have been living under a rock and don’t know, cats are the biggest whores on the planet. He (my cat) came back after five days all wounded up and weird, which was normal, because of the whoremones and all, then disappeared again and never came back. A couple of deliberately petless years later, we got a labrador and fell hopelessly in love with that funny, droopy eyed, perpetually hungry creature. Again, skunks are out of the question.

But, I digress. I made my point, I am an animal lover and I think people are often behaving like ruthless idiots when they buy a dog and leave it alone in the yard when they go on a three-week vacation thinking: Oh well, he’ll manage! Sometimes buying a puppy for your 8-year-old doesn’t turn out quite the way you’ve expected because puppy’s are like human babies – annoying and aggressively needy. When Pongo (the dog) was a pup, we didn’t get a good night of sleep for the first month or two because he would wake up at 4 am, start eating the furniture very loudly, or scratching the door while whining because he needed to pee. Even though he didn’t sleep much, he was hyperactive during the day, we have photos of our hands covered in blood to prove just how much energy he had. So, when the 8-year old realises the dog is too much of a responsibility and leaves it  for his parents to take care of, they decide it’s time to dump the poor bastard somewhere on the road far away from home because god forbid he finds the way back.

That makes me very angry, for sure. But here’s the other thing – I love eating meat, wearing leather shoes, leather jackets and I buy leather bags. Poultry, pork, lamb, beef, game, doesn’t matter, I love it, not that I’m a huge carnivore, but I like to keep my options opened.  I tried horse meat once, I don’t remember the taste but I refused to eat it when I found out it’ s a horse. Where do we draw a line? It partially depends on the culture and your upbringing, I drew it right before the horse.  Although,  now I probably wouldn’t say no to it if someone prepared it for me in a fancy restaurant. I would definitely say no to dog or cat meat because it’s just too weird.

When I tell my friends I would wear a nice fur coat during dark, cold winters even though a whole pack of fluffy animals had to die for it to be made so that my selfish ass can get warm and look stylish, they look at me with shock and disgust. I don’t blame them, I’ve seen the videos of the torture hell animals go through before the fur is ripped from their bodies but somehow I manage to separate the horrible process from the final product and if you think that’s horrible, it is highly possible that you do the same, as well. I prefer buying a more expensive real leather jacket because I’ll wear it for the next 10 years, while eco leather can be a replacement, it’s never the same quality. And for me, the fact that a less quality alternative exists is not a good enough reason to stop buying genuine leather.  Your laptop, your clothes, iPhone, basically everything that is a result of mass production… guess who made that and in what kind of conditions? Just google Steve Jobs child labour and please don’t tell me those are just ‘conspiracy theories.’

The world is a horrible place and horrible things are happening all the time and often the system makes as a part of those atrocities without us being aware of the inclusion. We could be aware if we wanted to, but too much awareness would drive us crazy. The difference between me, a leather bag, fur lover and a friend of mine who is against killing animals for clothes, but regularly buys a new iPhone and orders stuff online? We are basically the same, the only difference is the moment when we decide to close our eyes and pretend we didn’t see inhumanity and injustice being used as a tool in order to satisfy our selfish needs. There’s no way of being a functioning part of modern society while being 100 % ethical on all levels. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try,  at least trying to be nicer to each other for a start and make sure we are not setting the moral bar low for ourselves while it’s unreachable for everyone else. We are all trying to swim through the shit the best we can while creating all kinds of distractions and occupations.

I wonder how well would my dog and a skunk get a long with a bit of training?

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Hey, what’s up? How about no.

In the street, at Uni, work, supermarket…

Random acquaintance or a colleague, definitely not a friend: Hey, what’s up, how’s going? Tell me what’s new? How are things?

Those are the basics, choose additional follow-up by specific preferences: How’s your boyfriend, when are you getting married? * the person laughs hysterically because of their impeccable sense of spontaneous humour* What about your sister/brother? And your parents, what did you say they do for a living? (I never mentioned that.)

At that very moment I am grabbing a gun from a special emergency compartment in my bag, clutching the weapon with my sweaty, but determined hand and BAM!, the person hits the ground. I’ve just killed them. It all went smoothly because I have been rehearsing this in my mind for about 15 years. Scenarios may vary in details, sometimes it’s a hand grenade, or I simply set myself on fire to avoid the stupid conversation, the common goal is always the same: I want to get away, please gods save me from this annoying hell of words exchange.

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Of course, I understand those are just formal expressions, ice breakers, conversation starters (or enders in my case). We use them because we are stuck up, unimaginative, overly attentive and are used to forming superficial relations with each other. I’ve been through many awkward silences and weather discussions in order to keep a dead conversation going, but I am proud to say that I have never directed that kind of interest aggressively into my ‘opponent’s’ face. The only acceptable version is the informal greeting that goes like this:

Random person: Hello, how are you?

Me: Hey, oh greeeat! (dying inside but smiling)

         And you?

Random person: Pretty good.

And that is it, the end, fin, it will not be continued.

A while ago I never remembered to add the additional ‘and you?’ into my answer, I would simply answer about how I’m feeling, I didn’t know that is an unwritten rule until I heard my younger sister using it many years ago in a grocery store, so I added it into my conversational repertoire.

Many years later, I turned out to be a pretty good talker, I can turn awkward silences into witty, but yet not too funny jokes, just enough to keep a drained conversation breathing.The best thing in life is that close friends, family or lovers don’t use the What’s up, how’s life? type of questions that often, when they do, it has a funny or sarcastic undertone. On the other hand, the classic How are you? gets a new, honest dimension as soon as you start talking to someone you like and feel totally comfortable with.

I wish I were braver in cases like, for example, when a nosy neighbour parks her ass right next to mine in public transport and starts questioning me about every living member of my family. At the same time, she will expect a great amount of interest from my part towards her affairs and family, so as soon she realizes I am not going to ask her anything remotely connected to her exciting daily life events, she’ll start talking about it nonetheless.

Look, I really don’t care!

That simple 5 word sentence could get me out of any conversation and label me forever as a quirky lunatic at best, or  a hearthless bitch in a worse case scenario, but oh what a small price that would be in exchange for a lifetime of peace and cozyness.

 

Blank paper anxiety

Here it goes, it’s like a slight pressure that builds up in my gut, then goes up towards my throat and even if it goes away shortly, kind of stays around me, most likely just sitting on my shoulders. I am describing a typical day when I decide to write something, it’s not always like this, but it happens a lot when I have too many ideas floating in my head. Too much of them, some of them are good but suddenly -BOOM! My head feels like it can’t process it all and the next thing I do is… I give up! Hands up, I surrender. Not this time because in the past couple of months I have realized writing definitely helps with dealing with anxiety, it’s simple: the unnecessary energy that builds up for whatever reason I can transform into words. The process can be more or less painful, but it works. The words are often meaningless, just bits and pieces of my thoughts, making the reader feel like he just got lost in a labyrinth and needs to find a way out as soon as possible. I hope your sense of orientation is better than mine. First simple conclusion: The faster I write and the less I think about it, the better.

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What I wanted to start with is not a general sense of anxiety, it is a specific form that everyone in the modern world experiences at some point – the emptiness of the first page. I remember the feeling since I was a kid and we had to write an essay on some mundane topic such as ‘why I love spring time’, ‘on my way to school’, ‘how I spent my holidays’ and so on and so on.

Growing up as shy and obedient child who didn’t want to get in trouble, I would follow the rules of writing that boring essay, making one sentence the centre of it all and then repeating it in numerous uncreative ways until I could count enough words to finally invent some kind of a conclusion, a finishing touch to an uninspiring story. And guess what? SInce my grammar was pretty much flawless (btw, English is not my native language), I would end up getting an A, or maybe a B on a bad day. That made me think I am a pretty good writer, which is hilarious, but not a big deal. What I find is a bigger deal is the fact that I thought the feeling I had while writing is what it must feel, there’s no other approach to writing your thoughts down. Those weren’t even real thoughts, those were the exact same thoughts of every kid my age who is trying to write something she’s sure her teacher would: a) understand, b) recognize as familiar and appropriate, c) reward with a high grade. That’s how the educational system works, everyone wants you to be creative, but don’t get too creative, it’s like there’s an invisible boarder. Too free and creative style probably means you’ll go crazy sometime in your life, you won’t get a good job, big family and turn out to be a complete and utter disappointment. All that because you didn’t take things seriously.

I’m much more relaxed about it these days, but that’s nowhere near complete sense of calmness and feeling of confidence and content. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be, I don’t know, but at least now I’m trying to figure it out by myself. The need to write is present, so I guess I just have to do it every once in while.

Having some experience in journalism, writing news and reports, I feel it’s way easier  in this field because here you have to follow the rules, certain clichés because the readers are used to them to a pont of no return. Also, the rules of newsroom are clear, if you write too much, the editor will cut your text down to a number of words he can fit into the paper or on the web. He doesn’t care about your witty finishing line, we don’t have time for that! There’s no much romance in it. But even in journalism, the first sentence problem and the fear of not knowing how to start your story is still present. Maybe there is a romance in that, after all, it’s just hidden under the rough surface of cold facts.

Writing college essays and seminars can be, you know, soul-crushing, and for me, the beginning is naturally the hardest part. After I’ve finally managed to write an awesome introduction, got started working on the main thesis, it all goes smoothly, with a help of the right sources and literature, the piece kind of writes itself. In the end I would pretty much be happy with the results, especially with those essays where I could choose my own topic. That just reminded me, if I find my favourite Tarantino essay that got me maximum points in one particular course, I will post it here.

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It’s all about leaving the romanticized feeling of what writing is and embracing it as a job with all of it’s pros and cons. What I’m finally trying to say is, I need to learn the mechanisms of how to push myself more, how to start and beat the hell out of that blank page. Meaning not just filling it up with random thoughts like I’m doing now (it also helps, though), but make my point and be able to defend every word I’ve written down on paper, I mean computer.

 

Be excited, be creative!!

Ever since I started a project of my own I am aware that I overuse the word CREATIVITY and add ‘she/he is such a creative person’ to describe the people I’m collaborating with. Why do I do that even though I often feel a hint of disgust even after first three-letter C… R… E… ughhh, no I can’t do that, think of something else for god’s sake!

Don’t get me wrong, I love creative people, I love being around them, learning from them, even copying them but not in an illegal douchebaggy way, or at least I hope. The problem with my generation is that we have a lot of time on our hands. When I say ‘we’, I’m talking about European or Northern American privileged young adults who are pretty much broke, but we still live pretty comfortable lives when compared to… you know, the rest of the world. Like I said, a  lot of time combined with access to cultural, artistic, cinematic, etc. experiences from all over the world results in a bunch of individuals who see themselves as modern artsy gods, creative geniuses who’s talent, although not yet discovered should be rewarded by the cruel society. Pretty much thousands of Van Goghs wandering around on Instagram, collecting followers who worship their perfectly aligned photos of morning coffee and bagel next to an overly expensive Mac laptop, or ‘innovative’ fashion escapades inspired by the Kardashian clan, or on the opposite side of the internet sphere – tiny Lolita’s with their petite features giving advice on vegan diet and yoga practises… I could go on forever, if you ever used Instagram, you know what I’m talking about, the stereotypes that we are all becoming a part of. It’s an inflation of people who want to be special, recognized and in the end, famous. The lifestyle, maaan, it’s all about the lifestyle. Of course I get jealous sometimes, but the more perfect the photos, the more suspicious I get when I think about it. And when I don’t think about it, I just scroll through it and  forget about most of the stuff I’ve seen, there’s just too much information, your brain can’t process all the visual stimulation it receives during the day.

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source: incrediblethings.com

I think of myself as a creative person, but maybe not in a conventional way. That doesn’t mean I’m special, au contraire, I am a part of the group with the most members: people who enjoy, appreciate and consume art without having a real talent. I draw stuff, write poems, take photos (who doesn’t these days) but there’s nothing special about it, and even more importantly, I don’t feel the need to share it with a great number of people. Regardless, art is and always will be a great part of my life.

In Woody Allen’s Vicky, Christina, Barcelona Scarlett Johansson plays Christina, a reckless young girl who is not sure about what she wants from life, the only thing she knows is what she doesn’t want. I very much sympathise with that. She also says at one point that she needs to accept the fact that she is not gifted, although she can appreciate art and feels she has a lot to express. She turned out to be a talented photographer, but she had a good mentor, a true artist kind of type. Maybe that’s what we all need, a push, someone who will build our confidence and make us feel relaxed and good about ourselves and what we want to express. In case we want to persue our passion in a professional way, that someone should also be direct and honest about the work we created.

It’s  funny because we live in a place and time where creativity is an absolute must have in probably every type of profession, job interviews rarely go by without the ‘show us your creativity assignment’, creativity is no longer something reserved only for kids or quirky adults, it is an expected part of our personality. At the same time, being childlike or playful is frowned upon. I guess we need to learn how to find a balance between the two. Oh no, now I’m starting to feel sick, like trying to wiggle my way out of a boring school essay and that is not a good thing so I will stop writing immediately.