Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Formal Complaint: Where Did Interest in Professors Go?

So I realize I could be particularly sensitive to this issue, seeing as I am the product of academia, but I've noticed a trend among many college students: they'll talk about what fantastic classes they've taken/are going to take, but cannot remember the name of the professor. In my creative writing class, a student mentioned having taken that class before, but failed to remember if her professor was male or female. In a course as subjective as creative writing, and at a time when need for letters of recommendation (*cough cough*) is fast approaching, it is essential that you work with a compatible professor.

I've certainly been guilty of this in the past. My parents, if they knew of a highly regarded professor, would encourage me to take a class with him or her, only for me to respond with, "you don't know my life or my schedule!" which resulted in too many English classes entirely devoted to vampires and indie video games.

I understand that it's unrealistic to only seek out the highest quality professors throughout your college career, but this lackadaisical approach to college professors doesn't only hurt the people who spent weeks slaving over a hot syllabus for you, but it hurts you as well. Yes, your class may be required, or the course topic may interest you so much you think that the professor is irrelevant, but what we fail to see is that these professors tweak their classes to match their areas of expertise, their interest.

To illustrate, let's look at an example from my spring semester English course. This course was advertised as Engl 490: Women Writers. I was led to believe I would be reading some Virginia Wolf, some Brontes, some Austen--however, my professor's area of expertise was in the study of the young girl. As such, this class quickly transformed into an experimental women's studies class in which we read about *warning, gross* anal fissures and bands called "Pussy Riot." Which would have been fine, had I signed up for a women's studies class.

Ironically, I've learned the importance of researching my professors just in time to graduate. But it's so much more refreshing to take my major courses with a yoga-loving, memoir-writing professor than to suffer through what can only be described as Dracula fan-fiction.

I've taken course where I felt like my professor didn't care to get to know our names or stories, and I can confirm that its a pretty shitty feeling. However, it's more justifiable, seeing as, in the course of a semester, an average professor has 75+ students, and the student has 7 professors at most. Professors are *gasp* human, and are therefore not immune to feeling un-appreciated or undervalued. And when it comes time to write your letters of recommendation, they will certainly remember that feeling.

I know this is nothing profound, but it was just on my mind. For the most part, your professors work hard. They're basically the celebrities of the world of academia. Treat them as such.*

*I may be exaggerating a leeeeetle bit here, but seriously. I've met some professors who might as well be rockstars. They're that cool.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Lipstick Yogi

I rolled out my yoga mat, as I had done a million times before. Sitting in the corner of the yoga studio, I had gotten into the pattern of allowing myself the luxury of maintaining a healthy distance from my classmates, while still being able to observe their practice. It was the voyeur's dream. 

I had just settled into a stiff, creaky half lotus, when a classmate rolled her mat beside mine. I peered up at her--she greeted me with an uninhibited smile. 

"I just wanted to say, I love your hair," she said, gesturing to my newly-red locks. "Is that henna?" 

As far as I knew, henna was that stuff that I had tried to slap on my body five years prior that made me look like I had rolled around in dirt. 

I shrugged. "Just regular hair dye." I grew increasingly self conscious, and tried to discretely rub off my violently purple eyeshadow. What was perceived as a great investment in my self-esteem amongst my roommates seemed a terrible felony at the yoga studio. You mean to say you paid money to pour chemicals on your head for the sake of your appearance?? The horrors!

"Oh, you should really look into henna. Nature's pantry. It's amazing stuff." 

I wasn't sure when nature got a pantry, but I had the sinking suspicion I was terribly un-enlightened for lacking this knowledge. Perhaps if I used organic lotion and put wheatgrass on my head, I would be able to do a headstand by now.  

Somehow I doubted it.   
I have been doing yoga for about four years. It's been a positive constant in my life--I love the feeling of complete surrender after falling into that final savasana. I have learned to better express gratitude--both for myself and others. It's an added bonus that I can stand on my hands and make people go "oooh." But, paradoxically, with that ability to finally maintain some level of ease, I also have that nagging feeling that I don't quite fit. I smile and nod when my fellow yogis discuss homemade lotion recipes and kambucha. I've had fleeting desires to rid myself of superfluous material goods, only to realize that Ulta is having a sale, and that red lipstick makes me forget that I'm not actually queen of the universe.

I know I've written about this before. One of my first posts addresses the internal struggle of finding the balance between "fashionista" (meaning I bought a pair of jeans once) and "spiritual being." Since then, I've realized that my own inner peace has nothing to do with the type of jeans I'm wearing, and if anything, exfoliator does wonders for that third eye chakra. It took an embarrassingly long time to realize this, but enlightenment is not a "one size fits all" formula. What strikes me, however, is that--at least from the outside--one size seems to fit most. It's like the yoga pants debacle of 2014, only with more chanting, but equal amounts of spandex.

Although I've technically been going to yoga since senior year of high school, I hesitated to call myself a "serious yogi" until this past fall--part of this was an excuse to laze around my apartment for months on end and completely avoid physical activity of all forms--but a major factor was that I feared letting go of my casual yogi status, as in my mind, that required forcing myself into a mold that I knew I could never fit myself into--I'm not nearly flexible enough.

There was a particular quote from Erica Kaufman, the owner of Lila Yoga Studios, that resonated with me: "yoga doesn't change who you are. It frees who you are." I certainly see how this would be true--reducing my anxiety has allowed me to focus on more meaningful, deeper aspects of myself. Yet I still struggle with the concept that so many yogis' "selves" align with one another. Yoga class is quite possibly the most open, least judgmental environment on this planet, yet there are times when I wonder if I'm doing something wrong, that I can't be taken seriously as a disciple or teacher.

Which brings me to my next point. As someone who is studying to become a yoga teacher this coming school year, I am volunteering myself to "fit the yoga mold," at least in the most abstract sense. I've struggled between the desire to fit in and my need to be true to my most authentic self. Which is really a bummer, since I was told I should have gotten past this struggle like, five years ago. I'm still waiting on that whole self-acceptance badge I was told would be waiting for me at the finish line of my teenage years.

It's quite possible I'll be able to just rock the "lipstick yogi" look and make it a trend of sorts. But seeing as my middle school attempts to initiate the jeans/skirt trend flopped, I don't have high hopes.

Excuse me while I go buy organic everything.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

I Sing the Body Electric: A Review of Urban Decay's Electric Pressed Pigmment Palette

So I'm trying something new here at Coffee, Yoga, and Life's Other Necessities and delving into the world of makeup reviews. Which probably means I'll write this review, forget that I ever made this commitment in the first place, then in five months go "oh my gosh guys, I'm so sorry it's been so long since I've posted a review!"

And so it goes.

This whole review thing is convenient for two reasons: 1) It gives me an excuse to fawn over colorful, shiny things without seeming mentally insane, and 2) It gives the illusion that I am actually skilled in the art of makeup application. Spoiler alert: I'm not--though I can now do my water line without crying. Does that count?

So the other day, I thought "what's better than saving money for rent/groceries/adulting? I know--spending $50 on eyeshadow I could never wear for said adulting!" And thus the Ulta splurge began.

Outrageous expense aside, this palette is PRETTY--pretty enough that I can't contain my excitement in lowercase letters. I spent about a week going online and staring at pictures of this eyeshadow. Then, when my order finally arrived, I spent about a week opening and closing the palette, reveling in that magnetic click, and occasionally squealing at the colors.


This palette is not for the faint of heart (additionally, those with real, grownup jobs). Once that color goes on, it shows. Once it seemingly comes off, it still shows. I've had pink eyelids for about two weeks now. But if you're like me and want a bold look for watching Netflix and reading books a night on the town, Urban Decay has got you covered. Thus far, I have used Jilted and Urban and not ended up looking like the Joker. It helps to invest in a roommate who will yell "Kira! You look like a clown! Where is your blending brush?"

It's also helpful to invest in a blending brush. There goes week #2 of groceries.

"Sunset," and other pretentious names

  For my fellow brown eyed girls, I would strongly recommend avoiding the pinks and reds such as Slow Burn and Savage. However, blues and purples go on beautifully. I still have no idea what yellow is doing there. Yellow looks good on approximately 0% of the population.

As I've learned from experience, if you want to look like you've spent more than two minutes putting on eyeshadow, you should spend more than two minutes putting on eyeshadow. But you should also blend these violently colorful shades with more neutral tones such as brown (this is turning into a $100 investment--funny how that happens).

If you blend some brown into your crease, magic will happen. And by magic, I mean the roommate you've just invested in will squeal, "your eyes look so pretty! I was beginning to lose hope in you!"

Also, for the shimmer obsessed, Revolt is pretty much the best thing that has happened on this planet. Every other makeup guru seems to dismiss Revolt as un-interesting and useless, but I've also lived by the school of thought that your look is not complete if you don't look like you've got some glitter glue stuck to your eye.

But seriously, it's a lovely addition to the palette.

Fringe is probably my favorite shade here, but I have yet to find a way to apply it without looking like I've got a bruised face. After a few more hours of experimenting in my room, I'll let you all know how it works out.
"The lizard"

As a whole, for the broke college student, this is probably not a wise investment. For the average, normal adult, this is also probably not a wise investment. But I invested anyway.

And for those of you who are looking for actually skilled makeup gurus, HAH, joke's on you! But also, here's a look done by Jaclyn Hill that (supposedly) the average woman can emulate:
Enjoy your face eyes.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Write On: How Real Should Interpersonal Hardships Be?

The other day, a friend and I were talking about how to fictionalize personal struggles. I'm not shy about my preference for stories about people and their lives, so it's no surprise that a great deal of my material comes from my own struggles with growing up, family, and friends. During overly hormonal particularly difficult times, my stories ended up sounding like a 150 page whine-fest about how a boy who talked to me twice didn't like me. That's some serious literature right there.

Since then, my writing has progressed, but my basic sources of inspiration have stayed the same. I have no trouble painting the characters who I associate myself with in a negative light, but it gets tricky when you start to reveal unflattering truths about those who are closest to you. Especially when the best writing typically stems from tumultuous relationships with said close family/friends.

Having experienced this moral dilemma, I can't say there's an obvious right or wrong answer. I once wrote a piece that centered around a very dark period between me and my mother, and quality-wise, it turned out to be some of my best writing. I soon learned that my mother was not comfortable with sharing that piece of her life in the context of my piece. While I was annoyed that I would have to re-write an essay that could affect my grade, I realized that keeping a positive relationship with my mom was worth more than a shiny GPA. In that case, the answer was obvious--I was writing a non-fiction piece, and I'd gotten very explicit lack of consent. Non-fiction is a little more black and white. If you're writing entirely about a real person with real issues, they always have the right to veto that piece. That's not censorship--rather, that's protecting another person.

However, fiction is where interpersonal drama often becomes more ambiguous. My friend brought up an excellent point when he was discussing his own writing project. He mentioned the fact that while his writing is far less autobiographical than my own, he focused on troubled family dynamics (particular parental pressure) because of his own relationship with his mother. He noted that if someone ever wanted to buy his screenplay, he would jump at the chance, but there was still that nagging concern about what his family would think if they read his screenplay or watched the movie. Coming from an exceptionally supportive family, I immediately assumed that his parents would realize that his own happiness and success was the most important, and they'd be proud. However, this isn't always the case. Oftentimes this is why some of the best writers are the most isolated (also, alcoholism. But that's for another time).

I'm normally an advocate for being overly careful not to step on anyone's toes, in the case of fiction writing, I'm still a firm believer in facing hard, unflattering truths. I'm not saying you should go spouting out your best friend's deepest, darkest secrets alongside their name and address, but limiting one's creative outlet in fear of hurting someone's feelings is, in its purest form, censorship. You shouldn't walk up to your father and say "hey look, your emotional unavailability made me unable to form meaningful relationships!" (think how awkward THAT Thanksgiving would be), but on paper, that's free game. Not only is this creative freedom therapeutic, but it's real. More often than not, the reader can tell when you're trying to tip-toe around the core issue, and it makes for a very artificial, very dull story. In most cases, poignant trauma and distress seamlessly translates to poignant fiction.

It's also important to realize that fiction--at least, good fiction writing--very rarely features one-dimensional characters. Just because a certain character seems more troubled than others, that does not mean that she is the clear-cut "villain." Exhibiting flawed, complicated moments just shows that the world is full of flawed, complicated people--which family dynamics often enhance.

The moral of the story is not "I hate my mom," or "life would be so much greater if my great Aunt Tina stopped chugging bottles of wine and calling me fat." Stories that expose troubled family dynamics do more than simply point fingers. They make us realize something about human nature, about growing up, about ourselves.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

15 of my favorite feelings

In light of the recent Vlogbrother's video titled "15 of My Favorite Feelings," I thought I would follow suit with the positivity and discuss my own favorites. This won't be terribly deep, but sometimes you just need a little light-hearted optimism in your life, despite having the rest of the world throw jaded cynicism at you (bitter? Who, me?).

1) Cuddling.
Sure, this is sappy and girly, but honestly, it's trendy amongst females for a reason. And it's not romance-specific either. My friend Megan and I have perfected the art of drunk cuddling, which is not for the faint of heart. But if you want to get sappy and romantic with me, one of my all time favorite feelings is falling asleep mid-cuddle with someone you really love. Fortunately for me, my pillow pet has been a loyal cuddle buddy since day one of college. #foreveralone

2) When you finally finish a writing project.
It doesn't happen often, but that rush of euphoria after finishing a story/script/series of rants will never get old. This is especially nice when the project has nothing to do with school--although I won't argue that I don't love that sigh of relief when I crank out the final draft of a fifteen page Shakespeare essay.

3) Conversely, when you get an idea for a project.
This honestly works better when other people are involved. I get excited by solo ideas, but I'm rarely motivated to finish them. However, when 50% of the idea is someone else's, I feel obliged to finish the task. It doesn't hurt that I also get to squeal and whoop in public places with said project partner and look like complete idiots together.

4) Back scratches
This is like getting a massage, listening to Enya, and eating ice cream all at once. 

5) Dancing when nobody's watching.
 As our generation becomes more and more immersed in social media, it feels like there's no activity that's left un-documented. This is nice for the memory-loss prone such as myself, but there's also something liberating about doing something just for yourself--especially when said thing unleashes your inner goofball. 

6) Eating chocolate therapy ice cream
Ben & Jerry knows. It always knows. 

7) Drinking water after a long workout
I'm not gonna lie, I don't love the taste of water. But after I've poured out buckets of sweat on the treadmill (my nemesis), there's nothing more refreshing than a huge gulp of water--even better when it's followed by a massive cookie and/or cupcake. 

8) Being the example in class
There's no way to sound this without sounding like a giant narcissist, but I've been the "example" in more than zero college classes, and let's just say a little external validation never hurt anyone. 

9) Hip-cracking
My version of knuckle cracking. Because I'm actually eighty years old. 

10) Running around in the rain
Because I'm actually five years old. 

11) Finishing a good book

12) Having an intense (but good) conversation
Anything related to politics, philosophy, or identity, and I feel like I'm in heaven. 

13) Freshly washed hair

14) Writing on a chalkboard
This is something that literally every student in my second grade classroom fought over. We planned pretend classes during recess just so that we could write on the chalkboard. I'm not sure why it's so satisfying, but until the chalk squeaks, everything is wonderful. 

15) Sleeping in a freshly made bed
Extra points if I've been away from home for a while and feel like I'm going to fall over from sleep exhaustion. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sexual Assault: Law Versus Cultural Attitudes

In the recent Washington Post article titled "Feminists Want us to Define these Ugly Sexual Encounters as Rape. Don't Let Them,"  Cathy Young argues that feminists are trying to categorize every regretted sexual experience as an assault that should be punished by law. In this piece, she tries to inculcate the idea that "only yes means yes" is an absurd, puritanical notion that takes away the mystery and intrigue in sex. While Young makes some insightful comments about our society's tendency to demonize men in these cases, she fails to acknowledge the fact that sexual aggression can be perfectly legal, while still revealing troubling cultural attitudes about consent, power, and what constitutes a "positive" sexual experience. Not every instance of coercion is rape. But even when there are no legal repercussions, we should still question the appeal of persuading someone who's clearly reluctant into sex. What is it about somehow "winning" that's sexy? There is still the persistent implication that if you don't want sex or show any signs of hesitation, you are wrong and just don't know it yet. That attitude has to change.

Young argues, "this crusade against 'rape culture' oversimplifies the vast complexity of human sexual interaction, conflating criminal sexual acts such as coercion by physical force, threat or incapacitation — which should obviously be prosecuted and punished — with bad behavior...even in the first incident, in which the man knowingly pressured me into something I didn’t want, I could have safely said no to him." What's troubling here is that Young is blaming herself for an encounter that she was pressured into--this justification for her partner's behavior is a prime example of victim blaming. Technically, he didn't do anything wrong; technically, Young always was physically capable of saying no. But everything in this situation is justified by technicalities. I do not know the details of Young's particular relationship, but there is a multitude of similar situations in which someone is physically capable of saying no, but emotionally she is trapped. Maybe she knows that if she says no, she will be guilted or punished in some way. Maybe she feels that she is fighting a losing battle. Whatever the case is, it is deeply concerning that we are taught to brush off the idea that being pressured into sex is not just inevitable, but is also acceptable. 

Sex isn't a battle--you shouldn't conquer another human being in one of their most intimate, vulnerable moments. 

Young also makes the fallacious argument that "only yes means yes" forces us to consider every less-than-ideal sexual encounter an assault. Without getting too graphic on the Internet, I'd like to use my own personal experience to refute that argument. There have been instances where I've responded with a resounding "yes," only to regret it later because I was a young and stupid person who made young and stupid decisions. I'm not about to go and call my ex a rapist because I didn't think things through at the age of 18. The biggest difference, however, is that I did not feel pressured into doing something I would later regret, and I did not feel as though I would be punished for saying no. 

Young also seems to make the claim that because she was also sexually pushy in her lifetime, that counteracts the times that she was a victim: "besides, I know that sometimes the roles have been reversed. There was the ex-boyfriend I thought I was seducing in the hope of getting him back — only to realize, the one time he finally said no harshly enough, that it had been more pressure than seduction. If I were to claim victimhood, I would either have to admit to being a perpetrator as well or fall back on a blatantly sexist double standard." Here, Young fails to recognize that she is perfectly capable of being both the victim and the aggressor at different times in her life. While this is a seemingly gendered issue (seeing as the number of male aggressors highly outweighs female aggressors), seeing a case in which a woman is overtly sexually aggressive does not make it "right" in some way. It doesn't mean that Young should be behind bars this very instance, but perhaps she, along with everyone else who has felt the need to have full power in similar instances, should examine why the power dynamic was so skewed. 

We've gotten to a point where we can definitively say that rapists should be locked behind bars--that's not the dialogue we need to be having. The next step is to make people realize that persistent persuasion isn't sexy, and instead of relying on the reactor in the situation to say no, maybe we should teach the instigators to stop demanding a "yes." It'll be a hell of a lot more enjoyable that way.

Whew, that was a serious rant. My next post will be chock full of gifs or something to make up for it.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Year In Review, As Told By Snapchat

As junior year draws to a close, it's only natural that I would reflect on the past 9 months. Unsurprisingly, the results of this reflection are somewhat along the lines of "huh." I laughed, ate, drank, and was merry (coincidentally, the whole "being merry" bit seemed to coincide with the drinking). I could sit here and bore you all with dreadfully woeful tales of getting a B+ in English or indulge myself in an equally woeful (and cliché) tale about breakups (oh wait, already did that). But in this particular instance, I'm gonna let the Snapchats do the talking, as Snapchats are wont to do.

So how did this year pan out? Well...

I studied hard...


I made healthy choices that would benefit my mind and body...

My friends and I improved our style and made smart fashion choices...

I learned how to adult...

I partied like it was 1999...

...And I made new friends who always appreciate me

Let's just hope senior year is this impressive. Nothing says "successful junior year" like learning how to balance a water bottle on your head.