Life Isn’t Fair So Your Choices Better Be Good


Today’s blog post might rub some people the wrong way but I hope you’ll understand as you read it that this comes from a place of compassion & concern for my fellow man.  (Yes, I consider myself a feminist but I truly don’t see anything wrong with using masculine pronouns when referring to all of humanity because frankly it just sounds better.)  Something I’ve been thinking about a lot this year is the impact of choices on our lives.  A lot has changed in my life in the past two years.  For example, I’ve graduated from college, become a nurse, gotten married, and moved to a new state, and in just the past nine months I’ve bought a house, a puppy, and a very nice used car and started serving as a preceptor and a charge nurse at work.  These are, in my mind, all good changes but change is inevitably difficult at times and, at least for me, leads to a lot of introspection and general analysis of life.  In the past year such introspection and analysis have continually landed me on the same theme: the importance of making good choices in life and the consequences that arise when we fail to make good choices.

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Let me first say that I am fully aware that what I consider to be good choices and what someone else considers to be good choices may be completely different.  And with very few exceptions I am totally okay with that.  But if there is one thing I can safely say I know to be true in life, it is that we are each responsible for our own lives and the choices we make, and said choices are the greatest determinant of our own happiness and success.  I know that I have accomplished a lot for someone my age and I am very much aware of the fact that I have a lot of people to thank for helping me along the way to where I am now.  But I also realize that all the help in the world would have been useless if I hadn’t also made my own good choices (getting good grades in high school which allowed me to apply for and obtain a scholarship to college, seeking out internships and jobs in college that helped me obtain a good job after graduation, etc, etc, you get the point).  Please understand that I am not trying to brag or say that I am more successful or better than anyone else.  I am well aware that my own idea of success and happiness does not apply to everyone and vice versa.  I am just saying that when I think about the miserable situations I see so many people in, including many my own age, I can’t help but notice that all (or at least most) of these people have made a series of bad choices throughout their lives.  Let me further explain so I hopefully don’t sound like one of those god-awful judgmental pricks that annoy me so much.

I’m talking about the people who are working dead-end jobs with no hope of advancement who can barely pay their bills (or can’t pay them), who are in miserable relationships with people who treat them like trash, etc, etc; I think you catch my drift.  These people are usually the ones who dropped out of high school (and not because they had to take care of a dying relative or something like that), got pregnant in high school or maybe shortly thereafter and often with someone they did not exactly have a solid relationship with, or perhaps graduated from high school but with such poor grades that college or even technical school was never an option.  These folks probably did not think about the future beyond tomorrow and never exactly planned out a career or any sort of goals for their lives.  The homeless are another good example.  I have always had a special place in my heart for the homeless for some reason but when I look at most of the homeless people I’ve met or known about (I did a clinical rotation with the homeless in nursing school and actually got the privilege of talking to a lot of homeless folks) I’ve noticed again the same pattern: bad choices.  For some it was drugs, for some it was gambling, for some it was having too many children whom they couldn’t afford to support, and the list goes on and on.  Even many of my patients at work whose lives are miserable due to disease are often in the positions they’re in largely because of poor choices they’ve made: failing to control diseases that could be controlled or even eradicated through proper diet & exercise, etc, etc.  It’s hard to watch because you know that these people could have had better outcomes if they’d made better choices.  It’s a very complicated subject, but it’s the truth nonetheless.

Let me be clear here: BY NO MEANS do I think we should not be compassionate or helpful to those who have made poor choices.  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  My point is that the greatest lesson I hope to teach my future children is that they better have their act together from day one because life is not fair.  For example, lots of people have unprotected sex in high school.  But not everyone ends up with some disgusting STI or gets pregnant.  But some do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  Lots of people drive drunk and never hurt anyone.  But others do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  Lots of people smoke cigarettes their whole lives and never get lung cancer or COPD.  But many do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  I think you can see my point.  If there’s anything I know about life it’s that it isn’t fair.  Some people make one or two bad choices and their whole lives crumble around them.  Others make a lot of bad choices and don’t seem to suffer as much.  But in my limited experience those I’ve seen consistently make good choices have ALWAYS been better off because of it.

So if/when I have kids someday, these are the things I’m going to teach them:

Stay in school.  Get good grades.  Work hard at everything you do.  When you get a job, be the best because otherwise you will just be a drone like everyone else.  Make yourself stand out.  Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars.  Go to college or vocational school and plan a career where you can both support yourself and be happy.  Never have unprotected sex with anyone unless you are 100% ready to be a parent RIGHT NOW.  Be kind to everyone because you never know what battles others are fighting that you know nothing about.  Karma is real and whatever choices you make, good or bad, they WILL catch up with you sooner or later, and you better be prepared for the outcomes of your decisions.  I will teach them all these things because I will love them and want the best for them, just as my parents did for me.

Perhaps I will never become a parent (who knows), but nonetheless I will strive to teach these things to my nieces and nephews, my patients, and anyone else who is willing to listen.  Because I care.  As much as the world sometimes makes me feel cynical and cold, I do love people.  Life is crazy.  People are crazy.  But I love this life that I’ve made for myself (with the help of some great friends and family) and I want others to be able to share in the kind of happiness I’ve found.  I don’t mean that everyone needs to have my exact lifestyle, education, or career.  I just wish for everyone to find that passion for life and learning that I’ve found.  I like to think it’s contagious, and I hope that I can spread it around just through this blog post if nothing else.

I hope this post hasn’t come across as arrogant or rude.  That’s not how I meant it at all.  I just wanted to share the idea that choices really are important in our lives, and especially with a new year just around the corner it’s something I think we all need to take to heart.  I know that many people are great testaments to the fact that sometimes a bad decision can actually end up being a good thing (lots of teen moms would agree with this).  And there is a lot of truth in that too.  And not every person who makes all good decisions is necessarily going to be completely happy.  Again, everyone’s idea of happiness and success is different.  And that’s ok.  We each must find our own barometer for happiness and success, and then make good choices that align with that.  Otherwise we are just drifting along in life with no paddle to steer us toward any goals, hopes, or dreams.  And I can’t think of much sadder than that.

Things I Learned From Rock & Roll


A few weeks ago I wrote a post about things I’ve learned from country music & stated that I would be writing a similar post for each major genre of music.  Naturally my next post for this theme is about rock & roll since that is my favorite type of music.  I tried very hard to narrow this list down to five songs like I did for the last post but I just couldn’t do it, so I decided that since rock is my favorite genre it wouldn’t be too superfluous to choose a few more songs.  Besides unlike writing for school assignments, this is my blog so I can make the rules.  Ha!  😉

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Please do be advised that some of these songs are not totally G-rated as far as some of the words are concerned (but, hey, that’s rock & roll, right?).

These are in no particular order.

1. Unity by Shinedown: To anyone who thinks that rock & roll is all about drugs & “darkness,” please listen to this song.  In my opinion this is one of the most inspiring, hopeful songs I’ve ever heard.  I’ve seen Shinedown in concert twice & both times their live performance of this song has been incredibly powerful.  The message of this song to me is that no matter how scared or lonely you feel, you’re never alone & there is always hope.  And “your moment of truth is the day that you say ‘I’m not scared,'” which to me means not so much that you’re no longer afraid of the darkness but that you’re facing it anyway.  After all true courage is not the absence of fear but rather the willingness to proceed despite fear.  Perhaps the best way to sum up this song are the lines Brent Smith, the lead singer, says at the beginning of the music video: “We will not fall because we have each other.  We will not fall because we are brothers.  We will not fall because we have love.  We will not fall because we will rise above.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gVdi6sizeY

2.  Here’s To Us by Halestorm: If you aren’t familiar with the female-fronted rock band Halestorm please do yourself a favor & head to Youtube right this minute to check out their fantastic music.  This song is a great place to start, though it’s a bit softer than their average piece.  This is a song that celebrates the transience of life & the fact that mistakes don’t have to be our downfall.  Despite being somewhat softer in style, to me this song is the ultimate “I can do this” song.  It’s what I listen to when I feel like I’m just barely getting by in life, when I need a pick-me-up & a reminder that no matter what life throws my way I’m capable of not just surviving but thriving regardless of the situation.  The music video is also an awesome tribute to the past couple of decades of rock music (note the changes in clothes, makeup, & stage performance throughout the video).  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC0DNLDXJW8

3.  Justice  by Rev Theory: I still remember the first time I heard this song; I was driving to Blacksburg to visit Jared.  As soon as I got to Jared’s apt I pulled out my laptop to Google the song & figure out who sang it.  This song was one of those “love at first listen” songs for me.  To me this song is just pure adrenaline & righteous anger.  It’s the perfect song to listen to when you feel you’ve been wronged by someone or when life just feels unfair, which is of course inevitable from time to time.  However, if you watch the video you get the feeling that this song was written about more than just the every-day injustices of life & more about the war crimes & crimes against humanity that occur throughout the world.  In any case, it’s a fabulous piece of rock & roll that you should seriously check out.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5N80tNDCGg

4. Weathered by Creed: This is one of those songs that speaks to the difficulties & sorrows of life & how sometimes we just feel like we’re barely holding together, barely making it from day to day.  We’ve all had times in life when we feel like that for whatever reason.  What makes this song so special to me is that it addresses those feelings without holding back, without trying to conceal how ugly & despairing we can feel at times, while also giving hope that there is more to life than this darkness.  My favorite lines are these:

Take all this pride/And leave it behind/Because one day it ends/One day we die/Believe what you will/That is your right/But I choose to win/So I choose to fight.”  These lines remind us that life is too short to stay miserable forever & that in order to succeed in life we must never give up the fight.   Sometimes that means laying down our pride, asking for forgiveness (from ourselves as well as from others), & pushing onward. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu0VRsVCQ48

5. Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch: If you’re not familiar with Five Finger Death Punch (FFDP) please do yourself yet another favor & look them up on Youtube immediately.  Ivan Moody’s brooding voice combined with the fantastic musicianship of the other band members makes for some seriously epic music.  I don’t think they’ve ever made a song that I didn’t like.  Though it’s difficult to choose, Wrong Side of Heaven is certainly one of their best pieces.  This song describes the eternal battle between good & evil that exists inside all of us.  The lyrics refer to God as a “she” so if that offends you, I’m sorry that you will miss out on such an amazing song.  Wrong Side of Heaven describes how as adults we are faced with the startling realization that right & wrong are often not as easily recognized as we would like them to be & that at some points in life we are all going to be disappointed with the choices we make (“What have I done, who have I become?”).  In spite of this though we cannot take the easy way out & blame the devil or anyone else for our bad choices (“I spoke to the devil today, and he swears he’s not to blame/And I understood, ’cause I feel the same”).  This song resonates so much with me because I feel like the battle between right & wrong is something each of us faces every single day & we are all at times “on the wrong side of heaven & the righteous side of hell.”  Perhaps another reason this song speaks to me so much is that I often feel like I am caught in the middle with my friends because I am more conservative than my liberal friends & more liberal than my conservative friends. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsCp3l815G8

6. All I’m Dreaming Of by Black Stone Cherry: Black Stone Cherry is an awesome rock band with a lot of Southern rock influences that are sadly not as well known as they should be.  Their entire album from which this song comes is fabulous.  All I’m Dreaming Of is a gorgeous song that speaks to the need for more love in the world.  I think the best way to show the power of this song is simply to share some of the lyrics, so here are some of my favorite lines from the piece: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I60g8Vfr0xs

Something about our world today
That makes me wanna cry
There’s too much anger and too much pain
Too much money and too many lies
If I could have one wish tonight
I would beg of us to forget our pride
If we could do just one thing right,
We could help each other to love our lives

All I’m dreamin of is good times, good friends, and somebody to love
All I’m dreamin of is no fears, no tears, and blue skies up above

7. It’s My Life by Bon Jovi: To me this song encapsulates so much of the traditional spirit of rock & roll.  This song celebrates the idea that life is short so we better make the most of it while we can.  Sometimes that means doing things our way & disregarding the opinions of others, even those who mean well but don’t agree with us for whatever reason.  I certainly don’t think that we should seek to have fun at the expense of others or disregard our work/school/family obligations in search of fun, but I do think we should seek to enjoy our lives as much as possible.  For after all if we don’t enjoy life, why are we here?  To me this song embodies the idea that instead of asking why we should do something we ought to be asking “why not?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SKFwtgUJHs

I could write about so many more songs but then this post would be long & probably boring.  To me rock & roll encompasses the whole spectrum of human emotion & that’s what makes it so powerful.  Please check out some of these pieces if you’re not familiar with them; I promise they won’t disappoint.  As someone who once thought rock & roll was of the devil & generally grating to the ears, I can now say I’ve learned there is so much more to it than initially meets the eye (or should I say the ear?) & it’s well-worth your time to invest in some good rock music.  You never know, it might even become your new favorite genre, as it has for me!

The Purity Myth


It took a lot of courage for me to write this, much less actually post it.  This is a topic which most people are not comfortable discussing but it’s a topic that I think is very important & thus bears discussing regardless of how awkward it might be.  Being a nurse I have lost a lot of my sense of what is normal conversation because I am so used to dealing with & talking about every bodily function known to man.  However, I know this post is of a sensitive nature & may provoke a lot of criticism, perhaps even from some people close to me.  But again I think this subject is too important to bypass.  With that being said, here goes.

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I’ve just finished reading a fascinating book called The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti.  This is one of those books that I can’t help but feel like the author was reading my mind when she wrote it.  I love that feeling!  In this book Valenti asserts (with a great deal of evidence to support her claims) that the “purity or virginity movement” is hurting women, especially young women, by basing their value on their sexuality (or lack thereof) & is thus not much different than the hyper-sexualization of women that the purity movement claims to  hate so much.  What a refreshing concept!  Indeed it’s an idea that I have often considered even before reading this book.  I’ve often thought how paradoxical it is that our society is so hyper-sexualized in the sense of what we see in the media & what we actually discuss in real life.  Why is it that sexualized music videos are the norm & porn is ubiquitous & yet the average American is still shy about discussing real sexual issues?  Why is it common practice for parents to buy their teens (or even younger children) video games that promote violent sexuality such as Grand Theft Auto & yet most parents don’t have the first clue how to have a conversation about sex with their teenagers?  Is it any wonder that teen pregnancy is still rampant in this country especially in light of the fact that a great deal of “sex ed” in this country is still abstinence-only education (I use the term education lightly b/c real sex education involves actually conveying factual information, something that abstinence-only education by its very nature cannot do; I know this from personal experience).

This is the twenty-first century & yet we women are still very much defined by our sexuality.  On one hand the right-wing conservatives value us only as pure virgins who “save ourselves” for marriage, who go so far as to say that a woman who has sex before marriage has “devalued herself.”  Even as a teenager I couldn’t help but see through this argument.  Hello, you’ll probably deny it but you’re telling me that my only worth is in relation to my body.  I’m sorry but I can’t & won’t ascribe to that method of thinking.  If that makes me a whore in your book, I’ll gladly wear that label.  Ha!

On the other hand we have a great deal of the media telling us as women that our only value is in being sexy & desirable to men.  Again our value is based on our bodies & our sexuality.  And again I’m not buying it.  I for one know that I am so much more than my sexuality (while I also know that my sexuality isn’t something to be ashamed of contrary to what the purity movement would say.)

[In case anyone thinks I’m promoting the “hook-up” culture, let me be clear & say that I am not.  I personally am of the belief that sex is something very special that should only be shared between two consenting caring individuals.  But I’m also not saying that marriage is the only scenario under which sex should happen.  That’s just not practical (or even logical in my mind).]

This book also discusses the ridiculous way in which our society deals with rape.  It’s shameful to admit that as a society we still spend a great deal of time blaming the victim, but we do.  Regarding what other crime do you hear people say things like “Well, she was asking for it?”  Or “What was she doing out late at night on that street?”  The hardest thing for me to admit with this argument is that I used to say such things.  I really did.  And I hate myself for buying into such ridiculous notions that men are animals that cannot be stopped.  The older I am & the more I observe society the more I just cannot believe such an idiotic lie.  Men are not naturally uncontrollable sexual beasts any more than women are naturally sexually reticent.  Both are lies created to control women & enforce “traditional” gender stereotypes which in the end are damaging to both men & women.

In many people’s eyes I am probably a feminist.  But I don’t really think of myself that way.  I just think of myself as a humanist.  I want all people everywhere to be respected & treated well not because they are men or women but because they are HUMAN BEINGS.  I’m certainly not a radical feminist who tries to assert that men & women are completely equal.  They aren’t in some ways.  Duh.  Women are not as strong as men physically.  But men can’t have babies.  And without both genders the human race could not perpetuate itself.  (On particularly cynical days when I am thoroughly disgusted with the human race I sometimes wonder if that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but thankfully those days are pretty rare.)  But I do believe that women should receive equal pay for equal work & that the onus for rape prevention should be on teaching men that such behavior is unacceptable.  And I do believe that the purity myth is hurting women as much as the hyper-sexualization culture is also hurting women.  The end result of both is that women are seen as objects: objects without their own opinions, desires (sexual or otherwise), or dreams.  And I for one refuse to believe that my value as a human being is based solely or even principally on my sexuality.

Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I’d love to hear your opinions on this matter.  That goes for guys & girls!

Something New: A Movie Review!


For today’s blog post I thought I would try something a bit different, a movie review. Perhaps if you get bored this weekend this will give you something to check out on Netflix.

As some of you may know I have long been fascinated with Indian culture (Indian as in India, just to be clear since Christopher Columbus has forever made that term ambiguous). In fact when I was a little girl I remember thinking I was surely going to marry an Indian guy or at the very least someone with brown skin from a culture that was not American. Which is pretty hilarious considering where I grew up & the number of Indian (or other Asian) people there (basically zero). In any case because of my fascination with Indian culture I watch lots of Bollywood or other Indian-inspired films on Netflix. Quite conveniently these are mostly of the instant streaming variety.

Last night I rewatched one of my favorite Indian-inspired films, Kissing Cousins. It’s actually an independent American film but the characters are mostly Indian (& thus gorgeous which is always a plus with these type of movies). The main character Amir is a thirty year-old bachelor whose friends are all starting to settle down & get married & thus begin bothering him about doing the same. His career is an odd one; he is a relationship terminator. In other words, people hire him to do their break-ups for them. I know, it’s an odd premise but the film is in LA so it’s not that unlikely that such a career actually exists out there. At Thanksgiving Amir decides to visit his family in Northern CA, something he rarely does, so they are surprised when he unexpectedly shows up. As it turns out his cousin Zara from England is visiting the U.S. & staying in his old room. Amir & Zara have hated each other ever since childhood when they were reenacting Prince Charles & Lady Diana’s wedding with their other cousins/siblings & Amir kissed Zara which then provoked her to bash him in the head with a shovel. Keep in mind this was twenty years ago. Well, after the Thanksgiving meal is over & Amir is ready to head back to LA, his parents suggest that Zara accompany him so she can see Southern CA. At first the cousins are reticent because of their antagonistic history but eventually they agree to forget the past & try to be friends as adults.

So Zara accompanies Amir back to LA & moves into his apartment, intending only to stay a few days. Naturally Amir introduces her to his friends & on a whim Zara, knowing Amir’s romantic situation (or lack thereof), introduces herself as his girlfriend instead of his cousin. Amir decides to go along with the ruse so his friends will stop annoying him about finding a girlfriend. Naturally this is where things begin to get complicated (I’m reminded of the old English adage “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”).

I won’t expound much more on the plot for fear of ruining the film for those of you who might actually care to watch this, but I will say it’s one of my favorite movies. The characters are interesting & it raises some perplexing questions about the nature of relationships between men & women. I know a lot of people will be grossed out just by the title Kissing Cousins & what that implies but I can assure you the point of this movie isn’t that cousins should hook up or get married. I guess what I really like about this movie is that it reinforces the idea that the best romantic relationships are grounded in friendship which is something our society still doesn’t totally grasp. (And also if you decide to get drunk, be careful who you do it with.) How many times have you heard girls say “Well, he’s cute & he’s my friend but we could never date.” I always want to slap someone when I hear this. Are these people even listening to themselves & how ridiculous they sound? I know it is possible to be friends with someone of the opposite sex & have absolutely no attraction to them whatsoever but honestly that is rare. Usually there is some sort of chemistry there . . . It’s just human nature, it’s ok, & it doesn’t mean anything HAS to happen between you especially if one or both of you aren’t single.  I often hear people say relationships are so complicated which is interesting because just the other day my husband said exactly the opposite to me. I thought about it for a minute & I agreed with him. Relationships really don’t have to be that complicated if they are grounded in friendship. Of course life is complicated & that can affect things.  In any case, this film is just an interesting look at relationships & the chemistry between people. And I for one love movies that make you stop & think a bit, that challenge your ideas of right/wrong. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something a bit “off beat” to watch this weekend. Cheers!