Medium-Well

When I was younger, I didn’t really have an opinion about anything. I was a go-with-the-flow kind of girl.

I knew war was bad, the Beatles played good music, and that I liked my burgers well done.

And that was that. Anything else, I was like, “oh, you too?! Me too!” about EVERYTHING.

Now, that I’m older, I realize that making your own opinions in life is how you shape your personality. Finding what you absolutely hate and definitely love is the best part about experiences. It’s the adventure that keeps you living!

Now, I know I like my burgers medium-well, I still hate war, and the Beatles still play good music.

Hey, I’m getting there!

Love,

Bailey

Music I Grew Up On

What do Shakira, Avril Lavigne, and Alanis Morrisette have in common?

They’ve all been on my Ipod since around the 7th grade. And even though my headphones have changed (drastically), I am still listening to them and relating to them, on some level. Sort of.

Like, take today, for instance. I guess I really wanted to take a trip down memory lane because I turned on some Avril Lavigne. Way before her marriage to Sum41 band member or Nickelback frontman. I went back all the way to her first album “Let Go” and even her second album “Under My Skin.”

And at first I laughed hysterically at the fact that I remembered all of the words and where I was when I was belting them out about 10 years ago.

But especially while listening to “Under My Skin,” I was cringing too. Because a lot of the lyrics were really dark and angsty.

And I get it, teenagers sort of have that reputation, and I was a great sample representative of that stereotype, but I was simply relieved to realize that I no longer had those feelings anymore when I listened to the album today. I mean, I could definitely recognize what it felt like to feel like that. I could definitely remember why I could relate to what she was saying at some point in my life. But not anymore.

And sure, Avril definitely raised me. So, did Alanis. And Shakira. And certainly, Amy Lee from Evanescence, now that I think of it. These women raised me to grow up to become this really sassy, still angsty, dancey woman through their heartfelt lyrics and iconic tracks.

But now? I don’t have to listen to that music to feel like my feelings are being validated. And I think that’s maturity at work. Being able to listen to a song without feeling like someone stole my personal diary and is singing my feelings is a tremendous step in the right direction toward adulthood. (But that certainly doesn’t mean I can’t sink into a bubbling bath of pity every now and again by pressing play.)

The point is now I can start focusing on what I want to say instead of someone else singing it through my speakers. But the music I grew up on certainly gave me the courage to say it in the first place.

I Don’t Know How to Ride a Bike

Excuse me, but I am going to puzzle something out for myself tonight.

Right now in my life, I am currently at the stage called “emerging adulthood.” It is a phenomenon in which hordes of college graduates who have been tricked by the economy into earning a degree and allowing themselves to fall thousands of dollars in debt, must humiliate themselves by living in their old room at their parents’ house with the Orlando Bloom posters they had in high school, struggling to be financially independent.

And while my parents don’t call me a failure, I sure feel like one. Shouldn’t I have it figured out by now? Shouldn’t I feel like I’m working towards something? Shouldn’t I stop eating clementines lovingly peeled by my mother because I don’t have fingernails?

These thoughts plague me every night, when I sleep in the room I grew up in.

Until it was pointed out to me that while “emerging adulthood” is a relatively new phase of human life (at least in America), so too is childhood. Allowing yourself to savor the time you had when you were young has only become a rite of passage since industrialization. Before that, it was all work and well, yeah, just work. You were a full-time employee on your parents’ farm before you hit puberty. So, it is only recently that we’ve started to appreciate that time between birth and the first death (my cute nickname for adulthood.)

So, I thought, maybe to get out of this weird funk where I can’t figure out what I should be doing with the rest of my life, I need to take a look back at what I did before, in childhood.

And what I realized was that I struggled in childhood with the same restlessness as I feel now. Like most things in life, it’s just another cycle.

You see, I came out of the womb at 30 years old. And I’ve been trying to fit in ever since. I really tried to be a kid. I made “backyard soup” (but refused to eat it.) I climbed trees (well, I climbed the first branch.)  I played on the jungle gym (okay, it was the swings.) But it never really worked for me.

So my last chance to redeem myself and become a normal kid? I had to learn how to ride a bike. All kids my age had “wheels” before they ever had a car. Me? Sure, I had wheels. Training wheels. And then when my parents took them off, I was hopeless.

I’ve had people try to teach me. And I’d ride on two wheels for about 10 minutes, and then I would freak out and think that I was going to swerve into traffic and jump off. So, any bike that I own will remain riderless, probably for the rest of my life.

So, what’s the point? I was a childhood failure and now I’m not surprising anyone by continuing to be a failure in adulthood, too?

Perhaps. Well, probably. But we all have the opportunity to succeed, no matter how many times we’ve failed in the past. We all have a chance at success in the future. Multiple opportunities and chances, in fact.

I chose to not learn how to ride a bike because I never got back on one. But I am not choosing to stop pursuing what I want out of my life. It may be too late for me to learn how to ride a bike, but it will never be too late for me to succeed at everything else.

5 Lessons I Learned Holding Your Hand

Little sisters, am I right?

We look up to our older siblings, hoping to to be one quarter of the person they are. And what do they do? They use us as their minions to do their bidding. They tell us it won’t hurt when it does. They act like the hardest thing they’ve ever done was share anything. They tell us to get out when all we want to do is be there with them. They tell us we’re annoying when all we want to be is appreciated.

As a younger sister, I can attest that this is all true. But I can also say that there are many benefits to being a younger sister, too. So, on my older sister’s birthday, I would like to recount some of the lessons I learned by watching her live her life first. Yup, that’s right. I had a bird’s eye view of all of her failures. But we’re going to focus (mostly) on what she achieved, so that I can do right by her. After all, she did right by me.

5. Don’t Listen to Mom and Dad

-Mom and Dad certainly know best, except, well, when they don’t. They can direct you as much as possible until it has to become about what you want out of life. Although my sister took this to the extreme by listening to the advice of my parents and doing the exact opposite, she showed me that it was possible to live outside of the box that the world created for me. She showed me it was possible to accept someone’s advice without taking it. Of course, sometimes avoiding fights and going along with whatever your parents say is the safer route, and she certainly taught me that lesson, too.

4. Make Some Noise

-I thought that this was only me, but I think all younger sisters suffer from this issue a bit: we don’t like to talk for ourselves. From day 1, our older sibling is holding our hand, introducing us, telling other people what we think before we can even form words. Which inevitably turns into ordering food for us and talking on the phone for us, and basically taking over all social activities, like a personal secretary. So, when I grew up, I was left with a residual shyness. My sister? Shy isn’t in her vocabulary. She’s zany, and boisterous, and downright loud. And while most days I appreciate that I am the ying to her yang, I have to say that I admire her energy. It makes me feel like I should do more to make my presence known in this world, let alone a single room.

3. Treat Yourself 

-As a younger sister, I have often been tricked into doing something that I didn’t want to do simply because my older sister told me it was a good idea. Who was I to argue with my elders? Inevitably, this lead to me fetching her snacks or doing her chores. Now, that I am older I can see through that ruse…and use the same tactics on other people. See, now I realize that my sister was just treating herself. She was just asking for help when she needed it (and when it was convenient for her). In all honesty, we all need to ask for assistance when we need it, and we also need to treat ourselves like the queens we are. Just as long as there is some give and take along the way.

2. Monkey See, Monkey Don’t

-Okay, and now we get into the less than glamorous moments. You’re human, sis. So, I’ve seen you make your fair share of mistakes. But I want to thank you for learning from them. You not only shared your wardrobe with me but you shared your slip-ups. You told me what happened, and why I should never make the same mistake. Because of this, I started to live vicariously through you, and I could have the fun without any of the consequences. It was kind of like chewing chocolate cake and then spitting it out: all the taste and no calories. So, thank you for having less intelligence to do the things you did. But thank you for having more intelligence to turn around and tell me what was a terrible idea. And also what made a great story.

1. I Forgive You

-Yes, nothing is more sacred than those three little words when you’re a little sister. Because after all these questions: Who stole my straightener? Where’s that shirt I like? Why are my shoes in your room? It’s nice to know that you can focus on what really matters. Forgiveness. No, I will not stop stealing your stuff. No, I will not hang up your clothes after I use them. No, I will not return what I borrow. But I promise that I’ll always be there for you when you need me. That is, if you can forgive me. (And I think you should because you did some pretty messed up stuff to me when we were kids. Like, you tried to run over my arm with a power-wheel car, and you almost forced me to eat “backyard soup.” So, I think you owe me this one. Or at least this shirt.)

Of course, I know I had it easier being the little sister. But I know I had it even easier because you were and are my sister. Love you.

Adults Should Read More Fairy Tales

For my job, I read a lot. And I usually come across some truly interesting pieces. I’ve read satires, plays, allegories, dictionaries, and yes, nonfiction.

But what seems to be the most accessible for me (due to good ol’ http://www.gutenberg.org and the copyright laws of this land that enforce the “public domain”) are children’s stories and fairy tales.

I simply find it so beautiful that there are so many stories around the world that have the same  moral or lesson as some of our most familiar tales but are couched in a uniquely different culture with recognizable and distinguishable characters. And you can find them all, spanning entire nations but all having a common thread. They truly unify humanity in a way that no other medium can.

I’ve actually had so much fun reading fairy tales and children’s stories that I had to ask myself: why do we leave them on our bookshelf after only a few years of enjoyment? Sure, there are many media empires that have been made from a product that was geared toward “children” but have since captured the imagination of all ages. And yes, many children’s stories have a decidedly darker and sharper edge that makes us scratch our heads, wondering, “Why did my parents let me read this as a child?”

And yet, there are some that I believe to be so universal and applicable that we should carry them with us throughout our lives. I’ve selected two for you tonight, to share with you and that will (hopefully) provide you with the right message at the right time.

The Sailor Man

Once upon a time, two children came to the house of a sailor man, who lived beside the salt sea; and they found the sailor man sitting in his doorway knotting ropes.
“How do you do?” asked the sailor man.
“We are very well, thank you,” said the children, who had learned manners, “and we hope you are the same. We heard that you had a boat, and we thought that perhaps you would take us out in her, and teach us how to sail, for that is what we most wish to know.”
“All in good time,” said the sailor man. “I am busy now, but by-and-by, when my work is done, I may perhaps take one of you if you are ready to learn. Meantime here are some ropes that need knotting; you might be doing that, since it has to be done.” And he showed them how the knots should be tied, and went away and left them.
When he was gone the first child ran to the window and looked out.
“There is the sea,” he said. “The waves come up on the beach, almost to the door of the house. They run up all white, like prancing horses, and then they go dragging back. Come and look!”

“I cannot,” said the second child. “I am tying a knot.”
“Oh!” cried the first child, “I see the boat. She is dancing like a lady at a ball; I never saw such a beauty. Come and look!”
“I cannot,” said the second child. “I am tying a knot.”
“I shall have a delightful sail in that boat,” said the first child. “I expect that the sailor man will take me, because I am the eldest and I know more about it. There was no need of my watching when he showed you the knots, because I knew how already.”
Just then the sailor man came in.
“Well,” he said, “my work is over. What have you been doing in the meantime?”
“I have been looking at the boat,” said the first child. “What a beauty she is! I shall have the best time in her that ever I had in my life.”
“I have been tying knots,” said the second child.
“Come, then,” said the sailor man, and he held out his hand to the second child. “I will take you out in the boat, and teach you to sail her.”
“But I am the eldest,” cried the first child, “and I know a great deal more than she does.”
“That may be,” said the sailor man; “but a person must learn to tie a knot before he can learn to sail a boat.”
“But I have learned to tie a knot,” cried the child. “I know all about it!”
“How can I tell that?” asked the sailor man.

I love this story because it seems to be directly aimed at every know-it-all (me) and millenial (also me) that I know. We all think that we know how to do certain things, and maybe we do. But take my advice, if you are starting a new job or beginning a new career path, do not scoff when they teach you how to do something you know how to do. They will never understand the true extent of your talent unless they see it. (An unfortunate trait of humans, yes, that we must see to believe, but it is true.)

Why the Evergreen Trees Keep Their Leaves in Winter

One day, a long, long time ago, it was very cold; winter was coming. And all the birds flew away to the warm south, to wait for the spring. But one little bird had a broken wing and could not fly. He did not know what to do. He looked all round, to see if there was any place where he could keep warm. And he saw the trees of the great forest.
“Perhaps the trees will keep me warm through the winter,” he said.
So he went to the edge of the forest, hopping and fluttering with his broken wing. The first tree he came to was a slim silver birch.
“Beautiful birch-tree,” he said, “will you let me live in your warm branches until the springtime comes?”
“Dear me!” said the birch-tree, “what a thing to ask! I have to take care of my own leaves through the winter; that is enough for me. Go away.”
The little bird hopped and fluttered with his broken wing until he came to the next tree. It was a great, big oak-tree.
“O big oak-tree,” said the little bird, “will you let me live in your warm branches until the springtime comes?”
“Dear me,” said the oak-tree, “what a thing to ask! If you stay in my branches all winter you will be eating my acorns. Go away.”
So the little bird hopped and fluttered with his broken wing till he came to the willow-tree by the edge of the brook.

“O beautiful willow-tree,” said the little bird, “will you let me live in your warm branches until the springtime comes?”
“No, indeed,” said the willow-tree; “I never speak to strangers. Go away.”
The poor little bird did not know where to go; but he hopped and fluttered along with his broken wing. Presently the spruce-tree saw him, and said, “Where are you going, little bird?”
“I do not know,” said the bird; “the trees will not let me live with them, and my wing is broken so that I cannot fly.”
“You may live on one of my branches,” said the spruce; “here is the warmest one of all.”
“But may I stay all winter?”
“Yes,” said the spruce; “I shall like to have you.”
The pine-tree stood beside the spruce, and when he saw the little bird hopping and fluttering with his broken wing, he said, “My branches are not very warm, but I can keep the wind off because I am big and strong.”
So the little bird fluttered up into the warm branch of the spruce, and the pine-tree kept the wind off his house; then the juniper-tree saw what was going on, and said that she would give the little bird his dinner all the winter, from her branches. Juniper berries are very good for little birds.
The little bird was very comfortable in his warm nest sheltered from the wind, with juniper berries to eat.
The trees at the edge of the forest remarked upon it to each other:
“I wouldn’t take care of a strange bird,” said the birch.
“I wouldn’t risk my acorns,” said the oak.
“I would not speak to strangers,” said the willow. And the three trees stood up very tall and proud.
That night the North Wind came to the woods to play. He puffed at the leaves with his icy breath, and every leaf he touched fell to the ground. He wanted to touch every leaf in the forest, for he loved to see the trees bare.
“May I touch every leaf?” he said to his father, the Frost King.
“No,” said the Frost King, “the trees which were kind to the bird with the broken wing may keep their leaves.”
So North Wind had to leave them alone, and the spruce, the pine, and the juniper-tree kept their leaves through all the winter. And they have done so ever since.

I absolutely love this story. If I had enough space on my body, and if I could find a tattoo artist with a steady hand I would get it permanently inked on my body, I love it that much. I love the fact that this poor little bird was sheltered by these awesome, generous trees. I love the line in which the other trees stand up tall and proud for turning away someone in need; I can almost feel their foolishness. In the end, it’s a simple lesson but such an important one. Be kind to those in need of help. You may not receive anything for your generosity, but do it anyway.

I’ve just given you a taste of a world you knew when you were young. Find these and more fanciful stories here: http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/ 

Now, my lesson for you is to not ever grow up, but if you must, do us all a favor and try to remember these important lessons from your childhood.

Adult Middle Finger with a Child’s Bandage

Actions always speak louder than words. Especially when a certain action is representative of a certain choice phrase that is incredibly offensive (at least in American culture).

I mean, flipping someone the bird can really be a slap in the face. Literally. It is basically the equivalent of taking off your glove and slapping someone to start a duel. Really, can you think of a quicker way to start a fight with someone than giving them the finger?

Which is why we need to be really careful about who we flip off. Not just because you have no idea who has a gun (or a crossbow for that matter) these days but because we need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. 

And here’s how to put this into some perspective.

Every day I have a commute to work. Inevitably, every day I encounter idiots, imbeciles, and people on cell phones. I would like to believe that my tolerance is much higher, but occasionally (usually), after the third time I get cut off, I feel like speeding past the parade of a**holes and giving them a piece of my mind. That is, without rolling down the window. 

But when I thought about doing that today, when I thought about giving the car next to me a righteous glare and a certain digit (not a number), I looked down and saw the How to Train Your Dragon bandage over my precious finger, that I had to have from the grocery store a few months ago. And I absolutely needed it over the weekend when I cut myself with a potato peeler. 

Suddenly, I realized I had no grounds, (I mean no grounds whatsoever) to be giving the middle finger to anyone. To the driver next to me, I was just a girl who didn’t know how to keep her obsessions out of her first aid choices. I was just an overgrown child sloshing through rush hour. But most of all, I realized that I knew what it was like to (accidentally and intentionally) drive like an idiot, and I certainly have known what it is like to be late.

And somehow, my tolerance of people grew three sizes today.

So, I don’t really care how you do it. If you need to wear a really childish bandage on your middle finger to remind you that we are all just one step away from barbarism and that we are all one step away from our childhood at any given time. But the overall message I want to convey is that we need to be kinder to each other. We need to put the middle fingers down and put the thumbs up! (Too cheesy, even for me?)

Okay, maybe that’s not going to happen. But at least we can be more patient with each other as we walk (and drive) this earth together.

Reality 1, Childhood 0

My childhood has taken some blows this week. 

First of all, the greatest comedian of our time, the man who voiced and played so many of my favorite characters, has died. I don’t have to tell you who I am talking about, and I am not going to make this post about him. The reason? I wouldn’t be able to do him justice, and I’ve seen too many people try. He was an amazing man, and no one will be able to truly follow (or capture) his footsteps.

As for the rest of this week and my childhood, it hasn’t looked this bad since I was told the Tooth Fairy was not real. (It’s okay. I know, I was traumatized too. We can talk after this.) 

I was recently very fortunate to be able to visit a place that I had wanted to go to since I was able to express that I needed a vacation. The place was Chincoteague Island, which is famous for its wild ponies.

As you can probably guess, I was like most young girls growing up. But instead of dreaming of a knight in shining armor to come and scoop me up, I was hoping to push him out of the saddle and take his horse instead. I loved horses, ponies, unicorns, pegasi, even horseflies. I wanted a Mustang (car) and a Denver Broncos jersey (football team) because their names briefly referenced horses. Chincoteague Island was the final frontier for my equine obsession.

Chincoteague is an amazing place, and I highly suggest that you go there. But for me ( and my mother voiced the same relief) I am so glad I didn’t go as a child.

For one, there were stuffed animal ponies in every single store. And, if I am remembering myself correctly as the bratty child I was, I would have pleaded with my mother to have every fluffy one of them in my grubby hands. Secondly, to see the ponies, you have to travel by kayak or pontoon boat to their island. My young, impressionable stomach might not have been able to arrive without losing my lunch. And, by the time we arrived to the island, I may have made my parents deaf by screaming, “WHERE ARE THE PONIES?” And finally, on this trip, you may really want to see the ponies, but they may not want to see you. When we got to the island, they stood in a pack (a beautiful, wonderful pack), refusing to close the distance between us and them. We got more than a glimpse of them but not much more than that. 

I loved my trip, and I would happily go again. But never as a 12-year-old. (Thankfully, that ship, or pontoon boat, has sailed.)

I began to realize, even though we all want to hang onto our childhood for dear life, there are some things we must experience as adults. With this new perspective, I came home, took the beanie babies hanging from my door, and hung up a truly magnificent horseshoe I purchased from a shop in Chincoteague. Certainly, it was tough for me to look into their bead-y eyes and deny them one more playtime, and I was saddened by the fact that, at some point, they had become completely covered by dust. But I realized, it wasn’t fair to keep them there anymore.

I’m sure we would all love to stay children forever. Scraped knees, stuffed animals, and sleeping whenever we wanted. But it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair to our parents (who have to take care of us), but it also isn’t fair to us. To the adults we would eventually grow up to be.

I’m a big proponent of keeping yourself young and maybe being a bit immature at times, but I am also a big fan of being the person you are meant to be. So, go on. Chase your childhood dreams but remember to keep something heavy enough to ground you. Say, a horseshoe, with plenty of luck.  

Please contact me directly for my support group hotline: “The Tooth Fairy Is Real In My Heart and In My Dentist’s Dreams.”