Essay 4:  What do you think is the greatest threat to civility?

    The rapid decline of common courtesy and general politeness is a trend I have witnessed first hand as a food/retail service industry worker. Having a grown man scream into your face about not accepting expired coupons when you’re at the age of 17 really makes you take stock in civilization. I have been treated so poorly by so many various people, that nothing shocks me about humanity anymore.”Please” and “thank you” have gone out the door, which people used to hold open for others. Instead what we have is everyone for themselves. Being civil to each other is a form of respect and equality, which we are sadly losing. Instead of treating everyone with the same amount of respect everyone deserves, we only treat those who we feel are our equals with respect. It is now reserved for only a select few and everyone else is unworthy. So what has cause this decline in civility? Why have we thrown out those formalities which our culture has been based on for at least decades. At first I thought it was the fact that women now can show their ankles, as the Victorian period was the last time civility ruled. There are so many small reasons we have shunted civility to the side but I realized the true beginning wore a cardigan, indoor shoes and talked to puppets. For 33 years Mr Rogers ruled our daytime television and changed the course of history forever, not necessarily for the better. Him and many other children’s programs have been teaching us and our children from the 1950’s that they are special, that there is no one else like them and they are loved for who they are. While initially they meant well, this message has been distorted and transformed over time to become a message telling children that they are better than others. When you think you are better than others, there is no need to be polite because why would you stoop to treat inferiors as your equal. This all stems from Mr Rogers Neighbourhood and the shows that followed in his steps.

     First of all I have nothing against Mr Rogers. As a child I loved his show and his show had many great lessons and really creepy puppets. What I take issue with is telling children they are special. Children are already tiny little dictators filled to their tiny little brims with ego. I can say that because I have a diploma for child and youth work and I have over 10 years of experience in working with children so I have first hand knowledge. It’s the job of the parents, teachers and other caregivers to teach them how to be compassionate, and giving and polite. It is really hard to teach children how to put others before yourself. Lord knows my mother had a hard time bringing down this centre of the universe (You can’t tell but I’m pointing at myself). If I had been a child with no guidance and only had the man in the TV telling me I was special, I am sure I would be your evil overlord right now!

Thanks Mom.

Just in case you forgot what the centre of the universe looks like

   Thankfully for you I had supportive parents who took the lessons TV tried to teach and taught it better. Mr Rogers told me I was special but my parents taught me that if I worked hard and was good to other people and was polite I proved I was special. Being special isn’t a given, it’s an achievement. They were able to undo the damage of being told I was special. But there are generations of children who grew up believing they were special with no one to curb their egos or teach them better. The lesson they took was that being special meant that they were better than others. Those children grew up and told their children they were special.  And those children Made more children’s programs where the host tells children they are special no matter what they do. If a giant purple dinosaur tells you that you are special no matter what, and your parents tell you that you are special then there is no need to be polite because you’re special and don’t need to. Everyone has become so focused on raising children’s self-esteem that there is no place for civility because civility focuses on others rather than yourself. Being special stems from that fateful day 30 years ago where Mr Rogers smiled at the camera and told each child watching they are special.

  There is an elementary school I worked at and I saw firsthand the decline in civility. If a child did something bad to another child they didn’t have to apologize. They had to explain what they did was wrong but never once did they have to apologize to the other child.  I was told that it would damage their self-esteem. Having to lower yourself to apologize to someone was seen as detrimental their growth. What about the poor child who doesn’t receive the apology? Doesn’t that damage their self-esteem because they don’t deserve an apology? Apologizing to someone is the simplest part about being polite and civil. We are teaching our children that they aren’t held accountable for their actions, which clearly flies in the face of the criminal code of conduct. What is the point of saying please and thank you when you deserve to be given something because you know you’re special? We are creating generations of adults who will feel entitled to whatever they want because no one stopped them and said that you’re only special if you can prove it to others. Being a good respectful person who works hard and is polite to everyone is going to get you much further in life because those qualities, which was once the norm, are now so rare that it makes you special.

   Obviously there are so many factors that have caused us to get to this point were being polite is abnormal. Whether you blame parents or the internet, there is always first step towards the end and I feel that it is Mr Rogers Neighborhood.  By Mr Rogers telling children that they are special has inadvertently made them not special and have caused civility as we know it to disappear. So ask yourself this question. Are you really that special?

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Essay 3: Whether you are goaltending or cheering from the stands, celebrate the role of sports in your life.

If you have been reading my previous essays, two important pieces of information about me come to light. The first being that I am the patron saint of ridiculous accidents and the second is that I am a giant nerd. Combining these two important pieces of information would possibly lead you to a third fact ; I am not good at sports. Well done Sherlock, you’ve solved the mystery, but while I was extremely prone to injuring myself, I did actually enjoy playing sports. I loved the feeling of running with the wind in my hair (very similar to Pocahontas in the Disney movie) and smashing into the opponent (very unlike Pocahontas). The day I found out soccer was not a contact sport was a sad day in my childhood. I would say my position to sports was sitting on the sidelines holding ice to a body part and cheering loudly with my Dad.

The majority of my worst injuries were all caused by sports. I broke my thumb skiing, jammed my toe and sprained my wrist in the same soccer game and I ran into a wall playing ultimate frisbee.( That last one was pure stupidity because we were in a theatre classroom.) My very worst injury occurred during a basketball game. I was hit with an elbow to the nose that actually broke the inside of my nose. I never realized that was what happened until 15 years later when I needed an operation to have it fixed. My gym teacher said that for my safety and the insurance policy on the school it was better that I never take gym or play sports again. She wasn’t wrong, that’s for sure. I remember the look of panic on her face when she brought us into the fitness room and showed us the new exercise equipment.  She said under no circumstances was I to use the equipment without her supervision. Even at 14 I didn’t blame her; I’m a disaster.

When I look back on my sports’ related injuries, I can easily see a pattern. I always injured myself by rushing in and being overly committed. When I played a sport I played it with as much concentration as my ADHD brain could manage. Did that ensure me a whirlwind of accidents and pain? Yes, not only did I injure myself but there was a few unlucky bystanders as well. When I took gymnastics as a child I broke my instructor’s nose with my foot, because I didn’t wait for her to move out of the way of the uneven bars. I even accidentally smacked my friend over the head with a badminton racket during the middle of a friendly match. I had a slight drowning incident during swimming lessons when I was four. Being the impatient tot that I was (and still am), I didn’t wait for my dad to be ready to catch me at the bottom of the slide and I sank right to the bottom (he got me out and I’m alive so we’re all good) but I did nearly give him a heart attack. I was an excellent goalie because I used all my body parts to stop the ball, including my face.  I committed too fast and too hard to each sport that I literally threw myself in harm’s way. I bruised my tailbone in touch football because I slipped on the mud and skidded across the touchdown line (that’s what it’s called right?) when the pain subsided and I was able to catch my breath my first question was did we win? Yes, yes we did.

As I have gotten older I began to focus my attentions away from sports to less physically damaging but more mentally damaging hobbies, theatre. But I still remember that thrill of competing.  It didn’t matter what sport I was playing even it was just playing NHL on my playstation or playing road hockey with the older kids in the neighbourhood, until the streetlights came on. I have spent  so much time on being creative and sounding smart that I forgot the joys that sports have brought me over the years. After my last gym class in grade nine, I packed up that part of my life and joined the improv team, drama club and the choir without ever really looking back, until now. I even forgot how much I loved watching hockey with my dad (I am Canadian so that should have been a given). Last year my Dad got tickets for Christmas to see the Leafs play and being in that arena, sitting next to him remembering the times we would go see the local OHL team play reminded me that I am more than just a nerdy hipster girl. I can still like sports, along with my other interests.  Given the choice though,  I’d rather watch Star Wars again for the 1000th time than watch the Superbowl, but I’d still like to sit and watch a Leaf’s game with my Dad every once in a while. It’s way more fun to yell at the screen when your Dad is doing it first.

The Process of Essay 2

Surprisingly I finished this essay very early. I was so passionate about this essay I started working on it as soon as I had published my last essay. I posted essay 1 on the Wednesday finished my draft of essay 2 on the Friday and wrote about the process on Saturday. After that I sent it out to be reviewed and didn’t look at it again until the 13th. So I got a head start and finished the draft and STILL had to rush at the end to have it finished. It was also my roommates birthday so I had to make sure that I was done before people arrived for the party. When she suggested I wait till the next day I pretty much yelled “I DON’T WANT TO WEAR PANTS,” so the stakes are fairly high in actuality. I ended up skimping on the proper re-edits and posting it with little re-working. I am ashamed to admit that. This essay deserved more effort from me and it isn’t for marks or anything but it is a thing of pride. I’ve made a promise to try to curb my procrastination and succeeded in really nothing. I would say that this essay is rough and patchy at best. While I wrote down a lot of my feelings and opinions about being a nerd girl in a nerd boy world, I didn’t really celebrate my nerd side. I complained about the sexism and many of the issues but I missed the main point of the essay prompt and I see that now. Given some more time I may rework the essay and divide it up into three separate essays. The sexism in nerd culture is a topic very close to me and I would love to expand on that another time. This was a great topic to really shine in but like the rebel pilot who failed to blow up the Death Star before Luke Skywalker, I missed the mark. I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry.

Essay 2: Celebrate Your Nerdy Side

It’s hard not to spend every moment of my life celebrating my nerdy side. I can’t even really call it a “side”, I am two-thirds nerd, one-third sarcastic Disney princess. I couldn’t hide my nerdiness even if I had borrowed the one ring, or Harry’s invisibility cloak. I have struggled though to have myself heard as a proud nerd.

For a long time nerds were mocked and ridiculed for their interests.We’ve all seen enough teen TV shows, or movies or “Recess” to know that anyone who did not fit into the status quo were thrown into lockers. Now, all of a sudden, it is cool to be a nerd. Big Budget movies and  TV shows plan their announcements and reveals around Comic Con. Even a theme park has been built based on the Harry Potter series, which has become so popular that they had to expand it. Long ago, before Netflix, in order to watch “Doctor Who” you would have to track down imports or watch it on bizarre times of day on Space channel. Now you can buy a myriad of “Doctor Who” merchandise at Wal-Mart. I have so much merchandise from my various fan bases I could build a house and devote rooms to each of them. Learning a stranger is part of your fandom creates an instant bond of friendship. I made friends with a person who once stopped me on a bus to show me their Doctor Who cellphone case, when they saw my Doctor Who case.  To be a nerd with fandoms means that you have secret pockets of friends you have yet to meet.  No longer are nerds hiding in the dark, today being a nerd is cool and it’s only getting bigger and better for nerds of all fandoms. The main road block for our progression to true world domination is the rampant sexism in nerd culture.

When I was seventeen, I was told by a male friend that I could never be considered a nerd because I was a girl. I played video games, read comics, could hold my own in an argument about Star Wars and had collectible action figures, but I was still not a nerd. The massive list of things that I am a fan of could possibly rival most true blue nerds. But the very fact that I was a girl was enough in his mind, and many others, to be considered unworthy to claim the title. I remember walking into the local video game store and feeling assaulted with a wall of aggression from the male clerks behind the desk. I didn’t belong, and was reminded of this regularly. I didn’t even want to go into comic book stores alone. So instead of shrinking away from the hostility I embraced it. I bought a pink Nintendo DS because “I’m a girl”. I did everything I could to remind myself that being a girl didn’t mean I couldn’t be a nerd. I let my freak flag fly despite the looks and judgments.  Ten years later the world is a different place from that cold hostile environment. I have always been a proud nerd, never denying or hiding despite pressures telling me otherwise, but now that external pressure has diminished.  There is still a large gender bias in the community but the wave of Fangirls has been turning the tide of sexism so inherent in the community.

I’m not sure the moment it happened or where it came from but fangirls have taken over nerd culture in a refreshing and exciting way. I could probably say Supernatural has something to do with it but there are so many different fandoms it’s hard to pinpoint the breakout group. There will always be the select group of guys who will insist that fangirls are not true nerds and will grumble about how they are fake fans. However  considering “bronies” (male fans of the My Little Pony Series) is an increasingly popular group, are a thing, those naysayers really need to sort out their priorities. When a group of men can ban together and obsess over a tv show created for little girls and have a documentary made about them it shouldn’t be hard to understand that a woman can enjoy subjects that have been marketed to boys and men too.

While the term “fangirl” started as a negative term, it has been embraced by the female nerd populous. I don’t call myself a fangirl (while I do have moments of “fangirling”) because I don’t want to separate myself from the whole culture. I am a nerd through and through and that is enough of a label for me…well that and the label as a Gryffindor and Browncoat.

Despite issues that still linger in this culture, I still call myself a nerd. I sit here typing wearing my harry potter deathly hallows shirt, drinking tea from my superman mug and watching Doctor Who in the background. I have so many wonderful memories and have felt so many different emotions from being a part of these fandoms. The first time my dad took me to see Star Wars a New Hope re-released in theatres when I was 9, walking up to the entrance of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and tearing up when I saw Hogwarts in the distance and crying my heart out when the Ponds left the Doctor and he read Amy’s note. It puts colour in to my life and dreams and pins on my Pintrest boards.  I have cried, and laughed and practically gotten in to fist fights over being a nerd and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. While nerds are finally taking over the world, work needs to be done to unite unique groups. Instead of scorning the hordes of females lining up for the next Avengers movie, we should ban together to fight off the true evil, jocks.

How I was able to get my stuff together and write: the process for essay 1

First of all if you didn’t read the essay then this means nothing to you. Go back and read it…it’s okay I will wait.

Did you? Well I’m not your mother so whatever.

It did take me a good long time to get any traction on working on this essay. As an example of how bad things got started, directly after I came up with the challenge I decided to sit down and brainstorm ideas for my autobiography title, I immediately began to play the “get your own Benedict Cumberbatch name.” for a solid 15 minutes. My favourites were Penguindust Colorscotch, Butterchunk Muffincatch, and Feministdip Downunderclap. Not off to a great start, hilarious, but not great.

I was also taken over by a great fear that I no longer knew “how to essay”. Even though I had been writing essays since I was 11, most of my essays were focused less on format and more of trying to find loopholes to write what I wanted and not what the assignment was supposed to be (yeah that kind of kid). I spent so much time beating the system that what the system was itself was lost on me. After I was assured by my sister that it didn’t really matter, I was able to relax and get into planning my essay.

It’s strange how small details come back after leaving something for so long. I remember getting in to trouble for never handing in essay outlines, because I planned the whole essay out in my mind and then I would simply sit down and write it. I don’t plan I just do. Even now there was no way I was going to plan out my essay. I brainstormed titles and then I just wrote the damned thing. Here is a list of some of the possible names for my autobiography

“Flying with boxes and other bruises, scrapes and bumps,”

“A series of adorable accidents”

“Everything is Awkward”

“Why I hate wearing pants: the journey”

“Blanket fort fables and something sarcastic”

“Shenanigans: an apt nickname”

“Shannon stumbles and constantly falls down”

“From the top of the jungle gym to the bottom of the labor pool”

“I used to have money”

“You really can’t tell me what to do”

“The unwavering Shannon Fahy”

“Playing pretend and dress up never gets old: the stories of a costume shop girl “

“Stumbling through life but managing to land on my feet…mostly”

“Never ending shit in my nose”

“My Life before Netflix”

Votes were taken and I welcomed everyone’s opinions and ideas. But the only one that I felt was right was “I’m Okay, I’m Okay” and I’m still really happy with that choice. I dragged my feet trying to make a decision and by that point, I had a week left to write the essay. I would like to say that once I came up with the title I immediately started to write…but lets be real I didn’t start writing until the Saturday before the posting date. I did pretty much anything to not write this essay. I cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen. I started watching Gossip Girl, for some very unknown reason, and I re-read books I didn’t even particularly like.

After thinking about why I was struggling to write, I realized that I was still holding on to some ridiculous notion of what I was writing was like those school essays I dreaded to write. This was my choice, my idea. I was just being stupid. This was for fun and had no value in my life. Once I figured out I was being a dumbass I was able to very quickly bang out the essays and still have time to play a lengthy game of the Sims 3 (not even ashamed)

I did have my essay finished and ready for editing by Sunday with 3 days to spare, which is probably a record for me.

Now that it’s up and posted I feel so wonderful. I had so much fun writing it and I even realized how perfect that title was for my actual life. On Wednesday after I posted the essay and breathed a sigh of relief, I was so happy that I made the first step in this long ass journey. I immediately, checked the next essay prompt and surprisingly I started working on it right away.

I am just as shocked as you are.

I hope you liked the first essay and I can’t wait for you to read the next one! *spoilers* I talk about robots!

Essay 1 “If you were to write the story of your life until now, what would you title it and why?”

There is a phrase that has echoed throughout all of the 27 years of my life. It is a comfort to those who heard it from me and more importantly it has been a promise. It is the common thread that links my life from a series of adorable accidents to a full-fledged story.  This phrase while simple and ordinary, perfectly captures the scope of my life, both the physical, and mental. The title of my autobiography would be “I’m Okay, I’m Okay.”

The earliest memory I can recall is from the first day we moved into our new house. I was two months shy of my second birthday. My father was throwing empty boxes down the stairs from the second floor to the first as he unpacked them. Deciding to help him; I took a box and threw it down. The only issue was I did not let go. I remember flying down the stairs watching as that pile of cardboard got closer and closer. It was really a wonderful sensation until I hit the ground.  While it was the first time I fell down the stairs, it was certainly not the last. It became a common sound in the house to hear me running down the stairs, and suddenly tumbling to the bottom. Before my parents could get up to investigate they would hear my voice cry out, “I’m okay, I’m okay” in my normal upbeat manner.

It wasn’t just that I frequently fell down the stairs, I also tripped over my own feet, fell off swings, and once I smacked my face into a parking meter.  Through all those injuries I have always confirmed that I was okay. No matter how bad the injury, that statement always reassured my family after yet another tumble. I could always pick myself back up and assure anyone around that I was fine.  As I grew older that statement became internalized. When I broke my thumb skiing I remember assuring myself I was okay and continued skiing for another hour as the pain increased. Throughout all the ridiculous and embarrassing injuries I sustained over the last 27 years “I’m okay, I’m okay” was never far from my lips or my mind.

Over time injuries I sustained were no longer physical, and turned inwards. Bullying, heartbreak, rejection and disappointment followed me through the awkward adolescent years. What I believe helped me through, besides the love and support from my family, was my positive outlook on life. This positive outlook stemmed from all those years of telling others and myself that I was okay. I could get knocked down literally, and figuratively I would still be able to get up and keep moving forward. When I didn’t get into my first choice university I remember a teacher trying to comfort me as I held back tears, telling her the news. Along with her news I remember clearly confirming that while I was sad, I knew I was going to be okay. Just like my physical injuries have healed over time I always assured myself that I was okay. Somehow “I’m okay, I’m okay,” helped me become an internally stronger person, allowing negative experiences to not take over. As long as I could say “I’m okay” it meant that I would be able to handle what came my way.

Reflecting back on my life, I never realized how ingrained that statement has become; it is my daily mantra. No matter what has happened to me; physically, emotionally or mentally, I have always assured myself that I was okay, and whatever events have occurred it was nothing I was unable to handle. Recently I sprained my ankle and I sat on the bus going home, holding back tears, I kept repeating in my head “I’m okay, I’m okay” and I would be okay. Like a well-worn childhood blanket it has comforted me through out my entire life.   It’s the perfect title for my autobiography because it represents my positive (albeit stubborn) outlook on life, while framing the narrative of all my tiny mishaps. When my friends and family hear it they know everything is alright. From falling down stairs to dealing with heartbreak and disappointment; I am, and always will be, okay.

*I will be posting this weekend about the process (or lack thereof) to finish this essay.

The Challenge

I am a terrible procrastinator. If there is something I haven’t googled or videos I haven’t seen on YouTube I will find them and distract myself until it is the day before something is due. I will most likely put off dying because it seems like a lot of effort. Thank goodness I never had to do admission essays for university because they would have been done at the very last moment to the chagrin of my editors (my mother and sister). Now I am an “adult” (used loosely) and the procrastination is still strong in this one.

I also have the habit of not finishing what I start. I love to write but I almost always start a cool new idea, and then leave it for another idea. I am a serial idea cheater. I have counted and have exactly 12 stories started with 20 ideas written down. None have been completed.

So to force myself to finish my writing and not put it off till the last minute I have set myself up a challenge in hopes of breaking that streak. Yesterday Buzzfeed posted 23 of the most creative college essay prompts of 2014.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/krystieyandoli/most-creative-college-essay-prompts-from-2014-2015#.sh8ygpPDQ

And from this article I came up with a great idea. These are truly interesting essay questions I would have loved to have answered in school (still last minute mind you) and so I have come to propose a challenge to myself.

I vow to answer each essay prompt by the end of December 2015.

The Rules

Each essay will be between 650-1000 words (average length for admission essays)

I will post a new essay on the 14th and 28th of each month.

I can write about how I liked writing the essay and the process. I will also write down things I did instead of working on the article and when I finally started and finished.

I do not care about grammar and spelling. For me the content is more important. I will have someone look over my essays (probably still my mom and sister) but I really don’t care. Its write 23 essays not write 23 essays with perfect grammar and spelling.

If I do not post an article by the 14th or 28th I have to wear pants or jeans (sweat pants do not count) until that article is complete while still posting the next article. This may seem like a weird punishment but I only wear skirts or dresses and I would rather drink lava then wear pants (I hate them so very much!)

The stakes are high and wearing pants is in the balance. I have 12 months to complete 23 essays. I would say this sounds easy but I’m already on Pintrest looking at DIY dress patterns…I’m doomed.