Why hello, internet! Long time no see! Did you miss me as much as I missed you? I hope so.
Well, I first must apologize for my absence & for leaving my site collecting dust for so long. Summer, while full of many wonderful high points, was completely long & weird. This weirdness has stretched into Fall & I have just started to accept it as the default setting for my life now. All the extra weird going on had to take up time & space somewhere (thanks for nothing, physics!) so unfortunately, the time I was able to devote to my beloved corner of them world wide internets had to suffer. To give you some context, here’s a brief pictorial summary of How Allison Spent her Summer/Early Fall, starting with the fun things:
I went to the beach with 3 of my sorority sisters (1 of whom I hadn’t seen in about 6 years).
I also (finally) went to a neurologist this summer after having migraines for what seems like my entire life to see if he could do something. I had an EEG & the doc put me on meds that not only fixed up my brain, but also had the added side effect of weight loss. Ka-Boom.
I did lots of fun things with my friends, like go flat footing & demand 80s nights from establishments where no 80s night had been previously planned.
I went to see Aziz Ansari, who may or may not be my soulmate (not sure yet), do stand up at Virginia Tech.
But, some heavier things have also gone down over the past few months. Like how in late spring/early summer, I let someone from way back in my past come into my present long enough to kick my heart in. It was gruesome. Apparently, it takes me a couple of goes to learn things sometimes.
And there were minor annoyances that seemed to pile up all summer long, like ending up in the ER 3 times in as many months or having some anonymous total douche stab a hole in one of my tires while I was staying with friends over a weekend.
But the single most devastating thing that happened this summer was getting the news on August 5th that my father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Everything else, good or bad, ceased to matter on that day. His happiness & health took precedence over everything else in my life in that instant. One of these days if I grow a big pair of steel ovaries, I will hopefully write about what this experience with him has been like. Right now though, it’d be too much like picking at a new scab. All I’d do is bleed everywhere.
With all of THAT said, the good news is that I will be back to posting regularly again! I have loads funny, awkward, heartfelt, nerdy, ranty, pop-culture-y goodness just itching to come live in your brains, so stay tuned kids! Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!
Hello! Been away for a while, but I have tons of things in the works that will be making their way to this little corner of the internet soon. First off, I want to share a letter I recently submitted to CNN as part of their Girl Rising initiative. Girl Rising is a documentary following 9 remarkable girls in 9 countries as they seek an education. CNN placed an open call for letters telling girls around the world about education. Mine focuses on a bit of a first world problem (bullying) but the general sentiment is transferrable. Enjoy! – A
Dear young ladies of the world,
School is rough. Doesn’t matter if it’s public or private, K-12 or college, getting your education is a difficult, arduous task. Many adults seem to forget this as the years grow between their school days & their daily lives, but as a woman who spent two-thirds of her life in some form of academic process, I know full well how hard it can be. I also know that sometimes the things that get in the way of your learning & make it so difficult have nothing to do with your academic ability & everything to do with forces outside of your control. In this letter I am going to focus on one of those forces that, I feel, can be the most damaging to you just being able to get your basic K-12 education: Bullying.
To give you some background about why I’m compelled to address this particular issue out of the many that you ladies face at school every day, it’s important to know some basic things about me. I am a mental health counselor who works with children & adolescents age 5-18 on an outpatient basis. Out of the young people I work with, I’d say 80-90% of them are seeing me for some issue that is related to bullying. I hear horror stories about the cruelty these kids experience on a daily basis, so I know how much of an educational issue this has become.
I also know how significant of an issue this can be because I was bullied growing up. From 5th – 9th grade, my academic life was mildly hellish thanks to the treatment I received from some of my peers (I qualify my experiences with mildly because I know that compared to what some of you girls go through, I got off easy). I could count on being teased at least twice a day by older kids on the school bus. During the most painfully shy & awkward period of my life, I got called ugly, stuck up, & stupid on a daily basis. On more than one occasion, I got off the bus with gum stuck in my hair that some acne riddled high school jerk-face from the back of the bus had thrown at me. Once I got to school, the popular kids in my grade called me a skank because I didn’t wear Tommy Hilfiger jeans & a nerd because I kept to myself, read a lot, & was in the school band. I got shoved into lockers by the alpha females at my school more times than I can count. And as the cherry on top, in 6th grade my locker was beside a girl who had bullied me since kindergarten, which meant I got threatened & called names a few times a day at a minimum. On a bad day, I got smacked in the head or kicked in the back a couple times as I was kneeling down to get my stuff. The combination of these things led to me crying, begging my parents to pull me out of school, & generally wishing I was dead every single day for the majority of my middle school years. And these are just the things I can remember, a lot of my memories from that time are fuzzy because I think my brain completely blocked them out.
I tell you all this because I know how utterly alone it feels to go to school every day dreading life & thinking everyone in the world hates you. I know that far too many of you young ladies have to deal with some monstrous mean girl at your school who spreads rumors about you, threatens to beat you up, actually DOES beat you up, calls you names, teases you about how you look, gives you grief about your sexuality, & generally goes out of their way to make your life as miserable as possible. For some of you, you not only have to deal with mean girls, but mean boys & older kids too (as I did). I know how having to deal with these awful people can make just getting up for school in the morning hard, so it obviously makes focusing & doing your best in class every day next to impossible. Even if you love to learn, if you dread going to school every day, the only thing you want is to never have to see the place again. Forget getting an education if it means dealing with this garbage every day, right?
No, not right. I’ll tell you why. Prepare yourselves, because I’m about to give you a message from THE FUTURE.
Things do not stay this horrible forever. Once you hit around 11th grade, people get too caught up in trying to figure out what they’re going to do with themselves after graduation to spare the energy constantly harassing someone requires. In the meantime, here is some truth from the future I can share with you about the people who are giving you hell right now: They’re weak & they’re wrong. When someone is a bully, they act that way because they don’t know how else to control people. They feel bad about themselves for one reason or another & they don’t know how to make themselves feel better, so they pick on people to pass their bad feelings on to someone else. Everything they say about you & do to you comes from the fact that they’re too weak right now to figure out why they don’t like themselves. Since everything they say comes from how they feel about themselves, that means their behavior has little to nothing to do with you. What they say about you isn’t true, because it’s all a reflection of their own self hatred. So don’t believe their lies; you are not stupid & you are not ugly. You’re you & you are a wonderful thing.
I tell you this in hopes that even one of you will read this & feel just better enough about things to go back to class in the fall with your head held a little higher. At the end of the day, you’re not going to school so these other little beasts can take their psychic negativity out on you & make you hate yourself. You’re going there to learn more things & the more things you learn, the more awesome you become. At the end of the day, it isn’t the prettiest girl or the most popular girl who wins, it’s the smartest girl because she’s the one who doesn’t peak in high school. She’s the one who gets to take everything she’s learned to college & have a fabulous time meeting people who like to learn as much as she does. She’s the one who treats everyone she meets with kindness because she knows just how mean people can be sometimes. She’s the one who goes on to get a good job & change the world for the better. I know that sounds hard to believe, but I promise you it’s true.
So at the end day girls, do you & just go learn! Be kind, be yourself, & be the best student you can be. Don’t let someone who won’t matter in 10 years take your education away from you or your potential for greatness away from the world. We need all of you. We’re going to need some smart ladies to take care of business around here when the rest of us get old. You are each a gift & you each have a role to play in the world. Never believe someone who tells you otherwise.
Without exception, everything about falling in love is a game. Because of this, I happen to be the world heavyweight champ of falling in love. This is how decades of gaming has paid me off.
In early affairs of the heart, where balancing the scales between playing readily available and hard to get, I own. Shamelessly. I am a level 90 mage with a legendary weapon and epic steed, a badass, gun toting heroine who really doesn’t need you any damn way, and a damsel in distress locked inside an 8 bit tower breathlessly awaiting rescue by plumber. I know when to fight and when to surrender, when to respond and when to ignore, and when to run towards and when to run away. Basically, I’m a dungeon master. The entire romantic landscape is under my complete control. Once a competitor is identified, any resistance he puts up is futile, though I always let him think otherwise.
After weeks of spirited gameplay, the time eventually arrives to put up or shut up. In any game, there has to be a winner after all. After fighting the good fight, I concede joyfully into delusions of grand monogamous bliss, complete with diamond rings and washing machines and consolidated debts. This is when my mastery runs out and I flounder humiliatingly like a total noob.
I used to view my lack of long term commitment skills as complete, woeful failure at passing for a grown up. Most people I grew up with have 3 kids by now. I, in stark contrast, have a cat who I am convinced is the reincarnation of Sid Vicious. This means I don’t even have a consistent, warm relationship with a small animal, let alone a small human. Most people I went to college with are at least engaged, if not well into their first marriages. I am neither. I’m not even close to the diamond and the big party and all that. Yes, for many years I believed that the fact that I’ve yet to unlock the “Happily Ever After” achievement was because I am, in some way, defective. I mean, what good is kicking ass in levels 1 – 9 of a game if you just go on to do a total face-plant against the big boss on level 10? A waste is all that is. A tragic, pathetic waste.
But, after the end of my most recent relationship, I got to thinking. The kind of thinking you do as you sit in the bathtub, taking inventory of yourself until your fingers are prunes. The realization I came to was that my lack of a long term partner has nothing to do with my capabilities for maintaining a relationship. My only mistake has been choosing to align myself with inadequate players.
If you look back across my dating history, a pattern emerges. I consistently choose men who don’t even have the initial skills down, let alone the emotional depth & integrity required for committed relationships. My older sister says this happens because I’m only attracted to geeks and artists. I dig standard nerds, as well as audiophiles, bookworms, painters, and career intellectuals. She believes that if I’d just give up and find myself a nice, simple country boy, I’d be blissfully settled in no time. Obviously, the nerdy, artsy type is no good for me.
I love my sister. I really do. And it’s because I love her that I’m able to say this:
That theory is garbage.
So, I have come up with a vastly superior one: My relationships fail because I seek out the players with malfunctioning equipment.
(Not THAT kind of malfunctioning equipment, pervyface. Gross.)
I cozy up with men who never knew their fathers (or know them and hate them). I date guys who can easily make friends while playing an MMORPG, but maintain anemic relationships in that vast, scary place we call the real world. I pick men who drink too much, can never be serious (or are serious all the time), and have faith in nothing. I choose to strike up relationships with men who are fundamentally incapable of being authentically in love. They can be in like, less than 3, luv, and lust, but LOVE is out of the question. They just cannot do it.
Essentially, I date shoddy AI, computer generated opponents who can only match my skills as far as they’ve been programmed to. Picking these bots and choosing to stick around letting them win game after game is my only fault in the matter. I am otherwise a 25k platinum plated catch.
This realization has not only helped me tolerate my solo player status, but learn to revel in it. The only reason I’m unmarried and unattached is because I’m refusing to settle for noobs & trolls. I refuse to settle for ANYTHING less than face melting awesomesauce. Ever again. When the quirky nerd/ artsy dude I’m supposed to be with finally comes along, he’s going to have to be impressive. It’ll take a hell of a lot to win me over. But, he can handle it. Better than handle it, he’ll excel at it.
Why you ask?
Because he’ll be good enough not only to keep up with me, but outplay me altogether.
Hello all! I wrote this for another blog but not sure when or if it will ever be posted, so I’m going to share it here as well. Prepare yourselves for a nostalgiaquake:
Women in your mid-20s to 30s: take a moment & think back to your youth. Go back to the days when your biggest stress in life was getting stuck on a particularly difficult level of Super Mario 3 & when Nickelodeon ruled your world. Name the TV character you thought was the coolest person on earth. The girl you would have killed to be best friends with. Who was that fully rad chick you admired more than anyone else on TV?
If you answered Clarissa, you’re wrong & you made my heart sad. The correct answer is Alex Mack.
The Secret Life of Alex Mack is possibly the most underrated series Nickelodeon produced in the 90s. Ask any mid-late 20 something to list their favorite SNICK lineup shows & you may not hear about Alex until they hit around the 5-7 range. But, for my money, Alex Mack was maybe the most meaningful live action show Nickelodeon ever made.
Now, I already hear the sounds of derision coming from all corners of the internet. “ALEX MACK?!? Have you forgotten about the gem that is The Adventures of Pete & Pete? The hell is wrong with you, lady?!?”
Calm down, yall. Take some cleansing breaths to avoid hyperventilation & allow me to explain.
As anyone woman will tell you, being an adolescent girl is hard. I’m not saying adolescence is a walk in the park for either gender, but age 11 to 17 is a particularly horrific time for ladies. One minute you’re climbing trees & rolling down hills without the first neurotic thought about your awesome, agile little girl body. Next thing you know, your body is leading a revolt against you, charging towards womanhood well before you’re ready for it. You’re the ugliest you’ve ever been and probably ever will be. You concoct crazy nonsense anxieties about how fat your knees are & what ugly toes you have & why can’t your fingers be just a little bit skinnier, is that so much to ask?
Let’s not even get into the things that go on with your lady waterworks. There are no words for how weird THAT experience is the first time it occurs.
Oh & your brain is all hormone addled making you simultaneously hate everything & love everything all at once. Not only are you ugly, you’re a full blown crazy person.
All these factors come together to make you feel completely stuck in a weird ass body that can’t make up it’s mind about who it wants to be from day to day. And you’re completely powerless to change it. Best thing you can do is pray that 18 comes quickly & that you make it there unscathed. In this God awful mess lies the genius of Alex Mack.
Alex was a teenage girl caught smack in the middle of the unpleasant phase of life that is puberty. First day of junior high, she’s minding her own business, walking home from school when she comes thisclose to being squished by a truck. In the process, she gets covered in the chemical goop the truck was hauling. Now, for your average teenage girl, nearly getting hit by a truck would just be another traumatic experience en route to adulthood. She’d go to therapy & move on. But for our girl, the accident is just the first of many potentially traumatic experiences.
You see, ALEX GETS SUPERPOWERS. Telekinesis! Electricity in her fingers! The ability to melt into liquid & ooze into hard to reach places! While she looks the same 90% of the time, the chemical exposure makes Alex a full blown mutant. Not only a mutant, but a mutant with woefully unpredictable abilities. If Alex got freaked out, her skin would start glowing. Her ability to control her powers went hand in hand with her ability to deal with her emotions. She was a little teenage Incredible Hulk-esque girl, minus the green skinned crazy strength & with the addition of bib overalls & cool hats. So now, in the midst of all the terrors biology is generally subjecting her to, the GC-161 officially made her a circus freak.
That freakiness is precisely what made Alex Mack so great. Did she hide away in her bedroom for the rest of her life, lamenting that she never got to go to the spring dance because she was a chemically mutated freak? Hell no! With the help of her sister & closest pals, she set out on a mission to get answers. She learned to use her powers to help her get information about the chemical she was exposed to & the company behind it. All the while dealing with the standard issue problems for girls her age, like boys & school & the bizarro stuff going on with her body. If that doesn’t make her a role model for tiny feminists everywhere, I don’t begin to know what would.
Alex Mack was meaningful because she stood for something much deeper than most TV shows directed at preteens during that time. Watching her go on adventures as a completely kickass teenage mutant chick somehow made my own adolescence more tolerable. I mean, I may have had braces & chubby knees, but at least I didn’t glow when I was nervous. I was nervous ALL THE TIME. That would have been a nightmare! Alex Mack ultimately taught me that no matter how awkward I may feel, I can always use the things that make me feel awkward to my advantage. My weirdness is my greatest asset because it’s what makes me unique & powerful. To an odd little girl in the midst of a puberty tsunami, that lesson meant the world.
My intention for this blog is to not always be so serious & focused on the numerous ailments of humanity. My intention is actually to be as funny as possible, although you wouldn’t know it by the last few posts. I started it to make people laugh. But lately, a lot of things have happened that have had me thinking about the world we’re living in, and none of the conclusions I come to are really very funny. I promise, loads of fun things are in the works. But for right now, I have other things on my chest & they’ve got to come off. I appreciate you following me along in my madness & giving even the most cursory glance at the things I have to say.
In the summer of 2006, I moved to Blacksburg, Virginia. In late August, I was driving home from my first day of graduate school at Radford University when my older sister called to tell me that we had an escaped convict on the loose. Go home, lock the door, don’t talk to strangers…she told me all that good stuff your older sister is supposed to tell you when she’s afraid. The next morning, that convict shot & killed a police officer on Virginia Tech’s campus before ultimately being caught. It was a very sad day for the community, but also something that at the time I just accepted as a reality. Being a police officer is a dangerous job that, sadly, costs many brave & honorable people their lives. It’s horrible & a tragedy, but it happens. So goes life outside the West Virginia hills, I supposed. After a few weeks, community had it’s period of mourning & moved on. I didn’t think much of it beyond that.
I didn’t think much of it because I assumed that was the last bad thing that I’d be seeing during my time in this lovely town. Sadly, I was very wrong.
8 months later, on the morning of April 16, 2007, I was sleeping on my sister’s couch after undergoing an invasive biopsy. I’d gone in for a routine exam the month before & my doctor saw some worrisome tissue changes. Those changes could be nothing at all, just my body being weird, or they could be signs of cancer. And if they were cancerous changes, they appeared to have been progressing for some time (translation: we probably didn’t catch it early & cancer has a head start on eating me alive). Needless to say, I was a wreck. A quivering, neurotic mess of a human being. I was doomed at 23. The long life of unbridled joy that up until that point I’d felt so entitled to just got cancelled by the big C & I was as pissed off at that as I had been in my whole life. After the biopsy, I took a handful of the prescription narcotics randomly hanging out in my sisters cabinets (because fuck you DEA, I AM DYING & you’re not the boss of me) & passed out until the early afternoon.
When I came to, Virginia Tech was on CNN. While I was out sleep-moping, 32 people had been gunned down by a man none of them knew. The deadliest mass shooting in American history happened 20 minutes from the house I’d been sleeping in all morning. The horror that came over me in that moment is something I’ve always failed to properly articulate. It was the most wounded feeling of vulnerability & terror I’ve ever experienced. I thank God it passed into numbness quickly.
I went to the candlelight vigil days later. I cried a lot. I heard the stories of the exceptional lives we lost that day for no reason at all & was nauseated by the waste. I also heard the man that murdered these people spew his special blend of crazy, bile, & hatefulness on the world from beyond the grave. I vowed to never say his name, because I refused to give him another second of airplay. I thanked God neither my sister or brother in law had been on campus that morning. And in the midst of all this weeping & wailing, I learned the most valuable lesson of my life thus far:
Life gives no guarantees.
I had no right to curl up in defeat that morning because I MIGHT have cancer. I also MIGHT get hit by a bus, or blown up in a terrorist attack, or shot up by a crazy person. Or I might live to be 102 & have lots of fun & babies & die a happy, beloved old lady in my sleep. Who the hell knows? No one promised me a long, painless journey through life just because I’m Allison Ball & I’m a special little snowflake. The adolescent narcissism that still had a grip on my brain made that junk up & convinced me it was the truth. The real truth is that I will be on this planet precisely as long as I am meant to be & then I will die, be it in a blaze or a whimper. And this same process will happen equally to every person I love & every person I hate. Life will get us all in the end. We have no right to expect anything different.
Morbid & revolting, yes? It gets better, I promise. Just stick with me.
The silver lining of realizing that I’m actually not an invincible, eternal super-goddess turned out to be the development of a very powerful type of fearlessness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dead inside. Things absolutely scare me. But, as soon as I got it through my thick head that life doesn’t owe me anything, my day to day happiness became entirely my choice & my responsibility. I could continue moping & withering away because of how angry I am at all the things that have happened to me and how afraid I am of all the things that could happen to me in the future. Or I could get up, put on some mascara, & carpe the living hell out of every diem I have left. I chose the latter & continue to choose it every morning when my feet hit the floor.
I learned to embrace life on its terms instead of having a temper tantrum when it doesn’t meet my expectations. Even though life hasn’t been a full time picnic over the past few years, I’m ok with it. Better than ok, I’m just happy as hell to still be here. I’m alive. I’m healthy. The cancer I nearly quit life over never came to be. I have a warm bed & food in the fridge. I’m surrounded by amazing friends & family who love me very much. What can I really complain about? Ultimately, the terror I felt when I thought my own life was being unfairly cut short compounded with the horror the April 16th shooting inflicted on my community taught me a very hard, painful lesson in gratitude. And that gratitude has given me a great deal of freedom.
I’m not sure why I’m putting this out on the internet. I’m not really even sure what my point is. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am hopeful that even with all the evils in the world, we as a people do not give in to fear & despair. We can’t let the actions of cowardly people convince us that all is lost & that all the light has been snuffed out of the world. Because it just isn’t true.
In Boston right now, there are many people who have been senselessly hurt by bombs some sinister being decided to put at the end of a marathon. BUT in the very same city, there are doctors, nurses, policemen, & firemen who have made taking care of those hurt people & keeping them safe their JOBS. They’re picking up the pieces in the aftermath of this mess & doing it entirely by choice. That’s not nothing. Far from nothing, that’s actually wonderful. We still have heroes. We still have good people who love complete strangers like family just because it’s the right thing to do. We can’t give up & give in to the blackness. On the contrary, we have to whatever we can to fight it.
After seeing Oz the Great & Powerful yesterday, my mind has been buzzing. I highly recommend that everyone see it & shell out the extra $5 for 3D (which is an endorsement I do not give lightly). I don’t want to drop any spoilers out of excitement, so I will leave my review at this: It’s an enchanting, visually stunning movie with a wonderful cast. Also, James Franco is the only man on the planet who can have a handlebar mustache & still be a stone cold fox. He’s THAT handsome…but I digress.
One of the realizations I have come to in my Oz-addled state of mind is the personal significance the ruby slippers have held for me throughout life. I have seemingly been fascinated by them since birth. They’re THAT much a part of my consciousness. On a surface level, the appeal is obvious; anyone who knows me knows that 2 of my favorite things in life are cute shoes & glitter. But, my love of the slippers runs much deeper than all that. The ruby slippers are so important to me because they symbolize the most unconditionally loving relationship I have had in life thus far (and maybe ever will).
Granny (my paternal grandmother & all time favorite person. ever.) introduced me to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I was very tiny & we watched it on a Saturday evening during a THUNDERSTORM (I know, perfect right?). Watching this movie with Granny is one of my earliest memories. It’s also one of my happiest & warmest. She sat in her recliner & I sat in her lap & we watched contentedly as the storm poured down on the tin roof above us.
I was completely enraptured by the movie. I loved Dorothy. I wanted a little basket with a Toto of my very own. I wished that I could wear a pretty dress & float around in a magic soap bubble like Glenda. The Cowardly Lion made me giggle. The Wicked Witch scared me, and the flying monkeys HORRIFIED me, but it was ok because Gran just snuggled me a little closer when they came on the screen. I loved everything about it. When the movie was over & Dorothy had finally made her way back home to Kansas, I distinctly remember telling Granny that I wanted ruby slippers one day. She told me “Allie, if you want them, I know you’ll have them. You’re going to get anything you put your little heart to.” She didn’t realize this, I’m sure, but that was one of the most important things anyone would ever say to me.
I knew my Granny loved me on a logical level because, duh, she’s my grandmother. But, that was the first moment in life I remember someone not only loving me, but having complete confidence in me. In that moment, she expressed total belief in my capabilities as a tiny human being. This was a constant in our relationship. When I got a good report card, Granny would be so proud that she usually got teary-eyed when I told her about it. She also supported any activity or interest I happened to stumble into. When I played basketball mediocrely, she was in the bleachers every Saturday afternoon. When I made blurry paintings with my crayola watercolors, she displayed them proudly, even when she couldn’t tell what exactly it was I’d tried to paint for her. When I briefly decided I wanted to be in a rock band as an adolescent, she encouraged me to practice my guitar while pretty much everyone else in my family told me to knock it off. Her belief in me & belief in whatever I tried to do was one of the first identifiable experiences with unconditional love I had.
Thursday (March 7) would have been my Granny’s 93rd birthday. She passed away 3 years ago, 7 days after her 90th birthday. My Gran was diagnosed with alzheimers in 1998. Watching a woman who meant the absolute world to me go from being a slightly absent minded, Rose Nyland-esque lady to a nursing home patient who no longer recognized me has been the greatest heartbreak of my life thus far. The ruby slippers are a physical manifestation of the magic this wonderful woman I lost brought into my life, of the magic that helped build me. They remind me of everything good & virtuous in the world. They remind me of the person I aspire to be; the kind of person who carries light in her pockets & shares it wherever she goes. The ruby slippers will always be a symbol of love because they were a gift given to me by the person whose love for me never failed.
Life's a joke. Might as well laugh.
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