Thursday, September 24, 2015

I Went to Zumba and Didn't Die

Last night I did something daring, something ludicrous, something no college student has ever done before.
I got nine hours of sleep.
I slept through four alarms and probably would've slept more, except my roommate called the Outlet Repair Guy and he woke me up at the unholy hour of 10:00 A.M. Note to self: Not everyone who knocks on the door is my roommate. In fact, if they're knocking on the door instead of using their key, they're probably not my roommate. Wear real people clothes when answering door next time.
You know how people make bad decisions on three hours of sleep? Well, apparently the same is true for nine hours of sleep. I had all this energy and didn't know what to do with it, so after class, I marched over to the campus gym and bought a $50 aerobics wristband.
Now, a little bit about the history of exercise, which is directly related to the history of me hating exercise. Nobody had any idea it was good for your body until this scientist named Jerry Morris did a study in 1949. Nineteen. Forty. Nine. And he didn't clue in the general public until four years later. That means the idea that exercise is good for your body is younger than sliced bread, Hollywood, and Hillary Clinton.
One of these things is not like the other.

But then the eighties invented work out tapes and leg warmers and now you're supposed to exercise or you're an awful person. But I'm a rebel. A noncomformist! I'll show you, exercise culture. I refuse to move. Did my dad have a heart attack at the ripe old age of thirty five? Yeah. Should I exercise more to ward that off? Yeah, probably. But my grandma had skin cancer and you don't see me putting on sun screen. It's the sun. Giver of all life. If it manages to kill me I'll just take that as proof of natural selection.
I suddenly realized why I'm passionate about teenage life. I'm going to die young.
Or maybe not, because I actually used the wristband and went to Zumba Step Cardio or whatever it's called. Lots of bouncing and arm flapping while Meghan Trainor booms in the background.
It's not like I've always been a couch slug. I took gymnastics and dance and swimming and tennis and the like. Off and on. About a year ago, during one of my off stretches, I was sitting around on the couch when my mom came back from CrossFit. She told me her instructor was being outrageously demanding, so she just told him "No, I think I'll just do five burpees instead." And he listened.
I was confused. How could she just tell him no? Wasn't CrossFit dude the boss? Then I remembered my mom is an adult.
As a kid, I always equated fitness instructors with other authority figures. Like teachers. But for my mom, they were like dentists or waiters or salespeople. They take your time and money, so you can make demands.
I'm not sure what creates the difference. Is it just age? Money? When you pay someone yourself, you feel like they're indebted to you. But when your parents pay someone on your behalf, you feel like they're being given stewardship. Or maybe it's about living independently. Telling my roommates "Bye! I'm walking to the gym!" is so much more satisfying than hearing your mom say, "I signed you up for ballet, ungrateful eight year old. Get in the car."
Or maybe it's just a state of mind and I could've had this attitude all along but didn't know it.
Either way, I went to zumba tonight and didn't die. But now I'm committed to at least nine more classes before I can earn out my wristband, save $2 more than I would've paying for each class individually, and laugh in the face of the exercise industry.
Displaying IMG_2528.JPG
Because, you know, that was my plan all along.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Under the Wire

The longer I'm eighteen, the more I'm convinced it's no different than seventeen. 
My roommate, Eden, is seventeen years old. She'll stay seventeen for most of the school year. She moved from New Zealand to America a few years ago and the terms didn't quite match up, so she skipped a grade. Two other girls in our hall are seventeen but I don't know their birthday situations yet. If any of these three girls want to meet with our RA, they're required to have someone else present. They can't be alone with her because they're below the age of consent.
Our RA is nineteen. The age most of us will be by the end of the year. I turn nineteen in November, so in a few short months, Eden will be sharing a bedroom with a nineteen year old. But spend five minutes alone with a nineteen year old in a permission of power? Heaven forbid. 
This summer I watched over my neighbors' house and dog while they were out of town. Spending night after night in a big, empty house with only a collie for company can get lonely, so I invited friends and cousins. The first night I had a twenty year old friend sleep over. When I got back the following morning, my mom told me she'd been anxious because my friend was older than me and we were sharing a bed.
I took this same friend on a family boating vacation the previous month. We shared a bed then. But oh, there were adults aboard, and that makes a world of difference.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Most young women between the ages of eighteen and twenty aren't rapists. In fact, a lot of them are attracted to men. So they are not out to prey on just-below-the-wire teenage girls.
I'm not denying the girl-on-girl rape happens, and yes, I know that girls are statistically more vulnerable to sexual assault than women. But the psychology and vulnerability of an eighteen year old is no different than a seventeen year old. The only difference between the two is lifestyle. College freshmen (often but not always) live on their own. High school seniors don't. But even though the American school system would normally have Eden in high school, she's living the same life as me. As I mentioned in my last post, plenty of girls from my graduating class are still living with their parents, essentially stuck in the same lifestyle they had in high school.
An eighteen year old can be jailed for prostitution where a seventeen year old would be treated as a human trafficking victim. Rape of minors carries longer sentences. Child pornography is illegal and immoral while adult porn is completely acceptable to most society. And really, what's the difference? I wish we lived in a society that was more concerned with protecting people on both sides of the wire than putting up caution tape around secure, independent teenage girls. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Dependence Day

I am pleased to announce that I have survived my first week of college. In my spare moments between scouring basements with moving walls for my next class and trying to find the fourth floor library's checkout desk, I've been thinking about whether I should continue my blog.
Will I be busy with college life?
Am I in a different phase of life than the people we normally identify as teenagers?
But am I still a teenager?
Numerically, yes. And I still care. So I'll keep blogging until I leave for an eighteen month missionary stint at the end of the school year or until I run out of things to say. I think I know which one will come first.
I like to think of myself as independent. I wake myself up. I get myself to class. I keep myself fed. Most importantly, I'm living on my own. When mail comes to me, there is absolutely zero chance it will be addressed to "the parents of Erica Smith". I don't have a curfew. I didn't have an official one living with my parents, but there are no more 11:55 "When are you coming home?" texts.
Whenever I hear footsteps in the hall around midnight, I feel like someone's coming by for a light's out check. But no. It's just some girl getting back from a date. 
But am I really independent? Is anyone?
I have a friend from my hometown who's commuting to class every day. When I found this out, I felt bad for her because she wasn't living the same life of independence as I was. Then I realized I'm not independent either. At least, not in the technical sense. 
Let's look at some definitions of dependence.

1. The state of relying on or needing someone or something for aid, support, or the like.
reliance; confidence; trust:
Her complete reliability earned her our dependence.
an object of reliance or trust.
the state of being conditional or contingent on something, as through natural or logical sequence:
the dependence of an effect upon a cause.
the state of being psychologically or physiologically dependent on drug after a prolonged period of use.
subordination or subjection:
the dependence of Martinique upon France.

Let's focus on the first two and the final definitions, shall we? Three is dependent on number two and I don't really care about drugs and logical sequences right now. 

The most obvious kind of reliance is financial. No modern teenager can pay their own way to college. Not without some source of financial aid. Universities don't come cheap. My hometown friend is living with her parents and her parents are paying for it. I'm living in a dorm room and my parents are paying for it. So in that sense I'm just as reliant as she is.

I spoke more boldly and openly to my family in the last month of summer. I knew I wouldn't be living with them much longer, so I simply didn't need to tiptoe around their feelings the way I did for the first eighteen years of my life. Still, I wasn't stupid enough to burn bridges, because I'm still bound to them financially. Besides, when it comes down to it, I love my family. If trust is a form of dependence than the only way you can truly be independent is to cut off all contact with your family.

In this way I'm finally free. I've mentioned before that my parents turned off our home's router every night and didn't give my brothers and I the wifi password to our own house. When I get on my phone each night, my eyes still go to the wifi icon in the top left corner, waiting for it to disappear. But it never does. The router lives on my desk, it's little green flicker a comforting beacon in our dark dorm room. Even my roommate doesn't touch it. The password only changes if I feel like it. I have the privilege to take Internet access for granted, a force as invisible and necessary as air. And yes, Internet is necessary in the life of a college student, a topic that deserves its own post.

My life has changed drastically in the last week. But in the ways that matter it's still much the same. I'm stuck in limbo, not that I mind. I've always liked halfway points. New Year's, sunrise, and sunset in time, bridges, borders, and vestibules in space. I think I'll like college life for that alone. As for the actual lifestyle changes, well, I'll just have to wait and see. I've got a long year ahead of me.