When I Grow Up, I Don’t Want to Be Like Taylor Swift

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I’ve always been a little bit weird. Not the cute, quirky, endearing weird, but the kind of weird that makes people eye you warily as they slowly back away.

I used to give rocks to people as presents when I was a little kid.

Plain, gravel rocks.

Not polished, pretty ones.

Just gray rocks.

I thought it was cool. I had no idea it was weird until someone said, “Why would I want this rock? It’s not even pretty,” and then threw it. I watched it sail through the air and bounce off into the grass and I realized that giving rocks to people was, in fact, weird. I stopped doing so.

As I grew older, I learned to possess and maintain a sense of self-confidence that allowed me to ignore what other people thought of me. It’s worked pretty well; I graduated with my BA in English with a concentration in professional writing in April. I recently got accepted to University of Michigan for grad school. I’m working hard, paying my bills, and saving for the future. Usually, I’m too busy pursuing my goals to worry about the fact that society believes I should be out clubbing with my girlfriends and trying to find a boyfriend and returning home wasted to my own apartment. I actually forget that the way I choose to live my life isn’t normal. I talk about my Saturday night spent reading a book or watching cartoons with my little sister. And people stare at me and I’m just like:

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(Except minus the glass of wine. I don’t drink. *insert horrified look here*)

Sometimes, though, someone comes along and shatters my view of my life.

“What do you mean you don’t want to come to the bar with me tonight?”

“We’ll find you a boyfriend. Don’t worry.”

“Still living with the ‘rents, huh?”

“Doesn’t it bother you that you _________?” (Fill in the blank with any of the aspects of my life that go against society’s expectations….so, pretty much all of them.)

And I feel the need to defend myself and my choices.

Wild Side

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….which usually has the opposite effect that I wanted it to. It’s a mess.

So it leads to me thinking, which leads to me writing, which occasionally leads to me blogging about it.

When I picked up my little brother and sister from skating with their friends the other day, “Let it Go” from Frozen was playing when I walked in. I knew my sister would be happy about that and would most likely sing it all the way home. As we got in the car, however, my sister said to me, “They played that Taylor Swift song.”

“Which one?” I asked.

“‘Trouble.’ Does she only sing about her ex-boyfriends?”

“Basically,” I answered, glad that she chooses to listen to artists like Beckah Shae rather than Tswift.

“I was cracking up the whole time,” my little brother interjected from the back seat. “She sounds like a hurt goat when she sings, ‘OHHHHH!'”

“It’s dumb,” my sister said. “She should write stuff that can influence the girls who listen to her all day.”

“She should,” I agreed. “A friend of mine rewrote one of her songs once when I said that same thing.”

“Can we hear it?”

So I handed over my phone and they pulled up the YouTube video right then and there.

When I turned 22, everyone sang lyrics from that Taylor Swift song at me. Catchy tune aside, I couldn’t relate to any of it. My little brother so kindly pointed out to me, “I don’t think you’ve ever dressed up like a hipster and made fun of your exes.”

When I complained about Taylor Swift’s childish view of life at the time, my wonderful friend (who recently started a blog on here; follow her on Monsters of Mine) promised me that she would rewrite the song for me as a birthday present. I present: “22: A Song Taylor Swift Would Write if She Had Normal Priorities.”

By the way: the rock story I told you about? My uncle passed away recently. I was at my aunt’s house last week when I heard my Grandma question, “What’s this?” and picked up a (particularly) big, gray rock from the bookcase.

My aunt gave a teary smile and said, “I found that in his closet. Katie must have given it to him; it was in a little box marked ‘My Katie rock, 1995.’ He kept it all these 20 years because it was a present from his niece.”

Yeah.

Take that, person who made me feel like an idiot when I was five years old.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of society’s lies. It’s tempting to change ourselves so that we’re socially acceptable. It’s hard to remember that the way we are is enough.

But we are.

Besides, I don’t know about you, (haha, see what I did there?) but I like the above version of Tswift’s song much better.

Keep living your life the way you are, guys, even if (and maybe even especially if!) it goes against society’s norms. #WOGO: We Only Get One. (It’s my version of YOLO.)

Modern Day Idolatry

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Whenever someone says idolatry, I picture little golden statues that got the Israelites into so much trouble in the Old Testament and congratulate myself for being able to say I’ve never done that. Poor, dumb Israelites. We won’t even mention the early Christians in Rome who decided to give up Jesus for Diana and the like.

Something that’s easy to forget is that Christians are frequently guilty of idolatry on a daily basis. I’m not talking about the deed of actually bowing before some stone god.

I’m referring to whatever is placed above God in our lives. It can be Netflix, Facebook, sports, or even a person. I had to purge my life of a few idols recently. It wasn’t pretty. I didn’t go all Moses and smash a giant golden calf, but it was pretty close.

I love music. I’m a horrible singer, but that doesn’t stop me from belting out songs, anyway. My taste in music is probably the most varied of anyone you’ll ever meet. I’ll listen to and appreciate pretty much any music genre (although rap isn’t my favorite.)

I had a lot of different types of music on my phone, and I listened to them frequently. Let me be clear in saying that I by no means had anything explicit on my iPhone, but I was listening to a lot of different artists, mostly secular.

It wasn’t until I was scrolling through my library one day that I realized just how much I had. My secular music heavily outweighed my Christian and worship songs. It slowly dawned on me that it was distracting me from Jesus. It was trying to pull me away from Him, and I discovered with some disappointment that it was being successful. I was stuck in a place where I could choose one or the other.

It was no contest. I deleted them all and listen to strictly Christian music now.

The point of this post is not to get you all to go wipe every artist other than Hillsong on your iPod, so don’t write me off as a crazy blogger yet!

I’m merely suggesting that we all take a hard look at our lives to see what we’ve placed on our pedestal above God, and then pull an Elijah and destroy it. (There’s a reason so many different people destroyed idols. It was a big problem!)

It continues to be so today. What may be an “idol” for some may not be for others; mine just happens to be music. It may not be the same for other people, but we all have something that distracts us. The world in general will do whatever it can to pull us away from Jesus, and it will do so with whatever means necessary.

It’s up to us to realize what those idols are and say “No” to them. Smash them completely and give up this trend of modern day idolatry. We need to choose this day whom we will serve.

Beloved: A Book Review

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Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved covers many different themes; she writes about revenge, racism, death/loss, self worth, relationships, and the importance of community. Her story tackles disturbing situations such as sexual assault, infanticide, slavery, and the mistreatment of human beings that borders on being torturous. She even touches on the supernatural with the aspect of the house being haunted by a ghost, which everyone believes to be the spirit of Sethe’s daughter. Perhaps the most significant theme Morrison touches on, however, is that of identity.

Many characters struggle in the story with the concept of their identity, taken away from because of the horrors of slavery. Baby Suggs, for instance, is confused when her former master is driving her to freedom. Her son has worked overtime on Saturdays, Sundays, and nights to be able to buy her freedom. Mr. Garner refers to her as Jenny Whitlow a few times, and she doesn’t understand why. He finally reveals that Jenny is her real name, not Baby Suggs, which she goes by because her husband was Suggs, and he called her baby. Mr. Garner tells her to go back to Jenny Whitlow when she is in the North because he tells her Baby Suggs is not a “real” name. It has become her identity and is what she had been called by her loved ones, however, and she continues to introduce herself as such even when she is a free woman in the North.

Stamp Paid, too, deals with identity. He renames himself after he has paid off all of his old debts because he feels as though his new name will more accurately reflect his character. He was originally born under the name of “Joshua,” but changes it because he wants a name that is solely his own. Unlike Baby Suggs, he does not have emotional ties to his name, but wishes to be completely freed from his past. His new name not only reveals what he believes to be his identity, but also helps him view himself as an entirely different person.

Paul D and his brothers represent the idea of identity, as well. Their situation deals more with the negative aspects of slavery; they are all named Paul, but are distinguished by the initial that follows: Paul D, Paul A, and Paul F. The fact that the three brothers all have the same name signifies how slavery swallows up an individual’s character to the point that the only difference between the three men is one letter. Readers learn more about Paul D and his character, but names are a significant part of one’s identity; Paul D and his brothers are denied that basic right.

Sethe is arguably the character in which the theme of identity can be seen the most strongly. When Beloved “returns,” Sethe’s identity becomes completely swallowed up in her, to the point that she has no distinctive character outside of her daughter. She is completely obsessed with Beloved, to the point that she is completely dumbfounded and disbelieving when Paul D tells her that she is her best thing, not her daughter. All of the brutalities she faces chip away at her until she is no longer Sethe; perhaps she does not even remember who Sethe is.

Toni Morrison tells a moving story and uses many different themes that broadly cover all of the atrocities that fall under slavery. Her writing shows how the dehumanization of humans leads to cruelty, rape, and the break up of families, and, in some situations, death. Many of the slaves also display a loss of individuality and defining characteristics, as well. Morrison rightly believes the loss of identity is just as much of a tragedy as these horrors, and her writing reflects that with many characters.

Dominican Republic Adventures

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I’m spoiled.

If you aren’t constantly smiling around the children, something’s wrong.

Let your hair down (literally) and you’ll instantly have three little girls braiding it.

There’s no such thing as giving too much love.

We’ve been blessed with more than we can comprehend, and we’re still not grateful. It’s sad.

People are incredibly kind and tolerant of your Spanish mistakes.

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They will always answer when you ask for the 117th time, “Como se dice….?”

However, if it has been seven attempts and you still cannot pronounce “bracelet,” correctly, the little girl on your lap will throw her hands up in exasperation.

The joy is incredible.

The love for Jesus is incredible.

The contentment is incredible.

You’ll pick up Spanish far faster than you ever thought possible, but you’ll also soon discover the language barrier you feared is broken down with hugs, smiles, and the love of Christ.

The Caribbean Sea is gorgeous.

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The poverty is heartbreaking.

There isn’t enough nail polish in the world to spread on little girl’s fingers and toes.

People here are unbelievably generous. You leave with gifts. They give whatever they have.

It’s one thing to read Jesus say, “Sell what you have and give to the poor”; it’s another thing entirely to experience firsthand why He said it.

A small loaf of bread is $3.

Your arms are full. Another child comes running, arms outstretched so you try to set the two down so the three can sit on your lap, and they instantly panic, afraid you’re setting them down for good. And your heart will break.

There’s basically no speed limit in the Dominican Republic.

Traffic lights and one way streets are basically suggestions.

You’ll never be loved by another human being as much as you are loved by DR orphans.

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Gas is nearly $7 American a gallon.

The friendly bus driver who speaks little English will still have his fun by pointing near your foot and saying, “Ay! Tarantula!” and then laugh his head off when you jump up in a panic.

I need to pray more.

Don’t try to fix everything (American mindset.) Love them.

You can’t comprehend how huge a problem sex trafficking is until you see with your own two eyes.

The deep faith young orphan girls possess will put your own to shame.

Don’t take antibiotics for granted. You’ll realize how spoiled we are with American medicine when you suddenly spike a fever and are delirious. Thankfully, you have a healing God and amazing team who will cover you in prayer.

Also, don’t take electricity for granted. And clean water…Basically, everything we DO take for granted.

Americans are rude! (First observation back in the States).
You’ll still think in Spanish for the first few hours after you’ve landed in the States.

They need so much more support than we give (emotionally, financially, physically, AND spiritually.)

You won’t leave unchanged.

The faces of all of those babies will never leave you.

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