Posted in Meredith Investigates

Meredith Investigates: Letter to Self #2, 2008

Adapted from the words of the great philosopher Fergie, in this post, I am so 2008, and the rest of you are so two-thousand-and-late.

There are very few opportunities to make that joke. Please forgive me.

So, here we are. In case you haven’t been following my blog posts, I’ll break it down for you: for the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing letters that I wrote to myself in junior high and high school, one for each year, with whoever wants to read. I’m also providing comments and photos for, you know, context.

This is Week Two, which means we’ve moved on to eighth grade in 2008. Hence the terrible joke. Again, I’m so sorry.

2008 Meredith isn’t so different from 2007 Meredith. She’s learned how to pluck her eyebrows, but not about the happy medium between one eyebrow and no eyebrows. She likes playing Pixie Hollow with a friend, and then calling that friend on the phone when they’re both online instead of using the chat function. She still isn’t allowed on Facebook.

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Please enjoy this truly embarrassing photo of me on “Renaissance Day” at school. And yes, I did make that crown myself. Special shout-out to Nick in the back who looks like he’s probably bent in half to fit in the frame of this picture.

In terms of handwriting, this letter isn’t nearly as obnoxious as the first one. It’s simple printing with a cheap black pen, pretty close to the way I print now. Looks like I was having trouble keeping my words straight, though; there are a lot of spots where I’ve crossed things out.

And so it begins.

Dear Meredith,

Promising so far.

Howdy.

WHY?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Why did I decide this was a decent way to start a letter? Did I think future me was stuck in a John Wayne movie? Will I be calling people “pilgrim” next?

Right now it is about 2 weeks ’til I turn 14. I’m pretty good right now, and I hope you are, too, Meredith of 2013!

Been there, done that, sweetie. You’re talking to Meredith of 2017 now. And you sound like a cowboy.

My favorite color is green.

True.

My favorite movie is the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

No longer true. I have no real explanation for this strange choice of favorite movie. Apparently, listing our favorite things was one of the suggestions for this assignment, and this was the best I could come up with. For the record, my favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz.

As for favorite books, well, you know how hard it is for me to choose.

Snap back to reality.

What do I hate?

Oh, joy. Another list.

Spiders, of course. Those creepy legs, the pincers filled with poison, yuck!

Oh, gross. Oh, I still hate spiders. Why did I think future me wanted to read this?!

What do I like? Pretty much everything!

Correction: as an adult, I can confirm that I like very little, but I can still tolerate pretty much everything(and everyone).

Right now, I want to be an architect,

Cue maniac laughter at my journalism degree.

but my goals have changed before, so who knows what it’ll be now? Then? The future!

And historians have now dated my first existential crisis to this exact moment.

As for other stuff, just bring it on!

This is probably where 2008 Meredith did some sort of fist-pump.

Love, Meredith!

Decent send-off.

PS: Eighth grade is pretty cool so far.

And then I ruined it.

Conclusion: Eighth grade Meredith does not know what she’s doing. 2007 Meredith was naive, sure, but she’s got nothing on 2008 Meredith. There’s such a weird paradox in middle school and high school where you want to be different, you want to be real, but you’re stuck trying to fit everyone else’s definition of what’s cool.

I don’t think I ever really got the balance, but this is around the time where I really started to see that in the flesh. It hit me again right after I started college, and it took me a couple of years to get over. It’s okay to want to be liked; it’s another thing to try to switch up your personality to make people like you.

Plus, let me set one thing straight for anyone reading: I was a child. Sometimes, it felt strange to try to relate to other people my age because they were in such a hurry to grow up. And I wasn’t. We’ll see that more as the letters progress, but I felt more than comfortable in my childhood ways.

And that’s okay. Like the letter says, I was thirteen. And in a lot of ways, I haven’t changed that much. I still like the same things then that I like now, like Star Wars and fairies and Power Rangers and Lord of the Rings. And there’s a lot of people like me, who like those things, and don’t feel ashamed of it anymore, because we found each other, too.

So hold on, 2008 Meredith. You won’t be a cowboy-speaking freak too much longer. You’ll find your place eventually.

Just keep on being really inexplicably weird.

 

 

 

Posted in Meredith Investigates

Meredith Investigates: Letters to Self #1, 2007

To call this an “investigation” feels like a misnomer, especially when it’s all about me.

My last series was about something on my college campus, which had its own set of difficulties. Believe it or not, but most people don’t consider it too important to talk to a student about ghost sightings. A lot of people didn’t take me seriously.

That’s okay; I don’t take myself seriously, either.

That being said, I decided this time that I would make things a little more personal. As I’ve been cleaning and moving back into my parents’ house this past week, I rediscovered my letters to self that I wrote back in middle school and high school.

Let me back up a few years. Starting in seventh grade, Mrs. Williams, my English teacher(shout out to Mrs. Williams!), would start off the year with the same assignment: write yourself a letter that you would not see again until the day you graduated from high school.

This means that I wrote myself six letters in total, each one distinct in style, tone, and handwriting. And totally embarrassing content.

Which begs the question: why do I want to share them on the Internet?

It’s been ten years since I wrote the first of these letters, and I’m in another phase of transition. I thought it could be helpful for me, and for others, to see where I’ve come from, and look at how far I’ve gone.

That being said, here’s how it’s going to work: for the next six weeks, I’ll release a letter word-for-word, no edits or rewrites. I will include comments on how I’ve changed, or even on how I haven’t. I’ll also analyze my handwriting, because let me tell you, it’s changed a lot.

Think of it as a conversation between me and my former selves that you get to eavesdrop on. Haven’t you always wanted that?

So let’s get started.

The first letter, as I’ve said, comes from 2007. Let me tell you a little about 2007 Meredith. She doesn’t pluck her eyebrows. She reads a lot of Star Wars books. She draws on the bottom of her shoes in class. She really likes tie-dye.

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FINGER GUNS

Her handwriting is interesting. She dots her Is with circles; every letter is strangely round. She’s been forced to write in cursive for 3+ years, so now she only prints. People who know me well know that now, I only like to write in cursive.

Here’s how it starts:

Wow. This is really weird. Okay, here we go!

Not too cringey yet.

I’m You, Meredith, in 7th grade. I’m almost thirteen, in 8 days.

Fun fact: my birthday is September 14, so I list my soon-to-be-age in almost every letter. I really like birthdays.

Well, you’ll be reading this in, what, 2013? Yikes! (okay, I really don’t sake Yikes really often.)

Well, and in 2017. Welcome to the age of the Internet, kiddo(and yes, I still say ‘yikes’ a lot).

I hope you’re happy now. I’m sitting next to Dan D., who keeps trying to shake the table.

Apologies to Dan D.; you really weren’t annoying most of the time.

You know how I feel.

But some things never change.

I’m planning to get baptized soon. I’m a little scared. I hope I do it!

I do.

Speaking of which,

The following statement refers to baptism in no way whatsoever.

I hope if you have a boyfriend, he’s not a total retard.* Or one of the guys in class. Eew!!

No boyfriend then, no boyfriend now. Please don’t remind me, thirteen-year-old Meredith. It’ll be okay, you’ll become a feminist soon enough. It’s like a name-brand purse; you really don’t need one to be happy.

*also, I DEFINITELY do not use this sort of language to describe anyone anymore. This was the only thing I briefly considered cutting out of this letter, because as an adult, I find it EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE, and if I could time-travel, I would give preteen Meredith a stern talking-to, believe me.

Don’t lose your individuality. Keep being special.

Am I millennial, or am I a millennial?

I want to be a lawyer. I think.

Laughs eternally into the distance.

Gotta go! Love Ya! – Meredith Sweet

In conclusion: thirteen-year-old Meredith had a good head on her shoulders, but a lot to learn. Next week, we’ll take a closer look at 2008 Meredith, who is infinitely more cringeworthy.

Posted in Television and Film

13 Reasons Why It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

And now, in an astounding feat of bravery, I will attempt to touch this topic with a ten-foot pole.

If you’ve hip to the jive within the past few weeks, then you remember when Netflix released the first season of 13 Reasons Why, and you also remember the controversies that follow.

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If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the gist: the television series is based on the premise of what happens when a teenage girl commits suicide and then leaves cassette tapes detailing the reasons why to the people she says caused her death. The cruz of the controversy lies within the question of whether the show glorifies suicide or sets up this scenario as a revenge fantasy for high schoolers.

Let me clear: I’m not here to change anybody’s minds about anything(though, to be clear, I will almost always agree more with the freedom of speech over censorship, and this show is no exception). Also, I watched the show with full knowledge of the characters and the plot; I read the book it was based on, by Jay Asher, when I was still in high school.

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What I do want to talk about is why it’s important to speak up if you or someone you love is struggling with bullying, harassment, or mental health issues. One of the things that I think the show did accomplish well was show how many people would have been willing to help the main character, Hannah Baker, if she had only told them what was going on.

I won’t sugarcoat things for you: issues like rape, drug abuse, and self-harm are incredibly relevant to today’s teens. And no, I’m not just talking about “normal kids” or “public school kids;” I’m talking about all of them. Over the years, I’ve met people from all walks of life who have struggled through their teen years, including myself. It doesn’t matter where you come from, or whether or not you think these issues “relate” to you. They do, or they will, and you need to be prepared to talk about them.

So, here are my 13 Reasons Why it’s okay not to be okay.

1. Your Feelings Matter

I know it feels like a joke now to say that someone’s feeling are “valid,” but that doesn’t make it any less true. Here’s one of my favorite quotes, from a super surprising source: comedian Louis C.K.

Whatever you’re dealing with, whether it’s personal, or even caused by other people, you can recognize your feelings for what they are. You don’t have to hide them, or brush them off. In fact, that usually makes things worse.

2. You Don’t Have to Tough It Out

They tell us that nobody likes a complainer. But letting people know what’s going on in your life, especially if it’s difficult enough to threaten your happiness, shouldn’t be called complaining. Admitting that you need help is nothing to be ashamed of.

3. You Can Take a Moment

If something or someone is stressing you out, you can step away from the situation. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to reflect on you and your emotional state. Don’t make it a habit, but also don’t construct a prison of your own making.

4. It’s Not Your Fault

Even if everything you’re feeling is completely internal, no external forces involved, you still shouldn’t blame yourself. It might be what we call a “heart problem,” or it could be something you need medication for. The point is, you don’t need to feel like a bad person for not being completely in control.

5. You are Not Weak

This isn’t an issue of strength, either. You are not weaker or lesser for the way you’ve been feeling. You’re human, and there should be no loss of pride or value concerning that fact.

6. There’s Nothing “Wrong” With You

This isn’t something to “fix.” You are not broken. Again, you are human. This is a season of your life, and in all of its difficulty, you are still you. Sometimes, you need help, but that’s not a reflection on you or your character.

7. No One Can Tell You How to Feel

Even me. This post isn’t supposed to be a diatribe; it’s meant as a comfort, to say that whoever you are, if you’re struggling, I believe you. One of the most helpful things I’ve learned since working with kids, especially at-risk kids, is that if they tell you anything that is remotely suspect of trauma or abuse, your immediate response should be: “I believe you.” I’m not going to negate your feelings. I’m here to listen, and if you need, help.

8. That Doesn’t Make This Okay

Don’t let someone demean your feelings by saying this is just a “growing experience.” What you’re going through sucks. Actually, it more than sucks, but at the risk of sounding too vulgar, I’m going to leave it at that.

9. You are Not Your Emotions

You are not a “sad” person, a “troubled” person, or a “difficult” person for what you’d dealing with. As I’ve said before, you’re still you; emotions do not change anything. You are you feeling sad, feeling troubled, having difficulties.

10. You are Not Alone

I hate to say it, but I’ve been there, too. Most people have. For me, it was anxiety, and some days, it still is, though I’ve now graduated past the bit where I’m afraid to leave my dorm room/apartment(not the best time for me). We all have struggles. We all have burdens. We’re here to help, not to judge.

11. You Have a Voice

Speak up. You don’t have to suffer in silence. People are here, and they’re willing to listen, as long as you’re willing to talk. They say the first step to feeling better is admitting you have a problem; if you can talk about it, you’re already halfway there.

12. There’s Always Hope

As Annie says in a roundabout way, tomorrow’s only a day away.

Things will get better. How you feel now does not dictate how you will feel in the future. You can’t change your emotions, but you can change your attitude.

13. Take It One Step at a Time

Don’t take any drastic measures. You don’t have to change your life in a day. If you want something in your life to change, whether it’s you or the way you’ve been treated, it’s okay to take it slow. Going to fast can make things feel even less in your control, and that’s not a good feeling. The goal is to make you feel at peace with yourself, not like it’s up to you to “fix” or “be fixed.”

So I hope that if you’re struggling, you talk to someone about it. It doesn’t have to be. You might not even now me. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from watching and reading things like 13 Reasons Why, it’s that everyone has something they’re working through, but that doesn’t mean we have to do it alone.

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Posted in Modern Mythos, Pop Culture

A Persephone-Cation of Spring

And the grand tradition of opening puns continues.

Over the past week, I have been marveling at the miraculous transformation that takes place in Michigan in the springtime. Trees that were bare one day may be budding by the next. Animals emerge from their hidden winter homes, of all kinds: I have seen birds, squirrels, swans, skunks, raccoons, muskrats, even turtles and toads.

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The world is still beautiful on rainy days.

Everyone I meet makes jokes about the weather.

“Seems nice today – but wait twenty minutes!”

or

“Is this Michigan, or Tennessee?”

You know what I mean.

Which made me think about the ways we’ve personified spring in our cultures. Some places suffer from nearly constant rain(April showers bring Mayflowers, and all that). Other places may already feel like summer. And yet, around the world, even in different hemispheres, we experience the same cycles of birth and rebirth, of winter’s death and spring’s new life.

This picture of death meeting life reminds me, obviously, of the myth of Hades and Persephone. For those of you unfamiliar with Greek and Roman myths, let me break it down for you: one day, Hades, the god of the Underworld(not death, though that’s a common misconception), was taking a little day-trip up to the mortal realm. While there, he sees Persephone, a beautiful demigoddess, daughter of the goddess Demeter. Hades pulled a standard creeper-move and kidnapped Persephone(though I’m pretty sure there were no windowless vans involved), and dragged her down to his palace in the Underworld.

Demeter, of course, notices that her daughter is missing, and goes all Mama Berry on Hades(she’s the goddess of agriculture; get it?) She demands that Persephone come home immediately, young lady! Everything looks like it will go back to normal, except for one small mistake.

Persephone ate some seeds.

To be fair, pomegranate seeds are delicious(I have a roommate who will attest to this). But would Persephone have eaten them if she knew they would sentence her to a splitting her time between a control-freak mother and a kidnap-krazy husband?

I wonder.

In any case, due to Persephone’s habitual snacking, Demeter and Hades reach a compromise. Persephone will spend half of the year in the Underworld with her new husband, and the other half on earth. This is why fall and winter always look so sad: Demeter misses her daughter. Then, in the springtime, they reunite as the best mother-daughter team ever and make the world beautiful again.

This story has stuck with me for several reasons. First of all, I’ve always found Persephone lack of self-control #relatable. Secondly, I’ve often considered Demeter to be more manipulative and controlling then the myths give her credit for. But also, it’s this idea of compromise, that we must wait through the winter in order to reach the spring. There’s a life lesson in there that can be hard to come by, let alone accept.

Whenever I picture spring, there are two things that come to mind. Firstly, “For the Beauty of the Earth;” I’m a sucker for a classic hymn. But I also think of this sequence from Fantasia 2000 that my family had on VHS as a kid, featuring Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.”

The complete metamorphosis of the landscape gets me every time.

And it brings me back to my own life. At the point I am writing this, I graduate from college in nine days. My life will undergo a radical transformation, and it’s one that I am eager to start. There is comfort in knowing that things are born, and reborn, new and renewed, in cycles. Where I am today is not where I will be tomorrow, and that’s an exciting prospect.

Now is not the winter of my discontent; now is the anticipation of spring!