On the trials and tribulations of eTime

As editor-in-chief, one of the less fun parts of my job is approving my editors’ hours worked every other week. It is less fun due to eTime. Recently, Knox decided to upgrade eTime. I met this announcement with exclamations, cheers, and general flailing, because eTime is an evil program that, among other things, only lets me approve hours in Internet Explorer half the time when I force IE to run an older version of Java, which I must reaffirm that I want to run every time I go to a new page. eTime had also previously changed Mary’s password without her consent and refused to work at all when I needed to approve hours, meaning that I had to use the Mysterious Business Office Computer who is apparently eTime’s best friend, because that’s the only explanation for why it always works with the blasted program.

So you can imagine my excitement when I was assured that the upgrade would alleviate most, if not all, of these problems. Au contraire, mes cheris. I opened up eTime in Chrome, excited to experience an ease of use never before witnessed in eTime’s general vicinity. Not only did eTime not work regardless of which version of Java I ran, but it also crashed my browser. Groaning, I cringed and opened up Internet Explorer. And surprise! eTime forced me to run an older version of Java that I had to reaffirm that I wanted to run every time I went to a new page. And now there’s an added twist: I must refresh each page at least twice in order to get the prompt to run the older version of Java in the first place. Fun! Not.

(Don’t even ask me how to make eTime work on a Mac. I have no idea.)

Dear Knox, I love you dearly, but please find a timecard system that is not stuck in 1996. Please. Please.

The Life of a New Editor

Let it be known: the TKS Publication Office is a terrifying place, full of words you will not understand and people who appear to be substantially smarter and more qualified than you. Let it also be known: that wears off very quickly. Well, most of it anyways.

I only began writing for TKS because Jackson White (the other co-Sports editor here) had seen a picture of me as one of the baseball recruits, and asked if I’d like to write for the sports section. I’d since de-committed to play baseball at Knox, and as a blabbermouth, I was all too eager to talk about one of my favorite topics in the world.

When I first entered the pub office for a writer’s meeting on that fateful Monday night, I knew no one aside from Jackson, and I only knew him vaguely. I’ve been known to recede into my shell when in situations like that, and true to form I basically huddled in a corner until Jackson arrived to give me my assignment. I immediately booked it out the door thereafter, too shy to even grab one of the free pizza slices.

Subsequently, Jackson told me I didn’t need to attend the writer’s meetings every week, as sports just kind of did their own thing. I was relieved to hear that; less human interaction! Thank God! I went about my own business for the rest of the term, only interacting with other writers or editors if the situation absolutely called for it. Then in the middle of November, Jackson asked if I’d mind meeting with him and Anna before I left for the term. Uh Oh.

It was a very pleasant meeting, one in which they told me they enjoyed my writing and wished to promote me to being an editor- a paid position. Woah. I immediately accepted, all to eager to climb up the TKS ladder and earn the ensuing responsibilities (Okay, the cash played into my decision a little bit)! I learned a bit about InDesign before I left for break, and all seemed to be okay. Then, as that January return date crept closer and closer, I began to worry more and more. I’m only a freshman! I’m not ready to edit! What’s sports? Who am I? What is this strange white light?

My panic attack may not have been as full-fledged as I have led you to believe, but that didn’t stop my stomach from hurting the day I walked into my first editor’s meeting. Again, I kept to myself and let the others do the talking. They said what they needed to and required hardly anything from me, which I was quite all right with. Subsequently, they announced that we would be having our first Wednesday night layout extravaganza, and I was invited! Worst party ever, but I was all RSVP’d, black tie and all.

Deep breaths, Gavin. Breathing is good. It’s essential to life, some would say. Walking, Gavin. That’s the next step. You have to get out of your room and go edit. Easier said than done, but somehow I managed. And you know what? The whole process turned out to be pretty awesome.

I wasn’t a part of the TKS editors community at first; how could I be? I was an outsider, as much as was physiologically possible: I was a freshman. I knew one person. I’d only been writing for TKS for a term. I was a sports writer (that’s a bubble within itself). But as I edited more and more, needed to ask people who weren’t Jackson questions more and more (Sorry, Charlie and Anna), talked genuinely to people more and more, I decided that not only were the editors not going to eat me, but that I could genuinely get along with all of them, and that I could see a future for myself in TKS.

Sorry to get somewhat sappy there. So to end this post, I want to raise a point. This is a direct quote from Garner’s American Usage (Oxford, 2009): “Whether to include the serial [Oxford] comma has sparked many arguments. But it’s easily answered in favor of inclusion because omitting the final comma may cause ambiguities, whereas including it never will.”

THE OXFORD COMMA IS OKAY. NEVER MIND AP. I WILL USE IToxford WHILE MAKING LISTS, PRETTIER SENTENCES, AND WHATEVER I FEEL LIKE.

Gavin: 1, Everyone Else: 0

 

An ode to myself, feat. a rant about everything and a mini-love letter to everyone

First, I want everyone to read Kate Harding’s I’m Kate Fucking Harding. Warning: cursing therein. But you probably already guessed that.

When I was a high school feminist (as opposed to the college feminist I am now), that post was basically the cornerstone of my existence. It was my validation that I wasn’t weird and that there wasn’t anything wrong with me for never looking into the mirror and thinking I was ugly even though women are socialized to bond over feeling this exact way and black people are not-so-secretly supposed to think there’s something not mass-appealing about the way we look but shhh shhh black is beautiful and everyone agrees; it’s not white supremacy leaking its way into the social aesthetic it’s just that people have preferences. That aren’t at all socially influenced. Of course. But that’s a tangent.

Even though I’m not a fan of Sady Doyle anymore (my, how the mighty fall) this piece still resonates with me on every level; I don’t even care that she’s part of its foundation. If you’ve hung out with me for an extended period of time you’ll realize fairly quickly that I’m pretty aggressive and obnoxious in my own awesomeness. It’s not really something that I try to suppress; I am one arrogant young woman. It has, according to my mother, always been this way.

When I was younger adults would say things like, “Gabrielle, you’re so pretty,” and I would always be like, “I know.” When my mother would tell me that was rude I’d say, with whatever five year old vocabulary I had at my disposal, “But people tell me I’m pretty all the time! How am I not supposed to know by now?” Though we finally settled on me saying “Thank you” after every compliment I would never agree to the pleasantries and faux-modesty; no one could ever get me to play compliments tag, that verbal pushing back of a present and swearing that you shouldn’t have, really.

Well, I love presents. And I love myself. A whole freaking lot. I like my laugh, I like my sneeze, I like my voice, I like the way I think about things and break them down, I like my personality, I like the way I like myself. Liking the way I look was, and is, as natural and factual to me as knowing that I have two eyes, ten fingers, one nose. And it should be.

So why do we always assume the opposite? Why do we tell girls it’s okay if they feel bad about themselves before they actually ever do? Granted sex object socialization begins fairly young, especially in this country, but this is about more than that. This is about the fact that magazines geared towards females are littered with commentary that perpetuate the myth that hating yourself (specifically the gendered parts of yourself) is a rite of passage; that everyone goes through the same journey of hating themselves and then somehow growing to love, or at least accept, who they are as they get older and that’s just life, that’s just the way it is, and maybe that is how the “normal” narrative goes but that doesn’t mean that’s how it has to go or how it would naturally go if we didn’t live in such a dumb culture.

Perhaps what’s most offensive to me though is the idea that sharing this hatred, reveling in it, reminding ourselves of it, nurturing it, clinging to it, normalizing it, internalizing it, defending it — these are all markers of sisterhood; of true companionship. Because real friends listen to you trash yourself, you see. Real friends nod sympathetically and then share the ways in which they also hate themselves because this is normal and okay and just something we have to get through sometimes and, anyway, why lift one another up when you can all just lump at the bottom together?

That’s why Love Your Body is my favorite Knox event of the year. It’s why I participate every year. It’s why I encourage everyone, whatever sex or gender, to participate. Because I get to see people do it; I get to see them love their body. Maybe only for that night, maybe only while they’re looking at their picture, maybe only in the moment when I tell them how beautiful they look and they say “Thank you” or shake their head and didn’t have to say that or both or give that wide smile and say something like, “Yeah, I really like how this came out too!”

And that’s the best part for me. That’s my Kate Harding/Sady Doyle moment in real life: when people just let their guard down and find that their vulnerable side is far more interesting and resilient and good-feeling than the mask they filter their lives through; when they stop fighting the desire to scream about how how much they love themselves (because that’s, like, rude or something and somehow offensive to people who don’t because equality means everyone has to feel like crap together) and just accept the compliment and internalize it and believe it.

Who knows why I grew up to be one of the freaks with high self-esteem the entire way through. Maybe I was lucky; maybe I had exceptionally good parents; maybe I just never allowed myself the opportunity to finish the sentence “If I could change one thing about my body it would be…” Who knows why we can build roller coasters that take you through supermarkets but can’t  build a society where that kid isn’t the freak. But who cares at this point. I’ll settle for a single photo exhibition a year where everyone’s giddy and running around and making artful “mmm”s and saying how amazing we find each other and ourselves and we can pretend, for however long we’re there, that it’s been this way all along.

A thought on labor and courage

Every good story labors to unpack, unfold and hopefully resolve a central point of conflict or tension. Never a story has been told that rode exclusively on the silken waves of optimism and good humor. In this world, adversity and suffering is the board, and we are the players. As we roll the die and trudge along, we quickly realize that true victory, like true life, is only satisfying because it is achieved always within a whisper’s shot of possible defeat and death.

In the wild, we see this idea play itself out on a daily basis. Just as the antelope’s narrow escape from the jaws of the leopard inspire inward exhilaration, so too do we applaud a female cheetah who, after days of hunting, manages to snag a meal just in time to stave off hunger for her two pups.

Like the female leopard, Knox students, I assume, understand that indeterminate form and sensation of pain that grabs us inwardly when we consider what is at stake for that next exam, term paper or ensuing honors deadline. Part of us titillates at the thought of doing well, while another part recoils in fear at the prospect of failure; certainty, after all, is only an illusion egged on by the desire to feel secure.

Regardless of how we feel, we must accept uncertainty and follow our prey, our goal, relentlessly. Every botched attempt and injury will leave us weaker, but they only prime us to arrive at the breakthroughs more grateful than if we had sidestepped difficulty with a silver spoon in our mouth. A victory that did not almost turn into defeat is no victory at all; without odds, we would not be aware of our evens.

Misfortune may seem to grow in random patches, but the same can be said of the good in our lives. As Christ said of God in Matthew 5:45, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Let us be courageous enough to be thankful for both the curses and the gifts of life. This morning, I almost didn’t get up, but God reminded me that I have to keep moving forward and let the chips fall wherever they may. He’ll take care of the rest. The courage to will ourselves to keep going is so hard to come by, and yet we need more of it, not less.

I have yet to find a better exposition of courage than G.K. Chesterton’s in his classic, Orthordoxy. He sums up everything I wanted to say so classy-like.

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “he that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. … This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine” – (Orthodoxy 94)

May we dare to live lives of courage, not to take it easy on ourselves, but to plow through regardless of the weather.