Category Archives: Ezra B. Dotty

I am not a bad feminist. I am a horrible feminist

 

There are two essential components of my identity:

 

  1. I’ve come a long way and I’m proud of it and I cannot stop working. I could work a little harder, but we all fall down the wagon.
  2. I am horribly insecure. Although I am proud of my work and my new directions (and whatever my future directions may be) I need constant validation in some form or another. I hate it, but it is something that I cannot help.

 

In that insecurity comes doubt. I know my work is good when I put my heart and soul into it, but there is always that voice “How could it have been better?” Not abnormal behavior for most people. I eventually receive some kind of validation, be it praise from my professors, managers stealing my ideas, grades, or scholarships. Everything goes back to normal once these things fall into place. However, there is an insecurity that I have not been able to get over, because I rarely receive any validation of it. That would be the validation of being a woman, a desirable woman to be specific.

Before I go on, let me say that I am hyper aware of my faults, traits and personality. I know how I work and why I work. I know the deep emotional issues that go behind all my insecurities. I know their roots. I know why they exist. I know why some are bad and sometimes, plain silly. Yet, they still exist because I can feel them when I am alone at night. And they hurt a lot. At the end of the day, they are real and they hurt. It is why I throw every single emotion into my job, my projects and school. Somehow I hope, in vain, that I will be exorcised from these insecurities. I hope, in vain, that when I am trying to fall asleep, I’ll feel complete.

 

I know it won’t happen, but there is always a little hope. I am most insecure when it comes to men. It is probably the reason why I most likely end up giving the impression, to new men that I meet, that I am unstable, a little crazy and a little too drunk sometimes. But, like a Jesse Spano episode, I’m just so excited that I am scared. I hate that I know that my emotional void is fulfilled by the attention of men.

 

Spare me your strong woman speeches, because I’ve heard them and I look up to some of the strongest women in the world. I preach self-love and independence and all that awesome feminist stuff. I preach it, man. But I am ashamed to admit that I do not often practice it.

 

This year has been really amazing to me in terms of my academic and professional opportunities. Yet, my emotional stability has been derailed the most. I had several panic attacks during February and March. My schedule was hectic. I was going to school, had an internship and worked 30 hours. I literally broke down because I felt like I was letting everyone down. I was chronically late to work and I was a nervous wreck at work, often on the verge of a full on panic attack. It is why my boss circulates the notion to everyone that I am flaky and unreliable, when I thought she understood the circumstances. But that’s a whole other story. I met a younger dude whom I clearly misunderstood, but if I had screen capped our conversations, I think the world would agree with me that he gave me mixed signals. My honesty might have been too abrasive. I could have drunk less when we hung out. I should have just ended things when he said he was not interested in dating. But you know me, I need attention and validation, plus I am stubborn. I also did not want to be that douche bag that ended a friendship just because we didn’t end up banging. I thought that would have been a total bro move. Remember, I’m still some type of feminist. My license might soon get revoked, though.

 

Throughout all this, and during some depressions last year, there was one person that gave me constant attention and validation. That person was a man in a position of power over me. A very egocentric perverted old man. Despite knowing his nefarious reputation, I engaged in his pointless banter that seemed harmless to me. He was also looking for validation for his outdated views and thought I would give him that. I didn’t and because he knew how to detect insecurity and also needed attention, he set out to prove himself correct and ultimately awesome. I never validated his views. I always challenged them. But I thought, no harm. It was a male professor who would constantly tell me how impressed he was with me. As the insecure little short person I am, I liked hearing that. And who doesn’t like hearing that from their professors, or bosses, or men?

 

That’s where I am a horrible feminist because I knew what was going on, yet I still engaged. There was no harm, until he started to insert little comments here and there. “Great seeing you, especially with your new flattering haircut” Uh-oh. “You weren’t in class today. Missed you” Oh no. And finally, he was smart about it, “Come to my office before the final. I have a Susan Sontag story and some jokes to cheer you up” well….ok? That’s ok….right? Never meet with professors behind closed doors. That’s elementary. We all know that, but conveniently the door closed. It happened once before, but I opened it again since I “found” the doorstop. That time we were discussing a paper. Well, the Susan Sontag story was only about how she was flat chested. He knew I looked up to this woman as an intellectual and a writer. Why would I care about her breasts? The awkwardness only got much much worse. His jokes were graphic, dirty and in every possible way inappropriate. Hearing my professors say words like “cum” is like hearing my parents say it. It’s just not right. I did not laugh at any of his jokes. I could not look at him. He tried explaining one of the jokes by using him and me as an example.

 

I stalled. I really did not know how to react. Was this the vibe I was putting out there? My feminist self told me to just straight up say, “hey man, that’s fucking inappropriate.” My student side said, “shit. I have a final for him right after this” I did the only thing I could do. I excused myself out of there so awkwardly. “Ok, well I really wanted to study for the final before class. Yeah….heh…ok…bye” as I hung my head low, as if I had done something wrong.

But the truth is, I do feel like I did something wrong. I feel like ultimately it was I who sought it out. Did I need to go to his office? No. Did I need to respond to his emails? No. As much as I hate this type of thinking, I feel like I was asking for it. What a horrible feminist, right? It is the reason why I cannot bring myself to take any action. I feel embarrassed, as most of my professors have found out. Not because I said anything, but because of some inter faculty email he sent. I had to ask our chair to change one of my requirements, and I felt a panic attack coming on. I kept thinking that he must be thinking terrible things about me or I wondered if he knew and if he did was he judging me? And, I told myself to be short and quick because what if he thought I was one of those flirty dumbass girls? Now I think that every time I meet a new professor in my department, they must be thinking “oooh this is the girl”

 

And then a million things run through my head. A million things that don’t let me sleep. A million things that are probably insignificant and exaggerated. A million fucking things that I hate. And suddenly my insecurities are manifest in this incident that I did not control. Insecurities that make me feel guilty, sad, ugly and alone. And they are out there for everyone to see and judge. And I often do not have a problem laying myself bare, but I do it on my terms and words. This blog holds many of my insecurities but I feel safe here. I never have a problem being honest, and I often am, but this was different. I liked the attention and that is embarrassing, and it’s the source of my guilt. I can understand and analyze why I liked it, but I never crossed the line.

 

I’m a horrible feminist for not confronting this issue the way I’ve confronted sexist classmates or even standing up for myself and my co-workers against petty shit at work. I’m not trying to be a victim either. I just thought, and I hoped, that I would have been stronger with something like this. At the core, I am embarrassed not just because I feel stupid, but because I know I wouldn’t let this shit fly anywhere else. It’s challenged my own core ideals. I let some dumb weak man tap into my own dumb weak traits. That’s embarrassing. That’s stupid. That’s ugly. I don’t know how to correct this. I don’t know how to reconcile my feminism with my insecurities. I’m used to laying it all out there, but this was different.

Intellectual Militancy

I recently attended the annual conference for the National Council on Public History in Nashville. It was a lot of fun, and that might be a bit of a surprise since I get the feeling that many academics hate conferences. This was my first conference, ever. As the inaugural conference in my life, I feel bad for my future self at future conferences because I highly doubt they will be as special and fun as this one.

Nashville is an interesting city. It is apparently up and coming. Like my experience in Cape Town, I could see the visible signs of a city at the cusp of a cultural renaissance. Maybe I shouldn’t say cultural because that would insinuate that all the hipsters are bringing culture. As we all know, hipsters don’t bring culture, they appropriate it. I suppose the right word is revitalization. Downtown is nicknamed SoBro and NashVegas, which is very appropriate. I walked tons on the “strip” on my first day. It was a Monday, but it was still very lively. At almost every single bar there was live music. I walked around for a bit on Saturday afternoon and it was terrible. It truly lived up to its NashVegas nickname. There were tons of drunken young tourists everywhere. It’s okay to experience that for a quick minute, but it gets irritating. I stayed in East Nashville because I did my research, and it was thee place to stay. As much as I hate hipsters in LA, Claremont and LBC, I had to seek them out in Nashville. They offer cute cool shit. There were tons of cool bars, coffee shops and restaurants. I had ceviche at one of these cool places. I have to say it was mighty tasty. I am a certified Mexican; I know what I’m talking about here. More than that, East Nashville was pretty.

Nashville itself was really cool. I had preconceived notions that I am ashamed of, but I think most Californians are guilty of it, perhaps, Californians who haven’t ventured to that part of the country. I really had no cohesive idea of what cultural identity Nashville had. I didn’t expect it to be as cool as it was. I am still unsure what role Nashville has in its Southern identity. From the conference, I got the feeling I only experienced the superficial tourist side of it. Which is fine because there is absolutely no way to deconstruct or take in the underlying racial tensions, economic divides or the encroaching gentrification in six days. These issues exist and they will always exist in major cities.

What I did experience on a personal level was how white the conference was. This is how I feel: I like my rainbow sprinkled donuts. The conference was like one of those donuts but with just peanuts on it with a colored sprinkle here and there, that only got there by accident. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone or me. It is a fact that color fades away as people climb up that academia ladder. To experience it was a startling reminder of that. I’ve always had a complexity due to my short stature, brown skin and thick body. Tall, white, slender beautiful women and men easily intimidate me. I’m slowly decolonizing my feelings. And I purposely say decolonizing because this thought has been engrained on our brown and black minds. This colonial rooted mindset that we are less than. This is why race matters, because some of us still suffer from the mental bondage that Frederick Douglass was completely aware of. It might sound extreme, but this history exists. It’s political. It’s emotional, and it’s personal.

I sat on a panel about attaining public history jobs. I sat there thinking, “think of a question think of a question think of a question.” Not because I really wanted to find out how to get a job in Manhattan and become BFF’s with the panelists, who looked like a younger and hotter version of Sex and the City, but because I looked around and there weren’t many people of color. I was probably at the wrong panel. I don’t know who’s who at these things, so if the description was cool, I was there. I did end up making a comment and it was well received and I got a much-needed boost in my public historian ego. That was a positive thing. I just really wanted to see someone who looked like me leading a panel. I wanted someone like me to address the very real issues of how it feels to be a person of color at a university/institutional/historical setting. I wanted someone like me to speak about what I am getting myself into, and at the end say: ITS OKAY, WE GOT THIS. I obviously can’t say those things because I am not there and it will be years until I am there.

The final panel I attended was a student panel addressing the intersection of public history and activism as it related to the Ferguson events. It was an inspiring talk. Students talking to students. Activists talking to activists, or believers, at least. The most important concept I grasped is that we need to push the limits of conversation. Race fucking matters. It does. No question about it. It matters. When someone says: “I don’t see color. I don’t see race” I hear: “I am ignoring your history. I am ignoring your cultural identity because I don’t want to deal with the complexity of those things. I refuse to be aware of you and myself. “ Another important concept from that panel was the importance of organization. We cannot change the system if we are not organized. Organized doesn’t mean picking a leader and following him through. The 21st century model of movement and change is collaboration. That epiphany was inspiring.

Right after that panel, I met with a professor from Arizona State University who is also a board member for the council, and a Chicana. I rarely realize the gravity of the people I make connections with. I can be a little naïve about these things, but it’s worked out well so far. I tend to have great connections with people who are genuine and have a real passion for movement, change and collaboration. This professor was certainly one of those people. We instantly clicked. We clicked about all the issues I was thinking and feeling. Most importantly, there was an organic feeling to this conversation. We threw words around like, infiltration. We talked about organization and movement. We talked about being tired of talking. This was the cocktail table plan: Infiltrating the system, to change the system. Becoming more visible, more vocal, and more annoying (ha!) to get our brown points across. Ending the discourse and being proactive about the issues. Mobilizing and organizing a collective of willing and committed students, intellectuals and academics.

This was all inspiring. I left Nashville with a completely new vision and ambition. During my flight, as I was reading about the war of 1898 between Spain and the US for Cuba, I came across some of the early history of resistance movements in Cuba. I read words like, collective, movement, militant, and infiltration. That’s when it hit me, intellectual militancy. That is where I want to go. I don’t want to change the system with violence. I don’t want to assimilate when I’m in the system. I want to assault the system with my vision because I have a voice, and I know it is important. And I know there are many many more brown girls who feel the same.

In Paris, I cannot pronounce Croissant

I have not written extensively about my summer abroad. I honestly thought that my penchant for sentimentality and prose would instill some kind of rejuvenation of my creative spirit. It had the opposite effect as I experienced a case of writers block. Although I went to study abroad, my primary objective was simply life, to experience something completely new and exciting. And I did, for the most part. I left the country with a completely new experience of what physical love could be. I left with a new definition of sensuality. As I channeled Anais Nin, the role of eroticism is an abstract manifestation of poetry. In those subtle touches and natural embraces, I gave in to a usual part of myself that is always guarded. Like a bad basic cable movie, I learned a lesson that most women my age know very well. Some men do not call back. Most men do not have a clue who Anais Nin is.

I always refer back to sex, not just because I miss it, but because it is universal. Unlike animals, we possess sensuality and eroticism. It’s a physical poetry that we sometimes call love, but that I often confuse it with simply just fucking. That’s ok, too. I was in Paris for a week, the last week of my summer abroad. The city of love, lonely as fuck. I met Valeria and Emmanuel at the corner bar of some street in Montmartre, right before the steps that lead up to the Sacre Coeur. I had already been drinking. I was returning from an all day excursion from the Luxemburg Gardens, where I saw a very attractive young man reading Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” A perfectly Parisian ode. I went to the Louvre, because that is what we all must do. I spent three hours sweating my sickness out. I saw the Mona Lisa. It was tiny. It did not change my life. I was most impressed with the Delacroix paintings. These were my favorite. I suppose I am more of a Romantic than a traditionalist? I went to dinner by myself. Had drinks by myself. The waiter tried to impress me with his own tattoos. I believe you, you’re cool. I rode the metro by myself, intoxicated. Somehow I was not scared that I was a woman. It was a very short and quiet liberty that I experienced in Paris. I still felt those aching strings within myself, “will I be loved when I come back?” The short answer was a very brutal No.

But I met Valeria and Emmanuel that night, a West African couple fluent in French, English and Spanish. Valeria greeted me in French, but I just gave her a doe eyed look for five seconds and uttered in Spanish that I did not speak French. She spoke to me in Spanish, and I did not feel lonely anymore. We spoke of revolution, literature, America and love. Emmanuel was much more in love with Valeria than she was with him. This I could tell by the way she held her cigarette and smoked it through her smirk while she gazed at him in dominance. I probably fell in love with her, too. I fell in love with her for the same reasons that Emmanuel’s psyche fell in love. It was the unspoken poetic gaze of her sensuality. I wish I was as powerful as Valeria.

I made them laugh with my charm. Valeria said she was drawn to me. She said I had a very friendly look. I usually get told I have a very sad look to me. I suppose it was the Paris humidity. I don’t know. I told them the funny story about the French baker and me. He couldn’t understand my accent when I said I wanted a croissant. You know the French and their R’s. Valeria told me that Parisians tend to get crabby during peak tourist season, but not everyone is like that.

When I returned to the apartment I was staying at, I felt a particular kind of magic. Not just the travel kind, but also a certain romanticism instilled in my sensibilities by Hemingway, Miller and Nin. The moment that I was experiencing wasn’t quite reality, that in time, would slowly store itself away in nostalgic memories, only to be referenced when I need magic and escape from the mundane demands of routine. Traveling tricks you into thinking life is so much better outside your world. Anything and anywhere is so much better when you don’t have to show up for work, pay bills, or drive in traffic. If I transplanted my responsibilities to another country, I would be just as miserable.

Of course, the charm of Paris is its history. It’s in the buildings, on the cobblestones, in the churches and in the term Parisian itself. How fucking fancy. I wish I could transplant the magic of Paris, instead of reliving it in nostalgia. The magic of possibility, of adventure, infiniteness, space and love. Most of the times I am so wrapped up in my ego, in my pursuit of isolation, in my stubbornness to prove that I am not 23 anymore. I say that I have no time for magic, for the frivolous pursuit of companionship, but that’s just a lie because it’s downright silly. I am just scared. I do not posses the power of womanhood and sensuality that Valeria owns. Perhaps it exists in my words, but I’ve wasted them on men who see the world as a literal space, not a spiritual possibility of adventure and love. In my books, Paris encompassed all that. Valeria was the symbolic manifestation of Paris, a sensual woman with red lips smoking a cigarette. The seduction of Paris.

Snapshots of my 20’s: Twenty Seven

I did not write an end of year reflection post. I was just lazy. Twenty-seven and 2014 were truly a marker of growth for me. I still don’t have it all figured out, and I never will, but the personal progress and growth I made in 2014 was a real incredible experience.

Romance is never kind to me, but I am beginning to realize that some of it has to do with the places and men I hope to find it in. I had messy encounters with men who were really young. I was 27 and the oldest one, the one I ended up sleeping with, was 23. It doesn’t seem like a big age gap, but 23 is such an awful age to be at. I say this out of anecdotal evidence. A lot of my friends generally agree, 23 is awful. It’s a transitional age. I was really stupid at 23, and I think I’m a fairly smart lady. What was I expecting out of a 23-year-old male? Especially one who told me, “I don’t read books, I’d rather watch the movie.” I obviously don’t learn from John Waters greatest quote, “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have any books, don’t fuck ‘em” What I did learn from my messy encounters is that I can be in control of my satisfaction and sensuality. I learned to be vocal about what I want, what I don’t want and what I want to do or not to do. That was a very important lesson in my journey towards self-love and acceptance.

Of course, my biggest adventure in 2014 was South Africa and Paris. Traveling usually, hopefully, changes the way you perceive the world. I still felt very much sheltered from the realities of South Africa. I felt generally pampered. I went on a study abroad trip. I was fed breakfast everyday. I was shuttled everywhere. I had a bed everyday. I stayed at a nice hotel our last week. It wasn’t the typical travel experience, and all those things weren’t negative things either. In retrospect, I wish I had made connections with strangers. To a certain degree I did. I met a shit ton of women. Some were beyond frustrating; people I would never talk to again. Others, like my roommate Gloria, and another student, Hayley, are still people I talk to and love catching up with. I also met Kimberley, another student from our trip. I met her before our trip because we decided to go to Paris together. I met Dr. Jones, from my history department, and Dr. Campbell from the psychology department at my school. I met Ngiri, a Kenyan student who showed us around campus and encouraged me to go for my PhD. I met Arleen, whom we all became close to. She was our guide to every excursion we made in Cape Town. She was a beautiful, warm and lovely woman. She was the first person I met in Cape Town. She greeted me after I walked up to her, as she was holding a sign with my school’s name on it, “Come my sweet child.” To hear those words after a two-day flight, where I ended up crying uncontrollably on the first flight, was exactly what I needed. She was sort of a mother figure to us, certainly the perfect representative of Cape Town.

This network of women was a beautiful experience. Dr. Jones reinforced my passion in history. During my trip, I had a drunken breakdown after another history student from our program flat out told me, “Who the fuck cares what you think! History isn’t about passion. It’s about facts. It’s objective. It’s research” She was drunk. I was drunk. Not a good time to make such bold statements. I questioned myself. Am I in the right business here? Am I too sensitive? Am I too personal? Am I too dependent on passion, not enough on academic objectivity? Am I a moron?! To hear Dr. Jones say that passion was necessary to become a historian certainly put my mind at ease. What’s more, she wrote me a lovely email after our trip telling me she admired my spirit during the trip. That meant a lot to me.

The connections I made with all these strong women reinforced my feminist spirit. To be mentored by strong women, to work with strong women, and to be friends with strong women has become so instrumental to my growth. Since my trip, I’ve made other connections with professors. Dr. Lyon has had such an impact on me. I admire her teaching and guidance. She has opened so many new ways of thinking and learning, and her guidance is invaluable. She intimidates me sometimes, but that’s good because it keeps me from being lazy or fucking up. It only drives me to do positive and productive things. Of course, it cannot be understated, the connection I made with my former creative writing professor, Angela, has been amazing as well. It’s the reason why I write my silly thoughts on this blog. Although I don’t personally know any of the other bloggers and professors, I always admire their posts and feel privileged to be in such great company. I know they’re all English professors, so I’m always stressing out about my grammar.

Twenty-seven and turning 28 was easier than I expected. I’m actually looking forward to my 30’s, you know, dirty thirties. I despise that phrase, actually. It conjures up images of women who wear too short, too tight dresses and drink too much in Vegas. When I turn 30, you’ll find me embracing it with a subtle 30’s party; an only in private good healthy dirty 30. I’m looking forward to all the possible connections I’ll be making with more strong women. I’m looking forward to growing, learning and loving. It’s difficult to be positive, and I’m terrified of something or someone messing everything up. I have to expect failures, disappointments, and sadness. It’s part of life. I just hope that when those things happen, I can keep my head up. I hope I’ll be able to deal with them in a healthy manner, in a controlled manner. I am prone to ugly bouts of deep depression, but I’ve learned to accept the things I can’t control. I’ve learned to have faith in myself, in my passion. I’ve learned to give myself a day to cry in frustration, sadness or anger, only to promise myself that the next day I have to move on.

I hope 2015 brings professional growth. I plan to cultivate my positive female network. I vow not to let any man determine my worth. I promise to make out or have sex with someone who owns and reads good books. I plan to be more socially aware, to be more conscious about food, animals, injustices, and politics. I basically plan to TREAT MYSELF. I hope to get in touch with my creative side a little more. I feel like I’ve lost my “poetic license.” I mean, history is objective, right?! I can’t employ artistic license when writing history papers. But then again, to quote my Nelson Mandela shirt that I bought in Johannesburg: History, depends who wrote it.

Public and Private Identity

In the past months, I’ve been immersed in thought concerning identity. From my racial, ethnic identity to the way I exploit the sensual nature of my sexual identity. Everything in between, of course, fuses together to make me who I am. My brown skin, my short stature and the width of my thighs and waist invoke some to mistaken me for someone who does not speak English, and others to racially fetishize my body. When I speak, I am soft, unclear, and nervous. I do not yet posses a command or articulation of the ideas and words so grand and powerful that exist mostly at the flow of my pen. Or at the strokes of my keyboard.

Being a “public servant “, a library assistant, I deal with two and often opposing sides of the public. I deal with very white, old and conservative people. On the other side, I deal with everyone opposite of white, old and conservative. Sometimes I feel like white, old and conservative should be an ethnicity on its own. These are the people we fear pissing off. They have power in our communities. They have influence. Most of all, they have time to complain and they will complain.

This past weekend I attended one of our own programs that involved a Pearl Harbor survivor. I wanted to be directly involved because I am a public history student, and to be blunt, I have an ego about it. I am not a master of public history, but I can be bold and proclaim that I know my shit. I don’t know all my shit, but I know more shit than others. I learn everyday. I find flaws in my own thoughts and ideas. Other days I wake up and think, damn I’m brilliant. One thing I know, is that I will never know ALL the shit, ever, but I am ok with that. I am conscious that I cannot grow into a public historian if I do not implement some of the things I’ve learned. I wanted to have some degree of influence in this program. I did not, so I stood on the sidelines as half spectator, half critic.

On a side note: I’ve learned how to control my ego. Although, sometimes I can come off as snobby or conceited, I am not so in person. I love what I do and what I study and it’s an integral part of my identity, but the thing I love the most is learning from others. I love learning from my friends, my parents, my professors, my co-workers, strangers and radically different people from myself. I am open to learning about everyone and everything. I do not always agree with opposing views, but I like to learn why people think differently than me. I love people<<< take note future employers.

With that note, however, two elements of my identity clashed over the weekend that kind of overshadowed my openness to differences and radical opinions.

Our Pearl Harbor survivor brought up the controversial topic of the atomic bomb. He reflected on the fact that over the years, no one had really asked him about what he thought about the decision to drop the bomb. I was surprised and part of me hoped for a less than conservative answer. Immediately, the audience murmured with a resounding, and very patriotic, “yes,” to which our speaker echoed the same.

One of our volunteers asked the rhetorical question to our speaker. The audience became uncomfortable. She furthered elaborated on her question.

“From what I’ve read and from what I know, the Japanese were ready to surrender…”

Me, thinking, “What are you doing. What are you doing. What are you doing.” Not a question, but a proclamation of fear in my head.

“…was there a reason, then, to drop the bomb, if we knew they were going to surrender?

One of the audience members became livid. He could not find a comfortable way of sitting in his chair as he writhed in anger saying, “What is she talking about? No they weren’t. NO, they were not ready to surrender. No. No. They weren’t. NO. We didn’t know. NO”

Afterward, I overheard a group of elderly white people commenting on our volunteer. They were so offended at her question. “I wanted to ask that lady, would you ask the same to a Jew?”

I brought it up to our volunteer, who teaches history at a community college. She was very defensive when I told her she brought up a very sensitive topic. “They need to know the truth. I don’t care. We all need to hear both sides. Whatever, I teach my students both sides. I don’t care I that I made them mad”

Well, I cared. I did not say anything back to the volunteer because I was frustrated at her. I don’t know how to be articulate when I am frustrated. What I wanted to tell her, and what I thought was right, was that she should care because she’s not a community member asking a question. She was a library volunteer; therefore she was a representative of the library. The last thing I want, that we all want, is pissing off the old, white, conservative people that we serve. I get it. I’m a liberal brown girl working in a city that is mostly conservative. I’ve driven by the nearby streets, passing a blown up picture of Obama with a Hitler mustache. I get it. Yes, they do need to hear the truth, but our talk was not a symposium to debate the politics and ethics of dropping the bomb. It was a stage to reflect on public memory, a public memory that is quickly relegated to books, films and documentaries. It’s a living history stage. Yes, history is politics, ethics and horrors, but our stage was a specific memory and experience. An experience of a person we invited and by extension, she was part of as well.

And so, I grappled with this question. I was so angry about our representation and reputation (which is shaky in our community) that I did not really reflect on my own private liberal ideals of change, progress and freedom.

I asked my public history professor on advice as to how to approach this issue at work, and within myself. My public history professor has been highly influential in my growth, but she also scares the shit out of me. I am terrified of letting her down, which I suppose is a good thing. She has a firm and intimidating presence. I know she likes me and has faith in my work and me. She has these beautiful icy blue piercing eyes, that as I speak, I become more vulnerable and second-guess myself. I made it a habit to look into people’s eyes whenever I speak to them, with her, I often find myself looking away because I become nervous. But I love her. I love her in the way people come into your life at the right time. I value her advice on my professional aspirations. I want to be as fierce, articulate and confident as her one day. I want to carry that not only do I know my shit, but also I look like I know my shit attitude. What I value the most, is that she is a fierce woman helping out a not so confident soft-spoken girl. Is it slightly sexist of me to value the approval of my female professors a degree higher than male professors? I’ve had, and continue to have, male professors that are encouraging and influential, but when it comes to female professors, I value them just one little degree more. Their success, along with my mother’s, is what influences me. They made it, so can I.

Anyway, once I finished telling her my dilemma, she told me she had conflicting views on it. She understood where I was coming from. Yet, she said, it’s good to encourage that kind of dialogue. That population of old, white and conservative people need to be shown different and often conflicting sides to all stories. As liberals, we often get complacent about our opinions and we try not to risk pissing people off, but if we continue to do that, then how do we expect change to happen?

God dammit. Who am I?

She did tell me to become more confident in my abilities and to show my work that they need to incorporate me into these programs. Perhaps, volunteers need to be oriented in some ethical issues, and that if they think they cannot keep those questions quiet, then they should not participate as a volunteer, they should be part of the audience instead. She told me to let go of the exchange that the volunteer and I had. I should move forward with all this in mind.

I took her advice and without getting sensitive, I spoke to our program coordinator and now I am part of this project, a project that wasn’t a project before. I made it a project since I noticed a theme in our upcoming events, memory and survival. She loved my idea. I hate to think what reputation I could have started if I went into our coordinator’s office and just had focused on my feelings. I did bring up the incident with our volunteer and I offered some of the insights that blended both my own views and my professor’s views on the topic. I did it in a way where the coordinator and I had a lively and productive conversation about it.

It made me ponder, however, that I am in this odd place. Do I subdue my own views to appease the people of our community? Sometimes I feel like that is part of most jobs. A library setting is different. The philosophy of a library is rooted in democracy and freedom. It’s a space where, theoretically, everyone that walks into the door is one in the same. Not in a socialist way, but we are all there because we love reading, we love learning and we love the limits of our imaginations. And we love free wi-fi, too. It’s a space where we should be able to speak our minds without getting reprimanded. I am no longer confined to city politics, as our library’s management is private. Which is a whole other philosophical issue. I don’t represent the city. I represent my library. I am at a cross-roads because I haven’t figured out what my library represents, or what my co-workers want our library to represent. Do we want to be safe and build up the trust of the old, white, conservative people? Do we want to be radical and build a new reputation, a young and liberal appeal that might attract a diverse community? Or can we work towards a reputation where we are open, free, trusting and sensitive to all sectors of our community? The latter is the ideal, but so often hard to implement successfully.

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I get lonely too

It felt nice to lay beside you. We have not been this close in three years. It’s almost depressing how I remember what seems to be every minute of our last days together. I ended things three years ago almost to the date. I did not find out you cried about it to one of our closest friends until this year. It made me miss you, but in a sick way, it made me happy.

“This is probably going to sound weird, but, I want to be next to you” It is always offensive that you find it odd when you want to be with me. That is what you said and felt when I gave it up to you for the first time. I know things about you. Things that you once thought you would take to your grave alone. It is not weird to want to be next to someone you found that trusting. But I suppose that is just my opinion.

If I fell in love with someone else, would I still miss you?  Would I still want to lie next to you? Would I still want you to kiss me? Would I still want to hear your stories? Would I still want to pretend that I don’t understand your job, just so that I can keep you beside me longer?

We tried to condense three years of our lives to each other. I wanted to admit that I have not loved, liked, or met any person that has come remotely close to our connection. Doing so would have given you that much more power over me, again. I wanted to tell you how much you changed my life with your absence. Doing so would have reaffirmed the ambivalence I felt when I gave you my new address. I wanted to tell you that I’ve only slept with one other person, and he was at the same party as us. Doing so would have remind me of the stupid games we played to each other years ago. I was not trying to convince you or give you incentives to love me anymore. My loneliness just felt validated next to yours. But, for the first time, I felt like my own person laying next to you. Before, when I went along with you or when I laid besides you after we fucked, I never felt like a complete person. I was always half a person. You carried my heart, but not like e.e. cummings carries his hearts. I always longed for you to complete me. Last night, despite not being blessed by love, it was as if all my hurt and strength culminated in the space between us. Not even the caress of my thighs convinced me to place you on that old pedestal that you once owned inside my heart.

But I miss you and sometimes I want you. I don’t want you to complete me anymore, though. Sometimes I just want you to offer me some relief from my loneliness. You know me so well, after all. It is habit to miss you. I don’t want to walk beside you and hold your hand in the day. I don’t want you to tell me the hypothetical ways in which you might love me. I just want you to lie next to me at night. That is how you taught me how to love and that is what I miss and that is what I want from you, or someone like you. I desperately wanted to write to you tonight, “Come lay next to me. That is all” but I remembered how it felt to give you that kind of power, so I decided to write here instead.

My voice was softer last night. A girl like softness that invokes some mystery. A softness that was warm and that held your fragile ego when I rejected your kiss. I did want to kiss you, really bad, and I wanted to do much more than kiss you because I’ve missed the things that are particular of your love. In the past three years, I haven’t rejected a kiss from anyone because I kept hoping that I would find some semblance of you in them. And isn’t that always the hope of ex-lovers? To find someone like each other but a much more improved version? Something new, but not too unfamiliar. We often try to find the same characteristics of our old loves. I often find myself attracted to awkward, skinny and terrible jokesters that still make me laugh. All things that evolved from you.

I asked you if you if you regretted coming to my house. You said no, but maybe you said that because I sent you a dirty picture. I rejected your kiss, but I sent you my tits. I have to admit, I did it because I like being a tease and I like to see how far I can take things now that I am much more comfortable in my sexuality and sensuality. My pictures were tasteful, though. You can always count on me being classy even when I flash some nipples. My body now belongs in the perennial cloud, and it belongs to the despised characteristics of my generation. But, I took those pictures before you came back. These were rainy day pictures. A day where I thought to myself, “I want to feel fucking sexy tonight, for myself.” Three years ago, I thought sexy was only a feeling a man could give me. A feeling only you could justify.

In this essay, I hope to purge all my feelings of you. I want to gain my focus in this slight derailment into a nostalgia that you brought in with you. A nostalgia that reeked of marijuana and bad sex jokes. A nostalgia provoked by me. I asked if I could call you because I just wanted to talk to you about anything, and you did too. Anything but the past. It’s always difficult to read you, but I know there is a certain desperation in your eyes. I’m sure you’ve met wonderful girls, but you cannot be honest with them or yourself, because you do not know how to process your private anguish. I know this. I know you. I want you to lay next to me because I want to hold your confusion in mine. We can leave each other in the mornings and try to fall in love with other people, new but not too unfamiliar. I just want you to reserve some nights for me, with me or with yourself. I have new directions and new passions that make falling in love with anyone, or with you again, harder to fit in my plans. But I miss you, I just do not want you to know. If you had a song, it would be The Kinks Love Me till the Sun Shines.

Big Butts Are The New Black

I get it. Big asses are in. Big asses are fashion. Big asses are the new black. There’s a surge in butt implants. I get it. I am assaulted with images of big asses from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep. Well, I have to undress don’t I? Yes, I can finally claim something that I have as an enviable commodity. My waist isn’t as tiny as I wish it were, but I have that round thing that may get some men sprung. I didn’t ask for it. I was blessed by the ass Goddess. I’d like to think of her as a cross between Athena, fierce and wise, and Aphrodite, flirty and sexy.

But, let me the bearer of bad news. I am a feminist. I believe I am more than just my ass. I don’t really care for the motto, “If you got it, flaunt it.” I am more into my motto of, I have it and I am aware of it, thank you but I am fine if we don’t talk about the size of my ass. But I am talking about it now because I just saw Nicki Minaj’s video for her new song, Anaconda. The song itself is rather unimpressive except for the fifteen seconds that Minaj raps exceptionally well. Everything else is just a remix of Sir Mix-a-lot’s, Baby Got Back. There’s nothing innovative about it. The most disappointing part is how Minaj puts “skinny bitches” down. It took my cringe levels to uncharted decimals.

Is that all there is? Is that all there is to a big ass?

I remember when I was a teenage girl sitting outside my parents friends house, I sat there in the muggy summer sulking in my angst. And as I sat there, a man sat next to me and I got up quickly because he was drunk. And as I stood up, he slapped my ass. I will never forget the chuckle and the look on his smug face as I walked away feeling ashamed of what I was.

If that’s all there is, my friends, then lets break out the booze.

 

It took me years to accept my bodacious curves. Part of it had to do with pop culture’s obsession with ASS. All of a sudden, rap and hip hop became the new rock stars and with that, an assault of booty. Thick women with big thighs, big butts (but flat stomachs, something I cannot boast about) and big hips became popular. I didn’t look exactly like them but I had some of their features. The look started to get hyper sexualized. I started having sex and my partner at the time would grab my thighs and butt in a fun and sometimes, passionate way. It felt great not to be ashamed of what I had. I had always felt ugly or embarrassed at the way I looked.

Now that big butts are fashion, I am scrutinizing myself once again. Now I compare every single dimple on my thighs and butt to the minimal dimples on Beyonce’s or Minaj’s butt and thighs. It’s like, great I won a battle and now there is a coup against me. The revolution has turned against me.

There are two prevailing thoughts in mainstream pop culture: Ass and Titties. The female artists themselves push the limits of their own ass and titties. I understand that female artists are not a guiding voice or a moral campus for young women. But they have a platform and I don’t think they realize how important and big that platform is. Yes, in the end, they are just women who are learning about themselves everyday just like many of us. But many of us don’t have a platform in which we can voice our opinions or be listened to. I can just imagine how groundbreaking it would have been for Minaj to deliver a strong female powered rap against the objectification of her body, to the the sample of Baby Got Back. But no, she decided to degrade women’s bodies that do not look like her own. She used herself as a prop and not the talent she is. She gave Drake a lap dance.

As a feminist, I want other women to succeed. I want to see women in engineering jobs. I want to see a female president. I want to dance and not be groped by creepy men. I want simple things, you know? I am a firm believer that female solidarity is the only way for female empowerment to succeed. I am not advocating against men. Most people have the notion that being a feminist is being anti-man. Talk to me on good days (or buy me a beer or three) and I’ll tell you exactly how much I love men.

As a feminist, I want Nicki Minaj to know that her ass is amazing and beautiful. I want her to know that she is talented. I can see her rapping better than male rappers. Those fifteen seconds of her rapping were impressive. We can have it all. We can have ass and brains without having to give Drake a lap dance. Which, by the way, felt voyeuristic and creepy. I’m not against lap dances. That lap dance just gave me a creepy vibe.

I don’t want to bring other women down just to make myself feel better. For years I was taunted with fat jokes. My little cousins in Mexico called me a horse because of my butt. All those things hurt but now that thick women are reclaiming their bodies, I am not jumping on the mean girl train. I would say that the dance floor is open to everyone, not just fat ass bitches. I like to include all bitches on my dance floor. Even the smallest of revolutions need solidarity in order to prevail against whatever body of oppressive politics it’s fighting.

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South Africa From the Dorms

On the third night of my arrival, I went out drinking at the Observatory area near the University of Cape Town. I have quickly learned that in South Africa, good beer is hard to come by. I value my quality beer. Most of the beer sold at pubs is light beer that is the equivalent of Dos XX or Heineken. Back home in the States I go out of my way to purchase a good Duvel. Here, I can’t find those high percentage beers unless I find myself in the hipster, perhaps gentrified, places in Cape Town. I don’t like to drink for the sake of drinking. I can’t stand mixed drinks because they give me pounding headaches. Wine is really big here in South Africa. I prefer that cheap comforting bubbly; my main man Andrè. I have found one beer that I have stuck with, Bone Crusher. It’s a heffenweiser type of beer. Better than Blue Moon in taste but slightly similar. It’s only 6%.

I don’t know why I say it like it’s a bad thing. I can hold my alcohol but the older I get the less tolerance I have. I have noticed that as I age, my alcohol tolerance has lowered. It hits me faster. Even after a good meal, I start to feel that buzzing dance party on the corner of my temple. That’s a dangerous area to be in because I just want to keep drinking and start dancing or just start talking about all the wonderful and shitty aspects of the universe. The older I get, the more I want to talk, the more I want to share and the more I think I want to help.

Being on a trip with 20 girls has tested my patience to its maximum. Being around 21 strangers is harder than walking around a city with the highest rape rate in the world. The other day I took a stroll on my own and it was the most valuable time I had. Back home, I am used to doing things alone. I like going on bike rides on my own. I like taking drives on my own. I like eating lunch alone. I like shopping alone. I love walking alone. I like being alone. When I am around people, I am alone. When I am being held, I feel alone. When I talk to my mother, I am alone. When I fall in love, I am alone. I have a love affair with my loneliness. It’s there at the center of my heart whether I want it or not. I suppose, like a good clingy boyfriend, I just accept it.

I am lucky that I met and picked an amazing roommate. I want to dedicate a whole book on her because our conversations are like a supernova. They are just an explosion of feelings, thoughts and exchanges that when photographed, they look completely still, serene, aligned and perfect. Everything inside the conversations is filled with the chaos and beauty of our past, present and dreams. She says I remind her of her boyfriend. One week of sharing a space with her and I think I am ready to settle and look for a relationship as soon as I get back home. I’ve never shared this much space with anyone but my sister.

I should be focusing on the history I am experiencing. After all, I am older than the democracy of South Africa. I should be typing up my research, whatever the fuck I decide that may be. I had Black Consciousness and Hip Hop and then I found out about Franschhoek and the Huguenot “refugees” after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in the 17th century, and then I went to the library and Bev, the librarian, would not give up on helping me find resources and she deviated my research into wine making and slave/child labor. There’s too much to learn and take in in such little time. It’s actually quite bad for an impulsive personality such as myself.

All I know right now, at this exact moment, is that I have to wake up early because I don’t want to miss the ferry to Robben Island, the island prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in. The island that I totally fucked up on my map quiz here in South Africa.

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Totsiens Vir Nou, Boys

When I travel, I have no sense of time. I don’t know what day it is nor do I care. On Sunday I left on a two day flight to Cape Town, South Africa. Once I said goodbye to my family right before the TSA check at LAX, I forced myself to produce tears. My eyes watered a bit. I felt I should have been sadder at the thought of not seeing my family for a month. But this is a journey of self-discovery and blah blah blah so my selfishness didn’t care to produce tears.

 

I had not flown internationally since 2007, so all these TSA regulations were completely new to me. My x-ray showed I had sensitive areas so I had to be patted down and warned that if I didn’t pass my pat down, I would be privately screened. The TSA makes you question yourself, “Am I carrying drugs?” The last time I checked I was not a drug mule. Right before boarding my plane I was stopped by what I think were the feds. It was a Hispanic lady and a light colored Hispanic looking male. The lady reached out to me with a huge smile and I returned the warmth because I thought it was curious that there was a Hispanic lady on a British airline. When she asked where I was going, I thought she was genuinely interested in my journey. She quickly stopped smiling and started interrogating me about my trip. I looked down near her chest and I saw a badge and became nervous. Of course, she noticed. Suddenly, I was being asked how I paid for my trip and why I was I going, where is my school located, where do I wok and other pointless questions. I felt this inner rage building up inside of me. Is it hard to believe that a short Mexican girl from nowhere can fund her own trip across the Atlantic? She let me go as she looked at me up and down half believing my story. It’s hard not to feel like my ethnicity played a part. Everybody else that traveled alone didn’t have this happen. Everyone else is light skin, white or traveled together. I was a brown girl alone in a British airline destined to Cape Town. I felt some rage. The first of its kind.

 

My first trip was straight to Heathrow airport in London. It took nine hours. My connecting flight to Cape Town took eleven hours. Before I left, I was running on two hours of sleep and hung over. My journey started that Sunday morning on a boy’s bed. We talked all night Saturday as we drank ourselves silly. The more we talked, the more he surprised me. Before Saturday night, he was just a cute quiet guy. By Sunday morning he was naked and had me wrapped up in his arms. The occasional adjustment of our bodies called for a kiss on my forehead or intertwining his fingers with my fingers and resting our locked hands on my stomach. I wasn’t sure how to process what was going on. All I knew was that it was different from everything I had ever experienced. It felt like a stupid sentimental pop song about feeling a connection, or some bullshit like that. I felt his loneliness as he pressed his chest on my back. There was neediness in his eyes every time he kissed me with his cigarette stained lips. He told me we didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do, but I said I wanted to. I don’t normally say that.

 

I did things I had never done. I felt emotions that I never allowed myself to feel. I gave in to the sentimental side that I was forbidden to give in to with others. I never thought someone could make me feel that way. I never thought someone would rather hug me tightly, kiss me on the forehead and look me in the eyes with compassion. I never imagined someone would think I am interesting enough to give me real kisses.

 

At least it felt real, but it is typical of girls like me to fall so quickly for a guy who is mysterious, good looking and interested in my pleasure only. Whether it was physical or sentimental, it was all about me and he was there to comply with either.

 

Sometime during my eleven hour flight to Cape Town from London, I fell asleep hard after the brutal nine hour flight from LAX to London. My seven hour layover and being under my quiet rage and hangover, I fell asleep even through turbulence. Just as I fell asleep, I suddenly woke up maybe two hours later. I looked around the cabin. It was dark and everyone was sleeping. The only sound was the sound of air in motion. That night came into my mind and I smiled but then it quickly turned into a clench of my lips. I tried so hard not to cry and then I started to breathe rather fast and tears poured down my face.

 

I’m such a god damned stupid typical girl. He won’t be there when I come back. That’s how it always is. I’m flying across the fucking world. I’m going to be in the oldest city known to humankind. I’m going to see fucking real wild lions. Yet, there I am. Exactly like the stupid early twenty-year-old girls in my program who take out their wad of cash in a city with the highest crime rate in the world. I’m just stupid and naive. I’m just thinking of what to write on his postcard even before I land.

 

Earlier today in Cape Town, I visited the V&A Waterfront, the real touristy side of Cape Town. It’s a mall that I don’t really care for except for its Ferris wheel outside, the beach on the front and the big screen broadcasting the World Cup. I entered a small café. A South African young man who called me a princess greeted me. He advised me to sit inside and drink my coffee so we could make conversation. We did and he was incredibly charming. He said I was beautiful. Cape Town people are the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve only been here two days. Our guide, Arlene, has an incredible history that I will share soon. The locals on our first bar night out on Main Road down by the University of Cape Town were more than willing to share their views and perspectives on race. Somewhere in our drunken conversation we decided to bash ourselves and proclaim that Americans are arrogant…and loud.

 

Two days here but I’m still sprung on some guy across the world.

That’s how it goes when you try running away from yourself.

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Spending Summer in Winter

Next week I’ll be across the world.

I had to physically stop after I wrote the sentence above because I took one big breath before a dozen little fast ones. I keep having anxiety about it. I am terrified of flying because dying in a plane crash has always been one great big fear of mine. Dying a violent random death is my number one fear. I keep picturing myself right as the plane is taking off. I’m getting higher and higher and the speed of the airplane is accelerating in an upward slope. The plane rattles, it jerks a few times, and then it stabilizes in midair and we’re flying. I imagine that that is exactly how limbo physically feels. That’s a terrifying feeling.

I hate flying, so why did I sign up for a two-day flight across the world?

Because I am an annoying American. Experience and the pursuit of knowledge are my driving force. Yet, my heart looks like a miniature Teddy Roosevelt, clad in safari gear and a fanny pack to top it off. I am going to Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa. Ultimately, the decision to go was based on how boring I think my life is and an incessant need to “discover” myself. Don’t worry. I rolled my eyes harder at myself than you did. I couldn’t think of a more selfish American reason to go.

Experience has taught me that when I push myself into scary or unknown places within and outside of myself, I come out with a different perspective of who I am, who I was and what I want. I’ve come to realize that I am very selfish but I relinquish in that feeling. I’ve experienced a freedom and a self-awareness that has brought on many positive changes in the last five years. Of course, that selfishness has brought on many headaches and tears when I refuse to do what everyone else wants me to do.

I don’t know what to expect in South Africa. There is a cold front hitting Cape Town this weekend. Light snow is expected in the high mountain areas. I’m staying right near or below Table Mountain. It sounds like the place that expects snow in cold fronts. Snow in Africa, what? I’m ignorant of geography. South Africa has the highest crime rate in the world. I’ll be traveling with loads of cash because my bankcard won’t work. Getting travelers checks is pointless. It’s like a sticky note on my back, “Rob me…kick me, too.” I’m taking my laptop. I’m supposed to keep a journal of my trip. I’m studying abroad and 45% of my grade depends on this journal. I’m taking my phone because I can’t live without it. I hate myself for it. I’m taking a camera since I’ll probably use up all the space on my phone with “selfies” of me (that’s redundant, right?) with captions like “Beautiful Cape Town” but it’s only my fat round face that will be the focus.

While in Cape Town, I’ll be studying Apartheid history and researching burials at the Cape Town Library archives and the archives at the University of Cape Town. I’ll be taking pictures of documents written in Afrikaans. I won’t know what the hell I’ll be doing but I’ll be doing it. My most pressing concern is how will I get to and back from a bar to watch the World Cup soccer matches. I’m not a soccer fan, but again, I’m interested in the experience. Soccer reminds me of my friends, family and my native Mexico. Not to mention imminent destruction of national identities, riots and idiot tourists, such as myself. I want to be as far away from the American Dream as possible. I suppose now a day the dream is to get away from America.

I’m also going to be in Paris for six days. I’ll be there for the final World Cup match. I’ll be there for Bastille Day. Someone on reddit advised me to go party at some district where firefighters, sorry, Fire Men are abundant. They throw the best parties with really good-looking people but with really bad music and cheap champagne. I like a good party, and cheap champagne is never a bad time. Parisian Fire Men plus cheap champagne sounds like a really bad porn movie I’d direct and the perfect opportunity for any hedonistic tendencies I may have. But I’m terrified of catching Parisian herpes or worse. I don’t think that’s any different from local herpes. Most of my male friends say that I need to get me some international booty. I say, condoms don’t always protect against STD’s, pregnancy or rape. I’m an international prude, what can I say? I’m not opposed to kissing in well lit public places but we all know that’s rude and unsexy. Is it normal for us to think about sex first when traveling?

The second thing I thought about was visiting the catacombs and the graveyards, because sex and death are universal experiences. So it’s normal to think about hot French men and piled up skulls underneath a city. While I am away, I’ll be narrating my life for a month in Anthony Bourdain’s voice.

I don’t know what to expect and I am really terrified. I don’t know what I got myself into but five years ago, I would have never thought I’d do this. Five years ago it was a just a daydream. Just something that my cultured University educated friends did. Not me. But here I am, one week from Winter across the Atlantic. I’m the type of person that wants to write about detours in Victorville. I have a feeling my professor will hate me for writing a book instead of a journal.

 

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