the downside to (complete) empathy

the downside to (complete) empathy
is that when you have it,
you will never be
a rational observer
who doesn’t get involved
in others’ affairs.
if a friend vents about a horrible day
& you rage with her —
the burden rolls off her shoulders
& onto to yours.
there is nothing cathartic
about reading a tragic novel —
your eyes swell shut from bawling
because of the characters’ misfortunes.
you give up watching the news
because seeing widespread injustice
depletes (what little) hope for humanity
you have left.
the upside to (complete) empathy
is that when you have it,
you will never be
an oblivious bystander
who can’t be bothered
to help someone else.

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PSA about NaNoWriMo

Just so y’all know, during November, I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s the first year I’ve entered this contest. While I’m aware the end product will be a very rough draft of a novel, I want to do the best I can.

Thus, next month, I’ll be posting mostly (if not all) photos on my blog while I write a novel that’s at least 50,000 words. I believe I can do it, given that my longest Harry Potter fic was over 65,000 words. (As embarrassing as that is to admit.) This is the first time I’ll be writing an original piece comparable to that story (in length — I’d hope it’s much better in quality).

Who knows, I may even post excerpts on my blog when I’m done (and have edited). Good luck to everyone else who’s participating in NaNoWriMo!

In every workplace, there’s always one person that everyone hates.

In every workplace, there’s always one person that everyone hates.

At my office, that guy is intolerable. He’s smart, but makes sure everyone knows it. He thinks his time is the most precious, so he’ll throw projects on my desk at 4:55 PM on a Friday. (Hopefully this won’t happen today.) Unfortunately, he also has job security because he’s my boss’s bitch.

Whenever that guy is on vacation, everyone rejoices. The halls seem a bit brighter. There isn’t a cloud of doom hanging over his office. No one dreads a last minute email insisting a project has to be done immediately because it’s of the utmost importance.

In Harry Potter, there are creatures called dementors. These creatures feed on others’ happiness, thus causing people to plummet into depression or worse, despair. This is why that guy is nicknamed Dementor.

Mike, Dusty, and I have dealt with Dementor the most. Dusty is a self-proclaimed Alabama redneck. He’s unapologetically politically incorrect, but we get along because he’s got a no bullshit policy. The three of us always brainstorm (and sometimes execute) pranks to play on Dementor.

“Well, what I could do is gather some of them mushrooms from the woods –”

“Dusty, we can’t poison Dementor.”

“Damn it, Mike. Ruinin’ my fun.”

“We could put eyedrops or white-out in his coffee.”

“That shit don’t work, Sam. He won’t get diarrhea — his coffee’ll just look weird.”

“I saw that YouTube video of the guy gettin’ tazed who was all, ‘Don’t taze me, bro!’ That would be pretty funny!”

“Great idea, Mike! Let’s do it at the next staff meeting!” Dusty paused. “But you and I can’t do it. The boss man ain’t gonna believe that it malfunctioned if we were usin’ it.”

“That’s true, Dusty.” Mike turned to me, “Sam, I’ll buy you a pink tazer if you do the honors.”

“Guys, I’ve never used a tazer before.”

“Exactly why this is a brilliant plan.”

“We’re totally gonna get fired!” I shook my head. “Wait — there’s that dead roach in the kitchen…”

“Say no more. I’m on it. When he goes to lunch, we’re goin’ in!”

Dementor’s strangled scream of disgust was worth having to plant the dead roach in his desk drawer.

I used to believe that my mother and I were like the Gilmore girls.

I used to believe that my mother and I were like the Gilmore girls.

As with most kids, puberty wasn’t particularly easy for me. Angst and self-loathing plagued my middle school existence. In order to combat this, my mother and I talked constantly. She gave me formative talks on how to have self-esteem as a chubby kidthe importance of family, why religion is essential to being a good person, and how sex ruins an unmarried girl. I absorbed every word.

At the time, my mother and I were each other’s sounding boards. She discussed fights with my dad; I psychoanalyzed his motivations. I told her about petty drama at school; she insisted that friends came and went, but family was always there. We watched TV shows and movies together. We were best friends. Like Lorelai and Rory, we consulted each other on every decision. We had inside jokes. I idolized her.

When I met Andrea, I found a kindred spirit in someone my age. During high school, I made more friends of my own. My mother lashed out. She couldn’t understand why I would want to spend time with people who weren’t family. She didn’t comprehend why she wasn’t the only friend I needed.

By the time I got to college, I recognized that I had to escape this unhealthy codependency. It wasn’t fair for her to confide in me as a friend (about her and my dad’s marital woes) one moment and in the next moment, snap into mother mode, trying to dictate my every move. She always claimed she was psychic — that she would know when I was being disobedient. College proved that when I didn’t tell her anything, she had nothing to zone in on. She couldn’t interrogate me so that I’d crack and “confess.”

Though I’m the most stable and happiest I’ve ever been, my mother is always angry at me. She belittles every choice I’ve made without her. I’m the biggest disappointment of her life. These days, I’m like Lorelai (the supposed rebel) and she’s like Emily (the bourgeoisie housewife who insists that her daughter should have the best, which is her life).

We used to be like Lorelai and Rory, but I’m thankful that we haven’t been for years. It’s impossible to be friends (much less best friends) with your mother when she refuses to acknowledge you’ve grown up. It’s unlikely to get better until she realizes that we can have a relationship as adults. One day, I hope she understands that trying to control your daughter’s life isn’t the same as wanting what’s best for her.

Knowing how stubborn my mother is, though, I’m not holding my breath.

I used to write Harry Potter fanfiction.

I used to write Harry Potter fanfiction (also known as fics).

Even before that, I wrote hilariously bad Gilmore girls fics. In my defense, it was middle school. I knew nothing about keeping characters’ voices true to themselves or what high schoolers’ lives were actually like. Rory Gilmore’s world was as foreign to me as Harry Potter’s. Despite encouraging reviews, I took the Gilmore girls fics down from my fanfiction.net profile.

I’ve always been an enthusiastic fangirl. During my Gilmore girls phase, I had a wall in my bedroom with magazine pages featuring the cast and a giant collage I made. While I began reading the Harry Potter books in fourth grade, I didn’t start writing fics until high school.

Oftentimes, fans write fics in anticipation of the next installment of a series (to predict what’s going to happen next) or to rewrite moments they found to be unsatisfactory. Typically, I wrote fics for the former reason. I never wrote the plot-driven fics; instead, I always focused on the ships I supported. In fandom terms, a “ship” is a relationship that you support (thus making you a shipper).

I wrote my first Harry Potter fic during junior year of high school, before Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published. Like many fans, I was (and still am) a Ron and Hermione shipper. At lunch, I brainstormed ideas with my fellow Harry Potter fangirls (and fanboy) friends Gaby, Daniel, and Becca. I ended up writing sixteen chapters and over 65,000 words. Almost a decade later, people are still reviewing the fic and adding it to their favorites.

Any time I get discouraged about writing, I remind myself of two things:

  1. I wrote a silly Ron/Hermione fic in high school that got 854 reviews.
  2. If E.L. James could get published by rewriting a Twilight fic as Fifty Shades of Grey, I will get published by writing an awesome original book.

Four reasons you should watch The Mindy Project

Some people have dismissed The Mindy Project as a silly romantic comedy show. While it can be, at times, it’s so much more than that. There are a million reasons why you should watch it, but I’ll give you four main ones for the sake of brevity. There’s over a month until the season two premiere, so there’s plenty of time to catch up on season one.

Four reasons you should watch The Mindy Project

1. Mindy Kaling’s titular Dr. Mindy Lahiri a badass (yet flawed and relatable) woman of color.

People of color are underrepresented in the media. Too often, a person of color’s character is shunted into a stereotypical role, so the character serves as the token supporting character in an ensemble show. Other times, that character plays as a perfect hero/heroine — a symbol of the peaceful movement to overcome oppression or the like. This isn’t the case with The Mindy Project.

Though Dr. Mindy Lahiri is a badass OB/GYN and an awesome friend, she’s also oblivious and (generally) has terrible taste in men. She drinks too much and doesn’t exercise enough. She admits that her body type ranges from “chubby” to “curvy.” She watches too much reality TV and meddles in her friends’ (and coworkers’) lives. She isn’t a flawless saint who represents every woman of color. She’s a relatable woman who makes all women feel better about not having it together 100% of the time.

2. The realistic portrayal of healthy female friendships.

One of the TV/movie tropes that I hate most is that “women are catty and can’t be friends.” While I’ve met women who demonstrate this, my female friends and I are truly like sisters. We protect and confide in each other. We don’t have secret resentments, talk shit, or plot to steal each other’s men. Though Bridesmaids attempted to be a female buddy comedy, it focused a lot of Annie and Helen’s rivalry for Lillian’s friendship. The Mindy Project doesn’t do this.

The Mindy Project portrays healthy female friendships that are like the ones I have with my friends. Mindy and Gwen are the ethnically reversed version of Andrea and me. Mindy, Gwen, and the rest of their friends actually enjoy hanging out together. They’re not passive aggressive, jealous rivals. They don’t just talk about their relationships; they help each other with legitimate problems.

3.  Mindy is half of an interracial couple throughout the show.

Some people complain that there are way too many basic-looking white guys on this show. I agree, but Mindy Kaling (and Mindy Lahiri) digs that type of guy. No one questions why a white woman who plays a lead in a show would be primarily dating white guys, so I don’t think that criticism should be leveraged against The Mindy Project, either.

I don’t think that Mindy Kaling thinks white guys are the best men; that’s just her preference. It’s refreshing to watch a show that doesn’t make this an issue. I doubt that there will be an Indian guy who will turn out to be Mindy Lahiri’s soul mate, just because he’s Indian (another trope that I hate). Still, the show addresses the difficulties that come with being in a relationship where both people are have different occupations, backgrounds, and religions.

4. *Spoiler alert* Mindy and Danny’s begrudging professional relationship that evolves into something more.

I’m a sucker for drawn-out romantic developments on TV shows. At the beginning of the show, Mindy and Danny are coworkers who are diametrically opposed in almost every way possible. After being forced to work together, they reluctantly start to respect each other. They eventually become friends and their bickering becomes affectionate.

Danny is the guy that Mindy never saw coming. They have other love interests, but their chemistry is what keeps a lot of fans (myself included) watching. It’s possible that they will turn into Jack and Liz from 30 Rock. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how their non-relationship continues to evolve next season.

Go watch The Mindy Project, already! Are there any shows that you don’t think enough people are watching?