7 Things People Ask Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault – and What They Should Ask Instead

  1. What they ask: “What were you wearing?”

    Some people operate under the false assumption that a person’s attire has something to do with their attack, such that a short skirt or dramatic cleavage can “provoke” an attack. Let me unburden you of this false assumption; people are assaulted all over the world no matter what they are wearing, and how insulting is it to men that we assume they can’t see someone in a short skirt without losing their control? Super insulting.

    What they should ask: “Do you need a ride to the hospital?”

    A sexual assault is a physically and psychologically traumatic event. Medical attention is necessary.

  2. What they ask: “Were you drunk?”

    If rape were always the natural consequence of getting drunk, nobody would ever have a drink. Also, forget the fact that you can’t legally consent to any kind of sex when you’re drunk, nobody wants to hang out with the kind of person who forces drunk people into sexual situations they aren’t prepared to say “yes” to. Don’t be that guy.

    What they should ask: “Let me buy you lunch. I could order Chinese?”

    This question has it all: a kind offer to pick up the tab, a concern for the other person’s well-being, and most importantly, Chinese food.

  3. What they ask: “Were you flirting with the guy?”

    Flirting does not equal consent. Flirting is a common and natural human interaction that, most of the time, doesn’t lead to sex, and it certainly shouldn’t lead to rape. So cut that shit out. Nobody is “asking for it.”

    What they should ask: “Can I get you some tea? Or are you more of a hot chocolate person?”

    Warm drinks are always a yes.

  4. What they ask: “Have you had a lot of other sexual partners?”I know this one’s going to be hard for some of you to accept, but no matter how many people a person choose to have sex with, at no point do they give up their right to say no. A person who’s had a lot of sexual partners isn’t “okay” to rape. It’s not okay to rape anyone. Am I getting through to some of you?

    What they should ask: “Have you gotten tested for STDs and pregnancy? I know it’s scary, but it’s important, and I can come with you. And we can get sushi after.”

    Not fun, but also important. Get tested so you know what you’re dealing with. It’s unfair and it sucks that you now have this problem to deal with, and I am sincerely sorry.

  5. What they ask: “Yeah, but did you secretly like it?”

    I can’t even – the fuck is wrong with you, asking questions like that?! Get the fuck off my blog. I don’t want readers like you. Go find Jesus.

    What they should ask: “Do you want me to sleep over tonight?”

    As a survivor of rape/sexual assault, it can be hard to be alone. Sometimes, it’s really good to have a friend there to make you feel safe. Of course, if your friend really wants their space, you gotta respect that, too, fam.

  6. What they ask: “Did you fight back?”Discussing the details of a sexual attack is about as fun as writing this post (I’m really pissed off that I have to), so don’t force people into it. They’ll have enough of that to deal with if they decide to pursue legal action.

    What they should ask: “Do you want to watch the new Spongebob movie?”

    Fun, fabulous, and no scary rape scenes. A+ suggestion.

  7. What they ask: “What were you doing alone in a bar at night?”There is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a drink, nothing wrong with going out on your own if none of your friends are down for it. We live in a free society. A woman should be able to go out for drinks without having to fear sexual assault, right? Right.

    What they should ask: “Do you want to talk about it, or if you want, we can just sit here and watch Netflix and basically ignore each other?”

    Sometimes, this is all the socialization you can handle, and that’s okay.

Note to society: Please get your shit together. I do not want to have to write anything like this ever again. I’m truly horrified.

6 Ways to Actually Help a Friend in Need

Hey kittens,

So, like some of you, I have a mental illness, and like many of you, I have friends and loved ones with mental illnesses, too. It’s quite a ride – you never know when someone might show up at your door, ring your phone, bail on your plans, or randomly announce that they’re on the verge of some kind of attack. It’s certainly not the chillest of circumstances, but if you want to help, I have a little advice from my personal experience and the experiences of my friends that might make helping a little easier. So let’s dive right in:

  1. Give them a small, productive task to do.

    One time, I was hanging out in my student apartment in Bamberg, making salsa, and a friend who also lived in that building showed up in my door in tears. Of course, I let her in, but then – not quite wanting to bail on my salsa, either – I gave her a knife and a cutting board and asked her to help me dice vegetables. It seemed to help, and it gave us something to do with our hands while we hashed out what was bothering her. It might seem a little counterproductive to put your suffering friends to work, but when you’re feeling really down, you might also feel totally useless, like you can’t do anything right in your life. Completing a small task can be a much-needed reminder that you are not useless and that even if you can’t do everything, you can do something.

  2. Talk to them like you always would.

    This is especially effective for people suffering from anxiety or panic. Once, I randomly – and seriously, out of nowhere – started having an anxiety attack at a friend’s house while we were hanging out in her room, something we’d already done dozens of times before. I suddenly felt like the walls were closing in on me, and I told her I needed some fresh air or I would lose it. So we went out on her porch, and while I was out there, hyperventilating and crying and shaking and rocking back and forth, she told me about her day at work in such a calm voice, like she would have any other time, like she would talk to me if I was also totally calm. It brought me back down to Earth real fast, because I was reminded that no, the world is not ending. Everything’s fine. Everything’s normal. Her unaffected tone of voice and choice of topic really sped up the calming-down process for me.

  3. Ask them if they want to play a game.

    Or watch a reality show or make silly art. Doing something mindless and fun can be a good way of taking your mind off your troubles. One side effect of mental illness is that sometimes, instead of going straight to solving the problem on your mind, you think about it over and over and over until you are paralyzed with anxiety and completely incapable of doing anything. Start off with easing your mind. Do something fun, take care of your immediate needs. Then take a deep breath and handle the hard stuff.

  4. Help them formulate a plan.

    For the same reasons as above, it can be hard to know what to do next when you’re suffering from psychological pain. Ask your friend what they’re going to do tonight and tomorrow to take care of themselves, do the things they have to do (work or school or whatever), and relax afterwards. Give them suggestions about things you know might make them happy. My boyfriend does this for me, and it always helps.

  5. When in doubt, ask them what they need or what you can do for them.

    Nobody knows what you need like you do! If you’re at a loss, just ask your friend what would help. Maybe they need you to go with them to do a scary errand or they could really go for a coffee or they would just like it if you two could sit in silence and ignore each other (read separate books, do whatever on separate laptops, etc. – I’m all about super low-key chillin’).

  6. Don’t put too much pressure on them to cheer up or be happy.

    There is a lot of focus in society on being thankful for what you have and staying positive and that’s cool and all, but it leads some of us to be a bit overzealous about pushing our happy-world philosophies on other people. Sometimes people are sad, and that’s fine. It’s important to feel your feelings, and when it’s time to let them go, then do that. No need to rush to that part, not for you, and not for your friend.

    I’m sure there’s plenty of important things I’ve forgotten. I’m sure I’ll write another post like this in the future, but if you can come up with something, then feel free to write it in the comments.

    okthxilybye

Helpful Hints for Starting Your New Year Right – January 2016

January 1 – Refuse to take anyone’s crap. There is absolutely no need to be everyone’s dumping ground. As soon as someone starts giving you crap, you point one fabulous finger in their face, say a very firm “No.” And off you strut.

January 2 – Do you, baby. Wear your favorite t-shirt, your favorite dress, your favorite tie. Do your makeup all pretty or throw some gel in your hair. Whatever makes you feel good.

January 3 – Eat an avocado. They’re so good for you. Get a good ripe one (pull back the stem: green means go, brown means no, and a defiant stem means it’s not yet ripe), sprinkle a little salt and pepper, and eat it plain or on toast. Your body will thank you.

January 4 – Put on some upbeat music as soon as you get up in the morning. Dance music, party music, whatever gets your heart pumping and gets you in a good mood. Face your day with optimism, but like, aggressively.

January 5 – Write to three of your friends…it can be over social media, it can be a handwritten letter, or a text message, or whatever. Pick three people you care about but don’t get in contact with much, and tell them that you care about them and are happy to have them in your life.

January 6 – Pick a quiet time in your day to write down ten things you’re grateful for. It can be hard to come up with ten, but it can be something simple, like that you’re glad you have a roof over your head or that you are no longer in high school.

January 7 – Try to fight negative self-talk. Everytime you see yourself in the mirror today, try to smile and think something nice about yourself, and if anybody’s got something negative to say, now’s your chance to punch them in the eye. Go for it, I believe in you.

January 8 – Go for a walk. Literally, just take fifteen minutes and walk around the block and breathe in some fresh air. Plug into your iPod if that’s what you’re into. Let the world feast upon your glory.

January 9 – Pick a word to sneak into conversation as many times as you can. Try to subconsciously get other people to say it. I like doing this with the word “indeed.”

January 10 – Go through your living space and throw out the trash, wash the dishes, put some cleaner in the toilet, and put away your clothes. If you feel motivated to continue cleaning after that, good for you. If not, that’s okay. What are you, anyway, some kind of cleaning wizard?

January 11 – Turn to the ever-helpful internet and learn a few basic phrases in sign language (“hello,” “good-bye,” “thank you.”) It’s so important to try to break down communication barriers, and this is one very easy – but very effective – way to do it.

January 12 – Listen to some new kind of music. Like, you know those bands that you’ve heard of, but you’ve never heard any of their songs? Just pick one and listen to a random song on YouTube or Spotify or whatever you use. You could discover your next ANTHEM.

January 13 – Before you go to bed tonight, open the window for, like, ten minutes. You’ll sleep so much better with fresh air in the room.

January 14 – Draw a picture of a random animal: a cat, a giraffe, an elephant, whatever. Hide it somewhere for your family or roommate or SO to find. If you live alone, put it in the windshield wipers of somebody’s car. Pretend you had nothing to do with it. Extra points if the animal has sunglasses.

January 15 – Change the background on your computer to something that will make you really happy and motivated every time you see it. It’s so important to surround yourself with things that make you want to LIVE.

January 16 – At the end of your shower, rinse your body and hair with cold water. It’s especially good and hydrating for your skin.

January 17 – Rediscover your youth. Disney movies, Spongebob marathon, legos, coloring books, Lunchables – savor the things you loved as a kid.

January 18 – Call a random local business and tell them you won’t be in for your shift today. Go into a detailed story about how you’ve felt this cold coming on for a while but now it’s really taking a toll on you and you just need to stay in bed and rest for the day. Be sure to apologize for any inconvenience.

January 19 – Catch up on the news. Do you even know what’s going on the world? Learn something about current events so you have something meaningful to discuss with your friends. Bonus points if it’s from an independent/reputable news source and not, like, Fox.

January 20 – Take a selfie. Take the most beautiful selfie you can. Post it on Facebook. When people tell you that you look great, reply “I know.”

January 21 – Send a postcard to someone who lives in the same city. Refuse to acknowledge that it was out of place in any way.

January 22 – Take pictures of your stuffed animals doing various everyday things. Send them to people. If you don’t have any stuffed animals, then I don’t even know how I can help you, you soulless bastard.

January 23 – Learn some geography. I recommend this site. It’s easy enough to learn if you just invest a bit of time, and it’s something too few people take the time for. Besides that, it’s kind of fun. You’ll probably make a lot of mistakes at first, but the more you play, the better you get.

January 24 – Cuddle up with blankets, a hoody or sweater, warm socks, and some tea or hot chocolate. Watch a documentary.

January 25 – Imagine you were your own little sister or brother. What would Big Sister/Brother You say to encourage Little Sister/Brother You? Try some gentle self-talk. Ease your mind. Tell yourself that everything will be okay.

January 26 – Break the routine and do something a little bit different today, even if it’s just brushing you teeth with your non-dominant hand (or your feet, I guess, if you’re ambidextrous, really flexible, and don’t already do that). It’s good for staying mindfully aware of your surroundings, for being present.

January 27 – Walk into your workplace or school, start slapping people, and declare that you are now in charge. Repeat slaps for anyone who defies you. It works for cats, so why not for humans?

January 28 – If you want to call anyone today, lay down, put the phone on  your forehead, and telepathically tell them to call you. If they don’t, accuse them of not accepting you as a superior mental force and for not being open to your powers.

January 29 – Go to your workplace/school wearing some ribbons and gift wrap. Get creative, but don’t restrict your ability to move. When people ask  you why, say with a straight face, “I may not be the gift this office/school/etc. deserves, but I am the gift this office/school/etc. needs right now.”

January 30 – Get your body moving – go for a jog, hit the gym, dance around in your room, learn some yoga positions. Whatever. The point is you’re moving.

January 31 – Ask a friend you haven’t seen in a while to meet you for coffee. Ask them how their year has been so far. Don’t shame them if they weren’t able to keep up with their original resolution. Remind them there are 11 months left of 2016 and they have your full support.

Sleep deprivation and friendships

So, in Germany, it is damn near 4:00 in the morning, and my body has absolutely no intention of falling asleep any time soon. Future Linda has a doctor’s appointment in the morning and an eight-hour shift at Starbucks not long after, but Past Linda spent most of her time sleeping and drinking almost three two-liter bottles of Coke Life, so Present Linda is a tad concerned. Sleep would do her some good, but luckily, there is all the free coffee to be had at work tomorrow, and I will probably need it.

Anyway, why am I writing a blog post at this ungodly hour? I was skimming through my newsfeed and I saw that a friend of mine had tagged one of her friends in a post. This would normally not raise any kind of alarm; it seems like a pretty standard social-media interaction. But what struck me was that this particular friend had confided in me about the aforementioned taggee about what a terrible person she was, and how she wanted nothing more than to distance herself from her.

That was months ago, and for all I know, they’d buried the proverbial hatchet and were trying to pick up their friendship again, but it reminded me of experiences I had with friendship in college.

The first friend group I found was not a good one… at least, it wasn’t good for me. The individuals themselves weren’t bad people, quite the contrary. They were smart, independent, creative, and interesting individuals – and yet, something happened when they came together. An overwhelming culture of back-stabbing, bullying, and exclusion became the dominant group dynamic, and I couldn’t take it for long. Having done my own fair share of damage, I stepped out of that friend circle and began the process anew, spending most of my time alone because I deemed it a better fate than to be around people who made me feel alone and unwanted. I vowed never again to become a part of a clique, and to instead value the friendships I had with individuals.

This served me well for the remainder of my college career, but this strategy was not without its flaws. Once I freed myself from the need for close companionship, however temporarily, I could no longer understand anyone’s need to be a part of a friend group, and yet many of my friends were. I was excluded from a number of activities because I was a free agent, drifting unceremoniously between social circles without claiming any as my own. I spent many nights feeling alone, left out, and angry.

What frustrated me the most about this period in my life is that when I could secure some one-on-one time with my friends, it was often because they needed something from me. I wouldn’t have minded this so much, knowing full well the desperation of needing another person’s guidance, but those lonely nights made me feel used. What’s more, even as they complained to me about how awful their friend groups were (citing the same problems I’d had with my freshman friends), they would ultimately return to them for the better part of their social activities. It didn’t matter that the relationships were toxic and unhealthy. What mattered was belonging to a group, a small family in our little Lyco away from home. I broached the topic with a close friend of mine, and she explained simply that she would rather have bad friends than be alone. This saddened me, and it still does, when I think about it.

My friendship troubles of college are long past. I’ve held onto some friendships and made my peace with others which didn’t work out. I still wonder sometimes, though, and I worry that there’s something wrong with me. I still have trouble making and keeping friends, and I wonder if this is a personal flaw or simply a flaw of humanity. Why was I a good enough companion for one friend when nobody else would see a new movie with her, but not good enough when it came time to celebrate Thanksgiving or the end of classes? Why was I good enough for one friend when she wanted to join my friends in the cafeteria, but not good enough when I wanted to join hers? Why was I good enough for one friend when he needed someone to run to the store for him, but not good enough when he felt like going out for drinks?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. On a spiritual level, I have forgiven all of these people for ever hurting me; I know they meant no harm. However, I can’t help but feel jaded by the idea of friendship, sometimes. What does it mean? Can you trust someone who calls you their friend? Or are you ever something… less than that? Simply a part of someone’s social survival? A pawn in someone’s subconscious, evolutionary politics?

Please treat people with kindness, kittens.

Dispel the myth that people with Borderline Personality Disorder are monsters 2k15

So, full disclosure: I have Borderline Personality Disorder.

I know this may shock some of you, but that’s how it is. I was diagnosed when I was 16, slept through most of my classes in high school because I was so doped out on various medications, struggled through college without therapy or medication, and eventually spiraled my way into a very open, very chill DBT ward in southern Germany.

I just got out this morning – again. This was the third time that I was on that particular ward, and I keep going back because it’s unlike any other psych ward I’ve been on before. The nurses actually talk to you, the doctors are actually available for consultation, nobody goes through your bags, and you’re allowed to come and go as you please. It’s this sort of open, trusting environment – the kind of non-dehumanizing environment that I believe all mentally unhealthy people can benefit from – that leads to the patients being calm, quiet, and generally happy there.

What struck me in particular about this visit was how easily I came into contact with the other patients. I normally keep to myself, but this time around, I already felt so comfortable on the ward – a familiar, structured place – that I didn’t find it difficult at all to strike up a little conversation. Furthermore, it occurred to me that even though people with Borderline are perceived to be these dangerous, evil, manipulative, awful people who will stop at nothing to hurt others, that was absolutely not what I was experiencing, being surrounded by others like me. I saw a lot of compassion, and I want to share that with you. I want you to know that people with Borderline are capable of compassion – that we have gentle souls and gentle hearts, and it is exactly this sensitivity which drives our illness.

This past week in the clinic reawakened my faith in humanity.

I saw one woman sleep on a couch in the hallway all week because she was afraid of sleeping alone, and I saw other patients stay up late to make her feel safe.

I saw people express concern for their roommates when they were sleeping all day or when they had stomach trouble. I saw them gently encourage each other to get up, watch TV with us, play a game, get out of bed and show us that beautiful smile.

I saw patients buy candy for each other, I even saw a patient buy coffee for the nursing staff, because she herself is a nurse and appreciates what they do for us.

I saw other patients be kind and welcoming to each others’ visitors, and express genuine joy at each other’s successes, and sadness at each other’s struggles.

I saw patients comfort each other, watch movies together, go for walks together, and go far out of their way to show kindness and concern for each other.

People with Borderline are not monsters. Put them together, treat them with kindness and understanding, and you can really see that.

I had a bad day.

So, for those of you who were blissfully unaware, I suffer from a mental illness, and some days are harder than others. Today was one of those hard days. After my dear boyfriend dropped me off at home so I could get ready for my class, I was hit with a wave of depression and apathy so paralyzing, I didn’t make it to the university. I bargained with myself about the consequences of missing this class yet again, and only partially satisfied with my justifications, I went back to sleep.

Only fear of losing my job made me drag myself out of bed in the afternoon and make it to work on time, but work was difficult. I work at Starbucks, and people expect us to be happy and peppy, but I simply didn’t have it in me. I worked slowly… something about being weighed down with depression makes it hard to move quickly, doesn’t it? I was more quiet than usual, I didn’t crack jokes like I often do, and I silently begged for time to pass by faster so I could get back to the safety of my apartment. What didn’t help was that there was far more business than usual, and so I had no opportunity to catch my proverbial breath. I struggled to keep up with the constantly growing line of cups on the bar, slowed down by the stickiness of syrups, spilled milk, and my own sluggish, dragging mood.

I tried so hard to smile, to radiate joy. I tried to be a light. A coworker gave me a sweet compliment, and this gave me a little encouragement, but it didn’t last long. Another coworker, noticing my stress, did his best to make my job a bit easier, and this, of course, I greatly appreciated. I went on a break and tried to improve my mood with a much-needed late lunch and a phone call to my boyfriend to whine about my poor mood. This did make me feel momentarily better, and when I came back to the store, one of my regular customers was there, one I hadn’t seen in a long time, and he was happy to see me.

He said something like, “Linda, du kleines Maus! Ich habe dich seit so lange nicht mehr gesehen.” (EN: “Linda, you little mouse! I haven’t seen you in so long!”)

That made me happy, too. He’s such a nice guy.. he’s always very polite and he brings us chocolates from time to time. Once, when I hurt myself working, he went over to the pharmacy across the way and bought me a bottle of disinfectant spray. He’s one of my favorites, and it was great to see him, and it was somehow nice to know that somebody had noticed my absence from their life.

But that didn’t keep me happy for long either. As soon as I was back “on”, back in the public eye, my mood sank again. I struggled through the rest of my shift, and now I’m wondering what to do with myself next. One thing that bothered me about the whole day was the worry that my poor mood was somehow rude to the customers. I was afraid somebody would complain because I didn’t offer them enough kind words or a sincere enough smile, so consumed I was with my own pain. But as hard as I tried to put on a happy face, today, it just wasn’t going to happen. I feel so out of place in a world that places so much emphasis on being in a good mood all the time… and actually, I’m sure this phenomenon is worse in America.

If you’re in a bad mood, people will try to get you out of it. They will try to cheer you up, give you advice, and when they fail, they may blame you for bringing them down. What do we do with a culture like this? People have mental illnesses that affect their moods. People without mental illnesses have bad days, too. Is it not sickeningly superficial to fake happiness out of courtesy, and to expect others to do the same?

I don’t have an answer to this, or much of an argument to make right now. I just don’t see the harm in admitting that we are in pain. I am a human and today, I showed my humanity.

You’re not special.

I usually hate it when older people ridicule my generation by saying we think we’re all “special snowflakes” who can get by in the world without any kind of hard work. Who can afford not to work hard when they’ve got tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off (and that’s after working our asses off for our degrees)? But I digress – I could go on about milenial stereotypes, and I probably will in a future post.

I think all people are special in some way, albeit not in the mocking everybody-gets-a-trophy way, but rather in the positive-thinking good-mental-heatlh we-all-have-value-and-deserve-to-be-happy kind of way. Have I lost you? Are you still with me? Maybe everyone doesn’t deserve a trophy, but everybody deserves a healthy sense of self-worth. Okay, you’re with me. Excellent.

So, if I know you and you’re reading this, you are (statistically speaking) probably either American or German (shout out to my people who aren’t from either of those countries), and while you were privileged to have been born in either of those countries, it’s not an achievement that you won somehow. You didn’t earn it, you feel me? It was just luck of the draw, basically. So it irks me when conversations about immigration come up, and people act like they’re somehow more entitled to certain rights than foreigners are, just because you happened to be born somewhere. Does someone who happened to be born in Syria somehow deserve to live in an environment of chaos and violence, whereas someone born in Germany doesn’t? Does someone who happened to be born in Denmark deserve a free college education, whereas someone who was born in the United States doesn’t?

The more I consider these questions, the more I think that we need to recognize our privilege. Even if we’re not rich, being poor in a wealthy country is still more privileged than being poor in an  impoverished country. Like white privilege or male privilege, this so-called (so-called by me, that is) “birthright privilege” isn’t earned. It’s just luck.

In my first semester of grad school, I was in a class where we had to consider what our needs were as residents of a first-world country, and what people need as residents of a third-world country. This was another one of those classes that presented us with that Maslow’s terrible hierarchy of stupid needs and provided no context as to why this nonsense was relevant. ANYWAY. I made a list of all the things I think people deserve: food, water, shelter, healthcare, access to education and information technology, political freedom, access to recreation and sports, and I may have listed some other things. The list of things I require was exactly the same as the list of things I would suggest are also necessary for a good life in a third-world country, and I expected much the same from my colleagues. These are budding development economists, let’s not forget this. I was shocked at how many people wrote that people in first-world countries need access to education and information technology, whereas people in third-world country should be satisfied with meeting their basic biological needs.

Is this really how we’re going to do things, people? Is this really how we’re gonna roll? We’re better than this, kittens. We’re lucky to have been born in wealthy countries, but that doesn’t make us better than people who weren’t. Right? Right. Let’s all agree on that last part.

Africaaa

So, as a society, can we collectively decide to stop referring to Africa as if it’s some singular, homogeneous entity? Africa is a huge continent – much larger than the Mercartor projection has led us to believe and is home to between 54 and 57 countries, depending on who you ask (It’s 55 if you ask the African Union, for example). It boasts a plethora of languages, a variety of cultures, and a multitude of social, political, and economic features. Trying to generalize what it means to be “African” is exactly as ignorant as trying to minimize the diversity you see in Europe or Asia. I’m sick of people referring to Africa as a singular entity, and I’m sick of people thinking it’s, as my little brother put it, “all dirt roads and zebras”. We are above this, kittens; it’s silly and ignorant and we can do better.

In my first semester of grad school, I had this awful marketing class with a professor whose competence was – how do I put this? – questionable. It was a usual day, starting off with the “marketing mix” question – “What is a ‘marketing mix?'” I swear the woman asked us that question every single class the whole semester. Anyway, after we discussed that for the nth time, we began discussing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Now, I have strong feelings about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I think it’s nonsense. If you don’t know what it is, it’s this pyramid diagram that shows how certain needs have to be met before other needs are accessible. At its base are the most, well, basic biological needs – food, water, oxygen, and the like. The next tier involve security needs – that is, you need to feel safe in your environment before you can access the next tier of needs: relationships. Once you’ve established friendships and family connections, and perhaps a romantic relationship, your next goal is what is called “esteem needs”, a tier which concerns confidence and respect. Self-actualization is the top of the pyramid and it involves intellectual and creative stimulation.

Okay so, clearly, there are lots of holes in this concept – like Swiss cheese, but far less pleasing. Of course, you can’t survive without meeting your biological needs, but is someone who cannot meet their security needs – for example, someone living in an active war zone – immune to needing familial relationships, respect, and intellectual stimulation? Are security and social relationships not considered basic needs? Are esteem needs really higher on the totem pole than social needs? It seems to me that these needs would go together. If someone is struggling to meet their basic needs, such as the extremely poor and homeless, are the incapable of requiring respect and security?

My main criticism is, however, more that this hierarchy doesn’t really teach you anything, and in the classes that have used this diagram, there’s no useful context given as to why it’s important or relevant to anything. This class was no exception. As an example, our professor told us that people in highly developed countries, such as Germany or the United States, might require something like internet to be happy, whereas people in Africa need to meet their more basic needs in order to be happy, such as food and shelter.

This is so incredibly ignorant, to have these words come from an educator was more than disappointing. First of all, while it is true that people in highly developed countries enjoy internet access, so do people in the many, many countries that make up the enormous continent of Africa. In fact, if memory serves, the U.N. declared internet access a basic human right in 2012. People need it – and deserve access to it – all over the world. Secondly, there are PLENTY of people in highly developed countries who struggle to meet their basic biological needs, the poor and homeless. Social welfare programs and non-profit organizations attempt to reach this demographic, but this is far from a perfect system.

I could go on. This kind of ignorant thinking needs to stop. We have so much information at our fingertips, we should know better than to succumb to these overdone tropes so blindly. Luckily, in that class, two of our exchange students from South Africa spoke up, and some other students raised their own concerns; we need more of this. Stereotypes are so 20th century.

Reasons

I would love to have a really profound reason for writing a blog. I would love to tell you all that I have profound, intelligent, insightful insights that will draw you in and make you question everything you ever thought to be fact. The truth is, a series of events led me here: the floor of my mother’s living room at one in the morning, tapping out a few whimsical little words, and the product is secondary. I’m all about the process over here. I learned that in college: it’s all about the process.

So, I’m three weeks into a five-week vacation in my home country of America. Ordinarily, I lead a beautiful life in Germany, my second home country. There, I study development economics and work as a barista at a local Starbucks; I make art and I enjoy my relationships with the people around me; I struggle to keep up with the German bureaucracy and celebrate my American rebelliousness. I clash, all passion and fire to the German coolness and formality. I find exceptions to the rule and call them my friends.

Here, I just returned from a weekend trip to my old college town to see old friends and former professors, and it was a wonderful time. I fit right back into the fabric of that community as if I had never left, and rediscovered my confidence, which had taken a few hits since my plane landed in Washington. I would go into all the details of that happy little weekend, but I won’t. Those details are precious and mine, and not relevant to this thread anyway, which was originally about this writing process, and how I came to bring it here. During my trip, I visited my former writing professor – one of my favorites – and he gave me a copy of his latest book – a cheerful, yellow volume about how to teach writing as a professor of any subject. Not long into it, I got the urge to start writing again. His passion, as it did when I was his student, inspired me, and I just had to get some words out on paper somewhere about something. I needed not only to recapture my love of writing, I needed a new way to reduce my emotional tension.

So I grabbed my Superman notebook and my fancy German pen, and wrote a few, meandering sentences about my chipped nail polish, neat penmanship, and how my hand was already aching. I never learned how to hold a pen correctly as a child so I struggle with writing by hand; as much as I love to do it, it hurts, and I can never seem to keep it up for very long anymore.

I’m struggling with insomnia, too. Somehow – somehow – I’ve been manic for about two months. I’m absolutely surging with energy all day and then I can barely shut my eyes at night when it’s time to sleep. I can practically feel my skin crawl from restlessness.

So here I am: inspired to write, too sore to do so by hand, and excessively awake. I feel so unhealthy.