Swimming Oceans & Jumping Puddles— Focusing on Relationships that Matter

From one-step-at-a-time-x.tumblr.com

From one-step-at-a-time-x.tumblr.com

           Relationships require work. And I’m not strictly referring to the romantic sorts (though Lord knows those sure as heck demand work). The strength of your connections with the people in your life (such as your friends, your family, your coworkers, your mail lady) simply requires work—on both ends. And if you’re the only one investing any time, effort and energy into your relationship, then you should probably rethink the whole thing.

          It isn’t until now as a young woman that I (with the brutal honesty of loved ones) came to realize this: it is honestly unfair and exhausting to be investing so much into a relationship while the other person fails to do the same.

          You know exactly what I mean (and if you don’t, then you’re one lucky piece of cheese).

          Now I’m not referring to situations in which one person is acting all clingy and suffocative and is always pleading for attention. That, my dears, is overall unhealthy and could be signs of abuse.

          I’m talking about relationships in which those involved promise they love each other, yet only one takes the initiative to keep in contact, make plans, check to see if the other person is still alive. That other person rarely, if ever, does the same. And it shouldn’t matter how busy each person gets because, in the end, as true as it is that we all get occupied with other things in life, none of that should stop any of us from reaching out and saying hello to the people we swear we love.

          So, if you’re involved in a half-baked relationship like this, what do you do? Honestly, I can’t tell you what you absolutely, must do. That’s up to you (and the other person if you decide to discuss this issue with her/him/zir). But what I can tell you is this: there are others in your life to focus your energy on than just this one relationship. It’s sure as hell is true for me, and I hope the same for you.

          But if you need to be a reminded of whom else in life you can be investing your energy in, here are four:

    1. God: Actually, God is supposed to be what our hearts, minds and souls are centered on. Yet I know from personal experience that that is really difficult to do, never mind comprehend. Even so, God trumps all. What this means is that, whether or not you’re religious, there is something greater and more incredible and more awe-inspiring than us in our world. The fact that you’re breathing and your heart is beating is proof of that. Appreciate that. Have faith in that. Pray. Meditate. Attend a service. Enjoy the sunlight. Thank God, the universe, the stars that you’re here. Focus on your beliefs, your faith, your relationship with this greatness, and you might even feel too at peace to care so much about the little things.

    2. Family: In the case that it isn’t a family member that fails in returning the love (and if it is, consider your other relatives), for once think about the people who have been in your life who have known you (or commits to being with you) forever. We sometimes stress so much about being that perfect someone for others that we tend to forget about those who we don’t have to stress with at all. Case in point, my sisters. I love them so much and we have such a healthy, positive relationship, yet, silly me, I occasionally forget that we’re best friends, bound in blood, and that our siblingship, our friendship, deserves the best attention.

    3. Other people (e.g. friends, acquaintances, co-workers): While you’re getting hung up over a person who straight up fails in maintaining her/his/zir end of the relationship, you’re probably failing in maintaining your relationship with somebody else. Go talk to her/him/zir! The person may not be your bestie or sibling or someone you really know, but she/he/ze is still someone in your life. Think about the way you’re treating that person. Mail carrier? Smile, ask about her/his/zir morning. Old college friend? Catch up over an expensive latte. Annoying new coworker? At the very least, say “good morning.” Point is, there are more people in our lives, and it’s time we recognize that. Also, being all the more interactive with people can lead to a relationship you’ll both might want to uphold.

    4. You: You’re awesome (well, I would like to think you are). I possibly don’t know you, but you’ve probably accomplished amazing goals in your life. And you’re probably craving for more. Again, you’re living. So take care of yourself. Work up a sweat. Treat yourself to guilty pleasures. Exercise your mind with studies. Get better sleep. Smile more. You are a living, breathing machine. Focus on yourself—inside and out—because your first best friend (besides God) should always be you.

              I’m not at all suggesting that you necessarily slice and dice any relationships that seem to be sapping your time and energy. That might be one of the best decisions in your life (from personal experience, it can relieve your shoulders of such a heavy burden), or it can be one of the most heart-aching (annndd, again, from personal experience, it can hurt when a once meaningful connection is abruptly shut down).

              Actually, perhaps the best thing to do first would be to talk to the other person about this issue. Let her/him/zir know about how and why you’re feeling the way you do. Try not to be aggressive or confrontational; that might trigger defensiveness and lead to a situation (i.e. fight) more destructive than productive. Talking about it might be the (rather obvious) solution. After all, she/he/ze can’t read your mind (unless Jean Grey is who you’re having trouble with) and honestly might not realize her/his/zir behavior!

              If, however, a talk doesn’t solve anything or if this isn’t a relationship you think is worth fixing, then I suggest reeling back on it. Reflect her/his/zir efforts. Rarely contacts you? Stop contacting her/him/zir on a daily basis. Rarely makes plans? Stop stressing so much about arranging plans for every single occasion. This person sure as hell doesn’t seem to be appreciating your efforts, but someone else (like any of those that I’ve listed) might instead.

              These words of mine spring from a place of experience and countless moments of disappointment, oftentimes with the same person. But I’m older, more mature and damn well know better now than I did as a teenager. You don’t have to heed to my advice, but know this: I feel so much happier and relieved concentrating more time, energy and effort onto those who do the same for me. And those are the type of relationships we all deserve.

    Myths About Attending an All-Girls School

    …or half-truths that are not exclusive to single-sex education.

    The women of Beauxbatons, the all-girl school in the Harry Potter movie series. From fanpop.com.

    The women of Beauxbatons, the all-girl school in the Harry Potter movie series. From fanpop.com.

                If you tell someone you attended an all-girls high school, don’t be surprised if she or he gasps, shakes her or his head, and replies that that must have been hard. And maybe it was. After all, the experience is different for every girl who has ever attended a single-sex academy. But guess what? High school can be hard for anyone, no matter the sex of your school population.

                And yet, even though we have enough young adult books and movies (and, oh yeah, actual teenagers) to share how high school can be brutal (or awesome or a bit of both) for both girls and guys, there is the widely-held belief that all-girls schools are lot more hellish, sheltered, and competitive, all because there are no male students. The truth is, as true as that may be for a number of students, it is not for everyone. Believe it or not, it is not a terrible thing for young women to learn in a community where they are the role models, the participants, the leaders, the speakers—under the rules, policies, and discipline of the staff, of course, but no high school is completely run by students (and it may not be a good sign if yours is).

                As an alumna of an all-girls high school, I am more than glad to debunk some myths (or, rather, explain away generalizations) on attending an all-girls high school. And if you’re wondering how I could possibly know anything about coed schools, I have siblings and friends to compare notes with (and, really, some of these should be no-brainers).

                1. All students at all-girls schools are lesbians! With no male classmates, they end up attracted to each other.

                Newsflash, people. There are lesbians everywhere. Just like there are straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, and people of any sexual/romantic preferences in every part of the world. The sex of the people whom you learn with for 7 hours, 5 times a week for 9 months does not ultimately dictate your sexual orientation. Can the sex of your school population influence your sexual preference, or, at the very least, make you sexually curious? Maybe, maybe not. But the question on whether sexuality is a choice or a biological trait tends to detract from the bigger issue of how sexual orientation is treated and portrayed, and it is ridiculous how people try to use the answer to determine (or, in many cases, strip away) human rights.

                In this case, it is detracting away from the myth. So, simply put, yes, there are lesbians (as well as straight students) in all-girls schools (including my own). Just like there are lesbians in coed schools. Just because they may not parade down the hallways with rainbow flags does not mean that they do not exist. Just because coed schools have male students does not mean they do not exist.

                2. Students at all-girls schools do not have any guy friends; therefore, they do not know how to act around guys.

                Some of them do. Some of them do not. Surprise, many students do have a life outside of school. Bigger surprise, some of them have boyfriends. Yes, school is a major social sphere for teenagers, and for a great number of teenaged girls and boys, it is their social life. So, yes, the absence of teenaged guys at school could make it awkward for a student of an all-girls school to interact with a guy. But there are also girls at coed schools who are surrounded by guys all the time and still cannot work up the courage to hold a conversation with a teenager of the opposite sex. Of course, as made evident by my classmates who had boyfriends, best guy friends, male co-workers, and an overall more active social life, the opposite is also true.

                For those that aren’t doing so already, I suggest that all-girls schools hold more functions (e.g. fundraisers, school dances, community events) in which their students come together with students from a local school (particularly, guys from all-boys schools). It would provide more opportunities for young women and men of single-sex education to socialize and, hopefully, have fun and make a positive change in their community. When I was in high school, the principal invited students from our brother school to one of our dances. It was not a great turn-out, but I know schools can do better than that.

                3. Since there are no guys to impress, students at all-girls schools do not care about the way they dress, so they attend class looking like a hot mess.

                This one makes me sad. Girls should not feel like they need to spend so much time in dolling up for the sole purpose of making a guy happy. Their beauty and self-worth is not determined by the approval of some guy. I understand, though, that it could be incredibly hard for girls to not feel self-conscious around guys, and the complete absence of guys at school alleviates them of that issue. And, yet, there could still be a pressure to look a certain way. Even with (usually unflattering) school uniforms and strict dress codes, girls oftentimes feel pressured to keep up with the latest trends, and, as a result, compete against each other. That’s totally not cool.

                This ridiculous expectation for young women to look glamorous (but not too glamorous unless they want to be deemed as “trying too hard”) 24/7 is felt by female students in both all-girls and coed schools. The difference, though, is that without any guys around, students at all-girls schools may feel that expectation even less. But trust me, this does not mean that girls roll up to school looking like they haven’t showered in a week. They can take care of themselves, thanks.

                4. Students at all-girls schools are catty, bitchy, ultra-competitive bullies. They need guys to keep them in line.

                No, mean girls need discipline, a reality check, and counseling, not the mere presence of boys. And, just like lesbians, mean girls aren’t exclusive to all-girls schools. Think about incidents of cyberbullying; this recent one involving the on- and offline harassment of a 16-year-old girl allegedly includes both female and male bullies at a coed high school. The point is, both girls and guys can be mean, unhealthily competitive, and plain ol’ stupid despite the sex of the members of their entire school body. To suggest that girls need to be with boys to “keep them behaved” is sexist.

                That being said, an all-girls community is not an automatic recipe for disaster. It frustrates me that there are people who honestly believe that girls cannot work together. On the contrary, all-girls teams are capable of incredible things: they design robots, act as global leaders, rally against human trafficking, win medals for amazing athletic acts, and band together to establish sporting programs. And the list goes on and on and on. I think instead of frowning upon and ridiculing the idea of girls working together, we should encourage it. Obviously, amazing things happen when they do.

                My overall point is this–all-girls schools are not as horrible as some people make them out to be. First, everyone’s high school experience differs regardless of their type of educational environment, so don’t believe that the experience of one person who attended an all-girls school (or even your own) is the exact experience of everyone else. Second, in case you are wondering if a single-sex education is beneficial or detrimental, that is an on-going debate and there is not one correct answer. On one hand, girls or boys who work in an environment without members of the opposite sex might feel more comfortable and confident in doing things they might feel shy to do otherwise, like be a team leader in a science experiment or admit a love for the arts. On the other hand, it does not give the opportunity for girls and boys to socialize and hear about each other’s triumphs and struggles. Third, students at both coed and single-sex schools go through similar (if not the same) issues. People could be mean bullies in various environments. That’s something we need to tackle together, not blame people’s sex, gender identity, or sexual preference for.

                So the next time you hear a young woman tell you she attended an all-girls school, don’t roll your eyes and assume you know her experience. You don’t. Do her a favor and listen. She may just dispel your unfair misconceptions.