Thou Shalt Not Judge

Last week’s post was about wanting other people to accept me for who I am. This week’s post, in contrast, is about accepting other people for who they are.

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.–Luke 6:37

Let’s start with a little activity, shall we? Below are some images of people who could easily be described as being “different.” Think to yourself the first thing that pops into your mind when you see the people in these images.

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It is natural to make snap judgments, especially about the people/creatures in the above images. But that doesn’t mean we have to cling onto those judgments. Because we don’t know the stories behind what happened in the above pictures… well, except for Ursula. But when it comes to Ursula, we must resist the temptation to assume that all human octopuses (octopi?) are evil creatures that steal the voices of innocent mermaids!

My message for today is that we must strive to accept people regardless of their mistakes. We must strive to accept everyone. That’s right, everyone:

  • Smokers
  • Drug/Sex addicts
  • Raging alcoholics
  • That person who gave you the stink-eye at the bus stop
  • The friend who wronged you seven years ago…

Accept people for who they are and what they feel… that includes every aspect of who they are and what they feel. I was going to include gay people in the above list, but then I thought… that list consists of people who have done something wrong or hurtful. And I don’t believe that’s the case with homosexuality.

Just like everyone else, gay people might make mistakes, but the fact that they are gay is not the mistake. Why do we feel the need to judge people for what they feel?

Our good God in heaven has created humans to be beautiful creatures: both male and female. Or, if you believe that we evolved from apes, that’s cool too. Either way, the fact is this: people are hot. Anyone who thinks otherwise can answer to Katniss and Gale of The Hunger Games.

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How DARE you suggest that one of us is not attractive. Sluts!

Even though I’m straight, I can appreciate the beauty of both genders–perhaps because I myself am so attractive! If I were to see myself walking down the street, I would be quite intrigued! I’m kidding, of course… I mostly wanted to confirm what everybody has probably concluded from reading my blog: despite my insecurities, I can be quite vain. Don’t judge me!

Anyway, back to the topic of homosexuality. Some people believe it’s a choice. I myself used to believe that as well. But every gay person I’ve talked to would give anything to be straight. I mean, why would you choose to be mocked, judged, ridiculed, ostracized, etc.? That doesn’t even make sense, you guys! Let’s be honest, the straight life is so much easier. Nobody will judge you for being attracted to the opposite sex.  And sure, there are some gay people who say they would not change a thing about themselves and claim they would never want to be straight. But those people don’t deserve to be judged either. How dare people accept themselves for who they are, after what has probably been a lifetime of feeling bad about themselves because the world tells them they should? What monsters…said nobody ever.

PLUS, here’s the thing. So a person is gay, right? Who a person is attracted to doesn’t define who that person actually is. A gay person could be the kindest, most loving, most hilarious, greatest person you’d ever meet. Focus on those aspects of his or her personality, not on what sex they are attracted  to.

If a gay person is mean, by all means, keep your distance from that person. Just as long as you keep your distance from all straight mean people as well. Because mean people are the worst! And meanness is something that affects you in a negative way. Homosexuality is not.

What, do you think if you befriend a gay person that you will become gay too? It’s not a contagious disease! That’s not a thing! Guys, there is no reason to treat gay people any differently than you would treat anyone else. They have experienced many of the same things as everyone else has… they have gone to school, they have had both good memories and bad, they have loved, they have been hurt. And in a lot of cases, they are a lot more compassionate because they have had to deal with a lot more pain.

Gay people, as well as anyone that possesses characteristics that the world sees as being “abnormal,” deserve to be loved just as much as anyone else. In fact, I might go as far as to say they deserve love more than other people. It is a heavy burden they have to bear, and they need all the love and support they can get in order to feel wanted in this narrow-minded world.

You might wonder why I’m even writing about this post. Well, this video explains part of the reason:

No one should have to feel that they need to end their lives. And no one should say such a callous and disgusting thing as, “(A gay person) was going to go to hell anyway, so he was just speeding up the process (by committing suicide).” NO! Unacceptable. I refuse to believe that anyone who claims to be a good person could say that with a good conscience. Just… no.

You may not necessarily support the way someone lives their life, but here’s the thing: it’s their life. So let them live it! And just worry about your own life in the meantime. We need to stop trying to make everyone else into alternate versions of ourselves. That has never been successful and it never should be. To think everyone needs to think exactly like you is very Hitler-esque, in my opinion. That’s right, I said it!

I’m sorry if I’m getting too bold by saying all this… but I’m not really that sorry. It’s just, I’m so sick of people treating others badly for such dumb reasons. Whenever I hear all these narrow-minded and hurtful comments, I feel… I just… I just want to…

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Sigh

We shouldn’t be concerned about whether a person is asexual, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, trisexual (oh, wait…) Sexual preference does not make the person.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect when it comes to accepting everyone. I tend to be narrow-minded toward narrow-mindedness. Perhaps I should be more accepting of bigotry and self-righteousness? I don’t know, is that a thing?

I know this post has been mostly about not judging people based on sexual attraction, but it can also apply to a number of other characteristics as well. The important thing is to remember that people should not be categorized by who they like or the mistakes they make, but instead by the life they are trying to lead as well as the way they treat others.

The thing that really sucks about this is that I know writing these things won’t make much of a difference. But I’m tired of the most wonderful people feeling bad about themselves because of sexual attraction, past mistakes, shortcomings, etc. At least now I can say I’m doing my part to battle the idiotic bigotry that goes on in this world.

Can you?!

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Quiet Desperation

People often ask me why I am so quiet. There are many answers to that question.

I have nothing to say. I’d rather sing, but people tend to look at me funny when I do that.

I wasn’t even paying attention to what was being said. Which is true about eighty percent of the time, FYI… what’s going on inside my mind is often much more interesting than what’s going on outside of it. ‘Tis the curse of having an interesting mind in a boring world.

More often than not, however, the best answer to that question is this:

What’s it to you? 

And here’s a random picture of a penguin to prove my point:

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The fact is this: I am quiet. It is a part of who I am. Would I like to be the life of the party? Sometimes. No inhibitions, comfortable around everybody that I meet… If only! But I’m not. And that’s just how it is.

It took me awhile to accept this about myself. People would say it was my fault that I’m quiet. Well, maybe that’s true to an extent. Some people have overcome being quiet. Good for them. Excuse me for a moment while I celebrate your victory over life.

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Sometimes things are harder for some people than they are for others. That’s just a fact of life.

And, by the way, whenever someone points out that I’m quiet, especially when it’s in front of other people, this is how I want to react:

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Loud people everywhere: Pointing out other people’s quietness is a big no-no. It shouldn’t be a thing! Your intentions might be good. Perhaps you are trying to get the quiet people involved in the conversation. But singling them out for being quiet is not a good way of doing that. It just makes the quiet person feel even more awkward and uncomfortable, which is probably why that person is being so quiet in the first place!

If you want to get quiet people involved in a conversation, by all means, still do it. Ask them about themselves. Make them feel like they belong. That’s all we really want. Quiet people are just like other people, only quieter. And in a lot of cases, they are a lot cooler. Let’s be honest.

Leave Katy Alone!

Before I start today, I should preface by saying that I have gotten inspiration for this post from a number of other sources–first from my sister, a fellow blogger who recently defended Keira Knightly; and second from a psychotic androgynous person who couldn’t stand all the hate Britney Spears was receiving a few years ago.

Does everybody remember this guy?

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I was seriously shocked, frightened, and concerned after seeing this the first time because it reminded me just how much raw anger there is in this world. But that is neither here nor there.

Today I will be defending the likes of Katy Perry. If anyone doesn’t know who that is, I would be very shocked because the very fact that you have internet and can read this blog suggests to me that you should know who Katy Perry is. Anyone who doesn’t know who she is has probably been living under a rock and/or has not had internet access in the past three years.

And perhaps that is one of the reasons why she gets so much flack. I have heard a lot of mean things about my dear friend Katy.

She’s a slut!
Her songs are
annoying!
She’s overrated!

Indeed, the best way to put it is that Katy Perry gets a lot of crap.

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How dare you, sirs. Don’t you know that the whole slut issue is just a matter of perspective?

So what, she lied on a cotton candy cloud naked? We have all thought about doing that at one point or another. 

OK, maybe not…

But the truth is that we’ve all done ridiculous things. Committing a single murder might make you a murderer, but for the most part, I don’t think things we’ve done in the past should define us. So you say naked cotton candy frolicking makes Katy Perry a slut? OK. Well, I jumped out of a moving golf cart once and broke my foot… which means I did a stupid thing. And I’ve done many other stupid things in addition to that. Does that make me a stupid person?

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Wait… Don’t answer that.

Are some of her songs a tad on the risque side? Sure. But whether we’d like to admit it or not, we all have risque thoughts. Katy’s just singing what’s on her mind! And not all of her songs are about tasting a girl’s cherry chapstick or having a ménage à trois on a Friday night.

Sometimes Katy has a softer, even inspirational side. Do you remember Firework? Do you remember Wide Awake? And what about the recently released Roar? All inspirational songs, in my not-so-humble-opinion.

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You shouldn’t dismiss a singer based on a few of their songs. You are not expected to like every song, just like you are not expected to like every food, book, or movie. And if all of Katy Perry’s songs have just grated on you, perhaps you should open your heart and mind to the possibility that ONE DAY she will release a song that you enjoy. Closing yourself to an artist could prevent you from a song that you can relate to, be inspired by, or even just sing along with.

Plus, let’s not forget something of utmost importance. Katy Perry is hot! Looks aren’t everything, sure, but come on… just look at her!

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Think what you want about her music, but I will say one thing: I wouldn’t kick her out of bed! I mean… um… I’m just saying, if she needed a bed to sleep in–that wasn’t mine–I wouldn’t kick her out of it. That’s all I meant by that.

Also, if she came to my door and asked me to marry her, this would be my response:

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But, barring the possibility that Katy Perry will just randomly show up at my door to propose, I’ll just have to support her from afar.

As for her being overrated, what does that even mean? Everyone is overrated because everyone is the worst. Have any of you gotten five number one singles from a single CD? Unless you are Michael Jackson reading this from the beyond, then I am confident in saying that no, you have not done this. But Katy has!

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Some people also use the argument that Katy isn’t even a good singer because her live performances leave something to be desired. My defense to this? Try singing and dancing at the same time and still sound perfect! Try singing in front of thousands of thousands of people without missing a note or two. And if you do enough internet snooping, you will find that Katy has had good performances in addition to the bad ones. Oh no, she’s human! How dare she have bad performances?!!! Also, her most recent performances have shown massive improvements, which goes to show that she’s doing what we’d expect from any person: improving! Let the past stay in the past. There’s no need to judge someone based on where they were. It is better to judge them based on where they’re going.

And besides… Katy Perry just released a new CD, so she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. My guess is that her songs will continue to dominate the radio stations whether you like it or not! So you’d best start being nice to Katy Perry, lest you suffer her wrath!

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I kid, of course. We are all free to choose who we like and don’t like, especially when it comes to the music industry. I just thought it would be fun to post about my love for Katy Perry, and it was!

But in a last-ditch effort to convince you to give Katy a chance, I invite you to listen to this new song of hers, in which she sings about struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts:

Looks like Katy Perry has a deep, vulnerable, meaningful side. Hmmm…

Not to mention these lyrics from other songs:

You know who I, who I think will win? Are the ones that let love in…

Acceptance is the key to be, to be truly free. Will you do the same for me?

I’ll be the one defining who I’m gonna be…

These are real feelings of someone just trying to get by in life, just like the rest of us. So I ask you, please, please leave poor Katy Perry alone! Am I the only straight man who openly supports Katy Perry and admits to liking her music? Perhaps. Even so, I think there is something to be said about cutting someone a little bit of slack.

So the next time you want to judge Katy Perry, do something more productive instead. Run a mile or two. Eat a vegetable. Read a good book. Stop wasting your time on hating someone for being risque, annoying, or too popular when there are much worse things happening in the world. For crying out loud, people are dying. Children are starving. The economy is collapsing. Right this moment, someone somewhere in the world is having to wake up before the sun even rises to go do hard labor for a meager salary that barely supports their family. A couple is cuddling and expressing love to one another–this, above all things, is definitely something much more disgusting and deserving of criticism than anything Katy Perry has ever said or done.

Look Both Ways Before Crossing

When we were young, all of us were instructed to look both ways before crossing a street. As adults, we continue to do this because it’s just common sense. If you don’t look both ways before crossing, you increase the risk of getting hit by a car… and that’s no fun (or so I’ve heard).

Well, today I would like to make a suggestion. Just like we should always stop and look both ways before crossing the street, it is also wise sometimes to stop and look both ways when you reach certain points in life.

What do I mean by that? Do I mean that on certain occasions (graduations, weddings, etc.), you should just randomly stop and turn your head left and then right (or right and then left, if that’s more your style)? No, because that would be weird. I’m not talking literal stopping and looking here. What I mean is that, sometimes we reach certain points in life when you need to look to the past and the future before moving on with life.

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It may seem like I’m writing philosophical nonsense, and I’m in no way denying that possibility, but let me explain. I have reached the end of another semester at college. This past semester has been… interesting. My natural instinct is to say that it has been the worst.  Then again, I call everything and everyone the worst, so why would this be any different?

The truth is that this semester has been a rough one–not necessarily academically (though I did have one class that I hated with a fiery intensity hotter than a thousand blazing suns), but definitely in all other possible aspects. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details, but I will say this: I don’t think I have ever felt more ready to put a semester behind me.

Now I find myself at somewhat of a crossroads. I have gotten through this difficult point of my life. Are my troubles over? Definitely not. But I have stuff to look forward to–a study abroad in Europe, time with the family, and great living plans for next school year–and that’s what has gotten me through so much. I have a couple of months before all these exciting things happen, though. I see these two months as a rare opportunity to reflect on my past while looking forward to the future… in other words, it’s my chance to look both ways, so to speak.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Those are not only the first words from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities but also the perfect description of this past semester. I have experienced both success and disappointment, friendships strengthened and friendships weakened, surprises both pleasant and unpleasant. I tried to fix my problems but felt I made things worse more often than not. I have laughed, I have cried, I have made mistakes. Sometimes I wanted to have meltdowns similar to the one below, minus the mascara.

To be honest, like Liz Lemon, there were times where I wasn’t sure if I could take it anymore: “it” in this case being life in general.

Yet I survived. I kept moving forward and it was worth it in the end. It might not have been the best time of life, but at least it’s done. And the best part about experiencing hard times is that feeling of relief you get once it’s all behind you.

A part of me felt like, if I could just reach the end of the semester, everything would be great. This of course isn’t true. You can’t just go through life waiting for that time where all will be perfectly fine, because it just won’t happen. You could think, “Once I graduate, I’ll be happy,” or “I just need to get married, and then all my troubles will be over,” but the fact is that we’re always going to have problems. Having problems is just a part of life.

Even though all my problems haven’t magically ended with this past semester, I can take what I have learned from this past semester and apply it as I move forward in life. Then I can keep in mind where I want to be in the future and apply that as well. Therefore, I am taking a look in both directions–past and future–before moving forward in this crazy road they call life.

The World We Live In

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In light of the recent tragedy at the Boston Marathon, I can’t help but take some time to reflect on the state of our world.

One of my major goals in blogging is to uplift (hence the blog’s theme of turning life’s lemons into delicious, thirst-quenching lemonade), but while I come off as generally optimistic in most of my posts, there is something I must admit: I am a closet pessimist.

used to be optimistic… when I was little. But then I was introduced to something called the world. Unfortunately, it was as soon as I went out and saw the world that I started losing faith in it. The church mission I served in the Philippines was a great learning experience, not to mention a character-builder, but unfortunately it opened my eyes to the frightening state of this world we call home.

While looking through some of the emails I sent home while on my mission, I came across a letter I had sent during what was undoubtedly the most difficult time of my mission. Something I wrote stuck out to me:

“Working in this area has really opened my eyes to the state of the world right now, which in some ways is hard to accept. Even in the lives of [those I love], I’m seeing this harsh reality. A woman… showed up to church late yesterday saying that she was late because her husband had attacked her…. But the harshest reality hits us when we’re out and about trying to [help people]. The other day, we [met] a… family whose father was stoned to death two years ago by twelve men who were drunk…”

And therein lies the answer to my pessimism.

Later on in my mission, I remember getting wind one night of a man who had held several tourists hostage on a bus. The man ended up killing many of the tourists before the police were able to stop him and rescue the survivors. As I walked home with my mission companion (side note: a mission companion is comparable to a business partner, though neither of us got paid), he was uncharacteristically quiet. Eventually he said to me, “Nakakatakot ang Pilipinas, ano?” Which is to say, “The Philippines is a scary place, isn’t it?” My response to him was this: “Nakakatakot ang mundo“–meaning, simply, “The world is a scary place.”

Who can forget September 11th? I was only 11 at the time, but I will never forget. It seems like the world has taken a drastic downturn since then, and in light of the Boston Marathon, the shootings in Connecticut and Colorado, and other terrible events, it doesn’t seem like the world is looking to improve anytime soon.

It seems that I am not the only one who realizes the tragic state of things. The entertainment industry–which admittedly can be the cause of the world’s problems at times–also seems to be calling for a solution. Here are a few quotes (some more inspirational than others) that have come to my mind over these past few days:

“Sometimes everything is just the worst.”–Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

I decided to start with the least inspirational quote of all. This quote is not exactly what you’d call uplifting, but it certainly is true at times. Luckily, the key word in this quote is sometimes. Not always. So that’s definitely something.

“How we deal with tragedy defines who we are.”–Chris Traeger, Parks and Recreation

Though the world as a whole may be taking a turn for the worst, we as individuals are not defined by the world we live in. We can rise above all the negativity that surrounds us… Admittedly, I’m still working on that myself. Any advice on how to go about doing that?

“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”–Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This post would not have been complete without a few words from our favorite vampire slayer. The girl died twice, for crying out loud! If anyone knows how to overcome the odds, she does. Granted, she’s a fictitious character (but is she, really? There’s a little bit of Buffy in all of us), but the lesson remains the same: it might not be easy to live in this world, but it’s definitely possible.

So how do we stay sane in a crazy world? There’s no sure-fire answer, unfortunately, but peace can be found amidst all the chaos. I personally find peace through writing, listening to music, communicating with God, and being with those I love. Other people may have different ways of coping, and that’s completely fine–the important thing is that we cope somehow.

While the world falls apart around us, we have to ask ourselves: Are we simply surviving in this harsh world, or are we actually living? It’s all terribly cliche, yes, but it’s true. And while I may have lost my faith in mankind as a whole, I still have just a smidgen of faith in the individual.

I’m sorry, did you want some macaroni with all that cheese? Sorry if this post was too cheesy. It’s just something that came to my mind when I was about to go to sleep, and I knew I had to write about it right away. I probably should have slept instead, seeing as I’m starting to work full-time tomorrow and have a number of finals coming up, but I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead. And on that depressing note, I’ll end this depressing post.

Television: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

old-televisionWhile I was serving my two-year mission in the Philippines, I was not allowed to watch TV. After I finished my mission, it took me a while to accept TV back into my life. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that I still thought of it as being that “devil box” until just recently, when I realized I could watch Netflix at work (I have a simple and tedious desk job that allows me to do this).

After watching hours upon hours of TV on Netflix, my love for TV has officially been reignited. I still don’t watch much network TV, but internet TV has become a saving grace as far as keeping me entertained at work.

In watching so much TV online, I have come to rediscover that not all TV is bad… however, some of it still is. And some things about TV are just downright wrong. So this post is dedicated to the good, the bad, and the ugly of television.

The Good

When I see aspects of my life reflected in a show, it enhances my TV-viewing experience and makes me enjoy the show more. Call me vain if you must, but I like shows that mirror my life.

In rare cases, a show takes a mundane part of life and enhances it. Parks and Recreation achieved this recently with its recent wedding episode, where Ben and Leslie tied the knot. I’m pretty sure I got much more excited about that wedding than I ever have for an actual wedding (no offense to anyone whose wedding I attended), which is more a reflection on how pathetic my life is than anything else… but come on, what isn’t to like about a good TV wedding? You get to witness a memorable (albeit fake) moment without actually having to be in the couple’s presence. And let’s be honest, couples are the worst, so it is best to stay as far away from them as possible (just kidding to all my friends who are part of a couple, which is most of them!) The only downside is that you don’t get any wedding food.

The Bad

As much as I love online TV, I am concerned that the internet is actually killing the television industry. Shows don’t get nearly as high ratings these days because so many people (including me) just watch TV shows online the day after they air. As a result, certain shows suffer. I have noticed that some of the greatest shows out there get the short end of the stick because they are aired at such awkward times that the majority of people have no choice but to watch online. Either that, or the cursed networks keep changing the airing schedule so often that viewers cannot possibly keep track.

Some shows, like Community and Happy Endings, are hilarious, but they have been in danger of cancellation. How can such good shows struggle on network television? How have funny moments like these gone virtually unnoticed to the general public?

I just don’t understand how such good shows can struggle while other lackluster shows do so well. I won’t mention any specific shows because I do not wish to offend, but there are just some shows that I feel do not deserve to do as well as they’re doing, and then there are shows like Community and Happy Endings, which struggle despite their undeniable brilliance. Luckily, these shows are still on for now, but the injustice of past shows that were canceled too early (Freaks and Geeks, a show that only lasted one season, comes to mind) still causes rage in my small, black heart… or maybe it’s possible that I’m getting a tad too over-dramatic.  And speaking of over-dramatic, that segues perfectly into the next section…

The Ugly

Maybe it’s best for some shows to get canceled in their prime, because it beats one alternative: a show going on so long that it becomes stale. Some shows just don’t know when to end. I’m sorry, The Simpsons, but you really do need to quit before you get too much further behind. And as for Scrubs, did you really need that ninth season? The eighth season finale was the perfect series finale!

But let’s focus on what used to be (in my opinion) one of the best sitcoms of all time: The Office. It hasn’t been so great as of the past couple seasons. They really should have ended the show when Michael left. Again, that would have made the perfect series finale. But they just had to drag it on, and now the show is more like a soap opera (Dwight is in love with Angela, who has a baby with a gay senator who’s having an affair with Oscar? What is this, Days of Our Lives?) than the comedy it once was. Honestly, it’s like watching a train wreck–I want to look away, but I just can’t. But the worst part is what they’re doing to Jim and Pam. For anyone who hasn’t seen the show lately (and I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped watching long ag0), they’re starting to set it up like Jim and Pam are going to end up getting a divorce or something horrible like that. Jim just up and decides to take a job in Philadelphia without consulting Pam, and then he yells at Pam for messing up the recording of their daughter’s recital? That is so out-of-character for him. And now one of the cameramen is supposedly in love with Pam, causing an even stronger gap in the Jim-and-Pam relationship, since the cameraman is there for Pam more than Jim is now. And then you realize that this is all a waste of time because you just know that they wouldn’t break Jim and Pam up after everything they’ve gone through.

And yet… as ugly as the whole thing is, I have to admit it’s not all that far-fetched. People change; often they regress instead of progress. Honestly, people are the worst. I’m just kidding, but it’s not uncommon for someone to act completely different from the person you thought them to be. So I guess the creators of The Office can’t be completely discredited for choosing to take their characters in this direction, but that doesn’t make the whole thing any less ugly. After all, comedies are supposed to be an escape from real life, not a reminder of just how depressing real life can be.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

In the past, my unspoken philosophy on entertainment has been pretty simple: keep it light, keep it clean, and stay away from anything depressing.  Recently I discovered a piece of literature that breaks all those rules.

And I love it.

perks of being a wallflower movieFor some reason, in the past few weeks I have found myself wanting to read The Perks of Being a Wildflower.  I honestly can’t explain why.  It is a book I have definitely known about for a while, yet for some reason it was only recently that I felt any desire to read it.  And I don’t think I could have read it at a better time.  Seriously, it was almost like I needed to read this book at this specific point in my life.  That might sound cheesy and clichéd, but oh well.

At a slick 213 pages, Perks held my interest from start to finish.  The book is written as a series of letters from the perspective of the main character Charlie.  From the first page, I found myself connecting to this fictitious character as if he were an actual person.

Early in his first letter, Charlie writes:

“So, this is my life.  And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

What follows these poignant words is an emotional roller coaster that has completely changed my perspective on literature, life, and myself.

I can’t say I relate to Charlie’s specific experiences.  I have never (to my knowledge) eaten a “special” brownie, nor have I had a close friend commit suicide.  But his way of dealing with life and the people around him, his capacity to love despite all the hurt he has experienced, as well as his feeling that there’s “something wrong with him”–that’s something I can relate to.  Maybe all of us can, to a certain extent.

And it’s not just Charlie who makes this book so easy to relate to.  All of these characters are vividly, painfully real.  High school is a time of self-discovery, and these kids are struggling to find their way in a difficult world.  And isn’t that what all of us are doing?  I think that’s probably why so many people can relate to this book.

So the first few days of this week involved me reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower whenever I could find time in my hectic schedule.  Then the day after I finished reading, I went to Red Box and rented the movie.  And the movie was one of the best book-to-film adaptations I have ever seen, which I guess isn’t all too surprising since the author of the book (Stephen Chbosky) wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

The movie did a perfect job capturing the emotions of the book.  If you never get around to reading the book, I would definitely recommend watching the movie–if only for the opportunity to see Hermione Granger speaking with an American accent (sorry, I couldn’t resist).  But if you can, read the book too.  There are some explicit passages and foul language that I could have done without, but the underlying message of the novel is a message of hope, as stated in the final pages:

“We are who we are for a lot of reasons.  And maybe we’ll never know most of them.  But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.”

Some of us have come from troubled families; others have come from troubled circumstances.  Everyone has made mistakes.  We can’t go back and change the past, and we can’t always control everything that will happen in the future.  But no matter what, we never have to let our past determine our future.  It is up to us to choose what path we take in life.  Nobody can ever take that away from us, no matter what happens.  And in the darkest of times, we can still find ways to be happy and “feel infinite,” just like the characters in this story.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower may not meet my usual requirements of keeping it light and staying away from anything depressing.  But it gave me the chance to sympathize with the characters, to feel their pain, and to (almost) cry with them.  In doing this, the book brought me a sense of comfort.  It was like therapy.  Sometimes it’s good to face reality, even in fiction.  Reading (or watching) a story that deals with real-life problems can add a sense of normality to the difficulties we face, which can help us feel not so… alone.