Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Bridge

I was recently introduced to a documentary called "The Bridge," which I watched via Hulu the other day. I couldn't keep my eyes off of the screen - I almost missed my yoga class because of it!

It chronicles the suicides that have become so common from people jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge. So far, more than 1,200 people have died there, with an average of 2 people jumping per week.

This picturesque, well known representation of San Francisco is the No. 1 place in the world where people commit suicide. How utterly sad that something so beautiful is the place where something so ugly happens all of the time.

The documentary is based on this New Yorker article, which I highly recommend. The detail in which the article goes into as far as what happens when people jump (it's a 4-second fall at about 75 mph, so it's like hitting concrete - if a jumper doesn't die on impact, he/she drowns or dies of hypothermia).

The most disturbing part of the documentary, to me, was that there was actual, high-quality footage of people jumping off. You got to watch their last moments alive, some of them pacing back and forth contemplating the decision, before they hurl themselves over the rail.

Needless to say, it was hard to watch.

I don't think it was meant to be a sensationalized film showing suicide - it mostly featured interviews with several jumpers' family and friends, talking about the days preceding their loved one's suicide.

One jumper had schizophrenia, and the way her mom and sister talked about it kind of upset me - they seemed almost relieved that she was "in peace" now. They didn't even seem that disturbed by the whole thing. Maybe that's their coping mechanism, but it still seemed off to me.

Another intriguing part was when a jumper was interviewed. Now 24, this young man had attempted suicide by jumping off the bridge when he was 18. To hear his account of how he got to that point, how he told his dad goodbye and knew for sure it was the last time he'd see him, and how immediately he regretted jumping the instant he did it - it gave me knots in my stomach. Only 2% of people survive when they jump, so it's amazing to think that this boy got a second chance.

I recommend watching the movie, but just be forewarned that it is disturbing at times. Suicide is something I don't quite understand, even though my family has been touched by it. I just don't know what could bring someone to that point - and even worse, how it seems so likely that bringing them out of that dark place might be impossible.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Do Overs

I always pose the question to people, "If you could go back to a time in your life and do something over, what would it be?"

Obviously this is impossible (unless you're Ashton Kutcher in "The Butterfly Effect"), but it's still something I ponder, as unhealthy as that is.

I know I can't relive the past, as hard as I try when I go a bit overboard with my nostalgia (you can find me reading all of my old journals pretty much every time I go home to visit my parents). But there's something about examining my history, my choices and my past self that helps shape who I want to be in the future. I look at a lot of my journals as "how to" guides - or not how to, in many cases.

This past weekend I attempted a do over by traveling to Oregon on a road trip with one of my best friends. The last time I was in Oregon post-college was last year, and it spelled D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R in capital letters. In a nutshell, I traveled with the wrong people (person, really). The other person with us and I were forced to go home early - specifically we had to rent a car and drive 10 hours home well into the wee hours of the night. How unfortunate, considering how much I'd looked forward to exploring my old stomping grounds and showing my "friends" where I'd gone to school.

Last weekend, my alma mater held a special alumni event for PR students/grads. I thought this would not only be a great chance to see my school and some old friends, but to also replace that bad memory from last year.

The trip was spectacular! I saw 3 of my old dorm buddies in Portland and had the best time at the PR event. Oregon is as gorgeous as ever - being there reminded me why I chose it for college. And being around my fellow PR peers was even more amazing than I'd imagined - what a change to be in a town with mostly 20-somethings, and to be around people who care about the same things I do! I talked school, work and politics with a group of people at the event, and it was so refreshing (it helped that Eugene runs blue, I might add). This trip was just what I needed.

My fellow road tripper was Christina, and we had a blast together. After my event, we stopped by one of the popular bars near campus (one that I'd never been to! Hey, I was only 21 for like 5 minutes before I graduated). I might add that Christina gets a lot of attention when we go out - and on this night, we happened to be in our dressy clothes since we'd just left the event. Clearly we stood out amid our North Face-donning peers.

Some random guy began talking to us, and I thought, "Here we go again." He kept complimenting Christina's makeup, saying that she was like a Bond Girl. Okaaaay. Then he said his girlfriend looks like her and that he can't wait to "fatten her up" so that she has more of a build like Christina's. Okaaaay. Then apparently we find out this girlfriend of his is 19, they've been together 2 weeks, he already tells her he loves her, and she's dating some other guy that she's using to do her homework.

All right, time to leave.

I love meeting weird people when I go out. You know me - I normally lie about my name and make up some random details. But on this night, I didn't get a word in edgewise. This character was too busy drooling over Christina, with whom he later asked to take a picture (before inquiring how much she charges for photos. What. The. Hell.).

So in sum, my clusterf*** of an Oregon trip last year has been replaced by the good memories of this past weekend.

I know I can never go back and change the past, but at least I can make the present something worth remembering.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ignorance Is Your New Best Friend

Never would I claim to be the smartest person in the world, but I'd like to think of myself as fairly educated and open-minded. I know I'm only 24, so that naturally means I have an infinite amount more to learn, but I've been told more than once that I am wise beyond my years.

I attribute this to my family. With an older sister, it's like I have 3 parents, so I have a lot of people from whom to learn. In addition, I read, keep up on current events and educate myself on things. I know I have a long way to go, but I'm proud of where I'm at right now.

Not everyone is open though - there are a lot of ignorant, close-minded people in this world. And I feel like I've encountered my fair share of these folks.

I don't know why I should feel so shocked that there are idiots in this world. I guess when I was younger, I pictured adults as these people who always had the answers. I thought once you became part of the "real world" that your immaturity magically dissolved and that you evolved into a decent contributor to society. Adults are smart; they've got the brains....right?

Unfortunately, my idealistic view has proved to be not as true as I would have hoped. Case in point: Fox News is the No. 1 cable news network in America.

I don't care if people are conservative - I have plenty of Republican friends and co-workers, and I live in the second reddest county in California. My problem is with people who fail to pay attention and do the research, and so they subsequently end up supporting/not supporting various things that they don't even understand. Democrats do this too, of course. It's not about party affiliation - it's about self-education.

I gave a presentation on sexual assault to a college class a few weeks ago. I always request speaking to college students because these are people who are proactively seeking to educate themselves, and college was the time when I finally realized why feminism matters (oooh, feminism is a dirty word, huh? Look it up, people. It doesn't mean I'm a man hater. It just means I believe in gender equality). When I began talking about how victims of sexual assault are in no way to blame, even if they wear provocative clothing or drink, one student (a male) had a problem with this.

"Isn't it still a good idea to take precautions though?" he argued. "I mean, bicycle riders should wear reflective gear so they don't get hit by cars. And by not taking precautions, isn't it almost like poking a snake with a stick and wondering why you got bit?"

Oh, my. Where to begin.

I applaud this gentleman for engaging in the conversation and voicing his thoughts. I immediately responded by telling him that it's important to not victim-blame - by saying that victims should wear x, y, z and also not ever engage in drinking, walking around at night or doing laundry at a shady laundromat is ultimately sending the message that those who are assaulted must have strayed from certain "precautions." Someone in a burlap sack or nun's habit can be just as easily assaulted as someone in stripper's garb.

I don't think the guy ever really saw it my way (and I didn't dare express my disgust with his choice of analogies - rapists are just blinded motorists and defensive reptiles? Puh-lease). His comments made me realize just how far we have to go when it comes to people understanding the dynamics of sexual assault. I wish everyone would take a women's studies class, but I think a lot of it would unfortunately fall on deaf ears.

Then there are those who are ignorant emotionally. You know the type - the people who argue like this is third grade and those who haven't yet retired the ever-so-classic temper tantrum.

Now, I completely understand that people respond to things differently - not everyone reacts to difficulty with a cool as a cucumber attitude like my mom. But is stooping to low blows and "I'm so much better than you" tactics truly necessary?

I've had "friends" that appear even-keeled and sane, but the minute they are unhappy - BAM!!! True colors come out. This is why I've always said that you can really tell how much someone respects you when you fight with them - if they resort to playground-style name calling or refuse to listen to your side, then it might be time to let this infantile person go. Aging doesn't necessarily bring wisdom, and I know of people well into adulthood who fall into this emotionally ignorant category. Their emotions, their pain and their feelings trump all - it's like toddler self-absorption at its finest.

Then there's romantic ignorance. I guess you could argue that I fall into this category. I think this is the type of ignorance when you go into relationships with unrealistic expectations. I tend to expect a lot from guys - even going so far as to expect that once a guy likes you, he will continue to like you. Sadly, that's not the case. We are all unpredictable, complicated creatures, and with that comes changing your mind.

A person that used to like me has recently made it clear that dating me is not an option. I don't feel like I did anything wrong, but maybe it would have been better if I'd been more realistic. C'mon, Trace. A guy stops calling, texting and visiting. He doesn't say he misses you anymore, he doesn't make plans with you and he barely acknowledges your existence. This is crystal clear he's-just-not-that-into-you territory!

I guess that optimist in me will never go away. It may be ignorant to hope and wish for something wonderful to happen - despite all the evidence to the contrary. But if that's the case, then I plan on being an idiot for the rest of my life.