The Story of Me and Taylor Swift

It started back in 2006. I was in my car listening to the radio, still reeling from my first breakup. I hated country music because one particular country song made me think of him. But unfortunately, I was in Texas. I couldn’t escape country music. So imagine my surprise when I hear a very teenage feminine voice on the radio talking about how she wrote songs based on a few breakups she’s been through recently. They were playing songs from this female artist’s album, which meant that not all of the songs were going to be singles. And a smile broke out on my face as the song “Picture to Burn” played.

Little did I know that it was the start of my obsession with a singer named Taylor Swift.

Growing up, I loved singers who wrote songs that told a story. Yes, I also loved boy bands and the pop divas, but the songs I really liked were songs that spoke from the soul. Or at least sounded like they were soul-baring. Taylor Swift was everything I was looking for in a singer and I didn’t even care that she was a country singer because I related to the songs she wrote.

Taylor Swift, to me, was the artist who was with me when I was settling into Texas and she went with me while I started college. So even though I’ve yet to meet her, I feel like she’s a huge part of my life. Like her, I was kind of known in college for being a hopeless romantic. I would have a different crush every year and with the different crushes I would have a different Taylor Swift song that made me think of them.

I started noticing a change in Taylor Swift during her Red era, when I found myself not really relating to the songs on the album at first. I still liked them on their own merit, but I was afraid that I wasn’t able to relate to Taylor Swift anymore. Thankfully, a good friend told me that sometimes, songs take time to relate to. It turned out that the songs from Red were right there when I really needed them. Some of the songs from Red remind me of couples from TV that I ship while other songs applied more to things I experienced.

1989 has been Taylor’s biggest change yet. I was scared when I heard rumors that she was going to work with Max Martin, which meant that the album would be more pop than country. I was afraid that Taylor would start sounding like every other Top 40 singer out there. I was determined to hate “Shake It Off…”

But the funny thing about Taylor Swift is that no matter what changes she goes through, there are some parts of her that haven’t changed. When I watched the Yahoo Live stream that announced her new single and album, I danced along with Taylor and saw how happy she was. And that was enough for me to realize that I still loved her. And I loved “Shake It Off.”

So now I’m gonna do a “first impressions” take of Taylor’s latest album 1989. I’m going to include tracks from the deluxe edition since that’s the one I own. Disclaimer: I don’t consider myself a music critic. I’m just giving a fan’s opinion.

  1. Welcome to New York: This is the perfect “story opener.” You can put a movie trailer to this song. Although I haven’t moved anywhere since I started my life in Texas, I relate to this song because it makes me think of when I went to comic convention in May. I can also relate to the whole “this is a new phase of my life and I’m loving it” feeling that this song gives. Fave lyric: “It’s a new soundtrack, I could dance to this beat forevermore.”
  2. Blank Space: The demo for this track and Taylor’s story behind this song helped me to understand this song. When I first heard it, I felt like it was Taylor expressing her inner “bad girl.” Now I feel like it’s sort of a self-depreciation humorous take on what the media thinks Taylor is. The track is currently helping me laugh at my own boy-craziness back in college, especially since now I’m crushing again for the first time in two years. Fave lyrics: “Got a long list of ex-lovers/They’ll tell you I’m insane/But I’ve got a blank space baby/And I’ll write your name.”
  3. Style: This is my favorite track on the album. I love the disco beat and the story of a dysfunctional relationship. But the chorus is my favorite part. When I first heard it on Taylor’s Target commercial, it was love at first note! Fave line: “You got that long haired slicked back white t-shirt and I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt.”
  4. Out of the Woods: Taylor said that this track best represented what 1989 was to her. And it’s true. The tracks of 1989 have a lot of repetition, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I wondered how exactly the song conveyed the anxieties and insecurities of a relationship when the verses talked about the good times in a relationship. But then I remembered how I had relationships where I never knew where I stood with them, even when times were good. It reminds me a lot of “All Too Well.” Also, Taylor, you date some seriously bad drivers! Fave lyric: “We were built to fall apart then fall back together.”
  5. All You Had to do Was Stay: This is kind of my least fave track because of the high pitched “stay” that keeps repeating in the song. Usually, Track 5 of a Taylor Swift song is a heartbreaking slow number. The lyrics still convey that, but the music doesn’t match their angry tone. And usually, I like lyrical dissonance. But it just doesn’t work for this song.
  6. Shake It Off: As stated before, I love the tongue-in-cheek of this song and the music video. I was dancing along to this song and I keep dancing to this song every time I hear it on the radio. I love that it’s a “happy to be single” song. I can’t help but smile when I listen to it. Fave lyric: “To the fella over there with the hella good hair, won’t you come on over baby?” (Makes me think of my celeb crush who has the best hair ever.)
  7. I Wish You Would: Another disco-sounding track. This time, things are a bit more fast-paced. The song kind of goes into fast forward. The story, to me, reflects the fast pace of the song. A love that burned brightly but burnt out just as quickly. The constant “I wish” that repeats in the back towards the second half of the song get stuck in my head easily. Fave lyric: “We’re a crooked love in a straight line down.”
  8. Bad Blood: I almost didn’t recognize Taylor’s voice at first when I heard this song except in the chorus. I could almost swear that someone else was singing the verses and that Taylor just singing the chorus. But in reality, Taylor’s singing in her lower range. The song is about a friend’s betrayal, so naturally I can relate to it. The lyric “Did you think we’d be fine/Still got scars on my back from your knife” basically describes what happened when my former friend tried to contact me again. Fave lyric: “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes.”
  9. Wildest Dreams: This song, to me, tells the story of a short-lived romantic affair. Although the song styles are different, the story of the song kind of reminds me of “Careless Whisper.” This is Taylor’s most mature track, but she approaches it with a lot of fondness. Fave lyric: “He’s so tall and handsome as hell/He’s so bad but he does it so well.”
  10. How You Get the Girl: A seriously catchy track. Like some of the songs from Red, this particular track makes me think more of a certain couple I ship rather than how the song applies to me. I can imagine this song being used in fanvids. It has a vibe of “10 Things I Hate About You.” Fave Lyrics: “I want you for worse or for better/I would wait forever and ever/Broke your heart/I’ll put it back together”
  11. This Love: This is the only song on the album that Taylor wrote on her own. Taylor shines in this track, baring her soul and telling the story of how she tries to move on from this relationship only for her to still miss this person and surprisingly, the person she misses comes back to her. It’s a beautiful slow song. Again, I can’t help but think of a certain OTP of mine when it comes to this song. Fave lyric: “These hands had to let it go free and this love came back to me.”
  12. I Know Places: This song reminds me of a Fall Out Boy Track. I love the minor key, but I so wish she kept the song with just a piano like she did in the demo. The lyrics tell a story of an us-against-the-world kind of relationship. Bonnie and Clyde 2014. (Could also work for a dark Doctor Who episode.) Fave lyrics: “They are the hunters/we are foxes.”
  13. Clean: It’s a post-breakup song but with a lot of introspection and tells a story of a girl who rescues herself from the danger she put herself in. The 10 months sober bridge reminds me of an addict trying to stay on the wagon.  Fave lyric: “”Just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it.”
  14. Wonderland: It reminds me of a Rihanna track with the repetitive “eh’s.” That aside, I love the story of the chaotic love that moved too fast. A love that went mad. If she performs this in her 1989 concert tour, I can already imagine her dressed up Alice in Wonderland style. Fave lyric: “We found wonderland/You and I got lost in it/Life was never worse, but never better.”
  15. You Are In Love: A beautiful, sweet, romantic song. The story of the beginnings of love, realizing that you’re in love with someone. Fave lyric: “And you understand now why they lost their minds and fought the wars/And why I spent my whole life trying to put it into words.”
  16. New Romantics: A fast-paced song with a disco-esque track about trying to find new love. Almost a rebound anthem. Fave lyric: “The best people in life are free.”

The Villains of Buffy

The act of catharsis has two sides. One involves emotional empathy, the other is acknowledging a tragic figure or at least projecting the source of one’s tragedies onto a character. This blog will dive into my three favorite Buffy villains and what kind of catharsis they provided me with.

Angelus

Angelus is the evil version of Angel, the demon he used to be before gypsies cursed him with his soul. I am one of those Buffy fans who thinks that Angel and Angelus are two sides of the same coin, but that’s a fan theory that not everyone agrees with so for the sake of convenience, I’m only going to refer to the times when Angel was Angelus.

Outside of Buffy, I was still facing my own personal demon that took the form of a friend’s betrayal. To quote a Taylor Swift song, I still have scars on my back and even though I have forgiven this friend, trying to re-establish the connection is still a very bad idea.

I saw a lot of my friend in Angelus. He was a calculating, methodical villain who always thought out ways to torture his victims before killing them. Yes, he and his band of vampires was considered The Whirlwind because of all the destruction and mayhem they created, but Angelus was always precise. Angelus was also narcissistic, an evil genius, and willing to take things to the extreme.

When I watched Season 2 of Buffy, I projected the pain I felt about my betrayal onto Angelus. Even though Buffy cried when she sent Angel to Hell, I couldn’t help but pump my fist in the air when it happened. I haven’t watched Season 4 of Angel, when Angelus is said to return, but I still consider Angelus to be my favorite male villain of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

But my favorite villain overall?

 

Glory

On paper, Glory does not make a lot of sense. She is a hell goddess who needs brains to feed and is after one thing and one thing only: The Key. A fan of Buffy asked “Why didn’t they make Glory human instead of altering reality so that they key would be Buffy’s sister?” My personal headcanon is that the monks only had the power in relation to the Key and not Glory herself.

But Glory was hilarious, chaotic, and fun to hate. Even though she had her stupid moments, when she proved herself as a serious threat to the team, I was legitimately afraid of her. I was scared that she would kill Spike and hated when she made Tara insane. She appeared in Buffy’s home with no trouble  at all and was often in proximity of the Scooby Gang without them even realizing it.

Glory was basically the opposite of what I faced. My friend hated characters and people they deemed as “stupid.” Glory wasn’t the smartest of the Buffy villains, but I have a soft spot for villains who underestimate their opponents as long as they’re entertaining to watch and had fully developed personalities. Although like Angelus, she was a total narcissist and self-absorbed. But she owned up to the fact that she was a chaotic evil.

The most interesting villain, however, was one that I found myself identifying with in a very strange way.

 

Drusilla

Drusilla, to me, represents what I could’ve been if I stayed with my friend and went down a darker path. She is the definition of a tragic figure because no matter how hard you try, there’s no way that Drusilla could be redeemed without either altering her character to the point of her becoming unrecognizable, brushing aside her insanity, or letting her die a tragic death. Even if Drusilla gained her soul or became human, she would still suffer from the consequences of her actions and have to deal with that while still being insane. Drusilla and Spike were adorable together, to the point that I hated that he was sleeping with Harmony in Seasons 4 and 5. The problem, as Drusilla said, is that while vampires are capable of love, they do not always love wisely.

From this point on, I’m gonna go into my personal Drusilla headcanons so you’re free to agree or disagree with me on this. When Drusilla broke things off with Spike (as shown in flashback in Fool For Love), I had a feeling that she saw what Spike was going to become and decided on letting him go because she couldn’t follow where he was going.

I hated how she was treated in Angel. Darla took Drusilla for granted. She was happy to have her around, don’t get me wrong, but she completely forgot that Dru could get visions of the future and the two of them almost burned to death because of it. Part of me wishes sometimes that she could’ve worked things out with Spike. But if you backed me up in an alley, put a gun to my head, and asked me who Spike was better off with, I would say “Buffy” in a heartbeat. Again, Drusilla was destined to be a tragic figure…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In a show riddled with moral ambiguity, Drusilla reminds people of the consequences. She is a consequence of the evil actions of others and can only be saved through some kind of extreme measure.

Tomorrow, I lighten things up by talking about one of my favorite singers and how I emotionally connected with her.

Catharsis and Character Empathizing: The Heroes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer

I have gone into detail in other entries about how one aspect about Asperger’s Syndrome is having narrowly defined interests in something, otherwise known as “obsessions.” My latest obsession, if you haven’t read my blog before, is currently Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I said in my previous entry that one reason I started watching Buffy last year was to get into the Halloween spirit. However, another reason that I got into Buffy was because I was seeking catharsis.

The dictionary defines catharsis as: “the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions,especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.” I wanted an escape from some things that were stressing me. Without going too much into detail, somebody I wanted to cut off all ties with tried to contact me again and was in completely in denial about the hurt they caused me. This person was also into vampires, so naturally, a show where the vampires were the bad guys was just what I needed.

Joss Whedon stated that the things Buffy was put through represented the things teenagers had to overcome. Even though the first season had horrible lighting and the writing was “safe” but nothing special, I wanted more. Long story short, I watched all seven seasons of Buffy in a matter of five months.

What I love about Buffy is that I felt like I was part of that world. The show didn’t have social media marketing, just an underground of message boards and chat rooms. I didn’t chat with anyone about what I was watching. I just let the show sink into me. Not only did this show provide me the catharsis I needed, but I found myself relating to three characters from the show: Buffy, Spike, and Tara.

When I got halfway through Season 2, I was particularly drawn to all the times that Buffy felt vulnerable. I felt Buffy’s pain as Angel lost his soul. I cheered for her when she used the rocket launcher against the Judge. I cried when she sent Angel to Hell and felt so devastated that she decided to run away. I wanted her to be happy in Season 3, even as Angel was sending her mixed messages before deciding on leaving her. I loved it whenever she embraced her Slayer duties and used her powers to stand up against all who opposed her, especially in Season 4. I wanted to hug her in Season 5 when she suffered so many losses and finally decided to embrace her gift. I wanted to be there for her in Season 6 when she couldn’t find a single soul who understood what she really felt except for one particular reluctant ally. And I was on her side in Season 7, even when everyone else except for that same reluctant ally was turning against her.

I knew that I would love the show and I knew that Buffy was always going to be my fave, but there were some things I didn’t expect.

One of them was me growing to love Spike. From what my friends told me and what I read on TV Tropes, I assumed that Spike would be this poorly written character that got a large fanbase because he was the bad guy or that he was the Buffy equivalent of Loki. Boy, was I proven wrong! Getting the chip didn’t make Spike less of a badass. One fan of Buffy pointed out that it actually made him even more badass. I can’t help but agree because although I liked Spike as a comic relief character in Season 4, it wasn’t until Season 5 that I realized that I was falling for the bleach blonde vampire.

So I guess you’re wondering why and how I fell in love with this particular vampire even though I originally watched the show because the vampires were bad guys.

It’s pretty much a matter of empathy. I understood what he was going through, to an extent. I tend to sympathize more with people who experience unrequited love rather than people who are being chased by someone whose feelings they don’t returned, although both have happened to me. Spike was stupid, don’t get me wrong, but he was a bad guy who was trying to make the best of a bad situation. He stood up to a Hell Goddess and refused to reveal any information about Dawn, even if it meant getting himself killed. He helped Buffy try to deal with her depression in Season 6, even though his actions were horribly misguided. He got his soul back after realizing that his misguided actions led him to pushing things too far and he ended up saving the world in “Chosen.”

Tara Maclay was a character who didn’t appear until Season 4 and [SPOILER ALERT] ended her run towards the end of Season 6. She’s one of the characters I wish had more screen time because I saw a lot of myself in her. We were both introverted and intuitive. I loved that she did her best to help Dawn and Buffy out in Season 5 and felt like a genuine member of the family, but she was pushed to the side and eventually left the show in the most heartwrenching episode that to this day I refuse to watch after seeing it once. I also liked that she was friendly to Spike. She didn’t judge him like the other members of the Scooby Gang and she could do magic without falling into darkness like Willow. And without going into detail (again), I understood how Tara felt when it came to people who tried to control her. She learns how to stand up for herself. If I could change one thing about the show (other than how “Chosen” ended), it would be so that Tara would’ve been a bigger asset to the team.

Tomorrow, I look into the villains of Buffy and talk more about the process of catharsis.

How To Obsess Over Buffy The Vampire Slayer in 20 Easy Steps

In 1997, a TV show about a vampire slayer came onto the scene. It wasn’t until 2013 that I finally got around to watching it. Part of the reason I decided on watching it was because I wanted to get into the Halloween spirit. So I decided I’d make a list for anyone who wants to get into the show.

Step 1: Either get introduced to the show as a kid or through friends, family, or in my case vloggers and Netflix.

Step 2: Laugh at Season 1

Step 3: Start cosplaying, making fanart/fanfic/gifsets/playlists

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Step 4: Get excited about Season 2 because new villain is awesome

Step 5: Cry about halfway through Season 2 and/or at “Becoming Part 2”

Step 6: Realize that Joss Whedon ripped your heart out by the second season finale and contemplate the meaning of life

Step 7: Spot the lesbian/gay subtext in Season 3

Step 8: Pick and choose the “good” season 4 episodes and/or start watching Angel: The Series

Step 9: Pick a ship or start multishipping (this starts at around Season 4 or 5)

Step 10: Dawn. Love her or hate her. There is no in between.

Step 11: Cry over “The Body.” And “Tough Love.” And “The Gift.”

Step 12: Get optimistic about Season 6 because Buffy Lives

Step 13: Memorize all the songs in “Once More With Feeling.”

Step 14: Start losing hope around “Smashed” and “Wrecked.”

Step 15: Start crying again from Hell Bells onwards because Season 6 is a beautiful disaster.

Step 16: Realize there’s only one season left.

Step 17: Pick out the people you recognize amongst the Potential Slayers. (Hi Felicia Day!)

Step 18: Hate everyone by the time you watch “Empty Places”

Step 19: Watch “Chosen” and cry one last time, wondering what the hell you should do next.

Step 20: Read the comics and/or start reading/writing fanfiction

Dealing With Grief

One thing associated with Asperger’s and Autism is that change is a harder thing for people diagnosed with Aspergers and Autism to deal with change. Most people don’t like change, but they have the ability to suck it up, deal with it, and adjust. For me, the process of accepting and dealing with change takes a bit longer. This especially applies when it comes to losing a loved one.

You ever hear those stories about people who wake up with a bad feeling in the middle of the night? Well, two years ago, I was having trouble sleeping because I knew that my friend, Rev. James Keon, CSB (Congregation of St. Basil) had left the hospital recently. He had some accidents on-campus that led to him deciding on returning to his hometown in Canada. But two years ago, I couldn’t sleep. I decide to open my Facebook and learned that Fr. Keon passed away.

Fr. Keon was one of my first friends that I made during my early days at the University of St. Thomas. I first met him in the cafeteria, a place that he often hung out at. I saw a book that belonged to a priest on the counter and wasn’t sure who I could give the book to. Remembering that all the priests lived together, I saw Fr. Keon and asked him to return the book to the priest it actually belonged to. Then, after buying lunch for my mother, Fr. Keon waited with me until my mother came around to pick me up from school, since back then I was a commuter.

Fr. Keon became the grandfather I never had. I knew that I could always sit with him in the cafeteria. Sometimes, I would see him celebrating Daily Mass and other times, we would attend lectures and plays together. Sometimes, my friends would come and sit with me while other times, it would just be the two of us. Fr. Keon was one of the many things that made the university wonderful for me. I could talk to him about anything and he would make a joke or give me advice. And even when I learned that he was going to be leaving the university, I imagined myself writing e-mails or letters to him.

 

I didn’t get much sleep the night I found out about Fr. Keon’s passing. The next morning, I couldn’t understand how everyone could go about their day so easily. Was I the only one who was missing him? I hated the pain I felt and how the cafeteria looked so empty without him, even when it was filled with students. I hated that future students would have no clue about the kindhearted priest who would sit somewhere in the cafeteria and spend time with students. I found time to cry and wanted to push away all thoughts of Fr. Keon in order to avoid the pain I was feeling. But eventually, that distance overwhelmed me.

Eventually, I went to counseling and talked about my grief to them as well as some of my friends who also missed him. Later on, there was a memorial service that also helped me to deal with things better. I wasn’t the only one who missed him. As a priest and a teacher, Fr. Keon made friends with so many people throughout his lifetime and they all had wonderful stories about him. One story in particular stood out: an alumni gave a testimony about Fr. Keon spending dinner with her and her female friends. She pointed out that Fr. Keon was a huge flirt. It was part of his sense of humor and I remembered how he often jokingly flirted with my friends. Everyone in the chapel was laughing and later on, there was a dinner where I heard even more stories. To top it all off, one of my friends made a video of him that I still keep bookmarked on my internet browser. Originally, it was supposed to be a profile of him for a video contest. Now it serves as my memorial video.

At the end of the shorter version of the video, there is a clip of him at his birthday party with everyone singing to him. I gave Fr. Keon a big hug, smiled at the camera, and left to go get my lunch or sit down somewhere.

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When I see him again in Heaven, I plan on giving him another hug and the best smile I could ever give a friend.

The Legacy of Pope John Paul II

Today is the first feast day of Pope St. John Paul II. Even though I was born in 1990, I still consider myself part of the JP2 Generation. It’s just that for me, I learned more about the great pope after his passing. While Leah Darrow was beginning to turn her life around as she heard the news of Pope John Paul II’s passing and Fr. Roderick was building a following for his podcast, I was lost in a California daze. As a child, I didn’t know much about the pope and took his presence for granted because at the time, my world was limited to the Central New Jersey suburbs of Monmouth County and New York City.

It wasn’t until I started college that I learned more about Pope John Paul II. I watched a performance of his beautiful play The Jeweler’s Shop, read some of his encyclicals and letters, and learned about his life. His road to sainthood was a frequent topic of conversation amongst my friends. I often found myself wishing that I could have some kind of time machine so that I could’ve seen the pope in his prime.

But it turned out that even after his death, Pope John Paul II would make a personal impact on my life. One of the beautiful things about Catholicism is that the ones we love never really leave us when they die. When it comes to the holy men and women of the Church, there’s an assurance that their souls are in heaven.

When it came time for Pope John Paul II’s canonization, I was back in California. This time I was just visiting my cousin for her 18th birthday party, which took place the same day as the canonization. Once the party was over, I went to my hotel room and watched a livestream of the canonization via YouTube. Some of my friends were quick to point out how they used Pope John Paul II’s cross in the procession while I was excited at the sight of Pope Emeritus Benedict.

Although I eventually fell asleep (time difference between California and Vatican City), I felt the presence of Pope John Paul II as I watched the livestream. I realize now that the legacy of Pope John Paul II was there and it’s best seen by what he left behind: a generation of people who were inspired by him, countless priests and bishops who strive to follow his example, and 2 popes who continue to bring the world together.

As for me, I hope that I continue to learn more about Pope John Paul II and join the others who are carrying his legacy for the next generation.

Where I Stand On The Spectrum

My brother linked me to a theory video that speculated that the Super Smash Bros games are told from the POV of an autistic child. I highly praise the maker of this video for doing a lot of research and addressing a lot of the misconceptions about autism, especially the stuff he said about Autism Speaks. (Long story short: Autism Speaks sucks! Don’t support them!) That being said, I wanted to elaborate about where I stand on the autistic spectrum because some of the things in the video, as stated by the video creator himself, don’t apply to everyone diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s.

As of this entry, Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer considered as separate from autism. However, I still consider myself as having Asperger’s because some people who have autism don’t have as many symptoms as others. In other words, I consider myself more high-functioning. Warning in advance: Long post is long.

First of all, I don’t consider myself a savant of any sort. I can memorize some things, but they’re usually associated with things I obsess over. For example, I have memorized lines from the episodes of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries word for word. As far as empathy is concerned, I definitely have the ability to empathize with people as well as fictional characters. When I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I understood Spike’s actions in Season 5 and 6 in spite of a good number of fans hating Spike because he came off as a stalker. (With good reason. He was.)

One symptom that’s commonly associated with Asperger’s and autism is connected to language. The video said that someone with autism could either be great with languages or be completely unable to understand sarcasm and metaphor or fall somewhere in between. I have a very offbeat sense of humor and sometimes, when I’m hanging out with my friends, I have problems telling the difference between them being serious or them teasing me. It’s gotten better, though, because as I get to know my friends, it gets easier for me to discern the difference in their tones. Watching people on TV and on the internet also helped me understand social cues better because the nonverbal actions and tones are easier to distinguish.

Another symptom associated with most people on the autistic spectrum is a need to have a routine and hate having changes in said routine. While I had a structured environment in schools, it’s not as easy for me to develop routines on my own nowadays since I’m still looking for work. I used to have a routine by associating days with whatever TV show I wanted to watch that day, but with the internet being what it is, that method has since changed.

Having a lack of routine has forced me to be flexible and focus more on the process of doing things as opposed to being tunnel-visioned towards a certain goal. This helped me recently in my efforts on losing weight. I exercised when I had the opportunity to do so and changed some of the things I ate. As of this entry, I have lost 10 pounds.

The video stated that those who have autism are capable of imagining things, but not to the same extent as what is called “neuro-typicals” or people who don’t have autism. I pretty much agree with this because when I was a kid, the most original thing I ever created was an imaginary friend named Fred who came from Australia and had red hair. Most of the time, I imagined myself being a sidekick to the Justice League heroes because I watched Superfriends. My character was a cowgirl who fought with Wonder Woman and liked horses. Back then, most of my female friends were in their “I love horses” phase and while I didn’t obsess with horses as much as they did, associating myself with horses was still part of my imagination.

Another symptom associated with many people with autism is a fixation on things or developing obsessions. I’ve gone more into detail about my obsessions in previous entries, but to make a long story short, my obsession is stories. The one thing that everything I loved as a child had in common (fairy tales, Japanese anime, childrens’ books and cartoons) was that they all told stories with dynamic characters.

Nowadays, I write fictional stories. It’s not easy for me to come up with completely original characters because I often feel like I’m starting from nothing. I always start by thinking of characters I like from shows I watch and books I read. I even write “fanfiction” which takes the characters from a show and puts them in an alternative storyline.  Most of my fanfiction is usually “fixing” things I didn’t like about something I watched or read.

Some people who were diagnosed with Asperger’s have problems with motor skills, which sometimes manifests in the form of a nervous twitch. This was something I had a major problem with as a child. I would often shake my right leg under my desk whenever I was bored and I never sat properly. However, taking dance classes helped me gain some coordination (though not to the extent that I can play video games as good as my brother nor can I play sports). Nowadays, I still have a twitch, but it usually comes in the form of a trigger finger in my right pinky. (It might be because of all the knitting.)

One thing I don’t agree with in the video is the idea that my Asperger’s has any effect on the kind of people or things I find attractive. If anything, I feel like I have to try twice as hard to figure out romantic relationships as I do with my regular friendships. I consider myself to be heterosexual with the occasional girl crush on a certain actress or character. I don’t have any “fetishes” and I developed into puberty at a typically normal age (12 years old).

The video takes on a dark turn when it goes into people who either bully someone with autism or claim to help with good intentions, but see autism as something bad. It says that in the Subspace Emissary story mode, the characters are mute, which represents the symptom of social ineptitude. Some people with autism speak in monotone. I have a tendency of speaking too loud. And those less high-functioning do have problems speaking at all.

The last symptom that the video gets into is amplified emotions and it talks about loneliness and depression specifically. The worst instance of that happening in my life was when I got so nervous during a class, I had an anxiety attack. Nobody was there to help me and I started freaking out in front of everyone. The professor told me that I had to drop the class or she would kick me out. And there were times in my life that I saw myself as my own worst enemy.

But things got better. I was able to find other writing classes. I changed my major and did an internship at a news station. I started teaching. I found new stories to obsess over. And best of all, I made friends who helped me understand myself. Because the thing is I don’t define myself by just my Aspergers, nor do I define myself by sexuality, gender, or race. Instead, I define myself by something bigger than me. But that’s another blog post.

How to Handle Crushes and Relationships in 8 Easy Steps

You know what’s worse than being a hopeless romantic? Being a hopeless romantic who can’t figure out social cues and has relationship drama worthy of a Taylor Swift song.

Back when I was in college, I had a crush on a different guy every year. Before that, I had a couple of boyfriends in high school. Sadly, my relationships ended badly and my feelings for the crushes were unrequited. The good news is that I learned a lot of things from having these crushes and relationships. So in no particular order, here are 8 steps for handling having a crush and building a better relationship.

1) Acknowledge what you are feeling, but don’t dwell on it

Whenever I had a crush, I would go between two extremes: 1) I would be in total denial about what was going on or 2) I would let the feelings I have overwhelm me to the point that I couldn’t think about anything else. Childhood television taught me that it’s good to acknowledge whatever you’re feeling and find a way to deal with it. My way of dealing with a crush nowadays is to write poetry about it.

2) Figure out the best way to communicate.

Some Aspies have problems expressing how they feel, either verbally or nonverbally. Others, like me, struggle with understanding what other people express and what that means.  Honesty is the best policy in this case. Whenever I meet somebody, I always ask them what their preferred method of communication is. If I forget to ask that question, I usually try very neutral methods such as e-mail or social networking. However, face-to-face interaction is still the most preferred method for non-Aspies.

When it comes to face-to-face interaction, work on maintaining eye contact and read up on body language. During college, I took classes that put me in situations that involved a lot of face-to-face interaction such as presenting a speech or learning how to act for a play. These classes helped me to express myself better in the day-to-day conversations.

3) Don’t talk about your feelings/relationship with everyone.

This is something I learned the hard way. I wasn’t the kind of girl who whined on social media about how perpetually single I was…but I whined about it to pretty much everyone I interacted with in real life. I’m pretty sure I annoyed a lot of people, but they were way too nice to tell me otherwise.

When it comes to asking for advice, I suggest talking things over with someone you can really trust. It might be a relative or a friend or even a counselor. It’s better to confide in a handful of people rather than your entire of circle of friends because if/when said crush/relationship doesn’t work out, you don’t have to tell everyone about said fallout.

4) Remember to love yourself

One major problem I had was that I entered into my relationships with the idea that I would find my sense of self-worth with them. I realize now that the men I liked weren’t going to give me love if I didn’t love myself first. I still struggle with self-esteem issues, but I’ve found things about myself that I love and try to be the best version of myself on a daily basis.

If you’re having problems with having a good sense of self-worth, I have a Bible verse for you:

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you. When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.” Psalm 139: 13-16.

No, you are not a Special Snowflake entitled to everything you want, but you were created with love and are loved just for who you are.

5) Take it slow

Most dating advice articles say that it’s good to start off as friends. While I also advise to start out as friends, don’t obsess over how you’re “stuck in the friendzone” with said crush. Again, you are created with love, but you are not entitled to everything you want. It’s a slow process, but good things take time. Get to know your significant other and enjoy the time you spend with them. If you play your cards right, you’ll either end up with a good friend or a significant other. Worst case scenario, you’ll learn something from said relationship.

6) Treat the person as a person, not as an object

Something I learned from my crushing was that I was more often caught up in the idea of having a relationship rather than falling in love with the person I crushed on in question. Don’t get obsessed over a person’s physical features and DO NOT push things too far with too much physical contact. No matter what your views on casual sex may be, relationships tend to be better with delayed gratification.

Ask them about how their day went, things they like to do in their spare time, hobbies they enjoy, etc. It helps you find out more about them and it makes them feel more comfortable. It also leads to them asking questions about you. Just remember that both parties have to hold up the conversation.

7) If a crush ends up being unrequited or a relationship fizzles out, it’s not the end of the world

A common problem Aspies face is anxiety especially when it comes to frequent change or facing disappointments. Don’t stay in a bad relationship just because you hate the idea of changing your life. It’s better to let go of bad influences than to stay with them and watch your life slowly get worse and worse.

Whenever I found out that a crush didn’t return my feelings, I would often blame myself and then blame the other person. In reality, relationships end for a lot of reasons and both parties are responsible. Take responsibility for whatever mistakes you may have made, learn from them, and move on.

8) Don’t compare your relationship to anyone else’s!

No two relationships are the same. Teenage girls will usually crush on a boy their parents don’t approve of and compare their relationship to Romeo and Juliet, completely missing the point that Romeo and Juliet died at the end of the play. However, the best love stories are ones that are unique. While one might compare relationships to stories such as Beauty and the Beast and other fairy tales, the people in the relationships will always be different from the characters in said stories.

It’s not easy for an Aspie to not compare things because most Aspies like to gather facts and analyze them. Relationships, however, are a bit messier than that. Each relationship and each crush will be a new and unique experience. You can use what you learned in past relationships to better yourself going into a new one, but don’t compare the new loves to old flames. Instead, find what you love about them that is unique only to them.

There are definitely some more tips out there, but this is just a starter for handling the always-new situation of falling in love. I hope these tips help you out!

Halloween: A Very Catholic Holiday

There are some things you should know about me. For one thing, I am a cradle Catholic, which means that I was born into a Catholic family, baptized as a baby, and was raised with the teachings of the faith. I went to Catholic school from Kindergarten all the way to 7th grade and later on went to a Catholic university.

Throughout all that time, I was raised to love Halloween. Never have I ever heard any of my teachers or professors or priests call the holiday Satanic. So it surprises me to learn that some Protestant denominations, and even uber-conservative Catholics denounce the holiday.

Yes, the holiday of Halloween has become secularized. A lot of Catholic holidays have become secularized, though. Just look at the seasonal aisle of the grocery store. You’re bound to find more snowmen, pumpkins, and bunnies as opposed to manger sets, candles, and crucifixes. Yes, people tend to dress provocatively or ramp up the gore. Have you not seen the latest shows? There is nothing new under the sun. People just tend to take deviancy up to 11 on Halloween, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still a Catholic holiday.

Halloween, when you break down the word, translates to All Hallow’s Eve, the vigil of All Saints Day. The historical origins of this holiday can be traced back to the days of Pope Gregory III. It’s not connected to the pagan feast of Samhain despite what secularists may say. Most of the Halloween traditions we have today can actually be traced back to Celtic traditions.

But for this blog post, I’m gonna suggest some ideas on what kids, teens, and young adults can do to celebrate the holiday.

Kids (babies-12)

Because the holiday falls on the eve of All Saints Day, Halloween is the perfect opportunity to teach kids about the saints. Characters from fairy tales, children’s literature and comic books are also great costume ideas because these characters can teach kids good things like teamwork and courage.

“But what if my kid wants to dress up as the bad guy?” you ask.

Then let them. Kids need to distinguish good from evil in some way and playing the role of the villain can help them see why the bad guys lose in the end. Villains are fun characters to play, but most actors who get typecast as villains know what they’re getting into. Just make sure it’s the same for your kid.

Activities for Halloween aside from the obvious trick-or-treating can include watching the Peanuts classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Other awesome Halloween/spooky movies are listed here.

Tweens/Teens (12-18)

Think your child is ready for some serious stuff or thinks that they’re too old for trick-or-treating? Create a haunted house or throw a costume party.

If they’re old enough to be in high school, I highly recommend they watch movies such as Carrie or Scream. (The original Carrie, please!) Avoid The Craft because it’s kind of cheesy. TV shows such as Supernatural, Charmed, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer are also recommended, depending on how old the tween/teen is. If you want a TV show that’s scary, but also family-friendly, there are plenty of episodes of Doctor Who for that.

Young Adults (18-25)

They are now old enough to check out the R-rated horror movies. I personally like the original Halloween by John Carpenter. This is a good time to introduce classic horror movies such as the original Dracula, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Haunting. (No remakes!)

Introduce them to the concept of DIY costuming to save money on materials. You can teach ladies how to sew and you can teach the guys how to use tools to create something like a tank they can wear if they want to go as something from the latest video game. It’s a great way to get creative with costume ideas without going into the “sexy costume” territory.

If they feel ready for a serious scare, take them out to a seriously scary haunted house maze or show them the Evil Dead/Art of Darkness series.

In conclusion, Halloween is a great holiday and does not deserve the bashing it gets or the secularization it’s already getting.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, Fr. Angel talks about it on this tumblr.