Monday, May 29, 2017

My Invisible Best Friend

I read an article recently about a Texas teacher that awarded one of her students a superlative for being "The Most Likely to Become a Terrorist," and it got me thinking about all the questionable things that teachers sometimes do and don't realize will still impact a person for years down the road.

In my personal experience, I once got disciplined by a teacher - in front of the whole class - for being too talkative.  She told me that I should only speak if I had something important to say, and then proceeded to draw a big, angry red "X" on my behavior calendar for the week.  I was so traumatized that I never spoke again, and constantly questioned if the things I did say were important enough to be considered "important."  I would later be made fun of in middle school for being too quiet.  Side note: kudos to my poor parents who had to deal with my floodgate of chatter the minute they picked me up from school, because heaven knows I could only hold that kind of restraint for so long and needed to share my racing thoughts with somebody.

But I digress...what I really want to talk about is the teacher that made my best friend "invisible." Let's start from the beginning.

Growing up, I had a best friend that lived two doors down from me.  We spent the majority of our time with one another, and because we looked sort of similar - same brown eyes, same long brown hair, same 90's fashion sense - the teachers in our school liked to say we were twins. Our only difference was that my friend was a little bit louder than me (RE: the "I never talked again" incident), and I was a steadfast rule follower. We were a great pair. She would pull me out of my shell when I was acting too shy, and I would rein her in when she was being too crazy. Once second grade rolled around, we couldn't have been more happy to have been placed in the same class. Little did we know, that year would be memorable in a way we never anticipated.

I'd like to preface this by saying that at the time, I really loved my teacher (moving forward, we'll refer to her as Mrs. Sybil due to the split personality way she dealt with her students). Mrs. Sybil was very nice to me - I actually considered her one of my favorites for a good while - but I was also an ass-kissing teacher's pet with a perfectionism problem.  My friend was not.  She wasn't a bad student by any stretch of the word when it came to academics, but as I've already mentioned, she was loud and a bit of a rule breaker.  Her and Mrs. Sybil did not get along.  So much so, that Mrs. Sybil retaliated in a way that can only be described as "that's pretty fucked up."

Oh, how badly I wish I could remember the events that lead to my friend's punishment, but the only thing that remains fresh in my brain is the punishment itself.  Whatever it was that happened, it set Mrs. Sybil off so badly that she declared to the whole classroom that my friend would be "invisible" for the rest of the year.  How, exactly, do you make a 7 year old girl invisible?  Following Mrs. Sybil's logic, you do the following:

  • Move the student's desk to the corner of the room by the backpack and coat storage.
  • Wheel the two mobile chalkboards over to the corner to close the area off.  Now, the student can see no one.
  • After realizing that you and the rest of the class can still see the child's feet, cover up the bottom of the chalkboards by leaning large posters up against them.  Good, now no one can see her and she has successfully been made invisible.
  • Make it very clear to all your other students that they are not to talk to the invisible girl, and she is not to talk to them.
  • When taking morning attendance, skip the invisible student's name every day.
  • When the invisible student still does well on tests or homework assignments, do not award them with a congratulatory gold star like every one else.
  • When the invisible student's journal entry is selected as the best one of the day, read it out loud to the rest of the class, but also make backhanded comments like, "This was a great journal, but it's too bad we don't have a <insert friend's name here> in the class."
  • Continue this process for the remainder of the year.

Was I lying when I said that the whole situation was pretty fucked up?  The only time I was allowed to talk to my friend at school was during lunch and recess, so it was basically like we weren't in the same class at all.  And don't even get me started on how she was affected.  As far as I can recall, we never told anybody or talked about the invisible situation outside of school, because I have a feeling Mrs. Sybil would have lost her job or been forced to end the punishment had we told another adult. In fact, I had forgotten about the whole incident for a long time until one day in high school my friend casually mentioned during lunch, "Do you remember when Mrs. Sybil made me invisible?! Like, for the whole year?  God, I hated that bitch."  

Obviously, she was still bothered by it...

Friday, May 26, 2017

It's Kind of Like Dating: A Compendium of Tips for Finding the Perfect Roommate (sort of)

Disclaimer: By "tips" I mean "my personal actions" and by "sort of" I mean "Well, I don't actually have a roommate after all this, but I sure had a lot of offers!" Some may think that what I achieved was not particularly noteworthy, and to that I argue, "Oh really? Can you name one other time in my life where I ever had a lot of offers for anything?"

Let's be honest here: putting a decent roof over your head is expensive. If what's under that roof also includes having access to hot water and basic human rights like cable and internet, it's even more expensive. This is especially true if you're a 20something young professional that is juggling a mountain of student loan debt, car payment debt, and some amount of credit card debt from your mild, it's-not-really-a-problem shopping problem. Times like these call for a roommate.

But how do you find a roommate? Specifically, a roommate that is A) Not Crazy, B) Not Crazy, and C) "Not Going to Kill Me in My Sleep" Crazy? It's hard. Just like dating, you have to meet - or in these modern times, "have text conversations with" - a lot of frogs before you find your unicorn. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to ease your search.

1. Sell Yourself Like a $2 Hooker

Now before anyone starts taking my advice too literally and starts offering sex in exchange for a room to sleep in, what I mean is that you need to put yourself out there and show off the best you have to offer. I suggest starting with an ad. The best advice I can give for those creating an ad is this: write to your audience. Don't just put some bland and hurried post out there because what you'll get in return is a handful of boring, lazy ass people. Instead, imagine yourself at the receiving end and write the sort of ad that you would respond to. Be sure to include details on what you like/dislike, what you enjoy to do in your free time, and some of the things you can give to the person sharing your living space (other than your share of the rent). I also found that it's best if you wrap it all up in the sparkly package of humor. People like to laugh.

Example (and yes, this is the actual ad I used when conducting my own roommate search):

Hi, I'm Krystal. That's Krystal with a K. If you are looking for a roommate, then look no further. I'm a 25 year old professional in the architecture/interior design industry, relocating to Dallas from Indiana. I am moving in at the end of September, and would like to find a like-minded female with an available room. A little bit about myself: I'm respectful, I'm quiet, I like to keep things clean and orderly, I enjoy drinking wine while watching The Bachelor, and I turn off lights when I leave a room. Other important things to know include my love of dogs (I won't be bringing any with me, but I'll love yours like its my own if you have them), I can make a mean protein smoothie, and I'm drug-free. I love fun facts and random trivia (I once auditioned to be on Jeopardy), but the only thing I know about or related to Dallas is that Roger Staubach is the greatest quarterback that ever lived. And that's OK because the only thing you probably know about Indiana is that we grow corn here. We'll learn all about each other while living together, and I will even let you poke fun at my Chicago accent (which I don't believe I have). Or we don't have to talk at all. That's up to you.

When you have your ad and you're ready to put it out there to the world, I suggest using free services like Roomster, Roommate Finder, Roomie Match, (and if you're really desperate) Craigslist. Let me be your testimonial to the power of advertisement: between all the previously mentioned services, I had over 180 inquiries within 48 hours and never felt so popular in my damn life.

2. Be Picky, Not a Hater

I can't be more adamant when I encourage someone to be very picky when choosing a roommate. Just like dating, you need to find a person that you aren't going to be miserable with when spending a certain length of time together. When you walk through the door after a long, hard day at work and you're looking for a little bit of sympathy, you're not going to want to be stuck with someone that you dislike, whether it be because of their living habits or personality. So find that person that you're most compatible with, and make sure the two of you can agree on the following criteria: level of cleanliness you like in your home, frequency of visitors, waking and sleeping hours (or at least a noise curfew), pet tolerance, thermostat settings, bathroom habits (if sharing a bathroom), and how to divide financial responsibilities.

Please note, however, that while it is very important to be picky when choosing your perfect roommate, it is also important to not be discriminatory. You can say no to a person that is a total slob and could happily live in squalor, but you can't reject someone because of their race, origin, religion, or sexual orientation. That doesn't make you picky, that just makes you an asshole.

3. Go on a Date

The first meeting.  You're nervous and your palms are sweating.  You keep thinking "I hope she likes me and thinks I'm funny" despite the fact that you've spent the last week texting back and forth with easy conversation.  Fuck, and now you're worried that the conversation won't be as easy without the safety net of hiding behind a screen.

Let all of that go and just be yourself.  And unlike a real first date, it's perfectly acceptable - encouraged even - to go back home with the person and immediately picture yourself living there. Because that's the end goal: to find a nice person and a nice place to live.  The "nice place to live" part is really important. It's ultimately the reason why I don't have a roommate, despite meeting a lot of great people and really hitting it off with them.  Which leads me to...

4. The Hook Up (or Break Up)

If all goes well, you and some wonderful stranger will soon be living together. Maybe you'll even hold hands and smile at each other as you sign your name on the dotted line of your new lease (or not, that's creepy).  But chances are high that it won't be all sunshine and rainbows for you to reach that point.  You're gonna have to break some hearts in the process.

If you didn't hit it off with your potential roommate, they most likely aren't going to ask you to live with them. On the off chance that they do (probably because they are desperate to unload some of their rent burden), it shouldn't be too hard to just be honest with the person and say you aren't interested.  However, if you did like the person but you didn't like the living situation, it gets a bit tricky.  You can approach it one of two ways:

First, you can let the person down gently.  Let them know that you thought they were great and you'd love to be friends, but you just didn't think living together was the best choice.  You may also want to soften the blow with a valid excuse, such as "The commute to my work from here is longer than I am hoping for" or "I really prefer to live on the top floor of the building so that I can get an added daily workout by climbing three flights of stairs."  It's kind of like the "it's not you, it's me" conversation. Hopefully, they won't take it personal.

Your second choice is to just be honest and tell them that their house is shit. Personally, I don't recommend this one.