Maple Leafs and Media

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When talking about Canadian politics, it might come as a big shock that MP does, in fact, not stand for ‘maple syrup’ but for ‘member of the parliament’ and that the prime minister of Canada is actually not the head of state –No, that would be the Queen of England; makes perfect sense, right.  In fact, who talks about Canadian politics? Besides Canadians, I’m not sure. Until recently, I haven’t been to many parties where Canadian politics was the hot topic of the night. You just didn’t hear people saying things like “Oh wow, look at what the government of Canada has done now” or “I really think the governor general is doing a bang up job.” The focus was more often on the politics of Canada’s southern neighbor, The United States of America. This seemed to be a part of a general pattern of USA upstaging Canada in just about everything save for ice hockey and poutine. This, of course, might not reflect the true state of things, but for foreigners news from USA just tends to get ranked higher than the happenings in Canada. In consequence, people tend to associate Canada with snow, moose, maple leaves and the syllable ‘eh’ instead of delving deep into the political wonderland of the Great White North.

However, ever since Justin Trudeau was elected as Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister, a spotlight appeared over Canadian politics. Suddenly international media was jumping at the chance to write about him, social media certainly went nuts, and before you knew it, Canadian politics were being discussed around the globe. So, did people rave about the Prime Minister of Canada being able to appoint ministers, senators, lieutenant governors of the provinces, and Supreme Court judges? Did they discuss political choices, party differences or major conflicts within the country? No, I believe most of the interest revolved around the Prime Minister’s face. It’s pretty you see. And people like pretty things. Oh, yes, we shan’t forget, there was avid discussion about his body as well. People seemed to like that too. And I’m not denying that he’s not hard on the eyes, even our very own BTSB staff agreed that he looks lovely. But an interesting point was brought up, and that was how Prime Minister Trudeau tends to get treated like most female politicians do in the media.

Most news out there, news that reaches Finland anyway, revolves around how handsome Justin Trudeau is, how even Ivanka Trump and Duchess Catherine can’t help swooning over him. Long story short, the main focus is on his looks, not his accomplishments or shortcomings. This is the kind of media representation that is usually associated with female politicians –Or scratch that, actually females in general. The press being more interested in what or who is being worn or how their hair is styled. The media tends to represent women through their looks, not their accomplishments. Let it be said, the focus is misplaced. There are clear double standards in the representation of men and women in the media. But as for Justin Trudeau, a male politician, the Prime Minister of the geographically second largest country in the world, to be more famous for his dazzling eyes, than his work as a world leader, feels kind of dumbfounding.

Just a quick google search of his name shows that after the obligatory Wikipedia articles and official websites, rows and rows of links leading to various online magazines across the world appear with titles such as “Is Justin Trudeau the Sexiest Politician in the World?” and “Pictures of ‘swooning’ Ivanka Trump and Justin Trudeau go viral.” Sure, you can find articles on his election campaign, gender equal cabinet and his meetings with Donald Trump, but let’s face it, they get overshadowed by news focusing on his boxing career and tweets to Matthew Perry.

justin-trudeauNow this is not to say that news on Justin Trudeau should focus solely on political aspects, after all we all love hearing things about politicians that make them seem relatable, more human so to speak. But there’s something to be said when the question “Do you know who Canada’s Prime Minister is?” Is most often answered with “Yeah, he’s the hot one, right?”

There has never been a group more scrutinized for their looks than women. And women in politics get the brunt of it. To say that Justin Trudeau gets treated like female politicians in the media is not an entirely correct statement, because there are nuances in the articles written that differ from positivity to negativity between male and female. But for example, if we were to draw some comparisons, we could say that the media just loves Trudeau’s hair. Trust me; memes have been made over his hair. Hilary Clinton’s hair, more specifically her highlights, also got media attention. Actually her hair has been analyzed in quite detail. Seems a bit redundant politically speaking. Even if appearances are everything in the political world, it’s hardly likely that her hair is pulling the strings. Moreover, it seems silly that a politician’s haircut is considered worldwide news in the first place, as it is very unlikely to affect their qualifications for the job.

Speaking of silly things, women politicians also get media attention regarding their bodies and weight. Off the top of my head I think of Michelle Obama and know that she is an insanely inspiring woman, but I also remember that she has amazing arms. That is because I’ve seen numerous articles talking about her arms, specifically focusing on one body part, emphasising that she is indeed a very fit woman. Some present this as a positive attribute, some as negative. Trudeau has also been praised for his fit appearance and more specifically his backside. Not too long ago social media went bananas over a photo of the Prime Minister in a pair of particularly formfitting pants. And with this aspect we see the nuances of how Trudeau still gets to keep some of his, I don’t know, I guess we could call it ‘male privilege’ when it comes to media attention regarding his appearance. For all the articles I’ve seen talking about his looks, I have yet to run into a negative one. Whereas articles commenting on the appearance of female politicians more often exhibit negative thoughts of their attire, hair styles and body.

So why does the news coverage on Trudeau feel so odd? Why is it strange that talking about a man’s appearance feels silly? It isn’t as if Trudeau has been completely reduced to his looks. Granted, most of the articles can’t help but mention trivial things, but he still gets noted as the Prime Minister who opened up Canada for refugees and the Prime Minister who appointed a gender balanced cabinet “because it’s 2015”. Still, the overpowering flood of news focusing on his looks or charm kind of makes you blind to the other stuff. Maybe it’s because we’re so used to this kind of coverage for women that we insert the same kind of model in action when we read articles about him. It’s like we have been conditioned to think that because women politicians are so often reduced to their looks by the media, there is nothing more to them. The most important thing we need to know is what they’re wearing and whether they’ve dyed their hair. So when we see similar news about a male politician, the model kicks in and we at least temporarily get caught in the frenzy of oohing and aahing over his appearance. Yet it does feel strange, because in society we are told that men are more than just their looks, they’re important, and above silly things like highlights and designer shoes. So when we see another article about Justin Trudeau’s hot bod we’re getting mixed messages. As horrible and sexist as it is, after riding the initial train of giddiness over fluffy news, we recognize that something is out of place here.  And that’s when we realize that we’re not really talking about Canadian politics at all.

Is it an issue then? Is it a problem? If women in politics are reduced to their looks shouldn’t male politicians be treated the same in the name of equality. Why should we care if Justin Trudeau is the shining star of gossip magazines and trashy headlines? Well, we should care because in an ideal world appearance shouldn’t be what people in such important positions are recognized for. And I’m inclined to believe that many people who recognize this kind of messed up media representation when it comes to women politicians fall into the trap of thinking that the fluffy adoring articles on Trudeau are harmless, since they are praising his looks instead of bashing them. But when you think about it, it’s just the flip side of the coin; positive or negative. It’s still one sided, distracting media coverage of a person who is much more than a pretty face and we should be able to recognize that.

I Left It In Myles Bay

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The snow fell in heavy lumps that really couldn’t be described as flakes. Nothing about them was flaky; they stuck to the ground and onto the windshield even though Diego had the windshield wipers working like the heart of a hummingbird. The inconvenient white powder continued to slam against the glass only to be wiped away, revealing a glimpse of the road ahead.

“You had to pick this day, of all the days in the world, to have a mental breakdown,” Diego grumbled and fiddled with the radio, trying to catch a decent station. “If you weren’t my favorite cousin I’d be at home, watching Netflix right now,” he declared.

“At least there’s no traffic,” I said, offering what little positive input I could.

“Joanna,” Diego said and turned to look at me with sincere wide brown eyes, “That’s because no one in this whole wide universe is dumb enough to drive in this weather.”

“I’m sorry,” I said and put my gloves on. The car was warm enough but my fingers still felt like icicles from running into a gas station and buying the huge map that was folded out on my lap.

I had to give Diego some credit; he had only started to complain after a full two hours of driving in silence. He was the kind of person you called up in the middle of the night and asked to get in a car and drive to an undisclosed location with no questions asked. He was also the kind of person who insisted on red Twizzlers for road trips, which is why we had to stop by a 24/7 Seven Eleven before we could head for the highway.

“Hey, didn’t you guys use to rent that summer cottage?” Diego asked.

“Yeah,” I answered.

Diego sighed audibly and danced his fingers over the steering wheel. “Joanna, Joanna, don’t tell me we’ve driven all this way for you to tell me we’re going to be doing some breaking and entering.”

“I know the code for the key,” I said and shrugged my shoulders, “It’s not a crime if you have a key.”

“Yeah, remind me to never hire you as my lawyer,” Diego remarked and went back to staring at the road, glaring at the snow as if he could melt it away with his stare.

“I need to go there,” I said, my voice quiet, almost washed out by the sound of the radio. “You don’t understand, but I need to.”

“Trust me, I don’t understand why you need to go to some shabby cottage in the middle of nowhere, but I do understand that you need to go there.”

Foggy roadI guess I felt thankful. He didn’t need to know why, and he didn’t ask. I wanted to tell, but I was afraid that it would ruin the trip and it wasn’t a very good trip to begin with. But I had managed to push It away, just for a while. And I needed It to stay away. I was so scared of It coming back. I’d kept It away by thinking of happy times and happy moments. Each one gave me only so much time. It ate away at my joyous memories and eventually burned through them like fuel. But I knew. There was one place, with memories too good, a place where every room rang with laughter and held the warmth of sun rays in the floor, a place where I had always been happy. It had always stayed away, never daring to enter this place, secluded by tall pine woods and water. I was out of fuel. I had no other choice but to go. So I packed a bag at five AM and called Diego. Then it was the concerned looks and awkward explanations.

“I need to go to Myles Bay,” I’d said.

“Yeah and I need a week in Cuba,” Diego had laughed, standing in my driveway on Markham St. his dark curly hair flailing in the wind. “What else is new.”

“I need to go,” I had insisted and looked back at the house, noticing my parent’s bedroom light switch on. “I need to go now and you can’t ask why.”

He’d given me this look, this look I’d seen on his face many times before ever since we were little kids. When I’d had tantrums in Walmart, embarrassing his mom who swore it was the last time she’d babysit me niece or no niece. When I’d spent my entire sixteenth birthday locked in my room. When I yelled and cursed at my parents, which was unheard of in this family. And when I’d come back from our trips from cottage country, he saw It settle in, and the look was there to tell me so.

“We are at Owen Sound,” Diego announced, snapping me out of my thoughts. “Are you sure we can’t stick around here for a while, it’s the first decent station I’ve found in ages,” he laughed triumphantly. And indeed the radio didn’t screech and rattle with bad connection, but played clearly, filling the car with a beat and melody.

I looked at my map, ignoring the music. “Thirty more minutes or so if we don’t stop,” I tried a smile, “Next pit stop is Wiarton, they have that huge statue of a mouse I’ve been telling you about.”

“Ah, the infamous Wiarton mouse statue,” Diego rejoiced, “Seeing that damn thing better make up for this trip, cuz.”

“It’s pretty glorious,” I said and smiled.

“Full speed ahead,” Diego declared and indeed did go above the speed limit. The drive to Wiarton passed in a blur. Diego was happy and excited about the music and seeing the mouse statue and I didn’t let myself think. When we finally drove passed the Wiarton mouse named Willie, Diego slowed down and gawked in awe. The thing was completely covered in snow; it looked like Santa Clause with a heavy beard of white. “How can you even tell it’s a mouse?” He exclaimed. “This, this is outrageous, Joanna.”

I gave him an apologetic look, tracing the roads on the map. “You gotta remember we’re on six not on ten anymore.”

“Wha- What does that have to do with the mouse?”

I furrowed my brow. “N-nothing?”

“That’s it. I see a Timmy’s ahead. We’re stopping for coffee. Who knows when the next opportunity will come along.”

“I don’t drink coffee,” I protested as he steered the car into the abundantly empty parking lot. “No drive through…We’ll wish me luck. I’m going out there.”

I waved him a meek goodbye and shuttered as the car door slammed closed. Diego was my oldest cousin. We had two others; Janine and Amber. They were twins. The lived with Uncle Harry and Aunt Connie in Brampton. We saw them for Christmas and birthdays and all the big holidays. Diego and I, however, had grown up in the same neighborhood a couple blocks apart. We’d gone to the same school and we’d played in the same soccer team. Both of us quit after a year. I’d known him all my life and he was more of an older brother than a cousin to me, but that was because my parents were very busy people and Diego’s mom, Christine, got stuck with me after school and on the weekends. I couldn’t remember a week that had gone by without us not seeing each other, except for those that I’d spent at Myles Bay with mom and dad. Four weeks out of the summer in complete isolation from the city, from Diego and Christine and from work and school and everything that messed things up. So I felt a bit guilty, for letting him come along this time. And I was scared that maybe the place would lose some of its magic having him there. But he had a car. And a driver’s licence. Two things I no longer possessed.

The door opened and let in freezing air. At least the sun had gone up while we made the drive. It made everything look so bright in a fresh coat of snow.

“I got you hot chocolate and a muffin,” Diego said and handed me a greasy paper bag. “And don’t tell me you’re not hungry because you haven’t eaten anything since we left.”

“Blueberry,” I noted. “My favorite.” I accepted the food and the warm hot chocolate because I saw no point in arguing, which was unusual for me. I had a tendency of always finding something to argue about. But Diego was very disarming with his concerned looks and his blueberry muffins and radio stations. So I settled with nibbling on my muffin as he continued to navigate us up a road that took us through fields and shaky looking buildings.

“You gotta make a right turn here,” I said.

“Into the woods,” Diego remarked. “Meryl Streep was great in that movie. Meryl Streep is great in everything.” He laughed to himself as we drove on a slippery sand road through a thick forest. I knew it wouldn’t be long now. Five minutes tops. I sat at the edge of my seat. Leaning in to see through the snow covered windshield. We broke out of the mess of pine trees and I saw the water. “Oh,” I gasped, “Look at that.”

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The lake thrashed with wild waves, the body of water too large to freeze even during the winter lows. The snow hurtled into the dark blue and sunk to join the waves. Behind it, in the horizon, a beach followed by the edge of yet another enormous patch of trees colored in various dark greens covered in snow dominated the view. Rows of summer cottages lined the other side of the road, I recognized every single one. I remembered walking up and down that road with dad, inviting people over for a barbeque. I’d never see him wear an apron anywhere else. Or flip-flops. Not even in the summer when the city sizzled and bubbled with heat.

“This place looks deserted,” Diego said and slowed down on the icy road.

“No it’s not. It’s so alive it’s almost scary,” I said and pointed towards a house with a wide terrace and a sloping roof, “That’s the one.”

Diego pulled over and I stumbled out of the car. The cold stuck to my skin as I scrambled for the door, carefully navigating the stairs. “Hold these,” I said and handed my gloves to Diego who was right behind me. I punched in the familiar code and opened the little vault, the key dropped onto my bare palm, the metal so cold it felt like hot needles. I tried the lock and it opened without any issues. Both of us hurried inside.

“The heat isn’t on,” Diego complained and quickly took in his surroundings. The whole place was very tacky, decorated with the most extravagantly horrendous furniture. For some reason the owner had decided on a rainforest theme for the living room. “I’ll go see if I can do something about that.”

I stood in the hallway. Looking at how the familiar tiles zigzagged on the floor. It was a little better. Not how it used to be. But that could have been because of Diego. Or maybe the snow. I hugged myself and pulled my jacket closer. “Something…” I mumbled and walked further into the house. “Why is this…” I opened the door to my bedroom. The bed was stripped and all the linens folded neatly in the closet. The wall was still as pink as it had ever been. But something, something was wrong, because I could still feel It. And It shouldn’t be here. Shouldn’t be able to come here. I became frantic, going through the rooms, the drawers, the kitchen cupboards. I could feel my pulse sky rocket and my face flush. I knew that wasn’t good. Knew it from experience. “Stop it,” I told myself, but my hands kept rummaging through the utensil drawer; I spilled forks and knives and spoons on the floor. They rattled like instruments on the tiling. “This is…this can’t be. It’s supposed to be good, so good…” I muttered and moved on into the living room. I stopped abruptly as I found myself staring at Diego, kneeling in front of the fireplace. He’d managed to get a fire going, effectively warming up the space.

“Check this out Joanna, I fixed it,” he exclaimed as he turned to look at me, his smile faltering as he noticed my current state.

“You didn’t fix anything,” I said, my voice strung high with panic. “There’s something wrong. There’s something wrong with this place. There’s something WRONG,” I couldn’t stop it. My plan had failed, the last scraps of power I’d clung onto were gone. It was over. It was here and I’d brought It here.

“Jesus, calm down,” Diego said. I waved him off and stormed out. I shed my jacket on the porch and enjoyed the numbing wind. I could hear him following me. “Wait, Jo!”

I kept walking until I reached the water. Dead plants and frozen soil made a barrier between me and a rickety dock. I slouched over the remains of weeds and stopped to wedge off my winter boots. “Oh shit,” I squealed as my feet hit the cold wet ground. But I didn’t care. Because I was going to drown It. Just like those snowflakes drowned, dissipating under the layers of dark and freezing waters.

“What are you doing?” Diego called. “Are you insane? Are you out of your goddamn mind? You’ll freeze to death, Joanna!”

I kept moving, keeping my steps quick. I glanced back and saw Diego hesitating on the road. He saw me look. “I’m not gonna come after you. I’m not gonna die of hypothermia because you’re having one of your freak attacks!”

I cringed. He wouldn’t?

He wouldn’t. That was good. I didn’t need to drag anyone else down with me. Let him go home and eat his Twizzlers and listen to the good station in Owen Sound as he drove down. I waded through the water, holding on to the slimy side of the dock so the waves wouldn’t wash me away. The water was up to my stomach. It was paralyzing cold. It was hard to keep moving so I stopped when it was up to my shoulders. My hands dropped under the surface and I found my entire body had gone numb. I couldn’t move if I wanted to. The dock was just a couple of steps back, but I couldn’t will my legs to move. I felt It. Stronger than I ever had. Clenching its fist around me, squeezing out my breath, holding me still even though the waves around me splashed and raged. It’s just a lake. It’s never been this angry. I’ve never been this angry.

“Joanna!” Diego called, he stood at the very end of the dock, peering at me. He was holding out a hand, but I couldn’t grab it, couldn’t move. “Grab my hand!”

“I can’t” I sobbed, not sure if the wetness on my face was due to the water or tears or the invasive snowfall. “I can’t. I can’t anymore. I can’t stop It.”

“Jo, Jo, please,” He begged and reached further. “Just get out of the water.”

“But it didn’t work,” I screamed.

“I know, I know. But we’ll fix it.”

“I can’t fix it! I’ve tried, but I can’t. It’s all over me and It won’t let go,” I breathed, my teeth rattling and my body violently shaking.

“Try just this one time, just one more time. You’ve been doing so good,” Diego coaxed, “You’ve been doing so much better…And mom’s not mad about the car anymore. I swear, she’s all giddy buying a new one. We can start having Sunday dinners again. Roast chicken and lime beans.”

“She’s not mad about the car?” I asked, sniffing.

“No, she’s not mad about the car. Just like she was never mad about Walmart or baking you a birthday cake you never ate. More frosting for the rest of us,” Diego argued, “Now, get out of the water.”

I stared at his hand sure I could reach it if I tried hard enough. The look in his eyes was pleading, convincing, bargaining.

I wondered for a second if grabbing his hand would be like reducing a hurricane into a gust of wind, tucking it neatly into a drawer in my bedroom, waiting for it to gain strength so one day it would burst out, wrecking everything in its path. I wondered if it would feel like crashing a car into a brick wall, pointless, splintering, and anticlimactic. And I wondered if it would cause more trouble than do good.

“Please.”

Meet Modern Primitive

Modern Primitive--The Kin

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to an entire album. It’s a shame, because an album creates a whole; a collection of songs that together tell a story much wider and complex than they would alone. It feels like nowadays I just tend to listen to individual songs and kind of miss the big picture that an artist or a band is creating with the whole of an album. But every now and then I’m lucky enough to stop, take a moment, and listen to the whole story instead of just hearing the beginning.

The Kin is a band formed in New York in 2001 originally comprised of two brothers, Thorald and Isaac Koren, performing as an acoustic duo and later joined by a talented ‘stickless’ drummer, Mark ‘Shakerleg’ Nicosia. As far as genres go, they can be described as an alternative rock band with the mentality of a partners-in-crime collaboration. From the first album to their last, their music has been filled with intricate rhythm, raw emotion and undeniably beautiful melodies. Combining the talents of the Koren brothers in vocals, guitar and keyboard with Nicosia’s unique mastering of percussions has earned the band loyal fans and followers from around the world. There’s a kind of honesty, explosiveness, liveliness and humble pride in the music they play and preform. It’s no wonder their music has touched so many hearts and been embedded in so many souls considering that when listening to it you can practically feel all the hard work, joy, sweat, tears, pain and creativity that has gone into creating it. All this talent and passion seems to culminate in their latest and last album –Modern Primitive.

Modern Primitive--The Kin

Modern Primitive–The Kin

What is it exactly that makes Modern Primitive so spectacular? Well first off, you can’t deny that the Koren brothers sing like angels, it’s just a fact. The music is what it is in its purest essence. It’s a strange thing to try and put in words, but there’s nothing sloppy about any one track on Modern Primitive nor is there a track that is too polished or meant to fit into a cookie cutter copy machine mold. Every song is unique and each time you listen there’s something new to be found. Then another fact, Mark Nicosia, as a barehanded drummer, is undoubtedly a genius. To someone like me, who can’t figure out coordination and could barely play a basic beat if my life depended on it, a drummer with such precision and innovative ways of playing seems like a higher being. I mean playing without sticks and sounding that amazing in the process, talk about literally bleeding into your work. So we’ve got the voices, we’ve got the beats, and we’ve got the explosiveness of what The Kin is. There’s energy, there’s emotion, there’s something that makes you press play for the fiftieth time today, but in addition, we’ve got something that tops it all off – The lyrics.

I personally think I should be featured on BuzzFeed’s weirdest misheard lyrics, because my track record on hearing them correctly is quite honestly horrendous. However, having listened to The Kin since elementary school, I’d like to believe I hear at least 98, 6% of their lyrics correctly. And boy do I like what I hear. There’s a lot that can be said by just instrumental music, it carries meanings in itself. But combining solid instrumental tracks with mind blowing lyrics is what makes me smile like a kid in a candy shop. From tracks like Mary, Never be the Same, Together, and Nowhere to Now here to Modern Primitive, The Kin continues to put out lyrics that create the most astonishing pictures and elicit emotions with their straightforward style. I explicitly remember sitting on my bedroom floor waking up early in the morning to a new album by one of my favorite bands. I remember being nervous to press play, don’t ask me why but I was terrified of being disappointed. Luckily I was hooked from the first lines. Relying on the shuffle option the first track from Modern Primitive I happened to hear was called Week of the Disaster and the first two lines were immediately burned in my mind as something that went a bit like this; Could have been an early morning/We were like a child inside a dream. Instantly the song caught me in its delicate web and had me under its spell. It was the kind of song that had me remember all the ‘could haves’ and ‘should haves’ and the myriads of ‘whys’ attached to all those moments I was so eager to hold on to only to watch them slip through my fingers. All those happy endings sailing away rather brutally, the things I didn’t see coming for the sake of being content in living in a happy bubble of my own, all those “fairy tales hanging on a string”. But it wasn’t a sensation of defeat that the track had me feeling, it was more of a recognition of ignoring the ‘whys’ and ‘should haves’ for the sake of maybe even defiantly accepting the disaster, striving to do better next time.

Just like that I knew I would not be disappointed. The tracks kept coming, each one…not better than the next, but complimenting each other. And what I realized was that each track was relatable and they carried messages across a broad lane of emotions: love, obsession, overcoming hardship, and maybe fittingly for a last album, a sense of centering oneself. Whether these emotions came across in flourished metaphors or plain and straight words they latched on to me as a listener and forced me to think about what this music was making me feel. For instance, Ashes, possibly one of my favorites from this album, to me is a song about overcoming hardship. It’s about enduring and fighting through what seems impossible to overcome. And it’s not just about surviving but it’s about pleading for someone else to keep fighting. The track, being very powerful itself, ever so amusingly reminded me of how powerless and helpless you feel at times when you want desperately to do something to help the ones you love, but all you can do is ask them to persevere and not give up. I think we can all relate to moments when it feels like darkness takes over light or when fire burns in paradise and you think you’ve definitely lost the fight. This song makes me feel thankful to those who have pushed me to “walk through the ashes”. It definitely takes you on an emotional rollercoaster from feeling helpless to empowered and back again in the best way possible.

However, interestingly enough, a curiosity for this album was figuring out that even with the importance and brilliance of the lyrics, it was just as important to notice where they were missing. On Modern Primitive there are tracks such as Week of the Disaster and Anchor, that in the end acting as a sort of outro, have a snippet of music that taps into the primitive side I guess, a counterpart to the heavily structured base of what ‘a song’ has turned into. And I guess it’s there to keep a balance, between the Modern and the Primitive. And for me I think that’s ultimately what makes me so happy to listen to this album. I interpret it as an album that taps into something primal, and primitive in innovative modern ways.

As sad as I am to say farewell, I can’t help but do it with a smile on my face because Modern Primitive truly is a last hurrah that deserves a round of applause. As The Kin have announced that they will be waving goodbye to the music business at least for the time being, Modern Primitive seems like the perfect album to bring them full circle, a closing chapter for a story richer than most fairy tales.

 

 

 

 

I’ve Caught A Case Of The Feels

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My hands are sweaty,

My heart beats too fast (not fluttering like the wings of a bird but

thumping like stones being thrown into water).

My chest is tightening,

The breath being sucked out (a rude interruption to such a familiar

rhythm but it wakes me).

My skin is sizzling,

Something moves under the surface (a rush of warm

floods as something spiky).

My eyes are open,

Everything is precise ( but I can’t see a thing because I’m

looking through a window of smoke).

I’m afraid, he says, You’ve caught a case of the Feels

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Wordless Agreements

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A funeral; people dressed in black, shifting awkward looks. They surrounded me. They encircle me, gazing at me with expectant eyes.

It was a cloudy day with a high expectancy of rain; I could practically feel it gathering up in the air. If life were a movie, this day would have been the perfect set for a funeral. I saw my grandmother clench her umbrella hesitantly. She was waiting for the rain as well. I suppose we were all waiting for something to relieve us from this suffocating moment.

I, my younger brother, and my father stood next to the casket opposite from the pastor. Everyone was looking at us or blowing into their handkerchiefs, which I was sure they would use later to dry their tears. I looked down. I was looking at my black heels that were digging into the soft grass. They were brand new and uncomfortable. They chafed my feet, making them bleed. I frowned, realizing they’d be stained.

I distantly registered the pastor speaking. I’m sure he was telling everyone present how good of a person my mother was. Had been. He went through the typical stuff people get graced with when they die. I thought it was nonsensical. Everyone here loved my mother, that’s the reason they were here mourning her in the first place. I stopped listening and concentrated on the grass that grew among the headstones with admirable persistence.

The casket was lowered, prayers were said, and I, I was still looking at the grass as I felt the first drop of rain fall into my court shoes. It sank through my stockings and wet my toes. I felt my little brother, Nick, squeeze my hand. I raised my chin to look at him. His round face looked devoid of color, practically lifeless.

“Everything is alright,” I whispered.

“I know,” Nick said, “But you’re crying.”

I put my fingers to my cheeks in confusion. They were sticky with tear stains. I wished that the droplets falling out of the corners of my eyes had been water, but the bitter salty taste they brought to my lips made me think otherwise. Crying was the last thing I wanted to do. I had no idea why I was crying. All day I had adventured inside my numb mind and I wasn’t nearly ready to step out from its protective nooks. It was rather amusing; it was as if my mind was completely isolated from my body, as if my body was just doing what it had been programmed to do.

Walk. I walk.

Speak. I speak.

Sit. I sit.

Cry. I cry.

But I could feel it disappearing. The shelter I had so gratefully accepted was falling apart. Little by little I began to hear people speaking more clearly. Little by little I started to feel the chill of the crispy autumn air sink into my bones. Little by little my feelings began to resurface. For weeks I had kept them to myself, buried somewhere deep inside my mind. I wanted to walk through them blindfolded in the dark. Unfortunately, now they started to wake. I quickly pushed them back before they made it all the way to the surface. I forced my gaze back to the grass. By now the small blades of grass were carrying the weight of huge water droplets. I had never identified with a blade of grass like I did just in that moment.

My grandmother opened her umbrella. People calmly made their way to their cars. They locked out the gloomy autumn day and drove off safe from the rain. I, my father, Nick, and grandmother stayed for a while, standing in the empty cemetery. Father didn’t say a word nor did he open his umbrella even though the stubborn gusts of wind and rain wet his best suit and tossed his blonde hair. His mouth was a tight line and his dark eyes were somewhere far away.

Nick and I gathered under grandmother’s big black umbrella. It wasn’t of much use considering that we were already soaked through, but it seemed like the proper thing to do.

“It really is terrible,” grandmother mumbled. I raised my brow.

“To go and tragically die like that,” she continued in an accusing tone.

I had learned not to let grandmother’s comments bother me. She had never had much discretion and wasn’t the most delicate person to begin with. It was no secret she’d never liked my mother. As far as she was concerned, father had been incredibly stupid and childlike to marry someone as reckless as mom. I didn’t know quite how I felt about it.

“What difference does it make how she died? You didn’t even like her,” I stated.

Grandmother frowned and crinkled her nose in disapproval. She grabbed Nick by the hand and told me to go wait in the car.

I sat in the backseat and stared out through the tinted window. Everything looked so much more depressing though it. Mom had always hated tinted windows. She always used to say that even the prettiest day looked like funeral party through them. I couldn’t appreciate the irony. We always fought about those tinted windows, every single time we got in the car. This morning, however, no one had mentioned them. Was a car ride even a car ride if we didn’t argue about the tinted windows? I didn’t know, but what I did know was that this morning had felt particularly empty.

My thoughts were disrupted as Nick opened the door, sliding into the seat next to me. “We’re leaving now,” he said, looking beyond relieved. He wanted to get out of here possibly more than I did. Grandmother sat next to dad in the front, getting ready to navigate. Dad turned the key in the ignition and the car purred into life. We drove away from sacred land, the gates closing behind us.

“Hey Bree,” Nick began.

“Yeah?” I wondered if he would bring up the tinted windows.

“My shoes got all dirty. Do you think mom would mind if I walked around the house with them?” He cocked his head to the side, waiting for an answer. Honestly, I didn’t understand why he would ask such a dumb question. He should’ve been more concerned with what grandma would say about the dirty shoes. I shrugged my shoulders. “You know, I’m not sure. I’m gonna have to think about it.”

I watched the corners of his mouth tug down, his entire being seemed to deflate. “You’re gonna tell me when you figure out, right?”

“Of course,” I replied, even though I didn’t want to spend another minute thinking about the dumb question. I leaned back and watched dad and grandma through the rear view mirror. Exhaustion shone on both of their faces, but they looked so very different. It was hard for me to recognize dad through the mirror. He looked so lost. All day he’d been wandering around like a puppy, having grandma order him around.

“Nick?” I tried. “Do you think we should get a new car? One without tinted windows.”

I saw the smallest smile flash across his face before he became very serious. “I think it’d be a really good idea,” he said and looked out the window.

“Dad.” I waited a bit to get his attention.

“What?” He answered in a monotone voice.

“Nick and I think we should buy a new car, one without tinted windows.” I watched his every move, through the mirror I saw his eyes sparkle a bit.

“That is not funny,” Grandmother snapped sharply and took a calming breath. I stared at her in awe. Why couldn’t she leave it be? Why was no one allowed to laugh? I crossed my arms, closed my eyes and leaned against the window.

“I thought it was funny,” Nick whispered.

“It was goddamn hilarious,” I muttered under my breath.

We had and old Victorian house. It was the American dream house with the white picketed fence and perfectly cut grass. Actually, right now the lawn was a muddy mess. As I stepped through our familiar front door, nothing seemed familiar to me. The bright colorful walls contrasted wildly with all the people dressed in black. My house looked like a bad music video. I walked into the living room full of people I was sure I knew but couldn’t recognize. We served coffee, cakes, cookies, pastries and everything grandma knew how to make. A constant hum of voices filled every room. I sat on the couch among familiar strangers and tried to make proper conversation. In no time I just began listening to others while untangling my long messy hair. I came to the conclusion that people talked about the weirdest things at funeral receptions. Almost no one mentioned mom. It almost felt like they were avoiding talking about her. When they talked about the food or décor they all wondered how my father had managed to make such a lovely home. The truth was that dad had nothing to do with our food or décor. Mom had painted the walls. Mom had mowed the lawn and picked out the decorative pillows. It was no wonder things felt odd, she had been gone forever, or so it seemed.

“Bree! Honey!” I heard a familiar voice exclaim. Looking up I saw mom’s sister, Elizabeth. She walked over to me and hugged me in the middle of the living room. It felt uncomfortable. People were looking at us; looking and judging everything I did.

We moved into the kitchen where grandma was busy trying to find space for all the food people had brought over. That too, I thought was nonsensical. We put out food for the guests and they lugged their own bodyweight’s worth of food over to our house. It was absurd. Mom never understood the custom either, but still she brought a casserole to every funeral reception we ever attended, because it was just what you were supposed to do.

“Were you there today?” I asked.

“Of course we were. Peter just got lost on the way there. I told him to bring the GPS but you know how stubborn he is,” Elizabeth said and smiled gently. I nodded, because I really did know what Peter was like. He was someone who danced between fine lines, someone you never quite managed to figure out, and someone who would definitely not listen to a GPS.

“Oh honey,” Elizabeth sighed, “I’m so sorry, I still can’t believe that Mary is gone. I feel like I haven’t grasped it yet. I keep waiting for her to walk through the door and give me some of her famous unsolicited advice. You do understand, don’t you?”

I nodded. I knew.

“She was always making the oddest remarks,” Elizabeth continued. She seemed to thinking back, almost nostalgically. She made it seem like she’d last seen mother years ago, even though we all visited grandmother for her birthday a few months ago.

“Do you remember how she always said I order Peter around too much?” Elizabeth asked, narrowing her eyes. She picked up a strawberry covered pastry and bit into it. “You know, Bree, I never understood that thing of theirs. You know, the one that made it seem like they had some kind of agreement that the two of them would stick up for each other till the end.” Elizabeth shook her head. “Like last week, I told Peter to get a haircut, because he looks so shaggy when his hair grows too long. And guess what he said to me?” Elizabeth crossed her arms. She was getting herself upset with her own words. She seemed to be inventing pain as if the pain that already existed wasn’t enough.

“Well?” I asked, not really caring about the answer. I glanced at the clock hanging on the bright yellow wall. Again the wall contrasted Elizabeth’s two sizes too small black dress strictly. Others didn’t really fit into our house.

“Well, he said that he wants to grow his hair out, like he had it back in college,” Elizabeth said, sighing dramatically, “You know, sometimes I feel like I have three kids instead of two.”

I nodded and tried to look like I understood even though I had no idea how we’d gotten from my dead mother to Peter not wanting to cut his hair. On the other hand, I understood it completely.

“He went to college with mom,” I stated as nonchalantly as I could. “Maybe he’s going through a mid-life-crisis or something. You’re lucky he’s not buying a Porsche.”

“That, Bree, my dearest, I don’t think I could handle.” She sighed again. She did that a lot.

I pursed my lips and looked out to the backyard where Peter sat on the wet grass next to the flowerbeds. He was speaking with Nick. Nick was smiling. I smiled. I wondered if Elizabeth would smile if she knew.

“Lizzie,” I began, “I think I need some fresh air. I feel like I’m suffocating in here.”

Elizabeth gave me a bland smile, not looking pleased at all. “Well, do put on a cardigan, I wouldn’t want you to get cold.”

I nodded once again and marched out without a second thought about the cardigan. As soon as I stepped out the cold hit my bones and I sort of liked it. A bunch of people stood next to our backdoor, lighting their cigarettes. The gray smoke slithering in the air, forming strange shapes didn’t bother me in the slightest. Not even the toxic smell made me go back inside. Instead it woke me up. I took off my shoes and walked across the grass, the mud and humidity soaking through my stockings. I sat next to Peter and Nick, cross legged, it wasn’t very ladylike. A small ray of late autumn sunshine reached my face as I took a deep breath.

“Nick, Lizzie wants to talk to you,” I said, lying blatantly.

“About what?” He asked. Again, it was a rather useless question. I would have told him had I known. “She said something about muddy shoes.”

Nick looked terrified for a moment. “Do you think mom saw the muddy prints on the carpet?” He looked at me first, then at Peter.

“Angels see everything,” Peter replied, smiling, “But I doubt she’d care about things like that.”

Nick seemed to calm down for a bit. Peter sighed,” Elizabeth on the other hand…Well she’s never been a fan of muddy footprints.”

“Oh man,” Nick sighed, copying Peter, and started his way back to the house.

As soon as he was in through the door I turned to look at Peter. He looked different from what I remembered. The Peter I knew was always smiling, and when he wasn’t, you could tell would have liked to smile. Now he was smiling, but I could tell it was the last thing he wanted to do.

“Do you have to feed Nick bullshit about angels?”

“Do you have to lie to Nick about muddy footprints?” Peter replied his voice gentle as always, calm and composed.

I balled my hands up into fists at my sides. “How’d you know I was lying?”

“I figured you might want to talk to me,” he said sincerely, “but don’t worry. If you hadn’t lied, I probably would have.”

“Figures,” I mumbled and stared at nothing.

We were quiet for a while. I patted the grass and finally spoke. “You know what I wish for?”

Peter gave me a quizzical look.

“I wish I was like Nick. I wish I could just feel sad and mourn my mother in peace, but I don’t think I can do that.”

Peter gave me a knowing look. “You’re mad.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t matter, because she’s dead. And I can’t be mad at a dead person, because it doesn’t make any sense.”

“Not everything makes sense,” Peter stated and handed me a white tissue.

I stared at it in confusion for a while before I felt the familiar taste of tears again. I was crying again. I could hear myself gasping for air as I grabbed the tissue and dried my eyes. “Y-you know, I don’t even f-feel like crying.”

“There’s nothing to be ashamed about,” Peter said and placed his hand on my shoulder. “If you need someone to be mad at, you can be mad at me. I’m alive. It makes more sense that way, doesn’t it?”

“I-I don’t really want to be mad at anyone.” I couldn’t stop the sobs now.

“Lizzie knows,” Peter said. He looked down at the grass, studying it carefully.

I wiped my eyes and tried to focus on him. “Um, Lizzie…She wants you to, um, cut your hair.” I watched as a raindrop slid down a blade of grass, releasing it from under its weight.

“I probably won’t.” Peter smiled to himself.

“I kind of thought so.”

Embrace Your Inner Slutty Pumpkin

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Halloween is one of the most commercialized days of the year, so it comes as no surprise that a lot of marketing of various products goes together with it. An astounding amount of all sorts of costumes are available for people young and old who want to enjoy the scariest day of the year. On Halloween you can be anything from a traditional vampire or zombie to a sexy Ebola nurse. Some costumes are scary, some are funny and some are downright inappropriate. But the question is who decides what is inappropriate?

pexels-photo-14398Costumes are a huge part of Halloween and they are available in many places. Costume store sales spike at the end of October and so do the costume sales on websites such as Amazon and Ebay. A big part of selling costumes is, of course, the marketing of them. Specifically the marketing of costumes towards women raises a lot of questions about inappropriate costumes. Most costumes for women start with the title ‘sexy’ whereas the costumes targeted towards men seem to be more realistic and ‘appropriate’ in a more traditional meaning of the word.

For example, I and my co-author Miya decided to do some good old fashioned journalistic investigating and went to amazon.uk to take a look at the first ten costumes available for women. We typed in Halloween costumes for women and were not surprised by the results. Over half of the costumes available were short skirts with corsets, no matter what the theme or character: Alice in Wonderland, Skeleton, Day of the Dead, Nurse, and my personal favorite –Sexy Santa. We then searched for costumes for men. Every single costume that came up in the first page was a full suit costume and was actually scary –well, minus the flasher Granny costume… The point is, the majority of costumes marketed towards women could be considered as ‘slutty’, whatever that is. Most of these costumes also lack the detail and good quality that their male counterpart costumes seem to have.

Now, we would never suggest that a revealing costume is not okay, but there are many people, men and women alike, who talk about things like ‘Halloween hoes’ and ‘Halloween sluts’. Come the last weekend of October, Instagram and Facebook feeds fill with pictures of girls posing in groups, wearing matching risqué costumes. This year, Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad seemed to be the go-to costume choice of about every third girl at any given party. Is it because dressing provocatively gets attention and likes on Instagram or do girls, like Cindy Lauper puts it, just want to have fun?

The problem that women face is the double standards when it comes to Halloween costumes. The outfits that are marketed towards us are short and fitting, even when we want to dress up as a pumpkin, which is anything but short and fitting. What is a slutty pumpkin anyway? Still, we get criticized for buying and wearing these costumes. And why? After all, it takes a lot of self-confidence to wear a more revealing costume.

The point is the message is conflicting and can be applied to all days, not just Halloween. The general image of a woman the media puts out is definitely sexy, but society expects women to be innocent and modest at the same time. In terms of Halloween costumes we’re being offered the ‘Sexy Angel’ costume but also simultaneously expected to look like a Catholic nun.

‘Sexy’ as a concept is also a bit difficult to define, because it represents so many different things for different people, and ‘slutty’ on the other hand has a negative stigma to it, but necessarily shouldn’t. It’s a word that gets tossed around on daily bases like ‘happy’ or ‘thank you’ but is not as clear in meaning as the examples offered above. For most women, I believe, it’s not about impressing others with revealing clothes or beautiful make-up or even that perfect slutty pumpkin outfit that you rocked on Halloween, but it’s about self-confidence and positive self-image.

In the end, a costume is really just a mask for one day. Whatever costume you choose it´s a way to take on a different identity or express yourself in a different way. Everyone chooses a costume for a reason – maybe it´s funny or you want to dress up as a movie character you love or you want to be unrecognizable behind a scary mask. Or maybe you want to wear something sexy that you wouldn´t usually get the chance to wear. Obviously not all clothing is appropriate for every occasion, but on Halloween, almost anything goes.

To quote Mean Girls, the most iconic teen movie of the 00´s, ¨In Girl World, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.¨ In the movie, Halloween is shown as a type of free pass, a day exempt from the social rules that apply other days of the year. Why not make all days like Halloween and let girls wear what they want whenever they want, revealing or not? In the name of fairness, however, we support more revealing Halloween costumes for men too and hope not to see any sexy clowns this year.

This article was co-authored by Danielle Amorim and Miya Ison

Never-ending Naptime

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I’ve wanted to write something like this for quite a while. Because sometimes writing about things makes them easier to deal with or just gives you the illusion of someone somewhere reading what you’ve written and maybe, just perhaps, knowing how you feel. But also because I feel like a lot of people struggle with issues that aren’t necessarily so visible to the outside world, but still make everyday life challenging.

Imagine feeling so tired that it’s simply impossible to hold your eyelids open. Imagine being so exhausted that forming words becomes a sheer impossibility because you no longer have the energy to move your lips. And imagine that falling asleep just feels so good that you’re not sure why you ever tried to stay awake. Then imagine going through this feeling numerous times a day. Try to imagine fighting it with everything you’ve got, just so you can function normally. It takes up a lot of energy just to act normal. –Hell, I get tired just thinking about it.

night-1077855_1280It’s been almost a year since I got diagnosed with a condition called narcolepsy. Now, I suppose I could drown you with quotes from scientific studies explaining what narcolepsy is and what it does, but I’d like to stick to my own words. Basically narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that makes you really tired during the day, which results in falling asleep a lot and in various exciting places like lectures, the bus, restaurants, trains, at the computer… The list goes on. Depending on which type of narcolepsy you have, you might also experience cataplexy, which is emotion triggered muscle weakness. Lucky me, I happen to have narcolepsy with a side of cataplexy. Basically that means it’s not a good idea to make me laugh while I’m holding something very expensive.

In addition to all that, it seems that so far there’s no cure.

It’s one of those diseases that most likely won’t kill you, but will make your life harder in many aspects. The physical side is an obvious obstacle. It’s not cool always being the first one to fall asleep at sleepovers, being tired despite the fact that you’ve slept for more than nine hours, and having to plan your life around something you can’t control.

I like to compare these “Sleep Attacks” to a toddler having a temper tantrum. You can’t exactly predict when it’s going to happen, but you have a fairly good idea about when it might. For example if you’re at the Supermarket and a toddler asks you to buy them a bag of candy and you deny the request, you can be fairly sure a temper tantrum is what you’re going to get. But on the other hand a toddler might just end up kicking and screaming over the color of their socks.

The same goes for narcolepsy. I know that if I sit through a lecture with having to stay still and just listen there’s a good 99,9% chance I’ll doze off. Or if I start reading a book (even one I really like) while lying down, I’ll probably be snoring in less than ten minutes.

I can predict that it’s more likely to have one of my “Sleep Attacks” during passive activities than for example while running or walking. But then again I have fallen asleep during dinner at a restaurant and during choir practise. I can make educated guesses, but at the end of the day it still is what it is – a guessing game.

Having narcolepsy is like participating in a never-ending guessing game. Where will I fall asleep today? Will I miss my stop on the train and end up in the middle of nowhere? Will I sleep through something important? Will people be upset with me? And the catch is you never know for sure. There are ways to rig the game a bit, for example by taking medicine. But it’s not a 100% reliable lifeline and of course there are side effects, as is the case with most types of medication. And to me the idea of having to take medicine every single and to rely on it to make sure you function normally is hard enough, but not being able to depend on it to work seamlessly makes it worse.

It’s all a matter of weighing pros and cons, and it’s never as simple as it seems. A sleep attack is like a slap across the face for me. And the worst feeling comes after the attack itself. The unnecessary shock, anger, and frustration that comes with realizing once again that being able minded doesn’t make you able bodied. And for a self-proclaimed control freak like me, there’s nothing worse than not being in control of your own body.

People can try to understand the physical side of narcolepsy, the biology behind it, but I feel like what most people don’t realize is that having a long-term disease that you suffer from every single day takes a toll on the mental side as well. Dealing with the disease is a part of the disease itself. In some ways it becomes one of the symptoms. And dealing with it all alone can be a huge burden. Narcolepsy is a relatively rare disease and I personally haven’t met anyone else who suffers from it. It can be isolating and incredibly lonely having such a big part of your life be something most people can’t relate to at all.

The truth is that I have a lot of great friends who are willing to listen to my worrying and who try to understand, but with some things you can explain as much as you like but they still won’t be completely understandable or relatable to anyone who hasn’t been in a similar situation.

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I talk about narcolepsy a lot. And I can tell that after a while it gets old with even the most understanding and patient friends. I can see their eyes glaze over as I talk about my latest episode or complain about my medicine giving me a headache. And my experience tells me that a disease that isn’t necessarily clearly visible to the outside world or that isn’t life threatening is easily regarded as not being “serious enough”. It’s almost as if because people can’t concretely see the disease affecting me it’s not real. It’s not like a bleeding wound or a broken bone that catches your eye right away, but it’s a constant battle going on underneath even though the surface looks calm.

As I mentioned earlier narcolepsy isn’t one of the most common diseases on planet Earth. This makes it easy for people to get misconceptions about the disease and the people who suffer from it. There isn’t much representation for narcolepsy in the mainstream media (movies, series, books, etc.) let alone accurate and respectful representation. I feel like it’s always portrayed as some sort of punchline, which encourages people to treat it as a joke or at the very least not a “real” disease.

I’m not the kind of person who can’t take a joke, but it does feel insulting to have people belittle what I’m going through. The worst thing might be when people actually tell me they wish they had my disease. –Yes, that has actually happened and more than once. It makes me cringe remembering how many people have responded to me telling them about my condition with “Oh I wish I could nap that easy” or “I wish I had an excuse to nap all the time”.

And I feel like this would be a good moment to clarify that life with narcolepsy isn’t constant misery and all that jazz. I’m mostly happy with my life and try to accept whatever it throws at me.  I recognize that I’m lucky in so many ways. I get to study something that interests me, I have amazing friends and amazing family. I just also happen to have a life changing condition that forces me to do things differently and to struggle with things that seem so mundane to others. And I’ll admit that narcolepsy is a force to be reckoned with, but it won’t stop me from trying to live life the best I can.

It’s so easy to look up medical descriptions of diseases, but it’s incredibly hard to grasp what it means to actually live with them. It’s easy to form an impression of a disease based on what you see in movies or TV, but it’s rarely the full story. I guess I hope that by showing people a glimpse of my life with narcolepsy will try to help them understand and give them a better idea of what this disease is in everyday-life. I want to give people the opportunity to try to walk in my shoes, even if it is just for while reading this article.