Opt Out

I think of life kind of like being in high school, but if you were signed up for every single club. You graduate 8th grade and get shoved into the door of OPRF, your name on every club, group, and sport’s sign up list. From 8 am to when you go to bed, no 3:11 break, it’s all club after club. The only chance to get any free time is if you quit the club. This requires an awkward conversation with the group leader. It’s uncomfortable. It takes a lot of guts to walk up in front of the class, in front of friends, people you respect, and tell your superior that the club they run just isn’t for you.

Here’s the catch: you get re-signed up every day. Every hour. Every second.

Some clubs are easier to quit, and some are harder. It depends on your friend group, which teachers you have and which you like, what you identify as, your skin color or gender, the way you were raised. Some clubs you don’t even know you’re in. Some of them can benefit you, and those are the hardest to leave. Some don’t benefit you or harm you, but they’re comfortable. They’re all you know. Freedom, radical subjectivity, finding the true meaning of life, comes when you quit all of the clubs. When you get to go home at 3:11, that is what Camus calls freedom and happiness. Unstructured and un-systemized life.

There’s a racism club, a sexism club, a homophobia club, a xenophobia club, a club for every system, every prejudice, every discrimination – no matter how small. It’s so, so easy to stay in the club, to continue thinking the way you have been since you were born. It’s so easy to hold your privilege in your hands and simply not acknowledge it. It benefits you, it makes your life easier, so why get rid of it? Why feel guilty for it? White privilege is like that. Every day we with white privilege have to consciously make the choice to acknowledge it. We have to see it in our hands and look it straight in its face. We have to be aware of it in every word, we have to quit the club with every sentence.

It’s also easy to stay in a club that harms you. As a woman, I have never once stopped believing that all genders are equal in value, ability, and validity. Yet, as a woman, I have fallen victim to self-image issues enforced by society. I have been influenced by gender stereotypes. Quitting these clubs, the ones that target you, might seem easy. And for many, maybe it is. But the truth is that the work is grueling. Picking apart your identity and seeing what weeds have taken root there, what elements exist that you did not approve, is hard. Quitting these clubs is saying goodbye to something toxic, breaking away from a poison, yet in order to do so, you must be confident enough in yourself to know that you are different from what all of society tells you you are. That is no small task.

Opt out every day. Take your name off the sign up list every second. Maybe one day, some clubs will dissolve. It’ll get easier to opt out until it’s a subconscious process. Not all of the clubs will disappear, we’ll never be free from systems. But some of them don’t harm anyone. And the ones that do, we can burn down.

The Comfort of Rereading

In Vladimir Nabokov’s opinion, rereading is essential to being a good reader. In order to read a story to the best of your ability, you have to reread it, or at least reread the important parts. I somewhat disagree. To me, rereading is indeed an essential component of fully understanding and appreciating a story to its fullest extent, however, the most valuable benefit of rereading is the comfort that comes with rereading a good story.

There is nothing I love more than reading my favorite books. I can’t count the amount of times I have set down a newly-finished book only to think, “I can’t wait until I can read this again!” It’s like entering a world, only to leave bittersweetly, melancholy to go, but hopeful of your eventual reentry. After falling completely in love with the characters contained between the front and back cover, after yearning to be their best friends, you have to leave them. Rereading is like paying them a visit, seeing how they’re doing these days, relishing in your old friendship.

I have a terrible memory. I’ll forget conversation topics in the middle of the conversation, and what I was just doing in the middle of doing it. It’s a joke between me and my friends, but honestly I find that it has its uses. I can read a book or series as many times as I want. If I wait long enough, I’ll forget what happened, the characters’ names, the climax. I reread books, rewatch movies, re-listen to podcasts, and re-experience everything I can. Whether it’s a picture book from my childhood, each page bursting with nostalgia, or a novel I remember with well-written characters, there’s nothing more comforting. To me, it’s like getting under a blanket, soft and worn from use, and already warm. It’s like exploring a beautiful landscape for the first time, but knowing which corners the most gorgeous sights wait beyond. There’s no shame in rereading. There’s only comfort and the knowledge that you’ve made Nabokov proud.

Abnesti’s Profanity

After reading Escape From Spiderhead, I was in awe with the complex characters that occupied the story. Each character was completely fleshed out, even though it was only a short story. One poignant example was Abnesti. I think that Abnesti is an incredibly intriguing character, mainly because, regardless of his undeniable monstrosity, he is convinced that he is a good person. To me, the most interesting portrayal of this dimension of his personality was his refusal to swear. His usage of appropriate terms of exasperation instead or profane ones showed that he is completely convinced of his own goodness. The ridiculous extent of his appropriate swears, for example, “‘Jeff, you’re totally doinking with our experimental design integrity'” (Saunders 63), expresses his self-image. He thinks of himself as a goofy, appropriate, good guy. He’s a family man, who buys his subjects cream from the store, who doesn’t swear, and does things in the name of science. His abhorrent actions, his murder of Heather, none of those mean that he is a bad person. He’s a good guy because he doesn’t say potty words.