That time of that year

March 8th, which happened to be Women’s day was supposed to be that one day in the year that people, internationally, celebrate womanhood. I “celebrate” mine once every month, so I’m honestly confused about what is so special and what the celebration entails. But I won’t talk about the significance of women’s day in this post. That’s a serious topic that deserves a lot of critical thought. Let me, however, introduce you to the story of my first period. Yup, things got icky real fast, didn’t they?

So I was about 11 or 12, was when it first happened. I suppose I hit adolescence way sooner than other girls; I was way taller, physically and I also “developed” sooner. Which meant that we hadn’t solved the mystery of the blue-liquid soaking miniature diapers, in school yet. We had a “session” a few months later, when all the girls were confined to a lecture hall and we had to watch a full wall-sized screening of the sanitary pad ads that we had anyway watched, unquestioningly a thousand times on TV. But more on that, later.

So when it happened, I was of course, horrified. I was bleeding, with pain milder than expected, and I couldn’t remember injuring myself in that region, so it didn’t make sense at all. When I told my mom about it, she just told me that it’s a period, something girls get, once in a while and handed me a sanitary pad. All that with a straight face. That’s it! No details. No answers.

School days, for me, were anyway mortifying, being the shy kid that I was. So when the dreaded periods would arrive, I was not equipped with enough info on how often I needed to change pads. I was also a sports kid, but contrary to what they show in the advertisements, I don’t think it’s the best idea to go galloping around the city, doing ballet, horse-riding, etc. when you’re down. Needless to say, my clothes would need constant washing. I also came up with ingenious ways to glide along the walls and corners of rooms, and sneak in and out stealthily, to hide the stains on my clothes. As a kid, I was very adept at attracting absolutely no attention towards myself.

As I grew, of course, we learnt about reproduction in our biology class and I used the internet to understand things they didn’t teach in class and that’s when my life started making sense again. I also had to come to terms with a newer reality of my life, which was that those very periods would haunt me for most of my life, till I hit menopause.

It was also around this time that we had to attend the “session” where “experts” would introduce us to what periods were and would answer all of our questions related to them. At that point, a very small minority of us had had them by then, so it probably sounded very alien to the others.

While it was pretty awkward for us, I’m pretty sure the “experts” from Whisper/Stayfree (I don’t remember which one of them had come), were gleaming with hopes of rocketing sales from their target audience. The bigger revelation was, however, that they weren’t that aware of what they were talking about. You see, we had a question and answer session, where, to save us of further embarrassment, they had handed us small chits of paper where we could write out our questions and pass them secretly to the organizers. You know, to preserve our perceived innocence in front of others, and yet keep the spark of curiosity alive. Most of the initial questions were things I already knew or had figured out, so being the nerd that I was (and still am), I wanted to ask the best question.

The answers that the experts gave were generic enough, and all ended with “Don’t worry. This is perfectly normal”. My question, however, received just that, and nothing else. They basically didn’t know the answer and I was extremely disappointed in the experts. Maybe they weren’t experts at all. I would find out the answer to that later anyway (thank you Google), but I believe that many of us continue to be under-educated about a phenomenon that happens so regularly to half the population. I strongly believe that we need to change this.

Also, I was let down that they didn’t give us free samples after having tortured us through an hour long endorsement deal. Just kidding.

And that kids, is the story of how I met my first period.

Funded!

We did it! I usually don’t post status updates, but this is beyond cool. We, the data science reading group, at university had applied for funding from the GPSS and we were granted your budget requirements, as requested. Definitely a big enough step towards taking our aims and ambitions higher!

Hormoine

A friend happened to mention that there can’t be a female stand-up comedian, who can go too long without making jokes on periods or vaginas. Probably. But hey, I’m not trying to be a stand-up comic here. Also, let me assure you, nothing about periods is funny, when they happen. It’s only funny in retrospect.

If you’re wondering what the title of this blog post is all about, it’s a quirky portmanteau of the words “Hormones” and “Hermione”; the later, someone I have always idolized and the former, something that leaves me idle-ized. So addressing the elephant in the room, which might as well be me cause I’m bloated: I am hormonal and warming up to welcome the dreaded period monster. Capisce?

Being hormonal is such a normal thing for girls, it’s almost a a synecdoche of our existence. It’s not exactly a bad thing. It just makes it very hard for us to control our emotions, sometimes. Specially when the body is already being terrorized by a plethora of physically painful manifestations. Ah well!

I think I could very well write a rule-book on how to function like a sane person during these monthly occurrences. But taking a leaf out of anyone’s book, at such times, means literally ripping pages apart, either out of sheer agitation, or desperation to learn how to assuage the badgering fiend that resides in the non-pregnant uterus.

So how do I work out a truce?

In a series of tongue-in-cheek posts deliberating on how life would be without the ever-contracting damsel in distress. So, watch me attempt a true friendship with Cruella, queen of reproductory pain. More posts to follow!

Feb mediocrities

February might be the shortest month of the year, but it was full of polar events. Joyous melancholy. Peaceful chaos. An unsettling calm following an unspoken discourse.

And before you stop reading this blog post full of riddling paradoxes, I just want to state that all extremes ultimately average out, and what are left are oft-ignored mediocrities. So why not take some time out to appreciate the small things that constitute a major chunk of our lives. Some small observations from the month that was, in no particular order of importance:

  1. February 24th was going to be a life-changing date for my Unoriginal Friend. He was supposed to quit smoking. However, he broke his resolution as quickly as he finishes an entire pack of cigarettes. He also followed that up by buying a $53 carton of cigarettes. Surely, he’s killing himself a little bit every day, but isn’t he also living a little bit more?  To Unoriginal Friend: thanks for being unapologetic-ally entertaining.
  2. February saw an average of 4 seasons per week in Iowa. From a balmy 20°C to rain, to freezing rain, and freezing hell of -15°C and bouts of snow. This is the only place where weather is actually an interesting conversation filler.
  3. February meant great things for our infant Data Science Reading Group, at university (discreet shout-out!). We registered our group as an official student organization, made a constitution, and also applied for funding. Quite a harrowing process, but definitely the start of something huge. Hopefully we’ll keep the ball rolling for this one.
  4. Ironically keeping the ball rolling, requires friction, according to the laws of physics. And so when I was extremely annoyed with the dull and administrative jobs that I had to do to get our group recognition, I lashed out at others for not helping me out enough. Which led to a cascade of “you’re awesome, so hard-working, keep up the good work” messages for me, though the final two were more mocking than genuine. Still, it was pretty cool.
  5. My boyfriend has a flair for attractive presents. So he initially ordered me a fancy magnetic sand timer, which unfortunately broke minutes after I opened it. I had to send it back to Amazon, but he sent me yet another gift which was magnetic balls for making sculptures. It’s such a perfect gift for someone as OCD as me. I keep making symmetric shapes.
  6. February was a good month for kick-starting actual research. Which means I actually proved some stuff and got exciting results. I also ordered myself a Kindle, which unfortunately I haven’t had the time to read.
  7. I did get extremely agitated, affected and disturbed by certain events, and things not working out. And I had started feeling unusually low. But then I decided, when things don’t work out, work out! I started gymming about a week back because I thought I needed a positive change in life. And to tame all the crazy building up inside me. So far so good, I hope I continue the practice.

So that was about as mediocre as it was awesome a month. I feel that the word “mediocre” gets a negative rep for no good reason. Not everything is supposed to be “perfect” and “excellent”. It’s okay for things to be “just-about-fine”!

On that note, here’s looking forward to an exciting March.

Your place or mine?

We sometimes find ourselves at junctures in our lives which make us wonder: wouldn’t it be so much easier to be in someone else’s shoes at the moment?

I’ve had those moments, where I’ve regretted decisions. Sometimes, I might have even made the correct choices based on the given circumstance and still had to bear the brunt of my actions. Let’s just say that sometimes, there’s just no right way. You need to make peace with the limited choices in hand, neither of which may be acceptable to you. Helplessness ensues.

A lot of us are believers. If not in God, then in some force of the universe that binds things together. To some, it’s their way of keeping faith intact. To others it’s a way of rationalizing, (counter-intuitive as it may sound) events that don’t make sense otherwise. Humans often try to fit logic into events of their lives.

If someone happens to get opportunities that do not seem commensurate with his/her skills, then that person is lucky. There’s always a tendency to compare the quality of one’s life to another’s. The mind has a tendency to fixate on the negatives than positives (it’s called the negativity bias). And so when things seem to be going awfully wrong in our lives, not only do we think about them more, we also try to attribute them to external vague parameters like luck or the universe. Why? Because it seems rather arbitrary that we’re subject to harsher realities than others. Things we have had absolutely no control over. How can something as important as one’s own life be dictated by random events?

Surely not.

Privilege, I believe is something that is passed down across generations. And yes, I am definitely far more privileged than so many others around me. My parents put me through college and I shall be ever grateful for that. But I also did work really hard during college to get good grades. I have had my own share of struggles to reach here; academic, mental and emotional. To attribute my position to a mere instance of privilege is unfair. I do not take my position for granted.

We, as individuals often hate what situations make us do. We like to have a great deal of control over our lives. There are a lot of things that I don’t have in my control either and I feel helpless about. Should I start tearing down every other person around me for being less helpless? Is that the true measure of happiness?

I think as a society, we need to be far more altruistic than we are, currently. While it’s easier to breed negativity, attempts need to be made to perpetuate positivity as well. And it’s not as easy a task as it may seem, because it is so easy to get bogged down by failure.

I don’t think that exchanging places with someone who seems more fortunate helps. Effectively, the same number of people would still be miserable. What we can do is try and help other people out of their misery. Ensure that others don’t go through the same hardships that we’ve been through. Try to make the world a better place.

 

Arguments

As I type out this post, an unsettling feeling overpowers me. But I don’t want this post to be about my disappointment with people around me. Instead, I want to analyze the situation critically.

Why do people argue? I’ve had a lot of people around me contest my point of views on various occasions, some of them, extremely trivial. There is a pattern, and it’s different with men and women. I happen to be in a field that has an overwhelming majority of men, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). I hence have the most number of interactions with them. And I used to think that I can get along a lot more easily with guys than girls, being a self-proclaimed tomboy. But when it comes to arguments, I think I’m better equipped to deal with girls than guys. Or “men”.

This isn’t an article about male-bashing, no. I am just saying that I find it easier to understand a girl’s point of view and her set of reactions, emotional or intellectual, towards situations of conflict, as opposed to a guy’s PoV. Men that I interact with, are far more assertive with their arguments. There’s a good amount of ego that comes into play. I have a big issue with the sense of self-entitlement that people in this generation come with. “I have an opinion, and I must voice it!”. What opinion? How did this opinion shape up? How relevant is that opinion to the conversation? Does it benefit anything or anyone? What factors led you to believe what you do? And most importantly, why do my opinions have to be the same as yours?

Most of the opinions that we form are due to the society that we live in. External factors play a key role in how we react to situations. Upbringing and experiences as well. We stink as intuitive psychologists. So it is natural that we accumulate a sense of false consensus, while evaluating another person’s PoV. The idea that a lot of people inadvertently carry is that anyone who does not conform to their set of notions about the world, should be wrong, because if they aren’t, that makes these people “abnormal” or lowers their self-esteem. And so, when someone doesn’t have the same outlook towards an issue as they do, these people take up the unfortunate task of convincing that person about why their outlook is better. And if that person isn’t perceptive enough, suggestions turn into arguments.

Another thing that displeases me is that people use “bluntness” as a tool. Sounds ironic enough. But just because someone has the freedom to voice an opinion, does not entitle that person to say it in a crude way. Has civilization not taught people anything? Respectfully stating an opinion is one thing. Trying to impose it on someone else in a distasteful way, another. I’m no exception to this myself, I have done both. I feel disappointed in myself to have resorted to the later… I usually get to that stage when I feel extremely worked up and frustrated with someone. It’s still not a good attack strategy.

I find emotionally charged up arguments, to be the worst. Because then there is simply no scope for rationality. You are turned into some kind of a heartless villain, for underestimating emotions. Such arguments are usually moot; they just serve as a channel for people to voice their frustrations. I admit, I have done this myself, and that’s another wrong move. But I guess people do require certain outlets, and if it’s between friends who have a good enough understanding between them, then they usually patch up within minutes. It’s a rather stupid thing to dwell over.

I don’t think two people can always be on the same page. Our experiences don’t let us. Heck, that’s what make us unique as people. So if I label someone as “argumentative”, I’m the fool. Maybe that person has just had extremely disjoint set of experiences that I just cannot relate to. Arguments can actually even be constructive, as long as both sides get to have equal footing. If a particular argument, constraint or condition is used against me, I should be able to use the same against you in a similar context.

At the end of the day, arguments are just a fraction of the multitude of things to get through, including important things like work, studies and leisure. Unfortunately they take up a lot of head-space sometimes, I’d rather not allocate so much memory to it. There are more important tasks to perform.

Entropy

The world may not be the happiest place to be, at the moment, what with temperatures soaring, both politically and climatically. People, globally,  however need to warm up (see what I did there?) to the idea of a new wave of perceiving the world from a scientific mindset. There’s obviously a lot of entropy being generated, and that seems to be the law of the universe. And for some reason entropy has a negative connotation : it’s chaotic, it’s messy, it’s hell. Hell, no! 

Entropy is also generation. Creation. In information theory, entropy is information, it’s new knowledge. And being a PhD student, knowledge is all around me and all that I care about. There’s so much to imbibe every day, I can tirelessly strive and work, learn and explore and still not feel fully satisfied. Entropy is in discontent. There needs to be a want to know more. There needs to be a dissatisfaction in the current state, in order to progress. After that, all you need is a will to take that leap forward. 

I think, entropy, in a long run, is always progress. So if you find yourself fueled by desire, why not light a fire?