theadventuresofbeka

We're all different. Especially him. But there's something kind of fantastic about that, isn't there?

[Wedding rants] Part 2: Diets

Those of you who know me personally know that I rant. A lot. These rants are usually long-winded and excessive, and I expect that you listen quietly while I yell them at you. I’ve decided to share these with you (this “you” being my blog audience), so that you can “enjoy” them too since wedding planning has brought a whole new batch of frustrations to my life.

Enjoy 😉.

Part 2: Wedding diets make me mad.

Those of you who have known me for a few years or have read along know that I experienced a rather drastic weight loss over the course of 2013/2014 which was preceded by major changes in how I viewed my body, my value and my size. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

Over time, I have been convicted to love and value myself because Jesus loves and values me. My worth is not defined by the number in my pants or on the scale. Ironically, as I have learned to view my body with love, I have also lost weight. Despite the fact that I am sixty pounds lighter than when I started this change in mindset, I still sometimes struggle with the need to feel “beautiful” as it is defined by American media.

For this reason, I get very angry when body shaming occurs. I used to hate my body, and I don’t ever want to feel that way again. I know that a constant input of media encouraging me to lose weight, “not look fat”, and attain the “perfect” body feeds into the attitudes that I do not want to espouse.

Wedding planning has invited a huge number of such inputs. The articles suggested to me on Pinterest, Facebook, etc. are often centered around losing weight or appearing thinner for the big day. I know of many women who are dieting for their wedding and are hoping to lose X number of pounds by their wedding date. I do not judge these women for these choices, and I am happy for those who are using marriage as an excuse to create healthier habits in their lives, but I am violently opposed to the idea that I, personally, should lose weight and “look thin” for my wedding.

vegetables

I actually love vegetables, just not diets.

I am healthy and do not need to lose weight for health reasons. I do not have a perfect body, but the idea that I have to have a perfect body on my wedding day bothers me. First of all, my wedding day is NOT going to be a performance. I do not care what the people sitting on the pews think of my appearance. If they think I look “fat”, that’s their problem. As I have said repeatedly, a wedding is about the joining of two individuals in front of God. It’s about a binding promise based in unconditional love. It’s not about flowers or size 0 gowns. Besides, the idea that size 0 is beautiful is a social construction that is only partially true (people are beautiful because they are made in the image of God – not because of the size of their clothing – so, yes, size 0 women are beautiful but not exclusively so).

Second, I have no concerns about B’s perception of my body. I would never have dated B if I thought that he was  going to judge me for not having a thigh gap or any other absurd standard of beauty. On our first unofficial date, we went to the beach, and I wore a bathing suit and did not shave my armpits because that’s my normal. I have made it clear from the beginning that I am not changing my body for his acceptance, and he has made it clear that he loves me for who I am but would prefer that I shave (not that it affects his love for me). I do want to look beautiful for him, but I also know that he’s not going to care if I weigh 10 pounds less or not. He’s marrying me for the person that I am today. Not the person I could be if I stopped eating grains and worked out three hours a day.

I hate hearing that a woman has to lose weight and/or “look thin” on her wedding day because it evokes whispers of insecurity, and it tastes of the idea that a woman’s appearance is inherent to her value and worth. I don’t want to go back to hating my body, and one way for me to value myself is to live out healthy habits and not worry about the number on the scale.

[Wedding rants] Part 1: Pinterest

Those of you who know me personally know that I rant. A lot. These rants are usually long-winded and excessive, and I expect that you listen quietly while I yell them at you. I’ve decided to share these with you (this “you” being my blog audience), so that you can “enjoy” them too since wedding planning has brought a whole new batch of frustrations to my life.

Enjoy ;).

Part 1: I hate Pinterest.

Back when I was in high school, I used to say, “I don’t believe in Apple”. Obviously, I believed in the existence of Apple products. What I didn’t believe in was the hype behind them. I bought myself a Zune, and I used Dell computers.

zune1

I’m sure these guys don’t even exist anymore.

I also did not own a smart phone (mostly because my parents wouldn’t pay for it). When my parents upgraded phones during my senior year of college, they had to gently break the news to me that I was getting an iPhone for a dollar. I conceded only because it was the cheapest option. I refused to jump on the Apple bandwagon because it was a bandwagon, it was expensive, and I didn’t see the use in it. I preferred my cheaper music and my free phone bill because my parents would pay the basic phone but not the iPhone price.

I tell you this tidbit about my past because it’s funny and also because it explains this statement: I don’t believe in Pinterest. This one goes a little deeper though. Pinterest is free, and although it was a fad, I’m a bit late in writing this post if I’m just going to complain about its popularity. I joined Pinterest this past summer when I wanted to create a block of photos of rings for B as engagement ring suggestions. I pinned active links to rings I found on the internet on a hidden board which B looked at once.

I then decided that maybe Pinterest would be useful for all those bookmarked recipes I have that I never look at. I started pinning those, and I got blocked from Pinterest for a day. Apparently, pinning 25 links from the web marks you as a spammer despite the fact that all I was trying to do was have a visual representation of recipes I never use. I got annoyed and did not sign in again for a while because Pinterest prohibited me from finishing my project in the time that I had allotted for “pinning”.

Then B and I got engaged, and I felt like I should try Pinterest for organizing decoration/invite/theme/color/outfit ideas for the wedding. This caused me frustration. First, I had to be careful how many outside links I pinned because I would get marked a spammer again. Second, half the Pinterest search results I liked were dead links that didn’t work. And third (and most importantly), Pinterest presented me (and all of its users) with an unrealistic ideal of ____________ – insert whatever you follow/search on there.

For example, I decided to follow fitness. So, Pinterest presents me with photos of photoshopped fitness models with vague inspirational quotes or instructions on how to “look better” – because fitness is obviously only about being skinny and conventionally “beautiful”.

how-to-suppress-your-appetite

Even worse were the “style” and “wedding” pins. Most of the style pins were models, clothing advertisements, and/or ridiculously priced clothing. Most wedding pins are from fake weddings which are put together by vendors to sell an image and their products or are posted by wedding websites which feature weddings that cost wayyyyyy more than my tiny wedding budget.

wedding-ceremony-6-10102014nz

I would look at these photos and find that I felt discontented. I was happy with the idea of a simple, no-frills, floral-free wedding until I started looking at photos of elaborate, gorgeous venues with fairy tale table settings and hundreds of flowers and twinkly lights. I was confident in my appearance until I saw beautiful photoshopped, styled women with perfect outfits and/or abs. There was very little on Pinterest that was inspiring or useful. Instead, it was discouraging. I found that, for me, Pinterest was a way for me to feel that my life was lacking, and I don’t like that. That’s not healthy or beneficial. 

So, I still have my Pinterest (for now), but it is likely that I will delete it in the near future. I definitely avoid browsing through the suggested images on a regular basis. I like the idea of having a visual representation of crafts or recipes that I want to create, but I don’t like being sold an ideal especially when it doesn’t align with my budget or my principles.

Life Advice, I Guess

I always feel weird writing these sorts of things, but at the same time, I can’t not say anything. One of the most common questions I got in Colombia was, “Do you have a boyfriend?” The follow-up question was almost always, “Here, there, or both?” To most people’s surprise, I had only one boyfriend, and he lived in the United States. The response that annoyed me the most is, “Are you SURE you don’t want one here too?” But I’m not going to address that here. You can’t argue with fools. A few people responded positively, commenting on how I’m faithful or our relationship seems sweet, but many people expressed to me that they could never be in a long distance relationship or that they tried once and it didn’t work out. So encouraging.

I want to encourage you that it is possible. Granted, it depends on the type of relationship you are looking for or you already have, but that’s not to say it can never work. When I started dating B, he was stationed in GA, and I was living in FL. A month later, I moved to Colombia. A month after that, he transferred from active duty to the North Carolina National Guard. We have been together almost a year and a half now, and I can honestly say that, despite the distance, I am happy with him.  (Enough so that I’m going to marry him). At this point, I absolutely hate long distance, but it is worth it.

1. Have a good reason for maintaining the relationship.

If you were in the relationship primarily for physical benefits, there’s no reason to stay together. Also, if you fear being alone or want a security blanket and/or backup don’t bother. You are a capable individual. You do not need a significant other. Be in a long distance relationship with somebody because you see something long-term, something that goes beyond the period of time in which you are physically far away from each other.

2. Communicate communication agreements.

B knew I didn’t have data on my phone while in Colombia, and he understood that this meant I could only text him when I had wifi (e.g. when I was at home or in some Colombian hostels/hotels – the rest didn’t have functioning wifi). I communicated this with him before I left, and he did not expect me to speak to him 24/7. He also knew when I was traveling I wouldn’t always get wifi. Now, he understands that if I am teaching or in class (even though I now have data on my phone again), he’s probably not going to hear from me. On the other hand, I know that B will not text me while he is at work or training. That’s okay.

We’ve agreed to Skype when our schedules align. We used to sometimes Skype six days in a week, but nowadays with out busy schedules it’s more likely to be once a week or once every couple of weeks. It is a priority to both of us, but that doesn’t mean it always works out.

3. Understand that your communication methods are going to fail, especially if you are international.

Sometimes his phone dies. Sometimes my wifi goes out right as we are about to Skype. Sometimes one of us falls asleep in the middle of a text conversation. We don’t take this is as an opportunity to assume the other person hates us or is cheating. There has only been once where B thought my silence was anger, but that was because I made the mistake of sending him something sarcastic without clarifying that I wasn’t being serious.

4. If you’ve agreed to not kiss other people, don’t kiss other people.

This one is pretty clear. Don’t cheat.

5. Find someone you can trust. 

You need to be trustworthy, but you need to be with someone who is also trustworthy. Perhaps if one or both of you is the crazy jealous type this isn’t going to work out. Neither B nor I are like that. We have friends (male and female), and we trust the other person to be respectful and honorable.

6. Have a life outside of your significant other. Let them have one too.

Your significant other should be a priority, but don’t let them become an inhibition to you going out and doing the things you want to do. This one goes both ways. They get to have a life too. Sometimes one of you is going to go out with friends or spend a weekend with family without texting/Skyping/calling. That’s okay.

7.  Be practical.

Mail in Colombia doesn’t work, so B and I didn’t send snail mail, even though I do love it. We also both work full-time, so we prioritize a good night’s sleep over a Skype date. He originally wanted to visit me while I was in Colombia, but the cost made us decide that it was better that he didn’t. Buying a smart phone that I could use in Colombia was going to be too expensive, so I didn’t have data and we talked when I could get internet which allowed us to talk for free. Now that we are shorter long distance, we see each other about every three weeks. I have found that I can drive up to NC for less than $60 because of current gas prices, so I do most of the traveling. We have also met in a couple of other places to visit friends. Next semester, we probably won’t be able to travel to see each other as often as we would like. I will be working on graduating, and B has sergeant training.

8. Be understanding.

This goes for both the big things and the little. I know that B hates writing of any kind and that I cannot expect to receive a text longer than 10 words from him. He knows that I am obsessive about my work and will forget to text him for hours on end. I know that B’s time in the National Guard is necessary for his career, and so I will not make him feel guilty about the fact that it keeps him in NC. He knows that Fulbright was a fantastic opportunity for me, and thus he was supportive. I know that his truck eats up gas and flights are expensive, so I do most of the traveling because I can do it for way cheaper. We realize that long distance is necessary for a while (it will be a month shy of two years by the time I move to NC), and we were and are willing to make the sacrifices to make it work. For us, it’s worth it.

 

Displacement

Sometimes, things stir in my heart for a while, and then one day, I find the words that I need to express myself. I’m not a word wizard like other people I know (check out my sister for a great example), and I don’t feel like words come naturally to me, but every once in a while, it all comes to me in a moment, when I’m waiting in line for coffee or sitting on the train to work.

I’ve been closely monitoring myself for signs of reverse culture shock, and I’d say this last summer was a pretty smooth transition. I spent time with my family, I worked at an exercise studio, and I visited B. Moving back to Atlanta, though, was a different story. Since being back, I’ve been searching for a word to define what I’ve been feeling. Today, I found it.

Displacement.

If you Google “displacement definition”, one of the definitions that Google supplies is “the moving of something from its place or position”. I have felt this: a moving from my place. Remembering back to when I left Atlanta for Colombia, I felt that I had created a home here. I had a “place”: a neighborhood I was familiar with, regularly visited stores and coffee shops, intuitive knowledge about how to get home on public transportation, a cohort of peers that I connected with, and a church community group that at least kind of knew me.

Now, coming back, I live on the other side of town (so public transportation is all backwards). I don’t know where the grocery store is or where to find the gluten free bagels – this one took me three weeks because I have no patience. My cohort graduated because it’s a two year program and I took the second year off. My department moved buildings, so I still get lost finding my way to my adviser’s office even though I’ve already bugged him three times this semester. I get lost on campus like it’s my first month at Georgia State. I can’t even blame this one on a change of buildings. The library didn’t uproot itself and walk down the road. I just forgot where it is in relation to all the other buildings.

I returned to Altanta, so I subconsciously assumed that life would be the same. I’ve studied reverse culture shock, so I consciously know this isn’t the case, but I can’t always convince my subconscious. I spent a year in Colombia. I changed. The places and people I left back in the U.S. also changed. All of this makes for a different experience now. Add to this that I’m already spending a lot of time thinking about next May, when I move to North Carolina and say goodbye to Atlanta which may never be my home again.

In many ways, I feel displaced – that things here have changed in ways I didn’t expect, that it’s weird that Atlanta doesn’t feel like home anymore, and that, really, the next 8 months are going to be a time of preparation for some serious change in my life. I’m not so sure of my “place” anymore, but I don’t feel like it’s here and now where I’m at.

This isn’t all bad though. I’m doing a lot of exciting things this year and next, and the barista at a fantastic coffee shop downtown now remembers my milk preference even though I only go in there once or twice a week.

***This post was written a while ago. I just never got around to posting it.

Why you’re probably not invited to my wedding

It’s not that I don’t like you. I promise. 

So, this requires a bit of background. I have never been attached to tradition. I rarely request cake on my birthday and instead want to eat delicious desserts such as orange Julius, cinnamon rolls or brownies. I have yet to participate in a traditional commencement ceremony, and I don’t plan on doing so for my Master’s degree. One year, I didn’t want Christmas presents and asked my parents to donate the money to charity instead. When B and I started discussing the idea of getting engaged and he asked me about rings, I told him that he didn’t even have to bother with an engagement ring if he didn’t want to. (He wanted to, and I’m happy he did. He picked the perfect ring better than I could have picked for myself, and it’s an easy way to discourage creepers.) And I’ve never dreamed of a wedding.

My parents have a fantastic marriage, and I have always admired it. At the same time, I recognized that marriage took a lot of work, and I was in no hurry to sign up for it. Before I started dating B, I spent most of my adult life happily single, except for a brief period where I was unhappily dating an individual that was definitely not meant to be. It wasn’t until B and I were dating that I became excited about the idea of marriage. Even then, I was not remotely interested in a wedding.

Weddings have never interested me because I have noticed that so often they turn into a source of stress and debt, distracting the couple from the reason for the day – two people vowing before God and man that they will serve and love each other for the rest of their lives (at least in my case because we believe in God). Instead, weddings become about where to seat Aunt Gertrude, what shade of blush to use for the bridesmaids’ shoes, and whether or not to spend the extra money on an open bar. I stress easily, and I saw nothing meaningful about the process of planning a wedding. I have always said that I would never have a wedding unless my fiance wanted one because my wedding was not going to be all about me. It was going to about us, and if he really wanted one, we would have it.

Well, if you can’t figure it out from the title, B wants a wedding. B is more social than I am and doesn’t stress as easily, so he sees a wedding as an opportunity to celebrate our marriage with our dearest friends and family. In initially talking about our wedding, post-engagement, we settled on a guest list of about 150 people. My parents gave us a budget of $6,000, and B and I agreed that we wouldn’t want to spend more than that because we won’t have a lot of money to spare as we are starting out. We decided we wanted to get married as soon after I graduate as possible. We also chose Florida as the wedding location (which is what both of our families preferred and we wanted).

I made our initial wedding budget and started looking at venues and photographers. Within one week of being engaged, I knew I couldn’t do it. I was trying to plan a wedding (ceremony and reception) in another state at the same time that I was working to graduate, get a job and move to another state (I will be moving to NC, where B lives). Plus, I was trying to do this for $6,000. Your average couple spends over $26,000 on their wedding. Venues, food, photographer, postage, invitations, marriage license…the costs add up very quickly, and these are just the basics. DIY and shortcuts may not cost a lot of money, but they cost you and your loved ones time and stress. I knew that I was not going to have time to handmake 300 sandwich rolls beforehand in order to not pay a caterer.

I also knew I didn’t want to invite a whole bunch of people to a ceremony and not invite them to a reception afterwards because many of them would be traveling from far away. I cried a couple of time due to the stress of it all, and then I decided to talk to B. He immediately asked what we could do to help me be less stressed, and we decided to cut our guest list. Drastically.

 

At this point, we will only be inviting the people we would have invited to be our bridal party (three friends each) and our respective families. The close friends who would have been our bridal party will be our only non-family wedding guests, and our siblings will stand with us (my little brothers will be our “ringmen” as Micah calls them). This cut allows me to reserve a venue that includes food without going overbudget. It also ensures that the DIY aspects won’t be too overwhelming because we won’t need nearly as many invitations or decorations. I hate leaving people out, but it is what we have to do in order to maintain my sanity and ensure that we aren’t starting out our marriage with avoidable debt or fights caused by wedding stress.

Since cutting the guest list, I have felt a lot better about the whole thing. I have reserved a venue for the reception (which means we have a date!), delegated a lot of the work to my parents, sister and B, reserved a photographer, created a “to do” timeline which is manageable, made a realistic budget in Excel, and bought what might be “the dress” online (for less than $150). I have also already spent hours on the phone with both my mother and B discussing options, possibilities and ideas.

So, I hope you weren’t too excited about the prospect of watching me get married. Just know that it is nothing personal against you, and you not coming is what enables me to not spend this next year having weekly meltdowns about wedding planning.

Back on That Blogwagon

Welp. I’m lame. I’ve been off the blogwagon for over 3 months now. I’ve been busy living, and I haven’t taken the time to write about it. A lot has happened in the past few months though, so be prepared for a slew of posts. A lot is going to happen in the next few months, so be prepared for me to disappear again too.

Here is a list of the things that have happened since May 30th, when I last posted here (in chronological order):

  • I moved back to the U.S. and saw my family and ate pizza.
  • I secured an apartment in Atlanta with a relative stranger (but in a better area of town than last time).
  • I went up to North Carolina to spend 3 weeks with B, including a weekend in Asheville where we celebrated our 1 year dating anniversary.
  • I worked at Barre3 and as an English tutor for a brief lazy month in Florida.
  • I went to a doctor that began treating health issues that I have struggled with for years.
  • I moved back to Atlanta.
  • I had a panic attack about finishing school on time because I was not enrolled in a class I needed.
  • The teacher of said class changed classrooms, allowing her to override me into the class (the previous classroom only accommodated 20 people, and I was going to be student #21).
  • I got hired three days before school started to teach a class in my department’s Intensive English Program in addition to the two student development courses I already knew I was going to be teaching.
  • B and I met up in Panama City, and he asked me to marry him.
  • I said “of course”.
  • I started school as a fiancé, student, and teacher.
  • I looked at my schedule and realized I needed help managing stress, so I enrolled in three yoga courses.
  • I created a wedding budget and started planning a wedding.
  • I had three meltdowns in the weekend after school started. I then decided to talk to B, and we cut our guest list to pretty much just family.

So, that’s been my life. I have a lot more to say about these things, but I figured a quick post would help any of you who read along and didn’t know all of this to better understand as I write posts.

Oh, and in case you were interested, I haven’t gained any weight back. I’m not exactly sure why, but at this point I am healthy (and very happy about it).

Please Don’t Tell Me Colombia Made Me Skinny

Well, my body decided to go out of my Fulbright grant with a bang. I’ve been sick off and on for the past few weeks, but I brushed it off as the stress and business of life. Friday was supposed to be my last day of classes at UPTC, but my digestive system decided that was not to be. Thursday I woke up at 5AM with a stomachache from hell, and I more or less could not get out of bed until Thursday night. I spent Friday morning sleeping (instead of in class) and ended up missing a surprise party students had planned for me. By Friday evening, I was able to eat a small bowl of gluten free rice pasta with salt and a tiny bit of olive oil after almost two days of not eating. I am going to try to eat something other than pasta tonight.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened to me since moving here. I have had similar symptoms (although not always as severe) four times before. Also, I have a hard time getting sufficient calories here at times because I cannot eat gluten and do not like to eat a lot of meat. So, I’ve lost some weight. I’ve probably lost about 10-15 pounds (4-7 kg) in the last year. It’s not much, but it is enough to be noticeable and solicit comments (or such was my experience when I went home in December). The bright side is that I am still at a healthy weight, and I can still wear the clothing I bought in December – thank goodness!

That being said, I get kind of frustrated when people compliment me on my weight loss. First of all, it brings me horrible flashbacks of crying in bed from stomach cramps. Secondly, I was at a healthy weight before, and I don’t think this weight loss process has been in the least bit healthy. Not eating processed gluten free pizza isn’t a bad thing, but bacterial infections are never a recommended method of getting a trimmer figure. I know that “skinnier is prettier”, and societal norms state that you are supposed to compliment me on my new figure, but I am warning you now. I may or may not go into graphic details of how this weight loss came about. I can only stand so many similar comments before I get grumpy.

People commenting on my weight loss just reminds me of how unhealthy it is to starve yourself and/or purge your body of the nutrients you consume. That’s what my weight loss has been. I will probably gain it all back after a summer in the USA, and I will be perfectly happy with that because I will be eating healthy and exercising regularly. Whatever weight I gain will still be within the range of healthy. I will be fine if the weight stays off too, as long as it’s not because I continue to get what is basically a week long bout of food poisoning every few months.

Note: I think that most of my problems with bacteria here do not reflect upon the quality of food or water in Colombia. I think they are instead a reflection of my own underlying health or lack thereof (I had celiac disease for years and didn’t know it). Most foreigners that I know here have not been sick. Some have even lost weight because they are eating healthier.

The End Is Near

Next week is my last week teaching at UPTC as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant in Tunja. Next week is also my ten monthiversary in Colombia. I’ll be leaving soon after I finish teaching because the value of the US dollar has shot up drastically, preventing me from spending more time traveling here, but that is not the focus of this post.

Ever since I went to Spain, I have wanted to live and work abroad through Fulbright. Even after submitting my application, it felt like a dream that was beyond my reach. Now, I’ve  done it. I am about to become a Fulbright alumni and return to the USA to finish my studies. Sometimes, when dreams finish (as they are supposed to), one is left feeling a bit sad or disappointed. I don’t feel that way though. I’m sad to leave Colombia, obviously (I’ve already written about that though), but I am not sad to be finishing my time with Fulbright. It was a fantastic experience, but I am ready for the next part of my journey in life.

I remember talking to a dear friend in Atlanta early last year. We were probably sitting in a hipster coffee bar drinking overpriced lattes. I remember telling her that I felt that the following school year (2014-2015) was going to bring huge changes in my life. I told her I wasn’t sure what those changes were going to be, but I was confident they were going to happen. Soon after, I received notification of my acceptance as a Fulbright grantee.

This past year has brought so many changes and new experiences to my life although not all of them are due to living abroad. I watched the Harry Potter series for the first time. I took a total of 8 flights in less than two months.I designed class materials. I went to a hospital where nobody spoke English. I took to drinking Chai tea in the morning because it reminded me of home. I found love 4,000 miles away from me. I slept in a place with bedbugs and then poured boiling water over my clothing to make sure I wasn’t taking them home. I accidentally called trash cans “rear ends” in Spanish until my roommate kindly corrected me. I conducted research. I learned to run at an altitude of 9,000 feet. I cut my hair short in a place where most women have hair down to their rear ends. I poured salt all over my room because I thought I had fleas. I rented a washing machine for the day and had it delivered to me on the back of a motorbike. I took a street puppy to class one time. I bathed in hot springs by a waterfall. I learned to drink agua de panela with lime for a sore throat. I took my first taxi by myself (and so many more after that). This week, I will be leading a talk on literature and blues in Spanish.

Some of these changes have been big, while others are small in comparison. That being said, I don’t think size and significance have much correlation. This year has brought many changes, but some things are the same. I still do not know what I want to do when I grow up. I am back to stressing over what classes to take next and how to pay for housing next semester. I am now confident that I love teaching though, and I have realized that living abroad is fantastic but it really isn’t all that different from living in my own country. There are amazing, wonderful and beautiful places, people, and experiences everywhere. It’s just up to me to find them.

Dear WordPress proofreader, you’re wrong.

Dear WordPress proofreader,

Every time I write a post, I review the corrections that you suggest. Without fail, you always point out at least one passive voice construction that I invariably use. Oftentimes, there will be a multitude of green lines indicating that my writing style is not active enough for your taste. As a linguist who has researched the passive voice and considers herself a descriptive grammarian (who also hates to be told she is wrong when she knows she is right), I take offense to these suggestions.

This is my response as a prescriptive grammarian to the “may” vs. “can” debate.

Your correction of the passive voice is a perpetuation of the myth that the passive voice is “incorrect”. There is nothing incorrect about the passive voice. In fact, there are many contexts in which the passive voice would be a more “correct” choice on the writer’s part.

Firstly, there is the matter of style. Certain styles of writing are more likely to be expressed through the passive voice. Western scientific academia, in general, is more likely to use the passive voice because it conveys a greater distance between the writer and his/her ideas (2). An unidentified subject suggests that the author is discussing facts instead of opinions (which are often considered to have more validity within Western culture). The involvement of the personal self is not usually encouraged in this style of writing.

Secondly, there is the matter of organization and emphasis. In many cases, the passive voice is used because it helps to maintain a desired word order (4). Word order and thus the passive voice can be used as an indication of what information is new, what the topic is and what element within the sentence is being emphasized (end-weight principle and information-flow principle). Most of the time, the use of the passive voice does not change the meaning of a sentence, but it does change the focus (1). In some cases, it can also change the meaning (4).

Thirdly, the passive voice (specifically the short passive) is often used when the agent (the “doer” of the action) is repetitive, unimportant, or not known (3). For example, when I wrote the sentence “I got my nose pierced” in my post about what I did in 2014, I used the get-passive because I felt that mentioning who pierced my nose was extraneous information. I was trying to emphasize an experience that I underwent rather than the person who inflicted such an experience upon me.

According to corpus research, 25% of academic finite verbs are used in the passive voice (2). No, I would not consider most of my blog posts as academic writing. I would however argue that my style of writing is heavily influenced by my many years of academic writing and I do not consider this to be detrimental to the quality of my work. Perhaps if my blog was focused on fictional short stories, your suggestions would be more advantageous.

In conclusion, I think that you should re-consider what you consider to be “good writing”. Instead of looking at textbooks and age-old sayings that have no credibility today, why not evaluate language based on how it is actually used?

Note: For fun, I have put in bold all instances of the passive voice that the WordPress proofreader found and attempted to tell me to correct.

Full Disclosure: This was written based on information I compiled for a research paper I wrote in a grammar class last year. It sounds nothing like the research paper though.

 

 

Sources

(1) Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

(2) Biber, D., Conrad, S., & Leech, G. (2002). Longman student grammar of spoken and written English. Harlow, England: Longman.

(3) Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman grammar of spoken and written English. Harlow, England: Longman.

(4) Celce-Murcia, M., & Larsen-Freeman, D. (1999). The grammar book: An ESL/EFL teacher’s course (2nd ed.). Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

A List of Sorts

As I’m starting to count down to how many days are left until I see my family, I’m avoiding thinking about leaving Colombia. This always happens when I make big changes in my life. There are a lot of things I’m really looking forward to, but there are also a lot of things I’m going to really miss.

What I’m looking forward to

  • FOOD – I’m going to gain weight when I go back, and I am perfectly content with that.
    • having restaurants know what gluten free is, so I can eat out without worrying about getting sick
    • gluten free products: beer, bagels, pizza, all the things that can be made with bread such as grilled cheese, deli sandwiches and French toast
    • raspberries
    • sushi
    • Indian food
    • cheese that is not soft, white and bland
    • black olives that don’t cost a fortune
    • ice cream at Big Olaf’s on Siesta Key
  • Coffee shops – the culture and the coffee. Although the coffee here is of a high quality, it is watered down in comparison to what I am accustomed to.
  • Races – I was running a race a month when I lived in Atlanta, but I cannot find that many races here.
  • Running at a reasonable altitude – 9,000 feet (2,800 meters) is NOT an acceptable altitude
  • Yoga classes – I only recently found out that they do exist here, and it’s kind of too late to pay for a membership. It’s also way to cold to practice comfortably in my house.
  • Hot weather – when I get back to FL, summer will be in full swing.
  • The beach
  • Knowing what is culturally appropriate in all situations – sometimes I’m still confused as to what I should do or how I should act.
  • A direct communication style
  • Being long distance instead of really long distance with B and being able to see him more often than once every six months
  • My family and friends (seriously, I’m so excited to see these boys)

It was a lovely morning with two of my favorite boys at Siesta Key.

A post shared by Rebekah Callari-Kaczmarczyk (@theadventuresofbeka) on

What I’m going to miss

  • Food
    • Arequipe – Colombian caramel
    • A constant supply of freshly made arepas
    • Fresh, delicious produce
    • Being able to afford as much produce as I want in a week
    • All the fruits that I won’t be able to find in the US and the juices they make with them
    • The freshly made limeade that is so easy to find here
    • The Mexican restaurant I always go to
    • Fresh eggs that are cheap
  • The mountains – I hate the altitude but these mountains are so beautiful

More of Monguí.

A post shared by Rebekah Callari-Kaczmarczyk (@theadventuresofbeka) on

  • Having money to travel
  • My students
  • The friends I have made here
  • The sweet boys at the coffee place I always go to who greet me by name and ask me about my life
  • Making well above a living wage – I’m going back to being a student next year.
  • Speaking Spanish all the time
  • Not ever having to drive and having everything I need or do be within walking distance
  • Fantastic medical insurance
  • Never having temperatures below freezing