God forbid I run out of sauce for my burrito

Today in class, in the spirit of Halloween, Ray’s daily icebreaker question was “what is your silliest irrational fear?” At the time I said something stupid, but now that I’m sitting here at 2 AM eating vegan chik’un nuggets with ketchup, I have realized my real irrational fear.

Running out of sauce.

I’m terrified of not having enough sauce for whatever food I’m eating. The thought of not having enough ketchup to dunk my nuggets into freaks me out. There is absolutely no way I could eat a dry nugget, so even if I have at least a tablespoon of ketchup left for 2 small nuggets, I’ll squirt at least 1 or 2 tablespoons more onto the plate.

I also do this with my Taco Bell burritos. Every time I’m at the drive through, I ask for at least fifteen mild sauces. If I get two burritos, I double it to thirty. I know I’ll never use fifteen or thirty mild sauces. But I. Cannot. Run. Out. Of. Sauce.

Unattainable and overambitious

My main difficulties for Experiment 1:

  1. Feeling like I’m not adding something new and ground-breaking to the discussion
  2. Trying to make it more than just a historical article
  3. Connecting each separate idea to create a fully linked story (for example, linking the history of hysteria to modern gaslighting to how can we fix this?)

I feel like I tried to accomplish some unattainable things with this first experiment. For one, the time crunch made it difficult to really dive into each aspect I wanted to talk about. Second, this laundry list of topics to shove into one single long article might be too ambitious — and just not working.

All of my difficulties link together. I wanted to create something that’s unique and all-encompassing — something I haven’t seen yet on the internet during my research. However, because of that goal, I ended up creating an outline that seemed too general. I didn’t have an angle to narrow it down. Instead, I imagined everything I could talk about and put a number by it, and decided which space it would occupy in my outline. I went from the history of hysteria to modern gaslighting and then tried to tackle a question that obviously doesn’t have a black and white answer — how can we fix this?

I don’t know if it all connects, or if the story goes overboard with ambition. Do I need more specificity? Do I need a different genre? Or is it something else entirely?

So many options

I mostly just wanted to post a link here so I don’t forget about it, but I also want it to be helpful for my other classmates. While scouring the internet for possible mediums to play with for my experiments, I found this helpful genre list from Colorado State University. It’s a huge list of possible genres to utilize: journal entries, song lyrics, ghost story, recipe, how-to directions, to-do list, etc.

I thought this could be helpful, since personally, I struggle thinking of ways to write beyond the typical essay or article. For my next experiment, I’m thinking about trying out a filled-in Google Calendar, a podcast or a list of separate Facebook or blog posts.

For those who need some help with some ideas, check out this list!


Am I at the cocktail party or outside of it? Or somewhere in between?

During our last class, Ray asked us what challenges we dealt with during our first experiment. I raised my hand and explained to him my dilemma.

I was writing about the history of hysteria and how that persists in modern society through a form of mental manipulation known as gaslighting. This is where a person or group of people invalidate another’s feelings by acting like they’re “crazy” for feeling a certain way. During my research process, I came across a bunch of different articles on the topics. I found one beautifully written piece on someone’s personal experience with gaslighting from Teen Vogue, another one on the history of hysteria and its connection to politics from Vogue, and a long article basically on why you shouldn’t call women crazy (including some history and psychology) from Refinery 29. These articles all had one thing in common: they made me feel like I could never write a piece as good as that.

After I brought up this barrier to Ray, he explained helpful tips in the analogy of a cocktail party.

For any given topic, there is a cocktail party full of experts who have studied that topic for over a decade. They’re all conversing about it in terms that are hard for outsiders understand, and they’ve most definitely all published numerous articles or books surrounding the mastery of the topic. And here I am, a passionate but less knowledgable newbie to the topic. I’m starting to learn things about the topic that’s shocking, emotional and inspiring — but the experts are probably bored of talking about those things, or haven’t even thought about it for 20 years. Thus, I feel out of place and like I can’t add anything new to the conversation.

But there’s also a large group of people outside of the cocktail party who don’t understand anything about the topic the experts are discussing. They probably would like to know, but there hasn’t been a way for them to easily access the information in a way they can comprehend. Sure, I don’t fit in with these people either. But what if there was an in between?

There is! There is room in between the experts and the spectators for those passionate newbies like me, trying to find a way to reshape the message into a way those outside of the party can relate to. It’s a space where I’m free to learn and grow as I become more advanced with the information, while still creating media about the topic as a novice. Basically, the main point this analogy conveys: there is a space in between being an expert on a topic and total ignorance, and that type of content is as important — if not more important — than those who feel comfortable at the cocktail party.

How a computer science podcast made me realize the influence of gender stereotypes on my identity

I kind of cheated a bit with choosing an uncomfortable piece of nonfiction to read. Well first, I didn’t read — I listened, to one of my all-time favorite podcasts called “Radiolab” by WNYC Studios. The discomfort comes from the certain episode I clicked on, which normally would be one I’d scroll past a million times and never, ever listen to.

Why? Well, it’s about computer science. It appeals to the EECS and CS majors of the world, something I couldn’t be farther from. In the podcast, they talked about the number “4096” like it was spiritual. They tried to explain a computer’s memory through “bits” and powers of 2 and lightbulbs. The entire time I was staring at a blank wall to make sure I’d pay attention. It was one of those podcasts where if lose interest for a even single sentence, you’re not going to understand the next 10 minutes of what they’re saying.

Thus, you probably understand why listening was difficult for me — numbers, computer processing, math. But my discomfort with science goes a bit deeper than just not being able to understand CS.

I went to a small, catholic K-8 school that reinforced typical gender stereotypes: boys are good at science and math and girls should stick to English and history. Since I knew I was a strong writer and could memorize historical facts, I believed them. This continued into my all-girls catholic high school education. English was our strongest department, and all things STEM was the lowest. So I stuck to what I knew. I took APUSH and AP English, and even though I found ecology and space completely fascinating, there was no way I’d ever take an AP science class.

I’ve said “I’m terrible at math” since I was in 6th grade. Even though I received stellar scores on science on the Iowa test and the ACT, I never gave it a second thought.

At Michigan, I was set to become a PitE major. I thought Earth and Environmental science would be too much math, or too “sciencey” for me — whatever that means. However, this summer, I went to Wyoming through U-M’s Earth science program called Camp Davis. I found out I love rock formations and the concept of dead zones and nutrient pollution. Not only did I love the material, but I received most of the top scores in the class. I even allowed myself to take Geobiology this semester (which happens to be my favorite class thus far).

I’m still hesitant about being a science major. I keep waiting for when it gets too “sciencey,” or when there’s a math problem I can’t solve. But I’m trying to find a comfortable home in my newfound STEM-ness. We’ll see how I do.

So I guess my discomfort with the computer science podcast comes from a place of deep-rooted gender stereotypes and extreme self-doubt. Maybe as I learn to be more okay with science in general, this won’t scare me as much. I’ll check back in a year or so.