That vegetarianism is good for the environment and animals, dangerous for eating habits and body image, but I only adopted it at age 17 because the meal option was better one day and it seemed easier to just keep going from there. That there is something inherently wrong with the shape of my mouth, which will stop me from ever successfully whistling. That a cappella is the worst form of entertainment. That you should be nice, funny, or both, but not neither. That nice is the most upsetting way someone could describe me, but the surest way to know they think I am boring. That the eco-feminists are right about emotional support animals demonstrating an absence of empathy and a surplus of human superiority, but the one that lives in my house poops on the patio so I am prejudiced. That David Foster Wallace and dogs were both ruined by their fans. That any religion in its extreme is probably bad, but I was raised atheist so I was raised to believe in not believing which has left me assertive but without a cause. That unconditional trust has no place in this world, but conditional trust is necessary to survive in it. That my IUD is the part of my body I trust the most. That the Existentialists were right about a lot or at least that we are the only ones who can make ourselves feel fulfilled and happy. That exercise helps with happiness. That vaping looks stupid. That movies praising Hollywood should not be allowed to be made today. That dark chocolate is the best chocolate, and if you disagree you are simply wrong. That my beliefs are probably wrong.
That everyone is always acting selfishly. That there’s no overarching human condition we are all born into, but we should not consider sameness as criteria for caring. That kissing in museums is sacrilegious because it makes me feel more alone when I am trying to feel connected to something greater. That you should pick your battles, and that people who stand still on moving sidewalks are begging to be targeted. That being mean is generally being honest, but that doesn’t, in itself, make it ok. That being mean can be ok. That Americans abroad speak at least five times louder than anyone else in the world. That everything is always about power. That global warming is the most reliable and steady destructor of this planet.
In pronouncing the first syllable of basil like the sound a sheep makes. In listening to as much advice as possible and rejecting all help. In planning on pranking people for fun but feeling too bad to pull it off. In appearance being an utterly valid measure upon which to judge. In having short nails. In picking a side and arguing for it unwaveringly when talking about movies with male film students. In an ethic of empathy, in theory. In calculated effort to care about and improve the lives of others, in practice. In being alone at least once every two days for sanity. In no gods, but maybe in myself.
I believe I think about myself more than I should. I believe I don’t do enough to help the world because it feels too hard. I believe I am bad at admitting when I am wrong, but good at convincing myself I am right. I believe I adopted too many of my beliefs to fit my actions rather than the other away around, which would probably be a better way to live. I believe I got all my beliefs from others. I believe I could get really into LARPing if the situation presented itself. I believe I am firm in my beliefs but only because changing them would require making change by myself.
Note on I Believe:
I began this essay by responding to everyone who asked me “how is it being back from abroad?” with, “it’s fine, I’m writing a manifesto.” This was, in theory, true, though in actuality I had not written anything down because, as I told my friends in frustration the night before this was due, “I can’t write a manifesto because I don’t believe in anything!” I then tried to write down everything I believed, and found that I, in fact, do have a number of beliefs, but that I’ve constructed most of my ideas about what is right and wrong around what I already do, rather than adapting my actions to what I believe is right. According to my best friend, that’s not an original concept, that’s just what everyone does. I believe him.
Before I wrote this manifesto I wrote a different one called “In Defense of Dog Hating.”
If I were to work on “I Believe” now, I would try to work these lists of my beliefs into having some sort of point, but right now I don’t feel that my beliefs have any point, so I believe they can stay put for the time being.