Julia: Emojis and Emotion

Good news buds: Prince is back on Spotify, and this semester has indeed been an easier one in terms of really dedicating myself fully and ungrudgingly to this fellowship. (I’m referencing my previous contribution in our 5 Days of Ruka series, in which I expressed my disappointment in my first-semester attitude and behavior. If you haven’t read it, I’d definitely recommend scrolling down a bit and reading each fellow’s entry–and all the other blog posts while you’re at it. Go wild.) I mention the first, Prince, because it’s what’s currently grooving me on through writing this blog post and the second because I recently finished a vegan, gluten-free heart-shaped cake for myself and my housemates in honor of Valentine’s Day/Capitalist Day/Tuesday. Last semester I wouldn’t have dreamed of dedicating three homework hours to a baking experiment if it weren’t necessary for an assignment or a community dinner, but this time around things seem to be looking up. I have more free time now, which gives me just enough breathing room to be joyful about my obligations rather than, feeling well, obligated. It’s incredible what a lighter class load and rearranged work schedule can do for the soul.

With this more cheerful and healthy perspective on things, I’m really noticing the ways in which the Ruka has affected me. Previously, my recurring grumpiness and exhaustion gave me a bleaker outlook on this fellowship, one that convinced me that this is cool and all, but ultimately not as life-changing like I’m supposed to make it seem. Now, though, I’m starting to realize that living in community with these four girls really is making an impact on me. To illustrate this change, I’ll use my emoji usage as an example. It’s about to be a real Millennial™ post. Some context: when I’m texting, I don’t really emote. In fact, I usually don’t have any punctuation at all because, honestly, it’s just too much to think about. Like if I end certain sentences just with a period, I may unintentionally come across as passive aggressive or irritated, and don’t even get me started on exclamation points. I have a strict quota system for those. So when it comes to emojis, that’s a whole new level of stress, one that adds a certain layer of distrust on anybody who sends them to me regularly, the face ones in particular. Any text I receive with the laughing-tongue-out emoji is a candidate for immediate skepticism. Recently, though, I’ve actually been using them more. The red-dress flamenco dancer has always been nonthreatening for me, as well as the thumbs-up or praise hands, or the poop emoji, obviously, so I’ve been known to send those in the past. However, just in the last week, I’ve used heart emojis multiple times in multiple colors, and each time it was with one of the Ruka women.

Now this may not seem like that big of a deal, but I’m my father’s daughter, and if he uses even one exclamation point in a text message I assume my mother wrote it for him. So my using heart emojis and even sometimes the blushing-smile or heart-eyes smiley is kinda huge. Living with four other girls who are dedicated to sharing their lives and hearts with me has helped me learn to share with them my life and my heart–I’m talking about the real one now. My only other collective living situation was with my three brothers growing up, and, at the risk of straying too far into gender normativity, that rather masculine environment wasn’t super big on sharing strong feelings outwardly. Blame society. Now, though, I’m learning that some people actually do want to be touched and hugged when they’re upset, and not everybody wants to be left alone when they’re dealing with tough stuff like I do. So for me, using a little cartoon heart, or a stream of them, are my steps toward validating my loved ones. It’s a virtual representation of real emotional support, not just a superficial, fake shape on a cell phone screen. So as I grow more comfortable opening up the emoji keyboard, I also expand in my capabilities to be affectionate and, well, touchy. At this point it’s barely noticeable–honestly I’m not sure if the other Ruka girls have noticed a change–but I can tell. I’m getting better at showing affection toward friends in daily, mundane interactions, not just at a great time of change or tragedy, after I’ve been able to muster up the ~Perfect~ emotional response. So with every new emoji, every color of cartoon heart I can send, I’m learning. As Ozakh mentioned a couple posts ago, it’s very Ruka.

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