“The idea that sex is something a woman gives a man, and she loses something when she does that, which again for me is nonsense. I want us to raise girls differently where boys and girls start to see sexuality as something that they own, rather than something that a boy takes from a girl.”
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Saturday, February 13, 2010
People are far more stressed in the modern society than they were during the colonial era, industrial revolution and twenty years ago. Today’s world and its doldrums have caused widespread disillusion for those that cannot satisfy or conform to its ideal of success. People are constantly being beaten down by life, preyed up on by rogues and unscrupulous individuals.
Corporate society preys on the individual’s weakness and need for validation and social approval. They tell us that if we purchase this product then we will be sexy, confident, loving, attractive, and desirable. Amoral and unethical corporations subscribe to our vulnerabilities and need for financial success and economical independence by providing us with easier, nonexistent answers, offers, opportunities and avenues for advancement. In the end it is a scam and the only persons who have achieved any economical gains from it are the profiteers. The hard working investors are left with nothing but disenchantment, drained bank accounts and depleted resources.
We continue to be tricked by a deluge of home business scams, dating scams, fraudulent investment schemes, nonexistent lottery scams and fallacious sweepstakes. The connoisseur of these illegal business activities preys on our desires and vulnerabilities. They know we want to get rich quickly with little or no effort. They sell us what they know we want, which is quick wealth with small effort or industrious investment. If that is our aspiration then we will continue to be duped and our credit card debts will be high.
Everyone on this planet wants to be successful in whatever variant or realm their society and culture deems as a measure of ultimate success. In primeval society, success was measured by the amount of animals or vast agrarian land that the individual possessed. In today’s world success is measured by our jobs, academical achievements, financial status and our overall contributions and conformity to the advancement of the human race within our relevant societies.
But the criterion for being called a success has changed over the years. There was a time in Jamaica when a man’s success was calculated based on the amount of lands he possessed and cattle. Once up on a time, a Jamaican’s idea of the ultimate Jamaican dream was to possess a car and a house with a nice piece of land for his progeny to inherit.
Today the decisive factor for success is the same but for more compounded. A man wants to have several lands disperse over the island, several cars and several Swiss bank accounts. It is this standard of living that is fomenting the criminal activities and scams that many Jamaican young people are getting involved in. The situation is further magnified by this new wave of obsession with youth, where everyone wants to be successful before they are old. Young people in Jamaica want to have several expensive vehicles, penthouses and millions in the bank before they are twenty five years old.
The need for wealth and high regard is also being propounded by parents who are constantly using the success of other peers of their children to measure the material ascendancy of their own. For instance, I have class mates that I went to school with, who are below the age of twenty two years old and have accomplished several cars and immense wealth. I know nineteen year old who are becoming millionaires over night. When my parents see their success compared to the rate that I am climbing the ladder of success, they assume that I am slacking off and not doing sufficient work to reach the top. . My parents do not know the full details of the success of my few compatriots and the means by which they attained their overnight wealth. They do not care about that because we live in a society where money is the order of the day, by whatever means possible. People will know that you achieve your wealth by illegal means and instead of being subjected to pillory and social dissidence; you are lauded and easily recruit camaraderie who want to get in on the game.
My ex boss once said that Jamaican parents are responsible for the continuation and expansion of the drug trade and the various scams the youths are involved in. In his analysis, when a child tells his parents that he wants to become a farmer. They censure and denigrate him for choosing a career field that within a black Jamaican mindset will not bring about wealth and improvement of social status. They inculcate their children to believe that success is measured by the attainment of money. They socialized children to believe that certain professions bring along with it great opulence while other are relegated for those without ambition.
Few Jamaicans aspire to hard work and dedication. Many youths simply want a “Buss” in the drugs trade or the music business and then they will be able to buy Range Rovers and drink five hundred US dollar champagnes. This life view is hyped by want is propounded in the media. Many youths from the inner-city want to live the life that they see on the American and Jamaican music stations.
Many people in Jamaica know that many individuals at the top got their wealth through mingling in dirty business but do not have the gumption to speak about it publicly. Poor people are continually being exploited by the politicians and the upper class because they know that we want what they have.
When Carlos Hill came to Jamaica with his infamous Cash Plus investment opportunity where Jamaicans were told that they could invest a mere 60,000 dollars Jamaican and will get rewards up to two million dollars: Jamaicans took out a mortgage on their home, loan on their car and drew money from their bank account to invest in Cash Plus venture that appeared to be god sent avenue for success for poor people. Invest a dollar and you will be rewarded with four dollars. It was the investment opportunity of a lifetime.
I remember when I heard my brothers talking about it and I told them that it is impossible to get that kind of returns in such a short span of time. They laughed at me but in the end I was the one laughing when Cash Plus turned out to be another Pyramid Scheme. A scheme that crumbled and Jamaicans learnt for the first time that “not all that glitters is gold”. As my grandmother would say “some gold jewelry a simply wash over, you wash it one time and it change color”
The credit card is another factor in young Jamaicans life as many young people are applying for several credit cards because they want to live beyond their means. They want everything that constitutes the western dream. When the bills arrive, they are unable to pay the bills because they do not have that kind of money nor do their jobs pay sufficient money to cover their debts. A debt brought on by the allure of lavish lifestyle.
We are responsible for getting conned by these fraudulent schemes and investors. We allow ourselves to be baited by consumerism and materialism. We want a better life and nothing is wrong with wanting the best. But sometimes some things are just too good to be true.
My grandmother says that everyone cannot be at the top. Some people will always have some more than others. what is of utmost concern is that those at the bottom may not be living the lavish life like those at the top but yet they are having a wholesome life devoid of hunger and gloom. We want to be considered “somebody”. To be considered somebody in today’s world, means that you have to possess or have a semblance of great materialism to show before you are given the sparkly label.
Before I opted to write about this issue I thought instead of giving a journalistic, scholastic standpoint to the issue. I would attack it from the heart of this phenomenon. I have decided to show the acts of deceit and fraud from the viewpoint of the perpetrator.
I will show the motivation behind the lottery scam involving Jamaicans and United States citizen which has increase the national revenue obtained from remittances but has fomented a rise in violence and murders within the city of Montego Bay and given birth to a new, young vain elites, whose mantra is “get rich or die trying”.
Some people look at the young people in Jamaica that are perpetrating these acts of debauchery, criminality and fraudulence as indolent, depraved youths, lacking ambition, morality and sense of accountability. But few people have ever seen the gully sides of Jamaica. Few individuals know that sixty percent of Jamaican males live on less than sixty dollars a day that is less than a United States dollar. A great number of Jamaican males are illiterate, unskilled and unemployed.
Few persons could survive the living conditions that many Jamaicans survive within daily. The rich have always wondered how the poor live the way they do and continued to survive and generate some sense of happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction. It is because they have learned to be content with their plight. They have to accept their quandary before it destroys them.
Apparently the current youth generation does not have that level of patience, tolerance or acceptance. Youngsters will not accept that they should be poor because their parents are not wealthy. They have become disillusioned with the decrepit state of the economy, the exploitation, corruption and governmental maladministration of politicians and the abuse and incompetence of the police force. The young men have decided that they need to find a viable alternative that will give them the desirable lifestyle that they see on television and hear about. The youths concocted the international lottery and sweepstakes scam.
A scam that would lead to a rise of youthful millionaires living like the biblical prodigal with hefty bank accounts and mansions: a new cadre of elites with a ghetto swagger and the arrogance and net worth of fortune five hundred CEOs. Youths as young as sixteen years old are becoming millionaires overnight, driving Chryslers, Range Rovers and Jaguars. Young adults from the inner-city are becoming the new elites. They have earned the right to be called the best in society. A society that they know very well honors and grade individuals based on their socio-economic status. They know that being poor is far more socially repulsive than being a criminal or a drug lord.
In fact the illegal characters in the society are lauded more than the law abiding citizens. Poverty in itself is a crime and the youths from the ghettos know that. A criminal is granted more respect than a poor man. A poor man is disrespected, stared up on with social derision and contempt by those who are often only a few notches above them on the social ladder.
The lottery scam and sweepstakes scheme provided a venue for social upliftment at the expense of innocent Americans. According to some fraudsters, what they have taken from the Americans is peanuts compared to the great way in which their lives have been improved. In the fraudsters mind, scams are necessarily evils. According to one scammer “it is the greedy individuals who are jeopardizing the business by bilking people…we do not bilk we just take a little for sustenance and we move on”. According to this scammer, people cannot be satisfied with the little that they procure. He says that this is the stimulus behind the crime and violence stemming from the lottery scam. “Some individuals need to be taught that they cannot try to outwit the system and steal from us” Now that is what I call a twisted, warped sense of justice and morals.
Poverty is made to be situation that youngsters should be ashamed of. When you tell a man that you are poor, he assumes based on the notions of our capitalistic society that your destitution is due to your lassitude, lack of ambition and vision. Few bystanders consider that the plight of the have not is far more sociologically and economically strategic than what meets the eye.
On the other hand, there are individuals who possess aptitudes, resources and opportunities for advancement and have chosen to allow torpor and negative factors to stymie their progress. Even so the poor and their progeny will live in poverty because they cannot afford to send their children to school because education is very expensive and above the financing of many Jamaican parents. They cannot afford to buy medicines to aid their family members because medication is unaffordable.
This is what the young scammers see before they choose a life of crime and decadence. It is very debilitating and pitiful to know that your mother will die because you cannot afford to send her to the doctor or that you are looked down on as inferior because your parents cannot afford to send you to college. Imagine being disrespected and despised by others because you were born in a particular community or your parents are impecunious. Scammers simply want to beat the system to a better life for their family and friends with minimal effort.
They do not want to take the legitimate road because it is long and hard. They want an easy way out. Some have become very disenchanted by the Jamaican economical system and society and resign that they will never be able to make it to the top by means of the straight road. The church offers little or no solace for the economical times. The people have lost interest in god and religion because praying does not alleviate their quandary. In fact the pastors are more concerned with building their congregation than with the traditional duties of the churches within the Jamaican communities. My dad once said that I should stop going to church because for a brilliant scholar, my church have never offered me any form of assistance. In fact at the end of a sermon, I often feel worst than I did when I came in due to the religious interrogation my conscience was subjected to and feelings of disillusion due to being made to feel substandard on my quest for eternal life in God’s celestial home by my pastor.
Jamaicans have come to realized that politicians are far more interested in power and wealth accumulation though increase taxations and exploitation of the labour force than they are in the welfare of the public. The elite distance themselves from the poor and pretend as if the suffering of the lower classes is happening on another planet and not on the outskirts of their salubrious communities. A morose ambience clouds the Jamaican demography.
This issue was not meant to excuse the behavior of scammers nor do I advocate fraud and financial crimes. I do no moralize or support acts of deceit, fraud and extortion. The issue was geared at exposing the socio-economical and psychological factors behind perpetrators of scams.
The pride and assurance bordering on arrogance when you hear a woman utter “I am an independent woman” is music to the ears of some men but others squirm or cringe in her presence. Independent women can be anyone from the store clerk to the fortune five hundred executive. For most, an independent woman is as Neyo puts it in his song “She has her own. She doesn’t need mine, there is nothing that is more sexy, than a woman that wants but does not need me”. Independent women are basically women who have their own and paved their lives exclusive of the influence of a male or others. According to Neyo “she don’t look at me like captain save them…she looks at me (her man) like inspiration… she wanna be complimenting my swag”. Even though I love Neyo, I believe that an independent woman is far more profound than the economical concept of being financially equal to the men in her life.
What is an independent woman?
I would define an independent woman as a female who does not conform exclusively to the archaic notions of femininity. This means that an independent woman’s social role is not confined to the domestic sphere but extends outside of being a wife and a child bearer. This woman lives by her own rules and is financially secure and economically independent. She asserts that her brain and morale are sufficient to grant social and financially ascendancy without resorting to the utilization of sensuous or primal tactics. She does not pander to the desires of men and see her male counterpart as an equal and not superior or a rival. There is not a need for her gratify, worship or compete with her partner.
Independent women have high levels of emotional intelligence which will designate that even though she does not subscribe to the former notions of femininity, she understands the sensibilities of men and will from time to time remove her armor of gladiator to pander to his masculine ego.
Many men complain that so-called independent women are very confrontational and less ideal for a partner if you need a deep fulfilling wholesome relationship devoid of competition and constant negation of gender identity.
Could this be the reason why many independent women are single?
Why are alpha females spinsters?
A male friend of mine said to me the other day that the concept of women being independent is overrated since in his estimation many independent women are lonely, depressed and grown into bitter old women living at home with pets and making everyone’s lives miserable. He claimed that our armor of independence is mainly a shield to hide our vulnerabilities and the subtle, natural control that men have over us. It is easy for the independent woman to throw her armor off, if she meets the right man. Some independent women fall in love and have fulfilling lives and realize that it is normally to have sexual desires and want to be with a man.
It is simply mortal and feminine to want to share your life with someone. Many women think that being an independent woman means that you cease be a woman entirely. It simply means (in my estimation) that I have a strong sense of self. I do not think I am an extension of my partner. It means that I have my own ideals and philosophy. It means that I refuse to treat less because I have a vagina and not a phallus. I will not be insulted or offended because of my gender. I can do anything that a man can do. I do not rely on men for survival and use my body as a means of achieving any social or economical mobility.
But then there are variations to the term independent woman. Not everyone will share my viewpoint. A prostitute might consider herself and independent woman because she does not rely on men directly but have sexual intercourse to meet her economical needs. At the end of the day, she is not obligated to any male and may well maintain her single status.
Independence for women is reliant on the perception of what an autonomous female is within the society. Women should not use the independent woman mantra as a guide for feminism. A woman’s independence is one strain of feminism. Additionally, feminism is different from misandry.
Religion shapes the ideals and values of our society. If your religious and cultural indices advocate human sacrifices like the indigenous Americans, then you will not be hesitant to kill a man and offer him as a sacrifice.
I was listening to Mutabaruka’s Television Show called Simply Muta when he said that religion was created by insecure men to oppress women. According to the cultural intellect and black Pan African advocate, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism were fashion to subdue, oppress and devalue the feminine gender.
I do not have personal experiences with Judaism and Islam but from accounts I got when we did religious studies in school, I discern that women were not considered equal in the Islamic society. I read reports that suggested that husbands could maim their wives if she showed her face in public. I remember my female classmates and I staring at each other in disbelief and awfully glad that we were born in the western hemisphere when our religious education teacher told us that if we lived in the certain parts of the world we would have been married with children. We looked at each other incredulously and with a sigh of relief.
Women were taught to cover their bodies and subdue to the will of her man in an intensely patriarchal society. If a young girl was suspected of having pre marital sex, her arranged fiancé could kill her without a trial. Infidel women would be thrown in jail or murdered by their husbands. Girls are denied an education because they are considered second class citizens made solely for masculine sexual gratification and child bearers. The woman’s importance is confined to the domestic sphere; her movements and actions intensely monitored and kept in checked.
Some books went on to state that girls were treated like properties by fathers who sold them to the highest male bidder and the family received money in return. A wife who did not produce a male son would be considered less of a woman. A woman who was not married by the time she was in her mid twenties would be considered a social outcast and a disgrace to her family. What I found most barbaric about these societies govern by deep religious practices was the gender bias regarding girl babies. It is as if women are deemed inferior from the fetal stage.
I read a magazine once that said in a certain religion, if the mother discovers that the fetus is a girl, she would abort the pregnancy. When I was doing Caribbean cultural studies, I read that in a certain Caribbean country with a major eastern religious influence, a wife is scorned, disrespected and deplored if she is unable to produce a male child even though science have proven that the male chromosomes determines the sex of the child and not the female.
Christianity has shed a bad light on the female role models. I remembered when I came of age and had a boyfriend. I found the idea of intercourse unclean and immoral. I was socialized by the church to believe that sex was immoral and primal. I was conditioned to subdue my sexuality and to resist the yearnings of the flesh because it would void my quest for eternal life.
According to my pastor, it was created to be enjoyed with baptismal cleansing. I was taught that I should obey my husband because the bible says he is the head of the house and I should subject myself to him. I found that rather ironic since the same bible says that a woman should not open her mouth in the church and my pastor was a female. I conceded that everything she said was deemed nullified because she was a woman and the deity did not approve of her teachings in the temple.
How could we forget mother eve, who introduced sin into the world smirched the spiritual character and capability of the woman. From Eve betrayed God and Adam by eating the forbidden fruit, men have become distrustful of women and have sought to subdue the females to ensure that women do not mess up the second chance that men received at a shot at eternal life. I believe women were oppressed to ensure that they could not interfere with man’s quest to achieve immortality. Women have always been blamed for the sins of the world. I guess men did not trust us after that. My mother says that we were made to feel pain and men were made to suffer. According to religion, dysmenorrhea and pain during child birth is a constant reminder of the punishment god place on the sex for introducing sin into the world, betraying the male deity and his male servants.
Delilah and Jezebel we feared the most. They epitomize the disgrace of the gender and we strive to ensure that we were not like them. Delilah is responsible for weakening the strongest man that ever lived and women turned wise man Solomon into a fool. Men had to control women by conditioning the society to accept feminine inferiority.
But what if this was not case? What if men are weak to women? It is universally accepted that a man’s weakness lies in his loins! What if the documents and archives of religion reflected the opinions of patriarchal society govern by men? Why was the gospel of Mary not included in the King James Version of the bible when Constantine collated the Bible during the Roman era?
The few women the bible advocates such a Mary, the mother of Jesus, today’s women could not emulate her. Chances of a virgin birth (artificial insemination) is a slim chance for today’s women who are under the misguided notion that they still need to give atonement for the sins of Eve and Delilah.
Do you believe that religion was created by insecure men to oppress women?
And if that is the case…
How has religion reassure men?
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Support involves reaching out to others and seeking assistance in returning your emotions and life to a balance albeit no one who has endured narcissism and other forms of abuse will ever be the same. Support can be in the form of help groups, online forums and therapy. Family and friends can be support groups by reestablishing a pattern of familiarity within your life. Reconnecting with what brought you peace and happiness before the narcissist can be rejuvenating and ecstatic.
Seek out the companionship of individuals who will understand your plights. You will discover in your quest for recovery and support that some individuals might become judgmental, impatient and quite often re-traumatize and victimize you instead of championing your efforts towards recovery. These individuals opinion may cause you to relapse instead of buoying you forward. Please avoid such individuals and if you must communicate with them, ensure that your communication is not based on your personal life and problems.
Some people are not equipped to deal with the problems of others and may have other problems of their own. Think about the situations of your receiver before you unload your problems to that person. If this person is having some kind of crisis, it is best to muster the courage to lend support. Choose your support group wisely and you will get the best results. Psychologizing and understanding the disintegration of the relationship may offer a level of closure but you need support for emotional repair.
Consistent and unswerving support improves your capacity to achieve durable and positive change tenfold. Have a friend that you can count on for positive reinforcement and reassurance. Your friend should be able to help you get back up when you fall midstride your progress. Your friend will be able to nudge you along when you feel bout of resignation. Someone who is willing to see you through, by applauding your advances and being the crotch for your strides when you feel broken or weak on your way to recovery from abuse.
He seemed to have moved on very easily. He pretends I do not exist while I am withering away in to my fantasies of me and him. I keep dreaming, desperate for a reconnection I know will not materialized and even if it transpires the experience will not be less harrowing.
What can I do? I carry one with hope that one day the pain will go away. I pray that I will feel whole again, alive and in tune with who I am. I salvage what’s left of my self esteem and I drag on. My joy has been taken away. I cannot have fun. I am in a crowd and I feel starkly alone. I am surrounded by love still I only feel hatred and revulsion. I want to run to a corner in my room and lick my wounds. But I get up. I dance, laugh and return gestures.
If you could stare into my eyes, you would see that there was not one sparkle there. If you stared closely, you would have noticed my tight, forced smile. If you pried deeper you would have seen that my joy is merely skin deep. Nothing on the surface has reached my soul. But I cannot force my problems on you. You empathy and sympathy might reinforce the dullness and pain I am feeling. Some may re-traumatized me and others simply will not understand. My wounds are not palpable and tactile, they are soulful and emotional. You wouldn’t understand. Therefore I drag on…
Yes I drag since my feet refused to lift of the ground. I am too lethargic. Some days I am too weak but still I carry on for fear I may vegetate and then the narcissist would have won. He would have laughed at me and his ego inflated taking comfort and joy in my despair. I must go on. I must pick up the pieces and find a way to mend them back together. I must find my soul. Soul where are you? I must go on!
Saturday, February 6, 2010
I can just imagine that you probably started reading this issue with your tongue sharpened to objurgate me for making such a statement. But let me share a personal experience with you before I delved into the central focus of my article.
There was a time when I was in a verbally abusive relationship with a narcissistic man who found great pleasure in ranting obscenities and profane invectives at me effusively. He would launch a tirade at me completely unprovoked. His bout of anger made me very apprehensive about calling his phone or even talking to him because of his labile rampages and tantrums. It was as if he had problems and he was using me as a valve to vent his frustrations. A psychologist friend of mine was very amused when he learned that we were only seeing each other for a week and he was behaving or rather our relationship sounded like we were together for years. It did not stop there. The more I got close to him and demonstrated my feelings for him. The more obnoxious he became.
I remembered his first attack. It was our second time conversing on the phone. I found his petulant response to my opinion of his professed single status as unbelievable and he had excoriated and shut me down for insinuating that I was a liar. Everything about the man was incredible. He was almost too good to be true and I fell in love with him, with most men I could decipher what their intentions were towards me but my ex narcissist was unreadable.
The signs were very clear I just kept overlooking and falling for his kind words, saccharine tone and the romantic text messages he sent. I saw his obnoxious behavior as a desperate attempt by him to act humble. I posit the first subtle obnoxious statement he made was just an overreaction to my questions or he had a bad day. I did not think that it was the real side of the man, slowly but surely emerging. I imagined his possessive attitude and portrayed insecurities as profession of his softer side. It felt good that a man of his caliber could be jealous of a woman he barely knew. I presupposed his jealous responses to my outings and dates with friends were proof that he was smitten, oh how naïve and paltry my masculine assessment skills were.
I thought he had feelings for me. I believe that he was truly lovesick when he was hasting to consummate our relationship even though I wanted to wait based on the fact that I thought our relationship was moving too fast and I wanted to get to know him more. But I gave in under the misconception that he wanted intimacy to reassure his place in my life and to cement his right to ask me questions about my life, whereabouts and companions. I found the idea intriguing, amused and sometimes frightening. A small voice in my head kept telling me there was something wrong with this handsome, successful man with a bad temper.
His paroxysms got worst and I could not placate him. I tried talking to him in a less confrontational attitude and attempted a docile approach to his advances. It was not sufficient. It was as if he had a wanton desire to insult and depreciate me. He excoriated me gushingly and it seemed the more abusive he was, the more I endeavored to emend my behavior to be the best possible spouse.
I validated his opinions to the point where I began to believe that I was annoying him. I began to embrace his confounded yet fragmented notions of my self worth. I began to think he was unhappy with my appearance or was it my financial status or level of education. I decided to cease from using technical jargons and erudite terms in his presence. I perceived that he saw my intelligence as a threat to his ego as I was considerably more trenchant than he was. I kept modifying my behavior and expressions but it was futile.
My narcissist ended the relationship and I was devastated because I had invested immensely in the relationship. I cried for months and I flung myself into a chasm of depression. I was slowly becoming a Limerant. I spent hours recollecting our moments together and analyzing every detail of our private moments to see if there were areas that could have been improved. I felt as if I had did him wrong in spite of the verbal abuse and insults that I was subjected to by this handsome, successful yet grandiose man.
It was six months later when i got my epiphany when the narcissist began to seek out my companionship again. I quickly realized that I liked him for what he represented and not for who he was. I realized that I was in love with a shell and how good it felt parading him in front of my friends and siblings as my partner. I realized that I liked the idea of the man and not the man himself. I saw in him the characters that I needed to develop and I assume that he saw in me what he is not and will never be. He was arrogant whilst I was unassuming. His self confidence was luminous and he had a commanding air about him that made me want to cower in his presence and do his every bidding. He was my match, the only man that intimidated me. I conceded that if he was perceivably poor and unattractive I would have dumped him at the first sign of trouble.
My point basically is that I am not a self righteous female who is here to accuse you of digging your own grave. I am not here to retraumatised you or lambaste you for remaining in an abusive relationship when all signs say that you should leave. I did not stay with him because he was not hurting; it is not that I did not care about myself. You will discover that ironically women stay in hurting relationships because they do care about themselves. They sometimes become an extension of their partner especially if he is a narcissist with the attendant wealth, power and clout. They do not leave because their image and social experience would be damaged. They do not leave because we live in a society that merits people based on aesthetics and financial standing. People who are considered wealthy and attractive are subjected to far more lenient social judgment and highly enhanced social experiences.