2016: A Year in Review

Dear Whoever is Reading My Blog,

First, thank you.

I have a lot of feelings about writing a lifestyle blog. 1) What a disgusting, self-serving thing to do, 2) but people have said the blog has been a good thing in their life even though 3) a lot of times I think it’s over-sharing 4) and condescending… so 5) whatever, I’m just gonna keep writing it.

Second, what a very long year it has been. I couldn’t have imagined in January all that would happen in this terrible year.

On the personal scale, I held five different jobs, moved across the country, traveled to Peru, finally let go of an ex who was being emotionally abusive, found out a different ex had sexually assaulted multiple people, and wrote twenty-some short stories, a ton of blogposts, and a novel.

On the public scale, we suffered through the continued shootings of unarmed black people, a massacre at the Pulse Night Club, the continued threat to Native American sovereignty, one of the nation’s worst fires to date, and, of course, the election of possibly the worst creature one could imagine in a position of power.

If there’s anything I’m holding onto as this shit-show of a year comes to an end, it’s the power and wonder of love.

To me, love has always been a verb, a revolutionary and powerful connection that binds people, strengthens the weak, and uplifts the poor. Love is about giving all of yourself without asking for anything in return.

Love is radical, is change, is hope, is action.

Love is what gets me out of bed in the morning, when it’s cold and I can’t think of good reasons to stay alive. Love is what gives me courage when I fear for my life and the lives of my friends and family.

And in 2017 it is my mission to show love to everybody.

I’ve written this before, but love is not about accepting people’s actions, it is believing that they can change.

I will never tolerate a registry for Muslims. I will never tolerate white nationalism or Nazism. I will never tolerate hate crimes against the LGBTQ community. I will never love racism or homophobia or sexism.

But I will always love people. Even those who hurt me. I will always believe that I can show them a better way. Maybe this makes me naive, but it also gives me the strength to continue fighting.

I will conquer my enemies through love.

I’ll leave you with a James Baldwin quote, because he changed my life and will never stop being relevant. “…that we with love shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality, and to begin to change it”.

2017. Bring it.

 

2015: A Year in the Life

Some time ago, in the middle of summer it may have been, back when there was heat in Wisconsin and I still worked at a place that ate my soul, I walked out one night to a road not far from our apartment, a silent and rarely-driven road, and I lay down in the middle of it. There were stars out, the kind of clear points of light that seem to lead you somewhere. The kind of clear points of light that are so much brighter down in the southern hemisphere.

I lay there for minutes or maybe hours and I thought.

2015 has been the best year of my life so far. It has also and not coincidentally been the most difficult. For the first six months of this year, I was surrounded by the people I love, studying ideas that I loved, and in the best relationship of my life. I knew absolutely who I was and where I was going. For the past six months, I’ve felt absolutely un-moored, a diver at sea who no longer knows which direction is up. I went through a messy and complicated break-up (my bad), quit my first job out of college, and had multiple serious break-downs. At one point the therapist I was seeing at the time asked me, “Who are you?” and all I could think of to say was, “A sad girl.”

But that isn’t who I am. I am a writer. I am a fixed point of light. I am a believer in the greatness of humanity for all its flaws and short-comings. I am a sister, a daughter, a friend, and a champion. I am my best self and my worst self, controlled by inner demons, riddled with inner light. I am learning from every mistake I make and growing from every obstacle adulthood places in my path.

In 2015 I was broken and defeated and I was resplendent and triumphant. I walked across a stage to accept the culmination of four years of hard work, and I cried alone in my office with no one around to hear me. I ran down a steep hillside straight into the Pacific Ocean and I lay down in the middle of a road in Wisconsin. I was alive and numb and hurting and growing.

In 2016 I will do all this and more. I will travel the country again. I will move cities again. I will start new jobs and make new friends and hopefully see the old ones as much as possible.

The things I’ve learned: I love people, I receive the most joy when I can be outward facing rather than inward facing; I am strong but most of the time my strength comes from my friends and family; I am not motivated by money although I don’t mind having it around; when I act out of emotion I end up hurting other people; blackbirds can be territorial; I love biology; I love recommending books to others; I love being painfully and stupidly alive.

It has been a year, an idiotic, cruel, and amazing year. What a terrible year, what a beautiful year. Let’s make 2016 better. Let’s be kinder. Let’s be less judgmental and more forgiving. Let’s be our best selves. Always.

Let’s look up into the clear sky, with the pavement against our backs and the wind in the trees, and become the people we were meant to be.

 

 

 

2014 in Review

Trigger warnings: Discussion of violence against people of color, discussion of sexual assault.

December is here. Time to look at this year.

For me personally it was both an incredible year and an extremely painful year. It was full of some of the best times of my (relatively) young life and some of the very worst. The highlights, before I get cynical and ranty: in January I found myself at long last in New Zealand, my spiritual homeland. The thought of traveling to this country has sustained me through some of my darkest moments. (Check out my old blog if you want.) Additionally, I wrote at least three pages every single day this year in an attempt to improve my writing or at least prove my commitment. I’ll be doubling this in 2015, so get excited for even MORE ramblings. And my mother got married! I guess that was pretty cool. In order to balance it out karmic-ly, I did my best to remain single for the calendar year. Questionable success? I don’t know. I’m not objective enough to determine these things.

And now to the real story of this year.

2014 has brought to the forefront a fact that has long been gnawing at the back of my mind. This system, the capitalist white-dominated patriarchy, is failing, and in many cases killing, its citizens. The two major ways, and believe me there are many, many more, that this was made clear to me are in the lack of indictment of the two police officers who killed Brown and Garner and the response to sexual assault victims in universities across the country. I do not believe the two to be unrelated: in both cases, institutions with stated goals to protect and support those they serve fell short of their goals and instead brought about destruction and pain.

While I don’t want to make the argument general to the point of pointlessness, I also don’t believe the larger movements against these failures are entirely unrelated either. You cannot support victims of sexual violence without working to end violence against people of color and vice versa. And while not every individual will be able to commit themselves to both battles, understanding that they intersect with one another is crucial to seeing the full horror of the system we live in and to understanding and helping those who exist along this intersection.

I’ve been trying to think a lot about what action I personally can take to change or derail this system, and more importantly how I can better understand and support the people who are being hurt by it. I think, and this is why I haven’t written about this until now, a lot of this has to do with getting out of the way and letting those living the experience do the talking. Two rather conflicting but important articles: “I Don’t Know What to Do About Good White People” and then “How White People Can Be Allies” . And secondly, in the words of James Baldwin from “A Letter to My Nephew” “It is the innocence that constitutes the crime”. This continued national ignorance cannot continue just as my own personal ignorance cannot continue. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves as best we can, educate ourselves on the horrifying and tragic history of this country and determine collectively that this is the time when it finally finally stops.

And while this segment has been mostly about the racial injustice in our country, certain aspects can also be applied to gender injustice. We need to educate ourselves on the history and reality of gender inequality as well and on sexual violence in particular. Learn how to be better bystanders by staying aware and stepping in. Learn how to take action by stopping even simple things like dumb jokes, because the language we use creates the reality we live in. Learn how to support the survivors of sexual violence and do all you can to place the power back in their hands.  We can’t let ignorance or feelings of guilt and discomfort stop us from becoming involved. Women and non-male genders can’t overcome sexism without male participation, just as people of color can’t end racism without white participation.

Make space, educate yourself, take action. They’re catchphrases, but God I’ll take anything right now. Because I have to believe that this will change. I have to believe that the people I love and the people I haven’t even gotten a chance to love yet will stop being hurt and killed. Kindness isn’t enough, it’s true, but it also isn’t worthless. And if you aren’t living your life doing your very best to love and support the people around you then I don’t know what you’re doing.

I will end on a positive note, because despite all this I think hope is one of the most important things we have. I was reminded recently, in the midst of one of my bitter tirades, that we need to be able to imagine a different future. If we can’t imagine a better future then we’ll never be able to achieve one. That’s why I write and why I respect people like Walidah Imarisha so much. Let’s do what we can.

Happy New Year!