Too Many Metaphors — It’s Part of the Plan

More often than not, life does not go as planned. In fact, planning is such a useless attempt at control and securing future comfort that I now view plans as a likely predictor of what will not occur in reality, regardless of almost any efforts to steer the universe in my pre-ordained chain of events tailored specifically to meet my perception of productivity. I think most of us understand that, at best, planning is setting an intention that will come to fruition on the off chance that every decision preceding it also disregarded everyone else in the world and decided to heed our personal desires to ensure that our expectations and preparations are not left waiting for a date that perpetually no-shows.

Let it be known that as I sit here preaching the futility of control, I also have next to me a list detailing the activities and times of errands I would like to accomplish today to be prepared for leaving home for 4 months and millions of other lists outlining my long term goals, my short term goals, epiphanies I’ve had, people I want to apologize to, etc. You get the picture. Alas, writing this blog post did not show up in my plan for today. Whaddya know.

BUT, sometimes, little latent ideas of a desperately desired outcome seem to seep their way out of the molten iron that is reality doing its best to sever and block our plans, relishing in the irony that although they were originally part of the plan, the fickleness and impracticality of these outlines rendered them even less feasible.

And so arrived the relentless tears on the plane back from Thailand. Somewhere between seven straight movies, many episodes of multiple TV shows, and a repeat listening of an entire Broadway musical soundtrack (Ahem, Hamilton, I reallllly wouldn’t object if you decided to kick someone out of your eternally sold out shows to help a friend), it hit me.

The marvelous aspect of this particular realization is that I wasn’t drinking coffee. It wasn’t in the morning, it wasn’t after exercise, it wasn’t during a fired-up discussion on social justice issues I’d convinced myself I understood. It was, in fact, in the midst of 30 hours of traveling, permeating simultaneously with a feeling of intense fullness, leftover minor food poisoning, bodily frustration with sitting for so long and building anxiety over returning home. Despite all these historical indicators of despair and curling up into a ball with no desire to emerge unless my life magically became someone else’s, I cried because I felt a little shrapnel of peace finally lodging itself in my shoulder like a reminder for a war veteran.

I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep pinching my body in shame. I couldn’t go through an existential crisis every time I felt bloated or decided not to follow my body’s instructions. I couldn’t dictate my self-worth based on whether or not I had the motivation to exercise and I couldn’t look around the airport fighting the urge to compare my own body to that of every other female traveler — hell, male too. I was never, ever, ever going to embody the altruistic, confident, razor-sharp goddess I envision as a product of mastering my “issues” if my sense of deservedness as a member of humanity fluctuated depending on how my stomach felt.

Here’s the thing: this was part of the plan. I was scared to leave home for the sole reason that I know it’s impossible to run away from problems. Frolicking around in Thailand, then New York City, then Bolivia and Peru will not “fix” me. I am painfully, anxiously aware of this. Yet, with this ineffectiveness of control and annoying fact that I actually can’t escape my own company no matter how far I fly, I’m still a writer. I get to decide my own story. (Even if you’re not a writer, you still do. You don’t have to even know how to read or talk or be articulate or respectful or have any qualification as a productive member of society. Even if you’re Donald Trump you get to create your own character.) Though planning — like dieting, arguing and assailing with the intention of changing someone’s political party, denying that you share any characteristics with your mom, and refusing to acknowledge the merits of technology — in effect, doesn’t work ever, I am inevitably the author.

If I can’t get out of writing the longest book ever and constantly redeveloping the main character, why the hell should I waste it on not being a badass, hilarious, edgy, compassionate, impulsive, sometimes offensive, sarcastic, supportive, open-minded impossibility of a really short human?

Granted, this idealistic perception glosses over the very, very real inevitability that even since that realization I’ve crawled into bed with the intention of talking to no one and intense wish that I could teleport to an alternate path for this Barae person with complete disregard for the community issues that light the passion-fire in my belly. And these times harbor not an inkling of glamor. They suck, really hard, and I forget my lifetime position as editor in chief, fact checker, correspondent, and author of my little story because I don’t want the job. I am attacked with pointed, pungent reminders that I am not in control, never will be, and also probably will never be able to fully surrender my desire and hidden theory that I am, in fact, in control.

With no other choice, I accept the position of head author and also every other contributing writer. But don’t let it go to your head, Barae, because I was turned down by literally every other opportunity and given no alternative offers. So now we’re stuck together, and I intend to develop my reputation as a hell of a committed writer and a scary investigative journalist that everyone loves to hate, especially famous people with nothing to hide.

I’m currently accepting applications for the position of editor.

 

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I’m Not Sorry

Discrimination is hardest to overcome when you believe it.

Oppression is hardest to end when you’re a participant, on any end of the spectrum.

Even if we’re aware of harmful and inaccurate beliefs that we hold, sometimes it seems there’s no other way to think. As I grow older and am exposed to new perspectives that challenge my own and consciously work on discovering and staying true to my core values, I find that dismantling discrimination that I am involved in is essential to my internal serenity. When I put substantive time into dissecting the reasons for my own beliefs and learning the opposing viewpoint, I not only feel a much stronger connection to humanity but also personal fulfillment and empowerment.

As I travel on my own indeterminate journey of accepting myself as my traveling companion, I become more and more aware that I need to completely deconstruct and retire the judgements that are keeping me from appreciating the various bumps and unforeseen curves that characterize an interesting trip. Because my discrimination is against myself and characteristics of myself I see in others, or ideas I was taught to believe by this gaseous steamroller we call society. While I strongly support and advocate for equality, acceptance, and celebration of diversity in race/culture/religion/sexual orientation/gender etc., I feel that there’s many discriminations and superiority complexes hidden within the folds of “bigger issues.” It seems to me that the “big” issues and the “small” issues are all just the same issue in different forms and represented in different places.

I do, actually, have a lot to say (imagine that… me having something to say) about current racism — especially in Alaska — and systemic, faulty fear-mongering, and hopefully I’ll write on those topics soon. This post, however, (like many others) is dedicated to girls struggling to exist proudly in this era of often surface level empowerment still plagued by preposterous expectations. That is not to say this invitation doesn’t apply to other demographics and I don’t have strong compassion or passion for other causes. Believe me, I will make that known in every way if it’s not already common knowledge. I intend to make it my life’s work.

Since I was little I have always compulsively said sorry. Even when there’s no problem or absolutely nothing I could have done, I have an immediate reaction and need to apologize for any way I may have contributed to an inconvenience. When I look around me at clever, powerful girls, I notice that they, too, are constantly blurting “sorry” at every turn. We are told everyday to just “be confident” and stay true to ourselves, yet nearly every message in our world shows us otherwise. I catch myself nursing envy of another girl’s body or even accomplishments and good fortune, yet for some reason I don’t feel that same competition with boys. We are often encouraged with approval to promote ourselves by discounting and distancing ourselves from others — mainly girls — and demonstrating our apathy and, yes, masculinity. In a very decidedly feminine and attractive way. Which is nearly impossible.

It breaks my heart to see girls using inauthenticity as their lifeline and most effective coping mechanism. A chasm splits and widens between what nourishes my spirit and what creates more work for me to repair when I see myself making excuses for the overflowing person that I am or disregarding someone else’s validity. To be clear, adapting to various situations or acting appropriately and acknowledging developments does not constitute inauthenticity.

When I inject a little (or a lot) extra kindness into gestures or comments or interactions, the reassurance of my solid place in my own morals and truths extends its portable roots. I’ll never be able to reverse the damage I’ve done to others or myself, and that’s why each moment is so grand and special and worthy. It’s not worth living for any other moment besides this one.

So stop apologizing. Stop sucking in. Stop pretending you’re not offended. Stop letting snide comments slide by for fear of being labeled as a “feminist” because then you’re just contentious and whiny. Stop believing that being unattractive is the worst misfortune that could ever befall you and that it’s objective and your fault. Stop believing you either have to be beautiful or badass and tough or nerdy and bossy and remember that you can pick and choose or be all of that or none.

This discrimination and oppression targeted towards young girls and their bodies and confidence goes unnoticed and unchallenged too frequently. We can extrapolate these internalized norms to the pervasive war women all over the world are waging against their bodies and the $60 billion/year weight loss industry. We can extend these minor misunderstandings to preoccupation with appearance and judgement that defines the first world, both women and men, and distracts from other injustices we could all be combatting.

As this vulnerable demographic, we need to support each other and also empower ourselves. We need to air our dirty laundry if it’s smelling up the house and trust that other people can follow their own noses. We need to relinquish our fear of vulnerability and know in our very core that we have the unwavering strength to do so and grow even more confident in our own validity. We need to live unapologetically.

Stronger Than a Spider Web (and I’ve Heard They’re Pretty Strong)

There’s certainly something to be said for privacy. I don’t want to preach boundless disclosure and ignore the merits of selective sharing and protecting oneself and others, if that’s what you’re into. But there’s something about extending a thought, an experience, a conviction, that invokes a sigh of relief. Not only is it comforting to engender an idea into collective and undeniable reality, it is curiously empowering.

The Internet is wonderful this way. I am not engaging in the tired debate that people over 40 seem obliged to contribute to (without actual desire, I’m pretty sure) over the dis/advantages of technology; I’m simply feeling lucky to exist in a time of such deep and accessible connection. The shield of a mesmerizing screen emboldens us, softens us, challenges us, reassures us, teaches us, captures us… it’s pretty cool that we can let the whole world into our rooms in an instant, unless you have slow WiFi, in which case the frustration is sometimes unbearable and soooo not worth it.

Thank you, Internet, for an endless supply of people with much greater senses of humor than my own

Thank you, Internet, for an endless supply of people with much greater senses of humor than my own

Willingly divulging intimate experiences and struggles (actually, promoting them… oh geez) on a globally accessible (and decidedly permanent) platform doesn’t even feel weird to me. Exposing my vulnerability and exploring the extents of my own story via writing releases a burden. Sharing makes it real; it’s solid and raw and secures a cord between myself and the larger whole. Like, here guys, here’s my contribution. I’m weaving myself in and even if I’m alone here’s proof that I’m still here, that I still care and trust and want to keep on building.

And that’s why I love my generation, even if we’re selfish and lazy and entitled and living in a virtual reality. Because we’re building a community.

When I say my generation, I don’t actually mean all the other humans born within ten years of myself. I mean anyone who’s willing to jump in, compassionately and passionately and openly. I’m not into exclusion, and we could all use some empowerment. When I read a genuine and astute article/blog/post/etc. online, (which I’ve encountered quite a few of lately, but the Internet’s kinda gigantic so there’s literally an infinite amount, yay Internet!) I undergo a distinct and tangible upwelling of pride and zeal and inspiration and belongingness that emerges in my belly, swirls around for a bit, then shoots up my intestines into my chest (that’s how anatomy works, right?) and spreads tingly fire out my extremities. I see flashing neon signs saying “THESE PEOPLE THINK LIKE YOU” and “THERE’S SO MUCH HOPE AND SO MUCH YOU CAN DO” and “HUMANITY IS MAGNIFICENT” and “FUCK YEAH YOU ARE A GODDESS” and the like. (Way better than “vacancy” with one letter out… any motels hiring?)

In an era of vehement social movements, instant connection of thoughtful people with something to say or questions to ask is an invaluable tool. Whether it’s a forceful reality check to remind us that shaming others is never an effective means of empowerment or an honest exploration of a personal sojourn with universal implications, I can’t help but preen my feathers like a proud, sub-five-foot human Mama Bird because I am part of it. I get to be inspired by this tremendous and spectacularly authentic web that is so, so much greater than the sum of its parts, because each thread is an uncensored outpouring careening down the mountainside.

I don’t care if it’s a journalist for Time who gets published every other week or a lonely teenager who’s never passed an English class. I’ve gotten teary-eyed from a painfully mainstream YouTube ad and frequently get fired up about questionably politically correct articles on websites like Everyday Feminism. I find words for conditions that have been tugging at the edge of my consciousness without ever quite realizing their validation, like how eating disorder recovery often perpetuates fatphobia. I don’t even mind if I’m part of a seriously trendy fad of obsessive Humans of New York scrollers, because it’s fucking awesome to see the absolute humanity in people you’ve never met but find solace in knowing they exist.

What I’m trying to say is this togetherness, this connection and simultaneous existence, this unabashed exposure to anyone who cares to waste some time on a screen is collective compassionate empowerment if I’ve ever seen it. (But only after I say that ten times fast). My citizenship in this community is an underrated and continuous gift that I can’t ever lose.

The best part? You’re a member too.