Forgetting

When I was a kid, I held onto everything. There were two boxes in my closet divided between pre- and post-puberty.

The first box — a light blue, square plastic box — held all of my childhood things: baby photos, the camouflage cast my neighbor painted for me after my rollerblading accident, “The Adventures of Carrie and Sonya,” a book (with sequels) I wrote with a childhood friend, and all my old drawings on paper with the Tide logo at the top (back when my Dad was working at P&G.)

The second box was longer with a loose green lid. This box held several of my journals, my first boyfriend’s green football sweatshirt, photo albums, and weird trinkets that each held a specific memory to me. In other words, no one else would know what this weird stick at the bottom of the box means but me.

Collecting and preserving memories was one of my favorite things to do. It let me go back and relive experiences I missed terribly, especially after we abruptly moved from my childhood home. While the physical aspect of those memories was gone, I could still hold onto something that nostalgically transported me back to that place until I physically felt it; I felt hurt, grief, and joy all wrapped into one perfect mix tape of emotion.

As I eventually became familiar with my new life living on the West Side of Cincinnati, these behaviors didn’t go away completely. Once I was able to let go of that old box would I truly be able to start a new one.

But it wasn’t the same. As time went on, the collecting slowed. Pictures were shoved together into sporadic folders with little intention and the small things held less meaning for me. Come high school graduation, the collecting came to a quick stop, and those boxes I would frequent to transport back in time soon collected dust in my closet.

It took such a sharp turn from living so deep in those memories I felt unhealthy to shutting them out so drastically I felt nothing.

Tomorrow is my 28th birthday and I have no boxes from the past 10 years. Only once in my first apartment did I crack open old journals, leading to hours of sobbing and laughing uncontrollably on my couch. Not only do I actively avoid the past I did hold onto, but I no longer collect or choose to remember moments from the past 10 years.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to show for the past 10 years; it’s that I have treated the memories like uncharted territory… but you just know it’s covered in landmines.

Even writing this is challenging for me because I have subconsciously taught myself to forget so much. Call it self-preservation or survival, but I lost a lot of time to what now exists as a fear of remembering.

What happened is the older I got, the more I changed and shape-shifted to fit into different versions of myself that fit the narrative of others. I lost myself, and the more I lost myself, the less I wanted to revisit that unfamiliar person.

When I learned how to block out the stuff that hurts and makes me hate myself, I also blocked out all the good stuff; I learned to forget the stuff that makes me love myself.

I have been punishing my past self since I was 18. And unless I can forgive her, I will continue not to remember her.

Body Hair

During the Fall of 2019, I grew out my armpit hair.

At the time I was feeling inspired by strong women and non-binary leaders who were confidently protesting the standards of what body hair on a person (more specifically, a female-identifying person) is supposed to look like.

I watched in awe as these influencers documented their journeys and bravely put themselves and their body hair in the public light. I watched as they shared how more human they began to feel in their own skin because they were allowing their body to do its natural, unaltered human thing. So I decided that I wanted to feel this way, too.

About a month into the process I was feeling frustrated; I wasn’t internally feeling as proud and beautiful as I imagined, yet I kept pushing myself to shift my focus on that human benefit I’d originally felt so inspired by. (Isn’t it always funny how things that inspire you at the moment don’t hold the same luster in the weeks or months that pass? It’d be nice if that shit stuck around a little longer.) 

However, I wasn’t truly challenged on this until I had to get dressed for a wedding.

I knew I could do one of two things for this wedding: I could wear a sleeveless dress that would put me and my body hair in my own version of public light. (Like my armpit’s very own coming out-story!) Or… I could wear a dress with sleeves and keep this thing I called “liberating freedom” to myself, which to me felt like the exact opposite of liberating freedom.

So I wore the sleeves. And a few days later, I shaved my armpits.

I felt so ashamed for giving up, but I knew that shame couldn’t have been as bad as the shame I would have felt from freeing explaining my body hair to my entire family. “Why couldn’t I have been as brave as those influencers?” I kept asking myself. “Why didn’t I feel as confident as them? And why do I care so much what people think?”

As young girls, the future of our body hair is already decided for us. Introducing a razor into a young girl’s life is as familiar (and taboo) as introducing tampons and training bras into the timeline.

Sometimes, we’re introduced because a parent sees our body hair coming in and decides it’s time. Sometimes, we’re introduced because we listen to our mother, older sister, or friends talk about their own body hair as “gross” and see how “beautiful” their soft, silky-smooth skin looks and we want that for ourselves. And sometimes, the slightest comment from damn near anyone can decide for us that our body hair is unacceptable.

“Body hair won’t get you laid.”

“Body hair makes you look less like a girl.”

“Body hair makes you look like a man. Your brother. Your dad.”

“Body hair makes you look like an animal.” (I got that one in band class.)

“Boys don’t like body hair on girls.”

Body hair is Embarrassing. Shameful. Gross. Period.

So, who is our body hair for? Because it’s clearly not for us.

Interestingly enough, we are still taught to believe that our body hair is for us. We’re reminded by all those same people in the media, our sexual partners, our parents, or complete strangers that removing our body hair makes us feel sexy, confident, beautiful, and more like a woman.

When I shaved my armpit hair off, I created a new “inspiring” memo: “Feeling liberating freedom from body hair might work for other people… but it just doesn’t work for me. I need to remove my body hair to feel my own liberating freedom.”

Right now, that’s absolutely true for me. And that’s absolutely okay.

But I want that decision to belong to me.

I don’t want my confidence to be a manifestation of what someone else wants for me and my body. And we have to start giving each other space to redefine how something that belongs to us — only us — makes us feel.

Maybe one day I’ll grow out my armpits out again, and maybe it will be liberating. And maybe not.

But it will always be my choice.

Experts

“I’m attracted to women.” These new words uncomfortably and awkwardly tumbled out of my mouth to my very first therapist. I had only said them a few times out loud before, but I wasn’t saying these words to just any someone; I was saying them to a professional someone — someone I was certain would help me navigate this new season of my life that felt simultaneously terrifying and invigorating.

This was our second time meeting. In our first meeting, I had laid all my “boy problems” out on the floor in front of her. You know, stories of mental manipulation and sexual assault. Those boy problems! I’d had these stories on retainer since they took place — like my brain held onto a specific file that I could never really shred.

I was ready for that moment. Like a good student prepares for a presentation, I was a good patient who was prepared to share this file from my past so that I could then fully hand her my present. She can’t judge you, I told myself going into this second conversation. She’s a therapist.

I sat across from her, shifting around in my seat — trying to sit in the discomfort of hearing my own words while I desperately waited to hear hers. She paused, her eyes widened. My heart was pounding, waiting for her response — preparing for her to help me undo the damage of a lie that was always whispered in my ear when the deepest parts of me were desperately screaming out the truth.

“I don’t think you’re attracted to women,” she replied, confidently. “You just told me about all those experiences with men during our last session. No, you are not attracted to women.”

I sat still for a moment. My eyes ran back over her certifications hung on the wall and my mind returned to her religious biography. “Okay,” I replied. My chair felt lower, suddenly. Our conversation continued as she shared more opinions that refuted any consideration of what was my reality. Yet still, on that record of her opinions, I left with two of the tracks on repeat: I do not like women and I need to take a break from dating.

I got in my car and drove straight to a nearby park. It was early Spring. I sat on the edge of a concrete ledge that overlooked the city. I called my Mom to share with her my new mantra. “I’m just confused,” I told her. “I need to purge all relationships for a while. Then I’ll know what I really want.” These words felt safe, familiar. These words were far less uncomfortable coming out of my mouth.

Because the words felt safe, I believed the words must be true. Because my therapist was an expert, I believed her opinion must be true. And most importantly, because this expert was friends with God, then God Himself must know it’s true. 

I never saw her again.

The Shape of Our Worth

I used to hate taking showers. Not in a strange way, like I don’t enjoy being clean, but more so that it meant I had to undress and vulnerably stand, in nothing but my skin, for 5-10 minutes of the day.

I used to approach it like this: As I’d pull all of my clothes off, there was always a moment before stepping in the hot water where I would glance into the mirror and examine myself, my whole self, at large. I was taking a quick inventory of all of the parts of me that needed work, or all the parts I still wasn’t proud of. Then, I’d step into the shower, and all throughout, there would be moments I would wrap my hands around my stomach, my thighs, my arms – as if I was trying to cover them up from my own self.

This part of my routine became so harmful, there were moments I would shame my naked self in the mirror even more if I hadn’t worked out that day. As if I didn’t deserve a shower because I hadn’t earned it. (How wild do these things sound when we say them out loud?) These were some of the most self-destructive talks I was having with myself; the worst part is, I had no idea how deeply destructive they actually were.

As women, I’ve found that acts like this are extremely common in our own individual routines; we find what’s “wrong” often because someone, or something, has told us so. The magazines you see on almost every coffee table, the women walking down almost every runway, the advertisements you pass on almost every highway, and most importantly, the content flooding almost every single social media page that’s ever existed in arms reach.

These things are hard to escape. And while I think the world is gradually starting to recognize the destructive impact that promoting one and only one type of figure has on women, we also have a very far way to go. 

I truly believe it starts with each of us. If we can take small steps to look at ourselves as whole and beautiful just as we already are, then it will be up to the rest of the world to play catch up.

 In order to do this, we must unlearn the way society defines our bodies for us — especially in the way we approach fitness.

Some of my best unlearning of the way I see my own body comes from a fitness app called The Be.come Project by Bethany Meyers. Be.come is a boutique fitness app that offers a unique (pilates-like) routine every single week. I originally followed Bethany on social media due to their story around living as a queer, non-binary individual, and at the time, I was in the process of “coming out” to my own family and loved ones. However, as time went on, I watched Bethany’s own journey of bringing to life this app and the evolution of “body neutrality” in the way we move our bodies.

My favorite thing about this app is that it focuses deeply on working out because we love our bodies, not because we hate them. And no matter what, we will always respect our bodies. 

“Feeling good and losing weight no longer have to be mutually exclusive.” – The Become Project

Since beginning this approach, I have seen a significant shift in the way I used to view exercise. I used to go to the gym and spend most of my time looking around at others – comparing. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to a gym. But in my world, it was causing me to do too much self-harm. I felt like I was never doing enough, never doing things the “right way,” and most importantly, I was never truly enjoying myself.

When I started Be.come, all of this changed. I was seeing women and men of every size and shape being featured in each weekly routine. I was learning what it means to practice different movements and pay closer attention to what my body could do – not what it couldn’t do. I was learning to laugh at myself every time I stumbled or fell, and remember I have the ability to get back up and try again. To me, it didn’t feel like fitness anymore. Instead, it felt like I was challenging myself, both physically and mentally, to appreciate myself as the flawed human that I am rather than shame myself for it. And even on days where I don’t love my body, I learned that I will still always, always respect my body.

Remember the way Phoebe on the show Friends would go for a run in the park, spreading her knees wide and flailing her arms around in the air as if she was a kid again? To me, this is a great example of how fitness is supposed to be. If we can approach fitness as a form of “play” rather than this idea that we must suffer or feel pain when we work out, I believe we can learn to fall in love with our bodies, and this form of movement, all over again. 

No “before and after” photos. No scales or numbers. Instead, setting a goal for how we want to feel, not how we want to look.

The moment I first felt this was last summer out on a lake with my closest friends. I was singing, dancing, laughing and exploding with joy – all the while in my swimsuit. I hadn’t worked out that day. I had been cooking big meals and snacking most of the trip already. This was such a vulnerable place for me to be, but damn, was I happy. And at that moment, it clicked: my joy is not a reflection of how I look.  

Now, as I stand under the pressure of the water from my shower, I try to make a point to look down at the folds in my skin and the lines on my hips and show them love instead of shame. I kiss my knees and my shoulders after each occasion where I watch my body do something unfamiliar, and I celebrate how strong, confident, energized, and beautiful I am. Because I am worthy. And so are you, just the way you are.  

So the next time you go for a run, take a long hike, engage in hot yoga or a pilates class, or even stair-step your ass off at the gym, take a moment to ask yourself: “How does this (emotionally) make me feel?” This is a great opportunity to recognize if what you’re doing is actually serving you beyond just the physical benefit.

And finally, practice what it means to enjoy your fitness. Instead of looking at how far you still have to go, try to focus on the incredible things your body is doing and has already done for you and celebrate them. (You don’t have to go as far as kissing your shoulders or knees, although I highly encourage that, too).  

Stand tall in the mirror or look down at the existing parts of you and practice showing them gratitude instead of criticism; because the day we can see that the shape of our bodies is not a reflection of our worth, we can learn to live happier and freer lives in the bodies we’ve already been given.

NOTE: Since this post was written eight months ago (May 2019), I’ve embarked on my own deep-dive research around this topic further than what I knew at the time. To be determined is what follows that research; I am leaving the above opinions open and subject to change and expand. 

 

Redefining Obsession

My sweet and slightly-twisted partner talked me into checking out the “My Favorite Murder” podcast this past week.  I dodged giving it a shot at first since the topic of murder isn’t really my style; I’m already the kind of person that locks the door 3 times when I’m alone and still won’t look under the bed at the age of 25. Why would I want to imagine people breaking into my apartment to kill me and cut off one of my toes as a souvenir? (I find my own feet to be quite adorable — so naturally, I assume they would be the first to go).

However, I’m also the kind of person that easily gets hooked on inspirational pieces of work and lost down a rabbit hole of podcasts, headlines, videos, tweets and more. That’s what I do — I get excited about something new that appeals to me, and I become obsessed with researching and learning more about it. And like me, that’s something a lot of us do about the things we, at our core, are passionate about.

So I listen to episode 1. If you haven’t listened to this yet, and you don’t mind a little bit of sarcastic humor about “idiots who don’t wear seatbelts”, you’re going to love it. Podcast hosts Karen and Georgia are brilliant and hilarious, bringing intrigue and charisma to a topic as serious as “murder” for people who are obsessed with such a twisted yet fascinating subject. And the very best part: they make it feel a little less fucked up for people who want to obsess over true crime and fill their internet history with questionable serial killer biography searches. Congratulations – we’re not insane! And we don’t secretly want to murder someone.

In the very first episode, “My Firstest Murder,” they break it apart by — you guessed it –sharing their favorite true crime stories. And in the last 16 minutes of the 70-minute episode, the most fascinating story that stuck with me after it ended was the “East Side Killer” of Sacramento – also, and more commonly known as, “The Golden State Killer”.

A little bit about this guy: The Golden State Killer was an 18 to 30-year-old serial rapist known for attacking couples (specifically) and committed up to 50 rapes in the 70’s. And like any good serial rapist, of course, he eventually starts murdering them afterward. He even went as far as stealing sentimental items as he departed like engraved rings, IDs, cuff links, and other things that held personal value to these couples. He was in shape, he wore a ski mask, and for over 40 years, he was never found.

But he’s not really the one I want to give recognition to in this post. Karen and Georgia then proceeded to name drop Michelle McNarama, the author of the blog True Crime and her article featured in LA Magazine in 2015 (these being some of the only writings that existed when this podcast first aired in January 2016). They talked about her brilliant way of articulating his story, the victims’ stories, and the determination she had to uncover the truth behind who he was after all the time that had passed.

I searched her blog from the parking lot of my office building and came across an outdated website with the last post being from 2014. I thought it was weird, considering she was so brilliant and deeply invested in the story – why would she stop writing? I let it go, clicked “episode 2”, and drove home.

A few hours later, there it was – all the pieces of this story I’d just learned about that morning came together at 6:20pm as I was waiting for my pasta to cook. There was the headline: “‘Golden State Killer’ suspect, a former police officer, arrested after DNA match” by the Washington Post.

This headline I didn’t even care or know anything about only 6 hours prior was now suddenly sending me over the edge. So naturally, I started reading all the articles and the headlines and watching the videos. And then it came back to me: Michelle! You know who cares the most about this shit? Michelle. What does Michelle think? How does homegirl feel to know this thing she cared so deeply about uncovering is finally SOLVED? I have to know how joyful she must feel at this very moment.

But before I just put into Google search “Is Michelle McNamara like, so excited right now…,” I wanted to return to her outdated blog posts first, and her article published in LA Magazine. And finally, I landed on the review of her book about the Golden State Killer — a book she never got to finish, just like the blog that abruptly ended 5 years ago. And I then learned why.

In 2016, Michelle died in her sleep. She died in a way that holds little explanation and stands as a tragedy for those who knew and loved her. And while her death alone was sudden, it didn’t go without leaving behind something remarkable for not only those who knew her, but for people like me who just learned her name this morning.

The end of Michelle’s life was spent pouring every bit of her time and obsession toward justice for all of the horrible, repeated tragedies committed by one man in the 70’s. She sacrificed her time for the sleepless night of research, the countless interviews with the survivors, and of course, the writing of her book “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” that captures the true stories of the victims and the effort dedicated to finding their killer.

Justice consumed her, and she never gave up. And the most obvious characteristic about Michelle that stood firmly in my mind: she was undeniably obsessed with the truth.

I found it disappointing at first how unfair it is that she doesn’t get to relish in a case it’s taken over 40 years to solve. I imagined what it would be like to become so consumed with something so deeply and never get to see the impact it has. But that’s not the point, and she knew that.

“She always said, ‘I don’t care about credit. I want to know that’s he in jail.’ And now he’s caught. The bracelets are on, and it feels like this thing that she wanted so badly is now done,” Michelle’s husband, Patton Oswalt, says.

I now find that there’s something beautiful and poetic about all of this. Not in her death or that she never got to solve it herself, but because she did, and still does, have such a strong impact on this case — and I believe she knows from the beyond that the role she played in the unveiling of a monster is truly not trivial.

Michelle was obsessed with telling the stories in such detail that went beyond how were told in a police report. Her gift of writing had the power and ability to capture these graphic scenes in such a way that we could remember them so vividly – so that we would never forget. And now, in her absence, never give up on. Her words kept the story alive in readers’ minds, and her years dedicated to the truth finally paid off.

In her book, she writes: “This is how it ends for you,‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,’ you threatened a victim once. Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light.”

Obsession is funny that way. Sometimes we don’t even realize it, because it’s so easy to get caught up without even realizing how many hours of sleep we’ve lost, how many nights of drinks with friends we’ve turned down or how distracted we become in places that aren’t about the thing we can’t stop thinking about. Instead, our eyes are focused on the shore: to leave an impact, to help others, to make a difference – whatever the end goal is for each of us. It’s at the forefront of our minds. And while obsession can get a bad rep – it shouldn’t; not always.

Beyond this story, I’ve learned from a lot of different sources that in order to have an impact on something, we have to become obsessed with whatever it is that we’re gifted with. Researchers, pianists, construction workers, mothers, police officers, and dog-walkers; our thing, whatever it may be, is the thing we must pour our hearts and souls into if we want to make change. We can’t pour 1/18th of ourselves into a million different passions and expect the same results from each one. It doesn’t work that way. What matters is the one thing we were designed to do, and we do it with everything we’ve got.

Michelle was obsessed, just like I became so obsessed to write about Michelle today. Because in our own way, that’s what we all do. It’s the thing we do that has so much power to bring all darkness into the light.

April 25th, 2018 will be marked with the arrest of a man that brings justice to the victims that have lost 40 years of safety, stability, sanity, or at worst, their lives. I hope there is some sort of celebrating today. I hope there is peace of mind today. I hope there are deep exhales today. And I hope wherever she is, Michelle is still experiencing that same joy I initially hoped for her.

Her obsession paid off. It is finally done. And her representation and example of the word will live on in my eyes as an inspiration to deep dive into my truths, all of our truths, and believing that our obsessions can be used for so much good.

someday we will

Sometimes I think about what it would be like to live in a different world. I imagine it’s maybe what I see heaven being like, because that’s the farthest my imagination can take me outside of what surrounds me day in and day out. Although lately, it’s beginning to seem easier and easier to separate myself from where I really am.

In this different world:

I imagine a place where beliefs aren’t put down. Where different conversations around religion are welcomed instead of challenged, because learning from each other and growing in how we understand others is more important than being right. Where political beliefs aren’t ridiculed or shouted over social media, but we set aside our pride and sit down across a table to ask questions. We listen to understand, not react. We learn the why behind their what.

I imagine where humans of every color and culture are welcome in the land we call free. Because freedom actually means freedom. Where boundaries are pushed and we fight for each other instead of standing against one another. Where assumptions aren’t made and we don’t pass people on the street in silence, but instead, wish them a good day or strike up a conversation about the weather. We treat everyone as though they are our neighbor rather than distance ourselves from what we don’t know.

I imagine a place where humans don’t touch the other when and where we don’t want to be to be touched. Instead of a world where we feel entitled to another’s body and access it using manipulation, we are patient and tender. We love and respect how precious they are as we hold them in our arms, because that’s exactly what we should be to them. We know we are not entitled, but rather, we are grateful to be given something so beautiful. And we never take that for granted.

I imagine a place where sexual orientation isn’t seen as a confusing misinterpretation of our bodies, but a beautiful discovery of our souls and who we are called to love. And when we step out into the world, we step out with confidence – not shame. Because we make each other feel proud to be who we are. Where women can cut their hair clean off while men are slipping their heels on. And they are told how beautiful they are because that’s how being who they are feels.

I imagine humans of all shapes and genetic makeup can stand confidently in front of a mirror, or even a room full of people who look differently, and remember that we are every bit as lovely and strong and capable as every other person looking back at us. That we don’t compare, we don’t pass judgment, and we don’t shame ourselves into being “better” or “just like them”. No, because we don’t want to be anyone else but us. And we love on each other so deeply for it.

I imagine a place where vulnerability, sensitivity, and expressing emotions isn’t seen as embarrassing or weak. Where we can bring our whole selves into our relationships and watch the difference in growth as those we love bring their whole selves to us. Instead of hiding from our truths, we write our stories on our chest. We are seen for our bravery as we remind the world that we are all full of imperfections. And not one single person is expected to do it alone.

I imagine that we are kind to one another. That we stand up for each other when no one else will and we somehow find a way to take care of each other. We listen with patience, we pursue with curiosity, and we encourage with love.

As unfortunate events have unfolded in the grander scheme of things as well as in my own personal corner, I imagine this world more often. My heart hurts as every day there seems to be one new thing after the other, while other elements have always been there and only worsened over time.

But it must get better. We all might have different versions of our imagined worlds, but that’s okay. If we can imagine that world we want to live in, we then need to live as though we are already there.

As I said before, I see this as my heaven. I see a deep need for selfless love, encouragement, and empathic understanding for every human we cross paths with – whether it be with complete strangers or close, lifelong relationships. I see tenderness and mindfulness and respect for where they are instead of making it about where we are.

This different place can exist. Among all of the shit – it can exist. Lately, it has been hard to believe that, and some days, I want nothing to do with this world. But I have to believe. And although I am by no means perfecting the art of living out this world, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. It just takes one person at a time, living out their world as though it already exists. Until one day, maybe it just will.

It starts with us.

The Art of Not Knowing

I stepped into my apartment tonight and everything felt different. Same white walls, same completed stack of dishes, same lingering smell from my recently exhausted candle. But it wasn’t the same – not really, anyway. I’ve allowed so many people into this place beyond allowing to my own self for the first few months. It was mine, and weirdly now, it’s shared. It lingers with moments of belly laughs in bed and sharing wine on the floor, as well as ghosts of those who may never step foot in here again. In so many ways I find that to be a lovely thing, but at the same time, confusing.

After I walked in, I immediately peeled off my sweatshirt that smells of  a week’s worth of smoke and replaced it with something that smells like me. Clean laundry, shampoo – something that had been contaminated with my scent and no one else’s.

At the same time, ridiculously enough, I want nothing more than to get away from myself.

I’m exhausted by myself. I make impulsive decisions because it might lead to a good story, a beautiful moment, or something I absolutely cannot miss. But then, the story is over. And I’m left behind picking up broken pieces and analyzing absolutely every fucking piece in meticulous detail.

What’s even crazier is that I wouldn’t change these maddening things about myself for anything. It’s what makes me a deep thinker, a diligent writer, and a human with a full and honest heart. It makes me open minded to trying all things experimental or new. It makes me curious, hungry, and adventurous. It makes me feel different – something I so desperately to feel.

I feel a lot of shit. Clearly.

Maybe this is just where I’m at in this point of life, or maybe this is my life. I don’t know. But where I feel heading into 2017 is that for the first time, I don’t know. I am sitting here in my memory-infested apartment trying to process the madness of the last few months – something I’ve always believed I was good at – and instead, I couldn’t put a single finger on what I’m doing or what I’m supposed to be doing.

As I throw this new self into the craziness of the world around, I find myself lost and picking for answers that may or may not be “right.” I am challenged every day by material things, charmingly faux individuals, the balance of my job and my life, the balance of family and friends, and the bullshit of the past vs. the unknown certainty of the future. And when I think about these things, I can’t believe how badly I carry the weight of not knowing. Until I’ve realized.

It is okay to be okay with not knowing. 

You know why? Because I’m human. I don’t have the emotional capacity for everything, and I’m tired of making predictions and coming up with my own personal analysis. It’s stressful and exhausting and I’m tired. I understand I don’t and probably won’t ever have all of my shit together. That’s just how it goes.

We’re all a little fucked up. And realizing those very words has brought me so much relief and peace to my deep insecurity with the unknown. I truly hope this is something I live better by as we embark into the new year.

We can set these new goals for 2017 – as we should – and strive to be these “better people” we all hope to be. We can try new things, push ourselves past limitations, expand our minds, fall in love, or buy a pet iguana.

But we have to remember that when we don’t get it right, it’s okay. It is absolutely, without a doubt, okay to get it wrong. 

Tomorrow, the stock market could plummet, the next war could commence, and Donald Trump could become president. (Wait – )

However, we do NOT have to expect ourselves to have all of the answers, because who really does?

There is beauty in madness. There is exhilaration in uncertainty. And there is peace in letting go of control.

Happy New Year.

Ignorance Is(n’t Always) Bliss

Yesterday around 6 p.m., I was physically assaulted on my run. A man grabbed my head, forced it over a railing, ripping my hair out of my ponytail and my headphones out of my ears. He let go, mumbled a string of words I couldn’t understand, and kept walking – his eyes still looking back at me.

Nothing like this has happened to me before. You never really think it will happen to you until it does. In that very moment, my first instinct was to turn back around and scream: “What in the fuck is wrong with you! What makes you think you can do that to someone and get away with it?” But that little voice in my head, the one who hardly ever graces me with her presence, finally spoke and told me to save my feminist rant and protest for later. In short, she said, “Stop. Don’t. You dummy.” And I’m sure the outcome is far less detrimental than it would have been if I’d opened my mouth.

After filing the police report and catching my breath (mostly from the run itself), I still couldn’t get my mind off of this man’s face. Not in an “I want to beat it in with a bat” kind of way, not even in an “I feel haunted” kind of way. I just didn’t understand why he looked so angry.

I spent hours afterward trying to analyze him and the situation – something I oftentimes do as a hobby or in my day-to-day job in the field of research. (This time, it felt less fun). For a moment, I wondered if he had been on drugs. I wondered if he was drunk. But something inside of me truly didn’t believe this. It wasn’t narcotics in his eyes – it was anger.

So I asked myself, what had I done to him that compelled him to act in such a fit of rage against someone he doesn’t even know? The answer, I knew, was nothing. But to him, it was something. Something in his life, his day, his world that caused him to lash out at someone like me.

I asked myself a lot of questions. Maybe we met in the past and I gave him the cold shoulder in a bar. Or maybe he mistook me for someone he actually did know that forgot to invite him to the movies last night. One of the more serious considerations was if I simply fell into the category of a kind of person who he didn’t like or did something to him in the past.

But I believe this has to root so much deeper.

My final hypothesis is ignorance. That this is a man who has lived in a world surrounded by the idea that doing things like this are, in fact, okay. That touching a woman without her permission is acceptable, let alone aggressively shoving her head over a railing is normal. A man who believes women are objects – not human beings.

We live in a world where men are not being raised to be men. Instead, they miss out on these opportunities because life has unfortunately dealt them a bad hand. They are raised in impoverished neighborhoods. Their education is limited or non-existent. They are surrounded by individuals (oftentimes their own families) who do not care about their growth, mental stability, or well-being.

I’m going to take it a step further. These men were never shown love or taught what it means to love those around them, therefore they never learned to love themselves. They never had the opportunity to fall head over heels in discovery over their passion. They never realized what it means to ‘take care’ or someone because they were never taken care of. 

I am by no means saying that every person raised this way is doomed. There are folks who have grown up in these environments and steered their path in the opposite direction and created something so beautiful with their lives. But what are those odds? And what are we doing to make the shift?

I know it might seem crazy to empathize with a man who tried to physically harm someone. I’m still trying to make sense of that little detail. I should be pissed off – and to an extent, I absolutely am. But it wasn’t my own pain I felt. It was his.

So what’s to be done about this? I’m not saying we empathize with every person that physically assaults us, but we have to start recognizing the bigger picture. There is so much going on beyond the surface that our minds can not always comprehend.

Something has to change. 

So to the man I had an unfortunate encounter with yesterday, I am sorry for whatever has happened in your life that has made you so angry. My wish for you is an understanding of reality and the effect of your actions. I wish self-respect and self-love for you. I wish for you to find peace from the pain in your heart.

I see you. I forgive you. And I hope our world finds a way to put a stop to the broken start.

Self-Love

Self-love is something I was always so sure I had. It was something that made someone confident in their own skin without the necessity to try too hard or push for a false image recognized only by the outside.

I was completely happy with being weird, vulnerable, sarcastic, and passionate about every damn thing. I saw others who, in my eyes, didn’t seem fine with taking ownership of themselves. I would hope that one day they would understand how wonderful they were, what they deserved, and what greatness could be brought to the world from them being exactly who they were supposed to be. I wanted them to love that person as much as others loved them – and then some.

But suddenly, as though it happened overnight, I became the person who lost that sense of self. Like someone who woke up after blacking out from a night of drinking, I had no idea how I got there.

And I’m not quite sure how to go back.

When I think back to the beginning, I was one of the lucky few – always reminded of how loved I was and the importance behind what it means to love yourself.

I grew up with a dad who loved every damn piece of me. A dad who took me to bookstores on Friday nights and bought me hot chocolate while we read together. Who came into my room before bed every night and asked God to lay his hands on me and keep me safe, forever. Who, as I grew into an adult, consistently forgave me, reminded me of my strengths and how proud he was of me, told me of the impact I have on this world, and never, ever stopped wanting the world for me.

I thanked God every day for this.

But somewhere along the way, I stopped believing these things were true. I stopped listening. I lived in the moments of the days and nights and stopped imagining the consequences of my actions that would come into play later on. I sought out credit from unworthy sources – the most undeserving kinds that caused me to crawl under my sheets and feel the weight of guilt and shame encompass my conscience.

I stopped believing the people who really loved me and started believing the ones that couldn’t. I stopped listening to myself. I stopped being honest with myself. I strived to be a person who could tackle the things a person who “didn’t have emotions” could tackle.

Fuck that.

You see, no matter how hard we try to be someone else (oftentimes for the purpose of the world around us), our true self is buried in a shallow grave that can’t be avoided forever. It finds us, it haunts us, and the more we ignore it, the more we feel unsatisfied.

Our image to others doesn’t always seem that way. We take and abuse social media as an outlet for “temporary satisfaction,” or we fill our time with more and more shit (good and bad) that do nothing but push the reality of who we are beneath us.

When we love someone, we want them to be themselves – right? So why can’t we want the same for ourselves?

This isn’t the kind of post that has an end with an answer. I don’t know the answer because I’m not there yet. I don’t even feel close.

But I see where I am, and one step at a time, I’m going to figure out where to begin. It’s hard. Owning something that might make you vulnerable is terrifying, but the outcome is so beautiful. I trust that it will be just as much as I trust the path to get there.

The path to self-love.