Coffee

Coffee

At the beginning of this school year, I was tired. I was interning at a nonprofit trying to better the world in some small way but was seeing little to no results. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to save the planet via a temporary internship at a local nonprofit organization but I was surrounded by people there who truly wanted nothing more than to do that; tirelessly, constantly, incessantly. And all the while, the world felt like it was falling apart. A summer of immigration bans and failed climate agreements and terrorist attacks and mass shootings and political turmoil piled up around me.

The problem with wanting to fix things is that sometimes you kinda can’t. It’s out of scope, unrealistic, untimely or too late. And that feels like failure and that turns into exhaustion. So by the end of the summer I had given up, I was just tired of caring so much about everything.

The thing about passion is that it’s fire; a burning that gives you energy and makes your eyes light up and your Leslie Knope come out. But the thing about passion is that it’s fire; it can burn out if you don’t give it any fuel.

I was burnt out. Passion had given way to apathy.

I was trying to figure out how to shift my career plan before it was too late, to something easier, something I wouldn’t have to care so much about, something that wouldn’t take so much soul or burn so much of my fire.

You’ve probably heard the old adage like,

“An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

‘A fight is going on inside me,’ he said to the boy.

‘It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment and ego.’

He continued, ‘The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.’

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf will win?’

The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.”

Cut to a night when I was begrudgingly watching the Disney movie Tomorrowland with my family at home; half paying attention, half online shopping. This little parable was enough to pull my consciousness from the FreePeople website. I had heard the analogy many times, from many sources, all citing various old men who said this– probably none of them very accurate. But I’d never thought about it in a societal context before.

The whole movie is about saving the world from the futuristic apocalypse– of course. It was about finding the “dreamers”, the people who hadn’t given up on fixing the world yet. And by finding these dreamers who still believed they could do it, they inevitably saved the world in classic Disney fashion. They started feeding the right wolf.

This kind of hope is hard to maintain. There are some days that I wholeheartedly believe that I am somehow contributing in a small way to fix a small problem and that piece by piece, the world will be made better. But there are also days that I feed the other wolf. The wolf that has given up, complains about society on social media, points fingers, finds the bad in everything and tries to stay out of the whole mess, while doing nothing to fix it– therefore contributing to the monster. It is my scariest demon, this apathy. Wars aren’t won by passion, they are lost by indifference.

But over the course of this semester I have given myself a chance at more fuel– fuel so passion can burn. Take it in, soak it up, turn the sunlight into life. Fuel is the small successes. The things that work. It won’t be everything. They might not even be truly significant in the grand scheme of things. Little victories and sparks and proof that what we’re doing, it really does work. Slowly, surely, sometimes backwards, but there are golden days when it works.

This is what scares me most: that we might grow into our indifference like grey hair and wrinkled skin. That we will give up before we get anywhere. I almost did and some days I still almost do. That’s the real danger. Not icebergs melting and mutual assured destruction (okay, actually those are really, really scary and I’m terrified but I’m just trying to make a point). The real danger is that we leave the fixing to someone else. That we accept the bad things about this planet and look at our phones instead. That we bury our heads in memes and macchiatos and reality TV. That we become too damn exhausted to try anymore.

Keep drinking coffee.

This Brave New Year

This Brave New Year

i am ready for 2018 / not because 2017 was bad / but because 2018 sounds brave / a bracelet on my wrist says fearless / not because i am / but because i want to be /

This year I read the book The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. I was gifted this book by a mentor/boss/friend and it came into my life at the perfect time. I was spinning out, existential crisis mode threat level midnight as a junior in college panicking about the next decade of my life as one typically does on a Monday mid-morning. The basic premise of the book (because you should read it yourself here’s the amazon link go ahead kid) is that we are taught our entire lives to set our goals and resolutions based on outcomes. We picture the end result and we work towards that thing. If you’re in college, think the dreaded S.M.A.R.T. goal. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely, Vomit. RT if you never want to hear the words SMART goal ever again in your young life.

But Danielle challenges you to do this whole goal thing different. Instead of picturing the  final outcome (which is typically overwhelming and daunting and I usually panic and quit before I can even begin said thought process), it is better to think of how you want to FEEL at then end of the process. The reason that we do anything, literally anything, okay, is because of how we think it will make us feel. Since the beginning of time, this is how human behavior has worked. Eat a cupcake, sleep until noon, work out every single day, major in geology, learn Chinese, skip yoga, have a kid, pay for the person behind you at Mcdonalds, spend too much money on coffee, whatever. We are chasing some kind of feeling. We act in a certain way because of the feeling we will receive, whether that be a sense of accomplishment, energy, independence, pride, health or to be entertained, enlightened, inspired, empowered. All of this is an attempt at this end goal of happiness. With me? Danielle argues that if we set goal and resolutions based on how we want to feel rather than what we want to achieve simply because we think it will make us feel this way, we will be more successful in this endeavor as well as actually enjoy the process.

So think words. Write down words that are right for you, right now in this nanosecond in time. Picture that person you want to be, people you admire, moments when you felt like Beyonce and Ruth Bader Ginsberg mixed into one.

See ya never SMART goals!!!

I am absolutely done defining a life by arbitrary resolutions that I was forced to write down as a part of a group exercise and then share out in front of strangers. Work towards your own words instead. For me this year, they are brave, creative and whole. Defined on my own terms for me by me. You can have 3 words or 67 words if that’s your vibe. To keep in the back of your mind or tattoo on your forehead. This is 2018 people, opportunities are endless, go crazy.

To 2017, may she get the brief history book summary she deserves.

To 2018, cheers to a brave new year.

H*ppy

H*ppy

I’m sitting at a coffee shop. Staring at a blank computer screen watching the cursor flash like it’s daring me to say what I want to say. Off, on, off, on. Happy. Happy is a big word for a small word. It’s a word on birthday cards and advertisements for dating apps and paper bags that hold Big Macs. It’s a marketing scheme as much as an emotion that you feel when you see a fluffy dog. It’s a word that I’m not sure describes what I’m talking about as much as I wish it did because the meaning has been lost to millions of national holidays and Fridays. It’s been turned beige by overuse and under-feeling. Some people have forgotten the meaning entirely. The holidays are here so you are going to hear it a lot. It is red and green and sparkly and covered in receipts. So I by no means challenge you to use it less. I challenge you to rebel by understanding it. Taking it in, re-deciding what the heck it means. Maybe feeling it more. Or notice that you’re feeling it more. It’s a tough thing, that happy thing. It looks like honey and feels far away. And sometimes when we say it we use it as a synonym for not-sad. I don’t think you should be not-sad. I think you should be happy. Fully, truly, consumingly. Not all the time, not everywhere, because this is life and there’s a lot of dog shit that comes with a lot of cute dogs. And you’re inevitably going to step in it at some point. But I hope, there are seconds, or minutes or hours when you can look down or up or in or out and say that word and it feels more than lukewarm and sounds like much more than an adjective.

5 Books to Ask for this Christmas

I always panic when anyone asks me what I want for Christmas. I instantly forget anything and everything I have added to my mental wish list ever. So when in doubt– ask for books. Always the right size, right fit, right color. Even the craziest of aunts really can’t mess this one up. These are five of my favorite books that I read this past year that I would recommend to anyone. These books are also all coincidentally written by women so I’m a big fan of that too. Give strong female writers some love, read these things:

The-Opposite-of-Loneliness

This book is a collection of essays and stories written by Marina Keegan, a Yale English student that was tragically killed in a car accident shortly after she graduated. This is one of my favorite books I have ever read; the writing is authentic, raw, beautiful and haunting. The essays span from fictional deep see voyage horror to nonfictional pieces on the consulting industry; works of art, all of them.

41aQco98MpL

I don’t typically love most young adult fiction but this is one of the best written books I have read in forever. Beautiful writing that tells a beautiful story. A story of a midwestern girl who moves to New York City is relatable and funny and sad and lovely. Please read.

51fRrYZt84L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Shonda Rhimes is one of my favorite people in the world. Her internationally renowned TV shows like Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away With Murder are incredible and her book is almost somehow even better than her shows. The book features amazing and unique takes on life, motherhood, creativity, feminism, pretty much everything good on the planet.

cover-bad

This book should be mandatory reading for all women. Actually in a dream world, all humans. Roxane Gay is a phenomenal writer and her perspectives on the universe are complex, fascinating and the truth. A modern take on realistic feminism, intersectionality and how we might all accidentally be bad feminists sometimes. Love, love, love.

711kwLCWW+L.jpg

You’ve definitely heard of this one. Rupi Kaur has taking the Instagram world by storm. It takes some damn good writing to make poetry mainstream again, and Rupi has done just that. I actually had the chance to see her perform last month and she is probably the most eloquent, graceful and breathtaking individual I have ever seen. Pretty convinced she’s a real life angel. Political, powerful, perfect.

My Life is Mine

My Life is Mine

I watched this video for the first time a few weeks ago. Then I watched it again, a few days later. Then I tagged all my friends in it on Facebook. Now, I watch it whenever I feel like I need to remember a fundamental truth of living or am having a particularly stagnant Sunday night. So I wanted to share it with you.

Tracee Ellis Ross is an American actress, model, tv host, comedian so okay, she like, does everything. You might know her as Joan Clayton of Girlfriends or Dr. Rainbow Johnson in Black-ish. She has won five NAACP Image Awards and a Golden Globe for Best Actress- TV Show or Comedy, very casually. Fun fact: her mom is Diana Ross. She is also an Incredible Human Being and Real Life Inspiration With Whom I Would Love to Eat Sushi so that’s interesting.

In this speech, she speaks the truth I have been trying to write down for a very long time. She is saying the words that I have not yet quite mustered up the courage to utter at age 21. The truth that I have been looking for in books and movies and songs and Pinterest boards but couldn’t pin down. “My life is mine.” 

This obvious, yet earth-shattering sentence that pumps adrenaline into your veins and ties running shoes to your feet. It empowers you to spring out of the corner you may have been backed into and run, run, run for the hills. If this statement seems apparent, you are lucky. If this statement seems groundbreaking, then you are not alone.

We have been sold a single story of what our purpose and meaning in life might be. I haven’t decided mine quite yet, but I want to consider all of my options. So watch this clip, consider your breadth of possibilities and realize that living your full, wonderful, vivacious, spaghetti-eating life is definitely not selfish.

Click on this thing, okay:

Tracee Ellis Ross Is Living For Herself

 

 

photo credit: Terry Tsiolis

How to Feel Better: A Very Short Guide

How to Feel Better: A Very Short Guide

Finals. Rough Mondays. Rejection. Parking tickets. Spilled coffee. All-nighters. Bad texts.

There are lots of reasons to want to feel better. There are lots of ways to do it.

Some classic pick-me-ups for when you need them most:

  • Wear your favorite sweater. Liking how you look is important. Your best self might wear a Free People sweater. I think mine does. So throw on what makes you feel like a badass.
  • Feel less guilt. For eating things that you enjoy, for splurging a tiny bit on the shoes you’ve been eyeing for months, for skipping yoga this week because you were exhausted, for watching a movie. These are little things people, in the grand scheme of big things. If it makes you feel disproportionately better, doing a small not great thing, I say do it. This life is for being alive.
  • Close your eyes. When all else fails, take a nap. This can be hard because you can feel guilty (see number 2) or stressed or lay there thinking about all the million things you “should” be doing. But who’s to say what you shouldn’t be doing is giving your brain and body a few moments of rest so you can do whatever you were gonna do 67 times faster with 200% more joy? Sleep tight.
  • Drink something. A liquid of choice; whether it be water, chocolate milk, tea, iced caramel latte with skim milk and Splenda or some red wine. Sometimes you just need hydration and a chance to feel yourself breathe and also, sometimes, wine.
  • Clean something. Your room, your desk, your backpack, the whole kitchen, a park, your socks, whatever will make you feel purposeful and intentional and whole and together.
  • Create something. Write, knit, hammer, paint, sew, strategize, level up, craft, code. Whatever you do, when you don’t want to do anything else. These escapes are necessary and important and not a waste of time like the right side of your brain wants to tell you.
  • Watch a thing that is funny. For me it’s The Office or videos of babies laughing. Whatever your secret antidote that reminds you that being alive is not that serious and gives you slight abs– watch that thing.

And when all else fails, eat chocolate. Big chocolate guy.