Fe = Iron. Therefore We Are Iron(wo)men

Happy belated #InternationalWomensDay!

Even though that particular day wasn’t any more unique than my average weekdays, it filled my little heart with the fuzzies to see female friends share posts of the most influential women in their lives. On a more global level, it was awesome to see companies from Brawny to Barbie focus their marketing efforts on girl power (see article here).

But as great as it was to see both women and men verbalize their commitment to protecting the women in their life and empathizing with the challenges they face on a regular basis, there is so much work still to be done, here and abroad.

Whether you claim to be a feminist or not (though if you believe that men and women are equally deserving of basic human rights, I don’t understand why so many cringe at the ‘F’ word), you have to acknowledge that. Especially in the age of #MeToo, and the fact that backwards regimes continue to pose death threats to young women like Malala Yousafzai simply for attending school.

There’s a lot I’m grateful for. I’m allowed to drive, get an education, hold a job, vote and own property. My father cannot sell my hand in marriage to whatever man has the best cow to offer, and for the most part, I have full autonomy over myself.

But there’s a lot women can do without.

When all the Harvey Weinstein accounts started coming out of the Hollywood-work, I was filled with anger, knowing that the bodily autonomy each of his victims had, he’d taken away. Sadly, probably more female actors than we realize watched their dreams fizzle out as Weinstein put them on his personal Hollywood blacklist as punishment for rejecting his advances.

When the #MeToo hashtag started trending, I read through the raw, emotional accounts from friends and friends-of-friends who’d been taken advantage of by family members or people they thought were their friends. I read through stories of those who genuinely feared for their lives because they dared defend themselves against an abuser, a rapist, a drunk, or all of the above. Though I don’t have any comparable stories to warrant a #MeToo post of my own, I know very well that those accounts could’ve been mine in different circumstances. It makes me feel sad, unsafe, but mostly bitter.

It’s the same bitterness I felt after hearing that the Stanford swimmer who’d raped an unconscious woman in an alleyway had been sentenced to a measly six months (three of which he actually served). This after his father’s half-assed plea that the “20 minutes of action” his son engaged in not affect his future.

Last week, I watched a viral video of a Parkland, Florida student speaking at a rally, beseeching our government to put in place more effective gun laws, just days after she’d witnessed 17 of her classmates and teachers shot and killed on Valentine’s Day. In the first comment, an older man wrote that this “little girlie” ought to stay in her place and out of politics. Whatever your views on gun control, it is an unbelievably patronizing thing to say to someone who watched her friends fall at the hands of a deranged student.

I also think about the double standard in which a man gets a high-five for engaging in the same activity as a woman who is deemed a “slut” in the same breath.

I cringe when I have to ignore a catcall instead of calling out the idiot, lest I be called a b—h, ugly, or perhaps even have something thrown at me.

While walking to Whole Foods from my work a few weeks ago, a man in his car rolled down his window to call out to me, hoping I’d come closer. Instead, I quickened my pace, looking over my shoulder every few steps. Since then, I’ve taken my car to places I would normally go by foot.

There’s also less obvious instances of sexism that bother me.

I think about how throughout my early school years, the modesty culture that was encouraged–while well-intentioned–probably did more harm than good. The girls were called out for donning three-fingered tank tops, a.k.a. “stumbling blocks” to the boys who couldn’t handle the “distraction.” Though never penalized for this crime myself (I tried to be a good kid), I felt the body shame associated with having to constantly worry about covering our shoulders, necklines, and knees. It was a heavy piece of baggage to shed, one that still trails behind me somewhat even now. While I’m not an advocate for going around topless, I believe each person is entitled to wear what they choose without having to fear unwanted attention.

I think about articles I’ve come across from websites titled “Biblical Gender Roles,” in which a subscriber asks the author for advice on guiding his adolescent daughter back into more womanly ambitions after she’s expressed interest in political and leadership career opportunities. And then sitting open-mouthed when I read the author’s advice: steer his daughter towards roles that don’t put her in direct authority over men. Such as homemaking. Or fulfilling her lifelong, wifely duty of submitting to her future husband’s every whim without question.

I think about how in some workplaces, employers that are legally required to not base their hiring practices on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. will do so anyway. Those employers are less likely to hire a woman who looks to be in her child-bearing prime, lest she need to be put on maternity leave.

But I’d like to end this pessimistic rant by acknowledging the women in my life who’ve directly or indirectly encouraged me to not let society tell me what I can be, just because I was born with a certain anatomy.

I’m encouraged by well-known women like J.K. Rowling (who, despite having overcome a myriad of personal and professional struggles, wrote the Harry Potter series, which quickly become the second best-selling series, second to the Bible. Fun fact, she used her first two initials rather than her full name as a writer, fearing that boy readers would be turned off by books written by a woman…), Christiane Amanpour (who was constantly and fearlessly on the frontlines while working as an international reporter), and Katherine Johnson (whose contributions to the NASA program pushed against the gender and racial barriers prevalent at the time. Watch “Hidden Figures” if you haven’t already!). I’m also encouraged by the many women in my own life, especially the BA boss ladies who operate their own businesses and make it look easy.

I would be remiss not to mention the men I’m privileged to know who’ve never made me feel as though my gender should be a limitation in anything I do.

We have come a long way since the William Shatner Star Trek days, where the female cadets aboard the USS Enterprise were made to wear non-functional, short-skirted uniforms (probably solely for the viewing pleasure of their male counterparts). And thank GOD I’ve never seen an ad similar to the below:

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2017 in Review

2017 in Review

[Insert cliché opening about how another year has come and gone, time flies when you’re living in the moment, etc. etc.]

A new year is almost always greeted with fanfare and champagne toasts so here’s my raised glass: yes, I indeed have made it another year and have been blessed to have been given another 365 days to do life.

However, I wish that internally I could mirror this celebratory season.

A few years ago, I made it my personal mantra to ‘Live extraordinarily,’ but lately, I’ve been feeling pretty mediocre. This feeling manifests anytime an old acquaintance asks me how I’ve been doing (good) and what I’ve been up to (work, blah blah blah). I don’t know if this is just what naturally comes with the postgrad/early adulthood years or if I’m doing something wrong.

At the moment, I’m not feeling particularly wistful as I reflect on 2017, mostly because right now I’m incredibly stressed by a) post-holiday blues/SAD, b) all the annoying tasks/financial paperwork that come with sorting out grad school stuff, and c) generally wondering if I’m merely going through the motions.

That last one is the real kicker. And when you attend multiple holiday parties, it’s hard not to play the comparison game with those who got into amazing grad/law/med schools, have amazing jobs that allow them to go on vacation for weeks at a time, and/or don’t get social anxiety when crammed into a room with 40 other people.

And I’m sure everyone knows of at least six different couples that got engaged or announced pregnancies this month. When these milestones are happening for people close to my age, or worse yet, those who barely graduated high school (how can you afford anything???), it’s hard not to feel at least a little insecure. While I have no reason or desire to marry before I’m 28 or 29, I think having this personal preference seems to be a contrast to what usually happens with young adults in a church environment and I wonder if I’m crazy for feeling the way I do.

Probably my favorite years in recent times have been 2012, 2014 and 2016. All simultaneously the best and worst seasons of my young life, all even numbers—I wonder if there’s something to that…maybe 2018 will knock my socks off?

In an effort to now morph this from an “I’m a sad millennial” post into something a little more upbeat, below are a few photo collages of some of my fave 2017 moments:

The Year of Significantly Less Concerts Than 2016

Last year, my best friend and I attended an average of one concert a month. This year, most of my go-to artists must’ve been on tour break since I went to just four this year. My inner teen self swooned from the nosebleed seats when I saw Brendon Urie (aka the semi-reincarnation of Freddie Mercury) sing like a bird in April and after seeing SimplePlan at their 15-year anniversary concert that same month, they became my most listened to band on Spotify. BANKS was/will forever be a goddess, and Andrew Belle was a nice unknown to become acquainted with.

Hawaii Escape

If you’re going to have a destination wedding, make it somewhere cool, like Hawaii. For someone who’s usually paranoid about taking time off work, this trip was definitely worth it.

New Job

This one’s a bittersweet one for me. While it’s nice having my nights back again, I miss the storywriting part as well as my old coworkers that I parted with in July.

Bye, Byline pic

Keeping Portland Weird

Portland was the closest thing to a spontaneous trip I’ve ever planned. With just a few days of preparation, my cousin, sister and I booked our flights and hostel room and created an itinerary that definitely included Voodoo Doughnuts, nature hikes, a day trip to Astoria (a.k.a. the Goonies location), Powell’s Books and that “Keep Portland Weird” sign.

Becoming an Audiobook Convert

A collage of some of my favorite reads/audiobook listens from this year (out of 20 in total, which isn’t a lot, I realize but I’m a busy person).

Friendventuring in Big Sur

I highly recommend friend-venturing weekends with your best mate. Big Sur was an incredible getaway, from the generally dry, drought-ridden SoCal. If you and your friend are going to vent about any pre-midlife crises, it might as well be in a pretty place.

Whatever 2018 brings, I’ll be ready, or at least I’ll learn to be. I’m pretty hopeful though. After all, it will be the Year of the Dog, according to the Chinese calendar so that’s a good sign.

White Christmas

Thomas Fire

Week 3 of Thomas Fire

Exiting the car, I looked up at the orange-gray expanse overhead. Still more ‘ashfall’ drifted down from the skies, dusting the world around me. It resembled, in an eerie way, an East Coast winter, though I didn’t dare catch any of these ashflakes on my tongue.

“Come inside,” he pleaded, waiting for me to follow him.

Instead I walked towards the street, marveling in the uncharacteristically quiet, dead city. The sidewalks—usually teeming with tourists, couples, and joggers—were empty. The street sign hanging on the traffic light rocked to and fro as a gentle breeze blew.

“Come on!” he said, this time more firmly. “It’s not good to be breathing this in.”

I reluctantly turned away from the Armageddon that my city had turned into and slipped inside the brewery.

Ten Days Earlier, Day 1 of Thomas Fire

“Okay, let’s pack up,” my dad said, switching off the local news radio station, which had just issued a voluntary evacuation for the residents on my side of town.

As I fumbled around in my room throwing sweaters, shoes, a toothbrush and passport into a suitcase, it dawned on me that I had few valuables to stow away. Perhaps this was a good thing; less to mourn if everything did go up in smoke. It certainly put into perspective the age-old icebreaker question, “What three things would you rescue from your house in the event of a fire?”

I’d seen my mom drag out a storage box full of wedding photos and pictures of my sister and I when we were children. It was interesting how just one generation difference made packing these kinds of things a little easier for me. I could store all my photographic memories digitally on my laptop.

Though our insurance company would find little value in what I deemed priceless, I reopened my suitcase and placed in it two or three old of my old journals and a flannel shirt I had taken out of my grandpa’s bedroom a year ago, just days before he passed. I also slipped my mom’s mother’s old engagement ring on my left hand.

When I brought everything downstairs, I caught a glimpse of orange light peeking through the blinds of our living room window. I swung open the blinds and let the palette of yellow, orange and gray light flood into the room.

The light of a fire always looks alluring, until it comes closer. Until it comes for everything in its path, leaving behind piles of ash that had once been homes, furniture and memories.

Silent night. All is not calm. All is bright, I mused.

__________________

Week 2 of Thomas Fire

Thomas Fire 2

We’d been one of the luckier ones, or blessed, whatever you want to call it.

It was true. In a strange but fortunate twist of events, we’d ended up housing friends who’d fled their own apartment the same night we planned to but ultimately did not, evacuate.

But keeping ourselves quarantined quickly lost its novelty.

For the last six days, I’d become well-acquainted with the taste of the fire’s aftermath. Even with my mask, I was swallowing charcoal. More than once this week, I had been forced to turn my car around, not daring to chase the ashes on my way to work. Thomas had won.

____________________________

Week 3 of Thomas Fire

A light layer of white and grayish flakes coated the hood, roof and windows of the car when I returned from the brewery.

A once blue horizon had been replaced with layers of smoke clouds.

It was the 9th, or 10th day of Christmas but now we were counting down the days based on how many hours the fire had raged.

Pulling out of the parking lot, I noticed the outlines of tires in the “snow” we left behind.

Silently, I said to no one in particular:

Peace on earth.

 

ThankFALL (can’t think of a better title at the moment)

 

Oof. Two months that I’ve been virtually silent on here.

I could lie and say I’ve been oh-so busy with my exciting life to write much of anything that wasn’t work-related, but the truth is the moment I open my laptop lately, I feel burned out.

For the past few weeks or so, or whenever the time change occurred, the darkness that accumulates now starting at 4pm seems to have an effect of weighing me down on my commutes home. It’s truly suffocating, so much so that when I do get home, the only thing I want to do is anything requiring little brain power (like finally catching onto the hype of “Stranger Things”). Anything more than that puts me in a fog.
 
I read this IG post recently that succinctly sums up how November has been for me: “November is stressful, like it’s suddenly freezing and you have 35 different deadlines due within 3 weeks and everyone is panicking and it’s dark all the time.”

 Yup.

Almost every year around November, I embark on a quarter-life crisis where I evaluate who I am and where I am in life. I question if I’ve achieved everything I wanted and demoralize myself when I haven’t.
 
At the moment, I’m very fearful of what the future holds and whether or not I’ll reach my full potential. Or that I’ll reach my full potential, but not be truly happy. I worry about the faith part of my life, and if I’m “doing it right” like person X, Y, or Z, or if I’m just kidding myself. I feel a combination of joy and sorrow when my close friends tell me how close they are to marriage, moving away, a great new job, a stint overseas, etc. I feel trapped, yet not brave enough to jump into any ventures that aren’t perfectly calculated with knowable outcomes. I feel paranoid about pleasing my family and the possibility of falling short. I’m concerned with my finances and if grad school will have to be put off for another year, or if I’ll have to default to distance learning (thank you massive car purchase). I sometimes think about what life might look like if North Korea sends their missiles our direction (although I’d most likely be dead anyway).
 
But being that it is close to Thanksgiving, I do realize I have loads to be grateful for. For every stressor I’ve listed, I know deep down that I have twice the blessing. Here are just a few:
 
– I have a solid family unit. My parents are still together after 30 years in a world where the word “divorce” is about as frequent and casually spoken of as Monday Night Football. I know of many kids from split and/or blended families that have fared well, or better than I, but I’m not sure I would do as well if my circumstances were different. As a bonus, I *gasp* like my parents.

– For most of my life, I’ve been lucky enough to not encounter too many my-life-flashed-before-my-eyes moments. I wish I could say the same for the victims of the numerous tragedies that have been making the headlines. The frightening thought of someone I love getting caught into incidents like these, or getting into a car accident, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time flashes through my mind at least a few times a week, compelling me to send a silent prayer into the skies. But for now, I’m thankful for the blanket of safety my family and other loved ones are currently embraced in.

– The hip kids might refer to their closest friends as “ride or dies,” but fortunately, this trifecta doesn’t make dying an option.  
– I’m by no means wealthy, but am reasonably financially stable for my age. Although part of me wishes I’d spent a few months after graduation doing something unpractical yet super cool like backpacking in the Andes, I know it would’ve been that much harder to slay my student loans. I’m grateful that I don’t necessarily have to worry about being able to afford the occasional fancy Starbucks drink, as well as the opportunities to give where I can, and see how far even a seemingly modest amount can go.
– By the end of this year, I will have attended four weddings. That’s probably just about average, but these too bring me some hope. Yay love.
– Audiobooks. My almost two hour daily commute may not be ideal, but it’s afforded me plenty of time to exercise my brain (perhaps I’ll dedicate another post highlighting some of my favorite reads (or listens) from this year).
– I would be remiss to not mention Amazon.com’s free returns on a lot of their products, which has allowed me to consolidate 90% of what would’ve been shopping trips to an actual store, into online shopping frenzies from the comfort of my couch. Yes, I realize I’m not helping the plight of brick-and-mortar, mom-and-pop-shop owners, but I *detest* shopping. And the ability to decrease my chances of running into someone from grade school who was never particularly fond of me is always something to be thankful for.

24

24 pic

At the end of a job or internship, there’s often some sort of post-employment review or exit interview. When I use apps like Instagram or Lyft, I’m always prompted mid-use to rate the software. Whenever I get a package from Amazon, I get emails asking me to review the shower Bluetooth speaker or teeth whitener I’ve bought (yes, yes, I know the Crest whitener was probably a pointless purchase as the amount of coffee I drink will likely never allow me acquire pearly white teeth).

But there’s not really a review process for evaluating one’s self, except perhaps informally when you’ve drained your glass of Chardonnay at a New Year’s Eve party thinking about how your life’s a joke, your broke and your love life’s DOA (*clap clap clap clap*). Or at the very least, it’s not where you want it to be. 

I’ve recently turned another year older and when that happens, I tend to treat it as a sort of annual self-review. It’s an opportunity to evaluate where I succeeded, where I failed, and where I tried again (and failed again). Perhaps consider the public nature of this post as an accountability mechanism, more for myself than anything.

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A millennial with a millennial pink backdrop.

In my phone, I keep a draft of goals or things I want to accomplish over the year. On the list, (which was last updated probably sometime around June 2016) is comprised of the usuals; working out more/losing the fluff, reading more (aka less Netflix) and getting “out there” more.

Probably the biggest accomplishment I’ve had within the last year was career-related. I had the goal of either acquiring a new job by this summer or begin looking into grad programs if that didn’t work out. As highlighted two blogs ago, I did acquire a new job this summer. It’s way different than my last one, and there are many aspects I miss about my previous work. And while I’m not sure if this professional move will change the trajectory of my career life forever, it’s been a nice reprieve from some of the physical/mental (and occasionally emotional) burnout I’d been dealing with. Now, I feel I have more time to simply exist.

I’m also happy to report that this introvert has established a pretty solid friend base over the last year or so. I remember returning home after college, feeling pretty alone and lost those first few months (which, on the plus side, turned me into a semi-workaholic). I’m lucky to still be best friends with my first best friend, who I met in my kindergarten class almost 18 years ago. My sister, two years my senior, is also one of my best friends whom I can be my weirdest self with. I still keep in touch with my close college friends (one of whom has asked me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding in June). And the cluster of friends I’ve gotten to know through church or reconnected with after our college hiatuses, I feel quite grateful to have.

Quality over quantity!

That being said, I’ve also learned to let go of relationships that made me realize their futility. Ones that weren’t two-way streets and often felt more like a lonely stretch of highway.

Finally, I’m learning to take better care of myself. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing Whole 30 and posting pictures of my newfound abs and hash-tagging it with #ProgressNotPerfection, nor finding my chakra with the local yogis.

Though I haven’t been waking up at the crack of dawn to workout before driving to work for a good while, or paying much attention to my caloric intake, I think in a strange way, not giving as much of a crap about that has actually been healthier for me. I can truthfully say that it’s had literally NO impact on my BMI (actually it’s gone down by three since I last checked…yay stress?). It’s never NOT going to be something that won’t bother me, but it’s been a source of solace to not put so much stock into such trivial matters.

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Hiking, a.k.a. quality time for exercising and addressing existential crises.

I’m trying to be better to myself in other health-related ways too. Since college, I’ve come to the realization that I’m a proud granny when it comes to my going out habits, and I don’t care if that makes me uncool. I LOVE my introverting time and am only willing to relinquish it in small doses.

Where I haven’t been as successful this year is harder, but nevertheless important, to admit.

It’s true what they say, about us being our own worst critics.

Sometimes I like who I am just enough to be moderately satisfied, and other times I’ll look in the mirror and say “Why are you like this?” Just depends on the day, I guess.

Despite having a certain kind of self-esteem, I struggle with pride. Not in the sense that I make sure everyone knows how great I am (note the sarcasm), I’ll find myself needing to have more, do more or be more than someone else; just enough to be a little ahead of the game.

The danger in this? Here’s what C.S. Lewis has to say about pride:

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.”

I often play this comparison game when it comes to stalking my peers’ LinkedIn profiles.

I‘ll see how so-and-so, who possessed less intelligence than a certain floral trunk-donning starfish, somehow landed a job at a dot.com company, how another is embarking on a business internship to Hong Kong, and how another has 36 endorsements for each of the six skills they listed, as opposed to my 12 tendorsements total.

I’ve heard marathons often be used to illustrate the journey of life, but when you’re in the race, you’re still trying to outrun everyone else. Maybe I should think of my own life as a CrossFit membership, where I try to beat my personal best each week (and make the ridiculous price tag worth paying).

More flaws…

I usually bounce between having a carefree, Carpe Diem attitude, and wanting to take every precaution to ensure my house is earthquake safe, avoid being out too late when it’s just me and my female friends, and at times, avoid big, populated places where a terrorist act has recently been carried out.

The latter isn’t really a great way to live and sometimes, I fear those worries that’ll creep in take up too much of my brain space.

And other times, I think I put too much care into stupid things, like:

 – When the person working at the movie theater hands me my tickets and says “Enjoy the movie,” and I accidentally say “You too” back.

 – When I faceplant after landing on first base during a kickball game in front of everyone (this was two days ago)

 – When I hear of not one, not two, but three separate incidents of a friend running into someone I dated and feeling embarrassed/reminded that there’s a reason why that verb is in the past tense.

What I actually NEED to use more of my brain space for is its creative side.

The fear of failure/realizing I have nothing of value to say/feeling that it’s all a waste of time has often made me feel like the shell of the [creative] person I used to be.

My goal is to be less fearful when it comes to putting it on the line. I’d like to believe that all the time I spend thinking, writing, erasing, re-typing and creating isn’t wasted, not matter what happens with these drafts I keep saving.

On Charlottesville

When scrolling through my social media feeds, I’m usually the kind of person that skips right over any videos that are longer than two or three minutes (but ironically am more than content spending that same amount of time lurking on argument threads on Facebook, so…).

But a shared video of Vice’s eye-opening 22-minute documentary of the events that went down in Charlottesville earlier this month compelled me to watch the video from start to finish. In horror.

I’ve embedded the video here, but you need not watch the whole thing to be able to follow the rest of this post (though I highly recommend it):

I should preface the rest of this by saying that this won’t be a commentary regarding a certain POTUS’s public statement following the Charlottesville tragedy that ended in one fatality and at least 19 injured. Nor will it be about the ethics of removing Confederate statues, or #whiteprivilege.

I *try* to keep my political views somewhat ambiguous when presented with a public platform (aka a WordPress site that has less readership than E.L. James’s 50 Shades prequel), but in truth, I align myself with the Continually Searching Party. And in this instance, I feel there’s not really a gray area. What happened in Charlottesville should not have happened, or be repeated.

On both sides, I noticed that the First Amendment took center stage, and how it should have applied in the cases of both the Unite the Right organizers and the counter-protesters. What I do know is the first lesson I learned in my high school Journalism 101 class, which covered the significance of the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So important was this amendment that my cohort had it emblazoned on our staff T-shirts, along with our beloved motto: “Practice Safe Press!”

Specifically with freedom of speech and press, the intent of this amendment was to protect citizens from harassment/persecution for their perhaps alternative viewpoints, i.e. vocal disapproval for certain government practices/figureheads, or other opinions that might not be considered popular or mainstream. Point is, our country has its flaws, but I’m thankful not to live in a society governed by censorship and secret police (yet?).

As much as it grieves me to say so (I’m clenching my teeth as I type this), yes, the white nationalists were protected by the First Amendment to rally. Well, initially, anyway.

The problem (besides racism itself) is when First Amendment and Second Amendment freedoms clash (which, judging by the amount of firearms shown in the video, I’m assuming is legal to carry in Charlottesville). It’s nothing new; it’s a tale as old as time. But if you’re a so-called peaceful protester, why the weaponry?

Additionally, here’s what the First Amendment doesn’t protect:

–          Obscenity (material that is “patently offensive based on contemporary community standards,” anything that lacks real literary, scientific or artistic merit, and child pornography)

–          Libel and slander (material that defames another through written or verbal communication. It should be noted that claims of libel and slander are extremely hard to prove in court)

–          Crimes involving speech (i.e. perjury and harassment)

–          Threats

–          “Fighting words” (meaning speech that intends to incite breach of peace, injury, or illegal activity)

It can be tough to determine what is considered hate speech vs. “fighting words.” As I understand it, hate speech is protected by law; fighting words are not. I don’t think either has a place in our society, but reality rarely mimics idealistic thoughts.

The Vice reporters in the above video shadowed white supremacist Chris Cantwell and other followers, capturing the following comments that were made over the weekend of August 12. Hate speech or fighting words? You be the judge:

– Chris Cantwell: “I’m here to spread my ideas, talk, in the hopes that somebody more capable will come along and do that. Somebody like Donald Trump who does not give his daughter to a Jew.”

First of all, saying “he gave his daughter” to someone is a misogynistic way of looking at it. She made that choice; this wasn’t a business transaction where Trump exchanged his daughter for livestock. Secondly, I would 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000x prefer my daughter (note to new readers: I do not have kids) to be #foreveralone than be “given” to a white supremacist.

Thirdly, JESUS WAS A JEW, AS WERE HIS FOLLOWERS. The irony is real here. And it disgusts me that certain white supremacists claim to identify as Christians. As far as I and other actual Christians are concerned, these folks can’t call themselves Christians. They don’t worship God. They worship white power.

– Chris Cantwell: “We didn’t aggress. We did not initiate force against anybody. We’re not nonviolent. We’ll f—–g kill these people if we have to.”

Hmmmm. If it sounds like a call to violence, it probably is.

– Robert “Azzmador” Ray: “…we’re showing to this parasitic class of anti-white vermin that this is our country, that this country was built by our forefathers and sustained by us. It’s going to remain our country…And now, as you can see today, we greatly outnumber the anti-white, anti-American filth. And at some point, we will have enough power that we will clear them from the streets forever.”

I assume by “anti-white” he means people that happen to NOT be white. Here’s the thing, Mr. Ray—I’m not white. I mean, I probably identify more with my white-ness than the other 50% of me that’s Filipino heritage, but that doesn’t change my ethnic makeup. And let’s be honest, when you look at me, you probably wouldn’t guess I have any Asian in me, and that’s completely fine. But how dare  you think less of a person because of their skin color.

I’m also willing to bet that a good amount of the KKK-ers aren’t as white as they’d like to think they are. I’d also like to point out that EVERYONE HERE (with the exception of Native Americans) IS * AN * IMMIGRANT * And isn’t the diversity that is America a big part of what makes it unique?

– Chris Cantwell, commenting on the car attack that pummeled into counter-protesters, which killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer: “[It] was more than justified. The amount of restraint that our people showed out there, I think, was outstanding.”

Apalling. Simply appalling.

– Chris Cantwell: “I think a lot more people are going to die before we’re done here, frankly. … People die violent deaths all the time.”

I echo former viral superstar Antoine Dodson when he said:

In another similar video I’d seen earlier this week, it showed yet another group of KKK-ers blatantly misinterpreting Scripture to support their pro-white-and-nothing-else agenda.

Here’s a couple passages they seem to have missed (and if you’re not religious, that’s okay, I feel like these are pretty universal):

On immigration (regardless of where exactly you stand): “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you and you shall love him as yourself.” Leviticus 19:33-34

Sounds like solid advice to me.

– On living peaceably: “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice with one another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.” Jeremiah 7:5-7      

– The tried and true Golden Rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” James 2:8

On Charlottesville pic 2

– On prejudice: “But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1 John 2:11

_________________________

Safe to say, I will not be heading to Charlottesville (or much of the deep, deep South) anytime soon, lest I find that the pro-white nationalist mentality frighteningly more common than I’ve been led to believe.

To anyone that has been the target of such egregious racism whether in words or actions, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that you’ve been made to feel less than. But you’re absolutely not. You exude more light than the darkness in this world can ever attempt to cover.

As I wrap up this novel, I hope that wherever you find yourself on the political spectrum, you find that we’re both on the side of humanity.

Bye, Byline

While leaving work today (last Friday, as of this edit), I dusted off my keyboard, packed my lunch leftovers and picked up a copy of the week’s Acorn newspaper before heading out for the weekend.

Except it wasn’t just for the weekend.

At least for now, the ritual marked my final day writing for the Acorn Newspaper, a job I’ve been at for the better part of two years.

When I look back, the experience plays out like a filmstrip in my head.

I remember that as a fresh graduate in May 2015, I had no job offers, no real business connections, and not much of a direction as to what my next “big thing” was going to be (an expedited graduation date isn’t always beneficial; while I had enough credits to shave off a year of college, it meant I had to figure out life faster). I knew that I a) liked to write, b) wasn’t terrible at it, an c) devoured every book assigned in my journalism minor classes, but the job prospects were and are slim pickings.

I also remember distinctly NOT having ever heard of Acorn Newspapers, as I live outside its coverage region. But somehow I stumbled across the email address of the person who’d eventually become my editor, letting him know I’d write for free; I just wanted the experience.

For those first unpredictable weeks out of school, I freelanced/wrote free stuff for both the Santa Barbara Independent and Acorn while working part-time at a small law firm.

However, that legal assistant job was short-lived (about three weeks, maybe) when a spot unexpectedly opened up at Acorn Newspapers. Upon my editor’s request, I interviewed for the slot, though I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. The job opportunity passed but just a week later, another spot opened up. After concluding that my writing piece wasn’t awful, I got the congratulatory phone call.

It was official, at 21 I had my first real, big-girl job and a paycheck every 10 days to show for it. It was a neat thing to have some people’s ears perk up during conversations when I told them worked for a paper.

But what went into the prestige of being able to say that wasn’t always so glamorous. Unfortunately articles that had earned me A’s in my college Public Affairs reporting class weren’t quite up to Acorn par, not at the start.

As my editor put it at the time (which continues to ring true today), it wasn’t my job to know everything, but just a little about everything. And so over time, I learned to become better and faster at disseminating information on budgets reports, state laws, water rates, building permits, court cases, elections, and anything else that never was (or still isn’t) in my wheelhouse.

The one thing I could never get used to was contacting a family of a victim who’d died, or faced another traumatic experience. I don’t think I ever could. But I’m glad I did have the opportunity to do so, because it made me more human, and everything else seemed so much easier by comparison.

When I first started out, I remember the late nights and not having much of a social life as my weekends were dedicated to rewrites and not drowning under deadlines. I remember on multiple occasions waking up in the middle of the night struck by thoughts like “Oh no, I spelled that person’s name wrong and now it’s in more than 2,000 papers!” or worse, “What if so-and-so takes my words out of context and writes me a scathing email about it?”

And that happened sometimes. Shortly after publishing a piece about an embezzlement investigation, I even got an “anonymous” phone call on my cell from a person who informed me rather aggressively “Your article is s—t!” and hung up. After that, it merely became the occasional Facebook commenter (or troll) that ascribed certain untrue characteristics to me, which were fortunately few and far between.

I don’t regret any of it.

As a person who used to put so much stock into caring what people thought of me, I learned to relinquish that way of thinking somewhat. Having my byline under a handful of stories each week, I got used to being held accountable, putting myself out there and perhaps even risking not being known as nice at times. I learned to stand up for myself a little more and not let myself be pushed in a corner by those with more impressive LinkedIn profiles.

I of course have my editor(s) to thank for all this and more. Even though less than 10 percent of readers are going to read my content all the way through, I know the importance of providing that information and presenting it in the most professional, yet engaging way possible. I learned that getting information doesn’t stop when one source doesn’t pick up the phone call and that there’s a story in everything. And even for the seemingly most mundane topics, those can be spun into creative pieces.

My favorite part in this whole two-yearlong adventure has been the people. I’ve gotten to work with good people here in the office, find trustworthy, reliable sources in seemingly unexpected places, and strike up friendships with a fellow millennial blogger at a city event, as well as a reporter at a competing paper.

One of my first stories I wrote was after meeting the parents of Rohith “Ro” Gopal, who lost their 18-year-old son too soon in a car accident. The warm, generous spirit they displayed in the aftermath of their loss is not something I’ll soon forget. Although they may never see this, I thank them for inviting me into their home not once, but twice.

There was also Albert Rosa, a Greek Jew who escaped death more than once during the height of the Nazi regime. His resolve to continue sharing his story, despite the initial pain he experienced when telling it is an inspiration.

There was a former beauty queen who spun a negative pageant experience into a business venture that aims to help people grow in their confidence, a burn survivor who continues to stay strong for her children, a female polo player who didn’t let gender be a barrier in her sport and a father who’s walked hundreds of miles to keep alive the memory of his son.

Out of the 400+ pieces I’ve written, there’s no way to list every single human interest piece that touched my heart, but please know they did, and that has been the most rewarding part of what I do.

I realize it may seem silly for someone my age to dedicate 1,000+ words to bid adieu to a job I’ve only had for two years, but I suppose that’s a reflection of just how much those two years have impacted me.

I have a lot of people to credit that to—my editors, who took a chance on a clueless 21-year-old and took the time to mold me into a better writer and person (I hope!), readers that spoke kindly about my work, even those who had quite the opposite opinion (you made me stronger). I appreciate my parents’ support, especially when they’d initially been wary of what exactly I’d do with an English degree, and the support of friends who understood when work came first but were always there to rejoice in my victories.

As my time being able to say “I work for a newspaper” comes to a close, I prefer to think of it not as a “goodbye forever,” but a “bye for now.” I hope that even though my byline will cease to exist (at least in print, at least for now), the relationships I’ve forged will not. And, I’m always happy to hear a story or a simple message from a friend via my email, trude.caitlin@gmail.com.

It’s scary not knowing exactly what the next two years, or even the next five or ten will have in store for me, but it’s kind of beautiful too. At least, I hope it will be.

I’m just an Ikea bag, standing in front of a Balenciaga bag…

As I was getting my usual BuzzFeed fix (judge all you want, I’m really enjoying the “21 Things You Didn’t Realize You Needed from Amazon” lists), I was drawn to an article with the word “Ikea” in it.

I love Ikea. Despite never having bought nor assembled any furniture from the beloved Scandinavian home furnishing retailer, wandering around the room displays and eating Swedish meatballs to my heart’s content was one of the highlights of my trip to Toronto last summer.

The article, in short, placed a blue Ikea laundry bag side-by-side with a very similar-looking “luxury” Balenciaga bag like so:The selling price for the Ikea bag? A very reasonable 99 cents. Balenciaga’s “Arena Extra-Large Shopper Tote Bag”?  $2,145, a.k.a. at least one month’s worth of paychecks or the bill for a small pet’s surgery.

I’d buy it….you know, to hold my diamonds in. Or my month’s supply of Whole Foods kombucha (because they’re about the same price).

I really don’t get it. Two bags that are similar in appearance, *maybe* made of similar material, and serve the same purpose, hauling dirty laundry to the washer.

I’ll hear stories of how X celebrity wore $1,000 flip flops to a beach, or how Kanye West’s cutting-edge fashion line—which, modeled on actual humans, looks like it’s made for Azkaban prisoners—sells items including but not limited to a holey sweatshirt for $2,000+. I can put holes in my clothing for free, so thanks but no thanks.

There’s also this golden donut going $1,200 for a dozen (which I’d sooner buy than Yeezy’s apparel), this 3,000 pound foil dress that will have the mothership calling you home in no time, or this $21,000 bedazzled chair.

It’s so mind-boggling to think that people will actually fork over wads of cash for an item just because it has a Mr. Prada or Louis’ name on it (or even if it doesn’t). It’s forking ridiculous. Like this single Ercuis Calypso fork on the market for $873.

But I realize I do the same thing with people, and I highly doubt I’m the only one.

We tend to treat people differently based on their labels. And by labels, I mean status, wealth, job title, how many followers, political views, religious views, relationship, haircut, etc.

In my current job, it’s sometimes a challenge not to feel obliged to feel intimidated by a person who a) doesn’t like something I said, or b) feels that they can sway me because they have more degrees, popularity, or figures in their salary.

And in the nature of my current position, I’ll on occasion witness grown adults who have the audacity to attribute characteristics to me that are sorely untrue, or use the spin factor to minimize the truth I’m trying to reveal (doesn’t the spin you use make you dizzy?).

And at points in my non-work life, I might have been made to feel like an Ikea bag by girls in relationships who sympathized me for my lack of one, or guys with insecurity problems who were intimidated by the fact that I had my education and career affairs squared away before they did. Or “more mature” folks who negate my worldviews based on my youth, or the super-adventurous milennials I know of who seemed so shocked that I couldn’t rely and Mom and Daddy’s trust fund to fund a gap year of sipping wine made from the grapes in my European boyfriend’s vineyard in the French countryside. Or that I don’t thrive at parties and often bring a book or notebook with me to them (Ok, I admit that last one might warrant some judgment).

I’ll occasionally look back at all the times I’ve been made to feel small and think to myself, “Why did I let this human specimen carry so much weight on my shoulders?” Eleanor Roosevelt once said that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. Still, how long I let it fester after initial impact is up to me.

But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I’ve been guilty of the labeling too. Far more in my younger years than now, but that doesn’t make it go away. I’d catch myself feeling some sense of superiority if I had a slightly better test score than someone, or pride myself in NOT getting addicted to video games (which is a legitimate addiction).

In reality, we all carry the same dirty laundry, even if our bags are slapped with a label of “Ikea” or “Balenciaga.” It’s stupid to shell out more than $40 for a functional laundry bag (in my opinion), and it’s stupid to treat someone less than they deserve because of an irrelevant label.

I’ll never understand how the cost of a white cotton T-shirt can vary so greatly based on whether or not a celebrity was spotted wearing the brand, or if another famous person’s name is sewn on the tag. Why do we do this with people? Why is it ok to be hours late for a family function but not your date? Why do some sales clerks look down upon the shoppers who came into their store in their sweatpants? Why do some celebrities generally get one day of hard jail time instead of the 1+ year they probably deserve? Why do some dudes get super on the offense when their sister starts dating, but think it’s ok to sexually harass a woman?

Well, time to fetch my laundry, with my holey, worn-out college laundry bag that might survive three more loads.

From the Ashes

From the Ashes pic

Paris. San Bernadino. Istanbul. Brussels. Orlando. Berlin. Westminster. Stockholm. Egypt. And most recently, San Bernadino, again.

In the words of Futurama’s Dr. Farnsworth, “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.” But here I am.

I grieve for the families who suffered in the aftermath of these massacres. How could they know that when they said goodbye to their loved ones as they left for work, a train or plane, that that would be the last time?

I live in the relatively low-key, sleepy beach town of Ventura, so I haven’t really worried about my city being a target of such terrorist attacks. But I fear for the day I might be proven wrong. Now, I tend to wonder if that dumb meme I showed a family member, or a reminder to pick up soymilk from Trader Joe’s will be the last things they’ll have heard me say.

I feel that these terrorists are destroying more than just lives, but the dreams of those who might have pursued them were they alive today and even the dreams of those still living and breathing.

I have dreams to embark to several more corners of the world, and perhaps even pursue graduate school overseas. But reports of terrorist threats here, there, everywhere make me uneasy, though I’ve vowed not to live in fear.

Of course, those aspirations are just my story. There are countless others, plenty more important than mine.

And one of the reasons why I’m not sure I want to have children is not because I’m afraid I might night be taken as seriously as a career woman or whatever, but because of the undoubtedly terrible world they’ll grow up in.

Idealistically, I’d like to think that it’s up to my generation and the ones that follow to help reshape our world into a better, peaceful place to live.

I’d also like to think that we’ve moved past racial prejudices, sexism and discrimination against certain minorities (although these minorities probably still do or will face prejudice at some points in their lives, unfortunately) but my hope quickly dissipates when I hear ISIS terrorists/a shooter has once again targeted a gay nightclub in Florida, a Coptic church in Egypt or innocent schoolchildren on a playground.

I honestly don’t know if things will get better. But I hope—by God, do I hope—that these tragedies will compel mankind to realize the opportunities to fight for good. There seem to be so many opportunities for this as I read the headlines, but it’s unfortunate that they’ll be rooted in the ashes of those whose lives were ended so abruptly.

 

“Deserve”?

One of my favorite books is “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chomsky. I picked it up long before it was adapted to film, so yes, I will tout that I read it before it was cool.

But you need not necessarily have read the book to know one of the most Instagram’d, Tumblr’d etc. quotes from its pages:

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

The realistic—albeit, cynical—side of my brain says none of us deserves anything; we are born into this world with nothing and leave it the same way.

The idealistic side of me wants the good-hearted to always meet happy endings, and watch the heartbreakers step on Legos.

But often times, it comes down to the hand we get rather than how well we play our cards.

When it comes to love we think we deserve, I’ve seen these things fail more than succeed because someone wrongly thought they were entitled to something far better than they actually deserved or thought they didn’t deserve anything good at all. As a result, I’m very skeptical and slow to trust because of what I’ve seen close-up.

I’ve seen friends, family members and high school acquaintances become targets of infidelity or simply use silence as a mediation tactic.  

I watched one of my friends—beautiful, insightful and intelligent, with the world at her feet—who’d began dating an equally attractive guy suddenly thrown into confusion when she failed to hear from him again after what I understood to be a  successful day-long date.

I observed another acquaintance talk nonchalantly about how he’d broken up with his girlfriend of more than a year, only a few days after referring to her as the love of his life.

I watched yet another acquaintance publicly share her inner turmoil as her boyfriend at the time had recently broken up with her. Three weeks later, she began gushing about the (current) love of her life.

As for me, I told a friend with whom I felt safe several months ago things about me I shared with few others, which I never would have done had I known we’d part ways less than 24 hours later.

For awhile, it was (and still is) hard for me to trust people who told me what it was I deserved (be it something “better” or “perhaps not at such a high standard) because the things they’d say were either cliché, or I doubted whether or not it’s really true that I’m funny, worth it, “not like other girls” (whatever that means), blah blah blah. 

I can remember trying to change myself in a number of situations to feel more deserving in some way.

In my general social life, I’ve tried to pretend that I’m more chill than I truly am (type A all day) or downplay some of my views on certain social issues, depending on my environment.

In a school or work situation, I might try to appear smarter than I am in hopes of actually becoming smarter, or I might downplay my intelligence for the sake of not hurting someone else’s ego.

In my dating life, I’d concern myself with not being thin enough, feminine enough, like-other-girls enough and sadly in some cases, just unintelligent enough to again, not hurt someone’s ego.

Fortunately during times that I worry I’m not outgoing or fun enough for the most important people in my life who happen to be hardcore extroverts, I’m assured all the time by them that I’m more than enough.

I don’t know what I deserve, exactly, when it comes to any sort of acceptance. Does anyone? Maybe it’s like what I said before—none of us actually “deserves” anything.

Or, if we do deserve better, perhaps it starts with bettering ourselves.

There are things I need to change about myself to get where I need to be, wherever that is. God knows I do.

But I never want to change myself so much that I don’t recognize me, or that I feel there’s no part of me that can be appreciated unless I do away with everything else.

Because at the end of the day, when I get that grad school acceptance, project or promotion, insanely awesome social life, I don’t want it to be because the person I pretended to be was more deserving of it than I was.