The Run

I look at my phone for the hundredth time in the last hour. Five a.m! Damn. The day won’t even begin for hours yet. Restless. Alone. I can’t just sit here and wait.

I step out the hotel doors and wrap my arms across my chest. The cool Melbourne wind bites my hands and my face – the only spots of exposed skin. Tiny drops of mist leave sprinkles across my glasses. It’s cold, but I’ll be warm soon enough. I slide my hood over my head and set a slow pace as punk queen Gwen sings about running.

Travelling for work isn’t so bad. Your days are all but decided for you, but it’s the night, the early morning – when you’re brain dead or brain preparing – that’s the worst. You dine alone, you try to fill your time with shopping or walking, but most of the time, you read in bed until you fall asleep. Only to then toss in bed because you can’t quite find that right spot or if the sheets should be on or off.

The streets are quiet but not vacant at this hour. The sun isn’t quite up, and the streetlights let out a dim glow as if preparing for it to rise at any moment. I have the volume turned down on my phone and take in the sounds of my surroundings – the clatter of the trams, the buzzing of the power transformers, the chatter of people. There’s something beautiful about a city that is still sleeping.

Sleeping bags and big wooly blankets line the sidewalk in front of the shops. Some of the mounds are moving, but most remain still. Not awake, not asleep. Just existing.

I wonder at the resilience of man. That drive to keep going is certainly not unique but is inspiring all the same. This mind-wander continues until I round a corner and a man shuffles past me. His face and hands are dirty, his hair unruly. I smile at him. Smiles cost nothing, after all. He returns the smile with a big toothy grin.

“Run, run, run. You’re doing great,” he says with a raspy laugh in his voice.

I laugh with him.

He follows me, smiling and jogging alongside me for a hundred meters. I grin from ear-to-ear. I sense no malice, just joy. Maybe it’s only mine. Maybe not.

Later that day, a colleague will tell me how frightful that experience sounds, but nothing in my tone or telling of the story will show I am scared for my safety. She will go on to tell me that a woman should not go out alone in the dark. That I should protect myself – be more careful. 

For now, though, I enjoy the moment; I revel in it.

He stops, and I wave at him as I cross the street to continue this forward momentum.

When the moment passes, I let the next take over and then the next. 

I love every second of the run. I love the river and the way the water ripples with the light rain. I love the flat dirt track around the Botanical Gardens and the way it felt separate but still a part of this city. I love the fountain surrounded by golden leaves and a muted glow. 

I lose track of time and distance, traveling 7km before I realize I need to get back to my room.

The sun rises past the buildings, and first light lands on me just as I reach the hotel. I let out a happy intonation before I walk inside and lower my hood. Contentment never diminishes from lobby to shower.

I decide later that day that I won’t go out and do it again.

Still. I regret nothing.

Had I not gone out, I would have missed all those beautiful moments, and that would have been the true loss.  
 
 
 

Dear Millennials

Dear Millennials,

It’s graduation time again, which means lots of unsolicited advice from random strangers. But mine’s different! I hope.

I’m not here to lecture you about laziness or entitlement, because I know you aren’t either of those things. In fact, I am one of your biggest fans. Just like every generation before you, you’ve been lumped in a group that only represents two percent of you, so I am not talking to the two percenters.

Instead, I’m looking at you: the adopters of new technology, the hard workers, the frustrated ones, the kind and compassionate ones despite a world that has showed you little of both. By now, you will realize you’re fighting an uphill battle. The world of your parents and grandparents is long gone, and there’s only so much you can do about it. Life is about to get super real, yo.

Unless you’re in one of those odd groups of people that knows exactly what you want to do and have been working toward it your whole life, you have come to the frightening realization that you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going. The clock starts ticking now, and no matter how many people tell you, “You can always go back to college”, the reality is that isn’t as true as you would hope. College is expensive, but life is more expensive. Unless you can live at home with your parents for another four to six years or come into a lot of money, life will get in the way.

Not everything is all doom and gloom, though, and I’m living proof of that. I had to leave college when life got in the way, and nearly 20 years later, I’m doing what I love. It wasn’t a fun road, and there were a lot of missteps. But I made it and so can you. Good things come to those who work their butt off. It just might take longer than you would like.

  1. Don’t Settle

    Don’t ever let anyone tell you that a job is just a job, and in the end, as long as you’re getting paid, you should be happy. Fuck that shit. Seriously. Your feelings matter. Rich people aren’t happy because they have money, right? Well, same thing here. Sometimes money doesn’t matter. Sometimes you can live a fulfilling life with barely a dollar to your name.

  2. Don’t Let Others Judge Your Worth

    You owe no one anything, and vice versa, no one owes you a thing. Spending a life worried that you’re not doing as well as the girl you sat beside in AP History will lead you to chronic unhappiness. Just remember that no one looks like they do on the surface. Especially the head cheerleader, Prom (or Homecoming) Queen, or the quarterback.

  3. Interviewing Skills are Sometimes More Important Than Actual Skills

    Every business professor and teacher out there will tell you the resume is the most important part of getting a job. It might be true, but the resume is also bullshit on top of layers of other bullshit. If your skills on paper get you to an interview, then you have only won a quarter of the battle. The interview takes up 50% of your success, with the last quarter falling to references. So bone up on that. Check out the multitude of interview questions available on the internet. Prepare your stories, work on your charisma, and make the recruiters see your worth. Every company has a different kind of interview model, so be sure to ask about how it is graded. Be prepared and smash it out. With that being said…

  4. There Is Always Someone More Suitable Than You

    When you are certain that you are the best candidate for a position, push that shit out of your mind, because you most definitely are not. All this means is you gotta sell them on why you are better. Convince them that what you might lack in skills, you will more than make up for in attitude. Because every manager will confirm it, knowledge can be learned. Attitude can’t.

  5. Never Undervalue Your Skills

    If someone says your degree is obsolete, ignore the hell out of them, because nothing is ever wasted. Except maybe a classics major. (Honestly, what were you thinking?) In my office, I’m known as the Excel guru. I’m not. I am soooo not. I know some stuff, but everything I don’t know I look up on Google. I tell people this all the time. I fake it til I make it, basically, but this is still considered a skill. You know why? Because I know enough to search the right thing and implement it to suit our needs. That Intermediate Excel skill turns to advanced in their eyes. The same could be said about absolutely every other skill. If you’ve worked in hospitality or retail, whether you accept it or not, you have conflict resolution and negotiation skills, and I’ll bet damn good ones too.

  6. “Grow Your Brand”

    If ever there was a corporate phrase that matters, this is the one that you should focus on the most. Working hard sometimes doesn’t matter. It’s about how you present yourself. The more people know you within a company, the more likely you will see some success. It takes a very long time, so just remember this: don’t get too discouraged. Use that frustration to fuel your career rocket. During your company life, you will see undeserving people move up. It sucks, but you know what? The reason it happens is because they network, they stand out, they don’t undervalue their skills, and they interview well. Be that person. As long as you have the right attitude, you will get noticed.


You’ve got this. So get out there into the real world and kick some ass!

Celebrations

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Admire someone else’s beauty without questioning your own.

Something about this line sent me reeling this week. I have hardly slept. I spent some of my nights pondering the implications. There’s so much more to the words – something more than the sum of all its parts.

How much of my life do I spend comparing?

Is there a single area where I am content with my own beauty?

Short answer: No. 

But more than that, I start to think about the conversations I have with friends and family from time to time. More than not, our lives are spent comparing.

“You’re such a stronger person than I am.”

“I wish I had abs like hers.”

“Why can’t I lose weight as well as he does?”

“I want to be as good a writer as you.”

Worse than that, some of these conversations do even more than acknowledge other people’s beauty over our own. Some of it is belittling their own self-worth. I do this. A lot. “Oh! I know I’ve gotten Editor’s Pick more than once, but I’ve still never had a paid publication. I must be a shit writer, then.” “Oh! I know I lost 10% of my weight, but none of it matters yet because I can’t fit into those pants yet.”

So last night, I consider the possibility that maybe it’s time to change my thinking. That perhaps part of the reason I have been so unhappy is because I can’t look at my own beauty. In fact, I avoid taking pictures of my face as much as possible.

Case in point

I know there is some there. I need only ask my friends and family to look at an image, and they are always there to pick me back up. To encourage me. To say what it is I need to hear to feel less unworthy of their words. But truth is, I don’t hear the words. I only hear my own voice saying how pathetic it is I need validation.

But there is truth in what they say, and it’s time I embrace those things first. It’s time we all embrace and celebrate our beauty! So I thought I’d start this off by naming three things I know are alright about me. Then I’d encourage everyone to do the same, because we all need a little more self-worth. For the next week, I’m going to focus on these things. First. Then see if maybe it changes the way I feel.

I can see my beauty. 

I have great passion, sometimes to a fault. Plenty of people have learned this the hard way.  “Arwen was never at the Ford of Bruinen! It was Frodo alone who stood up to the Nazgul and screamed, ‘You shall have neither the Ring nor me!'” (I may or may not raise my fist in the air as I finish my tirade.) When I’m focused and passionate about anything, I grit my teeth and make it happen. In fact, I recently won the very first thing I’ve ever won before – an 8 week challenge. See! I have a trophy to prove it. And a cute tiara. Because every girl wants a tiara?

I have a great smile. Let’s leave my face out of this, but my smile. I know it’s pretty good. I randomly smile at complete strangers to try and cheer up their day. I know. Lame. But awesome. But mostly lame. I especially like it when I can see a barista or shop clerk who looks a bit flustered and under the pump. I flash them my pearly whites (okay, they’re really cream-colored) and like to see their face light up when they smile back. Again, lame, but mostly awesome, right? Right!? (Insert required validation comment here.)

Lastly I’m super encouraging. No idea why. I like to see people succeed. Whether that be by helping people with their resume or prepare for an interview or beta read their pieces. I love helping others reach or strive for their potential. I do it in almost all aspects of my “social” life from writing groups to work colleagues to exercise buddies.

Embracing my beauty

This is not my usual writing style. In fact, I am normally never this blunt. I don’t intend to make a habit of it, because, for one, it’s exhausting. Maybe by doing this, though, it will break me out of what ever it is causing me to not write lately, and it might encourage some of my friends to do the same.

Confessions of a Reformed Racist

(Please be warned. There will be some very graphic and offensive language in this post.)

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“She’s really smart… for a black girl.”

“There’s a difference between a black person and a nigger. A black person wants to be decent, like a white person. A nigger doesn’t give a shit about anything or anyone.”

“It disgusts me. Seeing those spics earn American dollars and not spending a dime of it here.”

“I will not stay in the same room as that lesbo! What if she tries something while I’m asleep?”

I have a big confession to make. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I said all of these things.

* * * * *

By the time I was in high school, I had eaten hate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. I didn’t even know it was racism. I just accepted what I heard. The Mexicans were taking all our jobs. The blacks cry racism when they have far more opportunities than whites. The chinks and Indians were taking work that good hard-working Americans deserved. The gays were ruining the country.

Dad was the worst, but I never saw it. How could a Native American be racist? They’re an oppressed people too. His best friend was a black man. He was a good God-fearing man. He was accepting of my gay friends. I thought…

It took distance to see it.

I moved out and immediately had someone tell me how slightly racist I sounded. I wasn’t, though! I couldn’t be. I had black friends, I was super nice to the Mexicans I worked with. Sure, Asians were always pushing me out of their way, but I never pushed back or raised my voice at them. I was super accepting of my gay friends. I just made excuses for them for “turning gay”.

I ignored the signs. How could I see them when I was certain that was the way every person in the world thought?

The longer I was away from home, the more I would hear the hate.

Then it happened, like a giant floodlight shining light into every chamber of my mind, I realized I was a racist too.

I was never a Confederate flag-swinging, sheet-wearing, brick-throwing racist. I was the kind that mumbled biased and unfair comments under my breath, the kind that tensed her shoulders when a black person walked past me, the kind that scrunched her nose when someone mentioned gay marriage.

The more I heard myself, the more I hated the person I was. How did it come to this? How could I change my perception?

It turns out that realizing is half the battle. After that, I did what I knew was right. I pointed out racism and prejudice when I saw it, and as I started to pick this up, it triggered something in my own brain when I was thinking or saying or doing something racist.

I’m far from perfect but moving out of Texas proved to be one of the best things for me.

I was just not prepared in 2016 to see that the blatant racism I saw in a minority of people was actually in a large majority. In November, I was so upset about the news that I didn’t eat for a whole day. I was sick with grief. I could not understand how anyone could support such a racist, and then it occurred to me…

Racists don’t know they are; they don’t see it. They can’t accept it, because it’s all around them. They aren’t born that way; they are taught it from birth.

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For some reason, though, they never had the same moment I did. I was lucky that someone pointed it out to me. We need more people like that. Those willing to shine a giant floodlight on racism, and those willing to see the truth and do something about it.

There will still be words like niggers, chinks, spics, redskins, abos, and towelheads. Stuff will still be “gay” instead of “lame” and ridiculous words like lady-men and dykes in hushed conversations. And you know what?! It’s not fucking okay! Honestly.

We shouldn’t be labelling people, beliefs, sexuality, anything. We’re all the same.  We love. We experience joy and frustration. We cry when we’re hurt or when we lose someone. If our finger is cut, we all bleed the same color of blood. We worry about how we can pay our bills and put food on the table. We wonder if this will be the year that the missiles get launched or the next big superbug will take us home.

We are human beings, and it’s time we treated each other as such.

I have no idea how it can be done. All I know is that I’m sorry for ever being that way and saying those things, for saying them again here in the spirit of transparency. I hate all the hateful words I said or thought or wrote. I hate that I didn’t see it sooner. But mostly, I hate that I can’t change the world.

But maybe we can.

Bad Memory

Memory is such a funny thing.

On Sunday, I decided to have Beauty and the Beast playing in the living room while I cooked meals for the week. I haven’t watched it in years and only a handful of times in adulthood, yet I still remembered every single line. I admittedly watched it nearly every day in the summer of 1992, but still. Why is it still in there when so many other things probably should be.

But in the same afternoon, I opened the oven door and stuck my head in to grab the tray of roast veggies and got a face full of steam, instantly fogging up my glasses. It happens every time without fail. I should know by now it will. In fact, I do! I admonished myself, as I always do. How can I so easily forget something so basic?

I remember every line of My Fair Lady the last time I watched it, too. I can sing the songs at the drop of a hat. I can still play my flute despite never touching it.  I still know the words of Rachmaninov’s Bogorodiste Devo and randomly sing the soprano part of the song just because, you know having a Russian ave marie is something that every person wants to carry around all the time. I can comfortably talk about movies and books that I haven’t seen or read for years. I can sing Monty Python’s Galaxy Song at the drop of a hat.

But I can’t seem to remember to put bottles of water in my bag to take to work with me despite drinking it every day. I leave my wallet in the wrong bag. I forget to take the pills I am meant to take every day. I struggle with basic grammar rules like when to use who and whom and kick myself when I look it up and say, “Of course!”, yet I write almost daily.

I wonder about the power of the mind. The way it stores memories as a hard drive stores data. How does it choose what to keep and what goes? Is there a little person in there that just randomly deletes stuff to get room for new stuff? If so, why does it keep knowledge of Glorfindel and Ghan-buri-ghan (Lord of the Rings characters that were not in the movies) but not any details of the hundreds of other books you’ve read over my life? I can understand not remembering it if it was forgettable or boring (I’m looking at you, Scarlet Letter and Old Man and the Sea – even though you both are very important in the landscape of American literature), but many are not.

I understand things like muscle memory is not actually memory, but it still baffles me. Like when I get a haircut and consciously remind myself that I’ll need less shampoo, but still end up with a palm full of shampoo rather than a dime-size. Or when in that same example my hand tries to pull my hair from under my blouse after I’ve put it on, but there’s nothing there. 

I wonder if that is why in this year’s election so many people are forgetting the Bush-Gore election. All those supporting the independent parties have readily forgotten what happened when Nader took so many potential votes from Gore. How would the world have been different then? How will the world be changed by the Johnson’s this election year?

But seriously, most of all… How in the world do I still remember every line to Beauty and the Beast?