don't be mean in 2017

happy new year! and happy birthday to me!

i'm beyond grateful for the remarkable experiences, places, and people that filled up 2016. i had the opportunity to see my favorite band SEVEN times this past year, which is absolutely unbelievable (i am so blessed). i fell in love with a new place and am hoping to pack my bags soon and call it home. i taught myself some new skills—wire wrapping, embroidery, sewing—and have created so many things i'm proud of. i spent the majority of my sundays at church, which i haven't done since i was a child, and it has helped me grow TREMENDOUSLY. i've learned to let go of silly things and anxiety does not run my life anymore (ok, sometimes it still rears its ugly head, but for the most part, i'm solid).

yes, there was loss and heartache, but through those moments i discovered what truly matters and who truly matters (and i will just leave it at that). and when i look back at 2016, i will smile because i made it.

i am better than i was a year ago. i am stronger; i am smarter; i am more determined than ever. for that, i am grateful.

gratitude is the most undervalued path to emotional and spiritual development. so, as i step into 2017, i am putting on my grateful goggles and i am accelerating forward. 

I Was a Coward

I’m laying on my bedroom floor coughing up dust. The nostalgia that is erupting in my mind over the simplest objects - an old tee-shirt, a book that I decided to never return to my high school English professor, a hideous necklace that I obsessed over for months back in 2010 – has left me in a state of disillusionment…

It’s funny. I truly thought I had myself figured out back then. Now, I don’t even recognize that girl. She was a child; so ignorant to the ways of the world, yet so confident in her ideals. Ah, high school. What a bizarre and humorous escapade. And, rather than concluding that chapter after graduation, two years at a community college close to home prolonged my naiveté.

I was a coward. An ignorant, bold, narrow-minded coward. Not in the way that I was fearful to live my day-to-day life, but in the way that I was completely reluctant to change. As an admitted control-freak, or rather, former control-freak, vulnerability to anything unfamiliar meant shortness of breath and an accelerated heartbeat. I cannot lay a finger on the particular point in time when I became that way; there was no specific moment that my haughty ego shoved my sense of wonderment into a dim and clouded corner in my mind. It must have been a gradual closing of the entryway for new ideas and change. More and more I became deeply entrenched in the narrowness of my beliefs and opinions. I said I “hated” things, when in reality I probably did not even try or care to learn about them. I lost friends because I refused to understand or accept anyone’s opinion but my own. I upheld this image of a confident, conservative, audacious individual who knew exactly what she liked and believed in and did not let anything or anyone rattle that notion.

I was comfortable. Change was foreign. I was in control (or so I thought). We become accustomed to a certain way of being, and for a long time I was this shell of a person with fictitious ideals and judging eyes.

I was a hypocrite. An impostor, a fraud. All of those ideals and opinions I spoke so strongly about, I did not really feel strongly about, nor did I even know anything about. Whether it was a pop singer I said I “hated,” to make people think I was ‘cool’ or ‘unique’, or a social issue such as same-sex marriage that I claimed to be against - it was a front. I wanted so badly for others to see me a certain way, that I did not even open my eyes and mind to the reality of it all.

I don't know the exact moment this began to change, the day the doors began to break down. Maybe it was someone I met. Maybe it was living on my own. Maybe it was the day I committed to leaving this town for college. I’ll never really know for sure, but gradually and graciously I have accepted vulnerability into my life. I do not even recognize the girl that I once was.

Growth is not comfortability. It is not remaining. It is not making excuses and hating things you have never experienced. Growth is opening your mind. It is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and spontaneous. Vulnerability is terrifying. And enlightening. And magical. It is letting go of control. It is letting go of expectations and allowing God to surprise you.

I still have a long way to climb, but I am already mountains from where I used to be. More and more each day I discover who I am. Growing up is really growing into yourself. It is accepting foreign things into your life with open arms and observing how they make you feel. After all, everything that is extraordinary in your life was also once unfamiliar.

You Are a Work of Art

Hating your body is exhausting. I know this because I am a female who shamed her own body for years, until one day when I decided that I was beautiful. By no means am I the CEO of Body Image, but I do know that I ought to be better than tearing apart my appearance after 23 years on this Earth. I should be celebrating what I was given, rather than inspecting and dissecting my faults in the mirror. Nobody sees these supposed “flaws” as I do. The only real flaw is the one that exists in my mind when it comes to appearance. The female body is a work of art. It is God’s work of art, and I don’t think he would appreciate everyone pointing out self-proclaimed “flaws” in his impeccable crafting. I have a body that allows me to climb out of bed every morning and face the dawning of a new day. It has been with me through every accomplishment and heartbreak in my life, and it is the only one I have ever known. My body isn’t just a shell that exists simply for the purpose of outer beauty; it is what keeps me alive each day. When an appreciation for everything your body allows you to do is formed, that is when true – inner and outer – beauty develops.

Like the majority of females (and probably many males), I have always been too quick to judge myself, and too quick to compare what I see in the mirror to what I see in the media. Why do females obsess over the fact that our body parts do not look like someone else’s when we should be celebrating our own eccentricities and rarities? Rather than targeting all of our energy on what part of our bodies we dislike today, we should be focusing on our mind, and the perception it has of our bodies. Like it or not, my body is married to my mind, and instead of enduring constant warfare for the rest of my life, I would appreciate them being harmonious. Life is not meant to be a continuous struggle with self-hate and self-destruction, and it definitely is not meant to be an endless fixation on what I don’t have.

I fully understand that achieving self-adoration is a lengthy, arduous process. It took me 23 years to fall in love with myself and to admire all the details that magazines and television constantly tell me are unsightly or that I should work to “improve.” I realized that I do not have anyone to please other than myself. If I feel comfortable and confident in my own skin, approval/disapproval from the media, from men, or from other women is irrelevant and powerless. True beauty lays in the appreciation I have for what my body is capable of, and the self-assurance and courage I possess from doing so. For many years I attacked my appearance and severely struggled with body image, and today I can say with pride that I deem my body as flawless.

Don't be Afraid to Scream

The first time someone slides a woman’s legs apart they may not ask for her permission. They may violate her in ways you cannot imagine. She can scream for help but they will silence her however they can. They may get away with it.

A woman may finally land a job in her field, but her male coworkers may not accept her. They might make degrading comments and sexually harass her throughout the work day. Regardless, they may still receive a better paycheck than her.

Because a woman is wearing a mini skirt and a bow, she might be deemed as weak and docile. Hatred might be directed towards her when she does not live up to these expectations of being easily controllable and not providing the adequate stimulation someone prefers. And she may be regarded and treated as just a collection of body parts, as opposed to a human being.

These are but a few explanations of why feminism continues to exist and thrive amongst women today. Our society has polluted the word feminism with generalizations and false accusations. Regrettably, it has become one of the most unreasonably misunderstood concepts in the English language. Too many individuals, male and female, hear the word ‘feminism,’ and immediately perceive a negative connotation. Feminism is not a trend; it is not the hatred of the male sex and wanting to destroy them. Feminism is not a cry for attention or a continuous battle over which gender is dominant. Feminism is the drastic idea that women should be seen as people. It is challenging the devastating things that are happening each day to women. It is the hope that one day girls will grow up in a world without limitations due to the ignorance of society. Feminism is an optimistic, inspirational, and impartial state of mind that believes women and men are equal beings and should be treated as such.

There are many people in the world that do not believe (or are oblivious to) the imbalance between men and women. Once you open your eyes to the screwed up misfortunes in inequality, you will wish you were as naïve as these folks. Women are beautiful, radiant creatures, and they should be able to shine as they were meant to. Women should not have to alter the way they dress because it’s more convenient for a man’s lack of self control. A short skirt and a few drinks do not offer a free pass for a man to take advantage of a woman. A female should be able to go out in public dressed however she deems appropriate, comfortable, and attractive and not have to listen to perverted men hollering and whistling at her, or judgmental women calling her a slut. If a girl wears a skirt above her knees or a shirt that shows her stomach or cleavage, that does not make her a slut. That makes her confident enough in who she is to dress however makes her feel beautiful and powerful. The same goes for a woman who chooses not to dress in revealing clothing. That does not make her a prude or a lesbian. If a girl decides she does not wish to shave her legs or wear makeup because that is how she feels beautiful and powerful, good for her; that is her prerogative. Too many females feel uncomfortable dressing or acting as they desire because they are worried about pleasing men. Too many girls are not confident about their appearance because society has consistently degraded any female body that is less than perfect. Feminism challenges these dehumanizing views of women and encourages the idea that women are much more than a collection of body parts (“large breasts,” “nice legs,” “big ass,” etc).

The monstrosity that is the glass ceiling (an invisible barrier that keeps women – and other minority groups – from rising past a certain level in the corporate world) is in fact legitimate and unfortunately still existent in our (dare I say pathetic?) society. This glass ceiling is not based on an individual’s performance or inability to handle a job at a higher level. Women executives are, time after time, being concentrated into distinct jobs that offer little to no opportunity to get to the top. The pay gap between women and men is yet another enduring notion in our world that says women are less valuable. According to the US Census Bureau in 2012, men were still paid higher in 19 out of 20 traditionally male jobs, and 19 out of 20 traditionally female jobs. The United States Department of Labor suggests that jobs requiring knowledge are the highest rewarded in the workforce today, yet women with equal educational accomplishments as men in their field are still consistently earning less. There is absolutely no justification to why this should (still) be occurring in society. These issues need to be tackled from every angle until equality is assured for each and every individual.

Feminism is essential to the overall advancement of society. Without activism and change, rape will still be condoned and blamed on women for merely dressing or acting a certain way. Radiant individuals will be overlooked for jobs they are ideal for. Young girls will grow up with misconstrued ideas of beauty and a lack of self-confidence. Mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends will be called sluts and bitches for simply dressing and acting how they please. Instead of encouraging girls to play modest and submissive and live up to pre-existing social standards, demand equality. Demand change. Feminism is screaming for the pride and power of women to be treated as people. Don’t be afraid to scream.