A Brief Thought on Self-Worth

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Baggage seems like such a hackneyed metaphor, until you’re busy lugging your own around. Some days I feel charged by the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure that is my life. Today, I woke up weighed down by the disappointment and flaws and anxieties that have broken every relationship I’ve had up to now. Today, I had baggage.

I once believed a man when he told me I wasn’t making enough of my life. I spend the last year, to some extent, believing that I was the sum of my flaws.

But tonight, I’m reminding myself how reckless that is. Having a bit of a WWRD (“What would Rihanna do?”) moment of trying to reframe the narrative. I’m not trying to go all Eleanor Roosevelt “no one can make you feel inferior” here. It’s just one of those days when I needed a little reminder that giving anyone else a say in my self-worth will be a lifelong exercise in futility.

I’m excited about the world has to offer. I’m excited about the possibilities I’m exploring in my own life. I’m excited to be in the driver’s seat.

I’m ready. Bring it on, world.

The baking conundrum & being bad

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It is 9:45 pm, and I am in my underwear surrounded by freshly baked cookies and seven layer bars. I just licked batter off a spoon, and, listening to the familiar lilt of Carrie Bradshaw’s musings, muttered under my breath, “Skinny bitch.”

I am a bad feminist.*

On nights like tonight when I lounge around and embrace my inner domestic goddess, baking and watching trash TV, I let myself be such a bad feminist. But, to let you in on my little secret, more than anything I feel like a bad 24-year-old.

Who else my age opted to stay in tonight to bake and watch a TV show that aired over 15 years ago? Youth is wasted on the young.

Staying in, and in particular staying in to bake, triggers a weird anxiety within me.

There’s a part of me that still feels like I was last dumped because somewhere in the last year the part of my brain that used to think “Friday night, let’s party!” switched over to “Friday night, let’s eat sushi and watch old movies over a nice glass of wine!” (Don’t even get me started on the parallel “I was dumped because my room was messy” track.) As my ex would remind me, if only I could have turned the go out, don’t stop part of my brain back on I might have been making more friends and living the life I claimed I wanted.

Beyond that though, I’m out here trying to make the most of my life. I want adventure and I want to change some tiny portion of the world and I want to fight for silenced voices to be heard and I want to do it all while dancing in a great pair of heels. A lot of the time, I’m pushing myself to do those things. But that gets exhausting. And some nights I just want to bake.

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I have no idea why, but that simple desire makes me feel like I’m not doing enough. Like every minute I spend in the kitchen is feeding into some outdated female stereotype that, to be quite honest, I’m not even sure is a stereotype anymore.

Somewhere I got this absolutely stupid idea that domesticity and badassery were mutually exclusive, because I’m a bad, bad feminist.

So tonight I decided, a couple of glasses of pinot grigio in, that I’m not going to let myself feel like a bad 24-year-old or a bad feminist or a bad world-changer. Instead, when I slip on my twee housewife apron, I’m going to channel some of the most badass women I know: my grandmother Bibby who whipped a farm house and all the people in it into shape like no one’s business, my aunt Mary who I swear to God could solve the world’s problems with her cobbler but instead spent her career teaching science in Auburn, my friend Amanda who is about to graduate Penn law school and could have you crying with her catfish and fried pickles.

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When I hang up my apron I’ll let myself feel badass about my perfect royal icing and the gooey center of my chocolate butter cookies and the perfect layer of toasted coconut on my bars. Because there’s always tomorrow to change the world, and I’ll feel that much better about it with a cookie in my stomach.

[The term “bad feminist,” for those who have been seriously out of the loop, was popularized by Roxane Gay’s 2014 book which details her own experiences grappling with issues of race, gender, sexuality and feminism, often as they appear in pop culture and her own life. It refers to our inabilities to live up to the standards set up by “good feminists” to always be on when it comes to feminism.]

‘Ask Me’ End of Year Recap

Back in March I posed the question to friends and family: what would you recommend I do? I wanted to push myself to try new things, but not just the easy things that I had on my own list. Suggestions for books, recipes, trips and activities flooded my inbox. Initially my goal was to finish my full list by the end of the year.

My life was derailed just a wee bit along the way, so I definitely didn’t get as much done as I wanted, but I guess that’s to be expected. I’m trying to not beat myself up, because I took some time away from this project starting in August to take care of myself and do the things that I’d been burning to do.

I did manage to get a number of good asks in, and I’m going to keep going through the list in 2015! I want to inject some new life into it, so I’ll be asking for new submissions, but in the meantime wanted to recap all of the things I did off my list.

Top 5: The Asks I Loved

  1. WATCH Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight
    • Courtesy of Film Guru Feinstein, this suggestion came at a perfect time when I was looking for movies to escape into.
  2. LEARN to make donuts
    • This one required a bit of an investment because I didn’t have a rolling pin, cookie cutters or a thermometer. Once I got the goods together, though, I was unstoppable. It definitely requires a lot of time (8 hours of rising dough) and a messy kitchen but donuts have become my new favorite party favor.
  3. READ something important by a WOC
    • I think I might’ve cheated on “important” but I used this as an excuse to read Bad Feminist. While it’s not the best writing out there, Gay has important things to say. Already wrote some brief thoughts about it here.
  4. MAKE Eastern European Cuisine
    • I made borsht. Turns out I love borsht. My roommates probably weren’t pumped that my cutting boards were all dyed bright pink but it was worth it. I also made blinis and chicken schnitzel, and I’m not sure if they count but were delicious as well. (It was a bad day, I got bad news, so I cooked all three at once.)
  5. WATCH Doctor Who
    • I only watched the post-2005 Doctor Who because that’s what’s on Netflix, but I feel like this was one I needed to do to get the whole Doctor Who phenomenon. Am I a diehard fan now? Nah. But I had a lot of fun watching a few seasons with the Doctor, his ladyfriend, and the TARDIS.

The Ones I Finished: 21

  • WATCH Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight
  • EAT sea urchin
  • WATCH an episode of a Chinese soap opera
  • MAKE a list of all the ideas you get
  • READ anything John Updike
  • LISTEN “Fineshrine” by Purity Ring
  • MAKE this sangria recipe http://www.pinterest.com/pin/269441990178564804/
  • WATCH Lost
  • MAKE a list of the goals you want to accomplish in the next three years
  • LEARN to make donuts
  • LEARN to make fudge
  • MAKE friends with a stranger
  • READ The Tao Te Ching
  • WATCH Doctor Who
  • WATCH Waking Life
  • LEARN Meditation
  • VISIT Boston, MA
  • MAKE Eastern European Cuisine
  • READ something important by a WOC
  • VISIT the Palace of Fine Arts
  • LISTEN Nicholas Jaar’s BBC One Essential Mix

Still to Go: 27

  • READ Norwegian Wood
  • MAKE a cheap, easy hummus recipe
  • LEARN rollerskatedancing
  • WATCH Shameless & True Detective
  • EAT this recipe, it’s delicious! http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2013/04/crunchy-cashew-thai-quinoa-salad-with-ginger-peanut-dressing/#comment-5123
  • LEARN to sew a bathing suit
  • VISIT the Hotel Del Coronado
  • MAKE a bracelet for yourself you’d actually like to wear
  • READ The Goldfinch
  • VISIT the nude area of Baker Beach
  • MAKE samosas
  • EAT fried crickets
  • WATCH a plant grow from a seedling
  • WATCH The Battleship Ptomkin
  • MAKE Tyler Florence’s Beef Wellington
  • LEARN sous vide cooking
  • VISIT The Legion of Honor
  • LEARN Muay Thai Kickboxing
  • WATCH The Feynman Series
  • LEARN jump rope tricks
  • MAKE flash fiction – a short story under 1000 words
  • MAKE cinnamon roll pancakes http://blog.moodifoodi.com/2013/11/recipes-cinnamon-roll-pancake.html
  • WATCH Howl’s Moving Castle
  • LEARN how to make a chocolate croissant
  • VISIT House of Air
  • LEARN to write server-side code

Discarded as facetious or not feasible: 8

Examples include “learn fire breathing”, “eat your greens”, and “make a project that doesn’t suck so much.”

The Pop Culture Feels, Pt. 2

As promised, more feeling-inducing pop culture. This time, however, I’ve tackled a different beast.

The Inspirational: Pop Culture for Kicking Ass and Setting the World Straight

I do, in fact, do more than just wallow, and lately I’ve found myself reading books & watching clips that give me a different kind of feels. I like to dub them “Miracle moments.” You know what I’m talking about: you’re sitting on the couch, eating rice cakes crumbs off your sweatpants and channel flipping, and all of a sudden the Miracle speech comes on and you find yourself yelling along with Herb Brooks “Tonight we skate with them. Tonight we stay with them, and we shut them down!”

Obviously Miracle is the greatest inspirational movie of all time so there’s no point even debating that. But there are smaller Miracle moments, more honest & personal, that get me fired up in all kinds of different ways.

Pop Culture for Inspiring

 

“Flawless” Beyonce

I woke up like this, I woke up like this
We flawless, ladies tell ’em
Say I look so good tonight

A week doesn’t go by that I don’t power sing along to this, sneering into the mirror that I do look so good tonight. This song is the fire. Beyonce dropped her album like it was nothing at midnight on a Friday, finally giving us the anthem we deserve. On “Flawless” she growls with confidence as she warns us to bow down. I beseech you to give yourself over to this song, and let it carry you on a wave of feels.

I was lucky enough to go to the On The Run tour just after my breakup, and it might have been the best possible therapy there was. For me, “Flawless” was the best moment of the night. The flashing Feminist lights we came to know and love at the VMAs. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie laying down the law about what it is to be a feminist. And Bey, standing there, holding it down and imploring us to post up, flawless.

And let’s never forget that I been preaching the gospel of Bey, long before she was rocking the feminist sign in public.

 

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

“We should be able to say, ‘This is my truth,’ and have that truth stand without a hundred clamoring voices shouting, giving the impression that multiple truths cannot coexist.”

I’ve been making my way through Bad Feminist, reading Gay’s fabulous book of essays slowly as I blast through fiction left and right. This is the kind of book I wish would make it onto high school reading lists. Is it the best of the best when it comes to writing? Not quite, and there are some parts where Gay’s redundancy shouts over the important ideas she’s sharing. But what she’s saying is important, and the writing thoughtful.

Gay has a lot to say about what it is to be a feminist, a woman of color, a large woman, a child of immigrants, and a queer-identifying woman. But some of her most compelling moments come when she reminds us, and herself, that it’s okay to fail. I count myself among the titular “bad feminists” of the world, and the reminder of multiple truths and acceptable failures is one I could use from time to time.

“B” by Sarah Kay (as seen in her TED Talk “If I should have a daughter”)

“I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass-bottom boat, to look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind, because that’s the way my mom taught me. That there’ll be days like this. There’ll be days like this, my momma said.”

If you’ve ever needed the inspiration to write something truly wonderful, look no further than spoken word poet Sarah Kay. I was introduced to Kay by a TED Talk (bear with me), which she opens with “B.” She packs the joy, laughter, heartbreak and fear of both growing up female and raising a (hypothetical) daughter into just a few minutes. It’s worth a few minutes of your time just to allow yourself to be taken away by her storytelling.

And because I can’t stop at one quote from Kay: “She’s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.” If nothing else, she’s my inspiration in knowing that some other kick ass ladies out there “get it,” whatever that means.

Watch her here. 

 Sports Moments

 “This is our fucking city”

As I found myself poring through the mental archives of inspirational movies I’ve watched recently, I struggled to find any that resonated as clearly as the aforementioned songs & snippets, or made me want to kick ass and change the world. I kept coming back to sports movies–I had recently watched A League of Their Own, Billy Elliot, and, of course, Miracle. But what can come across as artificial and manipulative in sports movies is exactly what inspires and connects people in actual sports.

Last spring as Boston was trying to find a semblance of normalcy in the aftermath of the Marathon bombing, David Ortiz took to the field and uttered those five unforgettable words. “This is our fucking city.” A beloved player defending a beloved city in the wake of something it was impossible to make sense of.

There is something about sports as a binding agent that gives them the power to inspire, either by way of victory on the field or in moments of terrible sadness. Now is this strictly a sports moment? No. Neither was three nights earlier the crowd taking over singing the National Anthem for Rene Rancourt at the first post-marathon Bruins game. These moments inspire, invoke some sort of visceral feeling, but aren’t truly about the sports. But then again, neither is Miracle.