You’re Either an Ally, or You’re Complicit in the Problem: An Open Letter to My White Peers

I’m fucking tired, y’all.

I’m tired of seeing yet another story of a black person being murdered in the streets. Do you know how many times it’s happened in recent years? All the places it’s occurred? How many times actual justice was served among all of those instances? What absurd justification their murderer gave for killing them? How each of them were killed? What each of their names are? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions off the top of my head. I don’t think I could live with having to consciously know the answers to all of those questions. I’ll be the first one to admit that I am enormously privileged to not carry the burden and the fear surrounding knowing the answers to those questions. Not everyone in this country can say the same.

What I do know is the sickening feeling that I get in the pit of my stomach every time that I see it has happened again. Are the media going to make the victim into the bad guy again? Create a smear campaign against a dead person who cannot defend themselves again? Is our justice system going to turn its back on our black community again? I imagine how I would feel if that was my brother. My dad. My best friend. Someone I love. Someone I was thinking about a birthday present for. Someone I was planning to send a meme to. Someone I know I should have called just to catch up with recently but I didn’t because you know how life gets. Someone that didn’t deserve to be denied their basic human rights, their Constitutional rights, and simple respect and dignity. Someone.

Someone who took their final breaths, absolutely terrified for their fate in someone else’s hands. Someone who took their final breaths probably wishing they could have said something to someone they love just one last time. Someone who did not deserve to be murdered in cold blood. This could have been me. It could have been you. But it’s rarely us. Because we’re not black. I cannot speak for the victims. I cannot speak for black America. I don’t want to. But I can believe their experiences. I can respect them as human beings. I can stand beside them and fight with them for the equality and equity that they have always deserved, and always been denied by this country. I can hold space to let them speak for themselves. But it is up to us — the people who have allowed this systemic racism to continue — to dismantle it.

I’m tired of seeing our black friends and neighbors murdered in the streets. But do you know what else I’m tired of? I’m also tired of my fellow white people participating in and promulgating this problem. I’m tired of us sitting in our ivory towers of privilege, looking down our noses at people and playing judge, jury, and executioner like we have any right to do so. I’m tired of us — consciously or not — contributing to a system that benefits us on the backs of our black friends and neighbors. I don’t care that we did not personally build this system. We perpetuate it and benefit from it at the expense of black America. We can put a stop to it. And we should.

Enough of the white saviors. Enough of the revisionist history where we are somehow the glorious heroes as opposed to the genocidal monsters and horrific oppressors and abusers. Stop pretending that this problem is not built into the very foundation of this country, where our black friends and neighbors have been treated as sub-human from the very beginning and very little has changed since then. Your squeaky white upbringing was full of privileges where Thanksgiving was about sharing corn and turkey and slavery was a not-nice thing. It conveniently skipped the true horrors of genocide. It conveniently glossed over the rape, the lynchings, the commodification of human beings. We as white people were raised to look past so much ugly, awful history that we repainted and sold as glorious and victorious. Worse still, we inexplicably defend that history and many of its worst villains while denying the myriad ways in which it actively harms our black friends and neighbors.

A lot of what I’m going to write here is likely to make you uncomfortable if you have not made any real effort to not actively contribute to this systemic oppression. Instead of getting upset or offended or dismissing what I’m writing here, ask yourself some hard questions. Ask WHY you feel those things. Ask yourself how you think people who don’t look like you feel, and why they might feel that way. Try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who looks very different than you do. Remember that your experiences are not everyone’s experiences, and that no one’s experiences are more or less valid than yours are.

I know they say you catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar, but the time for honey has long since passed, and there is nothing sweet about the problem we have at hand. So let’s make a couple things explicitly clear right now, including some very hard to swallow pills and some reality checks:

  1. Saying “all lives matter” is the equivalent of telling someone with terminal cancer that their suffering does not matter or deserve your empathy because other people are also suffering from other problems. It is saying to a bunch of people with brain cancer that ALL types of cancer are bad, as if that isn’t entirely fucking obvious. When someone brings a problem to your attention, the proper response is not to say “well what about these other problems?” It’s to focus on the problem at hand, and address it. If you say “all lives matter,” all we hear is that you’re tone deaf, actually fucking stupid, or blatantly racist and fine with it. To be clear, none of those are anything to be proud of. Do better.
  2. This is about black people and the systemic oppression that they have endured in this country since the first slave was brought here. This is about the oppression, abuse, objectification, commidification, and downright murder that white people have subjected black people to. Stop trying to make this about literally anything else. Even if you bring up protesting leading to rioting, looting, property destruction… you need to acknowledge that none of that would be happening if black people were not being murdered in the streets in the first place. You are responding to a symptom of a much bigger problem. If you went to a doctor with a fever, would you want them to just give you ibuprofen to address the fever, or find out what was actually wrong that caused the fever in the first place? The fever is a symptom. It is not the problem. You need to treat the problem. This is no different. Do not be distracted by symptoms, pay attention to and address the cause: BLACK PEOPLE ARE BEING MURDERED IN THE STREETS.
  3. We as white people have privilege. Your refusal to see it or acknowledge it does not diminish it or make that truth not so. You are privileged in your ability to walk freely on the streets of this country without fear that you might be accused of (or, as we have too often seen, killed for suspicion of) a crime. You are privileged in your ability to be given the benefit of the doubt in most (if not all) situations. You are privileged in how you are not automatically considered suspicious or problematic anywhere you go. Your privileges are vast. Even if you grew up poor and/or in a bad area, you have privileges. Even if you’ve had negative experiences with law enforcement officers (LEOs), you have privileges. Your privilege is directly attached to your ethnicity as a white person (and if you’re a white male you have the most privilege of all, because white men have historically — and still today — hold the majority of wealth and power, even though they are not the majority of the population). We will never truly understand what our black friends and neighbors go through in their lifetimes, but we can try to empathize and change our thoughts, words, and actions accordingly. We can believe them when they share their experiences with us. Simply dismissing your privilege as “non-existent” says that you’re unwilling to learn or grow, and thus are completely complicit in the suffering of our fellow countrymen. It is selfish and it is emotionally, intellectually, and morally weak. And if being told you have privilege upsets you or makes you immediately bristle and deny it, I implore you to ask yourself why. Just because you don’t understand your privileges or how vast they are does not mean you do not have them. I STRONGLY encourage you to do the emotional labor to learn more about your privilege and to stop dismissing it as “absurd” or “untrue” without even considering the possibility that you’re dead fucking wrong. The Internet is free, and you can very, very easily research this topic for yourself if you’re not afraid of the truth. Honestly, what are you afraid of losing? Because black people are losing their lives.
  4. We as white people have unconscious biases (so does everyone else, but we’re talking about ours right now). The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) defines unconscious bias as “social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.” So whether you assume all Asian people are intelligent, all Hispanic people can dance, or that all Black people are naturally athletic (or anything else you automatically assume about a group of people, whether that assumption is favorable or not), is an unconscious bias. To be clear, these biases are not limited to ethnicity, but as that’s the topic of this letter, those are the examples I chose to use common tropes from. As white Americans, we have a lot of unconscious biases around our black neighbors. Maybe you were taught that they all wanted something for nothing. Maybe you believe that they’re inherently violent or angry. Maybe you think they all love certain foods. These are biases, and you have them — we have them — and likely don’t even realize it. “Not realizing it” doesn’t mean that we should not work to discover those biases and dismantle them. Like stereotypes, they are not beneficial to us or to our society. An example of how we display unconscious biases regarding our black peers when something like this happens (a black person is murdered in the streets): we begin showing photos in the media of them where they look intimidating (think Trayvon Martin, who was murdered, and you see a photo of him in a hoodie “looking mean,” meanwhile the Brock Turner’s of the world commit violent crimes and you see their graduation photos in the news while they’re on trial for rape). How we talk about people stems from how we think about people. So even if you do not realize it, your unconscious biases shape how you portray and perceive people, and also how you treat them. 
  5. Punching down: don’t do it. Many of you may not be familiar with this term. Punching down is anyone from a higher rank/status/position/power using their position to attack someone at a lower rank/status/position who has less power. This ties back into our privilege. It’s not cool for us as white people to make degrading comments to or about those with less privilege than us, nor to engage them for the purpose of doing the same. Think of the phrase “pick on someone your own size.” But change “size” to “social standing” and keep those unconscious biases and your privilege in mind. How this may appear in the current social arena is when protestors (regardless of what they are or are not doing) are called racially-fueled names like “thugs.” Did you call the white people protesting with firearms that they couldn’t get haircuts during a global pandemic “thugs”? (And don’t even say “well they weren’t looting and starting fires” — because they also didn’t just witness yet another person who looked just like them murdered in the street for the umpteenth time.)
  6. Gatekeeping: don’t do this, either. Again, this may be a phrase you’re unfamiliar with. So let’s unpack it. Gatekeeping is when you try to set boundaries and parameters around a group of people for how that group should act; this is done in order to limit their access to something. In the case of black oppression, white people saying things like “looting is wrong” or “why are you being so angry and aggressive about this” are gatekeeping. It’s really easy to sit in your ivory tower, where you live in no fear for your life from law enforcement for simply existing, and judge the behavior of people who do not look like you. Perhaps if someone you loved was murdered for no reason, denied their constitutional rights (while white terrorists like Dylan Roof are taken into custody safely and alive), and no justice was served, you’d be pretty fucking enraged, too. Perhaps if it happened over and over and over again, in a country where, in your lifetime or your parents’ or grandparents’ lifetimes, it was perfectly legal to deny black people basic human rights. In fact, lynching wasn’t even a federal crime until 2018. Read that again. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Point being, don’t tell people with less social standing than you have as a white person how to feel or how to act when this shit keeps happening to members of their ethnic group (particularly when it’s so often at the hands of someone from OUR ethnic group).
  7. Microaggressions. Another thing that’s so very real and you may not even realize that you are doing it. Have you ever said (or heard someone else say), “you’re really smart for a black woman!” or “you might be the calmest black guy I’ve ever met.” It gets better: you don’t even have to VERBALIZE your microaggressions for them to be just that. Ever crossed the street because you saw a black man coming? Ever watched your purse a little closer in the grocery store aisle because a black woman was in the aisle with you? These are microaggressions (that are often based in your unconscious biases). When you think or say or act on something that is based in a negative bias you have towards someone from that group, it’s a microaggression. You may have even meant to compliment them; but you’re not really complimenting someone that you call “smart” when you qualify that statement by implying that OTHER people in that group aren’t smart.
  8. “Whataboutisms.” I don’t care which ones you bring up — abortion, LEOs hurt/killed in the line of duty, rioting/looting/property damage, X-on-X ethnicity crime, or any other completely unrelated topic… stop it. Stop your fucking bullshit straw-man nonsense. If you are making excuses for someone’s murder by saying “well what about these things that I consider murder” then you’re an asshole (and, depending on the topic, possibly also a hypocrite). This is the same as the cancer example from earlier. Your “what about” logical fallacy bullshit does not belong in this very real discussion about this very real problem. We aren’t saying those other things are not things (though some of them really fucking aren’t), we are saying “we’re talking about Y problem, so you can help us solve Y problem, or you can keep contributing to Y problem, but you cannot do both.” PLEASE, choose to be part of the solution. We would love your help and support. I think you’ll find it really does not cost you anything.
  9. Reverse racism DOES. NOT. EXIST. Racism is systemic oppression by the majority group in power of a minority group. To be clear, white people HAVE ALWAYS had the majority power in this country since its inception, and therefore cannot experience racism. In the United States, you can be prejudiced against white people, but you cannot be racist towards them. So please leave this bullshit at the door. No one wants to hear it ever again. It is not a thing.

For everything else in this list, I’m not blaming you for having these things (privileges, biases, et cetera) or participating in these phenomena. I’m also not saying they don’t apply to me, because they do. As is everyone else, I am a work in progress. But acknowledging reality and making a conscious effort not to speak over or down to minorities, or make assumptions about their behaviors or actions is important. We all need to play a role in that. And that’s why I say that you’re either working to be (or actively being) an ally, or you’re complicit in systemic racism. I’m saying “hey, this is an issue, these are contributing factors to this issue, and WE ALL need to make a conscious choice and effort to be aware of these things and try to stop promulgating them and participating in them.”

We as the white community have for centuries been complicit in the pain and suffering that we (and those white people who came before us in this country) have caused the black community. Stop taking that as “oh, so I’m just as bad as a slave owner then?” For the love of all that is good in this world STOP MAKING THIS ABOUT YOU. Everything isn’t about you. Stop acting like being asked to treat other people with dignity, respect, fairness, and equity is somehow a burden on you. Because imagine how it feels being treated as “less than” for your entire fucking life. Imagine how it feels to live in fear that you might not come home tonight because you got murdered for simply existing. Equality and equity are not pie. Being asked to treat other people how you have always been treated by our society does not take something away from you. 

Does it make you uncomfortable or angry to hear that? Does it make you feel like people are implying you personally did something to black people? If so, I implore you to imagine how it feels being murdered in the streets because someone thinks you broke a law. No Miranda rights, no Constitutional rights, no fair trial. Just executed in the street like it’s the fucking wild west. Your name and reputation will probably be ruined posthumously because you are no longer alive to share your side of the story. THAT is what should make you uncomfortable.

Imagine seeing the same atrocity happen over and over and over again — costing people their lives — and absolutely nothing is done to stop it or change it. How would that make you feel? Would you wonder if you might be next? Is someone you love? Why is there no justice? Why are other people not standing up and taking action against it? How can we prevent this from happening again? It reminds me of Martin Niemoller’s poem, “First they came…” — which, if you have not read, you absolutely should.

It is so fucking easy for us as White people to judge the actions of the black community. It’s so easy for us to ignore how WE wrote history and ignored the atrocities we committed against others and acted like there would be no repercussions or consequences to those actions, and as soon as “equal rights’ became a thing suddenly everything was fair and square. That’s not only ignorant — that’s willfully ignorant. That’s working HARD to ignore reality. Perception may be reality to those who perceive it, but you have to be actively trying to have no empathy or compassion if you don’t care about the horrors we have committed against our black friends and neighbors. You are resting so easily on the backs of those who built this country. You’re not being asked to give something up. You’re being asked to acknowledge gross inequality and inequity and injustice, and you have the audacity to sit there and take it personally? To feel attacked? THAT is your privilege in action. Because if you really were paying attention and gave a fuck about what is going on, YOU WOULD BE OUTRAGED WITH THEM.

What our black peers are going through looks like what psychologists would identify as grief. And damn, do I understand, if only from my limited perspective. I know if I saw people who looked like me being murdered — and frequently — I would be angry and depressed and feel lost at what to do to stop it, also. I know if it was MY loved one who was murdered and justice wasn’t served, I’d want to burn down an entire damn city on my own. So why do we act like protestors are “proving we were right” (about the stereotypes WE assigned to them), as though any protests happening in the first place are not the direct result of centuries of systemic oppression, abuse, objectification, commodification, and murder? You might as well cage a lion, hop in the cage and provoke it, and then go “See! I told you it was a vicious killer!” when it tries to defend itself against your provocations. That lion is only reacting to your provoking it. Any animal — including humans — is likely to do the same, and rightly so. Stop provoking black people and then acting like you were right all along that “they’re the problem.” That’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it’s not a good look.

We need to understand that our black friends and neighbors are not responsible for sharing their experiences with us or proving their suffering to us. We cannot ask one member of a group to speak on behalf of that entire group. However, if someone from this group (or another minority group) chooses to share their experiences with you, the very least you can do is listen. Actually and truly listen. Not speak over them, not dismiss them. Just listen. Those things relate to our privilege as white people. Because we are generally believed when we share our experiences. We don’t have to speak for all of us — because we’re not the “token” friend. And we are listened to when we speak instead of being spoken over or down to. It is time that we use our platform to ask our fellow white people to also pause and listen. It’s time that we — the people who created this problem in the first place — take accountability for it and actively work to put an end to it.

The Internet is filled with a wealth of knowledge and resources that document the history of the black experience in the United States and more information on topics I’ve mentioned here such as unconscious biases, gatekeeping, microaggressions, white privilege and more. You do not have to take these things at my word — you can do the research yourself and verify that these concepts are very real, and directly contributing to the systemic racism that is resulting in the deaths of our black friends and neighbors.

I can’t make you believe in social systems that you are determined to deny. I cannot make you choose to be an ally and stand up for and beside those whom we have silenced and ignored for so long. And I don’t want to. I want you to choose those things because you have put in the time to educate yourself on those topics; search your own mind, heart, and soul; and come to the conclusion that you think it’s the right thing to do. I need you to genuinely ask yourself what it is you have to lose by fighting for other people to have the same rights that we have always had. Or if you’re denying that that’s the case in the first place, I want you to ask yourself why you are so convinced that your limited perspective is more valid than the millions of our fellow American citizens who are living in fear and oppression. This isn’t about “white people are bad.” This isn’t about “ACAB.” This isn’t about me, and this isn’t about you. There are zero things you should take personally about this. You are not being attacked. But the same cannot be said about the black community. But you should be angry. You should be angry at the centuries of injustice perpetrated and perpetuated against our black friends and neighbors. This is purely and simply about putting an end to systemic oppression so that our black friends and neighbors stop getting murdered in the streets. This is about justice, equality, and equity. Our black friends and neighbors need us. I’ll be standing with them, on the just side of history. I hope that you’ll choose to join us.

Jade Attempts to Write a Book Review (on “Where the Crawdads Sing”)

As it turns out, being even more socially isolated than I normally am reminded me that I am actually capable of reading actual books and not just deeply depressing news articles or finding things I want and don’t need from Buzzfeed listicles. Who knew?

So, upon the recommendation of one of my best friends, I bought “Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens – the real book, partly because I’m a bougie bitch who likes to read off of paper pages and not blue-lit screens, but also because, inexplicably, the physical book was decidedly less expensive than an e-book. Suffice to say, I never expected to live in a world where something that required actual printed materials and takes up warehouse space and must be shipped costs LESS than something that is entirely digital, but here we are.

Anyway, on to the actual book. I don’t know that I can say I’ve ever read a book quite like this. It’s parts historical fiction, coming of age story, and murder mystery with ecology and biology factoids and copious poetry sprinkled in. It feels very much like someone wanted to mash up the writing styles of David Baldacci, Mark Twain, and Harper Lee, but add their own “secret blend of 11 herbs and spices” called science factoids and poetry. I did not realize until I had the book physically in my hands, and only thanks to the dust cover, that apparently this is a book from “Reese’s Book Club” –  I am assuming this means Reese Witherspoon? Anyway, that would explain how and why this book had well over 45,000 Amazon reviews. So my two cents is clearly needed, no?

Overall Thoughts:

  1. Jumping timelines. This story crosses decades frequently; years are entirely left out (though upon reading about the main character, Kya, you can understand why). I actually really like the idea of doing this, though I don’t always love exactly how it’s done in this particular book. I didn’t find it distracting personally, but I could see how someone would.
  2. Potentially jarring dialogue. Anyone who wasn’t raised in or around the South, specifically the mid-Atlantic, or isn’t a big fan of Mark Twain, may find the dialogue very grating. It’s a lot of “sho’ was the finest shoes I ever saw” type of dialogue that may take some getting used to and some might even find themselves frustrated trying to “translate” it, or put-off by what seems like an overdone cliche (but from my limited knowledge of the time period and my stronger knowledge of that specific area, I suspect that dialogue isn’t too far off from what it would have been at the time for the characters involved, potentially minus some perhaps inaccurate colloquialisms, like fireflies versus “lightnin’ bugs”).
  3. Character development. There aren’t many characters that we “need” to get to know throughout the story, but despite the 350+ pages in this book, we really only ever get to know each character on a pretty surface level. The only exception being Kya as the main character, whom we get to understand a bit more, though it’d be concerning if we never got to know any of the internal workings of a main character in a book that follows decades of their life. I digress. On the one hand, it’s understandable given the whole plot of the book that Kya, who is – by design – an outsider, doesn’t know much about anyone, but the other characters that we get to know anything tangible about fall into their archetypes exactly as you’d expect. “Formulaic” is a descriptor you might not hear any arguments against. No new tropes here.
  4. The science. If you like nature and ecology in general and birds specifically, you’ll likely enjoy how frequently they appear throughout the story. An abiding love of these things is one of the major aspects of Kya’s character/personality/development.
  5. The poetry. There’s probably at least a dozen references to song lyrics and poems throughout the book. To some degree, it eventually makes sense why (won’t give a spoiler on that except to say SPOILER ALERT), but if you couldn’t stomach Frost in school, well, you probably won’t like this any better. But also shame on you. Because Frost is sensational. (… just to be clear no Frost poetry is in the book; just poetry with similar thematics)
  6. Suspended disbelief. Alright, OBVIOUSLY, this book is a work of fiction, BUT chances are a lot of people reading it will find at least one instance in which they are unwilling or unable to suspend their disbelief. Maybe it’s about Kya’s entire background; maybe it’s about what she ends up doing with her life; maybe it’s about the parts of the book that surround the murder and resulting trial. But suffice to say, plenty portions of this book require the reader to suspend their disbelief, though not more than plenty of other pop culture shows, movies, or books do. Personally, I find it harder to suspend my disbelief in things that are “historical” since history, even in fiction, requires some more adherence to the parameters of “what actually happened” (and I don’t just mean from the white man’s perspective – because fuck that) and what was really possible or even in existence at the time. But that’s just me.
  7. The flow of the story. Kind of tying back to the first point about jumping timelines, I daresay if there is something people won’t like about this book it’s the flow (part of which is the timelines) in the sense that it is a) really slow going for the first part (and unless you really like her writing style – which admittedly I did –  you might find it difficult to want to keep reading), b) jumps around, as mentioned, and, c) is a little bizarrely broken into two “parts” (I guess to make clear to the reader that “we’re staying in this decade now”?)
  8. The actual plot. I could understand (and to some degree agree) with claims that this book has a kind of vague plot that could have been developed in a stronger or different way. The slowness of much of the book doesn’t help that case, but, honestly, MOST stories (whether book, TV, or movie) don’t have the greatest plots – so this is no worse or more far-fetched or underdeveloped than most other popular fiction in my personal experience. Just don’t be expecting Agatha Christie. You’re not getting Agatha Christie.
  9. The ending. Who doesn’t care how a story ends?! Without directly spoiling the ending, I would say the ending is a bit bizarre (just in what it is, not what it contains, if that makes sense) in that if felt like a forced wrap-up, the vast majority of which honestly wasn’t needed. There is a means to an end, but the path to get there… well, not my favorite but not the worst ever, either. I’d say it falls into the category “if you’re going to bother to do it, don’t half-ass it” –  it felt like a half-assed after-thought, and a quick “oh, fuck, I should probably actually let them know XYZ” as opposed to “this was my plan all along.” It tries to be clever, and to a degree is and has a beautiful element to do that, but there was a lot of unmet potential in that ending.
  10. And, finally, Jade Attempts to Write an Actual Book Summary in 100 Words or Less: Set across multiple decades, this story follows the coming of age of the abused and isolated main character – Kya. It captures her volatile family life, her endless thirst for knowledge, and her unique experiences with bouts of companionship among a lifetime of loneliness and heartache. The suspected murder of the town golden boy sets the stage for the reader to get glimpses of outsider Kya’s interactions and connections to various members of a community that has always shunned and shamed her, and her trial and tribulations on the rough roads of adulthood, relationships, and self-sustainment.

(It’s 95 words – on the first try?! GO ME – unless you count “self-sustainment” as two words because you don’t understand how hyphens work. Punks.)

Overall rating: 3.5/5 Stars: NEEDS MORE COWBELL (and by cowbell I mean plot development) but otherwise a worthwhile read if you appreciate art, nature, and science.

The Truth About Why Adulting is Hard… Well, One Truth

There are a lot of reasons — arguably innumerable reasons — why adulting is hard. But there is one in particular that I am often glaringly aware of, and, admittedly, sometimes struggle to fully be okay with. I didn’t say “fully accept” for a reason; because I DO accept it. I just don’t always like it. However, it’s a lesson about self love and priorities and where they intersect that I think we all need to embrace.

So what is “it?” It’s quite simple, really: it is the salient truth that you are probably no one’s first priority — and that you shouldn’t be. Because you should be your own first priority.

This can be a hard pill to swallow for people who think that someone or several someone’s lives revolve around them, or that they should. Whether you think your parent(s) should put you first or think your significant other should put you first or anyone else… I’m here to tell you that’s selfish and immature. Being an adult requires you to be accountable for yourself, and graciously accept the love and support of your village but not expect it to revolve around you. We all need our village; but we all need to be able to depend on ourselves first and others second if we are able.

So why should you be your own first priority? Because no one can (or should try to) pour from an empty cup. But damn near all of us try to. We try to meet the expectations others put upon us. We try to be so many things to so many different people. And we often lose ourselves in the shuffle. We cast aside our feelings and our wants and our needs while trying to meet those of others because we love them, care about them, or rely on the paycheck they provide to us.

By no means am I saying that you aren’t or shouldn’t be a priority to any of your loved ones, or that you should not prioritize them in your life. What I DO mean is that we would all be much better friends and family members and coworkers and partners and loved ones if we spent more time trying to cultivate the best version of ourselves and then brought that best work-in-progress version of ourselves to others. It’s hard to do that if we’re always doing for others and not spending enough time and energy doing for ourselves. And I don’t mean just putting time aside to do things you love — though you absolutely should — but also time to make you a better you. Whether that’s doing necessary emotional labor, exercise, learning new things, meditating — whatever enables you to be the best possible version of you that you are able to be at a given time. Those things won’t be the same for any two people, but I guarantee we all have plenty of room for improvement, and that that improvement starts with choosing to put ourselves first.

None of us is perfect; none of us ever will be. But I do think we owe it to ourselves and to the people in our lives to never stop trying to do and be better, and I think the best way to do that is if we make ourselves our first priority. Going back to the empty cup analogy, sure, you can pour from a half-full cup, but why would you if there can be more in there to share? I guess some people are completely fine with driving on a near-empty tank, but they’re doing their vehicle a disservice by doing that consistently. And it’s really no different in how we interact with people.

Think about having a rough day at work (the details as to why it was a rough day don’t matter; everyone’s “rough day” looks a little different). Think about being stuck in traffic on the way home. Then you get home and more frustrations await you. How do you deal with them? How do you react? Do you get angry and let the anger out? Do you take a few deep breaths and work through what does and doesn’t deserve your attention? Whatever is in the cup is what’s going to come out of it when it gets disturbed, and while we don’t often get to choose if the cup gets disturbed, we do get to choose what is in the cup in the first place. If we consistently prioritize ourselves we can be fulfilled enough and self-aware enough to not give too much of our energy to the negative.

Honestly, too often I let the the cup overflow with negative shit. I’m a mature enough and self-aware enough person to admit that part of why that happens is because I put my job and the well-being of a lot of people I care about before my own more often than I should. I focus on trying to come across as completely fine instead of focusing on actually being completely fine. I don’t think I’m some kind of fucking martyr, I just don’t want to deal with my own shit a lot of times or I don’t embrace doing things that make me happy or make me feel accomplished. And you know what? Those are flaws of mine; that’s me running around on a tank that’s emptier than it should be. Because the people I care about don’t deserve to have to deal with tired, frustrated, angry, grumpy me. They deserve patience. They deserve empathy. They deserve my best effort. And I’m not capable of giving that best effort if I spend my time and energy worrying about fixing things that aren’t mine to fix, and ignoring the things I can fix, like some of my numerous character flaws.

I am no one else’s first priority. Thinking that used to crush me. It used to be fuel to my very self-destructive fire. And I would be lying if I said it doesn’t still cause an uncomfortable twinge sometimes (because that’s just life with mental illness, my friends). Social conditioning and all those Happily Ever Afters that we — particularly women — are sold are hard to combat. But the reality is it doesn’t even make sense to want to be someone’s first priority. I am an able-bodied and moderately able-minded adult. I can and do take care of myself. If other people are able to support that, then how damn fortunate am I? But it’s not a requirement for other people to want to and work to support me in any way (not financially, not emotionally — no one’s labor or resources are free for them to give to others… I mean, kindness is free, but I’m saying no one owes us their patience and tolerance all the time, particularly if we’re refusing to help ourselves). And for me, as someone with multiple mental health issues, it’s not a good idea for me to think that I SHOULD be anyone’s first priority. That’s a recipe for disaster. That’s setting myself up for failure. That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of which I want no part.

When I look back on my life, I see someone that rescued herself. There were struggles. There were trials. There were tribulations. There absolutely still are. We all have our own. That’s not to say I didn’t have A LOT of help along the way; I did and I still do. But I made it to where I am today because enough times I chose myself. I’m not saying I’m doing phenomenal in life, but for someone that shouldn’t have made it to adulthood, I’m doing pretty well for myself. And that’s only true because I chose, repeatedly, to put in the really, really uncomfortable work to try to take better care of myself and accept myself while also working on myself. All the love and support in the world from others would not have mattered if I hadn’t chosen to help myself — if I hadn’t chosen to prioritize myself first. A lot of times that meant recognizing when people or situations (whether work, social, or otherwise) were not conducive to my overall wellbeing, and choosing to walk away because that’s what I needed to do for me. That caused fights, that cost me relationships, it resulted in a lot of anguish and grief for me. But it also helped me learn a lot about what I can, should, and am willing to tolerate — and what I’m not able or willing to tolerate. No one else was going to put what I wanted or needed or how I felt first — after all, why the hell would they? So I had to.

You think your boss cares more about your mental health than meeting their budget? They don’t. You think your roommate cares more about respecting you or your stuff than doing what’s easy for them? They don’t. You think that friend that only ever reaches out when they want something genuinely cares about you? They don’t. You think your significant other who repeatedly ignores and disrespects your boundaries cares more about your needs than their wants? They don’t. And only you can decide if continuing to put their wants above your needs is something you can or should live with. Personally I say you’re only hurting yourself if you do. There are times and places for compromise, but your wellbeing ain’t it. Put yourself first, because no one else will. The other things and people that really matter can come close behind.

I’m learning to prioritize myself. It’s a long process. I’m learning that it’s really not selfish to do what I need to do for me, even if that means not doing or being what someone else that I care about wants me to do or be. I’m not good at accepting help. I’m not good at accepting support. I’m not good at accepting love. I’m REALLY good at blaming myself. I’m really good at letting the ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) win. I’m getting better at recognizing when something is problematic for me, and trying to take steps to disengage and focus on me and what I need. I’m really good at surviving. In fact I have a 100% success rate of doing just that, and that wasn’t easily done. That wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t make myself a priority sometimes. Who knows, if I did it all the time — hell, if I even just did it more often — maybe I could get better at some of those things I’m not so good at, and stop being REALLY good at some of those destructive things I shouldn’t do. Maybe one day I could even go from being really good at surviving to being good at thriving. I won’t know unless I keep trying. I won’t know unless I consistently put myself first.

Being an adult requires being able to prioritize and make healthy choices. And the reality is that one of those healthy choices is getting your priorities aligned, and that those aligned priorities should start and end with yourself. Putting yourself first is step one in building a solid foundation on which to cultivate the best version of yourself at every stage of your life. It’s a solid, healthy foundation that you deserve, and that in the end also benefits every other aspect of your life and everyone in it.

I hope you never stop loving and supporting and prioritizing the people and things that make your life infinitely better. But I also really hope that you always choose yourself first. Because you deserve the same love and support that you want — and often do — give to others.

Somber Sundays

For most of my life I have searched in vain; wanted to find purpose in the pain
Wanted to believe it would mean I was forged from greatness
But really it’s just been a lot of heartache
Always searching for magic and myths
Always trying to bite back the hurt that lingers on my lips
Try to tell myself that my victory is surviving
But truth be told there are days I don’t feel like trying
Truths hurt, and realizations ache
And I can’t keep existing in this darkened state
I hope I wake up before I get lost. I was forced on this ride, and I just want to get off.

2020 Vision: Use It

It’s officially 2020.

And in honor of the saying, “Hindsight is 2020,” I have some shit to say.

  1. Whatever and whomever you left in 2019 (or even years before that) can stay back there. Not everyone is meant to stay in your life forever, and whether time has simply caused you to part ways or they’re toxic and you burned that bridge after you crossed it, recognize that it isn’t worth your time and energy trying to maintain every single relationship. In 2020 we are letting sleeping dogs lie. My personal rule is that if someone wants to walk out of my life that’s fine; I will even hold the door. But I don’t do second chances. Once someone’s gone they have to stay that way. They made their bed and they have to lie in it. Life’s too short to go in circles that are really downward spirals with people who have already told us at least once that we don’t matter to them. When people show you who they are, believe them and act accordingly. Give that time and energy to your ride or dies. They’ll always have your back, and you get better ROI from investing time and energy into those relationships that you know are solid.
  2. Diets are dead, okay? By all means, make a healthy lifestyle change but enough with the “quick fixes” and marketing schemes. I’m sick of this shit. No more fucking gummy bears or shakes or teas or wraps or whatever the fuck some Insta-famous or reality tv celeb is trying to sell you. The only thing they’re selling is you out to immoral companies that use marketing tactics instead of science to eat away at your mental, emotional, physical, and financial health while doing nothing for your actual health. Knock that shit off. Stop letting them make money off of your insecurities. Stop letting them tell you something is wrong with your or needs to be fixed and buying their bullshit. If you want real advice on your health and wellbeing consult a medical doctor or licensed registered dietitian. Not an online trainer, not a YouTube video, not an Instagram model, not anyone trying to sell you anything. You are perfect just as you are, and we aren’t listening to anything else from anyone else. Which brings me to number three…
  3. Toxic people, if you didn’t leave them behind already, they gotta go. The guy you really like who gaslights you? Boy, bye. Your relative who always has a comment on your appearance? Should learn how to shut up if they don’t have anything nice to say. Your coworker who always wants you to cover for her and defend her even when she drops the ball but she never makes an effort to NOT drop the ball? Not anymore, satan. Arguing about dumb shit with strangers online? You know you feel bad afterwards even if you’re “right” – your mental and emotional health are more important (and frankly your eyes could use a break from the screen time, no matter how cute your blue light glasses are). Feeding trolls and clowns and asshats is like getting into a zoo animal’s enclosure. In case we haven’t learned already, it’s a terrible fucking idea don’t do it (but also like, what part of the fence and the “KEEP OUT” did you miss?).
  4. Do SOMETHING new this year to take better care of yourself. I don’t know how to tell you this but all of us are only getting older and shit’s only gonna get harder (oof, what a pun). But seriously; I don’t care if it’s as simple as “drink more water,” “get more sleep,” or “move more.” If you have the financial means to get medical treatment if something goes wrong, use it instead of being stubborn or lazy and letting a small problem become a big problem. Stop eating take-out five nights a week and start meal prepping real food. Seriously, your wallet and your stomach will both thank you. The body you have is the only one you’re ever gonna have. Start acting like it.
  5. Love people louder. If there’s a hard lesson I’ve learned over and over and over again it’s that no time is promised to us or anyone else. It’s a damn miracle we all made it to today. A lot of people didn’t. Don’t miss opportunities to tell the people you love that you do. You never know when your last chance will be, and I can guarantee you that leaving things left unsaid is a special kind of aching burden to carry once someone is gone. So give that person a call, send a letter or a card, go spend an afternoon with them. Time is our most precious commodity. Spend yours wisely.
  6. Find things that set your soul on fire, and give them the time you give Netflix or whatever other non-constructive pastimes you waste untold hours on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of this, too (arguably more than anyone). But spend more time doing shit that makes you happy. Dance, write, go somewhere, go outside and do something (hike, kayak, ride a bike, whatever), cook, read a book, explore your area. Do things that make you happy and make you a better you. If for no other reason than when someone asks what you did last weekend you’ll have more to say than, “lol watched netflix.”
  7. Keep learning. I’m not saying go become a master of Kung Fu, a musical savant, a Michelin-rated chef, and learn two new languages. But maybe try to read more books, keep tabs on global news, try new cuisines, listen to different TED talks, take an art class, pick up a new hobby… make your brain work a little harder and it’ll pay you back in spades when you aren’t a mushy-brained vegetable in a few decades. You might also find it gives you more to think about and more to contribute to conversations (at work, with friends, with family, et cetera). No more awkward silences for you, friend.
  8. Stop being so damned hard on yourself. I don’t care if you didn’t get that promotion you applied for or you haven’t cleaned your place in a month or forgot your grandma’s birthday. Don’t beat yourself up. Life’s full of obstacles and distractions and even though technology can help us be organized it cannot make us infallible (besides, that’d be boring AF). We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to forget things even if they’re important to us. We’re going to hurt someone’s feelings even when we didn’t intend to. We’re going to drop the ball, miss the mark, whatever. It’s okay. It happens to everyone all the damn time. Don’t believe the seemingly “picture perfect” life of people who are on social media posting photos of their vacay in Bali and their #blessed bullshit. Those people don’t always fit in their jeans or get to work on time, either. Don’t worry about other people, just worry about yourself. And frankly if you’re doing your best you’ve got nothing to worry about anyway.
  9. Laugh more. You can do this with videos online, sure. But I personally highly recommend getting your laughs from real life, in real time, right in front of you. This is coming from someone who laughs if she trips walking on flat, stable surface, so bear with me here, but learn to laugh about it. Find the humor in the every day. I laugh when people misspell things (at work, on signs in store windows, etc). I laugh when I leave one room and go to another and can’t remember why. I laugh when my coworker makes a face when one of our peers is being obnoxious (whose idea was open office spaces, honestly?). I laugh when my cats are being goofy (you ever seen a cat on catnip?). Life’s just a lot easier when you find the humor in it.
  10. Just fucking be a decent human and be environmentally and socially conscious, okay? Recycle, turn your lights off if you don’t really need them on, unplug shit when you’re not using it, don’t leave your heat or your AC on some ridiculous temperature if you’re home by yourself (seriously walk around naked at that point no one cares), try to reuse if possible, use fewer disposables and single-use items, don’t run half-empty loads of laundry or a half-empty dishwasher, don’t have your existential crisis in the shower and waste water, don’t waste water when you’re brushing your teeth or doing the dishes, either… you get the picture. And let’s be honest, we know that corporations are the biggest polluters, but we play a role in that. Want palm deforestation to stop happening so orangutans can keep their homes and we keep healthy forests? Me, too. So stop buying peanut butter and coffee creamer and other products with palm oil in them and find alternatives. Don’t like the climbing temperatures, over-flowing landfills and abuse of laborers? Stop buying fast fashion and fast food. Want to reduce your carbon footprint? Buy local, in-season produce and products when available (bonus points: this also supports your local growers, artisans, and economy). We aren’t getting another planet to live on, so let’s not trash this one. Waste not, want not. Just kidding, I want a planet that’s not simultaneously on fire and going underwater due to rising sea levels. Thanks, pollution-fueled climate change.

Corporate Potato Gettin’ Ish Done

There is this frustrating thing about mental illness for me, where I have the self-awareness to see many (not all, to be sure) of my flaws but not the energy to take actions to right them or at least proactively try to counteract them. They’re largely innocuous things. I’d like to believe I mastered the ugliest of my everyday demons and no longer do things like snark at undeserving people or actively self-sabotage.

But the simpler things I admittedly struggle with, and further admit it’s not because I don’t know how to address them I just… don’t want to. That’s the thing about depression and anxiety. Sure there’s the sadness and the worry and the existential dread… but often once those have wrung you dry of every drop of energy not otherwise spent on unavoidable necessities (commuting, working all day, not pterodactyl screeching at every inconsiderate troglodyte that inconveniences your day), there’s nothing left for the simple tasks: folding  the clothes in the dryer, emptying the dishwasher, actually making dinner and doing the dishes…

None of these are monumental tasks requiring herculean efforts. At least, not for normal people. But I’m not normal. I get exhausted by having to talk to people at work and often talk myself out of things I kind of wanted to do because of petty made-up potential pitfalls. And maybe it is just eight minutes of laundry to fold and five minutes of dishes to put away but that’s thirteen minutes of energy I would much rather spend being an apathetic couch potato. Unwinding from corporate potato mode will take it right out of ya, I tell ya.

The really dumb part? I’ve never done one of these simple tasks and been upset that I did it. In fact as a general rule I’ve never done any self-care task and then been like, “Man, I really wish I hadn’t just made my own life better by doing that.” (Painting my nails doesn’t count because I do regret doing that 10/10 times.)

Have you ever felt bad about having a clean, tidy space? Or feeling healthy? Or knowing exactly where what you need is? I haven’t.

Whether I ate a healthy meal I made myself, or am enjoying a clean towel after stepping out of my clean shower, or putting my dishes immediately in the dishwasher after breakfast because I haven’t left clean dishes sitting in the dishwasher for no real reason, I feel good.

These are such simple, basic tasks. They take very little time and honestly leave me so ridiculously happy and proud of myself.

So why do I fight them? Why do I stubbornly and patently refuse to do simple things that not only BENEFIT me but make me HAPPY?

Because my brain isn’t wired quite correctly. I lost the manual (not like I read it anyway), and it’s just kinda stuck this way, okay? BUT there IS an override.

I’m pretty sure motivation is like a fantasy or some shit. It’s snake oil. In thirty years I rarely see that bitch and she is always fleeting like a mirage. So what’s the override?

Well, it’s two-fold: it’s discipline and consistency.

I’m not gonna sit here and tell you either is easy to conjure up. Honestly you’ll have a much easier time summoning any demon of your choosing (oddly angels are less inclined to come when called, but I digress).

But that’s the secret sauce. I don’t care if your challenge is not getting to work on time, getting in shape, or brushing your damn teeth – discipline and consistency are the solution. You just have to choose them.

Choosing to do what’s best for myself has been a precipice I’ve tiptoed along for my entire life; it’s not been made any easier in the nearly two thirds of my life spent with mental health struggles. But the fact is and will always be that it is still a choice and still my choice to make. The only one who suffers for my choices to not do simple things that add to my overall wellness is me.

So long story short if you wonder what fucking cave I’ve been spelunking in that had me failing to share my brain-drivel with you all recently, that’s it – I’ve been lost to my own devices, trying to do a better job of holding myself accountable. I don’t have much to show for it except for generally feeling better about my life choices on a daily basis… and that’s more than enough for me.

Do you struggle with doing things you know you should do? Tell me your stories so we can ride the struggle bus together!


I wasn’t sure why I was doing it — if I was running towards some kind of freedom from the chasm that losing you tore in my heart, or merely trying in vain to put some distance between myself and its crumbling precipice, lest I teeter too close and tumble over the edge.

The last fifth of a mile loomed ahead; the screams of the Marines drowned out by the roaring in my own ears.

It wasn’t the steep incline that stole the air from my lungs. It was the place. Of all the places — of all the goddamned places they could end this race, they chose your resting place. The very place where my lungs never failed to seize up. The place where my throat closed, choked with tears that I refused to let reach my eyes, forcing my jaw to clench.

“Breathe, you idiot,” my brain demanded of my lungs.

The hill was a battle — the incline sharp, and the curve in it merely insult unto injury. But the real beast was my thoughts. The haunting sound of rifle volleys that I would never escape. The crisp autumn air that neither of us could breathe.

So much of my heart has been laid to rest on these grounds. It calls me every time I set foot back here.

I knew then. I wasn’t running away from the chasm. I was sprinting towards it, ready to take a bounding leap from that precipice back into the darkness.

Corporate Potato

Do you work long hours in an open office that could best be described as a dystopian hellscape?

Have you forgotten what sunlight feels like?

Do the majority of foods you eat come from a wrapper, paper bag, box, or styrofoam container?

Would you consider exercise a four-letter word and the stairs your mortal enemy (unless the alternative is sharing the elevator with another person)?

Have you had a decent night’s sleep… ever?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you might be a corporate potato.

But don’t worry – you’re not alone. There is treatment available.

It’s called vodka. It’s made from our potato tears.

Stay salty, my friends.