Live your truth. Tell your story.

I have been feeling a bit lost for the past few months, and I’ve struggled with the things that typically feed my soul.

I stepped away from political conversations for a little while. I couldn’t reconcile the commonly held belief that the time for civility and compromise had passed with my own need to engage, understand, and find the common ground we all know exists.

I felt like my footing in the social justice movements was shaky; I was uncertain how to speak from a place of privilege without drowning out the marginalized voices that deserve to be heard.

I came dangerously close to giving up on my dream. I became overwhelmed with the effort and sacrifice required to get there, and I forgot about the purpose and passion that made it all worth the climb.

Needing, Seeking, and Finding Inspiration

I had lost my way and many of my former sources of inspiration had become sources of confusion and stress.  It was time to find inspiration in unexpected places.

The “Comedy” Special that will bring you to tears

If you have not yet taken the time to watch Hannah Gadsby’s entire Netflix special, you need to make time.  Make time.  Don’t put it on the in background while you are doing something else.  Sit.  Listen.  Laugh. Really listen. Cry. Laugh again.  I dare you to come away uninspired.

The Six-Hour 12-Hour YouTube Black Hole that Hasn’t Actually Ended Yet

I fell into a YouTube hole that I have not quite emerged from after discovering a speech delivered by writer/producer/director Dustin Lance Black. If you aren’t familiar with him, Lance won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Milk, and his recent TV mini-series When We Rise is definitely worth 8 hours of your time.

But beyond his work in Hollywood, he’s an activist and an advocate. Lance doesn’t just write scripts about the critical history of social justice movements, he makes history in those movements.

The common theme that resonated so strongly for me across both Hannah and Lance’s messages was the need to tell your story.  YOUR story.  YOUR truth.  From privilege, from oppression, with laughter, with tears… your story has value.

live your truth. tell your story. tattoo.Ironically, this message that I needed to hear is a message that I had tattooed on my arm earlier this year.  This is a message so important to me that I literally had it embedded into my skin.  I see it every day.  And yet I forgot the essential truth:

read. listen. engage. do good. do right. cry. laugh. dream. accept. love. live your truth.

tell your story.


A is for…

asexuality, labelsWhether or not we like labels, we all have them. Sometimes we celebrate them. Sometimes we despise them. Sometimes we just try to avoid them altogether. Some labels are innocuous, like “female”. Some labels are bound to inspire judgment, like “feminist”. And others labels are impossible to shake, so we focus on owning them, like “fat”.

Ultimately, labels can’t define us, however they do help us to connect with others like us and find commonalities with people who seem so different. Within just the past year, I have had beautiful experiences connecting with individuals who share my experiences of being “fat and fabulous”, a feminist, an atheist, and a liberal.

But when it comes to one label, I still feel like the odd duck. I am asexual.

Talking about sexuality has lost much of its taboo. Without minimizing the still-pervasive prejudice (and sometimes violence) suffered by those identifying as homosexual or bisexual, it is still possible to acknowledge that being homosexual is generally understood as an accepted state of being.  Being asexual? Not so much.

Not even sure what asexuality is? (Click here for more from the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network.)  Asexual individuals do not experience sexual attraction. There are a lot of subtleties and degrees of asexuality. In addition to being asexual, I would consider myself also aromantic, indicating a lack of romantic attraction. As far as any other details of my sexuality, you aren’t getting any. (My dad reads this blog, for pete’s sake!)

Let me be clear – I am not suffering. In fact, I’m tempted to delete everything up above there and start over, because this all sounds so dramatic. My life is amazing. I would not change a thing. And that is, in fact, my point. There’s nothing wrong with me.


I have maybe used the word “asexual” out loud in conversation (in a serious way) maybe twice. It’s not something I talk about. Why? Because there is an assumption that a lack of sexual or romantic desire is the result of some medical or psychological issue. I can’t say this enough – there is nothing wrong with me.

I have never been abused. I do not have a medical condition that impacts my sex drive. I am not – and this is the most pervasive and most offensive assumption – insecure because of my weight. It is not because I simply “don’t know what I’m missing”. I’m not a late bloomer. I’m not afraid of sex. I’m not just waiting for the right person to come along and change my mind. I’m not, as it turns out, missing out on any of the wonderful things life has to offer. My life is amazing. And there is nothing wrong with me.

There is a downside, though. Asexuality is not the standard state of being; the world caters to a sexual and romantic society. I’m not necessarily suggesting that it should be different, but I do find myself wishing for more acknowledgment and understanding. It occurs to me, however, that acknowledgment and understanding can’t happen with open and honest conversation.  So this is me, being honest and starting the conversation.

I continue to pursue purpose.

rocksOccasionally, I find myself contemplating the big questions. You know—the BIG questions:

  • What is my purpose?
  • What will my legacy be?
  • What is the meaning of life?

Many people find meaning in their religious beliefs, particularly if they have a belief in another life to come after this one. Parents can point to their children as their legacy (and perhaps their purpose). But as an atheist and a non-parent, those questions can be more difficult to answer—and finding answers can feel more critical.

Just out of college and starting my career, it felt like nothing was more important than being able to define my purpose. Of course, I expected to find that purpose within my career. I thought, “I will know that I have led a great life because I will have succeeded at achieving [INSERT CAREER OBJECTIVE].” That, of course, turned out to be total crap. It is certainly possible (and preferable) that your career and your purpose align, but paying the bills and leaving a legacy you can be proud of don’t always come hand in hand.

Just a few years shy of 40 and I’ve built a career that I’m proud of, but it isn’t my legacy. It’s not the reason I exist and it doesn’t provide meaning to my life. On the best days, my career teaches me important skills and provides the financial means to live. On the worst days, it’s a distraction from finding my real purpose.

So what is my purpose?

I don’t know. Is it weird to say – after all of that – that I’m not sure it matters? Of course having a purpose in life matters, but does it really matter that I know exactly what that looks like? Leaving a legacy matters, but does it matter that I know now what that will be when I’m gone? I think what really matters is that I continue to pursue purpose. I continue to be passionate about issues and fired up about injustice and inequality. I continue to lift others up instead of tearing them down. I continue to seek ways to apply my own talents and abilities to improving the world around me.

Maybe one day I’ll hear the proverbial “click” and I’ll know that I’ve found that thing that I am meant to do with my life. Maybe I won’t. But as long as I don’t stop listening for it, I think I’m doing just fine.

Lessons for my 22 year old self

Inspired by the “If I were 22…” meme floating around LinkedIn right now.  

collegegraduationIf you were to tell me that you have no regrets about your life so far, I would assume that you are either suffering from selective amnesia or a lying liar who lies.  I’ve probably been guilty myself at some point of voicing that pretentious idea that every mistake we make creates a better person.  a.) Mistakes don’t always make us better people, and b.) there may have been easier ways to learn the lesson that we ended up learning.

If I had a chance to talk to my 22 year old self, these are the lessons I wish I could impart:

1. Money can’t buy happiness.  But being generous with your money can.

  • Always overtip.  Tip well for bad service.  Tip very well for good service.  Every so often, tip like you’ve just inherited money because it will make someone’s day.
  • Buy gifts for loved ones when you see something that makes you think of them.  Don’t wait for a special occasion to give it to them.
  • Decide what you feel most passionately about and donate regularly.  Don’t feel guilty about all of the charities that you can’t support (because no matter how hard you try, you can’t support them all) and focus on the good that you can do.

2. Don’t pretend that money doesn’t matter.  Money can’t buy happiness, but not having money can certainly create anxiety and stress.

  • Don’t make a career decision based on the salary, but don’t sell yourself short.
  • Be smart about your money as early as possible.  It will give you opportunities that you won’t have otherwise.
  • Find the right balance.

3. Every bad situation offers a lesson that you can learn.  You don’t have to stick around to learn it.

  • Adversity does build character.  When faced with a bad situation, do your best to remind yourself that you’ll get through it and you’ll be stronger.
  • If you don’t have to “get through it”, you have the right to move on.  Don’t stick around just to learn a lesson the hard way.  You’ll eventually find someone else who can pass that lesson along to you through second hand experience.
  • A wise friend has passed along to me her mantra when it comes to being in a situation that you aren’t happy or satisfied with: Change it, accept it or move on.

4. You will love people that should be around forever, and they’ll drop out of your life unexpectedly and painfully.  You will love people who don’t seem like they fit into your life, but you’ll adjust your life to make sure they can stay.  You won’t know which is which at first, so take a chance on them all.

  • Be even more generous with your friendship and love than with your money.
  • People will surprise you, for better and for worse.
  • You might not ever know what went wrong.  Forgive.

5. You will make mistakes.  You won’t always be able to fix it.

  • Learn to ask for help early and often.
  • If you can, fix it.
  • Ask (or beg) for forgiveness when it’s your fault something (or someone) is broken.
  • Forgive yourself for your mistakes.  Carrying guilt for things that you can’t change doesn’t help anyone.

6. You aren’t normal.  Neither is anyone else.

  • You won’t meet a single person in the next 15 years who thinks they are normal.
  • Don’t try to fit into someone else’s idea of who you should be, because they don’t know you as well as you know yourself.
  • You do deviate from societal norms in many ways.  It makes you awesome.

2014-05-26 19.06.057. Stop waiting to feel like a “grown up”.  It won’t ever happen.

  • In 15 years, you’ll be older.
  • In 15 years, you’ll have had experiences that have made you wiser.
  • In 15 years, you’ll have far more questions than answers.
  • In 15 years, you’ll wonder why the hell you ever thought 37 was “old” or even “mature”.
  • In 15 years, you won’t believe how quickly the past 15 years went by.


I’m awesome. And here’s why.

I got mean-girl’d at the grocery store today.  While I was taking a look at dry roasted edamame, some chick in yoga pants and a pony tail rolled her eyes and made a comment about me to her friend.  I don’t know what the comment was, but it was clearly about me.  It’s possible that people say mean or snarky things about me wherever I go and they are just usually better at hiding it from me, but I can’t remember ever being insulted like that in my adult life.

It might have been about my faux ripped jeans that are throw back to the 80s.  Maybe it was about my black All Star sneakers that have seen better days.  They could have been commenting on my super short spiky hair.  Maybe they didn’t like the shade of red in my sweater.  I might have had a booger on my face.  It was probably because I’m fat.

I’ll admit that when I noticed the derision coming from the pair, I was immediately transported to junior high school gym class, listening to a mean girl talk about how fat and uncoordinated I was behind my back.  (We were playing dodge ball and my fat, uncoordinated ass was apparently being used a human shield.)  The funny thing, though?  A.) I can’t even remember that mean girl’s name, B.) that sinking feeling lasted about 3 seconds before I remembered that I’m fucking awesome, and C.) I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin than right now at this moment in my life.

awesomeIt obviously stung a little bit or I wouldn’t feel the need to blog about it, but it stung only because it was a reminder that people can suck.  It also prompted me to think about why I have high self-esteem, when society seems to think that I shouldn’t.  Here are the things that seem to work for me:

  • Role models.  There are a lot of really amazing women (and men) in my family who taught me to love myself, craziness and all.  They skipped in public places.  Danced as though no one was watching, even when everyone was.  Went to the store in curlers.  Encouraged me to be a raving beauty OR a raging lunatic – whatever made me happy.
  • Sense of humor.  Nothing is more important to self-esteem than being able to laugh at yourself.
  • Early and unconditional friendships.  When I was in elementary school, I had best friends who stuck with me through high school.  (And one bestest friend was more like a sister.  And a sister who was like a best friend.)  We were silly together.  We liked to eat.  We were loud.  We were always just there.  And we still are.
  • Lifelong friends.  I have made great friends (men and women) throughout my life, including a select few who I know will continue to be there no matter what.
  • The internet.  It’s crazy how destructive the internet can be for some people, when for me it may have literally saved my life.  A small group of online friends got me through some tough years, and it may surprise you how many of them continue to fall into that “lifelong friends” bucket above.  Instant message chats, message boards, Livejournal – and now Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr – kept me going when my “real life” was falling apart.

I am so far from perfect – and so far from the person I want to be.  I want to be healthier.  I wish I was better about returning phone calls.  I wish my anxiety made me clean or work out instead of eat or shop.  I am a work in progress.  Self-esteem isn’t about feeling like you are perfect.  It’s about recognizing that you are awesome despite your imperfections.  And I am awesome.

I am my grandparents’ legacy.

My grandmother used to talk to herself all the time.  Sitting in the living room listening to her wash dishes was like being treated to a one woman play.  Mommom would talk about the birds outside the window.  The condition of the tomatoes in the garden out back.  The effectiveness of the dish soap she was using.  Sometimes she addressed the dog, but Czar’s presence wasn’t required for Mommom to let her inner monologue out.

Pappap cracked jokes when the conversation got tense.  He was the family peacemaker; if someone started to feel like they were being picked on, he’d make himself the butt of jokes to take the pressure off.

xmas96_mommompappapMommom had a mouth like a sailor.  She used curse words to show love.  And anger.  Annoyance. Surprise.  The point is that she cursed.  A lot.

No matter what the reason for a visit, Pap felt like every visit required food.  Pizza, cake, ice cream, hamburgers… When family came over, comfort food was pulled out.

Mommom was jealous when my sister and I got tattoos.  She was in her 70s and, in her words, “too old” to get a tattoo – but she had always wanted one.

Pappap bought me my first pair of high heels.  They were lace up, black, high heeled boots – and I was probably about 8.

Why the trip down memory lane?

xmascouch91This Saturday would have been my grandparent’s 66th wedding anniversary, were they still alive today.  Tuesday would have been Pappap’s 90th birthday.  I miss them, but I’m grateful for their legacy.  I’m grateful for my uncles and aunts, my cousins, and newest generation that they never got a chance to meet.  A friend reminded me today that I’m blessed to have this great family.  I am.  And that’s because of my grandparents.

It’s in what we leave behind

I want to believe in an afterlife.  I want to believe – and often fantasize – that I’ll have a chance to talk to my grandparents again some day.  I want to know that they are somewhere.  I want to believe they are proud of who I am right now.  I don’t, in my analytical mind, believe that is true.  And for the most part, I don’t feel like it matters.  When we die, it’s not about where we go – it’s about what we leave behind.

I believe that I carry my grandparents with me every single day.  I talk to myself all the time.  When conversations get tense, I make jokes or turn it around on myself to divert the negativity.  I swear all the time.  To show love. Anger.  Annoyance.  Surprise.  The point is, I swear a lot.  I use food for comfort and associate it with family.  I never want to be “too old” to do something I love, and I bought my niece her first pair of high heels.  The good and the bad – who I am is, in large part, due to who they were.

For me, that’s enough.

Refusing to give up my faith

I mentioned in a previous post that I have strong feelings about the word faith.  It’s something of a mantra for me with personal historical significance, yet I know that many find that my allegiance to the word is contrary to my atheistic beliefs.  I disagree.  Passionately.

As with many words, there is more than one formal definition of the word faith.  Per Merriam-Webster, faith is defined as:

a : allegiance to duty or a person
(1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions

(1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
(1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust

: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

Even in the comments to the dictionary entry, there are several strings of comments berating “faith” as contrary to science and a sign of a weak mind.  I think faith is a sign of strength, even if we all might differ on what we have faith in.

More than ten years ago, I discovered faith.  I was just a couple of years out of college and experiencing my first real taste of failure.  My career that was supposed to be glamorous was turning out to be a nightmare.  In retrospect the circumstances that took me to the edge of complete and utter despair that particular night don’t seem significant, but I had taken some kicks that day when I had already been down for awhile.

I called the friend that I trusted with my lowest moments.  I’m going to call her M. for the sake of my story.  M. was younger than I was by several years, had been home schooled her entire life, was the daughter of a preacher and had been sheltered in every possible way.  For reasons that I still don’t understand, she and I understood each other and she had a significant impact on my life.  And that particularly night, she was the only thing holding me together.

I sobbed on the phone for a while, and when I’d finally calmed down enough to talk, M. told me that I needed to have faith.  I scoffed.  (I’m pretty sure I literally said “psssh” into the phone.)  She knew that I was not a religious or a spiritual person, but she repeated it.

M. told me that I needed to have faith, and while she found comfort in having faith in God, it didn’t have to be that for me.  She begged me to have faith in myself.  Faith that while everything right now felt like it was wrong, it would become right again.  Faith that I continued to have a purpose in life, even if the career I thought I’d love turned out to be a terrible fit.  Faith that I could handle whatever was going to come next for me.

I’d like to say that her words changed my life immediately and that everything was sunshine and rainbows after that.  It wasn’t.  In fact, following that conversation, I went through the roughest year of my life.  And a few years after that, M. and I grew apart and lost touch.  But every time I think that nothing can possibly be right again, I still hear M’s voice in my head reminding me to never give up my faith.

I continue to cling to that word.  Faith. I have faith that my life has a purpose and that everything that happens is an opportunity for me to make a positive impact on this world.  I have faith that regardless of how small, those positive impacts are important.

In simplest terms, to me faith is believing that everything will be okay.

This post was inspired by the awesome new bracelet that I just bought from farmgirlpaints (pictured above), and by the fact that while I’d really love to address the fiscal cliff, or the debt ceiling, or Monsanto, or welfare reform – my brain has been fried by work lately and I really don’t have the energy right now.