Review of 2012 & Preview of 2013

I’ve been reading Happy Black Woman for ages, and in general, I love to read her monthly reviews. Basically, she looks over the past month and discusses what went well, and what she’d like to improve. But seeing as how 2012 ends in two days, a yearly review is in order. Snagged from HBW:

Flickr Credit to: Joli Sourire (OFF)

Flickr Credit to: Joli Sourire (OFF)

What I Want to Remember About 2012:

What was the most valuable lesson you learned this year?

Taking chances on myself, most definitely. That’s definitely something I want to keep doing as the year progresses – investing in myself, and my own personal growth and goals. 

What was the biggest personal milestone you reached this year in your relationships, health, finances, education and/or lifestyle?

I think I’ve had a few milestones this year: I cut off the locs I’d been growing since December 2008, and reading about Oneika cutting her own acted as the final push for me to do it. And today I went to the barber to get it shaped up (since it was uneven) and mowed down since it was way too big. I don’t miss having locs at all, nor do I miss having long hair – which I’ve had my entire life. This was especially enlightening when I did some quick math, and found that when/if I spent $50 a month to get my locs re-twisted, I’d spend about $600 a year. (Wow). But if I just got my new fro cut down every few months, at about $15, that’s obviously a massive savings. 

And I moved to Philadelphia for a new, contract job, even though I didn’t have anywhere to stay when I got here. Everything worked out, and I landed two great room mates and an apartment in a really nice neighborhood. 

I’ve also made some investments in my spiritual growth, such as meditating and praying every day – when I wake up, and right before bed. And I’m on the look out for new material to supplement my growth and finding new ways to help me get the type of life I want. Before, I would spend a lot of time reading, but not practicing. Now – not so much! 

What professional accomplishments (at work or in your business) were you most proud of this year?

Starting to do web development on the side. I’ve only just begun, but I’m really dedicated to becoming proficient in programming and building my skill set. While the job I have now isn’t best suited to me, it’s really opened my eyes to what I’d love to do – working in technology and computer science. So, stumbling upon a new career goal is DEFINITELY an accomplishment!

What was your favorite family/friends moment from 2012?

Hm. I think my favorite moment was being able to chat with Constance, a friend I made off of Twitter, for like two hours (or something) as we chatted about social justice.

What was the best book/blog/song/movie/restaurant/city/country/etc. you discovered this year?

Another hard one! The best book I think is Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. It’s really, really good. I highly recommend it. I don’t know if I saw any tremendously good movies this year. But one of the best blogs I discovered is about menstruation activism – which I found inspiring and knowledgeable. 

What I Want to Leave Behind As I Enter 2013

Which personal development area(s) did you make the LEAST progress on this year: health, finances, education, relationships, family, work and/or lifestyle?

Finances. That’s definitely my Achilles’ Heel. Even though I make more in my current job than I did in my previous, part-time employment. It’s still really frustrating to have student loans, credit card debt and chronic obligations (ie: cell phone bills, food, internet, utilities, rent, etc). One of my goals is to simply make more money so I can [literally] afford to do the things that matter to me the most. 

I also didn’t make any progress on my health. While I acquired a free membership to a semi-close gym, I actually hate gyms and the idea of working out (or even having to attend a class) agitates me. I looked into taking an aikido class downtown, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I’ve been searching on and off since October, but haven’t locked into anything yet. My eating habits are semi-better, but I really need to learn how to cook. Currently, I eat a lot of pasta. A LOT. 

What promises (to yourself or others) did you break in 2012?

I told myself that I’d take my credit card debt more seriously – since it’s not a lot – and actively work to pay down at least one of the credit cards. I haven’t tackled it at all, but I know why. I just need to DO it. 

What arguments/gossip/hurtful comments, if any, did you participate in or make this year that you wish you could take back and/or apologize for?

Hm… I do like to hear gossip because it makes me feel like I’m in the loop. I don’t hurl hurtful comments, not because of self-control, but because when I’m upset with someone I tend not to go that route.  

What opportunities, if any, did you miss out on in 2012 because of fear or procrastination?

I’m not sure! 

What did you do in 2012, if anything, that was out of alignment with your values?

I’m not sure – my values are changing all the time! Hah. But, I think a big one with my spirituality is that even though I know I should work on it, I haven’t. 

What I Want to Bring Into My Life in 2013

What do you deserve more of next year? What do you deserve less of next year?

More of: Commitment – to myself, mostly. I rarely prioritize myself, and my own goals. I normally spend a lot of time worrying about what other people may want from me (ie: family) or worried about how I’ll be perceived by doing x, y or z. So in 2013 I want to spend LESS time fretting over other people’s opinions – not just about my life, but about things in general. My goal for 2013 is to alter my mindset so that I can manifest the type of life I want. Being around people who doubt themselves, or allowing their negative perceptions of the world to get to me won’t help me. 

What personal milestone(s) do you most want to reach in your relationships, health, family, finances, education and/or lifestyle?

Relationships: Dating. Even if it doesn’t end up with a relationship, I want to explore that. 

Health: Taking up a sport or physical activity – preferably self-defense or martial arts. 

Finances: Make more money, pay down credit card debt. 

Education: Continue attending web development courses, so I can learn to program. Find a mentorship and a network of other women who program to nurture and support me. 

Lifestyle: Live in my own apartment (no room mates). 

What professional accomplishments (at work or in your business) do you want to see for yourself next year?

For my writing to become a bigger part of my life/work. To be able to program – and get paid to do it. 

What do you want to learn in 2013?

Love. Manifestation. God.

What do you want to cross off of your bucket list in 2013?

Moving abroad to work. 

What I Want My Life to Look Like in 2013

What part of your life do you want to pay more attention to in 2013?
My work life. I definitely want my resume and cover letter and networking skills to be top notch!

Who do you want to spend more time with in 2013? Who do you want to spend less time with in 2013?
Hm. I’m not sure. I want to be present for myself, and spend less time with people who I don’t like or connect with. 

Which activities, habits or behaviors, if any, do you want to stop doing in 2013 because they no longer serve you?
Procrastinating. Doubting myself. 

Which activities do you want to start and/or continue doing in 2013?
My spiritual habits: praying, meditating, reading books (both fiction and non-fiction). Writing. Learning to code. Photography. Practicing the spiritual lessons I’m learning. 

What will your ideal day look like next year?
My ideal day would start off with me waking up in my solo apartment, with my cat purring next to my face. She’d be fluffy and adorable. The day will start with prayer, meditation and yoga. Then a shower. I’d eat breakfast first: toast, eggs, orange juice (my favorites). My cat will be meowing for food. Later I’d pop open the laptop, checking my e-mail while my partner is singing and getting ready for the day. The cat is on the laptop, swishing its tail. So I pick her up and take her to the balcony, where our apartment overlooks the Mediterranean ocean. That day all I have is a meeting over Skype, some code to clean up and to put the finishing touches on my novel before sending it to the publisher. My lover is ready to head out – we’ll be spending the day in Paris, and I can easily work on the train, and then spend the rest of my day meeting up with friends, and going out to dinner in my favorite city. 

What’s In A Scar?

Inspired by Lindsay’s post at The Boomerang Kid!

I, perhaps like most people, have a lot of scars. And a lot of regrets:

  • Moving out of Seattle to be jobless in Florida for over five months with no change in sight.

    Flickr Credit to: Finalfeliz

  • Regretting not transferring out of my second college even though I had become beyond miserable by the end of my first semester there.
  • Not being more proactive in my job and room mate hunt so that I could still have money in my pocket, my own roof over my head and living with someone I liked.

Compulsively, I run these scenarios over and over in my mind. What would my life be like now had I stayed in Seattle and moved in with that girl? Would I still be working at my old job? Would I have gotten the chance to write comics in Seattle?

In her post, Lindsay called them “invisible scars” but there’s nothing invisible about my pain. I wear it for everyone to see as I tweet incessantly about my ugliness and the rejection I’ve faced because of the way that I look. The scars from my college years haven’t even begun to scab over as I replay my suffering over and over. I mourn the loss  of having my own place, paying my own bills. I look out into the world and wonder, “What the fuck did I get wrong? Why wasn’t I informed of this fuckery!?”

My scars didn’t make me a better or more enlightened person.  I haven’t experienced any kind of life altering catharsis because of them, nor do I expect to. I have found other people’s suffering to be significantly more thought provoking than my own. As I look back on my life, I see one regret after another; like I’m incapable of getting it right, or not repeating the same mistakes.

This is why regret is so terrifying, and yet so enticing, because it appeals to a lack of self-trust. I regretted not transferring, because I didn’t trust myself enough to be okay with going to a new school, and not trusting my feelings enough to say that I wasn’t happy and should do something about it. I regretted moving out of Seattle because it was so plainly a fear-based response: my room mate wanted me to move out, the girl who I thought about living with was pressuring me about giving her a deposit, my job wasn’t living up to my expectations. I caved.

Even if some people don’t admit to regrets, carrying around “invisible scars” can be as clear as day. You see it in how reactive people can be, in how quick they are to dismiss you or reject you. The fear, the guilt, the regret is soul-consuming and it has infected every aspect of our socialization. The scars we bear can breed hate, prejudice, willful ignorance, rejection of reality and a rejection of the Self.

I have a lot of scars. Perhaps too many. At times I think they make me unbearable. Other times I simply try to drown them out with copious amounts of Norman Reedus. I don’t want my scars to define me, and in many ways they most certainly have. And in others, I still have a choice.

The Bene Gesserit Littainy against Fear: 

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
– “Dune” by Frank Herbert (pg. 19)

 

 

 

Vulnerability and Social Media

How do you define “friend”?

I think about this a lot, especially as a person who easily (and quickly) becomes attached to people I like. It can be heart-breaking to think of someone as a friend, and, later, for them to completely disregard your relationship. As if it never mattered in the first place. This situation seems to happen rather frequently in “real life”, but what in the online world – where the boundary between friend, stranger and acquaintance never seems to be clear, or it’s constantly being re-draw, recreated and redefined.

I’ve been faced with rejection in both my real and online life. It can be disheartening for a minor misunderstanding, or a difference in opinion to make a relationship explode. But I suppose that brings to mind: what is a friend and how do you know when you have one? This is almost exclusively related to social media. In our waking life, it’s easier to see who our friends are; the people who call us or write us. The people who we feel we can talk to about anything. The people who we resonate with the most. But online? Does spending months chatting constitute friendship? Does taking the time to e-mail each other mean you’re BFFs? Do private DMs mean anything at all, or is it just meaningless chatter? At what point do we know when we’ve reached a solid friendship? But also, when have we realized that our friendship is worth fighting for?

You never really know what a friendship can or is able to tolerate until there’s a tremor. Casual relationships, understandably, tend to explode the quickest since there’s no foundation or support to keep the friendship alive. There’s a strong undercurrent of; “I don’t know you, therefore I’m not morally obligated to you or our relationship.” People are more inclined to walk away from something they haven’t invested themselves in, including other people. But the concept of rejection is also very much about power.

It’s similar to the idea presented in “Two Can Play That Game” where Vivica A. Fox says that whomever breaks up with the other person first, wins. I do believe that there’s a strong sense of satisfaction and self-importance at having ended a friendship – regardless of its quality – versus being the person dealing with the rejection. A lot of the time, I think, the people who were rejected long for a sense of closure because everything happened so abruptly. The quickness of it is jarring because a person is cutting you off for no other reason than because they just don’t know you. 

For instance, a girl I knew in college unfriended me on Facebook. It drove me nuts; it still bothers me because she’s friends with people I know. But underneath all my insanity, I get it. I can’t compete with girls she saw every day in her dorms, the fact that I never called her or spoke with her, or the close relationship she had with a girl who become the Godmother to her kids. (Yeah, can’t compete with THAT) So technically, we were never friends, and it made sense for her to unfriend me. Yet at the same time…

This isn’t to suggest that every online relationship is destined to fail – I’ve made some amazing friends online who I hope to meet up with in real life very soon! But an online relationship can, and does, have the same emotional responses as one that’s initiated in real life.

What about you? What are some relationship explosions or mishaps you’ve had since being online?

Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. Kinda.

What is age?

This is an interesting question for me because I’m very much against age gaps in dating. I don’t even have age gaps in my friendships – all of my closest friends are within two to three years of me.

Flickr credit to: c a r a m e l

Part of the reason why I’m taking the question on is because I found two posts that discusses age and our expectations:

1. Power + Grace of: aging

2. A Burden of Expectations 

My addiction to the conversation around age is because I look really young. I’ve been getting the “you have a baby face” thing since I was sixteen. At least. When I was a sophomore in high school, people were telling me I looked twelve.

Self-Esteem: -1

Ouch is putting it mildly as I basically went through the rest of puberty being told how young I looked. I remember being at a relative’s house, standing next to my cousin who is four years younger than me (and significantly more attractive) and being told that she looks older, and I look younger.

Self-Esteem: -2 

It doesn’t help that I blamed my rail-thin figure as the leading cause for this nonsense. Many adult women – most well into their 40s – complimented me, telling me that I should be happy because when I’m older (re: their age) I’ll be happy. This comment seems to blatantly ignore how much of one’s self-esteem is tied up in how one looks – particularly to others. Having a high pitched voice and a face plastered with acne doesn’t help either.

Self-Esteem: -3 

Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve gotten the chance to meet a variety of people within the “Generation Y” sphere; from my age to those in their early 30s. And I’ve met the gamut: people my age who seem to be flourishing in their careers, relationships, blogs, or possessing such a wealth of information about a wide variety of topics I thought they were much older. I’ve met people older than me who seem to be in the same place as me emotionally, as we all struggle through this abyss called Life (or Hell – depending on who you asked). And there as just as many people in between.

The same thread seems to run through many of these people: We have no idea what we’re doing.

Currently, I only have three large focuses that take up a majority of my attention, and I’m trying to enjoy the process instead of longing for the finished product. And sometimes I think age is about that – longing for the finished product.

I recently found a post about the “perks” of dating older men, and the “reasons” they gave for it pertained to issues of being a finished product. A finished product is something (re: someone) that’s accomplished or experienced in certain things in life, so they “know” already.

This places an unseen burden on those of a specific age to have all the answers, to be at a specific point in our lives when this is simply not the case. Our life experiences can only pertain to our age when we discuss issues of pop culture: what movies we grew up on, the music we both loved and loathed, the latest fashion trends. And even then – it varies so wildly, as I’ve met many people my age who long for the 80s, 70s and 60s; eras we haven’t personally experienced.

To me, age is important, but it doesn’t pre-determine who we are, what we know or where we come from.

What do you think about age? 

Maturity is a Cultural Mirage

Flickr credit to: Calvin Z.

Girls are not innately maturer than boys. In fact, maturity is a social construct based on the premises of sexism and gender expression.

Maturity is little more than gender expression. 

I have only met a small handful of people who don’t believe in the concept of maturity. Most people, especially women, live by the idea that boys simply don’t mature at the same rate that girls do. But, I’m here to tell you that that’s not the case. Girls are forced to mature faster than boys because of sexist behavioral expectations. Such as:

1. “Boys will be boys”

2. “[Boys] sowing their wild oats”

As children, boys are both expected and allowed to behave as children for longer periods of time. Boys aren’t necessarily encouraged to “grow up” as a monolith, and there isn’t much backlash over men who still act like boys. The mental picture of a boy is one that is free.

The mental picture of a girl is one that is responsible. Girls are granted sexual power at an early age, while being held responsible for the actions of others. The act of becoming a woman is fraught with confinement: women aren’t encouraged to go out at night (especially alone – and God forbid to a club), a woman who travels alone is seen as being in perpetual danger, a woman who chooses to be single is seen as incomplete, a woman who doesn’t want children is seen as selfish and in denial, a woman who drinks too much is “asking for it”. Women bear the burden of the world – and this problem is exacerbated when confronted with racial privileges as well.

Because of systemic oppression and sexism, girls are forced to deal with the reality of their femaleness at an earlier age, and have to learn to steel themselves against things like street harassment, work sexual harassment and the constant accusations that being girl should be punishable by law.

When I was younger, my mother told me that I’d have to work harder than others because of my being a girl and black. The internalized inferiority complex some women have compels them to mature faster, to make up what they’re told they are lacking.

Meanwhile, men don’t have the same incentive to mature. Sexism and gender expression has allowed boys the freedom to do what they want for a longer period of time (if not their whole lives). While girls experience a confinement that starts so early, it would appear that girls mature faster.

People often look to psychology and neuroscience to create and establish psychological differences between boys and girls. People are hungry for research that debunks cultural influence, and instead points out that maybe humans are born a certain way. That girls, as part of the human race, DO mature faster. But this is ignoring the cultural context in which this “maturity” is taking place. This research is ignoring in what ways boys are treated differently from girls, and how people have subliminal and overt expectations for girls.

There’s no such thing as maturity – it’s just an expression that has embraced sexist mentalities and biased gender expressions.