Phrases to Push You Forward

Each day I come closer to better understanding myself. Every day, I get a better idea as to what truly motivates me, what truly peeves me, and most of all how to cope with these realizations and apply them to being a better version of myself. I’ve found that self-actualization is the epic learning curve of life.

I mean, Sheryl Crow says it best, “Everyday Is a Winding Road”

Most recently, I’ve grasped that niceties, frequent compliments, telling me, “Awe it’s going to be okay” – none of that motivates me, none of that means anything to me. It will go in one ear and out the other, the same as when someone apologizes to me. When someone apologizes to me, just the simple word, “sorry” has me shut down. I’m not listening to you anymore, I’m taking your words with a grain of salt, they mean nothing. You’re sorry? Cool story, bro.

I’ve understood that I’m very actions-based (my love language is acts of service obvi), and the only time words motivate me are when they’re unexpected or blunt. But nothing motivates me more than someone telling me I can’t do it.

Some phrases in particular, mantras if you will, that I’ve found myself saying on a loop in my head, that push me forward:

Pick your pain.

This phrase comes from Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. I read this book in January and this is the phrase that has stuck with me since. When I’m having an exceptionally terrible day, thinking about quitting everything and shipping off to live off the land as a hermit… I remind myself that pain, hinderance, it’s everywhere. It’s the biggest sign of life. You can’t get away from it, but you can pick the pain you want, choose which pain is most manageable.

I usually follow up this mantra with, “The devil you know.”

Cheat death.

This came from graffiti I saw on my way to work one day. I was having a super rough morning, one of those, “I need to take a mental health week…” type of days, and there was something about seeing this phrase that just gave me the kick in the ass I needed that day. Like hell yeah, let’s cheat death today, gurl.

I’m doing it for me.

There are times when someone takes ages to complete a task, and I’ll find myself annoyed AF and just do it for them. I’m pissed the whole time, adolescently slamming things and huffing as I do it, “Why am I doing this for them, they don’t do it for me.” Then one day it just clicked: They’re not doing it for me, and I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing the damn thing for me. In order to make myself more at peace, this task needs done ‘now’ – so I will do it just to bring myself some peace.

Sometimes I need to make a selfless situation feel selfish in order to boost my mood, it is what it is.

No one’s coming.

I recently came across this video about parenting yourself and it hit hard, because it’s true. As an adult, no one is going to come and force you to go on a walk, force you to go to bed at a certain time, and no one is going to tell you that microwavable mac and cheese is not dinner. No one is going to just automatically come and help you. And I’m not telling you that you’re alone in life, but if you do need help you have to ask for it.

It’s not personal.

I’ve typically always taken everything personally. If someone says an idea I have is stupid, I think that they’re telling me I’m stupid. If someone yells at me on the phone, because of something I can’t control, 8 times out of 10 I’ll start crying because they’re yelling at me. But it’s taken a long time, and I’m still working on it, to just not take things personally. Almost everything that anyone does, isn’t personal to you but it is personal to them – so leave it that way.

Not everything is about you. You aren’t stupid, but maybe your idea isn’t as well thought out as you envisioned (and that’s okay.) The person screaming at you on the phone is definitely just mad at the situation it puts them in – it has nothing to do with you (they don’t even really know you.)


What’s important is to understand what type of communication is most effective for you, the above phrases may be completely toxic to you and get you in a negative headspace. You have to sort that out for yourself. I’ll say it again: self-actualization is the epic learning curve of life.

Trash TV to Nurture Your Void

Hi guys, my name is Emily and I’m addicted to trash TV. I always have been, and something tells me that I always will be; and no, I have no desire to change. There’s just something about seeing unhinged, drunken fools on television that put me in this euphoric mental state of complete void, it’s my favorite sigh of relief after any long day.

To put things in perspective, I’m the type of person that strangers feel comfortable dumping their trauma on, I’m the BFF drunk girl you meet in the bathroom at the club that hypes you up, I’m the girl that cares a lot – about everything. Which is maybe why everyone tells me everything… they want someone to care and they get the vibe that I’m that bitch.

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So anytime I get to completely shut off, and give much ado about nothing… I relish in it. Now, I’m going to share some recs of shows you have to watch, if you want to join me in a completely mind numbing experience.

Below Deck

Network: Bravo

Streaming channels: Youtube TV, Hulu TV, Peacock

Synopsis: “This reality series profiles a group of young people who work aboard yachts that measure well over 100 feet long. The crew members, known as yachties, live aboard the luxurious, privately owned vessels while making sure that their demanding clients’ ever-changing needs are met. The yachties share a passion for a job that allows them to visit some of the world’s most beautiful places. Each episode features a different group of passengers — ranging from millionaires to hard-partying friends — as they head out for a marine adventure. The crews live by the “work hard, play harder” motto that gives them access to exotic perks few people get to experience.”

Why I’m obsessed: This show dynamic very closely correlates with some of the things I experience in my own line of work and it just resonates. You have these people from all over the world, crammed in these little rooms “below deck” on these multi-million dollar super yachts… things obviously get crazy. You have people who are really great at their job, and people who are really shit at their job, and overall it’s just insane to see how certain people cope. But what’s also fun about this show, is learning little things about yachting terminology and watching the deckhands dock these massive boats… it’s pretty impressive. They also make thousands in tips, it’s had me reconsider my life choices a bit… could I hack it as a yachtie?

Notes: I should also digress, there are three different series of this show: Below Deck (takes place in the Caribbean) Below Deck Mediterranean and Below Deck Sailing Yacht – so these all have different crews and types of people that charter out these boats, so… if you don’t like one, you might like one of the other two 😉

Ghosted

Network: MTV

Streaming channels: Youtube TV, Hulu TV, Paramount

Synopsis: “Hosts Rachel Lindsay and Travis Mills help distraught people track down former friends or lovers who suddenly cut off all contact with them, and the truth about the ghosting is revealed.”

Why I’m obsessed: So I’ve been obsessed with MTV’s show Catfish for years, and when this show came out I felt the correlation instantly: attractive gray haired man and their charismatic friend help people who’s love-lives have suffered the side-effects of existing in the millennial generation. The pull with this show though is the fact that unlike Catfish, these people had met before and some had even been engaged when suddenly *poof* #GHOSTED. So seeing these people reconnect and confess why one ghosted the other… it’s juicy y’all.

Too Hot To Handle

Network: Netflix

Streaming channels: Netflix

Synopsis: “American-British reality television dating game show where the host of the series is a virtual assistant, named “Lana,” who 12-hrs into the singles’ arrival to the house, announces that the contestants had been tricked into having no sexual contact for four weeks. If they make it, they win $100,000.”

Why I’m obsessed: I’m obsessed with shows like Are You The One? and Love Island and somehow this show feels like both of those wrapped into one – with the tricky twist of the no sexual contact. Season One singles definitely had slip ups, but these pandemic-lockdown-recovering singles of Season Two… they are buckwild and thirsty as hell. I’ve never seen a virtual assistant so pissed at humans for breaking so many rules LOL.


If Too Hot To Handle season two and the latest season of Below Deck Sailing Yacht have taught us anything thus far… it’s that any reality show shot during the pandemic that gets aired this year is going to be wild. So now’s as good a time (or better) than any to hop on this trash TV train – it’s going full speed ahead y’all.

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When to Drive & When to Fly

It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I learned it’s a very fly-over-state of mind to say, “It’s only 8-10 hours, let’s just drive.”

The people here generally like to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible, whether that’s from Midtown to East Village or New York to Indiana – whatever the fastest way is, it’s just usually the first (and only) option, but rightfully so. Why give up 6 more hours of your life than you have to? It’s gotta be worth the extra couple hundred dollars to just fly somewhere, you get those extra hours to spend at your destination versus getting to your destination.

Right?

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Honestly, debatable.

The last two years I recently have been opting to drive home more versus flying. This is because driving gives me the desired flexibility to leave whenever I want and to also make stops along the journey to my destination. The last several holidays, because I drove, I was able to do a Tour de Fam (& Friends) and see nearly everyone I love in one fell swoop. I made a couple stops in Pennsylvania, a couple stops in Indiana, and then made it to Kentucky to spend the longer part of my vacation there.

It was also when I began to optimize my drives like this that friends went from, “Yikes, driving 12+ hours to get home?” to, “Oh you get to see everyone? That makes sense, that’s super nice.”

It’s lead me down the path to always question if I’m using my time to the best of my abilities. Sure, the 2 hour flight is great, but that’s 2 hours in the air – it’s not taking into account the commute to the airport, the wait at the airport, waiting for baggage when you land (followed by the anxiety of “where’s my bag?!”) then followed by the commute from the airport to wherever I’m going next. So honestly the whole ‘saving time with flying’ thing, if you’re staying on the same coast, is kind of debatable.

That all being said, don’t get me wrong – I’m a firm believer and lover of air travel. Toss me on a plane any day, let’s go. But I recognize that there is a time to drive and time to fly.

When making the decision on whether or not to drive or fly, I simply ask myself if there are at least three or more benefits to driving that would not be gained if I flew.

These benefits for me are typically:

  • It’s more cost effective
  • I get to see more (people and places)
  • I get the flexibility to leave whenever I need to (I also have no issues night driving)
  • If something comes up and I need to cancel my plans, I’m not out any money

Now to get all existential here… life is one big trip.

The trip has multiple stops, think backpacking across Europe vibes, and throughout the journey we are constantly faced with the option to either hop on a plane to the next country or maybe we hitch a ride over to the next town and continue to soak in this country a bit more deeply (and then casually make our way over to a new country without even realizing it.) Sometimes the drive is sketchy, sometimes it’s long and tiresome, sometimes the vehicle has no AC; but God you just know it’s a ride you’re going to talk about for years to come. You can really feel the character-building just stripping you from the core, but in the best way.

That all being said, sometimes, the drive isn’t worth it. You’ve actually exhausted that country and it’s time to hop on a plane and get the hell out of Dodge. You need the kind of rapid change that only a flight can offer, because you need that change faster than a freight train – you need to be gone like yesterday.

Life is all about deciding when to drive and when to fly. There are no wrong answers either, just decisions between swift change and gradual change. I can promise that you will always get where you’re meant to be, whether it’s in the most efficient way or the most ass backwards way… you’ll get there.

So make your choices and make them with conviction, what do you have to lose?



Immortalizing the Days: March

So March is over?

As mentioned in my January article, for 2021, I’ve decided to do two things in order to immortalize my days, so when the year comes to an end I have a physical reminder that not only did I do everyday, but everyday I felt, created, explored, cleansed, and consumed.

The first thing I’ve done is downloaded this app called 1 Second Everyday where I upload a little snippet of 1-1.5 seconds. It gives me a little thing to look forward to each day and is the little push on certain days to just do. Then it becomes fun evidence on the days where it seemed I didn’t do anything… that I did actually do something.

Here is what March looked like for me, I’d title it, “Moody March” beware those ides, am I right?

. . .

The next fun adventure on my immortalization trek, is something I came across somewhere on IG (I can’t trace back the origin unfortunately) but it was to create a Spotify playlist and add one song everyday.

You already know how ya homegirl feels about playlists, so obvi I was so down for this I couldn’t make a playlist fast enough.

Each song that I add everyday is either one that had been an earworm, maybe a new song that struck a chord with me, or a perhaps there was a day so radical it was easy to find a song that perfectly embodied the day. March starts with Shut Me Up by Mindless Self Indulgence (LOL)

. . .

Feelings after experiencing my video and playlist on 4/1/21:

So, uh, my playlist got SUPER weird this month – so if you’re following the music journey with me… I have no explanation other than it was a moody, angsty month.

The video? Vibes. This month was so busy, there was a lot of times I nearly forgot to take a video (which maybe is a fun sign of life.) Either way, there’s been a lot of learning curves I’ve taken at full speed, I got a title change (aye-oh), and honestly – I feel like I’ve been in a constant state of yikes. Sum of March: I need a vacaaaaaaaaaaay.

Five things learned in March:

  • If you can’t handle the heat, there is no shame in leaving the kitchen
  • Early birds are not better people than night owls. Just because someone is a morning person, it doesn’t automatically make them better at life or adulting than you, my dear night owl. If anything, it just means their freak outs start hours earlier 😉
  • Stop trying to make flourless banana bread happen. You remembered the banking soda and it’s still weird, but not in a good way.
  • If you don’t take yourself seriously, how do you expect others to?
  • You always have more people rooting for you than you think. It’s easy to think the world is out to get you, but don’t forget about your secret cheerleaders, prayer warriors, and vibe senders – they got you.

. . .

. . .

I Just Want to See Some Water & Mountains

As per usual, I’ve had a pretty intense bout of the travel bug lately. I mean, who hasn’t? We’ve been barred from leisure vacay travel for over a year now – if you aren’t restless, well you’re about to be. I’ve decided to do a fun little compilation of three places that have been on my radar recently and are quickly creepin’ up to top places I want to check out asap.

First up, we have…

Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands is located in between Iceland, Norway, and the UK – so if you’re looking for a cheap flight to get to the Faroe Islands, one of these countries will get you a decently priced ticket.

Official Languages of Faroe Islands: Faroese & Danish

Best time to visit: June – August is when it’s prettiest and driest. Evidently the winters are quite wet and meh.

Check out this article that has more info on the Faroe Islands!

Now we have…

Wales

Something a lot of people don’t fully wrap their head around is the fact that Wales is its own country just as much as Scotland. They exist under the United Kingdom rule, but they are entirely their own country. Pretty sick, right?

Official Languages of Wales: Welsh & English

Best time to visit: April, May, September, & October are the less busy months that are beautiful, but best months for anything outdoors are said to be June – October

Check out this article that has more info on Wales!

And last, but certainly not least:

Norway

Honestly I have no clue how Norway popped on my radar – especially when I’ve specifically been looking into a trip to Finland. My phone just keeps saying, “No, you want N O R W A Y.”

Official Languages of Norway: Norwegian & Sami

Best times to visit: From my research, there is absolutely no such thing as a bad time to go to Norway. In the winter you get the Norther Lights (and Frozen vibes) in the spring and summer it’s perfect for outdoor adventures… we all just need to go to Norway ASAP.

Check out this article that has more info on Norway!

Have you been to any of these places? Drop your travel tips in the comments!

I Just Want To See Some Water & Mountains

Evolution: Embrace It

“People don’t change,” whispers a scornful, bitter friend.

We’ve all been told vehemently that people don’t change, “If they sucked then, they’ll suck now,” and all that yada yada. Which in all fairness is true for some people – some people really do just suck (forever), but for the vast majority of the population: we are not doomed to suck forever.

To be the same forever goes against the grain; we aren’t meant to rinse and repeat our entire lives. This isn’t to denounce routine by any means, but it is to embrace growth. You shouldn’t be the same person you were at 17, or even the same person you were last year. Every day lessons should be learned, every day we should be striving to be better than yesterday.

When you move to New York, the first thing that people will tell you is to remember that there is always someone better.

This is meant as a warning that the dating scene is hard because in the back of your mind (and your date’s mind) is the lingering thought, “Hmmm… is there someone better? Is this investment worth it?” Not to mention the whole competitive job scene has an underlying tone that you are replaceable (which isn’t necessarily a lie.) But it’s true, in life there is always someone better, but there is always someone worse too. It’s a double-edged sword.

So let’s take that knowledge introspectively: there is always a worse version of myself and a better version, and it’s in the power of the present version of myself to decide how I pan out.

To break that down, lately before I do something mildly destructive I audibly tell myself, “Girl, don’t do that to future you. Don’t put her through that. Don’t give her chores for later.”

The tendency to coddle our present self is in and of itself: self-destructive.

Present you is already having a bad day, case closed. Done. Past you already wasn’t equipped to deal with it, so what are you going to do for future you? How are you going to try to set her up better, make her more equipped to handle a similar mess in the future? How are you going to e v o l v e from this?

If you don’t evolve, if you reject the universe telling you that your current state of being is not sustainable – you are doomed to rinse and repeat. If you don’t learn from the bad day, that bad behavior, or that explosive encounter with someone more woke than you – then these things will always happen to you like groundhog day. You will get stuck.

Change is an old friend that comes when you least expect it.

Sometimes we get to embrace the change with open arms, but other times… the change is too much and not our cup of tea. That being said, we all change way more than we give ourselves credit for. Just last week I was able to talk myself out of hitting snooze everyday simply by asking myself, “Will the ten extra minutes change your day? Is it worth it?” Each day it was a clear answer, the snooze was not hit and I got out of bed earlier than usual.

But this week, I’ve not seen the same rationale and argued that yes, ten more minutes will actually make or break my day. Yet instead of that extra ten minutes domino-effecting my morning, I cling to the beneficial mindset I made last week and make compromises. Meaning if I sleep longer then this is how my routine will get altered, etc. Really, I’m refusing to allow myself to ‘sleep in’ without holding myself accountable for the effect it will have on the rest of my morning.

So you see, the person I was last week, I’m not her today, not completely. The person I was last year? Don’t know her. This is to say, if you knew me in high school or even college, and our friendship didn’t withstand the test of time: you don’t know me, nor I, you.

“You’ve changed,” whispers a scorned, bitter friend.

“Funny how that happens, isn’t it?” I say with a smile.


Dropping this Affirmations playlist as a reminder to embrace your evolution, but also don’t be too hard on yourself today ❤


The Universe Screams Perception

Perception. Life is all about perception.

You know that weird thing that happens where the universe starts to send you the same message over and over again, but it takes the third, fourth, or millionth time for the message to actually come through? The message finally hits home hard enough, reverberating in your mind, and you finally say to yourself and the universe, “Okay, okay – I get it…

Lately the universe has been screaming out one word to me: Perception.

Where it started:

Late at night, as I’m trying to go to sleep, my brain loves to torture me with embarrassing things I’ve done throughout my life, dangle the tasteless words I’ve spouted at others, and really just hammer in that I’m a terrible, heartless person. After I hear a dizzying bout of my own words, I then take a deep dive into a vicious wave pool of the hurtful things friends and family have said to me (or about me) throughout my life, “Nobody really knows who you are,” “You don’t have much of a personality,” “You’re a two-faced bitch,” “You’re soulless,” all of which effectively drive the point home.

Yet, as I flail about the torrent of self-loathing, I take a minute to refocus – to reel it back in. None of that matters, what matters is where I am now. Not the big picture macro-now, I mean the micro-now. I focus on the task at hand: relaxing and getting some rest. I remind myself that the past is done, those people probably don’t remember these moments anyway. In this precise moment the past doesn’t matter, only the micro-now matters.

Where it went:

Nobody really knows who you are.” This is the late night phrase that has been sticking to me like static-y cellophane throughout even the daylight hours. I’ve just had a hard time shaking it lately. This was something casually said to me in high school by an incredibly close friend. They said it offhand, and I remember being completely jarred by it.

I always felt a tad out of place in high school, all of those kids had grown up together, I randomly showed up freshman year and most people assumed I was older because they didn’t know me. But a little over halfway into my high school career, I had become involved enough to genuinely feel like I was leaving some kind of footprint with my classmates, and like I was becoming a part of this general air of familiarity carried between these hundreds of kids.

Then my friend made that statement and it completely altered the perception I had of myself. My gut reaction to their statement was that they were wrong. But my audible response to them was, “Well, I still don’t really know most people anyway, so that’s fine.”

But it wasn’t fine. That one offhand, careless statement made by a friend… I gave those words so much power that they still have a hold over how I see myself in the eyes of others. Consistently throughout my life, well since sophomore or junior year of high school, I have always assumed people don’t know me. All because a trusted friend, an ally in life, told me so.

Where it’s going:

What has been most difficult lately is trying to understand why that memory decided to resurface so fiercely and persistently. Why has it been the ringing in my ears? Is the universe trying to communicate something to me?

Then today, the universe screamed its violent message at me, using my cousin as a catalyst. My cousin posted a video and somewhere in there she said, “Everyone in the world has a different perception, even if they’re seeing the exact same thing.” What’s comical is that this message from the universe landed like an edible – aka an hour later.

An hour after watching my cousin’s video, I sat up in a stark realization: I let the perception of another impact my own perception of myself. Which is incredibly unfortunate, I can’t help but wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed due to this lack of clarity in myself? So within the time I’ve been writing this article, I’ve been tumbling down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of realizations. Most importantly, I’ve come to understand that I stopped believing that friend’s statement long ago, their words have not been my truth for quite sometime now.

Since moving to New York and starting my career nearly four years ago, I’ve slowly been coming into my own power and understanding the impact that my voice can have. I have come to understand that I am incredibly capable of commanding a room, that I have an infallible confidence if I so call upon it, and that I have the power to decide whether I am noticed or whether I hide. I am in charge of the perception I project – whether it’s yours or mine.

. . .

Facebook Fyre Fests: Potato Head & Seuss

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Facebook Fiends have risen with the latest travesty that is responsible for tearing America apart… I think the title of the article says precisely which radical changes I’m referring to…

But if you’ve been living under a rock, or perhaps aren’t friends on social media with some bored bigots from high school, let’s do a quick recon of these changes:

  • Mr. Potato Head has changed their brand name to just Potato Head. That’s it. Just a simple rebrand, a drop of the Mr. which instantly makes it a bit more inclusive and creates more opportunities for the brand to just do more with itself. You can still buy Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head just fine. But this drop in the “Mr.” has everyone up in arms because, for the love of God what will be the next to change in the world? Why change a good thing? “What’s next?!” the bigots cry, “Will Betty White have to change her last name?!”
  • Then for the Seuss, get your Kleenex for this one, six of his books will stop being published because of ‘racist and insensitive imagery.’ Are you ready for the titles of these books, and these books alone, that are no longer going to be published? Here we go:
    • “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” (never heard of it? same)
    • “If I Ran the Zoo” (never heard of it? same)
    • “McElligot’s Pool” (never heard of it? same)
    • “On Beyond Zebra!” (never heard of it? same)
    • “Scrambled Eggs Super!” (never heard of it? same)
    • “The Cat’s Quizzer” (never heard of it? same)

What’s so radical about all of these avid Facebook Fyre Starters, is that they are offended… that other people are offended…

Spin that logic to make it make sense, I won’t wait.

It’s when people get so upset over the changes like the aforementioned, that I find myself so confused as to how there is a complete lack of empathy and even ability to research the facts. Everyone was upset about Mr. Potato Head because they thought they were taking away his gender… but news-breaker, even if that was the case, potatoes don’t typically have genders anyway?? Don’t get so heated, Lisa. And Seuss? We literally don’t need those books; they cater to a dead narrative. Why would you want to read your children books that contain subliminal messages of hate?

Another Facebook Fyre I had seen recently, was uproar over changing the term of “breastfeeding” to “chestfeeding” – which admittedly I found a bit bizarre myself. But instead of coaxing a fire that was already blazing, I hopped onto Google to see why the change was happening, or being proposed – and overall I found that the change is happening because some non-binary people with the ability to reproduce are more comfortable with the term, amongst many other reasons. Okay, so it makes other people more at ease, there’s nothing wrong with that. Language changes all the time, medical terms develop all the time, this is just the latest terminology that could be used. Case closed.

Interesting how a little research, a little education, can be a path towards enlightenment. After all, ignorance is only bliss if the ignorance benefits your narrative 🙂

I think maybe the most hurtful and unnecessary comment that is tossed in these Facebook Fyres is the whole, “If you don’t like how we do things in America, just leave then.” Like… homie, you’re the one that doesn’t like what’s happening in America. The change is happening, evolution of a culture is inevitable. We are evolving, you are resisting… do you know who Charles Darwin is?

We are all entitled to freedom of speech, we all have that right, but maybe think about the big picture before sharing information that is false or hateful. What’s the point? What do you get from that? What is the benefit?

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Sharing false information makes you look stupid, and sharing hateful memes makes you a bigot.

You don’t get to decide what is true, nor do you get to decide how other people feel. That’s not the way this whole, “being a decent human” thing works.

“Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”

Bernard Meltzer

Immortalizing the Days: February

Well you guys, February is a wrap… which means I’ve got a video & some lessons learned to share with y’all.

As mentioned in my January article, for 2021, I’ve decided to do two things in order to immortalize my days, so when the year comes to an end I have a physical reminder that not only did I do everyday, but everyday I felt, created, explored, cleansed, and consumed.

The first thing I’ve done is downloaded this app called 1 Second Everyday where I upload a little snippet of 1-1.5 seconds. It gives me a little thing to look forward to each day and is the little push on certain days to just do. Then it becomes fun evidence on the days where it seemed I didn’t do anything… that I did actually do something.

Here is what February looked like for me, I’d title it, “The Wintry Month of Growth”

. . .

The next fun adventure on my immortalization trek, is something I came across somewhere on IG (I can’t trace back the origin unfortunately) but it was to create a Spotify playlist and add one song everyday.

You already know how ya homegirl feels about playlists, so obvi I was so down for this I couldn’t make a playlist fast enough.

Each song that I add everyday is either one that had been an earworm that day, or a new song that struck a chord with me, or a day that was so radical it was easy to find a song that perfectly embodied the day. February starts with Ready Now by Dodie 🙂

. . .

Feelings after experiencing my video and playlist on 2/28/21:

So, I’m still smitten with my playlist. Now if you remember from my January article, that video had me feeling lame and dejected. Well when watching this video, I found that I actually felt quite impressed with myself this month. As I mentioned in this article, February is when my seasonal depression is always at its peak and only travel can really dull the SAD. So I’ll be incredibly honest, since I didn’t travel anywhere this month, I’ve been struggling to the max and feeding the depressive beast. Which is why looking back and watching my February moments, I’m impressed with myself. Through the despair I’ve felt, I still managed to hardcore create and cleanse – which that SAD beast typically doesn’t allow for.

Five things learned in February:

  • Adapt to the directness of others.
    • It’s so easy to shut down when someone is painfully direct with you about problems or things that you do that are bugging them. But don’t shut down, just listen and return the directness. Whether it’s with a, “Woah man you’re coming in a bit hot here, can you tone it down? Your aggression is actually kind of upsetting me…” or something like, “Wow, yeah okay I hear you. Thanks for being direct, this sets the tone and now I feel I can be more open with you as well.”
  • If you want something, just ask for it. It’s better to be annoyed by rejection than beating yourself up for years to come and have regrets about never asking.
  • Flourless banana bread is weird, but easy to make. Don’t forget the baking soda next time… maybe it will taste better.
  • Don’t impose the standards you hold yourself to onto others.
  • Some people will never understand, and that’s fine. Don’t take it personally nor judge them for it.

. . .

. . .

Somewhere in Rainbows

My parents met in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University in the mid 90’s. My mom was in a sorority, my dad a fraternity and they hit it off at a Greek mixer. I came into existence in 1995, they subsequently dropped out of university and moved to Louisville to raise little ol’ me. Two and a half years after I was born, my sister came into the picture, and a year or so after that my parents got divorced. My dad stayed in Kentucky, but my mom needed to move to Indiana to be closer to my aunt and nana.

Every other weekend, every summer, and alternating holidays would be spent at my dad’s in Kentucky (this schedule not strictly followed as I got older) and all schooling would take place in Indiana. The driving distance between my parents was a lengthy three hours; which is short enough to be doable, but long enough to be slightly painful. The divorce wasn’t easy on anyone. It was never a smooth, simple thing. It was uncomfortable and it always felt like someone was deeply hurting more than the other, no one ever on the same wavelengths, and everyone seemingly took turns over-vocalizing the pain in what was usually not the most constructive way. Essentially, none of us made it through unscathed.

When it was time for me to start kindergarten, my mom soon found the Catholic elementary school, St. Ambrose, in Anderson, that seemed like the best fit. Quickly upon starting school, I was also signed up for this afterschool program called Rainbows which took place every Tuesday. A few other kids and myself would all get a ride over to the slightly larger Catholic school in town, we’d dash out of the car for bomb milk and cookies, then talk about our feelings for an hour or so in small groups.

Pretty quickly, all of us kids realized the common denominator between us was that we all lacked a nuclear household.

Rainbows created this community of kids and a safe space that essentially validated our feelings. All of them, every single emotion we felt… we were told it was normal.

If I’m being honest, I don’t remember nearly any of the particulars in those little lessons we had within the small group talks. I was in Rainbows for years, yet I genuinely don’t remember what we talked about each week. I just vaguely remember the constant undertone of reassurance that nothing was our fault, which I understand is a common thing for kids with divorced parents to feel. Though I did (and do) feel responsible for my parents marriage, never in my life have I ever felt to blame for my parents divorce.

The primary memories that stick out from Rainbows are the relationships that it created. There were so many adults that felt (and still feel) like an extension of family, and the best friends I had in that lifetime have transcended into adulthood. All of the friendships, even the ones that didn’t quite withstand the test of time, were/are priceless and heavily impacted my life. They’re the people who just got it. It’s always felt like yes, we’re all in our own boats, but we’re still in the same ocean weathering similar storms.

Rainbows encouraged a deep level of empathy.

We were this group of mismatched kids, varying in age, personality types, and all with different stories: some kids lost a parent, some lived with grandparents, some parents were divorced but still lived close to each other (these were the ones I was most jealous of), some kids didn’t know one of their parents at all – the list goes on. Yet throughout the lessons, we were made to feel that yes, our situation sucks and our story may seem harder than the person’s next to us, but that doesn’t invalidate that person’s pain.

All pain is valid, we are not here on this Earth to decide who gets to feel and what it is they feel.

. . .

In deciding to write this article, I googled Rainbows for the first time ever. Finding out that Rainbows was founded by a woman was not surprising, but it did bring a smile to my face (#girlpower). Rainbows, actually fully named Rainbows for All Children, was founded in the mid 70’s by Suzy Yehl Marta, a divorced mother of three boys. She was devastated when her marriage ended and found solace in a support group. It didn’t take long for her to realize that her sons could also greatly benefit from such a group, but her search for this came up empty. Thus, Rainbows for All Children was born.

“Working with other concerned parents, Suzy began organizing weekend retreats for the children in single parent homes. In three years, more than 800 youth benefited from the retreats. Suzy knew more needed to be done. She started working on a curriculum, the foundation of Rainbows for All Children, for children who experienced loss. The curriculum was designed to provide grieving elementary school children with an understanding of their new family unit, to help build a sense of self-esteem and to give them the tools to properly cope with their loss.”

Rainbows for All Children

. . .

Ultimately, it seems Suzy understood that relying on a child’s resiliency isn’t always the best or only answer. Just because kids have the ability to quickly bounce back on their own, doesn’t mean they should be left to their own devices to do so. I mean, think about it: why do adults go to therapy? Typically to finally unpack all of that compartmentalized childhood trauma. So when you think your kid is “getting over it” and “bouncing back” – it’s possible that they’re really just saving that pain for later.

Rainbows is very much still operating today – head to their website to learn more!

Finding My Green Thumb

I come from a family of green thumbs. My nana’s house has always felt just a few steps away from becoming a greenhouse with wispy vines flowing down shelves, succulents covering the window sill, and stalks of bamboo or money trees as table centerpieces. My mom has a love of botany and we frequently planted quite successful gardens with her growing up; gardens of pumpkins, tomatoes, sunflowers, and more. Then even my dad’s side, my papaw always had an ever flowing garden of vegetables, typically gathered by my mamaw, my cousins and myself, following which we’d all snap the green beans together.

My papaw also took special care in the front yard landscaping, artfully planting specific flowers in very specific spots. Truth be told, I only assume his landscaping was this meticulous perhaps it wasn’t and he really just planted whatever wherever – but reflecting on a story no one can seem to forget, yet I don’t have the capacity to remember, his planting all had to have been pretty methodical: evidently when I pulled a tulip out of the ground, Easter of 1998, I practically detonated a bomb in the Smith household.

So not only here is evidence of the purple tulip that nearly ruined Easter and ‘destroyed’ my papaw’s meticulously landscaped yard, but here is evidence of me killing my first (and certainly not last) plant.

I didn’t automatically inherit my family’s green thumb. And truth be told, while this has whole “green thumb” thing has always been talked about like it’s either something you have or you don’t, my adult life has taught me that isn’t really the case. Having a green thumb stems from understanding, receptiveness, and a will to learn. If you have those three traits and simultaneously have a desire for some greenery to take root in your space (pun intended) then you can certainly become equipped with a green thumb.

It’s only been since moving to NY in 2017 when I’ve felt this incessant need to bring an abundance of plants into my home. I also was given the responsibility of “mothering” the plants in our office, which I excitedly took it on. I quickly began boasting that I come from a family of green thumbs, telling people to watch these babies thrive – when suddenly, they all started to die. Everywhere, in rapid succession. In the office I was killing an orchid a month or so on average, succulents were drying up or even getting floppy and it was all just a disaster to be honest. It took one of my colleagues with an exceptional green thumb of giving me some succulent pointers like, “Water only when the soil is completely dry, and when these little leaves fall off stick them back in the soil – they’ll grow.” Then with the orchid, another colleague said to water them with ice cubes only.

These little tips and tricks were working, I was incredibly receptive not only to the advice, but I in turn began understanding those plants a bit more. It was great. But then I became ballsy and got involved with different plants that I would go on to kill (herbs, aloe, and air plants I’ve not synced the vibe with yet.)

But if you’re someone like me who so desperately wants to have green vibes in your space, but you haven’t quite solidified your green thumb enough to be confident in your plant choices… I got you. Below are some ways I’ve greened up my space while managing to minimize my casualties.

Bamboo

I invested in one stalk of bamboo as a trial run this summer. I was shopping with my mom at Home Depot, actually looking for some herbs that I could start growing but then would subsequently kill a month later, when I came across this guy and his brethren.

Why did I buy him?

On his little tag, there was a breakdown of the meaning behind the number of stalks you have and what they bring to your life. It only listed the meaning of up to two stalks: 1 Stalk = good fortune and 2 Stalks = love. But really the more you buy, the more meanings there are behind them, I later discovered.

Your girl just wants some good fortune, and not really in the mood to tempt fate with killing not one but potentially two stalks of bamboo.. so I went with just the one. And it’s been successful! He’s super low maintenance, I just keep him on my window sill, change his water and clean the vase every week or so and he’s golden. Golden, growing, and makes me think I could maybe handle taking care of a fish…

Succulents

Alright, I am well well aware that there are different types of succulents that all thrive in different environments, yadda yadda – but these dudes, whatever they are, I’ve somehow managed to keep alive for like three years.

When I lived in Chinatown, around the period when I was killing plants about as fast as I’d buy more, I invested in this fun monthly box, Succulent Studios, and they would send me 2-3 succulents a month. Which was great, but I kept this subscription for quite a while… totaling in some 20 succulents or so.

And I killed all of them except these two. Honestly I think they’ve been near death a handful of times but I’ve somehow revived them.

The trick is to just simply not overwater, maybe decide on one day a week where it’s watering time and that’s the water they will thrive on, make sure they’re in a spot with decent sunlight too.

You’ll also notice there is an air plant lying on that same platter. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.

Dried & Fake

Whenever I feel the need to buy fresh flowers for myself, I always buy eucalyptus and baby’s-breath. Not only for their refreshing scents and subtle decor, but because they dry really well. If dried in a space with little sun, they’ll even maintain their color perfectly. I’d also like to note, I don’t do anything special for the drying, I keep them in the vase and boom, works great.

I also really love the smell of lavender and I found that you can buy dried lavender from Amazon and it’s awesome – there’s so much and it comes packaged in pretty paper, definitely a great, albeit messy, investment.

Amazon is also a great source for other fake greenery, it’s where I got that ivy you see hanging in the photos and also the eucalyptus mixed with the lavender in the three vases is fake as well (the eucalyptus in the lone black vase is real and dry.)

. . .

Ultimately the biggest piece of advice I can offer you is to understand and accept that every plant can die. While there are no magical plants that simply can’t be killed, there are plants that are just harder to kill. So if you want to dive into the plant world, the green life vibe, but everything you touch dies… take it one step at a time. Get one or two real plants to attempt to keep alive (team bamboo over here) and then buy some fake plants off amazon.

Basically, fake it till you make it.

. . .

“Political Camp, Dominated by Drag”: Marsha P. Johnson

Rupaul’s Drag Race came into my life later in high school via a friend and their personal obsession. Half of this friend’s witticisms stemming from the show, rendering us all into constant fits of laughter, paired with them constantly showing me photos of men done up as women looking way prettier than I ever felt… I found myself shook, completely intrigued, and tumbling down after my friend in their rabbit hole of a Drag Race obsession.

When I tell you that I live for the queens’ epic one-liners, the sass for days, the looks being served, the rawness of personality and vulnerability unabashedly being displayed, and the LOVE literally EVERYWHERE… girl, I truly live for it. Drag is an art form. I’ve always loved musicals, live music, performances in general, anything where people just get up on stage and express themselves, no qualms about it. And upon my first taste of Drag Race, I immediately felt that drag is just another facet of the performing arts – it’s the same magical world of comedy, confidence, pure talent, and so much more.

Honestly if you don’t vibe with drag, fine but…

Circa 2012, I was deep within the Drag Race labyrinth, my friend at the helm, us both with no desire to escape. I vividly remember being shocked when we found out that not only was Drag Race not new, but Rupaul wasn’t some underground secret queen locked away for high level fiends. No, no – Rupaul was someone our parents had heard of, jammed out to her music in the 90’s, in other words, a freakin’ star.

Why were we ignorant of this whole world until we were nearly 18? One could speculate that it’s one of the many side effects of growing up between the cornfields of Indiana, but that’s a whole other gift to unbox later down the road.

To this day, when I think I’m a bit more well rounded with the drag world, that I know what’s up, I still get surprised by incredibly important figures whom I had no clue existed. The more recent person that crossed my line of discovery is who Rupaul considers the very mother of drag, Marsha P. Johnson.

Image result for marsha p johnson

Marsha ‘Pay it no mind‘ Johnson

Marsha’s story begins in Elizabeth, NJ where she was born on August 24, 1945 (making her a charismatic Virgo) and she was one of seven children. She was raised in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and remained a devout, practicing Christian for her entire life. Her parents were not particularly accepting of homosexuality; and after graduating high school, Marsha booked it over to New York City with $15 and a bag of clothing. By 1966, she was waiting tables, engaging in sex work, knee deep in drag, and living on the streets of Greenwich Village.

“I was no one, nobody, from Nowheresville until I became a drag queen. That’s what made me in New York, that’s what made me in New Jersey, that’s what made me in the world.” 

Marsha P. Johnson

. . .

Marsha had always been an activist for LGBTQ+, but she garnered her fame with the rumor that she sparked the Stonewall Riots having allegedly shouted, “I got my civil rights!” and subsequently throwing a shot glass at a mirror. Some said this — the “shot glass heard round the world” — was the moment that kicked off the riots.

While this is admittedly a largely disputed story, even by Marsha herself… how freakin’ epic does it sound, though?

To further build on Marsha’s bad-assery, in 1970, she and her friend Sylvia Rivera founded STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries) — an organization that provided community support for gay, trans, and gender nonconforming youth. STAR was the first LGBTQ+ youth shelter in North America, the first trans woman of color led organization in the USA, and it was the first trans sex worker labor organization. STAR later expanded to other cities, before unfortunately collapsing in the mid-1970s.

Marsha was also involved with the Gay Liberation Front and participated in the Christopher Street Liberation Pride rally that commemorated the first anniversary of Stonewall. During a rally, Marsha was asked by a member of the press what they were protesting for, to which she shouted famously into the reporter’s microphone, “Darling, I want my gay rights now!”

Throughout Marsha’s activism, she was still living it up performing in drag utilizing her earnings to fund STAR – aka pay rent for those under STAR’s care. Periodically she performed with the international drag troupe, Hot Peaches, which caught my eye for obvious reasons! Hot Peaches was a drag theatre company, founded by Jimmy Camicia in 1972, that would put on a play a week up until the 1990’s.

The work of these Hot Peaches has been described as “political camp, dominated by drag” and was instrumental in the development of the WOW Café as the Hot Peaches performed there frequently and set the tone, culture, and aesthetic of the space.

During her Hot Peaches time, Marsha was also performing with various other drag troupes, a muse for Andy Warhol, and was an AIDS activist working with ACT UP as an organizer and marshal.

She was a revolutionary.

Tragedy struck on July 6, 1992 when Marsha was found dead in the Hudson River. The police and coroner ended up rapidly ruling her death a suicide, despite pressure from the community and the blatant wound in the back of her head.

Almost as if the karmatic activism that Marsha put in the world was now circling back to carry on her legacy, in 2012, Mariah Lopez convinced the police to reopen Marsha’s case as a homicide, in 2017, Victoria Cruz conducted her very own investigation of the murder, and in 2018, Marsha P. Johnson finally got her obituary in the New York Times.

Her legacy even further lives on through the Marsha P. Johnson Institute (MPJI).

MPJI MISSION STATEMENT: “Protect and defend the human rights of BLACK transgender people. We do this by organizing, advocating, creating an intentional community to heal, developing transformative leadership, and promoting our collective power.”

“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”

Marsha P. Johnson

. . .

According to research from the 2015 US Trans Survey – Report on the Experiences of Black Respondents: Black trans and gender non-conforming people report experiencing the highest levels of discrimination of all transgender people based on the combination of anti-transgender bias with structural and individual racism.

Marsha pioneered the fight at great length, she made a difference, but it’s our responsibility as a society to push for what is an evolutionary change. It is such a systemic discrimination taking place that it isn’t a change that can take place over night, but it is a change that can happen through meticulous desire and collective grind.

It’s important to get familiar with how to make a difference. Admittedly, this is perhaps the hardest part. As a straight white woman who grew up in a predominantly white corn-shuckin’ town in the Midwest, I struggle with this. How can I make a difference? As you could clearly tell from the beginning of this article, I’ve watched every season (nearly) of Drag Race and thought I knew all there was to know about drag and ‘the story of.’ Laughable.

I want to make a difference but to do that, I still have a lot of unlearning and learning to do.

As someone, somewhere, roughly once said, “You have to understand the system in order to break the system,” so here are some starting points if you want to travel down a compassionate road with me:

“How many years does it take for people to see that we’re all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean how many years does it take for people to see that we’re all in this rat race together?”

-Marsha P. Johnson

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Everything in this article barely scratches the surface of Marsha P. Johnson and the discrimination of black trans and gender non-conforming people. Please peruse my sources and do your own research to learn more.

SOURCES:

World Queerstory, MPJI, Stonewall Foundation, NYC’s Hot Peaches, The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), New York Times, BTAC, Vanity Fair, NY Daily News, WOW Cafe Theater, History on the Stonewall Riots, Biography on Sylvia Rivera