I live in a city where I am PUMMELED by diversity the second I walk out the door. Diversity in race, diversity in religion, diversity in gender identity, diversity in age, class, body type, occupation — you name it, New York City’s got it. Bougie brownstones next to dirty bodegas. A multi-zillionaire riding the 1 train next to someone without a penny to their name.
I have never ever ever once in my life been exposed to so much diversity in my daily life. It has made me a better person because my eyes are opened wider. It has made my voice louder and stronger because I know it’s the only one of its kind in a sea of unique songs. Diversity has made me deeply internalize that the lens through which I view the world is neither right or wrong – no one’s is – because it is merely a single lens amidst COUNTLESS different prescriptions.
But. BUT. Here is the thing about diversity. Living amongst such radical diversity has also made it abundantly clear that while we all have different backgrounds and opinions and deep-seated beliefs about the way the world is, everything boils down to one of two buckets: GOOD or NOT.
We can all have different lenses on, but there are only two choices when it comes to what we condone when it comes down to the very basics of humanity.
I have noticed that sometimes the people around me can be harsh. They can sometimes be bitter or mean or maybe have different political views than I do. But at the end of the day, they (for the most part, don’t wanna generalize a whole city) believe in the notion that no matter who you are or where you come from, you deserve equal rights and you deserve to be here. Exactly as you are. The beauty of living in NYC is that while it’s maybe the most diverse city in the entire country, and the diversity is APPARENT on every street block, we’re all in this together. The majority is GOOD.
The majority of AMERICA is GOOD. I know it. But when we don’t own our stories or speak up or simply get curious as to why our story has favored certain races, religions, genders etc for so long – when we can’t even be proactive with our CURIOSITY – the GOOD gets weaker. And the NOT gets stronger.
As Queen of All Things Brené Brown said so eloquently in her FB Live this week (seriously, go watch it HERE), we need to own our own story in order to write our own ending. If we don’t, the story owns us. The ending gets written for us.
The shame is that too many people think that owning your story means making yourself feel like an asshole. Or that owning your story means aligning yourself with things you don’t believe in. And neither of those could be farther from the truth.
We’ve been talking a lot aboutrecoveryandeatingdisorderson WANT lately, so to go with an analogy: owning that you once had an eating disorder does not mean it defines who you are. Owning the fact that an eating disorder was a part of your story does not mean it is anywhere near your entire narrative.
Owning that our country was built on white supremacy, that anti-semitism and racism and homophobia are woven deep in our fabric, does 👏not 👏mean 👏 that WE ourselves are any of those things. But to stay silent – to not even let your curiosity question GOOD vs NOT out loud – is to stay in denial of a NOT that has gone on for far too long.
Speak up. It matters. Oh my god does it matter. I’m not saying you have to be posting all the time on social media. But words have immense power. We learn from each other. Just like bonding over negativity, if we make silence our MO, others will follow suit. However, if we start thoughtful conversations or make at the very least offhand comments boosting the GOOD and admonishing the NOT, others will start to follow. Your words let others know where you stand and how you think we should write the rest of our story.
And if you are struggling right now at speaking your mind – if you are feeling like you’re maybe at risk of losing your community or someone you love because they’re afraid of what owning their story might mean and will disown you if you’re the one who brings it into the light, because I do recognize that that is a VERY REAL THING for some people – I urge you to at the very least weave curiosity into your conversations.
It can go something like this: “It’s funny: we were raised to believe that XYZ” or “We learned 123 in our textbooks or in Bible study”…”But my current, more enlightened self WONDERS: _______?”
Create your own script. Wonder deeply and with intention. But do it out loud.
Wondering out loud opens doors that blame or shame cannot, and can lead to taking ownership of your past and therefore creating a new future.
I have a friend whose primary language has always been sarcasm. She’s always making a joke of sorts, always deadpanning her way through her day. Yet something has shifted in the last year: where she once would use her wit to mask her emotions, she is now listening more acutely, responding more personally, and opening up to others about how she feels – even if she doesn’t know why she feels the way she does.
What’s pretty incredible to watch is how this has caused a domino effect in her life. The “friendly”-ships she’s had, with me and with others, have started to turn into deep, personal, soul-ie bonds. Negativity doesn’thijack her conversationsanymore. Her sleep has gotten better. She’s mindful of her triggers and has left her “victim” mentality behind. She’s glowing like I’ve never seen her glow.
My friend has always had a bold, infectious personality and has always been one to speak her mind. But as I watch her navigate through her day-to-day interactions with the world around her, I realize what’s different: she is finally speaking her heart, too.
To speak your heart is your right, but also your blessing. We are all blessed with the capacity to feel an entire spectrum of emotions and formulate all kinds of opinions and, moreover, questions, based on those emotions.
So why is it that with this incredible blessing, so often we stay silent?
Why are we so afraid to be ourselves – all of ourselves?
Sometimes we feel so alone in our thought processes that it seems wrong to speak our heart. To “talk deep,” as some call it. There’s this notion that expressing thoughts, feelings, opinions, and questions of an empathetic, introspective nature is embarrassing and makes us vulnerable. And vulnerable, we’ve been taught, is being susceptible to danger; either physical or emotional attack or harm. I just looked it up to be sure – yup, you can thank Merriam-Webster for our warped relationship with the V word.
This perception is left over from our childhood, middle school, and high school years: the perception that speaking our hearts, being authentic and unique, and letting others know how we feel is a sign of weakness and just another chance to be teased or ostracized.
And so we stay silent. Of course we feel alone – we don’t have any proof otherwise.
“Mean Girls” don’t just exist in the 18-and-under set; they follow us throughout our young adulthood and into our lives. ADULT judgement and gossip, we forget, both have the exact same roots as their childhood origin: insecurity, myopia and a strong desire to remain top dog at any cost.
And yet with that desire to Top-Dog’it comes a loneliness; an emptiness, lack of connection, and a distance between the person we project on the outside and the person we are (or long to be) inside. It drives us farther when all we truly want is to get closer. We begin to say we don’t care. We make “Whatever” or “Screw them” or “I don’t give a fuck” the catch phrase that we tell everyone.
But the irony is that we do care. So. Much. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle, “No woman on earth doesn’t give a fuck – no woman is that cool – she’s just hidden her fire. Likely, it’s burning her up.”
We all have the capability to become that person. That woman who is burning inside with her hot vulnerability she’s locked up for no one to see. What ensures we don’t is how authentically we let our heart live out in the open…and (and!) with how much compassion we approach those who haven’t quite gotten there yet. Because the more we see others thrive in a space of authentic truth, the safer it can seem to follow suit.
Vulnerability, at its core, is nothing more than honesty. Vulnerable is being truthful; saying I am raw, I am flawed, I am crazed, I am bare, I am on a journey and I am urging you to join me. Yet this idea of vulnerability is so often met with trepidation. Can I be vulnerable? Should I be vulnerable? Doesn’t that mean I’m in harm’s way?Because true vulnerability isn’t just expressing joy or loving feelings. Vulnerability also means looking inside to find the cause instead of looking outside to fix the symptoms. And who knows what causes lurk beneath the surface…
Dr. Seuss got it mostly right when he said “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” I’d like to add: Those who mind – the Mean Girls of our adulthood – probably feel envious that you have the self awareness to be honest. Those who matter will “be who they are and say what they feel” right alongside you. And aren’t THOSE the people we want to be surrounded by anyway? They’re the ones who treat others like equals, the ones who can empathize because they’ve been there too. They’re the ones who can show compassion to anyone, even the Mean Girls, because they know what it is to feel things deeply.
They are the ones who thrive in the space of being…dare I say it…vulnerable.
Speak your heart and trust you are far from powerless. You might get a bit bruised, but by being authentic and true-to-you, there is nothing to fear. Because speaking your heart – even if you’re hurting, even if what it’s saying is somewhat unclear – is about Learning, Healing, and Giving. At the root of you and of me there is a pull to do all three. For others, for ourselves, for both at once.
We all have the ability to self-heal, it’s just about accessing that power – and being not only brave enough but self-trusting enough to do so.
We often view vulnerability as the danger from which we need healing. The barrier that prevents us from connecting.
Yet vulnerability and speaking your heart is actually the bridge that forms connection.
It’s the honesty that gives us the power to heal.
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You know how on Sex and the City, the women NEVER seem to stop eating (and drinking)? One minute it’s soft-serve, the next second it’s cupcakes. These women stay lithe, luminous, and lively…and yet they don’t take particularly great care of themselves. Well, Charlotte and Miranda run, and Carrie has a bout with a spin class, but aside from that. No, sex swings don’t count.
When I moved here, I heard the SATC-esque eating habits of New Yorkers were actually true. People did really grab-and-go, and it wasn’t uncommon to see everyone from the stroller set to suit-and-ties chowing down on a random park bench. It was a refreshing change from the uber-conscious foodie set of Los Angeles, where a calorie isn’t a calorie but a torture device.
Still, I never thought I’d be one of them. My body doesn’t work like that, I thought. I can’t just eat whatever I want and not feel it. Snacking In Motion might be the city’s MO, but unfortunately, it can’t be mine.
Or so I thought. I knew the part of me that was highly in tune with her body, the one that didn’t make food rules for herself and ate based on how she wanted to feel, the one that didn’t view food as good or bad but definitely knew the things that made her physically feel bad. The part of me that has taught herself to be totally fine with a “bad body day” and the compromise of wanting a taste and being okay with the aftermath that would follow.
But there was also a part of me that I thought those practices had silenced, and apparently still lived loud and proud in the crevices of my psyche. It was the part of me that was told she ate too big of portions, the part of her that viewed certain foods as “treats” or “indulgences” rather than just things. Soft-serve and doughnuts were Sometimes Foods, ones that only made an appearance when an unignorable craving would hit. I knew I could have them whenever I wanted to, I just didn’t want to. I think it was half that I knew the way they made me feel (#froyobelly), and half that I’d done a fantastic job at convincing myself that they weren’t worth my time.
And then there were french fries. A little history with me and the fry: I have never been a starch lover. Fun fact, I used to ask my mom to order my school cafeteria-made sandwiches on rye bread because I liked picking the toasted caraway seeds off the crust. Bread-y things have just never interested me. But french fries? I knew the gloriousness a well-done, well-salted french fry could bring. Oh, I knew. But because this usually wasn’t the case at most restaurants, I had no use for them. I didn’t not like them…I just didn’t care about them enough to make them my choice.
There was also the sociocultural factor. Maure Adult Women in my immediate circle never ordered french fries. Or at least never ordered their own. They’d pick one off of their child’s plate, or pawn one off their significant other, and then they’d make a big stink about forcing everyone else to try one and do the same because they were sooooooo goooooood. This was always so obnoxious to me, and as I grew older, I realized why:
The french fry had been deemed a taboo, so if they got someone else to eat one, it would normalize their sin.
Because of this, I developed a kind of apathy toward french fries. One woman’s sin was THIS woman’s nothing. I didn’t eat them not because I was scared. I didn’t eat them because they annoyed me. I hated the way other women gave a singular french fry such power, and I hated the judgement pinned on women who did eat them. It was such a spectacle – one I had no interest in being a part of. So I opted out.
And then I moved here. I don’t remember when it was, but it must have been within the first month. I was at a restaurant in the neighborhood, and I saw them: a white ceramic ramekin filled with the most beautiful french fries I had ever seen. They were mahogany. They were sliced to perfection.
They were sweet potato fries.
Real talk, sweet potato fries were another thing I had a chip on my shoulder about. They were like low-tar cigarettes to me: what french fry transgressors ate to show the world they weren’t doing anything wrong, even though they’re just a variation on the same. Like, if you’re gonna do it, just do it. I thought sweet potato fries were a sham to ease guilty minds.
In that moment in the restaurant, I started to question my fry aversion – my restaurant, if you will. Why did fries annoy me so much? And if I got really, truly honest with myself, did I have that Mature Adult Woman in the back of my mind telling me that fries were empty, or bad, or would make me feel awful?
I didn’t even know anymore. I had to find out.
I felt the words falling off my lips as the waitress took my order – “And A Side Order Of Sweet Potato Fries” – and they felt so weighted to me. Would she judge me? Would she make a big deal about “how lucky” I am that I can eat “anything I want” or how she could “never eat fries” or something like that? Would she think I was one of those “basic” women who justified her fries by saying “but they’re sweet potato!”? Ordering my first order of sweet potato fries felt slightly rebellious. But, I was also convinced of the fact that they probably wouldn’t be that great and I probably wouldn’t think they were that great and I probably would have proved to myself that the whole fry frenzy was uncalled for.
The fries came to my table. Some well-done. Most limp and disappointing. But I had ordered them, and I didn’t care enough to send them back, so I just said whatever and picked up the most structurally decent one and bit into the stupid thing.
No, not restaurant…but definitely great. Definitely a step up from “alright” or “good.” I enjoyed sweet potato fries – who knew?!
And so then I had the next challenge ahead of me, which was the even harder one. Can I eat as many as I want and not feel bad about myself? I wasn’t gonna find out by just staring at them.
The evening came and went and we walked back home. I felt normal, but was preparing myself for that hungover or heavy feeling I’d been taught happens the next day when you eat something taboo. I went to sleep. I woke up. Nothing happened.
I come from the world of wellness, which thank goodness is starting to morph and preach a bit more balance than it used to. I’ve always had problems with the term “clean eating” because it insinuates anything that does not fit into this bracket is dirty. Under the guise of “clean eating” you could healthify anything. Cauliflower pizza crust, zucchini noodles, carrot fries.
Not trying to put on a front: I LOVE those things (really). But telling yourself you can ONLY have pizza if the crust isn’t dough, noodles if they’re spiralized, or fries if they’re veggie sticks dipped in ketchup sets isn’t the solution.
This isn’t for the people who have severe food allergies – this is for the rest of us who keep wondering when the hell we’re gonna make peace with our plate and what a healthy relationship with our body even feels like. I have some inklings, but I can assure you it doesn’t involve scare tactics or ultimatums.
Sure, if I eat a little “too much” sugar (ie beyond when my own unique individual body says “k i’m good”) I feel crappy. Yeah, if I have fries every day I start to feel like I’m becoming one. But by wiping the chip off my shoulder about french fries, trying that cupcake place my friend raves about, or ordering a Salty Pimp from the place next door, I’ve taken the judgement out of the equation. I’ve realized that food affects me for SURE, but so does sitting sedentary in a chair all day. So does staring at a computer screen letting its rays zap me of my B vitamins. So does scrolling through Instagram, flipping over to Facebook, checking in on Twitter, then switching back to Instagram to see if “anything’s happened” since I checked it all of four minutes ago. So does jealousy, anger, or complacency. Food isn’t responsible for when I feel bad about my body. Being out of touch with my body is.
I contemplated – and celebrated – my fryaversary today with my fiance as we sat at brunch eating a batch of fries baked to perfection. Not sweet potato, either; good old fashioned fried white potato fries. They were flaked with rosemary and sea salt. They taste like Disneyland, I noted. Or a hotel from my childhood.
Did I eat the whole plate? It doesn’t matter. Because they’re not a medal of honor OR a confessional I need to make. They were just fries.
I find myself Snacking In Motion here like Carrie or Miranda, and when people come to visit I sometimes wonder what they think of me. I wonder if I’m being judged or I wonder if they’re secretly snarking that I won’t be able to keep up these habits for long. But mostly, I wonder if they’re scared. I wonder if they’re looking at me thinking “I could never do that.”
I wish I could tell them that I don’t have a magical metabolism and I don’t work out like a crazy woman. I wish I could convince them that they totally “could do that,” too.
So go ahead, eat the snacks. Order the soft-serve. Let the doughnuts into your life. You’re allowed. Check in and note if they make you feel less-than-average, but also do that in the rest of your life. There are so many factors that contribute to feeling the way we want to feel, food only being one slice of the metaphorical pie (see what I did there). Being a Mature Adult Woman isn’t about willpower or the food you avoid. It’s not even about all the things you say yes and no to. It’s about why you choose one over the other.
Now, pass the sweet potato fries. Well-done, please.
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One Year Ago this week,
I moved across the country.
I moved with my then boyfriend, now fiancé, future husband. I moved with my then purpose, now career, future calling. I moved with no expectations, some trepidations, and an enormity of determinations.
One Year Ago this week I fulfilled the choice to choose my life. I could have said no, I could have said wait. But it’s easy to say no when you should say yes, just like it’s easy to say yes when you really should say no.
One Year Ago this week my heart started beating a little faster, and my mind started to go a little slower. The pace around me started to move quicker but the pace inside me started to calm.
One Year has brought so much to the forefront and sunken so much into the background noise. The things I thought mattered some matter less, and the things I thought mattered most matter way more than I thought they did.
It’s crazy to look back a photos and feel the shift One Year has brought. Was it because of my age? Was it because I was ready? No, I don’t think that was it. I think I wrung all the lessons, all the love, all the heartache and heart-aid out of my surroundings – and the only way to grow was to shift my perspective. Through a turn of the kaleidescope, it’s amazing how the same-old can become completely forgeign all over again. Through a different lense, it’s amazing how many things become dimmer than you knew them to be.
Or maybe both at once.
I don’t think we need to change our physical surroundings to see a shift in our lives, but man oh man did it help me. To think our opinions are ultimate or our perceptions final is to be naive and stubborn. Here, I realize that while your word is your truth, it’s also his, and hers, and theirs, and it’s how we all come together that breeds true enlightenment.
Marianne Williamson says, “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” And that’s true. But it’s also what ILLUMINATES us. The light and the dark together. And what’s more, how we all move in tandem. It’s not just our light or our darkness, but the way our beams bounce off one another.
In my dreams, I always lived in New York City. A thriving Broadway career, an apartment in I Don’t Even Know Where. In my dreams I didn’t know how anything fit together, I just knew the One Thing of my success led the way. In my realities, I am here. I rarely visit a Broadway stage (something I DO want to change in Year Two) but I’ve found the stages that suit me best. In my realities I cannot quite believe how seamlessly it’s all flowed, how I managed to fight for a sense of community and actually achieve it, how I managed to fight for a career and actually own it, how I managed to fight for a lifestyle of river runs and sweet potato fries and Adventure Sundays and yes – I’m actually in the adventure every day.
And I am in it, I think, because I’ve always been fighting for it, not against it. I’ve learned how to be malleable but true to my heart. I’ve learned how to bend but not break.
And most of all, I’ve learned that challenge begets change, but also begets truth. In my life thus far, I’ve asked for truth and learned how to see it as my ally. Even the truths I would rather not see. Even the truths that hurt. I ask more questions instead of fighting against the answers that pain me. I have fought for a life that rings true each day, and in One Year I now see it before me. It’s not something I take lightly or take for granted.
Spoiler: Relationships are not supposed to be easy. With cities, with people, it’s all the same. You’re supposed to push each other, but in the best way. You’re supposed to help each other see the best in themselves but also the misalignments. Ultimately, you’re here to help one another not only recognize your values but live them out loud. In what you say, in what you do. You’re here to be the bridge between seeing and believing. Between dreaming and doing. And that is not easy work.
And, ANOTHER SPOILER, the work isn’t work to MAKE it easy. It’s work to beget more intricate and nuanced work.
It’s trust work. It’s truth work. It’s the best work ever.
And so here I am, One Year After packing the boxes and shipping the bins. One Year After that feeling of readiness and maturity but also of complete surrender. It has not been easy, and it hasn’t always been fun. But it’s been soul-stirring, and it’s been soul-lifting, and it’s brought me in touch with a deeper layer of myself I didn’t even know was there. And anyway, I don’t want easy. I want right.
To grow, we must stay aware. And to stay aware, we must stay awake. And to stay awake, we must challenge ourselves to displace our gaze. If you always ride the same waves, you’ll never truly see the spectrum.
Once you learn the thing, once you get the stuff, once you master the immediate, where do you go from there?
One Year Later, I’m living the answer:
You exhale fully, slowly, and calmly, and you shift the kalediscope.
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Last week, I was at a networking event thing for activist-minded women in their twenties and thirties. Lots of rad women, lots of big ideas. Because I was feeling chatty and confident, I told myself to stay a little while longer, if just to finish my glass of “OMG It’s Finally Spring!” celebratory rosé. Because I’m an extroverted introvert and do one-on-one conversations, I gravitated toward the gal standing by the wall who was finishing her glass, too. A kindred spirit.
I ask her a little bit about herself – who she is, what she loves, what she cares about, how she spends her time on a daily basis and why (because I go hard right out of the gate). She asks me what I “do.”
So I tell her about WANT.
(And you guys, I was on fire. I promise it wasn’t just the rosé. I’d just gotten back from a speaking engagement and booked two more, I was high off of reading your beautiful emails sharing your incredible stories, and I’d finally started to own some of my long-term goals and get them rolling. I felt in my freaking element and ready to share the love!)
And then she asks me “So is that your side hustle?” And I stumble.
“…Well, no, that’s where I put my energy and efforts on a daily basis. That’s where the majority of my focus is.”
She cuts me off. “Yeah, but is it MAKING YOU MONEY.”
That’s not a typo. It’s not supposed to be a question mark. It’s a period.
Like she was trying to school me on “what I do.”
After years of struggling with “what I call myself” and how I explain who I am and what I’m about to other people – and, honestly, after reaching a really good place with it all and finally feeling like I can answer people in a way that’s succint yet doesn’t sell me short – I found myself thrown off-guard by her haste and candor. Plus I just didn’t want to talk about other things, ya know?
Thankfully, my self-awareness prevented me from getting defensive or snapping back at her. After what seemed like twenty seconds of gathering myself (probably more like two, not twenty), I calmly replied, “Well, it’s not my primary source of income, but I am, yeah” (which is not untrue)
“Oh,” she trails off…
We wrapped up our conversation and I made a beeline for the door. I couldn’t stay in this networky environment much longer.
I know. I know she didn’t mean anything by it. I know she was just trying to compartmentalize and simplify the information she was gathering. But her words stuck with me for days. Especially because she was…well, she was like me. It’s easier to brush off comments that rub you the wrong way when they come from people outside your age range or career or interest field. But peers are different. She wasn’t someone who was unfamiliar with the kind of “work” I was talking about. She was just…assuming it was on the side.
I have big problems with the terms “Side Hustle” and “Day Job.” I think they’re stifling, I think they’re suffocating, and I think they’re stupid.
It’s like when actors or painters or writers (hi) get asked what their “real job” is, because their work as an artist isn’t work that’s usually associated with paying the bills. To the artist, whose art is as real as it gets, asking “So what’s your day job?” feels like a passive-aggressive slam.
I have so many problems with this – where do I start? Using the words “day job” and “side hustle” assumes that one is serious and one isn’t. One pays the bills and one brings in a few dollars a month at most. One is a career at most and paycheck at least, one is a passion at most and a hobby at least. One is the big juicy main steak dish, one is the sad asparagus spears.
I realize that it’s human nature to want to simplify and find structure…but I think it’s downright dangerous to label what you do as a side dish instead of a main course. Or downplay the main course as merely something that gives you nutritional value.
If you’re constantly referring to what you love as unworthy of the spotlight, then how can you ever expect it has a fair shot at success?
I never, ever, ever refer to any of my jobs as Day Jobs or Side Hustles. To me, they’re all just different projects that serve different purposes. Never once did I refer to my job at a vegan restaurant in L.A. as my Day Job – and yet it was what paid the bills most of the time alongside my acting gigs and spin classes and freelance work. I never once referred to my acting or teaching or writing as a Side Hustle – and yet they brought in a handful of change each month at best. My restaurant job was not how I defined my days. My art was never on the side.
The restaurant helped me build community. The art helped me use my voice.
Instead of compartmentalizing my life into Day Jobs and Side Hustles when I go to parties or meet new people, I always lead with what I’m most excited to talk about. Most of the time, it’s WANT. Sometimes it’s my classes. Sometimes it’s a small one-off project I’m doing that fascinates me to no end. Sometimes it’s just a riff off of “I’m a writer.” But very rarely do I answer “What Do You Do” the way people expect I will: with a passion justified by a more “sensible” job.
I’m lucky enough to have multiple jobs that pay my bills. WANT is one of them. But I’ve also been working in the fitness and wellness industry for over a decade, and I love that too. And go figure, it’s the primary thing that pays my bills right now. There are a LOT of people who talk about turning your “side hustle into your main hustle” – screw that! Why can’t your side hustle be your main hustle right out of the gate? Why can’t your day job and your night job live harmoniously? In high school we had multiple classes that carried equal weight. Why not the same with how we spend our days? Nay, our lives?
Here’s the thing: you are where your energy is. What you do and how you make money MIGHT be the same thing, but might be the answer to an entirely different question. The concepts of Day Jobs and Side Hustles speak nothing to what you’re actually putting your energy toward – because they focus on quantity of hours and dollars, not quality of passion and vision.
“‘Side Hustle?'” my mom chuckled when I repeated the networking story to her. “I’ve never heard that term before!”
Mind = blown. Every third Instagram post, every other blog – everyone talking about how to develop a side hustle or turn your side hustle into your main hustle or whatever. It had been exhausting for quite some time now. The fact that she had never even heard of this was absurd. How was that possible?
And then I thought about it. And I remembered how she’d never encouraged me to have a Plan B like so many of my artist friends’ parents. “What will she do if she doesn’t make it?” people would gasp. “Katie is a smart girl. And she loves many things,” my parents would say. “She’ll figure it out.”
That mentality was such a gift to me. They knew I didn’t need to plan for “real life” with a passion on the side. Real life lived everywhere.
No one who is in my life would ever think of WANT as my side hustle. They know how many hours I put in working, and they know how much energy I spend making it the very best it can be. Maybe it doesn’t look like a “regular job” to people on the outside…but that doesn’t mean they’re allowed to shove it in a corner of generalizations and assumptions. The same goes for the other ways I choose to fill my days, whether they make money or not. I streamline when I need to, but I thrive on strategic variety. Nothing I do looks normal to the naked eye, and I am alright with that. It’s normal to me.
What I propose is this:
Down with the Day Job.
Down with the Side Hustle.
Let’s ask people what they spend their energy on, and tell them where ours is as well.
Let’s view what we do as different aspects of who we are. All main courses in their own right.
Plan A all the way.
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Hi. It’s me. We haven’t met, but I feel like I know you. Scratch that – I know that I know you. And I don’t mean that in a pushy, I’ve-been-there-before-so-now-I-know-you-and-also-everything way. I mean that in the way that we all come from the same source, the same sisterhood, the same #rigged system that’s made us believe false truths throughout the ages that nothing we do will ever be enough.
I know you are struggling right now. With what, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the job? The relationship status? The family or kids or lack thereof of both? As someone once said, “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
But what I do know is this: your struggle is inflammed by the perceived expectations of the world around you.
To be kind, to be humble, to be gracious – to be boistrous, but not too much. To be soft, to be resilient, to be a leader, but not too much. To be heard, but not absorbed; to be wild, but at the same time tamed. This is the dichotomy of being a woman. Just a woman.
And to be a powerful woman – oh jeez! That is a task of itself, a dance more precise and more stress-sweat inducing than walking through eggshells. One misstep and the craaaaaaaaack of everything delicate below you rings loud in your ear. You must be bold. You must be brave. You must be a mind-reader and truth-teller but always know when and where your place is to say such things.
Success, you must learn, is relative. And success, you must say, is nothing but smoke and mirrors. But success, you must learn, is both the pinnacle of acceptance and the beginnings of lifelong critique. You are not kind enough, or humble enough, or gracious enough – or you’re boistrous, but way too much. No softness, too much resilience, too wild, too heard.
Because when you’re a powerful woman, you are a goddess unchained.
And everyone will have something to say.
I believe in you, lady. I believe in your grandness and your solitude, your quietness and your noise. I believe in the way you walk through the world, step by forceful step; the way you trip sometimes but always keep going. There are pebbles lodged in the soles of your shoes and dirt encrusted on the laces, relics from the places you’ve been and the things you have seen. Resist the urge to scrape them off. They belong there, they complete you – shoes were not meant to stay crisp and clean, in my opinion.
You have the answers you’re looking for, deep down. Whether they’ve made their way to the surface yet, TBD. You’re not supposed to wake up one day and know. But anyone who says they do or assumes the opposite is a liar.
Surprise, surprise: the hallmark of being a true adult is knowing that you will never know.
And so you, goddess unchained, you are grappling with the knowing and the not knowing and to that I say you’re doing it right. The world wants you to believe it expects you to know but all that is is a desperate plea to fill in the blanks. Blanks that are not yours to fill, blank spaces that aren’t meant to be filled in the first place.
But the last thing I want you to do, sweet friend, is get defensive and stew. How Dare They! How Dare This! The world is not conniving against you, the world just does not know. The world is a child, curious and stubborn. It’s wary of change. It wants to see what sticks. It wants to know what can be cuddled, and how hard, without being smothered. It wants to know what can be crushed, and how hard, without being broken. You don’t have to be the parent or sitter – but rather, the other curious child on the playground who is building sandcastles in the sand instead of eating it.
Nothing you do will ever be enough?
Everything you do is already enough, by the very nature that you’re doing it.
The world is reactive, so you must be proactive.
The world takes cues, so you must make your own.
I don’t want you to look down at the quicksand and say, How Dare They!
What I do want you to do is stand in the middle of the storm and exclaim with pride, How Dare I!
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