a new year

The Year That Shall Not Be Named has come to a close. The champagne has been popped and the tweets in which we collectively grasped for humor and for witticisms and for anything really to make sense of the cluster have been put to rest. It's time to move forward. It's 2017.

Last year was, for our nation, a mess. It was, for me personally, mediocre at best. A few particularly good things did happen—I got to visit my best friend in L.A., my little apartment in the city was featured on one of my favorite websites, I celebrated the weddings of a few close friends, my nephew who I am head-over-heels-can't-even-believe-it in love with was born. Those things were great. But otherwise? Definitive mediocrity. While the shift that happens when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st doesn't necessarily mean my circumstances will change or our country will rise from the heap of dumpster fire ashes it's lying in, I'm one to take any opportunity for a metaphorical fresh start. 

On New Year's Day I went to dinner with a friend and as we sat down in the cozy space, one of my favorites in Minneapolis, our waiter asked if we had set any resolutions yet. I swiftly told him that no, I'm not setting resolutions this year and he laughed and said that was a good strategy, to keep expectations low. And I suppose that's a part of it, the comfort of low expectations. But another is that I know myself. I know that writing a laundry list of lofty resolutions doesn't fuel me, it stifles me. A few days ago I found the list of goals I had written in the early hours of January 1, 2016, after the ball had dropped and the wine had worn off, and in the course of the past year only one of them has truly been fulfilled. So in 2017, rather than making a futile attempt at dedicating myself to a broad list of goals, I'm going to focus on setting a few meaningful intentions instead.

The first? Be present. If you've ever meditated or tried to stay present for the length of one activity—taking a shower, going for a run, washing the dishes—you understand that our minds can be a minefield of thoughts. (I mean if you've ever lived a day as a human person you understand this.) Most of my life is spent pondering the future or overanalyzing the past and I've realized that it is in these moments of absentmindedness that a lot of my anxiety takes root. Being present lessens the swirl of babble and emotions I've usually got going on inside, and that benefit alone makes it a worthwhile pursuit.

Intention number two? Figure out what I love and do more of it. A fun thing about me is that I tend to be a bit of a chameleon. (Kind of like Maggie and eggs in Runaway Bride...oh you haven't watched that movie 50 times like I have? Weird.) I adjust my conversation style based on the people I'm talking to. What piques my interest changes based on who I'm with, based on who I admire most at any given time. Maybe this is not an anomaly, but I'd still like to dedicate energy this year to figuring out what truly appeals to me.

And the third. Be kinder to myself. Here's the deal: my inner critic can be—in the words of my friend, Danielle—a real bitch. It's almost impressive how quickly my brain can come up with reasons I'm not good enough for something, not pretty enough for someone, not enough in general. This year, whenever possible, I'd like to catch that inner critic in the act and tell her to please, kindly, fuck off.

That's it folks. Happy New Year. Let's make 2017 a good one. Or a good-ish one, because low expectations and stuff. Let's be nice to each other and support one another and remember that we're all, most of the time, trying our best. And whenever the going gets tough, let's look up our favorite Obama Biden memes because they helped last year and I assume they'll still do the trick in 2017. Here's mine. Cheers.

a writer

I never thought I was a writer until I became one.

Part of me still doesn't believe I am. It's easy to discount the stack of journals I have collecting dust in my parent's basement, a disjointed collection of moments that when weaved together create the narrative canvas of my childhood. It's easy to dismiss the countless nights I lay in a dimly lit college bedroom, trying not to disturb my roommates as I put pen to paper unloading the nuances of my day. There was a pull for me to write in those journals, something inside telling me to get my thoughts out on paper lest they be lost, lest the memories fade without me ever having made sense of them in words.

But I wasn't a writer.

I wasn't a graphic designer, either, when I landed a graphic design internship with a website I so loved. But I taught myself InDesign and Photoshop and stayed up late editing features until they were just right. It took a while to learn what "just right" felt like, but over weeks and months and practice I kinda sorta did.

Then one day I was no longer needed for graphic design, so my bosses asked me if I wanted to write.

Write? I didn't know if I could do it but I tried and the words fell out on the computer screen. I kept writing, and I got better, and I learned how to tell when something I wrote and edited and tweaked a bit more felt just right; when the words came together to form a cohesive thought that made sense, that, in their own way, danced on the page.

But I for damn sure wasn't a writer. 

My cousin was a writer because she had, since childhood, claimed to be and so she was. People who went to journalism school were writers because they had the education and the certificate to prove their worth. J.K. Rowling was a writer because one day she sat down and began to pen a book that became, well, a series and a whole bunch of movies and a theme park and an entire generation of people whose imaginations were irrevocably sparked.

But there was no way in hell I was a writer.

Yet somehow, not being a writer and all, I've spent whole days doing just that, spurred on by some internal force urging me to keep typing, to keep forming prose with words. I've collected draft posts like they're Pokemon cards or stamps or wallet sized yearbook photos of friends which is a thing I'd like to imagine the technology laden children of today still collect.

I've learned that writing is how I process my thoughts. In a world where people are constantly talking over each other, always wanting to have the last word, I can't compete out loud. I have to write to get to the root of how I feel and what I believe.

There are those who attest you can't simply claim to be a writer without the experience and the prestige and without being deemed as such from the all-knowing powers that be, but how else does one do it?

How else does one become anything? How else does one get experience and prestige and confirmation from the creative community at large without starting somewhere? Without using pen or keyboard to express the words that feel just right to them; without first simply calling themselves a writer with enough conviction that they do indeed write until they reach a point where they feel worthy of the title?

You can spend a lifetime seeking approval, but approval is subjective and fluid and a bad source on which to base your value. There's only one person who needs to give you the go-ahead to work on a skill or proclaim your worth, and that person is your most domineering family member.

No, just kidding, that person is yourself.

I did not go to journalism school, I somehow manage to function daily sans prestige, and nobody has ever deemed me anything other than chronically late. I've spent years feeling lost in a deep hole of of ennui, unable to find or grasp anything that felt remotely true to a "calling." But I know a few things that I truly like to do, a few things I can see myself growing in, and one of those is writing. I am a writer. I am a goddamn writer. There. I said it. Twice.

dear hillary

I want to say thank you. For affording me the opportunity to cast my ballot for President of the United States for a woman. For making me realize—truly, deeply realize—that women can pursue whatever they'd damn well please.

As girls, if we're lucky, we're told we can do whatever we set our minds to, and in theory it rings true. But despite these messages from the well-intentioned people in our lives, what we see with our own eyes feels more tangible; it seeps into our subconscious and influences our actions from the time we're young to the time we're in the workforce. And what we see is that the people in elected office, the people in corporate America, the people in leadership roles are, largely, men.

The notion that girls can do whatever we set our minds to will seem more plausible when we see women holding leadership roles—not as outliers, but as a force growing in step with our male counterparts. It will seem more plausible when we see a greater number of women in elected office. We have a long way to go, but the scope of what feels possible has widened, and you contributed to that. You made a major mark. You made me believe that I can aspire to more because I watched you prove it by example.

You did not win the election, but you made quite the stir. You brought to light deeply held values of misogyny in many of our nation's citizens. You stood up for women's reproductive rights, and I can't tell you how moved I was to hear a candidate with ovaries speak on the topic for a change. You made the presidency feel more tangible for women and girls. And while the glass ceiling may remain in tact, there's a crack stretching from end to end, and one day, it will give.

Thank you. A million times over, thank you.