I’m Not Going to Stop Talking About The Civil War Until I See Another One

One of the greatest things my college education gave me was an obsession with the American Civil War. Prior to taking college-level American history (and specifically, classes focused on detangling the myths of American history at large), my knowledge and understanding of the war that shaped the country was laughable. I knew the North fought the South sort of about slavery (at the time I wasn’t sure if slavery was the real cause) and won, freeing enslaved people and solidifying the unity of all the states. Now I’m basically to the point where I’d say Civil War history should be prioritized over most other subjects within US history education. And I’ve decided that I’m not going to stop talking about the Civil War until I see another one.

The war itself was a mess. Not speaking to strategy or specific battles, but overall it was a messy ordeal. Historians talk about the war as being all-encompassing because of the massive number of casualties. Entire male populations from some areas were essentially wiped out in the war effort—on both sides. To this day, it remains the deadliest war in our history and yet, almost immediately after the fact, people started to forget why this happened.

You would think if a country paid such a hefty price for something that it would then do everything in its power to prevent such a thing from happening again. America did not.

A Miseducation

From what I can tell, there are a few key factors people seem to misunderstand when it comes to the Civil War. They can mostly be chalked up to the education people are getting about the war, which from my point of view is at best irregular across the country, and at worst, false.

The Cause

First, the war was about slavery. The Civil War was about slavery. Period. Not state’s rights. Not economic reasons. Just American slavery.

Yes, up until the war the legality of slavery was a state’s right to decide. However, as new states were being admitted into the union without the right to allow slavery, those that would become Confederate states began to secede. Why do people think the war was about anything else? I think that’s broadly the fault of education. I remember learning in middle school that the war was moreso about the economic differences between the regions, with slavery as a factor, but not really coming to the conclusion that slavery was the cause until high school and college.

And that was in New Jersey. In some places in the South, I’ve heard from peers that their textbooks referred to the Civil War as “The War of Northern Aggression” which is plainly false as the Confederacy ultimately fired the first shots. Regardless of what you’ve been taught, this debate prevails, and it undermines the rest of what is important about the war. It makes it difficult to actually grapple with the lessons we desperately needed to take away from the war.

The Characterization

The war was simultaneously divisive and unifying.

This is a bit of a personal thesis I’ve come to through my studies. Obviously, the war was the division of the so-called United States. And the end of the war, as many scholars acknowledge, marked the true beginning of the United States. You may have heard the adage that before the war, people referred to the states in the plural form—“The United States are…”—where after the war it was referred to in the singular—“The United States is…”

My view would say that this change was less a before and after, and more a brackish throughout. While the war drew a clear line between us and them, it also brought us all together in a gruesome fashion. Because of the sheer deadliness of the war, it’s understandable that an immense hunger for peace and reconciliation followed. 

Without even thinking about the aftermath of war in today’s terms of PTSD and such, you can imagine how hollow it must have felt to live in this nation and see so much of the population wiped out in bloody battles in your own backyard. We still have buildings scarred with bullet holes from the war. Imagine living up the street from where there’s thousands of men buried in shallow graves. 

Yet, this grief period should not have overshadowed the fact that we needed to make critical repairs to a broken system. Generally speaking, it’s a little weird to think we crafted this beautiful Constitution and after half the country threw it in the trash, we thought they’d take it out and respect it again with a couple of amendments. While we were unified in our grief we remained divided by our ideologies. Yes many slaveowners were no longer practicing slavery, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t wishing they could. 

Surely the tension between these overwhelming feelings of unity and division was not easily navigated. So in response, the Union focused more or less on the unity, which was a critical mistake.

The Reckoning

The value of the Union victory was more or less lost as early as the Reconstruction era.

If I had fought in the war as a Union soldier, I would have marched through the South for years afterward chastising them for their atrocities. True, probably not a better alternative, but the Union effort for Reconstruction was a joke. The technicalities were by no means had easy answers—especially when Lincoln gets taken out of the equation—but the answers the Union came up with were tragic.

Broadly speaking, the Confederacy got off easy. Yes, the crime of slavery was totally American—not limited to the South, and not the fault of one person or region. And as people of the time felt, the Civil War was a punishment that the entire nation received for that crime. But it wasn’t enough because it failed to address the crime of dehumanization which was the real crime of slavery. 

The practice of slavery itself, I think is one we have not collectively been able to understand. We think about it in a kind of practical sense, understanding it was a commonly accepted practice globally since the beginning of time that we eventually ended.

But we fail to recognize what it means to keep another human as property for any purpose. We fail to recognize that the institution of slavery relies on the idea that some humans are not equal. And because in ending slavery we only did that—end slavery—we failed to teach basic humanity when it was most critical. A person can go from slaveowner to not slaveowner overnight. A person will not go from thinking an entire race is inferior, or even just different overnight—especially when they are not told to do so.

It’s because of this missing understanding that Reconstruction ultimately failed. Reconstruction focused on moving forward and rectifying the physical losses—cities, populations, economies—when it desperately needed to focus on the moral losses that allowed the war to happen—equality, compassion, humanity. Because of this oversight, the South was able to rebuild itself in its own image maintaining racial subjugation.

From this period we get a lot of the memory we have about the Civil War painted in the beautifully tragic colors. It’s the reason we have all those now-contested Confederate monuments—the South was peddling stories about sacrifice and bravery to paint the war as this great honorable fight not about anything but Americanness. A number of the ways we celebrate American patriotism today comes from the Civil War period as Southerners fought to commemorate the war not as a time when they lost, but a time when we all won.

Seeing the war as a collective movement not only undermines the whole slavery problem but also falsely characterizes the South as graceful losers. Not to say they fought tooth and nail to the end—they didn’t. Confederate soldiers were literally deserting the war long before Appomattox, and obviously, the war ended with Lee’s surrender. But beyond that, viewing the war as this disagreement that ended in agreement is false. The South, defeated, went home and started planning for how to find other ways to keep their (white) power. And the North patted themselves on the back for winning and just went home. 

A Reeducation

To unlearn these narratives, you have to understand the truth that invalidates them. Of course, that means more than just getting the facts straight—you also need to understand why the facts matter.

Defining Inequality

The mischaracterization of the cause of the war undermines the entire history of race relations in the United States. It is fair to see the Civil War as a turning point and thus to see history in two parts: pre-war and post-war. But if you take out the slavery cause you throw those parts into disarray because it leaves you asking what did the war change?

As mentioned, we collectively still struggle to understand exactly what the practice of slavery meant. I think it’s one of those things that gets taught to you almost every year (probably in February) you are in school to the point that it has lost its meaning. Maybe I’m projecting too much of my own experience, but my feelings about slavery until college were very basic—it was a bad thing that happened. What I now urge others to understand is that it was a bad system that existed and still has huge ramifications today.

It’s a common debate now as lawmakers discuss reparations to bring up the fact that slavery existed not too long ago. And while, yes that it meaningful, that fact pales in comparison to the fact that we’re still using the same ideas to create new systems that are more or less other forms of slavery. 

The entire basis of slavery rests on the idea that there is a human on the planet who is unequal to any other human. And while we said in our Declaration of Independence—that foundation for the nation—that all men are equal, we still collectively refuse to believe it. And because of that, we failed to establish comprehensive civil rights immediately after the Civil War, and thus had to do it all over again a hundred years later. 

Hindsight

When I think about the unity that was supposed to come following the Civil War, I often compare it to the Black Lives Matter movement. Almost immediately after organizers and protesters started shouting “Black Lives Matter,” people came out of the woodworks to assert that in fact, “All Lives Matter.” This did not and still does not go over well, as many of you know.

Reconstruction worked similarly in that if we pretend that the Union was in fact fighting to end slavery, they were the ones saying “Black Lives Matter.” The Confederacy started the war with “Black lives matter to my plantation,” and ended with “All Lives Matter” in the sense that they wanted everyone to forget about that little slip-up of slavery, and recognize the fact that we’re all here now and we should just move on. 

They, along with the current “all lives matter” troupe would be correct if they themselves took that view from the beginning. Black Lives Matter needed to be said in 2015 and henceforth because black Americans understood that their lives were not being seen as something that mattered in the eyes of police and many other institutions. Had the colonizers, the slave owners, and everyone who continues to uphold institutions founded on inequality said all lives matter BEFORE they were putting people in cages, chains, and whipping posts, then yes it would still be fine to say all lives matter in 2019.

The fact of the matter is, some person at some point in history decided that another person was not the same as them. Thus all of civilization has been able to get away with that idea and use at their discretion. Racism, sexism, nationalism, homophobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance—every form of discrimination is based on the idea that there are two humans on the planet that are somehow unequal, and thus one of them is deserving of less.

The Civil War was an opportunity to see this problem and its effects and actually do something about it. We failed.

Shoulda Coulda Woulda

Do I think the Union could have eradicated racism in America in the aftermath of the Civil War? Not necessarily. There will always be bad apples. There will always be outliers. But it’s the cycle of “progress” that we keep repeating that makes me wish they at least gave it a shot.

I feel very helpless at working towards national moral agreement now because we’re too big. We may have been too big then, but especially now: how would you go about trying to teach every person in this country that everybody is equal? How do you unteach generations of ingrained ideology when it’s so widespread? I don’t know.

But I do know that we had a much better shot in 1865 than we do in 2019. There were around 3 generations where we could have at least tried to prevent the passing on of this disease that is inequality, but the North decided to go the amicable route and let the South continue to undermine black Americans. 

We are here in Trump’s America at this time of tangible tension because we failed to nip the Confederacy in the bud. By failing to set up actual protections for formerly enslaved citizens and black citizens broadly, the South was able to continue subjugating black Americans through bureaucratic institutions which at best looked like sharecropping and at worst looked like lynch laws. 

What Do I Want

I don’t want to see another literal civil war. Practically speaking, they managed to kill and wound over a million Americans with the time-intensive and shoddy weapons they had back then, it would just be total and instant obliteration with today’s cache.

In reality, though the last few years have felt eerily war-like. The phrase “in today’s political climate” instantly triggers feelings of tension, divisiveness, and disagreement for many along with feelings of fear, helplessness, and anger all similar to those of the Civil War era. If we just referenced certain events of the past few years differently you could almost imagine them sequenced in a future textbook: The Battle of Ferguson, The March on Charlottesville, The Charleston and El Paso Massacres, to name a few. We may not all be wearing matching uniforms, but there are conflicts happening all around us trying to prove a point.

My point is the arguments have all been made. Every moment that we spend still debating the significance of the Civil War is another moment that proves we have not learned from it at all. We assert broadly that history repeats itself but we ignore the caveat that this only happens if we fail to learn from it. The first step is getting on the same page about what that history actually is and what it means.

If You Always Do What You Always Did…

My mom will be pleased to read that some of the things she has said to—or in some cases drilled into—me have stuck with me into adulthood. This she has said both to me and to her own mother on countless occasions: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” 

A quick google search found that quote attributed to author Tony Robbins, along with Albert Einstein and Henry Ford. I’m not sure where my mom first heard it (and no, I didn’t bother to ask), but it clearly stuck with her as she passed it on to me. I would be inclined to believe it came from an innovator like Einstein or Ford because it expresses the idea that if you keep doing the same thing, you’re going to keep seeing the same result. 

Sure there are more details involved, but you can imagine Henry Ford standing in the factory saying, “Ah murderation (or some other old-timey exclamation)! If we keep building one car at a time, we’ll just keep making one car at a time and it will take lifetimes to see all of America driving automobiles!” or something to that effect. And thus, the assembly line was born. 

My mom has so far not heeded this advice when I’ve come to her in shambles because I haven’t been able to revolutionize an industry. But she does present it when I come to her and say, “I have x problem and it’s not getting fixed because y.” The y is usually some person with routine patterns that need to change or some job that needs to change or some habit I’ve created that I need to change. In essence, she cuts right to the point. No nonsense, no frills. If you can change it, you have to—if you want the result to be different.

Why in the world could I possibly be writing this when we’ve just had two mass shootings in 24 hours? I can’t possibly put two and two together.

But it’s bigger than that. I know we are not the same country we were when Columbine happened. Or Virginia Tech. Or Sandy Hook. Things have changed, albeit on a microscopic level, but things have changed and I won’t pretend people aren’t doing anything to change the routine of gun-related tragedies. But we have to understand that on a macro scale, the effort to end gun violence has remained mostly the same. You don’t need to be a policy expert to see that. Why? Because we’re getting the same result. Either we’re not changing the right things or maybe we just aren’t changing anything.

Take it outside of gun violence, and I keep begging the question: why are we as a country doing the same thing year after year, election after election and expecting different results?

When I was in my last semester of college, I had a painting professor give us a prompt to think about and eventually paint about. He gave us with no context this quote: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” I didn’t google it at the time—I’m not sure if we were explicitly prohibited or if I was just lazy—but I now know where it comes from and that alone will give a lot of folks all the context they need. But the class discussion illuminated for me the meaning that whoever is in charge is not going to be taken down by the same means that they were put in power. The actual reference is a book by civil rights activist, Audre Lorde.

If defeating Trumpism™—or however you choose to define the chaos everyone is seeing in this country—is the goal, then the strategy we tried to use to beat it in 2016 is obviously not going to work. Yet here we are trying it again. Maybe if we just vote harder this time…

I don’t mean to sound so pessimistic about the future and the work that some leaders are doing to combat hatred as well as the other issues like climate change, healthcare, and immigration. But I find it truly mind-blowing that we have really just gotten so comfortable with the idea that the America where people aren’t in constant anger if not fear and sadness will reappear (or, for many many people, appear for the very first time) if we just keep doing the same routines. 

I will put it in writing: I would love to see a revolution in this country. As a historian, yes I think it was something of a remarkable bureaucratic feat to create this nation at the time of its foundation. To be able to fight against the strongest military in the world and with no legal right and a noose on the line to say “We want this freedom and we’re not going to stop until we get it,” is really bold. 

There is no difference between what the founders did 243 years ago and what a group of determined individuals who band together, go against the grain, and refuse to quit can do today. We take the American Revolution for granted because we think that should have been the only one. 

Yes, that common phrase people say Jefferson said about every generation needing a revolution, is mostly fake. But he did say, “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?” He’s actually talking about Shay’s Rebellion—a relatively small uprising over, go figure, taxes—which turned out to be a major catalyst for the writing of a small document known today as the Constitution.

I’m going to try not to go down a historical rabbit hole here, but this example kind of nuances the thesis of “always doing what you always did.” The rebellion mirrored the Revolution in that these farmers felt they were being taxed unfairly, and they took physical action to get a say. The major change here was that they were farmers and not wealthy men leading the charge, and they were thus swiftly defeated. So to that end, it proves the point that doing the same thing won’t work. But they did see a changed result in that their protest made the people in charge realize the Articles of Confederation weren’t going to work.

From this example, we understand that a revolution in the traditional sense that Americans understand it probably won’t work. But we need to understand that the revolutions that work focus on the technical definition of a revolution: a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it. 

There is no revolution so long as we’re using the same systems that built whatever it is that needs to be changed. There will be no real revolution until we change the entire way we think about how our government works.

By The Way, I Forgive You

While I emotionally gear up for this year’s Grammy Awards, I can’t stop thinking about how proud I am of one of my favorite artists, Brandi Carlile. Her album By The Way, I Forgive You shattered me in the best ways a person can be shattered. I don’t like country music at all. Brandi navigates a couple of different genres, one of them being country, but her brassy roots put a soul so impassioned into her music and her lyrics that she transcends. I wanted to write about what this album means to me one because it’s full of important human lessons and notes on existence and two because I hope it will inspire you to listen to it if you haven’t already.

Every Time I Hear That Song

The opening track on this record might pack the strongest punch. Brandi croons the album title into this bittersweet tune. It’s thank u, next if thank u, next had a soul. Brandi says to her transgressor, By the way, I forgive you / after all, maybe I should thank you / for giving me what I’ve found / ’cause without you around I’ve been doing just fine. She’s learned a lesson here, and she’s grateful for that despite the pain she has suffered.  You feel the exact emotion she’s singing about—you love this person but they have hurt you so bad that it’s still hard to leave them. And she knows this person isn’t even really apologizing—I gave you all I had and got the worst of you—READ ME.

The Joke

I have to admit, this one took a few listens. It was the first single Brandi released ahead of the album’s debut. I loved it when I first heard because it showcases Brandi’s unbelievable vocal chops. But beyond that on my first listen, I wasn’t hooked. Then Obama put it on his 2017 list of favorites, and I had to listen again. And I was struck by the lyrics. It encompasses feelings of insecurity, oppression, all the nasty things the world can throw at you but then she embraces you and says the joke’s on them. And she took it further while promoting the song, explaining it’s not just a typical anti-bullying message, it’s political, too. Brandi said in one interview she was thinking about refugees in Syria when she wrote The Joke, and that becomes vividly clear when you listen back to the line, They come to kick dirt in your face / Call you weak and then displace you / After carrying your baby on your back across the desert. It’s an anthem.

Hold Out Your Hand

This one gets ya. Upon first listen, it’s the first super upbeat track on the record, but its lighter sound doesn’t mean it packs any lighter of a punch. Like The Joke, it rings as incredibly anthemic to me because of the way Brandi chants in the bridge: Deliver your brother from violence and greed / For the mountains, lay down for your faith like a seed / A morning is coming of silver and light / There will be color and language and nobody wanting to fight / What a glorious sight! / What a glorious sight! The song despite its cheerful sound is a prophecy of the days coming after these days of reckoning. When we’re all done with the violence and the hatred tainting our world and we find in our hearts to forgive those who’ve wronged us—what a glorious sight. That’s the biggest lesson, and it’s on the album cover: forgive. Ahead of the album’s release, Brandi wrote an open letter to a pastor from her youth who refused to baptize her as a teen because she’s gay. She wrote about the impact that moment had on her identity, and what it has taken to forgive this man. I had never thought of forgiveness as such a radical action, but in this world where someone can do something like that—say you’re not welcome because of x—it really is.

The Mother

I don’t have kids. I don’t want kids. But wow. Brandi paints the most beautiful picture of motherhood while managing to be honest about it. The first things that she took from me were selfishness and sleep. She acknowledges that having her first daughter, Evangeline transformed her life in the most inconvenient ways that doing such can. You lose sleep, things you loved, order and organization, but it’s all worth it. All the wonders I have seen, I will see a second time / From inside of the ages through your eyesIt stings because Brandi also acknowledges the hardships she has been through herself and that she knows her daughter will face. But she complements that fear with the hope and confidence that Evangeline will grow up to fight against the evils in the world as well—When we chose your name we knew that you’d fight the power too. Chills.

Whatever You Do

If I don’t owe you a favor, you don’t know me. This song ~attacked~ me from the first line but in a good way. What makes this song special to me is the way it kind of nuances that theme of forgiveness. Brandi waxes poetic on a few different struggles and how that kind of makes it hard to have a relationship. There are days when I change with the weather / To hold you in place would be wrong. The prose is nice because she doesn’t try to apologize for this. She acknowledges it as a fact of life, with love being the only thing that can mitigate that—I love you, whatever you do / But I’ve got a life to live tooMaybe that’s not the best interpretation of what she’s trying to say, but I think it is a fact that sometimes you love someone even though everything about your lives makes it difficult. You can walk away from it or you can kind of forgive the situations and embrace your loved one.

Fulton County Jane Doe

A wacky one. It’s not quite upbeat, but it’s not as much of a ballad as the other tracks. Jane Doe gets it bite from that feeling of being known, being accepted. Brandi’s message is very clear on this one—You’re more than Fulton County Jane—the imaginary “you” is this person who has been reduced to a noname. The idea of identity loss interests me because Brandi’s not saying this person has come to this place of lostness on her own accord, she arrived there by outside factors. Brandi in interviews talked about how the song like others on the album alludes to things like the opioid crisis and the global migrant crisis. She’s holding out a hand here, saying you’re more than a Jane Doe.

Sugartooth

I almost wish Brandi called this one “The Ballad of Sugartooth” because that’s what it sounds like—an old western kind of ballad that tells this story of a hero’s journey. This hero, however, is a tragic one. This is the other song I was just talking about that’s about the opioid crisis. That makes the song kind of hurt a little more because it doesn’t sound as sad and horrific as opioid addictions are. She offers an incredibly compassionate view of it though by kind of comparing addiction to someone with a sweet tooth. So many people dismiss those addicted to drugs because “they made that decision,” when that’s such a false narrative. Yes everyone can make the choice to try drugs, but whether or not you get addicted after one try is something far beyond your control. Nothing could tame him and nothing could hold him / He only took the pills when the doctor told him—we’ve seen the stories over and over of people who break their ankle and a month later they’re addicted to oxy, but the problem persists.

Most of All

One of the more personal tracks off the album, Brandi talks about her parents in Most of All. She reflects on what they’ve taught her, how they shaped her, and to remember what comes back when you give away your love. With the chorus here Brandi takes forgetting out of the proverbial instructions to forgive and forget. She understands that you shouldn’t forget when someone has wronged you, but remember what they give back to you when you show them love. If you show someone love and they stab you in the back, maybe you will come to be able to forgive them, but don’t forget what they did to you. But on the flip side…

Harder to Forgive

Brandi thought of everything on this album. With the penultimate track, she says yeah everything I’ve said here is a lot easier said than done. We want to say we forgive everyone, period. But she acknowledges that sometimes it’s remarkably difficult to do so. She offers, Sometimes I pretend we never met / Because it’s hard to forgive than to forget. We’ve all had that experience of just walking away from a situation because forgiveness kind of feels like a fix. If you forgive someone, that means things can be okay again, or so we’re often taught. So Brandi offers that solution of forgetting because sometimes people wrong you so bad you don’t want to have any hint that things can get better. But I think ultimately she’s saying you don’t have to reconcile when you forgive. When it all boils down, forgiveness is personal, and a choice that only you can make for yourself.

Party of One

This piano ballad closes out the album on a somber note. It’s deeply reflective and painful, even. I’m still kind of processing it a year after I first heard it. The song itself has such an insane body, that’s the best way I can describe it. The way Brandi’s voice kind of cracks when she belts, I am tiiiiiired. She’s talking about loneliness if you didn’t get that from the title. In doing a bit of research for this post, I learned she was reflecting on the loneliness she kind of experienced after the birth of her first daughter—something that came from what she called “internalized homophobia.” Brandi’s wife carried both of their children, and while Brandi is genetically related to her daughter Evangeline, she talked about how navigating motherhood in a same sex couple was an experience she had to kind of struggle through. To me it speaks volumes to the problem of loneliness in general that it really can change you as a person if you don’t work through it. And she does as we see at the end of the song she finds her belonging again and it ends on a bit of a lighter note.

 

I didn’t mean for this to get so so long, but there really aren’t enough words to talk about how much I love Brandi and how much her music has helped me to do introspection through so many different scenarios in my life. Thank you, Brandi and all of your team for your art. Thanks for reading. If you made it through this whole post, you really should just listen to the album it’ll be quicker I promise.

What Have We Learned

2018 has quite literally felt like one of the longest years of my life. I’ve probably said that in some form every year for the last 3 years at least, but this one was particularly chaotic and thus felt like an eternity. But what have we learned? It’s been such a transitional year for me that it feels like I’ve lived three separate lives this year. And through it all, I’ve picked up a number of life lessons I thought I’d share.

I started the year as a senior in college interning at a fashion magazine. I was more broke than I had ever been in my life, but enjoying my final semester of college. Then I spent the summer interning at The Daily Beast, which was kind of like big-girl-job purgatory. Not because it was a bad experience, but because I had entered into adulthood in terms of working a 9-5 job and being out of school, but it wasn’t permanent, and I still went in every day with what felt like a sign on my back that said “intern.” And not because I was treated as such there, more just because I knew the whole time it was temporary and I spent a lot of time applying to other jobs and worried about what would happen when the internship was over. And now here I am finishing out the year as a full-time employee at LendingTree, enjoying the full benefits of paid time off, health insurance (granted, I’ve yet to actually utilize either of these literal benefits), and a level of job security I did not know before.

One taught me love, one taught me patience, and one taught me pain…I type that in jest, but that lyric really could be used to describe the different roles I went through this year. My glitzy fashion internship was more or less a bust. I threw so much money at the MTA just trying to make it a worthwhile experience, and at the end of the day, it wasn’t. I don’t regret doing it—I did learn what it’s like to work at a fashion magazine (yawn), and that some celebrities who will not be named give excruciatingly boring interviews. I can’t say for certain that the gig at ELLE allowed me to pursue my next endeavor, but I have to acknowledge that it didn’t detract me from my trajectory. I went into my next stint at The Daily Beast with the feeling that I had a minuscule amount of journalism experience.

My time at The Daily Beast did a few things for me. It made me love the news a little bit more and hate the news a little bit more. Part of that was just the timing, I mean I don’t know if there’s a news cycle that anyone really wants, but the one I worked with this summer was absolutely not it. It tapped into levels of empathy I didn’t know I had while exposing me to a vast list of things I do not understand. It challenged me to learn more while drawing on my education. In terms of hard job skills, I picked up a couple at The Beast, but I learned a lot more about myself that I’ll get into in a moment.

And here I am now just over a month into my new job at LendingTree. I won’t say more than I can about what the experience has been, but it has been positive. The corporate world is insane and I’m not sure I love that aspect of it, but my office is homely and my team has been incredibly welcoming. I have the satisfaction of knowing I’m where I’m meant to be right now.

So what have we learned?

Probably the biggest lesson I’ve taken out of this year is knowing when to be selfish, and doing it. I spent way too much time this year in my professional and personal life waiting for someone else to make a decision for me, or tell me what I want, when I absolutely could have and should have taken the reins. I always thought I was a selfish person until it was important for my well-being that I be selfish. It was hard (because I’m obviously super selfless). But I had to take a good look in the mirror (and get yelled at by my mom) to say, “Kamaron, you should be doing better.” Which brings me to my next lesson.

Patience is not just virtue, it is the virtue. Each of the jobs I had along with just being a person this year was a constant reminder to have patience. But with that, I also had to give myself a kick sometimes and say I’m not going to sit around waiting for this or that. I did and you do at some point need to say “Here’s what I can do to change this,” and then do it. There will always be factors you can’t change, but the ones you should change aren’t going to change themselves. Sorry to get preachy, but that was experience I really went through in my job search. Patience kept me a little bit sane when I sent out dozens of job applications that would get no response. Patience kept me from committing a crime when I would hear back from a job 5 months later letting me know I’d been rejected. But I also changed my resume or my search approach probably ten times throughout my process. I refused to give up half because I literally couldn’t, and half because I knew something good would come out of it.

One lesson The Daily Beast did reinforce for me was to have the confidence to speak up. I consider myself an outgoing person, but I am deathly shy especially when I know I’m in no position of authority. My defaults to thinking no one wants to hear my ideas because I’m just the intern or I’m just the assistant, or I’m just Kamaron…and I do regret the amount of time I spent at The Daily Beast not sharing my thoughts. It really just took my supervisor saying, “You should speak up more,” for me to be like “Oh they want my input.” Realistically I should have had the confidence all along to know they hired me for a reason and that I was a voice they wanted at the table, but it took a push for me to actually speak up. By the end of my time, my supervisor was applauding my ideas because some of them were actually good.

The final major lesson I’m taking away from 2018 is the greatest of all that I have now just ruined by tying it to a played-out cliché. Yeah it’s love. Wow, did Kamaron grow a heart in 2018? Kind of! I didn’t need to learn how to love, but I did start paying extra close attention to the way I show my love. Through all of the ups and downs of the year, I clung so tightly to the people in my life who make it all worth it. I went through a period in the year where I felt like I was being a really bad friend because I knew I didn’t show love the way my friends did for me. In some ways, I literally couldn’t—like when some of my friends show me love by paying for me to come out with them when I can’t afford to. But there were plenty of other ways other friends would show me love that I didn’t reciprocate for no reason.

I had friends on campus who without fail whenever I saw them, would offer to be there for me if I needed help with anything. Friends who consistently complimented my outfits or pictures online and in person. Little things that would make me smile or make my whole day, but I wasn’t doing for them—with no excuse. So I decided I needed to make an effort to show the people I love that I love them in whatever ways I could, just because I could. The real lesson here was realizing, these people weren’t doing these things for me because they had to, or for any ulterior motive. They just wanted to let me know that they love me and care about me, and I learned it is so special and important to let people know you love them in this way. Just in your every day interactions. It sounds kind of stupid now that I’ve written it down and I do feel like the Grinch character here who had to learn basic human affection, but progress is progress!

That was my 2018. I lived, I learned, I loved. Came, saw, and conquered. The what’s next question is big and open-ended for me right now, but that’s a good thing.

Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year

xoxo,

Kam

little

The world is a big bad place. It always has been, and unfortunately it probably always will be. I want to say that all I think about is how to change it. How to make it better, how to make a more peaceful future for myself and maybe my children. It’s exhausting, though. Thinking about change is a tireless, and often fruitless effort. It’s a pipe dream we may never achieve. So I think about the little things. I shrink myself down out of the big bad world and I think about why I keep getting out of bed every morning. I think about my little two-year-old niece. I think about the way she calls out “Abba!” when she searches for my mother. I think about the way her eyes light up and she repeats in chant, “I-cream! I-cream!” if you dare utter the words. I think about the tight curls of her soft brown hair. I think about the way she scrunches up her face into a tiny scowl when you tell her it’s MY blanket. I think about how she puts her mini fists on her diapered hips and yells at me in complete gibberish should I challenge her authority. I think about my own perplexity on the day of her birth—of course, I know where babies come from and how they grow in utero and I try not to think about my sister’s involvement in all of that, but I think about the day a new human being entered the earth and the population went up by one and my heart grew in size by one hundred. I think about her excitement at the sight of bubbles floating around her. I think about how she throws herself on the floor in laughter like she just heard the funniest joke on the planet. I think about how unfazed she is by the world she inhabits. I think about the way she runs to her daddy and shakes her whole body in fear when I put a napkin over my face and proclaim, “I’m a napkin head!” I think about the way she sticks out a miniscule thumb in response to the question, “How was your nap?” I think about her wild bedhead. I think about the way she runs out of the bathroom announcing to the big bad world, “I poopied!!” as if the act had solved all of our problems. I think about the tantrums she throws, destroying everything in her path when she knows it’s time for bed. I think about how little and how fragile this tiny human is, and yet I think about how special and important she is and how the future may not look bright and it may look like it’s going to be big and bad forever, but sometimes it’s nice if we don’t think about that.

What to 2018 is the Fourth of July?

Like baseball and American pie, there’s nothing more American than loving America. You don’t even need a reason at this point, just subscribe to the Trump Doctrine™, “We’re America, bitch.” Okay, you don’t have to go that far. But This July, like every July, we’ll set aside our differences for a day to watch fireworks and eat hotdogs and settle in to worship our lord and savior, George Washington.

But in 1852, Frederick Douglass challenged this holiday in delivering what would become one of his most notable speeches, What to a Slave is the Fourth of July? In this oration, Douglass outlines the whole—at that point brief—history of the United States and applauds the courage and fortitude of the founding fathers. But in doing so he calls out the hypocrisy of this foundation that promoted ideas of freedom and independence while upholding the institution of slavery. He proclaimed,  “Fellow citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them.”

Nearly two centuries later, I’m thinking the same thing. We have come a long way from the slave trade days, but we continue to live in a country that prides itself in moral superiority and unfettered Freedom without a whole lot of supporting evidence. We have Freedom*

*Unless you’re black and run into the wrong cop, or a child migrating illegally, or a refugee seeking asylum or a woman looking for a job with fair wages and protection from harassment, or trans and trying to use whatever bathroom you want, or a kid trying to go to school without being gunned down, or, or…

So I beg the question—what to 2018 is the Fourth of July?

It’s okay to be proud of where you’re from—America or anywhere. But it’s also okay to be critical of where you’re from at the same time. It seems as though somewhere between Douglass’ oratory and now we lost that multitasking ability. Now when someone critiques America it has to fall on one side—liberal or conservative—and it often ends with the critic being called anti-American. Lest we forget that the Fourth of July celebrates a time when a bunch of guys got together and decided to critique their government (with guns!).

Liberals critique the government all the time—now and when they had the White House. Sure if we could quantify the critiques it would likely be more now, but I digress.

When liberals critique things like gun laws, police brutality, hate crimes, they get called any number of the classic slurs—snowflakes, libtards, PC police, sons of bitches, etc.

Often we’ve seen liberals get called socialist, communists, and other labels that insinuate that they are un-American because of their politics and their critiques of the government. Those persecuting liberals—or anyone who opposes the government for that matter—forget so quickly that this nation was founded on protest. We had no right to declare independence (we had no right to even live on this land, but that’s another essay). The colonists frankly got very lucky that they won the war because as we know, they all would have been hanged or exiled had they failed.

When individuals do something like kneel for the national anthem or plan a die-in at a grocery store, regardless of their true intention, none of these people have said it’s because they’re against America. Because that’s crazy. If anyone was so against America that they’d put their careers on the line, I’m fairly certain they would leave. Maybe that’s extreme, but have you ever had a disagreement with someone above you? Did it mean that you hated that person? Most of the time, no.

This goes both ways. Conservatives have an idea of what their America is to look like. Some of them think they’re on track to make this America “great” “again.” Their America is similar to the America of American Dream fame—a place where anyone can make it with the right amount of pluck and determination.

To conservatives who celebrate America every day, but especially on July 4, I ask what are you celebrating? There is a long list of incredible Americans who do globally inspiring things. And there is a long history of America doing great things and being a great nation. But it’s not all good, and it’s not a bad thing to acknowledge that.

If your favorite football team doesn’t win the Superbowl every year, do you still cheer for them? Of course. But you as a fan and supporter of that team might want to question why the team isn’t winning the Superbowl every year. Maybe the coach doesn’t know enough about football. Or maybe the players need to work better together as a team. Regardless, you shouldn’t keep cheering them on and pretend that winning the Superbowl every year isn’t the goal. If that’s not the goal, why are they playing?

To that point, I compare the idea that America is an exceptional nation and a leader in the world. We were founded on this principle that we will be a city upon a hill with all the eyes of the people upon us. There are a number of issues with that ideology, but for the sake of example, we’ll say this is the goal of the United States—to be the best and serve as an example for the rest of the world to follow. The fact is, the US is not winning the Superbowl right now, so what are we doing here?

If you are proud to be an American, you better be ready to back that up. Are you proud of the way we are ripping apart immigrant families? Are you proud of the way we lead the world in gun-related deaths per year by an exponential margin? Are you proud of ignorance? Are you proud of intolerance?

I’m not encouraging the other extreme, though. Walking around in shame for our nation is not exactly productive either. Like most things, American pride is best served in moderation. That doesn’t mean it should only be reserved for holidays, but I mean there’s a lot more to be proud of when you’re critical of yourself and your government. We have to be able to admit when we’re wrong, and we must be able to offer an explanation when we still think we’re right.

Freedom is the perfect example of this. We have a lot of freedoms to celebrate, I will never deny that. On the global scale, there continue to be too many nations where the freedoms we take for granted are not guaranteed. But that doesn’t make us perfect. It’s a privilege we should recognize especially when critiquing our government, but it doesn’t justify other oppressions. Just because Jim Crow ended doesn’t mean black Americans are in the clear, as we all should know by now. Just because we’re supposed to have Freedom of Speech doesn’t mean we should stand by while individuals use that to promote bigotry and hate. And just because we are a capital ‘F’ Free country does not mean we should be complacent in the crimes being committed by our government.

The 2012 opening of my favorite show, The Newsroom rings true to this day. Jeff Daniels delivers an eviscerating commentary on why America is not the greatest country in the world, and he doesn’t do it by calling for ‘civility’ or attacking either political party. He calls on us to wake up and go back to our roots of being brave, informed, and vigilant. I negate the argument that there is a period of time in the past that we need to aspire to emulate, but there are aspects of past periods we should look to. There are aspects of this country that do make it great. But we cannot and should not keep pretending that this nation is or ever was perfect. The goal is a ‘more perfect union.’ We have to try harder.

To Those Who Taught Me

On the first day of preschool, my mom brought me into KinderCare, and asked if I wanted her to stay or leave. I told her she could leave, confident that I was going to be okay. I then proceeded to stand in the corner, watching other kids play with their parents, and choking back tears wishing I had asked her to stay. But I was ready. I wanted to play and learn and be a kid that goes to school without fear, and thus my journey began.

I am about to do the most important thing in my life. I consider myself incredibly privileged to be able to do this, and I do not take lightly the sacrifices my family has made so I can do this. Graduating college has been my biggest dream for a very long time. There is no inspirational story here about a huge obstacle I had to overcome to get here. I have loved school for most of my life, and even on my darkest days, I have wanted to keep going.  But that perseverance was instilled in me from the people who greeted me at the doors of each institution—to those who taught me, thank you.

To Mrs. Terri Olexa, who was the first mother I had away from my home. Who put care and compassion into our kindergarten classroom while cultivating young minds. Thank you for being there when a boy punched me in the stomach.

To Mrs. Dawn Santello, who gave me my first shot at being a leader. Who listened when an ambitious six-year-old told her, “I have ideas for the classroom.” Thank you for nurturing my earliest inclinations toward excellence.

To Mrs. Betty Smith, who allowed me to say “This is too easy.” Thank you for giving me space to push myself, and thank you for pushing me.

To Mrs. Liz Seipp, my first cool teacher, who understood that sometimes third graders think they’re really cool. I thought I was really cool. Thank you for making the classroom a welcoming community for everyone.

To Mrs. Leanne DeTample and Mrs. Annie Overton, a pregnant teacher and her replacement, who combined to show me the importance of adapting quickly. Thank you for teaching me about science and entrepreneurship and making it an adventure.

To Mrs. Jane Fetter, who is to this day the reason I know every state and every capital. Thank you for creating a classroom full of versatility from macaroni brains to weaving on a loom.

To Mrs. Alice Keffer, who kept it real no matter what. Thank you for introducing me to journalism, and the important struggle of math.

To Mrs. Maureen Mutinsky, who ingrained everything I know about grammar. Thank you for taking the time and impressing the importance of commas and apostrophes.

To Mr. Scott Kleinman, who was the first Vikings fan I ever knew, and who brought my dad into the classroom. Thank you for that memory, and thank you for teaching me percentages.

To Mrs. Joan McCloughan, who taught me about Mesopotamia, and how to take good notes. Thank you for being the first historian I knew.

To Mrs. Jessica Heller, who turned Kool-Aid into a science experiment. Thank you for hands on learning.

To Mrs. Amy Van Treuren, who gave me the space to ask more questions, learn more, and investigate. Thank you for going above and beyond. Thank you for treating an 11 year old like a person, and letting me be myself. Thank you for being a friend.

To Ms. Maria Przechacki, who saw me as a preschooler and again as a tween. Thank you for growing with me. And thank you for the bikes.

To Madam Baille, who did not have it easy from me or my classmates. Merci pour votre patience (Yes, I used Google Translate).

To Mrs. Jo Ann Groeger, who was so passionate about health and fitness. Who always practiced what she preached. Thank you for having fun and loving what you do.

To Ms. Sara Hyer, who navigated a rowdy classroom with grace and focus. Thank you for refusing to give up on me no matter how many times I tried.

To Mr. Tim Prugar, who taught me to love history, question everything, and reach higher. Who challenged me every day to think for myself and back up my theories. Who gave me space to heal when I needed it more than anything. Thank you for caring beyond your duty.

To Ms. Nicole Revere, who was relatable. Who understood the struggle of being 14, but never let that get in the way of learning. Thank you for giving us a break.

To Mrs. Jenny Kessler, who is still a mystery to me. Who might be the coolest teacher I’ve had. Thank you for bringing me into art, and remaining critical with a sly smile.

To Mr. David Kelly, who was a character. Thank you for letting me shine as brightly as I wanted.

To Mr. Daniel Van Lieu, who had the most hilarious classroom I’d be in before college. Who never took himself too seriously. Who saw the curriculum, and said there are missing narratives. Thank you for going off script, and teaching me how to write a single moment.

To Mrs. Lisa Quarry, who trusted my ambition, and harnessed my drive. Who didn’t shy away from bringing down the hammer, but never judged anyone in light of it. Thank you for introducing me to yearbook.

To my sign language teachers, who had probably the most difficult classrooms I’ve ever been in. Thank you for showing me the importance of accessibility.

To Mrs. Milissa Neirotti, who was always clear and ran her classroom like a tight ship. Thank you for never letting me fall behind.

To the Colonel, Mr. Charles O’Brien, who scared me, but who has such a kind heart. Thank you for seeing my potential when I lost sight of it. Thank you for teaching me the importance of attention to detail.

To Mrs. Lynn McNulty, who is an incredible historian. Who was the first teacher to bring world news to world history. I’m sorry I didn’t give you my best, but thank you for giving me yours.

To Mrs. Julie Davis, who gave me my second shot at geometry. Thank you for making math fun, while being one of the most brilliant women I know.

To Mr. Gary Brown, who really tried to motivate me, when I didn’t want to. I’m sorry I slept in your class every day. Thank you for trying regardless.

To Señorita Noelia Straight, who endured. Thank you for welcoming me into the world of Spanish.

To Mr. Marty Hoban, who was different than most of the teachers at Hun. Thank you for being yourself at a place that often made it really really hard.

To Mrs. Cheryl Beal, who displayed a passion for literature and its place in the arts. Thank you for your openness to teaching how we wanted to learn.

To Señora Melissa Dorfman, who always cheered me on in the classroom or the halls. Gracias para todo quatro años.

To Mr. Ryan Hews, who felt passionately about student-centered learning. Who taught unfiltered the parts of American history many others sugarcoat. Thank you for bringing history to life in a real way.

To Mr. Bob Groover, who also struggled to get me to want to learn in his classroom. Thank you for not giving up on me, when I gave up on myself.

To Mr. Matt Ator, who was the new kid when we met. Thank you for pushing me, despite my contempt for Algebra.

To Mrs. Joan Roux, who is elegance and intellect embodied. Thank you for insisting that my writing be better.

To Señora Jennifer Mitchell, who may have caught the last of my teenage angst. Thank you for your patience and for giving me a chance anyway.

To Mr. Allan Arp, who was always a friendly face. Thank you for teaching me how to paint, and about color, and thank you for not letting me give up after one try.

To Mr. Tim Pitts, who was on his way out when he taught me. Who packed a huge punch into a semester-long course. Who taught me to question my government, and my politics. Thank you for being always groovy.

To Ms. Aruna Chavali, who would be my last science teacher. Who showed me the importance of empowering women, who empowered me. Who was always authentic. Thank you for teaching me about force in more ways than one.

To Mr. Aaron Bogad, who let me be a diva for a moment. Thank you for showing me the importance of political art when I didn’t even fully understand it.

To Mr. Ryan Brown, who should teach everyone math. Who is unbelievably intelligent and multifaceted and humble. Thank you for your approachability, and thank you for helping me get it.

To Dr. Lucie Knight-Santos (أستاذ), who is one of the most impressive teachers I’ve had. Who taught me something completely new with immeasurable patience. Thank you for boldly bringing me into a whole new world (not ~totally~ meant to be an Aladdin allusion).

To Mr. Jonathan Stone, who would be my final math teacher. Thank you for pushing me out of my comfort zone.

To Mrs. Lisa Yacomelli, who is simply a fun person. Who brought context to literature, and helped it make sense. Thank you for bringing me Frankenstein and teaching me how to dance.

To Mrs. Rachel Cooper, who has such a gentle spirit. I’m sorry senioritis hit me hardest in your class. Thank you for being flexible and versatile.

To Mrs. Radha Mishra, who believed in me, and listened to me, and wanted me to succeed. Thank you for helping me do just that.

To Mrs. Heather Walsh, who empowered me and trained me in the world of journalism. Thank you for never ceasing to support me no matter the deadline.

To Mrs. Jessica Brimmer, who took on a role in an incredibly challenging moment. Thank you for never shying away from that while allowing me to continue to be a leader.

To Mr. David Bush, from whom I am lucky to have learned. Who never fails to bring a smile to my face. Who taught me to get my hands dirty, to look at things differently, to go against the current. Who is so much more than an educator. Thank you for bringing me into art, thank you for helping me see the world, thank you for loving me.

To David Peritz, who is a well of knowledge. Thank you for welcoming me to college, and never coddling me.

To Mary Morris, who is a remarkable person. Who pushed me to put any and every emotion into my writing. Thank you for taking a chance on me, and reminding me what my passion is.

To Michael Granne, who brought energy to law. Who taught me what reductio ad absurdum means, which I use more than you’d think. Thank you for your wisdom.

To Persis Charles, who is charmingly witty. Thank you for Reds.

To Carolyn Ferrell, who is the warmest professor I’ve had in college. Thank you for presenting voices we don’t always hear. Thank you for your guidance.

To Eileen Cheng, who is a brilliant historian, and always makes you question what we call history. Thank you for bringing me into academia, and helping me understand how to do research.

To Tim Kreider, who might be the classiest man I’ve met. Who is effortlessly cool while remaining annoyingly humble. Thank you for your work, and thank you for giving me time with mine.

To Cindy Gorn, who is a true Sarah Lawrence person, if such a thing exists. Thank you for opening my eyes to the world of inequality all around me. Thank you for being an activist.

To Sandra Robinson, whose expertise is unmatched. Thank you for showing me a world I never would have uncovered otherwise.

To Wen Liu, whose insane intelligence is only matched by her charm and effortless cool. Thank you for making me rethink my own thoughts.

To David Ryan, with whom I got incredibly lucky. Who is the most unrelatable person in anecdote, but the most significant writing teacher I have ever had. Who inspired me and awoke a voice I didn’t know I had. Thank you for listening, and for caring, and for believing in me. Thank you for showing me why we write.

To Jerri Dodds, who is an enigma. Who is ferociously academic while remaining insanely tender and warmhearted. Who pushed me to ask more questions and nuance the answers. Who took me under her wing when I decided Islamic Art might be a cool lecture. Thank you for inspiring me and advocating for me, and teaching me to advocate for myself.

To Angela Ferraiolo, who might be the most patient teacher I’ve had whose class I never slept in. Who is hilariously clever and made the most difficult language fun to learn. Thank you for not running away in fear when I cried on the third day of class, and thank you for letting me try something new.

To Sally Herships, who is incredibly talented. Who’s never afraid to give it to you straight. Thank you for tuning my ears.

To Lyde Sizer, whose academic prowess was originally intimidating. Who knows so much, but still questions everything, and is always eager to learn from her students. Who works endlessly to ensure her students’ success. Thank you for inspiring me when I thought I was tapped out.

To Kanishka Raja, who does not let me off the hook, ever. Thank you for giving me one last shot at being an artist.

To the classroom aides and substitutes, to gym teachers and principals, to those without whom schools would fall apart, thank you for never letting me stop loving to learn. To my educators, thank you for building me, and knocking me down, and building me back up again.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Life After Softball

When I was in high school, I played on an incredibly competitive softball team that in my four years never hit all the right spots to win a conference title. Every year we’d get to the semifinals or the finals and just blow it. During one of these dramatic games where girls were crying or visibly frustrated with the game, my coach said, “There is life after softball.”

When I was a freshman in college, I walked onto a team that was building. We were in our final provisional year of Division III competition, and I joined the first ever recruited players to build the program. In that year, I quickly became the only pitcher, one of a handful of the team that had ever played softball before college, and one exhausted player. Our season record was 6-26. That’s 6 wins and 26 losses, many of those by more than 10 runs. It was one of the most physically and emotionally exhausting seasons of my life. And about halfway through the season, I turned to my coach and said, “There’s life after softball,” to which he replied, “No there’s not!”

Today I begin my life after softball. Yesterday I finished my senior season with a pair of devastating losses keeping my team out of the playoffs. And I could write a book about the experience of playing college softball, the experience of playing softball at this school, the experience of making most of my college friends through this team. But I am going to reflect on my life and what I have given to this sport, and what this sport has given me.

I’m a lifer. I have been playing this sport since T-ball, not taking a season off since then. I really don’t even know what spring is without it, and I’ll let you know next year how it goes. It has been and will forever be apart of who I am. I cried more than I thought I was going to yesterday because I realized I’m not just closing a chapter in my life with this team, but I’m closing this subplot of what has really been my entire life, and it literally feels like I’ve had a death in the family. I know there might be a future in playing beer league or coaching for me, but there will never be anything like what I’ve been playing all these years.

Softball was a huge part of the relationship I had with my dad. He was my coach for many seasons, and even when he wasn’t the official coach, he was coaching me. And that didn’t even hit when he died nine years ago. I mean, it did literally because he was coaching my little league team and someone else’s dad had to step in, but I kind of obviously was more focused on losing a dad than losing a coach. But in reflecting on this big softball thing, I started remembering those last few months with him. I remember crying in the car after I was put on the “B” team for middle school softball. I knew I was good enough for the “A” team, but the B team needed a pitcher (I realize just how ridiculously presumptous that sounds). I sobbed at the thought of playing with girls I deemed worse than me, and missing out on the glory of being on the “better team,” and he comforted me knowing I would be a leader and learn more about myself this way. I remember being annoyed when he came home from the early coaches meeting with maroon uniforms when I instructed him to get a color that would match my red cleats. I remember running laps for him when I got cheeky at practice one summer. I remember him pushing me to throw a hundred pitches a day, and me finding any excuse to avoid doing so. I remember going to Dick’s every season and picking out new equipment and the thrill of it all.

One summer, my dad picked me up from practice and asked how it went. “It was great! I haven’t been hitting well, so Coach Tom made me just hold the bat out while he pitched it at me, and then I could hit again! It was awesome!” I was ecstatic. My dad smiled, “Ahh well then, maybe it’s time someone else coaches you.” Puzzled, I asked what he meant. He just said, “There’s only so much I can teach you before you have to learn from someone else,” and he left it at that. My smile faded. My dad had always been my coach from the stands, even if he wasn’t in the dugout. He came before any coach, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

So here I am, nearly ten years and probably as many coaches later, trying to figure out how to say goodbye to this part of me. I don’t think there’s a moral here. I am very sad. I have gotten so much out of softball. I understand people better, I understand leadership better, and I know the importance of patience. I could tie in a lot of metaphors about striking out or running everything out or being on a team, but I don’t want to get preachy about sports and how they make you a better person. I’m just going to move forward and keep on swingin’.

Eminem Takeover: Festival Season Has Never Looked So Shady

Music festival season is nearly upon us, and I like many other fans have been following lineup announcements like opening gifts on Christmas morning. But this year, Santa, or in this case the producers of festivals, seemed to all have the same idea: Marshall Mathers.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Eminem as much as the next guy. His bars occupy a lot of space on my workout and motivation playlists. I have appreciated every “return” Eminem has made to the charts, and welcomed his growth as an artist, despite being fonder of the original Slim Shady. But when it came to the announcements of these music festival lineups—Coachella, Governors Ball, Firefly, Bonnaroo, Boston Calling—seeing Eminem’s name appear in the largest letters on all the posters frankly bored me. Now certainly, I was not planning on attending all of these music festivals, if I could even afford to, but seeing the repetitive headliner bewildered me.

If I were to compile a list of the greatest artists of my generation, Eminem would likely be on there. But if I were to only pick one artist to play at every music festival, it wouldn’t be him. I don’t know that I could do that if given the chance, especially not if I was to be attending all of these festivals. Eminem’s latest album, Revival, debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200, but only spent a week there. The album dropped in December of 2017, which likely contributed to its absence on notable year-end “Best Albums” lists, but I, for one, am still not seeing the merit of giving Slim headline spots at 5 major music festivals across the nation. Are the festival powers that be shoving Eminem down our throats? It kind of feels like it. Every year there is some overlap and in some years, an act has been the headliner at two festivals or so. But as far as I can tell, nothing like this has happened since Outkast reunited in 2014 and headlined Coachella, Governors Ball, and Firefly.

I asked my friend why she thought this happened with Eminem. She offered, “Because of what he did at the BET Awards.” Ahhhh. My friend was referencing the now notorious moment from October’s BET Hip Hop Awards when Eminem freestyled a roast of Donald Trump. It was a viral moment that coming from anyone else may have incited a tweetstorm from the President. But it didn’t. Eminem did something spectacular and unlike a lot of white artists by telling his fans outright, “If you’re for Trump, you can be against me.” The president did not respond. There are a number of speculations on why, but I think we all know the real reason—Eminem is a white man. That’s really all there is to it.

So while I think Eminem’s move was commendable, it still leaves me wondering if this is what earned him a spot headlining all these festivals. Does Coachella pick its artists based on activism? It’s unlikely. And if that is the case, if these festivals decided on Eminem because they think it’s a slap in the face of the presidency, I would advise them to think again. Yes, Eminem has picked his side and does not align himself with Trump, but if organizations are also trying to align themselves with the Trump resistance, it seems there are better options. Artists of color, artists who have been anti-bigotry since before the 2016 election, women, LGBT artists, Muslim artists, artists from “shithole countries,” the list of those better suited to stick it to the man is endless, and I appreciate the effort, but Eminem is not at the top of my list.

There are a number of different criteria for festivals to pick their artists, but the choice to have Eminem at all these venues baffles me. I’m underwhelmed musically and politically. If music festivals were really trying to take a stand, Slim Shady should probably sit down.

Right on Time

Hello—is it me you’re looking for?

It has been way too long, and I apologize for my absence. Junior spring kicked my butt, and this is going to be both a life update and thought piece on coming of age, because that’s all I think about these days. I am preparing to enter my final year of college and therefore doing a bit of panicking about my future. I am excited to earn my degree and go out into the big bad world and show it what Kamaron McNair is made of, but that comes with this intense anxiety that the big bad world is going to reject anything that Kamaron McNair has to offer. I have expressed this anxiety to a few of my mentors and they all say the same thing—I’m right on time.

This is apparently the moment in my life and all of our lives where we do this panicking and feel like “Oh my God what am I going to do with the rest of my life because it starts tomorrow and I’m not prepared and I’ve spent 16 years in school and haven’t learned a thing and why does everyone keep posting these articles about how my generation is so miserable and we can’t buy houses or diamonds and we ruin everything and I’m going to ruin everything and the world is a mess and I want to fix it but I’m broke and have no connections and I got the wrong degree and and and and and…”

Here we are. Right on time.

I am frustrated because you all know that I don’t want to be put in a group with another person, much less the whole of humanity with this idea that everyone does this panic dance at the same time and I’m not special. I know. No one is telling me I’m not special, they’re just looking out for me and telling me that it’s okay to not know but here’s why I am special and why this panic has thrown me into a whirlwind whereas it seems most of my peers are just casually panicking. This year was incredibly difficult for me emotionally. I try not to get too personal on here (a website named after me), but I’m going to because I’ve reached an important milestone and there was little to no cake involved.

I got my heartbroken this year, romantically. I add that qualifier because I’ve been heartbroken before. My dad died, after all. I didn’t get into the college I set my heart on. I’ve been hurt before. But I had never been hurt by someone who I adored in this way, and I want to apologize here to every woman I have discounted for grieving romantic relationships. That’s a lesson that I needed to learn firsthand, and now I am glad that I have learned it because I have even written about it on here before. Grief is not a spectrum, it’s a scatter plot. There are different kinds of grief and measuring by comparison is not helpful to anyone, so I’m sorry.

I’m writing about this now even though it happened a few months back and I am just about completely over it because it really did rock me to my core in a scary way, but it taught me a lot about myself. The boy was not worth my time or my heartache, but that’s not something we can help. I was attached, and he was not. A telling scene from our short-lived relationship was a time I was saying a lot of funny things (as I do) and he said that we should get a TV show because we were so funny together. It’s kind of a stupid example, but a perfect one that showed he used me to make himself look better.

I did a lot of self blame after the end of the relationship because I knew that he was going to hurt me. The entire time we were involved I was afraid of it happening. He hurt me a lot of little times, and then the kicker at the end was completely predictable, but I was the greater fool. But, I learned (in therapy) that none of that was my fault. Even if I knew he was a bad person it was not my job or anyone’s to make him a good person. I gnashed my teeth and tore my clothes because I felt like I let this thing happen to me, but my therapist really reminded me that in general, we don’t let bad people do bad things to us. They just do them because they’re bad people.

The next lesson came this summer when I was admittedly still stewing a bit about how this boy wrecked me for a little bit and ruined a lot of things that should have otherwise been a great time for me. Lorde release an incredible album this summer, Melodrama, and she wrote a song called “Writer in the Dark,” which is about her breakup. The song is kind of ruthless in its beauty because she’s saying “You hurt me, and I’m going to write a song about it and it’s going to be huge because I’m Lorde and you’re not” (very Taylor Swift on her part, which I was not ecstatic about, but I respect the artistry).

Lorde talked about writing the album and how she felt a little guilty writing about a person and immortalizing them in her lyrics, but this song is her way of saying they know what they did, and they knew what they were getting into. She said in an interview “But it was important for me to say. And I don’t think that song is apologizing for it. It’s more like, what did you think was going to happen? I was doing this before I met you and I’ll be doing this after you’re gone… I felt quite empowered.” I read that interview, and thought “That’s it! This is what I feel!” Some of you may have been reading this blog post and thinking it’s super petty of me to trash this boy on my website, but he knew I was a writer. And he trashed my life.

That’s enough on him, though. This is about me and career aspirations and what the heck am I doing with my life? Well this whole experience was important because the breakup made me question a lot of things about myself—my confidence, my relationships, etc.—which coincided perfectly with my plans for the future panic where I started questioning a lot of things about myself—my confidence, my qualifications, my passions, my financials, etc. However, I know it’s all going to be okay. I found a quote from a Samuel Beckett play while researching one of my papers this spring that says, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” It’s a simple sentence that became my mantra. The comma is the most important part because it forces you to believe in your fortitude without coming to a full stop in your doubt. You tell yourself there is no way I can get through this, but you quickly remind yourself that of course you can.

I did not intend for this post to go the cliché route, but here we are. This is special because while it sounds like I’m heading for an inspirational moment, I feel as though I cannot inspire any of you, readers, because I am still in this moment of panic, and still striving to learn as much in this moment as I possibly can. I’m going to figure it out, and I will take you on this journey with me, so long as you show up on time.