all that money

What are you going to do with all that money?

There’s been a lot of chatter about billionaires lately. Which itself is very funny to me because when I was a kid I couldn’t conceptualize what a billion dollars even is, and if I thought someone had that much money his face was on a Monopoly box. Now they’re this sketchy group of nerds that half the country is trying to take down a notch while the other half tears their clothes and gnashes their teeth at the thought. I’m not going to get too political here, but I have one question—what are you going to do with all that money?

It’s the question they ask lottery winners or Jeopardy champions on TV, and if you’re like me you probably have an idea of how you’d answer. That’s because if I were to be presented with a large sum of money, currently I would be saying “Well X amount will be going to my student loan servicers. Y amount will be going to my good friends at the credit card company, and with the $20 I have left I’ll probably get dinner.” That’s where I’m at, and that’s where millions of Americans are at.

But that’s just for a dollar amount that I can clearly allocate. $50,000 would be a life-changing amount of money to me today, but I can deduct line items from it and in a couple of days have completely depleted it. A billion dollars? I can imagine where I would get started, but after a week of house shopping and vacation planning I’d kind of be like okay now what? So when I see people like Bezos and Gates and all the others in the billionaires club with tens of billions of dollars to their name, I get itchy.

The point of money is to spend it, right? Because we designed our global society on this transfer of paper money for goods and services vital to life itself. Everything beyond what you need to survive is excess. And a little excess isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A lot of excess would not be that bad of a thing in my opinion, except when there are people who have nothing. It’s because of the state of wealth inequality and the sheer amount of poverty in the world that I really am wondering okay what are you going to do with all the money?

Bill Gates said in an interview last week, 

“Maybe I’m just too biased to think that if you create a company that’s super valuable, that at least some part of that you should be able to have — a little bit for consumption, and the balance to do philanthropic things.”

I think that’s one of the major points of contention over billionaires—people think “Bill Gates changed all of our lives with Microsoft, so he deserves all that money.” To that I say sure, credit where credit is due—but at what point is historical recognition, the eternal gratitude of humanity, and the sheer power of knowing you’re one of the brains behind modern technology not enough to compensate for your work? At a certain point the money that people like Gates accumulate becomes more than they could even spend on their own interests so why do they want to keep so much of it? They don’t carry their money around like a trophy. They’re not putting their literal cash on display for all to see. What is it for?

Money is not impressive. What do you get for being the richest person in the world? A pat on the back. Your name at the top of a list on a website or in a book? You will still be subject to the human condition. You can afford to have a better life than most people, and to these ultra-rich, I say go for it. You may have earned that at least! But the thing is—after you do all that, you still have so much left over.

I can understand one of these people saying “Well I don’t trust the government to appropriately use my billions,” as a reason to not want the tax. Because it’s a fact that governments can be corrupt and misuse tax dollars. But I also haven’t heard any of these guys offer up a better suggestion. Sure, Bill Gates does a lot of philanthropy. He even started a major initiative to encourage more wealthy folks to do the same, but it’s not enough. If you can change the world once with a computer, I don’t see why you can’t do it again with your money. 

There was this little period one time when I was a teenager where in the course of maybe two weeks my mom gave me $20 on two separate occasions, and both times I lost it. While I’ve rarely been in the position to be able to just “throw away” $20, much less $40, but losing this money was not detrimental. And to ration with my misfortune (or irresponsibility) I just reason that someone who needed it will find it. I was blessed to have the $20 in the first place, now hopefully someone will find it and maybe that will allow them to eat for the first time in a day. When you have enough for yourself, why can’t you take the gamble to see what someone else can do with your excess? Spread the wealth.

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.

Women, America, and Selective Revolution

As a student passionate about American history, I read about all of the movements that have pushed this country to become better and better. I keep running into this issue, though, of the reaction to the American Revolution vs. nearly all movements that followed. I continue to be amazed by the amount of stubbornness in this nation. Why was the War for Independence the only revolution that was okay?

Simple— we got lucky.

We all know the story. The colonists, fed up with British taxes and ready to be a sovereign nation, overthrew their government and won the war to earn that right. Of course, it was not that simple, and the men that started the movement knew by doing so, they were accepting a noose if they were to fail. But they didn’t. Lucky for us, they were successful and thus we spell color without the u.

But the nation as we know her today was not born in 1776. In fact, she wasn’t really close to how we know her for another ten years. Yet, I am afraid the way the new Americans treated rebellions after their own was a red herring for the next two and half centuries.

First of all, the way Colonists treated their rebellion was not exactly justifiable in my book. While I am thankful for their efforts because of the outcome, I’m not sure it needs to be glorified the way it is. They quite literally held guns to the heads of men who did not want to participate in their acts of treason. They exiled them out of a country that was not yet theirs. No one pretends like this was a peaceful protest, but we forget when celebrating our Independence that it started as a protest.

Fast forward a century, and we are in the midst of the Civil War. Of course, I am thankful that the rebels this time were not successful, however, I have to question the legitimacy of Lincoln’s actions and the war that ensued. Weren’t the Confederates just replicating the Colonists? If they wanted to be on their own (granted, for horrific reasons), who was to say that they couldn’t? I suppose this is why war breaks out instead of peace talks, but it is so interesting to me that in a nation that celebrates the rebellion that founded it, why did we suppress any rebellion that followed?

The people in power get to decide if rebellions will work and when. Every movement that changed legislature or systems of government had to be accepted by whoever was in power. The first Women’s Movement did not turn into a war, but it changed some of the systems that oppressed women. The Civil Rights movement was closer to a war in the streets, but still did not go nuclear, and changed some of the systems that oppressed black citizens. The Women’s March was in no way a war, and hopefully will not turn into one, but the people in power have to make a change, but I am afraid they are too stubborn.

I’ve been processing the Women’s March for the last 24 hours and trying to make sense of everything that is happening in this country. I could not march because of travel, but I felt so empowered to see so many people standing together for equality above all else. Yet as soon as I go online, all I see is unrest. Not that I expected the march to defeat sexism and save the country, but I wish the opposition would see the issue here.

In general, the opposing side of events like the Women’s March are from people who continue to pledge their allegiance and patriotism to this nation. I do not understand how they see a difference between the women marching and the Boston Tea Party. In my history class, we talked about how the taxes on the colonists that allegedly pushed them to revolt were on objectively not that extraordinary. The thing we ignore, though, is that a colony of people felt oppressed. Were they themselves guilty of oppressing much larger numbers of people? Yes, of course, but that’s a whole other rabbit hole. Regardless, the colonists felt oppressed and they decided to do something about it.

We, the women and men who march, feel oppressed. We are not whining, we are not throwing a hissy fit. We feel oppressed, and we want to do something about it. You who oppress us do not get to decide whether or not we feel oppressed. That’s not how feelings work. Also, it’s not just a “feeling,” it’s a system. If the opposition had facts or evidence to support the idea that we are not oppressed, perhaps we would not be marching. The British could have pretended that the colonists had nothing to feel oppressed about, but they knew they were wrong so they fought back. Our oppressors know they are wrong, which is why they are fighting back with nonsensical tweets and “alternative facts” or whatever other circus acts they put out.

Maybe this won’t turn into a revolution, but I hope it does. It’s not about being conservative or liberal or green. It’s about being a human and acknowledging that we are all humans. And though the signers themselves did not believe it, this nation was allegedly founded on the idea that we are all created equal. The colonists felt unequal, and the British felt attacked, but they did not stop fighting.

Neither will we.

Noise

I have this weird form of claustrophobia where it only affects my well being in super specific conditions. The fear that makes my heart race and breath irregular appears whenever either the use of my feet or my ears is compromised. The feet is just one of those comfort things I think is somewhat normal. I can’t sleep with my feet under the covers or in socks, and footie pajamas give me angina. I just like to know when the boogeyman reaches out from under the bed I’ll be able to kick back and maybe poke his eyes out with my toes.

The hearing issue is different, though. It is affected in even more specific situations, but also in the metaphoric sense. For example, I can be driving by myself and blasting music with no problem. But if I’m in a car with other people and music is blasting and someone tries to have a conversation, it feels like the walls are closing in. Or if I’m in a group and we’re trying to decide something and everyone is shouting ideas in a competition to see who can be the loudest, a part of my soul starts screaming. I just have this real sense of panic whenever there’s too much noise I can’t control.

I bet you thought this was going to be a political rant. Surprise, it’s not, and you’re welcome. I know we’re all tired of hearing about it. I am going to speak to that, though. I am excruciatingly tired of it. All I wanted was for the election to be over so we could carry on our everyday lives, but something unprecedented has happened, and everything has changed and no one really knows where to go. Or so it feels. It feels this way, at least to me, because there’s so much noise. It’s not even two-sided anymore. Everyone wants everyone to do something differently and we’re all just screaming at each other trying to be the loudest. We can’t even claim we’re the most correct because who knows what correct even looks like. I just want it all to be quiet again.

And even that, I’m told is wrong. I know it’s wrong in the sense that we should not continue to be complacent with the systematic issues like racism and sexism, but I can’t help but wish we could be complacent because at least it was the devil we knew. It’s funny because we know that with Hillary the world was not going to get better overnight. It may not have even improved much in four years. We know under Obama things got better but surely a black president did not do much for racism, and a woman president would likely do the same amount to fix sexism. But at least we knew they were trying. Trump isn’t even officially president yet and it seems someone picked up America and started shaking it like a snow globe. I want the snow to settle so we can see what’s going to happen. I know he’s the bad guy. I loathe that man, but it’s so loud in this country right now that I don’t even know what’s going to happen.

 

My Body Story

Before continuing, I want to say that by writing this I am not trying to inspire anyone. I am not trying to convince you to love your body even though you should. I am not making a plea to society to accept me the way I am. I am writing how I feel about the bones, the muscles, and the fat that I have been blessed with for over 20 years. This is my body story.

There’s this half-serious joke in my head where I attribute the shape of my body to a summer I call “the summer of bagels.” In my memory, there was a summer where my mom worked every day and left me and my older sister Kassidy home alone with a dozen bagels a week for the whole summer. We have talked about this and recognized that there is basically no way this could have happened because I have two other siblings and at the time a dad who should have all been home during these days. But in my memory, it was me and Kassidy every day until my mom came home from work around 3:30. We would get up, make bagels with butter, Kraft singles, and garlic salt; take all the cushions off the couches, build a fort, and watch the Lion King. Every day.

I bring up this summer, because in my head this must have been the summer I got fat. That’s what makes sense. Bagels make you fat, and it was after that summer that I started to see myself as such. It was around second or third grade, and I started to realize that the other girls I was friends with didn’t have to pull their pants up to cover their belly buttons. I started to think about dieting. I started thinking “next summer I’m going to run every day and be thin.” I’ve had that thought every summer since then, and have never gone through with it.

First it was the juniors section. I started wearing “juniors” clothes in 4th grade, which I thought was really cool because I felt like a teenager even though I was only 10. I didn’t fully realize that it kind of meant I was bigger than most girls my age, but I didn’t care then because the Juniors section was way cooler than the “Girls” section. But 4th grade brought the challenge of a new school with a lot more kids. In my town, there are 4 elementary schools that are Kindergarten to 3rd Grade, then everyone goes to the Intermediate School for 4th-6th Grade then Middle and High School. In 4th grade I realized I was no longer a big fish in a small pond. I was a fat fish in a skinny pond. On the first day of school a popular boy told me to “go back to the zoo,” and I realized I had become an outsider overnight.

By 6th grade, I had befriended all these popular kids, and become somewhat popular myself. The only thing I was missing was the clothes the popular kids were wearing: Hollister, Abercrombie, Aeropostale. One reason was my family was just kind of against spending so much money on such cheap clothes, but the other reason was the clothes weren’t made for girls my size. One time at the mall, Kassidy and I wandered into a Hollister and before the cologne could hit our lungs, my dad pulled us out by our necks saying We don’t shop here.”

Middle school wasn’t hard for me. I thrived in middle school. I tell everyone I know that I was really popular in middle school as if that’s something to be proud of. No one ever called me fat, and if they did it was because I had called them something much worse.

High school was where things got really tricky. I had a really hard time adjusting to private school. And I gained weight to show for it. Softball season came and I tried on my uniform and sobbed. The pants didn’t fit. I had to buy my own pants and felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb.

At the end of a season of warming the bench, my coach broke the news to me. She needed me to lose some weight this summer.

I had and still do have a lot of respect for her. And I accepted what she told me as correct. I needed to lose weight in order to get better at softball. She handed a workout plan to follow that summer. My sister was also getting married at the end of the summer and as the biggest bridesmaid, I wanted to fit into my dress a little better, so I started the plan. I stopped the plan maybe a week into it. But I started dancing instead. Not “real” dancing, but playing Just Dance on the Wii in my basement. It’s a killer workout. I played religiously. At the final fitting for my sister’s wedding, I had gone down a size, and the seamstress congratulated me.

I returned to school with a newfound confidence. Not because I had lost a ton of weight (I didn’t, really) or changed my size ever so slightly. Sophomore year was the year I started to love myself. I started to learn not what clothes looked good on me, but what clothes I liked to wear (and that looked good on me, but that’s not the point). It was around this time that body positivity started to be this radical new trend. Seventeen Magazine started their Body Peace Treaty, teaming with celebrities to make a pact to love their bodies no matter what they looked like. I can’t say that that is what I needed. I didn’t need Demi Lovato saying “I love my body so should you,” for me to love myself. Or maybe I did.

From there, I only got better. I grew into my body and just started to figure it all out. The end of high school and beginning of college continued to teach me about this vessel I inhibit. College softball taught me about the incredible feats I can put my body through, and my body will still thank me. A love of fashion and growth of the plus size industry has taught me that style literally does come in every size. I still get frustrated sometimes because mainstream retailers are still hesitant to diversify their sizes, but I find ones that aren’t afraid of big girls, and I give them my money instead.

This turned into a longer story than I intended, so I’m a little sorry for that mainly because I haven’t said what I’ve wanted to say yet and I’m still figuring it out. I just want people to know that I don’t need sympathy or special attention. I’m not afraid to be fat. Fat has this awful connotation that too many people in this society seems to be afraid of, but I’m not. I used to pray every night that God would let me wake up a size 3, and every morning I would rage against him, but not anymore. Some days I pray I can wear shorts without fear of chafing, but you know, it’s a part of life.

I was told kind of my whole life that I have to fit a certain mold or do things a certain way because of my size. When skinny jeans first got popular, my whole family mocked me for even thinking I could find a pair in my size. But I haven’t worn anything else since my freshman year of high school.

What I hate is when I make a comment about my body like having fat thighs and people rush to my defense. I appreciate the thought, but I don’t need it. Contrary to popular belief, “fat” is an adjective not a death sentence. I hate when skinny girls complain about being fat becuase it makes me think, “If you think that’s what fat looks like and it’s so ugly to you, what do you think of me?” Not that I need everyone to think that I’m so beautiful, but when it’s your friends, it makes you wonder.

I’ve been thinking about this post for such a long time, and I’m kicking myself for not writing it sooner because now I’m afraid I haven’t done it justice. I’m just so tired of people trying to stand up for other fat people. I think there is a lot of fat shame in society like there is a lot of racism and homophobia and other prejudice that we can’t seem to eradicate. I don’t have to defend myself to anyone, but I am going to love myself unconditionally and unapologetically.

I’m healthy. I’m very active—not that those things matter to anyone except me. What I really want to say is I don’t think I needed all the outside inspiration and I don’t think I can inspire anyone to love their bodies the way I do mine—they have to figure it out on their own. I know people look at me and wish they had this confidence and I want to tell them: you do. You just have to find it inside of yourself. Mine was here all along I just had to tune out a lot of negativity. I hope you’ll do the same.

I’ll end with a few lines from my favorite poem, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

xoxo,

Kam