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

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’.

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.

Boxes

It’s been a while since I’ve written on here, so I want to welcome readers old and new to the new home of Perfectly Offensive at kamaronmcnair.com.

As we have entered this new year, there has been so much going on in the world in politics, entertainment, news, etc. And of course, as with anything, there has come an outpouring of opinions all over the spectrum on things from celebrity deaths to the importance of football. I’m not trying to really share a political agenda in this post, but I want to warn of the danger of boxes.

I started thinking about boxes earlier today when I was thinking about being a millennial. Above all else, I think we can label this current era as the era of finger-pointing, because regardless of the issue, it seems most opinions are mainly looking for someone or some group to blame. If it’s a race issue black folks are pointing fingers at a system and white folks are pointing fingers at Chicago or something. If it’s a politics issue the left is pointing fingers at the right and vice-versa. If it’s an entertainment issue, apparently we’re all pointing our fingers at Meryl Streep and saying she’s right or wrong. I’m in my box blaming you, and you’re in your box blaming me, and nobody is winning.

I just saw an article on Facebook, the only legitimate news source (sarcasm heavily intended), about Mark Wahlberg condemning celebrities for getting involved in politics, and saying they should just stick to entertaining. This infuriated me, not because of my own political views, but because he is telling his peers to remain silent in issues that may or may not really affect them. He is saying, “You chose to be an actor, so you shouldn’t share your opinion.” He wants entertainers to remain in their box and stop trying to influence us laypeople in our less glamorous boxes.

Why is that a problem for me? It’s reductive. It’s dehumanizing. It’s frankly stupid. To think that a person who is successful in the arts should not share his or her opinion with perhaps the intention of influencing a broad audience is crazy to me. You could make the argument that we should go back to a time when no one talked about politics except maybe with their closest friends, but even that is to pretend that capital P “Politics” exist in a box that doesn’t affect our everyday lives. Why do we discuss politics in casual conversation? Because politics are a part of everything we do. Are we in a war? Will it be difficult to get a job when I graduate? Where can I get an affordable cancer screening? These are all questions that are ultimately determined by the political agenda of whoever is in charge. Why should anyone be pressured to remain silent on these issues?

If I’m not being clear, let’s think about boxes differently. Let’s think about bubbles. People older than me who may or may not have more experience than me love to remind me that when I’m at school or in my home or wherever I am, apparently, that I am in a bubble. That whatever I think is the normal human experience is not true because it is existing in a sphere unaffected by the “real world.” Sometimes they are correct. I know when I am at school I am surrounded by like-minded people and we’re all aged 18-22 and etc. etc., and that is a bubble. Duh. I am fully aware that when I walk out of my school I am no longer enclosed in that community of people who are similar to me. That is why I do not pass judgment on “real world” things based on the reaction of my bubble or myself. I know there are other bubbles out there who are affected differently and we all have to live together somehow as we all live in the bubble that is planet earth.

The point is, no person is just one thing. We can’t reduce person or people in a certain profession as just one thing or put them into just one box unaffected by the outside world. Creating these boxes ignores the fact that we all interact with each other on many different planes and living is a completely interdimensional experience.

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

Age of Nonsense

Since I was a child, I have never felt like I’ve been the right age. Part of that may be attributed to the fact that I have three older siblings, but I’ve also just always felt a bit like a misfit in my age bracket.

When I turned 14 I was eager to get my first job. In New Jersey, you can’t legally work before then, so I had previously stuck to babysitting. Everywhere I tried to apply seemed to tell me the same thing: they only hire at 16. When I was 16 I went around again with two more years of babysitting under my belt, some volunteer work, and everyone told me the same thing: they only hire at 18. Then I turned 18 and everywhere I wanted to work wanted me to have 1-2 years of experience.

Now I’m at the ripe age of 20. I’ve had a few jobs at school and when I’ve been home in the summers. I have a resume I am constantly updating and distributing. Yet I still have this nagging feeling that I’m not where I’m supposed to be. Nay, I know I’m not where I want to be.

I spent the first half of my life wondering when I was going to be old enough and now here I am wondering if I’ve earned my admittance into the twenty-something club. Maybe I’m a victim of my own generation. We have this obsession with infantilizing ourselves by calling everyday tasks “adulting” and accepting defeat as these millennial babies that no one wants near their workplace. I know I’m not a part of that. I’ve been doing my own laundry since before I could remember. I am confident that if I had a full-time job I could support and take care of myself.

The problem is I’m in the weird limbo that is college and I can’t figure out exactly what that means for me on this societal timeline. I’m supposed to have job prospects. But I’m also supposed to still be learning. I’m supposed to be getting my life together, but it’s also apparently cool to be letting it fall apart.

I’ve written before about how I don’t really believe in this concept of “wasting time,” yet here I am feeling like I’ve wasted so many years. People younger than me have incredible internships and are starting their careers and I feel like I missed my window of opportunity. Is it possible that in the blink of an eye I went from waiting to be old enough to wishing I had more time?

 

Rules of The Dance Floor and Life

It’s summer, which for a lot of people means weddings, barbecues, and other parties of the like. In the summer I work at an event hall, and that means I see a lot of these events and a lot of dance floors and P!nk once said, “If God is a DJ, life is a dance floor.” I have compiled a list of my own rules for the dance floor accompanied by what they mean in the metaphor of life.

  1. Do not be the person texting on the dance floor. I see this all the time with people who are near my age. You’re dancing and having a great time, but then your friend who is somewhere else texts you about her boyfriend troubles or your own boyfriend is texting you making sure you’re not stepping out on him or hatever it may be. 90% of the time, it can wait. You look dumb trying to dance and have fun while staring into a screen. In life, need I say much more? Yes, technology is great. We all love our iPhones and Snapchat and everything. But take a minute and look up sometimes. You don’t need to keep everyone updated on every second of your life. Enjoy the moment in which you are present with those who are around you in real life.
  2. No one cares about your diet on the dance floor. Stop thinking about how many times you went up to the buffet. Stop wondering how long you have to Dougie before you burn off that piece of cake. Have fun. On an everyday basis, no one wants to know about how restrictive your diet is. If it makes you happy, and you enjoy what you are or aren’t eating, do it. But if you go to dinner with me, I’m getting a burger regardless of whether or not you’re just having a salad.
  3. It is [almost] always acceptable to be the first person on the dance floor. So in reality, if it’s a wedding and the dance floor is not open yet because they’re waiting to announce the bride and groom, do not be the first person on the dance floor. However, if the DJ says the dance floor is open and everyone is just looking around, be the first person. Everyone will silently thank you. Similarly, if you’re the only one willing to start something new, you should probably do it. There is a word derived from an indigenous language of Tierra Del Fuego known as Mamihlapinatapai, which refers to “a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to begin.” We don’t have a word for this sensation in the English language, but we all know exactly what that is. Pro tip: be the initiator.
  4. If a dance circle opens up, take a turn in the center. I know not everybody loves being the center of attention as much as I do, but I think it’s always a good idea to take a step outside of your comfort zone, even if only for a minute. Take the spotlight sometimes. Even if you’re really bad at dancing. If you’re having fun, no one cares that you don’t have the best rhythm.
  5. Even if you hate the song, if everyone’s dancing, and you are otherwise having a good time, dance with them. You all know how much I hate Taylor Swift. But if I’m at a party, and Shake it Off comes on, you can bet I’m getting down to this sick beat™. It’s not worth my time to stand in the corner refusing to dance solely because I can’t stand the singer. Obviously in life, if you hate doing something or you are uncomfortable doing it, don’t do it. But if it’s something so minuscule as dancing to a Top 40 song, you might as well sing along.
  6. Learn the words to Bohemian Rhapsody. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last 40 years and still don’t know the words, or the gist of the words, do it now. Period. It’s basically the National Anthem. Just do it.
  7. Being single on the dance floor is usually more fun anyways. I have danced many a dance floor without a date. It’s fine. Don’t pout about it. Own it. When Single Ladies inevitably comes on, own that. Every living human being born not as a conjoined twin has had to be alone for some event in their life, and they have survived. You will survive if you make the most of it. It is okay to embrace singularity. On the dance floor and in life. It is okay to be alone. You’re never even really alone, there are 7.1 billion people in the world. Some alone time does us some good sometimes, anyway.
  8. Have a go-to song. On the dance floor, for karaoke, for the worst days of your life, have a go-to song. Learn a dance routine, learn the lyrics and the harmonies, make it your own. Get it tattooed on your body forever, if that’s what you’re into. Impress your friends with a flawlessly memorized Nicki verse, or some perfectly nailed choreography. This goes great for when you put #4 in practice. In life, you should figure out how to make yourself happy. Find your ultimate happy place that grounds you and brings you back into yourself for when the inevitably crappy things happen throughout your life. Find the thing that’s going to help you say “I’m okay. I’ll get through this.”
  9. Dance like nobody and everybody is watching at the same time. There is a psychological phenomenon called the imaginary audience when humans tend to believe that everyone around them is noticing them. Like when you’re having a bad hair day and you think surely everyone will notice. Truth is, no one really notices, and if they notice, they don’t care. So when you’re dancing and you don’t actually know how to dance, dance anyway. But don’t be afraid to show off if you are a really great dancer. Use the dance floor as a stage every now and then.
  10. What happens on the dance floor stays on the dance floor. Have fun. Life is short. Embarrass yourself, laugh about it, move on. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

 

xoxo,

Kam

Why is That Girl Crying About the Black Eyed Peas?

Spoiler alert: I’m the girl.

We all have that one song that whenever we hear it, wherever we are, we are sent into an emotional trance be it ecstasy or dejection.

For me, one of those songs is “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. I am not kidding. And the trance I go into is not necessarily happy. Every time that song plays I fight back tears. I was working my catering job last night for a Bar Mitzvah. The DJ played that song, and I had to tell myself, “Kamaron you are NOT about to cry in front of these 13-year-old kids.”

I sound crazy at this point, I realize that, but I’m so serious and I’m not totally proud of it. The Peas literally sing the days of the week in this song. It’s not exactly a lyrical masterpiece. Yet what it evokes in me would suggest something like that notion.

I remember when the hit song came out. It was huge, and 7 years later remains iconic. The song marked the unofficial (and shortlived) comeback of the Black Eyed Peas. It was regarded as the most successful song of the 21st century until it was surpassed by Pharrell’s “Happy” in 2014.

For me it means a lot more than the records and its cultural significance, though. It brings me back to middle school and the year following the untimely death of my father. I was getting ready to transition to high school and leave all my friends behind when I transferred into a private school. It was this moment of uncertainty for my life, but then will. i. am proclaimed, “I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night.”

That obscure but simple message is the tale as old as “Don’t worry, be happy.” BEP assures us, we don’t really know what the future or even the night holds, but they’ve got a feeling it’s going to be good, so we should enjoy it.

Maybe it’s just a catchy pop song. Maybe it’s just one of those fun songs we’ll keep playing at weddings and basketball games until we’re dead. Maybe I’m reading way too far into it, but maybe who cares? I’ve gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night.