If I’ve learned anything this past year of saying yes, it’s this: your past failures and disappointments only define you if you give them permission to do so. I’ve fought against this a lot this year in every area of my life. It’s hard & necessary work. The truth is we get bitter or we get better. And it’s as simple and as difficult as that. I chose better. You with me?
If fascist, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, sexist extremists think for one second that I’m going to be intimidated by their displays of hate, especially in a town like Charlottesville that has served such an important part in my life, they have another thing coming. I am not ceding a single inch of my country that my ancestors, family members, and friends have fought to secure so that all people can freely and passionately pursue their dreams.
If the events in Charlottesville have done anything, they’ve strengthened my resolve to continue to stand up and fight for justice. I am sick and saddened that people can be so hate-filled and I flat-out refuse to allow anyone to make me feel helpless or hopeless. What happened in Charlottesville can happen anywhere. There are constant intimidations, micro aggressions, and open displays of intolerance across our country and the world every single day in every community.
This is my promise: I will not retreat and I will not be silent. I will continue to rise and speak up with every breath and every ounce of energy I have, in all circumstances, for all people who wish to be a part of Team Human. That’s the side I’m on, the side of goodness.
“There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky. And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” ~ Erin Hanson
Whenever we attempt something new, too often we jump to worst case scenarios. And there’s good reason for that. We are programmed to self-protect and preserve. For our ancient ancestors, there were so many dangers in the world that were matters of life and death. Now in our somewhat civil society (though goodness, are we ever testing the bounds of civility these days!), our old programming is still in place even though we can be much more daring now and live to tell the tale.
Whenever I’m starting something new, I think of Eric Hanson and his beautiful poem. We feel so trapped in situations that don’t make us happy, but truly, we can set ourselves free. I’m not saying that it’s easy, or that there isn’t an ample amount of fear and worry associated with freedom. Friends, freedom isn’t ever free, but my goodness, is it ever worth it to try to do something that we’re passionate about. Something that matters. Something that makes a difference in the lives of others.
Yes, you may fall. Lord knows I fall every day in one way or another. I have failed miserably at things I wished so much to succeed at. But I learned. Damn, did I learn. And those falls make me tough and resilient, and they also make me empathetic and kind. I get up again, and little by little I steady my gait, get set, and try to fly again. I know that someday I’ll be soaring. You will, too. You’ll see if you just give yourself the chance. You are so much greater, so much wiser, and so much more capable than you ever give yourself credit for. So here’s your credit – it’s yours for the taking. Go do something wild and wonderful with your life. Be it small or great, let it fill you to the brim with joy and happiness, hope and purpose. The world is waiting to celebrate the beauty that is you. And so am I.
I recently took an Amtrak train up to New York for a long weekend. I love the train for many reasons, especially because it gives me a chance to roll past my alma mater – the University of Pennsylvania. I always get a little teary eyed. Those years were hard for me. I learned a lot. Struggled a lot. Grew a lot. And growth is often painful. It’s uncomfortable to become something. It’s scary and difficult. And yet, it must be done. To become the people we’re meant to be, we have to grow and evolve. We need to learn hard, painful lessons about life, about the world, and about ourselves. Sometimes I think it’s a miracle of the highest order that I even survived. Do I wear my diploma like a badge of honor? You bet I do. I earned every letter of that sucker and then some. I wouldn’t want to do it over again, and yet I’m grateful for it. It taught me to stare into the fire and smile instead of flinch. And that kind of strength is invaluable. It erases fear.
“Please hear me, Girl. The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things. The world has enough women who live a masked insecurity. It needs more women who live a brave vulnerability.” ~Ann Voskamp, author
I’m marching on Saturday to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with women all over the world, and the noble men who know that women’s rights are human rights, to send one loud and persistent message: we will not be ignored. We have earned our seat at every table, over and over and over again. We will not be reduced, diminished, or belittled. We will not allow ourselves to be objects. We do not have a price. We will be recognized for our hearts, our minds, and our spirits. We will be seen and heard and we will not back down regardless of the criticism we may face or the source of that criticism. We will give our time, attention, energy, and love to those who are deserving of it. Don’t get it twisted: January 21st is a commencement, not a culmination.
A friend of mine is resetting his life: new job, new city, new just about everything. Though he’s excited about his adventure into the unknown, he’s also feeling uncomfortable because he’s comparing his life to the lives of others, especially to friends and acquaintances on social media.
In that moment, my friend just needed me to listen to how he was feeling. He didn’t want advice; he just needed support. He just needed to be heard and validated without feeling guilty. So I held that space for him. At the end of the conversation, I told him I was really proud of him for taking his own journey, for not letting these comparisons and fears stop him from redesigning exactly the life he wants.
My hope for him is the same hope I have for all of us—that we celebrate our own unique journeys without any judgement. Our conversations also made me even more grateful that this year I’m making more time to pause and disconnect online so that I can connect more with my own spirit and with the spirit of others in the world.
“How many lives is a man-cub worth?” ~Shere Khan
After I saw it was nominated for a number of awards, I watched the live action version of The Jungle Book that was released this year. I can’t help but think about what a powerful allegory it is for our times. A community of wolves, loving and faithful to one another, protected a member of their pack, Mowgli, who was different. All they wanted was peace and acceptance for everyone. The member of their community who was different posed no threat to anyone, and yet a dictatorial tiger, Shere Khan, demanded that Mowgli be turned over to him to be destroyed. Mowgli left of his own volition for the sake of the pack, and still he was pursued by Shere Khan. On his way to the man-village where he will supposedly be protected and accepted, Mowgli makes friends who help him defeat Shere Khan.
Would we have the courage to protect someone who was different? Would we have the courage to standup for ourselves when faced with bigotry? When the moment comes to fight for what we believe in, would we back down in fear or would we rise and stand tall against injustice?
The Jungle Book is a story written for children, but its lessons have far-reaching implications for all of us. Literature is both a mirror and a teacher. It shows us what we’re made of. It gives us something to aspire to. It inspires us to become greater than we think we can be.