Me Too

Standard

I have been overwhelmed and saddened by the amount of “me too” posts that I have seen in my social media feed over the past couple of days.

Not that I didn’t know that girls all over the place experienced the catcalls, unwanted brushes of the hand (or other parts), and suggestive looks and comments, but because these things are so commonplace that I have simply looked at them as a integral part of life.

I almost didn’t post a ‘me too’ status because I thought “I haven’t actually been brutally raped…I’ve never experienced violent sexual harassment…I’ve never felt like I was in imminent danger of sexual violation.”

But then I stopped myself.  I have experienced whistles and comments from men on the streets on a regular basis.  I have been asked multiple times by random men at bars if they could “just” see or squeeze my ass.  I have ignored whistles and “damnnnnn” comments from STUDENTS at my school because I wasn’t sure how to handle such disrespectful behavior and I thought if I ignored it it would just go away.  I felt a man rub his genitals on me in a crowded subway and try to take a picture of my face.

I have experienced all of these things and more, yet I still hesitated when posting a status to join the ranks of women who have been sexually harassed because I wasn’t sure if I had been hassled “enough” to stand with them.

How absolutely sad is that?

Women have become so used to feeling judged by their bodies that a certain level of discomfort has become normal.

That needs to stop.

Right the fuck now.

Women are not commodities.  Women are not eye candy.  Women are not tits and ass and a pretty face.

So why we are branded as such?

Simply put, humans are a creature of habit and learn almost everything by example.  If I were a man and grew up seeing the men around me talk about women in a disrespectful manner, calling out dirty remarks for a laugh, and generally basing their value of a woman off of how good she looks in a pair of skinny jeans, I would quite honestly do the same.  It would be normal.  And heartrendingly, that’s how most of the men in America are raised.

However, this is not the norm across the entire range of male humanity.  I have never once seen my dad make a disrespectful comment about a woman.  I can’t even remember him commenting on a woman’s body in a complimentary and non-sexual way.  It simply was never a part of the rhetoric that he used.

Not surprisingly, my brother is the exact. same. way.

Never once have I heard my brother comment about any girls in a sexual way.  There have been zero instances where I saw him oogle a woman.  No dirty jokes.  No inappropriate comments.  Not even with his wife, where it would be more acceptable.  It has been nothing but consideration and respect.

How much more amazing would every female’s experience be if every male had an example like my dad or brother to emulate?  I can’t even imagine how it would feel to step out into the world and not wonder who is checking out my ass or tossing a glance at my silhouette.

BUT WAIT, you say.  Sexuality is part of human nature!  Surely you cannot be suggesting that we move to a mindset where sex is not somewhere in the forefront?  That’s impossible.

I agree.  Sex IS part of our nature.  Sex, in fact, is freaking awesome.  And it’s doubly awesome when you feel sexy and confident and you know you look good and the person you are having sex with makes sure you know how attractive you are to them.

But a large part of that feeling is immediately doused in ice-cold water when you feel disrespected.  I have gone from feeling awesome and self-assured to feeling insecure and small in a matter of seconds all because of a moment of unwanted attention that crossed the line.

And no, this doesn’t only happen when I’m wearing a sexy dress or short shorts.  I have dealt with this feeling in every different type of clothing imaginable.

The bottom line is, I want to take my body back.  I want to be able to feel comfortable in anything.  I want to be able to wear something that makes me feel like a million dollars without worrying that someone is going to assume that I want to hear their two cents.

Comments on my body make me feel amazing when they come from people that I give a shit about.  Nothing makes me smile wider than a well-placed “damnnn” from the person that I’m dating.  But when it comes to words pouring from the mouths of strangers, it gets old really fucking fast.

So men, please, please listen:

Woman love to feel sexy.  We love to feel special.  We love to feel like we are on top of the world.  But that outcome is not achieved by catcalls, “flattering” compliments, or forcing yourself upon us.  That result is not realized by staring at us from the corner and raking your eyes constantly across our frames so hard we can feel it even when we uneasily turn away.  That effect is not attained by focusing solely on our physical attributes that you find pleasing.

We want to be seen.  Really, truly seen.  Move past the old rhetoric that has been passed down from generation to generation and be the man that takes a step forward to take a hand, not grope a curve.

You will still have your animal needs sated, don’t worry about that.  But maybe, just maybe, you will realized that treating women as civilized creatures rather than prey to be hunted will yield a far richer feast than the outdated methods of pursuit with bow and poisoned arrow.

Be the change.

Please.

Thoughts on Vegas

Standard

Last Sunday night I went to bed thinking about all the random things that had happened over the weekend, mostly consisting of “ughhh why did I eat that” and “I’ll just grade that really fast at school”.  Monday morning, at 5am, I was sleepily glancing through my daily Skimm e-mail, and stopped cold when I saw the headline “Shooter at Vegas Music Festival”.  Every time there is a tragedy that happens, I always feel shock and empathy, but this time was different–this time, my best friends were at the festival.

After some frantic phone calls and panicked-but-trying-to-sound-calm voicemails, I saw that my friend had posted on Facebook that they were ok.  Relief immediately flooded my body, and I got ready for work in a haze of thankfulness.

The reality of things truly didn’t hit me, however, until I got to work and I started watching footage of the horror.  The staccato bursts of the gunfire sounded like a video game or an action movie, and the panicked people mere actors on a set.

But it was real life.  Live, horrific, indescribable.  I started bawling as the reality of the situation hit me.  I tried to imagine what my friends must have felt like, the amount of adrenaline pumping through their bodies, the terror coursing through every minor vein.

Yet as much as I want to enter in to their pain, I can’t.  I wasn’t there.  I have no idea what it TRULY felt like.  All I know is that I need to be there for them in whatever capacity I can be.

Which is all we can ever do in a situation like this.  Be there.  And by ‘be there’ I mean actually BE THERE.  Be available to meet up at 9pm if they need to get out of the house.  Be there to hear their stories, 20 times if need be.  Be there to sit in silence when the stories are too painful to utter out loud.  Be there when they attempt to be strong and be there when that attempt crumbles.

Humans are the largest paradox on earth because there is nothing so incredibly strong yet so softly fragile as the human spirit.  If there is any glimpse of light in this situation, its that it caused so many people to hold their loved ones a little tighter, hug a little longer, and love a little deeper than before.

It sucks that sometimes it takes a situation like this to make us realize how fragile life is and what the important things are; we have little reminders surrounding us constantly, and the reality of our impending death is always acknowledged when the topic is brought up.  However, being slammed in the face is a lot different than a gentle nudge, and that harshness, however unpleasant, can grudgingly be appreciated for the fruit that it bears.

The thing about tragedy is that it cannot be truly understood unless it directly effects you.  I have experienced way more empathy and love for the victims of Las Vegas than I have for any other horrible event, simply because I had a direct connection.  I can never enter into that experience fully, but I have definitely been opened up more than ever before.

The biggest thing that has come out of this experience for me is the importance of loving fiercely.  We cannot burn with the brightness of a 1000 suns every second, but we are infinitely capable of bursts of ardent flame, way more than what is self-allotted.

Love, no matter what kind, deserves to be fueled boldly and purposefully.  Make it a habit to show your love.  So many times we assume that those in our life know that we love them.  However, knowing and feeling are two very different things, and the latter is what everyone deserves to experience.

Simply saying “I love you” is powerful.  Hugging someone even when you just saw them yesterday, or when you know you’ll be hanging out tomorrow.  Squeezing a hand.  Keeping plans.  Sitting in silence in each other’s company.  Being honest.  Doing stuff you don’t care for because it makes them so happy.  Going the extra mile.  Loving so loudly and proudly it’s embarrassing.

People are imperfect and flawed.  But more than that, people are worth it.  No matter what kind of relationship you have, whether it’s a sibling, parent, friend, partner, that spark of love is precious and worth all the time in the world.

When it comes down to it, relationships are what we are left with when all of the bullshit of life goes away.  Relationships, not money or fame or luck, are what get us through life unscathed.  Relationships are the only currency of any true, consistent value.

Tragedy on both a major and minor scale helps us to refocus on the things that matter.  How lucky are we that we possess things so valuable that their loss would devastate our existence?  How thankful can we be that we actually have something to lose?

As the shock and the pain of this calamity eventually fades, keep the reminders of fierce passion burning bright.  There is so much devotion in the world, which is a force more powerful than a bullet and a strength more enduring than the deepest pain.  Nothing can stand in the way of pure selfless emotion.

When we are filled with the deepest and truest love, we are unstoppable.

What To Do When you F*ck Up

Standard

Yesterday….yesterday was a lesson in humility.

A couple of days ago, my former students’ mother had called me to ask if I could have a chat with said student just to see how she was doing—she is a high level student and likes to be the best at everything she does, which is awesome but also leads to quite a bit of stress.  Based on her request, I made plans to pick my former student up for dinner before her big homecoming game where she was part of the homecoming court.  She had a narrow window of time, but we decided to make it work.

As fate would have it, my memory failed me and I ended up going to the wrong high school to pick her up.  This would have been fine, except it was 4:15 on a Friday in the middle of an overpopulated city, and her ACTUAL high school was allllllllllllll the way across town.

Cue me cursing other drivers, alternating slamming on the brakes and the gas, and finally breaking down in tears in the car as traffic sloooooooowlyyy crawled along the nine impossible miles.

I almost reached her high school when she called and asked if I’d like to meet at Subway down the road instead as her mom had come to pick her up and it would save time.

Burning with humiliation, I agreed.  And, in the manner that usually happens when things are going wrong, my GPS showed some unclear directions which added at least five minutes onto my commute in the opposite direction of my original trajectory.  Eventually, it was decided that we would meet on the following Wednesday as she was already late to her next commitment.

I died inside.

I had fucked up. Royally.  And even though my friends told me things like “it was an honest mistake” and “oh well, those things happen”, I couldn’t help but internally scream that these things don’t happen to ME.

Two glasses of wine later, I was feeling a bit better about the situation (helped in no small part by a generous pour from the sympathetic bartender), but still burning inside from the knowledge that my mistake didn’t affect just me, but had screwed up her day, and her mother (who had entrusted me to be there for her daughter) was a witness to my screw-up.

So, burning humiliation aside, how could this have been prevented?  How can we minimize those moments in our lives where we (hopefully only figuratively) screw the pooch?

Always double check the details, even when you think you know.  My mistake happened simply because I got the wrong high school in my head, and never once confirmed where I was supposed to meet her, specifically.  Making 100% sure of whatever critical details are pertinent to the situation at hand goes a long way in preventing those major collisions that result from not confirming the seemingly inconsequential details.

Conform to a standard of excellence.  The reason why this incident had me so shaken up yesterday is because this sort of thing is a very, very rare occurrence in my life.  I am very rarely late, much less completely at the wrong location.  I make it a point to deliver on any promise that I set forth, and I always make up for it when I fail to do so.  If you hold yourself to a high level of commitment no matter what task is set before you, you can almost ensure the complete or nearly complete lack of “ahhhhh FUCK” moments in your life.

Allow the moments of failure to spur you towards higher levels.  I could react to this incident by telling myself that it’s no use, I’m going to keep screwing up, so I might as well embrace it and not give it a second thought.  Or, I could realize that I am going to keep screwing up if I don’t take action, so I need to double down on my efforts to make those mistakes fewer and further between.  Whenever you use the fallout from your weaknesses as teaching moments, those weaknesses slowly start turning into strengths.  Recognizing that you are human does not have to be synonymous with constantly letting yourself off the hook.  Life is meant to be a growth process, not a continuous recline into our comfort zone.

Ultimately, make up for your mistakes that do happen.  I apologized profusely to my student.  I sent an “I’m SO SORRY” text to her mother.  I made sure that I texted my student this morning to see how the homecoming election turned out.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that I won’t be taking her to Subway for dinner on Wednesday.  You cannot erase mistakes, but no matter how small they are, you can show that you care enough to make them right, or as right as possible.

Each and every time you fuck up should be a time where you learn.  If you’re applying the knowledge gained from when you screw up, it will be very rare that you make the same mistake twice.  A flaw-free live is completely impossible, as much as the A-type personalities of the world wish it were so.  However, a life lived with integrity and purpose is as close as we can get.  Don’t allow your missteps to prevent you from finishing your path, and don’t allow your dirty shins and skinned knees to give you permission to sit down and throw up your hands.

Every. Single. Person. makes mistakes.  As with everything in life, it’s what you do AFTER those mistakes that truly makes the different between moving forward or sliding deeper into the mire of false contentment.  Pick yourself up, dust off your jacket with dignity, and step forward with a keener eye and sharper sense of purpose than before.

 

What you Need > What you Want

Standard

Lately I’ve been feeling out of sorts and kind of lost in my life.  Rather than moving through my life with purpose, I have felt pulled around by whatever whim takes me at each moment, and it has started to become a real mental sticking point for me, with many minutes spent spiraling into different avenues of negative thoughts.

I thought it was simply the fact that I am still single at 28 years old, and therefore have wasted many a long hour wishing that a decent man would magically appear from the crowds of douchebags, fuckboys, and idiots that seem to make up the male population here in California.  Then, I imagined, I could finally feel fulfilled.

Yet last night, I indulged in the ultimate single girl pleasures: I sat around in pajamas with my girlfriends, drank wine, watched movies, and played amazingly hilarious rounds of Cranium and Trivia.  It was the best night of my life in recent memory.

You see, what I thought I wanted was what I saw other people in my life doing, and therefore I allowed my soul to become bereft and focused on all that I have lacking in my life.  In reality, what I need was just a simple human bond created from laughter and shenanigans, and right now that need is being filled by my amazing girlfriends.

If you focus on how your needs are being filled rather than how your wants are left lacking, you can find a whole other level of peace and contentment that will permeate your life and eventually lead to your wants becoming subtly sated.  So many times we fixate on how our wants are being supposedly ignored, and we can allow ourselves to totally torpedo how our needs are being amazingly fulfilled.

This can also go the other way.  There are times when we find our wants being granted with fervor.  You want a boyfriend?  Boom, exciting new man pops up.  You want a flashy looking job?  Boom, high-end salesman.  You want a active social life?  Boom, instant party every weekend.

Yet when all the dust from our want tornado settles, we find ourselves starving from lack of need fulfillment.  Perhaps that boyfriend doesn’t truly provide the love, support, and laughter we had imagined.  Maybe that flashy job is actually pretty thankless, and leads to long hours and stress-induced ulcers.  And that active social life could literally be the only thing that’s preventing you from finding out what you really enjoy doing in life as well as keeping you from getting to know yourself on a deeper level during times of solitude.

This concept can be seen even in the most basic necessities of life.  We can stuff our face with all our dietary wants yet leave our body nutritionally starving and yearning for more.  Our life needs to be balanced between the things that we want and the things that we need, yet so often we don’t see that if we satisfy our needs, those needs become our wants.

It is such a common concept, but our mind really does magnify what we focus on, and our momentum can carry us further than we ever thought possible in both a positive way and a negative way.  Like begats like, and if we are focusing on how our life is a pile of poo, the poo will expand and block the view of any other color but brown.  It’s something that we inherently know, but it is so easy to forget.

So instead of bemoaning how your wants are not being met, think about how your needs are being satisfied (or not).  Bring it back to the basics.  What foods do I eat that are good for me, leave me feeling awesome, and I actually enjoy?  Do I really actually enjoy the sick, over-sugared feeling after stuffing my face with a donut or do I love the crunch of roasted brussel sprouts AND feel amazing afterwords?  Do I leave moments with my friends feeling fulfilled and happy or am I fixated on the romantic relationship that I don’t have the entire time?  Do I leave my job every day feeling satisfied or do I race out of there like a bat out of hell every single day?

Really, it all boils down to authenticity and actually, legitimately, 100% knowing ourselves.  If we take the time to sit quietly in true solitude for a while and really ponder what we like, when we feel good, and where we want to go, we would have a greater understanding of when something is a true need versus when something is a simple want.

We spend so much of our time focused outward that our external wants become the focus.  Bring it back.  Look inside.  Get in tune with the fluctuations of yourself and what really, truly, brings you joy.  Those springs of true happiness are what need to be nurtured, not chasing after the gushing waterfalls of other people’s lives that seem so much more enchanting than your tiny trickle.

Because here’s the thing…if that tiny spring is nurtured, eventually it picks up steam and those looking from the outside will only see the roaring waters of self-satisfaction.  Everyone has the capabilities of creating their own wondrous, rainbow-inducing, awe-inspiring waterfall.  And it starts with those legitimate needs becoming our focus and main source of fulfillment.

So take a step back from the whirlwind of thoughts and outside influences and take some time to get to know your truth.  Focus on meeting your needs, and in true domino effect, those stalwart needs will quench your wavering wants; eventually, you’ll wonder why you even yearned for some things in the first place when all along they were right in front of you.

Mistakes=Knowledge

Standard

Last night, my friend and I were discussing the disease of perfection that permeates how women feel they need to be perceived.  As a gender, especially with social media, we are made to feel that we should have the perfect ass, perfect hair, perfect face; be able to have an amazing career while being amazing mothers/partners; be sexy but not slutty; be feminine but not too girly; the list goes on.

As a man, the pressure is no less intense.  You need to be a perfectly suave career man, steadily climbing the ladder; casually show off the abs that come from a little light sweat in the gym; be tough but not too tough; embrace sports; simultaneously be able to kill a spider and fix a faucet while tearing through a giant steak.  Anything a woman could want all in one chiseled package.

This portrayal of superiority  in every way possible is completely unrealistic and completely unhealthy.

Yet so many people have bought into this representation completely and live lives fraught with miserable comparison after miserable comparison.  There is no room for widely deviating personalities.  There is seemingly no forgiveness for error.  In short, there is no relaxation into or even celebration of the fact that we are freakin’ human.

I cannot tell you how many times I have beaten myself up for making a mistake.  I slipped up and ate something while dieting?  I restrict even more out of frustration.  I said something wrong to a friend?  I flush with shame at every remembrance.  I handled a situation wrong at work?  I replay the scene over and over again.  If I want to become the person that I hold up in my mind as the gold standard, there is simply no room for error.

I put a lot of pressure on myself as it is, and with the added vision of becoming a woman that has it all, I find myself shying away from things that might lead to error.  Yet I have come to realize that this is the complete opposite of what I should be doing.  If I really want to strive towards greatness, I need to embrace mistakes.

Love your mistakes.

How cringy does that sound?  Love my mistakes?  Hell no!  Mistakes are what keep me from awesomeness!

Yet what we need to realize is, mistakes are what make UP our awesomeness.

I made a mistake when I was 19 years old and got married.  This wasn’t a little “oops, I spilled a little Pinot Noir on the couch” mistake.  No, this was a “shit, I just murdered 5 years of my life and I can never get them back” mistake.  Talk about something you don’t want to blast all over social media.

And yet, that mistake has shaped me to be a better person.  I am more empathetic.  I can relate to people in their poisonous comfort zone.  I have extremely high standards for who I even allow to take me on a second date.  That fuck-up has given me invaluable knowledge.

Overall, the problem does not come when we make the mistake.  The problem comes when we refuse to acknowledge that mistake and therefore deny ourselves the opportunity to ruminate on it, examine it, dissect it for the valuable information that it holds.

If you analyze the big, juicy, terrible mistakes that you have made over the years, you will undoubtedly find that you are now the proud possessor of subsequent clumps of education directly stemming from your deepest pools of shame IF you have taken the time to work through everything.  If you have simply ignored the error and moved on, you are highly likely to make that same blunder again.

Sweeping the mistake under the rug will not cause the snafu to be unsnaffed.  Everyone wants to be smarter, to have a broader base of knowledge, to know what to do in every situation.  The irony of it is, you almost always have to do the wrong things before you figure out the right things.

Of course, one of the greatest tools we have as human beings is to learn from other people’s examples (and we don’t even have to actually know the person to do so!).  Books, podcasts, articles—they all offer valuable information that will cut our learning time down in droves if we actually take advantage of them.

There is no escaping making miscalculations of our own, sometimes with catastrophic results (yet with a silver lining of incomparable knowledge if we choose to take advantage of it).  But if we can glean the knowledge that other people have gained and graciously decided to share with us, we will be so much further ahead.

Holding back from living your life in order to minimize your mistakes is the shittiest way to live that I can think of.  Our one life that we get to live deserves to be fiercely embraced, relentlessly experienced, and openly analyzed.

And lets be honest, mistakes are where the good stories come from.  If nothing else, that moment that sends you sobbing into your pillow every night for a year will end up being the time that you eagerly share the most often IF you take the time to glean the wisdom that such an event presents.

Go out and be gloriously flawed.  Strive for perfection whenever you can, but take advantage of the times that you fall.  Seize every opportunity life sees fit to offer you, and continuously utilize every opportunity to improve in one way or another.

No one, and I mean no one, is perfect.  We all have fuck ups.  If you really want to be be a cut above, though, actually glean the knowledge from yours.

THANK YOU!

Status

As of yesterday, I have hit 50 followers on this blog, and I just wanted to say that I am so grateful to each and every one of you!  Thank you so much for the feedback you have given, and for taking the time to actually subscribe.  I am thrilled that so many people see value in my writing, and I am glad that my little project has continued to grow slowly but surely.

Much love to all,

Hannah Elizabeth

Don’t Let Your Focus Override Your Purpose

Standard

Last weekend, I decided to go get a drink for a couple of hours on Monday to celebrate Labor Day and to get out of the house.  I was planning on two, maybe three hours max since I was by myself and I still wanted to complete some extra things back at the house before the week started.

As it turns out, my friend decided to come meet me and we ended up heading home around 8:30, sliiiiightly over the mental time limit I had set for myself.  I got nothing done that I wanted to, but I wasn’t upset, and not just because I had had a good time.

The reason that I wasn’t upset was because that day resulted in a much better friendship between that friend and me.  We both had misconceptions and slight mistrust towards each other before, since this was a “friends through a mutual friend” situation, and having fun together ultimately lead to a really, really good conversation where we were able to clear things up and open up to one another in a way that allowed true friendship to blossom.

Just think, though: what if I had gone against my instincts and allowed my focus on getting stuff done to prevent that from happening?  What if I had been so bent on what I felt SHOULD get done that I missed what NEEDED to get done?  I can guarantee our relationship would still be strained and we would both be trying to pretend that it wasn’t.

Focus and drive are invaluable.  However, sometimes we get tunnel vision and neglect to see the opportunities around us that would enhance our lives and purpose dramatically if only we would slow down and take advantage of them.

As much as we need that inner fire, and at times we do need to block out the outside world if we want to get anything accomplished, if we do that all the time sometimes we will miss the fact that perhaps our purpose is changing, or should change.  A lot of times we settle on a goal and do our darndest to reach that goal without actually stopping to analyze if that target is actually within the scope of where we want our life to end up.

Our purpose should drive our focus, not the other way around.  If something isn’t serving you or serving your objective, why are you still focusing on it?  There is no shame in quitting something if you realize that it is actually not helping you get to where you want to be.

This concept that I just mentioned-of quitting for lack of purpose-is one that I have struggled with in the past.  When I commit to something, I like to go all in.  I don’t back down.  I get. shit. done.  But really, how dumb is it to keep doggedly trying to accomplish something after discovering that it just isn’t for you, or that your desires have changed, or that it actually won’t help you get to where you need to be?

Quitting because you’re a pussy is one thing.  That should never be an option.  But quitting because it’s not longer the right fit should never be something to be ashamed of.  It’s hard, though, especially if you’ve held a certain purpose in your mind for so long.  Those deeply ingrained targets can be hard to let go of, but sometimes it’s necessary to take inventory and clear out all the clutter.

But if we’ve been focused on one point for so long, how can we remove ourselves enough to know if it’s really the not right thing or if we’re just going through a momentary inner struggle?

Honestly, most of the time you already kind of know.  There’s a big difference between little dips in the road (i.e. man, this is really hard, I wonder if I have what it takes) and giant stop signs (i.e. every single step I take towards this goal is making me miserable, this target doesn’t actually align with my end game).

On the other hand, there are times when quitting isn’t the answer.  Those are the moments when you just have to step back, take a breather, and realize that the reason the wagon isn’t moving is because there is a stick stuck in the spokes and all you have to do it pull it out and you’ll be moving merrily along.

The point is, tunnel vision can be both a blessing and a curse.  Don’t begrudge the times when your focus gets shaken and your purpose gets solidified.  There will (hopefully) always be more time you can dedicate to your goals, but sometimes moments that remind us of the scope of our existence happen only once in a while; don’t miss out on those opportunities because you are worried about throwing off your game.  I promise you, if you want it badly enough, your game will be even better for taking that moment to soak in the reason why you are working so hard.

Feed your focus.  Starve your distractions.  But never, ever forget your purpose.