On Reproductive Rights

I may lose a few friends over this, and that’s okay. If we couldn’t remain friends while having differences of opinions, we probably weren’t that close anyway. 

Here’s the reality: abortion is still legal in every single state. The law Alabama is attempting to pass will realistically never go into effect due to the many lawsuits it will face for being considered unconstitutional. In fact, none of the laws attempting to regulate abortion of pre-viability babies are currently into effect and have extremely low chances of being enacted. 

Another reality: the fact that bills like this can even be proposed and signed by people is incredibly discouraging to me. 

These bans are about so much more than pro-life. Should the ban go into effect, poor and marginalized people will be the most affected. This is a white supremacy issue above all else. It’s about power. 

The discussion around this ban and those similar to it that have been proposed has been very exclusionary. All genders can have abortions. By naming this a woman’s issue, we are excluding those who identify as trans, intersex, gender non-binary, and others. Those who are already on the outskirts of abortion discussion have essentially been shut out of this discussion as well. Using gender affirming language is a start in challenging the narrative being built around reproductive rights. Additionally, this isn’t a man v. woman issue. White cis-women proposed this ban, voted for this ban, and signed it into law. (This is a white supremacy issue. It is about power.)

We also seem to be forgetting that you can personally be against abortion for yourself but pro-choice for other people who deserve bodily autonomy and free choice. At this point in my life, there are probably few to no scenarios that would lead me to consider abortion - but there was a time in my life where, if I would have gotten pregnant, I would have seriously considered it. My decision to be pro-life for myself right now doesn’t mean that I should decide that’s what’s best for everyone who runs the risk of being pregnant. It’s okay to focus on yourself and keep your emotions and opinions from hindering the rights and lives of others. 

It seems to me that those having abortions are often represented as simply not wanting a baby to change their lifestyle. I think there are a million different reasons why people have abortions and its not up to us to decide which is valid and which isn’t. Some people get abortions because of medical reasons, some for mental, emotional, or financial reasons, and some because they’re simply not wanting to or in the position to have a baby. I could lay out a hundred different scenarios to make you feel empathy for the people who have abortions and the reason they have them, but I shouldn’t have to. Bodily autonomy is a human right regardless of your feelings and opinions. 

As a Christian, I think the rest of this needs to be said: the church has been incredibly harmful in this discussion. Leaders in the church publicly decried abortion after New York passed an expansive abortion rights law. People in the church continue to share harmful and untrue facts surrounding abortion. While I think its totally fine and great to share your opinions (aka what I’m doing right now), I think that as people of God, we have a responsibility to call in, not push out. Calling abortion murder and those who have abortion murderers alienates them from the church and essentially lets them know they’re not welcome in your house. If we really want to get technical, the bible doesn’t exactly say anything about abortion. Further, we lord this idea that God is deeply offended when people have abortions over others as a way to shame them into keeping their babies. I think God is probably deeply offended by people using His name as a way to control the lives of others. If there’s one thing I know about God, its that He’s a God of free choice and easy forgiveness. He’s a God who meets people where they are, He doesn’t drag them along until they submit. So maybe we can start using God’s name the way He intended? As a way to bring people together in love, supporting one another; leaving the judgement to the one who is blameless. 

Lastly, there’s a hashtag movement swirling now - #youknowme. It’s meant to reveal to pro-lifers that they know more people who have had abortions than they realize. Statistics say one in four people have had an abortion. While I think the movement is coming from a good place, I think it can also be really dangerous to pressure people into sharing their abortion stories. Chances are, some people have never told anyone out of fear of violence, rejection, and more. Encourage and support those who choose to share, but don’t use forceful language like, “I’m calling on you to share your experience that was potentially traumatic with people who probably won’t care or change their opinion because of it.” That probably isn’t helpful and most likely won’t change the views of those who are ‘pro-life’ above all else. 

If you wanna have coffee and talk about our thoughts and opinions, I’m down for it. I love to listen and to talk.

If you would like to support organizations still providing safe access to abortion care, I’ve listed some links below. This is a non-exhaustive list and you’re welcome to share others in the comments! 

Thoughts on Twenty-Three

A week ago, I turned twenty-four. A little over a year ago, I wrote about my twenty-third year of life. Expectant for the coming changes, I penned that twenty-three would be the year everything changed for me. I was getting married, moving cities, starting a ‘real’ job, creating new community, and everything in between. I’ll be clear here, none of these changes were as easy or smooth as I expected them to be. I’m a pretty pessimistic person, but I also stubbornly believe in my own will to do things and succeed at them. In my twenty-third year, I failed myself more than I can write in one sitting. 

Marriage has been an incredible thing, but also an incredibly difficult thing. I think one of the reasons God crafted Matthew and I together is because we are so different. From financial backgrounds to family dynamics to the foods we like or despise to our personalities. We are so different, but so good for each other. Marriage, in my short experience of it, has been a dance to a never-ending soundtrack in which neither of us knows the steps and we’re both trying to lead. It’s magic and an implosion all together. It’s compromise, it’s commitment. Neither of which I’ve been very good at. Through college, I learned how to do it all myself and not ask for help. If I didn’t like something or didn’t feel confident in something, I just quit it. I can’t tell you how many jobs in college I just ghosted, or how ashamed I am in writing that. Now, I’m in something that I’ve said I’ll do for life and everyday I’m working with someone else on how we should hang the art on our walls, how to load the dishwasher, what can go in the dishwasher, if we should go out or stay in, if we should buy that thing or not. I don’t mean to make it sound terrible. I think marriage was the best thing I did in my year of being twenty-three. I love my husband deeply and I’m genuinely not sure who or where I’d be without him and the late nights he spent holding me, the hours he’s dried tears from my face, the ways he reminds me what love is and isn’t, and the courage he reminds me I have. But it was and is difficult. 

Moving cities was something I was truly excited for, but once the excitement of ‘new’ wears off, you’re left with this feeling of not being at home. Nothing felt right in Chicago for several months. There weren’t the local shops I loved, the coffee I enjoyed, the bagel shop I could always count on for good bagels, no friends that knew me, nothing felt right. Now, as we’ve transitioned again to Dallas, it is Chicago I am craving. It became home in the eleven months I lived there and sometimes I cry just thinking about it. But it was certainly not an easy transition. Chicago felt like such a hectic blip in my life that I wish I had more time there where I felt truly settled and comfortable. When Matthew asked me about moving for a job promotion, I was frustrated for days thinking about how I just wanted to stay in Chicago a while longer (like I said, compromise). I also remember telling Matthew that I felt like maybe Chicago was never God’s plan for us, but I pushed it so much that He finally put His hands in the air and said ‘go for it. I’ll see you soon.’ Everything about getting to Chicago and settling in Chicago was difficult - from Matt’s job to mine to everything in between. I’m learning that ultimately, God has the last say, so I might as well let Him control it from the start. 

On starting a real job - if you’re reading this, you may or may not know that I moved to Chicago to pursue a teaching career with Teach for America. I am thankful to you in your kindness for not being nosy about this, as I’m sure you’ve also noticed that isn’t what I’ve been doing in Chicago at all. As my therapist told me, I’m allowed to choose how much I share. My short-lived time with Teach for America is something I’m still pretty ashamed about, so I’ll choose to share just a little & if you’d like to take me for coffee, maybe I’ll share more. Teach for America just didn’t work out for me. Ultimately, it came down to saving myself or staying in a job just to say I’d done it. I walked deep into depression and am still working my way out of it. Every morning on my way to work, I would think about maybe stepping in front of the train instead of stepping on it. Every night, Matthew would wake up to me, barely breathing, with tears running down my face, my body limp, in full panic attack episodes. Every day during my lunch break, I’d lock the door to my room, turn the lights off, and cry in the corner for forty-five minutes until I needed to prepare for the next hour. Every day after school, my mom would call and try to encourage me while I cried fat, heavy tears on the phone. When I decided to quit, there were several people who told me they were disappointed in me. I’m disappointed in me too, but I had to choose myself this time. There isn’t one specific thing that went wrong and nothing ‘terrible’ happened to me. I wish I could explain it, but the only words for it are, it just wasn’t right for me. I did however, start a new job in Chicago which I miss dearly now in Dallas. I began nannying for the sweetest family I’ve ever met and I’m thankful they still send me the cutest photos and videos of their baby laughing so I can cry happy tears in the grocery store missing them. There is redemption in every story and I think they were a part of mine. 

Creating new community was probably one of the highlights of my twenty-third year. Matthew has a deep passion for hosting others and I have a big passion for knowing others. Together, we made it a tradition to open our home to anyone who needed somewhere to go and feel known and warm. Samson made sure they all received plenty of kisses too. We met people who spoke life over us, amazed us with their kindness and selflessness. People who helped us laugh and see the good. People who shared in the sadness with us. People who championed us at every turn. We are so thankful for the people God placed in our path while in Chicago and we miss them so much.

Finally, this photo is of a tattoo I got during our last week in Chicago that my sister drew for me. It’s probably my favorite out of all five I have. I asked her to draw it, thinking that I would get it at a totally different time and place in life. Instead, it serves as a symbol of everything Chicago was to me and a reminder of the things I deeply value. This bouquet is filled with:

fern: a symbol of sincerity towards others

goldenrod: a symbol of encouragement and growth

rue flower: a symbol of regret and sorrow

wallflower: a symbol of faithfulness in adversity

yarrow: a symbol of healing

I picked each of these carefully, all special to me in their meanings. Fern, my reminder to always be sincere to myself and vulnerable with others - regardless of how hard that may be. Most things are better when you’re honest and genuine. Goldenrod, my reminder of those who encouraged me throughout this past year, who spoke over me in love and grace; you’re each so special to me. Rue flower, my reminder that it’s okay to regret some things and to be sad; but that it’s also okay to let things go when it’s time. Wallflower, reminding me of the one who never leaves us or forsakes us, and my sweet husband, who knows my deep dark and ugly parts and still chooses to sleep next to me. Yarrow, my reminder that healing happens when we show our hurt to those who can help us, and that healing is not linear. 

While twenty-three was not my most beautiful year, it also wasn’t my ugliest; and I’m slowly learning that we can’t classify things based on their extremes. Twenty-three was just another year in what I hope will be a long line of them. It had its good days and its bad ones, but I’m thankful for it all the same. 


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Beauty?

We're taught to hate the way we look. 

As men, as women, as non-gender binary persons: within each of us is this desire to tear apart our bodies and construct newer, better models. 

Where does that come from? And more importantly, why are we all doing it?

Since the rise of media, women in particular have been buying into this new beauty ideal. Literally, buying into it. A recent study indicated that the 2017 woman will have, at the end of her life, spent nearly $300,000 on beauty products. This number is also expected to continue rising as it has historically. 

Want to know a little secret? 

No amount of money, no surgery, no pill, no program and no fashion fad is going to make you feel like you've finally achieved beauty. Why? Because as soon as you get close to becoming content in your own skin, they up the ante. Down to a size 2? The new pretty is a size 0. You're a size 0?! Girl, you are too skinny and that's gross. You'll never touch the beauty standard if you continue to aim for it. 

What we should want to do is shatter the beauty myth. Each of us, even now as we're reading this, is feeling angry at the obsession with beauty, but also a little bit guilty and self-shaming for simulatenously trying to buy beauty. So why don't we stop it? Let's get together and say "No more. This isn't for me." We always applaud the celebrities who say "don't photoshop me", but we jump at the chance to appear thinner or more beautiful. 

A few nights ago in class, my professor had us do a project together. I want to be clear that this isn't just any course, nor is this any professor. This is an upper division women's and gender studies theory course on postmodernism and Dr. Davidson is unlike any educator I've ever had the chance to sit with. 

She asked us, a room of maybe 20 students of all different identities to gather around as two of our classmates laid on white butcher paper. We traced the outlines of their bodies as Dr. Davidson told us that one body would be our positive body: all the things we loved about ourselves, that body would hold. And the other? Our negative body. 

Most of us nervously laughed as we sat with the positive body, unsure that we knew of any positives held within ourselves. Most of us wrote one or two things on that body and quickly moved on the easier portion of negating these bodies. I must have written two things on the positive body and maybe a dozen on the negative body. 

But here's where it gets interesting.

As we finished up, we all came and snuggled up to the positive body as Dr. Davidson called out "Okay, who likes their hair? Why? Who loves their legs? Tell me about your powerful leg muscles." We laughed and we smiled and we shared the stories of these amazing things our body has done for us and the way this body makes us feel. 

Then we moved to the negative body. We all sat timidly, afraid of being asked why we disliked different pieces of our body. Instead of calling them all out, Dr. Davidson simply asked "Who made you feel this way about your body? Who told you these things?" Most of us concurred that it was a mixture of the media, our family's well-meaning and mostly innocent jokes, the body language of others; but, mostly: we told ourselves these things. It is me who most often tells myself that I am not enough, that my stomach is three sizes too big, and that my fingers will never be slender enough. It's my own mind, with the gentle help of outside forces, who tells me that my body is not good enough in comparison to another. 

As we talked about this negative body, the way we most often feel in our own skin, and the ways we've learned this behavior, we also shared something else. We shared those 'me too's' that we so often crave in times of loneliness and self-deprication. We looked at one another and saw images of ourselves reflected back. And we shared so many tears. 

After discussing these negative projections of our body, Dr. Davidson asked us to envision ourselves ten years down the line. She asked us to, as that older person, look back at this body and give it some words of encouragement to carry it through. Some of us laid our hands on this makeshift, butcher paper body and spoke the words we all desperately needed and deserved to hear: "You are enough." "You are a divine creation." "You are loved." "You are okay." "Let yourself be free." "I'm sorry for treating you so poorly." and "Thank you." There is an older woman in my class who, when asked if body image gets any easier as we age replied, "Honestly. It was hard to find even one thing that I like about myself." And that's when I decided we have to stop this. We owe it to the next generation and generations past to stop denigrating our bodies and to start living and projecting a more positive self-image. 

I recently finished Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly and if you've been around me the past few months, you know how highly and passionately I recommend it as a way to change your outlook, your parenting, your relationship with shame and your relationship with yourself. Something that has changed my outlook is her perception on our relationship with the bodies of others. Essentially, when we feel bad about the way our body looks, we project that onto others and silently or otherwise, we begin shaming them as a mechanism for making ourselves feel better. In order to stop shaming others, we have to come to peace with ourselves. But she also writes, "I carry a small sheet of paper in my wallet that has written on it the names of people whose opinions of me matter. To be on that list, you have to love me for my strengths and struggles." Whose opinion of you matters? And if you can't say that they intimately know and love you, stop giving them the power to dictate your feelings of self. 

Finally, I'll say this because in my own past, there have been family member's whose jokes have gone just a little too far or whose "well-to-do" criticism has pierced the most vulnerable parts of me, friends who have joked about my biggest insecurities and (ex)boyfriends who brought body shaming to a whole new level: langauge matters. It becomes more than just words on a page when it has the power to build someone up or knock them to the ground. If you'd rather not own what you say to or about someone, simply don't say it; and further, if someone speaks language that pierces your feeling of self, I think its important to let them know how and what hurt you and then to be honest with yourself about their seat at the table of your sense of worth. 

As a photographer, I can't tell you how many women I've photographed and right before the shutter clicks, they say "Make sure I look about 15 pounds lighter in these" with a nervous laugh and fear in their eyes. We're all afraid of being found out; of being recognized for who we are. But this is what I want to say to those women: Stop it! Please. You are incredibly beautiful and you're body has done amazing things. Look at the strength in your arms: they lift tiny humans all day. Look at the marks on your belly: they tell a story of something so intricate and special. Kiss those thighs as they rub together because they continue to keep you moving with the people you love. Tell your chubby fingers how much you appreciate the way they work so tirelessly and let your wrinkles bring you joy every time you remember their creation. Stop wishing away your weight or the way your ass looks in jeans. Stop cursing your skin for being too oily or too dry. And stop holding your body hostage to the standards of a virtual world with unrealistic and impossible representations of beauty. Set yourself free from all that mess and comfort those who are working to do the same.

 

Consuming Tragedy

Incidents similar to what happened last night in Las Vegas always heighten my anxiety. I start living in a world of what ifs, I walk in streets thinking about my next move if the person two cars over does something to cause me or others harm. I walk my dog at night with my keys between my knuckles. When biking home from class in the dark, I think about how to fight off an attacker who is faster and stronger than me. In planes, I wonder what I'll hold on to or how I'll react if the plane crashes. I tell Matt goodbye as he heads home to Chicago and I think about all the things that could happen to him in such a big city. Tragedies bring out my anxiety and my fears. I am always jumping to the worst possible conclusions. 

But I, like so many of us, consume these tragedies. I scour the news sites, social media, survival stories. I so desperately want to understand and know all the details of what happened. Media's rise helps feed this need. And while I think its important to stay updated on what's going on... Sometimes I think it makes me feel numb to it too. This morning, I woke up, I saw the news notification on my phone, I whispered "wow that's so sad", but then I moved on. I kept going with my day because that's just what we do, right? We post on social media, we talk about its awfulness with our friends, and then its over. We've done our due diligence, we know all the gory details. 

I have to stop consuming the tragedy to understand the suffering. And not understand, as in understand what those who lost loved ones today are going through, because I can never understand their pain, nor will I ever say that I do. I mean understand as in sit with these lives that were stolen, these hearts that are broken and this world that is desperate for an end to all the sadness. I mean understand as in sit and listen and help to carry another's pain. I mean understand as in sit in silence with those who just don't want to be alone. I mean understand as raise my empty, trembling hands up to God and say, "I don't get why you let this happen and I'm so angry for everyone feeling this pain so immensely, but here I am. Use me, use this brokenness and make it beautiful. Redeem us, Jesus." 

I've seen a lot of posts today that say something along the lines of "we need to stop praying and start actually doing something", and I reject that. I understand that many of these posts come from hearts hardened to my God, people that don't care to or cannot fathom my belief sight unseen. Because if only they knew my Jesus, they'd know the only thing I can do is pray. They'd know that prayer is the most powerful quality I have. Prayer has saved me from fears of homelessness, fears of mental health, broken relationships, abusive mindsets and other terrible situations. Prayer saved my college career and ultimately it saved my life. 

I don't know about you, but I tend to have a pretty big savior complex. I have pretty terrible self-esteem, but there is also an arrogance that tells me I can handle it. Perhaps even in writing this know, I'm saying that I have some kind of answer. But when I start to think that I can save myself, that I can fix other's problems, that I have the answers no one else has thought of; well, that's when I hit rock bottom. Prayer humbles me. It tells me that I am powerless without an all-powerful God. I cannot help what happened in Las Vegas on my own. But I can cry out to God and ask for help, ask for healing, ask for mercy. I cannot end the suffering, but I can pray to the One who ultimately suffered that we may one day suffer no more. 

Prayer is all I have, and today, I'm praying for peace, empathy, understanding, love. I'm praying for those who had loved one's stolen today. I'm praying for those who walked away from that concert without the one they walked in with. I'm praying for the family of Stephen Paddock who seems so blindsided by this tragedy. I'm praying for those fighting to hold on today. I'm praying that tomorrow and the next day, I might have the courage to seek out the lonely and isolated and tell them how much I think they're worth. I'm praying that these tragedies will not force me into submission of fear, but that I will continue to give myself to others. I'm praying for hands like Jesus'. Hands that hold, that comfort, that give until they can't any longer. I praying for you and I'm praying for me. 

And if prayer just isn't something you can bring yourself to right now, that's okay. There are valleys for all of us. There are blood banks desperately in need of your blood type, gofundme pages seeking your donations, and friends that need your soft shoulder and comforting ear. If prayer isn't your power, I urge you to seek kindness when it would be so much easier to just turn the other direction, call your representatives and talk to them about the importance of gun control and mental health care. (We as the hands and feet of the body should be seeking these routes also). Finally, don't let the sunrise tomorrow with you already archiving the Las Vegas shooting. Hold these names, these faces, these prayers with you, carry their pain to Jesus. 

 

validity + vulnerability

a truth about me: I care about others too much. 

Not in the sense that I spend all my time taking care of others and bending over backwards for others, but in the sense that I care about validation from others. 

I really started noticing this around my 22nd birthday. Why? I didn't think anyone would want to celebrate with me because I didn't think anyone liked me that much. Why did I think this? Because W didn't ask me to take their photos for them, X didn't like my instagram post, Y didn't respond to my text, or Z cancelled plans last minute and a myriad of other reasons. Here's what I didn't take into account: the people that love me dearly, personally, and intimately every day. I was too focused on the validation I was/wasn't receiving on and off-screen to be concerned with the friendships I had that existed beyond the surface level. 

Thirty people came to celebrate my 22nd birthday with me and others texted, called, or sent letters.

And still, I let myself be discouraged and disheartened by the people that didn't come, the people that cancelled, the people that didn't say happy birthday. 

So I let myself sit in it for a while. After a sweet engagement party, I sat wondering if my friends only showed up out of pity. Seeing photos on Instagram, I sat wondering why not all my friends asked me to document their special moments. In classes when the professor didn't ask me my thoughts, I sat and let myself believe that I wasn't worthy to be in this class with these people. And countless other moments. 

So, I decided that for the month of April, I would do at least one thing that made me uncomfortable every day. In this, I would fight against this need to be validated by both society at large and my friends and I would force myself to be truly vulnerable.

+ So, I didn't shave my legs or armpits for an entire month. 

and I wore shorts. 

and tanktops. 

in public. 

(to be honest, I might keep this up because, no one has that kind of time to spend in the shower anyways)

This was really important to me because I let societal beauty standards facilitate my life. I obsess over size, how I look in clothes, perfecting the 'flawless' look, and making sure that no one's looking at me like I can't take care of myself. 

But here's the truth: I don't enjoy shaving every week. I don't like fixing my hair every morning. and I'm not tired or sick, I just don't feel like putting on a show for you this morning. I want to take pride in the way I look without taking pride in society's validation of my looks. 

+ I started dancing in the car.

to really loud music.

at stoplights. 

And I had a lot of fun! It didn't matter that the car over was videotaping my finger guns, I was laughing and feeling light. 

+ I set boundaries. 

This was really hard for me. It's difficult for me (where my people pleaser's at?!) to say no to people. Its hard for me to say no when people need a babysitter, when my boss needs me to work extra hours, when a school organization asks me to do more, when a friend asks me to help out. 

But I did it. 

Twice. I said "I can't, I'm sorry" and forced myself to take care of myself before rushing out to play savior for others. 

+ I sat with my hurt and anger about losing the church I called home for my college career. 
 

If you didn't know, Wildwood College Life is turning a new leaf. I tried to be a "team player" on the outside, but inside, I was screaming I was so angry. God told me that it was time to start looking elsewhere because our relationship was faltering by my staying put. I tried looking around. and it made me angry. It made me so angry that I stopped talking to God altogether for a while. I stopped going to church for a while, and I pushed out community. 

Then it all just kind of came to a head, and I was forced to sit with my anger and hurt. I was forced to tell God how angry I was, how wrong I felt this was, and why I felt like I was being abandoned. 

If you've never screamed at God from the comfort of your dark walk-in closet, I dare you to try it. It's healing. 

+ I took myself out to dinner. 

without my phone in my hand. 

The world tells us that doing things alone is unnatural. The little voice in our head tells us that if we eat out alone, see a movie alone, or do other things alone, everyone else around us is judging us and making up stories about how lonely and weird we probably are. 

Tell that voice to shut up and take yourself out some time. Make yourself sit and really think about why you're uncomfortable being with yourself. When people do stare at you, smile back at them. Engage your waitress/er in conversation. Order dessert. 

+ I cut my hair.

There's something about having long hair that makes many women feel safe and secure. There's something that tells us women that no matter what happens, no matter how bad the day is, we still have our luscious locks and we'll make it through. 

But I was SO tired of trying to take care of my hair. 

If you've ever worked with kids, you know that sticky baby hands will literally be the death of your hair. 

If you've ever had to routinely wake up and go at 6am, you know that the easiest and quickest things to do is throw your hair up in a bun and run out the door. 

If you have crazy curly hair and you've ever slept on it wet, you know that in the morning, a headband or hat is the only way to save yourself hours in front of the mirror. 

So, I went to the sweet ladies at The Social Club and said "cut it. you have full permission to do whatever you want." 

AND I LOVE IT. It's so sweet to spend fifteen minutes in the bathroom versus ninety minutes. 

+ I asked for space. 

The one things I hate more than snakes is being a part of someone's pain. 

About a week ago, my fiancee and I got into a fight that made me want to call it all off and run far away. 

Thankfully, I didn't do this, but I did ask for a few days for both us to separate and think about the root of the issue, why it hurt us the way it did, and further, what we needed from each other going forward.

Matt was really hurt about it. So hurt that I wanted to say 'forget my well-being, I need to take care of my guy.'

But I didn't. I took the space and room to grow and reevaluate and recenter. We're both better for it. 

+ I changed my Instagram from private to business, labeling myself a photographer. 

There's always been (and studies say probably always will be) a little voice inside me that tells me I'll never be ____ enough. When it comes to photography, there's always a little voice inside (and voices on the outside) that tell me I'll never be a real photographer. This imposter syndrome is real and its crippling. 

It affected the way I interacted with others, the way I treated myself, and my confidence in what I can do. 

In doing this little thing, I forced myself to be vulnerable and denied the vulnerability of a world that tells me I can't 'really' do this. 

+ I quit a job I didn't like. 

If you're in school and working and paying all the bills, I see you and I know your struggle. Throughout college, I've held down anywhere from two - five jobs at a time to make ends meet and feel secure enough in wealth to pay the bills and buy myself dinner. This means I've taken a lot of jobs I didn't like and some that I was ashamed of (like deliver driver). Now I have a job that I really love (shoutout to Christie's home daycare), I nanny most evenings (if you need a summer nanny, pls hit me up!), and a lot of people are asking me to take their photos (take that, little condescending voice!)

But I was still holding onto a job that I didn't like just "to be safe". 

Here's the thing about me when it comes to money: there are times where I will stress about paying rent, and all of the sudden, after I've exhausted every option, God will literally just drop money in my hands. So, I've realized that if I step out in faith, my God is going to cover me. So, I gave my two weeks and things have just kept getting better on the financial front (ie. tax return!!) 

+ I took a calligraphy workshop. 

I HATE failing. I especially hate failing in public where people can see and evaluate my failure. 

So, naturally, I'd sign up for a workshop involving something I've always wanted to do, but am completely amateur at. 

Literally guys, I think I was the worst one in the class. My cheeks burned red the full two hours of the class, sweet Sarah had to correct me several times, and I just kept putting myself down in my head. 

But I did it and I think I'm better for it. 
So what if I failed and people saw me? It's a side-effect of being human. 

+ I told the truth. 

A few days ago, sweet Michelle called and asked how I was doing. 

Phone calls are so easy for me to fake and I don't like letting people know I'm struggling because I feel like I'm adding to their multitudinous burden.

But I told the truth. I told Michelle, who is literally the most understanding, truth-speaking, and caring woman on the planet, about all the things I was struggling with and all the feelings my heart was hosting. 

And she didn't condemn me. She didn't tell me I was being silly. She didn't hang up the phone because my problems were too big. 

She loved me, she prayed for me, and she spoke truth over me. 

+ I got a tattoo with my fiancee. 

For almost a year, I've been begging Matt to get matching avocado tattoos with me. This came after seeing one on our waiter and Austin and it looked so great on him that I wanted one. 

I know a lot of people say "I could never get a tattoo because I don't like anything enough to plaster it on my body forever."

That's not really my outlook on tattoos but each one of mine has a special meaning and they matter to me. 

Our matching avo-tats would have obviously had significance, but they also would have just been funny and always reminded me of my fierce love for avo toast. 

Instead, we both got tattoos today (Matt's first!!!) with similar meanings in different forms. 

After our week of separation, Matt told me that life is peaks and valleys and he can't wait to hold me hand on top of every mountain and hold my heart through every valley.

It's all peaks and valleys and here's to having more heart and less attack in every season of our life together.

 

I did a lot of other, small things throughout the month as well, but these are some of the really big ones for me. Needing validation from others has left my life small and surface-level. But I'm tired of making myself small. I'm tired of only feeling like 'myself' when the world tells me I'm acceptable. I am good and worthy and whole because I was created and formed by a God who loved and wanted me. I'm going to keep telling myself this until I believe it. Here's to me and you and anyone else needing to be championed today.

big love, 
k

 

Teach for America LEAD 2017

They tell us that millennials are lazy and incompetent. They tell us that millennials are too busy buying avocado toast and mastering the Instagram selfie to look outside of themselves. They tell us that the millennial generation has been lost to technology and we might as well call this the end of times because millennial snowflakes will never be able to do more than cry victim. We’re taught not to take millennials too seriously. We’re taught not to respect millennials because they have no respect for authority, familial or political. We’re taught to stereotype a millennial based on the outfit they choose to wear and the accessories they bear. If a millennial is carrying coffee, they’re too hipster. If a millennial is eating yogurt and granola, they’re too health-crazed. If a millennial is wearing anything other than a three-piece suit, they’re too lazy to care about their appearance. If a millennial is wearing a three-piece suit? They must need a job because their parents stopped paying the bill. We joke that this generation doesn’t care enough or that they care too much or that they’re too ungrateful or that they love too many people or that their morals and behaviors don’t reflect the good ole days. When a millennial speaks up, they’re shot down for being too opinionated on matters they can’t possibly know anything about. When a millennial doesn’t speak up? They’re ridiculed for not having any opinions. Tired of hearing about millennials yet?

I bring all this up to say: forget it. Society doesn’t know anything about this millennial era. They don’t even know how to classify millennials other than to say that if you’re on your phone too much, if you’re drinking any coffee other than strong black coffee that you brewed from home in a traditional coffee pot, if you're somewhat concerned about your environmental impact or if you seem remotely uninterested in the old white male yelling “smile, sugar!” across the street, you’re probably a millennial. But really, the millennials are those of us born anywhere between 1981 and when the Twin Towers fell. Yes, that’s us. Those darn up-to-no good disrespectful kids.

But last weekend, I spent three days with 100 millennials and really, I couldn’t see any of these ‘millennial myths’ fed to us. From early mornings to late nights, I saw 100 eager, impassioned, hopeful students full of a desperate need to change the world. I sat in a room of diverse persons all college-aged and listened as they shared stories and experiences and hopes and dreams, and I heard no disrespect, no hatred, no ridiculing. I heard love, encouragement and belief. A belief that each of us has what it takes to dismantle the systemic oppression of black and brown bodies and create a new structure where everyone is invited to the table and the voiceless are heard. I saw one hundred people using social media to build community and celebrate one another rather than create superficial profiles. I listened as white men and women stood up and promised to see and check their white privilege. I witnessed hugs, laughter, tears shed together and a bond built on better tomorrows. There was a disrespect in the room, I’ll admit. A disrespect at old systems that no longer work for current situations and that desperately need to be replaced. I heard disrespect in the form of anger at another’s experience with racism, sexism, and other transgressions. I spoke with disrespect at the lack of care and concern we seem to give to teachers and students alike. As we visited with peers, received knowledge from those before us, and discussed the changes that need to come and voices that must be heard, I didn’t see disengagement via social media or eye-rolls from uncaring citizens. None of us needed to be educated on the current happenings in our world and none of us sat with no opinion on matters at hand. Instead, we collectively raised our voices, our hearts and our minds in an effort to know one another more deeply so that we could know the issues and successes of today better.

So, why do millennials get such an unfair assessment? I believe it lies in pride and fear. Older generations are afraid of being forgotten, of not living up to the ‘American Dream’, so they cling to what is seen in their eyes as better days when in reality the grass was no greener. With fear, pride always follows and this pride needs a pedestal to stand on. That pedestal comes from a heightened sense of betterness. This belief that if I am better than someone than at least I’m not the worst. I’m not saying that older generations are the enemy or even that they got it all wrong because I never lived in their shoes. I do not pretend to understand the decisions they made nor the situations they were made in. I can’t say I’d have made a better call because it was never my call to make. But I do believe hindsight and honest history is our friend. I believe the diverse thinking and the opinionated voices of the millennial generation combined with the prideful fear and past experiences of older generations lead to tense feelings and a strong sense of opposition. But I also believe with education, discussion and respect, we can all co-exist and co-collaborate to make this side of the universe better for all.

A huge and indebted thank you to Teach for America for the opportunity to stand beside some of the greatest game-changers of my generation.