I have spoken to a lot of people lately who all say the same thing: “I have learned my lesson about hope, and I do not do it anymore.”Read More
When I was very young, I just wanted people to like me. I wanted them to think I was nice. And so I was. I was very, very nice. I was nice at the expense of a lot of things.
I was nice when I should have been bold. I was nice when I should have been angry. I was nice when I should have been brave or sad or offended.
I was nice when I should have defended myself, and more importantly, when I should have defended others.
The truth is hard: I was nice because I was afraid of what doing the bold thing would cost me. I was nice because I was a coward. And because I was a coward, other people suffered.
I am still too nice sometimes, still too worried I might offend the people who disagree with me, especially those related to me. I still sometimes dance around what I know is the right thing to say because I am afraid of what they’ll think of me: that I’m condescending or pretentious or inconsiderate or that I don’t know my place. I’m even more worried that they’ll be right: that I do not know my place because I am still finding it. That I am never sure whether I am worried more that my voice won’t matter or that it will.
I now see the cost of my cowardice more clearly. I see that when I decide not to be brave—when I decide to be nice instead of bold—that someone loses. And it is almost always someone who already has less than I do.
I do not endorse being hateful. I do not like yelling, though I understand why humans who have been stripped of their rights cry out. It is the correct response to injustice. And yet, I have always been more prone to crying than screaming, always more likely to close up than to lash out.
This is not about violence, which is never OK, regardless of circumstance. But it is about the way we react to violence: about whether we’re bold enough to defend ourselves and each other when it matters most. About whether we are bold enough to call something wrong when it is. About what it costs us to stop violence, and whether we’re willing to pay that price.
Now, when I think now about what I want my legacy to be, I don’t care at all whether people say I am nice. I hope people found me to be kind when they needed it, and brave when they needed it, and funny when they needed it, too. But more so, I hope that when my friends’ daughters go to their first days of work, it is easier for them because my generation lived. I hope they are safer and smarter and better off because we were courageous enough to make it so.
I am done being nice not because I am done being kind, but because I am making room for more important ways to be. I am making room for courage and justice and love and growth and mistakes and a better world for all of us.
It’s no secret that women are raised from a very young age to subtlety and overtly tear each other down. It’s the great trick that’s been played on us all. Here we are, with this amazing group of people who could love and support us, who could indeed change the world, and we’re fooled into thinking it’s all a competition.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do love a good competition. There’s a reason I’ve never gotten an A-. But there’s also a reason I’m the first to share my notes. I recognize that we can strive for excellence without leaving each other behind. I recognize that I didn’t get where I am on my own, and I have a responsibility to pay it forward. I recognize that we are stronger together than alone.
But still…do you ever feel that thing deep down when you see another woman succeed that you wish you didn’t feel? And instead of letting it inspire you, you let it make you bitter? That’s programmed into us, because if we’re too busy fighting each other, we never get around to fighting the truly important battles. We miss out on how powerful the bond between women can be.
So that’s why it was so refreshing to see Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins love each other so unabashedly on Parks and Rec. That’s the way I want to love my friends. Because my friends truly are Rainbow Infused Space Unicorns, Good-Looking Elegant Baby Turtles, Transcendent Seahorses, and Vivacious Rainbows of Joy. They love me and inspire me and make me better and smarter and kinder and more fun.
And my friends are spectacularly different people. Some of them are superb writers. Some are excellent businesswomen. They work in education and finance and non-profit and government and medicine. Some inspire me with their boldness, and others with their calm demeanor. Some of my friends laugh easily, and I’m inspired by their light hearts. Some of my friends are angrier than I’ve ever felt the capacity to be, and I’m inspired by their strength.
Leslie Knope taught me, through hilarious and beautiful compliments, how to love my tribe. She taught me that women can be strong and beautiful and kind and hilarious, and they can love their friends for being all of the same things. She taught me that love is an unfathomable ocean, a majestic unicorn, a beautiful rule-breaking moth. And there is more than enough of it to go around.
I have friends who swear by their paper planners. Literally wouldn’t think of going anywhere without them and can’t imagine switching to all digital.
That’s not me, though. I’m an instructional designer, so it’s in my nature (and a big part of my job) to experiment with and use the newest technology available for these sorts of things. (Asana is my current favorite thing.) Despite being nearly physically attached to my planner all through school, it now gives me anxiety to think about going back to that. Put my most important appointments in an object I could easily lose? No thanks!
So when I saw the headline The Case for Using a Paper Planner, I figured there wouldn’t be much for me in it. But the argument for writing things down by hand extends far beyond whether you use a paper planner.
There’s a lot of evidence that writing things down on real paper helps us be more mindful. Furthermore, it helps us generate and retain ideas better.
That’s one of the big reasons I’m sure a huge fan of snail mail. So much of our communication now is rapid-fire. Unless you’re my little brother, or that one friend we all have, you’re probably going to respond to texts within a day at the very most. If I’m not responding to you within the hour, I’m probably dead and you should call my husband and let him know he should feed the cat.
Social media is (sometimes) great! If used correctly, it can help us speak and listen to large groups of people, to find our tribe, to feel less alone. It helps me stay in touch and not forget what your faces look like. But for platforms that are designed specifically for us to talk about ourselves and what’s important to us, they can feel oddly…impersonal. And sometimes that’s fine.
But that’s not what I want to do with all of my communication. Sometimes I want to sit down and really think about why I value a friendship and what my friend needs to hear in that moment. I want to speak directly to that friend without an audience. It’s hard to do that on a computer. It’s hard for an email or a message or a post to mean as much as I sometimes want it to.
Isn’t it neat to read old letters? My parents are in the process of moving out of my childhood home after 40+ years, and I’m in the process of trying to sort through 40+ years of stuff. You know what the best stuff is? The stuff I’ll never throw away? 50 years of Valentines and Birthday and Just Because cards my parents gave to each other. Old letters from my grandmother. Not-so-beautiful handmade cards I made for my parents.
There’s something to treasure about the words we can hold in our hands—something that feels more real about them, more meaningful.
So, that’s why one of my goals this year is to write 52 letters to 52 different people. I do this every year, and I find it reminds me how incredibly lucky I am to know all of you, of all the ways in which you have loved and inspired and shaped me. And in turn, that gives me energy to keep doing what I do.
It’s 2018, and there are a million ways to communicate. But to me, the value of a good old-fashioned letter will never change.
I hope you find some time this year to write to the people you love and tell them why you love them. I hope it reminds you how loved you are, too.
I just finished reading Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays. It’s a book about a man from a different, Jetson-like reality, who travels back in time and inadvertently alters the course of the world multiple times. It’s similar to Dark Matter, but with much larger implications—like whether the planet becomes mostly uninhabitable or not.
It’s a great book with a lot of great points, but here’s the one that stood out most to me: It doesn’t matter what you believe if what you believe is not what you do.
I’m a member of a really great community of women writers called See Jane Write. One of the things Javacia has challenged us all to do this month is to think about our worldviews, our missions, and our values, and consider how they line up with what we do each day.
In other words, she’s saying the same thing Mastai is saying in his novel: Think about what’s most important to you, what you believe is most important to the world. Now, figure out how to do those things, and go do them.
So, what’s important to me?
One of my core beliefs is that everyone has good inside them, but it's sometimes (always?) difficult to make the right choices and to be true to yourself. I believe we all need reminders, daily, about who we are and what's important to us. These reminders can vary: they can be quotes that lift our spirits, words that make us laugh, reminders of family and friends who love us, or words and images that inspire us in our careers and other goals, in our fights for justice and equality, and in our relationships. I believe these reminders help us accomplish the things we set out to do because they remind us of who were are, of the choices we want to make, ideally in the moments when we most need those reminders.
So, that’s why I do what I do. I love making pieces that speak to your heart, that provides you with the reminder you need to be your best self.
This can seem like a small thing: little reminders to make small right choices in little circumstances each day. But those choices add up. It is our choices that ultimately make us who we are. It is our collective choices that define our collective identity—as a family, as a state, as a nation, and as a world.
What if we lived in a world where, just when everyone needed it, everyone had that reminder—that little push—to make the right choice? What if that’s all we really need? That’s my mission. To make the world better, one little reminder at a time.