I received a great suggestion a couple of weeks ago. The short version is, “you should start blogging again because you need an outlet for all that shit you keep bottled inside.” The medium version is that a lot of our career coaching at my school seems to be therapy in disguise, and the professor assigned to this particular group saw me, felt that I felt invisible, and was doing her very best to give me even one useful suggestion for how to cope. I will keep the long version to myself for now.
The last couple of months specifically and last year in generally have been a period of upheaval in my life. According to all my social media feeds, almost everyone feels this way. There’s a lot I could dig into there, but instead, I’m going to talk about something that I’ve been thinking about almost constantly in the last few days.
I live in Belgium y’all. I won’t live here permanently, I’m not about become anyone’s expat, especially not here. But I feel so good about my decision to come here and get my MBA. My class is very international. There are 42 students from 20 countries. Something that comes up a lot is the reason that each of us decided to come here.
My answer feels a bit silly sometimes, but I value honesty over appearing to be a very serious person. So here’s the reason I decided to uproot my life and move across a whole ocean:
A trip to Paris for New Year’s with my husband at the end of 2016 included a trip right after the new year to Brussels. Purely because of it’s proximity and affordability, we found ourselves in Brussels. And when you are in Brussels, you find yourself in Grand Place. When I walked into the area pictured above, I fell in love.
I’m not sure if this will make sense to everyone who reads it, but energy matters to me. It matter to me for people, places, and things. And the energy of Grand Place appealed to me. And it didn’t hurt that it was still gussied up from Christmas 2016. When I was 6 or so years old, I picked out a bedroom set based on the red & green decorative pillows they added because it was December. Yeah, I’m that chick, and have been my whole life. I was already considering trying to come to Europe for a 12, 15, or 18 month MBA program. But I came back from Brussels and googled “MBA programs in Brussels.”
Once I researched my school, I realized it would be a really good fit and it was the only school I applied to. I was happy to pack up my shit and move to another country, but made sure to leave roots behind in New York for when I’m done.
Christmas is here again, and I went to Grand Place, as you do when you’re in Belgium. They have the tree up again, and I was eager to get a look at it with all decorations in place. It was a bit underwhelming in the daylight, but when I went back the next night, it was better.
It was a really nice moment for me. Standing in Grand Place in early 2017, this new seed of a dream felt near impossible to make happen. And perhaps the huge upheaval of the last year made it more possible, but it didn’t change the fact that it felt huge every step of the way. So when I was standing there in late 2018, I felt really proud of myself.
I made one of my dreams come true. 2018 has been a year of doing a lot for just me, which is something I might be a bit rusty at. I’m still figuring out how to balance all of the things that matter to me. But it was really nice to take this moment and just feel pride and happiness. Christmas is my jam, and I’m excited for getting to spend this Christmas here, even if I have to deal with Zwarte Piet. I might have to do a whole other post about that shit… But for now, let’s just focus on the happy dreams-coming-true, actively-pursuing-my-goals thing for now, okay?
This blog is supposed to be a personal blog where I share things about myself, and my experiences as I explore the world around me. Feeling like a city girl, born and raised in Chicago, there are some Midwestern mores I’ve struggled to let go of.
You want to live out and proud? Eh, sure, but not so loud. The people who chose to do that when I was growing up were always looked at as weird and odd and not the type of people you want to be too close to.
But my parents raised me to be weird, to let my freak flag fly. They never encouraged me to seek out oddities simply for the sake of uniqueness, but they taught me to embrace the things that made me stand out and to take pride in the ways I wasn’t like everyone else.
I’m sure these days, when I’m fussing at them about toxic masculinity (which neither of them fully understand their complicit roles in) and the shortcomings of affirmative action (which several family members dedicated their careers to enacting and supporting), they are wondering where they went wrong.
My mother even jokes that she advises her friends to give their kids less choices. Choices is where she went wrong with my brother and me. I think we turned out just fine, better than fine either. But there is the evidence: the amount of illicit substances we consume (mostly alcohol, calm down), the fact that neither of us is happily married (more on that later), and the fact that only one of my seven first cousins of childbearing age have or even seem to want a child.
I’d like to think my parents are satisfied with us. I’m satisfied with them. Actually, that’s an understatement. Like any good Libra child, I’m obsessed with them. I intended on writing about trying to stand more in my truth, but yet I’m talking about what my parents opinion of that might be.
They’ve had to deal with a lot from me in the last year. They’ve heard about my plans for grad school. They’ve heard about the dissolution of my marriage (sorry if you actually know me and this is how you’re hearing about it). They’ve heard about polyamory (more on that later). They’ve taken it all in stride, certainly better than they did when I gave them unasked for progress reports on how well they’re doing at fixing their inherent racial prejudices.
I’m one of the lucky ones. My parents try to hard to let me be me, and tried to teach me to let me be myself. Ever the aging millennial, I cannot possibly move forward with confidence without rooting around for parental support. But I have it, so I should probably move on to step two, right?
So what is step two? Am I such a Libra cliche that I must spend time every few years “finding myself?” Here’s what I know. The only constant in life is change. If you’re exactly who you were five years ago, you’re doing something wrong.
This was me around five years ago.
I am pretty sure I took that picture at work, some night shift I was working when I still lived in Chicago. I was coming up on my first wedding anniversary and feeling myself because my locs had just about reached my shoulders. I knew my husband wanted to move to New York, but I had no idea what it would look like to live anywhere else other than Chicago. I was just as proud of my eyebrows then, which I didn’t have to do anything to for them to look like that.
This is me just a couple of months ago.
I like this picture enough that it’s currently my profile picture. I could talk for another 500 words about the process of eradicating my marriage from all my profile pics and blurbs, but I’d rather talk about this picture. My vision makes it so that I now have to wear my glasses all the time. I’m no longer afraid of a bright red lip. Too much hair dye means my locs aren’t as long as they should be at this point, but I’m working on it. Oh, and I’m wearing a Slytherin scarf that was my actual winter scarf. My husband and work husband both worked hard to make sure I didn’t lose that thing by retrieving it when I drunkenly left it behind at all the bars. I’ve learned this half smile thing (don’t know that it qualifies as a whole smize) that does a nice job at camouflaging the lines around my eyes. And I still have wonderful eyebrows with very little effort.
I’ve worked hard to stay happy with myself, and I’m proud of it because self-confidence is not a given. I think step two isn’t so much about finding myself, but more about authentically expressing myself. I’ve always been the girl with an opinion on everything, whether someone asked me or not. Hopefully I can take those skills and apply them to this.
Posting multiple days in a row feels like an accomplishment. Since the election, I’ve made maybe 5 blog posts, so this is big for me. As Trump is slowly working his way down his list of People to Insult, I’m feeling less shocked by it.
I’m no longer cringing in my own little corner of the internet when he insults black football players. I’m just watching and giving so much side eye as the protests actually continue to grow in the wake of Trump’s criticisms. I note who’s actually protesting the abuse of black bodies by law enforcement and who’s just getting back at Trump.
I’m not even surprised when he blames the mayor of San Juan, who has the nerve–nay, the gall–to be a woman for the poor response to Puerto Rico’s decimated island. But I am noting all the vocal Puerto Ricans who haven’t been this vocal about Trump until this past week.
Would you believe I started this post to talk about something fun? I wanted to talk about going to Head of the Harbor last night to do a wine tasting at a vineyard there.
But you know, Trump sucks. I’m trying to decide if I should feel justified in my anger/irritation at the people who waited until Trump attacked their bottom line or their people to speak up.
I think I am justified. I’ve been fussing at folks in my own life about this since November. You can’t just opt out! Whatever economic, racial, sexual, gender, or ethnic identifiers you use to describe yourself, you shouldn’t worry about just that group. We’re all under attack.
Unless of course you’re rich, male, white, heterosexual, American-born, casually Christian, warmongering, conservative, and perfectly physically and mentally healthy. But everyone else is under attack. And just because you’re not currently in his crosshairs doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be constantly fighting back on behalf of whoever is. As the last 8 months have shown, your time is coming.
I was born here, and so were the last several generations of my blood relatives. Should that mean that the plight of immigrants “isn’t my problem?”
I describe myself as a cis-female heterosexual. Should that mean the problems facing the LGTBQ+ community “aren’t my problem?”
Because of my current job, I’m firmly middle class. Should that mean the issues strangling the poor “aren’t my problem?”
I was raised in a Baptist church, and I get this default Christian privilege crap. Should that mean the constant religious assault on non-Christians “isn’t my problem?”
Fuck, why don’t folks see that problems facing one of us counts as a problem facing all of us? With one exception of course. I could care less about protecting someone’s right to discriminate. All this shit about people using the First Amendment to support spreading hate speech can kick rocks. So can a baker’s “right” to deny service to those that don’t live a life they agree with.
So… yeah, I went to a vineyard last night. Every time I leave the five boroughs, I’m acutely aware of the lack of diversity. But Chris and I had a great time. And the racial makeup of the room didn’t matter. Everyone there was just there to enjoy several types of wine. There’s pictures to prove it.
After the wine tasting, and dinner at another place with no other black people, we drove into the city to go to Smalls. That’s another place where the racial makeup of the room is noted, but really doesn’t matter. Our friend’s band was playing the late set, and we got there just in time.
When the Dubtet is playing, that’s like my church now. The music is so soulful, moreso than what you’d typically hear in a jazz club. And it has that creative, innovative you-don’t-know-what’s-coming-next vibe that makes jazz so amazing. I’m telling you, there are few things more enjoyable than live jazz.
After the music came the hang. After the hang came the tacos. There’s a really great food truck near Smalls that’s serving up good goodness at 4:30am.
It even finally felt like fall last might. The weather dropped almost 25 degrees during the day. So when we got home around 5:30 in the morning, there was a nice chill in the air. I only expect to speak positively of the chill for the next 3 weeks.
Well, this post was all over the place wasn’t it? I guess my point is… enjoy life, enjoy people, but don’t forget about the people outside of your people though…? Yeah, that’s my point.
So I’m sitting there, minding my own business, catching up on the DVR. What you need to know about me is that I watch a lot of TV, like a lot of TV, and I’ve got my shows categorized not by genre, but by feels.
Most HGTV shows are categorized in my world as fantasy. Right now, any thoughts of me being a homeowner doing a renovation is just straight up fantasy.
So back to this story. I’m watching Flip or Flop Atlanta. I miss the real Flip or Flop, but it is what it is and these not-as-good spinoffs are filling the gap as best they can.
There’s already a lot about this show that bugs me. The best example would be how the husband gets so excited by gentrification. Making a nice profit off of people being priced out of their neighborhoods is the American way, which is some bullshit, but I still get mad at him for the premise of the show.
It’s like fuck dude, must you enjoy selling some old black lady’s house to some young white couple sooo much?
But the husband’s gentrification hard-on isn’t my biggest gripe with this latest episode. His wife finally pissed me off more.
They finished overhauling this adorable little house and were having an open house. The families at the open house included a black man who looked to be around my age with two young daughters. All three of them had locs and immediately warmed my heart.
The Flip or Flop Atlanta couple are always there at open houses, interacting with the families and getting feedback. So when the wife interacted with the black family, and I felt on high alert, I questioned my alertness. This couple, the Corsinis, live in the Atlanta area, surely they can interact with black people in a non-offensive way, I told myself.
She spoke to the little girls in this treacly sweet voice, but that was typical to how she spoke to most children she came across in open houses. Their walk through the house was without incident.
I was ready to breathe a sigh of relief and chuckle at myself for basically holding my breath waiting for some stupid microaggression that never came.
The little family said their goodbyes and as they exited the house, she reached for and ran her fingers through a handful of the youngest daughter’s hair.
I froze in disbelief. I had to rewind and watch that shit again. Like we’re still at the point where white folks don’t know not to touch our hair??
There are songs about it!
And it was the way she did it too. The father and other sister were already out the door. She reached out like she was going to pat the little girl on the arm, but redirected her hand mid-air and aimed for her head.
It was like she waited until there was the least likelihood that she’d offend someone even though the cameras were still rolling. It looked like it was a compulsion. And that’s what makes me think she knew better but she couldn’t help herself. In their ultra-gentrified housing market, I wonder how many black kids with locs she comes across. I’d bet, not a lot.
So now I can’t even mind my own business and fantasize over houses I’d never actually want to buy in the Atlanta area without dealing with the husband’s love of gentrification and the wife’s inability to keep her hands to herself.
So, I’ve gotta stop watching Flip or Flop Atlanta. For people who aren’t as sensitive to those topics, I can totally understand how they’d still enjoy the show. But when my TV is just another frustrating moment in my life, I’ve gotta move on.
At least on Flip or Flop Vegas, there aren’t any black people ever around for the couple to treat in a way that offends me…