Adventures of a Midwest Transplant

Posts tagged “growing up

Working on Living My Truth

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.

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I Enjoy Less Because Feminism

The patriarchal cisgendered norms of my worldview have been buffeted by intersectional feminism.

In case that sentence was gibberish to you, let me break it down.

Patriarchal: When I use this term, I’m referring to the second definition, which refers to a society controlled by men.

Cisgendered: When I use this term, I’m referring to people who identify as being the same gender they were assigned at birth.

Intersectional: When I use this term, I’m referring to the concept that the problems of marginalized communities are interconnected, and cannot be separated.

Feminism: When I use this term, I’m referring to the belief in and fight for the rights of women based on the belief in their equality to men.

Intersectional feminism: When I use this term, I’m referring to an idea that the fight for equality for women is a fight for all women and femmes, crossing racial and social and economic and age and gender lines.

Having defined those terms as I am currently using them, let’s say that first sentence again using a lot more words.

The world defaults to the best interest of men, particularly those who were assigned the male gender at birth, and I was raised with those same patterns of behavior and views. In learning more about the world around me, particularly as it relates to the equality of all people, and the way all marginalized communities are connected, I no longer view the world that way.

I notice this in ways small and large. It has affected the way I see things, and changed the things I used to take for granted. I count myself lucky because I was raised by parents who taught me to be independent and decide for myself how I view the world. They taught me that even if I disagree with everyone I love, I must think, feel, and do what I think is right.

Some examples:

  • I can no longer watch TGIT with my mother because she and I disagree on the normalcy of the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve been visiting Chicago a lot recently for my mother because my grandmother is sick. This last visit, I watched Grey’s Anatomy, Notorious, and How to Get Away with Murder with my mom. Every show that night featured characters engaging in homosexual behavior. Each time my mother would say something along the lines of, “they’re so gay.” Her tone and redundancy bugged me, and I expressed my dissatisfaction. But aside from learning to not voice certain things, I don’t think much can be done to fix this situation. I no longer enjoy watching television with my mother. I am no fan of Raven-Symone, but I was so irritated when over the summer my mother spoke of her sexuality while we watched an eipsode of The View.
  • I can no longer attend church services at the church where I grew up. The last sermon I sat through there was a ranting mess about how gays and Muslim immigrants and bankers were responsible for the economic hardships. I was completely fucking floored and done with the church after that. The pastor of the church wasn’t there that day. The preacher who gave that awful ass sermon is now the pastor of another church, thank God. But his departure doesn’t change the reaction of the congregation during the sermon. I was horrified, openly horrified at that sermon, and I seemed to be the only one. The people who were actually listening, and who managed to follow his bullshit line of reasoning were responding as if it were any other barely mediocre sermon. I cannnot attend a church where they think blaming marginilized communities for our community’s problems is okay.
  • The song Hallelujah is one I have always loved. That mournful tone and the way the music swells as it builds to its peak have always been so beautiful to me. But the lyrics maaaaaan… The second verse is all biblical references normalizing a lot of crap towards women. It gets real rapey and hateful in just five lines. Pretty much the only version of the song I can listen to these days is the one by Pentatonix. I can easily listen to the beauty of their voices without the lyrics penetrating.
  • Eminem, who I would call one of my favorite rappers, says some awful things about women, homosexuals, etc. I don’t really love rap to begin with, and that is now tested even more. His song Rap God, which I used to listen to on repeat, now is like a slap across the face every time he uses the word faggot. It’s just not the same now that I no longer make excuses for the use of that word in music.

Those are just a few, but there are many more. Obviously, a lot of the issues I have come as a consumer. Music, television, even news articles just fall flat to me when they aren’t doing enough to fight for progress.

Several articles in the Washington Post recently address feminism, but they do it in such an incomplete way, that without a good knowledge base, you’d think they hate feminism and have never heard the word intersectional. I know feminism has a lot of problems, mostly that it tend to leave out those are aren’t white, cis, middle class, career-focused, American women. But these articles, which you can read here, here, and here, seem so limited in their scope. They seemed to make the point that there is feminism and there is black/poor/non-white feminism. In my opinion, they are not helping the cause.

The unity that is essential to resisting future overlord DJT feels like it’s being attacked from all sides. For any Harry Potter fans out there, remember that sucky speech Dolores Umbridge gave at the start of year feast when she was Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher? Basically she spoke a lot about preserving some traditions and pruning others. Just like DJT’s narcissistic ass, she sought to only keep the “traditions” that forwarded her and the Ministry’s selfish aims, damn those who are hurt in the wake.

If we are going to properly resist what’s coming (and already happening), we can’t let mainstream media twist and/or make light of important movements. And you can’t let the constant stream of music, online videos, television and movies (white-washed Dr. Strange, I’m looking at you… “Celtic” my ass…) shape and re-shape your perception of what’s normal–and what isn’t.

If you believe in equality, if you believe in progress, then pay attention. Learn their code words, and learn your code words. When I hear the word urban come up in politics, I know what they mean. It catches my ear and puts me on alert because what follows the use of that word is almost always some bullshit, and almost always is an attempt to harm my community.

I’m paying attention. And when the time comes, I’ll be ready.

Listen. Progress. Resist. Thrive.


Going to Grad School Instead of Buying an Armoire

I talked a few posts ago about painting, or rather not painting, my home. I realized I forgot to mention that I had some some painting. Not room painting, but wall painting.

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That’s one of the walls in our bedroom. I took one of my 30th birthday gifts from Chris (the butterfly wall hanging), and combined it with a long bit of sheer curtain. Then I painted this little curlicues design and another butterfly on the wall. It was just a little project for me to do one day to have something on the wall. I did something similar in the living room, but with shelves.

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I thought it was a nice way to accent the portion of our walls that juts out from the rest of the length. I also have put all over our walls a ton of art & street art that we’ve acquired over the years with our travels. Hopefully at some point, I’ll remember to take pictures of it to share.

Occasionally, the mood strikes me to decorate or add to the home in some way. In lieu of purchasing the fancy expensive armoire of my dreams (with all its multitasking home organizing goodness), I add crap to the walls. This time that crap comes in the form of Adinkra symbols.

Around the same time I got the desire to decorate my house, I got the idea to decorate my body.

In case you missed that, I’m considering getting another tattoo. My best friend told me when she went with me to get it that I would want another one. At the time, I thought she was likely speaking from experience, but that experience wouldn’t apply to me.

The tattoo felt exactly to me like dragging a piece of broken glass across the top of my foot. Except on purpose instead of accidentally. And I have just realized I never told this story.

So, the plan was to get the tattoo on a visit to Chicago for my best friend’s 30th birthday. We did a good job of crossing lots of items off the bucket list that weekend. I was so nervous about the pain, but I was determined to go through with it.

It just so happened that right before this trip, I was chatting on the phone with one of my girlfriends, and I stepped on what I thought was a cookie crumb (stupid Chips Ahoy). I dragged the bottom of my right foot across the top of my left foot to brush the crumb away.

It was not a crumb.

It was a tiny piece of broken glass from one of the many times Chris or I have broken something in the house (we’re both so damn clumsy). And it hurt so bad. And this tiny little shallow ass cut wouldn’t stop bleeding.

After explaining to my friend that my blood curdling scream did not, in fact, mean I was dead, I grabbed alcohol and alternated between bitching up and properly cleaning my wound.

I still have that stupid scar. And I sweep the house more frequently now. Kind of. Mostly. I also use my hands to brush away suspicious debris.

After that debacle, I arrived to the tattoo parlor fearing a similar pain. Just like I have to explain to doctors and nurses and phlebotomists, I told the tattoo man that I needed to watch him do the tattoo. Looking away would only make it worse for me. He relented and started, even though I was barely breathing and leaning as far away from him as the length of my arm would allow.

When he started my tattoo, it obviously hurt like hell. I chose my bony finger right on the bone. But it didn’t hurt like I thought it would. I thought it would be some vague level of unbearable.

But instead, it was a more dragging-glass-accidentally-across-your-foot-but-on-purpose level. I was so thrilled in that moment to have a permanent scar to accompany my new tattoo. When my best friend’s boyfriend joked that I should be crying by now based on my punkitude up to this point, I was happy to give him the middle finger, then turn back to watch the World Cup Finals. Yeah, I was handling it at this point. Feeling so used to the glass-dragging feeling that I could enjoy some sports on the huge TV in the tattoo spot.

Even after all of that, and being quite sure that day that I’d never want another tattoo, it turns out she was right.

But I’m sticking with what I know. I’m getting 2 more tattoos, both on fingers, both on fingers I always wear rings on, both of symbols of who I am that I don’t think will ever change.

So now we come full circle back to the Adinkra symbols. I’ve loved them ever since I saw them in an African-American History Museum in college. Back then, I thought that’s what my first tattoo would be of.

Each symbol stands for so much, and ultimately I decided that what if my devotion to one particular symbol changed over time. I know some people use tattoos to tell stories of their life, with each one representing a different stage, but I’m not interested in that (as of now). I just want something I can look at in 30 years and still feel happy about it representing me.

Plus, my hands already look old, so I know what the tattoos will look like all raisin-y. I rolled around the idea of a few symbols, starting with what I was considering 12 years ago.

But size limitations, plus disagreements with the meanings of some of the symbols cut the list way down. I ultimately decided on:

image via adinkra.org

This symbol is called nyansapo. It means wisdom, intelligence, and a bunch of other wonderful things. I’ve had a gift of brainpower and discernment since a young age and pending any brain injuries or disease, it will be a part of who I am. It’s such an integral part of who I am that I was floored when I first met Chris and he thought of me as “the pretty girl” rather than “the smart girl”.

 

This symbol is the olive branch. It is a religious symbol for many Western religions that gained strength in the Mediterranean. It was one of Athena’s symbols in Greek mythology. It is a symbol of peace and victory, brides and bounty, God connecting people of different backgrounds (tree grafting in the book of Romans, one of my favorite books of the Bible), and God’s covenant with his people (Noah after the whole 40 days 40 nights flood). All around it’s pretty awesome.

The picture above is the simplest image I could find. I’m thinking of getting it tattooed around my finger, but there may still be size concerns. I may have to go back to the drawing board.

When I go to Chicago in 11 days (yes, I’m counting), I plan to get these two additional tattoos. I’m very glad the ticket prices were on point. I’m also considering dyeing my hair. My best friend just got a new apartment, and it would feel so throwback to go there and do my hair. We spent many a Thursday night during college doing each other’s hair.

Personal changes aside, let’s get back to the paint I’m going to add to the walls of our home. So many of the symbols have such a wonderful meaning, that I would love to see them on our walls, hand painted as representations of the guiding principles of our marriage and adult life.

Symbols like odo nnyew fie kwan, which translates to love never loses its way home. Seeing as how we both travel so much (and travel separately), I love this one for right above our home’s entrance.

And there’s akoma ntoso, which mans understanding and agreement. That one should be in every room of the house so I can look at it and stay on task when we’re having one of our many heart-to-hearts.

I also like nsaa, which represent excellence, genuineness, and authenticity. I think that’s perfect for the music room. Having that energy when Chris is in there working sounds good to me.

There are so many others, but I’m going to run them by Chris before picking up the paint brush. I want to make sure they represent what we want, not just what I want.

I’m not sure what’s causing all of this “I simply must be me!!” that’s taking over me these days, but I’m gong with it. I’m having fun with this inching closer and closer to the person I’m supposed to be.

I was always just me, without a lot of expression of me. I spent a lot of time doing things, thinking about doing things, and thinking about what I thought about the things I did. I planned, I remembered, and I thought about those plans and memories. But putting real time into just answering “who am I?” is new.

I’m finally becoming a true millennial, I guess. I’m feeling moderately narcissistic, feeling the need to try to make the world pay attention to my self-expression. Maybe that’s not accurate, I don’t know. I just know that instead of thinking too much about it, I’m trying to focus on how good I feel.

Feeling good like this makes me want to plan for the future. I’m putting myself on a plan to get out from under my student loans in 10 years. This answers the question of whether I’m staying at this job. The answer is yes. And it answers the question of whether I’m going to grad school, and so now I’m hitting the ground running to try and get my crap together to make the application deadline.

That may adjust the timeline on us buying a place in the near-ish future. Hopefully it doesn’t, but we shall see.

Weird how I can all of this just from trying avoid spending $500 on an armoire, isn’t it?


I Won’t Paint My Home, But Can I Paint Yours?

I can’t even say why, but I really love talking about the weather y’all. It’s finally over 60 degrees in New York now. And that makes me very happy. And the forecast is holding. It’s not supposed to go any lower than 38 for the next 10 days.

You know it’s been a brutal winter when you’re happy for a low of 38 in April.

In celebration of Spring, there will be pastel nail polish, there will be spring cleaning, and there might be packing away winter clothes.

Now that I live in NYC, and there are pretty distinct seasons, I feel like I should put away the sweaters and heavy boots until November. But now that I live in NYC, I don’t have any freaking room for extra storage. I know, I know, first world problems.

But I really want to put away the clothes. I want to put some lavender potpourri in with the clothes so they smell good when unearthed in 6-7 months. And I would love being a size too small to fit some of the clothes at that time.

A girl can dream.

Pinterest isn’t helping. I dream of amazing storage solutions and a multi-tasking armoire, and basically just other ways to spend up all the money. Thank God I married a man who likes to save.

It’s nice to add things to my apartment to make it feel more at home. Brooklyn still doesn’t feel like home to me, but that apartment is feeling more like home.

We’ve been in the apartment since July 2013, which is quite a while for me. So. Much. Moving.

In all that time, it always felt like this super temporary place, and even unpacking the suitcases seems extra. But everything changed when my parents came to visit.

My mother and father came for New Year’s, and it was amazing. We didn’t really even do much of anything. But on New Year’s Eve, it was perfect. I came home from work, my dad made steaks, we popped some champagne.

We watched the New Year’s Eve programming on ABC, flipping back and forth between that and a Law & Order marathon. At one point my mother fell asleep, and then Belle took a nap of her head. My dad and I were the only ones awake in the house, just bantering back and forth about whatever was on the screen, and I’m pretty sure we went through almost 3 full bottles of champagne.

It was like someone picked out my favorite New Year’s Eve moments from the last 30 years and smushed them all into one evening. Having that time, just on the couch with my parents, finally made that apartment feel like home.

Since their visit, I’ve been doing more decorating and organizing. Knowing our 3-ish year plan, it just makes sense. Why feel temporary in a place for 3 years if you don’t have to?

But there are certain things I just can’t bring myself to do until I’m in my permanent home. I won’t paint the rooms any color. I won’t get any more custom shelves made. I won’t buy curtains that cost more than $25. And I’m not buying my dream couch.

Something like this is what I’d love. To be able to lay down in front of the TV also facing the TV… that’s the dream…

It would suck so bad to have this amazing couch and then have to get rid of it because it doesn’t fit in a new place. Ditto for those custom-made shelving solutions I’ve seen at the Container Store. And on Instagram. And Pinterest.

Pinterest really isn’t helping.

I take it as a sign of growing up that I’m having this desire to set up a more permanent home. That, and I watch a lot of HGTV. I would be falling over myself to get on one of those shows if they filmed in New York.

I would love to go on Property Brothers. If not them, then Fixer Upper. Worst case scenario, I’d buy a crap place with a lot of space, then go on Love It or List It. But none of these shows are in New York. Why?! It’s just not fair.

In the mean time, I’m living vicariously through my parents. They just bought a new house. I’m trying to work out my schedule so I can go visit and see it in person sooner rather than later. I am not painting my apartment, but I can certainly paint in their new place.

Yes, a bit of a nesting fix is exactly what I need.

I’m off to check ticket prices on expedia.com.