the struggle to maintain hope in an age of anger

Writing is often a form of therapy for me, and with the recent events in Orlando, coupled with the countless other acts of violence and hatred which have happened over the past years, I’ve felt an overwhelming sadness fall over me this week. In an effort to work through my thoughts and feelings I wrote the below post. It’s not meant to be political, but instead, I wanted  simply to put emotion to paper so to speak, and let others who are feeling this same sense of sorrow and discouragement know they’re not the only ones. My heart goes out to the friends and families of those who have lost their lives to this seemingly continuous and insensible violence. 

Yesterday a friend of mine was sexually assaulted at a train station and then punched in the face for confronting her assaulter. The day before three cop cars drove by me with their sirens on and a man walking near me muttered “I bet they’re going to kill someone”. Two days ago 49 people were murdered in a place they felt was sacred and safe.

This has been the environment within which I, and my fellow Millenials, have had to grow up. An environment of hatred where every event spawns more animosity and suspicion. In college I used to sit in the lecture hall planning my escape route if a shooter were to enter. Now every time my friends invite me to a show or a club a small voice in the back of my head says “is it worth the risk”? The things which, in the past, have been encompassed in a universal understanding of “off limits”, schools, churches, concert events full of young people, gay clubs where people go to feel safe and understood, have repeatedly been violated.

Yes, war is nothing new, young people die all the time in other countries due to violence and extremism. My goal is not to compare our way of life to other countries’ because I know that is a comparison we would lose every time; but I still fear for our generation, those both within America and outside of it. I am afraid to think how growing up in this environment of violence and paranoia will affect us. My constant fear for my mother and sisters makes enjoying the good things in life more difficult. These acts of hatred and violence remind us that life is fleeting and nothing is guaranteed, and we try to use that reminder to in turn remind ourselves to hug our loved ones a little closer and find happiness in the little things, but those moments of elation are constantly interrupted by yet another warning that our world is not always a safe one.

With each of these experiences, whether it’s the man mumbling about his hatred for the police or a 29-year-old Floridian walking into a nightclub with the aim to kill as many people as he can, I am left with a deeper and deeper feeling of helplessness.  What can I do to help the growing number of victims? What can I do to change people’s mentality? What can I do to help ensure that this doesn’t keep happening? The flip side, trying not to think about these atrocities , leaves me feeling guilty and despondent. Allowing myself to feel sad for a measured amount of time so as not to let it overwhelm me instead makes me feel like I’ve let the victims down, that I don’t care enough, even though when I do allow myself to truly feel the magnitude of these events I’m often unable to get out of bed.

I can feel this uncertainty and guilt and anger bleed into the lives of my friends and family. Almost every social media post reflects those feelings in one way or another. I see it reflected in the conversations, and candidates and violence experienced during this election. Fear as an emotion is like tar. It sticks to everything, darkening every interaction, difficult to shake off. As this fear continues to loom over us, it seems myself and those around me become unable to forgive even the smallest impositions.  We seek to control people and things in our lives when so much seems totally out of our control. We push people away before allowing ourselves to get to know them, even when these times more than any other should bring us together.

My hope for my generation is that despite all this hatred, or perhaps in spite of it, we will continue to love, and care and put forth empathy and understanding. My hope is that we won’t allow ourselves to be covered in the tar of fear, but instead maintain our optimism that as a whole the world is a good place and people themselves are inherently good.  These are the things I struggle to remember and practice on a daily basis. Too often I allow these tragedies to affect me, making me angry, causing me to go on rants about things I don’t know enough about, causing me to begin to allow myself to fear someone because of their religion or the color of their skin, causing me to not allow myself to give someone a chance before judging them. I know these are not struggles which are unique to our generation, but as the world becomes a more connected place, I hope so strongly that we can maintain and grow our human connections and foster those emotions which separate us from our animal brethren, Love and Empathy.

 

female burnout, a true story

I recently stumbled on this article in my Facebook news feed: Why Millennial Women Are Burning Out. It says that more and more women are less present in upper management roles, not for a lack of opportunity (although that’s another discussion), but because they are ‘burning out’ at an earlier and earlier age, often quitting their promising, albeit demanding, careers due to stress and fatigue. Women are leaving their positions as they experience this notion of burnout often brought on by the high expectations -both external and internal- that are placed on the female segment. Women are taking on more and more roles within their own lives and the lives of those around them, juggling a demanding job that requires them to be connected at all times with the demands of their own lives, whether it be motherhood, their passion projects, dating, etc.

As I read this article, I found myself nodding more and more enthusiastically, until I eventually resembled a deranged bobble head. It was truly eye opening to realize that the stresses I have been feeling the last 5 years or so, are felt by many women.  I too was contemplating quitting my job. I too was having trouble balancing all the things society demands I accomplish (or that I project it does) and the things I want accomplish.

Just today I sat at a coffee shop and worked on the following:

  1. My taxes (ok I get this is a ‘must do’ but it sucks so damn bad)
  2. Looked for a more satisfying job which also furthers my career and allows me to learn and grow professionally
  3. Looked for volunteer opportunities so I can feel like I’m contributing to society because my job doesn’t give me that satisfaction
  4. Worked on this blog which I do because writing is a passion of mine and I feel the need to exercise it
  5. Worked on my book because writing is a passion and I’d love to one day make money off of it
  6. Answered messages on the various dating apps I use because that’s what dating is now
  7. Researched my next travel destination because I need to travel to feel happy
  8. Answered work emails and worked on a project which is due this week

All of these things I feel like I have to do, and I get immense anxiety when I think about them and when I think about how little I’ve worked on each one. These are, obviously, self-set expectations, but they are things I truly think I need to accomplish in order to be successful and happy. Each one is equally important and the combination of all of these to-dos pared with my day job (not to mention the day-to-day: getting groceries, paying bills, setting aside time to be social, exercise etc.) is constantly overwhelming. My career can be very demanding, often keeping me at the office until 7 or 8 at night. When I finally do get home I’m mentally exhausted, and the last thing I want to do is get back on my laptop. However, if I don’t, I know I’ll toss and turn all night thinking of the things I should have accomplished that day. If I am able to work on a project for a few hours after work, I’m left mentally debilitated (often remedied by a few minutes of reality TV).

I fully acknowledge that these daily pressure I put on myself seem trivial compared to women who have a family or a much more demanding job or both, but each woman has their own definition of success and as I’ve begun to see, each women feels the immense pressure of playing all the roles both she has written for herself and others have written for her. Perhaps this is just the American Way: getting stressed about everything and anything. Wouldn’t it be freeing to set aside all these anxiety-causing goals and just feel happy in the common day-to-day. Is it better or worse to abandon your goals in order to feel less stress or to keep them and experience the anxiety caused by not accomplishing all of them?

At the end of this Sunday I’ll feel immensely accomplished for everything I was able to do, even as my back aches and my eyes water from staring at a computer screen for 5 hours. Is this the sacrifice I have to make to feel a sense of worth and accomplishment? Do I have to trade a rainy Sunday coffee date with friends or time to explore the city for an afternoon in front of my laptop, mindlessly plugging away at the various tasks I’ve set for myself? Do I have to set aside dating or my day job or my hobby or my sanity to make sure I’m successful in everything else? Can I make that choice? Should I have to? Do we live in a society that tells us if we’re not constantly moving and creating and accomplishing then we’re wasting space? Is burnout a symptom of a society which is overly demanding of women, or are women trying so hard to prove they can accomplish everything men can that they allow themselves to become burntout in the process?

 

where have all the good men gone?

I have always thought men have it easier. They don’t have to deal with childbirth, they don’t have to endure the sexism women experience daily, they have no idea what it’s like when you’re at Starbucks and a baby smiles at you and you lose your shit and start crying while you’re waiting for your coffee because your hormones are all jacked up. They just look on from a distance and nod sympathetically while secretly thinking you’re crazy. The really nice ones bring you ice cream. But I think there’s another area where men have it way better…women.

During my ride to work every morning the majority of the people on the bus are beautiful women, who I assume are also intelligent and successful based on their appearance and the fact that they’re on a bus at 9am . I’m obviously making assumptions about these women’s personalities, backgrounds, ability to form sentences, etc., but the same observation holds true outside of my morning commute. Since I’ve moved to San Francisco, I’ve met a ton of amazing, single women. The number of good looking, intelligent, successful men I’ve met since I moved here is much fewer. AND when you add ‘looking for a relationship’ to that description it’s even less. Why is that? How can there be so many amazing, driven, smart women and so few men with the same qualities? All this became even more apparent to me (and more personal) when a coworker of mine who had moved to the city  a measly three months ago told me he is seeing someone. Meanwhile I have been here almost a year and I basically have yet to go on a SECOND date (like a real date, not breakfast the next morning).

When I brought this up to a few of my guy friends there was an immediate uproar. They think it’s an unfair assumption, that there are plenty of nice guys who want a relationship…then they asked if they can come on my morning commute with me. Ironically most of them are either in a relationship or seeing a couple people. They’ve all certainly dated more frequently than I or many of my friends have. Despite their protests, they are living proof of this theory.

If I am right about the unbalance in qualified potential dates for each gender (and I really think I am) then that brings up another point. If there are so many of these beautiful, intelligent women then why would a guy want to be in a relationship? Why not keep his options open and take advantage of the plethora of choices he has. And because there are so few adequate men, I’ve often seen it lead some women to compromise what they are looking for because if they don’t they’re easily replaced. I’ve certainly been one of those women. Up until recently I was in a “relationship” with a guy who, to be fair, was very open about wanting to keep the relationship open, and because I wanted to  be ‘the cool girl’ and not that girl,  I went along with it. I waited for him to call me, sometimes a week or longer, I changed my schedule to fit his, I nearly convinced myself that this was the type of relationship that I really wanted, that fit my lifestyle. But it wasn’t and I found myself becoming more and more unhappy with the situation until I finally ended it. I’ve had friends who have stayed much longer than I did. Unfortunately this acquiescence on our end only helps to perpetuate the behavior on theirs.

I know these are just assumptions based off my observations. I know there are amazing men out there who treat women well and want nothing more than to be in a committed relationship. I know open and undefined relationships truly do work for some people. But I think many times these instances are the exceptions and not the rule. A lot of this certainly has become more apparent to me since I moved to San Francisco and I concede that some of it can be attributed to the type of lifestyle many people in this city lead. But I have seen the same thing, to some degree or another, in the other cities I’ve lived in. So my questions is, how did the genders become so unbalanced? Was it always like this but people had no choice but to settle down? Has the plethora of amazing women (and the ease with which men can find them…thanks a lot Tinder) changed the attitudes of men toward relationships? Am I just riding the wrong bus every morning?

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here I go…again

I wish I could say this is the first blog I’ve started, that I haven’t left a trail of deflated, half used blogs along the way. The truth is I usually write when I’m going through something in my life. It’s a form of therapy, a way to reflect on my thoughts and feelings in a safe, almost disconnected way. I write my way through them and then as I come out the other side and the pieces of my life begin crawling back together, the writing gets pushed further and further to the side. But recently I thought ‘hey, what if I just wrote because I want to write and not because my world feels like it’s crashing down around me?’ I mean sure, I still have difficult times, I’ve recently moved to a new city and I’m still working on figuring out how adults make friends, my job isn’t great, I’m single and usually not in the fun, Sex in the City way but in the angry-glare-at couples-exhibiting-PDA way, I struggle with a personality that can be very blunt and abrasive  (an asset sometimes, and not so much other times).

…admittedly that all makes my life sound depressing af…

BUT despite the aforementioned, I’m happy most days, or at least most of the time most days. I live in an awesome city (San Francisco), the friends I have made are really intelligent and adventurous people, I’ve been trying a lot of new things since I moved, I’ve had my share of encounters with the male species – which at best allowed me to meet some interesting men and at worst left me with stories, life lessons and an understanding of what I don’t want in a relationship (equally as important as figuring out what you do want in my opinion) – my job itself is no longer fulfilling to me but it’s allowed me to meet some cool people and travel a bit.

So why not write about the daily ups and downs? The small wins and losses in life, rather than the traumatic life events that leave me exhausted and scarred. I’m hoping to use this as a platform to examine my day-to-day choices and experiences. A place to explore the things I do and don’t like about myself. A figurative daisy which allows me to participate in the common, youthful game we all played: he loves me, he loves me not, but instead of examining the potential affections of a childhood crush, understanding how I feel about me, and with more control over the outcome.  daisy