A Place to Start

Dear daughter,

A lot has happened in the first few months of 2017, both for me personally and in the world in general. Every day there are new stories, some full of hope and restoration, some carrying the weight of fear and disillusion. A lot of times I’m caught off-guard by both.

This blog will serve to be a series of letters to you in the midst of the chaos of my early 20s, navigating life and all it has to offer. I want to offer my opinions, which, unsurprisingly enough, are tending to differ greatly from the opinions of my parents. When I eventually meet you and have the privilege of raising you, I want to be able to encourage you to have your own opinions and speak openly about them.

So really, this blog is for me, too. To look back on and realize how crazy and beautiful life as a young person can be, and to know that I was going through all of that craziness once. It can hold me accountable.

So here we go. Enjoy my ramblings and rants, and know that I’m being honest with every word.




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Failing Big and How to Recover from it

Dear daughter,

Last Wednesday was the worst day of my life.

Okay, not the worst. No one died, and I didn’t have some earth-shattering experience, necessarily. But I did fail big, about four times, in areas that really mattered.

My first mistake was scheduling everything on one day. My work schedule isn’t very flexible, so I tried to make everyone happy by scheduling around it. This resulted in me running around, driving like a maniac, and having a generally awful and anxious attitude.

My second mistake was not clearly communicating with my boss about when I needed to leave work to get to my big interview. This resulted in my panicked phone calls to my manager, begging for another worker to come take my place so I could put on heels and tight, unflattering clothing.

My third mistake was going to the interview at all. Granted, it wasn’t really my fault that the organization posted a job description that was completely vague and not at all what the president of the organization said in the interview. It was devastating, though, because I had hope that I was actually going to be doing something professional for my first job out of college.

My fourth mistake was getting lost on the way to an exam I needed to take to graduate, and then proceeding to fail that test by two points.

After the test I got lost again on my way back to school. My work party was that night, and they gave out awards for people who were the most punctual, the most hardworking, etc. I received none of them. After working my hardest for years, never being late, almost never taking off work, and always being the “responsible one,” I had nothing to show for it.

I went home that night and cried. A lot.

There’s something about failure that cuts deeper than most tragedies in life. We personally feel responsible for our world crumbling around us. There’s always a buildup to an event or test or experience, and when it doesn’t work out, there’s this feeling of shame that keeps us from doing anything but wallowing in misery for a while.


Now that I’ve had about a week to process this very bad day full of failure, I’ve come up with three ways to re-think failure on a daily basis.

1. Each experience teaches you something new about yourself.

In that awful interview I learned that I cannot be a salesperson, which was what the interviewer wanted from me. Just the thought of having to stand in a store and bother shoppers (which I’ve done before) makes me anxious and terrified. I also learned that I have poor time-management skills and that those are what kept me from passing my test. I can’t be too busy to study. Finally (and this one I’m not so proud of), I need recognition. When I work really hard at something, especially at work, not being recognized or appreciated really gets to me. I wind up feeling worthless. Therefore, finding a job that has an encouraging atmosphere would be a good fit for me.

2. Dwelling on failure makes moving forward a lot harder.

This seems like an obvious one, but it’s something I need to be reminded of. Studies have shown that dwelling on failure impedes future performance. Anxiety and stress are two things we know are not good for us, and yet those two things can be found as soon as we begin dwelling on our failures. Some people may say that stress from failure makes them work harder and get a job done correctly, but I’m not convinced that’s healthy or effective; it trains our bodies to go into a state of survival, almost machine-like, trying to get things done the right way. Dwelling on the past causes stress on us as we try to navigate the future, but letting go of that, hard as it may be, will allow us to move onto the next thing as our best selves.

3. Failing does not make you a failure.

This is a hard one to learn and accept. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to feel like we’re worthless after we mess up, but failing is something we do, not something we are. Instead of focusing on the current thing (or things) that went wrong, remembering your talents and accomplishments will remind you of how much you are capable of. Now, this isn’t an excuse to not care about mistakes you’ve made, but instead it’s a reason for a perspective shift. Bad things will happen just like good things will happen, and we are usually in control of it. But when something goes wrong and we can’t do anything about it, telling ourselves we are not the sum of our failures will lead to a quicker turnaround.

The failures in my life have recently been a little overwhelming. Tomorrow I have my second interview for a job I’m excited about, though, and regardless of what happens I’m excited for the opportunity to grow, and to learn more about myself.



Dress to Distress

Dear daughter,

Tomorrow I have my first professional interview for an actual big-girl job.

I won’t complain about how I filled my entire day both today and tomorrow with things I’m not ready for, but I’m feeling a little more than stressed. I’m having flashbacks to my internship last year and getting an “average” review on my attire because I couldn’t buy professional suits for a business-ambiguous environment. Somehow dressing appropriately is the most stressful part for me in any professional situation.

In America, the number of companies requiring business professional dress wear has decreased steadily since 1998. Of course there are pros and cons of requiring formal dress, and the choice of whether or not to do so often depends on the goals and atmosphere of the company.

There’s also the rise of “Casual Friday,” which allows office workers to wear jeans and hoodies after a week of suits and heels. An article from The New York Times asserts that the current discussion on gender and fluidity is also speeding up the idea of a more casual workplace.

Protestors from GetEQUAL protest in Washington, DC in 2010. -Alex Wong/Getty Images

The NYC Commission on Human Rights released a set of guidelines in 2015 that defined what was considered discrimination for gender non-conforming individuals in housing, business, and other situations. For workplaces, this means that forcing a man to wear a tie and a woman to wear a dress or skirt is discrimination because it is based on gender.

It’s interesting to think about how different workplaces may look even in the next five to ten years because of the changes in society. Personally, I don’t enjoy wearing skirts or dresses, and being able to wear pants at work will not only allow me to feel more comfortable, but also more confident.

Here’s hoping for a good interview tomorrow (and finding something to wear)!



After the Win

Dear daughter,

On November 2, 2016, my mother had the best night of her life.

I’d driven home to Chicago from Grand Rapids, a 3-hour ride that I’d taken many times on breaks from college. When I showed up she almost began to cry from excitement, because the Cubs was the one thing we still agreed on, and that night they would win the World Series.

October 14, 1908 was the second time the Cubs won the World Series, and the most recent time before their 2016 win. This was 11 years before my grandfather, my mother’s father, was born. He’d live a full life loving the Cubs but never seeing them win a World Series. All four of his daughters still love the Cubs, but my mother is a die-hard. She lives for baseball season, and takes a battery-operated radio with her wherever she goes during the summer so she can hear everything that happens during a game. I grew up in this Cubs-obsessed flurry, and for the most part, I loved it.

What is it about sports, specifically baseball, that unites members of a family? Newborn babies are dressed in tiny baseball outfits; fathers bring their young sons to games as one of their first “bonding” experiences; playing catch with a baseball is a universal game that brings together parents and children. America’s pastime is more than just an experience, it’s a connection.

Last night the Cubs had their home opener. The members of the team raised a flag for their 2016 victory against the Indians, fireworks went off, and fans cheered. I didn’t feel as excited as I usually do–not because I care less, but because there’s something connected to the Cubs overcoming their “underdog” status that was missing. As happy as I am, as a Cub fan, that my team is the reigning champion, their victory means I lost something.

My mom and I at a Cubs game in 2006, excited about our favorite player, Derrek Lee.

Nothing can top November 2, 2016. When I go home to visit my mom, we’ll talk about our team, about how proud we are. But when they win again and again, we won’t text each other. We won’t comment, “This is the year!!” on each other’s Facebook statuses. Not because the Cubs aren’t important anymore, but because we’ve peaked.

One thing I’ve learned for when I’m a parent: Finding things to bond my children and I will carry into their adulthood, and that’s a beautiful thing. But baseball is baseball, and when the fireworks are over, I need to make sure I understand and appreciate my children, regardless of our shared interests.





One Month of Puppy Love

Dear daughter,

Today marks one month since we got little Arlo. He’s perfect, basically. He enjoys sniffing everything, taking forever to eat, chewing on socks, and peeing on every tree in the world.

Before I got Arlo, I just wanted a dog. Every time I saw one I would get that warm, fuzzy feeling inside; all the cliches that you can think of. But more than just a happy feeling, I also felt incredibly less stressed.

Last summer I began taking anxiety medication. I grew up thinking that medication was bad and messes with your system, causing more problems than its worth. I barely took aspirin when I had a headache. But the past couple years have been rough, and I’d been having panic attacks every day right before I started the medication. I knew I needed more help than counseling could give me.

My college brought in five or so therapy dogs last semester during finals week and allowed students to sit and pet them for a couple hours. I walked up to the first dog I saw–an Australian Shepherd–and immediately felt a wave of relief. How was it that dogs could have that effect on humans?

Here’s an example of some great therapy dogs:

My desire to have a dog turned into a need. I contacted one of my friends who helps run a kennel in the Chicago area, and she kept an eye out for any dogs coming in from off the streets. There were a couple times there was a dog available but it fell through because of a number of little reasons, including my location, which is about three hours away from the kennel.

But one night I got a message from my friend. She sent a two pictures of two different dogs, and one of them was Arlo. I immediately fell in love with him. After a few days of waiting and biting my nails, he was home.

Let me tell you how life has been different since Arlo came along. For one thing, I am bombarded with love every time I walk through the door. It doesn’t matter how awful of a day I’ve had; once I see that little guy running towards me, joy immediately takes over. When I’m feeling stressed about a project or a big decision or money, all I have to do is reach over and pet my little guy. He’s more than just a companion; he’s therapy.

Never underestimate the power of a pup, or any furry friend. Hopefully we have many in our household!




Disney’s Gay Moment: Inclusive or Inappropriate?

Dear daughter,

As a lover of all Disney movies, the upcoming live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast,” set to hit theaters March 17, is something I’ve been looking forward to for months. It will still include the famous songs from the original, as well as the dark storyline and happy ending.

Unlike the original movie, it will also include what many are calling a “gay moment.”

Bill Condon, director of the film and an openly gay man, told Attitude magazine that “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.” He also revealed that there will be a “payoff” at the end of the film for LeFou’s character, leading many to believe that there will be a confirmed homosexual relationship displayed on screen.

The first I heard of this story was actually from one of my very, very conservative Facebook friends, a mother of four who was looking forward to taking her children to the movie when it came out. She posted a link to a story about it on Yahoo telling parents to “beware” of the film and how disappointed she was in this choice by Disney.


I’m used to this specific friend’s very strong held views, but this one caught me off guard. Shouldn’t be parents be willing to talk to their children about this, for lack of a better term, “issue” and not sheltering their children from what’s happening in the world?

My friend is not alone in her views. The group One Million Moms posted an article recently shaming an episode of an animated Disney channel show. The episode showed a crowd of couples kissing at a concert in sync with the band’s song. One couple was two girls, and the group immediately began a pledge against Disney, saying, “I do not agree with the LGBT agenda you are pushing on families and children. You will not have my support as long as you continue to veer away from family-friendly entertainment.”

One Million Moms also briefly mentioned in that article the “Beauty and the Beast” debacle, ending with, “Conservative families need to urge Disney to avoid mature and controversial topics.”

Here’s a clip of Lefou and Gaston:

Many LGBT groups and individuals have urged Disney for years to be more inclusive with their characters. In early May the hashtag #GiveElsaAGirlfriend began trending on Twitter—a movement calling for Disney to make Elsa an openly gay character in the “Frozen” sequel.

The Washington Post’s article in response to this outcry pointed out some of the opinions held by those tweeting the hashtag: “It would have been a huge help for [Disney fans] to see gay characters in movies when they were young — that they might have become more sensitive and accepting towards gay peers, or better able to grapple with their own sexuality. Studies have suggested that seeing gay characters in popular entertainment can decrease prejudice towards those groups.”

The Post’s article also points out that children’s entertainment companies also need to make money—and the best way to make the most money is to avoid controversial material. But what progress is ever made if companies refuse to address controversial topics?

Disney is a company that has worked hard in the past few years to make sure they are representing people of all kinds, specifically in regards to race and gender. I’m proud of them for being able to take the plunge, so to speak, and deliver content that is more inclusive to the LGBT community.

When I raise you, I hope to be able to share moments of discovery and learning that allow us to talk about real issues and topics in our world. That’s the only way we’ll be able to be kinder, more sympathetic human beings.



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