Competence

I haven’t had too much inspiration for writing recently. Creativity ebbs and flows, and it seems that it’s ebbing right now. However, I needed to document some wonderful changes that are happening in my life right now, or at least that have been happening in the past month or so. These are some things I’ve developed:

Confidence. As many of you may know, most of my childhood was spent being rather passive and unsure of myself. That is no longer the case. I’ve truly grown to a point where I love expressing myself and my personality. Of course I don’t always know who I am (is there any eighteen-year-old who does?), but I have a pretty solid foundation of who I am.

Competence. This is especially new. I feel such a strong sense of ability. Whatever challenge that comes my way is something I can handle. I certainly don’t how to do everything, but I know that if there’s something I don’t know how to do, I can learn it. I’m intelligent and I have better reasoning skills than I previously gave myself credit for.

Resilience. I get up after I fall down. I’m not the sensitive little flower many people think I am. Sure, I’m expressive and vulnerable, but I am like silly putty. That stuff never crumbles. It’s soft and strong at the same time. Me!

Leadership. Oh boy, I actually love leadership. I love teaching, guiding, encouraging, and shining. Words can’t express how much joy being a leader brings me.

Those things weren’t always a part of me, but they are now. And that’s honestly something to be proud of.

 

Why I’m a Feminist

I’m not a feminist because I want to create some matriarchal society that treats men like pieces of meat.

I’m a feminist because I know what it’s like to be a woman in a patriarchal society where my body is treated like a piece of meat.

I know what it’s like to have my heart rate pick up when I see a man across the street from me when I’m walking home alone at night.
I know what it’s like to look at the news and see a woman killed for turning down a date, and wondering if it could have been me.
I know what it’s like to be told that my main purpose in life is not to follow my dreams, but to become a wife and mother.
I know what it’s like to live in a society where my value is based on the men I’m connected to–because I’m somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s niece, but not my own.
I know what it’s like to be harassed on the street by grown men when I was a pubescent 13-year-old.
I know what it’s like to be told that my tank top with straps only two fingers wide (instead of three) is a distraction.
I know what it’s like to have my heart sink when I hear that twelve women’s testimonies against a man still aren’t enough to convince the public that he just might be guilty.
Or to hear that a man’s career is more important than the fact that he brutalized a woman.
And to know that the first question after an assault will always be asking what I was wearing, what I was drinking, and where I was, as if my actions were an invitation to have crimes committed against me.
I know what it’s like to be told that all of this, all of my experiences, all of OUR experiences, are only “isolated anecdotes.”

You may call me a whiny crybaby who just wants an excuse to free bleed in public or stop shaving, but as long as all of the things I have said are still true–for me and for all women everywhere–I will ALWAYS be a feminist.

10 Things Your Cashier Wants You To Know

  1. No, it won’t charge you twice. If your card doesn’t go through, and I ask you to try swiping it again, it won’t charge you twice. The point is that it didn’t go through. That’s why I’m asking you to swipe it again, because it didn’t charge you.
  2. Don’t be embarrassed. If you need to buy condoms, tampons, or adult diapers, don’t feel you have to go to self-checkout. We don’t care that you’re buying those things; it’s literally our job to scan your stuff. I’ve never once thought poorly of someone for anything they’ve bought.
  3. The “if it doesn’t scan, it must be free” joke isn’t that funny. I laughed the first time, and after that…well, I have to fake the retail laugh.
  4. Telling me what the discount on the radishes is won’t help me. All produce has a code on it, and we need that in order to ring it up. If I’m searching for the PLU sticker on your obscure type of apple, telling me “they’re 2 for a dollar” really won’t help me. I can’t memorize all the discounts in the store, and the discount won’t tell me what the item’s PLU is anyway.
  5. Don’t blame me for how expensive your order is. It’s not my decision how things are priced, nor did I decide for you what to buy. You decided to buy what you did, and I can’t take the price down because you shot your budget.
  6. Don’t touch me. This isn’t common, but I have had customers grab my hand and use it to bag their own stuff. My hand. Please, don’t touch me or anyone without permission.
  7. Bag your stuff if you’re going to complain about how long it’s taking. When I don’t have a bagger, I have to do two jobs at once. It’s going to take a little bit longer. If you want to speed things up, bag your own stuff while I scan. It makes both of our lives easier.
  8. Be patient. Sometimes there are technical difficulties, or it’s an especially crowded day. Stuff happens, and I’m doing my best to get you out of the store as quickly and efficiently as possible. Complaining at me won’t make it go any faster.
  9. I’m not flirting with you. It’s my job to be friendly and laugh at your jokes, even if they’re not funny. Me smiling at you doesn’t mean I want you in my bed.
  10. Be nice. Honestly, just be a decent person and show basic respect. Cashiers are human. My feet and shoulders hurt, I’m hungry, and I need to pee. Sorry if I make a mistake; I will fix it for you. Please don’t yell at me. You don’t have to make constant small talk if you don’t feel like it, but you really should exhibit human decency. I’m doing my best.

Will I Ever Be?

When I was eight, I used to go to sleep praying, “God, please help me to be somebody famous like George Washington.” By famous, I meant influential; I just didn’t quite have the vocabulary to express it. Little me wanted to grow up to be somebody.

That hasn’t changed. I want my life to be good for something; I want to die with a legacy. Unfortunately, life doesn’t really seem to work that way. Most people spend their entire existence watering their grass and chatting over a white picket fence, and then they die as just another John or Jane Doe–and as the Does they will forever remain. Will I ever change someone’s life? I want to be the reason someone is the way they are. I want to know that I’ve done something, that I’ve been someone.

Will I ever be someone?

You Deserve Better

Dear Abigail,

You deserve better.

You deserve better than the boys who call you stupid, unloved, a piece of crap; the boys who tell you that the world would be better if you died. You deserve better than the girls who ignore and exclude you at your own birthday party. You deserve better than that hideous, emotionally abusive boyfriend, who belittles you in public and tells you who you can and cannot speak to.

Please do not believe even for a moment that this is the life you are destined to, or that you are meant to be in pain. I wish you could see yourself as I see you now, years later. You’re golden. You always have been golden. It’s difficult for you to see when others have driven you into the dust, covered you in dirt, and reduced your worth to a garden weed; it’s difficult for you to see because you believe them. And so you settle for abuse and mistreatment because you believe it’s the best you’ll ever receive.

It’s not the best you’ll ever receive.

One day you’ll be surrounded with people who cherish you deeply and treat you like they do. One day you’ll look in the mirror and see how brightly you shine. One day it won’t hurt to be loved. You will exchange your chains for wings, soaring above the poor standards you thought were yours forever.

I am still learning to fly as I write this to you. I cannot pretend it is an easy flight, as the ground often sneers at these wings. But, my love, I am still flying–as will you. We never thought we would, did we, Abigail?

We are flying.

-Abigail

Sometimes It’s Not “Okay”

For someone who always touted my emotional openness and honesty, I sure did keep a lot of secrets. I told a lot of lies. My honesty was superficial, but I didn’t even believe it. The deception was so elaborate and pervasive that I actually succeeded in hoodwinking myself. It’s not that I was reserved–quite the contrary. There was something simultaneously thrilling and comforting about revealing things about myself. I’ve made my entire life story known. People know me for being notoriously self-disclosing. So, being such an open person, how could I be so dishonest?

“It’s okay!”
“Not a problem!”
“That doesn’t bother me anymore.”
“I’m fine!”
“It’s cool, no worries!”
“No hard feelings.”
“I’ve moved on from that.”
“I’m a new person now.”
“Do I seem upset? I’m not. Honest to God, I’m not.”

That’s how. When it came to preserving my rapport with others, I knew no bounds. Being upset about something meant that the people I loved would be upset, too. If they were upset, there would be conflict. If there was conflict, they would leave me. There was a fundamental brokenness to my “trusting” nature. Sure, I could trust anyone with the fact that I’d been in a mental hospital–that was easy–but I couldn’t even trust that the people close to me wouldn’t up and leave at the slightest bit of discomfort. So I pretended everything was always fine. If somebody ever hurt or offended me, I shrugged it off. No big deal. I built a personality of “forgiveness.” Actually, forgiveness wouldn’t be the word, because I didn’t recognize that anyone other than me was capable of wrongdoing. Everyone else was essentially perfect, and if I was ever hurt, it was my fault for getting offended. I’d just misinterpreted things. And then, as always, with the happiest and most convincing face I had, I said:

“It’s fine. Really.”

Meanwhile, deep inside, it wasn’t fine. Even the lies I told myself couldn’t mitigate the hurt. Alone, I talked myself into anger–Why didn’t I just say what I felt? Why do I put up with this? They were so wrong, and next time I’ll give them a piece of my mind!–and out of it–I can’t be angry like this. They meant well, and I just misread the situation. It really is fine now. I tricked myself into believing I’d moved on, but the next time something happened, everything came back. There was always a pot of sadness and resentment boiling. I only put a lid over the pot and tried to conceal the steam.

This unwillingness to allow myself to hurt ruined my relationships and the way I related with others. Most importantly (and I say this because I’ve finally gained enough respect for myself to stop denying that I’m a person), it ruined me.

Recently, I’ve been building my sense of self from the ground up. There has been immeasurable growth in my life, and I am now committing to honesty. I deserve to feel happy and to speak up for myself. Being firm doesn’t equate to being mean. Sometimes I’m right and other people are wrong.

Sometimes it’s not fine.
It still bothers me.
There are hard feelings.
It’s not cool.
I haven’t moved on from that yet.
I’m just as hurt as I was before.
I am, honest to God, very upset.

Sometimes I’m not okay. And that–that is okay.

I mean it this time.

Thank-You Note

Thank you so much for coming to the party, and for your wonderful gift! I know the party wasn’t a total blast. There were times where I couldn’t keep myself from crying, and there were times where I wanted to throw things. I almost left altogether a few times–my own party, think of that! But you didn’t ditch on me, even when I left you sitting in the corner while I tried to block other guests from leaving. The thought of my guests leaving me to clean up the dishes they left around, leaving me to sit around in an empty house, was terrifying to me. Remember when I ran to the door and wouldn’t let anyone open it? It only made them angry, and they turned around and climbed out a window. I forgot that you were sitting at the dinner table, waiting patiently for me to come back. How rude of me! What’s sad is that you brought the greatest and most thoughtful gift of everyone, and I tossed it carelessly aside as soon as you gave it to me. All I wanted to do is hang on to all the other guests’ gifts. I thought they were wonderful, but boy, was I wrong. The packaging was beautiful, but the gifts were horrible…poison and weapons! Jeez, why would anyone bring that to a party? When I opened their gifts, all I could do was cry over the fact that they were so much better in the packaging. I felt like I’d ruined everything! Meanwhile, your precious gift was somewhere off to the side. I couldn’t even see it.

Almost all the guests left soon after I opened all their gifts. The only person left was you. You even offered to help me clean up the mess they made of my house (you saw the damage they’d done!). After you helped me, everything was spotless again. What would I have done without you? Take this note as an apology and a thank you.  I apologize for being so rude, and I thank you for sticking around and helping me clean up. I’m inviting you to stay. And I know you want to.

Jesus, thank you for never walking out on my life. Thank you for the gift of eternal life with you. Thank you for healing me of all the wounds people have inflicted on me (and of those I inflicted on myself). I can never repay you. 

A Wild Life

When I’m old and grey (actually white, I hope), I want to look back on my life and feel like I did something. I don’t want to die having done nothing but sit around and blog. Besides, blogs aren’t interesting if you don’t get out and have experiences that are worth writing about. I hope I live a wild life full of stories, stories of terror and fear, stories of despair and grief, stories of joy and elation. I want people to gasp. You really did that? or That really happened? You’re not making that up? 

This is why I don’t have any regrets. Everything I’ve ever done, even the worst mistakes, has shaped my life. No good story is all oatmeal cookie; there’s gotta be some raisins in there. Of course I don’t approve of everything I’ve done, and I feel sorry if any of my mistakes have harmed others. I feel natural and healthy guilt until I apologize and get right with God and with others, and then I cement the encounter into my metaphorical journal.

I want to go off to college and meet new people. I want to study abroad in a French-speaking country. Or anywhere! I want to travel the world. I want to join the Peace Corps so I can help people in new ways. I want to teach kindergarten. I want to write a memoir. There are so many things I want to do! Adulthood is coming, and it will be amazing.

I pray that the Lord blesses me with a wild life.

Growth Hurts

I loved my junior year. Everybody else seemed to be stressed, but I was in my happy little world of denial. I had a cozy little place in my social world and felt a deep sense of belonging as a result of that. I spent hours doing whatever made me happy and felt content almost all of the time. If I was forced to repeat one year of my life for the next ten years, I would certainly choose junior year. It was the time of my life.

It was enjoyable, but was it fruitful? Hardly.

Of course I learned things. I discovered some things about myself, primarily concerning identity and ambition. I just can’t say my life was radically changed. After each completed year of high school, I always chose one core lesson I learned that year that was represented in a new piercing. Freshman and sophomore years were easy for me to pick, but not last year, because I didn’t do a whole lot of maturing. Of all the years in my life, I learned and grew the least during junior year. Why? Because I was comfortable. 

It is impossible to make enormous strides in maturity or confidence when you’re comfortable. Remember when you were little and you’d lie awake at night because your legs were aching? Those were growing pains. Growing pains. You have to give up some of your satisfaction in order to mature. If you’re not willing to give it up, well, you’ll be forced to; often our satisfaction is stripped from us by circumstances out of our control. You have to decide whether to become bitter and stubborn or to allow yourself to learn and cherish the time you have to improve yourself.

I wouldn’t take back junior year. I think it was important for me to get a break from growing for a bit, as I’d been doing quite a lot of it in the years prior. However, I wouldn’t trade the growing I’m doing now for another year of fun. In the long run, there’s nothing “fun” about being stagnant. Besides, who would ever want to be sixteen forever?

Post-Epiphanies

After a life-changing epiphany, there’s always a high. The first few days following are magical. Nothing could ever break you, nothing could ever bring you down, everything is going to be align. This high wears off shortly when you realize that changing your life actually takes work and is rarely something that is fixed in a moment of positive emotion. When this happens, you have to make the choice between falling back into old patterns (i.e. the easy route) or fighting tooth and nail until you start seeing changes (the hard route).

And so here I am. The high from my epiphany earlier this month, referenced in my previous post, has worn off. It would be so much easier to let it go, like every other potentially life-changing experience I’ve had. Just wait for the next emotional transformation. Yes, that would be easy, but my mind has grown to be more practical. Life is not run by emotions. If I actually want to become a new person, I have to make sacrifices and lifestyle changes. The epiphany was the launch; the progress afterwards comes from flapping my wings.

I refuse to continue waiting around for the next emotional high. I will not be a slave to whims; I’m taking hold of the reins and steering myself towards where I want to be. What does this mean, practically? It means I force myself to get outside and run, even if I’m more comfortable on the couch under my cozy blankets. It means I refrain from needy behavior and passive-aggressive communication. It means I consistently reassure myself that I deserve love and compassion. It means I quit going through old conversations and recalling memories so that I can live in the present moment.

I am creating the life my epiphany showed me I could have.