#4 Get an MBA

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You guys, I graduated last week! Can you believe that? I certainly can’t. I felt like I was in some Salvador Dali paining the whole time.

As so many lovely people sent me their congratulations, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of inadequacy. Honestly, sometimes I don’t feel like it’s been that big of a deal. It’s just class a couple nights a week and some homework on other nights and weekends. Have I really learned that much? It’s not like I went to Harvard or Stanford. Does this even count when I know so many people who are way more talented than I am?

Turns out, there aren’t enough degrees in the world that will help you overcome impostor syndrome, because someone will always have more accolades and there will always be more degrees to obtain. I think some part of me hoped that going back to school would help convince myself of something–That I was qualified? That I was worthy? What I’ve been realizing over the last few months is that a belief of my own worth can’t come from external markers, it has to come from myself. I have to make sure I am seeing myself fully and believe in that whole version of myself. Not only my mistakes and weaknesses, not just my resume, but my whole messy, talented self.

For those of you who have given me love and support over the last couple of years. Thank you! You haven’t even realized how much I needed it.

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#29 Re-read the entire Harry Potter series

When I was in fourth grade, Ms. Savage had reading time every day after lunch. Sometime in the fall she decided to read a novel that was gaining a lot of popularity called Harry Potter. Honestly, I was bored. I asked her for permission to finish the book on my own for the quizzes so I could read whatever I wanted during that time once I was done. She agreed.

I finished the book in just a few days, but loved it by the end. I devoured the first three installments before the class had even finished the first. No series of books (and I’ve read a few) has captured my mind and heart quite like this one. I had no idea I would be forever changed by 4th grade reading time, but I was. Over the years, I’ve probably spent more time walking through the halls of Hogwarts and battling evil wizards than most other places.

When I set the goal to re-read the series earlier this year, I figured I would slowly work my way through the audiobooks over 12 months. What I didn’t anticipate is how much my soul longed to revisit a place I loved so much. I devoured them, finishing all seven before the end of February.

Here were some thoughts and insights from this re-reading:

I am in awe with how masterfully J.K. Rowling wove a story over so many pages and years that was coherent, dropped clues, had big reveals, and ultimately all led to the same place. Her world was vibrant, her characters equal parts interesting and relate-able. I don’t think I fully appreciated her brilliance in my youth.

While listening to the sequence of the Knight Bus in Book 3, it struck me that when I first encountered this book, I’d never been to England. And yet, as I read it this time, so much of the chapter reminds me of bus rides on narrow streets and chatty bus drivers that I’ve had whilst traveling in England in my young adulthood. It was a good reminder of how much each reader brings to a text of their own experiences.

Having not read these as an adult, I found myself identifying with adult characters in a new way. Sometimes with compassion and empathy, sometimes with judgement. One example is my utter loathing of Severus Snape. I understand why he has a grudge against Harry, but his treatment of him and Hermione left me with little pity. No one deserves to be treated that way, and especially not adults who wield power over children in that way.

And lastly, (for now) what I love about Harry Potter is that even though the books become bleaker and bleaker as they progress, with Voldemort coming back and then growing in power–with loads of death and torture, it’s all about the power of hope and love to combat overwhelming evil. As my world seems to become bleaker with each passing day, it’s a good reminder that we can find light in the darkness. I love the example of Dumbledore and Harry and Ginny. When faced with an insurmountable challenge, they gathered those that they trusted and loved to fight back. They were strategic about their timing, but they weren’t passive in their response.

#27 Go to a movie at Sundance

I’ve lived in Utah for almost 10 years and haven’t managed to make it to the Sundance Film Festival before. I’m not a fan of crowds or driving through snowy canyons, I always miss the early morning ticket scramble, and am reticent to attend a film without knowing what I’m signing up for ahead of time. But this year I put all of those hesitations aside and went to two films. They were both phenomenal. And attending reminded me why I love film as a genre of storytelling.

Inventing Tomorrow

This documentary was delightful in every way. The story of four genius teenagers participating in the world’s largest science fair with projects that solve environmental projects in their own backyards. You can’t help but feel hopeful as you leave this movie, that despite the destruction we’ve caused on our planet, we might be able to save it after all.

http://www.imdb.com/videoembed/vi1509865497

Sweet Country

This movie was intense. Imagine watching a Western from the perspective of the person of color who killed a white man out of self-protection. It has a fugitive, beautiful and terrifying desert journeys, and a determined lawman, but all of those genre tropes are complicated by issues of race and gender. Even the most despicable characters have moments where you pity or empathize with them, and yet you’re left bereft at how little the state of the world has actually changed.

http://www.imdb.com/videoembed/vi1627371545

#30before30

me in front of the bean in Chicago

One of my co-workers informed me yesterday, during my birthday lunch, that during the last year of a decade, rates of marital affairs, suicide, and fitness go up significantly. As depressing as two of those three statistics are, it makes sense. There’s something about the end of an era that makes a person retrospective. They think about their life differently and consider where they thought they would be in their lives. Sometimes seeing how different life is from what you’d imagined leads to a sense of defeat or a desperate cry for validation, and sometimes it drives you to work toward goals that have laid dormant.

In order to focus the next 12 months on the desire to live a full life, I’ve compiled a list of 30 things I would like to accomplish before I turn 30.

Become

  • Become a better listener
  • Become more involved in my community
  • Become more at peace with who I am and where my life is going

Learn

  • Get an MBA
  • Take Hebrew lessons
  • Read the New Revised Standard Version of the Old Testament
  • Read a big, intimidating, classic novel
  • Make tortillas from scratch
  • Make sushi
  • Take a class on coding or graphic design or photography
  • Find more of my ancestors
  • Try skiing or snowboarding
  • Try snowshoeing
  • Learn how to change a tire
  • Learn to change the oil in a car

See

  • See the Grand Canyon
  • Visit Arches
  • Hike in Zion National Park
  • Travel to where my grandmother grew up in Denmark
  • See New York City at Christmas time

Create

  • Blog regularly
  • Get something published
  • Write a first draft of a book
  • Start singing again
  • Be a part of a creative project i.e. podcast, vlog, etc.
  • Give a TED-like Talk

Enjoy

  • Go to a movie at Sundance
  • Go to 12 museums
  • Re-read the entire Harry Potter series
  • Do more yoga

Aunthood

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There’s a baby photo on my phone’s home screen that wasn’t there a week ago. On Tuesday, August 1st, my brother and his wife became parents for the first time, and I became an aunt. For the first time in my adult life there’s a baby in my family–a new little human we’re responsible for.

I got to spend the weekend cooing over his sleeping form and holding him until my arms ached. It’s amazing how a baby can be a catalyst to make you rethink everything. What you’re eating, what you’re talking about, what you spend your time on, and what you prioritize.

Now this sweet little boy is the first thing I see every time I check the time. He is the backdrop to the breaking news alerts and new messages that pop up. He has flooded my photo library with pictures of every facial expression he has made in his short life.

It’s amazing what a child’s presence can have. Somehow the context of a newborn helps me see the world in a new light, one that is precious and full of so much hope.

Growing Pains

I used to be so brave. It didn’t seem brave to make big life decisions and move forward with so much optimism and hope, but looking back at those moments now, they seem so bold and big. When do we loose that fearlessness and how can I get mine back?

I’m moving. After three years in this lovely little home, I’m saying goodbye. I remember getting offered the job on Friday and driving up to Salt Lake the next day to look for a place to live. Moving up with literally no friends and no furniture besides a bookshelf didn’t seem that crazy at the time. Me and my books in an empty apartment, listening to audio books while I cooked in the kitchen and sleeping in a sleeping bag on the ground. It was hard, but I was sure it was going to get less hard and I had no doubts that this was a good choice.

This time around, I’m so full of anxiety. So full of wounded vulnerability and fear. Will I like the next place, will my roommates like me, will I have friends, will I feel safe and happy?

Maybe that’s the key to this puzzle. The last three years have been really hard on me. I feel bad for saying that because I’ve been so blessed. I’ve met a lot of fabulous people, I’ve gotten to learn from leadership opportunities in the community, I’ve done most of a Master’s degree, and I’ve grown so much at work. I wouldn’t take any of those things back, but still… it all left me pretty tired and pretty broken.

Do you ever feel like you’re in a rut that you can’t get out of? You make progress. You find joy where you are. But it’s just not the same as before and you desperately want to get out? That’s where I’ve been for a while.

Although a move can’t solve my problems, I’m hopeful. I have hope that it will bring new experiences and a new start. That maybe it can be the catalyst for change and eventually peace I’ve been grasping at for the last couple of years.

Thoughts on Hidden Figures

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I went to see Hidden Figures last night. It was one of those inspiring, “I want to live my life better” movies. And I had a few thoughts I wanted to put down on the symbolic paper of my blog.

To me, the movie was a testament of what can happen when women support each other. I am in no way discounting the role that their husbands played, because they could not have done what they did without the support of their families, but ultimately it was a movie about women lifting and encouraging each other. Of not just looking out for themselves, but getting the colored women’s restroom sign removed for all the women, seeking to cross train the the west computing group so that they wouldn’t be out of a job when the IMB got up and running, and convincing Mary to not give up on engineering school even though she had to the petition the courts. Being a woman in a man’s world is intimidating and no one else quite understands it like other women, which is why we need each other.

It reminded me that sometimes you have to ask for, and even demand, more opportunities for growth. I like to think that I can keep my head down and work hard and that’s enough, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes people have never even thought about why you’re not invited to the briefing and they never will unless you convince them otherwise.

The film inspired me to be more confident. I was blown away by how confident the women were in their own abilities to literally get a man to space. I have no doubt that women are capable of being just as smart and talented as men in whatever field they choose, but sometimes, I don’t think that principle applies to me. I wish that every time I doubted my abilities I could channel Catherine when she meets her future husband and tells him off for underestimating what a woman can do.

It reminded me that societal rules sometimes exist to be broken. So much of the racism and sexism they faced was subtle. Their culture had built a system of societal norms designed to keep women, people of color, and others separate from the people with power. The choices people made that were often so hurtful were justified by a desire to keep the status quo. They only cared that she drank from the same coffee pot because their society had taught them that it mattered. Kirsten Dunst’s character didn’t feel like she was racist for never pushing for Dorothy’s promotion, but didn’t realize that it was built on the idea that we can pay women of color less for equal work.

But we can’t just keep the status quo. We have to look at all of our rules and norms, and sincerely ask ourselves why some of them exist. We have to read about them and see if people feel like they are being hurt by the norms (because those who are not negatively effected are usually oblivious to the damage they’re doing on others), and then we need to advocate and deliberately go counter to what our society would dictate.

Hidden Figures reminded me that I have so much privilege. I can relate to the challenges of a woman trying to succeed, but I have never had to deal with racism. I have never had to petition the courts to take classes. I have never worried when I was pulled over by the police. I have never been kicked out of the library because I wanted a book in another section. And so my response should be to listen and support those who do have to deal with the challenges of race. To be humble enough to not think that I am perfect of that I have all the answers. To be willing to make changes to my behavior and my beliefs when I realize that they’re wrong.

I loved that the film showed good people feeding into these flawed and destructive systems of oppression, and their ability to change. That it doesn’t always have to be us versus them, and racist America is evil… that although good people sometimes fall prey to following and defending the status quo, they don’t have to be destroyed to destroy the system. Even Catherine’s biggest critic on the task force, eventually became her ally. I can’t help but think that there are thousands if not millions of good people who fit into this category in America. It’s not fair that it takes time. I understand the desire to shake them and make them realize what they’re doing, but in my experience that doesn’t really work. I’m not sure what does yet, but I have hope in America. I have hope in good people who can change their minds, behavior, beliefs, and thoughts.

One of the highlights of the movie to me wasn’t even the movie. It was the little girl sitting right behind me. You see, at one point the protagonist, Catherine, grabs a cup of coffee from the communal coffee pot, putting the cup underneath the nozzle and pulling the lever to start filling, and then going back to her calculations while it fills. Everyone in the room stops to stare at her for the audacity of using their coffee pot.And the girl behind me, trying to understand why everyone’s so anxious in the scene, determined it’s because she’s not looking at the nozzle and her coffee is going to spill. That was her only logical explanation about why these men might be upset. And it struck me, we have sooooo far to go in regards to racism and equality in America, but the men and women of the Civil Rights Movement have moved the needle, because a little girl in Salt Lake City, UT had no idea why a white person would be upset that a person of color was drinking from the same coffee pot as them. It’s not everything. We shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back and say we’ve arrived at racial equality by any means, but still, I am so grateful for that little girl’s innocence.

More than anything, that was the reoccurring thought I had during the movie. I couldn’t wait to watch it with my children someday. To make sure that they know the hidden figures of history. To make sure it’s not just a story about John F. Kennedy and John Glenn, but it’s also a story about Catherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson.

As the credits started rolling, the audience clapped. I haven’t been in many films where the audience clapped, but it was difficult not to. As much as we all loved the film, I think most of us were clapping for these women. These incredible women who faced almost insurmountable obstacles and didn’t let it deter them. Who thought, “I want to be in the room where it happens, and you know what, I’m going to get there.” Who did amazing things because they dared to dream. Despite the difficult things I read on the news every day, it was a good reminder that humans are amazing creatures who have incredible potential and it reminded me not to give up hope.