Posted in Growing Up, Home, Lessons

i remember the seasons

Iowa has been kind to me this year.

She’s a vicious sort of state. She knows no moderation.

It’s not just cold come winter. The humidity clings to every cell that dares to not be covered. Bone-chilling is far from an exaggeration as the rain invariably falls and freezes overnight, ensuring heart-stopping slick ground for the next six months. The snow rushes in as though it will never again have a chance to fall. It piles and piles from November to April, the ice storms capturing each layer in a clear memorial.

Spring is hardly better. There’s no such thing as a gentle spring rain to refresh the earth. Three days of downpour in a week, with each interspersed with miserable gray clouds threatening to release in a heartbeat. The thunderstorms are long and fearsome, downing power lines to prove their strength. The few days that the sun breaks through she shines furiously trying to convince the grass to release its winter brown and return to the vivid greens.

Summer. Oh, dear summer. Around 2 o’clock in the morning the heat finally breaks enough to sleep, even with the air conditioner wheezing along trying desperately to cool more than just the three feet directly in front of it. Don’t you dare bother showering before stepping outside. The beads of sweat – or is that simply the moisture in the air? – will coat you by the time you burn your hand on the car you foolishly parked in the driveway while you emptied your garage for the sale.

Autumn tries so hard to slip by unnoticed. Summer heat is occasionally pushed back by the too-chilled rains, a reminder that winter is closer than desired. For two glorious weeks in October, she’s the perfect season. The leaves burst into deep shades of reds and yellows and orange, contrasted brilliantly against the still-green grass covered in the dust from the harvest. At noon, the high sky shimmers in its deep blue, a light sweater warding off the slight chill on the breeze. And just like that, it’s gone.

And every. damn. moment. The wind. There is so much wind. It’s a miracle cars aren’t blown off the interstate every day.

I remember it. I remember these seasons. I grew up with the snow days, being trapped on my farm and building snow forts, climbing on drifts as high as the young evergreens in the front yard. I remember the worms all over the sidewalk, trying to escape the saturated lawns. I grew up with the tornado drills, and my hair always a knotty mess as the wind teased it. I grew up with far more sunburns than my pale skin should have ever been subjected to.

But Iowa has been generous to me this year. She’s been gentle in my return. She gave me a winter much like Colorado – the blizzards interspersed with remarkably tolerable days. The ice melted and turned the gravel into a slushy path rather than a slick one. She’s given me quiet days with a gentle breeze. She’s forced the sun to peek through the gray.

This wild, full-throttle state is holding her breath. She’s easing me into her arms again. She’s waiting for me. I’m gathering seeds, gloves, and trowels, preparing the earth for a butterfly garden for my mother. Touching the earth to bring joy to my mother and to honor my father. And Iowa waits for me, holding back her energy as I gather mine.

She’s been compassionate with a fragile soul, as much as she can while not losing her fire.

The Iowa of my childhood was a vicious sort of state who knew no moderation.

But Iowa has been kind to me this year.

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Posted in Changes, Family, Growing Up, Home, People, Stories

back in a small town

I was crossing the street to go into the office and a car beeped its horn at me. Instead of cringing from a catcall, I waved back at my childhood neighbor.

I never thought I’d be back in a small town.

I thrive on adventure. I want to eat sushi, try Ethiopian again, satisfy my curry craving. I want to leave work and be on an airplane two hours later, the wind carrying me halfway across the country to spend a weekend with a friend. I want a half hour drive to bring me to a cultural center for a festival or a theatrical performance. I want to disappear into a national park for days at a time or wake up at a trailhead hours before dawn in hopes of summitting a peak for the sunrise.

Instead, a half hour drive gets me to the closest McDonalds. I need to drive yet another 15 minutes to get to a town where there’s a Walmart. It’s a two hour drive to the nearest airport that will get me out of the midwest, at least three to get to one that has a breath’s chance of a direct flight abroad. I now live in a town where checks are accepted and often Visa is not. The library doesn’t allow you to renew or reserve books online. I may not have been catcalled, but there’s already been a marriage proposal.

And on Sunday morning? I walk down main street and hear my footsteps ricochet back at me. Not a store is open, even the coffee shop. A pizza joint will open for lunch, a gas station has a few tables out for the farmers to sip their dark roast. But surrounding the main square, there’s silence.

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It’s the same world I left when I was 17. It’s the same world I was born into. And while so much has allowed time to pass it by, time has a way of catching up.

Mom used to read to my sister and me. I’d strain to listen in the car as she turned to the back seat to transport our minds into the world of Little Women or the Castle In The Attic.

Now it’s my turn.

As the day winds down and we tuck away check books and tax forms, it’s my time to pull my mother’s mind away from the mounds of estate paperwork. It’s my turn to read The Princess Bride and Jacob, Have I Loved. Sometimes she falls asleep, and I later recap what she missed. Sometimes I only finish a few pages, as we interrupt the world in the chapter to discuss the world in which we live. We talk about Dad. We talk about our relationships with our sisters. We talk about the Cramer clan, and how much I take after that side of the family.

Mom used to take care of me when I got sick. She’d tuck me in and bring me sprite and toast.

Now it’s my turn.

I bring her bowls and water, I rummage through the cupboards to find the appropriate medicine. I worry over her and beg her to rearrange her doctor’s appointment so I can accompany her.

Mom homeschooled me for a few years, teaching me that early foundation of reading ‘riting and ‘rithmatic. She and my dad explained the way the world works.

Now it’s my turn.

I sit with her in estate meetings and phone calls with businesses, taking notes, interrupting when needed and afterward explain to her any concepts she didn’t understand.

My world of adventure came grinding to a halt on November 19. My fast-paced city life of stories and people and passport stamps intertwined with high end coffee has been put on a backshelf while I try to help my family rebuild. In this time, I fiercely defend my mother, my sister, living life in a small town and tracking the sun around our big red barn.

Here is where I grew up, here is where I fled in search of my tribe, the people who spoke my language. My heart wants to vagabond, to explore the world with fervor. But I have a deeper purpose these days.

My first tribe was here. My parents always took care of me, my community always cheered me on.

Now it’s my turn.

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Posted in Changes, Family, Growing Up, Home, Lessons, Love, Time, Wishes

simply

My blog is named “Simply Eliska”.

These days, it feels like nothing is quite so simple.

Several months ago, I told a friend Eliska represented my new identity after a very intense growing period, but that I felt like anything painful that I’d felt since I’d pushed beneath the surface to Allison. I then confided that it felt like Allison was becoming unburied, and I was going to have to deal with all that dolor at once.

Then my dad died.

Two weeks ago, I was moving away from Colorado. I called my dad to tell him I was at his sister’s place for the night. It was so brief, maybe 15 seconds. “Hi Dad. I’m safe. I’ll see you soon.”

Two hours later, he was gone.

My dad lived for 22,725 days. I was alive for 9458 of them.

People keep telling me that we’re handling his death well.

I don’t really know why.

Sometimes I’m sitting still and realize that tears are slipping beneath my chin, unbidden. Sometimes I’m laughing. Sometimes I feel nothing but absence. Sometimes I swear I hear Dad walking up the stairs.

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My Dad slipped from this earth without warning.

I’m at the first place I called home. And suddenly, I’m not “simply Eliska” anymore. There’s no one in this county who calls me by that name.

I’m not even “simply Allison” these days.

I’m a grieving daughter. I’m a sister. I’m part of 130 years of history on this farmstead. I’m pulling my family into the world I had crafted independently for myself – here, Mom, let me add you to my AAA. Here, everyone, let me put you on my cellphone plan instead. I’m the answer to “Where are you these days?” and one of the rare times where people are 100% genuine in asking “How are you doing?”

I am not a barista. I am not a nomad.

Not these days.

These days I’m the scribbler.

I scribble thank you notes. I scribble the dates and notes from meetings as we take note of how to settle the estate. I scribble text messages to friends who have gone through similar situations, asking, “Did you feel… Did you do… Why?” I scribbled my Dad’s eulogy. And now I scribble here. I scribble because right now, it feels like the only thing I actually know how to do. It feels like the only place that still makes sense. I scribble because in my words I can begin to process this new version of normal that I wasn’t prepared to enter.

There’s very little simple in my life right now.

I got into the tractor a few days ago, and when I turned it on, I heard music playing softly in the background. I turned it up.

Bright fields of joy
Dark nights awake in a stormy bed
I want to go with you, but I can’t follow

So keep to the old roads
Keep to the old roads
And you’ll find your way

I wept, as I listened to a song that felt like my Dad was reaching across eternity to talk to me one more time. I wept for all the conversations I wanted to have while I was home. I wept for all the things my Dad will never be a part of as my life continues forward, and all the things I wanted him to be there for. I wept for my Mom, that her other half who looked at her with such adoration and cared for her so gently, was gone. I wept. I weep.

I was so lucky.

I had a father for almost 26 years who loved his family, and whose kindness and intelligence spread throughout the community.

Yes.

I’m selfish.

I want my Dad back.

I want my parents to continue to live the American Dream.

I want to be a whole, complete family.

So today I scribble.

Today I write, and remember those 9000 days with my dad, and the stories of the years before I was born.

Life isn’t simple right now.

But I’m going to be simply Allison, the farmer’s daughter.

“Hi Dad. I’m safe. I’ll see you soon.”

 

 

Posted in Changes, Current Events, feminism, Growing Up, Lessons, NaNoWriMo, People, Time, Work

Activism: A Response

My original point in writing these blog posts was to stretch myself. I’ve learned a few things this week. The first and last three hundred words are the easiest, it’s the four hundred in between that have me dawdling and struggling. I don’t know how to not write from experience, even if that experience is second hand. And, to no surprise at all, writing is therapy for me.

I’ve always been an external processor. Whether it was talking to my mom at night before I went to bed, texting my best friend when something happened, writing in a diary, or ingesting far too much caffeine pondering the wonders of the universe during college, I need to say things out loud (or write them) to finally to put order to my thoughts.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing over the last thirty hours.

I sat in a coffee shop last night and found myself ugly crying in public as I wrote an email. The extent of the emotion was probably due to the fact I was running on three hours of sleep, but even this morning, well-rested, I welled up as I read the comments rampant across my social media.

It would probably be much healthier for me if I stepped away from the internet for a few days. But I can’t, because I feel like I have a job to do.

I feel like the next four years are going to be so much more on myself and my compatriots. Perhaps would should have realized the gravity of our individual influence long before this, but now we can take up our mantle.

I think about my Niblet. I think about my cousins. I think about the children starting elementary school.

I want you to grow up in a better world.

I want to teach you to not be afraid.

I want to teach you to be curious and full of wonder.

I want you to see someone who has a different skin color and to reach out and say, “Play with me?”

I want you to see two men or two women holding hands, and not think that it is shameful.

I want you to see a hijab or turban and want to ask questions, not alert security.

I want you to eat well and exercise, I want you to be healthy. But when you see someone who is skinnier than you or fatter than you, I want you to see their soul, not their body.

l want you to make eye contact with the homeless, and extend humanity to them.

I want you to listen to the words of the older generations and learn from them.

I want you to befriend the person who doesn’t speak your language, and use your actions to communicate. (Oh, dear Zuzka, even eight years later, I’m still grateful for your kindness when I arrived in a foreign country, lonely and afraid.)

I want you to not be afraid of different opinions, but to realize you can ask questions without changing your position.

I want you to open your eyes to the needs around you, to defend the defenseless. I want you to have your arms be a safe haven against abuse, against grief, against ignorance.

I want you to turn off your lights, to reuse your bags, to recycle your trash, to bike instead of drive.

I want you to donate your books, and to not shame those who cannot read.

As an adult, I want to do the same. I want to reach out to you in love. I want to donate my limited dollars to organizations in need. I want to 
be an advocate, a safe haven, a source of justice. I want to buy products from ethical, sustainable companies. I want to use my voice to reach out through the darkness, and my words to encourage and strengthen.

Do you remember that the Statue of Liberty is inscribed with a part of a poem?

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Dear America, let us remember this. Let us remember that it is our responsibility to teach our children. It is our community. It is our planet.

Study constitutional law. Study business law. Study economics. Ask questions.

This world can be an ugly place. This world can also be a beautiful one. 

It’s time to be an activist. It’s time to use your voice… and your dollars.

Peace. Love. Coffee.

Posted in Current Events, Growing Up, Lessons, NaNoWriMo, People, Wishes

Beauty and the Ballot

“That’s it!” I’ve seen friend after friend exclaim. “I’m not going to vote in this election. I can’t support either candidate!”

I get it, I do. Two of the most unpopular candidates in history are running for the highest office in the land. I understand your resentment, your confusion, the distaste and distrust. Heck, I unfollowed half a dozen of my Facebook friends because their incessant posting about both candidates had me riled up every time I was online. (I wish I would have done that ages ago – my stress level has dropped drastically in the last two weeks.)

This cycle has nearly doubled the amount of negative voters than were in the 2008 election – that is, voting against one candidate rather than for another. Everyone is angry and tired and in disbelief at the circus we’ve been dragged into. Both sides of the aisle are astounded that the other candidate is even vaguely considered viable. “She’s a liar! A security risk! The emails!” “He’s got paper-thin skin! A racist/sexist/every-ist! Tax returns!” “She’s too embedded in the system!” “He’s been bankrupt four times!”

So far, we’re on the same page, right?

I’m still going to vote. And you need to, too.

If you want to leave the presidential part of the ballot empty, feel free. I genuinely won’t fault you.

But…

You are given a big ballot. A ballot that includes Representatives, Senators, amendments, propositions, and local issues. It’s difficult to believe in such a heated election cycle with all the media attention focused on the top ticket level, but those down-ballot choices will make more of a difference in your every day life than the President.

The President will most definitely matter on an international stage, but unless s/he has the same party as the majority in Congress, doing anything domestically is going to be like pulling teeth. (A member of Congress has to introduce a bill, so whatever your candidate is promising, s/he still has to have allies in Congress that can push through opposition in both houses. Hence the desperate need for bipartisanship… and a realization that you can socially be on one side and fiscally on another, so even having a majority party doesn’t mean they’ll always support you.)

So it’s back to you, dear citizen. It’s time to remember to look local.

Vote down-ballot.

In Colorado, one of the issues that is near and dear to me is Prop 107 and 108. I’m an unaffiliated voter, which means that unless I change my party affiliation sixty days before the caucus, I am not allowed to participate. Millennials are more and more falling into this category: one that doesn’t identify completely with one party or another. In the state I’ve called home for two years, this means that unless I know which side I’m leaning more towards a full two months in advance, I’m not allowed to participate in selecting who will go on to the general election.

This year of all years should prove why that’s a headache to a humanist. Also, I’m from Iowa, where you can walk in the night of, register to vote at the door, and participate in the caucus. I was more than a little bitter that I didn’t realize this rule was different in Colorado until 7 weeks before the caucus here… a week too late to do anything.

Oh, and the other part is voting to change the Colorado caucus into a primary. Just FYI.

See what I mean, though? This is something that matters. To me. On the ground level. You know what else is on the Colorado ballot? A right-to-die amendment, like in Oregon. Renewing a tax that funds everything from the Denver Arts Museum to local theater troops. An adjustment to the requirements for amendments to the Colorado constitution. Introducing a first-in-the-nation single-payer healthcare system. Raising the minimum wage.

Oh, look. The state is attempting to put some pretty hot-button issues to the vote. Did you know about that? Are you really that upset at the political madness going on at the national level that you don’t want your voice to matter at the state level, which is going to affect you more immediately and intimately?

And there’s another thing:

You can be anti-Hillary. You can be anti-Trump. You can be pro-democracy.

Did you know that after only 5% of the popular vote, third parties are eligible for funds from the Federal Election Commission? Take a peek at these other parties, see if there’s one that you actually do agree with. Your vote could bring funds for 2020, and bring more parties into lower positions (even the mayor of your own town!) simply by bringing attention to the fact that they are there.

Now, I’m of the personal opinion that we need two drastic changes to our election process. I think we need to tweak the electoral college, and I would adore introducing ranked voting.

Ranked voting would allow for voters to escape the “lesser of two evil” conundrum we find ourselves in every election. Yes, it would cost more money to implement ballot counters to read these results, but in the end, you can vote in good conscience for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein and not feel that a vote for someone you like is actually a vote for the Republican or Democrat that you hate. It would make it more likely that someday a third party could take the position of Commander-in-Chief.

Since that isn’t likely to be implemented anytime in the near future, my other plea is for the Electoral College to have one slight adjustment. Again, I’m from Iowa: a state with a relatively small population. The Electoral College is something that makes sense to me, because it forces presidential candidates to care about my state after they’ve won our first-in-the-nation caucus. What I hate about it is the “winner-take-all” requirement of all but two states. Remember how Al Gore won the popular vote and lost the election in 2000? That’s why. Maine and Nebraska are much closer to accuracy, although allocating by congressional district still allows for gerrymandering. Proportional allocation though? To both have the winner of the election accurately reflect the will of the people and give the smaller states a voice? What a wild concept! (Forgive the sarcasm… it’s been a draining year.)

I’m not going to deny that this is by far my most involved election cycle, watching every debate and actively seeking out economists and political scientists and people smarter than me to give me their viewpoints.

But as I look around at my compatriots, I think the reason why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders soared to the forefront of media attention is exactly what the rumors stated: we’re tired of the same-ole, same-ole. We’re a generation of communication, of the internet, of the ability to have answers at our fingertips while still choosing to remain locked into Facebook’s algorithms of feeding us more of the same until we live in an echo chamber. We’re bored of being told that how it has always been is how it must always be.

We’re tired of the establishment. So let’s make a change, even if that means that we vote for a future a bit further away than January, and a result a bit closer to home than Washington.

 

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Growing Up, Languages, People, Snapshot, Stories, The Barista, Time, Travel, Wishes, Work

Soul Wide Awake

I know you don’t mean to insult me when you call it a vacation. But I don’t think you realize how wrong that word is.

A vacation is an escape from reality – relaxation, scheduled time to recharge. A vacation has hotels booked, tours planned, beaches chosen.

This is not a vacation.

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I am not escaping from reality – I’m finding it. My soul, at rest in the world of money and responsibilities, stretches and swells here. It fits my body perfectly instead of wearing my skin like a hand-me-down coat: not uncomfortable, but ill-fitting and not my style.

My plans are but a vague outline, often changing on a whim as a passerby says, “We’re going here, want to come?” I stay in a 12-bunk dorm, forgoing privacy and pray the locks hold on the cabinet where I’ve stashed my passport. I dine on street food and cook pasta leftover from a long departed traveler – that is, if the whirlwind of the day reminds me to eat at all.

I wear blisters on my feet with pride as my legs ache from getting lost all day in an unfamiliar city. I sneak into quiet streets to consult my map and compass as to not draw attention to my foreigner status, and curse my body’s need for sleep.

I listen to the cadence of a new language swirl around me and stare at signs, struggling to decipher their meaning. I cringe in shame when a hostel worker or airline employee glances at my American passport and immediately switches to English for my benefit.

You think this is a vacation?

No.

This is travel.

For now, I become she who has been hidden since my last journey into the unknown.

I become she who feels more intensely, sees in brighter colors, and smells the universe each morning. I live with abandon and belong exactly where I am.

I am she who is confident, beautiful, fearless, strong, and fierce. I am she who is curious, radiant, defiant, wild, laughing, and free. I am she who holds her arms open to the world and says, “Here I am! Give me the best you have!”

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My soul is wide awake, and every moment is a precious gift.

And then I return.

Back to the world of routine. Of bills and schedules and putting gas in my car. Of small talk and appointments and wearing a path in the sidewalk I tread each day.

In the traditional world, a groove becomes a rut, and I soon look up from the bottom with fear and trepidation building.

“I can’t leave this,” I tell myself. “I’m too afraid. This isn’t fun, but it’s comfortable. This isn’t right, but at least I know where I’m sleeping and how to get around. I’m afraid to go again. I should stay where it’s safe.”

But that tiny spark that can’t be put out whispers to me, “You must go.”

You think I’m going on vacation?

No.

This is breathing.

This is living the best version of me.

This is seeing my soul wide awake.

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Posted in Dating, Growing Up, Lessons, Love, People, Wishes

To the girl who will replace me

I wish that I could say that I was above the pettiness of social media stalking.

But I’m not.

I casually spotted, then intentionally searched. And I had a few thoughts.

I don’t know if you even know it yet.

But I think you will be The One.

The One for Him.

I see the same characteristics, how you’re a blend of features of myself and his other serious ex.

You’re his type.

I see what you study, what your few public pictures show. And I can tell that your interests align with his even more closely than mine did. That conversation with him won’t be a teaching moment, but something of excitement as you weave through a world you both adore.

A part of me wants to hate you. Selfishly wants him to always love me from afar, even though we should never be together again. I want him to always ache for the fact that he screwed up, to feel guilty because it was his fault that our relationship ended.

But mostly, I’m just watching.

I want to tell you how to understand his mood swings. I want to compare stories with you about his quirks and favorites. I want to gush over his son with you.

Even more, though…

I want to know that he’ll take care of you. That he learned from his mistakes. That you will have a partnership. That he’ll love you, and for once, he’ll move you up on the priority list. I want you to be cherished, to be treated with dignity.

I don’t know you from Eve. But, dear girl who will replace me, my fingers are crossed for you. That the boy I loved will turn into the man who loves you.

You’re beautiful. He’ll tell you that.

But always remember – you’re worth it, too.

Posted in Growing Up, Lessons, Love, People, Wishes

think about it

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and surprise, surprise, it got me thinking again.

Margaret Brown ran for public office – including the Senate – three times before women even had the right to vote. Yet what is “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” known for? Not dying on April 15, 1912.

When a male friend asked me about my opinions on the objectification of women through exotic dancing, the conversation quickly delved into rape. When I asked him what he did to protect himself from sexual assault as a man, he was flabbergasted. “Well, nothing! I don’t think about it!” Therein lay my point: as a woman, even a fearless one, it’s a part of my daily life. Women are coached how to not be raped. Men have no such commentary woven throughout their teen and young adult years. Another male friend genuinely suggested that I wear a fake wedding ring so that my desire to remain single and lack of desire to sleep around would be respected.

I don’t really remember when the transition happened, when feminism stopped being a dirty word. But I do know that it’s permeated through my life much more in the last couple of years. Funny, right? That a straight, white, hipster, cis, middle class female would care? After all, I haven’t faced much sexism. I haven’t faced much discrimination. But that’s half the problem. My life has been relatively easy and I’ve still had to intentionally walk the wrong way because I was being followed and harassed at the grocery store a block away from my home.

So how must it be for my friends – and complete strangers! – who don’t fall in such a generic category? For women who wear the hijab in Texas. For a transgendered person in small town Iowa. For gamer and programmer girls. For a Mexican traveling the globe on his motorcycle. For the homeless family that slips through the cracks.

These are people. Racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnocentrism, and peniaphobia hurts real people whose lives and stories are just as important as yours.

That’s what feminism means to me.  That there are people out there who matter simply because they exist, not because they have anything to offer me. That equality should spread beyond history. It kills me to read news stories of onlookers cheering as a migrant dorm burns, of cutting the funding to Planned Parenthood when for many women it’s the only access to healthcare they have, of protesters deciding that ‘all lives matter’ so the BLM movement needs to be shut down.

Feminists of 2016, if they only thing you are willing to speak up for is the closing of the white wage gap, you’re missing the point. Especially as a white woman, I’m in a position of power to say something, to do something.

And you know what? That’s pretty freaking awesome. I love being able to hop online and shoot a message to a friend who politically sits across the aisle and ask questions of each other. I love being able to have the right to vote, the right to use my social circle and wallet to make a statement, the right to stand up and say what I believe in.

I’m a woman who will be able to celebrate one hundred years of suffrage in America. I can wear my hair short and dress as I please, I wasn’t forced to marry young, nor am I bound by an expectation to have children. Feminism in 2016 looks very different because the women of the past have already fought hard battles. But the war isn’t over. Recent studies show that at current rates it will be 2133 before we have worldwide gender equality. Messy, no?

Hey women, hey men. It’s your call. It’s your world. It’s your turn. We’re of an age where we can take up the mantle and fight for equality. I was born into a position of privilege – while I have worked hard, I did not get where I am because of sheer determination. I was dealt a good hand. Now it’s my turn to fight for others to have access to those same things I took for granted: a roof over my head, food on the table, transportation, an education, not being afraid that someone will attack me for the color of my skin.

That’s why I’m a feminist. Are you?

 

 

Posted in Growing Up, Lessons, Musing, People, Snapshot, The Barista, Time, Travel

impostor syndrome

At twenty-five, I’m starting to see my peers as adults.

We’re no longer floundering around, renting our first apartments, burning our first meals, ignoring the squeals on our brakes until our cars are unable to stop.

We’re looking for a place that suits us and our budget instead of one or the other.

We’re developing spice racks – and have a few key dishes we can whip out for guests.

We regularly change our oil and cheer when our insurance rates go down.

We have a logical, thoughtful exchanges that I’m far more accustomed to having with people 3-5 years older than me, and later find out my conversation partner is a few months younger.

I look around in astonishment and realize that without my consent, I’ve grown up. I have conversations about retirement accounts and the practicality of millennials being willing or able to leave the workforce. I track my expenses and have a budget. I have a shiny university degree that says I show up and do my work. I keep being put into positions of authority where I hire and train and manage people and places.

By all external manifestations, I’m an adult.

And I feel like I’m an utter impostor.

This isn’t one of those “Adults shouldn’t have to grow up! Be a child! Have fun! Enjoy life!”

I’m a traveler. I absolutely adore life.

It is the responsibility aspect.

I get surprised when someone comments that I’m doing really well at something, or call me a sweet person. I’m just floating through life, doing what I think I should be doing. I don’t feel like anything I do is exceptional – it simply is what it is.

I sometimes feel like I intentionally stopped at 19, but my body continued without me. Hence I feel like an impostor. The only time I get carded anymore is when I’m with a beardless man (which in and of itself is a little insulting – I mean, yes, I’m plenty old enough to buy this drink, but really? I don’t look 30 yet!).

I was talking to some friends about this situation the other day, and we bemoaned wishing we were still 19. Back then, we had no money but somehow everything just worked. We had all the adventures, all the magic, and being poor was more fun than stressful. We didn’t sleep but had energy, we didn’t eat well but it didn’t affect us.

Now, just a few years later… it all falls apart. We get home from work and are too tired to do anything. We manage to socialize once a week or so, but after a few hours happily escape to our beds. Money means something, and the lack of it is scary. We thank our lucky stars that we don’t have children to throw into this mess of life, being responsible for a tiny creature when we can hardly afford to clothe ourselves. (Oh, yes, living in an expensive city because we love it and want to work at something we love has its disadvantages.)

We’re impostors. We feel like we don’t belong here – and yet somehow, we’re told that we do. Others look at the beautiful final reel instead of the raw footage and think somehow we have it figured out. Somehow, someone, somewhere, decided that we deserve the title of being an adult.

I may not believe it.

I may get confused when people assign it to me.

But somehow, it’s mine. And if that’s the case, I need to claim it, redefine it, make it fit me rather than the other way around. I need to be comfortable with it, greet it like a friend rather than a person I need to impress.

It’s a dangerous thing, this impostor syndrome.

I met a delightful stranger the other day. Very rarely do people answer the question, “How are you?” genuinely. But she did. She looked at me sadly and said, “I’m wrestling with the wolves, trying to decide which one to feed. So I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico for tonight.” To my surprise, I saw her two days later. “Wait,” I exclaimed. “Why aren’t you in Mexico?!” Her eyes twinkled, and I could see the relief that had been absent before. “I moved to Boulder instead. The universe reorganized itself – I’ve never wanted to live there! But things just… worked. So I moved instead of leaving.”

I don’t know if I’ll ever run into this young woman again. But she has it figured out. She allows herself to get lost and find herself again. That genuine response to reality was confusing and beautiful all at once. She embraced the uncertainty, and in doing so, staked her claim on who she wanted to be.

So today, I sit here sipping coffee and dreaming. I may feel like an impostor, but I’m going to find me.

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Posted in Backyard Tourism, Beer, Current Events, Growing Up, Home, Musing, Stories, Time, Travel

the millennial experience

I am a millennial.

 

I am the border of two realities, nostalgic for a childhood from a quickly bygone era.

I own a smart phone, but remember spending hours curling the cord of my parents’ landline around my fingers while talking behind a closed door.

I can access data in my pocket, but remember when my dad got our first computer and hearing the sounds of dial up internet.

 

I share photos instantly, but remember going to the pharmacy to develop film and how angry my mom got that I wasted some of those negatives on pictures of clouds.

 

They once thought the future would be all about transportation.

Hoverboards and flying cars, jet packs and teleportation. But instead, we became the generation of communication. I wake up to a Facebook message from my friend in Slovakia and can shoot a text to one in South Korea. I can Skype for free with someone in Brazil, and read an email from someone in Morocco.

 

Computers which once took up an entire room now sit on our wrist and we can talk to our watch to keep up with the world.

 

Global travel is no longer exotic and unpredictable, but easily replicated because the stories and photos don’t hide in our memories and sock drawers but are shared with the world in real time.

 

Hobbies are at our fingertips. Instead of spending hours pouring over a book in a library, I simply google “how to” and play until I get bored. Need to make friends with similar interests? There’s a MeetUp for that. Need to see a new city but don’t want to be in a hotel? No biggie: AirBnB and Couchsurfing have you covered!

We strove so hard to be different, and in that way we all became the same.

I drink wine with my best friends and visit breweries with strangers.

I drink my direct-trade coffee black and have never bought cable.

I buy my clothing in thrift stores (before Macklemore made it cool) and love getting produce from the farmer’s market.

I live with roommates so I can afford to live in a big city, and most of my friends aren’t yet married.

I change my profile picture to support a cause, and donate ten bucks to another I deem worthy of my measly income.

I laugh, I cry, I argue, I make peace. I talk to a therapist, and vent to my friends. I move away from home and build a network to serve as a surrogate family when the days get too long and the nights get too lonely.

I ask questions and argue politics, I question the status quo and argue for a truth I’ve discovered.

 

No, I’m not any different than you.

 

I’m a middle class white girl with first world problems, but sometimes through the gentrification can see the real world issues. I strive to meet people who challenge me and my beliefs, and find myself hurting as a way to feel alive.

 

Is that the point of being a millennial? Generations before us made the way so smooth that we have to roughen the course to not become one of a million faces?

 

Merry Christmas, everybody.
And I drew the line at wasting away or waiting to be saved.