California Says Coffee Should Come With a Cancer Warning

California says coffee should come with a cancer warning.

For reasons beyond the capacity of my knowledge (or patience to obtain said knowledge), a judge in California recently argued that, due to a certain chemical used in the process of filtering coffee, coffee should now yield similar warnings to that of cigarettes.

As a daily coffee drinker, this is crazy (and a little scary) to hear.

Depending on where you are in California, there is a decent chance that you may find yourself wandering into a Starbucks only to be bombarded by warnings that resemble that of a tobacco shop…words of caution for those who are seeking their daily caffeine boost that, if you do decide to indulge in this quick stimulant, you understand that you are assuming the risk of shortening your life.

I’m not arguing that coffee does or does not cause cancer. I do know that I will likely continue consuming my daily cup until someone other than a judge in California can prove to me that I will, in fact, die an early death solely from my coffee consumption.

I don’t know if coffee makes you die faster. But do you know what does make you die faster? Stress & anxiety.

Crippling depression.

Why don’t these come with cancer warnings? No, there probably isn’t solid proof that these things lead to cancer…that they shift the molecules in your body and create stress reactions that lead to the overproduction of malignant cells in your body that cause early death. But then again, there’s no solid proof that coffee does that, either. And that gets a label. Because it might. 

DSC_0209Heather McBride Photography

Maybe, just maybe, coffee could make you die sooner. But so does the mind-numbing fear of the hypochondriac when she’s told that something she thought was relatively harmless is actually slowly killing her, so she now fears each and every ache, pain, itch, and bump in her body. She rushes to the doctor only to be told that her lump, which she only could assume was the work of stage 4 cancer that she hadn’t realized she was living with (as a direct result of her Dunkin Donuts addiction) was actually just a pimple on her skin.

Good news. Except she was so sure she was dying, that she actually just spent the past two weeks having 4-5 panic attacks a day…destroying her digestive and nervous system to the point where she has to ease herself back into eating solid food. She really, truly thought this was the end. It’s part of her anxiety, hypochondria. But that doesn’t come with a cancer warning.

Or the depression that confines the sufferer to her bed with permanent dread filling her stomach in place of the food she hasn’t eaten in days. The parts of her malfunctioning brain that refuse to send distress signals to the body because it seems as though they’ve given up too. That doesn’t come with a cancer warning.

OR the daily 9-5 grind that work the body, mind, and soul into the ground. That doesn’t come with a cancer warning.

But coffee? High fructose corn syrup? Wheat bread? No way, Jose.

I’m not saying that we should ignore warnings (from reputable sources) that imply certain dangers in the foods that we eat. I believe wholeheartedly in caring for our bodies, and I do believe that we have a certain amount of control over whether we die early or not.

But this effort spans far beyond the confines of food.

We need to explore the physical dangers of hazardous thoughts, toxic life situations, and mental health. We need to address them. We need to give them the attention they deserve, because they’re killing more people in more ways than we know.

Maybe we can do that if we stop trying to cure cancer by eliminating foods.

-B

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Fear.

What. A. Winter.

I’ll be honest, when PA had those few 70-something days in the middle of February, I was naive enough to believe that I MIGHT be able to retire my winter coat early this year.

Mother nature thought that was hilarious.

Now that we’re facing our second nor’easter this week (rendering me home from work), I’ve decided to go ahead and attempt to free the things that drive me insane when I’m alone with my thoughts for this long – my fears. My greatest and biggest and deepest ones.

Now, fear is a complex topic. Everyone fears plenty of things and there are some common fears that most people actually share (i.e. losing loved ones, dying suddenly, etc.). And still, there are different fears that fall under a wider umbrella category forming sort of one big, gigantic fear that trickles down and causes these other little tiny ones.

I won’t address the generic, shared fears here (the ones that pretty much everyone has). Instead, I’ll list some of the categorical umbrella-fears along with the little things that fall underneath. And to make this a little therapeutic rather than traumatizing, I’ll also name some reasons why these are, in fact, just fears…not reality.

{note: this is not a comprehensive list.}

1. The Fear: Running Out of Money

Growing up, I’ve always had this weird anxiety about money. Although my parents would probably argue that I often didn’t understand the value of a dollar as a teenager, I truly always felt a sense of guilt whenever they needed to pay for anything for me that wasn’t absolutely essential. Dance lessons, dance costumes, money for class trips, and anything else that was pricey & non-essential caused me a great deal of stress over whether we would lose our home or have to get rid of our dog because the cost was just too much. And it would be all. My. Fault.

Though I can look back on this now with a decent amount of clarity, I still struggle with money fears today. Especially as a young adult, living on my own for the first time, paying bills, AND trying to plan a wedding places a mostly-silent-but-often-recurring anxiety that one day, Shane and I will literally just run out of money. Just like that. It’ll all disappear, and we’ll never have any again.

The Reality: Phew, that’s over. Now, the good part: there is no way that we will just suddenly “run out of money.” Seriously. A therapist once helped me come to this conclusion in a session where I was either worried about my own finances or that of my parents’, I can’t remember which; but either way, it’s just not going to happen that way. Shane and I are both tremendously hard working people with equally hard working and supportive families. For a couple of 23-year olds, we budget pretty well. We’re smart with what we have. We both recently received raises at our jobs for hard work and performance, and we’re determined to succeed and flourish anywhere we are placed. We’ve achieved a routine each month where we know which bills are being taken out of which paychecks, when we should grocery shop, how much we should set aside to save, and how we will go about handling wedding expenses over these next 5 months. Do people unfortunately find themselves in the position where they “run out of money?” Yes. And I’m not denying that it could happen to anyone, including us. But will it happen to us overnight because of ONE high heat bill ONE time? No. We won’t let it happen. Our families won’t let it happen. Everything always gets paid for. We will be okay.

2. The Fear: Rejection

I’m going to get very honest (honesty- that’s a fear I forgot to mention) here…I want people to like me. Like, really bad. Actually, I would probably go so far as to even say that I am desperate to have people like me. When I say that I fear rejection, I don’t just mean in the classic “I don’t like you like that” or “sorry, we just don’t think you’re right for the job” type way. I mean that when people meet me, I want people to think that I am just the coolest person. I want them to find me confident, smart, funny, unique, likable, and fierce. I NEED people to validate the things that I try so hard to portray when I really don’t feel it myself. I want people to react in ways that validate my own feelings toward myself, that boost my confidence and self-esteem, and make me feel that I am somehow worthy of living up to the identity that I have adopted. This is not okay. This is how my “umbrella-fear” of rejection has directly affected virtually every area of my life, including the chance to establish worth for myself.

The Reality: No one on Earth needs to give me validation for my identity when Christ himself formed me from the very seedling of my creation and decided then and there that I held tremendous worth. Point. Blank. Period. I know that seems like a cop-out for a more elaborate rationalization, but it’s the single most important truth that unmistakably proves this fear to be insignificant. Compared to the money thing, I still have a long way to go before I’m free from this one. However, I’m finding that as I grow deeper into adulthood, exploring what it means to be who I am is becoming more and more of a “me” thing and less of something that is gifted to me by others.

3. The Fear: Being By Myself

Notice how I didn’t say “being alone…” this is because “alone” and “by myself” are actually very different things. I view “being alone” as perpetual loneliness…I don’t fear that. I’m confident enough in my personal relationships to not fear the permanence of “being alone.” Again, what I fear is being by myself. Kind of like I am right now.

Anxiety and depression affect everyone differently; some prefer to be alone due to  social anxiety, and others tend to find comfort in the presence of others. Not only do I identify with the second category, but I literally have a phobia of being by myself. The worst is when I’m home and Shane isn’t…whether he be at work, visiting his family in NH, or just out with the guys, being by myself is something that I try and avoid at ALL COSTS. Normally when the weather is clear and I find myself in this situation, I’ll get in my car and drive to Target. I won’t even buy anything, I’ll just walk around for hours JUST to be around people instead of being at home alone with my thoughts. That luxury wasn’t afforded to me today thanks to the winter storm, so I’m kind of forced to deal with my thoughts for a minute, which lead me to writing this post, which leads me to…

The Reality: I’m realizing more and more that being by myself for a little while is a gift, not something to be feared. I’m making the conscious decision to really start to value the time when I’m by myself and use it to re-center my mind and spirit. Instead of focusing on my anxieties during this time, I’ll pray, write, do yoga, take a bath…anything that I normally can’t do when surrounded by people, but that are so important to my mental and spiritual health. By making these little shifts in how I view “alone time,” I’m slowly beginning to reject this fear that once plagued me and held me back from so much opportunity to grow.

When I consider all of these things, I become more aware of the fact that “fears” are usually a reconstruction or dramatization of something we’ve thought up for ourselves. This isn’t to say that our fears are not unfounded…actually, they’re pretty much always conceived in SOME type of truth about our lives/past trauma that we’ve endured.

I think the key here is to stop viewing fears as things that are actually happening. Or about to happen. Or things that can even rationally happen at all.

What matters now is the reality that we are living in this moment: take the time to focus on the ways that you’ve been blessed, taken care of, and loved.

B. 

Who’s Wedding Is It Anyway?

Ugh. So many thoughts went into the mental blueprint of this post that I honestly don’t even know where to start (maybe this means I should be making ACTUAL blueprints for my writing instead of being so gosh darn impulsive…oh well).

I guess I’ll start by stating the obvious: planning a wedding is hard.

I know, SUCH a radical realization, right?? To be honest, my naive self didn’t completely understand why wedding planners made so much money before becoming engaged and planning it all myself (with my fiance’s help, of course!) Let’s just say I get it now.

I mean, there’s SO MUCH TO DO! Even when you’re having fun doing it, it’s still a lot to manage on top of having a full time job that requires most of your attention most of the time. If you’re indecisive (like me), or have a certain vision that doesn’t seem to be feasible, it can be downright ANXIETY INDUCING.

Let’s separate ourselves, though, from the unavoidable realities of wedding planning for a minute. Instead, let’s focus on the not-so-necessary aspects of the whole thing…the annoying little gnats that really have no place in your planning process but seem to buzz their way in there regardless, making things all the more stressful for you…the pressure to have a perfectly traditional-while-also-progressive, Pinterest-worthy wedding that definitely isn’t too basic, while also pleasing your Aunt Susan by making sure the music doesn’t get too raunchy and ensuring that you do everything humanely possible to get married in the EXACT same fashion as the rest of the women in your family had for the past 100 years (but, you know, don’t be TOO traditional because that’ll piss off your best friend from college who doesn’t even understand why you’re getting married in the first place). 

Okay, so that was a little (very) dramatic.

Let me clear the air by saying that not all of that bolded portion directly reflects me personally…I don’t have an Aunt Susan (I made the name up) and I don’t think any of my friends are questioning my decision to marry because anyone who knows me knows that I pretty much knew Shane was my husband from the first time we went on a double-date to a hipster pizza place in Berwyn together. Nope, that was simply an expression of my personal experiences with wedding planning pressure combined with that of some other brides I’ve known and heard from, all mixed together to form a nice bridezilla* and angst smoothie.

*[I hate the word bridezilla, btw. I think it’s sexist. And unfair. But that’s for another post.]

The point is, there are so many things that we, as brides, have had to worry about since, well, a pretty long time ago (I hesitate to say “since the beginning of time” because that’s a really loaded statement and I’m not trying to go there right now. Maybe Eve worried about tablecloths when she married Adam. Probably not. Either way, irrelevant). We’ve had to worry about guest lists and invitations and food and desserts and, well, tablecloths, forever. As long as people keep getting married, that’ll probably still be a thing.

BUT, Pinterest hasn’t always been around.

Instagram hasn’t always been around.

Bridal blogs haven’t always been around.

And opinionated guests? Well, I suppose they’ve been around a little longer than the internet, but they still don’t help.

And here, we find that we’ve come full circle to our “Who’s Wedding Is It Anyway?” tagline. On top of everything else that can potentially cause a bride distress, there’s mounting pressure in the present day to have your real wedding live up to the imaginary  ones that people paste together on Pinterest. Instagram wants to see a venue-turned-green garden with tea lights and flower crowns EVERYWHERE. Blogs and forums tell you what you absolutely must AND what you absolutely mustn’t do. Your friends tell you what *they* would like to see at your wedding. Some guests want to bring their kids, others don’t want kids anywhere near them at a wedding. Wedding websites tell you what you need to do to maintain “proper wedding etiquette.” And of course, your Aunt Susan wants to see you wear white, NOT ivory or blush. 

So, who’s wedding is it anyway?

YOURS. (duh)

If you want a “hipster wedding” have one. If you want a barefoot beach wedding where you jump into the ocean and ruin your dress right after your vows, do it. If you want your wedding to be a family affair, great! If you want to keep it adults-only, awesome. If you want to go traditional, woohoo! If you’d rather ditch tradition, ditch it.

If you have some kind of crazy wedding cocktail that’s part traditional, part non-traditional, part hipster, part Pinterest, part who-the-heck-knows-what, even better.

AND FINALLY, if you decide you wanna forget the whole thing altogether and elope, I hope your elopement day is FANTASTIC.

In the end, this wedding belongs to you and your life partner. Not Pinterest, not Instagram, not your friends, and definitely NOT your Aunt Susan.

A wedding’s purpose is to celebrate love.

Take ownership of this experience.

And do not let ANYONE steal your wedding planning joy.

B. 

*featured image by Heather McBride Photography

Zits Mean That I Am Alive

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I recently revealed via Instagram (@britwithane 😉 ) that during my anticipation of the new year, I had tremendous, well-meaning plans to write an entry about New Years Resolutions and how I think they’re ridiculous. I never wrote that post, and in the spirit of total honesty, it was 100% due to lack of motivation…and because my goal this year is to NOT  beat myself to a pulp over not meeting my own imaginary expectations, I’m not going to stress about it. The intention was there and the ideas were great, but they simply were never meant to come to fruition. And that’s O.K.

Instead, I’m going to write about zits.

Yes, zits. Pimples. Acne. Mounds of facial destruction. Whatever your preferred term, I think we can all agree that these unwanted guests are almost always, well, unwanted. 

Is it just me, or does it seem like zits almost ALWAYS arise when it’s LEAST convenient to have zits? I think we can all recall at least one situation in our lives that showcases this unfortunate reality: you wake up for a job interview, and three new “friends” have planted themselves square on your chin, nose, and forehead…red and swollen as can be. You wake up on the morning of the ONLY Saturday that you can dedicate to renewing your driver’s license, only to find that your face looks like the solar system, except not nearly as stellar. Or, worst of all, you show up at your job working with small, brutally honest children, and one points at your face and says “You got a boo boo?” (yikes)

Awesome. Now that I’ve taken you to that place (you’re welcome), I’m sure you can imagine my TOTAL FRUSTRATION when I woke up on the morning of a scheduled photo shoot with four or five very large, very visible pimples spread across my face, making an almost connect-the-dots-like picture of a moon (I’m serious, the very first thing I noticed was that if you came up to me with a marker and literally connected the dots on my face, you would have an almost perfect depiction of a crescent moon).

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve never really struggled with my skin…with the exception of my bumpy and oily middle school years, of course. Aside from that ~glorious~ rite of passage, my skin had always remained relatively clear and seemingly satisfied with my minimal routine of Aveeno Apricot facial scrub: once in the morning and once at night. So when my face broke out like this, on the morning of a photo shoot, nonetheless, I was devastated AND confused.

It was also a Sunday, so Shane and I made our way to church despite my internal desire to just stay home and tend to my poor face. I tried my best to cover it all up, but I still felt as though EVERYONE was marveling at the twisted crescent moon I was displaying on the most visible part of my body. It was rough. But then, I heard the message. And it spoke to me.

More honesty, ya’ll: I don’t remember much of the rest of the sermon. But what I do remember is the preacher at one point declaring that “the thing in your right hand is a lie. Essentially, this meant that whatever you hold “in your right hand” that holds you back + acts as a distraction from living loved in the way God desires for you is a lie. My lie, my distraction, the thing I was holding in my right hand, was my vanity. 

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t care about the way we present ourselves; I still love to play with makeup and wear cute things! I sincerely believe that having a style that is uniquely your own is truly a reflection of God in you, and everyone should be proud of that. It only becomes a distraction when we become so obsessed with our physical appearance that it acts as a detriment to how we see ourselves, how we interact, how we live, and how we love. That is what happened to me that morning. That was my wake-up call.

DSC_0174(HMCB Photography)

The second I noticed a minor impurity on my physical self, I shut down. I couldn’t hold a conversation with my own fiance, let alone the people at church or at the store. Heck, I hardly even wanted my cat looking at me. I was so obsessed with how I looked that I internalized every single glance that came my way. Every conversation that I found myself in, I retracted and felt myself directing my gaze to the floor. I felt as though I was ugly, undesirable, and a shell of my true self.

HOWEVER, once I began to let go of what was in my right hand (my obsession with my physical appearance), I was able to see more clearly that having zits was actually NOT a detriment: it made me HUMAN. It meant that I had skin and pores and natural oils that worked together and sometimes screwed up. It meant that my workouts (which have been more intense lately) have been causing my body to produce sweat, meaning I was getting stronger. It meant that my body was this great, natural, organic specimen that worked in insanely spectacular ways. I was suddenly reminded that I have a body that can literally produce LIFE. It can fight off certain disease. It can run. It can squat. It can stretch. It can swim. It can breathe. And sometimes, it can produce pimples.

It’s actually a little hilarious how quickly my brain spiraled into all these crazy-deep revelations about the wonders of the human body based solely on a few pimples in the shape of a crescent moon + a line from a sermon at church. And while I definitely was still less than happy about it, I did end up flourishing during my photo session so much more than I would have if I hadn’t heard that line, and if I hadn’t released what was in my right hand, and if my eyes hadn’t been opened to the incredible gift that is having a body that works by itself.

If you don’t think that I’m a total lunatic by now (trust me, I would TOTALLY understand if you did), hopefully that means that you’ve gained a slightly better perspective on yourself and your own insecurities. I don’t know what’s in your right hand, but if you’re in the habit of obsessing over looking flawless all the time, hopefully you can remember that to be flawed is to be alive, and to be alive is wondrous.

Love,

B

An Open Letter To The Woman Who Insulted My Face

(cover photo by HMCB Photography)

To the elderly woman in the hair salon who insulted my face:

You will most likely never read this because, without profiling too much, you seem like the type of elderly person who prefers to avoid the internet if you can help it (which is totally fine. Maybe more young people should consider doing that, honestly). However, your significantly younger home nurse may come across it one day, so I feel the need to tell you that I am not mad at you, nor do I view you as a mean old lady with no filter.

I’ll admit that while I’ve had some time to rationalize my thoughts, I did originally view you that way for pretty much the entire night after the incident that I’m about to describe. I was hurt, taken off guard, and completely insecure for the remainder of the evening. I couldn’t even bring myself to go to church that night, which everyone knows I actually love dearly.

I understand that you most likely didn’t mean any direct harm by what you said. I could tell from the second I walked in and saw you getting ready to leave that you had lived a long life, filled with experiences beyond my imagination, and that you have reached a point in your life where you now need a nurse to escort you to do simple tasks such as getting your hair done and going to the store. I don’t know if this was a hard adjustment for you or if you were okay with it. I just know that I DON’T know, and therefore I can’t sit here and try to come up with reasons why you said what you said. Maybe you just like telling it like you see it, and that’s also fine.

I can’t say for sure where you are mentally. I don’t know if you suffer from any form of Alzheimers or dementia, or if your mind is clear. All I know is that you are a person who has lived longer than I could probably hope, and therefore I have nothing but respect for the person you were and are now.

When you stopped on your way out the door to stare at my face, I thought the best thing to do would be to politely say “hi” and flash a smile of respect. I wasn’t expecting you to rant about how my face looked, and how you couldn’t believe “such a pretty girl” would make herself look “like that.”

During your rant, I was shocked. However, I wasn’t actually hurt by your comments on my nose ring (ugh, the amount of times I’ve heard THAT one is insurmountable), or how you thought my eyelashes looked fake and clumpy, or how my foundation wasn’t the right shade. I’m not a makeup expert and I openly own that my makeup most likely DID look like that. Oh well.

The part that made me unable to laugh the whole experience off was when you commented on my eyebrows. You thought I didn’t look natural because I had them filled in. You said you could tell I filled them in, and that I was taking away from my natural beauty. What you didn’t understand, and couldn’t possibly have understood, is that I have suffered from trichotillomania since before I can remember.

DSC_6142(photo: HMCB Photography)

I don’t know why the researchers decided to give this condition such a ridiculous name. I usually don’t even call it by it’s name when I tell people, because when I do, I’m usually confronted with “huh??” and believe it or not, that makes me feel even more abnormal than I already do. So on the rare occasion that I do mention it, I normally just tell people that I have a nervous habit where I pull at my eyebrows until they come out, and I’ve been obsessively doing this almost my entire life.

There are types of trich where sufferers actually pull out the hair on their head, leaving giant bald patches where their hair should be. I fully understand that, in the world of trich, I am one of the lucky ones. It is much easier to fake having eyebrows than it is to fake having a full head of hair, and my heart goes out to those friends because I know first hand how hard it is to stop, even though you know that it’s ruining you. Still, though I recognize that my form of trich isn’t nearly as severe as cases like that, it’s still difficult to get through life with no brows when “eyebrows on fleek” is trending.

I don’t know why I pull out my eyebrows. My mom says that she can remember me starting right around the time my parents went through their divorce, so it may potentially have been a response to that stress. I also suffer from depression, for which I have been both hospitalized and medicated, and my last therapist attributed it to that. I think it’s a little of both. Usually, trichotillomania isn’t an isolated mental illness, but rather a reaction to one that already exists. 

Either way, it sucks. I can understand how those who don’t suffer from trich wouldn’t be able to make sense of it…I can’t even make sense of it. I just know that I can’t stop, particularly when I’m in a high stress situation (which for me is an any-stress situation). The best thing I could compare it to is nail biting, which is much more common but is also a compulsive behavior that is difficult to stop.

So, ma’am, when you pointed out the unnaturalness of my filled-in brows, it cut me deep. Something I haven’t given much thought to since I started coming to terms with it came rushing back into my system like a tsunami. I know I suck at filling in my brows, because usually, there’s a natural line or arch for folks to follow when filling them in. For me, it’s significantly more difficult, because I HAVE NO NATURAL LINE as most of my eyebrow hairs are permanently gone and I have nothing left but slivers and sparse patches. So I do what I can.

I’m painfully aware of my bad brows. I always have been; except in middle school, Cara Delevingne hadn’t yet come on the scene promoting her full bush brows as a trend, so it was kind of acceptable to wax them into shoestrings to match the non-trich folks. Now, though, it’s a struggle. They say the first thing an interviewer looks at upon meeting you is your eyebrows. If that’s the case, I don’t know how I’m employed (I actually doubt that’s the case but I read that somewhere once).

Your nurse was extremely apologetic. I could tell she felt uncomfortable, but the look on her face and the words that came after told me that this wasn’t the first time you had done something like this. I pretended to laugh to make her feel better, and you both left.

I wanted to run home. I didn’t want to get my hair cut because that would mean the hairstylist would be painfully close to my terrible brows. I thought that people were probably always judging my brows, but that you were the first person to actually say something because you felt you had nothing to lose. I felt ugly, insecure, and disappointed in myself for not being able to get a grip. Instead of going home, though, I went to the stylists chair. I wasn’t about to waste my stylists’ time.

When I got in the car, I took out my pack of makeup wipes and scrubbed them off as hard as I could. Instead of going to church, which I had anticipated most of the day, I went to the Target to scour the aisles for something that could save my brows, because obviously what I was doing was making me look worse. I had a panic attack. I cried. It was all very dramatic.

Again, I know you didn’t know. And even if I was somehow able to tell you, you might not even understand. I’m not trying to be overly-sensitive…like I said, nothing else you commented on probably would have affected me as much had it not been for that ONE comment that played directly to a 20 year old insecurity. It was extremely painful.

“My goal is to one day grow them out enough to where I can leave my home without even touching them and feel confident in doing so. Maybe I should try doing that now. I’m not ashamed of my disorder, after all. And if you are a fellow trich sufferer, you don’t need to be ashamed either.”

I’m reminded now that the reason I tried straight across bangs in the first place was to make an attempt to hide my brows. However, I actually love my face with them now, and feel like I would keep them regardless. I’m reminded of how much I hate walking into Sephora or Ulta because those women and men know so much about makeup and would be able to tell that I struggle with my brows. But that ONE time that a girl in Ulta told me that I had a really nice complexion and really beautiful brows (it was one of my “good brow days”) it completely made my afternoon. I’m choosing now to focus on those things in an effort to increase my sense of self-acceptance.

I like to believe that I’m getting better at finding a good balance between filling in my eyebrows enough to hide my trich and making them too unnatural looking. Like I said, that’s hard to do when you don’t really have brows to begin with, but I’m learning what works and what doesn’t. My goal is to one day grow them out enough to where I can leave my home without even touching them and feel confident in doing so. Maybe I should try doing that now. I’m not ashamed of my disorder, after all. And if you are a fellow trich sufferer, you don’t need to be ashamed either.

This experience was so painful and embarrassing for me, but in a way, I’m glad. Like I said, I’m not upset with you. I respect you, and I’m glad that you have the opportunity to still do the things you’ve always done, like go and get your hair done. What you said struck a nerve for me, but it also prompted me to be more open about my trichotillomania and to write this post, which I can’t say I would’ve done otherwise.

I’ll change how I do my eyebrows and even try to stop pulling. I agree, they should look more natural.

The nose ring, however, is here to stay.

Sincerely,

B

 

On Charlottesville

It’s taken me a few days to process my thoughts on Charlottesville.

Aside from the more immediate sensations of anger, resentment, outrage and frustration, I also found myself confronted with the question of how to address this event publicly without doing any of the following: allowing my anger to take precedent over my professional responsibility (i.e. lashing out and being profane on social media), publishing an uneducated and/or arbitrary response, or bustling in with a hero mentality, thus silencing black voices in favor of my own.

Though I’ve allowed myself some time to organize my thoughts in what I feel is a semi-rational response, I may still do some of the above. While it ought not be justified, let me be the first to admit my imperfections.

I’m not going to waste time on a lengthy introduction explaining the events of Charlottesville this past weekend. While this harrowing example of domestic terrorism deserves every ounce of scrutiny and public disgust that it’s receiving, I don’t see the benefit of dragging everyone through the details of what can be considered the most deplorable betrayal of American values of 2017. Instead, I’ll summarize what everyone already knows to be true: the Alt-Right organized a rally fueled by hate, at least three innocent people died, and the President of the United States has fostered an environment where this is considered acceptable.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in History and studying it extensively has allowed me the privilege of seeing the world through what I believe to be a uniquely heuristic lens (this is meant to be taken at face-value: I don’t claim superiority over those who haven’t indulged in this discipline and I certainly don’t mean to come across as inconspicuous). It is incredibly difficult for me to bear witness to current events and isolate them to the 21st century. Likewise, as a teacher at a Northeast Philadelphia school where 98% of my students are black and brown, I find it equally as impossible to view most aspects of this country as being separate from the systemic racism that so explicitly runs every aspect of 21st century America.

The grace period that I’ve allowed myself between the events in Charlottesville and writing this post has allowed me to write in such a way that lessens the initial impact of my outrage, but don’t get it twisted: I am furious. I am furious that the Ku Klux Klan is being compared to the BLM movement, when BLM, by definition, exists to legitimize the lives of black and brown Americans, while the KKK seeks to delegitimize and further oppress those who are facing oppression. I am furious that my Facebook friends are supporting Nazism. I am furious that the All Lives Matter crowd is painfully silent now that three lives have been taken due to a protest instigated by the Alt-Right, and I am furious and disappointed that our President chose to address this tragic event by claiming that there are “multiple sides” responsible for this atrocity.

Let’s be clear: There are not multiple sides to Nazism.

You cannot be objective toward Nazism.

The introduction of free speech was not designed to allow for people to outwardly threaten to lives and existence of an entire group of individuals. White Supremacy is un-American, un-Christian, and a vile disrespect of the efforts put forth to put an end to the institution of racism. This is not up for debate. If this doesn’t make sense to you, I invite you to engage in a healthy conversation regarding topics such as what Black Lives Matter actually stands for, the history of oppression in America, differences between reactionary and progressive movements, etc. I will gladly engage in this dialogue with you.

Threaten or delegitimize the lives of the students and the families that I encounter, however, and I absolutely will not defend your “right” to free speech.

I will not debate the right of my black and brown students to live and thrive. Their existence is not a matter of politics or argumentation. There are not “multiple sides” to their right to exist, to excel, and to have their voices heard.

As time progresses and the social unrest plaguing this country continues to expand, I am becoming increasingly aware of the Lord’s motivation for planting me at Mastery Charter School. Now more than ever, black children need to be encouraged, empowered, and equipped with the tools necessary to face an institution designed to prevent them from succeeding; we, as an institution, have let these children down. I feel a sense of urgency this school year to encourage my students to acknowledge their potential, to demand justice, to embrace the power that they hold as black Americans.

I feel this urgency as a result of…

Charlottesville

Tamir Rice

Philando Castille

Eric Garner

Michael Brown

Ferguson

Sandra Bland

Heather Heyer

If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.

In the coming months, years, decades, I will continue to pray for this country. I will pray for the misguided, the oppressed, the silenced, the hurting, the martyrs. I will continue to proclaim that BLACK LIVES MATTER, and I will pray that I will remain angry, so as to never cease to remain an ally, to never be tempted into silence again.

B.

You Are Here

You are here, and that’s okay.

This has been my steady mantra for the past few weeks. Like most twenty-somethings, I’m finding that transitioning into adulthood isn’t always as seamless as our friends on Instagram make it seem, and that even during the times when I do feel like I’m killin’ it out there in the real world, it’s usually due to victories of minimal significance, such as “Wow, look at me, getting my cat medical insurance” and “YES, I made that phone call to AAA all by myself and DIDN’T HAVE A HEART ATTACK.” Yep, I’m a real big shot.

In light of all of the rapid changes happening in my life as well as the lives of my peers, (and after allowing myself to wallow in self-pity way too many times), I’ve finally allowed myself to be completely transparent with my own insecurities, labeling the core of my general unpleasantness as what it really is: discontent. The kind that is constant, never-ceasing, painful and callous: the kind of discontentment that can never be coerced into the opposite.

I can envision a map: the kind that is emblazoned with treacherous mountains, roaring rivers, and wide open plains, all hand-sketched with slightly choppy line work and, in parts, smeared from overuse. The map has also faded over time, and it’s corner is tainted by a water mark that got there from God-knows-where and originated from God-knows-what-beverage. There is no beginning, and there is no end. The only words that grace the surface of the map, in bright red and bold print, are the words YOU ARE HERE. 

When I was in high school, all I wanted to do was go away to college. The lure of quasi-independence, new faces, and a fresh start was mystifying. I lusted after the opportunity to live the full college experience. Once I did, I lusted after graduation. Full independence. Real life, with no papers or required reading.

Once I graduated from University, I wanted a career, or at least a job where I could climb my way up the ladder into what eventually could become a steady, fulfilling career. Once I found that career, I wanted a contract. With the contract, comes the constant yearning for a promotion. To excel beyond expectation. To expedite my journey to the top of the ladder (…at twenty two years old. I know, keep dreaming).

When I was single in college, I wanted a relationship. After a few failed attempts, I unwrapped God’s offering and found Shane. Now, I can’t wait to become engaged. It is likely that once I’m engaged, I’ll be itching to be a wife.

The trend continues. And try as we might, it’s so easy for us to get stuck in the quicksand of wanting the next best thing (the quicksand that the map fails to warn us of). We have a distorted understanding of the map: never does it say that there is an ultimate end that will bring us the happiness we crave. Nowhere does the map label a moment where we can finally say “this is it! I’ve done it.” There is no beginning, and there is no end. Only a solitary proclamation “You are Here.” Here. In this moment. Right now. And the contentment that you crave can be found here, where you are. It is not reliant on a single achievement or life event…our contentment is determined by our willingness to accept where we are, even if where we are is unpleasant.

I have friends who make more money than I do, and friends who make much less. I have friends who still live at home, and friends who’s apartments could swallow mine whole. I have friends who have 2k Instagram followers, and friends who have 100. For the first time in my adult life, I’m beginning to experience the freedom of letting go of the bitterness that comes with not having reached the highest possible level of achievement just yet, and embracing the ground that I find my feet planted on. Right now, that ground contains a broken car in the shop, a weak savings account, fatigue, relational strains, depression, and anxiety. 

However, my ground ALSO contains coworkers who are willing to drive me to and from work until my car gets fixed, a savings account that EXISTS, bills and rent that are always paid early, good friends to catch up with over coffee, a body that is strong and capable of exercise, and a life partner that goes above and beyond to make me feel worthy and valued. 

I am young, and life is a series of trial and error. Dreams and goals are healthy and lovely and good and have their place on the map. But for right now, I am choosing to embrace where I am.

Whether it’s with a flat tire, an empty fridge, a good friend or a good beer, I am here, and that’s okay. 

You are there, and that’s okay.

-B.