My Favorite Story

Okay, so it’s not my favorite story. That, dear readers, may come at another time…when I figure out what it is. But this? This is one of them. It’s nothing huge. Some of you may even have heard me tell it before, but it just makes me happy and every once and awhile it needs to be re-told.

We truly do live in a small world. Case in point; a guy I dated for a hot minute toward the end of college, G, ended up being a RA in one of the dorms with a guy from my high school, M. (Now, for a little back story; M is younger than me. We knew each other through the Speech and Drama programs at school, but then again, our school was TINY, so it’s not like we wouldn’t have at least known of each other. Anywho, M was a cute kid, loved him to death and was in a few plays with him, but after high school our friendship was that of occasional Facebook ‘happy birthday’ messages.) As they were talking during their RA training it came up that M was from my high school, so of course G asked if he knew me. M said that he not only knew me, but I changed his life. Say whaaaaa??? I thought to myself as G was later relaying this story to me. How could my casual friendship from, ohhh, five years ago, have changed someone’s life? Pretty easily, it seems. M told G that he really liked doing drama in high school but knew there was no way he could pursue it after that. It was a mix of his parents not supporting it and not feeling like he was good enough to ever go anywhere with it. When G was telling me this a vivid scene came right back to me. It was my senior year and I was chatting with some fellow drama geeks about plans for the future when M said almost those exact words and I replied,  “If it’s something that makes you happy though, find a way to go for it. It will be worth it.” And that? That changed his life.

Alright, so even though he used the words “changed his life” I know it’s a bit of an exaggeration. I gave the kid some advice, and he took it. Since then he’s found all sorts of things he loves, even took drama classes in college, and is basically just going for it. I just happened to come along at the right time and say the right thing. And this isn’t even one of my favorite stories because I’m the person who said it to him (okay, maybe it partly is. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be referred to as a person who helped shaped someone’s life?!), it’s one of my favorites because it makes me believe even more that you never know when you will make a difference to someone, in ways large or small. It’s just like my angsty-girl soul sister Angela Chase said in one of her many voice overs in My So-Called Life, “Sometimes someone says something really small and it just fits into this empty place in your heart.”


Stop the Hate. Congratulate.

While perusing one of my favorite gossip sites, I came across a link to this article. I won’t post it here, because, honestly, I don’t think it deserves being mentioned anymore. Never had I heard of this site before. I assumed there are sites out there like this, because, as a society, we are extremely rigid on the idea of beauty, and, let’s face it, people can really be mean. Reading just one article on this disgusting blog, just one, had me livid for most of the day. Even now, a day later, I’m seething thinking about the young girls who will read this blog, think A) you MUST be a certain size to be beautiful and B) it is okay to rip a woman apart for not being that certain size.

Seriously, seething.

I think about my niece, I think about my cousin’s young daughters, hell, I think about myself 15 years ago, and know how hard it is being force fed and idea of beauty. Women, and yes, even men, are literally killing themselves every year to meet these standards because, no matter how subtle, there is definitely a bad vibe being put out in our society and it is this: if you don’t meet society’s “norm,” you are not worthy.

I have struggled with self esteem issues my whole life. I look back at teenage me and can see that I’ve grown. I’m more accepting of who I am now, but I’m still not 100% there. But, I can pinpoint some pretty specific reasons as to why I’ve always struggled with this, and sure enough, most of them come from the media.

Even as a child watching Disney fairytales I was treated to the beautiful princesses, or the ugly ducklings that are secretly beautiful swans. The ugly duckling story is my favorite, and it isn’t just in fairytales. I can’t count how many movies, shows, books, whatever, I consumed growing up that had a heroine that was, well, less than. Less than everyone else in some form. But, as soon as the makeover occurs good things happen for her, usually ultimately ending in her finding love. Hooray! You’ve become physically acceptable to the masses, now here’s your reward!

Well, as I started going through my awkward pre-teen years, my makeover never happened. I was at an awkward weight, had awkward hair, had awkward skin, and good lord, did I have awkward clothes, so I began to feel convinced nothing good would ever happen for me. I wasn’t “beautiful,” so I wasn’t worthy. I can remember months upon months around 7th and 8th grade where I would be so severe with my food intake, because God forbid I not look like the girl on the cover of Seventeen, that I would just lay in bed crying because I felt so sick and so sad. I rarely talk about that time in my life because I used to feel so ashamed and embarrassed that I had to do that to myself. But now? Now I’m just angry.

I’m angry just typing this. I’m angry I ever bought into it. I’m angry there are still people out there feeding into this so that more young kids will be buying into this as well. Most of all I’m angry there is no quick fix. Magazines won’t suddenly start showing models of all sizes. Movies won’t suddenly start featuring size 12 women who don’t go on crazy diets and transform before they find their happiness. Snarky assholes on the internet won’t stop writing about how Model A is a “fat pig” and Actress B should be “put on a fat farm” (actual words from the website). And more than anything, people who are struggling with their own self esteem likely won’t stop putting other people down in order to feel a little better about themselves. I will be the first to admit, I know I’ve been guilty of doing it, especially to other women. And, I know this isn’t a quick fix, or will even make a big change in the grand scheme of things, but this is what I’m going to do…

I’m done putting down other women because of how they look (but, don’t get me wrong, if they have asshole personalities, it’s likely I still may make a comment on that because there’s nothing cool about being an asshole). If I hear other women putting down another woman, I’m going to say something about it (like, “Stop being an asshole.”). And the next time someone makes a negative comment about my appearance, (because, yes, at almost 30, this still happens. It doesn’t just happen in middle school and high school. Grown women {and men} are still making comments like “That dress looks a little tight on you, you going a little heavy on the ice cream lately?”) I will stand up for myself and say “STOP BEING AN ASSHOLE! My body is not perfect, I still have awkward hair days, awkward skin days and awkward clothes days, but I’m trying to be happy with myself, so stop the hate and congratulate…ASSHOLE. “

What Will I Be When I Grow Up?

To provide an update to my last blog to my thousands (or two) readers…                    
Most of my friends whom I brought the ‘is this or is this not a date’ conundrum to informed me that last Friday night would indeed be a date. I remained steadfast in my opinion that it would not be. Well readers, you are about to see something very rarely conceded by me…I was wrong. They were right. I shan’t go into the gory details, but, even if the night started off in Friendshipville, it was clear to even boneheaded me that by night’s end, we had relocated to Date City. Date City is not where I’m looking to permanently relocate to with this particular person, but that’s not to say I didn’t have a good enough time. The drinks and conversation were all nice and light and free flowing. We sampled beers and wines and discussed common places we loved from our college town and our favorite movies and sports teams. It was all fun enough. Until I was hit with this question…

“So, if you aren’t in love with your job, what is it you are in love with? What is it you really want to do?”

Whoa, buddy. What happened to the nice and light?! Needless to say, I was stumped. I had no clear answer. After hemming and hawing for a few minutes, I came up with this gem in reply;

“I guess I just want to do something that makes a difference.”

Well, slap me with the cliché award of the year! Who doesn’t want to make a difference? Who wants to work their life away only to be forgotten because absolutely nothing they did made any difference? Likely no one. While it is true; I really do want to make some sort of difference, make my mark on the world, I seem to have done little to accomplish this in my six years in the real, professional, working world. I could attribute this to laziness or being bogged down by The Man and needing to focus all making-a-difference-in-the-world time on working-9-to-5-to-keep-the-bills-paid, I think it mainly boils down to this…I have career ADD. How can I get started on making a difference if I can’t figure out what the fuck I want to make a difference doing?

I think I was about four when I had my first big career dream: Movie star.                         
I know, I know, what girl doesn’t grow up wanting to be a movie star? But, my movie stardom goals went a little deeper than the typical ‘I want to be beautiful and famous’. I wanted to act. Like really act. I wanted to be in dramas and invoke tears from movie goers and win awards and thank my mother for passing on her acting talents. I wanted to go to Julliard and get my start in indie films then do major blockbusters then renew my street cred by doing gritty indie flicks again (yes, I had a very vivid imagination at four). I would make a difference by donating boat loads of cash to inner city school’s arts programs. Girls of all ages would look up to me for trading on my skills and not just my looks, for defying Hollywood’s ridiculous standards of beauty (Botox? I pity the OnabotulinumtoxinA-fool!).

This dream stayed alive and well for quite sometime. It was fueled by acting classes, dance classes, singing in the school choir, anything to let my inner superstar shine. But slowly it morphed, as ideas are prone to do. First it was to be a Broadway star, singing and dancing my heart away every night. I imagined the opening nights, the matinees, the standing O’s. I imagined music teachers bringing their kids in to see my shows and them being inspired to pursue their own musical dreams. Eventually this dream too shifted. While I loved the idea of being in New York and living out all my Broadway visions, I began having other New York dreams. More specifically the “Live from New York!” variety dreams. Yes, I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live.  

For literally as long as I can remember I have watched SNL. When I was younger I used to spend Saturday nights with my mom, eating spaghetti, drinking RC Cola out of an awesome Disney themed thermos, and laughing at topical jokes that were probably far over my head. But, regardless of my comprehension, I knew that every week the actors on this show got to be all sorts of different characters. Is this not an actor’s dream?! And then, in my teens, as I began writing more in school, Tina Fey came along and became the first female head writer of the show, proving to all the Jerry Lewis’s of the world that yes, there are women comedians and they are funny! It was 1999, right as I was getting to the point in high school where all any adult can ask you is ‘What are you gonna do with your life?’ and my only reply was ‘make people laugh.’ What would be better than living in New York and doing it every week?! 

Well, it was also right around this time that I was told I’d better get a back up plan. The odds of ending up in Hollywood and being a movie star are slim to none. Then odds grow even less in your favor when you switch coasts and set your sights on Broadway or becoming a comedy writer/actor. ‘You may have these goals, and you may go and pursue them, but be prepared for a life of rejection and waiting tables’ is what one of our school counselors hit me with. I was deflated. How could dreams so long lasting and wonderful be so hard to achieve?! Surely it could not have been true. News flash: It was. I did the research. My goals were nearly impossible. I was almost 17 and had no clear path in life, aside from a lifetime of servitude at Dean and Deluca, if I was lucky (yes, I base my New York food service jobs off of the show Felicity).

At that point, the career ADD really set in. I was a peer counselor in high school, hey, why not be a child psychologist? Wait, I also wrote for the school paper and literary journal, why not be a journalist? But hey, I was also a teacher’s assistant, and I come from a long line of teachers! Surely teaching must be the way to go! Then, in college, it only got worse. My major jumped from Psychology to Spanish to Art History to Social Work to Creative Writing to English Literature, and unfortunately for me, the English Lit degree is what I left with (no hate for the Lit coming from me. I only say unfortunately, because, let’s be honest here, an English degree {without a teaching certificate attached to it} is about as worthless as a Philosophy degree. Sure, employers may love that you have a strong grasp of our language and its history, but where’s the Business Degree they specifically required in the employment ad?).

So no here I am, 29, nearing my 5th year at a job that has nothing to do with any of the six majors I pursued in college (how is that even statistically possible??? Surely with all my flip flopping you’d think I would have ended up at least finding something even slightly related to any of the things I studied.). It’s a great job, and I do mean great, and in this economy I know am blessed to have it (and it’s benefits. Thank you, baby Jesus, for benefits.). I can give no reason to say any differently…except this one pesky thing…I’m not making a difference. My work here will not be work that kids for years to come can look at it and say ‘Wow! This has inspired me!’. Not even my own (at this point, imaginary) children will understand, much less strive to follow, what I do. And even allowing myself to be less grandiose about it, my work here won’t even make a difference on a one on one level. Had I continued pursuing Psychology or Social Work and worked in those fields, there’s always the possibility your work is overlooked, as mine is, but there is a greater possibility that there will be at least that one person whose life changes for the better because of the work you’ve done on their behalf. Even with my writing/lit degree, writing a book can do that for any number of people (because I can say with absolute certainty that there are books I’ve read that have impacted me and will stay with me forever).

Maybe this goal of making some sort of impact on the world is inherently selfish. Shouldn’t a passion be followed merely for the joy of it? We’re constantly told to do what you love and you will love what you do. And who knows, maybe that is how your mark is left on the world, people looking to you and saying ‘Wow, she truly just loves what she does. The money, the accolades, the reward for all the effort really just doesn’t matter, she just loves it.’ and you are an inspiration for others to follow suit. Maybe this is just the bigger picture I have yet to fully see. Either way, that is still my only answer to what I really want to do. I want to make a difference.

But, the question remains, how?

(Editor’s note: If you made it through this whole blog, wow…you are a trooper. When I first started writing this I had no idea I’d get so wordy! I imagine if I had pulled my thoughts together quick enough and given this answer to Mr. Friday Date he’d have quickly hauled ass out of Date City and retreated back to Friendshipville…)