So this is the new year…

The new year is always kind of a letdown. It’s new! But everything feels the same. This year in particular I am wary, bordering on hopeless. I want many, many things. I make lists. I’ve started a bullet journal. I plan for a future that seems to be getting farther and farther away from my reach.

I find it difficult to speak eloquently about the issues facing our country and our world. Who am I? Just one citizen, armed with a New York Times subscription and a liberal Facebook echo chamber. I’ve been doing my best to educate and inform myself, but everything moves so quickly. I feel vastly unqualified.

The political situation in the United States has been a test of my compassion. I read about people who may lose their health care and people who still remain uninsured. I read about hate crimes. I read about fear. I read about women fighting for their rights, our rights. I read about the danger to our climate and environment. Everywhere around us there are vipers, dangers close at hand. Since the election’s close, I’ve felt a constant state of crisis. It’s paralyzing. It might sound insincere, but I worry about everyone. These stories tug at my heart and cause a tightness in my chest. I’m just concerned and I don’t know what to do with those feelings without letting them swallow me up. It’s difficult to see the people on the other side of the aisle complexly when I can’t understand why they’d want to pass legislation that would do so much harm. Why can’t they see? Am I missing something? Is it me? It’s tempting to just unplug and retreat.

But that’s not really an option now, is it?

I have publicly announced my One Word for 2017 to be “Fight.” This term has many applications. Personally, I want to fight for myself and my desires: my career, ambitions, and future. This means prioritizing myself, even when it feels like it isn’t the right thing to do. I have a tendency to accumulate projects, specifically other people’s projects. I am a pretty good manager. I like to help other people get things done. I take a great sense of pride and accomplishment in that work and dedicate myself fully to what I do. But I want to have something that is mine, where the stakes feel higher, and where I care so very deeply because it’s mine. This might mean having to say no to certain projects, which isn’t something I’m good at. I hate feeling like I’m letting people down.

There are projects I’d like to complete and work I’d like to do, if I just gave myself time and permission to do so.

I want to fight for this country, whatever that entails and whatever I can contribute. I know I come from a more privileged position than some people. I hope I can use whatever influence I might have, even if it is very small, to guide this country in a better direction, even if that means calling Congress every week or marching up and down all the streets of Boston in the cold or just saying something when I see an injustice.

Today I was sitting at my desk, listening to Michelle Obama speak publically for the last time as First Lady. As I listened, I wept, silently wiping away my tears. What a gift the Obamas have been these last eight years. I came into my adulthood just as President Obama was first elected. I want to be strong and hopeful. I don’t want to be afraid. But I am. It’s so hard not to be when it feels like so much is at stake, when I fear for myself and millions of strangers. In the face of so much unknown, we will just have to keep trying: be vigilant and wait and see where we can be useful and what we can accomplish.

A very brief treatise on rereading

There are, relatively, about a kajillion books out there. Each of these lovelies are constructed in different ways. Some tell new stories, some revisit old ones, but all of them are tales I either have or have not absorbed. In short, I get weird about rereading. I love to re-read. There’s nothing quite like revisiting a story you love. It feels warm, comforting, and familiar. It’s like a warm bath or a hug from someone you know really cares about you. Books you’ve loved feel a lot like home.

However, whenever I am indulging in a little re-reading (I’m looking at you Harry Potter), I always start to worry a bit about all those kajillion of books. In my short 24 (nearly 25) years on this planet, I know I’ve only put a tiny, baby fist sized−dent in the thousands upon thousands of reading options out there. When I linger on something I’ve already read I get this little pang of guilt. A voice says, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU’VE ALREADY BEEN HERE! MOVE ON!”

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Oh, my beloved.

But I’ve started to become annoyed with that voice. I love reading as many new stories as I can. I learn so much from new authors and their styles. They have much to offer and it is my ambition to absorb as much literature in my lifetime as is humanly possible, but I also don’t want to feel bad when I revisit stories that have been important to me. Studying those tales is just as rich and vital. So that is my goal this year: I am going to restructure my reading life a little and just read whatever I want, whenever I want, including but not limited to books I have read in the past. Saying that out loud sounds silly. Of course, you should be able to do that. You are a grown ass adult Jordan. But sometimes one needs a little reminding.

Here’s to 2016 and stories of all kinds: past, present, and future!

Until next time.
xx

Review: Long Walk to Freedom and Some Thoughts on Racial Injustice

On the cover of Long Walk to Freedom is a quote from the Boston Sunday Globe. It says this book “should be read by every person alive,” a statement with which I am tempted to agree. Nelson Mandela’s autobiography is required reading.

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The struggle of apartheid was something that happened before my lifetime. When the country was casting its first ballots in an open and democratic national election, I was only three years old. South Africa and apartheid was something that was on the fringes of my consciousness. It was hardly touched on in school. It was something I always had a vague idea of: I knew there was an injustice and it was “corrected,” quote unquote. It was just never something I knew that much about.

I first became interested in gaining more insight into this section of history and part of the world after listening to the radio piece Nelson Mandela: An Audio History, produced by Radio Diaries. It is an incredibly moving and visceral radio hour and it sparked in me a desire to learn more. I found no better place to begin than with Nelson Mandela himself and his account of the events in his own words.

The book itself is beautifully written. Mandela’s cadence is melodic and thorough. He writes about an incredibly troubled time in a clear but rousing manner. I never found my attention waning once in the over 600 pages. It is a fascinating account, beginning with his boyhood in the Transkei and ending with his election to the presidency of a free South Africa. It goes into great detail of the inner workings of the African National Congress, their protests and fight against injustice and the move to a more violent struggle. It recounts his twenty-seven years in prison for freedom fighting and the strain it put on himself and his family. The atrocities committed by the South African government against Africans made my stomach turn, at times having to physically put down the book. It boggled my mind that any one could treat human beings in such a way, that democracy and justice could be so flagrantly ignored and abused.

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On My Mind: Dental Insurance is an Outrageous Joke

Last week, I had a dental emergency. I cracked a tooth and immediately went into panic mode. It was an accident. These things happen. As a general rule, I have a pretty healthy set of teeth. I brush twice a day. I floss. I go see my friendly neighborhood dentist every six months. I even started using mouth wash regularly. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to my teeth, so needless to say I was concerned.

Unfortunately, my dentist was out of town on vacation, so I went to someone recommended by a friend. I’m not the wait and see what happens type. He took one look at my mouth and told me I would need a crown since the tooth broke to the gum line. That part didn’t scare me. What did scare me was the $685 price tag. This was after my so-called dental insurance. The total price was about $1300. My insurance covered about half.

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O captain, my captain

I’ve been trying to find the words to express the welling sadness I feel inside me. How strange and how delightful that a person you have never met can so impact your life.

It seemed I grew up surrounded by Robin Williams films. He was always in the movies I loved best. Aladdin, Dead Poet’s Society, Hook, Good Will Hunting, The Birdcage, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, and god so many more. He was a staple of my childhood: the definitive funny man. When I thought of comedic talent, he was always one of the first names to my lips.  He was a ball of energy, a force that could not be contained. His humor was massive and expansive and you could not help but laugh. It was a knee jerk reaction. I cannot even imagine the sheer billions upon billions of smiles and laugher he has solely elicited over the years, myself included in the numbers.

And now I feel is loss greatly; the world has lost someone without measure, priceless, unique, one in a million, a hundred hundred billion. I can’t believe this man is gone. An actor and comedian I never knew but through his art. And yet, he touched my life. You never know the lives you touch or even who is affecting your own, until moments like these. I am overwhelmed by his loss and overwhelmed by the amount of lives he is affected. I feel as if the world is humming with a communal grief.

His death just makes me so wistfully sad. If only, if only, if only so many people, Williams included, knew how loved they were, how talented, how needed, how appreciated. I’ve been through bouts of depression most of my life. I know how it drags you down into the swamps and holds you under the murky water. I know how it feels impossible to go on. And I am enormously grateful that I’ve had people who’ve helped me rise up and keep me treading water, especially when it feels like it would be so much easier to sink under.

There is so much to live for. It’s something I often have to remind myself. And I wish someone could have reminded him too.

Rest peacefully, Robin Williams.

Relish Review, Comics, Festivals, and Writing

To keep on my graphic novel kick, I recently finished Relish by Lucy Knisley. I first read Lucy’s work when Neil let me borrow her debut novel French Milk (he gave it to me right before we went abroad – the story takes place in Paris). Relish is a much more personal novel, focusing on Lucy and her relationship not only with food but how it relates to her familial life.2013-10-20 09.45.54

Her mother was a professional chef; both parents cultivated in her a great appreciation for food. The memoir documents her life from babyhood up to now including moving from New York City to the country with her mother after her parent’s separation, her travels to various foreign locales including Mexico and Japan, and her college experience in Chicago. It’s something of a coming of age tale; she grows as a person and is very open about how she’s changed. Also, the memoir is dotted throughout with recipes (all illustrated) and all sounding very delicious. Finally, the art is gorgeous. It’s in full color and Lucy’s style is really quite lovely. I highly recommend it.

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How I Work

While making breakfast this morning, I noticed a spider suspended from the ceiling, dangling gently on its string, doing its spider acrobatics. And because I am a big girl I trapped it with some tupperware and asked my boyfriend to solve the problem (he was asleep in bed – I am an adult).

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Exhibit spider

We are doing this series at work inspired by the How I Work tag at lifehacker.com. Basically, everyone in my department is going to have an hour to talk about how they do work and also function as a person, what they do to keep motivated, any tricks of the trade, and other personality/work related quirks. Our big boss went today (the head of the publications department) went first. It was such a nice presentation. I am very big on listening. Lectures are my jam, hence why I liked college so much. I felt like a learned a lot about the people I work for. He cares so much about what he does; it was actually really inspiring. His enthusiasm is contagious. It makes me want to work even harder. Continue reading