I think I like me…

New Year’s Day has always been stressful for me. I think of all the things I screwed up last year. I think of all the hobbies I abandoned last year. I think of all the old friends and family I did not spend enough time with last year. I think about all the times I had too much coffee and wine, and wish my teeth were whiter. I think about all the times I had desert and skipped a workout, and wish the scaled said I’m healthy.

Today is different.

I like owls. I have owl mugs, owl ornaments on my Christmas tree, and owl paintings on my wall.

I like things that smell good. I collect perfume, candles, lotion, oils, anything, and I don’t care if it’s Bath and Body Works or Dollar Tree. It’s so comforting to walk into a room that smells delicious.

I like my career. Stressful is an understatement, but teaching has become part of my identity.

I love my husband. He is my best friend and he loves me – hangups and all.

I feel good. My body is not “healthy,” but health is a lifelong journey. The scale isn’t happy and neither are the clothing sizes, but I am.

I think I’m happy. I think I like me. Is this what that feels like?

For the first time, I have no pressing need to make a New Year’s Resolution (or ten). I have a lot of things to improve about myself but I recognize that I will be improving myself forever. Today I’ll revisit my goals but I will not despair. Today I’ll stay driven instead of trying to restart. Today I have decided to like who I am.

This is a new feeling. I think I like me.

When Ignorance is a Privilege

Everyone has a story. Stories are wonderful because they invoke connection and sympathy. They both connect our humanity and connect us to our own humanity. Unfortunately, your skin color affects how and if your story gets shared. Somewhere in my frustration I stopped listening.

News channels were disheartening, so I stopped watching. Articles online were depressing, so I stopped reading. Discussion with others was frustrating, so I stopped listening. I thought I could reduce my stress level by ignoring other people’s stories. Well, long story short, it didn’t work.

Actually, it worked for a little while. I drove to work everyday, taught in my elementary school classroom, and came home to have dinner with my husband. I no longer found myself crying over what happened to other people in the world, and I no longer found myself wondering how to address issues with my students. I no longer had thought-provoking conversations with my husband about life.

It took me far too long to realize this ignorance was only possible because I am white. I don’t worry about making my rent payment. I buy groceries without tallying the bill as I shop. I walk down the street without worrying about police officers. If I want, I can ignore other people’s stories. It is a privilege I am ashamed I have, and I can no longer afford to exercise it.

Years ago I realized my head was full of racism, and I am still working hard to uncover my biases. Ignoring others’ stories is stopping demolition on the racism, and that is unacceptable.

Here is what I am going to do, and if you relate to my story, please try it with me. If you can offer advice, do! First, I plan to deepen relationships with people in my life who do not look like me. That is where this journey began, and I know that is how it must continue. Second, I plan to read more news articles from various sources. I have already set up some apps on my phone to help with this. Third, I’m asking family, friends, and you to hold me accountable.

Becoming a better person is painful, like when Aslan ripped the dragon skin off Eustace. It hurts, but most often I find that the dragon that must be slain is inside myself.

Worth it.

Lost and stuck in a thorn bush at dusk with burrs in my shoes, I began to have second thoughts about climbing the hillside to snap this photo.

Now it seems totally worth it. The truth is this: you are reading a cliche post about how good things can come from hard times. Yet over and over I find myself forgetting this lesson. Synapses in the brain are what “contain” our knowledge, and they form from electrical activity sparked by mistakes. Challenges literally make people smarter. I have to believe the same holds true for the soul: that the darkest days are what strengthen hope.

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