The Question

 

“Can I ask what ethnicities you’re mixed with?”

“None. I’m black.”

“Right, I know, but what else?”

“Nothing else, just black”

“Oh, okay….Are you sure?”

This conversation happens more than I’d like to admit. It’s not offensive because the person is asking, rather I feel offended by the implication I would be unsure. But I get it. Absent African-American fathers are a thing. It’s not a big stretch to assume I wouldn’t know my father, one can easily picture the scene: my mother, a poor downtrodden white woman left to raise the offspring of a neglectful, albeit handsome, black man she met in the 80’s. But I’m not, I know my father. My parents are both black and raised me together; they were married for 18 years.

When I’m asked these questions, I feel the need to apologize for being less exotic than I look. People expect some amazing mix of no less than five nationalities as my back story. I have soft hair which is my own, light skin and typical California diction; Angela Davis, I am not. The apologetic feeling segues into a feeling of guilt. I feel I’m supposed to puff my chest and declare loudly and sassily, “I’m black, thank you very much!” throwing in a slight neck roll for good measure. But I don’t; no black woman has ever benefited from giving a response like that to any question. So I simper and shrink, sorry for not fitting into the box I should have.

My final thought after any of these innumerable conversations I’ve had over the years is always the same: Why don’t I find out about my background? I clearly have roots in other cultures, although one is predominant. Why not find out exactly where I came from?  I think this only for a moment, because quite frankly, given the history of this country, and the known legacy of my ancestors, I’m not really sure I want to.

 

 

“Brace yourselves gentlemen. According to the gas chromatograph, the secret ingredient is… Love!? Who’s been screwing with this thing?”

        In Defense Of St. Valentine

Personally, I’m really tired of all the Valentine’s Day vitriol I’ve read lately on Facebook, Twitter and the like…I get it, it’s a mass marketed, corporate created holiday that capitalizes on individual’s insecurities about dying alone and makes a commodity out of genuine sentiment, yadda, yadda, but as anyone in a long-term relationship knows, any excuse to turn to your mate and express your love for them is a good excuse. When immersed in the minutiae of everyday life (bills, kids, work, that “thing” hiding in the basement you’ve recently started feeding), it’s a sad but true fact that many people do need the reminder to show their sweetie some extra affection (and no, it doesn’t make them bad people). So, I like Valentine’s Day, or, more appropriately, I could take it or leave it, but I don’t feel compelled to deride the holiday and anyone who participates in it like some do.

I hear a lot of people saying, “You shouldn’t need Valentine’s Day to show your love, if you love each other, it’s Valentine’s Day everyday!” Okay, sure. I don’t know what world these people live in, but in my world it’s not any holiday everyday, nor should it be. Do you know how annoying it would be if it were Christmas everyday? *releases safety* Yeah, not fun. Also, more to the point, who’s to say that people who celebrate Valentine’s Day aren’t romantic the rest of the year. It’s not a 0-sum game: A man/woman who does something special for their partner on February 14th is not necessarily a heartless bastard the rest of the year, and conversely, refusing to celebrate Valentine’s Day because of what you think it means to celebrate it doesn’t make you more romantic (or smarter) than people who do: it just means Valentine’s Day is not your thing.

Odds are, V-day bashing is just a way to feel better about a less than perfect romantic situation (singledom, if the person desires a relationship, or a shitty relationship that makes the person unhappy). It seems like it’s mostly the people who don’t have a Valentine (or a sub par one?) that are doing the griping. You rarely see a woman loaded down with balloons, flowers, chocolates and tickets to see Wicked complaining about a pandemic corporate cash grab every February, and you often see a woman who’s single or whose boyfriend forgot that it’s V-day puffing her chest out and proclaiming it’s all bullshit anyway (knowing full well if two dozen roses appeared on her desk at work she would immediately find a reason to do two full laps of the entire floor of her building, making especially sure to pass a certain in-office rival’s desk ["She's knows what she did!"] no less than three times, roses in tow). While I understand a person’s need to produce a framework that makes them feel better about their lives (we all do it), I think it’s obvious that no matter your relationship status, or how you feel about it, it’s not the days fault.

As with most things in life, it’s a matter of perspective and perception. My Valentine’s Day advice: Enjoy the day, or leave it be, but get off the soapbox, already! *Ironically climbs off soapbox*.

M.

“Alright Brain, you don’t like me, and I don’t like you. But lets just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.”

 

5 Keywords For a Great 2012!

I hate New Year’s resolutions. I think they are just another way that people set themselves up to feel even worse about, well, themselves. I also think they are counter productive in that waiting to make a necessary change leaves a person feeling as though losing weight, for instance, is something that can wait until a certain day and time. It can’t. The day is today. The time is now. As other people were posting their resolutions online, or registering their disgust with the idea of resolutions because they are resolved everyday (damn you, well adjusted people!), I was working on a middle ground. While I think that anytime is a great time to become a “new” or “better” person, as a student of Psychology (Behavioral Analysis, woot!) I understand deeply the need for, and usefulness of, mental and emotional cues. We all run on cues: traffic signals, your daily cigarette break, the start of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (or the end). Green means go, cigarette means relax, Late Night means “bedtime”. Like these cues, New Years signals renewal for most people, a time  (and a reason) to start fresh. While I feel I start fresh pretty often, and am lucky that I do, I have come up with a few keywords to keep in mind for the New Year. These are things that I feel are important for my personal growth and that I hope to promote in those I love, too. In no particular order, here are my 5 Keywords For a Great 2012:

 

1. Patience

I am sorely impatient. For example, I just took up sketch artistry and I LOVE it. I’m so excited to have a new form of expression at my disposal. I like the idea that rather than talk someone’s ear off about something they don’t care about anyway, I can immerse my self in a canvas page that always has more endurance and patience than I do. The problem? I almost threw my canvas pad and all of my supplies over my balcony in a fit of artistic rage because I’m not “good”. Keep in mind I drew this the day after I got my art supplies as a Christmas present, my first drawing ever. In fact, the reason I didn’t follow through with chucking my lot is probably because they were a gift whose absence I’d have to explain; I was inconsolable to say the least. I thought about all of the people that I knew that were artistically talented. I thought about how it looked so easy when I saw them do their thing. What I didn’t consider was the hours and hours of their childhood they probably spent practicing perspective, shading, technique…I expected to walk into it and be good immediately. Not just good, great. I’m like this with everything, I expect to walk into a job and be the supervisor the first day. +1 for believing in myself, -1 for actually knowing the value of hard work and effort and what it will get me if I practice it. Which brings me to my next keyword…

2. Effort

This one’s obvious, but I definitely need the refresher as do most people, I think. Autopilot is something that I have been more and more weary of as I careen toward 30. No, I don’t have some unwarranted existential fear of turning 30 (or 40, or 50 for that matter), in fact, I look forward to it. It’s cool to grow old, a lot of people don’t get the chance. What I realize as I get older, though, is that up to this point I have rarely given my best effort. I will have my Bachelors degree (finally!) in May and quite frankly, it was a breeze, not much effort required. Am I saying that to brag and show what an innate genius I am? Maybe, what’s it to you! Mostly, though, I am trying to make the point that instead of reaching my potential (by say, achieving a double major, finishing my degree sooner or taking on other projects to grow my academic and professional portfolio) I was content to “just finish” my degree. Boo. Me. So this year I am going to stretch and reach and aspire. And try. I mean really try hard at things that matter to me, big things. I feel like I’m off to a good start with my artwork as well as my professional and academic life (I will learn to code this year), I just really need to get more comfortable with…

3. Failure

Seems a little counterproductive, but anybody who has accomplished something extraordinary or difficult (or both) will tell you that failure is one of the main tools at their disposal. I have an unerring fear of failure and to a larger extent, just plain fear of not being “the best” (see #1). Failing is going to be my new best friend this year. Why? Because I intend to try big things way outside of my comfort zone. This year, if I want to start my own business, I’m going to research what it takes to start one. Corporation or LLC.? Start solo or with a partner? How do I handle human resources? You get it. What I refuse to do is convince myself of all the reasons I shouldn’t try it and all of the horrible ways in which I could fail at it. There are enough people in the world lining up to do that for me. They don’t need my help. Failure is a great way to find out who you are as person, what you’re made of when your star isn’t shining it’s brightest. Failing forces a person to understand themselves on a deeper level as well as their own motivations, passions and fears. Knowing all of that about myself on a visceral level will only serve to make me a well-rounded person. It could also serve as a fantastic wellspring of inspiration and…

4. Creativity

I’m not creative enough. Scratch that. I’m not expressive enough, creatively. There, that’s better. I wake up at night, usually around 2:30 AM, and just sit looking at my laptop screen, searching for nothing. I feel anxious, kinda sick actually. My tummy hurts, so does my head. And I have the sinking feeling that I’ve let some unnamed, unshaped opportunity pass me by. Or there was someone I was supposed to call and I didn’t. Or I didn’t feed the dog. Or I fed him to much. Or I most certainly will die some day (I just know it!). What I’m trying to say is I have general anxiety, like most people. I am loathe to be the Psychology student who diagnoses themselves and others constantly, that not my bag. But I can recognize that I have a lot of turmoil that needs an outlet and that I shouldn’t fight that for fear that I’ll lose what makes me, um, me. Depression and anxiety aren’t things I like about myself, they’re things that are myself, unfortunately. Or maybe not unfortunately (Whaaa?). I can’t pick and choose parts of my personality, if I did, I’d just fuck up all this awesomeness! I need my anxiety, I need my depression, they “work” for me, if that makes sense (which it doesn’t, but that’s okay). They’re entities to struggle against and I am definitely one that’s most happy when in direct opposition. The difference though is that I want to transfer that anxiety, that turmoil, into beautiful paintings, ornate blankets, and challenging prose. Turning the dark to light. I want the opposition to come from the challenging nature of the medium I’m using rather than my own manufactured obstacles based on formless insecurities. I’m going to spend the energy I used up on depression and anxiety to seek out inspiration and  satisfaction, which is why it’s so important that I….

5. Travel

I gotta get out there. I gotta. I started on this resolution last year, when I took a trip to Philadelphia and New York with my friend Genevieve. We had a blast! South Philly didn’t see it coming and I can’t wait to go back. It was wonderful having the experience of breathing new air, taking in an amazing new city and it’s people, and eating a cheese steak from Gino’s (everyone said we should have gone to Pat’s, next time!). All of those things were great and the experience of travelling with a good friend of mine was enough, what more could I ask for? Well there was an unexpected plus that came along with taking this trip: I realized every place is the same. Not the heavy revelation you were looking for? Hold on to your hat. I say that every place is the same because ever place is filled with people, just like Merced, just like California. Sure, there are differences to be noted, if you’re into that kind of thing, but what struck me more than anything is that there are douche bags everywhere. Everywhere. There are also skanks and thirsty hoes everywhere. Again, everywhere! This revelation bummed me out at first, but then I saw the bigger picture. The places that I held on a pedestal prior to the trip (New York, Philly, Paris, Japan, etc.) were no better than any other place. Philadelphia is amazing, but being there with Gen made it even more amazing and I felt bad for people that experienced Philly without her (yeah, I need someone that’s willing to steal a phone book and run at top speed down 9th St. while guzzling a 16oz. PBR, waving a newly procured Grumpy’s jersey. I need that.) So I figure the inverse is true: Paris could be ruined by a travel partner with a shitty attitude or a group of feral Frenchmen that don’t know what, “No” means. Since this is the case, I have no need to be intimidated by new places and new people. I don’t need to speak French to go to France, I’ll learn it when I get there. I don’t need to know the ins and outs of Japanese culture in order to connect with the anime characters I will meet (although I should work on the blatant racism, definitely gonna work on that). Realizing that it’s what I bring with me (and who) that will make my travels fun and exciting, more than the places themselves, brings the places that seemed so far away before that much closer to my grasp. I am a world citizen and it’s time to start acting like one.

So there you have it, my master list for success this year. Keep an eye out for other keywords throughout the year, I’ve always got a new idea for how to live a happy, healthy and satisfying life. I also want to hear your ideas! Do you have a tip or a revelation that works for you? Share it in the comments and spread the love.

M.

“Aren’t we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know, the birth of Santa”

 

I had a really amazing Christmas/Birthday with my family and friends. The funny thing is, the holiday snuck up on me this year. Suddenly, it was the 23rd and I hadn’t even been in the same room  as a Christmas tree. I didn’t decorate, or bake. It was sort of a Christmas fail by most people’s standards. Boo me. But I feel as though I redeemed myself the day of. I took a million pictures for my mother who’s never in the pictures at Christmastime because she’s the usual photographer. I spent time with both of my nephews (and kissed their faces raw…RAW!!!!!). I drank Irish Car Bombs with my love and close friend the night before (Shout out to the sober driver, Jessica Garcia! She’s my hero). I ate no less than 26 chicken wings, but only one waffle. I also got some fantastic gifts! My boyfriend Christopher bought me the exact jacket I had just tried on at H&M, and in the right size!  Love him. My friend David gave me an artist gift set with canvas paper, brushes and acrylic paints! I was effing pumped! So….I made this! I also got to see an old friend of mine. All in all, a great weekend/Christmas/Birthday! Ready to see what the new year will bring….

#LetsDoThis2012

M.

“Save me San Francisco”

I was in The City for the day on Monday, interviewing at more startups, petting more in-office dogs, stealthily nabbing Clif bars as I smile, nod and try my very hardest to look “innovative”. After leaving the 1,000th interview I’ve had this month not knowing where I stood, instead of moping and worrying myself to death over my interview answers and how they could have been way better, I jaunted down to the piers and got uber-touristy on the Embarcadero. It was a gorgeous “Winter” day in The City: bright, sunny and warm just how us Californians like it. I’ll be headed back soon for more self-inflicted job search hell, but in this moment, looking at these vistas, I am in love with all that is San Francisco.

M.

I Love This Site, For Obvious Reasons

 

http://factsandchicks.com/

My Son’s Name Is Also Bort

This blog is for me. Most of it is written at 3:46 in the morning when I can’t sleep, Shock Top in hand. “They” say that a person is at their most creative when the sun is down, we shall see…I find myself dazed and gazing vapidly more and more these days, absorbed in my own musings which I admittedly have too much time for. Rather than exist with a perpetual blank stare on my puss, I’d prefer to get these arresting thoughts into the open; free myself of them and make room for more. You are welcome to join me.

 

M.

 

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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