Monday, December 19, 2016

I turned 23 yesterday- and as with most birthdays, the only noticeably different aspect of the day was being able to eat all the cake I wanted with #noragrets and get away with bossily informing my friends that they must laugh at my jokes and let me ride shotgun in honor of the special occasion. And aside from mourning the loss of no longer being able to relate to Taylor Swift’s hit song- 22 was a pretty good year for me.

I traveled to 2 continents and visited 9 countries- 7 of which I backpacked through all by myself (*puffs up chest with an unwarranted sense of girl power*). I passed all four sections of the CPA. I got an article that I wrote published. I shot more weddings than I expected. I completed my master’s degree in Accounting (feel free to refer to me as master parsons from now on). I got the camera I had been dreaming of for years. I made the big move to Portland and finally got out of the southeast. I landed a seasonal position at my fave shop (okay yes I know this sounds incredibly stupid but I have always wanted to work there and the employee discount is the And this may not seem like a particularly impressive list, but for me in those moments, it was.

In a lot of ways, I crossed a lot of things off of my bucket list and did a lot of things that I did not think that I could do. And if you had told me last December that this was what my 22nd year was going to entail, I would have jumped up and down with excitement and cried tears of joy. But these things have happened, and my 22nd year has come and gone and I don’t feel like jumping up and down and if I’m crying, it’s not tears of joy.

And while I have my moments of pride and unreasonable amounts of self confidence, on an everyday basis I don’t feel any braver, any smarter, any more accomplished. I sit down to write things and quickly stop, feeling defeated before I even begin. I am more critical of my photography than ever before. I walk into my seasonal job, convinced that they’re going to fire me because I am not near as fashionable as the rest of them. And as excited as I am to be in a new city, I still feel like a stranger there in a lot of ways.

And there’s a certain aspect of this that is due to comparison- and like all of our grandmothers have always told us- comparison truly is the thief of joy. Because no matter how many accolades I accumulate or things I accomplish, there will always be someone doing something more and the grass will always seem a bit greener on the other side. We all compare ourselves to others, and while this tendency can be managed, I’m not sure that it ever goes away entirely.

But I think there’s something a little more than comparison behind the things that I have been feeling. And in talking to my friends, I’ve gathered that maybe this is a common theme among the twenties crowd. We all have arrived at adulthood and some of us are less than impressed at what we’ve found. For myself, I expected to find a little more of a sense of importance. I want to make a difference and I want the things I do to matter. And you can study a lot of things in school- but they can’t really teach how to make a difference in the world or how to matter in a classroom. And when your daily routine consists of editing pictures so that people will feel pretty and arranging clothes in size order and ringing up people that literally are spending your whole month’s rent in one shopping trip, it’s really easy to laugh at how shallow everything around you seems.

And I haven’t made much sense of those feelings yet, and I haven’t developed a very good defense strategy against them- other than finding comfort in the fact that maybe this is something I should just lean in to. And I wonder if people like Mother Teresa (sp?) or Martin Luther King or Ghandi had the same critiques about their lives. I wonder if they often felt like there was so much more that they could be doing. I wonder if they even realized how much change they made. And not that I would ever impact the world on that kind of degree, but I have always been a big believer that we impact people more than we think. You know, that quote that someone smart said- “you may not be able to change the world, but you can change the world for one person.”

Sooooooo if any of my fellow millennials are feeling similar things- know that you’re not alone. We matter, the seemingly meaningless jobs matter, and I think that regardless of how much change we bring to the world- we will always feel that there is more to be done. So that’s where I’m at. Holla if you feel the same.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"It is not that we have lost faith in God, it is that we have lost faith in the church"

What are you to do when you find yourself in a place where you hate the church, but you know in the deepest of ways that you love God? And how do you reconcile the God that you know with the hurt that you see the church bring? It's no new concept after all- the church has been a source of hurt and wrong doing since the very beginning. That is a concept that transcends religion. No matter what God you believe in or what denomination you identify with, where there is a church, there will also be people- perverting God's words and distorting God's will. History repeats itself and it may have been thousands of years ago, but not much has changed since the time that Jesus stood outside of the temple, flipping tables and declaring it to be a den of robbers. The very institution that proclaims to love God and represent Him on earth, has become the same institution that is the pinnacle of earthly wealth and shallow intentions. I am speaking of course of the church in America, I am not familiar with anything else. The churches where the pastor takes an offering and it is not used to feed the hungry or clothe the poor or provide shelter for the homeless or even further "the gospel". No, it is used to pay the mortgage of the house that is too big, to buy the new playground for the children to use once a week, to buy a new drumset so that worship will feel more "alive", to buy more cushioned seats because we couldn't stand to be uncomfortable for an hour and a half, to send the rich american high schoolers to another country so they can see what it is like to not have any material possesions- as if they were going on a vacation to see some far away zoo, except instead of being filled with animals it is filled with people, living real lives and doing real things. 

The word "christian" has been turned into a description of someones character, rather than a statement of their beliefs. To say someone is a Christian is no longer to say that they believe in Christ, it is to say that they are a good person. And in doing so, we have taken something so deep and personal and mysterious and turned it into a shallow, black and white way of living. And I'm sure we all know- not all good people are christians and not all christians are good people. In fact, most of the best people that I have met have not been christians. 

In many ways, it seems that the church has reduced a relationship with God down to a set of rules, of which they are the author and in doing so, have made themselves one of the most trivial, laughable institutions. The church has been so busy criticizing and judging that it has failed to notice the foundation that is crumbling under it's feet. Because when you remove the grey area that is a fundamental part of Christianity, what you are left with is a breeding ground of insecurity and judgement- where  imperfect people are trying their damndest to be perfect and in doing so, have sucked every bit of grace out of the room. 

We judge because we want absolute truths from a religion that doesn't have many absolutes to offer. We point fingers because we can't accept that what tempts you and causes sin may not tempt me. We are no longer looking to God for how to live, instead we are looking to friends, to pastors, to the seemingly "good" christian people around us. And in this, I have found that there is nothing more than sore disappointment. 

So that is where I am left- with my hands in the air wondering what the hell to make of all of it. I have started from the most fundamental levels and so far the truth I have found for myself is this- I know there is a God and I know that I have felt him. I know that things are not as they should be and I know that I am not the only person asking these questions. And of the rest- of my opinions on the church- I do not know if I am right, I do not know if I am wrong- I only know what my experience has been. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

There Is No Safe Investment

"There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. 
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. 
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. 
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; 
avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. 
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."

I think of these words and I think of how easy they are to say and how much harder they are to live. I think of the false security we feel when we hold ourselves back from uncertain investments, and the false realities we create when we take on too many of them. I tend to be guilty of the latter. But whatever end of the spectrum you fall on, the real truth lies C.S. Lewis' first sentence- there are no safe investments. No matter how safe you feel, no matter how vulnerable you are, nothing is safe and nothing is certain. 

As a person who does not shy away at most uncertainties, I feel fine about this. But it's that same appetite for uncertainty that makes me feel less than fine when others play it more safe than myself. To me, I see that and I want to kick and scream and say "see above! It's not safe, it's never been safe, and the safer you try to make your life, the less of it there is to live." And that is where, while I feel like I am right, I am wrong. 

Because I can't tell you how to love and I can't tell you how to feel  and I can't tell you what to do in the face of uncertainty and it's not my job to make those calls for anyone but myself. But I can love, and I can continue to love, knowing that there is no safe investment and that nothing is certain, but that its worth it in the end because to feel that much means that I'm alive. And while it may not change anything, when has the world ever been worse off because there's a little more love in it than there was before?  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

"It is not the critic who counts; not the
man who points out how the strong man
stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could
have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually
in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and
sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who
errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and
shortcoming; but who does actually strive to
do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms,
the great devotions; who spends himself in a
worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph
of high achievement, and who at the worst, if
he fails, at least fails while daring greatly..."

Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Disruptive Reality

She asked me if he had beaten me, and without blinking, 
the word "Yes" came out of my mouth. 

I had never lied about that night before, and I don't know why, after two years, I lied. I don't think that I meant to. I don't even think I knew what was coming out of my mouth when I opened it to speak. I had lied to myself about that night plenty of times, but never to another person. But there was a certain tone to her voice that I had picked up on, and my instincts took over; convinced that in order for her to believe I had been raped, she needed to believe that I had been beaten too. 

And to be honest, there was a sick part of me in that moment that wished he had hit me*. There was a part that wished I had been knocked unconscious, because then I would have been taken to the hospital and I would have the proof. I would have earned the scars that society needed for me to earn in order to believe that I had been raped.

What does it take after all? A black eye, a bloody nose, bruised hips? What does it take for society to give it’s approving nod that legitimizes what happened to me? How many disgusting details do I have to share to convince you that night changed my life?

And here in lies the problem with rape, with abuse, with sexual assault. People don’t want to believe what is right in front of them. They don’t want to entertain the idea that their brother, their father, the funny guy in the friend group, the respected church member would ever be capable of something so terrible. It's too inconvenient, too disruptive to believe the facts. But as a victim, I didn't have the choice to prevent the facts from inconveniencing and disrupting my reality.

Because the man that raped me became very un-funny, very un-nice, and very un-good after that night. And to be honest, so did a lot of the people around me. It was very un-good of my friends to continue to hang out with him. It was very un-nice of a family member to tell me that it was my fault. It was very un-funny when his pastor did nothing after being given all the facts. 

It’s time to wake up.   

I stand by the words “Until it happens to you, you don't know how it feels”, and I hope you never know how it feels. But just because you don't know how it feels doesn't mean that you don't know how to see what is right in front of you, on the silver platter of misfortune that is ungrudgingly assembled, and do something about it.

(*I by no means want anyone to think that those words are meant to be derogatory towards other victims, and it is not my intent to discount anyone's experience. It was my intent however to be honest and raw in what my experience was. I do have a support system, and the worst of my experience is behind me, but the shock of how this issue is dealt with still stings as much as it did two years ago. I was blessed to be spared what many victims are not, and for that I am very thankful.)

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