Choosing your life *and* following a calling

One of my favorite publications lately is The Lily, the Washington Post’s publication for women. They run stories on national politics, women’s health, and pop culture, as well as personal narratives and comics!

One story stood out to me from The Lily this week:

The unexpected life of a millennial nun

The Catholic church seems to be one of the most patriarchal institutions there is. With reports of abuse by the clergy and conservative, and even restrictive views on women’s health, the church seems like the last choice for young women who care about social justice.

But some women my age have chosen just that. The article talks about Tracy Kemme, a 33-year-old Sister of Charity. It turns out that the stereotype of the secluded nun doesn’t capture what nuns look like and do today. Nuns have careers in the community such as dietician, historic housing preservation expert, hospital ethics member, and minister.

It also makes sense that the religious life offers women in my generation something that is missing in the outer world. To put it bleakly, in recent years, I have often felt the same way as millennial women who chose to become a nun: that the world doesn’t offer anything for me to hold on to. Religion isn’t an escape or rejection, but an embrace of life. It seems contradictory, but I can see how choosing “chastity opens one up to love more; that poverty recognizes common ground; and that obedience signifies deep listening.” Nuns are rejecting a traditional lifestyle but embracing the world at the same time.

Nonetheless, being a nun IS unusual. People are going to ask and wonder why women would forego so many possibilities to choose the religious life.

“There is something scary about women who congregate together, something scary about women who don’t live some kind of idealized American womanhood,” says Sister Mary Therese Perez, 36, of the horror nun genre.

This story resonated with me because I feel the same. I think married, single and religious life are all callings. I don’t feel devoted to religion, but the lifestyle of a nun does appeal to me. I care about social justice and helping others, and I don’t fear being lonely.

“I had learned that religious life wasn’t magic,” Kemme wrote this past summer. “[I]t wouldn’t save me from loneliness, anxiety or self-scrutiny. It wasn’t perfect; living with women from different generations and backgrounds was challenging and even painful at times. It wasn’t an escape; ministry with the suffering can be exhausting and heartbreaking.”

How does one prepare for that kind of life? There’s so much training and preparation to become a nun. But at the heart of it, being a nun is having “[a] sense of adventure or willingness to say ‘yes’ to a life that’s going to have twists and turns and lots of unknowns,” she says. “They’re really courageous people who are willing to challenge the status quo.”

I think we can embrace that in our life no matter what ‘calling” we choose.  Let’s keep challenging the status quo, choosing life, and engaging in the world.

Planning for 2020: Writing, Creating and Activism

The pressure to become a better you is ever present. This January, we head into a new decade with terrible prospects environmentally and socially. 

The 100% truth is that “my anxiety, fatigue and unhappiness over the years” is coming with me to 2020. If there is one thing I learned last year in therapy, it is that sitting with discomfort is more helpful than trying to erase or ignore it. So that is what I’m going to do this year. I’m going to turn discomfort and anxiety intos something good. 

This comic by Christine Inzer from The Lily resonated with me. She said:

“This year, there will be no ‘new me.’ 

There will be just me.”

I’m taking this mantra to heart. Instead of becoming a more acceptable version of myself, I want to become a truer version of me. Here are three ways I want to do that this year.

#1 Write & Draw

Last year, I had the opportunity to write for Mochi Mag and the MEI-CHA and HighbrowLab blogs. I also went to the Denver Publishing Institute and learned about the book publishing process. It turns out that I really like writing, planning and drawing. 

This year, I plan to continue doing all of that, and also taking what I learned and applying that to my personal blog. I find that researching and mapping help me make sense of big topics like human rights. I understand a bit more after writing a blog post about it. 

Creating content not only helps me understand, it also helps me be a mindful content consumer. When I research for a blog post, I look for relevant posts and evaluate which publications speak to me and why. It’s been super informative learning from other writers in terms of craft, language and identifying biases in my own writing. This year, I want to grow as a writer and artist through practice.

#2 Advocate in my own way

No matter what my job is, I’m creating something. That’s the nature of capitalism. Everything we create and do has a value attached to it. Who you are at work, and increasingly at home, has to be worthwhile. No one gets to just be. But we are not meant to live compartmentalized lives. I have tried that, and it only lasted so long before I broke down and had to make a change. 

Capitalism teaches us to compartmentalise parts of ourselves – the personal self must be non-existent to avoid being ‘inappropriate’, even if this means straining to withhold our suffering from colleagues.”

We can’t fix capitalism or our workplaces, but we can advocate for ourselves and each other in the smallest ways. I like to think of it as the opposite of microaggressions. Microactions? Microadvocacy? It doesn’t have a name yet, but we can advocate through our creations. 

I was inspired after reading “Strange Birds” by Celia Perez. In it, a self-made girl troop advocated the welfare of birds by writing letters, making stickers, painting murals, and “bombing” their community with facts about birds. I want to do the same for the causes I care most about. For example, I can :

  • Make zines and comics
  • Blog and report info
  • Send postcards & letters
  • Talk to friends about it

I think advocacy looks many different ways. It can be quiet or loud. You can make trouble or do what you can, within the boundaries you live in. I’m really excited about this goal because there is SO much to be done. Let’s shout about the things we care about!  

 #3 Engage in real life 

I think all of us can sense that the way the world is going right now, is not right in any way. How do we heal from our personal trauma as well as protect ourselves from taking in more toxic stuff from the world? It’s no surprise that self care has become so popular — we NEED it. But I think self care tricks us into thinking the problem is our own, when the truth is we need each other to thrive. 

“bell hooks emphasises love and healing as priority before any other aspect of life. If healing were a worker’s right, we could stimulate healthy mental wellbeing for young women of colour who are hiding the same pain.”

This year, I will engage in real life and see and talk to people. The power of listening to and engaging with a human being in real life, is very much going against what capitalism and apps want us to do. So let’s do more of it. 

What are your goals this year? Let’s support each other in uncertain times.

Dipangkorn, I Am Your Father

There are so many rumors surrounding Prince Dipangkorn, the only son of Vajiralongkorn and Srirasmi. His father is the king and his mother is under house arrest. He is going to school in Germany. There are rumors that he has autism. No one really knows the facts and it can’t be known.

I am concerned that Dipangkorn, 14,  is being raised by a monster. If your only caretaker is using you, you have no one in your corner. Despite being an heir presumptive, Dipangkorn has no advocate.

Some questions I have:

  • Why is he keeping Dipangkorn, unlike the sons from his previous divorce?
  • Why did he separate Dipangkorn from his mother?
  • Is it true that Vajiralongkorn is using his son for HIV treatments?
  • Will Dipangkorn succeed his father?
  • Will he ever realize what his father did to his mother and grandparents?

Continue reading

Descriptive reporting still exists

Before I joined Twitter, I didn’t know that print journalists were celebrities. Journalists seemed anonymous to me.

It got me thinking about a style of journalism I see a lot today, where the journalist’s voice/tone is a big part of the article. The journalist becomes a selling point, if they’re popular. It makes sense in the age of “brand” publications that personality would become a big part of journalism as well. Continue reading

Do dress codes make sense?

I never thought much about dress codes when I was in school or at work. It seems like a given and not something to argue with or get in trouble over. But when I started teaching middle school I found out that dress codes do matter and they are kind of tricky.

The biggest thing I discovered was that dress coders breakers do not mean to break dress codes. When you are a teen, you are definitely NOT interested in breaking a stupid dress code on purpose. (There are so many more worthwhile things to get in trouble over.) Continue reading

Social media distorts influencer friendships to the extreme

I Was Caroline Calloway

This story has been the talk on the internet over the past three days and I, too, am fascinated by it. (For one, it is a real life version of My Year of Rest and Relaxation.) It feels very personal and you definitely identify with either Caroline or Natalie. I want to say most people will identify with Natalie, just because so few people get to be Caroline. There have been many stories written from Caroline’s point of view, because after all, they tend to be the protagonists in life. The fact that Natalie got to tell her story was really different. I also loved that it was such an honest look at the history between two women. Yes, men definitely have a part in the dynamic between them (making them into the archetypes of the desired vs. undesirable), but it ultimately is about the relationship between women. Continue reading