I used to love to write.
When I was younger (elementary/middle school timeframe), my best friend Steph and I used to bike up to the neighborhood Starbuck’s and “people watch”. We didn’t drink coffee (because it was unpalatable at that point) so we’d order drinks that looked like it and pretend to be hipster novelists, laptops in tow. We’d fabricate stories and develop characters out of the people passing by, and in and out. They’d usually have very dramatic home lives, partake in enthralling adventures, fall into enchanting but short-lived romances, and all of the other typical, recurrent themes we’ve seen propagated in every television show and movie, basically ever.
But, the beauty of it was that we inspired each other. We possessed pure, childish creativity and relished in the freedom of it. We’d enter writing challenges online and hope that one of ours was selected to share with the world. I never remember being afraid of what others may think of my stories. They were entertaining enough for me, and the ideas contained within them were genuine. We’d laugh at the ridiculous actions we thought up for our characters, the crazy plot twists, the magical guinea pigs who could cure any disease with a whisker. These were our thoughts and ideas. And, within these notions, there was no room for judgment of one another. Or ourselves.
Something must have changed since then.
I’m now 26 years old, writing this… article? post? message? journal entry?… (who even knows what to call it) on a hot spring day at my home in Saint Louis Park, MN, wondering how the heck I’ve ended up at this state in my mind. Anybody else ever have that feeling?
Earlier this morning, I listened to several podcasts from my favorite duo, Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack. It is a common occurrence for these podcasts to send my mind into a swirling frenzy of thoughts and reflection, and I’ve always felt the urge to write some thoughts down and try to make sense of my mind. But, for some reason, I never have.
I’ll just say the following up front (before I start binge-writing and I forget why I even started writing this)…
I want to be brave.
I want to be real.
Here’s why: I think that the vast majority of our society (including myself) has fallen into this numb state of striving for false perfection over and over, of projecting an image that isn’t at all true to who we are as flawed and beautiful human beings, and, of idolizing and applauding those who are projecting a fake image, that for some reason we decide we want to strive to become, but is fundamentally unattainable, and, even if it were, is nothing like our true self.
I’m exhausted. Aren’t you?
Let me start by saying I’m calling myself out right now. Not you, not even society (necessarily). I’m not playing the blame game.
The purpose of me beginning to write again is to reflect on my own choices, life, and purpose, and to somehow weed through all of the bullshit that I tell myself I need to do in order to make me an ‘acceptable’ human being. I’ve been questioning what I value and why, and how that feeds into my self-worth and self-respect. I’m on a quest to figure it out, everyone. At least as much as I can, anyway.
If there’s any reason I wanted to begin to write this, it isn’t to gain tons of followers, or to have a blog that pays all of my bills with advertising, or to tell some uppity, sappy “find yourself” tale filled with flowery language and self discovery. I want to yank off the comfort blankets of my life, take a good, hard look at myself with both strained, wide-open eyeballs, and seriously question my choices as a human being. I want to call myself out on the bullshit I tell myself. I want to change and grow into a better, compassionate human being before I drop dead. Who knows how much time I have left?
I honestly don’t care if a single person even reads this blog. This will be a journal of thoughts, ideas, passions, and opinions; ones that will likely ruffle a few feathers (including my own).
Again, my mission (as previously stated), is the following:
I want to be brave.
I want to be real.
I want to be kind. (I know, I know. I added another one. Oops.)
I want to be these three things for so many reasons, y’all. Which I’ll get to… One day if not today…
So, here’s my first declaration (and, realization if you will) that led me to sit down at my desk and begin writing today:
I HAVE BEEN FAKING IT.
In so many ways, my friends. And not just to my friends, family, and random strangers, I mean to myself most of all.
“How?” you may inquire?
Oh, do let me tell you.
Exhibit A. Modeling
Where do I start with this one? Some of those who know me (or of me) may already know that I’ve been a model in the modeling industry for some time now. Since I was about 20, in fact. I’ve been signed with multiple agencies across the U.S. such as Wilhelmina, Dorothy Combs, Muse, etc. I do still do modeling jobs here and there to this day, however, I never truly modeled consistently. While this is basically every model’s experience in the industry, I REALLY mean I don’t and have never modeled consistently. Like, we are talking three to five jobs a year MAXIMUM. Maybe a test shoot here and there. That’s really not a lot.
Yet, why is it that my instagram account is labeled “Fashion Model” as it’s primary category? Why do my modeling photos grace the cover photo of every single social media account I’ve ever created? Why are the majority of my photo albums and instagram stories filled with modeling jobs, and test shoots, and behind-the-scenes shots of me doing a job that I SO rarely do?
Fear, my friends. It’s fear.
- Fear that nobody will think I’m beautiful without them.
- Fear that my insecurities as a human being will come to the surface if I cannot hide behind beautiful pictures.
- Fear that I’ll be judged for what I’ve done with my life and my time if I have ‘nothing’ to show for it.
- Fear that people would think being a “curve” or “plus-size” model (which I am and have always been) is laughable and a joke.
- Fear that the boys who dumped me in college will not regret fucking over their ‘ex-who-became-a-model’ anymore.
- Fear that when I get older, my boyfriend will forget that I was ever beautiful and not want me.
- Fear of what I may become without the “model” status being part of my past and present descriptor.
- Fear that I will no longer be able to use beauty and privilege as an excuse to be a horrible, selfish, judgmental human being.
- Fear that I’ll receive harsh and hateful judgement from others.
- Fear that when I feel inadequate compared to others, the comfort of being able to tell myself that “at least I am a proven entity of beauty” will vanish.
- Fear that the idea of my perfect, “model” self is better than my actual self.
It all sounds a little petty, raw and negative, eh?
That’s because it is. And I’m writing this with every honest bone in my body because I am so sick of fear being the one thing that holds me back from doing what I want to set out to do in this world before I’m dead. I am sick of the exhaustion that comes from pretending like those are not the reasons why I ‘flaunt’ being a model. I’m sick of feeling like I need to portray myself as someone I most certainly am not 99% of the time. I’m tired of photoshopping all of my pictures or adding filters and then being the cause for someone else to compare those altered ‘photos’ to their real ones, and then feel hopeless because perfection like that is truly unattainable for anyone.
Shouldn’t the goal just be happiness?
It’s the one thing we all truly strive for at the end of the day. A feeling of being profoundly content, of giving and receiving compassion, and treating everyone, including ourselves, with kindness.
I feel like I’ve walked around in a daze for most of my life, just cruisin’ along, trying to be the next thing that I think people want to see out of me. Trying to live up to unattainable expectations. Too afraid of trying for fear of failing and judgement. Trying to inspire others while never doing or achieving anything that truly even inspired me. I constantly want more when I already have so much. And it always leaves me so empty.
That’s not the kind of unremarkable life that I want to live anymore. I think the act of pretending is one of the biggest inhibitors of our true potential as human beings.
Maybe it isn’t our fault. Maybe it’s the way we (especially my generation) has grown up with electronic profiles and moldable representations of who we are as individuals. It’s been made too easy to manipulate our own image. Too easy to judge others. Too easy to hide behind a screen and oppress others. And, conversely, much too difficult to instead focus energy on figuring out who we truly want to be as an in-the-moment and present human being.
Will I change 100% overnight? No. Will I be completely right 100% of the time in what I say and do? No. Will I still use a filter on my photos once in a while? Probably… because I’m a visual design nut and sometimes they just look so darn nice.
But, I’m going to try every day to be brave. To be honest. To be real with others and myself. To be kind. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all we can really ask of ourselves? To just keep fucking trying.
Exhibit B. Saying what you truly feel
You know what else is a big, fat ol’ waste of time? Tip-toeing around how you truly feel. And I KNOW I’ve done this countless times, whether it be with friends, family, or acquaintances. It’s a feeling that because someone else has their own opinion and expresses it freely, you feel self doubt about your own. You don’t want to be “argumentative” or are too afraid that you’ll be wrong. You’re afraid you’ll be perceived in a way that isn’t representative of who you are.
But isn’t that the beauty of ideas, and being able to bounce them off of each other, and to learn from different perspectives? Have I (and maybe we) forgotten that there’s so much beauty in the formation and change in our own belief systems, in forming our own opinion, in constantly learning and absorbing, and of accepting others for their unique set of beliefs as well? When did this become so touchy? So taboo to react in the way that feels natural to you? To be afraid to express your thoughts or questions because you don’t want to be greeted with backlash or defensive reactions… Have we forgotten how to truly connect with one another?
I’ve held my tongue so many times when my mental state would have benefitted from speaking up. I’ve let others push me down and grind their judgements and jokes into me at the expense of my self-worth and beliefs. All for what? Because I wanted that person to like me? Even if I didn’t particularly like them, I wanted them to like me? Funny how that works… And for the record, I’m not innocent either. I fully admit that I’ve done the grinding as well.
We all have the unique capacity to relate or not relate to others. Because we all are just that. Unique. Which means I, you and everyone else has a right to connect with someone or not connect with someone. We all have the right to agree or disagree with one another. To learn from one another. To cherish the freedom of being able to formulate our own stance. And then to respect and advocate for our own conclusions.
Point blank: I often don’t express my thoughts because I’m afraid of how someone else will perceive them. Of course, I want to be sensitive and compassionate when I state them, but I also want to be honest and true to myself. Feel me?
Exhibit C. Living Compassionately
Will this one probably get me into trouble? Yes. Am I afraid? Yes. Do I know it all yet? No. Will I try to just be honest? Yes.
These past six months have been the loneliest and most painful of my life. But, both oddly and magically, they have been the most important, significant, and rewarding six months of my life as well.
Here’s a statement to take in…
I’ve never felt as though my life truly had a purpose, but now I do.
Doesn’t that sound so light-hearted and fairy-tale optimistic? Strange as it may seem, this revelation has been everything but happy and painless… most days.
Back in December of 2017, right before Christmas time, I was laying in bed during a visit to my parent’s house in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. I’ve always been a fan of cuddling up under the covers and finding a great documentary to get lost in. I will always fully admit that I’ve had a very privileged and sheltered upbringing, and am so utterly naive to the experiences, cultures and lives of others in different environments and of different backgrounds. I enjoy learning from documentaries. And, yes everyone, I perfectly understand they aren’t always the full representation of the truth (thanks to my well-reasoned and logical boyfriend, I feel the need to add disclaimers such as these, as I am occasionally susceptible to gullibility).
Anyway, I was trying to lose weight at the time (something I needlessly obsess over to this day) and thought the title What the Health seemed interesting on Netflix. It had images of food on it and I hoped it may lead to great, unexpected epiphanies that would instantly give me the tools to alter my body into the incredibly toned and sexy physique I had always wanted.
A few minutes into the documentary, I realized it was not your average hour-and-a-half sell of the next ‘fad’ diet. It analyzed the meat and dairy industries and how consumption of these products are connected to the most prevalent, fatal diseases found in the United States. Shock and anger overtook my body as the closing titles whirred by. In this disgruntled state of mind, sleeping was not an option.
The 48-hour documentary binge commenced… Vegucated, Forks Over Knives, Earthlings, Cowspiracy, Lucent… a cinematic journey I had intended to embark on for the purpose losing weight alone stemmed off into so many subjects that lit a fire in me; eating plant-based, the effects of animal agriculture on our environment, sustainability (rather, a lack thereof), the horrifying state of our oceans, ethical veganism, and, above all, even if I wasn’t comfortable yet associating with the term “vegan”, just the recurring idea through each film: living with compassion for all beings; human and non-human alike.
When confronted with this idea, it seemed so simple and obvious to me that it was the right standard to live by. But, why hadn’t I realized that this could be my purpose all this time?
I saw undercover footage of chicks being ground up alive in egg-processing factories. I saw calves being torn away from their mothers and slaughtered for veal in front of them at dairy farms. I saw workers smashing chicken’s heads in, breaking live lamb’s skulls, and pigs suffocating in gas chambers. I saw horses shuffled into slaughter, comforting each other because they knew what horrors awaited them. I saw it all. Even after the documentaries, I searched every single YouTube video there was out there to try to educate myself further on what actually was going on in the meat, egg and dairy industries.
Let me just sum it up for you; once you see these kinds of atrocities and injustice, you can never un-see them. It’s like taking the red pill. You are awake and you are aware, however, you can never shake the unease or the feeling of utter misery because of what you’ve witnessed and what you know.
And, I still find it hard to forgive myself for contributing to these industries, consuming their products, and buying their bullshit marketing for so long.
After doing so much research and trying to formulate how the heck I was going to move forward with not only my diet, but my lifestyle in general, I wanted to shove all of these documentaries in every friend and family members’ face that I possibly could. I wanted to see what their thoughts were, and see if these films had the same epic impact on them. I wanted to scream about all of the injustices I had seen. I wanted to march into every local and factory farm and end all of the exploitation. I wanted to bring every suffering, dying and tortured animal home with me to live in peace. But, one of the things I wanted most of all at that time, was just some comfort in knowing I was not the only one who knew about the horror of these industries. That I was not the only one who was completely disturbed and absorbed in the sadness of this reality for so many suffering beings. That I was not the only one who deeply cared in saving lives of the innocent. That I was not the only one who carried a heavy heart for those our human race was brutally torturing and killing.
The funny thing is, I never really felt understood or comforted. Even to this day. I feel like a stranger to many I once felt extremely close to. An extreme outlier of the norm.
Now, let me reiterate, I’m not flawless here. I definitely had several tough conversations with friends and family (especially in the beginning) where I came on too strong, talked at, and stopped listening. I easily became frustrated and defensive when people would list their reasons for continuing to buy animal products. My isolation and feelings of being misunderstood were indeed contributed to from how I handled situations myself. And I continue to struggle to connect with people in a positive way about the horrors of these industries that are now embedded into my brain.
I also still struggle with how to view my close friends, family, and even my boyfriend who (mostly all still) eat meat, eggs and dairy. It’s a constant battle of trying not to judge, to brush off the hurtful jokes and insensitive comments, and to keep reminding myself that they aren’t consciously making the decision to inflict such harm and suffering on other beings. Some of the people I find most inspirational and pivotal in my life have told me they “don’t want to hear about it” when I try to explain what goes on in these industries or how animals have to suffer to end up on their plate. Nothing makes me more sad than this. But, I also can’t force anyone to hear, do or realize anything. I can’t force them to care.
In order to try to understand more about the movement I was to become a part of, I found a few great podcasts, started volunteering at a farm sanctuary, and have begun participating in several local animal advocacy groups, rescues and demonstrations. And, all of that has been immensely helpful in making me feel like I’m a part of a community again. Some days, I’m hopeful and bursting with joy that I’ve connected with someone else who is in a similar boat. But, some days, I’ll totally admit, I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. Or that I’m enough. Or that I deserve to live without consequence as I have been for so long.
Some days I lose myself in pity. Pity for these dire circumstances and the state of our world. Pity for all of the beings (human and non-human) who are suffering as I sit in comfort, and as others dear to me laugh at and don’t understand their pain. And, pity for myself, for feeling so alone.
Now, this isn’t the way to live either. Somehow, I have to get through life with this new perspective, and, somehow I have to make it impactful. Wallowing and shutting down won’t help anyone, especially the oppressed I am fighting for. Brief note here; I feel like it’s commonly looked down upon to feel pessimistic and/or negative sometimes. And, I’d like to say that I’m calling bullshit on that. It’s okay to wallow every once in awhile. We need a balance of negativity and positivity to gain perspective on our world, and, as I am trying to stay on theme here, to keep things fundamentally REAL. But, we also can’t just let ourselves waste away in the negativity. There’s always a reason to keep going.
There’s so much more I can and will eventually write about living compassionately, but, in a nutshell, stick to your guns and find what you truly have conviction in. That will give you purpose. Fight for the causes your belly burns and your bones ache for. Because, at the end of the day, even if you’re the only one fighting for it, you stayed true to your values and your core. Some days it won’t feel like the struggle was worth it, but I guarantee you, it is.
Exhibit D. Boundaries
I listened to a really great podcast on boundaries the other day from Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack that really got me thinking…
Everyone has boundaries, yes? We know this.
Get out of my personal space, you smell.
Don’t touch my face, BACTERIA!
This elevator is uncomfortably cramped…
Those are all physical boundaries that can make us uncomfortable and exhaust us.
We also have emotional boundaries. These are boundaries that are probably already embedded into your brain that are just awaiting a trigger. They are also boundaries that you probably commonly ignore (like me!).
I’ll give you an example: It’s Thursday night and I think ahead to the wonderful, relaxing weekend I have planned. Volunteering on Friday morning, and then free time to work on fun projects, maybe see the family, and chill out to a few movies for the rest of the weekend. Then, a friend calls to make plans for Saturday night. I agree because it sounds fun to catch up with this friend, and I wouldn’t mind a few hours of social interaction (mind you, I am an EXTREME introvert who frequently becomes exhausted at the mere thought of social interaction). Hours later, yet another friend wants to see me last-minute on Friday. Yet another wants to hang out on Sunday! The ominous snowball effect of get-togethers has me swirling in a tizzy of anxiety and dread. I feel like I owe people my time and interaction when it really would have been more beneficial for my mental state to keep most of my weekend free for myself and limit the amount of social dates that I took on.
Because that was my decompressing time, yes? Time I had allotted to self-care. To working on a passion project. To sleeping (one of my favorite activities). Once I slot some time for myself, it’s very difficult for me to mentally step out of my “decompress time” and jump into “people interaction” mode.
That’s just who I am. Sound selfish? Maybe, but it’s really not. I know my true relationships stand strong in mutual understanding of each other’s needs and preferences for how we spend our time.
Moral of the story: I concede on my boundaries TOO MUCH. And I’m done blaming other people for making me feel like I’ve sacrificed time I’ve allotted for myself, even though I’m the one conceding and choosing to spend my energy elsewhere. It’s time for me to take responsibility for my boundaries and just be honest.
A note for my friends: Sometimes I don’t want to hang out with anyone. Sometimes the feeling lasts for weeks, even. Way more often than not, it’s not a reflection of you 🙂 I’m simply introverted, or want to sulk alone, or want to work on something I’m passionate about, or just want to take a goddamn nap. It’s just who I am. And I’m sorry if I haven’t articulated enough of how I’m feeling to you sometimes.
Well, after writing all of that, I have several thoughts:
- I realize I just went on several, long rants.
- I’m a bit unsure if they made complete sense, but in the spirit of realness, it was honestly just a bit cathartic to finally write some of this shit down.
- No idea if and what I’ll be writing more of, but I hope I can continue to keep up the brave feeling I felt today, and spit out some realness once in awhile.
- I do still have faith in mankind and the human species. I think every single one of us possesses compassion, even if it’s buried down deep within us.
- I’m now completely exhausted, and am going to take a nap. Then I’ll probably design a website for this blog. Wish me luck!