On Marching for Our Lives

Protesters gathering near the speaker stage on Constitution Ave, Washington, D.C.

Protesters gathering near the speaker stage on Constitution Ave, Washington, D.C.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm passionate about the issues, but yesterday I felt reluctant to join the quarter-million people descending upon D.C. to March for Our Lives. I had gone to bed thinking what good does it do just to show up/what's the point? Now I remember, the point is just this: showing up means there's still hope.

My friend Alex walking to join protesters in front of the US Capitol.

My friend Alex walking to join protesters in front of the US Capitol.

Samantha Fuentes, a student survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS, bravely took the stage to recount her experience, the rain of bullets in her classroom, the bullets that struck her legs and lodged shrapnel in her face and behind her eyes. As she stated that "lawmakers and politicians scream 'guns aren't the problem' but can't look me in the eyes" she suddenly and spontaneously vomited on stage before continuing a harrowing speech.

Emma Gonzalez, also of Stoneman Douglas High, spoke briefly then silenced hundreds of thousands of people for just over 6 minutes and 20 seconds, the same amount of time it took for a senseless act to take 17 lives in Parkland, and what felt like an eternity.

Meanwhile, at home in Richmond, Maxwell Nardi of Douglas S. Freeman HS stood shoulder to shoulder with community leaders and law makers at the state capitol before delivering a concise call to action for gun reform.

I'm so grateful to the unstoppable force of young people who are refusing to be martyrs to this cause and whose energy will no doubt lead to real change, and I'm equally grateful to the friends who keep my feet firmly pounding pavement to support them.

My best new habit

A rainbow over the Rainbow Bridge from New York to Canada at Niagara Falls

Today I'm excited to share my very favorite list! I posted a few weeks ago about having made time to try something new about once a week over the course of the past year. I still do it, actively seeking out new things, trying to engage with open-mindedness and experience, and it has become one of my best habits. What I'm sharing isn't comprehensive (I'm not yet willing to give away all of my secrets) but in case anyone else is interested in giving it a shot I thought I'd share some of the activities I made notes of during the last 14-ish months... who doesn't love a good list?

Here are 52 things I did for the first time. I didn't really make a plan, just the one rule: that I should fully embrace whatever new thing I was trying, enjoy it and learn from it. Here's where I started:

OCTOBER, 2016

  1. Drive to Canada 
  2. Don a poncho and ride on the Maid of the Mist
  3. Listen to chocolate (in a tasting experience at Hershey chocolate factory)

    NOVEMBER 2016
     
  4. Vote for a female to be POTUS
  5. Get laser hair removal (Note: Apparently it’s worthless on light-haired natural blondes. Don’t waste your money.
  6. Climb a fire escape onto a random building roof downtown

    DECEMBER 2016
     
  7. Develop a communications team (for Communications Lead role in TEDxRVA)

    JANUARY 2017
     
  8. Yoga Nidra Meditation Class (Project Yoga Richmond)
  9. Protest to advocate for women's equality and civil rights
  10. Meet with and manage an intern

    FEBRUARY 2017
     
  11. Create a 9-foot mural with chalk
  12. Knit a hat for a friend
  13. Meet Angela Davis
  14. Take a Pound Class

    MARCH 2017
     
  15. Drink dandelion tea
  16. Run sound/production for an Open Mic Night
  17. Participate in a neighborhood scavenger hunt/bar crawl (Ravenchase)

    APRIL 2017
     
  18. Bike ride on the Capital Trail
  19. "Read" an audiobook
  20. Play a pickup basketball game with friendly strangers
  21. Join a Breakaway RVA bike ride
  22. Stencil-tag posters (thanks to Spencer at Triple Stamp Press)

    MAY 2017
     
  23. Don't drink for a month (well, minus one day...)
  24. Travel for a professional photography assignment
  25. Eat Poke
  26. Scream into the Grand Canyon
  27. Bathe under a waterfall within a cave

    JUNE 2017
     
  28. Go to a burlesque show
  29. Host a Screen-Printing workshop
  30. Be on a radio show
  31. Stifle a social media PR [non]crisis
  32. Buy / set up / sit in my own hammock

    JULY 2017
     
  33. Design the website for a multi-day film festival
  34. Have a photograph I took published in the Huffington Post
  35. Explore Sensory Deprivation in a Float Tank (Float Zone, RVA)

    AUGUST 2017
     
  36. Play Dungeons & Dragons
  37. Drink wine on the roof of a house made of straw 
  38. Surf on the East Coast AND the West Coast within 3 days
  39. Play (and win!) a "Beer-iocart" tournament (Surfside Venice Bar, Venice Beach, CA)
  40. Be a Lyft Driver
  41. Host a stop in a Progressive Dinner

    SEPTEMBER 2017
     
  42. Turn down a serious pitch for a pyramid scheme
  43. Run a Half Marathon (Rock and Roll, Virginia Beach)
  44. Design the program for a multi-day film festival
  45. Eat something with gold flakes (Chairlift at Brenner Pass, hazelnut tart pastry

    OCTOBER 2017
     
  46. Pick fruit in an Orchard (Carter Mtn Apples)
  47. Conquer a corn maze (Maize Quest, Mt Jackson, VA)

    NOVEMBER 2017
     
  48. Canvass neighborhoods for Get Out the Vote (yea Ralph Northam!)
  49. Try a sandwich I've never had (my first Cuban from Kuba Kuba was GREAT)
  50. Meditate at a sound concert (Lucid Living RVA)

    DECEMBER 2017
     
  51. Decide to take the time to rescue a cat from a tree (Paco the cat is now safe!)
  52. Have a photo I took published in a largely distributed print publication

Niagara Falls, New York and Horseshoe Falls, Canada

Women's March on Washington

Angela Davis in the green room after an Evening with an Icon event

Chatting through clues on our hunt around the Fan with Ravenchase

Following Ashley on a Breakaway RVA ride

Stencil Tag setup

Ozarks National Forest, AR

My hammock!

Venice Beach surfing

Playing D&D

Post-Race Celebration with Lani

Maize Quest, Mt. Jackson, VA

The list is still growing, but I that's a solid sample. If you're looking for a new habit to kick off the new year, I highly recommend this. Happy 2018!

How I learned the importance of work/life balance.

Hiking between a rock and a wild place, Ozark National Forest

Hiking between a rock and a wild place, Ozark National Forest

In 2016, I got mad. It's hard to pinpoint exactly when things began to really ramp up, but I can clearly identify a few pieces of debris that stick out in the eventful tornado that was 2016. For example, not knowing when or how to say no to yet another one of the freelance projects that was dominating the majority of my free time and mental capacity. Then there was totaling my car, and the subsequent addition of a car payment to my mounting bills. And then the new car being hit (twice, with varying damages) a couple months later. Or when my best friend got laid off from her job right after deciding not to renew her apartment lease, another friend separated from her husband, and a third got divorced. And none of that begins to touch the nightmare that was waking up on November 9th to find that the President-elect being nominated was somehow not just a bad, bad dream.

I remember reading the following January that 'Dumpster Fire' was the 'Word of the Year for 2016'. (Isn't it two words?) Eh... I did not disagree.

However, I also knew the dumpster fire was not going get put out all by itself.

Perhaps no amount of volunteer hours for noble causes could keep a bigoted sexual-predator out of the oval office, but damned if I wasn't going to try. Boy, I tried. I took on larger roles in the community organizations I worked with; stopped accepting freelance work so I could focus my energy on volunteer organizing; I wrote letters and made phone calls to congressmen and women; laced up boots and marched in streets; I barked at friends who complained about the state of affairs without getting involved, and I encouraged/compared notes with ones who were already setting and chasing goals.

Notes from my first volunteer orientation meeting. Yikes.

Notes from my first volunteer orientation meeting. Yikes.

I also really made a mess of things. I over-committed. My mother calls it "burning the candle at both ends"—this looked more like trying to slow the shrinking of said candle by twirling it like a baton, resulting in a faster-burning fanned-flame effect and wax just splattering all over the place—I overworked myself until I had no patience left for my teams or fellow volunteers, I was short with people I cared about, and when I did make time for them here and there I would often be so tired that I would take on the persona of a drunk sorority girl and abruptly either fall asleep or become hyper-emotional. I put on 15 pounds from consistently stress-eating takeout meals between meetings, almost never exercising, and really just neglected any semblance of self-care (with the exception of one impulsive and drastic haircut—think Britney Spears circa 2007).

Mid-planning session for my volunteer communications team.

Mid-planning session for my volunteer communications team.

On weekends, if by some act of God there was not a meeting scheduled until the afternoon, I was completely worthless in my personal life until the very last minute that I had to throw on a beanie/blazer/[something to feign the appearance of having it all together] and run out the door. I recall only two days where I shirked all after-work meetings and responsibilities, locked myself in my apartment and gave myself a night off (both occasions with a different friend and a healthy pour of sauvignon blanc—thank you, Josh and Alex).

It was constant. Churning and pushing and grinding. 

I took a breath. Went camping, drove through the middle of the country for six days. Went hiking. Played in a waterfall. Got out of range of cell service and wifi and the blue, glowing buzz of electronics.

My first morning at Grand Canyon National Park.

Then, like no time had passed, I was right back. Churning and pushing and grinding.

Finally it hit me. It was 1:30AM on a Monday night/Tuesday morning, the night before my 4:30AM flight to the west coast for a friend's wedding, and I had only just hung up with the founder of the organization for which I was currently designing a website. Suddenly, I realized, I was actively choosing this. Sure, it would really inconvenience some folks if I were to drop everything and start living like I was a half a decade ago with barely any responsibility to anyone other than myself, but I could do it, and furthermore the planet would keep spinning and circling the sun if I spent a little more energy taking care of myself, and a little less trying to stifle fires elsewhere.

I finished packing for the early morning flight, flopped into bed, and locked eyes on my ceiling. I was the only single person invited to this wedding on the opposite side the country, and suddenly it occurred to me that I actually hadn't even been on a date since... one, two, three... SEVEN months ago?! What else had I been putting off? What else was falling through the cracks, what was I sacrificing? And what was to be gained, aside from the gaping bags that had moved in beneath each of my eyes? I didn't find answers before coasting into sleep, but new and important gears had been set in motion.

Maybe working doesn't always have to result in being overworked. Duh. How very obvious it seems now.

I began to think, I'd bet that if I put half the effort I put into external initiatives into myself and my own work (my personal art, my portfolio, updating my resume, my health, dating, exercise... even cleaning or crafting) I would be downright crushing it. I mean, with that amount of effort… CRUSHING IT! People are simply better at their work when they're better at themselves. I know this.

So that's my new priority, getting me all fixed up and sorted out.

Rest and relaxation hammock setup at Ancarrow's Landing in RVA.

Rest and relaxation hammock setup at Ancarrow's Landing in RVA.

And so far, I am crushing it.

 

The Caveat:

All of that being said, 2017 hasn't been a wash. (Well, maybe it has... but I mean it hasn't been for me, personally. Wait, did you not realize we were just going to be talking about me? This is a blog, you know.) Remember back when I said the thing about the dumpster fire wouldn't put itself out? Well, my fight-or-flight response said JUST RUN THE F*** OUT OF THE COUNTRY! But my wallet said something more to the effect of, "noooooooo, no, nope." Besides, there's so much work left to be done here. So at the very least, I decided I'd be doing things a bit differently. 2017 was going to net positive, and I was going to make sure of that. 

In order to overcome some obstacles that appeared increasingly foreign to me I needed to make an effort to stretch my mind and stay on my toes. Somehow, between answering emails and meetings that ran long I managed to form a new habit: I challenged myself to try something totally new (to me) about once a week, and if I wasn't going to actively seeking something out that week—see above about being utterly over-committed—I was at least taking note of the personal growth I was gaining from these new opportunities, in hopes of fully embracing the projects to which I was already committed.

It was actually the easiest, funnest and most interesting thing I did this year.

Stay tuned... next up is a list of 52(+) things totally new to me that I’ve done in the last year(+).