Thank God for 60 Degree Days

Every weekend is two days of my dad and I trying to fill as many hours as possible with activity. This weekend that has included four grocery stores, Dick’s Sporting Goods, a Harlem Globetrotter’s show, dinner out, and cleaning the garage, several walks around the block and 4.5 miles of a trail.

In the winter, we’ve struggled to find the motivation to leave the house for any reason other than grocery shopping. Last year we tried cross-country skiing, but for this whole winter the trail conditions have been described as “grassy”. I’m too cheap to go to the movies and we can only go shoe-shopping about once a year while preserving our father-daughter relationship. Our city’s minor league hockey team left.

I’ve been meaning to check this place out…

Is he going to take us across to a terrible falafel restaurant in a town where no middle-eastern person has probably ever been? To the frog pond for ice skating at 6 pm on New Year’s Day? To a tiny storefront where the only other customer is sitting at a table counting hundreds? To a store that he was sure was open just a month ago but has actually been closed for three years?

My dad is always wants to try new places: find new trails, new state parks, and our area is the level of suburban that makes that possible. I am content to ride and walk the same six dirt miles of rail trail that we’ve been going to for over a decade, but no, we’ve always got to be looking for someplace different and new.

Today when we were cleaning out the garage, my brother agreed to finally get rid of his skateboard (ahh, those dreams were never realized). I, however, refused to get rid of a pair of inline skates that I had bought at a yard sale six years ago. “I wish there were a paved rail trail where I could roller skate.” This is responded to with a quick Google search and instructions to fill a water bottle and get in the car.

We drove to a narrow rail trail a few towns over, parked in an oddly-marked dirt parking that abutted the trail and off we went.

The great thing about rail trails is that they are flat; towns have taken abandoned railroad tracks and turned them into parks and because trains cannot go up steep hills, now we don’t have to either. This rail trail was avoiding a few rivers and so was a little steeper than we were used to. This resulted in me careening down a few slopes in the skates I don’t know how to stop while he tried not to crash me on my bike.  When we turned around after half an hour, we quickly passed several kids complaining about the entirely uphill ride back as I just tried not to roll backwards.

Because my dad and I have incessant nervous energy, we’re racking up miles in various forms of transportation on trails all over the county. I rollerskated 4 miles today. And walked another two or three. If DST changed the time by two hours instead of one, we’d be out raking the yard right now. All winter we annoy each other as he paces around the house looking for a project or something that we need to run out and get and I try to read finish reading the paper or just watch videos online. Now we can go to new places and breathe in clean air and feel the wind and see kids learning to ride bikes and compare the different reservoirs and easy hikes.

Even though we barely got any snow and feels like global-warming end times, thank god for 60 degree weather.

Advertisements

Being Gay, Irish Catholic, and Watching The Real O’Neals

My family is very dedicated to ABC sitcoms. Wednesday night is a very important night of TV, when ABC shows four family sitcoms: The Middle, The Goldbergs, Modern Family, and black-ish. Last week a new show was thrown into the mix, with two episodes before and after Modern Family (sadly replacing our two favorites). The Real O’Neals, after their two episode debut week, returned this week to its to-be-regular spot on Tuesdays after Fresh Off The Boat.

I’m very excited about The Real O’Neals. The incessant promos before it’s premiere got a little old (“wait you mean this show hasn’t even started yet?” -dad) but I didn’t care. I’m in love.

The premise, as the promos have no doubt informed the whole world, is an Irish-Catholic family with some problems. As is revealed in the premiere, the parents are getting divorced, the older son has an eating disorder, the daughter is a thief, and the younger son is gay. This is combined with lots of guilt, shame, and judgement to produce a delightful family comedy!

Like Kenny O’Neal (why is his name Kenny), I grew up gay and Irish-Catholic. Now, my mother is not the judgmental hell-fire reputation-preserving mother portrayed by Martha Plimpton and my siblings and I did not go to Catholic school. When I came out to my family, it was not an open conversation where we were all clued in together. It was whispered a few times over six years and never openly talked about. I felt like Kenny in the first episode, when he comes downstairs the next day and says “Aren’t we going to talk about this?” Kenny’s siblings are on board, asking ignorant but well-meaning questions and helping him get ready for a date. I have never properly come out to my siblings, but I thought they knew for a while until my brother tried to buy me a Magic Mike XXL calendar for Christmas.

I watch TV every night in our family room, usually with my dad. He was hesitant to watch this show, saying that he didn’t want it to make fun of Irish-Catholics because a big part of our family is Irish-Catholic. I don’t understand how he doesn’t understand why I would like this show so much (no, I’m not going to change the channel to watch Grandfathered).

There are some elements of the show that I don’t think really fit. Kenny and his siblings are very open about confronting their mother on how judgmental she is. The mother, in turn, talks about Kenny being gay a lot, suggesting that he give up being gay for Lent. This doesn’t seem realistic to me; in my mind (and experience), it would be something that would just be ignored, everyone carefully stepping around each other. Kenny also makes jokes about being gay to his mother (“What’s in that closet?” “Not me anymore!”) in a way that I find so distant from my life. Guilt and shame are talked about as values that their family has but you don’t really see that in the way that the characters behave. Of course, that wouldn’t make very good TV, and this is a sitcom at 8:30.

I also think about how this show would be different if the gay middle child were a girl. In the first episode, Kenny’s girlfriend Mimi wants to have sex with him and he (obviously) is not into it. Even after Mimi learns of Kenny’s sexual orientation, she sees no reason they still shouldn’t lose their virginities to each other (Mrs. O’Neal encourages this). This scene feels very different with a lesbian and an ex-boyfriend who still wants to have sex with her and possibly straighten her out. The questions from the siblings would be different, too, and probably the relationship with the mom. (More queer kids on TV! More lesbians on TV!).

My family watched the third episode of The Real O’Neals together last night. Towards the end of the episode Kenny has a touching conversation with his mom, and in turn my mom says “Oh, maybe this show has some nice moments.” It’s not making fun of Irish-Catholic culture like they thought, but we can see our immediate and extended family in it, warts and all.

I’m excited to see where this season goes (please don’t get cancelled). The way the show (and cast) presents itself online sometimes seems like they think it’s more groundbreaking than it is (gay Catholics have been joking about their guilt for decades). But I’m excited to have a happy gay kid on TV. I’m excited to see some of my sad gay Irish-Catholic experiences turn into happy ones, even if my dad is sitting next to me with his arms crossed.

IWD: Supporting Women Creators

I’ve stopped reading novels by men. This seems like a very brash thing to do, but it’s come from years. I’ve become very uncomfortable with the way that men write about women, particularly in novels. It seems skeevy and voyeuristic, like they have no idea what the lives of women are actually like and are projecting a weird fantasy. It creeps me out. And unfortunately, this means that for the most part I have stopped reading novels. Yeah, I make room for the occasional ~classic novel~ and I’ve been seeking out books by non – cis/white/straight men. But there is really a huge difference in my experience reading a novel by a man v. by a woman.

Meanwhile, I spend a lot of time watching Youtube. More time than I’d like to admit. And the vast vast majority of Youtubers that I watch are women, often queer women. (Actually, the only men I follow are Tyler Oakley and CGPGrey). The tone is very different from the male novelists I’ve turned away from. Part of that is due to the medium, but a huge part of it is the experiences and perspective of the creators and how I can relate to them.

In honor of International Women’s Day, I’ve seen some bloggers and vloggers promote some small content creators who are women. I wish I had the online influence to make a big difference in the size of someone’s audience, but even without that amount of power I want to talk about some of my favorite women online creators. 

Youtube

Sidetrack Series is a scripted video series about a group of queer women (mostly of color) who live in New York. It feels fresh and exciting and I love the characters. For the first season, each episode focuses on one character or couple of characters and then all comes together towards the end. They only have 1000 subscribers but I want everyone I know to watch this series.

Hannah Witton is a British Youtuber whose content is focused around sex-education. She also does occasional vlogs and has a series called Drunk Advice. She also did a video today recognizing small female Youtubers that inspired this post.

Ashley Mardell  is a queer Youtuber from Minnesota who vlogs and does comedy videos. More recently, her content has focused around LGBTQ issues and doing education work. Also she and her girlfriend are adorable – go watch her video about how they got engaged.

Alayna Fender is another queer Youtuber from Canada who does vlogs and comedy videos. Her videos are sometimes about LGBTQ issues, often approached from a comedic angle. This girl is a hardcore vlogger and posts on her second channel frequently.

Rosianna Halse Rojas creates some of the most thoughtful content that I have ever seen on the Internet. She recently did a series of vlog-style videos called Space Camp where after work she just spoke to the camera about a topic that she had been thinking about that day and was passionate about. Her videos seem to be from an older part of Youtube that I was too young to ever really experience and I’m very grateful to be experiencing this style of thoughtful conversation through her.

Morgan Paige Loves had a Vine go viral, which is how I found her. Her videos are sporadic but always thoughtful and she seems to be in a place of transition and questioning, which is why I like them so much. Her Tumblr  is great, too.

Shugs and Fats is a scripted sketch series I just discovered today from Hannah Witton and I’m already in love. It’s like Broad City but about two British Muslim women in New York (though I think it’s filmed in the UK). The characters are really funny and over the top. They also have way fewer followers than they deserve.

Just Between Us is a bigger Youtube comedy duo, Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn. They post videos twice a week, one sketch and one video where they answer a viewer’s question (but is still also scripted). Gaby Dunn wrote an important piece about Youtube and financial stability that I also highly recommend.

Other Internet

Ella Dawson went to the same college as I did and now works at TED. She blogs about herpes, feminism, pop culture, and The Bachelor.

Sharleen Joynt is a blogger and opera singer who was on The Bachelor and does amazing recaps and analyses of the show. I’ve learned so much from her about how the show is edited and what happens behind the scenes (and once she liked my tweet!).

Ann Friedman is a writer who also sends out a weekly newsletter. She’s brought me to the most interesting articles and essays on the widest variety of articles. Subscribe to her newsletter even if you only read a couple of the articles.

 

So that’s 11 of my favorite women creators on the Internet! I hope these recommendations inspired you to follow at least a couple of them and to remember to value women’s voices and work, especially when they’re not placed at the forefront.

 

 

Visualizing The Future: What Are Jobs?

When I was in high school and I met with my guidance counselor, I told her that I wanted to be a teacher. This wasn’t out of a passion for education, for children, or any of the reasons people should have to become teachers. It was the only job where I knew what it looked like.

“You can’t be what you can’t see.” This pithy phrase is most often used when talking about representation of people of color, women, LGBT people, in popular media and in high powered positions. I don’t mean to detract from that important work. I sometimes see it also in regards to vision boards and The Secret , about the importance of visualizing your goals so that you can actualize them. You can’t be what you can’t imagine.

Right now I am looking for my first post-college job. A real job, one that will lead to a career. Frequently, I find myself reading job descriptions and it feels like reading in a language I took for one semester. In these job descriptions, I’m familiar with the industry buzz-words (oh yes, that means finance and brutally long hours). I understand to some extent what role these companies and their employees play in the economy, in their communities, in the financial system. But what happens inside everyday?

My mom is a teacher. I see her make lesson plans, see her prepare books and games, see her grade quizzes. I know what a classroom looks like (having learned in one), how a middle school cafeteria works (having eaten in one), what a public school schedule is like (having lived according to one). I understand the flow and content of her day and while I do not have the necessary training and skills to be a teacher right now, it is easy for me to visualize how I might be a teacher, following those routines in those spaces.

My dad works in finance. I see him on his laptop when the weather forces him to work from home, listen to him use unfamiliar acronyms with abandon. He makes a lot of phone calls and has video meetings at odd hours. I have been to his old office; there was a vending machine and a foosball table. I understand what time he leaves home and what time he comes back, but I do not at all understand what happens during the day. What does he do? What is he responsible for? I cannot visualize myself doing something that I do not understand.

There are some jobs that the general public has a good understanding of what they do; these jobs usually require interacting with said public. Bank tellers, supermarket cashiers, firefighters, teachers, taxi cab drivers, some nurses, receptionists, waiters, postal workers, garbage men. We see them on TV, we seem them in our lives regularly. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to envision their daily routines and responsibilities and how our life might be in that job.

But office jobs? High-paying elite jobs? I have no idea. Surgeons, lawyers, politicians, engineers, accountants, CEOs, scientists. What are their daily routines? (Of course, ~every day is different~). I know that surgeons perform surgery, but that’s not their whole day every day. I know senators go to the senate and speak and vote, but that’s not their whole day ever day. What does science really look like?

Internships are supposed to solve this problem by exposing you to different workplace environments, showing you how an office or research lab or campaign trail or …. works. In Europe this is done much better, exposing high school students to different work environments in short bursts, before committing further. Meanwhile, I’ve worked three summer-long internships in very specific environments. And despite my experience in some different offices, I still feel very limited in my powers of visualization. Of course, every specific job has a period of transition as you get used to that specific company and office, but that doesn’t nearly explain the lack of knowledge about the details and daily happenings of high-paying jobs. This is an even bigger problem in low-income communities where young people may not know any engineers, lawyers, teachers, etc. (This is where mentorship and education access come in).

Despite what I initially told my high school guidance counselor, I did not go to school for teaching. Instead I got hooked on another very specific word: economist. I wanted to be an economist. And when my relatives asked “What exactly does an economist do?” I had no answer for them. I had no idea. But I also had no idea what a surgeon does, what a politician does, what an engineer does. I just liked some of the things I had come to associate with the title of economist.

In this time of transition for me, I’m trying to do a lot more visualization of all aspects of my future life. This has included  a lot of Googling buzzwords from job descriptions and talking to my parent’s friends about their work. But if I’m going to have my dream job, I have to know what it looks like. I can’t dream about, I can’t be it, unless I can see it.

Drive

I can only write about driving.

About the feel of the pull of 290

under the worn tires of my too-light car.

Quick, glance to see the fishermen and hockey players

then turn back to to the road

as the car groans, shifting to climb up the hill.

 

I am 20 now

and living for the first time in a new state

though only when school is in session.

Now is the time to write trite stanzas about the town I grew up in.

 

I write about driving north on winding country roads

shooting through the intersection with the hot dog stand in the summer.

The reservoir glistens in the East

as I drive to my best friend’s new house

two towns over

by the abandoned railroad tracks they turned into a trail.

The road narrows dangerously

but I know this route by heart.

I have a habit of ending up here when I get lost.

 

I write about driving with my dad to the church parking lot.

The snow this year is piled by the entrance

taller than nearby roofs.

Many years ago I played soccer here with

the Colombian priest

and the boy who had a crush on me.

My brother hops in the car and we

peer around the snow mountain

before pulling out to go home.

 

I writing about spending the afternoon with my dad

driving up and down route 9.

A new “dog resort” is opening tucked behind some warehouses.

We crest the hill by the closed bookstore and get ready to make a quick u-turn.

There are six grocery stores in three miles. We hit two of them.

The Boston alt radio station fades in and out between traffic lights.

I will never remember the order of hills,

mixing up intersections and credit unions.

I spent a summer and a thousand Saturdays covering the same five miles.

 

I get in the left lane where I belong.

Block.

When my family first moved to our street, all our neighbors were old people. Now they are all dead.


 

Mr. Crane was the first to go. He lived two doors down in a white house often confused for ours. I might have said a total of nine words to him, three years worth of ‘trick or treat’. His lawn and hair were meticulous. I do not know what his job was or what happened to his wife. Did he die in that house or shortly after moving to Florida? Perhaps my dad remembers. I do not.

Mrs.  Carpenter lived next door, the first person I knew to use a lawn-service company. She was sweet and old, a widow, the kind of lady we should have been visiting once a week for tea. For several years her driveway was the bus stop – Cody and I would sprinkle snow across the bottom as decoration until someone told us she might slip on the way to get her newspaper every morning. After she died, we crept into her backyard early one morning and found three vintage cars parked on the grass, carefully wrapped in tarps. The new people who moved in called the school to have our bus stop moved.

Mr. D lived on the other side. There were two things he loved: his wife and his house. The house was a ranch he had built with his own hands, unique in a town filled with colonials and farm houses. He mowed his lawn with pride and snapped photographs of the birds at his feeders. I was always envious of the decades-old swing set rusting in the backyard. When he died, his similarly ancient son took over the lawn and tried to sell the house intact. A developer eventually tore it down to build a string of McMansions that loop behind our yard. My dad talked to Mr. D the younger when he stopped by the final time, but now son and father are blended in my mind. Two dead old men who loved a house.

Seven new houses have been built and now in some years my parents at 50 are the oldest on the block, though the street is constantly in transition. There are small young families who have their kids wait for the bus in the car, retired professors with painting studios above the garage, and the occasional house flippers. We are the last house mowing our own lawn.

 

7 Days of Cold Showers

A week ago in a moment of stress and limited television options, I was sitting on the couch with my dad while he cycled through all five TV stations we get repeatedly asking what show was airing on each one. I was scrolling through Twitter and desperately reading aspirational self-help listicles. You already know how this makes me feel.

The tip that I chose to share with my equally neurotic father was: take a cold shower in the morning. The benefits are both vague and specific: it energizes you, gets you ready to begin the day, makes you more efficient because you won’t want to waste time in the shower. The thing that got me the most was a weird scientific paper saying that taking a cold shower in the morning was as effective in treating depression as medication.

My dad and I are both extremely cheap and immediately thought of how much money we could save on probably-needed-in-the-future medication with this. And because it was 9:30 on Friday night and we were watching a rerun of The Mentalist, we agreed we would try it for one week.

The first two days were horrible. The prospect of taking a cold shower did not make me get up and great the day with enthusiasm; instead, I stayed in bed even longer than usual. When I finally did wake up, I took the fastest shower of my life while groaning continuously a la Tina Belcher. I didn’t even get my hair fully wet, as I realized moments later trying to comb it.

The worst part was thinking about the fact that a) this was all my fault for sharing this stupid fun fact and b) if this works and actually improves my mood I have to do it for the rest of my life. How could I let myself be sad and lethargic in the future while knowing that I had the tool to alleviate all of that at my disposal?

Luckily the next morning was Monday, a day when I am on a different schedule from the rest of my family. After an extra half-hour in bed filled with dread, I tried to take a cold shower, I really did. But I slowly turned up the faucet. After washing my hair I was filled with guilt and turned the faucet back down to just warmer than tap.

Today was day 7 and we are done with the challenge.                                                               Here’s my very scientific conclusion:

Yeah, it works. But only for a couple of hours early in the day. My dad was expecting 12 hours of energy and instead he got 3 or 4. If you are trying to start your day and have no energy, try it for a couple days.

But if you’re problem is like mine, and you need an incentive to get up, this is the opposite of helpful. Take a warm shower that you can look forward to. However, when I normally take a hot shower, I stand under too-hot water for way too long. So my compromise now has been to keep the water a little cooler than what I had been doing and then, after I’ve washed my hair, stand under cold water for about a minute. My skin says thank you and I get the perfect combination of a warm shower I can look forward to and a cold shower to energize me for the day.

 

 

 

Spot the Difference: Self-Care or Symptoms of Depression?

The list of self-care tips are usually slight variations on a theme. Take time for yourself, take a bath, light some candles, listen to soothing music, eat comfort food, take time for a nap during the day, lay in bed and watch your favorite TV shows. They can go on and on, recommending specific scents or shows or songs.

Here’s what depressive behavior looks like for me:                                                                           Lying in bed all day scrolling on my phone, eating stale Wheat Thins out of a box, listening to my favorite song on repeat endlessly, not leaving the house, taking really long hot showers because I can’t bear to get out and face the day, going to bed really early and sleeping in very late, watching Netflix all day until the sound is numbing.

When I sense the onset of depressive or anxiety symptoms, I see those self-care lists and take advice from them. The inspirational tone! They’re so cutely organized – I love the little graphics at the top! Yeah, I should take time for myself and lay in bed all day!

How do I distinguish between taking care of myself and isolating myself?

A popular response is that self-care looks different for everyone.  This is true and easy to say. Of course self-care is different for everyone, because everyone is different! For me these behaviors are unhelpful; it would be healthier and more meaningful for me to find a friend to sit with, take a walk, eat something vaguely resembling a meal. But I am able-bodied and mildly extroverted, and I know that those things are the opposite of helpful for other people.

I worry that the most passed-around lists of self-care techniques are perpetuating a single narrative of healing that can be debilitating for a lot of people. Many of those tips look very similar to symptoms of depression (both textbook and mine). Yes, experiment and find out what helps you get through the day, week, year. Take time to rest; don’t feel like you have to push push push to meet some arbitrary ableist standard of productivity. Involve bath bombs if you must. But I know that I must also eat, bathe, and see other humans; I cannot allow myself to justify spending days in bed alternating between sleep and TV as self-care when it is more harmful than helpful.

(I wish I could write a powerful essay about how self-care culture and discourse ignores the experiences of working-class and low-income women in particular; those essays and posts are out there and I hope people read them. The above is based solely on my experience with mental illness and self-care culture.)

 

The Zodiac Killer and Katy Perry: Why We Need Conspiracy Theories Right Now

The Zodiac Killer was/is a serial killer in California in the 1960s and 1970s (and possibly early 2000s) who was never identified. He corresponded with the police using cryptograms, only one of which was ever solved conclusively. Based on the timing of his killings, there’s a significant chance that he’s dead now. Unless he’s running for President.

For the past week, I’ve been reading Rob Brotherton’s book Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories. I come from a family with a long-standing fascination with conspiracy theories; my dad’s grandmother firmly believed that the moon-landing was faked. More recently, though, popular conspiracies have hit too close to home for us. My very patriotic uncle saw the Twin Towers fall from a ferry and so the 9/11 Truther theories hurt too much to even mention.

Suspicious Minds doesn’t detail the evidence supporting any specific theory, but talks about the psychology and experiences that cause people to believe in these outrageous theories. The more socially disadvantaged you are, the more likely you are to think that there is a grand scheme created by people above you in order to keep you down. (I often feel like a conspiracy theorist when I talk about unconscious forms of sexism with my parents). So why are we talking about the Zodiac Killer right now?

To a large degree, the “conspiracy theories” about Ted Cruz being the Zodiac Killer are largely jokes. Despite the prolific meme-ry, the Internet does not actually think that a man who was born after the Zodiac Killer’s most active years  really committed those crimes. The other theory ~trending~ this week is that JonBenet Ramsey, the little girl who was murdered in 1986, is actually alive and has grown up to become the pop singer Katy Perry. This seems to have come out of nowhere; while Ted Cruz at least has an active campaign, Katy Perry hasn’t even released a single recently.

I find these memes to be in rather bad taste; these are recent, real murders. Their families are still alive and I don’t find joking about these murders to be funny. But I do wonder what these jokes and conspiracy theories  are saying about how we view the world.

Importantly, these cases are unsolved. They indicate a large lack of control in our society. And for many people, this election cycle has, too. The Republican Party has lost control of its primary and we are facing the possibility of previously unfathomable realities. If Donald Trump could be the president, why couldn’t Ted Cruz be the Zodiac Killer? It doesn’t have to be the Zodiac Killer – pick any ludicrous unidentified person from recent memory. The fact that there is no way that Ted Cruz could actually be the Zodiac Killer makes this theory more popular, not less.

The JonBenet Ramsey -> Katy Perry theory developed later and I think can be understood as  a response. Finding out that a Senator is a murder is horrible. But the idea that a little girl who was brutally murdered might actually be alive and well? That’s  a theory filled with hope.

In times when people feel like they cannot trust the systems around them, they turn to conspiracy theories as a way to find some sense of order in their lives. In this crazy election cycle where nothing has gone as expected, people are creating these memes that do the same thing, by solving unsolved murders and resurrecting little girls. Even if we know that the theories are false, playing with them in this way gives us the tiniest bit of control in a time when we feel we have increasingly little.

The Inspirational Listicle

Over the past week I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time on Medium. It’s so easy – they recommend new articles for you, they tell you how long it will take to read, the font is so nice! It’s very easy to get lost and overwhelmed.

But two articles have stuck with me:

50 Ways Happier, Healthier, And More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms by Benjamin Hardy http://bit.ly/1pn1sxq

To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind by Jamie Varon http://bit.ly/1QlpOjY

Hardy’s article is a classic of its genre – corporate-y life maximize your life you don’t have to conform here’s how to game a system in which I am privileged. It reminded me a lot of some of James Altucher’s writing. I followed Altucher’s writing for a while when I was seventeen until someone pointed out to me how many of his tips were based in white male privilege. Some of Hardy’s tips are more manageable and I am very susceptible to the motivational listicle. I frequently fall into the pattern of thought where I am only one article, one inspirational tip, away from living my dream life.

My dad and I are taking tip 15 (Replace warm showers with cold ones) to heart and testing it out for a week. It’s supposed to give us more energy and get us up and ready for the day. It worked the first day but subsequently I have faced each morning with dread at the thought of having to stand under the cold shower head for 5 minutes while I wash my hair. Even worse, if this silly little Tony Robbins-endorsed tip really works, we’re going to have to take cold showers for the rest of our lives.

The other 49 tips seem overwhelming. Marry your best friend? I just spent ten minutes on Tinder talking about roller derby. Create an automated source of income that takes care of the fundamentals? Sorry, gotta bang out these cover letters first. Optimize your life might sound like a good goal for someone who is already living some semblance of a put-together life, but for someone who is in a time of transition, personally economically and politically, this is not useful.

This is where Jamie Varon’s article comes in. A digital writer who I follow on Twitter (I can’t remember which one) tweeted a link to it and I, ever eager for another trip into the whirlwind of Medium, clicked through. For the first time after reading a Medium article, I could breathe. (It helps that Varon’s article is a 5 minute read, compared to Hardy’s 30). Varon’s bolded pull quote is clear and important: “And what I think we all need more than anything is this: permission to be wherever the fuck we are when we’re there.”

I am an unemployed recent college grad who finished school a semester early in order to take some time off and figure out what she wanted. That is where I am. This ‘semester’ (what is time when you’re not in school) is half over and I still don’t know what I want. Timing is important, and February just wasn’t my time. (That’s why it’s March 1 and I am optimistically starting this new project).

If those 30 point listicles about how to game your life and optimize your time and energize your body are helpful for you, then yeah, go read them. I know that I’m about to jump down the rabbit hole of 5k training tips. But it’s not the end all be all. You are where you are and that is more than okay. That is good. You can’t game timing. Stop looking for the video game cheats to your life.