Reflecting on progress > obsessing about the past

It’s high June and I’m going to express to you that most of June is SWELTERING here in Southern California. At least by my standards. Not that that says much; being born and raised in Southern California imbues one with an intolerance for real-life weather, let’s be real.

However, there are bigger things that I’ve been known to express, such as my feelings on hot-topic issues, my personal life, and my ever-evolving career path.

At times, I’ll admit that I wish I would have stayed silent.

If you Google my real name, you’ll find a bevy of articles and musings that show snapshots of me during particular times. These pieces, to their credit, reflected my thoughts, style, diction, and values at the time. Fair enough. Unfortunately, many of these are cringe-worthy and incongruent to the H that exists now. And many times, I think to myself, “Why, why did I write this? Why did I do this? What was I thinking? This is embarrassing.”

I’m sure you, Reader, experience the same thing. Perhaps you’re in the middle of a conversation when someone brings up the time that you got into a fist fight in the middle of some bar in some town, a memory which you thought nobody still knew or cared about after, what was it, 7, 8, years?

Or maybe you’re looking at a family photo album and notice that a few pictures from your “scene kid” phase have moseyed their way into those plastic pages. “My god,” you think, “was that even me?”

Or it may be that you’re like me, agitated in bed one night, Googling yourself and trying not to sound irate when e-mailing websites to “PLEASE. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. TAKE MY OLD ARTICLE DOWN. THAT’S NOT ME. I DON’T KNOW HER.” (I’m lookin’ at you, Thought Catalog!)

Whether it’s our old way of being, manner of speaking, style of dress, working style, writing style, or whatever, we all have a past. We have all grown and changed since the days of our past. We’ve gained new knowledge, new experiences, and new perspectives. We are us, but better.

The idea that we can come to terms with these past selves and realize that we are here at Ourselves 2.0 (or 3.0, or 4.0) because of them is easier said than done. I’m sure many of you reading this look at a past work decision (for example) and still regret it to this day. Even if you’re doing more-than-okay now, you’re probably still thinking, “What could I have done differently/better?”

I don’t mean to discredit your concerns, but there is no bigger waste of time than thinking that thought in your head. However, change that sentence to “What can I do differently next time?” and we have ourselves a winner.

Even then, we have to understand the limitations of that approach. Sometimes, what we do in Moment A, while it might not have been totally ideal, felt right at the time and still led us to make other good decisions/gain knowledge. Sometimes we simply have to own the fact that our truth was the truth at the time. Moreover, we cannot apply our lessons learned as blanket solutions to every problem. Every problem that comes up is complex; we will probably never “solve” any of them perfectly, no matter how much thinking we do or how many “logical” actions we take.

Now, I’m not saying that we should act with reckless abandon or never reflect on our mistakes. Of course we should! But we need to change our approach. Ruminating is tiresome and it solves nothing. Harsh, but true. And this is coming from someone who was once the Ruminator to End All Ruminators.

So, if you haven’t yet already, remind yourself that it’s okay that you said/did/wore that thing that one time. You’re awesome now. You’ll be even more awesome in the future. Hold onto that.

-H

(Note: Artwork is credited to KijaDoll from Deviantart)

 

On privilege.

I am pretty reticent to write about this subject given the current social climate here in the United States. Chances are high that I will either spark the ire of those who are irritated with the idea of “PC culture” (others’ term, not mine) or fall short of satisfying those who are negatively affected by systemic inequalities that exist here. Or maybe both. The internet – nay, the world – is an unforgiving place.

I’m a Caucasian-looking person who was adopted into and grew up in a similarly Caucasian, affluent microcosm. Preschool was a given. A car for my high school graduation was a perfunctory gift. College was a requirement and on the parents’ dime to boot. Worries about the origin of our food, shelter, or various stipends for health and entertainment were nonexistent. Many, though not all, of my childhood/teenagehood friends came of age in similar predicaments.

Going to college in a new state afforded me the chance to experience a “realer” America, without the solace of a private beach or gated communities. I made more brown and black friends, more queer friends, more friends who grew up under differing socioeconomic hardships. I learned a little more about how various things can impact a life, impact one’s trajectory.

I was taught to be “color blind” growing up. To not judge people for how they looked or how much money they had. At the same time, the world I grew up in had very little to offer in terms of diversity. In fact, I was implicitly taught that those who were “diverse” were different from us in some way. The word “housekeeper” was often preceded by friends and acquaintances by the word “illegal” or “Mexican”. I’d be walking with an acquaintance past a homeless person downtown and they’d snicker to me, maybe making a comment about “that crazy guy over there”. And I don’t need to remind readers of the fact that my Orange and Los Angeles county origins instilled a standard of beauty within people that prides itself on being manufactured, almost unattainable, so anyone who resembled something outside of that was often mocked. No one individual taught me to judge growing up – it was a natural, almost unintentional byproduct of my aforementioned microcosm.

Due to my naturally nonjudgmental nature, I eventually returned back to a place of imagined equitability in an effort to internally elevate all people in my mind. Everyone was equal to me until proven otherwise. I wouldn’t make a big deal about race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background. I would just pretend like those things didn’t exist, that we were all the same. And I thought that would be enough.

Things were comfortable that way.

It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I started realizing how self-centered and ineffective this school of thought was: that if I alone saw everyone equally, that the world would magically become a better place.

Then I started hearing about police brutality. I started hearing about the treatment of refugees. My Muslim friends started telling me about the things said to or about them. I experienced certain types of prejudice and discrimination hatred firsthand.

I couldn’t hide behind the guise of “we’re all equal!!!11” anymore. Because no matter what I thought, these situations were the reality for countless people. And frankly, my positive attitude alone was doing nothing.

It was only recently that I finally realized that I was not only privileged, but exceptionally so.

Later on in life, I started to learn about things that weren’t talked about much in school: the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. The black pioneers of technology and aerospace. The Stonewall riots and the gender non-conforming heroes at the forefront of them. Furthermore, I started making a conscious effort to read more from and about people who were not white, heterosexual, cisgender, and/or able-bodied individuals.

You get the idea.

Speaking about this topic is exceedingly difficult and I carry a target on my back for doing so. Because like I mentioned above: it’s too much, or it’s not enough.

The genesis here is that it’s okay to acknowledge where you came from and acknowledge that you are quite possibly lucky in many ways. Sure, we all struggle. One swift read through my blog will inform you of my own struggles. But I’m completely uninterested in the Oppression Olympics, so I’m not going to compare your struggle to mine. Nor should you do the same.

That said, it’s also okay to learn more about people. All types of people. And better yet, to support other people – financially, spiritually, whatever. We live in a huge, ever-expanding world. The “right” thing to do isn’t always clear, but let’s just start by being self-aware and committing ourselves to learning.

-H

(Note: There is a LOT more that I can say here, but I’m going to keep it brief. If requested, I can expound upon my views, but I think the general message here is pretty clear: open your eyes, learn, and love.)

(Note 2: Artwork is credited to my favorite artist, Jee-ook Choi.)