One of my favorite blogs is SEMI-RAD, mostly because it’s freaking funny and filled with lots of tongue-in-cheek outdoors tips, which I love. The blogger, Brendan Leonard, has a series that he updates every Friday called “Friday Inspiration.” In it, he unloads all of the best stuff he’s found on the Internet that week. As we all know, the Internet can often be the armpit of humanity: dark and disgusting. It’s nice to take a break from all of that and see the silver lining. So, to follow in the footsteps of Brendan Leonard and add what I hope will be a little more joy to the world wide web, here is the first in my own series of best stuff found online. Enjoy!
eating: lots of tacos. I ate six on Cinco de Mayo that were the size of my face and legitimately thought I was going to die. By the end of the summer, I plan on being the Cache Valley white girl taco expert. Thus far, the restaurant formerly known as El Salvador has hands down the best tacos I’ve ever eaten in my life. La Chispita is an okay choice, though, if it’s Taco Tuesday/Thursday and you’re not that far south. The owners are selfless dears, so I’ll recommend them any day.
drinking: too many Swig drinks to count, or should I say highway robberies in a cup, because at least 1/3 of those drinks are ice. Every visit is a sugar rush followed by the bitter taste of having been ripped off. And yet, I can’t stay away, dangit. Suddenly craving one right now…ugh.
reading: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, the Eat, Pray, Love lady. It’s about the importance of ideas and why we should always pursue creative living. I like it so far. It’s really been helping my block.
listening to: NPR. NPR is the best thing on the radio right now. I never walk away from a segment without learning something new or important. I’m almost to the point of donating money to them, which is a very weird, senior citizen-esque thing to do, but they deserve it for their top notch programming.
Aside from NPR, I’ve fallen in love with the following tunes lately (please forgive the messy formatting):
watching: Kubo and the Two Strings. The animation is stunning and the monkey has become one of my favorite animated characters of all time. I also rewatched the last episodes of Stranger Things because it’s the best thing Netflix ever gave to the world. I started watching Schindler’s List, which I thought was thirty years older than it is and therefore had 50 year old FCC standards. It didn’t. It was a very, very big mistake. I was crying into a pillow and very near throwing my guts up in the first thirty minutes. I also have the overwhelming desire to pummel every Nazi that ever lived into the ground. If someone has an edited version of Schindler’s List that I can borrow, hit me up. But maybe don’t, because it’s legitimately the most horrific film I’ve ever partially watched.
doing: aside from work, hiking. I’ve been running to the mountains a lot lately because I’ve had a lot on my mind. I can’t really explain what happens to me when I’m up there. On a trail, my anxiety disappears and I see myself how I really am, blood and bones and insecurities and dreams and all. I’ve spent lots of time chasing trails lately to find myself.
writing: prose and poetry, for the first time in awhile.
wearing: lots of stripes and florals. Literally all of my b&w striped shirts are dirty right now, and I own about five.
looking forward to: promotion. My current employer offered me a pretty neat events planning/marketing position, and I fought it tooth and nail until I suddenly didn’t. I didn’t want to make that choice, but it doesn’t feel like the wrong choice. I’ll be in Logan for about another year unless something dramatic happens. That’s been hard on me, mostly because post-grad life is lonely in Logan, and I’m aching to see more of the world, but I’m excited about the job and the opportunity it will be.
waiting for: some poetry books I ordered from Amazon. I get inordinately excited about Amazon packages being in the mail. It’s almost a letdown when they finally arrive, haha.
struggling with: being real here, loneliness. I haven’t had a Sunday in several weeks when I have not felt achingly lonely. I’ve downplayed it for awhile now, mostly because I don’t know why it’s happening. All I know is that I’ll be sitting in church sometimes and feel like there’s a bottomless ocean inside of me instead of me, like I’m unreachable to everyone somehow. I guess it’s a combination of watching so many people move on and knowing that eventually, that’s what all people do. They get themselves tangled in your life for an exciting moment, and then they move on without you when you were just getting used to the idea of them staying. It’s the saddest thing about being a person.
worried: that I’m either never enough or always too much.
missing: puppies, Washington DC, the boy with the longboard who had an obsession with The Black Keys and made me laugh during silent films freshman year of college, the rush of graduating, my grandpa.
hoping: to find some climbing buddies for the summer, to get back to the gym some day…one day…
learning: that abandoning doing the dishes/eating to write is a bad idea, that endurance is the hardest part about life, that there are times you have to go through hard things alone, that the Savior can carry that burden, incomprehensibly.
wanting: to have a family, to be a mom, to buy a dog, but I can’t. Because landlords.
planning: to visit New York City this winter or save up for Rome. To check off some more parks on my National Park Bucket List. There are 59, you know. That’s no pittance of parks.
hoping: that I’ll figure it all out. One day.
When you jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, you perhaps expect to slide effortlessly into the water below and quietly cease to exist, like a lit match under the open spout of a kitchen sink. You don’t expect waves to feel like concrete, ocean to chew and then swallow. But it does. Or so that’s what the man being interviewed on NPR says when the reporter asks him how it felt to attempt suicide.
I regretted it the moment I was in freefall, he says. I asked myself, ‘What have I done?’ and prayed, ‘Please, God, save me.’
Since 1937, over 1,700 people have jumped over the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge. Only 25 have survived. Kevin Hines, the man with regret, is one.
Picture a finger sliding smoothly across the surface of an iced chocolate fudge cake and you’d have a microscopic idea of how I looked on my fourth or fifth time snowboarding; instead of a finger, however, imagine my lifeless body, and instead of an iced cake, imagine ice.
I was barreling down D-Street, an intermediate route at my local ski resort, when I started thinking too hard, caught an edge, and flipped over every vital organ and vertebrae in my body to land straight on my nose in a sheet of hard ice. I then slid 20 feet down the mountain on my face, my arms dragging above me like corpse limbs until I came to a heaping stop right under a lift packed with people who didn’t realize they’d also paid for improv comedy.
If there’s such a thing as an “unfinest hour,” this surely was mine.
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.
For the past month, I have started and then stopped writing at least a dozen blog posts. I’ve opened my laptop with every intention of expressing my thoughts, only to leave it disheartened time after time after time. I’ve been silent, unsure of what to say, how to say it, or if it’s even worth saying. I’ve hated the idea of adding one more heated opinion into an already contentious space. I’ve hated the idea of being confronted, of having to confront. I’ve hated the idea of expressing myself as if I know it all, knowing full well that I don’t, that some days, I’m astounded at how little I actually understand. I’ve allowed fear to eat up the one good thing I feel I have to give back to the world: a voice. I’ve been a coward, and my writing’s gone rusty while I try to figure out how to respond.
Orlando and Dallas and, generally, the state of the world, have just about torn me apart. It seems that just as we begin healing, someone has to cause harm again. Cuts are made on top of scars on top of scars on top of scars. Bodies that have just gone cold have had more bodies thrown on top of them. Life, that delicate, beautiful, and vivid thing we all share is at every corner smothered out and pinned behind the glass some madman labels “A Statement.” Humanity is poisoning itself to prove its worth. And, if you’re like me, you’ve watched on from behind your phones or your computers and felt the devastatingly heavy weight of the thought, “What good can ever be done to end this?” like it’s the lid of a coffin closing on top of you.
This week, I’ve learned what it is that we can do.
We can stop being the same thing we were yesterday, the same cowering person who hides instead of running in to help. We can stop ripping apart the weak, the hurt, and the different, stop hosting pointless, heated wars on social media that do nothing for understanding and instead, polarize further. We can take a long, hard look at ourselves and stop doing bad things or cruel things, justifying our own callousness or conceit. We can be the good in a world gone mad, in a world that keeps doing and saying the same old things that just don’t work.
The world thinks forgiveness is a sign of weakness, that it validates bad choices and enslaves us. So forgive.
The world thinks evolution botched up on humanity and we’re all destined to be animals. See us as something divine.
The world thinks an eye for an eye is justified. Show mercy.
The world thinks outrage is the only way to get anything done. Share love.
We are not a generation of Martin Luther Kings if our immediate reaction to bad things happening is to create chaos. We are not a generation of giants if we resort to violence and rage instead of love and empathy. We won’t do a single bit of good for anything or anybody if we continue to put ourselves in camps. turn ‘us’ into ‘them,’ and make space for hatred.
I can’t seem to say a single thing that isn’t cliche’ when it comes to tragedy right now. Just be good. Just be optimistic, better, and more empathetic. See brothers and sisters instead of enemies. Speak up and speak out, but speak kindly.
Please share more good. Please. We all need it.
Today I ticked another box on the long list of things that humans can be afraid of.
‘Great white sharks’ was checked when I was eight and watched Jaws for the first time at my aunt’s house, ‘my body’ was checked when I tried on prom dresses in high school and realized how awkwardly they fit over pudge, and ‘love’ was checked and unchecked and checked again when I slipped headlong into another something punctuated with far too many plans and far too many careless goodbyes.
Today, I ticked off a box I didn’t even know was one.
It happened with a phone call, just a simple call from a man in New York City who had received the wrong shipment. Sirens echoed behind him, and in an instant, I stopped hearing his voice, stopped noticing if he even had the accent. Through that palm-shaped receiver I saw streets and cities, the busy rushing of career men and women down the sidewalks, the honks of taxis and the clicking pawls of bicycles lit up beneath Times Square. For a moment, I wanted to be him, that man in some business tucked in some New York nook, attempting to live in a city that knows how to do little else but live and die loudly. I wanted to pick up his newspapers, say hello to his neighbors, and get caught up in the lights that he somehow managed to sleep through at night. I wanted to live his mundane, which seemed far more exciting than my own.
It hit me all at once how afraid I am of living a small life, of waking up every day to a routine I’m ashamed of, of one day looking back and seeing how much potential I let atrophy, how many places I left untouched, not because I had no options, but because I did nothing.
Today I ticked off another box: ‘not doing everything I’ve dreamed of doing.’
That scares me more than I care to say.
Your idea of making America great is to look at it through the lens of someone who has never gone without, who doesn’t understand what it is to go without a home or a place to stay. Your idea of making America great is to build walls, then build them higher.
As someone who follows you on Facebook, sees your pictures on Instagram, and notices the things you pin on the rare occasions that I’m on Pinterest, I can say that I kind of know who you are.
You are all of these things, and yet, as someone who follows you, sees you, and notices you, I sometimes get a little discouraged at some of the things you’re posting.
You take lots of selfies and share them. I only mind that a little. I’m very guilty of taking selfies, too. You wear nice clothes and put on nice makeup and have nice hair, and yeah, I sometimes compare, but I don’t hold it against you. What I notice goes beyond that. Some of you have stopped sharing your travel experiences, your adventures, and your life with me and instead share images of your face that fill the whole frame and have captions like: “Spain is just beautiful this time of the year! #lovinit.” You’ve stopped sharing inspirational quote posters that you’ve found on Pinterest, ones that speak to everyone, regardless of size or color, and instead share a picture of your lips and your eyelashes with something like “Live life to the fullest! Dream big!” beneath it. And it’s not a huge deal, but it’s very indicative of a bigger issue I see girls of all backgrounds struggling with right now: the need to be physically admired.
This letter is for all of us, but it’s particularly for the girl who has built a virtual art museum around her anatomy. It’s for the girl who obsesses over the slope of her chest and distance between her hips. It’s for the girl who wants attention, good, bad, or any, who treats her cleavage like it’s a Monet, who treats herself like a philanthropist by taking pictures of her butt in workout pants and telling other women, “If you want it, work for it.” It’s for the girl who publicizes her body parts on Instagram to a crowd of bored, stimulated strangers, all who harmonize together with comments such as:
“Where do you live?”
“That is gorgeous”
“Very beautifuuuuull, my looooovvvee!!”
“Can I marry you I would love you forever”
“The things I would do”
I think we women are both ignoring and creating a serious societal problem, one we’ve gotten away with blaming on other people for a long time, and it’s about time we had some girl talk about what we are doing with our bodies.
We live in a world that consumes, uses, and sells the Victoria Secret body like its merchandise. I know you’ve seen it — curved hips, narrow waist, full lips, exposed parts. The girl inside it may have an expressive, beautiful face, but the greedy businessmen who sell her body mostly care that we see her from her lips down. She’s on every television, every movie, every magazine, and every book that lines the shelves of low culture. People love her and buy sandwiches, video games, and movie tickets because of her. People pay money to watch her move, as if she’s a prize race horse set to win the Triple Crown.
The sad truth, however, is that the objectified woman we’ve been force-fed all these years still clings more tightly to our self-worth than we may think. She’s leaked onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. She hides in forums called “Fitness” or “Thinspiration.” She is worshiped by us, emulated by us, and pornified, yes, by us. She doesn’t look tan and fit and good in a bikini all the time, either.
She looks just like us.
Us, the small and lanky and thin and curvy. Us, the overweight and narrow and big-boned and emaciated. She lurks behind us girls who claim to be all about natural beauty and self-celebration but still haven’t mustered the guts to post a selfie that isn’t altered. Us, the women who tell each other that our bodies are no definition of who we are, and yet, plaster our social media with them.
We women are objectifying women as much as, if not more than Hollywood and society. Don’t believe me? Just look at your Instagram.
Many of you have somehow amassed thousands of followers that come to watch as you cut your body into little square-shaped pieces and demand, like a consumed Victor Frankenstein, that your creation be seen. Many of you push the edge, fed by the hunger to have friends and family and love interests tell you three significant words: “You look good.” You are billboardizing yourself with your selfies, turn yourself into a virtual Mona Lisa with a story behind that smile that no one cares anything about because they’re too busy staring at your body. Because you’re doing this, other girls are doing it, and you’re giving the world permission to keep treating us all like we’re only as good as the skin we expose and the bodies we show off.
Frankly, I’m sick and tired of wanting to be admired for who I am, but feeling like that’s not even important to us women as a whole anymore. We seem to be driven, not by the need to be heard, but the need to be seen. We claim that we don’t want to be “just another pretty face,” and yet we advertise ourselves as if that’s what we are. We are not the helpless victims in a world attacking women’s bodies, not when we obsess over the body of our athletic neighbor, not when we collect pictures of body parts that we call inspiration, not when we take more pride in how our behinds look in photographs than how we make the world a better place, and not when we justify all of that by saying “it’s my body, and I’ll do what I want with it.” Don’t tell me we are blameless when we don’t care how much we know, how hard we work, or how big we can dream; don’t say that when we put no importance on how kind we are to people who are not kind to us, or how brave we are, and instead put all of our attention into how hot we look in photos.
Dear girls who love showing off your bodies on social media, you are more than your body! For the sake of the rest of us and the future of us, stop acting like you aren’t.
I don’t want to see your pretty face all of the time. I want to see how you’re living your life. I don’t want to see those ripped abs and tight thighs you’re wallpapering your Pinterest account with in the hopes that one day they’ll be yours. I want to see you accept yourself and work for a better version of your own body because you want to feel good. I don’t want to see your butt in yoga pants. I want to see you kicking butt on that test or that trial or that insecurity you struggle with. I don’t want to see you change the angle of your photographs. I want to see you change the world.
You are not something to be consumed by other people. You are a woman, and your beauty is not surface deep. So please. Take that selfie. Don’t let this letter stop you. Please. Celebrate your body. Don’t think I’m asking you not to. Just remember that no selfie can capture your actual self, something that goes far beyond surface beauty and isn’t an it but a who. Celebrate her! Love her! Don’t let anybody else forget that she, not the package she comes in, is worthy of praise.
Dear girls, please stop objectifying us.
Start standing up for us.
I remember one house in particular that was the most magical of all of them. It was a ranch house that sat just north of historical Preston, Idaho. We’d drive for about 45 minutes from our house to get to it, but you could see it well before you got to it. Not only was it covered in Christmas lights that stretched high into the trees surrounding it, but the house was covered in Disney characters.
Stationed on every patch of ground around that house were wooden characters that had been meticulously cut, painted, and propped up to form scenes straight from movies. Simba, Rafiki, Nala, and Scar stood in one corner of the yard, and Belle and the Beast spun around on a mechanized wheel in the other. The Grinch was on the roof of the house, his wooden arm creaking up and down to crack a whip against his poor counterfeit reindeer, while little wooden puppies traveled along a metal conveyor into the clutches of Horace and Jasper in the front yard. Everywhere you looked, there was a different character doing a different thing — Toy Story, Lilo and Stitch, Cinderella, you name it! I’d roll down my window and lean far out of the car as we moved around the circle drive so I could see every single character. It was the most magical thing I’d ever experienced.
As time passed, we went on Christmas light trips less. I grew older and reached that age where Christmas seems less magical and more meaningless, where the noise and the chaos and the gift giving aren’t what they used to be and the wonder of childhood is replaced by the weight of reality. Last year, like some sad, parallel symbolism, the lights and wooden cutouts came down for good at that house in Preston. The expense of having them up every year for 25 years was too much. Even having not visited for years, hearing the news broke my heart a little. Reality, it seemed, had spared very little of the magic from childhood.
This year, Christmas has been extra noisy and chaotic and hard. I’ve been exhausted every day for the past three weeks, as my job requires a lot of customer interaction and problem solving, most of that being really stressful. I’ve ached to feel as excited about Christmas as I used to feel, and it’s been hard. Last night, after a particularly taxing day at work, my good friend Mariel invited me to go to an Institute class in Preston with her. As we drove down center street in Preston, I slowly relaxed and fell a little in love with the way the trees were wrapped in lights.”There’s this whole street with lights strung on both sides. We should walk down it after class,” Mariel said, turning down a back road as she spoke.Curled up in the passenger seat and reminded of all of the trips up here we used to take as a family, I turned to her to tell her about that old house with the Disney characters, how much it had meant. My attention was stolen by a wooden cutout of Shrek and Fiona that stood in somebody’s lawn.Oh, wow. It’s like that house! I thought with a smile, on the brink of pointing it out to Mariel. Before I could, we came to a stop sign at the street just west of that house. What I saw almost brought tears to my eyes.Stretched out for one block on both sides of the road were the Disney characters I had been so enraptured with as a child. They were scattered so that each yard down the street held one or two groups of characters. New ones had been added since I last saw them, like Frozen and The Princess and the Frog characters. They all moved and creaked or stood still beneath a long line of lights that had been wrapped from telephone pole to tree to telephone pole all the way down the block. It was incredible.
After Institute, Mariel and I bought hot cocoa and walked down both sides of the street and I was struck again by the magic of it all. This small street had come together (I don’t know why or how) to keep a tradition alive. They’d offered their lawns and homes, and I’d imagine they’d done so because they loved that house just as much as I did as a child. It had gone from being the tradition of one to the tradition of many, and I was blown away by the care they had taken to make that street just as magical. While we were walking, a car drove slowly down the road and I could hear children giggling from the rolled down windows. It was the most beautiful sound I’ve heard in awhile.
Last night, I felt an overwhelming amount of love for the people on that street. This neighborhood had revived something I thought I’d never see again, something that brought me so much joy. It was an act of service that humbled me and even now causes tears to fill my eyes. As Mariel and I walked down that street and listened to creaking wood and buzzing lights, I felt an overwhelming contentment with the simplicity of it, with what Christmas means, which is, quite simply, Christlike love. Service. Coming together. Being together.
The magic of Christmas is not found in things, it’s found in people and it’s found in service. Thank you, Preston, for reminding me of that so forcefully last night.
In high school, my best friend said my teeth made me look like a chipmunk and I’ve been somewhat self-conscious of them ever since. I love harmonizing with the radio in my car, but the idea of singing karaoke terrifies me. I get attached to people easily. I hate November, because I tend to get my heart broken in November. I’m kind of impatient and need to be in control of situations to feel comfortable. I have road mild annoyance and sometimes road rage. If I’m feeling particularly introverted, I can convince myself out of doing anything. Last fall, I had a major anxiety attack, and this fall, I learned that anxiety can come back. If it’s not obvious at this point, I stink at dating. I push people away a lot. One of my worst fears is that I disappoint people, that I’m not what they expect, or that I’m better in writing. I can’t enjoy football, no matter how hard I try. I’ve tripped while going upstairs twice this month. I often feel lonely. I’ve got a rebellious streak in me. If I’m not careful, I’m “that Mormon” who raises her hand in class to correct the teacher’s doctrine/tone. Growing up, I was painfully shy and, as a result, have this complex where I worry I’ll always be overlooked. I’m too sensitive. I really like being right. Grammar mistakes throw me into a tizzy, especially when they’re my own. People can annoy me really easily if I’m not careful. I’m a worry wart. And I’m often more selfish than any person should be.
Hi, my name’s Ari. I’m flawed, but I’m real.
Having broken away from my social media for a bit, I thought it was important to mention that.