If you want to change your mind

“I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that's your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don't contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you're not thinking.” 
― 
Malcolm Gladwell



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So obviously I haven’t stuck to my “every day in November blogging challenge”, but it’s not because I’m just lazy. Hear me out.

I decided not to blog on the weekends. Weekends, for me, are for rest. Whether that’s travel, or cleaning, spending time with friends, maybe even just watching movies or reading books — it’s all things I choose to do because they make me feel good. While I enjoy blogging, I don’t like the pressure of having to do it on a weekend. That’s not what a weekend is about for me.

So I changed my mind. Changed the rules. Because, um, I made all of this up — and so I can. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of changing your mind. My mind. My opinions. And you know, it’s okay. Really.

I always hear people say that they are the type of person that, when they “make up their mind they never go back” or that “no means no and yes means yes — no going back” as if this is a good thing. And if it’s something you really believe in, yes, of course. Don’t waver. But what if you are presented with more information? What if the circumstances change? Then what?

It can feel like you’re betraying yourself and everyone who knows you once believed or said ______ if you change your mind. It takes courage to say that you’ve changed your mind. That yes, once I thought _____, but now I don’t. And it’s okay.

It reminds me of those facebook posts where a zealot from one political party will post a video from 15+ years ago of someone from the other party saying something that doesn’t align with what they are saying now. I always just want to comment (but don’t because dude, facebook is not the time) “hey, isn’t it okay to change your mind? To be presented with new information? To learn?”

If I can’t change my mind, then imagine how terrifying it would be to ever take a stand on anything. Because what if I’m wrong? Then what? Well, then I can change my mind, that’s what. And how amazing that is. How lucky we are. To be able to grow. To learn. To experience new things. To be influenced by them. And make decisions based on them.

I mean, isn’t this all the definition of “open-minded”? What is something that you once believed and then changed your mind on? When presented with new information?

Choosing Ignorance

“I don't know." That was typical Sajaki; like all the genuinely clever people Sylveste had met he knew better than to feign understanding where none existed.” 
― Alastair Reynolds, Revelation Space

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¨Ignorance is bliss¨

We hear it all the time. But often in a way that's lighthearted or directed towards anyone BUT us. Ignorance may be bliss -- for the people who are ignorant. But that's not me. I am smart. I would never choose to be ignorant of anything. Right?

One of my core values is intelligence. It’s the one thing I’ve defined myself by more than anything else. I was always the smart kid in school, graduating high school when I was just 15. I used to annoyingly tell everyone that yes, I was a teacher, but I didn’t like, major in education or anything. I majored in a real subject, where students had high ACT scores, and didn't get easy A’s (how anyone could stand me, I don’t know). But, as college moves further into the past (10 years since graduation — yikes), I can’t define myself by the same metrics. And the older I get, the less I care about those metrics. In fact, the older I get, the less I want to know. Let me explain.

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I used to "care" about everything. I’d read about everything, whether it interested me or not — so that I could have something interesting to say. And I still do that — but with really selective things. For example, I have a friend working on a film about Hunter S. Thompson. We went to brunch and I had nothing interesting to add — so I read two of his books this week. Extreme? Obsessive? Yes, all of the above of course. But I was interested in him! I still am. (and I’m scouting book three now)

It’s who I am. I am obsessive with knowledge. I naturally want to know everything. But like any obsession, it can take me to extremes. Unhealthy ones. Which is why I’ve decided to actively keep myself from “knowing it all”. 

Selective ignorance.

It’s something I think about a lot. Ignorance to the things that I don’t need or want to know. The things that fill up my brain unnecessarily. Mental clutter. TMI. Whatever you want to call it -- the information that really isn't necessary for happiness unless you're a professional bar trivia player. 

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So what do I mean exactly? Well, of course, like most things in the zeitgeist, it comes back to Facebook (ha -- I wish I was joking). I read that something like 90% of people on Facebook “stalk” their ex or their ex’s ex or future ex — whatever. We don’t need data (although there is plenty), to tell us that this isn’t going to help anyone get over anything — and yet it’s become a normal part of the relationship cycle. Something that, allegedly, “we all do”. Well, I don’t. I used to, sure, but I haven’t in years. 

I unfollow anyone I’ve dated (sometimes even when we are still dating) on Facebook so I don’t see all their updates, tagged photos, events they’re interested in, and pretty girls they become friends with. I don’t want to know. And I actually don’t. So I don’t look. Selective ignorance. I don’t have the mental bandwidth to make assumptions (that are probably wrong) about anyone. Seek and you will find — and I don’t have the energy to find. I am too old, and too busy (reading HST books, apparently) for that. 

I also don’t look at the following page on Instagram. I haven’t seen it in — literally — years. I don’t want to know what pictures the guy who hasn’t text me back is liking. Not only does knowing not change anything, but it takes up precious mental energy that I don't have to give. 

I don’t look at most people’s Instagram stories (even though I constantly post them myself whoops), I don’t have Snapchat, and I don’t check Facebook messages. Ever. 

People always tell me, I just HAVE to get Snapchat, or I HAVE to check my messages or whatever and I just tell them the truth — I already have too many internet things. I don’t have the time, or the desire to fill my brain up with any more. I am ignorant to a lot of it — and that is fine. 

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And it’s not just social media (there’s more to life, did you know? :)) I don’t check my work email outside of work. I don’t read all of the group texts. I don’t finish books that I don’t love. I don’t watch anything but the local news. I don't read trashy magazines (except on a plane duh). I just don’t care. I don’t have the time. I’m fine with not knowing about the new I-can’t-even-think-of-a-pop-star-because-I’m-that-out-of-touches album. I’m fine with not knowing that any of the summer blockbusters are even movies much less care that I haven't seen them. I’d rather spend my time on the things I truly love. And no one can do it all. 

We all have those friends that have an opinion on everything. Or, at least, are fast Googlers to make it appear in the group text that they do. My natural tendency is to be this way ("this way" = annoying know it all). Ask me what I think about ______ thing I don't know and I immediately feel a little (a lot) ashamed. I should know everything, damnit!

I have a lot of interests. A lot of hobbies. I read a lot of books. A lot of articles. Blogs. I watch documentaries. I listen to podcasts. It’s a lot. But it’s still a minuscule amount of the information that is out there. We live in a world of constant media. You could stay up all night every night following every link that’s posted on Facebook or Twitter and still not have enough information to intelligently discuss all of them.

But what I've come to realize is: why would you want to? To make it clear that you are a smart person? Because it sort of indicates the opposite, in my opinion. 

I had this friend once who would always use semicolons in text messages. Like, every message. In a way that was not natural or made sense at all. I am (obviously) not one to criticize anyones grammar, but I remember wondering what they thought they had to prove. Do you want me, your friend for years, to know that you understand that punctuation exists? Oh okay. It’s like a Napoleon Complex — what are you trying to overcompensate for? I mean, obviously she can use whatever punctuation she wants if that's something she values, but I could care less about any kind of punctuation, capitalization etc in a text. I have better things to do, and no one to impress with a weird semicolon. 

That’s the key to selective ignorance — I’m not actually ignorant. I am just choosing the information that I care about. I’m giving my mind the space to read a bunch of gonzo journalism for a few weeks for no reason other than I’m interested in it if I choose to. That’s reason enough. 

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So how do you decide what to remain ignorant to? And how do you actually do it? 

Like everything else in life, it comes down to your values. I value intelligence, but I also value my time, my hobbies, and rest. And what don’t you value? I don’t value being the know it all, the jack of all trades (but master of none), or the Facebook creeper. 

Maybe you value semicolons in text messages -- that´s fine. You do you, boo. Just make sure what you are doing is for the right reasons. (i.e. reasons other than feeling better or smarter or one upping others)

Think about the small things you do and the information you absorb in the same way you might track your health in a food journal. After I read/see/talk to/etc _________ I feel _______. If it´s not a good feeling, or it causes you to spiral into unhealthy time wasting -- cut it out of your life. 

If something isn't enriching you it's depleting you. Get it out. 

But how do you remain selectively ignorant in a world of constant information overload?

Just don’t do stuff. I mean, really. I put restrictions on myself. When I realized I was getting upset over what I was seeing on someones Instagram story, I stopped watching their story. And as stupid (and immature and tweenish yikes I hope you still respect me) as that sounds, I think there are a lot of small things like that that really affect our days. Things that we think “everyone does” or are just a reflex, but really have a power to change our mood. So just don’t do them. Easier said than done, sure. But we are adults here. We are powerful and capable and in control. The more you do the more you can do, remember. 

I think it´s natural to care less about the noise as we get older. When you start working you are forced to continually narrow your focus and become an expert in one field. But realize that it´s okay to be the beginner in most of the others. To not know. To not be the weird semicolon girl. To say you don't know something. To ask for help -- or not. It's okay to be okay with not knowing. 

 

Learning to Share... on the Internet

“It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.” 
― Amy Poehler

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I share a lot on the internet. I’m sure, in some people’s minds, too much. I post an Instagram photo just about every day, I post Facebook statuses, share articles, and then — of course — this blog. And I have mixed feelings about it. 

There are thousands of people who look at my blog and Instagram posts. The great majority who I don’t know. And it’s weird. And wonderful. But weird for sure that a blog I wrote after three glasses of rosé from some notes I scrawled down on a napkin is seen by anyone. 

That weirdness has got me thinking lately about why I do any of this. What’s the purpose? Am I just a narcissist? Out of touch? Did I believe my parents when they told me I was the most special, beautiful, and unique girl in the world? I mean, yeah maybe to some of those (haha yikes) but, I think there’s more to it. A lot more. 

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So I recently somehow have acquired over 1,000 followers on Instagram. This is extremely small potatoes in the Instagram world, I know. The interesting part, to me, is that I don’t know at least 75% of these people, who are indeed real people, and not people who I even follow back. The thought that over 1,000 people want to see anything that I do is kind of a shocking thought. And again, while this isn’t a lot compared to pretty much every other person on the internet, it struck me as an opportunity. 

Social media, to me, is a way to connect. Connect with the people you don’t see often, or with the people you have never or would ever meet irl. And the fact that anyone wants to connect with me is kind of incredible. 

The fact that anyone wants to read my blog posts is also kind of incredible. Shocking, really. I mean, even if it’s just out of curiosity or to make fun of my grammar errors, there are hundreds, usually thousands, of people who are interested in what I have to say. Who take time out of their day to read it. You guys, that’s crazy.

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I read a blog post a few weeks ago about blog reach. The author said something about the importance of continuing on even if you only have one reader — because that’s one persons life you have the opportunity to influence — and that’s enough. As a teacher that really resonated with me. After a bad day, someone inevitably will mention that “if you helped even just one kid it was worth it” — and it is! It’s an amazing privilege. 

Creativity, and life, I think, work the same way. If I can have a positive affect on even just one person’s day, that’s a privilege. 

So back to social media. It may seem really frivolous, mindless, or even self-centered, but social media is how a lot of us have that influence. It’s what we share. What people see. The way we put ourselves out and show up in the world. 

It may seem ridiculous to post a picture of a mountain and a motivational quote on Instagram, but it’s not so ridiculous when you realize that 1,000 or more people could see it. That it could give them the sort of hope and joy that it gives me. Even if it’s just a relief and respite from the normal daily grind, it's something. There's a reason people follow and like and scroll through constantly — and it’s not because they all think the quote you paired with that sunset is #basic. 

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But I don’t just want to share pictures and quotes, I want to share real, #authentic parts of my life. Without feeling like an oversharer or a freak. I want to show the vulnerability that allows us to connect. The flawless Brene Brown wrote in Daring Greatly that, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” And she’s right. It’s not comfortable to put anything out into the world. To open yourself up to criticism and grammar nazis, but what’s the alternative?

I listened to an Oprah podcast on a road trip recently, and Glennon Doyle Melton was the guest. I’m not a big Oprah podcast listener (shocking, I’m sure) but their conversation was so illuminating. Glennon spoke a lot about truth. About how her success has been a direct result of saying the things that she had always been afraid to before. The things that resonate with others, but that they keep a secret. The truth. 

She said that, “Every time you tell the truth it clears the field for other people to tell the truth.” and that, “Truth telling unlocks people”. I love that. I love the idea of clearing the field for others. The power of your story. 

But what about all the studies/anecdotes of people who feel more jealous/lonely/unhappy because of social media? Well, I feel that too sometimes, I get it. But that’s where the authenticity piece comes in. If I’m sharing my truths and being vulnerable in my life, it creates a bridge, not a wall. Those people who still feel left out, jealous, or unhappy due to authentic stories and moments on social media are either just haters (and who’s got time for that), or have deeper problems that they need to work out. Instagram cannot save us all, after all.

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So why do I share? Well, I want to connect. I want to be vulnerable, to show authenticity, yadda yadda. But, let’s be real, I’m not good at that. I’m good at standing in front of mountains and taking a picture with my camera timer. But I’m trying. And that picture of my back looking at something is better than not sharing at all. I think. 

I do almost everything alone. But not necessarily by choice. I want to share my experiences. That’s where joy and meaning comes from — connection. And in 2017, a lot of connection comes from the internet — for better or worse. So I’m choosing to embrace it. This isn’t to say I’m forgoing real life connection and experiences — I want more of that too! But my reach is limited in real life. I connect with a bunch of kids every day, and that’s powerful, but it’s different. 

I don’t think I’m special or unique. No one is actually special or unique. That’s the real story of social media. We all share the same struggles, stories, and hashtags. I can find thousands of girls who do all the same things as I do, but with better quality photos, thousands more likes, and captions that read like the great American novel. But that’s a good thing! There’s room for us all. I share to connect with all those people who are like me — from the superficial solo mountain girl side to the math dress wearing side to the writing about well, who knows what I write about really. But I’m telling my truth. I’m clearing the field.

The Privilege of Sleeping in My Car

"The better you look, the more you see.” ― Bret Easton Ellis

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If you follow me on Instagram , you know I recently converted my Nissan Rogue SUV into a camper with a sleeping platform (post with more info coming soon). I spent most of the summer traveling around the United States and Canada, camping in my car and having the most amazing time.

Well, mostly. 

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There was a night or two when I was too excited to get to my days destination to plan in advance where I would stay that night. Now, even though I’m camping in the car, I still stay at campgrounds and have reserved them whenever possible. I’m alone and so I value the security even more that comes with knowing where I’ll be overnight. But on those few nights — one in particular — I didn’t have a plan and ended up sort of frantic unable to figure out where I should go, and if anything would be available when I got there. I also had no cell service, I mean this is the Wild West after all, compounding my anxiety.

There was a moment when I almost started to cry in my overwhelm, and actually thought to myself some form of “I understand how people feel when they don’t have a secure place to stay at night”. Umm… luckily, in about two seconds I had to stop myself from taking both my hands off the wheel to slap myself across the face because, no, I have no idea how that feels. 

I am so privileged. I have a car (that I can sleep in comfortably!), I have enough money to get a hotel if I needed to, I have family I can call, I am white, I am decent looking, educated, I have no history of legal trouble, and if I was broken down on the side of the road I am fairly certain every decent person who saw me would have no qualms about stopping to help me.

But that’s not true for everyone. Or even for most people. 

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According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in January of 2015 there were 564,708 homeless individuals on one single night — but we know the “homeless count” is famously difficult to track so it’s estimated between 2 and 3 million people a year actually spend time homeless. That’s insane. That’s the same as (or more than) the entire population of Chicago. 

That many people actually don’t know where they are going to sleep at night. They can’t just make a reservation online, or use a different credit card, or call their parents, cry to a park ranger, keep driving a few extra hours for an open camp site -- whatever many of us could do. 

So how does this affect me?

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“Checking your privilege” has become an almost annoying and overused popculture-y phrase that seems to have lost a little of it’s meaning. So let’s go backwards a little. Privilege is just an advantage that you have — earned or unearned — because of some aspect of your life. It doesn’t mean you don’t have struggles, it just means that you have some advantages other people don’t have. Two things can be true at the same time, remember. 

So how do I “check my privilege”? Should I stop doing what I’m doing? Should I spend the money I’m using on converting my car and reserving campgrounds to donate to homeless charities? Should I take a vow of poverty and give all my belongings away? For some people, yes, but I don’t feel led to that. Action that comes from guilt isn’t helping anyone. 

For me, checking my privilege is just a way to reflect. Not so much on my own unearned privilege — because privilege awareness in itself is a privileged position to be in, but I digress — but on the unearned disadvantages that others face. Realizing how bad I felt that night without a campsite then realizing this is literally just a shred of what a truly homeless person would feel is an invitation to more compassion and empathy. 

“Awareness” has become a dirty word of sorts — “but what does your awareness bracelet do to actually help ______?” But awareness is still an important step in the process of becoming a more equalized society. If we don’t know something is off balance, how do we equalize it? We don’t. We continue to live our lives in the secure and safe bubbles we’ve set up for ourselves, and turn a blind eye to those who experience life differently than we do. 

Well I refuse to do that.

I want to know the things that I don’t know. And not confuse empathy with experience.