To the young friend who can’t take more tomorrows like today

To my dear friend whom I’ve never met but whom I know so well:

Your life right now as a young person is anguish, yes? Maybe you are bullied or depressed or abused or addicted or caught up in a shame spiral that keeps pirouetting and shows no signs of slowing down. There is no exit from this ride. Today blends into tomorrow and on and on the days and nights blur and you push through in autopilot, three turns to the right, two turns to the left, over and over and over, you wait for the click on your combination lock. What’s in that locker you’ve got packed so full and so well? Is it a relationship you can’t get over, even though you know it wasn’t for your benefit? Is it tension at home that won’t evaporate? Is it a looming decision that seems to eclipse all the other things that are meant to bring you joy? Is it the sense of belonging that everyone else seems to have but for you, it’s always fleeting, always vanishing like sand held in your hand? Is it all of this and so much more, and you just can’t take any more tomorrows if they are like today? The heaviness, the sourness, the emptiness, the pain.

My friend, I see you. I feel all that. I have felt all of that.

I want you to know that I’m sorry. This is a hard season of life for you and I am sorry for all the crap you have to navigate. A show* that I loved, one that was only around for one season (adding injury to insult over the anguish of being young) had a main character who said, “When your parents ask you how was school, it’s like they’re asking you how was the drive-by shooting?” Just existing in this hard season is subjecting yourself to all manner of assaults and offenses you don’t expect. You are subjected to the drive-by, maybe multiple times a day.

*my-so-called-life-one-sheet

The real drive-by is not the pain that people or situations in our lives cause, though. Rather, it’s the lies we choose to believe. And that’s where I want to tell you not to buy the lie. This is your greatest weapon in the battle.

So much of the counsel we give young people points your focus in the wrong direction. We tell you how bad the bullies must feel about themselves to have to prey on someone like you. We tell you not to get involved, not to feel so sorry for yourself–think of all the kids who would kill to have what you have. That still doesn’t advance your game piece very far, though, does it?

If you were really involved in a battle, you wouldn’t spend all your time looking to the opposition, studying their weapons, memorizing their tactics, predicting how they will plot their course and none of the time training yourself, right? You would build up the muscle and agility to fight back, or perhaps strategize a plan that would circumnavigate the enemy all together.

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I don’t know much about fighting, but I do know about enemies. I know about the enemy that lies to our minds and hearts about who we are and what we’re worth. I know about an enemy that used to push me onto a hamster wheel of busy, keeping so busy all the time with two jobs and a full load of high school classes and leadership in all the clubs and a saint-load of community service. The busyness became my identity. I was The Busy Girl, so talented with all the flaming torches I was juggling, the one relied upon, the one who had no time to reflect or eat or be anything but kind and dependable on the outside, whereas on the inside I was a decaying sack of depression, anxiety, and serious feels that I could never be enough–not for my parents or teachers or people I called friend–not even for God. I had bought the lie that I was not enough and needed to work to be valuable.

The good news, friend, is that just because you bought the lie, you don’t have to keep it. However, you will have to fight to return it. And the fight will make you stronger for future battles. The enemies that lie about who we are and what we’re worth never go away. Seasons will pass and life will not get easier. It will increase in depth and complexity. But training yourself to spot the lies will better equip you for the battles ahead.

For most of us, friend, training ourselves to refuse to buy the lies starts small. You are going to just want to put on that brand new life of Not Buying Lies and to coast freely down the hill where all the other rah-rahs are in a huddle cheering for everyone UP WITH TRUTH! DOWN WITH LIES! The reality is that sometimes you are going to have to strive to wake up and pledge to not buy any lies about your worth today. Or maybe to pledge not to buy any lies for just the next hour. Or next minute. Or next fourteen seconds. It might sound like this:

I am part of an amazing creation. I am made for more than this. I am loved. I refuse to believe anything to the contrary. For the next four seconds. Amen.

Or your fight might look like a Napoleonic side-eye. Get thee behind me, lies.

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Or a MCG power stance. No lies here. Only Superstars.

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Or a Drakeoneon dance. That can only mean one thing.

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I wish I could tell you, friend, that you could perfect your stance or just Drake dance through life and lies will have no more power over you, but the lies continue. Sometimes they slip them in our coffee or sometimes enemies visit us just before we’re catching sleep. When the lies stack up and seem to hop into our shopping cart, remember that you are not alone. You are never alone. Call on your friend, call on your Higher Power to get in your corner and speak truth back into your life. I did this just the other day. I was simply not strong enough on my own two legs so I had a friend pray me out of a hard place. Enemy lies are strong but truth and love are stronger.

Young friend, I so wish for you a more peaceful season. I hope in the meantime that you grow strong and brave on the battlefield. I pray that you may stay strong and brave for the next day, the next hour, the next fourteen seconds.

Your friend,
Kendra

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Racism and a lack of imagination

The last summer of college I spent at home, I hostessed at a chain restaurant that is known in Ohio for serving breakfast all day.  Until that summer, I didn’t know that there were people on earth who ate more than one meal a day at the same restaurant. As it turns out, the usuals at this restaurant often took 2-3 meals a day there. They considered the waitstaff family, their usual tables were just extensions of their homes.

During one of my first shifts, the wait staff alerted me to one of the usuals. Val was pegged as “difficult.” I quickly learned what qualified Val as difficult. She came in every evening with her two children. She rarely ordered a meal for herself. She ordered kids’ meals and ate their leftovers. She sent food back that wasn’t to her satisfaction.

I learned that these were high crimes in restaurantville. There is an unwritten code of conduct for being a usual. It requires that one runs up a decent tab and doesn’t complain.

I also learned that the penalties for those who broke the code of conduct are just a little bit more severe if your waitstaff is all white and you’re aren’t white. And Val and her two children? Were black.

I was intimidated by Val. The first time I sat her, I learned my lesson. I started to lead her and her children, with kids’ menu packets in tow, toward the back of the restaurant. “Noooope nope no! Not sitting back there. Not sitting in the back of the bus.”

Got it. So I was not to sit Val in the back. But if you’ve ever made your living by playing Tetris with tables, you know that sometimes you can’t honor every request. You don’t want to slam certain waitstaffers with a fresh crop of tables all at once or there will be hell to pay. I began to perceive Val as a mosquito in the summer. She was always there, but if I protected myself, she wouldn’t bite.

The waitstaff groaned about Val in the breakroom. How the manager coddled her. How she tipped poorly. How she sent food back.

Val came in most nights with her children. I don’t know if she was married or divorced. Here is what I do remember about my personal encounters with her besides the mistake of seating her in the back: She was polite and quiet. She was always dressed in professional attire as though she was coming from work. She always had a paperback book with her and occasionally would sit reading it at her table while her children ate their meals.

One of the middle-aged hostesses once remarked, “Val is very well-educated.”

I remember wondering why Val was the only customer that whole summer I ever heard consistent complaints about, or about the fact that she was “very well-educated.”

***

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Fifteen years later, I am sitting in my work clothes at a chain restaurant. I am sitting across from my two children, happily occupied by their kiddie menu crossword puzzles. I take the chance for the first time all day to open up a book for pleasure. My husband is not with us as he works most evenings. I am relieved to not have to cook and am reluctant to buy my children their own separate meals when I know I will be finishing their leftovers.

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Fifteen years later and I am Val. Except I am not a usual and no one comments on my education level when I bust out my book at a restaurant. When I misplace my gift card, no one questions my intent or ability to pay. When I have to run and get my wallet in the car (long day), our waitress offers to watch my children. I am Val except I am white and therefore I can only fathom how Val felt.

Fifteen years will not absolve me, though. Why did it take me half of my life to understand a faithful patron who wanted what she paid for and who wanted to model for her children the service they should expect in a restaurant?

In other words, why did I lack imagination 15 years ago? Why did I have to wait fifteen years to experience a taste of what Val faced (and chose to face) each day?

The problem we have in dissolving the -isms that poison our lives is that we are lazy imaginaries. Because we are carnivores, we can’t imagine what might be difficult for vegetarians at barbecues. Because we never struggle to find shoes in our size, surely those who do are crybabies.  Inconvenience sparks us to change. Make my life difficult and I will modify my systems.

The difficulty in having a lack of difficulty is perhaps the definition of white privilege.

I pray for difficulties. I desire a better imagination. But most of all, I strive for a world where I don’t have to fathom any of this, because neither does Val.

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New glasses by #Bonlook

I’m not a handbag gal, a shoe maven, or really a collector of much of anything save for my small fetish with Melmac dishware. What I do collect are glasses, especially cat-eye glasses. I wear them nearly every day and although this strikes some people as excessive, I think anything we put on our faces every day should enjoy a little variety. I’m always keeping my eyes peeled (ha! punny!) for a cool pair of cat eye specs.

Fast forward to this last fall. I follow A Beautiful Mess on the ‘gram and I noticed Elsie and Emma had collaborated with a brand yet unknown to me, Bonlook on a truly fair pair. They called their glasses the Jack and Norma. C’mon. So cute. I had not yet seen this sort of space age green before, but it reminded me a little of my Melmac dishware if it were coopted by aliens and made into glasses. Gnarly stuff.

Elsie rocking the Jack and Norma signature ABM/Bonlook collab specs
Elsie rocking the Jack and Norma signature ABM/Bonlook collab specs

I kept my focus (puns for days) on Bonlook, waiting to see if any of their cat eye specs that struck my fancy would go on sale. Patience rewarded me and a new year’s sale netted these beauts for $79, plus an additional $30 as my prescription requires a heftier lens. A praise of customer service: when I could not get the discount code to activate, the online customer service applied the discount by sending me the equivalent of 20% off, which immediately hit my bank account. Big ups, Bonlook.

Bonlook has considered all the nice little touches as an online purveyor of specs. I found the site easy to use, particularly the virtual try on feature. I always have a print-out of my prescription and a ruler for measuring the distance between my pupils, which you will need if you wear prescription eyewear.

When the frames arrived, they came in a cute print lined box, and I’m dazzled with my new bubblegum pink case.

Bonlook
Bonlook

The frames have served me well for a week now and they are sturdy, the glare factor is nil, and the comfort level is high.
Bonlook

Bonlook has not sponsored this post but if you, too, would like to enjoy a discount on your first pair, you should feel really free to click on this link as my friend referral. Woop!
BONLOOK DISCOUNT FOR KENDRASPONDENCE READERS

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