Unsolicited Advice

I’m not old and wise yet. But I’m not young and naive any more either. I’ve definitely learned some hard earned lessons over the years. Recently, I have had the pleasure of socializing with younger women whom I adore, but I’m reminded often that a lot changes between 19 and 29. Frequently our conversations lead to me giving them advice on life. From how to book flights to what to do after college, I’m realizing you learn a lot about how to navigate this crazy world.

And so this week, I thought I would share some unsolicited advice that I find myself quite often giving.

  • Travel. As much as you can. As often as you can. Prioritize it. Make it happen. You’ll realize pretty quickly how easy is actually is once you decide to make it work. Nothing will fuel your soul like an escape and an adventure.
  • Be honest. With yourself, with your friends, with your dating prospects, with your job. Stop forcing yourself to be who you think you should be and start being honest about who you really are. Lean into it. I promise you that who you really are is more amazing than who you are pretending to be.
  • Go to counseling. Work through your shit. It will be some of the hardest work you’ll ever do, and it’s not nearly as scary as you are building it up to be.
  • Rinse your sinuses. Seriously.
  • Take epsom salt baths.
  • Learn to set boundaries. With family, with friends, with partners, with work. Let your No be No. The earlier you learn to do this the happier you will be.
  • You don’t have to marry everyone you kiss. Just learn the difference between the fun experiences and the serious ones.
  • Be kind and work hard.
  • Make time for your friends. Get that drink, go to their events, support their work. Reach out and say hi.
  • Learn how to pair your wine with your food. It makes everything better.
  • Find something active that you enjoy. Working out isn’t about being skinny, it’s about using your body and having fun. So find an activity that you look forward to and embrace it.
  • Enjoy your alone time.
  • When in doubt, be gracious.

How about you? What is some life advice that you find yourself often giving?

-Darci

Learning to Just Listen

About a year ago I read an article that popped up on Facebook. The article was about the importance of listening. Just listening. Not cheering people up, not offering advice or feedback, not relating to people. Just listening.

This article completely re-framed how I approach supporting my friends.

What stuck with me most was not trying to cheer people up. When someone comes to you for support, to lean on you through a hard time, to tell you about their depression or stress or sorrow, don’t try to cheer them up. That trying to cheer someone up actually pushes them away. When someone is down and you focus on bringing them up, they don’t feel supported or heard. They may even feel guilty for having the feelings they have. And next time they feel this way, they won’t come to you.

“Things will get better”, “Look on the bright side”, “Think of all the other great things going on”. All of these seem like kind things to say. But in actuality, they are the worst things to tell someone in pain.

The kindest thing you can do for someone who comes to you for support: live in that moment with them. Hold their hand. Say things like “that sucks” or “that sounds really difficult”. Validate the feelings they are expressing, rather than trying to change them to nicer feelings.

I always thought of myself as a good listener, and a good friend. But I was definitely the friend that wanted to cheer you up, make you feel better, think positive. This concept opened my eyes to all of the moments I was probably missing.

I do believe it is human nature to want to make things better. When babies cry we want to find a way to make it stop. When someone scuffs their knee we find a band-aid. So sitting in a moment and allowing things to go unfixed feels counter intuitive. It feels against human nature to not fix someone when they are in pain.

And yet, it also makes sense. When I am upset I don’t want answers, I don’t want rainbows, I don’t want solutions. I just want to be listened to.

So, I started listening. I stopped offering advice, offering solutions, I stopped looking on the bright side. When friends opened up to me I listened. I told them how hard that sounded, how stressful that must be, how sorry I was to hear they were going through that.

And I’ve found many magical moments to connect with people because of it. By listening, just listening, I have learned so much more about the people I love. And I am so grateful to live in those moments with them.

 

-Darci

Another Reason Women Are Needed in Writers Rooms

Warning: this post contains spoilers for Netflix’s Living With Yourself, and is discussing the cliffhanger moment of the season. 

I like Paul Rudd. From my first exposure to him as Mike Hannigen (#FriendsFanForLife), to his classic comedy roles, and his surprise superhero turn in Ant Man, Paul Rudd never disappoints me. I was very excited when I heard Netflix was making a show starring Paul Rudd, and that he was playing two characters.

So before I dive into my critiques, let me just state: I really liked this show. I thought it was smart, clever, funny, charming. I thought how it was structured was really interesting and engaging. I had no problem binging this show. I think there is a lot to dig into about the commentary on depression and relationships and purpose and happiness. I could write multiple blog posts diving into the themes of this show. This show hooked me and sold me.

Until the last five minutes.

Let me explain.

It is my understanding that the shows timeline works something like this:
-The day Miles goes to have himself unknowingly cloned is the same day that his wife Kate gets her period (which is an emotional moment for her because she is trying to get pregnant).
-Miles hides that he has a clone from Kate for about a week. Miles and Kate have intercourse during this time.
-A few days pass where Miles, Clone Miles, and Kate interact but are not sure what to do.
-Kate goes to a conference for 5 days, and Clone Miles joins her for part of it. Clone Miles and Kate have intercourse during this time.
-The day Kate gets back from her conference she discovers she is pregnant.
-All of this takes place in roughly two-three weeks.

The cliffhanger of the season is that Kate announces to both of the Miles’ that she is pregnant and does not know who the father is.

Do you see my problem yet?

For those that don’t let me explain a few things about biology. Most likely you have heard that women have periods roughly once a month. This is called menstruation. But women have a whole menstrual cycle. This cycle has two major milestones: menstruation and ovulation. Menstruation is when women are bleeding, and ovulation is when women can get pregnant.

Pre-Ovulation can last for up to two weeks. Ovulation lasts for a few days, and during this time you are most likely to get pregnant. Peak ovulation is roughly 2-4 days. Semen can also live outside the body for up to five days. So if you are having unprotected sex, anytime during your pre-ovulation to ovulation window you run the chance of getting pregnant, but peak ovulation is when you are most likely to get pregnant.

Once pregnant, it can take a couple of weeks before pregnancy is detectable. Most women don’t realize they are pregnant for roughly 4 weeks. But even women who are trying to get pregnant and are testing regularly need to be pregnant for at least a week before it is detectable.

So now are you seeing my issue here?

While it is possible that Kate is pregnant, the chances that she would know that yet are incredibly unlikely. The timeline logistics for this cliffhanger make absolutely no sense.

And had a woman been in the writers room when this plot was being formed she would have known that straight away.

Again, I enjoyed this show. But a glaring plot issue like this is enough to throw me out of it. Especially when a glaring plot issue like this is also a major indicator that women were not involved enough in the conception of this show. A major misunderstanding of female biology has lead to a plot hole. A major under valuing of women has lead to a plot hole.

For me, this isn’t just a “Oh haha what a silly mistake”. This is a case and point that men don’t understand the lives of women, and aren’t willing to engage or consult women to get it right. When women are involved in the writing and development of stories, the stories portray women more accurately and more authentically. When women are not involved, the story comes across as lazy.

 

-Darci

I’m Still Here

This year has been hard.

I have had more surprises this year, more challenges, more growth, more love, more depression than any one person could possibly predict. This rollercoaster of a year has kicked my ass more ways than I can count, while also bringing me some of the most fantastic amazing life changes.

None of this year is how I pictured it would be at the start.

My career has been turned upside down twice. I got out of a terrible job, into another terrible one, and finally found a place so amazing I still can’t believe it’s real. My family has broken my heart over and over and over again. My loved ones have picked me up and wiped my tears every single time. My partner and I have grown into something so much better, so much stronger, than the best of romance films could have dreamed. An injury took away running, and I don’t see that coming back any time soon. I joined a women’s only kickboxing gym that is quite possibly the best thing to happen to me all year. I planted my first ever garden and actually kept something alive.

And there are still two months to go.

But I’m still here. And I think I’m ready to get back to sharing my thoughts with you all again.

For this week I will leave you with this: if you are depressed don’t keep it secret. Tell your inner circle, you’re going to need them on the dark days. Go to therapy. It’s hard work, but once you start doing it you’ll never turn back. And when life really kicks your ass, kick back.

-Darci

Thoughts on Turning 29

Tomorrow is my birthday. Tomorrow I enter the last year of my twenties. I feel like it should be more profound. Birthdays always make me reflective, but this year feels like it came too fast. The last year has been an endless whirlwind and I’m still processing a lot of 28 and what it means to me. I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the last year of my life, but that growth hasn’t always been the most well received. I’ve spent a lot of this last year trying to listen to my boundaries and my limits, trying to say No more, focusing on self-care more. I’ve gotten myself out of some toxic environments and hurtful relationships. Change is good. But it’s also very hard. My good days of 28 have been some of the best days of my life, and my bad days have been some of the worst.

I am grateful to my twenties for making me stronger. I’ve learned a lot of beautiful lessons and have encountered some amazing people. I am grateful that I enter this final year of this decade surrounded by people who love me in a way that I am humbled and overwhelmed by constantly. And I am grateful to have had the wisdom to let go of those who did not love me.

I’ve come a long ways in my twenties. It hasn’t always been graceful, it hasn’t always been pretty, but it has made me who I am today. And I like who I am today. I am old enough now to know that I know better, while also knowing I have so much more to learn.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would tell my twenty year old self, if I could, knowing what I know now. I don’t really believe in regret, and I think mistakes are paramount to becoming strong. If there are things I could go back and change I probably would. But should I? Either way, these are the things I would tell my twenty year old self:

-Focus more on female friendships. Boys will always be there (and all you have to do is swipe to meet them) and the boys that are there now really aren’t worth your time. You both have a lot of growing up to do. And you are missing out on some amazing women. Stop worrying about if and when you will get married, and start focusing on forming stronger relationships with the women around you. Because soon you will all be in your corners of the world and it will be much harder to connect with them. In nine years you won’t be scrolling Facebook lamenting some boy it never worked out with, you’ll be lamenting all the amazing women you had a chance to know but were to distracted to realize it.

-Take care of your injuries better. Right now you are young, but your body is going to age rapidly in your twenties. That hip flexor you pulled and still ran a 10K on, don’t do that. Rest your injuries, ice them, stretch them. You may not feel like you need it right now, but Future You needs it bad.

-Travel more. This is my main advice to college students. Travel as much as you can, as often as you can, as far as you can. Right now things like hostels and teaching English for pennies sounds like a fun time. Go adventure now. Study abroad for a whole year. Travel after you graduate. Work jobs and save all your money to go travel for months at a time. Travel more.

-Pay attention to who shows up for you, and spend more time with them. And be a better friend to them. Help your friends move, go to their shows and concerts, show up for them too. Don’t just be down for a party, be down for life.

My twenties have been incredible. I have made some amazing friendships, I found a supportive community that I still don’t know if I deserve. I made an impulsive decision to adopt a cat and it’s probably one of the best decision I have ever made. I traveled alone. I fell in love. I learned that I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I could be. And I am ready for whatever 29 has in store for me.

-Darci

Toxic Masculinity in Stranger Things

Ok let me just say this at the top. This post is full of spoilers for the new and past seasons of Stranger Things.

I really like Stranger Things. I don’t like horror, I don’t like gore, and yet the Duffer Brothers have me at the edge of my seat begging for more. The characters are interesting and I think they have been developed very well. The structure is smart and captivating. They fall back on age old story telling tricks all the time, and that makes it good.

I binged the new season, just as I binged the previous seasons, and found it just as captivating and engaging as before. I waited until completing the whole season to form opinions or critiques or judgments, because with a show like this you never know what they are building towards.

Upon finishing this current season, I came to a conclusion: the real monster in Stranger Things has been toxic masculinity. And I believe that has been entirely the point.

There has been a lot of critique of the male characters and the problematic use of women in the show. How the women are ignored by the men, how the women mostly serve as romantic interests, how they are introduced to be romantic interests, how the men are fueled by their temper. And I don’t disagree with any of that. But I also think that it has been done on purpose.

Joyce (Winona Ryder) is defined as the “distraught mother” right at her introduction, and in season 3 she is still being disregarded as being hysterical and illogical, despite being the first to notice something was fishy each and every time. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) is pegged as naive and young, and yet she is also picking up on dangers earlier than most. It’s frustrating watching these plots play out where these women are trying to tell others “hey something is not right here” and watch them be continuously dismissed and ignored.

But I think that’s the point.

It’s not knock you over the head, overly done, in your face, “hey we are writing about the problems with toxic masculinity and the dismissal of women”, but the Duffer Brothers don’t use tropes by mistake. It may feel like a gag, or an overdone plot devise, that the women are aware that there is danger and the men ignore them, but I think that’s the point.

Unlike other stories that ignore women and just use them as plot devices, Stranger Things actually develops those women and puts them right at the heart of the action. These women don’t take no for an answer, they don’t stop because they are belittled or ignored, and the women are key in every defeat. If anything the only real plot hole here is where did Nancy learn to be such a good shot?

One of the many elements I appreciated about season 3 was how they split the characters up and each went on their own mini mystery plot line. Each group winds up investigating a component of the horror coming into town, but no one has all of the answers until they sync up in the end. And at the helm of each of these groups, you have women leading the charge, refusing to ignore what is happening, pushing to go deeper into the mystery. Joyce investigating why the magnets don’t work, Nancy chasing a lead everyone tells her is dead, Robin (Maya Thurman Hawke) translating the Russian message, all of these women drive the plot forward despite the men that ignore them.

Stranger Things also has had it’s fair share of toxic men. And this season those men were front and center. Hopper (David Harbour) is more troubled by his teenage daughter exploring her sexuality and Joyce standing him up than he is about the clues all around him. Nancy is continuously harassed and dismissed by her male bosses because they can’t fathom taking her seriously.

And then there is Billy (Dacre Mongomery). Introduced in season 2 as the vindictive and violent older brother of Max (Sadie Sink), Billy becomes the living embodiment of the villain in season 3 when the Mind Flayer takes over his body. But Billy isn’t just a mindless violent toxic man. What I appreciate about the handling of his character is that we see how he became the vindictive and violent older brother. Billy was abused by his father, both physically and verbally, and in turn became abusive himself. Has his father not been so toxically masculine and violent, perhaps Billy never would have either.

The women are ignored and dismissed all the time. Sometime most women can probably relate to. You can’t tell a story about toxic masculinity being a problem without ignoring women. While the men spend most of season 3 waffling about whether to listen to the women, it’s also the men who end up suffering as a result. And maybe if these men had listened to the women sooner, everyone would be much better off because of it.

If you are frustrated while watching all of these women being ignored GOOD! You should be! Now realize that women are being ignored in your every day life. Monsters from different dimensions may not be walking among us, but your coworkers are being ignored in meetings, passed over for promotions and raises, being dismissed because they are emotional and unstable, and finding ways to push forward anyway.

The monsters in Stranger Things may not be real, but the themes that drive the story walk among us every day.

 

-Darci

An Independence Day Full of Anger

Tomorrow is our nations biggest national holiday. The day that we are supposed to be consumed with pride for our country. We celebrate by grilling meat, baking pies, and exploding things in the sky. Objectively, it’s a pretty solid holiday.

But this year, I don’t feel particularly full of pride for my country. The state of our nation has sunk to a horrifying low point that I honestly don’t even know how to talk about some of these horrors. How can you celebrate your country, be proud of your country, when your government is actively operating concentration camps? How can we celebrate our founding values when our government has become the very thing we rebelled against? When anyone who is not a white man lives in daily fear of the next law that will serve to oppress them? When there is a real possibility that the president will actually get re-elected in 2020?

When your country is full of hate, how do you love your country? How does one reconcile that there is still an alarmingly large percentage of people who support the government and all their atrocities? The racism that fuels the treatment of immigrants, the sexism that fuels the laws being written to restrict women, and the greed behind all of the motivation. At best, there is still eighteen months left of this horror. At worst, this is only just the beginning.

I am not proud to be an American this year. I am not proud to be from a country that criminalizes the poor rather than helps them. I am not proud to be from a country that rejects or imprisons people because of the color of their skin. I am not proud to be from a country that operates concentration camps. I am not proud to be from a country that uses fear as a manipulation tool to profit from. I am not proud to be an American, and I do not love my country.

We will still grill. I will bake something with red, white, and blue. We will probably watch Captain America. I will probably even wear our country colors in one form or another tomorrow. We will enjoy our day off from work and try to find some joy in all of this mess.

But I will not forget that I am angry. That I have been angry for quite some time now. And I will not become numb to my anger. I am no where near done being angry.

 

-Darci