Why Everyone Needs Sex Education

I know, I know, I’m still talking about the issues surrounding abortion. But it’s still consuming my brain and it’s still making me angry. My big stance is that abortion really isn’t the true issue here, that abortion is a solution to a lot of larger issues that are not being addressed. I also truly believe that everyone wants to lower the abortion rate, whether they be pro-life or pro-choice, we just have very different philosophies on how to accomplish that. I’m not really interested in debating people about when life begins, but I am interested in discussing ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies before they even happen.

This week I want to focus on one particular way I believe we can prevent unwanted pregnancies, and thus lower the abortion rate: Sex Education. Last week I talked about all of the reasons why I get to say with confidence that I would not have an abortion, and one of the big ways was that I had comprehensive sex education from sixth through ninth grade.

So this week I want to advocate for comprehensive sex education in schools. Here are my top four reasons why I believe everyone, regardless of religions beliefs or sexual intentions, should have comprehensive sexual education.

Comprehensive sex education lowers the rate of teen pregnancy.

Yes I am repeating myself, but I think it’s worth driving home. You can’t prevent pregnancy if you don’t know how. Understanding how birth control works and does not work. Knowing how to get it. Knowing how long semen lives outside the body. Know the difference between mensuration and ovulation. I learned about all of these before I even reached my teen years.

One of the many reasons I have not had an unplanned pregnancy is because I knew how not to get pregnant before I was ever having sex.

Values about sex can be taught at home, but facts should be taught in school.

As a parent you have every right to educate your children on your value system. But that doesn’t mean that you should shelter them from the facts either. And learning about safe sex and contraceptives does not mean someone is going to immediately go out and have sex. Values and facts are equally important when deciding how you want to go about your sexuality.

Even if you wait until marriage, you still need sex education.

 If you ever plan on having sex, you need sex education. Even if you are going to wait until marriage, even if you only ever have one sexual partner, even if you don’t believe in birth control and only want to have sex to have babies. You need to be sexually educated. All of that requires an education. If you are going to be sexually active at all you need to know how to not get pregnant just as much as you need to know how to get pregnant. Sexual education is not just for those who plan on having sex outside of marriage.

Sex education isn’t just about having sex.

Sex Ed is about so much more than having sex. There is so much more to learn about your body than just how to have sex with it. Health and hygiene is also a large part of sex education. How to wash, how not to wash too much, how to recognize a UTI (which you can get without ever having sex), are all important things to understand about your body even if you never plan on having sex.

Again, I’m not here to tell you when life begins. I’m not here to tell you when to or not to have sex. I am here to argue that there are ways we can lower the abortion rate, ways we can prevent unwanted pregnancies that we are not discussing. And we need to discuss them. We need to address the reasons why women get abortions rather than punishing them for not having the education, resources, and opportunities that they need to prevent an unwanted pregnancy in the first place.

Darci

Let’s Talk About Low Grade Sexism

Sexism is a major topic nowadays. I talk about it here in big and small ways all the time. You see stories in the news about people coming forward and accusing major public figures and celebrities of harassment and assault. And the good news is that it is slowly starting to work. Boys will be boys is becoming an unacceptable standard, when people speak up others are starting to listen.

But what about the smaller moments? The moments that aren’t really worthy of going to HR about, but are definitely still a part of the problem. Moments that are the pre-requisites for the big moments later on. Maybe your uncle isn’t a full blown misogynist, but his views are definitely sexist. Maybe your boss isn’t harassing you, but his behavior is still problematic. These little comments or actions that don’t seem worth calling out in the moment, but are definitely reinforcing a world where women are devalued. They aren’t crimes, they aren’t harassment, they might not even be aggressive. But they still are not right.

Here are some examples of low grade sexism in our daily lives.

Low Grade Sexism at Work
Again, I am not talking about the big HR stuff. I’m not talking about inappropriate comments or touching or power plays. I’m talking about those small socialized moments that aren’t quite worth talking to HR about, but are definitely creating sexism in the work place.

Delegation – studies have shown that women are the most likely to do non-promotion worthy work in the office. Take notes during meetings, supply runs, small office tidying. And it perpetuates this idea that women are homemakers and caregivers first, that they should be the ones taking care of an environment and the people in it. But men of similar levels are not expected or even asked to make the coffee for the meeting or run to staples for office supplies. There are tasks that are seen as “women’s work” and there is an unspoken expectation that women will just take care of those things but men should never be expected to let alone asked.

Nicknames – the fact that anyone would dare call a women sweetheart in a professional setting any more still baffles me, and yet I have experienced it both on the superior side of things and the client side of things. Endearing pet names for women you work with is anything but.

Working Moms – women still get promoted less, women still get paid less, and having children is still a negative impact to a lot of professional women. A lot of women are forced to choose between being a mom and being a successful career woman still. But men still do not have to make this choice. No one hesitates to hire a man with children, but it is assumed a woman with children will not work as hard and require more time off.

Low Grade Sexism at Home
I think even the most well intending feminist of men will fall into this trap. Even through the progress of women in the work place over the last century, the home front has probably seen the least amount of change.

Chores – again, a lot of cleaning and care work for an environment is seen as women’s work. Cooking, cleaning, planning most often falls to the woman. It is often an unspoken assumption that women will just manage the home. I am baffled by how many couples I know where the man never cooks and doesn’t even know how, and therefore the woman is cooking and prepping meals for the entire family all week long. I’ve talked a lot about emotional labor before, and most emotional labor falls to the woman.

Parenting – I do think this is getting better, but still slowly. The idea that dads babysit their children when left alone with them.

Low Grade Sexism in Our Views of Women
And of course, our day to day views and perceptions of women. Comments, expectations, views. All of these socialized and unconscious thoughts that are really just meant to put women down and keep men on top.

She’s too pretty to be smart – this idea that the greatest currency a woman has to offer is beauty, and therefore it must be the only thing she should really want. That if a woman is beautiful she has no need for ambition or aspirations, and if a woman is not beautiful then she better have something else to offer.

You only got that because you are pretty – the other side of the coin. Resenting accomplishments of women and belittling their achievements.

Sluts – the endless double standard. An independent woman who is confident in her sexuality must be shamed. But the judgment of a sexual woman is more about the fear of her rejection.

Low grade sexism is definitely part of the problem. It perpetuates socialized ideas that women are here for the benefit and service of men and when they challenge that role and expectation they must be shamed or belittled or bullied. Low grade sexism in our daily lives leads to major sexism being socially acceptable later on.

Darci

Letting Go of Being Perfect

Perfectionism is a dangerous pitfall. To some extent, I really do believe everybody struggles with living up to their own high expectations. For some, that leads to over working ourselves. For others, it leads to procrastination and underachievement. But I really do believe we all suffer from the disparity of our expectations for ourselves. Have this job title, earn this salary, cook these meals, keep things constantly clean, have successful hobbies, raise my kids right.

A good friend of mine is very crafty. She is always carrying around some project she is working on. This past weekend she was doing just that, and she knew it was just not quite right. She had messed up a stitch or two, that to her were painfully obvious. But instead of obsessing about it, instead of pulling it apart and redoing it, instead of throwing the whole thing away, she chose to be alright with it not being perfect. In fact, she plans on hanging it in her home for everyone to see. She told me this was her exercise in being ok with not being perfect. Because in the past she knows she would have been very frustrated and probably considered the whole thing a waste. But when she accepted that it would not be perfect, she realized that she actually still really liked it; and more importantly that she was the only one who could see this tiny mistake.

And to be completely honest, I don’t think I’m there yet. I have given up many crafty hobbies because I was not good enough fast enough. I still obsessively clean my home daily and that’s a whole other blog series in and of itself. I don’t go after things I want because I know others are better than I am.

I’ve been thinking about how perfectionism is holding me back. Not necessarily from a job title or a salary, but from happiness. After all, none of us actually art perfect, so at best we are just creating a good illusion of perfectionism. And most of the things we feel we are failing at is really just perceived imperfections. What if I could learn to be a little easier on myself? What if I could let go of my need for perfection and just learn to live my life the best I can? And what if I could even be happy with that?

Here are some things I am working on to help me let go of my need for perfectionism:

Be Kind to Yourself
It may start to feel like my blog has a theme this year outside of angry feminist. 2019 is my year of Self Love, and all the ways that shakes out. So of course the first step in learning to be ok with not being perfect, is to be kind to yourself. Change the dialogue. Instead of getting dragged down by your list of ways you don’t stack up, make a list of affirmation and things you like about yourself. Focus on your personality qualities that you like about yourself, rewarding relationships in your life, meaningful experiences.

It’s Not All or Nothing
When you feel the need to beat yourself up for your perceived imperfections, remember that life is not an all or nothing deal.  You don’t need to be the best at everything to be loved and respected. You are good enough as is. Full stop.

Be Less Critical of Others
A bad habit we are all guilty of is comparing ourselves to others. Sometimes we do this and it leads to us feeling inadequate, and sometimes we do this as a way to inflate our ego. Either way it’s not doing you any good. Focus on being patient, kind, and compassionate with others.

Surround Yourself with Good People
Have you heard that you are most like the five people you spend the most time with? Who you spend your time with has significant impact on your personality and your perspective. So surround yourself with people who have qualities you want in yourself. People who are smart, people who are generous, people who are gracious, people who can help you grow.

 

The reality is that no one is or ever will be perfect. But maybe we can work to be a little happier instead.

 

-Darci

Burning Out

We all have bad days, even bad weeks. But at what point does it cross over from a bad day to a full on burnout in life? At what point do you accept that this fatigue and apathy is long term and needs to be addressed?

Burnout is not simply a result of long hours or being over worked. It stems from a lack of control in life. Maybe the place that you work is being mismanaged and you are helpless to change it. Maybe you feel your work has no meaning. Maybe you don’t have a hobby or project that brings you joy outside of your work. Maybe you are so focused on helping others that you have no time or energy left for yourself.

I’ve come to realize that I need to be much more focused on myself. I need to prioritize not just taking care of myself but nourishing myself. I need to not only find my boundaries but stick to them. And I need to be more intentional of listening to my instincts. By getting stuck in my routine and focused on the go go go part of life, I wound up incredibly depressed and burnt out.

By the time I realized how burnt out I was, I didn’t just need a break I needed a full life shake up. I was in a job that was demanding and unfulfilling, working for people that are cold and incompetent. I was far more concerned with others needs than I was with my own. And all my free time was spent focused on others. I wasn’t sleeping, my skin was a mess, and the very concept of leaving my house became so overwhelming my whole body would feel like wet sandbags.

I didn’t need a break or a vacation, I needed a complete re-evaluation.

But the real kicker is that there were warning signs that I ignored. Red flag decisions at work that the ship was sinking. Demanding patterns from friendships that I know how to recognize but ignored. Small breakouts in my skin that I know how to deal with but didn’t make the time for.

I was just so stuck in my routine and my think positive attitude that my whole life had to be up in flames before I realized I needed to do something about it.

2019 is my year to focus on me. By the end of last year I was so low, so depressed, so burnt out, I knew I had to finally address it. It hasn’t happened over night but I have already come a long way.

I found a new job. Unfortunately not all work situations can be improved. Sometimes you just have to move on. I’ve learned a lot in my twenties about what I need from my job. And more importantly, I know what I am not looking for anymore. I found the next chapter and am taking all the lessons learned and putting them to good use.

I’m learning to say No. Perhaps my biggest hurdle. I don’t like saying No. I think a part of me has a fundamental belief that a person shouldn’t say No. But I am working on it.

I am working on boundaries. Both personally and professionally. Work-life balance, investing in friendships that are fulfilling and reciprocal and letting one sided friendships go, and listening to my inner voice. She often knows what’s up.

Change is hard. Growing is painful. Depression sucks. And burn out is awful. But all of these things are necessary. All of these things have a light at the end of the tunnel. And all of these things lead to better things. If you let them.

Darci

Sometimes You Have to Fail

You’ve heard it a thousand times: failure is a part of life. It’s a theoretical we all know. There are thousands of movies romanticizing the journey of failure. But when it actually happens to you it sucks. Sure there is a light at the end of the tunnel, sure you are going to grow and find something better and feel like this all happened for a reason and that timing is everything, sure it’s not the end of everything it’s just a bump in the road. But it sucks.

Without failure we couldn’t become the person we need to become. But becoming is painful. It’s not glamorous. There aren’t actually make overs or meet cutes with Chris Evans or constant hangouts at bars with your friends, and there are actually budgets and bills and stress acne. The world keeps spinning and life moves on even though your world is falling apart.

But despite the pain, despite the grief, despite the anger, despite the struggle, failure really is an ok thing. It’s an important part of life. And yes, it really does make you better in the end.

So. What good comes from failure? Here are some reasons why failure is actually ok.

We All Fail

It happens to everyone. People lose out on jobs they wanted, get dumped, don’t get that promotion, get fired, lose that race, and more every day. Failure is embarrassing but it’s the most relatable thing. It’s hard to see in the moment, but we all fail at something in life. Everyone has experienced failure, you are not alone.

Failure is a Good Time for Self Reflection

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. It’s about self discovery and finding the meaning in your life. Failing sheds light on the places you can grow. By allowing failure to dig deep into your character, you come through with a better understanding of who you are and where you want to go.

Failure Makes You Stronger

Without failure, there is no progress. There are countless famous success stories of how failure lead to the ultimate success. JK Rowling, Oprah, Bill Gates, and Walt Disney to name a few. And sure, we probably won’t all become successful billionaires because of our failures. But we can learn a similar lesson: failure can be emboldening. It teaches you how to keep going and fight for what really matters to you.

Failure Leads to New Things

New jobs, new relationships, new hobbies. Endings lead to beginnings. Meet new people, try new things, explore new paths. You finally have nothing holding you back from pursuing that career, going on that date, trying that new recipe. Before you had nothing pushing you to try something new, now you have nothing holding you back.

Failure Teaches You Empathy

Life experience changes your perspective of the world. Things become less black and white, right or wrong, and you realize that life has no one path to take. Through your own struggles you become more empathetic to the struggles of others. You can be more present with others, more vulnerable, more genuine. Failure makes you a better friend.

You Learn That Failure Doesn’t Kill You

Yes, it sucks to fail. It sucks to lose out on jobs or relationships or things that were really important to you. When it happens you can feel like your whole life is crashing down, your self esteem plummets. But eventually you realize something: you survived. You find a new job, a new relationship, a new hobby, your life goes on and you may actually end up being happier because of it. And once you learn that failure doesn’t kill you, you may actually start taking more risks in life.

Failure sucks. But sometimes you have to fail to get to the next chapter. And sometimes, you may even be better off because of it.

 

Darci

Don’t Overthink It

Confession: I am a very anxious person. I’m a Type A Overplanner who has back ups for my back ups. I make my bed everyday because a small part of my thinks if I don’t then clearly I will fail at everything that day. My house is always meticulously clean because when I’m stressed or depressed I cope by obsessively cleaning. I spend a lot of my time worrying about what others think of me. My mind is constantly spinning.

And it’s exhausting.

Anxiety is Overthinking’s partner in crime. I overthink things because I am anxious and I’m anxious because I am overthinking everything. It’s a vicious cycle that is hard to break. And what happens when you open up to someone about the things making you anxious: just don’t overthink it!

Google overthinking and you will get endless articles of “10 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Start Living” or “Ways Overthinking is Ruining Your Relationship” or “How to Love an Overthinker”. They break it down in quick sentences and a bullet point list to fix your problems. Just do this! Stop doing that! And the whole problem is now solved.

I hate these articles. If my anxiety could really be fixed by the flip of a switch, a quick daily mantra, or it was just a matter of deciding to not be anxious then I would have fixed myself years ago.

Here’s what I wish people could understand: I don’t want to be like this. Hell, there was probably a time when I wasn’t. But I am. And it’s a learned behavior. It’s my defense mechanism. My anxiety hurts me, sure, but also it protects me. My anxiety protects me from heartbreak and disappointment and abandonment. Sure I could just stop overthinking everything and work on having a positive outlook on life, and I may be happier for it. But it’s just not that simple.

Someone told me recently just to relax, be myself, and don’t overthink it. And I choked back laughter because overthinking is being myself. It’s meant to be a calming piece of advice, a gentle reminder that things aren’t bad so don’t spiral out. But really what I hear is “don’t fuck this up for yourself”.

I’m working on it. Or at least, I am aware of it. I’m trying to find ways to be kinder to myself, to be more positive, to look on the bright side. But anxiety is a part of who I am, and overthinking everything is my core. There is no 10 step process that will snap me out of this, reminding me that my anxiety could ruin my relationships isn’t the tough love talk that’s going to change me. I can’t help the way I think, and I can’t help how much I think. On my best days I redirect my energy into something productive to distract myself. And while I can learn better ways to cope with my anxiety, I am pretty sure it will always be a part of who I am.

And I think that’s the real solution. It’s not about fixing yourself, it’s about accepting yourself. I will probably always be someone with a mind that is constantly spinning, but what I can learn is how to be kinder to myself in the process. How not to be self destructive in the process.

My anxiety isn’t a problem to be “fixed”. It’s a part of who I am that needs to be loved. When I start to overthink and spiral, I don’t need a list of ways to fix myself, I need a hug.

So I’m trying not to get better, I’m working on being kinder to myself, and I am trying to love all of the parts of me. And there are good days and bad days. For the good days we have progress, and for the bad days we have wine.

Darci

5 Things to Stop Caring About

Life can be stressful. Life can be chaotic. Life can be hard. The biggest kicker, though, is that sometimes we make life harder on ourselves. By indulging in negative thoughts or memories, prioritizing toxic people, living in the past, we hurt ourselves in the present and delay our happiness in the future. I’ve been working a lot on reshaping how I spend my mental energy. How I talk to myself. What I am spending my time thinking about. Being intentional about catching myself in a negative spiral and changing the game. It’s not always easy. But it’s important work. I’m trying to retrain my brain to think differently. So this week I thought I would share the five things I am working on changing. Take a look:

1. Those Painfully Awkward Moments.

Remember that joke you made in a meeting that didn’t land? Or that answer you gave in class that was definitely wrong? Or that time you thought someone was waving to you but it was actually to someone behind you? Those painfully awkward little moments that your brain likes to recall as you are falling asleep or enjoying some quiet time and now suddenly your heart is racing. Those social blunders that were embarrassing in the moment but that was seven years ago and no one but you remembers them, let alone dwells on them. Even your bigger blunders are probably still only note worthy to you. It’s time to let those go. When your brain starts to remind you, catch yourself and tell your brain that happened years ago and literally no one cares any more. Take the power away from those awkward moments by reminding yourself that it wasn’t as bad as you remember and it is well in the past now.

2. What People From Your Past Are Doing.

I’ll be the first to admit that Facebook stalking is a semi regular event. Social media makes it all too easy to take a passing “hmm I wonder” and turn it into a two hour rabbit hole investigation of what people from my past have been doing. Ex’s, former friends, old coworkers, past roommates, former classmates, all people who are in my past for a reason. And yet, the curiosity gets the better of me every time. It’s natural, though very unhealthy, to look for validation through comparison. But it’s a temporary, fleeting validation that leaves us emptier than we started. It also distracts the focus on your own life. You don’t need to compare your journey, your goals, your accomplishments to anyone to be happy. And, in fact, doing so is hurting your progress. My suggestion? Block those people you find yourself checking in on. That way the next time you are tempted to see what they are up to, you can’t. Eventually you’ll break the habit of even wondering what those people are up to and you won’t be distracted by it any more.

3. Pleasing Everybody.

It’s a cliched lesson, but I think I will spend the rest of my life relearning it. No matter how hard you try, you will never please everyone. There will always be people who take and take and take but never give. There will always be people who are too wrapped up in themselves not noticed anyone else. There will always be people stuck in the comparison game and they will never be happy for you. It’s time to stop worrying about those people. Your life is yours and you have to live it the way you know is best. So keep focusing on your dreams and your goals, keep treating others the way you want to be treated, and when someone shows resentment or expresses grievance over you simply living your life, you now have permission to involve them in your life less. Making time for people who hurt you regularly or openly root against you is silly. It doesn’t matter if they are coworkers, friends you’ve known for years, family, or even romantic partners. Your time is valuable and your mental well being is important. So stop wasting your time trying to please people who can never be won.

4. The Worst Case Scenario Game.

I’ll be honest, I am a fan of this game. Especially when I have a lot of anxiety about a situation or feel a lot of pressure. Sometimes saying your fear out loud can take some of the power away from it. But too much of anything is a bad thing. And I realized recently that I never play the Best Case Scenario Game. My what ifs are always negative. I’m always preparing for the worst, anticipating the worst, assuming the worst. And not only is that way of thinking depressing and unhealthy, it’s exhausting. I find I am always worried, always anxious, depressed far more often. All because I am far too indulgent in my fears rather than focusing on my hopes. I used to justify this way of thinking by saying “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. But what if by dwelling so much on the worst I make the worst inevitable? What if by spending more time focusing on the best, preparing for the best, even planning for the best, that made the best happen? So now, when I catch myself playing the Worst Case Scenario Game, I make myself stop and think about what the Best Case Scenario could be instead.

5. Where You Should Be in Life at X Age.

Again, comparison is a dangerous habit that pretty much only leads to depression. Just because you aren’t married yet, don’t have kids, haven’t gotten that degree, don’t have that professional title yet, doesn’t mean you are falling behind or failing. School was very structured, and it gave all of us this false illusion that the rest of life would be too. But there is no order of events, no timeline to follow, no progress report, no big moments you need to hit by a certain time. Plenty of people followed “the plan” of getting married young to someone they weren’t actually compatible with, had kids even though they weren’t ready to be a parent, or worked their way up the ladder for a career they didn’t want. Too many people do what they are “supposed” to do without considering if they want to do it. And too many people feel like they are failing at life because they aren’t doing what they are “supposed” to be doing right now. But the most freeing moment in life is when you realize that you get to call the shots for your life and you get to decide what path is right for you.

Why is it so easy for our brains to think negatively, to be stressed or anxious or overwhelmed, to focus on comparisons or the past, but we doing the opposite takes so much work? I’ve been wondering that a lot lately as I’ve been working on intentionally changing my patterns. When did those patterns form, I wonder. And when will they change? It’s hard work, it’s consistent work, but it’s good work. And hopefully it will stop being work someday and start being a way of life.

Darci