5 Truths That Will Change the Way You Think About Arguments

My best friend and I had a fight a couple weeks ago. The curse of neither-of-us-are-backing-down reared it’s ugly head, and we were yelling. We were yelling. We weren’t listening to each other, we weren’t giving benefit of the doubt, we weren’t keeping things in perspective–hell, we weren’t even arguing about the same thing in the end.

The unnecessarily intense interaction made me think about how to do conflict better…a little more grace, more love, more not-being-a-dick. It took a lot of reflection, but here are five important things I learned:

1) Start by assuming good intentions.

If you go into a disagreement feeling like a victim, you’re going to argue like a victim. And while victims are great at accusing and ranting, they’re pretty bad at actually coming to a solution. Don’t get me wrong– if someone has betrayed you in a major way, victim it up. But if you’re actually trying to solve something? Going in with a defensive attitude is totally unproductive.

Very rarely will someone intentionally do something just to make your life harder (and if they do, you should probably cut them loose). So why confront someone as if they are purposely trying to hurt you? Instead, talk to people as if you know they care, you know they’re on your team…even if there are some issues to address. It’s much easier to bring things up (and to be receptive when issues are presented to you) when you can always count on a side order of “benefit of the doubt.”

2) The most important question of all: “Wait, what are we really fighting about?”

So often, petty arguments aren’t really about what they seem on the surface. They are symbols of deeper issues. And that makes for a whole lotta miscommunication.

Example: The argument “You never do the dishes” could be about doing the dishes. But it could also be about “I don’t feel like you respect my space” or “I feel like I’m doing more of the work around the house” or “I don’t feel your support right now” or “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME?!”. And none of those things are about the dishes, really.

BUT, if the argument focuses on those stupid dishes, then none of those actual root issues are addressed. Or worse, when they are addressed, it comes ten minutes into the conversation with a burst of hot tears and accusatory language and geeeeez, that escalated quickly. That’s how shit gets confusing and angry, folks. Simmer. Make sure you are both arguing about the same thing (so often, people are not). And when an argument goes in a weird direction, stop and ask: “Wait, what are we really fighting about?”

3) Avoid blowups by recognizing when you’re “collecting evidence.”

In an attempt to be right and not look like we’re overreacting, we have a tendency to “build a case” and legitimize how we feel before attempting a confrontation. When we do that, we skip the calm, loving “Hey, this is how my world looks right now,” conversation, and silently build up to a cold, grudge-filled trial.

“You did these 7 things in the last week that pissed me off. I have been writing them down, and they are now alphabetized in this list. What do you have to say about THAT, hm?”

Naturally, when we put someone on trial, they defend themselves against our evidence because that’s how trials work. We end up arguing over individual instances (“I’m working overtime! And I did the dishes three days ago!”) instead of the actual issue at hand (“Oh, you feel overwhelmed? How should we work this out moving forward?”).

By approaching conversations with “Hey, I just caught myself collecting evidence on you, can we talk?” you are taking responsibility for your expectations and feelings, rather than waiting for enough ammunition to put all the blame on someone. You make it about being real, instead of being “right.” Obviously, that’s a much better strategy.

4) People yell because they want to be heard

Ah, the good ol’ screaming match. When we start arguing with people, especially if we refuse to see their points or perspective, it’s only a matter of time before they raise their voices a little. Or we raise our voices a little. Although it seems like an emotional response, maybe even irrational, yelling actually makes a lot of freakin’ sense.

It’s pretty simple, really: We learn from a very young age to speak up when someone can’t hear us. Talking louder is a very natural response to not feeling heard. Mix that with a little bit of frustration and you have a high-volume warzone (where, ironically, no one is listening to anyone).

While your body assumes that TALKING LIKE THIS will help you make your point, experience tells us that it really won’t. The best way to be heard is actually by being clear, honest, calm, and timely…not by bringing the roof down. So take those deep breaths (they really work, guys) and remember that when someone raises the volume in your general direction, sometimes THEY JUST REALLY WANT TO BE UNDERSTOOD AND IT IS THE ONLY WAY YOU WILL HEAR THEM, OBVIOUSLY. They may be wrong, but this isn’t your cue to talk over them or defend yourself—it’s your cue to listen better.

5) When it gets competitive, no one wins

There is a point in every big argument where a simple disagreement turns into a capital-F Fight. And who wins capital-F Fights? Um, no one.

Learn to recognize when things are getting into a competitive space, and cut it off then—because in relationships, “winning” an argument by brute force is rarely a true victory. Here are a few signs your disagreement has turned into a showdown:

  • Your body temperature rises, your body language becomes aggressive, and your focus narrows
  • You lose sight of all your initial goals (to be understood, to be legitimized, to find a solution to an issue) and take on short-term goals (to have to other person give in, to be “right”).
  • Displays of emotion (tears, yelling, etc) from the other party seem like a victory, rather then a sign that you’ve crossed a line
  • Oh, and you cross lines. Because YOU’RE RIGHT, dammit.

Any game that is won by someone you love bursting into tears is not worth playing. Period. So when it goes there—and it can, of course it can—give it a break. Disagreements can be productive. Capital-F Fights rarely go anywhere positive.

Not the best role models.
Not the best role models.

So, as always, let’s be good to each other.

(I know I say that almost every post, but man, it’s so worth repeating.)

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The Biggest Mistake We Make With Each Other.

I have a challenge for you.

I want you to think about the industrialized world (you know, the one you live in, where you use money for stuff) in two categories:

The first is services. The second is products.

Think about what you spend money on. Think about what you do for work. Think about that really awesome business idea you and your buddies came up with around last call that would totally make you millionaires.

I want you to close your eyes (actually don’t do that, then you can’t read) and think about the difference between the products and the services involved in all those industries.

A product “is anything that can be offered to a market that might satisfy a want or need.” Anything. Products are things. Products can be owned.

A service is an action or process that a person or business provides to another. A service cannot be owned. Providing a service is something a person does, not something they are.  Here, we are selling an non-tangible action, not an object.

For example: In music, a service would be performing a concert; a product would be the recorded CD of that concert. In finance, a product would be a bank account while a service would be a personal tax consultation. In education, teaching is a service while learning software and textbooks are products.

Human beings, fundamentally, are service providers. People may provide services that result in products, but they should never be products themselves. It would be offensive for us to treat them that way, wouldn’t it?

As such, any industry which appears to be selling people as a product deserves serious scrutiny.

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paris hilton

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Picked. Traded. Owned. Branded.

We use a lot of “product” words to talk about certain people in our society.

It isn’t surprising that we do this. We seem to think we’re some highly evolved society, that we have somehow figured out how to properly humanize people. We haven’t. Only a few centuries ago, we were explicitly buying and selling people as slaves.  This means that our capitalist system has a major history of people-as-products, one which persists in ways which are obvious (human trafficking, for example) and not-so-obvious (celebrity culture, college sports, the deifying of religious leaders, etc).

I’m sure there are also hundreds of human nature-y reasons why we might objectify people. Sometimes, we look up to someone (or the idea of someone) so much that we almost literally want to own a piece of them. Other times, we recognize that people can serve a purpose in our lives and “use” them in that way.

But when objectification becomes the cornerstone of entire industries, when we turn people into sellable products, wow. 

That’s really bad.

Perhaps the worst part is that we have created a world where becoming a product is glamourizedThat’s success, right? Isn’t being contractually tied to a company a good thing, a secure thing? Isn’t being a cover girl, a professional athlete, or a figurehead something to be sought after?

As long as those are jobs, as long as they are services that a human being is providing in good faith, then fine. Fine. But when being owned becomes our definition of success, something is terribly wrong. When people are becoming products because it’s the only way they feel like they can be seen (and hey, don’t we all want to be seen sometimes?) or loved or wanted, something is terribly wrong.

So keep your eyes open, friends. Keep looking for people who are being treated as products, for human beings who are being bought, sold, and owned.  Watch out for that product-centric language that we use so often when talking about people, especially those in the spotlight or who “serve a purpose” (yuck).

It happens more frequently than we think and, in my opinion, it’s the biggest mistake we make with each other.

I’m a mess. And that’s okay.

I feel fake.

Not all the time.  But lately, at least on the internet, I feel like I’ve been putting my “best self” forward. And that’s fine, I guess. But it’s not particularly genuine.

I have business cards! I was at an awards show! I wrote some stuff, and people read it!

I’m proud of all those things, I really am. And I’m glad I can share them. But between the collection of #humblebrags, the over-edited status updates, and the filter-on instagram version of my life….

I mean, it looks like I’m the kind of person who puts on pants before noon. Who watches intellectual TED talks, instead of mindlessly binging on Dr. Phil.  Who always, always gets along with her picture-perfect family.

And that’s simply not true.

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So here’s the reality, friends:

I’m insecure, overzealous, and uncoordinated. I swear, sometimes when I shouldn’t (sorry, mom).  I don’t exercise enough…unless you count running late, I guess. I make jokes that aren’t funny, and I laugh at them. Out loud.

(Yeah. I’m that person.)

I suffer from foot in mouth syndrome, fear of missing out syndrome, there-are-always-clothes-on-my-floor syndrome. I also make up syndromes a lot, apparently.  I’m messy. I play mind games without meaning to, mostly with myself.  Sometimes, I have trouble being happy for people.  I can be a bad listener–or worse, a good listener but  a terrible responder.   I am sensitive to a fault; I use big words when I do not need to; if there is a mirror nearby I will be looking at myself.  I’m kind of awkward. Definitely impulsive.  Occasionally preachy. I don’t know how to hide irritation, even when I should. I cry at commercials, laugh when I’m nervous, and rarely think before I speak.

I’m a mess. And that’s okay.

It’s not that I’m proud of these qualities. Not even a little bit. But I’m not ashamed to recognize them, either.  They mean I’m here, I’m awake, I’m aware, I’m human, and I’m trying to be better.  They mean that even through imperfection–serious, serious imperfection–I can still live, love, and be loved.  We all can. And we can love other people through their not-so-perfect, too.

That’s amazing.

The judgement machine of the online world sometimes makes that difficult, I know. We put a filter on everything. We compare our everyday lives to everyone else’s “greatest hits” (thanks, Facebook).  We blog about the times we win, not the times we lose. We talk about the times we have been wronged, not the times we wronged others. We manufacture our own stories in which we are the heroes.

But we aren’t heroes. We’re People. We make choices. We have personalities. We have bad habits and imperfect histories and honestly, we’re pretty boring most of the time.

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So let’s take solace in the fact that we won’t always be perfect.  The fact that we will annoy people. We will try to be helpful and it won’t work. We will apply for jobs and not get them.  We will suffer failed relationships, send regrettable text messages, and come in last place.

I’ll be a mess. You’ll be a mess. We’ll be a mess. And that’s okay.

Life isn’t about being perfect every time you show up–life is about showing up, period.  And tomorrow is about being a better you than you were today. If we were perfect today, then tomorrow would be pretty boring.

(And right now, by pretending I have it all together, by pretending it’s only smiles and professionalism and good news, my internet-self is probably pretty boring. Hopefully this helps to keep it real.)

Love.

Why I Love People, But Hate “Networking”

I think we have a issue with objectifying people.

Not just sexually. Not just women. Not just in the media. All of those are problems, to be sure, but I think objectification is a problem that goes way beyond all that.

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A couple months ago, I was given a lesson on “networking.”  I learned I was supposed to fish for connections, to groom people into becoming opportunities. I was supposed to be nice to people for the sole purpose of achieving my personal goals. It all seemed really fake and icky.

(Can I use the word icky as an adult? Is that allowed?)

I tried to express this to a friend, who laughed at me because dude, you network all-the-freaking-time.  She was right, of course. I talk to people. I have a LinkedIn account, and I use it. I’m the queen of “let’s do coffee!”  But there was still something weird about how the word “networking” was being used in professional-land.

Isn’t that, like, making friends with an ulterior motive? Can I just get to know people? And maybe some of them will do cool stuff, and then I can learn about that cool stuff and maybe get involved with it, if it makes sense? Is there a word for that?

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Objectification means looking at people in terms of what they can do for you. For a service they can provide. For how they can help you reach your own goals.

So we “network.” We date. We care about people selectively–because they might be useful to us someday, because they fit into our personal narrative.  We greet people with expectations. We ask “who can you be to me?” instead of asking “who are you?”

And when we do that, we miss each other.  We miss each other on a human level, and it sucks.

We’re so busy trying to write our own story that we sometimes straight-up ignore people who might not fit into it, as though their stories don’t matter at all.  We hold onto our agendas so tightly that we forget to hold each other. If someone isn’t a potential employer, or a potential partner, or someone we can get the notes for next class from…why bother with them at all?

There is something very inauthentic about that.

So here I am. Trying desperately, desperately to approach all people as people.  Not opportunities. Not props in some story that I think I have control over.

Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hella hard.  But I think it will be worth it.

A Year of Shaunanagins Quotes (or, how I was awkward, contradictory, and occassionally insightful during 2013)

Just went through all my posts from 2013 (all of them. yeah. I know.) to see how this little piece of blogland unfolded over the past year.

Here’s how it went down.

– – –

First, I got really motivated.

Because in the end, my goal is to wake up each morning, look the world in the eye, and say “What, Life? Yeah, I’d tap that.” – I Have Chosen My Word for 2013 (and it’s going to make for one interesting year)

It’s easy to become defeated when you see other people doing cool things.  But what if you were to take that pang of ‘This is something I find awesome.  Noted.’  and turn it into motivation?  – Jealousy has a stage name. It’s called Inspiration.

Then, I became a big advocate for awareness and listening and storytelling…

Here’s what we need to do: Care about the stories. Let them speak. Respect the storytellers. Share your own stories, if you want to. And whatever your story is, however different it is than someone elses, whatever you choose to do with it: You aren’t broken. You’re just another person with a story and a body, and no matter what, those two things belong to you and you alone. – Sex, Lies, and Storytime: “It’s okay, you’re not broken.”

In my view, there should be two kinds of people present with any social issue you want to address: The storytellers, who have experienced an issue firsthand (aka the people who Know), and those who try to understand the stories (aka the people who Listen). –  The Truth about Awareness

We care a lot about “Freedom of Speech,” which is great, but it’s easy to forget that with Freedom of Speech comes the Freedom to Listen. – Making Friends Who Disagree With You (is the healthiest thing in the world)

There’s something dangerous about leading with anger (however justified), instead of stories.  Or with accusations instead of ideas. Don’t get me wrong, passionate people willing to call out society’s bs are AWESOME.  But they’re way more awesome when they come with a side order of compassion, a willingness to gently guide people to awareness. – Rape, Outrage, and the Language of Solutions

I would much rather read the story of someone who can’t bear to hold that story in. I want to read words which are necessary to someone–not a sprint towards an empty wordcount, not a checkmark on the bucket list. – The Most Common Writing Advice (is kinda stupid)

Though it was pretty clear that I didn’t have many answers myself.

What are “friends,” then?  I don’t know. – The People Who I Know (But Don’t Really Know).

I really, really like hostels. I don’t know why.  – 10 Reasons My First Day in Halifax Will Be (Really, Really) Hard to Top

When I was a kid, I tried to run away from home (all. the. time.).  I don’t know why. – In which I am “Vagabond Chic”

For some reason, I don’t blog about music much. I don’t know why.  – Five Reasons I’m Optimistic About the Future of Music

So, how could I not know?  I mean really, really know what they had gone through. And what they were still going through. Until they wrote it down, I’ll admit that I really didn’t. – The Truth about Awareness

That didn’t stop me from having some strong opinions…

Certain types of people are more favoured for success in this world. I’m not saying that’s always right. I’m just saying that if you’re talking about discrimination based on personality type, you need to broaden your argument. – The Not-Really-One-or-the-Other Vert

Before we all flutter to the comment sections with our personal stories and claims of “I work harder than you work,” let’s get real:  You should really hire some of us.  You should really not hire others. Everyone born in this twenty-year period is not meant for the same job, nor are they bound to infect workplaces with the same “sins.” – Kids. These. Days.

The universal definition of “woman with values” is almost entirely based on what a Lady consumes, or lets into herself, rather than what she creates. How weird is that? – What Does it Mean to be a “Woman with Values,” Exactly?

I’d think sports fans, of all people, should be able relate to how deeply symbols can manifest in our lives.  How important a team is to a community.  How important it is to let that team be inclusive and, you know, not racist. – I Hurt an Entire Culture, and All I Got Was This Stupid T-shirt

It’s a pretty straight-forward formula: As soon as we are able to pronounce our moral superiority to someone, we are able to label them as “other,” we are able to fear them, we think we can do whatever we want in retaliation…It’s messed up. It’s totally messed up.  When we let the worst of what we see and hear set the standard for our own behaviour, autonomy, and responsibility to each other, we lose. When we refuse to learn from the unsettling things we see, and point fingers instead, we lose. – How NOT to Respond to the Abercrombie & Fitch Remarks

Do feminists have a right to be mad? Yes.
Do they have a reason to be mad? Yes.
Should they shout it from the rooftops?  If they’re willing, yes, perhaps they should.
But I have to be honest: Jaded rooftop shouters scare me, especially when I can’t quite understand what they’re shouting about. I tend to tune them out.  Even if they’re right.
– Rape, Outrage, and the Language of Solutions

Including a whole bunch of thoughts about the whole “learning” thing itself.

Why is it that important places like study rooms, lecture halls, churches, government institutions and courts so often lack windows?  Are we really expecting people who can’t even see the sky or the ground to be responsible authorities on the world’s direction? – Life, Learning, and “Windowless Cave Education”

I’m not saying  that every activity needs to involve a life lesson. What I am saying is that life lessons need to involve more activity. – Life, Learning, and “Windowless Cave Education”

Terms like “studying French” or “learning a new language” always sound so simple–they don’t properly embody the embarrassment, frustration and word-wrestling I’ve been doing these last few years. It’s a rewarding process, but it always plays games with my confidence. Or, at least, I always play games with my confidence. – Quebec, You Make Me Self-Conscious (But I’m Just Being Silly)

I have already learned things [from traveling]. Very personal, real things. Things I can actually take home with me. I hate how romantic and empty that sounds, like I just skipped through a field of roses, and found God, and “Oh, friends, you wouldn’t understand.” I don’t want to be one of those people who talk about traveling like there’s no other way to live or learn (though, if you have the resources, I highly recommend it). – That Awkward Moment When You Start Finding Yourself

I did some reflecting on relationships and people-stuff…

Welcome to human relationships, friends–they’re weird. When people take their clothes off, they get even weirder. So no, they don’t need your judgement. They need your love, and they need God’s love. Please leave the close-mindedness at the door. – Sex, Lies, and Storytime: “It’s okay, you’re not broken.”

“People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” Let’s add on to that pretty little cliche, shall we?  People also come into your life just to laugh with you when you awkwardly trip up the stairs.  Or to silently inspire your next haircut.  Or to just be attractive.  Or to be intriguing.  Or to remind you that you need, need, need to come up with better ice breaker lines. – The People Who I Know (But Don’t Really Know).

Though personally, I was a hot mess with the whole social interaction thing.

I can’t seem to get it quite right. Yesterday, I parted ways with a dear coworker by saying: “Have a good one! And by ‘one,’ I mean, like, life!” Yeah. That sounded exactly as awkward out loud as it did in your head. –  An Unauthorized Guide to (Sucking at) Saying Goodbye

Another friend, who evidently sucks less than I do, tried to strike up a meaningful closing conversation over dinner:
“So, where do you think you’ll be in five years?”
“Pregnant and sad.”
What kind of response is that? [I wondered. As I said it. Out loud. I didn’t even miss a beat, you guys.]
  An Unauthorized Guide to (Sucking at) Saying Goodbye

I probably won’t even stay in touch (empty promises 1; Shauna 0).  I want to, but I don’t really know what “stay in touch” even means. –  An Unauthorized Guide to (Sucking at) Saying Goodbye

“Well, I guess, I mean, that gives you an excuse to buy a new one?” I offered. The world’s most house wife-y response to a broken bong. – How I Learned the Ukelele on a Train (and other transient tales)

I found the musician sitting in the “Activity Car” after her set, and approached her cautiously. “‘Scuze me. Can I ask you something, maybe?” As if she could say no. As if we weren’t stuck on a train together for two days. – How I Learned the Ukelele on a Train (and other transient tales)

Sure, a year is a long time and a blog like this is hard work…but also, how do you go up to someone and say “Yeah, I have this website where I write about myself. I’ve been doing it for a year. So no big deal.” – One Year of Blogging!

I also wrote a lot about identity…

I don’t think we should restrict identity to the things that “count” as milestones. – People are Trees, Not Timelines

We have to branch out. Timelines are great at telling base, simple stories…but they’re not so great at telling the whole truth. And when it comes to our own identity, our own History, we deserve the Truth. – People are Trees, Not Timelines

We all wear so many costumes, and speak so many languages. It’s an interesting process,  playing a role (not that you’re faking it, but still, it’s playing) every time you walk into a certain place, or consider a certain person. –  Living Between the Lines

In some ways, I think identity is somewhere in the cracks. It’s not in the office, or at a friend’s house, or at family dinner. It’s in those first few seconds when you wake up and aren’t quite sure where you are yet. When you’re driving—just driving, and for a moment you stop thinking about where you’re going. When someone touches you on the shoulder, or the hand, and your body unconsciously warms to the contact…When the pressure melts away for a few seconds, all that’s left to do is practice being human.  –  Living Between the Lines

“Who am I today?”  That’s all that really matters, in the end. Screw the coulda/woulda/shoulda.  Screw worrying.  Screw the fact that I do both of those things…until that mantra walks in and gives me a role to play. Today. – Five Sentences That Changed My Life

Whatever your offering is, you should do it. Do it actively. Do it because you need to. Do it because it will make the world a better place. Do it because it’s who you are. And most importantly: Do it because you wouldn’t be able to stop, even if I told you to. – The Most Common Writing Advice (is kinda stupid)

Though I had a little bit of trouble explaining myself.

I hope that you can be a blogger without having to pretend you know everything–or worse, having to pretend you can put that “everything” into a list.  – (Why This Article Is Not Called) “20 Ways to Be a Twenty-Something”

Mostly, my life isn’t about quick tips. Neither is yours.  It’s about celebrating and mourning, sometimes at the same time. It’s about getting confused and getting the giggles. It’s the word “Oops,” and it’s the word “Love,” and it’s feeling unsure. – (Why This Article Is Not Called) “20 Ways to Be a Twenty-Something”

 “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”  Of course you don’t. Of course I don’t. Look at those loaded words, momma, look: “know,” “want,” “be,” and *shudder* “grow up.” – Because Easy Answers are Boring

Oh, growing up. That is something else I wrote a lot about.

It’s no longer my parents and teachers telling me to what time it is.  It’s more of a voice in my head, reminding me that this next step is BIG. And, naturally, that I need to be BIG to greet it effectively. Though really, I don’t know what exactly being BIG means. – Busy Being a “Big Kid”

As we grow up, we have to change to greet our new discoveries. We adapt. Mostly, we learn what we can expect from people, and what we can expect from ourselves.  That we all need a little help sometimes, but we still shouldn’t count on anyone. That we are more capable than we ever thought possible, but that we can’t do it alone–though, some days, we’re going to really have to try. – Busy Being a “Big Kid”

We all have little moments like that, I think–whether we’re 7 year old kids, 20 something college students, middle aged mommas, maybe even as we trek through the much later years.  Wondering what comes next. Working through what we do, but optimistically unsure of where we are going. – Because Easy Answers are Boring

Most lives don’t fit into any sort of beginning-middle-end box.  Even if they do, most of us are probably just hanging out in the “middle” looking for reasons and analyzing our lives like it’s the “end”.  And most people don’t quite fit where they are, at least not all the time. – Thursday Night Brainwaves: How DID I get here?

And, apparently, my brain played a lot of tricks on me:

When I have never done something, sometimes I assume it’s because I could never do it. This is one of the lies my brain tells. – Watermarked: How Rivers, Oceans, and Leaky Faucet-ing Won Me Over

Of course, nothing is actually over. That’s just my brain playing tricks again. A year well spent is an achievement, not a loss. Note to self. – One Year of Blogging!

Ten thousand hours, the song repeated to my tired brain. If you’ve practiced for ten thousand hours, you should be an expert. That’s how it works, right? – Quebec, You Make Me Self-Conscious (But I’m Just Being Silly)

My faith also seeped into a couple posts:

I am thoroughly convinced of two things: Life is a joke. And life is sacred. – Taking “Canada Class” (or, how my sense of humour runs my schedule)

I intentionally attend churches which disagree with each other. I do this for the same reason I wear one earring that says “Oui” and one which says “Non” every Sunday–because Truth usually hangs out “somewhere in the middle.” – A Tale of Two Churches: Living in DC During the Gay Marriage Showdown

I don’t know that someone should aspire to believe anything, least of all anything supernatural. I would much rather be a woman who constantly uses the brain God gave her–even if that means that her idea of “God” has to change as she learns things. – What Kind of Woman Do I Want To Be?

We are fragile, mortal, reactive, aware, sensitive—but we should not be afraid. – On Fear, Love, and Bombs in Boston.

My faith is getting more and more present-tense oriented (“Will everything be okay? Let’s go with yes. Even if it’s not okay, it’s okay. Right, Jesus?”).  – That Awkward Moment When You Start Finding Yourself

After awhile, all these wonderful friends and prayers and instincts sent the message that “You can trust God. You can trust some people. You can trust yourself.”  No one learns to believe something as crazy as that alone. – Watermarked: How Rivers, Oceans, and Leaky Faucet-ing Won Me Over

Also, I seemed to think that abstract ideas could “meet” each other?

Basically, regret is what happens when empathy meets taking responsibility. – Living With No Regrets (is bullshit)

 The Taboo Tab is working.  It’s showing the next generation what happens when creative writing meets community meets compassion. – In Which I Ask You For Help (and may I say, you are looking LOVELY today).

What I do want to be is a woman of grace–you know, that thing that happens when personal values meet interpersonal compassion.  – What Kind of Woman Do I Want To Be?

I used to play the‘How DID I get here?’ game all the time–when growing pains meet the travel bug, you rarely know completely where you are, how you got there, or what to think about it. – Thursday Night Brainwaves: How DID I get here?

But through all my awkwardness, I stayed intensely grateful. Especially to you readers, because you’re awesome.

Every time someone thrust their story into my hands and said “Here, have it. Edit it. Show it to the world.” they made an active decision to share themselves with this project and this community. And, thanks to the amazing nature of this community, it became a safe place to talk and to learn. So much trust. So much love. – (On the Taboo Tab) One Year of Blogging!

THANK YOU for an amazing year. Thank you for reading. I love all the comments you leave me, and they make my day (actually, now they make my year). You rock. Seriously. – One Year of Blogging!

I needed a ton of help, coming from all sides–from upsides, downsides, from inside, outside, from everywhere. Is this getting cheesy? I’m sorry. I promise it’s honest. I just owe a million thank yous. – Watermarked: How Rivers, Oceans, and Leaky Faucet-ing Won Me Over

This offering only works as long as it’s me writing–me, needing to write, having something to say.  Not my arbitrary need-to-put-words-together.  Not a clog of cliches on the internet, stealing time from much more important words. Just me.  To you.  It really only seems to work as long as you are there reading.  Every time you stop by, you are accepting my selfish, crazy offering.  Thank you for that. – The Most Common Writing Advice (is kinda stupid)

Because, this:

I want to be the kind of woman who is thankful day by day, step by step. Whose thank yous aren’t loaded attempts to control the future, nor quiet warnings of her standards.   She will never say ‘This is good. If I am grateful for this step, can the next step be just as good, please?’  No; I want to be the kind of woman who is grateful because it is just who she is.  And when she says thank you, she simply means to say, ‘That step was good. You helped make it good. Grazie, gracias, merci.’  What Kind of Woman Do I Want To Be?

Oh, and here are my 5 most hit/shared/commented on/liked posts of the year:

1) Sex, Lies, and Storytime: “It’s okay, you’re not broken.”

2) 7 More Reasons WestJet is Basically the Mr. Rogers of Canadian Airlines

3) Meet the Neighbors: A Guide to Canada for Americans

4) What Does it Mean to be a “Woman with Values,” Exactly?

5) Kids. These. Days.

– – –

That step was good.
You helped make it good.
Grazie, gracias, merci.

Living with No Regrets (is bullshit)

This is going to shake some people up. I think it will, anyways, based on the number of people who claim “NO REGRETS!” as their mantra (hashtag YOLO?).

I’ll disclaimer this by saying that I’m not picking on the sentiment behind the “no regrets” claim. I just feel the need to tear the literal concept apart. “No regrets! ” sounds increasingly like a thin veil of optimism, rather than a genuine way to live. Because, honestly, can you really be an emotionally healthy human being without a little bit of this?

Regret
Basically, regret is what happens when empathy meets taking responsibility. “I feel bad that you’re feeling bad. I feel worse because I played a role in the situation. I’m going to apologize and move forward with my life now, but I will remember this so I don’t repeat it in the future because that’s what a genuine apology looks like, guys.”

Every time you apologize sincerely, you express regret. Every time you feel a little guilty, the lessons from that (constructively) become a part of who you are. Even if you have to cancel on a friend, the regret that it was necessary (again, empathy meets responsibility) is probably a genuine sentiment.

So where does this concept of living with “no regrets” stem from? I think it boils down to two basic principals:

  1. You should move forward with your life, instead of dwelling on the past.
  2. Everything you have been through got you where you are today, so…God bless the broken road, amiright?

These both sound great in theory, but I don’t think you have to completely abandon healthy regret to value these imperfect ideas.

You should move forward with your life, instead of dwelling on the past: Okay, yes. Dwelling is not a good scene in any case–dwelling on future worries, on past loss, on that zit you can’t get rid of. I think aiming for “no dwelling” is a good call. But regret doesn’t have to be debilitating. It doesn’t have to be obsessive. It just has to be genuine and, hopefully, constructive. Maybe this is my history major talking, but completely tossing out the past seems like a dangerous game to me. Healthy regret doesn’t mean wishing moments or people back from the dead. But it does mean conducting a fair autopsy.

Everything you have been through got you where you are today: “But but, crazy blogger lady, ‘no regrets’ just means we value those mistakes instead of feeling bad about them!” I hear you. I get it. Especially on the “moving forward” front, this is a decent attitude. But I truly believe that when you have done something bad, “feeling bad” about it is healthy. It shouldn’t be a guilt that consumes your future, but it should affect you somewhat. It should make you take pause.

Sometimes we make bad decisions. You can marvel at the way “everything worked out in the end,” or see the silver lining, but you are still allowed to feel negatively about certain consequences and take responsibility for your role. You’re allowed to regret making a mess. You’re also allowed to feel proud when you clean it up, or build something new. It’s all part of the same game. Healthy regret helps you learn from your past, and to see those lessons fabricate.

Yes, I think there is such a thing as healthy regret. And while “NO REGRETS!!!” is a pretty ridiculous idea, it’s fair to say that there’s an ugly side of the sentiment that should be actively avoided.

Healthy regret should:

  • Be forgiving and constructive
  • Motivate you to apologize sincerely
  • Allow you to recognize when you are inconveniencing another person
  • Allow you to recognize when you have made bad decisions
  • Help you make better decisions
  • Force you to challenge yourself and find solutions in the future
  • Make you more forgiving of other peoples’ mistakes
  • Make you more grateful for the positive things in your life, as they stand in contrast to those regrets

Healthy regret should NOT:

  • Force you to live in the past
  • Fuel victim mentality
  • Be applied to something that happened to you, which you never had control over
  • Assign blame outside of loving self-reflection
  • Work against forgiveness
  • Create debilitating guilt or fear
  • Lower your self-worth
  • Make you less grateful for your life because of past pain and mistakes

This is totally achievable. It has to be. Regrets are natural, and it’s hard to control when they come up. Instead of denying them, we should learn to process our regrets in a constructive way. And if we don’t…

Our apologies are going to really suck.

What Does it Mean to be a “Woman with Values,” Exactly?

“I’m looking for a woman with values.”

Whenever I hear these words, I cringe.

I thumb the crosses on my bracelet and clutch my beer.  I talk about charity, then I tell a dirty joke.  Do these things cancel each other out?

Those words are powerful. They transform me into a little, obedient, people-pleasing ladytype. It doesn’t matter whether I’m actually interested in the person who wants a “woman with values” (usually, I’m not).  It doesn’t matter how confident I am in what I stand for or what I do on any other day. There is a person in the room ready to judge if I am a good woman. If I would be a good mother. If I would be a good wife. And I don’t like that I respond to that by melting into conformity, but I do. I drip with semi-sweet small talk. I rarely seek approval, but the “woman with values” thing always hits me hard.  No, I don’t want to have your babies. Yes, I do want you to think I would be “worthy” of that.

So I sit up straight. I make jokes that are edgy, but not too edgy. I remain mysterious and unspecific with the topics of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. If my guitar comes out, I strum a G-rated country song. Save the vulgar rapping for another day; this person wants “values.”

Isn’t that disturbing?

Even if I don’t know a single thing about the person judging (let alone their personal “values”), I know exactly what they mean by “woman with values.”  And what they mean, frankly, has very little to do with what actually makes me a good or interesting person.  They don’t want to hear about my internship in DC, read my blog, or discuss my half-serious plans to buy a ukelele.  They couldn’t care less about what makes my eyes light up.

Instead, the concerns are simple, and in many ways stupid: Does this girl do one night stands, or make out with strangers, or watch porn? Does she drink or smoke? Does she “take care of herself”? Did she grow up in a nice home?

In other words, the universal definition of “woman with values” is almost entirely based on what a Lady consumes, or lets into herself, rather than what she creates. 

How weird is that? After all, women are born with epically creative bodies (see also: having babies).  Women’s brains are typically wired for articulation, so we certainly have a lot of great things to say.  It seems peculiar that to prove my worthiness to create (read: to be a good mother-and-wife), I need to prove the worthiness of what I consume.

The definition of a “man with values” is far less universal, as far as I can tell.  It’s also quite different.  Usually, when I seek a “man with values,” I am looking for the opposite–not what he consumes, but what he produces. What he offers to the world and its people, and how he offers it. How actively he loves and cares about things.

Now, I can totally understand wanting a partner who has a similar worldview and value system as you. If drug consumption or diet or sexuality enter your personal value system, I think you’re allowed to consider it with partner-choosing (though, pretty please, don’t use sexstuff to judge a person’s human value outside of that).  You’re allowed to prefer partners with lots of experience, or prefer partners who have chosen to wait for marriage.  You are also allowed to have a thing for blondes or Catholics or tattooed arms or, you know, “people I have things in common with.”  I don’t see having preferences in partners, even silly ones, as overly oppressive.

I do, however, see the cross-your-legs-and-smile definition of “women with values” as oppressive.  I don’t like that I immediately know “woman with values” means purity, or consumption control, rather than what I have to offer the world.   I don’t like how it makes me act: Smile nicely. Share more about what you don’t do than what you do do.  Sip slowly.  Mention that you go to church, but don’t actually get into theology or make a smart historical reference.

“Girls with values” can read the Bible and teach Sunday school, but they shouldn’t be thinking too hard about it.

Of course, some people I know would have the opposite response to a person “looking for a woman with values.” They would not people-please.  They would make it clear that they don’t fit into this box, loudly joking about their liquored up love affairs. They would swear. They would proudly pronounce their feminism because, well, fuck the system.

But that’s messed up, too. It’s messed up that they could be categorized as “women without values” for that.  These friends do have values–values that are perhaps stronger mine, since I apparently hardcore crumble under the pressure of judgement. They’re women of valour. They answer the phone when someone calls, they care about their fellow human beings–whether or not they end up in bed with them. They respect relationships, their families, and themselves (though, like all of us, they fall down occasionally).  They vote, pay taxes, recycle and help people. Most of all, they try not to judge others, which is a HUGE deal.

I think it’s time to redefine the term “woman with values.”  Let’s try this out, shall we?

I am a woman with values not because I am chaste, but because I respect peoples’ bodies and emotions, regardless of the relationship we have.

I am a woman with values not because I am quiet or docile, but because I speak up when I see injustice.

I am a woman with values not because I go to church, but because I use the brain God gave me to consider the big questions in life.

I am a woman with values not because I “know what I stand for,” but because I recognize gray areas and am compassionate.

I am a woman with values not because I don’t drink or smoke, but because I respect peoples’ autonomy over their own bodies.  Because I act in moderation, and pray for those suffering from addiction.

I am a woman with values not because I eat well or work out, but because I don’t make anyone else responsible for my happiness and I care about my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

I am a woman with values not because I “don’t swear,” but because I speak honestly and with respect to those around me.

Yes, that is what a “woman with values” should be. Occasional f-bomb and all.

What Kind of Woman Do I Want To Be?

Easter is always a major time of reflection for me.

…Okay.  By “always,” what I really mean is “Well, uh, it’s been a thing for the last couple of years?”  Being a young adult is sometimes like that, though. I’m quick to declare things part of my identity.

Easter weekend has played a major role in that identity, so it stays sacred.

I like the idea of rebirth. I like spring. The whole vibe that comes with things getting warmer/more colourful/livelier makes for a very positive, spiritual occasion.  I do a lot of “resolution”-type thinking around Easter. What burdens do I need to emerge from, butterfly-style? Who do I want to become?

“Stop worrying about finding the right person. Start working on becoming the right person.”

I read that the other day, and it stuck.  I agreed with the idea, but it made me wonder: what does the “right person” look like?

What kind of woman do I want to be?

woman

I want to be the kind of woman who writes thank you cards. Who lets managers know when she gets good service. Who writes appreciative reviews for small businesses.  Who lets artists know when they have touched her life, and lets politicians know when they have done the “right thing.” I want to be the kind of woman who wholeheartedly recognizes little miracles—and who approaches those miracles, if they have a face and a name.Who lives through gratitude, and means it. Who has a whiteboard on the wall, with a constantly revolving list of people to notify; ‘Hey, you. You’re alllllright.’

Celebrate people

I want to be the kind of woman whose gratitude is a constantly distributed gift, an open bar; not an investment with an expected return.  Accessible. Unconditional. Loving.   I want to be the kind of woman who is thankful day by day, step by step. Whose thank yous aren’t loaded attempts to control the future, nor quiet warnings of her standards.   She will never say ‘This is good. If I am grateful for this step, can the next step be just as good, please?’.   No; I want to be the kind of woman who is grateful because it is just who she is.  And when she says thank you, she simply means to say, That step was good. You helped make it good. Grazie, gracias, merci. 

I want to be the kind of woman with an open-door policy. Who knows her neighbours by name, aim, and favourite food…if they let her. I want to be that obnoxiously sweet lady-two-doors-down, the one who makes lots of casseroles. Funeral? Casserole. Moving day? Casserole. I could be that woman, I think. That would be a good woman to be.

(Unless the neighbours aren’t into casseroles. I am also open to making cookies.

…Dream big, right?)

I want to be the kind of woman with lots and lots of stories. I never, ever want to be boring. I don’t suppose anyone does want to be boring, but…if I’m aiming to be casserole-lady, I would prefer to be fun-casserole-lady. IMG_0102I want to be the kind of woman who was there for that thing. Who has the scars, tattoos, pictures, friendships, and memories to prove it.  I want to be the kind of woman with guitar-bred finger calluses, with laugh lines and dimples, with sun-kissed shoulders and tired, blistered feet.

I want to be the kind of woman who has mastered the art of witty retorts. Who laughs a lot, and who swears every now and then–because honestly, cursing sometimes makes the punchline better. Sometimes. Not always. And not in mixed company, I guess. Hopefully, though, I can be the kind of woman who mostly keeps company which can handle crazy stories and cursing.

IMG_0070I want to be the kind of woman who exercises. I’m TOTALLY NOT that woman right now, but I would like to be.  Or at least, I want to be the kind of woman who goes for walks, and can throw a ball around with her friends/family. I won’t aspire to be good at sports, or to be anything  other than clumsy and awkward when I play outside…but I do want to be the kind of woman who plays outside.

(Besides, I hear it’s “good for you.”)

I want to be the kind of woman who dresses up for Halloween.  And who puts up Christmas lights.  Who plays pranks on April Fool’s Day–and sometimes on other days, too (’cause she’s funny, remember?).    I want to be the kind of woman who has mastered the art of appetizers, conversation and corny holidays.  Who knows how to make a good martini.IMG_0849 Who has a solid supply of not-so-secret recipes and crowd-pleasing playlists.

(I know, I know, all of this costs money. And I know that money may not always be there.  Hopefully, I can be the kind of woman that is okay with that, too.)

I would like very much to say “I want to be a woman of faith,” but I don’t know if that’s fair. I don’t know that someone should aspire to believe anything, least of all anything supernatural. I would like very much to be a woman of faith–because I currently am, bibleand it serves me well. But again, not a fair goal. I would much rather be a woman who constantly uses the brain God gave her–even if that means that her idea of “God” has to change as she learns things.

What I do want to be is a woman of grace–you know, that thing that happens when personal values meet interpersonal compassion.  I want to be the kind of woman who can hold herself to a code of loyalty, honesty, and kindness, but who uses those things to Love better–not to be condescending or proud.

Right now, I describe that as being “Christian”.  I can’t imagine grace is confined to “WWJD”, though.

So, grace. Lots of grace.  I want to be the kind of woman who is radically patient with people and with herself.  Who has the courage to love the world, even when it seems particularly cruel. I want to be the kind of woman who can (gracefully, gracefully) step in and help someone who is hurting, and understands that “help” and “hurting” have many different faces.

I want to be the kind of woman who is continually educated and insatiably curious. Who speaks a couple languages, who knows her geography, and who travels lots and lots. I want to be the kind of woman who knows enough to be aware of the fact that she knows nothing.  Who has about 10 questions for every answer.  No, I don’t want to be the kind of woman who puts her job and education before family–family should always, always come first.  But I do want to be the kind of woman who brings the family (and the edgy jokes, and the free spirit) along for the ride–and makes sure the ride involves lots and lots of learning.  I want to be the kind of woman who lights up when she talks and hears about the world, and whose curiosity is infectious.

Yes; That’s the kind of woman I want to be.

What about you?

(Happy Easter/Joyeuses Pâques, everyone!)

– – –

A Semi-Informed Guide to Surviving (or maybe even enjoying) Young Adulthood
A Semi-Informed Guide to Surviving (or maybe even enjoying) Young Adulthood
Hey Christmas, Did you lose weight? You look different this year.
Hey Christmas, Did you lose weight? You look different this year.
Jealousy has a stage name. It’s called Inspiration.
Jealousy has a stage name. It’s called Inspiration.

Why Technical Difficulties are Secretly Awesome.

I’ll just come out and say it: I have a not-so-secret love affair with technical difficulties.

Actually, I have a not-so-secret love affair with just about anything that messes with the usual formula.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally buy into fabricated media events.  If the TeeVee claims something is a “big deal,” that’s usually good enough for me. I’ll bring the dip. We can yell at the screen.  Time to compare beer commercials, friends!

Yes, I love the Super Bowl. I woke up at 4 am to watch Canada face Russia in the World Juniors.  A girlfriend and I were glued to mesmerizing colour-changing maps on election night.  And, of course, I’m down for half-watching big debates (I mean…if you’re watching them, too).

I even watch awards shows. I am forever cynical about entertainment industry elites hanging out and patting themselves on the back, but: ohmygawd Tina Fey and Amy Pohler are hosting?!  Also: my favourite show really needs to win. And: dat dress (!!).

You see what I’m saying. Sometimes, I even tweet about these things. Yeah, I’m one of those people. Shameless.

My main attraction to these media events (besides the fact that they’re, you know, fun) is my  big ol’ soft spot for live television.  After all, I have been there–and I miss it.  I have hung out in the control room. I once tried (awkward teenager style) to keep everything together backstage.  I have whispered into more than one headset to fix more than one glitch just in the nick of time.  Boredom, stress, breathe, we got this.  

I have seen the red light.

When I watch live television, I always have this mini-awareness of what is going on behind the scenes.  It takes the form of an inner narrative, full of quirky crew members and missed cues and shouts of “The show must go on!” (okay, that last one doesn’t actually happen in real life). Obviously, this narrative gets super interesting when connections fuzz, microphones fail…or, say, when there is a twenty minute blackout right in the middle of the Super Bowl.

Cough, cough.

I like the glitches. They make us all just a little bit more aware of what is going on behind the scenes.  It’s a subplot.  We can watch problem solvers covertly move to fix whatever went wrong.  Glitches make us realize just how many people and extensive technicalities are involved in making a media event.  When the “stakes” are so “high,” just one small error can change the whole situation. Maybe it’s a human error, maybe a technical error.  We shouldn’t know, really, because their job is to keep us from knowing.

I like to know.

Now, I don’t need to know what is going wrong, exactly. It’s always best to avoid the blame game.  But don’t you think it’s healthy to be aware of just how much is going on, period?  Glitches are our friendly reminder that a lot of people are involved, that they are talented, and that they are unbelievably valuable to things running smoothly (or, at least recuperating smoothly).

When the big inauguration screens at the Washington Monument started cutting out, it was ironic and disappointing…but it was also kind of enlightening. I looked at the faces around me, trying to figure out how to react to this. We were suddenly aware of our dependence on the people who set up the screens, streams, and footage.  We may not have been overly impressed at that moment, but it sure added to the subplot. Somewhere, someone was kicking themselves and wondering what to do.  A few dozen other someones were probably scrambling to fix the glitch.  It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to think about during the President’s first speech, but it was worth thinking about.  And in the end, I was able to just watch the speech later.  No harm, no foul.

So, yes, the lights went out during the Super Bowl. I laughed at the commentators as they awkwardly tried to fill 20 unexpected minutes, and I chatted with the friends around me: “What just happened? Do they have a back up generator? Can you imagine being the people on staff right now?”

Maybe I’m being nostalgic about my control room days.  Or maybe, I’m a shit disturber who just likes when stuff breaks.  But overall: keeping it interesting, keeping things imperfect, and keeping us aware of one another’s efforts?

That’s pretty awesome.

How My Hard Drive Crash Restored My Faith in Humanity

For the sake of optimism, I will call this borrowed-from-the-library laptop “vintage.” Vintage, as in it took a whole timed minute to open up Microsoft Word. Vintage, as in it had a full-out meltdown when Facebook dared notify me of something. And yes, vintage, as in NOT the ideal machine to be working with. Not when there are four major projects coming up in my calendar…or at least there would be, if I had access to my calendar.

Guess whose hard drive crashed a week ago?

It crashed in the middle of class. Frozen on the boot-up screen; No response from my F2 key, no life in the mouse, and (thanks, lack of forethought) no back up. Crashed and burned. I should point out to you that this is a two month old laptop which really shouldn’t be acting out. I should also point out to you, since EVERYONE on the tech support side asked: Yes, captain obvious, I DID try to reboot my machine. If only it were so easy.

They came by and replaced the motherboard. This did nothing. So, they came by and replaced the hard drive. This worked for a single day. Then, while working on some important correspondence (okay, checking my email) in the library yesterday, my cursor froze. I called Dell again.

“Well, did you restart your computer? How about the Fn key + F3?” Only about five times. Thanks, though.

I feel sorry for the people on the other end of those phone calls. Malfunctioning technology seems to bring out the worst in me. That loving, caring person that sent you a Christmas card last year? She peaces out when the laptop breaks down.

I may need to write a card to Dell’s tech support central: “Sorry I’m such an entitled-sounding 20-something, but also, I don’t want to fail out of University. ”

(Did that still make me sound like an entitled 20-something? Yikes. In my defense: Come on…a two month old machine? Really?)

I present to you my current studying/researching method. Kickin’ it old school. Last night’s hot date was with Religious Studies:

20121112-224027.jpg
Not too shabby, right? The reason I write this isn’t to grumble at you about my first world problems. Hard drives fail. Shit happens. Outsourced tech support from a 1-800 number can only be so helpful, and after three strikes Dell has agreed to send me a new laptop (sup, extended warranty?)

What I DO want to say is that when my technology started sucking, I started becoming more and more amazed at how great people can be. I mean, my laptop bust wasn’t anyone else’s fault. And sometimes, it wasn’t even their problem. As for the people whose job it was to fix it, they certainly didn’t have to be so freakin’ nice about it. But they were. They were so, so nice.

My profs have been legendarily helpful. The tech support ladies and gents (yes, the ones at that damned 1-800 number) were lovely, even when I pulled out my entitled 20-something “With all due respect…” lines. There was that sweet hardware-fixing guy, Rick, the one who showed up EXACTLY when he said he would. And we can’t forget my parents, who were expert in helping me stay chill…even though that is no longer their job. Because, you know, I am an adult. Hear me roar.

…Right, mommy?

Specifically, I’m an adult who gets more than a little overwhelmed muddling through a laptop mess. But as with most messes, this one has shown me that people care. Even when it’s something small and technical and it was me who messed up by not making a backup—even when it really, really is not their problem—people care.

Thank you, people. I’ll continue liking you more than technology.