What If I Run Away to Mexico?

I could, you know. I could do it. I could quit my job to go teach English in Mexico City, or get my MBA from Ibero. I wouldn’t be fluent, but I could learn enough Spanish to get by if I studied really hard for a few months. Or I could keep my lame job, and just work from home…in another country.

Or I could stay. And keep working at the job I’m slowly starting to hate and will only grow to hate more. Maybe I could find a different job here, one I’m a little better at, and I’ll just continue to be mediocre and boring and I’ll marry someone boring (probably someone my dad actually likes) and have a nice, tastefully boring wedding and I’ll have kids when I’m 30 and I’ll retire peacefully when those boring kids are in college.

If I go, I might miss some things. But I’ll miss those things if I stay. My grandparents will grow old while I’m gone, but they grow old every day and I’m only a couple of hours away now. I’ll be back before they get too old, I’ll tell myself. I might miss my youngest brother B as he grows up, but he grows up every day without me. He’s 10, and about the enter the awkward phase I’m probably better off missing anyway. I’ll miss my friends, but I miss them anyway. When I tell them I’m leaving, they’ll say “But I’ll never see you!” and I’ll want to say You never see me anyway but I’ll try to bite my tongue the best I can. Because the ones that will say that will be the ones that never try to see me now, and I’m barely an hour away. I’ll still see them once or twice a year when I come home, and that’s about as often as I see them now. Nothing will change. They won’t be jealous of my lifestyle because they couldn’t imagine ever leaving. They might even think I’m crazy or fucking stupid for “disrupting my career.” And all of that is fine, because I think that’s how things are supposed to work. They’ll buy house and get married, and I’ll keep traveling. I will continue to disrupt my career until I’m doing what I love.

But I think I might actually go. I won’t love every second of it, but I would regret not going a lot more than I’ll regret going. If I stay, I’ll regret every second of that boring life.

I want and need good stories to tell. A writer needs to live to have something to write about. Staying in a Midwestern suburb my entire life isn’t going to give me enough to write about.

So what if I really go to Mexico?

Coach’s Update

Those of you who read this blog regularly may know that I’m a volunteer youth soccer coach. Those of you who really know what’s up may know about the team I coached this past season. For those of who you stumbled upon this accidentally you can read this or I can just say I was asked to coach soccer for a group of girls who came from complicated situations and I was scared about coaching them because I felt like I lacked the necessary experience.

However, as with all things so far where I’ve been nervous about my leap of faith; it all turned out ok. Probably as well as it could have gone, in fact.

These girls were… heartbreaking, overwhelming and absolutely astounding all at once and on so many levels. There were days where I felt like I was coaching a prison team or something more drastic: the general hardness about some of the girls, their utter excitement just because they were outside, and the “I can’t be partners with her because we don’t get along” conversations I had at least once a week. Yet at other times it amazed me how normal they were. They were excited about the team t-shirts and they were worried about messing up their hair just like your average high school girl.

They tested my patience and forced me to get creative, to adjust on the fly. Every week I felt only partially prepared. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere or making any kind of a difference. The coordinators of the whole thing showed up unexpectedly at one of the practices and complimented me on my clarity when explaining what we were doing, on how I gradually made a drill harder without having to switch gears too often, which worked especially well for this group. And these are serious, professional coaches who were giving the compliment. They coach all the local premier leagues and they actually make money doing this! It was surprising and exactly the reassurance I needed.

The final week, there was a tournament with all the teams. There were only 4 teams total and 4 games in the tournament, so the winners of the first two games played each other for the “championship” and the “second-place” team in each game played each other in a “consolation” game. A local high school marching band came out; so there was a parade before the tournament, there was food. The band played and the dancers danced between some of the games. The different groups took turns chanting their team names. My team was consistently the loudest.

It was our turn to play our first game. Everything about this tournament was a simplified version of soccer. The field was small, the halves were short, and the referees were the coaches. There were kick-ins instead of throw-ins and there were no goal kicks or corner kicks. It was like they knew we spent the last 6 weeks focusing on the fundamentals and didn’t have time to cover any of the actual rules of soccer. It was like watching high school girls play kindergarten soccer.

I didn’t have high expectations, but maybe I should have. We won our first game 3-0.

The consolation game was only ten minutes, and then it was our turn again for the championship game against the coordinator’s team. They also won their first game by the same shutout score, 3-0. Before the final game there was more chanting, more competition between the teams.  Some of my girls were now trying to coach for me, telling me who would start the next game and what their “plan” was. Some of the other girls were nervous – they hadn’t really competed with this kind of “pressure” before.

We won. We beat the coordinator’s team. Again, by a shut out.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a team. The girls got a World Cup replica trophy to keep in their hall/housing unit. Everyone got medals. The chanting continued for several more minutes, some playful taunting added in. They were ecstatic and I wanted to cry.

Now that it’s over, it seems silly how scared I was. All I can think about is finding the next step, the next small leap, the next thing that scares me. One of these days I’ll take the big leap and finally move out of this state. Until then – small leaps of faith.

(Dirty) Blonde Ambition

Date: How would you describe your hair color?

Me: Dark blonde… dirty blonde?

[…]

D: What would your dream job be?

M: Something more creative than what I’m doing now. I’m not really sure. Something where I could write more, I guess. I honestly don’t know if my dream job actually exists… even if I was getting paid to write, and writing stuff I enjoyed, I’d always want to find something else, something I haven’t been able to accomplish yet.

D: Must be that blonde ambition… so you like to write? What kinds of stuff do you write?

Life Advisor?

What’s the adult, real-life version of an academic advisor? Ya know, the person who tells you that you’re doing awesome, and then tells you exactly what classes to take next semester? They look at your resume, and tell you you’re awesome, but give you small tweaks to make your resume reflect that awesomeness, and make you seem even more awesome? Is there a life advisor somewhere I’m not aware of?

About a year ago, when I was sitting through Alumni Days – listening to successful, graduated alumni talk about life after college – one of them said something that just recently sort of hit me.

There are no semesters, no constant evaluation in life. There’s nothing, and I mean nothing to break up the monotony. In college – while it could be brutal – there were breaks. There were finals (brutal) but then you were done, and then you went to new classes with new people and new professors and new topics. Now, there are intense deadlines (brutal) but no breaks, and on Monday I return to the same tasks, with the same people, working on the same project. Nothing actually changes, nothing moves forward…

In college, once you pass XYZ1000, you move on to XYZ2000. You fail that class? Oh it’s cool, just take it again.

In life, you manage to complete something, and then you have to do that thing again. And again. And again. Maybe some small things are different, maybe after a year (or several…usually several) maybe, maybe, you get promoted and get to make more money to do those things. But fuck something up? You could get fired. You don’t get to try it again.

Essentially, the consequences for fucking up are greater, but the rewards are lesser. And there are no life advisors to tell you you’re awesome, or which projects to take on, or what the hell to do about your resume. Instead, the other adults just… let you flail around out there, watching you squirm. They probably enjoy it, too. Buncha jerks.

Feminist in Limbo – Boys Will Be Boys

I still remember the first time I realized sexism was a very real thing.

I played soccer, and in my hometown that meant playing coed. Because of the lack of interest in soccer in my hometown, especially for girls, this usually meant I was one of very few girls on the “coed” team. Other teams we played didn’t always have a coed team, so we played the all boys teams by default, I guess. Defense was my usual position at the time. One particular game, this boy on the other team, their favored striker, kept attacking the side I was defending. Which is fairly normal; people will tend to stick to the side of the field and the foot they’re more comfortable with. But after several attempts to score on that side of the field without success, most people will switch it up and try something else. They’ll try it up the middle, they’ll try to pass – something! This guy just kept coming at me though. Eventually I moved over to the other side of the field to give me a break from playing constant defense against this guy. Except now this kid is coming at me on this side too! I thought it was strange, but just kept playing. Then, this kid brings the ball up the field and one of his teammates (likely tired of this ball hog) calls for him to pass the ball, because he’s going to lose it if he keeps headed in my direction. Instead of passing the ball to his completely open teammate, he just says “I got it! I can beat the girl.”

I can beat the girl.

I didn’t really think too much of it at the time, I was busy getting the ball away from this kid, but later I realized why he kept bringing the ball up whatever side I was on. He thought I was an easy target. That because I’m a girl, I couldn’t defend against him. That as the ‘weaker sex’ I couldn’t keep up.

Later in the game I stole the ball from him and made him look like a fool, and he eventually stopped bringing the ball up my side. I like to think I taught him a lesson that he kept with him for the rest of his life but I think that may be unrealistic. Stories like this happen all the time, even for younger girls and adult women.

And you know what the most common response is, when I ask why boys say and do things like this? Why they exhibit blatant sexism, why they’re jerks to girls for no reason?

“Boys will be boys,” as if it’s completely out of their control. Yet we’re the weaker sex.


In the professional and international soccer world this type of thing still exists, most recently with the current controversy over using turf in the upcoming Women’s World Cup:

Come to think of it, perhaps there is no better evidence that this boils down to sexism than the stance taken by female soccer players. No one has more to lose than they do. Nobody would be more willing to play this World Cup on turf, if they truly believed there was no other way, if they truly believed it was fair.

Female athletes are taking action because no one else is, because not enough people seem to care.

And that’s exactly what FIFA is counting on.

FIFA, the soccer governing body, is known for being pretty corrupt. But this is something else; this is low even for those guys. I get upset when FIFA does things that are biased against the US, like putting the men’s team in the Group of Death nearly every World Cup, but I can’t handle the way they’re dealing with the women’s tournament. Yes, I am happy the women have their own tournament, and I’m so happy with the leaps and bounds that have been made even in my short lifetime.

I’m just asking FIFA not to take a giant leap backward on this one. Don’t show those boys that you think women are the weaker sex, that women deserve less. Show the world you value the women’s game as much as the men’s. Give the fans, and the players, what they want. Doing good business means including the girls, too. Boys will be boys, but men don’t have to be.

Feminism in Limbo: Chapter 6

In college I took an Organizational Behavior class as part of the business school curriculum. The class was too easy; the grade based entirely on 3 multiple-choice exams that were based entirely on the textbook. I went to class anyway, because the professor was amazing, funny, and had wonderful stories to tell.

But one thing that stuck out from that class, was a chapter on gender and a very distinct difference between the genders I’d never really noticed before, but it made sense. (I’m paraphrasing a bit and it’s been awhile, so bear with me). Women, when they complain or have a problem, typically want sympathy or someone to listen to them. Men expect a solution. So when a woman is telling you about their awful day, and then this guy is trying to solve the problem, when all she wants is someone to empathize with her… or vis-versa, a man is telling a female about his awful day, and he wants the problem to go away, but this girl is just giving him all this sympathy he doesn’t want. You can see where this could lead to frustration.

The professor then went on to explain why this happens, why the difference exists (again, paraphrasing):

When a little kid falls down, parents (dads especially), will often treat a boy differently than a girl. If their little girl falls down, a dad will rush to the rescue, and make sure everything is ok. If a boy falls down, dad will tell him to get up and brush it off, maybe even say something like “dirt don’t hurt” and expect the boy to be on his way. This make girls accustomed to receiving sympathy when they fall, and boys are just told to get up, you’ll feel better, problem solved.

2015-01-31 10.08.38

My dad, seen in the picture holding me over a fence (which I’m pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to do) wasn’t that kind of dad. If my brother fell down, Dad told him to get up and brush it off. If I fell down, I was told the exact same thing. At times, I sort of hated him for this. If anything, my dad pushed me a lot harder than he pushed my brother – whether academics, or sports, or other hobbies – he was always telling me where I could be better. I got an A; he’d ask why I didn’t get an A+. My team won a soccer game; he told me I looked a little tired toward the end, and I should get myself in better shape.

This gets to be exhausting after awhile. I just wanted to be celebrated for my accomplishments, not told it wasn’t good enough. That’s what I heard, every time he would ask why it wasn’t an A+.

I didn’t hear “you’re smart enough to have the top grades in all your classes,” instead I heard “this isn’t good enough.”

Now I’m an adult and understand why he did those things. A lot of people I know now who are successful, had a parent who was rough on them and was kind of an asshole. By default, kids (especially smart ones) can be lazy. They know they can be. They don’t have to study for the test, or ask questions to understand the homework. It pisses people off, but it’s true. So without that constant effing nagging – they’d continue to be lazy for the rest of their lives.

I don’t think my dad knew the ripple effect of what he was doing. The bar wasn’t set at “you did well for a girl,” but it was “did you come in absolute first place, boys or girls?” He was going to set the bar as high as possible, and not bring it down just because of my gender. He knew I was a smart kid, and wanted to make sure I reached my full potential. I was the first child, and I’m sure that’s a lot of the reason the bar was so high. It didn’t matter to my dad that I was a girl. He wouldn’t have been disappointed if my brother had been a girl, either. Even though my dad was the last chance for carrying on the family name, and without my brother the name would have died, he didn’t care. There was a lot of pressure from the family for my dad to have a boy.

“I was too worried about having a healthy baby, I didn’t care what it was as long as it was healthy,” he used to tell us. But, to the satisfaction of my aunts, a boy was born. So now the pressure is on my brother, I guess.

Even more powerful, it wasn’t because I was a girl that my dad was a pain in my ass. It was because I was smart, because I had the potential to do something real. He understood I’d have to deal with a lot worse if I was going to be a smart, successful, powerful woman someday. But he did it because he wanted his children to succeed – boy or girl.

Feminist In Limbo: Intro

Before I even started this project, I took a very small poll with an unrealistically small sample size. As a market researcher who understands how this works, let me tell you the data gathered from this study wouldn’t stand up to any sort of scrutiny.

However, there were a couple of recurring themes:

  1. People would, in fact, be interested in a more personal blog as opposed to a strictly professional one. There are things only I can do and say and write, and a personal blog is going to be more unique than another one about cooking.
  2. Those that know me suggested, encouraged, and even demanded that I don’t shy away from my trademark sarcasm and/or inherent feminism. Basically, that I should have voice in my writing. In the past was a strong suit of mine. As a ‘recovering writer’ so to speak, this is one of the easier things to get back, but not as easy and I had thought.

To speak to both points (but mostly the second one), I bring you a recurring column: Feminist in Limbo. (Or maybe as Colbert would say: I Am Feminism and So Can You!) This isn’t set in stone, but the idea for the column is to sort of explore why and how I became a feminist…a question I get more often than you would think. This isn’t to say I feel the need to explain or apologize for my feminism; that’s not at all the case. Many people would say ‘everyone should be a feminist’ and while I agree, I truly believe the development of my own personal brand of feminism was created over generations of exceptional woman and equally exceptional men as well as my own personal experiences with being female. So the idea is to talk about my incredible female ancestors, the men who stood with them, and my own personal experiences – both positive and negative – and how they shaped the current viewpoints I have.

Maybe that sounds a bit too prompted or rigid, but I promise there are some really good stories here I can’t wait to share! Come back soon for Feminist in Limbo Part 1….