Struck a chord.

I recently watched Taylor Swift’s documentary, Miss Americana, in which she touched on the pain points of being a successful young woman. I know that the documentary was framed and edited to keep the attention of the audience and be careful on how much time was spent on some of those points, but I really wish she took it further. The documentary allowed her to say some of the words, allowed her to show some of frustration, some of the pain, some of loneliness, but you could see in certain instances that what was shown wasn’t all of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud to see that someone in her level of visibility is talking about it, trying to tackle the notion of condescension of a 20-something woman cultivating her own success. I just don’t want her stop there. I don’t want any of us to stop there.

“Living for that pat on the head.”

Yes. That is a very accurate way to describe the mindset that someone like me is funneled into. If I check off all the boxes, I will be considered good and worthy. Worthy of what, though? Worthy of being liked, loved, hired, considered, of being happy. If they tell me I’ve done a good job, that I’m a good girl, that I’m a nice girl, then I get to cross the threshold of happiness and success.

It’s a rouse. A two-fold trap, a damning double-edged sword. If I adhere to the check-list and “do what I’m supposed to,” then I allow the control of my career, mental stability, and my everything to be partially directed by someone else. If I figure out how to use adhering to the checklist to my advantage, I’m labelled a disingenuous user. If I buck the notion entirely, prepare to be bombarded with a myriad of labels: “difficult,” “messy,” “unpleasant,” “nasty.”

I know, I know. “Just don’t care so much about what other people think.” Another painful, dismissive sentence that I have heard way too many times. All my life I’ve been told that how I’m perceived matters, that perception ultimately holds the key to my success, and then all of a sudden I’m not supposed to know how to not give a fuck?

I’m figuring it out, but don’t expect it to be pretty. <- See? I still put disclaimers around the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing and it won’t be “lady-like.”

The other piece that I’m glad she brought attention to was, once you get crowned the golden girl, the pang and shame of it being taken away from you. How all of a sudden, the rug gets ripped out from underneath you, how it feels like the world is laughing at you and blaming you for falling on your face.

Again, the dismissive sentence: “Oh, get over it. It will get better with time.” No. It doesn’t get better with time. Ignore the wound and it festers. It gets infected. It’s not enough to complacently sit with it, gaping open so as to slowly bring on death. Cleaning it stings, taking care of it will burn and hurt. Rebuilding the muscle will make you sore and tired. Her rebound was a really cool, personal record that got ignored come time for Grammy nominations. I have felt that same frustration when she got the call – you could see her trying not to cry out of frustration, exhaustion and disappointment. But the cool thing, the brave thing about her sharing that moment was that within seconds, you saw her turn that frustration, exhaustion and disappointment into fuel for making the next, better record. Fuel to keep at it. To keep going. Not necessarily despite the opinion of others, but because of what she wanted.

It’s not enough to just complain about being treated unfairly. That just perpetuates the whole thing. Supporting each other in finding and learning how to use the inner drive for what makes us happy for ourselves is how the cycle gets broken.

That is currently where my mind stops because I am still learning. I’ve got vague outlines of where to point the potential energy, but still feel like if I unleash it, it’ll just go everywhere. I’m still a little afraid of making a mess, and that’s ok.

I’ll stop avoiding it now.

Admittedly, I tried keeping a weekly schedule for writing and I hit a point where I had trouble coming up with things to write about. I also made a pretty bold claim (for me anyway) in the last post about determining ‘what I want.’ Though, three weeks later, I’m back! With the help of some colleagues and friends, I have a better sense of direction and a thesis, if you will, about what I want out of my career. For the time being, anyway. I don’t really feel the need to state it explicitly either. Those details are for my own sense of self.

It is amusing how clarity in one area can start to influence gaining clarity in another area. This one, I am willing to hold on to more permanently than the direction of my career because of the involvement of horses. I have absolutely no idea how I am going to accomplish it, but to be able to ride consistently in international hunter derbies is at the the top of my equestrian goals. I know, I know. That comes with some pretty large financial constraints, time constraints, and for the country to not be on quarantine lock-down. However, barring any major virally induced set backs, I’m putting that goal in the ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ category. I’ll keep riding, keep learning, and keep at it til I get there.

I think the best piece of advice I’ve ever received was: “If you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people.” While physically surrounding myself with successful people is a challenge due to quarantine, phone calls still work just as well. It’s easy enough to get sucked down into a pit of self-loathing hell on my own. I really don’t need the help of others to start down the path of that mentality. Being around people (or talking with people) that perpetuate those tendencies by speaking ill of others or themselves, manipulating the conversation to instill doubt, or just having a bad attitude is a recipe for failure… and more self loathing. Successful people will be focused on their end goal and do what needs to be done to achieve that end goal.

That is where I’ll leave it for today. Do what needs to be done to achieve the end goal.

Dialed in…

Tonight’s post will be a short one, as I don’t have much to write. Not for a lack of thought, but for an overabundance of thought. However, I wanted to put something down because, at the end of the day, the sole purpose of this blog is for me to write hard and clear about what goes on in my head. This time, I feel like I can write hard, but not exactly clear.

The three posts that precede this one have made me realize that it is very easy to stand on a soap box and preach with a dramatic connotation. I do not want every post to be cleaning out an old wound or dissecting a hardship of the past and how to overcome it.

I know what I don’t want.. but what do I want? What unique perspective and thought do I want bring to light? How can I convey that vantage point in such a way that is both accurate and consumable? In essence, what do I want to say and how do I want to say it?

I want to get out of the past tense. I want to spend time with the present tense and build a better future.

Okay… not the most concise thesis statement, but it’s a start. A little like opening the Hoover Dam to fill a glass of water, but it is still a start. The exercise for next week will be getting the ‘what’ another tick specific. It doesn’t have to be solved by next week, just whittled down slightly.

Speaking up

About 5 years ago, give or take, I started a thing (for lack of a better term) that was the first attempt at making myself feel better. I started an account on Pinterest (cue the eye-rolls) and started a board that were little quotes, snippets, and blurbs that either accurately described how I felt at the moment or made me feel better. There are a couple that I often come back to, one of which being:

“People are not easy to know. They’re not easy to know, so if you don’t tell them how you feel, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

It’s always been a favorite for a variety of reasons. It captures a lot in a short amount – just how I like it. It’s true though; if you aren’t willing to be the first one to say how you feel, an interaction/relationship/conversation/friendship etc. will only go a very small distance. Like it says, people are not easy to know. I can’t say for sure exactly how you feel if you don’t tell me, and the converse being equally true. You can’t say for sure exactly how I feel, unless I tell you.

If saying how you feel isn’t the epitome of easier said than done, then I’m not sure what is. Right? The immediate risks are the stuff of nightmares: rejection, being made fun of, or worse yet, being entirely misunderstood. The long term risks are paramount. By saying how you feel, you allow the other person to see you, to truly see you. While an immediate reaction may be seemingly favorable, what is said and shown can be twisted, manipulated, and used against you. Speaking from experience, it will happen and it will hurt like hell. It will make an already frightening task just that much less appetizing because the pain of being taken advantage of, lulled into a false sense of security by people that are trusted, is insurmountably worse than anything other experience.

Which leads me to the next quote that has stuck with me. This one is from Lemony Snickett:

“Deciding whether or not to trust a person is like deciding whether or not to climb a tree, because you might get a wonderful view from the highest branch or you might simply get covered in sap, and for this reason many people choose to spend their time alone and indoors, where it is harder to get a splinter.”

Therein lies the rub. While it is true that shutting people out is a fool proof way of keeping your soul safe, there is a wealth of exhilaration to be missed out on.

So. Where does this leave us? Admitting how you feel can leave a lot vulnerable, but when it works, it’s like magic. Great, but how do we get to the magic? Welcome, once again, to the human condition. Best answer I have so far is practice. Like any other practice, there will be good attempts, bad attempts, awkward attempts, attempts that you repeat over and over again until it can’t go wrong, and attempts that totally shouldn’t have worked as well as they did but went beautifully despite yourself. Practice with those you know are safe and move out from there.

Just know that you’re not alone.

2

What do you think of when someone mentions ADHD? The archetype in my mind is a middle school aged boy that has trouble sitting still or paying attention in class. It is something that is worked out as a child is coming of age and handled by the time high school starts… right?

Not so fast. Notice the assumption in age and gender. Certainly doesn’t match the description of a 28 year old female with a good education and a brand name job. Want to know what else a candidate for ADHD could sound like? You’re reading her blog.

It was weird at first, but it does make sense. It is almost comforting putting a name to the tumultuous tension of knots and gaping pits that are the foundation of my existence. They have always been there. It is nothing new. When I was younger, I just assumed I was not as smart as my classmates or not as motivated or what-have-you. As I grew out of the self-comparison stage that is being a teenager, I figured out my ways of dealing with those knots and pits. Intellectual evasion, it’s called, and I’m quite fond of it. I poured myself into studies and activities that made me feel at home. From there, I did my best to pull myself up the ladder.

As time wears on, as more is observed and articulated about ADHD, the more therapists and psychiatrists are able to help people without just writing them a perscription for adderrall or ritalin. That is the path I am choosing to take. For other reasons, that may or may not be written about later, I am doing all that I can to help myself without taking prescription medication. That does not mean that prescription medication is evil. It just means that I would rather try to work through it by means of verbal therapy, diet changes and adjusting my surroundings to set myself up for success.

The best way to describe what goes on in my brain is by a performance horse metaphor. Most successful sport horses love their job; they thrive in the humming production of a traveling show stable or hustling race barn. When it comes time for those horses to retire or take time to rest and heal an injury, you might get a horse that just doesn’t know what to do with itself when taken out of that bustling environment. The phrase in the equestrian industry is that “he just doesn’t know how to be a horse.” By that, it’s meant that the horse doesn’t know how to just relax and eat grass. I feel for those horses, though. As I watch them pacing the fenceline, fussing in the stall, or sometimes just that quiet restlessness, I know exactly how they feel. In my case, it’s not that I don’t know how to relax or pay attention or get a grip or “not be so emotional”… sometimes I just can’t.

I mentioned earlier that I figured out how to pull myself up the rungs of life. I decided it was okay if the approach was a little atypical. Another equine metaphor: the quirkiest horses are often the most talented, it just takes the right trainer/rider combination to be willing to be creative enough, patient enough, and tenacious enough to put all the pieces together. So here’s what I’ve learned in my own experiences:

  • Routines are your friend. You find a rhythm and it becomes procedural. Routine = comfort = relaxation and happiness = a clear mind to apply to the task at hand. It’s okay to be a little boring.
    • The routine getting interrupted, in my case, can be the root cause of a good number of the standard ADHD traits. Frustration, forgetfulness, and the impact of those traits on the rest of my life accounts for sticky feeling of fumbling and discombobulation. Adhering to a routine mitigates all that to an extent.
  • If there is an activity that you can do that makes your mind quiet, make it so that activity is incorporated into your routine.
    • It is exhausting keeping up with my own mind sometimes. Have you ever driven in D.C. traffic around 4:30 pm on a weekday? It’s a lot like that. Cars are still moving; just not as fast as you’d like, you have to contend with the jackasses zipping and weaving through traffic, there’s that one car that is definitely not mechanically sound and going 20 mph slower than everyone else, the fender bender on the left hand side of the road, the guy that’s trying to merge on top of you after passing you on the right and then getting pissed that you exist and holy fucking shit you just want to get home in one piece. It’s like that. All the time.
    • So that thing, that activity, that can make all that stop, even if just for five minutes, is precious. It is worth fighting for. It is worth giving yourself a break.
    • After a small rest, whatever your definition of rest is, you can pick back up and keep moving.
  • Intense emotions are part of the deal; and not knowing how to handle them is okay. That’s even part of non-ADHD life. Throw yourself a lifeline and have someone you can call. Mine happens to be a therapist, but it doesn’t always have to be. If you have a person that can kinda help reel that spiral back into control, that is a very important person.
  • The right environment breeds success. Like with that quirky yet super talented horse, you’re not going to be able to thrive with everyone. Again, that’s even a non-ADHD thing, but still worth noting. If you find yourself in a relationship, friendship, or even employment situation where the day’s interactions turn into you feeling like a piece of crap and thinking that there’s something wrong with you, then do what needs to be done to leave the situation. If you’re environment is just making the D.C. traffic worse, take the next exit and find a new way home.

I’m still learning how to handle the last two. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I fail monumentally and both are perfectly human. Struggle for self acceptance is not just an ADHD thing. It is a universal part of the human condition and is another three essays worth of content; but if you find yourself reading this, and it sounds familiar, now you know you’re not alone. Take a page out of my notebook and start pulling yourself up the rungs.

The First Post

A lot of writing, reading, then deleting, then writing, then reading, then deleting, and then…

This blog came to be because I wanted a place to put my thoughts. Disk space in my brain is running low.

Why a blog?

  • It isn’t Facebook. Yes, the content will still live on the internet til the end of time. However, I would like to improve not only my writing, but my thinking.
  • Writing thesis papers with technical arguments are great, but I did that for the better part of 8 years in my collegiate career. Improving how I write and think in free form will help my confidence in my ability to communicate.
  • Improvement can only happen with practice.
  • Posts = practice.

The content of some posts will be my opinions on events that have happened. The occasional post will include some existential crises – of which I have many. Some posts may lay out experience for other young females trying to make it in the tech industry. Others may just seem like I am complaining about a lack of work-life balance and how I don’t get to ride as much as I used to.

There is an abundance of things to talk about. Are they worthwhile? From your perspective, sometimes yes, sometimes no. From my perspective, quite.

If this is so personal, why not just write it on paper in a book that sits by my bed that has no chance of crossing the minds of others? A valid question that has no doubt crossed your mind. I’m doing this for reasons that are purely selfish.

  • I wish to rid myself of feeling lonely. Sharing my thoughts with the world may help or it may make it worse. An experiment that I am willing to try.
  • The realization that I only know how to take. I will comfortably sit and listen to you for hours on end. I consider writing these pieces practice in giving. Giving my opinion, giving my experiences, and giving my thoughts.
  • Oddly enough, for being someone who is so good at taking, I often make myself feel pretty guilty for it. This blog is also good practice for being myself; proud and unashamed.
  • The last reason is the most obvious with the least depth. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

We all made it through the first post! Here’s to us.