It’s crazy to me that it’s already April…it’s crazier to me I started writing this post in April and now we’re halfway through May. So much more has changed and progressed in the
four five months since I started this project than I could have ever imagined. Let’s recap where we are on my reading journey, I’ve read: A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren, I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur, and I just finished Blood, Bones, & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton in April and just finished I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Caution, the following ramblings are a doozy of a months worth of thoughts.
It’s been an amazing month, beyond busy, causing my lapse in writing. I started my new job and have been settling in, learning quickly, and making myself known. I have a good intuition about things based on how easily I become comfortable in an environment and I was my typical weirdo self yelling at the news and sending puns in subject lines by around day three. You could say things are going well. I recently took a trip to Chicago to visit the world’s best humans and returned rejuvenated. It’s amazing what being around people who know you and love you can do. I also had another New York adventure waiting in line overnight for SNL tickets for the second time, this time seeing the live show with Chris Pine and LCD Soundsystem. May is and has already been an insane month with work piling up, plans every weekend, planning more for Rounds, and cooking and sharing more often – this is my bliss. The next book in the lineup is Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin.
While reading each book this year I have been inspired to share different parts of my life and reflect on how women are perceived from different angles and tried to share how they relate to the bigger picture in today’s messed up world. March’s book, Blood, Bones, & Butter is an autobiography of Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef/owner of the beloved Prune restaurant in NYC. And April’s book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an autobiography of Maya Angelou’s early life being raised in the south during the civil rights movement.
Gabrielle had a fairly stable childhood until her parents divorced when she was around 13 and she and one of her brothers were truly almost lost in the shuffle. This pushed her down a winding path. She lied about her age to get a job at age 13, eventually received a high school degree and was in and out of college, then in and out of drug use, and always in and out of the kitchen. She worked odd jobs, went to get a master’s degree in writing when she felt cooking wasn’t a worthy enough career. She had a green card marriage and didn’t admit for a long time she wished it was something more.
Maya faced daily racism and had to learn to navigate the world as a quieted figure. Her parents left her and her brother to be raised by her grandma and would make sporadic appearances in their lives. Maya was always at the top of her class, not the prettiest, and was raped at a young age – all factors contributing to how she viewed life. Neither woman let these challenges get them down, instead they lived them and shared them.
As I’ve mentioned timing has always been a funny godmother in my life. Both books were written in an extremely vulnerable way, discussing intimate details of their emotions at peaks and in valleys. I went to eat at Gabrielle’s restaurant solo and then to hang out with my friend after finishing her book. As we hung out, the topic of vulnerability came up unintentionally. We discussed our own struggles with being open and about how we were feeling in general because no one tells you what to expect in your early twenties. Fast forward to my first day at my new job on April 12. I had admitted my tremendous nerves and fear to a few people, but the morning of day one came as a rude awakening, literally. I was less scared the day I moved to NYC. I didn’t know what to do. I made breakfast and had to run to get a cup of water before I puked. Not only was I feeling nauseous, but I’m not typically a nervous person My best friend bought me a bracelet that says fearless. I consider my fortitude one of my best qualities. But that morning I needed support and it was hard to admit. I did what I always do and texted multiple friends, hoping they could reassure me. From the original conversation, to the first day of work, to now after focusing on consistent self-reflection, the topic of vulnerability and its many forms continues to fascinate me.
I thought my fear of sharing may be unique, a result how I was raised, a result of rarely discussing any emotions even in the worst of times only projecting positivity. But one of the discussion questions at the end of Blood, Bones, and Butter is:
“Many have commented on the ‘honesty’ of the book, suggesting that such candor and intimacy are uncommon. Are readers mostly responding to the way Gabrielle writes about her own family or does that ‘honesty’ manifest elsewhere? What is her point or objective in being so forthcoming?”
So it’s not just me. That begs the question why are vulnerability, pureness, and honesty viewed as uncommon? Why is admitting you need support so paralyzing? Why does going out to dinner alone make people (read: me) feel self-conscious? The band Bleachers released a song “Hate That You Know Me” and it is a treat, but it’s Jack Anonoff’s explanation “that’s a lyric i’ve head in my head forever about how hard it is to be around people who know who you truly are. you can’t escape yourself” that struck me when I began to write this post.
Jack is an outspoken feminist and activist and has been sharing extremely intimate thoughts about his personal life relating to his newest album, Gone Now (out 6/2, not sponsored). This song feels like the answer to the above – we don’t want to be too well-known, too vulnerable because then there’s nothing left that’s our own. The only thing we fully have to ourselves in this world is our sense of self. It’s the only thing we can know is one hundred percent true, but it’s also one of the most fragile. When we share our full self with someone else it opens up the possibility that our truest form won’t be enough and we will have nothing else to give. When we share our full self it gives others the ability to judge and cast doubt on something we’ve always believed. Vulnerability is scary because rejection is scary.
I’ve been working on embracing vulnerability and, at risk of turning into a giant cliché, living my truth. What I’ve learned rejection can either break you down by wondering what you could have done differently or rejection can build you up by allowing you to stand firmly in your opinions and desires without regard to what others think. My first two years in New York (anniversary soon!!) I was held back by thinking if I wanted to go to a new restaurant or see a show that I needed someone to go with me. No more! Working on living for myself, I’m going to do something once a month by myself just because I want to, a challenge for many reasons first and foremost my extreme extroversion. I saw the show Amelie a couple of weeks ago because Philippa Soo of Hamilton fame is starring in it. I treat myself REGULARLY to my beloved Ample Hills Ice Cream. I bought tickets to a show this week that’s still in previews. I’ve been experimenting and cooking meals more. I’ve become comfortable talking about my own vulnerabilities and not fearing that my truth isn’t good enough. And guess what. It’s been hella fun and satisfying not worrying if people around me are questioning my solitude. Of course, having someone around is also fun, but what they say when you’re young is true, you have to love yourself before you can love and be loved by someone else. This post and this mission inspired by this Man Repeller article.
One additional section, realizing when it’s not a political book on my agenda it’s harder to relate to modern times. Also modern times in the United States are so beyond belief maybe any book would be hard to relate to what’s happening.
Vulnerability for the Greater Good
Where to even begin. The policies being proposed in our government right now put so many people at risk. Whether it’s the Muslim ban, immigration reform, healthcare, oil sourcing, everyone in the country is currently vulnerable to losing some of their basic rights, their families, their land. Speaking about this vulnerability is what will get elected officials to resist unjust laws. Our representatives depend on the community for their job, so if enough people tell their stories, speak about their biggest fears, officials will have to at least listen. I don’t like to talk about my preexisting conditions, how I would literally die without my medicine, and how because pharma is a privatized system my life-sustaining drug is considered a luxury good, but if I don’t the policies are just words on a page. In campaigns the most powerful speeches always contain personal anecdotes. Our country’s foundation is freedom and we need to fight to make sure that means for all people. It’s scary because we may fail, because it’s affecting so many people, but we can use this fear as fodder. Talk about it, support each other, be vulnerable, resist, persist.
**Hate That You Know Me – Bleachers