Reading ‘Men Explain Things to Me’ by Rebecca Solnit, Part 1

On who exactly is so dangerous:
“Someone wrote a piece about how white men seem to be the ones who commit mass murders in the United States and the (mostly hostile) commenters only seemed to notice the white part. It’s rare that anyone says that this medical study does, even if in the driest way possible: “Being male has been identified as a risk factor for violent criminal behavior in several studies, as have exposure to tobacco smoke before birth, having antisocial parents, and belonging to a poor family.

It’s not that I want to pick on men. I just think that if we noticed that women are, on the whole, radically less violent, we might be able to theorize where violence comes from and what we can do about it a lot more productively. Clearly the ready availability of guns is a huge problem for the United States, but despite this availability to everyone, murder is still a crime committed by men 90 percent of the time.” –pp24

On the freedom of women as liberation for all:
“Women’s liberation has often been portrayed as a movement intent on encroaching upon or taking power and privilege away from men, as though in some dismal zero-sum game, only one gender at a time could be free and powerful. But we are free together of slaves together. Surely the mindset of those who think they need to win, to dominate, to punish, to reign supreme must be terrible and far from free, and giving up this unachievable pursuit would be liberatory.” –pp35

On women historically losing personhood during marriage:
“The British judge William Blackstone wrote in 1765, in his influential commentary on English common law and, later, American law, “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband.” Under such rules, a woman’s life was dependent on the disposition of her husband, and though there were kind as well as unkind husbands then, rights are more reliable than the kindness of someone who holds absolute power over you.” –pp56

on same-sex marriage equality rocking the gender-unequal foundations of heterosexual marriage:
“…even people who weren’t particularly nasty were deeply unequal in the past. I also know a decent man who just passed away, age ninety-one: in his prime he took a job on the other side of the country without informing his wife that she was moving or inviting her to participate in the decision. Her life was not hers to determine. It was his.” –pp59-60

reflection on erasure/assertion of female presence, viewing Ana Teresa Fernandez’s Telaraña:
“To spin the web and not be caught in it, to create the world, to create your own life, to rule your fate, to name the grandmothers as well as the fathers, to draw nets and not just straight lines, to be a maker as well as a cleaner, to be able to sign and not be silenced, to take down the veil and appear: all these are the banners on the laundry line I hang out.” –pp75

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5 hour energy inventor, on work and inventions, via ‘How I Built This’

“In order to make a good, worthwhile life you have to have confidence. The only way to have confidence is to do it yourself.”

“You have to be totally determined. I hate the word passionate because you get hit in the face a few times, passion seems to fade. Determination means your face hits the floor 20 times, you get up 21 times.”

Manoj on what you need: common sense, determination, and a sense of urgency. “Get it done, do it now, don’t delay.”

–Manoj Bhargava on How I Built This (5 Hour Energy inventor)

 

Reading: The Defining Decade by Meg Jay

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” –Leonard Bernstein, composer, as quoted on pp 188 of The Defining Decade, why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now by Meg Jay, PhD

Intent on healthfully jump starting her readers, Dr. Meg Jay explores which choices, made in your 20s, engender future greatness and satisfaction. Lingering past 25 in the service industry or retail often doesn’t. I cringe a little; this isn’t a universal truth. But for Jay’s therapy patients, who are used as case studies in the book and who struggle with work and love, underemployment surfaces repeatedly. A poor attitude, failing to make choices, and not taking chances are other examples that fall short.

Jay advocates for a determined, future-oriented mindset, based on a sense of self. Though it seems counter-intuitive, this isn’t so at odds with “living in the present,” an idea enjoying its moment of grace in our public consciousness. In fact, a lot of Jay’s book seems aimed at destroying the idea that fulfillment comes from the black and white separation of your 20s (present) and 30s (future): That you should travel and party in the 20s to find your True Self, root and focus in the 30s; Focus exclusively on friends in the 20s to avoid marrying too early, find committed romance in the 30s; Explore identity through odd jobs in the 20s, so as to not get stuck in a consuming office job, start a career in the 30s.

But, Jay says, the 20s are a time for rapid brain development. Considering the 20s a decade detached from your larger life path, and opting out of long term commitments and challenges, could be a huge missed opportunity during this period of growth. Jay argues that while some exploration is good, investments will be bountifully returned and you cheat yourself out of your own time by not employing focus and goal setting. Jay advocates for making bounded choices that further personal development, so that limitless possibilities don’t become flat dead ends. That your 20s to 30s are a continuum makes sense. Committing to and taking yourself seriously, personally or professionally, doesn’t turn you humorless.

Until American work culture includes the month-long summer holidays of the French, it will seem hard to advocate jumping in as though work is a silver bullet to the challenges of personal development in your 20s. But Jay still says to go for it. I don’t think she’s saying ‘do what you love,’ but to challenge yourself to engage long term in places you can grow. Jay argues for creating “identity capital:” investments in ourselves and our knowledge base through which we gain a pathway to connect.

To clarify the focus of the book, I don’t think Jay is trying to blame people who stall because they have a hard time gaining work, being fairly compensated, finding time for themselves, or meeting people because of the economy or other circumstance. It seems more about the ways people do and do not self-support when possible. Overall, I found it to be a thoughtful read, from someone who wants people to succeed, that made me want to reflect.

New Moon Manifestations, April 26, 2017

During the new moon in Taurus last month, I wrote manifestations for self-security, respect, and care. In an over-busy, over-scheduled world, it’s easy to let our goals get the better of our time. With that in mind, here are my manifestations, shared in the spirit of camaraderie and care.

I will manifest clear and free time and space in my life. This will be my foundation. I will put my phone away, allow the release of my thoughts, and welcome rest. I will give myself ample time to prepare for and engage with my commitments. I come to these willingly. I will eat healthy foods and move my body every day. As I use my mind, it will be with intention, gratitude, and focus. I am worth all of these things.

If I can’t bike there, I’m too busy

Two years ago, I bought my dad’s old bike. Two months ago, I pumped up the tires and decided to ride it work. It’s not the first time I’ve ridden my bike, but it is the first time I’ve used it to cross the Olentangy River. It’s got to be the nth smallest river in America to not be called a creek, but a big, bike-unfriendly road leads up to the crossing intersection.

It takes less time to ride my bike the two miles to work than it does to drive. This is because the walk from parking garage to my office is ten minutes long. My change wasn’t driven by a compulsion for efficiency, though. Crankiness crept in as I drove. I’d wake up in a good mood, and then…I would start to rush. Then, I’d get personally antagonized at my commute time, as well as by any terrible drivers in front of me at a light.

Three weeks into biking to work, I biked the whole way in a light drizzle. My top was soaked and I had to ditch it for my cardigan, fully buttoned. My mood was pretty high. It felt like a laurel of success. I didn’t tell anyone that I’d had to stash my blouse in my backpack.

Here’s the thing about biking — I’m new, so I don’t want to try a bunch of new routes. I want to know where I’m going, because I use a pre-conceived notion of the safety of each chosen street. I also get sweaty. Because of this, I don’t try to go many places on a bike. You know how that happens, in a car, though, the “going many places like you’re a jet setting celebrity within five square miles on one trip” deal? You go from home, to a shopping center, to a gas station, to a friend’s house, to the grocery store, to back home? That just can’t happen for me on a bike. I’m not comfortable yet. This had a side effect: I realized that I rush around, and always try to fit in a lot. It’s not inherently bad.

You know the feeling when you were a little kid, and you went on a centrifugal force machine, or just spun around 100 times in an office chair? And it felt hysterically fun, but when you stopped, you felt a little queasy as your innards readjusted to standing still? That’s sort of how it feels fitting less in, because of biking more. I wondered why I was running so many errands (it’s because I don’t have a personal assistant, duh). I wondered if it was making me happier, or adding value to my life, instead of keeping me occupied. Thoughtlessness comes with the automaticity of busy. That sounds pretentious. It also assumes you have enough support and/or freedom in your life to choose to not be busy every moment, which is a privilege.

With my new bike routine, I’m slowing down. Perhaps needing a car to get everywhere means that it’s not worth it. It’s going OK so far. I’ve been bike or busing to work for over a month now, and only driven five times. I haven’t noticed myself missing out, even though it has meant not popping by happy hours, the strip mall near my house, or the far-away grocery stores. I hope I keep it up. Time will tell.

May 2017


It’s been super beautiful in Columbus this month, and I’m grateful for the time here. I’m keying into Grandview, living a walkable and bikeable life, and loving my apartment; it’s small but spacious. The windows are great, the wood floors are beautiful, and it’s a place I continually make functionally and happily my own, as I please.