Articles and Essays

I Have Every Right to be Angry

I’m honored to have my essay, I Have Every Right to be Angry, in an upcoming edition of Pact Press, an imprint of Regal House Publishing. The women behind this publication are doing amazing things to support equal rights, acceptance, diversity, and tolerance–and they’re always looking for more voices.

Here’s a link to their website: http://pactpress.com/about-pact-press/

And here is essay in its entirety. Once it’s up on Pact Press’s page, I’ll supply the link as well.

i-have-every-right-to-be-angry

 

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Articles and Essays

The Danger of ‘Getting Over It’

It’s over. He won. Move on. Get over it.

They are just words, just simple phrases, but in a time like this, these statements not only disturb me, they worry and scare me.

Let’s talk about a command like “get over it.” I’ve heard it said many times before, in response to big and small things, all throughout my life—and I’ve never liked it. To me, it feels almost derogatory. It means, Rise above it. Hurry. Feel happy again. Now. Even after something bad has happened to you. It ignores the time one might need to recover, recuperate, mourn. It urges against the individual, the specific needs of a particular person. A phrase like “get over it” requires us all to react simultaneously and in the same way, no matter our differences, no matter our personal experience.

There was an outcry after Donald Trump became the president-elect. People were, and still are, legitimately afraid of what his presidency means. Some have called such a reaction immature. Some have criticized liberalism, painting us all as crybabies or “delicate snowflakes” (thanks Tomi Lahren!). Insults and ignorance aside, this is an inane outlook. If you cannot recognize such a vocalization as more than politics-as-usual or a basic partisan issue, then I urge you to think a little harder. Look very carefully at our nation’s present situation. This isn’t about winners and losers or Democrats versus Republicans.

As a man who has insulted basically every group of people, Trump is not a guy worth rooting for. Muslim-Americans, Mexicans, immigrants, minorities, and women are fearful of his plans—and so far, all Mr. Trump has done is validate those concerns by causing further division in this country and appointing his millionaire buddies to high positions of power.

Remember how he vowed to be “anti-elite” and “anti-establishment”? His supporters should consider themselves duped.

Trump has promised deportations, a wall (I mean, come on… is there a better metaphor for his disharmonious campaign?), a pull-back on reproductive rights for women, limitations concerning religious freedom and opportunity, and many other restrictive plans for the “bright” future of our country.

And still I hear people say, “Give the guy a chance. Get over it.”

This is not liberalism. This is not gross sensitivity. This is not being babyish and this, largely, is not pouting because Democrats “didn’t win.” This should be recognized as much, much more than that. I’ll even level with you: there may be some people who are upset about the loss and loss alone, but I’d wager that percentage is low. Instead of labeling Trump’s critics broadly as “sore losers”, perhaps take a moment and ask yourself why. Why are so many people upset and angry and horrified? Why is the public seemingly obsessed with this man and with his incoming presidency? Why the questions, the negativity? To me, the answer is clear. The bulk of our population rightly feels attacked and threatened. If you disagree, is it possible you might not know how it feels to be personally defamed and berated? If you are a white male, can you empathize with a female Muslim citizen? Or might you lack perspective? I hope you consider that for a moment. Is this simple bitterness and fit-throwing, or is there something else at play here?

I believe such an outburst is warranted. A Trump presidency puts what should be our basic human freedoms at risk.

Why, when people reacted with legitimate sadness and fear after Trump was elected, were they criticized so harshly? Why were they expected, immediately, to toughen up? Aren’t there occasions that call for emotion—in all its piercing pain and, yes, even in its heated anger?

To me, there is very real danger in telling people to “get over it”especially concerning Trump’s White House win. In fact, I’d urge you not to get over it. In my heart of hearts, I think the worst thing we can do as a country is treat this—and him—as normal. This is not normal.

Trump is a man who bragged about sexually abusing women. Trump is a man who insulted the family of a fallen soldier who gave his life for the very same country he claims to love and respect so much. Trump is a man who has, time and again, belittled the working class, our immigrant workers, and even our current president. Trump is a man who comfortably and boldly lies, all the while expertly twisting headlines and inspiring fake news stories. Trump is a man who has so much to hide he won’t even share his tax records, which, up to this point, has been a requirement. Trump is a man who wants to “strengthen and expand” nuclear capabilities and doesn’t understand the purpose of nukes unless “we use them”. Trump is a man who takes no responsibility for the mistakes he has made or for the people he has hurt. Trump is a man who is unwilling to apologize. Trump is a man who has bullied countless people, without batting an eye, for some sick need of retaliation. Trump is a man who would rather sever ties with our foreign friends than nurture them. Trump is a man who has warned the UN that “things will be different” soon. Trump is a man who has exhibited on numerous occasions that he has little to no respect for anyone. Trump is a man who suggested a Muslim registry.

The idea of vilifying an entire religion under the guise of “keeping track” should sound familiar to all of us. It’s written in our history books. Movies have been made about it. Trump, unquestionably, reminds us of a different time—a darker time—and it has echoes from the 1930s.

Trump promised to change America, to shake things up and “drain the swamp” (a phrase he has since all but revoked, basically telling his supporters they were tricked), but we should ask ourselves: what kind of change does this mean, not just for you or me, but for all Americans? We have to decide what kind of country we are and what country we want to be. Should we allow a bully, who is now the leader of the so-called free world, to objectify, disparage, abuse, divide, and insult? Should we accept the fact that our president-elect wants an exclusive America? Should we buy into his insanely flawed slogan, Make America Great Again? Don’t we all know that Trump’s vision of America does not, in any version of reality, include us all? A statement urging us to make our country great…again, sends a very strong, sad, and scary message regarding Trump’s thoughts on the United States as it currently stands.

I don’t think we should accept or support any of this. Donald Trump will be our next president and we can’t change that, but that does not mean we have to allow or credit his hatred. It does not mean we have to normalize and validate bad behavior. If enough of us make some noise, we won’t be silenced.

As a nation that prides itself on being the best, we should start acting like it and acknowledge our flaws. We shouldn’t automatically earn such a title just for being big, advanced, and loud, should we? I certainly don’t think so. To be considered powerful, to be considered the best nation in the world, I think that requires more than a perpetuated view screeched at us by our parents and grandparents. If America is truly to be the best nation in the world, then we need to welcome everyone. We need to demand that everyone— regardless of gender, religion, sexuality, or race—is deserving of a good, happy, and equal life. We need to stand up for what is right. We need to fight back. We need to challenge and stop our bullies—no matter how towering they may be. We need to love each other. We need to recognize hatred, bigotry, and ignorance as unacceptable. We need to put our tired, preconceived notions and prejudices to bed… and we need to do it now.

If we are the best nation in the world, then we have a serious responsibility.

To do all of this, it starts by admitting some less-than-stellar truths about this country; these are truths we all know exist, regardless of how well they are buried.

So speak up. Start a dialogue. Complain. Criticize. Use your anger and sadness to inspire change. This is not a time to sit back, do nothing, and expect some sort of helpful result. We will not have perfect unity and harmony—the election proved that. Work hard anyway. Fight back anyway. Protect each other anyway.

Because if we don’t, if we “move on” and “get over it”, then the worst will happen. That is the danger. If our bullies are not met with opposition, they win. We cannot sit by, twiddle our thumbs, and condemn those who are in pain and in fear. It’s time to listen to them.

The next time someone tells you to get over it and move on, say no. Say that you can’t get over this. Tell them that Donald Trump, this presidency, and the way some Americans view this country is not only not normal, but it is not right—and we won’t accept it.

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Articles and Essays, Excerpts

Dear Cork… I Love You

A piece I wrote about my time in Ireland was printed in Cork’s newspaper, The Evening Echo. You can find the article on their website, too. Just click here.

I think travel is extremely important — and I think listening to your heart is the best chance you have at a happy life. This article chronicles my time abroad and what I learned…and it was so much more than I could have imagined.

Largely, I don’t think people understand the beauty, the necessity, and the fundamental importance of getting a little lost. Surprise yourself. Do whatever speaks to your soul. Something incredible is waiting for you.

Below is a small excerpt from Dear Cork:

How do you say goodbye to something you love? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you can’t. No matter what, you probably won’t ever be able to let go completely. Last week I landed in JFK and it felt more foreign and shocking to me than when I first arrived in Cork. Everything was bigger. Louder. I cried during my connecting flight and cried in the airport when I hugged my partner as he kissed my forehead and handed me flowers.

I’ll be hurting for a long time. Adjusting back to life stateside will be hard, and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it fully. How could I? Everything has changed and so have I.

All I can do is welcome the pain and remember the source. I’d rather feel and hurt over having had a wonderful year than be stunted, numbed, and too afraid to try anything new. Life is for those who think and search and chase and try and feel and worry and cry and attack the days with all their heart. I think every day you should wake up with the intention of falling in love all over again. Cork, you taught me that.

If I could give you one piece of advice, readers, it would be to submit to your dreams. I did, and it was more than beer and music and writing and even travel—it was a year of investing in myself, of making lifelong friends, and being free.

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Articles and Essays

Take A Hike

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” – Edward Abbey 

We live in a wild, wonderful world.

I really love open spaces and the smell of fresh air. The rush of wind through leaves has become my favorite sound – and the misty tops of mountains stir something deep in the pit of my stomach every single time I look up, up, up.

I’ve been lucky enough to live in Ireland for a year and, to me, those misty mountains are the defining feature of the landscape. That and, well, sheep. They’re everywhere. And they’re so cute. And fluffy. And scared of all humans. Actually, they’re scared of everything. Let them be, okay?

I find myself looking up to those foggy peaks most of all. I wonder who, at one time or another, has stood at the very top of Torc Mountain, or Mangerton, or Carrauntoohil, the highest mountain of Ireland and the central peak of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range. No, I’m not making those names up.

Anyway, I wonder what these people saw, what the view was like, how tired they were. I try and imagine how their muscles strained, how their bones ached. I myself have hiked both Torc and Mangerton and am saving Carrauntoohil for September. I’ve hill-walked in Ballycotton and Ardmore, walked up Rossbeigh Hill, explored the Dingle, Iveragh, and Beara Peninsulas extensively; I’ve walked the entire length of the Cliffs of Moher, hiked around the Giant’s Causeway, climbed a section of the Shehy range, explored the Burren and the Wicklow Mountains National Parks, walked up and through the Gap of Dunloe…and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Even as I write this, I know I’m forgetting ten, twenty, even thirty walks and hikes and runs that I’ve made around Ireland.

I’ve done a lot and I’ve made so many friends. These friends, some of them Irish, maintain that I’ve seen more of their country in a year than they have in their entire lives.

And still, I don’t feel like I’ve seen nearly enough.

I consider this a lot. Why don’t I ever feel like relaxing? Why do I always want to be moving, exploring? This restlessness has caused me pain, both mental and physical. I’ve stressed myself out to the point of tears over the fact that, obviously, it’s impossible to see everything. I find it very difficult to come to terms with that cruel truth. I’ve walked so much and so long that my joints, specifically my hips and left knee, grind and pop. I have to wear a brace now. I’m supposed to rest my knee. Give it a month, at least, between hikes.

But I can’t. And, trust me, I don’t think I’m cool or badass because I ignore advice. It’s just, if I don’t get up and walk around, I feel like my life is passing me by. Something in my heart and soul  tells me to go. To do it anyway.

Hiking across Europe and the United States has given me some much needed perspective. It’s easy to think we’re the center of the universe, but we’re so small and the world is so big. I’m a blip on a mountain’s radar. I mean, I once climbed up to the top of a monolith in Chimney Rock State Park and read that it was, and I’m not exaggerating, 535 million years old. This rock has seen the world burn and break and change, and here I am, walking up one, tiny, inconsequential day in July. I’ll be dead in no time, but these rocks, these mountains, these trees, will go on and on. And they’ll always be beautiful.

While walking, I’ve learned to listen and pay attention. I mean this partly in the technical sense. In North Carolina, for example, you need to watch out for bears and snakes. I guess I “listen” for that and I’m as prepared  as I can be, but what I really mean is this: I pay attention to the life around me. All of it. I respect it. I appreciate it. If I ever again see someone spit their gum out on the street, I may or may not yank them by their hair and make them pick it up. If I see someone pluck a flower from the ground, I may or may not curse them and their first born child.

I feel endlessly lucky to walk around Ireland and other parts of the world and notice changes in vegetation, to see the sun set and cast mountain valleys in golden light. I marvel at the weather, how volatile and unrelenting it can be. Clouds roll in and an afternoon shower leaves you soaked and cold and cleansed. There’s something so freeing about submitting to things beyond your control. I was once caught in a nasty storm and some really forceful wind nearly blew me off the side of a cliff. I recognized immediately that I was in danger and yeah, you can bet I was scared.

It’s weird to think when you’re out hiking that you’ve gone far enough to enter harm’s way. That no matter what you do, no matter how careful you are, there’s always a chance, however small, that you might not come back down off the mountain. But, after that gust of wild wind, I just planted my feet, watched my step, and accepted the fact that I couldn’t change a damn thing. I was completely at nature’s mercy, and still, I was happy. In a moment like that, all you can do is keep going, keep walking.

Hiking makes me feel completely, wholly alive. A bit banal, but it’s true. I’m thankful that I’m healthy enough to get up, throw on my hiking shoes, and go outside whenever I want. There’s so much to see, and witnessing the world is more important to me than anything else. Honestly, I wish more people cared about it. It’s a shame people rot away in office cubicles and take a trip, maybe, once every five years.

In the case of Ireland, this country has one of the most remarkable and unique landscapes in the world. The resplendent, green fields (Johnny Cash didn’t write 40 Shades of Green for nothin’, okay?), the craggy mountains, the lush, low valleys, the rushing rivers, the bays, the rocky coasts and towering cliffs… I could go on and on. Everywhere you turn it’s a postcard waiting to happen. And remember: sheep! Everywhere! Cuteness!

So, to wrap this thing up… Yes, I’ve walked all around Ireland, and I’m not even going to tell you all I’ve seen. There wouldn’t be enough room or time. I’d probably start crying because I hold memories so dear. It would just get messy, so I’ll save you from my insanity. For now.

Plus, I want you to come and visit for yourself. If you can’t afford it, then fair enough. Look up the closest park or nature reserve and go. Now.

NOW.

Hiking has shown me what I’m capable of. I’m stronger than I thought. I’m tough. That’s all true. That’s good, even.

But if you hike only for self-gratification alone, for some weird notch in your belt or obnoxious bragging rights, then you’re missing it. Hiking is about getting lost. It’s about noticing the power of nature, of rugged and (relatively) untouched beauty. It is a gift, perhaps the greatest gift, to find a green space and spend a few breaths there. Be quiet. Watch. See life go. Together. All at once. You’re a part of it.

Maybe that’s it. Hiking reminds me, over and over, of how alive I am. When I walk, I can listen to and feel my heart beat as I climb higher and walk farther. I’m right there in the middle of things. It’s a journey.

I know from personal experience that nature can heal us, but it never, ever comforts, and it certainly doesn’t care. It just is. That’s the best part. It. Just. Is. No matter what. Things can change second by second. Our hearts break every day for a million reasons, but those mountains are still there, unwavering, watching, and waiting. We are welcome anytime.

When I’m traveling or walking I make a point to see as much as I can. I don’t stop. I barely sleep. I cry and freak out from excitement at inappropriate times because I just get moved. I have annoyed people to the point that they can’t travel with me. I’m always pushing. I’m always telling them to keep going. Keep walking. Let’s go here. Let’s go there. Let’s see more. We might die tomorrow. Don’t stop. Walk on. Life is too short.

I think it’s because, with nature in particular, I want to know it. I’m looking for something, something I can’t even really name. Maybe one day I will find the words. For now, I just want to see every twist and turn and curve and bend; I want to acquaint myself with every landscape, every snowflake and raindrop and ray of sun. I want to disappear. I want to climb up every rock and walk through every cave. I want to know nature like I know a best friend, completely, inside and out.

Of course, I’ve said already that I know my dreams aren’t the most feasible. I’m guided more by romantic ideals than by what is actually possible. That makes day to day living kind of tough.

I think the best thing we can do is stay curious. Discover stuff. Surprise ourselves.

I’ll keep walking. And seeing. And doing. If my knee dislocates in the process, so be it. Some things are worth the pain.

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