Friday, December 21, 2018

Off the List

There is something inexplicably wonderful about crossing things off a list. Especially if it’s a big, hairy, audacious something - like a goal.

If you know me, you know I have multiple lists of goals that encapsulate all facets of my life. I make them incessantly, always aspiring to the next because the sense of achievement is so profound, it’s almost addictive.

And tiring.

Inevitably, the dreadful "now what" feeling immediately follows. So you add another goal to the list, to constantly keep moving.

But life happens in between writing it down and crossing it off. I realize how much I have missed in pursuit of checking off the boxes.

This past summer, I had a ten-day trip planned with friends to Nicaragua. Then came a travel advisory: civil unrest. With three days until takeoff, we changed our destination to El Salvador.

Typically, I'd have a list of what to see, eat, and do. However, at two days to go, we still had nowhere to sleep. So it fell off the radar, and became the trip mantra: make it up as you go along. This strategy left room for plenty to go wrong, with scaling mountains, surviving undertows, and Arthur the rooster. We sometimes cried, but mostly laughed our way through. The trip, with all its challenges, went better than I could have ever planned.

I realize now most of my goals are plans made out of fear (read: fomo) to ensure I don’t miss out on “the important things” and nothing falls through the cracks. As if this list is the guide to a perfect life.

In truth, this type of focus can give you tunnel vision, leaving room for only what you know. Even worse, it can make you feel unaccomplished, and less than.

If I were to measure my life against the list of where I thought I would be at 30, I’d be miserable - I haven’t crossed many things off. But my life is so much better than what I had in mind. You only know what you know, and the bits that make my life better can’t be measured with a tick.
So I stopped turning my life into a checklist. Instead, I now measure my life against my values.

Values are beliefs about what is important in life and act as guiding posts for actions. Values leave room to experience and appreciate the gray areas: the awful, challenging parts, but also the unanticipated joys.

I have not yet identified all my values.

For my career, one is leadership. Previously, I would have based my success on markers like salary, title and management experience. And a check mark would indicate my arrival to the next stage.
Now, I look at the opportunities I have said yes to, and the ones I had the courage to turn down. I look not just at the number of initiatives I have led or how much revenue I have brought in, but the process by which I got there: how did I get buy-in, collaborate or take a risk?

I think this is important for organizations to take into consideration when it comes to monitoring and evaluating success. For example, if diversity and inclusion is important to your organization, it is worth remembering that there will be no point where you can just check this off as complete. Developing and implementing a plan can be one achievement to measure, but as a value, it is something your organization should strive towards every day in every action, demonstrating its importance in all areas of work.

In theory, it may sound small: abandoning a list by which to measure a life. In practice, it’s a constant battle. That is until I remember that many of my best moments and proudest achievements, professionally and otherwise, are ones I never would have thought to put on a list.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Three Dreadful Letters: F-A-T

Until I went to university, I was petite in every sense of the word, under 5 feet and less than 100 pounds. While I thought my arms jiggled too much and obsessively awaited the day I would feel comfortable in a bikini, I did not think too seriously about my relationship with my body. According to everyone around me, I was fine. No one taught me about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle because on the outside, I looked “healthy” even though my diet consisted of Nestea and Ruffles. It just didn’t matter.
Until it did.
It happened quickly. I gained a few pounds, and then a few turned into a lot. It's incredible (read: fucked up) how much of a person's worth is tied to numbers on a scale. And as the number grew larger, I somehow became smaller.
People can be unkind to "fat" people. It was not a word I would have used to describe myself, but it was there underpinning how I felt about myself. How I was made to feel about myself. F-A-T. Three letters that ironically weigh so much.
Three summers later, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, which comes with an awful set of symptoms created by a hormonal imbalance that can cause acne, weight gain and the growth of unwanted facial hair. (Fun, right?) At first, however, it was a relief to know that it wasn't just the Nestea and Ruffles, that it was actually out of my control.
Then came the self-pity. It was out of my control. I did not choose this; I could not do anything about it. I honestly can't tell you which order it happened in, whether my confidence faltered because of my weight gain, or if my weight gain continued because my confidence began to falter, but it all amounted to the same. Feeling stuck.
I clung onto the idea of having been "skinny" for most of my life. I felt the need to tell people I wasn't naturally this big, it just happened to me. And as I did, conversation by conversation, I gave away my agency.
People took it away from me too. My culture can be even more unkind to "fat" people. After all, what man would want to marry a girl who is overweight? And what value do I bring to society if I am not married? Questions that intrinsically began to tie together my body and my worth.
At the start of every year, I would proclaim that that would be the year I would finally lose weight. As if losing the weight would finally allow me to be seen. Some years, I would lose a little bit. One year it was 10 pounds, but then the following year I gained 18.
So I yo-yo-ed. Back and forth, back and forth. Feeling more defeated each time I failed. And as my body got away from me, it felt like all the other pieces of my life did too.
It's sad to look back now because I realise how much I was accomplishing in my life during this time. I was travelling. I was working hard. I was on TV. I was completing a distance learning post-grad program. I was spending time with my family and friends. I was paying off debts. I was saving up.
But I don't really remember all those wonderful experiences as they were. What I do remember is feeling fat.
One year though, I actually did something about it. I wish I knew what was different that time, because if I could sell that secret, I'd literally be a billionaire. The truth is that there was no magical moment.
But I did it. I took back my agency. Not conversation by conversation, but action by action. One day at a time. Day by day of making better decisions about what I ate. Day by day of making better decisions about how much movement I made. And as before, I honestly can't tell you which order it happened in, whether losing weight made me more confident, or confidence helped me lose weight, but it all amounted to the same. Feeling empowered. Somehow though, the sadness remains. It feels like people see me better when there is less of me. I don’t know if that is a byproduct of my confidence, or my body. It leaves me still not knowing how to unlink the two: my body and my worth.
And it continues. I’ve gained back some of the weight I had lost. The compliments stopped. My confidence faltered. So here I am, trying to remember that I am worth so much more than my body. That being in control of my body is about agency, and that is where empowerment comes from. It is about so much more than what I look like. And in case you needed to hear it too: you are worth so much more than just your body.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The One Where I Rant About TV Couples

Ross and Rachel do not belong together. Neither do Big and Carrie. Nor Ted and Robin (ESPECIALLY NOT THEM).

And the fact that these are the TV couples that people rooted for "ending up together" is just so dysfunctional it makes me want to scream.

Let's go through the checklist. (Warning: lots of spoilers ahead.)

Image result for ross and rachel
  • Ross has a huge crush on Rachel in high school.
  • Ross gets the girl 10 years later.
    Super cute.
  • Ross gets unreasonably jealous. Over Rachel pursuing her career (because men work there).
    Really not cute. 
  • Ross sleeps with someone 3 hours into a "break". (Note: not BREAK UP, just break).
    Actually awful.
  • Ross and Rachel stay in the same friend circle through breaking up.
    Awkward at best.
  • Neither of them really moves on. Even though he goes on a date with her sister.
  • Ross and Rachel have a baby.
    I can't comment on this without being an a-hole, so I'll refrain. 
  • Ross and Rachel end up together at the very last moment.
    THE WORST.  
And you see it over and over again.

Image result for sex and the city carrie and big
  • Carrie meets Big. Does he believe in love? "Abso-fuckin-lutely".
    I guess the grown-up version of cute. 
  • Carrie dates Big.
  • Big never wants to get married (again). They break up.
    This is not so bad, they wanted different things. 
  • Big marries a 20-something lady. After saying he never wanted to get married again. He's like Chris-Noth-post-already-had-a-career-in-Law-&-Order old.
  • He's married. She meets Aidan, a man who is just too good for her (note below). They cheat.
  • They go back and forth for the better part of a million years.
  • Neither of them really moves on.
    Sad. Not meant in sympathy, more like pathetic sad. 
  • He realizes no one else in New York City will really have him (because he's tried them all). Goes back to Carrie. Proposes.
  • Oh. Then he leaves her at the altar.
  • But buys her expensive shoes.
    That's how you know it's true love. Then they live happily ever after, obviously. 
RE: Aidan. He is actually the stuff that dream men are made of, and in the show, this is seen as boring.

I'm not ready to get into Ted and Robin. Barney and Robin were good together, as anyone could see and likely the reason the creators spent a whole year leading up to their wedding... Obviously to exploit their audience for ratings, just before doing what they wanted to in the first place. (My only point here is that if they felt their original ending was necessary to keep, then they should have done better work as writers to lead the audience there instead of pandering for the better part of nine years only to in the last minute go in the opposite direction. It's stupid.) 

It's just all unhealthy. And promotes this concept of the best relationships being epic sagas with so much tug and war, that it dilutes the magic of the every day. And it just really annoys me that people buy into this TV BS. 

I know we all know the difference between television, and the cat and mouse chase that makes everything so much more interesting. It's why I won't fully rip on Derek and Meredith. But I wish Monica and Chandler would get their kudos more often. Or Miranda and Steve (who still have a lot of growing pains but you know, not destructive and awful). I do feel Lily and Marshall get their kudos (which is well deserved) because that's about as good as TV love can get. 

/End rant.