Aside

I’m Leaving.

This is a decision I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of heat for, but it’s one that aligns me more to my values.

They say your years in college are the best years of your life. For me, it is a close tie between college and high school. Nonetheless, these eight years of maturing to adulthood have given me an enormous shift in perspective in how I approach my work & play, and how I approach reconciling my identity.

With this said, while this blog has attracted a large number of followers, I must put this to rest, for good. Not because I’m no longer writing (because I am) but because the name of this blog reflects a part of me that simply is not true anymore.

Shrapnel and Daisies was a blog dedicated to two concepts: shrapnel — the ugly of war and reality — and daisies — the beauty of innocence associated with growing up as a woman. It focused on the push and pull of innocence and the pursuit of the less innocent.

“Innocence.” That word makes me cringe now. Why? Because it indicates that our agency as a person is related to whether or not we have made mistakes, or whether or not we have exposed ourselves to things that are not so clean and simple. As if being exposed to those things makes us less than who we are. And that is the biggest falsehood of all.

Because of this ideal, my biggest flaw was in my assumption that, if I wanted to be a leader, I had to keep two selves apart — a woman self, and a leader self. This forced me to live two lives, to pretend I was one without the other. It made me realize I didn’t associate my success with myself. It made me realize I didn’t accept myself entirely. It made me assume womanhood was a disability rather than a part of me (and therefore also a strength). Instead of becoming who I wanted to be, I was held back by the forces that be: by society, by expectations, and by myself.

I don’t need a false notion of innocence to give myself worth. I didn’t get into the military and technology because I was delicate. I am ranked among the most badass women I know, and it’s a damn shame that I valued “innocence” over my ability to be everything I want to be.

Honest to goodness, I am an aspiring badass. And it’s time I owned it.

So this is it, folks. The daisies are dead, and thorns are surprisingly good at making people aware of their surroundings. Consider this my new goal.

I am woman. Hear me roar. Find me at http://www.femalebadass.com (coming soon/under construction)

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Love & Art?

There is a fine balance between love and art. While love requires a certain toil, there comes with it a wholeness. But art thrives on desire. Desire burns and itches and smolders until you act. Until you extinguish it or feed it the air you breathe. While love makes you whole, art eats you alive.

(Something came over me while I was working and this is what I came up with… maybe this will turn into a book.)

The Career Crusade: A Working Woman’s Obituary

I know. It’s been nearly a year.

I don’t know where to begin to update you all, but I won’t go through the exhaustive barrage of updates. Those who know me already know what I’m going through, and those who know me a little less get snapshots on Facebook. But all I know is that I couldn’t bring myself to do work until I wrote this today, and broke the period of nearly one year that I have stopped writing.

But rather than go in chronological order, it’s try reverse chronological order.

That’s right, let’s go into the future. Way into the future. Let’s go to my funeral. (It’s morbid, but bear with me for a little bit.)

If I were to die, today, what would be said about me? I won’t belabor you all with an actual obituary of me (in case it appears on the Internet independently of this post, and people start to believe I’m actually dead), but up until this point, I will be where a lot of my peers are, right now: working an entry-level job, maybe at a company they like, maybe at one they hate, living with a roommate to decrease living costs, and most likely paying off a loan or several. We’re not comfortable, right now, and it’s really tempting to feel the need to work, really really hard, until that situation changes… until we have enough money to live independently, without a roommate or family, or until we can prove to our families that our birth was valid. I want to prove to immigrant family members that immigrating to America, doing all the legal paperwork and busting their ass to be a part of this country was worth it.

It’s tempting to ask ourselves “Is my family proud of me?” “What have I done to make sure this was worth it for them?” Maybe that’s a cultural thing I have, being a member of a collectivist culture that expects you to honor your family and your country, and maybe I ask myself that more often than traditionally American young adults do. But I find it more and more important to balance that question with “Am I proud of me?” “What have I done to make it worth it for me?”

Maybe that’s a little selfish, but I have to explain a little more: as someone involved in several male-dominated fields, being there is more like a crusade than it is in other fields. You wave your banner frantically to show you have made it this far, that your geekdom is valid geekdom; that your 300 APFT score is all you, baby, and your ability to jump out of planes is your achievement. You’ve let the slashes at your ego remain merely slashes, despite whatever real damage they might have done, and hell, being there alone makes you pretty much a badass.

But that banner-waving, smile-beaming, teeth-gritting is exhausting. The need to keep up appearances takes a toll, over time. Consider the consistent need to keep a balance between charming and assertive. Being successful requires a sense of confidence that a lot of women have to force in the entry level stages. We have to be so convicted in our goals, so headlong in our dreams that when the time comes to make personal decisions that have nothing to do with business, we feel a little lost. As a woman in a male-dominated field, it feels like a failure to do anything that tweaks my career direction in the slightest. Thoughts like, “But your mission! But work!” fly through my head, as if being in love and working are a choice to make, rather than things to aspire to simultaneously.

In my opinion, there are some pretty messed up forces at work, when a woman, in her earliest career stages is terrified that a tiny flaw in her resume will ruin her career for the rest of her life. We work so hard to be perfect, to be a better candidate than everyone else, but deep down, it’s because we have a fear, to such a point that it becomes a deep assumption, that we will be looked over, again and again, if we are not exceptional women.

And yet, life still happens, we take jobs that don’t necessarily align to our dreams, because that’s what’s there. That’s what’s available. Because working gives us more value than not working. (And there is nothing wrong with that.)

And perhaps it is in both genders that better opportunities are more and more scarce with the economy as it is. In 2014, 16.6% of people under the age of 25 are unemployed. More people in our generation are unemployed than our older counterparts. Considering these statistics, and the undeniable lack of female leadership, the chips are not in my favor to be comfortable, and to reach my eventual goal for a very, very long time. They’re not in anyone’s really.

So, the point of all this is a question, or a few: Tell me, why, in our efforts to be superwomen–to becomes CEOs, presidents, and owners–do we criticize the decision to raise children and take a moment to live in loving homes? More importantly, why does all of the judgment seem to be reserved for women who desire both a career and a life filled with love? We cannibalize any chance we have at making any impact because we create unhappy women in power, and unhappy women at home. And you know what, maybe rather than only teaching women to be more like men, we need to teach men and women alike to compromise, to grow with each other, and not to live in fear or anger.

So with this obituary, if I were to die tomorrow, I would love where I’ve come in my career, but would I be able to live with myself knowing I am intentionally sacrificing time I would be with those I love? Because honestly, when you realize that your life is finite, that you only have so much time on this earth, you start to reprioritize, you start to reconsider your lengthy, life-long crusade of awesome. Not because you don’t want to do it, but because you want to make room for the people you care about most, and hopefully find a little happiness to sneak in. Maybe we shouldn’t put up with a job that keeps us from the life we want. And that life we want doesn’t have to be work, alone. That life can be whatever you want it to be. It’s your dream, girl.

Being a career-oriented woman is not easy. But it’s a lot less lonely when you have someone with whom you can share your experiences. I think it’s time we stop bashing young marriages, and young mothers, and start trying to support everyone a little more. I know I’m prepared to die for this country because I know we have it in us to let everyone pursue their dreams. That’s what we built this country to do.

Now let’s stop pretending we’re living, and actually live. Go after the job you want. Live with who you want to live with. You’re an adult and can make these decisions on your own. You don’t need us. But face your happiness, grab it, and run with it. Because, let’s face it, our time will come. So let’s go ahead and make it a hell of a show.

One of Many Walks Home

I will preface this by saying I am writing this safe and sound in my dad’s house. I came home completely unharmed, and had a fantastic day in the city beforehand. But I am done being quiet and dismissive of these matters, and I have taken the onus of writing things that make people uncomfortable because they really, really need to be said.

I try to walk home alone in Jersey City as little as possible. I usually carry some sort of weapon with me, like a knife, but I left mine at home by accident. I didn’t even have keys to use as a blunt object to poke people’s eyes out (some self-defense things my mom taught me years ago). All I had was a phone in a case that I hoped would be hard enough to give someone a concussion if I smacked them with it. So, naturally, I was on edge.

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Hail, all hail, Cornell

Not long ago, I didn’t think I was going to make it out of Cornell. When I last wrote, I was in an existential crisis, wondering if all of the choices I was making were not, in fact, what I really wanted. I had to constantly reassure myself that this was the right thing to do; put up motivational quotes to remind myself why I was here; proclaim my self-identified meaning of life; anything to ensure my place would be saved on the next bus to real life.

And finally, after a hailstorm of exams, papers, plane tickets, gas stations, tears of desperation and elation, early mornings and late nights, I can officially say I am a graduate of Cornell University, and now an officer in the United States Army Reserve.

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An Aside: Why Are We Here

What is the point of life? I may never have a concise answer. We are born, we live, we give birth, and we die. But in that cold span of reality is elation, tragedy, dreams unfurled. It is such a beautiful miracle that we dare to dream; that we feel spectrums of passion, desire, apathy, repulsion; that in all of our laughter, tears, gasps, sighs, there is an unstoppable force within us that longs to do something meaningful in our minute span of existence. In comparison to the massive expanse of the space-time-continuum, we are nothing but a single moment. But what we make of that moment is entirely our choice. It can be a moment passed, unblinkingly, or it can be an explosive moment of great importance. It does not matter why we are here, what matters is that we are, and that whatever do with it, we do it as passionately as possible.

Just an aside.

“The Standard”

I will start this post with a pre-emptive apology. This post is very lengthy. Maybe even feminist. But this is not a message for feminists. This is a message for anyone who’s ever wanted to do something with themselves. Aka everyone. But I’m mainly apologizing because I’m about to make a broad generalization, and compare a beauty pageant to a dog show.

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Yeah, I went there.

(But really, hear me out on this one, if you can.)

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