On being alone

EXT. VALTER’S OSTERIA. EVENING.

A WOMAN in her early 30s sits alone at a table on the patio. She’s waiting for her bill and slipping into the early stages of a carb coma, having just enjoyed a delicious meal at one of the top rated restaurants in Salt Lake City. A group of men walk by, led by UNNAMED ASSHOLE.

UNNAMED ASSHOLE
“Why are you alone?”

The woman looks over, confused.

WOMAN
“What? What’s wrong with being alone?”

Unnamed Asshole looks at his friends, laughs, and shakes his head in disbelief.

UNNAMED ASSHOLE
“Are you serious?”

His friends join in the laughter and keep walking. The woman sits in silence, her rage boiling below the surface. The waiter places her bill on the table.

THE END.

 

On my recent trip to Salt Lake City, I arrived a couple days before my friends who I was meeting in town. I’m a big advocate for solo vacations and even wrote about tips for traveling alone after my first time doing it. (Note to self: Write a part two. That trip was 6 years ago and I’ve come a long way since then… literally!) So, it wasn’t unusual for me to explore a destination on my own.

When the scene above played out on my first night in SLC, I was so pissed off at Unnamed Asshole, and then later pissed off at myself for giving him any reaction at all.

I’ve reached a point where I’m pretty comfortable doing anything alone: Eating at a restaurant, going to a movie, hiking, etc. If I waited around for someone to do all those things with me, I might never leave my apartment. That’s not to say I don’t have any friends. Just that people aren’t always available, or they don’t want to do the same thing as me, or sometimes I just want a break from people. Basically, I never let being alone hold me back from experiencing life.

When people tell me they could never imagine doing these things alone, I often wonder if it’s because they’re uncomfortable being alone with themselves. I don’t want to put myself in the position of judging them the way they judge me, but it reeks of insecurity. I imagine they’re worried about people thinking they’re a loser, worried about being bored, worried about being alone with their thoughts (oh wait, that last one applies to me, too). I picture them face down in their cell phone safety net should they ever end up in public alone.

But a funny thing happens when you decide to embrace doing things on your own: You can have a ton of fun! It’s freeing to be able to do whatever you want with no one to answer to. You pick the restaurant. You pick the movie. You pick the travel destination. Doesn’t that sound great? Doing whatever you want?

And sometimes, because you’re forced to pay attention to your surroundings more, rather than stay in the comforting bubble of your friend group, you can have some really unique experiences. I’ll never forget one night in South Haven when I ended up bar hopping with two travelers I met while eating dinner. At every stop, we picked up more people and ended the night dancing on a boat. Sure, that could have happened with a group of friends or a boyfriend (assuming they have the same mindset), but I was more open to that experience because I was alone.

I’ve had some super fun trips with friends (no boyfriends, yet), including the rest of my time in Salt Lake City. I don’t want to take away from those experiences by any means, but I really cherish the trips I’ve taken alone. And I’m already thinking about where I’ll go next. I’m getting the international itch again so it might be time for my first solo experience overseas.

As I replay my conversation with Unnamed Asshole, I wonder about his motivation for saying anything at all to a total stranger. I can guarantee this scenario would not have happened if I were male. And sure, maybe he thought I was too attractive to be eating alone (for the record, I don’t think that). But that implies I can’t exist without someone else. And clearly he wasn’t considering the many factors that may have led to me sitting there alone. But none of those would have mattered either. He doesn’t deserve an explanation. It doesn’t fucking matter why I’m alone.

And I will never get an explanation as to why he’s an asshole, though I have a few guesses. In the meantime, cheers to you, Unnamed Asshole. May you feel better about yourself having confronted the woman sitting alone.

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What I read in 2016

This is my third year aiming to read 26 books. Happy to report I hit my goal again this year, with three weeks to spare! There’s still time for me to slip in another book or two, but here’s the list as it stands today.

  1. We Were Liars
  2. The Girl With No Past
  3. What Alice Forgot
  4. Big Little Lies
  5. A Reunion of Ghosts
  6. My name is Lucy Barton
  7. How to be Single
  8. Euphoria
  9. The Widow
  10. The Nest
  11. One Plus One
  12. Black Eyed Susans
  13. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
  14. The Girls
  15. Reconstructing Amelia
  16. Find Her
  17. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  18. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
  19. The Hopefuls
  20. Good as Gone
  21. With Malice
  22. The Wonder
  23. Everything We Keep
  24. Wintergirls
  25. Bad Feminist
  26. The Royal We

Check out my lists from 2014 and 2015 and let me know in the comments what I should line up for 2017!

What I read in 2015

Last year, I participated in the Read 26 Indy challenge and decided to make it an annual goal. Here’s what I ended up reading in 2015:

  1. The House at Riverton
  2. Audience
  3. Unbroken
  4. The Silkworm
  5. The Girl on the Train
  6. Wild
  7. The Maze Runner
  8. The Scorch Trials
  9. The Death Cure
  10. The Kill Order
  11. Purge: Rehab Diaries
  12. Heartburn
  13. All the Light We Cannot See
  14. Sprinkles
  15. Indy Writes Books
  16. Modern Romance
  17. What I Did While You Were Breeding
  18. London Holiday
  19. The Bell Jar
  20. Room
  21. Career of Evil
  22. Behind the Cloud
  23. Why Not Me
  24. Creativity, Inc.
  25. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
  26. Circling the Sun

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What was your favorite book this year? What should I get on my list for 2016?

The True Cost

Take a look at the shirt you have on. How much did it cost? I’ve got on a basic tee that was probably part of a 3 for $25 deal at Target or Old Navy. But I have no idea what the shirt really cost in the grander sense.

My friend Julia runs the Fair for All blog and hosted a screening of and discussion about the documentary The True Cost. I was so moved by the film that I immediately came home and dumped out a bunch of thoughts into this post. There’s so much more I could write but I highly encourage you to watch the full documentary, streaming on Netflix and also available for purchase.

From their site, this film is “a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. [This documentary] pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?”

I know what you’re probably thinking: “Great, one more thing I have to consider before spending my money.” It takes a lot of time and effort to be an educated consumer. Understanding how companies operate, what they do with their profits, how they treat their workers, and what values they put into practice can be tough and overwhelming. For example, I actively avoid a company who is outspoken about donating its profits to pray-the-gay-away organizations but turn around and buy clothes without considering the factory workers in Bangladesh who barely make any money and work in some of the most inhumane conditions. I am equally for human rights as I am against bigotry, but it’s hard to factor all the things into all the decisions I make every day as a consumer.

There’s also an environmental component that I was admittedly oblivious to. The film reported that clothing is second only to oil as the most polluting industry in the world. Part of this is chemical – toxins dumped into water sources, synthetic products that don’t break down, etc. But part of it is physical – a culture of waste we’ve developed where it’s a social faux pas to wear the same outfit twice, where you buy a skirt you don’t really need because it’s only $10, where you throw out pants that have a tear in them instead of patching them up, where only 10% of clothing donated to thrift stores is actually resold.

Another aspect that shocked me: Cotton, which represents nearly half of the fiber used to make clothing, is now being genetically modified with various chemicals, pesticides and insecticides. There’s been a significant shift in the food industry to eating organic and avoiding genetically modified food. We care more now than ever about what we put into our bodies, but what about on them? The skin is the largest organ in the body and the clothes we wear are potentially carriers of these chemicals.

One cotton farmer in Texas who was interviewed in the film is pushing to change this. Part of her motivation: Her husband died at the age of 50 from brain tumors the doctors believe were caused by exposure to the chemicals used on their crops. She is now devoted to advancing the organic cotton movement.

And this touches on an interesting framing issue that is slightly off topic but crosses multiple industries and takes me back to one of my graduate classes on language. An apple that grows naturally from a tree shouldn’t have a special label or an asterisk. It should just be an apple. Labels and product names should highlight things that are changed or modified in some way. But major companies on the one side don’t want to call attention to the actions they are taking to modify products. And on the other side, major companies benefit from a cultivated organic lifestyle that attracts customers who are seemingly willing to throw down more money. I haven’t read up much on the effects of genetically modified products, but I firmly believe language has a powerful impact on consumers.

So what’s the solution? There’s not an easy one. But Julia outlined some steps you can take as an individual (copied from her handout at the screening):

  1. Learn more. Find ethical fashion blogs, shopping guides and other resources at fairforallguide.com/resources.
  2. Shop less. The fast fashion industry is driven by the constant consumption of disposable clothing. Buy less, buy only what you love and buy it to last.
  3. Shop smart. Many clothing brands are working to make their supply chains more ethical and transparent while treating workers and the environment with respect. Here are a few to check out: People Tree, Zady, Fair Indigo, Mata Traders, PACT, Liz Alig (Indianapolis-based!).

I would add two more: Get political and get social. There are so many political elements to this issue that I don’t have the space (or energy…) to get into. If you are passionate about this cause, make sure your elected officials know it. And talk to your family and friends about it as well as your social networks. Raising the general awareness of even one other person is positive movement.

I can’t promise that I’ll only shop from fair trade companies moving forward and I’m not even sure how realistic that is at this point. But I know I owe it to those in the clothing industry who are suffering the true cost to be a more educated consumer and make more informed, responsible decisions whenever possible.

Barbells for Boobs 2014 campaign

Last year everyone’s generous donations combined to help me raise $2,000 for Barbells for Boobs. That paid for 25 people to get mammograms who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. I completed the crossfit workout “Grace,” lifting up all the women in my life (and theirs!) who have been affected by breast cancer. It was a day I won’t soon forget! You can read all about it here.

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My gym is participating again this year on October 18 and is part of the National Pink Bra Tour because we raised so much last year. Unfortunately I will be out of town but this cause means so much to me that I’m committed to raising funds. And one of the coaches has agreed to stand in for me and do the workout twice that day if I hit my goal. That’s how much Crossfit Naptown supports this initiative!

I know a lot of people complain about October and breast cancer awareness. They are over everything turning pink and wonder how donations to “awareness” efforts impact any real change. What I love about Barbells for Boobs is that your money goes directly toward prevention. Every $80 raised funds one mammogram and as you likely know, early detection is critical with breast cancer.

I hope you’ll consider donating and sharing with anyone else who might be interested. Any amount you can give is greatly appreciated!

Here’s the link to my fundraising page: https://fundraise.barbellsforboobs.org/fundraise?fcid=339204

 

2011: The Year of Crazy Awesomeness

Year-in-review posts are inevitably cheesy and self-indulgent so I went back and forth on whether or not to write one. A lot happened in 2011 though so I hope you’ll bear with me as I reminisce on what ended up being the year of crazy awesomeness.

I waited to post this blog for one reason: One year ago today I randomly decided to get my ass off the couch and on to a treadmill. In that time, I’ve lost 75 pounds. 75 pounds! It doesn’t even seem real, or possible. It’s hard for me to put into words what this journey has been like. I tried in this blog post when I hit the 50-pound mark but even that didn’t quite do it justice. To sum it up: I feel better in every way possible. I’ve still got 15 more pounds to lose but I’m more motivated than ever to keep going!

The other big change in my life was deciding to make a career move. I was lucky enough to work with some amazing people in my last job and am fortunate to have landed with a great team in my new position. And my second day in the new gig, I got to drive a semi-truck. Gotta love it.

Other notables from 2011:

  • I vacationed alone for the first time down in Tybee Island and Savannah. I loved every minute of my trip and would definitely recommend traveling alone if you haven’t done it before.
  • I played fantasy football for the first time and quickly became obsessed. And I dominated: League champion, regular season champion and highest scoring team! Did I mention I’m obsessed?
  • I had a great time in Asheville visiting my brother. You should seriously consider it for your next vacation spot. Asheville has something for everyone.
  • And I… made a Sexy Rexy foot face sign for Pierre Garcon, went to the Indy 500 for the first time, saw my favorite singer Adele in concert, cheered on my brother as he graduated college, traveled to Austin, volunteered with the Women of Hope event that raised more than $365,000 for breast cancer research, bought more art than I have wall space for, attended my last ever Harry Potter midnight showing, experienced the suite life at a Colts game, went to the very top of the Indiana Statehouse and was chosen as a finalist for Indy’s Best and Brightest Award in the Government category.

Crazy awesome, right? Can’t wait to see what 2012 brings!

Telemarketers, junk mail, salespeople…oh my! Rethinking marketing

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a writer. When picking majors in college, I chose journalism because I assumed being a writer meant working at a newspaper and ignored marketing because I assumed it was all sales. After a few eye-opening internships, particularly in the awesome marketing department at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, I quickly realized that my perception of marketing was way off.

The images associated with marketing are often that of telemarketers interrupting dinner, “junk” mail piled high in the mailbox or strong-armed salespeople competing to fill a monthly quota. While these tactics can all be facets of marketing, and effective ones if used properly, my internship experiences and post-grad career have helped me form a deeper appreciation of what marketing truly is.

Simply put, marketing is communicating a message to an audience using the appropriate medium. The definition is broad because so much falls under the umbrella of marketing. It’s not just sales, as I naively used to think. It’s building brand awareness, creating and maintaining strong customer relations, promoting an organization or individual as a go-to expert and so much more. But it all comes back to figuring out what you’re trying to say, who you’re saying it to and how best to make them listen. And of course once you’ve done all that, you have to determine if you were successful or not and evaluate your strategy accordingly.  

Last year I helped develop a public awareness campaign for the program I direct that is a great example of marketing in action. After seeing an increase in the number of investment fraud cases occurring online, our office realized more needed to be done to raise awareness about this important problem.

We first determined what our message was: investment fraud is occurring more frequently online and Hoosiers need to know how to spot scams and avoid falling victim. While our general audience is Indiana investors, for this particular campaign we narrowed it down to Indiana investors who use the internet. With past campaigns, we’ve used radio and TV spots to educate Hoosiers but it was clear the most appropriate medium in this case was online advertising. If the fraudsters were online targeting victims, we wanted to be there too with our educational message.

The final outcome was a unique, innovative marketing campaign that effectively reached Indiana investors online. Our main measure of success was the number of people clicking through to our site via our online ads. The campaign produced a 10.6 percent click-through rate, which we were really happy with.

Looking back, I don’t know that as a first-year journalism major I could have predicted I would end up utilizing my passion for writing in this way. However, I’ve loved my career so far as a marketing communication professional and can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

Have a different take? Share your thoughts below! Also, check out my take on personal branding and marketing (and my first attempt at video blogging!) here.