Resolutionized 2.0

Resolutionized2.0rovingstone.com_.pngA year ago, when I started this blog, I made myself a few New Year’s Resolutions. I resolved to write – and post – more regularly. I resolved to be better with money. And, last but not least, I resolved to travel more. I intended to keep the first and do my best on the final two, knowing that I would (in true Kaitlin fashion) likely let them all slide as the year wore on. Well, for those of you who follow me, you know I did sort of drop the ball here. I did my best to post with semi-regularity, but seven posts in one year is not exactly what I’d call a major accomplishment.

Here’s the thing, though. I killed it with the other two. Since July of this year, I’ve taken a trip almost every month. The silver lining to long-distance relationships, I suppose. I traveled to Denver in July (read more about that here) and had an amazing (if emotional) adventure with my boyfriend, Shane. We went to aquariums and ate Mexican food on the Fourth of July and he held me while I cried about losing my cat. Then, in August, he traveled here to visit me in Montana for my birthday. We celebrated and he met some of my family and we saw The Lion King at an inexplicable 9:00 PM showing at the movie theater. In September, I flew to North Carolina to visit him. We celebrated our six-monthiversary a little early (yes we are that gross, thank you) and went roller skating, and neither one of us fell down a single time. In October, he and I met my dad, stepmom, stepbrother and his girlfriend, and my grandparents in Utah to see a few shows at Tuacahn Amphitheater in Saint George. From there, Shane and I took a shuttle to Vegas where we spent a few days. More on that trip later (or perhaps not, it was Vegas after all). In November, I flew back to North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with Shane and his amazing family. We ate a lot of food and I fought through my overwhelming nerves to get to know his incredible parents, brother, uncle, and grandmother. Shane came back to Montana to spend Christmas with me in December, and that rounds out the year.

I’ve also been working toward the goal of having an Adult Credit Score Number™, which has involved a lot of panic attacks, pep talks, and not stopping at Target for “just one quick thing.” With some help, I’ve put in a lot of work and am finally seeing actual results. There may come a day in my life where I can actually get a mortgage. Big stuff, people. So, for the most part, I’ve actually lived up to my resolutions this year, for the first time in maybe ever. 2018 has some big shoes to fill, but I’ve got a plan to fill them.

I’m a big fan of titles. I like the power behind a strong name, and the positive visualization it allows. In 2017, The Year of Travel became a mantra of sorts, and it carried me through a year of adventure, excitement, and total happiness. So, instead of focusing on big resolutions, I’ve been trying to come up with a name for 2018. I thought about The Year of Big Moves, The Year of Change, The Year of Kindness… Nothing seemed quite right until my boyfriend suggested 2018: This One’s For Me. Cheesy? Maybe. Will I be getting a custom-made t-shirt and bumper sticker ordered immediately? You bet.

So much of what I ended up working on throughout the past year (the traveling, straightening out my finances, starting therapy, etc.) was in the pursuit of becoming the happiest version of myself – I just didn’t realize that at the time. I never set out to be a happier me in 2017. I simply started the process of learning how to make choices for myself, rather than for the benefit of everyone else. Someone very wise told me that “selfish” doesn’t have to be a bad word, and that it’s okay to make decisions in my own best interest. So, in the new year, I’m going to take what I learned in 2017 and act on it more deliberately. This one’s for me.

We Can Be Both

Words are powerful because we give them power.

I’m a college student working towards my degrees in Secondary English Education and K-12 Reading Education. Words are a big deal to me. It should come as no surprise, then, that when a professor recently asked a group of us to choose an adjective for ourselves, I was ready. I love words, and I know the ones that belong to me. I chose “spirited.” My classmates, with whom I’ve been spending time for about a month now, were given an opportunity to consider my word before offering alternates if they did not agree. Much to my surprise, one immediately raised his hand.

“No offense, but that’s the opposite of the word I would pick for you,” he began. I tried my best to reserve offense, but we all know that “no offense” usually precedes a statement that will inevitably be, well, offensive.

“You’re quiet, and respectful, and so nice,” he continued. My offense faded a bit into the background. “You clearly think of other people before you speak. That’s the opposite of spirited, that’s gentle.”

His “no offense” comment may have morphed into a compliment, but I was still a bit unsettled by his words. I went home and thought about it all night, and all morning today, and I’ve finally realized why.

He believes, based on his comments, that somebody who identifies as “spirited” cannot also be kind, quiet, considerate, or gentle. In fact, he sees gentle as the opposite of spirited. But is that the case? Are these antonyms? My inner English nerd was on the case and rushed to the dictionary.

The dictionary app on my laptop defines gentle as follows: “Mild in temperament or behavior; kind or tender: he was a gentle, sensitive man.” Okay, so far so good. Gentle is decidedly not an offensive identifier. Spirited, then, is someone who is “full of energy, enthusiasm, and determination: a spirited campaigner for women’s rights.” Again, nothing offensive about that.

I may be wrong here, but nothing about those two definitions strikes me as particularly opposing. These words may not be synonyms, but they certainly aren’t antonyms either. In fact, I find the definitions rather complementary. A person who could describe themselves as both spirited and gentle seems like someone that I would very much like to be friends with. So why does this classmate of mine find these adjectives so contrasting?

Well, I can’t tell you for sure. I can’t read his mind, or interview him on the subject, or psycho-analyze him. What I can do, however, is speculate (something that us English nerds know how to do). Our society has created the understanding that if you want to be spirited, bold, and enthusiastic (and, as a result, powerful or influential or listened to), you cannot be gentle. You cannot be kind. You cannot be tender. And if you want to be kind, tender, and gentle, you will not be thought of as spirited or enthusiastic or determined. And I’m not just pulling this out of nowhere – you can see this in the media, in books and movies, as personified by leaders and politicians, perpetuated by protesters and bloggers and alt-right website owners. According to public perception, the Venn diagram of these two words is just a couple of separate circles on a page.

I would like to, respectfully, light this understanding on fire. Because, and no offense here to the kid in my class, it is just plain wrong. According to my dictionary, the opposite of gentle is actually brutal. And the opposite of spirited? Lifeless. I do not want to live in a world where my only choices are to be gentle but lifeless, or spirited but brutal. That world is dark, divided, and unproductive. In fact, it looks a lot like the world we live in right now. But it doesn’t have to! Our world can be light, united, and productive!

I think that this misconception that gentleness cannot accompany spirit is leading to a world full of people leaning into their spirit and, because they think that they must, into brutality. If they have an opinion, they are going to beat you over the head with it until you agree with them. We all know these people. We have all been these people. We’ve all yelled at the friend with whom we disagree, or posted the joke on Facebook that slams the other side, or watched the news network that calls anyone different from them idiotic or dangerous or wrong. There is no gentleness here, but for us to move forward as a country we have to find it.

I’m not perfect, and I have been that person more times than I haven’t. I’ve embraced my brutality, and my anger, on the quest to being spirited. But if I’m being honest with myself, I have to admit that it has never worked. Not once. Nobody has ever listened to me because I yelled loud enough, or lobbed the perfect insult, or let anger take over my mind. No, the moments that I was able to reach people were moments of gentleness. The moments where I reflected and chose to embrace my kindness and my tenderness were the moments that I was able to reach out and affect others. And I did not have to sacrifice my spirit to achieve those moments. I let the emotions work together, hand in hand, to speak with kindness and compassion and enthusiasm and determination. I was both gentle and spirited. I can be both. We can be both.

I’m not going to tell you what to do. However, I am going to make a commitment to let gentleness and spiritedness coexist more regularly in my life. These words are not antonyms, so I’m going to stop treating them like they are. I’m going to stop believing that to be heard I have to be angry, and that to be gentle I have to be silent. That doesn’t mean that I won’t speak up with passion against injustice or for progress. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to change my beliefs or be silent about what matters. It just means that when I do speak, I’m going to speak with love. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”