This year, May 1st fell on a Saturday. Why should I care, you might ask? Well, you shouldn't, unless you live in Germany. Because if you didn't realize that the upcoming Saturday was May 1st and you lived in Germany, you would have ended up like me (and Dani) who didn't realize until we were standing in front of the closed doors of our local grocery store that the reason the doors weren't opening (despite the horrific dance moves we were performing to try to get the motion sensors to recognize our presence) was because the whole city was closed… because May 1st is a public holiday. And when I say public holiday, I mean everything, except the occasional falafel cart and pizza joint is fully closed. Want an apple? A fresh salad? Too bad. You can have takeout food and overpriced alcohol from a kiosk. The worst thing about this though was not that Saturday was a public holiday we forgot about. No, no. The worst part is the fact that for those of you who know how the days of the week work, Sunday comes after Saturday. You know what day of the week all German things except takeout joints and kiosks are inherently closed? You guessed it. Sunday. So, we spent the weekend spending way too much money on takeout we didn't want, and I can't even handle the thought of another falafel döner or slice of ricotta pizza.
In this, and in all things, I am a work in progress.
Three months ago, I started a job as a PR Manager at a German university. I have no formal PR training or education, and I’m working and writing in a foreign language most of the time. As a natural-born academic, being an “adult” and “contributing to society” is still pretty daunting, but I can feel myself growing more confident in my work and more aware of what I still need to learn. I'm still blown away that I've been given the title of "Manager" as if I come across as someone who can "manage" to do anything other than convert oxygen into CO2 and it won’t be my forever job, but it really is the perfect stop between academics and the kind of work I really want to be doing. In my professional life, I am a work in progress.
What feels like a million years ago (but is really only like 9), I started learning German. Before that, Spanish. Now? Working (slowly) on my French. My German is fluent, but I still learn something new every day, bc this language is ridiculous and I am a sadist for making the conscious choice to learn it. My Spanish is rusty from lack of use, but I watch my Spanish shows and listen to Spanish music and eat loooots of Spanish tortilla to keep the muscle moving when I can. French is a slow process, but Dani is a patient teacher and I’m really hoping to be able to hold an actual conversation in French sometime sooner rather than later – not about anything important, maybe just about the weather, but still. In languages, I am a work in progress.
I am in the happiest, most wonderful relationship I have ever been in. I am loved, supported, challenged to be a better person, and constantly surprised that this kind of love is real. I am learning the importance of balancing your needs with those of your partner, setting healthy boundaries, and recognizing the fact that I deserve to be happy, and to be so much of the reason someone I love is happy. I am learning how much someones' happiness can bring you joy by proxy, and how it is so much more fun to give than to receive. In relationships, I am a work in progress.
When it comes to family, I like to think I have (some) things pretty well figured out. Not everything, bc that would be a laughable thought bc families are complicated as all hell, but a lot of things. I have a family which, while fully insane and delightfully dysfunctional at times, is made up of people who love me deeply. Dad is far away but never fails to remind me how proud he is of me. I see pieces of me mirrored in the incredible womxn that are my mom and grandma, and I see my sisters growing into the world’s most amazing womxn. My mom is constantly ready to learn and grow and find new ways to show us that she loves us, and the girls are very my best friends. My grandma knows more about my life than any grandma should probably know about her granddaughter, and I’m okay with that. But there is always something I could do better. Something I could do more of, or perhaps less. Something I should try to understand better before speaking out about it or developing an opinion on it. In family matters, I am a work in progress.
As a friend, I am ridiculously lucky. I have the most incredible people in my life who have helped me become the person I am and have loved me through it all. I have been able to surround myself (mostly metaphorically or figuratively or whatever bc my people are all over the damn world) with the most incredible humans who actively make me a better person. I can only hope to bring as much joy to their lives as they do to mine. As a friend, I am a work in progress.
As a feminist, I am becoming more comfortable expressing my beliefs and more knowledgeable about the reasons behind them. I am constantly starting dialogues with people who share my perspectives, and people who don’t. I am reading books, asking questions, having new realizations, and building new thought processes on a daily basis. I recognize the importance of intersectionality in feminism and realize that we cannot allow sexism to be a taboo topic, or else it will never be forced to change. I am growing more comfortable speaking out in situations where I recognize something has been said that undermines womxn in society. I talk to the people I love about this incredibly important topic, and their open-mindedness is unbelievably encouraging. I still have a lot to learn, and a long way to go, though. As a feminist, I am a work in progress.
As a proponent of body positivity, I think it’s safe to say I have a long way to go. I am a huge proponent of the importance of loving your body, but it will probably be a while before I can say with conviction that I practice what I preach. I’ll get there. In this, I am a work in progress.
As an anti-racist person (because it is not enough to simply not be racist – truly, we need to speak out against racism and be actively anti-racist), the list of things I still need to learn is infinite. There is clear, systemic, structural racism in the United States spanning from legislature to the criminal justice system to the pay gap to unemployment rates to police brutality to barriers in education to representation in the media and executive positions in corporations, the list goes on. I learn something new every day, and it’s all I can do to try and keep up with the bullshit people of color are faced with on a daily basis. That does not mean, however, that you can act as though this new culture of awareness is a bad thing. Having to re-learn what is acceptable and unacceptable is hard, but it’s not impossible. And just because certain behaviors used to be “the norm” that doesn’t mean that they were ever even remotely acceptable. And if you found out your behavior was affecting someone, or an entire demographic, negatively, why would you want to continue with such behavior? And if a person of color tells you that what you said was racist or a microaggression or WHATEVER, do not immediately start telling them all the reasons you were not trying to be racist. Listen to them, apologize, and don’t make the comment or carry out the behavior again. It’s not about the intent behind what you said, it’s about how whatever you said is received. If I punch you and it hurts, it is not my place to tell you that it does not, in fact hurt. However, if you’re spewing racist commentary in front of me, I might punch you anyway.
The other day, I was talking to one of my oldest friends about the issue of structural racism in America. We discussed everything from a memo sent out by the Trump administration to the US military in September of 2020 regarding budget cuts in diversity training within the DoD, to the standards people (especially white people) are held to within society within the realm of racist behavior. She commented on how she was grateful to have known my family in high school, as we “set the standard” for the rest of her relationships with white people in her life. We met when we were 17. She is a beautiful black woman in a blended family. What struck me was her comment that “if your mom, who grew up in a totally different generation, and your sisters, so young at the time, can be so open-minded and willing to learn about the problems facing people of color in America, even 10 years ago, then any white person I interact with nowadays should be just as aware, if not more so.” Important to remember here is that this kind of “open-mindedness” should not be unusual. It should be the norm, but I digress. To be entirely honest, I don’t think it has anything to do with the simple fact of open-mindedness. I think what we were taught as kids, which allowed for us to be so willing to see how broken the system truly is in America, was that sometimes, you’re wrong. Sometimes, everything you thought you knew is just wrong. I think that’s what a lot of people (i.e., white people who actively benefit from white privilege) have such a hard time with - the simple fact that everything they thought they knew is based on a biased belief that life has been no less difficult for them than it has been for anyone else. I think it’s a matter of pride. And this is not easily unlearned, but it has to be. There are so many components and levels to racism (both globally and within the US) that I have yet to even encounter. I can read all the books and do all the research and speak out and donate and try to understand as much as possible, but my ability to be an ally will always have room for improvement. In this too, I am a work in progress.
I think this willing-to-learn attitude can be extended to life in general though. Being able to accept that maybe you just really don’t have it all figured out. Recognizing that maybe, just maybe, you could stand to learn a thing or two about a thing or two. In your personal life, in your personal development, in any aspect of your life really, it’s okay to have been wrong, as long as you start doing things right once you learn what the right thing to do is. Put your pride aside, and listen. That’s all we can do. And that’s what I will keep trying to do. I am a work in progress, after all.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
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