What Would Aaliyah Say?

First of all, let me start off by saying that if you aren’t following Busy Philipps on Instagram, you really should be. This is not going to be a piece about the wonders of Busy’s Insta…but seriously, treat yourself to following her. Homegirl is REAL and her stories are by far some of my favorite nuggets of social media glory out there.

ANYWAY, while that concluded my plea for you to do the right thing for your soul and follow her/her stories, it begins what’s really been on my mind lately. Last week, she posted a video and was talking about another video she posted the night prior of her daughters dancing to the Hamilton soundtrack. Cricket, her youngest daughter, was GOING FOR IT and dancing all out and it was ADORABLE. It was also kind of #goals because of how free she was. So Busy’s morning tear-inducing follow-up video was about just that, how free she was and how she hoped she always felt that free and joyful and that nobody makes her feel less that way.

That was such a fucking real thing. I mean, I can pinpoint the exact moment in my childhood when I became hyper self-aware and it never shifted back. I know I’m not alone. So many of us have a shift in awareness like that growing up, and I bet I’m also not alone in being able to pinpoint that moment. You know what they say… You never forget your first shaming. That’s not the phrase? Hmm. Well, it should be. Honestly your first shaming is probably something that sticks with you more. Okay, we’re going off track here. Back to the shame track…

So with Busy breaking down about her daughter potentially having this joy taken from her, I was remembering my own childhood moment of self-awareness and in turn becoming critical of myself. My mom actually induced my own personal journey. Long story very short, she publicly mocked 8 year old me as I was singing Mariah Carey’s Hero. (Yeah, like I said, long story VERY short. We’ll get back to this at a later date though. I’m working on a piece about it. Calm down.) I laughed it off at the time and acted like I didn’t care, and I almost even believed myself but I recently became aware of this self-conscious d-day when I was trying to figure out why the hell I’m always so worried someone is going to rip me apart if I try something I’m not sure I’ll be good at.

It’s so funny (read: not funny, actually really sad) that something so minute and simple at the time is something that changes your core being. I think it could be argued that we are not born to be self-conscious on this critical level. I believe that’s a learned behavior. Sometimes it’s learned through someone meaning well; sometimes not. At some point, we’ve all had a moment where we didn’t feel “normal.” What we’ve all had less moments of are people celebrating our own normals. “Normal” is not a one size fits all concept. So you love to go all out dancing in your mom’s closet to the Hamilton soundtrack? Rad. Keep it up! So you try something and you’re not great at it? JOIN THE CLUB. You don’t get an iconic Aaliyah lyric like “if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again” because we live in a world where everyone’s effortlessly good at everything!

So we acknowledge that our normal doesn’t have to be someone else’s normal, now what? For me at least, I think on a deep level, I used this hyper-self-consciousness/fear of ridicule as an excuse. I was talking about this before about my strong power to talk myself out of anything… well, this is kind of why. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of failure because of the potential ridicule that would accompany it.

When I allow myself to vulnerably care and invest myself in something, that alone opens the door for someone to ridicule it because they knew I cared. 

Yeah, I get it. This is deeply insane. Work with me, here. But in general, to embrace whatever our normal, joyful selves are would be to pinpoint what made us shift away from it to begin with and to start being conscious of when these self-critical thoughts popup in our minds. We’re carrying the baggage that another damaged individual bestowed upon us and we totally don’t have to! But that’s easier said than done. If we slip and let ourselves be critical and self-censor our authentic reactions, no big deal. Just remember those eternal words of wisdom from Aaliyah and dust yourself off and try again. Dance like no one’s watching!… Or even better yet, dance like you don’t give a single shit whether or not anyone is watching!

The Art of the Talkdown

If you ask anyone, namely my parents and reference me from age 0-17 specifically, I am a MASTER in figuring out how NOT to do something. You name it; I’ll talk my way out of doing it. Literally anything, I can nix it. Sometimes this can be a handy little trick because, let’s be real, you can’t do EVERYTHING all the time and occasionally you really should talk yourself out of doing things. But more often than not, this little trick is nightmare fuel.

Part of “The Dirty 30” here is about growth and what I want to take with me into my third decade on this planet. Weirdly enough as I was typing that, I had the strongest déjà vu so maybe this isn’t my third decade on this planet after all. ANYWAY, what I was saying is that growth is an important part of my life that I want to focus on because I think there’s been a distinct lack of it in the last year and a half of my life. In order to grow, I’m going to have to give up the talkdown.

I fancy myself a pretty self-aware human so I’m going to admit to you now that I do this mostly out of self-preservation and only mildly out of general laziness. I want to spare myself the potential failure. And one (I) might argue that you can’t fail what you don’t start. But one (I) might also argue that not starting is in and of itself a failure. I rocked the first 28 years of my life operating mostly on the former and silencing the latter when it would rear its ill-timed head into my stream of consciousness. But the time has come to address this hindrance.

I suppose the only way to do something is to do it. That feels like a Yogi Berra quote but unfortunately, it’s just my own nonsense. Seriously though, I think the only way to takedown the talkdown is to just do it, Nike style. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my dabbling in various self-help books/memoirs/blog posts from people I find to be inspiring/etc it’s that lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight. If you want an actual change to take place in your life and in your lifestyle, you need to gradually and mindfully change.

I read somewhere that it takes the brain 21 days to set a habit but I call bullshit. I researched a bit more and found that the 21-day myth, as it’s often referred to now, was taken wildly out of context. {WARNING: things are going to get a little nerdy for a second.} It all started in the 1950’s with a plastic surgeon, Dr. Maxwell Maltz. He simply noted a pattern amongst his patients where they typically became used to their new features after about 21 days. He then translated that into areas of his own life and when he saw a continued pattern, he noted in a forthcoming book that it “requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” There’s where things took a turn. If you Google it, there are TONS of results and motivational quotes talking about how you can “change your habits in just 21 days!” or instructions on how to do so in, again, 21 days. But what Dr. Maltz actually said is that it required a MINIMUM of 21 days. And this isn’t me just talking myself out of changing a habit in merely 21 days. This is SCIENCE, guys! So, work with me here.


So when I was younger, I always had this age in mind where I assumed adults had shit together…because they were “adults.” 30. When someone is 30, they have it all sussed out. They are GROWN. Well, younger self, you were a fucking idiot. I’m turning 30 next year and genuinely I haven’t a damn clue on how to function a solid 45% of the time. Maybe miraculously in the next year and month, everything will come together. I shall see the light. I shall be healed. But between you and me, I don’t see that happening. I spend a lot of time with bonafide “adults” according to the young-me scale. Let me tell you, a 60 year old has little to no better idea what in the actual fuck is going on than I do half the time…and that’s sort of alarming because they’re a DOUBLE adult. Things still scare them. They don’t feel like they’re acting their age, because in their minds, they’re still 20 or some shit. If you ask any certified adult, they’re probably going to tell you something similar. “Oh, yeah i’m 65 but I still feel 18.” SHUT UP, SUSAN. No. That’s not what I want to hear. You know why? Because that means we’re all in this uncertainty ship for the long haul. Will anyone ever figure it out? Are we all doomed to be like Bill Murray in Caddyshack where the Dalai Lama will grant us total consciousness on our death beds? DO WE HAVE TO WAIT FOR DEATH BEDS? Maybe there is power in embracing the uncertainty. That’s a thing people do, right? Sorry, I just got distracted writing this because I caught my reflection in my laptop screen and genuinely thought it was some kind of halloween decoration or something. I guess that is growing up.

I used to kind of rely on my youth as the crutch I needed to put off figuring everything out. “I’m 22. I’m young. I can wait.” Being frivolous wasn’t a big deal. It’s youth, baby! You can do whatever you want and write it off due to your age. Well, in the eternal words of Michael Scott on The Office, “my my how the turn tables.” I’m 28 now, almost 29. The bliss of youthful indifference and inactivity is gone. If someone asks you what you want to do with your life when you’re 22 and you say you don’t know, they usually will say something comforting along the lines of “you have plenty of time to figure it out! I didn’t know what I wanted to do either!” But when you’re 28, people don’t even ask what you WANT to do. They ask what you DO, as in it’s already happening. And when you reply back with some utter bullshit about being “in between” careers or “moving towards” something else, lemme tell you from experience that you don’t get the “you have plenty of time to figure it out” card. You get a alarmed look flash over their faces and then an “oh, that’s interesting” or, perhaps worse, the dreaded monotone “oh, wow.”

It’s a total privilege that I’m even able to have this conversation right now. I realize what an utter crock of shit it is that I’m even able to be 28 and “figuring it out.” A lot/most people don’t have that luxury of not figuring it out. It’s a life or death thing to figure it out. Survival. So I acknowledge that it’s really not a good look to not have it together on an adult level at age 28, almost 29. So as I seemingly rapidly approach my “Dirty 30,” I’m going to try to better myself. I want to enter my third decade on this planet with health, wealth, and happiness. I’m saying that here because if I actually put it out there then I’m accountable. If it’s published on the internet, then it has to be real, right? You can’t just put fake stuff online. So, here’s to figuring it out.