Li’l Sebastian

The thing that makes me probably the most basic is my love of adorable animals. I mean, how could you not?

And topping the list of adorable animals (besides corgis, of course) is none other than Shetland ponies, or rather, Li’l Sebastians.

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I mean

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just LOOK

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AT

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THEM

One of these photos was taken in Utah, while the other three were in Germany. Which one’s in Utah?

(Hint: less trees, more mountains)

So in honor of one of my favorite shows, celebrate this Galentine’s Day by cooing over these adorable, silent and majestic creatures.

I’m not sorry that I’m sorry

I’ve heard it over three dozen times: women apologize too much.

After listening to a podcast that re-emphasized that yes, women apologize too much, I’d like to counter that with:

I’m sorry, but so what?

Women tend to behave apologetically for the following reasons:

  • Saving face for someone else
  • Building relationships
  • Smoothing over rough bumps
  • Trying to be less in-your-face

And on paper, this sounds, well, weak. But in person? Honestly, it makes things easier.

Think about it: when was the last time someone gave you blunt, tactless feedback that made you feel warm and fuzzy inside and incited and inspired change? Or, turning it inward, when was the last time YOU gave yourself harsh feedback that really inspired change?

Self-flagellation is a concept I’m too familiar with – and honestly, that’s not what makes me do better. Telling me that the way I speak is problematic doesn’t help. This article said it best:

The research points to the idea that the disparity arises not from the fact that women are socialized to apologize “too often,” but from the fact that men are not socialized to apologize at all.

Women shouldn’t have to apologize less – everyone should apologize more.

Here’s another thing – apologizing can be utilized in deescalation. Austin and I were driving in an underground parking lot when another car almost ran into us. Austin rolled down the window, waved and called out, “Sorry!” and the driver went forward.

“Why did you say sorry?” I asked him. “It’s not your fault – that person almost hit us!”

“It disarms them,” Austin said. “They don’t get mad, and we can keep going.”

The idea of apologizing when it’s not your fault is a tough pill to swallow. After all, where is justice? That’s not fair – I didn’t make this mess, that person should clean it up.

But we don’t live in that world. It’s age-old wisdom that life isn’t fair. Sometimes it’s better to stop worrying about whose fault it is and start focusing on how to solve that problem.

And I’m not promoting the idea that people should always step aside and become welcome mats for the jerks of the world. Oh, hell no. I’ve had to learn how to get out of toxic and unsupportive environments and interactions. It’s never okay to let people walk all over you.

I’ll do my best to be as assertive in the workplace as I can, and I’ll try to discern when I’m stepping on toes versus when I’m standing up for myself. It’s a long process, and I’m definitely still growing – but I’m also going to keep trying to understand the other person and recognize that their perspective is just as valid as mine.

In short, I’ll keep apologizing. And I’m not sorry.

A tale of two hikes

Hike 1

I was with my cousin. We were about to go out for a hike. It was nothing too grueling, but it was going to be a hot day. We had just left the apartment and were on our way when I realized I had forgotten water. I asked him, “Hey, can I have some water later on?”

He looked at me and held the water bottle a little more closely to his chest. After battling within himself for a few seconds, he said in a flat voice, “Fine.”

I got the hint and went back inside and got my water bottle. I didn’t talk to him for about five minutes because I was annoyed, but eventually I got over it and we enjoyed a good, easy hike together.

Hike 2

I was with my husband. This mountain was monstrous – over 11,000 feet at the summit. We’d had a goal all summer to finally hike Lone Peak but wanted to wait until all the snow melted. We’d hiked other mountains that were of similar elevations, so we figured we’d end up okay with the food and water we’d brought.

We were severely under-prepared.

We didn’t bring enough water or food. We got started at our usual pace (i.e. fast). The trail, in essence, is divided into several different parts: the trail leading up to the trailhead, Jacob’s ladder, a rockier part of the trail (badlands), and then it becomes a boulder field where you need to scramble up, eventually scrambling up to the summit.

 

Our redeeming virtue was bringing a water filter. We reached a small creek bed and Austin began the arduous process of filling the filter and squeezing it out into our giant water jug. I sat behind him and reapplied sunscreen.

He paused in the middle of filtering and reached into the bag. I couldn’t see what he was doing, but he said, “Hey, I found another whole Clif bar! We’ll split this one.”

“Oh, great!” I said as he handed it to me. I began eating it, thinking, I could’ve sworn there was only half of a Clif bar left.

On the way back, I almost blacked out. Austin rushed to my side and gave me the rest of the water.

“Are you sure you don’t need the water?” I asked.

“You need it more than I do,” Austin said, his voice worried.

Something clicked. “You tricked me!” I said to him, smiling. “You didn’t eat anything because you wanted me to eat without feeling bad.”

Austin turned away, embarrassed. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

We made it back to the car two hours later. I was afraid we would’ve had to call Search and Rescue, or at least call for emergency supplies. But we made it.

The moral of the story is this: bring enough water for yourself as well as the people you hike with. But be generous with it too – you never know who you might help.

Apparently it’s impossible to not compare yourself but here’s what you can do instead

I’ve been told time and time again that I shouldn’t compare myself to other people’s lives, and I completely agree with it. But it’s also the hardest thing to do. I even left social media so I wouldn’t and I STILL have a problem with comparing myself.

Turns out, we humans might just be hardwired that way. Social psychologists Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer wrote a book all about it, citing studies of monkeys and moving onto humans. Check this out, my dudes:

University scientist Frans de Waal. De Waal trained capuchin monkeys to essentially use stones as a kind of currency, exchanging one for a nice cucumber slice. The monkeys were perfectly happy with this arrangement, until de Waal started giving some, but not all, of the monkeys a sweet, juicy grape instead of the cucumber.

“Upon seeing this inequity, the monkey who was offered the regular cucumber went, well, apeshit,” Galinsky and Schweitzer write. The monkeys who perceived themselves as receiving a lesser deal became visibly upset, refusing to pay for the cucumber or sometimes throwing the slice back in the experimenter’s face.

And I thought that I was petty for deleting people from social media. (Note: it is a healthy thing to do even if you feel mega-guilty about it, which is a tendency of mine, but I am also much happier for it, although it’s easier to just leave social media altogether.)

They then move onto the human example:

For a human example of this phenomenon, Galinsky and Schweitzer tell the story of a man named Scott Crabtree, who had dutifully climbed the corporate ladder at his company, steadily earning incremental raises. He was fine with this — until, that is, a just-out-of-college kid was hired and immediately began earning almost the exact same salary as him, a figure that had taken Crabtree decades to earn. The infuriating comparison made him so unhappy that he soon left the company, where he’d happily worked for many years.

So – I’m not alone in my jealousies and rivalries and schadenfreude when someone I can’t stand fails in their endeavors.

The biggest takeaway from the article is to let these jealousies and rivalries motivate you, rather than completely ruin your life. If you’re jealous of someone, figure out what they have that you want – and then go for it – within reason. We’re not killing anyone’s spouses.

The only problem – and the article points this out – is that rivalries can only motivate you so far. Sure, if you’re running a race against that jerk who somehow effortlessly excels at everything s/he does, then by all means race your heart out. But then if you end up finishing behind that person, well, you’re kind of miserable.

It’s tough balancing cooperation and competition, but the authors don’t necessarily advocate one over the other. It’s dynamic balancing act:

Galinksy and Schweitzer write that “when it comes to using social comparison to boost your own motivation, here is the key rule to keep in mind: Seek favorable comparisons if you want to feel happier, and seek unfavorable comparisons if you want to push yourself harder.” You may not be able to quit your social-comparison habit, but you can learn to make it work for you.

My personal take? Let jealousy motivate you to get out of a rut, but maybe rein in the schadenfreude. Even when it is so, so tempting.

My own friendship complex

Yesterday morning I woke up too damn early for a weekend: 5 a.m.

I decided not to fight it and try to go back to sleep, but instead turned to my phone and started scrolling through my Google feed. I found this story on Man Repeller written by Haley Nahman about why it’s so hard to make friends as an adult:

The catalyst for my spiral was a reappraisal of my social life and the re-emergence of a latent, enduring belief that mine has never measured up. It only took a few days for the idea that I didn’t have enough friends in New York to take shape in my mind and solidify into a dense gray cloud that followed me everywhere. It was a familiar feeling — friendship insecurity has troubled me most of my life — but its persistence into adulthood felt ominous. How was I still here?

Me too. How am I still here?

Maybe I romanticize childhood friendships too much, or maybe I thought friendships would get easier going into adulthood, but both expectations resulted in deep loneliness and dissatisfaction.

I think people (incorrectly) think that childhood friendships were so easy – “Hey, you like Barbies? You wanna play Barbies with me?” “Yeah! Let’s be friends!” – and when middle school and puberty hits, the mean girls and jocks emerge and destroy all that whimsy with a hearty reenactment of Lord of the Flies, but with less murder.

That’s simply not true. I have vivid memories of boys singing “Pop goes the weasel” at me until I cried. Another time during recess I was hanging out with a girl who I thought was a friend when she asked me, “Why are you following me around?”

I appreciate that Nahman doesn’t romanticize childhood friendships. She acknowledges that the early childhood structure of friendship is rather unstable, and that she has yet to meet an adult who hasn’t had some kind of complex left over from high school.

Social insecurities seem to carry a disproportionate amount of shame as a result. The fear of friendlessness is deep-seated, codified into our malleable brains at too vulnerable an age to be easily dismantled. I feel fairly certain this is true, and yet, like the human-shaped pile of contradictions that I am, I still manage to believe everyone’s fine and definitely hanging out without me.

There’s a strange, sad irony to all this: everyone’s lonely and isolated, but nobody’s talking about it. Everyone’s feeling vulnerable, but we just keep up the facade that everything is okay.

If childhood insecurities scar us into adulthood, modern media seems to only deepen those wounds. Every day on our social feeds, we watch as people publicly curate their lives, feeding a constant stream of invisible omissions which, while understandable, present a false reality. Movies and shows don’t help either, with their charming ensemble casts that meet twice a week — once for brunch, once for drinks. Who’s living like that?

Add to all that the recent focus on female friendships in the mainstream which, although wonderful for many reasons, has also given what are complex, messy relationships a sort of invincible, performative sheen. Maybe some people really do have that perfect, evergreen kind of friendship, but I would guess it’s less common than we think.

 

I’m so grateful for the focus on female friendships. It’s been a long time coming, and I have had some of the most meaningful relationships in my life come from my female friends. But the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that I feel like a failure for having less friends than fingers on one hand, and sometimes even those friendships are not without their flaws.

I’m actively working on making friends wherever I can: I get along with everyone on my team at work, I communicate with the family members who I know will reciprocate, and I hang out with the two friends that I do have.

But it’s a constant work in progress, and sometimes I break down and I cry.

Which is why this article resonated with me. So if you haven’t read it yet, I strongly recommend you do, and then go reach out to someone and keep trying to make friends with people, even when it feels impossible.