Saturday, October 6, 2018

Broad Brush Strokes

I was surprised to see that I’ve written 29 essays on this blog this year. I thought it would be much smaller because I’ve been so busy writing and rewriting my latest book, Dear Warriors, which will be out later this month. Dear Warriors is a memoir and guided journal for people touched by type 1 diabetes, and I’m nervously excited to see it come to life and fly into the world.

In reviewing my essay topics, I should not have been so doubtful on my word count. Beyond my book, it’s been a busy year, and I covered quite a range of topics. From the power of music like BTS through our need for mental flexibility and on to the definition and importance of today’s feminism, I’ve had many thoughts.

I have another one brewing: there’s an extreme danger when we try to lump and simplify people in terms that separate us.

At face value, my current book may sound like an example of this human tendency to paint each other in broad strokes. It’s for people touched by type 1 diabetes. However, one of my main premises of Dear Warriors is that we are ALL fighters on life’s battlefield and that we ALL need each other. For 160 pages, I look at all the ways we can and should be with each other, whether we have type 1 diabetes or not.

I’m not saying we are or should be, all the same. Instead, we are alike in our human variety and fragility.

I worry when I hear phrases like, “All ____ people…” where the blank is filled with descriptives like white, black, European, Asian, transgender, or heterosexual and the message is an attempt to indicate that all people with the listed characteristic(s) think, believe, or act in the same way.

We’re more complicated than that. Personalities are dictated significantly by our DNA, but our life experiences and personal interests can mold the people we are today as much as our attitudes and genetic makeup.

Throughout our lives, both nature and nurture work in each of us.

I was raised Catholic but have only practiced a sense of universal spirituality for my entire adult life. People are regularly surprised by my interests in Korean pop and hip-hop and that I’m trying to learn the Korean language. I’ve walked away from situations that belittled either myself or others and know that my financial life is worse for it, but I do not regret my decisions. My Goodreads Read List includes everything from Fantasy and European lit to Buddhism and Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law. I’m not a fan of any sport because fandoms were never in my life as a child and today I fear the overall violence, greed, and industrialization of it. If I had to pick, I’d choose soccer because it’s a worldwide sport of everyday people. As a teen and college student, I loved the idea of Star Trek’s Federation and honestly believed it could happen as I watched The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. I love teaching kids cooperative games that bring them together in laughter. I think dance and yoga might be great requirements in the elementary-level gym. My clothing choices are for comfort or value and include lots of second-hand. I don't Pinterest. I’m a quiet person but I’m still in contact with my closest high school friends. Together, we span the world genetically and have been physically far apart since graduation, but I bet we could come together again today with things to share with each other. I’ve studied kung fu under a student of a student of Bruce Lee and broken cement blocks with my bare hands. I have diabetes and if I contract another health problem, I would rather not pursue treatments. I love nigori sake and tequila. Not together, of course.

I say all these things to show that just because I’m a married, white woman with two sons, living in the American Midwest, I’m probably a bit different inside than what I might seem on the outside. Because of my experience, I cannot help but look outward and believe anyone I want to pigeonhole probably isn’t exactly what I assume them to be, either.

We start somewhere. We can move through all kinds of evolutions of self if we are open to change, if we have our basic needs covered, and if we have access to people and ideas that can provide that variety.

So, for this 30th essay of 2018 in VerboStratis, I shall leave it at this thought:

The only broad strokes we should paint are the ones that speak of our universal humanity, our universal imperfection, and our universal need for one another to truly grow.

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