Long Time, No Talk

Hello, stranger! Ah, where to begin when we’ve been apart for so long? Part of me wants to fill you in on where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing (and maybe there’ll be some of that), but instead of looking back I think it makes more sense to look forward.
 
This isn’t the return of Aiming for Okay, at least not in its original form. It’s more of an arrival notice. A birth announcement of sorts for KateParrish.com.
 
One of the things I’m happiest to share here is that I’ll be leading an eight-week creative writing workshop in Nashville on Tuesday nights beginning April 11. Whether you’re new to writing, a recovering academic, a published author, or just lost and confused and don’t know which direction to move, this workshop is for you.

We’ll be generating new material each week (whether that’s towards an existing project or something entirely new is up to you), so that we never find ourselves too far away from a thought to return to. I would love to have you there.


If you’re interested in participating or would like more information, head here.
All skill levels, all genres welcome.
>> And please feel free to forward! <<

 
I’ve also added a list of publications and information on work for hire. If you’re looking for help writing a new bio, need some guidance in building out a digital content calendar, or have something else in mind, drop me a line and we’ll chat. (You can reply directly to this email or email me at KATE at AIMINGFOROKAY dot COM.)
 
So what will become of Aiming for Okay? It’s still there. I haven’t taken it away! The plan is to still post there now and again, but I don’t foresee returning to it on a weekly basis. One thing I'm continuing to learn is that there is an order to things, an overarching pace or rhythm. Taking a deep dive into my own psyche each week, hoping to make sense out of it, started to feel out of order. If there was no distance, how could there be any perspective? As a writer, sometimes the biggest challenge is to walk away from a piece or idea when not enough life has happened yet to complete it.
 
Here’re a few pieces, however, that I have completed and published since we last connected. There’s everything from shark attacks to trying to get pregnant, ancient art to voting with my mother, car accidents and speech writers, and even a little behind the scenes look into how I became a writer. It really is such a dream to hear other people’s stories—their passion and experience—and retell them to a new audience. Funny how when I listen, I’m the one that ends up feeling more understood.
 
I’d love to hear what’s going on with you. How are you? Where’ve you traveled? New babies, jobs or partners?
 
I don’t spend much time on social media these days, but I do share new stories and updates on Instagram (@parrishdontperish). Maybe I’ll see you there, too?

Talk again soon. Promise.

Shame Less

I had lunch with a close friend a few weeks ago. Outside of being women, we are about as far away from belonging to a marginalized group of individuals as we can get. We are both young, healthy, straight, white, have or are working towards advanced degrees, don’t worry about where we will sleep each night or if we will get to eat each day, and are gainfully employed in professions that fulfill us. We were born in America and raised in two-parent, middle class homes. Personal traumas and other disturbances aside, our lives have been simple with the hands we have been dealt.  And because of this, there is for me a fear that, for lack of a better term, my good fortune will blind me to the pain of marginalized individuals and groups or that, at the very least, my desire to learn more or better understand perspectives outside my own will come across as disingenuous, contrived, or pitying. I worry at times my sheer existence on this planet is unintentionally offensive, elitist, or over privileged.
 
In a recent post, I shared about a campaign I initiated here in Nashville to collect tampons and pads for homeless women and women in transitional housing. Social media has fueled the majority of the campaign. On a post I was tagged in, an individual who I do not know asserted that the campaign was not inclusive of non-binary individuals. Despite feeling like a relatively in-the-know person most days, the term “non-binary” was one I did not know. Looking it up, I learned it means any gender that is not exclusively male or female. The commenter offered no suggestion or solution for how this population of individuals might be better included in the campaign. The goal of the comment seemed only to poke holes in something that was born out of a sincere desire to help others.
 
Days later, at lunch with my friend, I described what took place and how it had made me feel, which was mostly annoyed. Not annoyed because the person was offering up the perspective of a marginalized group, but annoyed because it felt like an attempt to shame me and the efforts of the campaign while also failing to offer a solution. I told my friend I didn’t know what non-binary meant until I looked it up. I said, while we’re at it, I’m also not sure what the I in LGBTQIA stands for or how the Q should be used in relation to the other letters in the acronym.
 
As someone who tries hard to be sensitive, to be educated, to begin to understand what I don’t understand as much as possible, I felt frustrated and afraid. That old adage, No good deed goes unpunishedplayed over and over in my mind. Was the campaign close-minded, unwelcoming, or insensitive? I didn’t think so, but was I allowed to say that as a non-marginalized person?
 
As I worked through all this in conversation with my friend, a woman approached our table. She calmly, kindly, and politely said, “I overheard your conversation and wanted to tell you the I stands for Intersex.” She explained a little more and offered a few details about herself that illuminated why she was knowledgeable about the topic. The whole exchange was maybe two minutes long but profoundly impactful. With her approach—non-aggressive, non-shaming, with an intent to educate and not embarrass—she taught me something new.

That interaction could have gone in a totally different direction. She could have easily sat there with her back to us, listening to two straight women talk about not understanding terminology unfamiliar to their everyday lives (and yet having a desire to better understand it) and absolutely skewered us, recounting in real-time on Twitter or Facebook what we were saying or in real life by confronting us. Instead, she chose to teach us something. It was beautiful.
 
I think about shame a lot. I think about how it is a tool to silence people, to coerce or manipulate people, and to keep people stuck in fear. I think mostly about how it is an ineffective tool for bringing about change; it is a mechanism for short-term gains, not long-term advancement.
 
Here’s the truth: I am terrified of people on the Internet. They can be cruel, unforgiving, and brutal. People will say things online they would never say to another human being’s face. For all the good the Internet has done in bringing people together, sharing ideas, and expanding worldviews and intellectual horizons, it has also taken town square shaming to epic proportions. It seems like not a day goes by where someone isn’t eaten alive online by unrelenting and ruthless media or commenters seemingly determined to shame people into another way of thinking. I’m terrified to share this post. I’m terrified of all the ways I may have inadvertently offended someone or exposed myself as someone who doesn’t know everything about everything. I am about as human as they come I’m afraid.   
 
Shame is paralyzing. Shame is humiliating. Shame does not heal, educate, or encourage dialogue. The proliferation of shame as a tool for affecting change, especially online, worries and saddens me. What are we teaching people when we shame them? To continue to cling to false ideas, misconceptions, or in my case, a simple lack of knowledge, but now in the private recesses of their minds where they won’t be judged? What are we teaching people when we shame them but offer no alternative voice or solution, or offer that alternative voice or solution with a vitriolic delivery? What are we teaching people when we shame them after their best intentions come out sideways?
 
We don’t know what we don’t know. So what if before we launched an attack, sprayed harsh words, lobbed painful or contextually inaccurate comments, we looked for an opportunity to teach, to share, to offer up an idea in exchange for a mistake, confusion, or miscommunication? A true trade of one idea for another, an answer for a question, possibility for possibility? What if we allowed people to be human and loved them anyway? What change would be possible then?
 
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For more LGBTQIA-related definitions, visit this helpful resource.