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Ruth Carter

First Week in Invisalign

Part of my year of investing in myself includes resetting my smile with Invisalign. I have a deep overbite that needs to be corrected or else I’ll be at risk of pushing them even further out of alignment and breaking my teeth. I’ll be fixing my teeth over a 53-week period with new trays each week. I never had braces as a kid, just a head gear and a wireless retainer, so I’m grateful for all the helpful advice from friends who survived braces or Invisalign before me.

My Next Seven Weeks of Invisalign Trays

Dinosaur Teeth
The way Invisalign works is they glue little anchors to the outside of 12 of your teeth – 6 on top, 6 on the bottom – and the trays snap to them and your teeth when you put them in. When I take out my trays for meals, my teeth feel so weird with the anchors attached to them. I call them my dinosaur teeth. It’s bizarre having extra ridges in my mouth.

Best Diet Ever
The instructions say to wear the trays 22 hours a day, only removing them for meals and brushing. The only thing I can have when they’re in is cool water. I’m definitely going to stay hydrated with this adventure.

Although it’s getting easier to attach and remove my Invisalign trays from my teeth, each time I do it, it’s uncomfortable – and that’s putting it mildly. It hurts. Getting them out the first time was so challenging, I was afraid I was going to have to call my orthodontist for help. Each time I want to eat, I have to decide if what I want is worth going through the process of removing and reattaching my trays.

22 Hours a Day

As a habitual snacker, these trays are changing the way I eat, shifting from eating throughout the day to eating mostly meals. I’m also being more thoughtful about what I eat while my teeth are sore. One friend warned me that she was sore for the first month she wore Invisalign trays. My friends gave me lots of suggestions of soft foods that sustained them during teeth straightening.

Since I’m supposed to wear my trays 22 hours a day, I also have to change the way I drink coffee. I used to sip my coffee all morning, from walking my dog before sunrise until lunchtime. Now that I have to minimize the amount of time I have my trays out of my mouth, I down my two cups of coffee first thing in the morning.

No Relief
Unlike the relief of taking off my bra at the end of a long day, there’s no break from Invisalign. My teeth hurt when I pop my trays in and out and they’re sore throughout the day. I’m told the pain will decrease, but I suspect I’m going to be sore for a few days every week when I switch change to the next set of trays each week and my teeth readjust to their new position. I’ll try not to be too grumpy.

Did I mention wearing Invisalign trays is giving me touch of a lisp? I’ve always said I have an inner gay man, now I have a stereotypical voice to match. I have to be extra thoughtful about enunciating my words. They say this is temporary too.

Looking at my teeth with and without Invisalign – realigning my teeth with be worth it, and will hopefully only take 53 weeks to finish the process. Besides fixing my teeth, I think my new smile will elongate my face and give me a better chin.

Fear is Not an Excuse

The year just started, and I already have a plate filled with big projects – an online course, another book, and taking the California Bar Exam this summer. The primary guiding rule for all of my projects is “Fear is not an excuse for not making progress.”

Photo by Bob Johnson

Truth be told, the prospect of creating this online course, “Lights, Camera, Lawsuit – The Legal Side of Professional Photography,” scares the bejezus out of me. I’ve never done anything like this before. Creating the materials will be a lot of work, and will include doing my first voiceover. Each of the 22 lessons will be a slide deck with a voiceover presentation. There will be lots of opportunities to screw things up.

Despite my apprehension, I really don’t have much to worry about. I’m going to use Jason Zook’s platform, Teachery, and borrow a format that he used in a course I purchased from him. If I get stuck when it comes to the nuts and bolts of creating the course, I know he’ll be there to help. And I already have people who have expressed interest in buying the course once it’s available.

My goal is to have the course materials completed, edited, and tested by a handful of photographers before releasing it to the public by the end of March. There is much to be done between now and then, and being afraid of making mistakes or launching a dud are not excuses. In the words of the great late Carrie Fisher:

Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.

Let’s hope so. Right now, my plan is to keep moving forward, without letting fear about how others will perceive the final product paralyze me. Thanks to the Wall of Pain (aka my wall-size color-coded to-do list), it’s easy to break down this project into manageable chunks. I don’t have to worry about the final product – just whatever’s next on the to-do list.

I’m so grateful I don’t have to work on this project alone. I have an amazing group of photographer-friends who provide feedback when needed, an incredible mastermind group with skills I can call upon to help create and market this course, and a loving community of friends who support my crazy endeavors.

If you have daunting projects on your horizon, I hope you’re keeping the fear monsters at bay.

The Undeniable Recap of 2016

Wow . . . what a fucked up year 2016 has been, especially the last three months. I’m glad I do The Undeniable Recap every year to take a break from the current chaos and see that not everything in the last 366 days is terrifying and depressing. So let’s take a look at some of the highlights from 2016:

Working the Red Carpet at BlogPaws

1. BlogPaws with Rosie.  Rosie and I went to our first pet blogger conference this summer. I led a workshop on copyright and FTC rules for bloggers and we had so much fun meeting all the people and their pets. It’s been heartwarming to see Rosie bounce back from last year’s surgery and get her confidence back.

2. I Shaved my Head.  I decided to go back to my natural hair color, and instead of dealing with growing out my red hair, I just shaved it all off. That was empowering. Not having hair made me want to embody even more how strong women can be. My friends did a photo shoot right after I shaved my head and the images were so powerful.

Two of the Cool Kids on our Couch!

3. Cool Kids Couch. During law school, it seemed like one of the Cool Kids (Class of 2011, 2012, and 2013) was always sitting on the couch outside Room 116. When ASU Law announced they were moving downtown, we approached the school about sponsoring a Cool Kids Couch in the new building – and they let us! It’s up on the 6th floor, and apparently the current law students ripped the plaque off our gift to them. Hopefully they won’t do it again to the replacement plaque.

4. Flagstaff Ropes Course. I needed to get away for a few days last spring, so I booked a long weekend in Flagstaff and went to the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. It was so much fun to climb trees and traverse obstacles. It was exactly what I needed; it got me out of my head for an afternoon. I need to do more stuff like this.

5. Photo Shoots. I got to do some amazing photo shoots this year. On a chilly February morning, Peter Shankman and I got up before dawn to do sunrise photo shoot near Canyon Lake. Those images were gorgeous! In May, I did a photo shoot out at The Domes near Casa Grande where I my chest and face were painted and I wore a 25-foot diameter parachute skirt. We got some dynamic shots right at sunset and some beautiful photos after the sun went down with fire breathers in the background.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Phrase of the Year: “Lawyer Perch.”
When I speak at a conference and there is a table and chair at the front of the room for speakers, I like to plop myself down and sit cross-legged on top of the table. At WordCamp Phoenix, someone in the audience declared that this is the “lawyer perch.”  That works for me.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Firsts in 2016
Court appearance as 1st chair
Trail race (and last)
In-home flood (and second one, unfortunately)
Chest binder
Stay at an Airbnb
Interview on KJZZ (local NPR station)
Replaced the smoke detector in my condo by myself
Foods: Coconut creamer, coconut ice cream, vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, vegan “butter,” white chocolate peanut butter
Sights: The Domes, 9/11 Memorial, Vaynermedia, Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course, Telepoem Booth
Events: Women in Travel Summit, BlogPaws, Sober morning rave, Junkyard photoshoot, Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage

Celebrity Sightings
Gloria Steinem
Mark Hamill

In Memoriam
Kevin Layton
Larry Grucky
Mike Calcutti (he died in 2015, but I didn’t learn about it ‘til 2016)
Alan Rickman
David Bowie
Prince
Anton Yelchin
Gene Wilder
John Glenn
Florence Henderson
Alan Thicke
George Michael
Carrie Fisher
Debbie Reynolds
The 49 Victims of the Orlando Night Club Shooting

Learning to Value Myself

My personal theme for 2017 is Invest – investing in myself, my health, my relationships, and my business. Last week, I was challenged to put this into action a few weeks early when Castle Carter flooded.

Photo by Bob Johnson from the Junkyard Photoshoot 2016 – Love this Picture!

I suck at valuing myself. (Is anyone else in this boat?) I treat everyone else way better than myself and tell myself I can make due with less. When our air conditioner went out for a few days this summer, I sent Rosie the pirate basset hound to “camp” (the kennel) so she’d be comfortable until it was fix while I stayed home.

Earlier this month, my condo flooded. I woke up on a Saturday morning to a lake in my home courtesy of my upstairs neighbor’s water heater that exploded. The floors in my living room and office were destroyed from the water, along with some of the dry wall. It took the dry-out team about 7 hours to remove damaged flooring and walls and set me up with 12 fans and 2 de-humidifiers to dry everything else.

Living with fans and de-humidifiers running full blast 24 hours/day is like living in a wind tunnel. I could barely get any work done with the noise and the heat, and I was sweating buckets every night in my sleep. Friends offered to let Rosie and me stay with them, but I often feel uncomfortable as a guest in someone’s home. And I know my insurance would pay for a hotel, but I didn’t want the hassle of living out of a suitcase, especially with Rosie. A typical dry-out takes 3 days. We could stick it out.

At day 3, the dry-out tech said my home needed 2 extra days and suggested I get a hotel. I was sleeping for crap, not getting work done, feeling agitated from all the noise and disruption (Did I mention I had to cancel my plans to attend ShankMinds Live in New York that week?), I had plans to do a weekend hackathon of work – and I still balked at getting a hotel. In my head, it still seemed like an extreme reaction.

I forced myself act as if I was investing in my best interests. From that perspective, I deserved quality rest and an environment where I could get work done. Fighting back the excuses in my head, I found a nearby hotel that accepted dogs of all sizes, had a desk and a refrigerator in the room (Rosie’s meds need to be refrigerated), and a complementary hot breakfast. The voice in my head said it would be such a pain to pack up our lives for two days. I had Rosie and I packed in 20 minutes – including portioning out each of her meals and bringing her comforter and memory foam bed.

Airlines say put on your oxygen mask first before helping someone else. Those two days in the hotel allowed me the respite I needed from the chaos at home. I slept on a king-size bed in quiet, climate-controlled room, and someone else was in charge of making my breakfast. Between Friday night and Saturday morning, I did about 5 hours of work on the Copyright Law online course I’m teaching for ASU Law next semester. (I’d been procrastinating on that for weeks!)

Rosie and I are home again. The dry-out is complete, and we’re waiting to hear back from insurance so we can proceed with the reconstruction. So far, this experience is giving me the chance to put myself first. I felt guilty checking in to the hotel, but once I settled into the room, that feeling dissipated. I know when I need a break; I just have to be willing to let myself have it.

Christmas Part 2: Phoestivus

One of the best things about the holiday season in Phoenix is going to Phoestivus! I try to take Rosie the basset hound to it every year. Phoestivus is part farmers market/food trucks, part craft festival, and it has the standard Festivus activities (Feats of Strengths, Airing of Grievances, and the Festivus Pole).

Rosie made friends at the Ruff Life booth

I love taking Rosie to Phoestivus. It’s so much fun to watch her take in all the scents and sounds (she can’t see much with her glaucoma) and watch everyone love on her. There are usually a few vendors with the products specifically for dogs, and this year was no exception. She was enchanted by Ruff Life – a company that sells preservative-free smoked animal chews like bones, pig ears, and chicken feet. She was so tempted to jump up on the table and help herself. Thankfully, I bought her a smoked fish to have on the spot and got a pig ear and a chicken foot for later. (By the way, this is an awesome local company that will deliver their products to your door if you live in Maricopa County.)

Over at Peace Dog’s booth, I got her a bag of human-grade sausage cookies. They are shaped like little bones, the perfect size or using a treat to lure Miss Rosie in the direction I want her to move. (Bassets are stubborn.) She also sold buttons and I found one I had to buy and stick on my backpack.

We were both happy to stumble upon a peanut butter vendor: Peanut Butter Americano. They gave us both samples on popsicle sticks. It was so good – so fresh, so simple – definitely healthier than what I usually buy at the grocery store. I had to keep Rosie from plunging her face into the box of discarded sample sticks. I walked away with a jar of their white chocolate peanut butter. It’s the perfect thing to put on a pre-race bagel.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Phoestivus if we didn’t get our picture taken with Hipster Claus.

Hipster Claus!

This is my kind of holiday fun – connecting with the community, seeing friends, and getting the pirate dog out to experience something new.

In case you missed it – Christmas Part 1: Singing in Patrick’s Concert

Christmas Part 1: Patrick’s Concert

I had so much fun being in Rev. Patrick’s Christmas Concert at the Community Church of Hope last week. At the end of the show, I got one of the best compliments I’ve ever received in my singing career: “You looked so happy up there.”

Even though I don’t really celebrate Christmas, I love Christmas music. I can listen to it all year. The only person who loves it more than me is Patrick. When he asked me to be in his concert, I immediately said, “I’m in!”

Then I asked, “What am I singing?”

I’m a classically trained soprano so I figured he might want a classic Christmas ballad. He asked me to sing “Night Before Christmas” but then he also said he wanted me to sing “Welcome Christmas” from The Grinch and a new song – “Santa’s Solar Sleigh.”

Only Patrick can get away with asking me to sing such a ridiculous song. I practiced it so much I couldn’t walk my dog without running lyrics in my head.

Then Patrick said he wanted me to be dressed as Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch for the first half. I responded with “Do I get a petticoat with that?”

Singing in Patrick’s Concert 2016

Yes. Yes I did – a pink one.
(For the second half, I got to be a human and wear a simple sapphire blue velvet shift.)

The concert was so much fun. Unlike other shows I’ve done for Patrick, he had the vocalists on the stage the whole time. His piano was at center stage and the other vocalist, Joey, and I were off to the side on stools. I felt like we were the two old guys from The Muppets (without the jokes, just the occasional sideways glance at each other). When we weren’t singing, we had the best view in the house. From my vantage point, I could see Patrick’s eyes over his music, his foot on the pedal, and I could see inside the piano which is basically a reflection of his fingers. I was mesmerized when George played Ave Maria on his violin – his fingers and bow weaving a tapestry of sound. And it was all Christmas music so I knew every word, every note. I did everything but mouth the words – it was a fully body experience.

And then there was the sing-along. Patrick never rehearses this part with us in advance. They’re songs we all know so he plays and we sing with audience. I threw in the harmony whenever I felt like it. After the concert, a friend said even when everyone was singing, she could hear my voice over the crowd. (I’m not sure she knew that Joey and my microphones were on for the sing-along.)

I had as much fun experiencing others performing as I did singing in this show, and I can’t help but sway when I’m wearing a fluffy petticoat. I’m glad Patrick’s already put me on notice that he wants me in next year’s show.

My other favorite holiday tradition – Christmas Part 2: Phoestivus!

Baby It’s Cold Out-WTF?!

I love Christmas music. I’m that person who will listen to Christmas music in July just because I like it. Who says it has to be the holiday season to enjoy holiday music?

Lately, it seems like every time I turn on the all-Christmas radio station, they’re playing “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Musically speaking, this is a beautiful duet – I love the back-and-forth and the layering of the voices. But have you actually listened to the lyrics? They exemplify what’s wrong with how boys and girls are socialized – he refuses to accept when she rebuffs his advances and she’s worried about being slut shamed by her family and community. Here’s what goes through my head every time I hear it.
(M = male; F = female; B = both; my thoughts in italics)

Winter Wonderland by Kristina_Servant from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Winter Wonderland by Kristina_Servant from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

(F) I really can’t stay
(M) Baby it’s cold outside
(F) I’ve got to go away
(M) Baby it’s cold outside
Dude, she said she was leaving.
(F) This evening has been
(M) Been hoping that you’d drop in
(F) So very nice
(M) I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice
Hey! Don’t touch her without consent!

(F) My mother will start to worry
(M) Beautiful, what’s your hurry?
(F) Father will be pacing the floor
(M) Listen to the fireplace roar
(F) So really I’d better scurry
Bah! Be bold woman!
(M) Beautiful, please don’t hurry
(F) Maybe just a half a drink more
Arg! Don’t do that!
(M) Put some records on while I pour
You’re a manipulative jerk.

(F) The neighbors might think
Who gives a f*ck what they think?
(M) Baby, it’s bad out there
And why are you calling her “Baby?”
That’s so belittling the way you use it. She has a name, you know.
(F) Say, what’s in this drink?
Did you give her roofies or something?
(M) No cabs to be had out there
Get an Uber.
(F) I wish I knew how
(M) Your eyes are like starlight now
(F) To break this spell
(M) I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
Ugh you’re so creepy.

Christmas Ornament by Tobyotter from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Christmas Ornament by Tobyotter from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

(F) I ought to say no, no, no
Say it or don’t. It’s ok to enjoy intimacy.
(M) Mind if I move in closer?
Thanks for asking…finally.
(F) At least I’m gonna say that I tried
Where’s your integrity? Say what you mean, mean what you say.
(M) What’s the sense in hurting my pride?
Screw his feelings if he doesn’t respect you boundaries.
(F) I really can’t stay
Then leave!
(M) Baby don’t hold out
Eww!
(B) Ah, but it’s cold outside

(F) I’ve got to get home
Walk out the door!
(M) Oh, baby, you’ll freeze out there
(F) Say, lend me your coat
(M) It’s up to your knees out there
(F) You’ve really been grand
No he hasn’t! He’s being a dick!
(M) Thrill when you touch my hand
(F) Why don’t you see
(M) How can you do this thing to me?
It’s not all about you!

(F) There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
Who cares?
(M) Think of my lifelong sorrow
Really? Since when do your feelings trump hers?
(F) At least there will be plenty implied
(M) If you caught pneumonia and died
And died – Really??
(F) I really can’t stay
Seriously – You. Door. Go!
(M) Get over that hold out
Ew ew eww! Lady – run away from this guy!
(B) Ah, but it’s cold outside
(B) Oh, baby, it’s cold outside
(B) Oh, baby, it’s cold outside

Whenever I hear this song, I think of a lesson from security expert Gavin de Becker: A person who doesn’t hear “no” is trying to control you. Perhaps it was sweet song when it was written, reflective of the times, but I still think it’s an indication of a misogynistic culture.

I want to re-write this conversation in a way that works. I can see it going one of two ways:

(F) I should get going.
(M) What’s your hurry, Baby?
(F) I’m tired. I want to go home.
(M) It’s so cold out there.
(F) Of course it is. It’s December. I’ll be fine.
(M) One more drink . . .
(F) No. Quit being a jerk. I’m leaving.

(F) I should get going.
(M) I had fun tonight. You’re welcome to stay.
(F) Thank you. I’d like that. Let me text my family so they’ll know not to expect me until tomorrow.

Am I Non-Binary?

Earlier this year, a court in Oregon let a person legally change their gender to “non-binary.” It’s fantastic that the law acknowledges that there’s more to gender than merely male or female.

europa rainbow by  ** RCB ** from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

europa rainbow by ** RCB ** from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

As I thought about this ruling, I began to reflect on my upbringing. When I was growing up, children were classified as a “boy” or a “girl” based on their genitalia. By the time I was in preschool, I understood that boys and girls were told to use different bathrooms, play with different toys, and wear different clothes. As I got older, I learned that some people are homosexual and bisexual. I also learned that some people are transgender, meaning that they were born in the wrong body, and probably wanted a sex change; and some people are intersex, meaning they have both male and female genitalia. In all these situations, gender was represented as a binary characteristic.

I wondered, if I grew up in a culture that acknowledged gender as a spectrum, would I self-identify as non-binary. I’ve never fit in with the “girly girls” in school, and I didn’t want to be like them. In fact, I got in trouble when I was nine because I refused to talk to most of the girls in my class because I thought they were annoying. I find it delightfully ironic that I was a gymnast – a sport that is so inherently feminine and has drastic differences in men’s and women’s events. It’s also fierce as hell which is why I love it so much. I asked my teammates, who I spent years with, seeing each other at our best and our worst during our tween and teen years, to describe me. Some of their descriptors were “strong,” “powerful,” “determined,” “focused,” and “true to yourself.” I definitely wasn’t one of the balletic athletes in the gym.

Learning about this ruling made me the question my gender identity. I have no issues with being biologically female except that I think tits are overrated, and I would have an ablation in a heartbeat if it came with a guarantee. I have no desire to have a penis. If pushed to declare which pronouns I want, I can see myself choosing he/her – don’t ask me why, and, to be honest, I really don’t care what pronouns you use for me as long as you use them respectfully. As a model, I prefer poses and looks that are somewhat androgynous and portray me as strong – or at least possessing an inner strength.

I shared some of my thoughts about questioning my gender with my friends, and it was comforting to hear that I’m not the only one who doesn’t fit in a stereotypical box. Some are agender. Some have biologically male parts, no desire to change that, but feel they are more feminine in terms of their personality. The best response I got was from a friend who says she doesn’t identify as a “lady” or a “man,” but rather an engineer, an inventor, a housewife, an athlete, a seamstress, and a parent. I think she’s right in that what we do is more important than which bathroom we use or which gender box we check.

If you’re questioning your gender identity and/or gender expression, you’re not alone. We may not talk about it much, but a lot of us don’t feel like we fit into the male/female binary. You don’t have to decide on a label for yourself today and if you select a designation for yourself, you’re not stuck with it for forever. For me, for now, I’m content to classify myself as gender non-conforming and continue to be open to further self-exploration and experiences.

Proud to Rock a Safety Pin

I’m glad the Safety Pin movement is gaining popularity in the States. After Brexit, people started wearing a safety pin on their clothes as a sign that they were an ally to anyone who might feel oppressed.

Proud to be part of Team Safety Pin

Proud to be part of Team Safety Pin

With Donald Trump winning the election this week, a lot of groups have voiced fears – LGBTQ, women, Muslims, immigrants, and racial minorities among them. As a response, the Safety Pin movement has come across the pond as a way for people to let others know that they will help if you don’t feel safe.

If you don’t feel safe out in public, I would be happy to stand with you, talk with you, walk with you, go with you to the restroom, and be a voice against prejudice, discrimination, and oppression. When I went out on my errands today, I stopped by Target to pick up a package of safety pins – the big ones.

Safety Pin Selfie

Safety Pin Selfie

Anyone who has known me since college might be surprised that I’m joining Team Safety Pin. I love the cause, but I despise putting pins in my clothes . . . I mean really despise. It’s something I almost never do. I’m so adamant about it that I’ve gotten in trouble for not wearing my nametag within groups that require it. Sorry, but not putting a hole in my shirt is more important.

So has the Safety Pin Movement convinced me it’s ok to risk my garments with pinholes? Not exactly. I put safety pins on my Ignite Phoenix zippy sweatshirt and my Scottevest hoodie. Before I go back East next month, I’ll put one of my winter coat. But for my regular shirts, I picked up a set of button magnets. Yes, it works. I have a safety pin magnetically attached to my shirt as I type.

And I support this movement so much, you’d be hard-pressed to get me to take it off when I go through things like airport security. They can wand and pat me down (like they always do) and see that I’m harmless. If I leave the house wearing a safety pin, it’s not coming off. (I’m stubborn like that.)

Now What?

Grandpa Jim says you can do anything for six months. Let’s see if we can do four years.

Keep Looking Forward - Gorgeous photo by Peter Shankman

Keep Looking Forward – Gorgeous photo by Peter Shankman

This morning I woke up to see that our next President is Donald Trump – a narcissistic, misogynistic, bigoted liar who brags about sexually assaulting women is the next commander in chief. (To all my friends in the military, I’m sorry your new boss is a dick.) The worst part about this is over half the country voted for him. They wanted someone who is prejudice against women, people with disabilities, LGBT people, Latinos, Muslims, African Americans, and immigrants to be in charge.

How the fuck did this happen?

I didn’t think it was possible to feel worse than how I felt after Proposition 8 passed in California. Today I learned that I was wrong. I started today completely heartbroken. How is it possible that half the country hates me and many of the people I love? I wanted to give all my friends reassuring hugs and tell them that we’ll get through this. I also had the urge to buy a bulletproof vest and a paintball handgun because the world felt a lot less safe today.

As the initial wave of pain and fear began to subside, I had another thought: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” We’re stuck with this guy for the next four years (1,461 days). How much good can I do in that much time? What about you? If anything, these devastating results infused me with an angry energy that reminded me that I have an obligation to be the best version of myself. I’m not asking for anyone’s approval; I don’t need it. My gut feeling has never lead me astray, and I’m lucky to have amazing friends and mentors around me, to remind me that ignoring the norm is often my job. Sometimes it feels lonely, but I’m not trudging the road alone.

So now what? As the Zen saying goes, “Chop wood and carry water.” Keep doing the next right thing, always mindful that there’s much work to be done. I feel the need to learn more, do more impactful work, and go on more adventures. I won’t become fearless overnight, but I don’t want my ever-present anxiety to be an insurmountable obstacle. More than ever, I am aware that we don’t have the luxury for of waiting for someone else to create change. It must start with each of us – boldly go and be the change.

And at the end of a hard day, if you need an extra boost, check out Uplifting News or do a search for “Restore Faith in Humanity.”