I Asked Atheists How They Find Meaning In A Purposeless Universe ~ Tom Chivers

If there’s no afterlife or reason for the universe, how do you make your life matter? Warning: The last answer may break your heart.

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed / ThinkStock

Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist and author of Faith vs Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible

“The way I find meaning is the way that most people find meaning, even religious ones, which is to get pleasure and significance from your job, from your loved ones, from your avocation, art, literature, music. People like me don’t worry about what it’s all about in a cosmic sense, because we know it isn’t about anything. It’s what we make of this transitory existence that matters.

“If you’re an atheist and an evolutionary biologist, what you think is, I’m lucky to have these 80-odd years: How can I make the most of my existence here? Being an atheist means coming to grips with reality. And the reality is twofold. We’re going to die as individuals, and the whole of humanity, unless we find a way to colonise other planets, is going to go extinct. So there’s lots of things that we have to deal with that we don’t like. We just come to grips with the reality. Life is the result of natural selection, and death is the result of natural selection. We are evolved in such a way that death is almost inevitable. So you just deal with it.

“It says in the Bible that, ‘When I was a child I played with childish things, and when I became a man I put away those childish things.’ And one of those childish things is the superstition that there’s a higher purpose. Christopher Hitchens said it’s time to move beyond the mewling childhood of our species and deal with reality as it is, and that’s what we have to do.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Susan Blackmore, psychologist:

“If I get a what’s-it-all-for sort of feeling, then I say to myself, What’s the point of it all? There isn’t any point. And somehow, for me – I know it’s not true for other people – that is really comforting. It slows me down. It reminds me that I didn’t ask to be born here, I’ll be gone, and I won’t know what’ll happen, I’ll just be gone, so get on with it. I find that comforting, to say to myself that there is no point, I live in a pointless universe. Here I am, for better or worse, get on with it.

“I was thinking about this yesterday. I was gardening, out there pulling up brambles, and I thought, Why do I do this? And the answer is, because I’m smiling, I’m enjoying it, and actually I love it. It’s because of the cycles of life. I was thinking, What’s the point of growing these beans again, because they’ll just die, and then next year I’ll do the same thing again. But isn’t that a great pleasure in life, that that’s how it is? The beans come and go, and you eat them and they die, and you do the work, and you see it come and go. Today is the due date for my first grandchild, and I think similarly about that. The cycles of birth and death. Here I am in the autumn of my life, I suppose – I’m 64 – and I’m just going through the same cycles that everyone goes through, and it gives me a sense of connection with other people. God, that sounds a bit poncey.

“The pointlessness of life is not a thing to be overcome. It’s something to be celebrated now, because that’s all there is.”

Simon Coldham, “father, husband, and son”:

“Life is a series of experiences, and the journey, rather than the end game, is what I live for. I know where it ends; that’s inevitable, so why not just make it a fun journey? I am surrounded by friends and family, and having a positive effect on them makes me happy, while giving my kids the opportunity, skills, and empathy to enjoy their lives gives me an immediate sense of purpose on a daily basis. I can’t stop the inevitable so I’ll just enjoy what life I have got, while I’ve got it. I won’t, after all, be around to regret that it was all for nothing. “

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Dr Adam Rutherford, geneticist and broadcaster:

“To assume there is meaning to the universe is to misunderstand our cosmic insignificance. It’s just self-centred and arrogant to think that there might be something that might bestow its secrets upon us if we look hard enough. The universe is indifferent to our existence. But we’re not merely slaves to our genes. 

“A meaningless universe does not mean we live our lives without purpose. I’m an atheist (inasmuch as that word means I don’t see evidence or the need for supernature), but I try to live my life replete with purpose. Be kind; learn and discover as much as you can; share that knowledge; relieve suffering when you can; have tonnes of fun. That’s why it’s not pointless. We have the power to create life, and to show those lives wonder. Surely that’s enough? It is for me.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Gia Milinovich, writer and broadcaster:

“Several years ago I worked on a film called Sunshine which was written by Alex Garland. He wrote the film as an exploration of the inevitable, eventual end. Every day Alex and I would have long, involved discussions about ‘the end of time’. One thing he said stuck with me: ‘Our problem is that, in an entirely meaningless universe, our lives are entirely meaningful.’ 

“There is meaning in the universe. My children mean something to me. My husband means something to me. The roses blooming in my garden mean something to me. So, there is meaning in the universe, but it is localised: It perhaps only exists here on Earth.

“When you start to think in universal time spans, your perception of humanity must necessarily change. Differences of opinion seem pathetic. National borders become ridiculous. The only thing that starts to be important to me is material reality and understanding how it operates and how matter itself came into being in the first place.

“Accepting that not only will I die, but so will everyone I know and everyone I don’t know – and humanity, and the universe itself – brought me a very deep and profound peace. I don’t have to run away from the fear of oblivion. I am not afraid. I celebrate reality. I don’t have to pretend that there will be some magic deus ex machina in the third act of my life which will make it all OK and give me a happy ending. It is enough that I exist, that I am here now, albeit briefly, with all of you. And it’s an amazing, astonishing, remarkable, totally mind-blowing fucking miracle.”

Robyn Vinter, journalist:

“I try not to ache my brain too much about how vast the universe is and what life’s all about. I think it’s OK not to spend time wondering what the point of human existence is. All I know is we’re here and we might as well not have a horrible time, if we can help it. I do feel that life is ultimately pointless, but I honestly don’t care. I’m just squeezing as much happiness out of it as I can, for me and the people around me.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Kat Arney, biologist and science writer:

“I was raised in the Church of England. As a teenager, I ‘found Jesus’ and joined the evangelical movement, probably because I desperately wanted to feel part of a group, and also loved playing in the church band. I finally had my reverse Damascene moment as a post-doctoral researcher, desperately unhappy with my scientific career, relationship, and pretty much everything else, and can clearly remember the sudden realisation: I had one life, and I had to make the best of it. There was no heaven or hell, no magic man in the sky, and I was the sole captain of my ship.

“It was an incredibly liberating moment, and made me realise that the true meaning of life is what I make with the people around me – my family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. People tell religious fairy stories to create meaning, but I’d rather face up to what all the evidence suggests is the scientific truth – all we really have is our own humanity. So let’s be gentle to each other and share the joy of simply being alive, here and now. Let’s give it our best shot.”

Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe, molecular biologist:

“I think there are two things about living in a godless universe that scare some people. First, there is no one watching over them, benevolently guiding their lives. Second, because there is no life after death, it all feels rather bleak. 

“Instead of scaring me, I find these two things incredibly liberating. It means that I am free to do as I want; my choices are truly mine. Furthermore, I feel determined to make the most of the years I have left on this planet, and not squander it. The life I live now is not a dress rehearsal for something greater afterwards; it empowers me to focus on the here and now. That is how I find meaning and purpose in what might seem a meaningless and purposeless existence; by concentrating on what I can do, and the differences I can make in the lives of those around me, in the short time that we have.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Dr Pete Etchells, lecturer and science writer:

“Whenever I get involved in conversations about the meaning of life, and where everything’s headed, I can’t help but feel that there’s an underlying assumption that because these are ‘big’ questions, they necessarily need big answers. There aren’t any, though. We’re not here for a universal purpose, and there is no grand plan, no matter how tempting it is to believe it. 

“But that’s absolutely fine, because it means that if there aren’t any big answers, the little ones are all the more important. So every day, I take my dog for a walk in the field near my house. Sometimes I get to see a pretty sunset, but usually it’s either bucketing down and I get soaked, or cold, or the field is full of mud and bugs and dog turds, and it’s a pain to navigate through. Whatever the situation, though, my dog has the most ridiculous fun ever, and being a part of that little moment of joy is what it’s all about. So be nice to the people and things around you – it doesn’t cost anything, and generally makes the world a nicer place to live in. Focus on the little answers.”

Alom Shaha, physics teacher and author of The Young Atheist’s Handbook:

“Yes, of course I know that life is ultimately without meaning or purpose, but the trick is not to wake up every morning and feel that way. Cognitive dissonance? Embrace it. Create a sense of meaning and purpose by doing something useful with your life (I teach), being creative – I don’t mean that in a poncey hipster way, I mean make a curry, build some bookshelves, write a poem. 

“And most importantly, find people you like and love and spend lots of time with them. I regularly have people over for dinner, throw parties for no other reason than I just want to spend time surrounded by the people I love. And if you’re really stuck, eat rice and dal. Physically filling yourself with the food you love really does fill the emptiness you may feel inside.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Richard Smyth, writer:

“It’s honestly never bothered me. I suppose that’s because my definitions of ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ are pretty thoroughly rooted in the world I know. I know what happiness is, and love, and fulfilment and all that; these things exist (intermittently) in my short earthly life, and it’s from these things I derive my ideas of what a meaningful, purposeful existence is.

“I am, like anyone, staggered when I consider my tininess in the multi-dimensional scheme of things, but – and I know this sounds a bit silly – I don’t really take it personally. Meaning has to be subjective; atheism actually makes it easier to live with this, as who is better placed than me to judge the meaningfulness of my work, or my relationship, or my piece of buttered toast?”

Tracy King, writer and producer:

“The notion of an eternal afterlife, particularly one based on a meritocracy, is for me the opposite of purpose and meaning. If I’m going to heaven or hell because of my trivial actions (depending on which religion you choose) on earth, then I don’t really have much choice about what I do, which somewhat minimises my free will and personal autonomy. I can’t find any purpose in that. Life is not a rehearsal or test for something else, and it’s anathema to ‘doing your best’ to treat it as such.

“I don’t pursue purpose or meaning or even happiness, because I suspect those things, like religion, lead to complacency. If the bath is the perfect temperature, why would you ever get out? Instead, I actively try and push myself to achieve things that contribute to society in a positive way (for my particular skillset, that’s science animation), that give me a sense of a job well done and a benchmark to improve on. Social achievements that have a small chance of outlasting me, but if not, it doesn’t matter. I won’t know about the world forgetting me, ‘cause I’ll be dead.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Dan Griliopoulos, games journalist:

“There’s no inherent meaning in life, but that doesn’t mean that it’s meaningless. First off, you’re raised, deliberately or accidentally, with an array of beliefs, values and prejudices by family, school, and society, that mesh or clash with the things you biologically like – that is, nature and nurture shape your preferences. So there’s already things that you value, more get put on you fairly quickly, and you get to spend your life exploring their precedence, their acceptability to society and its laws, and whether you really like them or not. 

“So, what I’m saying is that value is inherent to us all, which provides a grounding to meaning. I’m not saying that such a meaning is justified, but if you’re smart, lucky and/or ruthless it might be internally coherent by the time you hit adulthood, which is more than most off-the-shelf meaning systems out there (whether that’s philosophies, health systems, or religions). Meaning is a human thing – to go looking for it in the alien, unconscious universe is nonsense on stilts.”

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association:

“People ask how you can find any meaning in life when you know that one day you’ll be dead and in due course nothing of you will survive at all – not even people’s memories. This question has never made sense to me. When I’m reading a good book, or eating a good meal, or taking a scenic walk, or enjoying an evening with friends, or having sex, I don’t spend the whole time thinking, Oh no! This book won’t last forever; this food will be gone soon; my walk will stop; my evening will end! I enjoy the experiences. Although it’s stretched out over a (hopefully) much longer time, that’s the same way I think about life. We are here, we are alive. We can either choose to end that, or to embrace it and to live for as long as we can, as fully and richly as possible.

“Obviously this means that we all have different meanings in our lives, things that give us pleasure and purpose. The most meaningful experiences in my life have been relationships with people – friends and family, colleagues and classmates. I love connecting with other people and finding out more about them. I enjoy the novels and histories that I read for the same reason and I like to feel connected to the people who have gone before us. I hope that the work I do in different areas of my life will make the world a better place for people now and in the future, and I feel connected to those future people too, all as part of a bigger human story.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Stephen Knight, host of the Godless Spellchecker podcast:

“When we reject the imagined supernatural meaning from our existence, what we’re left with is far from a consolation prize. Sure, it’ll be messy at times, sometimes joyous, sometimes miserable, but it’s all we’ll ever know. And it’s ours. We invent comforting lies to distract us from one simple truth: Oblivion looms. So, what are you going to do about it? 

“I choose to live, laugh, love, travel, create, help others, and learn. And I’m going to do as much of this as I can manage, because the clock is ticking. We create our own meaning, and there’s more than enough to be had. Seize it where you can.”

Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt:

“I spent many years of my life sad about there being no divine meaning, but having learned the history of doubt and unbelief, and thought it over for the next decade and a half, that issue isn’t on the table for me, in that way, any more. What I believe now is that we think we have a meaning problem because we recently got out of a relationship with a character named God, whose given traits included being the source of human meaning. 

“Most people through history have not believed in an afterlife: We have records of the first time the ideas of an afterlife appeared in our culture and others, which means that people before lived without an afterlife. You don’t hear them calling death an abyss. The horror we have about there being no afterlife is entirely local to people from a culture that used to believe that everyone went on living after death, and these are an absurd anomaly.

“If I ask myself ‘What is life for?’ I have to answer: ‘Wrong question.’ You don’t ask how your foot knows to push the blood in your toes back up to your heart. It happens, but your foot doesn’t know how it knows to do it. Life isn’t for anything, but it does matter. We are a witness to the universe. We are the witnesses to each other. We believe each other into being. We generate things and people that matter to us and to others. Human life is such a bizarre, endlessly complex riot of emotions and processes; it is amazing to be one.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Michael Marshall of Merseyside Skeptics:

“Often people of faith assume that because atheists don’t believe in a master plan or an afterlife we have no purpose in life, but I couldn’t disagree more. I find the fact that there is no external force in charge of us all makes the life we do have much more interesting. We get to derive our meaning, and create our own purpose, and that makes it a much richer experience than playing out pre-written scripts for the amusement of an omniscient almighty. That we all just get one life to live means we don’t have the safety net of a do-over, and it makes the time that we do have more meaningful to me. 

“It also means that because there is no ‘right’ answer to life, there are far fewer wrong answers – if you’re doing something you love, and you aren’t harming other people, you’re basically on the right track. I find compassion in atheism: It makes me want to help people, because the idea that I stood by and watched someone’s one shot at life go badly in a way I could have prevented makes me enormously sad. It’s also why I reject the idea that atheism leads to a selfish mentality; it leads me to the feeling that we all have the same vanishingly short time to enjoy, so it’s incumbent on us all to try to make society work for everyone. 

“It’s true that in a century or two my existence will be forgotten, but I find it comforting to know that everything we stress over will be lost in the merest blip of cosmological time. The universe doesn’t care about my mortgage; our obscurity and irrelevance can be a blessing as well as a burden.”

Martin Dixon, photographer:

“The idea of some higher meaning to life is so ingrained in our culture that I think we approach this from the wrong angle. I don’t believe there is any great meaning or purpose to life, but rather than see this as a lack of something, why not look at what’s actually there? I find meaning in my relationships with friends; I find meaning in music, literature, art, and what they reveal of the minds, lives, and values of the people who created them. I find meaning in the ever-increasing understanding forged by scientists and philosophers. I find meaning in the actions of others, how people choose to interact with the world.

“All this sounds like I spend my time extracting meaning from things, but I mostly spend my time eating things, wandering about, doing things I need to do, and being entertained/annoyed by cats. 

“Things don’t happen for a reason. The world exists in the moment for its own sake and we just happen to be able to observe, experience, and reflect on it. What matters is how you live day to day.”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Jan Doig:

“Three years and nine months ago I would have declared myself agnostic. Then my husband died without warning at the age of 47. My life fell to pieces. This is no exaggeration. As the terrible days passed in a fog the same question kept forming. Why? Why him? Why us? I was told by well-meaning friends that it was part of God’s plan and we would simply never know what that was. Or from friends with a looser definition of religion, that the Universe had something to teach me. I had lessons to learn. 

“These thoughts caused me great fear, anger, and confusion. What sort of God, even if he had a plan for me, would separate a fine, kind, gentle man from his children? Why would God or the Universe look down and pick on our little family for special treatment? Why a good man with not a bad bone in his body who had never raised a hand to anyone? My best friend for 29 years. Any lesson the Universe had to teach me I would have learned willingly. He didn’t have to die!

“I thought about it a lot. I was raised Catholic so guilt ran through me like writing through a stick of rock. Had I been a bad wife? Was he waiting for me? There were days when, if I had been certain of a belief in an afterlife, I might have gone to join him. It was a desperate time. I needed evidence and there simply wasn’t any. I just had to have faith and believe. 

“One day as I was sitting on his memorial bench in the local park I suddenly thought, What if no one is to blame? Not God. Not me. Not the Universe. What if he’s gone and that’s all there is to it? No plan. Just dreadful circumstances. A minor disturbance in his heart led to a more serious and ultimately deadly arrhythmia, and that killed him in a matter of moments. It is a purely scientific view of it. I may seem cold or callous but I found comfort in that. I cried and cried and cried, but that made logical sense to me and brought me great peace. 

“My heart and head still miss my husband every day. I treasure everything he gave me and I love him as much today as the day he died. But I can remember him happily without wondering what we had done to deserve this dreadful separation. 

“So I declare myself atheist (and humanist by extension) and my friends shake their heads. I stay on the straight and narrow without the guiding hand of a creator or any book of instructions. 

“I’m not a religious or a spiritual person. (For some reason many of my female friends are shocked by this admission!) I don’t believe in God or the Universe. I don’t believe in angels, the power of prayer, spirits, ghosts, or an afterlife. The list goes on and on. I think there is a scientific meaning for everything, even if we don’t understand it yet. I find meaning in everyday things and I choose to carry on. 

“The sun comes up and I have a chance to be kind to anyone who crosses my path because I can. I make that choice for myself and nobody has to tell me to do it. I am right with myself. I try my best to do my best, and if I fail, I try again tomorrow. I support myself in my own journey through life. I draw my own conclusions.

“I find joy in the people I love. I love and I am loved. I find peace in the places I visit. Cry when I listen to music I love and find almost childlike joy in many things. This world is brilliant and full of fascinating things. I have to think carefully for myself. I don’t have to believe what I’m told. I must ask questions and I try and use logic and reason to answer them. I believe that every human life carries equal worth. I struggle with how difficult the world can be, but when we have free will some people will make terrible decisions. No deity forces their hand and they must live with that. 

“Life is a personal struggle. Grieving is never an easy road to travel. It’s painful and lonely at times but I use what I know to try to help when I can. I try to be loving and caring with my family and friends, and have fun. I will cry with friends in distress and hear other people’s stories and be kind because it does me good as well. I listen and I learn. It helps me to be better. Life without God is not a life without meaning. Everything, each and every interaction, is full of meaning. Everything matters.”

http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomchivers/when-i-was-a-child-i-spake-as-a-child#.egZ6Z5Yk7J

The Hug That Ruined My Son’s Birthday Party ~ The Good Men Project

Photo: Kidstock/Getty Images

By Allison B. Carter

He looked crushed, his open arms falling limply by his side. My son simply refused to hug him.

“Go hug him,” intense words (not from me) followed.

But my child was adamant; he did not want to hug his relative.

I stood firmly rooted in place watching the interaction and feeling uncomfortable. Seeing my son required to hug his relative felt wrong.

Much has been said on this topic already, especially in regards to girls, so I know I am not alone. But as a mom to boys, there is a surprising reason why this bothers me.

The popular, worn argument is that if kids are forced to engage in physical contact they don’t want, even if it is friendly and familiar, they are vulnerable to unwanted physical contact in later years. Leading, perhaps, to their rape and molestation.

CNN reporter Katia Hetter wrote in her powerful article from 2012, “Forcing children to touch people when they don’t want to leaves them vulnerable to sexual abusers, most of whom are people known to the children they abuse, according to Ursula Wagner, a mental health clinician with the FamilyWorks program at Heartland Alliance in Chicago.”

Three years later, this issue is still very much on parents’ minds. Recently Everyday Feminism posted an article I have seen many times in my Facebook feed.  Writer James St. James lists seven reasons why children should never be forced to hug anyone. All of these are striving to keep children’s boundaries and their instinctive nature to protect themselves from sexual predators intact.

While the danger is higher for girls, boys are still sexually molested at a rate of 1 in 20. This scares me. This should scare all of us.

But there is a part to this that no one is talking about, one that tickles the back of my mind in the scary sleepless nights.

I don’t want my sons to learn that it is okay to force physical touch.

Let me put it this way: while I don’t my sons to be vulnerable to sexual molestation later in their lives, I don’t want them to sexually molest anyone either.

Clearly, I couldn’t imagine this actually happening. My sons are six and three. They are sweet, innocent, and honest. But I don’t think any mother anticipates a rape allegation made against her son.

During their formative years, my family and I need to model for my sons how to patiently wait for enthusiastic consent before forcing or coercing contact.

This is hard to digest. Sex and physical touch are tough topics to teach on a good day. There are things we don’t say piled on things we can’t say. There are expectations without any written rules.

In addition to how to say “no” to unwanted sexual contact, my sons must learn to wait for enthusiastic consent before they make advances on someone else. I am not teaching them this if I force them to hug someone against their will. It seems, rather, that I am teaching them that consent doesn’t matter if the physical activity is “the right thing to do.” Or, even worse, because it is “expected.”

It may seem like a far stretch from requiring my children to hug their aunts and uncles to raising sexually forceful men.

But young men are under scrutiny. They are being pushed to new standards of responsibility before they engage in sexual activities. Universities are rushing to redefine what rape means. Women who have spent years silenced are finding the burden of proof in the he-said/she-said game slightly lighter.

These newly defined standards are good and, as a woman who attended the University of Virginia and followed the recent rape story closely, I am fully supportive of this change. Yet I think of the impact this will have on my boys.

This American Life had a powerful episode wherein boys at a college fraternity were asking blunt and open questions about what “consent” really means. Posing situations to a trained female professional, the kids were asking for concrete answers as to how this new standard translated to real life situations. They didn’t receive any clarity, though, because what could happen is endless. A man can’t predict everything; he certainly can’t predict another person’s behavior.

My boys may be on a college campus someday, possibly even in a similar fraternity session, confused by the same questions. I actually feel compassion for them. The college boys recorded seemed like good men trying to get answers on a very confusing issue, trying to find a way to ensure they didn’t cross any lines.

“Consent is consent and it should be obvious,” we say. Or we say, “Your answer is to wait for enthusiastic consent.”

But those words seem hollow if we don’t ask these same boys for their consent, enthusiastic or not, during their youth. And yes, that can be as simple as waiting for their enthusiastic consent before they hug the people that love them.

To be clear, I want my boys to hug their relatives. But I want them to do it enthusiastically. I want them to hug because it is a natural extension of their love.

My hope is that this will teach them that waiting for consent is what people who love each other do.

https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/the-hug-that-ruined-my-sons-birthday-party-125962401278.html

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Thinks It’s Bullsh*t That Young Women Have To Be ‘Likable’ ~ Alanna Vagianos

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is here to remind young women that whoever likes you or doesn’t like you should have no effect on your self worth. 

On May 19, the Nigerian author was honored at the 2015 Girls Write Now Awards, where she gave a riveting speech directed at young women — reminding them that their stories and their voices matter. “I think it’s important to tell your story truthfully and I think that’s a difficult thing to do — to be truly truthful,” Adichie told the crowd in New York City. 

She said that it’s hard for women to be truthful when telling their stories because we’re conditioned to be concerned about offending people. Adichie told the young women in the crowd to forget about being liked. “If you start off thinking about being likable you’re not going to tell your story honestly because you’re going to be so concerned with not offending and that’s going to ruin your story. Forget about likability,” she said. 

“Forget about likability”

“I think that what our society teaches young girls and I think it’s also something that’s quite difficult for even older women, self-confessed feminists to shrug off is that idea that likability is an essential part of the space that you occupy in the world,” she went on. “That you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes and make yourself likable, that you’re supposed to kind of hold back sometimes, pull back, don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy because you have to be likable. And I say that is bullshit.” And that’s what we call a crowd pleaser. 

Thank you, Chimamanda for reminding all of us (even the self-confessed feminists) that being liked should never stand in the way of telling your story. 

Watch her entire speech in the video above.

 

How to Make New Friends (and Keep the Old) as a Young Adult ~ Shana Lebowitz

If James Taylor ruled the world, all we’d have to do is call and a BFF would appear on our doorstep. In reality friendships are among the trickiest relationships out there. As hard as it may be to find romantic love, it’s arguably even more difficult to pick a new pal who we really connect with and to keep in touch with buddies from the past. But that’s no reason to resign ourselves to a lifetime of solitude, especially since having friends is tremendously important for our health and happiness.

What’s the Deal?

Twenty-somethings are among the “friendliest” people out there. Nearly everyone in this age group uses some form of social media, meaning they have the constant opportunity to share the minutia of their daily life with hundreds, or even thousands, of connections. At the same time, there’s good reason to believe American adults are getting lonelier. Surveys have found we have fewer friends than we did in the 1980s, and that all those virtual relationships aren’t nearly as satisfying as the in-the-flesh kind. Many people in their 20s and 30s complain they don’t know how to make new friends, or feel abandoned by old ones.

This trend is troubling, given that friendships are important—if not crucial—for our well-being. Some scientists argue that humans are inherently social creatures, wired to benefit from close relationships with family, romantic partners, and of course, friends. Other research suggests a network of close friends can reduce stress and promote good health and longevity. While it’s perfectly reasonable to desire some alone time (c’mon, does anyone really need to know we watched an entire season of House of Cards in one weekend?), nothing can replace the value of a close friendship.

Unfortunately making and retaining friends isn’t always easy. But it can be done. For anyone confused about how exactly to go about forging new friendships or strengthening old ones, here are some tips that are more creative and practical than the old “just put yourself out there.”

Your Action Plan: Make New Friends…

1. Do it blind.

Most of us have heard of the “blind date,” when we let a friend play matchmaker and set us up with someone we’ve never met before. If you’ve just moved to a new city, have a friend set you up on a totally platonic blind date with one of his or her friends who lives nearby. You’ll be less likely to call your friend angry if the potential match turns sour.

2. Be yourself.

When you pursue hobbies and activities you enjoy, you have a good chance of meeting people with similar interests. So check out that local lecture on modern literature and sign up for sushi-making lessons. Each event is a chance to make a whole new room full of like-minded buddies.

3. Get up close and personal.

When you’re just starting to get to know someone, foster intimacy by talking about something deeper than the sucky weather. Once you two have been talking for a while, try what researchers call the “Fast Friends” technique—basically each party gradually discloses something meaningful about him or herself. For example, each person could answer the question: “If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?”

4. Be persistent.

While not everyone has the courage to actually do it, most of us know how to pursue a crush. Send flowers to their office. Invite them to a concert featuring a band you know they love. Ask them to check “yes” or “no” under the question “will you go out with me?” (Oh wait, are we not in third grade anymore?). Apply similar (but less romantic) tactics when pursuing a potential friend. For example, send the person an email asking them to lunch or a coffee date next week, and follow up afterward to say you had a good time.

5. Set a goal.

It might sound superficial, but the next time you go to a party, tell yourself you want to leave with three new friends (or maybe even just one). That way, you’ll be more open to meeting people and starting in-depth conversations instead of just smiling at the person ahead of you in line for the bathroom.

6. Say cheese.

Seriously. We’re including smiling on this list because it’s a more powerful tactic for making connections than you might believe. For one thing, smiling takes us out of our own head and makes us think more about the image we’re projecting. Plus, people who smile (as opposed to folks with neutral faces) are perceived as more attractive, kinder, and happier, and therefore more approachable. 

7. Don’t take it personally.

We pretty much know what it means when a romantic partner tells us, “It’s not you, it’s me.” But when you invite a new pal to coffee or a movie and they turn you down, don’t freak out. Maybe they really are busy with work; maybe family relationships already take up too much time; maybe it actually isn’t you after all (and maybe you can schedule a rain check for next week).

8. Think outside the box.

It’s possible that, up until now, all your friends have been 20-something women who work in fashion. But why limit yourself to this particular crowd? You could just as easily hit it off with a 40-year-old who works in finance if you have enough in common. Be open to forming new relationships with coworkers, neighbors, and classmates, no matter who they appear to be.

But Keep the Old

They’ve seen us weep over the death of our goldfish and laugh so hard that our abs are sore the next day. But now that we’re all “professional,” it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of brand-new social circles and forget all about our old ones. The tips below will help you keep those old ties strong by being honest, forgiving, and supportive.

1. Loosen up.

So Sara forgot your last birthday and Mark never made it to your holiday party. As hurtful as their seeming lack of interest might be, try to cut your old pals some slack. Instead of assuming they’ve become mean or just don’t care about your relationship anymore, consider that they might just be overwhelmed with work or family responsibilities (and remember that you’ve probably been in the same boat at times too).

2. Speak the truth.

There’s nothing like a pal who can tell it to you straight, and a superficial relationship typically doesn’t last long. When a friend asks you a question about a new job or relationship, try to be as open as possible. You’ll build a sense of trust, and your friend will be likely to reciprocate with honesty about their own life.

3. Be virtually present.

Even though social media can’t substitute for real friendships, Facebook can actually be a great way to strengthen old ties. One study found that posting mass status updates (“Just ate breakfast! Delish”) doesn’t do much for close relationships, but posting on someone’s wall to congratulate them on admission to graduate school or the like can be really meaningful. 

4. Keep it brief.

Many of us have been in this situation: We receive an email from an old pal, then put off responding to it until we have the time and attention span to write a novel-length response (i.e. never). A better plan is to send frequent, short emails so you stay in the loop about each other’s lives and never go too long without an update.

5. Put it on paper.

By the time we come home from a long day of work and errands, we may have little energy left for a catch-up session. But if there’s already an “appointment” on the calendar, we can’t miss it. Schedule regular phone calls or Skype dates with pals who live far away—there’s a good chance you’ll be glad you didn’t skip the date!

6. Go with the flow.

When a friend experiences a big life change, such as moving to a new city, getting married, or having a baby, the relationship is bound to change as well. Instead of fretting that things will never be the way they used to (but why can’t we stay up all night drinking wine and discussing the meaning of life?), focus on what you guys have in common now. Be supportive of your friend’s new lifestyle, and remember that they are still the same person.

7. Bond with your buddy.

Say you two used to go bowling together every week, but haven’t been in touch for a year. Instead of setting up a potentially awkward coffee date to reconnect, suggest that you two hit the bowling alley like in the old days. It’ll give you a chance to rekindle your friendship while doing something you both enjoy (and removing some of the pressure to make small talk).

8. Get outta’ town.

Research suggests we value experiences over actual items, and what better experience is there than spending time with a group of best friends? When a friend moves somewhere far away, consider saving up for a little vacation to visit and hang out in their new ’hood. (Likewise, let the friend know that your couch is always available too!).

The Takeaway

Sometimes it just happens—we bond over a mutual love of Harry Potter or kittens and next thing we know we’re meeting for weekly brunches. But other times it’s harder, and we can’t help feeling like we’re the only person at the party without a wingman. Whatever the circumstance, it’s important not to get discouraged. With enough self-confidence, flexibility, and patience, it’s possible to find friends in almost any situation, and keep them for life.

http://greatist.com/happiness/how-to-make-keep-friends

What Happens When A Black Man And A White Woman Speak For Each Other~ Alanna Vagianos

BUTTON POETRY

Darius Simpson and Scout Bostley begin to speak into their individual microphones — but then they stop, switch mics and start talking again. 

In the video below from the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, the two Eastern Michigan University students perform their spoken word poem “Lost Voices”and discuss white privilege, reproductive rights, male privilege and dating while black. 

But instead of telling stories from their own lives, Bostley and Simpson tell one another’s experiences. The result is a powerful commentary on white privilege and male privilege, respectively.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpPASWlnZIA

When the two trade their respective privileges they’re allowed to say things they normally wouldn’t be able to. Bostley says things that Simpson cannot because he is black, while Simpson says things Bostley cannot because she’s a woman. Each story holds more weight with this added (normally absent) weight. 

Bostley shares Simpson’s experience as a young black man, while Simpson mouths the words. “The first day I realized I was black it was 2000,” she says. “We had just learned about blacks for the first time in second grade, at recess all the white kids chased me into the woods chanting ‘slave.’” 

Then Simpson takes over to speak for Bostley. “As a woman, having a boyfriend is a battle,” he says. “If 70 percent of us are abused in a lifetime what is the number of men doing it? The answer is not one man running faster than light to complete a mission and that is what leaves me sick.”

They each go on to tell one another’s story: 

“As a woman I’ve learned to answer to everything except my name,” Simpson says, while Bostley mouths his words. “‘Little Lady’ is not said to mean equal, but to make sure I remember my place. I battle between wanting to own my body and accepting there is a one in four chance a man will lay claim to my skin.” 

“Do you know what it feels like to be black? To pop-lock your way in and out of hugs — it is not a problem you want to sympathize,” Bostley says, speaking for Simpson. “But to tell me you know my pain is to stab yourself in the leg because you saw me get shot. We have two different wounds, and looking at yours does nothing to heal mine.” 

Finally the two switch back and speak for themselves. “I fight so my voice can be heard,” Bostley says. “I fight for the voices you silence all in the name of what is right.” Simpson continues, telling the crowd, “I am black and bold and beautiful by nature. Ain’t no income that can change that.” 

Watch the full video above to hear the rest of Bostley and Simpson’s riveting spoken word.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/22/when-a-black-man-and-a-white-woman-speak-for-each-other_n_7638530.html?cps=gravity_2682_9066646400900072294

Every Day Something Has Tried To Kill Me ~ Naomi Jackson

“Being a black child in America means confronting the fragility of your life at a young age.”

Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

My debut novel was published this summer at a moment filled with profound grief about the vulnerability of black women’s lives. This year has been marked by the distant but still painful deaths of black women I don’t know — Cynthia G. Hurd and others killed in cold blood in Charleston, South Carolina, and Sandra Bland, found dead in a jail cell in Texas. As I’ve tried to make sense of these events, the only thing that I’ve been able to hold on to is God. 

When I was a child, I didn’t understand why my grandmothers — Oriel from Barbados, Ruth from Antigua, and Lily from Jamaica — were so prayerful. Today, I understand the concept of getting prayed up, the reason why black women need anchors in a world that sometimes seems indifferent to our survival and at other times, dead set on our demise. Now, face to face with the brutal deaths of women like me and the women in my family, I look to God because there is no other place where I have been able to find peace.

Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

I knew that my book’s journey would be different than I expected when, just before its publication, my novel was mentioned in two takedowns of the unbearable whiteness of the New York Times summer reading list. At first I wondered, naively, why my writing was caught in the crossfire of these debates. And then I remembered the inescapability of my blackness, the way that race would propel me and my work into the world in ways that I couldn’t anticipate and would have to engage. While I believe that writers have no social or political obligations beyond those they choose, I know that what will be asked of me will be different than what’s asked of my peers. I write now in the tradition of writers who have lent their voices to social justice movements, including Edwidge Danticat, Junot Díaz, Roxane Gay, Binyavanga Wainaina, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, James Baldwin, and Audre Lorde. I am inspired by the youth-led movement in defense of humanity and against police brutality, embodied in the Black Lives Matter and #SayHerName campaigns.

The Sunday after the massacre in Charleston, I went to a church, the progressive Middle Collegiate, led by a black woman pastor, Reverend Jacqueline Lewis. I had been looking for a church home for some time. When I first visited I knew that this was where I needed to be — in a multiracial congregation that included artists, transgender folks, intergenerational families, and an out gay minister. That Sunday, the service broke my heart, already in pieces after digesting as much of the news as I could handle. Nine chairs were set out on the altar to represent the nine people who were killed in Charleston. And then the Sunday school children were asked to sit in these chairs in remembrance of the slain. I held my breath as I watched the children take their seats. The church fell silent; perhaps everyone was wondering, like me, if this gesture was too heavy for children. But then I remembered that, as Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in his book Between the World and Me, being a black child in America means confronting the fragility of your life at a young age.

Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

The #SayHerName campaign asks us to call the names of the women who have lost their lives to racism and state violence. Among the dead is Cynthia G. Hurd, the librarian killed while attending bible study at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. I see in Mrs. Hurd the kind of librarian who meant so much to me as a young reader and an aspiring writer; I deeply regret that I’ll never get to meet her. I am haunted by the picture of 30-year-old Shereese Francis that circulated after her death at the hands of New York City police officers in 2012. I see myself in Francis’s face — her chubby cheeks, her carefully applied makeup, her short and well-tended hair, and her modest dress, the inheritance of a daughter of conservative Jamaican parents. Each time I look at Shereese Francis’s picture, I am reminded of the unfairness that she is dead and that I am still alive. When I think about my parents’ sweet gesture of purchasing flowers at their Brooklyn church to celebrate the acquisition of my novel, I am reminded that the only flowers Francis’s parents will ever buy for their daughter will be in her memory. 

I was on book tour recently when the news of Sandra Bland’s untimely death popped up in my Twitter feed. I read the story and started crying, holding it together just long enough to share the news report with my partner at the wheel. My heart sank as I read about how Sandra Bland, just 28 years old, was found dead in a jail cell in Texas, self-asphyxiation listed as the cause of death. Her family refused this explanation for Bland’s death, confident that their child did not take her own life. She had everything to live for. She was young, gifted, and black. She had been a vocal activist in the Black Lives Matter movement that has mobilized young people in America and around the world. Reading Sandra Bland’s story, and seeing her beautiful face, I am outraged by the injustice of her death. Each time I make a stop on my tour, I am reminded that Sandra Bland never made it to her first day at work, and that she will never travel again. 

I want our dead to live, to write their own stories, to laugh and travel and love and fight. I want to live for just a moment in a country where my life and the lives of my sisters and brothers — straight and gay, transgender and cisgender, black and brown — are not imperiled at every moment, even in the homes we make for ourselves as a refuge. This summer has taught me both the limits and the necessity of my faith in these dark times.

Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

I know that writing, like prayer, helps to close the distance between ourselves and our freedom. I love Lucille Clifton’s poem “won’t you celebrate with me” where she invites readers to “come celebrate / with me that everyday / something has tried to kill me / and has failed.” Even as I celebrate the gift of my life, I do so knowing that I could just as easily be Sandra Bland or Shereese Francis or Cynthia G. Hurd. 

There’s God, and then there’s the work that people of faith and fight are called to do. I am reminded of Assata Shakur, whose words activists turn to for strength. I’ve said Shakur’s words with people of faith and fight in New York and New Mexico this year, and I leave them here now. “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

***

Naomi Jackson is author of The Star Side of Bird Hill, published by Penguin Press in June 2015. She graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Brooklyn.

To learn more about The Star Side of Bird Hillclick here.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties ~ Shannon Rosenberg

Dating and relationships can be a special type of shit show in your twenties.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

Between trying to be a real adult and figuring out what you want to do with your life, how does anyone have time to find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with?

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

The struggle is too real. So we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us what they wish they knew about dating and relationships when they were in their twenties. Here’s what they said:

Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed

1. “Assume that you can get anyone to fall for you if you want them to.”

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

“It might not be true, but you should go into every date with that assumption, instead of worrying about whether or not the guy is into you.” –kristencarol

2. “Making the first move is terrifying but it will be the most awesome terrifying thing ever.”

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

ckfreak

3. “The best pick up line in the world is ‘Hi, I’m (insert your name here).’”

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties
Columbia Pictures / Via gifsgallery.com

–Joey Hamilton, Facebook

4. Follow the “Three Month Rule.”

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

“Follow the Three Month Rule: If after three months there’s something you can’t live with then move on. People don’t change.” –Tracy Evette Paul, Facebook

5. “Don’t commit to someone who hasn’t asked you to.”

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

kgrandstrand

6. And feel free to actually say no when you want to.

 

Paramount Pictures / Via pshawscorner.com

 
 

“It’s okay to turn someone down. And it’s okay if the person you turn down gets upset, that is beyond your control. I went on so many unwanted dates because I felt bad saying no.” –MrsH810

7. Don’t feel pressured to achieve any specific milestone by any specific time.

“There is no specific timeline that you have to achieve any specific milestone. Some of your friends are going to get married and start having babies early. Others will wait a bit longer. If you’re not one of the first to achieve either or both of those milestones (if that’s what you want), it’s okay. It will happen when the time is right. It’s better to be single than stuck with the wrong person.” –Jen Stone, Facebook

8. Believe people’s actions, not their words.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties
20th Century Fox / Via imgur.com

“If he/she’s not contacting you, or playing games, or being flaky, etc., it’s pretty clear what they actually think, despite what they may have said.” –Mcfly7719

9. “Don’t drink excessively on first dates.”

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties
AMC / Via wordpress.com

lacyl3

10. Make sure you date on your own terms.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

“Write a contract with yourself to date on your own terms. Be clear about what those terms are and advocate for yourself if it’s not working.” –Sean Fitch, Facebook

11. Have no regrets.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

“Regret NOTHING!! You will learn from it all in the end.” –Justin Hilton, Facebook

12. Know that your “ideal” partner can change over time. So just do you right now.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties
Screen Gems / Via yvonneashlee.wordpress.com

“Focus on yourself, your goals, and with time, the right one will come around. After all, your 20s are the perfect time for you to explore and really find yourself. Besides, what you saw as an ‘ideal’ partner back in college may be totally different now!” –Valeria Marquez, Facebook

13. And just completely forget about dating if you’re sick of it.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

“Ugh. Just get a cat.” –Shannon Hooper, Facebook

Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed

14. First, learn to be okay by yourself.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

“Be okay with being by yourself. You’ll enjoy it so much more when you add someone meaningful to your life and even when things don’t work out, you’ll still have that joy of being with yourself.” – Danit Ehrlich, Facebook

15. And don’t feel like you need to change for anyone.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties
NBC / Via theberry.com

“Don’t change who you are for ANYONE! You can adapt and try to take an interest in things that they love, but never change the essence of you. Never lose yourself. The right person would never want you to.” –NurseTina3938

16. Just because they’re perfect, doesn’t mean they’re perfect for you.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

“They may be the perfect person, but they may not be the perfect person for you. You’ll know when it’s the right person to stick with.” –Sharon Walles, Facebook

17. “Find someone who you can laugh with and have fun with, any time and anywhere.”

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties
NBC / Via pandawhale.com

christalayne

18. Don’t stay in a dead relationship just because you’re comfortable.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

“Just because it’s comfortable, doesn’t always mean it’s right for either of you. Don’t be afraid to go after what you want, and do not be afraid to be on your own. You are far stronger than you think you are!” –Cait G.

19. Don’t try to find yourself through a relationship.

“Find yourself, then the right relationship will find YOU. A relationship will never work out when one or both people are only half done downloading.” –John Shinners, Facebook.

20. And don’t give SO much of yourself without getting anything in return.

“You need to both be in a position where you can sacrifice and compromise.” –Alice Louisa Davies, Facebook

21. Really take into consideration what your friends and family have to say.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties
Buena Vista Pictures / Via buzzfeed.com

“If all your friends and family tell you that he/she is a creep, hear them out. Especially if they tell you this repeatedly. They love you and want you to be happy.” –janetm43885b0d5

22. But don’t let them make the decisions for you.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties
New Line Cinema / Via weheartit.com

“Don’t let your parents pick out who to date. You’re not in high school anymore, you can tell your parents no.” –Sharon Walles, Facebook

23. “Know when to throw in the towel.”

“You can’t strong arm someone into their potential.” –Kate Morrone, Facebook

24. And don’t feel like you ALWAYS need to be in a relationship.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties
Warner Bros. Television / Via teen.com

“Going from one relationship to another is not healthy; have a single break!” –Claire Reading

25. Absolutely don’t let anyone mistreat you.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties
Disney / Via manrepeller.com

“Do not stand for bad behavior of any kind — cheating, shouting, lashing out at you and making you feel like shit — if any of this happens, LEAVE!” –Gabi Garb

26. Remember that there is such a thing as giving too much.

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties

“When you do that, whoever you date will grow a sense of self-entitlement rather than gratitude.” –Laurann Rilmen, Facebook

27. “Know that you’re good enough. Anyone would be lucky to have you.”

28. Don’t stay with someone because you think you can change them.

“You CANNOT change that very interesting ‘bad guy.’ Don’t be afraid to set limits. Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs. If he isn’t able to fulfill them or at least compromise, it won’t work out.” –kaa

29. Be with someone who genuinely makes you reallysuper happy.

“No one should make you cry more than they make you laugh.” –hanny12080

30. “No scrubs.”

30 Dating Tips People Wish They Knew In Their Twenties
Warner Bros. Animation / Via gifkeeper.tumblr.com

damnitness

Truth.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/shannonrosenberg/just-get-a-cat#.fvbm86eZR1

4 Sneaky Signs You’re Lonely (And What To Do About It) ~ Leigh Weingus

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Whether it’s a move to a new city or school, a breakup or a random rough patch, we all get lonely from time to time. This is pretty normal, but too much loneliness can be taxing on our mental and physical health. In fact, a recent study found that feelings of loneliness increase mortality risk by 26 percent.

That’s a pretty startling statistic, so it’s important to get your loneliness facts down and take action if you’re feeling lonely. Here’s what you should know: 

 

Feeling lonely? 

1. You binge-watch in record time.  

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Did you rip through all ten seasons of “Friends” when it hit Netflix? You might not feel lonely, but a study from the University of Texas found that people who are more lonely and depressed are more likely to binge watch. We’re not trying to take life’s simple pleasures away from you, just make sure you’re getting enough people time in. 

2. You know how you’re supposed to behave in a social situation, you just have trouble doing it. 

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Through a series of four experiments, Franklin & Marshall College professor Megan L. Knowles found that lonely people may actually have a better understanding of social skills than non-lonely people, but they choke under pressure when it comes time to apply them to real-world situations. So if you have a tough time making conversation in social situations, remind yourself that you’re probably a lot better at it than you think.

3. Being alone doesn’t feel like downtime — it feels lonely.

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Feeling lonely is a whole lot different than carving out a little “me” time. Spending time alone by choice actually has a lot of health benefits.   

A Scientific American article states:

Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life.

Loneliness, on the other hand, feels a bit different. If you’re having trouble sleeping, feeling anxious or depressed or turning to social media and TV when you’re alone, you’re probably really lonely

4. You’re a Facebook power user. 

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A University of Michigan study found that we’re more likely to use Facebook when we’re feeling lonely. Although Facebook doesn’t necessarily make us feel lonelier, watching people’s lives go by on our newsfeeds can lead to feelings of unhappiness. So instead of logging into Facebook next time you’re feeling lonely, try face-to-face interaction and/or make a phone call to someone you love.

How to fix it:

The first step is acknowledging that you’re lonely.

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Like all things, changing your loneliness starts by admitting what you’re feeling.

“After identifying it, you want to think about in what ways you’re feeling lonely or out of place,” clinical psychologist Lauren Kachorek told HerCampus of feeling lonely in college. “The person has to come to understand more about what [the loneliness] means to them and why and how they feel that way. Exploring more about it is actually the best way to make the feeling go away.”

Joining a club or group can help. 

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Whether it’s a book club or sports team, get involved in groups that revolve around your interests. That way, you’ll go into the situation knowing you have something in common with the people you’re interacting with. 

“If you join a group where the activity is meaningful for you, and you enjoy it, chances are it will bring out the best in you,” Toronto-based psychotherapist Lesli Musicar told Best Health. “And if you feel good while you’re engaged in that activity, it will help you feel more connected to the people around you because you have this one thing in common.”

But if that doesn’t sound appealing, try taking care of someone else.

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Just as acts of kindness can help with social anxiety, being kind to or caring for others can ease loneliness — even if that “other” is a pet. “Raising children, teaching, caring for animals… helps to alleviate loneliness,” Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin wrote on her blog.  

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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One big way to break the cycle of loneliness is seeking professional help. In one study on loneliness, University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo and colleagues concluded that individual therapy was probably the most effective way to change thought patterns and beliefs surrounding loneliness, like shame and low self=esteem. 

“As a first step, there is a need for increased public awareness — and awareness among healthcare providers — that loneliness is a condition that, like chronic pain, can become an affliction for almost anyone,” the study authors wrote. 

Loneliness is serious. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to make a change — so take action sooner rather than later.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sneaky-signs-youre-lonely_55aea2b0e4b0a9b94852c3ef

My Indian Parents Are Huge Fans of Cultural Appropriation, Even While My Generation Finds it Appalling ~ Nikita Redkar

I have never been a fan of yoga, yet I gave it a fighting chance, partly because I felt it was my cultural duty to do so. 

Back in India, yoga is associated less with athleticism and more with spirituality and health. My grandmother was rendered almost entirely disabled due to a serious case of Parkinson’s, yet with the help of daily, soft yoga and regular meditation, she has begun to walk again with polished joints feeling as good as new. My grandfather, through repeated practice, claims to have come to clarity with his place under the gods and in the world, and at 80 years old still possesses the limbs and lungs of a much younger man. 

My mother taught me a variety of yoga poses that, with patience, could function in lieu of medicine: stretches to alleviate menstrual pain, postures that helped with digestion, and repetitive chants to build memory and increase focus. Whether they held true or were kid-tested, mother-approved placebos to build will in us both, it was ultimately yoga. It was the collection of asanas and pranayamas that my people had crafted and curated and concocted to promote health, harmony, and spirituality. 

So you can see, when this cultural discipline turned into a billion-dollar industry featuring yoga pants and perky butts, a function for absolving the guilt-laden consumption of eating too many slices of pizza, or being an extracurricular duty of the suburban white mother, I was slightly perplexed. Which is not to say that I have never gorged on ice cream with the promise of later engaging in power stretching in a room hot enough to shame Arizona summers. I have done yoga for tranquility as much as I’ve done it for a tight tummy. Although when I attend those classes, I find yoga syncing closer with white girls with Starbucks than it does with an ancient Indian practice. It’s the women in those classes who go home and take #cultured selfies with Bindis and want to go to India to “find themselves.” And I, for one, have had it with selective cultural adoption. 

I expressed this sentiment to my parents and to my surprise, they saw nothing wrong with people of other races cherry-picking parts of Indian culture. They lauded Jillian Michaels’ yoga series, embraced Selena Gomez’s and Iggy Azalea’s respective interweaving of Indian culture with western music, and admired Kendall Jenner for adorning a bindi at Coachella. To them, it was a sign of their culture gaining mainstream acceptance. To me, it was thievery and a selfish promotion tactic.

What shift in mindset occurred in the span of one generation that placed me on a starkly different side of the spectrum from my parents? 

Iggy Azalea dons Indian clothing in an effort to differentiate her music and gain publicity.
Iggy Azalea dons Indian clothing in an effort to differentiate her music and gain publicity.

My parents emigrated from India to America in 1991, and had me two years later. I was born one culture, yet born in another one. From as long as I can remember, I have constantly been reminded of my other-ness. I was bullied so much for my school lunches that I often boycotted eating all together. Kids reduced me to my country’s worst stereotype — being eternally stinky from eating curry — and mercilessly mocked me for putting coconut oil in my hair, a typical home practice in India to maintain our thick hair. 

I remember an Indian girl in my 4th grade class who hung out with the popular girls because she had the luxury of residing right next door to our grade’s queen bee. She quietly parted from her friends and came up to me while I was crying in the library. With a deceptive cool masking the inkling of solidarity in her tone, she told me: “Don’t worry. My mom puts oil on my hair too. Just make sure you do it during the weekend and wash it off before you come to school.” Looking back at that now, I realized us first-generation kids spend our most formative years trying to fit into a culture that demands assimilation while simultaneously barring us from it. 

Fast forward to my twenties and I can see the slightest hints of cultural shame still lingering within many of my friends. My Indian friends get visibly embarrassed when their music playlist “accidentally” shuffles to Hindi music; music which they all colloquially refer to as a “guilty pleasure.” They put time and sweat into practicing traditional dance styles like bharatnatyam and raas and garba but when asked to describe their activities to non-Indians, will just call it their “dance team.” 

We have all grown to accept and love our brownness, yet the relentless battle for assimilation has left so many bruises that instinctively provoke knee-jerk responses to ensure distance from our Otherness. We spent our whole lives trying to love our parents’ culture and accepting ourselves as the curry-eating, oil-scrubbing, naturally-tanned selves we are, but we never really did. And we thought nobody else really would either — even those who share our background. 

For those of us who grew up in a Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, or Nepali household, our struggles to fit in are vastly different in magnitude, but the solidarity exists. So that’s why we are upset when someone wakes up one day and decides to exploit our turbulent identities as a disposable fashion — and by doing so be rewarded as a paragon of globalization and cultural acceptance. How dare they regard Indian fashion as effortlessly cool and chic while we make it look “fobby,” or a stubborn adherence to our culture that purports us to be “fresh off the boat.” 

How dare they have a crush when we spent our entire lives trying to love. 

Our parents, on the other hand, never came to this country for assimilation; they came here for survival. They knew from the onset they weren’t going to be accepted. They grew up embedded in a deep sense of cultural identity — one that everyone around them shared. They always knew where they are from and they owned it, even when they arrived in America. Our parents grew up in a time where white people were inherently superior, and while it was commonplace for Indians to ditch their traditional clothing for jeans and t-shirts, white people were reluctant to do the same for them. 

Years later, our parents’ generation is bursting with pride at the thought of all the customs they accepted being embraced by the mainstream — whether it’s being exoticized or not. Our parents see the western infatuation with select parts of their otherwise deeply rich culture less as self-promotion and more as an acknowledgement; it is a cross-cultural equalization they could have never dreamed of. 

My generation of Indian-Americans is not really Indian, and not really American. Our endless journey to fit into the western mainstream while trying to retain our roots left us — and continues to leave us — in an eternal purgatory of identities; Americans getting to be fully American and a little bit of Indian — whenever they please — isn’t fair. Yet I know it isn’t right to outright ban non-Indians wearing Indian clothes because the intentions are never malicious — plus I know my parents are happy to see them. 

But the beauty of culture lies in every single part of its intricate details, and hand-picking a favorite few while discarding the rest is taking for granted the best parts of that culture. At the end of the day, your bindi selfies will eventually disappear on social media’s news feeds, you’ll take your colorful sari off, and you can go back to being American whenever you want. But for my generation, we can never go home and remove our heritage, our culture, and our riddled identity struggle. 

Our parents definitely had their struggles, but they never compromised their cultural integrity. They proudly donned their saris and kurtas, brought their food in curry-stained tupperware to work without a care of what anyone else will think. They knew they were outsiders and were never trying to fit in in the first place. To them, selective adoption of Indian customs and fashion is a compliment, a recognition, and not a double standard of acceptance. And that’s why they’ll continue bask in the appreciation we deem appropriation.

http://www.xojane.com/issues/my-indian-parents-are-fans-of-cultural-appropriation

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False ~ Kirsten King & Alex Kasprak

This is Helen Fisher, the chief science adviser for Match.com and an anthropologist who specializes in ~love~.

This is Helen Fisher, the chief science adviser for Match.com and an anthropologist who specializes in ~love~.

TED

Every year, Helen Fisher, Ph.D., conducts a comprehensive study of singles’ attitudes toward dating and sex that surveys over 5,000 Americans. The people surveyed are NOT Match.com members, but are representative of the U.S. population at large. “We queried a representative sample of blacks, whites, Asians and Latinos, young and older, and gays, lesbians and straights from every part of the country and every walk of life,” she told BuzzFeed Science.

The data reveal a number of myths about dating, love, and sex. Here are some common myths about love that could use some debunking:

1. Myth: If you initially don’t find someone attractive, you will never fall in love with them.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
DreamWorks

Reality: 43% of singles have fallen in love with someone they did not initially find attractive.

2. Myth: Partners are curious about your ex early on.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
NBC

Reality: 72% of singles do not want to hear about your past relationships while on a date.

3. Myth: Singles rarely think long term on a first date.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
Fox

Reality: 51% of men and 49% of women have imagined a future together while on the first date.

4. Myth: Romantic love is always triggered by physical attraction first.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False

Reality: 54% of singles say they fell in love with someone they didn’t initially find attractive after a great conversation, or when they found they had a lot of common interests.

5. Myth: Love at first sight only exists in the movies.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
The CW

Reality: 34% of singles (41% of men, 29% of women) have experienced love at first sight, while 53% of singles believe in it (59% of men, 49% of women).

6. Myth: Intense, passionate, romantic love lasts no more than a few months.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False

Reality: 28% of singles surveyed were intensely in love with their last partner for two to five years, 9% of singles were intensely in love with their last partner for six to ten years, and 18% of singles were intensely in love with their last partner for more than 10 years.

7. Myth: To singles, getting married shows that you really love someone.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
Bravo / Via realitytvgifs.com

Reality: 53% of singles don’t want to get married because they believe that you don’t need marriage to prove you love someone.

8. Myth: Single men want more nights out with friends than women do.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
Paramount Pictures / Via tumblr.com

Reality: Single men are less likely to consider regular nights out with the guys/girls a “must-have” or “very important” (only 55% of men consider it important while 64% of women find it important).

9. Myth: Men like being single.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
NBC / Via virtualteen.org

Reality: Only 12% of single men reported that they don’t want a relationship and would prefer to stay unattached.

10. Myth: Men are turned off by a successful woman.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
USA

Reality: 87% of single men would date a woman who makes considerably more money, and 44% of single men think it’s important to date someone who has a successful career.

11. Myth: Men are uncomfortable when a woman asks them out.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
Bravo

Reality: 90% of men are comfortable if/when a woman asks them out.

12. Myth: Men feel that proposing marriage is always the man’s job.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
Touchstone Pictures

Reality: 67% of men would be comfortable if a female partner proposed to them.

13. Myth: Men don’t put in much prep time before a date.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
Universal Pictures / Via 1-800-ghost-dance.tumblr.com

Reality: 69% of single men take between 30 minutes and one hour to prepare for a date (vs. 73% of women).

14. Myth: Men don’t want to date smarter women.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
NBC

Reality: 87% of single men would date a woman who is more intellectual than themselves, and 87% would date a woman who is considerably more educated.

15. Myth: Women want to move in together with a new partner sooner than men do.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False

Reality: 11% of single men want to live together before six months of dating (vs. 4% of women).

16. Myth: Singles without children avoid dating single parents with children.

16 Myths About Love That Are Totally False
Sony Pictures

Reality: 60% of singles (64% of men, 57% of women) are willing to date a single parent who is living with children.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/kirstenking/myths-about-love-that-are-totally-false

Two Poets Just Called Out The Black Men Who Hate Black Women ~ Zeba Blay

“These black girls need to watch out, ’cause white girls is winning.” 

Thus begins the viscerally honest poem, ‘To Be Black and Woman and Alive,” performed at the  2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational finals in April.

College students Crystal Valentine and Aaliyah Jihad teamed up to recite the poem, and Button Poetry posted a video of their performance to Youtube on Sunday, July 19.

“Puerto Rican, Italian, Bajan, Thai — I know they want me to be everything I’m not,” the poets powerfully recite together at one point during the performance explaining the misogyny, colorism, and constant pressure to be more “exotic” looking that black women face. 

The poem perfectly encapsulates the reality of being a black woman, highlighting how ironic it is that while black men make black women feel undesirable, black women are also on the front lines of civil rights issues that affect black men — and rarely getting any credit for it. 

One of the last, powerful lines in the poem: “I grew up learning how to protect men who hate me…learned how to be the revolution spit-shining their spines.” 

Jihad and Valentine (who also performed the profound poem “Black Privilege” at the event), were part of a six-person team of poets representing New York University who eventually went on to win the competition.  

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/two-poets-just-called-out-the-black-men-who-hate-black-women_55acfb79e4b0caf721b325b0?

What’s The Worst Part About Being A Super Sensitive Person? ~ Anna Kopsky

Everyone feels emotions, but some of us feel them more than others. And for the most part, that’s totally OK.

What's The Worst Part About Being A Super Sensitive Person?
A&E

But if you’re a super sensitive person, sometimes it can be a real pain in the ass.

What's The Worst Part About Being A Super Sensitive Person?
Paramount Pictures

For example, you constantly feel like everyone is annoyed by something you’ve said. But chances are, they were barely affected by it.

What's The Worst Part About Being A Super Sensitive Person?
OWN

And you’re always worried about someone’s reaction before you’ve even opened your mouth. It’s a sensory overload, tbh.

What's The Worst Part About Being A Super Sensitive Person?
The Pokèmon Company

Worst of all, you take everything personally, and the slightest criticism will bother you for weeks.

What's The Worst Part About Being A Super Sensitive Person?
Roc Nation / Def Jam

So, share your grief: What’s the hardest part about being a super sensitive person?

What's The Worst Part About Being A Super Sensitive Person?

16 Snacks That Can Take A Hike ~ Catherine O’Donnell

Being hungry is the worst.

Being hungry is the worst.

James Ransom/Food52 / Via food52.com

Being hungry while on the top of a mountain, isolated somewhere in the woods, or at a swimming hole quite literally off the beaten path? That’s the worst of the worst. Whether it’s savory granola you eat by the handful, cold grilled cheese (it’s awesome, trust us), or classic trail mix, here are 16 portable snack ideas for your next outdoor adventure.

1. Double Corn, Quinoa & Cheddar Muffins

Double Corn, Quinoa & Cheddar Muffins

James Ransom/Food52 / Via food52.com

This muffin is what your body is craving. Right now. Get the recipe.

2. Gabrielle Hamilton’s Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Gabrielle Hamilton's Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Mark Weinberg/Food52 / Via food52.com

Just because it’s a sandwich doesn’t mean it can’t be a snack. Get the recipe.

3. What I Do For Love Bran Muffins

What I Do For Love Bran Muffins

James Ransom/Food52 / Via food52.com

Want love? Make these bran muffins. 100% satisfaction guaranteed. Get the recipe.

4. Banana, Coconut, Chocolate Chip Snack Cake

Banana, Coconut, Chocolate Chip Snack Cake

James Ransom/Food52 / Via food52.com

Are overripe bananas calling? This is the recipe for them. Get the recipe.

5. Wasabi Pea Snack Mix

Wasabi Pea Snack Mix

Mark Weinberg/Food52 / Via food52.com

This snack mix is for when you’ve realized that eating an entire store-bought container of wasabi peas every three days is not the best idea. Get the recipe.

6. Corn Muffins

Corn Muffins

James Ransom/Food52 / Via food52.com

Sometimes #basic is the best. Get the recipe.

7. Trail Mix

Trail Mix

James Ransom/Food52 / Via food52.com

This is hardly a recipe so no excuses. Get the “recipe.”

8. Sriracha Cocoa Cashews

Sriracha Cocoa Cashews

James Ransom/Food52 / Via food52.com

We like it hot! Add Sriracha to get on our level. Get the recipe.

9. Hermits in the Backseat

Hermits in the Backseat

James Ransom/Food52 / Via food52.com

Old New England did something right with these gingery molasses cookies. Get the recipe.

10. Sweet and Spicy Pretzel and Nut Mix

Sweet and Spicy Pretzel and Nut Mix

Mark Weinberg/Food52 / Via food52.com

Grown-up Chex Mix. Get the recipe.

11. Walnut-Rosemary Savory Granola

Walnut-Rosemary Savory Granola

Mark Weinberg/Food52 / Via food52.com

Savory granola is the new granola. You heard it here first. Get the recipe.

12. Bulgogi Jerky

Bulgogi Jerky

James Ransom/Food52 / Via food52.com

A sweet, salty, and spicy jerky that’s better than anything you’ll find at a roadside rest stop. Get the recipe.

13. Apricot, Date, and Cashew Snack Balls

Apricot, Date, and Cashew Snack Balls

Alpha Smoot/Food52 / Via food52.com

The perfect anytime, anywhere snack. Get the recipe.

14. Toasty Roasted Chickpeas, Cajun Style

Toasty Roasted Chickpeas, Cajun Style

James Ransom/Food52 / Via food52.com

If you’re vying for something crunchy, this is it. Get the recipe.

15. Almond Butter, Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cookies

Almond Butter, Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cookies

James Ransom/Food52 / Via food52.com

Dark chocolate, coconut, and almond. Does this “healthy” snack mean I can eat a dozen? Get the recipe.

16. Blueberry, Oatmeal and Flaxseed Muffins

Blueberry, Oatmeal and Flaxseed Muffins

Mark Weinberg/Food52 / Via food52.com

These wholesome muffins are a delicious upgrade on the classic. Get the recipe.

Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm contributed to this post. For more, visit Food52.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/caodonnell/snacks-that-can-take-a-hike#.veG4NJOVdp

The Speech On Feminism Everyone Should Hear

In her usual style, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie just dropped some awesome feminist knowledge. 

In a speech given at Wellesley College’s Commencement ceremony on May 29, the award-winning author discussed feminism, male privilege and daring to speak your mind.

Adichie said that she understood from a young age that the world did not cater to women they way it does men. She knew “that men were not inherently bad or evil. They were merely privileged. And I knew that privilege blinds because it is the nature of privilege to blind.”

She told the crowd of recent graduates that they too now hold a certain privilege after graduating from the prestigious women’s college. “No matter what your background. That degree, and the experience of being here, is a privilege,” she said. “Don’t let it blind you too often. Sometimes you will need to push it aside in order to see clearly.”

The 37-year-old went on to give life advice to inspire minds and motivate action, telling the audience: “I urge you to try and create the world you want to live in… Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get-your-hands-dirty way.

feminism

She continued, listing a number of ways in which the recent grads can take the real world by storm: 

“Write television shows in which female strength is not depicted as remarkable but merely normal. Teach your students to see that vulnerability is a humanrather than a female trait.

Commission magazine articles that teach men how to keep a woman happy. Because there are already too many articles that tell women how to keep a man happy.” 

Campaign and agitate for paid paternity leave everywhere in America.

Hire more women where there are few. But remember that a woman you hire doesn’t have to be exceptionally good. Like a majority of the men who get hired, she just needs to be good enough.”

Adichie reminded the audience that feminism really is for everybody. “Feminism should be an inclusive party. Feminism should be a party full of different feminisms,” she said, adding, “And so, class of 2015, please go out there and make feminism a big, raucous, inclusive party.”

She concluded the address on a beautiful and poignant note, telling the young women that the most important thing in the world is love — but remembering to give love andtake love is key. “Now girls are often raised to see love only as giving. Women are praised for their love when that love is an act of giving. But to love is to give and to take,” she said. “Please love by giving and by taking. Give and be given. If you are only giving and not taking, you’ll know. You’ll know from that small and true voice inside you that we females are so often socialized to silence.”

Adichie finished her speech, telling the crowd: “Don’t silence that voice. Dare to take.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/24/speech-feminism-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie_n_7653588.html?utm_hp_ref=community-pioneer

The 11 Realest Solange Knowles Quotes ~ Zeba Blay

What’s not to love about Solange Knowles? She’s a talented tastemaker, has phenomenal style, and makes amazing music. Once compared to her equally fly sister Beyonce, Knowles has carved out a niche for herself as a quirky carefree black girl who is more than comfortable to take chances and say what’s on her mind.

It’s Solange’s outspoken nature that’s perhaps the most compelling thing about her. Beyonce sings in her song “Flawless,” “My sister taught me how to speak my mind,”and it’s pretty easy to believe that — from speaking out against police brutality to clapping back when critics slam her style, Solange has never shied away from saying what she wants to say and always keeping it realer than real.

In celebration of her 28th birthday, below are some of Solange’s realest quotes from the last several years. 

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/24/the-11-realest-solange-quotes_n_7647874.html?utm_hp_ref=community-pioneer

Serena Williams: ‘I Had To Come To Terms With Loving Myself’ ~ Sasha Bronner

SERENA WILLIAMS
Serena Williams is the best tennis player in the game. She won the French Open earlier this month, which brings her to 20 Grand Slam titles — a truly incredible accomplishment. The only number she is chasing now is 22 Grand Slams, a record held by retired great, Steffi Graf in the Open era.

But having superhero-like athleticism from a young age didn’t shield her from experiencing her fair share of body issues. She grew up comparing her body to her older sister Venus.

“It wasn’t very easy — growing up,” Williams told The Huffington Post in an interview. “Venus was like a model. I was thicker.”

The sisters are just over a year apart and Serena said she always felt different on the court because of her body. 

“Most women athletes are pretty thin. I didn’t really know how to deal with it. I had to come to terms — as every teen and young adult does — with loving myself. I had to find different role models. But my body type is in style now, so I’m loving it!”

Her relationship with her body has been tested in other ways, too. Any professional athlete will say that injuries are part of the game, but the Williams sisters are known for keeping a tight lip about their ailments.

In 2010, after Serena was seen walking around with a boot on her foot, Venus said: “Traditionally we don’t say much about injuries — we don’t need anybody to feel sorry for us about it.” Serena didn’t talk about the cause of the injury for months, and later said she stepped on glass.

But now, five years later, Serena revealed that it was by far her worst and scariest injury. “I sliced my foot. I don’t know how. Something fell on top of it and sliced my tendon in half. I had to get two surgeries on it. In the process, I got a blood clot in my lungs and almost died. It was really a tough time for me,” she said.

Coming back from an injury like that is not easy. Williams compared it to a broken heart. 

“You worry about it. You worry every second about it. It’s like a heartbreak — the first couple of months, it’s really painful and then eventually it goes away,” she said. “But every day I got a little bit stronger, every day I worked harder and eventually I didn’t even remember it anymore.” 

Her recovery ushered in a deeper connection and appreciation of her body. “It gave me a new perspective on my life. I realized there are so many things that are so important. I don’t know if I needed that — but I feel like maybe I did. And because of it, I’m able to have a better career and appreciate my wins more.”

serena williams

Perspective is something that comes with age. But it also comes with experience. 

In 2001, the Williams sisters played in the prestigious Indian Wells tournament. It was an awful experience. Racial slurs were heard coming from the stands; boos boomeranged around the court. Serena was 19 years old. 

After boycotting the tournament for the last 14 years, Williams returned this past March. She first announced her plans to compete in the tournament in an eloquent TIME magazine essay.

“It has been difficult for me to forget spending hours crying in the Indian Wells locker room after winning in 2001,” she wrote. “Driving back to Los Angeles feeling as if I had lost the biggest game ever — not a mere tennis game but a bigger fight for equality.” 

Through the years, Williams has thought of Indian Wells as unfinished business. It holds a special place in her heart because she won her first pro match there in 1997, but the 2001 debacle was one of the lowest points of her career.

“It was the right time,” Williams told HuffPost of her decision to go back this year. “I was doing really well in my career and I felt like I had accomplished a lot. I started winning more and reaching certain numbers. I asked myself, ‘what do I want to do? What’s missing?’”

serena williams

She says Indian Wells was a chapter that she wanted to close — regardless of if the outcome was positive or negative. “There was something there that I wanted to face; that I wanted to overcome,” she said. “There are a lot of things that we as Americans are going through, especially right now. I just feel like it’s time to stand up. It wasn’t just for me, it was for everyone.”

Despite Williams injuring her knee and having to withdraw from the semifinal roundat the Indian Wells tournament, she said that the experience felt entirely different from the nightmare of 2001. “The sport has changed. I feel like people have changed,” she said.

“I was at a gas station at Indian Wells and a parent came up to me and said, ‘my kid loves you.’ His kid was 11-years-old. I thought it was great. This is a little person who has a life and goes to school and has friends and he’s a fan. I have missed 14 years of coming out here. That’s when I knew I had made the right decision.”

Williams says she was raised learning love and forgiveness from her mother. In her TIME essay, she included a quote from the Bible. “When you stand praying, forgive whatever you have against anyone, so that your Father who is in the heavens may also forgive you” (Mark 11:25). 

She prays and reads the Bible at times. “Not often enough,” she said. “I definitely pray and then try to build a relationship with God and go from there.”

Her relationship to God is a part of her game as much as it is a part of her life. 

“Physically you need to be great, emotionally you need to be stable and I need to have a good connection with my spirituality. When I have those three things together, I feel good and do well,” she said.

Williams is taking these lessons global with MasterClass — an online platform for students of all levels to learn from the greats. Williams teaches a tennis lesson, Usher teaches performance, Dustin Hoffman teaches acting and Annie Leibovitz teaches the art of photography.

“What I like about my lessons is they aren’t only about tennis. They are about life,” Williams said. “You can be down in life, but you can overcome things based on the way you think and how you set your frame of mind.”

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this post stated that Steffi Graf holds the most Grand Slam titles of any women’s tennis player. She holds the most titles in the post-1968 Open Era. Margaret Court holds the most overall.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/18/serena-williams-body-image_n_7599214.html