Picture it: Hollywood, California. The year was 2009, peak recession. I was fresh out of college and a year long internship with BBC Worldwide, in my very first industry job. I was a Production Assistant at Dancing with the Stars, and I was having the time of my life.
5? 6? days a week, I’d schlep myself from Orange County across the 405-to-the-605-to-the-5-to-the-101 to the CBS lot behind The Grove, an hour and a half each way, for a glorious 12-hour shift of re-stocking crafty, making host Tom Bergeron tea (two teabags of Twining Earl Grey with a generous amount of honey, cooled down to drinking temp) right before he recorded voiceover, posting up and ready-for-duty at various spots on set, delivering costumes to contestants homes, researching and buying props for the shows from sometimes creepy warehouses with date-rape-vibe-employees, ordering producer lunches from the Farmer’s Market next door, and coordinating rehearsal checkin’s and filming and spray tans at the dance studio. I was in the belly of the beast that is television production, assisting and observing on the #1 show in America, and I could not have been happier.
I had like a dozen White Barbies shoved into this small Barbie suitcase closet. I was very proud of my Barbie collection. One birthday, I remember standing in a Costco aisle gazing at the gorgeous sets of new Barbie dresses. One was a yellow Belle costume. My mom bought it for me and I totally loved and cherished it.
I used to love setting up their worlds for hours on end, but I honestly had no idea what they should say or do. It’s like I had Barbie stage fright. I could construct the stage, but gave them no lines. My friends were thankfully great at that. I had two Barbie playing besties (they know who they are). We would hide in each other’s rooms for hours and hours on end putting together the floor plan for their existences.
I wasn’t allowed to have a Ken but one of them was. Honestly he didn’t contribute much to the game. In retrospect I would have had much more fun playing with Ken had I any deeper understanding of gender and social constructs. Ken could have been more than a boyfriend who kind of just sat there. Sorry for limiting you so much Ken.
At Target, the Barbies we’re in a very specific order. From the beginning of the aisle to the end, it went: White Barbie, White Barbie, White Barbie, White Barbie, White Barbie, White Barbie, White Barbie, White Barbie, White Barbie, White Barbie, horses for Barbie, Barbie’s shoes, Barbie’s ride, and then Black Barbie.
I remember holding Black Barbie in my hands for what felt like a million years in my little kid mind. Thinking. I want this Barbie. But… something doesn’t feel right. It’s as though she’s less important. Or like, I might get in trouble for buying her.
I still get that feeling today when I’m toy shopping for kids in my life. Like, is it okay for me to get a non-White-skin-toned doll for a child? Will their parent think it’s because of my subconscious colorism if their child is brown? What about the “fair” toned kids? Is it ok for me to give them a doll that has brown skin? Sometimes I’ll notice that most or all their dolls are indeed White, and I feel trapped in that same toy aisle, perpetually considering race.
I don’t buy dolls anymore, but if I did I’d buy the Ibtihaj Barbie.
I’m starting a new series on my blog chronicling the narnia of sexism, racism, and general human turdery I navigate in digital media. Fitting, as my specialty as a blog writer is “unpopular public discourse.”
I’ve written about media & entertainment & yadda yadda on my blog for many a year now. I’m no Roger Ebert (in memorium and long live Chaz), but it’s clearly something I’m interested in, am a part of, etc.
But for a while, for a decade really, there’s been so many things brewing in my mind I’ve wanted to write about and really haven’t. (Maybe because I was trying to get to a place where I don’t want to necessarily burn the place down and have some healthy distance from my experiences.) Things like:
It’s been a minute since I’ve done a book review. Remember when book reports were a thing? Honestly I wouldn’t mind doing a drawing that represents the book and leaving a few hundred words of thoughts on this one.
I’ve been in a pretty eh mood when it comes to TV and reading these day, and its been a while since I read something that spoke to me. In this desperate climate of mehness, Akilah Hughes’ new memoir “Obviously: stories from my timeline” has spoken to me and said words I am all about.
Like a good broke oldest desi daughter who graduated during the 2009 recession is apt to do, I lived with my parents until I got married and subsequently moved in with my partner, which is how I found myself in Austin, Texas in 2012.
And in Austin, in that cute furnished one bedroom downtown apartment that cost $1100 a month to rent and where we had little to no income tax and I lived a short drive from Homeslice Pizza, the roaches found me. They didn’t find me at first. They waited. And they didn’t find me en masse. They sent these little huge scout soldier roaches wearing backpacks that would run across the room on a mission to find a better land for their friends. (I could hear them shouting commands.) They instead found screaming giants and a vacuum hose, and soon, very effective roach deterring pods ordered on amazon and carefully placed in under cabinet areas. And that was that.
I’ve been hesitating to share this post because it’s a bit vague and like taking a walk through my mind without me sharing concrete examples and just yammering as I gaze off into space. It’s the first of many posts I hope to write in unpacking some of the things I get at, so perhaps clarity awaits.
When it comes to seeking the “life we want,” Pinterest and #mondaymotivation philosophy can be oversimplified, and I’m in constant danger of pushing it myself (in daily casual remarks and “advice,” as well as on this blog). There’s like, no context for different socio-economic backgrounds, racial/gender/sexual orientation inequalities, the behind-the-scenes relationship dynamics in a person’s life, bananas experiences humans go through, and all of the mental health challenges that come with all of it.
I have a bunch of privilege like time and energy (like not needing three jobs to make ends meet), as well as resources (like occasional therapy and, you know, the luxury of basic psychology which my parents generation of immigrant hustlers in their catch-22 lives could not afford to give mind to in survival mode). Not all of us have the luxury (or desire) to sit and unpack our traumas. Sometimes we just gotta shove it in a bag and keep going (or even run for our lives).
That being said, this post is about the tangled ball of thoughts and emotions in my head, overcoming habits, and trying to be more honest with myself:
Brene Brown calls herself a recovering perfectionist, and boy, is that an apt description.
At the bottom of my need for perfectionism is one of my deepest fears: that one wrong move and people will see what a fraud I am, how unworthy I am, and completely disown me. To put it in other words, I’m the baby and I’m (constantly) afraid (/anxious/terrified) of getting thrown out with the bath water.
It’s directly linked to my struggle with imposter syndrome, which, after several years of denial-anger-bargaining-and-depression led me to realize and accept that I’ve been dealing with this since I was a child, and it’s time for me to build a new way of thinking in my mind. That and unpacking a series of experiences from my teen/early 20’s has been the chief business of my interior life for the past few years.
A little while into Operation Stop Numbing Nida, I am learning to:
Explore what’s really going on inside my head (or like the truth I’m desperately running from).
Wade through my own vulnerability (read: FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!) to answer myself truthfully.
Summon the courage and bravery to admit what I want/how I want to move forward (while hurling the whole way there).
This ranges from concrete things like what I want to do in my career to abstract things like how I was affected by certain situations and the walls I then put up (which started out as emergency boundaries) that I now find limiting.
It is scary. Mostly it’s scarier navigating the waters of my mind. It’s been easier to kind of tread the waters of unhappiness and confusion (but also, you know, things take time) and lash out (mainly at myself) than to admit what is going on inside my own mind (which can be, you know, a shit show that we sometimes simply don’t have the capacity to deal with and bury and put off for years and years sometimes until we die).
When my thoughts and emotions are a tangled ball, it’s so easy for me to dismiss myself as like, wild, wrong, high-strung, problematic, and to label myself as a hopeless neverending problem that’s all my fault.
But when I start to untangle, or even just become willing to get tangled in my own problems, suddenly, it’s like… for a while I’m lost and flailing (sometimes for days and sometimes for years and years)… and then…
There’s clarity. And I’m like. Oh. That’s what I want. Or how I feel. Or what’s going on with me. Oh. That’s not so bad (or okay, but also sometimes it’s a disaster). I can deal with that (or ignore this until I’m ready to deal with it?). I can figure it out (through introspection and maybe with resources and support). I can build mechanisms in my mind to overcome this (though I may take a while, patience grasshopper). I can form words and a polite way to vocalize what I think and desire (hashtag prayer hands).
And yes, it is scary. Yes, I am scared. I am totally scared. And yet, after engaging this process, of kindly asking myself what’s going on, like, “Why am I feeling this way?” and of being less afraid of admitting, “Oh, this triggers your habit of perfectionism,” or, “Oh, this stems from your patterns of imposter syndrome…”
I’m finding how surprisingly simple (or complex) and empathy-inspiring my own issues are (for me, to myself. You might be like, I hate you, you hideous beast). Like, it’s not like I am being a monster (on purpose at least). And from this honesty, I’m able to cultivate new ways to move forward that are much less miserable, and dare I say, can at times be joyful.
I’m steadily unsteadily moving forward.
P.S. I recently read a book that was gifted to me over a year ago, called “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown (the tagline is “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are”). I highly recommend it (and hope to write a review soon). It’s definitely informed a bunch of my thoughts as of late.
Does anyone here watch Netflix’s Cable Girls??? If you’re into all that is juicy, you should.
I don’t know who put me onto this show. It was either a Netflix rec while I was watching Secret of the Nile (which I am rewatching right now while simultaneously watching Season 4 of Cable Girls so yes I have been missing my bedtime and I have a wired look about me) or my friend recommended it to me, likely both.
Either way, this is melodrama done well. I don’t know what it is about these Netflix shows that hits that balance which South Asian dramas never seem to get. Maybe because we’re all…
… about it. (The stereotype vastly underrates how dramatic we can be.)
I thank you TV creators of Spanish speaking backgrounds, for I am enjoying the hell out of it.