"The pen is mightier than the sword."
I don't know if I can fully agree with that unless it's a very sharp pen; a fountain pen maybe (this $1400 Tiffany one perhaps?).
Before you tell me to stop being so literal, I do understand it's a line from a poem about the power of intellect over violence. Violence may be more immediately impactful, but words change minds and hearts where all revolutions start.
I fully believe in writing and words. They have immense power. Enjoy this short story as an example:
Fall semester 2012. A black haired 19 year old Avery was taking 18 credits (3 of which were earned in a Saturday class) and attending too many parties to count. I was taking Intro to Sociology from a notoriously hardcore professor (who, in hindsight, was actually quite accommodating and benevolent). This class was a numbers game and I was hell-bent on winning. I made a habit of writing the grade I wanted on my notes when I studied for Sociology and I would focus. Usually it worked. December came. I had Aced everything I needed to ace (and B-aced, and C-aced). Only 102 points stood between me and my A. I convinced myself I was able to make an A in the class by scribbling “102” in the margin of my note pages. Very logical. Very 19 year old with old campus event posters and rainbow Christmas lights for wall decor and a bed sheet for curtains. Five days I spent reading the ENTIRE 1200 page book, updating old notes, and giving myself time to review it all over Harris Teeter salads and hot bar chicken tenders.
Exam day, December 13, came. I told my professor "I'm going to flex heavy on your exam." He, looking a little perplexed, simply nodded. I wrote my little "102" in the margin of each page and called on all my memories. I left everything on that exam. I came back home to find my grades updated on December 16 and by the grace of God and the power of note-taking, I got a 103. I kicked academic butt that semester and sweated my hair out every weekend at somebody's house party.
That rather long "short story" was set up for the central meditation of this post that is inspired by a note I found in my phone I wrote to myself about six months ago.
“Give yourself time to be trash.”
Give yourself time to be trash.
It’s not the strangest note I’ve found in my archives but it was the most meaningful.
I exist in 3 spaces: Past Avery, Present Avery, and Future Avery. Present and Future Avery’s are incredibly harsh on Past Avery.
(This is from my high school senior portraits. The background is Past Avery's "poetry")
They scrutinize everything she said, did, and wore over the past 20 years. Her art was basic. She lacked all vision. Her writing was long and vague. Present and Future Avery felt her whimsy was unrefined and serves as an embarrassment to her more worldly and trained approach to her work. Those Avery versions reserve their toughest love for the most immediate past selves because she of all should have known better and therefore done better.
“Give yourself time to be trash” meant a lot to Past Avery. I think she wrote it as a reminder to consider growth.
Often we as people measure ourselves against the yardstick of our peers. I have always struggled with being enough and keeping up. I wrote my very first blog about it so this shouldn't be new information (unless you're a new reader, then welcome! Go read my other pieces). I can't explain why. Even as I mature, I still worry about how I'm doing on the ISOAP (In Stride or Ahead of Peers) scale.
I lost major ISOAP points after graduating college and grad school without full time offers from high profile organizations like many of my peers. Starting my business, I felt I was behind my entrepreneurial peers who already had websites and flashy Instagram layouts. Now that my work life is more stable, I'm annoyed by professional weaknesses and that I can't be a one-stop comms shop. I ruminate on personal shortcomings like not being in a "serious" romantic relationship or living in my own place and owning my own dog at the ripe age of 25. I feel all like trash.
(everyone 26+, I accept your eye rolls).
Everything in that previous paragraph is a silly thing to worry about especially in the context of others. Everyone has their own timeline. Growth is seasonal and individual. The work put into developing as a person is what really matters. Give yourself time to be trash.
I wasn't always the cool, creative, charismatic freelance communications specialist I am today. Like the first brave sprout of Spring, I came up. Coming up was challenging. Staying up, however, is the hardest part. I have to regularly remind myself who I am and why its not so bad to be a little bit trash. I have to do my best power pose and pop my collar like so:
I am Avery Allen. First of my name, only born of my parents. Former homecoming car decoration creative director. Business owner and meme connoisseur. I'm funny and innovative. I define what both of these terms mean to me. I'm super smort. Of my talents, my verbal skills are my strongest. Writing is a gift I'm blessed to have. I'm nice with the Photoshop and InDesign; nicer than about 65% of people that use it. As a friend told me "I'm not as ugly as I used to be." I'm a beautiful shade of toasted almond brown and my hair is like pineapple cotton candy. I'm bute and thicc. I'm loyal and open-minded. I desire to be better and actively strive for it. I'm going to let this ham-fisted attempt to make a digital version of myself speak for my Illustrator skills and my willingness to be what I want to be:
We have to toot our own horns, even if we feel like trash. We need to state our victories and assets with confidence tantamount to whatever inadequacy we feel about our weak points. We have to talk our junk to prop us up. I've done mine, now it's your go.
It can be hard, personally and professionally, to admit we’re not as strong as we want to be in one area or another. We want to be everything now.
Give yourself time to be trash. Recognize and honor the space you're in. Remind yourself of where you've been and what you've already won. Let it fuel you. The struggle is real but if you're trying, you're growing. Think of your trash time as compost. It's super rich and can yield amazing bounty in it's season.