Well, the good news is I lived to die another day. The bad news is I have not solved the crisis in the Middle East. I am surviving off a steady diet of Siete churro chips and cognitive dissonance. So far, so good. It keeps me off Instagram.
I don’t recommend my approach, but I do recommend listening to everything Roxane Gay says and writes which is precisely what I did this week and I want to tell you about it because I need some joy. Please laugh when I tell you I FAN-GIRLED OUT LIKE A COMPLETE WEIRDO when I saw Gay at her book signing this week. I may or may not have told her that she and Debbie Millman are our Jay-Z and Beyonce and then tried to get myself invited to girl dinner (I failed).
I have no regrets.
Most of the questions people asked during the Q&A were not about Gay’s new book Opinions. People wanted to know what I wanted to know: How TF do you show up right now. Is silence complicit. What should I think and believe. Is everyone entitled to their opinion. What really causes change. WHAT DO WE DO ROXANE. WHO IS COMING TO SAVE US.
“We are going to have to save ourselves,” Gay said to the audience who already knew the answer but really wanted her to say something different. There are no magical politicians and no amount of social shaming content that will rescue us from our pain. There’s only the work we do on ourselves and in our communities.
She had a lot to say about performing activism (don’t) and how all social media is a performance. This from the woman who has dominated Twitter over the last decade with her voice and just published a book called Opinions was a refreshing jolt to the system.
She called for discernment. For us to know the difference between when to speak and when to listen. And how “there are these things called books and it turns out they are really useful.” She recommended a few that I didn’t catch the names of because I was too busy salivating over the uncommon sound of someone making sense.
“There are worse things than missing the moment,” she said to someone who wasn’t sure what to post on social media. This led to a discussion on the difference between reacting and responding. Spoiler alert: RESPONDING is the superior one. Reacting is what you call your bestie for. You need not do it in public.
“Expose yourself to thinkers,” she said, which is also, #humblebrag, what I’ve spent my time doing. I went back and read Albert Camus’ letters to his German Friend during WWII (see: Committed Writings), Life with a Star, everything James Baldwin (when in doubt, just go straight to Baldwin), and Willful Blindness.
It didn’t take long before I could hear the voices of internalized self-beratement yelling at me, “WHO HAS TIME TO READ! AND THINK!? GO TO WORK.” Only, this time I just yelled back, “SOMEONE NEEDS TO MAKE SOME GD TIME TO READ.”
I hope you do.
The most shocking thing Gay said was to “develop a barometer for when to be kind and when to be right” and to err on the side of kind.
I did not see that coming. This woman is precise with her critiques and famous for not mincing words and to hear her preach kindness, especially if you’ve read her work and are familiar with her point of view, reignited my own faith in humanity.
There are people who take the time to form an opinion. Who don’t dissent just to dissent, but because they are asking a fair question. People who listen. People who pause before speaking. People who go to therapy and feel their feelings so they don’t get trapped inside their body and spread to the next generation. People who have witnessed atrocities and still don’t let hate into their hearts.
“Instagram is not the front line,” Gay reminded us. “It’s OK if you miss the moment.” That stung. Because it was true.
She ended with this:
“Care. But don’t care so much that you burn yourself out. Protect yourself.”
Be safe out there.
PS: In more good news, I got ZERO hate mail last week. That was a shock. Truly. If you need some faith (I do), I would like to point you in the direction of this email list.
The world may be on fire. We may be playing music on the Titanic, but today, at this moment, with my bowl full of churro-flavored Siete chips – I am grateful to be here with you.