Reading Outside the Box


I read a lot. Like, a LOT. Of course, my job requires that I read a lot. I write communications for a large financial company; so naturally, there is a tonne of information I consume every day in order to write what I need to write. Because of the nature of my work, and my general interests and desire to be informed, I also read a lot of news during the day. I read two newspapers on my way into the office (not the Wall Street Journal by any means, but I get a quick hit of the news of the day, read the headlines and highlights, and make sure to read the couple of opinion pieces published), and several and various articles throughout the day.

Immediately after the US election, we heard a lot about so-called echo chambers and this idea that the reason so many of us were resolutely blindsided by the election results is because we (liberal/democrat/leftists) refused to acknowledge that there was a huge swath of people who simply don’t think like us, don’t share our values and voted accordingly. SNL did a brilliant and spot-on skit about it that hit it (and me) right on the head. And I admit it, I would read and watch and hear about Trump supporters, and I cringed at the rhetoric being spewed but I would scoff dismissively at their ignorance. I would think to myself, and say out loud, to real people even, “It’s never gonna happen. He’s not going to get elected. It’s ridiculous. He’s ridiculous.”

I don’t live in the United States. I’m not American (well, strictly speaking, I actually am; my dad is American, I was born in Ohio, and I have dual citizenship), but, really, I’m Canadian. I live in Canada and I enjoy my Canadian rights and freedoms every day in this (relatively) socially progressive country. However, to say that the current shit storm playing out south of my border doesn’t effect me would be a lie. Of course it effects me. It effects all of us, politically, certainly, but also because I’m a human being, and watching this sociopathic, narcissistic demagogue in action is stomach-churning on a good day, and outright devastating on every other day. This shit is real, and it is frightening and dystopian and horrifying and sad and frustrating and ridiculous and most of all, heart breaking.

So, having said all of that, and why I point out that I happen to be a person who reads a lot, I’ve decided to try to step outside my echo chamber and actually seek out articles and pieces written from the perspective of those who differ from me ideologically. Lately, I’ve been forcing myself to read things written by those who fundamentally have different stances, opinions, beliefs, perspectives and general outlooks on life than me in an attempt to broaden and hopefully deepen my scope of understanding. I may never understand (spoiler: I will never understand if you think that one’s sexuality is a choice, or if you think racism doesn’t exist, if you don’t understand what privilege is, if you believe that government should be able to make decisions about women’s bodies or if you ascribe to the “alternative fact” that the pay gap isn’t a thing, for example), but I want to try to see things from that opposing perspective and to listen and at the very least, acknowledge that not everyone thinks the way me and my “echo chamber” do.

To be honest, I don’t know exactly what this will accomplish in the long run. I may end up just feeling more frustrated. But, I feel like I’m desperate to try to hear what people have to say about certain topics so that I can better arm myself when entering into conversation with them, should such an occasion arise. I say that because, honestly, I don’t really spend time with people who drastically oppose my views. And I don’t think that’s abnormal. It makes sense that we would end up surrounding ourselves with people with whom we have things in common – common experiences, values, social-political outlooks, and oftentimes, socioeconomic backgrounds etc.

Recently, I’ve waded through many a Facebook post that I would have normally just rolled my eyes at and skipped over (or unfriended the person, which I did a lot of when some of my “Friends” had some pretty ignorant and awful things to say about Caitlyn Jenner), to come away mostly just…baffled. I actually watched a video and read through its comment thread arguing against evolution, I suffered through an article and the ensuing comments about how vaccines cause autism, I even forced myself to read posts about the NRA and arguments against gun control laws. To name just a few. And those were just the posts from my own FB feed!!! I feel like I’ve taken one for the team. You’re welcome.

I’ve read a lot of articles and think pieces on Hillary Clinton, of course, pre and post-election. Most of what I’ve read has been thought provoking, well written, smart and affirms my belief that America got it wrong. However, the comments on those very articles are emblematic of the reason we are where we are. I’ve learned that people hold a lot of hate, people are fearful, people navigate the world wearing blinders, people are uneducated or misinformed about the facts, people are dogmatic and often have an inability to see the big picture, people have a tenuous grasp on history and, most mind-bogglingly, that women can be misogynists too. And I know you’re probably thinking, well, Ange, people who write in comment sections on the internet are trolls and keyboard warriors, and you’re right. They probably don’t represent the vast majority of reasonable people. They may indeed be trolls, but they are trolls who probably voted.

realsuffragette5The most polarizing topic I’ve been reading about lately has been the recent Women’s March on Washington that took place last weekend. This has been a lightning rod of debate and while I felt (and feel) so hopeful about what was accomplished, about the sheer size and symbolism of the movement and what’s on the horizon, I have felt equally distraught by the emerging backlash. I have read some wonderful pieces about the march by brilliant minds like Kerry Clare, Sarah Larson, Anne Helen Peterson, and Jia Tolentino.

I have also been seeing this dreadful #notmymarch nonsense cropping up everywhere and with a nervous knot in my stomach, I have forced myself to read some of that too. There was one in particular (which I can’t find now, and don’t have the spirit to continue scouring the internet for), which is disturbing enough on its own, but it’s the comments that really make me have all the feels. It’s not productive for me to write, or for you to read my recounting of all the nasty, hate-filled, frankly absurd things that people (mostly women) have to say. But I will say that while I sifted through the vitriol and the many, many, so very many crimes against grammar, the general sense I emerged with is this: there are a lot of people (read: a lot of women) who clearly don’t understand what feminism actually is and is not. They don’t understand what abortion, equal pay, rape culture or even protest as a function of democracy actually are. And I don’t mean that in a condescending way at all. I mean that in the most literal sense. They are misinformed, uneducated. They are missing the point. And the irony, of course, is that women who insist on listing all the reasons why the Women’s March doesn’t represent them, (because they think, inexplicably, that the women who marched are “whiny victims” who “blame their woes on society” and expect “special treatment” among other things) enjoy their position of privilege, apparently oblivious to the fact that they’re indeed privileged, because it was hard won on the backs of the courageous women who came before them and fought, and changed the world.

I’ll leave you with this excellent piece which articulates well what I’m trying to convey and why it’s important to advance the conversation and keep learning from each other. A piece of advice though; unless you’re prepared to have your heart broken (or become Hulk-level enraged), I do not recommend reading the comments section.

And also, because it is the perfect personification of what this is all about, this: #icantkeepquiet. I can’t keep quiet. And I won’t.

The Plight of the Night Owl

morningThis just in: I am not a morning person. Apparently, I never have been. My parents tell stories about me even as a toddler, being notoriously slow to get moving in the morning. It would take me forever to eat breakfast, to get dressed, to be really awake and alert. As a baby, I famously slept through a tornado. In elementary school I remember my mom or dad coming to wake me up in the mornings by tickling my feet, turning on lights, even throwing the covers off of me, and in high school, I remember running out the door, hair sopping wet, pulling my coat on to jump in my dad’s already-backing-out-of-the-driveway car. In University, I didn’t dare enroll in a class that started before 11:30 am. True story.

It doesn’t matter if I’ve had 4 or 10 hours of sleep, I have a hard time waking up early. I’m definitely a snoozer, meaning I set my alarm deliberately about 45 minutes before I need to get out of bed knowing that I will hit snooze several times. I know this seems redundant, and I should just set my alarm for when I need to wake up and simply get out of bed when it sounds in the morning. That seems really logical. Do you think I don’t know that hitting snooze 3 or 4 times in the morning does not result in feeling more rested, and in fact only results in sharpening my subtraction skills? Of course I know that. And I chastise myself for it every day.

Don’t get me wrong, when there’s something important/exciting going on, or I have somewhere important to be like an early meeting, or an event, or there’s someone depending on me, I jump out of bed in the wee hours with something resembling vigor. But, in terms of the everyday, getting out of bed and getting my butt to work waking up, I have a hard time. Like, such a hard time.

I am not a person who has a “morning routine” – you know the people I’m talking about. Maybe you’re one of them. They wake at a time which allows them, like 2-plus hours in which to shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, have some coffee, even read a paper or browse through their social media feeds, or even have a conversation with a person. This idea is completely foreign to me. I wake up with exactly (and often not quite enough) time to get myself clothed, apply some amount of make-up to make me look less frightening, varying from a wisp of powder and a few dabs of mascara to a full face depending on time restraints, partially blow-dry my hair (on a hair washing day), grab my lunch (if I’ve been organized enough to prepare it the night before, and even then, I’ve been known to forget it), and get out the door running to the streetcar stop, praying to all that’s holy that there are no transit delays today because I’m already running about 10-15 minutes late.

I think the inclination, in this 9-5 workforce, is to reward the larks (early risers) and punish the owls (those who stay up later and wake later). There is a tremendous amount of guilt and sometimes even shame associated with waking up later. Why is that? I think owls are constantly operating under the (false) impression that we’re lazy. To some people (larks), sleeping “in” until 8:00 or 9:00 is equated to laziness. To me, this is absurd! But, because I work in a corporate office environment Monday to Friday, part of what contributes to my “normal” workday is the expectation that I am in the office to start working by 9:00. I get it, those are the rules, the agreement I entered into when I joined this workforce. All I’m saying is that that idea of what “the workday” looks like, and the (in my opinion) arbitrary assignment of that particular start time doesn’t really work for a lot of us. In fact, there is evidence that the North American standard of the 9-5, eight-hour workday as we understand it is actually torture.

Having said that, I’m lucky (and have been lucky thus far) to work for managers who are pretty flexible about my start time. And on a higher level, the organization I work for values a “flexible work arrangement” culture in general, so it’s not like I’m getting in trouble for rolling in around 9:30-ish every day. But, I have been spoken to about it on several occasions.

Listen, I’m a good employee. I work hard. I’m productive when I’m at work; I’m always willing to put in the hours, and extra hours when necessary. And no one has ever accused me of being dull or dim-witted. It all just boils down to optics, doesn’t it? When I come into the office at 9:30 and join my colleagues who have been there since 7:30 or 8:00, it may seem like (or look like, to those who are watching) I’m “late” or dare I say, lazy or even irresponsible!!! But, I would argue that just because you’re physically in the office at 7:30 am doesn’t mean that you’re working or working any harder (or longer) than me. I’ve worked with a few colleagues who come in that early, and I guarantee you that they’re not so much working and getting ahead in those wee hours as they are having breakfast or coffee with their friends, talking on the phone, or otherwise dicking around on the internet. Just sayin’.

However, I do know a lot of people who say they love getting into the office early because it’s so quiet, and that hour or hour and a half of quiet, when they don’t have to answer to people, when their phone doesn’t ring, when they aren’t receiving emails is golden for them. And I believe them, they’re larks. It’s when they get a tonne of work done, when they can level set for the day, catch up on things, have the time and quiet they need to respond to emails or finish things up from the day(s) before. It’s when they are most productive. I can appreciate that. I have the same moments, but mine are between the hours of 5:00 and 6:30. It’s exactly the same thing, just at the end of my day as opposed to the beginning. But, of the two scenarios, from the outside, which employee looks like the harder worker?

15-daily-struggles-when-youre-not-a-morning-person-2-6048-1398789751-23_bigI would ask you larks who look down on us owls and dismiss us as lazy, unmotivated sloths, what if the “norm” were reversed? What if you were expected to be productive, alert and work hard until 8:00 or 9:00 pm? What if the traditional workday started later and ended later? How would you fare? Probably not very well, because you’re naturally wired to wake (and be alert and productive and are at your sharpest) early in the day and then shut down and get progressively less productive as the day goes on. Just as I’m wired to do the opposite. The science backs it up, guys. And while the lark vs. owl chronotype is actually more of a spectrum than a true dichotomy (like most things in life) it is a real thing, with real consequences.

I like to say that I need to ease into my day. This is true. Again, don’t misunderstand, I’m good under pressure, and I can pull it together when I need to – I’m good at that – so when I run into work with 3 minutes to spare before I need to call into a meeting, I can do it, and I can do it well. It’s just not my preference, or my natural inclination. I have a lot of stamina and energy. I may wake up later than you, but I can work and be productive and sharp all day long and into the night. I think this is why I have the energy to be involved in the many volunteer activities that I am, and to have the abundant social life I have. I have weeks where I have something going on every evening (after a full day of work), and don’t get home until 10 or 11 or even midnight! And I’m totally fine!

I’m sure my energy level and productivity, and to an extent, my sleeping patterns themselves are influenced just as much by my natural circadian rhythm as it is the fact that I am single and childless. Of course there are other, more circumstantial factors when we consider our chronotype and how it may fluctuate over our lifetime. And it is important to understand and consider those factors in order to grasp the bigger picture of what it actually means to be a lark or an owl. But this, just like understanding our personality, is all a part of the never-ending journey to self-awareness. And I happen to think it’s an important milestone on that particular journey.

As much as I understand what it means to be an owl, and the impact this has on my life, and my working life in particular, I kind of resent that “wake up earlier” is a thing that I aspire to. I resent that I have internalized that waking up earlier will make me a better person. It won’t, it doesn’t. But unfortunately for me, the world operates more on the rhythms of larks than owls. It’s just something I have to accept and live with. And I do, obviously. I’m not interested in working a night shift, and I certainly don’t aspire to be nocturnal by any meansI quite like the kind of work I do and I like working for the organization that I do, and I like the general routine and structure of a 9-5, Monday-Friday work week.

Sometimes, I just wish it was more of a 10-6, that’s all.

I’m sure I’ll be giving myself yet another pep talk tonight at bedtime about waking up and getting out of bed when the alarm actually goes off. I’m sure I will feel really good about going to bed at a “decent” time, ready to embrace my inner lark and wake up earlier tomorrow and be grateful for the sense of accomplishment I will feel getting to work earlier and ditching the shame. I’m equally sure, however, that when that alarm goes off tomorrow, I will hit snooze and mutter to myself just 15 more minutes, and then I’m getting up. For real.