a follow up :)

Isn’t it wild to look back on our lives and see the hand of God? He really does write the best stories.

I realized that what I wrote last week could have come across a little holier-than-thou — unfortunately, I’m great at doing that.

When I was a freshman in college I kept notes of people’s Instagram names on my phone so I could look them up and try to be like them.

I
am
not
kidding

Instagram makes it easy to spend time scrolling through curated accounts, and I remember finding the accounts of these perfect girls, Christian and in a sorority at a school like Arkansas or Ole Miss and probably Young Life leaders, and I had this visceral desire to be them.

The parts of our lives we choose to share can be so aspirational, meant to create desire or longing in other people for a life as exciting and busy and never-boring as ours. Or what we share can just regular snippets of a life lived, stumbled through, and appreciated – but because of my strong, strong desire to be somewhere other than my own life, what was shared left me feeling empty nonetheless. Continue reading “a follow up :)”

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aesthetics, power and instagram

A few days ago, I was scrolling through the Instagram Discover page and tapped “Read more” on a relatively long caption — a few paragraphs. That tap on the “Read more” button is one way Instagram tracks engagement, a critical data point to weave posts up your feed that you, specifically you, will engage with.

Tech says this: engagement is king, queen and the whole court.

When I was in Miami visiting a friend this past weekend, we talked about how you choose how to use your influence. We also walked through the Wynwood Walls, and before we rounded the corner she said, “just so you know, Miami is pretty superficial. Everyone will probably be taking solo shots.” I hail from the fake-candid-laughing-big-group-shot-with-friends world, where we shy away from asking for solo shots to avoid looking vain. But she was right — lots of solo posing, lots of serving looks, lots of Instagrams, some for #sponsored posts, I’m sure.

Once I tapped “Read more” on that photo a couple days ago, I kept scrolling and saw how the Discover algorithm placed post after post in front of me with the exact same formula: girl, white, pretty skinny, posing profile or with her back to the camera, in an exotic perfectly-saturated location. At least 10 of the same formulaic photo appeared before I got spooked and decided to do something else.

(Engagement is king, right? So we go where the likes are.)

Since brands hand out clout (and money) to those with largest followings, and sponsorship can so easily become aspirational, contrived, toxic — how do you make the choice to be authentic? Continue reading “aesthetics, power and instagram”

line items

Isn’t it fascinating that the line items we create in the budgets of our lives sustain the lives of others?

Lots of people buy ClassPass memberships each month, and because of that, I can pay my rent, buy groceries and do other things with money that adults do. Because other people made room in their lives for ClassPass, I can make room for Trader Joe’s, and so on and so on.

Clearly my unit economics are wrong. Clearly this model isn’t about making line items to support people, it’s about the service we’re getting.

But what if it were about the people? What would change about my attitude toward money and where I place it if I thought about the people behind that money?

Continue reading “line items”

the public library

Prospect Park on a Saturday afternoon in July is a quick jog from the coffee shop that gives you CBD oil in your coffee and catty-corner to the Brooklyn Public Library. It’s always that way, but my mental map will always include the wispy breezes and small group cacophonies of a Saturday afternoon in July.

What’s your relationship with the library? What do you make of the rows of books, untended corners, and each person clacking at a public-use computer?

My mom and I used to joke that no one outside our family could survive the marathon event of the Johnston-Leggs at a bookstore, or worse—a library. My mom is a children’s librarian, and our rhythm of together, apart, together, apart in any location with books seems ingrained in my DNA. “What’d you find, anything good?” “I’m going to go look at nonfiction…” “Want me to hold anything of yours?” (A classic of my mom’s, even when her arms are stacked higher than mine.)

I notice the too-shiny linoleum floors, the type of shine that only accentuates the scuff marks and cracks that I didn’t know linoleum could have. I notice the Astaire biography on the shelf across from a book about the Russian Orthodox Church, the stark contrast between the types of shows they’re both putting on.

I pass by a poster on how to read the Bible in the original Hebrew; the headline reads “In the beginning” and I start humming a song from Vacation Bible School:

“In the beginnnnnning
Godcreatedtheheavensandtheearth”

(That’s the pacing, I promise. Does anyone know this song?)

My mind tells me go out there, live a visible life, Instagram yourself and drink more alcohol than you already do and fill all the moments with activity. My soul wants to be right in here among millions of words and people who also value them.

Continue reading “the public library”

being left out and let in

Others don’t benefit from my tendency to act like I have better places to be—whether I do or don’t.

This is a truth that bears repeating: my fragile ego, not any other person, is the singular “thing” that is propped up, cared for, and tended to when I act like I have better places to be than where I am right now.

I remember the acute awareness I felt in high school when I knew everyone else was hanging out without me, and the somehow even-more-painful awareness that I was invited for part of something, but not the whole thing. Like my the double whammy of my personality and lack of social capital couldn’t bring it home for anyone.

“Oh yeah, we’ll text you if we’re doing anything later…” (no) Not enough fancy clothes, not enough money, no membership in the group.

I remember feeling that way in high school and making other people feel it in college.

“It’s just like… I have enough friends… you know?” I justify the callousness away. (no) Not enough social intelligence, not enough shared vocabulary, not one of us. (i think, but it’s arbitrary)

I moved to New York and I have friends and roommates and coworkers and coworkers and roommates who are friends but I also don’t yet have the interconnected web of 30+ lay-on-the-couch, Chick-Fil-A run, no-need-to-fill-the-silence, kitchen table debrief friends that I had because I lived in Nashville for 5 years.

I can’t compare the two but that’s all I can do. I compare how I didn’t give a shit about doing things alone in Nashville like seeing movies and going to work out because I knew I had cool fun friends
and they just didn’t want to come
or introverted Kendall didn’t want them to come
or something

and now here everything I do alone is an exercise in necessity (seriously, bc your girl needs bug spray) and prying my worth away from my huge, huge ego

Continue reading “being left out and let in”

my body can

I’m so thankful my body can move. My body was made to move around and my legs can literally take me places. I’m so glad there are so many different types of movement in the world and I get to pick whichever is right for me each day.

I’m so brokenhearted that I take my body’s ability to move around this world for granted every single day. My tendency is to let my thoughts circle around how my body looks instead of what it can do–and more importantly, that it just exists. I wish I cared less about that but I probably won’t soon. So let me know if you care about that too and we can talk about it.

My world of health includes images of all sizes of people. People who are size 2 and size 18 are both real–one size is not, by definition, more authentic than another, even though one size has, in recent history, spent more time in the spotlight as our culture’s desired build. I’m so thankful that my world of health includes people of all sizes, because if that weren’t true I probably wouldn’t have decided it was okay for my body to move in public, in front of other people.

Here’s the reality of my body: I’m a size 8 pretty consistently, but a 10 on some days and 6 on others and I’m tired of feeling like I’m the bigger size on “bad” days and the smaller size on “good” days. It’s really just fine any way it shakes out because my body is a living organism.

Continue reading “my body can”

your whole self

The night (or early morning) that I sat in one of our dining halls and wrote this, in April 2016, a student at Vanderbilt died by suicide. I learned of her death the next day, April 22nd, and in its wake, struggled to accept that I had written so specifically about the heartbeat of a university. I felt callous for romanticizing a place that houses people in pain.

Over four years at Vanderbilt, on Brillo pad dorm-room carpet and in dark passenger seats, I had countless conversations where either party offered up one variation of the following: “I’ve thought about transferring.” “I need to leave.” “I can’t do this—suicide seems like the best option.” From those conversations, I’m convinced that feeling like an imposter in your own community, at your own school, in your own body or mind, can become the ruling narrative of anyone’s life. It’s easiest for our minds to understand when someone who didn’t have a visible community dies by suicide, but the same exact experience can take hold of someone who seems like she “has it all.”

In those four years at school, from August 2013 to May 2017—I just checked my student email—I received eight emails with the subject line “Death of a Student,” both undergraduate and professional students, suicide and other causes. Since I graduated in May, one undergraduate student has died by suicide.

Madison Holleran was a freshman in college the same year as I was, moving in during the fall of 2013. She went to Penn, in Philadelphia, and ran for the track team. I let a book about her life, What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan, sit on my shelf for two months before reading it.

I saw a lot of myself and those I know in Fagan’s account of Madison’s story, but the following is the most painful for me:

In that moment, the word “Vanderbilt” no longer represented a group of distinguished buildings in Nashville, boys in penny loafers and sorority girls drifting from class to class. The school represented something much more elusive: hope.

Continue reading “your whole self”