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Last time the year rolled over, I decided to give up my obsession over goals and achievements in favor of focusing on one thing. An ancient Greek poet wrote, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” I was driving myself crazy trying to be a fox and never achieving enough to meet my standards, so I decided to try being a hedgehog.
I’m naming 2013 the Year of the Pen, the year in which I commit myself to writing. I chose a specific topic and am making notes on it every day. I enrolled in fewer classes so that I have more time to dedicate to my own projects. For Christmas, my husband bought me a beautiful leather notebook that safekeeps my thoughts, observations, ranting internal monologues.
I’m nervous. This feels like a big risk, and an unstable career path. For someone who was so goal-oriented and achievement-driven, stepping back from academia feels like a failure in itself. To leave a sturdy career path with regular paychecks in order to write feels irresponsible. But I’m doing this. By the end of the year, I’ll have at least one substantive work to start sending to publishers.
Three weeks after Easter, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about wearing color again. I had anticipated that it would be joyous and fun, that I would be thrilled to have style again. After 40 days of black T-shirts, I planned an explosion of color: a skirt of bright blues paired with a teal T under a royal violet cardigan and finished with a sunflower belt.
While walking to class I began to wonder if perhaps it was too bright — I kept noticing people’s eyes pausing over me as I walked by them. At school, many classmates complimented my loud look, but all I felt was discomfort. I hadn’t planned for feeling so exposed, hadn’t realized I had developed a heightened awareness of the gaze of otehrs. After wearing clothes that go unnoticed for weeks, the sudden attention and eyes on my body felt intrusive.
The next day I wore soft neutrals, hoping to dull the effect. People still noticed and commented. Although the colors were softer, the feeling of exposure, of clothes not being enough, took up residence in every cell of my being. I began to realize that this is something we often do to one another: we look at bodies and clothing, evaluating the other’s tastes and style, gleaning what we can about the other’s self from the items they put over their skin. On some level, we believe we know one another through appearance.
At home I find myself living in black yoga pants and a black shirt. Even going out, it’s mostly jeans and a basic T. In starting this experiment, I had thought that it would rejuvenate my appreciation of fashion and kindle my desire to enjoy being in my body. Instead, I find myself trying to hide, a growing modesty of appearance. Permanent black T-shirts is starting to sound like a viable option.
For about a week everyone was crazy about discussing the Kony 2012 video. And then it all just … stopped. Which is a shame, because even though people were divided and entrenched, at least we were talking about Uganda and slaves and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Which summarizes my thoughts on the video: people were learning, people were talking.
A friend sent me a Critical Analysis of the video, written by a man who lives in Uganda. And of course, these sorts of things were all over the place, from videos of the Ugandan responses to the Kony 2012 video, to activists seeking to transfer the conversation to their own cause, to rich white Americans criticizing Invisible Children. What they all have in common: they miss the point.
The criticisms aren’t false, they simply fail to see good.
Yes, it takes white hipsters to make other white hipsters care — but that doesn’t mean it’s not an issue worth caring about.
Yes, the issues presented are surface-level — but Americans refuse to know the horrific truth (just ask anyone who has ever written for a Christian publisher).
Yes, it’s over-simplified, and although Dr. Branch (who, abstaining from social media, fails to understand the way social media are used) “helpfully” offers to share the syllabus from his undergrad course, I’m willing to bet we aren’t going to be able to rally the necessary forces by first asking them to commit to 40+ hours of research.
Yes, we are white people trying to help Africans — but are we really going to hide behind the criticism of “white man’s burden” and label this an African problem (you know, like the Holocaust was a Jewish problem)?
Yes, there are other dire situations in the world, and even in America — but we must not be paralyzed with indecision.
Yes, Ugandans are offended and angry with the video — but they aren’t (and don’t understand the paradigm of) the target audience; they tolerate much more reality than Americans will. Should we risk comparing their reaction to the video against their reaction to an uncaring, silent world? Or would that be easier to bare, for it is already the established norm?
Let us not cease to care simply because there are problems with the Kony 2012 movement. Let us not permit rape, slavery, mutilation, and murder to continue simply because the founder of Invisible Children was vilified for his good intentions and collapsed under the pressure. Let us not forgo our political power simply because we are of a different race and paradigm.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? – 1 John 3:17
Refraining from style has been easier than I expected it to be, and in some ways more joyful. I spend less time in front of a mirror, less time frowning at my closet and my body. I wouldn’t say I’m moving towards loving my body as it is, but at least I’m not actively hating it. Gratitude for the little improvements.
There was a day when I so wanted to put on eye shadow and more stylized black clothes. I didn’t, but the desire forced me to confront the ways I use fashion to present myself to the world. I don’t need to be open about my emotions; my clothing does it for me.
One struggle: I had ordered a dress for a wedding and had to wait all week for Sunday, feast day, before trying it on! When I did, I was surprised at how much joy it brought me. It’s colorful and floral and flouncy in all the best ways. I jumped around the apartment for a little while before hanging it away until the wedding.
Since this year I’m giving up style for lent, for mardi gras I thought I should have one last day of color and fashion. I went as colorful as I could with bright teal jeans, peacock feather earrings, an over-the-top antique necklace, and bright purple eye shadow.
Truthfully, I did it out of obligation, glancing longingly at my pile of black T-shirts and just waiting for lent to arrive so I wouldn’t have to do this anymore.
So it’s no surprise for me to say: this last week has been easy. Great, even. Normally, I would have felt insecure that I wasn’t quite vintage/thrifty/hipster enough at a show. I would have wondered what to wear to an author speaking event where I knew I’d see classmates. I would have agonized over what to put on for my husband’s boss and her family coming for dinner (I want to look classy, but still casual, but …).
It’s a time saver, but more so, it’s a mental energy saver. I don’t need to think about how I look. I don’t need to evaluate my body at the start of every day. I don’t need to compare myself to others when I’m out.
This lent is a huge sigh of relief.
I thought I’d better start this blog by explaining the name. It can come off as a little overly-sweet with Christian undertones, and I just want it known upfront that I’m aware of that, but there are reasons.
My first name, Katelyn, has roots meaning ‘pure’. I have a lot of history around that as a name for myself, struggling with it for years before a counselor told me it could mean purity of heart.
When I married my husband, I decided to take his last name, Davis. The surname means ‘son of David‘, a name which means Beloved. To me that felt perfect — in making my best friend my husband, I am named Beloved.
I understand that technically a rooted-out version of my name would be ‘Pure son of Beloved’, but Purely Beloved had an easier flow to it, so here we are.