Monday, July 25, 2016

All You Need Are Some Chacos & An Adventure

by Guest Writer: Darsha Dodge

On Thursday, July 21, 2016, my life changed. I received a full-time position as the Warehouse Manager for Xanterra Parks and Resorts at Mount Rushmore, and instantly became the newest member of a team (read: family) full of incredible individuals who are fiercely dedicated to making your experience on the mountain as enjoyable as possible. With one year left at the University of Arkansas, I'm currently in the mire of trying to organize my life to finish school online, take on a full-time position, and get the hang of what a "winter coat" will actually consist of all the way up here in South Dakota. After a quick trip back home to Arkansas at the end of August, I'm set to return to the populous town of Keystone (a whopping 350 people) and settle into my new position.

My first time working at Mount Rushmore was last summer, when I spent three months gallivanting around the Black Hills and watching my bosses play softball. My unbiological sister, Carlye, and I loved it so much that we signed up for a second season. Now that my life has altered in a matter of seconds, I am certainly happy we did. Upon arrival at the site for the second time, we were alerted that Xanterra Mount Rushmore was up for our contract renewal again, and our former Warehouse Manager (the one who taught me almost everything I know about working there) was leaving his position after fifteen years to drive for Coca-Cola. And...well...there I was, ready and willing to take on a new adventure.

I'm not sure that anyone back home is even surprised. I mean, I'm the girl who jumped on a plane to Berlin the morning after my high school graduation to spend a year (alone) nannying in Germany. When I announce another spontaneous adventure, I'm rarely met with shock or awe. However, I attended a high school where there was one correct future. Only one "right" way to live. High school. College. Degree. Interview. Job. Work. Marriage. Kids. Retirement. Die. All of which require budgeting. Binding contracts. Plans, plans, plans.

I've never been very good at plans.

Not that there's anything wrong with the cookie-cutter way of life. I know several people who have followed their dreams and stuck to a plan and did everything right when everyone else told them they should, and they turned out fine and in love and happy. But I am so spontaneous. I crave adventure. I hate being on a one track radar because I fear that I'll miss out on something more exciting. Something more rewarding. Something more important.

The point is... Everyone loves to tell you what you should be doing with your life, and it either fits one of two categories: they're either telling what you should do because it worked out for them, or because it didn't and they don't want you to make the same mistake. They have good intentions, but you aren't them. Your story is not the same as theirs. Your plan (or lack-thereof) is different.

I'm not so sure there's a correct way to live. There's no right or wrong way. There's just their way and your way. They made some mistakes. You will, too. They made fond memories. You will, too. But if you have something tugging at your heart, it's important that you follow the life you know you were called to rather than the life everyone else says is calling you. You were made for a different purpose than they were, so their plan might not work for you.

All that to say, I quickly discovered that warehouse work suits me very well after being stuck down there for two weeks when I nearly broke my foot. I guess you could say I fell right into it. Literally. The process for the position was officially the most agonizingly long process I have yet to endure, but once I was told the position was mine... Well, let's just say there was a lot of hugging going on in the warehouse.

So that's it. I'm officially signed on full-time to work for the site and harass all of the people who make life at Mount Rushmore pretty darn great. Despite everyone else's opinions about the safe and correct way to continue life, my leap of faith worked out incredibly well in my favor. I'm not saying it will work out every time, but if you don't take a chance a few times, I can be certain that you'll never know what could've been. I'm fully aware the life of pure spontaneity and adventure isn't for everyone. Not everyone enjoys coasting through life with little to no plan. But if that's what excites your soul, don't hesitate to pursue an opportunity because other people are scared. This isn't about them. It's about you.

If you ever happen to be in the Black Hills, feel free to stop by the gift shop and ask for me - I'd love to meet some of B's readers! And if any of you have recommendations for how to survive an actual winter, please let me know... I'm starting to get the feeling that my chacos and Arkansas sweatshirt aren't going to cut it anymore!

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Lady In Waiting

lady-in-waiting:(n) a female personal assistant at a court, royal or feudal, attending on a queen, princess, or high-ranking noblewoman. Historically, a lady-in-waiting was often a noblewoman from a family in good society but who was of lower rank than the woman on whom she attended. 

That's straight from Google, in response to the question: "What is a lady-in-waiting?" 

I used to call myself a princess. As the daughter of the King of all Kings, I was one. I am one. Right? 

I don't know about you, but more often than not, I feel a lot more like a lady-in-waiting. Still a lady, still respected, and still with good reputation, but slightly less than royalty. Slightly less than noble. Slightly less than...important. 

I am among the vast population of women who are exquisitely proficient. I am intelligent, but I have never been the smartest. I am beautiful, but I have never been the prettiest. I am talented, but I have never been the prodigy. I am great at a lot of things, but I am the best at nothing. I have lived in the shadows, just shy of the spotlight, since I can remember, and I'm usually okay with that. 

Until I'm single. 

Then, on the off chance I find a guy who fits the bill (as in, he's not gay, or taken, or a complete sociopath), I am stuck fighting with the prodigies. The supermodels. The ones who scored a 36 on their ACT. Granted, I feel confident about beating out the competition who is below basic (though I don't actually know anyone who fits that unfortunate description), but a lady-in-waiting is also expected to date, court, and marry high in society. She is still expected to land a lord, a knight, a nobleman, a prince; but she is competing with the princesses - the Kate Middleton's of the world. She is close to the crown. She is close to the spotlight. 

But not quite close enough. 

There is nothing more humiliatingly frustrating than being a lady-in-waiting (or the DUFF, if you've read that book), especially in today's society full of pitiful dating customs. If someone else gets the guy, it doesn't mean you're fat, or ugly, or dumb, or boring. It just means you're not as skinny, as pretty, as smart, or as interesting as the one who got him. Yeah. Cause that's encouraging. 

When you and another hungry, hormonal girl are eying the last piece of chocolate cake, are you likely to hand it over to her because she's hungrier and more hormonal? Heck no. You're knocking the poor girl over to snag it off the platter. 

Yes, I realize that guy you had a crush on for a year is (maybe...) more important than a piece of chocolate cake. But the game remains the same. You both like him. You would both be good for him. But you set out on an exhausting mission to present yourself better. 

Listen close, dear sister.

"Now may the God of peace equip you with all you need for doing his will."
          Hebrews 13:20-21

As a daughter of Christ, it is extremely important to remember that you are crowned. You are not a servant to a princess. You are the princess. The only one you are called to serve is your father, the King. 

He has designed you in His image; completely, methodically, and intricately so that you would be equipped to attain what you were meant to attain, achieve what you were meant to achieve, and yes, date/marry who you were meant to date/marry. Just as He is molding you into a wife for your future husband, He is out there molding a man you may not even know into a husband for the future you. You don't need to chase after that boy. You need to chase after God, and trust that your future man is out there doing the same. 

A woman's heart should be so lost in God that a man has to seek Him to find her. 

Somewhere out there, God has instilled a desire in a young man to find you. There is a young man who will be looking for a woman who is just your level of intelligence. He will be looking for a woman who is just your type of funny. He will be looking for a woman who is exactly your kind of beautiful, and you certainly don't want to get sidetracked. 

"Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end."          Ecclesiastes 3:11

That's probably the hardest part. Maybe you already know your man and have found him. Maybe you're perfect to him, and he's perfect to you, but neither of you are quite ready for each other. So you wait. 

Or maybe you know him, but it hasn't occurred to you that he's the one God is preparing for you. Maybe you know him, but it hasn't occurred to him. Maybe that's the hardest part. 

Or perhaps the hardest part is not knowing him at all; knowing that there's someone out there you've never even seen, and God is molding, tweaking, teaching, and healing him just for you. 

Maybe it's all the hardest part. Let's face it, waiting is hard. Maybe we are ladies-in-waiting, just not the way we originally felt we were. Maybe we didn't get overlooked by our crush because we were a little less than perfect for him. Maybe our crush overlooked us because we were beyond perfect for someone else. 

Maybe being a lady-in-waiting isn't so bad after all. Maybe if we spent a little less time chasing men and a little more time chasing God, we would run into our prince a little faster. Because we would be ready for him faster, and he would be ready for us.

I like to say that I am ready to find my prince, but I'm not entirely sure that I am. Maybe I have more places to go. Maybe I have more jobs to consider. Maybe there's a task so unimaginably important that I have to complete before I find him. And if that's the case, it would be terribly unfortunate to miss out on one of the most significant things in my life because I was chasing after a boy who was (or wasn't) even meant for me.

We'd all like to marry our prince. We'd all much rather be Queens than ladies in waiting. But there's one element of every fairytale we forget to notice: the waiting. In the tower. For the knight. For the kiss. For the prince. For the love.

The bottom line is, if Princesses didn't have to wait, they wouldn't have a very good story. And I don't know about you, but I want my story to be filled with romance, passion, adventure, and victory. Your prince might get you romance, but all the other things come from you. Don't miss out on mingling plot lines that can enhance your novel just because you want a different one. Chances are high that it won't be as exciting on its own.

Quite possibly the hardest thing a girl should remember is to not lose sight of her story. Don't lose sight of your fairytale because you're comparing your chapter three to some other girl's chapter ten. And don't lose sight of your crown because you think you need a man to make it shine. Solitaire settings are more elegant anyway.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Pizza Faced Prejudice

It's amazing the types of random topics that are inquired about by readers. Sometimes I'll get an email and think to myself, ok where are they going with this? How could it possibly relate to beauty distortion at all? But it always does. So many things are linked to beauty distortion: from advertisements, social media, beauty products, fashion choices, healthy recipes, and nutritional information, that it is often difficult to pinpoint what is distorted in our society and what isn't. And today, I'm here to talk about (of all things...) skincare.

I recently stumbled across a woman's status on Facebook, inquiring about recommended dermatologists in our hometown. As I talked with her more personally, it was revealed that the woman was looking for skincare treatments for her young daughter who was beginning the seemingly endless battle with adolescent acne. I immediately started having flashbacks.

I know you can't imagine a face as flawless as mine to ever have a flaw (haha, NOT!), but allow me to take you back to my own personal struggle. I was a regular pizza face in junior high. Those pimples were the size of pepperonis. The struggle I had with my breakouts was real, and was easily one of the most aggressive beauty obstacles in my life up to that date. They were on my face, my chest, my back, and they didn't just look unappealing; they hurt. I experienced cystic acne; which, while not uncommon, is extremely uncomfortable. Unlike typical acne, these breakouts remain inflated well below the skin. My pimples would swell to the size of bug bites, and were hopelessly unable to be popped. Or covered. Or treated.

Like any girl at age 14, I was so caught up in being perfect. Being pretty. Being flawless. So after the ProActiv stopped working, the creams caused allergic reactions, and the face washes were a lost cause, I set off to the dermatologist to get my hands on some medication. Because developing and experiencing teenage puberty like a normal 14 year old girl is frowned upon in society, and it thrusts a whole new level of low self esteem and insecurity on girls who deal with a little bit of acne. Everybody gets a zit or two. But having more than three is a sin when you're 14, even though it's completely normal and completely out of your control.

For those of you who know me, it is clear that I am not a fan of doctors. I don't get procedures done without anesthetic even if it can be done without numbing me. I reflexively kick them during physicals, gag during throat swabs, and practically faint at the feeling of blood pulsing through my arm when my blood pressure is taken. I'll pay you a hundred dollars if it means avoiding being stuck with a needle. Doctor's visits are not my cup of tea, but I was excited. I was going to conquer my pizza face disorder if it was the last thing I did.

The doctor came into the room and said hello. I returned the greeting. It was very casual and comfortable. He read through my file and sat down before saying, "So! Tell me what's going on."

"My face," I told him, pointing at my file, "My zits are huge. They won't pop and they hurt and I want them gone."

I watched as his lip curled into a sly smile. "Do you have a boyfriend?" he asked.

I was startled. Excuse me? I did, at the time, even though I was very young (ah, puppy love...), so I responded, "Um... Yes?"

"Then what are you worried about?" the doctor asked.

I was alarmed. Did he honestly think this was about a boy? Had he not listened to my concern? I didn't say I was ugly! I didn't say that I was lonely and I certainly didn't say my acne was preventing me from landing (or keeping) a boyfriend. I had only said they hurt,  and that I wanted them gone. And for what I was prepared to pay for the medicine he was supposed to give me, I was shockingly unprepared for the clear assumption that my concerns meant nothing because I already had a boyfriend (which, as we all know, is apparently the only thing a young woman may aspire to do). Silly me. I thought we were past the 19th century.

"They just hurt," I tried again, attempting to suppress the anger now bubbling up beneath my skin.

He waved his hand at me as if to say you're overreacting, and instead chose to say, "Well, you're a good lookin' girl. Very pretty. You've got nothing to worry about."

I grew more and more uncomfortable with every word that left his mouth. I was 14! And I'd never felt so objectified in my life. Was this guy for real? Waving off a developmental and hormonal issue that could be treated simply because I was a girl? Because I was pretty? Wasn't that...illegal? I wasn't paying him for the offensive confidence boost he thought I needed. I was paying him to fix my acne.

After that day, I wouldn't be paying him for anything.

Little did I know, this objectification would follow me around for the rest of my life. Turns out, it's a common side-effect of being a woman. I had been pushed to the breaking point with discouragement, hopelessly convinced that my acne scars would remain until the day I died. It seems so dramatic now, but it was so important when I was that young. And this man had waved off my concern (and business!) because he favored the way I looked. As a 14 year old girl.

I hope I'm not the only one that finds that super creepy. Or at least super unprofessional.

You'd think today's society was modern enough to avoid this lack of feminine concern. You'd think that with the rights we have gained over time, we also gained respect. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Just a week ago a stumbled across a young woman's social media rant, who had landed an extremely successful job with the company she'd been interning for. But upon entering the acceptance meeting in a royal blue pantsuit, she was told that she would need to dress as less of a distraction to accept the job. Her blouse was not low. Her pants were not tight. Her heels were not too high. She wore no lipstick, and her hair was not curled. Her makeup was natural, her hair was combed and straightened, and she wore an outfit similar to what her male colleagues wore every day. But the way her body looked inside of it was worthy of a comment and critique. I'm still questioning if that conversation was legal, as well.

And we wonder why women get so offended. It's one thing to present yourself modestly, but we are told to dress a certain way so we won't be a distraction to hormonal men who are too immature to control themselves. We are told to put our passions and skills on the back burner to first take care of what we look like. We are told that our opinions are not to be voiced, our concerns are not to be heard, and our thoughts are not to be acknowledged. But "it's okay," because we're pretty. 

I did eventually go through Accutane treatments with another dermatologist. A female dermatologist who listened to my concerns, presented me with with options, and let the choice be mine. Not only does my face look freakin' fabulous now, but I would recommend her to anyone with flying colors.

Her clinic was 30 minutes out of town, but I happily drove up once a month for my progressive checkups, urine samples, and blood work. Yes, you heard that right. Blood work. I let her stick me. Once a month. With a real life needle. Her clinic might have been inconvenient, but it was worth the drive. She might have been expensive, but her success was worth every penny. She was a doctor, just like all the other awful and arrogant doctors I've come in contact with in my lifetime, but she understood. Under her care and treatment, I was treated like a person, not a patient. For the first time, someone in a white lab coat made me feel valued for the smiles I flashed, the laughs I let escape, and the individual I was. She never made me feel like I was her monthly 8 a.m. appointment. I was just Bethany; a girl who sang Broadway, quoted Disney, loved kids, and had a little touch of acne.

That's the way it should be.

So here's my point. Whether you work in a clinic, a classroom, or an office cubicle, make sure you aren't treating people like your patients, your students, or your clients. Make sure the way they look isn't clouding who they are. Make sure you're treating them like the person they fought to become rather than the body they live inside of. Failure to do this caused that male dermatologist to lose my business, along with the business of my Facebook friend and her daughter.

Don't make that same mistake. Sometimes we are inevitably the figure of oppression that we strive to get away from. And it's okay, because we're human (which, by the way, means we're not perfect). But don't stop checking yourself. Always make sure your intentions are golden, and that your actions reflect these intentions with respect for others.

Oh yeah. And if you live in the Northwest Arkansas area and ever need a dermatologist, shoot me an message 'cause I know a gal.