PICTURE PERFECT

I remember the very first time perfectionism and I met. He found me when I was just a tween with stringy brown hair and hot pink braces. We were at school, and he told me that I was okay as I was, but wouldn't I be better with straight A's?

In middle school he taught me that I'd be more lovable if I joined more clubs; and in high school, he convinced me that I should not only join said clubs but I should run for office. Why just participate, when you can be a leader? Perfectionism would ask me. Leaders are better.

By that time, perfectionism had latched on to my appearance, as well. He made me question my round face, and left me wondering if I'd be more beautiful without chubby cheeks. He asked me questions about why I was so short. The popular girls are tall; he reminded me. Why aren’t you tall like them?

He also noticed that I wasn't going on very many dates. My mom told me I was intimidating because I was so beautiful and smart. (Moms are the best aren't they!?) But he told me it was because I wasn't as pretty as those other girls; that boys would never find someone like me attractive.

Perfectionism began to seep into every aspect of my life, like cream into a cup of coffee. By college, it was no longer me + perfectionism, but, instead, a new version of me, one that was obsessed with becoming perfect. 

I walked around campus day after day, pretending that I had it all together. My life was messy, but perfectionism convinced me that I could balance the darkness that was going on inside with a seemingly bright and perfect outside. Don't let anyone see your faults; became our anthem. 

After college, I packed perfectionism up and brought him back to Atlanta with me. Like a broken captor, I did so willingly, sure that I couldn't live without him. 

It was then that I fell for a guy... hard. But one cool September night he sat me down and told me that it was over. My stomach dropped as he said the words "Listen... you're perfect on paper but it's just not going to work out." I didn't understand. I'd tried to be as agreeable, quiet and likable as possible. But I had been perfect! I cried to perfectionism,

On that day, I learned that as hard as I'd tried to be perfect, it didn't earn me more love. It didn't make me better or more whole. It didn't protect me from pain.

I was living like a mirage; simply admired from afar, but never close enough to really touch. But being admired from afar isn't love. Love is about being up close and messy with someone. It's about letting our guards down and admitting when we're not okay. Love is honest.

So today, I bid you farewell perfectionism. My life is sweeter, fuller and more joyful without you. Does it look as perfect? Definitely not. But I've learned that being perfect wasn't really all you said it would be, anyway.

Loyally,

J

Photography by Garrett Lobaugh
Thank you to Sometimes. Always. Never for the inspiration for this post.

THE F-WORD

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit her to teach or have authority over a man. She. Must. Be. Silent.” - 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

I remember reading those words for the first time right after I graduated from college. In that season God’s voice had been so clear about the type of woman He wanted me to become, but those three short sentences were not. I sat there reading the passage over and over; trying to find something I hadn’t seen before. The black and white lettering seemed so stark, so clear; so… black and white.

See, if you know me I think the last word you might use to describe me is silent. I’m ambitious. I’m independent. I'm opinionated. And you can normally hear my boisterous laugh or loud voice long before you see me enter a room. So, where does this leave me? Am I destined to be some kind of unfit wife?

Throughout the years I've sat in numerous churches, yet I can never ignore the slight pang I feel in my heart as preachers encourage women in the congregation to be "quiet" and "submissive", to not pursue careers and to instead learn to be a "good wife." Growing up in these conservative circles often times I heard more about being a “submissive wife,” than about establishing a loving marriage.

In many Christian communities being a “biblical man” or a “biblical woman” is just as high of a priority, if not more so, than being a biblical person. I’m not sure how we came to the conclusion that men and women are to imitate Christ in different ways but I’d like to know where people see Jesus emphasizing that a man’s highest calling is to be a leader and a decision-maker, and a woman’s highest calling is to be a nurturer and “advice-giver.” From what I know about the life of Jesus, he called us to love God and love others selflessly. End of story.

That brings me to the dreaded f-word. In some circles, using the f-word is dirty, outrageous, and even offensive. Of course, I’m talking about the word feminism. But, let's take a closer look at what exactly feminism is. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a feminist is someone who “believes men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Notice how it doesn't say women who refuse to take their husbands last name, never want to have children, don't care about personal hygiene, and get pissed when a man gets her car door or pays for her meal on a first date. I've heard people accuse women who support the feminist movement of being "power-hungry" or "selfish" and even say that feminism has no place in the church because "women were made to help their future husbands achieve the purpose God has for his life" - as though God did not have one for me, too.

As a Christian, to me, feminism is about seeing and valuing women as Jesus did. I’m always moved by the stories of Jesus’ interactions with women in the gospels. In a time and culture where women were uneducated, looked down upon and viewed as property, He saw them and treated them as ones who were honored by God and deeply loved. If the church followed the example of Jesus in how he treated women, it could heal the world. Just like the human body, the whole flourishes when every part is made stronger. In my eyes, Christians should be on the front lines of the feminist movement, because God is a God of justice who loves us all equally — and we should aim to perfect those traits within the church, and within ourselves.

Loyally,

J

Photography by Garrett Lobaugh

AND THEN I NEVER HEARD FROM HIM AGAIN

We all have a story that goes a little something like this: You meet a handsome and down-to-earth friend of a friend with a charming demeanor at a get-together. You talk all night of embarrassing middle school stories and laugh at your shared obsession with YouTube videos of cats that are afraid of cucumbers. He calls you the next morning and you arrange a date. From that point on your “coupledom” is all but official.

Flash forward to a couple of weeks in:

“I’m just not interested in him,” you explain as you sit on your best friend’s couch. “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with him it’s just… I don’t know… It’s not really there for me.”

“That’s fine,” She assures you, “But you have to tell him.”

“I don’t know.” you wince. “We weren’t serious or anything. I think I’m just going to let it… you know… die out.”

She gives you that infuriating look that only someone who’s a generally better person than you can give. “Okay,” she says, “But think about if you were you in his shoes.”

You reply confidently, “I wouldn’t mind. Actually… I’d probably be glad. Being broken up with is humiliating! When things peter out it’s just a way of letting everyone escape with their pride intact.”

And you leave it at that.

You “ghosted” someone and you slept fine at night. You told yourself that this was just how things are done now a days. You convinced yourself that it was the fault of the toxic dating culture we’ve created - that this was the modern break-up protocol we’d all agreed to adhere to.


Now, we also all have a story that goes a little something like this: You meet a handsome and down-to-earth friend of a friend with a charming demeanor at a get-together. You talk all night of embarrassing middle school stories and laugh at your shared obsession with YouTube videos of cats that are afraid of cucumbers. He calls you the next morning and you arrange a date. From that point on your “coupledom” is all but official.

You make those confident future plans that are thrilling for their banality. You’re positive the feelings are mutual. He’s different. Then three weeks in, his normally timely responses become slower and slower. Before you know it a week passes without a peep. Swallowing your fear, you send the first text: "Hey stranger!" Not too eager but also gets the point across. Right? Minutes, then hours, then days go by with no response.

You’re sitting on that same friend’s couch, and you're a mess. It turns out that you do mind being ghosted – in fact, you mind it a lot. You feel humiliated. On top of your embarrassment you feel stupid for being upset over something that wasn’t “official” or mutually acknowledged. Why did you let your guard down with someone who turned out to be a total stranger? The silence leaves you at best confused, and at worst, diving into your deepest insecurities for answers.

The only thing worse than being broken up with is realizing that someone didn’t even consider you worth breaking up with.

For Millenials, "and then I never heard from him again," is one of the most common endings to any dating story. But don't you think we're all deserving of a happier ending? I sure do. The truth is, we've all been through our fair share of break-ups. Not all bad, or dramatic - sometimes we are simply not compatible with someone, or perhaps circumstances prevent us from being able to pursue things further. However, at the very least, we need to be able to express that.

Loyally,

J

Photography by Garrett Lobaugh