Make Room for Gentle Self-Experiments
Inspired by a tweet from Kat Armas
I across this tweet from Kat Armas and was struck by the language of self-experimentation. It was 3am and I started writing a response then I said “this would make a great newsletter prompt.”
So here we are. Let’s reflect on this:
All metaphors are slippery and I can see where this one might go wayward.1 But I’ll air on the side of its beauty. I’m good so long as self-experiment is ethical.
Our self-experiment should do no harm, be cruelty-free, and be non-toxic…do you see where I am going?
I have always struggled in STEM subjects. And I have so much respect for science, that I have cultivated from approaching it as poetically as possible. Part of reclaiming an appreciation for science includes retroactively naming that I have ancestors who were scientists though never acknowledged as such. Experiments can be rooted in wonder and respect for the (d)evolution of things. Good science doesn’t have to be a fight against nature.
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…I realize as I write that I’m fighting for the integrity of this word.
And in some ways that too is an experiment.
When we experiment we allow new ideas to change our hypothesis, and change what we’ve always known to be true about ourselves.
New and exciting things can be true, and there’s no shame in being wrong. In fact, being wrong is one step closer to a better way forward.
It can be such a beautiful thing to know what is not for you. On the good side of this metaphor, there is room for:
Becoming more at ease
Discovering danger &
Embracing the inevitable.
Bird by Bird
For example, I am currently learning how to experiment in writing, guided by the words of Anne Lamott, who wrote Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Though she is a well-known writer now, not everything she wrote was amazing. But once she began to get published, she thought some feeling of accomplishment might get her to the point of feeling like she finally made it.
"I [just] try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises.
That thing you had to force yourself to do the actual act of writing turns out to be the best part.
It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward."
—Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
What if, in our self-experimentation, we realize there is something about just being alive that is its own reward?
It is my desperate hope to discover that resolve.
I hope you will try a self-experiment or two this year. And in the process,2 learn to lean into grace, reflection, and redirection.
Oh, and happy new year!
I mean, the history of medical experiments on Black women? Yeah…I’ll stop there.
Add to your list of resolutions….or make this your first one: learn to love the process. Cringe with me at how simple and annoying that sounds, and get back to learning lol.