A Hero’s Pi/e/ace
“30 minutes of Netflix and then bed,” I told my friend after a particularly draining meeting.
“What do you watch on Netflix?”
“I watch the kind shows. The happy ones.”
“British Baking Show. Queer Eye. I love Queer Eye. I would like to hang out with all of them.”
My brother had added me on an his account about six months ago, and I could admit, it had been an excuse, often to not let my mind wander in the ways it should. Finishing the episode or series had sometimes converted into the goal itself for the day or the weekend. That choice easily overtook more difficult choices around what would likely to be considered more meaningful uses of my time. Netflix was not exactly an escape. It was a different kind of community that you subconsciously choose in partnership with math. The algorithm suggested what you might like, what you should watch next, what others were watching. It suggested in a limited way based on a few things it knew about you. Netflix had even gotten in the way of blog post writing. That had been true again this week.
Desperate for a topic, I had Googled important days in February. A Canadian commemoration caught my eye. International Development Week. Based on world history, I found it interesting that only Canada would create such a day, but there it was on the Internet search. “The week of February 7-12 is International Development Week.” Development had continued to be a difficult word for me in workspaces, alongside others like need and expertise. Development called to mind, very vividly, essays I wrote when I returned from Guatemala about women who loved too much, princesses, and mirrors.
My mind, and then my fingers, drifted back to my phone. I tapped on the black and red logo, and then the ‘Continue watching’ cue. Queer Eye was also about ways of loving, princesses, and mirrors. This updated version doesn’t just give advice to cisgender men. Hair, except not hair. It’s self-care. Interior decoration, except not. It’s sketching in a space to breathe and be. I had started with season 6 because Netflix started there. That season was dedicated to ‘heroes’ but the definition was open. Nurses, mothers, non profit founders, all who gave more to others than to themselves.
Development work, especially on the international stage, had been taught to me as a kind of hero’s journey. Except, the mistake was believing in the hero as one piece when in fact his or her peace was comprised of allowing exactly what you were to be the center of success.
When I worked in Guatemala, my wardrobe was too small because I always knew it would have to fit again in two suitcases. My closet had been the most obvious representation of the half life I lived in development work. I chose based on the idea that everyone around me had so much less so I should never celebrate myself nor choose to shine at all.
On Queer Eye, my favorite focus area was still fashion. Inside fashion, it’s Tan’s insistence of the hero piece that served as a pivotal reminder. In this context, it’s not that the hero space is expected to do everything, to be another version of you that was unsustainable. No, the hero piece centered other choices and showcased the lived reality of those choices. The cut fabric was not simply a hero piece, but a hero’s peace.
Before crawling into bed, I put away a few final items, dirty laundry, earrings, notebooks. I gazed at my colorful wardrobe and selected for the next day. The pieces themselves represented a journey of understanding what I wanted to highlight within me and for me. In the end that was the development in which I could mark success. That success was also marked in the people with whom I had worked, but they had done that for themselves.
Binging on Netflix. Superficial some might say. “Make an effort,” Tan would remind. Still, a hero piece would shine and also know its limits. A hero’s peace is not about doing enough but about knowing what is enough. To have a hero’s peace, that development work effort, must also include you.