Out of the 70+ blogs I subscribe to, there are only a handful that I make a point of reading when they’re updated.
One of those blogs is called “The Middle Finger Project.”
I’m actually kind of jealous that I didn’t come up with idea and title in the first place, but I’m not positive that I would have the guts to write so passionately and forcefully, either, so maybe it’s best that Ashley Ambirge is the one doing the writing.
(She’s also one of a handful of people behind the just-announced Way Below Status Quo, a networking group for young professionals.)
Recently, Ashley was nice enough to e-mail back-and-forth with me about her blog, why she’s not afraid of “The Man,” and how she wants us to remember her blog.
Here’s what she had to say.
Q: What was the impetus for The Middle Finger Project?
Ashley: The driving force behind The Middle Finger Project can be summed up in one word: Misery. By that I don’t my own misery, but the misery of all of the emotionless faces that pass me on the street, who seem to have simply thrown their hands up with apathy and passively accepted an existence of jaded disenchantment. It’s a dime-a-dozen, humdrum, middle-of-the-road tolerable existence, and it’s what most of us have grown to believe is “the real world,” or “a part of growing up.” The truth of the matter is that tolerable is not good enough; not for me, not for you and not for the rest of the Western world. To me, tolerable is one of our greatest tragedies–we’ve been so fortunate to have been given the educational, financial and emotional resources to be able to do great things with these things called lives, yet all we can do is wallow in complacent misery, drifting unconsciously in and out of the grind, feeling sorry for ourselves the whole time.
The reason I started The Middle Finger Project was to battle this mentality, and encourage people to start engaging with things that inspire & excite them. To question authority. To think critically about their existences, and what they want out of life. Are they getting it? If not, how can they?
Q: If I’m reading that correctly, your goal is to change human perception of our purpose in life, which seems to me like a daunting prospect. What have you seen so far to indicate it’s working?
I don’t know if I’d call it “daunting” at all; ambitious, perhaps, but isn’t that what life is all about? Without big ambitions, the world would remain stagnant. We would remain stagnant. Essentially it comes down to risk taking; I’d far rather take the risk & be proved wrong, than never take the risk and always wonder what might have been. That said, I don’t know that I’m necessarily changing people’s perceptions, but rather am creating a platform for the like minded to gather–I’ve discovered in the 6 months I’ve been doing this that there are many others with similar perspectives, but no voice. I’m trying to give us one. As far as some sort of proof or validation goes, the incredibly humbling emails I receive on a regular basis truly do keep me continually inspired. I can’t speak for my readers, but I can share some of the things they’ve said lately (reader feedback in italics):
This is just a quick note to let you know how in love with TMF Project I am.
I just wanted to say thanks for the work you do at The Middle Finger Project. It’s refreshing to see someone challenging the norm, and accomplishing what I plan to begin in my own life.
Whoa. You’re blog was JUST what I needed on this blustery, cold, wintery, snowy, boring February day. Thanks for jabbing me with a needle of adrenaline. I needed the reminders and am encouraged by your endless drive for joy and passion in your life.
To receive incredible emails like that, NOTHING seems daunting anymore.
Q: One of the things I’ve gathered from reading your blog and your answers is that you like to use strong language. Salty, even. Do you worry that this blog will ever come back to bite you? In other words, do you ever caution yourself when you’re planning to write on a particular topic?
That’s a great question, but no, it’s the farthest thing from my mind. If anything, I take a lot of pride in what I write, and I’d be happy to share that with anyone. I don’t imagine working in a place where I would even have to hide any of what I say online, because what I say online is who I am. Those are my feelings and my innermost thought processes. Actually, I recently opened dialogue with an online publisher to do some content creation work for them, and my blog was one of the things that I showcased most, and also the reason I got my foot in the door in the first place.
It’s true that not everyone’s going to agree with what you say online, and that’s perfectly fine. I write for a very specific audience, and the people I surround myself with tend to be like minded as well. I would hope that if I were in a position to be having an interview, that my future employer would be open to different ideas–otherwise, what am I doing there?
That said, I currently teach American Culture at Drexel University, maintain a number of online-related projects, and will likely be traveling abroad again soon, possibly to Egypt to work on a TV documentary with an old producer friend of mine. I’m pretty sure they’ve been all reading the blog, and nothing has gone too catastrophic yet on me!
Q: You’re obviously passionate about your writing and your ideas - how much of that finds its way into your class curriculum?
Since I’m fortunate to be working with students from across the globe, in all actuality they actually are the ones teaching me a thing or two! From Turkey to Italy, Iraq to Korea, ranging in age, education levels and English proficiency skills, the students bring so much valuable & diversified life experience to the table. When we discuss matters related to American culture, however, I try to remain neutral and act as a facilitator of critical thought, letting them draw many conclusions on their own. Apart from American culture topics, though, I don’t discuss The Middle Finger Project or the topics I write about with my class unless its relevant. A large component of the course is in developing their conversational skills, so they do far more speaking than I do.
Q: When it’s all said and done, what do you want The Middle Finger Project’s legacy to be?
Man, that question actually scared me, because I hadn’t stopped to consider that at some point, it will all be said and done–but hopefully not for a long, long time.
In an increasingly growing, connected world, I can only imagine that our lives will, inevitably, become more full as well. Technology is an incredibly powerful tool, but I predict that instead of using it in order to give us more leisure time, it will likely keep us busier than ever. It already has.
With that in mind, it would be my greatest hope that The Middle Finger Project will evolve with time, and, ultimately, can serve as a reminder to our citizens to slow down, and remember to enjoy life. It’s so easy to mistake going through the motions of life as living. Whether we’re talking about the present or 100 years from now, those two will never be the same. They might overlap in some instances, but at their core, there’s a fundamental difference. And it’s important that we recognize that in order to make the most out of the time we have. The answer to the question, “What would I want others to remember about me?” is crucial, because it gives us clues as to what we need to be aiming for. Concentrate more efforts on turning that answer into an adjective, and I think we’ll all be a little better off.
Random Q: What are five books you would want with you if you were stuck on a deserted island? (I will not accept a hollowed-out bible with flares and matches inside.)
This is actually a more difficult question than you would imagine. I mean, if I were stuck on a deserted island, I’d probably want all five books to be about how to survive on a deserted island! You know–the whole light-a-fire-by-rubbing-two-sticks-together-thing. I can tell you one thing; I’d be awfully irritable because I’m not a seafood fan, and I’d probably have to rock the sushi for quite some time.
To answer your question seriously, I’d say that I’d want:
- “She’s Come Undone,” by Wally Lamb, because it was my all-time favorite novel growing up, and I’ve read it so many times that I know I won’t ever get bored of it.
- “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,”by Aron Ralson, because it’s a true story about a man who gets trapped in a canyon for days. I’d so need this to inject myself with hope.
- Anything by Thoreau. Because, well, it’s Thoreau. And he’s how I’d keep myself occupied. At least I’d have a lot of time on my hands to play philosopher.
- “Atlas Shrugged,” by Ayn Rand, because I’m reading it now and don’t ever want to put it down! I have no idea how I hadn’t read this prior.
- And, of course, “Brain Droppings” by George Carlin, for no other reason than it’s funny as hell, and I’d probably need a good laugh. Carlin never gets old.