“If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” ― Junot Díaz

Below is a link to a video of a young girl who receives a doll with a prosthetic leg. This is significant because the young lady has a prosthetic leg as well.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGhAcBwwpo0)
The young girl’s reaction is priceless. She opens the box and immediately begins crying because she has a doll that looks like her.
The crux of this statement emphasizes how important representation for all people is, specifically minorities.
We live in a society where the majority of people are white straight cisgender people and dominate pop culture. This is natural and makes sense that a majority is well represented in the society they live.
However, collectively we should always be working towards a more inclusive society. One way to do that is by representing all people in that society. This may mean through media, politics, educations, and other outlets.
It is imperative that children see people like them excelling in a happy and healthy way. This is one of the building blocks for developing positive self image and identity.
The little girl from the video doesn’t have many role models that represent her. I don’t know many celebrities or influential people in our society that have a prosthetic leg. So for her to receive a doll with one was a major deal for her. The same is true for People of Color, the LGBTQ community, women, and others.
By representing minorities in popular culture we are providing our youth an accurate depiction of all peoples that live in our society. Our media representing those communities should illustrate them as authentic three dimensional beings. We tend to think of people in only one way; usually the label we place on them. If our TV shows, books, and music provide depth to these minority characters it expands our youth’s ability to develop a positive self image.
The LGBTQ community, People of Color, women, immigrants, and other minorities don’t have much representation in government, academia, pop culture, and other aspects of life. By providing youth that is more inclusive and more like them we are cultivating a generation that feels more free to live genuine and more authentically than ever before.
If you this concept is new to you or you don’t understand it, count yourself lucky. You have had impactful person in your life that you could identify with. Not many of our youth get that opportunity. Working to be more inclusive of all others is a goal we should all work toward.
For the sake of the young lady in the video or others like her, we owe it to them. For the next generation.

“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” –Mother Teresa

“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” –Mother Teresa

 

Empathy is something we hear a lot about in pop culture. People often share quizzes or quotes about being an empathy. As much as the word is thrown around in today’s society, I wish it was practiced more.

Empathy is often confused with sympathy but those two emotions are very different. Sympathy is understanding that a person is experiencing a particular emotion. Empathy is feeling that particular emotion alongside the person.

What I pull from Mother Teresa’s words are powerful. We may understand that a particular group of people have a plight and we may recognize they are vulnerable and marginalized but do we truly empathize with them?

Because a group of people are experiencing a shared plight do we somehow believe this diminishes their struggles? Often we view people we disagree with as a group of nameless and faceless people. We see immigrants, African Americans, LBGTQ people, and other marginalized people of society. Because we look at the “mass” we fail to recognize the dignity and inherent worth of the individual person that makes up the “masses”.

Each person has an experience that is different from your own. That experience is as valid as yours. We lose that when we see people as nameless and faceless enemy.

I think the best example of empathy was stated by Jesus Christ. He advised “love one another as yourself”. This means we recognize that the stranger in the mass has a personhood that is separate from my own. I think Jesus was also highlighting that in many ways we can be harder on other people than we are on ourselves.

We understand our intentions. We know where our heart was. Yet we always question the motives of others. We are quick to assume another’s wrong doings and not give the benefit of the doubt. If we loved others as we loved ourselves, we wouldn’t rush t judgment about other people’s motives but give them time to make them known.

By only seeing people as part of a “mass” we maintain that shroud around them, perpetuating a two dimensional understanding of them. We have to recognize that people of all walks want what we all want: our basic physical and psychological needs to be met. When we prevent that we are denying an individual’s personhood. In a fair and free society we validate everyone’s experience while not denying a person’s existence.

We should always keep in mind that behind every issue, political or other, is the “one” that makes up the “mass”. That one is a person who has thoughts, feelings, and perspective on the world.

Empathy is one of those buzz words that is often thrown around in pop culture and it seems very little understand the complexity of the emotion or what it truly means to empathize with another person. Its understanding that we can disagree while recognizing the complexity of the person we disagree with. It’s a way for us to maintain our humanity. It’s something to consider the next time you are faced with the “mass”; consider the “one”.

Never Stop Wandering Into Wonder. – Suzy Kassem

So we are just a few hours from 2017 and I am preparing for the festivities of tonight but I wanted to hammer out a blog to wrap up my thoughts bout 2016.

So the internet has decided 2016 is the worst year we’ve had since the plague. They could be right but I’d say it all depends on who you ask.

I’ve seen many good things happen to family and friends populate in my news feed over the last twelve months. Don’t get me wrong, I know a few people who would disagree because they have had some terrible things happen to them this year. May they know they are in my thoughts and I’m here for them.

This year has been an interesting year:

I attended three weddings two of which I was in the wedding party and one where I was a guest. I wish each couple nothing but happiness and many years with their new partners. One of those weddings was my brothers so my family added a new family member! I really do have an awesome sister-in-law and then my family celebrated fifty years of marriage for my grandparents. My mom, aunt, and I planned a surprise party where guest came to celebrate with us. Some of the guests were lifelong friends of my grandparents. It was a great occasion.

For me personally, 2016 has been a good year. This last year is arguably my best year maybe ever. I was promoted to a supervisor position at work, I was accepted into graduate school and successfully completed my first semester with a 4.0, and I paid my car off, and started a journey of self love and acceptance. I struggle daily but look forward to reaching my destination.

I began a new thought process about the people in my life and am very thankful for them. I feel as though those relationships have been enriched and are much fuller and deeper. I look forward to carrying that into the New Year.

I don’t expect 2017 to be much different than 2016. Years tend to blend but I will continue to work towards my professional and personal goals. I want to keep working to complete grad school and furthering my passion of reducing mental health stigma.

I am really not the type to make a big deal about New Years. It’s just another day. The only thing significant about it is that I flip the calendar. I believe that people can start everyday as a “new year” so I don’t get caught up in the hysteria. If you want to change something don’t wait until it feels like a magical time. Create the magic and it will happen.

To you reading this,

I hope you make that change you are desperately agonizing over, go after your dream job, find the love of your life, develop your passion, apply for your dream school, travel and love more, respect yourself and others, get out of that bad relationship, leave the job you hate, and reduce the negativity in your life. The magic of New Years isn’t the fact the date changes it’s the possibilities and wonderment that comes with it. If you want 2017 to be different you have to become different. Remember that!

Happy New Year and good vibes!

“Peaks and valleys, kid. The older you get, the more you have.” -Lorelai Gilmore

This past week millions of people, myself included, watched the long anticipated Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. There will be spoilers from this point forward.

The wonderful thing about the show is that there are many story lines, the character’s rich complexity, a sharp wit and endless pop-culture references leave you in awe of the writer’s ability to story tell. From a young age, I’ve always appreciated a person’s ability to weave an intricate story that takes a while to unfold and digest.

It doesn’t help I’m woefully sappy.

Gilmore Girls has always been near and dear to my heart. I along, with my cohorts, identify with Rory and our shared coming of age experiences. Yet, you also have Lorelai and the many shenanigans she gets into along with juggling rearing a child, career, her love life, and a tension filled family dynamic. We follow the journey of Richard and Emily Gilmore. A wealthy New England family attempting to preserve a legacy and provide for their daughter and granddaughter.

I want to focus on the themes I picked up most in the revival. It draws out so many things that people struggle with.

Rory’s rut in her career and need to be established. Lorelai’s feelings of invalidation in her relationship with Luke and Emily’s need to establish a new life after the death of her husband and grief over losing her identity.

Rory’s character was one that fans thought could do anything. We certainly thought she had the world by the teeth and she would be extremely successful. Rory did not do any of those things. Ten years later she is in a rut. She is basically homeless, in two unhealthy romantic relationships, and has no work prospects. It’s sad. She takes the year to find herself. I kept thinking this should have occurred ten years ago. This is a reminder that ruts and uncertainty can hit at any time in our life. She contends with the feeling of being stagnate while her friends were all successful and doing their thing. Who hasn’t felt like that? Throughout the year Rory decides what she wants for the next phase of her life and works to obtain it and of course life throw a curve ball at the end. One I don’t totally hate. I didn’t expect Rory to become pregnant but the writer’s adequately prepared me for it.

Lorelai feels as if she has wasted the last ten years of Luke’s life. She feels that she robbed him of children and his dreams. She and Luke spend the year together but making each other somewhat unhappy. Lorelai goes on a journey to soul search and finds her answers. She goes back to Luke work out the animosity they have developed. The revival ends with them becoming married. Lorelai also works out the tension filled relationship with her mother. They are finally in a good place. The bitter resentment Lorelai had for her mother was resolved.

Emily’s storyline was my favorite and the most complex. Emily lost her husband, her world, and identity. She had to rebuild what she had and she did so. She sold her home and bought a new one. She started a new romance. She ended her affiliation with the DAR and moved to Nantucket. She became a new person. She was given an opportunity to grow and she did.

All of their storylines, especially Emily’s, introduce important themes well all experience in life. The biggest take that I had was that people deserve to have the space to grow/evolve. We are not the same person throughout our life. People change. It’s a simple fact. If we aren’t growing and changing parts of us throughout life then I’d say the life you are living isn’t much of a life. Your insight deepens, your opinions change, and you feel differently about things as you grow. It’s a part of living. We assimilate our old selves into new identities. Some people never take that opportunity, whether for fear or stubbornness it’s not good. Emily spent seventy years building a comfortable life and then her husband died. She had to forge a new life. Pick up the pieces and create something else. She did it wonderfully. Not everyone is afforded that opportunity. I get that but she was able to start over. I think that is why they call them “phases”. Life happens in transitions; some of them longer than others, some of them unexpectedly and without consent, some of them naturally. Our ability to accept and trudge through is what gets us through. We can meet life like a mighty oak or a wispy palm and in doing so we dictate the quality of our life. Maybe, like usually, I read too much into something as simple as a T.V. show but as I watched the revival of my favorite T.V. show these were some of the themes I picked up and why I believe this show will be timeless. Everyone experiences love and lost, ruts in life, and family issues. It’s whether we remain in the valleys or climb that mountains that make life what it can be.

“Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.” ― Nathan W. Morris

I like to purge. I consider myself a purger but not of the body. I like to purge stuff and find that very cathartic. I have always lived by the motto if it isn’t serving a purpose, I don’t need it. Its worked out well, so far.

I have decided to take that motto and take it a step forward. I have a friend who is a minimalist. Its quite fascinating that she cannot survive with less stuff in a society that tells us we need more stuff. I have imagined its very freeing.

Being a minimalist is something I have always seen myself doing. I truly like the idea to not being bogged down from having things I simply do not need. So I have taken the first step to becoming a minimalist. I have gone through my closet and gathered all the clothing I intend to donate. I mean were talking five pairs of shoes, numerous t-shirts, polos, sweaters, and jeans. Every bit of clothing is something I haven’t worn in years. I find myself saying I will wear it eventually or when I lose a few pounds. This type of thinking isn’t productive.

So with anything, I research minimalism and found that this concept isn’t limited to “stuff”. It can be a lifestyle. I found that you can start with stuff but you can minimize your job/school, stress, debt, friends/family, and health/diet. I became obsessed with this notion. I’ll be it, I won’t be minimalizing much of friends and family. I already have a small and close knit support system but everything else sounds appealing.

One article I read even discussed mental health as an aspect of minimal living. Learning to minimalize the stress and conflict in your life. You see minimalism is about a person’s whole being and is intended for optimal living. You create more freedom for yourself when you are not tied to stuff and negative baggage.

Minimal living in regard to health and diet requires more planning. Everyday I spend ten dollars to eat lunch because I make no preparation for what I intend to eat. So by planning my meals and minimally spending money, I am giving myself freedom in more healthy living and saving money on food that is not spur of the moment.

My end game is that I hope this provides me with more time to do what I want. I think this will be a good way to get it. Living minimally is living more purposefully.

I started with my closet and intend to move to other parts of my life. Lets see how it goes:

 

 

“If this planet is to be transformed for the better, then we as individuals must first transform ourselves.” ― Auliq Ice

Lately, I’ve been in my head a lot. Those that know me understand this is typical for but it’s been a good “inside your head”. Recently, I’ve noticed I have felt very grateful for life and my people, places, and things, especially my career. I have never been more fulfilled in what I do. I got to thinking why this is.

I have this firm belief in people, goodness, and easing other folk’s burden. As a kid, I had a youth leader at church that impressed upon my cohorts and me the belief that we should “leave things better than we found them”. I have realized that this sentiment impacted me more than I knew. This thought has driven many of my decisions in life. I want to know I am leaving my people, places, and things better off that when they came to me.

Social Work is how I have fulfilled this. What we do matters. Who we work with matters and I love to do it. I work with all different types of people. I work to solve many different types of problems. We should be meeting people where they are at and not where we expect them to be.

When working with folks, it is important to remember not everyone is like you and that is okay. We should not expect everyone to fall in line with our beliefs, customs, and way of doing things. If you do, you’re in for a sad life.

Social Work seeks to improve the lives of others and the communities in which they live. Everyone truly is interconnected on a level that none of us can see. We share problems and should be empathetic to folks.

Social Work seeks to “leave things better than we found them”. Social Workers advocate for those who do not have the ability to advocate for themselves. This looks like different things. Sometimes we intervene with a landlord, teacher, doctor, or family member. Other times we intervene with folks who you wouldn’t expect. An example would be another person who is in the field that should be working for the same goal, bettering the client’s life. If you want to piss me of the fastest, its being a stumbling block for someone else when your job is to be a support for that person.

Unfortunately, I see it all too often. “Do No Harm” is something doctors live by but my coworkers and I have adopted that motto as well in response to seeing people not living up to what they should be.

That vow is a serious one. If you aren’t working to better your client’s life you aren’t doing your job.

It is very important to leave the world a better place. This is done in very complex ways and also very simple ways. You do not have to be the President to make the world a better place.

We can make the world a better place by simply being there for folks. Sometimes a strong silence will do more for a person than a bunch of hot air. We can volunteer and work for different social agencies.

It even can happen on a smaller scale, hold a door open for someone, make a phone call, smile at someone. Small gestures make a big impact.

Remember that you can make an impact on people and leave things better that when you found them. Look for a need and fulfill it, no matter how small.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” ― Marie Curie

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of talk about bathroom bills. More specifically, Trans issues have been tossed into the public arena. Many states are passing or are considering legislation regarding a Tran’s person ability to use public restrooms. Tran’s issues have been gaining momentum in the last year or so but it is important to consider these “Trans issues” are issues a Trans person contends with a on daily basis and isn’t something that just started in the last few years. Let’s explore that:
No matter your views on Transgender issues one should educate themselves on this deeply personal issue.
What prompted my writing this blog was the recent passing of the North Carolina bill that requires people to use the bathroom that correlates with the sex on their original birth certificate. So if a person does complete sex reassignment surgery they would still be required to use the restroom of the sex that they had a birth. There are two parts to this bill but this blog will only focus on the bathroom portion.
As usual this argument can be divided between liberal and conservative views. Of course people of the respective parties can have differing opinions within the party but a generality does exist.
Conservatives frame their argument for this bill in terms of privacy and security. They affirm that a person’s privacy is compromised when a person has to use the bathroom with someone that has a different biological gender. The example provided was if a man used the women’s restroom a woman would be very uncomfortable. First, it struck me that the commentator used the language “biological sex” because the LBGT community affirms that gender is mental and sex is biological. It almost felt as if they too were affirming that belief as well. Secondly, I would assume that a woman would be very uncomfortable if a man used the women’s restroom. However the point that the Trans community continues to reiterate to people is that a Trans person is not their gender they were born with. So If a Trans Person is using the women’s restroom they are affirming I am a woman and belong here. So personally, I don’t see how privacy has been impacted however people will need to figure that portion out for themselves.
The second issue is security. Conservatives affirm that women and children are somehow put into risk when a transgendered person uses the restroom of their identified gender. They believe that perverts would use this law for their own deviant behaviors and do unspeakable things to women and children. Conservatives push that allowing Trans people to use the bathroom of their mental gender would make it easier for men to rape women. This argument is weak. In fact it s contradicts an issue so near and dear to conservatives. Let’s apply their argument for putting into place a law to restrict/prevent behavior. The same argument can be applied to gun control. Liberals argue if they create stricter gun control laws then they will lessen the amount of gun violence. We know that won’t work. You cannot legislate morality and cannot control people’s behaviors with laws. So what does this have to do with the bathroom bill? The point is that a person who is participates in the abhorrent behaviors of raping children and women will go into the women’s restaurant regardless of the law. Furthermore, you cannot equate Transgendered people with dirty perverts. Most Transgendered people do not rape women and children and are upstanding law abiding people. It becomes no more easier for a man to use a woman’s restroom than it was before. It is against the law for a man to do those things before this bathroom law. It continues to be against the law for a man to use the women’s restroom and for a man to rape women and children. This bathroom bill does not restrict the behavior of men who would do those terrible things to women and children. It only prevents law abiding citizens from using the restroom. If you logical explore the issues it seems the bathroom bill is motivated for other reasons.
Liberals view the bath room bill as discrimination against Transgendered people. They argue a Trans person should have the right to use the bathroom that correlates with their mental gender. They also contend that it is a safety concern for a Trans person to use the restroom that correlates with the gender on their original birth certificate. There have been numerous attacks on the LBGT community. Liberals postulate that if a Trans woman uses the men’s room that be putting them in danger of being assaulted. Considering the amount of imperial evidence, this is a valid point. There is a long history of physical abuse of the LBGT community.
I wrote this article because I saw a terrible cartoon floating around online about a man wearing a dress so he could get into the women’s room to hurt women and children. That person wasn’t transgendered. It was a pervert. I imagine that the rate of men assaulting women in women’s restroom will not increase due to Trans people using the bathroom that correlates with their mental gender. I do not think that people are treating this issue with compassion or understanding that it deserves. People are still not listening to Trans people about any Trans people. Some folks still believe that the LBGT community is completely making up these issues. It’s quite sad. This world lacks compassion and understanding. It is my hope that people can facilitate a discussion that is respectful. No one has asked you to change your belief but being disrespectful and a terrible human being is not an option.

Let’s work to making the world a better place.