“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.

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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!

“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.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway

There is no shortage of blogs and articles about the new year and how to “be a new you” this year. Considering the theme of my blog is about mental wellness, I wanted to type out a few tips for a good year. Like most, I want this “new year new me” feeling to last all year. Side note: I hate “new year new me” announcements. It wasn’t until just yesterday I realized why. I find announcing to the world “new year new me” attention seeking. Seeking attention is a huge turn off for me. But I love when people decide to better themselves and work who they are as a person. I always encourage folks to do that year round.

So I have about six habits one should do in the new year (or at any time in the year) to add to their over all wellness.

 

  1. Say “Yes” more often.

A couple of years ago I told myself I would not deny myself from activities or experience because I was fearful or thought I would not like something. Saying “Yes” to events, people, or experiences that you have not done before is a great way to get you out of your comfort zone. Life is about growing and expanding your comforts. Take a trip, try a new employment opportunity, start school; examples such as these will assist you in expanding your comfort zone. Its a cliché but life cannot be lived on the side lines.

2. Tell people “No” and do not feel guilty about it.

At this point you might be asking yourself isn’t this contradictory to the first point. Its truly not. Too often people pleasers only go along with something because they are afraid of disappointing someone. You have to recognize not everyone is looking out for your best interest and only want what they can get out of you. Be selective with those who you say yes too. If a person wants something from you and its not something you are comfortable with, or its not feasible for you, or anything else do not be afraid to tell them no. Remember “no” is a complete answer in itself.

3. Learn to do activities alone.

For many the thought of being alone is scary. (Note; there is a difference between being alone and lonely) Being alone is healthy and normal. Being alone isn’t good for a person and isn’t healthy. Reach out for help if you are lonely. However, being alone is normal. We need that time to recharge and to regroup. Going to a movie, reading a book, or going on a run is a good way for a person to recharge. Learn to like yourself alone or other will not be able to tolerate you n a group.

4. Be more specific about your intentions and desires.

Too often we do not properly communicate what we want from others. We must be direct with people. We have to remember people cannot read minds. You cannot read other people’s minds so why do you think other people can read your mind. Be specific. If you are upset with a person share your feelings. Be honest. Its not a sign of weakness. It saves heart ache and grief. If someone is bothering you its best for find a way to communicate this without escalating the situation and do not keep it bottled up so that you eventually blow up.

5.  Learn a new skill or hobby.

Broadening your horizons is important. Personal growth is important. One way to do this is by learning a new skill. Take a class, learn a new language, join a club or gym, anything that will help you step out of your comfort zone. It is a good idea to do something that would translate into an employment opportunity. Bettering yourself in this fashion could also pay off with better opportunities.

6. Be more aware of how you come across to folks.

Being self aware is very important. If you are more aware of your mannerism it can help you connect with others. If you come across as aloof, angry, bored, or happy it affects how others will respond to you. Monitor your body language and other nonverbal queues. Remember to smile more. Stand straighter. Look people in the eyes. All of these non verbal actions can dictate how people respond to you.

 

These tips can help you live a better life all year round. Everyone wants to be their best self. These tips are a good start. Add any tips you may have in the comment section.

“Choices made, whether bad or good, follow you forever and affect everyone in their path one way or another.” ― J.E.B. Spredemann

We walk a tight rope when it comes to the first amendment. One must balance the ability to say anything with the responsibility of saying anything. I am thankful we live in a country where our government cannot penalize its citizens for its speech. However, society may do with the speech giver as it wishes. I always remind folks you have the freedom of speech but not the freedom of consequences.

Every one of us has a responsibility for what we say. Some of us have bigger platforms but we all have a voice and people listen to it. As an average twenty something male I recognize I have a responsibility with my speech.

I have two younger sisters that are affected by the things I say. I have a reputation that I wish to hold intact. I have friends and family members I have a responsibility to. I also have my employer and coworkers to consider when I make my thoughts public. Lastly, my speech, on a small scale, affects society.  At this point some of you are rolling your eyes.  But think about it. The above people mentioned are my world. I socialize with these folks on an everyday basis. For better or worse, they affect me and I affect them. In turn those folks go home to their family, coworkers, and friends and they affect them. People change people. This is why society is an ever evolving collection of ideas and norms. It’s quite astounding if you think about it. You where ever you are in some small way are affecting someone you don’t know half way around the world. Our interconnectedness is often astonishing. And we are lucky enough to live in a time when all of it is recorded and put on the internet. While I hate internet fad videos, it’s a perfect example.

I believe this illustrates my point about the responsibility we have with our words and speech. I love social commentary. I see myself as a social observer. I then write how I see the world. Some of today’s TV shows are a great source of social thought provocation. Criminal Minds had an episode from 2012 where a politician was speaking hateful rhetoric. He was campaigning on the notion that crime is committed only by nonwhite folks. This fueled a deranged man’s murderous plot to stage the murders of upper middle class white families preformed at the hand of minorities. I get it. It’s a TV show.

However, put it into perspective.  Two and a half weeks ago a white man opened fire on nine innocent black folks who were worshiping God. One of the most people acts a person can commit and they were hunted like animals. Its alleged that the murder was involved in several white supremacy groups or at least believed their ugly beliefs. As I watched this episode this was all I could think of. Those poor folks are victims of a sick twisted individual that was indoctrinated by evil vicious thoughts. I soon thought about the responsibility we all have for our words and to each other. Whether you like it or not you are an example to someone. You change someone and they change you. People change people.

Once we realize this we can work together to become more cautious with our words and thoughts. In no way am I affirming we do not have a right to say what we want but only reminding ourselves that we have a responsibility for what we say as well. May we use our words to build up rather than tear down.

This In Itself Is Humbling.

“This Too Shall Pass” -Unknown

Rarely do I ever need to remind myself of this quote. I have had this mentality as long as I can remember. I tend to be optimistic about things. I am not naïve about the world. I see reality but I have lived long enough to know that most things are temporary.

That includes the good things, not just the bad. Life seems to be a balancing act of good and bad events and everyone of them has not lasted. It passed.

I have this unyielding belief that things get better. I believe I was born with that disposition but chose a long time ago to nurture it.

You can chose to see the world two ways:

1) Life is good with some bad events.

or

2) Life is bad with some good events.

Every human falls into one of those categories. Obviously one is more  harmful than the other. And it is all temporary.

It bring comfort to me to know that the negative events that happen to me are not forever. The sun will really come out tomorrow. Metaphorically at least. I know that a few bad days strung together might make a terrible week but my month can still be good. Its all about perspective.

Asking yourself questions like “Why Me?” only perpetuates a negative attitude. It also demonstrates the thought process that you are above hardship. No one is above hardship. Everyone will suffer. Instead ask “Why not me?”. I do not mean that in an excited way but instead mean it as a way to put things into perspective. There are over seven billion people on the planet. Negative things are happening to someone somewhere. Its bound to catch up with you sooner or later. But on the same side of that coin, good things happen as well. Life’s pleasures happen to you as well. Humans tend to only focus on the negative events, which reinforces our beliefs that negative things are always happening to us.

It is my opinion that we focus more on negative events largely because it feeds the innate insecurity that humanity has. Obviously there are more things in play than insecurity but I believe that is the most driving force in all of humanity. Even love.  However, that is for another topic at a later time.

The proverb “This Too Shall Pass” should be a reminder that negative events do not last. They are finite. They appear for a small time and then vanish. Sure the effects may be felt long after they are gone but healing may occur. Life goes on; as Robert Frost pointed out. Also, “This Too Shall Pass” should help us understand even good things do not last. We should be appreciating them as we have them. The people in our lives. The time we spend with those people. Even our material blessings.

I read a meme once that affirmed if you count her blessings and material things are among them then you do not know what blessings are. While I agree material things are not the most important of blessings, I believe they are still blessings. Any good thing in one’s life is a blessing and maybe some of the bad too.

It is my hope that we remember that bad things happen but not forever. Good things come into our lives and also leave. We should just be thankful we have the experiences that shape who we have become. For even those awful experiences add to ourselves. You can learn and grow as a person. You can work towards being better for it. You can choose optimism.

This In Itself Is Humbling.