understanding without language

How do you react when someone doesn’t speak your language? Are you one to become upset or want to know more? I think that language is key to how we function, but it might not always appear in the ways you expect it to.

I am currently on winter break which is always an interesting and frustrating time. I believe that it is frustrating because it is one of the few times when you are forced to have a conversation with yourself. Often when we work, study, or serve, we think about the tasks and deadlines; however, when you are lucky enough to receive or plan a break, you take a break from the noise.

In communication, noise is a distraction which may interrupt the reception of a message. This may include external interruptions (e.g. weather conditions, construction noises, using electronics, etc.) or internal distractions (e.g. physical conditions like hunger or temperature, thoughts, etc.). I believe that language could also be perceived as noise. We send messages across channels hoping that there is little to no noise, so that our message may be received properly. Maybe we become frustrated when there is a language barrier for these reasons.

While on break, my natural instinct is to panic because I am not needed nor are there urgent demands. Soon after, I go back to what I know and I spend time in conversation with myself. What I know is that I love to sleep, eat, watch tv, and dance. Additionally, my conversations with myself revolve around ideas. Ideas about the role of art in our lives, how we allow mistreatment of most for the satisfaction of few, and my path in this world. In combining my love of physical relaxation and mental puzzle making, I turn to streaming services. I watch a variety of shows and films; however, on breaks I love to balance the reality tv and baking shows with educational media. Documentaries are often included in this longing for more knowledge about artistic lifestyles, power dynamics (or inequity), and my purpose (where I most fit in).

The last documentary that I watched discussed happiness: where we see it and how we use it. I watch everything with subtitles for comfort and context. With the U.S. being a dominant English speaking country, accurate subtitles are hit or miss for other languages. Sometimes there will be preset subtitles to include the English speakers. Other times you just see a note in parentheses to tell you which language the person is speaking, but that is about it. In this happiness documentary, they interview people from various continents which I love. I enjoy this because most films that I watch focus on the U.S., Europe, and Australia. However, this one includes South America, Africa, and Asia.

In the non English speaking countries, interviewees provide their insight on happiness in their native tongue and there are absolutely no captions during those segments. Initially, I was irritated and considered switching to another film, but my curiosity and stubbornness kept me there. As I continued to watch, I became more attentive in my listening and I searched for visual context. Later, I felt ashamed by my response, because I reminded myself that the world doesn’t revolve around me. With most streaming services, available content will depend on your location and demographic. For this reason, I get a lot of content geared toward English speaking U.S. Americans. I was intrigued by this film because I’m not sure I needed to know the language to understand the message.

There is so much to communication outside of verbal or written language. Language barriers are beautiful in that they remind you that there is more to learn and see, though they might raise some uncertainty. Through studying the human body and inflections, you can observe the message. Language is more than an alphabet or character list. Language is seen through non verbal communication like touch or the tilt of the head. I think that language is key to how we function, because we are curious to understand one another and how we relate. However, it might not always appear in the ways we want it to…and that is more than okay.

CJ

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Top 3 Characteristics of a Grad Student

Initially, the goal was to provide the world with week by week insight into the mind of a graduate student; however, we’re not so much different than other humans living in a struggle bus. Graduate students question everything, neglect self care, and want to be great.

Question Mark

Whenever you enter a new level, position, or school, the beginning involves a version of breaking the student down. People come in with rich backgrounds and amazing experiences which make them unique, but upon entering graduate school you have to build from the core. We often get lost in the “stuff” (e.g. titles, accomplishments, travel, memories) and forget about the “us.”

You could argue that breaking people is a negative practice. It’s quite possible that I’m simply brainwashed by now, but I argue that for some people it’s a necessary evil. In speaking about the core, working in graduate school challenged my beliefs and how I saw myself. Because ideas and perspectives are changing, it makes it difficult to write or journal coherently. However, towards the end, when you’re allowed to breathe parts of the big picture start to form. This process of reshaping the mind is helpful if one already questions things and themselves.

The key learnings here are: you are already great; do what you enjoy and do it well; you are never static, but always changing; it is okay not to have answers; and sometimes there is no meaning besides what you attribute to it.

Care for Self

Because people don’t keep themselves or their core at the center, they allow themselves to neglect the care they are silently begging for. When we get lost in the things (e.g. obligations, deadlines, accomplishments, etc.), we forget how important we are. The stress from graduate school and the normalized self neglect cause people to not eat, drink alcohol excessively, put off crying, skip grooming, and stop playing, amongst other things. This is dangerous in that the things allow them to forget themselves and become delirious. Graduate students reading this right now have probably already nodded their head in argument, giggled under their breathe, and continued self harming.

It is important for us to stay alert and watch for these signs. Although the focus is not about changing their minds, it is providing alternative options or ideas that they might consider. So I will not argue against a keg party or an average of 2 hours a sleep per week, but I will bring up how the combination of stress, alcohol, and lack of self care could be why they feel bad…and could make them feel worse. It’s not meant to judge, just an observation.

The key learnings here: graduate students don’t like it when you judge them; graduate students like when you comfort them with words; encouraging things like baths, vegetables, and breaks might not go over well, but with time can be done; and remember that you are human before student or employee.

The GOAT

Greatness is subjective. Our worlds have become so intertwined with social media, television, travel, etc. We know more now about what other people are doing and feel as though we are unsuccessful in the lane next to them. However, your life is your own race in your own lane. You are already great, you just need to find joy, happiness, and what can fill your cup.

I have been told in the past to find something that I do better than almost anyone else and have fun doing it. This is so hard. For some, finding passion or talent is simple. For others (like me), it’s tough because we think we’re great at nothing or everything. The combination of finding something that I both enjoy and am good at is tough, because I also want it to be something that is holistically healthy for me. But again, it’s a matter of just being honest with yourself.

I’m finally getting to a point where I’m filling my own cup and am able to identify that which is holding me back. I am listening to my gut which encourages me to move a lot, but tells me what I enjoy. I am continuing to ask all of the questions to all of the more adulty adults. Finally, next semester, I have plans to build in a structure for myself and develop small goals to make these stressful years more enjoyable.

The key learnings here: be honest and vulnerable with yourself and take a moment to talk to yourself about what it is you want (not what you think others want or need from you). Just do you, boo.

Best,

CJ