Back to Top Priorities

Weeks ago, I wrote about priorities and choices. I wrote about my top priority always being the warm embrace of happiness. Throughout life, our choices may be limited or affected by our environments which question our commitments to that which matters the most.

I left undergrad in a place that was uncertain but proud. I had finally met Cayla. I listened to, supported, and embraced her. Through allowing her to thrive, I learned that she needed to be in the gym at least 3 days out of the week, silence for a good portion of the day, and to create things that were both important to her and others. And even if I moved, it was my responsibility to ensure that she continued to have those things which made her smile.

I did not do my job well. During this gap year experience, I’ve noticed that I’ve stopped supporting myself. I placed myself too far from my chosen family, outside of the gym, into 57 hours per week of noise, and within an uninspiring location. Instead of listening to her, I added distractions to my life which have veer me off of a path that I fought so hard to build.

At one point, I knew that I was meant to live alone somewhere near the sun. Somewhere where I could read books, enjoy hot tea, and dance to the sound of the wind. I knew that I wanted to help people by creating solutions to issues that make my heart sad. I knew that I didn’t care for economic wealth, just financial stability with zero debt. I knew that I would move the bubble to a place I could call home.

However, this year, I have developed unhealthy relationships and habits. I can’t remember the last book I read nor cup of tea I’ve drank. In the past, when I danced, there were always two friends who’d join in, but now I’m more of a spectacle. I have an endless list of things to do and no motivation to start them. I lie in bed eating marshmallows and watching Grey’s Anatomy for the 10th time thinking about all the places my body screams to go to.

9 months ago, Cayla would’ve written this to current Cayla:

1. Set Priorities

2. Assess Your Situation

3. Check Happiness

4. Plan Small Goals

My ultimate priory is to be happy and have silence. I can’t get that from anyone but myself.

I’ve allowed people into my space who don’t deserve my attention. However there were quite a few new relationships that I hope will stick. I’m also making some good decisions with how use my money. So I feel that I just need more structure to my life to rebuild some good and healthy habits.

I am unhappy because I’m not content with my environment. I want more choices and freedom than I currently have. I feel like I’m suffocating. As result, I’ve become more defiant and nasty, because I’m fighting… without a goal (besides freedom of course).

My current plan is to finish my service term within the next 2 weeks. Once released from service, I can allot time to think about myself, achievable goals, and actually follow through. So small steps: finish service, live alone in a pretty place, join a gym/ dance studio, read for pleasure, and eat healthy.

Hopefully by this time next month, I will have attempted some of these goals to get back to my priorities.

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Dear Mr. Cat-Call: I’m Actual Human

Some of us don’t have the luxury of walking and roaming.

Welcome back! I’ve been trying to write this piece for a while now, but never found the right message until now.

Clinched keys, no purse, concaved chest, shallow breathe, and RBF…that’s right. I’m getting ready to walk alone threw a neighborhood in search of food. It’s only half a mile and maybe a 10 minute walk; yet, even though the sun is high, my spirit is low.

In making the decision to not crank up my car to drive two minutes up the street, in the back of my head, I’m taking the risk of being attacked. This is how it feels living and walking while female, woman, young, and black in the USA in 2018. It is because I am small and cute that I have to lug this imaginary bull’s eye on my shoulders.

Most of the time, I keep my eyes to the ground, my voice low, and my steps purposeful. As if too much of a sound will alert others that I exist. Although I have never been physically assaulted or attack while walking, I see it as a possibility anytime. Although I am confident in defending myself, I also understand that there is only so much a woman at 115 pounds can do. Although my anxiety spikes, I feel that I have every right in the world to walk…it shouldn’t be a privilege.

I have been verbally assaulted and harassed consistently. I would define this as any sound transmitted to me which makes me feel objectified, exposed, defensive, disgusted, or fearful. So regardless of your intentions Mr. Cat-Call, the impact of your actions makes me fearful and uncomfortable in my own skin. And that my dear friend is a violation.

Because I stay alert and overly cautious as I walk alone, sometimes I accidentally make eye contact with the opposite sex. When I do, I remember that we’re both human and relax a bit. The last time this happened, a man was sitting on his porch. I assessed him from his seat and concluded that he wasn’t a threat, so I nodded my head as a greeting and kept walking.

He yelled from behind, “Hey!” I just kept walking because we’re the only two people visible on this street. He continues without hesitation, “Aye, you in school?!” In my mind, I am assuming that he’s asking because he wants to know if I’m “of age.” Being that I am small, natural (without makeup), and sporting a backpack, I often get mistaken as a high school student. While some may think this is a stretch, past encounters have led me to this conclusion: he wanted to know if he could legally hit on me or have a chance with me. He was doing his own assessment. In these moments, we (the vulnerable and without privilege) have to be careful with what we say and do. There’s also the possibility that silence would create anger within him. Can you believe that in this moment I think that I HAVE to consider his feelings?!?! So I keep walking and without turning around, I yell, “Have a good day!” Because sometimes disengaged kindness can diffuse situations. He called back, “Huh?!?!” And I yelled, while turning the corner, “Have a good day!” He eventually got the message and ended the conversation with a disapproving, “Okay…”

Now I’ll admit, this interaction was not that bad. That encounter wasn’t as bad as men hanging out of car windows to throw “compliments” my way or ask for my number. It wasn’t as bad as being pressed to give them my number. It wasn’t as bad as being called derogatory names nor hearing what they’d like to do to me…sexually…without my consent. It’s not as bad as witnessing them groping themselves or pretending that I would give them blow jobs. Yet all of them make me uncomfortable and it’s because I have the audacity to walk while female, woman, young, and black in the USA in 2018.

They do it because they know they can. It’s a power dynamic that says that I am worth less than his enjoyment. It’s a society that swipes these issues under the rug. My safety and comfort is secondary to his feelings and needs. Yet if I speak out about it, I am being over dramatic, too sensitive, and maybe a prude. However, I wrote the post to let the world know that I am human.

I feel emotions and pain. I have the same basic needs to be met. I am a living, breathing being who deserves respect. I also have the RIGHT to walk wherever, whenever, in whatever I want without fear. So, have a nice day Mr. Cat-Call and I hope to never hear from you again.

CJ

I’m Trying Not To Care

Semi-Structure Mini Rant about how fake and sick my view of my world is. And gee, was it cathartic.

Semi-Structure Personal Rant Here:

And suddenly, somehow, everything you know is smoke and mirrors. But, you know, not even the real smoke, just an intern dropping dry ice.

I’ve been taking some days to myself, since I’ve fallen back into my busy bee habit. I was hoping that with every renewed 24 hours I’d get closer to answering that which doesn’t exist yet stings so hard and rings so loud. It’s human logic and greed that suffocates and confuses me.

It’s the reason I cringe when people ask “what’s all in you” or “how’d you get good hair.” It’s the reason I pause when I catch myself saying “why would she accept the drink” rather than “when did they learn it was okay to poison the drink.” Its that learned reason I smile and pleasantly get myself out of situations of sexual harassment on a weekly bases. Its the hesitation I face walking into a gender neutral bathroom, even though I believe people have a right to pee and poop in which ever stupid room has toilet paper and soap. Its the boiling in my gut when people say “i need to eat more” or say that I’m not their standard of beauty because I’m not a curvy girl. It’s the helplessness that divides me when students are pleading in blood, everyone but the 1% is praying for a better tomorrow, and the U.S. looks like some terrible, sick joke in a world full of knowledge. It’s the reason I tell myself not to care because people vote and things don’t change, people march and things don’t change, people document and things don’t change, people cry and beg and reason and things still don’t change.

And you’re told to pray, because even if things don’t change, tomorrow might be a little brighter or maybe you’ll be lucky enough to die and take refuge in heaven. And you’re told to be persistent and optimistic, because not everything is all bad, I mean look at your privilege. And you’re told to watch your words, tone, and actions, because you’ll fit the stereotypes or you won’t get that job or you’ll just be another misunderstood social media meme.

Every day you scroll through articles and posts that are so triggering and terrifying, you’re paralyzed. But I’m not sure others see it. And you focus on work because you need a house and food and zero debt. But I don’t think others think it’s problematic. And you try not to educate yourself because you see the dots and it makes you sad. And maybe others won’t think you truly understand.

And hey, maybe you don’t understand that a country built on the back, blood, spirit, and knowledge of the oppressed, has written its history to have been the savior of the unjustifiable horrors. And then celebrate such hatred in subtly or heck have a memorial day for it. Maybe you don’t understand that years of neglect, trauma, and insane classification, have lead to broken families, wounded hearts, violent communication, and nonexistent bootstraps. Maybe you don’t understand that intersectionality and a multifaceted identity, has caused so much internal and external confusion. Maybe you don’t understand how toxic relationships and situations can be so normalized. Maybe you don’t understand that it’s not about you and you can’t fix your country (that’s not even really your country because your ancestors didn’t choose it, but for some reason anyone who does choose it, has to wait to be chosen).

I’m not angry, I’m disappointed. I’m not a know it all, I’m curious. I’m not “not black enough,” I’m a culmination of my ancestors prayers. I’m not unappreciative or woke, I’m honest. I’m not adding to the “black agenda” or on some bandwagon, I’m hurt. I’m not “too sensitive,” I’m speaking out. I’m not steady and won’t just smile and be pretty and be happy…I don’t even know where to start.

It feels like there’s been a huge valley carved into the body of someone silenced by labels and stupid human’s needs to consume everything good. But instead of assessing the injury or stitching them back together, we lay 1/5th of a bandaid over it and then set it on fire and try again. I hate being confused, hypocritical, and unrightfully judged. I hate thinking that common sense isn’t so common. I hate feeling toxic, powerless, and just not enough. I hate wanting approval and perfection. I hate explaining my hesitation to living life, suspicion in new places (without enough black people), or my experience with race to those who “just don’t agree.”

And suddenly, somehow, everything you know is smoke and mirrors. But, you know, not even the real smoke, just an intern dropping dry ice.

Because race is some bull that oppressors made up to make themselves feel better. And gas lighting allowed terrible people to sleep better at night. And ethnicity determines your eulogy. And all of the isms just feed into some constructed lens of reality that just isn’t real. And people say what they hear without a question, yet only question you because they haven’t placed you yet.

We owe money to people we can’t see and for a system that doesn’t support us. We sell our time, bodies, and minds for a machine that doesn’t nurture us. We have blind loyalty to that which we don’t understand and we’re okay with it because we see only what we want in our mirrors. Because maybe it’s more frightening to see what’s just outside of the funhouse. Some idea of fun it is.

I don’t know. Millennial rant over. I’ll go back to eating avocados while trying to rationalize my choices.

Heros Wanted: What’s Your Super Power?

The world could use a little love and help from you. Let’s find your Super Power today!

In a world where children run on leashes, umpa lumpas run the government, and memes run wild, it’s challenging to find what makes you you and unique. We are so distracted by noise, drama, and entertainment that we’re get disconnected from ourselves.

Most of my posts ask the question of your priorities and skills sets, but I don’t think we’ve ever dug deep into how you determine that. Today’s post will do just that, because in a world of distraction, we need grounded people who know who they are.

1. What Do You Do Well?

Although this may seem simple, people struggle with this question. So your answer can take time. This shouldn’t be a “I do everything well.”

Choose a maximum of 5 things you’re good at. Some questions to help you figure that out: Why do people come to you for advice? What projects or assignments have you enjoyed and excelled at? What themes or topics do you engage with? What interests you?What requires little assistance from other people? What skills have you acquired? What roles do you usually fill? How are these things connected?

Then just simplify everything to one or two words. For example, people come to me for help with resumes, entrance essays, and important emails. I’m sought out for art commissions, creative direction, clerk duties, and to handle people or celebrities. I think I do many things well: dance, sing, paint, draw, write, talk, etc. But let’s connect the dots!

What I do well: coordinate/ organized, research, effective communication, creativity, focused, and honest. People can depend on me to get the job done and tell them what they need to hear.

2. What Do You Enjoy?

This is super important, because if your job as a superhero is to put out fires around the city, but you can’t endure heat… we have a problem!

Let’s define enjoyment as things that you can get lost in for hours, brings joy/ smile to your face, and something that makes you extremely proud. So now create a maximum of 8 things that you enjoy.

Here’s some questions to help: What gets you moving in the morning? What could you talk about for hours? What do you read, watch, or see often? What do you value and why? What describes a fun night to you? What do you enjoy most about other people? What do you ask questions about? What do you care about? What grinds your gears? What could you never say no to? Now do these things connect?

Music is the only thing that gets me going in the mornings, otherwise I’m a zombie. When I’m inspired, I can get lost in art. I enjoy languages, food, dancing, ranting, and teaching. I follow the golden rule and wish everyone had common sense or empathy.

3. What Do You Bring to a Team or Group?

What individual strengths do you bring to the table? What is your skill set? What are you exceptional at?

So now we need to think of you in a collaborative setting because sometimes you have side kicks or you and another superhero have a common enemy. What is unique about you?

Guiding questions: What adjectives are used to describe you? What qualities do you possess that helps a team advance? What roles do you have on teams or in your family? What would your friends, family, or coworkers say about you? What qualities are important for leadership and teamwork? What do you value? What do others value about you?

Choose a maximum of 10 words this time. What makes you you? I’m organized, reliable, focused, I want my team to look good and be on the same page, artistic, detail oriented, and big picture.

4. What Is Your Super Power?

Now, our job is to put it all together. What do your lists have in common? What industries or position could they fit well? Who could you help? What is your super power?

Let’s go back to what you do well, what you enjoy, and what you bring to a team. I said:

“People can depend on me to get the job done and tell them what they need to hear.”

“Music… I enjoy languages, food, dancing, and teaching. I follow the golden rule…common sense or empathy.”

“I’m organized, reliable, focused, I want my team to look good and on the same page, artistic, detail oriented, and big picture.”

Overlap: I am artistic, organized, and dependable. I want to tell people what they need to hear.

This list will help you see your strengths and interests in a different way. The goal is to not only identify them but to see how they could be useful to you. Your Super Power doesn’t have to include everything but the most important parts that stand out.

For example, my list shows that I work well with people and meet their expectations. My Super Power is that I make people fall in love with me. With effective communication and a little focus it doesn’t take much to interpret what people want. In a way I’m a mind reader and I develop patterns with people to make them adore me. I use art, language, details, and focus to accomplish it.

I hope this post helped you. If you have any questions or get stuck, feel free to comment below. My mission is to help you, because the world needs more people who know their skill sets and can use them effectively.

Best,

Cayla Jae

Busy Bees in the Spring

Don’t praise workaholism and scratch your head at the decline of someone’s holistic health.

It’s been about a month since my last post. I have to be honest, I hadn’t even realized that 4 weeks passed because I’ve been leaving task list to task list on auto pilot for too long. Sound familiar? Let’s talk about how people praise Workaholism too much and often ignore their mental heath. Below are 6 things to consider.

  1. What’s Your Personality?

Before discussing what Workaholism is and its characters, let’s see where you are in terms of a personality set. Often when we speak about employees in the workplace, we classify some as Type A or B personality sets. However, there is a spectrum between the two in which certain characters can overlap in a variety of different ways. For the purpose of this blog post, Type A individuals are usually uptight, anxious, competitive, and perfectionists. On the other hand, Type B individuals are lax, calm, social, and satisfied. Stereotypically, Type A employees are seen as the overachievers who go for management positions, while Type B employees do the bare minimum and enjoy the journey. In this case, when it comes to Workaholism, it seems that the Type A individuals would have a greater chance of over working and being unsatisfied which could affect their holistic health. This is not to say that anyone in that category will have adverse health issues, but that depending on their character traits and tendencies, those actions could lead to risky behaviors. If you’d like to see which personality type you are, click here.

2. What Work Do You Do?

Once you’ve been honest with your tendencies and personality set, consider the demands of your job or career. More importantly, how does your line of work align with your personality set. So this isn’t a question of whether your job would be considered “hard,” “difficult,” nor “challenging” in the eyes of others, but subjectively…how much does your work drain you…or does it?

While I do not like extremes, if I were on the spectrum of Type A or Type B, I would hang out closer to the Type A side. I work to see things through to the end and I want the work that I put out to be great. I like things to be done a certain way and in an orderly fashion. I am the Queen of the never ending To Do List. I like to please and impress others, especially my bosses or supervisors. I have a reputation to uphold and I push myself to be the best.

With this in mind, when I work within an environment that is flexible, unpredictable, or draining, I am faced with a great challenge. I currently service as a facilitator which mean I teach “soft skills” or (how to be a decent human being) to 6-12 graders (and occasionally corporate groups). The very nature of this work is that my calendar can change throughout the day at any time. My site location is free flowing with people whose roles overlap. And every class or workshop I hold has a new set of faces, personalities and challenges with a size being anywhere from 6-30 participants. There are so many variables and at times so little notice that it is hard for me to be proud of my work, because I do not feel that I was at optimal performance.

3. What Are Your Priorities?

Almost every time I write a post about life or giving advice, I always ask this question. Because although our experiences are subjective, our priorities require us to think objectively sometimes. After reviewing your character traits and if it aligns with your line of work, you have to make a decision about what is most important. Is your family and their comfort important? Are you going on a trip in a couple of months that requires some preparation? Is completing your last work assignment to perfection life or death?

Think about your goals, hopes, and dreams. What comes first or is competing for that spot? My goal is to become financially stable and be in an environment that is healthful and encourages my creativity. I hope to touch lives through conversations, idea sharing, and modelling certain behavior. I do not have a dream, direction, or specific aim and that scares me. I can make a list of things that I like or enjoy, but I don’t know what the conclusion to my story would/ should look like.

Your priorities may be different and thinking about those might require a different career path or a shift in your personal set. So consider whether you encourage or resist change and why? Remember to stay objective when it comes to achieving that goal or satisfying your priorities.

4. What is Workaholism?

During my senior year in undergraduate, one of my research assignments focused on the Romanticism of Workaholism entitled “Discouraging Work Addiction”. I came to this topic because I was in my final year surrounded by students who were stressed about everything, depressed as a result of living like robots, underwhelmed with options for stress release, and under-impressed with the world surrounding us. Our main goal was to survive our final year walking the stage in one piece, even if that meant grabbing some duct tape and re-attaching our mangled limbs to our half functioning bodies. I always made my friends and co-workers promise that “If for some reason, I do not make it to the stage alive, place my diploma in my casket with all the signatures. I want proof of the blood, sweat, and tears that I endured while here. And if you don’t, I will haunt all of you in my afterlife.”

I wonder why now. In an earlier post, I wrote about the weight of college and the effect it took on me. I had not realized how traumatic those four years were in my life until I returned and was triggered. I experienced almost emotions and feelings like hopefulness, uncertainty, betrayal, fear, anxiety, apathy, atrophy, disjointed, determined, disgusted, depressed, and excited to move on. It was a terrible journey with highs and lows. It’s kind of like trying to find yourself in a sea full of mud and eventually someone hands you a straw so you can breathe.

However, the thing that kept me there was my Workaholism. The word was originally meant to mimic Alcoholism, but is not seen as a character defect within our society (Robinson, 1996, p.447). For example, alcoholics feel an internal motivation to drink excessive amounts of alcohol with time. Alcoholics place the need for the bottle over the need to seek help with life stresses, maintain good physical health, and connect with family in a positive way. While alcoholics have a culturally negative association with their addiction, workaholics are admired for the same association with work. Workaholism is defined by a combination of “high in work involvement, being driven or compelled to work by inner pressures, and low enjoyment at work” (Kanai, 2009, p.213). So there’s this push and pull with wanting to be the best and put in the most hours with a never ending To Do List and not attending to all aspects of ones health.

Work addicts usually fall under the Type A personality which speaks to their ambition, logic, and competitive nature (Robinson, 2014, p. 91). People with Type A personality traits also score high on anxiety, hostility, and anger (Robinson, 2014, p. 91). Meanwhile, these strong traits are connected to a “decreased self-esteem and perceived control”(Robinson, 2014, p. 129). Though these individuals may appear to be put together and on top of things, they actually have significant levels of poor self-esteem and self-doubts. These addicts begin to view their success and self-worth based on their accomplishments. The ten qualities used to determine a work addict, as posed by Robinson (1996), are as follows: Time Urgency, Need to Control, Perfectionism, Difficulty with Relationships, Work Binges, Difficult Relaxing and Having Fun, Burnouts, Impatience and Irritability, Self-Inadequacy, and Self-Neglect.

5. What’s This Got To Do With Depression and Anxiety?

With high work demands, need for perfection, and difficulty relaxing, comes less time to recenter, build meaningful relationships, and disable your flight, fight, or freeze signals. Being consumed by the demands of work can lead to unhealth eating habits, irregular sleeping patterns, less physical active or experience that which gives you job (unless work is joy, but I think everything is great in moderation). As time continues, these individuals could experience Depression and/ Anxiety.

The symptoms of Depression align with effects from work addiction. This includes restlessness, lack of sleep (which can cause you to be irritable), sometimes even too much sleep, fatigue, and worthlessness. If things are not going well at work or one is not achieving high, then this can have a negative effect on the workaholic. Additionally, spending long hours working, leaves little time for friends, families, or hobbies which can give you happy hormones. There is a lot of information out there about Depression and its difference from just being sad. Experience with Depression is different for everyone, so if you think this is something you are dealing with, continue research on the links above and speak with a health care professional (or someone you trust to help you explore options).

Although separate by definition, Anxiety can often be a close friend of Depression for our Type A Workaholics. Anxiety is a nervousness, uneasiness, or need to do something to preparing for or prevent something. However, it is important to clarify that it is excessive worrying or a compulsion to complete a task, rather than just jitters before a test. It’s a conversation that more of “I created 15 different color coded schedules for Fall Semester,” than “I hope I’m not late to class.” And even if you were to stay the late, a super anxious person would should 15-30 minutes early, just to ensure that they’re not late. Or walk there route from each class a few times, to be sure they found the most efficient route. It’s really about how their body process stress. This brings me back to the flight, fight, or freeze signals. With high functioning Anxiety, there is little difference from having a test next class and being chased by a bear after being drenched in organic honey.

6. Living to Work or Working to Live?

As you can see, our actions and choices in our every day lives can affect a combination of all 6 aspects of our health: Physical, Emotional, Mental, Social, Environmental, and Spiritual. So the question here is whether your priorities or goals align with your actions. Is you main goal in life to work? Or are you working so that you can enjoy your life? Or somewhere in between?
There is a difference between working to put food on the table and be able to spend time with friends or family and excessively working to be number one for the day, week, month, or year. I always encourage others to consider their holistic health (those 6 aspects mentioned above). I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s necessary if you want to live a full and healthful life.

I am living and working with Depression and Anxiety. And it is tough, because I’m either doing extremely well and can toot my own horn or I’m glue to my pillow ALL DAY. I have the personality of a person who wants to be a social butterfly and make people proud. I have been drawn to the field of Education while connection my love for Communication and Psychology. However, this line of work in light of our political and social climate is so taxing. My ultimate priority is to live in blissful solitude, so that during the week I can be a superhero and binge watch Netflix on the weekends (or paint or write or dance or go to the beach, I got options!). I really believe that my work can be transformative, but I do not see it manifesting soon enough. Knowing all of this, I attempt to balance my 6 aspects of health but I fail terribly because I’m not disciplined and am limited by Depression and Anxiety.

I don’t want to live pay check to pay check to barely stay afloat. I don’t want to spend so much money on a house that I’ll rarely see. I want the flexibility to live and just be. However, I do not think that I have that luxury, due to my age, ethnicity, social economic status, and financial standing. I don’t know if that bliss is ever coming or if it even matters. Maybe we can talk about my occasionally Nihilism another week. I hope this post gave you enough food for thought. Feel free to leave comments below!

P.S. Citations Below…Let me know if you want more resources!

Kanai, A. (2009). “Karoshi (Work to Death)” in Japan. Journal of Business Ethics, 84 (2): pp. 209-216. Doi: 10.1007/s10551-008-9701-8.

Robinson, B. (1996). The Psychosocial and Familial Dimensions of Work Addiction: Preliminary Perspectives and Hypotheses. Journal of Counseling & Development, 74 (5): pp. 447-452. Doi: 10.1002/j.1556-6676.1996.tb01891.x.

Robinson, B. (2014). Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them (3rd ed.). New York City, NY: NYU Press.

How to “Hot Button” with Confidence

Whether it’s a Hot Topic or an inconvenience, there are ways to navigate conversations that we don’t want to have. Here’s a start!

Welcome Back! While February is recognized as the love month and celebrated for black history, empathy and appreciation for diversity have been placed on the back-burner. It feels as though there’s this obligation to buy candy, hearts, and red tissue paper. Also, I am often under-impressed with our approach to black history month with the same 10 people being highlighted with little to know call to action. This past year has been the year of great tension causing many people to beat around the bush when it comes to tough conversations.

Below are 4 tips for how to have those tough, hot button conversations peacefully and productively.

First, let’s define hot button/ tough conversations.

Hot Button Topics are subjects which elicit strong emotive responses. Hot Button Topics usually present a spectrum of responses which most people choose an extreme to represent. These are the topics that are not brought up at southern dinner tables or do not make for great work related conversations. Examples of current Hot Button Topics would include religion, abortion, income, immigration, police brutality, guns rights, the 45th, race, etc. As mentioned previously, many of these topics are presented in black and white, yet the grey zone is often left out of the conversation. They grey zone can cause tension within these tough conversations. For example, a biracial or mixed person with pale skin not being considered “black enough” for the African American community. Or those who are politically pro-choice and personally pro-life. In conclusion, when faced with Hot Button conversations, just remember that people will have strong stances on them, but everything exists on a continuum. 

1. The Environment Matters

When entering or hosting tough conversations, you must take location and environment into consideration. By this I mean, are you within a large group, a public or private place, at an event, or in a location that would allow for a healthy conversation between the two of you? When hosting tough conversations it helps to not put the other person “on the spot.” My advice would be to have a one on one, if possible, in a space with little to no noise and poses little threat. Your goal here is to make sure that both parties can be heard, are comfortable, and will not get distracted. You want to be considerate of your surroundings and conscious of what is happening within the space and the other person.

2. Check-In with Your Goal

Before entering a highly tense conversation, it helps to be centered and grounded. Most importantly, you want to enter the conversation from a good place with good intentions. You need to assess your mental and emotional state to have that tough conversation. You must be honest with yourself! Are you calm or secure enough to consider a different point of view? Remember that people have firm stances on Hot Button Topics, because they were presented with a strong case or experience earlier in life. Humans are stubborn. Once we believe something is true, it is difficult to accept a new point of view. Your goal should never be to convert the other person (regardless of your stance). Your ultimate goal is to reach understanding on both sides. Hopefully, through a constructive conversation, the other party will take little pieces of what you said and think about it later. However, the process of being presented with new sound information is uncomfortable. It’ll make them squirm and reevaluate their stance. Helping them to understanding you while you active listen to them is success in itself.

3. Create Space for Conversation

Earlier we spoke about the importance of your physical environment and your personal state of mind. Now we want to discuss what a healthy space for conversation looks like. The number one thing here is a Safe Space: that which is non-judgmental, private, respectful of all views, and familiar. You want to build a relationship and trust with the opposite party, because it’s hard to listen to a stranger. You want the questions to be about the topic and viewpoint, rather than personal lives. For example, when speaking about abortion, I stick to policies, access to information, and the fact that it’s a woman’s decision is she wants to grow a whole human. What I won’t do is ask about their personal experience with abortion, family’s history, or say “what if you were…” All of that would immediately put the other person on defense and stop them from listening to you. Again, because you’re goal is mutual understanding, you want both parties open and receptive of the trading of thoughts.

4. Next Step: Action or Disagree

In the spirit of that last statement, the end of the conversation can be a sort of call to action or agreeing to disagree. You want to bring the conversation full circle with a nice close. You want to leave on good terms. You can either end the conversation with your preference or how you interactive with the topic. You can invite them to another conversation or event for them to give their point of view to others. You can ask them to just think about and consider the points you made. When all else fails, just agree to disagree. Remember your goal wasn’t to change someone’s view point, your goal was to have a healthy, productive conversation about something that people don’t want to talk about. It may take many conversations until they see eye to eye with you, so above all else, be patient.

Let people be who they are and appreciate their unique perspective. It isn’t our place to judge them or hate them for having an opinion. It’s our job to educate the masses and do the best we can to respect all views. If you have additional tips, please leave a comment below!

Best,

Cayla Jae

What you really want is…

It’s time to be honest with what you think you want and what you need. Let’s talk!

Welcome to Black History and Commercial Love Month! It’s short and sweet and to the point, just as I wish your next steps will be. At the beginning of this month, I am reflecting on the past six months of my Gap Year Journey. Below, you’ll find ways to identity: What you do not want, What you think you want, and What you really want.

For many of us, the goal was to make it through high school. After graduating, some serve, work, or apply for college. Once you’re in undergraduate studies, the outcomes are unlimited. For those of us who finally make it to the stage, we have a few options: careers or jobs, scholarship opportunities, or more school.

I’ve spoken about my reasons for coming to this decision to take a Gap Year in an earlier post. However, I never wrote about what kept me here. Months before graduation, I had too many ideas about my next possible steps. After the election of the 45th, I felt that none of those options actually made a difference. I came home with the idea of taking a month or two off to relax and celebrate all of my hard work. What I was not expecting was how BORING it was!

I decided narrow down my options and make some spending money. Networking with family friends led to an internship which led to a service position through AmeriCorps. Both of these opportunities were great in that they should me what I do not want, what I ideally want, and what I am a good match for. After going through this experience, I realize that I could have made smarter choices, yet I wouldn’t trade them for anything else. Below you’ll find 3 thought clouds:

  1. What you do not want.

I fearlessly allowed myself to explore positions that I was curious about. I am interested in combining my creative spirit with my organizational skills. This led to me joining projects within the city to help plan, coordinate, and facilitate a variety of events. I also wandered into a full time teaching position which is technically called workshop facilitation. I also led community center arts and craft lessons while completing 3 commissions.

I learned that I do not belong in the event planning realm and that I am not cut out to be a teacher of young people. Although I am excellent in all of these roles, they do not align with my gut. When you are in the place where you are meant to be and doing the line of work meant for you, you have this feeling. It’s like an epiphany or breathe of fresh air or just a smile. You have a feeling that leads to you splayed out on your bed at night saying, “I could do just this for the rest of my life.” Though I’m being a little dramatic, it is true that I have not had that feeling in those roles. I feel that I embodied my roles well and I enjoyed some moments with co-workers. This was still helpful in that I can redirect myself.

This is not to say that I will never teach or plan an event again. I have the skills and interests in both, so if an opportunity arose I would probably accept (depending on my situation at the time). This is when you review your priorities. Can you stand it enough to help pay some bills?

2. What you think you want.

I am an artist. I paint, dance, write, and decorate. I create in any position I can, as long as there’s an itch (sometimes artists get this inspiration or motivation to just create). I hadn’t painted or drawn in so long that I assumed that my discontentment was a result of that. I hadn’t made time to exercise or create. So I started setting meeting with successful people in my field around the city for advice on how to make art for a living.

These wonderful people gave me the best advice and encourage me still today to create a show. However, my issue is that I do not just want to make things for monetary compensation. This is the reason commissions are challenging for me, because I’m making something that I hope someone else will value, rather than what I am proud of. When I envision the person that I could be in the future, it isn’t an artist. The artist who owns a studio, is quite famous, and works out in her free time, isn’t me anymore. Although I have the skills and knowledge to be a great entrepreneur, it doesn’t align with my gut.

Eventually you have to be honest with yourself and keep your fantasies in check. It is challenging sometimes to tune out the voices surrounding you and tune into the voice inside of you. I am often praised on my art and I am proud of it. Although I enjoy it and think it might be “cool” to be a full time artist, it isn’t me. I do not schedule the time to create and I do not have the motivation to push myself there. So allow yourself to be honest and not please others (nor society).

3. What you really want.

What you really want is the happy median which doesn’t always exist. However, our goal here is to compromise. Take your list of what you do not want and ask the question why. Afterwards take your list of what you think you want and ask the question why. Somewhere in there you will find an answer of what you’re good at and kinda like.

(1) I do not like when people panic during events nor do I enjoy the long hours. However, I love the idea of turning nothing into something that hundreds of people will remember for years to come. I do not see myself as a primary nor secondary teacher, because they are under paid and over worked. Additionally, working with students everyday increases my chance for sickness, forces me to repeat myself often, and burn myself out. Most importantly, they must follow rules from the godmother of education and I feel as though education has become less centered around the child.

(2) I love the idea of being an artist, because I can be my own boss and set my own hours. I can also dictate which projects to accept or deny. I can travel all over and experience life outside of my world. I would be allowed to express myself and be valued for that. I also think that I would make people proud. I also like the idea of working out on a regular basis, because of all the benefits. I see an exercising artist as a happy and healthy being.

I am artistic, organized, detail-oriented, empathetic with children’s development, and a seer of the big picture. I like opportunities to lead with little supervision, creatively solve problems, making those I admire proud, and commit to self-care. Therefore, what I want is somewhere within those last two sentences. I want to lead, build community, and allow the marginalized to be listened to. I want to influence and take over the educational system here to create efficient solutions to some significant problems. I want financial stability that would allow my to travel often and keep the lights on.

So that is my simplified method to discovering what you really want. Take the skills you learned, the highlights from your experiences, and pieces of your fantasy of a life and find your happy median. Feel free to add to the conversation below!

Best,

Cayla Jae

How You Start a Revolution

Welcome to 2018! Are you ready for a revolution?

Welcome back to the first week of just another year! Before we dive in, I wanna give you a heads up that my Gap Year Journal post will be moved to Saturday afternoons starting January 13, 2018. This is an attempt to becoming more consistent and making your reading more convenient.

In my last post about making New Year’s Resolutions, I touched on some of my frustrations with the current political climate. Additionally, I made a distinction between creating resolution as a quick fix rather than something sustainable and transformative. In this post, I will continue with the idea of reflecting on and responding to 2017, as we transition into 2018.

One of the main themes that I’ve noticed in every space is revolution. People are observing the world and looking back to movement which brought positive change. People like me feel powerless, not heard or listened to, constrained by rules and laws, climate change isn’t being acknowledged, food desserts are growing, fresh water is disappearing, humans are being murdered by those we trust, jobs are unobtainable, and hope is waning. Wealth and power is unequal. Families are barely surviving below the poverty line. Resources are being removed from areas in need.

We think “our current state is worse than that, the revolution must be on the horizon…any moment.” However, when you consider the power dynamics within this country and the unknown unknowns (things we don’t know that we don’t know), we come to the realization that what worked in the past or overseas must be adapted to our unique situation. We also must realize that the changes that we demand (usually relating to all the -isms) stem from the unique intersection of our mindset and moral.

For example, Racism exists and is the structure of our predominantly white, heterosexual, patriarchal system. It is the mindset of people who have been wired to believe that black people or people of color are less than. It is a mindset that has been passed down for generations within households of non-color and color alike. This prejudice, stereotyping, and violence is justified because “it’s fact and it’s been that way for centuries.” That’s just the way it is. In a similar light, prejudice, stereotyping, violence, and indifference towards individuals based on sex, sexuality, socioeconomic status, identity, etc. has been normalized within a given society by its people and kept alive because of hegemony (power dynamics).

It’s easier to control a population which is divided. It’s easier to control the flow of money when this division makes it okay for certain people to not get their equal share, because they are less than. It’s easier to control those minorities or people in need when they feel they are powerless, voiceless, and uneducated/ inadequate. How do you break a group of people and dehumanize them to the point of…well crab effect? How do you make sure that this group (no matter the size) has little to no change of rising up? How do you become untouchable? You help the people divide themselves based on socially constructed norms, ideas, mindsets, and morals. Thanks to the lack of interest in getting to know those of different identities (religions, cultures, races, etc.) and the internalization of stereotypes, we have kept injustice alive.

So I proposed in an earlier post that we don’t need a revolution. We need community healing and a gradual societal redirection (Social Evolution). We need this because we want to peacefully reach a mutual understanding and connection with those at all levels. The issues that we are enduring could be avoided through adjustments with the system, institutions, and societal norms in place.

Alright, so now we get to the fun stuff! I drafted these seven steps to creating a social evolution with some friends in a coffee shop (yeah, they’re pretty awesome).

  1. Identify the Problem.

    • Definition- What is the main issue or disturbance? What is the virus?
    • Goal- During this period, you must be observant and educate yourself on the details surrounding the Problem. Combining first hand lived experiences with numbers and sources makes for stronger cases (when quality meets quantity). You need to know now what all you’re up against.
    • Action- This first step requires you to be humble enough to ask deeper questions and assume you do not know anything at all. You will be challenged to do things and go places you may have never considered (like calling the U.S. Department of Education yourself on your day off to ask questions). The higher ups are not out of reach, even though it seems that way. Don’t take no for an answer and be persistent.
  2. Assess the Environment/ Climate.

    • Definition- Now that you know the problem inside and out, what is the root cause? Ask why and get to the source. Our world is interconnected and anything but simple.
    • Goal- During this period, you have already gained knowledge surrounding your problem. Now you have to get to the so what, how so, whom, and what? You need to place the problem within its context (we can’t make change from abstract ideas y’all). What are the cultural norms within the country, state, city, county, etc.? What limitations might you face? Whom might you need to go through? You basically want to become an expert on this topic and be like less than 2 Google searches from the answer to any questions about it.
    • Action- This second stage requires you to be a little diplomatic, because you want to know where you need to go before you start burning bridges. This stage will require patience, persistence, and objectivity. This is definitely analytical and nit-picky.
  3. Create Buy-In.

    • Definition-Why should anyone care? Why would anyone support you?
    • Goal- It takes a village to create change. Now, that you’ve been a little detached from the passion behind this movement, step 3 will ask you to revisit why you chose this problem. During this period, you need to think about how this problem is relatable your people. How do you get them to care about this issue, envision themselves as capable of creating change, and respect you enough to follow you as a leader? Are you meant to be the leader? What is your strength or role? How can each person recognize their role in the movement?
    • Action- You almost have to develop a new language here. As I wrote before, these people are living and believing the societal norms that have been passed down from generations. So how do you create that hint of benefit of a doubt and give power back to the powerless? You have to create new norms and get them to buy into the process. You also have to set priorities here: start small and start with one single issue. You can’t have a group of people working on different things within an issue. Numbers help show the higher ups how important this one thing is to this group. Self-care for yourself and teaching it to others will be important, because even though you are creating change, you must allow yourself to be human at some time in the process (especially to avoid burnout). As you focus on buy-in, consider what limitations or barriers your group might face. What sort of things could make them want to leave the movement? How can you prevent that? How could the higher ups intervene and divide you? How can you prevent that? Be realistic with your goals.
  4. Build an Army.

    • Definition- Surround yourself with a team of individuals who can support the movement and are trustworthy enough to have autonomy. Collect the masses and form that village.
    • Goal- Help others see that they can create change. Help others use their unique skills, talents, or resources to own a part of the movement. Build trust, great communication skills, and non-egocentric hierarchy (if we can avoid a hierarchy all together, that’d be better=potential to recreate problem we’re fighting!).
    • Action- You need to be studying past movements for their successes and down falls. You need to talk with people who have been involved in similar movements. You need to study gang culture/ structure, cults, and group think theory. Cover you bases and get rid of any obstacles. Study people, psychology, sociology, and any other -ology which can help you understand/ connect with a diverse group of people, resolve conflict, and create great teamwork. Revisit any opportunities for things to go south and make sure your tribe is strong.
  5. Challenge the Strategy.

    • Definition- You all have to create an action plan for how to solve the problem. What are we doing?
    • Goal-Have a plan A-Z which includes various scenarios of things that could happen during this work. You all need short and long term goals which are realistic, measurable, and adjustable. You need to make sure that everything is centered around one issue. Everyone must feel that they play a significant part in the movement. Watch out for any weak spots.
    • Action- Create a list of things you want and need, in relation to the problem. Focus on what is necessary first. (With sexism, I want pockets on women’s jeans to be normalized. However, I need for pregnancy or menstrual cycles to not be seen as problematic/ hindrances to success.) You will need more patience here as you collaborate with people who have different priorities. Again make sure that passion, buy in, and relatability is present within your group. You need to give and receive trust and open communication. Get comfortable making plans, challenging those ideas, rethinking, being consistent and persistent.
  6. Trail and Error.

    • Definition- Play with some of those ideas!
    • Goal- The only way you learn is through doing. You have everything you need in place and now you all have to see what works and what does not. You will assess and restrategize to ensure that gradual change occurs.
    • Action-Continue to push for what you believe in. Continue to promote self-care. Continue to get rid of barriers for or within your team. You need to be good at reading their minds and noticing their interests or strengths. Do not get discourage and allow those to leave who have lost their will to fight.
  7. Revisit Steps 1-6.

    • Definition- This process is cyclical and anything can be altered to fit your fight.
    • Goal-Know that the work is never done. You will never be enough and that’s okay. You just need to do the best that you can while taking care of your body and other responsibilities. Sometimes in the process of trial and error you learn new things and must go back to the first two steps.
    • Action- Revisit steps 1-6 for one or more issues until the next generation know it by heart. You create a new culture and mindset that inspires young people to pick up where you left off.

I know that this is kind of heavy from the New Year, but I felt this was important to share. Feel free to add things to the list in the comments below. Welcome to 2018!

Best,

Cayla Jae

Why You Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

Instead of making a list of quick fixes, let’s reflect on and respond to 2017.

Alright, so you all know what time of the year it is. In the U.S.A, we have entered and are still recovering from the financial hardships following the winter holiday season. Seeing as we are about three days out from 2018, I felt the need to reflect on and respond to 2017.

In January of 2017, I was huddled up under warm blankets on my couch watching Miami’s 2017 New Year celebration, because duh Pitbull. I was sipping lightly on a new bottle of dry, red wine and heading into my last semester of undergrad. I was disappointed by the newly elected president, confused about what my future would be following my graduation, and consumed by my upcoming gallery show. New Year’s Resolutions (NYR) just weren’t enough to cover all that 2016 threw up on me. After seeing what 2017 became, I feel that now is a great time to start setting some goals, but not in the way that you might think.

I’m assuming that this tradition derived from a sense of hope and unlimited possibilities in the future. People want to know that things will get better and improve. People are constantly trying to “fix” themselves and become enough. One of the reasons I think people shouldn’t make NYR based on these things is because they assume it is a quick fix to their problem (no matter how small or big). The difference in my approach to the new year is to reflect and respond.

As I reflect on 2017, I witnesses democracy and justice being challenged at every turn. I witnessed all the isms (racism, classism, sexism, etc.) being exaggerated and polarized. I have never seen so much exposure of problematic ideas and standpoints. These events were not surprising by any means, because I always knew they existed, people just never have been so bold to share it. There have been various natural disasters, courtroom battles, and peaceful protests which painted the way many of us see 2017. In 2017, I achieved various academic achievements, such as presenting my research at conferences, finding my artistic style, and graduating in one of the laude categories. In 2017, I began loving myself and cleansing my life by getting rid of toxic people and habits. In 2017, I traveled, wrote, created, laughed, and grew.

In creating NYR, I respond to 2017 by identifying what I care most about and what my talent is to make things just a little bit better. When some look at and experience trauma, disasters, and negativity, they want a quick fix. I am hearing more often about revolutions. However, what I have come to realize is that most people want social evolution. To me, a revolution is a sudden, quick, burst of violence to make things right. It often leads to confusion, death, struggle, and non-sustainable solutions. In my mind, it is more realistic and peaceful to go about social evolution. By contrast, this would mean a subtle community transformation. A peaceful and productive method of changing social norms for the benefit of the people.

I respond to 2017 by realizing that the main problem in the U.S.A is hegemony and a lack of understanding (or interest in doing so). I care most about people actually knowing their “enemy” before persecuting them. My talent, skill, or contribution is through creating. I make art well. I write well. I enjoy holding conversations about political issues, because our lives are political. I want muted groups and minorities to not just feel heard, but to be listened to by others. Some of you reading this may not see responding to 2017 as political. Maybe you bought too much yarn and did not actually crochet with it. Maybe you entered too many toxic relationships in 2017. Maybe you have started a new family unit in 2017. You’re response to your lived experience in 2017 will be different. But I encourage you to not leave your NYR at the surface level. Don’t just make a list! Respond to your experience in 2017.

For me, I will be focusing on how my art or line of work can serve my community to make some ripples in social evolution. I want to get my 2018 work into a gallery or local coffee shop. I want to do more commission work. I want to committ to dancing on a regular basis again (at least twice a week). I will continue to narrow down my occupational goals. Finally, I will challenge my own outlook on life: to be less impulsive, concerned about negative things that people might think about me, and worried about things that may or may not occur. I want to be more financially self-sufficient by this time next year and I believe that I have a good game plan to get there.

So remember: reflect on 2017, respond to the events of 2017, create a realistic action plan, and start small. Next week (Next YEAR, ha!), I might go into detail about making realistic goals and building good habits. However, for now, be specific and unapologetic about what you want, be sure to measure your progress, be forgiving with time you give yourself to complete something, and take baby steps!

Best,

Cayla Jae