Grad School: Not for Kicks and Giggles

Though I’m not sure why you’re here, I am not here for kicks and giggles.

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It has been about two weeks since my last post. This is mainly because I’ve had a question that I have been investigating. I will share those thoughts with you next week. However, this week, I have seen somethings that leave me shook. Cue rant:

I realized that my understanding of attending a graduate program differs significantly from some other graduate students. Across departments, I often hear that grad school serves as a holding place for not getting a job or a safety net. This absolutely blows my mind. Of course, I understand that the job market is competitive and difficult to get into (mainly because you need experience to get entry level positions and it’s about who you know). I also understand that all students know is school. From k-12, you sit, listen to teachers, and take thousands of tests. Afterward, some students start jobs, careers, or families while a few go to college (if they can afford it or were given proper resources to apply). The idea behind going to undergrad is to get a certificate, an associates, or bachelors degree to get a job (or become a manager). And that’s just it. People can go to undergrad for experience, marks to elevate them to their next step, or just take classes for fun that their previous education did not cover (kicks and giggles). You are gaining general knowledge about an area to use in some practical way.

When you enter graduate school, you are making the statement that you are going to specialize in a certain area (or become the expert in the PhD track). These people DO NOT show up for kicks and giggles. The idea (or at least in my opinion) was that people go to grad school with an ultimate goal that can only be reached with specialization in that area. For example, I believe that I want to teach college students which means that I need at least a masters degree to be hired by a university and it would be nice to have some published work (for street cred). Within academia, they want you to get as many degrees as possible and have credible work to back up that knowledge. Those with other aspirations or want positions of great power and influence might also need more degrees to set them up for success. The point is, you come to grad school with an idea or goal in mind and you grind. You are processing information and adding knowledge to the academic community. It is intense. Specifically within Communication, I am doing a lot of reading, writing, and presenting those findings each week about new material. My brain hurts.

The shook part is observing graduate students who are on Facebook or texting their friends in lectures (like non-emergency, emoji conversations). It takes everything within me to not stare them square and say, “Leave.” If your timeline and gossip blogs are more important than this course content, go home! You do not have to be here. I do not think the professor is even taking roll. You are not engaged and now are distracting me with all the blue and white lights. Just leave. If this is not interesting to you and you do not want to be here…LEAVE. I just think it is disrespectful and devaluing the positions we are in. There are people in the room who 50…80…100 years ago, would not have been allowed to study there. These people would not have even seen it as an option. You sitting in that seat probably means another student around the country was wait-listed or declined. YOU CAN LEAVE.

Studying for your masters or doctorate is a big deal and is super tough. It is an opportunity that most people never get to experience. People come to grad school because they have goals they need or want to meet. They have things that they are interested in knowing more about. They are not here for kicks and giggles.

End rant. Now I have more reading to do.

Best,

CJ

What’s a Mindset Shift?

I will admit that I never realized how much of a mindset shift would be require in graduate school. Many people say that graduate school is intense, but will be the most exciting, fun time of your college career (obviously, for us nerdy types). While all of this is true, I do not recall having a conversation with anyone about the change of mindset.

When you opt into a graduate program you are making a statement to the world. As Professor Barajas said in a group session, getting a Master’s says to the academic community that you are wanting to specialize in a particular area and getting a Doctorate says you are being an expert on a specific area. My undergraduate professors explained that we were creating knowledge. With knowledge and the power to pass it down to others requires great responsibilities.

In addition to being a graduate student, I am an instructor and teaching assistant for undergraduate students. So not only am I expected to be on my studies and giving back within my discipline and communities, I have to be a greater example to young adults. I’m still figuring out adulthood and some things I have mastered pretty well, but I am now in a space where I am “the professor.”

Within that role, there are quite a few unspoken rules, because this community is so small. Though I was never one to frequent parties and bars, now I have to think about the optics of that, whether here or elsewhere. My role in certain on campus organizations may be different. It’s less about “let me hang out with my friends” and more so “what will project me to that end goal.” With that in mind, how one even approaches dating is different. I do not say these things to communicate that I am feeling trapped or restricted. I say these things because I am noticing a shift in my approach to life. Like leaving behind non-sense and moving forward in non-toxic environments.

I am making personal and mature decisions with more intention than I think I ever have before. I am surrounding myself with people who get it and with people who are go-getters. I am lucky to be surrounded by a team that supports me and holds me accountable. I am working with wonderfully, skilled individuals who can coach and collaborate with me on various projects.

I feel like a lot of trust has been placed on me and my ability to develop better humans. And I am ALL ABOUT IT. It is fun, but it’s different than what you would imagine it to be. It requires you to ask the right questions and be intentional with your actions. Although I’m sure it will be stressful (just give it 3-4 weeks), I’m excited to be in the place in my life where I am more aware of who I am, the roles I play, and the life I live unapologetically. 

Best,

CJ

End of Gap Year: What’s Next?

I’ll be starting a new adventure soon and hopefully I’ll have more time to write.

This time last year, I was going through one of the biggest transitions of my young adult life. I had completed my undergraduate studies and begun to define womanhood for myself. I made a terrifying, yet beautiful decision to take a Gap Year. Here’s what I learned from that experience.

Long story short, I graduated without a plan, but had great options. I deferred my enrollment at the University of Arkansas, in order to gain more focus in my life. My undergrad career was draining physically, mentally, emotionally, and academically. So during my Gap Year I completed internships in event planning and studio art, served through AmeriCorps to develop Social Emotional Learning or soft skills in young students, traveled aboard, attended conferences and trainings, while having a lot of fun (some might say too much)!

During this time, I learned that I am someone who has high expectations for excellence and will work endlessly to improve a situation. I have been creative, strategic, and intentional with putting myself in the right circle of people and places. I learned the importance of taking care of yourself and what that might look like for me. I also learned that teaching is where I am meant to be. However, I do not believe k-12 is my calling.

During my Gap Year, though I enjoyed working with middle and high school students, I do not believe that the Education system supports teachers to develop great students. Therefore, I applied to four different graduate programs around the U.S. I am now enrolled at the University of Arkansas to encourage more inclusive communities and be a part of changing what education looks like in the U.S.

Through serving long hours in various school systems and summer camps, I noticed that I was passionate about giving students the best quality experiences. I noticed that I put my students first in every capacity. I believe that those intense emotions or connections should never be ignored. I hope that my graduate studies will show me ways that I can be more influential and allow me to make tangible goals to improve our education system.

This learning matters because I noticed my calling. I think I had been running away from it for so long and not identifying it for what it was. In every aspect of my life, I have been a leader and teacher. I use to think that I was the only one without “a thing” or passion or clear direction. But now I believe that my “thing” is leading within education and what better way to do that than through graduate school.

As a result of my Gap Year journey, I gained more focus on what makes Cayla happy and who adult Cayla might be. I am still writing my story in pencil for now, but I’m starting to get a better picture of the final chapter.

I want to thank everyone for following me on my Gap Year Journey. I will continue writing about my new transition on the First Year Grad tab.

Take safe risks and always put yourself first.

Best,

Cayla Jae

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.

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