How to “Hot Button” with Confidence

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

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What you really want is…

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 to “Online Dating”: From Stranger to Friend to Exclusive

Last year, I wrote about reasons someone doesn’t deserve a swipe to the right. Today, I felt the need to highlight those who made it to the final round. Here are 5 tips and tricks to take some stranger’s selfie to someone worth building a future with. Kinda crazy, huh? Well welcome to the 2010s!

  1. Mr./ Mrs. Right

Thanks to centuries of romantic comedies, novels, and story plots, we are desperately searching for our soul mates. There’s this idea that somewhere out there is a person made specifically for you. There’s this concept that someone out there meets all the criteria on your list (and some of us have fairly lengthy lists). Unfortunately, this gets in the way of building friendships and allowing the potential for romance in those relationships.

When it comes to online dating, I entered with the mindset of “what do I need and want”? What’s most important to me is having someone who communicates in a similar way and is open to exploring the world. I also need them to be honest, loyal, and oozing with positive vibes. However, while scrolling through sites, I try not to get distracted by all of my wants (the small details). So after listing your non-negotiable items and needs in a relationship, we must be aware of the deal breakers (ex. stoners, cat lovers, or those who put pineapple on their pizza). So you don’t want to spend all your time checking of items in a box, but you do want to be realistic about who complements you.

2. The Right Fit

Once you have found a person or a couple of people who meet those basic needs, it is time to determine if you “click.” Again, it’s best to avoid our fantasies about romance, such as the foot pop or fireworks after you kiss someone. It’s more about following your gut and asking yourself “could they be a great friend?” Whether you are searching for someone to fill space or be exclusive with, you need to make sure that the two of you can effectively communicate comfortably in your style of communication.

I found my current partner on an online dating app. He was one of the few guys who sent with a unique and interesting message. While I can’t remember what that message was for the life of me, I remember how it made me feel. It made me smile and curious enough to talk with him. Texting for us was simple and enjoyable, because we had similar humor and personalities. While we were revealing deep thoughts and feelings, we were becoming familiar with one another AS FRIENDS. So remember, just take things slow and building a friendship. After building trust as friends, you’ll know if they would complement you well as a partner.

 3. Let’s Get Offline

You know what’s more annoying than receiving hundreds of notifications from strangers? Waiting on Wi-Fi to talk to that one person you can’t wait to receive notifications from. Somewhere in this span of building friendship with this stranger, it is advisable to move offline. If you feel comfortable enough to trade cell phone numbers, do so. If you want to meet them in an open, well trafficked place first, then do that. If things are going well and feel that they might be a compatible friend, then push for some face to face time. There is nothing worse than getting along great via text and not being able to crack a smile in person.

Meeting someone from online will be awkward and strange at first, but just remember that they’re a relatively normal person who is also very nervous. My partner and I had traded numbers because of my busy schedule and agreed to meet for Indian food. His profile noted that he was 6’9″ (yet no typo there) and I am just over 5 feet, so of course that created nerves. I greeted him with an awkward hug and talked about the nerves briefly just to break the ice. We continued conversations similar to our texting streak; however, we talked more about school, aspirations, friends, plans for the year, and of course food.

Having a face to face conversation definitely allowed us to open up more about what we wanted from this relationship. I was fresh out of school and looking for friends in the area to explore the city with. He was of a similar mindset and confessed to not being completely ready for a romantic relationship. Which is understandable! Most of the time, the goal of online dating is friendship rather than marriage. While you do things that would be considered “dates,” but it is also possible to go of “friend dates” which don’t end with kissing or an “I love you.”

4. Open Communication

If you do nothing else, you must develop open communication. Relationship are nothing without some form of consistent and honest communication. As time passes, you will have longer conversations with depth and life gets complicated. Therefore, it’s nice to let your friends know about changes in your life which may affect y’all’s relationship. This is especially important if you are seeing more than one person at the same time. It’s just nice to let others know where your mind and heart are.

My current partner and I talked about everything from work to friends from school and hobbies to future hopes. I often do check ins with my friends about their needs and wants. Sometimes literally saying, “What is it that you need from me as a friend? And what do you want from me?” My partner also discussed the possibility of us dating after about 5-6 months of knowing one another. Although I initially turned the offer down, I did ask him what changed his mind. So we had a full discussion about transitioning from friendship into a romantic relationship. We also discussed what that would look like for us and what would our norms be. In developing and maintaining a strong romantic relationship, vulnerability and transparency a vital for great communication.

5. Open Minded

In maintaining new relationships, you have to allow things the ability to grow in the way they would naturally do so. If things are not working, then it is okay for things to end. Often we encourage a push through it mentality, when in actuality some things and people are not meant to be together. While you may think you complement one another in the beginning, things may change which call for you to reassess your relationship.

For me, I had to be open to the idea of no longer being single. I had been dating myself for the last two years and celebrating my selfish lifestyle. I had been building and loving myself. I acknowledged and celebrated my growth, because I knew where I had come from. I had strengthened my self-esteem, self-worth, and self-talk by cleansing my life of toxic people. Now I was presented with this wonderful guy who was asking for my permission to grow with me. He loves to text just as much as I do, we make fun of each other in good taste, and we rationalize the world in similar ways.

He is skilled, bright, brutally honest, loyal, decently optimistic, and inspirational. He likes to travel and we’ll hopefully be traveling together soon. He is a nerd, morning person, and an old soul. He is hilarious, thoughtful, respectful, and romantic. He complements the Cayla that I have worked hard to build well and challenges me to do better. So I am happy to call him mine and I am optimistic about our future.

 

Alright now I’m done with the sappy love story. There isn’t an formula for finding love on a dating app. You just need to spend time with yourself to know what you need in someone else and find someone who complements you well. Add comments below to continue the conversation!

Best,

Cayla Jae

7 Reasons I Don’t (Ever) Want Children

Whether it be from surprise, disappointment, or lack of understanding, people consistently inquire why I (and many others) desire a child-free lifestyle. So here’s the very short and self-less list of why I prefer living a child-free life.

  1. Tokophobia

    No, it’s not a taco-phobia. I actually love a good taco. Tokophobia is a fear of pregnancy or giving birth. Although you may think this is joke, it is a really disturbing idea to allow a parasitic alien to develop in my uterus. When I think of the process of pregnancy, I just envision pain: eating for two, squishing organs, imbalance of hormones, no fun (roller coasters, alcohol, some foods, etc.), breaking of hip plates, ripping of skin, and y’all don’t get me started on everything after delivery. You’re still in recovery, in diapers, and you won’t sleep (until maybe their 25th birthday). While some people view this as “miracle” from God, I see it as unnecessary pain and potential problems that will be discussed in later points.

  2. Money

    You don’t have any of it. Remember when you were a kid and thought “oh, when I become an adult, I’ll have lots of money and do whatever I want with it”? Well it’s all a lie! All this time when you were thinking adults had it all together, they were faking it and constantly pivoting. Children come with many mystery fees. If you’re a first time mommy, you will waste money on the best organic and prenatal foods or vitamins (even though your body is a toxic waste land from years of trash food). You will buy books, clothes (that last two weeks…maybe), furniture, bottles, toys, etc. You will have hospital bills (unless you have a midwife at home). Eventually, this will lead to school and extracurricular fees, because the government keeps taking funding. ON TOP OF IT ALL, you have real adult life with bills, insurance, food, rent/ mortgage, accidentals, clothes, and every thing under the sun.

  3. Adulting

    What is hilarious is that adulthood various between states. It can start as earlier as 15 or whenever a health care professional will consider you mature enough to make decisions about your own health. However, in the USA you’re treated like a 2 year old until your 18. Around 18 you’re on your own, but you can’t drink until 21 or rent a car until 25. You have to have experience to get experience in most cases. I repeat, adulthood is tiring, stressful, and sometimes boring, but you are pushing through. You know how much more of a challenge it is to be responsible for a WHOLE KID? Not even half of one! Your accomplishments don’t include setting your own appointments and getting dressed, but making moves for the entire family. This not a glamorous thing like rich people in Reality TV who just have babies for fun. I don’t need children for photo opportunities nor do I want them as right offs on my taxes. I just want to see that I’m not a real adult yet and I’m not afraid to admit that.

  4. The 45th

    We won’t even say the name. But in a world where the 45th president is allowed to hold the highest position in the land, I wouldn’t even know where to start having conversations about the realities of our world. Raising a child of color in society that is out right sexist, racist, xenophobic, classist, and apathetic would be the most heart breaking things for me. While I know there are ways to navigate that conversation and not crushing their spirits, I’m just adulty enough for that. We’re just too divided here.

  5. Time

    I’m just letting you know that you can hang up any “me time.” No more: window shopping for hours, staying out late to party (without a baby sitter or partner), extremely long and quiet bubble baths, or working late at the office to get caught up. Your “me time” becomes “us time”…well “their time.” You are on-call 24/7 legally until they are 18 years old, but I mean they can stay even longer than that. Most people who have children put their children first. You are making sure they get from home to school and back. You keep up with extracurricular activity schedules. You have all this paper work and permission slips to sign. You want to show them attention and make sure their studies are going well. You’re sometimes concerned about their new friends. And the young ones always make you sick. Your time is spent making memories with your offspring. This is admirable, but I’m still selfish.

  6. Development

    I’ve studied Child Development briefly. I was first exposed to Child Development in high school that ended with me taking care of plastic doll for a weekend. Later in college, as I got more involved in Education, things started to make sense about how this whole parenting thing works and how influential it is to your child’s development. Routine and Communication is important. Everything they know in their world comes from you or from others you place them near. I feel like if I were to be a parent, I’d be to worried about “doing it right.” While there isn’t one right method to developing a normal-ish child, there are some things that work well. I worry that some parents don’t take the time to think about how their words, actions, and lives influence their child.

  7. Distrust

    I do not trust day cares or schools, because I have worked and shadowed some. While you might have some employees who do not personally care about your child, I’m most concerned with some systems not being updated or having alternative education models. These small humans are depending on your to make the right decisions for them. Some are so small that they can not speak or move yet and others haven’t lived long enough to make connections between events and people. Again, this would be a point in which I am too worried about not doing this parenting thing right.

I am a woman who can do whatever she wants with her body without the input or opinion from anyone else. While choosing a child-free life style may seem selfish (and I am rightful so), my list is quite selfless. I am making a decision to not have children, because they deserve the best and to not see resentment.

Pregnancy is painful and we don’t talk about all the details, because…I don’t know why. It should be part of our normal conversations and in the media more often. I don’t have enough resources to support them. I am not mature enough to nurture them. My society has A LOT of room to grow. They deserve one on one time, rather than me day dreaming about the days before their birth. I want their development to be healthy. Finally, I want them to be properly supported and educated.

I just don’t want children. Is that so bad?

Best,

Cayla Jae

5 Steps to End Procrastinating

Welcome to the new posting schedule of 2018! From this moment on, all Gap Year Journal posts will populate on Saturday afternoons. Now let’s stop procrastinating and get right to the point.

1.Decide.

First things first, you have to make the decision that you want to stop procrastinating. Why did you click on this post? Why do you care enough to procrastinate long enough to solve your procrastination? Do you honestly want to stop? There is something within you that was triggered that caused you to stop acting. Whether you are overly concerned with something being perfect, you are afraid of failure, or you are just not interested, you have to make the decision to actively combat procrastination.

I am currently procrastinating on applying to graduate schools and job applications. I am procrastinating because I do not think that I have enough time to make everything perfect (event though I know that does not matter). I’m also procrastinating because most of it requires writing about why I want to attend those schools or be a part of that company. Because I love writing and I want clarity in my ideas, it takes full commitment to sit still and write. I am also just really lazy after traveling over the winter holidays. But I am currently making a decision to stop procrastinating, because I do not want to be paralyzed. Worse case scenario, I do not submit anything and receive no response! So I am going to stop procrastinating.

2. Assess.

Assess your limitations or inhibitors. You have to be honest with yourself and know your weakness to ensure you are the best you that you envision you to be. Write it down if you have to or tell a friend to hold you accountable.

I am a perfectionist and worry that I won’t be able to communicate how awesome I am in one page. Like how do I fit all my awesomeness in one page?! I deserve a novel or two or a trilogy. Ego aside…I also worry that those university or companies won’t see my worth. In this world, you don’t deserve things, you earn them. But I know that I’ve worked hard to know and deserve my worth. Will I be just a number to those university or companies? If so, that’s not the culture that I want to be a part of. Lastly, I just don’t like making decisions that seem life-changing. Yet, every day we make small decisions that alter our future. For example, the chili fries I bought over bell peppers or soda over water. See really, it’s perspective. My perspective about myself, my work, and my world is stopping. That uncertainty of finally leading my life is terrifying.

3. Plan.

Plan your next step, love. As I have mentioned plenty of times before, plans should always be realistic for your lived experience. If these plans are for productivity, I’m assuming that there is a tasks that you wish you could complete; therefore, we do not have to discuss making the plan measureable. You have told yourself that you will no longer procrastinate. You have been honest with yourself and your situation. Now consult with yourself on how to end this procrastination session.

You can write some notes, motivate yourself by looking in the mirror, work with a trusted friend/ coworker/ family member, etc. Decide on what is the goal and how to get there in a way that is realistic for you. I will make a fully list of things that I need to do. Set alarms for when they should be completed. Through typing this up on my blog, I now have to revisit this published document as a reminder.

4. Select.

Select your method of motivation or reward. If you struggle with procrastination, you more than likely struggle with motivation. Some people are motivated by obtaining money, providing a service to others, enjoying the process of what they love, beating deadlines, etc. Other people might complete tasks in order to reward themselves by going shopping, eating their favorite foods, watching a good movie, going out with friends, etc.

I am definitely more reward oriented. My motivation comes from getting rid of notifications or constantly seeing something. I just love the feeling of crossing things off my list. I might set alarms in my phone at specific times to do specific tasks. I also will create little sticky notes for my mirror and doors. I reward myself with long naps, long baths, or long hours shopping alone in H&M. I just worry that I’ve stopped caring about whether I finish the next step. So we’ll just have to see how this goes.

5. Stop.

Stop reading this post and go do the things. You have graduated from Cayla’s quick course on the end to procrastination. So in order to put number one into action, close out your window, put your phone on airplane mode, and revisit step number one. Go do all of the things!

Best,

Cayla Jae

 

How You Start 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

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

You Aren’t Enough

I hate to break it to you, but you aren’t enough. Honestly, you probably won’t ever be enough.

As defined by me, myself, and I, enough signifies that some thing, one, or state is adequate and sufficient. When we speak enough into existence it is overflowing and exhausting; breaking and relieving; fulfilling and finished.  The simple utterance of enough resonates with a listener that some thing, one, or state has reached its limit.

Therefore, by the definition within this journal entry, you are not enough and you may never be. Have you ever tried to explain life to a child? I have witnesses adults awkwardly and hesitantly attempting to explain something that has no words to touch upon its mystery. They will explain our lives as a fairy tale out of context or focus solely on the importance of education. What very few parents tell their children is that life by definition is a struggle.

Also, as defined by me, myself, and I, life is the holistic experience of unique occurrences. It manifests as a unique stream of moments, interactions, and lessons which inform the next moment, interaction, or choice. Life varies in time and form, gives to no one, and is always changing. Depending on who you are, where you are, and which station you were born into, the unique stream of moments will be significantly affected. Life is subjective. For some people, it is a gift, poison, a never ending lesson, or an interesting combination of all/ none of the above. It is undefinable and tentative.

Throughout life, you will find yourself trying to prove or not prove to some thing or one that you are enough. During various stages of your lived experience, you will be asked to show your value and accomplishments, in order to gain access to things that you aspire to be or do. As you master skills, systems, or processes, you will continue to ask yourself, “Am I enough?” You will encounter others who will attempt to dim what little light you have within you and make you feel as though you are not enough. You will encounter others who will lift you, challenge you, and help you to work harder towards being enough. You will hang some where in between “Life is what you make it” and “Life is what happens to you.” And the question of finally being enough will rise again.

I hate to break it to you, but you aren’t enough. Honestly, you probably won’t ever be enough. However, this does not mean that you are less than or inadequate. In defining enough, I can not confidently say that any one person on this Earth will ever reach completion, because it is immeasurable within life. We have been breed to think more about the end goal or what’s beyond the horizon. We have been trained to think “If I can just make it to Friday,” “If I remain still and quiet now, things will soon be better,” “If I continue to work hard and do what’s right, then I will be rewarded,” “I must master these things, so that I can die on a pile of money,” and “I will show them that I am better, stronger, smarter, enough.”

Somehow, you must realize that life is not a race, life is not controlled, and life is not the final scene in this play. Life is the process of pain, joy, lessons, and experiences. Life is happening all the time. Life truly is a holistic experience of unique occurrences which you are too busy working within to watch. You will go as briefly, unexpectedly, miraculously and without boundaries, as you came. Yes, some of us leave a mark on the world and end up in out of date textbooks which sum up that experience in a couple of pages. Yes, some of us create pieces and objects which are used by the next generation. Yet, there is always more to be done and more to be created. So no, you will never be enough; however, milking those good moments could be enough, if your goal was to smile…so transcend.

Best,

Cayla Jae

 

Untitled (Blue) 2017

This piece was the heart of my show last spring. It was the last piece that I began working on and the first one that came to life. Although loosely created as a self-portrait, it embodies the spirit of the impact I wish to leave and the person I am creating.

6' by 3.5" acrylic portrait painting
Portrait of my guiding spirit and mood of my new mindset.