First Year Teaching: I bled through my skirt

I am a woman who has periods and it’s not the end of the world. I promise.

Advertisements

Welcome back! Many of you are probably prepared to pity me or sitting on the edge of your seats to hear the full story.  Others of you might think this subject matter is too private or personal or taboo. For those of you fall in the last category, I wrote this post for you, as a female human. Cue rant:

One of the things that I am very passionate about is talking about periods. I feel compelled to talk about periods and “feminine products,” because people do not want to talk about them…NOT EVEN OTHER WOMEN (sometimes). We have grown up in a society in which speaking out about periods, vagina, tampons, pads, or diva cups, is to be whispered. I live in a world which makes me feel as though having a period is a negative consequence, bleeding is disgusting and unsanitary (hints “sanitary products”), and being open about my personal life is “unlady like.” Well here’s my lady card, because I’m about to complete this full rant.

I was in a bit of a rush to get to my office hours before teaching a course. So I am frantically whipping eggs into a skillet and brushing my teeth while putting on a turquoise, floor length maxi skirt (because I was a goddess that day). I take a transit bus up to campus and walk into my office ready for the day. I finish speaking with other graduate assistants and realize that I should head to my class at about 15 minutes til. I stand up and one of second year students exclaim, “Oh, we have a problem!”

I was so shook and startled that I am intensely listening to hear what just happened. He then motions to another woman in the room to enlighten me on the problem (which only confuses everyone more). After putting two and two together, I look at my skirt to find a nice red smear in a sea of turquoise fabric. I explained to him that it wasn’t a big deal, because I am a female human and this is nothing new. He then suggests that I sit the whole class, so that my students can not see the stain. So I had to get him together:

First of all, as a young black woman teaching at a predominately white institution (PWI), I will not be sitting to teach a lesson with the intention to not make my students uncomfortable with the fact that I had a period! I hold myself to a high standard and make a point to live my life unapologetically.

Secondly, this was nothing to panic about. I will admit that I did not like the idea of walking around campus with a stain, but that would be for blood or even coffee. As a teacher and graduate student, you want to look presentable to a certain extent…especially at the beginning of syllabus week! The only concern at this point was to not let it dry, because that turquoise skirt is my favorite.

So I head to a near by restroom to put some water on it and dim the vibrancy. I rotate the skirt, so that the stain is on my front hip and then I roll up the skirt from floor length to mid-calf. Still a cute skirt. Still professional.

Thirdly, if you were bleeding…and sitting…wouldn’t you…bleed through the skirt again?! Logic went straight of the window for my male counterpart, because he does not have to think about these things. I make an effort to be conscious of that which is not conscious to my everyday reality. Just because you do not deal with it everyday, doesn’t mean that it never happens. For example, I think about race ALL THE TIME. Why? Not because I’m racist or looking for an opportunity to “play the race card.” I think about it because I have to. It is a defense mechanism. I live in a country that separates families, hosts Nazi and KKK rallies/ marches, and doesn’t look for missing people with brown skin. I do not have the luxury to live life without think about the fact that I am black nor a woman.

As a woman, I bleed. Maybe it’s once a month. Maybe it’s once every two months. It all depends on my body, diet, and stress level. When this happens, I may have cramps and mood changes. For some women, cramps can be so severe that they physically can not move. So we take pain medication, warm water bags, or eat those food that just…hit the spot. I am a free-flower. If I can get away without using tampons or pads, I will and here’s why!

Tampons and pads are expensive and dangerous. I spent an hour in a Target aisle once trying to figure out which brand to get. I challenge you. The next time you go to the store, go to the women’s section. Notice that it will be at the back or in the cut and always linked to “family planning” or “pregnancy tests.” I want you to look at the prices and quantity. Just with a quick google search alone, the cheapest set of tampons is about 5$ for 40 of an off-brand and pads is about 3$ for 22. If we pretend that your cycle is monthly, let’s assume that your period will last at least 4-7 days per month. Your period flow will also be important in these calculations. You may change 1-3 times a day (some friends have done more in one day). So for the tampons that’s about 2-10 months worth, pads about 1-5 months. Reminder that you really need both, because sometimes just one pad or tampon won’t avoid stained clothes and there are time limits for wearing these products. Also, don’t forget the special taxes and also, do you know what they’re made with?

Our sanitary products are laced with all sorts of chemicals and pesticides. I don’t even think that companies are required to tell you what’s in them. So recently, there’s been this new wave of interest in organic or diy products. But I purchased a diva cup. This isn’t common within my family or friend circle. It is 40$ and you can use it up to a year and wear it for longer hours than tampons. The material doesn’t have nasty chemicals. As I am writing this, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but again…it adds up and men don’t have to think about any of this. Plenty of women live their mature lives without knowing about their bodies or cycles. I am not good at math but worst case scnario, you could be paying about 10$ for 2 months of period related products…which could be 60$ a year (depending on flow, brand, and financial status). These products are a luxury that many women do not have access to all over the world. We shouldn’t have to pay for this…or worry about where to get the funds to do so.

So back to the original story: I checked in with some women around me to see the adjustment with my skirt looked like it had been planned. I strolled across campus and walked into my classroom to teach about 5 minutes or so early. After class, I took the transit back home, so that I could soak the skirt, because it makes me feel like a goddess. So I left all my clothes to soak in the sink with cold water (you can also use your own spit or hydrogen peroxide, apparently). I drove back to campus in my personal vehicle to pay for parking, so that I wouldn’t be late for my next meeting and class that I TA for.

I began by stating that this post was written for those of you who think that this topic is too “private, personal, or taboo.” I wrote this piece for you because I wanted you to know that this happened to me and the world kept going. I want you to know a little bit about the world that I live in which doesn’t support me. Having periods is normal and sometimes an interestingly timed surprise, but that’s okay…or at least it should be. I wrote this piece for you because I want you to be able to calmly say to another woman, “You have started your period and there is a stain on your skirt. Do you need help getting anything?” I wrote this for you, so that when you go to the store and see all of these products hidden a way, you start to imagine the unspoken shame attached to that. I wrote this piece for you to notice those who may not have access to pads, tampons, or cups. I wrote this piece because it is a real life, every day occurrence. I am writing you so that you may one day ask the right questions to the right people. I am writing you this piece so that you can help the next woman. 

Yes, I am a woman and I have periods, but I continue to thrive…and next time I’ll have spare clothes.

Best,

CDJ

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 Make Decisions

No one likes making tough decisions. These 6 steps will help you get through those tough times! All you have to do is decide to read it. 😉

Welcome back to another lovely Saturday evening. This is crunch time for decisions. Whether you’re looking for summer fun, accepting school offers for the Fall, or wondering what’s for dinner, you have a decision to make. Here’s my 6 Steps to Making THAT Decision!

1. Realism

Before you rush into making up your mind, you must have the appropriate mindset. I’m all for being realistic because being honest with yourself is the greatest form of kindest to you. Depending on the crossroad you’re at, you may have to challenge yourself to remain objective in this step.

We’ll use this blog post as our themed example. One of my Gap Year goals was to become a more influential writer. Because of that goal, i made a decision to use my website to create journal entries each week about my life and thoughts and art. Today was tough because I didn’t know what to write about.

In being realistic with myself, I know a couple of things: I’m on a personal timeline so there’s no rush. I shouldn’t force myself to create art without a need to communicate an idea. My readers are open to almost any topic (but really love life and romance advice). I am encouraged by myself and our community to be HONEST and unapologetic about that.

2. Priorities

After writing or thinking about the details of the situation, revisit why you’re in this space (physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually). What are you going through? What is your goal? Is this decision worth your time or energy? Think about what commands your attention.

As previously mentioned, I took this Gap Year for the purpose of knowing myself and developing myself personally. One thing I wanted to improve was my writing skills. With that being my goal then this promise I made to myself is important and low risk. I have time today to think and write. I have an open mind today to be present in this writing process. I can afford to give my thoughts.

3. Outcome

Now that we are honest with the situation and it’s important enough to be a proity, let’s look at those consequences. Consequences aren’t always negative. What may happen after you make a decision in which ever direction? What can you look forward to?

If I write today, I will smile and be happy that so far I’ve only slipped up 3 times on my promise to write once a week (most of those, I just lost track of the days of the week, tbh). If I write today, I have an opportunity to inspire or assure someone of their next step. If I don’t write today, I will wonder why I didn’t and will have 4 weeks of no blog posts. If I don’t write today, I might loose the opportunity to help another human or my personal goal.

4. Urgency

Now that we can visualize these consequences, let’s review how important this decision is. Must it be done this hour, this day, this week, or this month? Are the negative consequences so bad that is better to get this decision off your plate?

There is a but of urgency in that I’ve promised to make an evening post every Saturday. However, again, if it didn’t happen the negative consequences aren’t life or death. So I know that I only have a few hours to write about something.

5. Intuition

The most important thing to do is follow your gut. Some people call it your heart or the ancestors, but just know that our bodies are intuned with the universe. The universe is a part of you and you are a part of the universe. However there’s been so much sound placed in between humans and the earth that it’s hard to hear the universe. However with huge decisions or things that are important to you, I believe the universe starts screaming its answer! So listen stupid, well not stupid… silly!

The universe told me that I was being a hard headed lazy bum. The fact that I couldn’t decide on what to write was an inspiration to help other figure or what to write, do, or say. And I felt that it was a great topic because is relatable, useful, and interesting. It’s simple, yet complex, and a lot of fun to think about. How do humans make decisions?

6. Intention

Your final step is to consider your purpose. What will this action or decision really do? What will it mean? Are you going to make a decision out of fear or with the intention to make something happen (or not happen)? Are you hiding something?

My intention here is to publish my thoughts and free myself. My intention is to be bigger than myself. My writing is firstly for me and secondly to anyone who could use it for better. I am making a decision to write for these reasons. I am making a decision to make a decision because of these reasons. It will mean that I kept a promise to myself.

Have I missed anything? Leave comments or questions below!

Best,

Cayla J.

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

How You Start a Revolution

Welcome to 2018! Are you ready for a revolution?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Identify the Problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best,

Cayla Jae

You Aren’t Enough

I hate to break it to you, but 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

 

What Time Frame Do You Think In?

You have 24 hours in a day. How much of that time is in the past, present, or future? Is it getting you closer to your end goal?

Sometimes I get distracted by how many different components in life there are to juggle. There are personal battles, immediate obligations, possible opportunities, and the future person you are trying to become. Within each category, we have memories from the past, events occurring in the present, and unwritten narratives of the future. I’ve been pondering the various levels of this over this last month.

In an earlier post, I wrote about setting priorities as far as selecting the right career path to take; however, I think setting priorities is vitally important to this topic. Usually, I see people create a four cornered box in which the X axis is Urgent to Non-Urgent and the Y axis is Important to Non-Important. This exercise is extremely relevant, in that it focuses on improving Time Management skills. Yet, where this doesn’t help me is that I will always continue doing the immediate work (e.g. work assessments this week and setting doctor’s appointments). But I feel more limited in attempting to work toward those Non-Urgent goals which may or may not be super important for the now, but are of interest to me.

So with there only being 24 hours in a day, how much of that time is used reflecting on the past, acting in the present, and planning for the future? Though I have no answer for this, I have always been a person who’s planning for the future. I am always thinking about my next step or my destination, which leads to a number of anxiety, perfectionism, workaholism, and negative self-talk issues. The reason for all of this stress is that I do not take the time to breathe and rest. So I’m torn between being hungry for more and reaching what is “greatness” for me or being grounded in the immediate pressing assignments which ultimately seem like busy work.

I don’t want to stay in my past, because it wasn’t the most pleasant of memories and they’re uneditable. Yet, I take comfort in hovering over memories, because they give me information about the world and its people which help me navigate the present. I would love to say that I am an “in-the-present-moment” kind of person. I say this because it would mean that I give everything my full attention, I come through on my word to follow up with someone after networking, and I enjoy the youngest moment of my life. Yet, I am limited in this enjoyment because of past experiences and I’m always hoping that the future will be better. I feel that I shouldn’t stay in the future because some immediate things are quite important. So I have to think of what’s of higher importance: investing in that which gets me closer to being a stronger version of myself or being efficient and successful now.

I guess the semi-satisfying answer is that you just have to do what’s best for you. However, the focus should be on how all forms of time co-exist. There is a way to let the past inform my present and future without limiting my choices. There is a way to live in the moment while also growing. There is a way to plan for your future with information from the past and small successes in the present. I just have not found my balance yet. My highest priority is happiness which for me comes from creating, moments of solitude, great food, and great sleep. Because I choose me, my job become secondary (maybe tertiary most times) and those who don’t help me advance toward a specific goal aren’t as important. I just want to be comfortable and in a space that inspires me to create. I want to be in a space doing something that matters. Therefore, I constantly switch between time frames.

So this post is less of “advice” and more of a “question.” Which time frame do you think in? What is most important to you? How do you balance all the confusion which is our lived experience?

Best,

Cayla Jae

 

Thanks for Mourning

Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday for celebration.

When we talk about the horrors of capitalism, some people laugh because they don’t believe there is any other way to function. When we talk about Northern American Genocide, some people belittle us to being “sensitive” and “too liberal” or worse, claim that it didn’t happen. When we speak about how today you celebrate with food that puts you to sleep rather than give you energy, some disregard and continue old habits. When I speak about you being so thankful this Thursday, most people will be fighting next Friday for material things they don’t need (things that have been marked up and then marketed as a discount).

When I tell you that today is a significant day, it’s not because of Turkey or Family. Today is a day in U.S. history that many U.S. Americans ignore. Across the country there will be discussions held about the relationship that indigenous people have had and currently have to a land that was and is always theirs. However, due to capitalism, hegemony, and apathy, this group has been silenced and their stories devalued.

Today, I was going to write a post about why people choose a childfree lifestyle or what single life is like or how to apply for grad school. But everywhere I go, today is being branded as a holiday to celebrate and that, my friend, is very problematic. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a spoken word and writing workshop. The presenter asked the group why we write. My answer: ” I process things differently than others. ” Rather than arguing with family, friends, and Facebook followers, I chose to write my thoughts down here.

I believe that today has been spun into a commerical holiday and others are okay with it because the horrors of the harvests of the 16th and 17th centuries have been taken out of context. I challenge you to ask questions today. When we speak about equality, equity, and improving our society that includes everything and everyone. You don’t get to choose which stories deserve attention over others.

So instead of a thanks for giving, let’s call make it a thanks for morning. Let’s pray that others see the light and start helping out our indigenous families. What do you stand for? Who do you stand with? Ask some questions.

Best,

Cayla Jae

Raise Hell

Quick Notes from a full day of absorbing information and I was an arm’s length away from Angela Davis. #nwsa2017

Today, I spent 12 hours listening, talking, thinking, and learning about present day activism. With today only being pre-conference, it was amazing to think of how inspiring and energetic the rest of the week would be. We defined black girl magic, strategized how to weave activism into the classroom, considered the transformation of women’s studies over the past 20-40 years, and discussed activism in the era of the 45th. The final kick off for the national women’s studies association conference was a keynote presentation with Alicia Garza and Angela Davis.

Seeing as I promise a new post every Thursday night, please excuse typos and I now have exactly 12 minutes to tell you 12 commonalities during the meets. I will expand next week once the conference as ended.

Self love/ care: minorities (of color, ableness, gender, etc.) Often do not see self love and care modeled within their community. As Angela Davis even commented, activists during her time spent their time solely on the movement and often making sacrifices when it came to food, family, etc. For black women, this is even more important in that we have this super woman stereotype/ weight on our shoulders to take care of everyone before ourselves.

Visibility: this is a challenge for many minorities and radicals. Finding a way to give voice to the marginalized and muted becomes challenging. However social media hashtags have helped bring life to things like black girl magic and black lives matter. However, many of the older feminist worry that there’s no substance in the hashtag/ trendy.

Art and words as tools: they’re in conversation with those who craft to give visuals to the movement.

Interdisciplinary: we have to remember that everything is interconnect. One teacher taught her science class by teaching them about Harriet Tubman!

Intersectionality: not the same as multi cultural. It’s recognizing different aspects of a person’s identity. For example, black and woman, and the life experience from that.

Freedom seekers: as opposed to saying slaves or the oppressed, positive word choice is a more acquire depiction of those groups.

Personality: you have to bring yourself to the space. Instead of coming in and trying to blend in, don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Context: learn your history… The world’s history answers so many questions for us.

Politics: our whole life is political. And it’s not about parties anymore, but what people stand for and what we’ll continue to accept or discard.

Comfort: real change comes from discomfort. Alicia Garza talked about how she’ll have meetings about things that matter and watch those on the opposite side get uncomfortable. “But I kinda just like watching them squirm… They act like it’s something new. We’ve been here the whole time, you just chose not to see us.”

Humility: Angela Davis reminded us of the importance of being Hubble enough to not be so ego centric and learn from the world. We don’t always have to be the first to speak. We need to listen more and learn from the successes of others.

Raising hell: Y’all… Davis, “if you don’t do the work, there will be no change. Now on the other hand, there’s no guarantee of change if you do the work. So work as if it’s going to change.”