Grad School: Not for Kicks and Giggles

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

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

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

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

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

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

End rant. Now I have more reading to do.

Best,

CJ

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.

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

Dear Mr. Cat-Call: I’m Actual Human

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CJ

Heros Wanted: What’s Your Super Power?

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

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

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

1. What Do You Do Well?

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

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

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

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

2. What Do You Enjoy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. What Is Your Super Power?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best,

Cayla Jae

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.

Getting Rid of Toxic People

Drama Free = More Time for Me

Welcome to our final post of the love month! This post is going to cover one of the many ways you need to love yourself. It’s been two months since those crazy #newyearnewme resolutions and one group that we know should have been left in 2017 is “Toxic People.” Below, you’ll find my description of Toxic People and 3 Reasons you should add them to your new 2018 goal!

 

1. The World Revolves Around Me.

Not only are these individuals self-centered they are extremely self conscious. A Toxic Person will be quick to assess the environment or situation and consider how it benefits them. In everything they do, they are subconsciously or consciously making a decision to elevate themselves in some way, shape, or form above everyone else. These situations can rarely be considered fair or honorable. We are talking about the people who egg on drama or chaos at house parties, because a select few people may seem to be having too much fun. Or the people in those Lifetime Movie Network Films who say, “If I can’t have you, no one can!”

Toxic people are the definition of drama and are slick manipulators. These are the people who you could trust with your life and love so intensely that you do not notice how much you’ve changed or separated yourself from joy. In the same light, Toxic People are skilled in changing your attitudes about and view on your life. This is frightening mainly because they do not care for your well being (mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually). As previously mentioned, they will always put themselves first and revel in your digression. Here’s why!

2. I’m Insecure, but I’m Having Trouble Processing It.

Toxic People are negative, non-authentic, and charismatic while projecting their insecurities on you. Toxic People are often pessimistic about their situation and hope to place you in a similar world of unfortunate events. Basically, the goal is to not be around people who will try to steal your shine. You should have a community which uplifts you and encourages you to do better.

Toxic People will also bend truths and change significantly according to those surrounding them.The trait that helps them in their toxicity the most is their charisma. It is hard to tell sometimes when you are dealing with a Toxic Person because they seem trustworthy, well intentioned, and loving, when in fact they have another motives. These individuals make you think they are in you’re corner and that they understand you best. These individuals will make you believe that you are crazy, inadequate, and unloved by others. Here are 5 give aways for a Toxic Person!

3. My Red Flags Aren’t Actually Red.

Number One: Bring You Down. Toxic People truly know how to kill your vibe. You ever get yourself all dolled up and ready for an outing and someone comes in to critique every piece of your outfit? You ever get ready to go on the field and dominate, just when a friend comes up to point out the wind, your form, etc.? You ever get all excited about a crush and, instead of asking more questions, someone gives you all the reasons you should set your bar higher…or you don’t deserve a bar at all? Watch out for people who won’t just let you be great and have little comments which bring up doubt constantly within you.

Number Two: Pity Party = Me Out. Toxic People love to talk about miserable situations and horrible people; however, there’s never a call to action or an obvious confrontation to inspire change. They just love to sit in agony. This goes back to the pessimistic view of the world. To your Toxic Friend, everything is stupid and waning…nothing is good. Well, unless it’s them, which leads to number 3.

Number Three: Over Confident. We’re not talking about healthy self-esteem. We are talking about those people who are very loud, confrontational, or intentional about expressing how perfect they are. They overcompensate when they don’t even have to. They talk too much and too loudly. They rest on the extremes of any spectrum. They want to be front and center or in a leadership position (unless they think that’s stuff). They are full of themselves.

Number Four: Not Is Their Favorite Word. These individuals say can’t, won’t, don’t, and not. Earlier when I said they were negative…they don’t know what it means to be positive. They will use negative words toward other people as well, in order to deflate others’ confidence. You ever have a ready good idea and within one sentence your dreams are crushed? You ever try to be spontaneous and they make too much sense (This one was just for fun. Don’t die y’all! But I mean, YOLO.)? You must be careful of those who crush your spirit.

Number Five: Isolation. The biggest red flag is if you have not seen your best friends or family members in a while. You will think that it is because they have changed, but you are the common denominator and your catalyst is that Toxic Person in your life. Because of their charm and need for control, Toxic People will finds to separate from a world of positivity and balance.

Need more reasons to stay away from Toxic People?

  1. You can set an example for others around you about healthy relationships. Hopefully by being more aware of who Toxic People are, we can decrease the likelihood that more people will be victimized. I think that once Toxic People realize that they have little to no power over you they will choose a new tactic. Maybe this will allow others to intervene and get them the help they need.
  2. Drama free means more time for me. The less drama and unnecessary negative energy you have in your life, the better. You can focus on the things that actually matter and make a difference in our world, rather than being caught in hypotheticals or hersay stuff. Also, when things are in order, you can set aside more time for personal development, pleasure, and relaxation.
  3. Most importantly, it is great for your holistic health! Y’all do not understand how amazing it feels to finally rid your life of Toxic People. It is an unspoken weight lifted off of your shoulders. You breathe better, remember to smile, talk to more people, and just think about how great life is. Again, the toxity is so subtle and appears to be coming from a place of love, but once stripped away YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

In short, identify the Toxic People in your life and create a plan of action to remove them from your everyday life (regardless if they are flesh and blood). If they are impeding on your happiness, health, and peace of mind…your minutes on this Earth could be spent more different. So make your conscious choice.

Best,

Cayla Jae

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

Learn how to transform your relationships (whether romantic or not) in the age of online dating.

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

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