What’s a Mindset Shift?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best,

CJ

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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

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.”

 

Gap Year: Time Travel

This past weekend, I traveled back to my undergraduate campus. My original intention was to comfort a friend in their struggle to get to the finish line. However, as I lie in a mega bunk bed of my alma mater, I realized that I was judging them for acknowledging that they were struggling.

Often, it is easy to see negativity and hear problems from others and attempt to create solutions, rather than truly listening. Although I had heard what was causing their pain, I had not listened to its effects until I was left in the dark to the sound of their sleep. College can be tough for many of us, especially if you went to my school where there is constant pressure from all sides at all the time. It truly does take a strong individual to pause and say, “I need help. This is not working.” That level of honesty and vulnerability, luckily has kept my friend with me. Others going through similar challenges might have adopted unhealthy habits or self harmed themselves or simply stayed in that dark place like I once did.

I often hear people speak about trigger words; however, as I reflected on my travel and my conversations with my friend, I realized that my alma mater was a trigger location for this dark place that resided inside of me. I drove through campus not thinking about graduation, group sleep overs, or dancing through the night and into the next morning. I was thinking about my hike to the nearest Walmart at 6 am on Saturdays, because I was afraid of being raped or being attacked for walking alone as a black woman. I was thinking about the time when I dropped to my knees in the middle of the quad near midnight and cried until my soul was dry. And then afterward, like a robot, I dried my eyes, stood up, grabbed my things, and continued finishing my art project against my body’s will. I remembered the day that I skipped classes, turned off my phone, and went for a long drive on some back roads. On that day, I had no destination and as I sped through the mountains of eastern Kentucky, I thought to myself, “What if I just veer too far to the right? What if I go fast enough that I won’t feel the moment when my heart stops?” And those are just a few moments in which I was proud of my friend for saying enough was enough. I thanked the heavens that I could hold them between my arms and near my heart. It was memories like that that reminded me how great friends are just as important, if not more important than, blood relatives.

On my way back home, I focused on detoxing those negative feelings and ghosts of my campus from my body. I listened to music that allowed my mind to process the experience. I spoke of all the positive experiences from seeing my friends. I meditated and held my great grandmother’s necklace close to me. I had six hours of a drive to cleanse my body of those points in time in which I was scared, alone, exhausted, broken, and empty. Most people would say that this is all an exaggeration and that college is the best part of your life. Yet these are moments in my past that I have never even whispered.

Before this trip, I hadn’t realized how much time manifests itslf within our reality. I had never imagined that my first trip back since leaving the stage as a graduate would transform my energy so much. Because of this, I will be more mindful of what I allow into my space, but more importantly, who I allow into my space. This experience reminded me of my strengths and talents as a fixer, artist, and friend. It also showed me areas of growth. Overall, I think this trip made me reassess all of my toxic relationships and thoughts.

I know that as a Taurus (ya, I’m into Zodiacs…y’all the energy of this universe is real) I do not like change. For me personally, it is super tough to get rid of people who I once considered to be friends and support systems. But I learned that as I grow, my support systems can also adjust with me. It’s not necessarily that they are bad people, but they are no longer needed to get me to the next level and vice versa. Again, by dating myself and putting myself first, I have to think about what is in my best interest and what will help me grow. This does not include those who are social media followers (yet ghosts IRL), people who make me feel inadequate, people who don’t communicate directly with me, and those are not honest with me.

So while my intention was to go and solve my friend’s problem, I ended up putting myself in check and reevaluating what I know about my emotions and friends. All it took was one night with my face buried into my friend’s batman body pillow as inspiration. This trip was an important turning point for me, because it made me think about my priorities again. In light of this learning, I have reexamine my small circle of awesome friends who support my growth.

Best,

Cayla Jae