Learning Trust in Myself

Hi, everyone! It has been a really long time since I posted, and I am so sorry about that! However, I am hoping to begin posting a lot more now. I’ve been feeling especially inspired to write recently, especially since starting school again in NYC. Yes, you read that correctly: I’m back in school and living like a city girl! This September I came back to college after a few years off, at Columbia University. It was a huge step for me, and I am thrilled that the transition both into city living and into the academic world has been relatively smooth so far. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure if it would be, and that is something that has had me quite frequently revisiting the theme of Trust. What does it mean to trust myself? My capabilities? My support systems? My decisions? My independence?

Let’s break it down.

Firstly, let’s acknowledge the fact that trust is not easy, nor do I ever expect it to be. Most of this lies in the fact that trust means dropping guard walls and relinquishing control. It means respect and faith in the person or thing that you have chosen to trust. It’s a full commitment. There’s no successful way to “partially trust.” Imagine doing a trust fall with a partner. Would you ever actually let yourself fall if you only somewhat thought they would catch you? No! Your body’s natural defenses wouldn’t let you commit an act with a partner who you somewhat thought may drop you on your head. You would only do that trust fall if you believed the other person would catch you: if you fully trusted them. Yet, to fully trust is to give up the control that us humans so viciously defend. With control comes the safety of knowing the exact outcomes of every action you take or situation you put yourself into, and trust rips that from our hands. That’s a scary thought, to give up something you spend so much energy on holding on to, which makes it so understandable why trust is less than prevalent in our lives.

There it is: trust is hard. So if it’s hard, then why do it? What does trust offer us that control doesn’t? This is or course a multi-pronged answer, but for me at this point in my life it offers confidence. Of all of the relationships that I have, the one that I struggle with trusting the most is the one with myself. Moving to the city has brought this to the surface, as I am now faced with a whole new set of challenges, and of course living alone in a place very different from Connecticut. So many doubts crept up when school started, among them questions of if I’m “smart” enough for Columbia, if people will like me, and if I can manage my own apartment and take care of daily “adult” tasks. These thoughts were utterly pervasive. The first paper that I had to write was probably the most nerve wracking paper I had ever written, as I kept questioning how the Professor would view my work in comparison to the other students’ work, especially since it was the first paper I’d written in several years. What if I couldn’t write anymore? Along those lines, the first conversations I had with new friends were happy and cordial, yet still I wondered if they liked who I was, or god forbid what I looked like. Writing it back now, it sounds like crazy talk, but it was real. I was lacking trust in almost every aspect of myself, and it was hurting my ability to experience life.

I know I’m not alone in these feelings. Humans are blessed with metacognition, or the ability to be conscious of our own consciousness, giving us incredible complexity and the ability to live the way we do, but this double edged sword also comes swooping back to slice us because we are so aware of the person who lives inside our own bodies and how she/he/they interact with the other self-aware humans around her/him/them. This acute awareness leads to insecurity, something we all possess in some shape or form. We all struggle to trust. It’s human.

Struggle, however, does not have to equal defeat. So how then, do we defeat the tendency to resist trusting ourselves? The answer is a hard one because the easiest way to say it is to say “just trust.” But where does that get us? Trusting is the problem, here! So instead, what I’ve started doing to help myself learn to trust myself again is to affirm what I know. I state the facts and the feelings I have around them. What evidence is there that I will not be “smart” enough for Columbia? Where is the proof that friends dislike me? Most of the time, posing questions in this way makes me realize that what I fear is often hugely unjustified and blown out of proportion. Let’s be real here: the human brain loves to be dramatic. The real truth is that I’m at Columbia for a reason, and my brain’s intelligence had a lot to do with it. I had conversations where the other person was smiling and nodding their head, indicating nothing about their distaste for talking to me. Those are the real facts, and that is what I turn to when I find myself being distrustful. I remind myself of what is rational and then I affirm, reaffirm, and re-re-affirm those truths. When I remind myself of what is real, I am able to trust my own power and step into my own light. From there, I am able to trust my body, my personality, and my capabilities.

Beginning this process of actively recognizing where I distrust myself and then re-working my opinions to trust again has brought back confidence, and confidence is what will keep opening doors for me in the future. In knowing that I’m not alone, I encourage all of you readers to try this too. Trust is hard but it is worth it.

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When Yoga, Literature, Art, and Service Connect: Chelsea Jackson Roberts

This weekend, I am attending the Asheville Yoga Festival. What is a yoga festival? It is literally a gaggle of yogis and hippies and teachers galore going to yoga classes and workshops all day every day, from 8 to 5:30, for four days straight. It’s intense, crazy, and I can’t believe that I have the opportunity to attend it. I’m not a yoga teacher (yet), but I am a yogi, so this festival, in the unique and exuberant city of Asheville, North Carolina, is perfect for me.

The first day of the festival, Thursday, I only attended one class, a 6 hour long intensive from 9-4. It was called “Finding Comfort in our Purpose: How to Use our Yoga Practice to Reflect, Heal, and Impact Change,” led by the incredible teacher Chelsea Jackson Roberts. Chelsea is the founder of a program on Yoga, Literature, and Art for teen girls at Spelman College in Georgia. She has committed herself to working with young girls who have experienced trauma and have difficult stories by connecting with them through a unique combination of yoga, writing, and art. She has been a change maker in impacting social change though yoga, and in helping the young students she works with build strong foundations, hopes, and dreams for their futures.

This workshop was structured as if us attendees were individuals taking her camp class—we were literally doing what the girls she works with do. We started in a circle, an open and un-hierarchal environment. In a circle there is no inequality or “front row seats.” There is only connection. Chelsea had asked us all to bring something special to us to the class. As an icebreaker of sorts, we introduced ourselves to the group and explained our special something. I was the third or fourth person to go. When it was my turn, I had a split second of internal dilemma. Do I open myself up to these 30 strangers, or do I give a nondescript, vague reason for my object?

It’s always difficult to make a decision on whether or not to be vulnerable, because as humans we often dislike vulnerability. We think it weakens us in the eyes of others, and even more in our own judgmental eyes. Vulnerabilities, though, are only the scariest to ourselves. Others look at them as parts of us that make us human. So, in that split second, I went for it: I shared my story to a group of strangers. And let me tell, you, it has never felt better. As we kept sharing around the circle, others shared their stories too. They were deep, heartfelt, sad, happy, tragic, and miraculous. With each that was told, we got closer and closer, and the large space we were sitting in felt like a much smaller, more intimate environment.

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With this powerful environment around us, Chelsea began to speak about showing up. When we want to help others, to right a wrong, or to give back to our communities, we show up. When we dedicate ourselves to work with a population that is struggling, we show up for them. “Our heart is the action in the world,” she said. Yet, it is still our heart, and we must take care of it. If we cannot take care of ourselves, we cannot fully devote ourselves to others. Showing up for others means showing up for yourself. Treating yourself with respect. Honoring your own mind and body: its wants, its needs, and its health. Chelsea asked us to journal about these two questions: How would you describe your relationship with your body? How does this relationship impact your practice and the ways that you show up in the world?

It’s as if Chelsea had designed this class for me, because the answer to that question, and what I journaled about, is that I have a very tainted relationship with my body. It is one of my greatest struggles, and I know it impacts the ways that I practice yoga and choose to show up in the world. When Chelsea posed this question, I was able to work through some of that on paper, freewriting for five minutes nonstop.

That journal entry finished, Chelsea began to lead us through a yoga practice. It was juicy and slow. Rather than my usual faster Vinyasa flow, we held poses for ten breaths at a time and sat in savasana for what felt like hours. Chelsea wasn’t moving us through a yoga practice to just do yoga; she was leading us more into ourselves and our thoughts and using yoga as a mere tool to get there.

Honestly, I was surprised that I lasted. I normally can’t sit with myself for that long because of all the negative thoughts that come up when I am forced to be only with myself inside my body. Chelsea challenged me to look my relationship with my body in the face and to challenge it head on. It was hard, and even though my body wasn’t sweating, my brain was. My soul was too. At some points, I felt like I had to cry and just let it all out. I could tell the other members of the class felt the same way, because the energy in the air was so charged and full of feeling.

As Chelsea wrapped up the practice, she spoke a quote by Tony Morrison: “If there’s a book you want to read and it hasn’t been written yet, you have to write it.” If there is a  disconnect in the world that you feel passionate about, work to end that. If you have a wall inside yourself keeping you from showing up for others, break it down. Make your story yours. Chelsea asked us to reflect back on what brought us here, to this class. Where do you see yourself going? She asked us to imagine 10 years into the future when you are grounded in your purpose. Where are you? What are you doing? How does your relationship with your body and your yoga practice impact your purpose?

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This is what I wrote in my journal (word for word): “10 years from now, I imagine myself working in the field of law, hopefully with others who need my help the most. I want to work in human rights or civil rights law or immigration; anything, really, where I can work as an individual to combat discrimination and fight for equality. I am working with my clients not only as their lawyer but also as their confidant and support group. They can talk with me and work with me to get what they want and need.

My relationship with my body is integral to my success 10 years from now. Right now, it holds me back from connecting. I know that I can’t be open and honest with my future clients if I can’t be open and honest with myself. I am not superwoman. Yoga teaches me that. It teaches me patience and forgiveness, something I need and my job needs. Marginalized communities face challenges that I hope to help conquer. For me, like yoga, law is a tangible way for me to help, and continuing my personal practice throughout this experience will keep me healthy.”

I think that it’s pretty neat how this class was able to get me to such awareness with how my yoga practice can impact what I want to do in the future. But if I thought that was cool then I wasn’t ready for the next activity. Chelsea described how throughout the class so far, we had traveled from the present to the future, but that she now wanted us to backtrack to the past, where we are from, and how that contributes to where we are today. For that exercise, she had us flip to a new journal page, title it “Where I’m From,” and write down three things for each category: sights, sound, smell, texture/touch, tastes, and words of wisdom/values. Then, we paired into groups of three, each got a large poster paper, and were tasked with somehow combining our where I’m from notes into one piece. There were quite a few groups, but I think the results from all of them were so fantastic that you deserve to see them all, so here you go:

Group #1 (mine):

A community pool with the smell of cut grass, the feel of cold water. Sycamore trees with their spots on their bark. The smell of rain on the pavement and the noise it makes hitting the roof. Fried chicken and biscuits for lunch, coffee milkshake for dessert, and breakfast for dinner. The feel of the fabrics of homemade clothing. Sand on feet and hands from the backyard sandbox or the ocean. The silky fur of cats and smooth coat of dogs. Their warm bodies sleeping under the covers. Peepers and cicadas echoing through the night, keeping you up until the early morning. Enthusiasm for life. Passion. The human soul on fire. You are the seven people you spend the most time with. Together, we are a community, no matter where we are from, what we see, smell, feel, or taste. We connect. We meet. We gather in space together. We are like individuals at a pool—no matter the background, we are together for the same reason—to live, to love, and to share our time on this earth TOGETHER.

 

Group #2:

We see—farms and ladybugs

We hear—children playing, birds, crickets

We smell—rain, fresh cut lawns, sun dried sheets

We feel—bare feet on gravel and grass, hugs

We taste—watermelon, sweet corn on the cob

Wisdom’s we’ve been told—watch out for deer at night, do unto others as you’d do unto you, you are beautiful

Our values—work hard, love

 

Group #3:

I am from fresh cut grass, trees, and church on Sundays. I am from family traditions joy and sorrow. I am from faith, loyalty, and respect. I am from working hard and a will to always do the right thing. I am from frosty winters and hot chocolate. I am from tar heels and sweet tea. I am from rolling hills and horse scented hair. I am from love.

 

Group #4:

Sight—mist and fog in the mountains. Open fields of hard workers. Clear starry nights. Lightning bugs.

Texture—warm, smooth river stones and cool running water, cool soft bedding and quilts made with love. Bare feet in grass. Sun kissing our skin

Smells—smell of corn bread, bacon, crisp air and fresh grass, kerosene and gasoline

Values—family is everything. Faith and community. Hard work. Overcoming adversity.

 

Group #5:

Sights—rolling hills, trees, flowers, concrete, brick, fluorescent lighting

Sounds—children, playing, birds, sirens, screen doors, basketballs bouncing, high school sports

Smell—distinct city smell, chlorine, family cooking

Texture—soft blankets, chipped lead paint, grandma’s hair, bare feet on grass and gravel

Tastes—roasted/fried chicken, home cooked meals, Kool-Aid, gravy

Wisdom—bless your heart

Values—family, education, faith

 

Group #6:

I am from the flatlands of Louisiana—with swamps, cypress trees, and moss abound. Cotton fields are everywhere. My grandbabies live there.

We love the taste of home and the south—food that feeds the soul and the mouth. Garden fresh tomatoes represent our heart and home…

With Mac and Tomato, Chile, and Tomato Juice we are never alone.

We take home with us everywhere we go

Love, support, encouragement are threads that are woven into every yoga flow.

 

Group #7:

I am from nothing a good meal can’t fix, never return a plate empty, and rough and smooth edges of cookbooks.

I am from tree roots, briar brushes, and stony creeks.

I am from old architecture of an old city, a small city with a big reputation: it’s larger than life.

I am from the creek fed by a drainage pipe that pools and flows over magical rocks.

 

Group #8:

I am from a place I have chosen to be

A place with growing spaces

A place with beautiful faces

Where the air is sweet

And music fills the fabric of life.

The sun shines brightly,

Warming the souls of those who abide.

Awareness and spacious, alive in life.

 

Group #9:

We are from sunshine, kids playing, and American Suburbia.

We are from quiet, laughter, waves crashing.

We are from the smell of Mom’s perfume, salt water air, fresh cut grass.

I am from a leather basketball.

I am from soft and feathery cat fur.

I am from crisp cheerleading uniforms.

I am from chocolate chip pancakes.

I am from coffee.

I am from pizza on Friday nights.

I am from “Rise and Shine!”

I am from “Have I told you today that I love you?”

We are from family, vacation, love, faith.

 

Group #10:

I am from

A place where the horizon expands and the harvest moon hangs like a beacon;

Neighborhoods where children sand show toons and hymns and listened to the chorus of chipmunks and crickets;

A mother who filled the house with smells of homemade bread;

The flesh of juicy strawberries, scales of fish, and the discarded cloth of a grandmother;

The sweet tastes of cotton candy, juicy fruit gum, and carob chips;

I am from a place where hard work was necessary for survival and happiness had rigid boundaries.

And from this place I can see softer horizons.

 

Listening to the sensory memories that the other group members had from their childhood brought up so many happy memories for me. I tend to focus on the bad in the world, and looking back I could have listed the negative and unhappy memories I hold from my past. That’s what I normally do. The past has a lot of pain, and when we know it’s there, we avoid it, looking straight forward and marching on. Yet, it’s okay to pause and look back every once in a while. It’s scary, but it’s okay, because when approached from a gentle perspective, you can make a conscious to revisit the positives of your past, which will in turn conjure up joy rather than sadness or fear.

When we were all recalling our memories to each other, there was not a person in that room who wasn’t smiling or laughing. It’s hard not to when your mind is on something you enjoy, especially when you connect with others on it. I mean, almost every single group mentions fresh cut grass because for some reason, that clean, green smell played a positive role in each one of our lives. We got to think of things like our favorite comfort foods, something that can make anyone happy. We viewed our past from a joyful lens, and it was freeing.

With the close of that activity, we prepared to end the workshop with one more personal journal free write. Chelsea posed us these two questions: what are you taking with you from this experience? What do you want to leave behind? They’re very interesting questions, because after an educational workshop, it makes sense that you would want to leave with something, some knowledge, after, but what would there be to leave behind? Wouldn’t you want to soak up the entire experience and pack it all up with you when you go?

The answer to the question is no. Every time that we enter a space of learning or go through an experience that changes us, we take home what we needed and learned and we also let go of what we don’t. Just like you wouldn’t purchase an item from the store and then ask for your money back, you wouldn’t gain understanding of yourself without conversely giving some of yourself up. That’s how change happens and progress is made.

When I left the class, I took home a sense of community influenced by the incredible group of people who attended. I had just spent 6 hours with a group of 30 total strangers and created stronger connections than I have with people I’ve known for 6 years. I also took home a new sense of awareness in my yoga practice, and how I can expand my personal experience in yoga. I will challenge myself to go slowly when I need it, because it was the slow deliberate movements of the practice that pushed me deeper into self-exploration. In terms of what I’m leaving behind, it is the baggage that I have to close myself off to the rest of the world, because if this workshop taught me anything it is that I don’t need to do that. I am leaving behind the belief that vulnerability is bad and emotional intimacy is scary. I also hope that I’m leaving behind some of my own wisdom, which others can take with them and use to help heal themselves and others.

This workshop was a combination of delving deeper into myself while also learning about the ways in which we can use yoga and the concept of yoga to help others. Chelsea is an incredible teacher and I am so glad that I was able to take her workshop!

What “Wonder Woman” Teaches Women Everywhere

First of all, I’d like to apologize to you all for my absence on the blog for several months. I have some new posts for you coming up soon, though, and I haven’t stopped writing! I’m looking forward to getting back on the blogging bandwagon. Second of all, here’s today’s post, inspired by the movie I watched just last night.

The film Wonder Woman was just recently released, inspired by the famous DC Comic character of the same name. It is one of the most popular films of year thus far, and for a good reason. I’m sitting here typing this an hour after I viewed it in the theater, and I must say, as a woman I feel good. I feel proud to be strong, determined, capable, and female. Wonder Woman targets and empowers women in a way many movies don’t.

1491990205555-1         In the comics, we know Wonder Woman as the long haired, red, white, blue and gold armored character who wields a lasso and shield. She’s a member of the Justice League fighting for good. The film Wonder Woman imagines the back story behind Wonder Woman and how she became who she is known as today, beginning from childhood. It weaves a tale that combines Greek mythology with the real life history of World War II, with a theme tied into one core question: What does it mean to be Human?

Along with its venture into humanity, Wonder Woman exudes the theme of female empowerment from every pore. We learn that who we know as Wonder Woman is actually a woman named Diana, an Amazon warrior and daughter of the Queen of the mythical Amazons. In Greek mythology, the Amazons are a tribe made exclusively of women. Basically, they’re the ultimate Girls’ Club. The Amazons are powerful warriors. In the movie, young Diana grows up watching the females around her training to fight, flipping through the air with incredible martial arts skills, wielding swords, shields, and arrows, and demonstrating an addictive amount of confidence. Surrounded by these females, she herself learns to become a warrior.

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Watching those women on their island living a life of confidence and empowerment was incredible. In modern society, never is the female valued so much. I look at this film and I see how women, when working together, are virtually unstoppable. I’m not saying that we should move all women to an island and start a colony, but it was refreshing to see women in the powerful light that Wonder Woman puts them in.

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Diana meets her first man on the island, Captain Steve Trevor, in the ultimate feminist role reversal: by saving him when he crashes a stolen German war plane into the waters near the Amazon’s island. This is where the film weaves true history with myth. Captain Steve Trevor is a spy for the British in World War II. After Diana rescues him, the Amazons fight several German ships chasing after him. He tells the Amazons about the World War, describing terror and death that Diana had only heard of in her mother’s tales of the war between the gods, started by Ares, who wanted to corrupt the mankind that Zeus had created. Diana knows only one thing from her mother: that when Ares is defeated, war will end, and that is the mission of the Amazon women. Naturally, it is Diana’s first instinct to leave the safety of her island and go to fight the Germans with Steve. The impending death and destruction ahead doesn’t scare her. She is determined to do what she knows is right and beyond headstrong. In short, she’s a woman on a mission.

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Again and again on her journey to the German headquarters, Wonder Woman is an example of a woman taking the lead, following her own thoughts, and persevering despite challenges. She ignores Steve’s attempts to warn her about No Man’s Land, instead boldly marching solo onto the front lines, deflecting bullets without an injury. The men stay behind her as she clears the path towards safety. When a final blow needs to be given, Steve works to find a way for Diana to deal it, rather than the other way around. With this portrayal, the film truly makes Wonder Woman the ultimate star, something that doesn’t happen to such an extreme degree in much of today’s entertainment industry. Wonder Woman is without a doubt a true heroine.

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Yet, for all of her strength and power, Diana is not exclusively shown as a tough, aggressive woman. When in the rare case a woman is made the unequivocal star in an action film, directors often paint her as aggressive, unfeeling, and cold. Wonder Woman doesn’t do this. Diana is a woman with super-human strength, yes, but she is also caring, empathetic, and compassionate. She, too, is capable of love. Whereas often an assertive woman is criticized as cruel and unfeeling, Wonder Woman demonstrates that strength and kindness aren’t mutually exclusive characteristics for a female heroine.

It is, in fact, her love and purity that eventually help Diana defeat Ares, who takes the form of a British traitor. With all the destruction around her from the World War and an impending poison attack, Diana is faced with the decision to join Ares and punish mankind or to fight him. She decides on the latter, as she sees beyond Ares’ hatred. Diana realizes that Man is bad, yes, but Man is also good. On her travels she has seen the worst of the human soul, but also felt the best. She has felt love. She has love for Steve, love for the townspeople she helped to save, love for her mother and the Amazons, and love for the compassion that she knows humans are capable of. War is terrible, but hatred or mankind for fighting is worse. Diana defeats Ares once and for all with the energy summoned from all of this love for the world and for her belief in what is right.

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As a woman, I admire Wonder Woman’s mission to defeat the “bad guys” of the world. I admire that she does it in a bad ass way, in a bad ass suit of armor, with resounding resilience and a refusal to give up. Wonder Woman makes me proud to be a woman, even without the superhuman powers Diana has, because it has taught me and all women that we are capable of everything we set our minds to. We don’t need to fit ourselves into a box that’s too small or to succumb to the status quo. We can speak our minds and be heard. We can be ourselves without fear of judgment. We can all be Wonder Women.

           

Sticking To Your Resolutions, and A Look at Mine

Gold glitter Happy New Year 2017 background. Happy new year glitIt’s nothing new that every year that passes forms a convenient benchmark for reflection on the past 365 days and preparation for the next 365. It’s logical, seeing how as a society we use years as measurements (think once yearly birthdays, holidays, doctor’s appointments, etc). Thus, true to form, the New Year has become associated with both looking back on the recent past and looking forward to prepare for the future.

Personally, I have mixed feelings on New Year’s Resolutions. I believe that each day is a chance to reflect and set future goals; why should I wait a whole year before doing so? We put so much emphasis on setting “resolutions” on one day out of the whole year that most of the time it ends up being a self-perpetuating cycle of disappointment, self-doubt, and frustration, ultimately culminating in a goal often left unachieved and a self-esteem knocked down to boot. Yet, I understand the convenience of a New Year and new date to set goals. Given that, how can you then set them to avoid that negative cycle?

It is virtually impossible to create a goal for yourself that is exactly perfect, reasonable, and realistic for yourself in one try. Goal-setting is a constant revision process, reliant on trial and error to determine the best possible course of action and alterations to make that possible. Year after year you hear countless stories of failed New Year’s Resolutions (yet again), yet year after year people continue to make them. Self-help articles encourage you to “stick to your goal!” “Don’t give up!” “Stay strong!” So you follow their directions, stubbornly setting a resolution and setting yourself to a standard of perfection in meeting it.

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The reality is that meeting goals is far from imperfect. No one who ever began a change-process stayed on one course the entire time. Rather, the most successful are the ones who set something preliminary, try it, and then change it up to suit their needs based off of the results. Think of it in another context. Let’s say someone, John Doe, is having back pain. He goes to the doctor, wanting a way to control it. The doctor examines him and says, “I’m going to prescribe you this pain medication to take that will help. Feel better, and see me in a year.” So John picks it up at his pharmacy and starts taking it as directed. After two weeks, he realizes that the medication makes him extremely nauseas to the point that he throws up. Yet, he reminds himself that the doctor gave him rules: take the meds and come back in a year. So he suffers for the next 4 months with nausea. Eventually, it gets so bad that he gives up and just stops the medication altogether. The nausea stops, but the back pain comes back worse than ever. When he sees the doctor at the one-year mark, he is back where he started.

I’ll guess that while you were reading that you were silently telling John that it didn’t have to be that way- that he should have gone back to the doctor when he first got a stomach ache and asked if there were a different medication or solution that may not have the same effects. I don’t doubt that any one of you reading this would agree that medical diagnoses aren’t always right on the first try, and sometimes it takes one or two trials to find a treatment method that works for the patient. This probably seems like common sense to you from an outside perspective, but to John, he might argue that his doctor had created a plan and instructions that he was to follow, so he did not want to deviate from that. He’ll say that as time passed and he kept experiencing problems, he got frustrated and upset because he was doing everything the doctor told him to do to a T, but it didn’t seem to be working on him at all. So he stopped. It became too much to handle, too overwhelming, too incompatible with his life, too ineffective. He lost his motivation to pursue an answer.

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While this is a dramatic example, it parallels directly with what I see so often with “New Year’s Resolutions.” The hype of the New Year and burst of determination triggered by the possibility of a “clean slate” motivates so many individuals to set goals for themselves. With all the articles that get released around the years’ end with instructions on proper goal setting and SMART goals, chances are that if they choose to set one, they’ve come up with a pretty solid plan that they one hundred percent think they can execute. That’s like John Doe, getting his prescription and instructions from the doctor: Hopeful and confident that it will work.

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Where I believe Resolution-ers get stuck is not in their intention, their goal, or their plan. It is in their reaction to unexpected roadblocks. John did okay for a while, before he discovered he got nauseas. Many people start off their goals incredibly well! But life never goes according to plan. Things always come up unexpectedly, or have a greater impact on one’s life than one thought. Perhaps it’s a change in schedule that makes your goal of working out in the morning more difficult. Maybe you learn that you just can’t manage making an elaborate meal every night for dinner. Maybe you are so tired at night that you keep leaving your journal unopened. Whatever comes up, you realize that something you thought was a good idea at one time just isn’t happening. You experience the resolution “side effects.” Like John, so many view roadblocks as signs that they simply aren’t good enough, they don’t deserve to succeed at this resolution, they are doomed to accept that their desired change is just not possible. Like John, so many end up petering out until before they know it, their goals have disappeared from their minds and they succumb to sticking it out until the next year, hoping “something will be different.”

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I myself am a guilty party of this on countless occasions. Take last year, when I bought myself a “line a day” notebook diary. Yeah, I wrote in it about 5 times before that ended, even though I truly wanted to start that habit! That’s just one example of many. Frustration and eventual cessation are natural reactions to challenges. So the question to ask ourselves becomes “How can I set myself up for success in order to stay working towards this goal?”

Let’s find the answer by taking another look at our friend John Doe. I doubt that anyone would have recommended that he simply stop his medication when it made him sick and wait a year for another attempt. More likely, you would have recommended that he call his doctor back and explain the problem, asking if there were an alternate solution. In other words, you would advise him to re-evaluate.

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In the exact same way, I encourage you to approach your goals as you would John’s situation. Like his desire to get rid of back pain, John’s intentions were totally logical and beneficial to his overall well-being. Whether your goal is physical, mental, emotional, social, or professional, I’ll bet your intentions are also logical and beneficial to your well-being. Instead of letting them slide, keep at them! Re-evaluate. The problem doesn’t lie with you, it just lies with your action plan and approach. Everything needs tweaking, even resolutions. Every once in a while, check in with yourself and see how you are doing. What is standing in the way of reaching your goal? Why? How can you alter your action plan to get around that obstacle?

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How exactly to do that? Let’s take a look again at a few of my examples. So, say your goal to work out in the morning has been hampered by a change in schedule that cuts your morning time in half. Try altering the goal just a little. Maybe switch your time to an hour in the afternoon or at night instead, or combine a mid-day walk outside with a shorter, 20 minute morning tabata. You’re still working towards your goal, it’s just a little different than originally planned! Example #2: You’ve been majorly inspired by the incredible recipes on Food Network and your goal was to improve your cooking repertoire by making a home meal from scratch every night for dinner, but you’re finding that you’re just too busy to do so. Try adjusting to focusing on shorter, 20-30 minute quick dinners most days, and pick out one extravagant one a week instead. You get a win-win, because you still get to cook but you also will be even more excited to make the meal each week because you’ll have planned for and looked forward to it! What a great way to even add on to the goal, and begin planning a friends’ night or a weekly family sit-down so everyone can enjoy your efforts! See how such small fixes dramatically changed these situations? Here’s just one last example to round this out (third one’s the charm right?): mine.

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I told you guys about the failed “one line a day” journal attempt last year, right? Well, here’s how I modified it for this year. If I were to go by my own advice, I should have modified it much earlier than this, but at least it’s happening at all. Basically, I learned three things: 1. Every day is just too much for me to do, 2.What I ended up writing wasn’t meaningful enough to motivate me to continue, and 3. I had zero accountability. So this year, things are different. Firstly, I changed the timing of my goal to once a week. That gives me a lot more flexibility to time out my journaling. Secondly, I decided to use a resource that would help keep my responses meaningful, rather than just entries like “It rained today. Yuck.” I purchased a book called “The 52 Lists Project,” that gives me a weekly prompt. (Buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/52-Lists-Project-Journaling-Inspiration/dp/1632170345) That will inspire me to think and reflect, and help give me ideas. Thirdly, I recruited others to help me with accountability. What better way to accomplish a goal than to do it with other people? I posted about my goal on Facebook, asking if anyone wanted to do it with me and share answers! So far, I have about 7 people in a group who have committed! We will all stay on track together. Not only will this help me practice a consistent journaling and reflection routine, but it will create a community of individuals that I can discuss with. I am always working on allowing myself to be more vulnerable, and what better way than total honesty with friends and acquaintances? This group has the added benefit of connecting people from all over the world! I have friends not just in my town, but also in other states in the USA, and even other countries! We are all ages, as well, and I can’t wait to see how each of our unique perspectives and life experiences play into this weekly commitment.52_lists_project_review_2

And of course, if it doesn’t end up working exactly as planned, I will take my own advice and re-evaluate. I hope you will do this too with your own goals this year. Happy 2017! Stay awesome, my friends!

 

Xoxo,

Rowena

 

P.S. Join my 52 Lists Project! Comment or message me your email (if you have one, a gmail account works best with google docs but others are good too) and I will add you to the google group!

A New Kind of Holiday Gift Giving

Every year, my extended family does a secret santa gift exchange for our holiday get-together. We started doing this about four years ago, after years and years of the more traditional, “buy at least something (or somethings) for everyone” practice. Although it’s hard to ignore the initial pleasure of getting “more” gifts that comes with that manner of giving, I think we all reached a point where the act of gift giving for the holidays had become more of a burden than a joy, a warped divergence from the true intention behind giving in itself, which should, on the contrary, be happy and rewarding for both parties. We decided that, rather than stress out about having to think of, find, and purchase something for everyone, we would instead focus our intentions on finding one, meaningful and special gift for only one person, secret santa style. So for the past few years, we’ve ceremoniously put names in a hat and drawn one by one the person who we give to that season. When we finally get together for the holidays and to exchange gifts, we are able to focus more on simply spending time in each other’s presence than on an extravagant unwrapping event revolving around piles of wrapping paper, bows, and tape.

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Although there are less presents under the tree, I’ve found that there is no less joy or appreciation amongst us. If anything, it is increased. Now, the one present we do get is thoroughly thought out, chosen with intention, and designed to hold meaning for its recipient. The result is one that re-sparks the true intention of giving and receiving, which is to tap into human compassion and facilitate connection. What matters more than the gift itself is the thought that went into it. The recipient feels cared for and loved, and the giver feels happy that they have caused that feeling. It is a win-win situation.

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This year, as in the past few, my family is again participating in a secret santa amongst ourselves. Only, this time, we’ve made a little tweak. It’s still a gift exchange, but a gift exchange of a different kind: one that brings us even further to that satisfactory, self-affirming feeling associated with intentioned gift-giving. This year, instead of saying “this is my gift to you,” we are saying “my gift to you is a gift to someone else.” In other words, we are doing a secret santa exchange of donations and charity. The basic premise doesn’t change: pick a name from the hat, and that is your recipient. However, the gifting itself is of a different nature. You can either donate to an organization on behalf of your recipient, or purchase a gift from an organization that benefits their cause.

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Maybe you draw your Grandfather. What does Grandpa really like? Is he passionate about anything? What does he care about the most? Maybe Grandpa is a sports fanatic. So, in secret santa charity style, perhaps you find a non-profit that supports sports education for underprivileged kids, or one that donates equipment to children without the luxury of being able to buy their own. What do you do? You make a donation to the organization, in his name. The maybe you purchase an organization T-shirt or promotional product. On gift exchange night, you hand grandpa a card. A brochure about the organization. His souvenir to remind him that you, in is name, did some good. Your gift to him was that you made him a part of something bigger than himself, something that he cared about.

Fair game this year for our secret santa is also the plethora of options for Buy One Give One organizations, companies which will give the equivalent of your product purchase for yourself to someone in need. There are over a hundred of these organizations, whose mission is to do an act or give an item for every product purchased for personal use. One such group that you’ve probably heard of is TOMS shoes, the comfy canvas slip-ons that are universally loved. For every shoe pair purchased, TOMS will donate a new pair of shoes to an African child in need. Hence, buy one, give one. The Be Good clothing company will make 12 gallons of water in a rural area safe to drink for every purchase of their product made. Buy a handmade bamboo pen from Humble Pen, and they will in turn donate 2 pencils, one reading book, one notebook, and one meal to a child in need. The list goes on and on. Although not as directly labeled as “donation,” a purchase of one such item like this is just as impactful as money to a group. The product itself also serves as a great reminder of the good that you’ve done, holding with it an altruistic feeling that arises whenever it is in use.

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The feeling that comes with service is even greater than the one that comes with the most basic act of giving. Service is special because it brings one out of their own personal bubble, and lets one touch others around them. Whether directly within a one’s community or through other methods to places farther away, nationally, or internationally, one can help out someone or something other than themselves. Getting a new toy or trinket of course is exciting, but a charitable gift gives a different kind of excitement. It is the kind of gift that warms you up from the inside out, the kind that says: “I can make a difference. I have made a difference.” It is hard to beat that feeling. It is one that lasts much longer than the euphoria of a new material item, and so much more impactful.

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There is a reason that, as humans, we give, and why giving has gotten incorporated into so many aspects of our lives. It is as much fulfilling to ourselves as it is to the recipient. Every religion stresses, teaches of, and honors giving. Many holidays have an aspect of gift exchanging in them. We congratulate others and show them our love by giving gifts. Charity is no different. And the combination of the two is powerful.

There are so many ways to combine charity with gift giving, ways that you may not even know about, yet are incredibly easy and rewarding. The most obvious, of course, is direct donation. A check to an organization providing resources for them to continue to do the good that they have dedicated themselves to. Then there is donation through purchase. Buying an organization’s promotional product, of which the proceeds will benefit them, is easy. More and more, companies have also popped up that will donate a portion of their proceeds to a stated cause, or to the people who created and manufactured the product. There are also the buy one give one groups, which have developed their unique system that combines personal purchase with matched charitable giving.

Whatever the manner, the bottom line is this: this “new” kind of gift giving is one that benefits something greater than yourself, yet yourself as well. It keeps the holidays from going overboard, and simplifies them down to their basic essence: spending time with others, being deeply thoughtful, and having kind intentions. Try it out! See the reactions you receive. Guaranteed, no one will be wanting a gift receipt on kindness.

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Donald Trump has Made America Hate Again: Reflections, Analysis, and Wondering Where to Go From Here

This morning I woke up with a sense of doom and dread. It’s still there, now. It is as if I can viscerally feel the horrible significance that the results from Election 2016 will have,

I am so many different emotions right now. I am sad. I am upset. I am angry. I am embarrassed. I am scared. I am nauseous. I am stunned. I am shocked. I am confused. I am disheartened.

All of these feelings are for so many different things.

Many of them are for women. As a woman myself, the empowerment and euphoria in voting in a presidential election for a woman yesterday was a moment I will never forget (yes, I even saved and preserved my sticker). Women have faced endless discrimination and invalidation for virtually all of time. That is not a personal belief but an unequivocal fact. When we think about inequality for women, one universal term we hear is the “glass ceiling.” I mean, the idea itself is pretty symbolic. A hard, difficult to penetrate plane above our heads, through which we can see the goal, but yet which still closes us in, our heads trodden on by the footfalls of men above us “privileged” simply because they were born into a world where some extra genitalia means the difference between, for instance, making a full dollar or only the equivalent of $0.80 for the same work.

Yet, like glass, this ceiling can be shattered. And it has been, many times. I mean, I voted yesterday, the result of a shattered ceiling in itself. This election, we were so incredibly close to shattering another glass ceiling, one of the largest our country still has today: a female presidency. I wanted it. I wanted it so badly. Which is why, when Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, I was devastated. Devastated and saddened. Not just because it was this one obstacle that hadn’t been achieved (yet), but also, and mostly, because I believe this election showed me, much to my dismay, that our widespread perceptions of success and equality are in part just a veil over a deeply-rooted sexism still present in America. It is one that I had hoped was gone, or at least improved upon.

My optimistic 21st Century side told me that change had happened; I mean, it’s 2016, after all! And I’ll give credit to that change, because it has. But clearly, it wasn’t enough. This election has been the most demeaning to my sex as any ever has. Women have been openly disrespected. They have been called housewives, caretakers, and unintelligent. The female body has been taken advantage of, in more ways than one. Donald Trump has rated women on their breasts, butts, or how “good” they look on a scale of 1-10. He has publicly stated that he would sleep with his own daughter. He’s used the fact of owning a vagina and possessing the ability to carry and create life as a means of demeaning women, blaming them for PMS during their periods and “bleeding from wherever.” He has criticized women for being “too fat” for him, as if he were the one to set some sort of standard for the human body. He has brazenly claimed that his supposed fame validates his peeping at naked teenaged women backstage at the Miss Universe Pageants, and proudly stated that he enjoys “grabbing women by the pussy.” He has done all this and more.

Yet, it doesn’t sicken me as much to hear one sexist man say these things as it does to hear the support he managed to rally when he did. In his public sexism, it is as if Donald Trump awakened a beastly part of the population, who not only agreed with him, but joined in. Again, I think, “21st Century, 2016!” but again, I look at the screaming Trump “fans” and am crushed. In this I noticed: America has a dark side, and Donald Trump gave its members the OK to express it, loud and clear. Honestly, one could argue that all those pieces of broken glass just glued themselves back together in the matter of one campaign and one fateful Tuesday night. Herein lies my sadness, my fear. For women. For what this means for me. For what this means for my little sister. For what this means for equality in America. For what this means for upholding American values.

What I also know, however, is that if I have something fear, it is nothing compared to the fear for many individuals around this country. Yes, I am a woman. But I am also white, well-off, living in a nice house in a nice town, a US born American citizen, straight, and not disabled. In society’s terms, I inherently have “privilege.” Donald Trump probably wouldn’t have a problem grabbing me by the pussy or letting me cook and clean for him, but I know that I don’t face even a percent of the issues others do by Trump and the hatred he leeches. I despise this fact, because I very firmly believe that an immutable characteristic central to one’s identity should ever be reason to judge, discriminate against, or hurt another person. Blacks. Hispanics. Asians. Native Americans. Immigrants. Refugees. Senior citizens. Disabled persons. Muslims. Those with mental health issues. Low-income workers. The homeless. LGBTQs. Victims of Sexual Assault. The list just keeps going. All of these groups have been attacked viciously by Donald Trump and his supporters, and for no valid reason that I see other than that they are different.

Sound familiar? Attacking because of difference? Discriminating? There’s a pattern we’ve seen before. That’s racism. Homophobia. Islamophobia. Elitism. Misogyny. Hatred. Why? is the first question I ask. Mostly because when I see people, I see people, as in homosapiens, members of the human race. I don’t give a flying fuck if they’re blue and green and red with gold stripes or if they have a certain theological belief, or the sex organs of the person they love, or the way their brain is wired, or the income they earn, or the house they live in, or the country they were born in. Anyone who does places themselves on a pedestal much too high for their own good. We’re all human, guys, sorry to burst your judgmental and egotistical bubble. Why care who or what or how another person is?

This is something that I has been prevalent throughout world history. Yet, I thought we were past that. Granted, some issues are more recent than others. There is always more progress to make. But you would think that if history shows us anything, it is that hatred and discrimination only cause terror and pain and separation. Look at the Holocaust and you see a tale of religious discrimination. The American Civil War—brothers against brothers fighting over race. Pulse: a brutal shooting rooted in differences in sexual orientation. The Berlin Wall of the Cold War. The result? Primarily, violence, division, and death. Incredible death. Three words that have absolutely no relation to progress. What does have relation to progress is exactly the opposite. When blacks were given rights. When gay marriage was legalized. When the United States served as a place of refuge for those fleeing violence in the Middle East or Central America. We denounce hatred like that of Hitler during the Holocaust or of slave-owners pre-Civil War, yet hatred of the same kind is what Donald Trump preaches and brings out in others.

As with women, this election showed me that there is a large, large group of American people who have not learned from history. A large group of people who must have had a seed of hatred all along, but which was dormant until Donald Trump watered and fed it and allowed to grow until it became a thriving plant. I am upset that there was that seed at all, but even more upset that it came alive so quickly, and dug its roots in so deep. I think of the Islamophobia, of the banning of individuals entering the country from “violent places,” of the proposal to deport thousands and build a wall along the Southern border, of the insistence on preventing gay rights, and I am astonished at the similarities to the horrors of our history threatening to repeat themselves.

People aside, I am scared for the country, our environment, and the role we play in the well-being of our earth. While a proven fact, Donald Trump denies the existence of global warming. Maybe October snowstorms and record setting highs and lows the past few years, on top of melting glaciers and the destruction of polar habitats just seem like normal things that should be happening, to him. The great newsflash is that is isn’t normal. Even greater is that it’s not going away. So the solution? Let’s stop it. That seems to make sense to most of the world and its leaders, but not to Mr. Trump. He wants to leave legislative deals that could help stunt the growth of global warming, and blames China instead. Yes, he blames China.

It is not even his disregard of global warming that concerns me as much as what his thought processes tell me. Donald Trump doesn’t trust science, and is unwilling to fund it. This is a topic that flies under the radar, mostly because we don’t even realize how much of a role science and research plays in our daily lives and that of our future. Scientific innovation runs progression. It bleeds influence into all aspects of life: economy, Health, education, sustainability, you name it. You can go to the ER and see if your bone is broken, thanks to science. Then you can get it repaired. And you can go home with pain killers. If you’re depressed, you can get helpful medication and guidance from a counselor. You can fly from one place to another in an airplane. You get hot water from a system rooted in science. You can be cured from sickness thanks to science. You can read this blog, or navigate the web. You can brush your teeth with whitening toothpaste. You can eat the correct diet to avoid diabetes. You can safely have a baby. All of these, and more, are innovations that relied on science to become a reality. If the President does not deem this important, where will progress go? Will it even happen? And what will the long term effects be?

Ignorance wreaks havoc. Donald Trump wants to “remove the red tape” at the FDA and approve thousands of new drugs, claiming he wants to “find as many cures as possible.” What he sees as administrative red tape the scientific community sees as safe and effective research geared towards optimal results. There is a reason drugs are studied thoroughly, most primarily to ensure the safety of its potential users. Donald Trump believes that women should never get an abortion, that birth control should be limited, that health care shouldn’t be affordable for all. That tells me that he doesn’t understand science. He has used fear rhetoric denouncing abortions, claiming that clinics “rip out the infants at even the last day of the ninth month and kill the child.” This is simply untrue. He wishes to ban abortion, for no regard to the psychological effect of a woman being forced to keep a group of cells which is no more human than a pimple. Mental health is no apparent consideration for Trump. If anything, it is something to mock, as he did when he copied a disabled reporter’s hand motions in a speech. Clearly, Donald Trump has a very ignorant, uneducated outsider’s view on science and health, one which I see as being threatening to the earth and the people on it. And again, I am shocked and saddened at his supporter’s immediate buy-in to his rhetoric and beliefs.

I am shocked and saddened overall by this election, and by the results. Trump won an election against one of the best-qualified candidates ever in history. A man who preaches hatred beat a woman who preaches hope and equality. That shows me that the America I thought I knew, or at least wanted to know, is still plagued by hatred.And right now, that hatred is alive and talking.

This morning, I was in Dunkin’ Donuts getting a coffee. Three men in front of me were loudly praising Donald Trump’s victory and publicly denouncing other races and groups of people. A Hispanic man behind them turned around and left the shop, muttering to himself “I can’t take this.” That is what this election has caused. The approval of a president to essentially force someone out of a coffee shop with the poison of hatred. I don not tolerate it, and I am very, very upset about it. America’s morals are being turned on their heads. In this day and age, events like this should not be happening.

Yet while saddened and angry, In know that likewise feeling hatred only breeds more hatred. And I don’t hate Trump supporters, truly I don’t. This election and its unfortunate results just showed me the problem that America has. As the saying goes, the first step to recovery is to identify the problem. We have done so, so now it is our time to work towards solving it. It won’t be easy and the road will be harder, perhaps harder than it ever has been. But together, we can turn this hatred around.

xoxo,

Rowena

 

An Open Letter to the American Public

Hi there, everyone! If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve probably already read the title of this blog. You probably already have an opinion on the topic I will be discussing in the following post (when it comes to politics, people generally do). Now, my intent always is to try and stay open. I am willing to listen to another side, whether I agree with it or not. I expect, too, that likewise my own thoughts would be treated equally. Regardless of your opinion, consider this an opportunity to see inside my thoughts as the American Presidential election continues, and as it approaches November 8th, when the leader of the United States of America for the next 4 years will be chosen. I’ve written this letter, open, as the title mentions, to all American citizens. Take it as you wish.

And without further ado…

 

Dear America,

In exactly 22 days, our local schools, libraries, town halls, and community centers will transform into ballot boxes and pens, vote readers and tallies. We will line up, declare ourselves present, and get one paper each. On that paper will be several choices. The two most contested choices, the ones that have been on the utmost forefront of our minds recently, will be these names: Hillary Rodham Clinton/Tim Kaine and Donald Trump/Mike Pence. In other words, the Democratic Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees versus the Republican Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees for the US Election of 2016.

You’ll fill in a little bubble next to your choice, Clinton or Trump. You’ll turn in your ballot. A machine will take it, read it, and allocate it into your chosen nominee’s pile. By the end of the day, the votes will have been tallied. The Electoral College will have been counted as well. And one candidate, the one with the most votes, will become the new President of the United States of America.  That’s democracy.

The only question left then, besides the obvious: Who will win?, is “Who will I vote for?” The choice, ultimately, is up to you. Me? I’ve made mine. And I’d like to share it with you all, along with why I’ve made it. Why I have used my well-earned American right to be a part of a long-standing democracy to make a choice and ultimately participate in creating a country that I live in where I fee, empowered, brave, free, unjudged, and proud to be an American.

With that being said, I would be proud to say that Hillary Rodham Clinton is the President of the United States.

I choose the word “proud” very specifically. While I’m not the most “patriotic” person, per say, in the world, I deeply appreciate the country I live in. I appreciate the values it was built on, and the strides it has made since birth to uphold these values, and even modify them, to fit our ever-changing modern times. I appreciate that when I think of the word “American,” I don’t have a singular definition or solid picture in my head. Rather, the images that come to mind are those of boats arriving at the Statue of Liberty, men and women alike, colors of skin varying from my own virtually see-through white to olive tans to deep and rich ebony black, families of many sizes or of no size at all, lovers of all colors and sexes, and a plethora of religious beliefs and spectrums. Why? Because there is no one “American.” A modern day American is literally someone of some origin or combination of origins, somewhere on the color spectrum in skin, of a sex they choose to identify with, with their own family, their own lover, and their own personal religious beliefs. Rather than a singular identity, America itself has an identity formed of identities. Our connection, then? It’s in our name itself: the United States. We are different, but we are united.

We are united by values, beliefs, and processes. By a government and a system of equal representation “by the people, for the people,” a system that we fought for long and hard in our history. Independence Day? It’s not just a day for fireworks and candid beach photos while wearing red, white, and blue bikini bathing suits. It’s a day we celebrate to remember the first July 4th when we became the United States of America. A day we gathered together and fought for so that we could officially declare ourselves as our own entity.

From that day moving forwards, we began to discover who we were. America went through a coming-of-age process, like a child growing up. I won’t be your high school history teacher, but in a nutshell, we all got together and made some rules. We wrote important documents to state our rights, and we decided on an equal system of representation. We narrowed down our focus to several values, which we vowed to uphold. Freedom. Equality. Representation. Opportunity. Growth. At the time we were born, we made decisions based off of our present time situations and beliefs to organize our country to best fit those values to the extent that we believed them necessary.

The wonderful thing about birth, however, is that it leads to growth. And with growth comes change. With change comes challenges. Those challenges are usually centered around one thing however: defining oneself. Realizing that changes internally and externally subsequently effect how our core values look on the outside. Accepting that we are not single, black and white boxes. We warp, we shift. We grow. We extend.

For a moment, consider America as a child. It was born, one eventful July 4th many years ago. It started out as one thing. But, as is natural, it faced external changes, and internal changes came about as a result. When America began, the external environment didn’t criticize slavery. Women weren’t considered equals. Blacks didn’t have the rights of whites. Christianity was enforced above all else. Class lines were strictly defined. Socioeconomic growth was virtually unheard of. Sexual identities basically consisted of one of two options. That was simply the environment of the times. In all good intentions, the founders of this version of America did truly believe they were promoting those core values of freedom, equality, representation, opportunity, and growth.

America the child, however, began to grow. With that, definitions of values changed. Humans came to a consensus, however violently, that ultimately slavery wasn’t actually a representation of equality. Women spoke up, eventually likewise gaining empowerment and legal rights. Other religions were allowed, and one had the right to choose which one (or none) they wanted. Class lines blurred. It was no longer a self-fulfilling prophecy that being born into one social “class” doomed you into staying there your whole life. More people came over from countries all around, adding to the melting pot of diversity in America. The words “gay” and “transgender” and “bisexual” weren’t social swears anymore. Technologically, we transitioned from farms to industry to factories to machines to automation to connection to wireless to space travel, to considerations of alternate worlds. New problems sprung up (good and bad), like nuclear weaponry, global warming, and changing educational systems. I recognize that I’ve just condensed hundreds of years of history in which individuals struggled and faced intense discrimination prior to receiving their rights into one paragraph of text, but I hope you take a broader perspective and look at my point here: America has changed.

But we are not done. We have not stopped growing. And we have much farther to go. All those right up above that I claim we’ve earned? They’re, unfortunately to say, still not accepted by all. We are still a never-ending growing child. We still need guidance. We have more rights to obtain. We will have, inevitably, more modern challenges that we will face. And to face those, to gain those rights, to continue updating our version of an equal, representative, free, modern nation, we need a leader to help us do so.

History lesson over, bring your head back to the 21st century, mid-October 2016. Almost Election Day. Democrats vs Republicans. Clinton vs Donald. They are our choice right now. Whoever we elect will be responsible, for the next four years, for guiding us towards an updated America, with 21st century definitions of our core values. Your decision boils down to, then, who do you think can uphold those values, to move America forwards?

For me, the answer is simple. Hillary Clinton. No doubts, no questions.

While there are a million different directions I could go in to explain ad justify my unwavering support of Hillary Clinton, about many different issues, I’ll spare you a novel. Honestly, you read about that every single day anyways. Both political candidates are scrutinized word for word, and can debate for hours about individual statements or actions or decisions dating as far back as multiple decades. There will likely be twenty news articles about them as well. What I want to do in this post is remind you of the bigger picture: the umbrellas every single statement and opinion from these candidates falls under.

Regarding Hillary Clinton, the one aspect of her thoughts on all of the issues she calls attention to has been consistent. In one word, I’ll settle on that umbrella term as being “Progress.” Hillary Clinton’s platform is one of progress. Moving forward. Tackling the future with hope and determination. Sticking to the founding values of America and adapting them to modernity. Constantly evolving to fit the needs and rights of the people. Hillary promotes freedom for all. Hillary believes in equality and representation. She supports opportunities. She wants American growth for the better.

Switching over to her opponent, Donald Trump, I believe that his goals for the country, and the umbrella over his platform, can be summarized with a word immediately opposite to “progress.” If Hillary represents progress, then Trump represents regression. In other words, moving backwards. Donald Trump’s arguments, which he has made clear from the beginning of his campaign, are consistent with the beliefs of someone who wishes to strip certain groups of their freedom. He does not believe in equality, and certainly not in representation. He wants to limit the opportunities available in the United States. He wants to stunt and even erase American growth by crippling it at its core values.

Analytically, one need not even have a political opinion to see this dichotomy of Clinton progression versus Trump regression. The candidates themselves have made it very clear, even by examining something as basic as their campaign slogans. The Clinton logo is a capital H for Hillary, with an arrow through the center pointing right, into the future. Hillary makes clear that her goal is to guide the country in a forward direction, building on a mindset that asks, every day, “How can I create more freedom, more equality, more, representation, more opportunities?” The answer is always a forward guiding arrow. Hillary implies, without even speaking, that the path she plans to take America on is one consistent with American values.

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On the other hand, Donald Trump’s campaign motto does just as much talking as Hillary’s, but in the wrong ways. How many times, now, have you heard “Make America great again?” Donald Trump literally has built a campaign off of a slogan that implies firstly that the modern America of now is “not great,” and that an America under his presidency would slowly revert back to an “older version” of the country. He appears to think that America of the past is better than America of the now.

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This deeply concerns me, for multiple reasons. Firstly, it is my opinion that in making the statements that he has, Trump has made clear that he honestly has no knowledge of the future, let alone how to handle it as it approaches. He very clearly wishes to simply put his head in the sand and spin around three times, hoping modern day problems don’t come to fruition. Case in point: environment. Donald Trump does not appear to either care nor believe in pollution and global warming. Newsflash to him: global warming is very, very real. Its threats are scary and imminent if action is not taken. My question is how can action be taken, and how can our planet be protected, if the president does not trust the scientifically proven facts? Maybe Trump wants to “make America great again” by time-traveling back to pre-greenhouse gases. Newsflash again: time-traveling is not an option at this point in time. In fact, under Trump, it may never be an option, considering his clear disregard for scientific innovation. The issue of global warming is just one example of relevant modern-day issues that must be addressed by a country’s leader, and thus must be at the very least recognized by the leader. Heads in sand just won’t cut it.

Secondly, Donald Trump’s insistence on reverting to the past to find American “greatness” scares me because based off of his rhetoric and beliefs, his proposed presidency is one that will nix incredibly important aspects of maintaining the core American values. Exactly how “far back” is Mr. Trump thinking? His utter disregard and disgusting treatment and opinions on women profile to a typical male of an era where women were essentially house slaves, or human sex toys for men like Donald Trump himself. Where they were judged based off of their looks or sexual performance, and whose social roles consisted of bearing children, raising them, cooking, and cleaning in the house. Where they could not vote, let alone even consider being a political representative. As a woman myself, the American history regarding women is one that hits right at home. Women fought for hundreds of years to get to where we are today, and still we are not equal. And Donald Trump wants to return to the past? No thank you. I deserve my rights; all women deserve their rights.

You may think I’m being overly-dramatic, and you’re partially right, but also partially not. Just look at the most recent promotion by Trump supporters, started by a relative of the man himself: repeal the 19th amendment. In other words, take away the right for women to vote. That is the extremism I’m talking about. That is downright terrifying.

I haven’t even mentioned the issues when it comes to Trump and marriage equality, Trump and immigration, Trump and mental illness, Trump and race, Trump and religion. Does he want to regress back even just a few months? He will be erasing historic court laws for marriage equality. Does he want to discriminate against those with disabilities or mental disorders, leave them to fend for themselves, deny them opportunities for jobs or adequate health care and support? Does he want to create a society where racial minorities are unfairly treated and jailed and punished and denied chances? Does he want to spread Islamophobia, broadly defining all members of an entire religion as “terrorists” and hurting their role in a society they have every free right to be a part of? He’s said he wants to build a wall to “keep out the Mexicans.” Does he want to revert back to an America where not everyone is always welcome, despite the original intentions by our founders?

I find nothing in Donald Trump’s campaign that suggests acknowledgement and awareness of the future, and most importantly, nothing that is consistent with following American values. To reiterate: freedom, equality, opportunity, representation, and growth. The America he wishes to lead is one that contradicts every single one of these terms. One of regression. Hillary Clinton, however, is the epitome of a woman not only making future by running herself, but also planning for the future, with every single one of these terms in mind. Hillary recognizes that America the child has grown very much, but is not finished. And it certainly doesn’t want to shrink. The America of today is constantly changing, and needs a leader that can help it adapt to not only move forward with new innovation and modern perspective, but also stay true to the main goal of this country. This dedication to progress is why I believe in Hillary Clinton, and back her 100%.

The question remaining then is who you’ll vote for. You, Americans, blacks and whites and Hispanics and gays and straights and bisexuals and women and men and Muslims and Christians and Jews and teachers and lawyers and janitors all are lucky enough to be in a country where right now, you are all individually free to give your input in this very important decision. And it is a very important decision. So think. It’s ultimately your decision, but I do hope that you’ll think about my words and analyses.

Progression versus regression.

 

Which bubble will you fill in?

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Sincerely,

 

Rowena Kosher