Friday, 19 December 2014

Disconnected Connectivity: My Unpopular Opinion of Social Media

I'm fairly certain I am in the minority when it comes to what I am about to say. But then, what's new?

I found this important enough to blog about, so you know it must be a pretty outstanding issue from a societal standpoint. And although this might not be within your realm of understanding, please allow me this moment to exercise my right to an opinion—and a platform on which to share it.

From where I stand, I am seeing a generation of people who are taking the social media thing way too far, in my humble opinion of course. (This bit, I think, most people can probably agree with. But, here comes the kicker...)

Instagram is a photo-sharing website. I shouldn't have to rely on it to know what my FRIENDS are doing with their lives, or to understand their thought process or perception of life or to know their interests. I don't go to social media, much less Instagram, for that. That's what your inbox is for. But I mean I guess I'm expecting way too much from a well-connected society? We want to know what you're doing and what you're thinking every second of the day, without ever having to put the effort into finding out. In fact, we can find out all of that about you without you even knowing that we are looking. How's that for friendship? LOL.

I don't even like posting my family on my page, as they aren't on social media. And it's almost as if people would feel like, "oh you don't post them? You must not have one. Or maybe you have no relationship with them." But the reality of it is, MY Instagram is meant for beautiful photographs. My Instagram is a reflection of a hobby/interest of mine, something that is part of me but not ALL of me, and that is my love for travel and appreciation of the Earth. Occasionally, social issues will also weed their way in, because I am a part of humanity and I believe in social responsibility. Still, will I ever jump to the other end of the spectrum here and say: "my social media isn't me so you can't use it as a gauge to determine the type of person I am"? Absolutely not. Because nothing on there is fabricated or misleading. It is in fact reflective of me and my interests, and I wouldn't have any qualms about showing it to an employer or older family member.

It just isn't the whole story. And I don't think it was meant to be. Forget about the false illusion of privacy. Forget about the fact that there are no rules, other than those put in place to protect us from "indecency", and that we can all portray ourselves as anything we choose. Let's just think about what the obsession with social media updates from real life human beings has done to us as a society.

  1. They have made us all feel entitled. We feel like we DESERVE to know what is going on in your life,like we have a right to the information. We feel like we have a right to know if you are in a relationship or not, if you are in the country or not, if you are sick or not.  We have a right to know what your children look like, or what you do in your spare time. Or what you look like when you just wake up in the morning.
  2. You can't venture too far into social networking without encountering the beast that is the keyboard gangster. The anonymity of the internet has turned some of us into some ill-mannered, insulting imbeciles. And maybe it is so that those people would have been that way regardless, and it could be argued that the internet just brings it out. But that's just it. For some reason, regardless of what it is, the internet brings out the worst in people. 
  3. On that last note. It has made us forget that we are all human beings. Celebrity or not, we all have feelings and we all are entitled to our own practices and beliefs. Yes, we all also have a platform and a "right" to share our opinions, but no one ever died from exercising a little couth.
  4.  I think these sites just make people lousy friends. You don't have to ever pick up your phone and call someone and say "hey how are you? how is everything." You can just log in and get updates on everyone simultaneously with little to no effort. This, arguably, has led to number 1.
  5. People now base their friendships and even intimate relationships on social media behaviour. If I unfollow you because I don't like what you post, then obviously I don't like you as a person and we therefore shouldn't be friends. What? Why can't I exercise my right to choose what I want to see on my feed and when? Why can't I just be an avid animal lover and want to see only lions and tigers and bears on my Instagram feed, as opposed to your selfies? And why does that choice, to be tolerant and respectful by way of avoidance, have to lead to the ending of a friendship? You mean to tell me if I don't post photos of my boyfriend every Monday that we obviously don't have a good relationship, he's cheating, we broke up, or he simply doesn't exist? I don't love my daughter because I don't have her face all over my page, for the whole anonymous world to see?

Come on guys. We really need to reevaluate ourselves a little bit here. I know we can't and won't all use social media the same because we are all different. And I'm not here for that anyway. I'm just here because I think that there should be a collective less energy put into our profiles and online image than what we put into our bodies and character. Or at the very least, couldn't we just care about both, equally? Can't we talk to our friends in real life as much as we RT them or like their photos? Can't we care as much about how our selfies look as we do about how we treat people? Can't we care as much about what other people are posting as we do about their well-being?

Then again, whether we actually care or not, as opposed to just being curious ... That's a different question entirely. Because knowing, (even if it's only the half) that's what really matters. 

And that's why we're all so disconnected. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

I Don't Know if I Believe in Protests, But Last Night I Protested

And tomorrow, I'm going to protest again.

This is not because I believe protests in themselves are functional ways to create change. This is not because I enjoy stopping people from going about their way and ignoring the plight of others. (Ok that last one is a lie.) I protested for a simple, simple reason: I am angry. And I desperately needed to be around other people who care. 

The reason for my anger, too, is simple. I cannot for the life of me fathom how human beings can be so filled with hate. I don't know why we are so comfortable with murder, and why we insist on living as though we are isolated creatures, as opposed to the group animals we are. I'm not angry because of my melanin content. I'm angry because I am a human being. When will people understand this?

At what point did we lose our humanity? How do we get it back?

I could write about Mike Brown. I could write about Eric Garner. I could write about Tamir Rice. I could write about Reefa. But as I told my friend who first suggested I channel my rage after the Mike Brown no indictment verdict into a blog: I. Am. Tired. 

If you've been following my blog for awhile then you'll know why. I've written about Troy Davis, whose case was the first one to spark my fire. I also wrote about Trayvon Martin, whose case was the first one to make me realise there might still be a serious race issue in the U.S.

But I never wanted my blog to turn into any kind of black power, all I see is black and white, all white people are racist kind of platform. Truth be told, I still don't. But the reality of these situations is that to ignore the blatant and systematic disenfranchisement of black people in America would be to tell all of those who have been profiled that their struggle is imagined. It would be to tell the family of Mike Brown or Eric Garner that their loved ones died by the hands of the law because they were horrific people not worthy of tolerance or rehabilitation. 

And that? I cannot do. 

I get it though. I really do. I used to be that person who thought black Americans screamed "racism" too often. I used to be that person who said, "not everything is about race", and "slavery was ages ago, why can't they get over it." When I moved here I certainly thought that black Americans had no room to complain about how they are perceived because of the image they portray to other races. Then, I woke up. I realised just how well I had fallen into the same brainwash that keeps people of all races far away from their humanity, yet fully able to sleep well every night. 

The change in me, I think it happened over night. And this is in large part due to social media. (Love-hate relationship.) But the thing I'd really like to get across the most about why I think race plays such an important role in this country is not based entirely upon the facts of the cases. It is based, almost wholly, on the reaction and subsequent comments I've seen from my peers, and the treatment of the cases by the media. 

The comments I've seen about Mike Brown, detailing how much of a thug/monster he was, and how deserving he was of death have left me speechless. None of us was there to witness the events, except those who were presented to the grand jury (most of whom have corroborated each other's version of what happened, which is an entirely different account from that of the police officer). Yet the things I have seen and read coming mostly from white people, and only white people, have reminded me just how far we have to go as humans. They have so much passion and confidence in their disregard for human life at the hands of a purposefully manipulated and stereotypical character assassination that it blows my mind. And the problem I have with stereotypes isn't that they are untrue. It is that they tell only one side of the story, and pass it off as the only side. 

Have you ever heard a white person or the media call a white person a thug? Have you ever heard them call a white person who may, or may not, have committed a crime a demonic criminal? Has a white person ever been called a terrorist? Has a white European ever been labelled an immigrant? Is this because we don't have Germans, Italians, Russians migrating to the U.S? Is it because white people do not commit crimes? Why are these derogatory words reserved only for people of colour to assume? Why is it that black men are automatically seen as threats? Why are black men so feared? What have black people taken from white people? What have we done to them as a race that causes so much hatred?

Historically, I shouldn't even need to point out the fact, not opinion, that almost every single racial genocide or evil act (rape, kidnapping, slavery, displacement) committed against a people has been committed by white Europeans. Yet somehow, it has come to be seen that black people are the threat. Somehow black men have taken the character plunge here. How? How did that happen? And why? 

If you look at it from a broad view, the answer would be simple. Africa is the richest piece of land on Earth. And in the never-ending battle for natural resources, it's clear that the winner will be the one who conquers it. So yes, countries have been in the business of stealing Africa from Africans since the beginning of time (and of course systematically portraying them as uncivilised and impoverished land grazers to make it OK.) But what about the black Americans? Whites own the wealth in the U.S. For every $2 a white family makes, a black family makes $1, a ratio that has been the same for 30 years. This is not propaganda or a divisory statement to incite more hate. This is a fact. 

Black people didn't do this to themselves. Black people. Did not. Do this. To. Themselves. It is very important that we remember this. 

Black Americans have been stripped of their cultures and identities and placed into ghettos, where they've been given drugs and guns and virtually no other resources. The system did this. The system put black Americans into the situations they're in. The system made them live in ghettos, while their other racial counterparts were given an opportunity to live in areas where they don't have to wake up every day and see people struggle, and sometimes die, trying to put food on the table. (Remember how horrific it was when white people were placed into ghettos in Germany? By other whites too? Yeah. Only then was it horrific. And it is still being written about, compassionately, 70 years later by the way. In fact, France just agreed to pay $60 million retribution to those displaced by the Holocoast--via CNN.) This is not a mistake. Slavery may have been long ago, but segregation wasn't. People still have living relatives with the scars from whips on their backs. Segregation was only one generation removed from now. We are not talking about something that happened B.C., yet white people won't even talk about it, much less show compassion. It is off limits, except for when it can bring in money at the theatre. (I won't even get into why people support an industry that continues to capitalise on repeatedly showing us one of the most atrocious things in human history.)

Black people do not own gun factories or have any stake at all in the ammunition industry. They do not own laboratories or companies that create drugs like cocaine and heroine or pharmaceutical companies that profit from drugs. Black people did not bring either of these industries to the United States. More importantly, the history of the black race does not begin with slavery. 

Blacks were kings and queens in Africa before other races pillaged the land to rob them of their riches. The queen's jewels that are so proudly on display in England were all stolen from African people. Black people were never interested in crossing borders to see what else was out there, let alone exterminate entire races of people. And why would they need to? They had everything they needed in life right where they were until the invaders came and told them they weren't doing it right. 

Why is this important? Because I feel like people, all races alike including blacks, have been so accustomed to black people (and when I say black people, I mean all persons of colour) being at the bottom of the totem pole and not worthy of being seen as simply human beings worthy or respect and tolerance that we forget why they are there in the first place. We forget that it is not for lack of intellectual ability or talent. We forget that it is a systematic, centuries-old issue that cannot be overcome as a whole by two or three "exceptional" black people who were able to overcome their economic situation and become a lawyer or a doctor or the president. 

Exceptions are just that: exceptions. And until we see that a chance to become "successful" and seen as an "upstanding citizen" shouldn't be an exception at all, we as a human race will never see a change. Until we realise that the disparage is real and not imagined, even if we have never personally experienced its effects, we can never begin to live as one. Until we can have open, constructive dialogue between races that isn't laced with hate-filled stereotypical undertones, then we cannot move forward as people. 

And that's the biggest part I think most people are missing. Black Americans aren't asking for special treatment or pity or even revenge. They just want us all to be able to talk about it, come up with solutions, so we can all move forward in solidarity and overcome the hate that was given to us by prior generations. That's it. 

But if we can't even agree that a problem exists ... That something, anything, needs to happen to change this world for the better, to replace the conscious and subconscious hatred/distaste and facilitated divisionary constructs, then how can we ever expect it to?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Hidden Gems of Arizona

I have been traveling a lot–thanks to this blog and one of my very thoughtful and kind readers.

And I realise that my other readers have been deprived as a result. I also realise that I really should be writing about my travels and the wonderful adventures that I find myself taking. After all, if my greatest dream is to be a travel writer...

So here I am. I'm not going to bombard you by putting everything together in one extremely long and winding blog. (I hope.) I just feel like I need to write to you about the beauty that is Sedona, Arizona. I told my family, all my close friends, and my Instagram followers already, but I've saved the best for last! (Yes, I'm trying to make it up to you, can you tell?)

I booked a last minute trip to Arizona last month after taking about a month off traveling to save a little. (The trips before that consisted of Jamaica, Trinidad, and NY, and a few other islands in the Caribbean. Fell in love with Curacao. But anyway, off topic). When I told people in the eleventh hour that I was going to Ariz. of course they all thought "Arizona? What the hell is in Arizona?"

Raw beauty, that's what. Allow me to introduce you.

Red rock, scenic route

Jerome

Sedona, near Chocola Tree

The view from the Gypsy Dome

Now, I would say I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves (and trust me, there are plenty more where those came from) but that really wouldn't do the trip justice.

I was only there from Friday to Sunday, which unfortunately didn't give me enough time to head up to Havasu, where I'd have to hike and camp for three days to get to the waterfall. I left work Friday evening and headed straight for the airport to catch the 5-hour flight. I got to Phoenix, which is a three-hour time difference from Miami, at 11 p.m. There, I met up with an old friend of mine who had been there for the week for work. We went to Applebee's to eat before taking the two-hour drive from Phoenix to Sedona, which was to be the final destination.

Sitting in Applebee's, I'd be lying if I told you I felt anything but utter comfort and welcome from the locals. I know it's terribly clichĂ© to say "everyone was so nice and friendly", but really.  It was the middle of the night and the usuals had casually taken their spots at the bar; not quite drunk yet, but feeling good and giving all the travel advice that could fit into the one-hour session.

Above all, they said, Sedona was apparently the place to be.

The drive there after that super-spicy meal wasn't quite as easy as the conversation in between bites at the restaurant. But thankfully, after what felt like forever, I made it. By this time it was around 4 a.m. The place I was to stay was a Gypsy Dome in someone's front yard. (AirBnB baby!) The host had left the Gypsy door and her main house door open since she knew I'd be getting in way after she had gone to bed, and the dome didn't yet have a shower. It gave me a feeling of both love and horror knowing that there are people who leave their homes open to strangers, and trust that you won't do any harm and will pay them for the stay after-the-fact. But when I got inside and saw all the high-energy crystals, and realised how much it smelt like the yoga studio where I did Reiki a few weeks ago, I knew the vibration was right and I would wake up the next morning alive.

That I did.

Even though there was some kind of bird at the window behind the bed that spent the entire night making noise in my ears, I was so excited to finally be awake so I could see what the place looked like in the daytime. Luckily I had not run into any bobcats or rattlesnakes in the darkness the night before (I guess the noisy Owl was the compromise). When I stepped out in the morning, to the cool 60-degree weather, and the absolutely gorgeous foliage, rocks, and red dirt, I knew I was going to fall in love.

Shortly after waking, I finally met the owner of the house and her husband and we talked about how they live in a postcard.

After a cup of tea, she showed me around outside and encouraged me to add a rock to their friendship circle next to the dome. I also saw where they planned to put a Jacuzzi, and met the couple who were staying in the airstream on the other side of their house. Then they lent me a bicycle and I went riding through the neighbourhood. Did I already mention they live in a postcard? The houses looked like they came out of the Flintstones, but in a more modern and awe-inspiring kind of way. If you close your eyes and picture what a Native-American-inspired house in the middle of the desert would look like, you'd probably come very close to the reality. As I rode around the only thing I could think was "this world is so beautiful."

There's literally a world full of scenery out there just waiting to be admired.

After the short yet somehow strenuous bike ride, I headed into the town to go check out Chocolá Tree. It's a vegan spot in Sedona that was highly recommended by the host, and with good reason. Not only was the food delicious and flavourful, but the atmosphere was equally as pleasant. There were inside seats and there was a backyard of seats, set up to look like someone's home. Out in the back you could see their little garden of herbs and other plants as well as listen to live music from a local talent. There was also, naturally, a fountain, a swing, and a bar built around one of the central trees. Everything about it made me feel like I could fall asleep there and no one would complain. (I even got to charge my phone inside).

After that fresh and necessary meal, my friend and I headed over to the scenic route where we could look at, hike, and take pictures of the red rocks. I'll admit I wasn't too crazy about the hiking initially because I was too cold to be comfortable. But eventually, I put my big girl panties on and headed up the mountain, where I was able to get some absolutely stunning photos of the Arizona landscape. The drive continued, and took us up to a ghost town, another place that was recommended by our friend at Applebee's.

Jerome is a great vantage point upon which to catch some aerial photos of the desert. And there was plenty more to do there than we had time for, as my friend had to catch a flight later that night. That list of things includes a ghost tour of the once heavily-populated copper mining town. (It has reduced to about 450 inhabitants, a decline that began at the end of the mining era, but is also a protected city with some buildings that are hundreds of years old.) I'm already planning a trip back to Arizona, and Jerome is on my list. We did manage to squeeze in a visit to a local wine shop where we did some wine tasting and I allowed my taste buds to dance to the tune of a decadent ginger wine. We have "ginger wine" in Jamaica, but it is nothing quite as sapid and light.

It was so sapid, in fact, that we bought a bottle and vowed to find a sushi place back in Phoenix where we could drink it. Ginger wine and sushi sounded like the perfect mix. We ended up at Cherry Blossom, just down the road from where I would spend the night–the CamelBackpackers Hostel.

After taking my friend to the airport, I headed to the hostel and was so pleased with what I saw. The host, Ali, invited me to do Sunrise yoga on the roof with him at 6 a.m. And I would have, had my alarm gone off like I set it. I ended up waking up about 40 minutes too late. But I did manage to get some last ditch photos of the sunrise.

Can we take a moment to talk about the hostel though? I know when most people think of hostels they think it's some kind of hole in the wall place filled with germs and psychos. But from my experience, I have to say that the people who stay in hostels are some of the most amazing people you will meet. They are often the most grounded, the most conscious, and the most generous people who actually remind us that there are good souls left in the world. And we don't always have to separate ourselves from one another with these imagined divisionary constructs.

I don't mean for that to sound like a speech, but I think it is important to praise humanity when possible. Lord knows I can come on here every day and complain about how the world is going to shit. So allow me to be great here.

At any rate, I actually found myself thinking two things during the hostel stay that Saturday night: is it a requirement for hostels to only have amazing people? Why is this place so incredibly spotless?

The last minute room I got was one with four bunk beds. I didn't share the room with seven other people though, as two beds were empty. The CamelBackpackers hostel is basically a three-bedroom house, set up as such. The living room and kitchen felt like home, and the bathroom connected to my room was insanely clean. Everyone respected each others' space and time. The beds were surprisingly really comfortable. They each even had their own little fans. I couldn't even dream up a complaint if I wanted to.

Before leaving there, I got a food recommendation from Ali, who also baked some really yummy oatmeal cookies, to check out an Ethiopian place in the Phoenix arts district just down the road called Roosevelt Row. I drove and walked around there a little and saw young hipsters everywhere, including a few who were planting outside of "the Growhouse". The Ethiopian spot was a little out of the area, but it was well worth the drive. It's hard enough finding vegetarian spots, but ethnic ones? Forget about it. I went and ordered a vegetarian platter with injera and ate it like natives do. Then, I had to call the trip short and head to the airport to return the renty and board my plane. But I did take a to-go box with the rest of my lentils and injera to enjoy on the long plane ride home.

Apparently everything is hotter in Arizona, including the food. Good thing I didn't go there in the summer. My experience may not have been quite as pleasant.

Until next time–and there will be a next time.

Ciao.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

So Far Gone

I think ... I'm losing my mind. (Read: this blog will make zero sense).

Or perhaps, I've already lost it. I can't remember the last time I saw it. Or the last place we went. Or what I was doing the last time I had it. But I am certainly hoping it hasn't been permanently misplaced.

I just ... I don't know what's real anymore. I am having a hard time separating reality from my dreams nightmares. I wake up in the mornings and just lay there wondering which thoughts are a result of my dreams and which are a result of what actually happened the day before. I feel everything and nothing at all at the same time. I'm looking. My eyes are open. But, I can't see. I'm changing places. I'm getting from one place to the other. But I don't remember how. It's like there's a time lapse between every action. And someone is picking me up from one place, and putting me somewhere else. I feel like the days aren't happening. Like I'm still asleep.

But it's November. The clock is ticking, everything around me is moving but I'm standing still. I have been. For as long as I can remember. Every time I feel like I finally understand something, the universe brings me an entirely new perspective that single-handedly dismantles any prior understanding or interpretation.

This must be the point in life where our perception of self and the world around us is completely destroyed and rebuilt. It feels like I'm going through a karmic phase where I am being placed in situations I've been in before, but this time I'm seeing it from the other person's perspective. I'll find myself knee-deep in recognisable territory–miles away in someone else's shoes–when I pause, look around, and smile at the universe, saying "I know it's you. I can see what's happening here. Lesson learned." And after this phase is complete, I thoroughly believe that I will be reborn. Just an image of my prior self, but nothing like her on the inside. She will be a better giver, a better coper, a better healer, a better lover...

Or maybe, I won't. Maybe there's no such thing as a karmic phase. Maybe this is all just a coping mechanism.

A side effect of the series of unfortunate events that has been my life since graduating university is that my eyes have become wide open. I often tote my soulmate for having opened me up to the energy within and without, for starting the fire that now engulfs me entirely. Though the lesson was hard learned, the timing was perfect. Without it, I probably wouldn't have made it this far. But now what? How do I move from one reality to the next, if this isn't a transitory period. How do I muster up the courage to saddle back up and keep treading, when every time I make progress, a wind comes through and pushes me right back to where I started.

It's like I'm swimming against a current. Kicking, screaming, splashing, exhausting myself and still getting nowhere. The people I'm trying to reach are drowning. They've taken in too much water, spread out, drifted, no longer holding hands. Making it difficult for me to save them all. Unintentionally forcing me to choose. All the while I'm wondering why I shouldn't just stop moving. Not so I will drown, but just to give up and allow the water take me wherever it wants ... If I'm losing them anyway. 

But I can't.

I don't know where I'd end up if I stop fighting. And I don't know how much longer I can fight. It's raining. I'm crying. I've tasted nothing but salt for months. Adrenaline has kept me paddling. It has kept me alive, stationary. I'm not the one who has drifted. I've stayed in the same place. But I can't reach them anymore. I can only see their pained faces. Years of confusion and anger and hurt written all over it as I struggle to get closer. To save them. It's dark. I'm guided only by the moonlight. Still swimming. Using all my strength. But not getting anywhere. And as I begin to close my eyes from exhaustion, readying myself to give up, to stop swimming. And try to wish away the pain. I hear that voice in my head, the one I've always looked to for comfort, saying:

"Don't worry. It will be OK soon ...

The storm is over."

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

They Say That I'm A Dreamer...

Sometimes, on some days, I wish that I didn't want more out of life.

Sometimes I wish I could be content to know I am doing what society says I should be doing. (Be a good girl. Go to school. Get a job. Pay your bills. Have a family. Pay your bills. Work some more. Pay your bills. Retire. Pay your bills. Die. Pay your bills.) I wish I could go buy myself the latest and hottest pair of high heels and feel like I made it in life. I wish I could look at my bank account and smile because I can afford to do things that others cannot. I wish I could go on Instagram and inflate my ego by taking pictures of my material possessions.

I also wish ... that I didn't feel things so deeply. I wish I could live in a world with walls so high that they protect my self-interest with excellent efficacy. I wish I could look past all the horrible, heart-breaking things that are happening thousands of miles away just because I can't see how they directly (or immediately) affect me. I wish I could let the weight of the world off my shoulder, and focus my energy instead into finding a husband so I can be a good little housewife and mother. I wish having a job, being able to pay my bills, going out occasionally, opening my eyes every morning, and being able to function every day was enough to make me feel like I've done my part as a child of this universe. And that I could die happily knowing I lived my life in my own little world where all the bills were paid, everything was copacetic, and no workplace duty went undone.

But ... only sometimes.

I mean, it gets pretty exhausting being a feeler, you know? Always seeing things for more than what they present themselves to be. Always seeing people for more than who they are. Always feeling like there's something I can, and should, do to help. It's exhausting always feeling like there is more that I should be doing every day to contribute to this Earthly existence. It's exhausting feeling like the life I live is mirroring mere existence.

And it's even more exhausting feeling like I have no effin' idea how to fix it.

I'm not OK with dumbing my life down to an 8-hour-a-day sit-down party underneath someone's fluorescent lights. I'm not OK with being sheltered from the outside world for 40 hours a week only to sit in front of a screen. I am not a piece of furniture. I am not a tree that is meant to be rooted in one place in order to survive. I am not a robot that is built to exist based on functionality alone. I am a human being. I am a living, breathing creature that shouldn't have to succumb to two hours of intense exercising per day to supplement for the fact that my existence has been resigned to an office chair. (Imagine telling another animal to sit still at a desk for eight hours, and then treating it twice a month to a piece of paper as recompense. Then, watch the diseases pile up long enough to say "OK. Maybe you do need to be more mobile. Go to the gym for a few hours. That should do it. But get back to work tomorrow. No days off unless I approve them.")

I shouldn't have to eat any of my meals in a moving vehicle.
I shouldn't have to ask permission to be sick or to travel.
I shouldn't have to wake up every morning to a loud, repetitive noise.
I shouldn't have to rush out of my bed every morning to make sure I'm in my seat in time to spend the next 8+ hours doing nothing that future humans will ever thank me for.

And I shouldn't have to accept that as my life, or suffer the consequences of not being able to afford the price of waking up every morning with a shelter over my head and some access to sustenance.

I'm really not trying to be ungrateful. But my God; I just want to be a human again.

Sometimes I just want to wake up slowly, with no place to rush off to, and decide on my own how I want to spend my days. I want to be able to do something every day that other people can benefit from in more ways than just monetarily; help people who feel like no one cares about them–like no one is paying attention. I want to lay down under the stars at night and fall asleep to the rhythm of the crickets chirping. Wake up in a new place every now and then, eager to take on the challenges that nature puts before me. Interact and share wisdom with real life people I may never see again, and learn all about their culture and their existence before I go. Judge my days by the moon and the sun, and my age by how far I can walk before I get weary.

I don't want to put my life, value, existence, or well being into the hands of another human being.

But, that is exactly what I have done. That's what we have all done. We've become like puppets on a string, yielding to the movements made by someone "greater" than us who has their hands so far above our heads we couldn't even reach it if we tried. One way or another, it's become OK to have someone else's hand in our cookie jar. And they are not only robbing us our cookies when we aren't looking, but also deciding how many cookies we can eat and how often. And it has virtually become inescapable, this type of control. "We the people" are, at large, OK with this. And because of that, because I am mostly alone in my desire to do more, be more ... here I am. Writing to you from my desk, where I've spent my Tuesday.

And another week is just scaling by as I sit here, behind this screen, under these fluorescent lights, wondering how in the hell can I get my 40 hours back.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Empathy: Before it's too late

I think it is time we talk about mental health.

We, as a society, need to talk about things like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia etc. We need to stop turning a blind eye to those who show signs of an issue just because we can't fathom it ourselves or because it only shows through sometimes.

And, most importantly, we (myself included at times) need to get our humanity back.

It's time we put away the apathy and the insensitivity, and bring out the empathy and the understanding. You really can never ever know how far up a kind word or gesture can bring someone who is down in the depths of despair. You never know how much a soft answer can turn away a damaging, and sometimes fatal, response in someone who is emotionally VOLATILE. And you never know how much an ignored sign or an overlooked cry for help, can push someone right over the edge.

Why are we so afraid of admitting that though we may not personally identify with suicidal thoughts, that it is something that is crippling enough to others that they sometimes, unfortunately, go through with it? How many more people have to die? People of all races and socioeconomic statuses all feel the same. We all bleed the same. We all have emotions and wants and needs. We all want love. So why have we become so incapable of handling the things that cause others so much pain? Why do we ignore the warning signs only to lead to fatal consequences. Do we prefer to look back in regret, than to let go of our ego and acknowledge that a problem exists and needs to be solved before it cannot be anymore?

There's no reason why a teenager should see death as the only escape from a life barely even lived yet. There's no reason why a parent should see their death as a better option for their children. And there is even less of a reason why people should hear of suicide and be angered by it because they find it "selfish". But it happens. And it shouldn't. It is fine to admit that you don't understand what could drive someone to that point. But don't you dare, in the same breath, look down upon others because they got there. It is important to sit and think about what kind of mental state a person has to be in to take their own life, before opening your mouth and showing your lack of understanding.

Wrap your mind around it for a second. I'm willing to bet that most of you wouldn't jump off a bridge even if there is water below it and you probably won't die. So I don't know who or what gives people the idea that it would be easier to do so if there was no water, and they knew for a fact that they would die.

Suicide isn't easy. It's not something people do out of impulse. It's not the first resort. It's not a "weak" move or "the easy way out". It is a result of an extended period of suffering and long-term thought processes that led them to believing it is the only thing left that they can do to stop the pain. (Like a cancer patient deciding they don't want to fight anymore. Is that selfish too?)  Most times those who contemplate suicide genuinely believe with all of their heart that it is the best thing they can do for their families/others. They don't think of it as something they are doing for themselves. They think of it as a sacrifice. They think the world would be a better place without them. They don't see a reason to live, a reason to believe they are valued or loved. And the last thing they fucking need is someone letting them know that they are selfish or inconsiderate on top of that.

So please, stop it. The only inconsiderate person is the person criticizing someone who clearly needs help. Because instead of helping since you are of sound mind, you're pointing fingers (which by the way doesn't benefit or console anyone—not even you. It's just an ego stroke).

I see this insensitivity especially in men and people of colour. I've seen it in recent events, with Robin Williams committing suicide, where people would go back and forth spewing vitriol about how he was weak or how he was white and rich and therefore should have been happy— and was simply ungrateful. Or about how his death shouldn't be affecting people so greatly because he took his own life. I saw all of these hateful words and held in my true thoughts, as someone who has suffered through depression.

But I can't hold it in anymore. Because someone else has lost the battle—a battle I didn't even know he was fighting. I'm still in complete shock about it. He was younger than me by many years, with so much opportunity ahead. But he just couldn't see the light. All he needed was a little help. Maybe a small word of encouragement, and he could still be here.

It cuts me even deeper because I have at least three close people in my life who are suffering through depression right now, that I know of. It is hard, and very turbulent. Some days are really low, and some days are not. And there are no guarantees, sometimes no triggers. 

What I need people to understand is that it is not an emotion. Depression is not a feeling, or a state of mind, or a weakness. It is a disease. It is like a cancer of the mind that eats you up and cripples you. It is a darkness that creeps up on you at any moment and doesn't allow you to see the light. It is not something to be taken lightly, but the fatal results of it can be prevented if we simply acknowledged its existence instead of fighting against it with hateful words or ineptitude.

It is time to STOP neglecting the problem and responding to it with harshness and tough love. That is NOT the way and it is NOT working. We need working responses so we can keep people who have plenty to live for from making an irreversible decision.

The alternative is no longer an option.

P.S. Some of you may already know about my cousin whose mental issue has been neglected for the last five years from a previous blog. He has finally been granted an opportunity to possibly escape his physical confines, to which he should have never been in, and hopefully begin down a path to escaping his mental confines as well. But we need a little help with the expenses. It has been a long, emotional, expensive, and draining battle. But it is not over yet. Please, if you can, help us. The link is below.

http://www.gofundme.com/dhb1js

Thank you.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

On Love, In Rambles

My mind has been centred on "love" today. On understanding that love isn't forever. Not in the form it's first experienced or experienced in this moment. 

Love is an energy. It cannot be created or destroyed, but it changes forms. It transfers from one thing to another. It doesn't stay the same all our lives. And I think holding on to the idea that it does ... That we can pin it as is to one specific person or thing forever ... is destructive.

But it's an idea so old and ingrained that trying to think of it any other way is also destructive. It destroys everything we thought and challenges us to adjust to what IT IS. Adjust to the idea that we will forever lose people we love ... No matter what we do or don't do. It isn't the love itself that makes us lose or keep them. Love isn't possession. We can't employ it as a utility to possess people or things. Love just is. It's just love. On its own, it's how we as humans communicate with each other. Everything we do and say, verbally or otherwise, either comes from a place of love or a lack of it.

And that's really all it is. A form of communication. An organic kind. An energy we are born with. We can't fully get rid of it. But we can hide it ... Use it as a shield. Or ... We can use it as a light. The light will still shine even if it's no longer dark. Even if no one is around to see it. And it will shine forever. Even after we die. But you can't attach it to anyone. The glow from the flames can light up every crevice and nook. Show our faces, insecurities. Show us where to go. Lead us in one direction or another. But we can't transfer the light into anyone else. We can only share it. Use our flames to try and light theirs. And hope that maybe it can come together as one unified flame, bringing a bigger light to the world. But eventually ... The flame itself will burn out. Whether big or small. And what then? Do we curse it for ceasing to exist? Or do we praise it for all the years of light it provided? For all the other flames that started burning because of it?

Curse it even though we have the power to light a new flame, infinitely? Even though the flames around us are in abundance ... And can continue to light the way for us, even if unintentionally?

No.

You don't curse the flame or the light for doing what it does naturally. For transferring the energy. You can't curse the light that provided you with eyes to see through unfamiliar darkness. You can't curse the light for being your guide. For lighting all the other flames that surround you and help you continue the journey even when your own light has diminished.

You appreciate it. You thank it for its gentle glow and comforting warmth. You appreciate it for all the nights that would have been darker without it, the little dance it did whenever things got a little shaky. The way it hid the parts of you that didn't matter; casted your shadow behind you instead of in your path.

You appreciate that shit. Yes. You appreciate it. Simply because it existed and, therefore, can never die. It can never not have existed. The flame continues to shine indefinitely, even if it's held by different hands.

And that is worth knowing to all of mankind.

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Power You Have

Can we talk about the law of attraction for a minute?

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and mentioned how crazy it is, when he let me know that he had never heard of it. Immediately, I thought, well I certainly don't mind being the first to tell you about it.

And that I did.

Now, I'm going to tell everyone. I want everyone to understand the power they have in this universe. We spend enough time fretting over things we cannot control and never will be able to, so perhaps you will allow me the opportunity to give you information on a power that you actually do have. It's not some crazy superhero, kinetic, or mythological power that can transport you in a way that defies the laws of physics. And it's not something that's going to help you figure out the lotto numbers – or win the lotto for that matter. It's something simple, yet powerful. Something that can literally change how everything in happens in your life.

Are you ready for it?

It's ... mind control. Not the "I can tell you what to think" type. It's the, I can tell me what to think type. The type that lets you control how you perceive, react and respond to every single thing in your life. And ultimately, all of those things will help determine what comes your way altogether. You can only attract things and people and situations that are on the same wavelength as you. If your energy is low or negative, your life will see only low and negative circumstances. If the opposite, then you'll attract the opposite as well. That being said, however, it's a lot harder than it sounds.

It isn't just about telling yourself something positive every now and then. In fact, it isn't just about telling yourself something period. It's about energy. You have to actually BELIEVE what you are saying and thinking and trying to achieve to your very core. And everything that you do/say in your life should stem from that place. This is what most people call "passion". When you follow your passion, really and truly follow it with no inhibitions and nothing but the blind faith that it will take you where you need to go, the entire universe will conspire in your favour. 

Take me, for example. When I started this blog five years ago I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn't expect to open up to strangers on the internet, I didn't expect to affect anyone's life at all – I didn't even think anyone was going to be interested enough to read it. So, for the first few years, I played it pretty safe. I mostly wrote in the beginning about adventures and funny stories, "what I did today" kinds of things, until life hit me. And I realised, writing was my therapy. It was my passion. I already had this blog and a small audience, so I just started to write. I started to actually express myself; be real and vulnerable and open. Since then, so many positive things have come toward me that I'm sure I have lost count. I have been able to help and touch and inspire sooo many people through my words. Those are the things in life that I think are priceless. And those are just the things I know about. That is, also, just one example.

This year, I redirected my energy entirely and through that redirection I have managed to attract so many like-minded people into my atmosphere. I have attracted so much intellect and encouragement and positivity in my life just by radiating it to others. I have also, given away a lot of it to those who needed it. I've carried many with me on my ascension. How can any of that ever be a bad thing? What harm does it do me to be positive and thus attract positivity?

There's no catch to the law of attraction. Once you've mastered the mind control, which in my opinion is the hardest part, everything else literally falls into place. It's beautiful.

That being said, however, it does not apply the same to material things and possessions (these things have no energy). You can't wish yourself to win the lotto or to find extra money in your bank account. BUT, you can wish yourself into more success, by putting actual energy into your work performance; believing in yourself and your abilities, going in every day with a positive attitude and radiating it throughout the work environment. If you do that, you will find that you attract so much more than just a raise. You find yourself being a lot happier and a lot more grateful for the path you are on that takes you there every day.

And since I've mentioned it, let me take a minute to speak on gratitude.

I understand not all of us believe in a higher power, but I strongly believe that gratitude supersedes faith and religion. I find it very hard to believe that even atheists are not thankful to be alive every day, thankful for their jobs, family, and basic blessings like water, light and shelter. That being said, if you try to wake up every day and say out loud "I AM THANKFUL FOR ANOTHER DAY!" I can almost guarantee that that small gesture alone, can make your entire day – and ultimately life – go so much better. I swear by gratitude because when I was down on my knees, crying to whomever I think is listening, it was gratitude that picked me back up.

Being in Jamaica and not always waking up with light or water, got me on the path of overcoming my depression. Every day I woke up was a reminder that someone else didn't. Every time I got up in the morning to use the bathroom and could actually flush the toilet and wash my hands, was a reminder that some people couldn't. Every time I was able to turn the light on to see where I was going when I got home at night, was a reminder that it wasn't guaranteed. Every time I was actually able to get up at all, and use the bathroom without any help or any pain, was a reminder that somewhere, someone has long forgotten how it feels to stand on their own two feet, let alone control when they use the bathroom. Being thankful for all of it, for the small things and the big things, helped me overcome the worst. And subsequently, simply being grateful changes your energy entirely. It helps you to start looking at the glass not as half full of water, but entirely full if you include the air at the top that we need to breathe.

So, I encourage you to try it. Practise gratitude in your every day life. Think about everything you have right now that can possibly be taken away from you, and start appreciating all of it. OUT LOUD. When you wake up in the morning, talk to yourself (or God) and say thank you. Really feel it and mean it. And then, when you have that down, practise mind control in its entirety. It won't always be easy, but it's time to take control of the power you have as an intelligent life-form. Change the frequency on which you choose to operate every day, and turn it up a few notches if it is low. Radiate love and good vibes only, then watch how your life unfolds.

And never forget: it is when you feel least able to be thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you.

Cheers.

Monday, 30 June 2014

A Life of Purpose

A series of events led to me sitting in my car at the end of my lunch break, reaching into the door pocket to pull out a card I was instructed to not read until that moment. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from it, but when I was done – and after a conversation with a close friend, every thing became clear.

Suddenly, because of this card, everything that has happened in my life up until this very moment now makes complete sense. 

As I got back into my office and turned on my Ed Sheeran album on Spotify, I started to cry. I started to cry because the sense of enlightenment that I felt as a result of reading the card, came in tandem with a deep feeling of loneliness that I think I have always felt deep down inside, just tried to never acknowledge. But now, I understand it. 

After all these years trying to figure out why I lose interest in people so quickly, why I spend so much time hesitating on things any sensible person would normally jump on without a second thought, why I can't ever seem to convince myself to stick around, why I always end up hurt and alone even when I've been so good to people, why people seem to just come and go despite how much I give, why my burden is always so heavy, and why it seems I am the only one carrying it. I finally understand.

My life was never meant for me.

I've been trying hard all year to let go of the picture I had in my head of how my life should be, to understand why the world sent people for me to build up, meanwhile they tear me down. I have been trying to figure out why it seems I have never been good enough for anyone; how I can manage to heal people, yet somehow steer them right into the arms of someone else. Why I always end up alone, and oftentimes misunderstood. Why my last relationship came to the terms that it did in the end after so many years of dedication. But the card somehow helped me to realise that despite the hurt, all the pain hidden behind my eyes ... it's because of him why I am able to help so many others. It's such a bittersweet trade off. But I now see it clearly that it's something he would have never understood. He would have never understood this part of me. He was never meant to.

I'd have been in the relationship alone. I was. For years.

I sat down almost two months ago and poured my heart out the best way I know how, shedding tears along the way, because I felt I had to put it on paper. I had even convinced myself I needed to print it, fold it up, put it in an envelope and deliver it. And for a while, I was so sure that it was the right move. I was so sure that it was what the universe was telling me to do. Then one night, in the middle of an intense exchange with the most important person in my life, that came about in the most bizarre way, I realised ... I didn't want to send it anymore. The closure I had been seeking came from a totally different source and rendered my letter obsolete, superfluous almost.

After that, the universe continued sending me distractions. The roadblocks seemed never-ending until I finally decided I wasn't going to send it. I intercepted the delivery, and each day since then I've had a reminder of why it was a good idea to do so. Every day. The universe wouldn't even allow me to send the letter. It doesn't want us together. And it took reading that card in my car today – from someone else entirely, for me to finally realise why. 

I unknowingly gave up the only love I've ever known inside and out to help and heal people I haven't yet met, before I even knew I was doing it. I've given up what I thought would be with me forever, to be elsewhere as a beacon of light for other people who will only ever be around temporarily.

My purpose in life was never to settle into a quiet, low-key life with my first love in the hills where no one can find me. And I fought the universe year after year after year going after this. My life has always been meant for others. From the very moment I started this blog I have been yours. I am here for you. Every single one of you. I was never meant to be possessed by any one person. And as painful as it may sometimes be, to give up all of yourself and sometimes, most times, get nothing in return, I have no choice but to gracefully accept my purpose, and to fulfill it to the best of my ability.

Maybe one day my Earthly guide will come too. And if I am so lucky, I will accept it with open arms. But if not, if I should die alone knowing only that every life I ever touched was improved, then my death will be pleasant. Because my life would have been purposeful and complete. And that's all we ever need to be at peace.

A selfless life isn't always the best life but it has the most heart-warming rewards, even if it hurts sometimes.

Especially, if it hurts sometimes.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

You Get What You Eat

I've noticed a lot of young people, men especially, take healthy eating for a joke, which is fine of course if it's actually an informed decision you're choosing to make.

What isn't funny, though, is that 1 in 3 people develop cancer. ONE in THREE. That means if you have two friends, one of you could be the lucky one. And typically, a cancer patient spends around $50,000 on treatment. (Big business!) It's not a contagious disease, yet the statistics seem to be multiplying with a swiftness. I'm not a doctor, and I certainly won't claim to be. But it makes you wonder ... where does the epidemic unnatural disease come from? And why is it spreading so quickly? (In the early 1900s, one in 20 people developed cancer. In the 1940s, one in 16 people developed cancer. In the 1970s, it was one in 1 in 10.)

According to what I've gathered from the research I've done thus far, diet is one place. The rapid growth of cancer is partly a result of years and years of unhealthy crap in the form of chemically induced, antibiotic-injected, and genetically modified food. (Keep eating antibiotics in your food and guess what? Eventually you build up immunity to antibiotics. No bueno. We're in 2014 and have people dying from a simple staff infection. Even the crops and animals have started building up immunity to the pesticides used on them.) Sugar (fructose), exercise, sleep habits, protein, and exposure to toxins/radiation from microwaves, air freshners, cell phones etc. all play a role, too, as well as other things, like the new lifestyle we've adopted that separates us from the outside world more often than not. (Congress, btw, recently passed a law so that GMO (genetically modified) ingredients don't need to be labeled as such. Yay secrecy!)

We do and eat a lot of unnatural things in this time period that I feel are starting to have their effects on our bodies.

Healthy eating, for one, isn't just about not eating McDonald's, even though that's a good start. It's also about picking food that isn't filled with preservatives, hormones, pesticides and other chemicals, and eating raw, local, and fresh foods that are not genetically modified more often. It doesn't necessarily mean you need to stop eating animals, but hey, if you want to clog your arteries with bacon at least do it with swine that isn't created in a lab. The meat industry feeds us animals that were sick their whole lives because of the disgusting conditions in which they were kept, and it's OK to do so because they give them medicines to cure their sickness. We are eating heavily medicated animals. All because we insist on overeating and thus overproducing to feed our insatiable appetites – even though there aren't enough animals in the world to satisfy the "need" we have created.

Now, I won't stand on my podium here and try to convince anyone in any way to stop eating animals. That's not my place or choice to make. I don't have anything against carnivores, as they exist naturally in the universe, and I was once one myself. My problem is that we aren't doing it right. Mankind is a smarter and more advanced species than the rest of the animals in the kingdom. We can practically create anything to help facilitate our "needs", but that shouldn't extend to diet. If we as a species have gotten to a point where we overeat so much that there isn't enough real, naturally occurring food to satiate us, then we are doing something wrong. If we have to turn to machines and scientists to supply us with an unnatural version of the food we would otherwise be getting from the earth then SOMETHING IS WRONG. Foods are supposed to have seasons. Things don't grow and produce year-round. Why can't we adjust according to the way the Earth provides for us, instead of adjusting the way the Earth provides for us according to our "needs"? What kind of shit is that?

This, in my opinion, was the beginning of cancer.

For those who don't know, cancer is, to put it simply, the overproduction of cells. It means your body is overproducing cells at such a rate that it is essentially creating more of you, in the form of a tumor, because it isn't getting the correct signals from your body. It's a mutation of the human form. The body is reproducing cells in a response to the lack of something it thinks it is experiencing. And for nearly 40 years, the United States has spent more than $200 billion "trying" to find a cure. (Kinda like how they spend $50+ billion a year on the "war on drugs", which is also both created and supplied by them. But I digress.) Still, most doctors can't even tell you why cancer medicine is such a failure. Even cancer-detection technology, namely the mammogram, which isn't even that good at early detection any way, has been shown to increase the risk of cancer because of its radiation. Plus, the risk of radiation is apparently higher among younger women. The National Cancer Institute released evidence that, among women under 35, mammography could cause 75 cases of breast cancer for every 15 it identifies. (Yes, that is a link you can click on for more information.)

There's another study that shows Chemotherapy only benefits 1 in 20 people. Chemotherapy, in my opinion, is an AWFUL solution. Chemo is a form of radiation itself and it kills every thing. Not just cancer cells. Everything. Why is that OK? When they have other much easier and less debilitating cures like sour sop, moringa and guinea hen? (More links.) Because it's a business. All of the viable treatments and preventative measures are pushed under the rug by the big bad pharmaceutical companies and organisations like the FDA that we think have our best interest at heart. Sad to say, but money means more to them than our lives. The people in control of the medical industry make billions off the disease. Billions. And they choose money over humanity every time. They've realised they can make more by keeping people alive and sick than killing them, hence the success rates of "treatment" have improved.

Meanwhile even simply going out in the sun more often can be useful in preventing cancer. Some research shows that vitamin-D deficiency plays a crucial role in cancer development. We are animals. We weren't built to spend most of our lives indoors, sitting down behind a computer or television screen for hours on end every day. Of course doing so would have to have some effects – because everything in the natural world is dependent on each other.  The sun is a necessary part of the circle of life. It is here for a reason. When I say #LovetheEarth, I mean love everything about the natural world – including each other. Don't underestimate the role of mother nature in everything that exists. Understand your role as part of the animal kingdom that you share with every other living thing. And never for a second believe that you, as a human, are any greater than the fish, the stars, the wind, the insects. That belief, I think, is what brought us here in the first place.

Time for an overhaul.

Do your research though. There's an open market of information available to each of us. I personally know people who have rid themselves of cancer through diet alone. No reason people should still be dying from it in 2014. Don't be discouraged by price tags either. If you do it right, healthy eating is really not that expensive.

Still, you can either pay for your health while you've still got it, or pay ten times as much to get it back. Your choice. But if you don't want your laughter to end abruptly by a deadly and overly expensive diagnosis, perhaps you should consider joining the natural movement and extend it to diet, not just hair.

What have you got to lose?

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Lessons of Life

I wrote a blog more than a year ago about my desire to become a teacher.

I told you guys how excited I was to have discovered that it might be my calling, and that I was going to start the process of getting certified. And I received nothing but well wishes and encouragement. 

Well, I'm here to tell you all that I lied. I lied to myself thinking that teaching a government-mandated education would satisfy me. I lied to myself thinking that teachers are only in classrooms. I lied to myself thinking ... I wasn't a teacher already. 

I lied to myself because I didn't know any better at the time. (Blogs really do an excellent job of showing you just how much you've grown.)

As some of you may know, I am constantly in a state of learning. I read a lot, I watch plenty of documentaries, and I spend plenty of time in my head. I also interact with like-minded people, who arguably I attract because of my inquisitive energy. When I say like-minded, by the way, I don't necessarily mean someone who agrees with all of my opinions. I mean someone who's equally yoked in terms of their passion for seeking higher consciousness, learning more and desiring to see/make a change in the world. 

In my quest for higher learning, the real kind not the systematic kind, I realized that traditional "teaching" probably isn't for me at all. Yes, it's still an opportunity to direct a generation of people toward mental freedom, but I'm not sure how happy I'd be being forced to basically train children to be employees (slaves). While I'd never deny the importance of the discipline children learn from the school system, I'm not sure that there's much else I can positively say about what school, at least in Florida, does to benefit a person's intellect, let alone teach them how to THINK -- not just DO. 

They say we all learn differently, but that isn't reflected much by the standardized tests, like FCAT, that we use to measure a child's intelligence (or otherwise destroy their confidence). It isn't measured in the conformity of methods that teachers are required to use to get students to simply do what they say, and stop them from asking why they can't do it another way. It isn't measured by the fact that most children don't learn or retain much of anything beyond maybe primary school, other than how to cheat or memorise. (I can't remember learning anything in high school.) Granted, learning how to cheat & memorise will be useful in your quest to define your intelligence based on a grading scale, but it has never and will never be enough to define your intelligence based on your ability to simply think critically. And as my college professor said "if you still haven't learned how to cheat without getting caught, then you deserve to be caught".

Work smart, not hard -- right?

Most adults can't even handle my unconventional thoughts, so the amount of filtering I'd have to do to myself just to ensure I don't get fired would be far too much of a task that I'm not sure I'm open to taking on. It's not to say I don't have a tremendous amount of respect for teachers, because if you do it right you will create a generation of thinkers. (I basically owe most of my thirst for knowledge to my teachers, so it does happen). And I still do think they deserve much more prestige and honour than they get. But I just think my calling is a little bigger and broader than that. (Though the extensive vacation periods are still quite appealing.) I feel like going into teaching was my taking the easy way out. 

And I've never been one to do things just because they're easy. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Act Out of Kindness

I came across a Buzzfeed article, if you can call it that, this morning that inspired me to up the ante on my random acts of kindness. Even though I practise kindness, naturally, on a pretty consistent basis I think there is defnitely room for improvement when it comes to being kind to strangers.

Granted, I am a very reserved person in real life, so perhaps being outgoing and talkative in my kind endeavours isn't exactly the right fit for me. So if you're like me and need a little help finding things to do that don't necessarily mean talking to strangers, I've found a list of 101 ideas from roogirl.com.

Here is to spreading kindness. Can't say you couldn't come up with anything!

Enjoy :)

101 Ideas for Random Acts of Kindness

1. Pay for the person behind you in a drive-thru or at a coffee shop.

It not only makes the person receiving the free food or coffee feel special, it also brings the cashier into the kindness loop by being the bearer of good news.

2. Instead of getting defensive or angry the next time someone is rude or inconsiderate to you, express compassion for their situation.

You never know what others are going through. In his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey tells this story:

One Sunday morning on the New York subway, people were sitting quietly reading newspapers, lost in thought, or sitting with their eyes closed and resting. It was very peaceful. Then a man and his children entered. The children were so loud and rambunctious the entire climate changed.

The man sat there with his eyes closed, oblivious to the situation, as his children were throwing things, knocking people’s newspapers, and yelling. Everyone became irritated quickly. Still the man did nothing.

I couldn’t believe he could be so insensitive to let his children run around like that and do nothing. Finally, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing everyone. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

3. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Let them know that you have been thinking about them and that you’re sorry you haven’t been in touch.

4. Leave small gifts for strangers in random places.

On a rainy day leave an umbrella at a bus stop, or leave coupons scattered around the grocery store for others to find.

5. Shop for someone who is homebound or ill.

Even if your neighbor isn’t homebound, when you’re running to the store, ask if they need anything, especially if the weather is bad.

6. Let someone into traffic who looks like they are in a rush.

Even if they don’t look like they’re in a rush, let them in anyway.

7. Donate your used books or magazines to your local library.

8. Praise someone at work for doing a good job.

To make it even more meaningful, do it in front of others, especially the boss.

9. Offer help to an elderly or handicapped person struggling with something at the grocery store.

So many people treat the elderly or handicapped as if they are invisible. Acknowledge them, get an item off a high shelf, smile, and offer some small talk.

10. When you finish mowing your lawn, mow your neighbor’s lawn.

11. Leave money in a public place for someone to find.

Don’t just drop a few pennies. Leave a five or ten dollar bill. Don’t think about where the money will be spent, it is about spreading kindness, not controlling how your kindness is used.

12. Stick up for someone who is being wrongly treated or bullied.

13. Make amends with someone you have wronged.

Be genuine with your apology. Even if you feel you did nothing wrong, apologize anyway. It’s not about being “right”; it is about the other person’s perception of the situation.

14. Give a homeless person food and/or gift card to a restaurant.

Most people don’t feel comfortable giving homeless people money due to concerns over whether the money will be spent on drugs. Giving a gift card to a restaurant close by not only gives the person food to eat, but the dignity of choosing what they want to eat.

15. Leave a treat for your mail carrier in your mailbox.

On a hot day, freeze a bottle of water and leave it in your box with a note. By the time your mail is delivered, the ice will have melted into a cold, refreshing drink.

16. If you walk by an expired parking meter, put a quarter in it.

You will save someone from walking out to a parking ticket. You could also put a quarter in the meter before you leave, if you see someone is waiting for your spot.

17. Be an active listener.

When someone is talking to you, instead of thinking of what you will say next, really listen to what they are saying.

18. Let someone go ahead of you in line.

(especially if they only have a few items or it’s a mom with young kids)

19. Have good manners.

Say “please”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome”, and “excuse me”. When people are treated with respect, they will respond in kind.

20. Go a week without using sarcasm.

This is tougher than it sounds. Although we have no ill intent when we use sarcasm, it does breed negativity.

21. Volunteer your time to a charity.

Giving money is helpful, but giving your time requires taking a personal interest.

22. Send a card or flowers to someone going through a tough time.

23. Talk to a shy person who is sitting alone at a party.

24. Greet people with a smile and an enthusiastic hello.

When you begin with kindness, it sets the tone for the encounter.

25. Know the names of people you encounter every day.

Everyone is important and should be treated with respect. “Shop Girl” and “Grocery Dude” are not their real names.

26. Sincerely compliment someone every day.

If you don’t know the person, the compliment will go farther. We expect the people we know to say nice things, but when a stranger says that our hair looks nice, we tend to believe it more.

27. When you receive good service, tell the person’s manager or boss.

Take it a step further by leaving a positive comment on the company’s website or other sites, such as Yelp. Remember to mention the person by name.

28. Acknowledge people when they walk into the room.

This is especially important to do with your children. It only takes a moment to stop whatever you’re doing to say, “Hello”. It shows the person that they are important to you.

29. Always keep your word.

When you are late or don’t follow through with something you said you would do, it sends the message that you don’t care.

30. Take the time to leave a nice comment on a blog you enjoyed.

It only takes a moment and we really, really appreciate it! :)

31. Organize a carpool.

Carpools are not just for soccer moms. Carpool for work, a night out with friends, or for a road trip. Not only is it good for the environment, it’s more fun.

32. Leave a newspaper or magazine for someone else when you’re finished.

If you’re reading at the coffee shop, doctor’s office, or on a plane, leave reading material for someone else to enjoy.

33. Give up complaining for 21 days.

Visit A Complaint Free World for more information on this movement.

34. Leave kind notes for people.

Put small love notes in random places for your loved ones to find, or “Good job!” notes on someone’s desk at work.

35. Teach your children to be giving.

Gather any toys they’ve outgrown, and go together to donate them to children in need. Let them see how their actions positively affect other people.

36. Help a friend in need.

It’s sometimes difficult to ask for help when we really need it. If your friend is going through a divorce and struggling with finances, bring groceries to her house. She may be too proud to accept money, but won’t be able to turn away something you put time and effort to do for her.

37. Ask people what they need.

Some situations are difficult to know how to handle, such as death or illness. When someone you know is dealing with a catastrophic life event, ask what they need, and let them know you are there for them. What we may think is helpful, may cause someone else more stress.

38. Use less plastic or none at all because it’s kind to the environment.

39. Write thank you notes.

When someone has done something nice for you, take the time to write them a proper thank you note, and mail it to them. Not only is it good manners, people enjoy finding something other than bills in their mailbox.

40. Be forgiving.

This not only applies to someone who has wronged you, but also when you have done something wrong. Forgiving yourself is the kindest thing you can do for yourself.

41. Be kind to someone you dislike.

You don’t have to be kind to someone because they are a good person. Be kind to them because you are a good person.

42. Donate blood.

43. Help someone who is broken down on the side of the road.

44. Donate your expertise to someone in need.

Lawyers are not the only people who can do pro bono work.

45. Tolerate a loved one’s behavior a little more than usual.

If you know your husband isn’t a morning person, don’t get upset when he’s grouchy.

46. Adopt a pet that needs rescuing.

47. Help a new co-worker.

48. Help elderly neighbors and relatives maintain their homes.

Do small repairs and chores that are difficult for the elderly to do for themselves.

49. Mentor someone who needs support.

Volunteer to tutor at your child’s school or take a young person joining the workforce under your wing.

50. Take a moment to help someone who is lost, even if you’re in a rush.

51. Help a mother with a baby stroller.

Hold the door or help her carry it up the stairs.

52. Bring coffee for your assistant.

53. Write a letter to a child who needs extra attention.

Children love getting mail.

54. Put your cart away when you’re done shopping.

55. Call or write a teacher who changed your life.

56. Help a friend move.

57. Forgive a debt and never bring it up again.

Also, when you give someone money, give it with no strings attached.

58. Throw away your trash, and someone else’s, after a movie, picnic or visit to a park.

59. Volunteer to take care of a friend or neighbor’s pet when they go on vacation.

60. Offer to babysit for a single mother.

61. Start a neighborhood garden or plant trees in an area that needs it.

This is an excellent project with multiple facets of kindness. It will bring your neighbors closer, provide healthy food, and helps the environment.

62. Shop at local businesses.

Support your community. More of your money will stay closer to home: supporting the parks, recreational centers, libraries, and other things that make your community great.

63. Pick up clothes in a department store that others have dropped.

64. Volunteer at a food bank.

Help prepare and deliver food to those in need.

65. Adopt a soldier.

Send letters and packages to provide support to the brave men and women who protect your country.

66. Give blankets and coats to the homeless.

67. Have a “kindness” competition.

Start a competition with a group of friends to see who can commit the most acts of kindness in a month. (Everyone wins!)

68. Say hello and give a smile to a passersby, even if you don’t know them.

69. Give an inspirational book to someone who needs uplifting.

70. Be kinder to yourself by embarking on a self-care campaign.

You must take care of yourself to be able to care for others.

71. Throw someone a surprise party.

72. Invite someone new to your house for dinner.

Whether it’s a co-worker or new neighbor, expanding your circle of friends is always a kind thing to do.

73. Give a child a balloon.

74. Be grateful for everything you have.

By having an attitude of gratitude, you will have an overall better disposition.

75. Out of the blue send flowers to your friend.

76. When you’re on a crowded train or bus, offer your seat to an elderly person or pregnant woman.

77. Bring a treat for everyone in your office.

Place a fruit tray or basket in the break room for everyone to enjoy.

78. Tell someone you love that you love them.

79. Give your spouse or significant other a foot massage… without expecting anything in return.

80. After you shovel snow off your driveway, shovel your neighbor’s driveway.

81. Enter someone in a competition who you think deserves the recognition, such as “Teacher of the Year”.

82. Volunteer at a senior center.

83. Give a presentation on your occupation or an area of interest to a classroom of students.

84. Mentor an at-risk child or teenager by becoming a big brother or big sister.

85. Help someone you know who is looking for a job.

Write a referral or help them network.

86. Donate stuffed animals to police and fire departments.

They use them during emergencies to help calm frightened children.

87. Donate items to emergency pet hospitals, such as blankets and towels.

88. Learn CPR. You could end up saving someone’s life.

89. Help a friend or neighbor who is caring for an aging parent.

People think of babysitting to give new parents a break, but rarely think of people who have an elderly parent living with them.

90. Grow your hair long and donate it to Locks of Love.

91. When you buy new clothes, donate your old ones.

92. Have integrity.

Integrity is doing the right thing when no one else is looking.

93. Have an abundance mentality… live a selfless life.

94. Accept other’s kindness.

Some people are great with helping others, but have problems accepting help or kindness from other people. This is a selfish way of existing and breaks the cycle of kindness.

95. Be patient.

Everyone’s lives are very busy, but being impatient isn’t going to make the line go faster, the red light change, or remove cars from traffic.

96. Bring a care package to a sick friend or someone in the hospital.

97. Re-direct gifts.

On special occasions have people donate to charities in lieu of giving you gifts.

98. Use GoodSearch as your internet browser.

Money is donated to the charity of your choice with every search.

99. Be a philanthropist.

100. Be cooperative.

When your client or boss asks you to go the extra mile, follow through with enthusiasm instead of animosity.

101. Resolve to live an authentic life.

Keep it real. No one appreciates a fake or phony person. It is off-putting, and closes people out instead of letting them in to know the real you.

Most people are not intentionally trying to be assholes. Give others the benefit of the doubt, and if you still can’t seem to get through, kill them with kindness. By committing random acts of kindness, we create a tangible flow of positive and loving energy. As we learned in physics, energy never dies, it transfers. Stop to think about that before deciding whether you are going to perpetuate never-ending negativity or generate a cycle of on-going kindheartedness."

Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Trouble With Hope

Above everything else, I believe hope is what keeps us as humans going.

Hope, that tells us to stick to our day jobs because one day it will pay off or something better will come along as a result of our work ethic. Hope, that makes us save money so one day we can buy our dream house. Hope, that tells us to keep looking for love because it is, in fact, out there waiting for us.

Hope, that tells us to stay in incorrigible relationships because one day, he/she will change.

As encouraging as hope is, it can very well be troublesome if not used within reason.

One variation I don't, and perhaps never will, understand is how hope makes people stay in relationships that they know aren't cohesive. I know people can change, but I am inclined to believe certain fundamental things never do or will. That's a battle between hope and reality that hope seems to win more often than not. (When I say stay, by the way, I mean people who get married and have children. Spend 30 years of your life unhappy, for what? To end up apart anyway?)

I know it feels like "love" is enough to give you everlasting hope; but hope at the risk of ignoring everything that tells you otherwise? At the risk of your own happiness and the happiness of each other and everyone around you? Hope for a better circumstance, sure. Circumstances can be changed. But hope that some miracle will make two incongruous people get along? Hope that you can grow to love someone you know isn't your match? I just don't know.

Hope in "love" is nice and all, but I just wish more people would listen to their inner voice. The inner voice that tells you: "leave", "this doesn't feel right", "there's someone better out there", "this will never change", "he/she deserves better", "I deserve better".

If it's not you; it's them. If it's not them; it's you. And either way, it's OK. Just because someone wasn't right for you or couldn't change for you or vice versa doesn't mean either of you is a bad person. It doesn't make either of you a failure. But better to recognise it early, when your intuition tells you, and take action than to lolly gag in hopes for a miracle, just because of love. No one knows what's best for you better than that little voice in your head.

It's there for a reason.

And yes, I know we cannot help who we fall in love with, but where does it say that if you love, you must attach? You must be? Love has never and will never be enough to make a bad relationship work. Love alone cannot put two puzzle pieces that don't fit, together.

Why does it have to, anyway? Love is not a glue. Love doesn't find a person and stick to them entirely and them only for the rest of forever. It isn't limited to one per person. It's ok to fail at love and move on to try again. You don't have to stick around because of its existence. You aren't born with a set amount of love that you are capable of having or giving away. Love is limitless and infinite. There's no fear of running out of love. It doesn't decrease by sharing. And we've got enough inside to give to every single person on the Earth. So why do we feel we have to attach ourselves to it, even when it's painful? Even when we've given our all and it still isn't enough? Even when we've tried everything and it still won't work?

What is there to be gained from sticking to constant hurt or frustration or stress just because there's love involved? What's wrong with loving someone without possessing them?

Nothing.

Eventually, the show will end, the curtain will close and you will gather all your stage props and go home to an empty bedroom.

If it isn't meant for you, life will never stop trying to take you away from it. (The universe does this in ways you won't notice if you are unwilling to pay attention.) And one day, it WILL succeed. Why wait until that day? Because hope told you to?

We can't just stand by and let hope grab hold of our lives with both hands on the steering wheel. She'd drive us right into a stone wall over and over again because maybe one day the wall will finally fall and we will go gliding through to see the greenest grass on the other side.

Hope has to come along for the ride of life, of course, but she belongs in the passenger seat, sun shining in her face and the wind blowing in her hair as she looks out the window and dreams her wonderful dreams. She can speak her mind every now and then, and keep you up and alert if you get weary, but should always remain nothing more than a beautiful reminder that life, indeed, always goes on.

Friday, 21 March 2014

If I Can't Accept You At Your Worst...

I know. I have been doing this a lot, but it's not because I am lazy or lacking subject matter or whatever. I just read other blogs/articles sometimes that I really appreciate and feel like I have to share.

This one in particular I think every human being should read. But since my platform isn't nearly that large, here's to hoping at least a few other people read this for the first time.

Enjoy!

If I Can't Accept You at Your Worst, Then Maybe You Should Stop Being So Horrible

By Matt Walsh

Main Entry Image 
I remember the first time I was awarded the "game ball" in my Little League. I don't recall the details exactly, but I'm pretty sure my stat sheet looked something like this:

Zero RBIs, zero home runs, zero hits, zero stolen bases, zero plays made on the field, seven errors, four innings spent sitting on the bench.


Most of my team probably performed similarly, but I know we put a few points on the board, so SOMEONE must have done something notable.

Alas, that kid -- whoever he was -- got jobbed this tragic afternoon. They gave the game ball to me. You can only imagine how I felt.

That is, confused.

We capped off the season with a trophy ceremony in the local middle school auditorium. One by one, they called every team up to receive their participation awards. You played a game for a few weeks and achieved no amount of success at all! Congratulations on your mediocrity, kid! It was a plastic gold-colored figurine of a guy hitting a baseball. Ironic, really, considering I hadn't actually made contact with a ball all season.

I still have my pity-trophy, it's right up there on my pity-mantle, next to my pity-game ball and the mandatory Valentine's Day cards I only received because elementary school rules required every child to give one to every other child.

When visitors come by, I show it to them and proudly say, "Look at all of the mandatory recognition showered upon me as a matter of routine policy!"

Then my guests will often cringe and weep, and the evening ends early and uncomfortably.

See, I think all of this nonsense -- this "everybody is special, everybody gets to have a trophy, everybody gets a card, everybody gets recognition" idiocy -- can produce only two possible results, neither desirable. One, it can make perceptive, self-aware children even more embarrassed and insecure. They know that they are undeserving of these accolades, and they'd rather not be patronized.

If a severely impoverished child wore a burlap sack to school, he would be utterly humiliated if his teacher, with all good intentions, decided to award him the honor of "best dressed." That's how many kids feel when their mediocrity is put on a pedestal and treated like it's something exceptional. They aren't fooled, as much as they'd like to be.

Then there's Category 2. These kids, perhaps not equipped with the same critical thinking capacities as the first type, will eventually buy into the hype. They will look at those trophies and gold stars, unearned and undeserved, and begin to develop an inflated image of themselves. What is born from this is not confidence, but narcissism and arrogance. These are the kids in possession of the much-heralded "self-esteem." Indeed, they hold themselves in high esteem. Why? Because they are themselves. They are spectacular, beautiful, athletic, and brilliant, all by their very nature. Whatever they do is the best thing anyone has ever done, simply because it was done by them. Whoever comes in contact with them ought to be grateful for the privilege. Success and happiness is what they are due, and the entire universe is in their debt. They are the people who expect the Lord to descend from heaven and hand them a game ball and a participation trophy every day.

I'm sure you've met this type. Maybe you've voted for this type. Maybe you work with, or under, this type. Maybe, God help you, they are in your family. Maybe you've been in a relationship with them.

In fact, it seems statistically likely that you have been in a relationship with them. The divorce rate speaks for itself. Beyond that, although there aren't any statistics (as far as I'm aware) for non-married break ups, it appears obvious that we are experiencing a crisis of failed relationships at every level and in every form. People don't know how to be in relationships anymore, and I think this epidemic can be traced, at least in part, to the delusions of grandeur we instill in our little snowflakes from an early age.

Shielded from failure, insulated from criticism, covered in emotional bubble wrap, our kids are venturing out into the world with little discipline and even less humility. You can see this manifest in many arenas, but I think it's most pronounced in the way we approach relationships.

Here's one example. It's minor, probably insignificant, but it represents something quite serious. I was perusing my Facebook Newsfeed today and I came across a status that said this:
"Yea I'm a b*tch but deal with it. I wont be with anyone who cant accept all of who I am!!!"

This was a grown woman. Apparently college educated. Older than me.

It reminded me of a meme we've all seen a thousand times. It has a few variations, but it usually goes something like this:

If you can't accept me at my worst, then you don't deserve me at my best.

This is such a popular sentiment that it has its own Facebook fan page with over 150,000 "likes."

It shows up all the time on memes and illustrations like this one:
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Of course, the original quote, widely attributed to Marilyn Monroe, is even more vapid and nauseating when taken in its full context:
"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best."
Out of all the profundities ever uttered, what does it say about our society that THIS is the quote we've decided to take to heart?

It says that we need to read more books.

Also, it says that we are horrible at relationships.

Yes, it's true that, in a marriage, we must love our spouses in spite of their flaws. It's also true that we all have flaws. But it's ALSO true that only an infantile, spoiled, egotistical brat would ever treat a loved one with "her worst" and expect them to deal with it because her "best" will somehow compensate for it.

Newsflash: It's not OK to be selfish, impatient, and out of control. These traits, while common, are UNacceptable. They should not be accepted, least of all by the people you claim to love. The onus is on YOU to change your behavior and your attitude, not on them to "handle it." Are you such a gem that they should thank God for the opportunity to be emotionally abused by you, if only it earns them a chance to bask in the glow of your superiority?

Perhaps that's how you see it, but I've never met anyone quite that charming.

This philosophy is poison, and it stretches beyond one offensive quote from a 20th century Playboy Bunny. Often I read or hear people whine that they 'just want to find someone who will accept them, no matter what.' But being "accepted" should not be our relationship goal. Healthy relationships are loving, but also challenging, edifying, and even occasionally painful.

Accept. Definition: to receive with approval or favor, to agree or consent to.

Should our selfishness, impatience, and weakness preclude us from being loved? No. But should these traits be "accepted"? Should they be "received with approval or favor"? Should our loved ones "consent" to them?

No.

Big no.

Enormous, loud, screaming no.

Should we scoff at our husbands or wives or boyfriends or girlfriends and flippantly tell them to "handle it," as we behave in ways that will hurt and offend them?

No. And if you think that -- if you REALLY think that -- then you shouldn't be getting into relationships at all. You aren't ready.

Further, does our "best" (which probably isn't as great as we imagine it to be) make up for, or negate, our "worst"?

No. Your worst is your worst. Fix it. Be better. Nobody should have to put up with it. Least of all the people you love.

Love is a transformative force, and if you want to experience it you better be ready to change in every way imaginable. My wife does not "accept me," and thank God for that. She challenges me. She makes me better. In other words, she loves me.

What kind of a pathetic and dreary goal is that, anyway -- just wanting to be "accepted," tolerated, put up with? That's not why we're put on this planet. Life is not about gaining "acceptance." Life is change. It is not static and stagnant, do you really want your relationships to be?

We don't emerge into the world as eternally entitled princes and princesses. We come into it as naked, crying, helpless babies. Our job is to grow out of that condition. And that will take a lot of changing and a lot of learning about what parts of us are unsuitable and insufficient and unacceptable. Sadly, some of us are unwilling to endure that process, so we never grow, and in failing to grow we fail to live. It's a tragedy.

Don't ask anyone to "accept" the bad parts of you. Instead, strive to improve those parts. Put in the effort. Make yourself worthy of the love they've offered you.

Forget what you learned in elementary school. The only "participation trophy" you're awarded from life is death. That's the one thing we all get just for showing up. In the meantime, if you want something better, you have to earn it.

That means if you want better relationships, you have to earn them, too.