Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A STLR Transformation

Yesterday I participated in the Intern UCO end of the year showcase.

            I've served as the Research and Assessment Intern for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for two years. Through Research, Creative and Scholarly Activities, I have gained a greater understanding of Global and Cultural Competencies and Leadership. 
I dissected the structure and objectives of the following theories: Identity Diversity Development, Social Change Model of Leadership, Miami Spectrum of Service, Marginality and Mattering Theory and Intercultural Knowledge Value Theory.
I  discovered how these theories correlated with the mission of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and tied into the levels of transformation utilized in UCO Student Transformative Learning Record.
     I have combined creative and technical skill to fulfill the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s artistic vision: the quantifiable assessment of student growth in “knowledge, skills and attitudes,” which is usually qualitative and often intangible. 

            Through research, attention to details, appropriate contextualization, cross-referencing information, and tolerance for ambiguity in considering various possibilities I have become transformed in the UCO STLR Tenant of Research, Creative and Scholarly Activities. 
         This has been a great experience, and I believe the UCO Student Transformative Learning Record does give a competitive edge in the job market.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Agony of Analytics

I am the Research and Assessment Intern for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on campus.

I research theories , create rubrics based on these theories and put together assessments to measure student growth.

 I have a knack for seeing trends in sets of data.

I'm an analytical thinker and I process better when I am able to place my experiences within a framework or compare it to a theory.

This makes a perfect intern, but  constrained 21 year old.

My younger cousin described me as, "angsty."

  1. a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.

Maybe I am, I really just think a lot. I even think about my thinking. 

I consider all life events to be interconnected, serve a greater purpose and a have potential reason. 

I strive to discover, assess and validate this reason, stepping across my responsibilities as Kalen Russell and into the job capacity of a higher power in which I don't understand.

My fellow intern and friend, Jaylon, described me best in saying, "Kalen thinks in rubrics. Everything has to have an explanation and quantifiable cause, effect and response."

Jaylon is not wrong.

Thinking critically is an amazing gift, and it even helps me with many creative pursuits.

But, “When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.” ― Charles Baxter

And as I continue to assess my assessments, I sometimes feel I'm missing out on the experience.

Sincerely and theoritically,

Kalen Russell

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Comparison, Competetition and Categorization

I'm an only child.

I don't have siblings to be compared against- therefore, I am simultaneously the best and worst at all I do.

My accomplishments and failures are often augmented/ blown out of proportion, but never used to determine my value or as a tool to compare me to others.

I became independent at a young age. 


  1. 1.
    free from outside control; not depending on another's authority.

I respected my parents' decisions, but I was empowered to make my own choices whenever possible.

I wish to magnify my experience of being an autonomous individual to everyone. My parents realize that there is only Kalen Russell. That of Earth's 7.8 billion people, I am unique. I process information differently, I have a distinct sense of humor, passions and needs that are mine alone.

Though equal, I am incomparable to anyone else.

Each person on Earth is the result of their personal experience and characteristic disposition. There are no means to ever compare two people- nor is there a need to.

Far too often one person is used to represent the ideologies, beliefs and mannerisms of a group. This mindset is often referred to as stereotyping.
A generalization, usually exaggerated or oversimplified and often offensive, that is used to describe or distinguish a group.

Stereotypes rob individuals of their uniqueness, value and sometimes their potential. Stereotypes derive from laziness, as our brain evaluates an entire community based on one individual.
Stereotypes are frequently placed upon minorities, because they are they have a smaller presence in a population in comparison their majority counterparts.
A few populations frequently stereotyped in the United States include:
  • Muslims
  • African-Americans
  • Hispanics
  • Disabled persons
  • Veterans
  • Immigrants
Stereotypes are detrimental to our humanity, reducing beautifully complex individuals to a generic assumptions. 

Removing stereotypes from our ways of thinking is difficult, but definitely possible and absolutely necessary.

In addition to being stereotyped by others, minorities may also suffer from stereotype threat.

Stereotype threat refers to being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one's group    

Stereotypes are harmful, to both the person stereotyping and the one being stereotyped. Getting to know someone as an individual requires effort, but the rewards are tremendous, and odds are you will learn something new and maybe make a friend.
I try to limit the extent that I allow societal stereotypes to influence how I view myself and what I assume about others, and you know what they say about assuming..... Don't do it!
What are some days to challenge stereotypes in our daily lives? Comment below.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sometimes You Say I'm Just a Friend

“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell toils; it toils for the.”  Jonne Donn
I can grin when I am alone, I sometimes cry in solitude, I create my daily agenda, I can create and I can complete homework. I can plan events, run errands but all that I do has a limit.

I am an extension of others. I am the faith of my grandparents, the perseverance of my grandparents and the repercussions of dedication and care of my parents. I am product of a loving community, a supportive family, caring teachers, thoughtful mentors, amazing friends and a merciful God.

I am who I because of the intentionality and sacrifice of others.

I’ve always been comfortable with being alone and technological advancements have condoned a culture of seclusion.               

Technology has decreased the amount of intentional interactions humans have with one another.

Information was originally conveyed through storytelling. Tribesmenship was an essential component to individual survival.

Now one’s entire existence can be completed without ever having to physically meet another person.

Technology has made life more convenient than ever, but it has made fulfillment almost unobtainable. Satisfaction only derives when one feels they have earned something.

Despite the release of dopamine that I receive after a text message, Facebook like or Snap Chat- there is something missing.

It’s like using high-fructose corn syrup instead of sugar, like wearing an under-armor jacket instead of a coat, like eating frozen yogurt instead of ice-cream. It’s fun, it’s convenient, but it is so empty. The false pretense is so strong that you can actually go a long time before you realize how empty you actually feel.

Human relationships take time, sacrifice and intentionality.

My mom’s cousin is in a rehabilitation facility, he has been low-functioning since coming out a coma last year.

This week we went to visit him, and it was my first time to do so. In my heart I didn’t want to. I don’t like nursing homes, hospitals being around sickness that makes me feel sympathetic and reminds me just how well I am. It is humbling and uncomfortable.

In high school, I mentioned once that I didn’t like nursing homes or hospitals, and my chemistry patiently remarked, “Nobody does.”

That has always stayed with me.

I went to the rehabilitation facility because my mom wanted to go. My mom went because she wanted to see about her cousin, and she wanted to see about her cousin because she loves him. She loves him because she cares for him, prays for him and conveys her love through intentional and sacrificial actions.

She didn’t like a Facebook post, solicit prayer through a shallow status update or send him a card. 

She intentionally set aside the time to go visit.

Relationships don’t happen haphazardly, that is why so many people live empty lives because it takes effort that society has grown unaccustomed to.

When I consider some of my failed friendships, they dissolved because of lack of effort. Moving forward, it isn’t my goal to make more friends, but to be a better friend to the people I already know.

The Restrictions of Religion

I hail from Muskogee, Oklahoma- the county seat with a population of around 30,000 kind, traditional and somewhat conformist individuals.

I had 114 in my graduating class. Of these 114 people there was little religious/ spiritual variety. Last weekend in a conversation with my mom, we discussed how most students and staff from my high school attended one of two local churches.

Churches can be great places to grow in one's spiritual journey, but can also hinder personal growth.

When choosing a place of worship, many individuals seek a place where they are comfortable, where their beliefs are confirmed, ideologies and methodologies repeated- things which are not negative within themselves, but it can impede one's tolerance for different ideas and viewpoints.

The problem with my high school classmates all attending the same church, is that they all thought the same way about religion and spiritually. They all viewed religious practices as absolute, with their's being right and deviation from the social norm as wrong.

These thought patterns are humanistic, and as human I too am guilty of occasional narrow-mindedness.

I attend a church where I feel welcome, loved and able to grow. As I mature, I know that all people seek these same things, but may go about it in different ways. It is my love for others that prompts me to respect and support others in their spiritual journeys without judgement.

Really churches are just buildings.

The true value of a church comes from edifice’s function of fostering spiritual growth.  The grandeur of a cathedral is not in its religious appearance, but in its spiritual potential.  -Kalen Russell, The Majesty Within

Religion oversimplifies the human experience and discourages diversity and inclusivity.

I find spirituality to be more inclusive. Within Christianity, differences are accepted, celebrated and add to the strength of the group.

"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many." 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
So if diversity within a religion is good,  why would diversity of religion be considered bad?

Many religions are founded upon the same principles- love, unity and service to others, event those who are different.

Like me, most pictured in this photo have attended their whole lives. 
The church is one of the strongest echo chambers, and sense religion is so closely linked to identity, these echo chambers are difficult to dismantle.

I try to find my identity from within, from who I am. Not where I worship.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Though I'm Wrong, I Write

I think critically, I share my thoughts and I grow. I better utilize my strengths and I am more aware of my weaknesses.

“To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in somebody else." His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

I enjoy studying cultural competency and the importance of diversity. Though I condemned echo-chambers in my last post, I  realize that I may reside in an echo chamber myself.
How can you say, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while you yourself fail to see the beam in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Luke 6:42

Self-reflection is essential to growth, but it is often difficult. Outside noises, influences, ideas and comfort impede our ability to think critically about well- how we think. 

Plato describes our confinement to our perceptions through an illustration of a cave, which shows how our culture influences our view of reality.

My blogging has grown more personal. Instead of covering cultural topics that I am familiar with, I write about my personal learning experiences, shortcomings and situations that have forced me to think differently.

My life application blog posts are more fulfilling than the more comfortable topics that I began with. I am stretching myself to see beyond my own perspective and include the perspectives and thoughts of others.
Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed by the masses. -Plato
Blogging is important to my major because free, open and inclusive thought is necessary to all ethical communication.

Blogging is important to my career because marketing strategies and ideas never come from conformity. Success comes from deviation from the norm, pushing boundaries and thinking differently. We often marginalize creative pursuits to what one does, but creativity comes from how one thinks, and learning to think about how you think is the highest form of intelligence.

Everyone wants to be a better person, but we rarely dedicate the time necessary to bettering ourselves. This class helped me to better myself, by setting aside a few hours each week solely for reflection and growth. I plan to continue to blog once this semester ends, challenging myself with new topics and always striving towards personal growth.

Most importantly I have learned to think, to think for myself, to think about myself and to think about others.

I think therefore I am. Rene Decartes
I experience therefore I think. Kalen Russell 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lessons in Leadership

"Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing." Tom Peters.
Anyone can manage a group's output without much skill or effort, but leading a group and enhancing the strength of each individual is rare/.

Leadership is not stagnant, but adaptive to the needs of a situation and a group.

For example, even if you make the world's best peach cobbler, you can not use a peach cobbler's ingredients to make a cake. It doesn't work.

A new varsity girl's basketball coach was hired my sophomore year of high school. He originally coached boys at a smaller school and had an amazing coaching record.

The whole school was excited to have a new coach and looked forward to building a better basketball team.

During his first months on the job, he pushed us past complacency and pointed out faults that had gone unnoticed for years. Players were improved individually and team was more cohesive than ever.

He continued to push the team to new heights, but not without a cost. Our record was at a higher than ever, but the morale of the team was low.

"Coaching boys is different than coaching girls," my dad knowingly remarked. "Girls get upset and will quit if they feel wronged, while most boys will get mad and play harder."

As if clairvoyant , my dad was right. After a record setting season, star players began to quit.

Coaching is the ultimate example of leadership because there is little direct input into the team's outcome. A coach observes and trains each player to be their best, minimizing individual weaknesses to amplify group strengths.

This was an amazing coach. His only flaw was in not adjusting his leadership style to meet the needs of his team.

Leaders must adapt to the dynamics of a group. 

Being accepted into the President's Leadership Council was a large component of my decision to attend UCO. I'm a required to be an active member of at least two campus organizations and complete twelve community service hours each semester.

In high school I was used to being a leader and having everyone follow, but being a part of a group where everyone was accustomed to being a leader was jarring.

Once again my dad reflected on my experience," It's like being on a college football team huh? Everyone is used to being the best."

He was right, and I adopted a softer leadership approach. I played up my interpersonal skills and affected change through one-on-one interactions instead of the dictator approach I used in high school.

It worked and I even made friends.

I currently serve as secretary of the UCO Black Student Association, which has also increased my leadership skills.

I discussed my leadership journey with the BSA President. She surmised that I would have still matured without BSA, "You would have been a leader anyway because of PLC."

I explained that I would have been the same leader because leadership skills are developed uniquely depending on each circumstance, and each circumstance necessitates different leadership skills.

How I lead in the President's Leadership Council is different from how I lead in the Black Student Association.

In both groups I use interpersonal skill, to accomplish tasks and encourage others, but I edit my delivery depending on the culture of the group.

Comparatively the groups are starkly different, but within each group their is a common culture, cultural cues, signals, signs, words and habits that affirm that one is a part of a group.

Depending on the group, I use certain  song references, jokes, cultural familiarizes and quotes.

In the duality of my interactions, I never lose my identity because I am the accumulation of my personal experiences and interactions that I have had.

We can all lead without changing ourselves, but our leadership can be misinterpreted if we don't adapt our delivery to meet the needs of the group.

Knowing the needs of a group comes from experience and interactions with others.

Being an influential leader takes effort, but the best leaders always manage.

Eeriness of Echo Chambers in Blogging

La Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Social media prompts users to live within echo chambers. Echo chambers are created by individuals with similar ideologies, reinforcing ideas and inhibiting diversity of thought.
            Within the many social media platforms, blogs are the most user specific. For every hobby, religion, food preference and random thought there is blog, which allows an individual to feel as though they belong. This belonging prioritizes group identity, restricting diversity of thought and preventing personal development. “Highly cohesive groups intensely reject deviant individuals,” or ideas that threaten the group’s values (Gilbert, et al).
            Humans naturally oversimplify complex ideas to make them easier to understand (Baranuik). Social media encourages and accelerates the simplification process encouraging: “tribalism, insulation” through a diverse selection of news sources (Baranuik). individuals can “cherry-pick” the information that they are exposed to (Baranuik). Interestingly, the increase is the diversity of media outlets has decreased diversity of thought because many social media users are not exposed to information that conflicts with their beliefs.
            The University of Illinois conducted a study over 1,000 comments placed on the top 33 blogs (Gilbert, et al.). The semantics of each comment were evaluated using a standardized assessment. Of the comments studied 49.4% of comments are neutral, 39.2% agreed with the author and 11.1% disagreed author (Gilbert et. Al).  The low controversy in blog comments shows that blog users rarely follow blogs that they disagree with.
With my study tour group in Cordoba, Spain
            Social theorist and utilitarian John Stuart Mill strongly believed diversity of thought to be “invaluable” to personal development. In an age of convenience, it is more necessary than ever to do what is challenging. To create a more equitable and inclusive society, social media users must step away from comfortable URLS and explore new ideas and ways of thinking.

With classmates in historic gypsy caves Granada, Spain


Sunday, March 5, 2017

According to the Academy, Kalen and Drew

Without music life would be a mistake.- Friedrich Nietzsche 
The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences is best known for the GRAMMY Awards. Each year the Recording Academy’s voting membership decides what artists and producers will be considered for and/or awarded a GRAMMY.
Each voting member can vote in up to 15 categories, but the voting results are not known until the day of the GRAMMY Awards when winners are announced on stage.
Due to difference in opinion, preference and sometimes talent, there is always public response to who receives a GRAMMY.
Due to its prestige, Album of the Year is one of the mostly scrutinized categories.
We then discussed how cultural impact should be decided.In a conversation a few weeks ago, my friend Drew stated that he believed cultural impact should be a criteria in choosing album of the year.
  1. By how many times people of one culture are impacted by an album?
  2. By how many people of different cultures are impacted by an album?
In communications those questions are defined as:
  • frequency: how many times an individual is exposed to an message
  • reach: how many individuals are exposed to a message at least once
Drew and I both agreed that reach was more important. Influencing people of different cultures and backgrounds has a greater social effect than only being able to influence individuals of the same culture.
Reaching various groups inspires creativity and demonstrates reliability, elements characteristic of the most influential and remembered art.

"I am whatever I say I am"

"Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth." - Alan Watts
It's easy, but kind of pointless.
My name is Kalen.
  • I'm majoring in Strategic Communications.
  • I like to read and write.
  • I'm graduating next May.
  • I think I'm pretty funny.
  • I love to drink coffee and eat dessert.
  • I have great friends.
I could easily list the people who have made the greatest impact on my life, or the experiences that "changed the way I thought about everything," but there would still no clarification on who I really am.
I am more than lists, more than just my preferences, characteristics or adjectives. I am the accumulation of my experiences, thoughts and interactions.
Defining oneself is intriguing, but limiting.
Identity is more fluid and it creates a bond between individuals.
  1. the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.
    "he knows the identity of the bombers"
  2. a close similarity or affinity
Describing my identity allows for a more accurate interpretation of who I am. My identity portrays which groups I consider myself a member to, my perspective and my cultural affiliations.
I identify as a 21 year old, African-American, heterosexual female. I'm a Christian and I have an extroverted personality.
The terminology I've used to identify myself, reveals how I view myself and the cultural contexts that have shaped my perspective.
Humans are meant for relationships with others, so it is natural to identify and understand what groups we feel a part of. These associations create our identities, while our characteristics create our personalities.
Despite the words of Marshall Mathers, it only matters how you identify yourself.
-Eminem, The Way I Am 2000

microaggressions – BIG SCREEN


Get Out was the number one in America last weekend. Written by comedian Jordan Peele, Get Out uses satire to discuss racism and its subsequent prejudices and microagressions.
This film combines fiction and reality to make the topic of race more palatable/ comfortable. Microaggressions are a common phenomenon. They plague the media, relationships and conversations.
the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.
They are typically are conveyed through back-handed compliments or comments that just feel off. Intentional or unintentional,  micoaggressions leave the receiver of a message feeling confused and degraded.
Most microaggressions are created through making an assumption about someone based on a component of their identity.
For example:
  • Telling an international student that they “speak English really good.”- Why wouldn’t they?
  • Telling a young lady that the is “pretty for a black girl.”- Is prettiness reserved for certain races?
  • Asking if they “drive cars in your country?”- Why assume the development of a country is lesser than America just because you haven’t heard of it?
Sometimes those who utilize microaggressions do so unintentionally and mean no harm. But regardless of the intent, microagressions are hurtful and indicative that prejudices are still a prevalent part of society.
I liken the satire of Get Out to that of a modern The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Though humorous and entertaining, the audience is cognizant of a deeper underlying issue.
Mark Twain and  Jordan Peele have both used their platforms to bring awareness to racial inequality.
Microaggressions stem from assumptions and you know what they say about assuming…
So don’t assume. Be intentional. Be inclusive. Be thoughtful. If you make a mistake (as I often do) apologize, and try not to make the same mistake twice.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Advantage of Viewpoint

Within the political paradigm, the cultural concept, the religious routine, emphasis is placed on distinction. In an effort to maintain their identities, members of certain groups keep to themselves, lest they be tempted to a new way of thought.

"Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance etc."- Saul McLeod

Avoiding cognitive dissonance is the basis of cultural isolation. It is more comfortable to associate with those who share your ideals. It is more comfortable to only consume media that reflects one's disposition. This comfort becomes so normal that it is easy to forget that differences exist and that persons who harbor differences are just as human, valuable and eager to find understanding as ourselves.

Aware of the danger of cognitive dissonance, I try to open myself to new ideas spirituality, educationally, culturally and sometimes politically.

I understand how my culture and experiences have shaped my perception of reality. I seek to understand the origins of others' beliefs and validate their right and will to pursue their own choice.

Political discrepancies can off-putting . I don't define myself by my affiliation, but my inclinations reflect many of my values. Values I have believe are right (left) and nearly absolute.

I have an acquaintance whose political preference and cultural identity contrast mine completely. We have a friendship, and I vowed to never discuss politics. But the topic emerged, and I walked away with a greater understanding and appreciation for my conservative friend and individuals.

As we explored our differences I found that our different perspectives stemmed from similar values.

Our intrinsic beliefs were the same we had just chosen different ways of conveying them, and different opinions on how others should be empowered.

My views were not changed, but my understanding and respect for that person did grow, as did my cultural competence.

Navigating an uncomfortable conversation, accepting differences, striving to understand and validate the experiences, demonstrate cultural competency.

Identity Diversity Development Theory by Alicia Chávez, et. al details the steps of cultural competency.

According to this framework individuals are categorized as:

  • Unaware of those who are different
  • Dualistically Aware and consider those who are different as inferior
  • Questioning/ Self- Exploratory in challenging their personal biases and prejudices
  • Risk Taking/ Other Exploration interacting with others to gain understanding
  • Integrating/ Validating Others consciously applying their understanding of others, and intentionally validating and respecting differences

Junior Year participating in the MLK Oratory Competition

Who said risk-taking was dangerous? It may be the only way to create a safer society. 

Sophomore Year with my friend 

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. -Dr. Martin Luther King
The more that I learn, the more I realize that I don't know very much. I'm still working towards cultural competency, and I will get there one conversation at a time!


Blog Feature: Cultural Detective

Cultural Detective is a blog dedicated to promoting and advancing Intercultural Competence. Based on the Intercultural Competence Theory, Cultural Detective strives to promote respect, understanding, collaboration and justice.

Cultural Detective sales packages to business leaders and employees to increase intercultural competence skills within their organization. This blog also offers free content through their newsfeed.

Cultural Detective blog is curated130 global management consultants, organizational behaviorists, educators, psychologists, and other professionals around the world.

Cultural Detective is the only publicly available intercultural tool that is process-based, developmental, and grounded in intercultural communication theory.

The Cultural Detective method began as a way to assist multicultural groups collaborate though treating similarities and differences as assists.

Cultural Detective contributes to an intercultural newsfeed which generates diversity and inclusion information from around the web.

Monday, February 13, 2017

More than meets the I

The need for community it an intrinsic human desire. 

When asked of the greatest commandment, Jesus  said, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”  Mark 12:30-31.

Written almost 1,000 years later, The Epic of Beowulf reiterates this same sentiment, as both the poor and rich value comitatus or community more than self, money or honor.

Valuing another's life above one's own, the group more than the individual, the future of descendants more than the present demonstrate the transcendent power of love. 

Love for others is fundamental in Christianity and many world religions, but there are few historical references on self-love. Self- love is the foundation of loving others. It requires awareness, understanding and self-acceptance. It is more difficult to quantify, validate and understand- because we are not conditioned to consider it necessary. 

Our values, priorities and wants display the divinity of our creation and define who we are. 

Society dictates that outward experiences and material possessions are proof of personal success. But success comes from self-reflection. 

Social change beings on an individual level, from self-awareness and self-discipline. 

The prevalent theme in The Road to Character by David Brooks is developing character through committing to personal excellence. 

Self-awareness brings about self-motivation and prompts individuals to becomes the best versions of themselves and serve a greater purpose in society. Self-motivated individuals, display determination, discernment and self-awareness. They are cognizant of their shortcomings and strengths without being limited by either. 

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how,” Nietzsche (Brooks 23). Focusing on the how of life forces outward comparison and feelings of inadequacy. 

Montaigne concluded, that much of the world’s uncertainty and unhappiness’s stemmed from human’s inability to grasp “elusiveness within themselves…the push for worldly splendor…are futile efforts by people who are seeking external means to achieve internal tranquility” (Brooks 229). But those who focus on the why of life find fulfillment and create sustainable change that lasts long after their gone.

Change can only come from an individual's commitment to excellence and the power of transcendence- seeing the world as how it may be rather than what it currently is. So instead of looking to others, heed the advice of the musical great Michael Jackson and look in the mirror.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change  

Man in the Mirror- Michael Jackson 1987

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Free Time?

"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains," Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

We are conditioned to make friends, become successful and contribute to society. We are conditioned to these things in way that differs from the normal and natural progression of the human experience.

Millennials especially, value themselves based on their achievements, goals and acquaintances more than by who they are.

With school, work, extracurricular activities and friends I keep a pretty full schedule. I enjoy what I do with my time, but I also value who I am based on my time- which isn't good.

Time is a precious commodity which only endures throughout our lives, but how we spend our time does not determine our value. Spending time on meaningful activities may add value to our lives but but spending time on things that don't matter is self-defeating.

In reference to Mr. Rousseau, 

we are in chains because we think we are supposed to be. 

Productivity is the norm. Self-depletion, sacrifice and martyrdom are acceptable; moreover, they are expected in our social media filled world and at what cost?

Life should be lived leisurely, each moment beautiful and appreciated. Through periods of uncontrollable chaos and calmness we would be foolish to add any extra stress onto our selves.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

There is room

Image: Tumblr DJ Ash B- Sourced from ithelpstodream February 6, 2017
   “Sometimes you have two children born at the same time; one is stillborn but the other one alive and healthy because the dead one gave the other a life transfusion in the womb and in essence sacrificed itself,” Edwidge Danticat. Danticat likens discrimination, and the subsequent prejudice and oppression, caused by a perceived scarcity of resources, prompting unnecessary competition.  The limitations of the mother’s womb symbolize the perceived scarcity of resources in society which promotes intolerance and oppression.               
As an aspiring ethnographer, I proudly claim that I advocate for cultural competency, inclusion and that there is room for everyone, but I realized at 4:18 a.m. on January 4 that I still have a long way to go.
I read a Facebook post that demanding regular gym goers to stop being a**holes, complaining about the increased number of people now frequent the gym as a part of their New Year’s resolution. The author of the post encouraged regular gym goers, to welcome the new comers, learn their names, sit next to them in class, and complement them as they made progress on their new lifestyle goals.
I thought about my recent holiday weight gains and clothes that had become slightly smaller since Thanksgiving, and I was deeply warmed and felt encouraged with my own plans to visit the gym more often in the new year.
Earlier that day I had also read the post of one of my best friends, who is an avid fitness advocate. She also reflected the increase of gym goers, her reflection was not mean but it was definitely less inviting.
“Intolerance,” one of my mentors stated, “Stems from a monkey bar mentality, that perpetuates from middle to upper class whites in America, suggesting that someone else’s success will cause me to have to let go of some of my own.” There is room for everyone to succeed, and everyone, in America and in a society, deserves to better themselves in whatever area of life that they choose.
Nevertheless, I was the same person who after spending weeks in the library last semester, I became indignant and cracked jokes when library saw more traffic during finals week. “If you haven’t learned it by now you’re not going to get it,” “If this is your first time in the library this semester it’s too late,” I would confidently say to a friend.
And this morning at 4:18 a.m. I realized that I was just as guilty of shutting others as those who went to the gym religiously and complained of newcomers and political activists who limit immigration and opportunity to certain demographics.
This fictitious idea of scarcity is what allows prejudice to bloom into more serious matters than going to the gym or studying for finals. Wanting others to succeed and ensuring that they have the opportunity to do so is the foundation of an equitable society.