Back To School Blues

As the sun sets in Summer, it is only beginning to rise in Fall. At the end of the Summer, the night before school started, my parents had a saying they repeated each year, “Time to wash off the summer dirt.” Did they literally mean to wash off the dirt from the entire Summer? Of course not. They told it to be a sign of transition and renewal.

Some people, like myself, love the Fall and value the changing leaves and sweater weather. It is nice to be back in a routine and regularly see friends. However, the end of Summer is always bittersweet. It promises a new year as an older, more mature version of yourself. What will happen this year?

Whether on your education journey, take the time to take a mental picture throughout the year. Take the time to write it down when something good or bad happens, so you can read it and remind yourself of how you felt in that moment. Next year will be here before you know it, and you will be stuck trying to remember your favorite events of the year.

As I begin my final school year, I worry about life without class, homework, tests, and, most notably, a routine. Yes, I am excited to have more free time, but I worry I will grow bored quickly. That may be a sign to dig deeper into other aspects of my life – work, family, social life, relationships, etc. If you’re in a similar position, let me know how you plan to spend your extra time. I am open to suggestions!
As you hear the announcements today, remember Grease’s Principal McGee’s welcome back message to Rydell High!

Communication. Is It Really Key?

Communication is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” What does that actually mean, though? Communication methods are intended to deliver a message between two or more parties. We use it to communicate our thoughts, ideas, announcements, and/or information to another party. It is essential for survival. You must have some way of communication to function independently. Luckily our communication methods have continued to grow over the years.

We know cavemen learned to talk, but how has communication developed through the years? Take a look at the loose timeline (below) brought to you by Wikipedia. These may not be 100% accurate, but they give us a general idea of how communication methods have developed over time.

We are lucky to live in an age with many methods of communication. If you stop to think about it, how often are you in a situation where communication is impossible? Only sometimes. Think about when your phone dies or you’re unable to get ahold of someone immediately; we begin to panic. We are used to instant communication, and when it is impossible, we feel uncomfortable. Why? This is because we know communication is essential.

Recently I heard someone say, “Exceptional communication is what creates success. People are moving fast, and we’re all using different systems and coming from different experiences.” This is a lot to unpack. First, I love the idea that “exceptional communication creates success.” When working in a group toward a common goal, communication is not only needed, it is essential. How else can you work toward the “common” goal unless you are united on what that goal is? How do we collaborate to come to a common goal? We must communicate effectively to paint the picture of what we are trying to portray. Then if each member is clearly aligned, the project will likely be a success since the team took the time to ensure everyone had the same understanding.

We move so fast in our world today, and there is no doubt that communication has gotten quicker. We have become conditioned to this fast-paced communication so that when it slows, it bothers us. How often do we get frustrated when a text doesn’t send right away or calls drop? It inconveniences us, which frustrates us. However, we must be careful that clear and effective communication is preserved through this quick communication. Sometimes when we communicate quickly, we leave out details. While these details may not seem important to one person, they could be necessary details to another which helps them gain a better understanding of the goal.

What is my point? Is it to slow down communication? Not at all. It is to be aware of people’s different communication styles and preferences. Just because you understand something a certain way does not mean someone else will understand it in that exact same way. We are all different and come from different experiences and backgrounds that have shaped our perceptions. Let’s cut each other some slack and remember we all communicate differently.


Let’s Agree To Disagree

We, as a collective human race, have forgotten how to agree to disagree respectfully. This hateful attitude towards those of opposing beliefs has gotten out of control. We are not all that polarized as humans. We all form our opinions based on our own varied perceptions and experiences. Of course, there will always be exceptions, but people are mostly good.

Remember the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover? The same notion holds true here. Don’t judge someone based on one or a few beliefs. Instead, inquire and understand why they believe what they believe. We must put the human factor back into our debates. No one is correct all the time. It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to agree to disagree.

Just because someone holds a particular belief does not make them less of a person. We must act like it to live on an equal playing field. No, l know it’s not always easy, especially when we have conflicting viewpoints. However, it is essential for our collective growth. If we never challenge our beliefs, how can we expect to grow? We can’t. We’d stay the exact same. Where is the good or fun in that? Non-existent.

No one has all the answers (no matter what they may try to tell you). Thus, if we want to continue to evolve, it is integral that we have debates and disagreements. That friction is where the growth comes from. It challenges someone to look at a topic through a new lens. It is humbling to learn and even more humbling to be wrong.

Why Do We Focus On The Average?

Shawn Achor proposed that if we study only what is average, we will stay average (view the full video below). This is a true statement. If we only study what is average, then there is no time or allowance to study the outliers. The outliers are what fall above and below that average.

We talk about averages all time. Don’t believe me? Okay, sports fan, you’ve never looked at a sports stat? Have you never checked a batting average? If you took the ACT, you probably heard about average test scores. We even predict future averages using previous averages (Actuaries or Risk assessors).

We pass people all the time because they meet a certain average we’ve deemed adequate. Average has become synonymous with good enough. If you meet an average, then you pass. You still pass if you score at least 70% on your driver’s license in some states. The difference between 100 and 70 is 30, which is a large number. Leaving a more expansive room for error.

If we studied the outliers, too, we could identify patterns that help them succeed in the future. While also seeing what makes people fall short, supporting development, and giving them the tools to succeed. We’d be helping each other reach our full potential instead of just being okay with moving the average and above. We wonder why people feel isolated or excluded. Stop being complacent with the average. It’s boring!

Making & Maintaining Friendships

This week I wanted to focus on the importance of solid, lasting friendships. They say in time, your friend quantity decreases as the quality increases. I can attest and say that is true in my experience.

Let’s travel back to your first year of high school. I know, I know it’s not the most glamorous era, but it is an essential one. Whether it was 2011 like me, 1992, or 1985, we were all in the same boat once. Nerdy freshman looking up to the seniors thinking, “Man, it will be so long until I am there.” What is the most important thing to a freshman in high school? To be liked and accepted. You may even say popular with all the bells and whistles. However, as you progress through high school and beyond, you come to realize a few things:

  1. You cannot please everyone.
  2.  You will only be liked by some.
  3.  There are some friendships worth fighting for and others not so much.

Ultimately, if you have to change or conceal any part of yourself from a “friend,” they are probably not true friends. What is a true friend? Someone who loves and accepts all that you are. You shouldn’t have to change who you are to please others and “fit in.”

In fact, your friends should be the ones who love you for your goofy quirks. If you ever need to repress yourself, look at your surroundings. Who are you with? Are these the people you really see yourself having lasting friendships with? Probably not. Your true self will eventually shine through, and if those “friends” don’t like it, they were not your real friends in the first place. Status should not come before a friendship; the minute it does, get out of there. You deserve WAY better than that! If you are not friends with someone because you are afraid of how it will make you look, I suggest addressing your values.

Kids are mean, no doubt, but don’t be fooled into believing friend issues end in childhood. They will carry on with you, along with many emotions. It is best to confront these issues head-on instead of letting them slide. Stand up for yourself and what you believe. It’s okay to disagree respectfully. What is not okay is putting down someone else.

Be proud of who you are, and don’t be afraid to let your light shine. Don’t let others, especially “friends,” dim your light. You’re not dimming theirs, so why should you settle for less? You should not. Simple as that.

The Secret To Happiness…

The most significant trend I’ve noticed is that when people are unhappy, they like to place blame on something else. As a society, we’ve become obsessed with chasing happiness. We’ve tried to bottle it up and sell it. Some tell others they have “the secret to happiness” and sell them some gimmick we know will leave them open hours later to the next trend. 

*I’m unhappy with my job because my boss is emotionally draining. 

*I’m not happy where I live because I can’t meet anyone new.

*I’m not as happy in this relationship as I thought I would be.

*These new clothes make me look good, but still don’t fulfill me.

Whatever it is, we quickly become dissatisfied and then begin pursuing the next trend. Today is your lucky day because I will reveal the true secret to happiness for FREE. Why would I do that? Everyone has the innate right to be happy. The big secret? It’s been YOU the whole time. You are what needs to change and not necessarily change who you are, but change your way of thinking. 

Your mindset has been tuned to detect negativity. Think about it like this. When you watch/read the news, it’s pretty much ALL negative, from murders, natural disasters, poisoned politics, diseases, etc. Therefore, our harmful to the positive ratio for the world is incredibly skewed. Finding something positive in the news is so rare that they have special segments for them (“Kindness Corner”). Hence, we are so touched when we see a positive news story. 

The truth is good things happen all the time. We are just impacted more by negative events. Naturally, those take more of a toll. On the bright side? We have the power to control our focus. We can choose to focus on the negative or the positive. It’s not to say we should ignore negativity altogether, as we still need the truth. However, you can control the dosage and ratio in comparison to positivity. Follow more positive accounts on social media, watch something else, monitor news intake, etc. Take the necessary steps to help change your frame of mind.

So next time you feel like quitting your job, moving across the country, breaking up your relationship, or returning new clothes, check your positive-to-negative ratio intake. You’d be surprised how this simple shift of mindset can affect your happiness.

Hollywood’s Over – Commitment

Hollywood and/or the Entertainment Industry play an exciting role in the world’s quest for mental well-being. Hollywood and celebrities want you to think that they fully support mental health awareness and will do anything to help champion the cause. Guys, I cannot imagine a celebrity’s schedule, but to constantly be shot down is discouraging. It is frustrating to see a star who advocates for mental health but then needs to be bothered to take the time to actually work for the cause. It is asking a little from a supposed mental health champion to help raise awareness. However, the answer is more disheartening than I realized.

Growing up, adults have all the answers. If they said they would do something, you usually would see them follow through (i.e., guardians, teachers, coaches, counselors, etc.). As you get older and become an adult, you realize not everyone abides by those rules. Many of us are taught to follow through with our promises. In fact, that is a big theme growing up; Don’t overcommit to something you cannot deliver on.

Why is this a big deal? Well, because others are counting on that promise. They are relying on you to hold up your end of the agreement just as they have held theirs. Remember group projects in school (ugh, I know!)? There were always two types of partners. Partner A does all of their work and picks up the slack of others. Then Partner B does not do their job and allows Partner A to pick up their slack. No one liked being partners with Partner B. Sorry to my Partner B’s out there, but you put stress on your counterpart when you do not follow through.

What’s my point with all of this? Hollywood and celebrities who “champion” mental health feel like Partner B. Not only is being rejected (or not replied to) rude, but it also goes back on the person’s word to advocate for mental health. I do not claim to hold any sort of status. My endeavor is not significant, but the intention is different. The purpose is to hear honest stories from real people about their mental health struggles and how they best deal. Why? It could inspire someone not to give up, try something new, get help, and/or, most importantly, keep living.

Let’s not forget about the Mental Health representations in the media. Some works that initially come to mind are, A Beautiful MindRain Man, and Silver Linings Playbook. While representation is improving, we must shake the idea of mental health equating to “crazy” or “scary.” In actuality, many people with mental illness live happy, productive lives. The fact is mental health is manageable. Yes, it requires upkeep and regular care; however, it does not have to define your life. It’s not dissimilar to physical disease. Think about diseases like Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, AIDS, etc., and how manageable they have become. You can live happy, productive lives with those diseases when maintained and cared for by a medical professional. Mental health is no different. Thus, representation must be improved.

So, Hollywood and celebrity mental health champions. Step up and use your platform for the greater good. We think other issues are more critical, but that is unfair. “Just because I didn’t live through the same hand dealt you doesn’t make me any less or make any more of you.” No cause should be considered “more” important than another. Remember, it is all based on your perception.

Am I Good Enough?

Have you ever wondered, “What if I am not good enough?” Chances are, someone else put that thought inside your head. Do you know who else was told they weren’t good enough?

  • Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States of America. Her high school guidance counselor also told her she was not the right “fit” for Princeton. Translation, your race may be a factor in getting into Princeton. Pathetic. Look at how far she came as a Princeton and Harvard Law graduate and the First Black Lady. Those are tremendous achievements.
  • Michael Jordan is a famous former NBA player. He was cut from his varsity high school team and put on JV. Now he is considered one of, if not the best, basketball players of all time.
  • Barbara Streisand was told several times that her nose was too big for show business. They told her she would never make it with a nose that big. However, Barbra went on to star on Broadway in countless films and musical recordings. She has won 8 Grammys and is considered one of the greats.

As you can see, each of these individuals was told at some point or another that they were not good enough. Did they give up? No, they knew what they had to offer was much more significant than any person could decide. They rejected the notion that they were not good enough. Instead, they chose to believe that they were good enough.

I am not here to tell you that every dream you have will be a great success. Billy Joel wrote, “Dream on but don’t imagine they’ll all come true…” from his famous hit “Vienna.” Never let someone else dictate whether or not you pursue your dreams. After all, the only way to know for sure is to try. At the end of the day, only you know what you are truly capable of.

It is all about believing in yourself and working hard at what you are passionate about. No, it may not lead you to be the First Lady or best basketball player of all time, but is that any reason to not pursue your dreams? Absolutely not. In fact, it was former President Teddy Roosevelt who coined the phrase, “Believe you can, and you are halfway there.”

We all have a purpose on this earth, and while some are more public, many are not. What you do to change the world may not be trending on social media, but that does not make it any less significant. Due to social media, we have trained ourselves to believe that being seen is most important. What do you think they did before social media? Lived their lives for themselves, not others. I encourage you to do the same.

Love (In The Name Of Pride)

If this title caught your eye and seemed vaguely familiar, great catch! It is a take on the U2 song “Pride (In The Name Of Love).” Part of the lyrics are as follows:

“Early morning, April four

A shot rings out in the Memphis sky

Free at last, they took your life

They could not take your pride

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?”

Clearly, referring to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, TN. As we continue to celebrate the month of Pride, we remember the struggles of those who came before us. Although the inequities of the Black and LGBTQIA+ communities are two different causes, they share many similarities. Inequality is what it comes down to. If it puts someone outside their comfort zone, then forget it. That right there is where we miss the opportunity to grow as a collective community not defined by skin color or sexual orientation but as the human race. I started this initiative to show that we are much more alike than different. If you don’t believe me, then I challenge you to do the following:

Step outside of your comfort zone and befriend someone different than you (race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, age, etc.) and see if you can find one thing in common with that person. Despite your differences, I am willing to bet you can find more than one.

Until the day I die, I will keep spreading this message because we can’t expect others to do the hard work for us. It has to come from each of us. Every single person has a part to play in this war against inequity. Whether it is a shift in mindset or working for the greater good, everyone must accept their role and act. I cannot promise every world problem will be solved as a result, but it’s a start. We then can turn our focus to other issues and work together to solve them. Can you imagine what could be done if people from all walks of life put aside their differences to work for the common good of humanity? The opportunities are endless, and we are wasting our time fighting with one another when we could be solving other problems. Just think about it. Because the LGBTQIA mental health statistics below are NOT ok. We can need to do better.

In comparison to heterosexual individuals:

*LGBTQIA+ community members are 2X as likely to have to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime.

*LGBTQIA+ community members 2.5X as likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.

*Lesbian & bisexual women are more than 2X as likely to engage in Substance Abuse.

*Transgender individuals who identify as Black, Latino/Hispanic, Native American or Mixed Race have increased risk of suicide attempts.

*LGBTQIA+ community members have higher rates of mental health service use.

Another Taken Too Soon

With a heavy heart, tear-filled eyes, and deep remorse, I write that another young friend has been taken from us too soon. My friends, the pain and suffering so many feel can no longer take a back seat. I am sick and tired of attending funerals for friends my own age. Twenty-five is not old enough to be attending the funerals of peers. The very people I grew up alongside and thought I’d be acquainted with forever. Taken. Gone.

The social media post begin to flood your feed with sadness and memorialization. We don’t get the luxury of “goodbyes” or “I love you’s.” No, we get the gut-wrenching phone call that no loved one should ever hear. It shouldn’t be this way. They should all still be here celebrating life alongside us, not from above.

There are not enough “I Love You’s,”‘ “Rest In Peace’s,” “In Loving Memory’s,” and so on that can make up for the tremendous loss felt by an entire community. Imagine someone suddenly in your community being replaced with a hollow shell. This person was a part of some community. A community they were accounted for and expected to be in. Their absence will be forever felt in that community.

If you have ever lost someone unexpectedly and tragically, you know the unbelievable pain it can create. Please don’t let this pain make you turn to substance abuse or suicide. Instead, reach out to a trusted loved one and get the help you deserve. You are certainly not weak in admitting your pain. In fact, we admire you for taking steps to take care of yourself. If anyone tells you differently, they, too, need to look within themselves and begin their own healing process.

You do not have to live with your emotional pain. Take care of yourself and value yourself like you would anyone else. There is another way, and licensed professionals waiting to help you start your healing journey. I know it is scary, so do it when you feel ready, but promise me you won’t wait too long.
I am sick and tired of attending funerals for friends my own age.