rents

If someone could write a set of instructions on how to navigate your relationship with your parents through every stage of your life, that would be fantastic. The childhood and the teenage years are just a mess and very complicated and I don’t even want to get into that. These years get enough attention as it is with child psychiatry specialists and crappy daytime television talk shows.

But when the young adult years roll around, there should be more freedom and more of a benefit-of-the-doubt style guidance. Especially when the young adult is, generally, stable, healthy, and fine. I like to think I have these qualities.

Everything I do I’m figuring out for myself as I do it. I can’t give an explanation to my parents, let alone myself, as it’s happening. Generally, I’m saying “yes” to a lot of things, and I’m trying a lot of new things, because now is the time to do it. Jobs, kids, my own family – these aren’t things I have to worry about tying me down yet. I don’t know my life yet. But if it’s well enough under control, with no immediately huge, pending risks or dangers,  can it just be left alone? Why is every decision that I make for me considered to be a decision made against my family? Why is it always individual vs. family? I have to make my own spot in the world. I can’t keep living up to this family version, the spot where I fit in as a child in this family unit, that my mother has in mind for me. I have to be an adult too and I have to go out there. That being said, I will always come back to my family. I will never not come back to them. They are my roots. The time that I spend away for a bit doesn’t translate to abandonment forever.

At 21, my mom was married. I think she forgets this when she looks at me, because I’m single now. But I’m also nearly 22. I think when I was in a serious relationship I was viewed as more of an adult, with a more solid future (marriage) ahead of me. It’s frustrating that my stand-alone, single self isn’t viewed with as much “adult-y ness” as my relationship-self. Additionally, there’s just always going to be a learning curve with the oldest child. Things are more lenient for my younger siblings than they were for me, and it’s frustrating to witness that at times. I imagine when my younger siblings get to be my age now, they’ll have more adult expectations and privileges than the ones I am granted now.

My mom also claims this family is falling apart, and honestly, it is. Part of that is just the nature of growing up. Everyone (all the kids, all the siblings, I mean) is going to grow into different interests and areas of expertise, so we’ll have to go where our jobs take us. It would be very rare and just weird if all our jobs were in the same place, geographically speaking.

But in other ways, we’re falling apart too. I can see it. We don’t really look out for each other. We don’t have emotional, deep communication. We don’t have kind words for each other. We’d rather fight and throw each other under the bus than stick up for each other. Maybe it’s because the issues we’re fighting over aren’t really serious yet, because we’re not old. We’re not adults (the youngest ones are high schoolers). They’re mostly over things like who ate the last ice cream sandwich, not issues of large amounts of money or disease and sickness… I think it’s also partly because we have a weak foundation with our father. And this can be traced back to his own childhood years. It’s not his fault that his upbringing was less than perfect, but  it does become his fault when he refuses to now step up to the role he assumed when he got married and when he decided to have 4 kids. Like it or not, we’re here now. Just be there for us all, at least through college. Seeing mom over-supplement to make up for his lack of supplement hurts me. And there’s more I can say, but I won’t say it here. And this probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to anyone who doesn’t know me, but I had to say it nonetheless.

 

Moving on to the middle age years, the relationship between child and parent is not one that I am familiar with at all, so I’ll skip my questions about this for now.

And then the older adult years. I’ve seen this. In hospitals, in assisted living centers or day centers or nursing homes for the elderly, you can always tell how a parent treated their children based on how the children treat their parents later in life. There are old ladies with 11 and 12 kids in the senior center, and none of those kids come to visit. I have to believe that 1 of those 11 or 12 kids is “normal.” They can’t all be messed up… Which means if at least one of them is normal, one of them should visit. Which means if no one visits, the parent is the issue. However the parents treated their kids when they were young and in need is how they will be treated, in turn, when they are old and in need.

 

What keeps you up at night?

Or do you go to sleep at a reasonable, regular time. And can you do so without feeling guilt or regret or like you’re wasting your time by sleeping.

Some people need sleep to function. I don’t really. It’s not healthy, but I never have followed a regular sleep schedule. Probably an ok thing I guess, since the job I’m going into will entail night shifts and irregular hours and unexpected overtime depending on individual patients’ well-beings, nursing staffing numbers, etc.

But I mean it – what keeps you up at night?

What makes you go? What is the one thing, or few things, or many things that push(es) you up out of bed each morning, and makes it hard to slow down and stop to rest at night…

I’ll go first.

  • I want to write a book. Not sure about what yet. Probably something to do with nursing or healthcare at first, since that’s what I know most about right now.
  • I want to travel, and I want to travel everywhere.
  • I want to understand the healthcare system in America better, and I want to make the appropriate access to it easier for everyone – especially with a focus on primary care for aging/older adults (Business Insider article).

I have a few secondary, back-burner goals too.

  • I want to improve public education. I grew up moving every couple years as part of a military family, and the differences in public schools across different states were remarkable, and not always beneficially so.
  • I want to work with animals and animal shelters.
  • I want to work with young kids – show them everything they can be, what’s out there, what they can do / options they have after 12 years of school, improve their confidence and improve their balance in life (less screen time, more books, and a more well-rounded education source, not just lectures and powerpoints and old textbooks…).
  • I want people to recycle more. And by that I mean I want us to be able to recycle the resources we have now on Earth. We’ve made a mess of things now but educating the public and pursuing cleaner energy sources and creating environmentally conscious laws can help to clean things up.

My goals are vaguely stated. I know that. But at least I have an idea of what they are.

I think that everyone has passions but some of us ignore them. Whatever age you are, wherever you are, and however well off you are, I encourage you to chase your passions. I don’t know that we really live in a world where you can work as whatever you want and make enough money off of that to support yourself. I wouldn’t say that the “American Dream” is a real possibility for everyone. I think it’s more about who you know, and how well you started off in life. After those factors, then how hard you’re willing to work will determine your success.

This is just a reminder to everyone that your life is valuable, and that your unique, individual passions, when pursued, have the power to change the world. Even when it’s tiring, depressing, or boring to think of the work you have ahead of  you, it’s worth it to try.

Butterfly

Thinking of my parents on this Father’s Day.

The Lesson of the Butterfly

This is

  • a lesson on the importance of working through hardships, challenges and struggle.
  • a reminder that overcoming struggle makes you into who you are.  What is your story, what is your personality, what drives you, what keeps you up at night, and all the other million small parts that you can claim as part of yourself.
  • a reminder to parents, I think, who want to do everything they can for their children. While the man in this story meant well by trying to help the butterfly out of the cocoon, he actually suppressed that butterfly’s full potential. That butterfly will always be a stunted, lesser version of itself. If parents always give what they believe are necessities and favors to their kids, their kids will never form their own identity. Instead, they will just be molded into the idea of what their parents want them to be. (There is a time and a place for parental help. I’m not saying kids should be completely left to their own devices, but certainly in early adulthood/20s, kids should not feel like they have to do everything to please their parents. It is too much guilt to feel that way, and I speak from experience. I struggle to find my own way and chase my own dreams while also “doing enough” to make my parents happy. And you can have great parents and still feel this way. I do. I just struggle with balancing between overly relying on my parents, asking for too much, not asking for things enough, trying not to step on toes, and trying to be my own person…)

Image result for butterfly cocoon story

When you [ass]ume… Or, how to be a nice human

They teach you in nursing school to never walk in a room and assume how a family is put together. This is especially relevant on the obstetrics unit. In other words, do not assume who is the father or mother of the baby, and do not try to guess who is an extended family member vs. who is a friend. You’ll probably get it wrong.

I think this attitude of open-mindedness is how we should always try to approach things. Limiting your bias is a complex task and one that I continually struggle with.

For one thing, it’s easy to believe the wrong thing. There’s a lot of information out there, and filtering through it is a chore. There is social media, popular media, news reports, journals, blogs…(it’s even harder to know what to believe when such highly influential leaders claim major news sources are “fake news,” but I won’t get into that here…).

Then, there are the physical, real people who you regularly see. Whatever sources you expose yourself to will heavily influence your beliefs and your range of experiences. There is no one source or one person to listen to always. It is best to use a variety of resources and people to form your own opinions.

Based on my prior experiences, reducing bias [which I am using as a general, all-inclusive term for bigotry, prejudice, racism, sexism, etc.] is a four step process.

  1. The first step – recognize that you might be wrong.
  2. The second step – listen to the other person fully. Try to understand what they’re saying without super-imposing your own beliefs over theirs.
  3. The third step – respond. Say your piece, what you’ve known beforehand, and ask for direct clarification on these new or different points of view. Lack of communication is the cause of EVERY MISUNDERSTANDING EVER. Refer to a history textbook if you think I’m wrong.
  4. The fourth step – reflect. Either together or in private, you should compare your thoughts prior to and following these conversations, because it shows where you started and how much you might have changed afterward. You shouldn’t be wishy-washy; still maintain some of your own ideas, but do so politely, without being obnoxious or overbearing.

So much more can be learned and shared when controversial topics are approached with a gentler mentality, something that is along the lines of: “this person may not have had the same exposure to information or personal experiences that I did, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt, listen to their piece, and then share my own opinions.”

It can be easier to be on the defense, to immediately justify what you believe and to correct or put down what someone else believes. Essentially, people are creatures of habit. What we already know is safe. What we don’t know is danger. But our differences make us stronger and they should be treated as learning opportunities. The stories we tell and the wisdom we have comes from the differences that everyone has, not their same-nesses [if you have a better word here for this, let me know].

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I took this picture 6 months ago on a family vacation. I think it shows the interplay of two very different cultural backgrounds, and how our differences are sources of interest and opportunities to learn more. These are people native to the area (Philipsburg, St. Maarten, in the Eastern Caribbean) vs. families vacationing from the USA.

Punishing people for their differences is one of the most backwards things we can do. Someone’s ethnic or racial or gender or other identity should not be the reason they are held back or disadvantaged in a system. We should make people feel welcome and comfortable rather than isolated and fearful. It will result in stronger communities, more genuine relationships, and more lovely, kind individuals. That is the world I would like to see.

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If you are like me, and you want to be more respectful but at the same time, you question your political correctness or cultural accuracy when inquiring into people’s lives, here are some things I have learned.

  • If you want to learn more, expand your friend group. Make friends with a variety of people. People who are different from what you already know. People from a variety of different backgrounds. People with other cultural, religious, gender or other identities.
  • Travel more. Either go to several places frequently or go to one place that you’re really interested in, and invest yourself in another culture entirely by going to the source directly.
  • Learn another language.
  • Rethink your common, everyday speech. For example, rather than ask, “what are you?” (see 0:18 for reference), it’s better to phrase this as “where is your family/where are you from?” I really recommend watching this Netflix series and the movie that it is based on for one particular view and a current, fresh look at black culture that it offers. Although the characters are fictional, the subject matter is very real. (Here is the link for the movie trailer.)
  • Look to other sources. Don’t limit yourself. Look everywhere. Watch documentaries, watch local movies, watch international movies and foreign films, read books, form opinions and be able to support them with valid reasons.

~end of post.

I work in the business of bettering myself

I can understand how tempting it is for people to stay in one place.

the birds place

The familiar books and furniture and places to go to and cable channel numbers and roads to drive on that you don’t need a GPS or a map for… I like being home because all my STUFF is one place. You would be amazed if you piled all your stuff up in one place. Just the sheer amount of clothes I have blows my mind. My stuff literally fills more than two Toyota Sienna mini vans (I know, because I’ve filled them). My mom is another reason I like having that familiar place to go back to. She’s like Batman – always watching. When I’m at school and work, outside in the world, it’s nice to feel independent, but I’m still in that phase of my life where I depend on my mom very much. She knows me best – sometimes even better than I know myself. She’s always got my back. She’s got my back so much so that she’s annoying about it. She wakes me up if I oversleep. She makes my dentist appointments. She cooks. (Kind of. She specializes in “one pot Crockpot meals,” but even so – those are usually better than whatever I find and throw in a pan and hope tastes alright.)

I digress. Basically, change is hard. It’s easier to be a creature of habit. The feeling of safety and security is, after all, the immediate basic need after our physiological needs (thanks, Maslow #nursingiscool).

maslows-hierarchy-of-needs

But when we stay stagnant, we don’t learn, and we get boring. First we’re boring to other people. Then we’re boring to ourselves. The solution is to initiate change. Simply put – do new things. This is how you get better – through constant reinvention.

That said, your new things should be stable decisions, not reckless choices. A nursing friend of mine always says, “be smart with your dumb decisions.” In other words, if you’re going to do something new, give it some thought before you do it. Like check out the tattoo place online at least before you just show up. Future-you will thank past-you when future-you avoids an infection and possibly sepsis later on from a dirty needle.

Other new things to try – food. Places. People. Shows. Exercise. Join a class and learn a new language. Join a club. Join a gym. Personally, I think it’s better to go out and physically interact with people, rather than making your new habit something through a screen, like starting a new Netflix show. People are the most interesting. They are the primary source. All the media, entertainment, gyms, clubs, classes, foods, etc. comes from them – so it makes the most sense to go out and get to know them. Put down your phone and put on your shoes and just go.

It’s going to require effort, but it will make your life, and you, more interesting. You won’t feel tired as much because you’ll have more to look forward to. This shouldn’t be an overly frequent process, but something that you seek out naturally. If you push yourself too hard, you’ll just relapse and melt into your couch or something.

When you’re young you don’t know what you want. Stuff just kind of appears in front of you and you think, “that looks good I guess,” so you do it, but you do so without really knowing all your other options. I didn’t fully know the qualities I wanted in a partner or even in a friend until I got to college. I invested myself in a serious relationship and a serious friendship right away when I got here, and I learned more about myself through those people.

Learning about yourself is a lifelong process. Constantly be working to improve and reinvent yourself with new plans and dreams. Viewed cynically, sure, it’s exhausting to always be changing. But when you recall how far you’ve come, then you realize that you can only move forward.

You should always think, there is more that you can do, because there is.

I welcome any and all comments and thoughts. No one ever got better by just listening to themselves. That just makes you crazy.

Instead of giving up, you should walk away…

…and then come back.

In other words, find your balance. I won’t sugarcoat how slowly I learn things. Example: I started setting up this blog at 7pm. It is now midnight. Good job, @me.

The end justifies the means, but in the end, how worth it were the means to get there? If you tortured yourself and had a miserable time finishing what you started, was it really worth it?

Listen starting at 2:45 — Beyoncé 

This is Beyoncé describing what it means to succeed. If you like her (and you should) I recommend listening to all of these clips (there are 5) and then probably also all her music (but that’s for a future post).

“And at the end of the day when you go through all of these things, is it worth it? I mean, you get this trophy, and you’re like, I basically…starved, I have neglected all of the people that I love, I conformed to what everybody else thinks I should be, and I have this trophy. What does that mean?”

Although the example of me figuring out a blog format is not exactly comparable to Bey cranking out another best-selling record, all of this calls into question a few things: 1) do you know how to balance your life?, 2) what does it mean to you when you’re done with that “big thing,” was it worth it in the end?, and 3) what matters to you? What did you have to give up to earn this outcome? Time? Money? What is most valuable in your life, and was it worth trading it in for that outcome?

The bottom line: establish a balance that you’re comfortable with. Don’t swing heavily, obsessively, into one thing for so long.

And yet, here I was again tonight, not giving myself breaks, sitting on this couch for literally hours on end, staring at a screen. But it’s ok, because this issue of establishing balance isn’t just a “normal person” or a “below average person” issue. The proof? Beyoncé herself struggles to find the balance between the means and the end.

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Take from this post what you will. In my mind, this progression of events/realizations makes sense, but that’s just one person’s opinion and I welcome all other opinions and thoughts.

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