Some of the attacks I see in the news feel very personal and triggering, because of who I am and my history. But I get that people with similar experiences to mine are not the only ones hurting. I realize the Obama administration was not easy on small business owners, national security enthusiasts, and more. I get that government is often inefficient. I know how intensely difficult disrupting the status quo is. I have empathy for people who are reeling from all the change in this country. It is a different world than it was eight years ago.
Regardless of where you stand politically, fear of and animosity towards difference gets us nowhere. The aggressive vitriol is the piece that really breaks my heart in this political climate. Many of you are friends with me though you may not have known all of the above aspects of my identity. I think transparency and owning difference but recognizing we still have relatability is key to moving forward. May we please accept difference is a part of life, and we are going to disagree on some things, but please be respectful and believe we still abide by a code of honor and common human decency anyway? How boring would the world be if we were all the same?
Photo from The Urban League of Greater Atlanta
Right now, though the election climate may have us biting our tongues to not lash out hurtfully (and granted I fail at this sometimes too—when my fiancé told me his ballot choices, I descended into negative head space pretty quickly and felt triggered), I think it is teaching us an important lesson to listen and consider how we stem the tide. To simply see who can call each other an “ist” the loudest accomplishes nothing. But to dare to destroy false, over-simplified dichotomies is where the healing work happens of relating to each other, despite any aspect of difference: race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, professions, socioeconomics. As someone who claims minority status in several areas, I don’t want to exacerbate further hate by simply labeling discriminatory individuals as villains and thinking my work ends there. As someone who understands that I am privileged in areas of education, the ability to chameleon to almost any community I choose, and the ability to pursue the career I want, I recognize not everyone has the same access and choices, and I need to be empathetic to those who feel oppressed and restricted. Why is seeing life from other perspectives not the norm? What makes rigid thinking so widely prevail, especially recently? Why do we not connect and relate as humans, and how can we change this trend?
I am trying really hard to fit into the new small town in which I live and find people I connect with. I am also trying to honor my values and boundaries. What are my values? I honor family and commitments. I share my life with authenticity and honesty. I care to be compassionate to people and love them exactly as they are. I care to make a contribution to the world, to live collaboratively in community, and to be there for people. I want to be adaptable to things as they change, to grow and be humble enough to admit when I am wrong. I want to be responsible, purposeful, passionate, and creative in my endeavors. No one can take those values away. It is important for all of us to remember our values now, at a time in the world when people are so busy losing touch with their values and going on the attack.
My career dream in college was to be a provider of humanitarian relief in third world countries, working for the UN. My life took a twist for less international and more federal level work. After college, I was a progressive activist, feminist, urban chic young nonprofit professional in DC. I romanticize those days. Oh, I would have been so vocal about polls, stats, and ramifications of this election from my office on M St.
Then my career took another twist, for the clinical and individual level, and here I am working in small town USA as a social worker, devoted to children in need.
I still influence positive change, though my life is so different from what I expected. An advantage is that one-person-at-a-time scope of influence feels much more real, tangible, and able to be observed than the massive change I cared about before. Connection happens, not among a social media audience, where we yell the loudest or insult the most deeply, but in small settings where we dare to be genuine and push ourselves to accept others in their genuine moments too. Let’s get out of a culture of fight or flight and choose to engage our executive function collectively. What are we afraid of? How can we relate? What is progress? What values do we share? What values of yours can I respect, even though they are not mine? Definitions of empathy and generosity look different to different people, so how can we mutually prioritize them here?
Photo from Making It Better
I care about affecting positive change in the world. Experiencing more micro level changes than systemic level in my life is an adjustment. However, with the micro level comes a sense of belonging and relationship I would not trade for the world. We set roots in the minutiae. The attention to detail, the ritual we build, the depth of connection we create—that is where we cultivate appreciation for diversity, not in reading about it or posting statuses about it. Societal values are built of a multiplicity of mundane, day-to-day priorities of microcosms, and we need to push our miscrocosms to consider viewpoints outside our own, to welcome difference of thought, if we ever want to see a shift. In short, we need to accept the cacophony, even when notes clash, clang, and even hurt to hear.