It’s about time I made a reference to coffee.
I’ve been trying to get my introspection on lately, trying to figure out how I can make myself a better person for the people around me, the world as a whole, and also myself. Even while funemployed, I still gotta be productive!
This funemployment travel time has given me much needed time to really dig in. In addition to my own self-reflection, I’ve been listening to podcasts, reading self-improvement books, etc. People have also been calling me out on my shit, which definitely stings at first, but it’s ultimately appreciated. I can tell you that it’s not always fun to face the demons in my closet — sometimes it’s really painful/mortifying — but in the end, I am glad that I’ve begun the process of dealing with them. I know I won’t be perfect coming out of this, but I’ll be better, and that’s what I’m shooting for.
I do want to acknowledge that the term “get woke” was generated by African Americans as a way to remind one another of their struggles and the wrongdoings that they still today need to combat. Even though I can’t even begin to touch on that here, I do think that what I am going to outline below sets a good foundation for beginning the journey to a better and more cohesive life for all.
I think a lot of the problems that we face/create in the world stem from the fact that this culture of *work more, get more, more more more* results in such little time for anything outside of the immediate self. This leads to a little too much self-involvement and little time/ability to open up the mind and consider how actions are affecting others. Wouldn’t life be so much more pleasant if we paused to consider and care for our fellow humans rather than trampling/disregarding them on the way to “the top”? Wouldn’t it be sweeter if we didn’t feel like we constantly had to watch our own back?
Here are some reminders that I am constantly circling back to (because I am certainly not perfect at any of these):
- Recognize your privilege (and don’t assume you’re entitled to Any. Damn. Thing. (aside from your basic human rights, of course)). I, a woman of color who may not be at the top rung in the U.S., still have it so much better than folks in other parts of the world. I am entirely grateful that I was lucky (read: not entitled) enough to be the descendant of immigrants (as are the majority of you in the U.S., don’t you forget it) where I was able to live a comfortable life with clean/running water, electricity, and many other luxuries not available worldwide. I have the freedom of mobility.. the ability to travel from place to place, country to country, continent to continent as I please. (I’m sitting here writing this on 2.5 hours of the slowest ferry ride you’ll ever see, but at least it’s not inducing sea sickness and I am privileged enough to be able to take this damn ferry ride.) I have had access to a relatively wonderful (albeit expensive) education system. My native language is one that most other countries have to strive to learn. If I want to learn another language, it’s (more often than not) going to be purely for recreation and not out of necessity to keep up with the rest of the world!
- Enjoy a feedback sandwich. You know how folks suggest that the best way to give constructive criticism is to sandwich it with compliments? (I personally hate being subjected to that in a business setting, the formulaic compliments always feel forced. Just say what you mean and mean what you say; get to the point.) Whenever I have a negative thought or criticism (and I, sadly, have no shortage of those), I try to counter it with a positive or something I’m grateful for. For example, “Fuuuudge, these showers are so friggin cold. ..but at least I have access to this clean running water and I have a hot shower that I can eventually go home to. These folks might not have access to a heating system.. ever.” If it’s a criticism of a process or person’s behavior, I have been trying to 1) deduce the rationale behind each (maybe there is a rhyme and reason to the madness!), and 2) propose a viable fix/solution. Don’t want to just be complaining for the sake of complaining. That’s no fun for anyone.
- Be sure to give back (in ways that are considerate and conscientious). There are folks out there who were not as lucky to be born into such circumstances as I was or that have been dealt and unlucky hand and have thus fallen upon hard times. They have to inherently start the “race” at a much farther starting line than I’ve had to or get pulled off the track altogether.
Sometimes folks feel that they must do something that they, themselves, as an outsider, have prescribed beneficial to another seemingly disadvantaged party.
We were having a conversation with our tour group comprised of people from all over the world (mainly the UK, Australia, and the US.. so, the privileged) about an impoverished group of people.. I can’t remember specifically which. They’d been offered assistance/reparations from the government in power, but the group had declined the offer. One of the girls at our table said, “Well that’s the problem, they won’t accept our help.”
Well, no, the problem, first and foremost, is that “we” thought it was okay to marginalize these people and take what wasn’t “ours” without considering them as human beings. And then here we go again.. the second problem is that we are trying to alleviate our guilt by attempting to force amends in the way that “we” feel is best, again without considering them as human beings with their own thoughts and their own agency. For all we know, this group is perfectly content living life as they now are. It may be a simple life without all of the unnecessary bells and whistles that we’ve grown accustomed to, but it’s the life that they very well may enjoy.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff)! Someone (I think it was my aunt) gave me a book for my birthday with that title (lol, forward, much?). I’m inherently a perfectionist and, while I’ve made great strides to be a little less so, I still have moments where I waste too much time, freak out, or get angry when things aren’t exactly so. In the end, does it all *really* matter? Save yourself the risk of high blood pressure and let some of that shit slide.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. (Oooh, this one has been a hard one for me.) Maybe that chick didn’t mean to cut you in line or that guy didn’t mean to litter a pocketful of trash. Take a breath and either let it go (if the action isn’t harmful to anyone or our beloved Mother Earth) or take the time to patiently inform/educate.
- It’s not personal. If you find someone trying to inform/educate you, take it as an opportunity for growth rather than an insult. We all have something to learn from one another; no one knows it all. Also, if someone’s offended you, they may not have meant for it to come from a place of hate or an attack against you as a person (they probably don’t even know you), they might just need some education as well!
- Walk a mile in their shoes. The age old adage. I don’t think much needs to be said here, but just stay conscious of the fact that people are coming from all different parts of the world with a vast array of different experiences that have shaped their thoughts and the way your words and actions affect them.
- Try to set a good example and represent well. I get so embarrassed to see gringos out and about in the world living up to the loud, obnoxious, disrespectful, greedy, and/or inconsiderate stereotype. (E.g. While I was in Thailand, I saw an American girl shouting a request in Spanish at a Filipino employee.. in Thailand.) Please don’t do that. We all want to continue to be welcomed into other places. I was reading on some travel blog that some people are advising travelers to “stay away from the Americans.” Ughhh.. don’t be that American, but also don’t be that person. Stay open-minded, embrace the locale (that you’ve been graciously allowed to be a guest at) and its culture, and be mindful of and open-minded to others around you.
- Rinse and repeat. Do regular and frequent self-reflection! What happened today? Which positive/productive actions/behaviors did you take and would like to repeat? What could have been done in a better way? Did you help/support a fellow human? What are you grateful for?
It’s easy to get defensive and shut down when facing the realization that one is not God’s perfect gift to the world, but it takes a much stronger person to own up to one’s shortcomings and begin building up on those areas for growth. (Eyyyy, I’m trying to be the latter.)
Anyway, in all of this, I’m entirely grateful to have had the opportunity to take some time away from the aggressive money rat race and, not just see other parts of the world for the sake of getting another passport stamp under my belt (can we all just agree that this is not a competition), lounge around in my itty bitty bikinis, and eat all of the things, but to learn from the world as well.
(I’m also trying to learn to be a more conscientious/socially conscious traveler.. I have this lingering fear that I’m being exploitative where I really don’t want to be. Opening the floor to words of wisdom here!)
Do you think I got anything wrong? What other reminders are helpful?