Why Don’t We Care About Each Other?

Why Don’t We Care About Each Other?

There is a housing market boom right now, where prices are skyrocketing. The house we bought in 2018 is now valued at an extra $30,000. I don’t know if we could’ve afforded the house then if at that price. Then, I decided to look at what one bedrooms were renting at in our area and saw them going for $600.00. I paid $450.00 about 5 years ago. Of course, I have to expect that prices will go up, but I worry still. I worry about twenty-something me that worked two part-time, minimum-wage jobs after she moved home after the 2008 recession. How could she have afforded rent for what she was earning? Would she have been able to save anything? She already didn’t have that much to begin with. And I worry about people like her who are currently in that situation.

Every day, I see new apartment buildings made of concrete and glass rise from the ground and I know they were not designed for those who are living near the poverty line. Instead, the poor have to rely on Section 8 housing, which some see as a hand-out. What the detractors don’t realize is that landlords must agree to the vouchers in the first place and many do not. Where does this leave a city that is growing and prospering, but leaving its poorest behind? I myself live very comfortably and now have a great job that I love, but still, I worry about that girl that I used to be. She wasn’t lazy. She didn’t take hand-outs. She worked her ass off and barely made it. It’s easy to generalize the plight of others when we don’t personally know them, but sometimes, what they genuinely need is help.

Housing is a crucial element of life and we have been reduced to the haves and the have-nots. The haves scorn the have-nots and tell them to get a job, get a degree, work harder, and to get off employment, while the have-nots cannot wait until they can tell those that come after them the same thing. We, as a society, are sorely broken and it’s much harder to fix than just policies and laws. The policies that are enacted may help those who need it, but it does not help those who continue to feel that those who are poor deserve it. What have we become when we don’t care about hungry children and homeless parents? There is a problem and it is us. It is our entitlement.

Entitlement is not the belief that we are owed housing, health care, and mental health, but rather, the issue is that we think we’re entitled to the wealth we’ve gained and earned, making us feel as we belong in a different caste. Entitlement is asking where our tax payer money is going to when it could be helping our next-door neighbor who just lost her job. It is telling others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when we forgot the struggles we had to get where we are. It’s in the way we talk about those who need help and those who want to help them. We say they are bottom-feeders and leeches, giving them no sympathy. When we differentiate ourselves from them, we feel entitled to our own situation and dehumanize them in the process.

If we don’t care about each other, there will be no one left to care about who we are. What is our legacy going to be at the end? What will they say about us? They were selfish until the very end. The human race died out because they couldn’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps. The bootstraps were never the problem. The system is most likely to blame. However, it all comes down to the common denominator of caring for others that are not us. If we don’t realize that we’re all in this together, we’ll see ourselves splinter more and more and we’ll be the ones left behind.

Photo by Jordy Meow on Unsplash

Traditions vs Culture

Traditions vs Culture

I’ve heard a lot of talk of what it means to carry on traditions and how that relates to our culture, but I think a lot of people are confusing the two. Traditions mean acts, words, ceremonies, and more that have occurred regularly throughout our history. Culture is an ever evolving way of how we view ourselves and doesn’t necessarily need to be rooted in our past. I am a second generation Hmong refugee, who was born in America, and really dealt with two separate cultures: my ethnic, Asian heritage and the current mid-western landscape that I live in. Being a fish out of water is already an experience in and of itself, and some find themselves gravitating to one side or the other, which results in confusion and a murky reflection of who we see ourselves as in the future.

But I digress. What concerns me is how we hold on to old traditions because we think if we don’t, we are losing our culture and what it means to be who we are. If we no longer practice Shamanism, steal brides, buy our brides, or shun our women, does this mean we aren’t Hmong anymore? The bride price is an especially sticky issue because some argue that it is not a price on the girl’s head, but a debt of gratitude paid to her parents to honor them for raising her. And that may well be the case in many situations, but that does not end up happening when tensions arise. Husbands and their families use the bride price to manipulate and accost their brides, for they know it would cause her irreprehensible harm if she were labeled a bad wife and returned. Yes, there are some Hmong people who don’t do this, but the fact of the matter is that the bride price is a patriarchal tool that can be used to control women.

So then we ask what do we do with this tradition? Do we let it die like the words our children no longer know to speak? Who are we if we are not our traditions? Traditions are rooted in the past, but culture does not have to be. We can choose to change who we are and what our children experience. Our culture is what we expect of our young boys when they date our young girls. It shouldn’t be turning a blind eye when your older uncle goes to Thailand to marry a barely legal girl. It shouldn’t be telling our women to stay in troubled marriages simply because they will be ostracized. It shouldn’t be letting others think it’s okay to beat their wives because they were paid for. That’s what happened recently, when a Hmong wife went live to the act of her husband beating her. The most reprehensible thing that happened afterwards was that one of the husband’s female relatives said they should be allowed to hit her up to 10 times because they bought her.

This is currently what our culture is, but it doesn’t have to be what it can be. I was part of a Hmong women’s group where countless women poured their hearts out about how they were mistreated by their husbands and their families and it broke my heart that we are still tied to the very traditions that our mothers and our mother’s mothers were. They had no agency in their lives and relied on the social support of their husbands. They were shunned if they were divorced or their husbands died. Their children could be taken away from them if the other side wanted. I always thought that these were things of a bygone era, but the group forced me to realize that we are no different than our past. My mother’s mother was a second wife, tricked into marrying my grandfather by his first wife. When he died, he left his family in shambles because they no longer had a man protecting them. Because of this, my mother longed for legitimacy and a family, willing to undergo all sorts of trauma at any cost to be a wife.

My mother was always an angry woman. Someone who was short with us and didn’t show us affection. I always knew she didn’t love us, but I now understand why. She had to reduce who she was to please her husband and the society she lived in. In doing so, she killed her own happiness and who she was. To change our culture, we must recognize that our society was set up to benefit only the men. They are the only ones with any real sense of agency and ability to change their lives without impunity. We must understand that this cannot continue. We can accept that these were our traditions, but we don’t have to accept that they will continue to be a part of our future. And so I ask, what does it mean to be Hmong? Who are we if we are not our traditions? We can be kind. We can be understanding. We can be inclusive. We will always remain Hmong, but we can be better.

The Power of Unwinding Down

The Power of Unwinding Down

Perhaps it is because we think we are too important or not important enough, but we have forgotten the power of what it means to unwind. What is unwinding? It simply is deflating. Powering down. Relaxing. It is a forgotten artform because we’ve been so focused on trying to achieve success that we forget to breath. To simply be. Unwinding down from a long day looks like taking a few minutes for yourself and simply vegging out without any electronics or distractions. It means unpacking what has happened to you that day and what it means to you. Unwinding means connecting with yourself for a moment before you slip into your other life. Why is it important? It’s important because it’s the time we reserve for our own mind’s sake. We go through so much trauma without processing it that we don’t know how to process every day transgressions. They matter, too and we matter.

What happens if we don’t unwind? If we don’t unwind, it all simply builds up and suddenly, we find ourselves behind a wall of denial, believing we are okay when we’re not. We don’t know how to process what happens to us, so we simply don’t. No one was taught us what it means to process and we can’t even comprehend what it means to even do it. If we don’t even know how, who do we become but these shells of people who hold in all their hurt and pain and break at a moment’s glance simply because we don’t know where the pain goes. It may be too big of a mountain to climb to tackle extremely traumatic events, but if we don’t even have the tools to focus on the small ones, we’ll never even get to the big ones.

So how do you start? Recognize that your experiences are valid and you are worthy of retrospection. When you run through the day, ask yourself how it made you feel and how it affected you. If you did something that you weren’t supposed to do, learn to forgive yourself. Once you start seeing how this affects your well-being, you’ll be able to recognize that taking a moment for yourself is not selfish, but needed. Take a moment to be present in your life and acknowledge who you are and where you are at. We spend so much time focusing on getting somewhere else or being someone different that we forget to nourish who we are right at this very moment. Unwinding simply means spending a second with yourself and enjoying it.

Photo by Nadi Whatisdelirium on Unsplash

Who is responsible for watering this plant?

So we have this plant in our office that is rigged up with a water bottle to self-water when needed.  It got moved to my window and I let it be known that it was not my job to take care of this plant and I washed my hands of it.  Over the last few months, it has slowly been dying and withering away, but when I look at it, the water bottle is half full, so I thought that it was fine.  Still, I said it’s not my problem because I already said I refused to take care of it.  Last week, the dying leaves littered the floor around me and I was forced to clean it up.  I thought that the water bottle may be faulty and poured water into the pot and when I did, the soil soaked it up and the water bottle started to actually leak out water.  I realized then that the soil was so dry that the bottle couldn’t even properly work.  I feel this is a good analogy for what’s happening right now in our country.  We never said that it was our personal responsibility to take care of police brutality and racism against Black people, so we didn’t.  It happened, but it was just there and we didn’t acknowledge it until it started dying on our very doorsteps.  And when we looked into the issue, we started to realize that we were blaming Black people for not growing when it was really the system that was failing them.  Perhaps we can stop refusing to acknowledge the root of the problem and what lies underneath because it actually does affect all of us.

Change Comes at a Price

alexander-krivitskiy-DHPDsHOnTpg-unsplash

The process to tackle issues that you’ve been battling your entire life is terrifying, nerve-wracking, and anxiety-producing.  The fact that you have to face these demons from the past may cause us more hurt than we’re willing to deal with right now, so what do we do?  We push it away so we can remain sane for a moment.  We deny it so we don’t have to deal with it.  We use drugs, sex, and food to self-medicate.  We end up lying to ourselves because we can’t face the truth.  When we refuse to ever look at the underlying issues, we become a shell of who we once were.  We are trying to protect who we are now from what happened to us before, not realizing that we are damaging ourselves more in the process.  However, change comes at a price

Change is messy, painful, and scary.  We must be ready to face change if we want it, but realize it is not in the cards for everyone.  Change can only be done if we’re in a relatively safe place.  If we are constantly in a state of flux such as homelessness, being battered, or on drugs, change will be very hard to come by.  For some, change means confronting terrible things done unto them that they must revisit, bringing even more shame, anger, and fear, so they don’t change.  We shouldn’t judge those that can’t change because we don’t know what they are going through.  If someone never chooses to change, that is their decision and we must make peace with it.

But if they do decide to change, they will revisit all the hurts they have experienced before and bring back the ghosts that have haunted them all their lives.  This painful experience may cost them relationships or undue hardships, but that is what comes with change.  There are a million of us out there who refuse to change or acknowledge our pains and as such, we continue on, carrying this hurt and trying to cover it up, only for it to spill out in our lives in ways we could not predict.  What we don’t realize is that even if we don’t face the hurt, the hurt will always be there right beneath the surface and if we don’t do anything about it, it will change us so much that we won’t recognize who we are anymore.

 

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

The Fear of the White Van

dan-gold-5WJzOWFUdyk-unsplash

An article recently came out about white van posts on Facebook that were causing parents to fear for their children’s safety.  According to the article, there was little proof to back up these claims bu tthe fear that these posts created caused mass chaos online and real hysteria in real life.  I’ve seen the shared posts myself, telling an elaborate story about how someone evaded being kidnapped or trafficked to the relief of the poster, but played as a cautionary tale to those who shared and read it.  When posts like these cannot be verified, people believe in the truthfulness of the poster and would not question why someone would post something untrue.  In their sense of duty to warn others, they share the post and continue to propagate unfounded fears.

In one post, someone talks about how they think were almost tricked into being trafficked, but didn’t get out of the car, foiling the perpetrator’s plans.  My question is ‘how do you know the reason they were taking you was for trafficking?’  What if they just wanted to kill you?  But trafficking is a buzz word and to include that in a post will get more shares and likes even though that is not how most trafficking cases occur.  Most victims of trafficking know their abusers and a large percentage of them may be at-risk youth who can be missed, involved with drugs or selling drugs, or leading lives that would put them at risk for trafficking.  There are a few instances where girls are taken without any of these attributes and trafficked, but even in those cases, they knew at least one of the persons that trafficked them.

The point is that no one is questioning the veracity of these claims that are striking real fear into everyday people and when they do, they are met with a wall of anger because many feel as if the post, whether true or not, are simply trying to inform people.  The truth is, if we blindly share those posts without really thinking about what we are sharing, we are contributing to a larger problem that creates fear and distrust for our children, our neighbors, strangers, and ourselves.  When we believe these unfounded lies, we start to live as if we must guard ourselves at all times against potential crimes that may never materialize.  These types of activities are definitely happening in the world, and we should be vigilant about them, but we shouldn’t live in fear of things that your friend shared but didn’t even read through.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/04/tech/facebook-white-vans/index.html

Success Should Change You

vek-labs-e8ofKlNHdsg-unsplash

If someone actually reaches fame, fortune, or success, those around them may say that it has changed them and that they are not the same anymore.  This is meant to be disparaging to the individual, but what they don’t know is that success should change a person.  Actually, what is happening is that the individual in question hasn’t really changed, but the nature of their relationship with others have changed.  One might say that it shouldn’t change at all and have no impact on relationships, but those do not understand that those things must change.  In fact, if you don’t alter relationships, you will find yourself at a disadvantage.

There are a myriad of reasons besides success that change and alter relationships, but people tend to cling on to the idea of what the relationship used to be instead of what it has progressed to now.  An example would be a mother who’s child is turning into an adult.  She may still want to treat her child as a child because that’s what she’s always done, but the child is growing up now and the nature of their relationship has changed.  The child yearns to be treated as an adult and the mother yearns for her baby, causing a chasm of how they treat each other.  Another example is when a couple gets married.  One person may want to continue living as they did before they were married and the other expects them to follow different rules but does not lay them out.  The persons themselves in both scenarios haven’t changed, but their relationships have.

As with success, it’s not that the person has changed, but their wealth or power has increased, altering every relationship they have.  If they continue on the same way, they will find that their old relationships will not survive.  To be successful is to be known and that in of itself completely changes every interaction you have with others who never knew you before.  Subtlety, it also changes your personal relationships.  Sometimes, people don’t understand this and continue going on the same way only for the relationships to fall apart.  Success can be a boon and a burden, but if boundaries are set early enough, those around you will understand that things are different now.  They may view it as if you have changed, but that is not the truth.  You are simply protecting your relationships with them.

Vek Labs

The Disorienting Experience of Never Feeling Like Yourself

gaetano-cessati-bvpWQI8Xb0k-unsplash

I’ve looked in the mirror after gaining 15 pounds and didn’t recognize who I was.  I’ve had a growing child inside me that made me feel physical uncomfortable and mentally out of place.  I’ve had skin issues where I couldn’t live my life as I usually would and felt as if others couldn’t see the real me.  There are so many moments that make women feel as if we aren’t ourselves.  These moments occur with alarming regularity and sometimes, we feel it all our lives, never feeling quite at peace with who we are.  When we’re in this head space, we put our lives on hold, our plans in limbo, and never quite acknowledge who we are in the moment.

The feelings may pass and we may eventually come back to feeling like who we are, but the experience itself is very real and disorienting.  How does it feel to never feel like yourself?  To feel as if you’re hiding within your own body, just waiting to come out once you know it’s really you?  To feel as if this body, this skin, this shell isn’t really you.  You can see it when women gain weight and they refuse to buy clothes to suit their different size.  When women save jeans that they no longer wear in hopes that they return to that person.  When girls only post pictures from a certain period of their lives because they don’t like how they look now.

We sometimes exist in this space that does not allow us to move forward, only dwelling on the past and who we were, making us feel as if we somehow aren’t good enough.  The journey back to who you are is personal and different for everyone, but the disorienting feeling is universal and very real.  It matters that we don’t feel like ourselves.  To just admit that admits that we feel off.  Some of us live our whole lives feeling off, not knowing how to even come to terms with this.  This is the most important step, to simply acknowledge our feelings and the space we are currently inhabiting.  It may not be where we want to be, but it is where we are and we have to at least accept it.

unsplash-logoGaetano Cessati

How to affect change by yourself

world

I heard someone pose a question to a celebrity, asking how they as an individual, who didn’t have any clout or resources, could help change the world.  As a person who was not a celebrity or rich, this kid wondered how he could help add to the good of everyone else.  Although you do not have the resources or reach of those in the media, you can affect change simply by being yourself.  Yes, you can volunteer and donate if you can and those things are crucial, but what is more crucial is you and how you act.  Believe in who you are and live your truest life.  That means holding dear to your ideals and morals.  Not someone else’s morals, but simply your own.  Own who you are and do not be afraid of what comes your way.

When you respect yourself and those around you, always abiding by you own edicts, you teach others that it is possible to be a great human being.  When you know who you are and your role in your community, that is a powerful thing and others can sense that.  It manifests itself in everything that you do.  When those around you see that, they can be encouraged to the same and they in turn, can influence those around them.  You then create a ripple effect that reaches out infinitely, just by being yourself.  The change in this world does not usually happen through great, monumental shifts.  Usually, they happen in tiny whispers that barely anyone notices until the world we know is completely different.  Those whispers are contingent on being true to yourself and holding yourself to your own rules.  That is the test of a great person: someone who can do as they say.  If no one notices, you have lived your life as you wanted.  If one person noticed, they can see the possibility of doing it as well.