Do you remember when you were first on your own? Maybe that still meant access to family, from a distance. I consider going away to college my first experience. Sure, my mom may have paid most of the bills. I decided where to live on campus, what to eat, and whether to study or be social. I decided on most things, which included moving back to my mom’s house after graduation.
Moving on after graduation is something I have been thinking about a lot. The pressure from society is to have a “real” job at graduation, continue on with school, if that is applicable, or possibly, for women, end up married. Although my original graduation took place over two decades ago, I think about it because I completed school again almost a year ago. As far as the stereotypical options, marriage is not an answer and I have changed my mind (for now) about more schooling. My job happens to be the same as what I had during school. Since I have already been living on my own, that part is continuing as is.
What’s the point of all of this?
While some may still have the choice to live with family, I am solely responsible for myself. “Adulting” means I work for pay so I can take care of my bills. Adulting means that I make sure I have food to eat. Adulting also means if there are dirty dishes in the sink, I am responsible. If the dishes stay dirty, that is the choice.
What about a bigger picture?
Being concerned about my apartment or my bills or a job mostly contributes to the individual level. The bigger picture is realizing that how we interact daily with people and the environment matters. The decision to leave dirty dishes in the sink for a day or two might not effect anything outside of the smell. On the flip side, not shoveling the snow from the sidewalk in front of the house makes it harder for the mail carrier and other pedestrians to walk on the sidewalk.
It goes beyond the shoveling snow example. How many of those neighbors walking by do you even know? If you do know them, how do you interact with each other? For those who live in an apartment complex, how do you interact with people in your building, especially in common areas? Do you want to interact with people in any of these examples? Sometimes, there isn’t a choice in order to get something done.
We have a tendency to push responsibilities – procrastinate or declare the responsibility belongs to someone else.
Bringing it back around
What if we all decided to leave our dirty dishes in the sink? Maybe the number of restaurant customers would increase or maybe landfills would fill at a faster rate than they do now from the additional paper plate use. Whatever we decide, we are the examples for a younger generation, unless they decide to reject the example. Isn’t that part of the point – to learn from parents and those with more experience, and then as an adult, make a decision? I think society forgets (or ignores) that choices exist. In other words, my life’s picture may look a lot different than any expectations from family or society. As long as it is legal, isn’t that the more interesting way to make the world go around?
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever realized how much missing information you needed to know for a project once you learned it? An example in my case is that I have been trying to figure out how to do a project from the bits and pieces of information I have learned between an activity, observing or asking others questions, and watching videos. Then I went through a two-hour training of the machinery and attached software. That training made the process make much more sense and things clicked. I do not know yet if I improved the design I have been struggling to do. It is definitely more fun now to try to figure out.
The dots connecting in this case might seem obvious. The solution of having an opportunity to go through a training is easy when the opportunity exists. What about problems that do not have as easy of an answer? In “Going Deep: Why Environment Matters,” I discussed the issue of being spread thin. An obvious answer might seem to be to drop activities. Being able to drop activities or to drop them in a short period of time may not be an option. I have been thinking about this a lot since I know that something needs to change, and I have a solution to test.
The test relates to another interest – running activities or projects. Although it has been a while, as a member of the Jaycees, I LOVED coming up with projects to run. I have wanted to do the same within current organizations, and to date have not run more than meetings. One of the organizations definitely needs more activities either run or sponsored by members. Switching to this goal still keeps me involved in being a paying member and contributing to the growth of the organization. Since I have other responsibilities, I will have to decide if I am going to move on from some or all of those once I start adding the activities.
Meanwhile, the training has been inspiring. I love to make things for people as gifts. The new access means I can create a longer list of ideas. Plus, the longer list of ideas includes a list of activities. What I believe will help with my focus is to narrow down themes and the purposes I want to promote. I have been trying to think of ideas without those criteria and it is too broad. Or I’ll ask others and while their ideas may be good, they do not always fall in my skill set. To an extent, I can come up with something different than what I might normally do. If it is something I want to learn then I would practice as a part of the preparation for setting up an activity. Hosting activities also means that I may have topics I can develop on my website (as opposed to where you are reading this post). I like being able to teach and doing that within a particular theme and focus would probably be more valuable than a general chronology. What I mean is – topics can stay broad as long as there is a connection to the focus.
Overall, I find the pivot exciting and energizing. Maybe connecting the dots will also create a full picture that even I cannot imagine yet. What is your experience?
Thanks for reading!
Have you found that you are spread too thin and cannot be involved in all the activities you want to be doing yet can’t figure out what to give up? Would you rather choose to focus on one around your work and family schedule? When we spread out the way we do, similar to multi-tasking, we end up doing the minimum, sometimes barely, and not as well as possible. Being able to dive in deep and focus gives us the chance to engage. I know that I struggle because I like everything I am involved in, and it is too much. In a discussion with a doctoral student, she felt the same way about being in school. Nothing really zeroed her in, although she liked everything. She stated that the people she knows doing the best are out there making what they want to do happen.
What does it take to make something happen? I had the opportunity to facilitate a discussion in a psychology journal club (run by the same doctoral student) on the topic of going deep. This group is an example of being in an environment that is supportive at an intellectual level, and I am grateful to be a part of it. The doctoral student had advised looking at a special issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management with the topic of leadership and culture and choose two articles (noted at the end). One of the articles had a table that compared the needs of the working world versus characteristics of young professional. Some of the characteristics seemed to apply to a greater population. For example, being a passive consumer versus a dynamic creator. Also, doing as told versus seizing the day.
If you are willing to be a dynamic creator and want to “seize the day,” does that mean you will be able to? Here is another example of how the environment matters. Think about where you work (or have worked). Have you ever been encouraged to come up with ideas on a project, only to be shut down? Or maybe the words and actions do match, and you and the people around you thrive because you are given that opportunity. Those opportunities also encourage personal growth, which is another benefit. Being shut down, though, is like stating that you are not worthy. Being shut down or told what to do is a control. Sometimes, the controlling is necessary to make sure things like vision, mission and goals stay in alignment. Are there other ways to manage? How this is done is usually a part of the culture, and culture is typically based on what leadership does.
When being shut down happens to me and there is something keeping me connected, I may stay and at the same time look for other activities. In my life, for example, I have a paid job, I volunteer at a place where I am also a member, and I am a part of my local neighborhood board of directors. On top of these choices, I also have to maintain the personal end, such as grocery shopping, paying bills, cleaning my apartment and that I am eating/sleeping/exercising enough. That’s a lot, and I’m only one person! I do try to incorporate things such as biking for transportation because that is also exercise. For those who have a family, then some of the personal end also means making sure the family has what they need. After that, how do we have energy left to be creative and explore new interests? Is this why a more controlling structure evolved?
Again, I believe this is where environment matters. The people who I know that thrive are the ones with a great support system. Maybe parents take turns driving several kids in a carpool. Maybe grandparents babysit so the parents can have a break from that role. Maybe company leadership provides more of a support and feedback system instead of micro-managing. Maybe a group of friends takes turns with making a meal or cleaning or the group is good at knowing resources. How can there be growth if we keep following what society has taught us and keep to ourselves, listen and not question what leadership is telling us to do, and only seek answers?
Sometimes, being spread thin is a way to try different activities. At the local art institute, for example, they have an open night every once in a while. On the open night they have classrooms setup and each has a different type of activity related to their art school. Participants are able to try the different activities and see if they want to explore it further. What a great way to sell art school classes! And, what a great environment! Anyone attending already has that mindset of exploring. It sounds more like fun than work. Plus, once you do start learning and practicing, you have the chance to become really good.
The conclusion of the journal club discussion did not end with any solutions. I still do not know how to narrow down the activities so I can have the focus and become really good at something. The point of the journal club discussion and also this post, is awareness. If we are aware that there are different choices and that environments can change – at least your personal one – then we might be likely to ask the right questions and come up with solutions. What I do want to focus on is writing, although I do not know if writing is my answer. When it comes to environment and going deep, what do you think?
Thanks for reading!
Articles I read:
Geller, E.S.(2015).Seven Life Lessons from Humanistic Behaviorism: How to Bring the Best Out of
Yourself and Others, Journal of Organizational Behavior Management,35:1-2,151-170
Krapfl,J.E. & Kruja,B(2015). Leadership and Culture, Journal of Organizational Behavior
Have you ever missed doing something that you have felt spoiled when the you get the chance to do it again? In my case, I have missed driving a car. I do not miss owning one. Or, to be more precise, I do not miss the expense of owning a car. However, I do miss the freedom it can bring.
My first love for transportation is my bicycle. I haven’t ventured out in the coldest or snowiest of days here (in Michigan), so I get to ride at least for six months of the year, and probably closer to nine months. I stay somewhat close to home. In the last year or so, one regular ride has been about 3.5 miles round trip, which is short in comparison to many bicyclists. Most of the people who I know tend to own at least one vehicle and drive. The fact that I do not own a vehicle is weird to many of them, or they feel sorry for me. I owned at least one car up until four years ago. A friend of mine asked to buy it for her mom. My friend knew I wanted to live a lifestyle of utilizing public transportation or my bicycle. I knew that lifestyle would work ok in Kalamazoo, and I needed the money more than I needed the car and agreed to sell the car to my friend.
Since that point, when I have needed (or maybe, wanted) transportation beyond my bicycle or the bus, I have rented a car. Renting requires enough available funds on a credit card for the hold, besides the cost of the actual rental, which has meant there have been times that needing or wanting a rental didn’t matter. It wasn’t going to happen. I am happy that renting is a current choice. Other than riding my bike, I am tired of the rest of the choices, and that includes Uber and Lyft, which I used quite a bit in the winter. A year ago, even riding Uber or Lyft would’ve been too expensive. Now, I can count them as a choice. Most of the time Uber or Lyft are faster than a bus ride and better temperature controlled than riding a bike. If this counts as being spoiled, so be it.
This particular week I reserved a rental to travel to a dental appointment. The dentist and her family are my cousins, and they live about 35 or 40 miles away. I like going to my cousin because I like her as a dentist, and it is a chance to catch up personally. It’s a bonus to see the rest of the family. This was the first trip in a year and a half that has worked out where I could rent a car and I could go to the house after the dental appointment and visit more of the family. It turned out to be a beautiful day for the end of February and we spent most of the time outside at the house, enjoying the sun. I drove the scenic route back to Kalamazoo for a meeting, leaving my cousins, and the sun, behind.
“How long have you had your car?” Someone asked me at the meeting.
“Since about 11:30 this morning,” I responded. I also noted that I had to return it by the same time the next day. That pretty much ended any conversation, and then the meeting began.
When the next morning came, I noticed the sound of rain. The air outside felt really cold, too, when I left to return the car. I decided to ask about an extension. At this point, it definitely had become a want. The sales agent looked for a deal and I agreed to a new term to keep the car through the weekend, a total of a five day rental. I knew I had to make the time worthwhile.
How have I made the rental car worthwile? Chores, for one thing. I have a sleeping bag that I use for a top cover and it is too big to put in the washer at home. The laundromat is the easiest place to go. Bonus that I had paid work I could do while sitting and waiting for the machines to do their things.
Secondly, I wanted to remove a bunch of items cluttering up my space. I live in a studio apartment, and anytime I can remove items it feels good. I took my shredding to a box at the credit union, and I dropped off items at a Goodwill. Time to start the next pile.
Thirdly, I went shopping! Shopping is not something I am limited to by car. It definitely is faster to go by car and it is easier to go to multiple places, especially if they are not next door to each other. With the bus, especially, everything has to be planned out between the route and the timing of the schedule. Plus, only so much can be carried on the bus. If it happens to be crowded then the only room you have is your lap. A car has trunk space. I went grocery shopping the same day I went to the dentist so I wouldn’t have to worry about it after returning the car. Since I kept the car, I will probably go again on Sunday night. I also went to a few other stores because they had items that had been on my list at potentially better prices than where I regularly shop. One of the places I had forgotten about and am glad I thought of it. I now have new pillows and cases, plus new bathroom rugs. More upgrades. Yes, I find this exciting!
Finally, I gave in to a craving and drove 4.5 miles south to pickup lunch. If I didn’t sound spoiled before, then this probably does make me sound spoiled. I would not have ridden my bicycle to do that (at least, not that particular direction and distance). The bus would have taken too long to just have gone for lunch before traveling to the next place I had to be. I sat in my car for a while to eat lunch, too. The sun made the car feel nice and warm, and I could listen to music from the radio. It’s something I used to do when I drove to work. If you’re in a big enough lot, a car is private, or it doesn’t take much to move away from the building. Like many other drivers, I consider a car an extension of a home space. Riding in someone else’s car for Uber or Lyft are not the same. The bus definitely is not the same. A bike can be. I have not added any carriers to my bicycle, so the extension is not true in my case. All I carry is the backpack that I wear.
How many times do you get up and go for a ride, go to the store on a whim, or not think twice about the weather or distance because you are covered and driving is fast enough? I still believe in using public transportation. At the same time, I also miss driving. Trying to go car-less is similar to swimming upstream. It is not an easy thing to do in the places I have lived. At least I know I will make the most of having the car and enjoy the experience for one more day until there is a next time. I am grateful to have the option. What do you think about public transportation versus owning a vehicle? What is your experience?
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever been on the edge of something and could not quite grasp it? Maybe the name of a person when you recognize the face, or a tidbit you heard. It is frustrating, right? What if what you are normally good at, which might be remembering names and not just faces, feels blocked? Communication, instead of flowing freely, is more jagged in the same way glass might crack. In other words, what you are trying to say, if it reaches the intended audience, becomes distorted while traveling. The distortion means that for the communication to redirect, it takes work, and everyone involved must be willing to try. Does this sound like truth or weirdness?
I have noticed this phenomena in my own life and in particular during the last year. Part of noticing at all is through the attempt to increase self-awareness. Being self-aware is an ongoing journey and the more I learn the more I realize there is still a long way to go. What I have noticed is that actions and communications in one environment are sometimes taken differently in another environment. This is not true one hundred percent of the time or with one hundred percent of the people. Sometimes others involved do not try or will crack those jagged lines further and it makes it hard to patch things up.
One of my interests includes learning more about leaders and leadership and how an organization can be effected. Since an organization is made up of people, that means there are emotional effects. Organizations are alive, in a sense. It’s more than the communication or the name at the tip of your tongue. If the person in charge has certain attitudes and emotions, anyone around is likely to “catch” and possibly reflect those same attitudes and emotions. I mean, if the person in charge is doing it, and that person is seen as having a high quality of character and worthy of the position, then it makes sense some would intentionally mirror that person. The leader in this case is being considered someone worthy to follow, from mannerisms to habits to attitude. We learn by example and many times it may be intentional. Did you ever play house and have a role as a parent and mimic your own parent, for example? It also means there are others who may not realize why a good day has turned sour. It is similar to driving to work and not remembering what route you took. Another version is that you can be aware of that change and pinpoint the source of the reaction, or, while in route, you enjoyed the scenery.
The last point has been challenging. First, not everyone is or tries to be self-aware. I have been working on increasing self-awareness for over ten years. It works if you’re intentional about it. When an area you are not used to being “off” is hit hard, the immediate instinct is to react. Kind of like the “fight or flight or freeze” that we hear about. This is where yoga and the self-awareness journey have helped me – they have taught me to pause, and then react to the situation, not my emotions to the situation. Reacting with that initial instinct usually causes unneeded trouble. If someone told me I had to fight it out on the playground at recess, I wouldn’t be surprised. Other times, it could be junior high and a constant “Mean Girls” (boys, too!) movie on repeat.
The part that really gets me about the communication is that many times I have had the skills or the interest where creativity will flow. In the jagged glass environment, all of those skills and interests are like the name that can’t quite be remembered. Eventually I am reminded and realize that. What it feels like is a wall or some barrier pushing down while the “correct” answer is being coerced (sometimes nicely) to the front. Is this related to controlling by fear and the automatic reactions that have been programmed into our lives?
I bring up this topic to try to figure it out and to return to the topic of community. Funny thing is, others in the same community are immune because they have a different focus. For example, I have observed one person with a project and another person who wanted to learn the same topic ending up in the same room. They verbally agreed to work on the project together towards both of their goals. I have seen this several times. It has to be the correct mix of people, though, and it probably depends on the approach and the project. I have tried the same thing and have received more attitude than support from the idea. I find it all as interesting as it is nauseating. What keeps me hooked is that I have had enough of the times I have enjoyed to keep returning. The question is – which part will last?
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever started missing a group of people, especially if you knew many of them would be together? I remember thinking about my high school classmates as the 10-year reunion time grew closer. I hadn’t stayed in touch with many classmates, yet after knowing most of them for the majority of my first 18 years of life, I found myself curious. They are definitely a circle of people who float in the background of my life, and I am happy I attended the class reunions.
Close to five years ago I became involved in the Startup Grind community. Although primarily local connections, I also had a global connection, at least to headquarters (“HQ”), right from the beginning. Plus, since the Global conferences are live streamed, I could watch them on my laptop and connect to the Kalamazoo director at the event in Redwood City, California.
Why do I bring this up? Eventually, I became the local director and attended the Global conference two years in a row in Redwood City. The minute someone is added as a director the person becomes a part of the community. Or, as the director in Israel would say, “a part of the family.” We connected to each other through Slack and Facebook and Basecamp and even email, and then we connected in person, at the Global conference, as friends. In fact, this last point is important because it is one of the values of Startup Grind – “Make friends, not connections.” I loved it and being there with everyone, and I know I made friends cause I am not directly a part of Startup Grind anymore, and there are still some who I talk to now. Plus, when I told the community director about resigning, he responded with “You’ll always be a part of the family,” and I believe it.
Well, Monday (2/12) is when Startup Grind Global 2018 began, so many of the directors I know are in California this week. I have been feeling slight withdrawals the last couple of months since I knew I wouldn’t be going. Actually, even last year I knew I probably would not be back in 2018. In fact, because of the use of references to Douglas Adams and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”series, last year I posted a photo to the group on Slack and stated “So long, and thanks for all of the fish.”
The purpose of mentioning Startup Grind and even my classmates is because of community. If a global group of people in an organization are able to connect as friends and family, then why can’t that happen at a local level? Maybe a better question is “How are those connections made that create the feeling of a family?” We are so “busy” with life that many of us do not engage with what is happening at the moment. Or maybe we are not interested or trusting is difficult, so we do not take the time to know people as who they are.
To me, the relationship matters. I want to hang out with people who care about each other, however that translates. It could mean a short check-in, or bringing a treat, or just listening. The biggest present can be being present and not trying to multi-task. My favorite would be that last part and also eating together. A group can be a group by association, and that’s all it means. You are a member and so am I.
Overall, I realized that both of my examples are definitely in the past. I haven’t been glued to the Startup Grind livestream today, and that is ok. The same is true of my classmates – if I’m traveling to the Detroit area and might have time to see some of them, that’s cool. For day to day, though, it is the people who are around me who count. The ones in the present. The ones who participate or are interested in the same activities, and who overlap on lifestyle goals.
Strangely, for all the people who fit into this, the amount of conversations have gone down, not up. How is it possible to be a part of a community and know that the goals and values are important and yet have constant challenges that may or may not be growth oriented? Or have communication misunderstandings partially because there is an unwillingness to take the time and have a discussion that might clarify? What would you do, other than keep searching for a new community group of people?
I made more room in my kitchen for kitchen stuff after dumping all of my photo albums. How are pictures connected to the kitchen? I live in a studio apartment, which means shelves and spaces are used as needed. My photo albums fit perfectly in the highest built-in shelf over the kitchen sink. Although there are still boxes of photos on that shelf, it now contains more kitchen items, too.
But, wait – dumping photos? What do I mean by that? And from the person who used to write about photo preservation here, how does that make sense?
I’ve wanted to do something with these albums for several years. Most contained 100 pages, equaling about a year in my life. I started them at 12 or 13 years old, and continued for 15 to 20 years. The pages I created, especially when younger, contained everything I could fit in different layouts – movie tickets, haircut receipts, paper bookmarks with the name of the book written on it – everything – plus photos. These might have been scrapbooks before scrapbook albums became popular (yes, I made those, too). Safe archiving of memories and the items is a reason to create the albums. What I had used were the “magnetic” page albums. Each page was sticky and had a covering you could pull back. It turns out that those albums are NOT archival safe. In other words, by keeping them I was also destroying my photos.
Since I liked a lot of the layouts, I had thought about taking pictures of the pages and redoing them. I tried several times, but it didn’t work very well for the 100 page albums. I did transfer a 20 page album that way. That project was ok. The bigger project was tedious and seemed neverending. Did I really need to do it?
Being done with school has given me additional time to work on projects, and I really wanted to purge. I decided to make it a project I could work on at the makerspace, one set of album pages at a time. The photos I wanted to keep went into a sheet protector. Everything else – garbage (or recycling).I still took pictures of the pages I liked the most, just to have. I am definitely not going to try and recreate anything. And, yes, I did rrrrriiiipppp up and/or throw away many photos, which felt really good, and probably seems anti-Stacy.
As you might expect, I took many trips down memory lane going through the album pages. Some I couldn’t wait to destroy while others I would share. For example, when I was around 22 or 23 and had significant hair length. Or photos from college that includes friends I still have today. Those were fun and started interesting conversations. While married, we once had a dog for a month, which was not as fun of a story. In fact, most of the photos that had my ex-husband I shredded. If I could’ve burned them, I would have. I did keep some of the photos of the lighthouses or other travel scenery if they looked generic and didn’t include either of us in it. If you look at my stack of sheet protectors you could probably tell which groups contained youth Stacy and which contained married Stacy. Lots of reflections.
Going down memory lane definitely promotes thoughts of life lessons. As I looked at the photos and thought about the subjects, it made me wonder. We all have patterns. Could I figure out any of mine? Some of those people who were so important once I would probably never see again. Others, I would be ok with no interactions. What else? One of my favorites times was going away to school and living in a college residence hall. I don’t even remember exactly how I made a particular set of friends. I think we all had mutual connections and ended up together as a group. Especially during Freshman year, they were my family. We ate meals together and socialized or sometimes studied together. Plus, between roommates and suitemates and all of their friends, it was easy to meet a lot of people without going far. Eventually, I made friends with classmates in the same major or with an interest in student television. That group was fun in a learning environment way and we had a lot of fun creating different styles of television productions.
As you might expect, most of those people are not in my life anymore, just a few on the outskirts. I’m not wishing for them to be in my life. What I do wish for is to find those groups of friends on similar paths who care, at least for the moment, about the well-being and interests of others in the group. The group that is like a family and wants to see success. When I chose the residence hall or the major or a particular order of classes, that led me to these people in the past. Now it seems to be the activities I participate in or the organizations I belong to that create the chance to meet people. What if the pattern is being attracted to the ones who seem to care yet it is all on the surface or it only works while everyone is in agreement. I mean, when I reflect on growth and the relationships that have mattered, it is because we would learn from each other, look forward to seeing each other, and care about each other.
In reflecting on that, it makes sense which photos and pages are worth remembering through a photo of them and why others could be destroyed. The amount of photos printed are a lot lower now because of digital photography. Are more of the relationships we have these days like that, too – easy to forget about or delete the photos, if the moment is even captured? There’s a line often quoted about people being in our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Partially because of that, I now have more room in my kitchen for kitchen stuff.
Thanks for reading!
I’ve been reading more. What I have been reading is specifically about writing. Something I find interesting is that other friends who are usually “vocal” writers and may not have written in a while seem to have the same issue – a wanting, maybe even a need, to write more. Personally, I feel like I haven’t completely stopped and it is a different problem. When I sit to write it’s similar to laryngitis and speaking – the ability is still there. What comes out is a whisper, so unless someone is paying attention, there isn’t a chance to be heard. Trying to project more creates a sore throat and a bunch of gibberish.
Dropping the Mic
Something that is not new is my tendency to mumble. I guess, in a sense, that’s my form of laryngitis even when my throat is fine. It is having something to say and only stating loud enough where those who are paying attention near me will counter with “speak up” or “what did you say?” If the questions don’t happen much, then the mumbling gets worse because the feeling is that no one cares or is paying attention.
Recently, several people have made it clear, whether by being mean to me or pausing others to give me a turn, that letting me speak is important. I have had much more practice at writing my thoughts versus speaking my thoughts, so speaking out loud might not be as eloquent as when it is typed out. While a member of Toastmasters, I received advice to write out my speeches, then practice them out loud and rewrite what I said instead of what I wrote. The vocabulary and expressions between writing and talking were not the same. It took practice. The environment made it possible. I am back to practicing (without the Toastmasters club), and it is a mixed environment. Drawing on that Toastmasters club experience and a lot of karaoke, I decided to lead a recent meeting by using the microphone and solving this problem for the duration.
I am not afraid to use a microphone. In fact, they can be fun. I can speak at my normal level and everyone can hear me, even in the back of a room and over a loud fan. So, I am thankful for those who have asked me to speak up. I’m doing it. This isn’t the end of the story, though.
The other part of speaking up is being heard.- validated Now that my voice clearly traveled from my mouth to your ears, did you understand what I said? Did you listen and maybe even repeat back how you understood things? Although you don’t have to agree, before you tell me what I said is wrong or not what we’re going to do, or it is stupid, at least acknowledge that we’re on the same page. If you are talking about oranges and I am ranting about apples, then the only message that did get through is that we both are referring to fruit. It had nothing to do with mumbling or “laryngitis.” Unless there is an apparent danger, stop. Listen. Understand. Continue discussion. In fact, since you’ve made it this far, let’s discuss now.
I’ve been thinking a lot about patterns and how we tend to stay in the same pattern until a lesson is learned that can change our behaviors. Why have I been thinking about this? I have been wondering what lesson I’m missing and it seems part of it might be about communication and maybe related to power versus empowering. For example, if someone takes the time in a discussion to make sure everyone is heard, that is empowering. If someone gets along with you while you agree and not otherwise, that is a problem. If decisions come down to one person’s viewpoint, right, wrong, or different, all of the time, that may be a problem, too. Continuously bringing up the topic as a “discussion” item and not acknowledging differing opinions is not a discussion. Opinions of other people are just that – personal opinions. If your personal opinion is different it may be because you have a different background than the other person, or have come to another conclusion. This is supposed to be ok. You go and ride the fastest roller coaster. I’ll stick to the merry-go-around. Both are ok and we’ll get along better if we acknowledge that and don’t try to convince the other. Offering can be ok as long as it is not demanding. Maybe I have changed my mind about riding the rollercoaster and I appreciate the opportunity. Maybe I will never want to go on a fast ride and I acknowledged and passed on the choice, still thankful for the opportunity.
The pattern I see is that as soon as I work on my “voice” and let people know what I am thinking, the reaction is based on how much agreement there is or the reaction is like a pat on the head. “Good job for trying! Now here is what the real answer is.” This is what my environments have been like. The saddest part, to me, is that some people seem to pay attention and maybe even value some of what I have said and will not engage in discussions anymore. Instead, I am lumped with others to ignore or not value or treat roughly. Unneeded drama and hypocrisy. Excuse me while I *cough* go suck on a candy.
Are you one of those people who can think of a million answers after it is too late? The “that would have been a great answer!” except it doesn’t matter anymore? In a conversation last night the idea of metaphorically “being ass kicked” came up. I definitely get kicked quite a bit and in fact have felt sucker-punched in the stomach several times (at least) this year. Sometimes the points are valid and sometimes it is a lot of hot air coming out. I take it all into consideration and throw out what doesn’t seem fitting to me and then move on.
Really, though, I like it better when I can do the kicking instead of always being kicked. “When have you ever kicked ass?” said someone involved in the conversation. Although awhile ago, I thought about when I left my married life, and used that as an answer. Since that conversation I have thought about it more and of course have other answers. Even an extended version of my first answer works since leaving my married life meant living on my own, and I have been doing that for almost 9 years. Maybe it’s not always about kicking someone else, either. Looking back through pictures, I realized there have been many significant moments especially during the last 9 years and either way, it helps with growth.
For example, owning the microphone, first for karaoke, and then to present or pitch a business idea that at the time happened to be close to my heart. The photo is of the pitch towards the beginning of the experience. I had to let go of that same business, which felt like being kicked. Without that experience I would not be the same person today. Other examples have been running in 5ks and traveling by myself and moving several times, also by myself (with help from friends!)
I’m still better at writing than I am at an immediate comeback. In fact, during my time in Toastmasters I took the advice of another writer in the club. I would write what I wanted to say for a speech and then read it and change it for speaking. When do we ever have time for that outside of a Toastmasters club, though?
Sometimes, it is not about what I have to say and more about having the chance to say it. What I mean is – not waiting for permission or to be asked and jumping in. It is a skill I am determined to improve. Improving means being aware and pushing myself to practice. That also seems to mean returning to what I learned in Toastmasters and similar experiences – speaking clearly and loudly and not hesitating to find the words to make my point. Some environments are rougher than others when it comes to the reminders yet it all comes down to the same points.
Friends have been what has made the difference. The main group I hang with now is an interesting bunch, which definitely makes it attractive. I’m not sure how many of the people are friends vs people I know. For the conversations, at least, it hasn’t completely mattered. I like the intelligence and the fact that we watch movies or “Rick and Morty” and, of course, the creative aspect. We all make things, and it has been fun (so far) to learn how to use new tools and machines (or to continue to use what I already knew how to). For another kicking, how about the day I learned to use the miter saw and used the skill to help rebuild a wall? One of the coolest days ever that someone else decided to capture with some photos (thanks!)
I guess there must have been something in that conversation that inspired me to write for the world after being silent here for over a month. The words, again, have come late. Hopefully, this is significant to more than just me and the words continue to flow.
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever noticed how people start to look alike the longer they are around each other? This definitely seems to be true of couples. Sometimes, you may have noticed it with an owner and a pet. Back when we were still married, my ex-husband and I found it cute to wear similar items – a jacket, a sweatshirt, or maybe a baseball type cap. When they were items I would wear anyways, it seemed fun. What happens if it goes too far and you lose your own identity? Is it better to have that mix?
I have been thinking about this because it happens to more than just couples. When you are in an environment long enough, the others around you are going to rub off, whether fashion or other characteristics. In fact, I have heard discussions about becoming like the average of the 5 people you are around the most. I don’t know if this is completely true. I do know that it worries me when I think about the different environments I am in and what that might mean. Where my ex-husband and I intentionally dressed alike at times, I find other examples more subtle. In fact, over time, these become a part of the norm. What can change that?
About 10 years ago I decided I wanted to change things about me and my life. That decision created the start to an awareness and a reason to seek out feedback. It was intentional, just like the example of dressing similar. I worked on all aspects that I could think of – joined new groups, shopped for new type of clothes and had friends with me for support and feedback. I explored whatever I found that seemed relevant. Being intentional and creating that awareness did and has made an impact. I have branched out to try more things and also kept the previous feedback in mind.
I had a lot of life changes in a short period of time – new job, divorce, moving several times and returning to school. The last point, school, has been significant. It gave me time and access to people and resources on campus to be able to work on better health, for example. I had healthcare without a full-time job, and I could use the gym and participate in classes offered, which helped me explore options such as yoga and running. I didn’t find too much significance in my degree program until one of my electives.
I loved all three electives. One in particular changed the way I thought about things and I wished more of the classes had done that. Changing the way you look at things could be as easy as sitting on the ground instead of up in a chair. The point is that if we are so used to sitting in the chair we may automatically use that perspective. Realizing that more perspectives exist opens the mind. In that class, I realized how tight norms could be. In that class, I began to let the norms unwind and let them go.
The problem with going against norms is that it can be an uphill battle. It can mean losing out to follow what I believe is right over what is expected. When I had an idea about solving a problem, instead of burying the thought, I brought it up and developed it and learned a lot from the experience. I like hanging around people who have that mindset and it encourages me to keep on this path. That uphill battle still exists, though.
I feel like I have hit something similar to that class previously mentioned. More schooling has taught me a lot about the world related to behaviors and general human development. Overlapping the last couple of semesters, for about a year I have been around new people. As a group, we have been creating an organization. The discussions have been a mix of perspectives. Whether there are compromises or a win, it’s been an uphill battle. Probably the most difficult is the work that goes into creating the organization based only on pieces and examples. Still, I feel like things are changing for me as they did the way the one class did. I’m not sure it is the culture I want, yet I know I am absorbing some of it because I am there. Expressing myself as I want to does not always work well. Part of the battle is paying attention and understanding the different perspectives, with or without agreement. Similar to school, I am there to learn and participate and work at full engagement. Still…
How do you hang on for a bumpy ride when there is no seat belt? Since there is no seat belt, do you have to hang on or do you get ready to jump to the next ride instead? Or maybe coast with a foot in two different cars? It might even be like Twister, with hands and feet on separate circles. That’s probably the most stressful of all, yet this world says “Bring it on!”
If this makes any sense to you, please comment with your thoughts or questions.