Be a what?

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#random So often I hear people say “be a man” or “be a woman?” I thought about it again and I am questioning what that really means. Aren’t they already a man or woman by gender? So what exactly are we telling them to be? What does being a man or woman even look like, if there is such a look or action(s)?

It is starting to sound like a redundant expectation of living up to something that you already are. Are we really trying to tell people to be more powerful, confident, more _________ (fill in the blank), etc? Then why don’t we just say that? We tell people to be a noun (man/woman) instead of guiding their behavior toward an adjective like an “admirable” man or an “ambitious” woman, etc. I don’t know about you but I don’t know how to aspire to be what I already am – a woman.

Maybe so many people are walking around the world lost because they are continually given the vague advice of “be a man” or “be a woman.” When I hear someone say that again, I will ask them for specifics.

What do you think? Comment below.

#LifeRant: Social Media – A Tribute to Yosra

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wpid-20140719_124651.jpgOh, the world of social media. People desire tons of followers, but not as many people want to lead.

Selfies, TBT (throw-back thursday), FBF (flashback friday), pictures of friends and family, social gatherings, and loads of other adventures fill Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and the list goes on and on. I will not lie; I would like more followers too, but recently I have been wondering if I am using my platforms to show and share what is of value or if I am falling into the tempation of sharing what will get more likes and shares. What is valuable and meaningful should become the most liked and shared things on social media; but let’s get real, it often is not. People share what others want to see and hear, and often times that does not equate to the most meaningful message(s).

In no way do I want social media to become so serious that it no longer acts as the escape from life I sometimes so desperately need. But, as a person that works with the younger generation everyday, I can’t help but wonder and be concerned that the majority of the images and messages they consume on social media are not always of the greatest substance. Naturally, I wondered if my contributions to the “look at me, like me, share me, laugh at me, me, me, me” world of social media includes enough of the message(s) that actually makes my “followers” “better.” Then again, maybe that is just too much pressure and responsibility; it’s easier to just encourage people to “watch” me but harder to ensure I am someone worth watching. Or, maybe I am just overthinking all of this and I just need to lighten up. I just can’t help think that technology has advanced to the point that we can keep in touch with our families, friends, and strangers all over the world, and yet most of what the youth sees and consumes is garbage (in my eyes). But, can we really blame them? Maybe the majority of the “loudest” things we encourage the youth to consume and those “loudest” things shared in society are garbage. We encourage people to “follow” us but where are we leading them?

I will never forget watching the social media statuses of 33 year old Yosra El-Essawy (Beyoncé’s World Tour photographer) throughout her year-long battle with cancer, which unfortunately she recently lost. Her positive attitude about cancer, her life, and reference for God was infectious. Even though I never met her in person, I interacted with her through social media with a “I’m praying for you” here and a joke or two there to help keep her spirits up. She chronicled her struggles and shared her fight, but she indirectly always found a way to convey a profound message through her updates. The amazing thing is that it seemed to me that she was only saying what she lived, practicing what she preached, and sharing what she believed long before cancer. She WAS a walking message and touched many lives through her photography, career with Beyoncé, and even in her death. To be honest, she probably would not say she “lost her battle with cancer,” but that she conquered a life worthy of Heaven and God’s embrace. Maybe, Heaven really couldn’t wait for her. I never knew Yosra, but she still impacted my life through her social media.

I am not asserting that we should all be Yosra, or that we should even make social media that “deep.” The question I am really asking is are we capable of showing those we know and those that follow us on social media anything worth “watching?” In a world where we can share our voice with the entire world, we are really quiet. A lot of people have questions – questions about life, love, hurt, complexities, confusion, and sorrow, and they are looking for answers, not just someone to look at. Some people want to be listened to, some people want inspiration, others want guidance, some love and laughter, others clarity about this complicated overwhelming world. Can you be the/an answer? Or, are you only good for a great picture? The answer can be a laugh, a smile, a positive message, hope, or truth. Sometimes people just need to know your testimony, the real you, the unfiltered you, the un-perfect you, the scarred and scared you, and the real “throw-back” story of your journey. They need to know that they’re not the only people with unfiltered, imperfect lives.

When it comes to social media we tend to only want to show off the good and never the bad, well at least I do. We want people to think that we are stronger than we often sometimes portray. But, people are not looking for a person who has lived life perfectly, but rather a person who has responded to life in a manner that made the end result “perfect” for them. You have something to offer whether big or small and it starts with opening your mind to more than the “selfie.” So, make sure that the people who are watching and following you at least leave your online presence with something more to hope for in this world. They’re watching and they’re waiting; maybe you have something they need.

Rest in Peace Yosra!

Let it Go.

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Don’t hold on to things or thoughts that are clearly making you sink. How silly is it that we feel ourselves sinking but refuse to release the weight pulling us down. What’s the worse that can happen – you float? Isn’t it at least better to float than drown? Let it go. No really, let it go.

Loving Those Closest To You

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wpid-20140723_165224.jpgFact: There are usually not that many people who we really share our complete-self with. Everyday we are so boldly confronted with society’s expectations of how we should behave that we learn to leave the house with a brave face, behave according to the norms set out for us by family, friends, and society, and keep most facts private for the sake of not ruining our image. If you’re a man, you have to project to the world that you are strong, confident, and ambitious. You have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and show women, and other men, that the unbearable “weight” is as light as a feather. If you are a woman, you have to show the world that you too are strong, confident, and ambitious. You are expected to carry the portion of the world that society deems suitable for the “woman,” and in addition, be the nurturer to those men, women, and children around you bearing their own load. Thanks to these demands, after birth we quickly realize that we need to “measure up.”

In all of that chaos, it can be very hard to find trusted people to share the real vulnerable “you” with. That is not to say that the true “you” is too much to handle; it just means that the vulnerable “you” requires delicate care. Since vulnerability requires a high level of trust, trusting that individual comes with the strong sense that they will be there for you – in good times and in bad times. Then again, they understand who you really are and are able to decipher your good intentions much easier than a stranger ever can, right? Exactly. Well, it is also for those same reasons that we are usually more likely to hurt those people closest to us. We believe that if anybody in the world should accept us for who we really are, it should be them; that if you make a mistake and say something the wrong way, or in a manner that is harsher then you would intend, they should be able to decode your feelings. Then again, we spend so much time throughout the day monitoring and creating the world’s view of us that when we come home to our family, friends, and loved ones they should be able to “just get it.”

Well, in the transition between letting down our guard and taking off our armor, it is very easy to hurt those that we love. We wear this massive armor all day, fight to maintain peace and success in our lives, are so tired from facing the world that we become careless in our weariness and may become more apt to make “mistakes” with those we love.

This post is just a simple reminder that the people you love are to be cared for, loved, and cherished just as much (if not more) then strangers. They hold your most vulnerable moments within their heart and for that reason they are to be cherished and loved just as you would love yourself. It is hard at times to give any extra energy to making sure that we don’t hurt our loved ones, especially when we are facing the world all day/week. But, if we are supposed to love our neighbors as our self, how much more should we love those that are closest to us? Just think of it this way, if those closest to you decided to stop loving you it would really be you against the world.

How do you show those closest to you that you love them?

Prepare for Success

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wpid-img_20130917_154940.jpgOne thing that I am always trying to get my students to realize is that they should take advantage of the time they presently have in order to work on building/exercising their skills in their own particular areas of weakness. Of course, getting high school students to see the bigger picture of the seemingly mind-numbing routine of the educational system can be at times a daunting and tiring task. I aim to get them to see that there will come a day when their career(s) or life in general will call upon these skills to perform. Life is lived skill upon skill, lesson upon lesson. However, as most teachers in any field, it is easy to forget all the times in both high school and college when I myself could have used my time more wisely to study harder and learn more; but of course, I preach to them nonetheless… a privilege of adulthood. *wink*

There is a valuable lesson to be learned in all of this for both the youth and adults: Use the time that you have in the present to prepare yourself to respond to the demands and dreams of tomorrow. It might be reading a book to keep your mind sharp for ideas of tomorrow; becoming healthier to be able to endure tomorrow’s journey; resting up today for the times when you might be working extremely hard on a goal; or, saving money for a rainy day or that dream vacation.

We, the “big people,” also need to be aware of the skills/areas in which we are weaker (in the hopes that if we put in the right effort those areas will improve over time). For some of us adults, those area may even be emotional. Maybe we need to become more aware of how our insecurities, poor communication skills, emotional issues, and past disappointments still linger around so that we are prepared to love and nurture those around us (and those that will come into our lives). Whatever the area, pay more attention to who you are, how you became that way, and also how you might change for the better, if necessary.

Use your life’s time wisely to benefit your life (and subsequently the lives of those connected to you) and chase your dreams while you have the time. We are purposed to find success in life but we spend too much time doubting our weaknesses and waiting for life to change; maybe it’s time we strengthen our own weakness and changed our own life. And as they say, “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”… but figure out why before you go acting like a fool by doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. As for me, I will keep trying to practice what I preach.

What are some things you do to grow and become a stronger person (mentally, emotionally, physically)?

Comment below, if you have time of course.

Violation.

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Being violated in any way, shape, or form changes you. It affects your mind in ways you never thought possible. But one thing it doesn’t have to do is permanently change you for the worse. You may never forget it and you may even think about it everyday; but, you should never let it ruin everyday. Once you’ve taken time to hurt – and yes you will think about it even after that – keep living through the thought. Whatever you do, don’t stop living the life you desire. If you’re having trouble moving on, seek help, talk to someone you trust, and get it off your chest so you can find some relief.

What are some things you do to get over a violation of any kind (friends, family, strangers, etc.)?

I Have a Mental Handicap.

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I think I have been living with a slight handicap. Though positive, sensible, and intelligent, my mind likes to drift toward over-thinking. I start out thinking about the great possibilities and outcomes, and then my handicap kicks in. What about the negative? What if this happens? What if that does not work? There is simply too much “what if it doesn’t” and not enough “what if it does.” In my world, everything negative “could” happen to me, but the reality is that it “doesn’t” happen to me. Yet, when it is time to take the next risk, my silly mind disregards the reality that I am more success-prone than failure-prone. If anyone else has figured out this phenomenon, comment below and explain this brain complexity to me.

In a world where we are surrounded by negative news, rare cases, and the need to report it all on local and national news sources, it is easy to believe that “bad” things are more likely to happen to us than the “good.” It is easy to fear that we are just one poor decision away from the “negative” knocking on our door.

I am starting to believe that there is some negative we can prevent and some that we cannot. If we reject the idea that perfection is attainable for humanity then we must also accept that the universe will not deal our life a “perfect” hand. The end result may look perfect but the process never is. As a child, if even one child was reported to have drowned on the news, my parents likely didn’t want us to go swimming that summer. Well, I should note that one of my siblings actually drowned before (but survived), so that might have contributed to their fear. The funny thing is that in my case I was actually on a swim team in 3rd and 4th grade so I knew how to swim. I was no Olympian in the making, but I could swim across the pool and back. Despite my training, my mind always considered the possibility that I might drown if I was not careful. So, instead of learning how to become a better swimmer, I learned to always keep the edge of the pool in sight. To make it worse, I heard of one man on TV drowning from a leg cramp, so I was quite sure that if I wandered into the deep end for too long my leg muscles would rebel against me too. I was letting the negative outweigh the positive possibilities. I assessed the risk and decided to be cautiously complacent.

There is nothing wrong with considering the risk in any situation, especially when it comes to goal setting and trying new things. My problem has been in balancing the pros with the cons. For every negative outcome there is also the possibility for a positive outcome. Yes, it may not work, but what if it does? Yes, you may get hurt, but then again you might not. Yes, your life may be altered, but maybe it might change for the better. All you need is one more pro than con for the entire scale to weigh in as positive. If there was any negative at all, I considered it a loss or potential failure. However, I don’t think life works that way — the positive just needs to outweigh the negative.

So what have I been doing to overcome my handicap you ask? For every negative fearful thought, I try thinking of the corresponding positive outcome. Then, I try working toward the outcome which will bring me the most happiness or success in life – usually that outcome is on the “pros” side of the list.

How do you balance your thoughts?

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