Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More young people working multiple jobs........Yes, we're educated too

When we youth complain about our lot in life, the older adults are quick to remind us how "easy" we have it, how they sacrificed to give us a better life, and how we just have to work harder. What these adults don't often realize is that, no, we don't have it easier. In fact, we have it much harder. We have to deal with huge government debts and a swath of problems overseas (caused by these generations of older adults) that we never had to deal with in the past. Now, in this economy, we have to work multiple jobs to survive. According to this article, more of us college graduates are taking multiple part time jobs. Not because we're actors who need the days for auditions, not because we want to live outside of the typical workweek, it's because now, we have to.

Guess what? When we were in high school, applying for colleges, doing sports, music, and community service to have that "well-rounded" application, no one ever imagined this as our lot. While I do believe in the value of a college education (both for the mind and the paycheck in the long run), it is amazing to me that adults in our lives sold us onto college with the idea of making money. Luckily, my parents didn't emphasize that (they just wanted us to be educated), but the parents of so many others did. Further, our teachers would in those "career clusters" we had to participate in. As long as you studied hard, you could make something of yourself.

They didn't tell us it was now more about networking. They didn't tell us that we may have to either afford to work at multiple full-time unpaid internships or do said internship and work at a part time job on top of it to pay the bills. Of course, for the latter, even if you swing the job, you still have to move to a major metropolitan area if you're not already in one. They talk, talk, talk about the importance of a budget, of the need to put money away for retirement, without realizing that there is no retirement. There are no savings, period. Many of us give up our weekends and hopes for vacations so that we can afford our rent. For many of us, moving back home is not an option (nothing in my field back home). What about grad school? I want an MBA-something that requires work experience and something I've been told to let someone else (an employer) pay for. Further, many of my friends who went to grad school or law school suffer even more, due to the increasing amount of debt and the dangers of specialization (study what you want, by any means, but don't pigeonhole yourself too much).

I know I have an opportunity for next year, something I've been very fortunate to have. However, I see the situation of several friends, who either intern (paid) full-time and still have to wait tables, who have applied to nearly 100 places with no interview and no, they won't allow you to follow up anymore, who went to law school and graduated at the top of their game with good internships only to find that no one was hiring lawyers anymore. I have friends who nailed that entry-level job only to find that it doesn't pay quite enough to live and they still need the college job on the weekends (sales associate, restaurant server) in order to even hope for anything extra. Even though they have enough, the economy takes a toll in a different way, the toll of little rest and relaxation.

People bemoan the destruction of values, of families. For many of us, values are important but survival comes first. As for families, we're told we should be independent of our families of origin and, even if we wanted to start our own, we're too poor and too unstable to do so. Trust me, God willing my own relationship survives a couple of years, I'd gladly marry my boyfriend and I always wanted to have my kids young. However, a lot of that depends on our ability to draw a steady paycheck. Everyone says the American dream is to give your kids better than what you had. Well, until I can attain something leading to that, I will not partake. Besides, a kid needs parents who are present, not parents who are working four jobs each to survive.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Feminists-Not All One Type

People like to portray feminists as evil. We apparently hate men, hate children, hate our own womanhood, try to be men, destroy families, despise religion (yet, we're also all Wiccans, apparently), and mock any woman who conforms to traditional ideals of femininity. Every feminist apparently worships abortion as a sacrament and seeks to castrate every man on site. Well, as a feminist, a practicing Catholic, and in a loving, respectful, EQUAL relationship with my MALE partner, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong.

First, we have crazies in every bunch so you may see those types of women (however, Wiccans are excluded from the "crazies" part, but that's another post). At the same time, my qualifiers for feminism include the following: do you believe women should have the right to vote and to participate politically? Do you believe women should be paid equally for the same work, for the same quality of work, as well as have opportunities for promotion? Do you think women deserve to be protected legally from crimes such as rape and violence, regardless of her choice of wardrobe or whether or not she's sexually "pure"? Bottom line, do you think women should have the right to make their own choices? If you answered yes, you're a feminist.

What does that mean? It means we come in different shapes and sizes. Some of us come from traditional religious backgrounds and still observe these traditions (hello :)), while it doesn't work for others. Some of us belong to the LGBTQ community while others identify as heterosexual (and sometimes, that changes). Some feminists are MEN (my boyfriend is one:)). Some of us love shopping, fashion, and beauty, others could care less, others are middle of the road. Some vote Democrat, others Republican. Even if we respect a woman's right to choose, many of us have our own feelings about abortion (personally, I'm against it, I just don't want to see women die here, like they do in Kenya). Some of us wait till marriage to have sex, others don't. Some are stay at home moms (whether by choice or circumstance), others have careers. Indeed, some of us are stay at home DADS, and some are not. Some of us are parents, period, others are not. Some are young people, hoping to change the world, others are seasoned veterans. Some of us have backgrounds of military service, while others refuse to partake.

You can't always tell someone's ideology simply by looking. We may appear to you in power suits, summer dresses, jeans and a T-shirt, or our workout wear. Some of us may appear to you in clerical garb and religious habits, or with yarmulkes, hijabs (and other variations of Muslim dress), bindis, and other markers of distinct religious/cultural background. We may appear as your managers, your students, your parents, your politicians, your teachers, your scientists, your waiters, your musicians, or a mix of everything. We may talk about things like sports, the weather

Sunday, June 26, 2011

18-year-olds make me feel old....

I was at my restaurant job yesterday, rolling silverware with the other servers. Most of them were just turning eighteen, off to college and spending their summer working and hanging out with their friends. They were talking about their high school friends, previous travel experiences they took to beef up their college applications, and their adventures with fake ID's. It happens every summer. Each new crop of kids, some of whom used to be seating hosts, is now old enough to become a server and earn the accompanying pile 'o cash they can now spend for fun (those days seem forever ago to me). Old enough to know they're legal adults but young enough to still be protected by their parents, they live in a paradox of youthful arrogance and equally youthful naivete. I should know, I was there at one point (though I never had a fake....).

For the first time, however, I felt old. Not old as in, "My youth is done!" but old as in, that feels so far away from me. While they're thinking of summer parties and saying goodbye to friends and high school sweethearts, I'm looking for a new apartment and planning a budget on a stipend. While they are fretting over majors and focusing more on the social aspect of college, I'm contemplating career moves and grad school. While they can shop simply because they have the extra money, I'm making grocery lists and planning trips to Target to organize my space. While they can't wait to leave their parents, I miss mine. While they've been attending friends' Sweet Sixteens, I've been attending weddings. While they revel in the status of legal adulthood, I'm living an adult's life.

It's amazing to think that a human being can change so much in what seems to be so little. Four years ago, I was like them. I myself could not wait to get out of my small town (best decision I made after become Catholic and going to Kenya). I myself was so sure of things, whether of my dreams to be a doctor or of my high school sweetheart. While I did think of the future, my life was more about school clubs and friends. Of course, that all changed. My dreams changed, my relationship ended, I made new friends, and school clubs started giving way to jobs, internships and travel. I'm in a fairly new relationship now and realizing I made a much better decision this time around. I started living on my own and learned how to deal with banks and leases. While I'm a lot happier in DC, I realized that I do miss my family and coming home to visit is pretty nice. I learned that not making my bed every day just made me feel disorganized and that eating ice cream just because I could was the fastest way to sap my energy and make me need new clothes when I can't afford them. I learned that shit happens and all you can do is clean it yourself, regardless of whether you're the one who left it.

I understand why older adults yearn for that period of youth. You're so sure of yourself, because you do have some innocence, yet you're old enough to have freedom at the same time. For some of these kids, life hasn't complicated things for them yet, not through parental divorce, teen pregnancy, or the death of their friends. You feel the immense power of your youth, protecting you from all evils, feeling sure that nothing will ever happen to you. Yet, while all of this will disappear, it will give way to something greater. A feeling of purpose, a drive to succeed and contribute something worthy, a strength that allows you to pull through the difficulties. Friends who really do have your back, who choose to be loyal to you for no other reason than they simply want to. Maybe, one day, a partner who doesn't care about the loss of your youthful looks but loves you instead for what's inside and vows to stick with you till death do you part. Hopefully, it will give way to a greater capacity to love and to give, a sense of humility about your weaknesses and a sense of confidence about your strength. It is through this growth process that allows young people to become exactly what they wish to be.

That's part of why youth is so amazing. Not because of who you are at that time. It's because it allows you to choose who you will become. That's why we all hope to be forever young.

"Oh, if you just put some makeup on....."

I am not anti-makeup. On the contrary, I do like the ability to hide my zits and show off my eyes and lips. I see it as somewhat artistic and fun. It also never used to be a female only activity. Men in many cultures would do it to show masculinity and power (btw, same with long hair). What I do hate, however, is the expectation that I must wear makeup to look attractive. Especially when that looking attractive determines important decisions such as, you know, your career and your spouse.

I understand the need to look presentable. Even if you were at a party the night before, you should still show up to work clean, well groomed, and ready to hit the deck. That goes for men and women. For an interview, you should take extra time to take care of your hair, make sure your clothes are pressed and that you coordinate appropriately. For a first date, it's good for each party to spend some extra time on their appearance to make a good first impression. However, the expectation we seem to have for women is that they should appear no less than stunning at all times. Whether we face airbrushed ads selling unrelated objects such as cars or celebrities who can afford to have makeup artists, hairdressers, plastic surgeons and personal trainers live with them, we're given the illusion of competition. Rather than competing with our intelligence, our personalities, and our good will, we're competing with our images.

OK, world, how fucked up is that? We tell our little girls that appearance (so long as you're clean and healthy) doesn't matter, that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up and that they shouldn't focus on boys so much. Yet, when these little girls grow up, we're shameless in our hypocrisy. You "need" makeup and constant change of wardrobe to get that job, that guy (what if you don't even like guys?), to impress people. If you're not one of the few natural stunners, then you especially need makeup to "show off those pretty eyes/smile of yours." If there's one thing that makes me doubt our praise of meritocracy (and there are many), it's this one.

Think of how much money we spend, trying to look good. Think of what that money could have been used for. We could be investing that money. We could be using it to pay for our grad school education, to save for a wedding or a house, give it to good charities, or travel. Think of the time we spend fretting over our looks, time that could be spent reading the news, organizing advocacy events, and finding ways to make a difference in our communities.

Makeup in and of itself is not bad. We like to be creative with our appearance. However, our societal attitude toward it is quite disturbing. And that's just putting it mildly.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Why Scots and Italians are awesome......

Before I explain, I just want to say that I think all cultures have their own awesome ideas, artwork, proverbs, expressions, and food. I think all have something to contribute and I'm certainly proud of all of my ancestries, from the Scottish Highlanders, to the English, to the Germans, the Austrian Jews, the Florentines, and the Spaniards. Yet, my Scottish and my Italian that I've felt the strongest pull to. To me, they seem to be fiery, stubborn, proud, romantic, valient peoples who may not be the most powerful in the world but still manage to capture hearts. For some reason, that always resonated with me. Thus, my ode to the Gaelic and garlic that run in my veins. Why so awesome? Well.....

  1. Scots and Italians have the sexiest accents in the world. Seriously. All I need to hear is "Bellissima!" or "my lass" and I'm sold.

  2. They also make amazing music. The hairs on my neck stand up at bagpipes (which they BOTH have) and at well sung classical music. Celtic dance and tarantellas tend to awake something powerful within me. While music has the tendency to move me, the music of my ancestors will forever be special.

  3. We GAVE fashion to the world. Like plaid? You might be wearing a clan's tartan! Boots and handbags? Italians own the world with those!

  4. Good drinks. This particular contribution is why neither Italian nor Scottish Christians feel bad about drinking. If anything, we believe God gave it to us. Like any gift of God, it should be treated with respect, but we can enjoy in moderation. This crosses denominational lines.

  5. We're very tied to our families and communities and we protect our own. That's why it's important for an Italian to know his region and a Scot his clan. With regions come certain foods, flags and dialects. With clans come tunes, tartans and mottos, as well as other benefits (seriously, in America, they'll give you scholarships).

  6. For the Christians, we give the best in Christian theology. The Spanish, Irish and Germans may have a hold on this one as well, but Scotland and Italy are EXTREMELY respected places to study theology. Of course, Italy for Catholicism, Scotland for Protestantism (particularly Calvinism).

  7. Poetry. Who doesn't know Dante or Burns? Oh yeah, and they're both romantic :D

  8. Thistles and sunflowers :D

  9. Interesting cuisines. Haggis, anyone? How about rabbit? Squid?

  10. Due to every conquest in the world, as well as immigration waves and the need to create strong offspring, we can look like just about anyone. In either nation, you'll find beautiful blue eyed, light haired people, as well as beautiful dark haired, dark eyed people of every possible ethnic combination. And we can still call ourselves Scots and Italians.

  11. We don't need to be nation-states to prove ourselves :D

This is a small list of why I am proud of these two nations that compose a part of my heritage.

When bullying becomes dangerous

One of my childhood friends called me a few days ago. I was out, so I asked if I could call her back. She said yes. Later that night, when I got home, I checked my Facebook (as I usually do) and saw that she sent me a message. Her message included a link to news of a court case. From the first couple of lines, I knew it was about a dear friend of hers who committed suicide four years ago. Apparently, the boy was tormented by bullies to the extreme. While teachers had witnessed the event, my friend said that they would simply ask the bullies to calm down. The bullies were respected athletes and the teachers apparently cared more for their reputation than the boy's right to feel safe in a learning environment. Unfortunately, the judge declared that the school had no "special relationship" with the students and that they did not have responsibility in the death of this particular student. In response, my friend has written a petition to the U.S. Secretary of Education, stating a need to clarify teachers' roles in demanding accountability for bullies and making students feel safe. Here is the link to the petition as well as the link to the court case.

This all occurred in my friend's hometown, which unfortunately has a reputation for teen suicides. The reasons for these suicides involve excessive bullying. While I don't know all of the details for each individual student, it seems that there is an extreme lack of oversight into students' interactions. My friend is the daughter of a teacher (one who taught in that area) and is studying to become a teacher herself. Through her studies and her discussions with her mother, she has found that teachers must serve as "first responders" to crisis. While the teachers themselves may not have control of what students do at home, they do have the ability to intervene when a student faces intimidation or harassment. Through this, they have the ability to foster a respectful classroom community. As my friend witnessed, they did not. Due to teachers' authority and responsibility, it is natural that she finds this criminal.

I am asking all of you to please sign my friend's petition. In the U.S., it's obligatory to educate our children, usually by having them attend school 180 days of the year. As such, we expect that our children be safe and that our teachers diffuse any hint of a bad situation. More importantly, we are often taught that education is the great equalizer, the key to allowing others to follow their dreams. Those dreams are in vain if we are simply left with dead children.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

So much and yet so little

My life feels like I'm in a doldrum zone right now. Between the excitement of my college graduation, Americorps offer, and first serious relationship, my last semester was an intense wave of excitement. Before me lies an intense year with Americorps, one that I am sure will challenge me. Right now? Aside from waiting tables, seeing the boyfriend, filling out paperwork, looking for roommates and housing and reading Margaret Atwood novels (courtesy of a roommaate), my life isn't that exciting.

In a way, it is refreshing. I need time and space to breath. I have time to get in shape, to finally restring my guitar properly and play it, to spend time with friends, develop my relationship with my boyfriend, and to make some cash (very little extra). I need time to process the past few months and prepare for the next. Most importantly, I need time to do what I want to do. This fall, I'll be working ten hour days. I'll likely get home around 7, which leaves time to work out, eat dinner, prepare my clothes and lunch for the following day, and get ready for bed (hopefully, some nights I can see the boy). Weekends, I'll want to do my errands, see boy and friends and go to church. I get five days per semester to take sick leave or vacation.

Just writing all that made me feel tired. I'll admit, a part of me wonders if I'm truly cut out for this. I know that, despite my propensity toward stress, I thrive in the midst of chaos. Whether I was working nearly full time while taking upper level classes or studying while working in poor parts of Kenya and braving a four hour commute every day, I ended up succeeding. I want to do this work, I want to see where it leads me, I do want to have this experience. However, like before every big change, I'll admit to feeling nervous.

Why intimate relationships matter

While I do not agree at all with most of those politicians who say they promote family values, I see validity in one of their points. The family is the backbone of society and how we treat and value families is a reflection of what we want our society to look like. For this reason, I tend to focus more on intimate relationships in my blog posts.

Think about it. How you treat your partner and how you expect them to treat you is a reflection of what kind of society you want to live in. Do you want a society directed toward complete equality? Or are you more of a fan of equity (equal in worth and dignity but geared toward different roles)? What kind of family would you like to raise? What kind of community would you like to live in and help shape?

I find this true in my own life. I want a society that values women's place at work as much as at home and shows this through measures such as equal pay, maternity leave, and public support for breastfeeding. I want a society that values men's place in the home as much as at work and encourages this through measures like paternity leave and public support for fathers who choose to spend more time with their kids. I want a society that doesn't simply uphold suburban living as a method of raising good kids but upholds all types of communities, whether they be rural, urban, or suburban. I want a society that encourages community, whether or not it is comprised of a large extended family or simply like-minded folks who strive to help each other. I want a society that truly values families and supports this through supporting quality education, benefits for working poor families, and adequate leisure time for families to enjoy each other. So, why would I not expect this all from my partner?

Maybe I want to live in an urban setting. Maybe I want a good job that allows me to not only survive but to put money aside for things like vacations, my kids' college, etc. Maybe I want to only have two or three kids and focus my resources on raising them well, with opportunities I wasn't able to have growing up and that my parents could only imagine. Maybe I want my girls to see that they have potential and my boys to learn that girls are just as worthy of respect. Maybe I want a man in my life who respects me, who doesn't dismiss certain work as "women's work," and who understands that I will carry the full burden of pregnancy and breastfeeding, even if we split up other acts of child rearing fairly. Maybe I want a man who doesn't care if I make more money than he does and puts more emphasis on his character than on his dick. (Luckily enough, I'm currently with a kind, compassionate, pro-gender equality guy, but I don't want to say anything too soon if ya'll get my drift).

Personal is always political. My personal choices in life are a reflection of my worldview and my worldview is a reflection of my choices. Thus, I do think we need to consider the way we form and treat our own families as an extension of our politics. Families form society. If we want to change things, this is where we start.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I never really considered the aspect of transition from college. I've been paying my own rent for two years now, so that's not new to me. I won't have a "real job" for about a year, depending on what else comes up (companion and I are considering a stint abroad but we'll see). I still feel like I'm enjoying a college summer, due to the fact that I'm still a waitress and, when I'm not working, I'm either hanging out at my place, or enjoying time with my friends and boyfriend. As for my friends having "real lives," a good portion of my friends are considerably older and I've been attending weddings and greeting their new babies for quite some time now. However, I've been feeling the transition nonetheless.

Some of it comes from the fact that, when I obtain my lease for the coming year, I will probably not have college roommates. I will also no longer be tied to living near school. I can live downtown, in areas with good neighborhoods and affordable pricing, near metro stations that will likely take me to work. While my companion and others will still have papers and class schedules, I will be working from morning till evening and have a consistent schedule (for once). Appearance will take a greater priority as I'll have a uniform and be expected to look professional and well groomed at all times (not quite the same as a restaurant uniform). My conduct, which has always mattered to me, will matter even more (dear self, please wash your mouth out with soap.......several times).

I will not be purchasing textbooks this fall. Instead, I've been trying to add some adult pieces of clothing to my wardrobe, with the understanding that dress matters if others will take me seriously. I also need to accommodate for hips I seem to have sprouted overnight. I also have decided to take driving lessons, now that I can change my permanent address, and finally obtain my driver's license.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Christians and Tattoos: Compatible?

For years, I've been playing with the idea of a tattoo. For awhile, I had settled on a red fleur-de-lys, a symbol of both Scotland and Florence (two parts of my ancestry). However, due to the fact that they are both different, I changed my mind and decided on a thistle and a sunflower intertwined. Though I am composed of the blood of about five to six nations, I identify heavily with both my Italian and Scottish ancestry just because they seem to sum up my personality. Fiery, passionate, fierce, hungry for adventure, willing to eat many interesting things (haggis and rabbit, anyone?), lovely music (including bagpipes in BOTH nations), and an appreciation for sexy accents, as well as a healthy dose of stubborn, stubborn, stubborn, it's no wonder that I identify with it and would like to honor my ancestors with some ink in my skin. Of course, Catholic girl that I am, I often hear from Christians who wonder if tattoos are acceptable. Should a good Christian girl participate? Let's see.

Critics draw from a verse in the Old Testament that states, "Do not put tattoo marks on yourself...I am the LORD" (Leviticus 19:28 paraphrase). However, while it's easy to take this as a command from God, Leviticus commands many things, such as not to eat pork, not to wear two different fabrics, not to raise two crops on one area and that women were unclean during menstruation. Most Christians today would not bar a menstruating woman from participation during worship, think twice before putting on that cotton-polyester blend shirt, or eschew bacon and some of us environmentalists find that polyculture is much better for the environment.

How did we come to turn our backs on these rules? While Jesus and the apostles were observant Jews, they also expected His message of justice, mercy, and peace to spread to all peoples. Jesus kept the Law in His life but also made statements about how people's actions made them clean or unclean, not necessarily their food choice or their customs. St. Paul took this further by stating that works of the Law do not save people because, if they did, Jesus would not have had to die on a cross for humanity. Thus, it was not necessary for converts to Christianity to essentially become Jewish as well (probably a good thing for adult male converts ;-)). While we honor the place the Law had in our history, we also understand that it was meant for a time when cultural cohesion was literally a life or death situation. Christianity, however, was meant to be universal while the Law was meant for one people.

As a Catholic, this means I can get a tattoo provided that it does not send an anti-Christian message, it doesn't involve poor stewardship of my resources (such as my bank account) and, if I were a minor child, did not involve disobeying my parents. At the same time, I think having tattoos can be positive for a Christian. It shows that Christians are comprised of different peoples, from different backgrounds, cultures, points of view and styles. I can have a tattoo and be a good Christian, just like I can drink responsibly, date, live on my own, hold a politically progressive stance, go to a secular college, play rock music and wear jeans and still be a good Christian. Christianity is not a question of how I look. It's a question of how I live. As long as I work to uphold my principles, I don't think God really cares about the ink in my skin.

Plus, I'm honoring ancestries that produced some of the best in Christian theology, both Catholic and Protestant! So, it can only be a Christian tattoo :)

Not stuck in a role

One of the reasons I was so reluctant to even consider a relationship for a long time was due to the fact that people kept reminding me of "women's roles." I'd hear it from the more traditional crowd who believed women should marry young, have their kids, and let their husband provide. I'd hear it from the liberal crowd who'd say, "Screw it, have your life, your travel and your fun before you settle into that." Of course, my main question was, why can't I have both?

Obviously, marriage and children require sacrifices, sacrifices I can't think of making till I have a steady source of income. Hence, God willing this goes well, I'm putting such a huge decision off for a good couple of years. This will allow me to make sure I'm making a good decision, give me time to really see my companion for who he is and vice versa, and give us time to get on our feet and do things we want to do, like travel. Even if we decide in two or three years that it is something we want, engagement lasts six months to a year in the Catholic Church and, far from simply planning a wedding, it's a time of greater discernment, to ensure that you're making the right choice. My faith doesn't approve of divorce, thus our leaders aren't really big fans of shotgun weddings anymore (which is probably why the American Church is giving so many annulments--to correct for past mistakes).

At the same time, these sacrifices don't have to require either party to fit into gender roles. I made it clear from the beginning that I would never date a man who didn't believe in gender equity. That means, he couldn't assume I'd automatically stay home with the kids, should support me in my career goals as well as other aspects, had to believe women deserved equal pay and had a place in political office, and could not turn up his nose at the idea of a father having a more flexible career (sometimes, you would not believe how hard this is to find in devout Catholic circles). This doesn't mean I never stay at home, as that could depend on whose career is more lucrative vs. whose is more flexible. Yet I have options that my mother probably would not have had. I could work at home. One of us could go part time. Offices are becoming more amenable to things like paid maternity leave and day care (especially for the types of things I'm interested in). Work places are becoming more friendly to breastfeeding moms and to fathers who want to take an active role in their children's lives (whether going home to see a sick child or to take time to attend school plays, sports games, and music performances). I know women who have traveling careers and still have minor children at home. I know Catholic and other Christian couples who have made these choices.

Finally, if anything, I've learned you can never plan surprises. I have liberal friends who declared they would not marry till their mid-thirties, when they had good careers

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thoughts on Careers

I was talking to a friend and coworker of mine the other day. She had started school majoring in International Studies, switched to Environmental Studies, but things happened and she took a break that resulted in her working at the restaurant. Now, a few years later, after working full time and taking classes off and on, she has made the decision to go back to school in her home state and be a nurse. It incorporates many of her interests, will give her an interesting and rewarding career, and put money in her bank account. As she was telling me this, I couldn't help but think.

A lot of us idealists end up majoring in the humanities and social sciences. These are good and worthy pursuits but there are some practical ways to make the world a better place. Health care, engineering, business are some I can think of. The issue is that we seem to be scared off by these, whether due to math or science or due to our feelings about corporations. I'll admit, I've struggled with these feelings myself, having burned out of a pre-med program my freshman year and taking environmental and development courses that, for awhile, soured my view on corporations.

A couple things happened. One, I realized that, despite my burnout, I do have an aptitude for both math and science. I may have to spend more time to truly get something but that's different from not having talent at all. Two, I had a roommate who was a business major and felt I learned a lot from her perspective. Three, the internships I had focused on the need for people in poverty to become financially stable and independent. Four, I am fascinated with finance myself, especially since I've had to learn much in the way of personal finance. Five, depending on who you work for, business school could actually be free. And finally, I'll admit, I want a job that allows me to travel and make a good salary. I do intend to have a family some day and, well, I'm a city chick. Cities are expensive. I tend to go for guys who are into the humanities. You do the math.

In addition, there are a lot of good things I can do in the world of business. I can encourage partnerships between corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and communities. I can aid people in starting small businesses, do work in extending financial literacy education, and help with sustainable practice that respects workers and the environment. I could help market low cost, low tech products that pull people out of poverty (low tech products that allow for higher yields of agriculture, for example). I could aid people in getting access to capital. There are actually quite a few possibilities here.

I'm obviously not jumping the gun yet. However, it does give me an interesting perspective about what I could do with my career. One can still do good things for society, practical things that are needed just as much, while making a good salary. I also want some skills. I need to be able to do something besides write well academically. Speaking languages helps, but I want a skill I can give. And, while money isn't everything, it is nice. Considering I want to pay off my loans, travel the world, live in a city, and, yes, have a family, money is actually very nice.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Our country really is barbaric........

Did you know that the average age of entry into prostitution was 13?

Did you know that, in the U.S., a child can be convicted of prostitution before they're of age to consent to sex?

Did you know that most prostitution in the U.S. is not simply that of an independent worker making a business deal, but resembles more of a domestic violence relationship?

Did you know a foreign victim of human trafficking gets more assistance than an American one?

I did. However, I just saw a documentary called Very Young Girls (find it on Netflix) which was told from the perspective of women who've lived "the life." Even the founder of GEMS, an organization that works heavily with these women, was originally a child prostitute. As someone who majored in International Relations and studied both human rights and youth rights (and who also has friends heavily involved in human trafficking issues), I was aware of the facts. It was quite different to hear about someone's experiences, about how someone

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Should the guy always pay?

I run into this question a lot, especially in conservative, Catholic circles. Within these groups, people are more likely to embrace the model of man as provider, woman as nurturer. Thus, they'll hold guys to the standard of always paying. They consider it a means of courtesy and hold the idea that women should just accept it, regardless of either of their financial situations. Some of my guy friends, just friends, will always pay for a girl simply because that's how they were brought up (this one transcends faith, since one of my guy friends who does this is culturally Jewish). Naturally, if someone insists on doing something nice (provided they don't consider themselves entitled to anything else), the polite thing to do is accept it. However, what do I really think of this idea?

As many know, my conservative beliefs restrict themselves to my personal (not political) beliefs on sexuality. Outside of that, I think women and men can do just about anything and I find that traditional norms constrict us to a mode that may have worked in, well, 19th century England. However, these norms do not work in my relationship. We both entered with a mindset of mutual giving and a general belief in the equality of the sexes. Therefore, if I expect to be treated as his equal, that means I also invest in this relationship both emotionally and financially. It's also my way of doing something for him. We don't go out obsessively but we do like treating one another to dinner, a play, a movie. It's a nice gesture. It doesn't mean I damage his ego or insult his masculinity. In fact, he appreciates it and is just as willing to pick up the tab when it's his turn. If anything, it makes the burden equal and easier to manage.

I don't expect this for the same reason I don't expect, nor want, an engagement ring. To me, they are symbols of a period when women had little say in their station in life, when my father had more of a say in my choice of spouse, when my husband controlled my money, and when I would have been expected to "lay back and think of England" (how about Tuscany, instead?). I don't want a bodyguard/ATM, I want a partner, a companion, someone who takes life's journey alongside me. Someone who supports me in becoming all that I am and encourages a level of independence, simply because it benefits us. I want someone who supports me in having a career that genuinely excites and interests me and allows all of that to spill into our personal life. After all, if he loves me, does he really give a damn who makes more money? Or who pays? Considering that we've talked about this from day one, the answer is a resounding NO.

As I mentioned, I do have friends who pay for every girl, friend or not and insist, even when I offer to pick up the tab or at least pay my share. Naturally, my response is nothing other than a "thank you" because that's the only polite response. Also, in a relationship, if one of you is making bank and the other is living on peanuts, it's only fair that the person who makes more picks up the tab every time. Of course, if the guy-always-paying mode works for you, go ahead. However, there is no one-size-fits-all rule for relationships. People are different and relationships are different. Thus, the way we handle those relationships should be different as well.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Older adults, these are different times!!!

I often hear about how lazy and entitled my generation is. We grew up with access to technology and opportunities our parents didn't have

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Land of the Free is now Land of the Wage Slaves

My friends shared this link on Facebook. It's called the "5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Poor" and talks about things such as pay day loans, overdraft charges, and the prevalence of low paying service jobs with little chance for advancement. Of course, the economy has brought things into harsh perspective. However, as a recent college graduate who's been paying her rent the last two years, it hits a bit close to home.

You see, I've had to pay those outrageous overdraft fees. I have a hard time getting an apartment due to my low credit history and the unpredictability of a restaurant job (waiters rely on tips), despite the fact that my rent has been paid, on time, every month from my first summer sublet. I always need a guarantor, whether it's my father or someone else's parents to even get approved. I had a hard time getting a student credit card due to lack of credit history, even though I needed the damn thing to build credit history (and it would have helped immensely when I was stuck in London and had no money because of debit card fraud). My friends, who all have college degrees, multiple internships, language skills and significant experience overseas, are waiting tables to survive and interning unpaid (AGAIN) with the hopes of finding some kind of full time employment within their field. Other friends have had to make do with temp jobs and constantly have to be on the search. Still, others find themselves waiting tables on the weekends, in addition to full time work, due to fear of finances/getting fired the first three months.

America, are we land of the free? Or land of the wage slaves?

It's frustrating to hear people tell me to tough it out, that I'll just have to work seven days a week a little while longer.......Excuse me? SEVEN???? Wasn't there this little thing in the 10 Commandments called a fucking SABBATH?? To take a day of rest because we are NOT slaves anymore? Haven't I worked enough, writing papers on complicated economic policies while also working 25 (bare minimum) hours a week to pay my bills and send myself to Africa? Or struggling financially one summer because I did a (wonderful) unpaid internship but lost hours in my job and really had to save all my cash? Haven't I busted my ass enough? I worked hard for my degree and my reputation. In addition, my parents worked their asses off to ensure we could have something better than they did. Guess what? I'm probably WORSE off financially with more education. Case in point: my parents were married at 22. Guess who's in absolutely no position to get married, even if she wanted to?

Isn't it just a little unnerving that healthy food costs more than crap food? Or that, for some families, it would cost more money to work or go back to school than to take unemployment (transportation, baby-sitting/child care, work clothes)? Or that a good college education has become more dependent on who can pay rather than who's more capable of doing the work? Isn't it a little unnerving that contagious sick people are handling your food because their managers won't let them stay home and they can't afford health insurance necessary to get treated or provide a doctor's note? Isn't it sad that Americans spend more time at work than anywhere else, including with their children, their spouses, or doing things that would fulfill them and give to other people (hobbies such as crafts and music serving as gifts, etc)?

Don't our service members give their lives so we can enjoy freedom? Didn't our families sacrifice their homelands and, in some cases, their cultures, so that their grandkids could have something better? Don't women and people of color and other minorities especially continue to fight so that they could enjoy the same freedom, rights and privileges as their straight, white, male, wealthy, able-bodied counterparts?

We were not meant to be slaves. We were meant for freedom.

So, politicians and corporate blowhards, be afraid. When this happened in France, heads literally rolled. While I have no taste for blood, I am starting to understand why.

It's none of your business!

Anyone remember the Salt 'n' Pepa song, "None of Your Business" (am I dating myself here)? Anyway, for all the young'uns who do not remember the 90's and are doomed to the likes of Ke$ha and Miley Cyrus, the song is about how people cast judgments on someone due to their sex life and how they really shouldn't because, well, read the title. While no one is judging me for one night stands (simply because I just don't have them), I'll admit, it does feel like having a love life, period, makes others feel as if they have a right to comment. Even if their opinion was not requested, even if advice was not sought, people still act as if they have authority over very personal and intimate decisions. Yeah, it bothers me a bit.

To all the singles, the "no-strings-attached" folks, those dating, courting, engaged, married, parents, whatever, no one has the right to tell you what's best for you. Yes, if you're a person of faith, follow your faith. Yes, we all should follow basic legal codes and some kind of moral framework for how to live our lives (which include more than just our romantic lives). Of course, some of us come from cultures where the family and community has a much bigger say in your choice of spouse and in the raising of your children. At the same time, you are the one who makes the final decisions.

Even for those whose morals I do not agree with, I feel the need to defend this choice. After all, it bothers me when people constantly ask about my sex life, knowing full well what my faith teaches and how awkward it is to ask when my companion is close by. Or telling me whether I should or shouldn't think about a wedding day quite yet (can we please get on our feet first and finish some other important things? And, if we are discussing, it's none of your business unless I choose to share that with you). Of course, knowing what my faith teaches about family planning (regardless of the fact that I can use this scientifically proven method that's NOT the Rhythm Method and that actually helps me in other aspects of my health), it really hurts when people make snide comments in my direction. I would NEVER nitpick someone else's sex life, I've always been taught that it was uncouth to do so. Why is it acceptable to do the same to me?

You know, this is why, at the end of the day, I embrace a pro-choice position. How can I tell another woman, another family, what to do with such an intimate and private aspect of their lives when I know I hate it when others do the same to me? How can I tell them that they're wrong and shameful, when they've probably agonized, cried out to God, consulted others, and figured they need to do right by their families? Really, it's none of your business.

World, you have no ownership of my womb, breasts and genitalia. You certainly have no ownership of my heart. I consult with God and, while I follow Church teachings in my own life, it's only after much questioning, study and research, as well as plenty of agonizing (and note that I do not expect the same of everyone, simply because I don't walk in their shoes). Other than that, anything that happens in these very intimate aspects are not your concern unless I specifically ask for advice. If I don't, well, then, it's none of your business!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Difference Between Catholics and Christians?

Growing up in the NYC area (my definition, at most two hours away), I heard this a lot. Most of the kids I went to school with were either Catholic or Jewish and knew little about their own religions, much less those of other people. As a result, there is a lot of confusion over religions such as Islam or religious branches such as Protestantism. However, I would always be shocked to hear people differentiate between Catholics and Christians. It seemed that, whenever kids would refer to Protestant friends and relatives, they would call them Christians, while Catholic relatives were simply Catholics. As a result, there was a lot of confusion about the two. It doesn't help that some Christian groups don't even count us as Christians. What's the difference? Is there one? Let's find out.

The definition of Christianity I like the most was the one my professor gave in my religion class; that Christianity refers to the theological reflection about the person of Jesus Christ (who he was, what he did, etc, etc, slight paraphrase). Beliefs in Christianity include these next few points. One, Jesus Christ died on a cross to save us, then rose again three days later, promising to vanquish death and sin. Two, God is a triune God, meaning one God in three persons: Creator (father), Savior (Jesus), Holy Spirit. Yes, it's confusing. Most of us don't get it either. Suffice it to say math does not exist in Christian theology. Three, baptism (the act of sprinkling, pouring, or immersing in water, invoking the name of the Trinity) is a necessary act for initiation and possibly salvation (depending on who you talk to). Four overarching commandments include, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself." And finally, for most of us, our major holidays are Christmas (Jesus' birth) and Easter (Jesus' resurrection).

That's a very brief summary, but this includes all branches of Christianity. Now, what about Catholics and Protestants and the rest? They are all branches from the same tree, so to speak. Christianity can actually be divided into three main branches, the Catholics, the Protestants, and the Orthodox. Catholics place an equal weight on the authority of the Bible, the church and oral tradition and we experience God through Sacraments, actions that channel God's grace (baptism, confession, communion, etc), as well as through individual prayer. The Orthodox are actually very similar to Catholics except that we split over beliefs on papal authority (authority of the Pope) and they do have different attitudes about sin and such (sin as crime vs. sin as sickness). Protestants split much later, again over issues of papal authority, issues of corruption, and the desire to make Christianity more accessible to the masses. Note, this is a gross oversimplification of two thousand years of history. I can do more in depth blog posts if peeps are interested.

OK, now, why do some Protestants identify as strictly "Christian" while Catholics are likely to identify as Catholics? I think that has more to do with our history in the U.S. Our nation was and still is mostly Protestant so, whenever people talked about Christians, they were speaking of Protestants. Even today, when you see literature and other products marketed to Christians, they're often using Protestant translations of the Bible and Protestant theology. When Catholics first came here, we weren't considered Christians. Our depictions of the saints and our beliefs about certain rituals (Holy Communion) had other Christians thinking we were gross idolaters. Further, while American Protestants may have had prohibitions actions like consuming alcohol or dancing, Catholics did not (we'd lose all the Irish, Italians, Spaniards, etc;-)). As such, we were seen as immoral. Finally, in my area, people don't really know that much about Protestantism, so it's probably easier for our Protestant friends and family to say that they're Christian, just not Catholic. Why no mention of the Orthodox? There just aren't that many of them, except in areas with huge Greek/Middle Eastern(Christian)/Eastern European Christian populations.

Sorry for the long length! Just thought I should cover this :D

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Part 2: Where do you want to go...and why?

As part of my "So You Want a Career in Travel" series, I decided to include a section on motivation. What drives you to travel? Do you want to simply see the world? See the world and write a book, a la Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame)? Feed hungry kids? Save the environment? Spread the word of God via the Bible/Qur'an/Book of Mormon/any other text of a missionary faith? Sell products? Advocate for human rights? Tackle organized crime (drug trafficking, sex trade, etc)? Join the military and defend the interests of the U.S.? Enter the Foreign Service and practice diplomacy? Perform and give concert tours? Why?

Also, where do you want to go? Do you see yourself in mostly "developed" countries, such as the U.S., Western Europe, Australia, or Japan? Or do you see yourself spending copious amounts of time in other parts of Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, the Pacific or Africa (some of which qualify as "middle income" countries, other which are known as "low income" countries? Or do you see yourself doing a mix of everything?

Granted, a lot of the motivations can also apply to one's home country and I'm not labeling any of them as positive or negative (they all can have either positive or negative impacts on the nations you visit). Also, the motivations and desired places can intersect, depending on one's interests and language skills. I'll admit, I want to see as many places as I can and, while my language of choice through school was mostly Spanish (with some Italian and Kiswahili), I still ended up in Kenya. But I digress (and will elaborate on my choices in later posts). All the same, it helps to know what drives your desire, regardless of what or how many reasons you have. Traveling is a commitment of time, energy and money. Knowing what drives you may help you decide what tasks you're up for or even if you're up for the task to begin with.