Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The little wisdom I've learned by asking elders and getting into crazy situations..............

1. Go with your gut and ask questions. Sometimes, bad situations present themselves behind seemingly nice and respectable people/organizations. Your instincts will catch this before your brain does. Listen to them. They are God's and evolution's gifts to protect you from harm.

2. Settle for a job a little less than your dream job. If you're truly focused on your career, you'll get direction. However, as my dad would say, nobility comes from paying the rent and being independent. Any experience is good experience and you never know who you'll meet. Besides, the really cool jobs often expect you to have a million years of experience and more expensive education, which I'm assuming you'll likely have to pay for.

3. You know you want something when you raise hell to do it. Going after your dreams involves sacrifice, no matter your chosen field. Same with choosing your life partner. You know you want them when you're willing to do the work, no matter how hard it is. If you're that repulsed by the work, you know you're not at that stage.

4. There is no black or white. This is particularly true when comparing non-profits to businesses. Just because a non-profit has good intentions doesn't mean they treat their employees and volunteers well. Likewise, just because a business makes a profit doesn't mean they treat their employees badly or that they hate the environment.

5. Take care of yourself. No matter what you're doing, take a few minutes to exercise, drink lots of water and spend a little more on healthy foods. Your body will thank you for it and you know you never feel good when you finish a box of cookies. Also, keep reading, center yourself spiritually (I don't mean religion, I mean quieting the mind), and take a little bit of time for you. You have to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.

6. Learn to say no. This goes under going with your gut. You have a right, nay, a duty to say no to things that aren't good for you in a particular circumstance. No to overextending yourself, no to doing something sketchy when your gut says it's wrong, no to being friends with someone who is sucking you dry. You were taught to say no to drugs and tobacco, saying no in personal circumstances is just as vital to both your physical AND emotional health.

7. Claim your beliefs, but tactfully. Many issues in our lives are pretty controversial, especially with regard to political and religious issues. Needless to say, soapboxes do not encourage dialogue and should be avoided unless you're in a setting where everyone is comfortable/wasted (and even then, there may not be enough alcohol). If it comes up, be tactful and respectful, maybe steer the conversation somewhere else if it's getting awkward. However, don't deny what you believe and don't be ashamed of it. If it's right to you, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.

8. A sense of humor helps a lot. Life is tough and a little laughter goes a long way in diffusing situations and making things better. If you need help in this department, work with middle school children. You will find yourself laughing even when you want to tell them what they said is inappropriate or wrong.

9. Have at least one older person who isn't your parent. If your parents are good people, talk to them and listen to them-even if you're an adult and may not do everything they think you should do, they do have experience and can see a bit further. That said, it's good to have the other older person (parent's best friend, relative, professor/mentor you're close to, religious leader, etc) to talk about life issues with. They can give you advice about things without having the ,"you're my child" bias and honestly, sometimes certain topics can be awkward to talk about.   Also, when you realize your parents were right, you at least were able to learn it without making a dumb decision.

10. Do something "just because" once in awhile. There's nothing wrong with taking a road trip (if you have the time), buying a new dress (if you have the cash), or just having that Starbucks drink you really wanted "just because." Spontaneity is part of what makes life so beautiful. Work and responsibility will make you regimented enough. Do something simply because it makes it you happy.

Friday, June 15, 2012

So, you want a job in DC.................

Let me guess. You are a young, idealistic college graduate from one of DC's major universities. You likely studied political science or international affairs and maybe you had some Hill experience, studied abroad, interned with a non-profit or a mix of the three. Now, you are thrown into the chaos of searching for full-time employment in a supposedly recession proof city. What's a young adult to do?

I'm not here to tell you how special, qualified, or intelligent you are or that your past experiences will definitely get you a job. A career adviser probably already told you that. I'm here to give you the real facts, compiled into a list. I have full confidence that you'll nail a job in the Beltway but it may take some playing around to do so. Here goes:

1. Do NOT expect your dream job right away. You're a highly qualified, intelligent individual.........like everyone else who goes to school in DC. The thing is, it's about luck and who you know in this town. There are those who have a lot of connections, who have family down here, who could afford five or six unpaid internships, half of which were on Capitol Hill. I have full confidence you will achieve your dreams. It's just not going to happen right now.

2. Temp agencies are your best friend. If you are like most people, you probably had to have a paid job, waiting tables, answering phones at a school office, making coffee, selling overpriced textbooks, you get the gist. Likely, you couldn't do a million unpaid internships or even take an office job and now, all the "entry-level" positions are wondering where your two years of office experience is. The secret? Most low-level office jobs are contracted through temp agencies and then, if the employee can prove her/himself, the organization will hire them permanently. While you may not have dreamed of being a receptionist all your life, they could get you your dream organization that will lead to your dream job. Plus, you're making money.

3. Get every baby-sitting, dog-walking, house cleaning gig you can get. While you're waiting for the temp agency to get back to you and the competitive firms and non-profits to call you up, you might need cash and a little something to do every day. Go for it. You can make a ton of cash, not to mention your client might actually know someone who can help you. Which leads me to.......

4. Network, network, network. Go to the networking happy hours but don't drink except for a water or a soda (you don't want to look bad and you can't afford it anyway). Set up informational interviews with people you admire. Ask former professors and supervisors who may know someone. Also, be nice to the people on the Metro. You never know who you're going to meet.

5. Apply for the admin type jobs you thought you were overqualified for (receptionist, filing assistant, etc). Like with temp work, this gets you an in. You may think, "A monkey can do this," however, a really smart monkey (you) won't be in those positions for too long anyway. Keep it until you're promoted or you spot something better, but keep it for at least a year so that you build up a reputation.

6. Use your contacts. There is nothing wrong with asking them to help. Just make sure you send a thank you note, regardless of the outcome.

7. Buy a black suit. It's DC. You need one. Not gray, not red, not blue. Just buy a black suit. As Barney Stintson of HIMYM said, "Suits are awesome."

8. Proofread your cover letters and keep your resume brief.

9. When you get to the interview, make relevant connections to your long term goals. For example, if you're passionate about women's rights and you are interviewing with an organization that sells educational training materials (for those questioning, you gotta get that job somewhere), talk about how important you think education is and that, while your long term goal is to advocate for women worldwide, contributing to education would help support your goals since educating others is a part of advocacy and social change.

10. Keep persevering. It's a tough world out there. The only way you're going to make it is if you keep going. If you're determined enough, you will eventually make it, even if you have to take several detours to get to that path.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Feminist Manifesto

Let me set the record straight once and for all. Most feminists do not outright hate men. Maybe a fringe group of extreme feminists do, but most feminists do not hate men.  Most feminists aren't angry, self-loathing, ugly women (side note: fastest way to discredit a woman is to call her ugly). In fact, I'd guess that a good portion of women AND men were feminists. How can you tell? Read the following.

You're a feminist if: you believe women should be treated equally. That includes things like suffrage, equal pay, access to education and jobs based on merit alone, equal protection under the law....You know, the basics.

You're a feminist if: you believe the rate of sexual assault, particularly for women and children, is a serious crime and should be treated seriously. You know, and not taken lightly if she's wearing a short skirt that day (the skirt that society pretty much tells her to wear to be pretty).

You're a feminist if: you don't think people should judge a woman's character or intelligence based on her looks, whether someone is saying that smart women are ugly or that pretty women are stupid.

You're a feminist if: you don't think a woman's sexuality has a damn thing to do with her ability to be a good or smart person and that, if men in Congress can cheat on their wives and clergy can abuse children with impunity, leaders have lost their moral high ground when it comes to female sexuality. Yes, women are also guilty of egregious acts, but men represent an overwhelming majority of perpetrators.

You're a feminist if: you think both women and men have a right and duty to plan their families responsibly. If someone wants to have ten kids, that's fine, but that shouldn't be the expectation, particularly in an economic slump.

You're a feminist if: you think things like makeup and conforming to beauty standards should be a personal choice, not an expectation. Also, if you think said standards are just a little excessive.

You're a feminist if: you don't think female suffering should be considered erotic, like the way rape is treated in movies.

You're a feminist if: you think that sexist slurs should be on a par with racial slurs and that people shouldn't use them so freely.

You're a feminist if: you don't think women should be pigeonholed to a role, regardless of their feelings.

You're a feminist if: you don't think men have any business harassing women and young girls anywhere and that, if they do, swift punishment should be meted for making women feel unsafe-we're being targeted for our sex, which should be just as serious as targeting someone for their race.

You're a feminist if: you believe people should look women in the eye when talking to them-we're more than our body parts.

You're a feminist if: you don't believe sex or rape should mark a woman as "damaged goods" and you're offended that people would compare them to property.

You're a feminist if: you believe women have dignity. Period.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Clinic Violence and the Pro-Life Movement

Before Dr. Tiller was killed, I never really recognized the extent of violence against abortion clinics. I did not know there were terrorist groups such as the Army of God and I did not know that there were places like Pensacola, Florida that have experienced nearly 20 years of violence (having lost Dr. Gunn, Dr. Britton, a clinic volunteer and several fire bombs). While the mainstream movement says they condemn such violence, I do think that vilifying people involved in abortion care does influence the extreme side to commit despicable acts. Here, I propose an alternate solution, one that involves compassion and partnership.

What would it look like if the main pro-life groups would reach out to families who lost a loved one to anti-abortion violence? What would it look like if they would not only send kind words and gifts but would react strongly to terrorist groups? What would it look like if they offered protection to the people who worked in clinics and their families? What would it look like if they discouraged protests that are unproductive and encourage only contempt and disgust from people on both sides? What would it looked like if they considered their goals of reducing abortions and partnered with pro-choice organizations to make it happen? What if they added their services to pro-choice referrals so that, if in options counseling, women were able to have a realistic option to parent or go for adoption?

What if they donated their energies to reducing stigma? What if the pro-life movement joined forces with feminist groups to advocating for equal pay, maternal health care reforms, access to education and jobs, contraception, gay adoption? What if they were able to put aside their own pride and realize the world of difference resulting from their labor?

I foresee something beautiful from that partnership. I just hope others could see it, too.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Love and Accountability

As young children (hopefully), we learn that our parents are there to love and support us. Part of this love and support comes from the discipline and accountability they provide for us. Whenever I did something wrong as a child, it was met with a consequence. As a kid, especially as a teen, I did associate consequences with them not liking or understanding me. Of course, now that I'm older I saw it as a way of them loving me and wanting to be a better person. You cannot hope to be a better person if you can't hold yourself accountable. Parents discipline to teach us this value and, in our relationships later on, we learn to call out the people we love when we know they can be better. However, when we try to do that very thing with our institutions, particularly our religious bodies and governments, we're met with rebuke and ostracism, as well as accusations of "hating the Church" or "not loving our country." Why?

If we truly believe the U.S.  is a democracy, built on the backs of a diverse group of people, with contributions from everyone and heroes from all groups including the most marginalized, why is it "unpatriotic" to criticize officials for turning their backs on these very foundations? If we truly believe Benjamin Franklin  when he said, "Those who trade freedom for a little security deserve neither," why are we not even protesting measures like racial profiling, the Patriot Act, TSA scanners that could potentially affect our health and definitely remove our privacy? If we truly believe the U.S. is a "land of opportunity", why are we destroying that opportunity by refusing to truly reform education, creating sustainable technologies that allow us to maximize our resources and create jobs and invest money in education and job training for everyone? Further, if we believe the U.S. is a democracy founded on dissent, why do we have corporate owned media that has forgotten its role as a watchdog and why can't government employees themselves have even a history of voicing dissent?

For our religious bodies (particularly the Catholic Church, since that's my experience), why is it an "attack" on the Church to speak out against decades of child sexual abuse, abuse that's spread on a worldwide scale? If Jesus spoke out against dishonesty and legalism, why is it OK for corruption to exist at the highest levels? If Jesus spoke out against injustice, as did our greatest heroes, why does the Church fail to speak out against oppressive governments in developing nations (particularly when John Kaiser was killed in Kenya for speaking against corrupt and abusive politicians)? Further, if we bring any of these up, why are we branded as "attacking the Church", simply because we're trying to make it better?

If you want to call yourself an American or a person of faith, recognize that the people who founded this country, as well as most major religions, believed that access to the government or the spiritual world belonged to everyone and that we are called to be just to each other. They believed accountability was a fundamental value to strengthening society. Until we recover that, we're all bound for Hell, whether it be spiritual or temporal.