The Open Mind Policy : 30 Days of Truth

Day 2: Something you love about yourself.

Following up on the subject of self-love, I embody some admirable qualities.

The Open Mind Policy
“I’ll try anything once.”

Truthfully, that was once my motto.  Except, I found myself in too great of a number of undesirable situations that I would have preferred to not experience.  We live – we learn.

This is the basis of my Open Mind Policy.  It is truth when it is generalized that all humans have certain biases.  That is part of the human condition, and not exactly shameful.  It functioned as a survival mechanism in primal humans.  Hence, we are fearful of unfamiliarity.  Unfortunately, this fear typically turns to hate, and that is one emotion I tend to keep at bay.

Throughout my last year at my job, I have noticed different attitudes in the African American community.  Much of their community is now highly diverse.  These divisions are no longer even regarded as anything.  They’ve helped me understand a world and a culture beyond my own.  And they’ve really opened my mind.

Through my eyes, people are people. Divisions of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, political orientation, socioeconomic status, mental and physical health, age, and lifestyle do not matter to me. Those differences have no bearing on how I view a person.

- Eminem

A person is who they are, not how they are labelled.  Humans have a particular penchant for categorizing everything within their world.  While this organization is important for cognitive function and development, it does not function as segregation of people.  It is not meant to emphasize differences among peoples, their behaviors, and their cultures.

In recent years, I have noticed that racial tolerance has become the norm. Tolerance is not acceptance, and is by no means synonymous. Acceptance is when those divisions dissolve into an unrecognizable remnants of past prejudices.  I have learned that by working in a community of people unlike any I have ever been exposed to.  I see children and adults alike regarding people as just another person, another friend.  Despite color, culture, heritage, quirkiness, and what-have-you, we act as if we are in a family system.

I am proud to say that I have rid myself of religious biases. I am personally weary of claiming my own religious affiliation, though very interested in the religions of the world. However foreign, and however devout, I am accepting of others who may not share the same sentiments on spirituality.  I realize that everyone has their own interpretation.  At this point, I refuse to make a statement at this point in time concerning my own spiritual beliefs. There is no better way to lose friends and alienate people.  So, I mostly avoid the subject anyhow.

The same goes politics. In past years, I groaned when a person started in on the opposing side of a subject I felt passionately about.  This created a serious schism in interpersonal relations.  Many friends were lost in the heat of debate.

I’ve learned that it’s not worth it.  I may disagree with where another person stands, but I refuse to judge their character by it. Different lifestyles and socioeconomic standings create different opinions.  I promote unity and balance, without digging my heels in too much.  I’ve never walked a mile in many people’s shoes.  I cannot know their journey and where they are coming from.

As for my own journey, I am not one to set my own choices up as the standard in which everyone strives. My own lifestyle choice is likely not fitting for everyone else. There is no such thing as “one size fits all”.  People are more content when they don’t feel societal pressure to live a certain way.

Therefore, I am not exclusively friends with the population that is married with children.  Marriage and children are not a lifestyle choice for everyone.  As a matter of fact, I applaud those that resist the societal pressure, when they know that is not what they want for themselves.  Many recognize that they have a preference for living solo.  Some have a different sexual orientation, and that’s fine with me.  I’m not homosexual (I can’t say I didn’t try in college).  But attraction and love are beyond anyone’s control.  It’s not up to me to decide.  It’s up to the individual.

Individuals have different biology, right down to the molecular level.  We are unique, atom by atom.  We look uniquely, function uniquely, think uniquely, and behave uniquely.  I have a special place in my heart for those that suffer debilitating physical and mental debilitating disease and disorder.  I find a certain kinship within the group of people with unique mental health concerns.

This is a preference, and I’m now careful to not reverse a discrimination against those who do not carry a diagnosis, or norms, Non-Dx, as I may refer to them.  I sometimes use norm(s) as a derogatory term to refer to people who are especially ignorant to the topic of mental health.  Although I am still outraged, I have come to understand that these people are victims.  They are victims of widespread ignorance and fear.  I cannot wage war when my ultimate goal is to bring education to the general population.

I am also guilty of occasional gender discrimination or man-bashing, as it’s typical referred to in the female community.  In all honesty, I do not mean it.  I am not a feminist man-hater pushing the female agenda.  In fact, quite the opposite.  However, I am aware that it perpetuates a stereotype that others could buy into.

The point is, one bad apple does not ruin the whole bunch.  The gender war has been present since the beginning of time.  Only now, in the 20th and 21st centuries are we progressing toward equality for both genders.  That does not mean that stereotypes and biases are erased from existence, much like that in race.

Everyone has heard about the “crazy bitch” or the “pigheaded jerk”.  Women are moody largely in part of a constant cycle of ever changing body chemistry.  Men think sexually because testosterone is essentially the hormone responsible for sexual impulses.  (It’s also responsible for aggression).  That’s fact.  Again, because of the extreme individuality that humans have through by nature and nurture, this can be more or less prevalent.  Accept the fact that it’s possible.  Learn to live together.

And most of all, socioeconomic status. I share in the plight of the working poor. Although I am an avid Occupy supporter, it’s less about the 1% and more about the abuse of power through corruption. That is about justice.

I’m not saying I don’t judge at all. I am human after all. We all judge. However, I will only judge a person when they have proven to commit heinous acts.

I greatly detest people with hate and malice in their heart.  With those two emotions, people have waged unnecessary wars (what war is necessary?), committed vile acts such as genocide, and perpetuated more hate and malice through organizations such as the KKK.  If these people would stop for one moment, think of The Golden Rule, and open their minds to the possibilities, the world would be a much better place.

Fluent in Ebonics

Yesterday was my first day back to work, and I couldn’t be happier, despite the unpleasantness that morning. That school has such a profoundly positive effect on me. I take two busses there, and the alone time is relaxing. But the second I walk through that door, I feel the love and community there. Everyone is so pleasant and happy. My co-workers respect me and my boss appreciates me. The kids are always so glad to see me and are always telling me that they like my class the best. It’s one of the most wonderful parts of my life.

This week consists of educator’s professional development seminars and training.  I sat at a table with some of my favorite co-workers, the art teacher, the 3rd grade group leader, and the 4th grade group leader.  It’s my second school year there, and I’m becoming closer to the staff as time passes.  We were divided in groups based on our tables for our group activities.

The first activity was called “Number Knockout”.  You are given a 5 by 5 grid of random numbers.  The instructions are to use those numbers by addition, subtraction, multiplication, and / or division to get a predetermined number.  I am terrible at math.  It was up to the group to come up with as many number combinations as they could.  The mood in the room was light; everyone was joking and conversing.  When they were determining who won, I said, “Hey, we were at a serious disadvantage!  We have two fine arts teachers at the same table!”  Everyone laughed.

The next activity was called “Shorthand Code”.  The objective was to come up with as many phrases using only netcode – like CUL8R and B4UGO.  I hate using that.  I don’t use it in text, blogs, emails, or anything.  I am a person who seeks to preserve the correct use of the English language, instead of letting it disintegrate into grammatically incorrect, misspelled garble.  I thought it was going to be challenging.  But as soon as I got into it, I was unstoppable.  I kept churning them out.  And because of that, my group voted me as the one to present it, in front of everyone.  Yeah, you know I have anxiety.  But we were deemed the winners.

This led to the first racial joke I’ve encountered at work.  See, I work in an inner-city youth program in a predominantly African American community.  When I was hired, I was concerned that race may be an issue.  I’m one of four white people who work there.  It never has been.  They are an incredible, accepting community.  There, you are what you are.  If I seem quirky, they don’t care.  It’s just part of who I am.  They don’t suspect anything is wrong with me.  I’m T.M.  They always see the best in me.  I am enthusiastic, warm-hearted, friendly woman who is passionate about what I do.  I love it.

The point of the exercise was to help us understand the importance of positive, clear communication with our students.  This includes establishing expectations and providing clear instruction.  Which lead to a mention of Ebonics.  The presenter said, “T.M. seems to be fluent in Ebonics.  No clue how!”  Everyone roared with laugher, including me.  It seemed so, but I’m really not.  I am the whitest girl you’d ever meet.  My skin could rival Casper the Friendly Ghost, and I have white blonde hair.  I grew up in the suburbs, attended a school that was lucky to have 10 ethnic people in a graduating class of 247, and participated in extracurricular activities that did not include any participation from minority students.  Hell, I only knew one African American man in college!

I guess I can be proud.  I am not only a decent writer, a good musician, an excellent vocalist, I am also fluent in Ebonics. Ha!

I hope today is as great as yesterday!