New Chapter

It can be weird to embrace change. It can be hard not knowing what to expect from the future. I’m starting a new chapter of my life soon to pursue my master’s degree, moving to a new place. I have a lot of friends who traveled much farther than I did to study for their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. But this will be my first time living somewhere new with no family nearby.

I’m worried about a lot of things. I’m worried I won’t like school or my internships or my new apartment. The process of researching, saving money, writing essays, asking for recommendation letters, sending my applications, going on interviews, choosing a school, and securing a field placement has been going on for about a year now. I didn’t know going into it that grad school would be so much work before I even started. And there’s still much to do even though I start in just a couple of weeks.

I’m pursuing my master’s to create more opportunities for myself. I put lots of time into weighing my options, wanting to make the right decision. But I still can’t help but wonder, am I choosing the right thing? I know a master’s degree wasn’t my only option to create more career opportunities. I also could have gone for a shorter and more affordable certificate program, such as one in teaching English to speakers of other languages, or web design.

But I decided to pursue a master’s in social work for several reasons. One reason is that I knew a certificate would prepare me for something very specific, while a master’s degree gives me more flexibility in pursuing jobs. When I finish my master’s, I know I’ll have the opportunity to work in different settings, whether it’s teaching at community college, doing therapy at a mental health clinic, doing social work at a hospital or school, or doing policy work with the government. One of the reasons I studied theater and then English for my bachelor’s degree is because I never wanted to be pigeon-holed into a specific job.

Having done so much unpaid work as a writer, I think I have a higher appreciation for any job that offers a salary. It sounds kind of sad, but it’s the truth. A lot of people hear about social work and assume there’s “no money” in it. Clearly those people never spent years literally working for free.

I decided to continue my education because I realized, after three years of trying, that I wasn’t going to earn a living as a writer. I know that earning my master’s will open doors, yet I still feel very anxious about my future. The job application process can be the most disheartening thing in the world. I’m worried that I’ll graduate and still won’t know how to have a career.

I think I’m being true to myself in pursuing social work, the same way I was true to myself in pursuing acting and writing. If nothing else, I’m self-aware when it comes to my strengths and weakness, my likes and dislikes. I’ve always loved and needed my creative outlets. But I always had a desire to help others. Social work is something I feel I would have pursued sooner if I had known about the various career paths it could lead to.

Despite always being asked if I wanted to teach (I was a Theater and then English major after all), I always knew that teaching K-12 wasn’t a goal for me. I don’t think I’d last a day in the seemingly stressful, possibly pretentious environment of a law firm. I’m fascinated by science, engineering, and web development, but I think studying any of these subjects would feel a bit dry to me. I’ve developed a greater appreciation and confidence in math over the years, but I don’t think I’d be very happy as an accountant.

A lot what has led me to where I am today has stemmed from a process of elimination, along with the tenacity to never settle for a career that didn’t satisfy me. Choosing a path in education is a complex and expensive decision. I know nothing is set in stone, and that I can still pursue a certificate or two even after I get my master’s. All the same, I have a tendency to overthink my decisions, always afraid of choosing the wrong thing and making a mistake. I don’t want to be this neurotic about things. I want to enjoy my life. But it’s hard for me.

I also chose a master’s because I knew I could use federal loans to fund it. It’s possible that taking out a cheaper private loan for a certificate would have better in the short term (since I could have worked and then pursued a master’s after I saved money and paid off the private loan). But when I was making my decisions, I felt better about taking out federal loans only. I applied only to state schools to keep my costs as low as possible. And I realized that many certificate programs took two or three semesters. If I were going to be in school for that long, I figured I might as well take four semesters to earn a higher degree with more job options.

If nothing else, I know I thought this through. With all of the events and travels of summer, I feel like I haven’t been able to process everything that has happened, especially in the past month. I know I’m moving, but it’s hard to really grasp what that means or to have any idea of what my life will really look like.

I have a lot of help and support from my family. A lot of people believe that I will be successful and that I’m pursuing a career that will be perfect for me. That in itself is a good feeling and I know I couldn’t do all of these things without help.

It’s scary and unpredictable. I want to be successful. I want to have a career and an apartment and love. I want to live in a nice city and to doing things that I enjoy. I know this. So why do I so often feel like I have no idea what I want? Why do I so often feel like my future is shapeless?

It can be weird to embrace change. But I’m hopeful. And I know that I have people who are supporting me. All I can do is take things one day at a time and trust that things will work out.

I have to trust that my choices are good.

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Arts and Budget Cuts

Disappointed but not surprised that the National Endowment for the Arts may be among organizations that experience budget cuts. When will people realize that the arts shouldn’t be brushed aside every time they want to save a buck? Arts education gives young people a healthy way to express themselves, builds confidence, improves work ethic, and allows them to be a part of something. Arts educators are some of the most inspiring and influential people I’ve had in my life. Fine art, music, theater, dance, and literature also teach empathy, which is something certain people in power could use a whole lot more of. These are some of our greatest tools in promoting diversity, equality, and acceptance. The arts are not nothing. They matter.

Check out this article at the Huffington Post to see how you can help to protect national arts funding:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/neh-nea-funding-political-action_us_58865ea9e4b096b4a233ca04

 

Why I Need Feminism

It’s no secret that feminists are often trolled on the internet. If someone discusses¬†women’s issues, there will be an unhappy person in the comments section equipped with insults and bigotry. There are entire blogs dedicated to disliking those who speak up for gender equality, and I just always think, don’t you have anything better to do? We each have the capacity to add something good to this world, whether it’s advanced technology or a silly drawing. A voice is special, it’s a gift, it should be used well.

Not everything I post or say or share is sunshine and rainbows, but come on people. Who has time to put so much energy into being negative?! Anywayz, I wanted to make this post because I’ve seen people post comments on other sites that basically suggest they think women’s issues aren’t real or that they basically shouldn’t be talked about, or they just say mean things to vloggers or bloggers who usually want to make the world better.

I’m not the first person to make a list like this, and I certainly won’t be the last. It’s not original, but talking about these things still matters. Here’s why I need feminism:

  1. Because every time I walk down the street I have to be aware of the fact that my gender alone makes me vulnerable to potentially dangerous people.
  2. Because several of my female friends in college carried protective items around campus, such as a self-defense flashlight or rape whistle. And those were considered normal, if not necessary precautions to take.
  3. Because victims of rape are still asked what they were wearing
  4. Because many women dislike being catcalled, feel uncomfortable and even unsafe because of it, and that dislike is pretty much always ignored
  5. Because women in other parts of the world, who I may never meet, are not safe in their own homes, communities, or countries.
  6. Because sexism still exists in STEM fields, and there are still people who say discouraging things to girls who are interested in science and tech
  7. Because trans women are given a hard time for wanting to use the restroom (seriously, can we move past this already?)
  8. Because trans women of color experience high rates of discrimination, violence and murder.
  9. Because television and magazines are filled with ads that sexualize the female body in order to sell anything from perfume to candy.
  10. Because if I ever have a son, and if he wants to play with dolls, I’m going to let him. And I’m going to be judged for it.
  11. Because women who don’t want to marry or have children are judged for it.
  12. Because having a vagina puts a variety of social pressures on me, from wearing “girly” clothes, to shaving my legs, to being told to smile, to a variety of things that have nothing to do with having a vagina.

The list goes on. People are often criticized for being vocal about women’s issues. But I also think that if you’re being criticized, especially when it is accompanied by ignorance and bigotry, you are probably doing something right.

There’s a lot of negativity out there. I hope you add something good to the world today. Because you have gifts to share with others, and you matter.

.

#MyThoughts

Pussy Riot, Free The Nipple, and a Culture of Rebellion

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11:  Director Lina Esco attends

NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 11: Director Lina Esco attends “Free The Nipple” New York Premiere

Recently, on Netflix, I watched Lina Esco’s film, Free The Nipple. The film is about a woman named Liv who leads a movement to decriminalize female toplessness. Based on true events, the women who participate in the movement take a stand for gender equality by going topless in New York City. In the early stages of this protest, several of the women are arrested, in spite of the fact that female toplessness is legal in New York. The women are able to get a lawyer to defend the legality of their actions, and as time goes on, they are able to grow the movement to include more women. After finding it difficult to release the film, Esco starts the #FreeTheNipple campaign to bring more attention to the issue.

At first glance, this film and movement might seem a bit shallow. After all, there are more important issues than a woman’s right to walk around without wearing a top. However, the film makes several valid points. If a man wants to walk around topless on a hot summer day, he is free to do so. If a woman wants to this, it is socially unacceptable, and in many places, illegal. The more important issue that this movement addresses is the fact that it is illegal for women to breastfeed in public in 35 states. In some places, an exposed nipple can land a woman in jail for up to three years and can cost up to $2,500 in fines.

Supporters of the movement argue that female breasts are not so different from male breasts. Both men and women have nipples, and yet on women, they are somehow considered to be more provocative in our culture. In the film, one or two women who go topless for the movement have breasts that have been scarred or altered, presumably by cancer. This highlights the fact that a woman’s breasts are not always meant to be sexualized. In fact, they don’t have to be sexualized at all. In some countries, women walk around topless out of convenience, because it is hot and they are doing strenuous activities, like carrying large containers of water. Sexualizing a woman’s breasts is a learned behavior, not a natural one.

GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 26:  Pussy Riots  Maria Vladimirovna Alyokhina and Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova performs at the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton on June 26, 2015 in Glastonbury, England.  (Photo by Danny Martindale/WireImage)

GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND – JUNE 26: Pussy Riot

Another film I watched on Netflix is Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. This film is a documentary about the Russian, feminist, punk-rock protest group, Pussy Riot. In February, 2012, five members of the group staged a performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. They performed their song, “A Punk Prayer,” in which the lyrics include phrases like “Banish Putin!” and “god shit” (referring to their desire for a separation of church and state). This was not the first time that the girls performed, but it is the performance that got them the most attention, and the performance that got them arrested. Three of the members, Nadezhda, Maria, and later, Yekaterina were taken into custody by the police. The other two members managed to escape, and are said to have left Russia in fear of prosecution.

In addition to calling for a separation of church and state, Pussy Riot’s performance in the Cathedral was meant to protest the Orthodox Church leader’s support of Putin during his campaign. However, they’re message may not have translated the way they may have hoped. Many members of the church were insulted by band’s performance, and felt that the members disrespected them in their own home. The three women who were arrested were charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. After a long and high-profile trial, they are each sentenced to two years in prison.

In their final statements, the women apologize for insulting the members of the church, explaining that this was never their intention. They argue that the reasons for their imprisonment are invalid, and that they have nothing against religion or the church. Their protest was strictly political and their way of standing up for human rights, as well as protesting a leader who they consider to be a dictator. One member, Yekaterina, is freed, after it is argued that she never actually had the chance to participate in the performance before the arrest occurred.

While I had heard of Pussy Riot, I never knew their full story before watching this documentary. Many people in the U.S feel that the Pussy Riot members should not have been sent to prison. Famous figures and organizations such as Madonna, Sting and Amnesty International have spoken out against this arrest for peaceful protest and creative expression. I agree, and feel these women were brave to express themselves the way they did (and the way they continue to do so today).

TORONTO,  - JUNE 28, 2015 - The Grand Marshalls for this year's parade. From left, Celina Jaitly, David Furnish, Cyndi Lauper, Pussy Riot (Petya Verzilov, Gala and Nadya Tolokonnikova) and Youth Ambassador Brendan Jordan. Toronto Pride 2015 took over the downtown core as the annual Pride Parade wound itself through the downtown. Photographed on JUNE 28, 2015.

TORONTO, – JUNE 28, 2015 – Pussy Riot: Toronto Pride

'Free The Nipple' Fundraiser Hosted By Russell Simmons

‘Free The Nipple’ Fundraiser Hosted By Russell Simmons

    So, what do Free The Nipple and Pussy Riot have in common? The first and most obvious is that both involve protesting against the social and/or political structures that have been established in their societies. While I would say that Pussy Riot is dealing with the heavier issues, both films portray women who are willing to fight for freedom. They are willing to go against popular opinion. They are willing to risk getting arrested for what they believe in.

One thing I found interesting about Free The Nipple was that the film occasionally showed television clips about the tragic Colorado shooting in 2012. The audience sees someone who committed a terrible crime getting arrested by the police. Then, the audience also sees Liv and other women getting arresting for the (perfectly legal) act of walking around topless. I thought this was an important comparison, and I thought about it later when I watched the film about Pussy Riot. The definition of crime can be something as terrible as a mass shooting, but it can also be something as nonviolent as a woman exposing her breasts or a group of musicians singing a song.

You can say what you want about the Free The Nipple campaign, and you can say what you want about Pussy Riot. But there’s one fact that cannot be denied– Rebels make waves. As mentioned earlier, Pussy Riot has attracted the attention and support of many public figures. Free The Nipple has also gained support from celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Lena Dunham, and Liv Tyler. Pussy Riot continues to fight for freedom, social justice, and LGBTQ rights. And the Free The Nipple campaign continues to fight for gender equality. Both groups are proof that we can change the world if we are willing to use our voices to fight for what we believe in, even if it means going against the grain.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11:  Director Lina Esco attends

NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 11: Director Lina Esco attends “Free The Nipple” New York Premiere

GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 26: Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot perform on The Park Stage during the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton on June 26, 2015 in Glastonbury, England.  Now its 45th year the festival is one largest music festivals in the world and this year features headline acts Florence and the Machine, Kanye West and The Who. The Festival, which Michael Eavis started in 1970 when several hundred hippies paid just £1, now attracts more than 175,000 people.  (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND – JUNE 26: Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot perform

#MyThoughts