I can across an interesting article that coincides with what I’ve been thinking hard about these past few days. It’s about black people and wealth disparities. You can read it here . As the product of two generations of a middle class family (grandparents and parents), I don’t have anything to show for all their hard work. No property, no trust fund, no assets. Just a crippling amount of student loan debt. And I know that I’m not the only one in this predicament. Growing up, my father worked and my mother stayed home to care for us. She decided that she wanted to raise her children and homeschool us so she did. As a result, we lived in a single income household. A phenomenon that I’m experiencing now with my household of one. There are so many things that I want to do now but I won’t be able to because of my financial obligations. Transitioning to teaching or a post-doctoral position would require a pay cut of about 20k to 40k per year and I can’t afford that. This year one of my goals is to become more financially literate and I’m working on it. However, I wish that I didn’t have to start from the bottom and if I ever make enough money to afford kids I want them to have a different experience. It’s like I’m starting off at a disadvantage and don’t have the opportunity to at least start at baseline. Definitely tough.
I admit that I struggle with the general idea that one has to “qualify” in order to get married. There’s this list of things that single women are given and expected to accomplish before they are ready to get married. We tell our girls that boys will always be there and to get their education first. You’re expected to work on yourself, do fun things, finish school, pay off debt, and get a decent job among other things before you qualify for marriage. Now granted, my story is different in that while I’ve always wanted to get married, I had a feeling that I would be on the road less traveled for a long time. I just didn’t anticipate how long it would be. I was hoping for 25 but now I’m pushing 30 without any actual potential mate on the horizon. I find it frustrating when I’m told that there’s something that I’m doing wrong or just haven’t done yet that makes me unqualified to be married. I see people all day, I’m a good listener, I can hold an emotionally safe place and challenge the perspectives of others in a way that is non-threatening and supportive. I’m the sole provider of my household of one and while I’m not rich, bills do get paid and I travel once in a while. I recently completed the highest educational level one can achieve (PhD) and yet the Universe still apparently sees me as unqualified for a mate. I’m all about doing the work but shit, being alone gets old after a while. I’ve learned how to self soothe and what to do to calm myself down but there are times that I’d sell my soul for a hug and the knowledge that someone has my back. Yes, I’m approached by guys but so far they aren’t ready for anything serious or want me to finance their lives and take care of them. Neither is an option I want to live with. It sounds corny but I want to matter to someone. Really matter. I haven’t found that yet and the older I get the less optimistic I am. It’s just exhausting and tiring doing it alone all the time and while I’ll always do what I have to do, I wish things were different.
One thing that I often encourage my clients to do is to get outside of their comfort zone once in a while. This often takes the form of encouraging them to travel somewhere. That’s why I really liked this article about traveling that’s written by a therapist. You can read it here. There’s nothing like doing something while going out your comfort zone. There’s the opportunity for learning more about yourself and the world around you when you go somewhere. You have the chance to experience a new culture and navigate in an unfamiliar environment where you don’t necessarily have the backup of friends and family. Solo travel can be daunting but that’s the fun part about working through your reluctance. The more you learn, the more you realize what you don’t know. But it’s all about taking the first step and doing it–because let’s be honest, sometimes you just have to do things while scared because it’s something your future self will thank you for.
This month is Domestic Violence Awareness month and it is definitely needed and deserves attention. More recently I’ve had the opportunity to work with some women who have experienced it. While DV impacts both men and women, so far professionally I’ve primarily worked with women. People seem to be always quick to judge this population and I have to admit that women quite often catch the short end of the stick in the court of public opinion. There’s an opinion that women who stay with cheating spouses are just doing what is expected of them and in many situations men aren’t questioned when they leave a relationship if the tables are turned. The truth is that it’s not always easy to get out. Abusers often control finances and seek to isolate their victims from close family and friends. It’s even more complicated when children are involved and there are questions about next steps and potential custody battles. It’s also important to realize that abuse doesn’t always have to be physical. It can be emotional and verbal as well. In order to make a plan to leave the relationship, one has to come to the understanding that it’s an unhealthy/abusive situation. I’ve had women tell me that every marriage has ups and down and that they don’t want to be quitters by leaving when it gets tough. Many have been encouraged by pastors and faith leaders that they should just submit to their spouse and just bear their cross. It’s important to understand that most victims don’t leave their abusers on the first attempt AND that they are more at risk for increased violence when they try to leave. This is why it’s important to be a supportive friend because you don’t know what someone is going through. Many times women won’t open up to their friends or relatives because they feel ashamed and may feel like they have failed in the relationship and/or marriage. Be present, be aware, be supportive. Learn and recognize the signs of an abuser and don’t give second chances.
It’s funny how quickly time can pass when you’re having fun–or even not having fun. Time passes even when it seems to be standing still. In a short period of time I’ll officially be a year older and hopefully a bit wiser. It’s usually around this time every year that I get somewhat nostalgic and ask myself yet again, “what am I doing with my life?” The answer never seems to be what I want. However, this past year was a game changer of sorts. I posted a lot about change and making hard decisions all throughout this year and some hard decisions were definitely made. I traveled a fair amount that included trips to France, Mexico, and Greece. I started a job that I realized wasn’t a great fit. I started working nights and stuck it out for a while. One of the biggest lessons learned this year was the importance of being clear about what I want and going after it. I met some pretty big goals simply because of planning and being willing to step outside the box to make it happen. I had a huge disappointment that made me reconsider the direction of my life–as most disappointments do. Ups and downs are a part of life and this year was no exception. However, I’ve learned a lot and matured as a result of being willing to challenge myself and some beliefs that I previously held. I did a overhaul of my life and relocated across the country just to start from the ground up and begin building again. Definitely not something for the faint of heart but I think it’ll work out
This article caught my eye and I wanted to blog about it because of its accurate description of an issue that many don’t want to address. You can read the article here. I don’t think that I’ve read an article that was so clear, honest. and straight forward about suicide. It’s a world that is foreign to a lot of people. Not because so few are affected, but because there’s little honest dialogue about it. The article reports that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the state for people ages 10 to 44. This is highly disturbing for a lack of a better word and it’s a world that I live and breathe in since it is so closely connected to my profession and current line of work. An interesting irony is that depression can make you feel as if you’re the only person in the world whose is struggling but in reality there are millions who share a similar struggle. The common thread that I observe in a lot of patients who have either attempted or are contemplating suicide is that they don’t want to be in pain anymore. This pain can be emotional, physical, or a combination of both. It can be related to stress or a situation that was out of their control that significantly affected them in a negative way. In some situations just being alone with their thoughts starts a downward spiral that can be hard to interrupt. Another reason why having empathy and compassion is important along with being supportive and knowing resources can be helpful. You don’t always know the internal struggles and battles of those around you.
This week has been one of reflection. It’s not that I don’t usually reflect because that’s definitely not the case. As a classic overanalyzer (probably not a word), I have an abundance of reflecting and planning thoughts at the same time. One thing I remembered today is that I promised someone that I would give them the link to this blog but then I thought about how it could possibly skew their perception and decided to postpone it until a later date. After all, I am searchable and if they really wanted to find out beforehand they could. But I digress. I think I have found the perfect way to not get over jetlag. Travel 8 hours back (in timezones), hop off the plane and then immediately start a 72 hour night shift work week. It’s practically fail proof. I was recently in France for some school obligations and also some fun and I must say that it was a raging success. I definitely should have stayed longer than a week but it was a quick trip. After my wonderful adventure last summer, I wanted to try more international travel this year. Unfortunately this meant that I had to schedule most trips in the last six months of the year but as the year is coming to a close, it’s nice to know that there are a still a few places on my schedule. Outside of my school obligations that included sitting in various seminars during the day, I had the chance to explore some of Paris with a few friends who I (ironically) met in Spain. The fact that I was in the city last summer was nice because I had the chance to enjoy the experience a bit more without the need to take a picture of every single thing related to French culture or food. The weather was absolutely perfect the entire time I was there and the food was exquisite. One very nice thing about the trip was that I actually had the opportunity to relax. For the longest time I thought that I just couldn’t relax but I discovered that I just have to go overseas to do it (go figure). The combination of good conversation, good wine, great friends, and an environment thousands of miles away from obligations was a wonderful experience and was just what the doctor ordered. I haven’t been that relaxed in years. Aside from one other thing, the highlight of my experience was traveling to Normandy and seeing some of the historic sites from WWII. We went to the American Cemetery and it was so sobering to see all the white crosses lined up of people who died at such a young age fighting to liberate a country that wasn’t their own. It felt overwhelming to think of all the parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles who had tearful goodbyes to their loved one who they would never see again because they died halfway across the world. Needless to say, seeing the beaches and the plaques and the American flags flying high was pretty thought provoking and reminded me of all the things that I sometimes take for granted. Driving on narrow roads and seeing the beautiful countryside was also memorable. It was the best trip I’ve taken this year and well worth the jet lag and sleepless nights. Can’t wait to go somewhere else.