As you all know, plant-based is all the rage these days with fast food giants like Burger King sporting the new Impossible Burger. Historically the world has seen its fair share of diet and fitness fads come and go. There are some fads that turn out to be quite beneficial, even if their marketing focuses on profiting from peoples’ low self-esteem. When I hopped on the plant-based train, it was after rolling my eyes for quite some time at the whole thing. My journey started with a spiritual fast in which I ate a primarily vegan diet for a month. After the fast, I felt so amazing that I decided to stick to it. I have heard a lot of people consider taking this route as well, and figured I’d drop some quick tips for those who are considering taking the plunge!
So, what does it mean to be plant-based anyways? Being plant-based is pretty self-explanatory. Just like it sounds, it is eating only foods that come from plants. No animal products are consumed (or at least significantly avoided) on a full plant-based diet. It is very similar to being vegan, but true vegans also exclude all animal products from their entire life including makeup, clothing, and more! If you want the detailed rundown on the difference, there’s a great article about it here.
These tips are specifically geared towards people on a tight budget as well, so you can expand upon these as much or as little as needed. Here we go!
Start Slow! Unless you know that going cold turkey works well for you, take this as a process! Do not go raid your fridge and chuck everything out and replace it with new and approved plant-based items! Not only can that be incredibly expensive, it may derail you before you even begin. As you finish up certain items, start replacing them with plant based alternatives. If you run out of butter, opt for a plant based version the next time around. This one is my favorite! Once you finish off that gallon of milk, grab a plant-based alternative!
What is your end goal for transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle? Do you want to be 100% hardcore one day? Or would you like to get to substituting half of your food for rich plant-based alternatives? Pick a ratio and work your way up to it. I stick to a 90/10 ratio. That means that I eat 90% plant based and allow 10% for times when I want something that outside of those parameters. I would like to get to 100% plant-based, but that may take me a while and I am 100% okay with that! Any step you take toward eating a more plant filled diet is a good step. Maybe start off with a 20/80 ratio. What is one item you could live without for 2 weeks? Could you cut out milk? Eggs? Deli Meat? Pick one of those things and stick to it! See how you feel after a few weeks and begin upping your plant based ratio! This way you can work toward your over end goal in a healthy and sustainable way!
One of my biggest mistakes when I first went plant-based was trying to find all of these complex vegan substitutes and recipes. It was already difficult to make that transition, so trying to make it more complicated with recipes or food I wasn’t used to the taste of made it more difficult! Plant based is as simple as this: eat fruits, vegetables (especially those leafy greens!), legumes, and whole grains. Substitute milk for almond or oat milk. Change out your butter for a vegan, non-soy option or olive oil. If you are not a cook like me and need something to help your transition over with meat, try these! I love them and they are easy to make! I am not a huge fan of salads, but they are easy to make and incredibly budget friendly. You can add lots of fruits, veggies, and nuts to give it a full flavor! You will get overwhelmed if you start pinning recipes from Pinterest! Vegan/Plant-Based cooking takes a little bit of finesse, and there are a lot of ingredients you will not have in your pantry when you start out. Grab a bag of apples, carrots, hummus, peanut butter, and celery for easy on the go snacks. Remember, keep it simple at the beginning!
I always look for the vegan icon on foods to let me know its safe to consume! But if you’re like me and you’re on a budget, sometimes I grab items that don’t have milk or eggs in them, but may have been made in a facility around milk and eggs. A lot of breads, cereals, grains, and milk substitutes fall under this category. Sure, in a perfect world I’d like to get all my items organic, local, non GMO, vegan, ect. But when you’re on a budget, you do the best you can. Remember, ANY step towards a healthier lifestyle is a good step. Become a master at reading labels. Check for milk and eggs. But, while you’re at it, if you cannot pronounce the ingredient, it’s probably best to skip it.
Anybody will tell you that drinking more water is good for you. If you are making any kind of significant changes to your diet, its always good to drink more water. On top of that, don’t give up! If you make an oops and eat more than your ratio for that week, don’t sweat it! Just keep going! There have been weeks that I consumed way more dairy, eggs, or meat than I have committed to eating. Even though my body wasn’t very happy with me, I didn’t give up! I kept to my overall commitment for a living a better lifestyle and did better next time!
Hopefully this gives you a very easy overview of transitioning to a plant-based (or more of) diet! Feel free to reach out with more questions! I am not a nutritionist or have any medical background. I’m just a girl who loves food but wants to feel amazing by the food I choose to fuel me.
My parents divorced when I was ten years old. Perhaps some of the best lessons I have learned come from that great division between two people who were once bound by eternal vows. Both of my parents have been open about their shortcomings in marriage and shared with my brother and I how to avoid them in the future. Darryl and I are a coming up on our sixth wedding anniversary and I can honestly say those lessons have strengthened our marriage substantially. While I do not recommend divorce as a means to growth, it can be a wealth of knowledge for those who are willing to learn from it.
My mother is a strong, wise, capable, and independent woman. These are characteristics that she passed down to me throughout the years and I am forever grateful for. But she had some warnings for me as I began the path towards marriage. “It is easy for women who think like us to eventually take over and do everything our way. In marriage, this can be devastating to your husband and actually set him back. Be careful not to ‘just do it yourself’ all of the time. A truly good man will be secure in your independence as a wife, but that does not mean that you are completely independent of each other anymore. You are a team; you need to act like one.”
There are many more lessons that my mom passed down to me, but there was one in particular at the center point of health in our marriage. I made a decision before we got married not to reload the dishwasher. You may already be laughing because you have a sneaking suspicion where this is going. I have heard the “my husband loads the dishwasher wrong” conversation more times than I can count. Perhaps it isn’t the dishwasher. Maybe it’s the way they fold the towels, load the laundry, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, or whatever other task they have responsibility of.
Darryl and I share the chores in the house, as I believe all households should. We divided these up before marriage so we would be prepared when rubber met the road. When it came down to cooking and doing the dishes, we equally loathed both tasks. So, we made a compromise. I would take responsibility of the cooking (sorry babe!) and Darryl would take responsibility of the dishes. Those first few times watching him load the dishwasher were painful. It is amazing that a woman who is relatively disorganized and far from a clean freak about freaked out over how her husband was loading up the dishes. THERE WAS SO MUCH MORE ROOM IN THERE DANG IT! But I made myself a promise. Do. Not. Reload. Don’t say anything. Don’t point it out. Don’t mention something in passing. No reverse psychology games. Nothing. Just let him do it the way he wants to do it.
At the end of the day, the dishes are still going to get washed. If he decides to hand wash the few dishes that he didn’t fit in there, who cares? In the time that it would take to explain the optimum capacity of the dishwasher and enlighten him on “the right way”, he would have been done and we would have been in a much happier mood. To this day, I have never reorganized the dishwasher. On one occasion we did have a discussion about the difference between just doing the dishes and cleaning kitchen, but other than that I have let him load as many (or few) dishes as he so pleases. I am just thankful that I have a husband who is actively involved in maintaining our home.
I know it sounds like a silly thing, but the lesson runs deeper than simply redoing something that someone else didn’t do our way. My rule of Don’t Reload The Dishwasher is really Don’t Waste Your Time on Something That Steals Joy in Your Relationship. Menial household chores can lead to major strife in any relationship. In some cases, there is legitimate reason to work through that disagreement. But if your spouse is willing to help, isn’t allowed to, then berated for not helping out more, how do you expect to foster a deeper relationship? Eventually resentment takes root and walls are built. At the core of every human lies a number of insecurities we battle on a daily basis. When we have to fix our spouses work to fit what we want, it often leaves that person retreating inward in confirmation of those insecurities.
By all means, if your spouse is about to drive off of a cliff tell them! But many times it is the smallest and unexpected things that trip us up in big ways. Is it truly the end of the world if the towels are folded slightly different than how you like them? Will all Hell break loose if the lawn isn’t mowed into perfectly straight lines? Will taking a different route in the grocery store end your life? These are common conversations I have heard among married people or those in long term relationships. Unfortunately, these habits also get passed down to children as well. I am not a mother but imagine the effect to be similar.
Though I have made this promise, I have certainly failed many times. I can remember a time very recently where Darryl and I were tiling a bathroom. I had experience, he didn’t. He watched through some YouTube videos and was giddy to give it a try. Almost immediately I was directing his every move and pointed out all the ways he was doing it wrong. Gently he looked at me and said, “Hon, I really want to learn how to do this. Can I just try to figure it out and follow along with these videos?” I was reminded very quickly about the commitment I had made and shut my dang mouth. The tile turned out beautifully.
This is an encouragement to all of us to focus on the things that matter most in our relationships. Are there areas that are stealing joy in your relationship? If folding the towels exactly how you want to is that important, is there another task you can release, even if it isn’t done exactly how you’d like it? Let me reiterate that these are not big ticket issues I am referring to. These are the small routine tasks that most humans have to keep up with. These are things that do not require your best energy. Is there a reason you are holding so tightly to a standard of how efficiently we load the dishwasher when there is someone capable of doing the task, just differently?
I am not a counselor but I would be willing to bet that letting go of a few of these things may bring some relief to you and your relationship. There are untold number of situations that I am not living in personally and therefore cannot directly speak to. But I think the overall lesson is a good lesson to bring with you wherever you go. Don’t waste your time on things that take away from the joy in your relationship. Or, as I like to call it, don’t reload the dishwasher.
Happy New Year everyone! You may be like many others who roll their eyes at ringing in the new year as people make hectic resolutions to improve their current situation. I, on the other hand, love the new year. Sure there will be many to make lofty goals and bail out within a month or two, but I still love it. Why? Thanks for asking!
Just because the new year has begun does not mean everything in the past year stays stuck in the past year. If I had debt, that sucker is coming with me much to my dismay! But there is, however, something magical about the past year dropping off the calendar. It feels like a fresh start, a new beginning, or a second (or 500th) chance. Newness seems to enliven the soul and give it a new perspective for the future. There’s something powerfully motivating about having a new page to write on. There are so many possibilities and excitement flowing about in the atmosphere of our creative minds. The limitations that we face feel a little less scary in the wake of a new start. That particular feeling is precious to me at the new year. Depending on the year that I’ve had, sometimes I need that boost of energy to knock me into fresh vision. Which brings me to my next favorite part about this time of year…
While this can be painful, the new year always reminds me of who I was and what I experienced. Sometimes that can stack up to be a very painful year, sometimes full of joy. It shows me how far I have come. That can be the burst of confidence I need or the kick in the pants to get my butt in gear. While we shouldn’t dwell in the past or live in fear of it, I truly believe the past gives us our lessons for the future. The past is like a rose; its beauty has been praised throughout history but it is not without its thorns. It is in need of pruning and care. This past year may come with a number of thorns, but there is always beauty in it. It is the passport that proves we were here, took up space, and were a part of this world. I can’t help but get a little nostalgic when I prepare for the new year. I’m not the same person I was last year. Neither are you. And sometimes that is worth celebrating.
Possibly one of my favorite parts about new years is that people tend to think the best about themselves. Even if they have no plan of action to sustain their resolutions, people have confidence in themselves that they can shift into a healthier place. In a world where so many people suffer from low self-esteem, I love watching people believe in themselves again, even if for a moment. It’s that time of year where there is a sense of renewed motivation and excitement for the future. People begin to dream again and set themselves to new adventures. You know what I feel this time of year? Hope. It feels like a whole lot of hope is in the air. Even if it is only for a moment, it truly is wonderful.
I eagerly hope that you harness the energy and newness of this beginning into your dreams, goals, and aspirations. I know I have a lot of vision for this year – decade really! – and I am ready to get moving on those adventures! I pray today is filled with hope for new things and resolve to hold onto the freshness of it all! Happy 2020! We’re coming for you!
Good Things Come To Those Who Work
It happened again the other day. I was sitting in bed, eating (non-dairy) chocolate chips, watching Golden Girls on DVD, and having an existential crisis. My mind was slowly slipping away into a pit of despair as I contemplated just how little I had accomplished in my life. As usual, I spent a fair bit of time moping about and wondering why life was blocking me from moving forward. It took about a millisecond to come up with a laundry list of reasons why I was unable to make any headway in my dreams/goals. It was then that my hubby began to talk me off of the ledge. He said, “You’ve been talking about being a writer and musician since we got married, yet in the five and a half years of being married you’ve never really done anything about that. Why do you try so hard to push against those dreams?”
I have heard “your dreams don’t work unless you do” enough times to make me physically ill. I gently nod my head with a yeah, yeah and move on to continue my dreary and dramatic moping. When Darryl asked me about my dreams, goals, and desires this mantra came to my mind. As he questioned where all my whimsical determination had gone, in typical fashion, I came up with an array of excuses why life had set me too far back. He gently continued to coax me to dig a little deeper. It was not long before I had run out of excuses and had to face the music. I was not moving forward because I was not working. He could see right through me.
They say that good things come to those who wait. Honestly, I think it could also be said that good things come to those who work. Work has become a cuss word to many of us. It does not matter what your background is, many of us struggle to embrace the idea of work as a good thing. We associate work with a dreaded 9-5 job where we are simply another cog in the machine. Of course this incorporates a type of work, but it is a job. A job is a place of employment. Work is action. Perhaps part of the problem is first finding purpose that is meaningful and therefore worthy of our best work. But even when some of us find that kind of work, there can be major mental blocks that stop us from ever putting in the effort. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s past hurt. Maybe it’s new limitations we have to learn to live with.
Or maybe you are like me and realize that you put just enough effort in to make it look like you are working, but not enough effort to create forward momentum. I am the master of working a lot and never getting anything done. I don’t want to be thought of as lazy so I do a lot of things. I also enjoy the path of least resistance and quickly jump from task to task to avoid conflict and/or hardship. But I had to face myself in the mirror and recognize that some of the reasons why I’m still stuck in a rut is because I expect 110% reward for 20% effort. And that my friends was a very ugly truth I had to face.
I never set out to be that person. I do work hard but I also work on peripheral tasks that take away from meaningful work. When I spend so much time on tasks that distract me its easy to feel like I am getting a lot accomplished. At the same time I’m only ever really moving laterally. Many of us have been there before. Let me set the scene. You want to have a profitable blog so you dreamcast, create the perfect vision board, find your perfect niche, and get your branding on point. Now all you need is the content. Suddenly, you’re struck with paralysis but decide you’ve got to start somewhere. This blog isn’t going to write itself.
You begin with the goal of writing one blog post. That is manageable and realistic. You get distracted when you get to your desk because your office space has clutter so you decide to quickly tidy up. As you are cleaning off your desk you end up with a pile of papers that need to be organized. Since you still have a fair bit of motivation you figure you’ll get those organized. Once you finish organizing those papers, you notice you have no folders or place to put your newly organized pile of papers. After looking around you settle on a shelf you can rearrange to make space for the papers. As you do that, those items need a new home and decide to take them to a shelf the living room. When you get to the living room, there are a few odds and ends lying on that shelf that need to be moved in order to re-home your displaced items. This continues on and on and before you know it, you’ve gathered laundry, done the dishes, swept the floor, begun organizing your pantry, cleaned out the car, organized your purse, taken the dog on a walk, ran to the store for folders, stopped at your favorite coffee shop (and stayed for a half an hour chat), run a few errands, stopped by a thrift store, grabbed a few groceries that were on sale, washed the dog, and made umpteen number of lists for various projects. Finally, you sit back down at your computer to write that blog and realize you are completely out of motivation and the day is gone.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish I actually got this much done by accident. If you are in a similar boat as I am, you can definitely relate to this rat race. But I am trying to prove a point here. If writing that first blog post is the first step in your dreams/goals, then all those other tasks have derailed you. Another day has past and you’ve half-way and haphazardly checked off some to-do items but haven’t really gotten anywhere. You have focused your best energy on tasks that don’t require your best energy.
I am a huge victim of this. I waste the best of myself on tasks that do not actually require the best of myself. It was such a brutal realization to come to, but I have reached the end of my long list of excuses. A lot of life has happened and that definitely counts for something. Eventually life does move on with or without me. It does not wait for me to be fully prepared to jump back in. Eventually, I have to look at myself in the mirror and accept that the healing process is complete and I am allowing fear to stagnate me. As a millennial I hate being labeled as ‘entitled’ but there are definitely times I can feel myself leaning into that identity. I want life to be easy. Who doesn’t? I want to run at the first sign of resistance. But resistance creates pressure. Pressure creates power. And that power can be wielded to accomplish some really amazing things.
I am reclaiming the concept of work as a lifelong purpose rather than a dreary-some burden. I am learning to accept when resistance comes and leverage it for purpose. I am trying to promise the best of myself to the most meaningful work first. It will take time to reset that mindset, no doubt! But I want to give my best effort to the work that is most meaningful to me. If the journey truly is the destination then the end success isn’t the highest priority. The highest priority is waking up every day and giving your best energy to the work regardless of the outcome.
Disclaimer: This is an online journal of my personal musings. They are here as I wrestle through life as an encouragement to you. I am a Christ follower and my faith is very important to me. If we don’t share the same faith, political stances, background, or opinions, I believe you are of great value and hope you find a slice of encouragement just as much as someone who does. I disable comments to avoid trolls and my own ego, but reach out directly to me if you’d like to converse.
Today is my birthday and while many mourn the day they shift out of their 20s, I revel in it. I am excited for a new stage of life! I also realized today that I get to spend the entirety of my 30s in the 20s! Do I hear Great Gatsby themed parties for the decade?! I have a wide range of taste in both music and television, so I figured I’d compile list of quotes from some of my favorite movies that accurately describe my life currently and the journey up to 30. Some are funny, some are serious. Hope you enjoy! Here’s a little tidbit: you’re going to get older no matter what. Make every age a blast.
“But you’re not really black.”
“What are you?”
“You don’t sound black.”
“Well, you wouldn’t really know what racism feels like.”
I relate to Hermione very well. She is caught between two worlds she adores; the muggle and wizarding world. She cannot betray either because she has deep roots in both. She cannot completely stand for one against the other, because for her, those worlds coexist in the same universe and cannot be separated. She is proud of her muggle upbringing and would risk everything to protect her parents, even if it means she no longer exists in their memories. But she is also fiercely loyal to the wizarding world because it is part of her identity. I can identify with her character, as I am multi-racial and have deep roots in multiple cultures. It’s hard to stand on any particular ground, because I feel like I am connected to so many in my ethnic background.
I have been holding back writing this blog post, because I have been belittled and silenced so many times in the past. In the wake of the current tension in our country, I felt as though now is as good a time as any. Let me begin by saying all of what I write is my personal history. It is what I have felt over the years, and as a result, the opinions and worldviews that I have created because of those experiences. I will never claim to be the most knowledgeable person in the room on any one issue, but I determined to be a change agent in the world using these personal experiences to the best of my ability. This is not the most eloquent or put together blog post, but it is simply a small glimpse into my world should you decide to come along.
I remember the day well. Trump had just been elected president a few days prior and there were rampant wildfires on social media. I had purposely avoided looking at my phone. I took a small leap and checked my Facebook. I am not sure what possessed me to do this. Perhaps it was that this was a very open-minded friend that I had had many conversations with over social media in the past. We rarely landed on the same side of the fence on issues, but we always did so amicably and this friend always brought me another viewpoint which I had never thought of. Looking back, I should have simply left this person to grieve as they desired to grieve, and discussed at another time.
After this friend shared a status about their fear for their friends of color, I simply commented that I was a person of color, a female, and was not afraid of this new administration. Not because I thought Trump was a righteous man who could save us all. I will be the first person to tell you he is a morally bankrupt person….as essentially most of our presidential candidates were and have been for years. I stated that I was not afraid because I believed in the American people, my personal friends, held the fight for equality so tightly to their hearts that I felt safe. The response I received will forever be burned into my heart. In understandable frustration, I was told that I did not understand the true plight of people of color because my mother was white and I grew up in a middle class neighborhood. My family was put together, essentially, and therefore I did not suffer like the typical person of color here in America.
I was heartbroken. It was then I had realized I have no real voice. People will tell me otherwise. Even as you are reading this, you will pat my head and assure me that you really do care about my story. And maybe you do. But in that moment, I remembered all those times my voice was discredited because I was only part of an ethnicity. I remembered all of the times that those with much darker skin than me told me I didn’t act, talk, walk, or sound like a certain ethnic group. No, I had not experienced the same story as others, and was blessed to be able to make the statement that I did. I remember specifically feeling broken because I was not able to join the conversation. On countless occasions, I have been told I cannot be a part of the conversation because I am “not really black”. Obviously, by the way I look, I am also “not really white”.
Another friend very wisely shared the video “The Danger of a Single Story” by the novelist Chimamanda Adichie. She shares how she found her authentic cultural voice, and the risks that come if we only hear a single story about a person, culture, or country. By only listening to the single story, we misunderstand and misrepresent the uniqueness of the individual person. It was this TED Talk that was pivotal in finding my own cultural voice. And so, let me give you a little bit of my history.
Aren’t We All The Same, Mommy?
I was born, by home birth, in a trailer in the middle of the New Mexican desert to a white mother and a black father. That sentence alone should give you a little insight to the complex nature of my upbringing. Overall, I had a happy childhood. I can remember exploring the desert with my younger brother and my dogs. I cannot recall, on the other hand, the first time I realized that my parents’ skin color was not only very different from mine and my brothers’, but from each other. Most children have no concept of the differences. All of my neighbors were of Hispanic decent. I remember hearing Spanish and English interchangeably as well as the time our neighbors filleted a goat in the front yard during a big party. Nothing seemed strange about it. As far as I could tell, this was the way the world was. This was my normal.
I went to a private Christian school, and while there were fewer people that looked like me there, it was a very diverse community of people. Of course, I did not notice that then. We were all friends and primarily interested in food, running around outside, and when our parents were going to take us out for ice cream. We were all just kids and would not have known there was anything different about each other.
My mom always told me to love all people. There was no contingency plan. All people were deserving of respect and kind treatment. There was a boy in my first grade class who had something wrong with his brain. Looking back, I am guessing it was Asperger’s syndrome, but what kid knows anything about that. I just remember he smelled a little funny and nobody liked to be around him. He couldn’t sit down in one place and he said random things when the teacher was talking. I was his only friend. One year for my birthday, he picked out a movie about mountain lions from the thrift store. I never remember talking about an interest in mountain lions. But Curtis thought they were great. He wanted to share his love of mountain lions with me, and so I was awarded this video. Turns out that mountain lions are actually pretty interesting.
By the end of elementary school, my world included many of different colors, religions, and abilities. It felt so normal for me. Although we were different in many ways, I thought those differences were what was normal. I had no concept that we were different in any way. I can honestly say I never noticed the differences. I only knew these friends as special parts of my world that I cherished. I could not make the distinction that people are very different from each other. This was my life and I could not imagine any other kind of world.
What Do You Mean, I Am Different?
The first time I encountered the idea that I was considered an “other” was in fifth grade. I was playing with my cousin, and her friend came over. She asked why I was black when my cousin was white. She wasn’t being mean. She simply did not understand. But neither did I. What did she mean that I was black and my cousin was white? I can paint the exact picture of where we were, and what we were doing because the memory was so pungent. It was the first time my brain tried to understand the idea that we have different skin tones. The idea did not compute. What do you mean that we are different? We aren’t different. You are human. I am human. We are the same.
My mom had the difficult conversation with me that we are indeed all different. And some of those differences come in the form of our skin colors. It doesn’t mean anything; it just makes us all unique and beautiful in our own way. All I can remember thinking at the end of the conversation was, so what?
Middle school was a particular time of hell in my life. I bloated up a few size from my scrawny self, my parents got a divorce, we got shunned from our church, my favorite Grandfather died, and for the life of me I could not get puberty to happen according to my watch. I do not understand how middle schoolers these days get to skip a lot of the awkward that I experienced. I had no concept of flattering jeans and was determined to wear my hair like my personal hero Mulan. NOT a good look. But my mom believed in allowing me to be who I was. It would have been nice if she would have forced some fashion sense in there, but looking back, I am glad she raised me to have such an independent spirit. Thank God for my mother.
Though it was a trying time for me, it was the beginning of the expansion of my worldview. I was thirteen when I signed up for my first international mission trip. I spent two weeks in Costa Rica working in orphanages, jails, and foster homes. We had cute little dances and we shared our stories with the locals. My little world was expanding. I knew that I would forever be changed. One thing that stood out to me was that everyone thought I was a Costa Rican. Many times, they would begin speaking to me in Spanish. Luckily, I was from deep Southern New Mexico and I had grown up hearing Spanish spoken frequently. I had an amazing accent, and though I was not fluent, I could understand much of what they said. I was in heaven.
Just a little disclaimer here. I went on many mission trips when I was younger. They were deeply impactful to my worldview as well as my faith. Since then, I have readjusted my personal ideas about how to approach overseas humanitarian/mission trips. Okay, continue:
Throughout my middle school and high school career, I dedicated a month of my summer to overseas missions. I could not get enough. I was in love with the idea of adventure and travel. While wanderlust was one of the greatest gifts I ever received from my mother, the love of culture was the penultimate. I LOVED learning about other people’s’ cultures. We were all different, but in my mind, I could only see how we were all the same. We were all people seeking purpose in the world. We all still rolled our eyes at our parents, wanted to eat dessert first, talked about who our crushes were, felt deep sorrow and pain, but also great joy and peace. We talked about our faith and our worldviews; why we believed what we believed. The language might change. And the way people looked might change. But the essential essence of a human being NEVER changed. Thus began my quest to not judge someone based on their outer appearance. I was not perfect at it. But I knew enough to know that I had to overcome this in order to see people genuinely.
As my worldview expanded through my adolescence as I travelled the world, so did my encounter with the effects of hatred. Hatred was not an American problem. It was a worldwide human problem. I saw children abandoned, people left on the streets to starve, women and children sold into slavery, the elderly forgotten, and the disabled or handicapped left to fend for themselves. Above all, I experienced racism on a global level. Not me personally, but I saw people hating each other based on their skin color. I saw what that did to a person and vowed that could never be me. Never.
I would come home utterly wrecked emotionally as I experienced culture shock time and time again. The things we complained about here in America seemed so trivial to me. On every trip I took overseas, people assumed I was a local. Because of the particular tone of my skin, it was easy for me to fit into almost any culture. This felt like the way things should be for everyone. I felt so comfortable in my own skin and embraced all the complexity of who I was. It was still very difficult for me to separate people based on their differences. I could understand the concept that we were all different, but I still could not understand why people were separated because of it.
You Cannot Go To The Ball
Before I went to college, my mother sat down with me and explained that if I followed through with my plan, I would not be attending a diverse school. She explained that I would be a minority. She knew I had really yet to experience this in my life. Thanking her for her preparation, I shook my head, still determined to go to school in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
When I showed up to college, my mother was right as I was one of the few people of color. Of course, this was not something that I was looking for. This was something always pointed out to me by others. I always made jokes about it like being surprised when someone noticed that I was not the same color as them. I had learned over time to let these sorts of comments slide. To turn them around on the questioner. It was never hateful, rather, ignorant. I personally never felt like I was different, or that I was treated differently, so these questions always took me by surprise. I was especially surprised when other people of color would ask me how I felt attending a college of primarily white people. It was very difficult because I felt like I was assumed to be a victim of some crime. Except I was never sure what the crime was exactly.
Though my college experience was amazing, I can look back and see where my worldview began to shift. All of a sudden, I was thrust into a melting pot of worldviews, theologies, and experiences. Though I had met many various people in my life, there was something about us verbal and fired up young people that I had yet to experience.
I became acquainted with the term social justice, which seemed to mean you were vocal about the obvious opposition to the -isms in the world. To me, opposing things like racism, ageism, sexism, and more was the only thing I ever knew. I had rubbed shoulders with many people who had been victims of these types of oppression. I had seen their effects on others. But my narrative did not fit the ones that others were talking about. It was a whole new experience hearing from others who had experienced something so differently than I had. It was also a whole new experience to hear people reiterate something that I intrinsically knew: racism is wrong. Obviously….
It was also the first time I experienced white people tell me that I could not possible understand true racism, and therefore, could not join in the conversation. I am still not sure what they meant by true racism, but it became very evident that I was missing something that they needed for their social justice narrative. Without even knowing the complexities of my upbringing, I was excluded from the conversations about racism in particular because somehow, they knew better. It was very difficult for my mind to understand this. Nobody was in my face screaming racial slurs. But I began to be aware that I was being deemed an “other” on certain occasions. Of course I was always welcome to be the “token black person” should I desire to be.
I can look back now and see my mind forming these opinions and trying to understand what was going on. But at the time, it just felt like a blob of information I didn’t have a shelf for.
I Am Not Your Victim
There is something demoralizing about not feeling safe or welcome to participate in any culture. It can easily feel as though you have no voice and there is no safe place for your feet to land. Many from varying ethnic backgrounds have experienced this in different ways throughout the course of history. As someone who is multiracial, I find my experience to be much like Hermione. I feel forced to pit myself against my own identity, siding against white and with black. But how could I do so when my mother was white and taught me how to love people holistically? How could I tell my mother she was a racist when she has been scorned throughout her life for standing up for the marginalized?
At times, I feel unwelcomed to join into the conversation, lament, or celebration of particular cultures. I am not allowed because I do not look a certain way. I feel thwarted from holding up my brothers and sisters because I could not possibly understand. Though I do not have their same experience, I have a father who does and a family lineage on both sides to prove that racism is indeed a very, very bad thing.
I can honestly say that God has blessed me with the kinds of experiences that exclude blatant racism. I have experienced more subtle things. I have been told it’s called micro-aggression. It’s an indirect or unintentional discrimination against a marginalized group. I hate being labeled. I understand that the lightness of my skin has given me certain privileges that might not be present should I have been closer in likeness to my father. I try my hardest not to take that for granted. Nor do I try and express the totality of what many people of color in this country have faced. But as I have continued in my life outside of college, I have continued to feel more and more like an “other”.
As a result, I have tried to understand, in my own way, how this cycle of hatred works. Everyone is dealt a certain hand at the beginning of their life. Everyone is born with certain privileges. Certain societies make more or less room for those with more or fewer privileges. For example, the fact that I was born with a tad bit lighter skin than my fathers, without any disabilities, within a family that had means to provide a quality education for me, cisgender, and in a strong community of neighbors in a neighborhood free of crime gave me a significant advantage than perhaps others. There was nothing I did or did not do to be dealt these cards. It was the environment in which I was born.
As a result of these environments that we are born into, we develop prejudices. Prejudice is defined as the preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. To me, this means that the environment we interact with from an early age leaves impressions on us that can become certain prejudices. For my husband, his homogenous conservative environment left him with certain prejudices about people outside that experience. It wasn’t something he decided to have necessarily. What he heard from his friends, what he watched on the news, and the school district that he attended all affected the prejudices that developed.
I personally believe that prejudice is the result of the fear of the unknown, which in return people create categories of “other” in order to understand. What we have not experienced can frighten us, and therefore, we create an “other” grouping in order to try and understand these things without having ever interacting with this “other”. A prejudice is formed, and without proper care, can eventually become an -ism. In the case of my husband, he eventually met me, experienced my culture, traveled the world with me, and rid himself of certain prejudices he did not even realized existed in his heart. I can say the same about myself on other issues. Prejudice is like a small weed that grows in the heart. If we do not uproot it, primarily through experience, in my opinion, it becomes the hateful root of an -ism.
Perhaps that is a very rough rendering of the process to an -ism and I am sure a PhD in the field could explain it with flawless eloquence. But again, this is simply how I have personally interacted with my life experiences. I never experienced being profiled based on my skin color. I never got pulled over because I “looked suspicious”. I never was asked to speak English because we are in America now. I have never experienced some of those hideous stories that you hear happen to people of color or those who look different. I once had a customer at the bank come in and say he couldn’t believe we put a black man into the presidency (referring to Obama of course). Then followed up by saying women should not be put into any kind of leadership either. That stung. But I can also say that was about the most blatant incident that I have ever experienced.
I feel tired. Tired of being told by those who are trying to bring equality in the world that I must be silent because I do not fit in any one category. Because I have multiple ethnic backgrounds, I cannot participate in any one culture. It honestly hurts. I feel as though my family fought hard to live in the gap of equality that we so desperately fight for. I am a living, breathing example of what an uphill battle against -isms, particularly racism, can look like. Because of the hard work of those who came before me, I do not have to experience the same level of hatred that they did years before me. I am tired because I do not feel as though it is fair for someone who does not share mine, or others’, experiences to be the only one allowed to talk about our struggles.
It is a dangerous thing to put someone in a box. If you have read this ridiculously long blog, I implore you to be careful how you speak out about injustices in the world. My husband said it well, “the way in which we condemn injustice matters”. What an eloquent way of putting it.
For those of you who will read this, you will get to this point and applaud my bravery and saying some of these hard things. You might even click the share button and tell the Facebook world that this was the point you were trying to make. All of that is fine and good, but I do not need you to rehash the story of oppression in this country to prove to me that you care. Posting an article about how racism is wrong does not actually do anything about that oppression if your daily life includes placing people into the narrative of a single story.
Everyone has struggles. That is part of being human. We cannot pretend we know what each person has felt along their journey. Battling racism is a good thing. Battling sexism is a good thing. Battling ableism is a good thing. Battling any sort of -ism is a good thing. But the way in which we do that matters. We cannot forsake one oppressed group to save another oppressed group. If we want to defeat any -ism that presents itself, it starts in the heart. It starts with pulling out the weeds of prejudice we have in our hearts and beginning to see each other as human. It means embracing the differences and recognizing we are much more alike than we think. We all share the same space. While we all experience this life differently, we must fight to protect the unity of the space we share.
These are simply highlights of my life and how I have tried to understand the complexity of it all. I personally see all of this through the lens of my faith, the foundation of my worldview. Though we may differ in many ways, remember that you and I are both human sharing this beautiful space called Earth. How we condemn injustices matters. How we choose to love matters. How we embrace our differences matters. We cannot condemn one -ism without condemning another because they grow from the same root. I have always advocated for a holistic approach to justice. You attack the root, you attack the entire system of -isms.
I challenge you to love your enemy. We are all capable of insurmountable evil. No one can escape that. When we condemn the wrong of this world, we must do so void of hatred and violence. How many white supremacists are you praying for? How many racists have you engaged to find the root of their fear? How often do you seek opportunity to share the benefit of your experiences with others different than you, in person, with kindness instead of sharing a quick little blurb on Facebook? How often do you feel uncomfortable when someone presents you with their experience that does not fit your prior narrative? I challenge myself to do the hard work of rooting out hatred with kindness and love. I am not saying we make light of the evils of this world. I only challenge myself with the realization that when I look in the mirror, I am just as capable of the evil that I condemn.
Thank you for reading. Through my life-giving and painful experience, I hope this finds you well. If you are in my boat, I understand. If you have unintentionally silenced someone because you fear their story, remember that fear is the root of hate. If you find yourself quick to share an article on social media but slow to interact with people who differ from you in real life, then know that we have all been there at one time or another. You have a choice in that moment. How you choose to live matters.