Archive | March 2016

Your Choice Matters

When I was still living as a vegetarian I attended a family gathering where food was served as a large buffet. 99% of the dishes included meat. Essentially, the only vegetarian dish were some fried bananas. I was not thrilled.

While I stood in line. I saw a lot of the family members taking from the fried bananas. Including some cousins who clearly knew that I was vegetarian as we just 30min prior said how difficult it was for me to eat at these gatherings. Then, the last cousin in front of me approached the dishes and… took the last banana. And with that … I exploded.

“What the f*k is wrong with all of you. Why do you all have to choose from the one dish that I can eat. Now I have nothing left…”

Well, the discussion did not end well. But this is not the point of the story. I did not have the right to determine who was eating what and I definitely did not have the right to restrict what everyone else was eating. My cousins clearly had all the right in the world to eat whatever they wanted. I was wrong, they were not. No matter how often I had told them before, I chose to become vegetarian and I should have better prepared for the event and brought my own food. It would have just been nice if they had considered my lack of dinner choices when they made theirs.

The point I am trying to make is that all choices have consequences. Even if you have the right to any choice. Nevertheless, with every right you also have a responsibility. And every choice has consequences, maybe not for you, but for everyone around you.

Let’s think about the mother who decides to stay home and engage in child care full time. It is her choice. A choice she can clearly make. And it is her right to do so. However, what are the consequences of her choice? Is the choice she made the responsible one? What if her husband gets sick and will no longer be able to work? What if the kids are bigger and do not need her? What kind of role model will she be for her daughter? Kids tend to somewhat follow into the footsteps of their parents. Most of the women that I know whose mother worked are working today, too. Women whose mothers stayed home I find increasingly choosing to become a stay-at-home mom. As a mother you are essentially setting a standard for your kids… Do you really want to set this standard, this expectation for your daughter?

It is even worse reading about Muslim women choosing to cover their faces with a niqab or wearing a burqa. Just to get this straight out there.. I do not believe in legally banning both like France has done. I think that is wrong.  I believe it is in the responsibility of the woman to make the choice. In some countries like Saudi Arabia women are forced to cover up. Wearing a niqab or a burqa is clearly not a choice for everyone and more a sign of gender segregation and female being second class citizens. Gender segregation violates the laws of equality in the western society.

While it is clearly everyone’s right to wear what they want, I think when it comes to symbolism we as women need to be careful. We should not endorse wearing the symbol of female secondclassness even if it is also an important symbol of our culture, religion, or heritage. The unintended consequences of putting one assigned meaning above another meaning are enormous.

For every woman who is suffering, beaten into submission, and given no choice, we are telling her “Wow, I do not get you, this is great….I even choose to do so out of my own free will.” With that we give everyone justification to continue doing what they are doing to those women that are not allowed to choose.

With your choice you are voluntarily but probably unknowingly a direct roadblock in he walk to freedom for others. With your speaking up about your right to wear a symbol of segregation, you are making it okay to segregate. You are setting a tone that makes it harder for others to fight for their own rights.

If you actually think it is okay to be second class and inferior to men, please keep in mind for others it is not. They would like the right to their own pursuit of happiness.

I agree. Your are free to choose and your choice matters.

But so does everyone else’s freedom and choice! Be responsible!

 

 

Advertisements

What Saved Me?

Most kids from lesser educated backgrounds end up with less education themselves. Most kids growing up poor, end up poor. Most people being raised in a religious environment end up religious themselves. A lot of kids abused become abusers or victims even later in life.

Just to be clear. I was not abused as a child. But my parents both were. Both were from abusive homes with poor money skills and three personal bankruptcy including loss of their childhood home (house) between their parents. They were emotionally scared, but they did not beat me.

Yesterday, while I was driving home from work, it hit me… What actually saved me? What saved me from becoming a poor working class woman.

I have two answers. But even with these answers I am surprised by how I was able to be successful with all odds against me.

The first answer is — My parents are uniquely intelligent, but grew up in a time right after the second World War where higher education and university was just not relevant for people of the lower class. It was just not part of the conversation. My father went to school for 8 years, my mother for 10. Luckily for me, I inherited that intelligence. This intelligence allowed me to get good grades without putting in any effort. This was good, because for the longest time I did not learn how to put in effort, how to study, and how to drive performance. If I had to put in any effort, I simply would have not ended up where I am now. Case in point, I never put in any effort to learn playing guitar, after 3 years of lessons I was still insanely horrible at it… I just did not understand the concept of studying. After all l am the only kid out of my home town who went to college even though the rest of her family did not. And I am by far the only one, who made it into college with parents being purely working class with lower incomes.

The second answer sounds more like a symptom of being working class, but for me made all the difference. My mom always worked, because we needed the money. I always thought she liked working. After all she was not very warm and emotional, often extremely straightforward and pragmatic, and generally favored a good book on a couch or a good long run over entertaining the kids. Thus, I was in shock that when I had kids of my own, she started criticizing my choice to work, because she felt that the right thing to do would be to raise kids as a full time occupation. I felt betrayed. However, I am glad that I did not know that before, because it might have influenced my life differently had I known that my mom silently preferred staying home over working. Although, I still think she just would have preferred to have more time to read — She enjoyed history, learning languages, and reading about other countries. Since we never had money, we never really were int he position to afford a vacation.

So, here I was growing up. Luckily with a little bit more intelligence than average and then with a role model in my mom that highlighted that women can work and may pursue interests. As a child even until now I always felt like fighting. Fighting against other kids, because they had more and never understood why my parents were not available to drive me around or buy me the new brand sweater… Fighting against prejudices in my family who thought that everyone pursuing a higher education is nothing but an arrogant asshole with no understanding of reality… and fighting against the constant nagging of my own inner doubt — Do I deserve all this? Why am I so lucky?

I am thankful for what I have and the choices I made. Never taking things for granted, putting in the effort after I finally learned that with more effort you can achieve more. Thinking back to my childhood — We did not have a phone for the first 7 years of my life as we could not afford one. I wore hand me down clothes from my friend; luckily, I was a lot shorter than everyone else — I am now surprised at how easy things were for me. And then sighing, because emotionally it was hard. I was different than most in the circle I grew up in and needed to overcome the difference at every corner along the way. Noone to guide me through the higher educational path, noone to teach my how to be outspoken and professional in a business setting, noone to teach me how to hide emotions in conversations and become a reliable and confident business woman. I had to figure all out by myself and I made many mistakes along the way.

I think choice matters. Every single choice you make paves the way for someone else. If I can do it, so can somebody else. My biggest desire is to inspire other girls to pursue a path that might be different than what the rest of the family is doing. I want to inspire others to actually work hard, study hard, and thus achieve more. This is my little contribution to society. Take whatever skills you have and make the best out of it.

Do not take the easy way out…

 

 

No Pain No Gain?

My son came home with a bad math grade. Generally not such a disastrous thing. Everyone can have a bad day and perform poorly once in a while. However, this same son just last year was part of the advanced math curriculum and considered highly talented. He put in a lot of work and received highest grades.

Now, at his new school. They are more laissez-faire. Do what you like and what interests you the most. “We encourage you to pursue you interests and engage in an open learning environment where you as students determine their own learning pace.” For some this might be an awesome way to foster special interests, learning desires, and allows to concentrate on the individualist within.

For my son this new learning curriculum just meant that he did not need to put in any effort. His penmanship declined, his math skills are kept at a level where he just can get by without studying, and my general request to him to put in slightly more effort, so that the homework makes slightly more sense, is answered with a simple — “But I do not have to.”

Do not get me wrong, I love how my son has interests and pursues these interests with a due diligence and passion that I have never seen with any other kid. However, life is not just computer, minecraft, viking chickens, reading about Greek mythology, and his drone.

An important life lesson needs to include that success does not come for free. That learning is uncomfortable, that you need to engage in a lot of busy work, and that sometimes you need to practice a lot in order to master a subject or an art form. No one just picks up a flute and can play in a concert. And no one will be able to build cool machinery or robots without learning basics in math and then engineering (something my son is very interested in, so I used this argument to convince him…).

IMG_1375

So, what are we doing with a generation that feels they can get the easy way out? That feel they do not need to put in the effort in order to achieve something? What do we do with people that think they can get ahead for free?

The same people that voice jealously about how you always have good luck. How you always seem to be at the right spot at the right time. How you are just born with a great body that is good at sports…

So what to do?

Well, let’s change the conversation. Let’s show how hard work has let to the results they seem to think you got for free. Let’s not pretend that your success was just “good luck”. Let’s be honest with ourselves and also in front of others.

I succeeded in the race, because I trained every free minute of my waking hours.

I was promoted, because I worked 60h weeks and delivered results the company was looking for.

There is no free lunch. Let’s stop pretending there is. Let’s stop being humble and blame our good fortune. Let’s take credit where credit is due. Let’s show our kids what hard work really gets you.

Let’s all be role models!

Let’s be viking chicks!

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: