Brother, can you spare an hour?

There’s been no amount of downtime to spare lately, so I wanted to do a quick word plop.

Everything has been in preparation for, in plan for, in thought of the big move. And it’s rapidly approaching. My husband and I have been pulling full time schedules, me with the lower end of that spectrum, him with 60+ hours a week. We’re working for scraps-fast food pun intended. And I wanna talk about the mindset behind that last sentence. I didn’t notice it so much my first job, or my anthropology job (which I miss so much) but somewhere along the way, my husband and I started measuring things in hours.

One cup of coffee, a scone and a breakfast sandwich: 1.3 hours
One 24 pack of Dr. Pepper: 1 hour
One textbook: 37.5 hours

Because ultimately, the question isn’t: “Can I afford this?”

It’s: “How many hours of my life is this going to cost me?”

And I think that it’s that rooted thought process that is dangerous. Because your worth suddenly becomes stuck in time (almost literally). It gets warped-money falling by the wayside, the only currency is time. And for a generation that is constantly plagued with accusations of entitlement, impatience and a lack of foresight, this process is, well, humbling.

I’ve worked in food for a little over 3 years, retail for another year plus and then I’ve had academic jobs for 4 years. I have worked the entire time I’ve been in college-a trend which will no doubt continue in law school. However, let me explain how this ideology relates to the bigger picture.

Suppose you have someone who didn’t go to college (and therefore has no college debt), working in a minimum wage job. They can’t afford much-full time on minimum wage will give you roughly $300 a week (before taxes) in Ohio, or $1200. If you live in Columbus (the capital), rent in a SAFE neighborhood is $700-$900. If you’re by yourself, that’s almost your entire paycheck. And that’s supposing 40 hours guaranteed a week (which is HIGHLY unlikely in fast food). Anyway, with your $300 that are left, you must pay utilities, insurance and buy gas. Suddenly, you’re down to your last $50 and you have to buy groceries for an entire month. Oops.

This isn’t a sob story about raising minimum wage (although that would be great), this is the reality of the situation. I have student loans-which I know I will need to pay back. But in exchange for making that crossroads deal, I am able to put a pause ( momentarily) in the question of how many hours I must sacrifice while I am attending classes. This is renewed each summer, when I look for work in the food/retail industry and it rattles me a little further each time. But let’s do a thought exercise.

For any given day, the following are probably true:

-I need to buy gas
-I have at least one apartment bill due
-I need to feed myself and my husband
-I have to put air in our car tires

So let’s pick a day at the middle of the month (because my bills hover around then or the beginning).

Gas: $20
Bill Due (Electric AND Insurance AND Phone): $100+$45+$90
Food: $20
Air for tires: $.50

Total for the day: $275.50

There are 24 hours in a day. Let’s suppose it’s a work day, suppose I have full time and get 8 hours of work that day. That’s $8.15*8=$65.20 for the day of work.

At minimum wage, it would take me 34 hours (not including taxes taken out) to pay for just 3 bills and the extra bits. So let’s look at it a little differently.

Gas: 2.5 hours (and my commute is just 10 minutes, plus I walk)
Bills: 12.3 hours + 5.5 hours + 11 hours
Food: 2.5 hours (it takes longer to afford food than it does to burn the calories off from eating it!)
Air: 4 minutes

I know this post has a lot of math- I get it. I took most of the pressure off you, but as always, feel free to check me.

All I’m saying is, for a generation of “entitled” people, we’ve never been so coerced into selling our souls just to stay alive.

Educators for education-not regurgitation.

Although by now the political climate of America is very forcibly divided, there remains one spark of hope-one area which has been passed down as sacred from generation to generation: the future. The children, it is said, are that future, and it is with them that humanity rests. But are we giving the future the skills it needs to survive?

In a time of information overload, young people are hard pressed to find a single skill set which enables them to navigate not only the political arena, but those which hit closer-to-home, such as healthcare, finances and the ever important education. As many of you well know, student loans are something I rant about rather frequently, the dangers of which remain quite unknown for many people from my parent’s generation. But I digress. The skill set most vital to each upcoming individual, in every generation is one that is in a recession all its own: critical thinking.

As a human being, in a much broader, globalized culture, critical thinking means the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate information (being able to determine fact from crap, essentially).

But Michelle-that sounds like you just criticized your own age group. What are you doing?

Pointing out a concern of mine in regards to the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. I’ve included a little context, but put the point of focus in bold. In a recent statement at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), Mrs. DeVos said:

“How many of you are college students? The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”

Link to the video: C-Span of Mrs. DeVos’ Speech

job-education

What is concerning, therefore, is not the fact that Secretary DeVos is of the opinion that the “fight” extends to college students (because she’s right-we’re at the front lines of a fight which extends far beyond education) but that she believes educators are not educating, but force-feeding their opinions to their students. What’s further troubling is her fixation with othering. Her statement is incredibly biased, in the way it undermines anyone who does not support Donald Trump. That in-and-of-itself is refutes her claim of anti-First Amendment work. You do not have to support the person who fills the role of President of the United States in order to be an American, with all of the associated rights. To have someone in an educational leadership position not be entirely educated on the core values of the country is terrifying. And it is for these reasons that colleges (students and educators) MUST be at the front of the fight.

While I am quite capable of passing along my opinion, I thought that perhaps it would be more prudent to provide the thoughtful discourse of a professor. In an email (which I have attained permission to reproduce), Professor Michael Phelan, Linguistics Department at The Ohio State University gave the following statement:

I have been teaching in public schools of various levels [for 14 years]. In all of that time I have never heard comments such as these from someone in a position of educational leadership; I am aghast and astounded.

Education is about two things: Getting you to ask deep, meaningful, interesting questions about yourselves, your neighbors, and the world around you, and training you to answer those questions. Good educators do not let you rest with *any* set of answers. Good educators probe deeper, asking you to consider how you know what you think you know, if there are special cases or more general formulations of your answers, if it is reasonable that other people in other circumstances may find different sets of answers to be more useful. The hallmark of really answering any scientific question is that your answer leads to more good questions, not fewer. Good educators force you to strongly consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and that your teachers might be wrong too. I firmly believe that if you somehow get through four years of university education without having had your deepest beliefs challenged you should ask for your money back.

Good education is not a systematic indoctrination to try to force you to think the way your teachers think. There are systems of thought and custom where that is the case, but education is not one of them. If you believe everything I believe, and your generation believes everything my generation believes, then we as a species have wasted all the years between because we haven’t learned anything new. But if either of us cannot back up our beliefs with rigorous argument and objective evidence, we are only fooling ourselves.

In the coming weeks, we will discuss issues related to language ideology, bilingualism, and the way that attitudes about people affect our attitudes about their language. We will discuss how the way we talk about political issues can strongly influence our beliefs about those issues, and we will use concrete examples including controversial topics like marriage equality, abortion, and physician assisted suicide. I have strong political beliefs, as doubtless many of you do too. We will keep the debate focused around the language used to talk about these issues because language processing is the point of the course, but it is important to know that we can have that debate respectfully, regardless of where we each come from politically.

Secretary DeVos said, “The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.” I think she got her question words wrong. The faculty and staff at OSU and at any university worth the name don’t teach you what to do, say, or think. We teach you how to do things, how to say things, and more importantly, how to think clearly, deeply, and critically.

It is with this email that I leave you with the following quote.

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
Albert Einstein

As always,

You are valid. You have worth. You are irreplaceable. You are enough.

 

Make Womb for The Future

(Side note-I’m playing with the way this site looks. If you have a suggestion, or a thought, leave me a comment. I want to make sure everything is at least readable.)

Over the course of the last month, I’ve heard one question pop up each time we’ve (Ben and I) run into someone from our pasts. It’s the one question that forces me to bite my tongue so hard I’m sure I’ll gnaw right through. The one question that makes me want to smack my head against a wall. And that reaction is ubiquitous (my new favorite word) regardless of intention, identity of the questioner.

So, any kids yet?

Now, the question has variation of course. And some people I just assume ask because I’m a heavy woman. And that is the one case when I’m surprisingly not immediately offended. I get it-I’m fat. I’m not gonna pout about it. But that particular scenario has happened maybe once, so it’s the exception, not the rule.

Seriously though. I know a great many people who are parents-and damn good ones. If that’s the life they choose for themselves, I’m happy for them. But for Ben and I-it’s not the right time. And I know, I don’t have to defend my life choices to you lovely people, but we need to talk about gender expectations and this is one area I am a professional at.

Ahem.

When Ben and I got married (and at a young age), our congratulatory messages on social media were delightful, but several contained the question above. This may be an old story, but it’s relevant, so here goes. A year went by and in class, my professor asked if women in America experienced any pressures to have kids. I told him that the same day I got married, people were asking me. He shook his head and told me that he doubted it actually happened.

And that was two years ago. I’m still getting asked. I honestly don’t think I’ll stop being asked in the immediately foreseeable future. I don’t have to like that for it to be reality. So I try not to let it bother me. But the truth is, it’s demeaning, it’s borderline offensive and it’s not cool. Allow me to explain.

When you ask if I’m going to have kids soon, what you’re really saying is that my only value is in my ability to reproduce. You’re telling me that my marriage is only valuable if I make another human being. You’re telling my husband that his only worth is in producing sperm and that I am only as valuable as the number of offspring I produce. You’re telling me that my career isn’t worth anything, that I’ve wasted my time going to college. You’re telling me that my life ceases to be anything the moment I become a mother.

So let me tell you something.

I have value. As an individual. I don’t need to ever have a kid if I don’t want to. Do you know why? Because being a mother isn’t the only purpose for a woman to exist. I can be anything. I can be a lawyer, or a doctor or a fisher or a crafter or an actress or anything. And do you know why? Because if I want it-I will do it. And none of those things need your permission for me to accomplish.

So when you tell me that you want grandchildren because there are coworkers who talk about theirs and you don’t get to partake in that conversation-I’m silently fuming. You’re telling us that the only reason you want grandchildren is so that you won’t have to be left out? You’re telling us that you don’t care about what we want in life, just as long as you have a conversation starter? Excuse you. (And no, it’s not my parents.)

Let me tell you what I want.

I want to see the world. I want to work in a job I don’t hate, make friends who are loyal and share my interests. I want to go out and try new things, just for the sake of crossing them off my bucket list. I want to pay off all of my student loans. I want to be a member of wine of the month club and perform some more marriages. I want to live in a world where my value isn’t negotiable, my rights aren’t laughed at, my body is not something anyone else is entitled to. I want to live in a country where people are seen as equals-regardless of their skin color, their socioeconomic background, their beliefs. I want to live in a world where people care about one another, protect one another, help out one another.

And until that happens-all of that-I can’t imagine that having a child will make me happy. 

I don’t want to look at my kid and see nothing but regrets and “what ifs”. I don’t want to be bitter that I never got to do x, y, or z. I don’t want to resent my child because I can’t go to places I’ve always dreamed about. That’s not what I want for them.

And when I cross off all of the things I want out of life, all of the things I’ve ever desired and can offer my everything to my kid-it is then and ONLY then, that I will consider having one.

Because I am not defined by my ability to reproduce. And neither is anyone else.

Inconceivable.

INCONCEIVABLE:

adjective
  1. not capable of being imagined or grasped mentally; unbelievable.

RaACISM

noun
  1. the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

INEQUALITY:

noun
  1. difference in size, degree, circumstances, etc.; lack of equality.

STEREOTYPE:

noun
  1. a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

FEMINISM:

noun
  1. the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

ASSUME:

verb
  1. suppose to be the case, without proof.

DIVERSITY:

noun
  1. the state of being diverse; variety.

Today’s topic, as you can see, is a social justice one. It’s been something that’s floated around in my mind, waiting for a moment when I could write everything down properly. I included some definitions today, simply because too many people don’t actually know the real definition of words these days. Pity.

I, as we have discussed, am part of the millennial generation, the group of people born between 1980 and 2000, and I speak with those of us who do not wish to see the world fall to ruin.

loraxEQ.jpg

Each and every day I am surrounded by gobs of people, and I know almost nothing about any of them. But sometimes I come in contact with people that I do know something about, or I catch a snippet of a conversation and what I hear is something like the following:

“I just think that there are a lot of [insert “race” here] people who are a waste of space…”

“I don’t think women should be so concerned about…”

“I’m not racist, but…”

“I know it’s anti-feminist, but…”

benjen

I have heard enough. I have heard ever so much more than enough.

I am the daughter of farmers, a third generation American (on the one side), and although my skin is pale, I have a voice and I’m ready to use it. In fact, let me list out as many minorities that I belong to as I can.

Woman. Pagan. Pro-Choice. Third-gen American. Liberal. Anthropologist. Mentally ill. Multi-lingual. Bisexual. First generation college student. Poor (I think that counts).

You know what? We’ll stop there. It’s enough. And no, I’m not a woman of color. I know that. I will never know what it is like to feel discrimination on the basis of the amount of melanin in my body. I am aware of that.

But NONE of those things make me lesser-or better- than anyone else. Let me repeat that for the people in the back.

original

I belong to the generation that takes offence to everything. And maybe it’s for good reason. It’s not okay to make racist or sexist jokes. It’s not okay to group people together under assumptions and broad generalizations. (Case in point, the millennial qualifiers I have highlighted.)

We are all people. We are all human beings searching for the meaning of life, the reason for living, respect and empathy. And I am so tired of hearing people, listening to people I know make comments and “jokes” that they shouldn’t. And I’ve started calling them out.

It isn’t an internet issue per se, and I’ve been working in person to make the conversations around me better too. Even so, a large portion of communication these days is online. And that is where it is almost worse in some ways. It’s easy to assume that because something isn’t in person, that it doesn’t matter. But it does. It really does.

No one is born racist. No one is born sexist. No one is born with the thought that they are better (or lesser) than someone else. We are all just born. We all just die.

diversity-1

I love diversity. I love it so much, in fact, that that’s what drew me to anthropology. And I love that we’re not all exactly cookie-cutter versions of the same person. That’s dull. It is only through our differences that we can thrive. But it isn’t the differences that make us better as individuals, or as small collectives. Our differences are like the glue that holds our species together, building us up. Something to be proud of, not ashamed of.

You may notice that I haven’t specifically mentioned all of the terms that I laid out for us in the beginning. I’m just putting them in because it’s a “food for thought” thing. I know they’re important, it’s just important that people start using them the right way for the right reasons.

(As always, these pictures came from Google, I’m not trying to steal them, I thought they were great. I did add words to the Lorax and the picture of the hand. That part was me!)