Barefoot in the Grass


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the value of simply enjoying life as it comes.  I spent this weekend in Virginia visiting my family & college roommate.  While sitting on top of a mountain yesterday with my friend, we discussed how important it is to relish the simple pleasures in life & how careers should never be the focus or center of anyone’s life, no matter how wonderful that career might be.  My therapist helped me to understand this concept a couple of months ago & I keep coming back to it for one reason or another.  I’ve found that my therapist was so right when she said that achieving greater balance in life between career, family, friends, hobbies, etc actually leads to finding greater satisfaction in all of those things.  As a life-long perfectionist, sometimes such concepts are difficult to grasp but I am slowly learning to do so.  I actually wrote a whole post recently about the importance of having fun without guilt & making time to just soak up all the amazing experiences life has to offer (see https://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2014/05/16/the-pain-of-regret/).

When I have kids I plan to teach them to have goals & to chase their dreams in life, to work hard & hone skills such as music or dance.  But I also plan to teach them to understand the simple pleasures of life, such as walking barefoot in the grass, because without those things, nothing else really means anything.

While the movie was grossly historically inaccurate, I still love the song Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas, most especially the last three lines: You can own the earth and still/All you own is earth until/You can paint with all the colors of the wind.  That’s what I’m trying to express here.

All of this thinking led me to remember a poem I wrote almost 4 years ago.  I composed it almost entirely in my head while visiting my grandmother’s grave at the cemetery in my hometown.  As I told a cousin of mine this weekend, I can never write poetry intentionally.  Or at least if I do it’s not any good.  The only good poetry (in my opinion) I’ve ever written has been stuff that’s just “come to me,” like this one did.  Anyway, I hope it speaks to you in some way today, & I hope you’ll never forget the importance of knowing how it feels to walk barefoot in the grass.  It truly is one of the best feelings in the world.  Cheers!

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My feet slipped in the mud and wet grass

Frustrated, I removed my shoes and walked around barefoot

The feeling of the cool, wet grass under my feet

And then the warm black pavement

With cracks like rivers running through it

The sting of the hard pebbles as they cut into the soles of my feet

The sound of birds chirping, dogs barking, and rain falling

All served to transport my troubled mind

To a place of such pristine serenity

 

I spend my life busy, busy, busy

Always going, going, going

But in this short trip to the cemetery

Nature once again through her gentle beauty

Whispered words of wisdom in my ear

Slow down, rest, relax, rejuvenate

Everything in life need not be purposeful, useful, or planned

Sometimes it is enough simply to exist

To experience the pleasure of walking barefoot in the grass

And to know that such simple pleasures

Are the very essence of our existence

What Feminism Got Wrong


Since its very inception (or shall we say modern inception), the Feminist movement has focused almost exclusively on equality for women in the workforce.  Equal pay for equal work is a phrase we’ve all heard countless times.  I have no problem with this idea of course, but the more I ponder the state of modern women I’m coming to realize that perhaps feminism lost a great deal of its purpose by focusing itself far too narrowly.  Should not the greater goal of feminism be that women be viewed & treated as the intellectual equals of men in all aspects of society?  Notice that I said INTELLECTUAL equals.  I’m not one of these disillusioned idiots who tries to argue that men & women are physically equivalent.  Duh, of course we’re not.  (If we were, that would be pretty boring!)  But it’s like comparing apples & oranges; both are fruits but they are physically & biologically quite different.  Yet neither of them could realistically be argued to be better or worse.  Same goes for men & women.  Physically we are quite different but life isn’t a competition & neither gender is inherently better or worse.  Now that we’ve covered the most basic premise, let us carry on to greater ideas.

feminism

A theme I read & hear about frequently nowadays is the trend of well-educated women, often with high-powered careers, opting out of the workforce in favor of staying home with their children (or even occasionally without any children).  Old-school feminists often view this as a severe failure & bemoan how modern women could make such “selfish” choices after all they did to pave the way for opportunities for women today.  And yet if one is to be logical, one cannot help but realize that these women have legitimate reasons for leaving behind even successful, rewarding careers to raise their children full-time.

What I’m trying to argue here is that the greater goal of feminism ought to be making it acceptable for women to choose any path in life.  A woman shouldn’t feel the need to justify her choices, no matter what they are, every time someone asks “What do you do?”  If one woman wants to be a doctor or a lawyer or a CEO of a powerful company, great.  But if another woman wants to be “just” a stay-at-home mom, that’s great too.  The point is that we have that CHOICE.  It’s all about having the power to DECIDE what we want to do.  And having the humility to realize that there isn’t one “right” path for all women to follow.  Indeed there are many equally valid paths in life that we may choose, & what’s even greater is that throughout our lives we can choose to walk various ones at various times.  For example, right now I’m focusing on my nursing career.  I love my job but I also know it’s not going to be the center of my life forever.  In fact my therapist recently challenged me to consider whether having a career as the “center” of my life is ever a healthy idea.  She stated that regardless of age or gender, a career really shouldn’t be the main focus of anyone’s life.  And I’m inclined to think she’s right.  Having a career you love is wonderful & truly enriches the quality of your life.  But it shouldn’t be everything.  It shouldn’t be THE THING that defines you.

I’m straying from my point, but what I am trying to say is that right now I am more career-focused.  But somewhere in the next three to ten years I very much believe I will become more family-focused.  I already know that I don’t want to work full-time, if at all possible, when I have young children.  I know some women can handle that & that’s great.  But I know that my mentality couldn’t handle it, & I feel that being a nurse & being a mom are both far too important to potentially screw up by stretching myself too thin.  Thus, when I have young children I hope to work only part-time if at all possible.  If you should ask why I would choose my children over my career, it’s because I know that I have the rest of my life to work.  Excluding major health problems, there is no limit on how long I can be a nurse or when I can go to grad school to advance my career.  However, there is a very limited window in which my children will be young & very much in need of my care & guidance.  And even though the prospect of raising children is something I still cannot imagine I am up to, I know I would never forgive myself for missing that window of time with them.  Later when my children are a little older, there is no reason to believe I wouldn’t be able to work full-time again & even go back to school to advance my career.  Again, the point is that at various points in our lives we can choose various paths that serve us best.

While traditional feminists often resent the fact that more women choose to stay at home with their children than men, I see no problem with this.  Stay-at-home dads are great, but the fact of the matter is that no matter how “enlightened” we are, most men just aren’t going to want to do that, while plenty of women would jump at the chance to raise their children full-time without the demands of another career.  I see no problem with this at all.  It’s just biology, folks.

I read a great blog post (raisingkidswithoutreligion.net/2014/02/03/what-women-do) recently that questioned whether staying at home with children while they’re young sends boys (& girls) the message that women are inferior.  It was a great question but the conclusion the author came to was that the lessons she was able to teach her sons while at home with them & the example she & her husband set for them in their own relationship actually taught them quite the opposite: that women are very much intellectually equal to men & that making career sacrifices for the sake of family in no way reduces a woman’s intelligence or intellectual capacity.  After all, even if we may achieve “less” in our careers we have not achieved less in LIFE.  As previously stated, your life isn’t (or shouldn’t be) defined by your career, regardless of your gender.

I’m in no way trying to argue that all women should be stay-at-home moms.  And to be clear it makes me sick to think of the times when women were viewed as child-like creatures who could never think rationally or independently.  Hell, no.  Indeed, from my experiences thus far in life, I continually come to the conclusion that men & women have far more commonalities than we have differences.

What I am saying is that maybe feminism should focus less on belittling men & achieving 50/50 ratios in government & other traditionally male-dominated fields.  After all, no one seems to be arguing that traditionally female-dominated fields such as nursing or teaching should be 50/50, though I certainly think greater balance in all fields would be a good thing.  Instead perhaps we should focus on empowering women to realize the full realm of options we now have.  And to understand that any of those options are valid as long as they lead to a rewarding, enriching life.  And that, greatest of all, we can choose different paths at different times in our lives.

Regardless of your gender, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter.

6 Reasons Why I’m Proud of My Generation


It seems that lately I’ve heard a lot of criticism of my generation.  It usually goes something like this: We’re lazy.  We’re entitled.  (Or we think we’re entitled.)  We have no patience.  We can’t get our hands off of our smart phones.  We’re too sexually promiscuous.  We don’t know how to dress appropriately.  And the list goes on and on.  Frankly, I’m tired of it.  May I be so bold as to say that such criticisms offend me on two levels: on a personal level because I know these criticisms cannot be fairly applied to me & on a more general level because I know that these criticisms also cannot be fairly applied to the majority of my generation?  In light of that, perhaps I should just shrug off this negativity & forget it.  And usually that is what I do.  But this is a subject that’s been brewing in my mind for quite some time now.  I don’t know that I’ve really thought of it explicitly as a potential blog topic, but it’s just an idea that’s been running through my head for a while now.  As I was driving to my flute group practice today, I started composing this blog post in my mind.  I got to practice & all I could think about was “I’ve got to get home & start writing before I forget this!”  If you’re a fellow writer, I’m sure you know exactly how this feels.  So here we go.  Here’s my response to all those nay-sayers who say my generation is going to hell in a hand-basket or running the world into the ground or whatever else.

millenials

I’m proud of my generation.  To be fair, I’m not sure exactly how to define the term “my generation” but generally I think of anyone who is now about 20-30 as within my generation (that’s anyone within five years older than me & five years younger than me).  To me we are the last generation to grow up without computers as a mainstay of our lives from birth, yet we are one of the first generations to be well versed in computers, ipods, & other such technology as teenagers & young adults.  I see my generation, especially those of us from rural areas where high-speed internet access is still far from universal, as straddling the gap between those who had to learn computers & other such technology as adults & those who grew up with it from day one.  Now on to the meat of the piece: the reasons why I’m proud of my generation.

1. I’m proud of my generation because of our acceptance of those who are different from us.  A great example of this is how common interracial relationships & marriages are in our generation.  Especially in a multi-cultural city like Raleigh, it’s very common for me to see couples at the mall or other public places who are composed of everything from a white man and a black woman to an Asian woman and a white man to any other combination you can think of.  And most of them are from my generation.  As much as I often rail against the mainstream media, take a glance at modern-day ads or TV (much of which is aimed at my generation) & you’ll quickly see that mixed race models & actors are all the rage (& fairly so, for many of them are drop-dead gorgeous.)  [Think Jennifer Lopez, Shemar Moore, etc.]  While older generations still can’t seem to grasp this concept, my generation has realized that all relationships are made up of people with different backgrounds & points of view & thus an interracial or inter-cultural relationship really isn’t that different than any other relationship.  To put this in simple terms consider that I as a white American female probably have more in common with your average black American male than with a white man from another culture, say Eastern Europe.  And yet I know there are plenty of folks from older generations who would much prefer to see me dating a white Eastern European guy than a black American guy . . . If you think that people aren’t capable of overcoming cultural differences to establish & maintain a relationship, then you have far too low an opinion of humanity.  Consider that perhaps the greatest challenge for those in inter-racial relationships is actually dealing with the REACTIONS of those around them, rather than some inherent challenge found in dating someone of another race.  Hmmm . . .

To follow in the same vein, I am proud of my generation for how many of us support equal rights, including marriage, for gays and lesbians.  Not everyone of my generation agrees with this obviously, but I daresay a greater percentage of people from our generation are in favor of gay rights/marriage than from any other generation.  This isn’t meant to be a post about gay rights, but it does warm my heart to see how even those of us from conservative religious backgrounds (such as myself) are questioning some of the things we were taught growing up & realizing that gay rights are a cause we can’t help but support.

2. I’m also proud of my generation for being adept at using technology & handling change.  As a generation who grew up with massive change in technology both at home & in school, we are thus adept at handling new technology in the workplace, even though we’re often fully aware that whatever technology we’re now embracing will probably soon be replaced by something newer & better.  Consider that just between elementary & high school we went from using floppy discs to flashdrives, from cassette tapes to CDs, & from VHS to DVDs.  Thus, we are both swift to learn how to use technology and how to teach others to use it.  Instead of fearing change, we are often the employees who push for change because we are able to see how it can benefit us.  Is it true that some of us spend entirely too much time on our smart phones & seem barely capable of holding a real conversation?  Yes, but I truly believe this isn’t the norm.  I have tons of friends & coworkers of my generation who are fully capable of carrying on in-depth conversations with people of our own & other generations.  But we also know how to use our smart phones to help us navigate a new city or find the closest WalMart or CVS.  Really, how can you say that’s such a bad thing?

3. Yet another reason I’m proud of my generation is for our critical thinking skills.  Gone are the days when people believe anything someone says just because they said it.  No, we are the generation raised on science & because of that you can’t just expect us to follow you hook, line, & sinker without a lot of good facts to back up whatever is you’re trying to “sell” us.  These are the days of Google & you better believe that when we’re shopping for a new car, we’ve already looked up the Kelly Bluebook value online, not to mention user reviews from previous buyers.   Basically, it’s a lot harder to “snow” us.  If we’re interested in religion or philosophy, you better believe we won’t be satisfied with simple answers to complicated questions.  And you better believe we will never stop asking questions & we’ll have no problem leaving behind anyone who tells us our questions are inappropriate or unnecessary.

4. I’m proud of my generation for working hard often with little reward.  We are the generation who were raised to be believe we could be anything & that any college degree, no matter how obscure, would land us a well-paying job for the rest of our lives.  The more insightful of us realized this was always a bit of a fallacy, but many of us believed it because for prior generations it was largely true.  However, right around the time we were graduating from college is when the economy crashed & suddenly many of us were left with mountains of debt & useless degrees.  Suddenly we are competing for the same jobs as our counterparts with “mere” high school diplomas.  Because of our school loans, many of us are having to live at home with our parents or put off marriage & family plans.  Many of us are waking up to the sad reality that we may never be as well-off as our parents.  And that Social Security won’t exist for our generation (because the program is already financially teetering on the edge of disaster) even though we will pay into it for the rest of our lives.  (While much of this is not true for me as a nurse, I do see it all around me in my generation.)  Despite all of these obstacles, I see many folks of my generation creating successful careers whether they be in healthcare, teaching, advertising, network marketing, photography, etc.  For example three of my favorite photography blogs are run by women who are all under 30.  In fact I’m quite sure the eldest of them is 27 or 28 & they are all very successful.  Even though we’re facing obstacles we may not have realized would exist, we are rising to the challenge & eventually employers are going to realize what a valuable resource we are.

5. I’m proud of my generation for leaving gender stereotypes in the dust.  I’m proud of us for realizing that men & women can share the housework, that not everything has to be written in stone as “the woman’s job” or “the man’s job.”  Yet I’m also proud of us for realizing that being a stay-at-home mom is just as legitimate & rewarding of a choice as having a high-powered career.  And that stay-at-home dads are a legitimate choice too.  Women can be doctors & lawyers, men can be nurses & teachers.  Basically we can do all whatever we want.

I could go on & on but for the sake of brevity (HAHA, I know I am pretty much incapable of ever writing anything brief!), I’ll end with this.

6. Perhaps more than anything, I’m proud of my generation for realizing the one thing that I think older generations largely could not grasp: that what’s right for some of us isn’t right for others of us, that there is no ONE right path for everyone, & that the greatest thing we can achieve in life is just to be happy & chase our dreams.

I realize this post would be “better” if I had addressed each of the criticisms I listed at the beginning, but I wanted to list the reasons for which I’m most proud of my generation, not just provide arguments against vague criticisms, some of which are a bit superficial anyway.

Before you say that this post is trashing older generations let me be clear & say that I have nothing but respect for older generations.  (For example, I’m one of those nurses who LOVES working with older people.)  Obviously older generations taught us a great deal & laid down the groundwork for where we are today.  For example, inter-racial marriage wouldn’t even be legal if not for the work of civil rights workers in the 1950’s & 60’s.  I’m fully aware that every generation thinks those that come after it are going to hell.  It’s just the way the world works.  So I will go ahead & ask in advance that when I’m 40 or 50 or 70 or whatever & start railing against my children or grandchildren’s generation, somebody send me the link to this blog post & remind me of how much I hated being criticized when I was young.  Please & thank you.  😉