So... I had an interesting start to the workweek. I was at my usual post of doing the box office/registration tasks when I was asked to take a phone call from a patron inquiring about a donation. I took the call, and what happened next can only be described as monumental for two reasons. It turns out this particular patron had been on the phone for a half hour trying to figure out why his donation wasn't going through, and he sounded clearly pissed off. I started out by assuring him that I would be able to look into this matter, but then he told me to slow down because I was talking way too fast (a bad habit, I know.) After I repeated the information again at a slower pace, he commented that he was frustrated about this situation. To help diffuse the situation like I normally would, I laughed. (Laughter helps in tense situations when you know how to do it right.) He told me something I didn't expect to hear: "Don't laugh." Uh-oh. That's when I realized this was going to be serious. He proceed to start yelling at me and berating me over the phone, and I knew this wasn't going to help matters. I told him my firmest, customer service voice, "Do not yell at me. I will not tolerate you speaking to me and using that tone of voice. I will help you and we can figure this out." I must've said this several times to calm him down. He was clearly out of line. To make a long story short, I was able to figure out why his online donation hadn't gone which was an easy fix. All the while I was shaking and doing my hardest to not break down on the phone. At the end of the call, the patron said this to me: "I hope the next person who calls is nicer than I was. Have a good day. Goodbye." Yeah. That definitely warranted a lot of walking around to clear my head and calming down (even crying). And also a TON of reassurance that I had every right to stand up for myself over the phone. There are certain things that I can't stand, and being treated like a punching bag or doormat is one of them. Especially in customer service. But more importantly... As a human being. Lately as both an actor and a human being, people are just more and more demanding and cruel lately. And I can't for the life of me figure out why. Is it because we were sheltered in place for an extended period of time due to a deadly virus? Is it because of our government? Is it because of the rise in attacks against minorities/LGBTQ+? Is it because of climate change? Or is it simply because we don't know what it truly means to be human? The phrase "I'm only human" has been popping into my head a lot lately, and it was all thanks to a picture I saw on my walks around the neighborhood. Take a look at it and you'll see what I mean:
You see, we were taught as kids about some important topics that would serve us well in lives, like sharing, hard work, caring for others, mathematics, reading, writing/typing, geography, creativity, courage, trustworthiness, etc. And then there are the things that we were taught that probably isn't serving us well right now, such as treating people who are physically different from you like second class citizens, whitewashed history without enough diversity or all the facts about what happened nationally/globally, hiding abuse and mistreatment from within familial and working relationships, treating individuals with mental health as "crazy," certain degrading stereotypes and phrases about minorities, etc. We were trained repeatedly about the certain behaviors and ideologies that are and are not okay, often times with "yes" or "no" or even sometimes through books, films, newspaper articles, formal education (or informal education), and just about anywhere or anyone who wants to teach us what is deemed important. However, now that many of us are adults and have kids of our own, we're starting to see that some of the things and behaviors we were taught as children may not exactly be beneficial as it used to be. Or in this case, it's not as acceptable in today's society like it was back then. A big reason for this? Wait for it. CHANGE. People are always asking questions and gathering more information from valuable sources (internet NOT included), and the things they discover are often eye-opening. Some of these sources, you ask? Well, it could be books. But it's also from first hand experience of witnessing certain behaviors and beliefs in action. Like shaming a black individual as being stupid or a threat just for dressing a certain way. Like shouting slurs at LGBTQ+ individuals because they're holding hands or kissing in public. Like relegating your mother and the girls to the kitchen because it's what expected in society and the men are just there to lounge around and not help out with the chores. Like telling your child to "snap out of it" or "suck it up" when they're struggling in their studies and activities due to their depression and your unwillingness to take them to therapy or seek medical treatment. Like using a phrase or joke that brings up a lot of laughs at the table during the holidays but also discomfort since it "pokes fun" at a particular group of people. Like siding with one political party because of their time honored beliefs or criticizing another because of being deemed "too radical." Like asking the young, single professionals "when are you getting married?" or the young married couples "when are you having kids?" at the dinner table. Like seeing physically disabled people as weak and incapable of taking care of themselves because of their limitations. Like seeing fast food workers or retail associates as lazy and deemed unworthy of getting higher paying jobs. Like dismissing pupils suggestions to feature more stories and content for minorities because it's not appropriate or the fear of being the victim. Like not wanting to play with certain kids at the playground or play dates because of how they dress. Like verbally assaulting individuals in checkout lines at the store because they don't speak English. And the list goes on... And on... And on. You know what's sad about this? These patterns and ideologies were passed on from generation to generation based on what the previous family members experienced or were told by their parents and grandparents. And when the next ones in line try to break away from tradition, or in this case, the beliefs and other words family members have said or continue to instill in others, they are shamed for being an individual. It's as if it's wrong to say "the old way isn't working any more. It's time to be more inclusive/respectful/understanding to each other." Especially if it's the same harmful beliefs and ideas that divided humanity for so long. Let's face it: We didn't realize as kids that certain words, behaviors, and ideas/beliefs passed down from generation to generation would be considered divisive and offensive to certain groups of people. Like racism. Or sexism. Or xenophobia. Or stereotyping. Or religious persecution. Or body image/fatphobia. Or mental health stigmatization. Or wealth inequality. Or whitewashed history. Or anything that's described as a way to make yourself feel better while putting down others who are different from you. And it hurts when those impacted by what you say and do, even when you think it's harmless, tell you that it's not okay any longer. It never was okay to begin with. Let's go back to the sign I showed you earlier. "Getting sick is not your fault." It stands true for any the negative beliefs, ideologies, and sayings we were trained to accept and regurgitate to future generations, including the whitewashed history in schools across the country. I remember my therapist telling me something important whenever I explained a belief or memory from my childhood that haunted me for years: "You were just a child. You didn't know any better because you were younger and you did what your parents told you to do." The same is true for the diseases that are racism, sexism, xenophobia, and so on. We were just kids following adult's leads, and if we tried to question their words and actions that hurt others inadvertently or explicitly, we were asked to behave and not to ask "such silly questions." We didn't know any better. Now that we're older and (hopefully) wiser, we are seeing a shift from the harmful words, actions, and beliefs against different people ingrained in our minds and hearts to ideologies and thoughts that are more understanding, compassionate, and inclusive to everyone. And it simply takes acknowledging the truth about being kids and still learning, growing, and thriving as we were going through so much changes and transformations physically, mentally, and emotionally. But here's the kicker: It's not only important to realize we were kids and didn't know quite as much information as we do now, but it's vital that we do the last thing the sign says: "Getting well is your responsibility." We all have some form of sickness within us, physically, mentally, or both, and we usually go the doctor who would prescribe us medication and treatment to help us get well. Or even have the symptoms be manageable should the disease be a long-term process to recover from. It's the same with the beliefs and ideologies we were taught as kids. Only this time, it's up to US to make sure we get the proper treatment and medicine in or to heal, or in this case, become more aware, understanding, and inclusive to everyone. "I'm only human" is no longer an acceptable excuse to your antiquated beliefs and ideologies towards certain groups of people. You either put in the effort to get better as a human being and support one another, or you will be in a far worse place with your relationships suffering exponentially because of your reluctance and unwillingness to get help. A friend of mine I had to let go has several mental health illnesses, including bipolar disorder, and despite our encouragement and offering to help her with getting treatment, she wasn't willing to follow through with our suggestions and guidance and the relationships suffered because of her supposed indifference and unwillingness to seek treatment. And she's not the only one out there who's like this. Dozens of people are hesitant to seek help for their illnesses simply because of their beliefs and opinions about wellness and medication, especially the prejudice against minorities and LGBTQ+ communities. And the reasons are valid. But here's the thing: If you decide to not get well or seek treatment for inclusivity, understanding, compassion, and allowing yourself to learn more about the world around you away from the beliefs you were taught as a kid simply because of your unwillingness, I can guarantee you your relationships will suffer because of your decision. Come to think of it, your relationships are already suffering by holding onto the diseases of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and more. And you holding onto them because of the prejudice you have against change and becoming more aware and tolerant of others. And that in itself is the worst disease of all. (First of all, I'm doing okay since my incident at work. I'm taking care of myself and doing what I do best - reflecting and observing what has happened and the world around me. It's the same with my blogs. These are MY reflections and observations on what's going on around me, and you are welcome to disagree with me on anything I say. But I won't tolerate any offensive or disrespectful behavior towards me or anyone else who comments on my blogs. I will block you and delete the responses if you refuse to kind and understanding.)
The most important question all of you are asking me right now?
”How the heck do I get treatment for the racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other diseases that were a part of my life? I don’t know if I can.”
First of all, YES YOU CAN.
And secondly, it’s going to take a lot of work to get treatment and reteach yourself new ideas and beliefs about the world around you.
But you already have a head start in the recovery process.
Simply acknowledging that what you thought was true about the world around you when you were taught these things as a kid and is no longer the case is the first step.
Now, it’s time to put the vulnerability and determination to heal into practice.
Read books and check out resources from a wide variety of voices, including the ones you initially thought were true. That way you can see with your own eyes the beliefs and ideologies about certain people who you thought were a threat or too radical to help you understand that they are truly incorrect and how damaging it is to your health. Then, after investigating the words and information, you are ready for the next thing to do in the healing process.
Ask questions and take the time to get to know the individuals who are different from you. You can even admit that you weren’t informed about certain language or beliefs that is offensive and disrespectful to them, and explain you are taking the time to learn and become more aware.
The one thing to NOT do?
Please don’t solely look at the internet for information. Better yet, don’t look at the internet at all!
Not all of the information on there is reliable since it’s been constantly updating and changing by people who may or may not know their information, especially in regards to racism or any of the other diseases we discussed.
If you’re the type of person who tends to believe everything on the internet, even the most implausible of information, stay as far away from the internet as possible!
But only use the internet if it’s a last resort. Books can be especially helpful, and magazines and newspapers, too.
And another thing to keep in mind when looking for information?
Keep it as close to recent as possible.
What may be true 50-75 years ago isn’t the case now. Especially if it’s certain words, phrases, and stereotypes of people you see in the media.
I literally just found out “out of your cotton pickin’ mind” is racist when I thought it was harmless due to hearing Bugs Bunny say it frequently in the Looney Tunes cartoons.
Knowledge IS power, and we CAN be taught.
And the last thing you need to do in the healing process?
Keep an open mind, eyes, and heart.
And it’s the hardest thing to do for all of us, especially if we’re so accustomed to being comfortable with where we are and what we believe.
I’ve said this time and time again, but bears repeating:
Change is inevitable, and change is the only constant.
How can we expect to learn, grow, and thrive as human beings if we don’t accept change?
Especially if we focus on the things we gain as opposed to the things we lose?
Look at it this way:
If you decide to stay where you are and not get well, you’re going to lose more than you realize.
Your own way.
You may even lose yourself.
What’s a worse punishment: resisting change and the transformation of the world around you and losing everyone and everything you hold dear?
Or taking a risk in admitting you’re not well and accept change as a guide to your transformation, and gaining the people and opportunities that will serve you well in the long run?
You will lose things to change, yes.
Your old habits.
Your former beliefs and ideologies.
Your “friends” who you thought cared about you.
Your “family” who you thought did what was best for you. Your former self.
Your negative perception and beliefs about the world around you, including people who you may have deemed a threat or too radical for you.
But what you will gain in your journey to wellness can be quite beneficial to your growth and development as an individual.
Including seeing people who are different as human beings who deserve to have the same things you and I have:
A place to live.
A community, or even a tribe to help raise you.
Dreams to dream.
And so much more.
I don’t want to hear anymore excuses from you.
It’s past time we started to get well and heal from the diseases of racism, sexism, xenophobia, favoritism, religious persecution, body image/fatphobia, wealth inequality, and so much more prejudice and discrimination against one another that is driving us apart.
It’s not a question of if we get better.
It’s now a question of WHEN.
We can’t wait any longer to get better, or even use fear as an excuse to saying “I’m fine.”
You keep on denying that you are sick and the people who mean the most to you are getting pushed and driven away by your warped view of being okay.
And not only that, you’re missing out on the chance to transform into the human being you were meant to become: one that is understandable, respectful, kind, tolerant, open-minded, patient, and loving.
None of us are meant to stay sick with these illnesses forever, even if they are long-term.
What’s important is that you take the initiative to get well and transform into the incredible individual you were meant to be.
I have faith you can get better, and yes, it will hurt, but I promise you it will be worth it in the long run.
My most recommended prescription for this treatment?
Keep taking a dose of it each day, no matter how big or small.
It will serve you well.
And trust me, you will feel better in the long run.