Oppressing Myself

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about multiculturalism and how being a part of a race or ethnic group other than Caucasian can foster feelings of tremendous inadequacy. These feelings can lead to those in these groups seeking to dull the pain of their experiences through any number of means, including denial, assimilation, and even outright hatred toward their own heritages. Indeed, there is a desperation for some people to not only escape their situations, but also to escape who they are in general.

This is not light reading I have decided to pick up for myself on a whim. It is part of two college classes I am taking this summer. The prevailing opinion I seem to be picking up on so far is that white people – whether they realize it or not – are part of a privileged race. This privilege is not even necessarily evident; it simply exists because white people (white males, in particular) have traditionally been the dominant cultural group in America. As a result, many Caucasians have never experienced the type of prejudice and even hatred directed toward other ethnic and cultural groups. Therefore, they have less of a reason to loathe themselves because of their cultural station.

I’ve been turning this idea over and over in my mind, and I have come across a feeling of self-hatred for myself. It has not come from a sudden realization that I have acted in a racist way toward anyone, although I do not rule out the possibility that I have. I also do not mean that I necessarily feel as if I have been wronged by some other ethnic or social group, although specific incidents where this may have happened certainly spring to mind. If these two variables have been eliminated, then, where exactly does it come from?

Here’s what I have concluded: I have discriminated against myself.oppression-fists

How is this possible, you might ask? Well, it has to do with my depression and my lack of self-esteem. By result of my never believing I was very handsome, talented, skillful, or desirable, I denied myself many opportunities. It’s not that I didn’t want to succeed; it’s just that I didn’t particularly think I was worthy of it. Of course, external factors may have had a role in this as well, but the driving force in my desire to change myself came as much from inside myself as it did outside. Any barb or slight directed at me was not deflected by a sense of self-worth, but was rather taken to heart and assimilated into my personality.

I have reached a sort of crossroads in my life. I am starting to believe I am worth more, but I am concerned that I have spent so much of my life believing I was less that no one will give me a chance to prove otherwise. This is a hopeless feeling, to say the least. It almost describes the tree falling in the woods: If a person changes but no one takes notice, do they really change? Just as the answer to the question about the tree is affirmative, however, so is the one to this question concerning change. A member of an ethnic or cultural group who makes a lifestyle change does it as much for themselves as for the society around them. Perhaps that is the truth I need to focus on.

Advertisements

I’m Still Here!

I have not posted anything here since last Tuesday, but I have a very good reason why: I am a college student again! My first night of classes began last Wednesday, and I also have one class online. These are summer classes, so everything is going to be pretty compact and intense. I spent all day today reading, typing up a paper, and making copies of pages from a workbook. Welcome back, my friend.

SUMMMER-SCHOOLThat last line may be a joke, but I had honestly forgotten about the intensity of college courses in general, and I had definitely forgotten how compressed a summer class can be. As a result, I have been more than a little overwhelmed just trying to set up some sort of routine to deal with everything. I believe the newness and initial shock will wear off, however, and I will find my groove eventually. In the meantime, my posts here may be sporadic, which is sort of a shame because I’m getting some great material to write about from these classes.

So there you have it. Just my quick little check-in to say I’m still here, I haven’t stopped blogging, and I will have some really good stuff coming up in the future. Of course, the future maybe two years from now, but… 🙂

Bring It On

As I mentioned in my last post, it looks as if I’m going to be a student again. I received an email Friday indicating that I have been conditionally accepted into the Ed.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Murray State University. The “conditionally” part consists of my keeping a 3.0 GPA for my first nine credit hours. Piece of cake, right?

hate_schoolThis may come as a surprise to all my friends I grew up with who considered me a super-nerd for all those years, but I never really liked going to school very much. I know, you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Duh, no one liked going to school very much.” I guess to a certain extent that’s true. I didn’t know very many boys and girls who couldn’t wait for the big, yellow bus to roll by or, later on, for that home room bell to ring. There was a lot more high-fiving done at graduation than occurred on a Monday morning, for sure.

“Disliked” is probably not as accurate a term as “uncomfortable” was for me, though. That feeling of high school awkwardness that most people shed once they hit their college years never shook off of me. I actually went through whole semesters at the university level without speaking a word to anyone in my classes. I hated going to buy books and getting i.d. cards made and figuring out where I was supposed to park. I don’t remember many days that I wasn’t just anxious to get the whole process over with.

And, yet, here I am again.

I still have some things to work out. I’m going to be making some calls tomorrow to confirm what’s going on with my financial aid, and I’m going to be meeting with an adviser tomorrow as well. I’m strangely not nervous about any of this. In fact, aside from occasionally wondering how all these classes would be paid for, I haven’t felt the usual jitters about immersing myself in the collegiate classroom experience again. I figure this either means I’m on the right track, or I’ve just been away so long I’ve forgotten what everything is like. I’m hoping it’s the former rather than the latter.

I really don’t have much more to say about this at the moment. This post was just more to say this is where I am, and this is where I’m going. Or, at least, I hope I’m going. Now, where did I put all those papers…?

We Lost The Story

bass heroesI have a book beneath my bathroom sink titled Bass Heroes. It is compiled of interviews from the 1970s and 1980s with famous bass players pulled from the pages of Guitar Player magazine. The roster of interviewees is a veritable Who’s Who of elite bass players, including Billy Sheehan, Geddy Lee, Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, John Entwistle, Bill Wyman, and Paul McCartney. I bought the book in Nashville several years ago in a music store. It was long enough ago I couldn’t even tell you the name of the store.

Why is this book beneath my bathroom sink, you may ask? Mainly for ease of accessibility. If I could compile a Bible of bass playing, this book would be it for me. It has been an invaluable resource, and even though it was published over 20 years ago and some of the players featured in it are now deceased, I still pull it out and read it from time to time. Its edges have become frayed, and I’m actually quite shocked it’s held together this long, but I imagine I will hold onto it until it crumbles into dust one day.

There are definitely tons of tips and discussions on bass playing techniques and instruments and amplification and even a touch of music theory here and there, but that is not what keeps me coming back to this book over and over again. What compels me to keep reading it is the stories it contains. Clarke struck out from Philadelphia for New York in the early 1970s with basically nothing to his name but his electric bass and some clothes. Wyman once tried to reach out to high-five a fan and fell off the stage, colliding with the concrete floor seven feet below. Noted blues bassist Jerry Jemmott, who played several sessions with the late B. B. King, nearly lost his ability to play at all after an automobile accident in 1972 left him severely injured.

To me, a person’s story is just as (if not more) important than what they have accomplished or how they managed to accomplish it. The story makes up the fiber of their being. How did they get from Point A to Point B? How did that journey influence them? What was their point of decision, the path that changed their trajectory? What was it that elevated them from a normal to an extraordinary life? These are the factors which drive ingenuity and encourage individual thought, and they are also the sparks that leap from art to encourage others to strike out on their own journeys.

Unfortunately, this type of book would be difficult to compile today. The majority of guitar and bass publications I pick up now are made up of at least 75 percent product reviews, which really sucks for a guy like me on a limited budget. More than that, though, the stories have been pushed to the side. Even if an artist is chosen for a feature interview, the majority of it focuses on either that artist’s latest project or the instruments and equipment they used to record it. My heart sinks nearly every time I pick up one of these publications these days. I can actually find better interviews free on the internet.

The point I’m getting at is this: Our stories are vitally important, not just to us, but to others who may get to hear them later on. When we lose our stories, we lose our emotional connections with each other. When we become more about gear and machinery and impersonal objects, we lose our ability to inspire. The newest effects pedal on the market never inspired me to get better at my instrument, but hearing Sheehan talk about learning all of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar parts on the bass makes my wheels start turning. Could I do that? And, if I couldn’t, what would my story be?

The human experience is what makes us what we are, not the tools of the trade. It would be like asking what kind of evel2hammer John Henry used or what brand of gasoline Evel Knievel filled up his motorcycles with. Toys are cool, but stories stand the test of time.

What’s yours?

The Dark Side

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

– Martin Niemöller

Even before I worked as a newspaper report several years ago, I had a real dislike of people who did not at least make an attempt to follow the news. The most common excuse I heard for this was “The news is so depressing.” There’s really no arguing with that statement; the news is depressing. Countries are at war with one another, people are shooting each other, companies are scamming their customers, politicians are caught stealing and lying… Yeah, watching the nightly news is not usually a yuckfest.

Just for a moment, though, stop and think about all the “real” things that happen in life every day. Think about the events in your own life that have had a profound impact on you. Maybe someone close to you passed away. Maybe you were involved in an accident of some sort. Maybe you were abused verbally or physically by someone. Maybe someone dealt dishonestly with you.

Sounds like some pretty depressing stuff to me.

There is a great emphasis being placed these days on “positivity” and “encouragement.” There’s nothing particularly yinyangwrong with that. This week, I’m supposed to be keeping a self-esteem journal, recording positive things that happen to me each day. This is in an effort to keep my mind off of the negative aspects of myself and my daily experiences. Avoiding negativity and depressing subject matter is often a wise course of action, most definitely.

The sum experience of “real” life, however, is not always positive or encouraging. People lose their jobs. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and typhoons lay waste to entire cities. Children are sold into modern-day slavery. Dictators carry out atrocities on their own people. And money… Good Lord, we never seem to have enough money, do we?

Why we should watch the news, though, is not so we can drown ourselves in the miseries of the world. We should watch the news because the news is part of the world we live in, and, occasionally, as with the Nazi Germany Martin Niemöller described in the opening quote of this post, that world comes knocking our front doors. For instance, the local city council may be talking about raising your taxes, but if you don’t know that, you’re not going to show up at their next meeting to oppose it. On a larger scale, if you oppose abortion, for instance, and legislation is proposed to make the procedure easier to have performed, you won’t be able to write or call your elected representatives to voice your opinion on the matter.

I am the world’s worst about listening to depressing music, reading depressing literature, and watching depressing movies and television shows which just feed into my melancholy, but I don’t put watching or reading the news into the same category as those things. Listening to talk radio, yes, but not watching or reading the news. I suppose I subscribe to the philosophy of the yin and the yang when it comes to this; there’s a little darkness in the light and a little light in the darkness. That’s life … and that’s the news.

A Preview Of Tomorrow

It’s 10:11 p.m., and I am sitting here in front of the computer debating whether or not to begin writing a lengthy post about something I read in an article today. This article contained a phrase and a concept I had never heard before, and I’ve been formulating what I wanted to write on the subject all day long.

But it’s 10:22 p.m. now. And I’m sleepy.preview

Everything I keep reading on the subject of depression stresses the importance of sleep, so I think for once I’m going to heed the advice of the experts.

Good night, all. I’ll be back tomorrow…

Taking A Break

Fifteen days from today, I will take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test.

I am scared out of my mind.

I’ve written about my desire to return to school and obtain a master’s degree so I can work in some type of counseling field. I put action to my intention by making an appointment to take the GRE April 24. I have two fairly thorough study guides I’ve been going through, and I downloaded the GRE PowerPrep II software, which contains some practice tests. I feel like I have some good materials to get me prepared.

BloggingBreakAs I expected, I feel relatively confident on the sections involving English, writing, and analytical and reasoning skills. And, also as I expected, the math and geometry/quantitative reasoning sections are kicking my butt. I wasn’t good at geometry when I actually was a student in school, so asking me to tackle it now that I haven’t been in a classroom setting in over a decade is a tall task.

Since writing is what I really enjoy doing, I’ve been attempting to keep this blog up to speed at its regular pace, but I’ve realized that writing in the way I want to every day is keeping me from studying like I should be. So, with much reluctance, I’m going to take a break from writing here until I can get the test out of the way. I am petrified I am going to have spent all this money on taking the GRE and then fail it, so I am going to really buckle down the next two weeks.

As with most decisions I make, I’m sure I will get wishy-washy at some point and write a short post here and there, but I realize this is something I really need to do. So I wish you all nothing but strength, hope, and happiness as you continue to fight the good fight. Hopefully, when I return, I’ll have some good news for you.

By Definition

We all want so badly to be right. We just know that what we’re thinking must be superior to the opposing point of view, and we believe if we just yell loud enough that we can convince them of the error of the their ways. It is just so obvious that our answer is the correct one.

I had never heard of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International before today. According to the organization’s website, CCHR International is “a non-profit, non-political, non-religious mental health watchdog. Its mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections.” Sounds noble enough. CCHR International is also committed to “working alongside many medical professionals including doctors, scientists, nurses, and those few psychiatrists who have taken a stance against the biological/drug model of ‘disease’ that is continually promoted by the psychiatric/ pharmaceutical industry as a way to sell drugs.” Perhaps a little strongly worded, but, again, a fairly noble endeavor.

I found out about CCHR International through a video posted on a friend’s Facebook page today. In the video, a series of teens and children are seen wearing tee shirts with the name of various mental disorders (bipolar disorder, personality disorder, social anxiety disorder, etc., etc.) on the front of them. Those stickers are removed as the video progresses to reveal words such as “leader,” “inventor,” “artist,” and “revolutionary.” The video concludes with the words “Stop psychiatric labeling of kids” being flashed across the screen.

In general, I approve of the message the group is sending. Plenty of children who have been labelled with behavioral disorders were acting merely as, well, children would act. And certainly many behaviorisms which could be perceived as negative can actually work in a person’s favor. Many times, efforts to eradicate those behaviors serve more to strip the child of their natural personality and may even leave them more confused about who they are and what their gifts are.

There is a part of me, though, that believes this is not the entire picture. Sure, some kids (and even adults) can push through the haze of a mental illness or behavioral disorder to discover an even greater resolve and a dedicated lifestyle of concentration and effort. Abraham Lincoln, for example, was reported to have major bouts of depression, but was also one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States. Some kids, though, cannot climb these mountains on their own. Whether it be counseling or medicine or a different style of learning, they need a hand to get to the top.

I think back to some of my more difficult years in school. Could I have benefited from some extra help? It’s difficult to say now, but I don’t believe it would have hurt. I remember a time in the first (or maybe second grade) when I would inexplicably burst into tears every day in the cafeteria. To this day, I still don’t know what was going on there, other than remembering feeling really scared. Perhaps I could have used some counseling. Times were very different back then, though. “Depression” was a not a word I grew up familiar with.

Accompanying the video on the CCHR International Facebook page was the following statement: “Childhood is not a mental disorder.” That is very true. Severe depression is a mental disorder, though, and it can scar children well into their adult years. Medicine people versus non-medicine people just doesn’t cut it. Each child has to be evaluated on an individual basis, and then what is best for them has to be decided. In our effort to declare a winner in the argument, let’s not forget that each person is an individual and that blanket statements will keep the conflict going on forever.

Back Again

In June of last year, I wrote a post here titled “Getting Real,” in which I described how I was going to be returning to school to study psychology.

To follow up, it is now January 2015, and I still have not returned to school to study psychology.

As much as I want to shift into my default gear and blame myself for this, I’m somehow strangely not doing that. Finances didn’t work out. Work situations changed. I actually found a better program than the one I was thinking of enrolling in. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed to not be attending classes yet, but it just wasn’t the right time. Shockingly, I’m totally at peace with saying that.

As I mentioned in that previous post, however, it is much easier to be at peace with things before the reality of them sets in upon you. College, back then, sounded like a great idea … until I received an acceptance letter and began reviewing financial aid options. All of a sudden, the dream wasn’t idealized; it was real. Not that I wouldn’t have gone through with it, because this feels like a driving passion of mine now, but the journey wasn’t going to be anxiety-free. I was going to have to stare down some old demons.

Thanks to a dear friend and co-worker, I was able to get my hands on some study materials for the GRE (Graduate IMG_0230Record Examinations) today. As I often foolishly do, instead of actually sitting down and examining the books from the beginning, I decided to randomly flip one of them open and see what was inside. Of course, I managed to open it right to a page dealing with some type of algebra. I nearly hyperventilated. Math is the enemy of the English major, which I was in college my first time around. Suddenly, passing this test didn’t seem as possible as it once did.

The trick here, obviously, is to slow down, read through the books in some type of order, re-learn how to study (since I haven’t had to do that for anything in a long, long time), and stop envisioning failure. All of this is just another reminder to me that nothing in life – be it overcoming depression or earning a degree or just getting out of bed in the morning – comes without some effort. As silly as it may sound, I didn’t always know that. Or, at least, I didn’t always want to know that. Part of me hoped there was some pill I could take or some switch that would suddenly flip on. I’m at least somewhat wiser now.

Since opening that book this afternoon, I haven’t opened it since. I have to let the initial shock wear off before I can pick it up again. I am back again, though. This feels almost like it did in June.

Things just got real.

Reblog: Learning To Love My Name Again

I am not a fan of re-posting items from other people’s blogs. It feels like cheating to me. I mean, I didn’t write the content, so I sort of feel as if I’m plagiarizing someone else’s work, particularly if I don’t know them.

Sometimes, though, a post will arise that so strikes a chord with me that I feel like everyone else should read it, too. This entry is from a blog titled Under Reconstruction. It’s written by a woman named Karen Zainal, and I will just admit now I don’t actually know her. She has been kind enough to like a few of my posts, so I started following her blog as well. I could steal more details from her site (http://karenwriteshere.com), but you should go there and read her story for yourself.

So, without further adieu, here is Learning to Love My Name Again, by Karen Zainal. I hope it touches you as much as it touched me.

http://karenwriteshere.com/2014/12/17/learning-to-love-my-name-again/