Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Modern Creole in the South

A Modern Creole in the South

The original All-American Mutt, Creole’s are an interesting sort that have an interesting place in this country. Traditionally found in New Orleans, LA, Creoles have branched out across the States as inter-racial/ethnic relationships have flourished. Given the rise in popularity of mixed breeding, Creoles and other similar human mutts should have their own niche formed in the fabric of our societies. Unfortunately, this niche is not always accepted by more traditional societies and persons.

Is a person less of a person if their skin color is different?

Racism has been an issue in this country for centuries and world-wide since the beginning of our existence. The mentality that one person is better than another based on skin color is abhorrent in most of this country’s more open-minded societies. However, there are still areas that follow the old ways of ignorance and closed-mindedness. While these segregated societies are hopefully on a decline, their impact upon the local culture is longstanding. Once set in a way, people are hard-pressed to change their minds on something they believe is the truth. To be fair, those of the open-minded persuasion have no more place to judge a closed-minded person as the vice versa. However, there comes a time in which one would wonder if a closed-minded person could ever open up enough to see a person beyond their skin color.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

When we stop our observation of a person at just the superficial surface, we do that person and ourselves an injustice. We do not consider all points of the person, from the core to the subsurface to the higher functions. By halting the observation process, we are labeling and stereotyping that person without really knowing anything about them except what physical traits they have inherited. Honestly, there is always that chance of the person following those stereotypes to heart but there is also that chance of the person being the complete opposite of the stereotype they’ve been labeled. When Creoles and similar mutts are observed, we are often labeled Hispanic or African-American because of the different features we possess. This is certainly not fair to we mutts who really belong in no lumped category. Our cover is camouflage; we can blend and mix with any crowd. Sometimes a Creole is darker skinned, sometimes lighter skinned called ‘passé blanc’ or passable as white. Personalities and interests range from one end of the spectrum to the other. Therefore, we do not fit within any stereotype, making it disrespectful and obtuse of the stereotyper. Take the time to open the pages of a mutt’s book and you just may find a pure, kind-hearted kindred soul.

Sweet Home Alabama

From my personal experience, Alabamians are a mixed sort of folk. More often those that live in the cities and attend the universities and have daily interaction with folks of every sort are much more open-minded about color differences. Most often, the closed-minded folk are the small-towners, those with little interaction with the freethinking folk of the city. This spread of thinkers is quite natural and, for example, affects not only open- and closed-mindedness but also dialects and cultures and religions. Having lived in and attended a university in a small city for four and a half years, I was able to experience both sides of the minded spectrum, and even a few in between. I was able to also spend much time in a small town of northeastern Alabama, where I learned first-hand that stereotypes are just ignorant categories. By the by, the folk of Alabama, from either persuasion, are the friendliest and most kind-hearted people I’ve met in my travels and living. Even those who were hesitant to meet me due to my skin color were pleasantly surprised when they actually talked with me and learned that I certainly don’t fall into the stereotype they’d thought. This mind opening experience needs to happen more often to show people that there’s nothing to fear in holding back a stereotype in favor of getting to know the person in question.

My story is an open book.

Being Creole, I’ve had to struggle all of my life to find the people that I fit in with the best. Early school years were the worst of my struggle while attending a predominantly African-American public elementary and middle school. I quickly learned that I didn’t fit in with that crowd. It wasn’t until I attended an all-girl Catholic high school that I finally found my fellow soul-mates. We were a mixed crowd of crazy teens, pale, yellow, red, brown and more. We fit together, we grew together, we laughed together and we graduated together. As I entered college, I was able to find new friends along the same personalities whose hometowns ranged from backwoods to big city Alabama. We were inseparable then and many of us are now. We each brought in pieces of ourselves that stuck with each of us, from 80’s hair bands to hand-drawn tattoos to Nintendo to comic books. I’ve been included in different cultures, heritages, families, communities and relationships. Even the times when I’ve been excluded or prejudiced against have enriched my life and, most importantly, have made me into the person I am.

I offer what I’ve learned to help teach those around me.

Through thick and thin, I’ve taken all of my life experiences and made them a part of myself. The journey was often so tough and heart wrenching that I was tempted to just turn around and quit. But I never did, I never could, and I never will. This is my advice for the downtrodden and prejudiced. Stand tall; it hurts inside and you’ll shed many a tear, but take heart because you are you and no one can change that. With perseverance you can overcome any hurdle put before you and add it to who you are inside. Also remember, when presented in a situation where you’re unsure of how you’ll be accepted, respect and kindness go a long way and can make a difference. For the closed-minded, I offer you only a book and ask that you take the time to learn the inside before judging the outside. A person is more than just a skin color and you may just like what you find underneath.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence is an issue that I hold close to my heart. I have known friends and family who have fallen victim to or were the victimizers of domestic violence. I have a cousin who was murdered by her husband because she did not get out of their abusive relationship. Two of my aunts were in physically and psychologically abusive marriages, though they were fortunately able to escape and live a better life. The saddest thing about domestic violence, as an outsider, is that the people watching this happen can really only stand back and wait for the victim to reach out for help and pray like hell that help can reach them in time.

Domestic violence is more than physical abuse. It is also mental, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological abuse. It can affect anyone from young to old, light to dark skinned, male to female, rich to poor. Domestic violence does not discriminate. It can even lie dormant until something snaps or it can be present from the beginning of a relationship. It can be hard to identify or it can be blatantly obvious. There are so many different levels of domestic violence that you can be a victim without realizing it.

Studies show that victims of domestic violence are afraid to leave that relationship. Be it monetary reason or fear for their life, victims feel that it is safer to suffer the abuse rather than escape the abuse. Unfortunately, this decision can only end on a sad note, as in my cousin’s case. Victims begin to feel that being abused is their lot in life or that they deserve it for whatever reasons. Some victims, especially women, fall under the category of pathological fixers who believe that they can still change the other person or the relationship.

There is help! If you are a victim of domestic violence, tell someone or call the hotline. Share with your best friend or trusted confidant or favorite relative that you don’t feel safe or comfortable in your relationship. People are your friends for a reason and family whether you like it or not and they all care about you. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone that you know, call up the hotline. It’s anonymous and confidential and the person’s a complete stranger who’s trained to help you. Even if you are the victimizer, share your concern with someone else. The first step to getting out of an abusive relationship is to seek help.

For the friends and family of victims and victimizers of domestic abuse, you can help too. Simply being supportive of your person can help immensely. Be helpful and earnest but not judgmental when asked for advice or help. It’s your person who’s suffering, not you, so be there for them and keep your comments to yourself. But most importantly, use good judgment in whatever situation arises that you are included in. The hotline is also available for friends and family to call for advice and guidance.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Boston, Part 1

Boston is amazing! (Best way to start off a post about Boston, eh?) That's right, two weeks after I get on my first airplane ever to fly up to the unknown, I am finally writing about my experience. Yes, I am a procrastinator, but I am also a working girl who's trying to fit in a new season of tv shows and also some family/friend time. Enough excuses! Let's talk Boston!

For those who did not know, I had bought this fated plane ticket in June. I can blame it all on a guy, Josh. I met him and decided, this guy just may be worth conquering one of my fears in life. An irrational fear, grated, but a fear none the less. So, on a whim, I bought a plane ticket with JetBlue three months in advanced of the decided date: Josh’s birthday. Call me crazy, yes! The next day I freaked out about actually buying the ticket. At least I managed to get a direct non-stop flight. That helped my fears. For the following three months I managed to keep my family in the dark, with the exception of my brother, while I turned to my friends and co-workers for advice and reassurances. They even helped me prepare for telling my mom, which surprisingly didn’t go as bad as I thought it would. In fact, my family as a whole took the news much better than I could have hoped. I did more freaking out over the little things that didn’t matter, like that fact that I’ve never traveled outside the South. And so that is my story leading up to Boston.

For the record, I officially do not like flying now. However, I have decided that flying is a necessary evil if I ever want to live a little. The flight itself was not terrible at all. I just did not appreciate my stomach moving with the plane. That’s all. The views from the plane were breath-taking, though. We passed over Manhattan! The entry into Boston is gorgeous, also. Someone planned that well. (foreshadowing!)

From here, I debarked and found my luggage without any problem. I was quite proud of myself for being able to follow the signs posted all over the place! Then, before I knew it, I was welcomed to Boston by strong arms in the best hug I’ve had in months. Next I was whisked away to Providence, RI for the Stars concert. Before I go further, I have to say that driving through Massachusetts and Rhode Island reminded me so much of driving though northern Alabama. There’s so many hills and trees! It was gorgeous. So in Providence, we were early so we walked around to find the venue then to grab something to eat. I was starving! We found this local Irish place, Murphy’s Deli & Bar. The food was great and the place was very nice. The area of Providence we were in, which I think is downtown, is gorgeous. The buildings are so old and historic looking. The whole area had a great vibe. Finally into the concert we went! The venue was Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, which used to be a theatre! That was really cool. Now it’s been updated into a club complete with giant discoball! That concert was absolutely amazing! They were so energetic and enthusiastic and interacted with the crowd a lot. I rocked my socks off. Unfortunately we had to leave and drive back to Medford, MA, just north of Boston. Such a cute place! Josh’s apartment is really nice! Walking through it just helped to increase the want to live alone again. After the tour, I passed out from sheer exhaustion, though I did wake up in the middle of the night confused about my surroundings. But I got over it and went back to sleep thankfully. So this was my Thursday.

Friday dawned bright and early as my body decided that even on vacation I have to wake up with the sun. Oh well, I wanted to be ready for our adventures of the day anyways. Friday I had an informational interview with the director of graduate studies in the department of English at Boston University. However, before I could even get to the interview, we had to get to the interview! So, at my prodding, we took the T. I rode on a subway! That was a really cool experience. It was like a really fast streetcar that goes underground and through tunnels and so many people ride it! The fare is ridiculously cheap, making this a most excellent mode of trans-city transportation. Except that you have to wait a bit sometimes for the right tram to come along. After speeding along and waiting underground once, we finally made it to the campus of BU, located in Cambridge, just west of Boston, along the Charles River. The interview was only so-so. I learned that graduate school does not seem to be the best option for me. The director had several suggestions for me, too. So overall the interview was valuable. By this time it was well after lunch so we passed up the only Popeyes in the greater Boston area! to eat at the Boston Beer Works which happens to be right across the street from Fenway Park. I had a delicious salmon salad and blueberry beer while Josh had a turkey and ham? club sandwich. After a quick stop for a touristy photo of me under a Fenway sign, we strolled down Commonwealth Ave to downtown Boston. The old row houses were absolutely wonderful, as was the ‘neutral ground’/greenway separating the street. It was so cozy and walkable. We even walked down Newbury St. which felt like walking down Magazine St. here in town with all its little shops and boutiques. We finally came upon Boston Public Gardens and Boston Common, two sizeable parks just next to downtown Boston. The coolest thing about Boston Common: there’s a parking deck underneath the park! How cool is that? Awesome city planning right there. We continued walking along parts of the Freedom Trail, through Government Center and Faneuil Hall and the surrounding Marketplace. That was pretty awes-inspiring to sit in the assembly room of Faneuil Hall. After sitting a spell, we continued on to Mike’s Pastry, a place Josh raved about. Indeed it was delicious. We both had a strawberry cheesecake slice. Heaven on a plate. I wasn’t in the mood for chocolate at the time, else I would have gotten a cannoli. I’ll have to get one next time I go back up to visit! After savoring the sweet heaven on a plate, we boarded the nearest T train thing and headed back to Medford and Josh’s apartment where I promptly plopped down, exhausted. We did a lot of walking! The day was not quite over yet, though. We still had to eat dinner, which was a large specimen of chicken and bacon pizza. I must say, I was rather impressed. Can I dare say that the pizza is much better in Boston? Thus concludes our Friday, and also Part 1 of my Boston adventure!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Head 'em up (Move 'em up) Move 'em on (Head 'em up) Rawhide

In the quest to relocate yourself from everything familiar to you, there are several preparations that you should make for the sake of your sanity. These include mental, monetary and personal preparations. Moving is a big deal, moving out of town or even out of state is an even bigger deal. Here are a few things that I’m learning along the way that I’d like to share with you.

The thought to move is the easiest part of the whole shindig. You can decide to up and move all you want, but if you actually get down to the nitty gritty about it, moving is scary! Not only do you have to psych yourself into it, but you also have to analyze the situation. Moving isn’t easy! First you have to figure out what you’re going to do job wise once you get to your new location. Only then can you find a suitable living arrangement, which requires lots of budgeting and saving, compensating and maybe even roommate searching. Then you have to figure out transportation; many larger cities have efficient public transportation to combat the terrible traffic, so ditching your beloved car may have to be an option, though at least that gives you rent money, or a few years worth of bus passes. Once you figure things out like this, then you have to figure out simply how you’re getting there. With furniture you need a moving truck or a trailer if you’re like me. Without furniture you can easily use your car or multiple cars if you have help. Start saving for gas money! Got all this? Writing it down? Good, now start looking! Finding a decent job at the right pay rate is a considerable feat. You need to give yourself time to search, apply, interview and get to the location. Pace yourself; there’s no rush, is there? Set a time limit and plan things out. It’s all in the planning!

So now we have all the heavy thinking out the way. Time to start saving up. City living is expensive! I don’t even have my own place down here and it’s expensive. My suggestion is to start figuring out your finances as soon as that moving thought pops into your head. I would recommend Microsoft Money as a good program to use; it has different levels of control and some pretty nice features. I tell you, after working with this program for two months now, my life and money are changed! I’m doing more to save up so that by the time I can actually move, I’ll have enough to at least start out without too much worry. What I am worried about more is the pay range I will need. In looking for work, I am screening options by a certain minimum pay so that I know I can afford an apartment, the utilities, insurances, groceries, loan repayments, credit card, etc. etc. with ease. The worst thing you can do to yourself with such a big move is get stuck without the money to continue living. Consider picking up an extra part time job to help balance the cost of setting yourself up in your new place. Just don’t over work yourself! Sacrificing your spare time at the beginning will be worth its weight in gold for avoiding the bills to come later. Obviously money is important for any aspect of your move as you couldn’t do this without it. Start pulling what you can from your paycheck or throwing loose change in a jar or take up a collection from family and friends!

Now for the clincher: are you ready to move? I still ask myself this everyday. This is huge for me personally, as I’m sure it would be for anyone else considering moving clear across the country to a totally different environment and culture and world. Because I have to wait so long to move, I’ve conjured a lot of fears and worries and nit-picks alike to occupy my time, many of which are at least viable fears. But I constantly have to check myself to be sure I’m not going too far ahead of myself. Setting up that timeline is key to my success overall. But make sure you have the support of family and friends too. When these fears assail you, it’s a relief to turn to your best friend or you mom and talk things out. Confidence is key to making it through this planning period; otherwise you flounder and flail and drag your feet until you lose focus on the final goal. You have to set goals and stick to them else you’ll get lost in the turmoil. More importantly than goals though is the will and want to move, to go though the searching and indecision and tough decisions and the distance. For me, this move will put me the furthest away from my family that I have ever been, and the first time I will move on my own. That’s revelation is wearing on me. It’s quite a daunting task to decide to move, and follow through, especially in this situation. However, I’m confident in my ability to persevere and so therefore I shall.

I’ll let myself be an example of not settling or giving in to a life that does not satisfy my dreams and goals. I want to edit and/or write, but I don’t want to struggle in life, be it by myself or in a family. So I know I have to make some changes, and some sacrifices, for the betterment of myself and my future. I’m willing to do so, and I hope if you have similar goals that my post here will give you the extra support you need to move on!