What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up

To this day, I have no answer to this question. I never did. I always felt like a weirdo for not having an answer. Everyone else didn’t even seem to hesitate before happily responding: firefighter, policeman, doctor, nurse, etc. My own mother used to be concerned that I always replied: I don’t know. I was confident that someday I would have an epiphany and know exactly what career I’d like to pursue. Someday I’d be able to answer confidently like all the other kids. I was sure of it.

Unfortunately, I was applying to college before I realized that epiphany wasn’t coming. I was confronted with the huge decision of what to major in when I still wasn’t sure what options were even out there or what I would be best suited for. My parents had never been particularly passionate about their jobs, so I never really expected to be either. In my mind, I couldn’t grasp why anyone would actually want to work anywhere. Working in general seemed awful and constricting. I just wanted to live my life. I wanted to be free to do whatever I saw fit on any given day. It seemed like a nightmare to be locked into doing one thing forever. So I basically soldiered onward with the assumption that regardless of which career path I choose, I’d end up hating it.

Thankfully, I have always been very intelligent and can achieve pretty much whatever I put my mind to. I was free to select any major and know that I’d be capable of handling the course material. At first I went for the sciences because I knew that’s where the money was. If I was going to hate my job either way, I might as well make some money. However, after only a semester of that, I decided it was too much effort and stress for something I had no passion for. I gave up on the idea of being rich and decided my quality of life from day to day was more important. I decided to switch my major to psychology since my Psych 101 class was the only one I actually enjoyed.

At the end of the day, I was very lucky. I managed to accidentally fall into the exact right field for myself. Not only do I find psychology and the human brain endlessly fascinating to learn about, I am able to use what I learn and the interactions I have with my clients to help me be a better version of myself, which is also one of my favorite things to work on.

Through my own experience in education and the workforce, I’ve come to realize that we as a society are asking kids all the wrong questions. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Even as a child I thought that was a peculiar question to ask someone so young. How the hell should I know? That was always what I was wondering. It’s funny when you really think about it. How many jobs are children even aware of? And of the handful that they do know, how much do they understand about what those jobs actually entail on a daily basis? I used to think there was something wrong with me for not knowing. Now I realize that even the kids who had an answer didn’t really know either. How could they? Does a child that says, “I want to be a doctor,” really know what it means to be a doctor? Don’t the kids that say, “I want to be a veterinarian,” just say that because they enjoy spending time with animals?

Honestly part of the problem is the apathy of the parents and the education system. You might as well ask these kids where they want to go to college. It the job of the adults in these kids’ lives to teach them what is available, to guide them toward goals that they are well suited for. I think instead of asking children what they want to be, we should ask them what they are endlessly curious about. We should ask them what they think they’d be able to learn about every day and never get bored. Then as those interests grow and evolve, parents and teachers should explain to children the different careers that would involve their interests on a daily basis. It’s hard to hate your job when it’s something that deeply interests you.

It’s such a shame all the ways in which our education system fails our children. School is supposed to prepare us for the real world, yet that idea has become a joke instead. I think a lot of people, like myself, have assumed that a lot of these things are being covered at home by the kids’ parents. However, when I began working in the community, I realized that there are sooo many people that don’t have responsible, caring, capable family members to teach them these things. Unfortunately it would be better for us to assume that children aren’t learning anything at home, because a huge proportion of them aren’t.

For the limited time I get to spend with the children I meet everyday, I am going to do my best to ask them the right questions. Then they may at least have a concept of where to start. I know it’s not much, but it’s all I can do at the moment. Hopefully someday I will become a teacher and get a chance to make a bigger impact on the next generation. But if you are a teacher or if you have your own children, try asking them what they are interested in learning rather than what they want to be. Help give them an idea of what options are out there for them and what those options actually look like in practice. Give this upcoming generation a chance to thrive and love what they do in the future.

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Hiding Behind Religion

A few months ago, there was a child that came to my office to be interviewed. She was going to an extremely small private school, like 25 kids total in K-12 small. Like most private schools, this school was centered around a religious group. While she came to disclose sexual abuse, the female PRINCIPLE had grabbed her breasts insisting that she must be stuffing her bra, the other things she told me were just as disturbing, if not more so. This school was simply not a school by any stretch of the word. These kids were not being taught anything besides that everyone in public school was a Satanist and going to hell. This “school” was essentially a little cult. The worst part was that even though CPS reported our concerns to the state board of education, nothing has or will come of it. The school will not be investigated or shut down. The offending principle will not even be removed or prosecuted.

Ever since I met that poor, sweet girl that day, I’ve been thinking about that school. Thinking about it looming on a hillside in my very own town, brainwashing children, robbing them of an education. It makes me sick, but there is nothing that I can do. Even more disturbing, I know that this child’s story is not at all an isolated incident. How many other small private schools like this exist in the country? More than I’d like to know, I’m sure. But not only schools are using this religious excuse to shield them from the consequences they’d otherwise have to face for their atrocious actions.

The past few nights I’ve been watching Cults and Extreme Beliefs on Hulu. Even though I had heard about what goes on inside most of these organizations already, each episode exposed even more horrors I wasn’t aware of. From what I can tell, every single religious organization uses this status to get away with abusing children. Despite the majority of the country as well as local and federal authorities understanding the abuse taking place, nothing is being done about it.

I theorize that this is solely due to the government feeling hesitant to attack any religious sect. They fear negative publicity and the legal battleground that freedom of religion has created. The United States was founded on the idea that our citizens are free to practice any religion that they like. It seems obvious that it would only be a matter of time before people with nefarious motives would take advantage of that. What I once thought was an unfortunate side effect of isolated religious communities is now seeming more and more like the whole point behind them. The focus is child abuse, the method just happens to be through religion. Religion is an afterthought, cleverly used as a shroud to conceal these monsters from the law.

Not only am I becoming more and more informed about the way religion shields sexual predators, we see every day in the news how religion is also used as an excuse to endanger public health. Long before Covid-19 made it’s debut, churches were using their beliefs as a reason to not vaccinate their children. This has led to viruses once thought to have been totally eradicated in the developed world, to raise their ugly heads once again. Children are dying. They are being raped and beaten and brainwashed. All in the name of religious freedom.

At what point will the world start to realize that a parent’s rights cannot and should not overshadow the rights of their children? “Your personal liberty to swing your arm ends where my nose begins.” This has always been one of my favorite quotes. Yet it has never seemed to apply when it comes to children. Despite avowing to “protect our children,” in the eyes of the government, children still seem to be considered property. You’re allowed to hit them, you’re allowed to rob them of an education, and if you’re “religious” enough, you’re also allowed to rape them.

I understand the historical events that have created this fear of targeting different religions, but that fear cannot be allowed to result in religious organizations and leaders acting with impunity. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t believe procreation is a “right.” Especially when you do not have the physical, mental, or emotional competence to raise and protect that child. How can it be your right to create a life of suffering for another who is helpless and at your mercy? I suppose I should be happy about how much progress we have made toward installing protections for children within the law. I realize in the past things were much worse. However, I cannot find any peace when I know that the progress we have made is not nearly enough, that children are still being subjected to unimaginable abuse each and every day.

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On Animal Abuse

I’m currently reading Neither Man Nor Beast by Carol J. Adams, a feminist and animal rights activist. She is best known for her ability to tie significant social justice issues together to show the intersectionality of all who remain oppressed in our society. I have also read one of her earlier, and perhaps more famous books, The Sexual Politics of Meat. Both of these books work to bring the animal and women’s rights movements together to see the similarities between the types of oppression they are fighting.

Among the many new things I’ve learned from reading Adams’ books, I learned the other day that hunters are more likely to be domestic abusers. While, this was no surprise to me, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about this data before. I was also surprised when, upon telling people this somewhat obvious fact, there was a lot of hesitancy and discomfort in response. People are quick to say: Well, not every hunter hits their spouse and/or children. That’s true, but that wasn’t what I was asserting. The fact remains that it is a risk factor and a red-flag for women to look out for when finding a partner.

This new information and the reactions I got regarding it, led me to think more deeply about the ways in which our society categorizes animal abuse. I can’t think of anyone who would openly claim to support animal abuse, yet the vast majority of human beings take part in it every day. You might find yourself disagreeing at this point, and if so, I’d like to ask you how you define animal abuse. Wikipedia defines animal abuse as: the infliction by omission (neglect) or by commission by humans of suffering or harm upon any non-human animal. The Humane Society’s definition says animal abuse, “encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing.” It goes on to clarify: Intentional cruelty can run the gamut from knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization or veterinary care to maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating or killing an animal.

You’ll notice that these definitions are broad and include the majority of interactions that the human race has with our animal brethren. (I am including the eating of animal flesh as interaction, although most people would not consciously consider eating a hamburger to be interacting with an animal.) Hunting certainly falls into the category of animal abuse by these definitions, does it not? Animal abuse definitions are not offering exceptions based on “intention” or “purpose” of the abuse. You’ll notice that there is no footnote indicating that these things are okay if we consume or display the carcass of the animal afterwards.

It never ceases to amaze me when the internet goes wild about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, while in the same day, the same people will sit down to several meals of meat. How is a dog different than a pig or a cow? It’s not intelligence. It’s not friendliness. It’s not inherent value as a living being. It’s simply a difference in cultural brainwashing. Realizing this makes the opposition to another culture’s meat eating practices, while excluding our own, problematic if not outright racist.

However, getting back to the issue of animal abuse as a warning sign for violence towards other humans, I’d like to know how psychologists would explain this connection, given our culture’s general acceptance and inclusion of daily practices that cause harm and death to animals. It seems like most people know about the early warning signs of future serial killers, pychopaths, sociopaths, etc. One of the main ones is torturing or killing animals.

If the psychological issues that these warning signs reflect are lack of empathy, violence, aggression, lack of impulse control, and the like, I don’t know how we would be able to make distinctions between these random acts of animal abuse and culturally acceptable forms such as hunting and meat eating. If, on the other hand, the psychological problem that animal abuse in childhood reflects a disregard for socially unacceptable acts, then I can see that distinction making more sense. Although, I don’t believe that is the case.

Whether we realize it or not, I believe there is evidence for negative social outcomes in regard to all forms of animal abuse, even if it is condoned by our society. There is more and more data coming out every day about the detrimental mental health effects of working in a slaughterhouse. Many workers have even developed PTSD from these jobs. Slaughterhouse employees are also, unsurprisingly, more likely to commit acts of domestic violence. One researcher even discovered that towns with slaughterhouses have higher crime rates in general:

Amy Fitzgerald, a criminology professor at the University of Winsor in Canada, has found a strong correlation between the presence of a slaughterhouse and high crime rates in U.S. communities. One might object that a slaughterhouse town’s disproportionate population of poor, working-class males might be the real cause. But Fitzgerald controlled for that possibility by comparing her data to countries with comparable populations employed in factory-like operations. In her study from 2007, the abattoir stood out as the factory most likely to spike crime statistics. Slaughterhouse workers, in essence, were ‘desensitized,’ and their behavior outside of work reflected it.

The Green Star Project

Ultimately, the age old saying, “violence begets violence,” holds true. There is no way to escape this simple fact. Whether you choose to identify it as such, hunting animals, as well as purchasing their bodies from the grocery store, is violence. It will negatively affect you and our society regardless of how hard we try to blind ourselves to that truth. Karma has never appeared to me so clearly as with the results of eating animals. The human races’ mass scale animal abuse has and continues to contribute to all of humanity’s ailments whether they be illness such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, global warming, racism, misogyny, domestic violence, or crime overall.

We will never be able to accomplish world peace if we continue to sit down to dinners of corpses each night. Humanity supports itself through suffering, domination, and death. How then can we still wonder why there is so much hatred and violence in the world? It is there because we perpetuate it every day, because we have already closed our hearts to those most vulnerable.

Truth! #govegan #vegansofinstagram #mercyforanimals #loveanimals #repost  @pauline.dagonneau ・・・ For the animals ❤️

Taking Risks

I’ve never been a risk taker, nor am I at all competitive. Gambling makes no sense at all to me. I’ve only done it a couple times and it was quite unsatisfying. I guess I’ve never thought of myself as very lucky either. I never really won anything. When you start out with that kind of mindset, why would you be competitive or take risks? It seems inevitable that they would only turn out badly for me. Unfortunately, taking risks is an important part of life. If you don’t participate, you’ll never be disappointed, but you also won’t ever advance.

Lately I have really been struggling about whether or not to take a big risk. I’m indecisive as it is, so it certainly doesn’t help when it’s an especially important life decision that I have to make. Although I love my job as a child advocate, I never intended to find myself here. Before accepting this job, my goal was to become a teacher. I went through the whole process to make myself eligible, then kind of forgot about it as I became more and more enmeshed in my new work environment. I never thought I could love my job so much. Not to mention I deeply enjoy spending time with the friends I’ve made here every day.

With funding cuts and our therapist, whom I’ve grown close to, leaving, I began exploring the idea of teaching again. After discovering that the funding has been somewhat fixed (thank god), I was prepared to put the teaching idea on the back burner again for awhile. Then one of the school districts near me put up a job opening for a third grade teacher! It is quite rare for there to be an position available in my small area. I had to at least send in my resume.

Now that I’ve done all I can, I’ve been trying to decide what I’d like to come of this if anything. Part of me is extremely excited at the idea. Although, originally I wanted to teach in a high school, now that I’ve had more experience with young children, third grade may be even better. I particularly loved third grade when I was in school. So maybe that’s a sign of some kind. It does seem like teaching will be more work than what my current position entails, but it would be so nice to have more stability, income, and time off. What a delight it would be to have snow days again!

There are definitely a lot of pros and cons to both outcomes. I guess I should consider myself lucky that that’s the case. For now, all I can do is wait to see what happens. I know I will make the best of whatever the future holds for me.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Social Awareness about Mental Illness

As you grow older it is interesting to watch the world change around you. The social climate is so vastly different than it was when I was a little girl. It is refreshing to see that a lot of the things that used to be controversial or taboo are now commonplace and widely accepted in the majority of society. Even though I have always been a liberal and progressive person, even I have come a long way in my ideas and beliefs.

One of the areas where progress has been made in regards to visibility and social acceptance/understanding is in the field of psychology, particularly when it comes to mental illness. When I was an anxious, socially awkward, probably autistic little girl, there wasn’t much support out there for me or my family. No one seemed to understand what was wrong with me or my sister. My mother, who is also likely on the spectrum and who has been shy and anxious all her life, was forced to accept these issues with no explanation or even understanding from her peers or colleagues. She has lived the majority of her life simply believing she was strange and that was that.

Thankfully, as I’ve grown up, there has been a major shift in social awareness and understanding of mental illness. From a very early age, I came to understand that I had an anxiety disorder. Even though knowing that didn’t fix the problems I faced because of it, there is something very comforting in at least having an explanation. It has also been a great help knowing that other people around me understand anxiety disorders and what it means to have one. In the past, I’m sure you were just considered rude for not always making eye contact or smiling and greeting others on the street. I doubt it was given much more thought than that. This perception, I’m sure, caused a lot of people that were already struggling socially to be even further ostracized by their communities. Now I am easily able to explain my odd behaviors to others and, more often than not, receive compassion and understanding in return. Strange habits and behaviors can now be discussed openly, with far less fear of judgement.

As with most things though, there is a potential negative to this social progress. The other day, a thought occurred to me after explaining to a new friend why I am so inconsistent with my texts (sometimes I’ll reply right away, other times I’ll be MIA for hours or even days.) In some ways, knowing that other people will understand and be accepting of these social issues enables me to continue engaging in otherwise frowned upon behavior. I started to wonder if being enabled to continue these behaviors in this way actually serves to exacerbate the problem.

In the past, a lot of people like me just had to “suck it up” and make phone calls, keep appointments, and participate in other common social interactions. There was no excusing yourself from normal expectations by saying, “I’m sorry, I’m just too anxious.” And while I’m sure it was often unpleasant, it may have actually been therapeutic in some ways to be forced to face your anxiety regularly in these ways, instead of being able to so easily avoid any situation that makes you uncomfortable. With so much social and technological progress, isolating oneself has never been more simple. Perhaps this is partially why despite significantly improved living conditions in a lot of the world, rates of mental illness continue to rise.

I am very grateful that more and more people are becoming educated in regards to mental illness and psychology in general. I’m sure overall it is extremely positive. With more knowledge and less stigma, people will more easily be able to reach out for treatment and support. The more we learn about these disorders will also lead to more effective forms of treatment as well. Yet it is still important to consider the possible drawbacks of this crucial shift in global consciousness. I would be very interested to see what solutions we will come up with to address this issue and when we will somehow draw a line between acceptance/understanding and enabling.

Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

Promoting Loving-Kindness & Mindfulness Instead of Veganism

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When I first became vegan I was extremely motivated to push others to become vegan as well. I did this by sharing the unbelievable information that I had been exposing myself to. I shared videos, scholarly articles, statistics, quotes, and powerful personal statements about my transformation and new perspectives regarding animal agriculture and carnism. It is even the reason I began this blog. I was certain that if others only knew about the things I had learned that they would have no choice but to eliminate meat and dairy from their diets in order to alleviate their cognitive dissonance between being a good person and participating in the ending of innocent lives.

I quickly became disheartened and emotionally exhausted in this fight. I couldn’t believe the backlash I received. So many people felt attacked and angered by what I thought were straight forward facts. I got into argument after argument with people online desperately trying to change their minds or at least the minds of those reading the exchange. Yet, I never really felt as though I was getting anywhere even though some of my more open minded friends did contact me and tell me that they were inspired to transition to veganism because of me. I was continuously being eaten up inside by my own resentments and disgust with humanity for all the atrocities it refused to acknowledge.

As this strenuous and emotional effort began to overwhelm me, I had to reevaluate my actions in order to preserve my sanity and emotional wellbeing. I felt immense guilt about not putting enough energy into fighting for the animals of this earth that I dearly loved. I just didn’t know how I could make a difference on their behalf. I turned to working on myself through mindfulness and meditation. These practices have recently led me to a powerful realization.

Instead of directly encouraging others to accept that their current lifestyle includes cruelty and that they need to change, I’ve decided to take a different approach. I remember watching a video by Gary Yourofsky where he explained that it didn’t matter how aggressive or gentle you were with your activism. People would listen to you when they were ready. So how can we get others ready to listen?

I think that by promoting the practice of loving-kindness and meditation that inevitably veganism will follow. This approach now seems much more logical to me. No one wants to be told that the way they are currently living and have been living for their whole lives is wrong. It is a natural reaction to become defensive and try to justify ourselves in some way. I can still remember not long ago being on this side of the argument myself. If someone is ready to change they may listen. Otherwise you are only creating a wider division and more tension between these opposing perspectives.

I used to believe that the facts were all that were needed. But after so many conflicts I realized that you can find studies to backup whatever you wish to believe. It can be incredibly difficult to decipher which studies are funded by those with vested interests and which have flawed methodology, etc. So rather than trying to force change, I want to try something different.

I want to give people the tools they need to be strong enough and loving enough to make changes on their own. Unlike directly promoting veganism, encouraging others to practice loving kindness and mindfulness does not create the same violent reaction and need for defensive tactics. People can easily become interested in these practices for their innate ability to improve all of our lives. More and more people are discovering the benefits of mindfulness, yoga, and loving-kindness meditation. I believe that veganism is the natural response to the shift in consciousness these practices cultivate. It, at the very least, creates the right awareness to allow others to become ready to receive the message of veganism.

By promoting these ancient and beautiful heart opening exercises, I am able to contribute to the movement without destroying myself in the process. I hope that more vegans will begin to adopt this peaceful approach and accept that most people cannot be swayed by hard facts and aggression. Rather they are swayed by the example we all can set by living lives of tranquility and compassion. The energy you emit is the energy that you will receive back from the world around you. Let’s let go of our anger and anguish at the injustices others are perpetrating and instead embrace all that is with an attitude of acceptance and loving awareness. Let’s show others what our world can be if we all just open our hearts to the possibilities.

It is still hard for me at times when I begin to dwell on the immense amount of suffering our fellow earthlings are experiencing every day. But I don’t want to add more anger, despair, and aggression into our world. I want to fill the space around me with love and light, encouraging others to do the same.

The task before us to save our earth is daunting. But we cannot allow ourselves to dwell on the negative. We must continue to fill ourselves with hope, contentment, and gratitude. Others will reach this realization when they are ready. Let us help them prepare. Let us teach the world through example. We can only truly try to improve ourselves. And in this way we can change the world.

Sending you all my abundant love and encouragement. ♥

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The Responsibility of Being Human

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It seems to be agreed upon by the vast majority of the world, than humans are different, superior, to the other animals that inhabit this earth. I would agree except, instead, I would say that human beings have the potential to be great. However, as things stand right now, we are merely more pompous and self-righteous.

You see, as humans we have been blessed and cursed with a large capacity for intellect and understanding. We can conceive of the future, for ourselves and for things beyond us, we recognize death, and we comprehend the intricate relationship between our actions, individually and as a species, on each other and our world.

Up until this point in our progression as a species, we have been selfish, as would be expected. We, like any other animal, strive to secure our place in this world and ensure our survival and comfort. However, we have long since achieved these goals. With the technology we have created and the availability of information and resources that we have accumulated, there is no longer any excuse for us to continue existing is such a short-sighted and selfish manner.

It is time that we set aside our childish pleasures that we know to harm the earth and even ourselves. We must do what is best for all of the world and its inhabitants. We have the power to do so. Human beings are capable of so much more. It is time for us to realize what is important and stop behaving like we have no control over our fates and the fate of our world. Together we could create a utopia. We could live with nature instead of against it, if only greed was not so many people’s driving force.

Open your hearts. Use your heads. We do not have much time left to us. We owe it to ourselves and to the world to utilize our sublime ability to reason and understand and act. Let us help each other to reach enlightenment. Don’t live your life in comfortable ignorance. Do your part to spread intelligence and joy and tolerance. We say that we are more than animals. Let’s start showing it.

Stay peaceful, fellows. ❤