Saturday, July 18, 2009
Wondering what to do with your lazy, hazy July days? Whether you are working, playing, studying, or some combination of all three, this month is a unique time to take stock, make plans, and perhaps make changes. Here are some suggestions for things to do with your July days:
Summer offers an extended period of time to dream - ideas for the future, ideas for your future, ideas for your student organization, ideas for an innovation or invention, ideas for redecorating your residence hall room or apartment...My current career didn't exist when I was a student - where do you see yourself after graduation? In an established field? In a still emerging field, or perhaps in a career that does not yet exist? What's important to you in life? How can you get there? Dream!
Take some time to look up at the sky, look up at the moon, look around your surroundings. What came before you? What is yet to come? What things do we take for granted that only a few short decades or years ago were only a dream or idea? Experience the wonder of everyday things, or of the universe!
Explore places, near or far. Get off the train one stop before or after your usual stop. Explore the backyard or a park. Check out what is nearby that you haven't had the time or inclination to try before - go to the symphony, theatre, or zoo in your city or a nearby place.
Items one through 3 above can also be applied to this item! Read for pleasure rather than studying; or read a book you've been meaning to get to for awhile but haven't had the time. Or, read the book our incoming first year students are reading. Better yet, read to a child - a younger brother or sister, niece or nephew, cousin - experience and share the joy of reading with a child.
Get outside and get active! Run, walk, bike, swim - a whole slate of races, competitions, and benefits are coming up soon:The Cancer Resource Center's 5K run and walk, the Cayuga Lake Triatlon, Hospicare's Women Swimmin', the AIDS Ride for Life, or something taking place where ever you are this summer. Set a goal, increase your fitness, try something new or challenging!
Yes, simple but effective. Minds and bodies require oxygen. Sometimes stress can cause us to not fully engage in this important (and required!) activity. Better yet, learn and practice breathing techniques to increase relaxation and positive emotions with these audio tracks from the Counseling Center!
7. Let it go
Try letting go of the slights against you from the past day, the past week, the past semester. A remark or action of a professor, another student, a family member or friend - some of the slights we hold onto may have been unintentional or even well-meaning but just a little off - many can hold us back even as the world moves on. Let go of a slight - a very real one, or perhaps one that stung at the time stung but now has passed and is just not useful for you to hang onto anymore. Use that energy for something else this month!
8. Try Something New
A new hobby, a new skill, a new use for your time, a new wellness practice. You know what it is you've been wanting to do - try it out now!
(This blog is called Out for Good, remember?) Help someone else, regularly or just once, volunteer formally or informally, LGBT or non-LGBT. Just do it. Your contribution matters. You matter. Share the gift of your time, your knowledge, your caring. Make a difference in the world!
10. Rest & Recharge
Try out meditation, relaxation, and visualization practices on your own, or with the help of the Counseling Center (see #6). Take time for yourself, spend time with friends, do things that help you feel good. Everyone needs time to relax and rejuvenate - especially student scholars and leaders! Do if for yourself, do it for those around you, do it to get energized for the coming year!
That's it - ten tips. Try one, a few, or all ten. And now are you wondering, what do I do in July? See numbers 1 - 10, above!
Sunday, July 5, 2009
A common set of questions student journalists often ask in my office is “How do you do this job when things sometimes seem so depressing and discouraging? What do you think the future will hold for LGBT people? Do you think things will change for the better?”
My reply is usually “Hey, I’m the LGBT coordinator – I’ve gotta have hope. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be able to get up out of bed each morning!”
And I do – I do get out of bed each morning, and I do have hope for a better tomorrow. Some days bring great progress; others not so much. Mostly it feels like three steps forward, two steps back. But that’s still forward motion, lurching toward a better tomorrow.
Harvey Milk knew all about the power of hope, and spoke about it frequently. He gave his “You Cannot Live On Hope Alone” speech shortly before he was assassinated in 1978.
A few days ago, an event took place in that slow tottering stride toward a better tomorrow. President Obama hosted a White House reception celebrating LGBT Pride Month. Several hundred people were invited guests, including a few who have also spoken at Ithaca College in recent years such as Robyn Ochs and Shannon Minter.
It wasn’t the first time lesbian and gay people were invited to the White House. (That was in 1977).
It was the first in which a sitting president addressed the crowd by saying "Welcome to your White House." And, it was the first after a presidential proclamation had been signed announcing June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. In it, President Obama also declares “I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.” Read the full text of the presidential proclamation.
During his remarks, President Obama evoked the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and quipped “The truth is when these folks protested at Stonewall 40 years ago no one could have imagined that you -- or, for that matter, I -- would be standing here today.”
And all this made me think of something else – a connection of sorts. This summer, like many of our incoming first-year students, I’ve been reading President Obama’s book Dreams From My Father. The book is this year’s First Year Reading Initiative selection.
It’s the story of Barack Obama’s search to understand and honor his identity in a world not interested in messy ideas. A world usually rooted in simplistic understandings and binaries, without time to be bothered by all those ideas - and people - that do not so easily fit. The book poses many questions –
- What is family? Who is family?
- What is belonging? And who decides to where one belongs?
- What is community? How can it be reconciled with freedom?
- How do we transform power into justice? Sentiment into love?
And it covers much ground, both geographically and figuratively. From his stepfather’s compassion for a cross-dressing employee, to his own realizations as a young adult of ways “simple” solutions may be not applicable to much of the world, to the insidious ways racism and hate operate in the US and abroad, the book is filled with observations that dwell in all those messy places that can provoke complicated feelings.
Throughout its pages, there is an emphasis on outliers and outsiders. Indeed Obama describes himself at times in the book as an outlier, an outsider, and even a freak.
What does all this have to do with the White House reception? Perhaps everything. Especially when the President hosting the reception understands what it is like to feel like an outsider. What it's like to search and struggle to understand oneself, and to meditate on the meanings of belonging and identity.
Are things for LGBT and allied people difficult and complex, with so many disappointments and mixed messages along the way? No doubt. Do I have hope for a better tomorrow? You bet I do.