My Life is My Job… My Job is My Life?

We are constantly bombarded with:

Follow your dreams

My Life is My Job… My Job is My Life?

Birthday celebrations at the office

Do what makes you happy
Work life vs. home life
If you don’t like it, leave it

Obviously these carry undertones of privilege and access that not everyone has the fortune of taking advantage.

As the U.S. News reported more clearly in their article called “Why You Shouldn’t Follow Your Passion,”

“Do what you love” is privileged advice that ignores the fact that the majority of the world’s population works to get food and housing, not for emotional or spiritual fulfillment.

There have been many times that I have been madly in love and passionate about my work. Then there is the “ying to my yang,” those disappointing times that sometimes creep or jump at me from out of nowhere. After work, I Skype with my loved ones back home and I vent, I share.

My personal life and my work life coexist—they affect each other.

Talking about my day (which is predominately consumed by work) with my loved ones allows me the time to reflect with someone else about my joys and struggles. It allows me to attempt to understand the tangible things and actions that affect my mood, my personal well being, and my growth. I take that reflection and try to input it into my (work) day.

What I’m trying to say, is that it is OKAY to let the two influence each other (there are caveats to everything in life… so do with this as you will). I have benefited a lot in reflecting on my personal actions and using them towards my advantage in the work place. I have found what my passions are and pull on those little moments at the workplace when I can utilize my passions and skills to improve my work. When my work feels more passionate, I get better results. I put more energy into it. I can present it better. No, it most certainly not always easy to find those little things that brings you passion. But sometimes, I just have to look harder, maybe stretch the meaning of that passion more because I’m certainly not leaving this job opportunity any time soon (technically) and I want to enjoy the experience as much as I can. It’s a perspective thing, right? We hear that a lot, but do we put it into action?

I feel like this is an important time for me to understand what I love and what I hate, what inspires me, what makes me feel stifled and use that to find develop my productivity and efficiency in any job setting professionally and personally.

Having job security that also gives me emotional fulfillment might just be a matter of searching a little harder:

If I can’t do what I love,
Find what I love in what I do.

My Life is My Job… My Job is My Life?

Uayamón Hacienda, Field Work
Uayamón, Campeche

On Being American When in Mexico—On Being Biracial When in the United States

 

This is the conversation I had in Mexico with someone who is racially white and nationally from the U.S. 

On Being American When in Mexico—On Being Biracial When in the United States

Oxkintok Ruins
Maxcanu, Merida, Yucatan

Backdrop:

Merida is an up-and-coming city nationally and internationally. It has started to heavily delve into the tourism sector, which has sparked a lot of economic development in the area. Because of its weather, low cost of living, and many other benefits there is also a very large and growing Ex Pat community. I would describe my neighborhood as more of a tourist area rather than gentrified even though a majority of the Centro Colonial of Merida has become more gentrified throughout the past 5 years. There was no internet at our house, one of the nearest access to WiFi is at Starbucks.

Me: Hey, I’m going to go to Starbucks, do you want to come?

Her: No, I’m fine. I went there early this morning and there were so many Americans that I just kept on walking.

Me: Oh… are you embarrassed to be American?

Her: Yeah. I don’t like standing out.

Me: Don’t you think just walking around as the lone white girl makes you stand out?

Her: Yes, that’s why I like to surround myself with Mexicans, so that I don’t feel different.

Me: You don’t think you stand out in your group of Mexican friends?

Her: I just feel like I fit in.

That’s where the conversation ended. I understand, that there might have been a lot of unspoken and misinterpreted meanings/ intentions/ semantics. I understand there are many reasons to be ashamed of US history (and present). What I don’t get is how does surrounding yourself with friends make you somehow forget about your difference? Well, I guess I do get it. I get how feeling like you fit in and having a community is very powerful in overcoming and even ignoring difficult situations but I personally just don’t believe it changes your innate identity.  From my interactions with this person, she does heavily identify as US citizen, albeit regretfully. So it does not seem like a matter of her not prioritizing that identity. It’s just as if she’s trying to hide it, trying to ignore it.

What frustrates me about this? Obviously there is a lot more background information that can’t be fully covered/ properly conveyed. But it’s how this perception has also affected our relationship. It made me feel like she’s also embarrassed of me, a proud (not obnoxiously) US citizen. I mean, she has also said that (cue previous conversation):

Her: It’s not that I don’t want to invite you guys to things, it’s just that when I’m in other countries, I like being the only one in my group of friends who is different like the “extranjera.”

Me: I think I get it.

Me (in my head): So you have sharing, attention, and self-confidence problems

::end of conversation::

I understand that I too have much to blame since I should have asked “why?” Next time. It’s really what we all need to be doing more…  asking why? What a beautiful flip-the-coin way of finding clarity of delving into complexity. I digress.

What also really flustered me about these conversations has been my own experience with being a minority. Maybe there is a social justice/ anthropology “sin,” I’m about to commit, but yes, I did compare my racial minority-ness in the US that I’ve experienced for the past 8 years with her national minority-ness that she experiences when she travels to Latin America.

::Flashback::

I don’t remember having white friends until I went to high school. There just simply weren’t white families where I lived.

When I entered the prestigious walls of my predominately white, high income, legacy boarding school, I immediately became self-conscious about my look, my tan, the way I spoke, my lack of money, my parents. I didn’t know what Uggs were or J Crew or Northface… but I did know, a semester later, that those were the items I was scavenging for in the Lost and Found bin right before study hall.  I was embarrassed of how I dressed and I was embarrassed that my family couldn’t afford to get me these things. (It also reminded me, that you just don’t lose things like that—things that cost money.) But this was how I was trying to resolve my conflict—my shame at how my racial identity manifested itself around The Other. So I understand where my friend was coming from when she felt uncomfortable—I could empathize.

However, I loved my racial and cultural heritage. I displayed my flags proudly in my room all 8 years that I was in boarding school and college. I threw myself into culturally focused groups and activities, even though I was surrounded by people who saw me as someone significantly less than them because of my race. They saw me as someone who would statistically drop out with an unplanned pregnancy, who’s parents were probably “Illegal,” or as a blight to our country (another flashback: one of my very rich white friends once showed me a text from his father that demanded that he stop hanging out with “that minority girl” (me) as if I was a disease his son could catch. I was 16 at the time. I still talked to my friend but a part of me believes that he had to have believed that too… that a part of that has to be ingrained in him because well… that is what he was surrounded with. Why did he even want to show me that text? He made no apology for it. I digress.)

On Being American When in Mexico—On Being Biracial When in the United States

Hanal Pixan (Day of the Dead Procession)

This writing is cathartic… I wish it had a stronger point for you, the reader. Reflect on privilege maybe? Reflect on (hiding and embracing) identity? Maybe understand that it’s hard to reflect on some of the more oppressive things about identity until you feel the relief of no longer being The Outsider (something I’m finding out more and more and I walk through streets without curious eyes asking what I’m doing here).

Anywho, maybe I was annoyed because she’s embarrassed of me being a US citizen—for standing out (which, I mean, if I don’t talk… I really don’t stand out. On the contrary, I stand out when I walk around with her… the irony). I guess my minority experience, like hers, was something that I couldn’t hide. I couldn’t escape that part of me even though I could find escapes ::difference::  I embraced my race because it was something that I was. It doesn’t change for me. It is who I am. It is my label. My difference. But I understand that many other people have labels that they can’t hide and that they wish they could change/ are in the struggle to change.

I didn’t have the support that I needed during the time to deal with the difference. I had to forcefully throw myself in things that could give me solace. The sad and yet, at the time, comforting fact was that there were a handful of other kids who were also going through the motions with me. Maybe that’s what my friend is trying to find… her escapes… her comfort to get through. I can get that. But maybe as some sort of witness to the stress, what is my role in supporting her in getting that comfort? Or maybe, I shouldn’t get involved because I fully believe that as an Outsider you have the opportunity to incite some change in the workplace, in your friend groups, etc. In fact, isn’t that what I am charged to do? That’s a big part of why I’m here. I am supposed to be The Other.

What I Wish I Had Learned in College

By Melodie Mendez ‘13

It has been one month since I’ve started my job as a Public Policy fellow at FHMM in Merida, Yucatan. I’ve enjoyed almost the entire experience but I would be amiss to say that had it not been for extreme patience (which I didn’t always exemplify) and great feats of flexibility (which I did not always exercise), this experience could have been on the brink of horrifying.

No.  I’m not exaggerating.

I don’t want to go into detail on the mishaps, but let’s just say that culture was lost in translation. Besides, the mishaps are not important. What is important is that I never really learned to fully function in a world outside the comforts of Davidson. Davidson did not teach me how to live a hard life.

I lived a luxurious life at Davidson. I had my own room with bathrooms that our dorm keeper took care of, meals cooked for me right when I wanted them, CVS near by, deadlines/ tasks/ expectations all clearly laid out for me right with the handout of a syllabus. Sure, I pulled all-nighters every month; sure, I didn’t always get the grades I wanted; sure, I was a part of way too many clubs… but these were all choices. Davidson afforded me choices and for the large part if I was unhappy about something I could make an effort to change it.

Life, on the other hand, just says “no” to most of your efforts and hands you a bag of ambiguity and other obstacles for you to delve through.

I wish Davidson had taught me how to simply “deal with it.” It sounds so much easier when reading and writing the words.

What I Wish I Had Learned in College

But it’s just harder in the real world (and, believe me, as I write this I’m realizing how much of a comfy life I’ve lived). Anywho, that’s just the professional setting, where I can’t just lounge in the Union pull an all-nighter when I want to and submit my work, but instead I am forced to sit on a wooden chair crank out some work for an undisclosed time with undisclosed specifications. It often times feel like I have no professional power and being President of XYZ club bears no weight on anything except… wait no, absolutely nothing.

Then there is my life outside of the office. I recently had a conversation with one of my housemates (also a Davidson 2013 grad) about our social lives at Davidson. It was a very structured social life. You knew where you where going to eat and with whom. You knew what times you had this and that meeting. You knew that you would probably goof around for X number of hours and then rush to complete an assigned reading. The weekend came and you partied the night/ morning away, slept in, went to Commons, went to the library.

Rinse.

Repeat.

It was relatively planned and known.

I have started a new life outside of Davidson and outside of the US and, for starters, I don’t even know what I like to do [on a budget]? I wish Davidson had afforded me the time to develop a hobby. For the past four years my interests consisted of sleeping on command during any available time, joking around with my friends in the dorms or in the Union, and writing lists upon lists upon lists of things I needed to get done.  But what do I like to do? Or maybe a more appropriate question is, who would I like to be?

At Davidson, I was a workaholic and I loved it and, for the most part, was relatively good at it. Some might ask, “well what did you do before Davidson?” Well, I was at a competitive boarding school and before that I was a Prep 9 student that conducted college prepatory classes starting at age 13. Complimented by my strict parents who wanted to be nothing other than a Doctor or lawyer, I had no life outside of school. I didn’t mind that at all to be honest. One thing I know for certain, I love to learn.

Nowadays, I guess I’m just learning how to be.

 

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