15 Tips For The High School Graduate

While home for a short break between my third year at University and the start of my summer job, I was asked to give the graduating class at my high school a few post-grad tips. I’m not much of a public speaker, and on top of that I didn’t really prepare much to say. We only had a few minutes and I was nervous.

As luck would have it, on my drive home from the school I thought of a multitude of tips and advice that I wished someone would have told me after my high school graduation.

1. If you’re not going to a 4 year college, that’s okay. No one walks the exact same path. It is more than okay if you’ve chosen a path that takes you across the world, to a technical college, into military service, into the workforce, or anywhere that is not a stereotypical 4 year college.

2. Go to class. This seems like a no brainer, but when you get to college there’s a newfound independence. Only you can hold yourself accountable. Going to class isn’t always fun. In fact, a lot of times it can be very boring. But I say go to class because it’s the easiest way to learn the material you’ll need to know. The more hours you put in the classroom, the less you should have to do outside the classroom.

3. Make at least one friend in your classes. There will be days when you can’t get to class. That is life. But if you’ve become friendly with at least one person, you have someone you can call in order to catch up on information. You also have someone you can ask for help if you are not ready to go to the professor.

4. Meet your professors and TAs. I have gone whole semesters without talking to my professors. Lecture halls can hold 200+ students and that can be very intimidating. If you aren’t comfortable approaching the professor, approach the TA. Yes, they are there to make your professor’s life easier, but they are also there to make your life easier.

5. Read your syllabi. Especially if you have to sign it. Your syllabus is a contract between you and your teacher. If there is a grade dispute, you can go to your syllabus and have written proof of what was promised. Schedules and assignments will change – things happen. But if you find a grade dispute, you can reference your syllabus as evidence. (I’ve done this).

6. Prioritize. There are many aspects to this. First, prioritize what work needs your attention most. If you are struggling in a class, especially one that is imperative to your GPA or your major, you might want to consider putting that work on a higher priority than another class you are doing well in. C’s get degrees. Now, I wouldn’t aim to get a C in all your classes, because that will not turn out best in the long run. But if you’ve worked hard, and done the best you can in a crummy situation, be proud of that C. You have still passed a class. Finally, prioritize school and social obligations. By all means you do not have to be holed up in the library every night. But if you find your work slipping because you’ve chosen to ignore your academics in lieu of social encounters, you might need to take a step back and evaluate what your goals are and what it is going to take to get there.

7. Ask for help. No one expects you to be able to do everything on your own. So many mistakes are made in this stage of life, and that is okay. Do not be afraid to go to a peer, a colleague, a coworker, anyone you trust, and ask for help. Everyone struggles, but no one has to do it alone.

8. Be respectful to yourself and others. Respect goes a long way. You will get farther in life if you show the people around you respect. You are more likely to succeed with respect, and you are less likely to find yourself in trouble if you are respectful. It’s also extremely important to have respect for yourself. You deserve that.

9. Call your parents. At the end of high school most people feel like they need to get as far away from their parents as possible. You might. Sometimes some distance actually does make the heart grow fonder. Just don’t forget that your parents still love you and need to hear you say that you’re doing ok. My trick? Call your parents when you’re walking to class so you only have a finite amount of time to talk to them. You’ll be happy because you didn’t have to talk to them for an hour and they’ll be happy because you called.

10. Don’t forget about your friends from home. You’re going to meet so many new people, no matter where your path has taken you. But it is important to keep in touch with old friends. You’ll be home for a school break or something and want to see them – you can only spend so much time with your family.

11. Take care of yourself. Eating some semblance of a balanced diet is important for your health. Also don’t be afraid to go to the doctor if you feel sick. We get one body, so treat it well. The same goes for mental health. This time in your life will throw new challenges your way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to a specialist or someone you trust to discuss what is on your mind, and how you’re feeling. Maintaining good mental health is just as important as maintaining good physical health.

12. Use protection. 

13. Get involved. Find a group, club, or organization that you feel passionately about. It doesn’t have to be the biggest group, but if you care about the people, the cause, or the mission statement get involved!

14. It’s okay if your roommate situation doesn’t work out. You and your best friend might not actually be compatible to live together. It doesn’t mean you have to stop being friends. It also might not work out with the random roommate, or the roommate you talked to a couple times on Facebook prior to moving in. It happens, there’s nothing wrong with you.

15. Follow your passion. Some people’s passion is to become an engineer, businessman/woman, a scientist, a doctor, or maybe a lawyer. We need all those people. But some people’s passion is to become a musician, a composer, a film producer, or a dancer, and we need those people too. If you find yourself on a path you are no longer passionate about, it is okay to change your path. You may find yourself transferring schools, changing jobs, or changing majors and needing to stay longer in school. All of this is okay. Be proud of yourself for being true to yourself. Success is not measured on a definite scale. You determine your own definition of success, and it is up to you to achieve your goals.

Graduates, congratulations on completing such a monumental achievement. Graduating from high school is no small feat, so you should be proud. Now you’re headed onto a new chapter in your life. There is no reason that you can’t succeed so long as you are prepared to put in the work. Remember that you don’t have to do it all alone, there will always be people willing to help you.

To My Forever Friends,

We are in the throws of graduation season, where hopeful graduates turn their tassels and throw their caps. Some are heading into the “real world” with a plan; a job awaiting them and a new home to explore. Others are heading back to their parents’ houses to strategize, and still others are embarking on travel adventures for further self discovery. Whatever path is taken, it will be great.

For clarification, I am not actually graduating. I have just finished my junior year and I am simultaneously flaunting and dreading my newly acquired senior status. 

But  I watch as my social media feeds are flooded with notices of graduation and future plans, pictures of smiling faces and popped champagne bottles. Many of these faces I only somewhat recognize – friends of friends, or people I’ve had minimal encounters with, as is the nature of social media. But then there are the other faces, of friends who I see every day, friends who might as well be family. And to see those faces, radiant and confident, makes my heart swell to the point of bursting.

I am immensely proud of my friends who are graduating; my friends who are moving on to the next chapter of their lives. They’ve been a beacon of hope and a source of inspiration for my past 3 years of college. Many of these men and women I’ve known since my first year, and have substantially shaped my college experience. They’re a wide variety of people, with a wide variety of accomplishments and goals. They’ve brought diversity and understanding to my life, unknowingly influencing my choices and decisions.

While there is so much appreciated variety, I would actually like to focus on one particular group of individuals. My forever friends, my dance girls, my people. 

When you spend hours upon hours, day after day, with the same people, you are bound to have some sort of relationship with them. One would assume, since we are part of a dance program we wouldn’t get along as well as we do. One would assume that there is alway an underlying tone of competition. And I’m sure to some extent there is. But it’s not strong enough to cause distress, or keep us from being a family. Because that is what we are, family.

The seniors who are graduating from our dance program are unlike any women I’ve ever met. They are fierce, ferocious, unstoppable, inspirational. They have the ability to be blunt and honest, and still caring and kind. Maybe they don’t know it, maybe they do, but they are the reason I continue to dance. Every day I would walk into the studio, good day or bad, but it would become infinitely better upon seeing them. They inspire me every day to keep trying, to fail and to get back up, to experiment and be fearless. With them I can laugh, cry, joke, and being serious. They work harder than any other people I know, they are driven and courageous.

Each and every one of these individuals has so much to offer, and I am eternally grateful for having the opportunity to learn and grow with them. While we all share a common passion, these women bring diversity and unparalleled value to our program. I have learned so much just by listening, and watching, as they navigate through their own choices, in the arts and in the aspects of their lives I was privileged to witness.

 

I honestly believe I share a special bond with these women. They were the role models I needed to help me brave my first 3 years of college. They were some of the first people I met when I started my college stint. They have seen me in triumph, doubt, and even failure. Without knowing it, they set an example for me, one that I wanted to follow. I will miss them beyond words as they carry on and follow the paths they’re creating and discovering. But I count myself lucky just to have known them.

To my seniors of the USC Dance Program, I am immensely lucky to have known you, to have been able to call you my friends. Thank you for including me, for supporting me, for inspiring me. I am beyond excited to see what you accomplish, and to continue to support you and be your biggest fan. These words aren’t enough, I could never truly express how grateful I am to have spent 3 years together. And while your time in our program has come to a close, I refuse to acknowledge this as a good bye, because I never believe it is. Just a see you later. 

 

So forever friends, see you later.  

Let’s Dance.

A month ago, in the height of intense rehearsals and immense pressure, I had several moments where I just honestly lost my shit in front of my boyfriend. My body ached, my feet literally bled and bruised, my head was full of notes and patterns, and I was having constant internal existential crises.

After one such melt down, he just turned to me and said something along the lines of, “if it causes you this much pain and makes you ask yourself so many questions, why do you keep doing it?”

I kind of just gaped back at his question. My fatigued brain whirred around with potential answers, a few profound and a few snappy, but not a single one seemed to sum it all up. So I just shrugged and said “because”. So angsty.

But the question kept coming back to me, as much as I thought I could shrug it off.

I was beginning to ask myself why. With all the uncertainty, physical pain, emotional rollercoasters, and mind bending situations did I actually want to pursue a career in dance? And then this of course led to the internal panic attacks of how if I really didn’t want to dance, and if I chose something else, how long would I be in school, and would I have to transfer to save money? Also, what the hell would I do if I didn’t dance??

Once I got past the initial stages of internally being in hysterics and externally trying to play it cool, I started to re-evaluate.

USC Dance Company cast of Who Cares? NYCB dancers: Sara Mearns, Tyler Angle, Emilie Gerrity, and Brittany Pollack

Yes, dance is usually financially unstable. I will definitely hold many jobs to keep myself alive. Yes, dance monopolizes times and often throws other commitments to the wayside. There’s a huge chance I will miss family events, or events of friends because of a dance commitment. And yes, it takes a toll on you. Definitely physically, and most likely emotionally.

But I can’t just walk away.

USC Dance Company cast of Raymonda Variations NYCB dancers: Joaquin De Luz and Megan Fairchild

Dance is a part of me the same way I say I’m from Atlanta. It has affected everything in my life. The way I carry myself, the way I process information, the way I see and hear things. Dance is the way for me to both be myself, and be a completely different person. I know I’m a complex person, and that probably is partially because I consider myself an artist. But I think in an interesting way dance has been a means of expressing the complexity.

I don’t think the complexities and challenges dance proposes should be masked. Maybe it’s supposed to look easy, but we don’t have to continue that facade when we speak about it. There are so many beautiful things that the arts have offered me, discipline, creative thinking, drive, fitness, strength of character, individuality, the list goes on. While I still plan to pursue dance in the future, I know that no matter what happens, being given the opportunity to dance in any capacity has created the woman I am today. A woman who I am still discovering, and am learning to be proud of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take It Light

So, in an unfortunate turn  of events I lost my wallet while I was out the other night. I lost everything. My drivers license, my credit card, my debit card, my insurance card, a handful of gift cards and some cash. I also lost my house key and my student ID that I use daily.

You may say “Maia, how on earth could you lose all that at the same time?” To which I answer, I have no idea.

I was having a really great night. I was out with my friends, not a care in the world, and we were having a wonderful time. Then one after another, little problems and tiffs started to arise. In my haste to leave the bar (I am 21, do not fret) I didn’t double check all of my belongings on the way out. I was sure I had my wallet and cell phone when I got in the car, and could’ve sworn I put them on the seat between me and my friend. But when yet another disaster occurred, double checking my belongings was pushed to the back of my mind. When things finally settled down, I dug around the crowded back seat and fished out my phone, only to find that my wallet was nowhere to be found.

The next day I searched every place I could think of. I called the bar I visited, I retraced my steps, I searched the car (3-5 times), and even called the police station. I enlisted help from my friends and even posted on campus wide pages. Unfortunately, as time wore on it became more and more evident that my wallet was not to be found. So I began the journey of canceling and reordering what needed to be replaced.

To be completely honest, when I first realized my wallet was M.I.A., I kind of had a meltdown, border line tantrum. Thankfully, the only person to witness my tears was my ever patient boyfriend. After he talked some sense into me I went to bed, still full of worry, and managed maybe 3 hours of sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things that were missing and the potential cost of replacing things (it wasn’t low).

Unfortunately, there is little hope that I will find my wallet. However, everything is not all gray skies.  I did realize some positive things from this little fiasco. First off, I have some pretty great friends. It’s easy to forget in the whirlwind and stressful environment that is college. But the friends I did ask for help were very sympathetic and willing to look with me. Second, I have the most amazing mother in the world. She spent close to 45 minutes on the phone with me walking me through what I needed to do to keep my accounts safe. She let me vent my stress about the situation. And she went to the store and the post office the same day to send me things I needed from home to start rebuilding the lost contents of my wallet. I also learned the hard way that you should not bring your entire wallet out with you. And you should probably carry something more substantial than a wristlet (take note girls!).

Throughout the whole process of searching, canceling, etc., a mantra my parents like to use kept crossing my mind. It goes:

“Take it light, but take it.”

Throughout this terribly inconvenient lesson, I actively tried to remind myself that yes, this sucks, but it could be worse. And this is just a small setback that I need to deal with. I lost some stuff that I would have preferred not to lose. But the important things can be replaced, and it’s not the end of the world.

Mr. Trump, President

On November 8th, 2016 Donald Trump was elected the next president of the United States of America. On January 20th, 2017, he was sworn into the presidential office. In the weeks after the election results were published, conspiracy, doubt, and disappointment surrounded Mr. Trump’s ability to uphold such a dignified office. Slurs and insults were crafted and thrown his way, his nominees were heavily criticized both in their hearings as well as by the general public, and the phrase “not my president” has been splattered across social media, blog posts, and shouted at rallies and protests.

In the last 24+ hours since the presidential inauguration Women’s Marches have overtaken several major cities in the United States as well as cities abroad. Women, men and others have taken to the streets to make their opinions heard on a varying range of issues from equal pay to the right to choose to have an abortion. And of course social media is plastered with images from these marches, as well as opinions both supporting and disagreeing with the rallies and protests.

On a larger scale, citizens are already in a state of distress over proposed changes on long standing issues such as healthcare, education, environmental policy, and support of the arts. And again, social media is a platform for average citizens and people of influence alike to share their views.

As I scroll through these posts the wings on my heart beat ferociously, excited by the number of people  willing to stand up for what they believe in. But there is also a ball and chain weighing down my heart that grows heavier when I look at both the changing of our government and the people who can’t see past the radicals on both sides.

I feel torn in a million ways as I try to digest as many differentiating opinions as possible.

From here on I will unabashedly share my opinion, here’s your warning.

Women’s March
Columbia, South Carolina
Photo: Megan Brockhard

Women and men alike marched together across the globe in support of equality. Please don’t assume that the views of radical feminists are the sole views of those who spent their time marching. Please stop saying that the marches are exclusionary and that you must believe in “x, y, and z” in order to march. You can disagree on the issue of abortion, but agree on the issue of economic equality and still march. Again, I reiterate that not all those who marched are radicals. In fact I think you’ll find that a large majority of those that participated in the Women’s Marches are moderates who do not agree with all the opinions of their fellow participants. They just felt the need to speak their dissent, and these marches were the perfect platform.

Women’s March
Columbia, SC
Pictured: Chloe Evans

There are many types of feminist. Please stop shaming men and women who say they are a feminist.At its grassroots, feminism simply means believing in the equality of the sexes. You can do that in heels, boots, tennis shoes, sandals, dresses, pants, shorts, skirts, bathing suits, leotards, jerseys, makeup, dreadlocks, bald heads, long locks, tattoos, piercing, pearls, and so on.

I guess my biggest point is not every person who marched, or identifies as a feminist is a man hating, baby killing, socialist who wants women to rule the world.

Like many who marched, I have struggled to accept that Mr. Trump will serve as the 45th President of the United States of America. I cannot bring myself to call him anything besides Mr. Trump, or Donald Trump. There are a lot of things that concern me regarding the turnover of power in the White House and Congress But I’ve promised myself that I will wait and see. So many supporters of Mr. Trump have lashed back at anti-Trump criticism with statements like “He hasn’t even done anything yet”. And you know what? To a certain degree, they are correct. But I can not see him as an innocent man.

I also don’t see him as a stupid man. That’s why his empty promises, allowance of prejudice, and immature comments are inexcusable to me. Mr. Trump can argue all he wants that he never made fun of a disabled reporter. But that is not what the public saw. And instead of apologizing and using his influence to make a statement in support of the disabled, Mr. Trump went on the defensive. In fact, Mr. Trump goes on the defensive in many situations when an apology would have shown true character and strength. His defensive actions and subsequent inability to take criticism degrade my respect for him. A man that takes to Twitter every time he is criticized in a public forum is simply acting immaturely.

Trump supporters often also advocate that Mr. Trump is not prejudiced, hateful, racist, or sexist. Maybe he isn’t. But there is no doubt that a very vocal part of his following fed off hate and prejudice. During his campaign we saw his supporters heckling African Americans, calling Secretary Clinton horrible names, insulting Muslims, slandering immigrants, and more. Even if the worst was not said by Mr. Trump himself, he let the hatred of others permeate his following and did nothing to quell the anger and replace it with unity, peace, and acceptance. Mr. Trump undeniably played into the polarization that plagues our nation.

Finally, and what might concern me the most about Mr. Trump, is his view of women. He’s said it himself, Mr. Trump loves women. Apparently he can’t get enough of them. Can’t keep his hands off of them. And that makes me nauseous. Rape culture goes beyond the physical act of rape and into the way we talk to others, talk about others, interact with others. Mr. Trump’s derogatory statements about the way women look are distasteful and unnecessary. Mr. Trump’s quote “Grab them by the pussy” is abhorrent. I don’t care how old that recording is, and I don’t care the circumstances under which those words were muttered. They are disgusting. Do not rationalize it as “locker room talk”. Men and women agree that there is neither a time, nor place for such foul language to be used. Mr. Trump’s attitude towards women mostly worries me because of the position of power he has held, and the huge increase of power he has just obtained. Mr. Trump has been a respected businessman of wealth and means. He is influential, there is no doubt. So when he treats women, humans, as though they are objects, he is setting the example for others to do the same. Wether he means to or not. His actions make it seem okay for that guy in the bar to think it was okay to grab at me. His words make it seem okay for a man or a woman to verbally accost someone else about their appearance. His jokes make it seem okay to ignore a “no”, or an inability to respond.

None of that is right. A person deserves to be treated like a human being, regardless of their sex, their gender, their race, their ethnicity, the way they dress, the way they walk, the way they talk, and so on. 

For decades the White House has housed families of decorum, class, and dignity. The Clintons and the Bushes are a rare breed of political elite that had an air of regality. The Obamas are relatable, and seemed closer to the public than families with generations of politicians, but still their family maintained modesty and dignity, true class. The Obamas also exhibited humor and perseverance. Mr. Trump is known for being blunt and crass, ignoring anything reminiscent of political correctness. For many this is part of the appeal. He is seen as a noble outsider, different than the corruptible politicians that have claimed power in the past. But I believe he is sadly mistaken if he thinks he and his band of cronies disguised as appointees can bully their way into success and “purify” a system under upheaval. For the same reasons that Mr. Trump appeals to many, he is also sorely lacking in the knowledge and wisdom required to be a part of the political atmosphere.

Politics is a game of complexity. It requires hard decisions, tact, and compromise. I have not seen an inkling of that in Mr. Trump, and that is why I have a pit in my stomach and lead in my heart.

 

What A Long Strange Trip…

On a whim, I applied to go on a Birthright trip for this past winter break. I applied late, and wasn’t sure what trip I would get assigned to. But being the networking system that is the Jewish community, I wormed my way onto the same trip as a very old friend. The appeal was that 7 years ago we had traveled to Israel together on a school trip, and wouldn’t it be neat to return to Israel together?

On this note, I packed my bags after a week of languishing15895254_10211780970670905_6701168271040536201_n at home and headed to the airport, first to fly to New York, and then onto Tel Aviv.

I was surprisingly nervous in the days and hours leading up to my departure. I chose to go on a trip with onlyone friend, and one other person I was friendly with. I wanted to experience a foreign land with foreign people. But I was worried that I would float through the trip enjoying the places and the experiences, without really connecting with others.

I shouldn’t have worried. 

Yes, the trip by itself was amazing. Simply being in a country so saturated with life, culture, conflict (unfortunately), and spirituality is enough to incite an emotional and visceral response of wonder. But truly, my trip would not have been the same without the people with whom I traveled.

I should have known that the people I traveled with would be the reason my trip was the life altering event  that it was. 15726740_10211780996431549_3107911860087968905_n

I have always been interested in stories about people. Be they near, or far, I think there is tremendous value in learning about people around the world, and the best way to do so is to listen to their stories. Everything is affected by people. Places, culture, religion, inventions, buildings, art, you name it, they are all influenced or created by humans. By traveling with such a mixing pot of people, my trip became this wonderful experience that transcended any expectations I could have hoped for.

I could spend all day trying to describe the people I met on this trip, and honestly, it would be to no avail. I met people who inspired me to think harder about who I am and what I value, especially from my faith. I met people who encouraged me to smile more, and laugh harder. I met people who challenged me to consider another way of thinking, another way of life, another way of communicating.

And I appreciate all of it. 

I appreciate bearing witness to a country many are quick to judge. I appreciate listening and learning from the residents who inhabit this magical land. I appreciate the ladies and gentlemen from my home country who reminded me of the diversitythat our great nation nurtures. I appreciate the beauty of nature and what G-d has created for us to inhabit and respect. I appreciate the centuries of history imbedded in such a holy land. I appreciate that opinions may dissent, but compromise can be reached. I appreciate that peace is far from simple, but there are people who are fighting for it. I appreciate that I have been able to take things for granted, that others can’t.

So to wrap up this soliloquy, I would like to say thank you.

Thank you, to the Israelis on my trip who answered my incessant questions, for encouraging me to practice my broken Hebrew, for acting as unofficial tour guides, for making me laugh, and for sharing your opinions, experiences, and culture with me so that I may learn.

Thank you, to our staff, for keeping us out of danger while educating us about the beauty and pain that composes the intriguing state of Israel.

Thank you to my fellow Americans for reminding me that the Southeast is not like the rest of the states, it is in fact, a s15822968_10211780950630404_462396560203660110_nilly place. Thank you for reminding me of the beautiful diversity that our country nurtures. Thank you for inspiring me to explore my own home and expand my domestic horizons.

Finally, an overall thank you to every individual person on board Shorashim Bus 300. Each and every one of you made me smile more, laugh harder, think deeper, feel stronger, and listen closer. You shared your values, your opinions, and your beliefs unabashedly and unfiltered. I know that with strangers, that is often hard to do. Thank you for reminding me that people are good, that there is so much to learn, and to never shy away from an adventure. I will miss you all so much in the coming days.

If I could leave one piece of advice for you, and for myself, it’s a reminder that it is never good bye. Simply put…

See you later, my friends.  

 

Don’t Just Wear Your Safety Pin

In the wake of the election choosing Donald Trump as our President-Elect, our nation has become more evidently polarized than we have visibly seen in years.

That does not mean that division and fear is new. Absolutely not. The United States has been plagued with inequality and prejudice since it’s infancy. But as time progressed, some groups achieved some form of safety. Slavery was abolished. Women earned the right to vote. Waves of immigrants entered the country and achieved citizenship.

But that does not mean these minor achievements eradicated hate. Blatant racism didn’t disappear, and institutionalized racism thrived. Women still do not earn equal pay to men, and are far too often treated like pieces of meat. Immigrants are still prejudiced against in the workplace and blamed for economic crisis.

But for many of us, we don’t see or feel such prejudice. The color of our skin, or our gender, or our socioeconomic status is worn as an armor. For most of my life I had no idea the benefits I rely on simply because of the color of my skin and the privileges my parents can afford to provide to me. My education, the clothes I wear, the technology I use, the vacations I take and so much more are opportunities and objects that so many people don’t have access to.

I believe in our Constitution, in our Declaration of Independence, our government, and our civil servants because I have privilege. 

As of late we’ve seen writers pen articles expressing opinions about white privilege from every possible angle. But one consensus seems to be the same; calling out white privilege leaves a bitter taste of guilt in the mouths of so many white Americans. So much so that they (we) feel the need to renounce our privilege and explain in all forms why we aren’t as privileged as someone else.

I won’t lie to you, white privilege makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel guilty and even a little resentful. But you know what? It should. 

Only recently have I truly realized the aspects of privilege that I benefit from on a daily basis. I am not afraid to speak my mind because I am privileged in such a manner that leaves few repercussions for invoking my First Amendment rights.

Part of my privilege is that I get to choose to express my differences. My skin is a layer of protection that so many people are not afforded. While I choose to wear my difference in the form of a golden Star of David, others have no choice but to wear their differences simply because it is the color of their skin.

That brings up another interesting concept, which is the concept of choice. Recently, the safety pin phenomenon has gained popularity. Hell, I shared an article. The basic premise of wearing a safety pin is that you are announcing that you are an ally to those who currently face, or will face unsolicited prejudice. You are proclaiming through this safety pin that you will support a POC, a member of the LGBTQ community, a Muslim, a women, etc. who might, or is, currently facing acts of hate. I was very much on board with this idea and felt like it was important to share with others.

And then I read an article in the Huffington Post. It was called, Dear White People, Your Safety Pins Are Embarrassing. The author made the point that wearing a safety pin was a cop-out. He argued it was just a way to make people feel better about themselves and noncommittally say that they are an ally. I read the whole thing. And obviously felt uncomfortable. But I do not regret my decision to share this article about wearing a safety pin, I will continue to wear a safety pin, and I will continue to encourage others to wear a safety pin.

But I will clarify why you should wear a safety pin, and what commitments you must uphold if you choose to wear one. 

When you put this piece of metal on your body, you are saying that you will act. An action doesn’t have to be joining a protest rally, physical fights or a verbal debate on social injustice. An action can be as simple as asking someone how their day was as a distraction, or physically putting your body between a victim and a perpetrator in an instance of hate speech. It is okay if you are afraid. But remember that many of the privileges you have, someone else doesn’t. The point of the safety pin is not just to make you feel better and pretend like you are going to be a part of the movement for change. The point of the safety pin is a physical piece of evidence stating that you are going to act on your promise of being an ally. 

So, wear your safety pin if you choose. But don’t let it be a meaningless accessory. Wear your safety pin and fulfill your promise of using your privilege to support others who currently don’t have the same privileges. Be an active part of the movement to eradicate white privilege and foster equality and empowerment for all people. 

 

My Secular School Doesn’t Respect My Religion

A personal interpretation of how a public university is not as secular as it says.

On the outside I am a privileged white girl who has received, and is still receiving a top education. I have many opportunities and seemingly few obstacles. What makes me different is not an external characteristic, like my skin color. Right now images of police brutality and race related violence cover our domestic media. Prejudices against the African American community, especially in the form of police brutality are smeared across our screens. Politicians pander to the ever growing unrest over immigration policies and an influx in immigrants as well as the rising misdirected fear of Muslims. I will admit that I am fortunate enough to not worry about the prejudice that African Americans, immigrants and Muslims are facing. Their concerns and their unrest is 100% valid. But that does not mean that their struggles are more valid or more important than mine. Because every struggle is valid. 

My differentiating characteristic is my religion. I was born into and raised in a Jewish household. I grew up having Shabbat dinner, learned how to speak Hebrew in school, studied Jewish culture, and attended services. I will admit that my religious experience petered out a little when I got to high school, and other activities took over my interests and time. However, my parents still emphasized the morality and ethical lessons of Judaism. They raised me to be proud of my Jewish identity and not be afraid to show it. While I may not be religious, my religion is important to me. 

Until I got to college, I was never really concerned with being a minority and having my religion interfering with my education or vice versa. For 1st through 8th grade, I went to a Jewish Day School, so we always had important Jewish holidays off of school. When I went to public high school I was still in a very large Jewish community, and the school board excused our absences on the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. But college was the game changer.

I go to a public university, so the school is secular and respects all religions. However, I noticed a trend among my classes beginning first semester freshman year. Our academic attendance policy states that days absent should not exceed 10% of our class meeting times. Generally, that gives between 2-3 absences per class. Students mostly want to save their absences for if they are sick or need to go out of town. I however, have to strategically plan them around the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. If I choose to be absent on both of these days, then I have to hope I don’t get sick or injured or have any family emergencies that could cost me my last absence, or potentially face penalization. Penalizations can mean points off your final grade that have the ability to drop you a full letter grade.

I know what you’re thinking. There has to be a clause for extenuating circumstances. And you’re semi-right. The university asks teachers to be respectful of “participation in University-sanctioned events”, “military duties”, “mandatory admission interviews for professional or graduate positions that cannot be rescheduled”. Beyond that it is suggested that teachers also be respectful towards “death or major illness in the student’s immediate family”, “illness of dependent family member”, “religious holy day”, and/or “illness that is too severe/contagious for a student to attend class”. I suggest checking the undergraduate bulletin for better descriptions. 

So there’s the problem folks, it is only suggested that teachers do not consider my religious holy days as an absence that could potentially penalize me. But to be honest, I have not really had any teachers truly respect my choice to attend services on our holiest days of the years. They have told me that my absence will count to my allotted 2-3 and I’ll have to catch up on what I miss. And if it’s possible, to please still turn in assignments on time. Because I value my education as well as my religion, I have even made the effort to go back to classes after I leave services, even if I have chosen to participate in a religious fast.

I also know your next argument. “Well, it’s a public university so their policy applies to all religions, even Christianity.” To that I would like to make this equation. In terms of importance, Christmas is the equivalent to Rosh Hashana, and Easter is equivalent to Yom Kippur (it’s a rough equation). The university (and most public secular schools) conveniently schedules Winter Break over Christmas, and Easter is always a Sunday and there are no classes on Sunday, so, if you want to go to church, there’s no issue of absences stopping you. 

I’ll leave you with a question. How secular is my public university, and how free am I to practice my religion without repercussions?

Aspiring dancer and amateur writer

%d bloggers like this: