Home is where the health is…
Does where you live affect your health? Does how much mone y you or your family make change how long you will live? Does inequity in a society make the whole society less healthy? The theme this week is “home is where the health is.” We will be sharing how socioeconomic status impacts health around the world. To start off, I’ll share a bit from my GROW experience. I’ll then give everyone an opportunity to ask some questions before we go into the ghU this week. This week we will be exploring a few of our core values in order to pursue our purpose of empowering one another to fight for a world where health is possible for all.
From left to right: Rupmaya B.K., Buddimaya B.K., Bipana B.K., Fulmaya B.K., Ramaya B.K., Srijana B.K., Sarmila B.K., Sukmaya B.K., Sirmaya B.K., Sarimaya B.K., Kamari B.K.
These women had been hired to build the HHC Shertung Office—paid 500 Nepali rupees for a day’s work from 8 am to around 4 or 5 pm or until monsoon rain cut them short. This was shocking to me. $5 US dollars per day. $5 US dollars. A cup of coffee. A sandwich. A tube of toothpaste. I remember seeing the caste differences and being upset: how could there be such inequity in such a small community? In 2020, because of the pass of Colorado’s 70th amendment, the Colorado minimum wage will be $12 dollars per hour. For 8 hours of work that will be $96 dollars in one day. The more I’ve reflected on this the more I’ve realized: caste inequities are nothing compared to the differences between the U.S. and Nepal.
One of the most rewarding things that I ever experienced during the trip was seeing the growth in their comfort speaking English. I remember Anu, the 8th grader from the Dalit (untouchable) community that would walk over to be tutored in English most mornings. When we returned to Kathmandu after our time in the villages, Anu came with us. He was going to work in KTM making toilets during his summer break. What did I do with my summer break? I spent a several thousand dollar grant to go to Nepal…
The first day I was back in the U.S. my parents took me to Walmart. This is not a joke. Perhaps the epitome of American capitalism and consumerism. In less than a week, I had gone from a small general store in Shertung where I could buy a coke, chewing gum, or a pen, to Walmart—an airplane hangar with more things than what I could ever even want to buy.
There are inequities in this world. There are inequities in Nepal. There are inequities in the U.S. Research in sociology and epidemiology consistently show that societies that are more inequitable—where the separating of the most and least wealthy are the greatest—tend to have worst health. That is every single member of the society—even the richest—have worst health than people in equitable societies.
This is hard to process. These issues are complex and ugly. But we at GlobeMed value partnership to create innovative solutions to these systemic inequities; we attempt to understand these complex stories and we also recognize the limitations of our experiences and humbly strive to learn
– T. Fair
This was a phrase I heard hundreds, maybe thousands of times this summer while I was in Shertung.
Toddlers in the village where I spent my time were taught and encouraged by their parents or older siblings to repeat this phrase to the GROW interns. Always accompanied by the classic touching of hands and slight bow.
It was not uncommon to be walking somewhere when I would hear a “NAMASTE SAAAAAP!!!” yelled from the hillside 500 feet away.
As the trip went on, this phrase felt less like a warm greeting and more like a mark of my lack of integration in the community. A symbol of my foreignness.
“Namaste, sap.” A teenager would taunt, repeating this phrase usually reserved for the youngest in their community, followed by him or hear laughing with friends as they passed by.
You see, there are several layers of humor to this phrase for me. First, “namaste” is Nepali so the fact that these folks who spoke primarily Tamang were saying it already made it out of place. Second, saying a greeting like this is rarely used in this community. The people in Shertung are so tight-knit it makes relatively little sense to them to say “hello.” More often than not, they settle for sayings like “where are you going?” or “have you eaten”. Furthermore, I thought it was hilarious because while “sap” means “tourist” in the villages, in English, it means “a foolish or gullible person.” It felt like they were just saying “what up fool?” Even though I knew “sap” wasn’t necessarily “fool” the obsessive repetition—especially in joking manners—made me attach this meaning to it.
Towards the end of my time there, I would get really upset when it was said—especially at teenagers who I felt were just trying to make fun of me.
The funny thing is “Namaste,” I realized upon returning to the states, is so much more than just “hello”—as it was originally taught to me. Namaste means “I bow to the divine in you.”
“Namaste sap.” “I bow to the divine in you, Mr. Gullible Tourist.” “Namaste sap!” “I bow to the part of God that lives in your soul, Ms. Naïve Fool”
This last week while I was reflecting on my trip, my life and ghU, I realized this phrase had so much to teach me. This juxtaposition of intense, almost sacred respect with the “naïve” or “foolish” name-calling got me thinking.
In the villages, I was a fool. I knew nothing. And yet, these people always treated me with respect. I could ask the most culturally misinformed questions or break the most serious of mores and they would still offer tea to me as I walked by.
There is certainly something to learn here.
This political season is about to close, but these past few months I found myself letting my political leanings and personal opinions color how I saw people. Hateful, stupid, ugly-hearted, foolish…
“Bad hombres.” “Nasty woman”
I may not agree with you. I may see you as the epitome of a fool or “sap.” But does that change the fact that you still are deserving of my respect, deserving of basic humanity. Deserving of a bow and a solute the divine living in you.
– T. Fair
“Was that a chicken or your stomach?”
Thank you, brother, for the 4 am rooster’s question
“cockadoodleWHOOOOO could it ba-ba-ba-ba-BEEE
at this fine hour?!”
Thank you, friends, for the lightening bugs who
ask us how dinner was on our way to bed;
who try to catch a glance of what we’re reading
but get distracted by the call of our headlamps.
They are easy to forgive.
Thank you, Phe, for your smile.
For your tension-less heart
that you somehow keep
For teaching me how to play with baby black goats
whose cries sound like a toddler’s.
Thank you, leeches (all 41 of you),
for the reminder that this stuff that pumps through this
organ in my chest, that travels through my veins,
that curves around my arteries,
that funnels into my capillaries
still has value to someone other than
Thank you, Ume, for showing me the softer side
of those who, like you, may take a bit more time to deserve their
deep, deep trust.
Brothers and sisters,
thank you for eggs and countless cups of tea
for showing me how undeserved respect and unwarranted kindness
Namaste, brothers and sisters.
Thank you for your stares.
Your volleyball skills.
Thank you for your unabashed love for one another.
For your unexpected delight.
Your ageless resilient spirits.
In you I have seen what it takes to live
after the earth that you call home
takes everything from you. Well…
You, my friends, have revealed
how little I have when it comes to the meaningful measures
You have shown me how right and wrong
and right and wrong I can be…
I can only settle into these feelings
Into this place of curious buffaloes wagging their heads
or maybe it’s “who the hell’s the tourist?”
You see, I know I do not belong.
But somewhere between my tears of gratitude
and my words of anger
I have found a sense of
– T. Fair
Two summers ago I worked as an AmeriCorps Vista for the YWCA GUTS Program in Missoula Montana. I got to go backpacking with a bunch of really cool girls and women and got paid for it, which was amazing. I helped teach leadership and empowerment to young women through outdoor education and community volunteer work. I would spend a week in the office, planning organizing, shopping, and packing, then a week out in the field. In short, I thought that I was pretty dang cool.
Then one Thursday afternoon I got a call from Natalie, one of the women who helped run the YWCA women’s shelter, which provided a safe and secure place for victims of domestic violence and their families. “Hi Katie, I have three little girls who just moved into the shelter with their moms, they don’t have any money, none of them have their own bikes, two of the moms have no transportation, and they want to go to bike camp next week. Can you make it happen?” I didn’t even think about it. “Yes, absolutely we can do that.” Now, just to be clear: You need a bike for bike camp. You also need a way to get to bike camp. And you need to know how to ride a bike. So I had absolutely no idea how we were going to pull it off and I had never worked with any victims of domestic violence let alone little kids.
But, over the next few days, we lined up scholarships for the girls, found donated bikes, figured out carpooling, and filled out all of the paper work. In order to talk to Jasmine’s* mom, I had to use Jasmine as an interpreter because her mom only spoke Spanish. Jasmine was nine. Sonya barely knew how to ride a bike. The other girls taught her in the driveway of the shelter.
When the three of them showed up to camp on Monday morning they were all shy and nervous. On the first day the three of them played off by themselves. I remember walking over to sit with them in the shade while they built impressive sandcastles and took turns destroying them.
I remember Jasmine being nervous when one of the other girls asked her where she was from. “Clearwater,” she answered. And what she was doing so far from home? She looked at me. She knew that she wasn’t supposed to talk about living in the shelter. She knew that people weren’t supposed to know where she was. She knew that she was not supposed to say “Well my Dad beat my mom so we had to leave.” “We are just here visiting for a little while,” she said looking down at her feet.
But throughout the week they came out of their shells. These girls giggled like any little kid. They ran in the sprinklers, they got covered in paint, they made faces at each other, they played in the mud, they rode their bikes in circles. Sometimes they wined and didn’t follow directions, they got grumpy when they were hungry. They really loved to go swimming. They were kids. Kids at summer camp. For a week they got to be kids, they got to get away from ugly things. They got to make faces and play in the mud.
So why am I telling you this? Well, it is more than a heartwarming sappy story about cute little kids at summer camp. I am not telling you this to make you think I am cool or that we did a great thing. I am telling you this to show you a face of those affected by violence. A cute little nine year old face. I am telling you this because these three little girls are only casualties of a larger oppressive systems. Ugly systems. Ones that we don’t really like to talk about. Systems that keep women’s shelters full and keep sexual assault exams in high demand.
I am telling you this because victims are not asking for it. Because it is not a victim’s fault. Because no one blames a 9 year old victim, so why do we blame a 19 year old victim? Or a 39 year old victim?
I am telling you this because when we think of “justice” we often think of punishing the perpetrator. Why don’t we think of rebuilding the lives that were broken? Why don’t we think about letting kids be kids? About helping families rebuild and people get back on their feet? Why do we put all of our energy into punishing the perpetrator? Why don’t we focus on supporting the victims.
– K. Gannon
*For the purposes of this story I am not using the girl’s real names or home towns. They were in a dangerous situation when I met them and I am not sure where they are now.
This past year I had the opportunity to represent GlobeMed as the GROW intern with Himalayan HealthCare, our partner in Nepal. I was so excited to go to these villages I’d heard so much about. I was so excited to see the results of the thousands of dollars our GlobeMed chapter had sent.
In my mind I had created this idea. I don’t know where it came from, but I imagined this poor, helpless community. I visualized a whole village of people completely devastated by an earthquake. I expected to be greeted with open arms by a community that would love every little thing about me. These were the stories I’d been told.
Instead, I found something I never expected. Volleyball.
Within the first week of arriving to Shertung, I was absolutely floored to see all the boys and young men in the villages playing volleyball. And this is not your un-athletic family’s version of a picnic pick up game. This was intense. These 5’2″ guys were slamming the ball at each other. They clearly had been playing for years. Bump. Set. Spike. Every single time.
So naturally, this 6’4″ white boy wanted in on some of this. I stood up, a giant stepping into the dirt court. Now understand, I am pretty darn athletic and I’ve been playing volleyball since middle school. So yeah, I was cocky. I mean what is the worst these short little Nepali men could do?
Quickly I learned that this was extremely serious. These men had placed bets before the game had started–and they had every intention of winning. I would go up for a block and through my interpreter they would say, “Careful! Don’t let the ball hit you in the face.” I would go for a spike and, disappointed they would yell in their English, “Jump!” I was jumping though… When by some miracle I would make my team a point, the opposing team would yell, “Yes, very good!” in their Nepali accents. They were talking smack. They were taunting me. They were getting in my head. They were not going to let the foreigner take over.
This was not part of the single story I had been told. I never thought I would find volleyball courts in the Himalayas. I never thought these “poor, innocent, beautiful” people could talk smack. I never thought these things because in my mind I had imagined stick figures. What I encountered were people–real live, complex, emotional, competitive people. People whose stories I could never fully understand let alone tell.
My name is Tyler Fair and I am one of the Co-Presidents of GlobeMed this year. The Eboard has made this week’s theme “The Danger of a Single Story” inspired by the incredible Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
I fell victim to the single story when I was preparing for my internship last year. In fact, I think it is impossible not to. The frustrating thing is even when I do my best to reveal where I was wrong. Even when I try to share my mistakes, the reality is there are a lot of stories that I have left untold. What was the story behind why only men were playing? How did these volleyball players even feel about me being there? How was the earthquake still truly impacting their lives? These are stories I can never fully understand. The beauty is that here at GlobeMed, we know that the story we tell ourselves is incomplete. As honest I try to be, my single story is still limited by the reality that I could never fully understand the situation happening in the villages–all I could do was do my best to try and learn and grow.
Two of our core values put it well:
- We accept and work to understand the complexity of the stories that make up our mission.
- We understand our limitations and cultivate humility by learning from different experiences, perspectives, and strengths.
So what is your single story? What are the stereotypes that have been told about you? When have you fallen victim to the “The Danger of a Single Story?” I am beyond excited to get this year started, to meet you, and to learn. Thank you!
– T. Fair
This is a qualitative research documentary that was created by Alyson and Timothy Holland. The documentary explores the ethics of global health clinical electives and volunteer projects in developing regions. It features interviews from experts and global health providers from Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America.
It is intended for use in Pre-Departure Training for students and volunteers intending to participate in overseas projects. If you would like a free copy of the DVD for screenings or use in pre-departure training sessions, please contact email@example.com.
To help us assess the impact of the video, we’d really appreciate if you could fill out the following surveys, one before watching (if you’ve never seen the film before) and one after watching. Thank you!
The GROW blog is back! Our interns have been chosen and they are already fast preparing for the summer. Tyler Fair, GROW coordinator, just came back from the GROW institute held in the Chicago area. Here are his words about the experience and his reflection on what he has been learning throughout the year:
Sticky notes where GlobeMed GROW interns described their personal #whyGROW stories
I am typing this blog post while riding a plane back to DIA. This weekend I was able to spend with hundreds of GlobeMedders all excited for the opportunity to visit their partners in the upcoming months.
The conversations we had were incredibly helpful. One fantastic presentation focused on how to take ethical person-centered photographs that honor the person and don’t rely on stereotypes. Another discussed how to cultivate ones’ personal growth on the trip. We also discussed being advocates and the best ways to do that. We even debated why men are a minority in the Global Health sector and how even though women make up 70% of the workforce, 80% of leadership positions are filled by men (ridiculous, I know).
Perhaps the most powerful portion of the trip, for me, was the conversations we had about why we were even there in the first place. Why GROW (or #whyGROW). Motivation is a funny thing to figure out sometimes.
As a part of our pre-trip preperations, the team is reading the book Little Princes by Connor Grennan. Grennan has a very interesting section at the beginning of the book during which he discusses why he wanted to go work at an orphanage in Nepal. He explains needing a drastic change in his life at the time. He also describes how he would tell girls at bars how he was risking his life going to an area in the middle of civil war to help “the orphans.”
Naturally, I had to think about my own reasons for wanting to go on the trip. This is an uncomfortable place for me but I think I have settled on a couple satisfactory answers.
First, I need to do something completely outside of my comfort zone. When life is consistently comfortable, development is stagnant. I can’t imagine somewhere more out of my comfort zone than Nepal. One of the GROW interns put it this way. “I think it’s like alchemy. The alchemist believes that they could transform base metal like lead into gold. But in order for this lead to change, it would need to be put through fire.” You see, in order for any of us to truly become who we are meant to be we too have to go through fire. Unless we experience pain, struggle, conflict, or problems we can never reach our full potential.
Second, GlobeMed has become a huge part of my life. A saying I’ve become accustomed to saying is “when I am at GlobeMed, I am the person I want to be.” GlobeMed is my people. GlobeMed talks about the issues that are so important to me: social justice, oppression, prejudice, injustice, and inequities. GlobeMed has had a huge role in shaping the person I am and the path I am choosing for myself. But I don’t think my experience of GlobeMed can be complete if I don’t embrace and take full advantage of the opportunity to see exactly what our partner is doing.
Lastly, I think I have the correct mindset this time around. The funny thing about GlobeMed is I got into all of the right things for all of the wrong reasons. GlobeMed wasn’t my way of embracing the mission of global health equity. When I joined as a freshman, I joined because it had “med” in the name and I assumed this kind of involvement would be something valued by Medical schools. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know where Nepal was. When I applied for the GROW internship my Freshman year I was so unprepared, selfish, and I was so unknowledgable about who I even was as a person. I didn’t get it (thank God). Between that time and now, I have learned so much about myself. I have taken huge strides towards living a more vulnerable, authentic life. Had I gone on the trip that year, I think it would have broken me. Now, I think I recognize that GROW is not a trophy. It is not the title. It is the journey and adventure. It is the relationships and struggle undergone together. It is solidarity, and partnership, and reframing our experience of the world.
So #whyGROW? Because I think in recognizing that I am not and will never be “ready”, I am settling into what the trip is meant to be.
Grow students respond to another reading from The Gifts of Imperfection and reflect on finding creativity in life’s path, understanding all forms of addiction, and authenticity.
So even though I am the one who wrote the questions for this week I am going to stray away from them a little bit. I have had a really rough couple of days. I got the diagnosis for my hip, I am still in pain and it looks like I am going to need surgery. Which means again that I probably be in pain won’t be able to ski or run for a few months (refer back to previous discussion of summer before college breakdown Spiritual Awakening). So I have been thinking a lot about why that is such a big deal to me and actually it all came back to Brene Brown’s discussion of creativity.
I totally have fallen into Brene’s cynical trap when it comes to artsy creativity: Who has time for painting and scrapbooking and photography when real work of achieving and accomplishing needs to be done? But I think that there is more to creativity than just the artsy stuff, I think that it is really about finding a way to be present, to express ourselves and find a way to get in touch with what is really going on in our hearts and heads. I will be the very first person to admit that my artistic skills are not exactly top notch (my stick people are fantastic!) But running, quiet Katie time, with just the sound of my feet on the trail and my breath and my heart rate. Taking an hour a day to just be Katie and be by myself and be out in nature. That is where I find my creativity. That is where I can let my mind relax and really get in contact with my deeper self.
When I run it is like all of the anxious voices in my mind go quiet and I get a break. I remember telling a friend that my run was the most relaxing part of my day and she looked at me like I had three heads (Becca is not a runner) but for me it is true. When I run I don’t have to worry about anything else. I do not have to worry about getting my homework done, or finishing my one to ones, or supporting my friends, or being a good girlfriend, or getting an A on a test. For an hour, I can just run. I am literally about to start crying writing this because that is really what I miss about running and skiing. That is how I connect to myself and that is why it is so hard for me to let them go.
Someone told me this week that exercise is the third most effective treatment for anxiety and depression, and I was like “Well there you go! That why I miss running so much! It is like I have be taken off of anxiety treatment.” I think that we all need space for joy and creativity and self-expression in our lives and this has become particularly apparent to me in the past couple of weeks as I have been struggling to find a place to exercise that creativity without my normal runs.
Addiction is a funny thing. As a neuroscience major, I am keenly aware of the fact that even scientists have a hard time of defining addiction. Can an obsession with shopping/sex/Facebook/videogames/gambling really be an addiction? From the perspective of neuroscience, it is easy to say none of these are addictions. Some in the neuroscience community claim that something can only be called an addiction if you are adding external chemicals to alter the systems in your brain and nervous system, typically these chemicals also have to cause withdrawal symptoms to be classified as addictive (think caffeine, tobacco, drugs, and alcohol essentially).
I feel like I am particularly attached to this definition because of the history of substance abuse in my family. My grandpa died because he was an alcoholic. Many of the males in my family chewed tobacco for a substantial part of their lives. Seemingly everyone in my family needs their cup of coffee to get going in the morning. Even drugs are not unheard of in my family history.
It is easy for me to look at this scientific definition and take maybe too much pride out of it. I order decaf when I get coffee (most of the time), I rarely drink, I have never touched tobacco or other drugs. Yay me right? Enter The Gifts of Imperfection and Brene Brown with her own definition: “addiction can be described as chronically and compulsively numbing and taking the edge off of feelings.”
Um… excuse me Dr. Brown. I think you have made a mistake. You see that can’t be right because your definition doesn’t mention any chemistry, or withdrawals, or neuroscience.
But giving it a bit of time, this definition made me reexamine my life. To be completely honest, my addictions are too numerous to count by this new standard. You see, I run straight to the soft serve machine when I don’t do well on exams. I spend countless hours watching snapchat to try and feel connected or just pass a few minutes of boredom. I am the first one to complain and start gossiping when I get peeved at work.
Brene Brown is right though, you can’t numb the bad without also numbing the good. When something is a chronic and compulsive way to avoid discomfort, there is a serious problem.
I love her series of questions that help identify addictions in life:
The question is, does your _______ (eating, drinking, spending, gambling, saving the world, incessant gossiping, pefectionism, sixty-hour workweek) get in the way of authenticity? Does it stop us from being emotionally honest and setting boundaries and feelings like we’re enough? Does it keep us from staying out of judgment and from feeling connected? Are we using ______ to hide or escape from the reality of our lives?
When viewed through this lense, it is clear to me that there are some things I seriously need to work on in my life: perfectionism, incessant business, sugar, gossipping. The list goes on (and these are only the ones I am comfortable sharing). I realize though, that to be my most honest, vulnerable, true self, these addictions need to change. They simply do not align with who I want to be. The vulnerable me, if you will.:)
In response to the first 21 pages of The Gifts of Imperfection, GROW students wrote a blog post about “unraveling journeys”, boundary setting, whole hearted living, and support systems.
One of the most important things to me is courage. I have found that the best things in life require an amount of courage that takes you completely out of your comfort zone. I once went cliff diving with my younger brother and cousin. I was the first one up to jump out of the three of us and I chickened out. I was fearful and I thought too much about the fear and danger in the situation, and then my cousin tried to jump and she was also to scared to jump, however my younger brother simply jump with no fear. When I saw his lack of fear, is also inspired me to be fearless and I also jumped and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I felt alive and free. Have courage lets you stand up and truely be who you are meant to be, it lets you become the absolute best version of yourself. I lack in courage often, I let my fears control who I am meant to be. I am always in the need to pursue and become better, but without courage I became nothing, but I am always safe.
My worst and best quality is compassion…. I care way too much and that has often lead to my down fall. I want to help the people I love and experience that pain with them, however I am never truly know how to connect. I care, but I always feel like I am not doing enough or that I am not genuine in my compassion for others and I think that people help what I project. My compassion has lead me to true and meaningful friendships and love , but it takes along time for people to open up to me and it also takes me a long time to connect with others as well. I also have this type of compassion where I care about a problem about the world however my compassion leads me to nowhere. I have these feeling of love and vulnerability for my fellow human beings, but I never contribute in make a problem go away. Compassion is great, however it is nothing without courage and action. I hope that one day I will be a woman of action and not just simple of compassion.
The thing that I think that most people live for and I absolutely live for is connection. Connection is everything. When you simply connect with someone, you share something that is the bases of the human experience. We are nothing if we never connect. When I fail or mess up and I feel like the world is destroying me, when I connect with others my problems do not seem as big as I thought they were. Connection is why we chose to be courageous and compassion. Every road we take is for connection.
I am a late bloomer. I always hated that about myself. The world pressures us all to have our lives figured out, the sooner the better. I was always behind my friends whether it came to figuring out who I am or what I wanted to do with my life. So, my fit of unraveling journeys hadn’t even started until I arrived in college. But, my most significant breakdown/spiritual awakening happened only last year when I started to go see a therapist.
I grew up in South Korea, a country that favors the shame and blame technique. From my point of view, I see it as a contributing factor to the high suicide rate that plagues the country. Shame and blame wasn’t prominent in my immediate family environment, but it was embedded in the everyday culture and I felt the effects of it. I was extremely lucky that my parents didn’t drink “the Kool-Aid” to the extent that my friends’ parents had when it came to shaming and blaming but it was apparent in the way they raised me. As a person who is sensitive, my parent’s parental methods took pieces of myself until I didn’t know who I was. I was clouded by the need to be their perfect daughter, no longer doing things for myself. It took a toll on me, all the way up to my breaking point. My breaking point made me realize that I needed help to get back to myself.
Through sessions with my therapist, she helped me learn and practice wholehearted living. Brene Brown has summed up everything I am learning about this lifestyle, and what I am still learning. Something that struck me about this book was how important it is to embrace imperfection and vulnerability to cultivate a wholehearted life. It is completely opposite to what society is pressuring us to be, strong and independent. We are taught that showing imperfection and vulnerability is a weakness that people will exploit. Although, to really embrace the lifestyle by showing people my imperfection and vulnerability has truly been the bravest thing I have done, the stepping stone to a wholehearted life. That is when I started to see how courage, compassion, and connection are the gifts of imperfection.
Before my life epiphany through wholehearted living, I never got a handle on the whole boundary setting and accountability part of friendships. This may be the reason why a few of my friendships sank into destruction like the Titanic. I let these friends walk all over me because I lacked boundaries and did not hold them accountable. It seems that to have boundaries and accountability may create distance but I have experienced it as the opposite. To break it down, it is getting real with a friend. This is important for the GROW team because we are doing more than gathering together and enjoying each other’s company. We are doing readings, having assignments, and creating a more professional commitment to our passion, global health equity through service. Without boundary setting and holding people accountable, we may not have that passion and commitment to go on this trip. All that we are doing now with the readings and assignment may look like extra work on top of our school work, but they are preparing us as a team, and individuals for the trip. We won’t have that renewed spirit and understanding going in to the trip if we don’t hold each other accountable for their part of the work.
The tree in a storm metaphor is a great metaphor for a support system. These trees are stable people who can “embrace us for our strengths and struggles.” I didn’t have that growing up, because I didn’t know it was possible to have someone like that. My relationships were surface deep and fleeting because I didn’t feel worthy or authentic. Those insecurities I felt relayed into the type of relationships I had with others as well as myself. It wasn’t I took my first steps to feel worthy and be more authentic that I started created relationship in which I could see them as trees in a storm. They are people that I could be vulnerable with and have a solid connection. The first people that became that tree were my parents. As I was changing and growing due to my wholehearted living, so were my parents. They gave me a safe space to be vulnerable and imperfect. I know I can always turn to them, but as I branch out by truly embraced my vulnerability and authenticity and showing it to others, I am slowly able to build a forest.
Whole hearted living is truly a journey of a lifetime. Although I have been practicing it for a year now, I still stumble along the way, trying to find my way back to myself.
In response to a Ted Talk by Ken Robinson, How Schools Kill Creativity, GROW students wrote a blog post about education, creativity, and the connection to global development.
“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree then it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” –Albert Einstein
I am dyslexic and it took me until 4th grade to learn how to read. I feel like I have spent a great deal of my school career trying to prove to everyone that I am not dumb, partially because I always felt stupid for not being able to do what the other students in my class could. Once I learned how to read I worked really hard and started doing really well in school. But I feel like I have never been able to shake that feeling of being stupid or not good enough. The lowest grade I have had in college is a B- in General Chemistry 1 my freshman year and I yet I still really struggle telling myself that I am capable and smart enough.
I have wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember, but I have never really believed that I was smart enough to make it happen. Over this past summer I worked as a nurse assistant on the cardiovascular unit in the hospital back home and I loved it. I would come home every day exhausted but happy and I remember telling my best friend “This is what I am supposed to do. I want to practice clinical medicine.” When I got down to Boulder and started RA training I started to get overwhelmed with the amount of work and so by the time I got to my first OChem lecture and it went over my head, I was convinced that I was incapable of passing organic chemistry or becoming a doctor.
Over this past semester I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do and who I want to be and what I am willing to do to get there. I talked to my Papa when he and my grandma came down to visit and he said something that really resonated with me. He said, “We love you and we are proud of you, but we don’t love you because you are smart, we love you because you are you. You don’t have to go to medical school, but if you want to be a doctor, then be a doctor and don’t take no for an answer.” I honestly think that the biggest thing standing in my say is my own doubts. After a lot of thought and talking to people that I care about and respect I have committed to going to medical school and becoming a doctor but I still have to work hard to tell myself that I am good enough.
To tie this back to the TED talk and discussion for this week, I think that we do a real disservice, not only to our students but to our society as a whole when we create narrow definitions of what it means to be “smart” or “successful.” I am a smart motivated student but I feel like I had some of my confidence and creativity in part “educated out of me” as Ken Robinsons says. Without the love and support of my family to get me through the beginning of school, I probably would still believe that I was stupid and I certainly would not be going to medical school. I think that we as a society lose a lot of very smart and inventive doctors, lawyers, teachers, architects, and politicians all because they do not fit into the mold of “smart” early on in school. We need smart educated free thinkers who are able to conceptualize problems differently and come up with new solutions, but this cannot be accomplished if we limit the definition of “smart” to “fitting the education mold.”
Creativity as defined by Ken Robinson is the ‘process of having original ideas that have value’. I don’t entirely agree with this definition. Why must they have value? I think the definition for creativity should focus entirely on the act of creation, the act of making something new. Even focusing on producing something of value detracts from creating something new and unique to the individual. The work of Van Gogh was not valued until long after he had stopped creating art. There are indeed people who find no value in art whatsoever. Today Van Gogh’s art is considered revolutionary. It was valuable because it pushed art in a new direction. Creativity cannot be defined as ‘a new idea with value’ because then ideas that seem worthless will be abandoned, even though they may be very important to someone at a later time.
This idea of value has led to the current state of our education system. Ken Robinson says two particularly interesting things about the education system. First, that ‘Every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects … At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and at the bottom are the arts’. Apparent value bumps the more creative subjects to the bottom. Math and English are seen as valuable to material world, so they are at the top of the educational hierarchy. These subjects lend themselves to the accumulation of capital more willingly than the others. This is where the second thing comes in. He says that ‘[education systems] all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism’. This explains why the education system values the subjects that it does. The very system of education leans toward the subjects valued by industry because of the way it was founded. Since schools themselves place no value in the arts they provide little support for those students naturally inclined to those subjects, and kills creativity because of this.
While the system may be stacked against creativity, individual teachers have a large influence on their student’s creativity. In high school I had a teacher (ironically, of math) who would not give rubrics. For one assignment, he gave us each a different finance topic and told us to present on it. When everyone asked for a rubric he refused. He said that assigning a rubric causes students to create their presentation only to fulfill the rubric. Instead of putting any original thought into the assignment, they just look at the rubric and use it as a checklist, only including what it asks for. Instead he gave a general list of information he wanted to know and told us that if we made an interesting and engaging presentation, we would get a good grade. His idea worked. Instead of ten powerpoints with the minimum required information, the presentations ranged from puppet shows to comedy sketches. His method transformed a finance assignment into an opportunity for students to demonstrate their creativity.
I have one last quote which I believe is important to our understanding of creativity. It is from Nietzsche and says ‘The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.’ Creativity can be seen in people everywhere. In order to appreciate it, we need to look at and consider other ideas. Creativity is ultimately a different way of looking at the world.
In response to a Ted Talk by Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability, GROW students wrote a blog post about relational vulnerability, its role in teamwork, and how it is changed with differing cultures.
While listening to Brene Brown’s Ted Talk, one line in particular really struck me. She said “lean into the discomfort of the work,” not just tolerate it or wait until it may become comfortable, but truly embrace it and be grateful for the moment. I feel this encompasses GROW completely because this work is about going beyond your comfort zone to experience vulnerability. Brown describes people with a sense of worthiness as “whole hearted,” because they exhibit courage, compassion, connection, and vulnerability. Those who exhibit these traits, those who aren’t afraid of being vulnerable in order to create true connections, find a true sense of happiness in the work that they’re doing.
Vulnerability is necessary in creating and maintaining relationships, and is essential in order for a team to progress. Relationships rely completely on connections and can only be deepened when both parties expand their perception and risk the fear of shame. Shame is a common theme in anything unpredictable, because the unknown most often is frightening. However, this fear and the fear that we aren’t worthy enough of a connection will hold us back from developing true relationships with another person or with a team.
Vulnerability can be hindered by interacting with individuals from a different culture because of the language barrier. By interacting through a translator, you won’t be as vulnerable as you would be if speaking directly to one another. If there is no language barrier, it still may be hindered because of the different traditions and expectations in different cultures. What is considered vulnerable in one culture may be completely different from another culture. However, if both people aren’t afraid to risk exposing themselves and will also embrace negative experiences, rather than numb them, a meaningful relationship can still be formed.
Brene Brown is telling us that those who are whole hearted find that “what makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.” This is important to remember in GlobeMed, the process of GROW, and in everyday life.
Brene Brown’s TED Talk pretty much summarizes what I have been learning about my life in the past years and what I am now trying to master. We live in a world that teaches us that to be vulnerable is to be weak, someone who people do not want to deal with. Even the definition of vulnerable, to be susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm, and the synonym, helpless and powerless, describes how undesirable it is to be vulnerable. No one likes to be attacked or be helpless in any situation. Despite the popular belief that vulnerability is undesirable, I believe that vulnerability is powerful and important. As Brown has discussed in order for connection we have to be seen, and that is through vulnerability.
I have seen in my own friendships the difference between relationships in which I have shown and have not shown vulnerability. The friendships I have shown vulnerability added a layer of depth, trust and willingness to go through the unpleasantness of vulnerability for a stronger connection. Vulnerability is giving a piece of ourselves for other’s safekeeping and it is revealing who you really are even when the world is telling you who you should be in order to be loved. With this thought in mind, vulnerability is important to relationships, it can determine what kind of relationship it would be, in which one can feel safe even in the discomfort.
I believe the same can be said for a team, although a team may be a more professional relationship, so it may not have to be taken to the same level of vulnerability that a personal relationship does, but it is just as important. To work on a team, vulnerability may not be necessary, but it can better aid the team. It can build a trust that can be reflective in the team’s ability to work together and cooperate. It may also help with the team’s mental wellbeing as a whole because they do not feel that they have to put a mask on of who they are, which can be mentally strenuous.
Being vulnerable can be hard, and put you in an emotional state that is unpleasant, but it is better than numbing everything to avoid being vulnerable. As Brown states, we cannot selectively numb vulnerability, so we are missing out on other things such as joy when we do numb it out. It may be hard to step out of society’s grips and the thought of vulnerability as a negativity and a weakness, but there are benefits from it such as connection and authenticity that may help us to get to a strong sense of worthiness.