Sociology: What’s my Role in Society and can I do better?

When I was younger, I wore my big brother’s old clothes to school. They were mostly baggy, they had more zippers and pockets than the girl’s clothes, and had some pretty cool graphics on them. I would always tell everyone that those clothes were so comfy. And they were–I was always itchy, uptight, and aggravated in most of my girly clothes. That’s the way I wanted to dress sometimes–and my parents let me.

When I was younger, I had a best friend named Josh. He was nice and liked to play with the same toys I did in kindergarten. We built things with blocks and once they were high enough–all the way over our heads–we’d knock them down like Godzilla with crowded cities. My other two closest friends were twin brothers, Nickolas and Cameron. I always hung out with these young boys and all my neighbors who were overwhelmingly boys–and my parents let me.

When I was younger, I wanted to go to football and lacrosse day camps. I turned out to be the only girl to participate in either, but that’s something that I didn’t notice at the time. I ran as fast as I could, stayed as alert as possible to never miss a pass, and always did all the exercises. I was put into karate classes at the age of four. There were only a couple other girls who practiced at that dojo and they were older than me. Everyday I went to karate, I never questioned that I was going to be one of the best students. My older brother and I did many of the same activities growing up–and my parents let me.upnorth

When I was younger, I spent my years growing up outside in the woods before dinner. My neighbors made sticks into weapons with my brother and I to fight off imaginary intruders and evildoers. We’d get spots of dirt on our clothes and spots of poison ivy on our skin. If we got hurt, we’d help each other to get back inside and clean up. I came in the house smelling of soil and grass–and my parents let me.

When I was younger, I started middle school, where I learned how to make new friends. I started realizing that I had a lot in common with many of the girls in my grade. I had  sleep overs with them and even had a best friend that was a girl from elementary school all the way up to sometime in high school. I started going shopping for clothes that fit me well and used purses instead of pockets. I used the makeup that I thought looked good on the other girls–and my parents let me.

When I was younger, I started to see that the little boys were growing up from punching-bag-play-mates to young men I’d daydream of holding hands with. I made more friends that were girls who tried to help me talk to boys nicely about things like feelings. I remain that same child that spars hard in karate and isn’t afraid to get dirty outdoors, but I have grown into a young woman that practices a more nurturing attitude and values softness and elegance–and my parents let me.

My parents taught me enough to let me make decisions as I grew up.

An issue that has resulted from large portions of the population’s actions in parenting, is that of their children starting to feel restricted by the norms of gender identity. If a child identifies as a girl, does that mean that they must only play with the toys sold in the pink packaging? Do they have to play house rather than learn how to throw a baseball? If a child identifies as a young boy, does that mean they automatically have to be athletic? Do they have to aspire to be a part of life-threatening careers at a young age? Of course they don’t. What seems to be the problem is that parents, caretakers, relatives, and friends alike automatically expect certain behaviors based off of one’s expressed identity.

It’s clear that we, as individuals, have the autonomy to decide how masculine and how feminine we behave every day. What isn’t clear is how society will treat a person for acting more feminine or more masculine than everyone else would expect. Sometimes the reactions of society are so extreme that no matter how autonomous we may or may not feel in our self-expression, the people around us can slowly push us to expressing and acting on feelings or urges we may not have within ourselves.

I am Kalie. I go to Central Michigan University to study communication, leadership, and psychology. I spend my free time practicing archery and martial arts, working out, hiking mountains, painting or writing, analyzing music, playing board games and video games, and dancing. I don’t always act the way people expect me to. I am lucky enough to have been raised to not allow many restrictions that come along with identifying as a woman affect me on a daily bases.

If you are interested in how some people or places plan to get rid of some of the negative effects of gender roles and expectations, or if you are curious about what might be right for raising a child in today’s society, you can visit these sources:

about Sweden’s Gender-neutral Preschool: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-14038419 

men and boys challenging the dynamics of personal and professional gender roles for equality: https://www.un.org/press/en/2015/wom2031.doc.htm

The Basics of Decency: PHL

IMG_20170413_141326
Philosophical thinking is easiest when we are alone, but is most challenging and rewarding when we have others who are willing to discuss it with us. (My pictured above is my dear friend, Morgan Thomas–someone who is ready and willing to have those deep talks with me at any time.)

To study philosophy is to study our own existence and our knowledge of it. It’s never exact, it’s never black and white, and it’s not something that can be studied through quantitative results or actions. As a social species, we have rules. They dictate how we behave and when certain behaviors are permissible. Our rules help us survive with some sort of order. These expectation can range anywhere from international law all the way down to how one might talk to their parents. Some rules are clear and other are more taboo or just unspoken while just as clearly understood. While we strive to have this order and mutual understanding of what is acceptable or not and how to fix things that go wrong, there is conflict.

Different populations can have different ideas of what to do or not to do based on knowledge, experience, or a combination of both. From entire nations down to a small family, there can be conflicting views on what is wrong, permissible, or obligatory. The Leadership Institute claims that we are becoming ethical leaders. In order to do so, a student in this program must study this idea of ethics and a great place to start is in PHL 118, Philosophy of Moral problems. In other words, this class revolved around the branch of philosophy that focuses on the argument of morality and ethics in communication, judgement, and values. Our class didn’t agree on the extent to which certain things were right or wrong which made for powerful conversations and challenging discussions.

Questioning what is right or wrong to an individual may be easy as they know their own morals and values. Once we consider what might be right or wrong to large numbers of people, it becomes ethics. One of the final papers that we wrote in PLH 118 was to be about something that was morally or ethically debatable and take a position on it. I chose to discuss when murder was permissible in the form of justifiable homicide. If this topic sounds interesting at all to you, this is the actual paper that I turned in- PHL118 justifiable homicide paper.

As leaders, it is important that we consider view points of all sorts. Being apart of this class and the talks that ensued proved to be a great place to become more aware of what may or may not be considered ethical. Doing the right thing isn’t always an easy path and to make matters more interesting, what one might have thought to be obligatory could turn out to be hardly permissible to others. These considerations and debates prepare our cohort to be those ethical leaders that the world seems to need.

Situational Leadership: Applied Theory

I am a student in LAS. That may give me something in common with a few hundred students on campus right now, but not every leader is acting in the same interest (especially on one campus). Leadership is often looked at as a singular trait or feature in a person.

Oh he was just born a leader.”

“That’s what makes a good leader.”

“You have to step up and be the leader.”

Leadership takes on many faces and forms. It is flexible and fluid just as any day in this world. It is ever changing. Leadership can be both commanding and supportive in the same day and depend primarily on the situation. Situational Leadership Theory focuses on the adaptation of various leadership skills to effectively handle a specific situation. This theory works under the assumptions that the leader has the ability to read a situation and adapt their skills for the best, and that they will do so if they can.

skating
I was shocked when I was asked to dress as Jimmy MacElroy from Blades of Glory to entertain my cohort. 

Being in LAS has provided me with many opportunities for personal growth. The one thing that challenges me the most is being put into leadership positions that I have not yet experienced. Considering this is my first year away from home, things were already pretty uncomfortable to begin with. If I weren’t in LAS there would have been far too much free time on my hands. We do so many amazing things together as a cohort (required or not). If it weren’t for LAS, I could have spent far too much time letting my leadership skills wither and rust as I watched Netflix for hours.

I gain important experience through leading in very different situations. Without change and flux, a stationary leader doesn’t improve. Daily life changes and our futures are never set in stone so it is extremely important to have the ability to adapt. We can’t rely on just the depth of our leadership skills, there must be breadth as well to offer us wisdom in leadership situations to come.

The First Climb: Fresh, New View

Perhaps there is a reason that people refer to college as a higher education. I think of  all that I’ve learned from going away to school. When I reflect on this first year at Central Michigan University, I can only compare my education to the amazing new perspectives that I get when reaching the top of a mountain hike. The journey is equal parts challenging and rewarding.

From the beginning, I was never alone. There was someone right there with me the whole time to guide careful steps and to warn me of danger. Whether it was the person’s job to do so or it was just their desire to help me, someone was there from day one. With each day came learning opportunities. There were so many lessons handed to me that sometimes it got hard to remember them all or keep track of when they were useful. However, some of the biggest lessons were the ones that I had to learn on my own. No matter how much anyone tried to help me, experience was the teacher that trumped all in the ability to teach resounding lessons.

Along the way, I met incredible people. There were some from so far away, that I was amazed they made the journey just to get here. I loved to hear their past experiences and to be inspired by their plans for the future. When I am not certain where I can go next, it has always been handy to get ideas from other’s successes. It is easy to see why people come so far. Their amazing attitudes simply recycle and improve the welcoming and positive environment that already exists.

When things got tough, there were several options. But for some reason, I always wanted to handle challenges on my own. I have always found it hard to ask for help with personal struggles. I never wanted people to see me fall but I loved to show off what I could accomplish. Sometimes, it just wasn’t possible to make it to a point to show off without letting someone see me fall. Fortunately, the person who sees me fall was always able to help me up. Then, when I move on, we are both able to celebrate a point to show off.

In the end, it is humbling, breathtaking, and empowering to see how far myself and others have come. This is certainly a fresh, new view on the world around me.

I wrote out a quick reflection that roughly summed up how I was feeling after my first climbing trip:
Each time I reach the top,

every twisted ankle,

pain in my knee,

ache in my achilles,

breathless water break,

dizzy pause,

and drop of sweat

that had accumulated along the way

just dissipates

and blows away

like the clouds

as I watch them hit the peeks of the mountains.

 

on the mountain
Twin Sisters peak in Estes Park, CO.

Looking back on what I wrote now, I have a very similar feeling. My first year of college was hard. It wasn’t always easy to see the point in everything. Once I was able to collect myself, my thoughts, and my purpose, I could watch my worries dissipate and blow away like the clouds as they hit the peaks of  mountains.

If you are from CMU and you are reading this,
I would like to thank you. Thank you for every opportunity so far, every challenge I have faced, and all the help I didn’t really deserve but you gave me anyway. Life would have been a very different journey for me so far if I didn’t go to Central and if I didn’t receive the Leader Advancement Scholarship.

An Ascent: Leaders Brought up in Detroit

You wake to the pang in your stomach. You try hard not to remember when it was, exactly, that you last ate a full meal. Who can you tell? Who cares enough to help? Besides, you should be able to help yourself, right? All you can do is go to school each day as you should. You know you’re not the only one which makes it even more difficult to ask for help. Someone else has it worse. But how long can you endure things the way they are now? Sometimes you just wish you had someone to show they care–just enough to show you an opportunity to make things happen.

This is a reality for far too many young people around the world. Places like Detroit, so close to my home, know the feeling of hunger, restriction, and fear all too well. Change is wanted and needed. With nearly 40% of Detroit area residents living under the poverty line, where does the community start?

We get so caught up in the pressure to be successful that we forget the things that don’t affect us immediately. We fill most of our days. We spend our time on things that we have to do and then feel drained and incomplete if we don’t do some of the things that we really want to do.

I don’t have all the answers but I do have time to offer a helping hand.

It only takes a little time and hardly any extra effort. Instead of going through the usual routine, consider doing something to help others. Providing service for others is not only extremely helpful to a community, but offers personal gain in character.

My Leader Advancement Scholar cohort made a trip down to Detroit from Mount Pleasant   to help out the second poorest place in Michigan (around third poorest in the nation) that just happens to be a place full of potential for more amazing things. Detroit could return to the state of greatness it was once in. It may just need help along the way. We visited the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy on day one of our trip.

We placed our things and ourselves within a tiny gymnasium that doubled as a cafeteria and then waited patiently for the students to arrive. On their last day of spring break, I was worried the students would be far from excited to be undesirably adorned by their uniforms and come back on a Friday that was meant to be school-free. Throughout the day, I was with a small group of LAS members and Jalen Rose students. We made a somewhat quiet team. I did appreciate, however, that the students went along with our efforts to keep conversations rolling and our attempts to play games to make things more interesting or engaging. There were two moments in the day that really stuck out to me: First, we were simply “de-fuzzing” some circles cut off of socks for an educational non-profit’s craft kits. As the eight of us sat quietly in the classroom, we decided to play hangman on the white board. We each took turns going to write on the board. Every one else continued to “de-fuzz” as we guessed letters and phrases. Second, at the end of the day, we discussed what everyone thought of the whole event. It was then that I realized that none of them were really disappointed to be brought back to school. In fact, they were glad that they had something fun to do on their break. Nearly all the students agreed that they were extremely bored during their break. Many even felt like they were trapped to do nothing until we came to visit.

Their attitudes were obviously appreciative. In a place that doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of facilities and opportunities, it’s amazing to see that they show their appreciation so clearly. Or maybe that is something that I should be used to seeing? Should I even be surprised when people are appreciative? With such a great difference between the areas we live, no wonder I am accustom to being under appreciated and under appreciative. Attitudes and life styles are geographically based when there is such a difference in an area’s average income. This new point of view that can be gained from simply getting to know the inner-workings of a new area, is something that everyone should have to experience at least once in their lives. And even though it isn’t understood by all, I’m positive that our LAS members were humbled by the type of leadership that we saw coming from the Jalen Rose students. Attitude is a huge part of leadership attributes and they had it right. They were so appreciative and they saw so many good things coming from their situations. It assured me that they don’t want to become victims of circumstance, and specifically, victims of their city’s current reputation.

 

Yep

I am where I am today because of my decisions. I am where I am going because of the decisions I have yet to make. I didn’t become more or less motivated by someone telling me ‘yes’ or ‘no’. In fact, when there is something that I really desire, I do what I can to reach or attain that goal. Regardless of what I am told, I can make things happen because I say yes.

A question was posed to myself and my peers; Does leadership come from ‘yes’ or ‘no’?

“The tension between ‘yes’ and ‘no’, between ‘I can’ and ‘I cannot’, makes us feel that, in so many instances, human life is an interminable debate with one’s self.”Anatole Broyard

Well I say yes.

We don’t need anyone else to say yes. Sure, it may seem like opportunities become available and doors open when others say yes, but we can’t count on that. Before high school, I liked to live as a victim of circumstance. It was almost easy because teachers were easy on me, and my parents were still looking out for me on basic living tasks. It was rare to be told no or to run into anything drastically life changing in a negative way. So when it did happen, I let that situation get the best of me. Seemingly unexplained guilt would eventually settle into the deepest crevices of my mind and heart after I milked such situations. It wasn’t until I realized I had the power to do important things for myself that I was no longer a victim of circumstance.

I firmly believe that leadership comes from ‘yes’. When I think of leadership attributes I think of courage, determination, compassion, and integrity. Common themes among traits like these involve internal strength and personal wisdom. When there’s a challenge in front of us, as leaders, we should want to say yes. Being able to say yes in the face of adversity shows courage and determination while adding to our internal strength. When faced with a question of doing the right thing, as leaders, we should want to say yes. Being able to say yes to a righteous path while being faced with an easy way out shows integrity and compassion while contributing to our capacity for wisdom.

We must find it within ourselves to say yes to things that scare us, that make us happy, and that create opportunities for ourselves and others.

“To my young friends out there: Life can be great, but not when you can’t see it. So, open your eyes to life: to see it in the vivid colors that God gave us as a precious gift to His children, to enjoy life to the fullest, and to make it count. Say yes to your life.” – Nancy Reagan

So I say yes.

yes

Worn Down

I previously posted about something called the Connections Conference. On the second day, I found myself in just the session that I needed. Whether I got there by accident or not is irrelevant now, but I am certainly glad I got there.

“Worn Out Leaders: Getting Yourself Out of a Leadership Rut” titled a session lead by Suzy Herman. Now if you couldn’t tell from any of my previous posts, you should know that I really needed this. I’ve been drawing all my inspiration from nature and other things I’ve learned at conferences. After attending this session I can see again that I have, inside me, inspiration and original thought every day.

Some days or weeks, my heart seems to pump blood of a dull nature. My brain’s neurotransmitters feel as if they slow to a painful and unresponsive state. My body prepares for unreasonable sadness. This is most often caused by unpleasant repetitive days that result in days where I want to do nothing. Not even fun things like play Super Smash Bros. Super Smash Bros. It’s a serious problem that I wasn’t sure I had the tools to address until now.

asain eyes
Telling stories at the Connection Conference 

We started by drawing what we love about our various leadership roles. Secondly, we identified what symptoms we display as worn out leaders. For example, I wrote,

“1. Finding walls very interesting for hours

2. Researching jobs that don’t require higher education

3. Spending time alone even when offered fun things to do with others”
The solutions that Suzy helped me to come up with include changing my schedule as much as possible without putting important things off, and re-evaluating my priorities.

It seems like maybe I could have come up with these cures on my won, but maybe I just needed this kick start from someone with experience. Either way, I am extremely glad and extremely thankful for that session.

 

Spark?

Formerly known as the Alpha Lead program, the Spark Series is held in both the fall and spring semesters here at CMU. I attended the fall program this year. Leading up to attending this four week program, I was very unsure of what to expect. I didn’t hear much about it before hand. But then again, I knew that it was supposed to be changing quite dramatically this year.

As far as getting back into the swing of leadership expansion, I would say that Spark did a swell job. My friends and I were able to play familiar games and participate in activities we hadn’t seen in a good while. I definitely had a good time. However, I didn’t feel challenged enough. There were games that are designed to make us uncomfortable, but I’ve played them all before. There were mind challenges that I had solved before. There were team challenges that many of my past teams had already conquered.

sparkAs far as my personal growth went, I have the people to thank. My teammates that I saw once a week each had their own type of personality. They were from all parts of Michigan and further. With different cultures and pasts, we had different and important rolls to play in making each other more understanding. Outside of all that, it is great to see even more people on campus that I can talk to.

I would also like to tell everyone about how amazing the facilitators of this program are. I was pleasantly shocked at how well they got along with every personality type. Each facilitator showed respect, maturity, individuality, and compassion. They lead conversations with fluidity and listened well to remember so much about everyone.

The deja vu threw me off a bit, but the program as a whole was definitely not a waste of time. I can honestly say that I did get to enjoy myself.

Retreating From the Front Lines to the Back Woods

Preparing for finals is the best time to reflect on the things that helped you through the semester so far. Think about what made you feel uncomfortable and what you did to feel at home again. For me, many struggles appear outside of the realm of classes. I would occasionally feel down about my involvement and not finding a club that I felt I belonged in. This often came with the reminder that having a job really gets in the way of being able to learn more about and spend time with those in my cohort.

angie and I
My mentor, Angie (wearing maroon), and I (wearing gold), getting ready to climb high ropes.

For this, I try to look back on the mentor and mentee retreat that the Leader Advancement Scholars of first and second year students went on. Each incoming freshmen gets and mentor (from the sophomore class) and sometimes a mentor gets two mentees. We go on a retreat in the beginning of the fall that brings together mentor and mentee as well as the two classes as a whole.

Unfortunately, my mentor couldn’t be there until late night on the first day. My friend, Derek, and his mentor, Garrett, made sure that I was able to work with them for group activities. Although another group could have done this, they were considerate enough to be the first to offer to take me into their group. I had my first sense of belonging since coming to school with all of LAS. I was fortunate that I didn’t need someone assigned to me to make me feel more comfortable. I love my mentor so much, but since she couldn’t be there, I felt so lucky to have friends already. retreat2

After some intense mind games and even some physically challenging games, we had time to relax. And by relax, I mean play basketball, volleyball, gagaball, and go for a walk. During this time, I talked with some mentors and mentees that I hadn’t gotten much of a chance to before. Somehow, by the magic of the retreat, we even turned into what student’s here like to call a “cuddle puddle”. The appreciation I feel for those sort of moments don’t come immediately.

mentors
“cuddle puddle”

Some time later is when realize the importance of these simple moments.

When night fell, over 90 LAS students gathered around a large fire. Despite my nerves for fitting in and being understood, I found myself comfortable. Around the fire, I could make out individual faces that were warmly lit by orange colors in the dark, cold, blue night air. Student began telling stories. No matter who it was, every other person at the fire listened intently. It was as if everything that came out of a person’s mouth fueled our gradually kindled spirits.

Out of all the social situations I have been in, I had never seen anything like it. After sharing a fun story, or something that we were thankful for about LAS members, we were encouraged to find specific people who have impacted us so far. Once we find each person, we thanked them for something that they have done for us. In my case, I thanked people for the things they had done with me. For me, shared experiences become more than just memories. These times become sources of growth and mutual understanding between hearts and minds. This is important in true connections which gave me all the more reason to be thankful and tell friends.

That night, everyone moved their beds out of their bunks and into the common room of the cabin. Small beds covered the floor where everyone slept in the warmth and comfort of old and new found friendships.

retreat
My mentor and I with my roommates and their mentors.

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