You Are Not What You Do

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“Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakes.” — C.G. Jung

By: Jenni Taylor

I’m what you call goal oriented. I aim for a solid A in my life- not an A plus, mind you (silly overachievers) but I try to be pretty darn good at whatever I’m doing. Sometimes it comes easy, like when I’ve just rocked a class with my skills and spread the knowledge, strutting out of the classroom with some designer shades and a cardigan like the badass I am. Sometimes it’s not so easy, the days when I sit down to write a sentence in Chinese with characters I have practiced thousands of times and then draw a complete blank, staring at an empty page and feeling utterly useless.

I fill my life with goals because I like to feel important. I like to feel acknowledged. I like to feel accomplished. But I remember those days when I was younger, trekking through the woods, the camp days where mirrors didn’t exist and my muscles were tenuous and strong and I touched the bark of trees thinking, I could go my whole life without a name, as long as I am here, as long as I am loved.

It’s becoming surprisingly hard to get back to those moments, those pure moments of childlike faith in unconditional love and the everlasting power of hugging a tree. Opening my heart to the world used to be easy. Now, it takes sincere practice, which is more of a failure than a success these days. I am constantly having to reawaken myself.

I was always told you are not what you do, but it’s a lesson I seem to have to learn over and over again. So here I am, ready to learn yet once again, to let go of the nonsense gripped so tightly in my fists and open myself again to being loved- just for me, little me looking out my window waiting for dreams to come.

I’m not what I do. Are you? Let’s live a life constant reawakening together.

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Millennials Strike Back with Professions of Love

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By: Jenni Taylor

There has been a barrage of articles the past few years aimed at my particular age-group, you know the 20-somethings often ever-so-kindly referred to as “Millennials”. If you believe these articles, you know that we are considered over-educated, under-paid or jobless, a little lazy, idealistic, media-centric, and we do large amounts of classy wine consumption and have a disinterest in politics. To this constantly over-generalized, under-estimated group of my peers I would like to say:

We need you. Desperately.

You, my dear one, are in the perfect position to change the world right now. You can take all the criticism the media has been throwing at us and use it.

On a recent trip to Cambodia, I visited a married couple who fit the 20-something prototype and worked every bit of it to their advantage.

Cambodia has received a slew of NGO bandage programs in the last few decades to help restore the country after years of violence. I refer to them as bandage programs because while they were desperately needed at the time, a few years later many of them have proven to be unsustainable, disorganized, and sorely lacking solid, informed leadership with long term goals in sight.

These two people I visited are learning the language, building connections with the people, working with existing programs to create change. They are using every aspect of the media’s generalizations about 20-somethings –their “over-education”, their “search for purpose” and their “naïve idealism”– to create professions of love.

As I walked with them, they would greet and chat with their neighbors. I saw faces light up as these two “over-educated” and “lazy” Millennials struggled through their Khamai, with laughter and gestures thrown in for good measure. I saw relationships being created one step at a time.

I saw them study, read, talk and pray, as the navigated the waters to enter into leadership for a new foster care program aimed at education and healing for families. What I saw, more than anything else, were two ordinary 20-somethings searching for meaning by doing their best to make a difference. It was beautiful.

If this speaks to you, if you are a 20-something experiencing the lost feelings and search for purpose that so many articles claim is essential to our identity, please—explore those feelings, ignore the hype, get up and go. Use everything in your brain, everything those large college loans paid for, to make the world a better place. You have skills. You are needed. Use the Millennial stereotypes to your advantage. Strike back and turn your job into profession of love.

If this speaks to you, please don’t hesitate to contact Autumn or Jenni through sophiaspockets@gmail.com. We would love to provide more information about professional NGOs looking for the help of passionate professionals. Also, please send your own stories of how you created a profession of love so we can share it with others!  

Where Do I Go From Here?

Today’s post on loss comes from Jessica Nichole, MA PLPC, who is a Pediatric and Adolescent counselor in the St. Louis area.  She writes about the kind of losses that are part of daily life, and how accepting them might be the wisest thing any of us can do.

When we speak of loss, often the first thing that comes to mind is the death of a loved one. However, we experience loss on a daily basis. With each choice you make, you face the loss of the possibilities that another choice offered you. Sometimes the consequences of choices are more apparent than others.  Sometimes, the only way is to lose.

Winter is always a challenge for me, and this year was no different. I lost an important person to me, lost an important job, and lost myself for a while.

In working to finish my masters degree in counseling, I found an internship site that was a blessing. It was a challenge, it was long hours and hard work, and I loved every minute of it. I was given an opportunity to be a part of people’s lives, and introduced to a team that I was honored to be included in. But, all good things must come to an end, and my internship finished this past winter. It should have been a happy moment. I was graduating with my masters’ degree in counseling. Isn’t that an accomplishment? But it all felt so…unfinished. Empty.

I tried begging, pleading, anything short of bribery to be allowed to stay on the team, but alas there were no open positions. I had to leave the first team that felt like home. I found myself working more hours at my other job, but lacking in any kind of satisfaction.  On top of that, my partner and I were struggling, and I had no insight into why. I kept asking myself and everyone around me the same question: “Where do I go from here?”

I just existed for a time. A cycle of despair, sadness, and denial; struggling to exist in the old roles I used to play. My relationship with my partner continued to decline, one of my close friends was no longer a part of my life in the way that I was used to them being there, and I was stuck at my dead end job doing the same thing I’ve been doing for years. So, what’s a girl to do?

I took a shower. A long hot shower in the dark.  This is where I have always done my best thinking, and it’s my go-to coping skill (counselor in training, remember?) when I struggle.  And boy, was I struggling.  I stood there, thinking about the same question that I had been asking everyone else, “where do I go from here?” and clarity came.

I need to let go.

I needed to let go of the future I imagined at my internship site. It was gone, I had already lost it, I just refused to acknowledge it. I needed to let go to the future path of my friendship that I had envisioned, the nature of the relationship had changed; holding onto it was only harming myself. I needed to let go of the relationship that I expected to have with my partner; having unrealistic expectations was doing nothing but poisoning my mind.

Letting go isn’t about being helpless, its about asking for help. It’s giving life over to the path that you may not be able to see. Faith, in a manner of speaking, that what’s in store for you is greater than what you’re desperately trying to cling to. I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason, and letting go was creating the freedom to things to take the path that was in store for me.

The more I attempted to cling to my imagined control over these situations, the more immobilized I felt. Making the conscious decision to let go, I began searching for new jobs and setting up interviews. I reached out to my friend and was honest about what I was feeling and how I was looking forward to the new directions our friendship could take. I was more honest with my partner than I had been in years, and it resulted in a stronger bond than ever before. Acknowledging my losses allowed me to gain new insight and new directions.  My internship site called me. Wouldn’t you know, as soon as I let go, a position opened up that they needed me to fill ASAP.

Loose Thread: Touching Moments

Today’s Loose thread is about moments that touched your soul this week.  

So tell us….What moment touched you this week?

Jenni: I recently moved to Shanghai to work as an intern before starting the school year as a teacher in the fall. Being an intern means all the non-fun parts of teaching- grading, power point making, grammar worksheets, etc. My only interaction with students occurs for one hour of tutoring with different students every day after school. Earlier this week during lunch break, I ran into a 5th grader I tutor. “Miss Taylor!” she shouted, and waved me over to watch her and her friend do tricks on the monkey bars. I cheered them on and clapped when they were done. As I walked away, I heard her friend ask, “who’s that?” “That’s my tutor, Miss Taylor!” my student said, in the excited, proud sort of way that warms your heart. It was a simple interaction, but it was enough to remind me why I teach and that boring office work won’t last forever.

Autumn: This week I went to a German beer festival with several friends. It was an amazing intergenerational experience of people from 16-80 singing songs and dancing together. The night ended with a series of group hugs. During one hug I was literally stuck in the center of a group of about 8 people. I couldn’t move and wasn’t even properly standing, I was being simultaneously supported and overwhelmed by my friends. I occurred to me after I freed myself and regain my breath, that that is what deep love is like, it is both totally overwhelming and totally supportive. 

How were you touched this week?