The Ups and Downs of Radical Thought

Being awakened to the injustices of the world is a burden, but it is one that you can never give up once your eyes are open, no matter how hard you want to when you are faced by rejection, dismissal, and straight up hate.

This week has been full of both highs and lows for my psyche. I have gone from blissful optimism to the point of nearly breaking because the deadly combination of my passion and social media can go from being my best friend to my worst enemy with the click of a button.

After making a successful connection with someone who I believe will be able to help me on my journey to achieving some of my life goals, I became charged with energy and my hunger for change only grew stronger, causing me to “angrily” call out anything I found problematic. Unfortunately, when a person calls out a problem, they become the problem, and things can get messy. I understand that it is difficult to decipher a person’s tone through text, especially abbreviated Internet communication, but if anything I ever posted online seemed “angry” that completely underestimates the range of my emotions. I may have a thick skin, but it only goes so far. Eventually the wound hurts. In the end, I am thankful for the friends I can count on to support me through these points and reassure me that I have a right to my own voice, opinions, and feelings. Following the examples of some of my activist role models, instead of retaliate, I ignored and took a break. I have gone almost two days without reading my Facebook and Twitter feeds, only occasionally checking for anyone trying to contact me for something important. I hope to keep it up for the time being because I am starting to be dependent on the instant gratification I get from knee-jerk reactions and I am beginning to be consumed in my online activism instead of focusing on my schoolwork.

But just as I was starting to become discouraged and wanting to give up (even though it is now impossible for me to go through my day without pointing out at least one gender, racial, or culturally insensitive thing) I was so fortunate to be able to attend a Black history month event at my university featuring the legendary entertainer and activist, Harry Belafonte. His messages to fight for justice, think radically, and never give up in the face of fear and rejection has recharged me to continue doing what I do. Because if it’s not me questioning the system, who else would it be? I’ve written and said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m looking for leaders within my own peers and I’m not seeing any that I like, so I have to be my own leader. But that also brings up the point that others should not look to me for all the answers. Just as they are trying to figure out how to solve society’s problems, so am I. Despite my lack of formal academic learning in these areas, I strive to build off of what others have built in the past, adapting to the technology and culture of our times and being open to new ideas and perspectives (emphasis on the new). So even if I may seem too “out there” at first, if others join my cause, together we can start a movement.

Something I also want to mention is that most of the time my criticisms are not about individuals, but about the system as a whole and how we, as individuals, are complicit. I don’t mean to hurt any feelings or make people feel bad about themselves or their privilege. As Harry Belafonte said to our university community last night: “I only seek to provoke.”

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One or the other?

If there is anything that I am not lacking, it is the inspiration and motivation to literally do it all. You cannot make a person like me a choose between two very different yet very equally fulfilling opportunities.

And yet there I was Thursday night at 7pm presented with this circumstance.

There are two sides of me: a logical one that loves to use Excel spread sheets to make life decisions and a passionate one that wants to trample social injustice and provide everyone with equal opportunities for success.

My initial career goal when I began college was to make it big as a business person. I was going to become some high earning top management professional and make more money than I needed so that I could help others in need with the spare change.

But last year I attended ECAASU 2013 at Columbia and it changed everything for me. I found my inspiration to take those risks that I was too afraid to take before and enter the nonprofit industry and possibly even start my own organization. It wouldn’t be a financially lucrative but I think the meaningfulness would make up for it.

This past semester while I was looking for internships and applying to jobs, the conflict between these two roads, the  safe route and the risk, was a constant factor. I thought that as long as I was still in school, I would do my best to get experience in both areas so I could make a rational decision upon senior year and graduation. So after I secured a summer internship in supply chain with a globally known company that could definitely take me places if I followed through, I did my best to contact nonprofit organizations to offer my services to them for free over winter break, with one response and no luck finding something in time for break. Bummer, but at least there was still ECAASU 2014 in Washington, DC. Or so I thought.

I think it all begins with my varying interests and involvement in student organizations.

As a member of our Operations Management Association, I snatched up the opportunity to join our APICS (Association for Operations Management) case competition team. I was super excited for the opportunity to travel, network, and get some more experience working on real-world business problems.

And as one of the members of our Asian Student Organization’s executive board that attended the conference last year, I took it upon myself to be on the lookout for registration information and dates for this year. I was involved in the ability for our organization to attend again from the very beginning. I’ve been waiting a year, literally since the day after the conference, to go again.

Originally these two events took place on two different weekends in February. I thought I could do both. I found out last night at 7pm that they were now to be held on the same weekend.

I’m starting to believe that life is one giant fractal of difficult life decisions embedded into each other and to navigate that maze you must be careful to make the right choices that will lead you to your ultimate goal.

The logical part of me, the scared part of me, my parents, and my friends never fail to bring to light the rational decision to do all that I can to get a financial safety net and business savvy before I venture out into the unpredictable world of social entrepreneurship. My friends probably think it’s silly of me who clearly has the brains and the opportunities to throw them away for a “frivolous” conference. It was really no question as to what I should do, go to the competition rather than the conference, but it was the admission that to make this decision might be closing doors to new ideas and insights for my social activism and to inspiration that would keep me going when I had to make difficult decisions like this. What I’ve been afraid of happening already is. I’m losing the fire I felt on the last day of the conference to make a change in our society. I’m falling into the safe route. It’s comfortable but it doesn’t make me completely happy. I don’t to make it a habit that will trap me in a cubicle for the rest of my life.

In the seventh grade, my history teacher told me that he wish he could clone me so that he would have more students like me. Now I wish I could clone myself so I could do everything I want to in this world. No matter how hard you work, it’s not possible for you to be in two places at once. I think I need to borrow Hermione’s Time Turner.

Thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”

A couple weeks ago I finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Although some have found reasons to critique her “advice” I was thoroughly inspired by her words.

The first time I heard of Sandberg was on a post by Mr. Kate a couple years ago when she gave a few talks and some videos went viral. For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Kate aka Kate Albrecht is my female-fashion-diy-blogger-entreprenuer role model. So when I read about Sandberg and her book on Mr. Kate I trusted my sources and was intrigued by what I found out about her. Lean In was soon on my “to read” list as college slowly revealed the burgeoning feminist inside of me. I picked up the book this semester along with a couple textbooks to take advantage of Amazon’s Super Saver Shipping (which by the way $10 increase in minimum purchase?!?) and finished it just when my Women in Society class starting our discussion on women in the workplace and women leadership. Can I get a what-what for perfect timing?

Lean In spoke to me on a personal level because for a long time I have felt like I was the only girl/female/young woman/college student who has ever thought about and considered these things that Sandberg addresses. Now I can see that a lot of women out there agree with me that what Sandberg has experienced we have all experienced or will experience later on in life. But at the same time, there are women out there who cannot relate to her at all, be it for personal life goal differences, socio-economic differences, or education level differences. And they completely shut down her opinions because of it!

What I found striking was the number of people who in my class, professor included, felt somewhat negatively by Sandberg’s advice. They felt pressured, stressed out, and turned off by the idea of “leaning in.” What is the reason for this?

I hypothesize that the real root of the problem is one that Sandberg head on addresses in her book right in the first chapter: the leadership ambition gap. I think those that don’t “get it” are those who fall in that gap. Why is it that women tend to want to stay at home and take care of their children instead of following their ambitions? Sandberg writes about many of those potential reasons but I think it’s a deeper cultural and psychological conditioning.

From day one of birth, girls are exposed to a culture that expects them to become caregivers and to hold back on their aspirations. Our culture even make’s children’s fantasies extremely polarized by gender. Girls want to grow up to be princesses. Boys want to be superheroes. Girls want to grow up to wear fancy dresses and be taken care of. Boys want to grow up to fight the bad guys and save the world, and they don’t mind getting their hands dirty along the way. Take a moment to think about how wrong that is. Why don’t more girls want to save the world?

Sandberg likes to use statistics. The statistics do what they do. They’re numbers. But what they aren’t telling us is that women may have less ambition to achieve more because they were never told that it was possible. They do not realize their full potential. And without that confidence they are not willing to take those risks and would prefer the security of knowing that their family will be taken care of by settling for less. All of these factors start snowballing into the gender distribution in the workplace and at home that we have now. Not to mention structural barriers and sexism and all that jazz.

It takes a certain person to really get into Lean In. If you are the ambitious type who is kind of already a natural-born leader go for it! However, if you aren’t so much, read it with an open mind. It may not completely appeal to you but there are some key takeaways.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was preparing for internship interviews I was going through a list of potential questions I might be asked in a behavioral interview. One question was, “If you could do one thing with your life what would it be?” The answer came somewhat instantly. If I could do one thing with my life, it would be to inspire young women to go above and beyond. I think the best part of that goal is that it can be done no matter where I end up working or what I end up doing because I know that I will go at it 150% to prove that my gender does not make a difference in how I can contribute to a company and become a role model not only for women but for men as well. I don’t know about you, but I kind of want to “lean in” and save the world.

Variegated Fair Isle Hat Inspiration

A few days ago I posted about deconstructing my Dream Shrug because I didn’t really where it and had an idea for a new project for it. And, I think it’s about time for me to tackle a new knitting technique: Fair Isle Knitting. I think an intricately knit fair isle hat with my Noro yarn would look pretty cool, so I’ve been gathering some inspiration before choosing a pattern.

#1 Floppy Fair Isle Hat – Very Bohemian, very trendy. I’m really leaning towards a floppy beret style hat.

#2 Faux Fair Isle Hat – This beanie has a very intricate looking design that is heightened by a variegated yarn.

#3 Taos Slouch Hat – This is technically not Fair Isle or any kind of stranded knitting, but I think the color work would still look pretty cool.

#4 Fairly Fair Isle Hat – Although the picture shows just two colors I think this pattern would be lovely in a variegated color way.

#5 Blumme Beanie – Knitted with not just one, but two variegated yarns adds excitement to this pattern.

#6 Three Tams – I love the simple white yarn as the main color with the variegated yarn being an accent.

#7 Fair Isle Hat #6209 – I’m in love with the rainbow variegated yarn in this picture. Again, white main color and variegated contrasting color: thumbs up. Plus a pompom!

#8 Little Fair Isle Hat – This is a baby hat pattern, but I’m a sucker for anything from Purl Soho. I love how the pattern looks like little leaves or trees.

#9 Fair Isle Ice Cap – Another one in two colors that would be amazing in variegated yarns.

I’m completely in love with the white-based hats, but for my personal project I think I’d end up using either a beige or brown as my main color since I don’t have any white yarn on hand and it’d fit with my Noro colors. I also really like the minimalistic, simple designs. I feel like they’d really do the best job of emphasizing the variegated yarn without looking like a hot mess of colors. What do you think? And do you know of any other patterns that I should know about?