Thursday, February 28, 2013

I am an ally

It's easy to be judgmental.  For me, for anyone.  Differences can be scary.  We are so used to what is familiar to us that we can equate differences with deviance, even immorality.  I'd like to think that as I get older, I am at least being more mindful to opinions and situations that differ from my own.  I am trying more and more to see people as people instead of as the sum of their choices and actions.

One of the most profound lessons I've learned in life comes from a friend from college.  We were both vegans when we met, but she has since gone back to vegetarianism.  We were hanging out one day, when she started eating candy corn, which contains eggs.  I was absolutely horrified.  I was a relatively new vegan at the time and definitely had a bit of a vegan-police mentality.  How could she skimp out on veganism?  It didn't seem moral to me.

She looked at me and said, "You know, you can be really judgmental sometimes."

That's all it took.  My world started to change.  I started to accept that I can't control other people, and that that's okay.  I have since adopted more of a live and let live policy; I'll respect your decisions if you respect mine.  And differences are what make us unique.  We are not "less than" others for carrying out "less desirable" behaviors, just different.

Going to college and emerging from my sheltered world has helped me become more accepting of others.  For example, I abhor cigarette smoke.  It's one of my biggest pet peeves.  And I used to equate smokers with the behavior: bad.  But then I made friends who smoked.  And I learned that not all smokers are disrespectful.  I will always loathe the habit, but people themselves are distinct from their habits.  People are people, warts and all.  It's not easy, but I am consistently striving to look past qualities that I disapprove of and embrace people for who they are.

But now I'd like to discuss something different.  I brought up my own struggles with acceptance to use as a baseline for this next topic.  I'd like to make it clear that my thoughts this topic have never been as judgmental as the previous examples.  However, it is a common source of controversy throughout our nation and around the world.  That issue is LGBTQ rights.

This topic is so vast that there is still so much that I am unfamiliar with.  I think it's a sensitive issue for many people.  Sometimes it's hard to know what to say about it, because I don't want to be offensive or speak out of line.

I think that for a long time, I embodied the quotes I mentioned in my previous post.  I was aware of the challenges the LGBTQ community faced but didn't see it as "my problem."  Society has conditioned us to fear being perceived as LGBTQ for identifying with members of that community.  This has occurred throughout history; it was terrifying for people to be perceived as a "Jew-lover" or a "N-lover."  We fear having our own identities being misread, and so we remain silent.

I am thankful that, through the years, I have made friends with members of the LGBTQ community.  While I wouldn't say I judged them in the past, I was definitely ignorant and afraid.  But as I mentioned earlier, people are people.  Live and let live.

Unfortunately, many do not see that.  There is still too much hatred.  We are moving in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.

I support equality.  I think people should have the freedom to live as they choose.  They are not "bad" for being different from the "norm."  They are people.

I was touched by this picture, originally posted by George Takei.  He asked facebook users to share it, to honor his husband Brad on his birthday:

And it clicked for me.  I am an ally.  I am not afraid to say that I support members of the LGBTQ community.  I am proud to call some of them my friends.

The following video was brought to my attention via Rose McGowan on twitter.  It is a beautiful testament of the power of love and acceptance.  I was touched by Donnie's story, and I wish him all the best.

Also, here's another beautiful story of a mother's love, courtesy of Katie Couric:

Choose acceptance.  Don't hate someone because they are different from you or because you disapprove of their thoughts, ideas, choices, actions, etc.  Try to understand where they are coming from and accept them for who they are as people.  People are people.

I am an ally.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Collective action

"Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty." -Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Remaining silent has more consequences than people realize. It's easy to think that we are not individually responsible for things that go wrong, whether it relates to environmental issues, social turmoil, etc. However, we have a collective responsibility as human beings to stand up for what we believe in, instead of waiting for someone else to take the lead. This theme is echoed by a famous Holocaust-era quote by Martin Niemoller:

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me."

Take the bystander effect. Remaining silent can be just as detrimental as actually committing the action, because you are still allowing harm to occur.

You don't have to be the same as someone or something in order to support them. Not only because you would want them to do the same for you, but because it's the right thing.

Don't become trapped in a pattern of inactivity. Acknowledge your assets and understand that you are a part of something bigger than yourself.

And never think that your actions are insignificant. Every step is important, no matter how small. Everyone has something that they can contribute to the greater good. Instead of silently waiting for someone else to take the lead, why don't you go first? Instead of distancing yourself from the problems that concern you, be that one snowflake that acknowledges what is wrong and vows to do something about it. Your initiative will inspire others. Just as silence begets silence, speech begets speech. Find something worth talking about.


Nothing is sexier than a compassionate man.  To see animals as friends, as beings to cherish and to protect, is true beauty.  I hope I'm fortunate enough to share my life with someone like that someday.

Photo courtesy of the Mercy for Animals facebook page

Polar bears

Apparently today is International Polar Bear Day.  The World Wildlife Fund presents some valuable information about the importance of polar bears, threats to their survival, and how we can help them here.  Check it out!


Polar bear cub


Photos courtesy of World Wildlife Fund


I guess my blog is starting off with a bit of activist flair.

I consider myself a late bloomer in the activist field (well, in pretty much everything to be honest).  I've always been interested in various causes but never quite pursued them.  I definitely missed out on the whole "rebellious college experience", but now as a graduate student, I'm starting to come into my own actively draw attention to the things that are important to me.  I'm done keeping causes to myself out of concern that my views will upset people.  If you don't like what I have to say, then so be it.  But by speaking, I'm not only actively learning more about what's important in the world but I'm hopefully planting a seed in others.  And that's the most important want to inspire lasting change.

As I was thinking about this topic, my first concern was that I wasn't "activist enough."  It's easy to talk the talk, but am I really doing anything important?  Absolutely.  Change is a process.  People will commit to causes in different ways, when they are ready to.  You cannot compare your actions with anyone else's.  Simply enjoy the process of learning, and commit yourself to making a difference.  It's common to develop knowledge and attitudes about something before a behavior can develop.  Activism takes many forms, and even something as small as speaking your mind is good enough.  Think about Rosa Parks, for example.  All she did was remain true to her beliefs, and that inspired national change.  Never think that your actions are insignificant compared to others people's.  You cannot compare your experiences to anyone else's.  But you can collaborate and build off of what they have contributed.  Life is about pooling assets and reaping the benefits of collective effort!

This brings me to a video I watched last night about the Laysan albatross of Midway, courtesy of Upworthy.  According to the preview, Midway Island is located in the North Pacific Ocean more than 2,000 miles away from the nearest continent.  Within the first minute or so I was just absolutely capitaviated by how these beautiful from these birds are.  How distant from society, how free.  I felt privileged to have a closeup of their lives, to see the world through different eyes.

But then the tides turned.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge's quote, "Until my ghastly tale is told, this heart within me burns," displayed at the beginning of the preview, begins to ring true.

The video becomes difficult to watch.  But it is important to watch.  Chris Jordan does a phenomenal job in revealing how human actions are destroying these beautiful creatures.  You see, Midway Island is located within the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, one of several major ocean vortices around the world.  A gyre is a pattern of ocean current that spins circularly around a central point.  The region has become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch because of all of the trash that accumulates and doesn't go away.  A great quantity of that trash is composed of plastic, but it's not large pieces that can be easily removed.  Instead, much of that plastic has broken down into microscopic pieces, which poses a threat to unsuspecting wildlife.

This video was timely because I had just learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the March/April edition of VegNews magazine.  I am so eager for this film's release later this year.  I felt so helpless after watching just the preview though, because I know that I am just as guilty as everyone else in contributing to the problem.  But as I mentioned earlier, the first step is awareness.  The more sensitive we become to horrors like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the more steps we can take towards alleviating the problem.  We owe it to these beautiful birds.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

This journey begins

Hello, and welcome to my blog, To Travel Hopefully!  I've been interested in entering the blogging world for quite some time, but kept putting it off because I didn't know where to begin.   There are so many niches out there, and while I clearly fall into some I don't feel as though there is a specific area that I can devote a blog to.  For example, I've been following a vegan diet for almost five years but do not feel that I have the authority to give nutritional advice.  I also enjoy cooking and baking, but do not create my own recipes.

But then I realized that I don't need to have a definite path.  Nor do I need to reinvent the wheel.  Instead, I can share the things that impact me in some way.  Inspirational quotes, photos, comics, etc.  Anything that makes me think, or simply makes me smile.  Nothing is more significant than everyday life, because we are composed of those everyday experiences.

One of my biggest challenges is in just letting go.  As time goes by, though, I'm learning that it's okay not to have all of the answers.  That things will work out the way that they're supposed to, when they're supposed to.  And this blog will also take the direction that it's supposed to take.  I therefore decided to name it after a quote that I really relate to, by Robert Louis Stevenson: "Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour."  Life is about enjoying the journey, not planning the end.  It's wonderful and important to have goals and to strive for greatness, but they should be stepping stones to further goals rather than endpoints.  I invite you to join me on this journey that is life.  Because Steven's quote is universal, and echoes an earlier Taoist sentiment: "The journey is the reward."