Disclaimer

There’s a new app out there called Sarahah. It basically allows individuals to send anonymous messages and comments to an individual.

Michael started using it and encouraged me to try it, so I downloaded it and created my profile.

Now this post isn’t about the app. It’s about my first message I received in the first 20 minutes.

My first message was the following:

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This made me pause and think. I’ve been racking my mind around how to approach processing this, and this morning I share a response:

To all the people I interact with and engage with. I acknowledge that this is the feeling some get when there is discussion and dialogue or when I post on my platforms.

It is never my intention to make anyone uncomfortable and I am not hostile or aggressive on purpose. I am passionate about life, pandas and the growth and development of people, including myself. Societal and political issues, identity development and social justice and equity work is very personal, messy, and emotional work and it shows in my conversations and work.

But I encourage everyone I engage with to push back and get into the mess of this whole world with me and to be ready to be passionate, emotional and logical about all of it together.

I’ll be honest, and do not see the hostility and aggressiveness in my posts and comments, but am reflecting on how it may come across to the external world so I can improve my engagement.

However, over the past few months, I’m learning that it is not my responsibility to ensure everyone’s feelings are not hurt or to ensure that everyone is comfortable or ensure that the conversation is easy.

This work and this life is not unharmful, comfortable or easy.

But it is my responsibility to learn and understand another person’s perspective.

I will never tell anyone what to think or believe, and I ask the same.

I will never just dismiss your perspective, but I will push back if there is another perspective for you to consider or to clarify my perspective.

I will get emotional.

I will not always agree but I will agree that we have different points of view.

I will always find both the common and uncommon ground.

I will be personal and vulnerable in all of it.

I also challenge those uncomfortable, hurt or offended by my posts to step back and ask:

Why am I uncomfortable?

Why is this conversation hard?

Why is this hurtful?

Am I offended by the words or the issue?

And finally:

You all know me. You know I do my best to understand and be open. You know that I am, though emotional, mostly even tempered when having dialogue. If I’m coming off as hostile and aggressive, ask yourself why. Check in with me. Step back and connect the dots. Work to center it around the conversation and not how you’re receiving it or how I’m sharing it. If I’m coming off as hostile and aggressive then there’s a reason. It’s hit something personal and/or emotional. It’s those moments I need good two way dialogue with people who are willing to get into the mess of it all.

So thank you to the individual who sent me this message. It has helped me clarify my approach and work in life, and that I really am a passionate, dedicated, and aware individual. It has also confirmed that being emotional, personal, vulnerable and honest is how I approach this life. It’s also confirmed that I must be doing something good because if these conversations were easy or comfortable for everyone then they really weren’t good conversations to begin with.

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Working in the Dark

I’m obsessed with the show Madam Secretary for so many reasons (but those reasons are another convo for another day). Now, to re-cooperate from the back to back events of the Kappa Sigma Grand Conclave and I-LEAD 2017 I’ve been couch surfing and bingeing on this show.

The other night, however, I was settled comfortably on the couch watching the final episode of Season 2 and the commencement speech that one of the characters gave reminded me of a realization I learned about myself while at I-LEAD.

Here’s the snippet from the show:

Matt Mahoney: Good morning. I’d like to, uh… (stammers) uh, begin by stating the obvious. I am not Elizabeth McCord. I’m her speechwriter. Believe me, uh, no one is more disappointed that the secretary won’t be giving the address that I wrote for her. You know, now that I know that it’ll never see the light of day, I think it’s safe to say that it was the greatest speech ever written. I mean, honestly, uh, this is probably the first moment in my adult life that I’ve stood in the spotlight. Truth be told, it’s probably gonna be the last. Why? Because I’m one of those people who works in the dark. I know what you’re thinking. As soon as my Etsy page is discovered, uh, I’ll invent my own job title on Buzzfeed and livestream my Christopher Walken impression as I hoverboard to the Soylent dispenser in the playroom…and I don’t blame you. In this world of relentless self-promotion, we’ve all been raised to think that the limelight is the only light worth seeking. But that isn’t the case. And if I can impart one thing today, a small, simple truth to carry with you as you walk through those gates, it’s this:

Achievement is often anonymous. Some of the greatest things have been done by people you have never heard of… quietly dedicating their lives to improving your own.

I’ve always thought that to really make a difference in the world and in the lives of others I had to be flashy and self-promote myself. I thought that I needed to be those “rockstars” of student affairs and of life to make an impact.

But over the past few weeks I’ve begun to realize that, that philosophy couldn’t be further from the truth and while at I-LEAD this philosophy was confirmed false. I-LEADAt Kansas State, I met a small army of dedicated, passionate and amazing professionals. I’d never heard of any of them and none were fancy board members, committee members, etc. But  watching and working with them over the week and a half of I-LEAD proved to me that they were tireless heroes from their campuses who give their whole selves to supporting friends, colleagues and students. They give their time, energy and heart to make a difference in the lives of ANY student and colleague. Whether at their home institutions or at I-LEAD that week, they were there for them in whatever way they could.

None of these individuals were seeking to get acknowledgement for their work or to get special credit. No one was looking to just add something to their resume. No one was clambering for the limelight. It was a group of individuals who just did good work with students and colleagues with the one common goal of helping them on their journey through leadership and life.

I can bet that few of these amazing people will be acknowledged for the work they did for I-LEAD and even fewer for the work they do every day at their respective institutions. But the impact they have will reverberate for decades in the hearts and minds of the people they touch in their work.

Achievement is often anonymous. Some of the greatest things have been done by people you have never heard of… quietly dedicating their lives to improving your own.

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The individuals I met at I-LEAD embody this line. No one but those impacted directly from these people may ever hear of them or know who they are, but the quiet yet significant impact they make on the lives of others is one of the greatest achievements a human could accomplish. These are the real change agents, the people who make long lasting impacts on the world and who may work in the dark, behind the scenes, but bring the brightest light.

THOUGHT:

Are you able to achieve anonymously? Why would you or would you not want to achieve anonymously?

 

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

 

Reference:

http://transcripts.foreverdreaming.org/viewtopic.php?f=456&t=27076

 

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I’m Someone’s “Little Girl”

Today is the first day back from a life changing experience. For the past week and a half I’ve been participating as a small group facilitator at ACUI’s (Association of College Unions International) I-LEAD program hosted this year in Manhattan, Kansas at Kansas State University.

I’ll be writing blog posts for days about this experience but I thought I’d start with a warm fuzzy that made me both laugh and cry.

To start, I share a story that we read as part of one of the final activities we did:

A wise man was taking a sunrise walk on the beach. in the distance he caught sight f a little girl who seemed to be dancing along the waves. As he got closer, he saw the little girl was picking up starfish from the sand and tossing them gently back into the ocean.

“What are you doing?” the wise man asked.

“The sun is coming up and the tide is going out; if I don’t throw them in, they’ll die,” said the girl.

“But little girl, there are miles and miles of beach with starfish all along it; you can’t possibly make a difference.”

Starfish 1The little girl bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it lovingly back into the ocean, past the breaking waves.

“It made a difference for that one.” she replied.

Over the past week, I was challenged in supporting students through the I-LEAD process with life journeys I would never have imagined and that have touched my heart. But one student in particular was a challenge. This individual really tried to resist the I-LEAD process.

However, during our good-bye activities the night before leaving, we read the above story and the individual who tried to resist the process shared why they did so and that they had planned to leave the second day, when they realized that I wouldn’t give up on them and that maybe they would stay. And them staying all came about because of the daily short notes of encouragement I left them and for being open and vulnerable with them about my own journey. (And while there were already tears being shed, there were more after this was shared).

Graduation

Later that night we had commencement, and our group of students presented Kristen (my AMAZING co-facilitator) and I graduation cords with messages for each of us at the ends. As they presented their cords to us, they each spoke such touching words of affirmation. Among the words of affirmation, the student had had challenged the process of the I-LEAD process gave me the best compliment that many probably were confused by:

“Brian, bless your face, had it not been for you, I don’t know what this process would have been for me. You will always be my little girl.”

While the entire room busted out laughing, we in the FOL Family knew the powerful message behind it.

In the Student Affairs profession we always wonder what impact we have on our students and the communities we serve. And I’ve been doubting my ability to really make a difference in my students lives and in my work/ the field for a plethora of reasons. But this student’s hilarious but poignant message helped reaffirm so much in my life.

And while I may have been this student’s “little girl”; this student, Kristen my co-facilitator, along with each member of the Finding Y(our) Leadership small group family, and my facili-family from across the country are all my “little girls”. They reinvigorated, affirmed and reminded me that my work and drive (in its own quirky way) for this field is able to make a difference.

StarfishAnd to remind me of this, I kept one of the starfish decorations from our Finding Dory themed room to remind me that I can/ do make a difference.

Hope you enjoyed my first story from I-LEAD! Many more to come!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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To Chick-fil-A or Not?

Chick-fil-A-secret-menu-logo_tcm213-74308So Chick-fil-A has been in the news lately about their continuation of support for anti-LGBTQ groups. They have continued to make large donations to organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Paul Anderson Youth Home. The anti-LGBTQ position of the infamous chicken restaurant originally came to public knowledge when almost five years ago an article was posted about Dan Cathy, the CEO and Chairman and being up front about the company’s position on being against same-sex marriage.

I do admit I have tried the delicious chicken. However, I have made it a stance that I do not eat there as my own personal activism in taking a stance against the anti-LGBTQ company. I do not give my money or support to Hobby Lobby and The Salvation Army for the same reason.

This is how I take a stance for my identity.

I don’t expect everyone to stop eating at Chick-fil-A (I mean they do serve some dang good chicken) or shopping at Hobby Lobby or even donating to The Salvation Army.

I don’t think less of anyone who patron these businesses.

I don’t think the individuals who patron these establishment are anti-LGBTQ.

You don’t have to apologize or explain why you patron them. Your journey, experiences and reasons are your own.

Just because you find Chick-fil-A delicious and irresistible doesn’t make you a bad ally. At least not to me.

Now, with all this talk about companies that are anti-LGBTQ, what really gets me is when others who take similar stances as myself, make individuals feel guilty for patronizing these businesses or for supporting them.

We each have our journey in life. I have no right to tell you how to live your life just lke you don’t have a right to tell me. I can tell you what I expect of an ally, I can’t shame you or tell you what to do (it’s like Student Affairs 101).

I feel that we try to make allyship an either-or, black or white issue, when I think it is just as complex and layered as an individual’s intersectionality.

For me it’s all about sharing experiences. I share my reasons and my story with others for things such as not patronizing certain businesses and let them decide if that is how they wish and are able to example allyship or if they need to support me and the community in other ways.

To me this is part of social justice work. It’s dirty, hard, messy, impossible and needed. But I think to a point we all ultimately struggle with listening and hearing and ultimately accepting one another’s perspectives, life experiences and the way we each express ourselves, support, allyship, etc.

Now, I’ve fallen into this habit of dismissing or not truly hearing others experiences many times. Especially lately. One gets so wrapped up in trying to educate and inform or even defend your identity that one can forget to listen to understand. And it goes both way, the other person forget to listen and hear as well.

Nothing is perfect nor 100% right when it comes to social justice work. Every individual has privilege and oppression. But we have to listen and hear each other’s stories and experiences in order to grow and progress.

This is just what has been on my mind as I’ve been reading some news articles and current threads as the famous chicken and popular craft store hits the news cycle again.

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Trump, Twitter, Trouble…Oh My!

I’ve been quite zealous and critical of President Trump since he entered office, and even before. It’s clear that I am not a fan of his actions, positions, priorities etc. And over the past few months it’s clear my frustration is growing especially on my social media platforms.

Now unlike many, I enjoy conversations with people on my social media platforms over what I post and share. I’m fortunate enough to have a large number of friends with a wide range of views. Each time we chat, I learn a lot and I hope they learn from me too. Those who are different than me in opinion, definitely challenge men, but while we don’t agree all the time with each other, for me, it helps me understand where they are coming from.

 

That being said, I was chatting with the BFFs this past weekend and all that was going on with the President and I found myself coming to this conclusion:

 

Even if I vehemently disagree with his agenda; if only he took the Presidential role with a resemblance of dignity and responsibility I’d be able to respect him and my posts wouldn’t be filled with such frustration and disrespect for the man.

Let’s be honest…Kid President has been more presidential than President Trump for the most part.

 

Now, the job of President of the United States is a beast, I admit, and I’d never be able to take it on. He is an American citizen and has stepped up to lead and should have respect for that. (Which is why I always do my best to refer to him as President Trump and not just Trump). He’s an American citizen who holds all the same rights and privileges for freedom of speech as I do. (Which is why I’m all about his ability to respond). Push back against the media or your opponents if you feel you need to. Defend yourself when it is needed in order to not detract from the legislative agenda. Absolutely defend your family if threats are made against them.

But he’s also the President of the United States of America and that requires some editing before posting.

My message to President Trump: GROW UP. Do NOT respond with childish posts, calling names and gifs.

Push back with facts. Push back with a mature educated response. Push back with a response that takes the high road that moves the debate and conversation forward and not in a circle. Don’t make it all about you.

Now, some say this is a political tactic for President Trump to get policy and actions through under the radar. That while the media is fixated on the #fakenews act, the Trump Administration is moving forward with holding to their campaign promises.

I’m all about pivoting and throwing up surface issues to give heavy issues some cover when needed. I understand it. But it’s the rampant childishness that the Trump Administration is using which just infuriates me.

5737423571_0a7accb35a_bNow I’ve learned to not call out a problem without offering a solution. So let me provide some alternative responses for President Trump’s Twitter over the past few weeks:

In response to biased media:

Every side has a perspective but the Trump Administration is working hard to accomplish the promises we made to the American people

In response to call for information on voters:

It is our hope that all states work with us in our efforts to prevent voter fraud in any way they can.

In response to Kathy Griffin’s graphic beheading of the President:

‪1st Amendment takes many forms & is fundamental right. But I ask for son Barron & grandkids, that @kathygriffin edit content of disagreement‬

In response to Morning Joe

Morning Joe is a tough critic but it is my hope they hear us out for our side regardless if it agrees with our legislative agenda.

The President is more than within his right to respond and to proffer his opinions. But I do expect him to do it in a mature and responsible way that reflects the Office of the President of the United States of America.

My perspective: With great tools such as social media and great positions such as the President of the United State, comes great responsibility

I will continue to vehemently disagree and rally against his agenda and policies but if he is mature and responsible with his communication platforms then I will feel that at least the leader of the United States is taking his role seriously and truly wishes to move the United States forward in the way he thinks is best.

Just some thoughts as I watch CNN this morning with my first coffee of the day.

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Trip 33

Well I have another trip around the sun under my belt today 🙂 Number 33 to be exact. Granted i had to have Courtney and HJohn remind me how old they were to help me remember how old I was, but meh. lol.

It’s been one heck of a year. Lots has happened from getting engaged, to having some great professional development opportunities, to being able to work with some amazing students! So I thought I’d list 33 things I’m grateful for as I enter my next trip around the sun.

So here we go!

33. Hamilton Mixtape. Recently discovered at the suggestion of our Summer GA, LaSabra, and it just speaks to me on so many levels. So if you haven’t listened to it, GET IT!

32. Opportunities in my professional field through ACPA, ACUI and others.

31. Having a blog and avenue to write

30. Social media…because it has taught me so much about the world and myself.

29. Chinese take out from Charlie Kangs! Its the life saver that keeps giving 🙂

28. Disney. Cause it’s just so darn magical.

27. My Apple products. I don’t know how I survived without them before.

26. My family. Because they challenge me to be a better person.

25. Pizza from anywhere. I love me some za.

24. Werther’s Originals…if you’ve never had them they are amazing!! (As I am enjoying one now LOL)

23. The gifts and talents I have been blessed with. I couldn’t imagine my life with writing, composing, and music.

22. CNN, Food Network and HGTV. My best friends when I’m home alone! LOL

21. FinalCutPro. Because it really helps me get my creative juice flowing.

20. Delta SkyMiles, while this is pretty basic, it’s amazing cause it allows me to travel not only professionally but personally.

19. Dear Even Hansen soundtrack. This soundtrack is phenomenal and soooo good!!! If you don’t have it, you should get it!!

18. Google Docs is my life and allows me to do everything professional and personally. (And let me tell you, without it I’d be a hot mess lol)

17. Goldfish Crackers. Cause what else is better in the world than Goldfish Crackers? 🙂

16. My Honeywell QuietSet fan in my office. Because of the fluctuating temperature in our office area this is a saving grace.

15. My photo collection. I love my collection of photos of my students that sit on my desk. It reminds me of why I do what I do.

14. Colleagues, friends, and mentors in Student Affairs. Cause I’d be worthless without them.

13. Michael’s family. They are so supportive and HI-larious.

12. Coffee…so much coffee….Coffee…COFFEE!!! Biggby and Starbucks are some of my best friends LOL

11. Coraline, our cat. She’s a prima dona but we love her. 🙂

10. Ice cream. It’s always there. 🙂

9. My ability to communicate like a grown up (yes a jab at Trump)

8. My vigor for equality especially with those identities I hold.

7. My headphones. Let’s be honest, most of you know I live with my headphones attached to me. I always have to have my music.

6. Pandas…Because they are AWESOME!

5. The Kappa Sigma Brothers of the Michigan District. I put these guys through the ringers but they are great men I have the privilege of working with and developing.

4. The UAB Directors, Front Desk Staff, Graduate Students and Professional Staff I get to work with; they are truly some of the best peoples ever! (And they totally get my quirkiness lol)

3. The family we’ve created here in Lansing; Matt, Jaime, Sharon, the Davids.

2. The people standing by my side for my wedding; Tiffany, HJohn, Benson, Courtney, Rainey, The Pink Princess Candace, Wife #1 Forsmark, Wifey Shawntae  and my Godson Timmy.

1. My fiance, Michael because I love him 🙂

BDay

Courtesy of Matthew Bryan Pruitt

So that’s my list!

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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The Justification of Gay

One of my fraternity brothers posted this on their Facebook this morning. It’s a really great TedTalk. It’s an interesting approach to the justification that homosexuality is genetic and not a choice.

 

Now, while I still unpack it, as I watched and listened to this TedTalk, I found myself thinking there was a foundation that was being evaded. After a brief but poignant chat with another fraternity brother, who is pursuing a Masters in School Psychology, I figured out what was bugging me.

It seemed that there were two underlying issues that was the grounds for the father’s need for this research. First, to confirm that being gay was genetic and not with the way the child was raised. The second was that he needed to justify his son’s purpose and worth in society as a gay man since the conclusion to the first question poised was that it was genetic. The father’s fear for his son’s safety as a gay person and whether or not he had done something to make his son be gay were no doubt key motivations for his research.

We, as mere mortals, are flawed and need to ground unknown or “scary” concepts to us with justifications.  We have to verify that being gay is genetic and not a choice. We have to justify the worth and role of a gay person to society to confirm that it is ok to accept a gay person.

While we as a society might love and accept the LGBTQ community, until we move beyond needing to justify these points, then there is still work to be done.

At no point in time is heterosexuality ever questioned about whether its genetic or a choice, and what the role for straight identified people are. This father’s desire to explain and justify his son’s identity and purpose is grounded in the socialization of homophobic ideas and practices that have been poisoning society for millennia.  Until this same mindset becomes inherent towards the LGBTQ community, even the best talks with the best intentions are still flawed. And it’s that exact need of wanting explanation that is the macro-underlying issue. Now whether or not that makes the father homophobic is up to the individual. I personally would say he is NOT homophobic. I think for me there has to be negative intent for me to call a person homophobic, but that’s something to be unpacked at a later date.

Even though I think the inherent reason for the father to need to justify and explain his son’s identity is rooted in homophobia, I think that this Talk is a great resource to start several various conversations in regards to the LGBTQ community.

Just some musings about a great resource, so thanks for processing with me!

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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