Wednesday, October 04, 2006

what I have been up to since graduation

I apologize to all of you who have been holding your breath for my new blog post. So much has happened to me since graduation that I wanted take enough time to organize all of my thoughts into what could quite possibly be considered the Greatest Blog Post of All Time.

What can I say about life after graduation? First of all, it’s much harder than being in school. I remember sitting in a small, crowded classroom on my first day of grad school and thinking to myself, “This is the real thing. I’m here with the top dogs. I must focus all of my energy into being successful in grad school because this is going to be a struggle.” I thought grad school was going to be difficult because everyone in my undergraduate college was making me believe that grad school would be the hardest thing I would ever do in my life. But it wasn’t. In fact, it was easier than being an undergraduate. The real world is the hard thing.

I keep having this recurring dream where I helpelessly witness the moon rapidly crash into the Earth, immediately destroying the planet and eradicating all of existence. That is how I have been feeling lately – like my world has been quickly changing in ways that I didn’t expect. And the unexpected can be scary. I have unexpectedly been strapped with more responsibilities than I had imagined.

In grad school, the professors and field supervisors are serving you – to cater to your needs as a learner. In the real world, you serve The Man. For example, I knew that a portion of my paycheck would go to the government, but imagine my surprise when I realized that more than $400 of each paycheck completely disappeared into the bottomless pit of taxes. That means that I actually make about $10,000 a year less than the salary that was originally offered to me. It was disenchanting because it makes living on my own much harder than I had previously anticipated. I realized that I am not really living to support myself, but also to support The Man.

In the real world, you also serve your clients, and that is a TREMENDOUS responsibility. You have to constantly remind yourself to remain accountable for everything you do – or fail to do – for them because you may hold futures of each of your clients in your hands. For example, if you fail to file a child abuse report or fail to call the Emergency Response Team when you should, someone could potentially die. Your inaction or action can dramatically change the course of the lives of your clients in enduring ways.

Another negative aspect of the real world is that you just can’t take a day off on a whim like you did in school. There are so many people depending on you at work that you just can’t leave work as you please. There are people who are so desperate for help that their last shred of hope left is to see you for assistance. As a result, you have an ethical obligation to be at work EVERY DAY. And that often restricts you – not to mention burns you out.

In the real world, people don’t constantly praise you like they did while you were a student. In the real world, it doesn’t work like that. Some clients will curse at you, call you horrible names, and yell at you to your face. Some will not say anything at all. Oftentimes you may be left wondering whether you even made a positive difference in anyone’s life.

However, it only takes one person who expresses their gratitude to you to show that perhaps you are making a difference – even though you or the client may not be aware of it. There are not many jobs that enable you to impact the lives of people on a daily basis. I can help alleviate someone’s poverty, save someone from suicide, assuage someone’s depression, and advocate for political change all in one day. I am confident in saying that I leave work everyday knowing that I did make a difference, regardless of how minute it may have been. That’s why being in the real world isn’t entirely horrible for me.

Responsibility is an inherent component of freedom and growth. Sure, the real world is tough, but it has granted me greater independence, enabling me to grow in more ways than I ever could have merely going to school. The lessons I learn in my work have allowed me to become a better person all around.

Although being in the real world is tough, being in MY real world is much easier than being in the real world of many of my clients. A large majority of my paycheck goes to taxes, but I am not wondering whether or not I will have enough money to eat tomorrow like many of my clients do. It is hard for me to take a day off, but taking a day off isn’t going to make me homeless like it may for many of my clients. People may not always praise me for my work, but the work I do is satisfying and not grueling and thankless as the jobs that many my clients do. Consequently, I feel privileged that I can help my clients in every way I possibly can because they deserve somebody to serve them...for at least once in their lives.

As things keep changing in my life, I am thankful for those who have been my supporters along the way (you know who you are). I love you all. Thank you for taking the time to remain updated on my life.

Friday, February 24, 2006

my divisive two cents about the abortion issue

Say no to wire coat hangers! That is, unless you have no other option. As you may or may not know, South Dakota is very close to placing a ban on abortions, without leaving an exception for even cases of rape or incest. This may just one of the first of a series of events that will result in the end of Roe v. Wade as we know it. In other words, start collecting wire coat hangers, for they may be in high demand in the near future.

People who are against abortion tend to say they take this position because they believe in "the sanctity of life." I find this to be total B.S. because people who often support abortion are often the people who support the death penalty, the war in Iraq, and other issues that obviously show no regard for human life. And many of these people
try to shock others into submitting to their views with images of dead fetuses to illustrate how we are killing human life. Here is an image showing those anti-abortionists how the sanctity of life will still not be preserved with a ban on abortion (WARNING: this is a very graphic image of a back alley abortion that resulted in the death of the mother). If these opponents of abortion really cared about human life, they would not leave a woman with very little options but to illegally perform an abortion because a law is dictating what she should do with her own body.

Opponents might read my argument and say, "Well, it's your fault for having sex and not using birth control." People like that tend to blame individuals for everything unfortunate that occurs to them. Here is what I have to say to that:
1.) People make mistakes. Yes, even "holier-than-thou" anti-abortionists can have accidental pregnancies.
2.) Birth control is not 100% effective, so one can have an accidental pregnancy while taking the utmost precautions. This may be rare, but it happens.
3.) Not everyone can afford or has access to contraception.
4.) People are going to have sex, whether you like it or not. Telling people that they should remain abstinent is unrealistic and doesn't solve anything.
5.) Laws that ban all abortions will not be flexible enough for exceptional cases, such as when a woman gets raped.

Anti-abortion laws place an undue burden on the woman.
Isn't it ironic that the people who are the strongest supporters of abortion are men? Men do not know what it's like to be pregnant. They ejaculate into a woman, and their responsibility to the child they create often ends there. Women, on the other hand, are forced to carry around a child for 9 months, go through the painful process of labor, and usually have the primary responsibility of raising the child. What about the man who made the child? He no longer has to worry about it, but anti-abortion laws force the woman to live with THEIR sex act for the rest of her life. Talk about "undue burden" being placed on a woman. And when a woman has a child who is the product of rape, that places an even greater burden on her. That's why it sickens me when anti-abortionists claim that these laws are a not matter of women's rights. As I have just illustrated, anti-abortion laws greatly influence with women's rights.

Guess who these laws are going to affect the most? The poor. For those of you anti-abortionists who haven't had sex yet, contraception costs a pretty penny. Reliable condoms are not cheap, and neither are birth control pills. People who hardly have enough money to eat do not spend the little money they have on birth control. If they hardly have anough money to feed themselves, they will most definitely not possess the financial resources to raise a child. Yet, anti-abortionists want to force the poor to bring children into a life of poverty. Anti-abortionists probably don't even think how they are going to have to pay for the increase in poor children entering the world through taxes that fund social programs, such as
TANF (a.k.a. welfare). It doesn't make sense to institute anti-abortion laws, without increasing the funding for social programs that will be necessary to compensate for the increase of poor children that will be forced to be brought into this world.

The saddest thing about this whole controversy is that we can't really protect Roe v. Wade. We don't get to vote on it. And the Supreme Court Justices are conservative, with lifetime appointments. FYI: Former Supreme Court Justice O'Conner was usually the deciding vote protecting Roe v. Wade. It appears that the only thing we can do is collect wire coat hangers and hope that someday anti-abortionists will realize the dire implications of placing a ban on abortions.

who you should idolize

In my line of work, I have encountered almost every "worse-case-scenario" individual you can think of. I have to admit that, with some of these individuals, sometimes I even question whether or not there is any hope left for them. But they prove me wrong almost every time.

Let me provide you with some examples of these individuals*. I once knew this woman whose diabetes was so bad that she had to keep amputating her limbs, until there was nothing left but a torso. I met a woman who was probably the fittest female around and was suddenly afflicted by a disease that permanently incapacitated her whole body. I knew someone else who had not just one -- but four -- terminal illnesses that were slowly and painfully killing her. I met a man who witnessed and survived the brutal homicide of his family. I knew a woman who was almost beaten to death by her spouse and was thrown into the street with her children.

Most people who haven't experienced what they have experienced probably think that living was an extremely burdensome and difficult thing for them to do. However, these are the people who are probably living life to the fullest. In working with these people, I have noticed some common themes with them from which we could all learn.

The most evident thing I have noticed is that they don't let the insignificant things worry them, like the rest of us tend to do. They usually take things with a grain of slat. After being around them, I feel ridiculous for complaining about my own life when they are not even flinching from the tremendous and emotional pain they are feeling on a continuous basis.

These people also appreciate life more. Even though living is painful, they are extremely thankful for each day they are alive, for it means they get to spend another day enjoying the things in life that most of us tend to overlook -- such as spending another day with the people you love.

They have the most hope. Most people would think that someone who is dying would have the least hope, but even they are optimistic about their futures. Don't get me wrong -- they're not in denial about their illnesses, but they are hopeful about achiveing small successes, such as being able to stand up on their own again or enjoy five minutes without pain.

Because they are hopeful, appreciate life, and take everything with a grain of salt, they seem to be the happiest people I know. I have encountered many people who have EVERYTHING (money, power, good health, etc.), but they are the unhappiest people alive. I guess it's hard for the people who have everything to notice when something is good when everything else in their lives is good. Perhaps when one is destitute or dying, any small success is seen as a large accomplishment in comparison to everything else.

After being around these worse-case individuals day in and day out, I have found myself wanting to emulate their personality traits. In my opinion, it would make more sense to idolize people like these than to want to emulate, for example, a spoiled celebrity. After observing their enduring strength in the face of such adversity, being around them makes me feel confident that I can do anything. I feel very humbled around them because I realize that I still have a lot to learn from them.

*Note: These stories have been altered in order to protect the identities of the individuals described.

the secret to sanity

The other day, I watched a news story about a party that was being thrown for the oldest people alive in SoCal. This party was created to celebrate their long lives. The journalist who covered this story interviewed several of these older adults and asked them to reveal the secret to their longevity. Three themes arose from these
interviews; these older adults tended to say that their secret to living a long life was having patience, retatining a sense of humor, and avoiding holding grudges.

I can understand why a lot of people don't live to a very old age. It can be tough to be patient in a society that encourages us to "go, go, go!" It can also be difficult to laugh at our own misfortunes. Or to let go of thinking of someone who pisses you off. It's rare to find someone in our society who holds at least one of these qualities -- much less all of them.

Even though I am not concerned about living longer, I do think it is very important to live by these standards for your sanity. Personally, I have tried living by these rules long before I saw this news story. I am accustomed to seeing people around me freaking out over the most irrelevant things, while I just sit back, relax, and watch. For example, I was driving behind this guy on the freeway who thought I was tailgating him. He proceeded to flip me off, yell, and shake his fist at me for several miles. I let go of my anger at that guy a few minutes after that incident, but that guy was probably still fuming about that incident weeks afterwards. People just need to calm down, appreciate their mistakes, and get over things.

Like most of the people I have counseled, you're probably thinking to yourself, "Easier said that done." I know it's hard to live by these principles, but you can't start doing something new until you do exactly that -- start. The more you do practice doing it, the more natural it feels to you. The main thing to do is to catch yourself when you are starting to feel impatient, angry, and all those other unpleasant feelings. Then you can decide from there whether you want to surrender to it or not. Only you can decide to free yourself from your own mental slavery.

Interestingly, throughout my career as an aspiring social worker, I have noticed that the people who have the easiest time living by these principles are the people with the most problems. The people who are destitute or dying are the people who seem to have the most hope. I think we have a lot to learn from the people we marginalize. More about that in my next post...

Friday, February 17, 2006

You've got to be shitting me

So I decided that I wanted to buy some new panties over the Internet, so I typed in "panties" in the search bar on my browser. My browser subsequently took me to a site that sells panties with -- get this -- built-in GPS technology! Here is a memorable quote from that site:

"forget-me-not panties will help protect the women in your life!
These panties will monitor the location of your daughter, wife or girlfriend 24 hours a day, and can even monitor their heart rate and body temperature.
Based on pioneering research developed by the U.S. military at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), we have brought this revolutionary technology, previously only available to the military, to you!"

Well, I'm glad my tax dollars have contributed to something useful. Hooray for defense spending.

P.S. Guys, don't start getting any ideas from this site. If you are suspicious enough to shell out at least 100 bucks to buy these panties for the woman in your life, you probably should just save your money and dump her.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"It's the difference between slowing your car down to go the speed limit or putting your car in reverse."

Attention children, older adults, and the poor: President Bush hates you. You know why? He decided that the programs which help you (e.g., Medicare and Medicaid/MediCal) should be "slowed." He is refusing to call this "slowed growth" a cut to mask the fact that it is a dramatic blow to entitlement programs that are supposed to help you survive.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) summed this up Bush's new budget policies beautifully: "If you're already wealthy, then this budget will make you wealthier. But if you're a widow, orphan, or are disabled, you'll see a cut in benefits." How come this doesn't surprise me?

Monday, February 06, 2006

The "4 things" meme

I'm doing this meme because I was tagged (thank you, acpatriot). Most of my friends know these things about me already, but read on if you think there's something that might absolutely shock you into reconsidering our friendship. Enjoy!

Four jobs I've had:

1. Recreation leader at a park (a.k.a. glorified janitor and underpaid babysitter)
2. Guitar teacher at an elementary school (through a nonprofit organization)
3. Social worker assistant at an adult day health care center
4. Sales advisor for a knife company

Four movies I can watch over & over:

1. Frida
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
3. Rushmore
4. Ghost World

Four places I've lived:

1. Wilmington, CA (the g-hetto)
2. Alhambra, CA
3. Downtown Las Vegas, NV
4. Downey, CA

Four TV shows I love:

1. Family Guy
2. American Dad
3. Chappelle Show
4. Reno 9-1-1!

Note: I don't have cable, so I had to base my selections on the poor array of shows available on free TV and on the DVD collections I have.

Four places I've vacationed:

1. Ixtapa and Acapulco, Mexico
2. Madrid, Toledo, & Segovia in Spain
3. Paris, France
4. Lisbon, Portugal

Four of my favorite dishes:

1. Tuna melts (and pretty much any type of sandwich)
2. Sushi, especially the salmon and shrimp kind
3. Enchilidas y tamales con arroz y frijoles
4. chicken fettucini alfredo

Four sites I visit daily:

1. Google News
2. BlogSpot
3. LiveJournal

Four places I would rather be right now:

1. England
2. Italy
3. Ireland
4. famous cities in the U.S. like NYC, Boston, Chicago, etc.

(In other words, I'd like to be anywhere I haven't visited.)

Four bloggers I am tagging:

1,2,3, and 4: anyone who is interested in doing this.

Four books I love:

1. The Bell Jar
2. Nickel and Dimed
3. Fast Food Nation
4. Stupid White Men

And I added a few more categories:

Four activities I enjoy doing:

1. sex
2. skateboarding
3. learning new things
4. traveling

Four radio stations I love:

1. NPR
2. Indie 103.1
4. KJZZ 88.1

Four bands I cannot live without:

1. Tool
2. The Arcade Fire
3. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
4. Dashboard Confessional

Saturday, February 04, 2006

hooray for Intelligent Design!

Dear Satan,
It is with great regret that I inform you that I will no longer be worshipping you. I recently read a very convincing argument about one theory of Intelligent Design, which persuaded me that I should focus my energy on worshipping a clearly superior being: the Flying Spaghetti Monster. To be honest with you, I was initially pretty skeptical when reading this argument, but I became a believer when it underscored the association between the dwindling number of pirates in existence and the increasing number of natural disasters; this totally made sense to me, since I have always wanted to be a pirate.
Anywho, Satan, thanks for being there to support me in all of my evil endeavors. However, this whole worshipping Satan thing has become very boring and cliched. My eyes have been opened to a whole new way of understanding my existence, which will soon gain credibility in schools across the nation -- once it is taught along with other credible theories of Intelligent Design.
In sum, Satan: I once was lost, but His noodly appendage found me.
Linda, new FSM follower

About the farmworker trip

Last Saturday, I delivered food, clothing, and blankets to the homeless Carlsbad farmworkers mentioned in my previous post. I greatly appreciate everyone who made donations to this cause. The farmworkers seemed very thankful for all of the donations.

Below are some observations from this trip:
1.) Ever since 1992 (!) farmworker advocates have been pressuring the city of Carlsbad to permit the development of low-income housing in the city. Each time, the city said has denied the request.
2.) Although the city refuses to provide low-income housing, it continues to ask homeless farmworkers to relocate when they are visible to the citizens of that town.
3.) Most of the farmworkers currently live under a bridge, hiding amongst the trees and bushes there. Nobody should have to live this way, especially farmworkers who are contributing to our nation's economy by providing cheap labor and paying taxes.
4.) Farmworker advocates have asked the United Farmworkers (UFW) for help, and they have done nothing to ameliorate the situation.

The following are some possible solutions for this problem:
1.) A boycott on strawberries would be only be effective for people who buy strawberries specifically from that town. Boycotting strwberries obtained from other growers, however, would not be a very effective strategy.
2.) Carlsbad residents should pressure the city of Carlsbad to change its mind about low-income housing. However, the city would care less about the opinions of people who do not reside there.
3.) This leaves us with one last feasible solution: pressure the UFW to help the farmworkers by writing letters to them and organizing protests.

If you visit the UFW website, you will notice that the UFW discusses the LA Times story that shed light to this issue. They say everything said in the article is "wrong." I went to visit the farmworkers myself saw, with my own two eyes, that the LA Time article was accurate. So who are you going to believe? An organization that is reaping benefits from its sponsors? Or someone who actually witnessed the injustices that were occurring? Although their tenuous argument angers me, I am happy that people wrote to them and demanded an explanation.

Let me know if you are interested in joining me in further efforts to help the farmworkers. Any ideas would also be appreciated!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Please help the farmworkers

Seasonal, full-time farmworkers working in the strawberry fields in Carlsbad are being screwed over by the United Farmworkers. Basically, Carlsbad has no inexpensive housing available for these farmworkers (it's a very affluent town), so most of the farmworkers are forced to camp out in houses fashioned out of cardboard and plastic on the side of Cannon Road in Carlsbad. Camping out in shanties is no fun, especially during this cold winter season and without enough money to afford food, clothing, or blankets.

If you would like to help, please let me know. I am going to go to Carlsbad this Sunday to deliver supplies to them. You can accompany me or donate some supplies. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks for reading this.