Tag Archives: opinion

Hashtag First World Problems

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I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always been the most appreciative person.  When I was in elementary school, I had a tendency of dramatizing my problems and thinking that things like not having all of my friends show up to my birthday party or losing in baseball were the worst things that could happen to me.  I didn’t understand that, although I didn’t have the best situation, I didn’t have the worst either.  However, once my middle school years came along, things got tougher, teaching me a few good lessons that I now try to pass on to others and which I will certainly pass on to my children.  I learned to be more optimistic and appreciate what I do have, what I have experienced, and what I can do.  Now, that I’ve gone through certain situations, it’s hard for me to see people be so ungrateful and so ignorant of the opportunities standing right in front of them that they’re choosing to look past.  It’s frustrating to realize that some people don’t know how blessed they are.  It’s even more frustrating to know that I used to be one of those people and am now trying to open the blind eyes of others to no avail.

I know that I do not have it the worst.  I am grateful for the house I live in, the family I have, the job I work, the love I receive, and the passion I am nurturing, but there are also opportunities that I wish I had who people so close to me take for granted.  One thing I wouldn’t take for granted is having my family near me.  I never had the chance to go to school with my cousins.  I was never able to be at the hospital for the birth of a new addition to the family.  I haven’t been able to see my family whenever I wanted to.  Although living in the states has been one of the best things that could have ever happened to me, unfortunately, I’m miles away from all of my extended family every single day and I miss out on a lot.  I wish I could watch my nephews grow up in person, rather than in pictures.  (It’s honestly a relief that the oldest still remembers who I am.)  I wish I could learn more family recipes every day, which is why when they come to visit I try to learn whatever new dishes I can.  I wish I could say I’ll see you soon to so many of my relatives, but I can’t.  They either live way too far away and the funds aren’t there to make frequent visits or they are simply no longer with us.  That’s the simple truth.  I can’t and it frustrates me to see people who don’t appreciate things like that.

There are so many opportunities I wish I had.  Seeing my family is only one of them, which sparked this little rant of mine, but it truly does bother me to see people live on in such an ignorant fashion.  “Hashtag first world problems” is the best way to sum up their complaints.  I admit that sometimes I get caught up in the little things, but I try to make a conscious effort about what I complain about.  I may think about how frustrating sitting in traffic may be, but I’ll always think “at least I have a car and a job to go to or at least it’s a nice day and my air conditioning is working,” completely stopping me from voicing my miniscule annoyances.  The way I see it is I will always have problems and imperfections in my life.  Yes, I might have it bad sometimes, but there is always someone else who has it worst than me.  Ask my best friend.  I frustrate her to no end when I refuse to admit what’s bothering me because of this mindset, but it’s true.  Someone else may not have shelter, food, or water.  They might be physically abused, unable to graduate, or terminally ill.  I think that somebody always has it worst than me, so I shouldn’t burden others by verbalizing my complaints about the small things.  At the same time, I have to appreciate what I do have.  We all should appreciate what we have because the person next to us doesn’t always have those same things as well.

It might be innate to criticize the imperfections around us, but we have to make it second nature to highlight the positives we experience.  Not everything is so bad, so why make it seem that way?  Instead appreciate what you have, but can’t change and work toward changing the negatives that are in your control.  Don’t let opportunities pass you by because you were too busy focusing on complaining about x, y, and z.  Perhaps, with some more optimism, you won’t notice so many problems in your life.

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The Dream Continues

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This week marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  It was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement that called for equality, unity, and acceptance.  Since then, times have certainly changed and I think we can all agree when I say that our civil rights situation in America has greatly improved.  Segregation is gone and we’re seeing more interracial families everyday.  However, the Civil Rights Movement shouldn’t stop at that and we certainly shouldn’t look back at MLK’s speech with the thought that our work is done.  The truth is there is still plenty of room for improvement and it is up to our generation to maintain that momentum and hunger for progress.

Unfortunately, discrimination is still around, but, now, it is just less visible.  The worst part though is that prejudice isn’t one sided.  I think everyone makes presumptions about the people they encounter based on stereotypes, personal beliefs, and what they see in front of them, often clouding what is truly presented to them.  Many times we have already made up our minds about a person before they even have the chance to convince us otherwise.  It’s in our nature.  It’s normal, but it can be changed.  It is up to us to stop looking through a bias lens and instead make a conscious decision to give others an opportunity to show us who they are.  It’s not right for anyone to assume who someone is without hearing them first.  If anything is going to get better, we have to start with how we see the world and how we react to it.  We can’t feed into the negativity we complain about.  Instead, we have to at least stop it from stemming from within ourselves.

Today, our issues of civil rights don’t solely revolve around if a person is black or white.  Now, individuals are being categorized as illegal aliens rather than people.  Couples are being shamed, ostracized, and denied because of who they love.  All while a person’s complexion is still a measure of their significance in society.  In 2013, it’s beautiful to see a light skinned little girl with bouncy curly hair walking down the street with her white mom and black father.  I love the fact that I was able to go to school with my black, Hispanic, Asian, white, and mixed friends.  But I also want to see my cousin marry the love of his life without people being shocked that he has a husband.  I don’t want my students to feel like they can’t go to school because their parents immigrated here for a better life.  I’m tired of still feeling uncomfortable for being the only Hispanic in a room.

The problem is not gone.  We haven’t finished what so many set out to do half a century ago.  Yes, we have taken huge strides since Dr. King delivered his speech in 1963, but we have to continue marching forward to make his dream and the dream of so many others a complete reality.

Be Loyal… You Owe it to Yourself

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It’s July and I think it’s time for me to evaluate the progress of my New Year’s resolution.  Just as a reminder, my goal was to focus on myself and make myself a priority in my own life.  To be honest, I think the start to my year was pretty shaky in relation to moving toward this goal.  I can recall one too many times when I was sacrificing time and energy that I truly could not spare, all in the name of helping others.  I was definitely feeling the stress, while seeing no real progress for myself.  However, the past few weeks have acted as a real turning point for me.  I’ve noticed a change in my thinking where I’ve learned to consider myself in my decisions, which is helping me progress in my own life.  Can I really afford to do this?  Do I really have the time for that?  Will this set me back in any kind of way?  I have to ask myself these kinds of questions to determine whether or not I’m being fair to myself.

Lately, I’ve experienced some interesting situations.  I’ve been tested really and I’ve had to make some decisions.  At first, I was torn and confused because I wasn’t sure what I should do.  Many of these situations involved two opposing sides and, in all of these specific cases, both sides were led by people who are relatively close to me.  I wasn’t sure whose “side” I should take, so I considered not taking a side and not getting involved at all.  I figured they could resolve their differences without my intervention and I wouldn’t have to deal with the scrutiny of taking a position.  But I realized that silence is just as loud as having an opinion, so there was no way around it.  I had to get involved in each situation.  I struggled with this issue each time, trying to decide who I agreed with, until I realized that I owed myself loyalty.

I needed to do what I was most comfortable with whether that meant speaking up and defending so and so, keeping someone’s secret, or being honest with a friend.  Situations vary and the person who is at fault isn’t always the same, so I couldn’t vow to blindly be loyal to someone.  If they were wrong, I had to let them know.  If they were right, I had to back them up.  If they asked something of me, then I had determine if it would hurt anybody before accepting.  If it didn’t harm anyone else, why not?  I had to play each situation by ear, loving each person who I had to deal with, but also being fair.  I had to be fair to those around me and, mostly, to myself.  I had to be loyal to myself and to what I feel is right.  It’s all about making yourself a priority.  So, yes, I said some things and, yes, I know some things, but I definitely am being as loyal as can be to those around me and, definitely, to myself.

Changes

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Throughout my life, I’ve encountered many different people and they each have played different parts in my life.  Some of those people were only in my life for short spurts of time.  They were temporary.  Passerbys I guess you could say.  Other people stuck around for quite some time.  They were a big part of my life and it’s hard to picture my life without them.  Now, a few people have been in my life since the get go and they’ve managed to continue to play a big role in my life.  The interesting thing though is that all of these people are different.  They come from different backgrounds, are of different ages, have different personalities, and played different roles in my life, but they all taught me that change in a person is inevitable.

Every person goes through life.  They have experiences everyday and those experiences, no matter what, impact their lives.  For some, the change is conscious.  It’s the result of a person’s decision to make a change in their life… most of the times for the better, but sometimes for the worst, too.  For others, the change is subconscious.  It becomes routine and before we know it the changes are engrained in us as if we had been born with them.  Mostly, these changes are positive or, at least, we hope they are.  People grow, they mature, and they learn.  People experience happiness, sadness, and pain.  This inevitably creates changes.  The fact of the matter is that you are not the same person you were ten years ago.  Yes, you still have some characteristics and tastes that are never going to go away, but you’ve still undergone some big changes in your life.

The problem is how do we distinguish the old you versus the new you?  Or should we even distinguish them at all?  You’re still the same person, but should the present you face the consequences that the former you earned?  It’s tricky, isn’t it?  Say the old you did some not so nice things, but the new you is making a conscious effort to be a better person.  Is it reasonable for others to judge you for what you once did and assume that you still have those traits within you?  Honestly, I don’t know.

I know of some people who have done some horrible things in their lives, but now are truly trying to better themselves.  You wouldn’t even believe the things they once did if you met who they are today.  However, I do know that these people’s pasts still weighs heavily over their heads.  They can’t seem to shake the negative stigmas they associated with themselves so long ago.  Others assume that they’re still who they used to be and that they shouldn’t be trusted or respected, but I think this is where second chances come into play.  People have to be given a second chance to prove that their positive change is genuine.  There are people in my life who have wasted their second chance and may never get another one from me.  If anything, they’ve shown big changes in their character, but only negative ones.  On the other hand, there are quite a few people in my life who have used their second chance to prove my first impressions of them wrong.  They’ve shown me how positive they’ve become and I’m honestly proud of them.

Like I said before, all of these people are different and they’ve taught me a lot.  They taught me that change is going to happen whether we like it or not.  Sometimes the change is bad.  It creates distance and maybe even pain, but it isn’t always like that.  Change can be a good thing.  They taught me that change is not only inevitable, but that sometimes it is even better than what you ever expected.  However, sometimes to be able to experience that positive change second chances are sometimes very necessary.

Am I Catholic?

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The priest standing in front of us never raises his head or changes the tone in his voice as the night grows longer.  There are no inflections or breaks, but a continuous murmur of the prayers of the rosary.  Even his hand movements are perfectly executed, seemingly without thought as his fingers go from bead to bead following every “Hail Mary.”  We all murmur the same words in unison, creating a loud buzzing of prayer throughout the side room of the funeral home.

This is how the Catholic Church said goodbye to my uncle after he passed away.  I was in middle school and his daughters were younger than me, but, just like the adults, we were expected to sit in our front row seats and say our prayers.  If not, for every shift in our chair or wandering eye around the room, we got a stern look from our grandmother.  These were the rules until the end of the service.  A service that only said my uncle’s name six times throughout the hour and never addressed his life, though we were supposed to be bidding him farewell.

My grandparents are all practicing Catholics and my parents were as well when they were growing up.  I was baptized Catholic and a priest led the religious ceremony for my sweet fifteen.  I pray the rosary, believe in the Virgin Mary, and respect the Holy Trinity.  I can even say a few prayers without glancing at a page, but would I call myself Catholic?  It really depends on the day and who’s asking.

When people ask me if I’m Catholic, they see the bracelet on my hand with the saints or the rosary hanging from my rear view mirror and it is their natural assumption.  Most of the times, I’m not in the mood to talk about religion, so I say “yes.”  But there’s always the rare occasion when I’m feeling talkative and a simple “yes” won’t suffice.

Yes, I’m technically Catholic, but there are too many disparities between what the church believes and what I believe.  Things like karma and reincarnation are ignored, people who support gay marriage are deemed heathens, and, if you don’t adhere to all the rules, you’re not welcome.  So, according to Catholicism, I’m a heathen, too.  Plus, it’s hard enough trying to fit into a church while living in the U.S. when you only know the rules and prayers of your faith in Spanish.

My uncle’s service was done in my first language, so I could at least follow along with the priest, but, growing up, I didn’t even realize there were English translations to the few verses and prayers I had memorized.  I remember thinking about Catholicism as a religion that was strictly part of Hispanic culture.  It was only until a few years ago that I found out “The Lord’s Prayer” is the same thing as “El Padre Nuestro” prayer.  But I haven’t told my grandma about my early ignorance.  As a woman who watches mass on TV when she can’t physically go, she would only be ashamed that I was so uninformed about the family’s faith.

I don’t entirely disagree with my grandmother’s devoutness or the Catholic Church, but I think the organized religion lacks some moderation.  Organized faith gets problematic once it dominates your life, so there needs to be a balance.  I can’t commit to Catholicism, if it means I have to mindlessly accept all of its conditions, so, instead, I pick and choose what I value from religion until I feel like I have a well-rounded perspective on faith.

I consider myself to be very religious—or rather very spiritual.  I haven’t gone to church in months, but I feel like God and I are on good terms.  I try not to judge what I don’t understand, while I don’t automatically shut out what is unfamiliar to me.  I value tolerance, embracing new teachings, and I try to be kind to others.  My faith and salvation do not rely on how much I preach the word of God or how much money I give as an offering, but rather on how well I live my life.

I would much rather feel like faith is an experience with God and positivity than a question of how many times I’ve taken a seat in a pew.  I don’t want to robotically pray to the light that is believed to be God, but rather vent about what I am feeling and thinking in order to restore my own spiritual balance.  It seems more natural to think that people, even if they aren’t Catholic, can still lead morally good lives and be virtuous.  Wouldn’t it make sense for the principles of love and positivity to be the driving force of faith within a soul instead of how many times they’ve confessed their “sins”?

I always ask my elders for their blessing, a tradition in Puerto Rico.  I always say my prayers before family dinners and on big holidays like Easter and Christmas.  But, no, I don’t go to church and, no, I don’t use the Bible as the sole guide for my life.  These are just empty traditions that I’ve grown accustomed to.

At my uncle’s service, I was surrounded by people I had known my whole life, yet for that long hour I felt nothing.  I can’t tell you how many times I cried with my cousins over their father’s death or how heartbreaking it was to see him in a coffin, but all of that happened away from a priest.  To me, the service had nothing to do with my uncle.  It didn’t help me grieve or feel better.  I didn’t feel closer to him or my family and I certainly didn’t feel closer to Catholicism.  Instead, I felt like the priest was a stranger repeating passages he had memorized, filling in the blanks with my uncle’s name.

 

Opinions

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It’s amazing

how opinions can change so quickly.

Words can spark love,

inspire hate,

and crush respect,

altering everything you once believed.

Moments can create bonds,

strengthen disappointment,

and erase purity,

affecting your every thought.

At this present moment,

while I gain love and admiration for one,

I lose ties with another.

For that one person,

I now need to be with them.

I now need to defend them.

But for you,

I can no longer see much good in you.

I can no longer understand you.

I have to ask,

Where does your cruelty come from?

How cold can you be?

With them you are frigid,

but with me you try to be sweet.

How does that work?

Putting it plainly,

you can’t love me

when you despise the rest.

Yet the other is different.

That one continues to surprise me,

but only in the most pleasant of ways.

That one shows me they care.

They show me their heart,

and, frankly,

I can’t stay mad at that.

Word and actions.

So simple,

but so influential.

It’s interesting,

isn’t it?

How quickly opinions can change.

He’s won me over

and you’ve lost me again.

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Don’t Judge Me!

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People say this all the time and I must admit that it really bothers me.  I constantly hear it used for comedic purposes or just in casual conversations and, sure, sometimes it’s funny, but, most of the time, not so much.  In my opinion, it’s thrown around too much and I don’t think people are aware of how loaded the statement “don’t judge me” really is.  It says so much about yourself and it says even more about the power you subconsciously give to others.  If you truly respect and love yourself enough to accept who you are as a person, you wouldn’t feel the need to say “don’t judge me” at all.

The first thing that needs to be understood is that you are going to be judged on everything you do, no matter what.  The people you’re telling not to judge you may not do it (most likely because they’re your friends, but I’ll get to that in a bit), but there will always be someone around who’s close enough to judge you.  You’ll be judged on what you wear, how you walk, what you say, and even on what you don’t do.  Regardless of whether or not the words “don’t judge me” are spoken, you’ll still be judged.  If you don’t believe me, think about how many times you think something about a person you see walking down the street.  “This person is walking too slow” or “those boots are cute” are all judgments that we silently make about the people around us.  Like I said, you’ll always be judged, whether you know the person or not or whether you realize it or not.

However, this isn’t as daunting as it sounds because you need to ask yourself if the person judging you matters and if their judgments should affect you or not.  Nine times out of ten, the answer is no.  Your family and friends know you, they love you, and they’ve accepted you for who you are.  Their opinions are the ones that you really care about, but they’re not going to judge you off of your little quirks.  They’re not setting out to pass judgments on you for things, that many times, are considered trivial.  Usually, when you say “don’t judge me,” you’ll realize that the thought of judgment was way out of their minds and there was no need to defend yourself in the first place.  Your friends and family aren’t going to be the judges of your life.

Now, the random observers are a different story.  They’ll be the ones to judge you just like you judge the random people around you, but does it really matter if the girl sitting at the next table isn’t a fan of your hairstyle?  No.  If her opinion didn’t matter before you sat at the table, then there’s no reason for that to change now.  These random observers know nothing about you, except what they see at the present moment.  They don’t know you, but it’s natural to form an opinion about what we see.  So if a random person only knows what they see, of course, they’re going to judge you, but you can’t really blame them for it.  Most importantly, you can’t take to heart what they think of you because it’s probably not even an accurate reflection of who you truly are as a person.

I guess what I’m trying to say is to stop worrying so much about what other people think.  You should do what makes you happy, when you want, and in whatever way you want.  When you say “don’t judge me,” you’re making yourself feel insecure, you’re judging yourself, and you’re allowing other people to take hold of your life.  You should honestly never question what feels right to you and the people who matter won’t make you question that either, so please forget about the words “don’t judge me” before you lose sight of yourself as a person.