Surviving

Silent Survivor.

Be kind; everyone is fighting their own battle (more details on the source of this quote here). When I saw the tree in the photo above, I was taken aback by how despite having experienced some scorching trauma, it managed to stay alive. Seen from the opposite side, it would look like any other intact tree.

This stood out to me as a reminder of how precious life is, even when it feels like we are in the midst of an unending struggle. There can be hope, and growth, in spite of adversity. In my experience, it’s all been a matter of choosing to better myself, and refusing to accept my status quo as something outside of my control to change.

It’s not easy, but changing our circumstances for the better requires a willingness to believe our efforts will not be for naught. There will always be storms to weather, circumstances outside of our careful planning, unexpected and unforeseeable events. But having cultivated the faith in myself has made it easier for me to look for a way to get by them.


What do you do when faced with the unexpected?

Only death’s forever

Secret Lovers.

This semester I’m taking Wills & Trusts, so it’s a natural by-product that I’ve got death on my mind. People generally don’t like the reminder of their mortality, but anyone with a date of birth will ultimately have a date of death. Pablo Neruda famously mused about the amount of time a person spends dying, and if the legal system is brought into play, it can take several years for one’s worldly possessions to be dispersed if things are not done properly.

There are many excuses for putting off will planning, but the reality is that unless things are done just-so, whatever you may want may not be respected. We may make assumptions about how our items would be dispersed based on what we believe is common sense, but common sense isn’t at all that common. If you have someone or something you care about and you want to ensure your assets are allocated as you wish them to be, you should hurry over and find yourself a good attorney to set things up for you beforehand.

It’s shocking and saddening for me to see how something like a missing signature is enough to throw carefully made plans into disarray. In this day and age where there’s information at our fingertips, there’s no excuse to be uniformed about the realities of what will happen when one passes away. Yes, the law has defaults, but given how much people care about customization, it’s unlikely that the default will be what you want.

I feel like I’m on a soapbox, but anyone in possession of any physical thing should have a will. Your loved ones will be saddened enough by your demise, it would be devastating to add to their suffering because you didn’t prepare for something that is inevitable. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so the expression goes. And it rings far too true in this area of the law.

Know better, do better

Peaceful Pond.

The most challenging aspect of any project is actually starting it, I suppose. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but what matters is whether one has the grit to see something through to completion. It’s not an easy task to open up and discuss the challenges I’ve faced in my life, probably in no small part due to the fact that I’m aware that talk is cheap and no one wants to hear about misery and suffering.

However, sometimes one’s own internal assumptions need to be thrown into question, in order to grow as a person.

Family from another country recently visited. I have to admit that even though I’ve worked in several law firms now, I still felt uncomfortable dressed in what I refer to as my “lawyer gear.” This is partially because it’s conservative clothing (the law is still a conservative profession) and also because of my own self doubts. As a WOC from a poorer socioeconomic background, I don’t see many people like me managing to do more than graduate high school, let alone find themselves attempting to enter this field.

It took a teenage cousin’s queries about my school and life experiences, and then afterwards overhearing her say that she was motivated to buck societal demands of settling down early that made me clearly see that part of what made me uncomfortable was I didn’t see myself as a professional. Despite my years of work experience towards this eventual goal of being a lawyer, didn’t see that it was realistic.

In the back of my mind, I was wondering who I thought I was fooling, trying to be a woman with career goals. Given all the internet’s had to say about why women can’t have it all, I’d started to doubt whether what I was doing was worthwhile. Despite it being close to the 100 year anniversary of women being able to vote in America, it still doesn’t seem like much credence is given to someone that looks like me in this country.

However, this isn’t true globally, as my cousin’s questions were able to show me. In her native country, she’s seen women rise to and hold positions of power, and the women in those roles look enough like her for her to be able to think it’s possible for her. Which makes all the difference: it’s not that she thinks being a professional would be easy, but rather that she thinks it’s possible.

That’s what gets lost in the discussions about whether America is postracial, whether the society we live in is actually a just one. The dialogue is so centered on believing that the present status quo is fine or not, that there’s no real assessment of how things might actually look like if somehow they were changed. Can we fathom a world where women were actually in half of the positions of power in America? It won’t ever be possible if those women lose their faith in themselves along the way.

Bittersweet

Few things are as universally loved as chocolate, given the myriad of forms it takes: liquid, solid, as a topping, as dip, you get the idea. Its ubiquitous consumption around the globe leads one to conclude that those involved in its production would naturally also be exposed to final finished product. In all my globe-trotting, I’ve managed to find the humble chocolate bar in most grocery stores, and I usually snag a few because they make for a delicious and relatively lightweight souvenir for the folks back at home.

So when I came across the video below, I couldn’t help but think it was anything other than bittersweet:

It was sweet to see that the workers savored their first taste of chocolate, and particularly touching that their first inclination would be to share the experience with each other. Is there anything more human than the urge to share with others our discoveries? We are a social species, and part of what’s made these past few decades so interesting is how quickly we can now share new information with each other, so much data lies at our fingertips.

And yet, there’s some aspects that are sad about this video, too. The fact that these workers do not even know what their hard manual labor produces, and the inescapable conjoining of racial and class divisions that lead to certain assumptions. That the consumption of chocolate, a luxury, is what makes white people healthy (and their guest, who they perceive as fairer skinned than themselves). The desire to save the wrapping to show to their children, a physical token that indeed they were able to partake in the grand chocolate experience at least once in their lives.

It’s what makes growing up so difficult, I imagine, this realization that very few things can be simply enjoyed because everything is interconnected. Both “good” and “bad” coexist and are inseparably twined together, and one is often left feeling powerless to do much of anything to change the status quo. The world seems so full of flaws that should be easy to fix, like this problem of workers separated from the end product.

Would it really be so hard for the cocoa bean buyers to pay these workers just a bit more, so that they can actually purchase what it is they make?

Would we, as global consumers, really mind it so much if we paid just a little more for the chocolate we enjoy, if we knew those making it continents away were living better lives because of it?

 

The Mighty Church of Capitalism

Money talks. Photo credit: 401kcalculator.org.

The decision by SCOTUS today is completely line with capitalist ideology. Corporations, entities which exist to generate wealth, are already considered people in the government’s eyes. Was it really that far of a logical leap for the majority to decide that if corporations were persons, that they would thus be persons with religious rights?

Let’s forget for a moment that women are people with their own set of religious rights. The decision reflected what one of my professors said about each case we read if it involved a well-known company: Mickey Mouse always wins. It’s a neat little loop: those who have the means are in the position to hire an attorney in the first place. Since the legal profession is one where the failure to dot your is’ and cross your ts’ has a real impact in whether your case is even filed correctly, it doesn’t surprise me that there would be an inherent bias built into the system that favors those with wealth over those without.

Which is more or less what happened. SCOTUS ignored the fact that for every corporate entity that is considered a person, there are usually several thousand people that generate the work that produces that company’s wealth. However, because the company is the entity valued at several million/billion dollars it’s the one whose rights get respected. After all, how much is any individual worker worth? Not as much as the company as a whole.

Mathematically, it’s a very neat and logical decision: Company X = $$$ > workers = $. So the winner is the company!

Most of the reactions supporting this decision are coming from a place of privilege, because most of them center around this basic idea: if you’re a woman working for a company that won’t pay for your medical needs, then leave. Which completely overlooks the reality that for many people, staying at a job is the goal, and they are loathe to leave the stable paycheck in this economy. Especially if they have other obligations, such as paying down a mortgage/student loans/children.

It also overlooks the fact that the process of switching to a new job is particularly difficult for those who find themselves in lower wage positions to begin with, because those are the jobs with the least amount of flexibility. I’ve been in that boat, and given that looking for a job turns into a full time endeavor on its own, I know that people stay in positions they’re miserable in because they need the steady pay. When you’re at the bottom and have several layers of supervisors to report to, your absence is quickly noticed, since in-person interviews take time and tend to be scheduled when all the vital team members for the hiring decision are present, which means you can’t just schedule it during lunch without running the risk that you’ll be late.

If you don’t want your present employer to catch on that you’re trying to abandon ship, there’s only so many ways you can try to maneuver without it affecting your work performance and endangering the job you presently have. This is a reality for those of us struggling to make ends meet, who do not have the luxury of being courted for employment or the security in coming from a background where family members or friends could support them should they wind up being unemployed. When your goal is a steady paycheck, you tend to not ask what your employer’s beliefs are, even if they are distasteful to your own.

Why? When you’re poor, you don’t have the luxury to care whether your employer hates women and will actively seek to avoid paying your medical expenses. You’re grateful to have something that pays the never ending bills for everything you need to keep a roof over your head, and to keep yourself fed. Even if you tried to leave to a better company, odds are you wouldn’t be able to, as in this market employers can afford to be choosy. SCOTUS just gave companies one more way to prevent women from breaking through the glass ceiling in certain industries, since I really doubt any organization unwilling to care for the health of its female employees could be fostering a work culture where women are valued and encouraged to advance to the top of its corporate ladder.