Archive | September 2012

Spark

Last Friday, we had our first supervisor check-in. To make things more interesting, my supervisor had gone to Target and bought a bunch of Vitamin Water bottles. When she pulled them out, I was like, “What the heck?”. Then she went on to explain that the primary reason she had gotten the Vitamin Waters was because of the sayings on the labels. In addition to listing the flavor, Vitamin Waters also have an additional word on the label. The flavors/sayings she got were: energy, attention, spark, revive, and XXX.

She put them all on the table and told each of us to grab one that we were particularly drawn towards or were feeling like at the moment. My hand floated in between all of the flavors but I couldn’t really decide which one I wanted to take. One by one my teammates slowly started claiming their Vitamin Waters. I finally settled on “Spark”, blueberry-grape.

I was initially drawn to “Spark” because of the colors; a light pink color for the liquid with a bright electric blue label. Then as we started to share, I thought more about “Spark” and thought how it seemed to suit me quite well because spark was what I had been lacking for the last few weeks, yet, on the flip side, I could feel the spark slowly being ignited in me again. With the end of my term of service, a week off, and then orientation for another year, I just felt myself winding down and had slowly been picking myself back up again. Although I’d been at work for technically three weeks, I still felt really out of it.

While I was still really out of it, work wouldn’t wait. My role this year as the Workshop/Volunteer member picked up a lot faster than last year’s and already I had found myself starting to be overwhelmed by my first project, Make a Difference Day. Planning for Make a Difference Day slowly re-ignited my spark for creativity, enthusiasm, determination. That week of our check-in, I could feel myself getting back into the zone, putting my armor on, and getting ready to tackle whatever came my way. I was excited for the role I was going to play this year and for the team that I am a part of. Everything just seemed like a much better fit for me this year compared to last year.

So, I guess there was some larger reason for why I decided to settle on “Spark”. I just didn’t know it at the time.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. ” – Albert Schweitzer

没有你的生活/A Life Without You

没有你的生活/Life without you

真的慢慢的变成/is slowly turning into

没有你的生活了. /a life without you.

一天过一天,/Day after day

在我生活里面,脑里面, 心里面,/In my life, in my mind, in my heart,

你就慢慢的消失./You are slowly disappearing

忘记了有你在身边的感觉/I’ve forgotten what having you by my side feels like

道理是什么样的感觉./what feeling it is exactly.

好像在我心里面/Seems like in my heart

真没有过你的位子,/there never really was a spot for you,

好像我和你的世界/seems like your world and mine

从来没有碰过./have never once collided.

忘了你是张什么样子./I’ve already forgotten what you look like.

我们真的有见过面吗?/Have we really met before?

真的有走的那么近吗?/Did we really become that close?

时间好像很喜欢跟我们玩,/Time seems to enjoy playing with us,

玩游戏./playing games with us.

这么快的一段子/This short of a period

我就快把你忘了/and I’ve forgotten you already

你道理是谁阿?/Who are you exactly?

情人 – 也不算,/Loved one – not quite

朋友- 也不是,/Friend – not really either

熟人 – 可能是吧… 但我还是觉得也不太合适./Acquaintance – perhaps… but I still feel that’s not quite it still.

你道理是我什么人呢?/Who are you exactly?

是什么人不重要/Who you are and what you are to me is not important

其实,我慢慢的发现/Actually, I am slowly starting to realize

我挺喜欢这样的没有你的生活./I really like this kind of lifestyle without you.

我不会再因为你伤心了/I won’t ever again be brokenhearted because of you

我会从你那便/From your side, I will

慢慢的飞去去/slowly fly, fly away

永远不回头, 往前看/never looking back, facing forward

一直在找我的真对象./continuing to look for the right one for me.

” It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.” – Jane Fonda

Slippery Slope

How can we break down these walls if all we have for tools are the hands we posses? How can we break down these walls if the hands we have are not strong enough to make even a dent?

NPR recently aired a story last week about how the unemployment rate has dropped two-tenths of a percent from 8.3 to 8.1%; but the unemployment rate has dropped for the wrong reasons. It did not drop due to more people obtaining jobs but rather  due to more people becoming discouraged and dropping out of the workforce altogether. You can listen to the story here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about unemployment and “skills mismatch” lately and am always very unsettled. The facts show that many of the people who were laid off when the recession hit are those who are close to retirement age (mid-40s to mid-50s) and unskilled workers. To me that presents two conundrums: 1) those who are close to retirement age are not very likely to be re-hired by companies because the companies won’t be able to retain them and would rather hire younger workers who are more likely to stay with the company longer and 2) those who are unskilled have very little education and often times a very weak grasp on English. In short, it will be near impossible for both groups to find any type of employment. Unemployment compensation only lasts for so long and they need some source of income in order to survive.

All of this makes me very pessimistic about the future especially when I think about the effects this is having on not just those individuals who were laid off and still have not found jobs but also on the generations after them, especially those who are unskilled workers and have very little education. How can they possibly support their children so that one day their children can support them and support America?

Growing up as a child of immigrant parents, having a father who was laid off (and still has not found a job because he lacks not only the skills but the understanding), having younger siblings who are still in the K-12 school system, I fall right in the heart of this turmoil. Then I think about others like me, friends that I know, relatives of mine, others united in this plight. We try so hard to escape the cycle of poverty but at times it seems like we are just running in around in circles thinking that we are getting somewhere.

Despite having graduated from a prestigious four-year institution (with the help of numerous hard-earned scholarships and generous grants), at times, I feel like my degree has very little value. As a recent graduate with only a bachelors, I’m not considered “experienced” enough to obtain any real meaningful position with any organization where I can make an impact and let’s not even talk about salary and compensation. Sometimes I feel my degree has very little value because it is overshadowed by everything else about me – things I can control and try to overcome – and not about me – things others assume about me.

I’m currently serving as an AmeriCorps member because I am working on issues that matter to me and that I care strongly about but with a modest living allowance of $11,500, I’m not really at a point where I am able to help any of my loved ones, and just barely myself. I know it is a choice to serve and I am choosing to do it despite all of the challenges because the communities AmeriCorps members impact directly are so ingrained as a part of me that I must serve. Giving back and helping others and those around me in my community have always been a large part of who I am. I know that in order to do that, I have to first support myself so that I can support others. It is so hard because I feel like I am always taking one step forward and two steps back. I can’t go too far because I want to be able to keep that bridge between me and those I care about intact but each time I go back, I feel like whatever progress I  made was next to nothing.

All of the steps forward are not exceeding all of the steps backward. I try and I try but it’s just not happening. I can barely keep things intact as the middle person and I wonder about those who don’t have a middle person. How are they doing? This is why it is so important to find some way to rescue all of those who are laid off and still unemployed, especially those who are uneducated and unskilled. How can we find a way to keep them engaged so that not only are they productive to society but more importantly so that they are productive to their family? I really want an answer to this question but it is so hard that I don’t even know how to ask what it is I want to find a solution to.

Let me just end by saying, there is too much hardship and injustice in this world for us to be selfish.

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”     – Robert F. Kennedy