A ‘rewarding’ challenge.

What does it mean to have a ‘rewarding’ job? To me, ‘rewarding,’ does not have anything to do with money or tangible items. It means ‘fulfilment,’ in some way or another. With this in mind, I would like to share something beautiful from my work life this week.
As a teacher, it is not always easy to get a proper night or day’s rest. The ‘teaching’ part of the job is simple enough; it is the rest of the job that involves extra enthusiasm and determination. In my spare time, I am prepping for lessons, correcting, asking or answering questions, talking to students and staff/administration, dealing with interruptions or students in need, etc. In addition to my 40 hour workweek teaching adult education, I have also taken on a second teaching position for ESL at night, for an extra 6 hours a week. My 46 hour workweek does not take into consideration all of my prep work and lesson planning, which can take 5-10 hours a week, depending on the week. I am not complaining…I love my job, but emotional exhaustion plays a large role on my energy level.
With all of the chaos lately, I have not had much time to sit down and relax. This morning, my class was completely disrespectful. Many students arrived 30-40 minutes late to my two hour class, and 5 students were on their phones and disrupting my class for a lot of the time. I left that morning class feeling let down and hurt. I always try to find new ways to incorporate technology into my classroom, but sometimes it doesn’t work as expected.
Instead of sulking and being negative, I went into my second class with a smile and a new idea in mind. I told my students that I wasn’t having a great day and I started the class on a positive note. Every student in my second class worked extra hard and not ONE student took out his or her phone.
At the end of the class, when everyone was mostly gone, two students stayed behind. One student said: “Miss, I know it has only been 4 weeks so far, but I wanted to say that you have really helped me to improve my writing. I can’t believe I can actually write…and write WELL!” At which point, the other student chimed in and said “I would like to add that you are the kind of teacher that anyone can understand. You explain things in great detail and you are clear, and I thank you for that.” Needless to say, I teared up after hearing these comments. It was so heartfelt to hear this from my students.
So, what does ‘rewarding’ mean to me, then? A rewarding job means to feel fulfilled, like I have done a good job, and that I will continue to positively influence the lives of my students and my own life in return. Today, I feel rewarded as a teacher. I will cherish moments like these, because I am sure that there will be more challenging days in the future, and I am sure that there will also be even MORE motivating moments that can change my outlook on those challenging days.
When all is said and done, the good outweighs the bad, and you can always find it in your day, if you look hard enough.

A Clean Break, a poem.

Her heart broke faster than a clock could tick.

In less than sixty seconds, she was a corpse without her organs, a ballerina without her legs, a bird without her wings.

Her body sunk like the Titanic, in the deep blue sea of her room.

Six feet under, yet six feet above.

She was torn between two worlds: that which giveth and that which taketh away.

She became her own world: one full of sadness and hatred, not only for herself, but for the one she loved that broke her existence into tiny pieces, like a puzzle missing its core edges.

What do you do? – a poem.

What do you do?
A poem by Emily Maye Sweer

What do you do when you don’t know what to say?

Do you react?
Quick? Spur-of-the-moment?

Do you wait?
Thinking deeply, passively?

I am at the point of breaking – a breaking point. Well, not breaking: shattering. A shattering point.

I want to express myself: completely, emotionally, openly.
But, I can’t.

I can’t allow myself to break down these walls I’ve built. Years of building; manual labor on my part.

If I let myself feel more, I will feel upset, angry, negative. If I ignore these impulses, I may benefit from letting it all go.

What does it mean to let it go?
I feel everything. I physically feel everything.

When I am anxious or nervous, my body reacts. Then, all I want to do is talk and vent, but I can’t find the right words to say, or the right time to react.

I have been holding it all in… all my feelings have been remaining in my brain, waiting to jump out and attack the next victim. I cannot ignore them. But, I refuse to let them loose and out of control.

I do not know how to live in a world in which I cannot control anything that happens. All of these emotions and feelings I hold so dear to me come at a price.

Every time I try to open my doors, something inside me hides the keys.

So, what do I do when I don’t know what to say?
I will let you know the next time I feel vulnerable, if you can wait ten seconds.

No One Man Should Have All That Power

No one man should have all that power
The clock’s ticking, I just count the hours
Stop tripping, I’m tripping off the power

The great Kanye wasn’t wrong: power tripping ruins us. The world is a hierarchy of people, trying to obtain power whenever and wherever they can. We put each other into categories to benefit ourselves; selfishly and effortlessly. Power is dangerous; having too much of it can destroy a person (victim or villain). No one is limitless…not even Bradley Cooper.

Of course, while power has its benefits (money, status, fame, followers, and more), this blog post will be dedicated to how we need to relinquish our power of others. More specifically, this post will explore a subset of power: control.

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What do you do when you can’t get what you want? Do you stop and accept it for what it is? Or, do you keep trying to get what you want? If you’re anything like me, you’re tenacious, persistent and you do not let things go easily. Perhaps you are nothing like me and you love going with the flow. As the wise Drake would say “that’s the motto, YOLO.” Or, maybe you are just indifferent and could not care less about controlling the situations in your daily life. To each their own form of control, and to each their own coping mechanisms.

We do not have control over the hours in a day.

There are 24 hours in a day. That’s 1440 minutes or 86400 seconds of time that you cannot control. You cannot add the time in a day, nor can you press pause or rewind. You cannot go back in time, or make time go faster. You do not have a time-turner like Hermione Granger. You do not have a magic closet like in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you,” as Gandalf would say.

We do not have control over the weather.

As much as we would like to believe that meteorologists are the little people inside a weather machine, sadly the truth is that the weather is inevitable and uncontrollable. While climate change and global warming are two truths that we can semi-control, the weather is something that comes without anyone’s say. While we would love to believe that praying to the Sun Gods and Goddesses would make a difference, the weather is an almighty power that you cannot play with.

As an example, I won 4 VIP tickets to a beach club event today. However, when I woke up, it was raining and there was a risk of thunderstorms. I cancelled the event with my friends, but then it ended up being beautiful outside later on. The weather (while it messed with my feelings) did what it wanted to do. We cannot even have an accurate reading of the weather on the weather network. At any time, the weather can change on you. As much as I wanted to go to this event, I had to relinquish my control of the situation. I was frustrated and annoyed, but those two emotions go hand in hand with my lack of control over a situation. The only thing I CAN control in this situation is, not the weather, but my own emotions.

We do not have control over our own genetic makeup.

You, nor I, have any control over what we look like, internally or externally. Of course, we can control our weight (for the most part), and we can change our appearance, but ultimately, whether we are an endomorph or an ectomorph, with high or low metabolisms, this we cannot change or control. We cannot control diseases or disorders. The only thing that CAN control our genetic makeup is medication: science and medicine. You can get as angry as you want about your height, but that will not change (and, to be clear, drinking more milk will not help you grow). We have zero control over the way we are made. We need to learn to be more accepting of our bodies and of other people’s bodies. We have limited control of our bodies and of other people’s bodies. I cannot control when I get sick with the flu or a cold, and neither can you. No amount of Cold FX can change that. I won more tickets to for a VIP booth and 40oz bottle during Grand Prix weekend, but could not go because I was sick. Once again, as angry as I was, I could not control this. These things happen.

Side note: You might be thinking that I win a lot of contests, and you would be right. But, while I might win a ton, look at all of the events I couldn’t go to in June! Luck works in strange ways…

Do I have control over my recessive or dominant genes? No. I do, however, have control over the type of jeans that I buy, and I’m a big fan of “jeggings” (a mix of jeans and leggings)! We could argue over genetics and environment all day, every day, but what it comes down to is that we only have so much power over changing ourselves and our internal/external dynamics.

We do not have control over other people’s actions.

Don’t you hate it when someone cancels on you last minute? Do you absolutely abhor when someone rejects you or makes you feel sad? Do you get frustrated when someone does something out of context? Do you get angry when someone says something, but actually means something else?

This is completely normal (for whatever normal is, nowadays).

We may not be able to control other people, but we certainly can control our own thoughts, actions and behaviours.

Power comes from within, not from our ability to control others.

There’s a reason why good leaders are humble, empathetic and caring of others. They do not try to control them, but try to lead them to be the best they can be. As another example, a good teacher will not attempt to control their classroom or demand respect. A good teacher will demonstrate and lead by example; classroom management works best when the students respect you in return. When one person has too much power, they also risk losing it very quickly. Many leaders from many nations have gained power quickly and lost it just as fast. We often “trip” on the power we are given. We feel a rush of dopamine every time someone compliments us. We rise with the people who stand by us, but we also fall every time we put other people down. We have no control over the individuals who rise to power, but we do have control over what we do about it.

If you are ever in a position in which you have power and control over a group of people, try to think about what you will use this power for. If your goal is to achieve status and power over others, then you are using your power for the wrong reasons. Use your control to benefit others. Be a team leader, not a leader of one. Collective kindness is better than riding solo. Listen and care about your team. No one person should retain all the power in the world. Sharing is caring, people.

Here’s what we DO know:
1. Not all of us will be rich and famous, but we all have the power to do great things.
2. Not everyone will like us, and we have no control over whether they do or don’t.
3. Life is unpredictable: we never know what will happen, one day to the next.
4. We need to learn to accept what we cannot control. When things happen that are unexpected, we need to find ways to cope and learn to accept that which we cannot change.
5. Even if you are not a spontaneous person, you can learn to accept a plan you made that went awry. You can be the most organized person in the world and things might not go the way you planned, and this is not a result of something you did. Stop blaming yourself. Things happen. Let them.
6. We DO have control over our own thoughts, behaviors and actions. Sometimes we absolutely hate what other people do. We can’t change them, but we CAN change the way we see the situation.

In the end, accepting and relinquishing your power and control is hard. It will be easier for some, and very difficult for others. We should teach ourselves, sooner rather than later, that control should be internal rather than external. Once we learn to control our own emotions, the world will be much brighter than it looks right now.


“Stop Laughing At Hannah.”

You’re just another bully. If you (yes, you) really think that making a meme out of a character that killed herself is the right way to have a laugh, then you’re completely missing the point. 

“13 Reasons Why” is a novel, written by Jay Asher. Adapted into a Netflix short-series, the story features Hannah, a young girl, who tells her story through 13 tapes, directed to the individuals who contributed (no matter the size of the contribution) to her eventual suicide.

After having read the novel several years ago, I decided I would try to watch the series. As an already emotional person, I am an easy-cryer and I empathize with the characters on my screen. The first few episodes I took at a slow stride; I started to really remember the social strife of the high school environment. The storyline, as I had remembered it, had remained the same, and I was really enjoying the series.


[Spoiler Alert.]


…the last three episodes. I was devastated. Visually speaking, it was hard to watch. I cowered away from my television screen multiple times; hid under the blankets while my tears poured down my face. The rape scenes were horrifying. From all that I have learned from sexual education, rape is rape. Rape doesn’t need to be categorized or grouped into a category in which one person says “no” or “yes.” Rape is rape, regardless. Rape happens when someone does not consent; whether they explicitly say yes or no is of no interest. And, even then, consent may happen, but the person is always allowed to take that consent away, at any time. Consent cannot, and can never, happen if the person is unconscious or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (Now, these concepts are debatable at times, depending on whether there is a steady relationship and mutual consent between two people; nonetheless, consensual sex cannot happen when under the influence, and cannot happen when one person does not consent, regardless of the words being used).

“She had it coming.”

Jessica was raped. Hannah was raped. And, by no other than Bryce, the rich jock in the popular crowd. Stereotyping aside: it really doesn’t matter who did the raping. It was rape, regardless. It’s tough to say rape out loud…but let’s be real here: on a screen, it doesn’t get any easier. Rape. There, I said it. This is no joke. This is not something we should be laughing about. Hannah was raped. She did not say “no” explicitly at the time, but she was petrified. She tried to push Bryce off of her, but with no success. She attempted to run out of the hot tub, but could not. So, she laid there: motionless, incapable of moving; her arms floated down and held on tight to the hot tub cement, unable to fight anymore.

No, my friends. These girls did not have it coming. Just because they flirt, or get drunk, or become a little too touchy, does NOT mean they deserve to be raped. And, it certainly doesn’t mean you can do anything to them if they do not consent. I have many friends who have told me horror stories about rape. I felt like my inner ear collapsed every time I heard those stories. Just like them, neither Hannah nor Jessica are at fault. The only person at fault is the one who rapes: the rapist.

I cringed during the last two episodes. I spilled tea all over my covers and tears rolled down my eyes as I watched Hannah onscreen. Alone, at 2am in the morning on a Sunday, I watched Hannah kill herself on Netflix. Needless to say I could not sleep afterwards. I watched as she pierced her skin with the razor blade and let the blood stream down her arms, slowly but surely. I watched as she cried and gasped for air. I watched as she turned pale as a ghost, and I watched while her mother ran into the bathroom and swooped her into her arms, praying for a miracle; praying for signs of life.

Visually-speaking, I almost threw up. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to watch on television or in film… and I have seen the Revenant. Regardless of the difficulty to keep my eyes pinned on Hannah, it was important to watch. It was important to not be shielded from the world and all of its stained and imperfect reality. This scenario, this suicide…these things happen, and they happen often. Bullying IS a thing. We have all experienced it in some way or another; even if you were never bullied, you have certainly seen these things happen in the hallways.

As a teacher, I recently taught my students about “power” and how it has many different interpretations. I read 85 articles, and heard about many different forms of power from my students. At least 15%, if not more, wrote about the power of bullying in social cliques. They wrote about their experiences with said power, and how it affects them daily. Bullying IS the reality of the situation.

Hannah did not kill herself because of one person. She didn’t choose to kill herself in a spur of the moment thought. She planned it. She took the time to think about what went wrong in her life. She wanted help. She asked for it. She wanted support. She wanted friends. She even went to her school counselor at the last minute, with the hope that he would help her. As a future counselor/therapist, I am in awe by the way he handled it. His phone was not turned off or on vibrate; he kept getting distracted, and would not fully pay attention to Hannah. This, in itself, angers me to no end, and it should upset you too. When we do not have the kind of support we need, and if we are struggling internally, then it is no wonder why some individuals would try to take matters into their own hands. We need a support system that helps us; not one that ignores us.

So, when we ignore Hannah’s story (fictional or not), and we make memes and pictures and quotes that might seem funny in the short-term, we ignore the bullying that happens all around us in the long-term. In accepting these “jokes,” we continue with the norm that it is “OK” to laugh at those who are in need. It is not up to us to say whether or not someone should be feeling bad. Something that may not be hurtful to you, may be hurtful to someone else; but, that does not make them “wrong” for feeling that way. We all have a right to our own emotions. We have a right to feel the way we do. And, we have a right to seek out a support system around us…one that does not shame us or make us feel worse.

So, I ask you to think twice before you post or “like” another one of the Hannah memes. When you see something like “Oh, you didn’t like me? Welcome to your tape” or “You spilled coffee on my new pants…Welcome to your tape,” avoid it. Be the kind of person who recognizes that in the long-term, if we make fun of a character like Hannah, we are also making fun of all those who are suffering. Making tapes was Hannah’s way of coping with her pain. It was not a plea for attention or a plot for revenge. It was never a vindictive act. It was an explanation: a way to show others that their words and actions mean more to someone than they may think.

We are all Hannah. We all have the capacity to feel as she felt. Let us ensure that “13 Reasons Why” does not go unnoticed. Let us try to change, one step at a time, to realize that the words that slip off our lips, and the actions from our bodies, make a difference.

Stop laughing at Hannah, because you might realize that you are laughing at yourself.