Monday, January 30, 2012

Racism

This is a reflection that I just had to do for one of my social work classes... May be interesting to some:

In response to this weeks reading, I will be reflecting on racism. More specifically, white people’s inability to recognize their unconscious, and conscious, actions that contribute to direct racism, myself included. For starters, being a white male in this argument, I’ve got all the fates against me. Peggy Mclntosh, described my position as an “unearned privilege”, meaning I didn’t have to work at obtaining the status of a white male, while reaping benefits of this classification, daily. The prevalence of racism, not the inability of addressing the issue, is what is most reviling to me. But how am I supposed to tackle my thoughts on racism in a single reflection paper, especially given my associated class?

With my obvious disadvantage and initial hesitation, I will simply try and take a stance, for myself, before beginning. So I think, “What does racism mean to me?” In a simplistic view of my upbringing, I was taught that racists are people who discriminate against certain groups, and I’m suppose love each person individually while excluding any factors that may be considered a minority; basically, I was taught to accept people and avoid racism. While I appreciate my parent’s attitude toward accepting everyone, I disagree with avoidance.

In Defining Racism, “Can We Talk?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum, the occurrence of existing racism, comes into question, which she successfully demonstrates is deeply seeded in our country’s history and present day. I believe this same ideology of pondering if racism still exists, or if racism is ignored it will go away, is exactly what my parents struggled with, along with most people. Although, this idea is family specific, I believe it is a cultural norm for white citizens. To lay the foundation for my core belief on racism: I believe racism is a major issue that is not only continually ignored, but widely unnoticed.

As previously mentioned, the general acceptance and inability to recognize the occurrence of racism is what impacted me the most. Initially, I was disheartened by the readings and thought the authors were extremist, but I stand corrected. I agree with the ideology of, “color-blind racism”, described in the article, Color-Blind Racism by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. It doesn’t make sense that white people claim to be color-blind, while black citizens still face major inequalities, which leads me to my second belief: racism is a power struggle and continues to be perpetuated by people’s lack of addressing it.

With disproportionate distribution of assets among races, I started to think of what benefits I was receiving, without even knowing it. Peggy Mclntosh, describes the same feeling as, “an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks”; meaning, that being white grants privileges, from renting in any neighborhood to checking out at the grocery store. This realization was good for me to experience, because I never fully comprehended the extent of my “unearned privilege”.

Of course, my self-discoveries aren’t new to someone who deals with discrimination and prejudice, but they have widened my understanding on the topic, which can lead to other important self-discoveries about racism. I consider myself a well-educated, non-racist person, and yet I couldn’t even recognize simple privileges I received by being a white male, and by no means did I intend on participating in racism, merely by my lack of self-discovery. I do, however, strongly believe it is important for white people to be self-aware of the disparities among races and possible unconscious racism. Racism is not an easy topic to discuss, but with the proper knowledge and patience, more people can understand that their words and actions may be harmful, and the importance of correcting the racism within ourselves.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mom, I didn't mean to be this way.

As I was standing in the essential oils aisle at Whole foods, searching for patchouli oil, the thought entered my mind, "I didn't mean to be this way, it just... happened". To further accentuate my feeling, I started explaining to my mother the benefits of living a vegetarian lifestyle. I thought to myself, "what happened to me"? Here's what happened, life...

I am taking a stab at a pescetarian lifestyle, which let me disclaim: is not a vegetarian style (apparently veggies get all hot and bothered if a pescetarian parades around like a vegetarian. I know right, you think veggies hate animal cruelty; read some blogs about their thoughts on pescetarian's.) But, for me, it's a start. Basically, one of the major differences between a vegetarian and a pescetarian, is that pescetarians eat fish. I'm on week 2 and it hasn't been that difficult. I'm sort of in the detox phase, where my body is adjusting to the change. But overall, I feel great. I don't feel sluggish after my meals and my energy levels have seemed to increase (for the most part).

So, what got me to this point? The answer is simple: progression. I never thought I would become a 26 year old, pescetarian, social worker who wants to legalize gay marriage and implement universal healthcare; but there it is.

After I noticed that Whole Food's was out of patchouli oil, I looked at my mom and said, "mom, I didn't meant to be this way, I just kinda turned into this person, and if you look back in 1o years and I only bike and recycle everything that crosses my path.. I'm sorry". Do you think my mom cared? Not at all... Life's funny that way. People either grow with you or apart from you. I'm thankful that most of the people in my life will grow with me. Not to long ago, I told my best friend, Jenny, I was going on a date. I was in one of those 'I can't put a full sentence together' moods, so in response to her question, "where did you meet", she didn't understand my reply. But it didn't matter! She said, "yeah, I didn't get that.. but I support it".

It's good to have those people who oppose their friends, of course, but it should all be out of support. One could describe me in a lot of ways: male, loving, friend, brother, son, funny, white, gay, runner, tall, driven, etc. etc. But most importantly: I'm me, and I wouldn't be me if it wasn't for the people who loved me. So I'm a pescentarian, because I want to be, not because I'm a poser, and that follows suit with every aspect of my life. If I really think about it, it's very empowering. I allow my likes and dislikes to communicate with each other, while I take the backseat. Social workers have a technique called the strength's prospective, which is when, the social worker, guides the client into self discovery, which 1) allows the client to feel empowered about aiding in their personal recovery, 2) teaches the client coping skills for the next time a problem arises, and most importantly, 3) takes the work off of the social worker.

I basically, without knowing it, conducted the strength's prospective on myself. Score!

Cheers, to being who you are and being smart about getting there.

Garrett Paul


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Imbalanced

Update: I'm probably not going to Austin this weekend, and here's why: Vanessa. Apparently, I don't have to drive 8 hours to get my head on straight, I just have to call my friend. After about 30 seconds of listening to me, Vanessa, sorted things out for me. Soooo, I'm still upset about Andrew's death. It's an unexpected discovery, but very true. I guess knowledge is key. Now that I know I'm subconsiouslly thinking about him, I can defend some of my actions and moods... Thanks Jaaaanessa! I love you!


It's amazing how quickly my life can get off course; which is the main reason I haven't posted anything recently. Lately my life's foundation has been insecure, at best. When one area of my life is shaken it knocks everything else off kilter (from my fingernails being too long to messy relationships). Why has January been such a stinker? Well, for starters, January's are usually epic for me and not in the good way. I thought back over the last four years, specifically January 19th, which, about three years ago was the day I found out some very disturbing news. With the onset of that information January has been tough ever since. Not to mention that this year, January has been plagued with death.

Well, today is the day it will all end. Yes, I know January isn't over, but it's for me.

1) I will send my February rent today (hope it doesn't get there late)
2) I will workout
3) I will clean. Cleaning always jump start my internal cleaning, which helps lead to a more balanced me.
4) I will try and smile.
5) I will write
6) Study
7) Work
8) Walk my dog
9) Cook something good for me
10) Plan a trip

Today, will be better... Balance is a funny thing. For me, it's an active muscle that needs to be toned and sharpened. It needs the correct nutrients and sometimes a good tan. I think my balance is lacking some Vitamin D, and I might know just where to get it... Austin.... Texas that is. I don't know anyone cute named Austin.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Back to Black

Well, self... I'm back!

I've taken a few days to myself, and within that period, I've been very productive... Drinking that is. One thing that I do know about myself, is that I work best under pressure. I KNOW I got this habit from my mother, unintentionally of course.

I can remember being very young and going to work with my mom and it seemed that every corner she turned (I know because I was right under her feet), someone wanted something of more importance than the last person. On top work stress, she had to deal with raising four boys (My dad, younger and older brother & myself). She handled everything gracefully while exuding strength, but the poor thing never rested. She is a very strong woman and the sole reason I'm great at multitasking and waiting until the last minute. But I can't blame her. Growing up observing her stress levels I noticed there were never any previous minutes, only the ones we were missing. So, this is exactly why I thrive under pressure, even if it's self induced.

With this, instead of preparing for the spring semester or working twice as hard at my jobs, I've been drinking. At least I've been able to connect better with Amy Winehouse. That's a plus, right? She turned out okay. Well, until she died. Regardless, I've enjoyed myself. But, alas it's back to the grind. I start school on Wednesday and thus ends my social life. But I won't let it get me down, because much like the late Amy Winehouse, I've stocked up on tons of cocaine... Okay, so maybe I'm not quite in the right mindset, but I'm working on it. The mere fact that I'm putting this much attention into a blog post gives me hope... So does adderall.

In conclusion, I'm looking forward to another exciting semester of learning. I'm especially excited about my Diversity class this semester. I'm still finishing up my 2012 bucket list, even though I've already started knocking things off! Hopefully by the end of this week I'll be more focused and driven, just in time for the 2012 Baton Rouge Art Gallery Surrealist Ball (can we say parrtay)!

Cheers,
Garrett Paul

Monday, January 9, 2012

Andrew Eugene Raborn

The last 4 days have been somewhat of an emotional whirlwind, with some very happy times intertwined with loss.

Last Friday I received very troubling news that a good friend of mine, Andrew, passed away. He was in a car accident sometime on Thursday evening. Andrew was 25 years old. I was shocked and my mind, simply, could not process the information. I broke down a few hours later when I thought of Andrew's parents having return home and leave their son's youthful, lifeless, body behind. The idea of their journey, without Andrew, was unfathomable for me to imagine and, at this point, I haven't even began to think of my journey without him. Thank you, Beau, for being their to console me during this time. With all of our quirks aside, you are one friend that I never want to be apart from. I truly appreciate you and, with Andrew as the catalyst, I see how short life can be and how thankful I need to be for my loved ones.

In the mist of my emotional rape, Vanessa arrived. Vanessa and I planned a New Orleans get-a-way to celebrate her birthday... and well, she came at a very good time. A distraction.

We started the night with a Georges dance party. Epic, could be the word that described it. We closed out the bar then headed back to my house, which turn into a 3 hour 'love gush' with topics ranging from Andrew to turning 30. The night was perfect and we still had New Orleans to look forward to. So, fast forward 10 hours and there we were, New Orleans.

New Orleans has always accepted me with open arms. It may be because every time I enter the city, I pay it some respect by saying, "New Orleans, here I am. Protect me and help me flow with your energy." It sounds cheesy, but it works. Over the last two years I've been searching for my city, which has taught me a few things. Firstly, to treat cities like living people. To me, they have emotions and boundaries. Cities are, also, capable of feeling love and aborting certain people. So, I always try to give any city a "shout out" before and after entry. I've also learned, it's best to never make plans when entering a potential future residence. The city will show you what it wants you to see and in New Orleans, I'm never disappointed. This weekend was no different. I was lead to a new area, Frenchman street.

Hipsters (more like youthful homeless), which can't afford vehicles, or apartments but always fit PBR into their budgets... So what.. Who cares? They don't bathe, fine. One thing they do, and do well, is play music. I absolutely love the music you can hear around every turn. It captures all my thoughts and turns my body into a human-like robot that just walks through the street, while my mind and heart are being taken on a journey throughout the world. Perfect, would describe this moment.

Hunger, is what described the next. Around 7:30 pm, on Saturday, Vanessa and I were famished and consumed a great sandwich on Frenchman street, while enjoying the encapsulating sounds of the homeless.

Knock, Knock.
"Who's there?"
It's me, Andrew
"Okay, I'm ready."

One of Vanessa's many beautiful attributes, is her awarness of people's emotional needs. Within 30 seconds of my initial thought, she asked for me to talk about Andrew. Here's what I said:

I'm really sad but mainly angry. I feel so cheap. I get mad because Andrew was such a great person and being taken out of this world by a dumb car accident pisses me off. I know everyone isn't going to have a monumental death, with loved ones surrounding their bedside and the person imparting last words of wisdom, but fuck, Andrew deserved better. What was his last meal? Subway for lunch, this is so stupid.

At this point Vanessa realized that I needed to get that anger out, but wanted to help me get it under control. She then asked me what my friendship Andrew meant to me.

I remember the first day I met Andrew. I was his supervisor at the law firm and within 10 minutes of meeting him, he walked into my office and sat on my desk and said, "Soooo you're gay, how long have you been out?" Initially, I was stunned and thought he was very unprofessional, but that thought left as quickly as it entered. In efforts to keep some sort of professional boundry, I said "No one knows!". He smiled and said, "Okay, we can talk about it later", smiled then left my office. I knew immediately we would be friends.

From that point forward, it was us against the rest of the law firm. I would sit in the administrative meetings, then report back all the juicy (actually really boring corporate) gossip. In some ways I was working for him. Ha. I didn't care.

Andrew was their for my first professional job, me coming out the closet, my first boyfriend and so many more of my firsts. He was one of the happiest people I've ever met. Some days I would come into work and ask him, "why are you so fucking happy all the time?". Of course, he would smile, make some funny statement, and go on about his day. He was passionate. Very passionate. One of the best workers to ever work for me, and a great friend.

A interesting thing about my friendship with Andrew, is that I knew it wouldn't last forever. I recognized that there are people that come into my life to stay, and some that are just passing through. There was something about my relationship with Andrew, that made me know we would fall into the last category, but I didn't care. I was thankful for it, because I appreciated him from the inception of our relationship. Sometimes it takes people years to fully appreciate a friend. I started the day he busted into my office and sat on my desk. I met and lost Andrew in the intersection of our lives, and I loved every minute of him.


Phew, that felt great. There we were, Vanessa and I, gushing about how great Andrew was, when a overpowering thought began to fill my mind. A thought of living my life. At one point during of our conversation, Vanessa told me, "When confronted with death, you need to live as hard as you can." Wow. Just wow. Andrew lived his life as hard as he could; I think that's why he was so happy all the time. Each day was a gift and he soaked up as many rays as possible. (Even the time he lied, and missed work because he was "sick", when in reality he was at the beach! I wish he would have lied to me more.)

I read Andrew's obituary this morning, and it said, "Andrew was an organ donor, who shared his life with five other individuals". So not only did Andrew live his life as hard has he could, he gave 5 other people the chance to do the same. I hope these 5 individuals take that gift that Andrew gave them, and spread it like wildfire. Andrew, thank you for your beautiful soul and your ability to inspire me to live my life as hard as I can. I think it sucks that your gone, but you will not be forgotten.

Love,

Garrett Paul

Monday, January 2, 2012

Darkest before the Dawn

"I'm always dragging that horse around... Tonight I'm going to bury that horse in the ground" - Florence & The Machines


Lately, I've been thinking a lot about my past. Nothing very particular, just how I let my past effect my future.

As I was running yesterday and had a bit of an epiphany, as I often do. Since I've been running, competitively, for over 12 years I've picked up a few habits and sayings along the way- A few have stuck with me greatly. One saying, that will forever be ingrained in my mind, was from my coach in high school, which states: "Find one person in your view and keep your sights on them, then slowly catch up. Once you pass them, never let them get in front of you again." This wonderful advice is a blessing and a curse. It can turn my leisurely jog (on a easy training day) into a internal blood bath, with I create in my mind. Yesterday's run was the latter.

I'm casually running my easy 3 miler, enjoying the beautiful LSU lakes, when I see a group of four running. Two men & two women. Approximately mid twenties, decent shape and good looking (from behind at least). Well, that's all it took; I'm going to beat them.

I always do this weird thing when I pass a group of people. I noticed it a few months ago, but it never fails, I always make sure I'm in clear view, after I've passed someone, then act like I'm stretching my neck by moving it left and right. I think this action is saying, "That's right, I passed you, and I'm just getting started- so don't think about trying to pass me again." Some sort of mental 'fuck you'. Running is all about your mental state... I digress.

After I did my normal mind game, I got anxiety about having the group behind me, which is also normal. With pressure mounting I began to run faster (there goes my enjoyable run), only looking back when I went around a curve in the road, in order to avoid turning my entire body to see how close they were (I wouldn't want to show any weakness). Then it hit me like a moving bus. The bus that is... I got hit by a freaking bus... Totally kidding, back to the point. I shouldn't stress about what is behind me, it's in the past. Yes, I should be aware. Because if you're not aware of your surroundings, then how can you be aware of your future??? but it's a delicate balance. Much like the attached video, by Florence & the Machines, I feel like I've been dragging a horse around (my past) for years... Also, like the song I've got to bury that horse in the ground (again, past) and focus on the future. I won't forget where I buried it - because much like runners, the past can catch up with you, if you're not careful... But rather focus on my future and enjoy the race until the finish line & try to never let that person or situation pass me again.

Sorry if this is too abstract.. Sometimes when I run I feel like a vampire, with such a heightened sense of emotion. I try to relate it to humans, which doesn't always work.

Bisous,
Garrett Paul

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