Taking back weIrd.

15095085_10157880039740195_5776711519961594922_nWeird should be a battle cry, a rod of power, a force to be reckon with. Yet sadly there are folks that silence, break, and belittle those who step out of some made up line in the social sand.

Folks tear down the unique, and try to silence the quirky. Folks try to step on the daring, and smolder the bright. Yet while this happens everyday, those who are pushed around arise stronger each time.

My struggle with being true is a life long journey. From high school to now, I have changed 100 times over. From social anxiety to ADHD, to all the demons that lie in wait in my memories to torment me, there is a lot going on in the noggin of mine and somehow I’m able to smile.

Throughout the years I have been laughed at, ostracized, and even ignored. Granted, some of this is because of my own actions. However, because I can’t sit still, don’t speak in large groups, and get WAY too carried away with details, I’ve been marked by some with a giant W on my forehead.

The screaming self doubts, the bullying fears, the trampling pride all rush to me. All this comes at the price of being human? Why? This cannot be right.

I am not going to lie, I do not have my life figured out. I struggle every single day. My daily battles are not ones to compare, a badge to wear with pride, nor a thing to pity. Rather, these things are what make me me.

My inability to stay focused on task allows me to be ever curious in conversation.

My disdain for sitting still lets me be a joyous wanderer.

My fear of large groups and the sure stumbling of my words allows me to observe, reflect, and act with care.

These things that I have been mocked for so long, are things folks battle with everyday. Yet I’m the weird one?

No more.

No more does your double edged words hold a decisive power in my ears.

No more does your perceived power in your ivory towers of “cool” or “normal” intimidate.

No more will your back bitting, whispering, or snickering claw at my mind and my heart.

Enough.

I take back that word. I embrace my ever wondering mind. I run when I cannot sit still. I find calm in the storm of people. That power you once use to keep me in a dark corner will not be what stops my love, my laugh, my voice.

No more will I let others dictate what is status quo, what is normal, what is cool. I let loose my quirks, revel in my discomfort, and take hold of the silence.

Weird is no longer your tool of hate and ignorance. Instead, it is my light.

No, I won’t let you hold weIrd as ransom. No I won’t let you throw weIrd with the weight of fear. No I won’t let you have enjoyment with weIrd at my expense.

I am me. Never fully formed, neither ever truly certain. Always in question, always in reflection.

Because I am weIrd, I am me.

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Oh the Places You Will Go: But Home is Where You Wanna Stay

May of 2010 I turned 18, graduated from Myrtle Attendance Center (it’s when K-12 is on the same grounds), and started to count down the days till I could finally leave Myrtle (and New Albany to boot). Fast forward to August and what little belongings I couldn’t live without were moved into the RC South at The University of Mississippi. It wasn’t far from home (about 36 miles) but hey, Oxford at least had a Kroger.

Five years I spent in Oxford. I traveled to Peru, Seattle, and pretty much every SEC football stadium to cheer on my Rebels. I must confess, I could/should have graduated after 3.5 years, but I couldn’t give up my *self-proclaimed* kingdom. I had a friend who tried to get me to study abroad with her, but sadly I made yet another mistake and decided not to. While Ole Miss was fun, the memories are endless, and the people were amazing, my time was filled with mistakes, miss opportunities, and a grocery list of people I pissed off. You live and you learn and it has taken me several years to finally understand that I can only be sorry for so long and have to move forward.

Flash forward to 2015 and I have graduated with honors, 3 majors, and a shit ton of student debt, but I’ll be damned if I was going to stop. On July 3rd I drove 10 hours North to Iowa. Attending a top ranked masters program, essentially a full ride, and a new town was what I needed. However, I quickly found out that being a RA for 4 years and the lessons I thought I learned were not enough. I traveled to 12 new states, had some of the best food the Midwest has to offer, and somehow found a hand full of people who took a chance on me. While my time in Iowa was not perfect and filled with more lonely nights than the first semester of my freshman year at Ole Miss, I was able to check another thing off my list: getting a master’s degree.

Now May came and went and I was fortunate enough to get a job. In July I will drive some 1300 miles Northeast to Connecticut to join what I feel like will be an amazing team of professionals. In almost 10 years of getting on my first flight ever (to LA for a FBLA competition), I have visited half the states, been to a couple of countries, and have plans for some more trips. I have found that I have sadly lost a few good friends along this journey. While I travel alone, the few that stay are the ones that get me through it all. Yet strangely something is wrong.

All I have ever wanted to do was travel. I could careless about the Instagram filters, the catchy hashtags, and the total number of likes. I find solace with being alone in a new place, but no matter where I go, I never get as excited as when I cross the Mississippi River. There isn’t much in this little old town. New Albany is growing but let’s be honest, it doesn’t have much. And Oxford, well its full of memories and demons I’m just trying to outrun. But no matter where I go, how much I learn, or the people who come and go, there is no place that feels like home. Unless you count a margarita on a lonely beach, I’ll probably take that instead of home if its July in Mississippi.

Heres to another adventure, another city, another place that I’ll go wishing it was home.

Words of Wisdom (for my first year grad school self)

After two years in Iowa, Student Affairs, and trying to be an adult, I think I’ve learned a few things. While I am not now nor ever perfect, I think it both responsible and important to pass on a few life lessons I’ve learned. To anyone reading that may be starting their Grad journey, these are not an ends to a means. To someone struggling to be themselves, you are your own author. To the person rolling their eyes, bye.

It is ok to not be happy. Not everything will go according to plan. You may not like a professor, a class, a work assignment. It is ok to feel like the odd one out, stressed, and hopeless. Make your journey full of dissonance. Rejoice in the small things and don’t stress the big things.

You won’t be friends with everyone. The cohort (and program) is small in comparison to the rest of the University. You won’t get along with everyone. In fact, you can go your whole 2 years being able to count the social time you’ve spent with your classmates on two hands. THAT IS OK. Your cohort is not everything and don’t buy those happy-go-lucky fantasy stories that may be sold to you.

You have to speak up and advocate for what you want. Looking back, there is so much I should have asked to do. I was both worried about speaking up and was lazy thinking opportunities would fall in my lap. You have to watch out for yourself, advocate for unique experiences, and build that resume.

Do a practicum/internship outside of the University. Your University is great, but you will learn SO much more if you do a practicum/internship. I made my practicum visits a day-long event and did not worry about time. I was able to multi task by getting off my campus, building outside networks of support, and doing some real meaning making.

Find your social and support networks outside of your program and assistantship. Per the fact you won’t be friends with everyone, you need to find a friend and support group outside of well, your graduate experience. Connect with people in the law school. Find a student org. DO SOMETHING. If you spend all your time in HESA you will quickly limit your experiences.

Dedicate time for you to get away from Iowa City. There is so many cool things in and around your state. Check out websites like onlyinyourstate.com or just google search things. That randomly “wold’s only/largest xyz”, yea go check that out. That town with a cool name, go explore.

Actually read for class. You may either roll your eyes or think duh, but you will understand that reading is essential. However, you will have a temptation to not read, skim, or pretend you read. Don’t. Take the time to invest in yourself. Read, take notes, and make real meaning with your experiences.

Try to get a week or two ahead in your assignments. I discovered that when I got ahead in my assignments, getting away for a weekend was easier. Also life happens and you never know when something will come up that will prevent you from working on your classwork for a few days. If nothing else, for sure do this in the Spring semester of year two, you will thank me when the job search happens.

Don’t stress about comps. Period.

Start saving now for the job search. I know that is so long for now, but invest in yourself and save. Plane tickets, U-hauls, baggage checks, and airport food quickly adds up.

Don’t compare your journey to others. You do you and make sure you don’t get competitive. The program will say grades don’t matter, but if they matter to you then work hard for them, just don’t get caught up that XYZ got an A and you got a B+. Also when you do fail that first writing assignment, chill, it will work out and you will get better.

Reflect. Journal. Love yourself. Repeat.

What they don’t tell you about speaking out (and having different views)

If you are privileged enough to go to college, then hopefully you are challenged, faced with hard decisions, and exposed to new ideas. College is meant to be a place of self-realization, exploration, and enlightenment. I spent five years as an undergrad and didn’t fully realize how much college changes you until my last year. I realized pretty quickly that I had abandoned my ultra-conservative roots and picked up a more liberal, left-winged way of thinking. From the Black Lives Matter movement to DAPL, I consistently had different opinions than my loved ones (specifically on Facebook).

I am a loud and proud individual. I am privileged as hell. I suffer from white guilt but choose not to be immobilized by it. I am a God fearing Christian. I am all of these things and more, yet I find myself constantly questioning my role, what society is suppose to be, and how to make a true difference. All of these things I have learned about on the job, in the classroom, on a Saturday night three drinks deep at a bar. There is so much knowledge I have gained, questioned, and created – however they don’t tell you everything.

They don’t tell you how to respond to harsh criticism to your ideals and beliefs by your friends. They don’t tell you how awkward it will be at family events whenever you’re the “flaming liberal” who has betrayed their conservative upbringing. They don’t tell you about the tears, rage, and fear you feel (all at once) when a family member you have loved, looked up to, and have worshiped all your life tells you they don’t know who you are anymore, that you have betrayed your heritage – essentially cutting ties. They don’t tell you the pain you will go through as you change into the person your trying to become.

They don’t tell you that sometimes you will wonder why you even bother to speak out about injustices, the hypocrisy, and the hatred. They don’t tell you that your family will slowly walk away whenever you don’t sit on the same side of the political spectrum. They don’t tell you have you sit, for hours, wondering if all you have done is even worth it. There is so much they don’t tell you – so here I sit, wondering if my activism, yearning for a socially just society, and hundreds of hours of self-education is even worth it. What am I really accomplishing? Is it even worth it?

I don’t know. I am terrified. My greatest fear is being lonely. They don’t tell you about all the shit that comes with picking the high road, the road less traveled, the road not in-line with your family. I am so young, yet I feel so old. I am so privileged, yet I feel like I have lost so much. No one told me that I would be where I am at right now. The only thing I have left to do is pray, read, meditate, and reflect. I don’t know what I am meant to do in this life – what I know now is that it gets real ugly, real painful, real. This is not the guilt confession of another white ally. This is not the bickering of a privileged male. This is true hurt, true confusion, true desperation. This is so much and more – the things that did tell me when I started this journey.

Public or Private: Who pays for college?

Recently in The Daily Iowan, it was announced that the University of Iowa Student Government was able to petition the board of regents to approve a new fee for students. This fee, approx. $12.50 in value, will be charged to students to help fund the UI Counseling center. Hopefully, the new fund will allow up to 8 new counselors to be allocated. Iowa is currently one of the most understaffed in terms of counselling services. UIC is led by Barry Schreier, who is the Counseling service Director, is an amazing professional that is needed at the University and has been a catalyst for change at Iowa. While this is great and also helps to draw attention to mental health on college campuses, I argue it is also hurting an important cause: the public benefits of college.

Currently, most politicians (specifically the right but known on both sides of the isle) would argue that college is more of a private than public good. Not only is this fallacy incorrect but problematic. While UISG is doing great things, this new initiative is creating an even larger burden on students to pay for college. Currently, the student debt crises is a hot topic and will continue to be as states slash education budgets (because education is “discretionary”) and pass the burden to the students. I could spend all day telling you about students who are predispositioned to not being able to afford college and the social oppression in our society, however I will save that for another time. What I will tell you is that cost to attend college have increased and what is the easiest thing to do in order to raise funds: charge the students. State governments – and even institutions of higher education – are to blame.

College not only benefits those who obtain the degree, but also society. Through positive externalities, college attainment improvements society in numerous ways. Having a better educated work force decreases unemployment, increases spending, and strengthens the economy. However, due to the lack of funding (federal, state, and even institutions such as Iowa) I argue that education is not properly valued, is neglected, and is a missed opportunity for bettering our society. I praise UISG and their efforts to better support their constituents. I praise those who work to improve the living conditions of all those who are oppressed due to our fucked up system. However putting a band aide on a gash the size of Texas will not heal the problems we face. What needs to be done is reevaluation of education: increased paid for K-12 teachers, increased pay for student affairs professionals who are overworked, increased resources for special and developmental education, increased money for all of education. We will never make true change until we attack our problems head on and actions needs to start with education.

I’m tired, but I have no reason to complain.

Regardless of the results of the past presidential election, I have been so damn tired. So tired because people are being hurt and oppressed while others are blind and refuse to see the whole picture. As someone who works in student affairs, I have become emotionally attached to the current state of our country because my students are diverse and are affected differently. What I call “empathy overload” has been a label to describe myself over the last year. The sad thing is, it hasn’t always been that way. Even sadder, I am a white, cis gender, male. I have literally a buffet of privilege to choose from. Why should I complain?

I have done a lot of reflection, questioning, and journaling over the last year, trying to better understand myself and why I am feeling the way that I am. During this time, I have dove deeper into my identities, my lenses I use in the world, my biases, my blindspots, my everything. Each time I stop to reflect more questions come up. Each time I sit down and ask why I am so tired I keep coming back to my identities.

I have a really great friend who is super wise in the ways of identities, power of privilege and oppression, and she said something real powerful: oppression hurts everyone and the liberation of the oppressed is something we all gain from. It wasn’t exactly like that as I do not have a way with words so look past my butchering of her beautiful words. I agree with what she said and we all lose when people are oppressed and have a lot to gain from a society that is liberated and free. I say all of this because I think of so many student affairs professionals who share privileged identities like me that have done what I have done (and still do because privilege is so over powerful and tricky): centering myself in the situation and making it all about me. What am I talking about? Well since you asked….

Remember when I said I have struggled to understand to say why I feel so tired, so hurt, so over this recent election? Well I argue that because I wasn’t able to truly identify why it was I felt the way I was without centering myself lead me to this notation that we as white folk, white folk that want to do good, white folk that say forget being an ally and want to be an accomplice, still have tendencies to center ourselves. When we feel the empathy, the tug on the heart strings of the recent election, why do we feel the way that we do? White folk don’t suffer from oppression the way our marginalized friends and family do. NOT EVEN CLOSE. Yet we shed our white tears (another blog soon to come on the fallacy of white tears), grab our baby pins, wave our “SafeZone” stickers and think we are victims too and we are here to support. However, we are doing what we try to avoid: we make it about us, our whiteness, our ability to save and help, us, we, I.

Now, this is not to say my views are correct, that everyone does this, but I argue it is true. Until we as white folk can clearly connect why the way we feel the way we do. Until we as white folk can see how our tears, our protests, and attention seeking is still trying to center ourselves. Until we realize we are taking space from those of our oppressed and marginalized friends and family. We have a lot of work to do. So next time, before you complain about “being so tired”, being drained, so over this election, reflect on why you feel the way you do. If you are white, why do you care about the hate crimes of your Black, Latinx, Muslim, and so many other friends? If you are white and “are so shocked by this election”, why is that? Can you clearly articulate why? Or are you just reflecting the emotions of those around you, centering your whiteness, and not realizing your privilege is showing.

We as white folk have to get our shit together. We as white folk have to do work. We as white folk have to stop centering ourselves, stop trying to save people, and start doing real work. And you can’t do real work until you understand yourself. It is not an easy journey. This journey has no mid-way point, no quick fix, no happy story. This journey is long and hard and will not end until all are liberated. So I ask you my dear white folk: why are you shedding your white tears, why are you “so tired”, why do you even care? Answer this without centering yourself completely before you start putting on your baby pins and SafeZone stickers.

TFM: it needs to stop

Well, two posts in one day. You can tell I’m sure fired up today.

Total Frat Move, something that requires little to no introduction in this day and age. TFM is full of bigotry, ignorance, and a slew of other things I can’t even begin to write about them all. But what I am going to write about is simple: we need to stop it. Who is we? First it is those of us decent in the fraternity world that know better than to let this shit continue. It is also our job to educate our fellow brothers that aren’t so knowledgeable about the awfulness that is this organization and movement. Second it is…well everyone should.

TFM perpetuates systems of rape culture. TFM perpetuates system of patriarchy. TFM perpetuates images of partying hard, disrespecting women (and everyone quite frankly), and being total shit heads. Now I’m not saying EVERYONE is a shit head who follows this organization, but everyone is a shit head. 

TFM is doing way more damage that it is good. It is an organization that knows not what it is doing and is setting up awful images for future leaders to model themselves after. I would be a liar if I said I’ve never thought TFM was cool. But then I grew up and slowly becoming more aware of my privileges as a fraternity man.

I assure you this rant COULD GO ON FOR HOURS. But for the sake my time I will keep it short and challenge all who read this, regardless if you are in a fraternity or sorority, and think about what TFM does. THINK about what all this organization (and I’m sure TSM as well) does to our culture. If we truly want to make a systematic change, we need to start with ourselves with with what the future leaders look up to. I’m sure as hell tired of having my reputation as a fraternity man tarnished because of TFM, aren’t you?

White is White: You can’t cover up what the world sees

“In addition to specifying one’s European ancestry, and reclaiming lost family traditions, this shift (of distancing self from whiteness) can also be understood as a way to distance oneself from claims made by people of color about some imagined “standard white American,” and from political assertions that whites have “unearned” privilege or are responsible for disadvantaged position of minorities.
-Jennifer L. Eichstedt, Problematic White Identities and a Search for Racial Justice.
When the light is flashed on us white folk about our white privilege, we come up with various excuses: “oh I’m working class, I don’t get the privilege because I had to work for everything I’ve gotten” or “that’s only for straight people” or “no I’m actually Italian on my mom’s side, not white”. While it may seem impossible to put all whiteness on the same level, it is the same in this system of power and privilege where white folk win and folk of color loose. We can’t pick and choose what identity trumps our whiteness – white is visible, white wins. And this is something we need to own up to.
Us white folk also try and see persecution that happens to us as well within these excuses. “Oh I grew up as the only white kid in my neighborhood” or “Oh I was the only Jewish kid in my high school”. Simply because you were the minority in one example doesn’t mean you are THE minority that looses in a system of power and privilege. This is like saying reverse racism is a think. IT IS NOT A THING. How can white people who control it all observe pervasive and damaging racism? That would imply that people of color have power over us white folk WHEN THEY DON’T.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t be shot because you’re white or be picked last to play a pick up game because you’re white. That can happen to anyone at anytime. What the point we white folk need to understand is that we DON’T LIVE IN CONSTANT FEAR that it will happen simply because of the color of our skin. We can push people of color out of our neighborhoods or simply move. We can send our children to expensive private schools. We can simply work for another company. White people can do whatever, whenever if we really wanted to.
Why are there so many success stories of white folk “making it rich” and so many stories of people of color being “gang bangers and criminals”? Us white folk need to wake up because this is not just, this is not freedom, this is not the world I want to live in and neither should you. It will be hard because we white folk benefit from this system. Why give up something that is helping us win? I don’t have the answer to that, yet. I will grow and learn more about my whiteness and hopefully one day understand what it is to be a true ally for equality. But I do know I want to do what I can to help end this system that kills and destroys so many people.
If I had to summarize it all it would be this: It’s not “The American Dream”, it’s “The White American Dream”.

First let me introduce myself: #SAviews

13322115_10157103633525195_297510175469595778_n.jpgHey y’all,

So it has only been a few short days since my last post and only a few weeks into the summer. There are some changes going on and they are now in the works. But first, let me (re) introduce myself and all the details.

Name: Justin Kyle

Occupation: Higher Education Student Affairs

Future plans: World domination

Actual future plans: becoming an advocate of change

Desired future position: Chancellor of Ole Miss

Areas of interest: Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Activities, Service-Learning, Housing and Residence Life, and Orientation.

Areas of interest not related to professional life but should be: craft beer, whisky, Pokemon, music (vinyls are rad), sloths, beaches, and thrift shopping.

So now that all of those things are out of the way, let’s talk about what is new.

New blog: I’ve decided that my old blog “private thoughts in a public world” was too narrow. So, after much creative thinking, I’ve decided to create a new hashtag and in the process a new blog title: #SAviews. SA meaning Student Affairs and views meaning my view of xyz. It also helps with Insta and twitter so I can stay organized. yay.

New ambitions: I’ve decided that life is too short to be narrow minded. A year ago I would have said I only want to every work at large, public institutions. After my experience at Coe College, I’ve decided that the opportunities are boundless and I can learn any and everywhere. Yay for increasing breadth of employment!

New Goals: Let’s be honest, I have no clue as to what I am doing. Instead of pretending, I want to be genuine. So with that said, I have a few basic goals and everything else just happens

  • continously learning about my priviliges, the systems of opression that impact so many, and doing what I can when I can, listening when I should, and advocating when necessary.
  • getting a MBA
  • getting a Ph.D.
  • working for my national fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi
  • have a wife, kid(s), dog, and a sloth
  • traveling the world
  • learning all I can so that I can return to Mississippi and make a difference in the backwards state I call home.

New attitude: I’ve been an ass at times (a lot). I have my set way of acting around some and that’s just not cool. From hence forth I am all in. No matter what the circumstance, I want to be fully present. No matter the task at hand, I want to do my all. No matter the amount of ice cream before me, I will eat it all. See where I’m going with this?

Now you may saying, dude what the hell are you rambling about? At that I will just default to the blank stare, smile, and wave routine. I rarely understand half the things that I do so explaining this would require a beer and a long conversation (which I am always down for).

So without further delay, I give you #SAviews – my personal hashtag, blog, journey, thoughts, feelings, emotions, attitudes, love of sloths, and oxford commas.

 

 

New School, New State, New Lonely?

Some may know, some may not, but I moved from my home for nearly all my life. Moving from Mississippi to Iowa was interesting. Countless people tell me “what a great school!”, “you will do great!”, and “I’m proud of you”. Truth be told, it was a failure. A hot, beautiful mess of failure. I still count the days until I can graduate, but it has taught me some lessons (see previous blog). However, that isn’t the reason for this blurb.

Rather, I have moved yet again (only for a summer internship) and a whole new mess of challenges have come my way. Yet, somehow, I am at the greatest peace with myself since, well, I have not clue since when. I drove over 1,500 miles and 24 hours to the sunny state of Florida and God couldn’t have planned it any better.

I AM LONELY.

I know no one here. 

I have no one to go grab a beer with, watch baseball, chill with on the beach, ANYTHING.

and I oddly am ok with this.

Have I changed? Yes I have. I have shaken off the shallow soul many once knew as JKT. I have learned from my mistakes of being a pompous, arrogant ass whole who thought he knew it all. I have changed.

This lovely revelation wasn’t free. It cost me, a lot. I lost the best friend I could have ever asked for. I have strained relationships with family. I have cried and looked the ugliness that was me in the eye.

What is this?

New school. New state. New kind of lonely. I can revel in the quietness. I can find joy in the silence. I am ok with not seeking the attention and love of others. Perhaps my greatest challenge of hyper-masculinity, hyper-arrogance, hyper-shitty-ness was that of my own self.

I have learned so much – so much about myself.

Being Lonely isn’t always bad – it can be good. Change happens at the edge of discomfort, so why not be revel in the times of strange?

Whatever these few months may hold, I am facing head on.

Whatever the next 348 days until graduation hold, I can survive. it.

Whatever life may bring, I know I can always learn from others – and myself.

Whatever the hell you may have known about me, may have experienced, may have heard – it probably was true. However, looking in the rear-view and the mirror for the past year has taught me many things and one thing for sure – change has come, change will come, life is change.

So long old self, Hello new lonely, new self, new life. 

I have began a journey to find myself and I cannot wait to see what tomorrow will hold.

cheers.