photographer. artist. author. singer. songwriter. musician. teacher. student. humanitarian. visionary.

Posts tagged “FREEDOM

Back to the Grindstone

Wow. 2020 was the year that ate my life. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to update my blog! Do people even blog anymore or is that an ancient practice by now? Either way, I’m compelled to write, so write I shall! Last year I was moderately depressed. After I graduated from Aspen University with my Master’s degree, I had grown so used to scrambling to meet deadlines, research papers, cramming, rushing, checking off one thing after the next. No matter what, always achieving.

After graduation, I intended to take a few months to decompress, but only a few. I graduated in April, but by June I was still exhaling. I had become so tightly wound as a student, for 10 long years, it literally took me the rest of the year to unwind. Not to mention, the pandemic. Once that $#!+show began, it snowballed, eating every good thing in its path.

I’ve decided to make 2021 “The Year of Preparation”, and 2022, “The Year of Transformation”. Yep, I’ve absolutely got the next two years of my life mapped out, per the usual. For the longest time I’ve quizzically arranged and rearranged the pieces of my life in quasi -interesting patterns. I continually tossed around multiple career paths, blindly grabbing at whatever seemed to work itself into the mix. I had never settled on any one career though. I went from being a possible business major, to sociologist, to social worker, to criminologist, to forensic anthropologist, to psychologist – dear God, you name it, I entertained it!

It’s funny how we have our own ideas of how our lives will be, and then God has HIS ideas of how our lives will be. My Dad taught me something that I carry daily in my life; he said, “listen to the whistle in the wind.” At first I didn’t understand what that meant. But after he explained it, I got it. He said you need to be very quiet and very still to be able to hear that “little whistle” that is carried in the wind. Not a natural wind, of course, a Spiritual one. If we’re too loud or too busy with our own ideas, thoughts, and plans, we won’t be able to hear that ever-soft whistle, or, God’s voice, basically. I love that. Out of all of my siblings, I spent more time with my Dad than anybody. I will always be so grateful for that! I was his life student, and he taught me so much. As I grow older, I can see that I’m more like my Dad than anyone else, and for that I’m grateful too.

I feel like I was floating through 2020, aimlessly- free falling. No ambition, no direction. Just cryogenically in a state of artificial existence. An automaton, going through the motions; content to just simply be. Now that it’s a new year, I’m excited to have gained my direction once again. This year, I’ll prepare for all of the changes that will come in 2022. I’m so excited! I’ve always seen myself working with children, as a teacher. Not a grade school teacher or a standard school teacher. I’ve always seen me working with multicultural children in a foreign land, like Africa, or South America. I didn’t know how I could make that happen though. I thought perhaps I’d end up volunteering at a run down school in a third world country. Now I see the picture crystal clear.

Last year, I purchased a top TEFL program. TEFL means “Teaching English as a Foreign Language”. It’s also known as TESOL- Teaching English as a Second Language. There are other names that are used, but those are the two main ones. Once the program is completed, a certification is granted which allows the certificate-holder to begin teaching English to foreign students, either online or by traveling to their country. Understandably, this is a highly sought after career plan. Who wouldn’t want to travel to a foreign country and experience the culture, cuisine, art scene and familial lifestyles? I’m giddy just thinking about it. 🙂 It’s possible to begin teaching with a TEFL certification only, and the pay is pretty good at that level. But, if you have a bachelor’s degree also, you jump up to another tier entirely, by which the pay is much better, as are the career opportunities. So, it gives me great pleasure to know that my hard work in academia will pay off in more ways than one.

So, I’ve had this program for 8 months now. As I said, I needed to take additional time to decompress. Now that I have, I’m excited to begin my TEFL studies. It usually takes a person 6 to 8 months to complete the necessary courses to become TEFL/TESOL certified. Naturally, I would be teaching students on my laptop, and online, at first, given the state of things with the pandemic. At some point down the road, however, I indent to do a bit of traveling to other countries, here and there, to really soak up the experience.

At some point, I plan on incorporating my children’s book, Peanut Butter Soup, into the curriculum. I also have major plans of developing a music program, and using my acoustic guitar to teach the children basic chord progressions. It doesn’t take much to teach basic chords and songwriting methodologies to children. Children are so eager to learn and therefore make excellent music students. Although we won’t speak the same language, we’ll be able to share a universal language, which is music.

I do have big plans for 2022! I’m so ready for this new stage in my life. Because I’ll probably end up in South America at some point down the line, I’m also beginning to study Spanish in earnest, in tandem with my TEFL studies. It’s important to be bilingual in this line of work. It’s not exactly necessary, but complimentary.

It’s good to be back in the saddle!
It’s going to be a good year. ❤

Self portrait/Ohio River/Jeffersonville, Indiana


“My Death Needs to Mean Something”

Those were the words that were found in Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note that was posted on all of her social media accounts shortly after her death. Leelah chose to commit suicide because she felt that the life she was given to live was too painful to bear. Ultimately, she was not allowed to be who she wanted to be.

Leelah Alcorn was born Joshua Alcorn. She was born into a moderately strict religious home in which the gender you are born with is the gender you are expected to die with. Leelah took a great risk sharing her conflicting feelings with her parents as a young teenager. I too am a Christian and come from a tightly-woven Pentecostal family. In families like ours, “gender reassignment surgery” (or the like) would be asking for a one-way ticket to Exile Island where you would be expected to live out the rest of your days with spiritual leprosy as a complete and utter outcast. Sadly, this is the perspective of many Christians today.

Leelah was hoping to find love and acceptance and most importantly understanding when she told her parents that she’d felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body since the age of 4. If your own parents can’t accept you for who you are, then who can? She was shocked and heartbroken to be met with resistance, denial, and total rejection. Her parents told her it was “just a stage she was going through” and that “God doesn’t make mistakes”. They immediately banned Leelah from all social media for the next 5 months, taking away her cellphone and laptop. They also deleted her Facebook account and restricted her social activities to church-related group activities mostly, and when Leelah wasn’t being conditioned in such ways, she was restricted to her bedroom. They also forced her into Christian-based “reparative therapy”, which is, in short, a  “corrective therapy” for homosexuals and and people who identify as transgender.

I couldn’t imagine, as a Christian, somebody forcing me to go to “transgender therapy” where I would be told that I would have to be made into the opposite sex- including sexual reassignment surgery. I can only imagine how Leelah must have felt: She was made to feel like a leper in her own home, school, community, and church.

Leelah pre-scheduled her suicide note to post to her social media outlets following her death with one final request, “Fix Society. Please.” On the early morning of December 28, 2014, she walked four miles in the cold to interstate 71 and at approximately 2:17 a.m., she stepped out into the highway and into the path of a tractor trailer.

Leelah Alcorn

Leelah AlcornMJ

Her family’s rejection of her chosen identity was more than she could bear. It breaks my heart that her mother still lives in denial- still choosing to call her Joshua instead. Even after Leelah’s suicide note had been posted, having begged other parents to never reject their children’s rights- including their right to choose their own gender- her mother posted this message to her Facebook account:

“My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn, went home to Heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.”

They rejected Leelah in life, and they reject her in death. That’s beyond heartbreaking to me.

Jesus’ Words have forever transformed my heart and life. When a group of men had gathered around a woman to stone her (having accused her of adultery)- each having a handful of stones- Jesus looked at them and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

One by one, they all dropped their stones. Jesus said to the woman, “Go thy way and sin no more.” He forgave her and loved her. Completely. One of my friend’s once said something to me that I’ll never forget. She said, “The sound of forgiveness is the sound of a stone dropping.” I love that. And although Leelah’s life choices weren’t a “sin” to her, the fact remains in many religions, a transgender lifestyle is viewed as sinful. I think we should stop expecting other people to “live up to our expectations” but rather deal with our own insufficiencies and our inabilities to accept his or her alternative lifestyle. After all, our lifestyle is “alternative” in their eyes.

I do not “support” suicide, but I most certainly respect any person willing to die for his or her cause. Leelah didn’t commit suicide because she was “so depressed”. Not really. She committed suicide because she felt that she had a cause worth fighting and dying for. Soldiers do that every day. Who’s to say that any person’s cause is more important than another’s?

So for Leelah, I’ll do what I can so that she didn’t die in vain. As a parent, I’ve let my kids know (and they all know this already) that I will support them always– no matter who they choose to be. True love is all-encompassing and non-conditional. If my children choose different genders, religions, whatever- I will love them just the same. It’s not my “job” as their parent to love them, it’s my privilege. I only wish Leelah would have received the same support from her parents. She may have chosen to stick around…

It saddens me that Leelah’s parents are wanting to put Joshua Alcorn on her tombstone, instead of Leelah Alcorn. I have just gone and signed the online petition so that her parents might honor Leelah and give her her chosen name for her tombstone. Already, there are over 200,000 people who have signed the petition. If you too think that Leelah should have the right to her own name on her tombstone, you can go here and sign the petition. I think it’s what Leelah would have wanted.

To any parents out there who may read this and defiantly cling to your strong Christian roots- I admire you. I cling to mine too! But let’s do what Jesus wants us to do above all else, and that is to love others- just as they are; not who you think they need to be:

 “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” 1st John 4: 7-8

” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1st Corinthians 13: 4-7

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

-John 13:34

In memory of Leelah Alcorn (Nov. 15, 1997- Dec. 28, 2014)
Leelah Alcorn

If you’d like to support Leelah’s right to have her name on her tombstone, you can sign this petition (and/or reblog this post).

Thanks for viewing! x


One Down: Three to Go

 

Social Work Practice
Abnormal Psychology
Intro. to Social Work
Biology

 

TWO. MORE. DAYS.

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