Sunday, May 8, 2011

Speaking My Mind

About a month ago, I got into a heated debate on Twitter about an admittedly controversial topic. The following morning, the debate continued to some extent, until someone said to me something like, "we get your point, you don't need to keep bringing it up." Since that point, I have tried to remain mostly silent about the issue, even as joke memes and other comments relating to the debate have been reverberating through my Twitter family.

I am starting to think, however, that keeping silent is the opposite of what I should be doing. Generally speaking, our culture is one in which women are taught to be silent, be appeasing, speak when spoken to, keep their heads down, be selfless, and most of all don't be annoying. I don't think that these are messages my parents or schools particularly endorsed or imparted, but they are nonetheless lessons I seem to have learned. I have always been terrified of speaking my mind, especially in a group setting, because if I do, then I have to be able to defend that position. I also expend a lot of energy trying not to get in the way. I sometimes don't bring up issues at work because I know my colleagues are swamped and don't want to be a burden. On Twitter, I try to only call people out for egregious statements, because many of my Twitter friends view it as a non-serious medium of communication. I let my sister win nearly every argument -- the TV, the front seat, etc. -- because I'd rather not argue about it. I think, when it comes down to it, I am afraid of conflict and of doing anything that could possibly lead me into a conflict. Of all of the things that scare me -- driving, cooking, spicy food, phones -- being afraid of conflict is the one that is most likely to impede my ability to both enjoy my personal life and succeed in my professional life, especially when I transition into a career in activism.

I believe that I need to be come comfortable speaking my mind, regardless of whether there is one or one hundred people in the room, and regardless of whether or not the crowd is likely to agree with me. I am a person. I have every right to take up time and space, to be heard, and to be understood. In my career in activism, I cannot expect to win or persuade in every single conversation, but the more difficult conversations I engage in, the more likely I will convince enough people that they should care about the issues I work on, which will translate into greater political and societal acceptance of my causes, and thus create change. This is not to say that there isn't a place for tact, timeliness, manners, or finding the right message for a specific audience, but I cannot fret about those things and allow them to stop me from trying to get my point across.

I am not really sure how to go about fighting this fear of mine. I can say that from today forward I will never allow fear to silence me, but that would likely be difficult to measure and enforce. I have considered taking some public speaking classes, but beyond that I'm not really sure how to move forward, other than stating that I would like to do so. If anyone has any recommendations, please leave them in the comments.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

PA Progressive Summit: Meeting New People

Last weekend I attended the PA Progressive Summit. This is the biggest progressive conference in the state of Pennsylvania. I have discussed my experiences at the conference on my activism blog. Relevant to this blog, I set a goal of introducing myself to one new person per session I attended.

It turned out to be somewhat impractical to introduce myself to someone in each session because some sessions I already knew people or time ran out and I needed to move on to something else. However, I did meet quite a few new people. I met some other youth activists or college activists, as well as some who are active in Philadelphia or the suburban areas around it. I even introduced myself to one person for no reason other than I kept seeing her in the Summit's Twitter feeds and I recognized her from her avatar. Even though I did not quite introduce myself to one person per session, I made my goal of making new connections who may prove useful as I look to get into activism.

I will be attending the Women's Way Women and Influence conference next weekend, so hopefully I will make some new contacts there as well.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Networking Challenge, PA Progressive Summit

I am attending the PA Progressive Summit this weekend, and I am giving myself a networking challenge. I've never liked networking because it requires talking to strangers — I have previously discussed my discomfort with introducing myself/talking to strangers. However, I'm realizing that networking is extremely important in most industries, certainly for the career I plan to have in Activism. With that in mind, I'm going to take this Summit as an opportunity to jump in, introduce myself, and make connections. I am going to try to introduce myself to at least one person per session I attend. I shall report back next week.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mama's Pizza: Cheesesteaks

I have for many years believed I did not like cheese steaks. I don't actually know when or how I came to believe I didn't like them. There is really nothing in them I don't eat, but somehow I decided I did not like them. It could be because my mom tends to say "ugh" at the mere mention of them, or something else. Either way, I decided recently that I should try one again.

Last night, a friend and I went to Mama's Pizza on Belmont Ave for dinner. We shared a regular cheese steak with mushrooms. The cheese steak was huge. As pretty much everyone I know predicted, I only ate about half of my half, or about a quarter of the whole thing. I really liked it though, it was very good. I will definitely consider ordering them in the future.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Tonight my step-father made Chili for dinner, and my mother insisted I try it. I don't like trying new things on other people's terms, but I tried it anyway. I added shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream to it first. Here's what it looked like (before toppings):

Chili, before toppings      

I will say that the Chili was not offensive, it was not terrible, but it wasn't really my thing. I really don't do spicy food, and even though it was "not particularly spicy" it was still too spicy for me. It seemed that while it wasn't too spicy at first, the more I ate, the more it bothered me. Going forward, at least I can say with certainty that I don't like it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Eating out: The Pita Pit

I tried out a new restaurant on Sunday night called The Pita Pit, located at 16th and Sansom streets in Philadelphia. Their cuisine is basically design-your-own-pita, and you can get anything -- meat, veggie, breakfast, etc. I ate there Sunday night, and I chose the Philly Steak pita with provolone cheese, green and red peppers, and ketchup. Sorry for the terrible picture; it was the best my phone could do.
The Pita was really, really good. It wasn't greasy in any way, and I'm really glad I discovered this place. I'd even like to go back and try several other types that they had.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Foods: Sharp Provolone

Yesterday, my boss took me and another coworker out to lunch. We went to Shanks, which is a famous Philly sandwich place that I had never been to before. I was told that the key to their sandwiches was the Sharp Provolone cheese, and the chicken cutlet sandwich was recommended. I decided to try the chicken cutlet with the cheese on it. Here's what my sandwich looked like:

I am not, honestly, a  big cheese person. I particularly don't like strong cheeses, and I found sharp provolone to be too strong. I ended up taking it off and just putting ketchup on the chicken cutlet sandwich. The chicken cutlet sandwich with ketchup wasn't terribly exciting but it was alright.

I think next time I'll try one of the pork sandwiches they are apparently known for.