Monthly Archives: January 2009

Saving the world one globetrotter at a time

The saying goes that you can only truly understand yourself when you see yourself through someone else’s eyes. The same stands true on a global level. The increase in generation Y’s interest in studying and working abroad is not only a great opportunity to see what life is like outside the subdivision fences but also a chance to shine some light on how the US appears in the global field. Last week, Jeffrey Bartholet and Daniel Stone wrote an article in Newsweek about the number of members of Obama’s administration that have lived and worked abroad, including our Commander-in-Chief himself, his roots deeply seeded in an international family tree.

I had the fortunate opportunity to study abroad in London in 2005. Along with plenty of time touring the pubs of Kensington and Chelsea, and poking around the city with a great group of people, I was able to travel and explore the UK, Ireland, and France. But perhaps due to my naivety to international culture and global relations (I was only 19 when I went, without much interest in politics or world news) I lacked the eye and attitude needed to truly embrace and learn from the experience of living abroad. I also clung to my fear of the uncertain when deciding where to study; choosing a country that spoke my language and who’s culture is in line with American. Now, 4 years later and 4 years wiser and 4 years more aware, I watch everyday for an opportunity to arise for me to live abroad again, with some changes. I think a more life-changing experience for me would be set in a culture far difference from what I am used to everyday. London gave me the confidence to know that I can live comfortably on the other side of the ocean from my family and friends, but to truly see the vast range of cultures and values around the world, something outside my comfort zone would be more beneficial.

I may not have a living abroad options in the near future but I will be able to live vicariously and learn through my friends and family that will have that opportunity. When Doc departs for his grand excursion in the Peace Corp, I will be able to go visit him in the South Pacific, see what work he is doing, and get the tour from an expat. My sister is planning her last two years of college around a semester studying sociology in Ghana. I have always said that my dream is to visit Africa, because I see their culture as the most extreme and most difficult to understand and I want so badly to feel what it feels to live so differently from the comforts of home. I plan on visiting her as well to learn from her chance to study culture in the field. Lucky girl!

It is unquestionably true that when you have an international awareness from first-hand experiences interacting with different people and cultures, you come to understand more thoroughly what differences are evident, what ideas are universal and which are cultural. You also have the opportunity from talking with other people, to see what the view of your own culture looks like from the eyes of an outside. And as you develop relationships with these new friends, you discover that their opinions are worth being compassionate towards, no longer veiled in ignorance. These values are exactly what Americans need to better interact in an increasingly global world. The fact that so many politicians that will be representing America in the global ring have these experiences under their belt and in their minds is a refreshing and progressive aspect to our political system. Hopefully the number of students that are open and able to study abroad will continue to increase so as a new generation fills the white house desks, our views will become more and more open to new ideas from around the world.


Identity Crisis

I am becoming just like all the Estelle’s in the world. Remember Joey’s agent on Friends? Box-dyed hair, blue eyeshadow, voice destroyed by years of chain-smoking and talking too much, and can name every man that Erica Kane has married on All My Children. I am on the road to becoming the next person in line at the grocery store to pick up Soap Opera digest (I actually did once…) During my lunch hour at work, me and a few unnamed co-workers sneak into an abandoned corner of the warehouse where we have pitched an old TV among the boxes of inventory to watch All My Children. It started as a way to relax and escape our cubicles for an hour but now I have trouble missing a day. So my secret is out. Next thing you know I’ll be drinking Manhattan’s and talking about the good old days when phone’s were used for talking and there was no such thing as fug
So one of the current AMC plots is that Annie is locked in a mental institute because she killed her brother, kidnapped her daughter, stabbed Erica Kane, and now believes she is her daughter. But the twist is that we don’t know if she is really mental or if she’s playing her part to avoid going to jail. This is one of the better plots so far this year. The doctor in charge of “curing” Annie has focused her medical research on felons that do just that, fake being insane to avoid doing time in the big house. I understand this is a soap opera and the situations are exaggerated for the Estelle’s the world that need that extra dose of drama in their life to get through the day. But, in reality, I don’t doubt that there are criminals that do just this. Mental instability cannot be proved, can be debated endlessly, yet is treated as a medical disease that requires treatment. Perpetrated by the desire to avoid going to jail, felons could very well put themselves into a mental state that appears to require medical attention but in reality is an extreme case of fight or flight. 
But the complete focus that must be placed on the brain in order to foul a medical expert with years of experience and research can be tolling on the brain. Could the brain even begin to believe that this mental instability is it’s true form? Ironically, Jezebel posted an article about just this. Norah Vincent is an author that voluntarily checked herself into three different types of mental treatment facilities in order to compare and judge the conditions and treatment methods of each one. The experience was so trying on her mentally that she actually began to develop a mental illness from living this experiment. It must also be noted the extent that Norah submerges herself into “research” for her novels. She previously lived as a man for several years for a book she wrote and, as a result, suffered a mental breakdown. This experience was what lead her to this new research. I don’t know if I should praise her complete mental devotion to her art or wonder why she would subject herself to such an identity crisis. Twice. 
This could be a social trend due the prevalence of mental illness diagnoses today. This is a type of disease that is intangible. There are no x-rays or medical tests (that I know of – understand I am not a thorough or credible source) to prove if a person has a disease of this nature. This gives people a place in a medical environment to hide from the world and the consequences that go with it. I am NOT disproving the importance or existence of mental health issues, only that it is a new and developing science that some below-the-law people are exploiting. It is a side effect of this new diagnosis that was unanticipated; the ability the “fake” medicine. It sounds like the next plot line of Grey’s Anatomy.