In Retrospect…

I recently started binge-watching an iconic American tv show from the late 90’s, and I noticed something. First, there are no characters of color. Every once in a while one will pop up in some exoticized fashion, but will never stay for more than an episode. Second, there is only one recurring homosexual character, and he is so minor, he doesn’t even have a plotline. Finally, in one episode a group of transgender women are verbally harassed and called “trannies” and made a spectacle of. And I keep thinking, “How did they get away with this?”

Then I thought about the history class I’m taking this semester. We had a discussion about Christopher Columbus and the horrible genocide he committed and all the atrocities he brought to this land in the name of discovery. My class got into a bit of a heated discussion about whether or not Columbus knew what he was doing was wrong. Slavery was acceptable and normal in those days. And racism wasn’t even a term it was just the brown natives who weren’t really “people.” But we read an account of someone who saw what Columbus was doing and said it was horrific. So arguably, Columbus was capable of seeing his actions as what they were- horrible.

I compare the two events because I want to talk about hindsight. We look back at the past and say “Wow slavery was awful,” and “Man Columbus was a terrible man.” While both of these statements are true, very few people would have agreed with us in 1492. And now watching this 90’s TV show I think, “So whitewashed,” “Ugh so transphobic,” when in reality the creators likely didn’t know any better. The race thing, I mean, they did know better, but it wasn’t as big of a talked-about issue back then. Of course, that doesn’t make it okay, but to my knowledge Viola Davis wasn’t a household name back then.

Either way, my point is: change takes time. I have seen posts on tumblr and places about how terrible 90’s television was because it was homophobic and all white cast. And while I’ll agree it sucks Danny Tanner never made it out of the closet, it was a different time. We should have known better, but we didn’t. We do now. It’s getting better in some areas- TV casting at least a little bit.

Today’s society is changing every minute. It feels like every second there’s a new gender identity I have to recognize or a new social justice issue I have to be sensitive to. I’m not complaining, I just want the victims to know that I’m trying. I can’t speak for everyone because I know there are and always will be people who aren’t willing to change. But for those of us that are trying, give us a break, and help us to learn. I’m gonna make mistakes, I already have. But correct me, and help me learn from it and I’ll know better next time. Acceptance is a learning process, not a permanent engraving on the brain. For those of you not willing to change, try it out. You might like what you find.




Reach or Throw, Don’t Go

When I was in middle school, I volunteered as a counselor at my town’s “Safety Town,” a summer program for children entering kindergarten. The kids came in every day for two weeks to learn about everything safety, from crossing the street to avoiding strangers. I attended the program as a 5-year-old and volunteered as a preteen for four summers. I lived Safety Town.

One lesson, in particular, that has stuck with me over the years was about water safety. When someone is having trouble in a pool or drowning, we taught the kids “Reach or throw, don’t go.” This means in order to save your friend, reach out an arm or a stick of some kind to them or throw them a flotation device, DON’T GO IN AFTER THEM. The idea is that if you hop in the pool to try to save your friend, their panic will often lead to your harm.

The reason I bring up this anecdote is because I think the idea is so relevant but in terms of mental health and emotional peace. If your friend is drowning in emotional pain or stress, reach or throw, don’t go.

I have been someone who has tried to get in the water to help a friend, and I’ve seen it countless times. We as helpers get into the trouble to help our friends, and eventually we’re under so much pressure and stress to make their problems go away that they become our problems. That’s not fair, and it’s not right.

As humans, it is our instinct to help those in need. And of course, you should help your friends as much as you can, but don’t let them drown you. They won’t do it on purpose, but it will happen. Misery loves company, and it’s a burden too heavy with which to try to swim.

The missing part of the rhyme is obviously, get a lifeguard (it doesn’t rhyme so well). Lifeguards always get in the water to help people drowning, why don’t they have to follow the rule? The difference is, they are trained to do this. They have to get in the water to save people, and they know how to do it without hurting themselves. In the real world application, if you’re a trained lifeguard- therapist, psychologist, life coach- absolutely get in the water. Maybe you still shouldn’t if it is a close friend struggling, but that is up to your own discretion.

It’s hard sometimes because sometimes it seems like the person struggling doesn’t have time to wait for you to get something to reach or throw. The tide is pulling them out further and further, and you can’t reach them with this method. That doesn’t mean you have to jump in. Again, get help from a trained professional. It is not your job to save your friends. It is your job to help them as best you can, support them when they get rescued, and be there for them to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But it is not your job to go in after them. Life is hard, but we all have to live it. Reach or throw, don’t go.