Monday, January 19, 2015

At Your Service



“Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the most common desires I hear from clients when embarking on a new career or making a transition is that they want to be doing something with meaning, something that helps people.
My approach is to ask them,  “What is the thing that makes you, you? What you are passionate about; when do you lose track of time?” I inquire as to what their fantasy job would be, and very rarely does that answer have to do with becoming a social worker or joining the Peace Corps.

You don’t have to become the next Mother Teresa, Gandhi or MLK to make a difference and live your life in service to others. Perhaps that may be your path, but as Dr. King also said, “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” Running for public office or volunteering on a regular basis can certainly fill that role, but service can be expressed in a myriad of forms that aren’t always so obvious or grandiose. Just being yourself and doing your best at YOU allows us to benefit from whatever unique gifts and talents you possess.

When one’s work is done with love and integrity, every job is one of service. MLK day is also about celebrating diversity, which can refer to many things including occupation.  We all have jobs that make the world go round. Whether it’s the super taking care of your building, the bus driver making sure you get to your destination safely, the guy who makes your coffee and bagel every morning, the janitor that cleans the public restrooms you use, the designer of the clothes you are wearing, the comedian that made you laugh last night, the singer whose song you enjoyed on your Ipod, writer whose novel you devoured over the weekend – no occupation is too insignificant, as long as it is done to the best of one’s ability, you can see how any of those people have served you on some level.

And regardless of your job, there is also the service you can provide by smiling at someone when you’re walking down the street, or showing a kindness to a stranger, and notice how for moment you made someone happy or uplifted them in some way.

The thing that I enjoy most and lose track of time doing is talking to folks about their life’s work and helping them make their everyday existence as meaningful and peaceful as possible. I would love the opportunity to help you connect the dots of your life, create more work/life balance and recognize the value in whatever you do,  so just give me a buzz as I am always here, at your service!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Carte Blanche

  


When traveling by myself in Cape Town, South Africa in 2001, just seven years after the end of apartheid, I had a major aha moment while having tea in the lobby of the historic, old-world luxury Mount Nelson Hotel.

Feeling somewhat awkward in my solo budget travel state, I was in the midst of sipping Earl Grey when something clicked within me on the most profound of levels. It occurred to me that due to the mere fact my skin was white - with the bonus of having blonde hair at the time - I was essentially given free rein to go wherever I desired and do whatever I wanted, and no one would ever question me, look at me strangely, or think I didn't belong. 
 
Yes, I was in one of the most segregated countries on the planet, but it really struck me that this applied in a broader context - no matter where I go, simply because of the color of my skin, along with being tall and dressing reasonably well, in addition to being educated and American, I enjoy a certain level of trust, respect (well, this was just before 9/11) and service, and almost always inadvertently avoid outright discrimination and bodily harm, even as a woman (which itself is topic for another discussion, since that is only a very recent phenomena and may apply to less places, but I digress...).
 
Suddenly the phrase "carte blanche," which literally translates as "white card," came into my head and I immediately made the connection to the District Six Museum's display of various ID cards for citizens under that classified system:  White, Coloured, Black, and Indian.  In the United States, and in a global sense, it is an invisible card I carry that gives me entree, ease and yes, a certain unearned privilege, to live a life free of so many stresses, layers of misperceptions, institutionalized prejudice, fear, bias and/or hatred the majority of those of darker shades must endure, and are too often endangered by.
 
I realize in telling you this story I may sound naive, but you have to know this came at a time to someone who from childhood in theory, and more than ten years prior to that moment in practice, was not only quite aware of, but particularly passionate about, the issue of racial inequality and had many interpersonal experiences, observations and relationships informing a significant understanding of the complexities all that entails - earlier that year I had even started a non-profit organization to dispel stereotypes and bigotry in order to bring women together to "Recognize Our Unity" and "Celebrate Our Diversity". 

But being in a place where racism had so recently been explicitly acknowledged and addressed in such a direct manner brought this concept home to me in a way that up until that point in my life, because I am White, had only been subtly perceptible, and even then, only because I was sensitive to the issue.


A couple of years later while waiting in the cold for an MTA bus on First Avenue in the East Village I got to experience this overtness in reverse. Two Black women chose to ditch the delayed public transportation, and I watched in disbelief as two, three, five, six open taxis passed by as they tried to hail them; disgusted, I asked if they needed help, and of course the next cab stopped for me but when the driver realized the Black women, not me, were getting in, he drove away.  Finally I asked where they were going; I was so appalled I decided I would just get in and share it with them. Of course the irony was that they were only going to 78th between First and Second, probably one of the whitest blocks in the city...It was perhaps the closest I will come to know what it must feel like to deal with race on a daily basis, simply trying to accomplish the most mundane of tasks.


Fast forward to February 2012. After my talk at the NY Science, Industry and Business Library a young Black man came up to thank me for what I had shared, how it made him think differently about his life, and pointed out to me what he had written down so he could make positive change going forward. He then said he had recently been released from federal prison, would I be willing to work with people like him?  Well, this began a journey in which I learned more specifically about the consequences of race and the criminal justice system, the roots of mass incarceration and the many barriers to re-entry. It has since widened and deepened my understanding of the unhealed wounds, scars and repercussions of our country's history of slavery.


What we are dealing with in the aftermath of injustice after injustice against people of color are symptoms of a very sick system that is made up of people, and people are crying out for transformation and healing. It is not a Black problem; it is not a White problem. It is a human problem. No matter what card-carrying member of our race you proclaim (or are deemed) to be, we're all in this man-made mess together - and we will only solve it one story, one interaction, one aha moment at a time.  
  

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Wisdom of Childhood

CHICKS ROCK! is happy to welcome Patricia as a guest blogger this week. 

Patricia Philippe is a Haitian-American writer, creative writing workshop facilitator and marketing consultant living in the Bronx. Currently she blogs about the journey of re-inventing herself after years as a caregiver and is working on a number of writing and teaching related projects.

When I reflect on my life, I notice that the common threads of curiosity, exploration, and courage have always been present. There’s a Polaroid from my childhood that I look at when I begin to wonder if I am being authentic. At about eight years old, my twin sister and I stand in front of a building with a pale yellow tiled fa├žade. We pose shyly in our matching orange plaid coats. My head is tilted to the side, eyes lifted up to the sky, a classic Patricia is in the deep thought pose that my friends recognize even today. I imagine my eight-year-old self thinking there are issues in the world to solve, stories to make up, and new things to explore. Wondering what to do about the things my eyes witness but don’t understand how to fix.

After college, I signed up for the Peace Corps. Images of starving children beckoned me. Thoughts of teaching English enticed me. But I didn’t go. I was afraid. There was healing that needed to take place before I could be present in an inspiring way for anyone else.

Fast forward 20 years and you’ll meet me, a woman who feels like she’s walked a thousand miles in the desert with 100-degree sun scorching her naked flesh. She experimented. She learned. She thrived. After completing personal development programs about transformation, living authentically, healing from the past and choosing self-care, I consider that perhaps I have always known who I am.

My name is Patricia Philippe. I am a writer. A healer. A teacher. In September, I will volunteer with VoiceFlame in Malawi, Africa to lead writing groups for orphaned girls and village women. Writing my story has allowed me to channel the wisdom of that little girl who contemplated how to make silk thread from broken glass.

I found my voice through writing. The project in Malawi supports others in the discovery of their own strong, unique voices. Click here to learn more or to make a donation to sponsor me; I greatly appreciate your support.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dancing Towards Your Dreams

Growing up, I was the super quiet kid in the corner, reading a book or writing a story. The only time I made a sound was when I sang. F​​rom elementary school through high school, I was in musicals, chorus, and even ended up with a solo my senior year of high school. That solo was the absolute thrill and highlight of my singing life​​ (and, sadly, there's no documentation of it whatsoever).

It was also the second to last time I sang in public for 10 years.

What happened? Well, fear and panic and “I’m not going to be a singer so I can’t major in that” and “I’m probably not even that good of a singer so why bother?” The longer I stayed on my self-imposed singing hiatus, the bigger the fear grew, and the harder it was to get back to it. I missed it SO MUCH. I felt incomplete without it. But I couldn’t get over my fear. Looking back, I’m actually incredibly sad – like, crying-as-I-remember-and-write-this sad.

A couple of years ago, fate and my intuition took over and I quieted my fears long enough to sign up for The Singing Experience. It was wonderful; I had a blast and I remembered that the joy of singing on a stage far outshined the voices in my head telling me I’m not good enough. After that, I signed up for voice lessons with various wonderful teachers and coaches, and I performed three more times.



This year, I knew I needed to do what I didn't really think possible as a little girl but wanted more than anything: to sing on stage in front of people I love for a whole show. Me, a microphone, an awesome band, and maybe some tears. (The tears weren’t in the little girl’s vision, but wiser me realizes they’re likely.)

I have three days left to raise the $7,380 I need to make this show happen and make that dream come true. I know I’m asking for a miracle here because I have more than $5,000 to go and just three days to get there, but I’m committed to seeing this through.

If you can make any donation at all, big or small, I’d be beyond grateful. And if you could share it with friends, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, co-workers, that person who flirts with you sometimes, whoever, I’d be beyond grateful.

May you keep dancing towards your own dreams – it’s really never too late.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why I'm Feeling Lighter (And, Apparently, Looking Younger)

It seems to me that one of the hardest things to do is to be fully, confidently, unapologetically authentic in every area of your life. I have grappled with the question of who I am and how I express that to others my entire life. I spent most of that time holding back: not letting myself be too loud, too confident, too emotional, too honest, too whatever. I also didn't spend my time or money or energy in ways that inspired and fueled me; it didn't occur to me until a couple of years ago that how you spend your time and your money is how you spend your life.

Since then - and especially in the last few months - I have started to let that go. And, boy, do I feel lighter!

Instead of constantly wondering what the other person is thinking or how they'll react, I just speak my truth. And since I make a conscious effort to spend my time, money, and energy on what I feel is an expression of my authenticity instead of on what makes me feel "meh" or drained, I'm happier, calmer, and more centered. Whether it's a dance break, a manicure, or prioritizing a doctor's appointment, I fill my life as much as I can with what's true to me.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a friend I hadn't seen in a couple of months asked me what I was doing that had me looking so young and vibrant. I was so surprised, I didn't know what to say. "Um... I'm happier???"

Since experiencing this change in myself and in some of the women I know, I've become passionate with helping others reconnect with their authenticity and show up as all of who they are. I talk to so many women whose lives are compartmentalized, or who get blocked by fear and memories from the past when they try to express themselves.

I teamed up with a few friends who are also passionate about authentic expression to put together an all-day workshop/dance party. It's this Saturday in Brooklyn and I'm so excited, I could burst! It's going to be an inspiring, empowering, magical event. If you know you're ready to rediscover and celebrate your authenticity, join me!







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