Friday, August 10, 2012

When I Grow Up

I'm currently back at school in training to be a student mentor in the coming semester. Today, our group did a "Diversity Dialogue" which is an activity we also did at Orientation last summer. Last time, I spent a lot of time being annoyed by other participants' lack of openness. but this time around I was challenged to accept that my upbringing has been incredibly liberal and open compared to most of my peers. I shared an anecdote during the discussion about something I remember very dramatically from my childhood. On several occasions, my mother said something to the effect of "When you grow up, I hope the man or woman you marry will be...." or "When you have kids with you husband or wife..." I have always really appreciated that my mom especially, but even my extended family, made diversity and alternatives a norm. I don't always remember, though, that not everyone had the same experience as a kid, and I often find myself thinking people who really are just ignorant or unexposed to issues are narrow-minded. So my task for the duration of this job will be giving people a chance. Last year, when I was a freshman in the program I am now a mentor for, there was one very conservative boy in our class and he definitely felt the push from the rest of the class to open himself to the experience. Admittedly, I didn't expect a lot out of him in the beginning, but by the end, even though he still disagreed on some points, he became one of the most interesting and respectful people to have a discussion with. I try to model acceptance in the hope that it will become a societal norm. I also make a point of modeling respect (one of my favorites is telling the little boys I babysit that NO MEANS NO when one tells the other they don't want to do something just so that it is a concept they're very familiar with by the time sexuality hits the scene). I won;t begin to pretend that this will probably be one of the most challenging experiences of my life, but I hope that, in being open to learning as much from them as I teach them, it will also be one of the most rewarding. 

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