Monday, January 28, 2013

My Cultural Lens

On Friday, Dr. Charles Carter from the Critteron Women's Union came and spoke to us about our cultural lenses. He asked us three main questions: What colors our lens? What shapes our lens? And what's the focus of our lens? I don't think these will surprise anyone too greatly based off of past blog posts, but here it is regardless. My lens is colored by faith, shaped by worldly experiences, and focused through enthusiastic initiative (risk-taking).  Now let me exposé on each of those.

Colored by Faith
When I was a young child, church was part of my biweekly routine, mostly because I was part of the Children's choir from Kindergarten through 4th grade. When I moved to Afton, I also began my WAPO days, a Lutheran bible camp in Amery, WI, each summer. It was here where I learned to take faith as my responsibility and wasn't just a Sunday ritual. The following ten years WAPO was my favorite place in the world, making lifelong friends, and always bawling at the end of the week when I had to leave my beloved utopia until the following year. This coupled with my youth group at church were my main pillars of faith. But upon becoming a WAPO counselor senior year, I learned a lot of people didn't walk the talk. The idea of WAPO as a utopia was shattered, though in retrospect, it was a healthy, necessary realization. In that day, I claimed I wasn't judgmental, but in reality I was, because instead of only wearing my WWJD bracelet and modeling what I believed to be "Christ-like behavior" I inwardly reprimanded those who did not and strived that much harder to "be a better person." To summarize from 2006 onward, I realized it wasn't about what you did/didn't do, but rather about trying to spread love and joy to as many people as possible, and for me, this didn't necessitate substances, men, or material goods. I realize I (most definitely) came off as a prude and too wholesome for any high school student.
Upon entering college, I was immediately immersed, despite going to a Lutheran college, with vast beliefs from all over the world, Lutherans who had stark credential differences despite being the same denomination, and required religion classes demolishing my Sunday School foundation, but forming anew discussions like Science and Religion, and the historical context of the Bible. Despite the title, these ironically were some of the largest formative experiences of how my faith trajectory altered. After studying abroad, participating in an Interfaith Group and becoming "more of a college student," my main spiritual beliefs became unconditional love and the power of community. I read a lot more spiritual texts, learned more about other backgrounds, questioned beliefs, and had several 2 am social lounge discussions.
After living in Tanzania as a college grad, I had my most acute revelation yet: music is the thread of unity. That thought culminated all my isolated fragmented thoughts together and is the reason I feel so passionate about El Sistema. That unlike faith, music has a transcendental power accessible to anyone, regardless of background, and is neither divisive nor controversial.

Shaped by Worldly Experience
On Friday I wrote down traveling, but I've had many worldly experiences, some not only in my own country, or city, but in my own home. Going to a Montessori school that celebrated every holiday and having friends from around the world, international cultures have always been something that fascinate me endlessly and perhaps the reason language mesmerizes me. I am learning how to communicate with yet another faction of communicators, what could be cooler?!
Growing up, my dad worked for an airline, giving me the extremely fortunate opportunity to travel frequently and thus other perspectives were integrated into my world view from a young age consistently. He also welcomed many diverse guests into our home, most frequently Dutch and Japanese. My parents would guilt trip me watching TV when it was a nice day outside, and we would constantly be doing activities to educate ourselves. Go figure, my favorite show was Carmen Sandiego. I danced as a kid, but not the typical ballerina, I irish danced. My senior thesis was on an indigenous people in Chile's world view. Our regularly frequented restaurant was Vietnamese.
When I cook a meal, I try to make it more than just about feeding myself to satiate hunger. Rather, I'm celebrating that specific cuisine and enjoying a gustatory pleasure of life. One of the main reasons I despise eating meals alone. Perhaps, it's from my Italian background and the slow food movement, never having eaten canned vegetables growing up.
 One of the reasons I love living outside the US and developed world is the struggle that exists to carry out daily life, because with it comes a renewed appreciation for not only the blessings life gives us, but also a new perspective and appreciation for the opportunities available in this country. But ironically, it's usually in the people who have nothing that I see the most joy.
Now that I've been back in the US for 1.5 years, my wanderlust has certainly not diminished. But, whenever I make a significant decision, I am constantly questioning the opportunities to interact with other cultures, travel, or otherwise expand my world vision. Sometimes I struggle because I feel alone in this priority, but alas this is me.

Focused through Enthusiastic Initiative
Since I was 14, I have been an entrepreneur. It started out informally giving piano lessons to some of my Sunday School students after church, but then it became my main source of income through college, and even earned me some scholarships. I then became very involved by joining and later co-leading the Entrepreneurship Club. When I went to Chile, I wanted to keep my students and had a brainchild of Skype lessons and it actually worked! And then ACME was born once I returned from Tanzania and realized my niche of teaching music to the underserved.
These are my large founding experiences, but on a smaller scale, in daily life, I initiate. I question, I network, I seize opportunities. Quickly. And yes with eagerness and enthusiasm. I am a Renaissance woman having done many different things, but one thread I see in common is the risk factor in all of them, not of adrenaline, but of embracing the unknown. But until now, they have all been short-term stints, and perhaps abnormally, my default is to pursue another. Ready to start life again. This is my comfort zone. But I know I am perfectly capable of having this focus on a longer term pursuit, the question is preference. I've spent much time reflecting why the former never loses its excitement, while the latter scares me, even though the latter is in a familiar environment and focused on initiative. This will be the big "aha" moment of the semester when I have an answer (not the answer).


So ask yourself, with what are your glasses colored, with what are they shaped, and through what are they focused?

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