Time To Scale Back

CDC Time to Scale Back


NYU: A Day In The Life


Erin Callihan's spread in Bird Watching magazine!

Kudos to my boss, Erin Callihan, who's amazing photo is now famous -- to bird nerds everywhere! :P 


Full Moon 

I was born on June 26th. Astrologically, this makes me a Cancer: a moonchild, as it were. It will come as no shock to those who know me best to hear that I delight in taking a moment to look up and stare in awe at the beauty and radiance of the moon. I have always been a stargazer - looking past the limits which society has contrained unto me and thinking about what could be. 

Growing up, the moon gave me great comfort to be able to look up and know that despite our differences, the Moon was always there - gently watching over us. It was a commonality that gave me pause because, not only did I contemplate the longitudinal spectrum of this world, but I was able to grasp momentarily a new perspective in my life. The full moon was always the same: in Nebraska, in New York, in Thailand, in Paris. It brought a unity in space and time and perhaps gave me time to contemplate infinity. And in moments of great desperation, my thoughts tend to float to the moon - at how tiny my problems are to it - how insignificant the trifles of my life are to the moon. The moon cares not for my complaints, for my whining, for my despair. The moon will just gaze back at me, radiant and calm, inviting me to be the same.

A full moon brought me an occasion to stop and reflect on all of the past full moons I have ever seen. I am always roughly in the same position: standing, craning my neck upwards with a goofy grin on my face pondering the transient nature of our lives and the evanescent quality of our moments. With this seemingly morose viewpoint, it would be easy to become panicked and anxious about the time slipping through our fingers, but for me - this has always been a beautiful reminder of how precious our time is - how extraordinarily wonderful we can make each moment if we see that it is fleeting. 

I began to sort of view my life in phases of the moon. I started to sense that, like spring and fall, I found waxing and waning moons to be of great beauty. I noted that, like winter, my energy took a dip when there was a new moon. And, like summer - the time of my birth - a full moon meant an indescribable strength and ease and a knowing that can not be explained. I seek not to comprehend why all of this is, because for me to dissect the profound experiences that come about on a full moon would be to resist them. I appreciate and allow the experiences to happen and for this to be a time of celebration, reflection, wisdom, and love. 

It is on this full moon, on September the 12th, 2011 - a day synonymous in my heart with the notion that the sun rises even amid the darkest night - that I commit myself to more forwardly celebrating the full moon. I believe this will manifest in different ways (and it is a goal of mine to experience a Full Moon party in Thailand) and I will certainly not enumerate the specific ways I will act in the future, but I will from now on take this occasion - this pause that always draws my attention upward and inward - to focus on how precious life is and how much beauty there is in this world.


Declaring Independence

Some 200 years ago, the leaders of our new nation decided to rebuke one of the largest and most powerful Empires in the world and declared independence. If you take a few minutes to actually read the Declaration of Independence, you will see that while the document lays the foundation for the values and ideals inherant in our national mythos, it is also a document airing grievances against King George. 

Our forefathers struggled against the injustice of King George's rule for years, and after many years of attempting to work within that system, they gained the courage and insight needed to innovate - to declare a different ending to their collective story.
One phrase in the Declaration of Independence struck me in my most recent review:
"...and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government."
Whoa. The colonists felt they were compelled, even forced to make a systemic change. 

How often in our lives do we feel that we are like the colonists? How many times do we fall prey to feeling victimized in our lives by systems seemingly beyond our control? It is easy to become entrenched in the deep ritual of self-loathing: allowing the voices proclaiming your inadequacies, your shortcomings, your faults, your imperfections, your weaknesses - to drown out our own, true voice expressing our beauty, our wisdom, our acceptance, our perfect imperfection, our love. It is easy to become entrenched because it is a system that we did not consent to. Like the colonists, we were born under the tyranical rule of these societal norms.

Fortuitously, the colonists painted a perfect road map for us. They created a document listing the injustices imposed upon them by King George and the current system. We, too, can bring attention and awareness to the grievances we experience in our current systems. I work a lot with systems - from creating procedures for others, manuals for repetitive work, policy language for lobbying, and my field of study in school - sociology - which explores systems and institutions affecting society. For clarification, here is a definition for system:

a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method

Systems are hard-wired into our daily activity, but I find that most people are unaware of the systems in their own lives. I will give you an example of my own process of systemic thinking in my own life. I used to have an unconscious system of waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror and going through a laundry list of what was wrong: "I'm so fat, I wish my skin was clearer, I hate my hair, are my teeth turning yellow? Why am I accumulating mass around my inner thighs? Why am I so ugly?" I was defeated before I even left the house. I was being terrorized by a system of self-hatred.

Then, I brought awareness to this system and decided that it was 'necessary to constrain myself to alter my former Systems of Self-Governance.' I needed to declare independence from my own self-destructive systems and behaviors. What needed to be done was to alter and replace the systems that were not working for me with new systems that would secure Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. (It's a 4th of July post - it's gonna be a little inspiring corny, okay?) I now look in the mirror and marvel and what a beautiful creature I am - I revel in the magnificence of what I am able to do with this body - I awe in the possibilities afforded to me in this life. That is a system I fully consent to. :)

And so, I invite you to join me in a declaration of independence. To flambouyantly and enthusiastically throw off the perceived chains that bind us to systems of deficiency and mediocrity in favor of an empowering platform of allowing ourselves to recognize our beauty and brilliance (in ourselves and others). 

I declare independence from thinking of myself as "less than."

I declare independence from ideas of scarcity and limits (think "The limit does not exist" from Mean Girls).

I declare independence from expectation to act a certain way, feel a certain emotion, think a particular idea, and compromise in order to ingratiate myself into other's expectations of me. 

Finally, I declare independence from fear. I instead choose to love

What do you want to declare independence from today?