Sociology Question

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threenry13

Humanities

SYG 2000 Introduction to Sociology

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Read the attached excerpt from Building blocks to an abundant life: Design the life you desire by Mirella Baker Bemmel and pay special attention to the sociological concepts that appear throughout the chapter. You may also want to click here to take a look inside the first few pages of the book. Take a symbolic interactionist approach to respond to the questions at the end of the chapter. You should incorporate 15 to 20 sociological terms throughout your paper and highlight each term (only highlight once if you use the term multiple times). Include a list of those terms with their definition at the end of your paper. This list should be single spaced and the definitions should be in your own words. A sample paper is included.

Your paper should be 3-4 pages long, typed, double spaced (only the list of definitions at the end should be single spaced). At least 3 pages of your paper should be your essay and page 4 should be the list of definitions.

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CHAPTER 1: THE FOUNDATION “It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time” - David Allan Coe W e meet new people all the time, and, occasionally, we meet someone whom we have a connection with, and that first encounter blossoms into a beautiful friendship or the intimate relationship we were yearning for. We don’t know at that first encounter how things will turn out years down the road. The initial connection might have clicked because you realized you had several things in common and the more you talk, the deeper the connection gets. It should be no surprise that the people we feel most comfortable with are the ones with whom we share things in common. The moral compass we follow, the games we loved when we grew up, and the music we like to listen to are among the things in our foundation that draw us closer to others who share these similarities. As we sit back and reflect on our connections, we realize that people we are closest to have fundamental similarities to us, which enrich the relationships and keep them strong. We don’t have to belong to the same religious group to agree on many moral views, nor do we need to have the same education or profession to share ethical principles. It comes down to a recognition of and an appreciation for a solid foundation. The comparison to the foundation of a house comes into play here. When the decision is made that a house will be built, the first and most important step is to build a solid foundation, and the same is true for building a solid relationship. The foundation of a house must be strong. It is that which the building will rest on for many years. When a house is being built, very careful steps are taken to make sure that the ground beneath is just right, the framework is carefully laid out, the concrete can be poured, and it sits until it hardens. If the builder tries to cut corners and doesn’t follow the steps carefully, uses poor quality materials or simply rushes the job, this foundation eventually will crack. Even strong foundations may at some point crack because of changes in the soil it is built on or natural shifts that puts it to the test. When a child is born, their parents or caretakers are partly responsible for contributing to the foundation. Let’s explore the essence of this foundation through the lens of our family, our culture, and our genes, among other core influences in our young lives. Our Genes Have people told you that you walk just like your mother or that your laugh sounds similar to your father’s? While those characteristics are learned through imitation, there are parts of our essence which were passed on to us through genetics. The blood disorder or heart condition that requires accommodations for our daily living, the addictive gene that patiently awaits an opportunity to wake up from its slumber, and the facial features and physique that we love or better learn to accept all came from somewhere. There isn’t much we can do about our height, but we might try to find ways to compensate for it. The kid who is much taller than her peers might start to slouch to create the illusion that she is shorter. She might be very self-conscious, and as a result; her self-esteem might suffer from this. It gets especially difficult if her height becomes the source of teasing, and the once happy, outgoing child could become quiet and withdrawn. Some of the unflattering nicknames kids come up with that refer to the flaws that we most want to hide can morph into permanent psychological damage when they are yelled across the courtyard at school. This child might still have the scars when she gets older, and it can affect her relationships with others in the future. Since changing her height is not an option, she could benefit from changing her self-concept, which, in turn, will change her self-esteem. It’s a process that could take years of personal effort and perhaps even professional guidance to help reshape how we see ourselves. The way nature makes us undoubtedly has an effect on so many aspects of who we are, and genetics are just part of that equation. I have big feet, and this was apparent from the time I was in middle school. One of my nicknames was Big Foot, and it lasted for many years. There were variations of Big Foot that were thrown at me, depending on who decided to put on clown pants that day, and eventually I just expected to be the butt of jokes, and I laughed right along. The jokesters probably didn’t think their comments mattered as it was all “in good fun.” My height eventually caught up to my feet, and while my feet are still big, they seem in better proportion with the rest of my body now. But guess what? Even nature decided to play along on the joke when I was pregnant, and my feet grew half a size. To this day, I am still self-conscious about my size 11 feet. You can probably point out something about your body that you don’t like or that you might be insecure about. Big feet seem to run in my family, but most of my siblings are taller than average, so it should not come as a surprise. Our features can be traced along family lines, and we can say with a level of certainty that genetics play a role in those. Some aspects of our being might not be genetic, but the biological links are present. However, scientists still can’t agree on concrete origins of, for example, sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation. Various explanations are offered about attractions and gender and the influences of nature and nurture, but conservative religious influences don’t offer much room to explore and leave people who are questioning in a place of guilt, uncertainty, and doubt. How do you reconcile questions that challenge strong religious beliefs with feelings that go against those very beliefs that shape your foundation? How does nurture meet nature if the two appear to collide because of condemnation by family, religion, or other critical socializing agents? Family and Socialization Of all the social institutions that influence our life, family is the most important one. When we are babies, our mother was often the one who played the most essential role as nurturer. Of course, there are so many people who can take on this amazing role, such as a grandparent, relative, or other custodian. The bond you formed with this caretaker while lying on their chest during feeding time was so intimate and precious. You gazed into each other’s eyes as your first conversations took place, and a sense of deep love that was indescribable took shape. As you got older, your caretaker’s wise words started to make sense, and their influence was undeniable. They taught you right from wrong and instilled in you the rules of society as they understood them. The way they disciplined you might have been the same way they were disciplined themselves. If your caretakers were religious, they most likely took you along to weekly services and might have either enrolled you in a religious school or an after school religious program. They do this to ensure that their child will grow up with a solid religious foundation. Non-religious caretakers also instill morals and values into their children. The absence of the weekly visits to a place of worship doesn’t mean that they ignore the moral lessons, many of which are universal and happen to be grounded in the world’s major religions. The moral fortitude that steers us clear from killing and stealing are commonly imparted on children, regardless of religious affiliations or the absence thereof. Our siblings and extended family play an active role in our lives as well. In some families, these connections make you feel loved and supported, despite occasional disagreements that are common in every household. For others, healthy connections with family members are only a dream. Your parents’ relationship issues might have included frequent fights, which also become lessons in how to deal with conflict. Children whose caretakers got into physical altercations or verbal attacks might internalize those as normal, and their future might show signs of the exact behavior that scared them when they were a child. The patterns that children are exposed to could very well become their blueprint which materializes when they are adults. They could become victims of similar abuse in their relationships, or they could turn into the person who raises their hands or weaponize their words during disagreements or stressful times. If you find yourself on either side of the situation, it would be good to evaluate the patterns to understand how you got there. Did you ignore red flags that presented themselves along the way? It usually doesn’t happen that things turn from good to bad on a day’s notice. There are signs which we sometimes excuse or ignore, but they are there. While honesty with others is usually preached as being the best policy, honesty with our self is even more critical. With that honesty should come a commitment to choose better. Although research points to disproportionate educational achievement gaps, poverty, and behavioral issues experienced12 by kids raised in single parent households3, there is a lot to be said about a child raised by a single parent who learns about resilience and independence very early on. They become more resourceful when they are left to figure out many things on their own and develop a sense of grit when they deal with life’s challenges. Their strength and independence are qualities that might take a little longer to develop in children who are raised in two-parent households. Those children tend to rely on their caretakers, who might see doing things for their children as part of their role as a caretaker. This is done lovingly, but the result can be that these children take a bit longer to mature. The child raised in a family with two parental figures might see that as ideal and eventually seek out a relationship where they yearn for their own partnered relationship. On the other hand, the child, especially a daughter, who was raised by a single parent might be apprehensive to enter a marriage when they reach adulthood4. The mindset of self-perseverance along with a fear of a failed relationship may reduce the value they place on a forever relationship. Think about people who play a prominent role in your life: your caretakers, siblings, spouse, children, best friends. These are people who are so important to many of us that the idea of losing them is unthinkable. Family usually falls in that category, and despite the quarrels and disagreements; we often maintain a relationship with them because of love or perhaps a feeling of allegiance to the family connection. While stable nuclear families tend to pose fewer developmental challenges for children, research shows that children raised in non-traditional families, such as single-parent and stepparent households have positive outcomes and don’t have any serious problems1. It’s not who runs the household itself, but love and support or lack thereof ultimately determine long-term positive outcomes for children. 1 Center for Law and Social Policy. (2003, May). Are Married Parents Really Better for Children? What Research Says about the Effects of Family Structure on Child Well Being. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED476114.pdf 2 Soomar, S. M. (2019). Single Parenting: Understanding Reasons and Consequences. JOJ Nursing & Health Care, 10(2), 117–125. https://doi.org/10.19080/jojnhc.2019.10.555781 3 Ziol-Guest, K. M. (2020, July 15). One-Parent Students Leave School Earlier. Education Next, 15(2). https://www.educationnext.org/one-parent-students-leaveschool-earlier/ 4 Whitton, S. W., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (2008). Effects of parental divorce on marital commitment and confidence. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(5), 789–793. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0012800 When a child is born, the family is most likely going to be their most important agent responsible for providing food, shelter and love. The parents likely take on this responsibility, but it is common that other caretakers like stepparents, grandparents, other family members or foster families take on this critical role. As we go through the different life stages, our needs gradually change, and the role of caretaker slowly begins to shift. Children become more self-sufficient, and, in some cultures, the child might flee the nest during their teenage years. They seek employment, get involved in a relationship, or pursue higher education and other interests. While the hopes and dreams of any child is to be part of a loving family, these dreams could be detoured because of experiences brought on by the parents: disagreements, infidelity, financial stress, drug or alcohol abuse, etc. Siblings might have a falling out, tumultuous relationships may break up families, and, in the end, the ties that once used to seem unbreakable suddenly get weak. This might cause the family foundation to crumble. There are several ways in which a broken foundation can be mended, such as open and honest communication, therapy, or simply taking a break, regrouping, and resuming the relationship. The latter must be approached with caution because all individuals must commit to the hard work involved for personal improvement. It is possible that the only way a house can remain strong is by demolishing an entire foundation that is damaged beyond repair and building a new one. If a relationship is toxic, it might be best to move on from it and to sever all the ties that once were. While this could be a temporary solution, there are times when a permanent separation is the only way to ensure peace of mind. Unhealthy parental relationships may put cracks in the foundation and play a big role in the psychological development of children. Kids who are raised by alcoholic or drug addicted caretakers or parents with mental health issues have to endure tensions in the household that could put them in unfortunate predicaments. They might grow resentful of the environment in which their caretaker turns into someone they don’t know or recognize. Depending on the extent of the addiction or mental health problem, the children might be neglected, and responsibilities are put on their shoulders, especially as they get older. It creates expectations for these children, some of which can lead to co-dependent relationships that are hard to escape. Children may start to doubt their own faculties and resort to patterns of depression, abuse, or self-harm in an effort to cope. For example, I remember an incident of a 19-year-old who started to question her own mental health as she witnessed the suffering of her mother who was Baker Acted5 a few times due to her mental breakdowns and was involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility as she became a threat to herself and others. The girl felt responsible for her parents’ wellbeing, and she didn’t want to leave the house, afraid that they would get into their pattern of physical altercations, or her mother would suffer another manic episode. As a result, she developed anxiety disorder, started to suffer from anxiety attacks, and could not focus on school. This responsible student stopped turning in assignments, missed many classes, and the high marks she received for the work that was completed were not enough to pass her classes. She felt increasingly overwhelmed, and it was evident that she was on the verge of a mental breakdown herself. She postponed seeking help from a mental health professional because she was afraid that any diagnosis and treatment might tarnish her records and prevent her from being accepted into the Air Force later. As a result, she continued to suffer in silence for a while. Months later, she reached her breaking point and sought professional help. Much of the stress she felt was caused by the tension in the home, but with the guidance of a mental health professional, she was able to re-enroll in school and enjoyed noticeable academic improvements. Cracks in the family foundation affect everyone involved, and everyone finds a way to cope with them. Some become excellent at compartmentalizing and shelf their pain, hoping it will go away, while others wear their burdens on their sleeve and find themselves searching for ways to cope6. Unfortunately, their search sometimes leads them to unhealthy life decisions that put them on the path of abuse of self, substances, and other potentially unhealthy outlets. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help individuals who were raised on a broken foundation. Self-help books, individual/group therapy sessions, or medication to deal 5 2011 Florida Statutes. (n.d.). The Florida Senate. Retrieved November 27, 2020, from https://www.flsenate.gov/laws/statutes/2011/394.463 6 Shonkoff, J. P. (2012, January 1). The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2011-2663 with clinical diagnoses are just a few solutions that may help someone, but the first step, as is often times said, is recognizing that there is a problem. The person who put the problem on a shelf in hopes that it would go away will likely see it come up again at some point. Dealing with it, regardless of how painful that may be, is the only way to address the problem at its root. Culture, Country and Social Class Our upbringing influences the choices we make, the way we look at life, and where we ultimately land. While we may be under the impression that every step we take is uniquely ours, when, where, and how we have been socialized play a huge role in our decision making. Our cultural background is largely responsible for our values and beliefs. The seemingly unassuming influence of singing the national anthem or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in the United States before school starts grooms children’s sense of patriotism. When businesses in the Caribbean are closed on Sundays in recognition of religious observation and entire countries are quiet and solemn, it demonstrates faith and religious devotion that is widely accepted by the people of that society. These customs vary based on the level of importance determined by the citizens or government of the country. Without people, culture would not exist, and without culture, people’s existence would be unpredictable and chaotic. While it may not be apparent to some, our culture is an integral part of our foundation. Someone who is raised in a culture that values individualism will likely make decisions about their education, career, and family with a focus on their personal happiness and success. From the time they are young, their parents instill in them that they are responsible for their own life’s path and that the only way they will be successful is by putting in diligent effort early. In a collective culture, success or failure is not measured by individual strife, but rather by that of the entire group. Children are therefore socialized very differently and are reminded that their choices ultimately need to benefit the family and others in the community. Personal sacrifices are not frowned upon or resisted since these are made for the benefit of the group. When we have clarity on these cultural differences, it becomes easier to understand people from diverse backgrounds. At work, someone who quietly takes on all the work that is assigned to them may seem like a pushover, but they may have been taught early on that challenging authority is wrong and that cooperation is of utmost importance. People who are raised to value individual happiness might not be successful in a relationship arranged by their parents. They may be more inclined to search for their own partner, and if the partner no longer fulfills their needs, they might wish to end the relationship. The explanation of “I am not happy anymore” is a common and acceptable reason for moving on in search of happiness elsewhere. Work ethic is another example of the role culture plays in our decisions. In an effort to gain material comfort, some chase the American dream, which includes working long hours, including weekends. They may feel lucky to get compensated during a two-week vacation and barely take time off for parental leave after the birth of a child. Compare that to European countries where 4 weeks of paid vacation is normal and maternity leave is not determined based on how many days you were able to accumulate over time. Hard work is often equated with success, yet the sacrifices made along the way often go unnoticed. The idea of a 9–10-hour workday may seem absurd to those from the Caribbean, who are used to shorter workdays. One area affected by these cultural work expectations is relationships. Longer hours at work also means fewer hours with loved ones and less time to socialize. Individuals might get caught up in the grind without realizing that their sacrifices could very well include a decline in the connections with people they love. Mothers who also work outside of the home don’t return home after work to rest. Instead, they shift gears and commonly carry the responsibility of the household duties as they pull a double shift. Regardless of which society, women who were raised in a culture that expects females to shoulder the domestic responsibilities end up taking on most of the domestic duties as mothers. They were, after all, groomed for this position by their culture and it becomes second nature, even a source of pride, for those women whose husbands boast about their well-kept children, impeccably clean house, and gourmet dishes prepared by their wife. Family is one of the most impactful agents responsible for the process of socialization. When I was young, there were so many influences around me that shaped who I ultimately became. I grew up in a small South American country named Suriname, which is located on the northern coast of South America. Along with the subjects in the school curriculum, we learned many life lessons including cultural etiquette, patriotism, and religiosity. The notoriously strict approach by the teachers in one of a handful of Catholic schools in the country ensured that there was never any doubt about the respect that teachers demanded. Adults were spoken to in a manner of subservience, and a child would not dare call them by their first name or use a disrespectful tone. These lessons were ingrained in children from the time they were toddlers, and the bar for interpersonal relationships was set high. The taboos of self-disclosure were clear, and if you grew up with authoritative parents, then you knew that topics related to intimate relationships were off the table. This made for an interesting journey to learn about life lessons, because peers, the media, and gut-feelings became the trusted sources of information related to intimate relationships and sexuality. The experiences related to political unrest in Suriname in the 1980s were, to say the least, some of the most impactful ones while growing up. Civil wars that started because of military invasions taught all the citizens of the small country lessons of survival during trying times. We learned about obedience to authority, which for many brought about feelings of resentment and mistrust of government that lingered for many years. How we are socialized shapes our thinking and our actions, without us being consciously aware of the profound impact. The scars we carry become our badges of honor, or perhaps the painful reminders of struggle. The experiences of my past, specifically; the influence of socializing agents, like military and government, affected different areas of my life, including my outlook on geo-political tensions and interactions. A deeper appreciation for the basic things in life is certainly linked to my childhood experiences of suffering, fear, and uncertainty during civil war. I have a deep-rooted anxiety that is triggered when military tanker trucks are nearby, as my memories take me back to times of war, curfew, limited resources, including food and water, and lives being lost during assassinations. The influence of a strong religious foundation is undeniable in cultures where religion stands at the forefront of families, or in the case of an ecclesia where the government bases its laws on the practices of a particular faith, it is weaved into the fabric of the entire country. With the latter, the ecclesia might not give families religious freedom, as they are expected to follow doctrine-based rules which are enforced, leaving no room for deviation. It should come as no surprise that residents from such cultures have similar views on their life’s purpose, their family obligations, and pre-set life’s desires. Where establishing romantic relationships in western cultures seems appropriate through courting and dating, it is more likely to find conservatively predictable lifestyles and expectations when rules are based on religious laws and deviance may result in serious sanctions. The existence of diversity among families is diminished, and a carefully written script that outlines relationships, roles, and rules of socialization are passed on from one generation to the next. Rebels who choose their own path and who might be inclined to make their unique lifestyle decisions public risk being ostracized by members of their community, as well as their families. It should not be assumed that differences only exist between nations and their respective cultures. There are several factors within nations that could impact the foundation of individuals and their network. Our socio-economic status certainly affects our foundation, and people who belong to the lower class have struggles which make it difficult to patch the cracks in theirs. While lessons of faith can be uniform regardless of social class, lessons about country and culture could be vastly different depending on your race and class. In the United States, children in the lower class may learn about the struggles of their families and those who came before them in the context of police brutality and inequity. Love of country and history lessons are taught with a reality of the scars left by the past and examples of a current climate that’s loaded with examples of injustice. Families who live paycheck to paycheck might just accept the cracks in their foundation caused by their limited means because their focus is on survival. If their child performs poorly in school, they may base the results on the norm they are used to and accept it as their fate. Affluent families, on the other hand, can afford to enroll their children in tutoring, which adds to the child’s academic and overall development. It’s common to see that poor families rely on other areas within their foundation that serve as the glue for their families. Religion, for example, often serves as a source of hope and psychological comfort.7 Our foundation is undoubtedly affected by the country we were raised in and the culture that surrounds us. This awareness can help us make changes if those are necessary. The culture 7 Jordan, J. (2016). Religion and inequality: The lasting impact of religious traditions and institutions on welfare state development. European Political Science Review, 8(1), 25-48. doi:10.1017/S1755773914000381 may have been a positive contributor to how we see life and the choices we make. However, if the cultural deck of cards we were dealt were less than desirable because we see it as oppressive in some way, we can make changes to that foundation through personal reflection and a commitment to doing better for our children and the next generation. Howard’s story gives a glimpse into his journey and how he has consciously and consistently made efforts to create the best life for himself. His connection with the culture he grew up in is evident and seems to have had a significant influence on many areas in his life, along with the mentors who guided him and opened up doors to an incredible future. Some Simple but Profound Lessons of Life When I retired, a few years ago from my position as a Sociology Professor at Broward College, I was literally walking away from over 52 years of teaching. My teaching career actually began right out of high school when, as a country boy, I was offered a teaching position at an elementary school in Kingston, the most urban city in my country of Jamaica. As city life goes, I was extremely naive, but I had a few things going for me; I was a “fast talker,” I played a mean game of ping pong (table tennis), I could run fast, I was a left-handed cricketer, and as a male teacher, I was considered a rare commodity. The Principal at my new school quickly assessed my value to the school and placed all the “difficult to handle” students in my class. It was there that I was turned on to the transforming and motivating power of learning. Whereas the initial criteria for getting into my class was that no other teacher wanted the student, before long, it became a privilege to be in my class. My class was where things were happening, such as engaging assignments, fun activities, field trips, and sports competition. Indeed, that first exposure to teaching was negotiated out of necessity—I simply took the first job that was offered to me. As a recent high school graduate at that time in Jamaica, I was a strong believer in the wise old saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” The seeds of my attraction to learning, however, were planted during my preschool years. At age 3, my parents enrolled me in a class taught by an aspiring “teacher.” She had no formal training as a teacher, but obviously knew the value of early childhood education. There were no actual classrooms, desks, or teaching supplies, instead, we had an outdoor classroom with a large tree providing welcome shade from the sun. We did not know it then, but what we had was indeed a gifted teacher. The building blocks of positive self-esteem: effective leadership, value of sharing, and a sense of community were all being securely put in place. I recall very vividly when she had to leave the class to tend to some personal household chores (the class was next door to her house), she would alternately assign one of us to be in charge of the class until she returned. A number of us from that class ended up as leaders in our chosen professions. Here is the sweet spot of that story. That marvelously, innovative teacher was subsequently accepted into one of the finest teacher training colleges on the island, and by the time I reached elementary school level, she became my certified science teacher. As elementary students, she had us doing full blown dissection on frogs and rabbits, and I can still feel the pride we all had when we succeeded in making those precision surgical maneuvers that avoided damaging a key organ. Fast forward the life journey to an advanced Experimental Psychology class I had in my undergraduate studies. Here again, under the direction of a brilliant teacher, as students, we were surgically inserting probes in rats’ brains to study the distinct hemispheres responsible for specific behaviors. We also trained rats to perform a series of complex behaviors as we learned the amazing principles of operant conditioning. From the foregoing anecdotes, it would be reasonable to conclude that I was living a charmed life—but not so fast, because after obtaining my bachelor’s degree, it was like the flood gates of disappointment and sadness opened up. I knew I wanted to go on to study for my master’s degree, so after researching several graduate programs, I decided on Cornell University. But in the midst of completing the application packet, my mother passed away in Jamaica. Since I was an international student on a student visa, and in between degrees, I was advised that I would risk jeopardizing my visa status if I left the United States at the time. This meant that I would not be able to attend my mother’s funeral. The grief was overwhelming, and despite my gallant attempts to be stoic, the situation affected me deeply. One immediate consequence was a poor performance on the GRE exam, which I was scheduled to take around that same time in order to complete my application packet for Cornell. Along with this subpar performance on the GRE exam and the inability to make the adjustments to show adequate financial resources to meet the requirements of the university, I was denied admission to Cornell. I felt alone, hopeless, and abandoned. But somehow, the clouds were rolled back, the sun burst through, and the long dark nights turn into a bright morning. I was subsequently admitted to the University of Michigan, where I had the privilege of obtaining a wellrounded graduate degree (I’ll spare you the details of this miraculous experience). This roller coaster pattern of high, highs and low, lows has continued throughout my entire life, so much so that whenever I had a peak experience, I began wondering when will my luck change. It was a devastating, stress ridden existence that robbed me of the joy of even celebrating my successes. I decided not to live with this debilitating mindset, instead I acquired the skills to effectively manage life’s events and circumstances. This resolve has become a lifelong journey—it is not a destination; one never fully arrives. There is a sense of freedom that comes with the knowledge that it’s never too late to repair cracks in our foundation that were caused by messages and influences from our past. Just like it took years to build that foundation, it might also take a while before the cracks are repaired. It doesn’t mean that they will all completely go away, but if our growth is blocked because of these cracks, then finding where they are is important. It’s not realistic to believe that those cracks can all be wiped away when the work is done. The traditional Japanese art known as kintsugi is perhaps the most beautiful and loving way to help understand this repair. When ceramic pottery breaks, the Japanese use liquid gold or silver to reattach the broken pieces in an effort to enhance the beauty of that piece. It becomes even more beautiful, more unique, and more valuable. Rather than looking at our scars as burdensome memories of the past that taint our future, we can grow from the trauma and relish in our uniqueness. In our relationships with others, the same cracks can become sources of strength. It’s Time to Reflect, Redesign, and Remodel Reflect: Consider your foundation and identify areas where it might be cracked. Are you having issues with family members? Are you dealing with genetic issues that affect your health? Did something happen when you were growing up that still bothers you? Write down the cracks you have identified and elaborate on what the issues are. Redesign: Now write down how things would look if you had a magic wand and could make changes. This should be the ideal picture. How much of that could be a reality? What can you change to make it happen? If you can’t make external changes, what internal changes can you make to improve the situation? Write down a step-by-step action plan and be specific on how you will implement the steps. Remodel: Implement the steps and have mercy on yourself as you do the work. If there is a setback, just make adjustments to your timeline. If the plan doesn’t work, be flexible and start over. CHAPTER 1: THE FOUNDATION “It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time” - David Allan Coe W e meet new people all the time, and, occasionally, we meet someone whom we have a connection with, and that first encounter blossoms into a beautiful friendship or the intimate relationship we were yearning for. We don’t know at that first encounter how things will turn out years down the road. The initial connection might have clicked because you realized you had several things in common and the more you talk, the deeper the connection gets. It should be no surprise that the people we feel most comfortable with are the ones with whom we share things in common. The moral compass we follow, the games we loved when we grew up, and the music we like to listen to are among the things in our foundation that draw us closer to others who share these similarities. As we sit back and reflect on our connections, we realize that people we are closest to have fundamental similarities to us, which enrich the relationships and keep them strong. We don’t have to belong to the same religious group to agree on many moral views, nor do we need to have the same education or profession to share ethical principles. It comes down to a recognition of and an appreciation for a solid foundation. The comparison to the foundation of a house comes into play here. When the decision is made that a house will be built, the first and most important step is to build a solid foundation, and the same is true for building a solid relationship. The foundation of a house must be strong. It is that which the building will rest on for many years. When a house is being built, very careful steps are taken to make sure that the ground beneath is just right, the framework is carefully laid out, the concrete can be poured, and it sits until it hardens. If the builder tries to cut corners and doesn’t follow the steps carefully, uses poor quality materials or simply rushes the job, this foundation eventually will crack. Even strong foundations may at some point crack because of changes in the soil it is built on or natural shifts that puts it to the test. When a child is born, their parents or caretakers are partly responsible for contributing to the foundation. Let’s explore the essence of this foundation through the lens of our family, our culture, and our genes, among other core influences in our young lives. Our Genes Have people told you that you walk just like your mother or that your laugh sounds similar to your father’s? While those characteristics are learned through imitation, there are parts of our essence which were passed on to us through genetics. The blood disorder or heart condition that requires accommodations for our daily living, the addictive gene that patiently awaits an opportunity to wake up from its slumber, and the facial features and physique that we love or better learn to accept all came from somewhere. There isn’t much we can do about our height, but we might try to find ways to compensate for it. The kid who is much taller than her peers might start to slouch to create the illusion that she is shorter. She might be very self-conscious, and as a result; her self-esteem might suffer from this. It gets especially difficult if her height becomes the source of teasing, and the once happy, outgoing child could become quiet and withdrawn. Some of the unflattering nicknames kids come up with that refer to the flaws that we most want to hide can morph into permanent psychological damage when they are yelled across the courtyard at school. This child might still have the scars when she gets older, and it can affect her relationships with others in the future. Since changing her height is not an option, she could benefit from changing her self-concept, which, in turn, will change her self-esteem. It’s a process that could take years of personal effort and perhaps even professional guidance to help reshape how we see ourselves. The way nature makes us undoubtedly has an effect on so many aspects of who we are, and genetics are just part of that equation. I have big feet, and this was apparent from the time I was in middle school. One of my nicknames was Big Foot, and it lasted for many years. There were variations of Big Foot that were thrown at me, depending on who decided to put on clown pants that day, and eventually I just expected to be the butt of jokes, and I laughed right along. The jokesters probably didn’t think their comments mattered as it was all “in good fun.” My height eventually caught up to my feet, and while my feet are still big, they seem in better proportion with the rest of my body now. But guess what? Even nature decided to play along on the joke when I was pregnant, and my feet grew half a size. To this day, I am still self-conscious about my size 11 feet. You can probably point out something about your body that you don’t like or that you might be insecure about. Big feet seem to run in my family, but most of my siblings are taller than average, so it should not come as a surprise. Our features can be traced along family lines, and we can say with a level of certainty that genetics play a role in those. Some aspects of our being might not be genetic, but the biological links are present. However, scientists still can’t agree on concrete origins of, for example, sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation. Various explanations are offered about attractions and gender and the influences of nature and nurture, but conservative religious influences don’t offer much room to explore and leave people who are questioning in a place of guilt, uncertainty, and doubt. How do you reconcile questions that challenge strong religious beliefs with feelings that go against those very beliefs that shape your foundation? How does nurture meet nature if the two appear to collide because of condemnation by family, religion, or other critical socializing agents? Family and Socialization Of all the social institutions that influence our life, family is the most important one. When we are babies, our mother was often the one who played the most essential role as nurturer. Of course, there are so many people who can take on this amazing role, such as a grandparent, relative, or other custodian. The bond you formed with this caretaker while lying on their chest during feeding time was so intimate and precious. You gazed into each other’s eyes as your first conversations took place, and a sense of deep love that was indescribable took shape. As you got older, your caretaker’s wise words started to make sense, and their influence was undeniable. They taught you right from wrong and instilled in you the rules of society as they understood them. The way they disciplined you might have been the same way they were disciplined themselves. If your caretakers were religious, they most likely took you along to weekly services and might have either enrolled you in a religious school or an after school religious program. They do this to ensure that their child will grow up with a solid religious foundation. Non-religious caretakers also instill morals and values into their children. The absence of the weekly visits to a place of worship doesn’t mean that they ignore the moral lessons, many of which are universal and happen to be grounded in the world’s major religions. The moral fortitude that steers us clear from killing and stealing are commonly imparted on children, regardless of religious affiliations or the absence thereof. Our siblings and extended family play an active role in our lives as well. In some families, these connections make you feel loved and supported, despite occasional disagreements that are common in every household. For others, healthy connections with family members are only a dream. Your parents’ relationship issues might have included frequent fights, which also become lessons in how to deal with conflict. Children whose caretakers got into physical altercations or verbal attacks might internalize those as normal, and their future might show signs of the exact behavior that scared them when they were a child. The patterns that children are exposed to could very well become their blueprint which materializes when they are adults. They could become victims of similar abuse in their relationships, or they could turn into the person who raises their hands or weaponize their words during disagreements or stressful times. If you find yourself on either side of the situation, it would be good to evaluate the patterns to understand how you got there. Did you ignore red flags that presented themselves along the way? It usually doesn’t happen that things turn from good to bad on a day’s notice. There are signs which we sometimes excuse or ignore, but they are there. While honesty with others is usually preached as being the best policy, honesty with our self is even more critical. With that honesty should come a commitment to choose better. Although research points to disproportionate educational achievement gaps, poverty, and behavioral issues experienced12 by kids raised in single parent households3, there is a lot to be said about a child raised by a single parent who learns about resilience and independence very early on. They become more resourceful when they are left to figure out many things on their own and develop a sense of grit when they deal with life’s challenges. Their strength and independence are qualities that might take a little longer to develop in children who are raised in two-parent households. Those children tend to rely on their caretakers, who might see doing things for their children as part of their role as a caretaker. This is done lovingly, but the result can be that these children take a bit longer to mature. The child raised in a family with two parental figures might see that as ideal and eventually seek out a relationship where they yearn for their own partnered relationship. On the other hand, the child, especially a daughter, who was raised by a single parent might be apprehensive to enter a marriage when they reach adulthood4. The mindset of self-perseverance along with a fear of a failed relationship may reduce the value they place on a forever relationship. Think about people who play a prominent role in your life: your caretakers, siblings, spouse, children, best friends. These are people who are so important to many of us that the idea of losing them is unthinkable. Family usually falls in that category, and despite the quarrels and disagreements; we often maintain a relationship with them because of love or perhaps a feeling of allegiance to the family connection. While stable nuclear families tend to pose fewer developmental challenges for children, research shows that children raised in non-traditional families, such as single-parent and stepparent households have positive outcomes and don’t have any serious problems1. It’s not who runs the household itself, but love and support or lack thereof ultimately determine long-term positive outcomes for children. 1 Center for Law and Social Policy. (2003, May). Are Married Parents Really Better for Children? What Research Says about the Effects of Family Structure on Child Well Being. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED476114.pdf 2 Soomar, S. M. (2019). Single Parenting: Understanding Reasons and Consequences. JOJ Nursing & Health Care, 10(2), 117–125. https://doi.org/10.19080/jojnhc.2019.10.555781 3 Ziol-Guest, K. M. (2020, July 15). One-Parent Students Leave School Earlier. Education Next, 15(2). https://www.educationnext.org/one-parent-students-leaveschool-earlier/ 4 Whitton, S. W., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (2008). Effects of parental divorce on marital commitment and confidence. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(5), 789–793. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0012800 When a child is born, the family is most likely going to be their most important agent responsible for providing food, shelter and love. The parents likely take on this responsibility, but it is common that other caretakers like stepparents, grandparents, other family members or foster families take on this critical role. As we go through the different life stages, our needs gradually change, and the role of caretaker slowly begins to shift. Children become more self-sufficient, and, in some cultures, the child might flee the nest during their teenage years. They seek employment, get involved in a relationship, or pursue higher education and other interests. While the hopes and dreams of any child is to be part of a loving family, these dreams could be detoured because of experiences brought on by the parents: disagreements, infidelity, financial stress, drug or alcohol abuse, etc. Siblings might have a falling out, tumultuous relationships may break up families, and, in the end, the ties that once used to seem unbreakable suddenly get weak. This might cause the family foundation to crumble. There are several ways in which a broken foundation can be mended, such as open and honest communication, therapy, or simply taking a break, regrouping, and resuming the relationship. The latter must be approached with caution because all individuals must commit to the hard work involved for personal improvement. It is possible that the only way a house can remain strong is by demolishing an entire foundation that is damaged beyond repair and building a new one. If a relationship is toxic, it might be best to move on from it and to sever all the ties that once were. While this could be a temporary solution, there are times when a permanent separation is the only way to ensure peace of mind. Unhealthy parental relationships may put cracks in the foundation and play a big role in the psychological development of children. Kids who are raised by alcoholic or drug addicted caretakers or parents with mental health issues have to endure tensions in the household that could put them in unfortunate predicaments. They might grow resentful of the environment in which their caretaker turns into someone they don’t know or recognize. Depending on the extent of the addiction or mental health problem, the children might be neglected, and responsibilities are put on their shoulders, especially as they get older. It creates expectations for these children, some of which can lead to co-dependent relationships that are hard to escape. Children may start to doubt their own faculties and resort to patterns of depression, abuse, or self-harm in an effort to cope. For example, I remember an incident of a 19-year-old who started to question her own mental health as she witnessed the suffering of her mother who was Baker Acted5 a few times due to her mental breakdowns and was involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility as she became a threat to herself and others. The girl felt responsible for her parents’ wellbeing, and she didn’t want to leave the house, afraid that they would get into their pattern of physical altercations, or her mother would suffer another manic episode. As a result, she developed anxiety disorder, started to suffer from anxiety attacks, and could not focus on school. This responsible student stopped turning in assignments, missed many classes, and the high marks she received for the work that was completed were not enough to pass her classes. She felt increasingly overwhelmed, and it was evident that she was on the verge of a mental breakdown herself. She postponed seeking help from a mental health professional because she was afraid that any diagnosis and treatment might tarnish her records and prevent her from being accepted into the Air Force later. As a result, she continued to suffer in silence for a while. Months later, she reached her breaking point and sought professional help. Much of the stress she felt was caused by the tension in the home, but with the guidance of a mental health professional, she was able to re-enroll in school and enjoyed noticeable academic improvements. Cracks in the family foundation affect everyone involved, and everyone finds a way to cope with them. Some become excellent at compartmentalizing and shelf their pain, hoping it will go away, while others wear their burdens on their sleeve and find themselves searching for ways to cope6. Unfortunately, their search sometimes leads them to unhealthy life decisions that put them on the path of abuse of self, substances, and other potentially unhealthy outlets. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help individuals who were raised on a broken foundation. Self-help books, individual/group therapy sessions, or medication to deal 5 2011 Florida Statutes. (n.d.). The Florida Senate. Retrieved November 27, 2020, from https://www.flsenate.gov/laws/statutes/2011/394.463 6 Shonkoff, J. P. (2012, January 1). The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2011-2663 with clinical diagnoses are just a few solutions that may help someone, but the first step, as is often times said, is recognizing that there is a problem. The person who put the problem on a shelf in hopes that it would go away will likely see it come up again at some point. Dealing with it, regardless of how painful that may be, is the only way to address the problem at its root. Culture, Country and Social Class Our upbringing influences the choices we make, the way we look at life, and where we ultimately land. While we may be under the impression that every step we take is uniquely ours, when, where, and how we have been socialized play a huge role in our decision making. Our cultural background is largely responsible for our values and beliefs. The seemingly unassuming influence of singing the national anthem or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in the United States before school starts grooms children’s sense of patriotism. When businesses in the Caribbean are closed on Sundays in recognition of religious observation and entire countries are quiet and solemn, it demonstrates faith and religious devotion that is widely accepted by the people of that society. These customs vary based on the level of importance determined by the citizens or government of the country. Without people, culture would not exist, and without culture, people’s existence would be unpredictable and chaotic. While it may not be apparent to some, our culture is an integral part of our foundation. Someone who is raised in a culture that values individualism will likely make decisions about their education, career, and family with a focus on their personal happiness and success. From the time they are young, their parents instill in them that they are responsible for their own life’s path and that the only way they will be successful is by putting in diligent effort early. In a collective culture, success or failure is not measured by individual strife, but rather by that of the entire group. Children are therefore socialized very differently and are reminded that their choices ultimately need to benefit the family and others in the community. Personal sacrifices are not frowned upon or resisted since these are made for the benefit of the group. When we have clarity on these cultural differences, it becomes easier to understand people from diverse backgrounds. At work, someone who quietly takes on all the work that is assigned to them may seem like a pushover, but they may have been taught early on that challenging authority is wrong and that cooperation is of utmost importance. People who are raised to value individual happiness might not be successful in a relationship arranged by their parents. They may be more inclined to search for their own partner, and if the partner no longer fulfills their needs, they might wish to end the relationship. The explanation of “I am not happy anymore” is a common and acceptable reason for moving on in search of happiness elsewhere. Work ethic is another example of the role culture plays in our decisions. In an effort to gain material comfort, some chase the American dream, which includes working long hours, including weekends. They may feel lucky to get compensated during a two-week vacation and barely take time off for parental leave after the birth of a child. Compare that to European countries where 4 weeks of paid vacation is normal and maternity leave is not determined based on how many days you were able to accumulate over time. Hard work is often equated with success, yet the sacrifices made along the way often go unnoticed. The idea of a 9–10-hour workday may seem absurd to those from the Caribbean, who are used to shorter workdays. One area affected by these cultural work expectations is relationships. Longer hours at work also means fewer hours with loved ones and less time to socialize. Individuals might get caught up in the grind without realizing that their sacrifices could very well include a decline in the connections with people they love. Mothers who also work outside of the home don’t return home after work to rest. Instead, they shift gears and commonly carry the responsibility of the household duties as they pull a double shift. Regardless of which society, women who were raised in a culture that expects females to shoulder the domestic responsibilities end up taking on most of the domestic duties as mothers. They were, after all, groomed for this position by their culture and it becomes second nature, even a source of pride, for those women whose husbands boast about their well-kept children, impeccably clean house, and gourmet dishes prepared by their wife. Family is one of the most impactful agents responsible for the process of socialization. When I was young, there were so many influences around me that shaped who I ultimately became. I grew up in a small South American country named Suriname, which is located on the northern coast of South America. Along with the subjects in the school curriculum, we learned many life lessons including cultural etiquette, patriotism, and religiosity. The notoriously strict approach by the teachers in one of a handful of Catholic schools in the country ensured that there was never any doubt about the respect that teachers demanded. Adults were spoken to in a manner of subservience, and a child would not dare call them by their first name or use a disrespectful tone. These lessons were ingrained in children from the time they were toddlers, and the bar for interpersonal relationships was set high. The taboos of self-disclosure were clear, and if you grew up with authoritative parents, then you knew that topics related to intimate relationships were off the table. This made for an interesting journey to learn about life lessons, because peers, the media, and gut-feelings became the trusted sources of information related to intimate relationships and sexuality. The experiences related to political unrest in Suriname in the 1980s were, to say the least, some of the most impactful ones while growing up. Civil wars that started because of military invasions taught all the citizens of the small country lessons of survival during trying times. We learned about obedience to authority, which for many brought about feelings of resentment and mistrust of government that lingered for many years. How we are socialized shapes our thinking and our actions, without us being consciously aware of the profound impact. The scars we carry become our badges of honor, or perhaps the painful reminders of struggle. The experiences of my past, specifically; the influence of socializing agents, like military and government, affected different areas of my life, including my outlook on geo-political tensions and interactions. A deeper appreciation for the basic things in life is certainly linked to my childhood experiences of suffering, fear, and uncertainty during civil war. I have a deep-rooted anxiety that is triggered when military tanker trucks are nearby, as my memories take me back to times of war, curfew, limited resources, including food and water, and lives being lost during assassinations. The influence of a strong religious foundation is undeniable in cultures where religion stands at the forefront of families, or in the case of an ecclesia where the government bases its laws on the practices of a particular faith, it is weaved into the fabric of the entire country. With the latter, the ecclesia might not give families religious freedom, as they are expected to follow doctrine-based rules which are enforced, leaving no room for deviation. It should come as no surprise that residents from such cultures have similar views on their life’s purpose, their family obligations, and pre-set life’s desires. Where establishing romantic relationships in western cultures seems appropriate through courting and dating, it is more likely to find conservatively predictable lifestyles and expectations when rules are based on religious laws and deviance may result in serious sanctions. The existence of diversity among families is diminished, and a carefully written script that outlines relationships, roles, and rules of socialization are passed on from one generation to the next. Rebels who choose their own path and who might be inclined to make their unique lifestyle decisions public risk being ostracized by members of their community, as well as their families. It should not be assumed that differences only exist between nations and their respective cultures. There are several factors within nations that could impact the foundation of individuals and their network. Our socio-economic status certainly affects our foundation, and people who belong to the lower class have struggles which make it difficult to patch the cracks in theirs. While lessons of faith can be uniform regardless of social class, lessons about country and culture could be vastly different depending on your race and class. In the United States, children in the lower class may learn about the struggles of their families and those who came before them in the context of police brutality and inequity. Love of country and history lessons are taught with a reality of the scars left by the past and examples of a current climate that’s loaded with examples of injustice. Families who live paycheck to paycheck might just accept the cracks in their foundation caused by their limited means because their focus is on survival. If their child performs poorly in school, they may base the results on the norm they are used to and accept it as their fate. Affluent families, on the other hand, can afford to enroll their children in tutoring, which adds to the child’s academic and overall development. It’s common to see that poor families rely on other areas within their foundation that serve as the glue for their families. Religion, for example, often serves as a source of hope and psychological comfort.7 Our foundation is undoubtedly affected by the country we were raised in and the culture that surrounds us. This awareness can help us make changes if those are necessary. The culture 7 Jordan, J. (2016). Religion and inequality: The lasting impact of religious traditions and institutions on welfare state development. European Political Science Review, 8(1), 25-48. doi:10.1017/S1755773914000381 may have been a positive contributor to how we see life and the choices we make. However, if the cultural deck of cards we were dealt were less than desirable because we see it as oppressive in some way, we can make changes to that foundation through personal reflection and a commitment to doing better for our children and the next generation. Howard’s story gives a glimpse into his journey and how he has consciously and consistently made efforts to create the best life for himself. His connection with the culture he grew up in is evident and seems to have had a significant influence on many areas in his life, along with the mentors who guided him and opened up doors to an incredible future. Some Simple but Profound Lessons of Life When I retired, a few years ago from my position as a Sociology Professor at Broward College, I was literally walking away from over 52 years of teaching. My teaching career actually began right out of high school when, as a country boy, I was offered a teaching position at an elementary school in Kingston, the most urban city in my country of Jamaica. As city life goes, I was extremely naive, but I had a few things going for me; I was a “fast talker,” I played a mean game of ping pong (table tennis), I could run fast, I was a left-handed cricketer, and as a male teacher, I was considered a rare commodity. The Principal at my new school quickly assessed my value to the school and placed all the “difficult to handle” students in my class. It was there that I was turned on to the transforming and motivating power of learning. Whereas the initial criteria for getting into my class was that no other teacher wanted the student, before long, it became a privilege to be in my class. My class was where things were happening, such as engaging assignments, fun activities, field trips, and sports competition. Indeed, that first exposure to teaching was negotiated out of necessity—I simply took the first job that was offered to me. As a recent high school graduate at that time in Jamaica, I was a strong believer in the wise old saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” The seeds of my attraction to learning, however, were planted during my preschool years. At age 3, my parents enrolled me in a class taught by an aspiring “teacher.” She had no formal training as a teacher, but obviously knew the value of early childhood education. There were no actual classrooms, desks, or teaching supplies, instead, we had an outdoor classroom with a large tree providing welcome shade from the sun. We did not know it then, but what we had was indeed a gifted teacher. The building blocks of positive self-esteem: effective leadership, value of sharing, and a sense of community were all being securely put in place. I recall very vividly when she had to leave the class to tend to some personal household chores (the class was next door to her house), she would alternately assign one of us to be in charge of the class until she returned. A number of us from that class ended up as leaders in our chosen professions. Here is the sweet spot of that story. That marvelously, innovative teacher was subsequently accepted into one of the finest teacher training colleges on the island, and by the time I reached elementary school level, she became my certified science teacher. As elementary students, she had us doing full blown dissection on frogs and rabbits, and I can still feel the pride we all had when we succeeded in making those precision surgical maneuvers that avoided damaging a key organ. Fast forward the life journey to an advanced Experimental Psychology class I had in my undergraduate studies. Here again, under the direction of a brilliant teacher, as students, we were surgically inserting probes in rats’ brains to study the distinct hemispheres responsible for specific behaviors. We also trained rats to perform a series of complex behaviors as we learned the amazing principles of operant conditioning. From the foregoing anecdotes, it would be reasonable to conclude that I was living a charmed life—but not so fast, because after obtaining my bachelor’s degree, it was like the flood gates of disappointment and sadness opened up. I knew I wanted to go on to study for my master’s degree, so after researching several graduate programs, I decided on Cornell University. But in the midst of completing the application packet, my mother passed away in Jamaica. Since I was an international student on a student visa, and in between degrees, I was advised that I would risk jeopardizing my visa status if I left the United States at the time. This meant that I would not be able to attend my mother’s funeral. The grief was overwhelming, and despite my gallant attempts to be stoic, the situation affected me deeply. One immediate consequence was a poor performance on the GRE exam, which I was scheduled to take around that same time in order to complete my application packet for Cornell. Along with this subpar performance on the GRE exam and the inability to make the adjustments to show adequate financial resources to meet the requirements of the university, I was denied admission to Cornell. I felt alone, hopeless, and abandoned. But somehow, the clouds were rolled back, the sun burst through, and the long dark nights turn into a bright morning. I was subsequently admitted to the University of Michigan, where I had the privilege of obtaining a wellrounded graduate degree (I’ll spare you the details of this miraculous experience). This roller coaster pattern of high, highs and low, lows has continued throughout my entire life, so much so that whenever I had a peak experience, I began wondering when will my luck change. It was a devastating, stress ridden existence that robbed me of the joy of even celebrating my successes. I decided not to live with this debilitating mindset, instead I acquired the skills to effectively manage life’s events and circumstances. This resolve has become a lifelong journey—it is not a destination; one never fully arrives. There is a sense of freedom that comes with the knowledge that it’s never too late to repair cracks in our foundation that were caused by messages and influences from our past. Just like it took years to build that foundation, it might also take a while before the cracks are repaired. It doesn’t mean that they will all completely go away, but if our growth is blocked because of these cracks, then finding where they are is important. It’s not realistic to believe that those cracks can all be wiped away when the work is done. The traditional Japanese art known as kintsugi is perhaps the most beautiful and loving way to help understand this repair. When ceramic pottery breaks, the Japanese use liquid gold or silver to reattach the broken pieces in an effort to enhance the beauty of that piece. It becomes even more beautiful, more unique, and more valuable. Rather than looking at our scars as burdensome memories of the past that taint our future, we can grow from the trauma and relish in our uniqueness. In our relationships with others, the same cracks can become sources of strength. It’s Time to Reflect, Redesign, and Remodel Reflect: Consider your foundation and identify areas where it might be cracked. Are you having issues with family members? Are you dealing with genetic issues that affect your health? Did something happen when you were growing up that still bothers you? Write down the cracks you have identified and elaborate on what the issues are. Redesign: Now write down how things would look if you had a magic wand and could make changes. This should be the ideal picture. How much of that could be a reality? What can you change to make it happen? If you can’t make external changes, what internal changes can you make to improve the situation? Write down a step-by-step action plan and be specific on how you will implement the steps. Remodel: Implement the steps and have mercy on yourself as you do the work. If there is a setback, just make adjustments to your timeline. If the plan doesn’t work, be flexible and start over. Applied Sociology – Symbolic Interactionism Reflect Indian-Pentecostal culture is quite intense – dominant gender ideology built based on patriarchy runs rampant in families, some certain rights and wrongs differ with society’s perspective, and the reification of the ideal culture typically tears families apart. Of course, not all Indian society subgroups are the same. But specifically, focusing on the Indian-Pentecostal group where culture and religion go hand-in-hand, tremulous waves of expectations can drown individuals, more so for females than males. Growing up in an already conservative culture, with the addition of an even more conservative denomination of Christianity, I didn’t realize how outrageous the rules and regulations that I was groomed to learn were. When I finally developed my sociological imagination and the usage of reference groups, however, I understood how deeply rooted the values and beliefs of my society were in patriarchy and dominant gender ideology. When I compared my culture to that of others, I noticed how I was always told that there are particular ways in which a girl should act that is not expected of a boy. For example, the belief that women should take care of the house, do all different types of cleaning and cooking, raise and discipline children, and become reliant on the man in a relationship is a common belief that maintained social solidarity among the members of my culture and society. To provide background as to how this mentality gets instilled from an early age, I will provide an anecdote. From when I was a child, even now into my teenage years, my brother, who is four years older than me, would be exempt from certain tasks. Chores like helping to clean the house and helping to cook were expected of me; I remember my mother constantly calling me to help her, even though my elder brother was just as able to do it. My mother used positive reinforcement to give me the impression that I was doing something grand. Not only my mother, but my father would say things like how I do the tasks far better than my brother. As a result, I would do those tasks repeatedly and into the future as a result of this reinforcement. However, as I grew, I realized just how wrong it was to instill the idea that a little girl should have to take care of a man, just because of gender. When I grew into my teenage years and observed just how reliant my brother was on my mother and me, I began to question why he couldn’t at least practice certain tasks, such as doing his own laundry or even cooking a basic meal for himself. In response, my mother said, “He’s a guy. He doesn’t need to know how to do that.” Or, when I questioned why he couldn’t do a task instead of me, I often heard, “He’s a guy so he can’t do it that well.” Both these typical phrases frustrated me and downplayed the ability of my brother. Essentially, he is being alienated from basic survival techniques because “he’s a guy.” Moreover, the interaction between males and females is highly limited: if it is not necessary, it should not happen. Although restrictions against this belief have been on the decline, some individuals are still strong proponents, such as my parents, who do not like unnecessary male interaction. As one would assume, it has been very stifling, and it feels as though you are turning your back against your family when you do engage in having male friends. The pressure of constantly worrying if your parents will assume you’re in a relationship or that you are performing sexual activities if they see you with a man highly debilitates your ability to talk to members of the opposite sex. There is a nagging voice in the back of your head that says you’re doing something wrong, even though in actuality, nothing wrong is occurring; I know from experience with the high level of distrust my mother has for me when it comes to men. Of course, it is alright for a man to talk to a woman, but when it is the other way around, the woman gets questioned. Now, one might wonder, how is a woman supposed to get married and start a family as she is expected to? Well, the answer is simple: have an arranged marriage. Yes, that’s correct, an arranged marriage. An arranged marriage, a marriage where the partner is chosen by the parents and is ultimately either rejected or accepted by the marriage candidate, is held of utmost importance in my culture. So much so, it is a social fact that when a woman reaches the marriageable age of her 20’s (typically early to mid-’20s, but some even go into their late 20’s), her parents should be finding potential marriage partners. It should be noted that once women are past this age group, then members of the society exclaim that she is too old to get married and have a family; the question that often gets asked is “who would want to marry someone so old?” Mind you, she may just be in her early to mid-’30s. But once again, men do not have an age limit: they are eligible to marry as long as the woman is younger, and the age gap is not too extreme. But even in this instance, another question arises: how are there even marriage candidates for a woman when she is expected to not engage too much in male interaction but still maintain heterosexism and have an endogamous marriage? Well, the answer would be through manifest and latent functions. Besides being expected to know and properly execute all household duties, women must also have a high education to be considered a marriage candidate. Therefore, the manifest function for a woman attending school would be to receive a prestigious level of education in a prestigious field. Subsequently and ironically, the latent function would be to meet new people and form connections through students and their parents. If there happens to be a woman who caught the eye of a man, then he must go through her parents first, if he decides that he wants to court and eventually marry her. Although I’m painting the picture that there is no choice when it comes to an arranged marriage, there is still some freedom. Both parties are eligible to either deny or accept the candidate proposed; they do not have to marry that one person their parents have chosen. Now typically, the reification of the ideal culture (women behaving a particular way, getting a reputable career, expecting to follow through with an arranged marriage at a certain age, and managing both “wifely” duties and said career) places immense pressure on a woman and makes her want to resort to deviance. I recall telling my peers what my culture is like, and when I mentioned arranged marriages, their reaction was nothing short of pure shock, dare I say, pure culture shock. They viewed the practice as peculiar and disturbing, often questioning if I needed any assistance to leave my own culture. Because of their reactions and how I observed that arranged marriages are not the norm, I felt sort of ashamed that I was the odd one out. I think all the times that I’ve received the same reaction when I mention arranged marriages, plus the fact that my parents repeatedly mention marriage (and how I should not behave in certain matters since my future husband would not like it), not considering the fact that I am only seventeen, makes me not want to get married at all. The idea of having to conform to a standard instead of being able to freely express who I am, limiting my independence, is non-negotiable to me. Additionally, because my parents stress that they want a son-in-law who is from the same culture as me because it would be easier to assimilate the two families makes me want to engage in an exogamous marriage. I am open to the idea of having a culturally different husband who is not from the same social standing as me. In fact, I think it would be more interesting since I could learn about a new culture and embrace it, instead of marrying someone with the same culture that I know all about. Redesign If I were to have a magic wand, then I would like to remove all the cultural ideals that there are regarding women in my Indian-Pentecostal culture. Yet, this is relatively impossible because patriarchy and dominant gender ideology (stemmed from the Pentecostal interpretation of how a woman should behave according to the Bible) have been deeply embedded in my culture. Although I do not like the idea of a woman doing everything for a man, in terms of tasks considered as womanly such as household chores, I feel like this is a broader issue that affects various cultures. I think this issue can only get collaboratively solved if we all stopped labeling certain duties based on gender, or by stating that one gender does a particular task better than the other. Something that I would love to absolutely change, however, is the immense pressure placed on women, especially when it comes to marriages. Again, speaking from experience, that level of distrust that my mother has for me when it comes to talking to men and her constant pestering of the ideal son-in-law, has made the overall message of love and trust blurry for me. I don’t think I will be able to accept marriage or even consider one that has been chosen for me. I rather choose to be deviant to this practice and instead choose a man who I have solely chosen; as long as he is a good person and we both genuinely love each other, then I am obviously okay with marrying him. I simply just can’t imagine myself being in an arranged marriage; I rather have no marriage than an arranged one. Remodel To make this ideal a reality, I have so far been saying how I do not want to get married and that I would much rather marry someone who is not of my culture. At first, my mother was a little apprehensive, but I think the constant repetition of me saying that is starting to sway her mind. And if I can change her perspective, then she can change my dad’s when it comes time for me to marry. If this wish of mine does not get fulfilled, then I simply refuse to get married; my parents can’t force me, so I would just defy them and marry someone I choose. Although I would love for my parents to give me their blessings and approve of the man I choose, I ultimately cannot sacrifice my happiness and independence for the sake of an outdated cultural practice. As previously mentioned, my happiness and independence are non-negotiable. Terms used in paper (in order of appearance): 1. Culture ~ the certain traits that define a specific social group 2. Dominant gender ideology ~ the idea that a specific gender has specialized tasks and roles and are better at doing said tasks and roles than the other gender 3. Patriarchy ~ a system where men are considered more superior and powerful than women 4. Reification ~ to give a definite form to an abstract idea 5. Ideal culture ~ the norms and traditions a society will follow to fulfill the expectation of that culture 6. Society ~ an organization of a group of people who share a similar culture within the same geographic location 7. Sociological imagination ~ the ability to view and define the characteristics of other cultures besides one’s own 8. Reference groups ~ other groups people use to compare their own group to 9. Values ~ a society’s standard of what they will accept as good and bad 10. Beliefs ~ certain ideas that people hold to be true 11. Social solidarity ~ connected relationships between other members of the same society 12. Social fact ~ standards that guides a society and governs an individual 13. Heterosexism ~ maintaining a male and female relationship rather than a relationship of the same gender 14. Endogamous marriage ~ marrying someone who is within one’s own societal group and background 15. Manifest function ~ the outcome of pursuing a particular task 16. Latent function ~ outcomes that are not necessarily pursued when performing a particular task 17. Deviance ~ when an individual that is not considered normative by the society 18. Culture shock ~ when individuals of one culture experiences the differences of another culture that may be shocking 19. Exogamous marriage ~ marriage of someone who differs from own’s societal group and background
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Applied Sociology – Symbolic Interactionism

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Reflect
Mexico is founded on a patriarchal culture where men have greater authority than
women. Growing up in such a culture as a young woman creates a cultural foundation that is
built upon dominant gender ideology. Although gender roles in this country vary depending on
region, socioeconomic class, and rural and urban settings, the bottom line is that women are
subjected to gender subjugation and have a limited say in family decision-making. The cultural
practices observed among members of this culture delineate women and girls and consider them
subjects to men. The ideal Mexican woman is heavily influenced by the iconography of Roman
Catholicism. In this culture, women are expected to practice a sense of self-denying and dedicate
themselves to the family. Generally, women have to be the homemakers undertaking roles such
as cleaning, cooking, and caring for the children. Good women are expected to feel the pride of
doing these duties. Although these traditional attitudes constantly shift, they are still profoundly
engrained within many Mexican families' cultural attitudes and dimensions. Most women and
young girls are still expected to fulfill the family's domestic duties, such as washing utensils,
cooking, and caring for the young ones. Moreover, although the cultural shifts dictate a deviation
from female submissiveness, such practices are still eminent in many Mexican families.
As a young Mexican woman, I grew up in a conservative culture that believed in the idea
of male domination. My parents advocated a dominant gender ideology; my brothers were
favored in all family duties because they were boys. With my younger sister, we were expected
to do almost all family domestic duties, including cooking for the family when our mother was
not around, washing clothes, doing the dishes, and cleaning the house. I grew up in a rural
Mexican village where all my fellow young girls did the same. Because the socialization
environment we grew up in dictated the practice of domination society, I knew that our cultural

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