Why the “wrong side of the tracks” is usually the east side of cities | Stephen DeBerry

What do communities on the social, economic and environmental margins have in common? For one thing, they tend to be on the east sides of cities. In this short talk about a surprising insight, anthropologist and venture capitalist Stephen DeBerry explains how both environmental and man-made factors have led to disparity by design in cities from East Palo Alto, California to East Jerusalem and beyond — and suggests some elegant solutions to fix it.
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The Shy Person’s Guide to Making Your Dreams a Reality

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” ~Marianne Williamson

Light poured into the studio. We sat in a circle on the hardwood floor. We did some deep breathing and then the facilitator asked us to think about what we really wanted and didn’t have yet. She instructed us to speak it out loud in the present tense, as if it were already happening.

I was at a co-working space in downtown Toronto, and this was the daily opening where we set our intentions for the day and sometimes did reflective exercises like this one.

She started, “I own a yoga studio on the beach in Hawaii.” The next woman went. And then it was my turn.

As I saw my turn was coming, my breath got short. Anxiety coursed through my body. I didn’t feel ready. “Ummmm…. this is really scary,” I said. “I don’t know what to say.”

For a long time I’ve had difficulty saying what I want. When I was a teenager, I wouldn’t tell anyone when I had a crush on someone. I remember my younger sister would tell anyone who would listen that she had a crush on the boy in the McDonald’s commercial, and I was jealous of her boldness, but still wouldn’t tell a soul about my crushes.

My best friend in elementary school always had a boyfriend, and I never did. I didn’t date in high school either. I felt ashamed. I thought there was something wrong with me and that nobody liked me.

I thought that if I told my friends about my crush and then the person didn’t like me back, I would be seen as a failure. So it was better to keep my mouth shut.

And now, fifteen years later, I’m still scared to ask for what I want.

I’m thirty-one years old. And this was an incredibly safe space. I was surrounded by sensitive and supportive women, but I was terrified.

I put my face in my hands and made some high-pitched noise that I’m not even sure how to describe.

I sat up and looked at everyone. “Okay,” I said. “I’m going to try to say one sentence about what I want.” The butterflies in my stomach started going nuts.

“Why is this so hard??”

“Okay, breathe,” I said, then took a deep breath. “I want to have a big life.” I took another breath. “I want to impact a lot of people.”

The facilitator gently coaxed me, “Can you rephrase that to the present?”

“I have a big life. I’m impacting a lot of people,” I said, “I’m a healer.” And then I really felt like I was going to vomit.

Even in a circle of kind quiet women like me, it was incredibly difficult for me to claim my truth.

When I was growing up I was sensitive and shy, and to be totally honest I still am. When I was twenty-three years old, I landed my dream job working with marginalized youth. And when I was twenty-four, I burnt out from that job.

I understand what it feels like to want to make the world a better place but to get totally exhausted trying to do it. I want to help other sensitive souls realize it’s okay to rest, and to support them to heal, find their voices, and share their gifts.

But I had no idea that talking about what I wanted would be so hard. I’ve done a lot of work on myself: years of therapy and I’ve even spoken at conferences in front of large groups of people. And yet, somehow, saying these three sentences in front of six other kind, sensitive women seemed more difficult than everything else.

And honestly, if the question had been about my darkness, my cruelty, the part of me that hates, I would have no problem going into it. I can speak about my darkness with relative ease.

But my light? My gifts? Please bring me a trashcan to throw up in first.

Best selling author and spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson really hit the nail on the head with her quote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

This is me, 110 percent.

And although it’s difficult, I also know how incredibly effective it is to claim what you really want. It wasn’t until I went very public about what kind of qualities I wanted in a partner that I met the sweet and passionate guy I’m dating now.

I was sick of online dating so I actually made an entire webpage about the qualities I wanted in a partner. I posted it on Facebook and asked my friends to help me find the right person—and it took some time but eventually it worked.

I now know that if I’m not able to speak openly about my goals in life, I’ll never be able to fully go for them. And the same is true for you.

The good news is, if you’re shy like me and are having a hard time asking for what you really want, there are small steps you can take to start to go for it.

Here’s the Shy Person's Guide to Making Your Dreams a Reality:

1. Notice who you envy, and why.

Sometimes when we're shy we don't even know what we want, because we may have felt too insecure to establish and set goals for ourselves. So the first step to going for what you want is figuring out exactly what that is.

And, surprisingly, envy can actually be really helpful for this.

Which famous people do you envy? Which of your friends? Is it your sister? A colleague? A cousin?

Once you have a list of a few people, ask yourself what you admire about their lives. Is it where they live? Their partner? Their job? Their confidence?

Now, it’s important to remember that just because you envy someone’s life, that doesn’t mean you want exactly what they have.

You might envy your friend who works online because she’s her own boss, but if you’re someone who’s happiest being surrounded by people, that lifestyle might not make sense for you. Perhaps in that case what you really envy is freedom—so the question you’d need to answer for yourself is: How can I create more freedom for myself? What choice would best align with my personality and values?

It’s also important to look beyond the surface when identifying people you envy. Sometimes we envy people who seem to garner a lot of respect and admiration—celebrities, for example. But as Kate Spade’s recent suicide showed, fame and success don’t guarantee happiness.

The point is to get clear on what might fulfill you, and why. So make notes and start to notice the common themes in those people you envy. As you do this, you’ll start to see the kind of life you really want.

2. Allow yourself to daydream.

Now that you have some clues about what you want, allow yourself to dream about it. If you have a journal, write about it. If you’re more visual, make a collage or do a drawing. Or, alternatively, go for a walk and let your mind daydream about it.

This might sounds totally silly, but I actually made a PowerPoint about what I wanted my business to look like years ago. It wasn’t a public presentation and I only shared it with two or three close friends. But I stumbled upon it the other day and was amazed by how much of what I envisioned had come through.

So use whatever medium works best for you to envision your dream life!

3. Talk about your dreams.

Once you’ve gotten clearer about what they are, tell a good friend or your partner about your dreams. I like to start these kinds of conversations by saying something like, “I’m nervous to tell you about this, and I’m not ready to have any feedback on it yet, but what I really want is…”

Start small. Just tell one tiny part of your dream. See how it feels. See how your friend reacts. If it feels good, tell them a little bit more.

The last thing you want when you’re nurturing a new dream is for someone to stomp all over it. So if the friend doesn’t react in a supportive way, don’t say anything else. Find someone else who will be gentle and supportive of your dream.

Once you’ve practiced talking about it and got some support from friends or family members, it’s time to take it to the next level. Start to bring it up more often.

I know for us shy-types this can be really difficult, but take it one step, one person, one conversation at a time. And remember, there’s nothing more inspiring at a lunch with friends or family event than to hear about what someone’s really passionate about.

As you begin to talk about these things more, it will help you to take small steps toward making your dream a reality. You’ll begin to build your confidence and you might even make connections that’ll help you to get there.

4. Talk about your strengths.

What are you really good at? What do people always ask you for help with? If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to talk about your darkness, your procrastination, your bad habits, but it’s probably hard for you to talk about what you’re good at.

So start by journaling about this and then practice telling close friends or family members.

Does it make you want to vomit? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

I’ve started doing this recently, and one thing that really helps me is to tell the person that I’m practicing talking about my strengths. I start by saying something like, “I’m really good at talking about my challenges and have realized that I’m really bad at talking about my strengths. I want to practice, so I’m going to practice saying one good thing about me. Are you okay with that?”

Once I have my friend’s support, it becomes much easier to say something. And even if I fumble with my words—which, believe me, I do—they’re usually really supportive because they know I’m doing something that’s difficult for me.

And I promise it’ll get easier with practice. So start by saying one strength to one friend and build from there.

5. Don’t just talk—take action!

As you tell people about your goals and strengths, they might introduce you to people who can help you, offer their support, or share helpful resources.

And even if they don’t, there are small actions you can begin to take. If your dream is to be a painter, buy some paints and do your first painting. If your dream is to live by the beach, book a weekend getaway to one of the beach towns you’re considering and check it out.

Whatever your dream is, you can take a baby step toward making it a reality, and those steps will lead you to where you want to go.

And yes, it’ll sometimes be terrifying. I know that it’s not easy to do. So take one small risk at a time and slowly, step-by-step, you’ll move in a new direction.

The more you’re able to share about your dreams and strengths, the easier it’s going to be for you to get what you want. And even if you don't get exactly what you think you want, you'll probably be far more fulfilled just by being on a path that excites you.

Even as a shy person, you deserve to have a full and beautiful life. So start taking small steps today to get you there.

About Bryn Bamber

Career Coach Bryn Bamber helps people like you find a career that’s aligned with your goals. Her Burnout to Brilliance program teaches you how to make small shifts that will free up tons of energy for the things you really love. Start today with your FREE Checklist: Decrease Stress and Get an Hour of Your Day Back!

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Maybe It’s Not All Good or All Bad

“You are the sky. Everything else—it’s just the weather.” ~Pema Chödrön

A farmer has a horse for many years; it helps him earn his livelihood and raise his son. One day, the horse runs away. His neighbor says sympathetically, “Such bad luck.”

The farmer replies, “Maybe. Who knows?”

The next day, the horse makes its way back home bringing with it another horse. The neighbor says with a smile, “Such good luck.”

The farmer replies, “Maybe. Who knows?”

The following day, the farmer’s son rides the new horse and seeks to tame it. In the process, he breaks his leg. The neighbor says sympathetically, “Such bad luck.”

The farmer replies, “Maybe. Who knows?”

The last day of the story, the military comes to the village to draft all able-bodied young men to fight in a war. The son is exempt from the draft due to his broken leg. You can guess what the neighbor said, and how the farmer replied.

This Zen Buddhist parable illustrates that we never really know exactly why things are unfolding the way that they are, and that labeling them as “good” or “bad” is useless. It only gets us all wrapped up in the ups and downs. Riding the car of this dichotomy only takes us on a roller coaster ride while our emotions are following whatever storyline is in front of us.

Because I’m a human, I do this all of the time. I think that something fits neatly into either category and I place it there then try to not look back. Usually that ends with those contents spilling out all over the place. Like when I try to make certain foods “good” or “bad.” Food has no morality, and categorizing it in this way just brings me shame.

David Allen explained that the Taoists have their own way of interpreting the complication: the yin and yang symbol. “Good” flows into “bad” and the two are even contained in one another. They can’t really be separated.

Let’s explore this concept of “good,” “bad,” and “maybe” more with a story from my life.

The story starts with the “good.” Not too far out of college I had a cushy tech job that I absolutely adored. I relished in the fact that I was doing what I loved and that I had been promoted to that position after working really hard.

The perks were great. We had flexible hours, leaving room for naps on my work from home days. My favorite perk was a giant snack room, full of all kinds of goodies. We were swimming in the startup benefits, and by all measures, I was happy. However, I didn’t realize how much the perks had swept me up into working all of the time until I collapsed.

I had a breakdown. I could be found writhing in emotional pain, my brain wanting me dead. How quickly this good turned to “bad.” I was taken by ambulance to a locked ward. This took me totally off guard.

Everyday things like my laptop cord and makeup mirrors were taken from me lest I harm myself. I slept in a hallway of sixteen girls, and a nurse opened our doors every fifteen minutes at night to check to see if we were still breathing. The food was subpar at best.

I wanted to die. I had a total mental health collapse and realized I had been running myself ragged at this job. I had to quit it because I knew that this stay wasn’t going to be a quick fix. I had five more hospitalizations that year, and I thought that my life was over.

While reflecting on what had brought me to this point, I realized that the job wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows; this job that I adored also happened to be wildly demanding of my time, even beyond the forty-hour workweek.

The office had terrible boundaries, with lots of people dating one another (including myself at one point). Most harmful, though, was the unlimited stash of anytime booze (I’m a recovering alcoholic).

Later, reflecting on the time I spent hospitalized, I realized my experiences weren’t all “bad.” My time in and out of psych wards has reminded me how strong I am—the strength it took to get help instead of killing myself was something I didn’t know I had.

I thought I’d stay on the path to destruction for much longer, but my will to live came through. I was shown, despite my skepticism, that I’m indeed never alone; my loved ones showered me with support.

It took eighteen months of rest before I was ready to go back to work. I struggled with feeling inadequate and useless during this time. I was so accustomed to working like a maniac that rest felt foreign to me. Bringing us to the present, I’m finally well enough to be able to work. Though I’ve gotten a job that pays much less than my last one and it isn’t even close to as prestigious. I’m calling it my “get-well job.”

I’m still working through some shame around it, wanting to call this “bad,” even though I know it’s a mix of things.

Instead of calling it “bad,” I do my best to return to “maybe” with a shrug.

I’m not saying that I’m able to be perfectly non-judgmental and unattached, living without worry at my job and feeling perfectly confident when talking about it. Though some days I can just let things be what they are. I can notice that voice inside that’s yelling at me and I can soothe it. I can create a new script and I can practice radical acceptance by not fighting against what’s going on in my mind.

Looking back, I called my job “good” and the psych wards “bad,” though there were no clear categories. Good is great, but it doesn’t last forever. Bad can hurt, but it doesn’t last forever either. There was a bit of a mix of everything. Much of life is this way.

I don’t know why things happen the way that they do, and I never know what’s going to happen next. Perhaps this job will benefit my life in ways I could never predict. Maybe it’ll keep me where I’m at, or make things worse, I just don’t know.

The thing is, though, once I start to move past outcomes I can be more present to and flexible with what’s happening.

I can just enjoy learning to use the espresso machine at my new job rather than worrying about what people think of my new job choice. I can practice gentleness around my mental health, remaining non-judgmental when I have a difficult day. I can do this instead of thrashing against what is, letting my mind carry me to dreams of what things could be and being angry about how things are.

I can work with whatever emotions come up, knowing that it’s all the path. I can’t prevent life from happening and I can’t always force what I want to take place. What I do have control of is l how I react to everything and today I’m trying to have a “maybe” attitude.

Lastly, I was reminded by being knocked down by my job and mental health that the human spirit is wildly resilient. I got back up; I did it very slowly, but I did it.

About Ginelle Testa

Ginelle Testa is a passionate wordsmith. She's a queer gal whose passions include recovery/sobriety, social justice, body positivity, and intersectional feminism. In the rare moments she isn't writing, you can find her holding her own in a recreational street hockey league, thrifting eclectic attire, and imperfectly practicing Buddhism. You can find her at ginelletesta.com.

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