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Friday, November 28, 2014

Not my world

That Guy Who's Going Places, Flickr

"If you have time to whine and complain about something, then you have the time to do something about it." (Anthony J. D'Angelo)

We all have reasons to think that this world is not ours or, put differently, that this world would not be the way it is if we were the ones in charge: such reasons include war, terrorism, violence, poverty, hunger, pollution, racism, sexism, flagrant social inequalities, greed and dishonesty, ... the list is endless.

The thing is, we are in charge. And there are simple things that we can do, at our level, to change this world. It's been done before. It is being done right now. When enough people start talking and acting about a certain situation, in time, it changes. Not instantly, but eventually.

What are your causes? What are the things that bother you at your level, on a daily basis? And what do you do to change them at your level, on a daily basis?

The following are "my" causes. I am definitely not claiming to be a leader in any of those fields - I mostly get inspired by such leaders - but I do try and make my tiny little difference... day after day.

1) Health and fitness

Those who have been reading this blog for a while know that I am a strong (no pun intended) fitness advocate. To be completely honest, my interest in fitness initially stemmed from an aesthetical point of view. To quote my friend M, at first my main goal was "to look sexy on the beach". Quickly enough, however, I started reaping benefits that had nothing to do with appearance and everything to do with well-being. I know from personal experience the difference between being in shape and being out of shape: it far exceeds what one sees in the mirror.

The tricky thing, when you become an advocate for health and fitness, is that you don't want to sound like you are judging other people's lifestyles. Yet it's easy to get caught up in your own enthusiasm and desire to share "the good news" of how important and wonderful it is to "eat clean" and exercise daily. To this day, I am still afraid of being annoying when I write or talk about fitness (which I do a lot; just browse this blog), or when I exercise publicly in places where most people don't (e.g. doing push-ups at the park or running up flights of stairs at the stadium while my kids are at their sport practice). What keeps me going is 1) my unshakable belief in the importance of health and fitness and 2) the positive response I get. Whenever I get told that what I write or do has inspired someone to make their health a priority, it is such a reward!

My favorite thing to do, however, is to destroy myths such as: "people are too busy to exercise" and "exercise takes up your precious energy". An hour a day of exercising makes the rest of the day so much more productive, it's absolutely worth it. Period. As for "eating healthy is expensive", I have to disagree again, because eating healthy involves money saving decisions such as staying away from restaurants, takeouts and cafés, planning your meals and grocery list in advance, avoiding caloric drinks (such as alcohol), and eating less as a general rule.

For a wonderful link that describes all the benefits of fitness AND all the real sacrifices that are involved, click here.

2) Environment

Idling cars. Please forgive the rant, but they drive me nuts. There was yet another one at my school yesterday. Its owner was a parent who actually let it run for the whole 5-10 minutes it took his - young - child to get ready (boots, jacket, hat, mitts and all). What I did: I took a kind, empathetic and concerned voice and told the dad that "we" (another teacher and I) had been wondering whose car it was that someone forgot to turn off.

What do you do to diplomatically let know other people that they are not to ruin the environment we all live in? I am at a loss, sometimes.

3) Materialism

Our society is so much about stuff it makes me dizzy. Even blogs about so-called frugal living are all about stuff: basically, they provide advice on how to create or acquire stuff... without a high price tag. But it's still stuff! As this article (click here) wisely points out, even minimalism has its limits, and involves focusing on stuff. What I do: I vote with my wallet, and only buy what I need.

What we really need has been tackled in this short article (click here) by Aubrey Cloutier: according to that author, the must-haves" for the holiday season are 1) food 2) air 3) water. Thereyago.

4) Gender

This might have been my longest lasting battle. Even as a swimming instructor in my late teens, I was quick to tell my students that "yes, boys can use a pink flutter board". The rigid, binary gender system isn't doing much good for humanity. And the ideas that should have been long gone are still being spread. No later than last week, I heard a teacher tell a group of kids that "girls are kind, gentle and delicate". I almost choked. As if boys did not have those qualities in them. As if girls were defined by those traits. Another example: also last week, in a store, I saw a little boy (around 3 years old) standing, mesmerized in front of a Frozen display (DVDs, posters, stuffies, dolls and dresses). His mom, not sharing the enthusiasm, pulled him by the hand as she said: "those things are for girls. Not for you". I would have liked to say something, but I did not know what or how. What would you have done?

Yet another example: in one of the groups I teach, the students are working on fictional characters for a story. I couldn't help but notice that the first draft contained no female character. When I pointed it out, it appeared that no one had even noticed. I gently suggested they come up with some female characters. And that such female characters should have a "real", important role (as opposed to sitting pretty waiting for Prince Charming to show up). The following week, one of the students enthusiastically told me that he was now creating a female character... who is going to be the captain of a boat. No mention was made of her looks. I gave the kid a high five.

It's the little things like this that make a - small - difference (hopefully it all adds up in the end). I have given conferences about gender fluidity, to both adults and children. Every single time, a few participants come and talk to me afterward, and every single time, it strengthens my idea that something can be done - and that it's for the best. Last month, after such a conference, a little girl (around 8 years old) came up to me and asked if it was okay that she does not like "girl toys", prefers sports, and dresses "like a tomboy". I reflected the question back to her and gently said: "what do you think?" She replied that after listening to me, she now knew that it was probably okay. That was the highlight of my day (and possibly of hers as well).

Click here for the story I read at that conference, among other things: Artsy Boys and Smelly Girls (by Élise Gravel).

Oh, and here's another one of my causes:

What are YOUR causes? 


  1. I could NOT AGREE MORE WITH YOU! I LOVE to debunk people's beliefs that they cannot exercise even for just 10 minutes because it's not enough - baloney! ANY exercise is better than NO EXERCISE!!!

    1. That's wisdom, GiGi! :-) Keep converting people!

  2. I like your list of causes and think I might make a similar list just to help me visualize the things I really feel passionate about.
    My husband and son were waiting for my other son one night after cello group and it was about 100+ outside. They had the car running so they didn't melt and a lady (another parent in the parking lot) did ask them to turn it off. Not gonna lie - when it is hot I can shut the car off but when I'm waiting for one of the boys and it is sub-freezing, I always leave the car running so I don't freeze - I'm a wimp.

  3. Yes I am bothered by the same things you are, Julie, and you can add speeding from red light to red light :) Perhaps things will change in time, but really I doubt if we will see much change. Humanity is pretty entrenched in its foolish beliefs and doesn't want to let them go. I merely caution those who have the vision and are evolved enough to see all this to live the best life they can and try not to suffer in their wisdom.

    1. This is something I might ponder for the rest of my life!

  4. I like your list especially point 3 " Our society is so much about stuff it makes me dizzy. "

    The trouble is it's getting worse not better. Look at so called 'Black Friday' recently. What a crazy day for many that was !

    All the best Jan

    1. I bought nothing on Black Friday. I saved 100%! That's a pretty good rebate, lol