Try Programming Yourself for a Change

We each come into this world pre-programmed a certain way, and like every piece of technology these days, there are settings and preferences that need tweaking and sometimes entire programs need to be deleted. And while our brains aren’t exactly parallel to computers, there are definitely similarities. The question you should be asking yourself is “who is doing the programming in my life?”. Because the truth is we humans are guided and manipulated in both subtle and overt ways on a daily basis – through our friends and family and our enemies, through advertising, through our education, through media consumption of all kinds, through the groups we belong to and give our time to. And the bigger truth is that we don’t have to give other people the reigns. You can program yourself, write your own code and delete the code of others, create yourself anew into the kind of human you want and need to be.

It may sound a little counter-intuitive to my message of creativity to think of yourself as a machine, but it’s a helpful visualization exercise for really taking stock of who you are and the materials you have to work with. One of the things I say a lot is that if you find it difficult to be honest with anyone else, at least be honest with yourself, and this is a very good way of doing so.

So what are my recommended steps for programming yourself?

  1. Acknowledge the fact that you have been programmed. This is very important. Then start to notice the subtle and not-so-subtle tugs at you on both a conscious and unconscious level. You can’t lose the unwanted programming unless you can find where it is.
  2. Decide what your programming switch is going to be for yourself and stick with repeating the message. Don’t try overhauling everything at once, but pick one thing at a time. It can be something simple like removing an unwanted food item from your diet ¬†or choosing to stand up for yourself if you think you’re too meek or setting your inner alarm clock to actually wake you up early enough to write, or tackling bigger issues like looking at yourself in the mirror and loving the body quirks you used to hate (because body image issues are one of the biggest ways we’re manipulated) or taking more control over your own destiny.
  3. Realize that you may feel tugged in two separate directions for a while until your current programming overrides your years (decades?) of previous programming. And realize it’s a constant battle to fight the outside influences. Odd bits of programming may jam their way in, like spyware. So be vigilant about scanning yourself internally every once in a while.

Programming yourself, being your own coder, isn’t about making yourself over into something new. It’s about living up to the potential that exists within and has always been there. It may feel daunting, but it is entirely worthwhile. It is the path to individual freedom.

Helping Inner City Students Dream and Create Amidst the Violence of Their Daily Lives

Last week into this one, I was in six different inner city elementary schools through my employer with a major arts initiative. It was a hectic whirlwind of a week, but the end result was that most of the students (with only a handful pulled out for bad behavior) each got to have an individual moment of attention from half their school and from us, with their final projects each getting praise. I was a “guest artist” coming in, and I was wowed by some of the final results. I picked out specific design elements that were impressive whenever possible, and praised the overall project when I couldn’t. And the kids lit up. They soaked all that attention up like sponges. They had created something, and that creation was getting positive attention, something that many of them don’t have.

There were so many that I wanted to take home and give them a bath, a good meal, and clean clothes. So many that I could sense the fragility behind their swagger. So many that met my eyes with a soulful gaze. All at various stages of putting their walls up. All at various stages of losing trust in adults, in themselves.

And during this week, the videos from Spring Valley High School emerged, and people crawled out of the woodwork to support the officer’s violent actions against a child 1/3 of his size. Again, people preaching compliance towards a system rife with abuse, preaching we should all “respect” officers because of the badges they carry and the dangerous job they have, and I am ashamed to say that I once said the same not because of any respect toward them but because I wanted the general population to stay safe. But no, this action is not ever okay, especially not in a classroom setting. If any adult man had touched a daughter of mine like that, I would be in jail because my revenge on him would have been swift and merciless and he would no longer have any balls because they would have been shoved down his throat after being ripped off by my bare hands, and I don’t care how rude she was to him. But no daughter of mine would get treated like that by an officer of the law because my husband and I aren’t black.

That people think this action is okay because she didn’t comply with this officer is so wrong. I’ve seen people using it as a tool to complain about millennials yet again and their rude upbringing, lumping the childhood of the inner city child with those in the suburbs, and it is not the case at all. Last week, while at one of the schools, someone was shot on the street less than a block away and the school had to go into a safety drill. This week, on the last day, one of our people noticed two men going after each other with baseball bats just as school was letting out, again only a block away. The children live in this. The parents that struggle to raise them and love them live in this. Having that level of stress, those cortisol levels raised in the brain all the time do terrible things to you. Add a difficulty in getting proper nutrition and being in an education system that’s run like a prison most of the time, is it any wonder that they act the way they do? Beyond that though, how can so many still be in denial about America slipping into a police state? How can so many willingly hand their power over to others? I don’t understand the mindset at all.

I’m glad we were able to do what we did in the schools. Maybe getting them in touch with their creative sides will give them a means to escape the reality of their lives, will give them goals and dreams to work toward to hopefully break the cycle of poverty and abuse. That positive connection to adults may be enough for some of them. But not all. And that hurts.