“The paint and paper look as if a boys‘ school had used it. It is stripped off—the paper—in great patches all around the head of the bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life. ..” (from The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte P. Gilman, 1892)
Sitting with my daughter “Bunny” by the pool
we talk about Kate Spade’s suicide and sadness we’ve never known
Bunny’s hair is fanned all over the pool deck, her clear eyes to the sky
Spade wrote a letter to her 13-year-old daughter
telling her it wasn’t her fault
my words ride the waves of the pool and get sucked into the filter
Looking at Bunny, the note seems an especially cruel gesture
In the distance, we can hear a woodpecker on aluminum siding
[a summary of pages 1 – 20]
ACE Score (Adverse Childhood Experiences) – A risk factor assessment for identifying childhood traumatic incidences. This score provides a probability factor for academic success/failure (as well as life success). You can take the quiz here.
There is evidence that scoring high on ACE can prove detrimental for life, even if the “victim” does not engage in any self-destructive behavior.
One shocking statistic: “ACE scores of 6 were 30x more likely to attempt suicide than ACE scores of 0.”
Funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars and replacing teaching and administrative staff are not successful strategies for improving schools. Take Fenger High School in Chicago, for example. They tried every possible strategy from replacing staff to creating a technology program. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation even financed them with a $21 million grant. Two years later, little to no results.
What works? Well, stay tuned. I will post summaries of my research every Sunday afternoon.
B is for Barbs
In high school, our mascot was “the barbs”
– that’s short for barbed wire – which was invented in DeKalb, IL.
barb = sharp, bristly, obviously unpleasant…
causing inflamation and swelling. High school was constant stress over
grades, posturing and “success,” whatever that was.
My home life was more of the same, pure misery.
I felt invisible all the time. Nobody saw who I was, they saw who they wanted to see.
(Mostly, they were disappointed by what they saw!)
But I survived. I’ve actually thrived.
And you will, too. Hang in there. High school is temporary.
Growing up as a 2nd generation Korean-American girl, I was taught that indolence (or laziness) was a crime. My siblings and I took Tae-Kwon Do lessons, violin/cello/saxophone lessons, and piano lessons during the school year. During the summer, we added gymnastics (for us girls) and sports (for my brother). My father held three jobs when he first immigrated to the United States and he still managed to earn a PhD. All of this was considered “the norm” for people who wanted to succeed. And if you didn’t succeed, well, then you were a loser, a dreg of society. If you didn’t get straight A’s, get a full scholarship to college and then make a ton of money, you were not special. You were “blah.” No one wants to be “blah,” right?
All the other 2nd Gen KA’s felt the pressure. When the Koreans got together for dinners at each others’ houses, the main conversation was which child was going to which Ivy League school.
As you can imagine, there was fallout. Someone got pregnant and dropped out of high school. Another dropped out of law school and became (gasp!) an artist.
I became an elementary school teacher and writer. This is maybe one rung above being an artist. Maybe. It could be one rung lower. I don’t know. Ask a Korean. Anyway…
I’ve known a few people who committed suicide because their outsides didn’t match or meet their inside expectations. These were really good people and it scared me, because I could relate. So I studied yoga and meditation. The idea of just “being” resonated deeply. Feeling calm and peaceful feel really good. Isn’t this why people work so hard to attain their goals? To feel good in the end?
Yet, I had this conflict: I still wanted to DO something. I wanted to be “successful” at what I pursued and I wanted to feel at peace at the same time. Is this possible? How do you simultaneously work really hard at something and feel that “just being” is enough?
I’ve come to realize that there is nothing wrong with ambition, as long as it aims to help others. And working really hard toward that aim provides all the contentment one could want in reaching one’s goals. The surrender part replaces the expectation part (of accolades, awards, bonuses, fame, etc.)
As one yogi says,
“We show up, burn brightly, live passionately, hold nothing back, and when the moment is over, when our work is done, we step back and let go.”
(Gates and Kenison, Meditations From the Mat).
So go ahead, burn brightly! But remember to surrender.
“Seppuku” is a traditional, excruciatingly painful and public way to commit suicide in Japan. It has not been displayed since World War II, but was widely observed and expected in Japanese culture up until then. Ingrained in Japanese culture is the concept of shame and the expectation of suicide in the face of that shame. In fact, it was not only men who committed suicide (sometimes through disembowelment), but their wives would commit suicide should their husbands have brought shame to their house.
You may have heard of honor killings in India and Pakistan. This, too, is part of their culture. With Internet and social media, some cultures are changing. Closed cultures are opening up due to their youth using social media. They no longer want to embrace these traditions.
Yet, it speaks to the power of culture. Disembowelment? Kill your sister? If your culture dictates that it is right, you will do it, no problem.
Leadership is so critical because leaders help create and maintain culture. An exceptional leader inspires employees and societies. Leaders help create strong, empathic cultures. Thus, it is critical to choose our leaders carefully.
In yesterday’s post about First World Suicides, I mentioned that South Korea is #1 for suicide rates among the developed countries and they have held this position for the past eight years.
In a country where the pressures of ambition, achievement and success are omnipresent, students feel frustrated, anxious and ultimately, dejected. Up to 40 people commit suicide each day.
What is South Korea doing about this problem?
Students are enrolling in “death experience” schools where they go undergo their own funerals. The hope and expectation is that students completing the program will learn to appreciate life again. Indeed, some of the graduates emerge with a sense of “cleansing” and “enlightenment.”
Young students are not the only clients. Others enrolling in these schools includes middle-aged people anxious about finances and the elderly who are afraid of being burdens on their families.
The program is designed to provide an opportunity for reflection. Suicidal clients are directed to reflect on the “collateral damage” their deaths might cause and they are reminded that a critical part of life is to have problems and to handle them.
One factor fueling the stress of success is South Korea’s rapid progress as a super power. In just a few decades, “South Korea has rocketed from one of the poorest countries in the world to the 12th biggest global economic power” (Daily Mail).¹
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Answer below!