One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Brene Brown: “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives us purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” (Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead)
As a human, regardless of my race, gender, socio-economic status, religious practice, educational background, I am driven by connection with others. I believe that it is in this connection where the beauty of my world is manifested. Without human connection my world would be aimless. In connection with others, I strive to understand and honor other ways of being present and connecting. We each have our own unique ways of doing so.
I would like to ground this column with shared language and definitions. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary the words I will be using in this column for me are defined and interpreted as follows:
Privilege: a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others.
Introvert: a typically reserved or quiet person who enjoys spending time alone.
Speak: to express thoughts, opinions, or feelings orally.
I ground us in these definitions because it is one of the ways we can agree to disagree. Defining words is a part of connection. The purpose and meaning of life can be defined very differently based on one’s interpretation of a word.
I would like to acknowledge and take accountability for how I build connection with others.
I recognize that I am a privileged person. I have had to fight for most of my privileges. I believe that this is where I get stuck in connecting with others. There is power in my privilege. As an educated woman, mother of four, and Mexican-American; I have fought hard for these privileges. I also have inherent privileges. For example, I have what many in the DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) space know as “light skin privilege”. I do not suffer the deep eye stares, the motion of someone moving to the opposite side of the room or clutching their belongings because of my skin color. This is an inherent privilege that my spouse does not have. As a tall, dark male, he is received differently in his attempts to connect with others. When connecting with others, I acknowledge and take accountability for my privilege.
I am an introverted person. When I say introvert, I mean, I hibernate all year long. I do not have a difficult time connecting with others. I love connecting. I love spending time with others. Even so, I love my alone time and ironically, I am very quiet. For example, I would rather celebrate the new year in my bed watching a romantic comedy rather than sitting with a group of people counting down the seconds till the clock rings in midnight. Connecting socially is exhausting for me as an introvert. When connecting with others, I strive to make this personality trait known.
I love to speak. Ask my family, I love to talk, it’s difficult to get me to stop once I start. It is why I became an educator! I have lived experience that I value and love to share. And, I recognize that these experiences can be difficult for others to receive and/or understand. For example, I have lived through generational poverty, mental and physical abuse, raised with bi-racial parents, in a blended family. These truths have developed who I am and who I am not. I share these stories out of love and respect for my truth. In connecting with others, I make my truth known in hope to learn about your truth.
My sparse connection with others is not exclusively about being a privileged person. It is also about being an introvert and ironically having a love for speaking, teaching, educating, and determination to be a lifelong learner. Connection with others is a privilege. It is a right and benefit that we give and/or retract to/from each other.
Given the importance of connection with others, I am determined to take my connection with others to another level in 2022. I cannot do this without checking my own unique ways of building connection with others. In order to keep myself accountable, I have created a checklist for myself to see if my current and new connection(s) will make it through the highs and lows of life’s journey.
1. Am I being honest and transparent?
2. Can I give and receive honest feedback?
3. Will I be accepted for who I am and where I am?
4. Can I accept them for who they are and where they are?
It is that simple. Four questions that keep my heart safe and my reality grounded. People will fail me. People are all imperfect. Even so, we all have this great opportunity and privilege to connect with one another. To understand one another. To live in harmony with each other, inclusive of our imperfections, our mishaps, and eccentric ways of being.
I want to begin 2022, acknowledging my privileges as a human being. And, in doing so, I hope to build stronger, sustainable connections with others. What will you do in 2022?