Work Career Career Advice Now + Beyond

How to embrace your competitive side and still be a team player

I spent most of my twenties as a professional auditioneror what most people refer to as an actor.  On a daily basis, I’d go to multiple casting calls. Upon arrival, the receptionist would send me to a dimly lit room filled with chairs occupied by women with a similar physical description to myself. Then, after what sometimes felt like an eternity of tension, a production assistant would usher me into the casting room where I’d somehow sell my abilities in a few lines of dialogue. No pressure.

I always bought into the traditional idea that the entertainment industry was cutthroat, so when I decided to change careers at age thirty to pursue advertising, I was still acclimatized to the dog-eat-dog mindset. I figured I’d need to retire my competitive spirit and work cohesively with others towards campaign delivery and quarterly goals. At this point, I still saw things through a singular lens. I had a limited view of the acting world, where everyone was vying for one job. Then, moving onto the ad world, I had updated my approach to being a team player. But as I eventually learned, things weren’t quite that cut and dry.

We often categorize our environments as either ruthless, where we mentally suit up for battle, or as collaborative, where we act jointly with others. We also tend to view the people around us as either friends or foes. A black and white approach can help ensure a primal sense of safety, as we suss out threats or danger. But, this siloed view of opposition can lead to blind spots, or even a missed opportunity to give our best performance. In fact, for most of us, competition is a running theme throughout our whole lives. Whether it’s growing up with siblings, playing team sports, competing for a promotion, going head to head with others is a constant part of being human. And that’s not a bad thing. In healthy doses, competition keeps us alert and helps us attain our most notable goals. 

A big factor in the way we measure up the competition is the social comparison we embrace with one another. We see others succeed at something we want to do and it drives us to achieve those same results, or better. The U.S.’s first successful venture to the moon was rooted in seeing the Soviets fly to orbit first. Observing their success, America decided it could do better. But in other cases, social comparison can be detrimental. During the cola wars of the eighties, in an effort to beat out Pepsi for the top slot, Coca-Cola sweetened their recipe and called it “New Coke.” It completely flopped, resulting in Pepsi sales briefly skyrocketing. As damage control, Coca-Cola was forced to apologize to the 400,000 customers who wrote letters of complaint and rebranded their original recipe to “Coca-Cola Classic.” Whether they lead us astray or aid in success, social comparisons give us a perceived context in our accomplishments.

We also tend to view the people around us as either friends or foes.

Wherever you view yourself as a “competitor” or “collaborator,” the key to finding a balance may be checking in with yourself periodically. By asking yourself, “Am I losing opportunities to connect because I’m competing too much? or Am I being exploited because I’m cooperating too much?”, can help course correct and create a stable equilibrium. This can help serve our careers over the long term. Adam Galinsky, author of Friend and Foe: Balancing Competition and Collaboration explains, “We’re always cooperating, we’re always competing, and we should recognize that tension and also ask ourselves if we’re finding the right balance.” Simply asking yourself these questions can give you a sense of power and self-awareness to navigate the subtle and not-so-subtle signs with more confidence.

Broaden your horizons

Though the world tends to view competition in a generally positive light, the social comparison game can have toxic consequences when taken too far. Most of us have endured the frustration of seeing someone further ahead of us in an industry where we’ve worked hard. Then, that person or company becomes the focal point of what we need to surpass in order to consider ourselves successful. But, this tunnel vision thinking can actually limit results and prevent you from seeing the big picture. Entrepreneur Marie Forleo explains we have to take a broad view and stop thinking small. “Don’t look at one competitoryou want to look at what’s happening in your entire industry,” she explains. “Ask yourself how you can look outside of the box so you can innovate.” That means spending the majority of your time on your own work and focusing on specific competitors.

Keep a negotiation diary

When I entered the shiny, new world of advertising, I had a notebook on me at all times to keep track of tasks, and what I’d pitched in meetings. This was primarily a way of adjusting and learning about my new surroundings. But looking back at a year’s worth of notes, I realized not only had I been cooperating with colleagues to reach goals, but I was competing with them as well. We each pitched ideas during weekly meetings where only a few were acted on. We also went head to head for promotions and bigger assignments, while we all worked towards the same end goal. Keeping a written record of my initiatives also helped me examine my daily actions and decipher what my next career move should be.

Through hindsight, I’ve also realized the many collaborative moments in my former acting career. I frequently networked with fellow performers I met in the audition waiting room. We connected each other with agents, classes, and even exchanged our favorite plays and books on acting. Then, in the casting room, we often worked as scene partners to bring life to a script and help the director see the talents we both had to offer. This made me realize the inaccuracy in my stark view of competitive situations.

Both rivalry and squad goals are a part of everyone’s lives.

My journey has made me realize how often I’d categorized competition and collaboration as two separate mindsets and missed an important point. Both rivalry and squad goals are a part of everyone’s lives. Though competition can make us uncomfortable when we don’t get desired results, we can turn disappointment into motivation to do better next time. For those of us who worry about getting too caught up in the rat race, we can look for ways to cooperate and be of service to restore a sense of equilibrium. If we embrace the productive parts of the competition and still work together, we may find that inner stability and balance it takes to be the best.

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Work Career Now + Beyond

Who says business and friendship don’t mix? Here’s how to work productively with your bestie

I’ve always been a big fan of Behind The Music documentaries. Getting the backstage gossip on my favorite bands is a guilty pleasure I can get lost in for hours. But, as I found out more about how the Rolling Stones don’t speak to one another anymore, or the longstanding feud between John Lennon and Paul McCartney; it made me wonder if working with friends should be off-limits. Adding to that, a friend of mine once told me she mentioned her house-hunting budget to a coworker friend. This created tension during bonus season when she realized my friend earned more than her, although they performed the same role. Things can get even trickier when managers and their employees cross the friendship line and perception forms that one person is receiving a free pass or an advantage over others.

But, when navigated wisely and with the right dynamic, working with your pals can actually be an asset to business and productivity. And for every Beatles feud, there’s a prime example of a solid working friendship, such as the Foo Fighters (with longtime bandmates, Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins as best friends). Cooperating with those you share a bond with can capture a true authenticity in your work and creativity that you may not get with mere colleagues.

As human beings, we have a primal desire for close relationships. It’s why Tom Hanks befriended a volleyball when he was marooned in Castaway. It’s also the reason why solitary confinement is considered one of the harshest forms of punishment. Relationships are monumental to our emotional well-being. With the number of hours people put in at work these days, it’s now common that we have at least one good friend who’s either a colleague or business partner. Though there’ll always be those who prefer to keep their personal and professional lives separate, there can be huge advantages to doing business with pals or initiating friendship at work. When done wisely, it creates a built-in support system that encourages empathy and thinking outside the box. 

Sounds kind of perfect, right? Getting to work with someone who understands the different facets of your personality. In fact, according to a recent Gallup Poll, people who have friends at work are 43% more likely to receive recognition and praise for their job. But, like everything else in life, these relationships take work. Similar to bonding with a significant other, when friendship and work mix, you’re making a commitment to bring your fair share to the table, both as pals and colleagues. But to provide insurance against any future regret, it takes boundaries and clear communication.

Know your limits

Understanding expectations is crucial when walking the line between friendship and work. If you’re about to go into business together, lay out the rules and make sure you agree on each other’s roles. Decide who will have the ultimate say if you’re divided on a decision because there will be times in the union where you must agree to disagree, and still move forward. 

If you’ve become friends through your job, you still need to understand your own boundaries in how you approach colleagues at work. Referring to that expectation will set the tone for what’s appropriate to your relationship, and serve as a guide if one of you receives a promotion, or if you ever need to compete for an internal role in the future. 

Have friends in high places

You know that old saying: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know? It may be a bit frustrating to hear, and can even seem unfair at times. But some cliches stick around for a reason. And in the career arena, this one carries a heavyweight of truth to it. It’s no secret that your professional relationships make an impression about who you are at work.

If you’re looking to make friends at your office, choose wisely. When you start a new job, check out the lay of the land first. Make sure you’re adding like-minded people to your professional community. The people you surround yourself with don’t necessarily need to have the same goals as you, but they shouldn’t hold you back either. The same goes when choosing a business partner or new hire. Don’t choose them just because they’re fun to have a beer with. When making a decision like this, imagine you’ve never met before, and you’re viewing their credentials on paper. This will help you decide whether your goals are aligned and if your pal really is the best candidate.

Say sorry like you mean it

Whether it’s love birds or business partners, anyone in a close relationship who says they’ve “never had a fight” is probably lying, and if they’re not, there may be a whole lot of bottled resentment headed for self-combustion. As humans, we’re basically wired to get on each other’s nerves from time to time. When it’s your turn to apologize, there’s a single word that entrepreneur Marie Forleo says you should never utter in your sorry speech. That’s the word “if.” As in, I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings or I’m sorry if you feel that way.

“When you say if, you take all the responsibility away from you, and you actually put it on the other person, and it makes them feel like crap,” Forleo explains. 

Simply saying, “I’m sorry I made this mistake. What can I do to make it right?” shows that you’re taking ownership of your actions.  Also, remember no matter how close you are with your pal, you can’t pressure them into forgiving you on the spot. Allow the situation time to decompress and don’t rush the process. They’ll come around in their own time.

Get rewarded for everyday activity. $10 sign on bonus.

In past years, whenever the possibility of working with friends came up, I instantly had sweaty palms. But after seeing multiple examples of working friends where their bond made their work better, I’ve officially rethought my position on it. I now see it as an opportunity to create something great and strengthen the relationship in a way many people don’t get to experience in their lifetime. 

Longstanding business relationships will always present at least some ups and downs. Of course, you’ll never find the perfect business partner or colleagues, but the fear many of us have about mixing business and friendship may be unfounded at times. Strong friendship and loyalty can help create great work. When a business has heart behind it, people take note. It’s amazing what happens when friends go out on a limb and truly support one another. 

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Editor's Picks The Ultimate Guide to Dating Love + Sex Love

All the words I wish I could have told you

I got rid of my last photo of you, and I immediately regretted it. I realized that I will never be able to use the photos I took, documenting our love, as a bookmark.

I regretted that on any suspecting afternoon, with the sun gleaming just right twenty years from now, one of those photos will never fall out of an old book in front of my children and they won’t ask about the boy in the picture with curly hair and reddened cheeks.

I regretted it because you are – you were – my first love. And a person only gets one of those in a lifetime.

When I finally left I reacted curt toward you, almost passive or indifferent, because I didn’t want you to know that this was killing me too. Because I wanted to be strong – because the alternative was weak. Because we met un-intentionally and you immediately became forever etched into my soul.

I regretted it because we were damned from the start – because I found happiness in you before I found happiness in myself.

But, the reality is that I didn’t even know that I was looking for someone like you to save me from my misdirection. In fact, all I knew was that I liked the feeling in my stomach when your bright smile landed in my direction. I liked the comfort I felt in your eyes, I liked being desired. And, I liked how the beginning of our love story sprouted as if it were straight out of a Nora Ephron film.

The thing about those movies, however, is that they always ended just before the story actually began and reality set in.

For whatever reason, I thought myself righteous enough to pop our bubble. To be the one who decides that there is something better, grander, more extraordinary beyond the story of us.

So, I let it go. I convinced myself that I needed to get away so that I could start feeling again.

But seared inside my mind, hidden behind my self-proclaimed and glaring passions for the best love story known to man – and my belief that you couldn’t possibly give it to me – are the photos of you that I took in sepia. My hand on your chest. The back of your head against a sunset. Our hands holding one another. A kiss stolen in a gas station parking lot. Your eyes meeting mine with affection from the driver’s seat when we stopped at a red light and I told you to smile.

I regret that I didn’t give us the chance to seize just one more moment together. I regret that I didn’t give us a chance.

I know that you broke my heart in little ways for a long time, but I broke your heart in a big way all at once. One does not cancel out the other.

I loved you unconditionally. You knew it, too, but you lost me. I waited until I had enough and I left.

I realized that it is better to be single and search for myself, then to settle for something I feel insecure in.

Don’t get me wrong though. Our ending wasn’t nearly as tumultuous as I am making it out to be, nor as I would have liked it to be. One second we were, the next we were not. And that was it. We just ended. There was no thunder, no lightening. Nothing.

Even now as I am sorting through what exactly happened, I still can’t help but think that if you loved me the way you said you did you would have treated me the way you said you would.

I wouldn’t have had to beg.

Even when we did eventually try to talk about us, instead of ignoring the elephant in the room with banter or seduction, I’d be speechless. I didn’t know where to start.

But, please don’t mistake my silence for indifference. I do still love you. I always will, except it’s not the same. We spent so much time together and I know that I am saying so little right now to make up for it. I know that this is unbearable, but I promise you that every word I wish to utter to you is in my mind. I just can’t bring myself to speak when you look at me like that. When you draw yourself closer, it is a bribe which I can’t commit to. So please take a step back, I’m so tired of this. I am drained. If I stayed, I would spend a lifetime choking on words I wouldn’t ever dare to say.

I invested in you and I lost myself. I became dependent. And to be honest, this was the last thing I wanted. I spent close to a year relying on someone I didn’t want to rely on – nor could I. I knew it was the end long before you did, and I held on anyways, just in case, because I have a drastic fear of letting go and moving on.

But how can I reconcile breaking your heart and leaving everything we had together in just a few short minutes. You say that I took you by surprise, that you didn’t see it coming – but I don’t know how. I gave you all of the signs. You saw my silent tears. I always knew I wanted more. I was destined for something different. I felt it, deep in my bones, I just never faced it until I was forced to. I was able to ignore my confusion because we laughed with one another. We couldn’t take our hands off one another. We ran home in the pouring rain together, stopping only to kiss.

We experienced the best of one another for a short period of time, and I know that our relationship lasted as long as it was meant to. We loved each other until we couldn’t. We chewed us up and spit us out. We got everything we needed to get out of one another. We fell in and out of love from worlds apart. But I still feel terrible. And I feel like I should be feeling more even though I have been overcome with intense conflicting feelings every day since we said goodbye. Every day for close to a year.

I guess I just want you to know that I didn’t make this decision in haste. I needed to get away in order to understand more of myself.

I regret not thanking you enough for watching me blossom and believing in me so that I could believe in myself. I should have told you just how much you helped me realize the endless bounds of myself, for better or for worse.

I should have thanked you for letting me go, even though it hurt like hell.

I regret doing this to you because you waited for me. Because I gave you dozens of silent chances in my head. Because you would take me back in a second and I am here telling you that I am confused. That I need more time. That is – time to think. Time to learn and explore and dream. But all you hear is that I need to do all of these things away from you, that I need time alone. That I would rather work on building my sense of self alone than by your side.

But I deserve someone who makes me feel alive. Someone who is generous and who makes my heart jump when I tell people that they are mine. And you deserve someone who doesn’t give you an expiration date.

I am scared that maybe I made a mistake, that maybe I am foolish, or maybe that this is all that my love amounts to. I am having trouble accepting the normalcy of the end of us. The lack of explosion.

I am scared that I will forget. I am scared that after a few months everything we had will feel just like a dream. A dream that is open-ended, a dream that will constantly be on repeat in our respective minds until the end of time. Fated to carry each other’s baggage.

I regret that I now have to give you to someone else. That someone else will nuzzle into your chest, and devour your smell. I regret that I gave it all up so easily and have only in hindsight realized the weight of my naivety. Or did I? Because I also remember being so incredibly devastated, and being met with oblivion, with dismissive niceties. I remember my anxieties being belittled or made to feel small. I remember that I didn’t have the means, or the patience, to heal you.

I remember crying on the dance floor a year ago. Turning around so that none of my friends would see. I was staring at your messages. They were curt, broken and hard to make sense of. I remember being confused, I remember when someone told me for the first time that I deserved a love that was better. A love that nurtured. A love I didn’t have to settle for. A love that swept me off my feet.

I regret that we were different together than we were around everyone else. That no one got a real glimpse of us, in love. I regret being so quiet. I regret that I couldn’t love you like you loved me. I regret that you couldn’t love me the way I needed you to. I regret that we’ve run out of things to say.

I regret that our relationship was already broken even when your fingers were strumming through my hair or when we sat across from each other on the floor in a fit of laughter.

I regret knowing it was the end before you did, and holding on anyways just in case. I regret not telling you just how nervous I was and just how serious I was when I said that I thought we lost our spark. Our magic.

I regret it all because I wish that I held on to those pictures for a little while longer. I wish I studied them. Even though I knew the ending wouldn’t change.

Neither of us can fully heal our heartbreak unless we are apart. We have to heal for ourselves, rather than for the possibility that one day down the line we will be together again.

Seeing you that day, when you came by to collect your things, actually helped me realize that I am better off without you. That I am happy now. Really happy. And I no longer doubt myself. I no longer rely on you for happiness. I no longer get angry or sad because you couldn’t make me happy.

In hindsight I had absolutely no idea who I was when I met you. I still really don’t. I’m not even sure that I knew what genuine happiness looked or felt like.

Maybe that’s what ruined us after all. My indifference. My sadness. All of which at the end of the day amounted to nothing.

Soon I will be able to think about you without ripping my heart out.

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Celebrities Pop Culture

Joss Whedon has been accused of abusive behavior yet again

Followed by Ray Fisher’s allegations of abuse of power and misconduct by Joss Whedon, former Buffy the Vampire Slayer stars have come forward with their own experiences of alleged abuse by Joss Whedon. Much of these allegations repeat what others who have worked with Whedon have claimed over the years.

Earlier in July 2020, actor Ray Fisher reported allegations of abuse of power by Joss Whedon on the set of Justice League. He tweeted that Whedon’s behavior on the set was “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable.” These allegations were followed by a subsequent internal investigation launched by WarnerMedia. The statement from the company provided little explanation of the course of action it would pursue. However, Fisher has since refused to appear in any DC films.

On Wednesday 10th February, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on Buffy, accused Whedon of abusing his power.

On Wednesday 10th February, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on Buffy, accused Whedon of abusing his power. Carpenter has previously claimed that she was “afraid” to go public with her allegations, as it could considerably impact her career. However, in the wake of the MeToo movement and increased awareness and advocacy for women’s rights, she admitted she feels much more confident today coming forward with these allegations. Carpenter recalls being body-shamed by Whedon during her pregnancy and subsequently dropping out of the show. 

Carpenter was motivated to come forward in solidarity with Ray Fisher’s allegations against Whedon that made rounds in the news last summer. Amber Benson who played Tara on Buffy also issued a note of support for Carpenter and backed up Carpenter’s claims regarding Whedon’s behavior. In a tweet, she wrote:

Even Sarah Michelle Geller who played the titular character Buffy Summers came forward in support of her co-stars. In an Instagram post, she stated that while she is proud to be associated with Buffy Summers, she does not want to be associated with Joss Whedon forever. 


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A post shared by Sarah Michelle (@sarahmgellar)

Geller’s partner Freddie Prinze Jr. said in 2003 that his wife has had to deal with a lot of nonsense behind the scenes on the show. We know that Whedon has publicly mocked Geller’s work in the past. He called her work in Cruel Intentions “a porny”, which Geller claimed to be “incredibly hurtful” to her. 

Michelle Trachtenburg, who played Buffy’s younger sister on the show, also asserted that Whedon did not display “appropriate behavior” around her as a teenager. However, Trachtenburg did not provide a detailed account of Whedon’s behavior. However, she did claim that there was a rule saying that Whedon “was not allowed in a room alone with Michelle again”.

Allegations about Whedon’s behavior have been surfacing for a while. The global successes of Marvel’s The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron directed by Whedon resulted in him being brought to direct competitor DC’s Justice League. It was a challenging production that was made worse by Whedon’s “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” behavior according to Fisher.

Whedon has come under great scrutiny in recent years due to allegations of misconduct. He has had to leave several projects such as the Batgirl movie for Warner Bros., Pippa Smith: Grown-Up Detective for Freeform, and most recently The Nevers for HBO Max.

Whedon has yet to respond to the latest allegations made against him and his reps have refused to comment. However, what these recent allegations clarify is that toxic and abusive behavior by those who hold significant power is more prevalent than we imagine.

In the past, young actors were regularly villainized, it was Geller who bore the brunt of fan backlash, whilst Whedon always got a free pass and his career continued to grow. Whedon received praise and appreciation amongst fan circles for interacting with fans regularly through Buffy message boards. On the other hand, Geller was demonized for not accrediting Whedon and all that he did for her career.

In an increasingly evolving cultural climate, many people have come to realize that abusive behavior by those in positions of dominance is unacceptable. Those exploiting their power need to be held accountable. Despite being the victim, it took Carpenter almost a decade to gain the courage to finally share her story.

Abusers can have any gender, but most often in history, it’s been proven to be men who walk away with no consequences. We need to overcome the misogynistic patterns. Instead of being blindsided by the fame and praise of men in positions of power, we need to at the very least hear out the victims and recognize the existence of a pattern. Without this, we continue to fail the future generation of actors and actresses. 

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Latin America The World

Devastating fires in Chile go unnoticed

A wildfire that is believed to have been started deliberately turned Chile’s skies red and forced citizens to flee their homes.

The Valpraiso region was engulfed by flames for hours. According to authorities, the fires have blazed through 400 hectares of forest. At least ten houses have been caught by the flames, and some 25 000 residents and hundreds of firefighters were deployed to battle the flames.

According to various sources including a local government official, the fires are believed to have been started deliberately. Local rumors suggest that the fires were started deliberately by a construction company after being denied access to encroach land property.

[Image Description: Residents look up at the orange sky as the wildfires burn nearby (Picture: AP)] Via AP
[Image Description: Residents look up at the orange sky as the wildfires burn nearby (Picture: AP)] Via AP
A Chinook helicopter that was carrying tonnes of water was used to extinguish the fire from above. The destroyed property includes four houses, six cabins at a recreational center, and two warehouses. 

People who were evacuated were placed temporarily in a school building while a ‘safe zone’ was set up in the municipal stadium. Citizens that had been self-isolating after coming into contact with someone with coronavirus were instructed to go to local schools that were designated quarantine zones. 

This is not, however, the first time the area has been destructed by the wildfires. In January 2017, Chile witnessed one of the worst wildfires which caused major devastation throughout the country, killing at least 11 people. In 2019, 200 homes in the port city of Valparaiso were destroyed by wildfires on Christmas Day

Despite the devastation caused by the fires, they have received little to no coverage in international news and media. Citizens and Diaspora Chileans have expressed contempt over the blatant ignorance of the fires.

Instead of spreading the word about the fires and calling for aid, people on social media believed the pictures to be aesthetic and used them to promote songs. The insensitivity towards the matter speaks volumes.

Forest fires such as the one in Chile have both short-term as well as long-term impacts. Dozens of citizens been displaced from their houses as fires blaze through the inhabited parts of the country. Acres of forests have been destroyed and countless animals are caught in the flames.

Research has proven that the smoke from fires can choke nearby cities months after the fires. Fires can release more pollution into the air. Air quality is significantly poor and creates hazes in cities farther away. Reduced air quality can have longer-term health effects such as penetration of lung membranes and damaged respiratory system. Short-term effects include coughing, shortness of breath, and exacerbation of asthma attacks.

A bigger cause of concern is that the toxicity of these smoke particles appears to increase the further they get from the site of a fire. The particle undergoes chemical reactions as they are carried in the wind. This causes them to “age” in a process known as oxidation. It converts the particles into highly reactive compounds that have an even greater capacity to damage cells and tissue than when they were first produced.

The aforementioned effects are not even a quarter of the devastation that is caused by wildfires. The insensitive and rather ignorant response to the Chilean fires is worrying because the world is already struggling with wildfires that are causing catastrophic effects and aiding environmental damage. In addition to stealing hundreds of people’s livelihoods. It is necessary to draw attention to the fires in Chile so that the real culprits face the punishment. More importantly, though, governments need to be more pro-active to prevent such catastrophes from re-occurring.

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Career Now + Beyond

Just because I teach children does not mean I have maternal instincts

While I have never thought of myself to be particularly maternal, I find it relatively easier to work with children. This is why I have increasingly considered exploring a career in teaching. However, this may come with a cost. In an interaction with a distant relative, I expressed my interest in pursuing teaching as a career and simultaneously not wanting children of my own. What followed next was an inexhaustible lecture on how having children is one of the greatest pleasures of life. I tried to explain how I do not picture myself as a mother in the future. According to them, however, I might have the instincts in me somewhere because nothing else can explain my desire for teaching. On the contrary, I think that teaching as a profession would provide me with a sense of fulfilment that is separate from my parental choices.

It is often inherently assumed that most women want children of their own at some point in their lives. In recent years, there has been a growing conversation about normalizing women not wanting children of their own due to various reasons. Many women choose to prioritize their careers instead of starting a family. More often than not, these women are still interrogated and counseled on the importance of having children. Ever since I began teaching, I have been questioned by various colleagues and friends about having changed my opinions on having children. I, however, do not feel that teaching has affected my maternal instincts. 

Teaching is often perceived as a gendered occupation. Whilst this has changed in recent years with more men entering teaching, it still remains largely female-dominated. According to author Bryan J. Nelson lack of male teachers is mainly because “working with children is seen as a woman’s work, men are not nurturing and something must be wrong with them if they choose to work with children.” Nelson explained that there is also the existence of a fear that men are more likely to harm or abuse children compared to women. It is difficult to determine whether or not men are more likely to be abusive than women in teaching, however, these stereotypical notions have undoubtedly added to the gender gap in the profession.

There seems to be a preconceived notion that all teachers would want to have children of their own. Even if they initially begin their careers with not wanting children, after spending an ample amount of time with kids it is assumed that they would eventually embrace motherhood. I, however, wish to challenge this view. As a teacher myself, I have never felt the desire to have children of my own even after spending long hours working with them.

I began teaching in my early teens and since then I have periodically taken on teaching/tutoring jobs. In all my jobs thus far, I have found teaching to be the most gratifying and a career that I see a future in. However, not once have I felt the desire to have children of my own. People may assume that this will change once I get married but I have also spoken to teachers who are married and would not like to have children of their own. Some teachers have also said that they would not have had children of their own had they began their careers before having children.

People find it difficult to dissociate one’s career choices from their life choices.

People often say that ‘childless teachers cannot truly understand children’. This statement automatically implies that women without children may not have maternal instincts. Maternal instinct, however, is largely a myth. It comes from deep love, devotion, intense closeness, and time spent thinking about the child. And is not limited to just mothers. Psychotherapist Dana Dorfman agrees that many aspects of maternal instincts are a myth. It is not necessary to be a mother to understand and care for children. Understanding and care come from observation and experiences. Many people land in jobs that they have had no prior experience in, however, with time they learn and excel at their job. So, why are teachers subjected to this form of generalization?

The idea that being a teacher affects one’s maternal instincts or vice versa is largely misogynistic as it exposes the underlying trend of women being incomplete without children. In the case of teachers, it becomes rather problematic because people find it difficult to dissociate one’s career choices from their life choices.

Globally women have gained greater autonomy to choose their careers and overcome misogynistic trends prevalent in societies. Choosing teaching as a career option and simultaneously not wanting children is largely questioned and viewed skeptically. So much so that people often go to extreme lengths to explain to me that working with children will lead to me changing my mind sooner rather than later. However, that is yet to happen.

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Is Anti-Semitism still prevalent in Muslim communities?

In recent years we have witnessed a prevalence of Islamophobia around the world, as a result of which Islamophobia has been denounced globally and the freedom to practice different faiths has been demanded. But before we point fingers at others, it is important to look within Muslim communities and examine the extent to which we are impartial when it comes to different religious groups. Anti-Semitism is still prevalent in different Muslim countries and diaspora communities. It is rather surprising to see Anti-semitism in Muslim communities today because for much of history Muslims and Jews lived in harmony. In fact, Jewish historians often regard the centuries when Jews lived among Muslims to be a “golden age” for Jewry

Muslims’ hostility towards Jews began to grow in the twentieth century with the Jewish immigration to Palestine leading up to the formation of Israel. The animosity did not just grow in Arab countries. Journalist Mehdi Hasan pointed out the commonality of Anti-Semitic attitudes in Pakistanis as well, even though Pakistan has an almost non-existent Jewish population. 

Similarly, Malaysia too has often displayed an anti-Semitic stance. Malaysia’s former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, on different occasions suggested that Muslims and Jews are natural enemies. However, it did not emerge because of Malaysia’s small population of Jews. Instead, it has been attuned because of Israel’s ascendance and the subjugation of Palestinians. 

The brewing conflict between Israel and Palestine paved the way for anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. It is commonplace to turn to Anti-Semitism during times of conflict. Mainstream politics in many Muslim countries use prejudices against Jews to explain political and economic issues in the country. As Malaysia Journalist S. Thayaparan put it, “Anything wrong with the Muslim world is blamed on the Jews.” However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Anti-Semitic attitude is often fueled by Anti-Israel and Anti-Zionist sentiment.

It is important to distinguish between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism. Zionism is a movement that was established in the nineteenth century aimed at countering anti-Semitism and establishing a Jewish homeland. Therefore, anti-Zionism is opposition towards the Zionist movement and ideology. This, often, involves opposition towards Israel as well. It can be understood as an Anti-Israel attitude, which involves criticism of the Israeli government, politicians, and its policies.

Anti-Semitism, however, is a form of prejudice or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group. It is important to understand that the condemnation of the Israeli government must be distinguished from the condemnation of Jewish people at large.

In recent years, many Muslims have confronted and opposed anti-Semitism. A video that went viral in 2019 shows a Muslim woman confronting an anti-Semite on the London underground. Other instances include the American Muslim groups that raised voice for the victims of Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting last year and the Norwegian Muslims who formed rings of peace to protect Jewish places of worship from similar attacks. 

It is not entirely uncommon for diaspora Muslims to stand aside with Jews when it comes to racial abuse or prejudice. Perhaps, because they understand that intolerance and discrimination is not something that can be combatted divisively. However, within Muslim majority countries, anti-Semitic behaviors are largely prevalent. One of the reasoning behind this could be that anti-Semitism is often conflated with anti-Zionism. 

The conflict between Israel and Palestine, however, is a political one and not an ideological one, although, religion has served as a backdrop for the conflict. Some of Israel’s most assertive policies in the region — including the controversial “nation-state” law — are fueled by explicitly religious arguments from the country’s right-wing. The religious rhetoric is also reflected in the Palestinian and Arab resistance movements, most of which have an Islamic flavor. The conflict is, however, broader than just religion. 

The conflict between Israel and Palestine needs to be considered in a broader scope than that of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Similarly, anti-Semitism need not be considered in the scope of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Whilst, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism may have differing origins and sources. Both, however, manifest intolerance and discrimination. Drawing on the history of Muslims and Jews, it is vital that Muslims and Jews should be allies in the fight against intolerance and discrimination.

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Reproductive Rights World News Europe Gender The World

Here’s what you need to know about Poland’s abortion ban

Poland has had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe to date. Abortion has never been legal in Poland but the state has allowed it in select few cases. On 22nd October 2020, the Polish government amended the abortion law for the worst. The recent court ruling has banned almost all abortions except those in cases of rape or incest.

The Polish court is dominated by the ruling party – The Law and Justice party (PiS). PiS has previously expressed strong ideas about traditional families and contempt towards the LGBTQ+ community, and this ruling is a result of a request by the MPs to review the existing abortion laws. The court ruling came in line with Poland’s Roman Catholic episcopate and the PiS. It has placed Poland outside the settled European consensus on the right of women to control their own bodies.

The Polish government has long ignored the obligations of the European Union membership, and the European Commission expressed concerns over breaches of rule of law. Whilst, the European Parliament has supported this regulation, it has been blocked by governments in the council. It is difficult to ascertain what course of action the European Commission would pursue but it is unlikely that the Polish government will be able to avoid consequences this time.

Abortions carried out when the fetus is malformed, which accounted for 98% of legal terminations in 2019 have now been outlawed. Less than 2000 legal terminations are carried out each year in Poland. According to women’s groups’ estimates, up-to 200,000 abortions are either performed illegally or abroad. Health Ministry figures have shown that 1,110 legal abortions were held in Poland in 2019. 

The new abortion law prohibits abortions due to any fatal abnormalities or incurable illnesses of the child. This means that women will be forced to carry out pregnancies that they know are not viable. It is impossible to imagine how traumatic and emotionally damaging this would be for the woman giving birth to such a child. It also adds risk to the mother’s health. Women that retain a dead embryo or fetus can experience severe blood loss or develop an infection of the womb. 

Malgorzata Szulecka, a lawyer for the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, told the BBC: “This is a totally unjustified decision that will lead to inhuman treatment of women.” Although the ruling affects all women, those who belong to marginalized groups will be disproportionately affected, as they may not even be able to travel outside of the country to get an abortion.

International human rights groups have condemned the ruling. Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Human Rights Watch said they would send independent monitors to the court. Protests have erupted across Poland and elsewhere in Europe in reaction to the ruling, which are still continuing. Protestors also disrupted church services to express anger over the Catholic church’s role in public life. Much of the anger, however, is directed towards the PiS. Protestors have been attacked by tear gas, and the police has arrested a number of protestors.

Marta Kotwas, a researcher at UCL’s School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies specializing in rightwing populism in Poland, said: “There is so much anger because people can see how the abortion issue is being exploited as a political issue, how women are being used as a bargaining chip by political actors.”

The situation was further exacerbated by reports that doctors are canceling scheduled terminations of fetuses with severe defects to avoid breaking the law. 

The PiS has said that they would propose a new law to better support women and their children”, which could be an opportunity to soften the blow of the court decision, though no such action has been taken as of yet.

The abortion ban in Poland displays an assault on women’s rights and creates a question of women’s autonomy in the so called developed world. Women are being exploited and losing their bodily autonomy in the face of political conflict. According to some, the ban on abortions is to appease conservative factions of the country. The criminalization or restriction on abortions will not stop abortions, it will only make them less safe. Decisions around pregnancy and abortion impact human rights and the criminalization of abortion adds to the stigma. Poland’s ban on abortion is yet another reminder of how easily women’s rights can be exploited in any part of the world sometimes under the guise of cultural values or religion.

Mass demonstrations have continued in Poland and we have yet to see an outcome favorable to women. Meanwhile, what we can do is raise awareness about the unjust ban in an attempt to protect women’s rights and safety.

Here is what you can do to help:

Love + Sex Love Advice

Should you get back together with your ex?

My first serious relationship has been a complicated one. We have broken up and gotten back together more than once. This on again, off again type of dynamic is confusing to the people in my life.

When I tell people about my relationship situation they often try to insert their own opinions. I appreciate friends trying to look out for me, but the constant questioning and advice can be draining and even hurtful. The truth is that as easy as it is to make judgements when you’re an outsider looking into a relationship, no one really knows the relationship but the people who are in it.

When deciding whether to call it quits or get back together, I firmly believe that you have to follow your gut. You’re the one who will ultimately be impacted by your decision. Therefore, the choice should be 100% your own. 

My boyfriend and I met for the first time in my junior year (his senior year) of college at American University. I saw him sitting with a friend of mine at a table in our on campus coffee shop and decided to go over. I had never run into him before. He was cute and he caught my eye, so I joined them at the table.

From there, the connection was instant. I was frazzled talking to him that first day. Afterwards we followed each other on social media and he asked me out on a date. We quickly became exclusive.

The beginning of our relationship was shy and sweet. We hung out on campus and went to events and parties together. I was constantly at his house doing homework and chilling with him and his roommates. I had never connected with someone so deeply so quickly. We said I love you within the first two months of dating. I had never said I love you to someone in a romantic situation before.

Around this same time, he invited me to come visit his home in central California and meet his family. I agreed. The trip was lovely and romantic. It really solidified for me that this relationship would be for the long haul. 

The following semester, the spring of my junior year, I went abroad to London to study at King’s College. We did long distance for the months that I was away. We FaceTimed everyday and he even came to visit me during his school break. The week we spent together there felt magical. We went on dinner dates and explored the city. I introduced him to my new friends. Everything was going well in our relationship at the time. 

The time without him hurt so badly. I couldn’t stop crying.

Things started getting rocky once I came back from London the following semester for my senior year. He had graduated and started a new job along with graduate school. He was under a lot of stress. I also was struggling with my depression and anxiety.

We broke up for the first time right around our one year anniversary. I broke up with him, worried that we were too unalike. We were at different stages of our lives and didn’t seem to have time for one another. I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t feel like there was any other way. The time without him hurt so badly. I couldn’t stop crying. We barely lasted a few weeks before deciding to get back together. 

Our relationship was great after getting back together. We had a newfound appreciation for one another and were working through our problems in healthy ways. This continued for several months. However, come January our relationship started going south again. We fell back into old unhealthy relationship dynamics. He felt responsible for my happiness and I felt like he wasn’t dedicating enough time for us. We fought often.

He broke up with me later in that month, saying he needed time to figure out his own life and mental health and that he couldn’t do it while we were still together. This breakup felt much more final. The time spent without him and barely talking were painful. 

After a month or two he came back saying he had made a mistake and he wanted to be together again. I was hesitant. My trust had been betrayed and didn’t want to jump back into a relationship with him without solving our previous problems. Ultimately, I asked for some time to think things over.

Ultimately, I decided to try things again, but to take it slow and re get to know each other like in the beginning of our relationship. That is exactly what we have been doing since then. 

I have learned valuable lessons through our relationships and have taken away a lot from us breaking up and getting back together.

Relationships are hard work and compromise and clear communication are key to making them last. Taking time to listen carefully and considering the other person’s perspective is essential. Showing appreciation and love for your partner through doing little things to make them happy also goes a long way.

No relationship is perfect, but repeating past mistakes and having the same fights are not productive.

My biggest piece of advice for people who may be going through similar situations is to give yourself space and time to really think over the relationship. Journal, make a pro-con list and really mull things over. I encourage you to ask yourself important questions like if the circumstances that caused you to break up in the first place have changed? Have you both grown since the breakup? More importantly, why do you want to get back together now? Obviously, no relationship is perfect, but repeating past mistakes and having the same fights again and again are also not productive.

Above all, listen to your heart. No one can tell you what’s right or wrong for you better than yourself. Talk to friends and family if you want advice or second opinions, but make sure your final decision is your own. If you’re anything like me, you let your feeling get clouded sometimes by other people’s judgements and opinions. The only thing that matters is the relationship being healthy and fulfilling and making you happy. If it checks all of those boxes, trust yourself, and go for it. Getting back together with an ex can work out if you take the time to address your issues and make sure the timing is right for your relationship to succeed!

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Culture Family Life

A love letter to libraries

I know that I am not alone when I say that we, as humans, find a lot of solace in libraries. They are temples of knowledge, housing collections of stories and dreams alike on their shelves. Libraries are as much a part of our culture as anything else. People have relied on these spaces for warmth, insight, and marvel for centuries. In a way, they hold the key to all of our stories,

I love libraries, and I am terrified to see their eventual demise, especially as our world becomes almost entirely digital. They are gems from the past that have maintained vitality no matter the circumstances or happening outside of their walls. Not to mention they are the cornerstones of entire communities, maybe even countries, granting light and stability to people when nothing, or no one, else seemed able to. They offer more than just books; they offer entry into a space that seems more like a sanctuary run by people grounded in compassion, commitment, creativity, and resilience.

People have relied on these spaces for warmth, insight, and marvel for centuries.

I used to go to the library near my grandparents’ house every other Friday. For the most part, my mom took my brothers and me there to get a new book for school or to see what DVDs we could bring home to watch that evening. But I remember roaming around, starstruck, in between the tall shelves, wondering about the people who wrote each and every single one of those books and how long it might have taken to get them all here.

Most weeks, my mother let me get two books instead of one. I could spend hours there if it was permitted. I always liked watching my mom pick her books for the week, too. She seemed so sophisticated and gentle while scanning the shelves, yet she never knew exactly what she was looking for. If it was winter, afterward we would all pile back into the car with our hardcover books and grab a slice of pizza. If it was summer, we would walk to the Italian Ice shop down the street for some cream ice – those were the best days. 

I fear that libraries have been taken for granted, even in my own life, and am always spellbound to find them chock full of unexpected people, doing unexpected things, with unexpected passions. There is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling, the pure excitement in my stomach, that erupts every time I am searching in a library for the perfect tale to dig into. A trip to the library seems, to me, to be enchanted. I become whimsical, enveloped by the completeness and simplicity of the entire journey.

Even the smell of a library is impossible to replicate because of its specificity and poignance. I am reminded of sandalwood, dusk, and a particular, antiquated, dampness. Its familiarity is beyond comforting. The air itself seems to be saturated in possibility and imagination. 

I feel at home while pattering around and tracing my fingers between the shelves of books. I fall in love while blowing the dust off of the covers, revealing bright colors and exquisite lines. I spend hours crinkling through the aged, already yellowing, pages of novels wondering which I will pick this time. It is never an easy decision, and I always leave with dozens underneath my arms wondering if the others will still be there when I return the next week. But, that’s the beauty of libraries, isn’t it? Every visit is entirely different from the last and there is no telling what you might stumble upon. Yet each visit is also starkly familiar. 

The air itself seems to be saturated in possibility and imagination.

Books have changed so much of my life, with plotlines, characters, and lessons that have been woven into nearly everything I do – that is every decision, every consideration, and everything that I have grown to appreciate or even pay a little bit more attention to. Books are there to remind me of what’s important, and when I’m not so sure, they’re there for me to lean on. Without libraries, though, I might have never been allowed membership into such a world of splendor. 


Your twenties may have been the best years of your life; mine were drowned out by war

Our twenties are the years that everyone raves about – the time between being a carefree kid and a responsible adult. It’s the time one often gets their first taste of independence. You’re figuring out who you are, and everything is uncertain and exciting. Disappointments and failure will most definitely be a part of it all, but you can take it in stride. I always imagined my twenties would be that way, full of life, experiences, and fascinating stories. But, I was wrong.

A month after my 20th birthday, a war broke out in Libya. I’m saying goodbye to my twenties soon, and I don’t know how to feel about it. The 2011 revolution started with hope – people fought for their dreams of a brighter future. But that hope was quickly drowned out by darker notions.

By the end of 2012, a new chapter had begun in Benghazi. A chapter characterized by chaos, kidnapping, murder, bombs, and gunfire. Being alive under those circumstances felt heavy, and things progressively got worse.

I can’t say it’s over, I can’t say it’s still ongoing, I can’t really explain it at all. The last decade has managed to make us people we never thought we could be.

War only brings suffering. For years now, the war has stolen souls, destroyed houses, and broken hearts. Behind each door, a sad story is being told, and the more closely you look around, the more you see the depth and scope of the destruction.

After drowning in uncertainty for years and losing track while the counting days, I finally decided to be the one that writes my story. Letting the war steal what remained of my desire to live wasn’t working anymore – I deserved better than that. I wanted to have a better story to tell in my seventies, if I ever lived that long.

I decided to stop following the news entirely. It wasn’t easy at first, denying that reality, but I knew it had to be done. I found myself feeling more energetic. I started doing some volunteer work and made a point of spreading positivity by any means I could. I could bring hope to people, draw smiles upon their faces, and focus on the sweeter things in life.

Life wasn’t perfect, but it seemed brighter than ever. Brighter than war.

Even when my foreign friends asked me about the political situation in Libya, I smiled and replied: “You know, I’m not the right person to ask, I don’t follow the news.” They thought I was being careless, and maybe I was. But what I knew for certain was that if the war was not ending, then that was my attempt at ending it in my own way.

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was talking about a Syrian series, and I wanted to check it out. I could relate to everything about it, in a weird, scary way. The sounds of bombs destroying buildings. The fear, dissipating into an almost gray dullness that painted everyone’s faces.  Knowing that, yes, you are breathing, and you are, in fact, alive, but you’re inhaling the very smoke from the rubble of the war that has stolen years that belonged to you and the people you love.

I realized that as hard as I tried to block it all out, there was no use. You can’t just erase memories and events that made you who you are. So, now, I choose to remember.

War still claims lives, breaks hearts, and overburdens souls. Yet, it taught me one life-changing lesson: we’re not capable of changing what’s forcibly happened, but we can change the way we deal with it. I can’t give life back to those who lost theirs, I can’t rebuild the destroyed souls and houses, I can’t act like nothing has happened or pretend to be someone else. But I absolutely can be the light.

Love Life Stories

Rain drop, drop top, in 2016 I started writing and I just won’t stop

2016 was a new year that presented many new opportunities for me. Last January, I was working part-time at a retail store, struggling with my grades, and wondering when my life would begin.

Over the course of the year, everything was turned upside the head.


I’ve always lived a very sheltered life. My parents and my brother have helped me through almost everything, but in turn, also protected me from everything. I got used to being told what to do with my life, and I started doing what everyone else said. I even took up a major in university just because I was told to.

I was never given a chance to live by myself, or to step out of the bubble I grew up in. Now, all I can think is what ifWhat if I’d changed my major like I wanted to? What if I hadn’t listened to what others said? I realized that somehow in the midst of fulfilling everyone’s wishes, I lost sight of my own goals. I forgot that I had to live this life for myself. 

[bctt tweet=”I had lost sight of my own goals.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Summer rolled around, along with my not-so-quarter-life crisis. I turned to my talented and amazing entrepreneur friend, Aurooba of Wanderoak, and told her of my troubles. And like any good friend, she steered me into the light…okay that’s very dramatic. What I mean is that, she asked me to try out The Tempest fellowship. 

I gave it some thought. I remember always setting up websites and blogs for myself in my past years. Anyone remember piczo? No? Okay. I just loved the idea of blogging. But being the impatient person that I am, I knew I wasn’t cut out for doing something grand by myself. So I filled out the application for The Tempest. 

I honestly had no idea what to expect. I’d never written commercially, hell, I’d never even written for myself. And yet, I applied for the Editorial Fellowship. The fellowship that requires you to write quite a bit, challenging you with new topics and sections to push you out of your comfort zone. When I interviewed with the CEO, I’m pretty sure I told her that I’m bad with deadlines, that I’m lazy, and I procrastinate a lot. Regardless, she saw potential in me. 

[bctt tweet=”I honestly had no idea what to expect.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Now, four months and over a dozen of articles later I can truly say that this was by far one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself. 

The Tempest not only helped me develop as a writer but also helped me grow as a person. I didn’t truly realize the power of writing a piece that could be loved/hated internationally. Friends and families from overseas would message me about how they came across my piece. 

The team of editors and fellows worked together day and night to bring out amazing content. This team has helped me become who I am, they supported me when my pieces did well and helped me out when I was running out of ideas. 

[bctt tweet=”The Tempest helped me develop as a writer, and as a person” username=”wearethetempest”]

As this year and fellowship comes to an end, I can confidently say that I’ve become a much better writer. I’ve learned how to fine-tune my writing to dive deeper into my interests. It was a hard but fruitful fellowship.

I can’t believe I got to be a part of this incredible movement, and how this incredible team of fierce women have taken the media by a storm.

I know a lot of people keep saying 2016 was awful, but The Tempest made my year incredible. I started out as a regular student and ended up feeling like a badass woman with a powerful voice.