Student Blog | Lamoni
Defeating the Feelings of Inadequacy and Non-belonging
Posted Jul 2, 2020, by Lamoni
Yesterday, I presented at the student organization fair to give students some information about COTAD. When we, the presenters, were introduced, Dr. Rafeedie referred to us as “second year students.” I am still shocked every time that I hear that phrase. It has already been a full year of graduate school. Am I really half-way done? This question made me think about how I got to this point and all of the feelings of inadequacy that I had to tackle along the way.
The doubts started when I first began my pursuit of higher education. Before my first day of college, I was eager to attend a highly ranked school. I wanted to be challenged. But when I arrived, I was challenged in more ways than one. No one there looked like me. The number of Black students was roughly 5%. And of those Black students, even less were African American. And of those African Americans, few came from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Naturally, I felt out of place due to my race, ethnicity, and income. Along with sharing a class with people from some of the best private high schools in America, I recall questioning my belonging at least several times a week. I do not remember telling anyone about these feelings. My best friend in college was Black but she was not African American and her education was completely paid for by her family. My college was private and very expensive by the way. So, I did not think she would understand. I thought about calling my best friend from high school but she decided not to attend college and was starting a family. She would not understand either. Instead, I pushed those thoughts deep down inside and trucked along. When I graduated, it was the biggest accomplishment of my life. I was so proud! My family was proud! My community was proud!
After college, I knew that I wanted to become an occupational therapist. That, of course, meant going to graduate school. Like I did for college, I traveled across the nation to attend graduate school. I had no family or friends with me. I was starting anew. However, I had already done this once. It would be easier this time. Not so much. Very quickly, the feelings of inadequacy came back. As I walked down the hallways of Chan, I saw portraits of influential women in occupational therapy. Not one portrait was of a Black woman. When we entered the large G37 lecture room, I continued my search for other people that looked like me. I found two. As a class of 144 people, this meant that Black students made up 2%. Truthfully, it was not surprising. Though half of African Americans attend college, according to the National Black Occupational Therapy Caucus, only half of that percentage graduates. According to AOTA’s workforce data from 2014, the percentage of Black occupational therapists is only 4%. With these statistics, it began to feel like this was not the right place for me. But there was a turning point.
During our first summer of the program, we had the honor of receiving a lecture from Dr. Lela Llorens. At our lecture, she spoke about her challenges as a Black occupational therapist and her own feelings of non-belonging. Without knowing, she validated my emotions. Despite her feelings of estrangement, Dr. Llorens greatly influenced our profession’s body of knowledge. In 1969, she received the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship award—one of the greatest recognitions an occupational therapist can obtain. Additionally, in celebration of occupational therapy’s 100 year history, Dr. Llorens was recognized in AOTA’s list of 100 influential People. Hearing about her achievements dismantled all of my negative thoughts. I have come this far, and I will keep going. Maybe this place was not originally designed for me but there is space for me now. There is space here for others like me, too.
Here are my suggestions for when you feel like you are inadequate or do not belong:
You have jumped over hurdles and navigated barriers time and time again. That is no easy feat! Whether you are just now entering college, finishing college, starting your masters, or completing your OTD, your accomplishments thus far show that you are capable.
When there is already a feeling of non-belonging, it is easy to focus on the negatives. It can send you into a spiral of emphasizing your “failures.” Instead, view everything as a learning tool. If it did not work in the past, what can you do differently? And if it did work, celebrate! Reward yourself! Break the cycle of dismissing validation.
Create a detailed image that affirms your desired outcomes. See the bigger picture. When we have a concrete idea of what we are working toward, we stay motivated. Small rocks in our path may make us stumble but never fall. Do not lose sight of the ultimate goal.
Just like I belong here, so do you.
How to be an Ally
Posted Jun 12, 2020, by Lamoni
With the world’s recent affairs, there’s been a lot of discussion about police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement, misuse of power, the meaning behind certain symbols such as the confederate flag, etc. With these discussions circulating, I have seen a number of well-intentioned acts of solidarity. I have also seen acts that are inappropriate.
In our profession, it is important to build trust with our team and our clients. An important way to build trust is by consistently showing that we are allies, people that care about the same cause and act toward the same goal. It sounds rather simple, but it requires a lot of effort. Right now, your Black friends, classmates, faculty, and staff need to see that effort. And we need it to be vigorous and constant. That being said, I have decided to lay out some points about what it means to be an ally.
What is allyship?
1. Listening more and speaking less
What you’ve learned through books, articles, and observation does not and will not equate to the lived experience. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to spend most of your time listening rather than speaking. There is always room to learn more.
2. Acknowledging your privilege
You cannot call for equality without first acknowledging that there is an imbalance. Recognize that you have certain advantages that others do not. Use that advantage to amplify the voices of those unheard.
3. Accepting criticism
People tend to immediately begin defending themselves when they are criticized. That can lead to a missed opportunity. Criticism is a form of feedback that should be used to reflect and grow. Embrace it.
What allyship is not
Allyship is not rooted in performance. Lately, it seems that calling oneself an ally is very on-trend. However, as stated, allyship is a lifelong process. It requires consistency in reflection, learning, and action. Expecting awards and recognition suggests that you are conveniently presenting as an ally or have an ulterior motive. Next time you create a #BLM post, ask yourself, “am I doing this for an applause?” and, “if people ask about this post, will I be able to say that I’ve put action behind my words?” (e.g. marched in protests, signed petitions, called legislators).
Being an ally is hard work. Confronting your implicit biases, speaking up when a family member says something ignorant, and recognizing the ways that you participate in oppressive systems is difficult. However, it is necessary. If you do not feel uncomfortable or challenged, you are not actively doing your part.
We have a beautiful profession where we get to advocate for others. Let’s all start now.
A Semester Like No Other
Posted May 31, 2020, by Lamoni
As we all know, COVID-19 has changed a lot of things. That includes our program. It was quite a surprise for us all when we left for spring break and were told that we would not be returning. Everything happened so quickly. A friend from home was supposed to visit but decided to cancel their flight one day before their arrival. A few days later, I received an email that encouraged everyone to leave campus. That same night, my dad told me that I needed to come home and a flight was booked for the next day. While that was a whirlwind, I packed up all of my things with the belief that I would return next month. Most of my belongings, including my car, stayed in Los Angeles while I headed home.
Slowly, reality sunk in and USC announced that we were moving to remote learning. That meant that instead of taking the shuttle to campus, I would be taking all of my classes in my room. The joy and laughter that I once shared with my classmates would now be contained behind a computer screen. Rather quickly, within the first week of online classes, my eyes felt strained and my back started to hurt. I wasn’t prepared to take classes this way. I also began having trouble staying organized. Something about walking to another classroom helped me to sort my courses and organize my thoughts. Changing Zoom links didn’t do that for me. My research moved online too. So did the student organizations that I am a part of. Then, celebrations like birthday parties were online as well. It was a strange feeling because, though I no longer had to commute anywhere, I felt like I was just barely keeping up. On top of that, I now live in a different time zone and have to constantly remind myself that the meeting scheduled for 5PM is actually 7:00.
We’ve now started our full semester of remote learning — a complete load of five courses online for an entire 11 weeks! But I will not be taken off guard this time; I have prepped. Here are some things that are working for me: I have finally begun using Google Calendar (I have no idea how I’ve gone without it). Google Calendar allows me to use multiple time zones. For me, that means that it shows my schedule in both Pacific Time and Central Time. Additionally, it syncs with my computer’s calendar which syncs to my phone which syncs to my watch. And, just in case digital reminders aren’t enough, I also have a whiteboard calendar and a planner. In times like this, you have to cover all grounds. For seating, I have a designated small pillow for my lower back. For my eyes, I have blue light glasses. For energy, I keep a jar of trail mix on my desk. My watch also gives me reminders to stand and I use those reminders for stretch breaks. During class breaks or lunch break, I try to take a step outside to breathe in some fresh air. When classes are over for the day, instead of delving into homework or assignments right away, I give my eyes another break. Typically, I will either read for pleasure or exercise in my backyard.
This semester is different, therefore it requires a lot of adaptations and modifications. But, we’re OTs. We got this!