Keli Chau Toshima Japan

A Trending Culture

      It has been four months since my last entry. I have been doing what I needed for my mental health and this meant learning to truly relax after I made a shift in my job allowing me to do so. The last few years has been full of nonstop changes and grinding without the pandemic added. I learned a lot from my previous job responsibilities but the flip side of it is that I was overworked and underpaid compared to the team and dealt with my portion of office politics. It was due to countless reasons, mostly because I did not graduate from “good” colleges like some of my team members, so there was daily resistance as I continued to navigate the lion’s pit. This experience coupled with how I have been treated in my community until this day gave the final blow causing the unavoidable anxiety attacks.

Innately, we are social creatures so we naturally like to follow the crowd. It is pretty straightforward if you ask me—if you assimilate you will survive and if you are fortunate, you can possibly even thrive. I went the opposite direction my entire life and due to this acclimatization principle, I unsurprisingly fell out with the crowd. Of course, this observation is through my experience of the sample size I was presented with, so not everyone is/was bitter toward how I am. It was rare and far in between but they exist too, with each encounter that I can count on one hand giving me hope to not give up on people’s good nature. More importantly, it reminded me to not generalize the actions of some—and you may think I am exaggerating here—those “some” being a couple hundred. I have heard many iterations of this before, “if people are treating you this way, maybe you should reflect on yourself,” but it can go both ways. The majority is not always right, and even so, it does not justify treating someone poorly because of difference in beliefs. It would be no different from discrimination that are formed from a clash in cultures and religions.

The way people interpret anything is on them. With the current events and how people are reacting to it, I cannot help but think about the stripped-down version of these behaviors. The one where it reminded me of my own personal experience, where I feel could conceivably be a part of its core: heuristic techniques, survival mode, and dare I say, victim mentality.

After learning about heuristics in high school, I started thinking about how it applies to real life situations. Maybe it is confirmation bias, but the more I saw it, the more I felt like I could not be upset with those who used that method to conclude how they treat each other. It makes logical sense and it is an efficient way to determine who you should surround yourself with, even if it is drawn from first impressions and judgment influenced by doubt and fear. For me, it was partly because I was an easy target. To begin with, I was already flagged having come from lower class. It also did not help when I decided to be on my own while everyone was jumping into cliques, a form of protection as if you were in jail. As one, our school was judged by the rest of the county for being lower ranked because of our poorly perceived demographics and most of the teachers and counselors’ behavior also fell somewhere on that spectrum. With a rough financial situation, my family had issues causing us high stress and anxiety levels and this was one of the main reasons why I would often miss attendance. I still ensured average grades to receive Georgia’s lottery funded scholarship and participated in school activities but that was the extent of my relationship with the system and its attendants. Perhaps it is a result of the survival of the fittest mentality when one thinks, “If they are not with us, they are against us.” However, when it is translated to our current reality, and though it may have been normalized, has a harmful effect within communities. Applying this to the high school example is fairly simple. We had to rank high in our class, be friendly with everyone, strive to get into “great” colleges in order to “secure” our future and place in the hierarchy. Students who made good grades and received high test scores were encouraged by teachers and those who did not were almost invisible to them.

Two of my double-edged characteristics are pride and stubbornness. I never wanted to let others know about my family’s situation because I felt like it would dishonor them. This ended up with me keeping to myself and finding ways to mask everything that was going on at home so that suspicions did not arise. They saw that I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and only if it interested me so the shortcut answer that they concluded with was that I was not hardworking or smart and that stemmed back to how they viewed the demographics. They went with what they believed was the correct train of thought, made a decision, and moved on with their lives. I did a good job playing along with their narrative because no one questioned anything. I do not like playing the victim card, which is partly a result of my pride, but I noticed there are good bit of people who seem to gravitate toward it by way of expression. What I do believe, though, is that people are drawn toward the newest trend, and today, it is to present oneself as profound. What do those two things need? Struggle. Pain. Hardship. In other words, it is now acceptable to be serious and speak one’s mind to increase social points.

Like how it was over a decade ago, I am now still having to deal with the consequences of choosing to be myself regardless of staying low-key from my past. At work, I did what was instructed and provided my own input to help make the process seamless and fair for the team. I had to keep proving myself to everyone for a while before they understood that I was not operating from a self-profit standpoint just because I was working an extra weekly 10-15 hours to streamline production. My launching pad and lack of credentials made the team question whether or not I was capable of leading them. I played the middle person, relaying messages from upper management, and was often met with uncertainty. They eventually had to acknowledge that the department had gotten organized but at that point, I had no time to spare on extra commission work which was the opposite case for the rest. I still had to do the work they were doing but with added management job responsibilities for the same starting pay and no time to accept commission projects. They saw that I was working extra hours, so the rational thinking is that it must mean that I was making more than them. No one can truly fathom anyone working so hard for less pay only to move on within a couple of years. I decided to give it a chance to see of things would change but it did not so I had to approach it differently earlier this year for the sake of my mental health, which undoubtedly came as a surprise to everyone.

Outside of work, people were wondering how in the world I was able to contribute to even half of a new home build that I signed on with my partner. Logically speaking, someone of my socioeconomic and educational background cannot start “officially” working for only half a year and already have the means to purchase a fully furnished new build, new car, a trip to Japan, and Lasik surgery all within a year’s timeframe. People at work already assumed that I was making an incredibly higher salary than them and that I must have come from a privileged background to begin with to “unabashedly flex,” but people outside of work were mostly from the same group who decided that I was getting farther behind in the rat race. The only rationale they could come up with is that my partner is taking care of most of the finances because he comes from an upper middle-class family and has been working longer than I have. Both are easy shortcuts to conclusion because if we were to get down to the nitty gritty, the elephant in the room, then the typical win-lose mentality would arise. I have been told, explicitly, implicitly, and behind my back (paper cannot cover fire) that I could not achieve these milestones because I went a different path. There seems to be a misconceived notion that there are not many paths to a destination and an endless number of checkpoints available.

Some people voiced their confusion in political fashion and others would keep their curiosity to themselves. For the most part, they would merely avoid the subject by neither interrogating or congratulating me. The current passive aggressions have swapped the narrative because it is no longer predicting whether or not I will fail but it is that I have allowed greed to turn me into a selfish and pompous member of society. Suddenly, the decades of hardship that my family and I went through vanished and I am simply a lucky and privileged member of society who has no understanding of what it takes to coexist on this planet. In short, I have chosen to live below my means and find other ways to balance out the disadvantages for not following the system, but that could be a hard pill to swallow for those with differing beliefs.

Countless times when I have reached out to volunteer for organizations or simply helping others in daily life, there would be a shocked reaction—an almost skeptical one. It is as if we as a human population have accepted that the world is cruel and any kindness that takes place will have a price tag attached to the recipient. It is naïve to think that the one-sided transaction could end up being on the giver or that it could be well-balanced. This reminds me of the “woke culture” that I have been observing over the years. No matter how small, I believe in paying it forward and I see this innateness in others as well. Yes, there are people who are truly self-serving but I believe that more often than not, people want to do good, just not when it would be disadvantageous for them (that is okay, because we have to be able to take care of ourselves first before we can of others). The key here is in the balance of action and intention. Where it gets a little gray is when people show their true nature in times of hardship—the ones who are trying to do good, cause harm, or stay neutral. This causes the labeled “social justice warriors” to be more mindful of others, some more quick to check another’s actions to confirm whether or not it is genuine. It is as if humans need a side to pick to decrease the exertion of making decisions. It has gotten to a point where if people are truly trying to help but when questioned before doing so, it causes them to flee. It is like we can no longer carry on with our lives without being judged as tone deaf to current events, be financially stable and understand hardship, stay neutral without going against someone, or show up as an ally without being seen as complicit or virtue signaling. The constant “truth” check is getting out of balance. It is understandable to want to know the truth but when there is pressure of constant skepticism, it starts to turn people away.

Contradictory to my nature, I have been holding back on completely speaking my mind these past couple of years for the reasons that I have mentioned so far, afraid of saying the wrong thing or potentially causing extreme offensiveness that could lead to my family’s danger. Social interactions left me feeling unworthy, professional ones made me feel like I was not doing my due diligence, and social injustices like I am not carrying out my part as a human being. Just like those within my circle who are now passing me off as egotistical and selfish after gaining what they believe is success, it is easy for me to be treated like someone who only cares about her own life or that I have to be against something if I do not agree with everything or publicly show it. I think it is normal for people to want to pick a side and insist that others do as well, however, if we insist on digging to the bottom, there will be inevitable darkness—some more externally harmful than others and others internally damaging.

“They blame those who remain silent, they blame those who speak much, they blame those who speak in moderation. There is none in the world who is not blamed.” –Buddha, Dhammapada Scripture, Verse 227


Tags: Life Journey, Tuyen Chau, Keli Chau, Lifestyle Blog, Woke Culture, Judgment, Career Journey, Millennials

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