Pay It Forward – #JPKBday Style

Another birthday has come and gone. And I have to say – it was a great one!

Yes, I had a cold all weekend.  Yes, the weather took a turn for the worse.  And yes, I spent most of the time in my house and in and around the campus.  Most people might not call this the most exciting day – but I loved every second of it.  After a whirlwind of traveling to professional conferences and presentations, this weekend at home was perfect (not to mention, good for my cold!).

But what made this birthday even more special were the many moments of kindness shown to me during a 24 hour time period. Oftentimes we take for granted the quick “HBD!” posts on Facebook, or the quick “Hope you had a great b-day!” texts from friends. If you find yourself doing this – stop.  In our fast-paced world, remember that someone took a moment, thought of you, and cared enough to reach out and show that they care.  Maybe they sent you a quick video, or left you a voice mail singing “Happy Birthday”, or better yet – sent you a link to a Weird Al Yankovic version of the song (you know who you are).  Still others took additional time to send you photos of fun times you had together, a personal message, an e-card, or posted a superhero graphic representation of how amazing they think you are.  Still others found personal and meaningful quotes to share with you about something that reminded them of you.  In our social media world – these are the cards, these are the phone calls, and these are the personal ways that others reach out and connect with you.

As I read through the kindness I received yesterday, in addition to my “thank you” posts and “likes”, I decided to pay it forward in a different way.  I counted the number of “Happy Birthday!” posts, tweets, phone calls, songs, videos, links, and verbal greetings I received, and donated $1.00 for each one of them to The Representation Project, and organization that “uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness toward change”.  And yes – repeats counted individually! 🙂

To me, this blends my passion for gender equity with the action of paying things forward. This also translates your kindness into the best gift I could receive – that of making a difference in the lives of women and girls worldwide. So thank you to everyone for your kindness, and know that every one of you helped to make not only my day, but hopefully the coming days for women and girls, something amazing and special, too.

With gratitude,

Dr. JPK

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39 years, 364 days….

Today is my last day to be 39 years old.  Tomorrow I will be 40 (or 30-10 as some young children like to say).

Many people don’t make it to 40.  Hundreds of thousands of people in my 40 years have died either due to starvation, genocide, abuse, neglect, violence, disease or catastrophe.  Others may make it to 40, but are damaged beyond repair – physically, emotionally or psychologically because of atrocities that one cannot bear to mention, let alone think about.  And still others are alive by the biological definition of the word – but they aren’t living.  They are simply existing, going through the motions of their lives and never truly connecting or giving of themselves.

And then there are those who truly LIVE.  You’ve seen them – people who embrace life with an unbridled passion and gusto that appears to be unquenched.  Some of these folks are outwardly exuberant, while others exhibit a quiet yet relentless curiosity that cannot be satisfied no matter how many books they read, how many people they meet or how many countries to which they travel. 

I’m not sure where I fall.  I am confident that some would categorize me as exuberant – but merely having energy doesn’t mean that I am truly living.  Nor does it mean that I’m not.  What I do know is that I’ve learned a lot in my first 40 years of life – and that both my good and bad experiences have forged me into the woman I am today. 

  • My challenges coming from a divorced home helped develop my independence, as well as a fundamental mistrust of relationships resulting in a lot of pain.  But these experiences also helped me figure out my own issues (along with the help of a fine counselor or two), and eventually recognize a true partner when our paths finally crossed.
  • My foray into all sorts of different activities (pageants, basketball, debutante, clarinet, musical theater, dance, singing (including Opera), science, running, mathematics, writing and advocacy) helped satisfy my curious nature, but it also reinforced a certain level of impatience I have when I don’t master something quickly. 
  • My determination and assertiveness have allowed me to advocate for those not as fortunate as myself, but I’ve also been selfish in that I’ve been looking more inward than out – something that I need to put back into balance to fully develop a giving spirit. 
  • I recognize the need for self-care, but I have significant challenges practicing it. 
  • My exposure to religion at a young age helped me garner an appreciation of spirituality – but it wasn’t until very recently that I realized it wasn’t an external spiritual construct I needed; rather, it was one from within. 

All of these situations, interactions and lessons have helped me become me.  Would I like to turn back time and be 25 again?  No way.  I remember what I was like at 25 – confused, weak, scared and not knowing a thing about what I truly wanted.  I am no longer that woman – but she will forever be a part of me.  Her lesson to me is one of true triumph over fear and doubt.  It was through both the harsh and subtle lessons learned in my 20s and early 30s that I finally found my path.

 As such, I’ll take the hurt mixed with laughter, the pain sprinkled with silliness and the thousands of miles I have traveled thus far on my own developmental journey.  I will wear each wrinkle I have earned with pride. I know I can do more.  I am convinced I can do better.  But my life lessons over the past 39 years and 364 days have reinforced that I will never stop growing, learning, trying, reaching and achieving all that I possibly can – for these are the lessons I will carry from my first 40 years into the next era of my life.

Now pass me a cupcake – it’s time to celebrate!