Tag Archives: commentary

Effects of Empathy

Note: This post was originally published on my other blog, Rachel Discovers Happiness, but I feel so strongly about it that I feel the need to publish it here as well.

Empathy is a wonderful quality. It allows you to really connect with others. It allows you to feel their emotions, understand where they are coming from, and really take relationships to the next step.

Of the qualities I value in myself, empathy is at the top of the list. I think I’m a good friend. I listen to people and genuinely understand where they are coming from. I am able to comfort people because I can honestly say that I know how they feel.

On the other hand, empathy is an awful emotion. It allows you to feel other people’s emotions.

Although I value my ability to empathize with others, sometimes it makes my life really difficult. Especially with negative emotions. When somebody is happy, it makes me happy too, but only to a certain extent. When somebody is sad, however, I feel those emotions much more intensely. If somebody is crying or upset about something, it physically makes my heart tighten. I feel like my chest is closing in, and often times I am able to hold myself together just as long as it takes for me to get out of their proximity before I break down in tears myself.

Yup, that’s right, I feel other people’s emotions so extremely that their tears bring me to tears.

The reason I am writing about this right now is because yesterday, a family friend of mine passed away. I got an email from my step mom earlier in the day telling me that his mother found his body yesterday morning. Although I have heard his name, I didn’t know him personally. He went to church with my step mom and my step sisters and he graduated from high school with my older sister. My step mom has nothing but nice things to say about his family. When she told me about his passing, I instantly replied, telling her that she had a huge hug waiting for her when she got home.

When she walked in the door at 7:45pm, that’s exactly what she got. A huge hug. My step mom is a big hugger so I’m used to her comforting arms, but this was different. This time, I was the one supporting her. It felt like she was holding on to me and didn’t want to let go. She had tears streaming down her face. She was sobbing. And through the sobs she gasped “his mom found him with the needle still in her arm.”

My stomach dropped. My heart constricted. I didn’t know what to say.

I gave her one more squeeze and when she went over to my dad, I went to my room and broke down. I sat on the floor up against my bed, with tears streaming down my face, and cried. I cried for the lost life of somebody so young, for his family and friends, and for my step mom who I rarely see that upset.

She doesn’t know I cried. Most people don’t. (And shhhh, don’t tell her. Although being empathetic is difficult at times, like I said, it’s one of my favorite qualities in myself.)

As I was sitting there with tears streaming down my face, although my mind never went off of the young man and his family, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I am that my family doesn’t struggle with things like hard drug addiction, drunk driving, or teen pregnancy (knock on wood… Pookie still has 8 months until she is officially out of the teen years).

Although we do have our struggles, we are pretty tight knit and support each other. We take care of each other, and make sure that we stay on the right track. This young man’s family did everything that mine would do in their situation, everything they could think of to try to help him through his addiction – rehab, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, praying, etc.

Through all of this, my mind has jumped from person to person who has passed away since my high school years. All of the young people I know who have died have been from one sort of substance abuse or another. I had a friend who died at 17 from drinking and driving. A boy a year or two older than me OD’d on Oxycotton. A young man I graduated with was shot in a dispute over drugs. This makes me extremely sad.

What will it take for people to realize that doing those things doesn’t make you cool?  Calling your parents for a ride home won’t make them as mad at you as drinking, driving and killing somebody would. Shooting heroin won’t make people like you more – and if they do, you probably don’t really want to be hanging out with them in the first place. Selling drugs may be a good source of income, but it’s dangerous and you are contributing to issues in so many other people’s lives.

My step mom, kind of regretfully, told me that she kind of went off on her students yesterday. She was crying and lectured them to never try drugs. Never get into those types things because they are dangerous. She told them that she didn’t want to go another funeral – that it was so painful to watch young people pass away when they had so much more life to live. That not only would they be hurting themselves when they tried things like drugs or drinking and driving, but they hurt their families and friends too. She was kind of sad that she lectured them like that – I think it is extremely important that she did. If even one kid chooses to say “no” because of that lecture, she has made a positive difference (as she does every day in the lives of her students).

Although empathy sometimes makes things difficult for me, I wouldn’t trade it for any other qualities (except, maybe, confidence…) My breakdown after that hug was painful, but it allowed me to look at my family and realized how blessed (or lucky, depending on your religious views) I am and how amazing my family and friends are.

My heart goes out to those who are affected by drugs and alcohol. What my step mom said to her students is spot on – don’t even start with things like cocaine, heroin, etc. You aren’t just hurting yourself, you are hurting all those whose lives you have touched, and a bunch of people you didn’t even know you had an effect on.

As my step mom just said to me:

It really puts it into perspective that we get ourselves all worked up and nervous about things that really aren’t important.

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And So It Begins

I feel as though everything in my life has been leading up to now. I’ve always had dreams for myself: go to college, live in a big city, have good relationships with my family members, get a great job, be proud of myself, be happy.

As of last week, I can finally say that I have accomplished all of those things thus far:

  • I graduated from college in June.
  • I have wonderful relationships with all four of my parents and all of my siblings, not to mention my extended family.
  • I signed the lease for an apartment in San Francisco.
  • I have an internship at a great company and I couldn’t be happier about it.
  • I am proud of myself and all I have accomplished – especially the apartment and internship, two things that happened last week.
  • I might not be as happy as I could be, but I’m working on it and all the things I just listed sure do help.

Of course, I haven’t officially moved in to my apartment (that happens this weekend) and I haven’t actually started my internship (I begin tomorrow), but man, I just feel like my life is really taking off!

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things that I still want to accomplish in my life, but I am just now starting to feel like a real adult. All of my goals until now have been for my younger self. They were for the me that existed before 2012. The me that was focused on my profession, friends, and dreams. The 22-and-younger me only knew a life that consisted of classes, homework, papers, to and from campus, etc. etc. This new me, the 23-and-older me, has moved on from school, is entering the corporate world, and is ready for new challenges and experiences.

Now, even though it is only 8:20pm, I think I am going to go pick out my outfit for tomorrow, crawl in to bed, read a book, and get a good night’s sleep before my big day tomorrow.

San Francisco, I’m ready for you!


Friday Links 2012: Week 5

This week was so crazy. I hardly had time to check email and read my morning websites. In fact, I don’t think I read my normal allotment of sites a single day this week, so I apologize for the lame links.

As I said in my other blog, I’m not quite ready to share everything with Cyber Land yet, but I promise it will happen within the next few days.

Anyway, here you go:

And a picture from today just because I thought this tea was pretty.

(**Squeals!!**)

I hope your week was productive and that your February started out wonderfully!


Friday Links 2012: Week 4

Hello Readers,

So sorry I didn’t post my Friday Links yesterday. This week has been pretty crazy. I haven’t really had time to relax, take a breath, or even think. I don’t want to tell you about it because I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m crossing my fingers that some things come through for me.

Anyway, here are my favorite Tweets of this past week. Hope you enjoy them. You can see photos and different links on my other blog here 🙂

What stuck out about this week for you? Did anything exciting happen? Any big news?


Why Social Media? Because I Said So.

If you are reading this blog it probably means that you are relatively well versed in the world of social media. You may have a Facebook account that you use to keep in touch with friends, a Twitter account that you use to follow your favorite celebrities, and a LinkedIn account for connecting to colleagues. Even if it does not play a key role in your profession, you still use it for personal reasons.

my Mac wireless keyboard

Because of your use of social media, you have most likely heard people complain each time Facebook or Twitter changes the appearance of the site. You have heard comments about how stupid, pointless, and time-consuming social media is. You’ve probably even thought of those things yourself once or twice. Well, unfortunately for everybody who complains about social media (but fortunately for me, somebody who makes a living partially from knowing the ins and outs of social media), it isn’t going anywhere.

The two jobs that I have now are both centered around social media. For one of them I am a Media Specialist and helped develop the entire social media campaign for the brand. For the other, Sustainable Danville Area*, I was hired, with grant money designated specifically for social media development for local businesses, in order to help develop the social media platform for SDA, and its participating businesses. More accurately, actually, the grant was for the Danville Area Sustainable Business program, but that’s neither here nor there.

The reason I am telling you all this is because, up until last night, I never realized how difficult it is to describe the importance, rather, the imperativeness of social media.

Last night, as I stood in front of 20 sustainable local business owners and explained how I was going to help them increase their use and effectiveness of social media, I was greeted by two types of looks:

  1. Half of them looked at me as though they had never heard terms “Facebook,” “Twitter,” and “Hashtag” in their lives
  2. The other half looked at me with recognition of the terms, but no idea how to put a “hashtag” into effect

Oy vey. I had my work cut out for me.

Without assistance from an overhead projector to show what I was talking about so everybody could see, my words just seemed empty. They had no idea what a Twitter handle was. They didn’t understand that every time you put “#” and then a word, it turns into a link to a page that shows you everybody else who is talking about that same topic. They didn’t get why that was even important.

I know it’s kinda ridiculous for me to get frustrated with them, after all, the fact that not everybody knows the ins and outs of social media is what keeps me in business, but it was very hard for me to fight the urge to take the parent-child question stance and answer every “Why does it do that?” and “Why is that important?” and “How will that help me with my brand?” question with “Because it just does.” “Because it just is.” and “Because it just will.” It was exhausting to explain everything so many times without having a computer in front of me. Try explaining the internet to your aunt or uncle who still sends you Pokemon cards for your birthday, still hasn’t switched over to MP3s from cassette tapes, and still uses a typewriter instead of a computer. It’s extremely difficult.

my dad's old typewriter

I’m kind of kidding about that. But in all honesty, I will never try to explain anything having to do with the internet unless myself or the person I am talking to or both of us are in front of a computer.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy teaching people what I know about social media. It means that my skills are relevant and despite the widespread knowledge about how to use the internet (especially with people my own age), not everybody knows how to use it.

After the presentations were over I had the opportunity to speak to a few local business owners one-on-one. This gave me an opportunity to use my laptop and show them my personal twitter account. Once I showed them what I meant by hashtags, followers, and user names, they perked up a bit. Once I told them that there are applications they can use to schedule posts so they didn’t have to be online all day every day, they were ecstatic. They got so excited that they all wanted to schedule one-on-one social media tutoring sessions with me. It was so nice to see their enthusiasm once they could see what I was talking about.

Although I am so happy to help them with their small businesses, I’m not going to lie and say that it wasn’t a relief to wake up this morning and connect to the social media world full of people who actually understand the platforms they are using (that means you!). I’m thrilled that so many local businesses want to receive help with their social media, but I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be to explain the purpose and importance of social media in layman’s terms.

Okay, now that I’ve vented a bit I am feeling a little bit better about my presentation last night (I got emails from a few of the businesses who were in attendance – yay!)

Have you ever tried to explain the uses of social media to somebody who didn’t quite understand the purpose? How did you handle it? What have you found to be the best tactics for explaining platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and even Pinterest?

*Don’t judge our website. I haven’t had time yet, but I am planning on taking a good hard look at the functionality of the website and make changes so that it is more organized.


Friday Links 2012: Week 3

If you spent any amount of time online this week, you noticed that the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA as we all begrudgingly know it) pretty much took over all aspects of the Interweb. Just about every website, blog, and Twitter feed was inundated with information about SOPA, and mine wasn’t any different. Although I did spare you all from seeing yet another blog post talking about what SOPA is and the implications the bill would have on our freedom of speech if passed, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t Tweet about it as obnoxiously as the next person. For this, I apologize.

Originally, most of this week’s links were going to be about SOPA and understanding what, exactly, the bill says. Even though I took a couple law classes in my undergrad career, the legal jargon of bills is still confusing. If you are anything like me and can’t comprehend what the bill is saying but still want to know what the heck is going on, some of my links might help you.

Ironically, my first link will explain to you why the rest of my SOPA links aren’t all that important anymore, and therefore, aren’t posted here. Hooray! (Plus, I wan’ted to keep you from going insane.)

Have a fantastic weekend.

Want more of me because you are just so intrigued by my thrilling life? Don’t worry, you can always see my favorite personal Tweets and photos of the day at Rachel Discovers Happiness.


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