Do you hate your job?

Many people answer yes. Some people say no and instead tell you how much they love their job. Regardless of the answer, the financial reality for most of us is that we need to work.

When people talk about how their job angers or frustrates them, they are rarely talking about their actual work. Rather, they complain about their colleagues, about rude conversations, about being confronted, slighted, bypassed, embarrassed, and humiliated. The greatest challenges at work are rarely about mastering the material. Rather, they are about mastering relationships.

Over these next few posts I hope to share some lessons I have learned from workplace interactions. We all have these stories. By sharing and reviewing our mistakes, we can improve not just our lives, but the lives around us, and the culture of our workplaces. Taking a thoughtful approach to a difficult situation can mean the difference between hating your job and loving it.

Armenoush Aslanian-Persico has worked for New York City since 2013, doing program management and process analysis. She was born and raised in the Bronx and enjoys learning about city operations. Armenoush is currently a student in the Data Analytics (M.S.) program. 

Have you ever seen that 1990’s movie about a dentist that goes whackadoodle over his wife who’s having an affair with the pool boy? Well I know they don’t really do that but I have an extreme aversion to dentists. In fact, I would sooner let a tooth fall out of my head rather than indulge in going. I never even had my wisdom teeth knocked out of my head. They’re in my mouth living a delightful life. However, years ago I had a bad tooth that eventually cracked but the pain eventually stopped. So when I had an issue a few years back and I was forced to go to a dentist, it turns out they had to extract what was left. This was my first experience that wasn’t a routine cleaning or planing.

To say I would rather eat off the floor of a subway car than to go to the dentist is a pretty bad analogy considering how filthy those carts are. But I can justify that one since people in other countries eat off the floor and they’re okay. What did we do before plates and bowls (cavemen times)? The moral of this story is that I went. They numbed my gums which was painful in itself and then he proceeded to crack my tooth like a nutcracker as my head moved around like I was bopping to a happy beat. I was horrified and traumatized all at the same time.

Needless to say, I avoided the dentist for a few years after that once in a lifetime joyous experience. Recently, actually a week before Christmas, I received the most priceless gift ever! A toothache. Of course it was so bad I had no choice but to seek human intervention. Now, I like this dentist but I can’t stress how long I put this off for. My root canal was just finished a few weeks back, so I literally put off a visit since December. I didn’t show up like twice and I rescheduled like 4 times. God bless them for putting up with me, but I guess the girls know I have a strong aversion to the dentist. Unless I’m dropping dead on your floor, catch me if you can…

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

I tend to think that I’m reasonable. There is nothing that you can’t explain to me that I won’t understand or try to understand. I heed advice because I’d rather avoid the pitfalls of life than go through something that someone can help me avoid. I think I’ve been through more than enough at this stage of my life.

The one thing that drives me insane is that I don’t listen to people who don’t have a leg to stand on. If your a hot mess trying to tell me what to do—your nuts, bonkers, mad—I don’t even want to hear your spiel. Get yourself together first then lets assess.

This isn’t limited to my own parents. It’s not that I’m still holding on to the resentment of the past for essentially raising myself as a teen. But I can’t understand where mostly my father gets off trying to tell me to save for my daughters college—something I’ve done since she was in the womb and he did not do—or anything else for that matter. Kids don’t come with a children for dummies manual. But some things I like to think you can figure out on your own.

My Achilles in life is my daughter. Where I may not have any feelings or emotions towards anything else in life, and my actions might be cold, she’s the one person I whole heartily would do anything for and this includes sacrificing my own peace and happiness to make her happy.

I have a 1,909,093,000 worries right now. So to get a call this morning from the man who helped create this whole that I’ve been struggling to get out of, after I’m helping him, to lecture me on my daughter, is insane. I’m outspoken so of course I said my peace, because my initial reaction was, “How dare you.” How dare you lecture me when I’m the one carrying the burden 15 years after you left me fending for myself. I suppose there is a thin line between reason and insanity… and my life remains in remnants of insanity.

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

I attended a NASW Annual Conference workshop entitled Legislative Advocacy & Campaign Building.  Since presidential campaign season is in full swing and because New Yorkers have four chances to vote for a variety of offices this year, I thought to share the tips I gathered.  Some of you might have a “cause” you want to champion.

Register to Vote

Politicians want to get re-elected.  First it takes more than one term to learn the job.  Second, seniority comes with power and the ability to make change.  Therefore, politicians make decisions based on what the voters in their districts want.  You can register through the Board of Elections.  If you’re not registered to vote, you’ll have to sit out the election on April 19th, but you can still vote on June 28th.

Know the Official

It’s important to do a little research on the elected official you want to reach out to.  Does the person sit on or chair a committee that’s relevant to your policy issue?  In regards to the problem at hand, is the official on your side, or against?  How has the person voted on the matter?  One good research tool would be Vote Smart.  Do some research on elected officials who oppose your side.  You may find it useful to hear their position and try to persuade them to your side.

Join an Affinity Group

There’s a group for just about every cause we want to champion.  The Professional Staff Congress (PSC), for example, is rallying unionized CUNY employees in order to get a new contract.  I also found Support CUNY via google search.  There are other advocacy groups based on a host of other concerns.  A google search should help you find whatever you want or need.

Build a Relationship

Affinity groups often organize legislative lobby days to visit elected officials.  Politicians are accustomed to getting visits, and used to seeing people disappear until the next lobby day.  Smart advocacy entails relationship building.  After the visit, there should be follow up with a phone call or thank you letter.  The organization should remain in touch with the official to regularly discuss progress on the matter at hand.  You’ll know you have a solid relationship when elected officials begin to call you about policy.

Rhonda Harrison has just completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

I was thinking that my client was extremely lucky when he died during his sleep after sharing his last night with his dearest friends. I was thinking that he was even more fortunate to have passed away almost at the end of a restful spa weekend in such a beautiful hacienda resort in Campeche, Mexico. I was thinking I would also like to be caught by death right in the middle of the mystic Mayan region of the Puuc, where every place you turn your head there is a sacred temple. I was thinking what a blessing it must be to release your spirit in such a sacred land. I was thinking about the least painful steps to help his family return his beloved grandfather’s corpse back home in the US when I realized that I was lost not only in my thoughts but also in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the Yucatan.

I know Puuc’s roads better than anyone. And I have driven the roads so many times. I was angry at myself; I had no time to lose. I must have missed the right turn and then the jungle started to look just the same for about 20 minutes, the road also looked just the same and I could not find any familiar landmark to guide me. After about 20 kilometers without finding an intersection or a soul I decided I was too far away to go back. This road must lead me somewhere.

With no time and no gas, little by little the jungle ceased its attack and let a humble stone fence appear as the road became narrower and poorer. Those stony albarradas let me see little shy Mayan homes trying to hide from the road, placing themselves under the shadows of magnificent flamboyances, as if the trees needed to defend their fragile content. As if they regretted the existence of brief gaps in their stoned fences, they guarded the entrance marked by a drunken aisle crossing the front yard.

I drove past three rows of homes until I got in the middle of the main plaza, looked at both sides as my disappointment grew, when I realize I was the only human in the entire town. I turned around the plaza looking at a closed little church and a closed little comisaria, and not even the dog enjoying the shadows of a centrally located tree seemed to care he was the only witness of my visit. There was not even a rotten sign with the name of the town.

Aware of the time I am wasting I drove out to find the only Mayan casita with an open door, a light behind the tunnel, to ask for directions, I thought. I parked next where a family of turkey babies had decided to cross the road. As I walked through the aisle and pass the humble Mayan gate I entered the only round room to find no one except a handful of saint’s images standing on tiny altars with hardly shimmering candles. An impressive wood cross laid in the middle of the altar as I looked at the floor and immediately think the stone aisle I just walked past was better paved than the open dirt floor of this circular room.

On the wall the cross was hanging next to a ceiling of never ending spider webs, and an ancient colorless photo of a Mayan family posing. The portrait is poorly framed with a wood similar of that of the cross officiating the moment. Thousands of fingerprints have left layers of dirt all around the frame. I assume many hands have handled that photo after a hard day of work in the country. Despite the couple of desperate “buenos dias” I mourned I have no answer.

There is a jar full of watermelon juice attacked by hundreds of flies. Then I wonder if what is flouting on that water surface is actually seeds or some insects in disgrace. Finally, as I trespass more, I see a woman at the farthest side of the patio. She does not respond to my greetings. Without another choice, I walked 15 steps between endless hurdles of flower pots that artificially wanted the jungle to proceed. As I stand right next to her she begins to feel my presence. Her absolute attention is caught in her craft.

When she finally responds it is now me whose focus changes to a magnificent wall with shelves stuffed with a myriad of colorful hammocks. She is imprisoned behind two wooden bars linked by an intertwined wall of turquoise threads. She has a flat wooden needle in her hands that she uses nonstop to weave up her prison even more. When I recovered from the astonishment I could not tell the reason why I was there. I only said, “Madam, good afternoon. How much are your hammocks?”

With the sweetest 80 year old voice she answered, “80 peso.”

Thinking immediately in how to multiply my limited gas money, my impulse decides to buy one. As I am choosing between oceans of colors I ask the lady, “How can I get to Merida?”

Once again her sweet voice gives me this time a bitter answer, “I do not know.”

I continued my interrogation and she tells me the name of the town is Xcaloc. Her helpless words still mean nothing to me. Then I picked the most perfect hammock and I demand to know the size. She stops for the first time what she is doing and as she turns up her silver hair, perfectly woven with colorful ribbons, just like her hammocks, her eyes confessed to me she is completely blind. She tells me with her hands to get closer so she can touch the hammock. A simple touch was enough to tell me the size. In that moment I simply responded with, “How can you tell between the colors?”

She justifies herself by saying, ”I have done this since I was a child.”

“Let me get the money from the car,” I responded as I walked out.

I overlooked how she started to follow me out, slowly but with perfect awareness of her space. When I come back to her door she is patiently already awaiting for me. I described the value of every coin and bill I am giving her hoping she would trust me, but that seemed unimportant to her.

Before I proceed with my getting lost I cannot help to ask, “Who are those people on the photo?”

She says, “It is mom and dad, and me. When I could also see with my eyes.”

Rodrigo Rodriguez is a human rights and immigration lawyer living in the Yucatan among the Mayans. He is a lover of good music and food, and is always looking to be amazed by nature. Rodrigo is a student here at CUNY SPS working on his Advanced Certificate in Immigration Law.

I recently attended the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) NYC Chapter Annual Conference.  Glenn E. Martin, Founder and President of Just Leadership USA, gave the keynote address on Mass Incarceration and the Broad Impact on Communities of Color.  The three statements that stayed with me were “use your privilege,” “change hearts and minds,” and “our democracy got us here.”  (By privilege, he means advantage, or anything that put us in a positon to advocate on behalf of people whom very few others either care about or hear from.)  He challenged me to use my privilege to inform people about mass incarceration, and to end mass incarceration.

I heard of mass incarceration when I read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.  To sum it up for people who have never heard the term before, mass incarceration resulted from a series of laws and policies deliberately crafted to replace Jim Crow, while maintaining Jim Crow’s purposes and benefits.

Martin survived the mass incarceration system, having been imprisoned on Rikers Island in his early 20s.  He described some of the his fellow inmates as intelligent, skilled and ambitious human beings who, upon release, are forever relegated to second class citizenship and in many instances are rendered unable to vote because of their record. Martin encouraged us to use our privilege to give survivors a platform where they can tell their stories so that our hearts and minds can be changed.

Both Martin and Alexander agree that changing laws will only replace mass incarceration with another equally oppressive system.  Martin speculated that privatized prisons see the handwriting on the wall and are thinking about how to keep their prisons full once the current system is dismantled. Martin and Alexander argue that only a change in hearts and minds fosters a real desire to work towards a truly just nation.  Once that inner change occurs, we can take a deeper look at the policies and laws, the results of our democracy, which got us here.  Fortunately, the same democratic system can lead us out of here.  Use your privilege.  Remember to vote on April 19th.  Think about voting in people who have the willingness to end the mass incarceration system.

Rhonda Harrison has just completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

I may have explained before or may have simply neglected to explain that I used to be a spark. Like the kind you see on July 4th kind of spark, pretty but kind of frightening sometimes. I’m not sure what conjured this story, but the other day as I was getting ready for work, and this pants story popped right into my little head.

You see, I’m the type of person that owns things. If I’ve offended you, said or done anything I’ll own it in its entirety. If I didn’t do or say something, again, I’m going to be the first one with her hand up saying I didn’t do this. Nothing seems to flip my switches faster than someone assuming and accusing me of doing or saying something when hands down, I’ll tell you to your face. Of course if I don’t remember I’ll tell you the same as well.

When I was about 19, I bought a pair of burgundy stretchy work pants from Rainbows in Lake Worth when I lived in Florida. As is the usual case of my life, with work, and school I was always running around. The pants had been in my car with the intention of bringing them back, because after I brought them home I hated them. (Not at all uncommon for me.) The thing of it is, that those pants traveled in my car up and down for about a week in their bag with the receipt and tags still on. On one of those days someone had broken into my car taken my radio but ransacked my cars contents including the pants, so by the time I went to return them, they were a bit wrinkled.

I walked into the store with bag, tags on and receipt. When I approached the counter, (I recall this like it was yesterday) the cashier told me I’d worn the pants. Now lets pause here. I have patience, but if you ask me or tell me something I of course will oblige and answer. I don’t handle stupidity well at all… so lets keep this in mind here.

I calmly explained I didn’t wear them, hence the tags were on. I just didn’t have time to bring them back any sooner than a week. She proceeds to call the manager. Now what happens next was seriously one of those black out moments where first your like you’ve got to be kidding me, but then anger makes its appearance like a headlining superstar.

The first thing she says when she calls the manager is this girl is returning pants and she wore them. If I could tell you I saw colors, stars and stripes I would. I remember the initial shock as my mouth literally dropped because I didn’t wear the stupid pants, and now this woman who I’d been going back and forth with for 20 minutes was telling someone I wore them as her opening statement. By the time she got off the phone I was in full on “Carrie the Rage” mode. I was screaming, and yelling because I didn’t wear the pants and she continued to accuse me of doing so. The end of the story is, I walked myself right outside and slammed the pants against a pole a few times before proceeding to toss them in the garbage. I still hate those pants today.

My point in telling this story is that I own my actions fully. I don’t believe in excuses. I feel like if you do something, man up and own it, good or bad. I hate it when people try and deflect blame. Do I blame anyone for the untimely demise of my pants? Not exactly. I own my part in beating them like a rug against a pole and them tossing them. Yup, that was all me right there. (I can imagine the faces of the shoppers in that plaza, while this is going on.)

It’s funny because I’m in a situation with someone now that is constantly throwing blame on everything and everyone around them and it drives me nuts. We can’t control our circumstances entirely or surroundings but we do have the power to control how we react and we can control the ownership of our participation in the things that we do. If one person upsets me, there is no reason everyone thereafter has to pay, because they are not the source of my imbalanced emotions at that moment.

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

This post was written by Noelitta Tailiam, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

Reflecting back on my first encounter with a higher education institution, I vividly remember feeling secured and my professors always reassured and motivated me to believe that there was no room for failure. This gave me the drive to obtain my Associate’s Degree in Science from the Borough Of Manhattan Community College.

Unlike my fellow ACE scholarship recipients, I never took time off from school. I immediately transferred to Hunter College. There I felt overwhelmed, unsure of myself, and my drive slowly reduced. I felt like a fish in an ocean full of sharks and stingrays. My professors were intimidating just as much as my classmates were. I received no support and no reassurance that I could do this and excel. I remember crying for the first two weeks because I felt so lost. After a year of not wanting to be there, I received an impromptu email from the CUNY School of Professional Studies and I figured, “what would I lose by attending the information session?” I remember running from the number 1 train to the 3 train from the Upper West Side to get there. I made it in 15 minutes before the session ended. I vaguely remember Director of Student Services Z. Lobley being there and she handed me all the information I needed. She encouraged me to attend a one-on-one evaluation session with an advisor and apply in person. This has been one of the best life changing decisions that I have ever made.

Many tried to discourage me to not follow the path of online learning and I am very happy that I am not easily swayed. Having two jobs and working 50-60 hours a week gave me little time to sit in a classroom setting. After my first semester at CUNY SPS, I felt the same way I did at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. I felt safe, encouraged, and the support of my advisor and professors were just what I envisioned my learning experience to be. The professors had the same motto that “failure is not an option,” which they showed. It varied from emails, phone calls, and the Blackboard messages they bombarded us with on a weekly schedule. Being selected as the recipient of the ACE Scholarship validated for me that all of my late night studying and heavy consumption of black coffee did not go unnoticed.

While on the scholarship, I am currently giving back to my fellow students by being a mentor, which is another life changer. Now that I am so close to completing the requirements for my degree, I hope to use everything I have learned to continue working in my community, either in a non-profit organization that advocates for disability rights or in the education field.

Thank you, CUNY SPS, for this opportunity, and for supporting me and my fellow students in our future endeavors.

Noelitta Tailiam is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the BA in Disability Studies degree program in June 2016.

Shinobi Ninja Rocks Hood

Kookin Sol

When you talk about funk, rock, and hip-hop, laced in the form of indie fire, one group comes to mind. Yes, Shinobi Ninja continues to pave the way for a new musical revolution.  In a world were genre defines your audience and how much success you should expect, Shinobi Ninja quickly reminds us that it’s never about that crap.  Duke Sims (D.A.), Baby G, Maniac Mike, Alien Lex, Dj Axis Powers, and Terminator Dave continue to create without boundaries, refusing to be marginalized by the constraints imposed by the music industry.  Fresh off performances at SXSW, these guys continue to mesmerize crowds through out the world.

The party mix below of Shinobi Ninja’s classic anthem, “Rock Hood,” is a blend of beats by Jeff and flows from the ninjas.  We sat down in the studio with Shinobi Ninja’s bass man Alien Lex and laid down these tracks last summer, ironically this was one of the last sessions we would collab on in  Shinobi headquarters located on 23rd St., in the heart of The Flatiron District.  The studio is no longer on 23rd, but the music we created continues to generate a buzz. This version is available for Deejay’s looking to add ‘Rock Hood’ (Party Mix) to their collection.  Please send your request for an mp3 to JMSBookings@icloud.com.

The future looks bright for Shinobi Ninja, for more dates on upcoming performances check out the website at http://www.shinobininja.com/.  Also, I have a beat tape that will be available this summer called, ‘Beet Juice,’ be sure to check it out as well.  Always remember that true music is from the heart, it can’t be defined by words because it’s marinated in authentic feelings and energy.  With that being said, it’s important to support groups like Shinobi Ninja because the work that they are putting in will eventually define new standards in the recording industry.

 

 

Jeffrey C. Suttles is a Master of Arts candidate in Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute. He is an independent songwriter/musician who completed his undergraduate studies at The City College of New York. He is currently a CUNY CAP student who continues to pursue career opportunities in publishing, communications, and the arts.

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