Every year as the New Year and holidays approach, I reflect. I quite literally evaluate every aspect of my life and the previous year so that I can approach the next year better. Although I’m not the best at confrontation, or the biggest fan of it… I do enjoy confronting myself and being open and honest with myself and my life. I meditate over what I’ve done, learned, loved, and what I want to do, learn, love next year. From goals to relationships to career path to self-care, I allow myself to not only sit with it all but feel it all so that I can give gratitude to the past year, while preparing for the next.
As the holidays approach, and the year of 2021 comes to a close, there seems to be even more of a reflectionary period lingering than the previous holiday season.
Last year, there seemed to be an overwhelming amount of festivity and celebration to the end of 2020 (and for good reason!) but the pandemic and changes in this country wasn’t anywhere near over. This year, unfortunately, it still isn’t over… personally, it seems like it will never be over.
But in other ways, amidst all my reflection and as an appreciator of closure, I realized it will be and it is. 2020 was two years ago now. Although the year and aftermath will always strike a cord within us, we must come to that decision one day or another – whether we like it or not. Whether we want to make peace with it or not, whether you like tough love or not, it is over and has been over. It’s time we all move forward. And it would be better if we did it together.
A little about me and why I’m even sharing this amongst the classic line of “Never speak politics” is because it is literally and truly a part of me.
And it is literally and truly a part of you, too.
I became involved and infatuated with politics at the age of 17, right amidst the 2016 election. I felt myself learning, growing, discovering this country and how it works and ran before and during our time. I discovered all the beautiful things that make us the leader of the Free World, discovered all the resentment in this country, discovered what is loved about this country, discovered the wrongs we have done throughout history, and all the amazing freedom and opportunity that has also come from the great country we call home.
I felt myself pulled amongst two parties and my older relatives and role models. My parents told me one thing. My professors told me another. And some friends told me yet another. I felt like I identified with all sides – I agreed with some arguments on all sides and I didn’t want to ever choose. I didn’t want to pick a side. Afterall, I am typically the mediator within my relationships.
So I identified and registered as an independent.
But it fascinated me… it continues to fascinate me as I get older and grow into myself, the woman I am and strive to be.
How our world works has always fascinated me. It always will.
In many ways, I’m a sponge. I love to read, learn, engage, debate and I became enamored as a young woman to learn what was going on. Within weeks, I changed my mind about what I wanted to study. I became a Political Science major with a specialization in Journalism.
I stuck out like a sore thumb in all my classes, but in a weird way I kind of liked that.
Part of the class would be a few athletes, another group would be ROTC students, another would be the introspective lawyers-to-be, a few were the hard-core conservatives, and most were quite progressive. All would voice their opinions loudly and happily.
And then there was me. Maybe I’m just shy, or maybe I’m a little too empathetic and sensitive, at the time maybe I just didn’t know where and with whom exactly my voice stood, or maybe I just didn’t agree with any of it.
Like I said though, I liked it. A lot.
I learned from it. A lot.
I liked it because it was real. I love real. Even when it’s not pretty or happy or cute or nice, I love the honesty of moments so raw you can’t help but take away some form of a life lesson.
I learned from it because of how real it was and how it perfectly represented this great nation. We are all different… from different families, backgrounds, cultures, religions, interests. And a classroom, especially a political one, should always represent that and honor everyone’s voice. Even those too shy and sensitive to speak.
The problem is not that we have disagreements. The problem is how we communicate those disagreements, and more so, how it has become that disagreements can truly arise feelings of hate and anger within ourselves and onto others.
Although I ended up switching my path in school yet again and graduated as a major in Communications, Specialization in Journalism, and a minor in Political Science, I appreciated and learned from my college education and experience at every chance and second I got.
However, politics has been a part of my life way before all of that, just as it has been amongst yours… with or without realizing it. For example, my parents are both immigrants from Poland. They both immigrated to Brooklyn, New York in their mid-twenties and met through mutual friends. They fought, sacrificed, and built more of themselves than the average person does. I have heard their trials and tribulations since I was just learning to speak and walk. It is very much a part of me and I hold it near and dear to me – and for good reason.
As any child of immigrants knows, there is enormous pressure on you and oftentimes growing up, you battle within yourself and your cultures. In my particular case, I grew up extremely strict and religious, always aware of my parent’s sacrifices and incredible work ethic, always aware I was different from other kids, always trying to find my place, always trying to make my family proud. In Poland, I’m American. In America, I’m Polish. It wasn’t until I just embraced myself and forgot about all the opinions and labels that I was able to come to terms with the fact I am both and I will always want to hold both close to me.
We all have parts of our identity like this that have shaped us and our lives.
The craziest part is we don’t get to choose… until we have to make a choice.
What I mean by that is we don’t get to choose what family we’re born into, what ethnicity we are, what religion we’re born into, what we look like, etc.
But we do get a choice in who we are, how we act, and who we become.
Maybe we’ve all been assigned certain mountains to teach others they can be moved.
Now, I don’t necessarily have all the answers, or the secret to life, or the magic cure for all the heartbreak and pain in the world.
I’d genuinely like to meet the person who does.
But what I do have are three philosophies that I’ve come to form after my particular life experiences and I really believe them to be honest and true.
My first philosophy is we all care about the things that have affected us the most.
Our perspective on life is mostly affected by our experiences and our relationships – whether family, friends or lovers. As I said in my most previous blog, we all crave the same things at the end of the day, but it takes stripping away all our layers to reveal the same core needs and wants we all share. Our layers of perspectives and beliefs may be the easiest for others to connect with or judge us on, but we should always keep in mind we are all human beings. The separations of race, ethnicity, religion, culture, status are all things that can be attacked and criticized, but they are also the most beautiful, cherished parts of us that should be celebrated and shared.
My second philosophy is we should argue to understand, not to win.
Debating others is sadly a lost form of art and skill. We are so caught up with being “right” that we don’t actually listen to other people and why they feel the way they do. The truth is we’re never going to agree on everything, and the beauty is we shouldn’t and don’t have to. But if we could understand each other, that would be golden.
My third philosophy is if you start your day with the good ol’ fashioned original exercise (yes, sex) there would be no wars or crime or at least a lot more happy people walking around.
In all seriousness, I wish anyone reading a very happy holiday season. The holidays are the best and most special time of year, but they also can be incredibly challenging and lonely too.
Let us all try to be more reflective in our lives and kinder to ourselves and others. Now that is a philosophy that can do no wrong.
Dominika Ortonowski, known as “Dom” to most, is a class of 2020 graduate from Loyola University Maryland. Dom graduated with a degree in Communications, a specialization in Journalism, and a minor in Political Science. Her greatest passions include the arts, holistic healthcare, working with children, and politics. Dom wishes to use her platform as a “lightworker” – to inspire hope, awareness, and help as many people as she can through her writing.