Friday, July 22, 2016

Other shoe to drop

Sometimes I just have this utter need to feel sad.
As if a switch is turn on inside me and I can’t stand feeling so light. As if I need to feel pain and sadness taking over. I might be having a good day, my mood might be far from dark, and yet I’m overcome by this suddenly need to change it… and so I need to go and find the darkest movies scenes I remember, re-read the saddest stories I’ve saved beforehand, listen to that impossibly depressing playlist.

I don’t know how to be a happy person, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. So maybe that’s what it is, maybe unconsciously I’m trying to keep myself in check, keeping my guard up. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

From zero to hero / De zero a herói

Nota: Versão portuguesa mais abaixo

Perceptions change so quickly these days. It’s unbelievable how quickly one can go from zero to hero (and vice-versa). We are quick to judge, and loud to express it. I’m all for freedom of speech, but that shouldn’t mean we can openly offend people without even thinking twice. We make fun of people, we hurt them, through jokes mostly, but nonetheless we hurt them.
We do it often with people in the public eye. It became so natural, at some point it became expected that simply because someone has a public role (regardless of what or why) they have to accept all sorts of invasion, judgements and negative comments. They’re expected to be strong enough to live with them. We look at their figures and we attack them as if that’s all they are, as if the fact that they are human beings, with real feelings and emotions got lost, as if that didn’t matter.
It’s like we think that due to their position, automatically nothing can shake them. And yes, some people might be strong enough to take it, some might learn to cope with it along the way, to rise above, to use it as fuel to become better or to simply ignore it, but that’s not the point, the point is they shouldn’t have to be tested like this, they shouldn’t need to hear all they hear, to risk believing it. Life is hard enough without this added pressure.
I am a fun of humor, I think there is room for laugh in life and that we can’t take ourselves too seriously, but I also think sometimes we go too far. Granted most times it’s unintentional, we might think it’s no big deal, you’re just one person, they’ll probably never even hear it, but we forget how fast words spread these days, how easily they reach people’s ears, how they multiply, how they impact others.
When I hear stories about people who faced and overcame great deals of negativity and succeeded in what they do, I always think how many others could have gotten that far if only they weren’t shut down before they even got a real chance.
I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, I believe in honesty and I believe in criticism as a way of improving, but that’s not what we usually do… what we do is make fun of people, offend them, bully them. We live in a society that preaches kids about bullying other children in school and then bullies people in real life just for a laugh. What message are we sending?
There are so many talented people out there who might not be confidence enough to come out and show their brilliance and at this pace, they will never be. How much are we losing because we’re more focused on making fun of people than supporting them?


De zero a herói

As opiniões mudam tão rapidamente hoje em dia. É inacreditável a rapidez com que alguém pode ir de zero a herói (e vice-versa). Somos céleres a julgar e expressamo-lo bem alto. Sou completamente a favor da liberdade de expressão, mas isso não deveria dizer que podemos ofender de forma gratuita os outros sem qualquer hesitação. Gozamos com as pessoas, magoamo-las, geralmente através de piadas, mais ainda assim, magoamo-las.
Fazemo-lo muitas vezes com figuras públicas. Tornou-se tão natural, que a certa altura se começou a esperar que simplesmente porque alguém tem um papel público (independentemente de qual ou porquê) tenha de aceitar todos os tipos de invasão, julgamentos e comentários negativos. Espera-se que sejam fortes o suficiente para viver com o que quer que seja dito. Olhamos para as suas figuras, atacamo-las como se apenas disso se tratassem, como se nos tivéssemos esquecido que também são seres humanos, com sentimentos e emoções reais, como se nada disso importasse.
É como se acreditássemos que devido à sua posição automaticamente nada os pudesse atingir. E sim, alguns serão fortes o suficiente para suportá-lo, outros aprenderão a lidar com isso durante o seu percurso, a usar as críticas como motivação para se tornarem melhores, ou a simplesmente ignorá-las, mas nada disso interessa. O que interessa é que ninguém devia ter de ser testado assim, de ouvir tamanhas crueldades, de se arriscar a acreditar nelas. A vida é difícil o suficiente, sem essa pressão adicional.
Sou fã de humor, acredito seriamente que há espaço para o riso nas nossas vidas e que não nos podemos levar demasiado a sério. Contudo também acho que às vezes vamos longe demais. Acredito que muitas vezes não seja intencional. Que importância pode ter? Somos apenas um individuo, provavelmente aqueles de quem rimos nunca vão ouvir as nossas piadas, mas esquecemo-nos da rapidez com que as palavras se espalham hoje em dia, da rapidez com que chegam aos ouvidos das pessoas, de como se multiplicam, do impacto que têm nos outros.
Quando oiço histórias de pessoas que enfrentaram e ultrapassaram grandes marés de negatividade e ainda assim atingiram o sucesso não consigo deixar de pensar quantas outras poderiam ter o mesmo destino se lhes tivesse sido dada uma chance.
Acredito que toda a gente tem direito à sua opinião, acredito em sinceridade e vejo o criticismo como uma forma de melhorar, mas não é isso que geralmente fazemos… o que fazemos é simplesmente gozar com as pessoas, ofendê-las, de uma forma ou outra agredi-las. Vivemos numa sociedade que dá sermões às crianças sobre bullying nas escolas, enquanto promove bullying na vida real. Que mensagem estamos a passar?

Há tantas pessoas talentosas que poderão não ter a confiança necessária para se mostrar e partilhar a sua magnificência e por este andar nunca a terão. Quanto será que não estamos a perdes por estarmos mais preocupados em gozar com os outros do que em apoiá-los?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Do it like a girl

I started playing basketball when I was ten and it was love at first sight. I was active in school, I was good in PE, I’d sign up for every sport event, I used to run around and jump during breaks and in general I was always ready to try anything sports related. I had tried other sports, I had done gymnastics and dance, but basketball was always my passion. Basketball is not necessarily  perceived as a “girls’ sport” (whatever that might mean) so even though I didn’t think much of it at the time, now I realize that in a lot of ways we were pressured to act more tomboyish, as if being feminine would take away your toughness on the court. Even though I used to be the girly girl type as a small child, soon I stopped wanting to wear skirts and dresses, my hair was constantly up in a messy ponytail and for a years I wouldn’t even dare considering make up. This would all be fine if it would have come naturally, but now I see that it didn’t, that it was a result of me wanting to be accepted and respected as a basketball player.  

The term “playing like a girl” was always used in a demeaning way and even though coaches would complain we weren’t as though as boys, truth is the coaches themselves were softer on us because we were girls. They were creating the gap, so if there were any difference it was because they demanded and expected less from their female teams.

I remember being 14 years old, sitting in my first ever meeting as a “coach in training”, and listen to this coach in his 30’s stating he didn’t like female basketball, that he just didn’t get the appeal (this while we were discussing the right to practice hours in the gym). Another time he complained that we shouldn’t be allowed to run/warm up off the court during his team’s practice because it was too distracting for the boys (he didn’t oppose to any of the male teams doing the same though).

In my first ever trip to the USA I visited Madison Square Garden with my family. While there, my older brother wanted to buy a Michael Jordan's jersey and so did I. He had his wish satisfied, but I didn’t, I guess because my parents didn’t take my passion for basketball seriously. Not long after that my brother quitted basketball (just like he quitted any other sport he ever tried), I, on the other hand went on to play basketball for the next 13+ years.

These are just a few examples on how in a lot of ways society still holds people back. What holds girls back it’s not the fact that they are girls, but that quite often our society still perceives girls as weak and shallow, and at the same time perpetuates the idea that a perfect girl has to be ladylike, quiet and demure. And it’s not just in sports, it’s everywhere and sometimes this prejudice also affects boys. How many girls are truly allowed to dream about being an astronaut, or a drummer or a truck driver? How many boys would be encouraged to be a ballet dancer, a hairdresser or a nanny? These predefined gender roles don’t make sense anymore, not that they did before, but by now there are no excuses, we should know better than that.

Empowering women (or anyone for that matter) is not about encouraging them to fight men or other women, au contraire, the idea is to raise people who are confident in their own skin, who think as individuals, who are supportive and respect other points of view.

Successful women are frequently perceived as despiteful and cold. There’s this idea that in order to achieve success a woman as to be nasty, especially to other women. And if they are not we, as a society, often encourage them against each other, by making unnecessary comparisons, snarky comments or creating drama were it doesn’t exist.  As if to be on the top one would need everyone else to be in the bottom, while the reality is that to be strong and competitive you don’t need to be ruthless. A tough person is not the one that finds her success by destroying her competition, but the one that is able to reach her goals while being supportive and empowering others, because having strong competitors is what makes you better. A true champion doesn’t want win because the competition has failed, she wants to win because she was better.

A lot has been said about feminism lately and I agree that some people take it to such an extreme that it becomes ridiculous, but the idea of empowering women is not about degrading men, or teaching young girls that they’re better than the opposite sex, it’s about embracing the uniqueness of both genders, accepting their differences, their strengths, and acknowledge the need to provide equal opportunities.

Instead of disseminating these preconceptions (that we often do unintentionally) we need to start teaching our children that they can be whatever they want to be, whatever they truly are, as long as they treat those around them with kindness and respect. We need to teach girls (of all ages) that they can be terrific athletes and still wear dresses and high heels off the court, that they don’t have to wear make-up but they can if they want to, that women can be ambitious, driven, and focused on their careers, that there is nothing wrong with a woman not wanting to become a mother.

Girls need to learn that it’s okay to be loud and make themselves noticed, if that’s who they are. They need people to understand that to be strong they don’t need to give up their emotions, that to be great sports players they don’t need to give up their femininity and that being beautiful, and proud of it, doesn’t take anything away from their brains.

We started with sports and we will finish the same way because sports’ benefits go way beyond fitness, they can have such a great impact in a person's self-esteem, in building character and confidence. Becky Hammon, Candace Parker, Serena and Venus Williams, Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Rosa Mota, Vanessa Fernandes... the list goes on and on. They all play(ed) like girls and jump(ed) like girls and run (ran) like girls and they are (were) top athletes. They all achieved greatness, some of them against all odds.

So we need to actively start working in closing the gap and we can do this by taking our children (boys and girls) to female sport events, by introducing them to great female athletes they may otherwise not hear about, by allowing our girls to try out “boys’ sports” and wear sports clothes, by supporting them if they don’t want to wear dresses to school so they can run and jump freely and accept the fact they will be coming home with scrapped knees and elbows.