Although January marks the beginning of the calendar year, I have always thought of September as the beginning. The beginning of the school year, a fresh opportunity to be the person I want to be, a clean slate ready for a new start. By the middle of August I find myself planning, making lists and reflecting on the past year. I think about the changes I want to make in myself, the new adventures I want to have and how I want to treat others.
I often find myself discouraged, disappointed or angry at political decisions and other people’s behaviour. It is easy to feel defeated and easy to give up. September makes me want to try harder, fight for what I believe in and make the small changes I am capable of making.
I start by getting enough sleep. When you are tired it is hard to care, hard to support others, hard to move forward. I also ensure I have some down time to do the things I enjoy, like reading a good book, joining a friend for coffee or swinging on the swings in Waterloo Park.
In a world that seems to be increasingly filled with hate, I actively try to make people feel good about themselves. I do this by not making assumptions about others and trying to get to know people. When you listen to people, and try to understand them, it is much easier to respect them and like them. We live in a community full of diversity. I have made a point to learn about cultures, ethnicities, religions, genders and orientations other than my own, and get to know people outside my inner circles.
I am trying to use consent more in my life. Whether I am out with friends, in a classroom, at work, or with a partner, it is important that everyone’s bodily autonomy is respected. It becomes a force of habit to ask for a hug or ask if you can pick the stray hair off someone’s sweater.
I try to be considerate of others feelings and well-being. Before ordering food I ask if anyone has allergies, sensitivities or restrictions, I ask before eating the last piece of pizza (usually), when putting on music I ask what others want to hear, I don’t roll down the window in my car when someone is shivering in my backseat. I simply try to be aware of my surroundings and try to make others feel comfortable and safe.
Having conversations with others in my life, rather than making assumptions, allows me to continue building healthy relationships with the people around me.
I am also trying to think about my positioning and privilege more, and to ask myself whether my comments and questions are relevant, helpful and supportive. As someone with a great deal of privilege I want to be a positive and understanding ally to others.
I try to see interactions as learning opportunities, and ask for clarification when I need it, fighting my urge to become defensive.
As the sun sets on one of the last days of August I am off to bed. I am exhausted, ornery and frustrated, but I know that tomorrow is another day, a fresh start, an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.
Stacey Jacobs is the sexual health educational manager at SHORE.