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Activism can be regarded as the promotion of political, legal, social, or environmental changes within a community. Moreover, it can be aimed at improving the wellbeing of individuals, for example, one can mention the organization of public festivals or even participation in construction projects that are supposed to serve the local residents. In other words, it can take a great number of forms, but this activity is supposed to attract people’s attention to certain problems or controversial questions. In some cases, activism can be closely related to the professional career of a person. For instance, it is possible to refer to the activities of medical workers who strive to help patients throughout the world.
The main argument that can be put forward is that both career and activism are the results of a developed self, but at the same time, they can change people’s perception of themselves and their view of the world. Moreover, one can say that both career and activism are important for the vocational journey of a person and the discovery of his identity; without them, people may not be able to identify their personal goals, needs, and priorities. In this way, people can better understand their professional roles and their top life priorities. These are the key points that should be illustrated in more detail.
First of all, one can say that both activism and career choices can be explained by certain convictions of a person, his/her beliefs about the community, and the vision of society. Very often, activists try to change public opinion or prompt legislators to adopt new laws. A very similar idea is expressed in the book Restored Selves edited by John Dedecco and Kevin Kumashiro who explore the narratives of people representing the LGBT community.
To a great extent, these narratives demonstrate that these people participate in social and political activism in order to raise their social status and acquire legal protection. Moreover, they regard themselves as people whose lifestyles, ideas, or views are marginalized by mainstream society and its political institutions (Dedecco & Kumashiro 22). This is the thing that motivates them to express their discontent with the existing social order. In order to change this situation, they take part in political and social activism. The examples provided by John Dedecco and Kevin Kumashiro show that political activists can have a very clear and detailed image of themselves.
Furthermore, one should note that people make career choices because they want to change something and help other people. Moreover, they have a certain view of their own self. This argument is eloquently illustrated in the book Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality written by Pauline Chen. The author was once a physician who chose this career path in order to “use her profession to help people” (Chen 6). She viewed herself as a would-be professional who could save or improve the lives of others (Chen 6).
This is a set of perceptions that the author had before her graduation. To a great extent, her choice is the result of a fully-developed self. So, these examples suggest that activism and career can be explained by the self-recognition of an individual. A person has to identify one’s values or worldviews in order to make choices about activism or career. These decisions can be regarded as a consequence of fully developed worldviews, values, principles, and understanding of one’s strengths, weaknesses, and social status. This is one of the key points that one can make.
Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that activism and career can be a transformative experience for an individual. They help a person better understand the peculiarities of his/her character, motives, interests, or beliefs. His self-perception can also evolve significantly with time passing. In other words, the promotion of social or political change can prompt a person to take a closer look at oneself. This idea has been eloquently expressed by Dana Takagi who says that “activism changes our own self” (Takagi as cited in Dedecco & Kumashiro 132).
For example, people, who participate in LGBT activism, feel more empowered when they are able to voice their discontent with social stereotypes or policies of the state. They no longer feel weak or marginalized. This is one of the main changes that people undergo in the course of their social struggle. To a large extent, activism can assist a person to discover their inner world and his/her inner strengths. So, it is possible to say that activism can have a transformative effect on an individual because he/she can see that there are many other people who have similar views or principles. As a rule, this individual does not regard himself as an outsider (Dedecco & Kumashiro 20). This is one of the main arguments that one should take into account when speaking about the effects of activism on the inner world of a person.
A similar effect can be produced in the course of a person’s professional development. This idea is described by Pauline Chen in her book. The author shows that a medical professional has to review their perception of themselves in order to cope with the challenges that medical workers face. At the very beginning of her career, the author thought that she “would spend her days in triumphant face-offs with death and watch the parade of saves patients return to my office full of life” (Chen 13).
This is how the writer originally perceived herself. In this case, one can speak about the idealized image of oneself and one’s professional roles. On the whole, it is typical of many students and aspiring professionals. However, in the course of her career, the author had to change her opinions. For instance, she began to view herself as a caregiver who may not be able to save every patient, but who strived to provide comfort to the dying person (Chen 15).
Moreover, her worldview underwent a significant transformation. In particular, one should pay close attention to her acceptance of death (Chen 15). Therefore, one can say that the work experience had a transformative effect on the author, her values, and opinions. It seems that such a transformation can be familiar to many other professionals. They do not necessarily become disillusioned with their career; more likely, they become more realistic in the expectations that they set for themselves as well as for others. Thus, a career helps a person understand his/her self.
It should be noted that activism can also prompt a person to identify oneself with a certain ethnic, political, or religious group. This argument is elaborated in the book The Language of Blood written by a Korean-American Jane Jeong Trenka who was adopted by an American family (Trenka 10). The writer shows that he has always felt alienated from others even in the company of her friends. Nevertheless, by trying to protect the rights of adoptees she was able to learn more about her family and her Korean ancestors (Trenka 50). Moreover, she was able to discover her distinct Korean identity. So, activism and social struggle can significantly affect the experiences of a person and his/her sense of belonging to the group.
These cases show that that certain types of activities can result in the so-called recognition of the self. Normally, this effect is produced at that time when a person confronts a situation when he has to reevaluate his/her values, ideals, and behavioral norms. Moreover, an individual can be more empowered when a person has an opportunity to cooperate with people who share the same views, ideas, or political positions. This case was described by John Dedecco and Kevin Kumashiro in their book.
So, both activism and career can prompt a person to look at different aspects of his/her self and re-evaluate their convictions. On the whole, one can say that these experiences are important for the personal development of an individual.
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In my opinion, career and activism are vital for the vocational journey of a person. Even the most skilled professional should take a closer look at his/her values, ethical principles, or attitudes. I cannot say that I have encountered such a transformative experience described in these readings. However, I think that my professional career can also affect my perception of myself as well as myself and my values. It seems that in many cases that activism is necessary for the vocational discovery of a person. This experience can help people assess their strengths or weaknesses and break away from traditional stereotypes.
More importantly, activism can give people a more realistic idea of their professional views. At this point, I do not know whether I will actively promoting social or political change. Besides, I do not support violent forms of civil disobedience. In my view, community building is probably the most important form of activism because in this way people can better help one another. By joining their efforts, people can bring improvements to society. I think that this experience can let me become a better professional who can interact with people representing different social or cultural backgrounds. This is why I think that activism is important for the personal and professional growth of a person.
This discussion shows that career and activism are closely tied to self-recognition. First of all, they can be by-products of a fully developed self, in other words, a person can choose a certain career path or become engaged in activism because he/she has some firmly-held beliefs, opinions, or perceptions. More importantly, this individual perceives herself in a certain way. However, a person’s career and activism can dramatically transform people’s perception of themselves.
In particular, people can reevaluate their strengths and weaknesses and their professional roles. Thus, one can argue that that career and activism take their origins in a person’s identity. Nevertheless, they can also transform his/her values, attitudes, or opinions. This is the main issue that people should take into account.
Chen, Pauline. Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality, New York: Vintage, 2008. Print.
Dedecco, John and K. Kumashiro. Restoried Selves: Autobiographies of Queer Asian-Pacific-American Activists, Boston: Routledge, 2003. Print.
Trenka, Jane. The Language of Blood, New York: Graywolf Press, 2005. Print.