A few days ago, Grey and I were sitting at a Pho shop enjoying a casual lunch. WIth the spacing of the tables in this shops, it's hard not to overhear conversations. So when the two women next to us started complaining about society and asking in less-than huffed tones "what do people want?" it was hard not to listen.
Honestly, I can't remember all the details (because most of the conversation was complete gibberish), but what was clear is that both of them wanted a simple answer/solution to tell everyone they ever came into contact with so that they would be happy. And the entire time, they kept dropping one word.
Little did they realize (among other things), that this simple, four-letter word that can convey so much damage.
It's no secret that we live in a "Just" culture. Everyone is familiar with "Just do it" (side-note: very few are aware of how much Nike has profited from this slogan), but it's not difficult to find "just" attached before other phrases. "Just take the first step," "Just find a way," "Just quit," "Just believe."
As ALIers, we are all too aware of "just" phrases. "Just relax," we're told, with each failed cycle. "Just try X." And my all time personal favorite "just adopt."
These past two weeks, S.I.F. has written a series of elegant posts exploring adoption. I personally think she's done a wonderful job tackling very difficult topics and really encourage everyone to read these, regardless of how you view the process or your stance of each of the issues. But what I found most powerful was how she completely destroyed the idea of "just adopt." In her essays, she outlines quite clearly how each circumstance involves so many variables, making this process so much more complex than 95% of society realizes. That there truly is no "just" in this process.
Reflecting on this post made me realize how pervasive "just" has become in our society. Being as hurried and stressed as we all are, "just" has become a way of quickly dealing with emotions and complex issues. Too often, we try to simplify things so much so that we can hurry up and tackle the next issue. I'll admit, I am incredibly guilty of this mindset. In moments of frustration, I've barked at people to "just do X," so that I can focus my attention on more pressing or more pleasant things. Hence, "just" has become a convenient tool for silencing others at inconvenient moments.
There's another level too: "just" is typically used by those who were incredibly lucky and had things work out fairly easily. We all know these people, as they are quick to offer advice and will arduously defend their actions even when it becomes clear that they truly have no insight.
There's the problem though with both courses of action, though. Mainly that both outcomes are ones that simplify complex issues, while belittling others in the process. It's one of the important lessons I've learned over the past few years and has forced me to rethink not only how I think about my path to expanding my family, but also more about how I interact with people on a daily basis.
The reality is, we need to reanalyze how we use "just." "Just" can most certainly be used to motive, to encourage, to compel people to take action. There's a lot of positive that can come from "just." But when "just" is used to shut people down, feel superior or to simplify a situation that clearly requires thought, there's a problem. "Just" in these cases becomes a weapon, meant to silence and shame.
The question becomes, how do we change this? One thought is to become aware of "just" in our daily lives, taking a moment to really analyze what our intentions are with using it. Does a particular topic/individual frustrate us? Make us nervous? Are we steamrolling the conversation as someone else is talking about difficulties? What's the goal of using "just" in that moment.
Another thought is that it's time to start countering "just." Too often, why "just relax" or "just adopt" get thrown around is because the suggestive party doesn't know better. After all, with infertility and loss being so taboo, why would they change? But that ends when you speak up. When you say "actually, it's not always that easy." Or "are you sure that's the full story?"
Or, if they're really obnoxious, you can try my personal favorite: "Huh, I'm really glad that worked for you, but my doctor, you know the one that went to medical school followed by 4 years of residency and followed by 2 years of fellowship, seems to think more is going on. But I'm sure you're right, I'm just not trying hard enough . . . ."
What are your thoughts? How do we begin reversing "just" culture?
It was not the cat
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