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Who am I? This is a question that is not easily answered.

It is however, a
question worth asking. I find that every aspect that makes up who I am, is
constantly changing, growing, learning, and adapting. While I may have many titles,
including; mother, daughter, student, friend, employee, and sister, the underlying
self in each of these titles are intertwined with much larger and complex systems.
Many of my beliefs and values are rooted in my past but they are continually being
reshaped as I become more educated and self-reliant. In the book, The impossible
will take a little while, by Paul Roget Loeb, there is an excerpt from the author Henri
Nouwen, that relates to the process in defining personal growth.
Because life is very small, you can never see it happening. Have you ever
seen a tree actually grow? Growth is too gentle, too tender. Life is basically
hidden. It is small and begs for constant care and protection. If you are
committed to always saying yes to life, you are going to have to become a
person who chooses it when it is hidden (Loeb, 114).
This quote is very inspiring because, it addresses the idea of growth as an
important aspect in a persons life. Personal growth manifests into how someone
defines self. It is the collaboration of lifes lessons. I believe that who I am is
constantly unfolding. Reflecting on lived experiences may help explain how I got to
be the person I am today but as time goes on, new experiences are likely to change
what it means to be me. By recounting the interconnectedness I have within larger
systems, using the ecological systems to organize these systems interactions,
relating my life in terms of chaos theory, identifying my reaction patterns and
limitations, and exploring my authenticity, I will have a better understanding of self
and my personal landscape.

Interconnectedness with larger systems:


Attending Western Washington University is an example of being connected
within a larger system. Being involved in the human services program is helping to
shape me into a better person. Since I value dignity and equality, the field of study I
have chosen will give me life skills that emphasize these values. Through core, we
have done exercises that let us explore our biases. Through the standpoint essay, I
was able to confront and challenge the biases that have been deep seated in my
past self. It was through this assignment that I learned how to openly view and
appreciate others perspectives. I became aware of concepts that I had not been
able to see because I was viewing them through a marginalized lens. I believe that
because I am a part of this larger institution, I was able to strengthen my values in
dignity and equality. Had I not had this interconnectedness, I would have not
learned the importance of understanding each persons standpoint. I would have
taken my own biases as world truths. I know now that to truly be empathetic and to
have dignity for one another, you must appreciate each persons life experiences.
Learning how to see each persons realities is important when trying to truly
understand someone.
Ecological Systems theory:
In Urie Bronfebrenners article, Ecological Model of Human Development, it
shows the importance that the interactions of systems hold for human growth.
Starting with the micro level, Bronfebrenner defines this system as, patterns of
activities, social roles, and interpersonal relations experienced by the developing
person. The micro systems that are at the core of my interactions include my
family, my son, school, friends, and my work.

The relationship I have with my family is essential in understanding how I see


the world. The way I was raised and the ethical standards I was held to, hold roots
into the values I have today. I grew up in a single family home with three siblings. I
have two sisters and one brother. Because of my family dynamic, and having a
working single parent mother, I interacted with day care systems for most of my
childhood. This differs from a person who was raised in a traditional two parent
household. If they had a stay at home parent as a child, they would have limited or
no interactions in public childcare. The interactions I have now with my family is
restricted. I live hours away from my family, which affects my systems by limiting
my ability to receive support. Growing up in an environment where the presence of
men was very limited may also change the way I interact in other systems. Another
important factor in my microsystem is that I am a mother. While I am directly
influenced by all of my immediate systems, I feel that being a mother has had the
most impact on my life as a whole. I now value environmental sustainability more
because I have a future generation to think of. I have motivation to finish school so
that I can give my son a better life. I have interactions with systems that I thought
would never affect me. An example of such system would be social services. I can
see how almost every part of my ecological systems is influenced by being a
mother.
The mesosystem is defined as the, Linkages and processes taking place
between 2 or more settings containing the developing person (Brofenbrenner,
1994). The interactions of my microsystems have influenced my life goals. The role
my family and school play within my mesosytem is that none of my siblings went to
college. I watched them struggle because of this. Seeing their lack of a relationship
with the larger institutions, I became motivated to pursue a degree. Another way

my microsystems interact is through work and friends. Most of my co-workers are


close friends. Their social time is usually spent doing activities with each other. This
has impacted me because I now too spend all of my social time with my co-workers.
Work has become almost my safe place. I feel welcomed, and unjudged when I go to
work. I feel more comfortable talking about work related issues with my co-workers
because of our bond as friends. This causes a blurred line between my
microsystems, meaning, I dont know if I am influenced by a co-worker or a friend.
The exosystem is defined as, Linkages and processes taking place between
two or more settings, at least one of which does not contain the developing person,
but in which events that occur indirectly influence processes within the immediate
setting in which the developing person lives (Bronfenbrenner, 1994). The systems
in which I am not directly involved in but are affected by would be, Washington
State Wages. The hourly wage I receive is dependent upon the state. I have no
direct involvement in this system other than being minimum wage worker. In the
past few years I have benefited from the minimum wage increase in our state. It has
increased my paycheck which has made it a little easier to pay for my essentials.
Another exosystem that indirectly affects me is the amount of labor needed at my
sons fathers job. He works at an oil refinery and often times is laid off due to
decreased amount of work needed. While I may not be the one being laid off
directly, I am affected because this means that I do not have to pay for child care
services during his lay off. I am able to save time and money because he is able to
bring our son to my house. Rather than making the trip every night to pick him up.
Another exosystem is my mothers role as an RN, may have helped influence me
into choosing a helping career.

The macrosystem is defined as an, overarching pattern of micro-, meso, and


exosystems characteristic of a given culture or subculture with particular reference
to the belief systems, bodies of knowledge, material resources, customs, lifestyles,
opportunity structures, hazards, and life course options that are embedded in each
of these broader systems (Brofenbrenner). The macrosystems that revolve around
my inner systems are; the culture in which I live in, the governments that set
standards for which I must adhere to, and the ever present influence of social
media.
Living in a liberal state indirectly influences the strong attitudes and beliefs I
have about the importance of equality and dignity for all. Growing up in Olympia,
and now having spent most of my young adult life in Bellingham, I am surrounded
by petitions to sign, I am invited to engage in social activism, and am encouraged to
eat and buy locally. My culture emphasizes the importance sustainability. The fact
that I am from a lower middle class culture, the people around me are more aware
of the inequalities of wealth in the US. I live in a culture that still believes in the,
American Dream. The idea that working hard will pay off in the future. It is this
dream that keeps the people in my culture seeking education, and continually
working hard. My culture has also affected the way I raise my son. Pressure from
doctors, nurses, and other parents, influenced my decision to circumcise my son. It
has also influenced me to vaccinate my son every few months. My culture also
guides me in the socially appropriate ways to correct deviant behavior of my child. I
am also affected by the stigmas that come with being a single mom. Culture is a
very central and influential system that trickles down and influences all of my other
systems.

Chaos theory is a very complex system used to help understand human


behavior. In Eleanor Craven Brennans article, Chaos in the Clinic she explains this
theory in a more simplified matter.
It is analysis from a macro understanding; in order to understand the
interconnectedness of a forest structure, it is necessary to view the trees as
part of the overall forest, understanding that a tree by itself does not a forest
make; it is the interaction or process among the trees that form complexities
of a forest.
Brennans writing expresses the effects that all systems have on a developing
person. Chaos theory uses the concepts of bifurcation points, butterfly effect, and
self-organization to create a structuralized understanding of unpredictable systems.
Bifurcation can be defined as, a time in your life where you had to make a
dramatic decision. The decision you chose would lead a very different path than the
alternative. Within my own system, I have come to recognize how my past
interactions became bifurcation points in my life. When finding out I was pregnant, I
had to make a choice that would come to affect my life in every aspect. Choosing to
continue with the pregnancy and become a parent is a very different path than if I
had decided the latter. My life has changed by the fact that I am no longer
responsible for just myself. I must be fully aware of my childs needs. I am much
more empathic now to those who are parents. Before this decision, children made
me uncomfortable. I could not relate with the parents who were dealing with a
toddlers tantrum. I believe I have gained an enormous amount of patients. Ive
learned that quickly reacting to my frustrations will not benefit me or my son. Most
of my social time now consists with teaching, reading, or playing with my son.

Overall, I bear far more responsibility than I ever had before. I also believe that with
the decision to have a child, I became motivated to accomplishing my academic
goals. Before I was pregnant I was an on and off again student at the community
college. While I had goals to someday go to a university, I had never put conscious
thought or effort in figuring out what direction in life I wanted to go. Once I had my
son, everything became clear. I was motivated to set an example for him. As life
continues we constantly negotiate identities. Identities are multidimensional and
change in response to the people and institutions we connect with (pp, Identities
and Chaos Theory). The bifurcation point of becoming a mother has directly
changed the roles and institution I identify and interact with.
The Butterfly Effect is a theory that explains how a small or seemingly
insignificant event can have substantial waves of consequences. According to the
author, Peter Dizikes, Lorenz also discovered stricter limits on our knowledge,
proving that even models of physical systems with a few precisely know variables,
like a heated gas swirling in a box, can produce endlessly unpredictable and
nonrepeating effects (Dizikes, 2008). To further explain, you may be able to predict
some ways in which an event will have an effect, but it is impossible to pinpoint the
exact cause and effect of it.
In order to apply the butterfly effect theory to my own life, I focused on the
events that led up to my significant life changes. One of the biggest life changes I
have made was when I decided to move to Bellingham right after high school. The
small event that led up to this big change was when my friends and I drove up here
for a Halloween party. I immediately fell in love with the town. I loved the
atmosphere, and the people. It was this event that would influence my decision to
moving up here. While Im sure there were other factors that helped contribute to

this change, I believe they all stem from the first night I came up here. If I hadnt
gone to that party, I may not have decided that this is where I wanted to move. If I
had stayed in Olympia or gone somewhere else, it would have changed where I go
to school. I would have never met my sons father, therefore not having a child with
him. I would not have gained all the relationships I have with my co-workers and
friends up here. This small event in my life has had a great effect on my major
changes.
According to the power points shown in class, self-organization is the, ability
of systems to organize themselves out of apparent disorder. Examples of selforganization would be, the types of friends you have, and the inclination to
associate with groups that have similar values and beliefs.
The way in which I have come to self organize, has been to keep close
relationships with those who have similar goals and beliefs as me. All of my closest
friends share the goal in achieving a higher education. We are all working on goals
to better our future.
Reaction patterns are another tool used to help better understand
myself. It is the repetitive elements in my actions or behaviors, as described by
others or myself. One reaction pattern that has come up in from people in almost
every aspect of my life is my need for conformation. In my friendships, I find myself
asking them if they are upset with me. When my friends tell me no, I feel more sure
and confirmed of our friendship. In my work setting, I ask my boss if he thinks my
work ethic is up to par. In my intimate relationship in the past my constant need for
affirmation has caused arguments. I am not sure what the cause of this reaction

pattern is. I do however recognize it as a pattern that occurs throughout my micro


systems.
My limitations in diverse contexts would mainly be that I am not
completely comfortable communicating with disabled persons. For instance, I
frequently eat lunch at the co-op where mentally disabled man works in the dining
area. He comes up to almost everyone and engages in conversation. When he
comes to my table, I feel very anxious. Ive havent had many interactions with
people who arent able bodied. I feel nervous because im not sure exactly how to
interact. I dont want to say the wrong thing. I am unsure of how sever his condition
is and dont want to seem as though im patronizing him. Because of this
nervousness I find myself limiting my interactions with people who are not able
bodied. I realize that in order get rid of my anxiety I need to make an effort to
interact with all people no matter what the diverse context may be.
Authenticity:
One way that I wish to align my espoused way of being with my actual way of being
is to be a better reflective listener. My standpoint essay proved I need to work on
actively listening and not focus on trying to change someones mind. I need to
follow and listen to how a person got to their opinion. When having a conversation I
need to take time to truly listen. I find that when I talk, I try to fill in the silences.
When I do this, I am missing an important opportunity to analyze what others are
saying. If I were to do this I would better absorb the content of the conversation.
This would benefit me as a profession because I would be able to help clients
without letting my own biases guide my interactions. Another way I wish to become
closer to my espoused way of being is to organize myself in a realistic way. This

means, stop pretending to be super woman. When people ask me how I work two
jobs, go to school full time, and be a mom, I respond usually by saying its not as
hard as it seems. I want people to get the impression that I can handle everything.
Because of this, I sometimes find myself taking on more responsibility than I can
handle. If someone at work is sick they will call me to work because they know I will
do it. In reality, I cant handle all of this. I need to find a way to better organize my
responsibilities and not try to pretend to be superwoman.
From all of the different elements discussed in this paper, I feel as though all
of them are useful in helping me become a human service professional. By using
the ecological systems theory, I was able to gain better insight into how the
institutions and systems in my life are all intertwined. As a professional this is
helpful because I will be able to view a client not just by their micro systems but
their relationship within all systems. This gives me as a professional, a variety
perspective to view a client, rather than just focusing on their immediate systems.
By analyzing my limitation in a diverse setting, I realized that I feel anxious when
interacting with disabled persons. As a professional this means, I should work
towards settling those anxieties by interacting more with people who are differently
abled. Aligning my espoused way of being to my actual way of being was helpful in
my development as a human service professional because, it allowed me to see
that I need to be a better reflective listener. Being a better reflective listen is an
important trait to have as a professional in a giving career. Throughout all of these
tools we have learned this quarter, I feel as though I am closer to reaching my goals
as a human services professional.