Look for the helpers.

Name: Tiffany Duncan
Pronouns: She/Her
Instagram: chris_tiff_duncan

What do the words "only human" mean to you?

Every person has layers and layers of experiences, emotions, opinions, and goals that they have surrounding them, the layers only growing as the years pass. We all grew up under different circumstances, whether that be by the location, socioeconomic status, or time period in which certain major events have occurred. However, we have all had that “Oh, Shit” moment when we grew up, and realized that the world was much different than we actually thought. For me, that was 9/11. I was in the 8th grade when this happened, and I can remember that day in its entirety. The world I thought was wonderful, caring, unified, all came crashing down as the towers fell. It was the first time I felt true fear in walking outside, and I didn’t look at people assuming they cared anymore, instead, I kept my distance.

My response was only one of the millions across the country, and at that young age, through the fear that came from that one instance in time, I came to realize that each and every person was their own unique spirit. Every person who was lost, all came into this world with their own psyche, a heart ready to be filled with love. They all had their first day of school and learned more about themselves. They all loved someone unconditionally and were loved unconditionally. That is what was at their core, their spirit, their soul.

When all the layers are peeled back, that is what really mattered, that is what we all mourned. We mourned these people, we all connected with them, they, and we, are only human.

What are you passionate about?

Finding beauty every single day is something that genuinely keeps me going. From an early age, my Mom would ask me to look around and find something beautiful, and usually, I would look towards the clouds. As the years passed, I was able to look further, not just into nature, but into people, humanity.

There is beauty in everything, the way the sun changes when it gets closer to Autumn, thunderclouds on a hot day, and the way the wind makes music when it blows through the trees. What is hard, especially during these trying times, is finding beauty in people, in the collective population. We look at the news, and it’s filled with violence, hate, and confusion. Nothing is going right, and it seems at times that things will never be okay again. But when you REALLY look, past the smoke, the yelling, the anger, you can see the beauty in good people coming together. They come together because they truly, deeply care about the plight of others, about the unjust life journey these people have gone, and continue to go through. And that is the most beautiful thing to come out of this 2020.

There really is beauty everywhere you look.

What makes you the happiest?

One thing I get the most genuine joy for is the happiness of others, strangers, or not. You know those videos where a soldier comes home from deployment, and they surprise someone? Even just typing that out gave me goosebumps. I am truly lucky to be an empath, as it gives me the ability to feels other’s emotions so intensely, and when I see someone else’s joy, I can feel it, and it feels amazing. From videos, pictures, sound recordings, whether it be human, or animal-related, seeing someone else’s happiness and joy, just knowing that there is someone or something that is feeling so wonderful, gives me the truest form of happiness.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

With my yearslong experience with depression and anxiety, at the end of the worst episodes, I have wished I could have that time back that was filled with such negative and painful emotions. Every minute that passes every day is so precious, and it’s gone forever. I am a rock for many in my family, my Mom, Sister, some friends, and because I only want to see them happy, to realize their own strength, I adopted and started to take my own advice.

Every day is a new day. The sun rises every day, no matter how wonderful it will be, or terrible. The promise of it all is that each has the potential to be the best day of my life. With that realization, I am able to allow myself to feel whatever feelings I may be having, whether it is the saddest of sad or the dread that comes with anxiety. I allow it to run its course, and remind myself that this is only temporary. With this mindset, and my need to not waste any moment with negative feelings. I have given myself one very important rule, and that is to recognize any situation, or person, whose only effect is negative. Neighbor sucks? Being angry or having ill feelings toward them will not make you feel better, it will be worse. News making you feel like you need to crawl into a dark hole? Turn it off. Things and people may not change, but the way I react to them can, and that is how, though it is a work in progress, I protect myself, and my heart to ensure that my days are filled with as much comfort, and happiness as possible. Each day is just too precious.

How do you keep yourself positively inspired during overwhelming times?

Mr. Rogers was so much more valuable than we perceive now. Here are two of the many things that he has been famous for saying:

“I like you just the way you are.”

“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

The negativity in the world can really do a number on a good person. It can make you want to close up, put up walls, or just to make things easier, adopt the actions and beliefs of others. Wouldn’t that be so much easier? Not to think for yourself, or fight for what you believe is just and true? There are times where this comes across my mind, however, when I see these words “I like you just the way you are” where they are framed on my wall, it is a reminder not to change because it’s easier to. Being a good person, someone who cares is so much more worthwhile.

Being alive during the worst pandemic we have seen, the lack of empathy from others, the selfishness that has become so prevalent in our country, can really make you feel like there is no hope, this is just how things are now, “it is what it is.” IT’S NOT AND IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE. People are helping others in ways we have never seen before and there has been an immense outpouring of kindness throughout the world. “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This rings so true these days. I have people who I am lucky enough to call friends raising money for sick kids, sending gifts just to make each other smile, and making masks to help slow the spread. These are the helpers we have to look for, they are the true meaning of humanity and kindness that is embedded in every human.

If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes, whose would they be? Why?

I don’t know many people who do not know who Lucille Ball was. I used to wake up early on my summer vacations growing up just to watch her reruns on tv. Then, and to this day, that show brings me joy and comfort. She was a trailblazer for women, paved the way for how sitcoms are now filmed and created her own empire. A beautiful redhead on the outside, she embodied strength, motivation, and gumption. She fought through painful rheumatoid arthritis from the age of 17, and through all the flareups that come with that disease, she was still able to create a show that was filled with comedy that no one had seen before, especially from a woman. To be able to spend just one day as her during her time on “I Love Lucy” in 1951-1957, would be remarkable. She will always be an icon.

What book (or books) have greatly influenced your life?

In high school, my English class was assigned the book “The Stranger” by French author Albert Camus. It was a shorter read, but the existential questions, along with the philosophy behind it, has really stuck with me as the years passed. Granted, I have always been a deep thinker, always in my head, but this book made me look at a lot of different things I never thought about before, such as the nature of existence and experiences of a human, as in, how each person feels so individually. Most looked at the main character as cold, heartless, but I felt for him. It really made me think about the differences of each person, how psychologically we are just wired differently, and that makes us all so beautiful and makes life beautiful in its own way.

What’s your favorite quote?

“Be a good lady.” -My Dad.

He wrote this in closing to the last card he ever sent to me. He really knew me like no one else, even if it was never spoken about. I think he saw a lot of himself in me. I was in university when he sent this card to me, it was a happy birthday/merry christmas/happy new year card because that is all he could afford, one card. These words are the basic theme of how I try to live each day. It’s so simple, be a good lady, be a good person. Sometimes the most simple words mean the most.

What is your most-used emoji?

So, hugs are one of my favorite things in the world. The best way I find to symbolize them digitally is to send a heart emoji! Most of my texts or chats are closed with a heart, basically it means I am giving you a huge hug.

What would be your advice to a human who just graduated from high school and was about to enter the "real world"?

Things are probably going to change, a lot. You will grow, and others will grow. Some friendships that seemed neverending will fade away, but there is something wonderful that happens after, you gain new, deeper, and more meaningful friendships with people who you may not even live in the same state as! Through each struggle comes newfound strength that you didn’t know was inside of you. You will come to realize that the mentors you had in high school, whether it is your band teacher or English teacher, were right all along. They were setting you up to be the best version of yourself and were there to fill holes in your heart that you didn’t even know were there.

Your journey will be unique, it is yours and yours alone. Make every day as beautiful and meaningful as you possibly can, and never forget that you are capable, and deserving of everything good this world has to offer.

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