One of the best parts about living in the co.space is having dinner with a guest every Wednesday. The co.space house managers and owners invite interesting people from our community to have dinner with us. People who live in the house also have the chance to suggest potential guests. Over the past five months I’ve met so many incredible people doing meaningful change-making work by going to these dinners. I’ve dined and discussed with co.space alumni, various professors, Dan Murphy (now on Borough Council!), the founder of “Connecting Cultures”, an Outward Bound program in Oman, and tons of other inspiring people. It’s opened my eyes to the variety of professions that exist in the world and that tons of people make a life out of doing what makes them happy. Encouraging thoughts to be leaving senior year of college with, for sure.
This week’s guest was particularly interesting. Dr. Jeanine Staples, Penn State professor of Literacy and Language, African American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies came and shared a bit about her project “Supreme Love” (more here: https://jeaninestaples.com/coach/ (Links to an external site.)). I thought I knew a lot about self-love and self-care, but turns out there’s a more radical way to approach this type of thinking. In fact, Dr. Staples doesn’t use the word self-love at all. She thinks self-love a shallow approach to fixing personal issues that are rooted much deeper in our souls and can’t always be cured with a little TLC.
The Supreme Love project is about empowering marginalized groups of people, especially women and people of color, to help them heal from previous terrors in their lives and launch better versions of themselves for the future. Dr. Staples couldn’t get too deep into what she actually does with her clients, because the methodology must be paid for, but it seemed like as a coach she has a deep, invasive yet effective way of connecting with people and showing them how to help themselves.
As a woman who has faced push back about my ambitions and experienced anxiety over my body image, a lot of what Dr. Staples had to share really resonated with me. She talked a lot about the danger of codependent relationships, prompting me to think deeply about if there are any in my life right now that could be holding me back. However, after a while of listening to her talk, I started to feel like she was pushing her message a bit too far. Our conversation started to bring me down and convince me that every man in my life has been a negative influence on me in some way. It also made me feel like the sadness I feel day to day isn’t normal and actually indicative of some greater demons within me that I need to uncover. Recently, I’ve been trying to convince myself the exact opposite; that a little sadness here and there is actually normal and quite human of me.
Immediately after dinner wrapped up, my boyfriend and I had to sit down and debrief about it all. It was refreshing to hear that we were on the same page about a lot of her points. It almost felt like she was trying to exclude men out of this really important conversation and instead take vulnerable women under her wing for a pretty invasive, painful – deep extraction – examination of our core beings. While I’ve concluded that her work isn’t my cup of tea, I’d be curious to hear from the participants in her project about how they feel coming out on the other side. Do they feel better? More like themselves? More at peace and inner harmony?
I’m grateful to the co.space for bringing in people like Dr. Staples who do radical thinking and change-making work. While I don’t always agree, I see the value in exposing myself to all different types of people and interests. I also commend Dr. Staples on her immense passion for her life’s work and I hope she remains an activist for women’s rights for years to come.