The Eagle

Title of Painting: Eagle Fishing on Lake Malawi
Painter: John Cyril Harrison

Written by Zaithwa Gwaza

The painting above is set in Lake Malawi; it’s the ninth largest lake in the world and the third largest lake in Africa.

Firstly, what attracts me to this painting is the eagle and its hard work and patience to be able to catch a fish in the lake; this is an incredible skill that eagles possess. Eagles are phenomenal birds, they work hard. When I look at this painting, it tells me that in life, discipline is very important. The eagle is a very disciplined bird, it has good vision and surely stays focused on what it wants – this is a life lesson to me.

Prior to coming to America, I was told by many people back home that I have to stay focused on my primary objective of being in the US; which is to work hard in my studies to be able to get my undergraduate degree. This is something that this painting reminds me of, the eagle is a bird, and the fish is always in water, therefore to be able to catch a fish requires intense focus. And, that is exactly what I need to do while I’m in the US; primarily focus on my studies. Additionally, it isn’t easy for the eagle to catch the fish, however, the eagle is still determined catch fish so that it can have food to eat. “No pain, no gain” is a philosophy that has been used since life on the world begun, and that also applies for the eagle.

Eagles have as many as a million light-sensitive sensory cells per square millimeter of retina; this is five times the amount allotted to the average. Their vision is incredible; that also speaks to me. In life, it’s important to have a vision for your life. For example, in my life, my single mother has worked hard and sacrificed so much for my happiness and well-being, therefore I envision myself being able to spoil my mother in the future and to help develop my local community back home (in terms of giving some people the opportunity to go to good schools). However, achieving this won’t be easy, so I need to stay focused and implement smaller goals in order to achieve this life goal. The eagle has good vision however if it doesn’t use this skill well, it won’t be able to get its prey. Therefore, that also applies to my life, I have been given the opportunity to come to the US, however, the ball is in my court, it’s my decision to work hard and to be able to sow plenty in the future.

Moreover, the background of the painting also communicates to me; it shows how the weather is about to change, from a bright cloudy day to a dark cloudy day. It reminds me of the sudden change that occurred in my life when I was 9 years old; my father passed away – life took a whole new turn. And, things like this can’t be anticipated. However, for me my father’s death is probably one of the things I’m thankful for; obviously, it’s not like I wanted him dead or anything, no, that’s not my point. The point I’m trying to make is that through my father’s death I was able to learn from it and I am what I am because of all my experiences, so I’m thankful to God for every single thing that has happened in my life. I was able to appreciate my family more, but also able to use this experience to comfort and help those around me. Everything that happens in our life to make us stronger, and in the end, it all works out for our good. Just like in the painting, despite, the weather changing, but this also can benefit the other parts of nature, such as crops.

Additionally, dark clouds aren’t always going be there forever, the clear clouds will come out again. That’s how life is, we all go through painful circumstances, but pain helps us grow. So, the background speaks to me about being positive, life isn’t easy; it was actually never meant to be easy. It’s important to be positive, yes, I will admit, it’s easier said than done, however, it’s always important to try look at the brighter things of life while accepting whatever hurdle is there. I’m thankful for everything I have, my life, family and even the fact that I was able to having a mother that didn’t ever give up on me. Lest I forget, I’m also very thankful I was able to come to the US to complete my undergraduate studies.

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Zaithwa Gwaza is a student at Robert Morris University where he majors in economics. Among his many goals Zaithwa wants to own a family farm and launch a start-up business in his hometown of Malawi, East Africa. He one day hopes to use his earnings from these endeavors to help others pay for school.

Understanding Gender Identity

by Maria Christina, MS

Counseling and Therapy Pittsburgh PA

Caitlyn Jenner was treated to two standing ovations as she received the Arthur Ashe award for courage at this year’s ESPY awards [view the ESPY presentation here ]. The film shown prior to the award presentation traced Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner’s struggle with gender identity, and his ultimate transition to Caitlyn. This provided the framework to help many viewers understand that Bruce Jenner and Caitlyn Jenner are one and the same person. Caitlyn is the authentic gender expression of that person.

Jenner is but one individual identifying as transgender within a broad and diverse community, and the publicity surrounding Jenner’s transition has prompted many questions.  For example, do all in the transgender community elect to undergo surgery?  The short answer is, no. Others try to make connections between gender identity and sexual orientation: if a girl who is attracted to girls transitions to being a boy, was she gay and now “straight?”  As much as we try to arrange things into neat categories, often humans defy categorization.  Our understanding of gender is evolving and, simply stated, our expressed gender and our attraction to others are two separate, unrelated, fundamental parts of who we are.  Now that same-gender marriage is recognized as legal across the country, perhaps we can move away from terminology that serves to separate us.  Instead of “gay marriage,” there is simply marriage.  Couples are couples, families are families, people are people and we present ourselves in myriad ways.  Jenner summed this up during her acceptance speech: “We’re all different. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing.”

In addition to the usual issues that bring people to counseling, many who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming experience significant amounts of depression and anxiety because they are living inauthentic lives. Counseling and treatment lessen depression and anxiety, help individuals understand their gender identities and gender expression, and assist them as they work through complex social and relational issues.  But there is a special risk for those in the transgender community: 41% of those who identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming attempt suicide at some time in their lives, according to a survey released by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.  This is nearly nine times the national average for all Americans.  Additionally transgender youth are at high risk for being the victims of violent crime.

Jenner has enormous wealth, and what appears to be a loving and supportive family. In spite of these resources even she could not escape the pain of keeping secrets and living an inauthentic life. She admits to considering suicide in the past.  Jenner is stronger now and can withstand criticism and disapproval, but thousands of transgender children and adolescents in this country cannot. They are vulnerable. If you or someone you know identifies as gender nonconforming, remember there are resources available to assist individuals, couples and families as they work through many complex issues. Caitlyn Jenner stated it clearly: “This is an issue we can deal with. This is not something that people have to die over.”

The Trevor Project operates the nation’s only 24-hour toll-free suicide prevention helpline for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth (1-866-4-U-TREVOR or 866-488-7386).