People

Everyone has a code.


I think I may have insulted a really good friend last night. And really more than one, but only one was around to hear what I said.

See I’ve been having a difficult time defining success. The fear of failure is ever lurking particularly when you work in journalism and particularly when half your company has been let go.

People don’t just get let go because they’ve failed at their job. But when we try to work harder in order to keep our job, we adopt the opposite thinking. Having becomes success, and losing becomes failure.

All sorts of characteristics come out in people when it appears you may be on a sinking ship. Or at least a ship where everyone is getting thrown overboard. You have people who never use the internet, updating their resumes and online profiles. People having drinks with other people they normally wouldn’t have but now they have something in common. The need for success.

I used to think that success could not be measured by dollar signs or material wealth. And now I feel that too, is incredibly insulting.

Now I’m going to say something even more insulting. I used to think that simply raising a family wasn’t enough. That it was good but that there had to be something else in order for a person to be truly successful.

Maybe it’s because my mother was so adamant about how hard she worked. How she would always say that if she could raise me and have a job, so could everyone else. It was as if not having a job was the epitome of failure.

I still have mine. But as I see co-workers and journalists walk out the door for the last time, donning a look of uncertainty, I can’t help but think–wait, it’s 2014.

Right now, having a job doesn’t mean keeping a job. The entrepreneurs and freelancers that I know today are rocking it. I want to be just like them. Not having a job can be success. Being your own boss is what we talk about at those happy hours with people we used to not have anything in common with. So what’s success?

Money, power, security, family, time?

We’re all playing Mastermind against ourselves. Trying to figure out just the right combination of all the things we think equal success. Sometimes we look at other people’s boards. We judge some people for finishing too quickly, we judge others for having too easy or too hard of a code. And we judge ourselves most of all for not getting it “right” always.

I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over what my code is. A lot of time scrutinizing other people’s codes. Today, I’m going to throw out the board. Maybe eat a donut grilled cheese sandwich. Maybe I won’t have a job. Maybe I’ll invent my own job. Maybe I’ll invent a better sandwich. But I’m done wasting time on my code. And I’m done looking at yours.

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People

Why I don’t want to go to your gender segregated baby shower.


I don’t want to go to your gender segregated baby shower not because of the silly games where I have to pretend I give a shit about the color of your baby room, or because I have to listen to everyone tell me 2014 will be the year I find a husband, or because everyone looks at me quixotically when I ask where the beer is, and it’s not even because if it’s a girl you insist everything be pink and you’ve already bought her her first barbie doll.

It’s because separating myself by gender has never been my choice, and now I can choose. I can say yes I will go to this strip club because I like the buffet, cheap drinks and I don’t mind a woman dancing if that’s what she wants to do. Where I can say, you know what? I would rather not wear heels to work anymore because heels shouldn’t be a part of my dress code for having a vagina. Where I can say most of my time goes to work instead of dating and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m happy.

It’s because woman stuff and man stuff don’t really mean anything to me anymore and so I wouldn’t even know what to do during woman time at your party.

It’s because when I was 18 and I told people I wanted to be a doctor, they said, “Maybe you should try something easier, Mija.” Because I was woman, because I was supposed to get married and have babies and have my own gender segregated baby shower. Because no one thought that maybe a life that didn’t include any of those things would still be really great for me. Because no one thought that I could possibly be different from all of the other little girls and their pink-clad barbie dolls.

But I don’t hate you and I don’t hate your unborn baby and maybe I wouldn’t hate your gender segregated baby shower. I guess I just want to give him or her a chance at a choice. And I don’t know that boycotting your baby shower can accomplish that. I don’t know that writing this will accomplish that.

I just wanted to tell you why I didn’t want to go.

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People, Travel

I met a woman on a plane


She fumbled with her seat belt. Nervously mashing one piece of the buckle into the other, shaking so vigorously it could have been mistaken for a poor joke.

She finally clicked the metallic pieces in. Airline belts are like the dodo bird, unusual in nature and generally useless. Still shaking, she shifted in her tiny, long seat. Turning her head to look out the window but never really seeing. There was too much on her mind. Flustered she would appear to the man who hesitantly sat next to her.

Every few seconds she would clear her throat. Not too loudly but just enough for him to consider sly ways to change seats.

As she sat there feeling nothing, staring at nothing, she overheard women behind her talking about a teaching program.

“My son does that.

“Sorry to butt into your conversation, it’s just a select few who are chosen. You ladies have a nice flight.”

“No, please. Join us!”

“No really. You see, my father died today. At 11 am. He lived a great 91 years.

“But anyway, I’m not very cheerful right now.

“Thank you.”

She actually said this all incredibly cheerfully. Ironically even. But she didn’t notice. All she wanted to do was sleep. Sleep it all away.

Maybe some cold OJ would help. Not peanuts, no.

It’s disorienting when your mind is completely bare but your heart is heavy with pressure.

Is it still beating? Or is that pounding in my head?

The OJ didn’t help with her shaking.

He shut the air vent.

Is it cold? I can’t remember the feeling.

She touches her neck absentmindedly, surprising herself with the feeling of skin on skin. His hadn’t felt like any skin she had touched before. But it reminded her what cold was. Now she needed to hold herself from shaking too hard again.

She had frizzy, curly, dark, short hair. She wore glasses with a titanium rim. Round and wide like her. Jewelry that matched. Gold earrings, three rings, a gold bracelet, and a gold, half moon shaped necklace with diamonds in it. She was married but alone.

Big belly, boney knees, big ears, normal sized hands. She was wearing khaki shorts and a sky blue shirt with a white, patchy, brush print.

The experience of sitting by a window on a plane is completely dependent on the time of day and how close you are to the wing. When it’s utterly pitch black, sitting by a window can feel like being in space or having your eyes closed.

She remembered when she was a young girl she loved sitting in her closet in complete darkness and opening her eyes as wide as possible. And then closing them tightly. Reaching, straining to make the shapes she knew were there appear.

Whiffs of white, brushes of pink, lightning blue.

Thinking back it occurs to her that those colors and lights never existed. They were made up by her mind because she wanted to see something in the darkness so badly.

Now as she stares out the airplane window that yearning returns. She closes her eyes tightly, and clenches her fists, wanting to see something in the darkness. Wanting to feel something else in her heart.

woman

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People

The people of Boston : David


So I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Boston this week during a conference for work. There is never quite enough time to actually see the city when you’re at a conference but we were afforded some breaks. On one of my breaks I walked down Boylston St. to the place I had read about so much online.

Bolyston St
I sat on the side of a public library merely steps away from where the Boston marathon finish line is etched in the ground (fun fact, this library is the first publicly supported municipal library in the United States). As I watched people walk by I tried to get a feel for the city and Bostonians. I wondered if I took away the landmarks, the buildings, would I still be able to tell this was Boston.

There are some obvious things. Boston Red Sox hats are literally everywhere. Really Boston swag in general. This is a city of sports fans if I’ve ever seen one. The other obvious thing was the abundance of amazing runners. Just fantastic form everywhere you looked and you don’t see that a lot.

But hats and running shoes don’t define a people.

So what really makes a Bostonian?

Sitting on the side of this building next to me were a couple of guys. I mustered up the courage to ask one of them if he was from here.

“Sowta, I was born in Provincetown but I’eh been heea fo’ a while. Why are you lookin’ for somethin’?”

I can still here the thick Bostonian accent, although I can’t do it justice. But it was beautiful. It was also incredibly kind and refreshing of him to ask if I needed help. Even before I said anything else he offered to help. Not everyone does that.

I asked him what made a Bostonian. What characteristics made up the people here?

David was his name. He opened his eyes wide and backed up against the wall a bit furrowing his brow and thinking. He had the clearest, brightest blue eyes I have ever seen. I was a bit entranced by them. So blue, you could see the lines of almost white mingled in. Clear and so reminiscent of ice cold water, I swear I felt a chill when I looked into them.

“You know it’s really diffwent eveewhere, east side, west side, south side. They’re all diffwent.”

But he finally decided on an answer –generosity.

“I’m homeless and I’eh been t’rough some things, but you’ll neva go hungry in this city. Bostonians are incwedibly generous. More than in any other city I’eh been.”

The man sitting next to him, who I assumed was his friend by the way they were talking and walked up together, nodded in agreement. His eyebrows raised and his palms open as if to say, “Of course, I should have thought of that.”

“I just got cleaned up last week and so I’ve been asking people for dolla’s. You know I need to make appointments and cleaning up is hawd because you don’t want to get caught up you know, skipping the twain. But it’s hawd, you need money for that.”

I wasn’t sure what David meant by cleaned up, but I could understand needing money to get around and get things done. It reminded me of how my father always gave money to people asking for it and how my mother always told him they were probably just going to buy booze with it.

“That’s not on me, it’s on them,” he would say. I feel like David was showing me what we all really hope is happening when we give someone in need some spare change.

“And you know I read an article in the newspapa the otha day that said Bostonians were not nice people. I don’t know where they got that from.

“Anotha thing is pride. Bostonians have a lot of pride, even before the whole marathon thing,” he said pointing to the finish line just feet away.

“Yea so that’s what I would say.”

I have to admit I didn’t have the greatest first impression of Boston and Bostonians. The cab driver I had from the airport was cold and angry which was terrifying. He wouldn’t talk to me and I’m pretty sure he screwed me on the fare. But maybe he just wasn’t from Boston.

I’m glad I got to talk to David. I’m glad I took a walk down Bolyston St. even with all the madness of the conference. And I’m glad he convinced me Bostonians are nice people.

David

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People

To less improvident actions


I spent a lot of time thinking about the word improvident the other day. Ironically.

There are a number of things we collectively seem to do mindlessly. Drunk driving. Hitting the snooze button. Tying our shoes. Saying, “How are you?” when we don’t mean it. Having children.

So what are we thinking about?

According to the American Time Use Survey released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we’re not.

Naturally, we spend a good chunk of our time working. Employed persons work an average of 7.7 hours on the days they work, reports the BLS. They don’t cover sleep, but I’m guessing we’re all aware it’s generally the second longest thing we do all day.

For most people, that’s half the day. Gone.

But let’s try to stay positive and think of the glass being half full. And if you’re a realist then go ahead and say it’s half empty but at least pretend it’s vodka so there can be an up side.

The rest of the day is generally split among household activities, leisure activities and/or childcare.

The BLS lists leisure activities such as watching TV, socializing, and exercising. They report that on an average day, nearly everyone aged 15 and over engages in some sort of leisure activity. That’s 96 percent. So you can safely bet that pretty much everyone you know, either watches something, talks to someone, or engages in physical activity each day.

Well now that’s not so bad. I made it sound pretty mundane with work and sleep taking up half your day right? But now you have other fun stuff to look forward to.

Except, watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time, 2.8 hours per day, accounting for about half of leisure time, on average, for those age 15 and over, reports BLS.

improvident

And it hasn’t moved over the years. It’s been that way since 2003, with a slight drop in 2011 to 2.7 hours per day but raised again in 2012.

Now you’re probably nodding your head and saying something like, “That, and fried twinkies are what’s wrong with this country.”

That’s kind of what I thought too. But what if I were to tell you that a recent Gallop poll reports 55 percent of Americans turn to television as their main source of news?

In 2012 the United States saw a 17 point increase in voter turnout rate compared to the 2010 General Election Turnout Rates. I’ve been looking for stats on recorded protests in the U.S. in 2012 but haven’t managed to track any down.  I still have a feeling it’s higher than years past.

I will forever mourn the days when people read more and talked more about ideas with one another. But I’m going to be an idealist for a moment and actually suggest that maybe we are thinking more as a society. Yes, we’re staring at screens a lot, but we’re also more outspoken. Through voting and protesting and stirring up a ruckus on Twitter, it seems we’re at least starting to care more about the world around us and that means we’re thinking.

Here’s to less improvident actions.

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People, Uncategorized

First world car problems in your twenties


I’ll admit it, I didn’t know how good I had it. I was car spoiled.

I don’t mean I had a fancy car. It wasn’t even a new car. And my parents endlessly reminded me that they owned the car and that letting me drive it was a favor. As if I was going to steal it like a common criminal.

But my dad did make sure it was always in proper order. He could put a Lohan car victim back together again. I mean he is that good. He would change my oil, spark plugs, deal with the tires, vacuum it, everything.

Back in 2011, I was lucky to have gotten an internship at a nonprofit called Keep Houston Beautiful. If any of you are from Houston, you know what a death trap Allen Parkway turns into when it rains. It’s like the Indy 500 and someone has put baby oil on your wheels. The city even carved out grooves in the road but that didn’t really help. So inevitably, I hydroplaned on my way back from work one rainy day and flipped over medians. I screamed my face off as an incoming car landed cozily in the middle of my vehicle.

Seriously though, I just did a google search for allen parkway and this was the number two result: Hummer flips, kills driver on Allen Parkway.

The car was still drivable but I was shaken and even more terrified to make the call to my parents. There were pieces hanging off, all the tires were flat, the back door looked like it had been sat on by Wreck it Ralph and to top it all off, the police officers thought my hysterical ugly crying was hilarious.

Still, my dad rejuvenated this piece of metal like a phoenix rises from the ashes. He should be on Pimp My Ride. I made him watch an episode with me once and he pretty much muttered “I can do that, that’s not hard,” the entire time.

Fast forward two years.

I drove that baby half way across the country. We’re adventuring all over Southern California and we couldn’t be happier.

I don’t have an actual picture but if I did, it would look something like this.

or this

The honeymoon phase had lasted a long time. I think I knew this in the back of my mind but I was too busy getting carried away by my car — literally. So when she started malfunctioning, I figured those were just her little quirks and I would love them just the same.

I’m an idiot.

When your car does weird things, call a professional. Hell call anyone who has ever talked to you about cars for more than 10 minutes. I feel like this is a PSA.

Alright, alright. It was just the battery. I could handle that. But two trips to Auto Zone, a new battery and a bum wheel proved me wrong. This was the most painful adulting I had done in a while. In college it was about paying taxes correctly, budgeting, learning to tip, building credit and learning the value of a dollar.

But now it was about learning that the world looks at you differently. You’re not a kid anymore and therefore you’re not immune to it’s sporadic inconveniences that sting like lemon juice in a paper cut. Everything can seem great and suddenly you’re out $443 the same week you accidentally get a parking ticket and some jerk steals your bike.

And it’s all because you’re so much closer to being a real adult than when you first  joined the ranks of the Y Generation, feeling valiant but proceeding uncouthly.

Last year it was all, “who am I?” “I say yes to adventure and the occasional day-drink” and now it’s all “I’m making my own natural almond bars and biking to work because I respect the environment and my wallet.”

This mundane incident reminded me that while my hangover tolerance is plummeting, the single gray hair count is rising and I’m one year closer to dropping the early from my semi-broad age definer, I can still embrace the haphazard parts of being a young adult.

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People

An explanation of my first 5 seconds of consciousness


On the weekends I have more time to contemplate how much I hate being woken up in the wrong way.

To most people my ailment might bear the same characteristics of the minor discomfort they too feel each morning. But for me, it is much more than that.

It’s an irrational feeling of abandonment in my most vulnerable moment that catalyzes disdain, anger and vengeance . The emotions that feel like they’re erupting from my chest and seeping into my arms and head are so loud and bright I have to squeeze my eyes tightly just to get through it.

My body declares war against the transgressor. She convinces me this is treason, punishable by things I can’t even summon in my mind yet because I’m barely processing how to walk again.

If the body didn’t need it, I think I would rather not sleep. Maybe once a month.

When you’re a child, fairytales and magic are promised in dreams. That’s where they live and you can only visit. That’s why babies giggle so much and their cheeks are so rosy. Happy dreams are an elixir and children are drunk all the time.

But just like healthcare, it all gets taken away or changes when you’re around 25.

You’re dreams are more often nightmares, if you can remember them at all. I had an incredible imagination as a child and its evil sister reigns over my sleep-thoughts now. Lately she’s been incredibly stressful and if my dreams were really a person, I would have taken out a restraining order already.

Every morning is different. It’s like getting off of a plane and not knowing what awaits me at baggage claim. The suitcase could be full of sadness, of loss. Or it could just be discomfort. I really hate that one.

I know I can’t have it both ways. Mornings can either be mundane or exciting. At least this way it’s always different and I start the day with an acute self awareness.

Maybe that’s really why I’m so picky about how I’m woken up. Because those first moments of consciousness out from under duress are like rain on the skin or gasping for air. I want to have enough time to process what has just happened to me without getting swept up in where my other sock went or how late I am.

I think those close to me will still picture the head on the cave of wonders when they wake me up. But if anyone else exhibits these symptoms upon waking, you’re not alone.

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People, Travel

The people and city of Los Angeles


This past weekend I was in Los Angeles cheering on a great man in the LA Marathon. To see blubbering photos of said man go here.

We  biked around a lot of  downtown Los Angeles. It made me miss home. There’s just something about a big city that makes me deeply happy.

cold pop man

hot dog vendor

banana

train

waiting

pinata

food trucker

girl

brb

tree and birds

night art

last

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