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  • Maui Memories

    Nearly one year ago, I wrote about a recent trip to Maui - my first to Hawaii. I can remember wanting to write much more, but I never got around to it and have been carrying around two sheets of paper ever since. Here's what I wrote down.

    May 2, 2013

    My trip to Maui was fantastic and I'm once again reminded how lucky I am to have friends all over the country and world to stay with. Yes - it's because I have put myself in situations to make friends with interesting people that just Go Do, but I need to express gratitude for being part of the circle I'm in.

    This excursion was as close to spontaneous travel as I've ever done in that I said, "I've never been to Hawaii, so why don't I just book a flight?" It did help that I was tipsy and being encouraged by a cute girl at the bar (who checked up on me to make sure I booked my flight), but I get the feeling this is just the beginning. Book flights when you're drunk, you guys. You can figure out all the pesky, little details later. For me, those details were a place to stay and I figured worst case (or best case) scenario, I'd just Airbnb it. Luckily, my pal Jenna was cool enough to let me crash on her futon and hang, which was great because she'd been living the island life for 18 months and could show me a better local experience.

    Now, Maui's fucking gorgeous but I'm always interested in the locals where I travel. If I don't spend enough time doing that, the trip feels incomplete. Knowing Jenna, I got to meet a handful of her friends and everyone was fuckin' ace. Beyond the island charm, I was surprised that they were inviting ME to join them in activities just hours after meeting them. The dudes wanted me to play football with them and nearly every girl I met greeted me with a smile, friendly kiss on the cheek and genuine interest in who I was. I learned local slang (like kanak attack) and was encouraged to jump off dangerously sharp lava rocks (but with tips on how to not kill myself). They took me to a nude beach with drum circles and fire dancing because it's something I had to see there. Well, I Imagine they wanted to see boobies too. Seriously though, I felt like family within a few hours. In an age where people complain about not being able to make friends after college, I know it's rare.

    It's sad this isn't the case everywhere I've lived (only San Diego was kinda like that to me), but I take notice of stuff like that. I wonder what I did to make this possible. I have this bad habit of beleiving I live in a place after a short stay, but I couldn't help but think I could get used to this life. I really could.

  • Cough drop philosophy

    Last night I took a cough drop to supress an itchy throat that had kept me up far too long the night before. As the lozenge dissolved and coated my throat in menthol, I glanced down at the wrapper and noticed some not so subliminal messages Halls had chosen to appeal to consumers and affirm their purchase decison.

    A pep talk in every drop. Get back in the game. You've survived tougher. Buckle down and push forth.

    It sounds well-meaning or perhaps just stock quotes you'd expect from a high school football coach, but for me it signaled just how prevalent the values of powering through and taking pride in long work hours are in American culture. Even when it makes no sense.

    I can't go for that anymore. All it seems like to me is blind acceptance and I can't help but think there's something fundamentally wrong with that. Why is life for so many here nothing more than a never-ending quest of working hard, achieving goals and making money at whatever cost to our physical and mental health? I find nothing wrong with working hard given we believe in what we're doing, but if we're completely honest, a frightnening number of us are doing bullshit jobs that are fed to us and swallowed because we accept this American identity.

    I don't know if we got here from lingering Puritan ethics, capitalist design or chance circumstance (and it doesn't even matter), but I think it's important to be aware there are other philosophies we can learn from. One such example is this talk from a Thai farmer who has a radically different view on work, life and happiness than the Western world. So much so that (predictably) one commenter oversimplifies and dismisses his views as laziness in Thai culture.

    I constantly think about the bullshit jobs phenomenon because I see it everywhere I look, but one thing I want to adapt from this talk (even thought it's a small part of the overall message) is the thinking that when the body is sick, it's actually a message that we've done something wrong (for the most part) and need to heal it, whether that means rest, changing our diet or what we allow to stress us out. It's so very different to the norm of blaming other people's germs (in the office or on public transit) and correcting maladies through stimulants to power us through the day for productivity's sake.

    I understand that some of you reading this will dismiss this as anti-Western sentiment (and maybe it is), but what is wrong with questioning the status quo when we are a nation of peoples whose history is just that? The type of disruption I'm seeking is not merely relegated to a select industry, but on a much larger scale because I don't believe things are working so well. Like everything though, change starts on an individual level so it's time for me to shut up, stop preaching and practice what I've learned.

  • It's Very Much Up To You How Awesome Your Life Is

    One aspect of human nature that's interesting to study is how many of us would rather blame other people or circumstances for our problems than take personal accountability.

    There are relatively harmless examples like blaming public transportation or traffic for being late. Somehow, it's never a failure on our part to give ourselves some extra time, get up half an hour earlier or not waste 20 minutes online when we should have gotten out the door. I get that we say these things for social reasons and it's not the most comfortable thing to admit mistakes. In fact, it would be pretty strange to disclose the actual reasons we're sometimes late because it'd be things like feeling insecure about a bad hair day or something even more ludicrous.

    But how does this denial help us other than winning momentary forgiveness? You might say it's unprofessional or too much information, but I would find it refreshingly honest if someone told me that they were late to work because a really cute girl on Ok Cupid looked at their profile and they wanted to make some edits to said profile before crafting a coherent first message. That's actually me telling you what happened to me, but I like to think that if you told me something not entirely dissimilar, I might find it endearing.

    The more problematic manifestation of blame comes with serious issues. Let's take health care as an example. There's no question it's an incredibly frustrating system and that people are financially ruined by freak accidents, but it seems like all everyone is interested in is throwing blame around. It's always politicians, insurance companies or doctors at fault and we rarely consider that many of us hold a significant amount of control over our health through diet and lifestyle. This isn't me discounting that some people are very unfortunate in their genetics, luck or upbringing, but we do know that many conditions and illnesses are avoidable.

    Wise people understand this. It's not that they don't care about others or think that health care shouldn't be a human right. It's not that they've given up on making progress in this area. They're just smart (and realistic) about what can make the biggest impact. In this case, they're almost completely in charge of living a healthy lifestyle and it just so happens it's a far more effective strategy than medicine or waiting for polarized congresspeople to fix things for them.

    What's great about getting this is that you can take it and apply it to almost any part of your life. Instead of blaming other people or circumstances for why you don't have a better paying job, get to travel or aren't in a relationship, you learn to take accountability. Invest in yourself. Try making some adjustments and see if anything changes. It might work out, it might not, but pretending you are powerless certainly isn't going to get you there.

    It's human nature to keep on blaming others for the things that go wrong in your life, but we're better than that. The way I see it is that we're the lucky ones. Humans are probably the only species that are so self-aware and malleable to evolve (not just after thousands of years) but over a lifetime or a couple years. Be aware of the next time you blame someone or something and ask yourself what you have control over. It's in your best interest and might actually be far more effective for getting what you want.

  • My Resolution Is Still A Work in Progress and That's Okay

    There are lots of things I'd like to get better at in 2014. I want to get really good at dancing and write with reckless abandon. I'd like to do more public speaking and put myself in a position to land a gig at a creative conference. I want to prioritize being offline because I believe that's where the magic happens.

    But if I have to pick one thing, it's getting better about communicating what people in my life really mean to me. About a year and a half ago I realized how many opportunities I pass up to let the important people in my life know how I feel about them. I can't just assume they're mindreaders.

    Today we have tools where we can conveniently feign interest or support. People judge and try to quantify their social worth in likes, retweets and non-stop texting. While the attention feels great at first, that kind of feedback is ultimately unsatisfying. It's kind of like settling for a bag of potato chips (yes, even kettle-cooked) when what your body wants and needs is a well-balanced meal. It lacks substance.

    Even if I'm irreparably flawed or being harsh on myself, I still suspect there are others out there feeling the same way. In fact, since we're all more similar than different, I know so. We're never really alone no matter how we're feeling.

    I've always felt like I don't get quite enough of the encouragement I need. I do have people who can be counted on for this, but it's still not enough. This doesn't mean I'm looking for people to tell me how great I am; sometimes I need a healthy reminder that I could be so much more than I am. That kind of push is often way more memorable, even if it hints at wasted potential.

    It's likely that many of us could do with more encouragement, so why aren't we getting it? For lack of a better explanation, I think it's not always socially acceptable or a risk we're willing to take. You might want to tell someone in your life that there's something you really admire about them, but never get around to doing it. It can be scary to communicate these feelings when not everyone is so great at taking a compliment. We're not sure if someone can take constructive criticism even when it's well-intentioned and aimed at helping them. Hell, sometimes we just don't want to talk about feelings.

    These are ridiculous reasons though. When I think about the times where someone did go out of their way to give me encouragement or helpful criticism it meant the world to me. And you know what, maybe that's a sign that I've gotten my share of encouragement. I can think of times where I've attempted to do the same for someone, but also many occasions in which I've held back. It makes me sick because I could have been really helpful to someone without much effort. They were missed opportunities.

    Since we can't go back in time, the only question worth asking is what can be done going forward. We can't directly control the encouragement given to us, but I do think we can be models to facilitate it happening more often. I'm a firm believer in putting as much good as you can into the world and trusting the universe to provide. It will in some way, just not in the ways you'd expect or in a timely manner.

    I'm picking one person a month to encourage. It doesn't have to be crazy-intensive, although you should know that I'm fed up with convenience. It could be an honest compliment or an unexpected gift. It could be reminding someone who is talking about how great someone is to actually tell that person because they might have no idea you feel that way. And if you still don't think they're going to do it, telling that person about the nice things being said behind their back (because that happens too). When you get encouragement, accept it graciously and thank the giver. Resist the urge to pass it off as no big deal because that invalidates the way the giver feels.

    I hope you'll join me. Because maybe instead of making superficial goals to improve our income or looks, we could give more to the people in our lives that just need an extra little push.

  • Of Bikes and Men (and Women)

    Today there was an article in the SF Chronicle about how bicycling has skyrocketed in the city since 2006. The city of San Francisco has done a tremendous amount to make SF more bike-friendly, but I still need to speak my mind on the ire I'm seeing against the biking community. In a sentence, I just wish people were more reasonable and quit with the us versus them mentality. We have to co-exist.

    Yes, there are bikers that break traffic laws and make driving difficult. But if we hypothesize that there are roughly the same percentage of asshole drivers as bikers, it's reasonable to say there are more awful drivers since there are more people driving (and there's no outrage about that?). Yet, there’s still this pervasive attitude that "those bicyclists" are all scum that look something like this.

    Seriously, calm down with the prejudices. What's worse is hearing stories like this where people are trying to intentionally injure cyclists. Nothing warrants a fit of rage behind the wheel of a potentially deadly weapon.

    Look, I’ve driven in cities too. It IS kind of annoying to drive around bicyclists in narrow streets and worry about hitting them. But you have to remember ownership of steel on wheels does not give you special privileges on the road. I remind myself that bikers are doing us a favor by using less oil, easing congestion, and should be respected for engaging in physical activity when our country is so overwhelmingly ill.

    Now does this excuse blatant disregard for the laws and a lack of mutual respect for automobiles? Of course not. Can we expect everyone to live in some kind of biking utopia? No. But like almost every problem we have, it comes down to a lack of empathy. Drivers need to understand there are situations where bicyclists shouldn't really need to come to a full stop. Bicyclists need to understand how frustrating and dangerous it is to drivers when you assume right of way regardless of the situation.

    Something I do like is the current campaign coming out of Pittsburgh for bicycle safety. It humanizes the people on the bicycles as mothers, fathers, children, or your best pal so that all bicyclists aren't villified for the actions of a few. Bicyclists should think the same of drivers. They aren't all monsters on some murderous rampage, but the same friends and family that make our communities what they are.

    I love biking around because it's a simple joy that gives me mobility, exercise and allows me to make a positive contribution to city. It doesn't mean I have a free pass to do whatever the hell I want, but both sides just need to cooperate more.