18 Sep '17  — Flavors of freedom
Today I read about a couple who lives a Victorian lifestyle. Sarah Chrisman washes up in a bowl and pitcher every morning. Gabriel Chrisman rides a high-wheel bicycle. They use a stash of ice in their ice box to cool milk and diary products.
I’ve had plenty of years imagining what it’d be like to live as a Victorian. My favorite American Girl was Samantha from 1904. Never have I thought it’d make sense to live that era out.
“We’re not trying to convince everyone to live the way we do. What we do want to convince everyone to do is to examine their assumptions and realize they’re in control of the way they live. They can choose a lot of their culture, their technology, their way of being.”
“And our big…real big push that we really really try to get across to people is, we want everyone to follow their dreams. It may not be the same dreams we have but we think everyone should go for them.”
Since I’ve started writing more by hand, I’ve become aware how technology shapes my life. With pen and paper, I’m not glued to a screen. I’m not a click away from going online. I can’t easily get distracted and my posture is different.
The physical act of preparing food also gets me thinking differently, far more than when I grab food outside. Restaurants are technology, it’s a way to outsource meal production to a place that serves meals fast. When I cook, there are moments where I’m watching the food sizzle. There’s time to reflect.
How do these choices relate to achieving my dreams? Although I found this couple odd at first, I agree with everything they say.
It’s easy to identify a dream as an end result: ‘My dream is to be wealthy. My dream is to be the mayor one day.’ Instead, dreams should answer ‘what do you want to do for the rest of your life?’ or ‘how do you want to spend your time each day?’
It takes a lot of effort to know what lifestyle you want. Figuring it all out at once is impossible, but slowly, I’ve picked some things out. I want to be in a place where I can think and write everyday, be close to nature, I want to be in a place where I can cook healthy food and be around people to share it. I also want a place where I can sit by the campfire and enjoy the moon and stars each night.
My dream doesn’t look anything like this couple’s, but the intention is the same: spend the rest of my days doing what I like.
13 Sep '17  — 'If only...'
My dad wishes he had gone to college. He talks about the times people offered him a job or promotion but was then denied once they was found out he didn’t graduate college.
Because he was denied a stable career, my dad had to be resourceful, find ways to get a steady stream of income to feed his family. He has the ability to make money much better than I ever will. I went to college and grad school.
Whenever I hear one of his stories, I always think, ‘if you went to school, you wouldn’t have been resourceful enough to be presented opportunities in the first place. That whole path would’ve always been denied.’
He’s remorseful about ‘missing out’. From my perspective, he was not going to get those opportunities even with a college degree. I, with my education, have never been offered a job without interview. Spending time studying, I didn’t have opportunities to be resourceful. He would have missed out with an education.
I haven’t been sleeping well. Mosquitos have never been in our apartment, but starting a few weeks back, a mosquito would buzz in my ear whenever they knew I was asleep. Waking me up, over and over, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting in bed.
There’s always some disturbance at night. When I first moved in, our neighbor wouldn’t stop stomping on the ceiling even in the middle of the night.
During the winter, there were sounds from the heater that kept us awake. One month in the summer, a neighbor of ours would start playing his piano at 2am. Then there are the people who had lengthy conversations in the courtyard. The walls of the building amplified their voices. I couldn’t escape.
I was pissed at the neighbor, the piano player, the people in the courtyard, the heater, the mosquitos. Each time I thought, if only these things weren’t making noise, I could get some sleep. If the heater would get fixed, I could sleep. If my neighbors would stop stomping I could sleep.
Somehow, there was always something new to disturb my sleep. I still have the same neighbor. Have I gotten immune to her steps? If the mosquitos went away, would I be undisturbed?
Perhaps there was no way around having a sleepless night. Just like my dad, who was not capable of getting on a stable career path, I am incapable of getting a good night’s rest.
Is it really the mosquitos?
12 Sep '17  — When to quit
In college I was jealous of my roommate.
‘How does she know when to break up?’ I wondered how she could be so mature.
During that time, I was in a dysfunctional relationship where I should’ve broken up. I was lazy, not ready to bear the volatility of single life. Letting the relationship drag, I liked the person less and less until I was completely repulsed.
I could have stopped earlier. We would have parted on positive terms.
My roommate had the foresight to know when to quit. She’d feel sad breaking up but it allowed her to improve her situation. I was inspired but too scared to live it.
A month ago, I came across a pair of blue linen pants at the bottom of my drawer. They look great but when I sat, they were a bit too tight to be comfortable. In the two years I’ve had them, never once did I wear them.
I couldn’t let them go. And these were not the only clothes that I had trouble with. I found a jacket, pants, several shirts and a few dresses…hadn’t touch them for years but couldn’t throw them out.
It was a hassle to move around my bedroom. My dresser drawers were too full to close. I’d run into them all the time.
Last weekend I broke up with all my extraneous clothing. It’s easy to start hating life when results of suboptimal choices linger.
Now I have so much space. I can actually choose my clothes rather than pick only from the top of the pile.
Why didn’t I do this earlier? How can I have the foresight to let go? I’d have to be more aware, notice what’s not working. Life CAN be better.
11 Sep '17  — Clearing room for a safe space
I used to keep my eyes on the sidewalk when I’d step out of my apartment. There’d be poop smears unpredictably splattered across the walkway.
Two doors away from me is a retirement home where an elderly couple lived with an elderly dog. The man is handicapped so the lady owner walks the dog three times a day. I’ve seen the dog come from the building seconds before spewing brown stuff out. The old dog was unable to control his bowel movements.
Dribbling brown liquid, all over the sidewalk. His owner can’t collect it. So she brings a bottle of water and tries to wash as much of it off the sidewalk.
Sometimes, she doesn’t have enough water. So there are brown globs left on the sidewalk. Some are pretty thick. The extremely wet globs could get pedestrians in a lot of trouble.
A couple weeks back I noticed that there weren’t brown stains or goopy pools. For the first time I could look up. Did the dog go on vacation? August is a time of get of the city.
I started seeing the dog’s owner in the neighborhood but she didn’t have her dog. She never leaves her house without that dog. He must have died.
As I pieced this together, I had an internal conversation.
“Yessss. The dog is dead!”
“Oh no. I can’t think that. What kind of person am I to think that?!”
“But why can’t I think that?”
“It’s bad to cheer somebody’s death.”
“But the dog was suffering. And he was living in a tiny apartment with these folks.”
“Yeah, I guess death can appropriately be considered a good thing. But I’m not suppose to think ‘Yes, finally that dog is gone’ for my own sake.”
“Because….people will think I’m a horrible person.”
I don’t allow myself to think certain things because other people will think bad of me. Even if they don’t hear my thoughts.
But I should be able to be free to think anything, especially frowned-upon perspectives and the politically incorrect. My head should be a safe space.
Somehow I’ve let others dictate the limits of my expression.
06 Sep '17  — A more effective way to persuade
‘Do you want to talk about your husband?’
Last season, on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Kim and Lisa, two of the starring housewives, were fighting at a dinner table.
Kim asked the question. Lisa threatened ‘Don’t you dare…’
‘What’s up with Lisa’s husband?’ It became a trending topic on twitter. I couldn’t help wonder.
Time went by and no one unearthed anything about Lisa’s husband. During that scene, I didn’t take into account the multiple cameramen in the room. That question brought in audience involvement.
Was Lisa reacting so angrily because she knew her marriage would be the topic of speculation? And not because there was some dark secret? If there was nothing happening, the audience would never be satisfied. People who come across the episode at any time would want to figure out what happened. There aren’t google searches on the drama and speculation that gets resolved, explained in the show.
I certainly did a few google searches. I found myself digging in because there was lack of information.
What was left out was louder than all the drama in the season. It remains memorable because there’s speculation. We’ll never know.
“Disinformation. That’s what the Russian’s do the best. It’s their bread and butter. “
“Meaning that they’re better at it than we are?”
“Why is that?”
“They’re cunning. At the moves and disinformation. And disinformation can come in many different forms. Some of which contradict the other ones thus giving more credence to the final line they want to push.” - via New York Radio Hour
Get to the point. Drive a message across clearly. I didn’t realize how Western these values were in methods of persuasion. I always thought being forward was the most effective way to communicate.
Clearly there are more striking ways to get a message across. Throwing people into a loop and having them piece together details, subtract and add to get to a conclusion, getting them to use their rational prowess–that’s more persuasive than telling them straight.
I’ve been thrown into such loops many times. I just don’t know when.
05 Sep '17  — It's not as bad as it seems.
“Flaubert was sceptical about trains because he thought (in Julian Barnes’s paraphrase) that ‘the railway would merely permit more people to move about, meet and be stupid.‘” - London Review of Books
This excerpt was referencing the effect of social media, how it gets people together on fake news or partial information and allows a crowd to run with it. I found the quote relatable in a different way.
I deleted my original account right before my 10 year anniversary on Facebook. All the messages, about getting lunch or hanging out on weekends, the pokes going back to 2004–disappeared. At the same time I deleted my Linked In. At least a thousand acquaintances I no longer had access to.
When traveling, my location was revealed in conversations I’d have in the comment sections or in photos I’d post. Friends would unexpectedly reach out. “Hey, I’m going to be in town for the next couple months.” I would also reach out to people I knew if they happened to visit a town I was in. Many of these people weren’t as close as my closest friends, but I shared fond memories with them. Of course I wanted to see them.
Not always, but often when meeting, it seemed like too much had past. The relevance of our being together seemed to make no sense. It felt pointless to spend time bitching about work with a former coworker. I really didn’t enjoy mentally embodying a younger version of me. Sometimes it felt like that was the only way to talk to someone I knew. Seeing a familiar face is nice, but spending time, trying to continue a relationship that didn’t have much glue–I started to see the pointlessness.
The roster of ‘friends’ was fulfilling the hoarder in me. The same part of me that can’t let go of things I own even if I hadn’t used them in years. “What if I need to contact them?” Not letting them go meant that I had less of a chance to meet new people. New friends I had yet to come across.
I was reassured from meetings with my closest friends. They don’t require me to be on their radar. There’s surprisingly enough glue between us for any meeting, years without being in touch. My relationships with them remained relevant.
Like the quote, I did feel stupid and I was perpetuating stupidity, wasting precious life. The friends that matter are always going to be in my life, regardless of how active I am on social media.
And future friends should matter just as much as old.
03 Sep '17  — Story of a bad day
After I failed to make pizza dough (4 hours of work that led to over fermented dough), my husband and I headed to my favorite pizza place. We were fifteen steps from the door when my husband started to walk intentionally slow. I was talking to him so I stopped.
It took me a moment to realize he was passively aggressively telling me to walk faster and not to stop. I started walking again, faster. He commented on my slow walking and mentioned how we stopped earlier. How was I incapable of walking and talking at the same time?
The passive aggressiveness that happened 15 steps in indicated to me that he was ready to pick a fight. I somehow didn’t consciously register. Instead, I got upset at how he got upset and reacted.
“Why can’t I walk slow? Why do we have to get there fast? Why don’t you walk ahead?” He responded by expressing the ridiculousness of my pace. I was walking normally, I thought. My husband didn’t offer ways of resolving the issue and I started to jog. I jogged all the way to the restaurant leaving my husband to walk by himself.
When he arrived, he wasn’t pleased. I ordered a bufala mozzarella pizza and sparkling water. My husband ordered a beer and a pizza with prosciutto. When his pizza arrived, we realized the server never put in my pizza order. Then my drink order got mixed up. My pizza came and it was the worst pizza I’ve had in Berlin. I nibbled at my husband’s pizza which was infinitely tastier.
This was my favorite pizza place. How could so much go so wrong. Sitting across was my husband, I made a few attempts to make my husband less upset. I was exhausted from spending 4 hours in the morning making pizza dough. Despite all my attempts, great pizza wasn’t going to happen.
“Okay, so that’s how it’s going to be today…” I started settling into having a bad day. But as I did, I realized more things went right than wrong. When I crossed the street, no random car ran me over, many have nearly done so in the past. My knee is operating today, sometimes it just doesn’t. And my lungs and heart are still miraculously working. The sidewalk didn’t cave in. That’s a lot of things that went right.
What seemed important, my pizza, my husband’s satisfaction with me, the sourdough I prepared, were only important after I established myself in a functioning body.
There are always going to be things that seem important. What’s important is not that they go right.
Whenever me and my husband are upset at each other, I make desperate attempts to try to clear things up. Explaining and sharing my feelings…extensively.
I’m somehow affected by tv shows and magazines that talk about how ‘couples need to communicate more.’ I desperately try to clear things up because I think it’s top priority. Today I realized it only seems this way.
I let it be. I apologized for jogging to the restaurant. He responded by saying he’d already forgiven me.
Later I realized that it’s when things don’t go right do I know how much my husband is willing to forgive and similarly when I have a chance to forgive. These are situations where we can actively love.
If you have to explain and clarify every single thing that could make another person satisfied, there would be an infinite number of things. Perhaps it’s unnecessary to get into the habit of over communicating.
I can’t be sure that there’s any faith unless there’s a leap to make.
01 Sep '17  — By looking, can you tell how loud a person's voice is?
Little is ever revealed, yet I always think I know the details
I was walking behind a petite woman. She was walking slowly, gently placing one foot in front of the other. We rounded a corner where she spotted her friend. Her voice cracked through the air. I was startled by how loud it was.
How did I jump to conclusions so fast? I made an assumption, that she’s a quiet woman, timid in personality. Look how she’s gently placing her feet down. Look how clean her white jeans are.
I was reminded of my ten day silent mediation retreat. Each day, from four am to ten pm I sat with the same women. I’d established early on that the lady to my left was a quiet person. Something about her presence made me believe so. On the last day, we finally got to speak. The lady was louder than anyone in the room.
The assumption I make about a person’s voice is just one assumption of many. Most likely, I make a dozen of assumptions about other things, whether they’re patient, careless, whether they like or dislike certain things. Their lifestyle preferences aren’t revealed as quickly as the volume of their voice. I don’t have as much of a chance of being proven wrong.
The process of jumping to conclusions about people happens unconsciously. I believe it’s the same mechanism men are accused of when they treat women differently.
I recently came across an article about two female entrepreneurs who created a fake male cofounder so that they could be taken more seriously.
“In many cases, the outside developers and graphic designers they enlisted to help often took a condescending tone over email. These collaborators, who were almost always male, were often short, slow to respond, and vaguely disrespectful in correspondence. In response to one request, a developer started an email with the words ‘Okay, girls…’”
“That’s when Gazin and Dwyer introduced a third cofounder: Keith Mann, an aptly named fictional character who could communicate with outsiders over email.”
“’It was like night and day,’ says Dwyer. ‘It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response and a status update, but also be asked if he wanted anything else or if there was anything else that Keith needed help with.‘” - Fast Company
I doubt that most of the men were consciously deciding: ‘oh it’s a woman. Let me deprioritize this request. Let me respond less professionally.’
I’m no different than these men who treat women less professionally, less important. As a woman I don’t jump to conclusions the same way men do, but I’m no less guilty for jumping to conclusions: whether someone is more or less reliable, how capable a person is. My assumptions, when pooled with others who make the same assumption, put a group at a disadvantage.
Perhaps I unconsciously make an assumption that people who wear too much perfume are more self-centered than others. I’m less likely to give them a fair chance. My viewpoint may be shared by many others and the compounded effect is that we don’t give people who wear too much perfume a fair chance. We may not be conscious of what’s driving our behavior, but the effect is the same: a group of people are not treated equal.
But an article titled “Two Overly Perfumed Humans Created a Fake Underly Perfumed Cofounder to Dodge Discrimination” just isn’t sensational enough to print.
There hasn’t been a movement to correct my sins.
31 Aug '17  — The anxiety never goes away
Growing up, my parents couldn’t afford much. I remember wearing coats two sizes too big. I wished that one day I’d be able to wear a coat my size. Like all the other girls.
My parents used their circumstance to make a point. They only spent money on important things, like books or anything we needed for school. Spending time and money on fashion was a waste, I could be using that energy towards my studies. It was good that I didn’t look good. It was good that I didn’t fit in.
Nowadays, my parents wish I had a real job. They wish very badly for me to fit in.
How can I, after tasting the benefits of not fitting in?
I’m glad I didn’t shop at the same places everyone else shopped. I’m glad my parents blocked me from living the quintessential suburban life. Later I found out that the students who always had new clothes had rich parents or they regularly shop lifted. Did I really need to fit into either group?
Today I am anxious about not fitting in. I do wish I had a decent job. The same anxiety from high school runs through me.
Having gone through the feeling before, I’m assured that everything is fine. If I don’t already fit in, there’s no need to.
31 Aug '17  — Power is from the People
I find myself worshipping different people in different moments in my life. There was a period of time where I couldn’t get enough of the spiritual leaders: Mooji, Gangaji and Adyashanti. Their ideas triggered an understanding in me and I joined others who followed them. “Tell me what to do with my life!”
I thought they were special. I assumed they were chosen ones who know exactly what to do and how to behave. But really, they were just regular people put under strange circumstances.
When I went to business school, there were classes I took on leadership training. I had to identify what others were driven by, figure out how certain types of people work, and understand dynamics in a group. Anyone could be a ‘leader’ by acquiring the right skills. But leaders I’ve come across (MLK, Gandhi, Steve Jobs), only came into being because of the people that congregate around the idea they represent. Not because they willed their leadership into existence.
A week ago I read Ellen Pao’s side of the story on her lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins. “My lawsuit failed. Others won’t.” She’s become the leader of feminism in Silicon Valley. In her article, she mentions that before her, other female executives who faced similar experiences brought up lawsuits against their firms.
I can’t help but think her timing and circumstance made her a leader. Start ups became as glamorous as filmmaking in Hollywood and the firm she was at was one of the most reputable. But more importantly, the story got press coverage because it was sensational. People were outraged that such behavior was happening in a reputable firm.
Enough people did not believe that sexual harassment of women should happen in a professional environment. Perhaps not enough people cared before, it wasn’t outrageous enough for papers to print the stories of women before.
Ellen’s status as a ‘champion of women’ relies on the beliefs of the public. Enough people thought her story was outrageous. Enough people discussed the ideas pertaining to her case, the ideas spread.
Unintentionally assigned, the leader is the one who can effectively represent an idea. Kleiner Perkins is tied both to the idea of Silicon Valley and the idea of a professional workplace. It’s been around for forty-five years and was an early investor in Google. Ellen went to Princeton and Harvard which qualifies her as the one of the most capable people and yet she’s discriminated against in our ‘meritocracy’. She is the perfect avatar to represent the idea of equality for women in the field of technology.
Maybe it’s human to assign leaders. I found it easier to worship the spiritual leaders I followed by acting like them. They seem to embody inner peace and perhaps if I walk and talk like them, I can also find inner peace. Now I know they just APPEARED to have inner peace, they may have not had it all along. But it felt good to know what to do. Copying them felt like I was inching towards the impossible goal. Perhaps leaders like Ellen help us feel like we’re inching towards the impossible goal of equality.
But it’s just a feeling.