Where is this all going?

I wonder about a time long ago when mid-20s was also mid-life. I wonder what kind of wisdom someone living in that world could impart on me if their view was that their life was half over. Could they tell me where this is all going?

The answers don’t seem so simple anymore. Grow up, learn something, get married, have a kid, help your kids have kids, vacation, and then you’re done. So many people who have lived so many more years have remarked how young I am; it’s a statement that is pregnant with meaning in a different language. I only hear the sounds of a certain expectation that becoming un-young would somehow reveal.

Well, I’m lost. Maybe more lost than I have ever been, and I have had my fair share of aimless wanderings. For many years I felt I merely existed in the world as a corporal mass of water and biology. Joy was a stranger; Misery my sole companion. Now having become acquainted with Joy and announcing my misgivings over Misery, I wonder what is the point?

What is the point of chasing a happiness around that behooves me, tricks me, mocks me? Like a child it tells me enchanting stories and invites me to play, sings a sweet song and whispers in my ear.

Then it disappears.


Waking Up From the Dream

With every happy chapter that has ever had the incidence of wounding up in my book comes the sad tale of recovery. I don’t have a terrible life by any means, but I do have a rather poor view of it. It is itself a terrible habit and one which I struggle to make right. After all, what are we living for if only for the emotions which make us feel alive.

Thinking of the hazy future has forced us to wake up from our little dream, and here reality presents it’s stark truth. He is moving away and starting a new life in two weeks’ time and again we come to a cross roads. This man who had previously inflicted so much pain in my direction with a simple dismissal; he had so many other things to worry about. Now the patterns emerge, and like the details which are uncovered after re-reading a favorite novel, I understand him all the more thoroughly.

His choice seems clear: old habits die hard. I don’t blame him. But now faced with my own familiar thoughts creeping in through the cracks of my armor – of self-effacing pain, abandonment, and rejection, can I break the cycle?

Waking up from this dream means confronting my own nightmares; they were never easy creatures.

Facing Home for the Holidays

I am feeling equal parts excited to be going home and dreading what faces me there. The same comfort of the usual faces and places present the same haunting visions of a painful childhood, a mystery I have yet to uncover. I’ve had this curious feeling every arrival since I officially left home five years ago, and the same mixture of sadness and relief at departing… Of course, finding some type of serenity when I spy the familiar sites of New York City.

Home will always be the key to understanding how I continue to function in the world around me. It is a microcosm of existence that we carry with us everywhere; as it is said, the home is where the heart (and heartache) is.

As I said in my previous post, there’s just no cookie cutter life anymore so in some ways we need not worry whether our futures will be right or wrong. Just as life is this way, I’ve learned in the last year that our family life, upbringing, the very things that have shaped our view of the world – they are no more right and wrong than how brightly the sun and moon shine. As I draw closer to home, I try to gather all the feeling of empathy and understanding in the nucleus of my heart. I have hurt just as much as I’ve been hurt, with the same unintentional consequences. It is the way we play God – determining outcomes and affecting others in such a way as to draw out certain actions.

As the miles close in, I try to accept all of the sadness and misery that came out of this place as merely a fact of my youth. It is a truth, but it is not a universal truth. It does not determine all that I am now or will become – nor does it for everyone else, for you. The faces and places
might still be the same, but must our estimation of them be the same as well?

To get over our fear of the dark, we must spend time in the darkness and realize that, without fail, the day begins anew every morning.

Life isn’t ideal anymore

I don’t have any stats to back this up, so based entirely on perception: there’s no such thing as the cookie cutter family. More frequently there are homes comprised of a single parent, or the mix from divorced and remarried parents. The family unit has gradually evolved beyond bloodlines and has expanded to include increasingly more people who were not raised in the same household, perhaps were even born in another country, and who do not align perfectly with our racial stereotypes.

As a society we have barely caught up in this realization. When we are faced with an example of our own biases, the thought is hardly available to us. A few years ago I hosted a happy hour event for fellow graduates of a leadership program I was involved in. Amid taking attendance, I asked a tall black man what his name was. His response caught me off guard – he had an Asian last name. Those around me chuckled quietly at my confusion, and not knowing what the gist was, I simply asked for his ID. Yup, he was right about his own name! Well for sure I was embarrassed by my own assumptions but thankfully he was forgiving of my blatant profiling. Ever since that moment I’ve tried to remember that the world is changing and very soon our old assumptions will fail us.

I have mixed nephews and nieces whose parents have told me how strangers have reacted to seeing them together. More often than not, Mom is asked if she is the babysitter. It makes me wonder how new parents will handle the development of their children’s identities. Since we are just entering the age where mixed race couples are accepted as part of the norm, how could parents with homogenous family backgrounds possibly understand what it means for their children to grow up in a mixed family?

A nephew of mine was raised in a rather dysfunctional household. Namely that the parents were young and unmarried, and so from an early age he was accustomed to living the double life of a child in separation. The stereotype of course would make you think this is a pitiful story, but in fact, he is so well-loved and accustomed to so much attention that he has said, point of fact, he’s had it easy.

I am coming upon that age where having children might well be something I will have to consider doing, with or without a partner of my own. I can’t predict the future, but I can think of several outcomes. No matter what happens, at least I know there’s no single ideal to live up to anymore.

One More Last Chance

Getting to know someone new can be a real challenge. I think getting to know someone all over again can be even more so. I’ve had a real chance to start over with someone I’ve had a huge falling out with. It’s not the first time I’ve had such an opportunity to make amends, and yet my previous experience fails me here.

I am no expert at relationships but I have been trying earnestly to learn from mistakes and undress the reasons we may have failed. The process involves a candid look at the way our personalities collide and discovering the methods I might have used to assuage a given situation. Doing so has made me understand myself and others in terms I can use in discussion, and has strengthened the relationships which have already weathered the storm.

In this particular case, I face a man who has alternately been my friend, coworker, lover, stranger, and enemy. We have had a tumultuous time of it – I blame it on timing – and miraculously we have come back to each other one final time. Final because eventually enough bad history will close the doors on us. I’m hopeful though.

My main dilemma is the reestablishment of trust. Some people are giving of their hearts and lend themselves to vulnerability. I admire these people because fear does not stop them from giving wholly of themselves even as heartbreak fills their storybook. It is hope that is their shield, as opposed to the fear.

Fear is dictating my interactions with this man, since I seldom give up any part of myself. This might seem a sad and lonely ordeal, but the fact is I find complete comfort in myself. Of course this is no way for a person to survive, I will give you that. Unfortunately in all my analysis I have not found it all that possible to forget the past and all the pain with it. Equally as vivid is the joy, and with all my heart I hope this final try is indeed final.

And so I ask, if a person previously in your life expresses to you a long-held wish to reconcile, that the old feelings have never abated, that perhaps this in itself is worth something – what view could you have?

What’s mine? Fear, hope, absurd ecstasy brimming with insecurity! Oh well, that’s what makes life so interesting.


A How-Two Guide for Life

I am a big fan of how-to guides. I think it’s absolutely amazing to be able to do a quick google or YouTube search for instructions on things you never had an idea of how to do. With the help of such guides, I was able to install curtain rods and shelves in my apartment all on my own. Granted one of the shelves fell off the wall from the sheer weight of all the goods I put on it, but that’s more an issue of over self-confidence in heretofore unknown skillz than it is poor instruction or poor execution.

Learning is at its most basic level posed in this way. I think of how my very first nephew, an adult now, would mimic me whistling or snapping his fingers and, producing the desired result, gave him so much pleasure he was happy to repeat these feats for you on command. I know all children are that way, and perhaps that is the way we can ever hope to retain any part of our youth. To be young is to be curious because those newer to the world assume nothing of their own knowledge, and are not ashamed for any lack of it.

These are the things which comprise a “bucket list” for many people – they are individual goals of adventurous types or a skill or an accomplishment. Most of the list might well be exotic places to go on vacation, but to each his own! Thank goodness a person has anything to look forward to, because life could seem so meaningless without it. In point of fact, I think in all our grand scheming we forget to fill our lives with items on our mini “bucket list” which will make life so much easier and our dreams so much more attainable. Without mini goals, our dreams may seem too lofty for reality and I as much as any other have found myself in that mind trap.

So here’s a little how-to for all the people who have found a moment of pointlessness in their lives: be curious your entire life through.


The Art of Being a Woman

The workplace is a relatively new place for women. It may not seem that way since it has become more common and more accepted to hire women for various roles this day and age. And why not? We’re good at almost anything! It’s a wonder why there aren’t more competent women in plain view, whether in government or as senior executives and the like. (One thing I’ve always wondered is why the world of food and cooking is so dominated by men – women have been particularly practiced in this area for a while no?) Women only entered the workforce in a big way during WWII, just over 75 years ago, and haven’t left since.

So being the new guy (er, woman) has its challenges and one which continually perplexes me is that little problem called attitude. Or maybe anger. I’ve found that anger and attitude seldom have space in the workplace for a woman, and anyone in the workforce can attest to the multitude of situations that can lead to such feelings. In a man, these qualities might be cherished as long as they don’t get out of control. It might even be a promotable quality, but never ever in a woman. In fact, the women I have seen in positions of power are stoic. They seem almost to have lost their femininity and have replaced it with a thin layer of meanness. Well, I use the word lost because it’s my opinion that all women are inherently feminine, even while adopting masculine traits.

The truth is male dominance in the world has given rise to a peculiar duality in women of our generation. Gone are the stockings and requisite red lipstick. You can wear a three-piece suit and still look like an attractive woman – in fact, it’s preferred! But in order for anyone to take a woman seriously, in order for a woman to go really far, she has to keep her cool.

I’ve never been a good example of calm in the face of adversity. How I feel shows up transparently on my face in any given circumstance. I have been known to have shouting matches with mostly male colleagues at the office. I just don’t particularly enjoy being patronized or enduring the kind of arrogance that’s so prevalent everywhere. So I marvel at women who have found a way to manage their cool – they are imposing in an ever so slight a way. They can be exacting without being an all out bitch, and they garner respect not just for their title but for their aptitude and intelligence.

Women are unfairly characterized as over-emotional and irrational. When the story is written by men, of course the woman is silly. But I counter this with the number of highly insensible decisions and actions that have been made just in recent weeks: take for instance, the rogue traders of the world taking on much too much risk for the glimmer of a hope of extreme profit. Seems pretty nonsensical to me. Or as another example, the recent decision by Congress that the tomato sauce on pizza can be considered a vegetable is a hilarious one. (For the record I know Congress is a mix of the sexes, but majority rules in this case.) Now, that’s silly.

Managing your cool, then, is not simply an act of breathing deeply and being zen. In order to get to the top, a woman has to continually toe the line between being a woman and acting like a man – and that is an art.