Healthy habits

A few of us at the office are participating in a contest to see who can bring lunch from home every single day — until someone breaks the rule. The whole point of this is to encourage everyone to see how much money they can save just by not buying lunch every day, and potentially to be healthier because we’d likely be making our own lunches (or our respective live-in partners would).

One of my colleagues today said that a lot of the time, he just doesn’t have time during the weekend to buy groceries. “I had stuff to do this weekend,” he said. “I have places to be. I actually have a life! Sometimes, you just don’t have enough time to buy groceries for the entire week. That takes a lot of planning.”

Honestly, that statement made me more sad than it did make me annoyed because then, I thought of a woman I met about a week ago who says that she is so busy that all she does is make the same enchiladas every week for her children, and the rest of the week, she chooses from among four to five takeout spots that the kids like that are walking distance from her apartment downtown. We live in New York; it’s the land of takeout, delivery, and eating out. Sadly, that doesn’t make for a healthy lifestyle for a growing child.. or even people our age. If we can’t pick up good habits for cooking and healthy eating before we have children and are constantly making excuses about being “too busy,” what makes us really think that we can do it once the kids come and we really do have less time?

The Deep South

When people think of the South (or at least, assuming they know where the South actually is), I think Mississippi is undoubtedly one of the first states that would come to mind. Sadly, it is also one of the first states that comes to mind when we think of the highest crime rates, highest poverty levels, and also lowest life expectancy. Because of all the above, it also tends to be the state that people make jokes about when it comes to the last state they’d want to live in. Honestly, as someone who grew up in California and now lives in New York, I’ve never heard of any famous tourist spot in Mississippi that would have drawn me there.

We crossed the state line west today to visit the Gulf Coast National Seashore in Mississippi, which is in Ocean Springs, and also ate at a delicious and cozy seafood spot there. Friends of mine who live in Arkansas told me that Mississippi is actually a really popular place to visit for those in the South who want to travel, but not too far, and have great beaches and fresh seafood from the Gulf Coast. I never would have even thought about this before our visit. The fried oysters and shrimp were some of the best we’ve ever had, and of course at a price point that was more than reasonable and even borderline cheap for seafood. The hospitality overall was very warm, especially by the host, who commented on how pretty I was and told Chris, “Don’t let her go!” It seems like whenever I am in the South, I tend to get complimented more on my appearance. I’m guessing it’s because as an Asian, I’m more of an exotic novelty there.

Yankees

Chris decided that we hadn’t traveled enough this summer (anyone who knows us knows this is definitely not true, as we are reveling in wanderlust…or suffering from it, take your pick), so this weekend, he has decided to whisk me off on a trip that I did not know about — to Alabama! We are staying in Montgomery, the capital (and the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement) and plan on crossing the border west to Mississippi to see what “the South’s warmest welcome” state has to offer.

One of our first stops today was at the First White House of the Confederacy. which was the first home of the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and his family for just five months before the Confederate capital moved to Richmond, Virginia. The tour was free, half guided and half self-guided. Our guide during the first half was very friendly and asked where we were from. We told him we were visiting from New York City, and he exclaimed, “Oh, Yankees!” I started laughing because I’ve never, ever been called a Yankee before. And then it suddenly hit me: people in the South probably still, to this day, call people in the North Yankees. It’s as though we are from another country, with our different perceptions, ways of thinking, education, culture, and of course, accents. Unfortunately, he did not pick up on any Aussie twang of Chris’s.

Old colleagues

Today, I had lunch with some former colleagues from my last job. Two of them I haven’t seen in over a year now, and the other I’ve seen three times since I left over meals or drinks. It’s funny how sometimes, you don’t see people for a long time, and when you do see them again, everything feels exactly the way it did as the last time you saw them. It’s almost like no time had ever passed.

It made me a little sad, though. I realized that even though I was unhappy at my last job, there were things that kept me going there, like the few colleagues who I did share laughs with about nonsensical things, and others who I actually did discuss serious issues with. People actually acknowledged I was a human being. My presence was noticed. I was listened to. If I wasn’t there, people noticed and asked about me. The people you work with and are surrounded by every day really help shape your desire to go to work every day. So it seems pitiful when you have no one at all to lean at at your office.

Empty office

A friend and I had dinner tonight, and over Vietnamese vermicelli noodles, we discussed how his office has already experienced three rounds of layoffs this year, in addition to colleagues quitting left and right. Some are leaving to pursue roles at competitor companies, others are changing industries entirely, and two or three have even quit without any other job lined up. They were that fed up with the politics and attrition rate that they couldn’t be sane staying there. It’s gotten to the point where this summer, on average, he’s probably only come into the office one or two days a week at most and just “works from home” the rest of the week.

A lot of us spend a lot of our lives making decisions (or lack of decisions) based on fear. As a twenty-something adult, we may be worried about leaving our jobs without anything lined up because of the fear of no health insurance, the fear of future employers asking us to explain the “gap” on the resume and their judgment, the fear of not being able to pay bills or save (pretty fair, though, obviously), the fear of what our parents or friends or peers will say to our voluntary unemployment — the fear. I’m not exempt from this. That’s why it’s always so rare to hear about people actually quitting their jobs with absolutely no plan or no job lined up. It’s such a gutsy, out of the ordinary thing to do or hear about. Granted, I’m not advocating that people quit their jobs and just sit around all day and do nothing, but I think that we all deserve a break from being miserable and controlled by terrible, toxic work environments.

Robin Williams

Last night, I found out that one of the comedians that highlighted my youth committed suicide. Robin Williams, the voice of the Genie in Aladdin, the main lead in Mrs. Doubtfire, which Ed and I watched together, has died via asphyxiation in his Tiburon home. I’m deeply saddened by this news, and particularly because his death was of his own means. It’s another life taken by suicide, by a deep depression that failed to be fully recognized and treated by our society.

I actually met Robin Williams in Japantown in San Francisco during my middle school days. I was with a few of my friends during a school holiday, and we saw him at a store in the shopping center. My friend’s little sister was so excited and asked for his autograph, and he seemed genuinely happy and eager to give his autograph and chat with us even though he was in the company of who I think was his mother. A lot of celebrities would not have been this warm and kind.

I wonder what Ed would have thought to have heard that Robin Williams committed suicide. I’m sure he would have been shocked, but unfortunately, he isn’t here today to hear the news. Instead, Robin Williams is joining him in heaven somewhere up there. I hope he is cracking jokes and making my brother laugh now. Maybe they are even cracking jokes about the fact that Ed took his own life before Robin did, as dark as that may sound.

Advocacy programs

The allergies are back, and apparently today, the pollen count is high according to what Chris read. My nose is stuffy and runny, my throat feels phlegmy, and my head feels like a big cloud has wrapped itself around it. The front of my face feels like it’s being blocked by something. Today kind of sucks.

I ended up going home early to rest, and then I spent a lot of time reading about suicide prevention advocacy programs and how to get involved. There’s so much to do in the world to help others, and seemingly not enough time to do everything.

I was also wondering why there are suicide prevention walks but not marathons or runs. Considering that suicide claims more lives each year than automobile accidents, you’d think that there might be runs or marathons to support it. Or maybe it doesn’t sound as cool as to say that you are running for suicide because of the stigma around it versus running to fight breast cancer.

Goal surpassed

In less than three days, I’ve managed to surpass my fundraising goal for the Out of the Darkness walk for suicide prevention. I had no idea that people I e-mailed would be so generous with their donations. I guess people can surprise me in positive ways more often than I would normally give them credit for.

I’ve debated whether I want to publish this to Facebook or not. The fact that this is even a question in my head is obviously testament to today’s era of everything being about social networks. Would anyone actually donate money to this cause for me if they didn’t already know the back story of what happened with Ed? Would they even care? I’m honestly not sure.

Chris said that I should tell my parents I am doing this. I’m not sure I want to do that either. My parents have always disapproved of any volunteer or charity work I have done. When I first suggested donating money in my brother’s name after he passed away, they both thought I was being ridiculous and wasteful, and said that Ed’s gone; what difference would a donation do? What am I trying to do — save the world?

 

Karaoke

Tonight, we had my best friend and her boyfriend come over for dinner, and after enjoying the Turkish feast I cooked up (and the many cocktails and whiskey pours that Chris gave everyone), we decided to head out at 2am for some late night karaoke a few blocks away. We were all at varying stages of drunkenness, so this sounded like a good idea.

When we got there, Chris and Crista picked Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day,” and after singing it on stage with Crista, I would end up crying. The bar was actually fairly empty so it wasn’t like everyone was staring at me, but it still felt miserable to be drunk, crying, and remembering Ed.

When the Daydream album came out in 1995, it actually coincided with the death of my grandmother. Ed and I would play “One Sweet Day” a lot at that time. It was one of our favorite songs on that album. That song used to remind me of my grandmother’s death, and tonight, after not hearing it played for so many years, it reminded me of Ed’s death. I had forgotten the lyrics, but as the music went on, I remembered every word. The lyrics discuss taking for granted your lost loved one. I think in a lot of ways, I’m sure I took Ed for granted, and it made me feel even worse.

There’s nothing that can be done about that now, but I agree with the song. One sweet day, we will see each other again. The sad thing, though, is that until then, I will occasionally be reminded of the pain of losing him and probably end up crying here and there, and not always at the most obvious moments.

Out of the Darkness Walk

Today, I finally signed up for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Brooklyn Out of the Darkness Walk. It will take place on September 28 near Coney Island this year, and I’ve set $1,000 as my donation goal. I’ve created my own page with my brief story about Ed, and have sent an e-mail out to everyone close and semi-close to me. It’s a modest goal to set, but I figure that it is good to start off small and get bigger as time goes on.

I honestly wasn’t sure how it would be received, yet somehow, just four hours after sending out the e-mails, I’ve managed to reach 40% of my goal, with four different people’s donations other than my own. As I saw the e-mail notifications in my inbox, I immediately felt overwhelmed and could feel myself tearing up. People actually want to support me supporting Ed. Even though it’s somewhat expected since these people are a part of my life, it felt overwhelming anyway — in a good way. It’s strange how even things like this can elicit emotion in me.