Seat belts

We were shocked to learn of the economist John Nash’s death over the weekend during our trip to Ohio and Kentucky. I first learned of Nash during one of my economics courses in high school, then again during college, and of course, when the movie A Beautiful Mind came out during my high school days. When I learned of Nash’s genius and how he suffered from schizophrenia, I had thought about my brother then and thought that it was possible my brother did have a future. John Nash could get through it and persevere, therefore so could my brother! At the time, Ed was not exhibiting any schizophrenic symptoms, but he did have some of these symptoms toward the end of his life. They had mental illness in common.

The most tragic part of Nash’s and his wife’s deaths was that from what the reports have stated, they could still be alive today if they were just wearing seat belts in the cab they took from the airport. It made me shudder to read about the seat belt detail in the articles, as I thought back to a small handful of times when I’ve been in a New York City cab, and for some reason, the seat belt fastener either was not there or not working. I’ve been pretty diligent since I was young about always wearing a seat belt. It was drilled into my head by both of my parents (to this day, my mother still asks when I am in the car, “Did you buckle your seat belt?”), and then again during my mandatory driver training course in high school, where we had to watch test crash videos of dummies in car crashes wearing versus not wearing seat belts. Like when Dave Goldberg died earlier this month and I thought about him falling off his treadmill every time I got onto a gym treadmill in the weeks following, when I think about being in a car now, I think about seat belts, as I did tonight during our car ride home from LaGuardia.

Cassius Clay

Today, we drove to Lexington and Louisville from Cincinnati, and one of the stops we made was at the Muhammad Ali Center. We’d actually seen it last year when we stopped in Louisville last year, but we didn’t realize exactly what it was until after we left. I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the center because all I really knew about Muhammad Ali was that he was a famous boxer, but I had no idea that he was also a huge advocate of racial equality during the time of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, and also extremely charitable in both time and money to the poor all around the world. The work he did beyond his boxing was the most compelling to me.

A lot of people get annoyed that athletes and Hollywood actors and actresses get paid so much money for the work they do vs. the average working man or woman. I can see why they’d get annoyed by it, as sometimes I have in the past. But I do love hearing about celebrities who use their celebrity to help those who are less fortunate, and to shed light on important social issues that segments of our population want to turn a blind eye on. As sad as it is, when celebrities pay attention to certain issues, so do the regular people who follow them, which makes all the difference.

“Why in the world are you here?”

We’re spending the long weekend in Ohio and Kentucky this Memorial Day weekend with Chris’s parents. They’ve never visited either state, so we started our day in Cincinnati at the Findlay Market, which is one of the oldest public markets in the country. It was a really fun setup that reminded me a bit of the markets we’ve seen in West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. As we’re walking through one of the markets and stop to try some cheese spreads from a vendor who owns a restaurant in Kentucky, the man makes some polite chit chat with us and asks where we are from. I tell him that Chris and I live in New York City, but his parents are visiting from Australia, so we decided to spend the long weekend in Ohio and Kentucky. He gives me a very puzzled look, and he says as he gives a little laugh, “I’m not trying to be rude, but why in the world are you here?” He elaborates that he’s confused as to why people who are visiting the U.S. from Australia would want to visit states like Ohio and Kentucky; he’d think that people from such an interesting country (“interesting” for Australia is debatable) would want to visit the more popular and well known states, like California or New York. And for Chris and me, how did we even think about flying to Cincinnati of all cities to visit? I tell the man that we are trying to see as much of the country as possible and see what everyone has to offer. I also let him know that we’re doing our second day trip to Kentucky tomorrow. He smiles and says he likes my attitude and that he hopes we enjoy our time in his town.

The man was clearly being modest, but maybe he just doesn’t know what makes his home town so great. Maybe no one really gets why anyone would want to visit their relatively small home town. But I still believe every place has something special about it. Maybe everyone in these ‘smaller town’ areas needs to have a little bit more pride about where they are from. I’d be so irritated all the time if I had to say things like, “Why would you want to visit (where I am now that I represent)? Don’t you want to visit (insert some other glitzy, bigger city nearby)?” It’d be as though I have little self worth.

Fridays before long weekends

Fridays before long weekends are typically dead days at every office I’ve ever worked at. If employees have not taken the day off or decided to work from home (“work” is used quite loosely in that statement), they typically are at the office and only half there in mind and in action. No one really wants to be there, but they know they have to be, otherwise it gets counted as a paid time off day, and no one really wants that unless they are definitely doing something they deem “worthy” of a paid day off. Today, about half the office was actually in the office, but given the number of meetings and the chaotic chatter throughout, it was clear no one was that busy today. I ended up leaving the office just past 3pm. My clients had either all taken the day off or left their offices by 1pm to officially start the long weekend.

It ends up being a wasted work day, a day where you are working in name only but you don’t really get much accomplished. In that event, why don’t companies just give the Friday before long weekends off? I guess if they did, workers may just got lazy even earlier on the Thursday before, and then the cycle of laziness would just continue. There’s no incentive to work hard on the day before a long weekend, so as a group of people, we just don’t.

Breakfast smoothie gone awry

My mom wants me to be a good wife and daughter-in-law. She knows that Chris’s parents are in town this week, so yesterday when I talked to her, she asked what I was making them for breakfast every morning. That’s a code for, she expects me to be preparing something for them to eat each morning to fulfill my good daughter-in-law duties.

The last two mornings they have been here, I’ve been making breakfast smoothies. On Wednesday morning, I made a pineapple, banana, spinach, Greek yogurt, almond milk, and chia seed smoothie. On Thursday, I made a wild blueberry, cherry, spinach, avocado, Greek yogurt, almond milk, and chia and flax seed smoothie. These smoothies take less than 5 minutes of prep work and even less than 2 minutes of blending via a blender. No one here is doing any hand blending here. The blender does all the work. My mom doesn’t seem to get this, and she asks why I’m doing “so much work” and “aren’t Chris and his mom helping you out at all?” She sounds annoyed and makes it seem like I am doing slave labor. I just explained to her that this takes less than ten minutes both mornings. Why is there such a problem here?
My mom would never admit this, but she doesn’t like it when she knows people are staying at my apartment, unless they are her and my dad, of course. She doesn’t like the idea of people “freeloading” off someone’s apartment for free accommodation. She also doesn’t like me spending time with other people in general. She’s basically just jealous that I am spending the next week with Chris’s parents and not her. She will never stop being like this. And it comes out in conversations like this very clearly.

Awareness

A colleague told me today that her brother-in-law is doing some charity work for a nonprofit called Bring Change 2 Mind, which has the goal of raising awareness about mental illness among American males. She said that she’s noticed a few of my posts on mental illness and suicide and thought I’d be interested in learning about this non profit and the work her brother-in-law does.

It made me smile when she brought this up during conversation. It’s like an acknowledgment that yes, there are people I don’t really think pay attention who do notice things I post publicly, and they actually care that I care to a degree. She said she was interested in getting involved in a nonprofit that was specifically helping the mental health awareness issues because she has a family history of mental illness. I told her I did, too, and when our eyes met, it was pretty clear she knew what I was talking about.

I guess I can’t be that hard on the world. The world is hard on all of us, even those I don’t think have it hard at all. There’s only so much we know about those who surround us every day. It’s hard to know what you can reveal about yourself when, but it’s comforting when people do reveal parts of themselves that they don’t normally do because then they become more real and human to us.

Worth it “for you”

I’m starting to do research for our upcoming long Memorial Day weekend in Ohio and Kentucky. Chris, his parents, and I will be based in Cincinnati and are planning to explore the surrounds, and drive down to Lexington and explore the Kentucky Derby land. Because Memorial Day is quickly approaching, everyone at work is asking what everyone else is doing for the long weekend. It’s funny to share that I’m going to Ohio and Kentucky for the long weekend with people who are living and working in New York because the majority of people here seem to think those states are not worth visiting. And when they hear we are flying there and not driving, they think we are even crazier to pay for airfare to get to these places.

I’m almost like a Middle America person when I say this, but I just find these comments really frustrating. I grew up in California, went to school in Massachusetts, and now work and live in New York, all three of which are considered good places to visit, study, work, and live, but I’ve always wanted to explore states of the country that are far less traveled to. It’s the optimist in me, but I think there is something great about pretty much every place in the world and in this country. I don’t want to be the snob or ignoramus who thinks that there’s nothing to see in Ohio or Kentucky or Idaho, especially if I have never even visited these areas. Who am I to even make that judgment? The overwhelming assumption there when a person makes a comment like that is that she thinks she’s superior to these places, which is pretty pig-headed to me. People willingly choose to live and work in all of these places, so there has to be something that they get pleasure from in these cities and states.

A friend of mine had the argument that time is limited in life, so why would you want to visit places that don’t have known things to see to the average person? I think that argument should be reframed as, you should want to see and visit the places that interest you as a person, not you as one of a massive group of generic people. Few people would say that there is nothing to see in Paris, but many would argue that is true for a city like Cleveland. As someone who really enjoyed the time she spent in Cleveland, I would argue it’s a place worth seeing for me.

What it’s like

This morning, I read this Vice article written by a woman whose best friend is suicidal. It was interesting to see another person’s perspective of interacting with someone with a severe mental illness and how she was coping with it. If I had to write an article like this about Ed, I’m not even sure where I’d begin. Would I begin it with his first suicide attempt when I was 11? Would I isolate it to his downward spiral from 2012 to 2013 when he started exhibiting schizoaffective disorder, and how I knew he was nearing his end, so I kept telling him I loved him and cared about him and that I needed him to be strong and believe in himself because I believed in him in every single phone conversation and e-mail up until that dreaded day he went missing? I don’t know.

What’s it like to be friends with someone who is suicidal, or to have a sibling who is suicidal and then commits suicide? I know what that’s like. No one really cares about your experience as the friend or the sibling. They just tell you that everyone has to carry their own load, that he has to figure things out for himself and stop leaning on you. No one wants to help you. They think you are pathetic for wanting to help. And they certainly don’t want to help him. So you are powerless, and you feel even more powerless as the days go on because you can tell the end is near. They think he’s crazy or not worth the time or effort, or they criticize him and make him seem that all his failures are his own fault… That is, until they receive the news that he is no longer living, that he is dead, and that he is dead by his own choice, or hand, or jump. Then they come back to you and say senseless, moronic things like, “If only I had known it was this serious, then…” Then what? Then you wouldn’t have done shit. You wouldn’t have done a single thing differently. Go ahead and cry your stupid tears. I don’t care that you are crying. You will cry at the funeral, feel bad for the next few days, at most a few weeks, and then move on with your life. The past has then passed, and you have forgotten. It’s easy for an outsider.

It’s really hard to have faith in human beings when you know how stupid they can be in times like this. How do you teach empathy to people who are just not open to it?

Fish

This weekend, we went to Whole Foods so that I could pick out some wild fish to prepare for dinner tonight. We ended up picking out some bluefish fillets that were priced at $9.99/lb. At Whole Foods, this sounds fairly affordable, but after paying almost $19 for four fillets, it seemed like quite a lot of money to spend on just a handful of meals. And considering that bluefish was once considered the fish that fisherman tossed back into the sea and fed to other fish, it’s quite a markup. Once upon a time at a local grocery store in Cambridge, MA, you could get great and fresh bluefish fillets for less than $4/lb.

It’s a decent amount of money to spend, but I rather spend money on a fish that’s rich and fatty like this than a boring, bland white fish. I don’t understand people who want to eat fish but don’t like the actual taste or smell of a real fish. Fish like halibut and tilapia have no real, distinct flavor. There’s little way to tell one white fish from another in terms of flavor because they have none. Like articles I’ve read about bluefish have said, bluefish is for people who want to know they are eating fish, not people who want to eat fish but don’t want to taste fish.

Graduation

This weekend, people across the country will be graduating. I have a few friends who are graduating this weekend. One is finishing business school. Another is getting her long-awaited medical degree, which was delayed by a year because of her cancer diagnosis in 2013. I personally thought undergraduate was long enough. I had little doubt in my mind when I finished my undergraduate work that I would probably never set foot on a campus for additional study ever again.

I think learning is a lot fun when you do it at your own pace, when you don’t have to get graded on some dumb bell curve based on a test you spent weeks of sleepless nights studying for. Some of the best learning I’ve had is during my travels, re-learning all the U.S. history I glossed over through formal schooling, and through books I’ve voluntarily read myself since college. I’ve also learned a lot meeting different people and speaking to different people. I knew unless I was crazy passionate about a certain topic, I’d never do graduate school. So I didn’t.

If I had to turn the clock back, and if I really thought I could do anything this past week, I wondered what my life would have been like if I decided to pursue a social science like sociology or even political science. I’ve always been interested in how people interact in groups, how the dynamics change, and how our societies have been formed based on historical and personal life events. Being an academic isn’t all boring and theoretical as people think it is; many politicians such as Elizabeth Warren, whose book I am reading now, started in academia and are now influencing the entire country, if not the world. I would like to have a bigger influence on something, but what that something is — it’s still unknown. I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to be when I grow up.