Modern Day Heartbreak

One of the toughest heartbreaks is when someone you respect or love or are mentored by stops believing in you.

It’s a somber experience to lose a friend. It’s a devastation to lose a mentor.

When they stop believing in you; in your ability to do the thing you love, when they were so encouraging before, is a difficult failure to move beyond.

The Beginning of 2018

A while back, I got a paddle board and for my first trip with it I went out into the ocean. When I got out, it was beautiful. Calm serenity, looking out into the horizon and floating out, just touching the unknown. When I tried to get back to shore though, it was the first time in a very long time I felt fear. I should say, a specific type of fear; emotional fear I’ve felt. This fear was a twilight of primal/survival fear. I was out in the middle of an open ocean, not in prime physical shape, never had been out in the water with my board, trying to fight currents and waves to get back in. I was realizing I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was and for the first time in a very long time, I wasn’t sure if I was capable of saving myself. I was never in true danger as there were plenty of surfers around me. Pride wouldn’t let me ask for help though, so I pushed and paddled through as though no one was around. It took me a  long time to get back on shore and I was a bit away from where my friend was waiting for me. I was completely drained and the following day my entire back was in pain from pulling all of those muscles that I had never used before.

It was exhilarating.

I was afraid, but I was pushed (in a small way of course) out of my comfort zone. We get complacent sometimes, but I think in those places of the unknown when you get to test your own boundaries you learn so much. That’s what I want from life. I want to learn, grow, bring some joy to others, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to contribute in a positive way to the world.

It’s been an odd time in my life. I have been trying to get into graduate school for two years now. During that time I have had a job that-though not ideal (which job is?)-it provided some security for me during this interim. I’ve had amazing coworkers, it provided a supportive environment for the pursuit of personal goals, and for some time I even learned a bit about business and the people within it, so I waited for things to come together; I kept staying. But life doesn’t work in the way we plan, so even though I wasn’t being used to my full capacity it was easy for me to become complacent with where I was.

But I wasn’t happy. Perhaps it’s an irrational part of me, as how often do you really get a job that’s as relaxed as mine was and has coworkers who are as smart, funny, supportive, and talented as they are? But somewhere in me I want to feel that fear; I want to be pushed ahead of my limits. I want to use and extend my potential.

And so, perhaps against good judgement, I decided to leave my good job at the end of this month. Perhaps I’ll wind up in a worse situation, but hopefully that will propel me even further. I’m not truly sure what’s in store for me; I’ve nothing waiting for me. But I’m done waiting for nothing.

And so, here I go to make some more mistakes.

Hiking Los Angeles//January 7, 2018

 

Today I went on a hike on my own, which was freeing and relaxing. Though perhaps “on my own” is a generous phrase, as it was a bit busy in some parts of the hike. Thankfully, it’s a tough hike up so by the time I reached the summit of this particular area, it wasn’t so bad. Found my favorite area to be empty so I sat there for some time, recovering and took some photos. It was so serene and quiet, with the trees swaying gently with the wind, leaves rustling quietly, and birds chirping. Such a relief to be out there after a long unfortunate break. Let my mind work through some things and then thought about “silence” as a concept, as I periodically do.  (I’m fun.)

How would you characterize silence? Dictionary definition defines silence as the absence of sound. This seems true enough, though it does not capture the full complexity, meaningfulness, and implications of what silence can be.

When you think of communication, you think of language. We use patterned sounds to get your audience to react and act; those sounds are meaningful. They form languages. Those languages are intended to be used as a common ground standard to communicate thoughts and intentions. Can the absence of sound be meaningful?

First, I think we need to understand what we mean when we use silence? Consider these examples:

On my hike today there were a few moments of what I immediately thought of as blissful silence. But that’s not quite accurate. What I meant was there was an absence of the usual I have in my day-to-day. Can’t quite describe the blissful effect that sort of silence had in my mind.

Maybe you’ve been guilted into baby sitting a child who is prone to severe separation anxiety. When their parents leave, they wail for hours. Nothing you do will stop the child from crying. Finally the parent arrives and whisks their child away, leaving you in total silence. Bliss.

Someone or something (a dog for example) in your day-to-day life has passed away. Their presence and conversation were a source of comfort from the world, but now that they’re gone the silence of your home is cold and overwhelming.

Now contrast those examples of silence with the following:

Say you and your colleague are venting frustrations about your boss. Jarringly, you see your boss appear behind your coworker and you drop silent, signaling to your conversational partner that they ought to stop venting now; a warning.

You are on a date with someone. It’s going well but then your partner signals they want to have sex with you. You say “no”. They hear you, but either because they didn’t understand what you said or understood and didn’t take it seriously, they rape you.

All of these examples collectively begin-and only just- to show the complex nature of silence. The first set were indicating an internal state of mind as a reaction to the environment. The second set were examples of linguistic silence. Silence, perhaps counterintuitively, is both complex and meaningful. The meaningfulness to silence and our reactions to it vary depending on context. In this way, I think “silence” as a concept deserves more attention for study. It’s beautifully intuitive but simultaneously surprisingly layered So though I’m not answering my own question, I’m beginning the process of understanding.

 

Here’s to many more blissful moments of silence.

 

Accountability

Lately I’ve been thinking about standards, specifically ascribing accountability differently depending on likability and respect, so I was interested to see how the public would react to Louis CK’s admitted misconduct.

It’s really easy to expect strangers to uphold to moral standards, it’s much harder to hold people whom you like and respect to those same moral standards. Good people can do really shitty things. That doesn’t necessarily mean you stop loving them, but you ought to hold them accountable. That doesn’t mean you destroy them. Depending on the situation, atonement is possible and helps everyone grow and move on. But they have to be held up to those standards. Otherwise it normalizes that behavior and silences those harmed.

Seems, at least in my immediate radar, people are generally disgusted by CK’s behavior.

Not to jump too much, but I’ve been thinking about it also in the context of American politics. Politicians, especially those of your own party, should be held accountable. Additionally, poor behavior on “your” side is not excusable when you deem the “other side” worse. Whatever your party, when your politician does something gross or negligible-rather than pointing to the other side as worse-hold your own accountable.

Musings: Stella Artois//Freedom

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I was thinking a bit about “freedom” today during a drive and thought I’d write something out. This is not meant to be a rigorous analysis of “freedom”. Rather, it’s a personal reflection on one sort of freedom.

Many of us have experienced the sheer joy in becoming free. It is usually used in the sense of dispensing a restrictive bind. It may be experienced in an everyday, average life; leaving a job you dislike or having a tedious meeting finally come to an end. Or it may be a release from a more serious oppressive force like an escape from an abusive home, or a divorce from marriage that simply isn’t working anymore, or escaping an oppressive regime.

Some popular quotes from influential freedom-seekers also put it in these terms:

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed.”- Martin Luther King

“Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.” Bob Marley

It is typically in this sense that freedom is discussed; as the reward for a war against oppression. Freedom in this sense is as a positive experience, usually for growth and development.

However there’s a another complicated side of ‘freedom’ that doesn’t get as much discussion.

Freedom (at least I have in mind on an individual level) often comes with a set of responsibilities which can be unnerving, even terrifying. Freedom in this way is a contradictory experience; we typically think of freedom as the release of a bind of (forced?) responsibility to someone/something- not the inheritance of it.

What do I mean?

Freedom in it’s “purest” sense isn’t a pragmatic possibility; the ability to act without restriction or consequence is impossible.

Sitting here now I think it would be wonderful to conjure up a fire breathing dragon and fly to Thailand in the next 24 hours for an island hoping adventure. As positive of a person as I am in reaching and attaining the seemingly impossible, this most certainly is impossible in this world (save for my imagination).

This isn’t just an issue of “doing whatever you wanna do”. We also have complicated issues that surround ‘freedom’ in public convention. The freedom of speech is taken as a nearly sacred right in the United States of America (complicated issues around that as well. I won’t get into that here), but it is certainly not without restriction; yelling “Fire!” in a crowded room when there is no fire is not a permissible act. Nor are we as individuals free to claim land, murder, etc..

A close friend of mine experienced her own struggle with “freedom”, which prompted this musing. She felt oppressed by living with her family- and to some degree oppressed by herself- so she left for a new city. I believe the hope was in freeing herself from her family she’d discover herself. She was staying with a mutual friend but when she was finally confronted with the weight of the responsibility of that freedom, she realized she wasn’t quite prepared for it. I believe in this case that in escaping and becoming free from outside forces made her more aware of her own chains that she built for herself.

In others I’ve seen anger due to the past become crippling and consuming in the present. They let that anger grow and use the past to explain their behaviors in the present. Many of them crave the freedom from that anger but are enslaved to some degree by their own mind. The habit of explaining away one’s own mistakes on other factors than the self is a nasty one to break.

Freedom from the chains that oppress us-whether it be family, or anger, or self-loathing, etc.-  force us to confront our own faults and character flaws. Having no one to blame but oneself and taking responsibility for it is difficult.

I however find great comfort in that freedom. It can be difficult being in an empty room with only yourself to look at and blame when things go wrong. Once you do though it becomes a liberating experience. In that growth blossoms beautiful experiences and relationships.

Freedom can be a scary experience. Mostly because when we are released from the chains of whatever has been oppressing us, we are confronted with who we are. We are entirely responsible for our actions and our future. For some of us, that’s a liberating challenge worth taking. For others, it’s an overwhelming and frustrating experience. For most it’s probably a bit of both.

In any case though it is worth preserving and taking seriously; and also remembering that it does come with responsibility not just to others but to ourselves.