Monday, November 2, 2020

Why I Must Have Hope

I know that no matter how much life has changed in the last year, tomorrow (and the ensuing weeks of court battles and grandstanding and ridiculousness) will change the course of history. Tomorrow may not mean a lot of change in the immediate, regardless of outcome, but the next generation is watching what we decide here, and they will act accordingly. Even if Joe Biden isn't the progressive I'd hoped for, he's a step in the right direction from 4 years of a truly depressing, angering, somewhat predictable period in our history. For all of the surprise every time Trump or one of his supporters does something reprehensible and his party does nothing, I think to myself, "We should have seen this coming."

The amount of pressure is staggering. The anticipation is crippling. The air is tense for everyone, and murmurings of civil war abound as businesses quietly board up their windows. It all has an incredibly doomsday-like vibe, and I'm struggling, as I know many of us are. I've been drinking more just to cope. I walk around aimlessly throughout LA just to let my mind wander, and inevitably it wanders back to the situation our country and our world find us in. The last year, between the virus and the impending election, has put a cloud of despair always at arm's length.

I am sad that our country has so much hate. I am sad at all the things wrong in our country. It's no secret that when I graduated college, my only plan was to get away from the US. I'm the first to criticize us, and I'm usually the last to praise. I've had acquaintances message me directly to tell me to get out of the country if I hate it so much. I've had folks outside of the US spit at me for being American. I am so privileged, and yet, I've never struggled to find something wrong with the country I was born in. The ability to be so staunchly anti-American in my rhetoric is a privilege in itself.

I think though, for those who know me best, they would laugh at calling me anti-American. I am, admittedly, a pessimist. If not for myself, for the plights of the least fortunate of our country, the last four years have been hopeless and bleak. If "the president can't even condemn white supremacy and has a good chance of being reelected" doesn't make you want to curl up under a weighted blanket, I don't know what will. Life is scary right now, more so for many others than me, and maybe why that's why I'm going to say something I rarely do: I have hope.

It's probably why I haven't drank every bottle of wine in California. It was at first a very, very dim light of hope, but as the election has drawn nearer, I've felt the warmth of hope more acutely. Friends who aren't politically involved are volunteering at the polls, text banking, and even helping to count votes. I've seen people offering their services, time, and money to people suffering from the pandemic. I've heard ringing support from colleagues and friends abroad. Everyone is looking at us this week, and perhaps naively, I think we'll rise to the challenge.

In the end, it boils down to the goodness of people for me. There are a lot of suspect people out there, but I've never been the sort of person to assume someone isn't good without the proper justification for that belief. I think people are good. I see it time and time again. People are generally kind to strangers before they know their political beliefs. People generally have compassion for one another. At the same time though, humans are self-interested, even self-obsessed, myself included. The part that gives me hope is that we all find room in that self-interest to care about others. We have all sacrificed things we want in service of others.

I do not hate our country. I criticize it vehemently because I know what it can be. I know what we are capable of. It's depressing to think about children in cages, white supremacists, and voter suppression, but recognizing how depressing those things are also recognizes that we're capable of a nation without those things. Criticism of America is not anti-American. Again, for the people in the back, criticism of your country is not anti-American. Criticism is essential to the improvement of our country. I can criticize all day, but it's because I believe that our future depends on it. You cannot fix flaws without an acute awareness of them, both personally and otherwise. Our national identity is not "us vs. them." Our national identity is complicated, fraught with injustice and even bigotry. That said, we have an obligation to try to leave the world better than when we found it, and I do believe that to be possible.

If Trump wins tomorrow, I'll be sad as hell. I'll be angry as hell, but I know that if that happens, which to be clear is a worst case scenario, I have two options. The first option is that I can feel hopeless, drink myself into oblivion, and scour job sites for positions abroad. It's not a bad option, to be fair. The second option, is I can be miserable about the outcome and let it light a fire underneath me. I have hope because I know how many folks have that fire already and will let it be stoked by injustice. There are too many good people to lose to the bad ones, even if they bad ones are in positions of power. America is a fucking mess, and that's putting it lightly. There is work to be done, and tomorrow's outcome will shape the future of our country.

But hope, tenacity, compassion, acceptance, a penchant for joy, and a genuine care for our neighbor are the logical course of the American experiment. I long for and believe possible a country where we don't have second-class citizens or baseless hatred, even if we do disagree. I have to believe that country is possible, or days like tomorrow would kill me. If tomorrow goes the wrong way, lots of folks probably will actually die as a result, whether that's at the hands of the virus or as a result of a hateful and violent ideology. We need to be better than that. I believe we are better than that.

I choose to have hope because I have to. I implore you to have hope, if not in others, in that classic American self-importance. We can help ourselves and others, and we're all motivated to do so right now in the face of grave danger. The early voting numbers alone show that. Hope isn't futile. Let the next few days be a reminder that American ideals are that: ideals. We must work to make them a reality. I intend to do so, regardless of the election's outcome. Hug your loved ones tight, and take care.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Revisiting "Echoes In Eternity"

My first blog post was in 2014. So much has changed since then, and I've lived an entirely different life since I first thought this was a good idea. It started as a medium for keeping family and friends updated on my life. I moved to South Korea, and as I had when I studied abroad 3 years earlier, I thought people might like to read what my life in a new place was like.

I chose the name "Echoes in Eternity" out of a vague aspiration that what I had to say might resonate with other people. The phrase comes from a quote by one of my favorite thinkers of all time, Marcus Aurelius. He said, "What we do now echoes in eternity." When I started writing for other people, I wanted to be heard. The meaning of that phrase has evolved for me over time, as any good axiom does I think.

Being heard is less important to me now. I think I'd still write if no one read. I enjoy the process of putting thoughts into the ether as a means of helping my brain to digest them. Aurelius's phrase resonates with me now more than ever, though. The concept that our actions cause a ripple effect that reverberates endlessly is something that is much easier to see concretely when it's viewed as a literal virus, as an action for or against the oppression of a people, or in service or detriment to a dying planet.

After months of isolation, I started to view small things as actions with consequences I hadn't considered before. Let's say I didn't wear a mask or didn't isolate and I caused the sickness or death of someone around me. That action, although seemingly small on my part, could affect that person, their family and friends, their community, and the futures of countless people. That is an incredibly powerful concept to me. In this instance it's rather negative, but think of the implication that positive actions could then have. The virus has shown me that we do, as individuals, truly have the ability to change the world for better or worse.

As protests have continued in the wake of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Jacob Blake, and about a dozen others in recent months alone, I've realized that my contribution matters. What I say, what I think, and what I do both send a message and alter the course of history. I think part of my problem up to this point was not thinking that what I had to do or say made a difference, even if I wanted to be heard. The changes we make within ourselves and in our immediate sphere reverberate. The ripple effect has become more evident to me now than ever before. It's motivational in so many ways.

I've come to realize over the years that Marcus Aurelius wasn't talking about legacy when he wrote that phrase. He wasn't talking about being heard. He was talking about the immense power of each one of our actions, I think. We are all so much more powerful than we understand. I think about the power of social media. If you're posting about racial justice or the need to save our planet and you make one person think about their actions, and they make one person think about their actions, it frames change in less daunting terms. It also means that our poor actions can reverberate negative consequences, and it heightens my sense of responsibility for always trying to be a better person. It makes me want to live. It makes me want to try harder.

What I have to say is no more or less valuable than the next person, and that was a daunting prospect to me at first. I wanted what I had to say to be more valuable than those around me. I wanted to be someone whose opinion was sought after. Part of growing up for me has been realizing how petty that notion is. Being a leader isn't about tangible influence for me anymore. Being a leader is about living my life in a way that I feel a leader should live it, and hoping that I change even one person for the better, and they in turn change those around them. When I act, I try to think about it more concretely. "What are the potential consequences of this action not just for today, tomorrow, or Friday, but for the future?"

I've got more hope than I did a few weeks ago from the mulling over of all of this, and if writing is worth anything for me, there's a solid reason. Onward and upward.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Virus Life. Let me know if I can help!

If there's one thing coronavirus has taught me, it's how incredibly lucky I am. I have a job. I make ends meet financially and more. I have the best supportive friends. I have parents who offered to drive to New York from Missouri to pick me up. I have healthcare, which it seems so absurd to say in 2020 is a privilege and a luxury. I have mental health concerns, and the quarantine is absolutely
putting those concerns on edge, but remembering how absolutely staggering the amount of fortune I have is humbling in the face of all this. That's not to gloat that I'm doing fine as much as it is to highlight that not everyone is doing so fine. I think that always, but particularly now, those of us who are doing fine have a moral obligation to look after our peers who may not be doing so well. Some of that is on the macro level; donate to food banks. Donate to health organizations. If you have money to
give, it helps. If you don't have money, write or call your congresspeople. Let them know that the response is inadequate and that people across industries and incomes need relief. It also has to be on the micro level. Check in on your friends and coworkers. Send a pizza over to your quarantined friend's house. Check in on the people at risk in your life, not only of the virus, but those at risk of letting the world surrounding the virus consume them.

Social distancing and quarantining are the most solid reminders that we are all in this together that I can think of. We do these things for one another, and others are doing it for us. If one link of the chain fails, it can cause others to fail. We are having the backs of people in different cities, states,
and countries by taking the necessary precautions. It is a global pandemic in the sense that it is a threat to all of us. The rich might be able to pay for prevention and detection, but as we've seen with high profile reports, the virus attacks rich and famous also. The rich might think they're quarantining
for themselves, but frankly, I don't care. They, whether knowingly or not, are distancing or quarantining for all of us. It might be forced, but to me, it's beautiful nonetheless. Only after 9/11 can I remember a time in my life where it felt like people wanted to be here for each other like this. It's the one spark of hope that I have that maybe we can pull together despite the complete sham of a government we have right now.

So, I didn't come here to preach, or to tell you what to do, or to tell people how to handle this crisis. I have suggestions obviously, but you're no less for not taking them. We're all handling it differently in some ways. That said, if you need a friend to call, or a pizza, or a meme sent your way to make you laugh, I'm happy to help. I am incredibly fortunate. Many of us are. If I can ease your burden in one way or another as we all navigate this mess, don't hesitate to reach out. Love and health, ya'll.


Monday, July 22, 2019


In probably the least mature thing I’ll say all week, one of the harder parts of growing up has been realizing that not everyone is going to like me or care to be friends with me. Throughout my life, I’ve always had my core of people, but I’ve always been a social butterfly too with lots of friends in different circles. That just becomes increasingly hard to do as we grow up. Everyone only has time for their close-knit crew, and I get that. I feel it too. It’s hard to make time for people who don’t just get you, and I’m not sure why that’s been so hard for me to swallow. No one is slighting me by not wanting to be in touch. No one is obligated to give a shit about me, even if I start giving a shit about them. That’s not to say I feel unloved or unwanted; I have people who fulfill me in both of those capacities, but it’s hard to accept that sometimes, the effort you put into developing friendships isn’t what others can or will give.

I feel like New York might exacerbate that feeling a bit. "The city that never sleeps" is that way because people here are constantly busy. I've found myself struggling with the line of wondering whether people genuinely want to be friends but don't have time, or they don't want to be friends at all. I think part of it goes back to what I said above, and that people simply want to utilize their free time with the people they care about most because they get so little of it. That's hard to a certain degree for me as a newcomer to town. Nobody owes me their time, and the way these things make me feel needs to be a result of my own outlook.

I got really used to being the person who initiated friendly contact when I lived abroad. I was so busy with my life and having no routine and learning things totally foreign to me, that I reached out to friends when it was convenient, and I'm sure I pissed off some friends and lost some. Coming back to the US and not having constant stimulation has been more difficult than I thought it would. I realize how many people I had supporting me along the way who I probably neglected. I think I have exactly two friends who reach out to me semi-regularly, and that's a hard pill to swallow in terms of my hypocrisy. I can't just expect people to reach out to me now that I'm more accessible, and I can't expect my attempts at spending time with folks to necessarily be reciprocated.

I've always sort of had trouble with reading the social cues of friendship. I want to be friends with everyone. I want to be liked, as I think we all do, and I've always been pretty open. I think I probably catch on way too late when people are giving me cues that they don't want to be friends or give me their time, and I generally worry that I seem desperate when I reach out to people. I feel like it's hard for me to know if someone is the type of friend where I just need to put in the effort and then they'll want to be friends, or if someone doesn't want the effort to be put in at all. I'd be lying if I said it isn't something I've been struggling with.

I feel like an old man when I lament about modern day friendships and relationships, but I also have some serious issues with the unwritten rules, both in my understanding of them and in my acceptance of them. Don't double-text someone, wait a while before responding, etc are modern social rules that don't make sense to me. If I want to say something to someone, I try to say it. I don't really know where the way I interact with people fits, or if I come off as a crazy person because none of the weird intricacies of social media and digital interaction really make sense to me. If you've seen my Facebook profile and its longwinded political rants, you probably know that I just say what's on my mind, often times for worse than for better. I've always sort of treated the digital world like it's real interactions, and it's not.

I think my life up to this point has me struggling to connect with people. I feel like I'm some weird step off from the people I routinely meet. I didn't feel like I was stepping out of normal society to go live abroad, but now that I'm home, it always kind of puzzles me when people talk about my "returning to normal life." Is this my normal that I left behind, and I'm just struggling to accept that? I don't really know. I've found myself trying to grab at the straws of spontaneity to not settle into too much of a routine, and where I loved that life in the past, it feels desperate now. I run this podcast and have on all of these crazy adventurers, and I can't quite reconcile myself and my friendships in the life I'm living now. It all feels very foreign, which compounds the strangeness considering that for the first time in 5 years, I'm living in my home country.

Maybe it's just growing pains, and all of the rest of my friends accepted it after college because they were here facing these challenges head on while I was preoccupied with other things. I feel awkward about friendships, dating, social culture, office culture, and just about everything else. It's a weird lesson in reverse culture shock that I feel like has most starkly mainfested in my friendships since I moved home. I'm not depressed; I know all too acutely what that feels like when I have flareups. I just feel out of place, like somehow the world made moves around me, and I'm stuck in the dust cloud realizing that it might take some time to settle.

I'm not saying I need more friends. I'm not even saying I need more from the friends I have. I just genuinely don't know if the way I connect with people makes any sense, or if I'm misreading the interactions I have with people. I feel like my strongest friendships are solidified. I don't see myself losing the few core people I've got, but I feel like maybe the way I grew up feeling like a social butterfly is something that was maybe never sustainable, and I'm just realizing it late in the game. I remember my mom saying something along the lines of that her fringe friendships faded as she got older and she lost touch with people, and her few close friends are there. Maybe you just learn to pick up with people right where you left off and accept that that's the essence of your friendships from now on as people go on with their daily lives.

Anyway, the random musings of a confused man's mind. I'm happy. I'm healthy. Everything is really good. I just find myself mulling these things over these days. Alas, as always, thanks for reading, and hope everyone's having a good summer.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

I’ve Been A Bad Person

I’m here to tell you that I’ve been a bad person. I’ve done some things, some even many years ago, that I still think of with regret and that give me shame. I’ve hurt people, and sometimes even done so intentionally out of envy, anger, or pain.

But I’m not going to dwell on when I’ve been a bad person, because I’ve also been a good person. There is no such thing as the 100% bad guy or the 100% good guy. I think, philosophically speaking, we’re the sum of our actions or what we do habitually. I’m not habitually bad, and although I’ve done bad things, I try to make habits of doing good things. I think I’m a good person overall. I think Donald Trump is probably a bad person overall. I do however think nuance is important. I think we need to be able to recognize that one action doesn’t define someone (except in the case of rapists and murderers, I’m cool with defining them based on one action).

I wonder how many people like me struggle with beating themselves up over past actions. In some cases, I don’t even know what I’ve done wrong, but I know I’ve hurt people and they’re mad at me, and I go through periods where I agonize over it. In other cases, I’ve apologized several times, but I still can’t shake the shame because I feel like a bad act was an act of character. It takes realizing that these actions are out of character to forgive yourself, and I definitely have trouble doing that sometimes.

I feel like self-help gurus and people who make a living off of pitching quick fixes to issues of self say lines like “you have to forgive yourself,” or “you have to learn to love yourself before you love others.” It makes sense that they employ these lines because they’re true, but they’re not as easy as saying them, snapping your fingers, and then you’ve changed and love yourself and all is forgiven. It takes time, and it takes constantly reminding yourself that you’re worthy of love and of forgiveness. It takes looking at your flaws and constantly trying to hammer them out and improve, even when it’s hard. It takes talking to others who can help, whether that’s a therapist, friend, or family member, and being honest. You have to be honest with yourself and others about who you are in order to confront flaws or shortcomings and to accept past failures.

So, yes, I’ve been a bad person. But I’d be pretty upset if someone ever told me I’m still a bad person. I try hard every day to try to make the right decisions, the just decisions, and to advocate for people who need it. I’m not perfect, and I never will be.

I recently was called out by an Instagram follower for referring to a place as my personal Mecca. This follower was of the Muslim faith and said they found it disrespectful. At first, as I thought about it, I found it overly sensitive. After all, people say God damnit and Jesus Christ, and it seems more colloquial than a true aim at disrespect. But the more I thought about it, I realized my opinion doesn’t matter. Something we like to talk about in higher ed is impact vs. intention. My intention was irrelevant if the impact was negative. I was in the wrong, and I owned up to it. 

This same person later posted on their “finsta” about the interaction with me, posting a screenshot of our interaction and calling out the behavior but somewhat commending me for owning up to it. At first, I was a bit embarrassed and hurt that the screenshot was posted, and I asked them to not use my photo for such things in the future. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that if I want to be honest about my shortcomings and that I genuinely want to improve, maybe it’s a good thing to be publicly called out. I didn’t mean harm, but it showed that even though I hurt someone, I genuinely try to be as good of a person as I can.

I will hurt people in the future, probably both intentionally and unintentionally. I’ll continue to feel pangs of regret over the years and to need to make amends and ask for forgiveness, both of myself and others. However, I’ll be doing my best to avoid doing so, and I’ll be trying to forgive myself and be the best I can be in pursuit of making the sum of my actions positive and my habits true and just.

So, if you’re reading this and you’re beating yourself up, I hope it resonates a bit and you realize that you’re not a bad person. You mean well always, and that’s why your shortcomings haunt you. You’re trying to be good at all times, so when you don’t measure up, it hurts. The more your failures hurt you, it’s probably a good sign that you mean well generally. I like to think I do. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Journey

Hello, dear friends.

I live in New York now. I keep having this little moments where I'm looking at the city from the train or looking out my apartment window and trying to make it seem concrete. I'm committed to New York for a pretty long while (comparatively at least), and that's a very new thing for me. I've been on one-year contracts and one-year leases and one-year visas since 2014 without ever having it set that I'd be in a place more than a year. It's a change of direction I knew I was making but that I wasn't entirely prepared for.

Things are different when you're committed to a place. Going on a date seems like it makes more sense. Committing to a place seems to be the foundation for committing to things in general. I'm volunteering again with GiGi's Playhouse, and I'm thrilled, but it couldn't have happened if I didn't plan on being here a while. I wouldn't want a person with Down syndrome to take a year to get used to me then I randomly bow out. I have to admit, I've become an expert at the one-year and done, and committing to things feels scary and foreign in a lot ways. At the same time, it's a relief also. My brain and heart are still processing the fact that this is home at least for a few years.

Another thing that has come up is the difficulty of settling into routine. It's not because I don't like routine; it's actually very comforting, and I've always gotten into some semblance of a pattern in my life, but not quite as extreme as it is now. Some days, I start to get anxious that my life is becoming point A to point B. I think the commute and the 9-5 make that an easy feeling, where being a graduate student and being in residence life were different things every day. Sure, I did similar functions throughout my days, but each day was a new class session or a new student issue to deal with, and I didn't take the same train every day into the office. It's more structure than I've had in a long time, and yes, I get that that's part of entering a more advanced role in my field. It's just an adjustment, you know?

I've found that the remedy for the adjustment has been something I've always done but have made an effort to be more aware of recently. I need to pause. I need to reflect on what makes each day different and exciting. I've been trying to step back and force myself to have those daily reminders of the joys that come in the routine and the endless opportunity that is New York. I've started doing things I always wanted to do but really couldn't because of my nomad life, like starting a podcast and a DIY project. I'm going to buy a real smoker for the summer. I'm joining an Italian speaking group. I want to start taking classes when tuition remission kicks in. I feel like my roots are starting to sink in, which for as much as I've loved everywhere I've lived, hasn't felt like a real thing in my adult life until now.

Yesterday, I sat in on a session that talked about belonging and how important that is. I'm starting to feel like I belong in New York, and at NYU, and that I'm valued and loved. I felt those things in England, Italy, and Korea, and definitely in Chicago, but for the first time in a long time, I don't have an end date. I don't have the next step or the next deadline planned. It's odd. I can settle into that belonging a bit more. It's refreshing, but also a bit terrifying.

I've got all these places I call home, and in some ways, I don't know if I'll ever be fully committed to a place forever. Particularly in higher ed, the chance that you move vertically by moving physically is always possible. Bearing all that in mind, I kind of like not having to immediately be thinking about what's next. My concept of time is changing. I'm thinking in weeks to months more than in months to years. I feel far more present in the last few months than I have in parts of my past. I feel like I'm investing in my job in ways I haven't previously because I know that I can see longer projects and initiatives through. I'm talking about future annual iterations of events that I'm part of. I don't think my job is my dream job necessarily, but I enjoy where I'm at. I feel like I'm at the right place at the right time.

I spent a lot of the last year or two doing self-evaluation, which I've spoken about briefly in the blog before, but it involved a lot of looking back at who I've been, taking stock, and trying to improve. I've made that a regular practice, but I don't necessarily think that was possible without thinking about the past first. Everything seems to be very centered on the present right now, and I can really take a step back and take in the spot I'm at. I haven't felt this appreciative of the present, of the journey I'm on, for quite some time.

Also, that's unsettling because life has a funny way of taking your present and smashing it to bits. So, very consciously, I'm taking each day and celebrating it, even if it's tiny victories at work or just sharing a smile with a hurried New Yorker. Things are good, and I'm going to try to hold onto that now and remember it when things aren't as fun.

Final note, if you haven't listened to the podcast, you should. I've knocked out 5 episodes with a 6th coming soon, and I love doing it. I love the stories people have shared and the experience they've related. It's that sort of connection and sharing experiences that I think helps us all to connect a bit more with the folks around us and have some understanding of one another. Search Spotify, iTunes, or SoundCloud for Travel For A Loop.

Have a great week, party people.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

What happens if I die tomorrow?

I make jokes fairly often about being old, sometimes I think to the point of annoying those who hear me say it often (especially if they're older than me!). In some ways, I feel really old. My body hurts more than it used to. A few drinks can give me a headache for 24 hours. I need my sleep to function. It's little things, and 30 is on the horizon, so all of these things make sense, but somehow aging continually catches me off guard. I don't mean in the sense of "adulting," but more like physically maturing. I've been thinking a lot recently about age and about death. I haven't been thinking about it in a morbid way as much as it's been rather existential.

One of the joys of the life I've led is meeting people from all different walks of life, whether it's been traveling, through jobs, or otherwise. Want to know what all of those people had in common? Every single one of them will die. It could be today, tomorrow, or 80 years from now, but it's a guarantee. We're all going to die, and we have to figure out how we're going to deal with that.

A few mornings ago at 7:30, my grandfather got a phone call. It was unusual to receive a call so early, so I asked him what it was. His friend from years past had died, and the man's son felt compelled to call my grandpa even though he and his friend hadn't spoken in a few years. My grandpa said something that stuck with me about how the man had lived a good long life, and that part of life is accepting the inevitability of death. I spent a lot of this week mulling over that idea. We all fear death instinctively. People who stare down death, especially in service of others, are people who we consider the bravest of the brave. At the end of the day though, we all have to decide for ourselves how we're going to view death. Are we going to let the fear cripple us or guide our lives?

Reactions to the death of people around me have very much shaped my understanding of my own impending death (hopefully not any time soon, but it's no guarantee, right?). I've lost a good handful of people in my life who I was very close to. Their deaths were difficult, often devastating, but they shaped who I am. It's really interesting for me to reflect on that fact. Someday, when I die, will my death and how I lived my life before it have profoundly impacted someone in the way that those deaths impacted me?

I only realized the impact that many peoples' lives had on me after they died. "You don't know what you've got til it's gone" is a cliche, but I think it holds true in a lot of ways. When Brad Zandstra was here, I rarely thought about the things he did for me and how he affected me. He was just a friend. When he died, I reflected on what he taught me about being a man, about treating other people, about braving tragedy. I know I handled his death much better than I did his son Chris's because Brad talked to me about the pain of Chris's death. I remember so vividly a summer night on Brad's porch, smoking a cigar and him trying to describe the pain of losing his son. Both of us were in tears by the end, but not in sadness as much as it was sharing the experience of the greatness that was his son, but also understanding that he was gone. Every time I smoke a cigar, I think of Brad, and the effect he has had on me in so many ways.

I recently asked friends what the point of living is if we all die. It's a problematic question in a lot of ways, but I think it stirs the sort of thinking that's been going on in with me. What does it all add up to if we all end up in a hole in the ground? I think you can view the question very negatively or rather positively, depending on the sort of person you are. I don't think life has to have meaning. I don't think we all have a purpose. I don't think there is a shared purpose that we all have to get to. For me, I want to leave the world better than I found it and to have that effect on people that Brad had on me, that I made them better. But that's not the meaning of life, it's just a goal that I have for my life. I think we often get caught up in making meaning as humans, but not everything has to have meaning. We're here, and I think that's enough sometimes.

I could walk out on the Manhattan street and die five minutes from now. That's not ideal, and it's not expected, but the possibility is a fact. That can induce one of two things: crippling fear or motivation. I want to remember that the next time I feel like I'm in a rut. Five minutes from now, I could be dead, so what's stopping me from going and doing? What's stopping me from pursuing something? It makes the fear of failure seem so silly. Why are you not trying to live your dreams? Why are you not doing what makes you happy? I'm so happy in my life right now, but if I wasn't, I know this thinking would put me on the move.

We all have to come to terms with death. Hopefully someday decades from now I'll be in a bed surrounded by friends and go in my sleep, then there will be a funeral where they play Vulfpeck and serve pizza and have skeeball and bowling and whisky. And in this dream I'm creating, people will drink a sip of whisky or hear that song and think of a time when we did those things together, and I made them smile. I'm living my life for that moment when I die and someone thinks about what I did for them. I'm living my life so that when they spread my ashes wherever the hell they end up, I've left no stone unturned and tried to help as many people as I could in pursuit of whatever will give their eventual deaths peace.

I think it's only because I've lost people that I don't really fear death. I don't think there's anything after death or any afterlife, and I'm really okay with that because of the profound impact that the people I know who have died have had on my life. We live our lives for the people who keep on living. You don't plant a seed expecting to sit in the shade of an oak tree thirty years from now. You plant it because it enriches a place for people to come when it's grown to its full potential. I think it's why we humans are so keen to build and to create. I might be forgotten 25 years after my death, but it's my hope that something I've done affected someone who in turn affected someone else and so on and so on. In that way, I might be dead, but it certainly wasn't for nothing. The opposite is certainly possible; if you're a shitty person, you could instill bad reverberations through the eons. Abuse your kid, and maybe they abuse their kid, and it gets normalized. I want to normalize good things that can echo in eternity (see what I did there?). I want to die knowing that even if I didn't get my name on a library or cure cancer, I moved atoms and changed trajectories and turned the path that the world was on in a different direction for the better.

So, I've been thinking a lot about death, but in a good way. Death isn't so scary when you put it in the perspective of your life. It's always going to be hard to lose people who are close to you, but I've found comfort in knowing that they changed me, and that change in me affects those I interact with, and in that, those people live on. I'll never forget them, but even if I'm the last person on earth who remembered them and I die, they still live on in how those they affected affect others.

If I die tomorrow, turn up the music, drink the booze, and dance. I'm working to better the world I'm in, little by little, and if I die tomorrow, I'll have died happy in pursuit of that. So save your tears and smile big.

As always, thanks for reading, and if anyone has lost someone or just generally needs to talk, I'm always willing. Take care.