The Damage of Trying to Look Good

Yesterday, I saw an article on a blog my husband reads. It was talking about a powerful career woman who lives around here (whom I’ve met) and she was saying how she works 9-5 and gets to pickup her kids from school everyday, etc. And the article made me incredibly mad. I know for a fact that this person has several nannies and a lot of other help. She also works a lot more than 9-5.

It wasn’t just the lying that made me mad (which, of course, is terrible on its own) but the message it was sending.

It was implying that you can be a super-successful career woman and also a great mom who’s consistently there. You can have it all and do it all.

Which is deeply, profoundly untrue.

It’s not just untrue but it’s damaging to those of us who are trying so hard to keep up with things and not drop all the balls in the air. To look at her and have her make it seem like she can just do it all and that if I can’t, there must be something wrong with me. It’s giving a false impression of what’s possible and doing my life, struggles, psyche a huge damage in the process.

I feel like we do this a lot by being inauthentic and by making it seem like things are “breezier” than they are. As it is, we already seem to have a tendency to compare the worst of ourselves to the best of others, so there’s no need to add to that by just lying (or omitting facts.) I feel like we would do everyone a LOT better service by just being honest. I feel like people who are struggling and not ashamed to say it actually get a lot more empathy, sympathy and much less judgement. We all feel inadequate here. All of us. Some of us hide it better. Some of us aren’t even willing to admit it to ourselves yet. But we all just feel “less than” in some areas of our lives. And the first step to healing that, in my opinion, is just saying it. So that others know it, too. So that others feel it’s ok to be courageous and share their truth, too.

To me, misrepresenting the truth in this way is no different than photoshopping a model’s body. It’s distortion of facts. It’s covering up what’s real.

What’s the point?

Ok, I understand. The point is that *you* look good. This person looks like a superstar. She’s amazing. She can do it all. She’s supermom and super career woman. So let’s all give her a pat in the back. And then what?

The cost to her ten minutes of feeling good about herself is that tons of other women who are now trying to juggle work and home feel terrible. The cost is that the issues for women who are trying to make it work are not acknowledged now and will never be discussed or resolved. Cause clearly if she can do it, it can be done, right? It must be a problem with me, not with the situation. Now there’s a public article/example that shows someone who can juggle it all perfectly.

It makes her look unrealistically successful at doing it all. It makes me look and feel terrible for not being able to do the same. It makes the hardships of trying to balance home and work seem nonexistent or devalued. And now the important discussions that could happen to resolve real issues will never happen. Cause clearly there are tangible examples of those who can make it all work. So we don’t need to talk about it cause there’s nothing to talk about. And not talking only leads to more damage. Like photoshopped images and eating disorders.

All so she can look good for an article.

This is not just a case of covering up a few truths so you look better than you are. This is something that’s going to cause tangible damage in the worlds of many other women.

And it makes me mad.

Declarations and Qualifications

One of the things I’ve often wondered about is how one gets to earn titles. Not the typical ones like “doctor” or “judge” or whatever. I guess maybe it’s labels. Like “artist” or “photographer” or even “programmer.” One simple and obvious answer is: school. When you have a piece of paper from a university saying you’re an art major, I guess you are officially an artist.

But what if you never practice it?

What if I study computer science but don’t write one line of code; am I still a programmer?

Ok, so maybe school, alone, is not the decider. Let’s choose the second most commonly accepted method: making money with it. So if I am making money as a photographer, then am I officially a photographer? Which, of course, brings me to my next question:

How much money?

How much money do I need to make before I qualify as a photographer? Do I have to make a living doing it? What if the amount of money I need to make a living is way higher than you? Is there a particular monetary value that makes the label earned? Or is it about having a certain number of clients? People who pay me to do shoots. If I have more than 20 clients, am I legit?

What about external validation. What if I have an award? What if I had a gallery show? What if there was an article in a major newspaper that mentioned me as an artist? If I talked at a conference. Where’s the special line where I go from being an amateur to earning the label?

I see a lot of signs on Pinterest (or elsewhere) that say “just because you have a camera doesn’t make you a photographer.” Ok, I’ll bite: what does?

Who gets to decide if I am a photographer?

Artist, writer, programmer, trader. It doesn’t matter what the title is, what I want to know is who decides if I earned it? If I self-publish a book, does that count? Am I still a writer?

I’ve learned over time that people’s lines in the sand vary drastically. Some people will not call you a writer unless a major publishing house has put out one of your books while others call you a writer if you’ve written 100 words for the book sitting on your computer.

Who’s right?

That’s the thing. I think no one is more right than anyone else. No one besides me has the right to make declarations on what my qualifications are for a title. If I decide I am a photographer, no one else gets to take that away from me.

Because, you know what: there’s always someone more accomplished than you. If you claim to be a photographer, I can ask you if you’ve published work that looks like Ansel Adams and say that unless you’ve sold thousands of copies of a book published by a notable company, you don’t qualify to call yourself a photographer. Can you dare say I am wrong? As long as the other person gets to make the decision on what “qualifications” you need to earn, they can always move the bar.

You might be setting the bar too high yourself. For example, back when I wrote novels, I used to think that unless Random House published one of my books, it didn’t count. That’s a ridiculous bar. But still, at least it’s my bar. No one else is telling me what I need to do, who I need to be, to call myself whatever title I want.

I think that’s why those signs irritate me so much. It makes it sound like the other person gets to decide what I am. “Who made you the judge” is what I often say out loud when I see them. To me, they are all about making the other person feel small. If I call myself a photographer, does that make you less of one? Only small people think that way. There’s enough room in the world for each of us to call ourselves whatever we want.

So, here’s what I think: if you want to call yourself a photographer. Go for it! Artist. Go for it. Musician. Go for it. No one gets to tell you that you are not.

You are whatever you say you are.

Curveballs and Frustration

I had a rough day today.

I was scheduled to have a time-consuming appointment today that I’d been worried about. It was with someone that I wasn’t sure I could count on. I’ve had appointments with this person before and more than half the time something goes wrong and the whole schedule goes awry. But when she does show up, she still does a kind of service and quality I cannot find elsewhere and she’s also nice. So I keep trying again and again even though the lack of predictability and dependability drives me absolutely mad.

So I went to bed last night worrying about this and when I woke up, I was still worried. Lo and behold, something went wrong on her side and then some more things went wrong and she didn’t show up at all. Not only that but now I am not sure when the follow up will be and it was something I really needed.

There’s nothing quite like unpredictability to completely ruin my day.

Even though my plans went out the window, nothing major really went wrong today. My kids are fine, work is fine, I am fine and so is Jake. My family. Everything else went as expected and if I had to bet on it, I would say chances are this particular issue will get sorted out pretty soon as well. She will eventually show up and all will be fine.

But, alas, it still ruined my day. While one side of me was frustrated, dejected and even panicking at the schedule change, the other side of me was yelling at the first side for being such a pain. Even as I fully recognized what I was doing was immature and unhelpful, I couldn’t stop myself from feeling frustrated and off balance.

I am not a “just roll with it” girl and I never will be. So when I get notice for jury duty (which I did recently, by the way) it will frustrate me. When someone I made an appointment with doesn’t show up and doesn’t schedule a solid follow up, it will frustrate me. When something unexpected happens, it will frustrate me. I’ve learned that it’s better to accept who I am than chastise myself for being who I am.

But here’s the thing about life: unexpected things will happen.

I have a husband and two kids. Unexpected things will happen. I rely on other people to help me out with certain things. They have their own lives and families. Unexpected things will happen. I use machines and scripts and systems to do my job. Machines fail. Scripts break. Unexpected things will happen. Unless I live in a hole and don’t talk to anyone, ever, unexpected things will happen.

It’s part of life.

And since I know this and I know those things will always frustrate me and throw me off, I need to find a way to make it all work. I need to find a way to be able to sit with it and not let it ruin my day. Not let it affect the rest of my life. Not have my frustration spill over to my kids and husband. So I’ve been thinking about this a lot today.

One obvious solution is to remove as many undependable people from my life as possible. And I can make such changes so people in my life have integrity and are reliable. But in some cases that will be impossible. Unexpected things will still happen. So what do I do then?

I think one trick is to take a walk. To clear my mind and realize the relative importance of this disruption. Often times, the problems that come up are resolvable and not critical. I can also do what I am doing right now, which is to write it down. Writing not only helps with perspective but it also allows me to get the frustration out of my system. And, finally, I can take time to actively play with my kids or do art. Both of these things give me temporary relief and joy because I tend to get lost in what I am doing and as opposed to just watching TV, they don’t leave me with an empty feeling afterwards.

I don’t know if any of these will work but I think they are all worth trying because letting every little curveball ruin my day will mean many many ruined days and I cannot afford to waste my precious time here like that.

How about you? Do you have a good way to deal with feeling frustrated?

Random Thoughts – Part 2

Here’s a continuation of Random Thoughts I’ve been having lately. You can read part I here.

Here we go for more random:

5. Don’t believe what you see on TV. Ok this one is a complete side note but a few weeks ago, Jake and I went to the movies and there was this one scene were two people were having sex for the first time (with each other, not ever) and suddenly one said she only had 45 seconds and the other said “no problem” and so within that time, they both finished at the same time and it was implied that it was magnificent for both. It was a Thursday night and the theater was mostly empty. At the end of that scene, one person in the back shouted “Yeah Right” and everyone began to laugh.(sarcasm anyone?) Because, of course, it was so beyond unrealistic. It was almost ridiculous. But at the time, you didn’t really think about it. You were caught up in the scene. And this is so common in media these days. Giving us messages of “typical” marriages or relationships or intimacy. It makes everyone feel like they must not be the norm. They must be failing, messing up. Like how if you’re not a size 2, you’re fat. Consciously or not, we’re receiving these messages and trying to measure up. I think it’s terrible and wish they would stop feeding us these made up lies. I think if we all spoke the truths a bit more often, people could connect better and in general feel less messed up.

6. I’m Bad with Transitions. When I was at the airport for CHA, I noticed that I am bad with transitions. Sitting there and waiting for the plane was stressful because I kept wondering if I would get to carry my bags on and be able to fit it and who would sit next to me and on and on. I do this quite a lot. When I am on my way to something or somewhere I am often anxious and worried. Once I get there, I adjust and I am almost always ok. It’s the unknown that throws me off and brings in stress. I know this is common with kids and parents often have routines for transitions. Like going from dinner to bedtime or play to naptime or school to home etc. Maybe I need routines for my transitions too. More prep time. Maybe it will reduce my anxiety. I think it’s worth a shot. So for the next month or so, I will pay attention to when anxiety arises and try to see if it’s something I can establish a routine around. If you’ve done this, I would love advice.

7. Worry Lists I worry often and a lot. From huge things like something happening to my family to tiny things like oversleeping or doing some art badly. Worrying is a constant on my mind and takes up more room than I’d like and I often look for ways to get rid of it. I’ve mentioned the God Box idea before which I think is wonderful and I will do it. But I wanted more, so while I was flying to CHA, I decided to try something new. I sat down and brainstormed a long list of everything I was worrying about at that very moment. Big or small. Every single thing. Then a week later, I went back and wrote whether that item happened that week or not. And if it did happen, what consequences that brought. Were they as bad as I had imagined? Some of the items are long long term like something happening to one of my kids. For those I just check if something happened to them that week and then they go on the list again the next week. For others, they are short duration and get completely resolved that week. Like a meeting I am worried about. The meeting comes and goes and it’s over. So I can permanently get rid of that one item. The idea is that if I see week after week that a high percentage of my worries do not come true, maybe I will calm down more, worry less. If I see that nothing happened to my kids 98 weeks in a row, my senses of statistics starts kicking in and telling me it’s ok to worry a small amount less. Maybe. I figure it can’t hurt to try, right?

8. You’re not that special. Just like I am done with sarcasm, I am totally over the attitude of “i won’t do it cause everyone else is doing it.” People who don’t go to a place, listen to a music, read a book, etc. cause others are doing it drive me insane. What makes you so special. Are you above and beyond all normal people? Here’s a quote I found on Amy’s friend’s site that I love:

Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog, another OBC selection responded to Franzen with, “It is so elitist it offends me deeply. The assumption that high art is not for the masses, that they won’t understand it and they don’t deserve it – I find that reprehensible. Is that a judgment on the audience? Or on the books in whose company he would be?”

This was in response to Franzen’s snubbing Oprah for picking his book. But I love this quote. What’s wrong with masses? Why are you so superior? I just don’t get this. Truly. I like the music I like and the books I like. Some of them are popular and others aren’t. This doesn’t make me less or more special. It just makes me, me. I feel that as long as you’re authentic to you, you’re special. And if you stay clear of everything “the masses” like, you can easily miss out on some wonderful things. Seems plain silly to me.

There you go. A bit of a brain dump for you. I have one more thing to write about but that’s for later. This one’s too long already and I am sure you’ve had enough of my thoughts for today.

Random Thoughts – Part 1

So I’ve been carrying these thoughts around for weeks now. Some of them for months and I originally wanted to make a post for each but I’ve quickly realized that it will never happen. I will postpone it forever. So ,instead, I’ve decided to write paragraphs for each and clump them together. This might be one post or if it’s too long two, three posts. I will just write until I have nothing more to say or I am tired. I hope this doesn’t annoy you. They are not in any order at all.

1. Your Words Come True. Henry Ford said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” I think this statement is very pithy. It shows the power of your thoughts. Regardless of facts, your thoughts play a big part in the outcome of your actions. I firmly believe this holds true of your words, too. If you say you can’t do something, you likely cannot. But the power of words go even further because since they are often outwardly expressed, they end up affecting others around us as well and they start to believe what you say. If you say “I’m fat” enough times, people around you start seeing you as fat. If you tell someone you’re dumb, they stop thinking otherwise. I promise you, it works consistently. The number of times you need say it out loud might differ but words are powerful. They convince people eventually. So it’s better to say things that are empowering instead of defeating. Even if you don’t think you can do it, you can say “I can try.” or “I can give it my best.” That’s what I do with the exercise. I tell myself that I will give it all I have. That I can do it. I don’t always believe it, but I say it anyway. So this is for you, and for me, to remember that words have power. What you say comes true. It’s a way of calling things to yourself. So why not call the best?

2. Being Busy is not Always Bad. I always favor a long todo list. I like being busy and I like doing doing doing. For a while, I worried that this was my way of avoiding some deep issue. That I wasn’t ok to stand still and I would break down if I did. Or something. I am not sure what but it had me worried. And then I had a bunch of time off so I slowed down. A lot. I realized that not having much to do or not doing much didn’t cause me to breakdown. It caused me to be lazy. I sat on the couch and moved very little. I read. I wrote. I watched TV. But overall, I felt sad. Empty. Like I didn’t really have a purpose. I like having purposes. I like a schedule and todo lists. I like deadlines. I like getting things done. Not because I am running away from something but because I love the feeling of accomplishment. Even finishing a tiny task makes me happy. Rearranging my table. Finishing a layout. Whatever it might be. So I decided to stop worrying and feeling bad about who I am and what I do. I can sit still and read for hours and it’s great, but being busy is not bad. It’s who I am and I’m all about embracing who I am these days. So there we go.

3. I am not Fun.Here’s another one I’ve clung on to for years and years. I am not what you’d typically consider to be a fun person. I don’t dance, drink, do drugs, or go out partying. I talk a lot. (A lot!!) but I am much more of a 1-1 person. I prefer deep, authentic conversations. For the longest time, I felt bad about not being fun. When I saw people with lots of friends partying or having fun, I felt envious. But then I forced myself to think of what I am. I am authentic, reliable, loyal, kind, patient, and loving. Helpful. Genuine. I will do anything for the person I love. I read a lot and have a wide range of interests so I can talk about most subjects and have a wide variety of friends. So I don’t drink with them or go dancing. But I am me. And I am here. I think it’s time I made peace with that instead of desperately wishing I was everything I am not. Being consistent, dependable and loyal is nothing to sneeze at in a friendship. Right? They will just have to go drinking with someone else.

4. Sarcasm. I am so so done with sarcasm. I never got it. I think it’s a way to be mean without getting in trouble. It sounds mean, bitter and sometimes even nasty. What’s the point? I think it’s completely overrated. I’d rather have a kind, genuine friend who’s happy. Any day of the week. So if your thing is being sarcastic, I am letting you know now, that I am not going to respond to it. I will not feed it. I refuse to be a part of it. I think it’s destructive. And mean. There, I said it.

More coming next week.

Amnesia by Choice

Let the bitching begin.

Two weeks ago a friend and I were talking on the phone. Out of the blue, the conversation turned ugly and he started asking me weird questions and getting increasingly angry/demanding. I had no idea where this was coming from and tried to take it with a grain of salt and even apologized for actions that weren’t wrong. I tried to soothe him but it was no go. He didn’t realize how upset he was and wouldn’t admit to being angry. After a while more of unloading on me, he hung up.

A few days later, he called me back and chatted away like nothing happened. At first I was taken aback and wondered whether I imagined the whole thing. I considered bringing it up myself but I didn’t want to rehash any of the issues so I left it alone and decided to wait. He and I talk several times a day so I figured it would eventually come up.

Here we are two weeks and at least ten conversations later and the issue never ever came up again. None of: “I’m sorry , I don’t know what came over me.” or “I must have been losing my mind.” or “Other stuff was making me upset, I am sorry I took it out on you.” I would have apologized but honestly, I hadn’t said a word and this wasn’t an argument as much as it was his unloading on me. So I went from flabbergasted to fuming.

I can totally understand that we all have bad days and times when we’re overly stressed. I can alos understand that we often take it out from those closest to us. But there’s no excuse for not acknowledging such an occurence. I was quite hurt, sad, and worried after that exchange and his not acknowledging it makes me feel like all the actions were justified. Even if he’d called me and continued to yell at me, I would have prefered that over lets-act-like-nothing-happened. WTF?

People and actions like that irk me. We all fuck up at times but let’s be a man (to use a really stereotypical phrase) about it. There’s nothing wrong with calling a good friend and apologizing. There’s a lot to be respected in humility and candor. And there’s no fucking thing to be proud of in feeling like if we don’t ever bring it up, it will be like it never happened. It did happen. Even if you want to act otherwise.

I am not waiting for an apology or even an explanation. I am happy to and already have forgiven him. I just want him to acknowledge it so I don’t feel like my feelings aren’t worthless to him. Mayne it’s asking for too much but I cannot stand acting. I like things out in the open. I like honesty. I like candid. Bring it on. If you put it out there, we may be able to resolve it. If you don’t, we never will.

Bad Service

I am amazed that in today’s world where companies are in a race to offer the better deal, no one is paying attention to another avenue of customer retention: good customer service.

I spent some time “chatting” with a service provider and with a cable company today. Both services were horribly bad. The hosting company is offering a deal for new clients only that allows them to pay the same price as current clients but gives them several times more bandwidth and storage space. The person I was chatting with insisted that the deal was only available for new clients.

I can understand the company’s desire to get new clients and thus offering an enticing deal to them but isn’t it stupid to make your current clients so upset that they leave? You may or may not get the new clients even with the enticing deal and thus it seems like a bad idea to lose the ones you do have. Am I missing something here?

This seems to be common practice in the industry. Cable companies, phone companies, and many others practice the same deal. It seems to me that keeping your current clients happy should be a high priority and companies shouldn’t have the mindset of “I already got that person so who cares?” attitude. It’s probably partially the customer’s fault for not revolting enough but still it’s all so slimy.

Along the same lines, I think most companies don’t pay enough attention to having good customer service. I’ve had two major exceptions to this norm: Skytel and Tivo. Both companies have phenomenal service and have made me loyal consumers. I would easily pay a bit more to get excellent service than to pay bottom price and have an attitude each time I need some help. But maybe that’s just me.

Even so, I am annoyed at the “only worry about getting new customers” attitude the companies are employing these days and wish that enough people would get together to show them the power of exisiting customers and why it’s important to not blow them off.

Well Versed or Biased

I have gotten way too little sleep last night to write this as eloquently as I want to but I figured I’ll start it now and can always adjust it tomorrow. So please don’t get mad at me if it’s not so well-put.

I have decided that there’s a big difference between people who are Well Versed in a subject and those who are simply biased. There are people who already hold a specific belief and read anything and everything that backs up their opinion and nothing on the opposing side. I find these people to be more annoying to talk to than the ones who haven’t read at all. At least with completely uninformed people I can tell myself that they don’t care enough about the issue to read up on it and have just formulated opinions with no facts to back them up. It’s easy for me to not get into a conversation with such a person.

A person who has only read books/articles/papers that agree with his/her point of view is a totally different kind of fighter. This person has facts and refuses to consider the possibility that the things s/he considers facts might be biased but claims anything on the other side of the issue is biased or distorted. Such a person is incredibly frustrating to deal with and completely pointless to talk to. The only reason I would like to talk to someone who disagrees with me is because I’d be interested in their way of thinking or the information they might have interpreted differenly than I did. This allows me to see the world from different angles and thus allows me to grow. But if the person I am talking to is just there to prove their point and is completely closed to mine, it makes the conversation very argumentative and my main goal is never to argue or to convince someone of my way. It’s simply to understand their way. For this, I need to be open to the possibility of seeing the world from their eyes. And they need to be open to the same. If they completely refuse to listen to or read any of the opposing thoughts, I can only assume they are parroting points from their reading, not ideas they have actually developed through thought and comparison of counter positions on issues.

Talking to someone who’s simply repeating other people’s words is useless to me, I might as well read that person’s words (and get the word from the original source). I prefer to deal with people who are well versed and spent time thinking where they stand on an issue and why.

Why I Sometimes Hate Email

Since I work from home, I do a lot of email correspondance. One of the things I’ve noticed lately is that people feel a lot more comfortable being rude over email.

It must have to do with the fact that they don’t have to visualize a human being on the other end. Some people just let it all out and say stuff you would never say to an actual human being. When I get one of those emails, I don’t even bother to write back anymore. I pick up the phone and call the person. I start the conversation on a very cordial and kind tone and they change almost instantly.

Within a minute or two, they are apologizing. Listing the reasons why they had the assholish tone in the email and how stressed out they are and how they were having a bad day, etc. We then move to the part where I explain to them that it’s perfectly understandable and we all have bad days and then we manage to actually talk about the issue and often resolve it without much problem.

They didn’t need to send the nasty email for me to call them. Nice goes much farther than nasty ever did. Nasty means I am never going to bend over backwards for you. Nasty means I’d never bend the rules for you. Rules were invented for me to have to enforce them on the nasty people. They’re my protection. So why go with the nasty approach?

I just urge everyone to remember that even if it’s easier and faster and doesn’t require personal confrontation, it doesn’t mean that an email is not read by a human. I can’t stand people who don’t have the balls to say something to my face and choose to write it and send it away instead.


Airline Courtesy

The trip back started Sunday night at Dalaman Airport. Thanks to a lovely NATO conference in Istanbul, our 7:05 flight didn’t take off until 9:00pm. With an upset stomach and a pounding headache, we arrived at the Airport Hotel in Istanbul at 11:30pm. Since 192 roads were closed in Istanbul, my mom had set us up at the new Airport Hotel to ensure we wouldn’t miss our flight the next morning. I went to sleep the minute my head hit the pillow.

The next morning, we arrived at the hotel three hours before departure, as instructed. Since we had two connecting flights, it was imperative that the flight to New York take off on time, which, by some miracle, it did. The 11-hour flight to New York didn’t grant me even 20 minutes of sleep and was peppered with several trips to the bathroom thanks to a bout of food poisoning from which I hadn’t fully recovered. We reached New York slightly early, causing Jake and I to have a moment of wishful thinking thank we could make it to the earlier, direct flight to San Diego. After six flights landed simultaneously and formed a line that went on for miles at the customs counter, we picked up our bags and made our way as fast as possible to the terminal at the other end of JFK. After waiting in the AA line, we were told there wasn’t enough time for our baggage to clear security and we were stuck with the LA flight after all. The LA flight granted me with some sleep and it was Monday night at 10pm that we arrived in LA.

At this point, I figured getting home was a piece of cake. The flight from LA to San Diego is a commuter propeller run by American Eagle. The tiny plane carries no more than 30 or so passengers. We sat on the plane, looking out the window as they loaded the bags. I worried that we hadn’t seen our bag but assumed we must have missed it when I saw it coming at the distance. The men loading had already lowered the loading ramp and so I asked the steward to please check on it since my bag was now sitting by the side of the plane. She nodded but did nothing. Ten minutes later, the men took my bag and one other bag, and put them back on the cart they came from. By now, I had been sleep deprived for three days and hadn’t showered in two. I was in no mood for a joke. I yelled for the stewardess to come back and told her that my bag was sitting there and not loaded on the plane. She finally called someone and talked for a while. She then came over and said that the plane was too heavy and they were going to put our bag on the next flight to San Diego, leaving in 30 minutes. “If you want, you can leave to travel with your bags but you have to get off now.”

She then proceeded to remove four passengers off the plane. When the gentleman in front of me asked me what was going on, she said, “The plane is too heavy. You have too many bags so we’re taking some passengers off and we’ll take some more bags off and then we’ll leave.” He asked if they were sure the plane would be okay after that and she said, “Yes, but you can leave if you want.” Literally.

Another set of passengers in front of me asked how they would be sure their bags made it to the plane since they heard that mine weren’t. The stewardess said, “It was just her bags, you should be fine.” Which I knew not to be correct since there was as least one bag sitting next to mine that also wasn’t making this flight. After another ten minutes of complaints, some official came on board and told everyone that when we arrived in San Diego, if our bags weren’t on board, they would be on the next plane and to wait for them. Of course, after twenty-some hours of flying all I want to do is wait at another airport for half an hour more for my bags to arrive.

Several of the passengers asked the stewardess to give her name so they could complain but she wouldn’t. I don’t even mind the fact that they couldn’t arrange the flight properly, with all the connecting flights it’s hard to gauge how many pieces might make it to a plane. What I did mind was her rudeness and assumption that it was no big deal for me to wait more. She wouldn’t have even told me that my bags weren’t on the plane had I not been looking out the window.

With this kind of service, the airlines deserve to go out of business.

No Dead Cats Here

I’m always surprised when I meet people who aren’t curious.

I’ve always been curious. About everything. When I was little, I asked questions incessantly. People used to tell my mom to stop answering them but she didn’t. I’m really glad she didn’t because it made me feel like it was okay to ask all the questions I had. I still ask questions. All the time. I don’t worry about looking stupid. I figure I can’t learn unless I ask. That’s always been my principle.

I figured everyone to be curious. Some people might be scared or shy and thus not ask but they still wondered. How can anyone look at the sky and not wonder why it’s blue? Why mirrors reflect backwards? How can people drive without knowing how a car works? Almost every kid I meet stacks on the “why?”s so often that I knew it was built into our system.

So the question is: Do we get too shy to ask or do we not care?

There definitely is a section of people who get “too shy to ask.” They’ve either been shushed or, even worse, humiliated somewhere along the line and decided it’s best to stop asking. They figure if they don’t ask, they can’t be made fun of and they can’t feel stupid. We spend so much time trying to not look stupid that we choose to hide our lack of knowledge instead of taking the opportunity to learn. Which means we stay “stupid”, isn’t that a bit stupid?

As much as those people make me sad, the people in the second category make me even sadder. Do people really stop being curious? Last year, when I was teaching, I had kids who had already decided that they were “no good at math” and when we had our math lessons, they would tune out. They weren’t curious why something worked the way it did. They just wanted to know (be told) the right answer and move on to the next problem. Their curiosity had been completely squashed out of existence.

I can’t think of anything sadder.

Lack of Commitment

I am amazed at the lack of commitment people around me are showing lately. When we’re young and immature, a change of mind is easily explained by our age. “She’s still a kid,” people say, “she doesn’t know what she wants yet.” Fair enough. Maybe 16 is too young to take on a major commitment.

But what about 25? or 30? or 35? When’s the right time? What’s the age at which we’re supposed to be more mature and know that a commitment is not meant to be easy, but we stick to it anyway. What if people quit their jobs regularly. I mean monthly. When I worked on Wall Street, people used to say that you need to work in a company at least for one year before you can leave because otherwise it looks bad on your resume. Companies didn’t like to see guys who moved in and out of places within months. It showed lack of commitment. Lack of care.

I fear that my generation is full of people who don’t take their commitments seriously. I have more friends than I’d like to count who are cheating on their significant other, who are getting divorced, who are taking on jobs they know they will quit as soon as they can get the job they really want. What’s the point of getting married if you aren’t willing to try as hard as you can. What’s the point of staying married if you’re sleeping with someone else? What’s the point of it all?

I don’t mean to imply that one is required to stay in a loveless marriage or an abusive one. Life is short and we are supposed to try and be happy for the amount of time we’re here. But the thing that annoys me is that no one is forcing you to make a commitment. No one is requiring marriage which is much harder than it appears. Marriage is hard work. It’s consistent hard work. It’s not all flowers and chocolates and hugs and sex. It’s caring on the sick days, dealing with loss of money, working out different priorities. It’s being with someone who goes through mood swings. emotional downs, major career changes, anger, sadness, frustration, lack of enthusiasm, lack of drive, lack of ambition. And not when it’s convenient for you but when the other person is actually feeling it. Marriage is spending a lifetime with another person whom you can’t control. It’s putting up, bending backwards, compromising, and caring even when you don’t feel like it. Not to mention the dimensions that children add to the picture. No matter how magnificent the other person is, marriage is hard work a lot of the time.

It’s also wonderful and amazing and magical but, for now, we’re talking about the difficult moments. People who stand in front of the officiant and say “yes” should take a moment and realize all this hard work. Maybe then they wouldn’t commit to something they undoubtedly can’t do. I know we start all things with good intentions but how come we don’t stick to anything any more? How come we’ve lost all our integrity? How come cheating has become acceptable; something we can ‘work out’? Why can’t we own up to our commitments? And if the marriage is really over and there’s nothing to work on anymore, why can’t we be honest and deal with it instead of lying and hiding and cheating?

Apologies for the rant but after the seventh case, I just feel like blowing up. It makes me lose all faith in the institution of marriage and it makes me lose respect for humankind.

Oh and I posted two new sets of pictures: malibu, venice beach, beverly hills and learning photography with the nikon ef2 and a new book excerpt: nothing that meets the eye.