american pride

My Special Lady works at a center for refugees and immigrants here in Louisville. It’s a place that was founded to help them participate in community, find proper healthcare and housing, and develop skills needed to work and thrive in their new home. Participants hail from all over the world–101 countries currently. The most visible part of the center is the youth programs.

The youth summer program is wrapping up and today they held a talent show. I stopped in for a few acts. As a rule, hanging out with them is generally a great idea.

There was lots of dancing. Numerous groups of pre-adolescent girls doing dance routines (often to the same song). A young boy timidly rapping into a microphone as big as his arm; girls doing gymnastics; a boy showing off his basketball skills (with a little help from two older guys trying their best to making him look good). All the while the whole crowd of kids were shouting along with every song and cheering on their friends.

It was a far more entertaining talent show than I’ve ever been a part of. Far more interesting than hearing that awkward Taylor Swift cover 7 times in 90 minutes (your kid does it beautifully, btw). It was so spirited, so warm. But, mostly, it was just different than my experience.

There is a process any young person has to go through when they begin to explore the world. When I first traveled abroad, I looked back at America as a boring, bland place where nothing exciting ever happened. In other worlds I saw cultures that lived differently and more vibrantly and it excited me. I grew cynical about my own world and envied another wherever I went.

As I’ve grown older and traveled farther I’ve learned that I was correct about all of the problems–problems that are often most visible with distance and perspective. But what I have found more recently is the excitement and promise that really is here. It’s a cliché and it shouldn’t be overstated to drown out the struggle of those in need, but opportunity is here. We are great, too. We have a rich, colorful culture to share with the world . And culture is always better when it’s melted into another.

I’m thankful for the experiences that have been shared with me, abroad and at home. I’m thankful for love in the world, and how breathtakingly beautiful human beings can be.

Today, I was so proud to be American. And I’m so happy to share what I can with these people, just as they are aching to share with me.

wasting time

There’s a span of time in my day that is becoming increasingly hard to fill. As I grow older and less sociable (at least on a daily basis) I find myself often twiddling my thumbs from the time I stop working until dinner. Around 5pm, I shut down my work computer, and wonder what it is I should do now that I’m free from the chains of salary time. Sometimes it’s watching an episode of Seinfeld. Sometimes it’s a hike. Often it’s a drink or two until C gets home.

Productivity is a burden we all carry in a world of capitalism and Protestant Word Ethic. We feel that every minute of our time should be tied to production; time is, after all, money.

I need a hobby. Something that’s fun, relaxing, and shuts off my mind without being a waste of it.

Which means it sure as hell shouldn’t be writing this.

The importance of joy and rest

These past few weeks have been really rough. Bad things are happening everywhere.

This tweet came by me during the attempted coup in Turkey. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot the past few weeks. It’s something we’re all dealing with.

These things, these awful things, keep happening, and instead of hearing about them on a contained, digestible newspaper page, or on the 6 o’clock news, we hear about them all day, every day. These stories are mixed into our wedding announcements. They’re alongside baby photos, restaurant check-ins and Pokèmon GO screenshots. Everything gets equal weight and evaluating the triviality of any given report is exhausting. Social media brings the whole world to our pockets and that carries with it a myriad of complexities.

The world is statistically a safer place than it has ever been. And that’s because of a more informed and involved public. When we saw the real photos from Vietnam, we opposed the war. When we saw the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, we chose not to stand by idly in the face genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan, etc. When we saw the abuse of people of color in the Jim Crow south, we demanded (and demand still) equal treatment and justice.

It’s important to see these things. It’s important to stay woke and informed in order to make the world a safe place for all people and things. But the fatigue is real. And it can be unhealthy and drive us to helplessness and cynicism.

We should do what we can. But we must learn to pace ourselves. We have to know that it’s okay to have joy, even when there is pain in the world.

Today, I’m going to listen to the Reds play the Brewers. I’m going to drink a cold beer. I’m going to be with people I love. I have to.

But tomorrow, it’s back to work.

I suck (not really)

I’m not very nice to myself.

I work in web design for small team at a big company. That carries with it a very complicated set of pros and cons. We have a great deal of flexibility to our work style and agency for what we choose to work on, but the work can often be lacking in diversity or excitement.

I am a self taught web-professional. When I started my current job I was novice in the ways of actual web development, but had been working in web content for a while. Now I would consider myself proficient. The problem is I have no metric by which to measure. Am I proficient? Compared to others in the company, yes. Compared to others out in the world, maybe not.

When I find myself lacking in inspiration, I tend to be much harder on myself. It doesn’t stop with just ‘you aren’t being creative.’ It quickly devolves into ‘you were never good at this. You aren’t really good at anything. Stop wasting yours and everyone else’s time.’

The lizard-brain of negative self-speak has been something I’ve always dealt with—we all do. But it rears it’s head more and more, ironically, as I grow older and more experienced. In some ways, I’m learning what I don’t know and telling myself I’m worthless for my ignorance.

I’m good at things. And I’ve proven that. People depend on me and appreciate the work that I do. Focusing on that is really important. But I’m not very good at mentally documenting the successes.

One of my karmic weights has been that I want to write more and don’t. I often reluctantly excuse myself because can’t think of anything to write. So here’s me talking about not knowing what to write and how I feel bad about that.

And now, I have a success for the day.

pats back

How do I stay woke?

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I was sitting in my living room watching Seinfeld, and swiping through Tweetbot. My TL these days is consumed by political writers and weird twitter, so it’s a pretty specific area of discourse most of the time.

I came across the video of Philando Castile’s murder, roughly and hour after it happened, via this tweet:

This was the second police shooting (caught on camera) within 24 hours. I hadn’t watched the video of Alton Sterling. Those videos are certainly important to getting people woke, and I know they serve a very real purpose. But I wasn’t in the place to see a man shot and murdered just to be a part of the conversation on social media. These things have a tendency to send me into an obsessive spiral and I was trying to protect myself.

But I couldn’t avoid this one. And it hit hard.

I feel the hurt. I feel the terror. I don’t begrudge anyone. But it’s hard to know what to say; to know what to do.

All I know is that dude was alive. When I watched that video, he was alive. He was moaning. And now he’s not. That man killed him. It was a horrible thing to watch. And I have no idea what to say about it.

Black lives matter.