Let’s discuss

When I first started blogging, I searched for inspiration. I had some ideas in my head, but I had no idea how many sustainable stories and thoughts I had coming through me. I sat at my laptop, basically doing this, and somehow, the blogs just fell out of me:

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I can tell when I find a topic I have a lot to say about, as the words just pour out of me, already written in my mind. The tangents are easy to follow, like sparkly things that catch my attention mid-sentence. I enjoy pontificating on those subjects. Very rarely, do I find myself doing this when I write:

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That’s the thing with writing – I don’t want to write if I think no one cares. I like to engage in conversation, so I put thoughts out there, to see what inspires people to catch onto something, anything, and discuss their thoughts with me. I like to hear other people’s points of view. I have my own views, yes, but how I can learn anything different unless I hear other people’s perspectives? I may have my thoughts, but I can actually learn by listening to others. I take on board their views and consider whether they reinforce my preliminary views, or actually make me change my views because they make a good point.

One of my favorite quotes is by Socrates and I mentioned it previously in this blog (Create curiosity), and it goes a little something like, “The only thing that I know is that I know nothing at all.”

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I don’t want people to just take my words at face value, and agree with them because they think that’s what I want to hear. I’d rather someone disagrees with me, and has the guts to say so. Keep my ego and me in check, and keep me honest and humble. In Australia, a coworker explained this to me – it’s something that apparently is very common in Australian workplaces. I’d never heard about it in the US.

It’s called Tall Poppy Syndrome. The second you start shooting up and doing really well, standing out above the pack, someone or something will come along and clip you back down. I think an early episode of Glee covered the same kind of idea, a different way. You try too hard to stand out, and your peers will define you as an outlier, ostracize you for being different and better, and bring you back in line with the crowd.

I like to think I’m open to constructive feedback, and will do what I can to take your comments on board, as it concerns my blog. If you have any shout-outs, requests, thoughts, I want you to feel like we have two-way communication. When I instruct trainings for work, the class will be the most boring class if there isn’t involvement from the students. We help each other and teach each other, if we engage in two-way dialogue.

So, dear reader, my ears are open. Jump in anytime you feel comfortable to do so. And, since I don’t think I’ve said it, in a while, if at all, thanks for reading my blog and for your support. You rock.

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Shades of gray

Well, I’m definitely not the best, but I’m certainly not the worst: Writer. Accountant. Daughter. Friend. Lesbian. Person.

Like all other people, flaws run rampant with me. I squeeze toothpaste from the center of the tube (but I do try to occasionally push it all down to the business end). I can’t cook that well, but I make a fair breakfast. I don’t have a car, and my carbon footprint is fairly small because of it, but I love taxis home from the airport and cannot live without air conditioning on a warmer-than-brisk day. I can certainly be a vegetarian when I’m not thinking about it, as I don’t eat that much meat anyway, but I can’t commit to being one full-time and being accountable for that decision 100% of the time. Not yet. The love of bacon is strong with this one.

I don’t usually give out coins to homeless people on the street, but I donate to charities and sponsor friends for walks, bike rides, animals, scholarships, and so on. I recycle, and try to be mindful of using products that are good for the environment or not tested on animals. However, I have products I use religiously that I know cannot affix the “not tested on animals” to their labels. I simply must have them. A woman has to have standards.

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I like to think there is a yin and yang, a fine balance of good and evil, in all things. Now, I know after the last 2 weeks of news we’ve had as a globe, you must think I’m insane to imply the shooting down of MH17, or what’s happening in Gaza, can be a balance of good and evil. I have to believe in the end it will balance out. There I go, being an optimist again. Or, rather, there I go with my belief in physics that energy is neither created nor destroyed; it’s simply transferred. There are good things happening every day, there are lots of flights that land safely everyday, and there are good people out there to work against the bad.

I remember reading literature (“Heart of Darkness” comes to mind in this specific case, but so many books have this as a central theme) in high school about the battle between good and evil, light and dark. Of course everyone always roots for light/good. However, I believe there are some scenarios that lend themselves to darker than light. To commit to either light or dark would be difficult for me. I have qualities and make choices sometimes that can be too selfish/selfless for my own good. Depends on whichever wolf of a personality I happen to be feeding that day, as a hungry wolf stands no chance against any of my full wolves.

Sometimes being good comes naturally, like how I will always give up my seat for an elderly person on the bus. Sometimes, the devil on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, is harder to fight off. Being good is a lot harder on those days. Whether it’s an impish sense of playfulness, curious naughtiness, blatant disregard for authority, or worse, sometimes it takes all my willpower to not succumb to behaving badly. A good part of the time, the willpower is strong enough to overcome and hold out.

I can’t believe that someone is 100% good or 100% bad. I feel like no one is perfect. There is always some mix between the two. Like 80/20. Or 69/31. Hee hee. See, there you go, perfect example of my mind going in the gutter again. I always say, if it weren’t for the gutter, my mind would be homeless. But, I digress…

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Even with the Kinsey scale that measures how heterosexual or homosexual you are on any given day, a lot of people are in the gray zone in between 0 and 6.

When it’s performance appraisal time at work and we are asked to write a self assessment, how many of us go on record giving ourselves full credit, that we were 100% awesome without admitting any development points?

One of my favorite more current demonstrations of this binary is in my new guilty indulgence TV show, Lost Girl. In the plotline, someone raised in the human world discovers she has certain powers, and subsequently learns about a whole world of fae she didn’t know existed, with creatures she could never dream up. Sort of like all the forms of mutations in X-Men, the possibilities are endless. In this fae world, members are sorted into Light or Dark fae groups fairly early on. They aligned with a side… until the protagonist of the show appears, and remains an unaligned succubus (for awhile) who can make bad choices and kill people, but still do good things on the whole, for people and fae alike.

I wonder sometimes what my ratio would be. I know for the most part, I’m a good person. I don’t want to do wrong by anyone, and perhaps I may have higher hurdles of what that means than most people. I try, where I can, to go above and beyond, and do right by as many people as I can. I don’t just mean make right decisions. I actually want to have a positive impact where I can. I very often joke that my role is to serve as the bad example of what you should not do. However, I usually play the role of Sandy from Grease, in real life, rather than Rizzo, and I tend to be a pretty good example of what to do, on the whole.

I’d like to think I’d leave myself room to grow. I’m old enough to know better and still too young to care. Life is about making mistakes, learning from them, and being true to yourself. It’s not about finally becoming 100%. A good friend commented on one of my previous blogs that I don’t need to become a writer, because I am one already. I know that using the word “become” puts a large chasm between you and whatever that aspiration in the distance may be. I should already believe that there is a little writer in me trying to get out (if you were here with me, I just know you’d insert a sarcastic remark quoting Eddie’s mom in Absolutely Fabulous of “Just the one, dear?” at this well-timed pause.)

Like the Meatloaf song, “Good girls go to heaven, but the bad girls go everywhere.” What if I like travelling? What if I want to go everywhere? Where is the fun in being a perfect, good girl, then? Katharine Hepburn nailed it when she said, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” I may be a hopeless romantic sometimes, but I don’t think you can do well in this life, and I mean truly succeed, unless you had fun doing it.

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Mellow Monday

For the past 2 months, I didn’t know what day it was. Monday, Friday, who cares? I didn’t have to work. All I had to do was make it to the gym every day and ultimately get myself on some planes.

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I’m now firmly rooted back in work life, and today is Monday. I really feel like it’s Monday today, too. I’m not exceedingly tired, I’m not struggling finding motivation, and all it took was one frappuccino to bring me to life this morning. What my normal case of the Mondays looks like:

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Don’t have much on my plate at the moment, and everything is manageable, as I’m still transitioning into my client portfolio and things are slow during the summer.

The commute this morning wasn’t stressful – in fact, it was nice. I sat on a single seat so no one sat next to me, and I opened the windows to feel the cool morning breeze on my face. No homeless people were yelling or stinking up the place. Tourists hadn’t started packing the streetcar to capacity to get to Fisherman’s Wharf, yet. It was ideal commuting conditions. I almost forgot what that was like. For as bad as San Francisco transportation can be, getting around Sydney was much harder, as it required the patience of a saint and a somewhat full wallet. I didn’t have to do my panda bear impression when I finally got to the office today. It was kinda nice.

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I guess it’s going to be more important to care what day it is. My life is once again being guided by my calendar (though I am bringing back with me from Australia calling my calendar a “diary”). Every day is different once again. Today, I am in the office. Tomorrow, I get to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to meet my new client for a meeting and a cheap and cheerful lunch. Translation:

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So I’ll put on my game face and try actively to know what day it is from now on. Apparently, that matters to some people. May your Monday not suck entirely. Who knows, my tune may change; it’s only lunchtime, after all.

By idigres

Passion just around the riverbend

As of late, I really have come to question what it is I’m supposed to be doing with my life. The average person switches careers 4-5 times in their life. I’m 32-going-on-33 and I’ve had the same career since during college. That’s 10+ years with my current employer and some years before that gaining experience in the field. I think it may be time to start stretching my short legs into other things.

I initially majored in only finance in college, and after acing my first basic accounting course with no effort whatsoever, I thought, “I’ll just add an accounting major since it just appears to come so naturally.” That’s possibly where I went wrong. Accounting doesn’t make my tail wag. Finance really does that, when I think about planning out a portfolio, talking stocks and company ratio fundamentals, risk-return trade-offs, efficient market hypotheses, capital markets, financial plans for retirement and other life goals, you get the idea.

Accounting is really more the language of finance. How can I speak to investments and underlying solid company ratios if I didn’t have the slightest clue as to how reliable they were and what actually comprised them?

So, I had a double major during college. I kicked myself over and over after adding accounting as a major because it did not come quite so easily in subsequent accounting classes. They were quite hard, and the professors were lifeless, and actually enjoyed 8am classes on Fridays and Mondays. I secretly hoped my worst accounting professor would have some sort of life emergency and cancel class, but it never eventuated. I didn’t like wishing harm upon someone, anyway. He gave me a C in his class, and it was a hard-earned C. The only of my college career. He reminds me of the military father character in American Beauty, Colonel Fitts.

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The finance truly did come naturally, yet I find myself in a career now utilizing my accounting major more than my finance major, and testing my people and managerial skills, rather than utilizing any finance at all. That being said, it can be easy to understand the passion is lacking in auditing. It was never the real passion to begin with. I entered the field thinking it was a stepping stone to the next. So now my existential crisis is, if this is only a step, where is the next step, what is it, and when will I get there?

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I used to be able to get by “doing my time” at this step of my career journey with this attitude towards life:

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I would do the things required of me, even go above and beyond. Passion wasn’t necessary; it didn’t git-‘er-done, so to speak. I’d put in extra time and effort if I was going to put my name on it. My name meant something. I’d get positive appraisals which provided some development points yet never quite provided the level of gratitude and positive reinforcement I think I needed to feel fully appreciated and supported at my job. Something was missing. Passion.

I know what you’re thinking. I need to do this:

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Nobody has passion for accounting and auditing, right? It’s not about the money. It’s about having professional expertise in a challenging environment. There is no gratitude to be expected here. “Doing a good job around here is like peeing in a dark suit. It makes you feel warm but nobody else notices.” There is more needed than currently being provided. Some clients aren’t appreciative of us – we have to audit them and they have to pay us because the law says so. So while the partners try to express gratitude and thanks, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the clients’ attitudes towards and role of an auditor/accountant. There I go dreaming again.

I’ve met people that actually are passionate about accounting. I met a guy the other day that used to work at the SEC and when he was talking about his role, what he did, and positions he took on matters, you could see the sparkle in his eyes. It eclipsed disco balls. The stars paled in comparison. That’s passion.

Now I don’t want to take this on a tangent of ranting about my chosen place of employment. Despite the known evils of the auditing industry, I like the firm I work for, and there is a reason I’m still there.

One of the things that keeps me going to work is my involvement in the diversity space. As a female lesbian with depression in a “man’s world” (aka business and the corporate world), I have three aspects of diversity right there that make me a minority. I’ve always been a fighter, and tried to remain a visible role model for women and lesbians and those with depression in the workplace.

I am passionate about diversity initiatives. However, after my recent experience in Australia, where the fight truly is an uphill battle and there are many battles to fight to be in the same place as San Francisco is with gay rights and attitudes toward the LGBTI community, I’ve realized working full time in this would possibly exhaust me. Call me lazy, but I like that the work has already been done in the US and those that came before laid the foundation. That was bloody hard work. Not sure I wanna recreate the wheel on that one. Plus, any kind of fundamental change in civil and human rights means dealing with distinct personalities and neuroses for which I simply do not have the patience.

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I like shaving heads, mowing lawns, and vacuuming, for the clean lines and sense of order I create. I always said I could buy myself a tractor lawnmower. I could sit and drive, mowing lawns for retirement homes or golf courses, in a tank top and shorts, with headphones on, enjoying the sunshine and providing a needed service. I could shave heads for the military. I could be a maid, but I don’t even like cleaning my own place that much, so I’d probably like to do it for others even less. However, none of these things on their own show a career path or any kind of paycheck that could pay bills. These sorts of things are suited to be hobbies or for fun, not to make a living.

What would I want in my next career? I want to feel like coming to work isn’t hard at all. I don’t need to know what is going to happen that day, and I quite enjoy the daily unpredictability offered by my current job. My next job should be fun. I want to smile and mean it. I want to provide something that is valued. I’d love to create things, think up ideas, be innovative and creative. I want to be appreciated, and respected for my talent. Some acknowledgement of the hard work it took to get me there would also be nice. Beyond that though, I don’t know.

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I also minored in geology in college. I loved the physical sciences, and geology always inevitably had at least one field trip per semester. I enjoyed astronomy and interned at the planetarium at my university as well. Geology jobs are usually through the government though, which means again, having any kind of sizable paycheck would be too much to hope for.

I’ve thought about going to massage therapy school. I’ve thought about personal trainer or yoga instructor. I’ve thought about writing my memoirs and becoming a writer. That is one of my primary purposes for starting to blog. I was channeling my inner high school English student who loved essays and concrete details and commentary, to see if writing was even a possibility at this stage. I killed a lot of brain cells in college; there is a distinct possibility writing is not an option. I’m trying though.

I like the way writing makes me feel. I create something. If I do it well, it connects with someone. Someone gets me. I’ve bridged a gap, made a connection. Someone out there appreciates it. I’ll keep at that for now.

So how does one set about on a journey to find passion? Perhaps I need to go on my own journey as the main character in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I love that book. I think I need to re-read it again. The time is right.

Isn’t someone supposed to know inherently what their passion is? When they hear it or see it, they recognize it. There is a truth that resounds in their heart louder than any church bells and more beautiful than any other sound they’ve heard. Or something like that.

Perhaps I ought to place an ad on craigslist. I remember one such ad that made me giggle uncontrollably. The humor still tickles me to this day:
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The problem with the situation is this: You know when you’ve just gotten out of a bad relationship? You’re hurt, you miss the person, and you miss just having someone there? You’re defenses are low, and some people need to have a “rebound” to get over it and get back out there. You go out looking for love (in all the wrong places), trying to pursue someone, anyone, to fill the void left. This will lead ultimately to failure. They say if you go looking for your love and life partner, your chances of finding them are slim. When you’re not looking, they’ll find you, right? So if I apply this rationale to finding my passion, the trick is not looking for it, yes?

I read this article online by a life coach about pursuit of passion:
 http://www.jonathanfields.com/process-passion/

She makes some good points. I realize that my lack of passion perhaps stems from a breakdown in the roadmap she suggests. I am taking the steps of having an interest in something, practicing it to gain proficiency, and engaging myself. Maybe. Almost. OK, not really that well.

I did a great job of this with finance in college. I saved my money from my multiple jobs between a full load of courses at school, and opened a brokerage account. I began researching and investing in stocks. I made money. I kept at it. My account grew, not so much from contributions but from appreciation of my investments. I was good at it, and it kept me motivated to keep at it. I still have that brokerage account, and I know I started it with a small amount of money and now it’s my safety net. One day, when I finally have the lady cojones to leap from my rat race into the unknown to explore my passion, I’ll have some money to help me land a little more safely to feel free to find that passion.

I’ve not had time to pursue a lot of interests to the point of proficiency since. I did do that with accounting, I gave it the good old college try. Where I’m falling down is not feeling engaged in it. I don’t feel motivated – usually it comes from within. That place that used to give me pep talks and push me forward into things is unnaturally silent these days. My little heart is in bed binge watching Orange is the New Black, while my brain is sitting at my laptop doing my bills and emptying my bank account.

I guess I can only put one foot in front of the other and take life one day at a time, go with the flow until I need to steer my ship down the next river, and hope (but not to expect) that maybe my passion is just around the next bend.

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Hagakure

I’m looking forward to:

Waking up tomorrow
Going to the gym
Bacon
My birthday
Meeting new friends
Traveling to new places
Wearing only my favorite t-shirts and blue jeans/corduroys/shorts/boxers
Working hard without even noticing it
The next time I can help out a friend
Proving the right people wrong
Going to Yosemite for the first time
Figuring out what my gift is, and sharing it with the world
The day my heart doesn’t skyrocket, my palms don’t sweat, and my voice doesn’t shake when I have to speak in public
The next time I fall in public and laugh at myself
The next time I fall in love
The next time the stars align, the powers that be ignite that moment of utter gratitude for life and accomplishment of a dream
Having a female president, and one day, a lesbian president
My next live viewing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show
The next time I see the night sky in the country
The next time the airplane starts at the beginning of the runway, shifts out of park, flips on the thrusters and engines and I feel the acceleration of gravity, fighting the push by leaning forward and smiling to myself and all of a sudden I’m reaching ground speeds of 4-year-old-squeal-of-joy proportions and I can’t make any noise because I’m thirty-freakin’-two and somewhere aboard is an Air Marshal and probably someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows me. And already bought onboard wifi access and is probably sharing it on social media right… Now.

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There is so much I look forward to, more than I can put here. I’m grateful. For every day.

A lot of people say live every day as if it’s your last. Here’s why I don’t like that: I have had some really shit days. We all have. I refuse to think the universe would conspire to let me end on that note. I don’t want the last day of my life to be a shitty day. FFS, anything but that.

I rather prefer the Way of the Samurai. If you haven’t read that book, or rather the English translation of the ancient writings, Hagakure, from the work of Yamamoto Tsunetomo, it gives sage words of advice and random pearls of wisdom in the way of the samurai, the samurai code.

I first learned about this book and the idea from the movie Ghost Dog with Forrest Whittaker. I was in college, pre-coming-out, full-fledged finance nerd with one philosophy class and an existential crisis on my hands.

The way of the samurai is to be of service to his master. This book has passages about how, “If you walk with a real man 100 yards, he will tell you at least seven lies.”

A samurai is willing to commit seppuku (suicide) in service of his master. He’d impale himself on the sword should the master so order it. Should he fail to protect the master, he should fall upon his sword in shame.

“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. There will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.”

How can I look forward to something if I must concentrate on nought but the single purpose of this moment? I have so much in store. But this moment is pretty awesome, too.

Here’s my reconciling item: the single purpose of this moment is to lay the foundation, to take today’s baby step, to prepare myself, should I live to fulfill that purpose and meaning of my life in the future.

So I must live in the moment, wake up every morning knowing today could be the day I die. Now, I’ve no intention for that to be the case. There is no guarantee for tomorrow. And it would hurt a lot.

“This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai: if by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.” It’s easy, right? Just let go of this life. Riiiiiight. My curiosity was piqued.

“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.” Now this. This is quite possibly my favorite quote about resolve. Purpose. If you know and understand that by walking in rain you will get wet, there is no reason to be upset by getting wet. Deep thoughts here, sensei.

I remember studying this concept in one of my geology classes, funnily enough in studying the crater density of the moon, and the existence of lava flows on the moon that form the mare basins.

Geological principles dictate, in my dumbed down laymen’s terms explanation, that with gravity, you can learn about historical sequencing by studying rocks in the earth. Let’s say you have a cake fresh baked from the oven. You have frosting. You frost the cake.

I come along, millions of years later. As a scientist, I can logically conclude the cake must have existed and heated and formed prior to the frosting being layered on top. Something on the bottom layer is older than something on the top later.

So on the moon, the oldest parts of the topography are the areas with higher crater density. The newest parts are lava flows cooled and smoothed over, as if you poured candle wax over the uneven floor with dents and scratches in it. The floor existed before the candle wax. The surface is smooth and new. So if you assume a rather steady rate of craters falling with equal distribution across the surface of the moon throughout, then the areas with more craters are older and the less cratered land is newer. Simple, right? So the concept of crater density is important. Hold that thought.

Now, imagine instead of pieces of rock crashing into the surface of a planet, instead, you have a notorious Sydney, or London, or New York rainstorm. Torrential downpour. It forms suddenly and catches you off guard without an umbrella; the drops are pregnant and bulging and massive and soaking, as they hit your face, your hoodie, your pants.

If you run through the rain, the crater/raindrop density (which is a rate, ultimately) has been proven to increase mathematically. If you walk through the rain, the raindrop density is actually less than if you run. It’s like having a down pour of meteors and a sprinkle of meteors.

So what does that mean to a 4 year old? It means you will get wetter faster running to avoid the rain, and you’ll stay dryer, longer, if you walk.

This, of course, excludes the consideration of a saturation point, as author notes running and walking in torrential downpours may have a negligent difference in the time to soak-age. We have only so much hoodie, after all. Sidebar: constraints and limitations (*insert tail wag for math*)

This is a very important concept to me, if you’ve stuck with me this far. If I run in the rain, I end up soaked sooner. But if I am resolved from the outset I will get wet, and I walk, it doesn’t matter how quickly the soaking happens, because I already know it will happen. I’m focused, I’m over it before it even started.

Whoa.

I already know death will happen. If it’s not today, it’s not tomorrow, it is someday down the line. So if you know it will happen, you don’t know when, and you don’t mind the rain, then walk and live each day for the ups and downs it offers, knowing one day you’ll be soaked.

I want communication and to really connect with people. I don’t want to say “How was your day, honey?” to my future wife. I want to say, “Tell me about a moment you felt appreciated and valued. Tell me about a moment you felt ashamed and wrong.” Life is made up of these small moments.

Of course everyone wants their last day on this earth to be supreme, transcendental, outstanding, goal-achieving, dream-fulfilling, meaning-finding and completely surreal.

The truth is, that’s not always how it is. Sometimes it is, and sometimes if you’re lucky, at least it’s not in vain.

Walk into each day not like it’s your last, but like it’s you, on any given day. Be true to yourself and be the real, genuine you. Already resolved to the ultimate outcome thus prepared for whatever rain you may face. Life is not about avoiding the storms. It’s learning to dance in the rain. Or walk. Ya know. But, be you.

Cause you, my friend, are amazing, just the way you are. And nothing you could do on your last day on earth would change that.

Well hot damn. Yamamoto was right. That understanding does extend to everything.

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The invisible truth in jokes

 

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog on What You Don’t See.

It’s funny how permutations on that theme weave into my daily life. I made some recent observations and connections that fall into line with that. Since moving back to San Francisco, because I don’t air out my dirty laundry on Facebook, most people I’ve caught up with are surprised to hear my story of June 2013 – June 2014.

Every time I open up and share my story, the person I’m speaking to opens up and shares their similar experience with at least one aspect of what I went through. So in sharing, trusting, and connecting, I am healing everyday, still. You’d be surprised to learn how many people have been through what you have if you just try to trust them and open up.

In my work, because I am a lesbian (a big one), I have been very actively involved in LGBTI employee resource groups both in the US nationally, and in the greater San Francisco/Bay Area, as well as during my time in Sydney, Australia. Being gay is essentially identifying with an aspect of diversity that is invisible to the naked eye (very often appropriately LGB is referred to as the “invisible minority”).

Sure, some may stereotype and say women with short haircuts who wear pants are gay, when in fact there are plenty of lesbians with long hair in skirts. You just never know, so stereotypes must be checked at the door. Being gay also carries a unique aspect of diversity where your parents may not necessarily be the same as you.

Let’s take ethnicity, for example. It may be very obvious that you are Indian, from anything to your accent, skin tone, clothing, hair color, etc. If you are born Indian, at least one of your parents is also Indian. They transfer an ethnicity to you. They share that aspect of diversity with you, and when people discriminate against Indian people, they discriminate against you and your parents.

Straight parents produce gay children. Straight parents produce straight children. Being gay isn’t something I have in common with my parents, who were/are straight. There’s not really a “ma gay” and “pa gay” who passed on their gay to me, showed me around, taught me the status quo to be a good society gay. You learn to pick up friends here and there, or family members who also happen to be gay, if you are lucky. You create an acquired family who teach you what being gay is about. You also make more friends who are gay allies, cause let’s face it, who wants to spend time with people who hate me before they even know me?

I have something else that is invisible too, besides spirituality, and religion also being difficult to discern just by looking at someone (absent conspicuous clues like cross necklaces and kabbalah bracelets). I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

There, I just came out. I’m depressed. So much harder than coming out as gay, for me anyway, and especially in a day and age where being depressed is not as socially accepted as being gay.

I found a great article this morning from a Facebook friend, about 12 Successful People Who Will Change the Way You Think About Depression (12 Successful People Who Will Change the Way You Think About Depression).

I was diagnosed with depression in Sydney, as events took place there that led to the downward spiral and realizing that I needed help. I found an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, referred to me by a coworker who was also suffering from depression. Here it is in case you’re curious: How Depression Causes Brain Freeze.

In the article, it uses one of the best metaphors for depression I’ve found yet. The author describes the daily battles with depression as everyday having to climb a whole mountain before you get into work and are expected to do your day job, if I paraphrase. Most people without depression don’t see that mountain, and work is not at the summit. Some days, it’s harder to get yourself out of bed, into the shower, and out the door just to begin the trek up that mountain. If you climb it that day, you still sink back down to the bottom and have to start from the bottom again the very next day. It’s absolutely exhausting. You waste energy motivating yourself, while that precious time should instead be spent being productive and stellar at your chosen profession.

When I was getting used to my new, silent, invisible affliction, I saw this TED talk and really identified with it: Confessions of a Depressed Comic.

He’s a comedian, and he’s depressed. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? What I love is how simply he explains what it is. It’s normal to be sad when things aren’t going well. Work sucks, excessive drinking, relationship problems, stressful parenting responsibilities, just about anything can make us sad. What Kevin conveys in his TED talk is that depression is being sad, even when things are going well. It can happen to the star quarterback, and after his family finds he’s committed suicide, they find the suicide note about his feelings, and wonder why they didn’t know and how they could have helped. Being sad, when you have everything going for you and plenty of reasons to be happy, is real depression.

I have some words on antidepressants, too. I was lucky in that the doctor who prescribed mine in Australia knows her stuff. The doctor did not spend long adjusting my type and dosage of antidepressant. I was hesitant to go on them, fearful of their side effects, and even more fearful of interruptions in the pills, as I’d seen what stopping them abruptly could do to someone. She started me on the lowest dosage of Zoloft (50mg). Shortly, she took it up to 100mg. That is where I currently sit. It’s just enough, without overdoing it. At 50mg, I was still having fairly constant depressive episodes that were beginning to impact my performance at work.

Contrary to popular belief, antidepressants aren’t happy pills. They don’t automatically make you happy. In fact, I developed one of the most common side effects of Zoloft and had those symptoms for months until it stabilized. That certainly didn’t make me, or my stomach, happy.

Antidepressants give you a floor. If on any given day, mood goes from -10 (bad mood) to 10 (elated), and 0 is “normal”, at the time of diagnosis I was probably sitting at -5. Antidepressants gave me a calming baseline. It maybe brought me back to 0, so I wasn’t unhappy but I certainly wasn’t happy. I could go through daily motions of going to the gym without crying. The pills never made me happy though – perhaps you are thinking about mood elevators. Nothing but healing myself and cultivating interests, sharing with friends, relying on them for support, and digging myself out of my own hole, could actually have a positive effect of lifting me from 0 to 1.

Antidepressants put me at the base of Mt. Everest, instead of deep in the abyss of the Mariana Trench. I didn’t need to dig myself out of the hole every day, and then climb a mountain on top of that. I just camped on flat ground, and had a mountain to climb every day.

I can be a very outwardly positive person, with broad perspective and deep wisdom, and usually very much a self-starter. I keep a generous sense of humor on hand to get me through any day. I identify with a comedian, cracking jokes, making light of heavy things. Thus, it probably doesn’t appear on the outside that I’ve this internal battle I’m still waging on depressive feelings.

If you’re curious and want to read more about depression, I thought this was a great read and covers it in a well-rounded way: Depression facts.

I utilized Beyond Blue, a great organization which takes a public health approach to improve mental health for people and their families. I took this Beyond Blue Online Depression Test, and scored a whopping 38 that basically, in so many words, said:
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My doctor gave me a copy of my medical records upon departing Australia for some lucky doctor on this side of the Pacific to continue treating me. I found them when I was filing away papers this weekend. Reading my answers of where my head was at in November 2013 compared to now was shocking. I was a mess. I wasn’t eating, wasn’t sleeping, and when I did sleep, I had horrible nightmares. I had heart palpitations, panic attacks with hyperventilation, restless anger, was crying everyday, felt worthless, useless, and undeserving of love, affection, even attention. I pulled away from family and friends. I felt like the main character in Life of Pi, lost at sea, adrift, with my only company being the feelings of self hatred and lack of control, not even a fuzzy tiger. It was the Life of Di, if you will, and I found my will to survive and persevere. I had to be lost to finally be found.

I’m sharing my story in the hopes of raising awareness. Depression can be silent and invisible, until you choose to share your story and pain with your friends and family who can support you, and it can be incredibly isolating and lonely. People with depression still are deserving of love, and very often need it as part of their healing process. Please, do yourself a favor. Check in with your friends. Ask “are you ok”, and actually listen to their answer. If they say, “I’m fine,” press them.

As someone who serves as an ally/support for someone with depression, here is a great article I found that is absolutely true, which shows 10 Ways You Can Love Someone With Depression. I was lucky in that my friends wholeheartedly supported me once they knew what I was going through. They had no idea. They did many of the things on this list to show me they cared about me. My poor flatmate in Sydney bore the brunt of having to deal with me, and he did a great job of doing these things without even knowing he was doing them.

Going through the hardest time of my life taught me just how strong I was. Not just to stand up, but to get back up when I fell, to come back as the underdog, when the odds are against you. Like the famous quote by Nancy Reagan, “A woman is like a tea bag, you cannot tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

All too often in my chosen profession of accounting/auditing, depression and anxiety run rampant, and people don’t necessarily seek treatment for their symptoms. The hours can be hell, the environment stressful, obstacles never-ending, recognition diminished, remuneration unacceptable for what you have to put up with, and at the end of the day you’re just too tired to tell anyone about how shitty it was, except for the bottom of that bottle of wine you just had to yourself to unwind at the end of that horrible Tuesday. Lack of sleep, poor diet, excessive caffeine intake, and lack of physical exertion lead to a scenario where depression and anxiety can easily begin to affect your daily life.

If you’re reading this, chances are you know me. Chances are I know you, too. We’re probably friends. If you or your loved ones are suffering from depression, there is hope to get it under control. By being public about it, and unafraid to speak about it, I hope to remove the stigma that comes with this illness. Talk about it with people. Love and support those with depression, and if that happens to be you, know you are not alone. You have worth to me, and probably many other people in your life. Trust them, give them the benefit of the doubt. They do want to hear if you’re unhappy, they want to know if they can help. No one wants to deal with the consequences of finding out all too late there was something they could have done to save your life, but you never talked to them to let them.

I ask you to look through their jokes and passing comments and mumbled “fines” in response to questions. Read between the lines and find the truth of the underlying difficulties experienced by someone you love and care for of that daily mountain climb. They’ll be glad you did.

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Destinations

Looking at the departures screen in the airport as I wait for my flight from JFK to SFO, I’m so tempted. I ache to go to Reykjavik, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Tokyo, London (though I’ve been already), and Paris… I want to go everywhere. It’s not that going back home to San Francisco is awful… I truly do love San Francisco. It’s just that I’ve been there and done that. I want to see new places, too.

Being with my cousin this weekend, who went through the effort of riding a train from Syracuse to Penn Station, which is no small feat for the 6hr scenic NY haul, reminded me how fiercely independent I am compared to the rest of my family. I’ve got to give it to her; she got a taste of freedom and of “how I roll”. I think she wants some more.

I have friends who live in different cities all over the world. If I’m traveling, I make every effort to contact them in advance so I can meet up with them, if they have free time. With all of them, it’s like picking up an old book I haven’t read in a long time. It’s so easy to sink back in, laugh about old memories and make new ones. Rather than getting grief for not communicating more often, we joyously catch up on everything we’ve seen and haven’t seen on Facebook as events in each other’s lives, guilt free.

Believe it or not, besides being independent, I can be very private as well. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t air out my dirtiest laundry on Facebook. I keep it pretty upbeat and generic, funny and entertaining. You’d never know from looking at my Facebook page that my life fell apart in June last year, and that I’ve been doing the hard miles to put it back together.

But I digress. I love travel. My heart is in it – and more and more, I find I’m harnessing my chi while I stabilize in San Francisco, to let loose myself on the world again for new adventures someday sooner rather than later, I hope.

On my mind and on the list to check out on my next trip so far, is Nicaragua, and perhaps Belize and Costa Rica. I’m also thinking I hear South America calling to me, too. I’ve been a few places in Europe, but it still remains largely undiscovered for me. Africa and some parts of Asia may well be in order, as well. I just want to go now… But I need to wait for awhile while I get my ducks in a row.

So I’ll stare and zone out at the departures screen and feel the potential radiating from it, hypnotizing me into a daydream of far off places, as I wait to board my flight back home.

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Why?

I find myself moved very deeply by the recent events involving flight MH17. It’s all over the news. My CNN addiction initially developed just prior to September 11, 2001 and latent since then has arisen from dormancy, and I can’t help but read all the articles I can find on this tragic event real time. This issue got through and made me care, just like the missing plane MH370. It still shits me to this day that no one can find that plane and lay those people to rest. Who the hell loses a whole plane???

I have some thoughts, and I just can’t keep them in. You may find these controversial. I can’t say I’m out to offend you. However, I must find a healthy way to vent and reflect on this. I’m open to conversation, and I’m the first to admit I don’t know everything. In fact, please do enlighten me if you can provide some perspective on this.

I fly quite often. So do many of my friends. Vacations – it is summertime in the northern hemisphere, after all. Business trips – I happen to be in New York City for training at the moment. I flew here the day before MH17 happened and will head back to San Francisco this Saturday. Five coworkers from the San Francisco office are here with me.

Planes bring people closer together. They make the world feel smaller. Planes are the only way I get to see any members of my family. What happened could have happened to any commercial passenger jet. Any of us could have reached our cruising altitude, turned on our electronics of choice, and been deciding what to order from the in-flight service menu when, all of a sudden, a flash of light, and we are no more.

I don’t care what nationalities are represented on the plane. While I feel very strongly for the Dutch, and all those countries represented by the passengers, these were above all else, other humans. I don’t need Americans on the plane to feel something. There were infants on board. Professionals in the field of AIDS research, people who worked at Amnesty International, and the World Health Organization. There were students. Friends. Flight attendants. Little kids. These were innocent people, unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time. That makes my heart ache even more. Having been to the Netherlands (specifically Amsterdam), I had a really positive impression of Dutch people. Having lived in Australia recently, I also feel this even more. Having been to Singapore and been exposed to a Muslim Asian country, I feel for Malaysians on the flight as well. Like I said, I feel for everyone on that plane, regardless of nationality or country of origin.

Next, I have a last name of Ukrainian descent. When my grandmother passed away earlier this year, my family and I discussed taking her ashes back to the Ukraine to our family there (whom I’ve not met). We decided when the first tensions began escalating with Russia that we’d find another option for her ashes. We knew enough to stay away after that. Common sense prevailed. So, if other planes had been shot down in the same area of the Ukraine in the last week, why was airspace over that area NOT restricted? Why didn’t common sense prevail? Who makes these decisions???

For the pro-Russian insurgents, why is ok to shoot planes down if they’re military carrier jets? I maintain the pilots of military carrier jets have families, wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, kids… so whether it’s 298 people killed or one pilot and a bunch of stuff, shooting down planes in general, regardless of cargo, doesn’t sit well with me.

Why do we have missiles that can reach 40,000 feet altitude, but we still don’t have a cure for cancer or AIDS? Why is there no room for more money for schools but there is a budget for offense spending (sorry, I don’t think it can be called defensive spending if it can be used for purposes like what has transpired)? Who the hell decided that was necessary?

Why did it take the US so long to find Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, when Canada can track down the one cow that spread mad cow disease, when missiles can be fired from the ground of a rotating planet and find/hit something 33,000 feet up in the air? We can now even map the human genome and track down the one strand of DNA that determines whether or not you will be colorblind. It baffles me that just because things can be done (like building a ground to air missile) that people still do them. Just because gays can now get married in California, doesn’t mean that I’m going to run right out and gay marry the first single lesbian I see. Think about what the hell it is you’re doing.

When did consideration of ethical consequences of one’s actions become completely irrelevant in the responsible decision making process?

I admit, I wasn’t really following the escalating tensions between the Ukraine and Russia. I still don’t know what they’re even fighting about. Yes, I have some blind spots where ignorance has been bliss. Perhaps I’ll start reading up on that next.

As a citizen of the world, I’d love to travel to both those countries one day. As a lesbian, Russia’s anti gay sentiment coming to light at the recent Olympic Games changed my mind for any travel plans to Russia any time soon. Now this? What the hell is going on in Russia? What are they trying to achieve here? Can someone please explain to me what’s worth alienating humans who happen to love someone of the same sex? What’s worth encouraging neighboring allies by providing weapons to shoot down nearly 300 innocent people out of the air? How many people have to die?

Very often, when faced with tragedy, we’re left with more questions than answers. I see this blog going that way, so I’ll wrap it up.

My heart aches as if one of my friends or family members were actually on that flight. Basic survival instincts in me have to look for the good in all this, because the bad is just too much to comprehend.

Life is short. Shower the people you love with love. Say and do the things you’re afraid to say and do. Don’t be afraid of taking a plane ride, though it may be your last. Don’t let those cowards win and keep you from living. What the world needs now is love, love is all you need. There, I just outed myself as a lover, not a fighter. I’m not interested in seeking revenge – I’m interested in solving the root cause of the problem. Not enough love. You know, I bet world peace would be easier to achieve than you think, if everyone just talked in their puppy or kitten soft voice.

I don’t know that anyone can answer my question of Why right now. There doesn’t seem to be a reason you can give me that would justify what happened. My mind has categorized this into the Unjust bucket.

Finally, due the sheer number of delegates headed to the International 2014 AIDS Conference, and the loss of brilliant people doing amazing work to end this global epidemic, I urge you to give freely to the SF AIDS Walk happening this weekend. Make sure there are funds to pick up research where it left off and a cure can be found. What happened was a global tragedy. Give the world a global benefit to help reconcile this terrible act. I’m providing a link below to the general donations page for SF AIDS Walk 2014. Please consider checking it out and maybe giving a little.

http://awsf2014.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1089630&lis=1&kntae1089630=0854E39C8E9F4B7185CBFC46549C8851&supId=0&team=0&nmv=true

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Tax-ease

If I hear another taxi driver complain about Uber, I’m going to have to start using Uber.

And if you think, because I’m a CPA writing a blog with “tax” in the title, that I’ll be imparting words of wisdom on how to cut down your taxes, please move along. I don’t do taxes, for anybody, not even myself.

Prior to living in Australia for 3 years, I thought cabs were a total rip-off. I knew a friend who’d been hit by a taxi in a crosswalk, and a friend who was in an accident in a taxi without a seatbelt.

The way they speed between stop signs, well, it makes a woman of 32 feel 6 again, squealing with the wind whipping her hair and no weight of a seat belt law and thus, no seatbelt, across her chest. Free. Happy. Oh wait, whose side am I on?

In Australia, Uber was 3 times the cost of a normal cab (or so it seemed), and let me tell you, taxis in Australia are such a rip-off that taxis in San Francisco are now cheap. I’ve officially seen worse. Taxis are also a must-have for getting to/from SFO Airport. Taxi companies have apparently complained so much about Uber eating into their business, that Uber is now prohibited from providing trips to/from SFO Airport.

Digression: A BART ride from SFO isn’t bad… until you’re in between trains and you wait on the airport platform for 30 minutes before one comes, only to have another hour til you get home. Commute extended by 50%.

I’m all for survival of the fittest in capitalism, innovation, and development of better ways to do things in your industry/market. I think if taxis want to be competitive in San Francisco’s market for public transport today, they need an app that shows how far away the nearest taxi is. I want to electronically hail that taxi. The app needs markers that show taxis whose light is on (I could take another divergence here about taxis and sometimes feelin’ “like the only cab on the road” and meeting someone in life who has their light on at the exact time you find yourself needing to be taken on an adventure or home.) See related post https://idigres.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/86/ of mine on crazy dreams and a clue with those very Train lyrics.

Seriously, write this down: GPS interfaces, constant refresh, with billing attached to a credit card and some great other features of Uber, and the insurance liability of a taxi company. Some form of customer loyalty program that supersedes particular drivers and provides something unique. Or, perhaps a scalable billing option is in order – zones, specials/discounts, other advertising promotions, to bring back the taxis. No one ever wants to think about crashes or accidents, but they do happen, so accident liability and sufficient insurance is the biggest risk to be mitigated.

To me it’s an easy fix that taxi cab drivers could probably contribute to, for the service which basically markets them and gets them customers. Even better if that “service” is creation of an app, a one time point of sale, a user friendly quick tap interface that connects taxis to patrons instantaneously, rather than ongoing service monitoring, like an ADT or Life Alert. Come on, if you can use Grindr for hookups, the same technology can be used to sort out taxis near you and driver ratings. What needs to happen is app creation that has the best real time tracking, customer rating systems for the drivers or some other customer loyalty program, feedback on customers for drivers, autopayment processing screens or credit card online pay within 24 hour of service that allows for tips and customer feedback, with built in tip level calculations and a sentence that says “How’d I do? You still alive?” or something brilliant, and then play the sound of a Salvation Army Christmas bell shakedown of coins in an empty coffee cup. Just kidding, keep it tasteful.

I’m also all for taxi driver conversations. I learn a lot of interesting things from them. Like once, in Sydney, I was on my way to Hooters for the Superbowl to drink Bud Light with a bunch of fellow American lesbians and their friends, rooting for my San Francisco 49ers. A man picked me up in his yellow cab minivan and proceeded to drive me across all the city of Sydney from Darlinghurst to Parramatta, and tell me about his religion. He asked me questions about what I believed. Being quite skilled at prepartying before partying, I was already 3-10 drinks in and making jokes and not taking him seriously at all. Plus I was on my way to drink more. Guess what he was going on and on about? How I should become a Muslim because we believe in the same things. Incredible. He wanted to save me. I said, “No we don’t. I believe in getting drunk with my lesbian friends for the Superbowl. Thanks, keep the change.” I slid the back door of the minivan shut with a long, extended, hefty pull using both hands, and proceeded to get my drink on. 49ers lost. Still don’t think I’d make a good Muslim. The end.

Most taxi drivers in Sydney also had no idea where they were going. They were “new here” or didn’t know certain suburbs, let alone street names. If you didn’t have a map app on your smart phone, good luck getting to where you needed to go. Nothing like babysitting a taxi driver, and having to pay instead of getting paid for “on-the-job” training. Or taxi drivers upon hearing a non Australian accent tries to figuratively and literally take me for a ride to creep up the meter that already charges way too much for what you get. I had two female taxi drivers in Sydney and they knew where they were going, provided excellent conversation, and were efficient and expedient in getting from Point A to Point B (with maybe a stop at Oporto’s or Macca’s in between.)

So in that regard before the divergence to taxi cab driver diversity, San Francisco taxi drivers do have a competitive edge in the market for being knowledgeable of the city and basically, how to do their job. All the time in Sydney, I found myself thinking (and sometimes muttering softly, sometimes blatantly telling it like it is) that it’s unacceptable that taxi drivers in Sydney don’t know where the hell they are going, which is basically how to do 100% of their job. If I used that excuse day in and day out at my work, well, suffice to say I would be asking all my friends to couch surf for a week or so, while I “find a place.”

In Manila, Philippines, my taxi ride was a white knuckled 2 hour excursion of blatant disregard for lane lines, nonfunctional seat belts, and merging onto highways with a similar disregard for oncoming traffic.

On Boracay in the Philippines, my taxi was a bicycle with a sidecar (tuk tuk) on unpaved roads and no windshield. One word: Saddlesore.

In Bali, families of 5 ride on scooters built for a maximum of two passengers, perhaps including a baby bent over asleep on the handlebars.

In Mykonos, my taxi driver looked at everything but the winding road with a firmly rooted gas pedal foot.

I’ve ridden in a lot of taxis. I’ve definitely seen worse. I’ve had better. I’ve had Lincoln Towncars sent to pick me up with my name on a sign at baggage claim, no hassle of paying what’s on the meter, and complimentary water. I’d still rather give my money to a taxi driver than to Uber, though.

Seriously though, if I hear one more taxi cab driver complain about what they’re facing in the market right now, I’m going to school them on the American dream and Gandhi’s words of “being the change they wish to see in the world”. I’m not a professional taxi driver, by any means. I am, however, a customer of taxicabs. Get your notebook out, folks, I have a pearl of wisdom for you. Invest in a company for which you can easily be a customer. Write that down.

Where have you found superior products, excellent customer service, and ethics you subscribe to; where would you want to be an employee? Those companies and brands have their formulas right. In the words of Forrest Gump, “I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.” In this case, no one knows the taxi and transport industry like the muni drivers striking and complaining about working conditions and pay, and the taxi drivers under competitive pressures from more technology-plugged-in services.

If taxi drivers, whom I know are already barely making ends meet, have families, and worry about losing market share to Uber (out loud, with me in the car), and the hideous pink mustache rides (oh God, that awkward moment when a dirty play on words used as a business name finally clicks and sinks in, causing a tremulous shudder) roving around town encouraging people to talk to strangers, anything to get away from the godforsaken unreliable muni of hell, and (*gasp*) walking to work… then use your brain and innovate and don’t let Darwinism kill your income off. As your personal financial advisor, I encourage you to adapt. Evolve. And quit your freakin’ bitchin’. Regain the competitive edge and earn your tip. Please know, I don’t feel the need to hear about it all the time, and it’s not going to evoke pity and generate a larger, pity-filled tip.

I’ve got bigger problems of my own. Like which elastic waistband pajama bottoms of choice to put on after you’ve driven this Miss Daisy home. I tip, and I tip well. Be good to mama, and mama be good to you. So shut up, and let me stick my head out the window.

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Little wonders

One of my favorite things about living in a big city like San Francisco is people watching. The subjects here provide so much to be observed. I’m never disappointed. Often, I see (or smell) people/things that disgust me, as the homeless population here is a constant problem. On warm summer days, when they park themselves on a seat in front of you and a whiff of their foul stench creeps into your nose, it’s enough to make anyone’s gag reflex kick into high gear. I once saw a man who had been shot lying in the gutter at Van Ness and Market as cops were just arriving on the scene.

Now, let me be clear. I don’t love the disgusting things. I like the things that make me laugh, or that remind me there are good people out there. For example, yesterday, as I was taking the F streetcar down Market Street, I passed Powell Street. When I left San Francisco 3 years ago, there was some controversy, as there were a bunch of tables with chessboards on them at Powell and Market, and homeless people in wheelchairs and the elderly could easily engage in a friendly game with a stranger to pass the time. Those tables were eventually permanently removed, and now 3 years later, as I rumbled past, I saw the city bike rentals, with a row of bikes just yearning for some tourist to free them and take them on an adventure around the city for a small fee, had replaced the chess tables.

What I observed made me laugh. Out loud, quite literally.

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2 African American women and 1 Latina woman (hidden behind the tree) were seated on 3 bikes; the Latina was nursing a cigarette as she rode it like a stationary bike. The two other women also rode away on the very stationary bikes, and alternated between looking at their phones (as seen in the photo) and engaging in an emphatic discussion using hand gestures and Ebonics (the window was open so I could hear them, too – they were loud.) I thought to myself, “Well, perhaps gym costs have gone up as a lot of other costs in the city have since I’ve been gone (translation: the rent is too damn high!) So hey ladies, cigarette or not, free gym.” Very resourceful and I admire your motivation to “work out”.

Last night, once I arrived at my destination on the Embarcadero, I met some friends who were in Sydney for nearly the same time I was, who are originally from Boston. We had a fabulous dinner at one of my oldie but goodie restaurants, Palomino. (If you’ve never been, ask for the gorgonzola waffle fries which are not on the menu.) Views of the bay bridge, sunset, not too crowded, and conversations of their travels through southeast Asia, Asia proper, and their first bit of a US road trip. We bonded over the nomadic living conditions of being “homeless” and enjoying a minimalist lifestyle. Drinks were tasty, and before I knew it, the meal was finished.

None of us had plans that evening, so I offered to show them how locals do San Francisco. We walked along the Embarcadero to take in the final rays of sunset and saw a homeless man, completely covered in a sleeping bag, to one side of the sidewalk.

Now, on my way to the restaurant, I passed this same man (I presume) as a couple was coming at me from the opposite way. The woman made a scowl when she saw him as if to say, “Ew, not there! Can’t you find someplace better to do that?!”

This time, leaving the restaurant, a fit Caucasian male was trying to poke the person, but he wasn’t getting up from his sleeping bag cocoon of comfort. So the man left two white boxes of leftover food next to the man and continued walking towards us, then past us. No one asked him to leave the homeless person food. I was in awe as I was gently reminded that there are kind people out there. The two very different reactions of the woman on my way to the restaurant and the man leaving the food contrasted like night and day. I couldn’t have been prouder of my city at that moment.

We hailed a cab to make our way to what would end up being an amazing evening of bad karaoke and cheap drinks. The cab driver, just as a light had turned green zooming through the SOMA (another neighborhood frought with the less fortunate), rolled down his window, and handed some one dollar bills to a man begging for money with a cardboard sign on the island in the middle of the lanes. Boom, good deed number 2 witnessed.

Now, I am one of those people where if I get heckled for change, I usually walk right by. My rationale is this: I give, but I will give to organizations who will distribute the proceeds in a form that is actually helpful to these people. If I give them cash, they will likely go get booze, or drugs. Very often, I’ve seen homeless people with quite a stash of cash when they roll into McDonalds and order the cheapest thing on the menu and a cup of hot coffee. Besides, if I give money to one, I feel like I have to give money to every person that asks me, and that’s just not feasible. I do have my moments of charitable giving, though.

Before I moved to Sydney, I had a bunch of spare change and I knew exactly what I was going to do with it. I put it in a Ziploc baggie and went down near my office in the financial district. I found a homeless man, with a dog. I gave him the change. Perhaps it bought me some good karma. All I know is it breaks my heart when I see someone who can barely take care of themselves in custody of an animal subject to the same whims of that lifestyle. I’m not judging; that man may love that dog, but often the welfare of the animal comes second to the welfare of the person who is living on the borderline.

Long story short, my faith in San Franciscans was restored by two back to back random acts of kindness. And I was in the cab, so it counts for half of an act of kindness for me (we made sure we tipped him fairly well, too.)