Its been a good week

Its been a good week.

After my trip to Nanjing I feel refreshed and like I have a purpose. I know what I am teaching and how to teach it.

Hong Kong is my home. I feel it and I’m living it.

I have friends who support me and are rooting for me.

I have a good workout routine and feeling fit once more.

I got my haircut to match a new me and I am excited by it.

I have 4 more weeks till holiday.

Though I am feeling a high right now, I know that I can survive any low.

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Echo chambers and voids

Big things are happening everywhere. These things are noteworthy, eye-opening, and discussion worthy things. In the midst of all that deserves to be discussed about Paris, I realize that I’ve simply wanted to avoid most channels open for doing so. Well, let’s just name the beast. It’s Facebook, the great echo chamber of the world. We shout into it to hear the echo back from the like-minded. We all do it.

In the same weekend as the Paris tragedy came yet another questionable fatal shooting by a police officer. This one took place here in Minneapolis. I’m not going to get into the witness accounts, police records, facts or lack thereof thus far, simply that it occurred and people are angry. So angry that the Black Lives Matter movement took to shutting down a freeway that is the Twin Cities most major artery. It got press, then it trended, and then the venom.

My feed is filled with so much acid, so much twisted vitriol, that I can barely look to maintain the modicum of interpersonal connection upon which the foundation of my Facebook usage was built. Look, I know that everyone uses social media for various uses, but mine was more benign. I honestly do use it for news as well, but like most of us do, I’m learning that there are hateful people far too close to my inner circle.

The posts –Muslims this, Black Lives Matter that– it’s just so difficult to wade through. I honestly think personal connection is one of the finer, more important thing in existence. I have simply come to understand that social media isn’t about connection anymore; it’s about screaming into the void. People say the quasi-racist things that they would never get away with face to face. It’s allowing us the unmitigated, non-repercussive power to be loud cowards, to join sides and to pick the choir to which you will be preached. This leaves me so hollow.

I’m not even saying that Facebook is the issues. I need FB to be a catalyst for communication for so many 2nd and 3rd tier friends that still mean a great deal to me. I can’t speak on a need to rid yourself, much less myself, of the burden it places upon us all. I am just saying that, with all this turmoil, all this anger, all this hatred, we just want to be heard.

That’s why we do most of this right? Why we post at all? We want to share and have it matter. I don’t want to denigrate anyone for doing so, nor do I intend to suggest that it shouldn’t be done, but simply to acknowledge its roots: a need to matter. We all want to matter. This world is so large, but the internet has left us with a swath of communication lines of which we all deserve to take some sort of advantage. In this large world, the great unifier — the internet — has simultaneously become the great divider. I have gotten mad at, defriended, unfollowed, hidden, and seethed at people whom in real life I care for to a great deal. They simply use this wall to hide behind, and the communication it allows for the critically ugly.

We are at an age in society that people are being killed and legitimately killing for the same reasons as the yelling online: simply being marginalized, and simply unheard. This is Black Lives Matter. This is the last handful of mass shootings, they weren’t people that were bullied, but lone men who thought they deserved to have more attention paid to them or simply deserved more sex. They thought they were not being heard as men. It’s so awful to hear, it’s so awful to type, and it’s so awful that those that perpetrated such atrocious attacks on Parisians enjoying a football match, simply think they are not being heard either. And after all these things, we can’t help but take to the internet to hear what others are yelling about, sift through until we have our own opinion and begin the yelling anew but reinvested and doubled down on with personal reasoning.
We have a national holiday next week about being thankful for whatever we open our hearts and minds up to, yet we know has greater sales implications eating that day. I wish I could see the love that came the night of the Paris attacks and hold onto that because it was beautiful, even if for the sake of attention, it was the world coming together to say let’s stand together. Not standing together to fight, but stand together because we as the human race need to do that more. Unfortunately, we typically do this in the wake of tragedy, and only until we inevitably become mad. It’s one of the stages of loss. It’s bound to happen, but now it’s etched in the binary annals of time and for your world to see rather than simply your closest friends that earned the spot to see you at your darkest.

Single Living

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I want to write about something that is on my mind a lot. After 4 countries in 4 years I have had a lot of experiences, most I would never trade for anything. These experiences have largely been solo adventures. Here and there I make friends and meet people to share my experiences with. Its a given that there will always be new people to meet, new people to explore. Its a privelge to do what I want to do when I want to do it. Not single I know my life and my experiences would be unparralled. I can’t wait for the new people who will come into my life..

Flu Shot Day Gets Odd

Alright, it’s flu shot day. I’m not terribly fearful of shots, but it certainly harkens to a more innocent time in my psyche. It calls back to a time when that was a primary worry; a worry of quick poignant pain that goes away much quicker than it set into your gut with on the way to the doctor. But now I am an adult. I am an adult that works at the University of Minnesota with great benefits, even if at times, those health benefits feel like the job’s sole benefit. One such benefit is free flu shots to everyone on campus including students, staff and faculty that are simply willing to stop by or make an appointment. Today was my appointment.

I received the google calendar alert that I had set for myself so that I would remember to go to this quick appointment. I have had a slight propensity to consecutively miss said appointment unless I remind myself electronically. The flu shots come to us by way of nursing students in what is called the great hall of the building in which I work. They come by twice a month from October to February. It gets very busy, hence the appointments that fill up quick require a request a month or so in advance, hence my ease in forgetting an appointment I may have made for several months later.

Part of my personal routine is that I regularly commute 6 miles to work via my bike. Today was no different. I biked in the brisk Minnesota fall morning air and still got a good sweat going. It’s because of this commute that I must bring a change of clothes. Once I arrive, I do a few things to get situated and help others do likewise, next I go to the bathroom and apply deodorant, change out of my dorky biking clothes, wash and style my hair, and then put on the clothes I bring with me that are a bit more work suitable than a bike jersey and a sweaty long underwear shirt. Today I had forgotten the undershirt to go under my buttondown. I never go without an undershirt, but it’s no big deal, so I shrug it off and button up my dress shirt.

Slowly a haze of familiarity begins to dawn as I go about my day. By 10 a.m. I am in full blown deja vu. Then I hurry to the computer to check what is becoming so familiar and I was reminded. In the alert that I had sent myself about the appointment, I made a note to tell myself to remember and undershirt because you need to be in a t-shirt as they prefer to stick you in the shoulder. One cannot access the shoulder in a button up dress shirt. I had done this before almost exactly one year ago.

I started to think about what I could do. I really didn’t relish being the only person to take their shirt off to get a shot in the great hall with a hundred or so people in there. I’m not particularly modest, but I’m not “shirtless guy” either, and shoot, I was at work. I checked the lost and found, but it yielded no results. I strolled around and checked the coat room that can tend to have things that have been left behind, but nothing there either. The last thing that I could think of was asking our marketing manager who tends to end up with free things often ranging from movie posters to t-shirts, so I went to her.

I walked in her office and asked if she had a t-shirt that I could borrow. She looked confused so I interrupted my thought to word-vomit my anniversary of my now consecutive mistake. She tells me that I need to set an alert to email myself, to which I agreed without explaining that I had done so and ignored my own advice in writing. I then clarified that this was about getting a flu shot to which she began to yell at me about putting poison in my body. “Oh, shit,” I thought. I forgot she was an anti-vaxxer. She thinks immunity shots and such are the banes of modern health. Honestly, I couldn’t even do it. Someone doing so well for their self that they need to find things to feel upset, degraded, duped or outright oppressed over really eats at me. Particularly because this is almost exclusively an upper-middle-class American thing alone. Ignoring science and using pamphlet proof for your argument is an affront to human development in my opinion. But I digress. This isn’t about that, and she realized that I’m not the one to say this to so she eased up and I didn’t have to say anything other than inferences. I then told her that if she didn’t have the shirt, I was just going to take my chances with the shot, she rolled her eyes and I left for the appointment.

I filled out my medical and work info and sat down with this early 20 something nursing student. I asked to verify where the shot would be administered and she confirmed that it was to be in the shoulder. I sighed and told her that I was going to have to attempt to slip my arm out. She told me the have scrubs for me to change into for such a situation, but I assured her that would really be more of a situation as this is, honestly, just quite stupid. I tried to slip my arm out after a couple buttons undone. No dice. Half the shirt was to be removed and draped as if the worst public form of seduction on recent record. As I sat there thinking about my stomach being exposed, I talked to her about my marketing manager and her beliefs on vaccines. It actually took a bit for this young student to grasp. She told me that she thought that was simply over. She thought outbreaks in California and the like, plus the media finally taking the idea on in earnest had quelled that. It made me feel good to know that she simply thought we had all just gotten past that stupid time. As I got up to leave she told me that next year I should set a reminder for myself to wear the undershirt.
I was walking back to work when I saw our IT guy walking. I told him about my shirt, that it was the second year in a row that I had done this, our marketing manager’s misinformed beliefs, and the situation with the shot. He followed up by saying that I need to set an alert to remind me about the shirt next time. I came clean and told him that I had sent a reminder for the shot and the shirt. He paused for a minute and said that I should just bring an extra set of clothes to work for biking anyway. I told him that I usually leave one there for when I for when I get caught off guard by inclement weather, but I had brought it home to wash. And as a stream of consciousness while I remembered it, I said that I started doing this last year just after having forgotten the undershirt for the last shot. He paused again to think said that I don’t need an alert now, I need a shirt with a post-it note on it. Agreed.

Goals for November

My mom has been visiting this week. It has been amazing, stressful, wonderful, tiring but absolutely necessary. She has loved my apartment and my little neighborhood. I was a little tourist in my home and saw this city through my mothers eyes. We visited a Buddha and I found some serenity that I’ve searched for in my life. I would like to explore Buddhism and am looking for a temple or community to visit. My mother’s visit has set up my writing for the month of November. After three months in Hong Kong and two more before my holiday break I think it’s a good time to set some goals. My mom’s presence helps me define my personal goals. I want to have friends. Good friends. Friends that I can watch a movie with and eat dinner. Friends that I feel less anxious about giving my time to. I want some spirituality on my life. For the month of November I’m going to be writing about my Personal Goals, Professional Goals, Traveling Goals, and Consumer Goals.

Also this is what I wrote after my Autumn break:

I have had holiday this week and it’s been bliss. I’ve had time to myself to enjoy. My city and

reset so that I feel prepared for the coming quarter. My mother is visiting in 1 week and that

just makes everything that much sweeter. What did I do this holiday? Well, I started by going

on a Secret Island Party and doing a little dancing but mostly observing. Hong Kong is filled with

30ish bankers and business people who feel a need to prove their hipness while working for the

“man”. It’s an interesting contrast to the Cape Town mentality of living for the moment

supported by the privileges that afford this mentality. If I seem negative I don’t mean to. It’s

just interesting to see different iterations of millennials at play. Next I enjoyed cocktails in my

neighborhood with a coworker and a friend of hers who just passed by. It confirmed my love of

my neighborhood. It’s called Tai Hang and not only can you get scrumptious food in its many

restaurants in the grid but you can get your car fixed too! I want a neighborhood that I can

enjoy but that also provides unexpected delights. I believe that the best cities are a “moveable

feast” and Hong Long is starting to reveal where I can go. I spent some time working hard on

my classes.

The Beauty of Black Holes

I have this friend, well, I had this friend…honestly, the friendship is most likely over. I’ll back up a bit. I had an intervention with a friend. It wasn’t organized. It wasn’t planned. The damned thing just happened to leave a gaping wound in our relationship. There is no parlance to be met and nothing to be taken back. I told my friend that I think he is actively dying due to his heroin use.

Yes, heroin. In one small swoop of life choices and connections, I have become the person that was confided to about the usage and presumably the only person to be able to say anything. And I said something. I opened my mouth and out poured everything from my heart down to my gut. It was an unprecedented unpleasantness.

About 10 years ago I had a very good friend that was more than a bit of a celebrity. We were very close, akin to brethren. We called each other as soon as Friday afternoon rolled around, every Friday. We were in our mid/late twenties defining our lives through whatever means we had. He was a musician by trade. Never had a job in his entire life because he was a true wunderkind from his teen years on. I was on every list to see his shows and I went to almost every single one. Most of our time was spent at my house in my basement making music and watching this virtuoso do his thing. It was some of the fondest memories I have, and I know this will be a constant.

Around the time I met my musician friend, I met another friend at work. He was a loner. I mean real loner. He rarely spoke, but when he did it was with such stoic purpose that it was captivating and intimidating. Everyone just gave him his space. We worked in customer service and he blatantly read at the registers which was severely frowned upon, but no one had the gumption to stop him. We bonded almost immediately. I’ve always been drawn to my male friends as some sort of James Dean caricatures. I want effortless happiness, but what I get are troubled men with severe issues and they bond with me fairly readily. I am the opposing magnet to them. They may present the danger and anger, but I hold the anger and structure. I am every girl in a romantic comedy rolled into a smallish man. I don’t necessarily want to change them as the female rom-com protagonist may, I want to exercise my brooding nature by virtue of proximity to someone that can’t contain theirs. Maybe it’s a selfishness that I will never define; perhaps I want to feel beauty next to chaos or perhaps they just make sense to me. Either way, I can’t fully grasp the truth nor could I admit it if I did.

These two friends lived in juxtaposition. One was successful, charismatic and boisterous. The other was captivating, calm and collected. Both were looming personalities with shadows bigger than what could be seen and both were drawn to me. I generally think I’m a funny, decent, loving person, but nothing really explains how quickly both of these people took to me. These relationships grew so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to take stock in what was really happening. My musician friend and I’s relationship grew to us being nearly inseparable while my quiet friend at work only opened up to me and everyone was entranced by how I got him to open up. The only issue was that I did nothing to foster either relationship. I was just there and welcome to the rapport.

Flash forward a decade and I still work at the same place. I have moved up a bit through a couple positions, but my work friend is still relatively stagnant. Things have been tough for him professionally. My strides have not been easy, but they seem effortless compared to him. He still can’t communicate. He’s still the brooding figure at the workplace, but he knows almost everything there. People joke that we are alike in some undefined way. No one has ever succinctly been able to place it. I don’t necessarily disagree, I just don’t see it the way others do. Maybe what scares me is that similarity that everyone was so quick to point out about us because 6 months ago he told me that he was a heroin addict and that if he didn’t take time off of work to get clean, he was going to die.

I had sensed issues with him prior to this massive opiate bombshell. We hadn’t been speaking like we normally do–and given that I’m the guy he talks to at work–means that he’s not talking to anyone. We had been drifting and I just didn’t innately understand him the way I used to, but I had assumed it was because I had a kid and I was just thinking differently or adapting personally. When I really noticed his personal darkness, I forced him to have lunch with me. I told him that it was my treat and he sat frighteningly quiet slowly eating his burger as I attempted small talk in efforts to reestablish a connection. Right before we each finished our meals, he confided that he has had several friends OD from heroin use in the last few weeks and that he fears for his lifestyle. I knew he confided this in me because it would be confidential and that he knew my famous musician friend had also struggled with heroin. It seemed like a small weight was lifted and we talked somewhat earnestly for the first time in a long time. Two weeks later he came to me at work, broken and said that he was ferociously addicted and he needed to leave work to get clean or he was going to die.

The tiny rat on the wheel in my brain ran into hyperdrive. Nothing made sense. How were these two figures in my life on opposite ends both dealing with arguably the harshest of addictive chemicals? What was going on? What does this say about me? Why were both of these drastic personalities around me? What had I put out there? No matter. Focus on moving forward. Help whenever I can and move forward. Can’t dwell in the darkness.

My colleague took almost 3 months off from work to get clean. He didn’t go to a specific treatment facility, but he talked to several doctors and was prescribed two different medications to cut down on the cravings. After that time, he came back to work. He came back, but he was not the same. He was a shell. Every compelling ounce of that man was drained. He struggled with the most minor physical and mental tasks. I talked to him frequently in the beginning, but it waned. He simply wouldn’t talk much to me. I had to elicit every syllable from him. Our effortless, albeit succinct, conversations dried up and I realized that he only talked to me about his addiction because of my relationship to my musician friend/opiate-abuser.

People stopped saying that we reminded them of each other. We were our own persons. There wasn’t the undefinable draw to each other that once was, but not without trying on both our parts. Recently, he has been falling asleep at work at his desk. He does this almost daily. I try to walk by to talk to him to wake him up. I don’t want him in trouble with the boss while his meds seem to sap any form of energy from his already calm demeanor. This has been going on for more than a month and now he’s not known as the guy that only talks to me at work, he’s simply the quiet guy that sleeps at work and no one does anything about it.

Last week he passed out. He didn’t fall asleep. There was a noticeable difference. I was tasked to take him home. He fell passed out a handful of times in the 20-minute ride to his parents house. He’s been living there since beginning steps to cope with the addiction. He told me that he had a concussion and all was to be ignored because of this. Clearly there’s a real issue with someone with a concussion passing out so easily also.

He took a couple days off of work and when he came back he was uncharacteristically jovial. No one knew how to take it, so the just did it with an awkward smile. This lasted about one hour total, after which he couldn’t remain conscious for more than a few seconds. I begrudgingly told my boss and she forced him out and I was again tasked with taking him to his parents. On the ride, I asked him about the concussion and he told a foggy tale about being knocked out and robbed while outside a bar with a friend because they wouldn’t give a stranger a cigarette. I asked if the friend had left him there to wake by himself. He said it was so. I asked what happened to the friend and he admitted that he didn’t know through closed eyes. I inferred that they must have been noticeably intoxicated on something for a friend to leave and not to know what really happened from either party. He affirmed and passed back out.

His breathing grew sporadic. His body was simply forgetting to do its primary function so I began talking intermittently and tapping the brakes on the care to keep him jostling awake. Once we arrived at his parents, he waved me away, but I followed and sat him down outside. He lit a cigarette and slowly placed it on his leg and let it burn his pants. I moved his arm to stop any smoldering and told him that I am watching him die and that we both know it. He barely opened his eyes to say that he was sober and that this was a concussion. The knockout blow had occurred 4 days prior and this was simply not regarding that. This was it. This was the drug back in his life, but now he can’t be honest to me any longer.

His mother stepped out. She was a sweet lady in her late 60’s that had simply moved past this. She was actively ignoring. It made me upset at first, but then I realized that I’m not sure what this would do to me psychologically as a parent. It’s unfair for me to judge, although I found it disturbing that she spent more time baby-talking the cat than addressing her son phasing in and out of consciousness before her. I suddenly became the authority. She started to ask me what I thought it was. If I thought it was because of the concussion. If I thought he was on drugs again. Then she would talk to her cat, which was really his from a lifetime ago. From a sober time when he decided to get a cat prior to having to move back in with his parents as everything else was eaten by the drug. He rose slightly back into coherence to look at me when she asked if I thought it was the concussion. I looked at him and I looked at her and said that it wasn’t. She asked if it was drugs and I said, as one of his eyes focused on me sunken in his swaying head, and I said that we all know it was.

I inhaled and sighed out to tell her that he told me that he had used recently while we were talking outside. I also told her that the reason that I know these things with any certainty was because I had a friend. I had a friend that he knew. A friend that was a musician. This friend used less heroin than he did. This friend of mine also died by having a drug related seizure in his sleep, bit his tongue off, and asphyxiated on his own blood. His mother essentially said that was off-putting.

Over the next 3 hours, his father got home and I got him up to speed. I explained my unfortunate knowledge on this subject and looked as my friend eyes would go from closed, to open and filled with hazy hatred. His parents asked what they should do. I had no goddamned idea. I called a few clinics on their behalf and told them that they have to take him to the ER. They acquiesced and I waited to watch my shell of a friend shuffle to the car and be loaded in.

This has eaten me up for days. Then, on Halloween I got a text from my friend. He told me that I have no respect for him. That I have a lot of gall getting his elderly parents worked up for nothing. He essentially categorized me not simple as no longer a friend, but a full-blown enemy.

My wife has helped me center. She has gotten me to a point where I feel comfortable with my decision, but I am wrecked about the idea of his first day back at work, should he come back. He has until Thursday to get things tentatively under control, although I’m not sure where the boss really lands on the entire thing. We all wanted him better. We still do, but when do you let go? When do you say you’ve done all you can do?
I hate to think of things so bleakly, but I think of these two friends as some martyrs for my darker self. I have such a propensity for issues and personal torture. I wrap myself in my depression. I dwell on all the mistakes I make or perceive to make. One friend, I feel I let die because I didn’t make the right decision to stop him. The other friend has me eating myself alive because I made the decision to try to stop him. The may have been guardian angels for worse decisions on my part. Maybe that’s why we were so drawn together. Now if only I believed in angels. Honestly, the felt like black holes in my life. Not in a bad way, really. They sucked everything in, including me. But in the vortex around them came all of these amazing things, great conversation, art and pure intelligence that I have yet to see matched from anyone other than these two fascinating men. With that vortex from their black hole, they sucked up my darkness, my sins and made it theirs until it consumed them. They did that for others too. One dies a legend and the other lives a myth.