On Empathy

I had dinner with some relatives recently and happened to notice the following exchange between a teenage relative (I think between 13-15 in age) and his grandmother.

Grandma: Are you done eating already? Here, eat this (starts picking up some food to give to him)

Teenager: No, I’m not hungry – *Grandma puts the food in his plate anyways*

Teenager: *Grumbles about being ignored* I already told her I wasn’t hungry, why doesn’t she listen to me?

I didn’t say anything, but I laughed inside, because I knew exactly how he felt. This happened all the time with my own mom. I couldn’t stand it when I was younger. Even though I could empathize with him, now that I look at it from my current perspective, I feel that my own needs aren’t really that important. Sure, the grandma isn’t listening to what the kid wants, but that’s more of an issue about frustration from lack of control. That’s a petty feeling that can be subsumed by what the other person is offering, which is genuine feeling of concern for your well being. Sure, the gift that’s being offered isn’t what you want, but who gives a shit – if someone else takes time out of their day to care about you, my philosophy is that you should gratefully accept their sentiment. I guess that’s probably the biggest change for me in growing up – when you’re young, you focus on yourself. But as you grow up, you need to pay attention to other people as well. Your needs are no longer the highest priority. I used to be a dick growing up. I still am, too, but now at least I notice when I’m being a dick to others – and understand is half the battle, right?

On Media Consumption

I’ve been watching a ton of TV recently. Probably since I started my new job, I’ve changed my lifestyle accordingly to veg out on the television after a long day of work. I’m guessing since it’s my first job, I’m not used to focusing so long, because I’m usually pretty wiped out after work. TV doesn’t really require a lot of active thinking, which is probably why I like it. I don’t necessarily think that TV is bad, but the amount of TV I watch is bad. I’m not really productive once I come home. I just space out and relax. I don’t even think there’s anything wrong with pursuing recreational activities, but I do think that I need a better balance of pure recreation like watching TV, and recreational activities that also serve to improve me as a person.

Examples: reading challenging literature. Once again, fluff is fine, but I need to work out my brain in other ways besides at work. When I was in school, I’d read things that would expand my perspective or challenge my worldviews. That’s good to do. I think staying in a comfort bubble has pros and cons, but the cons are huge in the long run. They limit you and what you will see and expect from the world. Maybe listen to podcasts, or some kind of radio. I’d always had a fondness for Planet Money – I’ve recently restarted the habit, but it’s not consistent. Hopefully, this post gives me that jump start I need to build up the habit.

Going Off Track

I’ve been missing blog posts recently. I have a laundry list of excuses for why this happened, but the more I think of it, I don’t really know why I missed as many days as I did. At end of the day, the people you’re delivering work to don’t give a shit why you’re late on producing work, and in my case, I should hold myself to the same standard. I think my strong determination to produce posts has waned quite a bit though – after setting a more regular schedule, I don’t really prioritize writing blog posts like I did when I started. I would actually stay up late to finish blog posts, but now I decide to sleep instead of staying up too late. In order to keep up my commitment, I’m going to establish a routine to keep myself accountable. Something like deciding not to brush my teeth until I’ve posted something for the day. Hopefully, this won’t lead to me never brushing my teeth.

On Business Travel

I like business travel. I don’t have a huge amount of experience with it, but as a single person with no outside obligations, I find travel a nice reprieve from the daily grind. Outside of the work, you get some time to explore a new city and culture. It’s just a really good way to get out of the house. Plus, you get to lounge around a hotel room in your bath robe. I don’t even wear anything underneath – I like the freedom of the wind beneath my sails.

I want to reiterate that this is only from the perspective of a single person – if I had outside obligations like a family or a relationship to maintain, I would probably hate business travel. However, knowing that I don’t have anything waiting for me back home gives me a ton of freedom. I like the feeling of not being limited to my surroundings. If I’m required to travel for work and my business is done by Friday, I can come back on Sunday and take the weekend off to check out the city. I like to break up the schedule occasionally. Actually, if I had to guess, the reason why I like it is because I like anything that deviates from my routine.

Everyone has their daily routine – get up, shower, work, dinner, sleep, repeat. I’m perfectly fine abiding by my own routine, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. I’m just kind of subsisting – I’m not ecstatic, but I’m not miserable; I simply exist. I think it’s pretty common for people to get stuck in their routines to the point that they’re not actively looking for satisfaction in their lives. They have financial obligations that require a job, which usually ties them down to a location, which leads to needing stability in the form of a home. Needing money becomes a trap. Because we need money to live, we’re forced into jobs that we tolerate. Of course, this won’t necessarily apply to everyone, but I’d wager that most people would quit their jobs to do something else if they could meet their financial obligations through outside means. This was all a long winded way to get back to my original point, which is: everyone needs a way to break up the monotony.

On Context and History

I started watching this documentary on Netflix called The Eighties, which is about the zeitgeist of the 80’s. One of the focuses of the series is the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s presidency struck me particularly because of its relevance to our current political situation – the looming Donald Trump presidency.

When I hear the name Ronald Reagan, I think of him as president first, actor second. He’s an American president who used to be an actor. However, I’d imagine that people who’ve lived through his presidency have a completely different view of Reagan. They’d probably see him as the actor turned president. Like Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s run for governor, I see him as the famous body builder and action star who also become governor of California. Kids in California who grew up when Schwarzeneggar was governor probably view him differently. So it goes with Donald Trump.

Decades from now, when a student cracks open their history textbook (or more likely, some webpage or ebook), they’re going to have a chapter on how Donald Trump, the greatest president of the United States who solved inequality and climate change, was a wealthy businessman who used to have his own TV show. For those who haven’t lived through a world with Donald Trump, they’d get an intellectual understanding of Trump’s career, but they’d miss out on the context of history surrounding Trump and his rise to presidency. This is a common theme of history books – the facts are reported, but the general mood surrounding the time period aren’t conveyed.

Another topic in the documentary was the AIDS epidemic. I wasn’t alive at the time, so I missed out on the initial wave of panic as this unknown virus spread throughout the population. By the time I was aware of AIDS, I knew it as a horrible disease that, while survivable, would need a lifetime of medication to with reduced quality of life to get through your day to day life. Now, with current medications, for the most susceptible populations, there’s a clear path to prevent contracting HIV. PrEP, or pre exposure prophylaxis, is recommended for the biggest at risk populations, and if taken on a regular basis, prevents the contraction of HIV. Looking at the CDC web page on its effectiveness, it states PrEP reduces the risk of contracting HIV through sexual contact by 90%. That’s amazing. I think AIDS would be horrible to contract, but I don’t see it as a death sentence. I can’t imagine people who’ve lived through the AIDS epidemic would feel the same way, especially those in the gay population. Even if they feel that AIDS is now treatable,  I’d imagine their feelings on the disease would be forever shaped by the numerous deaths of their loved ones due to AIDS. I think if an educator could convey those feelings to their students, they’d have a much easier time understanding history.

New Years Resolutions for 2017

I don’t normally do New Years resolutions, but since I’ve started blogging, a resolutions post would be cool to look back on in a year from now to see what goals I set out with in mind for 2017, so I can look back on what I’ve accomplished and what goals changed over time. Without further ado:

  • Keep up with blogging. My goal is still to write up a blog post every day. There is some flexibility, however: It’s fine if I don’t have 365 posts by this time next year, as long as I’m still regularly blogging by this time next year.
  • I’m interested in starting up one of those project commitments, where I spin up a new project in set intervals. In this case, I’m looking at one project released every two months. As for the scope of the project, that is undefined. If all I do is spin up a landing page, then that’s that. But I’m shooting for a landing page and an MVP for whatever app idea or service I create.
  • Read more. I think I’ve read like one book this year. Also keep track of what books I’ve read, because I don’t even know what I’ve read this year
  • Start meditating again. This is something that I could incorporate again, but I always deprioritize.
  • Build a regular workout schedule. I started this in 2016, but it kinda fizzled over time. Work obligations kinda messed up the time schedule, so I’m moving from a scheduled fitness class with time conflicts to a more flexible weightlifting workout that can be done whenever.

I might update this throughout the year as I find more things to work on.