Fighting for My Beliefs

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It’s still on my bookshelf: the paperback copy of Moby Dick (Signet Classic, 75¢) that I read while serving in the Army in Vietnam, indelibly stained with the red dirt from western edge of III Corps, along the Cambodian border, where I spent six months in the late 1960s. It is about the same latitude as Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, and a tourist destination for many Americans.

I was a young man with liberal beliefs who went to a Quaker college. How did I end up in the Army, fighting in a war I despised? (read more…)

Reinventing Your Job

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There is a narrative from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, now largely mythical, about what a career looks like: graduate from college, find a job, then put in twenty five or 30 years before retiring at 55 with a gold watch and a pension. In other words, it used to be very typical to stay at one company for a long time, maybe even your whole career. But in the intervening decades, our cultural expectations of career have changed. Having many jobs has become normal — actually, valued. And there is a general belief that once a job ceases to fully satisfy you, it’s time to get a new one. While there are times when this response is justified, sometimes I think we’re too quick to assume a new job will be the answer. Sometimes a workplace reinvention can be as or more effective. (read more…)

The Rent Is Too Damn High

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The dream doesn’t always start the same way, but the fundamental story is constant: I unexpectedly discover that the tiny San Francisco apartment I share with my husband and our cat contains previously undiscovered rooms. It could be that I find them through a hidden door, a closet I’d never bothered to open, or a separate entrance I’d never used. Whatever the path, all of a sudden my living space doubles or triples in size, and I don’t have to move or pay more in rent. I’m so relieved, I think. This is great.

I’ve had this dream probably a dozen times. The fact that it is recurring and so literal makes me laugh, but warily. I really do want more space, but I can’t bring myself to make the sacrifices it would take to get it — either putting more of my income toward rent than I feel comfortable with, or leaving San Francisco. At least not yet. This is the huge, looming question facing many of my friends and people in my peer group who live in expensive cities: what are we going to do when we finally decide that the rent is too damn high? (read more…)

The Eventual Family

cm057ph-marc-chagall_lovers-above-townA few weeks ago my husband and I took our first family vacation with our daughter Audrey, who had just turned 8 months old, in the Florida Keys. As I crawled into bed the first night, exhausted from an outing earlier that day, I thought, “We are finally beginning to feel like a family.” At 8 months into my daughter’s life this struck me as a very peculiar and uneasy thought.  

The birth of a child is accompanied by so much hope and anticipation that I think we sometimes lose sight of the fact that parenthood is born in the same moment. When my daughter entered the world, my husband and I were immediately thrust into new roles of mommy and daddy. In my head, these roles would effortlessly fit and feel natural because we had planned and wanted this to happen for so long. We wouldn’t be perfect at it, and it would be hard at times, but I was so sure our instincts would kick in and in an instant feel like a bonded unity. But that’s not what happened. (read more…)

A Hairy Situation

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My partner met my parents for the first time this November. The weekend of good-natured getting-to-know you conversations culminated with a night of take-out Chinese food dinner and scouring stacks of my baby photos. As we wrapped up, my dad asked: “You ready?” I nodded.

“Hey,” I said to my partner. “I’ll be back in 15 minutes. I have to go help my dad shave his back.” My partner’s eyes widened. My dad and I headed for the bathroom. (read more…)