Innocence is the Crime

The Subway_George TookerSometimes I wonder, if I had been alive during the Civil Rights movement, who would I have been? Would I have marched on Washington? Would I have traveled to protests? Or would have simply watched on TV and read transcripts of MLK’s speeches printed in the newspaper?

I fear that I would have sat by, agreeing with the movement, but going about my life, the weight of day-to-day living overwhelming all else. This seems most likely (especially since I can count the number of protests I’ve attended on any issue on one hand), and I am not proud of this. I am not proud that I have done nothing to protest the many police shootings of unarmed black men and women. I have not even done superficial things to show my solidarity and belief in the fundamental validity and value of the movement, like tweeting #BlackLivesMatter or changing my Facebook icon. (read more…)

Three Rejections

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Rejections feel awful.

It doesn’t matter if it’s something small, like not hearing back from a potential romantic match on Tinder, or large, like being passed over for an important job. What makes rejection so upsetting, so intolerable, is the possibility that it indicates something really, really wrong with us – our skills and abilities, or our worthiness and lovability.

After a rejection, I want to feel better but sometimes recoil at well-meaning expressions of sympathy. Certain situations are painful because it hurts to admit how badly we wanted something, and even small slights can be upsetting if they shake our sense of self-worth or confidence. Rejections are made worse by the fact that we rarely discuss or publicize them, heightening the sense that they are shameful and dark. The failures themselves feel awful; the only thing more embarrassing is sharing them with others. (read more…)

“You’re going to grow up to be a lonely old man”

Ernest Shackleton Endurance

“Growing up, my mom was worried about my antisocial tendencies. I mean she would literally say, frequently, ‘You’re going to grow up to be a lonely old man’ when she was upset with me for being bad. And that never had an impact on me! But then I saw what a lonely old man looked like. And that did have an impact. It seemed pretty horrible.”

Have you ever been friends with someone you didn’t even like? Tim was just 13 years old, and doing tech support to make spending money, when he met Allen, a 70 year old retiree with no family. Allen was alone in the world, and while he did want help with his computer, he mostly needed someone to talk to. Though more than 50 years Allen’s junior, Tim became a reluctant friend and listener in a one-way friendship that went on for more than 15 years. In many ways, Tim didn’t even like Allen – but if you spend enough time with someone, in a strange way you do come to care about them. (read more…)

What Happens When a New Yorker Moves to California?

I grew up in New York City. Even though I haven’t lived there in over ten years, I still have a lot of New York pride. Growing up in New York endowed me with some special skills, like knowing where to stand on a train platform for the optimal exit and recognizing a real bagel.

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As a shy child, it also allowed me to not just avoid strangers, but take pride in it. I learned to walk quickly and with purpose. I was suspicious of anyone who wanted to talk to me. It made me feel street smart (or as street smart as an eleven year old on the Upper West Side can really be). (read more…)

😁🐳🎉🐼💝, aka, Management With Emoji

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Last summer, I learned a secret to managing millennials. After years of pleading for better communication from them, I accidentally stumbled upon a language we have in common: emojis.

As the program director of a regional junior sailing program, I’ve been working with and managing college and high-school aged employees for over a decade. I oversee 40 sailing instructors and 20 sailing courses over ten intense summer weeks. I love the work, especially being a manager; I thrive on creating an environment that’s enjoyable for both our students and instructors alike. 

As rewarding as management is, it can also be extremely challenging. Most of the people I supervise are in high school and college, and due to the nature of the work, we need to be in touch all day long, often by text. This is where communication began to break down in recent years. If I sent a text to an instructor asking them to do something and didn’t get a response, I had to assume the message had not been received. If it was something time-sensitive, it meant I had to send the text again. Or call. Or email. Or call the manager and ask for the message to be delivered in person. It was annoying and a big waste of time. (read more…)