Advice, Happiness, Philosophy

The Lost Ones: The Case of X and Y

Dear reader,

Thank you for your tremendous encouragement, love and support. You’ve replenished my faith. How refreshing to know vulnerability is still valued. The eternal optimist, Ms Pretty Woman herself said, “it’s never just one person that deserves the credit.”

La vie est belle. Yet it’s far too easy to lose yourself in the perpetuation of a false high. We are scared to talk about the times we crawl through the mud. “Look ma, I’m living the dream!” masks our shared loneliness.

There is courage in honesty. I will continue sharing the spectrum of my experiences: good, bad, ugly. Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first, the lesson afterward.”

I’ve failed a lot of tests. I’ve learned some life-changing lessons. Time has revealed who is willing to stick around. Through trial by fire, I’ve been burned badly before. Here’s to the scars that bear their mark.

Chapter 1: X

Frankly, despite the exuberant kindness shown, I had expected to receive a “you godless baby killer” message. It wouldn’t have been the first time. 9 months ago, I received an email from a friend we’ll call X. X and I met in college. We had survived too many boozy nights to count, bad breakups, and loved ones affected by cancer. X even helped me get a job with an excellent company: one I continue to admire and promote.

Before I left for Ecuador, there had been an event where one of my co-workers threw a piece of lettuce at me. My knee jerk reaction was to throw a piece of lettuce back. It was a moment of silly camaraderie, one among many I shared with some good peoples. Since that event, X and I stopped talking. I sensed something was wrong and reached out but never heard back. 3 months later, 24 hours before my going away party, I received an email with the subject “Hi”. This title was alarmingly misleading for what was about to unfold.

In 914 words(not including character), X declared their overwhelming disappointment in my personal and professional decisions. To start, there was my break up from a long term relationship. X felt I had disrespected my ex by moving on too quickly. Though X used to look up to me, my single girl choices were falling short of their expectations.

Next, X listed numerous no-no’s I had committed at work. The tip of the iceberg being…wait for it…the lettuce. Ba-da-dum. Not only did my actions show I lacked respect for the entire company, it also perpetuated nepotism, defamed X’s reputation, and supported the claim that people saw me as their “crazy” friend.

Lastly, X hoped none of the litany of attacks had offended me. They would still be attending my going away party to wish me well.  To justify their means of communication, X noted that they would’ve had trouble saying all of these things in person. This is accurate, since that would’ve taken far more courage, cruelty, or both.

In shock, choking back sobs, I read the email over and over, trying desperately to understand how it could’ve gone so wrong. Was I really that terrible of a friend? How could 10 years dissolve into 3 paragraphs sent before I boarded a plane? Worst of all, if someone I considered family felt this way, was all of the above was true?

Chapter 2: Y

To understand the case of the X, let’s talk about Y, for we are bound by symmetry. Y and I also met in college. Y also helped me find a job at a blossoming company before my leap abroad. 10 years of the highest of highs and lowest of lows later, Y was my brother from another mother.

A month before my departure, I learned some female co-workers had been receiving unwanted advances from a male employee we’ll call UPS. I was surprised to hear this, since UPS and I were on friendly terms. He had never crossed the line with me.

The women were nervous about “tattling”. They didn’t want to stir up any trouble. Though the male employee was acting inappropriately, the women were worried about getting blamed. Sound familiar? This kind of twisted psychology is far too common. “If you were showing your legs, blacked out, or doing any of the activities guys do without second thought…expect something terrible to happen.” Even if it’s not as horrific as getting violated while you’re unconscious, please remember misogyny is real. Cue Mansplaining. We’ve got to teach our boys better.

Back to UPS. Since there had been no HR, the interim solution was to keep him and the women physically separated in their daily routines, while the rest of the team assisted with avoid and reroute. On my last day of work, I ran into UPS on my lunch break. After having a friendly chat about his daughter and my plans to teach, I broached the pink elephant in the room: “Hey buddy, you’re a nice guy and we’ve had some good talks. You know, we’ve all made people feel uncomfortable before, myself included. Live and learn, eh?” UPS seemed a bit awkward, but thanked me for the advice.  We even shared a hug.

The next day, I received a wake up call. UPS had written an email to the top executives about how HE was being harassed by another employee. He felt unsafe, unwelcome, and uneasy in his work environment. He played the victim card like his last hand.

I flipped out. It was my fault this had happened. Did I just destroy two of my closest friendships in one week, both of whom were kind enough to help a struggling gal? I looked in the mirror and saw godzilla.

Y called me into their office and asked what happened. Heart racing, sweaty palmed, ashen mouthed, I stuttered out the chain of events. We had ended on a good note. I had no idea it would escalate. I should’ve kept my mouth shut.  I apologized profusely.

Then I held my breath and waited. Waited for the barrage of criticism. Waited for all my mistakes to be dragged into the light. Waited for the inevitable, invisible, face slap. I prayed it’d be less than 914 words. At least this time I could answer in person.

Y listened attentively the entire time. When I finished talking, Y explained that although I had good intentions, it was a bad idea to have said anything given the delicacies and politics of the corporate enigma: “I’ve made the same mistake before and I’ve learned the hard way.”

Y got up. Y patted me on the back. And then Y forgave me.

They fired UPS.

Chapter 3: No means No

I had to read X’s email again to write this post. It still stings, but reflection and healthy detachment helps.

Yes, in the height of my co-dependence, I moved on too fast and made some questionable decisions. But gimme a break. I survived 5 years of long distance and was single for the first time. I was in the midst of uprooting my partner, career, and country. Anyone close to me could tell I was fragile and figuring it out. Did this justify a friend’s deepest disappointment and demoralization?

No.

True, I should not have thrown the lettuce. I wasn’t working that day. I was not wearing gloves. Every company should hold their employees to the highest standards of food safety. So what about holding yourself accountable to equally high standards of communication? This should’ve been addressed within the proper work environment and in a timely manner.  Why wait to write an email right before I left the country? Why bring up other people’s negative opinions of my personality? Was this professional?

No.

X had every right to express themselves. I’m sorry for causing them pain. I’m sorry our friendship had to end like that. However, I will not apologize for who I am.  I am flawed. I love too hard. I lose too much. I make stupid decisions and I learn from them every damn day. Will I bow to someone who climbs atop their moral high horse and glares down?

My dear reader, you already know the answer to that.

Though X wrote with the intention of mending, they tore new wounds. Fortune cookie says: don’t show up to bingo with a battle axe. This is what I wrote back:

Hi X,

Thank you for sharing your feelings. I understand that it’s not easy. 

I think we are all growing, learning, and taking different paths in life. No single journey can be the same, nor can we do anything but share our perspective, live and love true to ourselves, and hope for the best.

Hopefully, the pain we’ve caused each other dwarves the good times we’ve shared.

CeCe

Chapter 4: Don’t you know that you’re toxic?

We’ve all been an X and we’ve all had an X. Relationships can change drastically: it can take 10 minutes or 10 years.  It’s the hardest thing in the world to face, much less fathom.

X’s are not bad people. They may be great friends to others, but toxic to you. If someone continues to deplete the hard-earned energy you’ve collected to survive, why stick around for more?

As someone who fights her own self-destructive tendencies, I understand the battle. Yet at some point, enough is enough. There has to be a limit.  How do you know you’ve reached yours? Time. When it’s time to take a step forward, you won’t go back.

To avoid hypocrisy, I gladly apply this philosophy to myself. If I’m a drain on your soul, please let me go. I wouldn’t want me in your life either.

True friends call you out on your shit from a place of love, not bitterness. They do not attack, question, or make you doubt your self-worth. Let go of The Lost Ones.

Chapter 5: Growing Pains

In the hip hop song Matrimony, Wale asks Jerry Seinfield “Can you plan for growth?”

Seinfield shakes his head vehemently. “Absolutely not. It’s like any growth. You can’t be ready for it.”

I was not ready. I’m still not. I could either question everything I believed in, rerun a million “what if” scenarios in my head…or I could try my hardest to accept that someone who once nurtured my heart was shattering it.

In best case scenarios, we grow in a way that fosters a deeper understanding. In worst case scenarios, we are forced to acknowledge fundamental differences in beliefs, perceptions, and values. Sometimes, you have to stand back and let the bridge burn. It hurts like a mother, but from the rubble, you have the power to clear a new path.

Remember: every time you cut others, you slice yourself twice as deep.

Let’s staunch the bleeding. Let’s cauterize the wound.

Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.

Your friend,

writinginsoysauce

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Advice, Ecuador, Mental Health, Philosophy, Teaching

Faith: and then the earth trembled

I have a confession to make: I was not wearing pants when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit. The perks of being too comfortable in your apartment. Luis, Jared, and I stood in our doorways staring at each other as the floor trembled. I giggled hysterically at the prospect of dying without pants. Then I prayed. Out loud.

After the 4th floor stopped shaking, we walked to SuperMaxi to stock up on necessities: chifles, choco chip cookies, boxed wine. Foch, known for its nightlife, was a cold somber scene. Cops, frightened faces, everything was closed. That’s when we knew it was serious. News trickled in about how badly the coast was affected. The sadness came. In terrifying circumstances, I gripped onto faith.

Ever since I could remember, I have prayed. I do not know if god is a man, woman, alien, unicorn. I do know my little chinita self has whispered, spoken, hummed to an unseen, unknown entity. Wind in trees.

rivwr

1. Faith

22 years ago, when my little sister was still in the womb, I was very jealous of the oodles of attention she was already receiving. I asked g money for no little sister. I quickly realized faith is not all powerful.

I miss talking to my sis. I cry a lot thinking about how lost she must feel in the hospital. How alone even with visitors. Her drawings show duplicate visions: two eyebrows, two mouths, juxtaposed onto the same face. I am visiting Sherry end of May. I would love nothing more than to hug her.

My lifey(lifetime compadre) Xtina who is also a therapist visited my fam in the hospital. She translated a difficult subject for my parents so well. When you have a fever, the meds provide a temporary but lifesaving relief.  My sis refuses to take medication so she is going to court to defend her case. If she loses, she will have to take the meds. So we wait.

Mental illness is a dark stealer of loved ones, yet I have faith my sister will be OK.

Faith is not a blanket reason for why bad things happen. Bad things happen for no reason. We can either find purpose, or not. It is a choice.

It’s the possibility of parallel universes. It’s found equally in creation and destruction. It’s minute particles, the ones undiscovered by science, that connect us all somehow.

It’s never feeling completely alone, even when I feel incredibly lonely.

It is action. With your help, we raised $5000 to buy supplies for earthquake victims. Paypal the phenomenal corydack(at)yahoo.com.

Faith is an umbrella.  I have lost and found it infinite times.

2. Speak

Faith helps me cope with fear of rejection. I am empowered to speak my mind.

In the application to teach in Korea(EPIK), I was required to report any visible tattoos. One girl posted that she was rejected because of hers. I could’ve taken the easy route and lied about my Princess Mononoke, a piece easily hidden by clothing. But I didn’t want to. I love my art. I do not believe in conforming to social or cultural stigmas to get a job. Guess what? My request for an interview arrived 1 day after the earthquake. Truth worked in my favor. I passed the interview. Now onto massive amounts of paperwork before I am officially accepted this fall

Another case study: a well known recruiter for Taiwan called Hess asked me to submit a head to toe photo. Immediately the warning bell went off. What does this superficial request have to do with my teaching credentials? Why do they need to see my body to qualify my mind?  After reading some bad reviews about how Hess works with schools who prefer white males,  I wrote this:

Not surprisingly,  I received a generic answer about how their interview process isn’t for anyone. I withdrew my application.

Why poke the bear when I so badly need a paying job in August ? Because I would rather hear a firm NO for being true to myself than an exuberant YES to a false persona.

3. Love and Hate

Some days I love my body. Some days I hate my body. I cannot down a pizza like I used to. I am allergic to booze, caffeine, lactose, honey. And butterflies. That’s right. Butterflies. Why not? My body is going down the list alphabetically. Time feels like my enemy. People say “Oh, you haven’t aged a day.” Thank you kindly. However, I am aging every day. How can I come to terms with it? Working out helps. More importantly, I try to forgive my imperfections.

The hardest working woman I know Ms Stephanie Park just launched her website The Healthy Hour! She makes cooking healthy look doable even with a New Yorker’s schedule. Plus, she features a delicious OREO recipe. Enough said.

The-Healthy-Hour-Taline-Gabriel-Raweo-Raw-Oreo-Vegan-Dessert-Recipe-01-268

4. I cannot do this alone 

Last week I had a serious bout of the flu for the third time this year. I didn’t want to pay for a substitute teacher when we teachers are barely getting paid, so I worked all week. I was so sick I couldn’t walk 4 flights of stairs to my own apartment without dry heaving.

I cannot do this alone. Nor do I want to.

I have met someone very special. When I least wanted to, when I told everyone who would listen that I would not open my heart again…naturally, the universe threw me a curveball. I met Luis in TEFL class. We were both trying to become better teachers. He has undeniably become one of my best friends. He is not a project. He does not need saving. He does use a painful past as an excuse for his actions in the present. In fact, he is profoundly patient. Kind. Giving. Balanced. It is not the uncertain, burning, obsessive, roller coaster dynamic my co-dependent self has chosen too often in the past. Whether we are together or apart, I feel what so many others have talked about. Peace. It is so nice because it is easy. I am understood on an intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual level. We are not halves of a whole. We are both wholes that happen to complement each other quite nicely. L teaches Chinese. He texts my mom in mandarin. I am writing this post in his class right now, surrounded by giggling girls, and I am so damn proud. Outside, the sky pours buckets. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.

This life I’ve chosen can be a solitary one. You do not have the comfort of your friends from home. You do not know who you can trust, though you pray someone is willing to help.

To those beautiful people who have lent a helping hand, I have not enough space to fill these pages, but I hope you know who you are.  I am beyond grateful.

Thank you for keeping my faith.

writinginsoysauce

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Advice, Philosophy, Teaching, Travel

(No Name): 2 months in Ecuador and 7 How To’s

I’m falling in love with Ecuador. Like most special delights in life, it’s the unplanned and unexpected that make up a myriad of defining moments.

1. How to teach English

After a grammar exercise about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it quickly became clear that my high school students had no clue about Mark Twain nor slavery. Another asked me, one on one, if being gay is natural. I tell my students one thing: to always keep asking.  Never take my opinion for law.

Allow for distractions, the mind needs to breathe.

I’m aiming to get TEFL certified with the university this February in order  to continue a worldwide journey. Imagine this chinita in Columbia, South Korea, Thailand, UAE…wowsers!

2. How to travel successfully by bus

Do not rely on the Internet for timetables or routes. Ask at least 3 people on site including ticket sellers, taxi drivers, bus staff pitching to potential customers.  Do as the locals do.

No one sits in assigned seats. Be prepared to see people arguing over your seat and to find another one.

In order to meet friends at Quilotoa, my host dad crowd sourced to find out that there’s no direct bus from Riobamba to Latacunga. I needed to get off at some random, no name stop, then take a taxi to the main station. Alone and amidst a hailstorm.

My nerves were calmed only after sitting next to a nice lady named Faviola who happened to be going to the same place. We split a cab even steven. Yeats said it best: Be Not Inhospitable To Strangers Lest They Be Angels In Disguise.

By sensational serendipity, I arrived at the exact same time as my crew from Quito, despite departing hours apart and from different cities.

3. How to make the most of…

Otavalo: Use the buddy system to bargain. It’s cheaper to buy 2. Take your time browsing and getting price quotes before dropping your cash. Smile.

Go to the birds of prey show at Condor Park. Notice which beasts value freedom over food. Search for the heart shaped crater embedded into the side of the mountain.

Riobamba: Eat hornado de chancho (slow roasted pork with orgasmic thick, crispy skin). It will help you forget that on the 3 hour car ride there, you awoke from your nap to the symphonic chords of  a 10 year old puking profusely into a plastic bag.

Funda.

Quilotoa: Camp for free at crater lake. Bring tons of sweaters, snacks, water, tp. Warm yourself with Puntas(moonshine baby).

In ink black darkness, we climbed down a steep, winding sand-rock filled trail armed with 2 measly, Ecua phone flashlights. The 1 hour hike uphill in scorching heat is a doozie. PLEASE SKIP riding the donkeys/horses: their legs are far more fragile than yours. It’s tempting, I know.

Once you get uptop, reward yourself with grilled goat. Indulge in rich, meaty papas(potatoes)for days. Demolish another table’s full plate of leftovers.

I befriended a stray black lab mix who later summoned her 5 member pack of protectors (will work for food). Slept like a baby through a vicious dog fight. I’ve got 99 problems but No Name ain’t one.

Find big sticks if you venture into the surrounding wilderness. The dogs are trained to aggressively guard the indigenous lands. Good news? You’ll hear them coming. Bad news? Our friend’s pant leg got nipped twice and I had to fend off rabies-r-us while it transformed my branch into a twig…with its mouth.

Adventure.

4. How to live with ever present danger

At night, four of my friends( both guy and girl together, local looking and gringo) have been robbed. Two of them at knifepoint. Scary, though the awareness these events are commonplace oddly comforts. Take a cab to your door if you live in prime-time petty crime neighborhoods like Foch.

If and when it happens, let go of whatever possessions you have.

Keep money in your bra. Always bring a friend to keep watch at the ATM.

Past 6 pm, I walk in a black, over-sized hoodie, hands stuffed in pockets(pseudo concealed weapon), ninja jaunt on, at an effin’ speedy pace. Better to be feared and/or too fast of a moving target.

If I outlasted Dorchester, MA…

5. How to learn any language

My host dad, in Spanish, asked me to keep the door unlocked for their return.

Except he had 2 moto helmets so I assumed there was an errand requiring me to get on a bike. To which I replied: muy frio (it’s too cold).

Read intent through the lens of body language, trust the vocabulary to expand after. Embrace the awkward because people will laugh. Laughter helps you learn.

6. How to survive a nightmare

I’ve met my favorite kind of people: survivors.

One spoke of nightmares: the kind that come when the brains of a 21 year old girl meet the concrete streets of Quito. Split seconds earlier, he’d asked his friend to slow down the motorcycle. It was all too late and far too fast for the boy high on adrenaline and the pretty young thang gripping tightly to his jacket. The friend lived, if that’s what you call it. Fate in the form of accident stole the show.

Another, an indigo child destined to change the world, sat with me on a grassy knoll of an unknown park next to a gaggle women in thick turquoise sweaters and prairie skirts. As they smoked their caramel cocoa cigarettes, she told me about how her boyfriend died, high on coke, his heart stopped. No, wait, that was another story. Hers killed himself.

Why must the best people be cursed with desolation? She cried and I felt her pain as my own for we have all loved someone who feels nothingness.

7. How pain begets joy

I said goodbye to a mosaic of circumstance, however difficult, for the possibility of a true-to-present self.

To find a real shot at the perfectly imperfect, you must continue learning: not the way you’d imagine through unaffordable degrees, but the school of life.

Travel, my friends.

The world is far too lonely. Give love to others, so they see less of your skin and more of your soul.

Let go of money to gain, whenever you can afford it. I used to make over 70k. Now I make less than $400 a month. You’d think it’d be more stressful with less money but it’s quite the opposite.

Relinquish the need for others to approve of your happiness and you’ll be one step closer. (Yes, I’m talking to you “be a lawyer-doctor-hedge fund manager or else” tiger parents.)

Help, however you can, in conversation or human touch, for richness comes in numerous forms.

Reach the eternal fountain of youth the instant you stop searching.

Love from E,

writinginsoysauce

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Advice, Love, Philosophy

8 Philosophies For Your Friday

Dear Friends,

As life’s eternal protégé, cheers to an enlightened weekend:

1. Unconditional love exists. If you’re lucky, you were born knowing. If you’re brave, you shall seek. Be brave.

2. Skin fades. Voice doesn’t. Choose someone who serenades you every moment of every day.

3. It’s OK to fall in love with more than one person, especially if the other person is you.

4. Accept the kind of family you have. Build the kind of family you want.

5. A cry a day keeps the blues away. Grief is like storm clouds: the longer it gathers, the worst it gets.  Six years after losing a friend, I still get the gut-wrenching, abysmal, snot-splotchin’, not-cute-even-a-little-bit cry face. The difference? I allow myself to be sad.

6. Like all things in life, you don’t know till you know. Let your belief system be fluid.

7. “Accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.”  Believe in the serendipitous, but own your power of CHOICE.

8. The next time your lips move, skip the small talk. Dive deep into what matters. At first, it will make people uncomfortable. With practice, it will make you strong.

You think you have time for the human experience, but in actuality, it’s fleeting.

The good news?

So is pain.

Gone with the breeze,

writinginsoysauce

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Philosophy, Writing

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Advice, Happiness, Philosophy, Writing

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