Monday, August 22, 2011

You Are The Average Of Your Friends

Friends are one of the best things in life.  They also influence you more than you may know.

A very wise man once told me that we are all the average of our five closest friends.  They influence our habits, our diet, our hobbies, our profession, and our income.

A common anecdote I've heard is that your income will be with in 10% of the average of your 10 closest friends.  I have no statistical evidence to back that up, but anecdotal evidence is everywhere.  Teachers hang out with teachers, actors hang out with actors, NBA stars hang out with NBA stars.  I'm not sure if correlation means causation here, and I'm sure most of us make friends from the people we work with.  But it's also true that similar types of people are drawn to similar types of work.  Many of my good friends from high school have also gone on to be teachers.

Whether it can be proven or not, the saying speaks to the importance of our friendships, and choosing good friends.  People that stimulate you, challenge you, support you, make you life, encourage and correct you are worth their weight in gold.  People that lead you into bad places and bad decisions (for some reason I'm thinking of Kesha right now), are worth their weight in something else.

And if we are the average of our friends, are we lifting our friends up?  Or are they lifting us up?  Something to think about.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Arrival: New Orleans

New Orleans smells spicy. The sticky air is a shock for someone not accustomed to humidity.
When traveling solo, I undergo a slight unease when first stepping into new environs. No friends waiting, no familiarity. Just a couchsurfing address to arrive at and a big bunch of unknown standing between me and it. And the unknown, while not always scary, is sometimes unsettling. I cope by taking a go-with-the-flow mentality that gets me to my destination much like a river carries floatsam and jetsam downstream. Might not be the quickest between, and I might be a little battered, but I arrive eventually.
I hopped on a bus that went downtown. The view out the window was breathtaking. Delapitated homes, bombed out warehouses, it's like a third world country, or a war zone.
There were four of us on the bus. I was squinting at my blackberry, trying to make sense of the map I had downloaded. The bus was dead quiet, so the conductor's voice startled me and the rest when she said, "Turn down your music."
I looked up, and saw the other three passengers looking at me. I looked at them. They kept looking at me. I looked at my phone, suspicious it might be making a secret noise that only I couldn't hear. Nothing. I looked up, and no one was looking at me. Relief. Silence.
60 seconds later. "I'm not joking. Turn down your music or I will pull the bus over." The looking started again. I was beginning to think either she, or I, was crazy. Finally, a young man seated in the front half of the bus, but closer to me than the driver, moved to the back half of the bus. More silence. More abandoned buildings.
We arrived downtown with no more interruptions. I rolled my way down Bourbon Street, dragging my luggage with a bum wheel behind me, rat-a-tat rat-a-tat. It's the travelers walk of shame, announcing to the world A) no one would pick me up and B) I'm too cheap to take a cab.
After passing Bourbon's endless strip clubs, jazz clubs, bars and trinket shops, I found the Frenchmen Street bar where my couchsurfing host works, equal parts sweaty and victorious. She took my luggage, and gave me a beer on the house. Arrival.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Travel is always rewarding. The adventure, discovery, and people encountered while traveling have enriched my life immeasurably. I have found that often the things you remember most are the things you did not plan-people, places and events you find unexpectedly. And removing myself from the routine of everyday life, combined with the new experiences of travel, really lets me look at my life from a fresh perspective. My best thinking always happens while on the road.

Over the next few weeks I will visit New Orleans, DC, Charleston, and Savannah. Dixieland! The American South has always held a certain charm to me, conjuring images of white colonnaded plantations, Southern belles, sweet tea, peaches and of course the accent. It seems to me in a lot of ways to almost be a different country, as it in fact was during the Civil War. I'm excited to find out what it's really like here, which preconceived notions will be spot on, and which will be miles off.

Adding an element of the unknown to this already fluid undertaking, I will be using for the majority of my trip. A stranger's couch is a high-risk, high-reward proposition. You could find a great host who can plug you into the local scene and steer you away from the tourist traps that separate travelers from their money and leave only a cheap souvenier where an experience should be. Or they could potentially be an ax-murderer (though the site assures me it's safe). My only previous time couch surfing was excellent, so my hopes are high.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Beautiful Sadness. "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Part of the power of music is its ability to touch the parts of us that make us human.  The irrational, illogical, and emotional.  When a song hits the right nerve, sometimes, I'm affected by this beautiful melancholy.  It's saddness, but it feels good, healthy, even joyous.

I can't explain the paradox.  Maybe it's one of those "there's no light with out darkness, no hot without cold" phenomena, and I need the sadness to feel happiness.  Or maybe its just because I'm human and we're weird and emotional, and don't always make sense.

Pandora dug me up this the other day.  I've heard it before, but this time it hit me.  I like how simple it is.  The instruments.  Her vocals, and the lyrics.  Her emotion is very plain.  Hope you like it too.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Will I Be Single Forever? Maybe. Am I Worried? No.

As my 20s tick by while I remain a bachelor, more and more people ask me "When are you going to get married?

They all have different agendas.

  • My parents want grand kids so they can dote on them, bake them cookies, buy them toys, etc.  While I sympathize, that doesn't convince me, because they can still do those things for me.
  • My students probably ask me the most.  They think its weird that I'm single.  27 seems old to them, which it did to me at their age. But taking dating advice from middle schoolers is never a good idea, unless they suggest I marry Taylor Swift, which I would do.
  • My coworkers often try to set me up with friends.  This has never worked, obviously.  Its dangerous territory, because whether or not the relationship works, I still have to work with the person who set me up.  And I secretly suspect they are more concerned with finding their single friend a good guy than with my bachelorhood.

Frankly, the only reasons I have for marriage are pragmatic, not romantic.  Married couples are better off financially, especially DINKs (Double Income, No Kids).  And if I did have kids, they could help me with yard work.  Right now I have to pay kids to come help me with yard work.

I do know a number of happily married couples, and do want that in my life eventually.  But not yet.  Here is a quick summary of why I am still not married at the old age of 27:

1.)  Marriage is a Big Deal.  Marriage is not something to do because you hit a certain age, or people feel you should, or you are lonely.  Marriage will not make you happy if you are unhappy.  It requires commitment and hard work and requires that you give up at least some of your desires and wants to another person.  It demands that you commit your life to someone who is not you.  I have not yet found the person who I want to do that for.   Until I do, I won't get married.

2.)  I want to choose right and choose once.  I've seen so many people my age and younger get married and divorced.  It does not look fun, especially when kids are involved.  

3.)  Being single is fun. A very wise man told me once "celebrate your singleness." I'll only have this freedom in my life once (ideally).  Not in any swinging bachelor kind of way, but I like the freedom to do what I want, when I want.  I have work commitments and that's it.  The rest of my time is mine to be spent doing the things I like:  Being with friends and family, improving myself, helping others, and traveling.

4.)  It's very possible I'm not mature enough for marriage yet.

Will I ever get married?   Yes, if I meet the right person.  If I never do, then maybe I won't and that's OK.  If you're in a similar situation, I'd be curious to hear what you think.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blogging Part II

Blogging Part II

For some time I have debated returning to blogging. I miss writing and how it organizes my thoughts. I like the record it leaves. And I definitely like it when readers interact with the blog and leave comments.

I checked my blog the other day for the first time in years. I wasn't sure if Google would still have it up. But sure enough, it was. What really surprised me was this article, written 3 years ago, sat lurking in cyberspace, slowing gathering hits and comments like a stone gathers moss.

I will take another crack at blogging.  Its cool that something I wrote impacted people, if even in a small way. In hindsight, I should have known that "Stop Being Awkward" would generate some Google search traffic.