Life

30

I’m not an anxious person, and I’ve always had an OK self-esteem, but in the slow, quiet moments of my 20s I spent absurd amounts of time concerned about my identity. About not knowing who I was. About not knowing enough. About not getting enough done. About wasting time. About being a fraud.

Now that I’m 30 years old, all I worry about is my back. 

The small of it. See, it hurts more than it used to, mostly in the mornings.

But back to the tepid taming of my flaming identity crisis. The trick I’ve learned — and they don’t tell you this until you turn 30 — is to realize that everybody is having an identity crisis. All the time. We’re all faking. We’re all frauds. We’re all failures.

Fake it till you make it, then, isn’t just a saying, but a proverb. 

I see it printed on every bumper sticker, every t-shirt, every smile, every handshake, every campaign hat, every resume, every Facebook post, every blog. Fake it till you make it.

Give yourself a break

(more…)

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Micro-filming with Adobe Premiere Clip: My life in 4 short videos

About a month ago it occurred to me that I carry a super computer in my pocket. My phone, that is. It’s a smart phone that connects me to the world and offers me every little bit of information from anytime in history, much like a community garden – all knowledge ripe and for the taking. And the phone is powerful. I can pinpoint my friend’s exact real-time location, no matter how far away from me he or she lives. I can record music. I can film movies.

98% of the time I use my phone to check email.

When I want to be fancy, I post a picture to Instagram.

That’s about it.

With fresh eyes, then, (the unlimited potential of my phone revealed to me), a query clobbered my restless mind. What if the ’90s version of myself were to get ahold of an iPhone? What would I have done with it?

Certainly, I wouldn’t have wasted battery power reading stranger’s status updates.

Enter ‘Adobe Premiere Clip’

What if I were to film the most boring moments of my life and then try to make them interesting?

I’m sure there are many movie-making apps available to the mass public. iMovie, for instance, is probably the most popular (I have some familiarity with the desktop version). Adobe Premiere Clip, however, happened to get in front of my face at the right time. This powerful video-producing app allows you to record, edit, add music, adjust tone and color — all from your phone. (more…)

29

At 29 years old, I’ve discovered the truth.

Everyone is lying to me.

It’s not so much a realization, but a confirmation. The truth is that getting old isn’t all that bad.

Sure, there’s the aches and pains. That much is true. The other night I got off the couch and proceeded to the bed and upon lying, realized that, somewhere along the way, I tweaked a back muscle. Lift, turn, walk, lie and… my back is destroyed? Guess I’m not as spry as I used to be.

And sure. The mind starts to go. I’m more forgetful than I’ve ever been. Words are becoming harder to recall, and I’ve never been a worse speller. This became all too apparent at work the other day when I created a flyer for a football-themed event, misspelling Cincinnati in big, beautiful bold letters.

And okay. I’m taking medication. Dermatology stuff, but still — medication. At the onset I experienced side-effects. Nothing drastic, just irregular doses of dizziness accompanied by brilliant flashes of drowsiness, like some ill-fated celebrity duo tromping down a red carpet determined to prove the world wrong only to wake up six months later in rehab. I lowered the dosage.

And yes. I can no longer fit inside my own clothes. My pants have shrunk like raisins, my shirts like voodoo heads. But it’s not the clothes! It’s me! You see, I didn’t know I could gain weight. But then 29 happened. That magical time in my life when everyone said, “You’ll fill out one day.”

That day is today. (more…)

Borrowed trouble: My 30 days inside a payday loan office

The cursor blinks and a man hovers over my computer. American flag t-shirt, sleeves off — he coughs into his hands and rubs them together. He’s nervous. On my desk lies his bank statement, three pay stubs and a driver’s license. They are the only items he has in the world.

“You can do $200?” he asks. “All I need is $200.”

“I can do $200,” I say, but I’m falsely distracted: I’m typing — clicks and clacks without regard to timing or rhythm. The store is stuffy today. I’m thinking about going home. Or crawling under my desk, holding my knees and rocking. I’m feeling loansome: i.e., the mental weight from a month’s work of digging irresponsible borrowers under insurmountable debt.

“Yeah,” he says, “that all?”

Sam, who sits next to me, swivels over. She reaches to tap my computer screen, making the monitor shake, her chubby finger with a fat force. Where she taps it reads,

TOTAL LOAN AMOUNT APPROVED: ………………. $750.00

Sam turns her head, smiling at me, nodding, as if to say, “Go ahead, Kevin, you got this. I believe in you.” So I swallow. I have to find my voice again, like a shy 12 year old being forced to sing the National Anthem in front of his friends; it’s in there, but it doesn’t want to come out.

Below my computer screen is a motivational sign:

GOAL: 100% of TLA

Next to the letters is a picture of a steaming coffee cup with a pastry.

The man, waiting, now growing impatient to my silence, stretches. He looks to his right, at the signage hanging on the wall. Big, beautiful green letters,

BE A RESPONSIBLE BORROWER, TAKE ONLY WHAT YOU NEED.

“You’re approved for $750,” I say.

He pretends to think about it: “Yeah,” he says. “I’ll take it. All of it.” (more…)

2014: See You Later, Alligator; 2015: Please Don’t Be a Reptile

The end of the year. How did this happen? One minute, I’m drinking champagne, the next, I’m drinking champagne again. One whole year, gone. Whoosh. Bam.

Throughout the year, it is important to take personal inventories. Did you grow? Did you fail? Will you do better? Writers like Peter Bregman suggest you should do this every day, for 18 minutes. For every other person on the planet, we do this once a year during New Years Eve.

It’s human tradition to procrastinate.

For me, 2014 was an incredible year. It was a hard year, of course. The most challenging year of my life, but worth it.

Here’s what I’ll remember

Growing

Literally. I gained 15 pounds. This is a HUGE deal for me. Up until recently, I’ve been the same weight since high school. I thought my wife was shrinking all my clothes in the laundry. Nope.

I don’t want to be huge or anything, but geez. I just want to be comfortable sitting in a chair.

Travelling

My time in the east coast may be coming to a close, so it made sense to make the most of my location. In 2014, I (i.e., my wife and I) embarked on as many road trips as possible. We also traveled a bit by air, seeing both familiar and new states.

On the road we hit Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Toronto, and almost every inch of New York State. Through the air we hit Texas, Washington, Idaho, and California. (more…)

Police Brutality and the Black Community: the (White and Nerdy) Public Health Perspective

Earlier this year I began organizing a non-profit mentoring group which reaches out to urban youth in the Rochester community. We shuttle them to colleges and universities to discuss high school graduation, college enrollment and various other topics. While recruiting for an event on the phone, a parent asked me about transportation. We provide public bus passes, I said.

“No,” she responded.” I don’t want my child shot dead by any cop,” and she hung up.

I remember sitting by my office phone for what felt like an eternity, trying to grasp the magnitude of what I had just heard. To put it stupidly, I was shocked. I had never heard anyone speak with such transparency on such a grave matter. In an ugly moment I began to blame her. Why distrust a system designed to protect her? Doesn’t she get it? In my experience, police had always protected and served me! It made sense that the system would work for everyone else too.

But as the cold unsettling silence of the dial tone began to choke me, I realized that my limited, pampered perspective did not grant me a right to judge a fear I did not understand.

No shocker here

I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. Coastal California. Where nearly everyone graduates on time from suburban high schools, and the kids are not shot by cops or dealers, and the one girl who did disappear (over twenty years ago) has a large wooden reward sign still posted, reminding the town of its rarity of misfortune. We don’t fear the police. The only time you fear the police is when do something wrong: you are a criminal, you are on the highway speeding, you are drinking underage (or are indulging in some rebellious combination of the three).

I inherently trust the police. I was taught to. I now have a cousin who is a cop and he is a wonderful human being; once, I was even let off of a speeding ticket just for knowing him.

So there I am hovering over the phone in my delirious state. I think of the kids I have met and have worked with: smart, wonderful teenagers trapped in an environment that undervalues them. I realize for the first time in my life—a year removed from moving to Rochester, and after months of mentoring urban youth—that their fear was horribly real. A pervasive fear, unending. I think of all the statistics I’ve heard about and have seen, and I realize racism isn’t just an idea or an inconvenience, but that it is actively working against them, inhibiting their lives.

White culture shock. How embarrassing. It shouldn’t even be a thing, I know. But it is! The world I grew up in was an insular luxury. Truman’s Seahaven. “Fight the Power” was on MTV, and I consumed the entertainment.  Now I find my wonderful world has a bitter aftertaste of ignorance. (more…)