Oversharing Travel & Food

Traveling Violation

Welcome to Mea Culpa Airlines. I’m your pilot, Dave.

I’ve always prided myself on being non-directive when giving travel advice. When someone tells me they’re heading somewhere I’ve been, I never tell them they must do something or go somewhere.

Going to New York? You gotta go to Margaritaville in Times Square!

Instead, I’ll ask if they would like some recommendations. If they say yes, I’ll discuss things the Complimentary Spouse and I have enjoyed and suggest things they might want to do. And I’ll provide an explanation.

  • Going to London? Britt and I really enjoy walking around Shoreditch to see the incredible street art. We find something new every time we’re there. And then we pop over to Brick Lane Beigel Bake for the world’s best salt beef (aka corned beef) sandwiches.
  • Going to Berlin? You might want to check out the Ritter Sport store on Französische Straße since you love chocolate. You can get varieties they don’t see in the U.S. — and even make your own!
  • Going to Barcelona? I think you’d enjoy going to Josep Tarradellas Barcelona – El Prat Airport. That’s where you catch a flight to Madrid, a superior city in every way that matters.

Isn’t that a great approach to giving travel advice? It’s not about me. I’m not ordering people around. I’m sharing information others can consider as they think about what will make their trip meaningful and memorable.

Hold your applause. It turns out that, with some types of travel advice, I’m not nearly as helpful as I thought.

Me too, Bender. Me too.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Now Beginning Our Descent Into Jerkdom

“Wait a second, Dave,” I hear you saying. “Is this one of those way-too-long blog posts in which you drill down into one little flaw and blow everything out of proportion?”

Yes. Fasten your seatbelts. We’re about to hit some turbulence.

A few days ago, as I was trading text messages with someone heading to Europe, I realized how bossy, judgmental, and dismissive I can get about one part of the travel experience: the travel itself.

Sure, I’ll give you thoughtful suggestions and considerate advice for things to do, see, and eat when you actually reach your destination. But sometimes, I’m a fucking asshole aggressively helpful when I talk about how to prepare for your trip, get to your destination, and behave when you’re there.

Here are some examples of things I caught myself saying:

  • I’d never do that.
  • No. one does that.
  • Are you kidding?
  • You can’t wear that in Europe.
  • It’s foolish to bring that much cash with you.
  • It’s even more foolish to exchange the money at a U.S. bank.
  • That’s way too much money to spend on a guided tour.
  • That’s a waste of time.

The other person didn’t call me out explicitly on this bullshit, but he dropped enough hints in his replies for me to realize what I was doing.

Marge Simpson says "I'm not sure your advice was all that helpful."
Yeah, Marge gets it.

Federal Law Prohibits Tampering With, Disabling, or Destroying BS Detectors

According to the Twelve Steps in most recovery programs, I’m supposed to make a list of everyone I’ve wronged by my behavior and make amends. Fortunately, I have a blog, so I’m going to apologize to everyone at once — otherwise, I’d probably have to reach out to anyone I know who has ever been on an airplane. Whew. What a timesaver.

I’m sorry, everyone. I pledge to dial down the intensity and snobbiness for this type of travel advice in the future.

(This is the part when you say, “Oh, Dave, you’re blowing this out of proportion! Even when your advice is couched the wrong way, we know that your goal is to help ensure we love travel as much as you do! How could we not forgive you when you mean well and you’re so handsome?”)

Wow, that was a very nice and unprompted response, everyone. Thank you for being so magnanimous.

I apologized to the person I had berated about his travel plans and said he should do what would make him feel comfortable, prepared, and happy, even if it’s not what I would do.

He said thanks and then added that I was judging myself way too harshly. (I can trust that he’s telling the truth about that last part. He’s an honorable guy and the most judgmental person I know. He’s known for having opinions on everything. It seems like he’s always in the middle of a major dispute. No surprise, then, that he spends so much time in court.)

Dave’s Four Pro Tips for Travel

I still want to help people get the most out of travel, so I’ll continue offering recommendations about these kinds of issues when they’re asked for. But I’ll frame my advice as general guidelines, not commands —  just like all my other travel advice.

In fact, I’ve already prepared some:

Don’t just see a place. Experience it: Explore. Sit. Relax. Watch the people. Soak it all in — not just the sights and sounds, which you can capture with your camera, but the mood, tone, character, pace, and feeling of a place.

Lower the barriers between you and the locals: Search out opportunities to interact with locals and do the things they do. It helps to dress so you don’t stand out too much. You’ll probably still get pegged as a tourist, but not as quickly as the folks wearing Kansas City Chiefs caps, cargo shorts, and Crocs.

Be flexible. Call audibles. Don’t feel like you are stuck with a rigid agenda or need to complete a checklist for your vacation to be a success. No one’s keeping score — you don’t lose points if you skip that thing everyone else at home talks about and decide instead to check out something that piqued your curiosity after you arrived.

Don’t worry too much: I don’t want to minimize the risk of bad things happening — but if you spend too much time preparing for what might go wrong, it’s hard to get into the proper mindset for when things go right. It’s impossible to plan for every contingency, but it is possible to find a solution when one of those contingencies arises. Even in a developing country, you’ll find a way to get more cash if you need it, contact home if you can’t use your phone, get more medicine if you run out, learn the score of last night’s hockey game, and even buy new clothes because the government confiscated your Barcelona T-shirts for being in bad taste. Worst case scenario? Contact an embassy or consulate. No matter what has happened to you, they’ve helped hundreds of other Americans with the same predicament — or worse.

Please permit me to double-click on this last point. Britt and I have dealt with plenty of stuff on trips: emergency room visits, lost wallets and credit cards, flight delays, decrepit hotels, near-death experiences on the road (as pedestrians, drivers, and passengers), missing luggage, not finding anyone who speaks English or Spanish, and so much more — and we’ve always made it home. In fact, these curveballs have provided some of our best travel stories. Anyone can tell you what it’s like to visit Westminster Abbey, but only Britt and I can tell you what it’s like to be wooed by prostitutes in Havana or jump out of a taxi in Istanbul.

This Blog Post Is Taking Forever. Are We There Yet?

Let me offer a final thought:

No matter where you’re headed, I hope your next trip is enjoyable, meaningful, and memorable. If you think I can help make that happen, I’d be delighted to provide advice, suggestions, and recommendations. Wanderlust is contagious. Let me be your Patient Zero.

If you think I’m being unhelpful, overbearing, or inconsiderate, just tell me to go to hell. I’ll take it as an invitation for more travel. If I can survive the insufferability of Barcelona and return home safely, going to hell and back will feel like a walk in the park.


How I Feel About Stoicism

I recently finished Ryan Holiday’s “The Obstacle Is the Way,” a very popular self-help book about modern stoicism, and I’m scratching my head. It’s a good book — I highlighted many passages that seemed written expressly for me — but I disagree with the premise.

The author seems to say that the path to success requires us to bypass emotions. In fact, he says, hardships should be greeted with a smile as they can always be turned into opportunities. 

“Obstacles make us emotional, but the only way we’ll survive or overcome them is by keeping those emotions in check — if we can keep steady no matter what happens, no matter how much external events may fluctuate.”

The Obstacle Is the Way

Have an emotional response? “So go ahead, feel it,” Holiday writes. “Just don’t lie to yourself by conflating emoting about a problem and dealing with it. Because they are as different as sleeping and waking.”

Good Ideas Aren’t Always Good Advice

Holiday makes useful observations, but I think, on the whole, stoicism is a terrible operating system. My concern is that stoicism is too simplistic to be applied in many situations. Emotions don’t have an on-and-off switch, and human struggles are not mathematical equations. Deciding on a course of action can be messy, and there are better tools than stoicism for moving forward in complicated circumstances.

In its absolute form, stoicism is a terrible operating system for people, with the possible exception of Vulcans. I’m sure that stoicism has some nuances — its defenders will most likely say it doesn’t dismiss emotion — but my takeaway from the book is that emotion is always on the back burner. And that burner is turned off. And it’s probably in a different kitchen. The point I’m trying to make is that emotion might be there, but not in any meaningful or helpful way.

I Think CBT Is a Better Framework

I think the techniques espoused by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are healthier and more useful ways to approach life. CBT doesn’t tell people to turn off their emotions. Instead, it provides tools for defusing unhelpful thoughts and converting them into helpful ones.

Admittedly, the end result in some cases might be the same one reached through stoicism — but the journey to the destination is more realistic. And Holiday offers a few tips that are similar to CBT: “How we approach, view, and contextualize an obstacle, and what we tell ourselves it means, determines how daunting and trying it will be to overcome.”

I have written about CBT before, so there’s no need to repeat myself. The main difference between CBT and stoicism is that CBT tells us to acknowledge our emotions and reframe them in a helpful way. In contrast, stoicism essentially tells us to ignore our feelings. With CBT, you can reconceptualize thoughts and use them in your decision-making processes. That’s verboten in stoicism.

Holiday writes “Every obstacle is unique to each of us. But the responses they elicit are the same: Fear. Frustration. Confusion. Helplessness. Depression. Anger.”

The stoic approach is to tamp down these emotions. The CBT approach is to analyze these emotions and transform them into constructive, clearheaded ideas.

Life Can Suck

There are many things in life that just suck, for lack of a better word: Being thrown out of the house because you’re gay. Losing a family member. Losing a job and not being able to take care of your family. Processing our feelings at these inflection points lets us grow as individuals and develop our emotional intelligence. And not all emotions are negative — many are positive, helpful, and bring us happiness. Feelings, on the whole, are an asset, not a liability.1

Nonetheless, There Are Things Learn from Stoicism

I don’t want to entirely dismiss “The Obstacle Is the Way.” As I said, some truly solid advice emerges as Holiday explores stoic ideas. One that stands out to me is this:

“The path of least resistance is a terrible teacher.”

The Obstacle Is the Way

I agree with this 100%, as there are times that I have taken the path of least resistance and learned nothing. This statement rings true, and Holiday gets an A+ for condensing such a complicated issue in such a succinct statement.

Other excerpts that resonated with me:

  • “Think progress, not perfection.”
  • “True will is quiet humility, resilience, and flexibility.”
  • “If you want momentum, you’ll have to create it yourself, right now, by getting up and getting started.”

There are a lot of good takeaways like these from Holiday’s introduction to modern-world stoicism, but I’m not buying all of what he’s selling. There’s more to be gained from acknowledging your emotional thoughts and reassessing them than from compartmentalizing them and ignoring them.

1 Don’t take my word for it! Watch “Inside Out” on Disney+ to see emotions in action.


Acceptance, Change, and Me

I have been thinking lately about how difficult it is to balance radical acceptance and self-growth. It has always been a challenge for me, and I’m willing to bet for many others, because the two concepts seem to have disparate objectives. 

First, some definitions. Radical acceptance is the ability to accept things you can’t change exactly as they are. There is an active element to this kind of acceptance — you can’t just lie back and say, “meh, that’s the way it is.” It’s more about embracing reality instead of just resigning yourself to it. 

In the past, I’ve always heard about radical acceptance as a mindset for people dealing with overwhelming issues like chronic pain, but only recently I’ve come to realize that it can be applied to anything: past mistakes, personal characteristics, current situations — even the mortifying memory of that time I sneezed on my shirt and didn’t realize it so I walked around El Corte Inglés covered in snot. 

Self-growth is the willingness and effort to improve yourself by changing your attitudes, thinking styles, and behaviors. This concept is pretty easy to understand.1 And some people say self-improvement isn’t just a pursuit for them — it’s an all-out passion!

The way I see it, radical acceptance is very helpful in managing your feelings about the past, while self-growth is valuable to help you prepare for the future.

But, what about the present? Here things get a bit muddled. I’m simultaneously trying to accept my current situation (which is the outcome of past events that I can’t change) and reject the current situation to effect a future that perhaps I can change.

I think what’s throwing me off is that I’m thinking about radical acceptance and self-growth as an either/or thing — I notice that I used the word “balance” in the first sentence as if these two ideas were perched on opposite ends of a see-saw. Perhaps I should think of them as complementary concepts: Through radical acceptance, I can see more clearly what I need to do to improve myself and my future. And through self-growth, I may gain the tools and perspective to understand the past — I can’t change it, but I can learn from it.2

I’m probably overthinking this, which wouldn’t be a surprise. But that’s usually why I write posts like this: Putting thoughts down to paper is the most effective way to process them.

1 And easy to monetize. Self-help is a multibillion-dollar industry that I have yet to make a buck off of.

2 Did I really just write several hundred words to end up at “Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”? Yeah, I think I did.3

3 If I painted this entire blog post on a piece of driftwood and sold it at HomeGoods for $24.99, would you buy it? If you want to know why I’d do this, see Footnote 1.


Meditation Observations

Today is the 500th day in a row that I’ve meditated. To celebrate, I’d like to share five hundred things I’ve learned:

  1. There are infinite ways to meditate: I like guided mindfulness meditation, but there’s no end of things to try if you’re interested. 
  2. It’s always useful, even when it feels like it isn’t: Some days are more productive than others. That’s true for everything in life, not just meditation.
  3. You get distracted a lot: Even on the best of days, my thoughts will wander. I used think this was a failing, but it’s not. It’s just human nature. The trick is to smoothly shift back into the meditation as soon as you realize you’ve been blown off course.1 
  4. Keep your expectations realistic: Since my goal is to be a bit more happy, kind, and calm, meditation works. If my goal were to reach nirvana, I’d have demanded my money back by now.
  5. I need more stuff to achieve inner enlightenment: The space coyote told me so.

1 Noting and labeling are helpful when this happens.

Header image: Mural by Subway Doodle on Troutman Street in Brooklyn, New York.


There Is Nothing Either Good or Bad, but Thinking Makes it So

I don’t have a successful relationship with self-help books. When I pick one up, it’s either because the name catches my eye — “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” comes to mind — or I hear about it from a friend. If the book resonates with me, I’ll take it to heart for about a week and then forget everything. If it seems unrelatable — once again, looking at you, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”1 — I’ll abandon it and feel like I’ve wasted time that could have been spent watching reruns of the Simpsons.2

David Burns’ “Feeling Good” didn’t follow this pattern. It’s one of few self-help books that made a meaningful impact on my life. I’ve revisited it quite a few times. When I lost my copy, I bought a replacement because I felt it needed to be on my bookshelf.

“Feeling Good” was my introduction to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a transformational approach to psychology pioneered by Aaron Beck. I’m not overstating things when I say that Beck and CBT have had a profound, positive impact on my life. 

Beck died yesterday, which is why I was inspired to write this essay. The Washington Post summarizes his work this way:

Beck discovered that patients who learn to recognize the faulty logic of their negative automatic thoughts — such as, “I’ll always be a failure” or “No one likes me” — could learn to overcome their fears and think more rationally, which diminished their anxiety and improved their mood. He found that results endured long after therapy was finished, as patients learned to confront those thoughts on their own.

The Washington Post

I’m not a psychologist, but here’s how I would explain Beck’s principles of CBT:

  • There’s a difference between what we feel and the way things actually are.
  • We latch onto unhelpful thinking styles that reinforce negative feelings and make us blind to reality.
  • To break these unhelpful thinking styles, we need to realize when we’re engaged in an unhelpful thought, diagnose it, and reinterpret it in an accurate way.
  • Only by repeatedly recognizing and reframing distorted thoughts can we break the cycle of harmful thinking and recognize ourselves as we truly are.

What makes CBT useful is that Beck gives us the vocabulary to classify unhelpful thoughts. Attaching a label to these thoughts provides us with the power to understand how we’re misrepresenting reality.

Here are just three of the cognitive distortions I’m most susceptible to, along with some examples of how they used to play out in my head before I learned the fundamentals of CBT:

  • Emotional reasoning: “I feel like a loser, so I’m a loser.”
  • Magnifying negatives and minimizing positives: “That dumb remark I made in 1997 proves I’m stupid, while my bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees don’t really count.”
  • “Should” statements: “I should be further along in my career, so there’s something wrong with me.”

Beck’s list of cognitive distortions is much longer than what I’ve described here. Off the top of my head, there’s overgeneralization, black-or-white thinking, labeling, and cognitive filtering.

When I was first introduced to CBT, I felt kind of resentful. My feelings are valid, I thought, so why should I listen to someone telling me that they’re not?

Some of Beck’s ideas must have seeped into my brain because, after a while, I noticed that I was starting to apply CBT labels to things I was thinking. I realized Beck wasn’t judging me for having feelings; he was proposing a framework for understanding them and preventing them from warping my sense of self. 

Going back to the three cognitive distortions I mentioned earlier, here’s how I try to interpret my feelings now:

  • Emotional reasoning: “That thing I did makes me feel like a loser, but that was just one thing, and overall I’m certainly not a loser!”
  • Magnifying negatives and minimizing positives: “Perhaps I’ve made a few stupid mistakes, but on the whole, I’m a very smart person who has learned a lot and can apply his knowledge to many different situations.”
  • “Should” statements: “I’m going to acknowledge what I have achieved and not judge myself against expectations that may be unreasonable.”

CBT is difficult. That’s because cognitive distortions are automatic — they kick in without you even noticing them. With time and practice, it has become easier for me to notice when I’m having an unhelpful thought — but it’s impossible to prevent them from happening in the first place.

My goal is to recognize a cognitive distortion as quickly as possible. Only then can I dissect the thought, label any unhelpful thinking styles, and restate my ideas in an accurate and beneficial way.

I know I’m not the only person who has benefited from CBT. From The New York Times’ obituary:

The influence of C.B.T. on the treatment of mental disorders is hard to exaggerate. Researchers have adapted the approach — originally developed for depression — to manage panic attacks, addictions, eating disorders, social anxiety, insomnia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Therapists teach a variation to help parents manage children’s outbursts at home, and some have used it, in combination with medication, to manage the delusions and hallucinations of schizophrenia. Sports psychologists have made use of the principles for performance anxiety.

The New York Times

Rest in peace, Dr. Beck. 

1 A perfectly cromulent book. It just didn’t work for me. Your mileage may vary.
2 Of course, Lisa gets it:

While Homer remains as oblivious as ever:

Headline: quote from Hamlet
Header image: Banksy street art, San Francisco


Author, Author

I tend to read two books at a time — one serious, one fun — because that’s just how I roll. A few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover that both books I was reading shared a similar, and important, message.

First, from “Hola Papi” by John Paul Brammer:

“We can’t change the events of our lives. They happened, and there they are. But the lines we draw to connect those events, the shapes we make and the conclusions we reach, those come from us. They are our own design.”

John Paul Brammer

Second, from “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:1

“But these transformations require that a person be prepared to perceive unexpected opportunities. Most of us become so rigidly fixed in the ruts carved out by genetic programming and social conditioning that we ignore the options of choosing any other course of action. Living exclusively by genetic and social instructions is fine as long as everything goes well. But the moment biological or social goals are frustrated — which in the long run is inevitable — a person must formulate new goals, and create a new flow activity for himself, or else he will waste his energies in inner turmoil.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The Brammer book is a funny memoir by a gay advice columnist; the subtitle is “How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons.” The Csikszentmihalyi book is academic and ponderous. It explores how people can achieve a state of flow — that’s what it’s called when you’re totally engrossed by an activity — and the implications for sports, academics, creative pursuits, parenthood, religion, and society at large.

So, yeah, two very different books. I don’t think Csikszentmihalyi brings up the subject of gay porn even once!2 But notice how the two messages resonate on the same frequency. The authors say we may not be able to change things in the past, but we get to choose how we interpret them, define them, and what meaning to derive from them.

This is my takeaway: No matter what has happened, or what others have told us, or what expectations have been set for us, we can create our own narratives and forge a path forward that is fulfilling and makes us happy. And it’s up to us to take action and make that happen.

That’s a message that bears repeating, rewriting, and rereading as much as possible.

1 He recently passed away. Check out my flowbituary.
2 An unforgivable oversight on Csikszentmihalyi’s part.


Negative Self-Talk? English Major to the Rescue!

Everyone has good and bad days.1 On my bad days, I find it hard to silence that little disparaging voice in my head. While I haven’t been able to make that whiny putz shut up, I have been able to lessen his impact. The trick is to use the right words to put some space between yourself and your emotions.

Here’s what language can do:

I am sad: “Is,” a form of “to be,” is a short and powerful word. And, in this context, it’s unhelpful because it makes the word “sad” an immutable characteristic. When I say “I am Dave,” “I am tall,” “I am gay,” and “I am Jewish,” those four things are unchangeable parts of my identity. I can’t not be Dave, tall, gay, or Jewish.2 Sadness is a temporary thing and shouldn’t be on that list. 

I feel sad: Upgrading “is” to “feel” is an improvement because it transforms “sad” from a permanent trait to a state of being. Sadness is no longer something that I am; it’s just what I am experiencing.

I feel sad now: Adding “now” adds a temporal dimension. It means I’m experiencing sadness at the moment, not all the time. 

See, that fancy English degree is helpful in the real world after all! By modifying the words my original thought, sadness becomes something I can observe with some detachment. 

When I use this technique, “I’m stupid” becomes “I did a stupid thing just now,” and “I’m lazy” becomes “I didn’t accomplish as much today as usual.” I’m not hyperbolizing a single event and allowing it to define me. 

The next time you’re dealing with uncomfortable emotions, think about the language you’re using. Small wording changes may make a big difference.

1 Anyone who says they only have good days is either lying or on an all-ketamine diet.
2 The double negative is appropriate and acceptable in this sentence.

Oversharing Professional

The Case Against Passion

Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. I’ve heard that cliché for longer than I can remember, and it has always rubbed me the wrong way. To me — in fact, I’d bet, to a lot of people in the workforce — this saying sounds bullshit wrapped in banality. 

Not just that. It’s the worst kind of bullshit. It sounds inspirational, but it’s not. It just makes me feel bad about my career. It says that if only I had enough passion and used it to guide my choices, I wouldn’t be unhappy at work.

Now that I’m trying to reinvent my career, this objectionable advice comes up over and over again. Figure out your passion, the career gurus say, and the right path will emerge.

And if it doesn’t, I infer, it’s all my fault. 

You can imagine my relief, then, when I discovered that I’m right to think this advice is bullshit. I started reading Designing Your Life a short while ago, and the authors have this to say:

Many people operate under the dysfunctional belief that they just need to find out what they are passionate about. Once they know their passion, everything else will magically fall into place. We hate this idea for one very good reason: most people don’t know their passion.

Passion only comes after we try things, the authors explain. That’s why it’s important to explore several different career ideas, with a methodological process they call prototyping, instead of barreling forward with a single assumption that is most likely faulty. “Passion is the result of good life design, not the cause,” they write.

As I’ve written about before, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Trying to identify a singular passion was an obstacle I could never conquer, and I’ve spent too many years being hard on myself because of it. It’s a relief to know I don’t have to jump over this hurdle. I just have to go around it. 


Four Lives. Four Tragedies.

Two New York Times stories about suicide recently caught my attention. The first has to do with the Vessel, the 16-story staircase sculpture at Hudson Yards. Britt and I went there in June 2019, the day before WorldPride. It was closed because of rainy weather, but we were able to take some photos.

The first time I saw the Vessel, I had a fleeting but painful thought: Someone is going to jump off this thing. Sadly, I turned out to be right. The New York Times reports that three people have died by suicide1 there, prompting its closure.

I’m both disappointed and angry at the people who designed, approved, and built the Vessel. There is no way that no one realized that the sculpture would be a magnet for those seeking to end their lives. All someone has to do is walk up to the top and jump — the only barrier is a waist-high railing. (And, even if no one had recognized the potential for suicide at the Vessel, no one considered that a strong gust of wind might blow someone off? Not even the lawyers?)

There are ways to minimize suicide incidents from high places. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge have counseling hotlines and suicide prevention barriers. Anyone who has visited an outdoor observation deck — the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, the Space Needle in Seattle, the Shard in London, the Burj Kalifa in Dubai, to name a few — has seen the barriers that prevent anyone from jumping. 

What happened at the Vessel could have been prevented if aesthetics weren’t considered more important than preserving life.

The second article concerns Michael Evans, the project manager who helped transform an abandoned post office into Moynihan Train Hall, the spectacularly beautiful expansion of the architectural abomination that is Penn Station. 

Evans died by suicide before the train hall opened. The article says that Evans didn’t reach out for help; even then, the burden seemed enormous. The New York Times writes:

Still, friends described Mr. Evans as having a hard time asking for help, and he rarely spoke about how the project demands were affecting him, leaving him to deal with the stress by himself. A perfectionist, Mr. Evans also tended to be unduly harsh on himself and agonized over every setback and perceived misstep, his partner, Mr. Lutz, said.

I wish I knew why people with suicidal thoughts don’t seek out help. I assume that they’re experiencing a toxic mixture of shame, failure, and hopelessness. They might think that a mental health professional can’t help them. These things are not true, and there are many resources that can help people in distress

These two articles are difficult to read, but I’m glad I clicked on the links. They remind me that we — as individuals and as a society — can rise to the challenge of suicide by destigmatizing mental health issues, investing in support networks, and listening to our friends and family members. 

1 Don’t use the phrase “committed suicide.” It’s misleading and stigmatizing.

Oversharing Professional

I Want to Forge a New Path

One of the most frustrating challenges in my life has been figuring out where I fit into the professional world.

I left college hoping to make a mark as a reporter, and was fortunate enough to leave that career path for a position in professional services before newspapers caved in.1 Professional services seemed a good fit — until it didn’t. I then returned to school to earn two master’s degrees2, seeking out easy writing jobs that would allow me to focus on my studies. Now I find myself trapped in low-level writing roles that don’t take advantage of my talent or educational qualifications. 

The way I see it, prospective employers only care about what I’ve done, which is to deliver content.3 They don’t care about what I can do, especially with hard skills developed in graduate school and soft skills honed over decades in the workforce.

Tl;dr: I want to live up to my potential, but my past has pigeonholed me.

As you might expect, I’m frustrated. I’m struggling with how to proceed in my career. Job rejections — even for positions that only represent an incremental step forward — are demoralizing. Career development workshops are generic and haven’t proven useful. Networking is difficult in a pandemic.

My thinking now is that I need to completely reboot my career. I’ve found myself on a narrow path, and continuing the journey on it no longer appeals to me. I want to find a new route forward, one that aligns with my character and allows me to make valuable contributions.

This won’t be easy. Even though I don’t think I’ve traveled very far professionally, doing something completely new means I’ll throw away the professional capital I’ve accumulated. It means starting at Square One. I think that’s a step I need to take.

I’ll be writing more about this in the coming days and weeks. Writing forces me to organize my thoughts, and publishing it makes me accountable for my words. 

1 There was no advertising revenue to prop them up.
2 An MBA and a master’s in marketing.
3 I’m generally a modest person, but I don’t mind claiming that writing is something I do exceptionally well. But that doesn’t mean I want my professional life to be defined by it anymore.