My Three Causes

At the rate I’m going I don’t think I’ll ever be able to face my friend again.

I realized I spent so much energy trying to figure out how to make the most of my time that I inevitably ended up wasting most of it. I got so caught up in this fear of getting sidetracked by a symptom as opposed to fixing the root cause that I was paralyzed. I’ve been doing nothing, and it’s making me restless.

So, before the motivation is lost again, here’s an update on my commitment to doing more in this life.

To be more deliberate in my actions I’ve narrowed my focus down to three causes:

  1. Mental Health
  2. Global Priorities Research
  3. Education

Mental Health

Mental health was kind of a no-brainer. I suppose more specifically, the problems that arise from those suffering from mental illnesses. It’s a cause I have more personal ties to than I would like, and it’s one that I don’t think I could ever walk away from until I find a solution. Most of the motivation comes from my own internal struggles through the years, but also more recently with my friend’s death. Apparently, Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States which translated to a cost of about $51 billion annually to the country. The projected 2018 investment into mental health by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be less than $2 billion. Another study showed that a global investment of $147 billion from 2016 – 2030 would have a net present value of $310 billion. I know I’m emotionally invested, but even looking at this objectively the numbers point to focusing on this cause.

Global Priorities Research

I’ve spent several years thinking about global priorities research, completely unaware it was actually a thing. I’ve always had an obsession with finding the root of things, whether that be the root of a problem or a person’s motivation. It just made sense to do the same when thinking about the cause I should focus on; if I wanted to make the world a better place, what cause with be at the root of that? Well a couple years ago I stumbled upon a site called 80,000 Hours, and in it was this cause. The cause essentially aims to help organizations choose which global problems to focus on. Using research, this cause is about advising reallocations of budgets to areas that would most improve the world.

Education

Education is the most … whimsical of my three choices. Unlike the other two, this is an area I’ve spent very little time looking into. I don’t expect that to change, but I feel like it’s something I should explore. Not so much education in the traditional sense though, formal education has a lot of attention already. I think if I’m going to divert my attention from the other two causes it’ll be to learn more about the impact of individuals teaching one-another e.g. mentorship. If nothing else, I think it’s important to be more open about the things I’m trying to learn. Having education as one of my three causes will remind me to not close myself off from the world.

 

Woo! My three causes done! Now, just to make sure I stay on top of things… Hopefully progress updates to come. The immediate goal? To simply learn more about each of these three causes.

Officially Missing You – Writer’s Remix

There are moments when I catch myself smiling
Because I’m reminded of the times we shared,
And there are moments when I feel like I’m dying
From all the aches, pains and guilt that I have bared.

There are moments where I’m energized and feel compelled to live a life worthy enough for two,
And there are moments where I want to trade everything away for just a few minutes with you.

But not a day has gone by, since you’ve made your farewell
That I don’t want to cry, or to simply raise hell.

It’s been tough, I’ll be honest,
I have definitely not enjoyed it.
There are days where I can barely function,
But I do my best to not avoid it.

As heart wrenching as remembering you might be,
I think I’m more frightened by what I might not see.

This idea that you might go away for good,
Just seems much more wrong than anything else could.

So here I lay at an hour past midnight,
Writing to you while I wait for the sunlight.

A small tribute to the prolific writings you once produced.
Although, with this, my own vomit is all that may be induced.

Silence is Still Golden

It’s only natural that as soon as I publish a post about speaking up and being open to rally support that my inner cynic screams out in protest. I refrained from writing a followup to give myself time to let the other post sink in for a bit, but I think it’s been long enough now.

Every time I think there’s something I want to write about it takes more energy than I care to admit to finally sit down and try to type it up. Often when I read others’ updates, posts, articles and open letters I can’t help but think it’s wrong. Either the message is wrong, the tone is wrong or the delivery is wrong.

The content being a thing of it’s own, but message as in providing proper context and backing. I’d greatly prefer it if people didn’t post and support things I deem to be opposing to my values, but it’d be nice if they felt compelled to also provide proper context or backing for their viewpoints.

Wrong tone. Writing with a voice that seems defensive instead of simply offering an explanation. Writing that reeks of insecurities instead of the intended objective update. Writing that comes off as inflammatory instead of one that encourages discussion.

Wrong delivery. Writing when a particular message would be better served through visuals in a video. Digital communication when the gravity of the issue would best be conveyed in person. Extensive discourse that should have instead been simply delivered as a statement. Short-form writing when the intended audience and message would be better served with long-form writing that covers all viewpoints. Flooding communication channels to the point of ultimately undermining, and effectively rendering useless, each individual message.

And, of course, this website falls under all three. Sometimes I look through the site and I can’t help but wonder whether or not it’s sticking to its intended purpose. I write while in one state of mind and read it while in another and I find myself thinking this is all such bs.

I don’t know.

This one was meant to be pure word vomit.

So much running through my head right now!

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Actions speak louder than words, but if a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? That totally just popped into my head. I’m not sure if that actually makes sense or if it’s even relevant … but it sounds kind of nice.

The more and more I think about this journal, and the idea of opening up, and being more vocal, the more I’m reminded of my cynicism. This idea that if I am to do something, to do it genuinely and sincerely, that there’s no need to talk about it. That if anything, I would only undermine my own actions by purposely drawing attention to them. You see this every day in the news and in viral videos.

There will be some article about a philanthropist or a person recording themselves performing a good deed and inevitably comments from people criticizing the individuals will follow. The criticism will often times be along the lines of, “You’re only doing this for publicity” or “Why did you bother recording this? If your motive was truly altruistic you would have simply done the deed and kept quiet”. I’ve noticed one problem with this line of thinking is this connotation that if something is public then it can’t also be sincere. That when we ask ourselves to judge the sincerity of a person or a deed we fall back on quotes like, “Actions speak louder than words” as if to say honest action and words are mutually exclusive, that you can’t have both. But we know this to be false. We know this.

Since it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let’s take this man as an example. What is the first thing that pops into your head when you think about this man? Is it the fact that you don’t have school because his birthday is a federal holiday? Is it the stance that he held on nonviolence? For me, the first thing that will come up are the words, “I have a dream”. Words. And then of course all the actions that came before and after those words that gave them weight. I know Martin Luther King Jr. did more for the advancement of civil rights than I could ever truly appreciate, but it is still that iconic string of four words that anchor my knowledge about this historic figure. Of course MLK Jr.’s actions will forever speak louder than what many of us will say and do within our lifetimes, but he also knew the importance of rallying support.

And it is this idea of rallying support and creating a movement of sorts that helps to quiet my cynicism. You see it’s one thing to be a living example of the ideals you want to spread in the world, but unless attention is called to them your ideals will not spread far, if at all. I’d say MLK Jr. understood this very well. He lead by example, to embody the values that he held, but he also made it a point to preach those values that he wished to see more of. He gave public speeches, he held peaceful marches and he verbally taught nonviolent civil disobedience. We see this even with prominent philanthropists today.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are two other examples. Two of the wealthiest men alive, and yet also two of the most prominent philanthropists. We look at these two men and their fortunes and it’s often so easy to want to say, “You know you have all this money, why don’t you just give it all away and the world will be better for it”, “Even if it was 90%, you could still live several lifetimes with that money and so much good would be done”. However, we forget that often times money doesn’t solve everything. I won’t dive much farther than that as that’s another can of worms, but I’d say they knew that well and also understood the importance of rallying support. They could donate all their money, quietly, and that would be the end of it, but I believe they knew it was just as important, if not more, to get others involved. Hence, The Giving Pledge. The importance of them talking about what they wanted to do, what they’re currently doing, and what they plan to do. The importance of inspiring others and showing them that people like this exist and that they wouldn’t be alone in taking this path. Whether that be philanthropy, fighting for civil rights, or performing random acts of kindness.

As much as I used to complain about recorded videos of good deeds, I’ve realized that without the publicity I never would have even thought about them. I’ve learned a lot of different ways I can help others, or ways to make people smile, that I wouldn’t have otherwise known or done had someone not talked about it.

I know there are definitely people out there that will take advantage of this. People that will do things solely for the attention or praise. But honestly, what does it matter? If people record themselves giving something away, unless they took it back after the recording, they still gave something away. While the motivation may not be pure, a good deed was still done. The recipient is still better for it. I’ve come to believe it’s a greater pity to not amplify our efforts for a cause we care about, or a movement we wish to see happen, or a project we’d like support on, when the tradeoff is simply energy spent to talk about it.

While there are definitely differences in approaches, with some retaining more focus on true altruism than others, I think we’ll all be better off spending less time critiquing presentation and more time on echoing the aspects that speak to us. With all the perceived chaos in the world, just be thankful that we still have news about good deeds. Because let’s face it, if a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it even matter whether or not it made a sound?

Once More, With Feeling

Brace yourselves, here comes another New Year’s resolution destined for failure! Haha I’m excited.

There’s a lot to look forward to right now. Most notably, I’ll be making my way into adulthood and starting full-time on the first of February. And with all of that, I plan to make a lot more entries on this journal.

Most of it will likely be about my struggles with adulting. Maybe things like personal finance (whatever that means), career goals, and -ahem- actually taking care of my health… yeah, yeah, I know, it’s about time. There will be lots of mistakes, no doubt about that so enjoy them as they come, but hopefully also a lot of lessons to be learned.

I also hope to be able to talk about some personal projects as time goes on. I’ve honestly lost track of the number of the projects I’ve started and abandoned during my time in college. However, with all the ideas that were thrown out, there have been a handful that lasted for longer than the usual couple months. And it’s those handful of projects and ideas that I’m going to start devoting my free time to.

So here’s to one more attempt at online journaling.

As my friend loved to begrudgingly say, “Once more, with feeling”.

Still Here

Well, it happened, 2016 has officially ended. And, since you’re reading this, I think it’s safe to say the world did not end with it.

Man, what a year it’s been. Even just within my personal life, much less everything that’s been in the news. There were more times than I care to admit where I truly wondered whether or not I would be able to see this day.

But you know what? I’m still alive. And unless you learned how to transcend beyond your mortal body from Doctor Strange, you are too.

So let’s make the most of it. Approach each day of this year with renewed strength and vigor. Tackle every obstacle you come across with confidence and determination. You’ve made it through one of the craziest years yet, what more do you have to fear?

Wake up everyday with a smile because, well, you’re still here.

Angela Meng

I didn’t want to say anything. It seems like more than enough words have been thrown out to the public regarding this and that anymore would just add to the reactive noise. But maybe silence was what brought us here in the first place …

On July 18, 2016 the life of Angela Meng was claimed by suicide and depression. I apologize to the friends and family forced to relive this fact again, and again, and again … and again, as every post, every call, and every message comes up … but if you can manage, this is the very least we can do right now. My hope is that even those who aren’t connected to this event will be able to walk away with something.

Because this is important and I’ve always hated generalized messages, I’m going to try and break this down as much as possible. Simply skip to the respective section(s) if you’re pressed for time.

To those grieving:

This sucks. This sucks a lot. I know. But let me give you some comfort by saying it will only get worse. Now I’m sorry, but hear me out. Since the announcement of Angela’s death, so many have been quick to openly announce how much they miss her, but I find this really hard to swallow. She was not around and responsive enough for her to be missed in such a short period of time. This is the same girl who would disappear for weeks without anyone questioning it and would send screenshots of over a thousand unread messages instead of actually looking through them. It’s not my place to say, but no, I find it hard to believe that more than a handful of you truly miss her. Many of you don’t, not yet.

You’re simply overwhelmed at the thought of what’s to come. The idea of waiting for a response for a couple weeks and then getting worried. The thought of finally calling to check up on this girl and knowing there won’t be a response. The thought that when all else fails you can’t simply march up to her apartment and know that she will come to the door, apologize and look at you like you’re crazy for checking up on her. And all of that is fine. I say you will find comfort not to be cynical, but to remind you that when this happens this is when you will truly grieve. This is when you will walk through your memories with Angela in sincerity and remember her as she actually was.

It will be comforting because when you finally start to grieve, you can begin to mourn, and in that mourning you will realize that you have not forgotten her. And as you remember Angela, you can start focusing on how you can celebrate her life instead. It’ll be hard, there’s no denying that. And it will be long. Just know that you won’t be alone.

To those consoling:

To be honest, I don’t know that I can give you any concrete advice to help those grieving. Like I said I hate generalized messages, each person you want to help will be different. Just be patient with them. It’s a hard time for us all. Some will have broken down, grieved, mourned and recovered all in one day while others will take years. Some will scream, some will cry and others will be silent through it all. Some will want to be surrounded by friends and family while others will need complete isolation. Have patience. Try to understand. It’ll be hard to stand by and watch, you’ll likely feel powerless, but if you care for this friend you’ll do what you can.

As with many other hard times in our lives, we’ll get through it together. Whether that means talking it out or silently supporting from afar until we are needed. Just remember to have a sense of self-preservation. Support each other where you can, find strength and solace in one another, but don’t bite off more than you can chew. Remember to take care of yourself as well.

To those consumed with guilt:

It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault.  Read that until it is ingrained in your head, alright? You are not to blame for what has happened. If this reminder was not what was left with me when I first found out I don’t know what kind of state I would be in right now. And I purposely pass this along to everyone connected to this death, fully aware of what it means and all that it entails.

If you’re like me at some point you probably found yourself going through everything you could find related to Angela. Text messages, Facebook, group chats, games, photos, online message boards … anything that might give you a clue as to what the hell happened and whether or not there was anything that could have changed it. You probably went back and analyzed every single message to see if you could detect even a change of tone or voice. ANYTHING to say this was it, I should have known, I should have done something to change it. But here’s the cold hard truth. I found nothing.

Now don’t get me wrong, this depression is anything but a surprise to me, however the suicide was not something I expected. Our last exchange was on Tuesday. I dug through her game history and saw that she played on Wednesday night. The incident took place on Friday. That is one day. One day that is unaccounted for among those closest to her. ONE DAY for all of our lives to be shaken in this way.

You know it’s far too cowardly to say there was absolutely nothing we could have done. But at the same time, do you understand how cruel that is to tell someone, “You should have been there for her that day”? Do you understand how, by saying that, you mean to say they should have kept up with Angela every single day to make sure they didn’t miss that one day? To say that whether you knew about her depression or not that they should have kept up with every part of her life? That to say that you should have done that for this girl means you should also be there for others, for every single day of their life to ensure that no one slips through the cracks because you couldn’t possibly know who could or would break? Do you understand the extent of what you’re saying? Do you understand how cruel that is? If you do, then I hope you understand why you shouldn’t say that to yourself.

Angela had friends, she had family, and she had help. She had people who knew about what she was dealing with to fight the hard fight with her and she had people who didn’t so she could step away from it all when she needed to. She was not alone in this world, don’t you worry about that. I used to pat myself on the back for having dealt with depression for so long and surviving it all. Almost a decade now that I’ve lived with this thing. Almost a decade. And yet I couldn’t do shit for this dear friend of mine. It just wasn’t as simple as no one being there for her or not being loved enough…

Look, don’t get me wrong. Guilt is crippling, and often times it feels right, it feels just.  I know. But it’s not going to do anything for us. Yes, feel guilty, feel regret, lament about all the things you could have done, but then step forward. Conserve your energy for the fight ahead. You can sit in your jail cell, carrying out a life sentence, or you can accept this offer to rejoin society and choose to pay back what you feel you owe.

To those suffering through depression:

Man, what I wouldn’t give to be able to sit inside your head with you… First and foremost, I am compelled to ask you to seek help, professional help, if and when you can. You’ve probably heard it more than once now if this is something you’ve dealt with for some time, but please give it a strong consideration. There is only so much that you, and others around you, can do. With that said if there is ever anything I can do for you please let me know. I won’t make any promises, but I’ll do my best to help with what I can.

I’d really like to give you something to walk away with, but because everyone’s experience with depression can vary so drastically I’m not sure what to say. I’ve always been under the impression that there’s no quick panacea for depression and that everything that makes you who you are is intertwined. So unless I spell out my life’s story for you any advice would be in vain. If however you find that you’d like to talk about it, come find me and talk to me in person. I’m not much of a conversationalist, but if you just need someone to listen or want to poke my brain for past experience, I’ll usually be more than willing.

To those who want to help:

There are a couple things you can do right now.

It is the family’s wish that we do our best to help make sure no one has to endure this same kind of hardship again. It is for this reason that they’re asking for donations to be made to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.personalCampaign&participantID=1014109.

Their story will be there as well should you wish to read it.

The second thing you can do is to be more aware. If you truly wish to be there for others suffering through it, educate yourself first. You know how people always recommend those experiencing depression to “seek help”? Why not take time out to go see what “seeking help” actually entails? Reach out to the organization helping those suffering with depression and ask them for advice on how you can help others or at least look to understand the program that you may inevitably recommend.

Outside of that just try and live a life that contributes to a world that makes people want to stay. I could probably talk for days on this idea alone, but I think it’ll suffice to simply say that the solution to depression is not as simple as learning meditation, taking a pill or keeping those suffering out of harm’s way. Live a good life and be kind to others and you’ll find others will slowly do the same.

To everyone:

Thank you for taking the time to read this senseless rambling. I hope you are well. Please don’t forget to take care of yourself, and if you have energy to spare, those around you as well. Try not to linger for too long. I know I don’t have much more energy to expend on this.

I regretfully knew this wonderfully frustrating human being all too well and know exactly what I need to do to honor her life. It’s going to be rough, but I hope you’ll figure it out and are able to join me in due time.