Don’t Settle For The 9-5

The scariest future I can imagine is being stuck in a white-collar job. I have worked in a congressional district office, a large-corporate law firm, and for a commercial realtor. They were all equally terrible. I made decent money and felt like I was contributing to the work force, but each day was as miserable as the previous. I could literally feel the passion within draining hour by hour. I would prefer to work as a laborer on a construction site in Florida in the summer, than work a 9-5 in a corporate setting where you are essentially a slave to your employer.

The worst part about working a 9-5 is the morning commute. I am amazed at how miserable of an experience this is. The morning commute perfectly sums everything wrong with middle-management wage labor. Everyone is rushing because everyone is terrified of being late. Why are they terrified of being late? Because they are dreading arriving at their destination. They are rushing to get to a place they despise. Thus they sleep through their alarm or they fall back asleep, or they spend a few extra minutes with their children, or they drop their kids off at school because that’s the only time of the day they get to see them. You’re inevitably going to run behind schedule if you dread the schedule you’re following. This results in speeding, car crashes, and road rage. This also results in a skewed perception. Everyone else in the world is getting in your way. Of course you don’t actually think you’re the center of the universe but sitting in bumper-to bumper traffic, staring at the clock, terrified of being five minutes late, isn’t the time for being rational. You hate everyone around you.

Most people in the US work Monday through Friday from nine to five. Everyone is trying to arrive at the same place at the same time. So you spend the first bit of your day, at least five days a week, in gridlock, completely wasting your time. Sure you can listen to music, or a podcast, or an audiobook, but in reality most people don’t. You’re tired and you’re stressed and you’re trying to save what little energy you have to complete the mundane tasks of a soul-sucking job. I used to have this weird hazy feeling in the morning and whenever I would put on an interesting podcast I would find myself tuned out. I couldn’t pay attention. I would shift my focus between the clock on the dashboard and the stop and go traffic, simultaneously calculating my arrival time and trying to not cause an accident.

The worst part about the morning commute is watching your gas gauge slowly but consistently deflate. You’re literally wasting your money. You can do your job from home. You don’t need to drive to a lifeless office inhabited by lifeless people. In the technology age there is almost nothing that can’t be done from the comfort of your own home. Instead you spend an hour wasting gas to get to a place you don’t want to go, wasting money that could be used for hundreds of better alternatives.

This is how you begin five out of the seven days of the week. I realized this and I decided I wouldn’t do it anymore. I can’t. There are too many amazing things out there to waste your life doing something you hate. If you don’t have children or other obligations, I urge you to revaluate your life. Don’t settle for the next paycheck. Saying no to a regular paycheck is scary, I understand that, but everything worth anything in life is a little scary.

Death = Freedom

But life isn’t hard to manage when you’ve nothing to lose.” – Ernest Hemingway

Fearing death is instinctive. While fear of death stems from a variety of causes, there are a few common themes: fear of the after-life; fear of leaving behind loved ones; unattained goals; fear of not experiencing enough; and fear of not leaving behind a legacy. Most people don’t regularly think about their death; everyone knows it’s going to happen but it’s not imminent. Nevertheless, people are concerned with how they will be viewed once they leave this earth. The truth is that unless you are part of the .01% of people whose legacies will (maybe) live on forever, you will eventually be forgotten. Your name and everything you have accomplished in your life will be lost. Instead of feeling fear, I find this truth incredibly liberating.

Living my life based on others’ expectations is something I frequently think about. By nature of having grown up in a Philadelphia suburb, and having graduated from a prestigious prep-school and a selective liberal arts college, I have been surrounded by extreme competiveness my whole life. Whether it was conscious or subconscious, my peers and I were driven by others’ expectations. Expectations engrained so deeply, that they didn’t seem like a choice. In fact, where I was raised, the expectations were higher than most people could imagine. The acceptable career paths: doctor, lawyer, professor, finance, maybe entrepreneur. As I started to think about the limits of my life, I realized that eventually no one will remember my relatively dubious accomplishments, and the whole ethos seemed absurd.

Think about how short your life is. You can’t drink legally (in the U.S.) until you’re 21. Your brain doesn’t stop maturing until you’re in your late late-20s/early-30s.  You start losing energy and cognitive function well before your 70s. The cliché, “life is short,” is incredibly appropriate. An individual’s lifespan is a minute fraction in just HUMAN history alone. If you consider the histories of the earth and universe, our lives begin to seem increasingly short and insignificant. Your life most likely won’t mean anything 150 years from now. Your great, great grandchildren probably won’t even know your name.

Oddly enough I find these thoughts comforting. This realization is what I needed to validate my desire to live day by day. As long as your bases are covered both monetarily and socially (i.e. you can afford to feed and shelter yourself and have at least a few true friends) then you have every right to do whatever makes you happy. Each day HAS to be enjoyed. The average person sleeps eight hours a day; this results in 33% of each day and 9,582 days of your life being spent unconscious. I stopped caring what other people think. I stopped obsessing over the idea of finding a career. The best result: I started taking the steps necessary to enjoy each and every day. By realizing that on the Earth’s history scale my death was imminent, I was able to enjoy another cliché: the little things. I was relieved of the burden of trying to “make something of myself.” I stopped viewing life as a series of milestones.

Life is too short to be wasted, yet so many people do just that. And the sad thing is people don’t even realize it. Fighting against this social programming is incredibly difficult.  Some people think the solution is to stop caring what other people think, but I don’t think that that is possible or productive. I think the only way to truly live the life you want is to realize that nothing you do is that important. Nothing you do is worth crippling stress and nothing you have or haven’t done is worth crippling regret. You owe it to yourself to enjoy what little time you have in this universe. Don’t spend it doing something you hate, don’t spend it around people who you can’t tolerate or don’t tolerate you, and don’t take anything too seriously.

Should Psychiatrists Comment on Appearance?

I have a standard Sunday ritual: wake up; make breakfast; drink a pot of coffee; read The New York Times Sunday Main Section and Sunday Review. This past weekend I read an article that really struck a chord with me, “The Dowdy Patient” (http://nyti.ms/1Gkn5Cp ), written by David J Hellerstein a well-respected Professor of Psychiatry from Columbia University. He details his experience working with a patient who has been unsuccessful at finding a romantic partner. Dr. Hellerstein mentions that changing her “dowdy” appearance is one option, however she is unwilling to try this, and the situation becomes increasingly awkward and he feels as though he has stepped outsize his lane as a physiatrist.

The article goes into detail about why this type of comment is taboo and how psychiatrists/psychologists aren’t supposed to see their patients in a sexual way. By mentioning a patient’s appearance it comes too close to the sexual line. It is as though a therapist should be impervious to the looks of any client that walks through their door. Advising someone to change his or her look in order to attract a mate can be deemed shallow and superficial. However, I disagree that commenting on physical appearance in a professional manner, with the patient’s goals in mind, is harmful, or should be considered taboo in any way.

I know very little about the field of psychology/psychiatry. I have seen both psychologists and psychiatrists, and I have had both good and bad experiences with each. But to my untrained mind, it seems absurd that the idea of helping someone improve his or her quality of life should only be approached clinically. If the patient is having trouble socially, and he or she clearly does not spend time on her appearance, then a change may be exactly what is needed. It is the therapist’s duty to at least propose the option.

Humans are both superficial and shallow…at first. Yes, I’m sure there are some super progressive folks out there who have somehow convinced themselves that looks don’t matter at all. But to most people they do. Not everyone is attracted to the same look, but people are still attracted to looks. For the most part, if someone’s appearance is so out of the realm of attraction, a potential mate won’t even give them the time of day to demonstrate their amazing personality and qualities. There is no need for someone to change his or her personal style. But there are ways to dress nicely within your own style and to be aesthetically pleasing in order to attract a mate.

This needs to be suggested to someone who is clearly unhappy with at least some social aspect of his or her life. People trick themselves quite easily into believing that they don’t care about  certain things. This is especially true when it comes to fashion/appearance. This can be born out of distaste for current fashion trends. Dressing nicely; however, does not mean adhering to ever-changing fashion trends. It just means taking some pride in your appearance. If you don’t, you will deter the majority of potential mates. Your fashion doesn’t have to be what attracts a mate but you definitely don’t want it to deter. The patient has the option to either take or leave this advice. But there is no reason why talking about looks should be banned, especially when it could be directly related to the problem at hand, a problem the patient is paying to get help with in the first place.

Lastly the idea that a psychologist/psychiatrist is never going to view their patient in a sexual way is absurd. Unfortunately, getting a degree doesn’t turn off your biological instincts. The interaction should be human-to-human not human-to-degree. No, they shouldn’t have sex with their patients, but they shouldn’t act like nonsexual beings refusing to offer up their own experiences and opinions either.

When it comes to personal matters, I believe that the field of psychology/psychiatry is deeply flawed. The goal is to make people’s lives better, and in many situations it is necessary to cross over this professionally constructed line. Sometimes the only way for someone to truly improve their life is to step out of their comfort zone and face the realities of their current situation.

-MWez

Reversing Racial Tendencies Takes More Than A Lifetime

“The only difference between man and man all the world over is one of degree, and not of kind, even as there is between trees of the same species. Where in is the cause for anger, envy or discrimination?” – Mahatma Gandhi  

Everyone wants to see social change within his or her own lifetime. A perfect example of this is racial equality. Fixing race relations has a deadline: by the end of my life or even by the end of my children’s lives. This is a noble undertaking; however, I believe it is naive and foolish.

People are both incredibly adaptable and incredibly stubborn. It’s amazing how much punishment a human can endure within their own life and still come out the other end stronger and ready to face the next challenge. Yet it is amazing how hard it can be for someone to shed a prejudice that is deeply engrained. Humans are social beings. Our ancient ancestors lived in close-knit tribes and each individual was key to the tribe’s survival. Tribes competed for resources and battle amongst rival tribes was common. This resulted in two mindsets: (1) unfamiliar people were seen as possible threats and (2) tribe members identified strongly with the tribe.

Humans are social animals and we crave interactions. On a base instinctual level, humans want to self identify with a group. And although humans are very adaptable we resist change. Change is unfamiliar, making it dangerous. The human might not be equipped both mentally and physically to deal with this new environment or challenge. This does not bode well for survival and like all other living organisms a human’s ultimate goal is to survive.

Skin pigment has become the ultimate identifier for human beings. And its not a human fabrication. Skin pigment is determined by where you live or where your ancestors lived. Having darker skin in sunnier climates has obvious benefits. Having lighter skin in less sunny climates has benefits as well. Due to natural selection, humans have developed different skin tones. For most of human history, the only exposure that most humans had was with people from their immediate geographic regions. Therefore, until recently, humans have had very little exposure to people from different parts of the globe.

Every semi-educated person today understands the slow process of globalization. Now we have reached the zenith. Air travel and communications have changed the world tremendously. Because globalization has happened so rapidly, cultural tendencies are still prevalent based on ancestral heritage. I will be the first person to argue that humans are all 9.9% the same. But this .1% difference has a huge impact.

People want to self identify and they are skeptical of anything they don’t initally consider normal. People recognize different cultures, and for the most part these cultures are divided by skin color. People, I argue, instinctually fear these differences in culture. They become attached to their way of life. They can’t imagine anything else. Humans also fear unfamiliar cultures as a threat to their resources. If there are “new” people there will be less resources. Humans resist a change in culture or way of living, and because skin color is the most visible sign of these different cultures, we resist people with a different skin color.

Racism is ignorance. The idea that anyone can be categorized based on the color of his or her skin is an ignorant way of thinking. There have been zero studies that indicate skin color or geographical heritage has any impact on any quantifiable traits (i.e. intelligence).

Humans DO NOT posses an instinct to fear someone of a different skin color or any other physical characteristic such as facial structure. Ask anyone who grew up either in a multicultural environment or in an environment where they have had life-long interactions with people of a different race. But unfortunately most people today don’t live in multicultural areas. Because of this, people of a difference race are still considered different, and to some, are coded as a potential threat.

But as I said earlier, humans are amazingly adaptive. And this world is much less divided by race then it was even fifty years ago. And it is only going to get better. We live in the information age and people have the ability to gain access to information beyond what their family or friends tell them. People are shedding their deep cultural ties. Humans are learning that just because someone lives differently than they, that this is not a bad thing. Thankfully humans are learning to embrace a variety of cultural norms, thus bettering their own lives.

There will come a time when race no longer matters. The day will come when it is the norm for every child to grow up in a world where race has no impact on the type of person someone is. Skin color will no longer be viewed as different; the difference will be what makes it normal. People will no longer suffer due to the natural pigment of their skin. But we are fighting a long history of human social interactions. Thanks to the information age our history is being reversed relatively quickly, but it will probably not be in one lifetime. It probably won’t even be in two. Understandably, we want it do be done as quickly as possible, but this change has to happen organically. People have to learn for themselves that there is nothing to fear of someone who is different. Fighting our instincts is doable, but it takes time. This is not a popular way of thinking but I believe it is necessary to reach racial equality. Humans have to take an honest look at themselves and their past if there is hope of moving forward.

– MWez

Entourage Movie Takeaway: Build Meaningful Relationships

“Do you appreciate the friendship you and Vince have? ‘Cause there aren’t too many people your age who have a lifelong friendship like that. I can’t tell you what one person that I went to high school with is doing.” – Ari Gold1403274796476

The Entourage movie was released this week about four years after the HBO series ended. Halfway through the series Entourage started to receive a lot of negative press and witnessed such a dramatic drop in awards, praise, and viewership that by the end of the series, many were happy to see it put to rest. However, I am a HUGE fan of entourage. I always have been and always will be. Even though my lifestyle is the opposite of that depicted on screen by Vince, E, Turtle, Drama and Ari, I deeply identify with the only true theme that drives the series/movie: the emphasis on having strong and meaningful relationships.

Both critics and regular folks alike are ripping apart the Entourage Movie. Relentless attacks that it is shallow, misogynistic, and predictable are the common accusations. All of these complaints have merits and I could go into a long post about why these themes are appealing to so many people. I could also go into the curious cases of those individuals having such an impassioned negative response to a movie that no one is forcing them to see. But I think all of this is second to the fact that at its heart, the show is about loyalty, love, compassion, friendship and commitment.

Heath professionals have, for the most part, come to a consensus: the key to a happy life is having meaningful relationships. You can have all of the money, prestige, status and success in the world, but if you don’t have meaningful relationships it will all be for nothing. In fact studies show that once someone reaches an income of $75,000, an increase in salary won’t contribute to their everyday happiness. Humans are social animals; we crave human-to-human interaction. People need great friends that they care about and who care about them. Humans need to be vulnerable with the people they love and have the knowledge that their friends will do anything for them.

Entourage is the epitome of this lifestyle. It is common for celebrities and successful businessman to have the problem of not knowing who their true friends are. Vince realizes this and realizes that the only way for him to stay sane is to have his true childhood friends around him. Entourage has been criticized for endorsing the bro-culture. And I agree that the bro-culture has gotten out of hand but at its root is the word brother. The friends in Entourage view themselves as brothers and this is extremely appealing to both male AND female viewers. So if anyone is shocked as to why people would pay money to see the movie, that’s why.

-MWez

What My Trip to Ireland Taught Me About Status Anxiety

“Better pass boldy into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.” – James Joyce

Traveling is one of my passions; I have studied in Italy and have visited over 15 countries. My short-term life goal is to travel as much as possible, hoping to reach 30 countries by the time I turn thirty. However, my goal is not simply to check off as many places as possible but to learn as much as possible from the places I visit, and to appreciate each uniquely. After each trip to a new city/counIMG_4208try, I am going to write down my major takeaways.

I recently took a ten-day road trip through Ireland visiting Dublin, Kilkenny, Killarney, Dingle, Shannon and Galway. It was an amazing trip, and I was blown away by the landscapes, the food, the beer, and most of all, the people. I highly recommend it as a travel destination. But, starting now, the point of this blog is not to talk about hotels, attractions and restaurants. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs and websites dedicated to that. For this trip to Ireland, I am going to talk about one major takeaway: the apparent lack of desire from the Irish to rush immediately into a career oriented job following, or even before, attending a university.

This point was driven home when I talked to the owner of the B&B I stayed at in Dingle. He was born in Dingle but moved to America when he was a teenager. He lived in NYC while working various jobs including that of a line cook in an upscale steakhouse. At the age of 40 he moved back to Dingle to open a small B&B deep in the countryside. He seemed incredibly happy, loved his time in America, and now loves his time in Ireland. He traveled all throughout the US and South America, never fully embracing a single career. A life such as his is foreign to many Americans, but in my opinion, it is a very admirable one.

Americans are expected to find a job immediately following college. Not just any job but a job that will help develop their future careers. This is the result of the American desire for social status, and the number one indicator of status in America is your IMG_4228career. I’m not saying that status isn’t important in Ireland, but it does seem that to the Irish, status is not entirely defined by your career. Money is a major motivator for Americans trying to fast track their careers, but I think status is an even bigger one. These ideas of taking time off to travel, pursue a hobby, and discover passions, are mostly foreign to Americans. These activities are reserved for retirement.

Very few people know what they want to do for the rest of their lives at age 22. Few people want to do the same thing their entire lives. The idea that you have to decide at such a young age is nonsensical. Don’t worry about career status. Unless you absolutely have a passion for a career don’t do something that makes you miserable. Read, write, travel, create, compose, listen, converse; do the things that make you happy. Maybe you’ll discover something you love that will lead to money, instead of making money the end goal. You will find people along the way who share your values, thus making the opinions of others irrelevant. Life is a journey, not a destination, and no one has all the answers. Careers don’t provide happiness, passion, experience, or memories. Relationships do. Do not define yourself based on someone else’s opinion of your career.

Bring Prestige Back to Local Politics

The 2016 Presidential Primary campaigns are in full swing. Candidates are strategically jabbing within their own parties while swinging haymakers across the aisle. The nation is gearing up for the presidential election with candidates expecting to raise in excess of one-billon dollars in donations. The Presidential election is extremely important and rightfully gains tremendous media attention; however, I think it takes more than its fair share. I believe local and state elections should regain the prominence and prestige they once had.

Large-scale change in the US is extremely difficult. The US is one of the largest nations in the world; fourth largest geographically, and the third largest by population. Throw in the fact that it is possible the most culturally diverse nation to ever exist; it’s amazing any change occurs at all. It is undeniable that America has major social, economic, and infrastructure issues. Due to its size, the federal government cannot solve these problems; they must be solved locally.

Social issues are crucial to the framework of our citizens’ lives. But we can’t expect a nation of 320,939,000 people, all with diverse immigrant histories, to come to a single consensus. Most issues have to be debated at the local and state levels. If someone is anti-gay marriage, then they have that right. If a state wants to ban gay marriage, it has that right. If a state wants to legalize marijuana, it has that right. If a state wants to enact government healthcare, it can. If you want to live in a state with government provided healthcare, you can. If you disagree with the policies of your state, you have the choice to move to a state that better represents your views. If you aren’t willing to move, then perhaps your social beliefs do not hold as much weight as you thought they did. Our country’s political system allows for this freedom of movement. Take advantage of it, live where your views are recognized, and play a part in the necessary changes.

The federal government will never be able to please the entire nation. Because the US is so large, and it represents so many different cultures and views, there can’t be one overarching policy for any given issue. Americans need to focus their attention on their immediate geographical regions and stop worrying about how people half a continent away are living and thinking. Policies need to be debated at the local level. Convince your cities’ government to change its policies, and then move up to the state. This is the only way change will be enacted and the people’s voices will be heard. We need to bring prestige back to local and state government. It should be considered a great honor to serve in state legislation not considered second class to the federal congress. Maybe once this happens we’ll see the widespread change that most people are hoping for. We have the ability to build a better culture; however, we need to get back to basics and start local.

-MWez