April 10, 2015

Burning Daylight

I'm going to say something unpopular:

Productivity is overrated.   

And this comes from someone who is a sucker for articles on productivity and how to squeeze every little last task and to-do in. But there is this sickingly prevalent sentiment of "you aren't doing enough in the 24 hours allotted to you" which makes me extraordinarily sad.

A lot of the talk around productivity revolves around work. A traditional work week is five 8-hour days, but who actually adheres to a mere 40-hours on a flexible schedule? Most people I know go in early, stay late, and often even work at home after hours. This dredges up the popular work-life balance argument, but my displeasure with this system goes beyond that.

Deep at the root of all this lives this need to always be better and do more and prove that we can do everything. "Going beyond" has become the expectation. Which, on a lot of levels, is really neat. We aren't easily satisfied. We aren't quick to be complacent. But then, we are slow to reward, slow to be satisfied... slow to slow down.

There is always more to do. More to craft. More to code. More to clean. More to write. More to invent. More to process.

And what we lose with this attitude is actually not small. On a physical level, this causes stress which is proven to be averse to your health. It messes with your sleep because we stare at screens more, stay up later, and get up earlier. But on a bigger level, we actually lose our passion and creativity and child-like wonder of what is already around us and what already exists. We lose our stillness and appreciation of what is.

At the end of the day, I am prone to think about all the to-do list items that didn't get done, or all the to-do list items that are waiting for me on the other side of my sleep. But I want to come home, make a cup of tea, and have an agenda-less evening... And be happy with where I'm at, what I've done, and what's to come.

January 28, 2015

Never Read Comments On the Internet

That's a well-known mantra. People are stupid and callous and the veil of anonymity leads many to say things they wouldn't ordinarily say. Internet comments give soapboxes to everyone, so often they are littered with hateful, uninformed, or entirely irrelevant content.

But there is a flip side to that - two flip-sides, actually - that are often ignored.

First, anonymity gives people a voice. With a "level playing field," those without an outlet to express their feelings or opinions in traditional circumstances find a way to reach a greater audience. That in itself is a remarkable and valuable thing.

Second, and what bothers me most, is that because of this stigma, real feedback gets drowned out. When reasonable, logical, self-preserving people are trained to not read the comments, you are perpetuating dangerous mindsets. You are negating a lot of people's point of view (enforced silo-ing is a well-studied consequence of social media) by assuming what they have to say will make no difference. But further, the creators of the content being commented on don't take seriously the very real feedback from those consuming it. In a physical situation - a store, for instance - feedback is much harder to give: you must be physically present, you must have the conviction to actually speak up about it, and you have to wait for the proper channels or people to come available. This barrier of entry means that store or restaurant complaints are taken much more seriously - partly because they are rarer.

This afternoon I opened an article, my curiosity piqued due to a bold title. But I was quickly disappointed. The article was once again sensationalist, stating something grandiose but both failing to support it and slipping into the world of opinion rather than research and reporting.

My instinct was to write a comment saying so. I was disappointed, and am continually less and less trusting of any media - even supposed "news" sources. But then I realized that a) no one would read it, or b) it would get buried in over-reactive commentaries left by those way too easily offended.

As someone whose degree is centered around acknowledging error, inviting feedback, and course-correcting when the situation requires it, this situation pains me. Too often, the comments section of a page, post, or article is often the only place for consumers (be it readers, buyers, or other interested parties) to either provide praise or point out a flaw our failing. And without it, the situation will only worsen because there will be no meaningful feedback loop.

January 6, 2015

The First Snow in NYC

It's snowing! It's snowing! I - and every other person living in NYC - shout from the rooftops. Granted, this weather would have been nice in December so that singing "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" didn't garner me so many bizarre looks.

I chose not to write "I - and every other New Yorker" in the first sentence on purpose.  First of all, I've only been here for 5.5 months, but it's more than that. Jackson and Emily Ann would love that I'm about to make this reference... There is an episode of How I Met Your Mother when everyone has their own version of what Robin must do to become a "true" New Yorker. And that episode doesn't feel far off. There are many Buzzfeed articles like "You know you are from NYC when..." or "Things All New Yorkers Can't Stand." And somehow there is this perpetual barrier between "living in NYC" and "being a New Yorker." Now, I don't have this deep-seated desire to be considered a real New Yorker. But, I think that NYC sometimes feels like this weird clique that millions of people are in, but no one that I know. Which makes me wonder... Who is actually in the club?

Have I...
...cried on the subway? Shamefully, yes.
...changed trains mid-commute due to unforeseen delays? Enthusiastically, yes.
...paid $20 for a drink? Regretfully, yes.
...eaten a bagel while walking? Stubbornly, yes.
...seen a movie being filmed on my street? Casually, yes.
...paid someone to do my laundry rather than use the coin machines? Bashfully, yes.
...started saying "on line" instead of "in line"? Staunchly, no.

But, there many things that I have either done or failed to do that somehow disqualify me from being a "real New Yorker." For instance, I still look up and admire the tall buildings (and occasionally take a quick picture while pretending to take a SnapChat of my own face). I really like touristy places (with the exception of Times Square). I still can't bring myself to eat from a street cart. I smile at strangers. The promoters at the base of the Empire State Building still try to sell me tickets every time I walk by as if they can see through my practiced "focus face" and intentionally-worn headphones into the fact that I am still not "one of them."

So what am I then?

Our pastor is always talking about how the most counter-cultural thing we can do here is stay. We live in Williamsburg - the hipster capital of everything - amidst people doing everything in their power to be different. But no one stays. No one is here for long. And while staying would be counter-cultural, so would accepting new people. Even people who claim to want to be totally unique still want to feel welcomed. And New York City isn't particularly good at that. I grew up in a place that depended on tourism, so I understand the locals' mindset of "tourist disdain." Believe me, I participated. But NYC is full of people trying to take on the role of local but get lost in the shuffle - not from here, but not from anywhere else either.

I do hope to stay here a while. And one day I'll be able to say "I'm from New York" rather than my current "I just moved to NYC." Or maybe I'll be a permanent transient (how's that for an oxymoron?). Either way, I like New York City. Shocking, I know. Isn't this the love-hate relationship everyone always talks about when they talk about The Big Apple? Well, here I am, jumping on that bandwagon, too.

Have I...
... started to really like it here? You betcha.