One chilly summer night in Chicago

As I sit here at my kitchen countertop sipping on some soup and noodles while listening to an album I magically found when I searched “French Bistro” music on Spotify, I find my mind wondering about two things. The first, how even after living my entire life in Chicago I still am somehow surprised in the fluctuations and unpredictability in weather from a day to day (sometimes hourly) basis.

The second, and as equally unpredictable is love. Love, companionship, whatever it might be I find myself thinking about it quite some. It might just be this french bistro music (Lifescapes: Afternoon in Paris, by Dan Newton — Google it and you’re welcome). Or it might be all the weddings I’ve attend this summer.

Love in my very amateur observation is probably the most complex, endearing facets of the human psyche. People do crazy things for love, people die for love, people cry, laugh, ponder about love. All of which I assume you have heard before. But it all begs the question of how much our expectations of love is tainted by cinema, music, poems, etc. How much of our love that we share is real and how much is an emotion that we attach to lyric from a song? The expectations for love seem to be very high, I wonder how many possibility for love has been lost because of these distractions.

To be fair we can’t blame the media and artist of all kind on tainting our perception of love. It is their love, true or not, that has created the most incredible art in world (i.e. Taj Mahl). What I will say is that art, and artist help us express love, even if we didn’t paint the painting or write the song lyrics.

The other interesting element of love, is that it takes many forms. The love you have for your parents, for your siblings is far different for a love that you have for a partner. It’s kind of incredible if you think of it. You are born to love your family, however your partner is quite different. You essentially finding a complete stranger in this world and sharing the deepest of human emotion together, love. It’s twisted.

It is truly the most beautiful thing in the world. To love someone. Whether it be your family, your friends, your partner, your pet dog or a stranger. If love has the ability to move mountains, I’d like to see it.

When Love Hurts

Love is not an easy thing.

It’s not an easy thing to find.

It’s not an easy thing to keep or let go.

Love is never easy.

Love is for the brave.

It’s greater than a cinema,

far greater than a song.

Love is complex.

For those that love know

love can be great

and that every tear of a love lost

is a sign of hope.

A sign hope that shows

even when the greatest of loves fall,

the only thing that will bring love back,

is the love that one can have for himself.

Love is not an easy thing.

 

What Makes Good Great?

In the past few years I have read a number of biographies and autobiographies about presidents, historical figures, CEOs, entertainers. Somehow this became an unintentional attempt to understand what make people great.

As I see the world, most people are good. In the statistical world, the good people would be within 68.26% of the bell curve (+ or – a couple standard deviations from the mean. Let’s be real some us are a bit better than others). These are your normal, everyday,  hard-working people, who go about each day as it comes. Their contribution to the world is the love they give to their family, friends, sometimes even the occasional stranger and tireless commitment to their jobs and even the community. The good people are necessary and perhaps the most important.

The good people in the world provide a baseline for the great to rise and the bad to fall below.  Back to bell curve, those that we consider great fall would probably fall somewhere  +3 standard deviations from the mean (approx. 1.3%*).So, what I’m trying to get at is that being great is rare. However, being great is also circumstantial and sometimes a gift, sometimes consequential.

In many of the books that I have read, what made people like Lincoln, Steve Jobs, Jamie Dimon (arguable, I know), Tina Fey so great often had a similar underlying theme. For instance, all them struggled, each in their own way. They all saw the world differently from the people around them. They weren’t afraid to take risks even if it meant going against the “norm.” Each of them made sacrifices for their dreams and their ambitions. All of them were courageous in every way possible, especially when they made mistakes.  In my opinion, what made these people great is not that they rose from their mistakes or failures, it’s  that they learned from they downfalls and accepted their failures as a part of a journey to achieve their goals.

All in all, the greatness exemplified by these characters has always been in their journey, their story of success. It is never the success itself. Success is subjective. You and I might define success very differently. Therefore, greatness can never be entirely about tangible achievements. These achievements can die quickly or go unfinished. Greatness in part is defined by character and perspective.  However, the power that the good people have over the great is that they get to define who is great. 

Like I said above, good will always be the platform for great. Good will get to choose whose story is worthy of being great, being noteworthy, being documented**. We all strive to be successful, as we rightfully should. But not enough us strive to be great.Great comes in your everyday lives, the little things that set you apart.

Just a reminder there is great in all of us. The great in all of us is defined by our potential. It’s up to us to choose to be great.  

 

* Don’t quote me on the math

** Want to be clear when I say great I don’t mean famous. To those of you who think the Kardashians are great, shut up now. 

A Case for Staying In On Saturday Night

It’s beautiful Saturday night, and as the rest of this city is putting on lipstick, strapping on sandals and spraying on some cologne to hit the town, I have decided to spend my evening indoors. It’s the first time in a long time that I’m home on Saturday night, and I absolutely love it. I’m not sure why more people don’t do this. 

Saturday nights have always been such a priority. Something about being young and in the city that puts so much pressure on your Saturday evenings. “What do you mean you are staying in?!” texted one my friends earlier in the day. What I “mean” is, I’m sitting on my couch, pouring a glass of wine, listening to Etta James and reading tonight.. Sure, maybe you think it’s kind of sad, but truly some “me time” is the best time. Saturday night is so overrated, especially if you are single. For some reason, it’s inexcusable for you to stay in on a Saturday night…ever. Sure, I will miss out an opportunity to meet someone new, or make new memories with my friends over 3 or 4 whiskey gingers. The beauty of Saturday nights are in its possibilities to be “the best night ever” and most times making that possibility a reality can be exhausting.

And, this is why I’m throwing in the towel tonight. I feel like I’m officially transitioning into adulthood by being perfectly okay with staying in and waking up early on Sunday mornings to go for a run. To be honest, everything around me seems quieter, and so peaceful. I feel happier knowing that on Monday morning I will be well rested for the week. That’s another thing going out so often eats away from your productivity and sleep. Two things that become so much more valuable as an adult.

Anyway, I feel like I’m ranting. But truly, I think everyone should try staying in on Saturday nights every once in a while. It’s good for you, your soul and perhaps even your wallet. 

Track on Repeat: Sunday Kind of Love – Etta James 

A Bowl of Soup & Good Conversation

I sit here on my dining table on a Sunday evening. To my right a bowl of vegetable soup which I have been slowly sipping on for the past hour and the song “Who Knows Who Cares” by the Local Natives just started playing on my Spotify playlist for the third time today. Fittingly so, I don’t have a topic to write about today. I thought I did, but it got lost as I was doing my laundry.  I figured if I start writing, things will start making sense or maybe not, but I thank you for your patience.

This morning I had a conversation with a friend.  We met at his office, sat down with a cup of coffee for myself and Cool Ranch Doritos for him and we talked. Sounds pretty normal, right? It was and it wasn’t. I couldn’t remember the last time I had such an open and honest conversation with someone about life. It’s a bit bizarre right? It wasn’t until the conversation ended that I realized it was a great talk.

It’s unfortunate that we spend so little time talking to each other. We are always rushing in and out of everything, every second of our lives are timed, scheduled, so process driven. We spend the better our human interaction staring at a screen than looking at someone’s face or hearing someone’s voice.  I understand this is just the evolution of human communication but the beauty of a good, uninterrupted   conversation is remarkable. It’s therapeutic in many ways. You find out things about yourself through listening the other person’s story.  

The key is honesty. The most important thing you can ask someone and yourself in a good conversation is to be honest. Ask honest questions, answer honesty, and respond honesty. The second, is asking ‘Why?’ The power of “why” in a conversation allows you to get to the core of the other person’s perspective. It forces examples, and making it productive of both of you.

 It’s hard to have open and honest communication with everyone. It’s hard to find the time to have a long talk with and pour your soul to just anyone. But all you need is one person. A single person, who is willing to talk. Go find that person and talk. Talk about anything or everything. I guarantee you walk away inspired, ready to do-something, and even happier. It’s almost like someone hit the restart button on your perspective and you feel like you conquer the world all over again.

Good conversation: “Easy as it sounds, it’s not easily done

Quantifying Happiness

Lately, I have been struggling with finding myself in the world. I’ve been hearing the question “What do you want to do?” all too often and the truth is I have no idea. I realized that there was something that needed to change and after some tragic news, it hit me…

As cheesy as the sounds we have one life to live. One life. That’s it. Every second that passes us, is time lost. I think I was aware of this reality in my back of head. It’s not until recently, I’ve been thinking about it more and more. My grandmother got sick, and it changed my world. As sadden as I was, something she said to me was one of the most eye-opening conversations of my life thus far. She said “for me I am fortunate to be ill at this age. I am old and these things are supposed to happen to old people. I have experienced my life, knowing that one day this could happen to me. I feel prepared, knowing I have not regretted anything in my life. I am happy.” –those were her loosely translated words.

As tears streamed down my face, I smiled. I took her words literally, and started thinking more and more what makes me happy, what do I want to do? Truth is I had no idea, but the beauty of not knowing is finding out. So, I decided to quantify my happiness. If you have read the book “The Happiness Project” this idea probably sounds familiar. I started setting goals, attainable goals for myself. I started writing more, reading more, and trying to learn more.

A friend of mine suggested that I should to write down the good and the bad of every day, in an attempt to find a trend in what truly does make me happy. I found that I didn’t feel challenged, so in an attempt to feel more challenged, I for the first time ever dedicated myself to working out regularly. I have never committed to working out ever, and now I’ve been working out regularly for 3 months. I have refuse to be lazy anymore, I find myself wanting experience new things, and finally taking some me time.

Most importantly, my flaws have become more and more apparent to me through this process. It has been eye opening. I feel happier in my life for the first time. I have refocused what is truly important and have made some steps to live a more fulfilled life. Though, I will admit I have a long way to go and this is only the beginning…

I wanted to share this story in an attempt to inspire someone out there. I know it’s hard, but it’s a process and it’s still a hard process for me. But no one is alone in finding themselves, because everyone struggles to find their self and their true happiness. So, take a step, whatever it is…because we truly only have one life to live.

The one time my flight was REALLY delayed…

I want to start this with a just a short yet meaningful encounter. So here we go…

The first of this year, I like hundreds of other people, found myself stuck in an airport with five hours to kill. As any ordinary person would do, I walked in and out of the shops at the LaGuardia Airport, picking things up, pretending I was actually interested in buying and then putting them down quickly when a sales clerk asked if I needed any help. I probably roamed around five or six shops before I decided to buy some souvenirs for a few friends. I went into the Hudson Newstand shop (which if you travel at all you know exactly what I’m talking about), and walked around for about 20 mins before the sales clerk asked me if I needed any help. I’m assuming that the sales clerk, who was a tall 60-something old man, thought I had some serious decision-making issues because it took me way too long to pick out a keychain. In way, he reminded me of grandfather…

“No, I’m fine” I responded to his question. Then, he asked me a question that I get all the time, “Where are you from?” I responded “Chicago.” He laughed and asked me “No where are your parents from?” Now if you have immigrant parents you have probably had some variation of this conversation well over a million times. So, I gave him a very automated response “North India.” He asked me when did they move here, and I told him the late 80s. And we got to talking…

This man, who’s name I don’t remember started to tell me his story. Now, you might be wondering why I would stand there and listen to a stranger’s story. You might be even wondering if this could potentially turn into a dangerous situation, and I should probably “gtfo.” But it’s kinda of this weird understanding, kinda an unspoken trust that you automatically share with people that come from the same area of the world as you. It’s super weird and I can’t really explain it, except for think of it as a neighborhood like feeling you share with like a billion people.

Anyway, the sales clerk (who I found out is actually Pakistani) moved to New York in the late 50s to pursue his dreams of being a journalist. He went to school during the days and worked at a factory during the nights to pay for school and follow his dream. He worked for a bunch of smaller publications, until he landed a job as the Middle-Eastern Foreign Correspondent for the New York Times. He said that he traveled all over the world, met world leaders and politicians, and wrote about issues that impacted the world. At that moment in his story, I asked him “How did you end up here?” not thinking that it was literally none of my business asking a complete stranger such a loaded question. But he didn’t seem taken back at all, almost as though he had heard that question so many times and that he knew exactly how to respond.

“To watch my kids grow, to spend time with my grandkids.” I was slightly confused, and he seemed to catch on to my reaction and continued to explain himself, “I worked all my life, now I own a few of these shops in the airport, I see people everyday in a rush to get somewhere, always on my move, forgetting about what is important. Lucky for me I understood what is important before it’s too late.” Now, that was a response that I was not expecting from him at all. Afterall, I was still a complete stranger.

Airports are one of those rare places where you have absolutely no control. You are something of a prisoner of time. You are helpless because you don’t know what to do with all this time you have. Well, isn’t that a first? We aren’t ever used to having so much time to spare, we aren’t used to stopping and taking a deep breathe. And that got me wondering. How many other strangers have I brushed shoulders with, judged with such ignorance, inspiring stories that I totally missed. Yes, I know it’s not realistic to stop every stranger as you are walking down the street and ask them to bare their soul to you (also it’s extremely creepy). But the times you do, it’s always an unexpected surprise and you walk away feeling a bit happier, sometimes restoring the slightest faith in humanity.

That’s what happened to me, I walked away not knowing this man’s name, not knowing if I will ever see him again, but I did know something changed within even it was for the smallest second. I felt inspired, I felt I should be chasing my passion, I felt like even it was for a moment that I could have it all. A feeling that I think is far to rare in all us.

Before I bid my goodbyes to this stranger, I asked him one last question ” Do you still write for fun?” and his response was so perfectly said it felt like poetry, ” Of course, it’s the only way to be free.”