Self Respect 

“There is a common superstition that ‘self-respect’ is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation.”

-Joan Didion 

Girlfriends and Kill Jars

If I had one wish, it would be to be a twenty-one year old girlfriend for the rest of my life, repeating my senior year of college over and over again, never growing old, just waiting in line to get into a bar with my boyfriend, forever. Twenty-one year old girlfriends can be carefree and fun, the types of girls I think men imagine the topless ladies on the covers of magazines to be like- “dream girls.”

As you get older you become introduced to yourself. You think you know yourself, but you don’t, it’s a slow and gradual process that takes life experiences that (sometimes painfully) introduce yourself to you. As the years tick off your twenties, you are able to identify the types of girlfriends your mid-twenties turn you into. There’s the twenty something year old girlfriend that will get black out drunk and skinny dip in front of your friends, there’s the twenty something year old girlfriend that wants you to propose and have your babies, and then there’s the twenty something year old girlfriend who wants to travel the world and grow gracefully into an old wise Yoda with you.

When I was twenty-one, I was dating a talented singer in a band who was taking entomology and was never without a butterfly net and a kill jar. You’d be talking to him outside while walking to class and a butterfly would float by and he would, mid sentence, take off after it, waving his net in the air in front of him, other pedestrians frantically moving out of his way at the sight of him charging towards them with a net, afraid he might be coming after them. I would stand there, falling in love as I watched him off in the distance, opening the lid to the kill jar, signifying the end of the pretty butterfly’s life. Once, we stayed up all night with his dead insects, removing their lifeless, delicate bodies from tiny glass containers that were all over his room, and pinning them into the little wooden box he would turn into his professor for his final exam. The bugs intrigued me, but his gentle spirit, beautiful singing voice, and ability to be kind to every single person he encountered (he stopped killing bugs once he passed the entomology class) made him completely perfect to me, and then college ended and the world became a hopeless place.

Real life has a way of screwing everything up because the simple joy of just existing, or staying up all night sticking pins through dead insects, is replaced with burdens such as jobs, money, and surviving in a what I would call a creuler than kind society. When you are forced to fend for yourself, you are in turn forced to define yourself, and you may discover new traits that must have been hiding, deep rooted and suppressed, within the depths of your soul. You pick a career, but what do you pick? What is so important to you that you wouldn’t mind spending the majority of your time here working towards? You discover people’s motivations- money, fame, attention, power, adventure, art, giving back, taking from, winning, exploring, etc, etc. And you discover what motivates you and how those motives align with others, and it’s not as simple as differing hobbies or differing tastes. You can’t just order the veggie burger and enjoy it alongside someone who’s eating steak. The way people choose to live their life is very important, the way others treat people is very important, the way people deal with setback and failure is important, the way people choose to behave after finding success is even more important. And they are all choices that introduce ourselves to…ourselves.

The two most important choices we have though, is the way we think (or choosing to think at all) and the way we love. While most people live honest and normal lives, people who have one appropriate thought that corresponds to an appropriate event, or people who live isolated and in ignorant bliss of anything else going on outside themselves, I find myself having at least three thousand at a single given moment, almost all of them inappropriate and having nothing to do with what is going on around me, and almost always starting with something that leads me down a twisted and soiled path that looks like this:

It’s the first of the month, rent is due. Is Rosie working at Target today or is it her day off? I wonder if her brother got time off from his job to take that vacation to the Philippines. I hate that celebrities get paid more than teachers. I got a new snapchat. I can’t remember how the minimum wage is set. What time is it in Africa? I’m so hungry.

“What are you thinking?” someone will ask. “Why are you so quiet?” “Uh…” I say, trailing off into silence. I have people in my life who I can, without any hesitation, rattle all that off to and as it falls on them, like droplets of water, they catch them in a bucket, they absorb them, signaling to me that my thoughts have not only been understood, but they have been protected. That is the best feeling in the world. I’ve also rattled off thoughts to a blank face, one void of any emotion except annoyance or judgement- that is the worst feeling in the world. There is no easier way to make someone feel smaller than to dismiss their thoughts as nonsense, because whether you know it or not, you are taking away their voice.

The way people love follows closely behind the direction of their thoughts. Love can be many different conversations, but it is never silencing. It is not one person standing tall and mighty above the other, if anything it is two people down on the ground, and at an equal level, sharing their most vulnerable fears, and listening to one another, reassuring one another, building trust. This is hard for people, we seem to live in a world full of alphas, and love is disappointing to an alpha in so many ways because it is a blaring reminder that they, like you, are imperfect, at times dishonest and ugly, and at times regular human beings. We spend so much of our time trying to hide our own humanness from one another. But what’s the point? We are human, and with that we are also each others greatest teachers, especially when it comes to love.

I think the people who are the best lovers are the ones who are courageously unafraid of their vulnerability. These people do not lock it away to age in bitterness, they embrace it and use it to be a more compassionate, tolerant, and empathetic member of the human race. They are the ones who won’t allow their ego to block their vision, or the ones who find words of kindness to build others up. In college I thought most people in the real world would be like this, but as I grow up, I’m discovering people are too damaged. I’ve heard people refer to someone as “damaged,” meaning someone who has had their fair share of heartbreak, but I don’t think that holds any clout. I think you only become damaged when you give up, and you stop searching for good in others, or reminding others that they are good, when you just lie down and accept that it’s easier to laugh at people’s expense, or point out the flaws in others, or judge someone else. The second you cut someone else down to feel more powerful, or to feel better in your situation is the second you become “damaged.”

Unlike in college, the real world forces you to stand for something, and not to be a buzzkill, but one day you’ll be dead, there’s not a lot of time to waste being an asshole. So you have to stand up, this is the life I want to live, these are the things that make me happy, these are things I believe strongly, this is how I want to spend my time, this is someone who I can look at and be proud of, this is how I want to be remembered. I clearly am not still dating my college boyfriend, but I remember him so fondly, I remember him as goodness, and that matters. You start realizing that every single choice you make, is who are you becoming, so your choices start to matter, A LOT. Otherwise, you’ll spend your whole life fluttering all over like you were being chased by a college student with a net and a kill jar.

I miss being in college, full of freedom and spirit, disillusioned with the notion that curiosity and imagination won’t turn you into a big weirdo, and equipped with a cafeteria meal plan. But mostly I miss how college froze time, I miss being able to date people without worrying, will twenty years fly by with this person and suddenly one day I’ll wake up fifty-four, realizing this isn’t the life I wanted, left only to ponder what now? Kill jar.

It seems like every week there is some new heartbreaking news reminding us how fragile life is. And the reality of this is heavy, I feel it in my heart and on my shoulders. When the world needs so much it can make you feel small and insignificant, swallowed up by the injustice you see, the violence and terrorism, deciphering the 2016 Presidental race, the media…..Pokemon Go. It seems as though you really have to seek- really hunt for the hope, until you realize you are responsible for those feelings of hope. You have to be the good in the world, you must figure out how, because life is too meaningful and much too short not to. When life blasts your heart into a million pieces, you need to be brave, you will need to put it back together using others and the world- the very same things that shattered your heart to pieces in the first place. The smallest acts of kindness, of empathy and tolerance, of keeping your eyes wide open and investigating, listening, taking responsiblity, engaging in everyone and everything around you, being present in the world and continuously seeking out your greater purpose for others, even if it is as seemingly small as holding your loved ones closer, that is what the world needs the most. And you can do that.

Happy Father’s Day Dad

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As I grow older I discover more and more ways my Dad truly honors what it means to be a father:
Thank you Dad for loving Mom with thoughtful care and protecting her heart.
For a childhood of “Daddy Daughter Dates,” dancing to Step N’ Time, singing Raffi, and treking up mountains.
For being at every track meet, school event, birthday, award ceremony, graduation, but more importantly, for always being there every seemingly ordinary day, even when you were working full time.
For sitting at the dinner table every night throughout my high school years and patiently trying to help me understand Algebra (and thank you for celebrating and being proud of my eventual passing C- grade…even though it was possibly given to me out of pity by my compassionate senior math teacher).
For teaching me to drive.
For threatening to kick boy’s asses.
For reading every piece of writing I’ve ever written.
For watching Audrey Hepburn movies with me.
For golfing, cooking, and camping with Tim.
For keeping the faith in us, always.

You once described parenting as being a gaurdrail as we (your kids) traverse the foggy road of life. I may have rolled my eyes as a thirteen year old (the meaning was lost on me as all your other it’s-always-darkest-before-dawn-isms you used to tell me were, because as you said them, I would begin imagining you holding a quill and having hair and a mustache like William Shakespeare). But I get it now, and I wouldn’t imagine you as Shakespeare anymore, you would be wearing Pope Francis attire. I see how life gets foggy, and I see how you have always been a great guider, teacher and protector throughout all of it (and life is always darkest before dawn). I am so happy/lucky life gave me you as my Dad. No one will ever compare to you.

Dad, your kids feel the love and support- it’s ingrained in us. You win as a father, now celebrate (I wish I was there)!

Happy Father’s Day! #luckytohavelenny

P.S. Your card is in the mail and will arrive Aloha style…probably next week.

 

How to Be A Bo$$

My company is now monitoring “customer communication,” also known as all of their employee’s emails. When I was told this, I was in the middle of writing an email to my boss:

Bo$$-

Can you take a look at this project and let me know if it requires trenching and an MPU?

Mucho Aloha,

Big J

I looked at my co-worker, “wait who will be reading the emails?” She looked over my shoulder and shook her head, “Yeah, you’re going to need to fix all of that.” When my boss comes into the office,  I always shake his hand and we sit there shaking hands saying “Boss nice to see you,” “Nice to see you too Boss.” If I complete a task he’s asked me to do he says, “Thank you Boss,” and I reply “You’re welcome Boss.” All my emails to him are titled Aloha Bo$$, with the money signs. He will write back:

Boss-

Please have site techs complete an electrical re-visit for the meter main combo.

Mucho Mahalos

I have never had a boss address me as boss, and it makes me feel important, like I am the Beyonce of my specific role in the solar industry, capable of handling whatever is thrown at me, but if shit really hits the fan, I have the real boss to go to for backup and support. But this is because my boss is more of a leader than a “boss,” and there is a difference. There are certain bosses, I have certainly had a few, who wore their role as the boss like a sceptre, the symbolic ornamental staff that ruling monarchs used to hold as a sign of imperial insignia.  You’ll hear someone, usually with “Executive” or  “Director” in their title, call themselves “the boss”like they are waving their medieval wand over you, the dirty proletariat, and it does not make you feel like Beyonce, it makes you feel like a surf wearing a burlap sack with a hole in the butt. These people are usually someone who is capable and focused on climbing the ladder, someone who works hard, mainly for themselves, and who believes that the people underneath them owe them their time and hard work. Here on the Big Island we call that “mainland mentality,” and it is frowned upon.

Leaders seem to possess a sense of keen self awareness that allows them to be a quieter, more honorable type of person. Someone focused on a bigger goal which is bigger than themselves, and someone who views the people working for them as valuable assets, a team of dedicated individuals whom without, their dream or company would be unmanageable. The difference is one way of thinking is simple and easy and the other way is harder and much more work. And this is why:

Leaders have to know their people. People are complex, they aren’t just what is listed on a resume, or recommended by a professional reference. People have dreams, passions, skills, talents, they grow, they change, they need, they want. Leaders not only understand this, but they take the time to really understand the people on their team- discover who they are, which is a lot of hard work. It involves a lot of asking, and a lot of listening.  Leaders know that taking the time to devote to understanding the other people they are working with is important because life is not just work.

Leaders see the “big picture.” The big picture always involves more than just a single person. The big picture is that life is not just your one self, or your own personal work. The big picture is life- which includes many many other people. Life is family, it’s relationships, friendships, love, it’s exploration, it’s experiences, it’s a roller coaster, and work is just a part of it. A leader understands that each person they are accountable for is living their own unique, complex life- full of their own unique struggles, passions, disappointments, successes and hopes. This is important because when you lose sight of the big picture you end up shrinking your world when in actuality you want to expand.

Leaders lead by example. Leading by example doesn’t mean that everyday at work you are flawless, it means that everyday you are at work you are honest, you try your best, you are sincere, and never give up. A good leader can have a bad day, but won’t let those bad days get them down in the long haul, they never lose hope. A good leader admits mistakes, takes accountability, honors their word, and respects others. Respect is something that some bosses seem to believe their employees owe them instantly, just based off some hierarchy put in place to create a sense of structure. But leaders know that respect is not only a two way street and something that every person is owed, but also something that is earned and can be lost. Leaders don’t talk down, or shut down people working with them- they don’t use their authority to belittle others to build themselves up. They don’t see value in silencing people they may disagree with. Because the rare, intelligent, and talented people won’t follow a leader who breaks them down or disrespects them forever. People of value won’t stick around and let you beat them down, they will leave. And true leaders know that no one can accomplish anything alone.

Leaders know how to communicate. They can easily make their thoughts and feelings known to others who are looking to them for answers or advice in a positive and effective way. They don’t manipulate. They can explain things clearly. They know how to actively listen, they can make tough decisions, they can handle problems or concerns with sensitivity and awareness. They are direct, they are firm and they are never all-knowing. They are thoughtful and they are honest when speaking to others.

Leaders have imagination and can laugh.

Leaders have swept the floor, they aren’t above anything.

Leaders say thank you.

Leaders are FAIR.

Leaders reward hard work.

Leaders call bullshit.

Leaders take action.

Leaders appreciate.

Leaders observe and learn.

Leaders encourage, empower, and stand up for their team.

My generation is an entrepreneurial generation. We have a lot at our fingertips and plenty of ideas but that’s not enough, we have to learn how to lead. It’s inevitable that if you aren’t working towards your own dream you will spend your time and energy tirelessly working to make someone else’s dream come true. I think no matter what, we all need to resolve to learn as much as we can from people in power, really put thought behind what we experience and see, so when the time comes, we can get it right.

I looked over my email to edit it:

Chief- 

Thank you for being the leader of the tribe. Your solar warriors appreciate all that you do for us. 

My co-worker read it and shook her head again, “I don’t think corporate is going to understand the Hawaii branch.” I shrugged, “This ain’t the mainland,” I told her.