Thursday, April 26, 2007

And This Livin' Ain't Easy

I have worked at the same job for over 8 years now and interviewing drug users and sellers has taught me a lot about life and about myself. A few people have asked me how I talk to these people and hear their sad stories day in and day out without getting down myself. Of course, there are days when a person's story stays with me or when I make a special connection with someone and wish I could do more to help her or him. But for the most part, I feel pretty good about giving these individuals time and space to talk and to compensate them for sharing their valuable information with us. It's also made me that much more grateful for my amazing family and for all I've been given in this world. When you come from a world of privilege, whether you realize your privilege or not, it is easy to judge others who seem like they simply need to get it together and change their lives.

Not that I'm above judging these people myself, even with all of my experience working with and talking with homeless individuals, sex workers, addicts and hustlers who are more often than not nice folks who are just trying to make ends meet in our ridiculously expensive city. And that's why I feel guilty sometimes. Not guilty about what I have, but guilty about judging. If I'm having a bad day, I get pissed off that a person lied to try to get into our study. Scammers suck! But when I step back and get the full view, I understand that hustling is their lifestyle and that's how they know to survive. See, I can handle a sad story but I'm at a loss when someone gets angry and confrontational. Don't yell at me when I tell you that you don't qualify-- I don't make the rules here and I'm bound to the integrity of our research. Still, I'd be angry too if I saw an opportunity to make some money and was told no. Yet again.

Through this job, I'm reminded that I hate confrontation. I want to cry like a child afterward. I'm a sponge that soaks up negative energy and it stays with me all day. That's the bad part of being empathetic.
Fortunately, that kind of confrontation doesn't happen often. The other side of empathy is having understanding and putting your own life into perspective. Not being able to afford a fancy dinner out no longer seems quite so stressful. It's hard enough to live in the Bay Area if you consider yourself middle class. But it sure is worth it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hi-Tech Hypochondriac

When I have some strange ailment I'm obsessing over, it's hard not to research it online and further obsess. But the cyberspace pathway to enlightenment is fraught with self-made doctors and misinformation. Sure, you may be able to get a bit of helpful information, but what exactly do you trust? In addition, it's easy to see your situation as much more dire than it really is.

For example, I'm just getting over a strange allergic reaction to some earrings that turned into an ear piercing infection. After it was bothering me for more than a few days, I went online and googled "ear piercing infections" to figure out if I should go to the doctor or just take care of it myself. This article freaked me out, especially this part:

nfections are serious. You can loose body parts if left untreated. If it spreads to your blood stream you could die. Go see a doctor the minute that your muscles become sore, your
glands are swollen, or you get red streaks."

And my gland under my left ear was swollen. I thought I had let it go too far! Woe is me- I shall die a painful death and lose my ears due to costume jewelry, I thought to myself in a moment of dramatic hypochondria. While this encouraged me to go to the doctor, which was good because I received antibiotics, I really should have paid attention to the top of that article that said "The How-To Manual That Anyone Can Write or Edit." Who was this supposed expert on ear piercing infections? Probably not a doctor. The sea salt and hot water thing only made the rash on my ears spread. And reading the article only made me more stressed out about a fairly minor ailment. Perhaps if I hadn't freaked out about the gravity of my ear infection, the healing process would have gone more quickly.

So, remember, dear friends, to take things you read online regarding your health with a grain of salt. But not necessarily sea salt.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cutest Couple

I read about this last week and meant to post about it then but never got around to it. Have you all heard about Hollywood's cutest couple du jour? (We already know about Oaktown's cutest couple.)

As Tobot so keenly suggested, these two are like my dream couple. Well, not quite, but they are a couple of my favorite actors. Good luck to them...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Surreal Evolution, Part 2

As I wrote about recently, this time in my life and my friends' lives has given me reason to pause and reflect a bit. Getting older is clearly different for everyone. Some view the aging process with trepidation and fear of what they will become. Others tread lightly as the years go by, hoping for contentment but not seeing far beyond the present, while others still are more ambitious about starting their own families and becoming a "grown-up." I know there's more to this spectrum, and I think that's what's important to note-- there is a spectrum of ways in which each person develops and matures.

Which brings me to my venting point. I believe there is a difference between simply succumbing to "getting old" and maturing. Just because I don't go out every night does not mean that I'm old and boring (or at least that's what I like to tell myself). I am able to find pleasure in a relaxing night at home more often than I did before, and that partly has to do with having more financial responsibilities that don't allow me to constantly shell out cash for $9 drinks at the bar and partly is just liking to hang out with my man in our cozy, little home. I definitely have routine in my life, which is comforting at times. Other times, I enjoy breaking up the week with a trip to a new grocery store- kidding! I really do think of myself as being pretty youthful and fun-loving for the most part. But staying home on a Friday night doesn't make me feel quite as loser-ish as it once did. I don't need to be sloshed every weekend to maintain my youthfulness.

Not that I'm the Queen of Maturity, riding up here on my high horse into the Kingdom of the All-Knowing or anything. It's freakin' surreal to get older, to feel the future pushing down your door and to still maintain a level of coolness. I do wish I could be a little more spontaneous sometimes. I could probably watch a little less TV. But damn, sometimes I'm tired and what sounds best to me is hunkering down with my cashmere throw, some red wine and my Netflix movie. If that makes me old and boring, so be it. Or better yet, if loving that is wrong, I don't want to be right!

Which reminds me-- I've been wanting to try this new bar in Oakland...