A Little on Depression

Depression is real. I know. I had it. For a long time. On and off, for years. And it wasn't until I confronted my demons that I conquered that mental disease (after it got harder, of course). And it took time. I incorporated as many things as I could into this lifestyle change to get better. I started going to the gym, making and going out with friends, dating, taking vitamins and eating better, and not brooding by myself so much. I have yet to talk publicly about circumstances leading to that dramatic confrontation. I hesitate for good reason. (But I will, at some point, during a future podcast episode because I think it's important.) It isn't easy being judged. I try to reserve judgment of others, not to make unneeded assumptions, which I think are the root of many a problem interpersonally and societally, for instance. 

Anyway, I'd just like to encourage people for now to keep fighting. I did. And even though it seemed seriously impossible that I would reach this level of being happy and content with myself and with life, I have. During depression, one's thinking is clouded. So don't rush to anything. It's like when you're upset. After you calm down, your thinking of the same event changes significantly. It's suddenly not as bad, the instigator not as evil, you less the victim.

I'm partly motivated for this post because of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington's death. I've been a fan for many years. And I'm saddened to know that someone who must've felt and thought many things that I had, gave up. (Maybe I also identify with him since there was a time when I tried to be a singer in a band, too.) Suicide is selfish. But no one can share your internal pain. I'm not judging. But depression is something that must be fought. Keep fighting. You are capable of so much more. I see it now in myself.

On Choosing Veganism, and Struggling

So I chose to go vegan. Several times. And failed. Why? Well, it isn't the easiest thing in the world - that's why! I first went vegetarian at 19 (many years ago). I failed at that initially, too. What had prompted it? First, there's a memory I have. I'm ten or eleven and at my aunt's house in the DR. They have several farm animals on their land. I'm chucking rocks into the overgrown grass in the yard. Moments later, I see a pig walk by in the grass, bleeding from his head. I felt a massive amount of guilt. The pig's blood and pain was a direct result of my actions. Fast-forward several years, I (16yo) watch one of the The Faces of Death videos. That shit made me feel sick for about a week. Every time I ate a hamburger after that, I relived what I'd seen. So that's how my vegetarianism began.

I tried going vegan once or twice before, failing each time because it was too difficult. Namely, cheese was too delicious to give up. I also reasoned that, at least, buying dairy products and eggs didn't directly lead to the killing of chickens or cows. I had no idea how much animal suffering is caused by the production of dairy and egg products, or how integral they were in sustaining the meat industry. (The same can be said about fur and wool, for instance.)

So, about three months, I was watching a YouTube video (it appears not to be currently up) that gave the facts re: what happens to most dairy cows, chickens, and chicks at big farms, which included drone footage. Male chicks, for instance, are fed en masse (no anesthesia, absolutely conscious) into a big meat grinder from a conveyor belt. The footage of what happens was hard to ignore, and I, as a consumer, was complicit in that abuse.

So I was vegan. For, like, two months. I found it freeing. Of course, I had to pay much more attention to what I was eating, reading labels and learning a lot more about nutrition, and supplementing. But recently I relapsed. The temptation was too much, and I was too hungry. Honestly, it was great for a while to eat cheese again. Not to worry. Not to be inconvenienced. I had a couple vegan days in the week. Thought that was good enough.

Then, the other day, I saw this. If the footage of animal abuse doesn't have an effect on you, if you do not feel guilty as a meat eater after watching that, I do not understand you. I do not know if we can communicate. You might as well stop reading this. I decided, after that, that I would no longer be complicit in such suffering. I understand that people argue that not all animals are abused in farms, which is certainly true to an extent in some farms around the world. However, to believe that the animal you are now eating hasn't suffered before getting to your plate is a level of trust in people and places you have not seen that I don't have. Also, there's the fact that the animals are killed. It's kinda difficult to kill something without inflicting any pain or suffering. Sure, one might think up ways, but how is it usually done? One might also argue that labels such as "free-range" or "cage-free" are indicative of the absence of animal suffering and/or presence of animal contentment. Again, that is a lot of trust to put into people and things you don't know or see. I have learned that such labels do not mean what people think they do. For instance, the "free-range" label may be obtained if the chickens are uncaged for the last three weeks of life. It also does not prohibit the use of cruel practices such as beak-cutting and starvation-forced molting. (Click here to read more about what egg carton labels actually mean.) So now I am once more on the vegan path. And I will report on my journey. 

I understand that there are other arguments against veganism. I will likely address these in future posts. I think one important thing to remember for anyone who is thinking about making the transition to veganism is to put back what you are taking out. Make sure you are getting enough protein and healthy fats and are supplementing.

Honestly, I think it's an accomplishment in today's world. I encourage everyone to try. Perhaps begin with reducing meat consumption. Then try vegetarianism. Then try to give up eggs. Then cheese. It's hard, no doubt. But it gets easier. You learn, and adapt. Most of us claim to love animals and abhor animal cruelty. Well, put your morals where your mouth is.

In Search of Lost Time

I've been going through some changes lately that've given me less time to write. It's hard. Writing is my passion. Not too long ago, I was used to having all the time in the world (a lot of time, at least) to write and read. But, now, I'm working a lot more and have more commitments. I have also found the love of my life, and she occupies a significant portion of my time, which I gladly give. Part of being an adult, I guess. Man, really cherish that time when you're kids, guys. It's precious. And fleeting! So, anyway, I just want to say that it's hard, and it gets harder. And having less time for yourself happens to virtually everyone. I mean, when was the last time you were able to accomplish everything you wanted for the day? I honestly can't recall. But you learn to deal with it - and wring time for every drop you can get. What else can you do? In Japanese, there's a saying, "Shou ga nai"; there's no other way. The French have a similar saying, "C'est la vie."

New Year, New Site

I've been wanting to have my own site, primarily for my own blog, for some time now. So finally, with the new year, I've decided to pay up and create one. Previously, I've had a free Blogger blog, which I'm currently keeping up and may be found here. (Note: eventually I will take the blog down.) This is my first attempt at creating a Web site and find it necessary as an author as a tool for fostering a platform, expressing myself, and staying connected with my fans. Thank you for your interest and support. I write because I feel myself inescapably drawn to the art and craft of writing, to write down stories of people who should've lived or will or had. It's a compulsion, something that will define my life and steal my days. But it's all good, 'cause I love it. It's this love, more than anything else, I want to spread. Writing, at its best, to me, is inspiration; it's truth; it's magic. Something relentlessly true, yet unexplainably unobtainable in quotidian experience. Like that feeling you've felt once or twice while looking up at the stars. They're there every night, but on rare occasion it hits you like a kick to the liver. Shit. They're all Suns. Billions of them just in the Milky Way. Imagine the planets. The stories. Untold.

Courtesy: Thomas Shellberg

Finding Time to Read

Finding the time to read while holding a job and having a girlfriend and being a writer can be difficult - I know. I've had to be creative with this. And, so, I have several methods I use to maximize the time I have to read.

Reading while walking. This is my most notable hack to find more time to read. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone since it is a bit distracting - and potentially dangerous. It takes practice. In fact, I have my own method for doing so. What I do is I set the book right in front of me, at about eye level, and walk slowly, occasionally looking ahead and using my peripheral vision when reading. The reason this works - well enough, anyway - is that since the book is directly in front of me at eye level, I can readily see if anyone or anything is approaching. It will be picked up by my peripheral vision first. Now, it might take a bit longer to read this way since there's shaking while walking and distractions and looking ahead occasionally. But since you're adding extra time to your reading, it's worth it - at least for me. Another thing to think about is that you want to walk on a level, predictable surface, such as a concrete sidewalk or path. Walking on grass or sand, especially if there are pits, fallen branches, rocks, or holes, will be very inconvenient because you will, very likely, not see them coming and possibly trip. Also make sure to have a good view of the ground, too. Watch out for dog poop, for instance, which is a bit difficult to spot sometimes. That's why your book, or e-reader, should be about arm's length away, so you can see part of the ground as well as in front of you. Easier done when there aren't many people around. But recommended if you really need some extra reading time in your day and/or have pretty good peripheral vision. (Another point: done much more easily with audible books!)

Reading on the bus/train. This piece of advice is nothing new. But there is a certain way to do it. I've learned that having the book/e-reader easily accessible works well to battle against any thoughts you might have that might keep you from taking it out, such as it being too crowded to move much or just being tired and/or mentally exhausted and maybe not in the reading mood. When it is easily accessible, you're more likely to read. So keep your book/e-reader in a pocket or in one of the outer pockets of your book bag or purse. Cargo pants are a good option during the summer since the pockets are bigger than most pants pockets. When it comes to the act of reading itself, I'd just remember that you will be distracted. People may need to get through, if you're standing, so remember to take your book bag off and pay attention. You may miss your stop, too. I usually look up from my book/e-reader after every stop.

Reading while at work. Many of us have jobs that provide us with some downtime. Instead of letting it go to waste, let's get more reading done! These times may be infrequent and inconsistent in length. So I just immediately start reading when given downtime. Also, depending on the job, you don't want to appear unprofessional. Luckily, I work in an academic setting, so that is not really a problem. But if that is a potential problem for you, maybe wait until your break. Or do so clandestinely, if you're up for it. Hide the book in your bag. Or just make sure no one is looking!

Reading while eating. I've thought of this before but never really considered it much until I read about Junot Diaz doing it. I'm just such a fanboy of his that it was kind of inspiring. He was doing it while eating oatmeal, which brings me to one of my pointers: this is better done with simpler meals - that is, meals you don't have to look at much or isn't difficult to eat. So things such as: cereal, oatmeal, soup, rice, and so on. Also, it's easier to do this with an e-reader (or a tablet) because you don't have to turn physical pages; instead, you just tap the screen. It is tempting to instead watch YouTube, Netflix, or Hulu. But if you make a habit of reading while eating every time, most of the time, or regularly (such as once per day), the temptation lessens. Further, audible books allow you also to pay more attention to your food, so that is certainly a plus.

Reading with any down time. Doing laundry? Cooking? Using the bathroom? We have downtime all the time - that's why we have a word for it! Two minutes, for example, may not seem like a lot of time to read - and really it isn't - but if you add up all the two minutes you have in a day of downtime, it will probably add up pretty well. The trick is to have a book/e-reader ready and immediately start reading and don't stop until your downtime is over. Using a timer helps if you're cooking, for instance, so you don't burn anything.

Reading while waiting for sleep. Also easier done with an e-reader that has some light source. (Though people often say that the light, being stimulation, will keep you up, I often find that reading in bed, especially when I find it difficult to sleep, which is a problem I've always had, gets me sleepy quite quickly. And if I don't sleep, hey, that's more reading done - win-win!) I wouldn't recommend an audible book for this because you might fall asleep listening and then lose your place, unless you're rather diligent!

So, off the top of my head, these are the things I do to find more time to read. You know, there are so many good books out there. And, honestly, it makes me a bit depressed to think that I won't be able to read them all. Life is simply too short. I agree with James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce, who said, "Life is too short for reading inferior books." It's also too short for great books - all of them, that is.