Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Too Good To Quit

The first real time I voluntarily just quit something was when I quit water polo.  It was my senior year of high school. I was suffering from back problems and needed to take a few extra days to recover.  I explained the situation to my coach and she told me that if I missed another day of practice, that I was off the team.  She had acted as though I were just ditching practice to make out with the whole football team under the bleachers like Kelly Bundy or something, but the reality was that I cared about my health more than I cared to play polo on a team that clearly didn't value my well-being. I calmly told the coach that I understood.  I walked off the deck. I never returned. Folks were mystified as to what happened.  My good friend tried her hardest to convince me to return "You're too good to quit." People expected me back for my last swim season, too, but I never set foot on that pool deck again in high school. Looking back, I guess I was good. But my health came first.  The coach knew full well what she had said to me, but it was better for her to stay silent and save face.

In the end, all that remains of this is the story. I have been back in the pool since, I'm still a beast but it doesn't matter. My friend was right, I was too good to quit, but I did it anyway. The world is still turning.

The next quitting incident occurred when I quit singing for a hot minute. I brought up the notion of quitting to my choir director in college, a professor who was not exactly generous with giving compliments for any old reason, and he had a knee jerk reaction that I remember clearly.  I said to him that I was looking for a group to sing with after graduation, but that I wasn't sure where to go or if I should even continue at all - we both knew that my voice had deteriorated from stress, overuse, and singing notes that are too low even for most men to sing. He looked up at me, shook his head and said, "You're too good to quit."

Ultimately, I quit, but it didn't last.  It wasn't long before an opportunity presented itself to jam. Shortly after, someone else asked me to join a new group they had just started. Apparently, I really was too good to quit because this twenty-something year-old grandpa got brought back from early retirement.

Today, I was at work. I was teaching a class. It's funny, I do not like teaching classes because it takes a lot of energy out of me and I get too invested. But I have been told that I do it well. I was trying to reassure the student, who had said that they viewed the technology that we were learning as "legendary" and described how cool yet intimidating they thought it was. I told them that it was true that there was a lot to learn which is what makes it harder, but that once you get used to how things are supposed to look and get used to going through the steps, it becomes easier over time, as most things do. As I answered more of the student's questions, I accidentally broke the 4th wall and I said that I sometimes thought about leaving the field.  

"Why?" the student asked me. "You're too good to quit." 

I paused for a moment. I recalled every other time I had heard anyone say that to me and I laughed.

"That's just it. It's why I haven't left yet."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

F%# the Haters: No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

That's how the quote supposedly goes.  It is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but this is actually just the Reader's Digest version.  The full quote implies that no one can make you feel inferior if you already believe yourself to be superior, or if people believe that you are immune to their attempts at putting you down.

Some folks will try very hard to make you feel bad if they want to gain power over you for whatever reason.   Those same people might even try to make you look bad if they start realizing that their attempts to make you feel like crap aren't actually working.

Does what they think matter?


If there is someone out there bringing you down, remember that it most likely isn't a result of anything that you did.  In the end, it says more about them than it does about you. If you truly are being targeted by a bully, it is likely because they are already insecure and the only way that they can control the situation is by putting you down.

"Why would they be jealous of little ol' me?" you say.  

Fine.  If you're asking that, maybe they're not jealous.  Maybe it goes beyond just boiling down to insecurity and jealousy and actually vaporizes into a rotten fart.  Yes, I'm going there.  When in doubt, fart jokes are always there for us. Whoever is being an asshole to you, trying to make you feel all shitty (pun intended) about yourself is probably a stale, rotten fart and a meanie. Is that better?

Anyway, if haters are getting you down in life...

NOPE---STOP.  Fuck the haters! ...actually, don't.  They're probably terrible.  Soon enough, word will get out that they have STDs and they won't be able to fuck with anyone else.

But really, jokes aside, we're all too classy for this fuckery: haters won't get us down because we will not allow them a place in our lives or take them seriously.  Stay strong.

*Post is a shoutout to a pal who was targeted by an intense fb hater the other day.

Monday, September 14, 2015

F@$# the haters: I'm Not For Everyone

Some things are an acquired taste.  Keeping the company of some people can be an acquired taste, too.

I suspect that we all can find ourselves to be an acquired taste to other folks at some point or another.
Here's the thing.  We need to all learn to be okay with the fact that not everyone is going to like us everywhere we go.  Just as there have been numerous folks who I have encountered who have "rubbed me the wrong way" so to speak, I am sure that there are other folks who have felt the same way about me.

As I approach the upcoming week, I realize that I may enter into some uncomfortable scenarios.  They say that learning new things should make you uncomfortable.  But so does standing up for your ability to learn and standing up for what you know to be true. I refuse to tone down my personality, specifically the part of me that asks questions in order to understand and make sense of the world around me, that appreciates knowing the theory behind how things work before going and just doing them, and that doesn't easily accept answers that evoke memories of the perennial parental favorite "because I said so."  It would be scarier if I were a sheeperson who accepted everything blindly at face value, but I suspect that many establishments do not prefer that.

Someone once tried to tell me after a particularly bad breakup: "You'll never find anyone else.  No one else could stand you and how you are." Don't worry, reader pals, I didn't take it to heart and have since found a someone who can "stand me" (LOL). But I would be lying if I said that the comment didn't hurt at first. I was younger and slightly more naive - it was a hurtful thing to hear from a human who at one point claimed to have loved you. It was a personal assault on the very human desire to love and be loved in return and intended to make me feel as though I were unlovable.  Ultimately, however, this was just one person's opinion. Aside from this blog post, I had not given this incident much thought in many many years, as the inner conflict it sparked has since been resolved. The only bearing that it has had on my life is that it has served as a lesson on how to avoid insecure people who use negativity to regain control of their reality.

If being as I am is a problem, and it gets me into uncomfortable scenarios, or opens me up to haters, then so be it.  I am as I am, and I am not for everyone.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

An Open Letter: To the Trespassers who Steal Fruit from My Yard

So, almost two years have gone by since my last open letter. I would say it's pretty good that we've gone this long before a new batch of folks has simultaneously made me feel powerless and immensely angry enough to feel the need to write one of these things.

Prior to writing my first open letter, I never really saw much point in writing one to someone until I felt the need to do it myself. I used to think doing so was pointless because the act of writing the letter can be an admission that one feels as though they lack the power to change things by any other means. Remember Sinead O'Connor's letter to Miley?

This open letter is directed at the folks who insist on coming into my yard, onto my property, to steal the citrus fruits that are currently growing on the trees there. I grow more and more frustrated on a daily basis as I come up my driveway after a stressful day at work, only to see the fruit slowly disappearing from the trees before it even has a chance to ripen.

In writing this open letter, much as in my previous one, I'm admitting that I don't have the power to change things without risking bodily harm. Unwanted negative interactions with strangers, such as chasing down volatile thieves who know where I live, have always made me uncomfortable. I suspect that I'm not the only person who has ever felt this way. This open letter is also on behalf of anyone who has had similar experiences in this city or anywhere else but just never took a moment to put their discomfort to words.


Dear Pathetic Miscreants.

We are all aware that there are some nice fruit trees in my yard. The whole neighborhood is aware. However, it's a fucking shame that my family and I are the only ones who never get to enjoy very much, if any, of the fruit that is borne of these trees.

It's because pathetic thieves trespass onto my property on a fucking daily basis and pick the not-quite-ripened oranges, mandarins, and lemons off the fucking trees before my family or I even get a chance to so much as touch one of them or even see them ripen. We were planning on having some nice tree-ripened fruit this fall, but you fucked that up.

It's not even an impulsive choice--it is a clearly calculated plan that you rat shits devise and execute over time. Do you think we don't notice that you slit holes in the oranges to check if they're okay to pick? Do you think we don't see the half-eaten mandarins and peels that your sorry asses can't even fucking bother to clean off the driveway after you've pillaged the trees? Do you think that we won't notice that the branches of the tree are lifted because you strategically took a quarter of the oranges that were once there? Clearly you have a lot of thoughts, but none of them have anything to do with working, respecting private property, or being anything but a rat shit trespasser and thief.

Now, there are folks who are legitimately needy who might take a few pieces of fruit because they would rather not die of starvation. There are folks who on rare occasions may knock and ask if they can take a few items from the trees. I don't have a problem with helping legitimately needy people or considerate people who ask politely before stepping on the property and taking a reasonable small amount of fruit. Who I do have a problem with is entitled shitheads who think it's okay to come to our house and just steal things while I'm not home.

Fuck you people. Fuck you with something hard and sandpaper-y. Shit's not even fucking ripe yet and you're so thirsty that you need to come here and take the fruit before mother nature even said it was okay to eat. I know you're into tequila and corona with lime, but guess what, motherfucker--that's not a lime tree, that's a lemon tree. Unripe lemons aren't limes, asshole. Oh, your girl likes orange slices with her Blue Moon? Well guess what, she won't be impressed when you put a slice of half ripe yellow-green citrus that's hard as a fucking baseball in her drink and she won't be impressed that your broke ass didn't even pay for it. Adults coming to steal like this should be ashamed.

Oh. Wait. You're not old enough to drink? You're in middle school? High school? Wow you're fucking cool, junior. Your parents must be so proud that you're trying to build something for yourself this early. Too bad it's a rap sheet that you're working on.

That's chill though, the last guy who stole from me while I wasn't home got jail time. Stealing and trespassing is wrong and it will come back and bite you in the ass if you push your luck.  It doesn't matter who you are.

I hope when you get home with the green, half-ripe fruit that you stole from us that your friends laugh at you for being cheap, your lovers leave you for trying to give them unripe citrus in their fake hipster alcohol, mother nature shits on you on your way home, the fruit infests your shack with fruit flies, and/or that your parents or grandma throws a chancla or two at you in front of your crush.

Actually, nevermind the chancla. I don't want your mom to bust her favorite flip flop on your thick head.

That's all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Full Circle

On the about me page of this blog, I give everyone my name and the fact that I thoroughly enjoy telling people that I'm a scientist.

If you don't know me IRL, then you might have thought that I was being facetious - that I was as much a scientist as Dr. Tran is a real doctor. The truth is that I do in fact work in a lab as my day job (despite having an MBA). How did that happen?

Sometime my junior year of college, while shit was getting too real, it became very obvious that I had gotten off the medical school track and that I would have to find a regular research job or something at all (it was the height of the recession when I graduated college, so I couldn't be choosy). I continued to tread water, despite how horrifically my personal life had fallen to pieces at that time (which was a bit over 7 years ago now), signing up and passing classes as best I could a few at a time until I got to the end.

I tried to pick classes that sounded interesting. Classes that would not be so easy that they were a waste of time, and not so hard that they would also be a waste of time. It was what was supposed to be the next to last quarter of my senior year and among the classes with cool descriptions that I chose to take was a Virology class.

Virology is the study of viruses, for those of you who may not know what that is. Examples of viruses include, Epstein-Barr (the mono), Herpes Simplex (the herp), HPV (warts), and Influenza (the flu).

During one of the lectures, the professor brought in a colleague to discuss some relevant topics in more depth. The colleague came in with a technician. This technician happened to be my benchmate in an Organic Chem II lab that we had taken together almost two years prior. I remembered him well because he always used to ask me for help with his setups. When there wasn't enough working DI water or if I knew that helping would significantly delay my ability to leave, I would sometimes jerry-rig his setups to mine so that we could share the DI water and get out on time.

It was nice seeing him and I asked him about his job.  He said that he was really happy at the institution he was working for and encouraged me to apply to find a job there too.  So, when it came time to go all out with my job search, I looked at that institution and found the job that I would stay at for 5-1/2 years.

Flash forward to the last few weeks of my time in that position.  I had gotten to a point where I had designed a training program for a newer machine in the lab.  Guess who happened to be a student in the last class I ever taught?

My virology professor. 

When I went to visit my old job last week, I caught up with many of the folks in my old lab, which was really nice. It was funny, during that visit I ended up seeing way more people than I had expected, even one who had left the lab and was returning to do work relevant to her study. On my way out of the building, I passed the security desk, and as I opened the door to exit the glass foyer of the building, guess who I saw?  My virology prof AND the technician. At that point, it was time to tell them the story about how I ended up in that job, and the role that they had in my career.  It was as good a time as any.

Things had come full circle.

Monday, September 7, 2015

fourteen eff

Fourteen eff. 14F. Or, if we're going to do this right, 14-Foxtrot.

That's where I parked my car at LAX in Lot C before I got on the plane to go to Philly. To most people, these details don't matter much, but for me they are huge.  My S.O. used made fun of the fact that I would always go out of my way to park close to the entrance of stores, citing that we were young and healthy and could walk the extra steps. I informed him that the reason I needed to park as close as possible was not laziness so much as the fact that I would lose my car and not be able to find it again for far too long and it would delay us getting home. Even at my new job, I have found myself lost in the parking structure, unable to leave work because I couldn't find my car.  It sounds funny, but it's horrible. In my perpetually stressed out state, situations like this had become routine and while I had found workarounds for for many little issues, things that only I would understand, parking was a thing I hadn't been able to get right.  Having to pick an arbitrary spot in this enormous airport parking lot, knowing that I wouldn't have assistance finding my car again was a scary thought, but I did what I had to and just parked somewhere.  I scrawled "14F parked" on the ticket I had pulled on the way into the lot, knowing that it wouldn't make a difference.

I know I had previously said "any amount of time would be too soon" with reference to going back to Philly, but with that in mind, I figured it didn't matter if I waited 2 months or 2 years.  My main purpose for returning was to see some good friends of mine get married. I am very happy I was able to go and see their special day, even though I was extremely tired. It was worth it because I knew I could always catch up on the sleep later.

Unexpectedly enough, the flight going back was the best $427 I had spent in a single transaction. This trip gave me the closure I needed on a place and time period that I just had not been able to find a real sense of closure for.  From visiting my friends, to visiting my old job, to seeing a show, and even to getting left behind by an asshole SEPTA trolley, this visit gave me more closure than a single rogue abandoned draft ever could have.  

  1. Seeing the wedding. It was really great being able to go back and see the wedding of two friends.  The bride was my roommate when she met the groom back in 2008, and it was really cool getting to see the special day of a couple who had stayed together through all of the growth and change of their early 20s. I'm so proud of them and so happy for them.
  2. Seeing old friends. While I didn't have enough days to see literally every person I knew and would have been happy to see and catch up with, I saw many of them, and it was great. Just being able to talk at leisure and without needing to do homework, or do errands, and just get to be fully present for them was so nice.  I hadn't really been able to be fully present with my friends in so long, and to finally have an opportunity was everything I needed.
  3. Visiting my old job. It says a lot when you feel comfortable enough with the people at a place that you once worked that you feel as though you could go back to just catch up, say hello, and even talk shop a little.  In going back, I remembered why I stayed at the job for 5.5 years.  I also had an interesting meeting with an old prof and classmate from college that took me full circle, which was really cool.  I'll put that in a separate post that I'll schedule for a future date.
  4. Being reminded why I left. I needed to take a trolley to get somewhere.  Right before I got on the trolley, someone asked me a question, which I naturally stopped to answer.  Just as I went to step into the trolley, the operator shut the back doors in front of me.  I ran to the front doors and he shut those too.  Someone started knocking on them so the driver would open them again to let me on.  The driver kept them closed and purposefully drove away.  If anything can quash full blown nostalgia, it's an asshole SEPTA driver.
  5. Being reminded AGAIN why I left (just in case there were any lingering doubts). A couple of friends and I went to the Made in America music festival.  I could only go on Saturday, but I had never been and it was a good chance to spend time with my friends and experience something new.  It was an all day affair, and the last performer was Beyonce.  Despite how much I dislike crowds, we slowly made our way through a pretty intense crowd if there ever was one to get a little closer to the stage.  At one point, my friend asked to pass in front someone and some horrible bitch actually SHOVED my friend on the floor over it! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK!? I was far back because it was so hard to get through the packed crowd and I barely saw it happen at the beginning. Crazy-incarnate started screaming at my friend to move but wouldn't actually let her get up. Somehow, crazy-incarnate had friends, who tried to reason with her and she finally let up, but it was unreal and really fucked up. If anything else can quash full blown nostalgia, it's a psychotic person who assaults people at concerts unprovoked.  In the end, my friend was okay, but it was still a really shitty situation
I ended the trip by going to a gathering that had been planned prior to anyone knowing I was coming.  A friend was inviting folks over for an end of summer party and so I went to brunch with some folks who then drove us to the get-together.  I saw some folks who I wouldn't have otherwise gotten to see, and some who I hadn't seen in far too long. Someone else then took me to the airport. 

When I got to the airport, I had some trouble checking-in to my flight.  It seems that every time I try and leave Philly permanently, there is a mishap.  This one resulted in a long conversation with the attendant about his desire to leave Philly, where he cited situations similar to the scenarios on 4 and 5 above. After our conversation, I went through the motions and my journey was underway.  

In a nutshell, despite mishaps, I left Philly feeling pretty normal. For me, to feel just normal is a huge victory.  What it means is that I feel like my mind is clear, my sense of self and my confidence are intact. It means that if someone tries to question me or belittle me, that I can respond to them effectively with reason and truth.  It means that I can get through regular daily life without struggling needlessly with memory problems.  It means I can stand up for myself and consistently work at my full potential.  

Flash forward to the return to Lot C. I mentally prepared myself for the ordeal of finding my car.  It had been a little more than 4 days since I had parked it, so I knew that trying to find the car was going to be a huge task.  Finally, once I got on the shuttle from the airport to the lot, I began the usual techniques to recall my spot.  When I was a kid, my mom used to quiz me on how to get home whenever she took me to a new place.  She used to tell me "part of driving is knowing where the fuck you're going."  So she would test me to see if I could "direct" us home.  She was always impressed that I nearly always correctly directed us home.  But I started to lose this and my techniques had stopped working, making me increasingly reliant on GPS and generally unable to find my way in parking lots. 

But this time, something was different.  Immediately, in my mind, I saw a clear picture of the "14F" that I had written in Sharpie on the ticket before I walked away from the car.  I could even see the reflection and the sheen of the fluorescent light on the dark mustard yellow color of the paper.  I could feel the weight of the cardstock and the texture of the ticket in my hand.

I got off the shuttle and walked to my car.  I took the keys out of my carry-on and threw it in the trunk.  I opened the door to my car and took a long look at the sign with the light.  14F, it said.  I got in the car, and I started my trip back home.

I'm back.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I'm not the only one...

I have encountered a roadblock in the quest to take this blog to the next level.

It is a known issue, but it is one that I avoided dealing with because it lacked urgency.

There is another Escaped From LA.  


I discovered this the week after I created the blog back in 2011, but I just didn't want to change the name because I liked it and it really made sense for me at the time.

While I was and am the Escaped From LA blog, and I am this blog no matter what, the name was admittedly never all that original.  A damn near fatal flaw, but the fact that it's now biting me in the ass is perhaps somewhat symbolic of the fact that all things must evolve or die.  Perhaps I subconsciously chose to leave the name as-is then knowing that eventually I would move away from Philly, cling to the blog name, and require external forces to compel me to change the name.

If you're curious, the other Escaped From LA is a film company that isn't based in LA.  Who'd have thought? They bought all the Escaped From LA .com, .net and .org domains, so unless I want to have a spammy sounding address, it looks like I'm shit outta luck if I want to keep it as escapedfromla verbatim. 

There's good news and there's bad news here.  Or neutral news since I know most people wouldn't admit to giving that many shits about what I call this blog.

The good news is that you won't have to change your bookmarks at all because I intend to keep the address.  You can type it into your browser or click a link for it and it should still direct you here.  The bad news is that I will have to create a .com URL that may not precisely match the Escaped From LA name.  This will probably bother me more than you, but still, I figured it was worth mentioning.

If all else fails, is available, and as ironic as that would be, and as much as you know that I really did consider registering it because I think it's funny, I probably shouldn't risk getting my friends fired for reading a blog post at work.  Imagine explaining that to HR: "BUT I THOUGHT XXX meant HUGS HUGS HUGS!"  Well, I guess it does, kind of....I digress.  There will not be an, sorry.  

I'll be rolling out the new dot com address soon.  Stay tuned or don't, I'll do it either way :)

And also, if enough folks click the stupid ads I put up here, I may be able to knock enough change together next year to buy a Frappucino at Starbucks next January and write a post about it.