I look around at people’s feet all the time. I look at their shoes- the size of their heels, the color, and fit. Some shoes are scuffed and some are brand new. I always look at the person’s shoe.
We all come from different backgrounds, we all have different stories. So why is it commonplace to treat others with a one-size fits all mentality? We are lucky to have sentience. There are 8.7 million species on earth. And we are the only ones with brains that send us into outer space and deep under the sea. A rabbit does not have the ability to solve complex mathematical equations, a beaver does not write novels. Yet how is that our species- the most intelligent on the planet- forgets how unique each one of us is?
There are more than three million differences between your genome and anyone else's. At birth we are no more similar to our mother and father, than a cactus is to a dog. Yet we use heuristics to gauge someone: a quick firing of our synapses and we allow our actions to be dictated by the brain’s shortcut. The homeless man is a drunk. The thief is lazy and must steal. The CEO is a hard worker. Labels are irrelevant, don’t you see? Labels are simply the shortcut of the brain. We don’t have time to figure out incredibly complex questions numerous times each day, so our synapses make a guess. But we forget that these guesses are not facts.
We cannot understand the minutiae of an individual’s layers. It is like asking about the height of an incredibly tall building, and deciding it is exactly 297 feet. While we could take the time to figure out the building’s exact dimensions, why would we? We have an agenda that does not allow for such time consuming matter.
We all have biases we are not aware of. We are all villains and heroes at the same time. Life will meet us at the crossroads and our shoes will carry us one way or another. While we cannot take someone else’s shoes from their feet to see where they’ve been or where they will go, we know that each of us walks on different soles. Take pride in our species’ intelligence. Take pride in our diverse complexities- and remember that you cannot walk in another’s shoes and they cannot walk in yours.
Over the summer I interned in a WeWork, an office building that rents out space to small companies. On my first day, I noticed a handsome blonde man in the office down the hall from me. On his desk sat a large box of weird looking dolls. Since I had spotted the dolls first, my fellow interns decided that I should be the one to ask about the dolls’ exact identity.
I didn’t rehearse a smooth line- just butted my head into the blonde’s office and asked about the box. He deflected my awkwardness with a smile and told me they were sumo wrestler stress balls, created by the startup he worked for, Sumologic.
“I’m Rob by the way,”
We shook hands and Rob opened the box and handed me five sumo dolls. I had a cup of coffee in my left hand, and couldn’t hold all five in one palm, so I stuck one doll in my mouth and one under my armpit. Four giggling girls flanked my office doorway when I returned and I became an instant hero. I figured that would be the last time Rob and I talked. He was charming, older, and gorgeous. I lived in a dorm and arrived to work hung over and bleary eyed and I’d just stuck his company’s property in my mouth like a dog.
Despite having to walk by Rob’s office on the way to the coffee machine, I swallowed my chagrin and made my usual trips to the kitchen to satisfy my caffeine addiction. When I went for a third cup, footsteps followed me down the hall. My heart pumped and I turned around.
“So, how’s it going so far?”
“Hey, I can’t complain,”
I don’t know how I managed to hold my side of the conversation with Rob that first day. I also don’t know how I mustered the courage to ask for his number, but I did that too. We talked frequently in the following days, sitting together at the communal tables near the kitchen or pretending to do work but distracting each other with games of footsie in the cubicles meant for phone conversations.
After work we’d casually text back and forth until Rob eventually stopped answering, and I would try and convince myself that this didn’t completely bother me. After all, I was going on dates pretty frequently with young ambitious men- but time and time again my thoughts returned to that strong, green-eyed gaze. Rob intimidated me, he intoxicated me, and he often joked he would call me for a date when I was 24; in three years.
I wondered what had happened to me. I did not become infatuated with the boys at school. If anything I treated occasional hookups as time bombs since I understood most college relationships to be fleeting at best. Tinder had turned attractive men into right swipes and although I never met up with my matches, I realized my generation had streamlined just about every aspect of the dating process. Albeit our games of footsie, Rob and I were friends, exploring our likes and dislikes over office coffee. This was new to me and made me like him even more.
Finally in late July, we made plans to grab drinks. I canceled them. The young Harvard professor I had been seeing more frequently asked me to get an early dinner at a bourgeois restaurant, and I finally decided to stop Rob from pulling on my heartstrings once and for all. I would tell him on Monday that I was seeing someone. I prided myself on my rational decision. I needed my heart to stop burning for something that would never materialize.
I got the text half an hour before I was supposed to meet my professor beau at the restaurant. The professor wanted me to know he had a girlfriend in Boston, and while he would like to continue seeing me, he thought I should be on the same page. Blood rushed to my face and I felt my stomach flip. With trembling fingers I texted Rob that we should meet at a bar halfway between the WeWork building and my dorm.
I’ll never forget the way the sky opened up as I walked to the corner of Bleeker Street and West 4th. Rob and I chose a table by the window and drank red wine as raindrops bounced from the concrete sidewalk outside and the sky spewed clouds like sliding slabs of slate.
I told Rob everything. The professor was a cheater; the city overwhelmed me; and that I couldn’t stop thinking about his green eyes. Rob was sorry, but it was funny because he always thought about my green eyes too.
We kissed in the street, in the pouring rain. We found a small Italian restaurant and sat looking at each other, wondering what in the world had happened with our hair stringy, and clothes wrinkled and cold. We both knew it, but couldn’t quite understand, how we had fallen so madly in love.
When I left the city I felt physical pain from being far from Rob. He consumed my thoughts and try as I might, I could not shut out images of his smile that seemed to tease and compliment at the same time, or the way his green eyes held my own- unblinking and steady. I pride myself on my focus and self-discipline but I couldn’t help but call him and talk for hours about nothing and everything. Back at school I thought the spark would fade (my rational side still chalked it up to infatuation) but I only felt the pull increase as the days went by. I’ve never been one to spout my emotions and my best friend found it funny when I turned to her for advice on the heartache I suffered. I feared Rob would break up with me after visiting me at school; after all, listening to college antics and experiencing them are completely different things.
As much as I worried about Rob’s visits to Syracuse, I worried even more about introducing him to my parents. I had told my mom that Rob was 26 since I didn’t think my Manhattan love fantasy would bridge with reality. But then Rob came to visit me at school; our love only strengthened and before I knew it the two of us had embarked on a seven-hour drive to meet my parents at my family’s vacation house in Stowe, Vermont.
We arrived at the house close to midnight, and Rob settled into the guest bedroom. I cried myself to sleep in my own room that night, convinced that everything would blow up in my face in the morning. Somehow the juxtaposition of my naiveté and Rob’s maturity had survived the first college visit, but my mother had a habit of micromanaging my every move. What would Rob think when she asked if I had been eating my fruits and vegetables at school? Or if I had been flossing regularly? These were the standard questions I could expect when I visited my parents, and my mother wasn’t one to alter her habits. My pillow wet, I finally fell into a restless sleep.
I’ll never forget that weekend and the emotional rollercoaster I rode between my parents finding out Rob’s real age over dinner and Rob turning to me in silent perturbation. I said a terse goodnight to both Rob and my parents then climbed the stairs to my bedroom, wondering if Rob would wait until the end of the weekend to breakup with me, or book an early train back to New York in the morning.
I thought we would have our first and last fight when he climbed the stairs, but before I could open my mouth he had apologized. He told me that he wish he had known that I had felt the need to lie to my parents so that they accepted our relationship. Then he told me how much he loved me, and that I was strong and amazing. Looking directly into my puffy eyes and streaming mascara, Rob made me feel more beautiful and secure than I had ever felt before.
When we broke up, it was not because we didn’t love each other. Ironically we broke up because we loved each other unconditionally. I now understand “if you love something set it free” to be painfully difficult advice to follow, but necessary to understand. Try as we might, we could not synchronize my college lifestyle with his escalating career. We often talked about our futures, and we realized that our mutual future- could not exist. I want to travel the world and live in foreign countries. Rob likes the northeast, and wants to buy property in the suburbs outside of Manhattan. While our hearts align, our goals and lifestyles conflict.
In the past couple of months, dating hasn’t been easy. I find my friends turning to apps like Tinder and Bumble to meet significant others. I’ve tried using Bumble and have met matches, but I remember what that initial seed of love feels like and I haven’t recognized it with anyone new. Those closer to my age seem eager to talk about the short term and not expand upon what the future might hold. I often find myself puzzling over what drives two people to become madly in love with each other, and wonder if love lasts over the years or is fleeting like everything else in the confines of limited temporality that defines my generation.
When the rain pours and the thunder cracks, I think about red wine and green eyes. I’ve come to realize that for all the convenience our instant society provides us with; what we really long for, is something that lasts.
Don't Be a Fopdoodle
We’re going to play a game. It’s called “where is the lie” and you have to determine whether the following statements are true or not.
Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world.
We have five senses.
Dropping a penny from the top of the Empire State building is deadly.
Confident with your answers?
If you’re like most people, you’re wondering why I’ve repeated the “facts” you learned back when commanding the tire swing yielded unprecedented playground power.
However, maybe you’re one of the few that knew all three statements are false.
René Descartes spent much of his life working in academia to discover the fact that he exists. Well. Isn’t that something. Okay so the outcome wasn’t entirely remarkable, but Descartes did prove that we must test our perceptions of the world.
Like only the best people do, Descartes loved playing with wax. Through this love he proved how limited our views of the world really are. Descartes held a glob of first class wax and observed its shape, texture, size, color, smell, and so forth. As the game goes, Descartes then held the wax over a flame, and watched these characteristics change completely. Now if Descartes listened to his senses, he would have believed the melted wax to be a completely different thing and would spend his entire life as a fopdoodle (which is old speak for foolish man). Descartes was no fopdoodle and knows the senses are not always accurate. He concluded, "something that I thought I was seeing with my eyes is in fact grasped solely by the faculty of judgment which is in my mind". AKA your mind determines what is ultimately true or not.
Don’t be a fopdoodle. Think about the things you hear, and figure out if they’re true or not.
The Retarded Genius
There was a boy who did not speak until age 3, could not read until age 7, and was considered “retarded” by his teachers for his slow development and defiance of authority. He was a bad egg- a troublemaker, who would not amount to much if anything at all for that matter. The boy developed a habit of whispering sentences softly to himself before uttering them aloud. His parents became increasingly worried and took him to the doctor to figure out what was wrong.
Today, the school the boy attended in his youth has a new name. The Albert Einstein Gymnasium. As for Albert’s slow verbal development, it was not stupidity that caused him to utter sentences at such a slow rate, but curiosity. Most people take things that come easily to them for granted. Albert did not. One of these things was speech. As he rolled different words around in his mouth, Albert observed an everyday phenomena that no one seemed to appreciate.
While others wondered about the mysterious, Albert chose to puzzle over the commonplace.
Albert explained, “When I ask myself how it happened that I in particular discovered the relativity theory, it seemed to lie in the following circumstance. The ordinary adult never bothers his head about the problems of space and time. These are things he has thought of as a child. But I developed so slowly that I began to wonder about space and time only when I was already grown up. Consequently, I probed more deeply into the problem than an ordinary child would have.”
Albert’s childhood teachers thought negatively of him because he wondered over rules and whether the rules in place actually spurred his learning. He resented the school's regimen and teaching method. Albert wrote that in the Luitpold Gymnasium, the spirit of learning and creative thought was lost in strict rote learning. The people that criticized Albert have died and been forgotten. Albert has died too, but he has not been forgotten. He will be remembered for the rest of time. Because he did things differently, he has a different place in history than those who deemed him “retarded”.
No it’s not too late to curb your misled health habits now- there’s hope for you still. Now, are you sitting down?
Friend, I’m here to tell you that the almondmilk shake trend bespectacled doctors solemnly swear by, is in fact a farce that essentially messes with the steady beat of circadian rhythms. What now? You’ve steadily avoided the hormone ridden excretion from factory moo-makers for this healthy alternative, what credentials does this Renz lady have to undermine your health patterns. While I am no bespectacled doctor, I do know a thing or two about bees.
Perhaps you swallow bees for a unique party trick, or play it cool and ignore them when they buzz near the meniscus of your lemonade. Regardless of the way you interact with bees, most people view them as pests and care less about the major role they play in our lives.
If you’re not a robot, you probably eat food. And if the latter is true, then every third bite of food you eat comes from a plant visited by a bee, touts the National Resources Defense Fund. Great, now what’s the beesiness with almonds again?
No one likes an asymmetrical apple, so we christen our crops with pesticides. In turn, bees take to the field and pollinate veggies and fruits, spreading these “helpful” toxins indiscriminately. Out of all the crops to tend to, almond trees require the most pandering. In the groves of California almond trees need a whopping 80 million bees for seasonal pollination. According to Gene Brandi, a California beekeeper, that requires 85 percent of all available commercial hives in the United States.
So while you thought you traded in hormones for the ultimate health elixir, you really settled with an alternative ridden with far more pesticides than your average fruit bowl. But maybe you buy your almondmilk from a farmer that raises crops in a sealed off world like biosphere two. If that’s the case, kudos to you and your resourcefulness, and please, do comment your provider.