Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Lorraine and I took our baby down to South Carolina for a week to spend some time with my family. One day we all went down to Charleston, to go on a tour of the city. Charleston has some great history (first shot of the Civil War). During the tour, the guide mentioned that there was some fancy lady that wrote the lyrics to “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…”.Most famously from the opera Porgy and Bess and sampled in hundreds of songs since (I know it from Sublime’s ‘Summertime‘).

I was struck by the lyrics when the guide sang the song to us. Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. I think that I understand what the lyrics refer to: People like to relax during the summer. And why not, it is beautiful outside. The office space that I work out of is almost empty on Fridays, so called “Summer Fridays”. But that is almost exactly the opposite of how my summers have been.

My family has always worked the hardest during the summer because they are in a summer-centric business. They own and operated a chain of retail stores in beach towns. Summertime is a stressful, hard-working time when almost all of the money is made in three months, where the weather plays into profitability, and you are heavily reliant on a constantly turning workforce. Starting in college through this past year, I was working with my family in said business. The days were long and the environment was often stressful during the summer months.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 7.44.28 AM
One of the Beach Towels Sold at my family’s stores

There were some good and bad habits that came out of those summers. On the positive side, I learned the disciple and stamina needed to work for long periods of time and how to stay calm in stressful situations. I did not intentionally set out to gain those skills, but both have been invaluable assets in my life.

On the negative side, I have been hardwired to associate summertime with high intensity work. I feel wrong, almost guilty, when I am not at full speed in the summer. Which can make relaxing difficult. I have tried to turn down the intensity this summer by working a little less and spending more time with my family. It has been a lot of fun, but definitely not low key. So far we took our new daughter on a tour of Charleston, to the beach, the pool, on a ferry, on two 15-hour car rides, on the subway, to an Indian restaurant, and obviously Central Park.

Maybe the lyrics “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy” is not made to apply to me. I am ok with that.

 

 

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Why I Write

I first started writing this blog a year and two months ago as a challenge to myself. Over time I found that I am enjoying writing more and more. But why? I thought about that question, and here is what I came up with:

  • It has been a great creative outlet. I think about what could make a good post pretty regularly. I have lists of blog post ideas in all different places. It has been fun to trigger the part of my brain that thinks more creatively. The first 15-ish blog posts would take me over 4 hours to write. I would start off with an idea of how I wanted the entire post would play out and try to fit my writing into that structure. But inevitably, as I actually wrote, the blog post took on a life of its own.
  • People (you!) read my blog, and that’s pretty cool. It is a great feeling when someone lets me know what he or she did or did not like about the blog post. It is really interesting to see which people enjoy which posts. Also, knowing that people will read what I write motivates me to put in the time to write.
  • I get to express some parts of myself that I would probably never talk about, and it feels good to be that open. I feel like if I ever went to a job interview, and the interviewer says, “Aviv, I want to get to know you better” I could go the blog on my laptop, spin the laptop around and say “Boom!”

thumb_boom_rm

  • I read over my blog to remember what I was thinking about at different points in time over the past year+. You know how sometimes you get really into a book, and you are like “I am going to do ALL the things in this book!” and then 2 days pass by and you completely forgot that you read the book? Well it is nice to have a place that captures how I felt about specific things at specific time where I can look back and say “oh yeah… that was really cool… I should do that.”
  • It is also a fun way to capture my mindset at different life stages. I think it is going to be a trip to read back on this blog in 10 years and see what I was thinking about before my daughter was born.
  • Most importantly, writing has helps me understand myself. It makes me think. Oftentimes, I am not aware of how I really feel about a subject until I sit down for a couple hours and write about it. It isn’t until I put pen to paper (so to speak) that the ideas become clear. And the clarity of the ideas leads to more clarity of mind.

So, thats why I write. The journey to here has been fun. And I am curious to see where it can go.

Why I Write

Time

Its funny how my concept of time has changed since I had a child.

Time moves slower

…when I am around my daughter. When she is awake and aware, she grabs all of my attention. I do not need to try to be “in the moment” because there is not other place to be. The four weeks that she has been alive is full of moments that I vividly remember. Like last Thursday when I sat on our couch, feeding her at 5am, as the sun rose in NYC.

Time also moves faster

I cannot believe that it has already been four weeks since she was born. I almost cannot differentiate between last night, when I slept in my own bed, and when I was sleeping on the chair the four nights we were in the hospital. It is a little bit scary how fast time seems to be moving.

I am more aware of my own time

I want to be around my daughter as much as I can, so I feel more accountable than ever to spend my time wisely. Mainly that applies to work, where I am pushing myself to accomplish the most important tasks in a reasonable amount of time. Whereas before I did not feel anxious when I worked all day, I now feel the need to leave the office. I understand that my presence is what is essential for my daughter, and I am making better use of my time so that I can be around more.

Other people go back in time

New babies seem to enchant everyone around. Every day when I get back home from work, Lorraine and I take our daughter for a walk. People regularly stop us and tell us…about themselves. Usually they are reminiscing about their children and how great it was to raise them. The phrase “special time” is used regularly.

IMG_2615

Ultimately, it became clearer to me that time is the most valuable resource that I have in my life. And it is the only thing that my daughter needs from me right now. If I want to be a good father, then I need to spend time with my daughter. My life demands that I give more respect to time now, and I have found it to have a positive impact. As I am more thoughtful of how I spend my time, I am also more fulfilled by how that time is spent. And much of that time is now spent feeding, changing, and soothing a 4 week old girl.

Time

My daughter has my toes

My daughter has my toes.

15-_C6A1785

Two weeks ago, Lorraine and I had our fist child. A girl: weighing in at 7 pounds 9 ounces (I feel like a boxing announcer) and 21 inches long. Lorraine had a C-section. At some point in the operating room, the doctor handed me our child. Then I sat there for 15 minutes holding our first child in one arm and Lorraine’s hand in the other, as they stitched Lorraine back together. I was overcome with emotion.

 

Back to my toes: they are really long. I can pick up all kind of things with them. They are almost like monkey toes, except I don’t have the displaced thumb. They are designed for sprinting; an extra little spring to give me a competitive edge. I am sure that if I spent a little less time eating cookies and more time sprinting up hills, that their true potential would be shown. I am proud that my daughter has inherited these highly evolved toes.

Eventually she will start training to be an Olympic sprinter, but in the meantime, I have been enjoying watching her take in the world around her. Everything is new for her. Air is new, the sun is new, trees are new… and eventually a fresh lemon will be new. Every new thing elicits a new face. She has enough faces to have her own brand of emojis.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 6.39.59 PM

People warn you that you are not going to sleep well. Good job everyone; I was mentally prepared for that. What I was not ready for was the helplessness that I feel when my daughter cries and I cannot figure out what is wrong.

Overall I am just excited to raise my daughter. It has been a blast so far, and I imagine it will continue to be fun. I am sure I will make some mistakes, but I feel positive that I am going to do well.

Pressie Ruth Shamah, welcome to the world.

My daughter has my toes

Stairs, Cancer, and Babies

People in New York City practically run up the stairs in the subway. Usually there are two lines: the line on the right is for people that are going up the stairs at a slightly accelerated pace and the line on the left is for people that are really hustling.

subway+stairs

My father was visiting me in 2013. At the time he was not able to keep up with the pace of stair climbing that is the standard in New York City. He was constantly tired as we walked around the city. I remember giving him a hard time for being out of shape and not being able to keep up. Maybe I was even judging him…. Let’s be real, I was definitely judging him.

Turns out that my father was constantly out of breath because he had cancer. His colon was bleeding causing a lower level of iron in his blood, which is essential for your blood to carry oxygen to your body parts. My father was fatigued because his body could not distribute oxygen efficiently.

This story comes to mind when I sense myself judging another person. It reinforces for me how important it is to give others the benefit of the doubt.

With my father I could not have known, and in fact no one knew, what was going on in his body at the time. And that is exactly the point, that in most instances we are not fully aware of the circumstances that are causing specific behavior.

It is human nature to want to assign causality, and we often use our own experiences to frame our assessment of others. But we do not really understand what other people are going through in their lives, and it is wrong for us to make assumptions that make us feel negatively towards that person.

Lets be creative with our assumptions, to shed a positive light on the person’s actions. Maybe the man running through the street is trying to get to the hospital because his wife is giving birth. Maybe the man taking his time to order coffee is completely discombobulated because he just witnessed childbirth. Maybe your coworker is short in conversation because his child kept him up all night. (All potential things that could happen to me any minute.)

Ultimately, I feel that when I am less judgmental I am also happier. I guess it feels good to think the people around you are also good.

Stairs, Cancer, and Babies

Red Light, Green Light, 1. 2. 3.

My friend Mary told me that at her company they start off meetings with each person identifying their overall mood by colors. Green= Good. Yellow=Ok. Red=Bad. The idea is that if you understand you coworker’s mood, you can better cater the conversation.

Today I was red-ish.

Red-Traffic-Light

I was red-ish because I had a stressful workday. When I think of where the stress came from, It goes back to a change in my mindset after college.

College:

I had little to no direction with what I wanted to do. I applied to the most esteemed program in the business school, because “why not”. And I did the minimum needed to graduate with the grades that I needed to feel good about myself. I learned, played rugby, and had a pretty good time. I was almost never anxious or stressed.

But when I graduated I had no idea what I was going to do. The week after I graduated, I was in my father’s retail distribution warehouse unloading boxes from a truck, crying. I had no vision or direction.

So I made a conscious decision to be in the driver’s seat of my life. Which brings us to

Now:

Where I am pushing forward in many areas of my life, including work. At work, we have goals, direction, and plans. And things are moving forward.

But sometimes, like yesterday, things just don’t go smoothly. You planned, you had a goal, you had direction, and it didn’t work out to your expectation. And it’s stressful.

So how do you remove stress but still have direction? How do you have big, hairy goals and not be let down if you don’t reach them? Is stress a necessary byproduct of moving forward?

I don’t have clear answers. But after writing the previous 337 words, I have some clarity and ideas.

Stress is not always a bad thing; there are many times when I feel positive stress to get something done. A form of pressure and excitement rolled up together. Negative stress is usually just fear. Fear that things wont work out.

Maybe I should be working on reframing my stress. Instead of worried that my customers wont get their orders now, be excited that the process will be more seamless in the future. And work to get it there.

Maybe.

I am feeling green-ish now.

Red Light, Green Light, 1. 2. 3.

Trump-ing to the voting station

I am happy that Trump is running for president. Not because I think that he is a good presidential candidate, but because he has scared me to the point where I am paying attention to politics for the first time in my life.

In the summer of 2007 I studied abroad in Argentina. I was there during the mayoral elections of Buenos Aires. The residents of Buenos Aires took voting seriously: there were rallies leading up to the elections, people spoke about the elections regularly, and the election day was a work holiday. The environment got so intense that my program took us to Uruguay on the day of elections in case of riots.

I attributed the emphasis on voting to the turbulent Argentine history. Argentinians have been through some rough economic times and a dark period of a military government. It made sense to me that someone who had been through that would take voting for his or her next leader seriously.

trump-nopeI never felt that sense of urgency in voting. In general I felt that whoever won the general election would maintain my way of life. But now, for the first time, I am fearful for what the future president might bring. I fear the loss of freedoms that I currently enjoy. I can envision a path to a more oppressive government that attacks groups of people, and perhaps one day I fall into one of those groups.

 

This November I am going to be voting for the first time in my life. I am spending time to better understand the candidates’ positions and what is really important to me. I am excited about the process, and am genuinely interested. I might even start voting for senators and local officials.

Donald Trump has helped me appreciate the liberty of voting, and I plan on exercising that liberty to keep him out of office.

Trump-ing to the voting station