Sunday, April 2, 2017

Why Your Employees Don't Like Your Offsite Meetings

Hi-di-ho! Lately I have felt more and more like writing, so perhaps you'll see a few blog posts. It was actually interesting going back and reading some half to nearly complete drafts from a couple of years ago. Not sure if I will finish those as well or just start with fresh writing. In any case, this was a piece that I felt like publishing on Linkedin, but due to obvious ramifications with employers and that it would be perceived quite negatively (despite companies insisting they want honest feedback so they can improve), I figured I would just write it here.

Anyone who has worked in corporate America has been to one: the annual offsite meeting. For those unfamiliar, it is common for companies to host a meeting at a venue, typically a hotel conference room, hire a speaker to come in and talk to the company about something the company leaders find pertinent to, and perhaps lacking for, the company and/or the employees. It's part motivational speech, part educational lecture, sometimes part team building, and rarely very influential. Now, leaders will typically place the blame for the lack of impact squarely on the shoulders of the employees. It is assumed that folks who don't take the meeting seriously are negative influence on the environment, and sometimes there is truth to that. There are feelings that the company is doing something valuable for employees and that they should reward the employer by taking everything to heart, putting whatever the topic of discussion was into practice in the workplace, and that it should yield the desired outcome the employer had in mind when they picked the speaker.

Nothing stated above is really outlandish, and I am sure that managers and non-managers alike can think of the cancerous employees in their workplaces. They are only a small fraction of the problem, though, and I feel there is a much bigger issue that often goes lost on the company leadership. There is a reason that there is widespread disinterest and lack of enthusiasm at such events, and it is not because a cancerous few have permeated the atmosphere of the company and influenced everyone in a negative manner. Employees don't go into these meetings expecting not to get anything out of them. Quite the opposite actually; I believe most employees look forward to seeing a speaker come in to share some insight and value with the organization, and they hope to get something out of the event. The skepticism comes from the fact that the people who need to heed the words are the ones least likely to listen, and those people are the company leaders. To illustrate, I will give a couple of examples.

Take an insurance company whose profitability has suffered for several years running. The company employs at least a good number of smart, competent people who have not managed to fix the issues causing the lack of profitability, but the reason for that comes from IT resource bottlenecks and dated sophistication relative to the competition. For this offsite meeting, a speaker is brought in who speaks about Progressive Insurance and their innovation in motorcycle pricing segmentation. The speaker goes on about how they created a positive risk selection mechanism for their company and forced their competitors into an adverse selection downward spiral. The speech is very well articulated and insightful. The leaders of the company picked someone who addressed the issues at hand quite well, and the problem is not that the employees did not hear or understand the message. The management did not live into the lessons and takeaways. What message does it send to your employees when you have someone lecture on segmentation when you then turn around and tell them they can only take a flat base rate increase (in laymen's terms, the most unsophisticated, broad, across the board change you can make that only serves to throw a company further into the aforementioned adverse selection downward spiral)? What does it communicate to the pricing actuaries who developed a by-peril rating algorithm years earlier and were not allowed to implement it? The end result is you have a group of employees that feel like management not only does not trust their talents enough to solve issues by bringing in someone to highlight issues they are already aware of and have not been enabled to try to fix, but that the message that is being preached falls on deaf ears.

Further, let's look at another example. A company brings in a speaker to discuss workplace behaviors and leadership styles and meshes it with the company culture and goals. The exercise is engaging, encourages participation and contemplation. It is designed to make people fit in and make the company seem like a very employee environment-centric company. The speaker talks about how companies that succeed tend to employee a workforce whose styles and attributes align with the types of goals the company sets, and proceeds to unveil his view of the company's artifacts, that is, the explicitly communicated objectives from the company's website or other materials highlighting what the company strives to be. What does the exercise show? Well, that the work force does not align at all with their communicated objectives. Instead of learning from this and either changing the goals and external messages, or working to emphasize shifting the environment to better suit the established objectives, they continue down the path of executing on a strategy that runs contrary to the values set forth in their messaging, persist with the clash in what is asked and what is expected, and seemingly ignore everything that the speaker highlighted in his presentation. Again, what does this communicate to the employees?

At the end of the day, there is responsibility held by each individual to put in the effort to learn from and incorporate the knowledge acquired into his/her work. That much should not be disputed. To what extent an employee can do that, however, is largely dictated by factors outside of his/her control, and that is where the leadership of a company is so important. All too often, when middle and upper management demonstrate time and time again that they are blind to the damage they do to employee morale by hosting offsite meetings and not living into the message communicated. At best, it is disappointing to employees, at worst, it is patronizing. One thing is for certain, though, in order to truly get the utility desired from such meetings, companies need to have buy in at all levels of the company, and that means the leaders at the company most of all.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Rape Culture

First post in quite some time. This post may or may not be a return to somewhat more regular writing. I have need for catharsis and lack of motivation playing tug of war right now, so it's anyone's guess which of those two will win on any given day.

This next topic is a sensitive one, one that I think really creates an adversarial response between individuals. In this day and age, it's easier and easier to lack empathy when so many communications are not done in person. The lack of interpersonal body language, the lack of any real consequences from our communications when we are speaking over a screen, and the ever increasing selfish mentality of your average 21st century individual all contribute to topics becoming verbal war zones instead of mediums for progress. As such, it's easy to avoid these discussions entirely for many people; it feels like a fruitless effort that will only result verbal tirades and harassment, because, you know, God forbid anyone have an opinion. Well, I am jumping into the fray, albeit in a manner where the reach will be virtually nonexistent. Still, I feel the need to get some things off my chest; this post is going to be a blend of reason and emotion, so bear with me.

By coincidence, I seem to have really been in a heightened number of situations where some of the typical gender roles, stereotypes, or judgments have come into play of late, and while I suppose nothing is new or unique about any of these occurrences, the fact that they've come in a compressed timeline is what has elicited an even stronger response than normal from me. One has been the nice guy/safe guy role. This is upsetting to me, not because I feel that it negatively impacts the quality of my life being such or being labeled as such, but because of the broader implications of it. Many will say I don't give myself credit for things, but my counter is that it's not a reflection of me, it's just that our culture has set the bar so low that it's unfair to feel any sort of validation for the praise. Here's the thing: maybe in some ways I am a more compassionate person than the average individual on the street. I don't know, I cannot be the judge of that, but that doesn't negate the fact that there are some things that all human beings should think or behave like by default, and they don't. The mere implication that there is such a term as "safe friend" is really all that needs to be said. How utterly disappointing is it that people are so generally untrustworthy, selfish, or both, that there are designated people to fit this role in another's life? Shouldn't not taking advantage of a situation be it physically or emotionally be a display of basic human decency, not something to be lauded (or even in some instances used as a derogatory term)? I'm not going to sit here and pat myself on the back for doing things such as not actively taking advantage of an intoxicated or distressed person who is not thinking clearly or passively taking advantage of a situation either (she kissed me is NOT an excuse). Whether you're the person that a same sex friend trusts his/her significant other with knowing you're not going to do anything to betray him/her, or whether an opposite sex friend feels comfortable putting him/herself in maybe more of a compromising situation knowing you're going to look out for him/her, not exploit him/her, you're really only being asked to not do anything morally reprehensible. This, to me, is a clear indicator of "rape culture".

Now, to clarify something, I don't necessarily agree with all elements of how some people portray this term. Like any movement, things will be dramatized or just looked at through too narrow of a lens to appropriately assess some of the other elements applicable to the situation. I completely agree with the sentiment that we need to educate people not to rape. There needs to be more discussion about consent, behavior, accountability, etc. I don't, however, agree that we as a society "don't teach people not to rape, we teach how not to get raped" in the strictest sense of that remark. Growing up, no one teaches you it's okay to rape someone. You do get taught that you cannot and should not rape someone, that it is illegal, a heinous act, etc. Is it to the degree that is appropriate or necessary? No, but to suggest that we neglect to teach not to rape and put the sole responsibility on people not to get raped I think is not quite correct. Along the same lines, I completely agree what a horrible and insensitive question "well what were you doing there that time of night anyway?" is. I don't, however, think that this is something exclusive to rape cases or part of an active way to single rape women out in a sort of "war on women". I think this is a response common to any sort of action where someone is located in an unsafe area at an unsafe time. If I was walking through a high crime area wearing an expensive watch late at night and got mugged and had my watch stolen, I guarantee I would be questioned why I was walking there at that time in the first place. It's very insensitive, and I think being raped is a more traumatic experience than being mugged (speculation on my part, and of course is subjective) which would sort of amplify the insensitivity that much more. To say that it is a specifically targeted statement is not something I agree with, though. Also, just as a brief tangent, I think psychologically there is a component here that while the person asking this question (and it's not just people commenting on a situation who had nothing to do with it, this applies to friends and family who may also ask the same insensitive question, possibly for the reason I am suggesting) does not feel that the victim is the primary culprit or driver of the event, these sorts of situations occur without the aggressor present. Specifically from the friend/relative perspective, emotions such as anger will accompany ones of sadness or concern because there should be some anger when a crime is committed against a loved one. Because the criminal is absent, though, that frustration can be expressed and misdirected in an inappropriate manner unintentionally in the form of a "why didn't you do more to prevent this?" sort of question. Does it excuse it? No, but I think differentiating between the action being active or passive helps determine how to best address that sort of response. After all, there is not one solution that would best address both apathy and ignorance.

The problem is, though, that oftentimes the focus gets shifted to a battle of semantics, extremes, and personal attacks, and we don't focus on what is important: the issue itself. Seriously, why is every little detail more important than the overall problem to many people? And look, I'm the first one to say that there are bad people in the world, there always have been, and there always will be. People have been raping, murdering, and stealing since the beginning of time. Nothing is going to change that. But that, like arguing semantics, is not a reason to not try to do better.

It is bad that people see me as an exception, not a rule, when it comes to being a "safe friend".

It is bad that I have had to pretend to be a boyfriend at a bar or club because of the actions of other men there.

It is bad that I have had to accompany a girlfriend walking back from a store through a parking lot because of the catcalls and aggressive behavior towards her.

It is bad that men back off drastically more often only when a man is also present with a woman, and it's also bad the mentality that men have to defend this. The best way I can describe it is this: if your response to women getting catcalled or harassed is along the lines of it just being innocent flirting or what not, what would be your response to the same thing happening when you are walking down the street holding hands with your girlfriend? If your retort is along the lines of "that's different because I am there with her", you are the problem.

And you know what? I understand where some of the feminism blow back comes from, but men, you have to get over it. Yes men can get raped. Yes, men suffer from domestic violence. Yes, men get objectified. At the end of the day, the average man is 5'8" and the average woman is 5'3". Average weights are a bit harder to come by, but the average man probably weighs somewhere between 170 and 190 pounds, and the average female weight varies much more by age, where younger women average between 120 and 140 pounds, and older women between 130 and 160 pounds. The average man has 30-40% more muscle mass than the average female. The fact of the matter is yes, victims come in all packages, but from a sheer biological perspective, which sex has more to fear? I've heard the argument that if a woman hits a man, it's a bad double standard to say that the man cannot hit her back and using the term "equality" to justify it. I'm not saying that a man is supposed to just stand there and be assaulted, but a man hitting a woman is not equal to a woman hitting a man. You have more muscle driving the punch and longer arms that will generate more angular momentum. Unless that woman is a well trained martial artist or boxer, there's nothing equal about a punch for a punch in that scenario.

One of the things that a band that I like and respect very much, The Courtesans, said in an interview that they consider themselves "humanists", not feminists. They said they often get told that the terms mean the same thing, but their reply is and that the word feminist is a "sexist expression in itself", and their sentiment is that the focus needs to be on equality, not on females. They focus more on the connotation that comes along with the terminology, and by focusing on the issue of equality, and perhaps distancing themselves from what negative criticism goes against sort of the very extreme "feminists", that it is a more constructive and positive way to make progress. I already loved them prior to seeing that interview, but afterwards, I admired them that much more because they get it. In fighting against sexism that is culturally systemic, a lot of the responsibility falls on males. Make no mistake about it: preconceived notions about gender roles hurts men, too, and men need to realize this and help change it. The more we combat sexism and help women obtain the equality that they deserve, the more it also liberates males from having to be judged as well. The double standards in what is expected between the different sexes are terribly unfair, more so to women, but also to men. Women are looked at in a negative manner in many circles for being more sexually open, and conversely, men are seen as less masculine if they aren't going around trying to sleep with as many women as possible. Women should not have to hide their sexuality in order to avoid shaming, and men shouldn't have to give into this sort of "conquest" mentality to avoid being shamed.

As someone who falls into the latter category, I can empathize with the situation females probably have to deal with far more frequently than many males do. Any sort of "flattery" a person is supposed to feel from being physically desired doesn't make up for the frustration or disappointment in knowing that there are people that desire that alone when it's not something you're interested in. You also end up running into situations where women are innately distrustful (and who can blame them?), which ends up hurting the nice guys who truly are doing things out of genuine altruism and not with any ulterior motives. It's sad to see friendships or relationships fail to form or stall out simply because a guy is "too nice". A problem I know that I have, too, is that the combination of really just liking to give to others, being comfortable enough financially to do so, and at times having the tendency to want to help others more and more the worse and worse I mentally feel as a flight mechanism of dealing with my own problems (others' issues are always easier to fix than your own) all converging, making me particularly vulnerable to this. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to compare my experiences to those of the average female, but the point is that failing to recognize our inherent gender biases, roles, and stereotypes hurts everyone, and even if your problems are worse than someone else's, it doesn't invalidate the other person's feelings. No one's suffering is good regardless of how severe or minor it is.

If I can have people take something away from reading this, it's to be empathetic and have courage. Guys, put yourselves in a woman's shoes. Think about what it's like to have a bunch of creeps pursuing you with dishonest intentions. Before you go thinking about how unfair it is for females to criticize men or to discredit their opinions or emotions, stop and think what it must feel like, what experiences they've had to make them feel that way. Think as though every woman is a woman you care about who you'd be extremely upset if another man was inappropriate in his interactions. Don't let other guys get away with being crass and disrespectful in the way the speak to or about women. In these sorts of scenarios, there are many times where a lot of people are afraid to speak up, but once someone does, either others chime in, or people say after the fact "I was thinking the same thing, I am glad you spoke up". Being willing to do this can inspire others to do the same. Even if you're not part of the problem, per se, be part of the solution. Ladies, guys don't have it as tough as you do, no, but it doesn't mean they are free from issues or that they somehow don't get hurt over things too. Focusing on how men being part of the solution is a far more constructive and less confrontational approach that focusing on them being problem. Operating under the premise that guys cannot be sensitive or that their emotions are invalid just plays into the same gender role issue that we're trying to escape. There's too much work to be done, progress to be made, to have a divided, adversarial front, and both sides need to work together. We don't seem to like to do that on most fronts here, so, ladies and gents, why don't we mix things up and give it a try?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hybrid Post - The One

The other night (more like a week ago now, but I fell asleep when I originally started writing and never finished) I got to pondering, as I often do, and on this particular night I was thinking about the concept of "the one" or "the girl/guy of someone's dreams". I opted not to go down the logic brain "that's such a futile pursuit, statistically" path, and instead pondered the human element of it. The why of it isn't hard to figure out. People are dreamers, by and large. We have these ideals, these conceptualizations of what each of us defines as perfect. No matter how unrealistic, we often cling to these as though life could not continue without them. What I was more thinking about was how those desires change over time. How would you characterize it? As my mid twenties will be turning to my late twenties sooner rather than later, it's easy to succumb to anxiety over such matters from time to time. While I am at a good place in my life right now, and I firmly believe that if nothing in my life changed that I could continue on with the status quo and still be quite content, there's still the white elephant in the room, the "don't you want a Bonnie for your Clyde?" Sure, wouldn't we all? But what I think varies from individual to individual is how strong that desire to find "the one" is, how shaken one's belief becomes that the person exists, and, ultimately, how much is a person going to temper his/her expectations and standards to satiate that desire and to fill whatever void feels like it needs to be filled?

The biggest element to this is, of course, time. We all are steadily inching closer to our deaths with each passing second. We all have aspirations and things we want to experience and achieve before that moment comes. For many folks, whether it be a true desire or simply a biological instinct, that includes having and rearing offspring. That, of course, has the greatest time element to it of all things. Taking that out of the equation, though, life really isn't so short. In fact, it's quite long, and we have a tremendous amount of time to pursue all of our desires with far fewer restrictions than we think have, as I believe many of those are self-imposed. Yes, we change as we age, but to say that "things won't be the same" or "I won't feel the same way" are really just weak excuses. Of course things would be different; we exist in an environment that is constantly evolving around us. That does not mean that different is bad or that it prohibits continued enjoyment out of one's pursuits just because some arbitrary age milestone was attained. Even as physical limitations begin to play a role, we have the flexibility to shape how our lives change and mold that change in a manner that best suits what we feel is optimal. The more you really start to assess where these time constraints come from and where the barriers are forged, the more you tend to discover they come from within.

Now, the above is probably almost universally applicable, but it doesn't mean that it solves anything for most people. That's why people ultimately do temper their expectations with what they look for in a partner. Perhaps at the beginning of this crusade "the one" looks a certain way, shares from a list of interests, has certain personality characteristics, is at a certain point in his/her academic or professional career, etc. In time, maybe the suitable age range to date widens a little bit, and that PhD in particle physics who also competes in triathlons, shares the same favorite movies, and also wants to retire to the Swiss Alps morphs into someone who merely has a job and is pleasant. It's a bit different for everyone on how much they will compromise on and how long they are willing to stare father time in the face without blinking. Is it worse to be alone or to settle? Where's the balance? What's the best shade of grey?

Well, let's go completely outside of the box and throw away "the one" and replace it with "the all". The answer to the "either or" question is not the "either" nor the "or". It's impossible to meet one person that fulfills every single aspect of perfection through one's self's eyes. Knowing that, why try? Why set yourself up for disappointment? Why project impossible expectations onto the people you come into contact with? What good reason is there for doing that? It can't be found in one person, but I believe it can be found in all people. It can be found in a lifetime. It can be found if we are willing to open our eyes, but more importantly, open our minds to the possibility. Learning to love globally, to cherish the best in folks, to not project one person's characteristics onto another, to find the good qualities, the qualities we feel are best in a person, and to store it and take it to heart, that is where the ability to do this lies. It's a state of pure appreciation, unhindered by jealousy, immune to so many of the other pitfalls associated the more conventional approach of singular passion. My feeling is it is a much more positive approach to living, not only in the manner it can help foster positive relationships with others, but also in the sense of fulfillment and appreciation within. I think it's a wonderful thing to be able to admire individual characteristics in all sorts of different individuals without looking for all of those things in one person. While I'd never name names in this, you can believe there are people's characteristics that I deeply love or admire, and I could rattle them off. I can sit here and say "Jane Doe has absolutely beautiful lips", "Sarah Doe has the most wonderful and inspiring outlook on life", "John Doe has remarkable artistic ability", "Doris Doe is a truly wonderful parent", "I love Debra Doe's hair", "Joseph Doe's work ethic and dedication is admirable", etc. I can do that and honestly feel very fortunate that I have shared pieces of my life with these people, and I can collect all of those things that I love and commit them to that lifetime collection. It's something that I don't think I would have ever imagined myself doing, but now that I look at it like that, I find it an interesting exercise.

Here's the thing that I realized, though. I was not the first person to think this in some sort of incarnation. In the car, it dawned on me that another individual did something like this in a song. When Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack was asked about his song Antonia, he revealed that the song was not about a person, but a collection of people, although many of the items were inspired by then drummer Tony (appropriate given the name of the song). That Pierre takes these quirks, traits, and interests of actual people, attributes them to one individual, and then presents it in a manner such that listeners probably believe that the song is based on an actual person goes to show that the exercise that I discussed above is one that is not out of the realm of possibility. This is why Motion City Soundtrack is a band that has kept me a fan over the past 10 years, despite me not necessarily listening to them much anymore or enjoying their latest album. Justin manages to capture a lot of beauty and emotion in unconventional ways. Below is the song Antonia, which is off their third full length album, Even If It Kills Me, which I think is easily their most underappreciated album. I think you could make a pretty strong argument that it's the best album of their discography lyrically, and the music is still in line enough with their signature sound from their first two albums. Ultimately, it's my second favorite album of theirs, which it probably took me three or four years to get to that point. I'm glad I did develop a further and further appreciation for the album and for Justin Pierre on EIIKM, and perhaps you could say I may have even filed away something for my own personal Antonia in the process.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Season of Change

While I need to finish off some work this evening, my need for catharsis has trumped my need for finishing the task at hand and getting a good night's sleep. Autumn is upon us, evidenced by the abundance of pumpkin everything and myriad of comments about the weather. It's the most polarizing season for me - I very much feel it is the greatest time of year while simultaneously fighting off the psychological ghosts and ghouls that accompany me this time of the year. By definition, one would call this seasonal affective disorder, but this... this is different (as most people with seasonal affective disorder would probably claim, I am well aware). I assert this is not a case of denial because I am so forthright with my emotions, and over the past couple of years, I have developed a far greater awareness as it relates to my moods and how they are connected with the feeling side of me instead of the thinking side of me. For years I have known why autumn impacts me so; the problem extends far beyond five years ago, but five autumns ago saw the catalyst that brought everything to the forefront, and each subsequent autumn has further contributed to the difficulty waiting to confront me anew each September.

Why is it that autumn impacts me so? Well, it's the season that evokes the most emotion from me by far, which is always very trying for me. It is the time of year that coincides with all of my most vivid memories. Very nearly all of my greatest emotional occurrences fall within this timeframe, both positive and negative, and when you combine that with the changing weather and very distinct imagery, it's a sensory assault only further accelerating the journey into yet another period of days turning to weeks turning to months trying to stave off negativity and subscribe to the "this year will be different" line of thinking. In an attempt to condense the explosion of emotions into a nice, succinct package to at least partially explain the background psychology of the season for me, I'll say that all of my best and worst memories call autumn its home. This starts from childhood, where the memories more center around unadulterated joy - tag in the backyard was most fun in the cooler weather, the World Series was the height of my sports excitement each year as I rooted on my Yankees, and as I got a bit older, my own baseball season commenced this time of year. Halloween was the time of year you could be anyone in the whole world, a truly wondrous proposition for a child. And while we feel sorrow as children, I believe we don't have the intellectual capacity to have comprehend the depth of sorrow in our youthful years. It's actually quite interesting to think about: joy is often associated with something that is pure and simple, whereas sadness is one of the most complex emotions we can try to describe.

Later on in life is where the complexity came along, and all the notable timestamps fall within this pesky three month time period of the year. The numbers on the calendar could be any numbers, but we're wired to notice trends, and when the trend is that these experiences all occur within a certain window, it can be difficult to try and convince the brain that the window is not to blame. It was autumn where I found out what was wrong with me had a name, the day that I could no longer run away from the fact that the way I felt wasn't going away on its own. Relationships in my life have been few and far between, but they have commenced and ceased in or very very close to autumn. The greatest joy and the most excruciating pain have occurred in these months. Having your heart become consumed by the deluge of love violently cascading without any regard to what is in its path is unlike any other feeling, as is the feeling when that tide sweeps back out to sea, taking far more back with it in the process. I have seen my identity lost and found in this season. I have had my hope renewed, my confidence shattered, my emotions boil and freeze, I've hurt so badly because of things that I've had happen, things that I've seen, and perhaps most of all because of decisions I had to make. I've had my heart broken and I have broken someone else's heart. I've fought and fought, and I've also been so exhausted that I felt like giving up. I've found some of my greatest friends in the entire world in this time of year, including my dearest friend of all. I've discovered the music that has shaped much of the more recent past of my life. These memories all come rushing back along with the cool air. They force their ways to the forefront of my awareness with the playback of a song or the sound of a child's gleeful scream. As humans, we all have to deal with these sensations, but it's each individual's ability to cope with the sensations that define how much of an impact and what sort of impact they have on us, and unfortunately, for me, I was never endowed with much of a mechanism for tackling such issues.

I think heading into this autumn I had more conviction around the belief that this year would be different. Things in my life have been going pretty well, and I am happier than I have been in years, all things considered. Now, whether it be coincidence or if there's truly something to this "season of change", it of course has to happen that life would just throw some curveballs out there just to get me thinking. I think I have maneuvered that path okay so far, but that seed of doubt has been planted, the cool weather has rolled back in, and I have felt the anxiety rising within me, particularly having spent a week out of town from work in a place that houses some of the most vivid memories of mine (as fate would have it, the route from the hotel I was staying at to the office took me down a road that was the same route taken to go to a Halloween bonfire back on someone's farmland back in 2008). In contemplating this all, though, and thinking about my desire to try and make this autumn a great one to "break the cycle", it occurred to me that maybe that wasn't the best course of action, and perhaps a futile one, in all actuality. The more I thought, and the more I listened to some music, the more I felt that I had it all wrong. So often I think we have such black and white approaches to dealing with sorrow: either run from it or embrace it as our identity. Now, maybe what I was proposing was not to run from it, more to try and shove it aside and replace it with something else. Other times we wallow in our gloom because it identifies us. What I thought about, though, is to try and do neither of those things, to just try to see and understand the beauty in sorrow. I don't know that there is ever any "conquering" it, but some form of coexistence where it makes you appreciate and understand the role sorrow plays in the broader gamut of all human emotion is perhaps the best way to try and approach it. We don't try to appreciate that we feel sad, but we appreciate that we feel, period.

All in all, I don't know if this approach will be a beneficial one or not. It's certainly well-intentioned, and it seems to make sense to me (now), but I could just be digging myself a hole and no one would ever think to tell me as I could be just any other grave digger this spooky time of year, right? I do believe it's worth a shot, though. I cannot run from the seasons, rather than trying to run against the current, perhaps this is a way of riding with the current. Autumn is the season of change, so I may as well try something new!