Health As Virtue

I don’t really want to be one of those people who rails against ‘American culture’ because who even knows what that is, anyway. But I guess I’m going to just for a sec here because I can. Something I’ve noticed for a long time. Americans often consider health to be a virtue instead of like, an attribute. As in, good people are healthy and bad people are not.

You are unhealthy or sick because of the choices you have made. You did this to yourself and therefore you deserve whatever unpleasantness, illness, or disability that you are dealing with. I am healthy because I am smart and make good, moral decisions and therefore I deserve whatever good things may happen in my life.

Consider the old adage, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I am all for making healthy choices, I really am, but let’s take a second here. Going to bed early and getting up early is not a healthy choice–it’s just a choice. Getting adequate sleep is a healthy choice, but when you get that sleep is totally immaterial. It is generally easier to sleep when it is dark outside and be awake when it is light but even that isn’t a requirement (see: people living in polar-adjacent areas). There’s so much more to unpack in that phrase but I can’t right now, I think you get my drift though.

Being healthy is great but we’ve got to remember that health doesn’t always come down to our choices. Human health is full of risks and chances, things that happen just because they happen. And because we live in an imperfect society, our choices are also often very limited; money makes a huge difference, as does education, culture, and access to preventive care.

I’ll be frank with you. I would rather care for every need–including the every single one that does genuinely result from ‘bad choices’–than willfully neglect a human being in need. That’s the real healthy choice: caring about everyone. There’s a whole lot more to say on the issue but that’s what I’ve got for you today.


Please pardon the dearth of cats on here this past month, I wanted to try to just focus on what I was saying. But now it’s March and regular content can now resume so here is a fairly substantial gallery of many furry friends. I hope that it in some small way atones for my cat-related negligence.

I just love them all so much. Very blessed to have so many precious kitties in my life. I will especially never get over how cute Béégashii and Jenny are together. They’re all just such excellent cats. I love cats.


The other life news that I have is a little bit scary to share, to be honest. Because nothing is certain and I kind of feel like nothing is real until it actually happens and because I’ll feel like a ginormous loser if it doesn’t happen but I’m a loser. Plus, it’s arguably the biggest Thing (maybe even only Thing) to happen to me since at least August.

I am being flown out (that’s right, I’m not flying out, I’m being flown out) to a second interview a couple time zones over this coming week. I am super excited about the job primarily because a) it is something that I actively really want to do right now and b) I already have friends in this potential new city and that would just make things a whole lot easier and nicer.

Hoping against hope. Trying not to hope too much because my hopes have been dashed (or maybe more accurately, slowly withered away until their dust so completely disperses that it’s difficult to tell there ever was hope to begin with) so many times before. I’m anxious about the interview itself–it’s forecast to be in three parts and take up two complete hours. I’m also a little anxious about traveling–not because of a virus of any kind but because traveling generally makes me very anxious no matter how often I do it.

But anyway. Enjoy the cats. Care about people no matter what. Join me in hoping. Please please oh please.

Avatar Aang

My sister requested more cats and it would be unforgivably remiss of me if I did not comply. Here are a couple pictures of her precious ones. How are cats so cute. I for real cannot handle it. Yes and forever.

If you have not seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, I highly recommend it. Both because it is, in my humble estimation, deeply excellent, and also because this post is going to have pretty much the largest spoiler. You have been warned.

The show is great because it’s a goofy children’s show that takes place in fantasy land. But at the same time, it takes on a lot of heavy issues. Not just things like bad parents and awkward relationships. Literal, actual genocide. The whole premise of the title comes from the fact that all the other airbenders were massacred in a war a century ago. It may not look at genocide as deeply as an adult show could, but it definitely doesn’t shy away from it.

This week, I had a sudden and intense urge to rewatch the grand finale of the series. It’s a four-part, hour and a half, episode that includes the culmination of all the storylines and a happy little denouement. In particular, I was interested in seeing again the titanic battle between Fire Lord Ozai and Aang. Because of how it plays out.

And here’s the spoiler (that really makes sense, in the quasi-Disney children’s entertainment sort of way): Aang doesn’t kill Ozai. They spend three seasons trying to come up with a way around murder and come up empty. Aang asks a bunch of his past lives and they were all telling him to do it. Even the peaceful airbending Avatars. Something about needing to sacrifice your own spiritual wellbeing for the sake of the world.

But Aang, this random twelve year old gentle soul, refuses. When it comes down to it, even in the midless Avatar state, he does not kill. He does something probably no human has ever done–he takes away Ozai’s bending. He’s not just thought outside the box, he’s done what had been heretofore impossible, unthinkable, and unknowable. But he did it, and it was perfectly executed (pardon the pun).

I just think it’s kind of an incredible feat. Not just the act itself, which is obviously avatar-awesomeness. But that someone was so utterly convinced all life was sacred that, even on the brink of essentially the end of the world, he refused to bend the principle. Not saying that we should precisely follow in his footsteps.

But it is a heartening reminder that principles matter, integrity matters, even when it seems like they’re barely the dust on a villain’s shoes.

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I have been enjoying some lovely days (we’ve had some pretty trash days, too) though for the most part it has remained rather more chilly than I’d prefer. On Sunday, we had surpassing good weather, pure sunny and even getting up above 70. Now, of course, we’re back in the upper 40s, but still some sun mixed in with the rain.

Flowers have been blooming and that has been a great comfort to me in this trying season. Trees haven’t quite gotten the message that they’re meant to have leaves by this point but they’re getting there. Deciduous trees. I know they can’t help it, they were born that way, but couldn’t they just try to be coniferous?

Not much else to say, other than the (apparently, unfortunately) annual cycle of job applications has begun in earnest. So far, I’ve only applied in this country (sad face) but I’m up to seven states. Here’s hoping. I’ve given the Great Lakes a go, let’s see where to next.

Really About the Same

If you are not familiar with the artist Mary Engelbreit, I highly recommend her work, it’s playful and thoughtful and beautiful. She often accompanies her pictures with quotations or aphorisms that add greatly to the scene she depicts. One of my favorite of her works shows a traveler having just passed a fork in the road, walking down one of the paths. The sign at the fork points that direction and says YOUR LIFE and the other direction is labeled NO LONGER AN OPTION. The banner above the picture reads DON’T LOOK BACK.

This week had a lovely start at the Maritime Parade, a seasonal fixture of Gig Harbor. It’s officially summer, basically. Though we feared rain or at least overcast, the weather turned out to be warm and sunny, which was fabulous. It wasn’t much as parades go but it was fun and my brother was marching with the high school band so that was nice.

In the intervening days, I had several opportunities for catching up arise all at once. I felt very grateful to have time with old friends, catching up and passing the time. Waffles were made, games were played, and years worth of lives were recounted. Sometimes the routes we’ve taken surprise even ourselves. On that note.

One of my biggest poetry pet peeves (because that’s definitely a category of pet peeves that I have) is Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Robert Frost is in my top three poets of all time (with Edna St. Vincent Millay and Emily Dickenson) but come on. I cannot pretend to know exactly what he was thinking when he wrote it, but there is substantial evidence in the poem to support my titular thesis about that particular work: he did not, in fact, take the road less traveled because “the passing there / Had worn them really about the same.”

This, I think, is the crux of the narrator’s point: it does not matter whether you actually took the path that fewer took, it matters mostly that you chose a path. The title, you’ll note, is not The Road Less Traveled (as some erroneously believe), it is The Road Not Taken. The important point is that there will always be a road (correction: many roads) that we do not take. However we may justify the choices that we make for ourselves, good or poor, the important thing is that we chose. One cannot go back.

I could have gone to Columbia to study Russia instead of Trinity to study… whatever it was that I studied there. I could have stayed at home until I found something a little more suitable than a job in Korea which, to be honest, I did not really want. I could have come out a long time ago and probably saved myself a lot of trouble. I could have pursued any number of opportunities and avenues and possibilities and skills. But I did not and here I am.

A friend recently told me in a moment of incredibly clear and concise insight that my life has basically been a series of random choices with little coherent meaning. Except he said it in a kind way.

“I think your problem is that even though you have done a ton of incredible things it has usually not really been part of a plan beyond going abroad which means even when you do talk about it you feel insecure because when you have to explain why you do anything even to yourself you know the only real answer is that it is because you had to do something.”

A fairly accurate assessment of most of the choices I’ve made as an adult. It’s not even a bad thing, I don’t feel like I’ve made a series of mistakes (most of the time). I have directed the course of my life with very little thought to a grand plan which I sort of thought was going to be a plan when I was in high school. But at the same time, it’s not like I’m thirty and have been working as a bartender with broken dreams for the past ten years. I have actually done stuff with my life, plan notwithstanding.

My life would be very different if I had made different choices at some key intersections. I feel, though, that the roads would end up being really about the same. Experiences and things would be different but my general, overall existence would be approximately comparable. Having given life a go in a number of varying contexts, I think I really could have made most of those decisions work. I think I would be okay.

If happiness and life were simple, I should probably be seriously getting down to work being a Croatian orchardist. But they are not. So I’ll continue to make decisions that are just this side of random and have faith that mistakes are mistakes but mistaken choices are less mistakes and more just different paths that, in the end, are probably not that different.

All of this is to say: I have received and accepted a job offer. It is, needless to say, not quite what I had in mind. This post has dragged on long enough or I would provide some more details.

As it is, suffice to say that it is in Michigan. So there’s that.