Just (Don’t) Do It

A reformed overachiever rewrites her definition of success

By the time I was 12, I had written two novels. I had read Shakespeare’s most famous plays. I had created a glossary of a thousand words and phrases; English was my second language, after all, and I—a new refugee from Iran—felt compelled to master it. In my elementary school diary, I wrote that I would move to New York after college, publish my first novel before 30, write for The New York Times, and be “the proud mom of a shaggy dog.” I had many goals—most of them seemingly unrealistic—and yet, I achieved them all.

To say I was Type A would be an understatement. I checked off all of the associated traits: competitive, outgoing, ambitious, impatient, aggressive. I was a “high-achieving workaholic,” according to numerous online personality tests—an embodiment of the American ideal. That description felt like a bonus. After all, who is more American than an immigrant?

Then, somewhere around 2012, I cracked. The paint chipped, the gloss peeled, the canvas scraped. This was no decision of mine—I would never have abandoned my career fetishism willingly. I became very ill with late-stage Lyme disease, and I suddenly had no choice but to become an entirely different person.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]What happens when your dreams become interrupted—chronically, but perhaps terminally, too?[/quote]

First, the chronic illness robbed me of critical cognition—including my capacity to read and write. Then I was bedridden at times, able to maneuver around with a cane or wheelchair at others. At one point it took away my ability to swallow, and I had to consider a feeding tube. In my mid-30s, I moved back in with my parents. I went into a sort of hiding. Assistants pushed out posts on my social media so I could feign wellness for old work contacts while I spent days in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering how my story could end like this, but no longer having the imagination to put it together. I began to think: What happens when your dreams become interrupted—chronically, but perhaps terminally, too?

While Lyme ravaged my body, it ultimately elevated my spirit. It took disability to slow me down, to finally heed my therapist’s counsel, to try meditation because I could do nothing except…nothing. I grew into the kind of person who took walks, read self-help books (the really good stuff, from psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross to Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön), and listened rather than orated. I became a sponge for advice and eventually a repository of self-care.

[quote position="right" is_quote="true"]I dream of complete release from that paragon of American virtue.[/quote]

I now strive to work less, to be less informed, even. I dream of complete release from that paragon of American virtue, the hyper-vigilant, hyper-conscious, hyper-productive model of a “successful” human—while still being fed the pervasive narrative by society that the tortoise beats the hare, that sometimes the story of Western ambition does not end well. How to “just be” but also “just do it”? Merging the two signals seemed an impossibility—if it weren’t for that ever-elusive sparkling concept, balance. The sick-me had to teach the healthy-me the unexpected serenity and expanse of simple existence.

Gone were the days where I could barrel through a full day of teaching followed by back-to-back meetings, then drinks with a colleague, plus a party or two, minimum sleep with an early morning alarm to get to the gym. That life was no longer an option. I even became that person who would really chew my food, while recalling the months prior when I couldn’t manage to swallow. This gratitude, coupled with an aversion to my old life, led me to dismantle anything that induced stress, from people to places to habits. Now, I observe more than I act. I prioritize sleep over production. I make sure friends and family are part of my daily life, and reserve time to check in with myself. Not much happens, and that’s the point.

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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