Check out “Mulberry Stories: Conversations Between an American Daughter and Her Mother”

This month, my Mom and I were asked to write an ongoing series for Asian Fortune, one of the leading publications for Asian American news. We aptly called it “Mulberry Stories: Conversations Between an American Daughter and Her Mother,” and it will feature our ongoing conversations about cross-cultural and cross-generational conflicts.

We’re thrilled that  a week after the series launched, our story is currently featured on the digital edition’s front page.

MC asian fortune

These themes, of course, are those addressed in Mulberry Child movie, and will play central to our second book [a work in progress]. If you haven’t already, you can check out the trailer to the film below:

 

You can also check out more about the film on its website: www.mulberrychildmovie.com

Elusive happiness: On 27 and feeling like a failure

 

Adult
[From Buzzfeed: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/life-in-your-early-twenties-vs-your-late-twenties]
It seems to be a perpetual theme—one that you almost smile in recognition of. You see yourself in the meme, and you feel a certain sense of relief. Thank GOD, I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who thinks that at 2_, I have not achieved what I thought I could; my days are not what I imagined it might be; and I feel like I’ve failed at life.

Yet for all the comic relief, the reality is less rosy. Just because misery loves company doesn’t mean it’s any less miserable. The doubts creep in: was I ever as smart as I had always believed? Am I really that unique, that talented? Are my parents the only people who really believe in me… well, because they have to?

The doubts are further solidified by people who seem to be put on this earth just to make you feel bad, to ensure that in case, just in case, you thought you were smart, funny, valuable, here was hard proof that you are only mediocre.

How did we get here?

We expect extraordinary to be the baseline: We live in a culture where extraordinary is celebrated: the best athletes, the best singers, the smartest minds, etc. Accomplishing extraordinary things is aspirational, and it is the inspiration these stories spark for which they are featured in newspapers, books and films. There is nothing wrong with admiration. But, the problem is that particularly in American culture, we believe everyone should be extraordinary. Ordinary may as well mean dunce, and scoring average implies you’re the village idiot. We cannot come to terms with the fact that perhaps, we are simply ordinary. And this fights against every ounce of us that has been told since we were kids that we can be anything we want to be, if we just try hard enough. When the bar is unrealistic, dissatisfaction ensues.

Digital peer-to-peer transparency is killing our sanity: Illusory superiority would also have us think we’re better than those around us, which makes not being as successful/happy/liked as the next chick all the more painful. What’s changed in the hyper-transparent and insta-world in which we exist is that we are bombarded with constant reminders of how we are measuring up to our peer set: minute-by-minute, second-by-second. If societal expectations weren’t enough of a stress factor—because let’s be honest, society tells us there’s more social equity in being a consultant than being a street peddler—we now have constant access to/reminders of how our peers, who we shared the starting line with, have more success or better lives. We’ve forgotten to even remotely understand, define and make peace with what actually makes us feel whole.

Fragmentation is splitting our minds on the direction of happy: I would argue there are two schools of thoughts to this—that fragmentation, gamification, multitasking, etc., are broken down into:

  1. Those who believe that this is the future, and therefore we must all adapt to the new reality and embrace it; and
  2. Those who believe that we are doing ourselves a great disservice by undermining the focus and discipline of yesteryear

Those of the latter opinion might say that our education has been drilled by an Industrial Revolution system (it has) and the same laws of focus and concentration on a solitary direction no longer apply. We need to embrace the future more than hold nostalgia of the past. Then, the opposite point-of-view might indicate that multitasking does not make us more efficient, but rather more fragmented, with shorter attention spans and inability to really process and understand. It drives us in a million different directions, leading us down the path of being a successful doctor, no politician, no artist and dentist, no… Shallow spurts, no informed point-of-view, which leads me to my next point:

We are unrealistic and impatient: I remember rolling my eyes at an older generation who said that Millennials felt entitled to all the benefits of hard labor without having to put in the work. No, I don’t want to be a corporate cog for 30 years in the hopes of being a CEO one day. I don’t want to do the grunt work for Washington pundits for 20 years in the hopes that one day, I can become one. The external landscape is concurrently changing, of course, as the media highlight the extraordinaires: A brilliant programmer becomes a millionaire at 25; a backpacker with a dream starts a global NGO. That should be me right?

I’m not saying that my parents were wholly right. After all, I believe that unless corporations hyper-evolve to meet the demands of a new generation—one that values life over money and purpose over paycheck—they will undoubtedly lose the best and brightest who are already migrating onto an innovative and empathetic start-up world. But there is a point here. Life shifts don’t happen in a day; they take investment and vision. We still need to put forth the effort to reap the benefit, and we’re disappointed when the easy wins don’t come.

We don’t #JFDIN: I’ll leave this one short. We procrastinate. We think we’ll get started with re-shaping the rest of our lives tomorrow. And then we go to sleep and tomorrow becomes today.

We are in a system that is programmed for dissatisfaction: My friend Kora, who I source all my worthwhile reading from, sent me an article entitled, “Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed.” In it, the author writes: “We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have.” Truth.

**

From psyche to societal structures and systems, it seems we were always set up to self-doubt and fail. I’ve said all this, and ultimately, I do not feel like a failure after all. Awareness is a first step. Ownership of the things I can control and peace with the external things I cannot are a second. The best I can do is live each day asking if I’m doing everything I can to make my personal dreams come true. And if I can say I am investing in the days, living fully, and working towards my own definition of happiness—can I… can we—ask for more?

The power of #JFDIN [Just F$%#!* Do It Now]

How I got here

Last week, while watching a Dan Gilbert TED Talk on why we make bad decisions, I heard a recurring theme: Human beings have a tendency to prioritize the present. Or as Esther Duflo says in a Challenges in Global Poverty Edx lecture, “We are thinking that today, the present is very important, but that tomorrow, we will start being reasonable people again. Now tomorrow comes, and tomorrow becomes today.  And again, today is so important.“ We fool ourselves repeatedly.

What unifies my everyday psychology with the one that propels a poor mother to put off immunizing her child because she is so busy today is that today, is more important than tomorrow. She will immunize her child later. I will do it later. That is the power of now, and to Dan Gilbert’s point, why we make bad decisions.

My human psyche has been working against me all along.

Let me elaborate: the secret, giggly joy I used to take out of procrastination is suddenly not such a point of pride or innovative. Performing well despite having waited until the last minute in college to write a term paper or study for an exam is all of a sudden not something that speaks to my brilliant mind [look! I tricked them! I don’t even have to study all semester like the rest of the students! I can slack off all year and still get an ‘A’]; rather it now looks like a crutch that speaks to a common fallacy of the human condition.

What a terrible thing. There’s little worse than, after all these years of feeling invincible, brilliant and special, understanding that this is not it.

Now and Later

JDFIN?!??!??!

I walked forth with a new resolve following my realization: later may as well be never; do it now.

Of course, like many things, this is easier said than done. No, I don’t want to respond to this email right now, I’m going to do it later. No, I don’t want to call Comcast. No I don’t want to call the credit card company to dispute the charge.

How much mental real estate does it take to keep remembering to put off these things, but reminding ourselves not to forget them? How many times do we say that we’re going to start studying for the GMAT soon, but not today, and three months later, we still see not one, BUT TWO GMAT books sitting in the corner gathering dust? How many times do we put something off for so long that it no longer makes sense to even do it anymore?

And the longer we put off doing something, the more we create a mental barrier to doing it. It’s so uncomfortable to now address that we put it off for even longer.

So over the course of a week, I had to continually remind myself to just do it.

No, you don’t want to do it, Lisa? That’s too bad. Do it.” Like pulling off bandaid, I had to keep reminding myself that a bit of discomfort here meant that an unpleasant task was done. Don’t want to have that uncomfortable talk right now? Just do it. Don’t want to write that quick memo. Just do it. Don’t want to write that blog post about doing it now? Just FUCKING DO IT ALREADY.

Results

The result has been a whole paradigm shift in the way I think after 27 years. This is what the new pride looks like. Doing it now is the new procrastination. Being a ‘do’ person is what makes you special.

And the unintended consequence is [speaking back to a conversation I was recently having with my best friend], you are more present. By not taking shortcuts, you don’t feel like you’ve cheated the system with your apathy and procrastination. There is pride in digging into something and finishing it now in a different capacity than the “duping delight” kind of pride [another TED Talk by Pamela Meyer on “How to spot a liar”]. There’s pride in being someone who just gets things done.

And as I get more things under my belt—as I dust the corners now, now now—the more delighted I am at the de-cluttering that naturally occurs. Things don’t get muddled in process; they move.

I never considered procrastination, at least by name, in this whole process until last night, while reading a brief about entrepreneurship and being an independent consultant. Writes Larry Hendricks about the considerations individuals should take when deciding if they’re essentially up to snuff on working independently:

(1) Are you self-disciplined enough to manage yourself and your business?

(2) Can you psychologically manage money well enough to operate your business (have and keep sufficient working capital to finance your airfare and living expenses until you receive your first payment) without getting stressed because you do not have a steady paycheck?

(3) Are you a procrastinator or a ‘do it now’ person?

I know in our American society, there is no better or worse, yet here it was articulated and staring me in the face. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’re sure not going to be successful as a procrastinator. So there’s more than just pride: this is what success looks like.

#JFDIN, just fucking do it now.

5 things I believe about jobs today

How bad is the job market actually?

breadline

Reading articles about leaving your corporate job to pursue your dreams – especially to the likes of TechCrunch, which likes to put out stories like “10 Reasons To Quit Your Job Right Now!” on a fairly regular basis – inspires you to believe that 1) you are unique; 2) you are impossibly talented; and 3) the only thing standing between you and true happiness is your 9-5. So, perhaps quit your job, buy a ticket, get a tan, fall in love, never return. Or quit your job, start a blog, start a business, write a book, sell your business, make millions… never return. (Note, for the latter, it helps to be funny. People who are not funny do not write good blogs. That’s probably why this blog won’t do so well.)

This is also incidentally the thinking that might have you quit your job only to find that you are not funny, not creative and not a leader [great Forbes article, by the way]. You are, in fact, not only unemployed but also unemployable.

On the flip side, the slave-driving corporate pundits, job-seekers and media might have you believe that the world is a terrible and gloomy place. Jobs are hard to come by. Good jobs are even harder. Good jobs in places that have a good culture. Forget it. Hold on and never let go. As James Altucher puts it, “A billion people in China need a job and they are gunning for your cubicle.”

So, what do I think about the job market; enterpreneurship; branching out and the like?

1) Successful people are just successful people: And let me continue this thought. They will continue being successful anywhere. When I was 21, fresh to Chicago with a public affairs internship, I bartended at a popular place in the West Loop to ensure I could eat at nice restaurants and you know, pay rent. I felt superior for having a corporate job and used it as an excuse for when I wasn’t such a good bartender [oh, this is just what I do on the side]. “Bullshit,” my manager said, looking at me squarely. “I don’t believe this crap about, oh I’m great at my day job but I’m just not as good here. When you’re really good, you’re good everywhere.”

Take life as a wandering nomad, for example: scanning through the blogosphere, there are plenty of AWESOME, HILARIOUS blogs that start with, “I was a consultant/banker/actuary working too many hours and decided to quit to pursue my dreams.” Inspiring? Absolutely. I’m 100% one of those schmucks who reads some good, witty writing and responds enthusiastically, “I’m jealous! You’re living the dream!” Let me tell you something else. Did you notice a lot of these guys start out their blogs saying, I was a consultant/banker/actuary? The guy who was a smart, funny, successful corporate cog turned into a smart, successful enterpreneur/wanderlust/funny writer/human.

2) There are jobs out there: I was recently in Belgrade talking to a guy who hosted me CouchSurfing, who, unlike me, had always managed to integrate travel with work, thereby creating slow travel. Although I’ve been to a good number of places, I’ve always engaged in the kind of high-paced travel you are forced into when time is your commodity: even when you have a month–you are constantly on a speed mission to see as much as possible because there is a clear endpoint. I asked him how he lived in all these places and still managed to have such a successful career, to which he bluntly replied, “Honestly, jobs aren’t that hard to come by.”

“But,” I protested, “Take me for example: I work in such a niche, and I feel like the work that I do is so removed from, say, being a program development manager in Lagos.”

“Two words for you,” he replied. “Transferrable skills.”

3) Corporate culture and leadership are defining [and whether the company actually walks the talk]: There are days that I wish I could say that I hated my job. [Ok, there are actually days that I do hate my job.] But most days – especially these days – I actually like my job. A lot. In part, this is because what I do is stimulating: I help corporations address environmental and social issues that impact their stakeholders and business. Sometimes this looks like saving the whales [ok, well, it’s never actually looked like that, but I’m making a broadsweeping generalization about pet-project philanthropy], and sometimes it looks like conducting community needs assessments and addressing, say supply chain economic development opportunities that really improve people’s lives and helps my clients get some positive attention.

But, I’ve also noticed changes of late that tell me the company is really striving to be best-in-class for its people. More holidays, enforcing vacation time and flexibility to name a few. It’s true that in the war for talent, particularly for Millennials who have higher social expectations from their employers, the best companies with the best culture and most interesting work get the best people. You can’t pay me to take a shitty job at a shitty company. This is my life we’re talking about, and it’s worth more than a paycheck. No matter how high. But internship at Kiva? IDEO?

This is a critical component to most CSR programs, and most companies will tell you that a top reason for investing in CSR is to engage employees and create a company their people are proud to work for. Particularly as more Millennials shun corporations to start their own ventures [it’s no secret the days of corporate loyalty are over], keeping the human capital edge involves having a strong culture. This looks like work flexibility and mobility; happy hours; brilliant leadership; global/travel opportunities; advancement; open mentorship; really allowing for intrapreneurship and not just saying it; no caps on PTO; the list goes on. No one is paying me to say this.

I wish I hated my job more because it would make it easier to pursue my life dreams. But I don’t.

4) . You owe it to yourself to follow your dreams. Someone will hire you again: If you are good, someone will hire you again. You owe it to yourself to at least make a go at being the happiest you could be.

A friend’s [who later went to co-found a start-up] former boss at a private equity firm once said to me that the problem he saw with most young people today was that they didn’t take enough risk. “Your 20s are the time to risk it all,” he said. You have time to rebuild later in life. [Read: you are missing opportunities for huge rewards. Little ventured, little gained.]

I often say [to myself because no one else listens…] that I’m more fearful of what I’ll regret not doing when I’m 80 – like not going for something that I knew I really wanted – than risking everything I’ve built today. I mean, I’m 27 living in a one-bedroom in River North. How much can you cram into an apartment? Are you?

5) Media lie about how bleak it is ‘out there’: It wouldn’t make for a very good news article if everyone was happily employed, would it? I’m not saying there are not anecdotally difficult situations out there, nor am I saying that there isn’t an age bias [e.g. easy to get a job as a single, mobile 27-year old with 5 years experience, right?]. What I am saying is that what I see in the real world, where I am gainfully employed, is different than what I read in the papers.

Every time I open a website, every day is a sad day. Like this recent New York Times article:  With Positions to Fill, Employers Wait for Perfection. My goodness, look at this poor man who has been going to job interviews, strung along for months. What do I know about the job seekers market? It might be that bleak for everyone! This is what the world’s like. I’ll never get hired again. ARMAGEDDON. This is like the time in 2005 when my parents called me frantically asking if I was all right because there were riots in Paris, and they saw the burning cars all over the city in the news. Was I ok?! My reply: Riot? Oh, I think they burned a car in the suburbs somewhere. Sorry, Mom, can’t hear you. I’m at a bar! A bar!

Here’s what my empirical data tells me. My company is hiring left and right. My team is hiring. In fact, since I joined it in 2010, our size has grown 400%; we’re hiring a VP as I write. Most of my friends who have left jobs in the past year have left for other opportunities. My clients are hiring.

No, it’s not rainbows and daisies out there. Yes, it’s easier to get a job when you’re employed. Yes, it’s easier to be young and mobile. BUT, reporters need to find voices that fill the narrative they are trying to tell. Just as my views aren’t indicative of the whole, the compelling one-story is that it’s a twister out there. Reporters will find the voices (even if it is only representative of 10% of the population) to color the story.

Conclusion

Net, net, what do I know? I have no market research. I am not a recruiter. I have never been unemployed. I actually enjoy my job. I have a life of personal dreams that I’d love to pursue. I wrote this to draw a line between reality and bullshit, and I’m still figuring it out. Check back with me in a few years, and if I’m unemployable, I guess you’ll know.

 

Total Costs

$2268.85 (not including flights from ORD to Managua; Belize City to ORD)

Expenses included:

All food (18 days eating out every meal, every day… sometimes 5 orders of fish plates in one sitting)

All booze (regularly)

Lodging (mix between 2 4-star hotels, 2 beautiful cabana-cabins, 1 hostel, and 2 less than luxurious hotels)

Internal transportation (2 flights, taxis [including $150 LCE to SAP; $80 SJdelS to MGA; PG to Hopkins; Hopkins to Dangriga], 4 ferries, 1 Ticabus, chicken bus, 2 microbuses)

PADI Open Water and Advanced Certifications ($623.25)

Fun stuff (all day surfing courses, charter boats, 8-hr river hike/rafting, horseback riding, fun dives, clubbing)

Duty free shopping (1 bag, 1 shirt, 3 bottles of liquor… only 2 survived the journey)

Roatan – Day 4

I wake up at 6:20. It looks as though the rain has cleared.

I head over to the Beach House to see if I can get onto their internet today.

The sky is a couple of shades of pink and purple.

early morning sky
early morning sky

I snap a few photos, setting up my computer, but suddenly, within 20 minutes, it is pouring again. The large rain drops splatter quickly and heavily across the porch and sand. I look to the horizon and see nothing but angry, deep grey clouds. The waves look choppy again, surf crashing out into reefs 200 or so meters off shore.

NooOoOoO... raining on Roatan
NooOoOoO... raining on Roatan

Shit, I think, there’s no way we’ll be able to dive today. I’m devastated that it’s going to rain all day.

Doug’s head suddenly pops out of a sliding door, slowly and curiously at first, until the head extends into a full body and he steps out. I’m surprised he is up at 6:20.

What time do you start drinking? I say. I have no schedule, he says. I didn’t drink for 3 weeks this month. Some days I never start.

I have a hard time believing him.

He offers to go inside to check the weather, but when it rains, all technology tends to be a wild card. There is no cable, no telephone, no internet. Give it some time, he says.

Ugh, I said. I just really wanted to dive today.

I write for about an hour, and when I look up again, the only sound of water is the sound of the waves crashing across the beach. The sun is starting to clear, and the dark clouds have given way to fluffy cumulus clouds. It is clear again and I can see at the second dock, Coconut Tree Diver instructors rolling vats of something onto the boats, preparing them for the day.

See I told you, just give it half an hour, Doug says, appearing again, out of the many adjacent sliding glass doors. Figuring out where Doug will stick his head out of next is a bit like playing that arcade games with moles that pop out of holes. You know his head will pop out somewhere, sometimes slowly or quickly, but you’re never really too sure where. Sometimes, he even psyches you out.

Doug can pop out of any sliding door. It's always a mystery.
Doug can pop out of any sliding door. It's always a mystery.

Doug brings me a glass of the amazing orange juice, explaining that he likes to put it into the goblet because it’s the shape of the orange.

Doug brings me OJ and insists on being in the pic
Doug brings me OJ and insists on being in the pic

Wow, I say, taking a deep sip of the refreshing nectar, there’s not even vodka in it this time.

Did you want some? He asks.

No! Not. At. All.

We head to the Blue Channel with Jose in the morning and finish off our certifications with some more mask clearing exercises.  Jose practices blowing water rings and we swim about The Channel, abundant with coral an life.

water rings
water rings

 

fishies!
fishies!

We get back to shore around 2:30, and finally conquer our fears of jumping off the pier.  If six year-olds can do it, so can we!

wooo hooo
wooo hooo

Famished but armed with a sense of accomplishment, Jason and I end up for lunch at undoubtedly the island‘s most touristy place: Eagle Ray.

The restaurant looks like a huge lodge sitting on stilts above the water. And, because it happens to be yet another cruise ship day, while Jason and I sit waiting on fish fajitas and a cheeseburger, we see at least two groups of tourists, identified with the numbered stickers on their shirts or neck lanyards, move through, taking a shot of undoubtedly cheap ass rum and watching a “native dance” out on the deck. Some poor local is wearing a headdress and mask, dancing to a beating drum.

If the cabby was right, then this is absolute bullshit. There are no indigenous cultures on Roatan now period. What the hell was this supposed to be?

But the tourists, in brightly colored button downs, tube socks and sneakers (some sandals) and straw hats clap gleefully.

Outside, the sun is gleaming on the water. I can’t believe that it was torrentially down pouring just that morning.

it turned out to be a beautiful day
it turned out to be a beautiful day

I order a diet coke and am surprised when they bring me a coke zero.

Wow, I didn’t even know they had that here, I say to Jason. I look down at the glass bottle and see rust stains down the side. Apparently no one orders this.

I’m supposed to be back at the dive shop by 4:30 for my night dive, but when we leave the Eagle Ray, we walk past a small floating bar… “the only mobile bar” the sign on the street says, with an arrow pointing to the bar. Underneath, it reads “1 lempira shots of rum”

Sold.

Let’s go! I yell to Jason, trotting down the pier leading to the floating bar pontoon. It literally looks like a 2-story raft, complete with port-a-potties (safely tucked away) behind wooden doors, and a dj booth on the 2nd level.

Jason and I sit down. What’s the deal with these 1 lempira shots? We ask the bartender, an older dude with crazy blonde shoulder-length curly hair and a left nipple ring. He only wears shorts, no shoes and his shirt hangs wide open.

Captain Perry at your service!
Captain Perry at your service!

Captain Perry at your service! he says cheerfully and tells us there are 1 lempira shots when you buy a drink. Sweet, we say, and order 2 Port Royals and 2 shots of rum

I don’t even know what the shit they poured was, but it looked beyond cheap.. Completely clear. I hadn’t seen clear rum since… the states perhaps. The stuff is terrible and burns the entire way down for a nickel…again.. You can’t complain.

Where are you from, an older Indian dude yells from across the bar. Judging by his sticker and tube socks, I assume he’s from the cruise ship.

Chicago, I yell.

That’s funny, Jason says. They only get half a day to explore the island and these guys say fuck it and go to a bar.

Have you got the time, I say, and I glance at a watch nearby. It’s already 4:15. Shit, I say. I have to be back to the shop in 15 minutes to watch a night diving video.

The walk down the pot-hole filled dirty road is bumpy at best. Actually, it sucks, and my buzz doesn’t help to stabilize anything.

I roll into the dive shop dressed in jeans and a tank (at least my swimsuit is underneath).

Monty, I’m ready to watch that video.

He takes me upstairs to the airconditioned offices and we see that 3 people are already watching the video.

Am I late, I ask.

What time did I tell you to come here, like 5:30? No. Then he glances down at his watch. Well, it’s’ 5:40.. Okay yea, you are, he says.

I am 20 minutes into the 23 minute video about night diving when a British fellow working for the dive shop runs up the stairs.

Do you have laundry? He asks.

Yea, I say, breathing a sigh of relief that it is here. We had dropped it off the morning before and it should have been here long ago.

Do I need to go get it now?

Yea, it’d be best, he says, she we pause the video and I run downstairs only to realize that I gave 300 lempiras to Jason for drinks and my lunch and had about 40 lemps left… 2 dollars.

Shit, I say, when I go down there, identifying the trash bag of laundry that belongs to me. Will you hold tight for a minute so I can run back, I say.

Sure, he says, so I take off in a full sprint for my room, grabbing Jason, my camera and 500 lemps along the way

Even though it is only across the street, by the time I am back, they are already loading gear into the boat. I quickly pay the man and run upstairs to finish the video.

It’s a jerk off general.. Just an overall review. When I get back downstairs, EVERYONE is already in the boat. Oh, not this shit again, I think to myself and execute the world’s fastest strip down and gear gathering.

It is dusk when we head out to the water. John hands me a flashlight and Monty tells me he will be my buddy tonight. Thank God. John is an instructor. I feel better instantly.

As we coast out to the Blue Channel, the night quickly falls dark. It always surprises me how damn quickly the sun sets.

It’s going to be nearly a full moon tonight, John says. Man, look at that thing.

failed attempts at taking night shots through a Dicapac
failed attempts at taking night shots through a Dicapac

We look up to see that moon is indeed nearly completely full.. Only a small crescent remains unlit. It casts a bright glow on the now-black water.

Don’t turn the lights on, warns Monty. I know your video tells you to do it but it attracts the jellys.

From his shaved head and his ‘arrgh-y’ accent, you can almost picture him as a pirate. Aye matey.

We plunge into the dark water together, and with the light of 8 or so flashlights, it’s not so scary going down. When we hit the sandy bottom, I can see everyone, as well as the coral formations surrounding the sand.

Monty calls that it’s time to practice using our compasses. In the dark, I am terrified and can’t find my way to north. John grabs the back of my BCD and guides me. Dammit, I think. I fail.

We explore the Blue Channel as a group. Illuminated by nearly a full moon the colors underwater are bright, made even brighter still by our flashlight beams. A woman in our group is equipped with an underwater camera and she is furiously snapping photos while both kicking us.. And coral.. In the face.

John pulls me back by my BCD, signaling that we should let the crazy woman pass. Idiot, he writes on his board, shining his flashlight over the letters. I try to let out a laugh on my bubbly exhale.

There are lobsters at night, crawling out of holes. The lights reflect off shiny spots on their shells and we can see into their little beady eyes. The fish are busy swarming, feeding, swimming.

We swim around coral, underneath it, and just when I start to feel comfortable, I look below to the upward sloping coral and suddenly notice that we are ascending…. And fast. I see coral all beneath me. The water gets shallower and shallower and I have no idea how or where to descend. I see John’s light underneath me. We need to descent. I can almost see the moon through the water overhead

Crap I think. I try to let all the air out of my BCD, following John’s descent to the bottom. I see his bright lit flashlight sink deeper and deeper into the water. Soon I don’t see it all all.

Fuck! I think. I am panicking and hyperventilating. I shine my flashlight below. All I see is coral beneath my feet.

Fuck fuck fuck! Where do I even descend?! I can’t descend into a bed of coral.

I am gasping into my ventilator, full blown freaking out and before I know it, I feel my tank surface. I jerk my head up and suddenly, I am above water, staring at the boat in the distance and black water lapping against me.

Remembering what Monty had said about jellyfish and attracting them with lights, I shine my flashlight to the sky and wave it about furiously. Shit! I think. And I’m probably going to get stung. Where the hell is John.

Panick subsiding, I float on the surface, unwilling to descend on my own. I figure, after all, that your dive manual tells you that when you lose your buddy, you should surface and find each other on the surface instead.

Within a few minutes, I see the glow of his flashlight grow brighter and brighter. As I feel more bubbles surfacing, I finally begin to relax. He is coming for me.

To my surprise, two heads pop up on the surface. Hello

Is everything okay, John checks. Are we ready to descend?

Yea, I think so, I say.

Is it cool if I just go with you guys, the other guy says.

Of course, John says and the three of us descend comfortably into a swirling mass of bubbles.

I check my air. Still at 1300 PSI, so I am good, but the other guy it seems is low on air, so after a 3 minute safety stop, all three of us surface and swim for the boat. I am only thankful that I haven’t been stung by a jelly.

Jason is the only one left at the dive shop when we get back to shore. He is chatting with Reid’s parents, smoking a cigarette.

Give me a drag of that, please, I say.

How was it? Would you do it again?

Yea, I think so.

That’s funny. I think that’s the first time I’ve heard that tonight.

To be sure, I add, I did have a panic attack halfway through.

Finally, after many a lame night, tonight’s a night for some bonafide drinking. We pregame a bit in our party cabana and hit up Captain Perry’s floating bar, the Reef Rider, for more 1 lemp shots.

At Captain Perry's reef rider
At Captain Perry's reef rider

Captain Perry has a deal with Shark Cave and the Noodle Shack where you can order food and they’ll deliver it straight onto Perry’s floating bar. Excellent. We get three orders of noodles with curry and peanut sauces and take a few shots of cheap rum with a Port Royal back. The noodles are the most delicious that I’ve ever tasted.

excellent noodles
excellent noodles

Bisch shows up for a minute on his way down to Sundowners.

Hey Bisch, what does your face book say?

Earlier in the day, when Tree had logged into face book to check on some pictures, the account had logged straight into Bisch’s.

Hmm, what to write, Tree asks, and we all shout suggestions. Finally he settles on David M “is loving life.. Diving.. Sucking cock.” Apparently P.J. was not so amused when Bisch asked to log into facebook because apparently, he liked penis. What’s more, when Bisch had gone to log out a couple days ago, P.J. had pulled the plug on the computer before he had an opportunity.

It’s fine, P.J. had said. You’re signed out.

Are you sure, Bisch had asked.

Yea, P.J. assured, and lo and behold, he hadn’t been signed out after all.

Since the big boss was to blame, the big boss announced that moving forward, there was no more facebooking.. or any personal usage of the work computer.. anymore.

Bisch has a beer and says he needs to head to Sundowners for a few. I ask him to tell John to get here so I can buy him shots. As far as I’m concerned, John has saved my life tonight.

Cheers John. Thanks for saving me on the night dive!
Cheers John. Thanks for saving me on the night dive!

When the crew returns to Perry’s, the torrential rainfall returns, and we all climb the ladder up to the second story lounge behind Perry’s DJ booth to light up a splif.

Eventually we head to Nova and the Dive. Each time my beer is gone or my rum empty, Alex offers a refill. Within 20 minutes at the Dive, Reid is dancing like an asshole and I am spilling rum left and right.

Reid breakin down
Reid breakin down

 

who remembers this one?
who remembers this one?

Cyn, please walk me home, I say, and she holds onto me as we make our way back amid puddles of potholes.

Back at the cabana, I somehow manage to pull out my contacts and change into PJs. To my surprise, Alex also shows up at our cabana 20 minutes later.

I asked you not to go anywhere, Alex says.

I know, I say, that’s why I left.

I am asleep within 10 minutes but he stays for a splif with some of the others. Or so I am told.