Just Words

Blind, deaf, Cerebral Palsy, paraplegics, words, and more words. Aren’t these just words? Do they really mean anything? I mean, seriously. They are just words attached to certain medical conditions. Both having a disability and hanging out with disabled people helped me realize we were just like people without disabilities. We just can’t do certain things, but find other innovative ways of accomplishing things. We live successful lives and have hobbies. In my opinion, having a disability is just like being labeled as tall if you were vertically long.

You wouldn’t call a bald guy disabled! Yet, society doesn’t see disability that way. Society seems to find it not normal, something that deviates from the norm. It is labeled as a medical condition and treated as such. We are looked down upon with pity. Sometimes being labeled as helpless. We are people in need of charity and are not capable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, only 17.5 percent of persons with a disability were employed, compared to 65 percent of those without a disability.

Ready? Time for a paradigm shift. I want you to think about disability, not as a disability because we are not all that different. We all live on Earth, for one. We all need water, food, shelter to survive. We all have hobbies and contribute to society in some way. Most importantly, we are all human.

In the end, we are all part of the human race. We all want to be treated as human. We all want an equal chance to succeed in life! Next time you see a disabled person say hi! We are just like you. Most of us won’t bite!




Why Technology Can’t Save Us From An Alien Invasion!

Technology can’t save us from an alien invasion. There, I said it. Technology has brought us closer together by letting us access information a million miles away in a second. Technology allows us to talk to family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers far away. It has created faster ways of doing things, such as travel. Yet, it has pushed us further apart and lead to social isolation.

Aristotle once said that “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual.”

Humans are social creatures wanting to be with loved. Humans long for interaction and connection. The majority of us want to be with family and friends. We want to make friends. According to researchers, Oxytocin, the hormone associated with nurture and bonding is produced naturally as a response to social separation and related stress. It produces a general sense of well being. Yet, we (me included) are on our phones and laptops than ever. It is claimed that we spend 8 hours and 41 minutes a day on technology! Today, we much rather be on our phones than interact with a fellow human being. In fact, talking in person or on the phone gets kinda awkward. (Crickets chirping)

This doesn’t help when we need human interaction to solve problems. It might seem straight out of a science fiction movie, like War of the Worlds or Independence Day, but technology won’t save us from an alien invasion. It takes human interaction to come up with solutions to problems. Together, we can gather different resources, different ideas, and come up with an excellent solution. More than if we do it alone. Being invaded by aliens is a big problem!

Even though alien invasions are highly unlikely, we have problems that we need to solve on a daily basis at home or in the workplace. Isn’t it time for a paradigm shift? Isn’t it time that we promote human interaction? Hey, we need it for general well- being anyway!



The Art of Music: Music as Medicine

In these turbulent times, we need more music and less politics. Music can help bridge the differences and bring people together. The power of good music can be felt universally throughout different cultures. Music can bring similar emotions and bring to light similar past, present, and futures experiences. From all walks of life, music can move us to tears or bring us to joy. Music can bring us together in a way that words cannot, that politics cannot.

When politics can tear us apart and create barriers, music becomes an effective means of communication. Not only can music be felt in the same way from all walks of life. It can define us as people. All people need music. According to artist Theodore Bikel, “Human beings are in need of music — not as frill and luxury but as a basic necessity.” Nietzsche noted, “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

It has been proven time and again that music has very beneficial effects on the human body. In a number of studies, music can:

  1. Music can make you happier
  2. Music can improve your health, such as lowering blood pressure
  3. Music can reduce depression and anxiety
  4. Music can keep an aging brain healthier 

Anecdotally, iconic bands such as the Beatles and the Police could be enjoyed by all people. We could all find some meaning in music and connect it back to our shared experiences, such as loss.Through music, we could find similarities. Music is a universal language; all of us could find comfort in listening to music, so isn’t it time to promote music– one of the only things that can bring us together?



What Is Your Legacy?

Memories flood my thoughts, as I reminisce of a past not too long ago. The stories I shared with so many people are still stored in my mind. Both the good and the bad stories. I can’t believe that I shared it with these people; I wouldn’t change a thing. These people made me who I am today. They have been through my good times and my bad times. They celebrated my successes and consoled me during my darkest days. Yet, isn’t it sad to know that life is more than who we are? Time goes on and people move on without our approval like a revolving door. People come into our lives and then leave when we need them the most.

I often miss the ones that I wish were here. Yet, they aren’t. I wish they were still here when I desperately needed their company or advice. I desperately wanted them to tell me what to do at a crossroad. But, sooner or later I realize that they are here. Here in my memory and the lessons that they have passed on to me, before they moved on. Their legacy still lives within me as I carry them in my memory and try to pass their lessons on. Trying to make a difference in the world. So…

What will your legacy be? How will you be remembered what lessons will you pass on? Be the best you can be and stay giving. Cause somewhere out there will be someone looking for you, looking for your guidance and love when they needed the most.



There’s Nothing Wrong With Me

I was watching several Ted talks on disability and the medical model and it got me thinking: what if the medical model is doing more harm than good?

The medical model sees a diagnoses, such as a disability, as a problem with the individual in relation to his or her medical condition. A defect that needs and can be cured or fixed. People who are disabled are considered as ‘other’, as defective, weak, and in need of help- subject to pity. They are made to feel less than normal. From personal experience with IEPs, disabled people are subjected to meaningless tests that try to measure intellect (which really don’t) and then put into special classes to try to separate them from the ‘normal’ people. Maybe it’s to solve, fix, or cure their diagnosis? Maybe it’s because people feel pity and try to ‘help’ the disabled? To be honest, it really don’t know why there are these meaningless tests and special classes other than to inhibit potential and other than to make the disabled feel less than normal. These classes have low standards and people are congratulated just to meet or exceed those standards. The medical model doesn’t see potential, rather sees and enforces limitations. Let me tell you a story:

Throughout my grade school schooling in various districts (I will not name them), I was subjected to useless evaluations and tests that try and ‘test’ my progress. One of the questions was, on a scale: can a student accurately copy notes written by the teacher on the blackboard into his or her own notebook. The goal is to show that a person with a disability, like me, could be a functional member of society. If you were high on the scale you were considered normal and if you were low you were not normal. In other words, if I could accurately copy my teachers’ class notes, I would be magically be a functioning member of society. If you think about it, how silly is that! Another question (again on a scale) asked if I could define 15 words a week to the teacher’s satisfaction in order to see if I could write for different audiences and purposes. If i could define 15… not 20… 15 words I would magically be able to write for different audiences and purposes. If I could do all of these and achieve a high score on all of these questions, I am fixed. I am normal. In the end, I scored miserably in all aspects. Had you seen my score, you would not believe where I am at today. I am a college student. I tutor sociology and just served as Head Tutor of Sociology at my university’s tutoring center.

Then there are special education classes, which are somewhat correlated with said tests. These classes have reduced work, lower expectations, among other things. From personal experiences, they don’t show potential, rather set limitations. I was stuck in these classes and fought my way up to get into regular and AP classes. I did exceptionally well and ended up tutoring other students in AP Government.  Looking back, special education classes measures limitations not potentials. A lot of students in these classes are bright and have a lot of potential, but due to the medical model they are limited and consequently think they can’t do it.

What if we had a paradigm shift? What if we saw people with a disability as an asset and as having potential? What if we see them as future contributors to society? Wouldn’t we want them to have the resources everyone else has? My friends, let’s promote inclusion and less separation. Let’s end the medical model.



I was watching several Ted Talks on the commodification of gay people, the gay best friend phenomenon. This is where gay people are treated like ‘a must have accessory’. It got me thinking. What can possibly be correlated to this phenomenon?

Diversity. I am not here to tell you diversity is bad and should be abolished, but unintended problems could arise when we put diversity as number one- as we are now. We are promoting and encouraging diversity left and right, in the workplace, at school, or at the dinner table. Workplaces and schools have mission statements that promote diversity.

At its core, diversity promotes an understanding of different cultures and people. Again, all good. However, when we value diversity above all else, especially humanity, we lose the humanness inside us. We reduce people different than us to ‘a must have accessory’ so we can prove that we value diversity and to show that we are culturally relative. Let’s take the gay best friend phenomenon.

Being gay in society is different (not bad– just different) than what the norm is, which is being straight. Some people acquire gay friends and flaunt them to everyone to show or prove that they value diversity. Gay people have become less than human, just a mere accessory, like a wallet or a purse. We box them into categories; they are no longer a human, but a gay person. Likewise, being of a different race is the same thing. Being Chinese is different than being caucasian. Some people say, they have ‘a Chinese friend’. We don’t hear people say that they have a white friend! You get the idea. In my opinion overly promoting diversity can divide us more that unite us. People different than us are considered ‘other’ and are commodified.

I understand there are people who make friends for the said friend’s quality and personality, not because of their differences. I applaud them for that. I have the most wonderful friends who see me for me, not because I am Chinese or because I am LGBT.  The point is, we are all part of the human race sharing similar experiences. Maybe we should promote humanness and humanity, rather than diversity? Maybe we should see people for similarities, rather than looking for differences?



Why Storytelling?

I have the future opportunity to talk with some people and was I wondering what topic I should talk about. It had to be meaningful, not those generic and sometimes artificial motivational talks. You know those ‘you can do it talks’! After thinking for a while and asking some friends, I decided to talk about story telling and what we can learn from it. Let me tell you my story:

I got a C in history my freshman year at my college. It sucked, but unbeknownst to me, that C lead me on a story (a journey) that I could never imagine would have happened.
Without that C, I wouldn’t have met my friends in sociology who inspire me to succeed every single day. That C gave me the chance to pursue sociology, gave me the chance to get to know an administrator on a personal level, get me to know the wonderful sociology and anthropology professors that helped me grow. Without that C, I wouldn’t have wanted to pursue graduate school, wanted to become a professor, and wouldn’t have dreamed to become a dean. And most of all, the administrator would not have been writing my graduate school recommendation letter. My point is, at that moment, failure hurts and failure stings. In the end, it was a blessing in disguise. Why did I just share this story?

My take away for these people is hopefully that 1) failure is not a means to give up, rather the beginning pages of a great story and 2) stories can help inspire others who face the same predicament.

In sum, we are all human and our lives are made of stories. A narrative that not only defines who we are, but that we share with fellow human beings. I believe that storytelling is extremely important and that everybody has a story to tell. Perhaps, that one story connects with someone that is going through the exact same thing. What if your story made a person feel that they are okay? Everything will be okay in the end. What if through stories we realize we are more alike than different?

So, tell yours.



Tommy’s Hope: Vindicated

Chapter Two: Vindicated

March 23, 2008,  Cincinnati’s Hope Medical Center

I can’t help, but think of how short life is and why people would go to great lengths to cover up who they really are. I guess, if you love someone so much, you don’t want to hurt them. So much so that you rather suffer miserably and let them live happily. Being gay is this, isn’t it? Of course, I don’t want to come out because shit will blow through the roof and I may get kicked out. But, I think it would hurt my family so much, I couldn’t bear the pain too see them that way. Even if it leads to my demise.

I think about this as I walk through this hospital. There must be so many patients who still have secrets too great to tell, but aren’t willing. Aren’t willing just because they knew it would hurt their loved ones. The problem is none of us, none of their family members wears their chains. None of us, not even their family members knows what they are going through. Yet, they are willing to take their secret to their graves. That is unsettling, if you think about it, but that is reality. Reality stings. You know everyone one wants to feel vindicated, wants to feel like they belong. Not everyone gets that.

As I walk through this hospital I can’t help but notice the transfer of life and death here. I wonder if the newborns bear the burdens and secrets of the dead or dying. What if we are all connected someway? We all share the same types of feeling in certain circumstances. We all share the same experiences in our lifetimes. What if newborns bear the same secrets as the dead or dying? What if. Will the newborns share the same fate? Will the cycle end? I want it to end. No secret is too great to tell, if it hurts to keep it buried. But again, I’m naive because reality stings. I really hope reality changes soon. Everyone deserves happiness.

My thoughts fade away as I see a mother’s smile as she holds her baby for the first time. The innocence and the joy. These are the moments that make our hurt fade away. Even if it is just for a moment, it is enough. It is unsettling though, if you think about it. We are taught to be happy all the time. There are self help books, shrinks, and motivational speeches on happiness. But, THIS  is how we get by day to day- sporadic moments- like the birth of a baby. This is reality.

I finally get to sit down for a bit after finding the waiting room. It’s too much, so I  glance at my phone for those social media updates to divert my thoughts. I find great comfort in social media cause I can get away from reality sometimes. Reality stings. Soon after I hear a voice: Tommy? Your grandfather is ready to see you. It was the nurse. I take a deep breath as I walk in. I have one chance to get it right.   



Tommy’s Hope

Chapter One: Grandpa Paul

March 22, 2008, Cincinnati, Ohio

Grandpa Paul has always been a part of my life. We met several times throughout my 19 years. He was there at birthdays and the like. However, as I grew older I began to understand there was much more to my Grandpa than I thought.

Everyone likes to regale about his service as a high ranking government official, but I feel like that is to cover up some of the other things he did. People like to remember and regale about the good parts in someone’s life to wash away the bad parts…. especially when time is near. It seems to be so artificial. It’s like politely accepting a gift you hate. To keep up appearances… I guess.

Now… there has been a rumor that GP (as my family likes to call him) is gay. The rumor goes: when he was young, he had a stint with a guy… well several guys. Nobody knew about it until his former girlfriend (who he cheated on) threatened to tell it all. And she did tell. Whether if it is true or not lies a mystery. There was no evidence that GP was gay… just a rumor that has been passed on from generation to generation. For some reason it also turned into trivia question at every family gathering.

Then a talk on ‘values’ and anti- gay rhetoric followed. Then denial. “Don’t be like Paul,” they said. “Being gay is immoral,” they said. It was quickly wiped away; “oh he couldn’t have been gay, Margery” (my grandma- the matriarch of our family). “Look”, they said, “he led a pretty normal life with a wife and couple kids” (included my mother).

Being gay isn’t bad by today’s standards, but the older generation still thinks it is. But I cringe every time they have this talk. I am gay, and I haven’t come out for this reason. All my friends know, but not my family. Shit will blow through the roof. It hurts, but that reality. If it is true, Grandpa Paul must have felt so hurt.

Hurt because he had to lead this life and not stay true to himself. Like it hurts for me now. I want to find out the truth and if he is gay, tell him that it is alright. It isn’t immoral. To be himself. The problem is GP is dying. Time is running out. The nurse says a couple of hours. Days if we are lucky. I want him to die happy. I mean everyone deserves to be happy.

But, anyway, I am visiting GP tomorrow at the hospital and I will find out.



The Catcher: Tomorrow

Chapter Three: Tomorrow

I don’t know. I am not sure. I just don’t. I don’t know if I can go up to Andrew. Not even a ‘hi’. I hate myself… I really am and I’m gunna blow it… again. Why?! I feel like I am going to throw up. You know what? I’m gunna do it. I mean he won’t notice me after all Springsteen is playing in the background and he is jamin’ out to that so…  he won’t notice me anyway. I thought to myself, I have one chance and it’s now or never, the concert is going to be over soon. Ok.

Wait… no… I can’t. What am I doing??? I am a lean and mean baseball star, who takes no prisoners and I am not a fuckin’ wuss. A weak or ineffectual person. I look at my phone it’s 7:00 pm on the dot. Concert ends at 7:30 pm. Plus, it’s getting a bit chilly out and might just head home.  All I know is time’s running out and he is meant for me… and always will be.

As I walk over, I hear a voice, ‘Hey Oliver.’ I peer over my shoulder to see who it was. It was Will, a teammate. ‘What’s up?’ I don’t give him a response… just a quick nod. ‘Killer arm you got there Oliver.’ I wanted to say Look man, I can’t talk right now… I have one chance and I can’t blow it… but Yeah dude was the only thing that translated into words. Will obviously hasn’t gotten the hint: ‘I haven’t seen anyone with that good of an arm… coach noticed too and he wants you to start.” He paused and continued: ‘you are a starter not a relief.’

Will said something afterword, but I didn’t catch it. It was just blah. I am more concerned with Andrew. I was awoken to reality (it must have only been a couple minutes, but felt like forever) when Will shouted: ‘Are you even listening?’ He paused and continued: 6 am tomorrow for a morning workout. See you there. Ronsen isn’t pitching, you are… get in the game!’ I nod.

Shit. Fuck. Where is he? Shit. I blew it… again!  It’s now or never. I look at my phone again. 7:15 pm.  I gotta find him. I dive into the crowd… it’s a miasma. People are leaving in a very disorganized manner. Bumping into people as they contort themselves out. Then there are those who stay for the last couple minutes. Unmoved by what going around them… just soaking in the moment. I can’t find him. After a couple more minutes… still no sight of him. Shit. I guess time to go back to my car…  I blew it… again! I can’t stand it!

It’s chilly out and I gotta get back home anyway… practice at 6 in the morning… Ronsen isn’t pitching. Then out of the corner of my eye… Andrew. He’s walking over. He shouts: ‘Dude, never thought you’d be here.’ I catch my breath. Yeah dude… Yeah. What a fucking coincidence. Andrew continued: ‘great show eh?’ Yeah… killer show. Andrew I guess sensed something: ‘What’s wrong?’ I gasp… he cares… me? Andrew continued: ‘Look… we are from rival teams… but you don’t have to act that way. Hi, I am Andrew. Nice to meet you.’ I exhale harshly: Nice to meet you… I am Oliver. Look I am not mean… I don’t know how to say this… I mean… we only just met face to face… I mean off the field… again I… Andrew nodded… slowly taking it in. ‘Whew. Don’t worry, I won’t judge… spit it out.’ I like you and always… I sighed and held back my tears. Andrew came in and hugged me, as if we known each other for forever. He whispered: ‘Don’t cry, I know. Me too… me too.’