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Well, it is the day after the elections and I am still feeling pretty numb over the outcome. But, this numbness has been qualified by a disappointment I honestly didn’t expect.

I am disappointed in many of those who voted for Clinton with me.

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve read so many posts and overheard so many conversations that have reduced Trump supporters to racist, sexist, anti-LGBTQA, white xenophobes. Is there an element of the Trump political movement that represents each and every one of these characteristics? Absolutely. But, were these qualities alone the fuel that propelled so many to vote Trump and hand him the presidency? I’m not convinced.

The reality is many Trump supporters are angry, feel disenfranchised, and have been ignored by our political system. I think too many of Clinton’s shocked supporters (and I include myself in this) never reached across the aisle to dig beneath the Trump-supporter stereotype and find some empathy and understanding for the more moderate Trump supporter’s perspective.

To be fair, I don’t think many Trump supporters reached across the aisle to us, but (as we all learned in Kindergarten) two wrongs don’t make a right.

Both halves of this country have been living in echo chambers. All the shouting and outrage we’re individually exposed to exactly aligns with our own views. We never engage in true civic discourse. We never ask why someone else might disagree. We never try to get to know each other.

Today I decided to break this cycle for myself. I invited those in my MMM program and beyond who voted for Trump to explain to me why (and I promised to be respectful and listen). I heard some interesting and often very personal stories.

Who would you vote for if your family lost their home and your father their job in the Great Recession, yet no Wall Street bankers were punished and then these very institutions supported the opposing candidate?

Who would you vote for if the jump in your insurance premiums over the last year due to Obamacare made an important, life-changing surgery prohibitively expensive for you?

Who would you vote for if your friends back home all recently lost their factory jobs because new technologies could automate their work?

Now, I’m not saying I agree with the choices these few ultimately made, but I think I understand a little bit more why Clinton might not have been their obvious pick. When I pushed these few on the very disturbing things Trump has said about Muslims and women and Hispanic Americans and on and on, those I spoke with said the rhetoric troubled them too, but ultimately they thought it was just that, rhetoric.

While my biases as a Jew tell me that rhetoric is always where tragedies start, I found it difficult to argue with the real pain that these individuals and their families were feeling.

So, here are my hopes:

+ We all try a little harder to empathize with one another

+ We actively engage in constructive conversation with those who do not agree with us

+ We be informed enough to explain our perspective effectively and clearly

+ We respect that Trump won

And finally, though I have plenty of doubts, we now judge Trump by his actions as President, good or bad, giving him the credit should he prove so many of us wrong, but also holding him accountable should he prove so many of us right.

Though today was admittedly a difficult day, I still love America, my country. I still care about the Trump supporters in my life that I cared about 24 hours ago. I still have hope for our country over these next four years.

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Time for some real-talk

I was re-reading some of my blog posts over the past few months and came to the conclusion I needed to make a special post (a break from our normal programming).

This time traveling and writing and learning to code etc. has been amazing and I am so glad I decided to take this journey, but my time away has not been perfect. Sometimes I find that friends or family who post overly positive, make-the-internet-jealous accounts of their amazing adventures are actually, in-person, some of the most miserable, unhappy, dissatisfied people. I always find it ironic that their online presence neglects the challenges and struggles that are sometimes core to their day-to-day.

I realized while looking back at what I’ve posted, that I’ve neglected to talk a lot about my own challenges and struggles. I do not for a second regret leaving my job to take this time, but it has not been all fairies and rainbows (or maybe in my case monkeys, ramen, and wild deer).

1) Hostel-living is hard
Yes, it is cool to meet new people from all over the world and have super cheap accommodations sometimes in incredible parts of the city you’re in. But, staying in hostels for months is pretty tiring. The beds are hard (in Japan tatami mats over wooden bunks), the rooms are very small usually without soundproofing, and guests (other hostel-travelers) can range from kind, caring, and generous to loud, disrespectful of the rules, and utterly abhorrent. I recently had to move out of a hostel early (forfeiting some money) because a group staying there four nights in a row cranked up the tv in the living room (only separated from the bedroom by a curtain), took loud, on-speaker phone calls in the bedroom, and had rowdy conversations all past 1 AM (sometimes 2 AM) in the morning. I had asked nicely for them to be respectful of the mandatory quiet hours (poorly enforced, from 10 PM – 8 AM), but was ignored. And, even when I have met incredible individuals, usually their plans are so firm and they are just as transient as me, that our time together has been too short and we haven’t been able to develop deep friendships. Which brings me to …

2) Traveling is lonely
I am an introvert (yeah yeah I know you don’t think so, but I am and you’re wrong :P). This means I enjoy being alone and find it energizing. Still, in some places where there are few english speakers, I’ll go a whole day without saying more than 5 words out loud. And those times I have made friends, conversation has stayed pretty much on the surface (where are you going, what places have you been, what is there to do, etc.). I miss my family, boyfriend, and friends a lot. I miss hugs.

3) Taking time off is both rewarding and costly
Again, I made the right decision for me in doing this (I am learning a lot and doing what I love), but there are costs to taking significant time away from traditional work. I am so fortunate to have friends and family that support me, but most folks I talk to outside of those two camps and who are on the more standard, professional paths have been pretty critical of my decision-making. I don’t know what taking this time will cost me yet when I return home and look for work (I am hoping not much), but I do have a feeling it is adversely affecting my b-school admission chances given some of the results that have already started to trickle back in.

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Right now my life is good, but it is far from perfect. Anyone who paints a picture of long-term backpack style travel as being only amazing and awesome and their-life-is-so-perfect, in my opinion, probably isn’t sharing the whole truth of their situation.

And that’s actually too bad because facing challenges and struggling and making mistakes shouldn’t be dirty little secrets we hide from the world and each other. These moments, especially how we deal with and rise through them, are what make an experience worthwhile, teach us new lessons, and help us grow. As for me, I’ve grown up so much in the last few months more from what has sucked about traveling than from what has rocked. I am excited to see what I will face next and eager to see how I’ll push myself through it.

October 2 – October 8 – Hiroshima

If you haven’t already heard, public transportation is AMAZING in Japan, but unlike in *some* places in the US, the amazingness of Japanese transport systems spans the entire country. Getting from one major city to the next is super easy and fairly affordable.

Thus I decided to take my first longer distance trip in Japan on the light-rail (this time the Shinkansen) to Hiroshima.

—sidebar: About a year ago (September 2014), I took a vacation to Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary to visit major WWII sites and learn more about the war and its effects in Eastern Europe. It was an incredible trip. So, almost exactly a year later, being in Japan, I thought it would be fitting to visit one of the cities where the A-bomb that helped end the war was dropped. —–

Quick note on the high-speed light rail: Make sure you wait for the express trains when you are traveling from one major city to another. Do NOT take a local unless you have to stop at one of the areas not visited by the express. My trip to Hiroshima (on the express) took ~1 hour; my trip back (on the local) took 3 hours.

Also, light rails look like spaceships and are super spacious 🙂

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I was most excited to visit the Peace Memorial site and museum in Hiroshima, but I knew my time there would be heavy. So, as I made my way from the train station to the site and saw all these people walking to a sectioned off area under a big blow-up arch, I knew it would be nice to follow and have some light-hearted fun before a more serious afternoon.

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Rule of thumb: if you see something like the above while traveling, YOU MUST EXPLORE. Turns out, the gathering was a small festival in the heart of Hiroshima.

The festival had mascots, inflated bouncy houses, two performance stages, tons of arts and crafts, lots (and I mean LOTS) of pretty awesome food, and (my favorite) free samples!

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I have to say, one surprising (or maybe it shouldn’t be surprising?) aspect of spending time in Hiroshima, particularly at this festival, was it really confirmed for me how different all the major cities (or at least the ones I have visited) in Japan are. The food, the people, the culture of each place are very distinct while still feeling Japanese. I liked mingling with the Hiroshimans (?) a lot.

Anyway, from there I headed to the Peace Memorial and, like getting smacked with a ton of bricks, ran head first into the Atomic Dome.

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Even the park around the Atomic Dome and the museum was pretty somber. The Children’s Memorial (pictured below) had millions of origami cranes stored and I would later in the museum find out way (see below).

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The museum itself was sobering. Filled with visitors of all types of nationalities and with an entrance fee of roughly $0.50 USD, the place was incredibly accessible (just as one might expect). What was really powerful for me was that I had, up until that visit, never walked through a museum where we (the US) were the bad guys. Not to say the museum was negative towards the US at all (it totally wasn’t and I thought did an incredible job of stating facts as objectively as possible), but I couldn’t help but feel, as I went from room to room, reading of the horrors of the bomb, escapes through black radiation rain, the families who would never find out what happened to their loved ones, that Americans made the decision to do this to these people. Without having ever been in a war, I can’t begin to understand what it is like to make those difficult calls, but I couldn’t help but feel like what we created and did to these people was evil.

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The stories of survival and the survivors (some first-hand video testimonials) were incredibly powerful. The one that touched me the most was of a young girl named Sadako. The bomb had been dropped when she was two years old. Her mother had had to carry her through the black radiation rain in order to escape the blast zone. Sadako had a normal healthy childhood until she was around 10 or 11 years old. Then, suddenly, her neck began to swell and the doctor her mother took her to quickly diagnosed her with leukemia (sometimes referred to as “the atom bomb disease”). Unfortunately Sadako wasn’t the only child to suddenly show symptoms of “the atom bomb disease” around this time. Sadako was immediately moved to a hospital where her roommate would tell her of an old Japanese legend that said if one folded 1000 paper cranes a wish would be granted. Sadako, emboldened by this, learned how to fold paper cranes and folded over 1000 of them, wishing that she would get better. Although she achieved her goal, when Sadako was only 12, she passed away.

Today the Children’s Memorial in the park holds millions of paper cranes to commemorate her and the other children who passed away because of their exposure to the atom bomb. You can fold a crane or send one in to be added to the exhibit.

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Leaving, I couldn’t help but think that, had the roles been reversed and Japan had dropped an atomic bomb on some city in the US, would we as Americans today be as welcoming, accepting, patient, and kind with Japanese visitors to our country as I believe the Japanese are with Americans? My respect and admiration for the Japanese only grows.

I highly recommend visiting the museum if you are ever in Hiroshima.

Afterwards, I continued to explore the city (including a surprisingly well-stocked art museum). Overall I was impressed with Hiroshima. It was a lot more developed and bustling than I would have anticipated. And of course, even had it not been, the Peace Memorial itself was worth the trip.

Almost six months ago I turned 25. Early on my birthday, I joked with a colleague that my days of rounding down to 20 were finished and now 30 was in-sight. My friend, twisting the knife as fair punishment for my feigned age-anxiety, pointed out that, actually, I now also rounded up to 50.

By no means did this make me feel old, but I did pause and think: I am halfway to 50 …. and what have I achieved? I looked to my resume:

      + High school valedictorian

 

      + WashU undergrad with College honors

 

      + Internships at Teach For America and Goldman Sachs

 

      + Business Analyst at McKinsey with offer to return after b-school

 

      + Fellowship at Khan Academy

 

    + 760 GMAT

Great … right?

But then I thought about what wasn’t on my resume (and things that my resume could not reflect)….

      + I had never lived abroad and my travel abroad had been limited

 

      + I never finished that book I started in high school and worked on in college

 

      + My physical health and fitness never took priority

 

      + My last visit to the doctor revealed I was low on vitamin D (not enough sun, she said)

 

      + My longest romantic relationship didn’t even stretch a year

 

    + AND, I felt tired and stressed all day, all the time (with an 8+ hour night of sleep feeling like a miracle rather than a certainty)

At what point had the destination eclipsed the journey? At what point did accolades and jobs and diplomas and bragging rights become more important than personal enrichment and happiness? And, most important, what could I do to reset the scale?

A friend of mine, maybe having reached a similar impasse (?), had already chosen to make his goals and his happiness his guiding star. His plan: quit work in January, move to NY for Hacker School, then move to Bali in May and work on a project of his own.

Like a good friend, at first I felt raging jealousy at the choice he’d made. And then, like a better friend, I began to talk to him more seriously about the path that led him to his decision. Realizing that his rationale was the final evolution of how my own thinking was taking shape, I asked if (or maybe I assumed? – sorry Joel!) I could join him in May.

So here we are: < 1 week before I move to Bali. Joel is already there (championing the way!). I cannot wait to follow his lead and kickoff my next quarter-life with an adventure all about the journey, self-fulfillment, and the lines that won’t be on my resume.

Bring. It. On.