- What’s something people cautioned you against that turned out not to be dangerous or bad at all?
I know a person who once worked where I work today. He was supportive of my efforts to get a position here, and when I accepted the position, he congratulated me and then warned me that the culture is toxic.
I said, “Then this is my chance to detoxify it!”
I meant it because I think good influencers, which I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to be, are more powerful than bad ones even when they’re outnumbered. Yet I’ve found very little toxicity here, and certainly none in my department. I really love the people I work with and am super happy to be here.
- What’s something you wish someone had cautioned you about?
My problem is that when someone warns me not to do something, I almost automatically want to do it. For the purpose of this question, let’s assume it’s someone I trust and it’s something I sincerely want wisdom about. I’ve had my failed relationship with R on my mind a lot lately — I just turned 50, and I fell in love with her for good when I was 19, and I recently downloaded a dating app on my phone (which I have not yet opened, and it’s been three weeks), so I’ve got a lot to think about. I think maybe my biggest regret in life is not making the most of love when I was in the middle of it and when it was requited (in my mid-20s). I worried about appearances; I worried about not being grown up enough; and honestly I was pretty comfortable right where we were. I believe now that there are critical moments (I’m still trying to decide whether it’s plural or singular, actually) in a relationship where if you don’t go to the next thing, you never will. I would actually have been okay with that but it’s clear that I am the only one. I wish someone had at least led me to consider what this might be at 50, especially with some kind of foreknowledge that I would not be teaching high-schoolers anymore. But even as I type this I know I wouldn’t have listened!
What’s your favorite non-English word of warning?
There are two interesting phrases in Japanese I always hear in my mom’s voice. The first is ki o tsukete kudasai or usually just ki o tsukete which she says when I’m on my way out the door. It’s just “be careful” or “travel with care.” If I say it to her, her response is always “hai, thank you.”
The other is abunai, which is more like “watch out!” It’s literally “dangerous,” so the meaning depends on context and tone.
- What’s a really stupid thing you’ve done that could have resulted in your demise?
I’m saving this story for another time so the short version: I saw a homeless man yelling at a Korean shop owner in downtown Honolulu once. She was yelling back, so I went inside and asked the guy what the problem was. He told me he was only asking to use the phone and that the lady yelled at him to get out. I said, “Let’s go outside and talk about this.” I let him share as we walked across the street, and a few minutes later I put him on a bus and paid his bus fare to get where he said he needed to go (he said he’d needed the phone to call a cab). I went back to the store to ask the lady if she was okay and she was. I’m not sure what I could have done differently and still diffuse the situation, but with so many of these guys you don’t know what state they’re in or what they’ve got in their pockets. I was lucky; the confrontation only cost me $2.75.
- What should you probably stay away from this weekend?
They opened a new Japanese dollar store less than a block away from the office. It’s the second location in Hawaii, and people still line up to get inside the first, which has been open for months. It’s a symptom of rock fever, that disease many of us get where we’re dying for something new because we often can’t find something new without getting on a plane. I hate crowds and lines, so although I will go in to the office for a little while, I will avoid the area around the new store.