Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Rose Bush

Growing along a garden gate was a beautiful bush of yellow roses. Every day was sunny and beautiful, and the rose bush blossomed.

As the days passed, she grew big and beautiful delighting in the joy she brought to the people who walked by her gate. The perfume from her yellow buds swept through the neighborhood on the afternoon breeze coaxing smiles from even those of a melancholy nature. Her spirit was optimistic and saw the positive even in a rainy day.

After a time the rose bush became too overgrown. Her limbs heavy with her beautiful buds and their delightful fragrance. But also those shrewd thorns that snag unwary fingers.

So as the afternoon began to wane, the Gardener brought out His pruning shears and began to cut away some of the growth.

The rose bush wept for her lost limbs, the beautiful buds and even those shrewd thorns. For they had been part of her.

As He worked the Gardener whispered in her ear, "Shhh, my beautiful rose bush. Be brave. For though the pain is sharp right now, one day this pain will make you stronger and more beautiful than ever."

The moon began to climb across the sky when He finished and left her in the night air with the pieces of her scattered at her feet and her heart broken. While the crickets chirped their part of the night symphony, she mourned what she had just lost, feeling every missing leaf and thorn so keenly that it was hard to breathe.

When the symphony finished and dawn began to break along the horizon, the rose bush thought about what the Gardener had said and what He had promised. With the first rays of the morning sun warming what was left of her, she began to hope.


I wrote the above story when my husband and I were struggling to get pregnant with our first child three years ago. It was my way of expressing the pain and frustration I felt without explicitly saying what was happening. Infertility is a sensitive subject. At the time I didn’t want to share with anyone outside my husband and immediate family what we were going through. Partly because I didn’t want to broadcast that we were trying to get pregnant. Despite how easy it is to share everything in our lives these days, not everything is meant to be shared with everyone.

Writing has always been my catharsis. Whenever I’m experiencing a particularly difficult time, I find I work through my emotions best when I write about them. It can come in the form of poetry, short story, or letter. Sometimes, I learn about feelings I didn’t realize I had. It doesn’t always happen right away, but eventually I will feel better and have more clarity on my situation.

Shortly after I published the above story on my blog, we were told our chances of conceiving on our own were 25% at best. (Compared to the 85% chance couples without infertility problems have.) We started to make plans with a fertility specialist. And then we found out I was pregnant. Our daughter is now almost two, and I’m pregnant with our second child (due in July). Life is good.

If you want to connect, find me on Twitter (@beckymochaface).

Becky Schroeder
Dallas, Texas

Friday, January 30, 2015

maybe just start by buying some flowers?

No globe-hopping greetings (aw) or inspirational aphorisms (phew) from me, I'm afraid. Just a favor to ask.

Please don't take someone you love for granted. Forgetting the thrill of those early years is as easy as falling asleep. Don't let it happen. I allowed myself to become unhappy, and I refused to work to understand why, and I utterly failed someone that I loved. I lost the most singular thing I ever had.

That was years and years ago. She's fine now, I think. Most of my friends have learned to forget it, and I am lucky--absurdly lucky!--to once again count myself loved. It took a long time, but I like my life again.

But the dreams about her are the giveaway, still there on way too many nights. I suspect they always will be. It would do no good, and probably quite a lot of bad, to tell this to anyone but internet strangers (hello there).

Maybe someday I will concoct a story about it all being part of a grander plan. That sounds pretty nice!

For now, please believe me when I tell you that some losses are permanent; that the ability to imagine yourself the hero of your own story is among these; and that there is no reason you must face any of this if you take time to care for yourself and those who love you. Hurting someone else can hurt you more than you might think.

I know, I know: more unsolicited life advice from the Listserve. Sorry. Given the opportunity, it's hard not to use this chance to share the most important thing you know.

Thanks for your time and for taking this seriously. Now go cheer yourself up, you deserve it. I hear good things about YouTube.

behind a screen that's connected to yours

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's been a while since i'm on the Listserve

Hi everybody,

I'm pretty excited to be able to write to all of you. I've been on the Listserve since April 18th 2012. This is the first time I win the lottery.

There are two things I thought about writing when I would win the Listserve lottery: how to introduce yourself to 24 101 strangers and how many of my friends are also on Listserve.

As an introduction, here is something about me.
I like to run. When I started training in 2013, it became a real passion. In 2014 I did two half marathons (2h23m and 2h29m). I plan to run three of them this year. I'm on a roll! :-)

To all my friends who just learned I won the Listserve, here is a couple words for them in french: il y en a combien d'entre-vous qui sont inscrit? Je suis curieux de le savoir!

On a closing note. One of my favorite quote comes from the TV show Mad Men: “If you don't like what is being said, change the conversation” - Don Draper

Keep rocking!

Montréal, Canada

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rekindling Friendships

It’s hard to put in words how someone can change your life. Since I met her, however, Abby has done just that.

When I started my freshman year of high school, making friends was my biggest worry. That had always been difficult for me—I was introverted and awkward. I trudged to classes unaccompanied, ate meals alone, and avoided conversation. A few weeks into the school year, however, everything changed.

I was studying in the library when, all of a sudden, a girl loudly called to me from across the room: “Hey! You in the blue shirt! Don’t I know you from choir?”
I looked up, confused. “Um…yeah. I…uh…think so. I’m Adam.”

The girl wasn’t fazed by my uncomfortable reply. Instead, she skipped over to me, introduced herself as Abby, and invited me to join her and some friends in a group planning an act for the school talent show. Taken by surprise, I timidly agreed.

We left immediately for the music building. She skipped. I, somewhat embarrassed by her sprightliness, trailed behind. We found a practice room, and four other singers soon joined us. Hours went by as the group of us attempted to learn the act. Eventually, everyone departed but Abby and me. We abandoned the song-learning pursuit. Instead, Abby pulled a huge binder out of her backpack. “Do you like show tunes?” she asked. I couldn’t contain my excitement. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing through the binder, which was full of Broadway sheet music. I learned that Abby had synesthesia; when she heard notes, she saw corresponding colors. Music was her lifeblood—it was mine too. By dinnertime, we were already wondering aloud how we had managed to live so long without each other. The connection was undeniable, and it only deepened from there.

Over the rest of the year, Abby and I were inseparable. We ate our meals together, studied in the library together, and spent our weekends together. Abby was the first person I completely trusted. She was also the first person to whom I came out as gay. When I told her, I started shaking. She brought me into a long, warm hug. Even now, I think about how safe and happy I felt in that moment. Abby helped me to find the confidence I needed to accept myself for who I was. She taught me not to worry about what other people thought of me, and she taught me to enjoy self-expression.

Unfortunately, Abby and I grew apart as high school went on. Although we stayed acquaintances, we lost the intimate connection that had filled me with so much joy. Homework, romance, and extracurricular pursuits had managed to wedge themselves between us—I have never been able to truly understand how. What I do know is that, when the friendship started to decline, I did nothing to revive it. Because our relationship had started so naturally and spontaneously, I had erroneously assumed that our connection would never weaken. I had forgotten that friendships require the effort of both parties in order to stay strong. And that is one of my biggest regrets: I let our friendship die.

I recently started to reach out to Abby again in the hopes of rekindling our friendship. Hopefully we will be able to reestablish our bonds. It will take some effort, but I know it will be worth it. Friendship, after all, is worth fighting for.

If you live in the Chicago area, come see the 73rd Annual Dolphin Show, Titanic, at Northwestern University!

Shout outs to Michaela and Sam!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bar etiquette

Hi Listserve!

Like everyone else, I never really expected to win this lottery, but here I am with circa 24K willing recipients.

So what am I going to use my platform for? All GOOD, of course. I'm going to give you some advice on being a better customer in a bar. See, I moonlight as a bartender (I run the Manhattans Project, a little cocktail popup in London (@ManhattansPRJCT)), and I love great customers.

But isn’t the customer's always right? Nope. The customer is never wrong, but they sure as heck aren't as right as they could be. Very few drinkers know their spirits, liqueurs, how to balance a cocktail, what fruit is great that week, and what drinks a bar does best. Your bartender does.

Firstly, stop ordering mojitos.

Let me preface this by saying the mojito can be a glorious drink, but it's my bête noire. On a hot day, made well, it’s really up there. It’s just, mostly, people don’t drink them like that. They order them in a panic at a bar, and the bartender gets some tired mint, some halfway decent rum, a squeeze of lime, some sugar and throws them in a glass with a handful of crushed ice. Then the drink gets topped up with soda and you’re left with something that’s…reliably drinkable, but consistently mediocre.

Too often, it’s ordered by people put off by over pretentious drinks menu, who begrudgingly pay £7. They’ve been put off other classic cocktails by warm, oily martinis and cosmopolitans made with sour mix, so they’ll take this. It’s long enough to feel like good value, and generally inoffensive.

Which brings me on to my second suggestion. Find a bartender you like, trust, and maybe want to bang. That bartender will look after you; they will show you magical new drinks and tell you stories and anecdotes that will make you the life of any party. They probably won't sleep with you. Sorry.

Once you have that bartender, make them work. Talk to them about what you like. Tell them why you've never quite got on with scotch, or gin, or fernet branca. They'll try to persuade you, and sometimes they'll succeed. Other times, you'll learn a bunch about what you like, and that's only a good thing. Ask them what they're drinking at the moment, or what's new in the bar. See if they want to preview you some drinks from the new menu, or test a new concoction on you. They probably do, and your life will be better for it. Just don't order an old fashioned if they're rushed off their feet.

Thirdly, tip. Tip early and often. You've come out for a nice drink. Don't scrimp on'll probably make it back in generous pours, buy backs (when the bartender gets you a shot) and fast service. You'll be welcomed back and you'll get to crash the occasional lock-in at the bar and find out all the gossip bartender confidentiality allows. Bartenders don't make rockstar salaries, and we rely on tips to put the jam on our toast. Look after us, and we'll look after you. This is the hospitality industry, after all.

Finally, don't gender your drinks! Don't ask your bartender for a 'girly' drink, or a 'manly' shot. You look like an ass, and everyone around you thinks you're being sexist. Turns out flavours don't have genders, and your bartender is going to laugh at you for thinking they do.

That's it from me. Enjoy your listserve subs, and next time you have a Manhattan, send me a toast from wherever you are in the world. Thanks for listening!

Felix Cohen
London, UK

Monday, January 26, 2015

A follow up and Burkina Faso

I didn’t know this was possible, but I won the Listserve again! I wrote to you a few months ago the “post”, if you will, entitled “Questions for you: Psychology, dance, Disney, dating (and more!)”. I got some amazing responses (that I’m still working on responding to!). I can’t believe that I got another opportunity to talk to you guys but I am very thankful for it. Most people probably skipped this part of my last email, but I was planning a trip to Burkina Faso amid a collapsing government. I did get to go and it was the most amazing experience of my life and I did not want to leave. I met the most inspiring people and I could talk about it for days (I’d love to!) but I need your help. I went because of a research grant and now I’m working on my project which is on their (failing) education system. If you have any information on the following, please email me. If I use your information in my project, I’ll cite you and send you the results:
1. The education system in Burkina Faso or French speaking Africa
2. The education system in France
3. The education system in Ghana
4. The Baccalauréat exam/system
5. Child learning/cognition
6. Successful teaching strategies in difficult classroom settings (large classes, lack of resources, etc)
7. Companies that print books in native languages (specifically Moré)
8. How to get a very smart kid from a West African country to Canada for medical school (funding, work visa, etc)
Thank you so much! Also check out Sheltering Wings, they are the organization that hosted me. If you are interested in them, visiting BF, or sponsoring a child/widow PLEASE let me know…I’d love to help you out!

Love and Lollies and Wenna Songé (God Bless),

Holly Rueger
Sweet Briar, VA

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The World’s Best Street Sweeper

The Project Manager, Steve, had everyone who was working on the new telecom technology moved into the same room on the top floor of the R&D building. We were there to stay until the work was done. And this changed everything.
What Steve did was different. This was the mid-90’s in Cape Town, South Africa, and I was experiencing for the first time what it meant to be part of a team heading toward success. It’s incredible what a room of people all believing the same thing can achieve together and it felt analogous to the change the entire country was experiencing at that time too.
I am still not sure what caused me to start writing down notes about Steve and the people around me, but I did. In the years since that first project I have had the pleasure of working alongside thousands of people across 35 countries and continued to take notes on observed behavior that led to moments of meaning and significance.
For all of you kind Listserve people, here’s a glance at a few of the best from over 450 notes captured in the past 20 years about people who helped others, gave hope, achieved success and created something important.It is more important to try and be the best street sweeper in the world than being an average boss. Avoid the Peter Principle.

The more compressed a message is, the further it can travel.

Using an oil tanker for water skiing won’t work. Scaled operating models break speed operating models, and vice versa. Speed can grow to become scaled.

When you’re leading you do not have the option of having a bad day. You have to be excited about what’s happening before others have the propensity to feel the same.

Proximity beats hierarchy every time.

Nobody can change the culture of a group (things people do when no-one is looking). Instead, start something nearby in a new environment and with a different purpose that celebrates success often. People will gravitate towards it by themselves. Success is contagious.

You cannot unpunch someone.

There are only three conditions that cause a person to stall: they don't understand what to do, they disagree with the direction or raw “lizard brain” fear. Have genuine concern and fix the situation, not the person.

Being supported is a satisfier. Helping others is a motivator. Until you’ve helped someone else, you’ve never really helped yourself.

Nose in, hands out. Micro management dents dignity and destroys creativity.

The bigger your role in an organization, the more you need to ask: “what can I do to help you?” Also the quieter your tone and the more deliberate your words should be.

If you have to dive into a sea of sharks, bring fish.

And finally; every person in this world has a story, things they want to do in their life and something they care a lot about. Even the shyest of people can ask, “where are you from?” and “what brought you here?”

What else? What are the best things you’ve seen happen in business or in life that changed everything? I’d love to hear them.
I’ve been considering writing a book to capture all of the notes I have so far and adding some additional explanation and examples for each. Is that something you’d be interested in reading?

Thank you for making every day a school day and daring to make a difference.

Ben Love
Atlanta, GA

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tell me about where you're from

I don't have any wise words or fascinating stories to share, but I do have a question.

My family moved around just enough when I was growing up that I have always been curious about what it means to have a hometown, to belong to a place.

I would love if you could tell me a little about where you're from.

What's your hometown like?

My email address: masuma.ahuja[AT]

Masuma Ahuja
Washington, DC

Friday, January 23, 2015

Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy

"Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy" by Ludwig van Beethoven is one of my favourite quotes. Music is always with me, in every life situation - good, bad or a mixing of every imaginable feelings. I'm Thomas, a 23 year old young man from Vorarlberg in the western of Austria. After my 9 month long compulsory paid community service in a parish office which was a great time, I've decided to work as a Frontend Web Developer because that's my passion.

Many of you already told their incredible stories and shared their life experiences - I just want to share some great music with all of you. I've started a music blog 2 months ago where I share the music that goes along with me everyday. The name is "" and I'm sure that your opinions about the name are divided. Nevermind, I would love to get feedback because I'm still working on it!

The company I'm working is currently building an Open Source CMF (Content Management Framework) for all the developers out there - the name is SULU CMF and it get's better every day!

If you want to chat about music or programming - I would love to hear something from you!

Last but not least a special thanks to my co-worker Stefan for introducing me to the Listserve!
"Simplicity is the essence of happiness." (Cedric Bledsoe)

Thomas Dünser
Vorarlberg, Austria

Thursday, January 22, 2015

feelings are hard

When I was a kid, I didn't have many friends. I didn't talk to many people about how I was doing, or what was going on for me. My childhood wasn't bad (it was actually pretty great), I just never talked about myself. As I got older, it got harder to talk about myself or my feelings. It was even hard to talk about what I wanted.

That's normally not an issue. It didn't matter much if I was happy, sad, or frustrated in math class. It didn't matter if I was excited or ashamed at work. Just do the things and keep moving.

Being able to express feelings only really matters in relationships with people. Unfortunately for me, it turns out that relationships with people are everywhere. Not just romantic relationships, but also friendships and family relationships. Relationships with teachers and coworkers. Even my relationship with myself. Everything seems easier for people who know what they feel, and can talk about it.

I didn't know how to tell people what I was feeling. I barely knew how to tell myself what I was feeling. I couldn't ask for what I wanted. I often couldn't even understand other people's feelings when they were telling them to me straight up. Needless to say I had a string of frustrating romances. How could a romance work for me if I didn't even know how to say what I wanted?

It was almost by accident that I learned about Non-Violent Communication, a method of talking to people about my own feelings and theirs. A friend was taking some classes in it, and I went along. At first it was hard for me to get into. It's a bit hokey; it feels stilted to talk using a formal system. But it helped.

The empathic listening exercises we did really helped me to understand other people when they told me what they felt. I listened to people talk about their feelings, and for the first time really was able to understand that other people are different than me. People are different, and that's awesome. I was able to support people in their sad feelings and celebrate with them in their happy feelings.

Learning to listen empathically was great, but being listened to was world-changing. It's a freeing feeling when someone you've built up trust with over weeks of classes says they're listening to you. At first it was hard to say what I felt. Then it was harder.

As I started to talk about some things that made me sad, to really say how I felt, my body went cold. I felt dizzy. My hands were freezing and my face was hot. I was shaking and crying. And the people listening didn't hate me or shun me for it. I just got a good hug, and I got to cry about something that mattered to me.

After that it got easier. It's still not easy, but I can talk about it when I'm sad. I can tell people if they bother me, instead of avoiding them completely. I can show people when I'm happy, or when I'm sad, or even when I'm angry.

There's power and freedom in being able to recognize and express your feelings. It's a freedom that's been hard for me to find as a man in American society. It's a power that I didn't even know I had.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Light in a Dark Place

I’m not much of a storyteller myself, but my dad has always been. I will do the best to encompass his ability to tell stories, and by doing so I will tell a piece of his story.

One of my dad’s favorite tales to tell is the first time I rode a rollercoaster. This love affair began when I was little and my family took a trip to Virginia. All day I had been asking to go on a rollercoaster. It intrigued me the way that they twirled in the air and screams of laughter rang from within. This was something I needed to try for myself, but I was just too short. Finally, we came across “The Big Bad Wolf”. The name sounds far more intimidating than it was, and after further inspection, this was the one. I was just barely tall enough if I stood on my tippy-toes. We made our ascent to the top, whooshing through the ride, spilling out with laughter and screaming. Then, the ride began to go up another hill that was twice as big as before. My eyes began to grow to the size of a silver dollar and I instantly doubted my love affair with rollercoasters. When we reached the summit I remember looking at my dad and saying “Holy $#*%!!!”. We raced down the remaining portion of the track and plummeted to the bottom. When the ride ended, my dad feared what I would say next, but all I said was, “let’s do that again!” And so began my love affair with rollercoasters.

These were the happy days spent with my dad. Days full of abundant smiles, joy, and overwhelming peace. Recently, those bright days began to turn dark and my dad developed a new love affair with alcohol. He quickly became an alcoholic and couldn’t function without first wrapping his arms around a bottle of whiskey. My beautiful, happy family began to come apart at the seams due to my dad’s disease, and there was no way of mending the damage. We continued on without admitting to our fault by putting on a happy face. One day, it became too much. Words were said that should have never been spoken to someone you love and I begged my dad to come back into my life. He had become such an absent figure that I felt as if I had been abandoned and was an orphan. I had lost all hope and doubted I would ever have him back in my life.

December 6th, 2014 my dad went to a rehab facility and it forever changed our lives. He went through a 30-day treatment and began to discover his alcoholism with a clear mind. He remembered the person he used to be back in the bright days and rediscovered his carefree charisma. Day-by-day the man that I used to admire and love returned. Slowly, he became my best friend again and the light began to shine through.

My dad will forever be an alcoholic, but he is consistently fighting and overcoming the disease. He is such an example of redemption, transformation, and never giving up hope. My encouragement to you is that if you or someone you know are fighting this disease or something similar, please seek help. Discover light and the overwhelming peace that can be restored. Never give up on endlessly praying and fighting for something that you believe in, even if it seems overwhelming. I would love to hear your stories and for you to know that you are not alone.

Shout out to Jordan and Alexa Kaczor. ​

Amanda Keating
Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hello, My name is Sarah, and I currently live in Orlando,...


My name is Sarah, and I currently live in Orlando, Florida, but I'll always be a Bostonian at heart. I love to travel and somehow managed to find my heart's true home somewhere in Spain. Visa issues and the realities of life pulled me back to the US, where I get to enjoy the company of my family and friends.

I love the idea of The Listserve, but have been disappointed in all of the life advice and motivational cliches. However, now that I've won, I find myself typing and deleting the same pithy refrains, like "be nice." Inspired, right?

Since The Listserve is about connections, I'd be interested to learn who I know who is a member of the Listserve. If you know me, let me know that you've seen this. Maybe we'll rekindle a friendship, or create a new connection with an old acquaintance. Whether I know you personally or not, I hope you have a lovely day.

Also, Hi MaxPower.

Orlando, FL

Monday, January 19, 2015

“Hi! I'm your lawyer. If you plead guilty, I get paid double, and you'll get out of jail.”

“Hi! I'm your lawyer. If you plead guilty, I get paid double, and you'll get out of jail.”

In the USA, if you are criminally charged and too poor to hire a lawyer, then the government is required to provide you with an attorney. The myriad processes vary from state to state, county to county, and even from court to court.

There are two ways that government provides representation to the poor: either a public defender office, or an appointed attorney plan. A public defender might be funded by the state or the county. They will have a support staff, such as secretaries and investigators. Their lawyers are paid salaries, with benefits. They struggle under very large caseloads and long hours. Often, it is difficult for a defendant to be considered poor enough to qualify for their services.

A jurisdiction without any public defender office may use a less expensive appointed attorney system, where attorneys in private practice are assigned to assist poor defendants. Those attorneys are paid a very nominal fee. That fee often doesn't cover gasoline, parking, and dry cleaning. Lawyers participating in appointed attorney systems often rely on doing a volume business, to avoid losing money.
Some jurisdictions have few formal requirements for a lawyer to take such cases. The lawyer might not be required to have any secretary or staff. She may not be required to have an office, or malpractice insurance.

The judge of the court may manage the appointments and approve the payments according to the judge's priorities. Those priorities may vary by judge. Some are concerned with justice and good representation. Others focus on attorney availability, quick pleas to move the case, friendship, campaign considerations, etc.

Appointed attorneys in most jurisdictions are not paid until the case is concluded. Payment can be an unvarying fee that may not change depending on the amount or quality of work done, or the result of the case. In one local county, an attorney will be paid the very same $100.00 total fee if he concludes a case instantly by a quick guilty plea, or if he must return to court ten times to get the case dismissed. A jailed defendant's release is routinely promised, in exchange for a “voluntary” plea.

In that same county, there are other formal written rules that double the fee to a lawyer who persuades his client to plead guilty to a felony at the first appearance, and halve that same fee to the lawyer who instead persuades the prosecutor to dismiss the felony. Even a conscientious and zealous advocate must have his advice to his client subconsciously influenced by payment systems that reward an attorney for bad results.

There are too many lawyers. They owe too much money. Many come out of law school owing $150,000.00 or more. There are few jobs available for an average law graduate. They are paid very little, often less than a fast food manager. Lawyers who can't get a job, or are between jobs, may try to make ends meet by taking appointed cases.

Some defendants hire lawyers. Those defendants should remember that lawyers are only required to take one bar exam. They then can then practice nearly all areas of law. Criminal defense, personal injury, probate, divorce, and business law are as dissimilar to each other as podiatry, cardiology, ophthalmology, psychiatry and gynecology. You wouldn't see a proctologist because of a hearing problem. You shouldn't hire your divorce lawyer for your criminal case.

Many states provide specialty certification to lawyers, just as they do to doctors. Hiring a certified criminal defense specialist may be your best bet if faced with criminal charges.

Pat Montgomery
San Antonio, Texas

Sunday, January 18, 2015

This is a love story.

This is a story about love and loss and learning to love myself.

From 14 to 21, I was in a relationship with a person I still consider "one of the best guys I've ever known." In that span of 7 years, loving him was all-consuming: from spending everyday together in high school, to following him to college, to finally moving in together. We settled into comfortable. What should’ve been a period of individual growth and self-discovery was instead a catalyst to codependence. We had no interests outside of each other so we continued, year after year, growing older together but not growing up.

Around the 7-year mark, he started asking his engaged friends how they knew they were ready to propose. I knew instantly that he wasn't asking because he was ready, but because after 7 years together… he was trying to shake the feeling that he didn't want to propose to me. He had accepted a truth I was too stubborn (scared?) to face: we weren't right for each other.

When I finally lost him, I went through a process of completely losing myself and I truly did lose a lot...

My morals
My judgment
My inhibitions
My excuses

I tried desperately to shed everything that made me “me” because I never knew a me without “us.” I was safe when I was with him. Without him, I took up climbing, rappelling, scuba diving, skydiving, cliff jumping, backpacking, couch surfing, partying, hiking, drinking, traveling…

I pursued adventures obsessively- partially to distract from the emptiness, but mostly in an attempt to prove that I could be someone… someone interesting… without him. I just didn't know who that was. I searched for myself at the top of mountains. I searched for myself at the bottom of oceans. I even searched for myself at the bottom of many, many, many bottles of tequila. And when I found nothing, I searched again. I climbed. I jumped. I dove. I fell. I did this over and over again secretly hoping someone else would catch me. No one did.

It's been 2 years and I'm just now learning to catch myself. I don't feel the need to prove anything anymore. At 23, I accept that I've done a lot on my own in 2 years- traveled to 14 countries, jumped off the world's highest bungee bridge, brought healthcare to impoverished communities, swam with sharks, completed a Master's degree- none of which I would've done if I had stayed safe or comfortable. I honestly don’t know who I would’ve been if I hadn’t loved him, but I do know that I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t lost him. I'm making a promise to myself that once I send this out into the world... I'm finally going to let go.

Thank you for being my catharsis.


In a lot of ways, sending this email in all it's messy, emotional glory felt a lot scarier than jumping off any plane ever did. When I won, I honestly debated sending out a copy of my resume and calling it a day (sorry!! That's the very sad reality of a job-seeking Masters student) but I'm glad this came out. That said, if anyone has a job opening for someone with an MPH in Global Public Health, a 4.0 GPA, in-field healthcare experience around the world (including Europe, Central America, and Africa), and an extensive background in scientific research, teaching, writing, and clinical care -- I'm your girl.

Or if you want to talk about heartbreak or travel or adventure, I'm up for that too.

Vivian Nguyen
Hoboken, NJ

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Escapism via Music

I actually won the list serve on my birthday so Happy Birthday me!

Music is my biggest passion by far. However I do not like singing or guitars, they have a grating effect on me. Instead I listen to many styles of bass music and work in my free time as a DJ and a Promoter.

I’d like to share some of the artists/labels I rate most highly if you are curious to hear something new. I’ll list their Soundcloud ID’s below:


Thanks for reading.

Lee Johnson
Milton Keynes, UK

Friday, January 16, 2015

Syrian Refugees, TCKs, life details, poetry and more

So I won. I have been a part of the Listserve for almost 5 years. There have been several times when I wanted to be chosen. Now I am sitting in the country of Jordan caught totally surprised by the email saying I won. I had always hoped I would be doing something memorable when I got the email. The first draft of this email was very different. Then I heard a story about a Syrian Refugee that I wanted to share.

A volunteer went to a Syrian family over a year and a half ago. There was a 5 year old boy who had experienced bombing while fleeing the country. The volunteer tried to get the boy to play but he just stayed catatonic. From then on the volunteer held the boy in his arms every time he visited. This went on for about 6 months. Then the volunteer brought a ball and put it in the boy's hand. Nothing happened till the boy dropped the ball. It didn't bounce but stayed on the ground for a few seconds before shooting across the room. The boy chased after it and started showing emotion for the first time. All it took was love and human affection to work over time. That and the servant willing to share God's love.

As the Syrian conflict gets less coverage in the news, it is easy for the refugees to be forgotten. I am currently working with them in the Middle East. On a personal level, I could urge you to to volunteer to help refugees here in the Middle East or in your own country. I could urge you to give money or pray. What I will ask you to do is not just think about the refugees and move on.

Now on to me. My name is Micah Jordan. I am currently 20 years old, in my 3rd year of college studying communication and history are small private college in Missouri. But I was born in South Korea, lived there 8 years then Manila Philippines for 8 years. I am called a third culture kid or TCK. If you want to know more google it. Being a TCK has impacted my perspective on the world. I have gotten do so many things like fly an airplane before driving a car. For sake of space I can't elaborate. If you would like to know more please email me. I love talking about my life experiences.

Finally, some other areas of interest

Books: Brandon Sanderson is my favorite author right now. Also on the 7th book of the wheel of time series. Epic by Conor Kostick, Anything by Jasper Fforde and so much more.

Music: Switchfoot, Soundtracks like lord of the rings and also two steps from hell by invincible. Also RWBY soundtrack.

TV Shows: RWBY, The Legend of Korra, Newsroom, The Flash, Arrow, and Psych

Movies from 2014: Interstellar, Hobbit battle of the five armies, Mockingjay, guardians of the Galaxy

Shout out to fight the new drug. It is doing great work on raising awareness on the harmful effects of pornography.

Look up gospel by propaganda

Also a poem


Fire. Fire. Fire.

Blaze. Blaze. Blaze.

Smoke. Smoke. Smoke.

Burn. Burn. Burn.

Pain. Pain. Pain.

Yell. Yell. Yell.

Weep. Weep. Weep.

Still. Still. Still.

Love. Love. Love

Passion. Passion. Passion

Stress. Stress. Stress.

Flame. Flame. Flame.

Ache. Ache. Ache.

Shout. Shout. Shout.

Cry. Cry. Cry.

Numb. Numb. Numb.

Email me if you share any interests or want to read more poetry

Micah Jordan
Jordan, usually Bolivar Mo

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I'm surprised I finished this in time

Man.. I think I may be the only person who was dreading winning the listserve.

Writing is very difficult you see. Over 4 years ago I developed what specialists ambiguously call "overuse syndrome". Unofficially thoracic outlet syndrome and occupational dystonia, brought on mostly by too much computer use.

I am constant pain with limited ability to do things with my hands, especially in a repetitive fashion. I can still take care of myself but anything computer, tablet, or phone related is especially problematic. I cannot even begin to explain the ways this has negatively affected my career (which I had to give up) and personal life. I can only share some things I learned along the way.

Exercise matters. Movement matters. Nutrition matters. I grew up thinking that exercise was a lifestyle choice. That movement beyond the basics was optional. Being slim I thought I didn't need to exercise or care about what I ate. That was for losing weight right? Or for people who are into sports. I was into reading or drawing or spending countless hours on the computer.

Movement is critical for human health though. It just IS. You can't sit most of the day and expect your body to maintain FULL range of motion, functional alignment and healthy muscle tone. Your body needs to walk and lift and carry and bend and climb and do a million other things that we don't do in our cubicles.

There are others that explain this way better than I can. Like Katy Bowman. She's amazing. I'm halfway through her book Move your DNA. I strongly recommend this to every human being out there.

All computer users should read 'Its Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome' , also 'Pain Free' by Peter Egoscue. For any kind of pain 'The Trigger Point Workbook' by Clair Davies.

As far as food goes 'Deep Nutrition' by Dr Cate Shanahan blew my mind. Also check out 'Latest In Paleo' podcast even if you are not into paleo. Host Angelo Copolla is thoughtful, eloquent and unbiased. I can't recommend it enough.

I'm excited by the Food Is Free project. Also Ron Finley of South Central LA deserves a serious shout out. Google his website and Ted Talk. We need more people like this.

I wish I had a success story that included how these challenges led to great changes in my life. How I found an awesome new life path, or cured my ailments and now help others, or even met an amazing guy to start a family with and live happily ever after.

Unfortunately I can say none of those things. But I keep looking. And so should you.

If you are in pain don't give up. Keep trying new things. And get your body moving, however you can.

I'd love to hear from anyone that has had success dealing with RSI or TOS in particular.
If anyone knows of any fantastic physical therapy places.. health retreats.. where can one go to restore alignment and movement and function and strength? Where can one live amidst nature with an actual real community and grow and build things? I just want to get better and help others and be a part of something meaningful and exciting. But I don't know how. Is that too much to ask for?

PS, this email is made possible by Google speech. Please, people of Google, keep working on ways to make technology more hands free. Speech recognition helps, but it needs so much more improvement The less the human race has to type and hunch over devices the better.. Thank you.

Albany NY

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

War and Peace and Publishing

I first saw Heat in December of 1995. During the now-famous diner scene, Pacino’s character tells De Niro’s: “So you never wanted a regular-type life, huh?” To which the latter replies: “What the fuck is that? Barbecues and ball games?” I could relate.

I was a plebe on winter leave from the United States Military Academy, a.k.a. West Point, sometimes colloquially known among disaffected cadets as the South Hudson Institute of Technology. (We like acronyms. You figure it out.) I’m a corporate brat; I’d lived in a parade of bland suburban homes in Chicago, Orlando, and Toronto. I wanted something else. Maybe war, maybe drama, maybe craziness.

As a firstie, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy. This was 1999; the Army gave me my diploma and let me go.

By 2000, I was in Columbia University’s journalism school. In the fall, we watched, incredulous, as Bush-vs.-Gore played out. In the spring, I ended up in a very small seminar, taught by Al Gore. Our first class with him was his first public appearance after conceding the most hotly contested presidential election in U.S. history. Life seemed as bizarre as it could be.

Then 9/11 happened. I’d already left New York for Chicago; I was working in the Sears Tower—the only 100-story building in the country that wasn’t hit by airplanes that day. (Granted, my desk was only on the 6th floor.) We had to evacuate.

When the wars started, I felt guilty that I wasn’t in the Army. I thought I’d abandoned my destiny. I made feeble plans to fly to Kuwait in February of 2003 and tag along as a war correspondent. Nothing came together. In 2004, I interviewed for a position with the C.I.A. I was rejected. I wrote a book I was convinced was the Great American Novel. It didn’t go anywhere.

Around then, I got sober. I also became a Christian pacifist.

Life grew relatively more sedate. I got sick of the corporate world, got fired, worked in food service, and ended up back in the corporate world. I wrote another book, Resistance, about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague in 1942. I shopped it traditionally and got some enthusiastic responses from agents, but nothing happened.

In 2012, my girlfriend got pregnant, and I launched my own book imprint, Tortoise Books. I funded Resistance with a Kickstarter. (If you get a chance, Google “Brennan Resistance Kickstarter.” I’m told it’s a funny video.) My classmates contributed generously, and it succeeded. I launched the book in May, got married in July, and we had a daughter in September.

When the Kickstarter succeeded, I felt like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life.

When my daughter was born…I can’t describe it.

I’m thrilled about independent publishing. During my prior struggles, I’d read The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus. I could relate. My gut told me I wasn’t the only one. When I recruited my first author, the very talented Giano Cromley, it turned out he had a tattoo of Sisyphus rolling the boulder. I’m proud of our books, and of our two new authors (Darrin Doyle and Rachel Slotnick), and of others on the scene: Joseph G. Peterson, Ben Tanzer, et. al.

Still, Tortoise Books isn’t paying the bills. So I’m otherwise living a regular-type-life. Which is perfectly fine. Some of the most mundane moments can be satisfying, if you’re at peace: watching TMZ with my wife, reading to my daughter, seeing my son smile. So to everyone out there, whether you’re contemplating jihad or just scribbling cartoons, all I can say is: peace.

Gerald Brennan
Chicago, IL

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Happy Birthday

In honor of a great man's birthday

"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special."

- Stephen Hawking

Carlos Espejo
Bronx, NY

Monday, January 12, 2015

Build To Win Big


My name is Dan Shipton. I am a father to a wonderful 5 year old boy and the CEO of Change, a small startup based in Des Moines, Iowa. Thanks for reading my contribution to the Listserve project.

For me, 2014 was a shitty, get your teeth knocked in over and over kind of year. I focused most of my attention on saving a marriage that ultimately wasn’t meant to be at the expense of everything else. Basically, my life has been in maintenance mode for longer than I’d like to admit. So when I received the “You’ve Won!” email I literally laughed out loud — are there any worthwhile words I possibly write to 25k strangers?

I had resigned to not write anything, but was gently reminded how I got this far in life by a couple word magnets strung together on the side of a fridge at my office. Those words struck a chord with me today and I want to share them with you: “build to win big”

Building is something I’ve always been good at. Deliberately making the life I wanted for myself (and family). Letting people drift out of my life who I had outgrown and adding new ones in that would encourage me to be a better person. Same philosophy applied to work and the various projects I’ve been a part of. Grow, reinvent, stop doing what isn’t working. I’ve made a lot of personal progress over the last three decades following those rules.

Somewhere in the last few years, that intentional building of my life was slowly replaced by complacency, the status quo and hanging onto things I should let fade. But 2015 will hold a different outcome for myself. Now that you’ve all played a small part in getting me unstuck, it is time to go build to win big. Thanks for listening.

Dan Shipton
Des Moines, Iowa

p.s. I did have a pretty good story about a sales guy at work who went on vacation to China and never came back, too.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Pyramids at night

We're in El Dokki, Cairo at midnight. The fragrance of flowery shisha smoke from a nearby coffee shop punctuates the air. We drink beer and pass around a bottle of whiskey while we wait for Ahmed and Mido to arrive.

Arriving at the stables in the desert, somewhat outside of the city itself, I can see the pyramids in the distance. Their shape blocking out the city lights in perfect triangle cut-outs. The stable master gestures for us to pick out our horses. I pass a few, most backing away from me, before arriving at a majestic looking white mare.
We mount and head into the night. Only five minutes out, blackness surrounds us on all sides, save for the dunes and craggy rock glistening in the light of the full moon. We trot slowly for thirty minutes as we move over increasingly inclined terrain. I look back and see the view getting more and more vast behind me. I can see a fire in the distance, men who make camp fire tea for night riders. We dismount and order a tea each, sharp tasting and pungent, complimenting a joint being passed between us.

With hashish and alcohol pumping through my veins, the smell of of a camp fire playing at my nose and the taste of smoky tea still stinging my tongue, I lay back on the the soft sands and stare at the infinite universe laid out before me. I've never seen stars so clearly before. The milky way flows above while I contemplate life and the human condition. I feel at peace. The greatest city in the world to my right, bright and alive. And the pyramids, which I think must be the work of creatures from a far flung galaxy, to my left. Silently, I wax philosophic, challenging old ideals and creating new ones, turning everything I've ever been taught about life on its head. I'm roused from my state by Tariq telling me it's time to head back. Mounted on my horse once more, we canter while I run through the things I've just seen in my mind. We begin to gallop, moving in unison while the wind whips through my hair. My heart is pounding in my throat and I feel alive, my senses sharpening, adrenaline replacing the calm that drugs had brought on. We race, my horse and I, my breathing matching hers. We round a dune and the glory that is Cairo comes into full view. Awe overtakes me. The frigid night air pricks at my skin and I realize that this very moment in time could have been any moment in history. I feel connected to my ancestors. Men and women that although I've never met, I know they saw the same thing that I'm seeing now and I know they too must have a felt a sense of awe while they gazed out over the city of the living, in the middle of the land of the dead. As we pull up to the stables, I look back toward the dunes and the inky sky above. Even now, as I look at the desert calm, the memories are already beginning to fade. Like a dream, the revelations and life changing ideas that had walked across my consciousness only minutes ago are now draining from me and from now until forever will be relegated to my mind's eye. Emerging when least expected, only to fade again like so many fantasies, ideas, dreams and nightmares.

If you're ever flying through Schiphol Airport, come and say Hi at the EXQUISITE store !

Kareem Moustafa
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Saturday, January 10, 2015

I proposed to my wife just over two years ago, upon the tran...

I proposed to my wife just over two years ago, upon the transition between 2012 and 2013.

We'll be celebrating our 1st year of marriage at the end of this month.Our vows did not include any promises connected to abstract ideas such as love or forever, nor to undetermined limits such as the end, or death.

I promised her that I would push her every day to be better than she was the day before.

She vowed to never stop communicating with me.

(We reciprocated)

I hope that the coming year brings all of you as much happiness as the last did me.

With love,

Ben Bot
Austin, TX

Friday, January 9, 2015

Stuff that endures

Hi! I'm a white, middle class software developer in London, totally unqualified to offer wisdom or life advice to anyone.

Instead, I'll tell you about something that I've always found interesting: Certain product designs that endure.

Sure, there are simple time-tested designs that will never die -- paper clips, mokka pots, zippers, Bic lighters. I'm intrigued by more complex examples, that develop their own ecosystems, that become icons despite humble roots.

Here's a few I know of. I'm no expert, and have a word limit - apologies if I don't do them justice.

-- Shure SM58: A basic-looking vocal microphone, in a field of fancy specialist devices, that has been in production for almost 50 years. Meant originally for studio recording I think, it's become a go-to workhorse for the live music industry too. Versatile, solid, trustworthy, and pretty cheap. If you've ever seen live music, chances are you've seen one.

There's no magic special feature or technical marvel about it - it's just a good straightforward design, well made.

-- AK-47: (Yeah, guns, I know...meh.) The core design of the AK-47 & derivatives has barely changed in 70 years. They're legendarily robust & reliable. Their endurance is down to the shocking simplicity of the core design. Google it; it's amazing how little there is going on. Parts can be bashed, bent etc and the whole system still functions.

(They're also wildly inaccurate. Source: every video game ever)

-- Toyota Hilux: A pick-up truck family that's popular in the developing world (especially, infamously, in conflict zones) for their near-indestructability. There are probably 40-year-old Hiluxes bouncing happily through harsh offroad conditions all over Africa right now. They're also very customizable and adaptable (most notoriously, into mobile gun platforms :-/ )

I gather Top Gear did a famous set of segments trying – and failing – to break a Hilux. If you can tolerate Jeremy Clarkson, go watch them.


And my personal favourite...The Technics SL-1200.

It's a turntable which first came out in the early 1970s. Originally meant as a home hifi turntable, it's definitely not for audiophiles, and was considered middle-of-the-road.

But it gave birth to much of our modern music & culture.

Largely by accident, its technical features (like high-torque direct-drive, good pitch control) along with a few design tweaks in the late 70s (like moving the pitch control to a slider on the top) made this humble home-stereo component a versatile tool for messing around with vinyl in unintended, unexpected ways...

...which, through some pioneers experimenting, gave birth to turntablism: scratching, cutting, sampling, mixing, remixing...
...which gives us hip-hop.
Oh, I wish I had more words to describe just how important that is to shaping our modern cultures.

The SL-1200 (and 1210) inspired and allowed new ways of playing music, blended playing with performing, redefining 'DJ', redefining 'nightclub', shaping the evolution of electronic music, spawning a thousand genres...the wheels of steel literally redefined what we call music.

Even when purpose-built competitors emerged, the SL-1200 endured because of its dependability and consistency. Not bad for a design that barely changed in 30+ years (the digital revolution won, it was discontinued in 2010).

As an icon, It is to hip-hop what the Fender Strat is to Rock.
(Or should that be the Gibson Les Paul? Guitar nuts, expand my knowledge :) )


Compared to a world of gadgets designed for "planned obsolescence", these products' lifespans, impact and resulting icon statuses are pretty inspiring to me.

There are some common themes; robustness and adaptability, skilled engineering where it counts. But the biggest theme that sticks out for me.....Simplicity.

(Some software examples for nerds: unix, vim, http)

Got any more examples to awe me? Send a reply.

Owen Smith
London, UK

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dating Chronicles 7 - DJ Matt and My Left Breast

I love being single. My friends find this puzzling.

Most of my friends are in relationships, either with a spouse, significant other, pillow, or favorite cheese. I have almost always been single, unless you count that time when I was five years old and my Korean friend kissed me in the laundry closet. Honestly, I was at his birthday to eat as much kimchi as I could stand, but he clearly sought out a spicier dish. Now that I am of age, my friends are usually encouraging me to date online or in person, write Hugh Jackman, attend Meetups. Be anything but single.

My friends decided to buy and set-up my online dating profile. They chose a site where I can propose an activity and then do that with the interested party. My friends insisted on writing my profile and since they paid, a contract followed. You will find one of those dates below.

I write you from a dwindling state of tipsiness and a break from How About We. I pulled a temporary plug on the dating website because I wasn't having much fun seeing the same odd profiles over and over again. Really, you dudes need to make your profile photo a pair of shoes, a banana, or an 85 year young woman? Siphoning through profiles felt stale and I swear I began seeing people from the site while walking around town. After the two month hiatus, I decided I would give it one more go.

Matt listed Muppet Treasure Island as his most watched movie so why not see if he were a muppet or a man? Off to the pool hall we went. Matt shared that he volunteers as a DJ for a local radio station while tending bar at a BBQ joint in my neighborhood. We spoke casually and he did not insist on teaching me how to play pool by grabbing my hand or hip. Already bonus points given my previous experience. I played a measly first game and managed to yell, "I love not getting balls in holes!" On any other night, this would have been accompanied by a "that's what she said" but I looked down and noticed my left breast hanging out of my bra.

You see, I wore tight jeans and a decorative white top, but didn't realize that when I was bending over to shoot pool, my left breast kept falling out of my bra. Freeing itself from its cloth cage and creating a third middle breast. Who needs twins when you can have triplets! I was horrified. Every few minutes, I would walk over to the wall, sip some Magners and adjust myself in what I would like to call the nip and tuck. Sink the nine ball. "Oh, you graduated with a degree in journalism. I studied English down south." Look down. Nip and tuck. Prematurely sink the eight ball. "What did you think of Seattle when you visited?" Look down. Nip and tuck. Note to self, Victoria sucks at keeping a Secret.

Surprisingly, I don't think Matt realized what was going on because he seemed pretty focused on the game. After our third round, we sat down for a minutes to finish our drinks. At this point, I saw Matt blatantly staring at my triplets and I decided to throw on my fleece. We finished our date and before parting ways, he asked me on another. Go figure.

If you want more stories, you can search online for CatholicGelt. Otherwise, I hope to hear from any one of you about embarrassing dates intertwined with comedic self-awareness.

New York, NY

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Never Settle for Hotdogs

Here's my obligatory sentence about being humbled and honored to write to this fine list of subscribers. May I add that I often thought this system was rigged? Many lottery winners seemed intimidatingly poignant and I assumed winners flaked out, forcing the creators to scramble to find excerpts from long-forgotten philosophy textbooks and angsty tumblrs.

Anyway, I now have more faith in the list and am very real and very much from Southern Indiana. My name is Bradley and I want to share with you a sentiment I seem to repeat a lot in my personal and professional life.

My father always enjoyed using analogies when explaining things to me. He always, like the good father he is, prodded me to do bigger and better things. One of my favorite analogies that I tend to share is about dating. When I was in high-school, I always wondered if the girl I was currently dating was "the one." I came to my father with this and he immediately asked me if I liked hotdogs. I of course responded that I did and didn't understand how this was pertinent to my question. He then asked me if I liked steak. And, again, I told him I did. He then explained that many people go through life eating and enjoying hotdogs while there is uneaten steak all around us. As cheesy as it sounded, I really began to understand what he was saying and never stopped thinking about it in this manner. I began to second guess every single thing I was doing, hoping it wasn't hotdoggian in nature.

I work as a counselor at Job Corps. For those who aren't familiar, 16-24 year olds from all over the country are given a federally funded scholarship to get their high-school diploma and a trade of some sort. It is very common for 22 year olds to arrive on center with the reading and math ability of a 2nd grader, no concept of money or discipline, and no place to call home. Despite the incredible opportunity, a very large % of students leave the center and go back to living at home, unemployed and uneducated, eating allegorical hotdogs. My job is to beg and plead them not to do so. If they just give the program even 6 months, they could change their lives and future generations' lives. Unfortunately, I lose this argument more than I win it, and I'm a pretty persuasive guy.

I also tend to see my peers marry into loveless relationships. It's what they're used to, what they know. I beg and plead with them to break things off, try some steak! I'm often looked at like some lunatic, because we aren't supposed to tell people to break a loveless relationship, especially when it isn't hurting anybody. As long as there isn't rampant drug activity and physical abuse, we allow our loved ones to commit their lives to soul-sucking monsters. We let our incredibly bright peers stay at a job that is beneath them.

Break up with your awful significant other, go back to school, quit your job, buy a plane ticket, take a risk, and find your steak. As generic as it sounds, this type of mental attitude can change your life and your best friend's.

Please contact me. Tell me your dream, your idea, your issue. I will listen with my comically large ears.

Bradley Davis
Evansville, Indiana

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Chameleon

We morph and we morph

until we find the form that pleases most

and paints a fair reflection.

What I seek in love ain’t love alone;

that is, it’s not enough to love, or to be loved in return,

it is the striving to find a version of me that I’m willing to keep around.

For every person I meet, for every situation I’m in,

there seems to be another kind of “I”,

filling the mould and adapting to this changeable environment.

Nor is it a case of trying to work out WHO I am,

because there just is NO ONE WAY in which I exist.

A multitude of personas, ideologies, desires and aspirations,

all of them webbing a complex weave of existence,

amounting to the sum of all my parts

and becoming “I”.

Instead, it’s about experiencing most every side of this multichotomical state of being,

and deciding which, if any, of these many masks is the most becoming.

I am who I am in the presence of you,

whoever YOU are

or MAY BE when, in the presence of me,

you’ve morphed and warped your skin to suit the colour of this encounter.

So you see, I don't mourn because love is hard to find,

or muster from the twisted roots of crass desire,

but the BLATANT, STARK and NAKED fact that cries a tortured plea

is that you were the only one that made a better me.

Adam Peter Louis McMillan
Oxford, UK

Monday, January 5, 2015

Keep dreaming and never stop.

So this is my first year living alone, far away from my parents. In that kind of moments I realise how big my country is - there is a 9722 kilometers distance between us, 8.5h flight, 7h time zones difference. I live in Saint-Petersburg - one of the most beautiful cities ever, my parents live in Vladivostok - also a wonderful and very unique place, close to asian borderland.
I am 24 years old russian single girl with a passion to travellings and everything new.
To be honest, I didnt have any reasons to move - I bet sometimes you just have feelings like you need to change something. Thats exactly what I had. And I never regret about random things and decisions. Random things - best things. (Btw, you can find some pictures of Russia in my insta - yuushh, I would love to see where do you live aswell!)
Thats why lets talk about advertising stuff. Im pretty sure you all experienced that pop-ups things when you browse somewhere in internet for something important. Casino, binary options, datings, games - whatever. Thats what I do for my job. I am a media buyer. The first thing that my friends tell me once I give them a reply about my job is "Oh my gosh, that was YOU!", so if you hate me, I understand that :) But I must admit, I really love my job. I work with people from all around the world, its jus like a travel but without moving. If you have any questions regarding it, I will gladly answer.
Advertising will stay live as long as at least 1 from 1000, as we say, "make a conversion" - register on dating website, install a game, make a deposit in casino.
And so is dream.
Keep dreaming, and work on making your dreams come true.
I will share with you one of my dreams - to visit as many places as its possible. There is no time to stop. While you move, you stay alive.
I already got an italian visa, so that will be my next destinaton! Probably I will meet any of you there ;)
Bring all the best to 2015 and Happy New Year!

P.S. Happy New Year - "S Novim Godom" in russian language. Now you know more about russian than just vodka, dancing bears and cold weather ;)


Yuliya Shuklina
Saint-Petersburg, Russia

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Stuck in the Muck

Big, dead leaves. That's what you need to start a fire in the Amazon. Leaves bigger than my torso with stems more like branches. They littered the area we had chosen for camp. We had enough firewood to cook dinner on; headlights would have to suffice after that. Iquitos was more than half a day away. We were in the jungle.
Let me make this clear. I love doing crazy shit, but I'm not careless. I truly believe things don't go wrong, just differently than originally planned. Going with the flow, assuming positive intent in people, and trusting the universe has given me some amazing experiences. But sometimes...shit's just crazy.
So, anyway, we're in the Amazon at night, and decide it'd be fun to take out this canoe. At. Night. The water levels were pretty low, and the canoe a bit large for the three of us. Caimans surrounded us with their frog-like croaks. Night monkeys called out nearby.
"Keep your flashlight low, or the bats will come too close for comfort."
I think about all vaccines I didn't get as the gossiping mosquitos become a permanent din in my ear. Did I mention how dark it was? Sure, the stars were breathtaking. Whatever. I'd just gotten off a three day cargo ship ride where I saw plenty of stars. Electric eels lived in that water. We kept getting stuck in the muck, using our hands to push off branches, hoping there wasn't a tarantula on them. I sat at the front of the canoe, my headlight guiding us down the narrow path the jungle trees had given us. My hands were shaking when they weren't swatting bugs away from my mouth, eyes, and ears. With only one paddle at our disposal, Alex's exhaustion decided to head back to camp.
Alex and Lindsay were noticeably as excited as I was horrified. Pointing out different critters and shaking the canoe if something begged for a closer look. A few yards away from the dock as we float through lily pads, Alex asks us if we want to see something cool. Of course we do.
"Turn off your lights."
Like fairies tucked in for the night, baby fireflies sat in the middle of each pad. Most were yellow and green, but I swear one was red. In that moment, all of the fear left me, and it all became immediately worth every uncomfortable moment.
I go into the new year remembering what it felt like to let go of that fear. To see the beauty and perfection in it. Cuz you know what? It's okay to be scared. But fuck if I'm gonna let it stop me.

Nikki Portela
Portland, OR

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Request: help on over-optimization. Reward: a story from Thailand

Hey Listserve,

I'm Mark Bao. I'd like to ask for some life advice. And tell you a story.

1. For most of my life, I've been trying to optimize things as much as possible. Optimize the things I'm working on. Make sure that I'm learning exactly the right things, to build the mental structures so I can be different than others. And above all -- make sure I'm working on something that I think will have the most impact on the world -- which right now I think is behavioral science. But lately, such a focus on optimization, and perfectionism, has gotten difficult -- in part because I realize that there's so much uncertainty and I can't predict things, and trying to make sure things work out while not knowing everything has been overwhelming. Has anyone else dealt with this? I'd love to chat with you.

2. I'm starting a group of people who are interested in psychology, thoughtful topics, life-long learning, and understanding things on a deeper level. If you read Farnam Street or Raptitude or Less Wrong or are interested in understanding behavior and improving personal growth, it would be rad to have you in the group! Just shoot me an email. The goal is to have a collaborative discussion among thoughtful people trying to make the world a better place.

And now a story. Northwest Thailand. During my round-the-world trip. T and I decide to take a day hike into a valley, between two mountains, to a waterfall, crossing a river a few times, climbing boulders, walking through idyllic paths through damp forests and brushes teeming with weird bugs we've never seen before.

We get to the waterfall, and eat our sandwiches in victory. 3 hours to sundown - just enough time to get back home before things go dark. But when it does go dark... It gets below zero. If you stayed in the valley, things aren't looking great for you. We had no more food. No water. Hiking in shorts and a t-shirt. No worries, plenty of time to go.

Walking back, T spots an upper trail. I'm thrilled -- I hate backtracking and always like to take new trials. We walk up and see a whole new view of the valley, almost reaching the top of the mountain. But...

"Hey, T?"


"Did we lose the trail?"

We look down. What was the trail now was a few leaves on the ground.

"Uh, weird."

1.5 hours to go before sundown. We tried backtracking, trying to find the leaves on the ground we followed before. It was all shrubs and trees and weird bugs.


1 hour to get out. No trail. Getting dark. No food. No water. And already feeling chilly.

Panic. But after a moment: we remembered we crossed the river at the bottom of the valley. So we thought: well, maybe we should try to get down to the river.

We found a relatively flat incline with some leaves, got on our butts, and slid down the side, getting scratched, bit by bugs, dodging tree trunks, and trying to control ourselves going down.

We didn't know if that would lead to the right place. We didn't know how far we went up and if we had enough time to get down.

But then we caught a glimpse of the river. We got up, jumped over a bunch of boulders, and ran over to the river, ridiculously happy that we made it down. Followed the river for a while, found the path again -- and found our way back, walking back home just as the sun set.

Mark Bao
New York, NY

Friday, January 2, 2015



I am so very shocked and excited to be writing this Listserve email today, am honored to introduce myself to so many different people.

My name is Zoe, and I am a 22 year old student from Texas. I also have no idea what to write about in this email. When asking around, my friends gave me some very scattered and varied advice, so I hope you all do not mind a very scattered and varied essay.

I do not know what career I would like to have. I am currently torn between teaching inner city kids (research Teach for America - their mission statement is wonderful) or to become a social worker and help kids in the foster care system. Kids with issues are my passion, and I am very worried that I will not be a very good worker no matter what my profession is.

I am currently a waitress, and I suppose the most interesting things that have happened to me while working is multiple people asking me for lap dances (I work at a steakhouse), I have been told that I look like "the suicide type" (to this day I am still confused and concerned), and one elderly couple has slapped my hand when I tried to refill their drinks. When that same old couple later asked me to take a picture of their 65th anniversary dinner with their old Kodak camera, I did so, but covered the lense with my middle finger (I am still quite ashamed of my temper).

My favorite books are A Tree Grows in Brokklyn, Lonesome Dove, The Dollmaker, anything by Steinbeck, Don Quixote, and The Three Musketeers. I am also a huge fan of Pablo Neruda's poetry, and am obsessed with short stories.

As you can probably tell, I love people; I find them enchanting and endearing, with so much wisdom and love to be shared. If you are interested, I would love to read about your lives! Please feel free to email me stories about your lives, or any advice you might give to a young person struggling to live in this chaotic world, or anything that you might have on your mind. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read emails from Listserve; I respect you all so much for doing that. I hope you all have a lovely new year!

Zoe foster
Houston, Texas

Thursday, January 1, 2015


"Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you."
by Sheenagn Pugh

Wishing you a Happy New Year.