Best Friends

‘Best Friend’ has been a title that I have given to a lot of people but it has seldom been reciprocated. I was very surprised when my best friend from high school back in Colombia actually called me his best friend. We have kept in contact and our paths actually crossed again back in 1998 after not seeing each other for five years. He is actually a successful singer, musician, record producer and electrical engineer back in Colombia. He actually taught me how to play the couple of chords I know how to play on the guitar. He recently started blogging and posted a 50 things about him, and I am proud that he actually mentioned me as his “mejor amigo” during high school.

I remember a lot of people that have affected my life as best friends. In one way or another they have shaped who I am with their friendship and even though some of them have not ended in the most positive of terms, I have learned from all of the relationships. My first memory of having a best friend comes from grade school. I spent 5 years with the same group of kids and my best friend was Edgar. He lived around the corner from me and was a very kind, mild mannered kid. I will always remember how gentle and friendly he was to everyone and have always wanted to reconnect with him. I do know that he got married and has a couple of kids, but not sure what he became professionally.

Around the neighborhood I had two friends that I will never forget. One was Jose Luis aka (Pocho). He was an excellent athlete and soccer player. He made me a better soccer player and taught me a lot about being street smart. I remember a lot of playing soccer and playing dominos with him and a group of friends. Pocho went on to become a doctor and I am really not sure where he lives now but I do know that he actually moved to Ecuador to go to school. The second one was Jacqueline who was the daughter of one of my Mom’s best friends and the niece of my uncle’s wife. We grew up together because our families were close but we developed our own friendship to the point that she knew more about me than any other friend. She was someone I felt I could talk to about anything and there would be no judgment. One sad thing about remembering her is that she is not with us anymore. She passed away 2 years after I moved to the United States. I visited her grave when I went to Colombia and I will always remember her.

During high school I had a group of friends that through the years became a protection clique. I was always the small one and they all took care of me in one way or another. The school that we went to was very divided into different social groups and we had tons of fun with each other. We came up with our own made up words, our own practices and just overall craziness. Julian aka (NitoXXX) was part of that group along with Javier, Diego, and Andres. Julian inspired this post, Javier is now a doctor and I believe he is now in the UK, Diego is a Psychologist working with the people displaced by the war all over Colombia and I believe Andres is a teacher still in our city.

After moving to the US I did a couple of years in High School and graduated after 4 senior years. It is a complicated thing that I will someday explain in a post. While at High School in the US I made one best friend, Luis aka (Chino) he helped me survive a very tough High School without any major incidents. I also became a part of his family during those years by being over there all the time eating tasty Puerto Rican meals that his Mom made. After Chino moved away from his parents I have not heard much from him. I have seen him over the years but at times it seems like I have seen his parents more than I have seen him after High School.

College was a blast and I met some of the people that I wanted to keep in contact with for the rest of my life. It just so happens that after college you lose touch with most of your friends. Something that I should have learned after grammar school and High School, but I partially blamed it on just moving away from Colombia. I met some great people there, some I don’t talk to anymore by choice (mine or theirs depending on various situations) and some are the people that I will have stand up for me at my wedding. Travis and Eric are two of the brightest people I have the pleasure to interact with in my life. Travis is a web developer working for a firm down in southern IL, and Eric works for a big telecom company writing software (even thought he is a hardware guru) and installing equipment to deliver digital content. I still keep on contact with them in a regular basis, but we have not seen each other as much as we would like to because of geographical distances.

Is individualism to blame for bad manners?

I wrote about how our society is losing its good manners. I received some excellent comments, and the one from Sal made me think about family interactions.

Sal Said

I just had a big argument with my wife about this. For some reason, her 18 year old daughter doesnt say hello to people as she walks in the house…

…My wife has said in the past that to her daughter you dont need to do this because you are part of the family, and my response is that family is even more important than strangers.

I am making a statement that some might strongly disagree with, but I think that part of the problem with our society is individualism. Our society is addicted to winning, being the best and having the most is what capitalism is all about. Are we ready to pay the price?

Most teenagers in every culture go through a rebellion phase. They try to branch off and develop their personality and become an individual. In Colombia, most kids then get through this phase and rejoin the family unit. They come back respecting the values and core morals of the family. Respect for your elders is not just encouraged but expected, and age is looked upon as wisdom and not a handicap.

I have observed in America how teenagers after going through their rebellion phase do not come back to their families. Most of the time they develop their individualism and become a whole new person at times denouncing anything that would connect them to the past generation. I believe this is to blame in part to the loss of manners now a days. Our youth is striving so hard to separate themselves from the previous “un-cool” generation that even basic principles and common sense are ignored and forgotten.

Being in a household with a mixed culture, Cielo being born and raised in a smaller town and me coming in with the Colombian background as well as the big city life I experience have come up with our own little culture. The important thing is to not just drop one of the cultures but as a family unit come up with your own. I believe the Colombian culture has a lot to offer, and we adopt as much of it as it fits our lives. The small town living that Cielo grew up around also brings a lot of positives that have really made me slow down from the 24-hour big city life. We both still love Chicago and visit quite often, but can do without a lot of the congestion and stress that comes from a cosmopolitan city.

I think not just in our household but in all households it is important to compromise your beliefs and come up with what is best for the family. I don’t think is right to just ignore how one person lives or has lived before just for the sake of continuity. In Sal’s case I think that teaching his (step)Daughter respect and greeting people when she comes home is important. I believe that while a compromise can be reached in other terms, that keeping that sense of family involves greeting and personal contact. I think he should care, and believe in incorporating what I believe is a very positive thing into his overall family culture.

What do you guys think?

What to do?

A couple of weeks ago The girl I was dating at the time and I were faced with the difficult decision of whether to get involved with a family situation where we would have to tell a teenager’s parents about their kids behavior. Until today and reading Michael’s post about his dilemma on a similar situation I had forgotten completely that I was faced with this situation before.
Read more What to do?

Mental vs Physical labor

My job is not hard work? I have had multiple discussions with people about whether what I do for a living is hard work or not. The implication goes beyond stating that what I do does not involve physical labor. Sure it is not hard physical labor but what I do for a living is hard work. When I get home at the end of the night I am mentally drained. It is at times so taxing that I cannot even relax and stop thinking about the work that I have to do. That is not even counting my ability to telecommute and continue working after I’ve had dinner.

It is a difficult subject to discuss because there are several ramifications, cultural, social and economic. My Mother always told me that if I wanted to keep a friend I should never discuss politics or religion with them, well I think this subject is up there in that category also.

I also want to include a little side note here. I hope it will illustrate the respect that I have for the people that do perform physical labor type jobs on an every day basis. What I did last night is a job that I certainly would not want to do every day. One of our ceiling fans at home became loose, so Cielo and I tackled the task of fixing it, which by the way we completed successfully. I had looked into the attic when we first bought the house and it looked crammed but not too bad. I thought going up there was not going to be the most difficult part of this little electrical endeavor.

Well I had a surprise coming to me last night when I had to literally crawl to move up there. I am still itchy from the insulation all over my arms. I spent probably 15 minutes there fixing the support for the ceiling fan with limited oxygen and limited maneuverability. So don’t think for a second that I do not have the utmost respect for people that perform physical tasks everyday for work. Also I want to note that I was a UPS loader, not for very long at all (I think about a month) but I did experience how difficult and taxing on your body it is to perform physical labor. All my jobs in the service and fast food industry I consider borderline.

Where to draw the line is the first murky decision that needs to be made to steer this discussion. I could draw a line between professional jobs that require a college degree and vice versa, but for this subject I think we can concentrate on mental vs. physical labor. It is a lot more difficult than just that, because how can we say that a doctor who performs a job that at times can be very mentally taxing does not have to also perform tasks that push the human body to its limits. Wow, when I first started to write about this topic I did not think it would be this difficult.

To simplify things lets just say that I have had people come up to me as a computer programmer and told me that a days worth of my work is not the same as their job as a carpenter building houses. I don’t have the skills to perform that job and vice versa. But at the end of the day did he work harder than I did? Is he more able to relax since he cannot perform his job while not at the site, but I am left to still think of how to make a program bug go away?

I am on call pretty much 24-7. The times for support come and go with projects, some require me to work 30 hours straight until something is completely set up and running, others a call in the middle of the night: come out of a deep sleep to remember details on how to make something work. My point is not that my job is a lot more difficult, I just want the recognition from people that perform physical jobs that what I do while not physical is still hard work.

Bad Neighbors

Well, this has been an interesting experience for me. I have always tried to be polite and not get into any problems with any of my neighbors. Growing up, neighbors knew each other and were part of each other’s lives in many senses. Now days you are lucky if you know the names of the people you live around. I guess it is a matter of taking the initiative and making friends with people but who wants to after an experience like this. Read more Bad Neighbors