Leaving People Behind

When I left my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky 12 years ago, I had no idea the budding relationships I would be leaving behind. I left because I wanted to see the world and gain a bigger perspective about the plight of current events. I also left because, like my dad, I have an adventurous spirit, and like my mom, I love my comfort zone, so I knew it would take more than just attending a new school to get me out of that comfort zone.

But with each move comes sacrifices. With each new turn, I was leaving behind opportunities to develop relationships further and explore new connections through those relationships. And while I have come to terms with leaving people behind for my own personal growth, there are two men, in particular, who I feel like I abandoned, and I am still trying to reconcile the significance of that sentiment.

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Always Dreaming of a Better Life with a Pre-existing Condition

A little more than a week ago I had the AC on and was basking in the midday sun. I felt excited for the day even if my new social energy pushed me to physical exhaustion. Life seemed full of hope again.

Then the work week arrived. And rumors of a new health care bill surfaced — one that would destroy protections for those with pre-existing conditions. I reached out to my representative. I spent a troubling amount of time trolling Twitter and tweeting about advocacy opportunities as well as sharing my own story.

On Thursday morning, a few hours before the bill was put to a vote, I went to the bathroom and cried. I just let it all out — the anxiety of a future that goes back to a time where I had to struggle to access the supplies I needed to live; the emotional devastation of living in a country that does not support my right to live; and the empathy for all those who may die (possibly millions) as a result of this bill. Continue reading

The One With the Silent ‘G’

“Guhhhhnadinger,” my third grade classmate attempted to pronounce my last name as he handed me my name tag. It was the first time I realized there might be something wrong with my last name, and that I would struggle with this deformity for the rest of my life.

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher pronounced it with a hard “g” at the end, and although my classmates corrected her, technically it was correct. In fact, even though most of my immediate family pronounces our last name with a soft “a” and second “g” at the end, most of the rest of the family pronounces it with a hard “A” and second “G.” And according to my dad, this is the closest pronunciation to the original spelling.

It’s a rather simple last name if you take away the German “G.” Instead of “Gnadinger,” you would have “Nadinger,” and I think everyone would know how to pronounce that, but it’s that damn “G” that throws everyone off. Anytime I attend a conference, go to the pharmacy, or any place that must check me off a list, I always introduce myself as “Gnadinger … G… n…a…d…” Always.

It comes naturally. And growing up, I thought how easy it would be if I didn’t have this German conundrum. Apparently, when my German ancestors migrated here in the 19th century, they changed the spelling to make it more “American.” Yet they couldn’t get rid of the silent “G.” Continue reading

From Here to There Yet Nowhere

When I’m in Louisville, Kentucky, on the border of southern Indiana, I see large Maple trees and gravel pathways lined with yellow patches of grass and fallen crisp leaves. A Beagle-Greyhound mix runs in front of me, sniffing at the brown speckled frog camouflaged by rocks and pebbles along the path. A man of 20, just starting out in the world, lights a cigarette nearby. And another man of 26 attempts to restrain the dog and keep her out of the way of the oncoming cyclist.

When I’m in Bethesda, Maryland, on the border of Washington, DC, I hear ambulance sirens and beeping horns of SUVs and BMWs. I sidestep an upraised brick in the sidewalk and bypass an orange cone of a construction zone, the latest in a series of luxury condo high rises. I pass by commuters listening to headphones and carrying laptop bags with their eyes glued to smart phones. I also attempt to drown out the noise of the city with my mood’s latest trend – this time dubstep. And then I move out of the way of an oncoming cyclist.

Belonging

More than a year ago, I made the move from Baltimore to DC. And four years before that I made the move from Cincinnati to Baltimore. And five years prior to that, I left my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

So exactly 10 years ago, a few weeks from today, I ventured from my roots with no plans to return. Of my two brothers and various family members, I have so far been the only one to do so (not including those who left before me). But what I didn’t realize then was what I would be giving up and what I would never be able to have again: a home. Continue reading

‘It’s All About Perspective’

More than a week ago, I was in Louisville, Kentucky for my 10-year high school reunion. In addition to that, I spent a wonderful extended weekend with family and friends celebrating birthdays and life’s successes. And all of this while sleeping on a cot (because like myself, my parents do not waste space — as soon as I left for college my old bedroom was turned into a bedroom for my brothers and then an office for my parents).

And although I may complain every time I visit about the sleeping accommodations and the fact that I lay exposed in the living or dining room, I am secretly proud of my parents for not keeping my bedroom as a shrine, for making the most of what they have.

But since that weekend, I have endured countless awful days of stress and anxiety. And I sank into a small depressive hole, questioning what I was doing with my life and why my personal and professional lives could not co-exist in the same city.

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Devastating News

That is until I learned one of my best friends was almost beaten to death on his bike over a cell phone. Suddenly my questions about a meaningful existence seemed irrelevant. Because all that mattered is that my best friend made it out okay. All that mattered was that someone I loved would survive this tragedy without too much scarring. Continue reading

Life Lessons From ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’

The ThiefIn 1993, Miramax came out with the animated film, The Thief and the Cobbler, with character voices by such notable names as Vincent Price, Matthew Broderick and Jonathan Winters. A few years later when my dad found this hidden gem, little did my brothers and I know the controversary surrounding its production.

Sheltered from the criticism of the masses, my brothers and I merely loved this movie not for the animation and the storyline, but solely for the presence of the thief. I was recently reminded of the film a few weeks ago when my brother texted me at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday with this: Finally, something easy. Just walk up the stairs, grab the balls, and go home; I’ll be in bed by 8!

There was no context, but I immediately recognized the origin and voice of this quote. For the next 12 hours, we continued to text back and forth only quotes from the character of the thief. I admit towards the end I had to look some up, but my brother shelled these out straight from memory.

How does a film, most notably recognized for its botched up rendition of one of the most acclaimed animations in history, stay in the minds of a brother and sister? And why? Continue reading

Looking Back From 1993

I’ve never seen anyone jump in front of a Metro train, but it seems to happen more frequently in the DC area than I would like to admit. And most times when it does, people grumble about the delays and inconvenience, myself included.

Sometimes, I think of what was going through that person’s mind. And when I walk down the stairs to the platform, and then along the raised, bumped edge to get through the crowd, I think how easy it would be to just fall or jump to my right. In a split second, I would be no more.

But then I think about the train driver – how they can see the entire scene play out, and there’s nothing they can do about it. If they try to brake, it may only put the passengers at risk, whereas the jumper knew the consequence of their actions. And even though the driver is not responsible, that is something they must take with them for the rest of their life.

Mental health, an often overlooked sector of health care, is so important to surviving the daily grind. It is why we shouldn’t take for granted that someone won’t jump in front of that train. And we should always ask why. When the mind starts to reason ending life, then it can reason a lot of things. Continue reading