My Problem with Ariana Grande’s Song 7 Rings

 

I want to start by saying that I absolutely love Ariana Grande. I think she is one of our generation’s most underrated and talented singers. For those of you who didn’t see her incredibly on-point impressions on Saturday Night Live, I implore you to go to YouTube and watch them. You’ll be amazed. But at the same time I need to talk about my issue with the super popular song 7 Rings. I had no problem with the song until I listened to the lyrics and heard this line:

“Happiness is the same price as red-bottoms”

Admittedly I’ve been a little out of the American pop culture loop as I’ve been living on the beaches of Thailand but when I first heard 7 Rings, I was into it. I quickly Shazam’ed it and thought to myself “of course it’s Ariana.” The girl is on fire. 7 Rings is one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a long time. It sounded really familiar, and that’s because she samples My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music (and I’m sure in 15 years somebody else is going to sample 7 Rings).

The meaning of the original My Favorite Things is about finding happiness from simple things : “raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens…these are a few of my favorite things” None of these items cost a lot of money and many of them are free to enjoy.

Ariana’s version has creatively (and obnoxiously) flipped the meaning of the song with materialistic items that are only easily attainable by the wealthy. According to Wikipedia, “Louboutins can sell from $495 and up, with crystal-encrusted pairs costing up to $6,000.” For the average American, a pair of Louboutins is simply out of their means.

First, let’s establish a few things. Ariana Grande’s net worth is estimated to be $50 million in 2019. If she stopped working today and never earned another cent, and assuming a very conservative 5% average annual growth for the next 30 years, her $50 million would become worth over $216 million in 2049. In other words, she is incredibly wealthy.  The average American on the other hand, has an annual income of $59,039. 

“Happiness is the same price as red-bottoms”

A pair of $495 Louboutins costs 0.00099% of Ariana’s net worth.  Using math, it is the equivalent of the average American spending $.58.   The point is, when Ariana Grande wants to buy Louboutins, it’s cheaper for her than for the average American to buy a cup of coffee. A cup of coffee does bring many people great joy – a hot cappuccino during a New York winter or an iced latte during a Thai summer does put a smile on my face, but these are affordable pleasures that most people can afford and enjoy. These are the simple pleasures that she should be bragging about, not a pair of $500 shoes. Or, she should brag about buying a Facebook share in 2011 that’s worth more than 4x more today. She should brag about the piece of property she purchased in 2013 and how it’s value has increased by 30%. Don’t equate happiness to shoes. Because it isn’t true and it’s setting a bad goal for your fans to aim for that a majority cannot afford.

BeFreeMySheeple Ariana Grande

It’s been proven that long-term, sustainable happiness does not come from material items, but instead it comes from having more time,and I would have to agree from personal experience. When I was living in NYC making a deep six-figure income, I also had to deal with a lot of pressure to continue performing. Due to my career choice (which was client-facing), I had to do a lot of entertaining which meant many late nights at lavish restaurants, bars and clubs. To many people, this sounds like a dream life, but it wasn’t healthy. While I was getting fat pockets, I was also gaining weight. Even though I could afford whatever material items I wanted, I knew I wasn’t happy. Living on the beach in Thailand without the time demands and performance pressures of a full-time job has made me infinitely happier. I earn a fraction of what I did when I was living in New York City, but I find my personal happiness comes from things that cost nothing or close to:

-unlimited vacation days
-spending time with my dogs
-a fresh coconut
-sun
-foot massage on the beach
-exercise
-freedom
-delicious (and cheap) healthy, organic food
-coffee

I do believe for many of you, a similar lifestyle would bring you far more happiness. If it wouldn’t, why do so many people escape to tropical islands as soon as they get the chance to?

As many of us get older, we will come to the realization that time and living in the moment are what bring us the most joy, not shoes. I used to define the 1% by how much money somebody made but now I define it by how much freedom somebody has and only 1% of us are truly unplugged from the corporate matrix that society told us is the way to go. Many of us are sheeple, too scared to take the risk and lose stability to exchange for the reward of establishing our own schedules, our own hours, our own income.

I have an issue with 7 rings because, like many of today’s empty, vapid songs, it perpetuates the belief that happiness comes in the form of not only material things, but expensive items of luxury. And that’s totally OK if that’s what makes a person happy and they have the financial flexibility to do so. But unfortunately, 99% of Americans cannot afford these items without going into debt or making a significant dent into their net worth. A majority of people will never experience the lifestyle that she’s bragging about: “my receipts be lookin’ like phone numbers…bought matching diamonds for six of my bitches.” By the way, an American phone number is at minimum 7 digits (not including the area code) so she’s referring to spending at least $1,000,000 and up to $9,999,999 (which I do believe is an exaggeration on her part).

BeFreeMySheeple Ariana Grande

I would make the argument that the Ariana Grande song is irresponsible as it encourages financial irresponsibility (financial stupidity) and sets the benchmark for happiness as expensive shoes. For the urban youth that finally has $1,000 extra dollars in their pocket, Ariana’s song motivates them to spend their money on something that almost immediately goes down in value after purchasing it. The responsible thing to do would be to tell her audience that happiness comes from financial freedom (which is really what she’s saying) and the path to financial freedom (for most people) is learning how to manage your money when you first have some. This includes making wise investments such as a diversified stock portfolio and/or investing in real estate.

Perhaps the lyrics should be:

Yeah, breakfast in  Thailand and dishes of pad Thai
My investments in real estate just doubled
Thank you Mark Zuckerberg for all the gains
Buy myself all of the best investments (Yeah)

Been through some bad shit, I used to be sheeple 
Now I’m unplugged like Neo from the matrix
Rather spend time on the beach not office 
No full-time job I just do what I want

My smile, stop watchin’, my day, is flossin
Make big investments, the beach, is poppin’
You like my fruit? Gee, thanks, just bought it
I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it (Yeah)  

And just so you see the lyrics I wrote work out, I’m debuting my non-singing voice for you. Awk.

My first personal investment was in Facebook when it first IPO’ed. Since then, my investment has more than quadrupled into a nice Thailand retirement fund by itself. My next move is investing in rental properties in Florida. Not only will the principle go up in value, but I’ll have positive cash flow from my renters. This means I’ll have increased financial flexibility and freedom. Can the same person that invested their money in Louboutins say the same thing?

I checked the YouTube comments on the original song My Favorite Things and it looks like I’m not the only person who made a similar observation about this song (but of course I had to write a whole blog post about it and record my own version of her song because I’m extra).

BeFreeMySheeple 7 Rings YouTube Comments BeFreeMySheeple 7 Rings YouTube Comments BeFreeMySheeple 7 Rings YouTube Comments

Happiness is  not red-bottoms Ariana.

***

How do you define happiness? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple!

Pet-Friendly Hotels in Thailand (Bangkok)

 

I wanted to put together a list of the best pet-friendly hotels in Thailand that I have stayed at in the past 6 months. If you’re like me, you consider your dogs family and you want to travel the would with them in style and in comfort. I have been living exclusively out of hotels since October 1st so I have found some of the best pet-friendly hotel deals across Thailand.

This is going to be an on-going series with cities such as Hua Hin, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan & more being added. As I travel to Vietnam next month (and then South America towards the end of 2019), I will create pet-friendly hotel guides for each city. You can find them on my homepage under Dogs>Pet-Friendly Hotels.

Back in November when I first arrived to Thailand, I answered the question : Is Thailand Dog-Friendly? Five months later, my opinion remains that Thailand is very dog-friendly. I’ve had significantly more positive experiences than negatives ones. The hotels below are being listed in alphabetical order. 

And if you book a hotel from this article, please support the website by using this Booking.com link which gets us both a $15 coupon! 

Pet Friendly Hotels in Thailand Bangkok

Pet-Friendly Hotels in Thailand (Bangkok)

Aspira Hana Serviced Residence

66 Soi Thonglor 23, Khlongtan Nuer, Watthana, Sukhumvit, Wattana, 10110 Bangkok, Thailand

Charge of 500 baht per night per pet (maximum 10 kg pet is allowed)

BeFreeMySheeple Aspira Hana

How They Describe Themselves:“Aspira Hana Residence Thong Lor is a brand new serviced apartment conveniently located in one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods for dining and night out.”

Location: Aspira Hana is located in Thong Lor which is one of my favorite areas of Bangkok because it’s clean and more upscale. With a large Japanese population, many of Bangkok’s pet-friendly hotels and condos are located in Thong Lor making this specific neighborhood more pet-friendly (you’ll find cute little pet shops). There’s also many Japanese restaurants with my favorite one being Shakariki 432″ (get the “penis dessert.”). You’re also a short cab ride away from RCA, the club district of Bangkok. Massages, hair salons and cosmetic surgery is available all over Thong Lor. I was also excited to find a number of mixology bars. Cocktails!

Room Pros: The rooms in Aspira Hana are beautifully designed and decorated. The pet-friendly rooms are located on the 2nd floor. Each hotel room has a washing machine which is convenient because Bangkok is considered the hottest city on the planet (so you’re going to sweat a lot). If you like to cook, there’s a kitchenette (but why would you want to when you’re in Thailand surrounded by all the eats???)! I also had a king-size bed (which at this point in my life is a mandatory). The bathrooms are very clean, spacious and modern. And the toilets have those jet-streams to leave your butt sparkling clean!

Room Cons: The rooms did not come with a drier so you have to dry your clothes the old school way by letting them air-dry on the balcony. 

Hotel Pros: The hotel is very safe. There’s security 24/7 as well as parking. On the rooftop is a mini-gym (treadmill, dumbbells) as well as a pool. There are no buildings obstructing the sun so you can get your tan on all day. There’s also a free coffee machine in the lobby (I recommend the matcha green tea latte).

Hotel Cons: During my stay, there was a lot of construction in the area making it sometimes difficult to sleep in late. Not the biggest issue because I’m a deep sleeper but definitely something to call in advance and ask about. But then again, you’re in Thailand! It’s better to wake up and explore the city!

Recommended for: Those who are looking for a more sophisticated take on Bangkok.

Favorite Restaurant: My favorite restaurant in walking distance from the hotel is Somtum Der, Isan-inspired Thai food that’s both cheap and delicious. This restaurant is also in New York City’s East Village but the prices in Thailand are way, way cheaper. 

BeFreeMySheeple Aspira Hana Thonglor
Rooftop Pool
BeFreeMySheeple Aspira Hana Thonglor
3 gentlemen

The Kaze 34 Hotel and Serviced Residence

66 Sukhumvit Rd, Soi Sukhumvit 34, Klongton, Klongtoey, Khlong Toei, 10110 Bangkok, Thailand

2,000 baht security deposit for pets

BeFreeMySheeple Bangkok Thailand Pet Friendly Hotels Kaze 34

How They Describe Themselves:“The hotel and residence is situated in the heart of Sukhumvit Road. The wide array of sizes allows you to choose the unit most suited to your lifestyle with cheap and chic prices.”

Location: Kaze 34 is located in Khlong Toei, a few blocks from the main road Sukhumvit which has everything you want in Bangkok from cheap eats, massages, to an ultra-fancy mall (EmQuartier) as well as my favorite public park in Bangkok (Benjasiri). The park is great because it has basketball courts as well as a random assortment of dumbbells and barbells (and it’s FREE).

Room Pros: I have stayed at 2 different types of rooms at The Kaze. The first room (pictured up top) is the more modern room at a slightly higher price. This room is modern, clean and colorful. Like an apartment, you’ll have a bedroom, living room and dining area. It’s fantastic if you need or want a lot of space. The other room was a bit outdated but still very spacious (pictured below). From what I hear, they are renovating all rooms so every room will be a winner. Also, the rooms have a washing machine (again, very important in Bangkok due to the vast amounts of sweat you will generate).

Room Cons: The only con is if you’re expecting the newer rooms and you get the older one. If you’re unsure, just call and ask in advance. Very helpful customer service.

Hotel Pros: The hotel is very safe. There’s security 24/7 as well as parking. There’s a vending machine right outside the lobby for late-night beverages (non-alcoholic). They also have tuk tuk service available between 9-7 to bring you to Sukhimvit (the main road) and back. The manager also speaks perfect English.

Hotel Cons: One thing to keep in mind is that the hotel is a bit hard to find as it’s located in the middle of winding roads so taking the hotels’ tuk tuk is recommended. Otherwise, it’s a deceptive 15 minute walk to Sukhumvit.

One thing to keep in mind is that the hotel is a bit hard to find as it's located in the middle of winding roads. 

Recommended for: Those who are looking for a true apartment-style hotel at a great price in a quite neighborhood.

Favorite Restaurant: I must have eaten at Im Chan every day. It’s located on the corner of Sukhimvit and Soi Ari. Fantastic food and very cheap! As an additional note, if you’re married or with your wife, do not get a massage on Soi Ari as tempting as it looks as you’re eating pad Thai.

BeFreeMySheeple Bangkok Thailand Pet Friendly Hotels Kaze 34
Tuk tuk!

BeFreeMySheeple Bangkok Thailand Pet Friendly Hotels SillemonZeds 

37 Thanon Samsen, Wat Sam Phraya, Phra Nakhon, 10200 Bangkok, Thailand

No pet fee

How They Describe Themselves: “Located in Bangkok and with Khao San Road reachable within a 9-minute walk, Zeds provides a terrace, non-smoking rooms, free WiFi and a shared lounge. “

Location: What makes Zeds such an ideal location is that it’s close to many of Bangkok’s top tourist attractions such as Chao Phraya river (lots of upscale restaurants), The Grand Palace (absolutely stunning and worth spending 2-3 hours) and the world-famous backpacker center of the universe, Khao San Road. I’ve already featured Khao San Road on my blog twice: (1) The Craziest Party Streets I’ve Been To In The World!!! (2) Celebrating a 35th Birthday in Bangkok, Thailand

Room Pros: I’ve seen Zeds go by 2 different names, Zeds Hostel and Zeds Innovative Guest House. I think both names are appropriate because they offer both shared rooms (the hostel experience) and single rooms (with a private bathroom). The architecture is what makes this hotel completely unique. The hotel (including the rooms) is designed from massive industrial storage containers which is certainly innovative. How cool is that? The manager also wanted to point out that they use organic products in the bathroom as they believe in sustainability (and yes, they smelled delicious…lemongrass). I stayed in both single rooms that they offer (room 301 and 302) and while they are on the smaller side, the design makes them feel quite spacious. I especially loved the romantic lighting and unique design elements featured in each room.

BeFreeMySheeple Bangkok Pet Friendly Zeds

Room Cons: If you’re living out of a giant suitcase like I am, then the rooms are little bit too small but chances are, you have a normal suitcase so these rooms will totally work for you.

Hotel Pros: The location here is outstanding. You’re inches away from cheap eats, massages, and 7/11, the most important store in Thailand (ask a local where to get something and the answer is almost always “7/11.”). There’s also a rooftop with a decent view. I believe a pair of French bulldogs live on-site. So cute!

BeFreeMySheeple Bangkok Pet Friendly Zeds

Hotel Cons: The entrance is a bit difficult to find at first as you have to go through a small alleyway and enter from the back of the building. Also, the door is a bit tight so you’ll need to learn how to open both doors in order to get larger luggage pieces through. There’s no elevator in this hotel so if your luggage is heavy, get ready for a workout.

BeFreeMySheeple Pet Friendly Hotel Bangkok Zed

Recommended for: Those who want easy access to Khao San Road, one of the greatest party streets in the universe.

Favorite Restaurant: I would just walk to Khao San Road and eat all the delicious street food! And if you try the scorpion, send me a video of you eating it!

***

Have you stayed at a pet-friendly hotel in Bangkok that you absolutely loved? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple!

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone (Guest Post by @The_Backpackingcouple)


By Mike & Jeanie

@the_backpackingcouple

We used to live for the weekends, counting down the days until our next vacation. We used to wake up for work, counting down the minutes until we could leave the office. We were always looking ahead, past the present moment. Now we love every minute & we never want the days to end, but it does help when the sunsets look like this.

BeFreeMySheeple Mike & Jeanie @the_backpackingcouple

We are both in our 30s & we knew we weren’t getting any younger. We knew something wasn’t right with the way we were living & we were ready for a change. While we know that work is a reality of life & the truth is that we enjoy working, we’re determined to find a way to work on our own terms. Yea, we sound like millennials but maybe that’s a good thing. We’re convinced that work doesn’t have to happen in an office, between the hours of 9-5. Some of the most successful people we know work remotely. They work on beaches, on planes but most importantly they love their life because they are working to live, not living to work.

BeFreeMySheeple Mike & Jeanie @the_backpackingcouple
Koh Kudu Yai

While we’re far from figuring it out, we are all in on trying to make it work. For all we know, we may end up back at an office job in NYC, but one thing is for sure, we know we couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t step out of our comfort zone & give it a try.

BeFreeMySheeple Mike & Jeanie @the_backpackingcouple
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

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Have you escaped the 9-5 to pursue your happiness? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple!

The Inspirationals #4 : Cancer Survivor

The Inspirationals #4: Cancer Survivor

Welcome to the fourth installment of BeFreeMySheeple.com’s The Inspirationals where I interview people who inspire me. 

This week I interviewed Sarah Farnam, a friend that I met through the media industry in 2010 who was diagnosed with and defeated cancer 1.5 years ago. I’ve closely followed her journey through social media from being diagnosed with leukemia (blood cancer) in 2017, her battle against it and her victory. Yesterday (February 28th,) she celebrated her 2-year anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer (her “cancerversary” as she calls it).

BeFreeMySheeple Cancer Survivor Sarah
Sarah

Cancer has been a very personal topic for me as I lost my mom to a cancer that metastasized in 2009. During my mom’s battle, my dad neglected paying attention to his own health and found out after her passing that he had colon cancer (undiagnosed and untreated for years). Fortunately, it grew very slowly so with surgery and chemotherapy, my dad won. Neither the Vietnam War or colon cancer could stop my dad. He is a survivor! 

According to Statista, “Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, making it one of modern medicine’s greatest challenges. The percentage of the U.S. population who has or ever had cancer has increased over the past 15 years.” As we get older, it is unfortunately likely that we will see our close friends and family affected by cancer. These can be dark times but we can look to cancer survivors for hope.

Today, as Sarah celebrates her 2 year anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer, I wanted to share her inspiring story.

BeFreeMySheeple.com’s Exclusive Interview with Sarah

BeFreeMySheeple Sarah Survivor
Sarah (Cancer Survivor)

Adam Francisco: Congratulations on your 1.5-year anniversary being cancer-free! Thank you so much for sitting with me and sharing your personal story on the 2-year anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer. How did you originally find out that you had cancer and what made you get checked for it?

Sarah: In January 2017, I began experiencing what I describe as mysterious symptoms for about two months prior to my diagnosis: nausea, fatigue, headaches, loss of appetite and weight loss. I say they were mysterious because although they were affecting my quality of life, I was able to push through the symptoms and go about my day-to-day duties. I had just begun a new job, and chalked up a lot of these symptoms to common side effects from the stress of starting a new job. It wasn’t until one Friday afternoon in late February 2017 when I was headed to the airport after work to fly to my friend’s wedding that I knew something was seriously wrong. I became extremely carsick, and had to turn around to go back to my home and ultimately missed out on the wedding. I was sick for the entire weekend, and assumed it was food poisoning, and just kept hoping time and rest would take care of it. It wasn’t until four days later, when I was dehydrated and so weak from vomiting all those days that I could barely walk that I finally mustered up all the energy I had and took myself to the nearest emergency department.

BeFreeMySheeple Sarah One Year Cancer Free
One Year Cancer Free

Adam: I can’t imagine how awful it feels to do everything you’re supposed to do when you’re sick and there’s no improvement.

Sarah: Yeah. It turns out my terrible symptoms were caused by a kidney infection, which was most likely caused by my very low immune system brought on by leukemia, as infections manifest so much easier in people with active leukemia. It’s common for undiagnosed leukemia patients to present to their Doctors or the ED with bad colds, pneumonia or other infections, and often, the infections are treated without diagnosing the underlying cancer. This is very problematic, because the longer leukemia goes untreated, the harder it can be to get the patient into much-needed remission. Early detection is critical in so many cancers, and leukemia is no exception. Luckily, the doctor I saw in the ED ordered a standard blood test, called a CBC, which among other things, checks for a white blood cell count. My WBC was high, which could have been attributed to the kidney infection, but luckily my doctor thought to consult the hematologist at the hospital, which is a doctor who specializes in diseases of the blood. Around 12 hours after I had initially presented myself to the ED, I was notified that the doctor had run tests and confirmed I had acute leukemia and that I would have to be checked into UCSF’s hematology oncology ward immediately for treatment.

Adam: The worst possible news. What were your thoughts and feelings when you first found out?

Sarah: My first reaction when the doctor notified me was visceral. I held my hand out to him in a “stop” formation. I truly wanted him to stop talking and rewind back to five minutes before, when I was a young woman living in San Francisco (my dream location for so many years), just trying to work, travel, date, be independent and all the other things a lot of women my age are seeking. Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness didn’t fit into that narrative at all, and I think my body and mind immediately knew that, and resisted what he way saying to me. I had also unfortunately known two people in my life who had passed from leukemia, and assumed it meant I would eventually pass from it as well. So the next question I asked him was, “When am I going to die?” He paused and assured me there were many who had overcome a leukemia diagnosis, and he was right.

BeFreeMySheeple Sarah Fuck You Cancer
Fuck Cancer

Adam: In just a few words from the doctor, your life completely changed, but at the same time there was hope that you’d be cured.

Sarah: We still have a long way to come with treating leukemia, especially with regards to adult leukemia, because the cure rates are much lower for adults with leukemia than children, but cure rates have gotten better in the decades that I have been alive, and I hope that trajectory continues.

Adam: How did you cope with hearing that you have leukemia?

Sarah: To be frank, I was a mixed bag of emotions when I was first diagnosed because there were so many unknowns and I’m someone who likes to get a lay of the land with answers to all of my questions as soon as possible. I’ve since come to realize that unknowns are a part of being human, and to be able to find peace with that discomfort is something I’ve been working on in my healing process.

Adam: I have always heard that we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Sarah: After the initial shock, I was fairly positive and started most of my mornings off listing things I was grateful for, which I for the most part continue to this day. I also attended the groups they had for patients where we would do creative expression or centering practices like deep breathing. I remember my first admission in UCSF, there was an extremely talented woman who volunteered to play a harp for us on our floor, and I thought that was incredible, and would always stop to give her a listen. I also welcomed friends and former co-workers in to visit me with open arms, and would also forge friendships with other patients or their caregivers. And lastly, I would try and find ways to laugh as much as possible. It was usually in conversations with my friends or my Mom where we would do silly things to just laugh out all the stress we were carrying.

Adam: “Laughter is the best medicine.”

BeFreeMySheeple Sarah Mom
Sarah & Mom

Sarah: It is. I’m Iranian, and I remember one time while I was in-patient, my Mom and my friend, who is also Iranian, starting playing Persian music and dancing all over the place, and I was laughing so hard and having the best time. Another time, two of my good friends and I were watching “laughter yoga” videos and just cracking ourselves up to tears where we were falling all over each other. I was actively seeking out laughter like this because I knew the power it possessed to relax and heal me.

Adam: I heard that many hospitals offer patients Laughter Therapy which has many physical and mental health benefits.

Sarah: I also want to make what I think is a very important point. For the most part, I worked hard to stay positive and find happiness and laughter whenever posible. But I also had my fair share of dark moments of hopelessness, depression and anxiety. In fact, one of the things I am hoping to speak out on more is mental health care for cancer patients because I feel like it is more of an afterthought than a priority for medical care professionals when it comes to treating cancer patients, and I hope that changes soon. I think a lot of good feedback and encouragement is given to cancer patients who are positive with a great attitude and always smiling and keeping faith. While I took pride in being positive, finding humor and keeping hope and faith alive as much as possible, I had some really rough patches that I hid from a lot of people because I didn’t want to disturb or make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Adam: That’s so heartbreaking because I can imagine that it makes you feel even more isolated in your battle.

BeFreeMySheeple Sarah Chemo
Chemotherapy

Sarah: One of my most distinct memories was when my brother was visiting me within the first few days of chemotherapy, and I was having a really bad reaction to it. I was vomiting almost non-stop, and the care team was very concerned. And all the while, I kept thinking, “I don’t want my brother to see me like this.” I wasn’t as concerned about the fact that excessive vomiting would make my healing process harder, I just wanted to ensure my baby brother didn’t see his sister having a violent reaction to chemotherapy, because I wanted to protect him from that image. And I’ve heard other cancer patients say similar things, which makes me sad.

Adam: I never knew how much pain my mom was dealing with because she always protected us from seeing it.

Sarah: A lot of us are really concerned about how others, especially our loved ones, perceive us, when they really should be concerned on getting better. So I guess my point is, positivity and humor is important, but so is acknowledging pain and accepting that being positive and hopeful 100% of the time is unrealistic.

Adam: What kind of treatment and therapy did you undergo?

Sarah: I was put on chemotherapy almost immediately, because my particular cancer, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, is very fast-moving and if untreated, can take the lives of those afflicted in a matter of weeks or months. I proceeded to go through almost eight months of high-dose intensive chemotherapy and six lumbar punctures where I received chemotherapy intrathecally in order to prevent the spread of Leukemia to my central nervous system. Once high-dose chemotherapy was done, I was put on a “maintenance” chemotherapy regimen where I receive a monthly infusion of lower-dose chemotherapy and take two forms of oral chemotherapy. I am still undergoing this treatment, and will be doing so until one year from now. All together, if things continue going according to plan, I will have been on one form of chemotherapy for roughly three years. The reason I am on a maintenance chemotherapy regimen is because my cancer has a high chance of relapse, and maintenance regimens have been proven to dramatically reduce relapse rates.

BeFreeMySheeple Sarah Mom
Sarah & Mom

Adam: Looking back as a survivor, what advice would you have told yourself at the beginning of your journey?

Sarah: I would tell myself to document as much of the journey as possible, be it through writing, photos or my personal favorite, videos. At the time, it seemed absurd to capture pictures of me receiving chemotherapy or to write down my emotions and feelings, but I now look back on all of those moments that were captured, even the sad ones, with appreciation. Yes, sometimes a picture makes me want to cry from sadness, but it also helps me with reflecting on my experience, which is something I place a lot of value on and make time for as a survivor. I would also want to give myself a heads up that some people in my life just don’t know how to react to a cancer diagnosis, and that I’d come out of this experience short a few people in my life because they ended up stepping out of my life instead of lending me the support I needed. This is a pretty common theme among cancer patients, and once you process the pain and feelings of abandonment, you can actually come out of it and view them leaving as a positive. In my opinion, this experience weeds out the people who don’t deserve your love because they weren’t tough enough to stick around when times were really bad. And better to know this now than later. Plus, the experience usually brings you more incredible people to fill the void of the people who left, so it works out.

Adam: How do you define happiness now?

Sarah: I no longer find the most high-paying job the most desirable, and place an emphasis on work/life balance and my health above other priorities. American culture and some other cultures around the world prioritize material goods and possessions such as homes and cars above so many other things, and extreme competition to gain money to purchase these things is encouraged. While I believe healthy competition is not bad for an individual or our economy, I personally think our culture has taken it overboard, and the pressure to “have it all” is happening at the expense of the health of many employees.

Adam: Yes! That is the message that I am trying to share. The endless pursuit of wanting more, needing more, getting more…it doesn’t create happiness because there is no end in sight. I also don’t think that it is the responsibility of the company for an individual’s work/life balance, but rather it’s up to the individual to create their ideal lifestyle.

BeFreeMySheeple Sarah Cancer Free
Cancer Free

Sarah: I can’t say with 100% certainty that one of my former jobs in 2016 contributed to me getting cancer, but I do know I was not living a healthy lifestyle because of it. We were understaffed and I was tasked with doing the job of multiple employees. Because of the long hours, I was eating poorly, not exercising and had excessive stress from all of the pressure.

Adam: Sadly, you’re describing how many people feel in their careers. We can change our lifestyles faster than a corporation can change their culture.

Sarah: And as trite as it may sound, another change I have noticed is that I thoroughly appreciate the small joys in life so much more, the ones a lot of us don’t rush to post about on social media because they’re not exactly noteworthy to anyone but ourselves and the people we are with at that moment. So if I’m lucky enough to have a day where I’m feeling healthy and energized and get to take a walk with someone I love through a beautiful piece of nature, I cherish it more than ever. Or a simple night in with a home cooked meal and good company. Or getting to eat raw foods when I couldn’t for so long because my immune system was so low. Or if my good friend’s daughter, who is 6, is asking me to play with her, I put my phone down and give her my full attention, because I realize she’ll eventually going to grow up to be a teenager who is too cool to talk to her Auntie, so I soak it up.

Adam: You are speaking my language. I was a high-income individual in New York City but I had to be because my rent was almost $4,000 USD a month. When I traveled, I would stay at the Ritz. While those were nice experiences, my happiness comes from every day moments such as a good cup of coffee, hanging out with my dogs, relaxing on the beach. The things that cost the least or that I can do for free ultimately bring me the most happiness. What advice would you give to someone who finds out they have cancer?

BeFreeMySheeple Sarah Cancer
Post-meditation glow

Sarah: Find support as soon as possible. For people who have cancers that are more prevalent, a quick Google search or search of that hashtag on social media will get you connected to people in similar circumstances quickly. If you have a cancer that’s not as common, it may be more challenging than just a simple search online. But that’s where I would try and find other similarities besides your cancer type. If you’re between 18-40, the young adult cancer community has some great resources, and the Stupid Cancer organization is something I mention time and again to adults in that age range who are newly diagnosed. Your local hospital and cancer center may also have support groups based on cancer type, age or just a general one for all cancers and ages, and I highly encourage patients to check them out. It can be awkward at first, and you may end up realizing it’s not for you, but you won’t know unless you show up, and it could be the extra little thing you need to get through this challenging ride.

Adam: You don’t know if you don’t like something until you try it.

Sarah: Besides that, I would also seek out mental health resources. I think it’s really important to be proactive here, because I think the initial shock and rush of things needing to be done after a cancer diagnosis can mask underlying mental health problems that happen as a result of the diagnosis and treatment need to be addressed and treated. I’ve heard from so many patients saying they felt fine initially, and then one time, a few weeks or months into treatment, they would wake up in the middle of the night, with terrifying anxiety that they just couldn’t seem to shake. And that situation is so relatable. There’s the rush of appointments, treatments, procedures, medicine to take and other things to do, and those moments at night where you’re alone and pondering how all these messy, moving pieces are going to come together to get you through the other end are the absolute worst. I have made a commitment to myself to see a therapist once a week until the end of my treatment, regardless of how I’m feeling that particular week, because of this very reason, and I hope any other patients going through treatment can find resources through their care teams to do something similar.

BeFreeMySheeple Sarah CancerCon
Sarah at 2018 CancerCon

Adam: Great insights. What can a person do to support a family member the has cancer?

Sarah: Listen to your loved one without judgment or trying to interject with what you think, especially if they’re sharing fears or anxieties with you. This kind of ties back to the thing I was mentioning about positivity, because while it is great to have someone who is optimistic around you, sometimes we just want to be heard without hearing, “It’ll work out” or “you’ll be fine” again and again. We hear words along those lines a lot, and from personal experience, it can make us want to not share much.

Adam: I definitely have learned that sometimes it’s better to just listen.

Sarah: Instead of trying to minimize the fear or anxiety, I find that having someone acknowledge it and showing support can be very powerful. So responding with, “I can’t even imagine the pain you’re feeling. I’m here for you.” is personally preferred because you’re acknowledging the enormity of the pain and also reaching out a hand in support. Other than that, I would make a point that if you are one of the caregivers or the sole caregiver, to not forget that you need to care for yourself as well. It’s ok to ask for help from others to do things for yourself, even if that’s going to the gym or getting the haircut you’ve been putting off. There are both in-person and online support groups for caregivers, and as much as your friends will be able to support you, they’re just not going to get it as much as the people in the groups will. It’s easy to forget that the caregivers need help, but it’s ultimately more of a necessity than luxury, because a caregiver isn’t giving their loved one the best care possible if they haven’t been taken care of themselves.

Adam: Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your story with us and congratulations on celebrating over 1.5-years of being cancer-free! You are an inspiration.

***

Have another person that you’d like me to consider for next month’s The Inspirationals? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple!

Life is Too Short to be in a Completely Optional Bad Situation

 

I’m at the beach relaxing. I have my 2 dogs by my side, a coconut in my hand, the sound of the ocean waves gently crashing against the shore while I get my daily $7 USD beach foot massage. It’s a perfect peaceful Thai afternoon.

BeFreeMySheeple Hua Hin Beach Raindrop and Flex
My kids Raindrop and Flex.

That is until I was woken up from my midday nap by an older Irish couple fighting behind me. They have become beautiful rage monsters unleashing fury upon one another.  

What is a “beautiful rage monster?” Allow me to demonstrate.

Here are some of the things I overheard from this unhappily married couple:

“The good times are being outnumbered by the bad times and I’m not fucking doing this anymore.”
(Sad)

“1 good night. 14 bad nights.”
(Eeks)

“You going out to your sleazy bars with American trailer trash.”
(USA! USA!)

“You can’t do fucking a thing without her.”
“What exactly can she do for me that I cannot do you myself?”
(I believe this is referring to the man’s daughter)

“I was married once. I can’t believe I got married again.”
(Have you read my blog?)

“I’m going to hop a plane to Vietnam and leave you here. I’ll go out every night.”
(Vietnam is great can I come with?)

BeFreeMySheeple Hua Hin Beach Beautiful Rage Monsters
Just so you can see how close to me they were sitting.

I think the line that stood out to me most was “the good times are being outnumbered by the bad times.” Relationships are a lot of work (which is why I don’t want one – I don’t like working). Every relationship is going to have their bad moments, but when the “good times are being outnumbered by the bad time,” I think that relationship has hit its expiration date and it’s time to part ways.

Imagine using this scale ⚖️. On one side are good times and another side are bad times. When the bad times weigh more than the good times, I think that’s a sign to exit. Life is too short to be in a completely optional bad situation.

People have a choice whether or not they want to be in many of the bad situations they face: career, relationships and even health (within reason, as many people do not exercise regularly or eat properly and then wonder why they’re not healthy).

How Often Do Couples Argue and Sleep On the Couch (In America)

And because I was curious about how often couples fight or sleep on the couch, I did some quick research.  MattressClarity.com is an amazing resource for this information. Surprisingly, Hawaii had the most arguments per month (47) with Wyoming leading the way in most nights slept on the couch (17! More than half the month!). Congrats you guys!

BeFreeMySheeple Mattress Clarity How Often Do Couples Fight 

There’s a reason almost everybody who is married says “marriage is a lot of work.” In other words, it’s a job. Most people already have 1 job. Who wants 2 jobs??? No thanks!

***

Do you agree that marriage is a lot of work? 

Leave a comment or you can e-mail meadam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple!