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!

The Rudest Habit In The World

 

Let’s talk about the rudest habit in the world. If you’re not guilty of this habit, congratulations on either being self-aware or older than 40 (and you can remember life before mobile devices).  But chances are, you’ve seen this behavior before or you were a victim of it and you made a mental observation. Or maybe you were like me and guilty of this behavior, realized you needed to make a change for the benefit of your relationships, and you did.

As a single guy living alone (with my 2 dogs) in Thailand, I eat a majority of my meals at restaurants by myself. This gives me a great excuse for staring at my iPhone the entire time. During the times that I’m on a date or with a friend, I make it a priority to keep cell phone usage to a minimum (with the exception of vlogging … “hey guys” … more on this later).

BeFreeMySheeple Eating Alone
I eat almost every meal alone but never really alone.

What Does It Mean???

If someone is staring at their phones the entire time that they’re on a date or with friends, this can mean a few things, all of which are bad:

-They have run out of things to talk about
-They find whatever is on their screen more interesting or exciting than the person in front of them
-They’re bored with the company

If you’re with a significant other or a group of friends, how is it acceptable to be staring at your phone the entire time? I understand periodically checking your phone, but I’ve been witnessing some next-level rudeness. Check out my man below – he’s straight up playing PUBG Mobile while at dinner with 3 friends. I think the girl sitting across from him is his girlfriend. Or maybe not. It could be just a friend. Maybe the guy next to him is his boyfriend. That stuff doesn’t matter. What does matter is that regardless of what the relationships are at the table, he’s making a very clear statement : what’s happening on my screen is more important and more interesting than anything you people have to say.

As a side-note, games like PUBG require almost 100% focus which means that you can’t even carry a meaningful conversation while playing it. Games like Candy Crush (is this game still relevant?) you can play and have a conversation because it’s relatively mindless (you’re just matching colors). One wrong move in PUBG and you’re dead, just like the relationships with the people you’re eating with.

When It’s OK to Use Your Phone At The Table

First, I strongly recommend always putting your phone on silent mode when at a restaurant. This way, your phone doesn’t make sounds that trigger everyone around you to check their phones thinking it was theirs. This has happened to all of us (“was that your phone or mine?”). And let’s be honest – we’ve all used it as an opportunity to check our phones.

To provide some value from this article, I wanted to put together a list of some scenarios where it’s OK to use your mobile device during meals as well as the total amount of time that should be dedicated to each scenario :

Food photos (1 minute, upon delivery of meal): Exceptions can be made for food photography. We’re at the point where it’s completely acceptable to take a picture of your meal as soon as it comes out. Food porn photos get a free pass. Unless you’re with an actual food blogger, food photos should take 1 minute max. Any more than this and you’re just a bad photographer. Accept it.

BeFreeMySheeple Foodporn
Check out @TheFoodieArticles on IG, I designed her logo.

Food photos inception (1 minute): Taking pictures of your friends taking pictures of their food.

BeFreeMySheeple Foodporn
Ploy taking some foodporn pics

Work e-mails (10 seconds, every 15 minutes + time to respond): Expecting urgent work e-mails are also OK. We live in a world of digital nomads where urgent e-mails could be expected at all sorts of ridiculous hours. It doesn’t take much time to check for new e-mails so I give this task 10 seconds every 15 minutes. 

Confirming plans (20 seconds, every 20 minutes): If you’re socially active like I used to be in New York City and Los Angeles, then you might be operating on a tight schedule which means you need to check your phone to see if your next appointment is on-time or running late. If they’re running late then you get to spend more time where you’re at. Winning!

BeFreeMySheeple Tinder Profile
Tinder was lit in New York City and Los Angeles

Vlogging (average length of vlog + 50% time): If vlogging is one of your sources of income or you’re trying to make it a source of income, then you can vlog (within reason). My vlogs are usually 1-2 minutes long so I only need 3 minutes of footage before edits (2 minutes + 50% = 3 minutes). If your vlogs are 10 minutes, then you would be given 15 minutes (but if your vlogs are this long, then you should either ask permission before the meal, or this behavior is already expected of you).

 

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Do you think my dogs will like spring rolls? Find out in this video!!! * #befreemysheeple #papisinvasian3 #springrolls #dogs

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(thanks to Cassie for suggesting the next 2)

Fact-checking (30 seconds, per fact check): Sometimes you’re having a debate or you’re referencing something and nobody knows the actual answer. A quick fact check or google search is acceptable. Our phones are sources of infinite knowledge so we can refer to it in times of need. 

Relevant imagery (30 seconds, per image): Sometimes you’re talking about a meal you had, a place you went, or a person you dated. Pulling our your phone to complement the conversation with imagery is totally acceptable. It’s much easier to show a picture of Jim or Shirley than it is to describe them.

Family emergency (10 seconds, every 5 minutes): If you’re aware of a family member or close friend having a health problem, then you unfortunately might be expecting an emergency phone call or text. You get a free pass to check your phone as often as needed but I think 5 minutes is a reasonable increment. In this case, it’s also recommended to keep your sound on.

So that’s it. Those are the only times that it’s acceptable to be on your phone during a meal at a restaurant. It should be no more than a few minutes total. If the average meal is 60 minutes and you’ve had every reason to check your phone listed above, here’s how it breaks down:

Food photos + inception: 60 seconds
Check work e-mails: 30 seconds
Confirming plans: 40 seconds
Vlogging: 180 seconds
Fact-checking: 30 seconds
Relevant imagery: 30 seconds
Family emergency: 110 seconds
TOTAL TIME: 480 seconds = 8 minutes
8 minutes / 60 minutes = 13.33%

That’s it. No more than 13.33% of your meal with friends or significant others should be spent on your phone, and this is if you’re into foodporn, you’re expecting urgent work e-mails, you’re confirming plans, you’re a vlogger AND there’s a family emergency.

What You Can Do To Stop It

I think that us as individuals have a responsibility to address this situation head on. A few approaches that I thought of are:

Verbal Communication (confrontational approach): Clear your throat in an aggressive manner and talk to the mobile device addict while they’re in the act with a stern, but polite tone. Ask them if they know how it’s making you feel. “Ahem – Jim/Shirley, are you aware of how you’re making me feel right now?”

Digital Communication (passive aggressive approach): If you don’t like conflict, then send them a text message while you’re sitting across from them. If you want to be even more passive aggressive, send them an e-mail with the subject “Hey, R U OK?” or “We Need To Talk.” Nobody likes conversations that begin with “we need to talk.”

Airdrop (funny approach): If they have an iPhone and their Airdrop is on, take a picture of them while they’re staring at their phone instead of talking to you and Airdrop them the photo. Not only will this get your point across, but it will interrupt whatever is happening on their screen. Bonus points if they’re playing PUBG and your Airdrop pop-up alert causes them to die. Headshot!

Do Nothing (worthless approach): Or you can do nothing and just stare at your phone too. Cool friendship bro!

Checking Instagram feed can wait. Checking Facebook newsfeed can wait. Checking TikTok can wait. Checking Bumble can wait.  And you know what definitely can wait? Fucking PUBG. 

***

Do you know someone that’s guilty of this behavior? How have you handled it? 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!

 

The Inspirationals #3: Happily Divorced

The Inspirationals #3: Happily Divorced

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

This week I interviewed Agnes, a beautiful, successful and strong woman who I went to high school with (the prestigious Bronx High School of Science). Agnes recently went through a challenging and difficult divorce but came out on the other side feeling happy and free. Most importantly, she felt like herself again. This might sound like a weird interview to release on Valentine’s Day, but I believe the most important person to love and take care of is yourself before you can share your love with someone else.

BeFreeMySheeple Agnes Happily Divorced 4
Mood.

Before we get into the interview, I want to be clear that I personally do not believe in the institution of marriage. I see more risk than reward when it comes to getting married. A core part of my personal happiness comes from optimizing my lifestyle towards maximum freedom and independence. This is best summed up by this Karel Donk excerpt. I strongly encourage everyone to read his entire blog post. It’s a bit of a long read, but I think it’s worth it.

“Marriage encourages people to become dependent, and thus to give up their individuality, independence and freedom…People naturally want to be free, and any relationship that limits people’s freedoms will cause trouble. The desire for freedom is intrinsic to human nature; we are born free individuals. In a relationship where a person’s freedom is being limited, it’s only a matter of time before they start to (often subconsciously) rebel against it…people in exclusive relationships eventually start to develop a desire to escape, which results in secret hostility towards their partner…If you truly love someone and want to continue to do so and enjoy their company for as long as possible, you should  avoid relationships  with them in the traditional sense at all costs — and this includes marriage.”

I intend to write a detailed blog post about it at some point. Without further ado…

BeFreeMySheeple.com’s Exclusive Interview with Agnes

BeFreeMySheeple Agnes Happily Divorced 8
Adam Francisco (BeFreeMySheeple) & Agnes (Happily Divorced)

Adam Francisco: Agnes – thank you so much for opening up about what’s usually a private and personal topic. My hope is that other women and even men can feel inspired by your story. How long were you together for before getting divorced?

Agnes: We were together for five and a half years and married for the last three and a half. I’ve been officially divorced for 4 months. 

Adam: How is the single life treating you?

Agnes: Single life is interesting. It definitely took some getting used to! I haven’t been single in so long that many times I need to remind myself that “Yes, you absolutely CAN do this because you ARE single!” Being single is great and I’ve been learning new things about myself. I lost a lot of myself during the time that I was married…A LOT. That’s my “single life” experience so far…I am discovering what it means to be me.

Adam: We are happy to have you back! How your marriage was in the beginning?

Agnes: In the beginning it’s supposed to be great, right? Except it never really was for me. It wasn’t great for me ever, even in the beginning. Getting married was the next step in our relationship and so that’s what we did. Our thought process was that it wouldn’t change anything in our relationship if we were married. What my thought process should have been is that there’s no need for us to get married because it wouldn’t change anything in our relationship. We didn’t love each other more or less, it was just business as usual.

Adam: What did you even like about him that made you want to get married?

Agnes: He made my life a lot easier. It was convenient, as fucked up as that sounds. And I should have recognized it as such, and I should have left it at that. But I was at a very vulnerable and insecure time in my life, and he helped me get back on my feet: emotionally and financially. I had everything to gain from it. I’ve been meaning to thank him for being that person for me during that time, but the person that he turned into during the divorce made me rethink ever thanking him for ANYTHING. 

BeFreeMySheeple Agnes Happily Divorced 2
Agnes with Raindrop in Cabo

Adam: Isn’t it amazing how the person you once loved and were willing to commit the rest of your life to can become somebody that you don’t even recognize, and possibly even dislike? I can understand the appeal in having stability but that doesn’t sound like enough to make a commitment to a lifetime together. How long after you were married did things go sour?

Agnes: Immediately.

Adam: [Laughter]. Damn. What was the marriage like?

Agnes: The marriage sucked. The relationship itself wasn’t so great when we got married. That’s another reason why I think I decided to get married; it was supposed to “fix” things in the relationship.

Adam: I’ve know a few couples that also thought marriage would instantly heal everything that was wrong in the relationship but instead, things like wedding planning just ended up distracting them from the truth.

Agnes: I know right? SO stupid. That’s some ass-backwards thinking. I did EVERYTHING for him. I cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, etc. I felt like I had a child instead of a husband or significant other.

Adam: Sounds more like an insignificant other.

Agnes: [Laughter]. I guess it’s a cultural thing too because I was raised by my grandmother in a Korean household where she did everything around the house. It wasn’t that I was consciously making an effort to do everything…that’s just who I am.

BeFreeMySheeple Agnes Happily Divorced 1
Abs on fleek.

Adam: After living in Thailand the last six months I’ve learned that many Asian countries still live in a very patriarchal society with clearly defined gender roles that we would consider to be “traditional” gender roles in the US.

Agnes: Yep. Anyway, we didn’t go out to dinners, we weren’t going on vacations, and most importantly, we weren’t even having sex.

Adam: Wow. No sex? Isn’t that one of the so-called benefits of marriage? Permanent access to sex?

Agnes: Would you believe it if I told you that the sex stopped maybe 2 years into the relationship, possibly sooner?

Adam: That means you guys didn’t have sex for almost 4 years. I heard an expression once, “If you like sex, stay single. If you don’t like sex, get married.”

Agnes: Yep. That’s what most people’s reactions were when I told them about the “no sex for 4 years” bit. I didn’t cheat on him because I had no self-confidence. ZERO. I couldn’t  even attempt to attract another man. I felt unattractive, and my life, appearances and actions started reflecting exactly what I was feeling.

Adam: That’s so hard to believe because I see such a beautiful  confident woman in front of me.

Agnes: Aww, thanks, Yeah, I hated it because I’d never known myself to be such an ugly person. I was feeling so unattractive and depressed that I stopped hanging out with my friends.

Adam: In the time you needed your friends the most, you felt completely isolated from them.

Agnes: He didn’t like it when I hung out with my friends because he didn’t have any friends of his own that wanted to hang out with him. Also, he wouldn’t drink because he had his stomach pumped twice in his early 20s for alcohol poisoning and drugs and judged the shit out of me whenever I would come home from dinner and drinks with friends.

BeFreeMySheeple Agnes Happily Divorced 6
Agnes in gym gear

Adam: It sounds like he took his personal issues and transferred them onto you. This already sounds like a lot to deal with but was there a final straw that compelled you to get a divorce?

Agnes: When he criticized me for being “too ambitious.”  Like what the fuck? Is there even such a thing as being too ambitious? I realized that HE was the one who was complacent and lazy when he criticized me for being too ambitious. That’s what someone weak does to bring you down – they make you feel small by somehow turning your attributes into faults.

Adam: Sounds like one of your strengths threatened him so he tried to turn it into a fault

Agnes: And his laziness was getting out of hand. He wouldn’t help out around the house and he was gaining a lot of weight. He gained 40 pounds from when we first started dating. Forty pounds.

Adam: Wow. That’s a lot of weight. Was he pregnant?

Agnes: [Laughter]. Fitness has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember but when I was with him, I’d given that up as well. The first two years of our relationship was a rough time in my life and so it isn’t fair to place all of the blame on him. But he definitely was a contributing factor, that’s for sure. And it’s like he almost didn’t want me to look my best or do anything that pushed my limits. Like for example, when I told him that I’d be running the New York City Marathon, his response was “you know that you don’t have to finish it if you can’t, right?” Like excuse me? What the fuck kind of a response is that to someone telling you that they’re going to be participating in one of the greatest races of ALL time?

BeFreeMySheeple Agnes Happily Divorced 5
Agnes and her BFF Donut.

Adam: That’s insanely rude.

Agnes: I was dumbfounded when he said that. Right now, in my single life, I wouldn’t even consider dating anyone that doesn’t take care of themselves. Working out and maintaining their appearances gives you an insight into so many other aspects of that person’s life. It’s not just about looking good. It’s like if you can’t take care of yourself, how can you give a shit about anything or anyone else?

Adam: I agree. I think obesity, with the exception of the rare health issues, shows a lack of self-awareness, self-discipline and most importantly self-love.

Agnes: 100%. I was realizing more and more that we literally had nothing in common, and that’s what ultimately led me to the divorce. We thought differently about almost everything and that just isn’t sustainable for any type of relationship.

Adam: How did you feel the day you were officially and legally divorced?

Agnes: I was in Chicago for work when I received the email from my lawyer. I jumped up out of my seat and yelled “FUCK YEAH, FINALLY!” So yeah, I was devastated…NOT! It literally felt like I had rid myself of a huge burden. It’s so strange how just a piece of paper can hold so much power over your life. The marriage certificate held me captive and the divorce decree set me free.

Adam: I can only imagine how empowering that would feel. How has your life changed since then?

Agnes: I’ve completely changed as a person, inside and out. I look better now than I did in my 20s, and I’ve gotten my self-confidence back. I walk, talk and act differently and people react to me differently. I think I like that part the best: people reacting to me differently because I put forth a much different vibe than what I did the last 5.5 years of my life. “You get what you give” is absolutely right; if you put forth positive vibes, you’re gonna get back positive reactions. So much of my life was spent saying “no” during the time that I was married that I am now making sure that is NOT what my life will be ever again. Sidebar – when I was married, I’d even start my sentences with “No, but..” without realizing it, and it was really upsetting when someone pointed that out. Now, I tell people that I’m not saying no to anything anymore and that’s led me to some amazing experiences, encounters and memories in just the last couple of months! I carry myself differently and think differently than I did when I was married and it couldn’t be a more welcomed change. 

BeFreeMySheeple Agnes Happily Divorced 8

Adam: What an amazing turnaround. Are you happy?

Agnes: YES! I really am. It feels amazing to have to answer to no one and to be able to have control over your own life. I dictate what I do, where I go, and who I spend time with. These are things things that I really couldn’t do when I was married because I always came second. Now I live for me. I’ve never been this selfish before and I’m “sorry not sorry” for it. I’m slowly starting to see that life isn’t all about securing that high-paying job. It’s about you finding out what truly makes you happy, that’s it. I’ve spent all of my adult life, except for the last couple of marriage-free months, overcomplicating damn near everything, literally. It’s gotten me absolutely nowhere, and I’ve missed out on so much stuff! I have so much catching up to do.  I couldn’t tell you how happy that makes me: the thought of just living my life!

Adam: You are speaking my language. What advice do you have for somebody who is thinking about getting married?

Agnes: Really evaluate what it is that you think you want from getting and being married. You need to manage your expectations for the marriage because chances are if you don’t, you’re going to end up disappointing yourself. There’s nothing that you can’t do with your significant other while not married that you’ll all of a sudden be able to do because you’re married. You can absolutely have kids without being married. And if you’re worried about optics or what other people think, then you probably shouldn’t be thinking marriage in the first place. Religious obligations are something completely different, so I’m leaving that alone. Just know that at some point in your marriage, that you’re going to become second, and that you’ll get used to being second. You’re going to lose yourself somewhere down the road, become resentful, and then you’ll end up being this ugly miserable old maid, which you clearly are not. Know what it is that you are willing to sacrifice and stick to it. Yes, relationships are about compromises but once you’re bound by marriage, you’ll see how easy it is for the both of you to take each other for granted and take advantage of each other. Set your boundaries, know your worth, and stick to it.

Adam: This is the hard truth and it’s personally why I do not see marriage happening in my lifetime. What advice do you have for somebody that is trapped in a bad marriage?

Agnes: You are worth so much more than what you think you are worth at this very moment. The thought of having to “start over” is a daunting task and it seems like you wouldn’t even know where to begin. I think this just means that you’ve become dependent on the other person to carry you through. There’s nothing wrong with building a life with your significant other, but there’s a problem if you’ve lost your sense of self during that process. You need to be able to stand up on your own before being able to join forces with another human being. And if you’re a perpetual relationship person like I was, then there’s no better time than now to learn what your capabilities are. You never want to be in a situation where the other person holds you back. That’s a terrible place to be and it’ll change you as a person, and I promise you that you won’t like what you become.

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Adam: Would you get married again?

Agnes: As of now, I’d say no. But you’re never supposed to say never, right? Being married changes people. It makes them stop trying. It’s weird. They stop courting each other, stop trying to look their best for each other, stop doing anything that can be considered thoughtful or romantic. At least that was my experience. But maybe it’s just that I was married to the wrong person. Who knows. 

Adam: Based on my research, this is more common than you think and unfortunately many of the “happy” marriages we see today are likely to end up exactly where you were within the next couple of minutes months years.

Agnes: And if I were to marry again, it would be a completely different experience from the beginning because of how much I’ve changed as a person since my divorce. I know what I’m worth and I know what I need, and I will absolutely be demanding that the person I’m married to treat me in a way that fulfills both of those requirements.

Adam: Do you want to have kids one day?

Agnes: I would like to have kids in the future and that would be a reason for me to be married. Not to have the baby, but to raise the child in a stable and secure, family environment. I had a pretty unusual and sometimes rough childhood, and I turned out tough as nails. It was a 50/50 chance of whether I turned out this way or absolutely fucked up, and I don’t think it’s fair when those odds are already presented to the child from the moment that they’re born. I’d like to be able to provide them with all “the right things” to the best of my abilities.

Adam: Agnes – thank you for such raw and honest answers. If any readers have additional questions, can they reach out?

Agnes: Of course. My Instagram is @__agneskim__

BeFreeMySheeple Agnes Happily Divorced 3
Mood: Happy.

***

You can follow Agnes on Instagram, @__agneskim__

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!

Dear Married People, A Word of Advice

 

Dear married people – a word of advice.

(Based on a recent experience I had).

befreemysheeple dating advice

If you’re in a bar and you’re not wearing an engagement or wedding ring and you’re talking to a guy for 10 minutes and you tell him “I’m waiting for my family” and then you exchange social media, the guy you’re talking to assumes that you’re waiting for parents or cousins or grandparents and that you’re single. And then when the sole family member shows up and it’s the husband (“oh this is my husband”) you just caught everyone off-guard including yourself and now everyone’s uncomfortable :

(1) the husband’s pissed you’re talking to a younger man who happens to be a muscular Latino possibly named Carlos or Francisco with 2 unfairly cute dogs
(2) the wife is uncomfortable because she got got
(3) and I’m confused because you just went from single to married real quick).

This could have all been prevented if you substituted “I’m waiting for my family” with “I’m waiting for my husband.”

(I would rather be single and deal with this than get married and my wife making me deal with that)

Some Social Media Reactions From Women

  • @simply_livvie: “Shady shady. Meanwhile I’m always telling guys I’m waiting for my husband. And I ain’t married lol” 
  • “Haha wtf who says that? Even if I were waiting for my sister I’d say “sister.” Calling 1 individual person “my family” is weird in itself. At least she didn’t say “someone” or “a friend.” Haha”
  • @nikinikz: That’s scandalous. Who says that they’re waiting for their family and it’s their spouse !?? Hahahahahahaha! #busted
  • “Who say I’m waiting for my family?!?! She’s asking for trouble”
  • @abbiesmith233: “Damn when I was married if a guy even looked in my direction I’d tell him to eat shit and die.”

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Did you find this advice useful? 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!