Good Reads: Mental illness, segregation, and daredevils

This post is part of a series recommending longform, narrative nonfiction (as well as other worthwhile writings).

The Real Story of Germanwings Flight 9525 by Joshua Hammer, GQ

Mental illness and airline pilots. I recently wrote a story about Taylor University’s Ethics Bowl team, and this was one of the ethics bowl cases. You see, if a pilot is honest about his struggles with mental illness, he’s likely to lose his job. But if he’s silent about it and goes untreated, he could go the way of Andreas Günter Lubitz, the young pilot who crashed Germanwings Flight 9525 into the Alps on March 24, 2015. This piece traces the story of the crash and introduces you to the other individuals impacted by the tragedy.

Mustang Green, Part One: A Season of Hope in a Segregated City by Michael Graff, Charlotte Magazine

The first of a three-part series, this piece introduces the main characters in the real life setting of high school football in a diverse — racially and economically — southern town. I’m a big fan of football movies. I just rewatched We are Marshall, and I practically have Remember the Titans memorized. The best football (and just sport) movies aren’t really about the sport — they’re about the characters. The sport is just a vehicle to get those characters moving. It’s a lot easier to write a story about events than it is to write one about characters and the depth of their emotions and struggles. It’s clear in this first part of the series, though, that the characters are what Graff is focusing on. Part Two builds on Part One.

This Will End Well: Our greatest daredevil stares down middle age by Katherine Laidlow, The Walrus

Will Gladd is an adventurer, a climber, a risk taker. He thrives on challenges, both physical and mental. Now, he’s staring a new one: age. It’s not common for individuals his age to still carry sponsorships up the side of cliffs. But he is. And he’s not planning on stopping anytime soon.

Photo Credit: Swiss alpine panorama I via photopin (license)

Good Reads: Some are born into craziness, others have craziness thrust upon them

This post is part of a series recommending narrative, longform journalism and nonfiction pieces.

The title of this post speaks for itself. Click, read, and be surprised by the stuff that happens in real life.

The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogota by Susan Dominus, The New York Times Magazine

Two sets of fraternal twins — one from the city, one from the country in Colombia — find out they’re each other’s identical twins.

The Wedding Sting by Jeff Maysh, The Atlantic

In the 90s in rural Michigan, a police force decides to bust a local drug ring by having a fake wedding.

A Long Walk’s End by William Browning, SB Nation

When he’s confronted about embezzling thousands of dollars from his employer, James T. Hammes runs away to the Appalachian Trail. And doesn’t get caught until six years later.

And because the main character of this piece is too quirky to not share his story:

The Everlasting Forrest Fenn by Taylor Clark, The California Sunday Magazine

A retired business-minded art dealer spices up life by hiding a 42 pound chest of priceless treasure and self-publishing a book that holds the key to its location. No one’s found it, yet.

Good Reads: Risks people take for fishing poles, philosophies, and friendship

This post is part of a series recommending narrative, longform journalism and nonfiction pieces.

Is it worth it?

It could be anything. A dive into alligator-infested waters, a move away from everything you know, a climb up a stretch of rock others have labelled unclimbable. Is it worth the risk?

Sometimes, we step up to the forks in life’s road and decide to do what terrifies us, because our decisions shouldn’t be driven by fear. Right? But why do we fear things in the first place? Couldn’t there be a seed of truth buried deep in that overwhelming sense of fright?

These recommended reads all have an aspect of risk. Decide for yourself whether the decisions were worth it.

Unclimbable by Eva Holland, SB Nation

Eva Holland’s knee was in bad shape when she went to the Cirque of the Unclimbables, a trip she’d been anticipating for quite some time. Three Colorado College graduates had just received a grant for a similar trip, also the Unclimbables, when their good friend died in an avalanche. To go or not go? And if they go, how hard should they push?

The Friend by Matthew Teague, Esquire

When Matthew Teague’s wife was dying of cancer, a mutual close friend of he and his wife decided to move in and help. This piece is a heartfelt account of Teague seeing the friend give up nearly everything to meet the needs of him and his wife.

My Dad Tried to Kill Me with an Alligator by Harrison Scott Key, Outside

Lighter and more humorous than the previous two, this piece examines fatherhood through the lens of Harrison’s terrified childhood and, toward the end, his own fathering experience. A fast-paced read that will make you laugh. Unless you’ve decided not to.

And for a fairly accurate (and hilarious) portrayal of the consensus on truth in nonfiction:

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Truth in Nonfiction But Were Afraid to Ask: A Bad Advice Cartoon Essay by Dave Gessner

No description needed. Just go read it. Seriously.

Four months in New York City: Week One: Once upon a time

The first time I went to New York City, I moved there for four months.

In the distant future, I’ll say this to nieces, nephews, aspiring writers, and possibly children of my own. They’ll be in the middle of making big decisions, trying to decide whether to play it safe or step out of everything they know to reach for something that won’t come easily. Plenty will tell them to stick to the conventional. I’ll take them aside and encourage them to not let fear control their decision-making.

The first time I went to New York City, I’ll say, I moved there for four months. 

And let me be clear: This was my first time. I’d never even been to Long Island or JFK. My only city experience of any kind was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Chattanooga, Tennessee—not exactly cities when you compare them to New York’s population of more than a million—and my only public transportation experience was a zero-transfer Amtrak train from upstate New York to northern Indiana—nothing when compared to the maze of subway lines and bus routes that stretch across New York’s five boroughs. 

Moving to New York City, for me, was something of a shot in the dark. A step into the unknown that wasn’t blind only because of the Internet and the help of a few friends and family members.

That’s as much of the story as I have so far. Whether or not my time in New York City will change the trajectory of my life, I can’t say—I’m only a week in, but week one definitely gets two thumbs up.

The main thing I’ve learned in the past week (outside of what buses to take to get to the subway and how to use a MetroCard) is that New York City is a place like anywhere else.

When I was younger, I was obsessed with NYC. I signed out stacks of books from the library—travel guides to NYC. I read everything I could about 9/11 to try to understand how it affected real New Yorkers. In high school, I wrote an 8-page research paper about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. My favorite song was Huey Lewis’s Once Upon a Time in New York City (from Disney’s Oliver & Company).

New York City was this grand concept in my head. This place where dreams hatched from little eggs and took off, leaving the nest and their doting parents behind. Now, a week since arrival, I don’t doubt that dreams take flight here, but I also realize that New York City is just a place, a place where people come and go; live, exist; thrive, waste away; give, take; celebrate, mourn; run, walk, fall. A great many people for just one place, and no one with the same history, but people. Here to do this thing called life. And some soar to great heights, while others stay on the ground, pecking at everyone’s discards, barely moving when crowds threaten to trample.

I stepped far out of my comfort zone to come here. I took three trains, carried three pieces of luggage, and took deep, deep breaths. Now people are asking me, “How’s the City?” and my answer is a shrugging “fine, no big deal,” because it’s a place, like anywhere else. And it’s big, it’s exciting; there’s always something to do, some place to go, something to see—I’m certainly not disappointed. But it’s no better than anywhere else.

Anywhere Else

Bringing you up-to-date (a.k.a. what I did this week):

Last Saturday (February 1), I took the Amtrak from Albany, New York, into Penn Station. From there, I rode the Long Island Railroad into Queens, a ride which required me to move all of my luggage (one large suitcase, a smaller carry-on, and my backpack) and switch trains. The Burns, the couple I’m renting from in Queens, met me at the train station and brought me home.

Sunday, I went to church with my landlords, met two pastors my dad went to Bible college and seminary with, and went to a Super Bowl party with Krystle, another girl (29) who’s renting from the Burns.

Monday, I navigated buses and the subway for the first time to go to Manhattan for my internship on the eastern edge of the Flatiron District (I have yet to go see the Flatiron Building). I met with my supervisor who introduced me to other people working at City Limits, explained more of the expectations for interns, and gave me a notepad with a full list of tasks relating to research.

Tuesday, I interviewed Taylor grads as part of a project I’m working on with Taylor University Marketing.

Wednesday, I worked from the house for my internship due to weather. I researched from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and sent the information I found to my supervisor. He responded by saying, “This is really excellent work. Exactly what I want.” Exactly what I want to hear.

Thursday, I went to City Hall Library and dug through city records for four straight hours before stepping outside and exploring lower Manhattan.

Friday, I ate really nasty whole wheat pancakes, courtesy of Krystle, went for a run, and burned rice for the first time in my life.

Saturday (today), I met up with Taylor friend and New Yorker, Becca, who took me around Manhattan, midtown. We went to the M&M and LEGO stores, FAO Schwartz, ate real Italian, and walked past Central Park horses and carriages.

Lego LIberty Big Fortune M&M Liberty 2

I’ve had a lot of people encouraging me in the past week: siblings calling me an inspiration and saying they’re proud of me, friends from school saying they’re excited for me and pushing me to document my “fresh independence and killer internship,” former bosses and aunt/mother figures who are very concerned about my safety, and my current landlords who call me “very brave” to come to the City for the first time with a commitment to stay for four months. All of you are a great encouragement.

To remember: 

The key to living is breathing, in and out. Take things one step at a time and wait patiently for the pieces to fall into place when you’ve done your part. It’s good to step out of your comfort zone, so don’t be afraid to. The outside world is not as scary as it seems.