Penguins can projectile poop.
If you take nothing away from this post, know that penguins can blast feces out of their bottoms like squirt guns—and that I found this out the hard way.
I was in Antarctica, crouched behind a penguin colony with a scientist named Marty. Marty is super into penguins, and he has this habit of yelling, “SCIENCE!” whenever he’s excited.
So I was sitting with Marty, recording a penguin feeding her young when suddenly a stream of liquid fertilizer went straight. toward. my. face.
THE HORROR. I was so surprised by the projectile that I swiveled and started to fall. And what do you think was waiting for me? More poo. Swaths of it—a sea of stink. Yeah, you thought the buggers were all cuddly and cute. My jacket STILL smells like penguin excrement.
I’m a freelance science and health journalist who travels the world reporting.
My job isn’t always glamorous, but I’m proud of it. There's work and then there's your life's work—work you give up nights and weekends for. Work you believe in.
I’ve covered protests in Turkey. I flew to Colombia to examine respiratory diseases. In Argentina, I went behind the scenes on a plot to catch grave robbers. In Peru, I wrote about arsenic poisoning. In Israel, I reported on robots.
I’ve gone swimming in Antarctica, eaten larvae in the rainforest, imbibed a beverage made from spit in the Amazon, nibbled kangaroo meat, and survived multiple bouts of altitude sickness—all for my life’s work.
And here’s what I’ve learned from a lifetime of traveling and talking to people:
- People just want to be heard. The greatest gift you can give is to listen.
- Don’t tie your identity to your job. You are a multi-faceted person, and that means you’re more than just a cog in the machine.
- Cut yourself more slack. Mission accomplished? Cut yourself even MORE slack. You’re only human. Treat yourself with kindness.
- Comparisons are the enemy of joy. You do you.
- Read, write and doodle a li’l every day. It’ll make your brain happy =)
- Stop ordering pizza at office parties. About 60 percent of the U.S. adult population is lactose intolerant. And, in the U.S., minority populations are much more likely to be affected. So the next time you plan an event and only order pizza, you’re really just excluding people.
- Get a therapist. It’s like having a private detective FOR YOUR BRAIN! How cool is that?
- Before you say something, think about what you want the recipient to feel. If it’s an inconsiderate remark, do you really want to make someone’s day WORSE?
- Stand up for what’s right. Call out the coworker who interrupted your female colleague and check yourself when you've said something insensitive.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. When someone is rude, consider that they might have just had a rough day. Sure, they’re taking it out on you, but we’ve all been there. Offer kindness in return.
- Tell one person, every day, that you’re thankful they’re alive. It will make all the difference in the world.
- We only get one shot at life. If you want something, make it happen.
- Give blood or platelets at the Red Cross.
- Once a week, make a phone call to your representative to lobby for a cause you believe in. Together, we can make change.
- Support your local paper. Journalists are doing their best to act as watchdogs, but we can’t do it without your help.
I tell stories for a living, and I want to tell yours. Doing something interesting? Have a problem? Know of a great project? Email me!
If you live in DC or SF, let’s get coffee! If you’re a freelancer, let’s connect. If you’re located in South Africa or Australia and you’re hiring in communications, message me. I’d love to keep traveling for my life’s work.