What’s with the Tiger?

Tara Tiger Brown and Brian Brown

The one question that I get asked more than any other is, “Is Tiger really your middle name?”

Most of the time the question is asked out of curiosity because it is an unusual name, and sometimes there’s a glint in their eye that tells me that they are hoping that it’s some marketing ploy and they just found me out.

I hate to let anyone down, but the truth is, I added Tiger to my name because I loved my Dad.

My Dad’s nicknames for me since I was a little girl was “Tiger” and “Tiger Brown.” In fact, I don’t have a single memory of him referring to me as “Tara” except for when I was in big fat trouble.

My Dad died on December 19th, 2010 after battling colon cancer. To remember and honor his memory, I added “Tiger” to my middle name. It’s really that simple. It’s really a bonus that I was born in the year of the Tiger and it happens to be my favorite animal.

Another question I get asked is if it’s legal – meaning did I change it on my Passports or Drivers License. The answer is no, I didn’t. At the time of my decision, I was living as a permanent resident in the US and traveling a lot. If you have ever changed your name, you know it’s difficult. If you have ever changed your name while living in another country you know it’s the most painful experience of you life. And now that I’m a citizen of two countries and living in a third country where I can barely speak the language, there is no way that I’m going to change a single letter or katakana on my legal documents. That being said, my husband informed me that in the US, usage is 9/10th of the law, and because I’ve been using it since December 2010, then technically it’s legal. I haven’t looked into it myself so there might be some caveat there.

Maybe one day when I’m settled in one place, then I will change it “legally.” Then again, my legal middle name is related to my Mom, so I would hate to lose that connection with her.

So, yes, Tiger is really my middle name because I choose it to be, not because the government recognizes it as such, but because it’s important to me.

My name is Tara Tiger Brown and I am not special

You Are Not Special

I recently finished listening to the book, The Courage To Be Disliked. I was skeptical at first because it is marketed as a “Japanese phenomenon” and that didn’t line up with my 18 months of experience living in Japan. This country is immersed in a culture of shame, every other word is an apology, beauty ads bombard you at every turn and every effort is made not to inconvenience another person. It didn’t add up to me. Of course, I am no expert in this culture, I barely speak Japanese and my friends that are Japanese are kind of westernized, so trust me when I say, I am Jon Snow and I know nothing.

The Courage To Be Disliked

Having just finished the book hours ago it is too early for me to claim that it changed my life (but I’m leaning hard that way). I read a lot of books about the science of happiness and wellness and for the most part I am usually excited about the ideas proposed and many times I have implemented some of the suggestions. This time, however, it was like the authors were speaking to me personally. They knew about my inferiority complex, my constant concern about what others think, believing that I will one day find my true purpose in life and blow the socks off everyone. TL;DR my thinking is complete nonsense and I need to stop it immediately. This is especially true because the philosopher that they based this book on, Alfred Adler, says that it takes half of your current lifetime to put his teachings into practice which means I’ll be close to dead when I have this all in working order. 

I have bought into Adler’s entire philosophy, I’m ready to join his congregation, but for the purpose of this post and because I don’t want to drone on like I’m an expert, I’m focusing on one important nugget — the idea that it’s OK to be normal. To not be special. I’m not going to change the world and that’s OK. When I heard this, I literally felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I’m no longer competing with imaginary foes, I’m not hating myself for not getting on the cover of a magazine for doing something extraordinary. I’m just me. Normal me. And there’s at least a few people in my life that are happy that I am.

Maybe it was visualization or actualization, but a Quartz article by Zat Ryan, The purpose of life is to be a nobody popped up in my Twitter feed. It was written 2 years ago and I probably would have ignored it if I saw it then. Now was exactly the right time for me to see it. (Do you think it was AI? Somehow some machine knew I read the book and posted this in my feed. I digress). Here’s the best (vegan) nugget in the article that lines up nicely with Adler’s philosophy on being normal:

We’re brought up to think that we’re special, and we like believing it. But I don’t say any of this as a cynic or to depress you. In fact, quite the opposite. I say it because distinguishing between our subjective perception and the objective reality is the key to living a meaningful and important life.

Acknowledging unimportance liberates us from the grips of the self-centered voice in our head that’s chiefly responsible for many of life’s difficulties.

It’s the voice that compares us to people that don’t matter, it’s the same voice that convinces us that we’re entitled to a comfortable and easy life, and it’s indeed this voice that has us chasing arbitrary measures of success.

And the result?

We spend our time acquiring things we don’t want or need, we falter at the first sign of hardship and inconvenience, and one day, we wake up to a ticking clock realizing that, all this time, we’ve lived somebody else’s life.

The surest way to be unfilled is to walk around like you hold some sort of a privileged position in the universe. It’s not only a completely false and harmful illusion, but it also overlooks the fringe benefits of being a nobody.

Thanks for reading through a normal post by a normal run of the mill person. 

A Decade of Hairstyles

Tara Tiger Brown 2008 2018

Recently I posted a photo of me from this year compared to 10 years ago. A friend from elementary school commented that I still had the same hair. I was amused by this comment because I have changed my hair many times over the years, sometimes multiple times in one year. “Pics or it didn’t happen” so I found a photo from each year to showcase my changing styles over the years.

Tara Tiger Brown December 2018


Tara Tiger Brown Summer 2018


Tara Tiger Brown 2017


Tara Tiger Brown Pink 2017


Tara Tiger Brown Blonde2 2017


Tara Tiger Brown 2016


Tara Tiger Brown Avatar 2015


Tara Tiger Brown Avatar Purple 2014


Tara Tiger Brown 2013


Tara Tiger Brown 2012


Tara Tiger Brown 2011


Tara Tiger Brown Ripley 2010


Tara Tiger Brown Avatar 2010


Tara Tiger Brown Avatar 2008b


Tara Tiger Brown Avatar Zeddy 2007


Tara Tiger Brown Smile of the day 1994


Ohayu (Oh, Hai, You!)

I Love Me

It’s February 28th, 2018 and I made a promise to myself that I would publish something today. Anything. Just write and post it. Why? Because I have a lot of ideas and questions swirling around in my head and Barbara She claims, “isolation is the dream killer, not your lousy attitude.” It’s pretty easy to isolate yourself when you live in a country far away from friends and family, can’t speak the language, and are feeling completely out of sorts (social media’s idiotic timelines are partly to blame). See, lousy attitude.

Perhaps you’ve been asked this question, “if you could do it all over again, would you do it differently?” I despise it because I’m only half-way through this life and no way am I starting over. I’m good with what I’ve done with my time and where I am now (Ohayu, I live in Tokyo!).

And yet, something is missing. It’s like there’s this muffled voice inside of me and I can’t understand what it’s saying, but I know it’s important.

I’ve been a passenger parasite in this vessel that gets me around without having a real heart-to-heart with the Captain steering it. I’ve shouted, “land!” a few times and she diligently heads there, until I realize it’s not the port I was looking for. Her Captain’s log would probably read, “No matter how many times I tell our solo passenger that we need to head toward our true destination, she finds an excuse to head towards a popular port that’s quite out of our way. I oblige, but this ship’s getting on in years and it’s time we trimmed our sails a bit and got on with it.”

In order to clear up the communication between me and the Captain, I’ve been working through a set of exercises in a book called “Designing Your Life. How To Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” and there’s a section about building your compass and finding your True North*.

Dysfunctional Belief: I should know where I’m going!

Reframing:  (With my compass) I won’t always know where I’m going but I can always know whether I’m going in the right direction.

I know my direction is heading straight into the wild. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do when I get there, but I have lots of ideas and it’s time to roll up my sleeves and see where the dirt falls.

Something I want to explore with others: If a person with (mild) depression performs a daily practice of mindful meditation and yoga under a 1000-year-old sacred pine tree that grows on the slope of a mountain, then that person’s depression will be cured. OK, my working hypothesis needs a little work.

Just like I have been tracking my sleep patterns using my Apple Watch and iPhone, I want to track depression against time in nature. If a person hears a songbird sing and pauses to listen, does that actually make them happier? If they breather in air free of fine particulates, while performing ujjayi breathing, will their body perform better? Will they feel emotionally better? I’ve been taking a course from UC Berkeley called “The Science of Happiness” to get a better sense of the psychology behind happiness and I’m anxious to apply that learning to time spent in nature.

I’ve been tracking my moods, meditating every day, getting exercise, completing all of my daily challenges. Anecdotally I can say I feel a bit better emotionally. My husband thinks that I’m more even-keeled. And yet, I want actual scientific proof. I want to know what is systemically helping me and how to get more of it. Hence this exploratory journey.

More on all of this in upcoming coherent posts. I’ll also post about life in Tokyo after living here for 6+ months.

Step 1. De-isolate myself.

*True North is your orienting point – your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track as a leader. It is derived from your most deeply held beliefs, values, and the principles you lead by. It is your internal compass, unique to you, representing who you are at your deepest level.

That Time I Was A Meme

No one is born racist

I wrote this post on Medium.

“Is this you?”
“Hey, I think this is you.”
“OMG, I think you are a meme!!!”

Over the past week I’ve received dozens of pings from friends sending me links to a photo with the tagline “No one is born racist” and asking if it’s me. It is, and I have to say that in all the things I ever wished for in life, becoming a meme seen by more than a million people was not one of them. That being said, if it helps to spread a positive message then I’m all for it. Except of course when someone said I have a duck-face (thanks to the person who defended me and said I was probably in mid-sentence).

Admittedly I was shocked when a few commenters have suggested that I am racist because in the photo I am looking away. I am not going to spend an ounce of effort addressing that incorrect assumption, but I will say that I think what’s special about this photo is that the moment captured is between my son and our fellow passenger on the Paris Metro, and I’m just in the background.

I am not sure who posted the photo with the tagline, but for the curious, here is the metadata and narrative of the original work:

The photo was taken by my husband, Sean Bonner with an iPhone. It’s August of 2010, we are on Paris Metro but I don’t recall where we are going. Our son, Rips, who was around 5 months at the time, is sitting on my lap. The stranger’s finger he is holding onto is Parisian, a grand-père with 2 or 3 grandchildren, if I recall correctly. The two of us chatted a bit, he then held out his finger to Rips who clamped on and wouldn’t let go. The man had a great smile that Rips delighted in and he didn’t seem to mind entertaining my baby so I went back to figuring out when we had to depart the train. I think I’m in mid duck-face because our stop was coming up and I was telling Sean that we had to gather all of our things and convince Rips to let go of his new friend’s finger.