30 Signs You May Be In Your 30s

 

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Hey Gang!

My least favorite addiction happens to be the clickbait lists found scattered across the Internet (I’m looking at you Buzzfeed…). I can’t help but read them.

“Article”: 15 things that only humans know.

Me: Hmm, I’m human. I bet I can relate to these!

That’s really what it is all about. They give out broad generalities to make you say, “Hey, that’s me!” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on the type of entertainment they’re presenting. If anything, I’m congratulating them with a bit of my own pastiche. What I am saying is I’m not sure if my celebrity husband is Chris Pratt. I always thought of myself as a Ryan Gosling kind of guy but if a Buzzfeed test says I’m going to marry Chris Pratt, I guess I better go look at rings this weekend (I hear he is single! *squeal*).

I thought it would be fun to do something not broad at all. I want to be incredibly specific and use personal experience (my cells have decayed for about 31 years now).

Here is a list of 30 signs you may be in your 30s.

  • You hear any song by UB40 and think, “Hey, that’s pretty good!”
  • You think of dating as being an interviewer. You’ve moved past the phase where you want to hold them and watch the stars float overhead in the moonlit night. You’re now asking them direct and hard questions. You like long walks in the rain? Cool. How is your 401k? Do you have health insurance? What’s your student debt like?
  • You look into the mirror and notice a slightly receding hairline. You pull some hair down to cover it and tell yourself, Man, this bathroom lighting is awful. Better switch to LED bulbs.
  • You look at your growing amount of gray hair and believe you are “pulling it off” but really you look like the creeper who lives in the house down the street that everyone avoids on their morning power walks.
  • 10 p.m. is REALLY pushing your bed time.
  • You find it harder and harder to meet friends for drinks because the usual response is, “I wish I could but the kids really want to go to skyzone tonight. Have a drink for me!”
  • You notice your body is changing but not in that look-at-me-ma-I’m-a-growing-teen kind of way. It’s more so pops and cracks that make you think, That didn’t sound good at all…
  • You get depressed because your favorite restaurant started putting a calorie count next to their menu items.
  • If you have kids, you realize why your parents always said, “I hope you have one just like you.” Because you did and you kind of hate your younger self a.k.a. your current child/part-time hellspawn.
  • You begin “drunk-proofing” yourself. Okay, keys are in my right pocket, phone is in my left pocket with 911 speed dialed at position 1, I.D. and 20 dollars are in my shirt pocket, and I drank 16oz of Pepto-Bismol. Tonight is going to be awesome!
  • Fast forward to the day after you “only had a couple drinks.” You realize you had 4 beers and 2 shots. Someone may have bought a round but you aren’t sure. You also realize that obviously Daenerys Targaryen said “dracarys” and your brain is on fire from a massive hangover. You may have lost your soul from vomiting as well.
  • You get mad at your friend when you ask them what they are doing and they say, “Me and Beth are going to Tanner’s Orchard. Pretty stoked!” What makes this worse is that you are 30% mad because you wanted to hang with the person and have a friend brunch, but you are 70% angry because you weren’t invited and you fucking LOVE orchards (I mean fresh apples? Come on…).
  • You love brunch. Like, a lot. So much so that you may actually go by yourself even though you know they will put you over by the bathrooms at the tiny table or the table on the patio closest to the curb where inevitably someone is smoking and you think, What is this? A Jim Jarmush movie? Who still smokes?
  • You eat one, just one, piece of pizza and you gain 30 pounds. This is directly averse to when you were in your 20s and could eat 4 slices of pizza, 6 hot wings, and 8 beers. You would then be hungry roughly 3 hours later. Never. Gained. A. Pound.
  • You get really into loose-leaf tea and craft beers for some reason. Like, really into them.
  • You realize dating on apps is probably the worst thing on earth but you still have no idea how to hit on someone in public so you walk up to them and whisper, “Swipe right” lightly into their ear.
  • You hear Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and your shoulders gently sway left and right uncontrollably.
  • You begin statements by saying “when I was your age…” without any semblance of irony.
  • People between 18 and 24 look like toddlers playing dress up.
  • You start looking for “practical” cars. They most likely have heated seats, no spoiler, and “get great gas mileage.” Most times people will call it a van but you have to reiterate it is a mid-size SUV.
  • Kombucha becomes part of your diet. You hate it but you hear it’s “so good for you.”
  • Your doctor says, “That’s just part of getting older” way too much for your liking.
  • You’re super worried about when you should start getting a colonoscopy. (Including right now after reading this.)
  • You’re perpetually “hangry” due to only eating things that are supposedly good for you even though they taste like Styrofoam had a love child with cardboard.
  • You read non-fiction and actually enjoy it. Like, you seek it out. You sit down (probably with a glass of that oolong tea you brewed at home with your new tea set from China) and you open the book. You probably read the forward as well.
  • You refuse to date someone who has never heard of All That, Are You Afraid Of The Dark, or Bill and Ted’s Awesome Adventure.
  • Speaking of dating, you have come to the conclusion that people in their 30s who are still single are insane. You then have an existential crisis because YOU’RE in your 30s and still single so you must be crazy and it hurts your soul.
  • You don’t feel “immortal” like you did in your early 20s. This means you probably avoid super dangerous things like walking over sewer grates, getting too much sun (Luckily you wear enough sunscreen you look like the creeper from the Little Baby’s Ice Cream commercials), and you have your own grave plot picked out.
  • You track your steps.
  • You’re perfectly okay with not being okay all the time.
  • You love being in your 30s because you have a decent job and enough life experience to know what you want out of life and who you want in your life because you are awesome and so is your aforementioned life.

 

Until next week, friends!

 

-Chris

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The RV Stalks At Noon

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Hey Gang!

 

I admit that I have an overactive imagination. I can’t help it. I have been creating these overt, elaborate plots of nothingness for no reason. For example, I once went for a walk on a trail in the back woods with some friends. Along the way, we found barrettes, a small pillow, and a blanket. As a precursor to my revelation, this is adjacent to a campground and fishing; well-travelled it is, as Yoda would say (did you read that in his voice? J). What then unraveled in my mind was that there was a serial killer on the loose in the woods, killing people while they sleep and burying them along the trail…and we were next! Completely true story! Not the murders, the imagination.

Another instance is that, on a date,   we sat and made up stories of all the people around us. We sat next to kings and queens, spies, and everything under the sun. It was a fun night and rare that you meet someone who shares that imagination with you. I understand that my imagination is ridiculous but it is fun and makes the mundane seem like a festival. However, it does get to me. I get uber-paranoid because I let my imagination run. For instance, I was driving through town and the car behind me mirrored every turn that I made. It was unnerving because I thought of every Creepypasta and episode of Alfred Hitchcock that was even remotely similar and it made me freak out. I started going faster, and they matched my speed, I slowed down thinking they would go around but nope, they stayed behind me. I finally whipped into my parking lot to see them speed past and into the distant night. I let out a long exhale and contemplated my sanity.

Fast forward to now. I come to work and every day there is an RV camped out in our lot. We share a rather large parking lot with a couple other corporate buildings. This isn’t your average RV; this is the watch-the-back-windows-for-someone-mouthing-“help” type of RV. It has not moved in 2 months and I have to say, it is a bit creepy but it is bringing out my inner sleuth. I have seen a balding man come out of it once and walk up to the building. The next time I saw him place something on the back bumper and then hop in a little S10 with filing cabinets in it and drive away. Below are the theories I have come up with:

  1. He works there and is having an unfortunate circumstance where he cannot afford a house
  2. He may be in the movement of not planting roots.
  3. He is a murderer that is on the move and needs to be mobile to finish his awful deeds
  4. He is using the RV as a kidnap shack in the open because he secretly wants to get caught
  5. It broke down after he was traveling the world, making it by ship from Russia and is too attached to just leave it
  6. He is a member of a secret society that only live in RVs used in ‘80s horror movies
  7. He is Illuminati….
  8. He may or may not be a vampire, which means I am living the real version of Fright Night
  9. He is a meth dealer who used to be a chemistry teacher and now has cancer but this is his way of paying for the bills and not leaving his family in debt (followed closely by his sidekick, Jessie).
  10. I need to get a life.

It’s definitely one of these!

-Chris

Campfire Tales Part 2: Creepy-Crawlies and The Scream That Ended The Trip

This was the first time I had ever camped, except in my ninja turtle tent in my bedroom floor as a tot. I feel like that doesn’t count.

I know one thing, the dark is pretty terrifying. Let me clarify, what is in the dark, or the possibility thereof, is terrifying. I use this preface to go on about when our noses started to run. We had no toilet paper, tissues, or paper towels. However, in the darkened exterior of the camp, about 50 yards away, was the public restroom. Ben essentially made fun of me when I proposed we both go look for toilet paper. It didn’t bother me. At least this way, when the three-eyed beast came to eat me, I wouldn’t be alone in its stomach!

I carried my gas lantern as Ben led the way to the outhouse. It was impossibly dark only three feet away from the lantern. This made my mind go to places I didn’t know possible, which is kind of impressive for me, no?

We get to the bathroom and he opens the door. I peek around inside, slowly lifting the lantern up to illuminate the small, dark space, and notice cockroaches all over the bathroom. Ceiling, floor, and walls were covered by long, dark insects. I was blown away from disgust.

“Got it,” Ben says as he takes a roll from the bathroom.

He passes in front of me. Now, the entire time he was in there, all I saw was the left side of his body. As he passes, I see the right side of him…which is now home to about four massive cockroaches. I try to emote but it comes out in stumbles.

“Er.. You..On your back…Cockroach! Dude! Dude!”

Now, there are two versions on what happened next. Ben’s recounting and then the real story.

Ben said it freaked him out that I was yelling. That’s why he jumped.

What really happened:

He had a look of shear horror as he ran into the darkness swatting cockroaches off his back. I was dying laughing at this point. Grossed out and laughing.

He skulks as he is visibly embarrassed. We go back to the fire and blow our running, cold noses as the fire dies out. It is then the cold sets in but above us are stars; billions of stars unlike anything I had ever seen. We stood there looking upwards in the cold for quite a while.

Ben then decided he needed to go back to the truck for something. I thought, “Oh god…I have to be by myself in the dark with a broken lantern (lantern broke, I guess a breeze blew by and knocked it over. I blame karma).”

He went off and I became hyper-aware of my surroundings. My ears perked up and I could hear every insect landing on a leaf from 10 meters away. It was terrifying for no real reason. I felt like I was being watched the entire evening and now, by myself, it was amplified. He finally skulked back but the feeling never left me. We stood there growing colder but still in awe of the heavens above us for a while longer.

That was when we heard the lack of frogs croaking. It was silent. I remarked something to him for a moment, I can’t recall right now, and that is when we heard this blood-curdling scream coming from where we fished not but a few hours ago. We looked at each other in shock. The scream continued and moved up towards us as if it was coming up the hill. We were immobile. It then sounded like it went through the woods, which Ben’s back was to, and then flew over head and away. Its scream drowned out as it flew into the distance.

“So, go to sleep?” I said.

“Umm, yeah,” he quickly retorted.

We dove into the tent and set up the partition between us. We joked about the sound for a bit, calling it a witch, and then went to sleep. The next day, the boredom and monsters finally got to us. We decided to fish one last time in the main river and head home.

I guess that’s how most people camp, right? Fear and boredom?

Stay tuned for my next campfire tale: Mr. Raccoon has his day!

-Chris

Campfire Tales Part 1: Chris, Ben and the Infinite Boredom

Hey Gang!

So, it is getting that time of year where being outdoors becomes a life-goal. I have decided to tell a few stories of literally the only times I have been camping. It is funny, my best friend Ben and I have this saying: We can never be normal. It does not matter how boring the activity we do is, we never have a genuine normal experience. There was one time where we hung out, went to best buy, scoped out chicks with our 17-year-old eyes at the mall, grabbed lunch, and started our way home. Nothing abnormal happened. It was a beautiful sunny day with the windows rolled down and the breeze coming in through the small s10’s windows. Once again, it was completely normal, until a huge yellow jacket flew into the cab at about 55 miles per hour. We swerved and screamed as it landed on us and around us. After what seemed like an hour, the bug flew away and we breathed a sigh of relief, laughed, and yelled “Why?!”

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

These are some more (s’more, get it?!) of our stories that should have been a relaxing or uneventful tale, but took a sharp right. I think it makes for a better story anyway.

We found this great little place off a major lake a few years back. It was great and we wanted to spend the entire weekend camping in my massive tent that is bigger than my dorm room in undergrad. We get there and it is probably a hike of about an eighth of a mile in to where we camp. The walk way is beautiful and green. The path laid flat by lawnmowers. It had a natural elegance to it that I couldn’t put my finger on.

We put the tent up and went for a short hike along a path. We wound around and found a small two-person boat someone had repurposed as a bridge. The earth showed signs of recent flooding. The trees bent over the river in towering ways. It was quite beautiful. Until we got lost. I am not sure how it happened. Maybe it was the boat that threw us off or maybe our imaginations that ran wild when we saw cigarette butts and old, empty beer cans. Whatever it was, we got lost. I guess “lost” is a harsh word. We could see houses about a mile away and we could hear traffic but we could not find a way out of the wooded area or where our campground was. We felt crazy and slightly embarrassed.

“What if this is how we die?” I remember joking but not.

We found our way out as the sun began to set. We went fishing at a little pond about 100 feet downhill from where our tent was. We caught small sunfish most of the day and finally gave up on catching the big ones. We walked back to our tent as the sun set. I don’t really remember what we ate for dinner or anything like that. I do remember one thing….

We were so bored. I mean the bored that sent you into crazy fits. I remember at one point we were gathered around the fire as the pink sky faded into night. It was quiet except for the buzzing of insects and the croaking of frogs. Orange and black alternated around the foliage near the fire. I remember looking up at Ben, as he carved something out of a large branch, and thinking about how much he looks primal. It was all so very primal. I too was carving wood; a wooden shiv because what do you do with empty time.

We grunted and laughed every once in a while. We eventually found out that we each had been creating shivs; his more brilliantly crafted than mine, I admit.

END OF PART 1

Beautifully Insane

 

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Hey Gang!

 

Is it me or did it get a little dark in this blog for a while? It has been a bit of a wild ride this past year but I must admit that there is a change in the wind. A change that I hope is for the better.

Well, it is 2014 and I can not help but reflect on the past decade. I have grown immensely as a person but it was not without learning a few lessons along the way. These are a few of the lessons I have learned that I hope you may be able to integrate into your life so that you will not make the same terrible decisions as me.

 

1. DO NOT EAT THE SHELL

It was a few years ago when I was not as well off financially as I am now. I was living with my mother and our money situation was not the best, so treats were very much a luxury. You can imagine how ecstatic I was when my mother surprised me with a large bag of ranch flavored sunflower seeds. I substituted those for all of my meals. I ate the entire bag of those delicious little seeds in about four days. It was terrific and broke the monotony of Ramen noodles and rice. It was terrific right up until the point when I had not used the restroom for three days. (I will substitute “poop” with “bunny”. It just classes up this story a bit more, I believe.) So, a few days go by and I had yet to bunny. It was distressing. I could feel a hardening in my stomach and I actually could not fully stand upright because of the pain.

I sat down to watch television when my stomach let out a god awful roar and I knew I had to bunny. I got up and ran to the restroom. What then happened was easily top ten of the most painful moments of my life. Passing that bunny was a combination of giving birth to a demon mixed with watching the television show “Ghost Hunters’. It was a terrible experience. As I sweat and cried, I wondered what had happened. I then realized what it was: the seeds. I had eaten the seeds with the shell on and they did not dissolve. So, my bunny was basically like shrapnel coming through my intestines. The next few days were filled with shrapnel being passed and fears of some sort of intestinal damage. I thought, “This would easily be the most embarrassing way to die. I will end up on that show “1000 ways to die” and that will be my legacy.” Luckily, this was not the case; however, I still cringe and pucker every time I see a bag of unshelled sunflower seeds.

 

2. SOME JOKES ARE ON YOU

I truly enjoyed playing jokes on people. I loved to prank individuals all of the time, specifically those who were very….deserving. Some sort of karmic equality by distress. I pulled on of my favorite pranks when I was about 18 years old and it was on my aunt. She is a goofy woman. A bit high strung and also a bit strange. She is very into being at home and spatially oriented. He property is her property. That being said, she is also hilarious. She is one of those people that are accidentally hilarious. She would go on tirades about one thing or another. Blame the president for problems with her water. Blame her allergies on the people next door’s cooking. Yell the “F” word every time she forgets something. Forgetting something small. Like, forgetting to get the channel changer a few seconds earlier when she had gotten up. Just hilarious. I must admit, as a youngster, I may or may not have enjoyed to exacerbate her insane rants.

This all came to a head when I had a girlfriend around that time and she found out. She teased me for hours about it. She was very explicit. This was beyond ribbing and I was very embarrassed. So, a prank came to mind a few days later.

My best friends and I were out and about. We would drive around and smoke cigars and usually find some trouble to get into. This was one of those times. Nate would often unroll condoms and place them on random cars’ antennae. This was hilarious for some juvenile reason. This night I asked him for the last condom. I then went in to Walmart and bought a travel size bottom of unscented lotion. I think you can see the dots connecting. We drove up to her house and stopped at her drive way. I filled the condom to almost the brim with thick white lotion, rolled the window down and flung it onto the cement. It splattered and white goo went everywhere. We took off and I went home soon after. A few days later I came downstairs and sat down with a bowl of cereal. My mother was crocheting and we made idle chat but then she said, “Oh my gosh, Aunt … called and you know how she has been having trouble with her neighbors? Well, they must have had sex and thrown a condom at her house or something. She found a big ol’ nasty condom filled with sperm the other day.” I burst into laughter.

“I think that is gross,” my mother said.

I then divulged the entire story. She looked at me for a moment with her mouth agape. I thought her reaction would be anger but it turned into a chuckle which turned into a laugh. I asked how she cleaned it up and my mother said, “A rake. It made the condom rip and it went all over.”

We both died laughing. A decade later and I still hear her ranting and complaining about the worst neighbors she has ever had and the nasty surprise they left her.

 

3. PARTNERS IN CRIME IN TIME

As you know, I have been best friends with two individuals for about 14 years. In that time we have done some of the dumbest stuff that I can think about. Ben and I threw Molotov cocktails on the back roads at night. Lit pumpkins on fire and ran from the farmers that chased us away. Nate and I have gotten into more drunken adventures than I can recall and been in more strange circumstances than I care to think about. The three of us created what should be an Olympic sport which we entitled “Asphalt Skiing”. One is able to do this by having a truck or car with a spoiler. Then have a person drive around a parking lot while another hangs on to the back and skis on the asphalt. In case you were wondering, yes I did film this. It was hilarious. However, the friction caused the treads on their shoes to melt away. For months we told people about this sport. We were truly proud of it. Most thought we were insane. Maybe we were but does insane recognize insane?

These crazy things that we did seem like a lifetime ago. In a way, they are. We are all doing so much more than we dreamed. We are a bit tamer now and those things were done by three young men who were trying to figure the world. Now, I look back on it all. I look at when we broke into a skate park and then had to hide from the police patrolling the area. It was crazy. All of this seems crazy but I was never alone in it. Fast forward a decade and we are still best friends. I look at it all and I see we were partners in crime but somewhere down the randomness of time we became brothers and it has been a pleasure.

 

 

 

So, three small life lessons that I have found helpful. More than stories. They are applicable, I believe. The stupidity of past acts that come back on us. The bonding over a joke and karma. The stupidity of the past that becomes the fond memories of the present. These are just a snapshot of the crazy things that have happened in my life but there is so much more. It builds a foundation on which I build my life and I realize I am one lucky person. I have a lot of fond memories and I am excited for the future as I try and live in the moment more and more.

The thing I know more than anything is that I am weird gentleman. I love doing weird things, having a weird sense of humor and meeting weird people.

Weird may not recognize weird but it sure does attract it and I am okay with that.

Happy New Year, my weird and beautiful friends!

 

-Chris

A Life Less Ordinary Part II: Jazz and Chuck Berry’s Ding-a-Ling

PROLOGUE

Omission (n):

1.someone or something that has been left out or excluded.
I have decided to omit the time period between the events of part one and part to of these blogs. I feel that it is an important precursor to say that events transpired and that said events were terribly personal. I feel that those are my own. After this prologue, I shall jump into the moment when the dark skies cleared.
-Chris
###
I needed release. I decided that the only way to achieve this was to drive. I think that the mind and body are connected and at the time of the event my body and mind were out of sync. My mind never present where my body resided. I was thread stretched too thin. I was being compressed. I lost my identity to someone else. Someone I didn’t know. Someone older and more assertive but someone who wasn’t me. I felt like an actor. I felt like a poseur in my own body.
I drove my mother’s convertible out to my friend’s going away party, as he was leaving for Georgia. It was a fairly decent get together. I was feeling somewhat awkward because I knew no one but I played with my phone in the corner for a bit and had a beer or two. I eventually made small talk with a friend’s parents and we sat together the rest of the time. I was just trying to forget the events of the past few days and what was to come.
I had a typical “me” moment of freaking out. My friends niece was running in between tables that everyone was sitting around and she got about two feet from me and fell…hard. My friend’s mother said, “Aw, look what you did Chris…” She was joking, of course, but from others’ perspective it, in fact, did look like I tripped a 3-year-old. I slinked out of the room and went to the bathroom as people were giving me the evil eye. I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it was having all of those elderly and middle-aged eyes looking through you like you were a monster. I had three options: 1. run back in there and begin a long speech by starting with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I implore you…” 2. Go back in and pretend nothing happened. 3. Run out to my car and drive away.
I chose option 2.
Afterwards, we had our goodbyes. It was sad seeing him go but at the same time I know we will keep in touch so I simply said, “Until next time.” I had gotten him a cigar and a box of oatmeal (that’s an inside joke for another time).  I got one for myself as well.
I left with a bit of sadness in my heart but I couldn’t bring myself to go back home. Home, that word now sounded like prison. I just needed to be outside. To be simple. To be alone for a bit. Alone from everyone and everything. Even my own thoughts.
There is this really beautiful stretch of road that only has a few houses on it. It is scenic. Rolling green hills and cornfields, soy bean fields and cow farms; it was all so simple. I decided to go down that rocky gravel road instead of heading home. I put the top down on the convertible and plugged my phone in to turn on Pandora. I had been obsessed with a song by Lil Green called “Why don’t you do right”.
So, I turned on some jazz and lit up my extremely large cigar. The wind blew around me as early 20th century jazz came through my speakers. I would take in a long draw while Louis Armstrong growled in front of his ensemble. Hollow horns and woodwinds came through my speakers out in the forgotten roads as the sun turned a warm honey-yellow.
I just lived in the moment. I had nothing on my mind but where the steering wheel would turn and when.
I take another long draw and listen to those old songs that popped and crackled in my ears. Wind blew off the corn fields, giving off their musty scent. I took in everything sensible. Aural, Oral and touch were preoccupied but everything else was sedate. My mind was at the mercy of my senses and I reveled in it.
Those old voices spoke to me from decades ago. I could feel the emotion conveyed by Billie Holiday, Doris Day and their contemporaries. I was back in a different time. I was in another place. For a few hours worth of driving, I was transported to a place where I was a tourist and it was beautiful.
My cigar began to wain, as did the sun’s light just as a song came on that I had never heard before. It was “My Ding-A-Ling” by Chuck Berry. It is one of the greatest songs I had ever heard for people as semi-immature and perverse-minded as me. I listened and hung on to every word that Chuck sang about how much he played with his ding-a-ling and I cracked up. It was a live performance, so he had the audience sing along with him and I obliged.
The song ended and as the sun nestled just over the horizon, making the sky turn pink, I slowed the car down a bit and took the cigar out of my mouth. I looked around and saw nothing but cornfields. I grabbed the steering wheel hard and screamed at the top of my lungs loud and hard. I took another deep breath and followed up with an even louder yell.
Finally, I screamed into the setting sun, “I AM ALIVE!”
I sat back down and drove on. The cigar made me feel a bit light headed as I drove back but, in the end, I found that life is complicated and sometimes you have to just step outside of yourself for a minute. You can scream into the night and not go gently.
It’s like a beat, life. It is never one thing or the other. It’s this and that. It’s everything and nothing but only when you will it to be so. Stand still and you live but are you alive?
Are you alive?
Yeah, life, plays by the rules you set.
Life; it’s a lot like jazz.
-Chris

Forget Yourself

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Hey Gang!

So, I have been bogged down with taking notes on the textbook that I will be teaching to students this year. It was a terribly dull and arduous four days of taking in-depth notes but i feel as if I could teach speech to great white sharks in a volcano! (can you imagine?)

While doing this is beneficial, it is also quite dull and sucks the creativity out of me. So, I felt uninspired to write. I did take breaks in between to play my bass. I would play around on the strings as I thumped the E string, emitting a beautiful, warm thud that dissipated. I played strings erroneously.

Then, I moved into my old default: Pixies- “Where Is My Mind”. It was the first song that I learned to play and it has always been my go-to song whenever I need to think. My hands, knowing the song all too well, move on their own. They play the opening warm melody and in my head I can hear Kim’s high, angelic voice ooo-ing.

Then I started to remember a conversation that I had via text with one of my best friends. We started talking earlier in the day about perspective. I told him that I was feeling so much better because I was back at school. I felt like I had purpose again. A place. Something was new.

He told me what I had assumed for a long while. He felt alone and was feeling unambitious as well in his austere lifestyle in the military. I couldn’t blame him.

I kept playing as I thought about that conversation and it gave me this mental picture. I usually try to think of things as analogous and metaphorical as possible. It helps me visualize a problem or an event. I guess it is just the way that I am wired.

I saw this boat drifting in the darkness. Rain poured down and the ocean swelled as wave after wave crashed upon the darkened vessel. It bowed and tilted under the stress of the ocean as it went along aimlessly in the mercy of the environment. Then, ahead of the vessel was a beacon. Bright and warm as it beckoned the vessel back to shore.

For some reason, I just started playing notes on my bass and eventually came up with a song that I entitled “Beacon”. I sent the rough recording to him and he seemed to enjoy it. I hope it made his day a bit better. Maybe he even got a bit inspired to play a bit or pick up a pencil to draw again. Either way, I hope it helped.

This got me to think of the past year and the amazing cast of characters that have stepped in and fallen out of my life in that duration. I remember talking to people and when I spoke of feeling insufficient; so much less than, they would usually have the same response but in different terms:

You need a girl.

I suppose the idea was if I were to be with someone or “be with someone” that my situation would be solved. That everything would be fine.  I see this a lot in the people I have met. Love, or the semblance of, is some sort of cure all band-aid for us. Love is the answer, the drug that satiates some sort of unexplainable hunger. Love is that part of us that needs to be filled for us to be full. To be a whole person.

I wondered for a while, during my little break between note-taking, about that idea. Should I have done that? Should I have just been with someone and let that preoccupy me?

Would I be whole?

Then I answered my own question when I thought about what I had just asked myself, should I let it preoccupy me. Thus meaning that somehow Love, with a capital L, would be a distraction from whatever was the real problem.

I feel like I talk about a lot of things on my blog when relating to relationships but I hardly ever talk about love. Maybe platonic but not romantic. Even if you read Clocks, you still only read about that closeness that I admire and would enjoy. Love is different and more complex than synchronicity.

I have never been in Love. Sounds great but just never has happened. Optimistic it will happen but what I do know about the subject is that it is not a bandage. It is an added attribute, not the prosthetic limb to “complete” me.

No, I know what I was looking for now. There are some things greater than love. They overthrow its throne, in my belief. They are what can take the ship from sea and what has been my goal all along.

The power of self-respect and self-efficacy.

These are what complete us. They complete me. That moment when you look in the mirror and know who you are is brilliant. It’s a symphony that exudes such delightful notes. It slips seamlessly from chord to chord, note to note. It plays a song unique to you.

It’s your song, now just to listen!

Once you understand yourself. Respect yourself. You can be open to the world that is truly beautiful. Let fall to the wayside those who try to break down what you have built in yourself. If you lose yourself, it is only you who can find you.

Hear your song and then, when you gain the power of self-respect and self-efficacy; when you know yourself, you can finally know how beautiful this all can be. The complexity of Love and pondering its meaning as a standalone entity and not a bandage. The revelations of just how close you can get to another when you are you. You are able to be present and live without regret because, in the end, you are doing what you know is true to you. You are true to yourself.

You finally see, with unfiltered eyes, the beauty that is life.

-Chris

 

 

I found this quote today that inspired this blog from one of my all-time favorite authors and playwrights and I hope it helps you as much as it helps me.

Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music- the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasure, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget Yourself.

– Henry Miller

 

An Insider’s Guide To Being Broke

Hey Gang!

So, as you know, I am a person who makes rules for himself. I showed some in a post a while back about dating rules (see My Dating Constitution).

This has been an insane year filled with ups and downs. I would say rock bottom but there certainly is a lot of green grass for that to be true but I have been writing in a word document certain things that I want to remember when as I grow older that remind me of this intensely humbling growing experience that I am currently at the tail end of. I want to put a few of my rules here as a guideline for those others who are new to the venture of being broke. At least the guidelines from my…unique standpoint.

Do you eat Ramen noodles for lunch and dinner? Do you fantasize about eating food that hasn’t been freeze dried? Whenever you hear someone say they make $30,000 a year, do you wonder how they are not driving a gold Cadillac? Is Coinstar the closest thing you have had for a paycheck in months?

If so….

CONGRATULATIONS!

you’re broke.

Never fear fellow broke aficionado, there are some guidelines that will help you through this process.

First, a few lessons about your status. You may feel as if you are alone. No one understands the fact that gas is a commodity like you.

As of June 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor put out unemployment statistics. These stats had a participation rating of 75.6 from the labor force of 49,466. This is the demographic that had at least a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The unemployment level there is 3.9. This is relatively low when looking at other demographics.

So, putting this in different terms, you are broke. You have a degree but can’t get a decent paying job in your area and you don’t know why. Statistically, you have a tad bit more unemployment rating in your bracket than they did in 1929. This is just before the beginning of the Great Crash. The next year would show an average unemployment rating of 8.9% in this country. As of  June 2013, Those without a high school diploma have a rating of 10.7% of unemployment, High School and no college is at 7.6% and Some college or associate degree is at 6.4%.

According to a recent study by Georgetown University on recent graduates and unemployment, unless you are in the fields dealing with the creation of new technology, education, engineering or health and science, then your unemployment rate will be higher. A recent architect is looking at a 12.8% unemployment rate even as the housing problems in America are fading. Individuals who are non-technical majors can expect higher percentages as well. Those in the arts can see an average of 9.8% and those in law and public policy can expect 9.2%. Then there is the 14.7% rate for recent graduates where their degree is concentrated in clerical functions.

What does this all mean?

You are not alone.

Now then, I hope these few rules that I have lived and learned help you on your quest to understand, appreciate and attain that green paper that is the key to so many doors that are closed to you right now….unfortunately.

RULE #1

Do Whatever It Takes

-As you begin this epic quest of unepic proportions, you may say to yourself a few things that you REFUSE to do. You may think that that degree you just earned is going to make you too good for flipping a burger. This is not true. You are broke. You may have money in the bank but it will be gone. You need to put more in there. It’s as simple as what my grandmother told me about her old well. You can’t keep taking from the well when you hit mud. Don’t let pride get in your way because of a piece of paper and four years of your life. You need money for small things in life. This will get you by until the next part. That next chapter but until then, you must do it.

RULE #2

Don’t Sell Yourself Short….or Tall

-If you are in this situation, you have probably peppered the internet with your resume. You have written how stellar you are and you have received nothing but silence and “Thank You for applying at (Place Employer Here) but…”. This shouldn’t deter you. Start applying for jobs that you would want as a dream job. You may not be completely qualified but if you get an interview and knock it out of the park, you are in. Keep trying! BUT! Remember rule #1? Yeah, still applies, buster. When you go in for that interview at McDonald’s or Hardees or even a temp agency (AHEM…me…AHEM) never go in with the attitude that you are too good for your position. You must accept the fact that you are now a statistic but only you can change that.

RULE #3

Remember Your Love Life? Yeah, Me Neither!

-You think about that pretty girl or handsome guy you see here or there often. The video rental store. The coffee shop. She works at your favorite restaurant. He does his workouts on Mondays and Fridays at your gym. This is a tactical error to think that because you are broke, everything will be fine. If they don’t like me for me, then they can go eat a large bowl of eff off. No-No, dear reader. As adults, we want to be able to go out and enjoy ourselves but it’s hard when you only have the ability to choose from the dollar menu. Men, in the evolutionary theory of attraction, it is commonly spoken that women want security above all. You may look like an Adonis but you can’t provide that security and unfortunately it can be an issue. If not her issue, then yours. You may count yourself out but don’t. Just know that it is hard now but it will get better. Righting the course is never easy. For women, some people would say that most women would just have men pay for them but hey, I got a secret…IT ISN’T 1954! Women are more independent now than they have been in history. Their values are sound and more and more couples now believe on sharing the bill after the first date or two. So, my suggestion is to work on you.

RULE #4

Ballin’ On A Budget

-You just got done working at a temp agency/at your “burger flipping” job/giving plasma. You need release and all of your friends are going out. You haven’t been out in a long time but you have bills coming up and are tight on money. What do you do, hotshot? You ball on a budget! It can be embarrassing to be broke when everyone around you is drinking IBC’s that costs ten dollars a pint but you have to move past that. It is important during this time to socialize. Being broke can be an alienating experience but if you know your limits and budget in  some fun, you will call rock bottom home for a while without any bruising on your bottom from the fall. My suggestion? Pregame..Pregame…Pregame. Get a little buzz going before hand. Look up the specials on websites of what’s going on downtown. Who has cover and who doesn’t? Here, the internet is your best friend and if you can’t afford internet, then the library is your best friend! Just remember to leave the debit card at home and don’t drive drunk. I mean if you are broke, how can you afford the bail money from a DUI?!

RULE #5

Watch Your Words

– You may find that your friends ask you what’s wrong. A bit too often. Reply in a manner that is befits your character, “No worries, mate!” You have to keep that sunny disposition. You have to keep hope in there. When you do, you see it from a different perspective but you have to be careful. You may see the funny side in how creative you get with adding things to your Beef Ramen to keep it new but your friends may find it a bit well, sad. Know when you have gone too far with a joke about being broke. No one wants a sad sack around complaining in a funny manner. It brings people down and it infects your life. You start joking but it turns serious. Before you know it you talk about it all the time. To your friends, your parents, your pet parakeet, Julius Cesar….you write a lengthy blog about it AHEM!

RULE #6

Watch Your Step

-If you are this broke and past the age of 26, you probably don’t have insurance. According to the 2011 census, 48.6 million Americans are without insurance. Jigga What?! You are looking at bills unlike you have ever seen if you damage any part of yourself. Talking thousands. Tens of thousands, even. Then you have to worry if you develop a long-term illness, then when you do get covered, it won’t be covered by the new insurance company because it was a preexisting condition. So, before you take a step off the curb or debate to wash your hands before a meal, think really hard.

RULE #7

Never Compromise Your Integrity

-You are broke, not broken. Through the hard times grows a large chip on your shoulder that blinds you to the past. Chip away at it. Remember who you are and where you came from. You have values and morals. There will come a time when it seems bleak and it may truly be bleak but you have to look beyond the rock and remember yourself. At this point, you know what separates you from a street criminal? Will. Your will to not use fear and criminality to get money. There is no such thing as easy money. Keep that part of yourself at the forefront. Being broke seems like an ailment at times, “Hi, I’m Jim and I’m broke”,  EVERYONE: “HI JIM!”, it isn’t. Remember that degree or that training you had. Remember that High School Diploma or remember the reasons why you had to drop out. Let those drive you. In the end, you will be better than you were.

RULE #8

A New You

-At the end of this, when you sit drinking tea with a lovely person, remember the price of the meal. When you hear someone speak about money as if it is meaningless. Think about this very moment. When you read a blog or when you got that job. Remember what it was like when you were stripped down to your own bare bones. Remember what it was like when you saw the real you. Then think to yourself, “What would the old me, think of the new?”

***

Well, I hope you enjoyed the few rules I posted among many more that were more specific to my situation. I made light of it all but there is truth in it. Unemployment is a problem here. It is a problem that is pervasive worldwide. There are so many people worse off than most of us on the worst day of our lives. Our own universes are so small we can’t see into the cosmos of others. Our friends, neighbors or the janitors as your local thrift store. Hang your head for your situation for a moment but then hold your head up and remember that being a victim is not the way out.

I hope this helped you in some way or at least made you smile once or twice.

-Chris

The Day John Henry Died

Image

 

Hey Gang!

 

What is strength?

Is strength something that comes from within you? Some sort of primal trait we have hidden within us that bursts forth in times of need. Is it something summoned willingly? What is its potential? Where is it coming from? What is strength?

There is this really great old story that I love. It’s the tall tale of John Henry. An American legend who was up there with the tall tales of Billy the Kid and Wild Bill Hickock. In folk lore, John Henry was a steel-driver who would hammer spikes into the ground and then a drill setter would come behind him and drill the hole to finish it out. This was the process a couple hundred years ago to begin clearing the way for railroad tracks. John Henry was the best at what he did and the hero of his peers. One day a salesman came through with a machine that was said to be able to be any man at steel-driving. John Henry challenged that notion and was pitted against the machine. They both hammered and drove and drilled for an entire night before the machine stopped, in some stories it broke. John Henry had won by at least 6 feet but, in the end, the amount of strength and prowess he showed killed him. He and his two twenty pound hammers fell to the ground but no one forgot about John Henry.

 

I was out with my friend a few weeks ago. We hadn’t been downtown together in a long time and even longer since we’d been to the downtown back home. So, we bar hopped and it seemed like we were the only ones there. We drank in so many different bars that I can’t quite remember them all. We came to a bar that was firefighter themed and I decided that naturally I would put my head into the lamp shades fashioned from old firefighter helmets. We roamed around to more bars and became too intoxicated to drive. He wanted to take a cab but I wanted to get money from the ATM. As we stumbled there and I put in my card in, he overheard a girl say to her friend, “I would not fu** either of those guys.”

This offended him so much that he said to me, “Did you hear that? She said she wouldn’t have sex with either of us.”

“What? No way. We were the least hood fabulous guys in there,” I said as I drunkenly tried to use the ATM.

The rest of the night was filled with me trying to get cash from ATMs and us stumbling through the city. We screamed at the top of our lungs things like, “Why are we so ugly!” or “There is no way they were talking to us, we have master’s degrees!”

He even suggested we begin wearing signs around our necks that had our college education credentials on them. I liked the idea at the time.

We eventually get a cab and go to Steak n Shake where I proceed to ask some young ladies on a scale of one to “elephant man” we lay. I don’t remember if they answered and I remember not really caring as my delicious sandwich arrived soon after.

We walked back to my apartment, or stumbled back I should say, as we still lamented about how we need to go to the gym and start doing crunches, we cried out, “why were so hideous!” I began to realize that the sun was rising and it had been an incredibly long, fun and ego-crushing night.

The next day we arose from our blackout slumber and I took him to his car. Then I remembered what the girls were talking about. The one girl was being hit on by two very thugalicious gentlemen. They followed her all over the bar and she even had her friends boyfriend act like her boyfriend to get away from them. The first part of the convo that he didn’t hear was her friend asking why she didn’t hook up with one of those guys at the bar. So, my ego wasn’t quite as fractured as before but it made for a memorable last night out for he and I. We may have thought we were ugly for a bit but we were ugly together, damn it!

You see, my friend will be moving hundreds of miles away soon and my other best friend is out west. We have all been friends for almost twelve years. Hard to believe.

When I think about how much strength John Henry had that day, I admire him but I also feel bad for him. I don’t summon all of my strength from within nor do I have some primal switch that flips. I gather my strength from two guys whom I met in high school. One guy hated me at first but now we have each other on Facebook as ‘brother’ and the other I was jealous of because he got to sleep in class with his hoodie up.

If not for them, I wouldn’t be where I am. They inspired me to lose weight and realize what a healthy lifestyle really meant. Not just losing weight but the amount of happiness you gather from that weight loss. Confidence, resilience and so much more.

If not for my friends, I wouldn’t be writing this. I wouldn’t be writing. My friends have been my biggest fans, even when I wasn’t.

I have my own strength but I know that if it weren’t for those two, my hopes and my dreams and my life as I know it would be right beside John Henry and his hammers.

For all this, to Skober and The Jett, I just want to say, thanks.

 

-Chris

And Then The Moon

telescope

Hey Gang!

 

“No man is so utterly dull and obtuse with head so bent on Earth, as never to lift himself up and rise with all his soul to the contemplation of the starry heavens, especially when some fresh wonder shows a beacon-light in the sky…So natural is it to admire what is strange rather than what is great.” – Seneca The Younger

 

I am a tourist.

The sun shown through my eyelids creating a pink hue as I rested my head on the metal siding of the large warehouse where I had just started working. I remember being exhausted from the job. I had never done factory work and the labor jobs I had had in previous weeks were hard but fun. This was different. This was a job of standing in a single place and repetitive movements. After a few days I could barely walk or stand. My back felt like two baseball bats were on either side of my spine and I took fistfuls of Ibuprofen just to get by.

It was break time and I sat by myself on the hot concrete as I was just a temporary employee. That’s the way it has been over the past few weeks. I jump from job to job and learn the new tasks. I am always having to tell my back story. Eventually it runs out in monotonous splendor. Yes, I am with a temp agency. Yes, I am from here. I do, in fact, know that I look Hawaiian. I am going back to school soon. This is not my career.

They ask me “What the hell am I doing here?”

It would bring me down because I was perpetually the new guy but in most instances it was an amazing bit of fun.

I worked in frame molding shop which was fun and hilarious. Although, they had me put the frames in shipping boxes. I have previously stated that I came from a single parent household where my mother raised me. She really had no inclination for using tools and things like that. To this day she calls me to help fix the TV when she hits the wrong button, which is usually the power button.

So, I put most of the molding in the bins and when I am done they ask me to help box. What I didn’t know was that they had a compressed air staple gun that had to be used. I stapled carefully and slowly as I was afraid to staple myself to…myself. It was at the height where you realized, “I should be careful here. I DO want kids some day.”

Later, I worked a day labor job for a cat fanciers competition. We set up tables and placed cages. I helped set up tables for vendors and they were all very great people. The one thing that scarred my frontal lobe was the cage I picked up that had skin and fur still attached to it. I mean, I am not a cat kinda guy but I felt bad for that poor feline.

I worked at a non-profit organization where we took donations.

PSST! Come closer to the screen. I don’t want anyone else to read this. Generally, the people who brought donations in brought TV’s, Computers, Laptops and all sorts of gently used electronics. We shook their hand and when they asked if people were going to get a use for it, we would say, “It’s going to help us out a lot. Thanks!”

The “help” came as they drove off and we picked up those TVs, Computers and the like and launched them into recycling bins. I would often pick up the biggest TV and heave it through the air into a bin with other TVs. It would crash and green circuit boards would go flying. This is how it was. We would toss these electronics that were treated with such care right up until we slammed them into a box. They would then be shipped off and taken to a recycling center where the money they get from recycling goes back into the agency…but you didn’t hear that from me.

Finally, I worked at this factory that shipped an unnamed product for sore muscles. I helped pack the materials but I had never worked in a factory before. I didn’t mind lifting more than a hundred pounds quite often in my other jobs but this was working at machines I had never used before in heat up to a bit over 100 degrees. We stood there and did the same action over and over. They kept asking me how my back was and I am a victim of pride so I would never admit that it hurt so bad I wanted to cry. They pushed me harder and harder and never spoke to me after I told them I was going to get my Master’s degree. They treated me like a pariah and even talked about how I wasn’t keeping up and it pissed them off.

It was my second day.

So, I was sitting on the side of the building with my head resting against it. They all sat laughing a few feet away, never acknowledging me. I looked down and saw this gas station cup that had tipped over and ants were walking up to the spillage of caramel colored liquid and then walking back to the crack in the concrete. I watched them for the entire 15 minute break. The pain in my back and knees faded as I thought about these ants. Doing this one job and following orders. I thought to myself, “I wish I just saw one ant go off by himself. Just see him thinking ‘F#$% The System’ and walk away.”

Those ants stuck with me as I returned to work. At lunch, they all talked around me. I was there in presence but never acknowledged. They all spoke of baby mama drama and how good the chilli and hooch was in the county jail. I couldn’t help but realize that I had nothing in common with them but I wanted to know them. They looked at me and just saw a guy passing through. A name and a person to do a job. Nothing more. A removable object.

I am a tourist.

My back hurt so bad I could barely move and after one of the men basically said he likes to go fast and didn’t want to work with someone who didn’t know what he was doing, I quit the week long assignment after 3 days. I came home and lay in the floor as Sofie came over to play. My breath was shortened by the sharp stings of pain along my vertebrae.

I slept that night in a daze of pain relief medication. The next day I went with my mother to pay bills and I was really bummed about the whole situation. I felt as if I had failed again.

We go into a thrift shop, as we always do this time of the month and I wander around. I look at the trinkets and gadgets. The old sterling silver table lighter and the porcelain choir singing. The not-so-gently used furniture and the questionable lamps. Then, at the back corner I find a bit of treasure. I found a telescope!

For anyone who has been reading a bit, you know I am a nerd about space. I memorized the constellations when I was a kid and am a regular subscriber to “Astronomy” magazine. If you were to look at me and talk to me you would never think that I was enamored with the way a Quasar is formed and fueled by a supermassive black hole.

This 1967 Jason Explorer 400 was mine. It was dusty and dirty but I took it home and cleaned it up. I took it outside and sat beneath th clear night sky. I tried to find stars but they only looked like blurry twinkling dots. The moon was just an obscurred light bulb. I took out the lenses and switched and then I saw it. I went outside and then then moon peaked out from behind the large oak tree out back. I caught a glimpse of it.

I had been frustrated that day, from pain and from feeling like I had failed, but I found triumph in that I saw the moon. It’s porous surface became clear. I looked at the craters and felt so close to its’ surface. I am not sure how long I sat there but it seemed like moments. In all actuality it was more than an hour.

I came back inside and thought about it. How great it was and then I thought back to those ants. Those ants still stuck with me. They did what they were compelled to do. I admired them.

I am a tourist but I got to meet people who were compelled to do these jobs. They were being paid much more than I but they were still doing these jobs that are incredibly hard. They go on behind the scenes. The people who do the small things that we never even know about to take for granted are some of the greatest people I have met. They are parents and husbands. They work hard and they play hard. They do what they have to do because they are compelled to do it. They may not like the job but it is about self efficacy and being able to use that money to do what needs to be done. I have met amazing people and objectionable people but I enjoyed meeting them all the same.

Even if I was just passing through.

These were foreign and strange jobs and people whom I was glad to get to know. I was in a place where just a few dollars helped but I gained a lot from these jobs. I gained knowledge of what was on the other side of the fence. The moon was my little win. It was that beacon that heralded the message of, “Keep your head up. Keep searching.”

I am a tourist now but it is not permanent. So, I enjoy the sights now and keep them for later.

 

– Chris