In God’s House

The challenge is to resist circumstances. Any idiot can be happy in a happy place, but moral courage is required to be happy in a hellhole.

—Joyce Carol Oates

The thing about anxieties is that they don’t go away so much as migrate to other areas. You can never really stamp them out, and even if what you’re obsessing over is, on its face, ridiculous, it’s hard to just forget about it and move on no matter how many times you’ve been through this before. So forgive me if I’m even more self-pitying than normal here, but I’ve been in kind of a reflective mood lately. The holidays are right around the corner, and I’m starting to understand why they’re so stressful for so many people. I mean, the whole point is that they’re fun and festive, right? But it doesn’t seem to go that way for most people. I’m not buying anyone gifts this year. I found a second job (it’s seasonal, but still), which will hopefully enable me to make ends meet for the time being, but beyond that, I’m out. Right now, I have to look out for myself and no one else. It’s just where I’m at.

The crazy thing, of course, is that now I have to fight the urge to indulge in all those things that I’ve been holding back on lately. Even with my income nearly doubling, my personal budget sheet is going to be only slightly in the black. I’m not sure how long it’s going to be before I can move back to NYC. I’m hoping to do it by next fall, but at the rate things are going, who knows? This is one of those cases where I wish I had one of my optimistic (or is it fatalistic?) friends around. You know, one of those people who says, “Oh don’t worry, if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.” I hate that attitude, but it can be rather comforting. I think the universe is a pretty cold, indifferent place, but it’s not completely without order. I also have to figure out what’s going on with my healthcare and other such adult things. I was not happy as a child, so all things considered, that’s kind of a step forward. Even so.

prayer in schoolMy problem isn’t that I’ve never been able to accept responsibility; it’s that I’ve never been very good at kicking back. It’s part of the reason that I spend most of my time off sitting in my room dicking around on my computer: after a long, hard day of doing shit, that’s usually all I have the energy to do. And I’m still not working nine-to-five, which is good, as I don’t want that kind of schedule and likely never will. I think part of my fascination with religion comes with my inability to function in the gritty, messy reality that I live in. I like to think of myself as pragmatic, but since I’m an obsessive perfectionist, I’m probably more idealistic than I care to admit. Some of my favorite co-workers back at the coffee shop weren’t even particularly good at their jobs; they were just fun people to be around. I don’t know how much fun I am to be around, but I try not to let every tiny slip-up at work get to me the way I used to. My father said once that 90% of success is showing up. It’s one of the few valuable things he taught me.

In case it’s not obvious, I’m starting to wind down. I’ll keep writing these posts for a little while yet. I think I am finding better ways to communicate with people than blogging. This thing still doesn’t get many hits, but as I’ve said many times, I don’t even know who the fuck reads blogs anymore. These days, it’s all Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, or what have you. Nobody gives a shit about WordPress. In a way, it’s liberating to know that you have a small but devoted group of followers. It means that you don’t have to work as hard to keep everyone happy. I finished 30 Rock not too long ago. Maybe the reason I like that show so much is that it’s unafraid to include jokes that are so specific and obscure as to appeal to only a tiny percentage of the population. Jenna had a line at one point that was like, “You’ll have to move to the Bay Area. Have fun always carrying a light sweater everywhere.” I know millions of people live there, but still.

I have found that people tend to use their free time more efficiently when they have less of it. This is not at all surprising. I’m working full-time now, so I don’t have too many days to just sit around doing whatever. It’s only natural that I might miss that. Then again, part of my problem in the first place was that I had all this time to do nothing and no idea how to fill it. I loved computer games as a child, but even I could play them only for a few hours every day before thinking I should find something else to do. I actually did spend a lot of time with my friends in those days, it’s just that everyone seemed to think that because I had no obligations, I had nothing to worry about. It doesn’t work that way. My pursuits at the moment are still fundamentally selfish. I’m not looking for a job that will make other people happier, just one that will pay the bills and not bore me to tears. If it benefits other, great. But my motives are not altruistic by any means.

Dream in Red

way he looks

I’ve come to a realization lately that, as realizations often do, seems obvious in retrospect. See, I’ve met a lot of people in my lifetime who have made me feel insecure, and for the longest time, I thought it was something I just needed to get over. But it isn’t. People who make others feel insecure are usually projecting their own insecurities, be it consciously or subconsciously. The people you should want to be around aren’t people who are like you, but people about whom you really don’t care whether or not they’re like you. I thought about this while seeing The Way He Looks, a Brazilian coming-of-age drama about a blind teen who realizes he is gay and falls in love with the new boy in class. I won’t spoil things for you, except to say that everything ends happily, which is not unusual for this kind of film. I’ve railed against this subgenre before, but somehow, this one got through my defenses. And I think I know why.

I tend to tiptoe around going into too much detail about my own experiences in high school on this blog. It’s not so much that I get off on being withholding as that I don’t generally find it relevant to what I have to say here. But I don’t mind saying that this film bears no resemblance to my own experiences. I spent most of my time in high school crushing on straight friends. That’s a staple of many a young homo’s story, and a lot of gay fiction plays into that by having the shy, nerdy protagonist get assigned to tutor the captain of the football team and…you know the rest. In real life, this almost never happens. I’m not saying that the captain of the football team is never gay, only that the odds that he will fall for his shy, nerdy math tutor and find his feelings reciprocated are infinitesimal. I almost got angry at The Way He Looks for presenting a story that is so goddamned warm and fuzzy, but then I realized that that’s not fair. There are teens getting thrown out of their houses for being gay, but there are also teens whose biggest fear is just that the boy they like is more interested in the cute girl in class and their stories matter, too.

I’m about a decade older than the characters in this film. I remember very clearly what being that age was like. So when I see a film like Shelter or Summer Storm, I get kinda pissy because what they present is a fantasy, nothing more. Yes, it would be nice to be pushed out of the closet by a handsome surfer who takes you by the hand and helps you to realize that everything will be okay and that this thing you’ve just learned about yourself changes nothing. Yes, it would be nice to realize that you are gay and then have your straight best friend instantly forgive you for getting overly physical and cockblocking him earlier. But that never happens and you know it. Stories like that of Leonardo and Gabriel (the guys in The Way He Looks) do happen occasionally. They’re nowhere near as rare as they used to be, but I suspect that they did happen even when I was a teen. Some people lead charmed lives, and others just know how to roll with the punches. I’m not sure if either of those can be applied to me, but hey, I don’t begrudge those to whom they can.

I’m realizing that I won’t keep in touch with everyone I know over here when I move back to New York. And I’m okay with that. You don’t have to stay friends with somebody forever in order to say that they had a meaningful impact on your life. A lot of the people I hang out with these days are California types. They’re the kinds of people who can exist only in a certain region, and since they live in that region, that’s okay. But there are folks who live in California and like California who transcend their region. And then there’s me. I’m not a California type. At the moment, I’m a New York type, but I talk about that enough already. I made the decision long ago not to pursue a career in academia. Some people never leave the college campus. I go back less and less with each passing year.

You have to be judicious in deciding who is really worthy of your time. Sometimes, that hews dangerously close to cruelty. It’s weird, because I complain a lot about how my friends never hit me up and ask how I’m doing. Most of the time, I’m the one who has to initiate any interaction. Somehow, I still feel like I’d be in a better place if I could drop a few more of them from my mental Facebook feed. It’s not even that I hate them, just that I hung out with them to vent my frustrations, and since I’m very, very slowly learning to deal with some of those frustrations, I think they’d be better off if I cut them loose. Why do you think I update this blog so often? If I had more people to listen to me in real life, I wouldn’t have written hundreds of thousands of words here. But all that barking madness has to go somewhere.

I try not to look at what I’m doing these days as “finding myself”. Maybe part of the reason that my parents were so frustrated with my progress when I lived with them was that I wasn’t rushing along and wasn’t doing nothing; I was moving, just very incrementally. In a way, that’s more aggravating than going nowhere. Then again, maybe not.

The Angels of Our Nature

I read the final two chapters of The Fault in Our Stars in a bookstore once out of simple curiosity. This is the book that has reduced readers the world over to tears, inspired a blockbuster movie, and as far as teen romances go, definitely captured the cultural zeitgeist. It’s probably a good book. People whose opinions I respect have very positive things to say about it. I guess I just wanted to know if it ended with both of the young lovers dying. (SPOILERS follow.) It doesn’t, which makes sense, because you still have to have somebody to narrate the story. The writing is perhaps a little manipulative, especially the way that Gus describes himself as a “shitty writer” before writing a lucid, eloquent letter that perfectly sums up the story’s main themes. In fairness to John Green, capturing the messiness of colloquial speech, with all of its “likes”, “you knows”, and grammatical errors while staying coherent, is pretty damn difficult. Essentially, the young hero concludes that the only true measure of a person’s life is the other lives that they touched, and that while everybody dies, a person’s lifespan has little to do with the impact that they have. Fair enough. (End SPOILERS.)

I learn that John Green is an Episcopalian and was at one point a chaplain in a children’s hospital. I have heard from other people who have done this that there is no faster way to despair of ever finding any meaning in life or making sense of our cruel, chaotic, capricious universe that to try giving comfort to people (especially children) with cancer. I don’t doubt that. People die having never fulfilled their last wish, be it to meet their hero, fall in love, or even just finish the fucking scarf that they were knitting for their kid as a keepsake. It’s rough. I don’t have any real conclusion there, I’m just saying it’s rough. Then again, do we always have to think of children as such delicate flowers? I think of children as younger people, nothing more, nothing less. It’s probably a bigger tragedy when a teenager dies than a senior citizen, but it’s still death, and that is a fact of life. Maybe the reason I didn’t see the movie when it was in theaters was that I felt like Green was mythologizing adolescence, as if there is nothing in the world as perfect as young love. But I haven’t seen the movie or read the whole book, so what do I know?

Our culture is obsessed with youth. That’s nothing new. It’s why I often feel old even though I am in my mid-twenties and have to force myself to live in the moment and not worry overmuch about my future. There’s the usual factors holding me back: finances, friends (or lack thereof), my complicated relationship with my parents (moving out helped, but it didn’t solve everything, and how could it?), my own neuroses, you get the idea. It’s amazing how much time I can spend obsessing over something that I know perfectly well is a waste of time. That’s the thing about douchebags. It’s not so much that you can’t see that there is something wrong with them so much as that you can’t stop yourself from thinking that if you could get them to listen, they would learn to act a little nicer. I don’t like the divide the world into good and bad people, but there are a lot of people out there who are simply assholes. They’ll die having accomplished nothing of value, and even at their wake, people will be struggling to find positive things to say about them. I’m sorry, but that’s just a fact. I don’t know why.

My roommate spends very long periods of time sitting in front of the TV or doing other shit with it on. I guess he just likes background noise. He’s a painter, so he spends most of his time in the living room painting or watching TV and frequently falls asleep in front of the TV. There are times when I wish he would leave or go to his room so that I could hang out in the living room, but whatever. I’m actually more amazed by his ability to be vegetative for so long than anything else. Seriously, how do you fucking do that? I’ve tried that, but even I can spend only the entire morning playing computer games or something before I think that I should find something else to do with my time. I guess I never learned how to goof off.

There are few things that increase my blogging frequency more than having nothing to do all day. I don’t mind watching TV or reading or doing some other sedentary thing for a while. The problem is that I usually feel like I’m doing it because I have no idea how else to pass the time. I have the good fortune to leave near a shopping center, so I can always go wander around for a while if I need to get out of my apartment. Also, I can walk to work now. It’s not a short walk, but still. And I get a free dinner every night I work, which cuts down on my groceries and means I’m less inclined to go out to eat a lot during the week. Yay. Now I just have to find a second job. Because my bank account is dwindling fast.

It’s no good to sit around all day waiting for the phone to ring. So I try to turn it off or leave it behind when I can. Maybe I will miss a phone call or text, but anybody who can’t wait isn’t worth hearing from anyway, right? Oh well, at least I have other shit with which to distract myself. I feel the need to reconnect with nature.

I Want More

There’s been some drama at home lately, but I prefer not to go into that. It’s the same petty domestic nonsense that has been a thorn in my side for years running now. I don’t know if I’ll ever escape it, but I figure I should at least give complaining about it a rest. Anyway, I’m almost done with season six of 30 Rock. It’s very difficult for any show—let alone a sitcom—to keep its edge that long, but I think that even late in its run, that show is (almost) as fresh and funny as it was in its second season. And Jane Krakowski owns every second she’s onscreen.

Rural Juror

This past week has been kinda weird. I’m stuck living at a place I don’t much like, but I can’t find anything better. I wonder if I’ll ever make it back to NYC. I’m starting to get out a little more, which is nice. It’s frustrating how many of the roommate wanted ads I look at specify “light cooking only”. I mean, as long as I clean up after myself, why should it matter how much cooking I like to do? If the kitchen works, I’ll use it, and I’m pretty good at staying out of everyone else’s way. I kinda feel like cooking is something of a lost art anyway. Most people these days know how to microwave shit and get takeout, but that’s about it. To me, a roommate who makes sausage and bow-tie pasta Florentine is a plus. It fills the house with a good smell, and if you’re nice to me, I might even share some. So what’s the downside? People are weird. I mean, I am pretty good at keeping to myself, but I still need my space. And not everybody gets that.

As I wade into the dating scene, I’m starting to wonder if it’s that much like the apartment-hunting or job-hunting scene, in that you have to wade through a zillion assholes to find one who’s worth keeping, and people all bring their own weird little biases and conditions to the table, so you have to deal with that. Or maybe I’m being pessimistic. I’ve had one or two run-ins with assholes now that I’m finally getting serious about the whole thing, and one thing that I have learned is that, just like with looking for a living space or a job, you can’t go looking for a partner just to escape the dating scene. I am reminded, of all things, of that stupid Nia Vardalos movie years ago in which her character refuses to get into relationships, only going on five dates with each of her beaus because that way, you can preserve the fun and excitement of meeting new people forever and avoid feeling trapped. You can see where this is going, right? If you can’t, I’ll give you a hint: the male lead is played by John Corbett, the same dude she married in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In real life, a person like her would end up miserable and alone. And deserve it.

I didn’t actually see that movie; I just read a rather amusing takedown of it. I spend a lot of my spare time reading stuff like that. Nothing wrong with it, really, but I have to wonder just how best to integrate other shit into my lifestyle. The thing about dating is that I’m not sure if most people want what they say they do. Society expects us to get our ya-yas out when we’re young, then meet “the one” and settle down into a boring domestic life with the white picket fence and 2.5 kids and all that bullshit. And a lot of people say they want a committed, long-term monogamous relationship even though they don’t. I don’t like kids, personally, so it’s probably good luck on my part that I didn’t grow up in a part of the country where people are expected to marry at age 20 and start cranking out babies almost immediately. The whole notion that it’s okay to sleep around when you’re young as long as you stop doing that by the time you hit 30 is such nonsense. Some people aren’t made for monogamy. Some people aren’t even made for relationships. Some like relationships, but not marriage. I like all of those things, but that’s just me. I’m not passing judgment. For once.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to settle into your typical 9-to-5 job. For one thing, rush hour traffic makes me murderously angry, and for another, no. Just…no. So while my current job may cut into my social life (not that I had one to begin with), it probably beats the alternative, which seems so dull and stifling. You may say that I’ll change my mind about that someday. Don’t count on that. Not everything I believe can be chalked up to inexperience. Most of the people who say it can didn’t mature so much as stop trying.

I’m trying to wrap this one, so I’ll just say that maybe the reason I get so annoyed by all of those ads that say “light cooking only” is that I thought that learning to cook was a part of growing up, kind of like learning to drive or to tie your shoe. Who wants to eat ramen noodles three times a day anyway? Eating out all the time can be both more expensive and less healthy, and I say that as somebody who eats out regularly. I sometimes feel like I’m both an overachiever and the black sheep at the same time. I dunno, I guess I just do my own thing. I just don’t know what, exactly, I’m working towards. Besides world domination, obviously.

I never saw Pitch Perfect, but I’ve seen a million covers of this song. This one’s my favorite.

Trouble Will Find Me

I’ve been watching some commencement videos on YouTube lately. There’s that Neil Gaiman one I’ve posted multiple times and can practically recite from memory. There’s Stephen Colbert’s—which is fairly cliche, actually, but contains one salient point about how achieving your dreams doesn’t mean you “won”. And then there’s Steve Jobs’, which is characteristically direct and essentially says that you won’t be around forever, so do what you need to do. The Gaiman one and the Jobs one are probably my favorites so far, but I’d also give a shout-out to David Foster Wallace and Bill Watterson, both of whose speeches I have posted or quoted before. Jim Carrey’s speech is also on YouTube. I don’t feel like watching that.

Because I harp on this conflict so much, let me just say that my parents, for my money, have already lost. Their arguments are getting increasingly desperate anyway. I think they know they’re holding me back, because what they’re doing is throwing a tantrum. Dan Savage said that after LGBT kids come out to their parents, they typically throw a shitfit that lasts about a year. For that time, the kid in question has to be the adult in the relationship, because their parents are just angry that they can’t have everything their way. I guess this is, in a metaphorical sense, my coming out. I’ve been out for years now, but it’s only fairly recently that I’ve started pushing back. No, I’m not going to go to the doctor for regular checkups if I don’t feel like it, and the fact that I don’t like discussing my health with you does not mean that I need a lecture about the importance of having a good healthcare plan. This is the only way they know how to relate to me. What a shame.

Some people lose their edge as they get older. Some people never had any to begin with. If there is one hope that I have, it’s that I never lose whatever I have that rubs people the wrong way. A friend of mine described me as having a “difficult” personality. No, I don’t, and I’m not even sure what that means anyway. Another described me as having a “polarizing” personality, and that, I can live with. I don’t believe in destiny. I think it’s people who make our own way, and even if there are forces in the universe that are beyond our comprehension, the way that they make their presence known is less in showing us the path than occasionally meeting us halfway. Change takes time. You can resolve to turn over a new leaf, but habits are hard to break. I spend marginally less time dicking on my laptop before getting out of bed every morning than I used to. I’d like to say that I’ll be back at 100% soon, but I doubt it. Besides, dicking around on your laptop can be fun.

I sometimes bring my checkbook with me when I go to look at apartments. The last person to offer me an apartment on the spot was Psycho Queens Guy, so in retrospect, maybe that’s not such a good idea. But I keep doing it because I keep wondering if the problem is just that I’m not assertive enough. The people at my new job all seem to think I don’t talk much, which is true about 95% of the time. The people at my previous job thought the same thing. I don’t know how to say things in a way that people will understand. A lot of the time, they just don’t get it. And if there’s one thing my enemies all have in common, it’s that they think they’re on my side.

I got very angry at a dude whose place I wanted to look at a few days ago. I called him up after seeing his Craigslist posting and, before he had even asked my name or set up a time for me to come look at the place, began bombarding me with questions about where I worked, how much money I made, how old I was, etc. When I told him the general location of the restaurant I work in, he asked me to be more specific. I guess he thought he was helping me determine whether or not I really needed the place, but after a while, I began to wonder if he actually wanted to rent the place to anyone. Because I kind of think meeting somebody in person is the best way to determine whether or not they’re right for something. When I told him I lived with my parents, he told me I should just stay with them because that’s free rent. I don’t have to explain why that upset me, do I? The kicker was that I realized very early in the call that I had looked at another room in this guy’s house several months ago. He was a total dick then, too, giving me misleading directions so that I arrived two hours late and giving the place to somebody else because I took a day or two to get back to him with my credit score. Fuck him.

I still go to the movies pretty regularly. I saw Gone Girl and enjoyed it, although I found the ending a bit of a stretch. (SPOILERS, naturally.) Yes, the Nancy Graces of the world would probably jump on that case and milk it for all it’s worth, but the Jon Stewarts and John Olivers would likely point out all of the things about Crazy Amy’s story that don’t fit. Because when you really think about it, there’s a LOT that didn’t fit. Maybe I’m just averse to endings where everything is “back to normal”, even if “normal” is actually really fucked up. Change happens no matter what. And normal is not what most people think it is.

Always wondered about this.

Always wondered about this.