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.

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Water

water

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my mother and I had an argument a little while back in which she told me that she was worried that I was spending too much time alone. That’s probably true, but it’s not my fault. I still have a social life. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve hung out with anyone, but I’ve gone for months at a time like that and while I wouldn’t want to live through it again, it remains that I don’t need to go out partying every night to stay sane. Just every so often. What frustrates me is the feeling of having to go way out of my way to find someone to spend time with. It’s usually I who reach out, not the other way around. That needs to stop. I still don’t know what to do about it.

The irony is that my mother was correct when she said that she thought I might be “venting [my] frustrations on the internet”, but not in the way she thought. What do you picture when you hear that phrase? I see somebody leaving racist comments on YouTube. I’m not a troll. I can be a mouthy bastard, but I don’t say shit just to piss people off. More than likely, I’m the guy who mistakes a troll for somebody who is actually trying to start a discussion. They’re easy to spot on YouTube, less so on Facebook. I don’t use the Book of Faces quite as often as I used to (although I still check it multiple times a day—baby steps, people) because most of the interactions I have tend to be negative. I commented on a friend’s post about something, some friend of hers took exception to what I’d said, and when I said, “Who asked you?”, he said, “I could ask you that same question.” What is this, a fucking playground? I should have known better than to fall for that “I know you are, but what am I?” bullshit, but I hadn’t realized until then what a dbag he was. So I deleted all my responses to anything he’d said so that it looked like he was arguing with himself. Ha ha.

I don’t have to explain why what he said was obnoxious, do I? If you don’t get it, don’t bother to say so. I hate it when people try to resolve an argument by dragging you down to their level. Instead of responding to what you say, they just deflect it, as if both of you being wrong somehow makes them right. It’s the logic used by Aaron Eckhart’s character in Thank You For Smoking, and in case you were still on the fence about it, let me assure you that smoking is very, very bad for you. The person who benefits from stalling rational discussion and preventing anything from getting done is the enemy of the world. (“The Enemy of the World” is my favorite 2nd Doctor storyline. I had to work in a Doctor Who reference.) The tricky part is that nothing is very, very good at masquerading as something. Look at the Keystone XL Pipeline. That’s a whole lot of nothing. No, it’s not something. If you think it is, go away. That, or read a book not written by a right-wing nutjob. Please.

There is one thing that I have learned about relationships despite having never dated anyone: You don’t have to compromise on everything. Maybe I’m an asshole for saying this, but I get a little dose of schadenfreude from watching smug couples fall apart. It’s not that I’m parading around laughing at them or anything, but really, is there anything more irritating than somebody who acts like they’ve got it all figured out because they’ve found someone? They see having a partner as the endpoint, and everything after that is just coasting downhill. Happily partnered people, back me up here: It’s not at all like that, right? Being in a relationship doesn’t mean saying goodbye to all of your problems so much as seeing all of them played out on a larger scale. I’ve heard people say that they think of the period of their life prior to meeting their One and Only as a completely different phase. Of course, you can’t go around auditioning people to be the One; you kind of just find people you’d like to know better and go from there. If you choose the right one, you’ll want to keep knowing them better. I guess.

I refuse to think of what I’m doing these days as “finding myself”. I don’t know what that means. It sounds like something affluent white people do in big cities after graduating college in every TV show ever made. My problems these days are not so very different from the ones that I dealt with as a child. I still suffer from crushing existential dread much of the time, although my attitude might have altered slightly. Things have been a little slow lately. There might be a shakeup in the staff at the restaurant, which could be tough for me to adjust to. Also, we just had the slowest night I’ve ever seen. Nobody came in, except to get takeout. Nobody. I bring a book to read on my downtime and even I think that’s boring.

As Dr. Seuss once said, unslumping yourself is not easily done. I just have to double down on learning how to use my alone time. Because I will take that over being surrounded by the wrong people. I hope I never get desperate enough to let that change. In the meantime, I must ask you all to stay strong and, if you haven’t yet, check out Orphan Black. It’s a really, really, really good show. What’s more, nobody watches it, so you’ll look extra cool once everyone does (which they will). Mazel Tov!

fucks

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.

The Bridge

Get it?

Get it?

I keep trying to lay off my parents. They may be my greatest obstacles right now, but they are still just people, and they love me, don’t they? Problem is, love is rarely that simple. You can’t say “I love you” after saying something shitty and expect that to make everything okay. And if the person you love is only acting that way because they’re afraid of what you’ll do if you see the real them, you don’t really love them, do you?

I’m not even sure where to begin here. My father sent me an email a while back in which he told me that I was “puttering along” and needed to start thinking long-term. I told him a while back that I intended to move out, and now that my apartment search has dragged on longer than anticipated, he sent me an email recently telling me that I needed to “get a move on” (or words to that effect). “Fuck you,” is the first response I had, but then I realized something: He’s angrier than I am. Most of my interactions with my parents have a passive-aggressive quality, but these days, it’s more like aggressive-aggressive. I’d like to say I feel sorry for them, but I don’t. My mother started giving me grief a few months ago about the storage locker that I’m keeping in Queens, wondering if it’s really worth the money to keep my possessions over there so that I’ll have something waiting for me when I return to NYC. Since I had recently changed payment methods from my father’s card to mine, I told her to drop the subject AND SHE EMAILED ME BACK. Seriously, how much more direct can you get?

I deleted my mother’s email unread because I didn’t want to know what she said. Now I think I already do. In a rather tense discussion recently, she brought up that locker while I was talking about something unrelated. I told her to knock it the fuck off in May and she’s still thinking about it. I’m an INFJ with OCD and even I don’t hold on that long. Seriously lady, let it fucking go already.

It gets almost pathetic after a while. Basically, they just want to be kept in the loop. They don’t understand why I haven’t found another job/an apartment yet, and truth be told, neither do I. I’ve never had it take this long before. Then again, maybe it’s because I’m in more of a position to be picky. I’ve responded to dozens of Craigslist ads and looked at nine or ten apartments over the past few months. I’ve turned down a few of them because they weren’t quite right for my needs, but more often than not, they’re the ones who don’t want me. That’s not my fault. My father thinks it would be easier to find a place if I already had a second job, but I disagree. I want to get out of here, and if I have to (cough) inflate my current income or (ahem) claim that I do have a second job and just hope that the landlord or realtor or whoever doesn’t call the store to make sure I work there, I really can’t say I feel guilty about that. At all.

It’s really laughable how little sense my father’s complaints make. He tells me on one hand that I lack ambition, but on the other, that I’m being too picky. Because I refuse to get an office job, see, or anything that is related to environmentalism, public service, government work, or education. My parents both have jobs at a local university, so you can see how this might be interpreted as an unconscious attempt to turn me into them. The irony is that my father is the one who suggested that I apply to a coffee shop, then started to walk that back when he realized that I had no intention of leaving it for some boring-ass thing sitting in a cubicle or whatever. Deal with it, Pops. You’ve created this monster, and fuck you in the face with a fucking rhinoceros cock if you think I’m going to change my occupation every time you decide that I could be doing better.

I think we have to face facts here: What I am trying to undo here is literally decades of oppression. (And no, I don’t think that’s too dramatic of a choice of words.) There are too many memories to sort through, and when my mother demanded an explanation for why I didn’t want to have dinner with her recently, I told her as much. I remember one time when my mother exploded at me while we were on vacation for asking if she and Dad would buy me a new computer game when we got back. “You can just keep it to yourself,” she said, and I heeded her words. My parents have said things to me over the past few months that were so naked in their contempt and disdain for me and my hopes and dreams that I didn’t think they were even capable of it. “Is this the real you?” I want to ask. Because if it is, don’t count on me ever looking back. You’re only able to do this to me because I’m stuck here, and how long do you think that’s going to last?

It’s funny. I’m in my mid-twenties, which by barista standards, makes me middle-aged. Most of the people I work with are in high school or college or thinking about going to college. The reason I am so defensive of my decision to work here is that I’m trying to figure out what I got wrong when I was that age. I wasn’t that much younger, and there’s still time to fix it. But I’ll never do it if my parents insist on treating me like a child. They still use the “You’re too young to know what you’re talking about” argument on me, but I think I’m behaving like more of an adult than they are. They’re the ones throwing a tantrum because they can’t have their way. And in a way, I don’t blame them. Because they can’t have their way, and maybe, just maybe, I can.

Blurker

If I hear one more gay person say that they are “not like all those other gays”, I will lose my fucking mind. I hate to break it to you, but you are not special just because you like sports and have a bro-y affectation. Do you get a buzz out of telling people you’re gay only to hear, “You’re gay? Wow, I had no idea!” Yeah, I used to feel that way too, but then I grew up.

It’s probably a weird thing to say about a guy who just slaughtered seven people, but watching the last video by the UCSB shooter, all I could think was, “What a fucking drama queen.” He clearly had that speech rehearsed, complete with evil laughter. I would never dream of being dismissive of the tragedy that he caused, but seriously. What. A. Douche. Yes, college can be difficult, especially for those of us who feel like we have something to offer even though we’re not getting laid or going on dates. But I have no sympathy for this guy, certainly not after what he did. Sex is weird that way–no matter how bad you want it, you still aren’t entitled to it. It’s not like food, water, or shelter, which I believe everyone should have even if they can’t afford it or provide for themselves. You have to earn it. Besides, anyone with half a brain soon figures out that all of their peers who brag about getting laid or make a big show of how in love they are are just pretending. Relationships that are built on PDAs never last, and any man who brags about his sexual prowess has a miniscule dick.

It has now been just over two years to the day since I started grad school. It has been one year since I finished grad school, and three years since I finished undergrad. I look forward to the day when I see summer as just another season. Even when I was in elementary school, I remember those reflective days on the last or second-to-last day of school where you have a field day and a class party, talk about what you’re going to do over the summer, and reminisce on how quickly it all flew by. I fucking hate that. If I can’t make time move slower (and really, who wants to?), perhaps I can stop thinking of fall as a new beginning and summer as an ending. It’s just not healthy. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one of my friends. I’m kind of hoping one of them would invite me to a party or something for a change, because I can’t get everything started all by myself. There is no rule saying you have to be friends with the people you work with, but it never ceases to amaze me how easily everyone else settles into a groove and gets to know one another. Maybe they’re just better at faking it.

My mother is really something. We got into another fight lately. Maybe calling it a fight is a bit strong, but that’s my point: She doesn’t seem to understand why I’m so annoyed that she keeps asking me stupid questions. I blame my father. He’s like Moriarty in all this, essentially pulling the strings. Regular readers may recall that I mentioned having most of my belongings in a storage locker in Queens waiting for me when I return to New York someday. When my father complained that it was costing him $50 a month to keep that locker, I told the storage people to charge my debit card rather than my credit card (which is on my father’s account), thinking that would be the end of it. Instead, my mother called me up to ask when I was planning to go back for all that stuff. The subtext was that she doesn’t believe me when I say I’m going to return to New York. There’s no explaining things to people who just don’t want to get it. When I say that the specifics of my healthcare plan are none of her damn business, it means that the specifics of my healthcare plan are none of her damn business. She still feels the need to email me a response every time I tell her to back the fuck off, but I don’t even read those anymore.

My mother called me twice on my birthday. I didn’t want to talk to her because we had had a fight a few weeks before, and I was still mad about that. But she didn’t take the ever-so-subtle hint, and kept calling me until I relented. I have close friends who live nearby who I barely see because they never seem to have the time for me. I don’t have the fucking time for this fucking bullshit. It’s like she senses that I might be having a good time and calls me up just to ruin my day. Would it kill her to wait for me to contact her for once? Or even just give me one fucking month where I don’t have to listen to her? I’m at my wit’s end here. I don’t see why it’s too much to ask to have one fucking month, but since she won’t let it go, I guess I have to.

Some people are remarkably dense when it comes to figuring out something that, to an outsider, would appear to be common fucking sense. But the further I get, the more I realize that I won’t make the same mistakes my parents did. My mistakes tend to be in assuming people have my best interests at heart. Theirs tend to be in believing they have my best interests at heart when they don’t. But sometimes, there really is nothing more to be said. If you can’t let me have the last word, maybe you can at least try not to waste my time.

mcgoohan2