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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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.

Things I Hate Doing, Part 7

5. Getting Old

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but nobody watches television anymore. Seriously, do you watch TV? Of course you don’t, because you’re on the internet. And the internet is the only valid means of media distribution right now. Even if you do watch TV, it’s probably on the internet. And you’d rather watch internet anyway. But seriously, at least one study has shown that kids these days recognize YouTube personalities more easily than movie stars. That’s not actually that surprising for anyone who spends much time on YouTube. Tyler Oakley has 4.5 million subscribers, last I checked. How many people saw the last Sin City movie? (Okay, maybe that’s an unfair example, because that movie really tanked. I mean, it’s not like I was going to see it, but I thought it would have at least cracked $20 million.)

L to R: douchebag, douchebag, douchebag

L to R: douchebag, douchebag, douchebag

The point is that YouTube and social media are, as much as it pains me to say it, becoming as popular a means of consumption as the ones I grew up with. That might not necessarily be a bad thing, but it does leave me feeling a little out of place. A lot of YouTube personalities are around my age or younger. (If we broaden it to stuff like Vine, you get people like Nash Grier. Fuck that guy.) The average YouTube subscriber is almost certainly younger than I am. Of course, the majority of YouTubers are a walking case for eugenics, but that could just be an illustration of Sturgeon’s Law. I still remember shrugging when I realized that podcasting was becoming a popular medium. There are a few that I listen to, but overall, it just doesn’t interest me. I already read books, watch TV and movies, and occasionally see plays or concerts. I don’t need to be an expert on all forms of media. And sometimes, I think that the real problem is just the way that we let the 18-24 year-old demographic dictate the direction of our culture. Maybe that’s because they don’t know any better, which makes them easier to manipulate. But what do I know? I’m a blogger. Who the fuck reads blogs anymore?

4. Having Neuroses

It occurred to me recently that I have only once or twice in my lifetime had anything resembling a stable home life. From my well-documented issues with my parents and occasionally the rest of my my family to my also well-documented roommate issues, building a home that is worth returning to every evening definitely seems to be one of my weak points. I’m not sure what to do about that, but the result is that I have any number of habits and insecurities that I can’t stop myself from having but hate myself for. The best living situation I’ve had so far is that one spot I stayed in Manhattan for the latter half of my time there. The landlord did have one weird rule requiring us to pay our rent in cash (I think he’d gotten stung by somebody passing him bad checks before) which meant that once a month, I had to walk down to Wells Fargo, withdraw a large amount of money, then walk back with it in my pocket, but if that’s your biggest complaint, you’re probably doing okay. The only answer here, I suppose, is what RuPaul would say: learn to love yourself. But I could really use a leg up.

3. Not Being Able to Express Myself

cloverfieldI would like to take this instance to sort of defend J.J. Abrams. Most of my nerd friends don’t much like him. I can see why: Most of what he does is just a rehash of other stuff. Cloverfield was basically Godzilla-minus-Godzilla-plus-found-footage-gimmick. Still a decent movie, in my opinion. Super 8 tried really hard to be E.T., but abrupt ending aside, it wasn’t too bad. And then there’s his Star Trek films. Into Darkness had…issues, but it didn’t make me angry, which is saying something. Honestly, what is the harm in rehashing old shit just with a shinier presentation? It’s not going to be particularly good, but it’s not exactly harmful either.

I know I rag on Steven Moffat all the time, but bear with me: In The Day of the Doctor, he added a sub-regeneration between Doctors 8 and 9, now leaving it to us to debate whether Peter Capaldi is really the 12th or the 13th Doctor. Except that there is no debate: He’s the 12th Doctor. You could maybe call John Hurt Doctor 8.5, but that’s exactly what pisses me off. Why did we need to see what happened between Doctors 8 and 9? Even if the only reason they came up with him is that they couldn’t get Eccleston back, the rationale for doing this seems to be that nobody explicitly said there wasn’t a sub-regeneration between Doctors 8 and 9. And that’s not a good reason for doing anything. But as usual, nobody will listen to me. So, you know, I’ll keep howling into the wind.

2. Being Out of Touch from the Moment I Was Born

Let’s return to YouTube for a second. I probably spend more time on there than I should, but the thing is, I’ve been yelling at those damn kids to get off my lawn since I actually was a kid. So I might be able to offer a little bit of perspective on the whole thing. When I was in middle school, one of my best friends told me that XXX was an awesome movie and that he couldn’t wait to see it again. He was a great guy, and probably does not feel the same way about the movie today. Then again, let’s be careful as to what we will excuse in children as a result of their age. Even when I was sixteen, I did not yell “fag” as indiscriminately as Nash Grier does. Never mind that, I didn’t even do that when I was ten. And his apologies are all half-assed “I’m sorry, I didn’t know what I was saying” nonsense. Yes, you did. If you can use the internet, you can go to Wikipedia and read about the AIDS epidemic. I was lucky enough to have missed it, but I’ve seen The Normal Heart, and let me tell you, that shit is terrifying. You have to at least try to learn from your mistakes. Try.

1. I Don’t Know What to Call This One, So I’ll Just Get Right Into

I think part of the issue here is that YouTube and social media cut out the middleman. Miley Cyrus may be headed for a meltdown, but that’s just because she’s surrounded by agents, producers, and possibly friends and family telling her that what she’s doing is a good career choice. Is it better when anyone with a camera can just upload a video and let the world hear their unfiltered thoughts? I’m not sure if I can make that call, but I expect YouTube, Vine, and all that other shit to become a lot more like the music and movie industries in the coming years. They’re too lucrative not to. If you’re a big star on YouTube, you are legitimately a celebrity, even if nobody over 35 has any idea who you are. How long do you think the current model will last? It’s already changing: The big stars on YouTube get bussed around at conventions, assigned a security detail, and mobbed by screaming girls if they dare to step out alone. So really, the content hasn’t changed, just the medium.

It's nothing new, really.

It’s nothing new.

There are some child and teen stars who grow up to be well-adjusted people. Mara Wilson was one. She’s a talented writer, an accomplished humanitarian, and as far as I can tell, a nice lady. In her case, that’s probably because she was blessed with a supportive family and smart enough to get out when she realized that Hollywood was through with her. If there is one thing that separates the flash-in-the-pan stars from the ones who just might stick around, it’s the ability to recognize that all of this attention can’t last forever. If you want to stay relevant, you have to be willing to change with the times. Joan Rivers stayed relevant for five decades in showbiz. Regardless of whether you find her funny, that’s some kind of miracle. Her jokes didn’t change all that much, it was just that she never took anything for granted. Smart woman, that one.

When I was in college, some people suggested I start a YouTube channel or something similar instead of writing a blog. I guess they just wanted to hear and see me instead of reading me. I’m glad I didn’t. Even if I had, I would certainly never have gotten all that famous or popular. Because I’m a weirdo. But I like to keep my ear to the ground, and I flatter myself that I have a clearer idea of what’s going on in pop culture than many so-called experts. Let’s face it, nobody is going to know who most of these people are in another twenty years.

A Tiger in Africa

I think it’s time to talk about Star Wars. I’ve been thinking about digging into the Extended Universe a little bit. I played the first KotOR, along with Jedi Academy when I was in high school. I’ve had the DVDs of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars shorts sitting in my desk for quite some time now, and I’m thinking I should read Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. There’s a lot to sort through, and like the good little nerd that I am, I can’t wait to eat all of it up. Of course, my biggest nerdy obsession (for a very long time) has been Doctor Who. I’ve sunk considerable time and money into the Audio Adventures (basically radio plays) and have even dabbled in the novels and podcasts as well. It’s fun stuff. Unfortunately, I’m thinking of calling off those Doctor Who nights I’ve been holding semi-regularly for a while. I used to invite friends over, bake something, then eat it and watch Doctor Who with them, but nobody seems to want to do it anymore. I held one last month and nobody showed up. Since I’d invited only five or six people, I figured that I just hadn’t made it into a big enough event. So I created a Facebook event and invited 15-20 people, figuring I’d have more guests than I knew what to do with. And still nobody was interested.

Call me bitter, call me petty, but I feel like inviting fifteen to twenty people to a thing should be enough to ensure that at least one of them shows up, right? I’ve invited way fewer people to my Doctor Who nights in the past and still had a better turnout. But the world has moved on, I guess. It’s funny. The people to whom I’m closest are always the ones who seem most averse to spending time with me, perhaps because they sense how desperately I need it. So I have to get better at being alone. Don’t get me wrong: getting the cold shoulder from a bunch of people I thought were my friends hurt me more than a little. But I don’t need your pity. Things have been pretty rough for a long time now. I’m not sure if that will ever change.

genesis

On some level, I’m glad that I’m not in school anymore. Because now, I don’t have to deal with people getting all reflective and shit and talking about how the last year or so just flew by. Actually, people still do that, but at least I don’t have to sit through those trite commencement speeches. There’s probably a sense of poetic justice in the fact that the last Doctor Who storyline I watched was Genesis of the Daleks, which is also the one I showed on my first Doctor Who night a little less than four years ago. Back then, I had a small group of friends handy. This time, I was watching it by myself. There is some part of me that suspects that other people need me more than I need them. But I still have anxieties. And there is a tear inside me that refuses to close.

I’ve been to two therapists in my lifetime. The first I saw at my mother’s behest, the second at the urging of somebody else under rather odd circumstances. The second was more helpful than the first. I don’t think those facts are unrelated. The problem with changing the status quo is that it’s the status quo. People are so used to having things a certain way that when they are told that we’re not gonna do that anymore, they get very aggressive. A friend of mine asked a pretty good question not so long ago. When I complained about all of the shit that I’m going through with my parents, he asked, “How is this an obstacle to you?” I see his point. I may not be having the social life that I want right now, but I’m not locked up in SHU (sorry, I just finished the first season of Orange is the New Black). But things have been this way for so long that I can’t imagine what they look like when they’re different. I don’t know how other people see me. I work so hard just to avoid being consumed by insecurity and self-doubt that it’s all I can do just to avoid screaming and running down the street naked. But I don’t think the answer is therapy. I’ve been there before, and it helped a little, but there’s a world outside of mental health services.

I’ve dealt with crippling depression before. Most of us probably go through that sooner or later. I know the feeling of spending all day just waiting for bedtime to come so that you can go to sleep and escape the horror that fills each second. But of course, that doesn’t help. You have fucked up dreams or wake up after five hours feeling like something is pulling you apart because the weight that presses down on your back when you’re standing migrates to your feet when you lie down. I know that feeling, and it doesn’t describe where I’m at right now, at least not completely. I don’t need a shoulder to cry on. I don’t need someone to talk to. I need people who can be real. I lived most of my freshman year of college in near-total isolation. I went to zero parties, made like two friends, and didn’t spend much time with the other people in my dorm building even though that seems like a perfect setting to be friendly and outgoing. The solution to my problem is not to simply go to more parties. It’s to reach a point where I don’t spend all of my time wishing somebody would invite me to a party so that I will have somebody to talk to this month other than the people I live and work with. And that is something that I have to do alone.

On the upside, I am now making it into the gym at least slightly more often than I was nine or ten months ago. Take it for what it is.

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