Once in a Lifetime

 

I’ve never made friends quickly. You all should know that by now. At my previous job, my boss told me that I seemed to have put up a shell around myself. That’s not entirely true, but he meant well. I heard recently that he walked out of the store he’d been transferred to because the district manager is a total bitch. I flatter myself that I might have started a bit of a trend by walking out when I did. I wasn’t the first person to walk out, but still. They started a dangerous precedent by pushing good people out, and anyway, I didn’t come here to gloat. I’ve learned by now that what they say about living well being the best revenge is true. It doesn’t mean that the bad guy always gets his comeuppance. Oftentimes, they kinda just drift away. Most of the time, they never learn their lesson. They go on being shitty, and the most you can hope for is that the people around them realize what shits they are and keep their distance. But they don’t ever just go away.

It was a big decision when I decided to be a blogger instead of a vlogger or whatever. I have a very animated speaking style and a rather distinctive voice, but I would prefer not to go on camera. I don’t like having my picture taken. Sometimes I think I might have fit right in in one of those cultures where they believe that having your picture taken robs you of your soul or something like that. Then again, maybe not. I’m not a Luddite (it’s actually a common myth that the Luddites were anti-technology, but never mind); I just try to resist the temptation of going with trends. That’s why I’ve always felt so out of my own time. I know that we all like to think of ourselves as special snowflakes, and that’s great. But there are a lot of people out there who don’t think of themselves as ordinary who, to my eyes, appear rather conventional. I don’t believe that’s entirely subjective. I think that most people are boring, and that interesting people come in all shapes and sizes. There’s nothing wrong with being boring, I suppose. It’s all in what you want out of life.

cybermenIt’s frustrating, working in a medium that doesn’t provide you with any immediate gauge as to what people think. Actually, I think that might be a strength. Facebook has the “like” button, and actually, so does this blog. But it’s not like there are message boards where people discuss my stuff at length. If they did, I probably wouldn’t read it because I need my headspace. That’s the problem with the internet: it’s all just nerds with opinions. I still don’t understand why so many Whovians hate “Nightmare in Silver” so much. I remain convinced that it’s the best Cybermen storyline since “Earthshock”, not that the competition is particularly steep. It’s definitely overstuffed and yeah, the kids are kind of annoying, but it also has some arresting visuals, a great performance by Matt Smith, and some of the snappiest dialogue the show ever produced. (“I trust the Doctor.” “Are you saying he knows what he’s doing?” “I’m not sure I’d go that far.”) For once, the Cybermen act like Cybermen (sort of proto-Borg, although I don’t know if there’s any truth to the rumor that they inspired the Borg) rather than substitute Daleks. Go Gaiman.

There’s nobody I agree with 100% of the time. This leads me to believe that nobody is right 100% of the time except for me. But seriously, I do believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. I believe in subjectivity as well; I just think that while most human beings might, on some level, be more or less the same, that doesn’t mean you have to get along with everyone, and it’s okay to think somebody’s a shithead if they’ve wronged you. I guarantee that there are folks out there who think I’m a shithead, although I think most of them are shitheads too, so I guess it kind of evens out. There’s no bigger waste of time, in my opinion, than trying to make friends with everyone. A lot of my idols probably wouldn’t have much to say to me if they met me. Then again, maybe they would and I just need to get a little bit better at making overtures.

I’ve always believed that endings aren’t bad so long as you get to end things on your own terms. I talked to an asshole on an online dating site just now who couldn’t believe that I choose to work in retail and customer service jobs despite having degrees from two of the best universities in the world. Well, I am a smart motherfucker. Right now, I need my headspace, that’s all. You can’t get back at everyone who has hurt you. Robert, the near-sociopath who screwed me out of my living situation about two years ago, is probably living quite comfortably now. Whether or not he’s happy is debatable. I’m not very happy, but it’s all in how you define happiness, isn’t it?

In case it’s not obvious, I’m signing off here. I’ve cranked out these last few posts in what could be considered a binge (albeit the tamest binge in the entire history of the word) because sometimes, you just want to get it over with. Oh no, don’t take that the wrong way. I’m glad I did this shit. I used to think that you needed to have all your shit figured out before you ended something, but it turns out you don’t. Is death the only part where that happens? I don’t know. But it’s not as scary as it looks. Not that I plan on doing it anytime soon.

I’ll leave you with something silly. I’m still kind of a funnyman despite spending most of my time here sharing Deep Thoughts. See ya around.

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The Skin I Live In

The more I write, the more helpful I find it to think about the audience as little as possible. My output has dropped gradually over the past few years, and I consider that a good thing. It’s not because I hate doing this so much as that I can’t seem to find the intersection between this and the other areas of my life. For the longest time, my knee-jerk response to something shitty happening has been, “Oh, I guess I’ll write a bitchy blog post about it.” That really needs to stop. I’m still not quite sure what the difference is between something that you want to do and something that you have to do, I know only that while writing this thing is sometimes fun, it all too often feels like something I’m doing just so that I’ll be able to sleep at night. I should not have to spend all day following my mind into weird corners. Or if I do, I could at least learn to enjoy it.

It’s a bad idea to do things just so that you can have done them. Neil Gaiman said that for him, the hardest part of being a writer was letting go and enjoying the ride. (More broadly, he was talking about life, of course.) I guess I’m just trying to figure out what I am besides a blogger. What other avenues for self-expression are there? I keep meaning to travel the world. I have some buried desire to study machines and engineering (in a strictly informal capacity, as it is too late to go back to school). Maybe I should start watching Cosmos. There is a part of my brain that continues to obsess over past wrongs, to turn every instance of dissatisfaction into a reminiscence about that one guy who was mean to me that one time and what I wish I’d said back to him. I’m trying to overcome that, but it’s not as simple as force of will. Why did I turn and walk away rather than slugging Person X? The obvious answer would be, “Well, because you’re nice”, but so what? There are few things I enjoy more than tackling bigots. I guess I just have to pick and choose my battles.

People spend far too much of their time searching for closure. They reflect on how imperfect something was, and want to relive it so they can make it perfect again. This, again, indicates my dissatisfaction with so much of the LGBT community. I’m generally averse to far-ranging statements about how “We in the gay community…” as if our problems are really that different from anyone else’s. Sometimes a birthday is just a birthday. And anyone who says that bisexuality is a more evolved form of monosexuality is full of shit. Gay people and straight people are not less than you just because we care about what set of genitals our romantic and sexual partners have. Bisexuals care too, they just have more diverse tastes.

Maybe the reason I hesitate to say that I like something is that I’m worried that if I become too dependent on it, it will slip away. Some things last forever, but they aren’t exactly tangible. I’m a pretty big fan of animation. I like Studio Ghibli. I liked Pixar for a while, although they haven’t made a great film in years and don’t have a film coming out this summer for the first time in a long time. It’s been said by many before me that animation is a medium, not a genre, so it’s important to remember that not only do animated films not have to be family-friendly, their whole point is to tell stories that don’t work in a live-action context. I’ve had Mary & Max in my Netflix queue for a while now (Philip Seymour Hoffman was not only supremely talented, but prolific and possessing of an almost unlimited range), I started watching several foreign animated or partially animated films a few days ago before being distracted, and I recommend ParaNorman to anyone who likes a kids’ story with some legitimately scary moments. It also has a lovely moment of cultural inclusion at the end that not only defies stereotypes, but is funny as hell to boot.

You might believe something consciously, but it can take a while for it to trickle down through your subconscious. Give it time, or at least try to. I don’t believe that we can ever truly overcome all of our problems, only that we can get good enough at fighting them that they don’t threaten to overwhelm us. What separates good from evil isn’t method or even intent, but short-sightedness. Moriarty will stop at nothing to take down Sherlock. The Master’s greatest fear is the Doctor. But the Doctor realized that there is a whole lot more to the universe than just the one pesky fellow Time Lord who keeps getting in his way, and Sherlock, as much as he hates Moriarty, recognizes that some sacrifices will make any victory a Pyrrhic one. Essentially, you have to be willing to let a little something go. I’m trying to figure out what I have control over and what I don’t. There doesn’t seem to be all that much in the former category. It’s a good thing that I’m not obsessed with it.

Before I go, let me just say that this whole “open carry” thing that gun nuts are doing is the stupidest, most counterproductive load of nonsense that I have seen in a good long time. If you want to make people feel at ease with guns, take them out to the shooting range or something. (Provided that they want to, of course. You really don’t want to be dragging them along at, um, gunpoint.) Chipotle and all those other restaurants were right to ban this idiotic practice, and The Daily Show was right to see a racial element to it. Essentially, a bunch of scared old white men are unable to let go of their penises guns, and they need to learn that even their constitutional rights are not completely limitless. You are not the guardians of democracy. You are not protecting anyone. All you are showing people is that you lack a sense of discretion. There’s an old saying about that and how it relates to valor. Look it up.

On Being Different

I’m starting to understand why I like Elementary so much. Essentially, it’s about learning that no matter where you are in life, there are still adventures to be had. If that sounds corny, consider this: Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller are both in their 40s (and looking amazing, by the way). I’ve never been a big fan of Lucy Liu before now. I’m not sure why; it just seemed that even when she was in something I enjoyed, her presence in it was more incidental than an integral part of what made it good. The only thing I had seen Jonny Lee Miller in before this was Trainspotting, and while I’ve since come around on it, I wasn’t terribly impressed with that film when I first saw it. I’m not sure whether I’ve changed or whether it’s just taken us this long to find each other, but either way, I am pretty squarely in both of their corners at this point. Dr. Watson was, well, a doctor before meeting Holmes. Sherlock was a detective before he met Watson, but he was aimless and troubled. Together, they form a partnership that is more than the sum of its parts. And that is rather inspiring.

deathI don’t really buy that the years go by faster the older you get. I’ve heard older people say that, but that just sounds like a lazy rationalization for the fact that your best years are all behind you. I try to face forward no matter what. I absolutely refuse to accept that what I am experiencing right now is a “quarter-life crisis”. A crisis means feeling bored and dissatisfied with one’s life so far. In a typical mid-life crisis, you get a tattoo and buy a sports car and start indulging all of the fantasies you had when you were a teenager that you have since given up on. I don’t feel bored; I feel frustrated, and that’s not the same thing. I want to travel the world, marry Jon Hamm, and take up archery. I just haven’t figured out where to begin. So I hope you’ll excuse me if I try not to wallow in angst over how fast the years flew by. If Death wants me, she will have to take me. I will not go willingly.

Harvey Milk did almost nothing of interest until he was 40. He also said that he “just knew” that he wouldn’t reach 50. He was right about that. It’s funny. I read his biography some years back, and the first forty years of his life fill barely 50 pages. The remaining 250 or so pages are devoted to the remaining eight. There is a man who took a while to figure out what he was really trying to do. I don’t think it’s going to take me that long. I just don’t think that being an adult means that I have to accept any sort of preordained future. No, I do not have to move to the suburbs and buy a house with a white picket fence while raising 2.5 kids and working in an office from 9 to 5 until I die. That’s not for me. Some people say that we all turn out like our parents, and that’s fucking bullshit. If you believe that, piss off. There’s no place for you here.

And of course, there are still people who don’t seem to get it. Well, no matter. I’m a supervillain. I’ll show them all. Stephen King once compared writing to unearthing a fossil, as if the piece already exists, and all you have to do is discover it. I don’t quite see it that way. I prefer to see it as constructing something rather than digging it up. The problem is that sometimes you already know how it’s going to end. Sometimes you get to the end and discover that it’s not the one that you originally had in mind. But sometimes you “just know” something and turn out to be right, which can feel confining in its own way. My mind does not move in a very linear fashion. I have a hard time going from A to B to C to D. I’m much more likely to start on A, jump ahead to G, do D, E, and F, then start at N and work backwards before figuring that actually, now I know what to do for B and C. It’s dizzying, but somehow, I more or less manage to keep track of it all. There are books that I’ve started reading, then put aside for months or years before resuming. Strangely enough, I don’t have that hard of a time picking up where I left off. I just wish I didn’t do it so often.

I don’t write every day. I’m not one of those people who needs to. Instead, I work in fits and starts, sometimes writing for hours at a time, other times letting days go by without a single word. It’s important not to compare yourself to others, but sometimes, you just can’t help it. I still feel sometimes like I’m just getting over the hump. Perhaps I should spend more time figuring out what the hell I’m going to do once I do. When it comes to navigating those directionless passages of your life, I find it helpful to look back and see if there is anything in my past that is relatable to what I’m experiencing right now. It is difficult, once you get going, to just tear it all up and start over. But it is surprising how much of an impact a few subtle changes can have.

Sooner or later, we all grow old. Even the Doctor, as it happens. So try not to spend all of your time thinking about what you would do differently if you could go back and do it all over again. What’s done is done. I’ve done a lot, if I do say so myself. More than you might think to look at me.

The Man in the Mirror

Let us talk, for a moment, about monogamy. There is a bit of a shift occurring in our culture. People are gradually beginning to realize that being in a committed relationship does not necessarily mean sexual exclusivity. This is great. As a general rule, I’m fine with just about any sex act or romantic arrangement so long as the participants are all consenting adults. Some people have multiple romantic partners, others have a primary one but swing, others are mostly monogamous but have the occasional three-way to spice things up (“monogamish”, to use Mr. Savage’s term)…you get the idea. But what about those of us who still want monogamy? What if you still buy into the romanticized (some would say conservative) idea of love, that being in a relationship, at least for you, also means keeping your hands off of anyone else?

I’ve never been in a relationship, but I favor monogamy, personally. My future boyfriend had better feel the same. I could probably compromise and be monogamish if he’s perfect in every other way and we trust each other, but that’s about it. What I grow tired of is people acting as if monogamy is a sexual orientation. No, it isn’t. Perhaps science just hasn’t explored it deeply enough, but while there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that your gender preference is something that you are literally born with, everything that I’ve read about monogamy vs. polygamy is that it’s a social construct. Homosexuality is very common in nature. Monogamy is not. I’ve heard some people claim that they absolutely could never be in a relationship unless it was strictly monogamous. I don’t believe them. I might be willing to listen if they said that yeah, they could do it, but they wouldn’t be happy about it. That’s fine. I don’t want to have sex with women, but I could. And my sexuality is hard-wired into me.

It’s funny. When I was in my early teens, I would have said that what I wanted more than anything was a boyfriend. Now it’s a decade later, and I still feel the same way. No matter how hard I try or how patiently I wait, it remains the one nut I am completely unable to crack.

I’m in kind of a rut as I write this. It’s a stupid thing to fixate on, but even though the page views have been going up over the past month or so, the number of page views per visitor is way down. People stop in, glance at one post, and go. That’s a problem. Also, I don’t seem to be getting as many likes and follows as I used to. How is my fragile ego supposed to heal itself when the world denies me such shallow gratification? I saw Frozen not too long ago and thought it was pretty good even though I’m not a huge Disney person. I think it’s cool that Disney has evolved from telling stories in which the women are largely damsels in distress (though not entirely without agency) to stories in which the prince is almost tangential and the central relationship is between two sisters. The animation was good (especially the ice palace), the comic relief was fairly well done, and I like both of the lead actresses, so yeah, I think I’ll give this one my stamp of approval. If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead. Now I have an excuse to post this.

I’ve gone from feeling lethargic all of the time to feeling anxious too much of the time. Nothing can happen fast enough. Neil Gaiman said that the best way to deal with introversion and social awkwardness is to marry someone who doesn’t have those problems. Unfortunately, Jeremy Renner turned me down, so maybe I should try Grindr.

I have a lot of stuff sitting around my room that I haven’t gotten around to using. These past six months or so, I’ve found myself buying books and DVDs and other shit that I have neither the energy nor the inclination to watch/read/whatever in the near future, but need anyway just to get that buzz from having something new. Obviously, that gets old real fast, but the thing about patience is that it takes a long time to develop. I went out to eat a while ago and my food didn’t come on time. The waiter explained to me that he forgot to put my order through because the air conditioner or ventilator or something overhead was leaking and he was having difficulty concentrating. So he apologized and gave me my meal for free. I didn’t mind. I’d brought a newspaper and had nowhere to be. Some things just don’t bug me as much as they bug other people. But when I text a friend and they don’t text me back, even if they’re lying in the hospital after an emergency appendectomy, I get FURIOUS. I’m trying not to take that personally, but the thing is, I almost always respond to messages promptly. Even when I have other shit going on.

It’s weird. My year in grad school feels like it happened in another lifetime. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll see any of those people again. Okay, I’ll probably see a couple, but God, it’s been just over nine months since I graduated, and mostly, what I’ve done since then is fail in interesting ways. Actually, that was what I did when I was in grad school, but at least then, I feel like I was a little bit more organized. My dreams are as crazy as they’ve ever been. I wish I knew what to do with them.

Mancala

I saw this band open for They Might Be Giants last August. It was one of those rare cases where the opening act was good enough that you did more than just politely tolerate them while waiting for the main act. It’s difficult to describe Moon Hooch, so if you’re curious, just go ahead and listen. I promise that you have never heard anything quite like it.

This past week has been kind of rough. I’ve been dealing with the usual shit: anxieties and the like. I’m finally reaching the point where I might have enough energy after my shifts at the coffee shop that I could conceivably go to another job afterwards. So maybe the time is finally right to at least try a little harder in my search for a second job. My momentum is kind of stop-start these days. I’m probably more productive than I was six months ago, but still, I’m tired. I have this annoying habit of waking up an hour or two before I’m supposed to and lying around feeling anxious until then. When you have to get up at 5 am to go to work and went to bed early just to give yourself enough time to sleep, that’s a problem. There is too much shit that I need to do, and I need time to sort it all out. I don’t have the energy to fit it all into one day, one week, one month, or one year. But I can’t expect the world to stand still while I figure it all out.

The funny thing about aging is that you can feel old at any age. I knew one guy who complained of being old when he was a senior in high school, and I think he was only half-joking. When you’re nearing graduation and looking around at all of the other folks who seem bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, it’s tempting to turn to them and say, “It all goes by so fast!” I’m so glad I’ve never done that. For one thing, it doesn’t go by that fast. If your life moves so quickly that you feel like you’re a decade older every time you blink, you’re doing something wrong. I believe that I can keep this up, more or less, for a very long time. As Neil Gaiman showed in Sandman, you don’t get tired of living when you live forever, you just go on doing it. In that sense, life is indefinite (God, I’m deep).

I think part of the problem here is how easy it is to look at other people and see only the more, shall we say, performative aspects of their existence. Basically, I have no use for people who act like their only purpose in life is to help others get to where they are. They may not consciously tell themselves that they have all the answers, but it’s obvious that they took the sentiment in that Biblical passage about putting away “childish things” a bit too literally. It’s not that you turn over a new leaf when you reach adulthood, just that you realize that all of the shit that plagued you as a child isn’t that big of a deal. Maybe I’m tempting fate, but it’s been my experience that the shit that I spend all of my time worrying about almost never comes to pass. It’s more likely to be the stuff that I passed over just because “nobody could be that shitty”. Inevitably, someone is.

A friend of mine has an interesting hobby. She likes to go on the Fox News website and argue with the bigots. She’s about as diplomatic as you can imagine, but even then, she got banned. All she really does is ask the assholes to explain themselves. (“How is allowing a transgender person to use the restroom of their choice the same as child molestation?” That sort of thing.) Usually, they dismiss her (“It’s so obvious, I’m amazed you can’t see it”), then, when pressed, they start shouting incoherently and accusing her of child molestation. It is a revealing look inside the mind of a bigot. These people cannot separate sex from sexuality. They cannot comprehend the possibility that there is more to the Bible and the Constitution than giving people an excuse to condemn anyone with whom they disagree. It’s poisonous, toxic thinking, but seductive, I suppose. I won’t let go of this issue. It’s too important. You will learn to treat other people with respect or you get left behind. It’s that simple.

mancalaI keep thinking that I should get back into playing computer games. I wrote a post a year or two ago about why I stopped that became one of my most popular (see the “Get to Know Me” sidebar). As soon as I can find the time, I think I’ll start up again. I bought Skyrim last October and downloaded Braid when I noticed that it was available for only $2 on Steam. Games are fun, I guess, and since I was obsessed with them as a child, perhaps playing them will be a good way to get a handle on what the fuck is going on with me now. I know that there’s no finish line, life is about the journey, not the destination, blah blah blah yada yada yada but I still can’t shake the notion that I’m missing something here. Maybe there is something cathartic about having a minor breakdown, but I’m telling you, I kind of wish I could start figuring out what’s going on before it comes to that. I have only so much to give, and sometimes it feels like the world is not willing to meet me halfway. I guess it just wants to make me earn it.