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.

In the Morning

I said when I left New York for California that I was going into what I thought of as an exile. It’s been over a year since that happened, and it really wasn’t my choice. I’ve never been able to uproot myself completely. I had a very awkward experience my freshman year of college when I returned to my high school to see the improv club perform and ended up performing in the show. It wasn’t like I was trying to pass myself off as a student, so I don’t suppose there was anything wrong with it, but man, did it ever feel weird. When I was in grad school, I frequently found myself wishing that I could pop by California for just a few hours or the same way that I spent many weekends in my first year of college at my parents’ house and still revisit my college town on occasion. (I’m not always there just to walk around. I have friends over there and sometimes, there’s a movie showing that isn’t available where I live.) I’m starting to worry that some of the people I hang out with are a bit too much like me. So maybe it’s time to get out of this town.

It’s probably better to feel as if you are leaving shit behind rather than getting out just to get away from all this stuff. And I definitely won’t be able to move back to NYC anytime soon, for reasons both financial and otherwise. What I know for certain is that I’m getting tired of this shit. I’m tired of this wussy climate. I’m tired of having to commute sometimes several hours in order to spend time with a friend. I’m tired of being reminded of shit that I did growing up but don’t really care about anymore. I don’t know if my high school has reunions, but if it does, I’m never going to one. That’s a promise.

A lot of my coworkers at the coffee shop knew each other previously. I didn’t know anyone there when I walked in and was older than most of them anyway, if only by a few years. I can’t help that I prefer to hold myself at kind of a distance from the LGBT community. I hate it when people say, “Being gay is only a small part of who I am” because no, it isn’t; I just think that it’s a mistake to define yourself in terms of how well you do or don’t fit in with a particular group. It is one thing to look at certain issues through rainbow-colored lenses and quite another to make everything about gender and sexuality. The former is not only fine but vital and perhaps even inevitable. The latter is dull. Dull, dull, dull. And I know I’ve talked about this before but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I worried for a long time about how I was going to keep in touch with all my friends when we lived on opposite sides of the country. The obvious answer to that is that sometimes people drift apart. The ones that don’t stay in contact via Skype or social media or Pony Express or telegraph or whatever the hell else you’ve got. And I think the rocky quality of my social life up until this point is due to the fear that my friends will forget me if I don’t stay in constant contact with them. One of my best friends from college is getting his Ph.D in condensed matter physics at Urbana-Champaign Illinois. I haven’t seen him in over three years, but you had better believe I want to see him again. I hope he feels the same way about me. Because we haven’t talked in a while.

Maybe the frustration here is that I can’t seem to distinguish between people who are really important to me and people who are only kind of important. It’s okay, I guess, to have friendly acquaintances with whom you exchange Christmas cards but don’t actually see much if at all, but then again, writing Christmas cards sounds like a real drag. My parents sit down to do them every year around December and…God no, I don’t want to go there.

There are a lot of nice people in the world, but as for people I would actually want to get to know, the list is rather short. Someday, I might like to meet my heroes, but of course, there’s nothing that says I should have to be friends with them. When I leave this state for good, perhaps it will feel necessary more than anything else. I’m not itching to get out of here, but the fact remains that I never really liked it all that much to begin with. And I might return periodically for the holidays and whatnot, but don’t count on it. Because people need to reach out to me from time to time, and while I didn’t write this to point fingers at anyone, I think some of them could try a little harder on that front. Of course, the ones I’d really want to see this probably aren’t the ones reading it. So it goes.

It should not come as news to most of you that reading YouTube comments is a bad idea. I still do it sometimes for reasons I can’t begin to fathom. After reading way more of them than any reasonable person should, I have concluded that most people are fucking idiots, and that most of the racist/misogynistic stuff attacking Obama/Anita Sarkeesian/Nelson Mandela/Dora the Explorer/whoever the fuck the trolls are after these days are left by a small group of people with diagnosable mental disorders brought together by a shared need to live in a bigoted fantasy rather than the real world. It’s pretty much the only way I can maintain my faith in humanity. Not that there was much of that to begin with.

 

Bad Day

As I write this, I’m feeling a little bit more “in my head” than usual. I’m not sure what to do about that. My first impulse when this happens is to travel to the ends of the Earth and, I don’t know, look around or something, but that is unfeasible for reasons that should be fairly obvious. I had a night like that my second semester in grad school. I couldn’t sleep, so I left my apartment and just started walking. Eventually, I turned back, getting to bed around three in the morning. You ever feel like you’re just being pulled apart at the seams? It’s like there are two yous, one of whom wants to go far away and live a completely different life and the other of whom wants to stay right where he is? Grad school was like that a lot of the time. A lot of my life right now is like that. If I can save up the money, I will absolutely spend a week or two in NYC early next year. I need to see that city again. I had to leave so suddenly, and my parents still don’t seem to have fully accepted that I have every intention of moving back there someday. Maybe someday long after that, I’ll leave and find a place in rural New England. I don’t know. I’m not purely a city boy.

I still spend a ridiculous amount of time on YouTube. It’s hard to stop. The videos are usually not that long, and once you’ve clicked on one, it’s almost impossible not to sit there for five minutes, then click on the next. But I am definitely getting bored with some of them. It’s funny: Coming out of the closet is supposed to liberate you and make you feel like you can be whoever you want to be, but so many people, after doing that, seem to adopt a prepackaged identity that comes with the label “gay”. And you had better believe that they are the same people who say that they don’t believe in labels because they’re constricting. What’s so scary about labels, though? They tell you what a person is, not who they are. It’s not that a person’s sexuality is the first thing you need to know about them, but it’s pretty hard to say that you know a person well if you don’t have an inkling as to their gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, politics, etc. They’re facets of your identity, nothing more, nothing less. But sexuality and gender identity trip a lot of people up because they are so damned political. You can say it’s only a part of you, but when people are trying to take away your rights, it becomes a very big part.

will & rjThe thing about YouTube is how closely it is starting to resemble other forms of media. Everybody on TV is pretty, and wouldn’t you know it, most of the successful YouTubers I know of are conventionally attractive. If they’re not movie star beautiful, most of them are at least cute. Maybe people like that are more inclined to go on camera in the first place. I don’t know. What I do know is that a lot of YouTubers are starting to appropriate the tropes that make certain TV shows and movies successful. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that some of the vloggers out there rehearse some of their shots or even retake them if stuff doesn’t go right. It’s not surprising. Since YouTube is, for so many people, a form of escape, it makes sense that a lot of the people who do it care more about putting on a show than they do about being honest. But I take issue with some of them presenting what they do as a raw and unfiltered look at their day-to-day lives. Most people’s daily lives are boring. I can’t even imagine what daily vlogs from me would look like, and I’m interesting.

I am immediately suspicious of anyone who considers themselves a go-getter. Anyone who thinks that the secret to success is pursuing what you want as aggressively as possible is probably a douchebag. I had to turn down a prospective living situation a little while before finding the new place because the dude asked me not only what time I get up in the morning, but whether I used a hair dryer or any other hygienic appliances. Unless you are sleeping in the bathroom, that really shouldn’t be an issue, should it? I suppose a light sleeper could be awoken by somebody using a hair dryer in the next room, but even that seems like a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, the dude also added me on Facebook because he wanted to get to know me better. Um, no thanks, dude. I sent you a link to my LinkedIn profile because you said that a link to a social media profile would help on your Craigslist ad. I rather pointedly didn’t want you to seek out my FB profile, and I thought you’d get the hint. To give you an idea of what kind of guy he was, he listed The Secret as one of his favorite books and Fight Club as one of his favorite films. Ugh. (I like Fight Club, actually, but you see my point.) Basically, he struck me as a real-life version of the douchey businessman whose car Walter sets on fire in season one of Breaking Bad. (The dude who had “KENWINS” as his license plate, because everything is about winning to these assholes.) His profile picture was a professional looking shot of him giving a big, wide smile in front of a white background. He probably gets up every morning and accomplishes a whole lot of absolutely nothing. Fuck that guy.

I don’t have a conclusion here. You gotta find the people you can be you around, I guess.

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.