Monday, August 31, 2015

Never More, Forever More

I recall thinking to myself years ago that I would not put off my next international trip any longer. Of course, life has a way to conspire against that, and from housing costs, to lack of friends, to excuse making, and here we are, almost 6 years after the original plans, and I have yet to have gone to Asia.

I recall thinking to myself years ago that I would not put up with one more Goddamn winter, of ice and snow and cold, slippery roads, shoveling, drafty windows, and pitch black morning and evenings saturated with weeks of endless cloud cover and biting wind. But as always, here I am, as summer winds to its close and I sit 3 months removed from snow and cold and trying in vain to use my light box constantly so that my mood doesn't plummet with the lack of sun and warmth like it always does. That I would move somewhere warm and sunny.

I recall thinking years ago how I would quit my job, one that has caused no shortage of panic attacks, breakdowns, self-hatred, and immense amounts of displeasure and distressing angst. The people, the work, the monotony, the angry co-workers, everything conspires to create a toxic environment. yet here I am, as I have been since January 2009. Because what other options are there for a college degree-less schmuck like me to make $12 an hour? None, I suppose, not least in a cheap Midwest city where any store or restaurant or movie theatre or what have you starts out at the $8.15 minimum wage.

I recall thinking that one day I'd be in a big city, so that every night I could walk around and explore my surroundings, and see something new every day, and meet new people, and try new restaurants. That the penultimate boredom of a small city and its bite-sized downtown and entertainment would no longer wear on me. That I could say I was in Miami, or LA, or New Orleans, or something where it's "cool" to be there, "cool" to live there, not just because it sounds cool but because the city is cool, and fresh, and exciting, and diverse.

Of course, all this is, I suppose, possible in a way. One can imagine a life in which I quit my job today, move far away, and start again. But of course, to do so requires not imagining responsibilities, or realties, of looking for new work that can cover the rent of a large city, even though such may not exist. Of selling a house, of being completely without contacts in a new place, of spending lots of money and time, of living with all new people, of having to pay hundreds of dollars to return home for holidays, of not being around to help out family.

I suppose we all have our "never mores." Things we vowed we'd move on from, never succumb to again. But I also suppose that too many these "never mores" are really "forever mores," destined to haunt us to our grave, until we sit on our deathbed and wonder how we steadfastly held on to the things that held us back so, so adamantly.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Never Learned Skills

It is, sadly, readily apparent that the present author lacks the requisite skills that one might expect a 26 year old resident of the third planet of the sun to have with regards to socializing. Specifically, one finds that the present author has no skills when it comes to texting and emailing etiquette, how frequently to do so, and in what form, formats, or tone to do so. Indeed, while texting and emailing in a social, non-business context is generally formulated over time in junior high, high school, and college, the complete and total lack of having contributed to such communication renders the present author inept when using it. To wit, entering into a potentially new relationship in which the early tendrils of socialization are done via text is a source of anxiety for the present author, as every text becomes a moment of self-doubt, questioning, and trepidation. "Is this text too long?" or "Is this too soon a reply?" or "Have too few text been sent? Too many? Too few questions? Too many?" That this is something the present author must stumble into at age 26, rather than, say, age 12, is both a painful reminder of social ineptness and isolation, and chance to reflect on a lack of social aptitude with the sort of painful self-deprecation that is easy to call home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Everyone Wants to be Pretty

As I have said before; given the limited traffic this blog receives, it is rather easy to be completely open and uninhibited in what I say here. There will be no comments, no criticism, no anger, just the unending silence of a vast and inescapable web. There is a strange and commutable comfort in the silence and lack of attention, I am sure we all know what it is like to be free from the glaring eye of a boss, or co-worker, or peer, and how freeing it can be when it occurs.

A young woman confided to me the other day (I say "young" because, technically, she is young, although she is only a few years younger than me) via text-based communication that a 50+ year old man had hit on her as she worked at a hospital. My immediate response, and the one I then exchanged back to her via said text-based communication, was that the event sounded uncomfortable. To be hit on by someone over twice your age, especially as a woman, I imagine, is not at all a highlight of the day.

But, alas, given how I am perpetually wrong on issues of and pertaining to, well, everything and anything, I was wrong here, too. Indeed, being hit on had actually brightened her day significantly!

Why, you might ask ("you" being the nonexistent reader of this blog), would this brighten her day? Well, in the apparent spirit of confidants who long know each other (to which neither of us are to each other at all) she said that she is almost never hit on or flirted with, and that to receive the attention of one that suggested that she was "pretty" was something that made her happy.

Of course, I then was a bit flummoxed on how to respond. Do I sympathize? After all, in my 26 and a half years of existence, nobody, not a soul, has ever flirted or hit on me, so I suppose I could relate, in a way. Being complimented certainly feels good. I can't say I really want to be complimented on my looks by someone twice my age, and given that I am a white male, such compliments hardly come with the sort of harmful baggage that they could if our sex was flipped. But I guess, so to speak, one needn't look a gift horse in the mouth; a compliment or flirtation from an 80 year old serial killer, as deplorable a source as it is, would be the first time someone not from my family would have complimented me on my looks face-to-face. Then again, it's easy to imagine myself feeling worse that the only person who thought I looked good made a habit out of killing people. But I digress!

I see the degree of severity our search for looking pretty damages us. One, after all, does not approach someone for the first time at a bar, restaurant, club, class, social gathering or the like, that they "hear across the way" or "smell across the way" or, God forbid, "taste across the way" but rather, they approach someone they "see across the way," someone who looks attractive, or interesting, although the two constantly overlap. I can imagine that, especially as a woman, where the already draining baggage of looking attractive is amplified and magnified, going through life with little to no complimentary attention could become a source of extreme self-doubt.

And yet, we constantly fall back on our animal instincts, instincts that have often caused us to reach a species high-point when we break them, not rely on them, and say "you have to be attracted to someone physically" or post on our social media how beautiful/sexy/hot someone is, knowing full well that we are potentially alienating those outside "conventional" attraction, alienating those who have never had those words said to them. Not that it's your job to "break" conventional attraction, your responsibility to not publically display your attraction to someone, your responsibility to deny visual cues and ignore the easiest and fastest way to indulge yourself in observing someone, but as often is the case, sometimes the things we say hurt the people we don't say them to as much as the things we say to hurt do.

I see this every day, myself, in things I do. After a year's worth of "liking" every single girl on Tinder, no questions asked, I have received 4 likes back. That I have rotated my photos, my profile info, have switched tones completely, and tried many other things, only illustrates the point that I am, alas, not at all physically attractive. In fact, there is a rather long laundry list of ways I don't meet conventional standards of attraction that I will not bore the previously aforementioned non-existent reader of this blog with. That I have never been approached at a bar, or other social setting only reaffirms this. That my friends - or at least, those who were my friends, ostensibly, in high school - told me to my face that I wasn't much a looker, well, if it looks like a duck, and acts like a duck, then it certainly is a duck, forever doomed to shitty insurance commercials and the banality of modern society. Where was I? Ah, yes. It becomes a bit draining, to be constantly reminded that one is not attractive, or good looking, or what have you. As I said, compliments feel good. I suppose everyone just wants to be adored by someone, and we all have our shallow moments.

I could,  then, use this passage to link to the relative onslaught of studies suggesting that good looking people receive better grades, better pay, more positive social interaction, and I would sound bitter. I suppose I already sound a bit the latter, but the point of this blog is hardly academic, and this post has rambled on a bit.

So, in my bumbling causative reaction to the young woman's assertion that being hit on by an older man made her feel good, I simply suggested that, as long as the man wasn't creepy or persistent about it, then, well, I am glad it made you feel good. I could have interspersed my complete lack of said experience, but such trifling concerns of mine are as such, and I did not want to deflect the moment into a "woe is me" story, when clearly she wanted some attention.

Perhaps my response wasn't the response she wanted. Perhaps it was. I am rather sure that if someone hit on me, my first reaction would be to wish I had a CAT scanner to ascertain what was wrong with them. That is probably not an endearing response, but given a rapidly approaching third decade of existence of no social indulgences or revelations related to physical attraction, affirmation, or compliments, it is the one I fall back on. Given that such experience will never occur to me, the overwhelming evidence suggests that, not only am I destined to be forever ugly on the inside, but forever ugly on the outside, too.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

No Guides for Low Lifes

It's taken for granted when one is in school how many social and professional resources are at ones disposal. Especially in college, there is a cornucopia of networking and learning opportunities, from dormitory events, to lab assignments, to campus clubs and activities.

The social dynamics upon leaving the school system once and for all are of course an abrupt change of pace. The relaxed opportunities to meet people are gone, as most of one's connections are made through work; not living quarters or activities, and thus the dynamics of interacting with people is severely changed. It is hard, for example, to befriend someone who is your boss, or is a co-worker you don't see outside of the dress code and busy-work of the office or wherever your job may take you.

There is no guide, then, to making connections or friends once one has graduated from the forced social structure of education, and the temporary stature of jobs when the economy is booming further illustrates the difficulty of new social bonds. For me, everyone I knew from school; whether elementary, junior high, or high school, is long gone, many of them physically thrust to all corners of the country or even world, the others a natural result of the drifting that occurs when you no longer have classes or lunch breaks together.

And of course, it becomes hard to re-forge the types of bonds that grow and are tested by the perils of school, particularly in a smaller city where the resources of a large metropolitan area do not exist. It's easy to go to work, go home, call it a day. It's easy for social isolation to become the norm, for office work and house work to occupy free time and sleep the rest of it. It's easy to go through entire years without meeting new people, without forming new relationships, and without having someone to laugh at dumb jokes with, or cry on a shoulder with. For a low life like me, whose social life deteriorated completely to the whims of isolation, anxiety, and apathy, many, many years ago, the difficulty in somehow rebuilding what was lost is higher than ever. There is no guide, no step-by-step instruction, no easy function you can attend. The world spins on. That it spins on without anyone knowing of my existence is just a facet of life.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


I guess it's a matter of terminology, equivalency, the like, to suggest we seek comfort in what we do, but suffice to say there's an element of truth there. We seek comfort in our skin, in our homes, in our jobs, comfort whether it's basic safety needs or general ability to exist and feel at peace or at home. The grand irony, of course, is that too much comfort becomes a sort of pox upon one another, eventually become a disquieting source of discomfort; of angst and doubt and fear. Skills can atrophy, passion and happiness can atrophy, everything becomes a menagerie of meaningless meandering through life, of being sick of the job and sick of the house and sick of the regular, day-to-day. Maybe it's comfortable, maybe you can coast by each day fine, not worry about being challenged or having to stick your neck out, find things come easy to you, but eventually such existence will wear you down, much like a complete lack of comfort would. There's no perfect ratio; all I suggest is that if you ever find yourself wholly comfortable, unchallenged, and lacking in risk taking, switch it up, before you become a husk of a person that this author has.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Cure for the Sunday Night Blues

Sunday Night Blues is a fairly well-documented condition (and, I might add, a good band name, for those who are looking for one). It is also, I might add, an entirely curable condition. Or at least, in a roundabout manner. See, the feeling occurs due to the upcoming end of a work or study-free weekend and the onset of going "back to the grind" so to speak. This fear and angst is most common, then, in those who have a traditional work or study week.

The cure to this condition, of course, is to simply reach the point in which the weekend is no less stress, anxiety, or depression free than the week, thus preventing a case in which Sunday night seems to be the penultimate ending of a slightly higher point. By creating a situation in which all days are equally miserable, then there is no need for an onset of an acute condition on a specific day of the week. Instead, the entire week can be one of perpetual angst and sadness.

The fact that this cure doesn't so much exorcise Sunday night blues so much as create a situation in which said feeling is the default state is neither here nor there. Sunday nights, under this new condition, will officially be no more worse than any other night.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Supply and Demand

Supply and demand is probably one of the most basic, crudely simple, and well known economic ideas. It's not a universal, and one reason it is so popular is because of the aforementioned crude simplicity, but it serves a point and has a role in common discussion.

A sort of argument about supply and demand is constructed in defense of capitalism when referring to products, or creations, that fail to sell. That is, it is said that, if someone has a passion to make something, and they do make it, but nobody buys it, well, at the end of the day, the lack of demand is what it is, and the people have spoken, and the creator needs to look to other means. This is seen as a necessary and morally informative facet of the free market system. That it is a democracy, and that if nobody buys your product, creation, idea, or service, then it is you, the creator, who is at fault. Something that meets a demand needs to be created. Not just the whim of a creator with little demand.

On its face, it seems logical. At the end of the day, we all labor 40+ hours a week towards the capacity to make money and in turn convert that money into things we enjoy. And so if something is created that is outside that causative chain, then it is unfair to expect us to buy or consume said thing.

I would argue, however, that this idea of having to create something that meets a demand is inherently immoral given the current construct of modern society. We talk about say, a book, or video game, a movie, or new invention failing to sell because people simply don't like the product, but the reality is that it is not so much people individually choosing to pass on a product, but rather a sort of rejection formatted through years of marketing, consumerism, and corporate scheming. The rejection of, say, a passionately written 100,000 word novel is not made by a wholly democratic, open, and individualistic "invisible hand" but rather by a mob of people whose very wants, desires, and likes, has been formed by forces completely outside of their control. Nobody is immune to it. All of our fashion choices, media choices, food choices, product choices, are fashioned in a large part by the advertising we see, the friends that are thrust into our lives (whose choices are also influenced by advertising), the culture we are born into, the religion and class we are born into, and much, much more. Things that are working at a much larger scale than an individual, micro-level. Thus, the entire idea of expecting someone to do something that meets the current demands of the market is immoral, because it puts an individual or small group in a position of having to cater to entities that are much larger and more powerful than they are, and also pits a creation against the collective identity of a society that is often left to the whims of modern commercialization. Until the system is more democratic and more formed by individual opinions unbiased by these institutions, the idea of having to create something that there is a demand for will always be unfair for the creator.

It behooves me, then, to simply summarize that our nominal decision making regarding the quality of a product is not as open or democratic as many like to suggest, but is instead a function of society and commercial entities at large, which is hardly fair to a small individual who is chasing their passion. That is not to say that products and creations aren't rejected because they fail to meet the interest of people, indeed, that is often the case, and I can not sit here and simply say that everything that has failed or been rejected was done unfairly so. But it is interesting to reflect on the fact that, if you are setting out, as an individual, attempting to make something that you are passionate about, or do something you love, you are not attempting to meet the demand of people, but of the corporations, cultures, and predispositions that have formed in and amidst our society and continue to be pummeled against us. It seem rather cruel, then, to expect anyone to come out on top. Only a lucky few do. Perhaps when someone fails to achieve success with their creation, we can offer them congratulations for trying. Many people never even get that far.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

From 5th Grade to Decades

The present author is under no pretense that this blog, in all its mediocrity - indeed, to call it mediocre is perhaps a stretch - creates more than very minimal traffic and little presence of other readers. This is, in a way, freeing, as it allows said author to be brutally open and honest without fear of any sort of response or commentary from the peanut gallery, so to speak. That this exact realization allows the following post to amalgamate on these very poorly-travelled and even more poorly-constituted pages is something that any and all readers may feel slighted by, nonchalant about, or, ultimately, completely and entirely unaffected, as this blog does well to impart.

I can recall being sad as early as 5th grade. I had just transferred to a new school, from one private school in which peace, co-operation, and anti-bullying was an ethos, to one in which everyone was spoiled, arrogant, had inflated feelings of self-importance, and were frequently verbally and physically violent. I was not prepared for the culture shock. I remember one day, walking in our local neighborhood after school, and going to a nearby park, where I sat up against a tree and cried all evening, finally returning home and confessing to my mom that my peers were relentless towards me; my name, my clothing, my manner of speech (it wasn't until 6th grade that I learned to pronounce the "th" sound in words like "three"), and I was wilting under it all.

I did not change schools.

I certainly learned, at times, to be more aggressive. It was in 6th grade that I started swearing vociferously. It was in 7th grade that I got caught making fun of another kid's looks. It was how I tried to defend myself. If there was someone lower than me, then I would not be picked on. But it didn't work. My name from 6th - 8th grade in some circles was "Chode Scrotum" and I did my best to hide it from my parents. They assumed, I am sure, that I did not know what either word meant, such was the discussion of sex in the house that there was no discussion of sex in the house. At times, one of my supposed friends would come up behind me, like he did to others he perceived as targets, and choke us until we begged him to stop. I saw one boy bite off part of another boy's breast as they fought. I saw endless recesses spent playing "Smear the Queer," a game in which the boys got together, picked one to be a target, and threw things at the target's head as hard as possible. At times, this "game" turned into loose brawls, with fists and feet careening wildly off of one another. I saw one kid get punched in the stomach so hard, he immediately keeled over and puked out his lunch. You could see the chunks of the orange he had just eaten 20 minutes ago in the vomit.

I stuck with the friends I had from that school into public high school, warts and all, for they were my only friends. My freshman year, one gave me a bloody nose slamming my face into a bookshelf. Another punched me in the arm as hard as he could, leaving me with a swollen green and purple welt that didn't go away for weeks. He was testing to see if I was "French." I did not cry, and ergo I wasn't. To cry was to admit defeat. Or to be French, apparently.

I confessed to a friend my freshman year, amidst the first rotten grades of my life, amidst teachers calling me a "loner" to my parents, amidst near constant bullying, that I was thinking about ending my life. He did not take it seriously. I did not take my life seriously. It seems we weren't far apart on some things.

By my sophomore year, I started to drift apart from these friends, and their calculated cruelty. This, of course, created new challenges, for now I truly was alone. Sitting in a cafeteria in high school, hundreds of kids around, and I being the one and only one sitting alone at a table elicited fear in me. It made me an easy target. It made me an easy source of ridicule. So after many awkward, solitary lunches, I simply started skipping lunch and spent the lunch break in the library, sometimes doing homework, other times idly browsing the web. The quietness appealed to me.

By my senior year of high school, my social life was in ruins, and I was simply existing as a person who went to school during the week and worked 16 hours at McDonalds during the weekend and slept or played WoW the rest of the time. At times, I would lie in bed at night thinking that college would be a fresh start for me, that things would be different, that the nights of lying on my floor self-harming, crying, and listening to the most depressing music I could find would be over. That I would find something I love. That I would make new friends who were good people. That I would do better in school. That I would be away from parents.

I was wrong, of course. College was, as I quickly learned, even worse.

I stayed in the dorms when I first went off to our in-town university. My roommate in college was a violent mam; he would walk down the dormitory halls in his steel-toed boots, kicking everyone's door, hoping to catch someone opening it so that the door would open and "bust their face in." He stole, frequently, from our suitemate. He shot airsoft guns at people from our 3rd floor room as they walked on the sidewalk below. One morning, he came back at 3am with two other guys, shirtless and laughing; they had dropped acid and robbed a convenience store, than ran all the way back to the dorms. I don't know why they all lost their shirts. He would smoke weed in the room frequently, during which times I would excuse myself, hoping that the RA, who was quite literally right next door to us, wouldn't bust him and get me in trouble too. He would blast his music throughout the day, even when I asked him to turn it down. It did not matter to him. Humorously, there were many weird ironies about him that I now laugh about. He was a Jewish anti-Semite who blamed Jews for 9/11. He was spoiled, so much so, that after spending thousands of dollars one day at Best Buy on a sound system, video games, and other assorted gadgets, he called his mom up and demanded she increase the limit on the credit card they had given him. That he was such a gross consumer of material goods was made ironic by the fact that he was a rabid anarchist.

So once again, I was going to the library during the day, hiding form my roommate and finding a secluded corner where I could use my laptop, and eating at the cafeteria by myself when I was hungry. I learned to eat at non-peak hours. 2:00pm lunch was much less busy than 12:00pm. 7:30pm dinner was much less busy than 6:00pm. It was less awkward to eat alone then. And if I always scheduled an 8am class each day, I could eat breakfast during the very quiet 7:00am hour. Still, I had tricks for when I had to eat when it was busy because of my class schedule. I became very good at pretending to be on the phone; holding my Blackberry up to my ear and feigning conversation, so that if someone saw me eating alone, they could at least operate under the pretense that I did know people, as I was talking to one on the phone, apparently. I became very natural at the pauses and nuances of simulated phone conversation.

By the weekend, I was driving hurriedly home to my parent's house, enjoying the 48 hours in which I was completely free of my roommate's existence and no longer rendered hopelessly anxious as to what violent or criminal act he would do next. The thought of NARCing occurred to me, many times, but he was a popular weed dealer, and to do so would be extremely easy to trace to me - his quiet and non-weed using roommate. He knew everyone in the dorms it seemed, and it was easy to see a situation in which, if he got in trouble, I would be a target of retribution. So I simply tucked my head down and hoped to get through the year unscathed.
I went to therapy a couple times, it being free to students and all, but eventually drifted away from that. By my second semester of college, my anxiety, particularly that of the social kind, was so high that I was scared of walking outside and being seen by other people, or of being in a classroom with other people. I looked hideous, my voice was boring, I had nothing to offer, and I was convinced that everyone could see me for the loser I was the second I went out in public; so I simply stopped going out at all, spending now entire days in isolation in the farthest corner of the library, where nobody ever went, and nobody could ever see me. I walked to and from it with my head down, hunched over, hoping to attract as little attention as possible. The very idea of being around people made me sweat and shake in fear. When I would see old classmates on my path to the library, I would quickly divert and try to find a way to avoid them, so that they would not notice me. Anything to do with people became a stressful event.

Of course, this all affected my grades... poorly, I might add. And so after just two semesters, my college experiment, my fresh start, ended in failure.

There have been many years since then, since 2008; hundreds of hours of therapy and psychiatry, many different drugs and drug combinations, some prescribed, some simply bought online in shady corners of the internet. further attempts at college. A 10 day stay in a mental hospital that became one of the most formative experiences of my life. Perhaps one day I shall write about them, too. But for now, I simply realize, that having spent 16 years of my 26 on this planet dealing with sadness, dealing with the reality that I do not like myself, much less love myself, that this is part of who I am, a part of me, and that I will be living with it forever.

I suspect, also, that some of my deep-seated hatred of men derives from the behavior I saw from them first hand, and the anger at times embarrasses me and blinds me, but it remains all the same. I suspect, also, that I will never truly get over some of these experiences, forever clinging to their damage as a way to absolve myself of my sins. Perhaps one day I will grow a spine and move forward in life. Or perhaps, as I suspect, I will be continually rendered inept by my own failings and insecurities, razor blade in hand, listening to whatever music will get me sad as fast as possible, and swallowing whatever pills my doctor tells me to take.

That the present author decided to share this post relating to the fact of perpetual sadness, one which could have been succinctly expressed in less than 1/10th of the length of this post, is not a fact lost at all.