Tag Archive | community

Reflecting

It was hitting me on Saturday night as I sat at Dempsey’s attempting to learn sports by osmosis, my fleshy frame’s surface area exposed to discussion of basketball statistics, attempting to draw the knowledge in through my cell membranes, that my life has turned into something I didn’t really expect. I am becoming friends with professional fighters. I’m looking at getting a motorcycle. The thought of donuts makes me sick to my stomach (I will still totally eat them though, lets not get too crazy). I think about running two miles and I get a mild buzz of excitement and not dread. I have business cards, they even have my name on them. It’s a bunch of little strange things that confuse me, and of course that makes me think about where I have been. So a brief recap of the last year:

A year and a day ago, I graduated with a Master’s degree in Linguistics. My sister got married the day before. I was never as upset about it as the other people I knew. I started talking to my girlfriend about getting married. Eleven months ago I switched anxiety medications and everything seemed like it was going to be great. They were actually helping instead of making me feel worse, all of which came from the fact that I was still anxious after grad school ended. Ten months ago, my girlfriend left me in the middle of the night, my life started to fall apart. Nine months ago, I adopted my kitten. Shadow has been, well, my shadow ever since. Eight months ago, with no prospects of employment after getting a significant amount of debt and doing a lot of work to prove I could be an academic success, and reeling after being left by someone I thought I wanted to spend life with, I thought very hard about the benefits of no longer existing. Seven months ago, I got a part time job that paid a ridiculous amount for being a part time job, but still wasn’t quite enough to make ends meet on my own. But it was something. I turned 27 and I could get out and do things occasionally again. My dad retired, they named a building after him. Six months ago, I had a brief encounter with someone who had meant a lot to me before my girlfriend, and who still means a lot to me today. 5 months ago, I kind of screwed that up. Neither of us were in the right place to even be thinking about dating someone. This made Christmas kind of rough. Four months ago I got my camera. Instead of sulking I started to go out and practice shooting. I wanted to explore and get better. Three months ago, I made it 5km on the elliptical trainer for the first time ever in my life. I was starting to actually get in shape instead of just punishing myself at the gym for being a fuck up in his late 20s. Two months ago, I got my motorcycle license. I had gotten up to doing 5k three times a week on the trainer and could do 3k on foot without stopping. I knew I could go further, I don’t stop because I’m out of breath, but because I’m hell on my knees. Last month, I decided I wanted to get serious about becoming a fashion/alt photographer. I’m slowly collecting gear and kit to make that work. I actually did some work painting for the first time in a long while. I had forgotten how much I liked painting little mans, and how good I was at it. This month, I hardly believe its been a year.

The truth of the thing is that eight months ago, I may have really died. Whoever I was stopped existing, because he was defeated. All the work he did and all the plans he made fell apart and failed, and he had to let go and admit that none of that was solely his fault. It takes two to tango, and I admit I screwed up a fair number of times in that relationship, but you can’t control how someone else feels. She just wasn’t feeling it any more. I couldn’t have fixed it. The economy and politics have been severely mismanaged by a small group of greedy individuals, especially here in Kansas. I am not alone in the substantial amount of debt that I left school with, and am not alone in the fact that it will crush my ability to function in society for years to come. Things in this country have stagnated, and the work I do now, funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health, is threatened further by short sighted budget cuts and anti-intellectual agendas. How many students out there are now highly trained scientists and problem solvers that can’t get hired because they lack job experience? How will we ever get job experience if no one is willing to train us or let us train ourselves? Every graduate student in America, unless they finished their degree by being a mindless sycophant, has demonstrated that for a minimum of two years that they are capable of learning and adapting to any situation under their own direction. They can identify and deconstruct problems and work through innovative solutions by doing research and through systematic inquiry and investigation.

And hell, even the mindless sycophants have proven that they are spineless and well documented yes-men, and there are people who want that, too.

There are plenty of people feeling guilty today because they are in their 20s and they had to move back home after school and society says that is a sign of personal failure. Well guess what, we are becoming a majority of people, we get to decide what society says, and I think we should be saying “No, fuck you, we never got a chance to buy cars and houses like you said we should. The problem isn’t us, it’s you. We haven’t failed you, you failed us. You told us the only way to get ahead in life is to go to school and get an education, and then hung us out to dry after you got our money. You sold us into slavery, and we refuse to go quietly.”

Point being, I hit an extreme low, and I think because of it I have started to think and feel significantly differently. I have become a person I did not expect to become. I’m an activist and an advocate, an artist and kind of a bad ass. If people want to call me a self important internet asshole, or cry “Social Justice Warrior!” let them. What people think about you is not important, but what you think about yourself. I’ll keep volunteering and donating, making calls to the FCC Chairman everyday until he fixes the net neutrality rules, and you can make your own decisions. You always have been able to, and that’s what I’ve wanted my readers to do all along.

I hope you stick around, though. We can get a lot more done together then we can alone.

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Beta Blockers

Now it’s coming to it. I posted that TED talk last week and I’ve been trying to ride that high, that elated feeling of knowing what shame feels like and being able to tell it “No, you can’t stop me.” with that thought in my head, I went to the gym on Valentine’s day, a day that had very special between me and my ex, and I refused to feel bad and made it through a 5k jog in 30 minutes. Fantastic feeling of accomplishment, I’ve never even been close to being able to jog that far, not even in middle school. The dopamine flooded my system, I didn’t even care I’d been stood up the night before and I went out by myself and saw some awesome metal bands!

OK, well, local metal bands. Awesome is probably not the right word.

image

… It was better than sulking?

It was alright. I managed to swallow my fear enough at one point in the night to introduce myself to a girl. I promptly became terrified. The shame had returned. It promptly plagued me the rest of the weekend. I found myself wanting to write an article, but the thought that there were people that actually follow my blog froze me.

What if I say the wrong thing? What if I’m not actually interesting? Maybe I should just ghost away as if I had never even started.

“No, it’s just stage fright,” I keep telling myself, as I write this now. “You clearly have good things to say. You are taking interesting pictures.” But it just keeps coming back. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why. In middle school and high school, I was pretty overweight, awkward, had horrible skin, and just generally wasn’t the best looking, but I performed in every play, in every band, and every choir I could, I tried out for each solo (and even got a few of them!) and I never thought twice. I performed in front of the entire school, all of my friends and all of our parents, and I never even broke a sweat.

So why now, at 27, a learned professional, who was the instructor of record of several classes, afraid suddenly of a bunch of strangers on the internet?

I realize, now, that this is important to me. That I want this to succeed, that I want people to come together to help each other and I want to make that happen. I started doing all of my hobbies and my art and my writing as therapy for the things that had gone wrong in my life. They made me feel like I was back at the helm of a life gone out of control, and I’m frightened now because I wrested the wheel back and immediately headed for uncharted space. I’m trying to build a community and I’ve never tried to do that before, and I certainly don’t have a road map.

Scary, no?

In theory, the only wrong course of action would be to say nothing, so here I am, having crawled out of my hole squinting into the sun to tell you all, “This is hard.” Let that nugget of wisdom sink in. Yeah. Savor it.

Other news, we played some board games this weekend, I managed to win both! We did some Lords of Waterdeep on Saturday night, and for some weird reason I don’t ever get sick of this game. It’s moving parts on the surface should be everything I hate about euro games, but something about the aspect of recruiting adventure parties to send out to do your bidding takes all of that away. Monday we played Euphoria, which while having a disturbing theme, is a ton of fun. Another Euro style worker placement game that I should hate, I think I actually managed to get the hang of it. I feel much less like I’m behind by two actions compared to games like Agricola. Which I hate with a fire. I hate to say it, but the standard version just wasn’t as fun as the Kickstarter version, even though the changes are all superficial. The little metal chunks for the bricks and gold just add a certain tactile enjoyment that little wood blocks can’t replicate.