Still Here

It was June 1, 2015. My friend Katie, the current-Oregonian, was in town visiting family with her fiance. She made a brief stop in Mankato to catch up with me, because, for whatever reason, we share a special relationship. She was one of the few people I told about my desire to switch employers, to land one of possibly only 160 jobs in the world.

“I have a strong feeling I’m not going to be here in a year,” I said.

I wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true. At that moment in time I was determined to just… go, to be somewhere else, doing something else. Looking back, I’m not sure what the inciting incident was, I’m guessing it was some slight at work or just general frustration with the (mostly self-inflicted stasis) my life was in at the moment.

One of the many assistant managers at my current employer once called me a “strange combination of confident and paranoid”, and while I don’t know how he saw that, I think it’s true. I have true faith in myself that if I just throw myself all in at something, I’ll get it. The paranoia is that I’ll be exposed as a fraud, I think it’s actually called “Impostor Syndrome”, but I’ve never looked it up (and I’m too lazy now).

I truly thought that as soon as I started to apply for these jobs, I would be a shoe-in. I do what they do, on a slightly bigger scale. I fully anticipated taking a pay cut to do it, but it’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to just start over, I guess.

There’s something romantic about the idea of essentially cutting all ties and starting from scratch. Not that I don’t like being close to my family, even though I don’t see them enough. Not that I don’t love my friends, because I have the funniest group of friends. But because I want to see what I could and would be with a clean slate.

I didn’t get the jobs I applied for. I didn’t even get an interview. I only applied for five, so it’s not like I was beating down trying to get in to these places. The drive to suddenly be somewhere else faded and, as of right now, I’m still here.

It’s not entirely a bad thing.

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6/28

After living long enough, certain days tend to have a special meaning. April 9, 2003 was the day of the Counting Crows concert at MSU (and also the day Saddam’s statue in Baghdad came down), which led to me staying in the Mankato area (the concert, not the statue). January 28, 2013 was the day of my orientation at my current job (which I think sticks in my head because people will ask me “how long have you been here/there?”).

June 28, 2013 was when everything changed.

I consider myself a “numbers guy”. Certain digits stick out in my head. I remember the cost of certain items at work, I remember phone numbers well (yes, I think I even remember Clint’s wife’s phone number, which I haven’t typed into a phone in over a decade. And yes, I remember Clint’s number too), I remember dates better than most. But I can’t recall the date She and I met.

I remember our first real date being on Valentine’s Day 2005, I remember our anniversary was February 16, 2005. I wish I could tell you I remember the date of the first time we had sex, but all I can link it to is the night before (or probably the day of, due to being after midnight) the movie “Constantine” came out. That part may seem weird, but I worked in a movie theater at the time. The week before I invited Her to come to a late-night employee screening of “Hitch”, but She didn’t answer my calls because She was out on a date with someone else. Instead, Clint and I made fun of the flick, which upset a co-worker and her friend (and also, enough of the Clint mentions. This may be taken out of the edits).

She was exactly what I was looking for. Just a tiny bit older (yes, I remember her birthday), a lot more mature, into some similar things. In fact, one of the things that opened my eyes to Her as a long-term partner was finding out She had the PC Game “Alpha Centauri”. The PC Game series “Civilization” was introduced to me as a teenager by my dad, and “Alpha” was the next step. I was growing up.

She was pretty and smart and fun and… well, this isn’t about Her, not really.

Relationships, as they sometimes do, lose their magic. Our interests diverged. We changed and were no longer as compatible as we once were. Instead of a cigarette-smoking bookworm, She became a gal who worked full time, did online school, and then went to the gym or ran five days a week. I… instead of being a dreamy-eyed college kid, worked a job I knew was going nowhere (except to pay off my debts), became a cigarette-smoking (since recovered) less-ambitious drunkard (since trying to recover). In retrospect I admire the change she created in herself, even if at the time it annoyed me (due to us growing apart).

We were together, off and on, for more than eight years, and even though we were together, we took different paths in our lives. I feel if we met in 2015, we would have hit it off. Unfortunately, we met in 2005.

It came to a screeching halt on June 28, 2013. About half a year later, when I moved into my house, I would also find my paternal grandmother’s funeral program. She died on June 28th, 1998. June 28th had a bad kind of voodoo.

I’m not going to write about the things I did wrong (many) or the things Se did wrong (a few). I’m not going to assign blame, although I will mentally take 51%+. I’m not even going to get into details of what happened, except for the fact that I showed up at Tom’s door the night of June 28, 2013 with a full backpack and a bottle of brandy and will be forever grateful he let me stay there for five-plus months.

People don’t change overnight, it’s just not possible. Change is incremental. Change is having a slightly different mindset and acting on it every single day. I’m not good with change, I like rules and patterns. But change was thrust upon me, at least on the most basic level. Any other change would have to come from within.

I would love to say that on June 29th, 2013 I was a completely different person. Instead, I went back to our shitty apartment on Rock Street, awkwardly waited on the main level while She got out of the bath and got dressed, picked up a few toiletries I needed (if you’ve never had to move in half an hour, try it), and went to pick up an air mattress. At least it was on a weekend when I didn’t have to work so I could attempt to process the change.

The shitty thing about June 28 is that it’s exactly a week before my birthday. When my grandmother died, it didn’t affect my “work life” since I was 13 going on 14. When I got kicked out of Rock Street, I was 28 going on 29. I was considered an adult, even if I rarely acted like one at home.

I’ve lived a tragedy-free life. My parents (and my step-parents) are still alive. There’s only once cancer scare among those four, and that seems to be taken care of. Sure, three of my four grandparents are dead, but that’s not an abnormality. Despite living a relatively-unhealthy lifestyle, I don’t have a lot of lingering pain (a little occasional ankle and knee pain, but nothing huge). I’ve been blessed, and I recognize that on a daily basis. June 28, 2013 was, so far, the “tragedy” of my life. I, as sad as it sounds, hope it’s replaced by other, more important tragedies as I get older.

I try not to let myself be seen as vulnerable. But I remember, after my “Summer of Unemployment/Underemployment”, I was in probably the worst place, mentally, I had ever been. She would come home from work about 6 p.m., a couple hours before I would go to sleep so I could get up and work at 3:30 a.m., we would have a cigarette on the back deck and I would sometimes come to tears (only at the start) thinking of what my life had become. I was happy enough being unemployed, but I didn’t want to have to get up at 2:30 a.m. to work a job a monkey could do.

She also saw me when I was at my alcoholic worst. I was never a drunk driver, but I was a shitty drunk. Hell, there were sober times where I was just shitty toward her in general. I’m sure there are good times in there as well, but being the pessimist I am, I tend to more easily remember the times I did things wrong. And if I thought reaching out and apologizing would do more good than harm, I would do it. But I haven’t, and I won’t.

My friend Amanda asked me about Her recently and I gave my mentally-refined stock answer.

“I haven’t talked to her since December 2014. I hope she’s doing well, but I really don’t want to know, either way.”

And even though it’s a stock answer, it’s the truth. My friend Katie, the now-Oregonite, casually mentioned last June She was with someone, which threw me on a little mental loop. I truly want Her to be happy, I just don’t want to look into the abyss, to think of the memories and the “what ifs”. I truly don’t want to know what she’s up to.

But this isn’t about “us”, this is about me.

For the last three years it’s been “just me”. I’ve learned I’m not the easiest person to live with. I can be messy and careless and self-centered.

But I never would have learned these things if She wasn’t gone. I would have leaned on Her cleanliness, Her (for lack of a better term) “wifey” tendencies  and never improved. I needed Her to be out of my life to reach the next level of mine.

I’m a better person now. I’d like to think I learned from my mistakes with Her and became better overall. I’m now the “her” of my house, the house I thought “we” were going to buy, trying to clean up whenever possible. I’m becoming a runner at my own pace, years after She encouraged me to do it. Maybe I’m delusional, maybe it’s all a mirage, a story I tell myself to make myself feel better. Maybe I would have got there with Her, but I doubt it.

Growth requires pain. If a person didn’t push themselves past their level of comfort, they would never get stronger. There are times I wonder if my mistakes and missteps were worth it, if I would have been happier still being with Her or if I’m happier now. I need the pain, the “tragedy” of June 28 to spur me forward.

I’ve tried to take back June 28th, to try and infuse some positive memories into that day. Two years ago I tried to deem it “Personal Apology and Recovery Day”. It was strange, and probably a bit manic, but I tweeted out a bunch of apologies to friends on twitter (and to the crazy girl I dated off and on in 2014) because I felt I needed to. That night my friends and I made a short improv skit that I usually subject people I meet to (yes, it’s about 7 minutes too long).

Last year I don’t think I did anything. No manic apologies, no creative juices. This year, well, this year has been like a normal day. No remembrance, no frantically trying to change the meaning of the day. After all, today is really just a number.

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Maintaining Motivation

In one week, 2016 will be half-over (give or take a few days). Which means, in theory, I should have halfway-accomplished my goals for the year. I’m not going to run through each goal individually, instead I’m going to be vague and say some I’m making progress towards and some have fallen by the wayside. It’s like that every year.

I’m not a big “New Year’s Resolution” guy, but I do take the turning over of the calendar to create some goals for the year (I’ll do this with my birthday as well), so maybe it’s one of those “six of one, half-dozen of the other” type things.

I will say I’m not happy with my lack of creative output so far in 2016. I had a decent string of posts going until the Mexico trip in March (which is already three months ago) and then haven’t done a thing since I came back. No essays, no scripts, no progress on the “YouTube series”.

I have made progress, though. But in my typical fashion I don’t see the progress as much as I see the lack of more progress. I’ve started to spruce up the yard, although there’s a lot of work to go. I’m consistently down 20-25 pounds for the year, although I’ve stubbornly been in that range for a month or so. I’ve started running again and have made good progress, but I let myself quit too much.

Whenever I make a set of goals, there’s a feeling of motivation to accomplish those goals. One night in late May before I was going to sleep I wrote down a few things I wanted to accomplish in June. One of those was to run my “path” in under 32 minutes. I had only ran the entire way once, and that time I finished in 33:23

My “path” is a stretch of local trail from bridge to stop sign and back to the bridge. I have to touch the bridge when I start, the stop sign when I turn and the bridge before I can stop timing (no it’s not OCD at all). All told, the distance as kept by my Runkeeper app is around 3.2 miles, give or take a few hundredths of a mile.

I went out for a run June 1st and looked at my phone after the first mile (I’ve been on the path plenty, usually just running to the stop sign and walking back) I noticed I did it in 9:02. So I kept going to the stop sign and ran back and after another mile at 8:42 I felt the quit come in and I started to walk. Thankfully I was able to shake that off and run most of the way back to finish the path at 30:28. A full minute and a half below my goal time.

I’d love to say that was the start of great runs for the rest of my life (or even June), but it hasn’t been. I went out a couple days later and stopped after the first mile or so. I took almost two weeks off when I went on my baseball vacation (even though I was only out of town for four days).

Yesterday I had my best first mile ever (8:32) … and then, even though I wasn’t winded, wasn’t sore… the quit came in and I mostly walked the rest of the way.

So my goal for July is to finish that path in under 30 minutes. If I were to really push, I might be able to do it in under 29 minutes. And if I maintain the motivation, if I don’t allow myself to quit, I’ll be able to do it.

Along with everything else on my list.

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The Chilling Effect

 

I like to think I’m a fairly smart, fairly clever guy. I’m quick with a joke or jokey observation, even if the subject is myself and the result is me being taken a little less serious in the future. It’s a price I pay for entertaining myself, because that’s my goal. Making other people laugh or smile or even roll their eyes is a great byproduct, but really I’m just performing for my own amusement.

I was at the gym today, spending a little bit of time on the treadmill. I wasn’t running a lot as I had run a long (for me) distance two days prior and my legs were still a little sore. I really just wanted to get in there to get moving and burn a few calories, not set a personal jogging record. There were a lot of treadmills on the row open, but about ten minutes into my hour, an older gentleman stepped on the treadmill two spots to my left and his hot (well, I didn’t look, but out of the corner of my eye her clothes fit well) female trainer kind of hung out on the one to my immediate left.

She starts talking to her client, which I suppose is her right and job, but it got a little in the way of the podcast I was trying to listen to (I must need better headphones). She was leaning over the left arm of the treadmill she was on (it wasn’t running) to see the progress of her client (and, yes, like a gentleman, I didn’t leer or even look at her) the way only a confident and in-shape woman can do.

Even though I’m not looking, I’m still aware of what’s going on and the possible “entertainment factor” of said circumstances. I caught myself making my miniature version of the “Halpert face” from “The Office”, even though I’m the only one who can see my face, I hope. Maybe admitting this makes me officially diagnosably crazy.

When I’m not working, I’m not surrounded by a lot of people, and the people I would be hanging around have been subjected to my shit wit for years so they know the routine. Still, I feel the need to entertain. And, claim as I might I’m only doing it to entertain myself, it’s more fulfilling and rewarding to have other people think I’m clever too.

I use Facebook in a different way than most. Most people either use it to post political thoughts (in the form of memes), pictures of their kids, “vaguebooking”, pictures of them and their significant others or generally portraying this filtered-in-a-positive way lifestyle. A few people use it mostly for humor. I consider myself one of those.

I’ll post things I find amusing to myself and then almost forget about them. Because I’m friends with a lot of co-workers on Facebook and we have time to talk during the day, sometimes one of them will comment on something I posted. A sort of “IRL Comment” if you will. Which only bothers me, because then I have to remember people actually see what I post.

This realization of actual humans on the other end of a digital platform isn’t groundbreaking or shocking, but for some reason it isn’t the first thing that pops into my mind. Using the internet for interpersonal communication is like using a gun to kill, it’s almost impersonal.

It creates a kind of chilling effect. I watch what I post (and I probably should, anyway) because of who might see it. At the same time, I find myself wishing I didn’t know as much about people as Facebook made me know. If someone’s having a kid, I don’t want to see one of those “cute” baby announcement pictures, I want to hear about it in person. That’s how we create conversation, interpersonal communication. Instead, we’re using internet communication as a shotgun.

I find myself having to fight that urge to reference social media when I’m talking to someone. I don’t want to say to someone “so I see (based on your tweets) you had some issues with Starbucks this morning”. I want that person to tell me so we don’t spend unnecessary time in uncomfortable silence.

But maybe that’s just me being old-fashion. Maybe that’s just me yearning for the old days (of a decade ago) where I had the perfect amount of time and friends where we could have actual conversations where the only distraction was video games. Where people could tell stories without someone mentally checking out because they read it already.

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The Muse and the Message

(3/9/16 – There’s no particular need or reason to post this essay, but it popped into my head today and I still reflect on it as one of my favorite pieces I wrote. Months after I wrote this I did get a chance to read it aloud to the subject. She loved it. We still stopped seeing each other – for good – a couple months after.

Small edits, changed a name. Want to go back and take out some ill-sounding thoughts about “Sarah”, but won’t. Originally published in July 2014)

…maybe it was just things lovers say to each other because they feel the need to say something.

“I love that you’re a writer,” she said. It wasn’t the first thing she said to me and it sure as hell wasn’t the last thing she said to me. I don’t know where we were, but if I had to guess we were standing in my office where I was showing her the whiteboards I had on the walls.

It was the same office where we would have one of our many reconciliation chats on a Saturday night. It was the same office I brought her to the last time she was over and showed her the new additions to the whiteboard, the new things I wrote down because of her.

They were the things that popped into my head when I thought about her during the long time we were apart, the time brought about when I shut her out and she moved on. But I didn’t stop thinking about her and she didn’t move on as much as her affirmational attitude would have led anyone to believe.

I didn’t know it would be the last time we would be on a date. I thought that first night back together would be the first of many nights together now that my head was on straight. Obviously, it wasn’t. Obviously, all she left me to do was write.

We all have ideas of what we would do if we won the lottery. We’d pay off our debts, take care of our families and close friends, quit our jobs and then the lists change from there depending on the person. But when that money comes, the chemicals in our head change, the priorities we thought we had are different than the ones that manifest themselves.

She was like that for me. Among many other things, she was my winning lottery ticket. She made me emotionally rich, opened up feelings that were long-thought dead. For years I was in a dead relationship (I can’t even call it bad since it was so emotionless) with a good person. My lottery ticket made me pay a price by making me open the vault to my feelings. I’m still paying the price. The new girl was a good person who didn’t act like a robot. The thing that made her great made us always seem on shaky ground. I had to adjust to being rich.

“I love that you’re a writer”

It was flattering and affirming when she said those words. And it was unexpected. Even though she seemed to love everything I did. She thought my house was “kick-ass”. She thought I busted my ass at work (although whenever she saw me at work I dropped what I was doing to talk to her). She even loved that I wear slippers around the house. If you would have asked her, she would have said she loved the way I breathe.

Even though she said she loved everything about me, it was the quote about writing that sticks with me. Well, that’s not true. Everything sticks with me. I’m cursed with a terribly selective memory. I remember all these good times, all these cute moments in time that even now make me a little misty-eyed. I remember the way her eyes bulged with a look of life when I was around.

I don’t remember the arguments blow-by-blow, I just remember my role in them. I don’t remember the small things that drove me crazy, I remember how much I miss her. I remember every time we saw each other. I remember the potential of us.

She would get on my case occasionally about not being grown up and not accepting my role in things. She would chastise me about how I was all about the “all or nothing” extremes. However, she said she could never be neutral about me. Right now she hates me. Maybe it was all just words, maybe it was just things lovers say to each other because they feel the need to say something. I happen to believe it was all true. Every bit of it.

“I love that you’re a writer”

Women, more than anything, make me write. I write about the ones I like, the ones I loved and the ones I never got the chance to love. I wrote about the girls I dated in high school, the girls that turned me down. I wrote about anything that made me feel, and it just so happened the fairer sex does that to me. I wrote a piece about a girl I had an infatuation with in high school and early college  while I was dating “Sarah”.

Sarah didn’t get mad, at least to my face. But she was upset, upset I never wrote about her. In retrospect, it does seem strange. There was this girl I tethered my life to, this girl I supposedly loved (and did for a while) and yet the only thing I wrote her not during a fight was a letter for our one-year anniversary (that letter has been returned to me and was then shredded).

Instead I wrote pieces about girls that I never even kissed. I wrote about the ones that got away and the ones I never had. Those were the ones that made me feel. The dead relationship didn’t deserve 4000-plus words.

“I love that you’re a writer”

Except, she didn’t. Not really, or at least not right now. The last relationship I was in deserved 4000 words. The last relationship lifted me into the clouds and knocked me on my ass. Repeatedly.

I got home from work and a walk Saturday night and started to write about her, about us. I wrote her long, heartfelt messages. I was using my talents as a writer to try and show her how I felt about her. I was trying to communicate the things I had a hard time saying because I was insecure. She had shut me out and wouldn’t offer a reply.

I had to write about her. I had to get it out. I spent three hours writing about her, about how we started, how we ended, how we rebuilt and over and over again. I wrote about how I loved her. I wrote, trying to release my feelings, but also to let her know, if she read it, how I felt about her. I tried to make myself the object of scorn in the piece because that’s how I see it in my head.

She saw it and seemed to hate that I was a writer. She was still nowhere near neutral about me. She didn’t want me writing about us “for the world to see” (all six of you guys).

I was stunned. This was something I poured my heart into and, I thought, was a fairly accurate depiction of what happened, how I feel and what I want. I saw it as a “I’m fucked up but I love you and I hope you accept me” letter. She seemed to see it as the airing of dirty laundry.

Our main problem was always in our communication. Especially text-based communication. A small statement would get blown up and it would become a huge fight. The truth would be lost in the interpretation of the message. We are at this point because I made a joke and then made a choice to try and not text during a walk (but phrasing it differently). We are at this point because both those moments were blown up by her which were met with another blow up by me which were met by a brief calling of profane names. I should have driven to her house during that fight and just knocked on her door and kissed her. Instead, I’m writing furiously and walking non-stop, trying to exercise this feeling away.

Because I need to distract myself from the feelings she brings up, because I need to unburden my mind from all these feelings she left me with, I move and I write. Because of her I started to do all these things to fix myself, even though I should have been doing them for myself anyway. The “Leave the Bottle” blog doesn’t exist in anywhere near it’s present form without her being in my life. I don’t think I get the guys together and make an, um, “interesting” YouTube video if I’m not trying to run from her ghost. I haven’t lost ten pounds (not this month but since June) and and haven’t walked sixty miles so far this month if I wasn’t trying to better myself. She’s my muse, even though she think’s I’m an asshole.

And, yes, this is a mix of an apology to her and a release of my emotions. Yes, this is probably rehashing bits from the 4000-plus-word piece. No, I’m not sure if she’ll read this, but if she does, I hope she is calm enough to realize it came from a good place.

As for me, I’m going to keep moving. But I keep looking over my shoulder to see if she’s on the same path.

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Cooking

Right now it’s 7:12 p.m. on Sunday night. I just pulled a pork butt roast out of the oven after cooking for four-plus hours. I didn’t do anything special with it, just rubbed some olive oil and minced garlic on the outside after reading a recipe on the internet. It’s going to be tasty.

My cooking skills would best be described as “basic”. The list of things I cook regularly are eggs, sweet potato hashbrowns, burritos, pork roasts and boneless chicken breasts… and I usually have to look up the correct time and temp for the chicken breasts every time I make them. I’m sure there are a couple more meals in my memory, but not many.

Learning how to cook was never one of my priorities. I never really asked anyone in my life to teach me and I was never one for learning through experimentation and eventual failure. In fact, on my first official date with “Sarah”, my friend and decided to cook a “breakfast at night” for the ladies in our lives. The cooking was going to be delegated to him, but for some reason he had to step away, leaving me in charge. It’s been a decade now, but I’m pretty sure I burned the eggs, or at least ruined them somehow. Thankfully, Sarah was a better cook.

I wish I could recall the amount of sandwiches, bowls of cereal and Pop Tarts I’ve eaten over the course of my life. Not to mention bars of all sorts; Cliff Bars, granola bars, Slim Fast bars. All of these were easy and accessible and made it so I never had to learn how to prepare food.

Cooking isn’t easy. I’ve burned my sweet potato hash browns (or undercooked them) too many times to count. I once tried to make a substitution and put coffee grounds on the outside of some chicken tenderloin because I didn’t have the right kind of powder. The result was not edible. At least it’s impossible to screw up a Cliff Bar.

Making food is essentially creating change. It’s taking raw, potentially dangerous ingredients (raw chicken apparently is bad, you know) and turning them into something tasty, or at least edible.

Life itself is nothing but change. We are never exactly the same person we “used to be”, and that’s a good thing. All we are is a collection of ingredients that we can change into almost anything using whatever spices and methods are available. There are guidebooks available to help us, but no two situations are ever going to be exactly the same. What your oven thinks is 400 degrees and what my oven thinks is 400 degrees could be off, even incrementally.

I live in a state of semi-constant fear that I’m not making the best meal out of my ingredients. I try, but I veer off course and something usually ends up burnt. It’s a process and, as the old saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

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The Wrong Way

 

As part of goal #4 for 2016, I’ve been going to the gym a lot lately. I’m not setting the world on fire or winning “gym member of the month”, but I’m going. During my first couple of months back, I had been exclusively using the treadmill. I started off doing mostly walking over the course of an hour, although there have been one or two days where I’ve made it to 30 minutes jogging (broken into segments) and the rest of the hour walking. I’m not going fast, but I’m going.

Just last week I started to play around with the weight machines again. Because of the culture we live in where there’s, quite frankly, too much information accessible, the idea that “weight machines are bad!” was drilled into my head. Of course, the machines aren’t bad (unless they become sentient and crush us all, ten pounds at a time), but they’re not as good as using free weights. And, of course, I don’t know much of what I’m doing with free weights and that section of the gym is usually heavily populated when I go. So, for the longest time, instead of doing the “less good but still good thing” or manning up and learning more about free weights, I did nothing at all.

The previous two paragraphs sum up my mental attitude pretty well. Instead of being prideful that I’ve pushed myself to go an hour on the treadmill, even if it’s mostly walking at this point, I’m downplaying the progress. I can jog for a mile straight now, but that’s “just a mile”. I’ve been able to do two miles straight a couple of times (it helps to not look down), but “anyone in decent shape can do that” or “it’s not fast”.

This happens at work all the time. I had a damn good year last year, but all I can really think about is how it could have been better if I made a few different moves or if I had been quicker to act on something. I’ve lost weight so far this year (about ten pounds), but I’m kicking myself about not losing twenty before my trip (that was always going to be a tough, but doable goal).

Instead of just going in there and lifting weights, I became so set in not doing the wrong thing that I did nothing. I know I’m not alone in putting up mental roadblocks, but I’m still frustrated by my ability to not just get out there and do things. I’m frustrated at my fear of failure.

This happens even when I’m thinking of getting rid of some stuff. The baseball cards I don’t look at, I’m hesitant to get rid of because I won’t get any value for them. The original NES games I have I don’t play, many of them in years, I don’t want to sell just in case I want them back again. Stasis is tough to break.

It’s all a matter of perspective, really. And I’m looking at things the wrong way.

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Sports Tourism

Late last year, I was dating a woman named “Kelly”. Kelly was one of those girls who had a lot of positive qualities, one of which was being a sports fan. Now, I’m not trying to be sexist, but the majority of women I’ve come across either don’t know about sports or don’t know much (to be fair, I know a few guys that are relatively clueless about sports as well).

Kelly was definitely a fan. During one of our conversations she mentioned she wanted to go the NCAA basketball tournament first and second round weekend in Des Moines. This led me to talk about how I wanted to make this year a year of “sports tourism”. I thought it would be fun to go to a different event every month.

I’ve since failed because I didn’t go to any sporting events in January, and Kelly is no longer part of my life (one of her negative qualities is that she wanted to be with me), but the idea of sports tourism is something I’m holding on to.

As we get older, we start to build traditions. A couple weeks ago, I went to go see the Timberwolves with a couple friends because they like basketball and it was one of their birthdays. For the last two years I have seen the Twins play (once in Minnesota, once in Kansas City) on my birthday. I have plans to go see the Twins on my birthday this year (they’re at home) and it sounds like seeing the Timberwolves in February is going to be a yearly thing. Also, in the last two years I have embarked on a day trip to a local Minor League Baseball stadium in April because that’s usually when I take my first vacation days of the year.

That’s three months out of the year. If I include seeing the Gopher football home opener both of the last two years and project that into the future, that’s four months. And, even though last year was disappointing, I’m planning on going to at least two games this year.

I’m a guy who likes his spreadsheets because of my love for rules. I like to try to take something emotional and experiential like sports fandom and turn it into something quantifiable by making rules and a schedule. This is part of why I collect a hat and baseball (and other miscellaneous memorabilia) from every MiLB baseball stadium I visit (and from ones I haven’t when I know someone who is going to be visiting a city with a stadium). Since I’m not a huge fan of getting my picture taken the team baseballs and ticket stubs are my proof I’ve been there.

So with the “year of sports tourism”, I tend to struggle with the rules. If I go to the Twins home opener and the game on my birthday does it count for April and July or can it just count for one month? I know the rules don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but they matter to me.

I was out at the bar with some co-workers the other night and one woman was talking about being called “high maintenance”. She isn’t, really (as far as I know), and she made a good point that spending money on clothes was her “thing”. She went around the table and looked at us and pointed out how one of us had spent a lot of money on golf clubs, one of us had spent a lot of money on bikes and how I spent a lot of money on sports stuff.

She was right. And it’s time to own it.

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Feeling Stupid

This is going to sound conceited, but I think I’m a relatively smart man. At least that’s what standardized testing in high school and my grades in college told me. But as I get older, I tend to feel dumber and dumber.

This has led me to think maybe I’m not “smart” at all, maybe I just have a good memory. There is some basis for this hypothesis. I always tested well because I could regurgitate the hell out of information teachers presented. I remember numbers (phone numbers and item costs) extraordinarily well. New concepts and ideas, however, make me feel flushed with the sudden realization I’m actually an idiot.

I received an old snowblower (like, it might be older than me) recently. I was told it was recently repaired and it should be good to go. A couple weeks ago, after a 9-inch-dropping snowstorm I tried to fire up this tool that was going to make my life a little easier.

I went to my garage, looked at the various levers and gears and walked back to the house. I don’t intuitively speak “machine”. Hell, I finally learned how to drive a manual transmission car a few years ago when my dad gave me his old Saturn (I live a somewhat-charmed life) and after I stopped driving it for a month I had forgotten how to do it.

Eventually I got the snowblower started (finding the model number and the instruction manual online worked wonders) … and it killed a couple of different times. I shoveled 80% of my driveway that day.

I know learning is filled with moments like that, but I hate those moments so much I tend to stay away. I prefer thinking I’m intelligent instead of being proven otherwise.

It’s a battle I’m trying to win. It’s my fear of embarrassment (even if only I perceive it) versus my fear of stagnation. It’s the dream of being the Renaissance Man versus the fear of being proven worthless, unfixable.

There are moments of victory, though. Years ago, in the “office” room of the apartment I lived in I tried to install some shelves and brackets (hell, I might even be referring to them by the wrong names) into the wall. It wasn’t necessarily a hard task, but it was to me having only done it once (and even then, I’m pretty sure Ike did all the work). Now, as I’ve learned, this is really a three-hand job. One hand to drill, one to keep the bracket level and one to hold the level in place. Sure enough, my first attempt was wildly uneven. I fixed it, but I had to suffer the flush of perceived stupidity first.

Last August I got a wild hair and decided to take the bookshelves out of my office and replace them with brackets and shelves. I did this mostly because so I could hang some minor league baseball jerseys I purchased (and had my sister frame, because I couldn’t understand how to do that properly). Again, it was a three-hand job. Again, I went solo.

And it turned out a hell of a lot better this time. There might be a tiny misalignment or two, but overall it turned out very well. There are seven supports with various brackets and shelves on them. Nothing’s fallen, even the framed jerseys (this was/is a giant fear of mine). It might not get me a job as a carpenter, but it’s still a mental victory. And all I had to do to get there was embrace feeling stupid.

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The TV Show

Of all the goals I wrote down for 2016, the hardest (or at least least likely to get done) is going to be creating and filming the “TV Show”.

The show (currently unnamed, although I’m also tempted to call it “Leave the Bottle”) has many factors involved, any of which could be taken as a potential, project-derailing, road block.

  • I have to write, mostly alone on the first pass. (What if it’s not funny, what if it’s not any good?)
  • I have to figure out how to use the equipment. (I’m kind of technologically stupid, at least at first. The process of learning from scratch makes me feel like an idiot.)
  • I have to get locations. (Who’s going to want some randos filming scenes in their bar?)
  • I have to get people to act. (Who’s going to want to say this garbage with any skill?)

I’m going to, unless there’s a sudden rush of super-qualified people, have to be one of the leads in this show. This isn’t because I’m vain and think I’m the best person for the job, it’s because I’m one less variable, one less thing I have to wrangle. In fact, I dislike looking at myself most times, so spending hours on the computer editing the show is going to be a pain mentally as well.

Not that I’m qualified at all, either. My acting experience in my adult life is three short films (“Pizza Delivery Man”, “Tyleski Talks: Homeless in Oz” and “A Witness to Evil”), none of which made me decide to quit my job and move to Hollywood or New York.

The thing that I like the most about the prospect of making this show is also the thing that drives me the most nuts. Writing is solitary, film is collaborative. Especially at the “very amateur” level, film has to be collaborative. Everyone is going to have to pitch in any way they can. The more outgoing of us will have to secure locations, the more technical of us will have to figure out details like sound and lighting. There are many, many things that will be out of my control.

Back when we made “Pizza Delivery Man”, I thought we had a guy lined up to play the role of “Tristan” (the guy who humps the bench). Due to a miscommunication, the actor didn’t show up that night and we cajoled our friend Tom, who was just hanging out, to play the role.

There are going to be instances like that with the production of the show. Back when “Pizza Delivery Man” was made, we were college kids. Now, more than ten years later, we have real-world responsibilities; families and jobs. Our free time is more precious now than it was then because of its scarcity.

And I, pusher than I am, am going to try my damndest to inconvenience people. I’m going to try to convince them this show is something worth spending their time on because I have a goal, something I need to get done.

 

 

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