just call me raegen

STUPID, MEANINGLESS LIVES UNITE TO DISCUSS UNPOPULAR OPINIONS

Category: Life

The Bathroom Theory I’m Formulating (Assistance Requested)

Who can say for sure when it began? It’s like trying to determine the exact point at which you fell in love with someone.

English: timeline example

Or when you fell out of it. “I believe it was precisely February 26, 2009, when you began to suck.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And who can say for sure the reasons why? Like many phenomena, causality is hard to pinpoint — often multidimensional in nature.

3D

Dude, when I put on these glasses, it’s like real life, except purpler! (Photo credit: rdenubila)

One fact remains true and indisputable, though: It has been happening with greater frequency the past couple months than I’ve ever witnessed in my 3o+ years on this earth.

In fact, one of my new coworkers has now dubbed it The ::insert my last name here::-ian Theory. (And I should really let the paternal cousin who shares said last name and is also a psychologist be the one to do the hard research and claim credit for the long-yearned-for explanation, whenever that explanation is finally arrived at.)

What is this theory about which I speak? What is this horrific act I’ve been privy to not once, not twice, but often five times a week or more?

lady gaga applause

Nope, not this. Perhaps I should stop complaining now, actually…but I’m not going to. (Photo credit: rodolfomatiano)

Some person — or persons — continues to leave a sh***y and/or bloody mess in the public restroom stall, unflushed, emanating its funk, for all the female world on the second floor of the building I work at to see.

No, the toilet is not broken. Nor is it clogged.

The only conclusion I can arrive at, then, is that this person must derive some strange sort of pleasure from performing this deviant act — must get off from knowing, even without witnessing it with their own two eyes, that they’ve grossed someone out beyond comprehension via their bodily functions, donkey-punching the memory banks of the hapless and now helpless because really, you can’t unsee that.

unicorn

Which makes me wonder if I’m finally receiving some karmic retribution for posting gnarly photos of unsavory evacuations on this blog. This is my penance. (Photo credit: Totally Severe)

Now, make no mistake: lady I am not. But there are rules, man. And  they’re there for a reason.

You're entering a world of pain

This isn’t ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules. Mark it zero. (Photo credit: duncan)

But who — who, I say — could be doing such a thing? And why? And why more often now? Is this like a serial killer who starts “evolving” by changing the calling card on his victims or something? Have I watched too many TV shows with the letters I, S, and C in them?

David Caruso, the lead actor and one of three ...

Have you, Raegen? I would say no. Someone needs to keep my career alive. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am certain I am not alone in this observation — no, victimization. Please, share with me how you’ve coped with this behavior and come out a survivor. Because I’m seriously starting to develop a complex about entering my beloved LSR. And I’m also starting to fantasize about ways that I can catch this freak when I should be editing articles…

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Careful the Company You Keep

When my second cousin was about 3, her mother would scare her into sticking close by by shouting, “Bad people! Bad people!” whenever she’d wander off too far.

bad people

Totally unrelated, but has anyone else noticed how gas has gone up 80 cents in the past two months? (Photo credit: brand0con)

Admittedly, the quality of parenting represented by this statement is questionable. Still, I have to admit that, beyond just being frickin’ hilarious, it got the job done; little M always returned to her mother’s side when she heard this.

I hope M will someday know — in less scary ways, of course — how important it is to choose the company you keep wisely, for this is a lesson everybody is truly well served by. Without going into too much detail about the specifics of why this topic is on my mind to protect the parties involved, I was reminded once again recently of the power that the company one keeps can truly wield over a person.

big stick

Oh, yeah — wield that big stick, Billy! (Photo credit: uzi978)

I remember very distinctly the turning point in my relationship with the two people I’m thinking of specifically while writing this blog. One I never liked; we’ll call this person X. Sometimes you just meet people and know right away there’s just going to be a clash. It’s nobody’s fault; your personalities and values may just be too different, and perhaps you sense or experience a lack of respect for what you believe or represent. When that happens and you know your path and this person’s will cross again, pretty much the best you can do is hope for civility — which you may or may not give or receive.

The other — let’s call this person Y — well, that person’s just young. I always felt the — there’s no great way to say this — immaturity of Y’s mentality (exacerbated by the fact that Y always claimed to be very mature for Y’s age). And given how immature I am, that doesn’t speak too highly for Y. Still, I rarely begrudged Y for that mentality because I guess I felt I’d sort of been there, done that, and at one point, I genuinely hoped to help Y avoid some of the burning buildings I saw Y rushing toward.

fire - onlookers

Don’t get sucked in by the light, little moth! (Photo credit: Daveybot)

One October, my relationship with both X and Y took a turn for the worst. It seemed as if Y felt torn, like Anakin Skywalker, between the Jedi and the Dark Side. You can decide which category you’d like me to represent in this equation, but long story short, Y felt — for some reason that will likely never be known to me — that Y had to choose between me and X, and the choice Y made was X.

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Reve...

I regret turning to the Dark Side almost as much as I regret this hairstyle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised. Disappointed, yes, but mostly just confused by the whole thing — and the lack of explanation accompanying it. Good thing I had a brain cell or two left (at least at the time) to figure it out for myself.

But here’s the thing: Once I got past the inconsideration of the whole episode and the fact that, in this particular situation, it would not have behooved any of the parties involved to have a conversation about the incident that might’ve cleared the air, I started thinking about the effects Y’s choice would have on Y’s life. Now, I’m not Y’s keeper, and it’s not my responsibility, but still, Y is young, and I suspected that one day — maybe not right away, but at some point down the road — this decision would cost Y something very valuable that Y may not even realize is valuable to Y…yet.

And so it seems it has happened.

I don’t think Y realizes it on a conscious level at this point, but all the negativity, gossiping, and general Debbie-Downering Y has been doing with X ever since I exited the scene (I was the one who always put the kibosh on that shiz) has led Y to make a major life decision that I suspect — based on the waterworks, anxiety, etc., that accompanied the announcement of the major life decision — Y already subconsciously regrets. I believe, with all the conspiring and, again, just straight-up negative jibber-jabber that X and Y were doing, Y lost sight of what really matters to Y as an individual, not just someone who needs to feel like part of the “cool” (if by “cool,” one of course means “alienating others with different views in order to bond”) crowd. Y made a decision not for Y’s own legitimate reasons, but because Y got sucked into the Vortex of Stupid. And I fear Y is going to be finding out very soon — the hard way — just what the price of that is.

This picture from a NASA study on wingtip vort...

It looked good at the time, but… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not blaming X for Y’s life decisions. No matter how naive or immature Y may be, Y must still be accountable for Y’s choices. And Y will undoubtedly learn much from this experience — but what a price to pay — if I’m right about it. Not that I hope I’m right about it. In fact, I hope things somehow do work out for Y. It’s just hard for me to see how that’s going to happen, given what details I know of the circumstance.

Anyway, it reminds me of this insightful tidbit from a longer piece that is generally attributed to Colin Powell but for which other origins have been claimed: “The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate — for the good and the bad. … If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights.”

I myself had to learn the hard way just how costly surrounding myself with the wolves could be. The wrong company leeches into your system like poison; don’t drink that Kool-Aid, man!

Kool-Aid Man

The Kool-Aid Man seems like your friend…but is he? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the immortal words of Rushmore, “With friends like (that), who needs friends?”

This brings me to the following poem, which to me represents the natural conclusion to my own trials and tribulations with the wrong crowd: Sometimes it’s best to just be on your own, even if you’re lonely; to wait for worthy company that can help you soar manifest itself in your life instead of settling for less.

“Samurai Song” by Robert Pinsky

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

How Do Non-parents Make Friends as Adults?

Last weekend put me on the East Coast, in the middle of one of those artsy-fartsy restaurants New York City specifically is known for. A group of about 30 people had gathered there to celebrate Jesus’ nephew’s coming.

Jesus Christ Lamb Mormon

What’s up, kid? Get it — kid! (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

Well, baptism, technically, but you get what I mean.

After three hours — yeah, I kid you not, three frickin’ hours (and not in that French way where everybody sits there for eons because it’s the European way to do shiz) — people finally started gathering their things to leave for the evening, because I’m pretty sure I recall things correctly when I say the sun was already starting to set by then, the whole meal took so long. But that is another story.

French-Cafe-Patio

Let us seet ere for ouwers, Jean-Luc, and deescuss zee dumb Americains. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The core party, of which I was a member, was naturally last to leave. We gathered up the gifts and such, piled on the layers (as it was an awesome-in-the-most-sarcastic-sense-possible 30ish degrees out), and were just about to leave when the new baby mommy (that’s Jesus’ sister) noticed a couple nearby who also had a baby. She struck up a conversation with them about parenthood (duh), and eventually, they exchanged contact information.

Wha-wha-what? What is this that I just witnessed?

Black Magic

Baby black magic! (Photo credit: ihave3kids)

Total strangers breaking down the traditional social barriers to potentially become friends — and all because of a baby.

Now, this type of behavior is nothing new. You may have even witnessed it yourself IRL at some point. This just happened to be my first time, but it really got me thinking.

See, I don’t plan to have kids. Nothing against them, I suppose; I just have too much I want to accomplish in my own life, and I know myself well enough to know that, since I’m the type of person who gives pretty much everything I take on my 110 percent, there’s only so much I’m going to be able to take on without sacrificing other things that are really important to me — and that, I’m really not willing to do.

For one. I have a myriad other reasons I don’t want kids, and those of you who know me already know many of them. The above is probably the most important one, though.

But…moving on.

English: Example of a shocker. Personal photo,...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s no shocker that, as people get older, it can become harder to meet people and build genuine friendships. I say “can become” because clearly, some people have little problem with this — as evidenced by Jesus’ sister.

But this is where things get interesting for me, because she would’ve never talked to them — nor them to her — if they both weren’t babied up.

So where does that leave the unbabied in this realm of building relationships in adulthood? Do we just get dogs, go to a dog park, and hope for the best? What if we don’t want dogs, either? Then what?

Seriously, though, who wouldn't want this dog?

Who wouldn’t want this dog, though? For real.

I started thinking about this really seriously, and the only conclusion I could come to is, we’d all need to start wearing badges with our interests printed on them. I mean, they could be cool badges — pieces of flair, if you will — but there still needs to be some sensory-gripping mechanism that grabs the attention of like-minded unbabied people and serves to connect them with each other.

Because we’re not talking the Internet, people. We’re talking about real people, people. Those people in your grocery store, the restaurant down the street, the movie theater, the parking garage, the dark alley…

English: Buick Electra in a dark alley in Istanbul

I’m happy to be your friend, little girl… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Never had I felt at such a disadvantage by being a non-mama. Granted, this one drawback to me does not come close to touching the many benefits of not having children, but it is noticeable and, at least to me, somewhat disturbing.

Mentorship

Awhile back, I met a friend’s coworker; this coworker happened to be a creative writing major like myself. The friend had been, like, super-excited to finally connect us — the idea being that I, writing both creatively and professionally — would somehow be able to impart some wisdom or inspiration upon this person who, younger than me, had gotten a job, but one that was nowhere even remotely close to a writing gig.

 

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wond...

We are definitely not at University of Iowa anymore, Dorothy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, there were a few things wrong with this picture from the get-go:

 

  1. My dear friend, while meaning well, had expectations that were almost guaranteed to implode into a black hole of doom.
  2. Millennial — need I say more?
  3. Did this coworker even want a writing job?

Although you’ve probably already guessed it, allow me to confirm that our meeting each other did not go well. I mean, it wasn’t a knock-down throw-out or anything — other people were present, after all — but it was rather awkward.

English: The Bennett Sisters

Catfight! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For one, I got the sense that this person was rather — well, for lack of a better term, I suppose — shallow. The conversation somehow got onto the topic of workplace gossip — she an advocate, because she thinks it’s “how females in an office bond”; me a stern rejector of this behavior for countless reasons, not to mention the fact that I was appalled on a feminist level by the statement.

 

Perhaps we just got off on the wrong foot with that.

 

But what’s kind of strange is that before this, I was having a conversation with someone among the group who’d studied literature. That was good times — probably two hours’ worth. I noticed, however, that gossipy coworker never once joined in.

Novels in a Polish bookstore

Books. Meh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, perhaps she’s the type that doesn’t join into conversations others are having readily…though I have to admit I’d find that difficult to believe, being that she’s predisposed to office-cooler talk.

 

Which brings me to the other conclusion: she just plain didn’t care. About literature or about writing.

 

Afterwards, I got the “So, what’d you think of my coworker?” question from my friend.

 

“Well, I’m not really sure she wants to be a writer. I mean, I know that’s what her degree’s in and all, but not everybody’s serious about it.”

 

“But isn’t it a waste of her degree to be doing XYZ job instead of a writing job like you? I just thought if you could talk to her about it — mentor her or something — she might be more inclined to pursue it.”

 

Hmm.

Description unavailable

This is about to get all Single White Female on me, isn’t it? (Photo credit: muckster)

True or not, I’m never going to have that talk with her. And it’s not even because I’m not particularly fond of her; I’ve known plenty of fellow writers I haven’t adored and who haven’t dug me, either, but there’s usually still been a level of professional respect, and we’ve helped each other out nevertheless.

 

No, the reasons I’m not going to try to mentor this person are actually much simpler than that:

 

  1. It’s kinda not my responsibility, and
  2. I’m fairly certain she’s not interested.

Now, my friend isn’t a meddler, though perhaps an assumer. My friend has nothing but the best intentions here. And I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have had quite a few mentors in my life who’ve made remarkable differences in it, so I understand how essential mentorship can be to living up to one’s full potential. But mentorship, like any other relationship, is quite simple: both parties have to be interested. And in this case, neither are.

Two girls

Besties? Meh. (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

This question of responsibility to one another, though, somewhat complicates this matter, and that’s why I’m writing this blog. See, when you really think about it, everyone is always looking for something — “interested,” in other words. And I’m of the spiritual belief that everybody’s here to give something to the world as well.

 

It’s good to be aware of when you’re not the right person to give another that thing you know they’re looking for.

 

But I wonder, is there any way that we can be the living example to those who seem blind to it? Should this even be something we strive toward?

 

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It’s Hard Being Smart in a Stupid World

No sooner had I put down the issue of I3 (It Is Innovation) I recently snagged from the Consumer Electronics Show, which featured Alexis Ohanian (one of Reddit’s co-founders), than I heard that Aaron Swartz (former co-owner of Reddit) had committed suicide.

And after months of being inundated with CES-related press releases detailing the legendary advances made in 2012 alone in the technology arena, this sad news recalled a truth I’ve held dear for some time:

It is hard being smart in a stupid world.

English: Muppets at the Museum of American His...

For the record, that IS actually what I mean when I say, “It ain’t easy being green.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And it’s painfully obvious how really, really, supremely, insanely stupid that world is when you think about how few people actually have the smarts to be able to develop technology. Some people can’t even figure out how to turn on their TVs.

Granted, plenty of stupid people kill themselves too, so it’s not like the phenomenon is exclusive to the brilliant. And certainly, a history of mental illness and fear of criminal conviction played their roles in this aforementioned case.

Nor is genius limited strictly to one area of study. For some reason, Swartz’s suicide made me think of the suicide of David Foster Wallace, whom most of my fellow creative writing colleagues know for his literary virtuosity (although here are some more unusual facts about him).

This subsequently reminded me of the time I saw him and Peter Rock read their work at the University of Arizona. This was back in 2002. I made the trek from L.A. back to Tucson to my alma mater specifically for it, and I was not disappointed, although Wallace actually did not finish the essay he was reading (which I thought was unusual at the time, but might’ve actually been a really great sales tactic).

2002-07-22 - Drunk thigh exercise.JPG

And if you order now, we’ll give you this used jock strap for free! (Photo credit: chrisrockshard)

Anyway, the thing I remember most distinctly about this event was a completely moronic question that came from the audience after the authors were finished. Actually, I don’t remember the question; I just remember it being that stupid — and yes, there are stupid questions, no matter what your politically correct teacher told you. If you’ve ever been to even one reading of literary fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, you will know the question type of which I speak. It’s usually along the lines of the following:

  1. Where did you get the idea for this story/essay/poem?                                   This question is dumb because who the heck really knows where ideas come from? Seriously. Similarly, who the heck really knows how the idea turned into the finished piece, or how far departed the finished piece might be from the original idea? But even if you did know, would you really divulge this part of your creative process? Come on, now!
  2. What are your writing habits?                                                                              I write only in the nude because I don’t want my clothes to smell like the feces I’m flinging around with the chimps I just had an orgy with. Aren’t you sorry you asked? Or do you foolishly expect that if you do the same, you’ll be equally successful?
  3. How did you become such a great writer?                                                     Um, probably by writing a lot. But aren’t you really asking how you can become a great — and by “great,” you probably mean “successful/accomplished/paid/worshiped/doable” — writer? In which case, how should the person you’re asking know?
Fanboy

Back off, fanboy. (Photo credit: Cayusa)

Whatever that question was, I remember how Wallace reacted, though his actual verbal response escapes me. He glanced over at Rock as if to ocularly communicate, “Fellow writer of significance, is this pathetic mortal serious?” then gave a response that was completely snarky but equally over the asker’s head, so that by the end, the dolt was actually thanking Wallace for his response.

I’m not sure if that gratitude was edifying or horrifying for Wallace; my guess is it was a little of both. As one of the people who picked up on the undertones, I found myself internally applauding him (because it seemed like some shiz I would want to pull, as I hate stupid), but I also know if I’d done something like that, I’d feel like a jerk — mostly because that behavior actually defines people as jerks — so I found myself slightly repulsed by him as well.

clemente's deep fried twinkie

Too much? Then why can’t I turn away? (Photo credit: goodiesfirst)

Torn by conflicting sentiments about this act, I had to contemplate what was at the heart of my emotional dilemma, and at the end of the day, it is this: Stupidity should be something we hold others (and ourselves) accountable for, but there may simply be no good way to do so.

Which, again, is why it’s hard being smart in a stupid world. And when you’re that smart — like, Wallace smart, Swartz smart, Turing smart, Plath smart, Van Gogh smart, Gilman smart, Tchaikovsky smart, Sexton smart, Woolf smart — stupidity multiplies exponentially in the face of your aptitude.

The Grand Challenge Equations: San Diego Super...

And the answer is…you suck! (Photo credit: dullhunk)

Now, I am certainly not under the delusion that I’m on this level, but even within the level at which I reside, I find a majority of people really hard to deal with. And I look around at my intelligent friends — most of whom are still single — and I feel like I understand why, especially if they’re women. You simply can’t hold a relationship down if you’re talking quantum physics and your partner’s talking basic arithmetic.

Well, unless you’re John McAfee, but that dude’s just clinical with a capital C.

McAfee at CeBIT 2008.

Those towers do look mighty symbolic, if you know what I mean… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actually, many people in the list above struggled with mental illness, addiction, or something of that sort. Perhaps a function of the thing that makes you that bloody brilliant is that it will also make you psychotic — just the other side of the same coin you hold, I guess.

Or maybe it’s just plain hard to be human. But that’s a far less amusing blog title.

George-W-Bush edit

Plus, he looks pretty dang happy. Ignorance DOES equal bliss! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Love/Hate Relationship With the Holidays

Oh, the holidays.

OK, I need to pause now (yes, already) for a moment of lyrical drama from Whitney Houston that encapsulates my sentiments at this sentimental time:

English: Whitney Houston performing "Savi...

I get so emotional, baby, every time I think of you-ou-ou… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s almost over. After all the planning, the shopping, the cooking, the hustle and bustle, more planning, more shopping, eating, passing out in a carb coma, waking up again in a pool of your own sweat (is that sweat?), wondering who the people are on the floor next to you and where their clothes are…

Wait — wrong story.

(Blame my mom; she brought the Magic Mike DVD over to watch this week.)

Some people dread the holidays, and for many totally valid reasons. Me, I guess I kind of view them as a time of power-multitasking — which, naturally, someone like myself would be into. I don’t so much mind all the shopping, nor do I mind the preparations involved in anticipation of guests — which this year for me included my mom and sister. My mom and I even cooked our first turkey together (well, my first turkey, her ten-millionth).

Dana Carvey as The Church Lady

Well, isn’t that special? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No, I actually love the holidays. To me, it’s time off to do out-of-the-ordinary things with people I don’t get to see that much anymore. They say variety is the spice of life, and few things bring more variety to my actually quite regimented life than the holidays, even if I demand to be the elf that gets to pass out the gifts every year (and you best believe I do, yo).

It seems like no matter what I do, though, there’s always a point where I get majorly bummed out. As a kid, it was after the presents were opened. Downer! Now that I’m older, it’s become when my company leaves. It’s a good thing Jesus is here to talk me off the frickin’ ledge.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Do you know how many of my friends told me to wish my boyfriend a happy birthday this Christmas? Seriously, the Jesus joke never gets old. NEVER. (Photo credit: mimitalks, married w/children)

I will return to “normal life” soon, head back to the office and begin the new year, complete with a new assignment list, a new round of trade shows to attend, even a new publication to help launch. I will begin attacking my new list of personal goals for 2013; I finally got smart this year and kept it short at four. Yes, there will be much to keep me busy since, happily and sadly, the world did not in fact come to an end.

English: A bored person

We’re still here? Well, shiz, what do I do now? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But right now, I am looking at my Christmas tree (which will come down New Year’s Day), listening to the washer and dryer churn and burn, and I’m reflecting on holidays past.

I’ve had many a crappy holiday in my life — not gonna lie. It wasn’t that we were struggling financially or I got stranded in an airport or anything like that, either…so perhaps I really don’t know what it is to have a truly crappy holiday. But relatively speaking, in Raegenland, my crappy holidays generally occurred because of the people I spent them with (or sometimes, conversely, the people I didn’t spend them with). Sometimes there was drama; who could forget the Christmas my a**f*** ex-stepbrother told my sister and I Santa wasn’t real? Sometimes there was tragedy; who could forget the Christmas — or more specifically, the day after — when Aunt Mary passed? Sometimes there was just a plain lack of caring; insert the overwhelming majority of ex-boyfriend-related Christmases here.

But I’ve had some great holidays, too. I remember one year we took our now Heaven-dwelling Izzy with us to Winterhaven in Tucson — one of the happiest times of her life. I remember my New Year’s with Jess in Sedona. I remember my only New Year’s (thus far) spent on the Strip; that’s about as crazy as things get. Now I have this year’s Christmas to add to the list.

And these are the ones that are always the hardest to get over, as with any heartache, I suppose.

My mom and sister both left today after a whole week warp-speeded by, thanks to Father Time or Mr. Sulu — one or the other. So it is with bittersweet emotions that I have reached the point where I must say, “Eff you, holiday, for doing this to me! Goodbye forever, and good riddance!”

Get out, get out, get out of my life!

Get out, get out, get out of my life!

Seriously, though…will you come back again already?

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Your Dreams Will Haunt You the Rest of Your Life

I’m not talking about the sleeping dreams that really qualify more as nightmares from which you awaken in a pool of your own urine sweat and feel compelled to wake someone else up and prattle on about them until you realize that person has actually fallen back to sleep on you, and you get just mad enough about that to forget your horrible dreams and be able to fall back to sleep yourself.

I’m so mad at you right now, I’m either going to smother you with this pillow or zzzzzzzzzzz…

Nor am I talking about the dreams Brandon’s students stories end up being.

I’m talking about real-life dreams — the illustrious crap you think it’s important to accomplish in your lifetime, no matter what that illustrious crap may be.

Recently, I was talking to someone I’ve known for quite some time. Have you ever had the experience where you’ve known someone for, like, at least a decade, if not longer, and you realize that, while some of the things you talk to each other about have changed, there’s, like, this one thing that’s sort of lingered on throughout the years — some kind of unfinished business either you, the other person, or both have to address but still haven’t?

We have unfinished business. Do not forget.

That’s called a dream. And that dream will haunt you the rest of your life.

Doubt it? Just talk to Langston Hughes.

“A Dream Deferred”

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Then ask yourself why you’re still talking about this thing 10 (or more) years later. You wouldn’t need to if it really wasn’t that important to you (i.e., really wasn’t a dream of yours after all), you’d satiated the desire through accomplishment, or you’d otherwise made peace with it through action.

70.365 No Escape

Embrace your dreams! No, that’s just your pillow, dude. (Photo credit: fmgbain)

This is what came out of my mouth to the person I was talking to during our most recent conversation. And, “Wow, I was not expecting that,” was what the person said in response. Believe me, I was just as shocked by my statement as the other person was and perhaps you are. I like to think that when something like this happens, I’ve just been a conduit for what that person really needed to hear. But maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better. Plus, I’ve also heard that we only say what we really need to hear ourselves, which I think might hold some truth as well (although as applied to my life, I think that comment would be more a statement of impatience as opposed to inaction on my part).

I don’t think I’m particularly special here when I say I’m aware of many people’s dreams. It’s not like I’m a mind reader or something. Anyone who has the opportunity to know a person long enough (or sometimes even a short time, actually) and figure out what that person’s conversations revolve around can decipher what another’s dreams are.

I’m seeing… that you want… me. Oh, wait — that’s just my reflection. Never mind.

Often, they’re not even that “spectacular” — by typical “dream” standards, anyway. Most people don’t actually want to be astronauts, millionaires, or the president (although they wouldn’t necessarily turn these things down, either). Perhaps that’s why people sometimes don’t really realize that what they’re obsessing about is actually a dream.

One person I know has a dream of finding Mr. Right and building the family that person never had growing up.

Another has a dream of finding Ms. Right and for the first time having a healthy, satisfying romantic relationship.

Another has a dream of being truly loved, of finding someone who isn’t shallow and stupid — someone who will not care how time and illness has affected this person’s body.

Another has a dream of making music.

Another has a dream of starting a business.

Another has a dream of simply leading a peaceful existence.

These are what most real dreams look like. They sound ordinary or perhaps even — gasp! — boring to the rest of us.

But to the person who’s dreaming of it, that shiz is off the chain, and life is pretty much not worth living unless there’s the possibility of fulfilling the dream during it — whether this person admits that to him/herself or not.

I’m off the chain while on the chain. Whatcha got to say about that?

So here’s the thing: I know some people’s dreams. I even gave you examples, for goodness’ sake. And in all likelihood, if I know these to be people’s dreams, they know these are their dreams, too. With this kind of awareness, we should all be able to easily just go out and strive to live our dreams, right?

Sounds like it should be that easy. Actually, it probably is that easy.

The problem is, people don’t actually believe it’s that easy. Another problem is that people engage in self-sabotaging behavior that makes it more difficult to achieve their dreams.

This turned out to be hard work! Think I’ll just go drink a beer instead.

I admire the courage — well, or sheer desperation along the lines of the famous Henry David Thoreau quote — this person had to be willing to admit to me the dream lives on. I know many people have (consciously or subconsciously) given up talking to me about their dreams, mostly because they’re smart enough to know I’m going to say something like, “Your dreams will haunt you the rest of your life if you don’t do something about them.” In other words, I’m insanely impatient hearing about the same thing for more than 10 years while seeing no efforts being put forth to change it, because I want the people I love to be happy, and living dreams can make them happy. In other other words, I’m not going to let people get away with lying to themselves or to me about their dreams. In other other other words, when no one else will, I will always try to hold people accountable to their dreams.

Shock of the world, some don’t like this about me. Shock of the world, some don’t like me period.

But I digress.

Here’s the bottom line: It doesn’t matter what the dream, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of the dream, and it doesn’t matter how much you might try to go mess things up for yourself in attempt to distance yourself from a true dream; it will haunt you if you don’t try to live it.

It's a ghost!

A ghost of your unlived dream isn’t as cute as this, though — just FYI. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Look around you. You can tell so, so very much about people by just watching and listening to them. You can tell if they’re living their dreams or not. I know someone who sits on a computer all day instead of trying to live the dream. I know someone who pursues degree after degree but never finishes any of them instead of trying to live the dream. I know someone who’s settled on the wrong person instead of trying to live the dream. I know someone who’s had kids instead of trying to live the dream.

So what can be done? The problem is ultimately rooted in each person’s mind. This much is clear when you hear those inspirational stories of people who have gone on to achieve greatness in spite of missing limbs, persecution, or crazy baby daddies (or mamas — whatever).

So the solution — or at least the beginning of it, anyway — must be to change your mind. You’ve got to start believing your dreams can come true. Then, you must start to build up the courage to try to live your dreams again. Courage, like snowballs, can start small but accumulate into something huge enough to bruise some neighborhood bully’s face with.

English: The Snowball Русский: Снежок

Pack it nice and good, now! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For example, want to write a book? Start with writing a word. I actually saw this hilarious  journal titled One Word a Day, which was extremely tempting… until I remembered how long-winded I am. But this would be a great place to start for someone who needs to build the courage to start writing that book. You may not see how, but I do.

See, the trick isn’t actually to achieve one’s goal (and no, I’m not going to tell you, “Life’s a journey, not a destination,” because that’s really not the point, though I think it’s true). The trick is to simply do something to try to achieve it.

Because the reality is, if you never try, you have absolute certainty that you will never live your dream. What you do have to live with, however, is that decision — for the rest of your life… or until you choose otherwise. The butt clowns who tell you you can’t live your dream don’t. That’s why it’s so easy for them to say that to you. They get to go on being butt clowns completely untroubled by your unlived dream. You, on the other hand, will be haunted for the rest of your life by it. And that will make you unhappy.

Doesn’t the picture just say it all?

So why not try? You may not get there, but so what? You can — and likely will — be happy while trying just knowing you’re trying. And who knows? You may actually get there during the process. And then you’ll be living the dream. Which would be awesome.

I do know people who are living their dreams — or at least one of them. They are happy. They may not bounce around all geeked up on Red Bulls like motivational speakers, but they are jubilant nevertheless. They may still be disgruntled or dismayed by certain things in life, but they are also still smiling through and through. So to my telephone friend — and anyone else who can relate to this — I say, why shouldn’t this also be you?

Boundaries, people!

This blog is written in honor of M, who, after reading last week’s blog, said something to the following effect:

“Haven’t you met anyone who just shares way too much?”

Yes, M. Yes, I have.

In fact, I haven’t just known that guy; I’ve been that guy. That Guy Who Shares the Wrong Things With the Wrong People. That Guy Who Knows No Boundaries.

Speedo-burn by kenichihoshine from flikr

This guy — well, metaphorically speaking, anyway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not ashamed to admit that. We all come from somewhere. We all have things to learn in life.

I come from my family — more to the point, the Italian side of my family, which played a larger role in my life than the Polish side. And I don’t care what anyone says about the following being “stereotypical,” because the simple fact is that the Italian side of my family does know when daughter Sophia’s been robbed blind by her loser boyfriend, Aunt Contessa stops taking her “special pills,” and cousin Vinnie, conversely, takes a dump. Names and details have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent, but you get what I mean.

Italian nurses

Huzzah! Our yeast infections just cleared up! (Photo credit: timefornurses)

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t have a loving family. I’m simply pointing out that some people are more comfortable with this level of information being shared with and known among a group than others, and that comfort level can change at any point in one’s life. I’m also asking you, dear readers, to keep these things in mind when you consider how a person becomes the person she or he becomes, because the company you keep — whether by blood or by choice — does affect you. It’s not a matter of blame but of illustrating the simple nature of existence: Patterns of learned behavior can go unquestioned for a long time — sometimes even for one’s entire life.

I’m actually surprised I didn’t learn the importance of boundaries, of privacy, much earlier in life. I’ve always been somewhat secretive by nature — sometimes with the right things, thankfully. But sometimes with the wrong things, too. And Lord knows I’ve trusted plenty of unsavory types who might’ve used my “secrets” to exploit me at many points along my life’s journey. In the end, the only way to keep a secret — in fact, the only way to actually have a secret, if you really think about it — is to tell no one, someone much smarter than me once said.

Invisible Ribbon

Can you find the secret? No? EXACTLY. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I actually didn’t experience life-altering, smack-you-in-the-face-obvious betrayal — at least, not of this particular flavor — until I was in my 30s. Around that time, people I entrusted with a very personal secret used it — at least in part — to drag my name through the mud and otherwise make my life a living hell (as much as they could, anyway). And while yes, their behavior was their choice, I’d been stupid and I suppose desperate enough at the time to have confided in these goons, and I’m responsible for that — namely, not respecting my own boundaries properly.

Margaret Hamilton as the Witch in the 1939 fil...

The real-life wicked witch of the West is only slightly less green with jealousy, as it turns out. You have been warned. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a part of this “boundaries” equation that’s always going to be tricky for me, though, even if I’ve flushed most (if not all) of the goonage out of my life: I happen to be a writer. More specifically, I’m the type of writer that believes perhaps one should do something useful with the things she’s learned in life and share them, in the hopes that those looking for a light in the darkness as I once was will find it. And I’m a huge fan of the quote by Anne Lamott that goes, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” If that tells you anything about me. And it should.

FAIL

Think this guy will come to regret this picture? Meh, probably not as much as Speedo guy once he figures out he’s gone viral. (Photo credit: Rob Boudon)

It’s a tricky balance, maintaining one’s personal boundaries while at the same time using one’s experience for the purpose of self-exploration as well as education. Boundaries as a writer are a whole other can of worms — if you’re the kind of writer I am, anyway. I think part of it is about control; if I decide to share something publicly through writing, that’s fine, but if I’ve entrusted someone else with that something as a secret and that person shares it, that’s uncool, mostly because I didn’t choose to make it public; that other person did. But over the past few years, I’d say it’s become clear to me that certain things in everyone’s lives really should probably remain private. Some of these may have been obvious to you, but again, just keep in mind that where you’ve come from is different from where I’ve come from.

Here are just a couple of those “certain things” most hope you (and me) would just keep to yourself:

1. You sex life. There are very few people who should ever know anything about it. Period. Or maybe exclamation point. Part of the problem is, women grow up watching asinine programs like Sex and the City — oh, yeah, bwotches, I went there! — and think this type of information sharing is key to female bonding. And guys grow up thinking talking about women like pieces of meat is somehow key to male bonding. Let me tell you what it is actually key for: making those who engage in this sort of behavior look like ignorant, inconsiderate morons. I’m not saying people shouldn’t talk about abuse, curing sexually transmitted diseases or contraception. I’m saying keep the sexcapades where they happened. If people wouldn’t tell their friends about their conquests if said conquests were present, that’s a pretty good indicator that they shouldn’t be speaking about it. And if those conquests wouldn’t care if this sort of information was shared or were even there when it was shared, those sad people clearly haven’t figured out proper boundaries, either (not to mention self-respect — but if they had that, they wouldn’t be sleeping with the likes of Herpes McSyphilis, now, would they?).

Sex and the City 2

Burn this DVD. You’ll feel better. I will, too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. You’d be better off keeping your finances to yourself. Let me tell you from experience that there are few things worse than confiding in someone that you got some kind of raise, bonus, severance, inheritance, whatever, and not even a week later, that same person asks you for money. (That was an awkward conversation.)

There are more, of course — and most would point to religion, politics, health issues, and even sexual orientation as being some of them, though I’d disagree to varying extents — but the most important point here is to know your own personal boundaries. Think of it this way: If the thought of your worst enemy knowing what you’re about to tell Sally in Accounting makes you uncomfortable, don’t tell Sally, because you never know when she might become your worst enemy. It happened here, folks. (Again, names and details have been changed to protect the, well, in this case, not-at-all-innocent.)

English: Picture of a water cooler with a litt...

This water cooler may look innocent enough, but do not be fooled: It’s the Antichrist’s accomplice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one thing I can be grateful for with respect to my 30s’ eye-opener is that I was already growing conscious of the fact that I was feeling uncomfortable with certain information being in the hands of others in general, some more specifically. What was I doing that raised my awareness and led me to make some different life choices — choices that went against the behavior I’d grown up around and subsequently imitating in my earlier years?

Until my memoir is finished, my friends, that part of the story must remain a secret. 😉