just call me raegen


Tag: learning

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.

What to Do When You Hate Your Job

Ah, the office — the workplace of modernity.

Cubicles in a now-defunct co-working space in ...

News flash: Calling them “cubes” doesn’t make them any less horrifying. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whoever invented it should’ve been shot.

That’s not to say people outside an office don’t equally hate their jobs. Let’s be fair.

But seriously, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, unless you’re cleaning up bodily secretions, it’s rarely the actual job any of us hate. No, my friends, as Jean-Paul Sartre once said, “Hell is other people.” Especially when you don’t get to choose them yourself. But even sometimes when you do.


Best frienemies forever! (Photo credit: prc1333)

I’d venture to guess that 99.9 percent of problems in the workplace boil down to people. Not challenged at your job? Someone created that job description and is keeping you in that position, right? That’s a people problem. Conversely, do you have too much to do? A person made that decision as well. Can’t move up in the company? That’s another people problem. Company losing money? Either the leadership can’t manage money properly, or it can’t resonate with customers. Not getting paid enough? Who’s writing your paycheck?

Simply put, there is no shortage of poorly run companies or people who run them that way.

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

Look familiar? (Photo credit: nhanusek)

While mobility will likely continue to raise the number of remote workers — and potentially, people’s sanity along with it — the overwhelming majority of today’s jobs force people perhaps created for the sole purpose of loathing each other together in cramped, stinking spaces to fulfill that despicable destiny.

Are you one of them?

I was. I’m not ashamed to say it. On two occasions, I found myself acutely aware that if I possessed the mad skills of setting people on fire through telekinesis a la Carrie, I would use them.

Why do I always come back to Stephen King? It's a mystery!

Why do I always come back to Stephen King? It’s a mystery!

I’m not an evil person. I’m not even a rebel. Heck, I still feel guilty for hitting my sister when I was five. (Sorry, K.)

But this is what a terrible workplace will have any reasonably sane person fantasizing about in his or her spare time. (And yes, I am reasonably sane; I’ve had workplaces that I loved, so it isn’t some personal mental issue or beef I eventually end up having at every job I hold, although perhaps my tolerance for BS is lower than the average person’s.)

Here are the signs that you’re in a work environment that’s unhealthy for you (admitting you have a problem is the first step, as they say):

1. You feel mentally ill. “Has the world gone mad? How can anyone work in a place like this? What’s wrong with these people? Why isn’t everyone else freaking out the way I am? Are they? They can’t be, or else they wouldn’t still be here. Why are they still here? Is it me? Is there something wrong with me that I can’t stand to be here, and they can?” Or perhaps you simply just can’t stop thinking about work – ever.

Obsession. Insert your name.

Obsession. Insert your name.

I remember what it was like, brooding every day at work, dreading the next piece of turd that would hit the fan, knowing it was coming, knowing there was no amount of guessing that could predict what would actually come or when, brooding anyway. I remember the chaos, the lying, the harassment, the degradation, the downright illegal activities, even the false accusations. I remember driving home, not remembering how I even got there, that’s how consumed with brooding I became. In my apartment, I would sit, and my eyes would pass over words on pages, but I wasn’t reading. I’d turn on the TV and stare at the screen, but I wasn’t really watching. I wasn’t present at all, actually; I was still brooding about one insane thing or another that happened at work. I’d go to bed still thinking about it; I’d have nightmares — all about work, of course, which, lucky me, I’d remember upon waking. Then I’d fear those nightmares would come true for the entire duration of the drive to the office.

2. You feel physically ill. As if you’ve been possessed by a demonic spirit, the thought of being at work sends chunks of recently consumed food items back up your gullet for an encore. It really doesn’t get clearer than this, folks. Suze Orman said so, and she knows her shiz. Even if you can mentally deny how profoundly your workplace is affecting you, your body will always tell the truth.

Lejos del civo

I have exorcised the demon! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When things got really bad at some of my former workplaces, I’d wake up every morning — even Sunday mornings — knowing I’d have to return to hell soon, and I’d immediately feel my stomach acid start a-churnin’. I popped Pepto pills just to get through the infinite, infinitely painful days. Thinking of what I put my body through to endure things I never should’ve had to makes me almost as sick as some of my former workplaces did. It also reminds me of a little story this old friend of mine who, upon breaking up with his most recent ex, confided in me: Toward the end of the relationship, he had to start taking antidepressants just to be able to be around her. That’s scary stuff. If you’re taking meds of any kind just to go to work, something is very, very wrong.

3. You feel spiritually ill. You don’t have to be religious to experience this — though if you are, I probably don’t have to explain any further. Plots of vengeance and homicide flood your otherwise Golden-Ruled brain. You think of negative things that make you feel like your worst, basest self instead of the kind, good-natured spirit you actually are. You had dreams once. What were they again?

Jailbird Lindsay Lohan

A broken spirit looks like this. (Photo credit: AZRainman)

Like I was telling a colleague of mine who finds himself in a really bad work environment right now, there’s something about a terrible job that just strips you down to your bare bones. It can rob you of everything good in your life and even in your self. Drained of energy and will, how could I even think of cooking dinner, let alone strive to achieve my personal goals, after so many days in hell? I started looking at others differently, negatively — even if they weren’t my coworkers. I started looking at myself differently. “Good people don’t have dark thoughts like mine, right? Smart people would’ve been able to get a new job already, right? Anyone worth a crap could just snap themselves out of it and go on their merry way, right?”

When your spirit gets crushed to this degree, you’re at your most vulnerable, your most pliable, your most assimilatable. This is how the people you work with who’ve been in hell for so long — aka “the lifers” — still find it in themselves to show up there every day. They’ve been brainwashed. They’ve settled. Their souls are dead. Very likely, they now perpetrate the very behavior that crushed their dreams, because dream-crushing is all that brings them any sort of joy now. (The other ones are probably much like you — looking for an escape route.)

English: Escape Route (signs) Deutsch: Fluchtw...

I’m thinking this translates to, “Hey, you, dude in the picture up here, RUN!” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, when your spirit gets crushed to this degree, you’re also at your most willing to make an absolutely necessary change in your life. A very smart man once told me, “Until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing, people stay the same.” Your darkest hour is actually the one in which you’re most willing to fight for your soul.

So how do you do that?

1. Look for a new job. Start yesterday. I know the market’s tough. I know the odds might seem like they’re against you. But eventually, something will pan out. It always does. In the meantime, the very act will empower you.

You may have to consider opportunities or wages that you might not have be willing to before, but don’t worry. Even this next job you land doesn’t have to be your final destination. You just need sanctuary from hell right now. Just be sure you don’t land yourself in a hellier hell. (Good news is, you know what to look for now to avoid this.)

Dante And Virgil In Hell by William-Adolphe Bo...

In your versions, people will have their clothes on, though, of course. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Do anything else that empowers you. Go to the gym. Take a class. Volunteer at a local charity. Read this book. Make a playlist (mine included “Walk On” by U2, “Control” by Poe, “This Is the Day” by The The, “Float On” by Modest Mouse, ‘The Remedy” by Jason Mraz, “Move Along” by The All-American Rejects, and even “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor). Whatever. But do something that reminds you of the amazing person you truly are and have always been.

3. Distract yourself. Anytime you are not at work — and even sometimes when you are — do whatever you need to do to take your mind off brooding about work. My mind’s pretty active, so I required overstimulation (heh-heh). Talking on the phone while shopping, because if I was quiet, I started thinking, and the first thing I thought about was hell. Cleaning with familiar music blasting that I would force myself to sing to, because singing made me think of the words instead of hell. But you may be the meditative type — in which case, go sit cross-legged somewhere or grab a yoga mat.

English: Downward-Facing-Dog Български: Адхо М...

Just make sure you don’t stand right behind this lady, if you know what I mean. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No matter what, no matter how long it seems like it’s been or how long it seems like it might be before you’re finally free, keep the faith. This too shall pass. And when it does — maybe not right away, but a month, year, or even decade later — I hope that, like me, you’ll smile, grateful that your tour in Hades is over, thankful for all you really did learn from the experience.

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Careful What You Can’t Wish For?

Prepare yourselves for “Deep Thoughts” by Jack Handey Raegen.

Remember when SNL was funny? (Photo credit: Amazon.com)

I’ve totally had a quote stuck in my head ever since I read it — this whole week thus far. Which means one of two things: 1) I’m not keeping myself busy enough, or 2) it’s actually got some merit. Here it is:

“Memory is a magnet. It will pull to it and hold only material nature has designed it to attract.” — Jessamyn West

It started out innocently enough — with a consideration of what the quote is actually talking about. Much of my creative writing deals with memory, so right off the bat, I could relate. In fact, I bet all writers are drawing from this wellspring every single time they write — even fiction writers. (Granted, some of us edit memory more heavily than others, but I’m suspect of those who try to tell me it plays no role.)

Plus, I love the metaphor… though honestly, I think you could compare anything to a magnet and get away with it. “But isn’t that what metaphor does?” you might ask. And I would get your point, but I’m just saying that “___ is a magnet” is an easier one to pull off than “___ is an Tesla coil.” But you can take the Pepsi challenge and submit a story or poem based off of the latter below, if you’re so inclined, to try to convince me otherwise.

English: Tesla Coil Sparks. Português: Faíscas...

As Pat Benetar would never say, “Love is a Tesla coil.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A larger assumption posed by this quote is one about nature, and that’s also intriguing. The implication is that nature designs one’s memory, which is a harder sell for me, as I don’t think of Mother Nature that way. Perhaps West was speaking of physical nature, though — genes and chemicals and things biology teachers and doctors know about? That’s more convincing to me, I suppose, but I’m still not sure I wholly agree.

Nevertheless, it’s really the idea of only being able to pull and hold that which this mysterious “nature” character has designed a thing to attract that’s been plaguing me. And yes, I acknowledge that this was likely not at all what West originally meant by what she said. I don’t think it’s even remotely implied. Still, separating the second part of the quote from its opening half and considering the remainder from a more metaphysical perspective, I find myself wondering if this could be true for the future. This is just a typical happening in the mind of Raegen.

Making eggs in baskets

This is your brain on Raegen, because Raegen demands order… and deliciousness. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What if we can only attract or learn what it’s within our imaginative capabilities/consciousness/awareness to conceive?

If you’ve read my blog about attraction (and douchebags), you’ll already know my thoughts on the whole idea of “attracting” things into one’s life. But to sum up, I believe we are responsible for attracting into our lives the lessons we need to learn to set ourselves free from self-hate so our souls can express their higher purposes. We don’t necessarily attract people; we attract lessons.

Think of it this way: If you’re at a keynote, everyone in the audience is listening to the same person speaking. We didn’t all “attract” that person; we made a conscious decision of our own volition to be present at such-and-such event. Or even if you think we did attract that person (for argument’s sake, because I surround myself with argumentative types — you know who you are), everyone’s still going to get something different out of that person and speech — a full range of emotion spanning complete loathing of everything that person is and stands for to an absolute embracing of that person’s message… and perhaps even the person him/herself. Our individual lessons — what we garnered from the experience — that’s the thing that’s attracted.

But how can you attract what you can’t even imagine?

A stainless steel frying pan.

This is your brain on — I don’t know, because I can’t imagine it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s wild to even think about, right? It’s like trying to imagine a color you’ve never seen before. (Someone asked me to do that in high school, and it messed with my mind for, like, a month straight.)

The main thing about Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure that would be different if it happened IRL and I was, say, Socrates (So-crates!) is that I would probably lose my friggin’ mind, having come from a place that didn’t even have electricity, let alone houses with it. TVs and plumbing would destroy me. What’s on and off? Where do the little people in the box go? Heck, where did my poopy go? Poopy heaven? Poopy hell? My whole perspective and understanding about the world would be so compromised, I don’t think I could possibly recover.

Leave it to me to take it to that special dark place. Carol Ann… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to chuckle when I think of the phrase “ahead of his/her time,” because in this context, there can be no such thing. We can have innovators, but even they are working within boundaries — whether they’d like to admit it or not. For example, going back to the Greeks (Am I craving a gyros or something?), they were capable of doing math. But do you think they could imagine how to get from there to a laptop computer? It would’ve been all Greek to them. (Yep, I went there.) I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

Taking out that problematic “attraction” thing for a second (just to take out a cause for argument) and bringing this down to a more personal level, though — which is how I’ve been thinking about it most, actually — how can you possibly pursue the thing that might make you happiest in life if you’re not even aware of its existence (or the possibility of its existence) in the first place?

Yeah, think about that.

Art or coincidence? A toilet that was left out...

Or think about this! (Bet you thought you could escape the evil clutched of my toilet idea, huh?) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know what we know, and we have the capacity to learn beyond that — to a degree. But how can we learn something that isn’t in the world in the first place — or at least on a wavelength we can comprehend?

Don’t get me wrong; believing that there were greater things out there in the world for me allowed me to find those greater things. (And yes, you can argue that the only thing that’s changed is my perception, but that’s not the point here, so stuff it.) But those greater things were still within the confines of what I could imagine as me, today, in 2012, with all the things that means and doesn’t mean. Take closed captioning, for example; it was mind-blowing to find out it was actually people that put those words on a TV screen. I thought it was all computerized, but I was able to adjust fairly quickly because I knew what words, TV, and computers were.

English: Red diode laserbeam on skin. Never lo...

I mean, HAL was capable of murder in 2001: A Space Odyssey; can you blame me for being confused about captioning? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But what would happen if I wished to know or experience something beyond what I could imagine? Would I get it? And if I did, would I even know it? And would that be the worst mistake of my life? What if it turned out to be some sort of spiritual (and perhaps somewhat Faustian) imprisonment — like ceaseless reincarnation for all of infinity? How much would that suck? Or would it? How could I know?

Anyway, like I said at the beginning, I’m not sure if my pondering of this is because I’ve got too much time on my hands or the thought really has merit, but in my own defense — which I may have killed with that closed captioning disclosure — I have been pretty busy these past few months. I will admit that I’m not-so-secretly hoping the question will haunt your soul as deeply as it has mine, though.

Does it? Anyone? Anyone?