Hard Work

I’ve never had ANY inclination towards a professional career. Ever since I was a kid, people would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up and I never had an answer, all I could say was “I don’t know”. It always made me uncomfortable that I didn’t have an answer. And a few decades later, guess what? I STILL don’t know what I should be doing with my time and efforts. I often wonder if I’ll stumble into some sort of career at some point.

I’ve primarily engaged in hobby-level activities. For example: tinkering with computers, writing essays (blogging), making digital art, watching YouTube, playing the tin-whistle & recorder, whittling wood, shooting Nerf & air-soft guns, flying toy drones, playing video-games. I did attempt to become a professional computer-guy & programmer for a few years and I was finally excited to answer the question “so, what do you do for a living?”. But that career was short-lived.

I often hear people praising the virtues of “hard work” and “working hard” and I kinda shrink up, feeling a bit embarrassed. They say things like “earning your keep” and “paving your own way” and a bunch of other stuff in honor of the Protestant Work Ethic. In one sense, I don’t have a desire to “work hard”, but in another sense I feel guilty about not grinding away at some laborious task. I do like hangin-out and passing time in frivolous ways — it just seems like I shouldn’t.

But why not!? Now that I’m starting to understand that life isn’t serious-business, that I’m not engaged in a constant struggle for survival amidst a harsh and brutal landscape, I’m starting to lose this self-imposed constraint. Of course I should be having fun, that’s the POINT!! If life’s a simulation, which I believe it is, the purpose of any game is to enjoy oneself — so if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

I’ve been plagued by these contradictory beliefs my whole life: on one hand, I lack the aspiration to participate in a professional career — on the other hand, I seem to believe that professionalism is a necessary component of self-worth and success i.e. if you’re not a “chef” or “engineer” or whatever, what are you? You can’t simply be “Rich”!? Well one of these contradictory beliefs has to give, and guess which one it’s gonna be?

Relatedly, I’m approaching a test, a deadline. So the question becomes: will I be able to maintain my frivolousness and prove myself worthy of a carefree lifestyle? As the deadline nears, all my external effort is invested in frivolity, tasks that lack utilitarian value. Whereas internally, I’m focusing my thoughts on the enjoyment of existence. There’s no going back now, nor would I want to. Onward! To the lighthearted life!

English Class

It was the early 90s and Mr. Haviland seemed straight out of a different era. While many of us wore baseball caps with t-shirts and jeans, this guy had an actual suit on — with posture and diction to match. He’d often refer to us as Mister or Miss so-and-so — always proper and always polite. Although he wasn’t physically intimidating, his demeanor demanded respect.

A teacher from a bygone age acting his part. We students acted our part too, a listless bunch that didn’t care. We weren’t unique in our disposition of course, we simply expressed it in a manner appropriate to the times we were in. Skateboards, metal-bands, and ridiculing “try-hards” (people that actually cared and tried to do well). Think Beavis and Butt-Head.

While Mr. Haviland proceeded on his anachronistic course, we proceeded on ours — a civil exchange nonetheless. At this point, you’re probably waiting to hear a poignant anecdote. Unfortunately, I don’t have one. I’m not a storyteller. I mention all this simply to remember an interesting character I once knew. I’ve always been in awe at how well he performed his role.

He seemed to enjoy who he was and never varied, a polished professional. I was a freshman when he was my teacher but our paths last crossed in study-hall when he was the teacher-in-charge — taking attendance and doing whatever teachers did (grading papers I’d assume). I never saw him after that. I heard he retired not too many years later, having worked there for a few decades.

In life, there are those that relish their well-defined roles and there are those that avoid being pinned-down by labels. But are those living as nonconformists simply acting out the role of “contrarian” in their wholesale rejection of the status quo? Instead of some “square” that sold his soul to the system, perhaps Mr. Haviland was the most Zen-like of us all.

Playful Experience

To me, the Generation X experience consists of snickering at all that’s wrong with the world. It’s being paralyzed by idealism — unable to participate in a system so flawed. And all the while, the joke’s on me — I’m the straight-man unaware that he’s part of a comedy act — my genuine deadpan makes others roar with laughter.

But pessimism is a one-way path with no way out. When everything looks wrong, there’s no right ways left — everything’s a trap, a disappointment waiting to happen. So the challenge for the Gen X mentality, is in developing a faith in goodness. It’s trusting that blue skies actually exist beyond the ceiling of gray clouds.

The challenge also deals with finding an appropriate role to play. How can a naysayer invest in a flawed facade? “Life’s a joke! And those that pour themselves into it are deluded fools!” But sitting on the outskirts of the performance and hurling insults at the actors is ultimately an unsatisfying position.

And so, the Gen Xer must find a way into the fray, convincing himself that his initial impressions are misguided. The constant stream of negativity must be reined in. “The world is as it should be: an adventure filled with all sorts of activities and challenges — and I too will play my part in this epic escapade.”

It’s not a horrific quest after all: the deletion of derision, the cessation of scorn — putting an end to mockery as a way of life. It’s accepting that there’s delight to be had in the genuine experiences provided by this world. It’s an absurd endeavor as my character attempts to take life less seriously while engaging wholeheartedly in the act of play.

Programmer Part II

I am going to reattach the label of “programmer” to myself. The last time I was serious about programming was approximately eight years ago when I was selling desktop-apps on the Mac App Store. Nothing fancy, just little programs I whipped up.

On one hand, I’ve always been fascinated by programming. But on the other hand, I was never able to create something significant enough to manifest a satisfying career. So after a bunch of years going nowhere, I got fed-up and quit.

As an idealist, I imagined creating the most awesome-est software possible that generated tons of passive-income as I sat there raking-in all the profits and praise. When that didn’t happen, I said “Gah, what’s the use!” and gave-up.

Now I’m setting my sights a LOT lower. My current definition of programmer is: someone that writes and runs code — that’s it. And that’s all I plan to do for now: write and run code. Sure, anyone can type in some pseudo-code, but not everyone can get code to compile.

As I was recently reacquainting myself with programming, it was just sooo familiar. With such an intimate knowledge, how can I not have programming in my life? It’s like family. “Hello C#! So good to see you and .NET again! We should totally reminisce later! Oh hey PHP, ha yeah… you look just like I remember you… ooh who’s that over there!? Hey Godot! Wow, haven’t seen you around, but it seems like I know you already. Hello WebGL, wow you seem like a powerful backend for browsers!”

To me, programming is mostly a means to paint pixels on a screen. Even the text I’m typing is just painted-on pixels — a series of ever-changing specks with varying hues. So my task is to make those little dots dance — and by the power of programming, I shall.

End of Spring 2019

Big things happened in the last twelve months.

For the seven years prior to that, I sat on a big green bean-bag chair located in the corner of our mobile-home’s second-bedroom. It was there where I earnestly confronted my inability to extract enjoyment from life (this blog stems from that). But of course, this is life, and life is meant to be lived — you can’t sit in quiet contemplation forever.

So about eleven months ago, we moved. We sold our mobile-home (for about the cost of a low-end luxury vehicle) and left for a completely different climate. By that point, my wife despised cold, snowy, desolate winters. We moved back to the hot, humid, and happening place we had once lived. Although it was super-hot, it felt good to be back.

The first order of business was finding a place to live. We tried a realtor in town, but nothing suited us. We almost rented an apartment in a far-off area, but my wife wanted something near the school. Being a magician, she found an obscure listing for a condo located exactly where she wanted. We barely met the requirements for renters — but here we are.

On my son’s first ever day of school, and every subsequent day, we were able to walk him across the street to his school. Prior to that, I had homeschooled him for Pre-K and Kindergarten. So now he got to experience a classroom full of kids and field-trips and all that stuff. He even tested into the gifted-program — such a bright little guy.

My personal goal for these twelve months was to actually appreciate and enjoy the experiences I was having. Like I mentioned, we had lived here once before, about a decade ago. And although I recognized how nice things were, I simply couldn’t appreciate my surroundings. Looming-doom and the feeling of inevitable loss were too much in my mind.

This couldn’t be real, and if it was, it couldn’t last. There I was, a software-developer working from my home-office inside of a luxurious top-floor condo, mere minutes away from my childhood happy-place, with a beautiful wife that cooked the most delicious meals I ever tasted. I did it: Success! But as I “predicted”, it crumbled. Or more likely, it was self-sabotaged.

So this second-time around, I was determined to enjoy my surroundings. We picked a nice place to live, we got furniture, we watched fireworks from our balcony, we got annual passes to the amusement park, we walked our son to and from school, we ate at restaurants, we went for leisurely walks, we went trick-or-treating, we got a Costco membership — the suburban dream.

And honestly, yes, I’ve been able to enjoy and appreciate it. BUT, this has literally been my full-time job. I’m such a misanthropic naysaying pessimist, that it took my full concentration and efforts to enjoy myself. Overall I’m pleased with the results, but it leaves me in an awkward position at the end of these twelve months. And that is: can I stay here?

Once the lease is up, I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Although it could’ve caused me worry, I never felt it. In a lot of ways I’ve passed the test. Whereas last time I strained to get here and stressed-out once I arrived, it ultimately didn’t work-out because of my bad attitude — so I’m not going to repeat that mistake. I’m not going to stress and strain because it only leads to a bad-time.

I literally did nothing to get here the second-time around — I simply went along for the ride. It was my wife’s idea and she handled everything. She did most of the realtor stuff, planned our road-trip down, procured our dwelling, and got all the school stuff set. I mainly did the heavy lifting when it came to packing. Last time, I handled everything and made a mess of things.

The less I attempt to impose my will, the better things get. And so, as the twelve months come to a close at the end of next month, I will continue to have an attitude of hopefulness for what’s to come. I spent this year appreciating and developing an ability to enjoy experiences while not countering them with constant criticism — and I believe I succeeded in that endeavor.

Here’s to whatever comes next! Cheers!

Eighties Kid

The 80s!? Yeah, I was there man. I was just a kid, but weren’t we all. I was sportin a velour shirt with corduroy pants, my hair a bit too long, and sneakers fastened with newly invented Velcro straps. Those were the times man! It’s what we were wearin. Yeah I rode my bike around the neighborhood unsupervised. That’s what we did, children of the Moonwalk era — there were glitter gloves and copious amounts of hairspray spewing from large aerosol cans. Yeah I sprayed that stuff all OVER my hair! What of it!? The ozone-layer is overrated anyway.

The 80s were like, totally awesome, like, you know? That’s just like, how we spoke. Everything was awesome. And if you were from where I was from, anything better than awesome was wicked-awesome. We’d head down to Papa Ginos and play Pac-Man or Space Invaders while waiting for our pizza. The cola-wars were heating up around this time too: Coke or Pepsi. Though really, we just ordered whichever they served.

I remember going over to my neighbor’s house to play Atari. Eventually we got a ColecoVision console of our own. I even remember Pong. And TV?! TVs had two dials that cranked from U to 13 and 14 to 83 — but only like 7 channels had any shows on them — and you had to adjust the rabbit-ear antennas to get anything to come-in. Sure, your cousin had cable-TV but she lived in the next town over, and your town didn’t have cable yet — those were the breaks.

Kid-culture propagated through sleep-overs, out-of-state cousins, and summer-camps. When it came time, everyone knew the incantation to perform: “Light as a feather, stiff as a board…” or how to play “Murder in the Dark”. Otherwise, we learned stuff through music and movies. We all knew the “King of Pop” and E.T. We rebelled with our hair, our clothes, and of course our music. You don’t understand, OLD MAN! This is OUR time!

Ronald Regan was the president and my sister received Wonder Woman Underoos for her birthday. It was underwear that made you look and feel like a superhero underneath your clothes. Now that’s… wicked awesome! Sure, we had the threat of nuclear annihilation to ponder as we laid our heads down to sleep at night, and we dreamt of post-apocalyptic hell-scapes — but those were the times man. Well it was either that, or we had nightmares after watching Poltergeist or a Freddy Krueger movie.

In the 80s, phones weren’t something you carried around with you, they were hard-wired to the wall. And if you wanted to call someone, good luck! It was a shared device amongst an entire family and the person you wanted to contact needed to be in the right place at the right time. And more than likely, some random family member would answer. And the only game you played on the phone, was making prank-calls. Back then, you didn’t know who was on the other end of the line until they told you.

The food? Breakfast began with a box of Lucky Charms poured into a bowl, followed by a splash of milk, alongside a Dixie-cup filled with orange-juice not-from-concentrate. The prize/toy from the box was already gone, you’d have reached your entire arm inside when your mom first brought home the cereal-box from the supermarket. Lunch was bologna (pronounced “baloney”) on factory-made white-bread with a squirt of yellow stuff, and a box of sweetened colored liquid to wash it down (it wasn’t juice).

I’ve never been nostalgic about the 80s, and I sure as hell wouldn’t start now. The 80s began almost four decades ago — it was my introduction to Earth as a little kid. People were dressed in outlandish outfits, had wild teased-up hair, and applied an over-abundance of makeup (women AND men). I didn’t know what to make of it. The 90s made a lot more sense to me: widespread cable-TV, Grunge music, plain-looking clothes, computers, and of course the Internet.

Lack and Limitation

We had just moved down to central Florida. I had the resources of my newly retired parents, but all I could understand was lack and limitation. For whatever reason I strictly budgeted myself and refused tickets to the parks for awhile. We went around to all the places on property that didn’t require an entrance fee. Disney-on-a-Budget I called it.

But free and unrestrained access to the resorts? That seemed too extravagant, too easy, essentially cheating. You must pay to stay in order to play. Those weren’t the rules, yet they were MY self-imposed rules. You can’t have fun without limits, that’s indulgence! And indulgence needs to be paid for with punishment.

When I finally moved out of my parents’ house, I had a job that could afford the lifestyle I was looking for. But it wasn’t enough. I stayed at the computer all day and night whether I needed to or not. Even though the work was relatively easy, I made it as hard on myself as possible. I couldn’t have fun. I barely made it to Disney anymore. I barely made it outside of my apartment.

I made it so difficult in fact, that I finally cracked and gave-up on my software-development career altogether. We left the state in a self-imposed exile to the north amidst the dead of winter. We arrived to snow and cold. We dared not leave our tiny shack for fear that our little car couldn’t hack it.

Thinking back, I can see that my attitude was atrocious. It’s embarrassing in fact. What an idiot. On any plane of reality you wish to accept, my actions had no valid justification. I was paranoid. I was an extremist hell-bent on maintaining a belief in lack and limitation and I made sure I suffered at every turn. Sick.

Let me reiterate this point: even though I had EVERYTHING I wanted, I couldn’t accept it, I couldn’t appreciate ANY of it. It was a classic Greek tragedy. I had a wonderful wife, a respectable career, I lived in a town I loved, right down the road from my childhood happy-place — yet it was all a source of pain. So much so that I had to leave — and enter into the literal pain of an isolated snowy winter up north.

Deep breath. In… Out… It’s a little rough to contemplate and convict myself of such stupidity. It’s undeniable though. But through grace I am forgiven. It was about an 8-year exile. I’m back now. I’m not in a perfect situation but I’m attempting to appreciate it nonetheless. I am attempting to eschew any thoughts or feelings of lack and limitation.

With my consent, my friend is taking the wheel this time around, so anytime I’ve tried to pump the brake she kicked my foot away. My goal nowadays is to make amends for my gross and unacceptable attitude. I apologize to life itself as well as to my dear friend that’s always been there for me. The only restitution I can offer is a commitment to better myself.

To that end, I seek to enjoy my time on Earth and help others do the same. I seek to develop an authentic appreciation for life, fully realizing the gift I’ve been so lovingly given. I seek to make trust my default. I seek to be a worthy friend and father. And of course I seek to rid myself of my long-time addiction to negativity. Goodbye fear. Goodbye lack and limitation.