Thursday, May 28, 2009

We all try. You succeed!

Christ, I can be a solipsistic git sometimes. Okay, a lot of the time. I’ll try to keep this short so I don’t defeat the purpose.

People my age or younger being further ahead than me in their personal lives (having a social group, being in long-term relationships, getting married, having kids) isn’t what bothers me the most. It hits me harder in some cases than in others. Still, I can accept that I’ve been different that way from most people up until now, and that I’ll get there when I’m ready.

I measure progress my own way, like by the fact that I’ve been close friends with one person, and fairly good friends with another person who I know from somewhere else, for most of the time since I met them almost ten years ago. I wasn’t always that good at keeping friends.

What bothers me more is what others my age or younger are accomplishing in other areas of their lives that I’m not. Work, volunteering. It’s not like I’ve never had a perfectionist streak. I can be obsessive about a task when I need to be. I just feel I’ve wasted so much of the last several years of my life, rarely getting involved in activities and often putting in a half-hearted effort when I do. Friends encouraging me, and me disappointing them. Writing in an unfocused way, and then not publishing anything.

(Okay, make that a “solipsistic, maudlin git.” Sorry for beating myself up in public like this. You don’t have to watch if you’d prefer not to.)

As Martin Luther King said, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” At least I don’t treat others any worse than I treat myself, but that’s not saying much. Like Rick at the start of Casablanca, I stick my neck out for nobody. Things happen in my life and the main thing I can do is think about how they affect my feelings.

It’s only recently occurred to me that one reason a person might come into my life is to kick my ass, by offering both encouragement and a positive example in the way they work hard and treat others well, despite having their own problems that get them down sometimes. And when a person drifts out of my life, I shouldn’t be too upset (unless I’ve done something wrong and there’s a way for me to apologize). Instead, I should think about how they’ve helped me, and how I can be more like them in a positive way. To toss in some more pop psychology, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.

So no more goddamned snivelling. I’m already starting to change – I’m doing more in the way of volunteering and writing – but there’s even more I can do right now. Volunteer for an organization that helps people in a tangible way. Get something published, because making people laugh is a way of helping them.

My choice isn’t quite the same as Rick’s choice in Casablanca. There’s no Ilsa on the scene, at least not in any sense resembling that movie (which had a patronizingly sexist overtone by portraying Ilsa as unable to make her own choices. Okay, I digress). Still, like Rick, I’ve got a job to do. I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that my problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. (Some of my problems are real enough – it’s just that putting them in perspective can help in terms of working through them.) I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, not so much with any one person as with people in general.

Will it make me worry less and sleep better? Will I find it easier to make friends and meet women? I like to think so, but that’s not really the point. I’m doing it because being selfish starts to get tiring after a while. I reserve the right to still mope a bit every once in a while. I’m just going to stop making a habit of it.

Anyway. Enough said.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Human geography, or Groundhog Day revisited

Looking back, this sort of turned into a dream journal. Was thinking of it again after some dreams from the other night.

The one I remember now was a variant on my recurring “vacation” dream, where I’ve been travelling somewhere and it feels like I’ve been away from home for a really long time, so much so that the vacation starts to feel like the new normal. In this dream, I was with some sort of group and had to get my stuff packed up to check out of the hotel so we could leave. Went down to the lobby to find out what the checkout time was, and somehow ended up a fair distance from the hotel, where a guy who I didn’t know told me the group had to leave by 9:00. Then he started insulting me for no reason that I could see. As I walked back to the hotel, several guys on bikes rode up to me and provided what seemed to be some kind of escort, although I couldn’t tell whether they were trying to help me or to trap me. They asked me questions, my responses to which they relayed back to someone else by walkie-talkie. One of the questions had to do with how it was I didn’t know when the checkout time was. I replied that I often have a mental map of how things are, but then I get distracted and lose contact with people, and I assume wrongly that the map won’t have changed in the meantime.

As often happens, that last comment sounds less profound now than it did to me in the dream, partly because I’ve forgotten the exact wording, and partly because ideas from dreams often sound profound in context but sound either banal or nonsensical in real life, much like ideas you come up with when you’re stoned. Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” is a good example (both with regard to dreams and being stoned) – it really wasn’t one of his better poems, and it’s probably for the best that he “forgot” most of it, if indeed that’s what happened.

So anyway, this year has had its share of things I could get bummed out about, but I think my attitude is starting to become more positive and my approach more dynamic. I’m looking for work again – had a couple of interviews for posted positions, and making a list of other places to contact. My last job was great in some ways. I loved being able to write for a living, and the nature of the task really got me to focus on how to communicate complicated facts and concepts to a wide audience using as few words as possible. And I got to learn a lot about one area of the law, doing more legal analysis than I did while working at the law firm. But it was a mistake for me to think of working remotely for an employer halfway across the country as something I could do for more than a short period of time, and I should have just kept doing it on a freelance basis while I looked for something ongoing and close to home (or at least something I would relocate for). Oh well. No point in beating myself up over past mistakes – either I can learn from them or I can’t.

On the other hand, I’ve started doing some of the things that I kept talking about without doing them. Along with a friend, I took a comedy writing course and did ticket selling and ushering for a theatre festival. And after visiting my sister and seeing the life she’s made for herself, I vowed to seek out groups of people I could be friends with. I have a few individual close friends and several more casual acquaintances, but it’s been a while since I’ve been part of a social group, and I really need that in my life. Haven’t quite yet found an activity that lends itself to that, but the goal is to find something to volunteer on that I can do for an extended period of time rather than a one-off like a festival. This is also combined with the job search to a degree, both in the sense that an office job will surround me with a group of people, and also in the sense that volunteering may provide contacts who can tell me about job opportunities, which was how I got my most recent job.

At least my life feels a bit different from the way it did the last few years, when the world and the people around me kept changing while I stayed the same. I feel like I’m starting to move / change / grow as well – maybe not totally up to speed, but in my own way and on my own terms, I’m getting closer to where I want to be.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I dream of Rudy

You know that recurring dream most people seem to have? The one where you're in a course, and it's getting close to the end of the term, and you realize you haven't read any of the materials or done any of the assignments or gone to any of the classes? And you wonder whether you might end up flunking horribly?

I'm guessing Rudy Giuliani is feeling a little bit like that right now.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

I wanna be a stand-up comedian

Dammit, I could do it. The whole "fear of public speaking" thing has never been that much of a problem for me. Being face-to-face with individual people -- sure, that can be terrifying. Talking to a large group -- well, I guess my love of words and my secretly gigantic ego work in tandem in situations like that.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The shaving razor's cold, and it stings

One of the things I find fascinating about people is the degree to which they can be incredibly self-aware of their flaws. So often, they're able to articulate accurately and in some detail what it is that they're doing wrong, and what they could do to change it. And then they go and keep doing exactly what they were doing before!

(That description applies to me as much as it applies to anyone I know. My life feels like the movie "Groundhog Day," except for the fact that it's the world around me that changes and I'm the one who stays the same. Which I guess means my life is exactly UNlike the movie "Groundhog Day." Whatever. It's my metaphor and I'll strain it to the breaking point if I want to.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Take my exams and pass the lot

My dreams are getting sneakier.

Ever since I dropped Math partway through grade 12, I've had dreams that I'm still in a math class, but that I've skipped the class for most or all of the term and I've only just remembered I'm in it. And I wonder if I should go to it, or if it'd be too embarrassing to show up when I've missed most of the classes already. Maybe if I forget about it again, it will go away.

It's a variant on one of the classic anxiety dreams. In other dreams I sometimes become aware that I'm dreaming. Like one the other week where someone from my past showed up, and I thought it was an incredible coincidence, but then they asked me what significance I thought there was of them showing up in one of my dreams. For some reason I almost never figure out that the math dream isn't real, until I wake up, and even then I'm often momentarily panicked.

So the twist of last night's dream was that I was in a math class, but I'd been attending it regularly. I was writing a test, which I don't recall being particularly stressful or anything. And I thought to myself that this couldn't be a dream. Because I was actually attending a math class.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Celebrity weather channel

The other day my dad was bemoaning the state of TV weather reports, particularly the unstinting perkiness of the people giving them. So my idea was to add a bit of variety by hiring actors who could either be chosen on the basis of, or who could tailor their delivery to, the types of weather they were talking about.

Say, Alan Rickman:

"It's going to rain later today. Buckets and buckets of rain. Big dark clouds. You might as well just stay in and keep the blinds up, because it'll be so fucking miserable out there that there's no point going out."