liz-lemon

There are days I find myself utterly bored. I wake up, I make coffee, I read about 50 pages of the novel, I flirt with the piano, I study a few episodes of 30 Rock on Netflix (all of which I have seen many times over), and I may or may not go to the gym, all while meticulously grooming and disheveling my curly hair with my fingers as the afternoon tarries on. In between all these curricular activities, I allow myself lengthy, intermittent Facebook breaks.

I usually scroll down the newsfeed in search of an article to distract myself or to discover my friends’ latest happenings. Today, Jason has announced that he is in a relationship with Courtney, a girl whom I know nothing about but whom I accept based on her smile. She seems nice, and I am eager to support Jason. I “like” his status.

I mull over whether I should go so far as send Jason a text congratulating him. I decide against it. I consider asking him to hang out. I haven’t seen the guy since last August on his birthday. But he’s probably busy. He’s probably working or maybe already made plans with his family. He lives in L.A. now, so it would mean coordinating something in advance. I could at least ask. It wouldn’t hurt. He might say yes. Oh, but then I would have to concoct something cool to wear. I would have to prepare something interesting to say. And I would have to style my hair! What if we end up at Jason’s apartment sitting on his couch with nothing to say and nowhere to go? It would mean the last time he would talk to me. He probably wants to hang out with his girlfriend anyway. I would just be getting in the way. If only he would text me first, invite me to one of his cool happenings, message me with a request to hang out, anything that shows he needs me. Or if only I could think of something to offer him: a party, a new gastropub, a concert, or a place where cool kids congregate to be cool. Alas, I can’t think of anything to offer Jason, so I put my phone down and lie in bed. I scroll through the newsfeed, like a few more statuses, and indulge on a couple more episodes of 30 Rock.

And this is an all-too-common experience for me. I catch a friend’s name through my newsfeed whom I haven’t seen in months, or as I am scrolling through old texts, I pass a conversation that has ended too abruptly. I want to swipe my fingers through the screen and say, and say, say . . .

I don’t know what to say. I have a compulsion to always want to reply with something entertaining, something that will amuse them, something that will, as a result, maintain me in their graces. But whatever I want to express doesn’t seem to be enough.

 

bed-liz-lemon

 

Yet again, could it be enough? My girlfriend recently diagnosed me as a high-functioning closed-off introvert. It means I can maintain an outside life full of commitments such as being a teacher where I have to engage with students, audition and act in plays while taking acting classes with very extroverted persons, and maintain many seemingly healthy relationships . . . to an extent.

There are many of us high-functioning closed-off introverts; although we vary when it comes to our behavior, you can always pick us out because of our secretive and illusive nature. For instance, in common conversations, you might be able to spot a closed-off person because he is the one hanging back during the conversation and not fully contributing. His eyes may be wandering—don’t worry; he’s just staking the place out and taking note of all the exits. He may be the person that changes the subject too often so that you end up with little to no specific impression of him; he may often give vague, evasive answers, and these answers may only come after many repeated questionings. He is an adept red herrer, a master at redirecting the conversation back at you or someone else, anything really, as long as it’s not him.

So why all the need for being secretive and evasive? The board answer is that we closed-off people are guarded and self-protective. Obviously there are many specific factors that invariably lead certain people to become closed off. For me, it’s probably a result of my early relationship with my erratic alcoholic father, growing up listening to my mother’s own brand of distrust towards the world, and a few traumatic bullying experiences throughout my childhood, but for anyone there could be a number of factors, and it’s not for me to judge.

Perhaps one quality all closed-off individuals possess is the ability to feel insecure about their perceived shortcomings. As I began examining my condition, I discovered many online forums devoted to the topic. It was in one of these threads that I discovered an anonymous poster use the phrase “insecure about perceived shortcomings.” That’s what was happening when I was debating whether I should text Jason. And it’s probably happened a hundred times over and I haven’t even been aware of it. I realize I sometimes have a fear of sharing aspects of myself because I believe what I want to share is not enough. That instead of enough, it’s uninteresting, irrelevant, drab, and does not appeal to the company I am with. To compensate for my perceived shortcomings, I have this strong desire to provide something of value to others, but when I can’t think of anything to offer, I fear that all they will see are my personal shortcomings and reject me, so I keep myself closed off.

This leads me to the next quality all closed-off individuals possess: They regard anything they share about themselves (whether it’s a past memory, an inner thought, or the disclosure of some quirk of their personality) as a sacred investment in a relationship. Ironically enough, many of us closed-off people ache for close relationships but keep ourselves from pursuing them because of our fear and distrust of the world. We are constantly guarding ourselves against the infiltration of phonies, flakes, charming devils, deceiving opportunists, and otherwise good-humored sadists in our midst—basically anyone who would carelessly abuse and then abandon us. As a result, we have a highly cynical disposition of new encounters.

For instance, when I first meet new people, I tend to be very closed off because I am unsure if I should invest myself. When I was younger, I used to find myself feeling deceived by the people I met at bars or house parties that befriended me so casually, only to then evaporate like cannabis fumes by the end of the night. Who were they? Where did they go with the energy I invested in them? What was I to do with their numbers in my contacts? When or if I would see them at another party, would they remember what we shared? Did they see it as an investment, too? What did it mean to them? These questions would pester me for days, even weeks, after the encounter. I would hope to meet these people again if only to invest just a little more, solidify our relationship just a little further, and put up the foundation that was previously set the last time we hung out. For a long time, I was absorbed with the view that every relationship was a bond that required constant investment, and that when I couldn’t find anything worthwhile to invest, that bond began to break.

As you see, I tend to over-think my relationships. And, as you also can see, I especially find it difficult to invest myself with people I first meet. Although I don’t think meeting people or maintaining relationships in this way is completely wrong—it has made me feel comfortable in the past—I have come to realize that too often it has limited me from meeting new people or spending time with friends I really admire.

Couple all these things together and you begin to see a very unhealthy perception of friendship. Because I see every relationship as an investment, because I am constantly considering what I can offer every relationship, and because I constantly struggle with my own perceived shortcomings as a detriment to every relationship, I often find myself disconnected, isolated, alone, and walked-in.

For many closed-off people, almost every aspect of their selves is weighed in regard to what they offer others. I am constantly seeing how I figure in someone’s life. I don’t see the “Us” in relationships. I only focus on how I am useful to others, how I fit into the needs of their lives, how I function in their relationship. I tend to look at my role in relationships as more of a giver than a receiver. I am more concerned with being a friend when in reality I should have a friend.

Changing this perspective is the first thing I need to work on in order to not be closed off. I need to stop trying to be a friend (a giver), and instead embrace the fact that I have a friend—that I am in a relationship that is both give and take, that I can take as well as give. I can ask for things without worry that something awful, like rejection, is always going to happen. Being a friend is great, but that should not be the only way to view friendships. I can trust people, right? A friendship is a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties.

But shifting my perspectives on friendship is not enough. I need to do more to replace some of my closed-off behavior. I need to accept my shortcomings as part of myself. I don’t need to feel ashamed of my perceived shortcomings anymore. I need to embrace my obsession with 30 Rock, my alcoholic father, my mother’s distrust of the world, my soft stomach and disproportionate thighs, and my curly hair! These things, along with whatever mistakes I have made in my life, all the times I have fallen short, are not final condemnations. Instead, they are the moles and scars that have given me only some of my character.

These changes don’t just come easy, though. They require a transition towards a more open personality. Like I have said, much of what constitutes closed-off behavior comes from a need to protect one’s self. The reason so many of us are guarded and thus closed-off is because we fear the consequences of what will happen if people learn certain things about us. Take another anonymous poster’s response for example: “I’m pretty terrified of connecting with other people. I’m scared that if I share the real me, they will judge it or dislike it.” She continues, “If you don’t share some of yourself with the world, you won’t be truly open. . . . Be you and you’ll be surprised how much people will accept you.” The thing that inflames me most is her comment that if I don’t share at least part of myself, I can’t be “truly open.”

Think of it this way, if you want to be honest about yourself with others, if you don’t want to risk losing who you are, especially by holding your inner core back, then you need to overcome your fear and speak your truths, even if you fear these truths will sound crazy, illogical, drab, or simply lacking. By not opening up, you risk losing your very self in the process. And one of the worst things is not being able to imagine who you are. I have felt lost and directionless too often, and in part it has been because I have spent so much effort repressing who I truly am because I have feared rejection.

In order to begin fostering a new open behavior, I would like to suggest a simple challenge to everyone. Simply begin sharing one thing about yourself to someone whom you interact with on a daily basis. The thing should be something they don’t know about you. Besides this main caveat, it can literally be anything. It can be as benign as telling a co-worker you ate a piece of cake for lunch or as revealing as letting your friends know when you were younger you once tried your mom’s bra on just to see how it felt.

Sharing these things may sound frightening, but don’t fret, only share what you feel comfortable letting people know. Begin by assessing the things you’re most and least comfortable sharing with people. Then start sharing minor things first, gradually moving up to disclosures that make you feel more vulnerable. It’s also completely sensible to keep very personal things private or only sharing them to your most trusted friends. You are in no way obliged to tell everyone your darkest secrets. The point of this sharing experiment is not to divulge all your secrets, but to make you more connected with others through the act of sharing. As corny as it all sounds, it’s all about connection. Let me make my intention clear: I am not trying to ostracize anyone who exhibits any closed-off behavior; I am not trying to conform or make anyone else conform to some standard of open extrovertism. Closed-off behavior serves many of us in many countless interactions; it lets us feel protected and in control, but it can also sometimes be limiting.

Another thing is to be patient with the process. As always, be kind and accepting of how you feel. If you feel closed off, simply begin by being aware of it and then see what you do from there. Also, when your perceived shortcomings start making you want to close off, consciously accept them as part of the aspects that make you beautiful. Stop judging yourself severely. Be kind and forgiving of what you perceive as shortcomings. If it helps, imagine if you were a friend to a person with all your shortcomings and you cared for this person. Imagine how you would respond compassionately to this person. Go so far as imagining what words of encouragement you would give to this beloved friend. When you’re done imagining all this, remind yourself that this is how compassionately your caring friends will receive you.

And friends of closed-off people, we need your help. Ensure that others feel comfortable and empowered to share what they feel, think, fear, and care about. Many closed-off people don’t feel comfortable around others. They have to warm up to people, and that, as many closed-off people and those who know closed-off people know, can take weeks, months, and often years. A friendship needs to be built on comfort and even more importantly, acceptance. Acceptance means letting a friend be closed off when they feel they need to. It means being understanding of that person and their need to cloister themselves within a reserved shell. It means not pressuring them to conform to any expected behavior.

If you see any of yourself or those close to you in what I wrote, then consider the following: The first is changing the perspective of friendship from just being a friend to having a friend; the second is accepting and being patient with your perceiving shortcomings; and the third is fostering more open behavior by revealing more of your beautiful self to others. I would love to continue this discussion, but I feel like texting Jason at the moment.

Values

Interests

Qualities

Roles and Relationships

Goals

Values

  1. Honesty
  2. Dependability, Responsibility, Reliability
  3. Preparedness
  4. Being Happy
  5. God
  6. Faithfulness
  7. Trust
  8. Fidelity
  9. Appreciation
  10. Pro-Life
  11. Kindness
  12. Generosity
  13. A sense of humor; to be able to laugh at oneself
  14. Exclusive intimacy

Interests

  1. Literature
  2. Watching movies (Romantic comedies, comedies, action, superhero, Shakespeare adaptations, literature adaptations)
  3. Writing short stories
  4. Reading the Bible
  5. Board games (Clue, Catchphrase, Uno, Chess, Apples to Apples, Risk)
  6. Trying new foods
  7. Salmon
  8. Sushi
  9. Cereal
  10. Ice cream
  11. Chinese fast food
  12. Sandwiches
  13. Community service
  14. Human relationships, especially romantic relationships
  15. Exercise
  16. Running
  17. Acting
  18. Improv
  19. Writing Dialogue
  20. Riding my bike
  21. Coffee
  22. Certain television shows
  23. Poptarts
  24. Cats, and then dogs

Qualities

  1. Committed
  2. Patient
  3. Loyal
  4. Considerate
  5. Supportive
  6. Accommodating
  7. Nice
  8. Detail-oriented
  9. Intimate
  10. Involved
  11. Practical
  12. Eccentric
  13. Playful
  14. Kind
  15. Persistent
  16. Persevering
  17. Loving

Roles and Relationships

  1. Supportive Friend
  2. Involved co-worker
  3. Caring and supportive son
  4. Loving friend
  5. Fun uncle
  6. Peace-keeping friend
  7. Helper
  8. Responsible planning-ahead friend, family member, co-worker
  9. Student

Goals

  1. To work at a university
  2. To work in the Entertainment industry
  3. To have an exclusive intimate romantic relationship with one woman that I will hopefully get to spend the rest of my life with.
  4. To have children
  5. To vacation
  6. To learn the piano
  7. To act in community theater for fun
  8. To learn Archery
  9. To live on my own
  10. To live in L.A.
  11.  To publish fiction

Conversations at a Party

December 29, 2011

Recently I went to a friend’s housewarming party. He told me his new place was a loft located in an artist-in-residence community. I asked him what that meant and he told me it was a space where artists could live, work and share ideas. I shouldn’t have asked such a question to such an obvious answer, but I was struck with excitement over the idea that such a place could exist and that I would get a chance to be a part of it, at least for one night.

When I drove up to the complex, it appeared to be an assemblage of concrete and brick buildings dispersed throughout a grid encompassing a city block. Each building was formed of unequal length and design. Some had intricate fire escapes beginning on one side of a structure and then snaking their way to another; others had barges that supported a network of rafters between two and even three buildings; and while some buildings had no flourish except the pale grayness of their walls, others had rich brick veneers and skylights illuminating light outwards towards the blue night air.

Instead of entering into an enclosed unit structured by hallways and easily recognizably numbered doors, this place expanded as if it were a city within a city. There were no entrances on the outside perimeter. I found a glass door, but it was locked and with a view of an empty space in what seemed to be an abandoned office. My other option was to venture through the spacious parking spots planted around the fissures in-between buildings.

I knew my friend lived in number 223 and he had given me a map, which I downloaded to my phone, but the abstract layout came to be of little help. There were the 600 buildings, the 500, the 200 and the lettered numbered buildings. I found myself across number 600, which on the map told me the adjacent building had a clump of 200 lofts inside. I entered through a backdoor and climbed a flight of narrow stairs to a 200 level, but the numbers only went so far as 205. I went back down and tried the 600 building instead, thinking that perhaps I had misread the map and saw it backwards. But as I went up the stairway to the 200 level I only found numbers 213-18.

I began to feel a mixed sense of frustration and curious pleasure as I began to lose myself in these barren cloisters of a hallway. I was beginning to fear with joy that all the apartment halls would have the same non-descript features to them, the only thing distinguishing one from another being the non-linear order of numbers and the sometimes-opened doors into unknown apartments. Some of which had clusters of people talking amongst one another, some with a single man or woman working to put together some un-yet defined piece of art. And then there were the doors that opened into darkness. They were like entrances that opened to a vacuum where light faded into black. I stopped by one where a red glow diminished like vapor. I wanted to enter through that door into that red room, curious to see what I might find while excited by the fear of not knowing what to expect.

Instead I went outside to the enclave between buildings and called my friend. As the phone was ringing I heard my named called out from a rooftop. It was Jason and he was directing me to go up towards the entrance through a truck-loading zone. I walked up another flight of stairs and met him on a balcony where he was waiting with some friends. Once there I took a secret moment to catch my breath and peek at the city. From this view, the whole opened up and I could see not only downtown, but also the L.A. riverbed like a porcelain faucet seeping a veiny brook towards the west, the shipping yard waiting tensely like a block set anticipating the morning when little children would come play with it, and the 5 freeway circling behind it all. All I could say was “amazing” as I found myself in a new, majestic opening beholding the towers of the city I longed to enter. So close were we to the bright lights of the skyscrapers that it felt as if we were in the city as well as watching it from afar.

I followed Jason into his loft and got a little tour before settling down with a Bud Light on the couch while everyone socialized. I found myself not knowing many of Jason’s new friends, and realized I would have to introduce myself to each cluster in order to participate and not awkwardly stand out against the couch by the wall; I didn’t want to give the impression that I was disinterested being there by sitting alone with beer in hand and maybe my cell-phone pulled out in order to give an appearance of distraction.

. . .

I made my way over to Art’s side. “Hey, My name is Jose, how do you know Jason?”

“I met Jason at his old apartment,” He responded. “I’m friends with his old roommate. How about you?”

“Oh uh, I used to work with Jason at Starbucks a long time ago. Ohm, we met there and just stayed good friends. Actually I still work at Starbucks.” I added.

Art nodded with acceptance, “that’s cool, I used to work there a long time ago too.”

“Really, what do you do now?” I asked eagerly.

 Art told me he was a CGI artist. “I make environments, landscapes; things like buildings or houses in backgrounds.”

“That’s awesome.” I said, not really understanding what that involved, but interested to learn what it meant. “How did you end up doing that?”

“Well, I went to school and studied drafting and then got a job working for a production company as an office assistant. I remember seeing all the artists work on programs and create parts of worlds they included into the whole of others, and me asking them if they would teach me how to do that. They told me ‘why don’t you consider this an apprenticeship’ and I did that for three years. Honestly, it was one of the best experiences of my life.”

“That’s really cool man, I don’t think many people get those opportunities.” I remarked.

“No, that’s right. A lot of the guys who taught me went to expensive art schools where they came out with massive loads of debt. All my school got paid by Cal grants and financial aid because I went to a public university. And these guys taught me; I guess I got my education for free.”

“You’re lucky, man.” I said, inspired by his story. He seemed to have found a way in. “So, where are you working now?”

“Actually, I’m between jobs. Environments aren’t in demand at the moment. If you can create dynamics then you’re in demand.” Dynamics, Art explained, “Were anything with fire, imagine buildings crumbling to the ground, or a huge tsunami surging through a city block. Anything that involved dynamics, you get me.”

“I get it,” I said, “destruction’s in demand, not creation.”

That interrupted the conversation, and I felt as if I had said something carelessly, but then he continued it again and asked me what I wanted to do in my career.

“Me, oh, well, I’m studying English at the moment, but man! Your story really inspired me. You know what I really want to do; I want to write. I would love to write for television or make skits or something. I have another semester in my program, but I think I would like to find a job where I can write, closer to the city.” The city of industry, I thought to myself.

“Man, stay diligent, you will make something happen.” Art said encouragingly. I smiled and looked down, relieved.  We talked some more about his life and I discovered how he met his wife, and from there I gathered that he knew more about beer than I ever would. I then went to the kitchen and clicked open another Bud Light.

. . .

I made my way back up to the balcony. Jason was there, smoking a cigarette. “What are you doing up here?” he asked.

“Oh, I’m lost, where’s the bathroom?” I asked back.

“Downstairs, come on, let me introduce you to some friends I want you to meet.” We walked back down and Jason kept telling everyone I was a writer the whole way. “Hey Dylan, David, I want you to meet Jose, he’s a writer too. Dylan and David have their own production company.”

“Hey, how you guys doin?” I said as I shook their hands, “I’m not a writer, don’t listen to Jason,” I said embarrassed, “I just take some English classes and now Jason is spreading this rumor.”

Jason was already walking away before I could ask him to support me. So I was left with the uncomfortable silence of what I had said.

“Well you must write for your English classes?” Dylan said

“Well yeah, I do, but I can’t sell English papers. I don’t write for money, so I don’t think I can honestly call myself a writer.” I said, less than what I felt.

“Do you want to write?” David asked before taking a sip of his beer.

“Yeah, I guess, I don’t know. You guys are writers. How’d you start your production company?” I asked.

Dylan answered first, “I studied film criticism in school—”

“I know a little about that,” I exclaimed, “I took some film classes as an undergrad. Yeah, things like perspectives and third cinema, right?”

“Yeah, things like that” Dylan said in consent, “After school, I started writing spec scripts for competitions networks like ABC held.”

“Really, ABC has competitions for that?” 

“Oh yeah, every year. I sent one in for Modern Family but it takes a really long time for them to get back at you and I got tired of waiting for them to say ‘thanks, this is great but not what we are looking for,’ so me and David just decided to start our own production company.”

“That’s awesome, and now you guys have been running it for a year, right? What kind of things do you guys do?”

David responded this time, “anything; we write scripts, we create ideas for commercials, we film, we cast actors; really the whole process.”

Enthusiastic from their response, I asked them what their favorite part of the process was with my concealed excitement.

“The best part,” Dylan responded, “has got to be coming up with ideas. Sometimes you have these really great ideas for projects but the budget can’t afford it, and it sucks, but you find ways to make things work with the amount of money you have. I just wish sometimes I had more money to spend on ideas. But it’s all fun; everything is always a creative search for some solution in order to produce an even bigger idea.”

David nodded. “We always have to search for something under budget, but, hey, it’s what we like to do.” He continued, “and if anything, I have my day job.”

“Do you really have another job?” I asked, impressed that he could do this as well as work somewhere else.

“Yeah,” David said, “I work as a site coordinator for another production company. I find out where I can get permits in order to shot locations. It’s a pain, I swear, it’s never ‘can I shot here,’ ‘oh yeah, sure.’ instead it’s always ‘I want this in exchange for that,’ ‘Okay, but I want this included as well then,’ and then back and forth and I’m the middle man between the production company and the owners of where we want to shot.”

“Sounds frustrating,” I said.

“It is most of the time, but it’s a good job. So what do you do?”

“Me? I’m in school right now . . . Ohm; I’m also taking acting classes. I guess that is another passion I have.” I continued on with a new thought in mind, “You know, I think I want to be an actor.” I said. I thought to myself, where did this come from? I had taken an acting class last semester and was enrolled to take another the next, and I was really interested in acting as an art, but why share this with Dylan and David? They looked at me surprised as much as I was by my answer. “I have fun when I do it,” I said. “But I’m still in school, so I have some time to decide.”

They smiled but didn’t comment to my response. I knew why: I hadn’t given them a real answer yet. I had neither committed to being a writer nor an actor. Instead I had only expressed interest in both, and with such sudden transition in thought that my story was losing its plausibility. What would I say to myself with the answer I gave? I felt foolish, but what could I say, I was improvising on the spot and had to follow the direction the story was taking. Before I had more time to think about it, Dylan and David’s friends joined them and we talked about more general topics. Once again I felt relieved as the attention was drawing away from me and I was becoming part of the ambiance again. I then went back to the kitchen and clicked open another Bud Light.

. . .

I found Jason again by the Kitchen island and cheered with him as we took a pumpkin flavored shot. One of Jason’s friends who I had not yet met had just finished making a whole pitcher full of this pumpkin drink in order to celebrate the occasion that the party was between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were now distributing the pitcher into shot glasses and lining the bleached brown milk towards the edge of the counter. We all toasted to the festive ambiance of the party, and as I tasted the sweet-spiced cream I took a moment to look at the shot glass and enjoy the novelty of the drink. That is all it was, the novelty of a moment and I felt caught up in it.

Kristin joined us. Jason introduced her as his date, and I congratulated the young couple before I began my prying questions into how they met.

Jason smirked at Kristin, “You handle this one,” and left to greet some new friends who just came in.

“I met Jason at a wedding reception. I actually wasn’t allowed to talk to him. I was with my brother and he can be really overprotective, but Jason kept insisting on talking with me, so I gave him my number, and we started hanging out.”

“Cool, and how long you guy’s been dating?”

“Oh, about three months now.” She said sincerely.

We chattered about the apartment and how cold it could get at night among other things in order to establish a basis for more earnest conversation. I asked her where she worked.

“I work for a wine distributor as a scheduler. I handle setting up all their events and promotions. It’s really fun but I’m thinking about going back to school.”

“Really, what do you want to study?”

“Well, I either want to go back and get a Masters in Communications or Marketing, but I don’t know which I want to pursue more. Sometimes I like one more then the other, but then it changes, you know.”

“I can relate,” I said.

“What do you do?” She asked interested in my response.

“Well I’m actually in school at the moment. I am getting my Masters in English and I work part-time at Starbucks and part-time for this program for the Long Beach Unified School district that helps high school students learn pre-employment skills. I teach lessons one-on-one, with groups, and even to a classroom once. It’s really fun and I like the work.”

“So do you want to become a teacher?”

“Yeah, my plan is when I complete this program to enroll into a single-subject teaching credential and teach English. But you know what I really want to do? I would love to work at a community college, I don’t care what I teach, but somehow I feel I would like working at that level.”

“Oh yeah, and that’s where many students need the most support. I remember it was my professors who really helped me and guided me along the way in what I wanted to do. That is part of the reason I’m torn between Communications and Marketing. Some of my favorite teachers who gave me the most encouragement came from my Communications courses, but I also like Marketing as well from what I do at my job.”

“So what are you gonna do?” I asked for both of us.

“You know, I don’t know, but things have always worked out for me. I used to work at Ritz Cameras and that was my only job I ever had before this one. And when I graduated from school I didn’t have much of a plan, I just went to the school’s job link resource and found this job. It just came easily and now I’m here.”

“Yeah, I agree.” I smiled back. Maybe things would just work out for me too, I thought. But ‘maybe’ was an uncertainty; ‘maybe’ was a doubt. I needed to believe in something, specifically in one thing and follow it through.

We talked more about teaching and then digressed into the trivia of the night. Someone was changing the record to a song I had never heard; Art was swigging some IPA I had never seen; Dylan and David where laughing to some comment I would never know; and my Bud light was empty.

. . .

I pissed away half my buzz in the bathroom and came downstairs. People were still talking. New people were coming in and the room was becoming livelier, but I felt momentarily out of the festive mood that everyone seemed to enjoy. As much as I would like to get to know these new people I didn’t want to explain another story about myself that was still untrue. I looked across at all the wonderful people whose stories I did not know, but was tired for tonight of sharing my own stories in exchange for theirs.

Besides, every time I talked about myself I would share the same details, but the direction of every story would take new turns and I’d end up surprised at the destination I found myself at. Who I said I was to Art was not who I was to Dylan and David nor was it the same person who was talking to Kristin. Each voice resembled me and inhabited the same body, but the disconcerting thing about them all was who the real me was. A terrible suspicion entered that I was nothing more than a bunch of lyrics playing their melodies to a distracted room.

I knew those were, in part, stories I told to establish some sort of relationship between others and myself. But they were more than stories because I believed in each of them; they were all a part of me—separate yet united by their common bond to my hopes—but they were still fictions that rested on some future realization of them. They were, for this moment, unrealized desires playing to the sympathies of my audiences.

Each story brought a whole new excitement as a door opening into a new space where we all felt a new discovery emerging out of the chaos of an impromptu moment. But the excitement was tiring me out, and I felt content with telling three stories I believed, so I made my way through the people I met and prepared to leave on a good note.

I said my goodbyes and walked outside to a crisp clear night. I could find myself now in the apartments and I had no trouble getting to my car. My tipsiness was returning as well, to my delight, as if it had lane dormant briefly and kicked back at the excitement of a new surrounding.

I drove home with that mildest of excitement that came from my drinking commingled with my diverse thoughts. As I left the 5 and entered into the 605, I bellowed a heavy yawn that made my eyes close a second too long to make me swerve a little in the lane, but I regained my flow and laughed so quietly I could still hear my thoughts, “oh, the stories we tell,” I told myself. 

Things end not how we want them; all we can do is come to terms with that. I am writing about my car, my Oldsmobile, my old car. I have had so many moments in there, with it, that the loss is of a person, a thing, a home, a time. I’m losing the equivalent of a home. And that is the importance I want to bring across.

I understand I am being nostalgic and sentimental at letting my car go, but perhaps this attachment to my car will reveal in myself a human and a justified irrational love for something. Because I am writing about a thing, the car in itself is an object, which you as a reader cannot understand how much sentimental value it has for me, but can understand that sentimental value is significant. Then there is not much need for me to tell you all the things that I love about my car. Only that I have to accept that come very soon it will no longer be mine, like a person leaving, not in the possessive sense, but in the sense of “presence.” There will be things I can no longer enjoy, like the floating feeling it gives me when it is alive on the road.

My car has a name, but I shall not give it to you here, it is perhaps something that I shall or shall not share with someone who I wish to share my secret memories with. In that sense it has a personality that will be remembered. But the lost is what I’m coping with.

I always thought that I would ride my car until it realistically could not ride any more. In deeper detail, I wanted to ride my car until I couldn’t fix it anymore. I had spent so much money trying to last the moments a little longer, and push off the inevitable, with a belief that even though it was already 27 years old it could go on longer. But I had my times when it was a struggle, when windows did not work, or it would not run. It is always the struggle to keep going. Our life stops when we can’t. In this case I did go through some grief, a form of guilt at giving up on this fantasy. I can keep spending but I would not be going anywhere. The car was becoming less healthy every time. In that sense, I knew that it was time to accept the relationship was coming to an end. Like a time, like an exciting class or an important year of school, it is wonderful but to remain in that moment would be un-developing.

In conclusion, the end, I need to develop, my car knows me and understands, maybe like how a mentor understands when it has taken its pupil to where he wants him to be, to keep the pupil any longer than that would be contrary to the development of him. I have learned much from my car, in my car, with my car. And you cannot understand that writing this last previous sentence has swollen my eyes with a brief desire to shed tears. It was a place that I felt comfortable in, where I slept in at times, where tears have been shed by me and others, happy moments, sad moments, lonely moments that my car shared with me, that it comfort me in my loneliness, that it concealed me in my loneliness. That I felt alone and not alone in it. Is that justified irrational love for a thing. Is that an affect of love?

My car did affect me. I’m losing, lost a home.

Death, I wanted to end my car, not this way. The way of selling it to someone who could use it and perhaps love it just as well, but then to end up where I was where no more could be given to it and then it ending up in a junk yard, breaking down into a skeleton. It’s like a cemetery. But my memory is the important thing, not where the material car ends up, but where it stays in me. Because the dead are buried and physically they decompose so it is in the memory that we have to keep them, not in their bodies. And my car will live on longer with someone else; I wanted to keep putting more to it, but that was selfish and to do that would be needlessly wasting my life and the life of my car, like Romeo and Juliet, a pact suicide. This way we come to terms, it lives on with someone else, it stops one day and then, my memories I keep.

I know you as a reader may not understand this last part, or agree but it’s because it is personal to me. The analogies are not completely true to each other but they each speak of some aspect of my car. Coming to terms I’m not concerned with a whole unity of any analogy right now. My car is what I care about. I care about my car. I care for my car. Some of readers will not understand, I don’t understand sometimes. But I feel:










The Other Rock

April 28, 2010

I had this idea that sometimes we try to make ourselves bigger and more than what we are in order to be with someone else. Because if we are big and we have so much to offer, in other words, if we can be a rock to someone else, something they can rely on, then they will also want to be with us, and more importantly to our desires, be a rock for us.

One day at work there was this co-worker of mine and as we were passing each other in the hallway during break I decided I would raise my hand and say “high Five.” I did this not because I knew her that well, nor to celebrate anything. I did this because she was from first appearances too short to reach up to my high five.

She said “that’s mean” as she walked away, not even making an attempt. Her tone was as if someone had played a light joke at her expense. And at first I agreed. The truth was that I thought this individual was a nice person and I wanted to get to know her. I had had a chance earlier in the week when I showed everyone this psychology game and she played but as we had to return to work I had to quickly play through the game with her, learning a little about her goals of returning to school to eventually become a curator at a museum.

But since I didn’t have enough time to introduce myself well, I wondered what would be a playful way of breaking the ice. And that’s when as I was walking pass her in the hall the idea of “high five-ing” her came to my mind.

I automatically smirked as she walked away but inside felt that maybe my action came out too wrong. That perhaps I had given my first impression as a jerk. That’s when a further idea began to form.

For I felt that “high five-ing” her would break the ice, I also tried to anticipate how I would have to back my action with words when she confronted me. In part it was a light exercise to get to know her, but it was not meant as a joke, it was simply humorous in nature. I had something I wanted to let her know. The reason was further confirmed to me by the fact that she didn’t even try.

So again the next day I saw her coming by and I raised my hand and lightly yelled “high-five.” And again she said the same thing and did not even try. I continued my attempts again on a regular basis with mostly the same results. And I kept waiting for her to either try or confront me, but hopefully not with a supervisor. I was starting to be anxious that maybe I should give up.

But she finally did confront me. “Why do you keep trying to high-five me?” was her question.

In turn I responded, “why didn’t you ever try to reach up and give me a high-five.”

to which she said, “how do you expect me to reach up when I am not tall enough to. It’s mean.”

And to which I said, “how do you know for sure if you haven’t tried.” and then I raised my hand and gave her a nod and waited.

“Fine” she said and jumped to reach my hand with hers. I found it in mid-air and slapped it in contact. It was all done in less than a second.

She looked at me and said,”hey you lowered your hand to meet mine, what does that mean?”

“It means that I never wanted you to fail, I was always planning on meeting your high five, but you never tried so I kept waiting.” I went on to explain that I just thought there should not be any obstacles we feel are too high for us to reach. I told her that I felt she might have been feeling like that from what she had briefly told me about her answers to  the psychology game we had played.

In all, it came off well, I broke the ice with her and she understood what I was doing. I apologized to her as well, in part it was still at her expense. But at least we both remembered not to give up.

Inspiration from a Letter.

I read this and was inspired to reproduce it because of the message that it brings about potential. I have omitted the name of the person who wrote it and anything that would reveal too much about where it was written because I don’t know him that well to ask for his permission to post it here but I think knowing that his letter was an inspiration to me and that I want to share it with others would hopefully allow him to consent to me posting it if he does find out:

A Message from _________.

Long before I had the privilege of working at ________, my career at _____ began in 1979 as a warehouse supervisor. I was the warehouse guy, the shipping guy, and dealt with the long haul truckers who delivered product to the building. I always liked those men and women who spent the vast majority of their time driving goods across the country.

Recently I was on my own long drive (in my car) and on the radio comes an old song with these lyrics “18 wheels and a dozen roses, 10 more miles on his four day run. One more song on the all night radio and he’ll spend the rest of his life with the ones that he loves.” All I could think of was, that’s me? As most of you know, I am retiring at the end of the year. It is just a sliver of time when I think about a wonderful 30 year career at this company.

Since this is my last _______ message, please forgive me if I digress and reflect just a little. I grew up in a working class, small town near Seattle. In fact, I just attended my high school reunion. It was my 40th, ouch! At my high school, the dream was to graduate without getting into too much trouble and to go work for boeing or for the city. Very few ever considered college and most did not feel it would be all that beneficial. Most of us back then simply took life as it came at us. Some of you will not relate to this, but using a baseball analogy, I got thrown a curve ball. It was 1968 (many of you were not born yet) and the height of the Vietnam War. As an 18 year old male, I had to not only register for the draft, but also would be assigned a draft number. The lower the number—the higher the probability of actually getting drafted into the military. I got a very low draft number and my short term fate was pretty much assured. The Army or Marines wanted me? My dad promptly took me down to the Navy recruiting office and the next thing I knew I was wearing a small little white hat and trying desperately to shine my shoes as good as the guys next to me at inspection. Never did by the way.

I was apprehensive going in, but had an incredibly positive experience in the Navy. At the end of my obligation, I was once again faced with that question we all go through, about what we want to be when we grow up. Would I simply slide into the next available job, or should I think this through and start down a defined path? The good news is I had options.

My dad wanted me to take over his small painting business and I think I broke his heart when I said, “No thanks dad.” I had a great job as a salesman at Sears, but couldn’t see doing that for the rest of my life. The next option to consider was college. The incentive to go to school in part was the GI billwould pay me more than enough to cover my tuition and living expenses, and I could still work part-time at Sears. I had no idea what I wanted to take or be, but I signed up for a few classes at a local community college. Chemistry lasted about 30 minutes before I dropped that class and any thought of being a scientist.

Next up accounting… I didn’t drop out like I did with Chemistry, but I did not really study all that much and proceeded to flunk the class. I managed to get the courage to go to the professor and ask, “Should I drop out?” She gave me one of those life changing conversations that was all about me not living up to my potential. She was brutal, she challenged me to take her class again and this time to dedicate myself to doing it right. I did, and received an A, and was ultimately on my way to the University of Washington. I had the opportunity to address the students of that community college and retell that story last year. Something I would have never thought possible way back then.

So, what’s the point? My last message to all of you is to live up to your potential, never think you are not good enough, and never only give what it takes to get by. Never tell your kids that their dreams are too big. Last and perhaps the most important lesson I  learned from my father is to be positive and treat everyone, at every level, whether custodian or president with dignity and respect. This company and others as well, will always reward those who live up to their potential. There will always be bumps, hurdles, and maybe a little heartache along the road, but take it from a guy who started with virtually nothing…You could end up with one of the best jobs on the planet.

Love and only the best to all.

I was at work and it was a boring day. Then my supervisor told me that there was a meeting and that I had to attend. I thought to myself that every time I go to one of these meetings I just sit there and waste time. In other words, there is never a reason for me to be at these meetings because they never relate to my job or my duties. They don’t relate to me at all.

I went to this meeting knowing this and just the thought of the meeting meaning nothing to me made it appear has distant as a stranger. Some VP from Michigan was talking to our group of assembled employees in California through an internet connection. She was apparently also talking to a group in another part of California and to an assembly in Michigan. She talked about growth areas and charts, ideas that seemed abstract and without being. Then she began to award individuals who had excelled in some area of the company.

As she was awarding distant people I had never met I began to lose my consciousness and doze off. I was asleep enough to be in a state of static peace, like a flouting feather caught on the surface of a moving car, resting on it but still being swayed by the wind causing it to be in a precipice, where at any moment it could fly off either into a deeper sleep or back to an awareness of a world of awarding distant people. Either way both possibilities would seem surreal.

And then that’s when I woke up to full awareness. As soon as I was going to a deep sleep my body startled as if it was in some immediate danger from some unknown source. It was a moment when I was so relaxed that I let my grip go on my chair and I felt the anticipation of a fall. I caught myself soon to realize that I was fine all along. My body had revealed to me one of those primal instincts that lead to an immediate call to action. I thought to myself, I could have died right here, at this very moment, in this very boring meeting. I could die at any moment and I didn’t want it to be this one. I didn’t want to die in a boring meeting, wasting my life and listening to things that did not relate to me.

I didn’t want to die as an abstraction; as some nameless victim of a plane free-falling in the auditorium I was moments ago sleeping in, only to be known as another name in death, just a statistic to be reported on a newscast.

I had wasted all day wallowing in my sorrow over the day. I came to work purposeless; there was nothing for me there and my thoughts were that I was wasting my life at a job I could not escape, that I was trapped in a place I didn’t want to be at and that now I was thinking I could die. It was not that the thought of my death was new to me, but that this moment the awareness that my life could end any instant smacked me in the mind. The primal instinct I was referring to was that of survival. I had to survive or find some way to get out of this death trap of a meeting I was in.

There were suddenly possibilities all around me that I was obscuring in my self-involvement. Yes! there was the possibility of death and the possibility of spending my day wearily dreading my present existence, but there were better possibilities like talking to the new girl at work, or calling a friend I have not talked to in a while. There was a world of possibilities. The call to action was that I had to open myself up to those possibilities. Instead of sitting in a boring meeting inside my mind thinking only about how depressing the situation appeared, I could look forward to improving my life. I should not worry about the present appearance of despair so much, instead I should remember that old expression to seize the day and enjoy life. I suppose for this one redeeming point that boring meeting related to me. This Blog is an inspiration from a boring life, it is meant to add meaning to the otherwise meaningless. I hope this is at least a start to other ideas that may come. In order to explore, test, question, experience and connect through new ideas in this_______  whatever you may call it.

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