Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Dance Partner I Denied

I had a dream last night about my junior year homecoming. It brought up a memory I long repressed.

Those of you that know me, know that I'm a clumsy guy. I think a major reason is my six toes. Most shoe toe boxes are not built to contain number six. Therefore, my sixth toe is usually rubbed numb and my toe nails are always busted up.

Part of my balance issue is not actually knowing where that edge of my foot is. This is why I've also broken toe number six about 30 times and part of the reason why I rarely wear dress shoes.

I realized early that this was a great hindrance to dancing. I went to D.A.R.E. dances as a way to mingle and hopefully make out with girls. Problem was, when I attempted the courting process and would ask them to slow dance, I would step all over their toes. This turned into an ultra-awareness of where my feet were around other people.

So, when I slow dance with ladies, it becomes this awkward zombie shamble back and forth as I attempt to actually move as little as possible so that I don't break those pretty little toes they've shoved into already painful heels.

So back to junior year. I never really went to dances. Never really went to football games or rallies or parades. I never really bought into the high-school lifestyle. I didn't care. I had my group of friends and I was more than happy to drive around St. Charles, sipping milk shakes, and soaking into the hormonal sexual urges that none of us awkward kids ever acted on.

When a dance was happening, I went to haunted houses or movies. The dance didn't even register on my calendar.

Junior year a girl named Autumn in my English class caught up with me while I was walking out of the building for the day and sheepishly asked if I would be her date.

I didn't have a canned response for this. I figured since I wasn't planning on asking anyone, I was free and clear. I started sweating and sort of choked out a, "I don't really go to dances. I don't think I can be your date."

She looked really disappointed. Being a guy on the asking end of things, I know how the sting of rejection feels.

I remember walking around my neighborhood later that week. I often would grab my Walkman, blast one of my mixed tapes, and walk around for a few hours on nicer nights. I ran into a group of girls I didn't know. They stopped me and said, "Are you the guy Autumn asked to homecoming?" I replied yes and just kept walking.

I guess there's some deep seated guilt for that moment. I wish I would've invited her to do whatever activity I was going to do besides the dance, or sucked it up and gone to the dance, or at least when I saw those girls, ask if Autumn was around so I could apologize.

I must be out of my mind, reminiscing about teenage guilt.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Hero, the Love Interest, the Strong Guy

When I was younger, I used to spend full summers babysitting my brothers and playing a ton of Playstation 1. There were probably 3 summers filled with gaming in my overly hot room in St. Chuck, Nick and Brett perched on the edge of my bed watching, reading comic books.

Basically, those Sears spreads that shows kids spread out, playing with all of their stuff... yeah, we lived that.

Every weekend, I either rode my bike over to my cousin Ryan's house or got picked up by Aunt Dee to go hang out with Jake all weekend. 

Eventually Ryan started working at Crown Candy and I saw much less of him, but Jake, being a year younger than us, was always ready to hangout. We biked around the greater Florissant area from Friday night to Sunday morning. 

Back to the games, during this time certain games would sometimes allow you to rename characters if you wanted to. Generally there were 3 main characters, the hero, a girl, and a strong guy to rename. 

I always renamed them. The hero was obviously always me. The girl, who often was the hero's love interest, was named after my grade school crush, Jamie. And the strong, third character, was always named after Jake. 

It just made sense. My hormones had me obsessing over Jamie, my best buddy at the time was Jake, and I'm always the hero in my play. Why wouldn't I name them this way?

Jake unfortunately passed away in 2000. (I was actually playing a Playstation game called Syphon Filter 2 when I found out.) I didn't really know how to process things then. I had a lot of death in my life when I was younger. It seemed to be a curse for a while. But none of them had quite been as cutting as Jake. There was an entire portion of my life that was just sort of gone. 

I've mentioned before that I'm recollecting many of my Playstation 1 games now. One of my most sought after ones is Legend of Legaia, a game not many people I know played. 

Over Christmas, I found it. After searching for 4 years, I finally found Legend of Legaia. 

Jamie, Me, and Jake from left to right.

I haven't had time to play it until recently, but last week I found myself sitting in a totally empty house. I popped it in and loaded up an old memory card save I had from probably 15 years ago. 

And there I was, staring at Dan, Jamie, and Jake. A memory living on this little plastic card for 15 years. It was weird. I wanted so much to turn to someone and say, "Do you believe that?" But no one except Jake would've understood. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How We Split Our Time

I've probably sounded whiny lately about how much time I feel is wasted. I tend to dwell on this stuff when Sallie and I have been especially busy. And we have been jam packed since late February and will continue to be until late April.

I started thinking about this more when I read an article this week about the Swedish government testing out a 6 hour workday. (They already have a limit at 7 hours) They believe people will be more efficient and productive. I agree.

I'm great at my job. I exceed deadlines, nail my stats, win awards. But if I'm being honest, they probably only get about 5 hours of work out of me. The rest of the day is spent in meetings that go no where or staring out the window.

I broke down how many hours on average I spent on different things per week. (This was also an excuse for me to make a pie chart, which I haven't done since college when someone told me I would need to know how to do it for the business world.)

I'm sure this graph is at least close to most people.

I assumed that you work 8 hours, not including the 30 - 60 minutes wasted on lunch. I assumed that you spend at least an hour a day traveling, an hour eating 3 meals at 20 minutes a piece, 30 minutes showering and getting dressed, and an hour of general chores like picking things up, cooking food, etc a day. Basically, I went really conservative on these times. We all probably spend more time doing this stuff.

The amount of free time we as people have is not enough. If you have this ideal schedule, you're looking at 35 hours of free time a week. That's crazy. Only 20% of your time is actually yours.

I have many hobbies that I don't get to spend enough time on. I write, brew, play video games, and read. Things that I enjoy like guitar and drawing get pushed to the background, just because there's not enough time.

This isn't even including social interaction or those days where my brain is tired and I just need to stare at Netflix for a few hours.

Basically, if we go by the philosophy that you have to spend 10,000 hours on something to master it, it would take me almost 5.4 years to reach that goal, only if I spent all 35 hours of my free time on it every week.

This is the reason I'm not a master brewer, I'm not a published author, or whatever you become after mastering video games. When I start dedicating a lot of my free time toward one of these arts, I feel bad that I'm not spending enough time on the other ones.

This would also require I ignore my wife and friends. I like going out and having a beer. I like my wife pretty good. We need social interaction.

So, how do people do it? Do they just quit their jobs and mooch off of people until they make money with their art? Are these the people from my generation that live in their parents' basement voluntarily?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Generation Y

It's hard in this economy to not see a lot of misguided or simplified explanations for why things are the way they are.

My generation gets a ton of grief. The "Millennials" (which is a terrible name) are often described as entitled, lazy, and perfectly happy to live in their parent's houses. 

There was Time magazine's delicious "The Me Me Me Generation". And this Slate article that describes a sort of depression my generation faces where we are scared of adulthood.

And this sort of neck beard having, Mac Book loving, Star Bucks sitting persona has become my generations stereotype. We'd rather sit around, browsing the internet from our parent's basement, than get a job and our own plot of land in the suburbs. 

This is what the geniuses of this GOP campaign think of my generation. A semi-tight stripped sailor shirt, thick Weezer glasses, coming from this whining dude who just cares about his friends. And don't get me wrong, the Democrats have just as ridiculous ideas of what people my age are, they just are a little better at making us believe they are on our side.

More recently, there has been more about how maybe my generation isn't actually lazy, maybe we're sort of screwed by the system that's been in place for over 60 years.

We were told to go to college and we would magically start making $50,000 a year. No one told us that we would also be paying $650 a month in student loan payments. No one told us there was a housing bubble that was about to burst because a small group of really greedy people were cooking the books. And more times than not, my friends are unemployed, living at home, and generally hating life.

An Al Jazeera columnist, Sarah Kendzior from St. Louis, was one of the first people I saw that called out the devaluation of people. She argues that the rules of the old economy do not apply to people under 35. And god help you if you're a single woman, college graduate.

So what do we do? Is it even possible to change the system when even our Supreme Court  rules that money is equal to speech?

Probably not. It's a crazy world where we will continue to eat up resources until we find cheaper resources. Striping us of any stability. And eventually the system is going to collapse.  We'll continue to outsource jobs to cheaper countries and expect American workers to do the jobs that only years before several people did.

I'm terrified of the future. People constantly talk me from the ledge of, "I wish I didn't buy a house" saying it's a good investment. It is only a good investment if I actually make money on my house and if I have a job with which to pay for that house. And those dark clouds heading this way say that maybe that's not a likely scenario in 5-10 years.