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Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Last post, I explained to you my deep seeded Envy for certain things in life. It wasn't a fun post to make but it was a necessary one, where an examination of my envies would lead-hopefully-to a better understanding of myself. In this case, I think it did that... after the post was made I indulged in a feel good movie.
My go-to type of feel good movie? Romantic comedies. Yeah, I'm a sucker for them. I blame my mother for this (she and I used to watch many such movies together in my younger years) and certainly I've cultivated my tastes over the years on such movies. I like a decent romantic comedy and love a good one. 

So, I went and watched one of my all time favorite ones-if not my all time favorite-"Something's Gotta Give" starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. This one came out in 2003 (the cell phones date the movie, lol) and it has remained just as good a story over the years.

Watching this movie about these two older people finding love, learning how to deal with it, and ultimately getting together made me feel better. Sure, they were both wildly successful people in the movie, but that success-all that money, all those friends-didn't breed happiness. It only bred contentment. 

The movie reminded me that happiness isn't ultimately found in things we envy but the things we have.

Which brings me to today's post and Aretha Franklin. We all know the song "Respect" and how it relates to people... but in this case I want to take this song another way. Rather than respecting each other (which is very important, I don't deny that) let us respect what we have. 

Respect is defined as the condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect. This definition is pretty important in relation to the things we have. How many times do we show admiration for the things we don't have and throw the things we have under the bus? Speaking for myself, often. Not as often as I once did but still often enough. 

Respect for the things we have also should breed appreciation for the things we have-we can't respect something without some sort of appreciation for it, can we? 

Appreciation is defined as to feel thankful or grateful for. Do we appreciate the things we have in life or do we take them for granted? I think most days we take them for granted. We don't show the things in life the respect they deserve, we don't appreciate them as we should, and then on the day when those things in life inevitably go away we wonder "What happened?"

I don't want to utter that sentence on that day. I want to say "I'm glad I had them for as long as I did." We should value the things we have, and we should remind ourselves every day of them.

"Hey, hey, weren't you just whining to us before about all the things you didn't have?"

Yes, I was. This is the flipside to that. I'm not here to list the things I envy but rather the things I respect. The things I appreciate. The things that, if the day came when they went away, I'd have to cry for I would have no other recourse. 

Starting from number ten, here's are the things that I value the most in life. 

10. My Car

One red 1994 Isuzu Trooper has been my car since I started driving. For those of you that know me, you know how much I love this car. This car took my family from Florida to Alaska, with many stops along the way, and back. It has a ton of miles on it, it's seen all kinds of weather, and it's been across this nation. It has been my place to go when I need to be alone... it has been my companion on those long nights when nothing seems to go right. 

It has its issues. It has its detractors. But that car is over 18 years old. I've known it longer than my two younger siblings and a host of cousins. I try my best to take care of it but I'm not a car guy... I suck at cars. That doesn't stop me loving that car but it does make me thing that when the day comes it decides to pass from this world that it will be somehow my fault. 

"But... it's a car... it's a CAR!" 

I get that. I'm a sentimentalist. I get that from my father, you should see how many things he keeps that serve absolutely no purpose anymore. But they have memories. I'm lucky that I got some of my mother's "neatfreakness" (<that sounds dirty) and so my sentimentality is tempered with practicality. When it comes to my car though... I just can't see myself ever willingly giving it up. I've had a chance to upgrade to something newer, more fuel efficient, and overall better... but I didn't take it. I didn't want it then and I don't want it now. There's something to be said for loyalty and that car has shown me some serious loyalty over the years. The least I can do is ride it out until the very end. 

9. The Internet

The Internet gets a bad rap these days. People always blame it for the problems of society and I'm guilty of doing that sometimes too. But it's not the Internet's fault... it's just what it is. It doesn't force us to go to websites we don't need to be going to, to watch videos we don't need to be watching, or to buy things we don't need to buy. It's there as a tool and, like any tool, it can be used or misused. 

I'm glad we have the Internet. The world would be so much more lonely, so much more empty, without it. Some of my best friends in life I met over the Internet first before we ever met in person. I've met some incredible people over the Internet-there is so much talent out there that it's mind boggling. 

Without the Internet I would have never begun writing. Without writing I would have never met any of the great writers I know. Without meeting them, I wouldn't have befriended some of them. Without befriending one of them in particular I would be sitting here around 300 pounds (if not over) and not at 140. 

The Internet is a tool that can be used for good or evil. I've been lucky enough that, in my life, it has been used for good. Sure, sometimes I can't get a good connection to it and I curse at it. Sure, sometimes I can't find what I'm looking for because it's being super anal about the search terms (some days it just has problems). Despite all that, I know that Internet has been good to me. I don't respect it or appreciate it as much as I should... I take it for granted a lot of days. Since I'm posting this on the Internet, I hereby extend a heartfelt apology to it for all the nasty things I've said about it over the years. I can't promise I won't say nasty things in the future but I can try not to. 

8. Cheesecake

"That should be higher up on his list! He's lying now."

Admittedly, my love of cheesecake is well documented. It's a love that I have suffered for in the past and shall suffer for again in the future. But it's just a food... it doesn't deserve a top five spot as much as I love it. I think, out all the things on this list, I take cheesecake for granted the least. I only have it once, maybe twice a year, and that means that when I do have it I respect the heck out of it (not to mention savor every last bite). 

Cheesecake has caused me a lot of pain over the years as I'm lactose intolerant. Despite that pain, the two of us know that whatever suffering it will bring me will never eclipse the joy it gives me. It's my all time favorite food. It's better than... pretty much anything. I can't stand to see it go to waste and I can't stand seeing people waste it. It's wrong. 

Should the day ever come where I can never have it again (possible), I would cry. A lot. 

7. Creativity

"Okay, now he's just screwing with us."

Hold your horses-remember, the basis of this list is the things I appreciate, respect, and value the most. I value creativity a heck of a whole lot but I don't always appreciate it. In fact, it's kinda a battle with me to respect it because the creativity and I, we don't always have the same idea. We're not always on the same page (as a writer, this is an issue). 

Some days I want to write one thing but creativity demands something entirely different. We clash. We knock heads. We don't get a lot done when one of us isn't willing to be the bigger person and do what the other asks. I usually end up being that person (since I was quite bigger before, it was easy...) but some days creativity decides to cut me a break. 

I respect it for everything it allows me, for everything it gives me, but on the days we clash that respect isn't there. I need to do a better job of thanking the muse rather than kicking it in the teeth when it doesn't give me what I want, you know?

Should I lose my creativity, should I lose the ability to turn a blank page into something meaningful, I would surely cry. I wouldn't have much else to do but cry if my creativity went away. 

6. Music

Music and I don't go back as far as I wish. It wasn't until my 9th grade year that I got into music... it took me that long to see the value in it. I had issues with music. My father, on those trips back and forth across the country in the Trooper, played a lot of country music. I'm not saying it was horrible (I'm not saying it but you can guess what I think, right?) but a lot of it didn't appeal to me. I liked Garth Brooks (he made country good) but that was about it. My father, unfortunately, was raised in the South and loved all country. He also had a deep seeded hatred for the 80s ("Music died in that decade," he said). 

Because of this early scarring with music, I didn't take too it much in my younger years. I would shun it, ignore it, and call it names. I would much rather sit in silence in the car, staring out the window, than listen to music. I just didn't want any part of it. 

But 9th grade year, all that changed thanks to one friend, a CD player, and classic rock. I was shown the error of my ways very quickly and I threw myself deep into the classic rock end of the musical pool. I drowned myself in it... I didn't come up for air for a long time. I was convinced classic rock was the best, the brightest, and the greatest of musical genres. 

Call it being blinded by first love if you like... it was rather ignorant on my part. Since those heady high school days I have expanded my musical views, slowly but surely. Music and I enjoy a good relationship... we talk often. We listen to one another (I listen to it, it listens to me beat the crap out of my keyboard as I type) and a lot of the time we find common ground. 

I need a pick me up? AC/DC. Something to calm me down? It's time for The Eagles. Need a release? Let's throw on those workout clothes and rock out to Linkin Park. I have music for pretty much everything. 

But there are days when the music I listen to gets taken for granted... I want it to do certain things, to clean certain things up about certain songs that annoy me. Every piece of music has a small flaw in it, whether it's a particular lyric that bugs me or a sound that doesn't quite fit in the song. I sometimes concentrate on these negative aspects and try to tell music to get its act together. 

In reality, I need to get my act together. But I don't live in reality some days as most of you know. 

Now we're at the part where I could probably not live without these next things... whereas the bottom part of the top ten was devoted to things I would cry if I lost, these are things I would cry and then die without. Their value, the respect and appreciation I have for them, is pretty deep. Keep that in mind as we move on to number five...

5. Star Trek

"A TV show?!"

More than a TV show. It's something that has changed the way people think about things, about life, about each other, and more. Star Trek, as we all know, is a show of many firsts. Star Trek has been a part of my life since I was three and it really has had a profound influence on me.

Now, you must be asking yourself, how crazy I am to list this in the "without it I would cry and then die" category and my answer is, pretty crazy. I admit, my love (or obsession, you decide) of this show is unmatched with any other form of entertainment out there. No other TV show, no other movie, no other comic book, musical group, or anything like that could come close to Star Trek... they would be stopped at Wolf 359 at the very least.

Why do I value Star Trek so much? It shows all kinds of things in the future that I hope man can achieve. The tech stuff is usually what people point out in this type of discussion. "I want warp drive... I want holodecks... I want transporters... I want phasers" but for me it's not about the tech stuff. It's about how humanity has evolved past the point where we start wars because someone important died, where we build bombs that could destroy the world ten times over just because someone else has, where we value money  over people, where we value appealing to what's wrong at the expensive of what's right. 

Humanity in Star Trek has been portrayed as more evolved, more in touch with the greater good, and far more moral than we are today. Of course, certain series (like DS9) muddied the waters to make humanity in the 24th century more about projecting those values than actually living them, but that's a rant for another day. 

These things in Trek I fell in love with early on. I wanted them in the world I lived in and I still want them that way. It has served as an inspiration to me and, though I fall short most days, I try to use my knowledge of Star Trek and what it represents to me for good. 

I couldn't live in a world without Star Trek. You don't know how bad a feeling it was to watch "Star Trek Nemesis" tank and then Trek get stuck on life support as Enterprise soon followed after it. Trek was gone, dead, and a lot of people wrote it off. It was a dark time that Trek fans haven't seen since the Original Series got canceled back in 1969 and any hope of a fourth season died... those fans had to wait ten years before Trek hit screens again. Thankful, it did. But I sure didn't want to wait ten years. 
4. Living
Do you realize how we just... you know... breathe? Over and over we breathe. We inhale, we exhale, we inhale, we exhale... and not once do we stop and think to ourselves "Hey, this whole living thing isn't so bad."
We constantly moan about our lives. About how overworked/tired/stressed/poor/unfulfilled our lives are. Do you realize how many dead people probably want to take our place? I'm serious, I think they're pretty fed up with us. We sit and complain, we moan and groan, and we're around for another day. 
I'm as guilty of this as anyone. I undervalue my life a lot. I don't take living as a blessing, I just treat it as a burden a lot of days. "I have to do this... and this... and this... jeez, wouldn't it be easier to go on to heaven?" Maybe it might be easier. Maybe it might be simpler. But it sure wouldn't be the same.
We don't appreciate our lives like we should. We don't respect our lives at all really. A lot of us (me included) do stupid, risky things that could end our lives. No one around late at night on an empty highway? Let's go really fast. A boring Saturday night? Good thing I have a few bottles of booze. Frustrated about the day and just need to chill? Got a new refill on anti-depressants... let's double the dosage.

And the list goes on, and on, and on. We're not perfect but I think we should take a few minutes out of our day to just breathe... to bask in the sun... and remind ourselves that we could be rotting in the dirt, becoming worm food, if certain things hadn't gone certain ways.

Living-the second most unappreciated thing on this list for me.

3. God

"Blasphemy! That should be higher! That should be number one in ANY list like this!"

Yeah, it seems bad. It probably is bad. But I'm being honest here and I ask you to be honest with me, if just for this moment. Is God really number one on the list of things you respect, appreciate, and value the most? For me the answer to that is a firm "No" even on my best days.

I'm a sinful, flawed, screwed up human being. And I appreciate the good Lord less than anything else on this list. On a scale of appreciation, he comes dead last. Why?

I often feel like with God (and this will probably get me smote-not smited) that he's pointing at all the things he did in the past as to why we should appreciate him. Why we should respect him. He points to all the miracles in the Bible. He points to Jesus and how he came down from heaven, saved our ungrateful butts, and suffered for us. He points to the promises of the paradise that awaits us if we choose to follow him and live by his commands.

Those are all valid points. I can't argue with any of them. But I feel-and I know it's wrong-that God is trying to skate by on what he's done for us in the past and what promises he'll fulfill in the future. Like an aging Hall of Fame player, we should respect and appreciate him for all the times he's pulled our tails out of the fire with a clutch play, a key adjustment, or just plain guts.

On a certain level, I do respect him and appreciate him for that. But I want to know... what have you done for me lately? That's the question that comes to mind when I ask myself why I don't appreciate God more than I appreciate Star Trek. I look at Star Trek and I have the benefits, the goals, the inspiration it provides me on the tip of my tongue. I can quote episodes, characters, story arcs... you name it.

When it comes to God I don't have that ability. I have never had that ability. And maybe that's why I don't appreciate him more than Star Trek... I just don't feel like he's doing much for me lately.

Let me emphasize that my feelings in this matter are conflicting with the facts. Factually, rationally, I know he does plenty for me. I have been blessed with a lot of things that I don't have a right to. I shouldn't feel anything but incredibly grateful. Instead, I feel a bit of resentment... what he does for me isn't always what I want. Not getting what you want sucks and makes you feel a bit unhappy. Well, count me as a bit unhappy.

So, God, you're the least appreciated thing on this list. For that, I'm sorry. We'll work it out. Or you'll smite me. Whichever works for you.

2. Friends

There are two types of friends in this world. One, the friends you call friends but can't name three good moments you've had with them. Two, the friends you can sit down and talk with for hours on end, the memories you have of them being cemented into your mind.

I'm talking about the second type of friends. I am really grateful for my friends. I'm not the easiest person to get along with. I'm moody. I'm insane. I reference old TV shows, Star Trek, sports, and comic books in most conversations. I am a social reject. I have problems asking for help, saying thank you, or apologizing verbally-you ask me to write it, I can write it, but you ask me to verbalize... well, it's much tougher.

I'm not an easy person to put up with. I'm incredibly stubborn. I see things in a black or white view... all or nothing. I want to do things my way and when that doesn't work I want to barrel over whatever is in my way. I have horrible handwriting (for those of you that have had to grade some of papers in class, my apologizes), I have neurotic tendencies that must be met, and the best I can do to repay the vast majority of you for your friendship is to listen.

I respect the heck out of you guys and gals. I appreciate you a lot. Some days I seem less than appreciative of you. Some days you say things that bug me and make me want to slap you upside the head. But I imagine you have those same feelings for me, so it's all good.

You guys and gals are people I feel close to. I can talk to you about virtually any subject. Some of you, more than others, have heard my take on particular subjects. We engage in intelligent conversation and debate. We excel in making each other laugh while pissing each other off. It's a strange thing we have, friends, but it works.

I don't make friends easily. Being the social reject I am, I tend to not be very outgoing. I'm not adventurous. You guys are among a select group of people... so thank you for putting up with me. Really. Without friends, I would not go on in life. Perhaps that speaks to my issues. I don't know. I just know that, with you, my life is better.

1. Family

"Well... that's a little bit understandable."

 I could make a case for anything in the top five of this list to be number one. God, of course, should probably be up there and him getting snubbed for first should invalidate the rest of this list. But family? I'm uniquely blessed in this respect.

Sure, as far as friends go, I have a wide ranging group of them. I love that. We have tons of things to talk about, tons of opinions to express, and that suits me just fine.

But family... now there's something that's like friends but not. It's hard to explain. I have, in my life, three families. Each I value about equally but I'm not going to do any rankings-it's not about that and it never will be. Each family brings something unique and different to the table... and I am the most appreciative of that. I have the most respect for them because of that and other facts. We'll just do this chronologically.

A. My blood family

I was lucky enough to be born into a loving home, one that didn't just embrace the family concept but pretty drowned itself in it. I'm thankful for that despite the annoying things that come up from time to time. I have a wonderful set of parents who, despite my many failures, love me. I have an equally amazing (if not a bit more sarcastic) group of siblings who love me, each in their own unique way. I have cousins that I like (how many people can say that?) and I have Aunts/Uncles that are quite unique. I have loving grandparents, loving great aunts/uncles (but we don't use the "great" part) and I have access to three generations worth of experience, advice, and wisdom.

My blood family is unique in that they've seen me grow as a person, physically, as well as mentally. I have gone from the little kid who beat his head against the hardest object in the room because I didn't get my way to a guy who is decently level headed on most days. They've seen me learn responsibility, learn trust, and they've taught me values in a society that increasingly seems to be valueless (despite all the value menus floating around).

They have helped me grow in ways I can't begin to list... they've embraced my uniqueness (my obsession with Star Trek, the Florida Gators, and hatred of all condiments-especially ketchup). They've dealt with me successfully and have set the blueprint in place for others to deal with me. I got issues and they keep dealing with them the same way: with love. 

I'm a lucky, lucky guy... I don't always treat my blood family with the respect it deserves. That's probably because we've been together so long now that it just kinda is unsaid... taken for granted... all these things. But it won't be this way forever. It never will be the same as it was before. Which is why it's value is so high to me.

B. My church family

I haven't known them as long as my blood family. We don't have as many dramatic memories as my blood family and I have. But we have a long history. My church family is unique in that is has seen my evolution spiritually in a far more open/blatant way than my blood family. I'm not exactly the most open person around (despite my propensity to blog about a lot of things this is a recent occurrence not traditionally associated with me).

My church family has helped influence views on subjects I wouldn't have known the first thing to think about. They have been with me through the good and the bad. I haven't taken advantage of their wealth of knowledge like I should have (very much like my blood family) but it's there, should I ever need it.

I've seen the many little ones in the church grow up to become teenagers. Babies I held in the nursery 10-11 years ago are now preteens. It's a weird feeling thinking how much has changed in the time I've been with my church family. Out of the three families I have, this one is the one I feel as though I have really taken for granted the most. It's not the same as it once was with my church family. We've had people leave the church or go onto heaven... the dynamics have changed.

It's almost like that great TV show that has cast changes towards the end of it's run. It should have bowed out gracefully when it had its entire original cast (or most of it) in place. I feel like that with my church family, that I should have bowed out when we were at our best, when we were on top... but then, you can't do that with family.

With family, there is no bowing out. Thick and thin (I've been both), good or bad, you're stuck with them. I don't mind that at all, really. I just wish I had figured out that Hawaiian shirts weren't the only thing you could wear on a Sunday morning sooner.

C. My Virgina family

This is the one that is newest, that is freshest, but that doesn't negate it's value to me. It's value to me is very high and it's the rare combination where, not only do I feel they're  family to me, but that they're also really close friends too. That's a combo that is present in smaller ways with my other families but it's not the same.

Every family in my life brings something different to the table and this one is like a combination of the other two, yet unique in it's own right. They haven't known me for long-nearly a year and a half-but I feel like they have. They haven't seen me go from baby to what I am now, yet they have seen me as I was (nearly 300 pounds) and now see me as I am (holding steady at 140).

They haven't witnessed my multiple meltdowns over the years but they know I have the capability to meltdown. They haven't seen me do many really stupid things but they take my word for it that I have. They trust me. I trust them and it's an amazing thing to find that such feelings can come forth in such a comparatively short time period.

I consider them my second blood family... like we almost should have been together from the beginning but it was meant to be that we would find one another later in life. I admit, I'm just as confused about the hows and the whys as they undoubtedly are about how this scenario came to pass. I don't pretend to know all the answers or even some of them.

But that's kind of the point: I don't pretend. There are no past behaviors or routines that have been cemented into their minds about me. They don't have the years of history that my other two families have to judge me by. I tell them all the things I've done, be sure of that (I do like to tell stories) but it's different... telling them the stories means they weren't there to witness it with their own eyes.

When you witness something with your own eyes it doesn't go away. It stays with you.

And here, with this family, I feel that the majority of what they witness from me is decent. Maybe not good, but certainly not bad. I'm not confident in that feeling but I'm not confident in many of my feelings.

I am confident in the fact that I love each family I have in my life. That I would do whatever it took to do what's best for them, period. There is no doubt of that. I will fight for them and I will do my very best not to mess things up for them. I won't always succeed (I hate admitting that but it's true) and I won't always feel be in a good mood (remember, I'm moody). But I'll be there when called upon: rain, snow, shine, hail, hellfire, comets, or ketchup (if it was raining ketchup I would hesitate for a second, I admit that, but I would brave ketchup... I hate ketchup but I'd brave it).

These are the things in life I appreciate and respect. The things in life that I value.

I encourage you to take stock of the things in life that you appreciate, respect, and value. You might be surprised what ends up at number one.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cheesecake and Envy

Envy: a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions, etc.

We all know this feeling. We all have it. Last night, I was struck by this feeling pretty hard. It started out small but, like so many things with me, it spiraled out of control quite fast. 

Yesterday evening some of my friends went to a party. At this party was cheesecake. It's common knowledge by this point that cheesecake is pretty much my favorite food ever and, should any opportunity come up to eat it, I want to be where the cheesecake is. Last night was not meant to be however for I was not invited to this party.

Now, admittedly, I could have crashed it but that's a major party foul. Not only that but it was a birthday party too, so that would have easily multiplied the foulness of the party foul by a factor of ten. No, this wasn't meant to be... I half suspected cheesecake would be at this party but I put the thought out of my mind. 

At least until it got late and my friends got back. The party was small, decent, but apparently quite boring... but I was dumb enough to ask what kind of cake was there. My answer? Cheesecake... not just regular cheesecake but chocolate cheesecake too.  Two cheesecakes

Hello, Envy... where have you been lately? God, I wanted to some of that cheesecake and I wished I was there. I wish I had gotten invited but, let's face it, I was merely an acquaintance with the birthday girl involved, not a friend, so there was no rational reason to bring me along. I understood that easily enough but as the details of the party came out, I began to feel Envy tugging at other parts of me.

You see the party was a couples party... as in, if you had a significant other to be there with, you belonged (That's how it sounded in my head when I heard it). It's common knowledge that I am single, one amongst many, and I feel this may have played a much smaller role in me being not invited... but my brain was quickly becoming concerned with other things. 

Mainly, all the things I didn't have and others did... and how it was seemingly impossible for me to achieve anything like what others had. 

I was going into a dark place and I couldn't stop the descent. Luckily, I managed to get to bed before things really took hold in my head. But in bed there was no peace... Envy had a firm grasp on me. Not only that, but I was having a few debates in my own mind about whether having all that really mattered anyway because, according to some parts of me (the really depressive ones), having all those things means that you'll be constantly worrying about losing them. Then when you inevitably do, said the depressive parts of me, you'll be worse off because you had a taste of the good stuff... and once lost, you will never be able to get it back. 

I didn't sleep well last night. I tossed, I turned, I tried to make the bad thoughts go away, but I got stuck something fierce in my own thought processes. I woke up this morning, still bummed out at all the things I didn't have, and I hoped church would snap me out of it. It kinda did... but it kinda didn't.

I got back and took a nap... that worked as well as last night's sleeping did. Now, I'm here and I tell you I'm an envious human being. I am gripped by Envy right now despite my best efforts not to be. I know I shouldn't be... the Bible put it pretty succinctly what Envy will do you.

Proverbs 14:30: "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."

I take this to mean a few things. A) Envy is a disruptive force in the life of yourself and others. B) Acknowledging and appreciating what you have is how you arrive at a peaceful heart. C) Letting Envy sit inside you for long time will rot you from the inside out.

I read that verse last night, I was thinking on it earlier today, and it tied with another verse I was reading last night and came across in Sunday School today (this is where church was kinda helpful).

1st Corinthians 13:4: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not

"How does this go together?" you ask. That will be answered... but before we get to that, I need to do something I hesitate to do but am quite certain I need to do because the idea has been with me since last night (which generally means it's either going to get written or I won't be sleeping). I admit, fully, that I am an envious human being of certain other people... I am suffering from Envy right now. So, while I'm here, I'm going to give you my top ten things I Envy: you can determine how dumb/incompetent/idiotic I am. We'll start with number ten...

10. Money

"That's at number ten?!" 

Yes, it's low on the Envy list, isn't it? I, like so many others, have this idea that money would solve all my problems. It would solve a few, not all, and the rational side of me gets this but the irrational... it's pretty convinced that with more money, lots of money, I could do whatever I wanted and be fine. I could skydive off a tall building in the dead of night (like Batman!) and be fine. Money solves all problems... or so the irrational part of me thinks. 

9. Good Hair

This one is dumb. It really, really is, but my problems with my hair are frustrating. Why can't I have good hair? Why can't I have the kind of hair that anything can be done with, that it looks good, and I don't have to hunt for a decent style? I Envy people with good hair. I have a lot of friends who have good hair and who can do virtually anything with it, get complimented on it, and it's all normal for them. That hardly ever happens to me.

8. The Ability to Feel Like a Man

I have a baby face. I routinely get mistaken for being in high school, I can't grow any facial hair, and I feel very much like a kid not a man. By all definition I am one, this is not really debatable, but I don't feel like one. I don't have that confidence that carries me around... I can cook better than I can cut wood, I'm better at house cleaning than I am at building things, and I am hopeless when it comes to cars. Yet I know these guys, these great guys, who can do all these man things and they do them... like men. They don't struggle or overthink things, they just go about their day. I don't understand how they do that.

7. Self Confidence

I hardly have any. I used to be quite a cocky guy, overly confident in things, but I don't have that anymore. That has been broken in me. I look around at other people, see how they approach a problem with the feeling that they know they can get the job done... I don't have that feeling a lot of times. If there's a problem I'm unfamiliar with, I tend to panic a bit internally and fumble around to determine a proper course of action. I can't go into an unfamiliar situation and expect myself to adapt quickly... I don't adapt quickly (thusly making me a horrible Borg drone) and that leads to me just sitting, observing, and building up a routine to deal with things. Why can't I act with instant analysis and succeed like some people?

6. New Toys

"Like action figures?"

No, like new laptops. Or smart phones. Or a new gaming system. I like new toys. I like to play around with them and find out all the little things I can do with them (and some of the things I'm not supposed to do with them but am able to anyway). I see other people have these things, treat them like dirt or complain about not having the latest model... I just want to hit them honestly. I don't have these things. Do I want them? Sometimes. I Envy the ability these people have of enjoying these new toys... I don't necessarily want them all the time but I do some of the time. Like a child who sees another child with something shiny and new, I forget about what I already have and focus on what I don't. 

5. A Large Group of Friends

I have a small group of friends in real life and on Facebook. I value the intimacy this allows me with my friends but it feels like I'm missing out sometimes. I know people with large groups of friends and they always have something to say, always have something going on... they always seem to be involved and, when the time comes for them to get some advice/opinions/ideas this large group of friends tends to answer the call. I Envy these people with their large group of friends because it looks to me like they're living a life... while I'm merely part of life. It's the difference between sitting still and moving. I feel like I'm sitting still.

4. The Ability to Play an Instrument

I want to one day be able to play an instrument. But until then, I can only Envy those that can (and it doesn't help many in my family can while I can't... my pride hates that). These people that can play an instrument, that can take some strange looking thing and make it produce something pleasant... it astounds me how a lot of them seem to think nothing of it. I don't have the brain to do it I think. I love to listen to good music, I appreciate the time and effort the people behind the music put in, but I don't have an understanding of the music... I can't read it. I can't begin to discern the deeper meanings. I feel like the dumbest person in the room with a group of musicians. They know what they're doing with that stuff... the best I can do is offer compliments. 

3. People with Kids

"Say what? Do you know how much of a pain they are! How much work they take!"

Yes, I'm aware of how much an annoyance, a pain, and a burden kids sometimes are. But you say kids/children to me and the first word that pops into my mind is fun. They are fun. They are the most fun individuals you can ever have the pleasure of knowing. 

And, blast it, I want some of my own. I suffer from severe Envy of people with kids... they have, at their finger tips, someone to play with at a moment's notice (which probably speaks to my juvenile, immature mindset but I digress), to care for, to teach, and to enjoy. They're a blast to be with.

I can only sponge off other people's kids. I don't have any of my own. I'm not in a position to have any. I can only look on and watch. 

2. People with a Purpose in Life

This one almost made number one. 

You know those people who know what they're supposed to do? Who have figured out what they're good at, how to use it, and how to be an actual contributing member to society? I know those people. I'm not one of them. I don't know what my purpose in life is. 

Which is why I Envy those that do. They have objectives, goals, and they go after them. They know what they're doing and, even when they don't, they have enough experience to take a good guess. They have a reason to be on this planet. 

....what's mine? I don't know. I'm looking. I'm trying. I'm praying. I'm making little progress. There's a point in a person's life where they figure it out... for some it happens early. For others it happens later. For me it doesn't feel like it's going to happen at all. I don't have an apparent use in this world and that bugs me to no end... I hate being unproductive. I hate being useless. I hate feeling like I'm a burden to others. 

This, I think, is why I'm so envious of people with a purpose in life... I don't see them having these same feelings. I see them being useful, being productive, and relieving the burdens of others rather than contributing to them. People don't worry about them. People don't look at them with concern. People just treat them like they're a normal, functional, person. 

I'm not there yet. I want to be, badly, and I'm not there yet nor do I feel like I'm anywhere close. 

1. Married People


Of all the things in life I want, of all the people in life I most Envy, those that I Envy most are those that are married. This has been number one on my list since... I don't know, ten years old I think. It's the one thing I want more than anything which is probably why I'll never have it.

The idea appeals to me. Having someone to love and care for, for the rest of your life, doesn't scare me... it comforts me. I don't like being lonely and being married means I wouldn't be. I don't need a counselor or drinking buddy when I'm married... my wife can be both and more. I look at all these married friends of mine and I just want to scream at the sky "WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?"

They had pretty active dating lives. It came to them easily. Me? I have to force myself to go to parties. I have never had an active dating life. I have never had a body that was in anyway appealing to anyone else... now, I'm much thinner and in way better shape. How do I use that? How do I turn that into something... special?

I've heard just about every "How We Met" story there is. I've taken notes in my mind while the stories are being told, looking for that key... looking for the Rosetta Stone that will allow me to decipher this great mystery of life. Dating sites, churches, bars, parties, random meetings, and more have all been suggested to me. I feel comfortable doing very few of them.

But I see it all around me, marriage. People have in that someone whom they can talk to, whom they can hang out with, whom they can love, whom they do virtually anything with... married people have the best thing ever in my opinion. Sure, it's not money or infinite resources... but it's more valuable than everything I've listed prior to this in my view. 

Which brings me back to 1st Corinthians 13:4. How does that tie in? Love is not envious. What I get from that is, until I can figure out how to appreciate what I have and what others have rather than wish I had it, I'm missing a key component in how to love. It's like trying to start a car without an engine it it: sure, you can have the whole body tricked out, lots of room to carry people, and have a sick interior... but until that engine gets put into the car, it's not going anywhere.

I feel like that's part of my problem. I feel like that I have the body in decent shape, that I have room to carry others, and that my interior isn't horrifying... but that I don't have the engine. I don't have the thing to make me go. Something is missing in me to make me go, to allow me to truly love someone and that's why I don't have anyone. 

Of course, it's all a theory... maybe it's a bad one. But it's the one I'm running with right now. 

That's it for today. I feel a bit better now. Thanks for reading.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Prince William... Still Kinda Hate You

Do you folks remember my blog post way back in January on Prince William? Specifically, how his haircut was being forced on me as the only option I had to hide the fact that I was in the process of going a bit bald?

Well, I remember it. I was thinking earlier today on all the various things that I could do with my hair... if, you know, it wasn't falling out. Yet, it is falling out. I know it. My comb knows it. The drain knows it.  Prince William's haircut worked and now it seems as if it's the only one that'll work. I really, really, don't like that.

Back in January I decided to try and save my hair with Rogaine and a half decent haircut. The results were not as I wished it to be. Months of Rogaine produced little results and I gave it the heave ho right out the door. I'm done with trying to hide it or correct it. It's genetic. It can't be corrected, it can't really be hidden.

The last few months I've been doing without, keeping an eye (or eyes as it were) on my hair and wondering what to do with it. The simple comb over is still the best option at the moment, but it's now reached the point where my hair is long enough to demand a haircut. I know this because it no longer cooperates in the mornings... it merely lives as it's own entity, mocking me as I stare at it in the mirror trying to get it in some half decent shape.

Most mornings my hair wins. This isn't a huge deal, but at some point I'm going to have a social life and at some point I'm going to need a decent hair style. My options however... I don't know. They seem at once expansive and restrictive.

Oh, there have been suggestions of things. I could spike it up but that would require hair gel... I don't like hair gel. It's sticky, it's nasty, and it reminds me of things people stick on their food (condiments... I HATE condiments, particularly ketchup). It doesn't have a good "feel" to me and it just makes me feel.. yuck. No, hair gel is not for me. I don't like the stylistic spiked hair look anyway. "Damn it, Jim, I'm a young man, not a skewer!" (Obligatory Star Trek reference complete)

I'm 23, soon to be 24 in about three weeks. I'm getting to the point now where I can't get away with spiked hair anymore anyway. Why start that when the time for it has long since passed? True, I can wear the clothes associated with the spiked hair look now. I can fit into size 29 skater jeans (which means I can fit into anything in size 29 long pants). I'm not a skater though-went through that phase in fifth grade, wrecked a few times, got over it real fast. I was too large then to be riding a skateboard... the skateboard agreed and promptly broke in half after having me on it for awhile. Embarrassing, much.

So spiky hair, complete with lots of hair gel, out as far as options go.

"How about growing it out?" I say to myself. Long hair is sorta in, some people can pull it off. I, however, don't think I'm one of those people. My hair is a fine type of hair-thin, easy to pull out, and quite flexible. But at the length it's at now, it's pretty tough to maintain. Thinking about the maintenance with it longer gives me a headache. Of course I'm curious about the option... but not curious enough to go through with it.

Plus I'm not the type of person who justifies having long hair. I'm not a painter. I'm not a hippie. I don't play any musical instruments (minus one song on the harmonica, "Amazing Grace" and I do that rather poorly). I'm not a party guy. I don't do high traffic social scenes. I just don't have the credentials to be someone with long hair.

So, that is ruled out.

"How about a dye job? Give your hair some color, some pizazz," part of me suggests. The option has merit, certainly. I have a number of friends, male and female, who have dyed their hair with relative success and it has given them that "fresh" look that I'm craving at the moment. It's different, it's out there, it's radical for me-remember, I'm an Air Force brat. I know only a few ways to do hair and dye is not one of them.

Of course, there's the thing about all the chemicals in those dyes. One of the reasons I was glad to give the Rogaine up so quickly was because of all the stuff in it-I didn't want that in me, in any way. It just seemed... dangerous in some respects. I've taken to reading the back of everything now, looking for clues as to what's actually in the stuff and if it's harmful in anyway. This applies to foods as well as anything else. Lots of times, I like to play it safe and just avoid the things I deem risky.

But I'm looking for a fresh look. I need a shakeup, a change, a shock to the system I guess. I'm tired of my hair being the only thing on me that's been left unchanged since my dramatic weight loss. I'm thinner now, I have new clothes, I have new shorts/jeans, and I even have a new jacket. These things I possess... yet the hair on top of my head is still the same hair that was there this time last year.

Sure, I still have nasty reminders of my previous life scattered throughout my body (here's looking at you nasty sagging skin on my stomach and multiple stretch marks all over my sides... *sigh*) but those can be covered up. As a friend once told me, clothes hide a multitude of sins.

But there's no hiding my hair or how it just seems to be... there. Not really doing much. Not really saying much. Just going with the flow and being part of the overall me without any contributions to the whole (The Borg Collective would take an issue with this just like me). Other than "I'm falling out, eat it you loser!" which isn't a contribution so much as a mean taunt.

"But you can wear a hat!" Part of me insists. That's true, I can... but I only wear hats when required. Mowing the lawn on a really sunny day? Done. Going to a baseball game? Done. Heading out into the rain? Done. Wearing a hat just to cover up your unsatisfactory hair? No.

I view that as the cowards way out. I acknowledge I did try that a few years back-bought a Walmart fedora and used it as my going out hat... but it quickly got rained on, a bit ruined, and now it's more my fishing hat than anything else. It's been properly screwed up and now has a place in my life, whereas before it was new and didn't fit (I mean that literally, the hat was too small for my big fat head then. Now, it fits fine as my head has shrunk a lot since I got it).

I'm not the type of guy who can pull off the fedora look anyway. I wish I were-I know a few of those guys, I love that look, but I know I can't do it. Hats are not a consistent part of my wardrobe. Investing in a good one MIGHT change that but I doubt it. I have many, many hats. Many of them Florida Gator hats; the extras of which I keep in the back of my car in case someone needs some rain or sun protection (making it a Win-Win for everyone: They get to wear the hats and I have people thinking I'm strolling around with a Florida Gator posse).

The hat, it's not for me. So that leaves... what, exactly?

This is where I find myself. Next week I'm going to get a haircut. Not sure when. Not sure where. But I'm going to get a haircut and it's going to be something different/fresh/new.

It will not be Prince William's haircut despite the fact that it works. I'm done with him. I tried it, it worked, but it wasn't a change so much as a surrender. I hate surrender. For one, the word sucks to say, and two it's just not fun to be a part of.

I need a new hair style. I will be devoting a significant chunk of time researching this issue in the coming days. I'm not looking forward to what I'll find. Let's face it, typing into Google "Hair styles for balding men?" is really, really depressing. And it sucks.

But this is a necessary step in the rebuilding of me. The new me is undefined, it is raw, it is full of potential, and I won't have my uncooperative hair holding me back. The various issues I have across my body visually thanks to the weight loss will likely not go away (little progress has been made in that respect). I've come to accept that. It's not like I'm getting naked for anyone anytime soon anyway, so if I can deal with it then that's all that matters.

What is always seen is my hair and that needs a change. A dramatic one, I think. But again, I'm not sure where to go with that. Dye? It's an option, one that I like more than others simply because of the fact I can buy the stuff and (supposedly) do it myself. However, I'm likely to screw that up and the results would be humorous. They would also likely be horrifying but it would bring a smile to someone's face (not mine initially, unless I had a few glasses of wine before hand which might explain why the dye job went so horribly wrong to begin with in this scenario).

I'm willing to listen to any and all suggestions as I'm at a loss as to what to do here.

And Prince William... I hope your kid gets the balding gene that way, by the time he's nearly 24 like me, he too can suffer the indignity of typing into Google "Hair styles for balding men?"

That's all I have to say about that (hey, is that a Forrest Gump reference? Yes it is).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jackets and I... We Have A History

You know how they say "The (insert article of clothing) makes the man"? For me this article of clothing is my jacket. I have an unhealthy attachment to jackets. I'm not sure why but, were I to guess, I'd say that it's because my dad would always wear one to work-he used to be in the Air Force so seeing him go to work and come back from work with a jacket on made an impression on me.

I've gone through a lot of jackets in my life. (Engage rambling... now)

Last week I made the decision to get a new jacket. I needed something to use during the fall/winter months that was both casual, cool, and appropriate for evening wear (should I ever have the need of it). I was thinking last week, while searching for this jacket, of my favorite jackets... and that brought me to the realization that jackets and I go way, way back. We were made for each other.

My first favorite jacket was one that pretty much came from this jewel of a book. The cover of it had Grover on it with his new, lucky jacket. It was red, it was cool looking, and I wanted it. My mom, bless her heart, found a jacket that was pretty much exactly like the one on the cover of the book, minus the baseball and the zipper (it was a button jacket). I actually liked it better without the baseball and I didn't mind the buttons.

I wore that jacket pretty much all the way through elementary school. It was my favorite jacket. It was red, it had pockets (only two), and it was pretty much resistant to any nasty weather. It was a tough, cool jacket, and I felt like a million bucks (so, with inflation, that's like a couple billion bucks now). I even attempted to wear that thing during the summer but my mother didn't allow that-she would have to hide the jacket during the warmer months to keep me from wearing it.

But, like all things, I grew out of it by the time 5th grade came around. The jacket got passed down to my little brother and then got passed down again, to my second little brother. It's still with the family today. But me, in 5th grade, I was without a favorite jacket. I just couldn't find one that worked right.

They were too big, too stuffy, too weird feeling (texture in jackets is a huge thing for me... if it doesn't feel right it won't get worn), or just not good enough for me. I rotated through a few so-so jackets, not having one that screamed "MUST WEAR!" at me. This period of having no favorite jacket was one where I pretty much established the rest of my wardrobe that, to some extent, still holds true to this day.

I would throw on a t-shirt, some pants (shorts sometimes, jeans often), and a pair of tennis shoes (not actual tennis shoes but you get the point). It was a pretty basic setup but it was missing that last piece, that bit that would make it complete: the jacket.

It wouldn't be till 9th grade that I would begin to dabble in finding a favorite jacket and, after some testing (and some really bad luck in a few of them), I settled on a jacket that would go on to define my high school and collegiate legacy, so to speak.

I found the camo jacket. Technically, it was one of my dad's old Air Force BDUs-not a jacket really-but that's how I termed it. The camo would become a staple of my wardrobe for the next 7-8 years.

As you can see, I quite enjoyed the camo (and food in my high school/collegiate years) and wore it pretty much every day. I mean that quite literally. Since my dad had plenty of old BDUs about, I had a near inexhaustible supply of camo jackets. I wore them in the rain. I wore them in the cold. I wore them in the heat. I wore them in pretty much any situation.

I LOVED the camo. It had everything one needed because it had pockets-lots of pockets. I love pockets-the more pockets, the more things you could stick in the pockets. I had the pockets on the camo jackets organized in a pretty sweet way. The upper left breast pockets was for important documents-things that could be folded up and dealt with at a later date. The upper right pocket was for fun things-gag items like fake teeth, trick coins, a deck of cards ect. The lower right pocket was for pens and pencils, erasers too if needed. The lower left pocket was dedicated to random things-loose change, rubber bands, bouncy balls, ect.

I would wear this jacket all throughout high school and most of college. In college, I would add the heavy camo-a jacket really designed for the rain/cold/nastiness that weather would sometimes bring-to my limited wardrobe.

As you can see, the heavy camo was attached to a heavier me. I made an art form of gaining weight while in college, but that's another subject for another time. Anyways, the heavy camo, the regular camo, and my standard wardrobe would all mix together to form what I would wear with amazing consistency for nearly 7-8 years.

Unlike my red jacket though, I would not grow out of the camo... oh yes, I did get large enough to the point that I couldn't wear it well anymore, but I still wore it, stubbornly refusing to give it up despite the fact I couldn't button it for my life. No, I shrunk out of the camo-losing 126 pounds does that to a person I guess.

It became too large for me, a possible first in the history of jackets and man. With a jacket that was too big for me yet possessed years worth of memories, untold sentimental value, and lots of pockets (I do love pockets), I was forced to give it up, thus putting me without a jacket again.

Last week, I took to town to find one and find one I did-on my first attempt no less! I compared, I shopped around, I tried things on, but the jacket I got was the right choice. Not only was it a good price but it was also made of material I'm fine with, had lots of pockets, and is apparently a good look on me (this comes from multiple trustworthy sources, I swear).

I proudly sit here with this new jacket on, happy I bought it and happy to report that I do indeed feel this is my new favorite jacket. In the week that I've had it it's already shown itself to be more than up to the task in making me feel comfortable with it... and comfortable around others with it. 

I busted out the new jacket on Saturday-it was a busy day, last Saturday. I had a prayer meeting with my Sunday School class and I was nervous. For one, I had no idea how to act in a prayer meeting... it was a concept I was unfamiliar with. Two, I was slated to make muffins (I volunteered to bring breakfast) and so I was concerned that maybe I was going to suck some cool cred away from my new jacket while arriving with muffins.

Despite all that, I went to the meeting with my new jacket on and muffins in hand. Things went very well. Not only did my muffins get eaten by the people there but a few got saved for children, who willingly ate them as well. I wore the jacket the entire time in the meeting and was quite at ease-I easily killed the better part of an hour telling them my life story (in other words how I arrived at where I am now and the many tangents within that story). It was great.

The real test came Saturday afternoon/evening. I was invited along to a birthday party and, despite my usual tendency to duck such events (I didn't know many of these people, I didn't know how to go about things, I suck at social functions... need I go on?) I forced myself to RSVP. One of my better decisions last week and in recent memory. 

The jacket once again proved itself as, with it nearby me and later on me, I was confident, cool, and pretty collected. I was hanging out with people my age (20 somethings, it's a shock) and having a blast trading stories, commenting on things, and in general just talking. Admittedly, I think they got the false impression that I too was of their particular religion with the way they were talking about other religions (mine included) but I didn't bother to correct them or make an issue out of it-every religion talks about the other religions. I found it refreshing to have a group of us just sit there and hash out the various things we had issues with as far as religion and religious education is concerned. 

I functioned well at this party, I didn't camp out near the people I knew, and I interacted with new people much to my surprise. My friend made the comment as we were leaving that I wasn't such a wallflower at all at this party and she was right-I wasn't. It was a refreshing change. 

Rationally, I know that the jacket REALLY didn't do anything for me as it's only an article of clothing. However, I know that I'm more comfortable in it than without it in some places and that the level of comfort it brings me helps put me at ease which lets me be less of a social loser. A win-win as I see it. 

In conclusion, for me, jackets make the man. I look forward to what man this jacket makes me (if that makes any sense).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


We all know what today represents. At least, if you're of a certain age you know what today is. Today, 11 years ago, on a Tuesday just like this one, the United States of America was fundamentally changed forever.

September 11th, 2001. The Twin Towers fell. The Pentagon was hit. Flight 93 crashed into the ground.

It seems... well, it seems closer this year than it has in previous years. Maybe it's because today is almost exactly like 9/11 was... today is a Tuesday. The skies are clear. The weather is beautiful. Life just goes on like any normal day.

9/11 has been talked about at length in the years since it happened. There's nothing really new to say about that day though there is plenty to say about what has followed after that day.

What I'm going to say from this point on is just my opinion, my feelings, and is not meant to offend anyone... but you people know me by this point: I'll say what I say and do it rather bluntly. Turn away now if you're squeamish. 

All right with that done, let me get the obvious out of the way... the infamous "Where were you on 9/11?"

Where was I? Let me start with the day before, 9/10. It was parent-teacher conference day. My mother had visited my teacher and my classes, with me in tow, to get a feeling of how I was doing in school. At that point we had only been in the area for eight months and I was in 7th grade. This was my first fall semester in Wetumpka and she had been bugging me about how I was doing, how I was adjusting... I was 12, going on 13, and I wasn't exactly forthcoming so my mother asked my teachers-with me standing there-and I had to be there, embarrassed, and listen to them assess my performance in class.

The only teacher that had a problem with me was my English teacher, Mrs. Eutsey who was the most imposing short woman I have ever known. She would carry around a yardstick called "Love" and if she saw you slacking off, messing around, or not doing your work, she would slap you on the hand with it and tell you she was "Giving you Love." It was amusing to me. I never got hit with that yardstick but Mrs. Eutsey did have a problem with me... she wanted me to speak up more in class. I was a quiet kid in 7th grade.

I remember 9/10 very well. I remember 9/11 in explicit detail.

After waking up and complaining about going to school (I had just gotten off a three day weekend, who wouldn't be bitter about seeing that go away?), eating my breakfast of wheat Chex, and being dropped off at school, I reported to my first class of the day, Mrs. Eutsey's. I loved her class... it wasn't chaotic and it wasn't loud. It was a pretty quiet class. Plus, I got done with the work so fast that I had plenty of time to read. I was dressed in jeans and my orange Florida Gator t-shirt. I still have that shirt and the glasses I was wearing that day (both secure in my car). The day started out pretty normal.

Reading was primarily on my mind when I got there to class. I immediately asked to go to the library to see if one of the books I was desperate to read (Black Beauty... I was young, give me a break) was back there. Mrs. Eutsey, not normally one to let people go to the library at the beginning of class (due to other students propensity to just stay in the library and not come back to class) let me. I think it was because she felt kinda guilty for having to give my mother a report on me with me being right there... I don't know. I never asked.

I went to the library with the understanding that I was to be back in 20 minutes. I had my trusty Timex sports watch and so I told her, without a doubt, I'd be back in 20 minutes or less. She let me go and so I went... I got to the library and looked for my book. It wasn't there but, I figured since I had some time, I could look for some other books to read... in classic Zach fashion I got distracted and lost amongst the worlds of fiction around me.

Soon enough I realized I was running behind. I grabbed a favorite of mine that I wanted to re-read (Where The Red Fern Grows), checked it out, and booked it back to Mrs. Eutsey's class hoping that I wouldn't get in trouble. I stealthily opened the door, closed it quietly, and made my way to Mrs. Eutsey's desk. I started to explain why I was late, the book firmly in my hand, but within a few seconds I realized she wasn't looking at me.

Her eyes were on the TV.

The TVs in the junior high were... well, junky. These things were 1980s era wall mounted TVs. Not real pretty to look at and not on... ever. They never really used them. I never knew they worked let alone that they got cable. The TV was on and on CNN.

The image? A burning building. I didn't recognize it but I didn't really need to. The captioning on the bottom of the image told me all I needed to know.

It was a tragedy... horrifying, really. At this point, that's what it was being billed as... some poor plane, full of people, had crashed into a building in New York City. How could someone not see a building? How could that happen? The TV was muted so I guess we, in junior high, didn't really understand the true horror that was happening before us.

Everyone's eyes were on it though. I went back to my desk, which was facing right towards the TV and in front of the class, and I tried to do my work. I saw the second plane hit the Twin Towers live on CNN, as did a good number of people in our class, and that was when this tragedy became more than an accident.

We were lucky, I guess... since the TV was muted we were spared the false hope that it was just an explosion, something leftover from the first plane. I saw that plane come flying in and then the explosion a moment later... that was that.

Things from there become dominated by the news coverage. The teachers, the students, everybody... we didn't bother pretending to do much work. Oh sure, it was assigned to us, but the TVs were on in every class and the images, the bottom lines, the destruction, the death, the explosions... all of it was there.

I got home and we just sat and watched the TV... the news... trying to piece together why this was happening. What was happening, who had done it... I think it was that night when I first heard what would become the best descriptor for 9/11 for my generation.

"This is Pearl Harbor for this generation," is how it went. Historically, I would agree with that comparison.

I was born Oct. 13, 1988. I was around for the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was around for the fall of the Soviet Union. Two momentous events in the history of the world and this country. I was around for those... but I didn't witness them. I witnessed 9/11, from near the beginning all the way to today.

11 years ago today, upon seeing that second plane hit the Twin Towers, I knew from that point on that this wasn't an accident. Something was wrong, seriously wrong, and the question became "How bad is it?" as opposed to "What's happening?" The latter got asked at the end of the day, after it was all said and done... the former got asked from the second plane hit onward.

I remember the day before. I remember the day of. I don't remember the day after. I don't hear a lot of people talk about the day after. I wonder if they, like I, don't remember it either.

9/11 changed America forever... and not for the better. You want to say it is, to somehow make the lives lost that day and since then in the name of that day not be wasted... but on a national scale I can't say it has made things better. They feel worse.

Do you remember the weeks and months after 9/11? It's kind of a blur that time period. I think my mind was just rendered incapable of storing anymore memories related to that day. I don't know. I just remember how everyone was so together... together we stand, together we rise, together this and together that. Football teams like the New York Giants and Jets, they became national darlings. The college football season... I don't even know what happened that year. The NFL though... I remember the Patriots vs. the Rams. I remember the "tuck rule" game that got the Patriots to the Superbowl despite the fact the Raiders should have been there. I wanted the Rams to win (The Greatest Show on Turf, Torry Holt, Issac Bruce, Marshall Faulk, and Kurt Warner) but they had no shot.

The nation had rallied behind the Patriots and this no name backup QB, Tom Brady, taken in the sixth round from Michigan. And they won. Of course.

Amazing how short that "togetherness" really lasted after 9/11. We are, after all, a nation of individuals. Soon our individual attitudes, wants, and personalities reasserted themselves and our nation of "togetherness" quickly turned back into our nation of "it's all about me".

Which brings me back to Pearl Harbor. It was a defining moment for a generation. It brought the USA into WWII... it helped end the Nazis once and for all. It gave birth to a time of progress and growth. It was an era where, despite the loss of innocence due to those attacks by the Japanese, that generation strove to get back what it lost even though it really couldn't... they made the effort. They hoped for a better tomorrow and they tried their best to make it that way.

9/11 was a defining moment for my generation. It spawned the war on terror, taking place in two countries and in other spots around the world. The loss of life is not comparable to WWII... we have lost fewer American soldiers in two recent wars than WWII. But I feel we haven't really made any progress or shown any growth as a nation.

We are a country trapped in the memory of 9/11.

I'm sure there are tons of psychologists and head shrinks who would disagree. I'm sure there are some who would agree. I don't care either way. I feel like we're stuck in that day... this is our Groundhog Day (Bill Murray classic) from hell. And it's our own fault that we're stuck here.

"Why?" you ask. We continue to obsess over that day. I think we, as a nation, suffer from some form of survivor's guilt... we can't forgive ourselves for not seeing it. The revelations that have come out in the years since, about how this was a credible threat that was pretty much ignored, makes me more confident this is the case.

We can't seem to forget. I'm not saying we should, but I am saying that we need to move on. Every year on this day we see reports, articles, and more on 9/11. It's a deluge of 9/11 related things, a flood that drowns us all. There's nothing really new to learn about what happened.

But how it affected people? That's a media goldmine. 9/11 will have effects on people for decades at the very least. There will always be a new angle to talk about as to the effects 9/11 has had on people. It's the curse of our world today, constantly connected... the need to have something to talk about 24/7. Once a year it manifests itself in the worst way possible on 9/11.

It's been over 70 years since December 7th, 1941. The attacks on Pearl Harbor hardly get any press now. How many people actually remember the day? Most of my generation doesn't. It was before our time. Yet, the two vastly different generations, has in common so much. An unprovoked attack. A shocking tragedy. A horror that has seared itself into our brains forever. Wars to fight. Service to be rendered. Death. Sadness.

The difference? Whereas Pearl Harbor rocketed the USA into WWII and into the growth of the country in a variety of different ways, it seems as though 9/11 has left stunted our growth. The best comparison I can come up with is this: Pearl Harbor was the waking of a sleeping giant... whereas 9/11 was the day said giant got beat up by an inferior opponent.

In the case of Pearl Harbor, we responded to those attacks swiftly and in force... we didn't take it lying down. With 9/11, it seems like we've tried to direct the anger, guilt, sadness, and rage at our enemies... and we've come up with a half hearted effort.

I'm not saying Pearl Harbor made us a better country overnight. It didn't. I'm not saying it was all rosy... it wasn't. The Japanese Interment camps of WWII, the atom bomb, the travesties committed during WWII in the name of freedom, the tons of death, the rampant racism... the list goes on. The post WWII era was not as nice and pretty as we make it out to be. As a society, we like to idolize that era. I'm guilty of that.

But morals and values weren't lost after Pearl Harbor. They were tested, they were stressed, they were put through the ringer... but the WWII generation came back from the war and tried to reestablish the innocence that was lost.

This generation has tried to do that but we have failed. Partially because we can't get out of our own way and partially because the government is just as obsessed with bringing everything back to 9/11. 9/11 has become almost an obligation... every politician has to have something to say about it. Everyone has to tell the story of where they were that day, year after year...

I think it's holding us back. I think it's divisive because, like every major event that happens in any country, there are always those conspiracy theorists who believe something more sinister happened than what has been presented to the public. It's worse now than it's ever been thanks to the internet. There are those that believe our government let 9/11 happen to force us into war with Iraq. I certainly don't believe that nor will I ever... but it's still such a divisive idea.

Further, the things that we as a country have done in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not things I'm proud of. That's probably no different than the WWII generation. But where the difference lies, I think, is how post WWII the freedoms that we took so for granted became all the more sweeter... we as a country relished and cherished those freedoms following Pearl Harbor.

After 9/11, the sentiment was there for a little while but instead of letting freedom reign, we've put shackles on those freedoms. Airport security is now up to ridiculous levels, it's an even bigger pain in the butt, and it's not that much more effective. Our relationships with other nations are no longer built on friendship or trust, but on paranoia. "Are they helping the enemy?" We ask and we seek evidence to back up the claim.

Some of us have taken to painting all Muslims as "extremists" while most of America is put off by them, whereas before 9/11 they were just another religious group. Afterwards, they have become an easy target for those looking to hate.

There's not a person in my generation who doesn't know someone who fought in the wars. I've had some friends go overseas and fight. Some have died. Some have lived. And the ones that return, I feel as though we've disappointed them. They went through hell and back to fight for us and come back to... this.

The WWII generation defined Pearl Harbor. They used it as a rallying cry to make the world a better place... sure they didn't do good things with it all the time but they used it as a launching off point to let the world know that freedom wasn't just something we as a country take for granted, we cherish it, we relish it, and we will not only lead by example but lead by action. The post war years were good to this country. The morals and values of that society were strengthened; yes, they did break down towards the end of the 50s and crumbled in the 60s, but the intervening years served as a testament to how strong and resilient this country was. It showed how strong and resilient that generation was.

The 9/11 generation... those of us who define our lives as before or after that event... we have used that day as an excuse. It has defined us, we have not defined it. We haven't cherished or relished the freedoms that we took for granted, we have shackled them. We have lost our innocence and we made no attempt to get it back... we have taken our anger out on our enemies and we have done so in a very half hearted, ineffective manner. The wars we engaged in were run messily. We have grown divided as a country and we continue to widen that divide, day by day. Whether it's religion or political party affiliation, or race, or creed, or what have you, we pick a side, offer no room for compromise, and we go to war.

America, as a nation, is weak. I type the words with just as much shame as anger. All the lives that have been effected by 9/11, all the people who have fought for us, have died for us, have sacrificed for us... we've not done much with it. Instead of making things better we have made them worse. We've lost so much and gained so little since 9/11. It seems that every time we make a desperate bid to make things better, we just mess things up more.

The legacy of the WWII generation, those that were there for Pearl Harbor and everything after that... it's a largely positive one. Perhaps it's because we have idolized them for so long, perhaps it's because they were the last generation of Americans to fight in a world war... whatever the case may be, they are looked upon in a positive light. Their legacy is one that can't be changed or undone at this point.

The legacy of the 9/11 generation is still being written. I acknowledge that things can change, that people can change, but it doesn't look like my generation is going to be seen by future generations in a positive light. We're leaving an unholy mess for the generation after us and I don't know how many people see that. So focused on our short term goals, on taking out our national anger on something, that we didn't look long term... we didn't plan ahead. My generation will pay for that some but the next generation will pay for that oh so much more.

I don't know if we have it in us to change for the better. The loss of innocence, the scars that we carry... we have fallen short of our potential. We have fallen short of the expectations placed upon us and we've tried, darn it all we've tried, but the nation is in worse shape today than it was prior to 9/11.

Now, I can here what you guys are saying "Way to go and dump on your generation, Zach." That's just one side of the coin, I grant you. There are positives that have been accomplished since 9/11... but to me they seem to pale in comparison to the negatives. They aren't as notable. They don't seem as important.

You know what the worst part of being in this generation is? We can relive 9/11 anytime we want. Moment by moment, bit by bit, the entire day is on the internet. Youtube, in particular, has all the videos you will ever need to see about that day. For educational purposes, I can understand it... but I don't use it for educaitional purposes.

I use it to remind myself of the moment where it all changed, at least for me. It happened on that second plane hit into the Twin Towers. It's a short little clip and I don't need more than that. Three minutes of my life that represents 11 years of memories... I can just watch that clip and remember everything else that comes after it. It's vivid... it makes me cry.

I shouldn't do it but I do. At the time I didn't shed tears. I sat there, in shock, and watched it all unfold... but I've shed plenty of tears in years since.

I wish I could say crying helped but it doesn't. I wish I could say blogging it all out helps, but it doesn't. I wish I could say eating food helps but it doesn't. I've done all those things today... I'm eating a bowl of cereal right now (my go to coping mechanism, food) that I don't need. I wish to high heaven I could say making this into some sort of fictional story would help but I tried that last year... felt like complete crap while writing it. That piece has never seen the light of day and never will.

I don't know how to really cope with it. You'd think, in the intervening years, I'd have figured it out by now. It's not like I suffered personally in the matter... I haven't. But I visited Ground Zero in 2005... I have footage of it stored away. I don't look at it. I feel a profound sense of shame about it all. I felt awkward while there, awkward while in the church nearby that had such a beautiful memorial... I felt then as I do now: I don't deserve to be on that ground. My feet aren't meant for it. My eyes shouldn't see it. My ears shouldn't hear the sounds of it.

I don't know how to put it behind me. I don't know how to define it. I just know that as a generation, we've messed this up. We haven't done right by the people who died that day and have died in the name of that day since. How does one make up for that?

No clue. I have no answers. Perhaps that's the worst feeling of all about today... the helplessness. It feels like I can't do anything to make things better just like it did in 7th grade. I can vote now. I can drive now. I can do a lot of things now that I couldn't do in 7th grade... and yet, the feeling of helplessness is the same. The world will keep spinning in whatever direction it chooses and I'm just along for the ride it seems.

That's all I got. Thanks for reading. Good night.