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Monday, December 30, 2013

2014: The Year of the Canadian

Well, 2014 is nearly here. I have to say, 2013 was not anything I'd expected. Better than 2012 in some respects but very poor in others. I can't begin to explain my thought processes on it all because, really, I don't know what to think other than "bad."

From a personal standpoint, the year was much better for me than 2012. I made some big decisions, achieved some goals, and managed to not backslide too much. I feel the year, as far as my personal development went, was a good one. I feel like I've grown.

But the growing isn't over. We're now at the point where I don't have much longer left in my 20s. Just a few short years from now and I'm in my 30s, officially. Which means that any of the crazy stuff I'd like to do (and can get away with because I'm a dumb 20-something) has to be done sooner rather than later.

This isn't to say I'm about to go off on some epic journey that will live in the annals of history. At least, not in any history book. But this year is a big one in terms of personal development and personal history. I've come to the conclusion that I need to rewire myself. At least attempt to, anyway. I have to go out on some limbs and do some things that I feel are risky.

As we all know at this point, risk-aversion is a trait that is very much ingrained in me. I don't like risks because risks are not part of the routine. They break things. They lead to memorable failures and infamy in some circles. I don't like that.

But I'm suspending this policy, at least in its current form. It's outdated and outmoded for this version of me.

Let me put it into terms I understand (and I hope you do as well): I need an update. Like Windows 8, I came out sleek and slim this year. I refined myself as I went along and got better at things. But I need to get back some of the old flair and not forget about my past. I need to tweak some things.

Here's the version history so far:

Zach 1.0-1.4 -- Basic Zach. Slow, not very efficient, a lot of flaws that overshadowed the potential. Not as slim or sleek as others, Zach 1.0 didn't have a lot to offer the market other than the hope that something better would evolve from him.

Zach 1.5 -- Zach decides to drop the bloatware (weight if you're following along), get sleek and slim, and become faster with more efficiency. 1.5 saw marked improvements in determination, goal achievement, benchmarks, and a greater awareness of himself overall. However, he lacked patience and overclocked his gallbladder, resulting in a stall.

Zach 1.6 -- After the stall, 1.6 saw a renewed sense of purpose and gained a greater understanding of his body. It still suffered from flaws such as pride, stubbornness, and extremism but these things were forgivable thanks to the continued progress from 1.5.

Zach 2.0 -- 2.0 saw him achieve his main goal and begin the process of fine-tuning the external user interface. A complete recoding of basic systems such as fashion choices, style, muscle definition, and accessorizing. Such a recoding was needed years ago and the developer finally got around to doing it, much to the appreciation of the few who had stuck with him all this time.

Zach 2.2-2.5 -- As he began to grow as a functional human being, Zach was plagued with questions greater than himself. He attempted to answer them in a number of ways but failed to find any solutions. He became stuck in a recurring loop of flawed logic and decisions, emphasizing his self-destructive tendencies and his three leading flaws.

Zach 2.6 -- A move to a new location allowed him to experience new things. The input helped finalize a coding change, allowing Zach to green light the update to Catholicism.

And now we've reached the new year (essentially) and it's time to declare my feelings on what's to come. Truthfully, I have no idea. But I'm continuously growing and I'm updating into something better I feel. Little by little. The conversion to Catholicism is underway and the main process will be completed this year (hopefully).

So, what am I aiming for in 2014? What's the big list of potential improvements to myself? Essentially, this year will be about rewiring myself to function differently. Internally, I'm a screwed up mess. The coding is pretty jumbled in a lot of spots, so to speak. But I want to change and I plan to this year. And I plan to do it by modeling myself after a certain Canadian character in a lot of ways. Sure, it's twisted, but I've been told to be more like him. So far, it kinda works.

Here's the list of things I want to accomplish in 2014 for myself:

1. Complete the conversion to Catholicism -- this is a life altering, game changing event for a reason. Everything that follows pretty much indirectly/directly relates to this. But this is the one thing that MUST be done this year.

2. Get therapy -- this has to happen and I figure I should do it ASAP. My internal processes are a jumbled up mess and I have to try and address it. Either I find some therapy group somewhere, a counselor, or someone to prescribe me drugs ... whatever the case, I can't go another year with my brain as out of control as it is.

3. Changing my hairstyle into this -- I've been told I can pull this look off. By the end of this month, I'll be sporting something like this, highlights and all. It's not something I do lightly, mind you. But I do want to try it. You're only young (and stupid) once.

4. Finish one of my novels -- too many sit there unfinished. Some are pretty close. Some are way far off. But I want to finish one. Just one.

5. Be bolder -- no more wringing my hands over whether I should do one thing or another. Just doing. More doing. If I screw up, so what? I can't screw it up the same way at least.

Those are my top five things. There are a number of secondary goals, but those are the ones that get top billing. As always, thanks for reading folks. Here's to a better year in 2014. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why I Like Wine And 2014

It boils down to the simple fact that it (wine) deadens the part of my brain that makes things go haywire. You know that part of the brain that tends to overthink things and freeze you at the worst moments? Wine sedates that part of me. Admittedly, it makes my typing skills a little worse (but not that bad) but it's a fair trade off for the pure RELIEF of it all.

Relief is such an underrated thing. I don't drink often. I have the ability to do so (money + a good teacher in wine = a decent understanding of what's good and what's not) but I usually don't. Simply because I, a man of extremes, have the tendency to go to extremes. I certainly have an ability to stop. I just don't.

Because being drunk and having part of my brain deadened is more enjoyable most nights. Look, I'm not advocating a constant state of drunkenness. As with all things, the more you do it the less effective it is. I am, however, advocating a form of self-medication that (likely) is poor in comparison to the legitimate medication I can get. Because I guarantee you I can get some legitimate stuff. I certainly qualify.

And I hate to tell you and myself, but I'm done. I'm so done. Wine (and booze) in general can only solve so much. I've dealt with the crazy for a long time and I've finished. My brain is clearly screwed up. Not only do I disregard every wine-drinking rule there is (like mixing white and red) but I'm such a person of extremes I can't open a bottle and NOT finish it. I have to.

Alcoholism runs on my mother's side of the family. I shouldn't drink at all and, frankly, my mother's prevention of any alcoholic drink in the household during my youth (and continued prevention to this day) kept me away from it until I got to college. And even in college, the one time I indulged I really hated it so I didn't do it again for three years.  I should be better at drinking. I'm pretty decent, but no alcoholic.

Bottom line: I'm finished. Not in the sense that I'm giving up (God knows I have a hard time doing that) but rather in the sense that I'm tired of dealing with the shit my brain throws at me. Because wine (and booze in general) is really the only thing to stop such shit.

Honestly, I'm quite fucked up. I need a therapist, at least, and probably someone who can prescribe stuff realistically. I have a tendency, at least half the week, to stay up to all hours doing crazy shit. Not writing, but talking to myself in bed. Acting out strange scenarios where I'm fighting the good fight and going against someone or something. I toss. I turn. I take hours to fall asleep some nights as I try to get my brain to SHUT THE HELL UP.

And I'm done. 2013 is nearly over. Guess what? I lost. I can't succeed dealing with this myself. I don't have any excuses. I don't have kids. I'm not married. I can't even manage to date a girl I like and who likes me. My oldest little brother is involved with a very pretty girl who actually likes him for him, he's growing as a human being, and I hope they work out.

Meanwhile, in Zach-land, I struggle to get a date.

Seriously? Fuck. That. SHIT.

Done, ladies and gentlemen. I tried to get therapy over this past summer and everyone was full up till the fall. I couldn't wait. Now? I still feel like waiting sucks, but I'm done with this shit. I've reached an end point. I can't possibly achieve what I want in life if I can't control my brain, even a little.

Let's face it, I have issues. Extremism. Impatience. Pride. Stubbornness beyond all belief.

I will be alone and single for the remainder of my life if I don't figure out how to take the edge off these things. I have insurance till I'm 26. I'm converting to Catholicism. I work a job. I volunteer at charities. I write. I clean. I attempt to be more than I am.

My time is limited but not limited enough to where I can offer a valid excuse for not trying. I can't NOT try anymore. I tried it my way. It failed.

Game Over Man.

So, with 2014 nearly here, I want to declare to all those who care my intentions to get therapy, maybe even some drugs (and I hate taking pills almost as much as ketchup). I'm declaring my intentions for a new (not buzzcut) hairstyle, and I'm declaring my need to keep enjoying wine.

2014 will be a gamechanger. I plan to make it that or die trying. It's a 50/50 shot right now.

I'm betting on me.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

SimCity, Impatience, and (Almost) Full Disclosure

So, since my last post, the overwhelming response has been the following (from the few whom are generous/brave enough to read my ramblings). Here's what it pretty much boils down in their view: you're not going to be alone forever and patience is important in this type of thing ... relax and breathe.

Which is a nice way of saying "Suck it up, stop bitching, and don't throw a tantrum" in my mind. I can't disagree with it. I did, vainly, try to make an argument against my impatience but upon further review, in a lot of areas of my life, I'm quite the hurried person.

And thusly, we bring us to tonight's topic.

*Warning, deep thoughts follow. Profanity likely, brutal honesty all but assured.*
Over the last two days I have been engulfed with the greatness (and addictiveness) that is SimCity. I remember, like all gamers do, that on launch this game had more problems than it did solutions. Crippling, backbreaking issues. EA did a fine job of messing it up and even now still continue to screw with it, but it's playable and it's fun. So, so much fun. I haven't had this much fun in a game in a long time and I'm glad that it's the Sims because, frankly, I was beginning to doubt whether I could really enjoy games anymore. They'd just seem to become so unimportant over the last few months.

Part of that, inevitably, is my lack of time to do much gaming. Between work, my conversion to Catholicism, and trying to handle what appears to be a semi-social life (jury is deliberating on that still) there just isn't a lot of time for my previous escapes into fantasy. Writing has even been affected by this. I try to make one day a week where I do something, but even that is hard to accomplish.

Bottom line: I really love this game. But it's by far the best game for the most impatient people. You can increase the game speed to something pretty fast and watch as time flies by. Years in-game go by in hours real-time. In that timespan, you can take a small town to the edge of metropolis. It's really quite fun.

It does, however, prove a point to me that only a game like SimCity can: that I'm an impatient SOB who wants what would realistically take years to occur in far less time. Certainly not hours but definitely months. I like to take the quickest, most efficient route possible. This applies to me when I drive, when I walk through a store, and my navigation through life.

And my last blog post, full of all the emo, drives home the point that I'm fine with projecting. It's living in the present that's my problem. This has been stated a lot by over the course of this blog (now two years old) and the same points that have been made in my last post have been made in other posts. It's not new stuff here.

Same shit, different day, really.

But life isn't SimCity and I can't fast-forward through things to get to where I want to be. I tried to fast-forward through losing weight and look where that got me (hospital, nearly two months with limited leg usage, and a ton of bad memories). I want to fast-forward to the point where I can join the Catholic church.

Let me be frank: watching others get communion while I kneel there is frustrating on a number of levels. I have to endure this for four more months, thereabouts. It's gonna be a long four months. Further, I have to NOT get confession (which, I will tell you right now I'm going to take advantage of like nothing else) and then there's the RCIA class.

Fun? No. Well, in some ways, yes. But overall, not really.

Necessary? Abso-fucking-lutely. I can't recall if I stated it before or not, but this a war for my soul. I don't take this lightly. I don't treat this as some sort of thing to do because it's not a thing to do. It's a tactical decision for spiritual betterment. We should be aiming to be perfect and more like God. We won't get there, let me tell you, but we should aim for it and I haven't aimed high and failed hard since high school.

Some old habits are worth reviving.

One habit/trend I'd like to see retired would be my consistent failure in romantic pursuits. You can't fast-forward through them, either. You can't skip past the failures, the non-starters, or the disappointments. You have to be there.

For every. Single. One.

And I now get to tally my first such failure in many years. I gave a good effort and here's where I (almost) fully disclose the story. As with any such story, two things are required: ice cream and wine. I've had my ice cream, I'm drinking my wine (and might I say I find myself a bit disappointed in it).

It all started with my attempts to learn/experience/be Catholic. I joined up withe local college group of Catholics, housed in a Newman Center (not Seinfeld related), who took me in despite my status as not a college student or Catholic. I've been accepted and treated like one of their own, much better than I deserve, and they'll have my eternal gratitude for that. I admit, I was hesitant about even trying but I figured it was worth a shot.

That shot paid off in spades. I got in, was accepted, and promptly was allowed to dive right in. I did just that and one of these dives led me to a volunteer event with the group. Said event was an early morning baking deal.

And there was this girl. Now, I'm not naming names. Nor am I giving super-specific details. But we hit it off pretty fast and we flirted pretty well. I managed to drum up the courage to ask her to Starbucks, she said yes. I got there first and was pretty sure I was going to be stood up.

Not because of her, but because of my luck. But I wasn't stood up and she showed, we had fun, and we did Starbucks again later in the week. I came away both times wishing to see more of her.

It's easy to jump to a few conclusions here, primarily that I was so desperate for any sort of anything that I was blinded by all the shiny, so to speak. Admittedly, I probably was (and still am a tad). But she liked me and I liked her. In the end, she wasn't looking for a relationship but that's cool. Disappointing, but cool.

But she's a special girl in my mind. A close friend of mine used the word "infatuated" to describe my feelings for this girl and I'd rather say I was (and am) smitten. It sounds more honorable ... I don't want to sully it, you know? Anyways, she's special. You know how I know that?

The list. You see, back in September, one random night in Starbucks, I sat down and wrote out a list of traits/qualities I wanted in a girl. It sounds stupid, I know, but hear me out. As a writer, I do this type of thing all the time with characters. I build characters around traits and, usually, they turn out pretty well. There's always those 5-10 traits that is unique to every person. How they deal with stress, what they drink and eat, ect.

So, sitting there that night in Starbucks, I drew up a character sketch on this girl. What were her traits? What did I see her as?

The answers were pretty unremarkable. She needed to be intelligent. She needed to be creative. She needed to be compassionate. She needed to be physically attractive to me (*sigh* perhaps vanity). She needed to have a good sense of humor. She needed to take care of her health. She needed to be Catholic (I figure if we match in faith, we're already in decent shape).

Now, most of these traits have been established in other girls before. Two, in particular, come to mind. Both I wanted to pursue, one I did (and failed with) and the other was off the market (much to my disappointment). To encounter a third girl that falls into this type, that breathes such rarefied air ... well, I was determined not to lose out.

So much for that.

But, she was special and she nailed that list of traits. I don't know for sure if I completely missed the boat. I hold out hope, of course, and I'll continue to do so for the foreseeable future. She is that special in my mind that waiting for her is an entirely viable strategy.

I just don't know if I should. If I'm judging by my experiences with the previous two and what's transpired in their life since then, I'm of the opinion that waiting is the only right choice here. Because if I wait, if I'm patient, I can have access to someone who is a very rare breed in my mind.

On the other hand, doing nothing is among one of the most unappealing things imaginable to me (almost as unappealing as ketchup, the great red menace). I hate doing nothing. Hell, playing SimCity I'm doing something else that's not game related (at least in my head).

So, I'm impatient and I'm torn. I can be patient with children. I can be patient with just about everyone else but where it concerns me ... patience is not really there.

But, I have it on good authority that my small hands will serve me well in future endeavors. That has nothing to do with anything, but it gives me a sense of comfort in the wee-hours of the morning. As always, thanks for reading folks. 

God Bless.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

So, This Is Christmas

*Warning, deep thoughts follow. Profanity likely, brutal honesty all but assured.*

The title of this blog post isn't arbitrary. If you're familiar, this is the title to one of John Lennon's more famous songs. It always was a deeper Christmas song than most of its contemporaries, then or now. But today, this song took on a new meaning for me.

Today -- this Christmas -- marked my first as ... well, as a Catholic. Sure, it's not official until I join the church, so I guess next year will be the real one, but this one marks my first one. At least in my mind. I didn't expect the view to really be any different.

Christmas has become a holiday that has lost its religious meaning in most circles. It's very secular at this point and, frankly, it will likely always remain that way. There's no going back: it's a commercialized holiday. I've come to accept this over the years and, like most I'm sure, just roll with it as best I can.

The morning started off as all Christmas mornings do: present opening. Everyone gets one, everyone opens there, and the surprises show up in spades. This year I received very little compared to everyone else. I'm good with that. Better than good. It's been my stance the last three years that I deserve nothing and should get nothing, but no one listens to me.

This year I gave the gifts. It wasn't cheap, mind you. I didn't go crazy but I wasn't cheap. I had a budget but I worked well within it. I painstakingly removed all the price tags and tried (and mostly failed) in my attempts to wrap things. But people got things and I got to watch the people get them and they were happy.

And after that is where this Christmas departed from every other Christmas in my life. This is the first Christmas, ever, I have spent away from my blood family. I was kind enough to be invited by my adopted family (who are just as important as my blood) to spend the holiday with them and I gladly accepted.

Once presents were opened and gifts began to be assembled, people wanted breakfast. I volunteered to cook. There was plenty of bacon and I managed to scramble some eggs. Neither turned out great, but they were decent enough that no one complained. I got things cleaned up in the kitchen, helped the kids get ready for mass, got myself ready, and we departed.

(I felt like a badass, I must admit. I've never been asked to assemble Christmas breakfast and, coupling that with getting kids ready, I felt pretty good about myself.) 

Christmas day service isn't a particularly novel concept to me. It is to some, but we did it all the time for Christmas. I've never done mass, though. So we did mass and it was at mass that Christmas went from just any old Christmas to ... something else. I don't know what to call it.

Mass was mass. It was Christmas flavored and tailored for the day, but really the service itself wasn't where things hit me. It was what was going on around me. With me, in fact, while at the service. You see, I took up a position next to six-year old dude. He and I were on the end of the pew and he, like myself, was very much raw at this whole Catholic thing. Neither of us are pros at it, but he wanted to do what everyone else was doing.

So I helped out, of course. Heck, noob I was and still am, I wish I had someone beside me during mass to give me the heads up on what's going on and what I need to do. It took a few services before I caught on to the series of events and the way things were done. I'm about 70 percent familiar with mass at this point, by no means an expert, but solid.

Throughout the service, I pointed out where we were and prompted him to do things. I helped him get to the proper hymnal page, follow along with the readings from the Bible, and in general just keep up. His attention gave out about twenty minutes before the service ended, but he did pretty well. I think we did a decent job together.

It was at the end of the service, as I looked around, that I realized just how full everything was. The sanctuary area of the church we were at was decent sized, not huge, but it was packed. And everyone was pretty much flocked with kids. Children of various ages and sizes, surrounded by their parents and sometimes even grandparents.

It kinda put the whole thing into a new light for me. Maybe I never noticed it before or maybe I just never realized how it applies to me but today it hit me like a sack of bricks. Catholicism means a lot of things in my life. It's a game-changing, life-altering decision. I'm choosing to do things the hard way which, as we all know by this point, is my preferred way of dealing with life.

I understand the hard way.

And today, the hard way manifested itself in the form of children. Multiple children, perhaps. And what it would mean for them. It's not hard to think about what it means for me and it's not too hard to think about what it means for my possible wife. We're both adults. We're both in the faith, likely. We both, more or less, have a solid understanding of what we're doing.

But to be a kid and to be born into this ... it's far different than anything I've experienced. This type of thing isn't part of my blood family. There are similar concepts at work, yes, but today is the first time it really hit me how far off I am from what I've done before.

I'm on a new path, unknown to me. I have only the examples of my friends and adopted family to follow ... and let's be honest, I don't do things like other people do them. I don't work that way. So, really, I'm on this new path and I have the information. I certainly have the willpower.

But I don't have what the children whom were born into this (and whom will be) have: I lack traditions. I lack any semblance of any sort of holiday ... anything.

I'm blank.

After mass, I was stuck in this thought. I remained stuck in this thought all night long. All around me stories are being traded of past holidays and events, tales are regaled, family members are having fun with one another ... and I'm the blank. I mean absolutely nothing to anything that has come before. Short of significantly injuring myself, I have no way to go down in the annals of future Christmases.

Stories will not be told of me or anything I've done.

And it's at once an exciting and completely terrifying idea to consider that I can make the holidays what I want now. I have the freedom to set traditions into place. I can pick a favorite Christmas movie, a favorite meal, I can pick a favorite song ... I can take this blank and make it anything I want.

But I don't have any reason to. The blank has no reason to be anything other than a blank. I have no one to share with it. My brother is in a serious relationship with a girl. My cousin just got engaged to be married. And within the first five minutes of having this information dished out to me over the phone by my mother, the question comes up if I'm dating anyone.

And, like every year for at least a decade if not more, I have the same answer: no.

I can't say that I haven't tried. I put forth a real effort, a damned good one recently, and was turned down. But I'm tired.

Not of getting asked the question, which I certainly am frustrated by, but just tired of being a third-wheel at Christmas. Or any holiday, really. I don't bring much to the table at social functions to begin with and the holidays certainly don't make me any better.

I'm a blank that has aspirations of greatness, but no one to share it with. To be great you have to have someone with you, at least in my mind.

And, with that in mind, I got stuck in the thought. The loneliest, yes. But the children thing is what really killed me. The idea of me, somewhere down the road, walking into a mass with my wife and multiple kids, one big-happy family is unimaginable to me.

I can't, for the life of me, see it.

I have a pretty active imagination. I see a lot of things in my head. I imagine myself receiving disfiguring burns, horrible injuries ... I imagine people I care for dying in tragic, painful deaths. I worry about doctor's appointments and check-ups, I play out all the "I have bad news" scenarios you can drum up.

Horrible things. Happy things. Sexy things. All things, everything in between, I can cover.

But walking into a church with kids behind me and a wife on my arm is a no go. I can't imagine it. I can't see anything.

And my kids, are going to be at a disadvantage. One, because inevitably they're going to inherit the flaws I have. The really annoying, unbelievably, neurotic flaws I have. One kid with flaws like that is going to be tough. Multiple?


Their second disadvantage will be their cousins. They're gonna have cousins, because my blood family is from the South and everyone has cousins. It's a given. But are they're cousins going to be Catholic? Not on my side of the family.

Catholicism exists in the South as a Sunday School punchline. Other than that, it's only a word.

Kids are mean and usually mean to the different ones. My kids will be different. They'll be Catholic. They'll be raised as such and when things look strange to them, as inevitably they will, they'll ask why it's that way.

And I'm not sure what to tell them. The hypothetical them, anyway. How do I explain that the cousins and their families live differently than we do? How do I sit there and watch them form memories with their mother's side of the family (likely with that side's cousins) and be accepted as normal there ... and then take them to mine.

Where I get to watch them try to work there and watch them probably end up sticking with one another because they're comfortable with that and don't feel weird.

What saddens me is that my side of the family is likely to be the side that gets blacklisted, if not officially than unofficially. And it'll be my fault because I decided to be Catholic. I was already the black sheep as it was thanks to how I eat and my radical approaches to my health (radical as they see it anyway).

In the future, I get to add kids into that mix.

I have been steadfast in my belief that there's someone out there for me. But today drove home the point that maybe there isn't. Not because I'm horrible or evil.

Maybe it's because what makes me, me ... maybe that just needs to end with me.

I'd love to have the pleasure of having my own family one day. I'd love to stand in mass and give my children a play-by-play of what's going on. To stand there with them and hear them sing hymns and mumble the recitations. I'd love to see them try.

But all that said, I'm not sure I can deal with having them be treated differently because they were born into a Catholic family. They'll be the odd ones out. There won't be any other Catholics on my side of the family. Not my blood one, anyway.

Maybe that's why I don't get what I want. It never occurred to me before today how foreign everything I grew up with is going to look to my kids, should I be lucky enough to have them. It's going to be like another planet.

Every year I get further away from where I was. I'm the farthest north of any of my blood family. The South is a Catholic dead zone, so I don't think moving back there is really going to happen. I'm out here, on my own, and anything that comes from me is with me here.

What was there and is there with my blood family might as well be another world.

The Christmas picture I took last year, in 2012, says everything that needs to be said. Just as the picture this year with my adopted family says everything. They're each worth well over a thousand words.

This year's picture of my adopted family, in front of the Christmas tree, was them. Blood and all. The kids wanted me in it but I'm not biologically related, as I explained to them, and so I ducked out. It's exactly the right thing that I'm not in the picture. Hell, I look horrible in pictures anyway. Even though I'm no longer the fat guy, I can't seem to take a decent picture.

Last year's picture was myself in front of the Christmas tree.

And that's what Christmas is now. Me and a tree. It's no one's fault but my own, let's be honest. I set the course. I did the damage. Exile is a small penance.

But Tom Hanks at least had Wilson.

And that's my thought for today. I have no idea what my future Christmases will look like. By myself or filled with a family of my own, both are unique in their challenges and neither are particularly happy.

I know I'm weird. It's stated as often as the fact that I'm part-Japanese or don't look my age at all.

I don't want the weird to go on. It needs to stop with me I think. Just to make it easier for future generations. I managed but I didn't manage well. I did damage and, though I'm physically recovered from it, the coping mechanisms have caused all sorts of other, less visible, damage.

I can't imagine a wife and kids following me into church and I think, the reason for that is, that I can't justify it simply by saying "that's what I want". It's unfair to them. Maybe it's wrong or stupid for me to sit here and consider the fates of hypothetical beings ... but I've spent all day considering it.

So, this is Christmas.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

YOLO and Parking Lot Lights

So, early Saturday morning I was walking in the snow and ice on a college campus after just finishing an awesome after-party (which was after an awesome party for moms and kids) and there were a lot of thoughts going through my head. Primarily, the one I was wrestling with in the freezing cold (as I was losing feeling in my ears and face) was that life is too short for cowardice.

In my head I was jumping back and forth between two extremes, a common thing for me. On one hand, I was convinced that certain things in life required patience. Patience is a virtue. Good things come to those who wait. These cliches played through my mind and I generally find they're right ... sometimes. My life, just as everyone's, has proved these cliches (and others) right a few times.

On the other hand, life is too damn short to be a coward. You can't get anywhere in life without risking something. Life is too short for cowardice. As I was thinking this, just as I was about to fall back onto the other extreme, nearby parking lot lights blinked off. As well they should because it was 1:15 in the morning.

And that pissed me off initially. Time passes and it passes so fast, faster than I ever really noticed before. I'm not sure why my perception of things has changed so much in the last few months. Maybe it's because I took a risk and moved up to Ohio. Maybe it's because I took a risk two years before and made a hail Mary attempt at losing weight. Maybe it's because I just recently decided to change the very foundation of how I operate by becoming Catholic.

Maybe it's because I feel so damn old now.

I'm 25 and I get routinely mistaken for being a teenager. I hate it, but it's unchangeable and frankly I prefer that to being mistaken for being older. I tried to change the perception by shaving off most of my hair and it only made me miss my hair. Thankfully, hair grows back.

But you can't get back time lost and those lights turning off in that parking lot made me realize that I had passed up some opportunities this past week that I may not get again. In the span of a little over a month I've dove, head first, into Catholicism. I'm a complete noob at it, yes. I'm uneducated in basically everything, yes.

But I'm committed to it and I'll gladly drown in it. I'm throwing around as much weight as I can (not as much as it once was, mind you) to get things done on this front. I genuinely feel pretty good about it.

Yet, those damn lights pissed me off because they symbolized a possible loss of something I may not get back: time. Ladies and gentlemen, it flies. So fast. Being as I am, diving head first into Catholicism, I hooked up with the local college student Catholics last month and their lives resembled mine from a few years back.

And in our many discussions, all of them fun and insightful on some level for me, I've realized just how old I am compared to them. It's sobering to say the least and, frankly, scary when put into the context of just how SHORT a time ago it seems to me that I was where they were.

I will be there again (once I get enough money to get back) but I'm not there now. I'm a working stiff but I get to experience a few slices of the college life once again. It feels good, don't get me wrong, but I'm a geezer compared to some of them.

When I factor in where my younger siblings were when I was in college, I feel even more like a geezer. My sister's 14, my youngest brother is 16, and my younger brother is 22 now. All of them are at way different points in their life than they were two years ago.

I'm at a way different point than I was two years ago.

Which brings up back to the parking lot lights. They blinked off, I got pissed, I walked in the freezing cold, and on the drive back in the early morning I was consumed with a mixture of melancholy and rage. I'd like to submit apologies to my steering wheel for beating it mercilessly for a solid five minutes as I raged (I had way too many cookies but they were SO good).

I wasn't sure what to make of it all when I fell asleep or when I woke up this morning. I went to work, was driven insane by everything going on there (just madness in retail this time of year), froze over and over again grabbing carts from the icy wasteland that was the parking lot, and came to the conclusion that this was about YOLO.

You Only Live Once ... since that phrase became really popular, I've always had a problem with its application. My generation (and perhaps the one after me) seems to take it as more of a justification to do whatever they want. Want to have sex before marriage? YOLO, go for it. Want to get wasted and do something crazy? YOLO, drink it up. Want to try all these new drugs just once? YOLO, take a hit and pass it on.

Is this a true application of the phrase? I wasn't sure as I was freezing my tail off getting those carts, but that seemed to be the popular application of it for the day and age. I decided then that YOLO had to be a bad thing.

And I came into this post prepared to wage that argument but after some Starbucks and a rom-com (a deadly mix for me), I'm going to make the argument that YOLO is a good thing. It's not the phrase itself that's bad, rather the execution of it. YOLO shouldn't be your go-to justification for doing something undeniably risky/stupid/ill-conceived.

YOLO should be a reminder that the minutes and hours you waste pursuing such things can be better spent. I'm not one to do such things, I inherently don't like risks. I like plans. I like strategies. I like the ability to make things work and keep things on schedule.

This point was more than proven when one of my fellow volunteers at the Beatitude House Party pegged me as an engineer because of how I operated. I told her I was anal but not quite that anal, but I'm not that far off. If I had a better grasp with spacial orientation, I probably would be an engineer but I really, really suck at spacial orientation. Anyone's who's seen me try to build something or navigate a tight corner will understand (I routinely cut those tight corners too tight and bash my shoulder or elbow into them).

YOLO isn't about that and, frankly, life isn't either (as much as I want it to be). I came into this week with plans and strategies, but life is chaos. Sometimes it's somewhat controlled, but often it's chaos that flies in the face of logic, reason, and rationale. It breeds frustration and gear-grinding, brain-overdrive-inducing thoughts.

It confuses me. Especially when I think one thing, am seemingly proven by life and God that I should think the opposite, and then get the reverse of that thrown in my face ... thusly making my original point the right one despite it being wrong a moment before.

For every new revelation there seems to be a dozen retrospective judgments. It piles up in my head and in my heart and it just crushes me sometimes.

YOLO is a reminder to me, personally, that I need to waste less time trying to put life into a pattern or a map and instead just do. Not without consideration, mind, but I should do more doing and do less analysis. Time ticks and, really, it goes by faster than I would like. 24 hours doesn't seem to exist anymore, despite how often I'm told by the clock that it does.

It seems like the day runs faster than that and only goes slow when I need to be painstakingly reminded how bleak life can be (read: Mondays).

Opportunities come and go. Cowardice is a poor excuse for missing them.

I've been a coward this week on a few fronts. Mostly out of habit, I think. As I was going back and forth in my head today at work, this Zach isn't exactly field tested for a lot of what's going on in my life now. I no longer exist in the safe little bubble I had constructed for myself over the years before as the fat guy. Physically, he no longer exists.

Mentally, the programming is still there and it's hard to overcome in certain respects. It's like existing in two different states at once some days. Others I'm just one or the other, but some days I achieve this mix that produces weirdness.

And I am weird. God, normal does not apply to me and I think that eliminates me from a lot of things. I lose out on some titles I'd like because I'm weird. I'm unique. I'm other.

I was pissed about that on the drive back Saturday morning but by this afternoon I was okay with it again ... I can't change that. It's a building block of me and it makes me angry some days that it even exists. Other days, I'm happy it does because I get to see things in a light others don't.

That has its benefits and its drawbacks. This week, it was a bit of a drawback more than a benefit. Seeing things in a different light sometimes means I see a ferocious, man-eating lion where a regular cat is. If that makes any sense. But sometimes I see scary things where there are just regular things.

Not sure why. Probably some sort of self-preservation mechanism or a strange way of protecting myself (redundant?). Whatever the case, I need to stop being a coward. I need to be less of a Cowardly Lion and more of a Simba.

YOLO, as it applies to me, means that I need to stop watching parking lot lights turn off and instead figure out a way to turn them on myself ... and keep them on if I so desire.

Thanks for reading folks. Enjoy your life and enjoy the minutes that so easily pass by. They add up faster than anyone would like to admit.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What Do You Fear?

It's been a rather boring Thanksgiving holiday for me. It's been a lonesome one, but from solitude comes introspection and from introspection, perhaps, revelation. I spent the day doing laundry (yay?) and catching up on all the superhero movies I missed this past summer. From The Wolverine to Iron Man 3, I'm caught back up.

I like superhero movies. I'm a geek, one, so they appeal to me in that respect, but more than that I like them for the deeper questions they inspire in me. In watching these movies today and thinking about all the superhero movies I've seen over the course of my life, the question of what I fear entered my mind.

And the answer is rather simple on the surface: I fear death.

Now, taking that at face value it's not all that surprising an answer. But let me elaborate: I fear the death of those I care about.

That's a distinctly superhero-trait. It's a go-to cliche, yes, but it's a very superhero-thing and it surprised me. I had thought the answer would be more self-centered I guess. But I had never really asked the question of myself before.

I'm more than at ease with my own death, whenever it'll happen. It's not like I'm that important ... in the grand scheme of things, what little I bring to the table won't be terribly missed when I go. But at ease with the deaths of others? Not so much. Very much not, in fact.

It's probably a natural human reaction. As a close friend and I were discussing recently, I'm a bit of a control freak. I don't like NOT having a say in things. It's my opinion that if I can affect an outcome for the better, I should, and I very often think I can affect things for the better (though, very often, what I think and what's reality are two different things).

But the death of others is an outcome I can't really affect. Only in certain instances can I be the deciding factor. If a friend or family member needed an organ, needed some money, needed something I could provide, they'll get it. I'll give it to them or find some way to get it to them, absolutely. Naive? Probably. But I've always been colored an optimist.

Even in the midst of situations that look absolutely bleak I try to find some silver lining.

But those types of situations involving death are very rare. Most times, death happens when we least expect it and when we're completely unprepared for it. When we can't be there to stop it or vainly attempt to try to.

And that's my fear, right there. People I care about are going to die away from me. Far away, in all likelihood. I can sit here and scream to the heavens about it, but I can't change the laws of physics (obligatory Trek reference). I'm hours away from my nearest family and more hours away from actual blood family. More hours away from my grandparents and my relatives.

I can do nothing about that. Which doesn't comfort me at all because I want to do SOMETHING about it.

I can't affect any change at critical moments. Not from where I am, no matter where I am, it'll happen when it happens. It's ... it's bull shit, really. Unfair in some respects and sobering in others.

Part of me wants to take this and say to myself "This is why you need to be as much a part of their lives as possible. One day they will die and what will you have done?"

But I can't do that and no other person really can. People live their own lives and build it. They have their friends and their enemies, their trials and tribulations, their thorns and roses. You can't share in everything another person does because then you're intruding on their life and, by extension, not allowing them to BE a person.

There's a middle ground, of course, but as those that know me realize by now ... well, I'm not good at finding the middle grounds in life. You can be a part of someone's life and allow them to have their own life, but the ratios are different for every person.

There's no hard and fast rule. No rule at all, really.

People I care about will die and I won't be there for most of them, not physically anyway. It bothers me and I'm scared of it. I dread it.

I don't think this particular fear ever goes away nor do I think I'm unique in it. I'm sure I'm one of many ... that doesn't comfort me much either.

It's only bound to get worse as I add more people to my life. The heart is capable of infinite amounts of love, I think ... so it's a fear that grows with age. It's a necessary fear I think.

But maybe this is all off-base and I'm just tired (true), a bit lonesome (true), and looking forward to the holiday season being over (maybe true). Whatever the case is, cherish those you love and care for on this Thanksgiving. If you have the ability to give them a hug, give them that hug -- and make it count.

Thanks for reading, folks. God bless. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Why I'm Going Catholic

I've been simultaneously dreading and anticipating this post. It's been in the making since last April, when the deal was sealed and I knew. It's been a busy summer and fall, but I'm finally at the point where I can start the conversation process ... or the process of starting the conversation process. But I'm now knee deep into this and I'll be neck deep by the end of the weekend.

So, it's time to tell you why I, a lifelong Baptist (born and raised), am about to go very much against the grain and convert. The process isn't easy. It is, in fact, harder than pretty much any conversation process I know of. The Catholic church makes it hard and the reason for that, I think, is to test whether or not you really want it. Whether or not you're really ready for it. Whether or not you're really sure of the life-altering choice you're about to make.

And I'm sure. I have been since I came to the conclusion in April and that sure feeling, that right feeling, has only gotten stronger as I have gotten closer and closer to the point where I'm going to begin the conversation process. It's gonna be long and it's gonna be a major learning process.

But I'm here and I think, before I can really begin, I need to explain why I'm doing this. It doesn't feel right otherwise. 

This week, I threw myself head first into Catholicism. I found a church. I joined the local college's Catholic student group (and they let me in despite the fact I wasn't a student or even technically Catholic yet). I spent a day with them and we made Halloween treats for kids and you know what? It was a blast.

It was there where I found the best answer to why I'm doing this. The answer is succinct: I'm tired of settling. I was explaining myself to one of the members of the Catholic student group and explaining why I was there, how I got there. I told him (and all of them that were there by the end) about how I came to a point of desperation with my weight. About how I had to choose to settle and be miserable or try to change so I could live.

This is the same thing. I'm at a point where I'm losing the war for my soul. I'm slowly but surely giving up fractions of an inch on a daily basis and it adds up. I'm tired. I'm tired of fighting this by myself and I'm tired of going to a church and participating in a faith that does nothing for me. I jump into it and get nothing out of it. My soul is malnourished if not in the process of dying.

I have to make a change.

First, let me dispel the idea that I'm doing this based only on a feeling. This isn't a feeling thing. This isn't a "Oh, it feels right so it must right" thing. This is something I have researched extensively (and will continue to in my free time outside of my class) and the way the Catholic faith operates makes sense to me.

Most of you, if not all of you at this point, have encountered my various blog posts asking faith questions and coming up with few answers. I don't have them and the Catholic church doesn't sit there and feed me lines. They admit they don't know either about some of them but they do have some answers about a few of them.

There's not a subject they don't have some insight into, even if it's more confusing insight, at least it's information and I can absorb that. I can use that, store that, and use it down the road.

More than that, the Catholic church addresses a few issues that the Baptist church doesn't. Like contraception, which is a-okay in the Baptist church and isn't in the Catholic church. I was clued in to the hazards of contraception for women some years ago and the stuff is horrible from a health standpoint. I can't sit there and accept it as normal for a girl to get a pill (or other form of contraception) when she reaches a certain age.

I'd like to have children in the future. I'll probably get stuck with girls because that's just the way my life works. I won't be part of this vicious cycle and I don't want to be married to someone who supports it. It's wrong. You know what else is wrong? What the drugs actually do, which is prevent life. It's not natural.

And this is another thing that appeals to me about the Catholic faith is that it feels natural. It just is to me. We're a fit and you're as surprised as I was when I realized it. But the Catholic faith has rules, structures, regulations, sacraments for everything, traditions, rites, routines, habits ... all these things I like. I like structure and the Baptist faith doesn't really have one.

But really, the think that strikes me most about it is how insightful it is to me. I get something from it. I haven't gotten something from the Baptist church in years. I've attended all of four masses at this point. One in 2011. One this past Easter. Two this past week (daily mass). And you know what? Every time I left, I left with that tingly feeling in my brain. I don't know if you know what that feeling is, but it's the feeling I get when I learn something and it feels good.

I spoke, at length (over six hours total time) with a priest about converting over March and April. I laid it all out. He sat there and listened, he offered his thoughts, and he told me point-blank what I was getting into. He tried to discourage me. To quote him, I'm "about to join the Marine Core of faiths."

I'm fine with that. I like a challenge. I like this.

I'm making this play. I'm committed to this action.

I imagine this is going to confuse some people but I know this right. I feel it and I know it. I'm here, I'm staring this right in the face, we're separated by mere inches, and I'm not blinking. I'm not backing down. This doesn't intimidate me, it fascinates me, because it's not about spiritual highs from mission trips or attendance boosts. I went to a mass in Cathedral that had all of a dozen people in it, tops.

A dozen people in a giant Cathedral. Think about that. And you know what? I felt good there. Sure, I wasn't sure about some of the things that were being done but I watched, I learned, and I got better. I'll get better.

The Catholic church encourages aiming for sainthood. I'll probably never achieve it, but I have a goal. Something to aim for and I can look at it, know what it takes to get there, and try my best to get there. It's not a faith where you just put it on when you're expected to.

They expect you to live it and the rules make it so you pretty much have to if you're part of the church. There's accountability there. People will kick me in the tail and hold my butt to the fire if I step out of line. I like that.

Part of me feels like this is a betrayal. I admit that. I'm going against a lot of things here and I wish I could make this seem less random, less out of the blue, but it isn't. I'm put my time and my effort into this. I've done the groundwork, I've put boots on the pavement and ran to this. Literally.

I'm tired of settling. I want to live.

And I will here. At the very least, it'll be interesting. It always is with me.

Thanks for reading folks.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Vain or Reasonable?

*This is one of those late-night posts that I don't have a filter for. Language will be a bit harsh in some spots. Don't read on if it offends, you've been warned.*

I'm stuck in a conundrum. I'm on two online dating sites (surprise!) and both are producing daily hits, but only one is giving me any sort of messaging responses. Now, I don't mind batting .500 here, but I would much rather the first site give me messages than the second site.

The reason being that, on the first site, I'm able to fully explain myself (in other words, no word limit, which means I get to go into detail) and I think I'm much better on that one than on the other one. There is one, significant difference between the two write ups because of this: I can go further into detail on my "ideal match" on site one than on site two.

You know me so you know that on site one I totally delved into the qualities I wanted in my ideal match. I limited it to three (be proud of me) but I went into heavy detail on those three qualities. The last of those qualities is the one I think is the deal breaker. I want someone who takes care of themselves. Here's what I wrote:

Thirdly, someone who takes care of their bodies. I know a lot of people like to ignore the "body is a temple" thing but I've discovered over the last two years how true that is. I want someone who is committed to taking care of their bodies and not just have it devolve over time. I want us to be together for as long as we can be. We can't control when we die but we can control how we live ... so we should live well.

When I wrote it, I felt like I was being honest. I still feel that way now. I want that in my ideal match. As I reference in there, I have discovered how much a difference a well-taken care of body can be in life. I'm living proof of the difference. I used to require at least nine hours of sleep to be functional when I was fat. Now, I can operate pretty decently on six and I can't sleep longer than nine hours if I tried.

Here's what I'm thinking with this, though: I'm thinking this sounds vain and completely shallow, like I'm just a guy who wants a hot chick with model looks, a nice rack and the ability to be my future trophy wife.

Okay, maybe it doesn't come off that badly but I can't sit there and pretend that it doesn't matter to me. It does. I'm looking at things from a long-term standpoint and I hate to tell you, but human beings are habitual creatures. It is likely that if you're knocking down sodas and pizzas now that you'll be doing the same thing five years from now.

That in mind, is it too much to ask for a person who takes care of themselves? I don't want to get involved with someone and watch their physical health devolve over time because they're not putting any effort into taking care of themselves.

This is a problem across multiple generations, mine included. We get stuck in the mindset that just because our bodies can take the abuse now that it'll take that same abuse in the future. I'm sorry to say, that's not true. I'm also living proof of that. For years I kept to the same eating habits and figured my metabolism would kick in and I'd shed all the pounds, just like I'd seen happen to some of my friends.

As we all know, that never happened. It was a myth, a self-delusion.

Is it so bad that I want a girl who takes care of herself?

I don't think so. I'm not asking for all-star looks or for a girl to be the tiniest waist on the block. Body=temple is not a hard concept. It's a true concept in my experience.

But this past weekend I was told by my not-date date (just as confusing as it sounds) that I should focus more on the present. Which, of course, I rallied against but I was coming down from a caffeine high of epic proportions (epic, I'm serious) and my ability to defend myself was not very good.

Maybe I do get stuck thinking about the future too much but the future is unwritten. Because of this, I can make it whatever I want ... the present is much harder to change.

Yet, I'm sitting here stuck in a conundrum because I can see where my point can be seen as incredibly vain. I'm judging others based on what I've done and I've observed and that's bull shit. My experiences are mine and are likely never to be repeated by another. But it's all I have to judge and I honestly believe if I can do it, others can.

Moreover, I was rejected for years based on appearance as a close friend pointed out very recently. I was the fat guy. I was dismissed by that alone. And for years I resented that, hated that and accepted that as the reality of my life.

Then I changed it. Now, standing on the other side of the fence, I can see why I was rejected ... at least using my own thought processes, anyway. I was a horrible long-term prospect. If dating is supposed to be testing the waters and finding out if there's a possibility that the person you are dating is someone you could spend the rest of your life with ... well, I failed that test out of the gate, didn't I?

Who wants to be with an overweight, overwhelmed, tired and lazy fat-ass? I can't imagine any girls who want that. I can't imagine anyone who wants that.

Is it wrong to want my ideal match to be healthy?

Worse yet, is it wrong to discount a person based on whether they're healthy looking or not?

I'm not sure. The argument has been made that a person's personality, their soul, is what you fall in love with. The body ages and breaks down, it fades away. I was a proponent for years of this argument.

I now find myself thinking I was wrong, at least in part. Yes, the soul of a person is important, but shouldn't the way they take care of themselves also be important? How do you weigh the importance of one against the other?

I don't know. Hence my conundrum, and hence why I'm stuck in this perpetual circle of back and forth. I think it comes down to the tastes of the person, of the individual and my tastes are a jumbled mess.

I'm a 25 year-old male. I've been told very recently that 25 year-old males are pretty much universally regarded as complete scumbags. I'm not one of them, according to what I've been told, but I understand why. It's so easy to get sucked in by the physical attractiveness of a girl.

I mean, a hot chick is a hot chick. The male in me realizes this and naturally demands I make a play for the hot chick. Because she's hot. And maybe she's even red-headed, thusly locking it in that I MUST make a play for her.

But the rest of me flat out denies that. There are more things at play here. What's her interests? What's her faith like? Is she a nice person or a complete bitch? Is she screwing like a bunny in heat or is she a virgin?

There are a lot of questions to consider. This is probably why I freeze up and do nothing, but nothing is fine. Nothing is great. At least with me doing nothing it can only result in nothing.

So, yeah, my tastes are a mess. I'm not sure what I should feel here and I don't want to get into the mindset that, if the girl I like isn't healthy looking, that I can change her. Because that's a bad mindset to get into. I can't change another human being. Nope. They have to make the choice to do it themselves and they need to do it for themselves, not for me or others.

It's a nasty little trap to get caught in. So, yeah, being overweight and unhealthy is fixable. I fixed it. I know others who have fixed it. But I don't want to get involved with someone thinking that I can change things.

If I get attached to that kind of idea I won't give it up. I'm a stubborn SOB.

So ... my question is, is my want in my ideal match to take care of her body vain? Is it reasonable? Does it put girls on the defensive (self-conscious feelings probably play a role)? Am I just over-thinking this?

Chime in and let me know. I'm confused. As always, any and all comment are welcome. 

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

This is How I Bar Hop

So, last night (Saturday) I went bar hopping with a buddy. As we all know by this point (or should know) I am not a bar person. At all. Ever. I have never been to a bar. I've never been bar hopping. This was all new to me and, admittedly, I was excited by it. New experiences are exciting by their nature.

I threw on my sexy clothes (otherwise known as the stuff I bought at Kohls that everyone said looked good on me), hopped into my buddy's car, and we took off. Our first bar was a bust. We didn't have any drinks at it because it was ... well, it was filled with a bunch of country boys watching football.

We hit the next bar. It had a much wider variety of patrons (there were actual good looking girls there, in other words) but they had a band playing. The band was playing country. Neither of us were particularly enthused with the musical choice so we left and hit our third bar.

This place was decent enough and we actually bought some beer (Bud Light). I don't drink beer. I've never had any Bud Light before, so I gave it a shot. I got the lowdown on the rules of bar hopping (taking in a drink at every bar is a rule but we kinda broke that early on, apparently). We drifted outside to the empty deck to talk to some girls.

Well, women. Older women. They looked like girls from behind. I quickly zoned off and watched one of the college football games while my buddy quizzed the ladies on where the good times were on a Saturday night. He finished his beer in quick order.

I took three sips of mine. Small sips. It was comical to see how he had downed his glass and mine was still very full-looking.

We left there and hit up another bar. This place had some class, had a dance floor, and even managed to have some decent music. Unfortunately, the bar patrons were also quite older. Like on-social-security-older. They could dance but I was afraid they would literally break a leg if they fell.

We had a shot (a cherry bomb I believe) and it was good. It hit me pretty fast but he was still fine. He was an old pro at this. We left out of there and hit up his favorite bar, which was having a Zombie party. Most people weren't dressed up as zombies, but we jumped in there. This would be the bar where we spent most of the night.

I was pretty buzzed at this point and decided to go for drunk. Since it was my first bar hopping experience and I didn't have to be at work till 1PM (which wasn't nearly enough time to recover in retrospect) I had me an Alabama Slammer (that I had never heard of before), and we started playing pool with a couple.

Pool + booze = fun. I was a bit rusty at first but we managed to pull out the first game. I proceeded to knock back (slowly) two more glasses of something (I don't know what it was, but it was good). My favorite tidbit from this was the phrase the woman we were playing pool with used.

When she found out that, at 25, this was my first bar and bar hopping experience, she said, "Where have you been? 25 was my prime!" I could only smile at that. She met her husband in a bar, seven years prior, and was of the opinion that bars were just as valid a place to meet future spouses as anywhere else.

I don't know if I agree with her. The bar scene is ... different. Strange. I was standing there between turns and sipping my drinks taking notes. On one hand, for the more extroverted people, the bar scene seems to be great fun.

I had running commentary going on in my head thanks to one of my characters (she's an animal at bars ... literally) and she was having a great time. Yes, it's insane, but hear me (or her) out. There was dancing, drinking, laughter, booze, and a good time to be had. What was the issue?

I was glad to have the pool table and a drink. Otherwise, I would have been aimless and lost. Once we got done playing pool with the couple we started our own game at another pool table. My buddy went off to go get some change while I was left there, by my lonesome, to sip on my mystery drink.

This is when I was relentlessly hit on for a solid five minutes by a drunk woman who was at least in her mid-30s and was tanned so unnaturally brown I thought she was a brown sugar-cinnamon pop tart. She stood there, hung all over me, and quizzed me on my pool playing skills.

There wasn't enough booze in the world, people. Not. Enough.

But it was entertaining as she kept trying to get me to talk longer than a few sentences and I kept not. After a few minutes she went back over to her table with her friends and my buddy came back. We played pool. I was initially sure he sent her over but he claimed not to and I believed him.

So, we played. He left again to go get another drink. She kept shooting me glances and, when he left, she came over, grabbed the cue ball, and dropped it into her bra. She juggled it around in there for a few seconds (the lines write themselves here. One could say she "racked" them up) before dropping it back onto the table and shooting me a look.

I only smirked and shrugged.

She sauntered back off to her table and threw up her hands in frustration at her friends, who were laughing at her (or me or us both).

We continued playing pool for another round before we left that bar.

We hit up the third bar real quick to check what was going on there. We came across a chick dressed in a skintight zebra or white tiger suit. We weren't sure which. She had a tail. Whatever the case was, we exited out of there rather quickly and hit up one more bar before the night was out.

I had a Mike's Hard Lemonade. It was quite good, and we dished on preferences as far as girls were concerned.

We hit up Taco Bell (old staple) before we ended the night and then I came home to pass out. Which I promptly did.

Overall, the experience was enjoyable but not my cup of tea.

I'm disappointed that my severe state of drunkenness didn't result in any more memorable stories. Or any more memorable actions. Part of me had hoped that with the alcohol in my system I would be able to not really care about everything else. I'm not talking about merely life concerns, but my own personal standards.

I have been called a principled person in the past. I am, and always will be, one stubborn SOB. Large amounts of booze doesn't change that. It makes me more easily entertained and willing to play along, but I didn't do anything radically different. Presented with the opportunity to do something different and radical I did virtually the same.

I measured things. I observed. I watched. I listened. I learned.

I came away from the bar hopping experience pleased at how much great material I'll be able to use for my writing in the future. It was filled with sights and sounds that I'll be able to use to write. But from a strictly personal standpoint, the experience was good for the company and good for some fun.

But it was expensive. It was a waste of time, honestly, and I would have been better off buying a bottle of wine. Which I will always be better off doing, I think.

Bottom line: I don't think I'll be bar hopping very often in the future. If at all, really. I'd like to say I had a revelation and totally bought in to "25 was my prime!" but I didn't.

I suck at bar hopping. I'm just as lame there as I am anywhere else. This isn't a statement made with a frown, but rather one made with a smirk. At least I know for sure, now. Maybe it'll be different with more people or different people or at different locations.

But I'd rather share a bottle of wine with a friend and bitch/moan/snark/ect than go bar hopping. It's not me. Sure, it gave me an excuse to get dressed up and feel like someone with a social life but ... I don't know, I'm not that person.

I discovered some new drinks. Had some interesting experiences and ended a night with Taco Bell. It was nostalgic, in a sense (especially the Taco Bell). But I suck at social and this pretty much proved it once and for all. Even with significant amounts of booze I still played to my core programming.

Which seems unchangeable or very difficult to change. Whatever the case, it's time to look into other avenues (which I'm working on, trust me. I have leads. Just need to get a few pieces in place).

Stay tuned and thanks for reading, as always.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ruminations on Online Dating

So, a few days back, I joined an online dating site. First, let me state how pissed I was that it had come to this. Online dating seems like admitting failure and, frankly, feels like it is failure. Failure to be brave enough to be social or failure at succeeding. It sucked but I joined.

I was quite surprised to find how easy it was to get lost in it. I mean, it's really easy. So, a few days later, here are my observations on things so far.

1. It's not about failure

Immediately upon joining and filling out my profile (which required 1000 words and I blew that out of the water by a lot), I started browsing around. Some of the profiles were really, really poorly written. All right, a lot of them were, but the one thing that almost all had in common was that the online dating things was new for them. It was a different way to approach things.

I have felt, and still kinda feel, that online dating is a sure sign of weakness and a complete waste of time. What great romances started with an IM chat? The hopeless romantic in me, the old school, hates this. But the pragmatic side of me is grasping at straws. Short of some sort of intervention via drugs, therapy, God, or a combination of all three, I'm not going to be able to unfreeze around pretty women.

Not unless I know them. I know plenty of pretty women and I'm friends with quite a few of them. But they're not someone I'm pursuing romantically (most are already taken) and so there's no threat of rejection there. I don't freeze around them.

I think the approach a close friend of mine suggested at least a year ago (if not two) was right ... said suggestion being that I should consider online dating because I'm more comfortable with a keyboard than across a coffee table from a pretty face, at least in the 'get to know you' stage.

2. Myspace sluts are here

We all remember the Myspace sluts. Those girls that were there only for the sex and the good time and their pictures left little to be imagined. Those girls are back. It's sad, really, as a lot of them are quite pretty but their profiles are poorly written (even my poorly written standards) and they pretty much scream 'let's screw!'.

3. The match questions are really concerned about sex .... all kinds of sex

The many, many, match questions you can answer about sex range from "Are you a virgin?" to "What kind of anal sex would you prefer?"

Seriously. It's that bad. And it gets worse, but I'll spare you. I've stated multiple times that I'm a virgin and shall remain so till marriage. The site's various questions are really slanted towards sex, though, which leads me to believe hookups are very common here.

Just like in college, apparently.

4. Writing quality varies in extremes

Some of the profiles are actually quite well-written. Some of them are horrors to the eyes that make me want to unleash a hellstorm on whomever wrote it because, damn, you're in you 20s! Can't you spend a little time and effort fixing it up? Get someone with better writing skills to edit it for you?

The profiles that are well-written are gems. Being well-written is a big plus.

5. So few Trek fans

The various women I've looked at and messaged are not Trek fans. Doctor Who fans, but not Trek. I like Who, don't get me wrong, but I love Trek. I have yet to find one who is a Trek fan and doesn't have some sort of dealbreaker otherwise.

That's all the ruminations I have so far. I'll let you guys know more of my thoughts when I have them. Thanks for reading, folks.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

One Is the Most Frustrating Number

I'm going to rant and rave, whine, and generally just toss a lot of stuff onto the digital page here.

I'm bummed and it's only when I'm not at work. When I'm at work, I feel like I have a purpose. A life. A cause. Sure, it's working retail in a bargain outlet store that is, as you can imagine, not exactly in the best of conditions. It's full of stuff, of various qualities, and it's organized maddeningly. It's never as clean as I want it to be and I can never get it that way.

But while I'm there, I'm doing something useful. Helping people, even in a small way (like getting something from a high shelf or lugging a very heavy carpet up front). Sure, it's not much. I have no impact on a larger scale, in terms of life, and that's a fact I've come to accept.

I will not accept it on a permanent basis. I expect in two to three years to be back in college and finishing up.

But that doesn't mean anything now and it's not the source of my bummed feeling. The source of my bummness (new word) is the fact that I'm going to be 25 in two weeks. Two. Weeks.

There are things that I'm immensely appreciative (I won't say proud) of as I approach this age. I'm in the best shape of my life. I look like I'm still in high school (okay, I don't really appreciate that much at all, but I'm getting used to it). I have a ton of friends, close ones, and I have a few loving families. I'm damned lucky.

But my mind drifts back, way back, to my AIM days when I first started chatting with one of my closest friends. Actually, the very first day we chatted on AIM. She said then that, at 25, the human body starts to degenerate (science, kids. Stay in school, please, it's easier in the long run).

I've been stuck on that since last night, when I remembered it. Didn't sleep at all. Woke up this morning slow and stuck in a rut. Truthfully, I've been bummed for about a week now and I'm bummed because, if I prove science right, I will have wasted so much of peak.

I am on course of doing that no matter what, really, but the realization that it's all just ... gone ... is sobering in the worst way. It's gone, and I don't care that my physical peak seems to have been wasted, at least not directly.

I care that my peak has been wasted with no one. No one in any romantic sense at all.

I haven't had a date since I was 19. Long, long time ago. Ages. Before Obama was president.

I'm single and have been for over five years.

I am quite lonely. This has to be obvious even to the most oblivious of observers at this point. I'm a broken record with this, I know, but this past week has been particularly rough for me being so single.

It seems everywhere I look there are couples. The songs I hear are all romantic. The holidays are coming up and I'm likely going to be alone. I have no doubt that I'll be invited to things but whether I accept that invitation is another matter entirely. Honestly, I feel like it's out of pity and it probably is, and I hate that. But I hate being alone on holidays. But I deserve to be alone on them at this point based on my past actions (read: screw ups).

You can see the circle I've been running in. It's exhausting. I'm trying to figure out how to remedy the singleness and I can do it ... in my head. I can make the scenarios work. I can plot it out. But life isn't a story and it doesn't follow a plot (but one can easily make the case a story really doesn't either if you do it right).

What I imagine myself to do and what I'm capable of doing are two very different things. I freeze. I continually freeze and the gears grind and I don't do anything. I do nothing and I hate myself for doing nothing when I should be able to do SOMETHING.

But I don't. I can't. I try. I was in a really awesome outdoor mall type place Friday. Lots of people, plenty of pretty girls, opportunity aplenty to try something. To put myself out there.

And I ended up pacing for the better part of an hour as I couldn't decide what to do or how to approach or even what to eat. I opted just to leave and find a cooler (which I did, an awesome one for 20 bucks).

I'm this close to making an irrational, stupid, decision. I don't know what it'll be, but my history indicates it'll be epically disastrous and likely end with something important to me going up in flames.

I don't make good decisions most of the time when I'm like this. The one, notable, exception is when I decided to go Primal and lose weight. I was desperate beyond desperate and that was a last-ditch, shot in the dark, heave into the ether, thing.

I don't know what to do here. I have, despite my pride, investigated online dating since I am so astoundingly poor in real-life approaches towards girls. Which I don't understand because I check out (in line, people, in line) pretty girls at my work all the time. I get them at my register. I like that aspect of the job, but I'm fine there.

You make me take off my uniform, put on some regular clothes, and place us in a coffee shop? I freeze. I've done significant amounts of Starbucks time in recent weeks. I've been observing, taking notes, looking for some key to make this thing function even slightly better.

I've adjusted my clothing choices (plain, tightish fitting shits are in, geeky tees are out for public use). That is only a small factor but that's all I've been able to gleam. The results of observations in malls, in stores ... the same.

I got nothing. So, online looks to be where it's at, but there are these fees for membership. They want me to pay in the hope I find someone? The free memberships are sketchy, honestly, and I don't know what to do there.

I feel like a failure outside of work. At work, I give myself a solid B, B+. I'm still learning some things but I'm a highly-reliable guy and I'm getting the hours to prove it.

But in life, my grade is like a D. I want to call it a straight up F but I'm alive and I do decently for myself. But I can't give myself more than a D.

I want to ask, "What am I doing wrong?" but the answer is quite simple: nothing. I'm doing nothing and thus I get nothing. Risk is part of the game if you want to play in the realm of romance (to paraphrase Captain Kirk). I'm like the Reginald Barclay of 20 somethings. Better in my fiction than I am in my reality.

I can write romance, blast it. I can do it. I can do it pretty decently and the lessons are there ... and I can't do anything with them. That's there. This is here. It doesn't mesh, one of the few things in my fiction that doesn't mesh with my reality.

Everywhere I look, it's just a reminder of my really long failure at this. Five years plus. I was going to go into Cheesecake Factory Friday evening and eat there. But then I realized I was alone.


And Cheesecake Factory is not for that. None of the restaurants there were for that. Everyone that went in was either part of a family or had their significant other with them. Friday evening was like that everywhere and it's been a long time since I felt this type of loneliness.

It's not the usual type. I'm here, in Ohio. I have only one friend my age (a guy at work who's 19 and thought I was 16 before I told him I most certainly wasn't) and everyone else I have are friends.  My families are hours away. Hundreds of miles.

I'm inundated with friends and I'm lucky for that but friends aren't enough. It's petty, shallow, vain, and poor form ... but it's true. If friends were enough than no one would get into romantic relationships.

I need that type of relationship.

I feel so far behind. I feel like I did when I had to run laps in gym class during that time of year when they had to time us: last place. Dead last. No matter how hard I tried or how hard I pushed myself, I was huffing, puffing, and out of breath. Everyone was ahead of me, a figure in the distance, and there I was barely walking at a decent clip.

I'm in last place, socially. I am so stunted at nearly 25, it's remarkable. My youngest siblings have more experience than I do at this point. To put that in perspective, they're roughly nine and eleven years younger than I am.

Shall we peruse my Facebook friends list and see how many of my friends, around the same age or younger, are married/in long-term relationships? I'm struggling to name more than a single-digit number of friends I have on Facebook that are single like myself.

The train has left the station and I'm not even on the platform. I'm stuck on the malfunctioning escalator. It's going down, I'm trying to go up, and I'm running in place.

What is wrong with me?

I took a day to hash that out, on paper, and came up with miswiring. Something in the brain is FUBAR. I hate admitting that, but I spent the better part of two months over the spring/summer trying to find a psychiatrist and was turned down. Repeatedly. Or told that there might be a shot at getting in months down the road.

I'm in Ohio now, maybe I should try again. Or maybe I should just accept the reality that I am destined to be alone.

I refuse to accept that. No. Not possible. Not remotely fair and yeah, I hear the "But Zach, life's not fair" counter and I flatly refuse it. Life may not be fair but damn it, I will not accept a denial like this.

I can't keep doing this. I've at this for over FIVE years. I can't do this for five more. I can't do this for one more, really, it's depressing on a shocking scale. I can't keep sinking myself into work or into writing or games or food. I can't live life like that because those things only make up parts of living. They can't replace living as a whole and living as a whole fundamentally requires human companionship.

I desire a romantic kind. It's not a difficult request, not for other people.

But I would rather walk down a busy highway (and have on multiple occasions) than talk with a girl, because I freeze and I die.

I'm weird. I'm unique. I'm the only one like me.

People say this to me. Close friends, people I trust implicitly, people I would gladly take a bullet for, and I want to toss myself into a spike filled pit Mortal Kombat-style when I hear this. I don't take it as a compliment.

It's used as an excuse for the way I fail. A crutch. Something to fall back on.

If only others could hate me as much as I hate me, but they don't. Others are, thankfully, not lost in my head. They're there to give me perspective and bring me back when I start careening off into the familiar darkness. For that, I am eternally grateful.

But I'm so tired of feeling like a complete failure in life. I would gladly work every day for most hours of the day. Lug carpet. Clean up bathrooms. Get old coffee all over my hands (that happened today while lugging carpets). Whatever. I'm accomplishing something there.

I set foot outside it and watch the failures pile up.

I'm clearly broken. I am. I have to be.

Why? I could take a few good guesses. I have no doubt it's mostly, if not all, my fault.

I'm single and I'm tired of it. Beyond frustrated by it. Lost amidst the options, convinced they're all likely to fail, desperate for some hope, and scared this is what I have to look forward to for years on end.

How does it work? What am I missing?

What should I do?

I don't know. I'm going to go to bed now, wrap myself in my Florida Gator blanket, and feel like complete crap. Because that's it. In two weeks, I turn 25, and I am no closer to being less alone that I was at 19. I'm in way better shape and my fashion sense has improved considerably. My odds have increased marginally because of those things.

But the distance remains the same, if not more, because I'm in dead last. I'm huffing, puffing, and I'm weary. I passed out one year while running those laps. It was hot that day and I was an overweight teenager, and I just went down for the count.

I want to pass out here but I'm already so far behind, I'll never see another soul if stop. The figures in the distance will leave me behind and they can't stop. Life goes on for them, for those they love, and for the shared wonders they experience.

I'm going to end up being a part of the past, nothing more than a footnote at best, forgotten about.

I honestly can't say that's a bad thing at this point.

So ends this. I was hoping it'd make me feel better.

It didn't. Thanks for reading, folks. If I didn't have work in the morning, I'd totally bury myself in ice cream and go into a food coma. But then I'd be so ill in the morning and I'm just not gonna make tomorrow worse than it's likely to be.

I'm ending today.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dreams Are Reality

*Warning: this delves deep into my dreams and the details within are very much not for casual reading. It's not super-explicit but it's pretty honest. Just as heads up.*

I woke up this morning in a pissed off mood. Not a good mood at all. I slept poorly. I woke up and felt like crap and that was simply because I had been eating crap food the past couple of days. Good tasting, yes, but nutritionally they were a waste. I was six pounds heavier than where I preferred to be and my day started off poorly.

But really, it was poor even before I woke up, while I was sleeping. Because, man, did my dreams do a number on me.

I'm a writer. I'm not going to sit here and tell you how good I am, because frankly I don't think I'm really quite that good. But let me tell you, writing is the way I get things out there. The way I express myself. The way I'm able to breathe after a long day or a long couple of days.

And I needed to breathe today but I couldn't write for the life of me. My mind was fogged up, clogged up, and I was failing at putting together a coherent sentence. Frustrating? Yeah.

I took to doing some manual labor, then ate some lunch (ham and cheese) and then took a long walk. An hour and a half into town. I needed it. It felt good and, honestly, if I didn't have other things to do tomorrow I'd take another walk right now. I still need it. I don't want to sleep.

Not looking forward to dreamland. Not after last night.

As a writer, I'm pretty tied into my creative energies. My imagination and things that occur there are just as real to me as anything that occurs out here in reality. It sounds crazy scary (it does, I grant that) but it's how my mind works. I can find parallels to what's going on in realty vs. what's going on in my imagination.

My dreams last night were not kind dreams. I won't call them nightmares because in nightmares there isn't a single thing you like. I can't say that here. I hated most of it but there were aspects of these dreams that I liked.

I hate these types of dreams. Not only for the mess they leave me in (literally and emotionally) after I wake up, but because of the fact I remember them. Always I remember them and I hate remembering them because, honestly, it's wrong in my view.

Yes, I get that these types of dreams (otherwise known as 'nocturnal emissions' or 'wet dreams' ... yeah, I said it) are natural. I've had just about everyone tell me this, including many trusted friends and even a priest. According to the priest, it's not a sin ... but it can't be right.

People claim you can't control dreams. I can't buy that. Not when I'm a writer. I grant that I don't exactly control my imagination when I'm awake but I certainly am an active participant in it ... I can point it in a direction and sometimes it'll go there.

Dreams are just an unconscious expression of my imagination, right? I just have to stay on the right track before I go to sleep and not get my head lost in things that aren't going to happen.

But they do happen. In my dreams.

Which means that it does happen. My stories are real to me. My characters are real to me. My imagination is real to me. The things that happen in those realms are real to me and, damn it, it does happen.

And it shouldn't. It's wrong. I can't shake the feeling that it's wrong and I don't think I ever will. There's no excuse for such a violation and that's what it is. It's not like the dreams are pure imagery, they're feelings and dialogue, and touch, and smell ... they're a story playing out while I sleep.  

It's one thing when the story is filled with characters based on real people. It's another when they are real people. Real people who I'm friends with, real people who I trust, real people who I see/talk to on a daily basis.

It's wrong. There's no way around it, it's wrong, and I have yet to come up with a viable strategy to end it. These types of dreams weren't nearly this bad as when I was a teenager. But then, as a teenager, I was a lot heavier. I don't know how much that plays into it.

Whatever the case, I was pretty guilt ridden and in a severely melancholy mood for most of today. I walked into town to get some ice cream. I also got a spoon, a big spoon as they didn't have a smaller one, and I walked back. I popped the ice cream into the freezer for about thirty minutes, watched Trek 09, and then popped it out.

I then went to work on it. Ice cream makes me feel better though, let's be honest, it's going to piss me off when I next step on the scale. Which is going to be Wednesday because I can't be in a bad mood tomorrow, I have things to do.

But I really don't want to sleep. I'm tired, yes, and I want to rest, yes, but I don't want to dream. Last night was enough. More than enough.

It's wrong. I went about this all day and I can come to no other conclusion. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.


Sure, it might be 'natural' but it's wrong. It's a violation of trust, of friendship, of loyalty, and of honor. I get there are no dream police and one can't be held responsible for it ... but I can't buy that for myself. I can't. I refuse. I can direct my creative energies while I'm awake, why can't I do it while asleep?

I see no reason why. Other than the fact that, as much as I hate the dreams, there are parts I like.

And no, it's not those parts. Not the messy ones. It's the parts before and after. The foreplay before and the closeness after.  

What can I say, I'm a romantic.

Anyway, this is probably more than you cared to know about me. But I warned you at the top. You only have yourself to blame.

Thanks for reading, folks. Catch you next time.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Are Your Long-Term Plans?

I had a job interview today, the first one in over a year. I didn't sleep well the night before and my stomach was all kinds of nervous throughout the day. I arrived at the mall (the job is in a store right next to the mall) an hour before my interview just so I could walk.

Because, God, I needed to walk. I was brimming with nervous energy and I just picked some stores in the mall to visit. I took a gander at a few clothing stores (there was a Hawaiian shirt sale in one, I had to resist) and peeked in at a few novelty places.

I was dressed up. Not super-dressed up (not a suit), but I was in a nice shirt and a pair of dark khakis. I even brought my Penguin umbrella.

I'm going to tangent slightly on the Penguin umbrella because it's important to understand this item and what it means when I bring it along. The Penguin umbrella dates back to my high school days when I was much larger and much less secure in myself (which is odd that I was less secure then because I'm pretty insecure now). I had dressed up as the Penguin for a Halloween dance one year and I repeated the costume the next year.

I don't repeat costumes but the Penguin was special. I could pull him off and I got an umbrella for it. You have to have the umbrella to pull off the Penguin and I felt like I owned the world with that umbrella. I felt like a badass, frankly.

I don't use the umbrella often. Not because I don't like it, I do, but because it's special ... it's an accessory I bust out when I really need that BA feeling. When I really need that confidence.

And when it looks like it's going to rain. Well, it looked like it was going to rain so I brought out the umbrella.

Strolling around the mall with that umbrella was an experience. I felt ... better. The walking helped but it was significantly improved thanks to the umbrella.

And then came time for the interview. I showed up five minutes earlier (I could have been ten minutes, but decided not to be too early) and I stood around and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Thirty minutes later I was finally called in and the interview process started. There was going to be a set of interviews and this one was the first one, the 'get to know you' interview. They'd tell me about the company, about what they did, about what their status was, and I would tell them about myself.

Those that know me know that, when it comes to telling about myself, I have a tendency to ramble. As I do here. As I do in conversation. I have a bad habit of explaining every little detail and volunteering too much information.

This habit has cost me jobs and opportunities in the past. You'd think brutal honesty about one's self would be appreciated, but as I've come to learn it's really off-putting to most people.

So throughout the interview I was repeating one phrase in my mind: short and sweet.

If I could keep it short and sweet, I wouldn't screw this up.

Because, man, I didn't want to screw this up.

The last two years have been great from the standpoint of my life experiences. I've met people, I've made friends, and I have more family now than I did before. People I would take a bullet for and give organs to without hesitation. I'd go to whatever distance was required and do what was needed.

But from a societal standpoint, I have been isolated. The fault in that lies with me. I isolated myself to begin with because of how overweight and ugly I felt. I lost the weight but felt like I didn't lose enough, so I kept going. I was good at losing weight. I kept at it.

I was searching for a purpose. I still am, really. My plans, as loosely defined, are not concrete. They're not solid. They exist but aren't really there in the way we define things as there. They can't be touched or felt, they're ... more feelings than plans. Abstract than concrete.

It's confusing, I know, and it confuses the hell out of me, too, but my plans aren't really plans.

Anyways, I remained isolated even after I hit 140. I don't know what to do with myself in a social situation and I kinda hate myself in them because, honestly, I don't be myself. I just pretend to be something and I sometimes do a decent job at it. Other times I suck at it and end up being just a piece of furniture.

I don't want to be isolated. I don't want to be the guy who runs up to his room and sits at the computer to write. I want to be that guy but not ALL THE TIME. Which it seems, increasingly, that I am.

My main problem with technology is how isolating it is in a real situation. I shouldn't be more comfortable talking to people on Skype or on Facebook than I am talking to them in person ... but I am most of the time.

I feel, socially, I have regressed.

And part of my problem there is that, the last two years or so, I haven't had a job that society deems 'valid'. Being a nanny is a great job and I loved every second of it, and I will forever cherish it. Children are, by far, the best thing ever.

But it's a job that removes you from the adult playing field a lot. It's not socially acceptable.

And my job interview today kinda drove that home. They called my previous job a 'family care specialist' which really made me feel ... small. I was honest on the application, I was a nanny. I used the word 'nanny' and they couldn't bring themselves to say it.

The first manager was cool with it, I felt. He was a nerd/geek like myself. Glasses, tall, and big on Batman. We dished on the recent Batman news for a few minutes before we started the interview proper. I liked him and I think, were it just up to him, I'd probably get the job.

But manager two was not a geek. He was a very former football player type. Might have been a linemen, he was a big fella, and reminded me of an unshaven Fred Flintstone. He had a rough five o'clock shadow and the guy looked clearly stressed.

He was worried. He was tired. He looked beat.

He was the big manager and he asked a very direct question: What are your long-term plans?

So, I told them. I wanted to work full-time for at least two years, I wanted to save money, and I wanted to get back to college. Finish my degree. Along the way there would be other expenses, of course. Life would hand me some unexpected ones, no doubt, but I made it clear I was looking to get back to college.

But he didn't really like that answer I felt. He kinda rubbed his face (dude was sleepy, was yawning a few times in the middle of it) and asked this: What are your long-term plans here, at this work place?

I stupidly blurted out, "To get a job."

He liked that, kinda smirked, and I elaborated that I wanted to work somewhere where I could count on being there awhile. I didn't want a place where I'd get let go after six months, I wanted a place I could stay a good bit of time.

The other manager took that opportunity to refocus the conversation on the growth of the company. They're a growing retail chain, and are looking to open over forty stores next year likely. They're expanding and the company strongly believes in promoting from within. Both the managers came up through the company over the last four to five years.

They referenced a few time my youth and how that was a positive.

I pounced on that and told them that, if the going back to college proved undoable (possible) that I'd like a place where I could advance if I so chose. That seemed to make the Flintstone guy a bit more pleased.

But the question stuck in my craw even after the interview was over.

I can't predict what life has in front of me. Honestly, disaster could be right around the corner. The next day. The next hour. I don't know and I worry about it, don't get me wrong, but I'm frustrated at the fact that I don't know.

A few of my most trusted friends/family members have told me that, yeah, they don't know either. But they do what they have to for those around them. Their children, their husbands, and their wives. Those that they love.

My cause is not so noble. I'm in a position to help out family and I will, have no doubt of that, but my wants are first. I hate to say it and, honestly, it isn't a very good feeling. It's selfish I think.

But also unselfish, in a way. I can justify it by saying that. Making money and going back to school, or staying at a job and working my way up, or getting trained to be a pipefitter (that's another story entirely) isn't about just me.

It's about ... well, it's about the mysterious future. The future I want to include a wife and kids in.

It's been said to me that settling for the white-picket fence dream is not within me. That I don't want that and I don't think I do anymore. It offends me, that dream. I hate it but see it as a likely natural progression. It's the path of least resistance.

As many of you know, the path of least resistance and I don't get along. I do things the hard way almost all the time.

I do want a fence, but I don't want a white one. Red would be nice (my first color choice for anything) or maybe a shade of orange ... gold perhaps ... or maybe I'd just stain it and make it look nice and woody.

But I'd like a place of my own. Some place to call home, marry, and raise a family. And it seems so far away and it seems impossible to achieve.

The question hangs over it. What are my long-term plans?

I guess all that. A college education helps in that, though maybe by the time I get enough money for it I'll be making more as a working stiff.

Part of me is afraid my life is about to get sucked away. The Flintstone manager seems to be held together through sheer will alone at this point. The guy looked beat and I don't want to be that beat. He had kids, family, and he was going to miss his daughter's game (he had to take a phone call in the middle of it and took it there, with me right across from him).

I don't want to be that guy. I don't want to have to miss my daughter's game because I'm stuck at work. He didn't sound too sad about it either. It was just a common thing.

But you do what you have to to provide for those most important to you, for those that you love, and you have to make sacrifices for that. I get that.

Still ... a possible ghost of Christmas future for me I guess.

I was afraid going back to college might make me lose my soul, you know. That it'd suck away what made me, me, and I'd be a lifeless walking husk.

I'm afraid now that being a full-time working stiff is going to do that to me.

Thanks for reading folks. See you on the flipside.