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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 It's outdated and outmoded for this version of me.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.