Monday, December 30, 2013

The Last Two Years, Because Why Not

How predictable. I'm going to write myself a reflection as the year comes to a close. Originality isn't the striking feature of this post, now, is it? But originality isn't the point. The point is that I need this type of reflection. Thus, I'm going to reflect on the recent past because of an agonizing need for clarity.

Coincidentally, an agonizing need for clarity is what punctuated the start of these last two years. That's what makes a two-year period the logical chunk of time for me to examine. I'm struggling to find words to write, but that's exactly why I need to do this. I need to reclaim my identity. I need to reclaim control over the direction my dreams and aspirations will even pull me, if they pull with any significant amount of force at all.

Succinctly, 2012 was the year my world was shattered, and 2013 was the year I picked up the pieces. The point is not to dwell on the shattering though, because life went on. Life still goes on, and I honestly have no idea how it does. At the end of 2012, my mind could not grasp the idea that a new year, 2013, was about to begin. I didn't think more years were possible. It took until summer for me to consistently write "/13" whenever I signed the date on a document. Compared to the thought that 2013 was even allowed to exist, the only thing more incredulous to me is that it's about to be completed from start to finish, like the placement of the keystone in a stone arch of time that took 365 days to construct.

What happened? What's happening? Why do things keep happening? Maybe my disbelief that life goes on stems from a lack of control. This isn't what I wanted, yet time keeps on moving. Life isn't going to wait up for me-- this much is evidenced by the fact that life hasn't waited up, and it still isn't. There is no pause button. This isn't goddamn Mariokart where I can stop midway through racing Donkey Kong through Koopa Troopa Beach and finish the rest later.

I never imagined what it would be like to be 24. I also never imagined what it would be like to be 19, 20, 21, or any age beyond that. As a child, I dreamt of what it would be like to graduate from the limitations of being a minor--in my case, this consisted of reserving a hotel room, renting a campground, and maybe ordering something from an infomercial that spoke that haunting mantra, "You must be 18 or older to call." I had no interest in drugs or buying porno mags (because I'm from the generation that knows how to use the internet). Still, adulthood in the official sense was something to look forward.

I didn't really know what to expect in college, either. My parents never really told me about their respective histories. My dad started at community college and didn't even last a year, and my mom had a rough time in her teens and twenties, working part-time and attending school while maintaining herself with the added difficulty of both her parents having been deceased. I had no concept of what my college years and my young adult life would look like. This cluelessness was a new feeling to me, because life has a pretty clear path for you when you're in school. When you're in sixth grade, you look forward to seventh grade. When you're in junior high, you look forward to high school. But when high school hits, you realize that your future could play out in a plethora of different possible ways. The paths of your peers become more divergent than ever before. You look at the photo of your third grade class, and you see how you defined your peers--the kid who brought an air freshener to school, the kid who made uncanny cricket noises, the kid who used to play Pokemon cards with you, and the kid who called you a pineapple with rabies that one time. But that all seems petty and unspecial compared to the way you remember these former third-graders as adults-- the guy who struggles with his sexuality as he tries to become a minister, the girl who had to drop out of college to help her dying mother, the guy who moved to California to found a startup company creating I-Phone applications, or the guy who remained unmoved after spending months in juvenile hall for selling drugs in eighth grade and is probably selling more somewhere.

We weren't equipped with the power to curb-stomp our own innocence as children, but as our respective destinies became more pliable, we bent them into untold combinations of ridiculous shapes. And now that I've seen the wide array of different ways a life can be moulded, I can only question my own decision making more than ever. The power we each hold over ourselves is perhaps the most important power to consider, and every action I perform is punctuated with the question pulsating painfully in my mind, "am I doing it right?"

My first rebuttal to that question is, "of course not. If I was doing it right, I would be happier." But then I have to suggest to myself a different idea: maybe the key to being happier isn't doing better-- maybe the key to greater happiness lies in refraining from asking myself these pesky questions. Maybe all I need to do is to stop myself from second-guessing all of my own actions. Being an idealist is a disease.

I don't know what I'm doing. But maybe all the others don't know what they're doing, either. Yet, they've come to terms with the thought of marching onward through life without perfect 20-20 foresight, and if this is why they're happier and more secure than I am, then perhaps I'm the one with the disease. No one told me how my twenties would look, and that's because my parents have different personalities than mine. And I suspect that the other twenty-somethings differ from their parents in a similar way, too, implicating that they had no idea how their twenties would look based on their parents' experiences, either. So that means I'm reaching forward blindly into the darkness looking for the light switch, and all of my contemporaries are, too. I guess I am the one with the disease, and I should settle down and get used to this perceived blindness.

This is what it's like to be 24, then.

Now, in the tradition of reflecting on the past year, I will discuss the last two years of my life. It has to be two years, because I spent this year picking up the pieces from the wreck that was the year previous. 2012 was the worst year of my life, for several large reasons and for several smaller reasons which supplement.

I spent 2011 hopelessly fallen for this girl who really didn't end up caring for me like I thought she did. In January, 2012, she let me down. I don't remember a time in my life when I was more heartbroken. I'll just leave it at that. I was decimated for months. I didn't fully get over it until later in the fall, almost at the end of the year. My resolve in 2012 was that I would never fool myself again into believing that someone loves me when she, in fact, doesn't. You might also use the word "paranoia" to describe this "resolve," and it lingers to this day. I haven't dated since, and it partly owes to this.

I had a world in mind for my future, and this world consisted of the two of us. I hoped to do everything together in the future. I had to redefine my entire idea of my future with her departure. This adds to my inability to cope, because this isn't the life I expected. I blame a lot of my inability to cope on my inability to expect any of this. I didn't know from my parents what to expect, and I didn't know to expect heartbreak and solitude.

I came home on spring break to my dog dying. My dad found Tosha and her brother, two husky puppies, stranded in a parking lot at Midway Airport in 1996. She was all white, and one of the most gentle regal dogs I'd ever known. She was quiet, but had a personality all her own. I watched her die. She had become unable to move or support herself. My mom was hysterical; my dad, our family friend Randy, and I loaded her into the back of our red 1999 dodge caravan so we could drive to the emergency vet. There was nothing to do for her. RIP Tosha.

I graduated college in May 2012. From there, I started a job in June working for a transportation engineering consulting firm, where I could practice my lifelong dream of designing roads. Having a job right out of college doing exactly what I always wanted to do was a sweet deal. After a couple months, though, I started coming home with intense migraines, complete with dizziness, visual auras, and sharp pain to my forehead, behind the eyeballs. The pain was often so intense I had to vomit. These migraines would persist every other day, or every single day. I tried various coping strategies, but it reached the point at which showing up to work was a form of willingly subjecting myself to torture. I had to leave my job. It was kind of my dream job, too.

In June 2012, I heard unbelievable news regarding who I later realized was my best friend from my childhood. At an intersection very near my house, my friend Garrett was struck and killed by a drunk driver around 2:00 A.M. as he was walking home from a local bar. He was married to a girl he met in Canada, Patricia, who would later become my friend. I can't imagine being widowed at age 24. Could you?

On the day of his funeral, it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit and hailing. I won't forget that, because it's one of those instances in my life that led me to believe that there's someone or something upstairs in the heavens-- and in this case, that someone was infuriated.

I'm working on a song about him. He didn't care about silly things that most people care about but shouldn't. That's why he allowed me to be his friend in the first place, when many others wouldn't. Many held a prejudice against me because I was widely known as the smart nerdy kid. Garrett never thought anything of it, though. I always had his respect, and he always had mine, even though there were choices he'd make later in life that I wanted to stay away from. What kind of bizarre world is this?

My relationship with my mom went south that year, a couple times. For a couple prolonged periods of time, I wouldn't speak with my mother. We couldn't get along. After I quit my job, I helped my dad's surveying business for the rest of 2012.

Enter 2013. I'm still working with my dad, standing next to that machine on the big yellow tripod that you sometimes see on construction sites. That winter failed to live up to expectations; we hardly got any snow until late February. In fact, it was February when I received a call from a man interested in my resume. As I was working outside in the backyard of a house in DeKalb, Illinois, I talked to a man who wanted me to come to Chicago for an interview. I accepted, and before I knew it, I was sitting in an office with an older man and a younger man answering questions. It wasn't long before they offered me a new job, and by mid-February I was commuting via train to the big city.

Commuting from the outer Chicago suburbs isn't a gig you want to endure for long, because of the amount of time consumption. I would leave the house at 6:15am to reach work by eight; then, I'd leave at five to arrive home again at 6:45pm or so. This adds up to three and a half hours in transit each day. At least it was nice to zone out on the train; it was less taxing than driving all the way.

In March, as I was sitting at my Chicago desk, I received a call from another employer, a county highway department. Without really thinking about it, I kindly informed the lady that I was sitting at my new job and that my search for a new job had concluded. When I went home that night, I reconsidered my actions. This new opportunity was for a job where I could work outside, and no longer be confined to an office cubicle for eight hours per day! I used my lunch hour the next day to call the lady back and ask if they would still consider me for the job. They called me in for what would become known as the most enjoyable interview I would ever have to date, and I was accepted for the job. This meant I would have to drop the bomb on my second employer (third if you count my dad) that I'd be leaving them for a third (fourth).

In May, I started at what is now my current job.

In October, I moved out of my house. I now have my own apartment close to work. It's pretty nice.

In December, I rekindled my relationship with my mom and we get along great now. I also got sick over Christmas and she selflessly took care of me. I'm still kind of sick from that.

I have a job and my own place! And my credit score is pretty darn good. I have taken off on the runway to adulthood.

Now what?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's interesting that people tell me what to do. It's actually pretty insane for me to listen to any advice on how to live my life, given who I am. I am one of the most thoughtful, introspective, and sensible people I know. There, I said it. And all anyone does when they try to tell me how to live my life-- is tell me what they would be doing with my life if they were in my shoes. And in the process, they expose the flaws of their approaches toward living their own lives.

It's quite educational, really. I get to learn how their perspectives on how to live differ from mine, and therefore, I get to learn the attributes of their respective personal philosophies that I don't like.

Someone is trying to tell me to live my life working a depressing but high-paying job, resulting in a static, dull lifestyle in which the only glitter is gold-- money, that is. Someone else is trying to tell me to go after a million beautiful experiences, and grab whatever I want when I want it, yielding an ever-changing lifestyle.

Neither of these options suits me. The former of the two I mentioned is unappealing for reasons that should be pretty clear. Happiness does not depend on money. The happiest people on earth are not rich. Rich people get spoiled, expect way too much from the world, and complain about everything, depressed.

The latter option fails me because I can't live my life asking for everything. Happiness does not come from the number of experiences you have or from the extravagance of the experiences you have. You can travel the world, go to parties, go on roller coasters, attend concerts, and go on safaris, and still be dissatisfied with your life. There is no limit to the insatiable nature of people. How do you think people in bumfuck nowhere stay happy? By making the most of it, and by having a will to enjoy what you have.

My purpose in life is to help people. My purpose in life isn't to take and take and take from life, and to continue to ask it for more. I realize that I only have one life, but as a male, I seek simplicity. All I want to do is find something, or several things, that I can consistently work on throughout my life that helps others. I thought that becoming an engineer or a mapmaker would satisfy that desire. Making music does, too. I'm also going to make Youtube videos, and I have ideas for a board game...I have all sorts of things that I can contribute, and that's what I focus on. I don't focus on what I want to take. I focus on what I want to give. Life is one big decision of what you want to give to the world. I'm here to help. I want to create inspiration in other people's life, and though I will need at least some intake of inspiration to generate something productive, that's not the main goal. My main goal is to make a difference, not be the one for which someone else makes a difference, though I welcome that. It's just not my main objective, or what I set my sights on. If all I wanted in life was to be the recipient of others' contributions, I would be a strictly selfish person, and I would hate myself.

My purpose is to be a creator. That's the way I look at my life. Therefore, my life is a quest for appreciation for the good things I create and bring to the world, whether they are big projects or everyday deeds. And if you're not going to appreciate what I give to you, I will not want to have anything to do with you. There are people out there who will appreciate the good things that I do, and I know that. My life is also a quest to find those people, who will accept me for who I am and be supportive of what I create. I've reached a point in my life at which I have realized that I need to dump some people at the side of the road because they bring me down and don't even attempt to support me. If there were positives to balance out the negatives and result in a net gain, it would be different. But I'm cutting off the people who are overwhelmingly negative, because I'm a good person, god damnit.

I have the best intentions out of almost anyone I know. I want nothing but good things for people, and I want positive actions to be rewarded. People would see my generosity much more clearly if I had anything to give. My task now is to make myself and everyone around me believe I have a lot to give, and to execute that giving. When I give back to the world, people will see the physical manifestation of my generosity, at which point my generosity will be undeniable. People will see how willing I am to give to them, because the only way to make them see that is to actually give to them. So here we go. We are entering the age of Paul making a positive difference in the world. A very positive difference. I hope you're looking forward to it, because I am. I'm looking forward to living a life that I can smile at as I look back on it. I'm looking forward to being happy with who I am as a person, because as I prove to everyone else how good of a person I am, I will be also proving it to myself.

And if you are willing to stick with me and see where this goes, I want to thank you. I appreciate you being there in my life still, even after the past few months of being a lifeless shell. I assure you all that things are on the upswing, and if you were able to put up with my dumb ass for the past semester, I'd like to reward you by showing you some improvement. A lot of improvement. And by having some fun. Thanks guys.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My mom sent me this email:
"In June, 2011, Philadelphia was named the 2nd most Dirtiest City in America by Travel and Leisure's readership, for a variety of ways, including litter, air pollution, and taste of local tap water.

In 2006, Philadelphia's homicide rate of 27.7 per 100,000 people was the highest of the country's 10 most populous cities."

What does this accomplish? Is she trying to scare me away from doing what I'm obviously going to do?

I was about to reply, "well, the homicide rate of my town is going to rise if I don't get to be with my lover right soon."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Today I drove away from the greatest source of light shining into my life and giving me energy, as I drove away from the sun which was in the process of setting behind me. The symbolism was so easily conceived that a mediocre fiction writer could have written it, but it was very real. As most think of the sun as the greatest source of light in the physical realm, she is the one who best fits that title in my eyes. When I first pulled away from the airport where I left her today, I regarded it as just another departure, having been our fifth. And while I seem to be getting used to the repeated stiflings of our times together, I also am getting used to the feelings of sudden emptiness and disdain which summon moisture into my eyes after each time this occurs. Another departure, another day of feeling like crying. It's just part of the process.

She suggested that I shouldn't feel bad because we have departed from each other many times now. This is our lives; this is what we do. But the crying and heartbreak doesn't come from naivete with regard to these situations. It doesn't matter how many times this happens or how much practice I have had dealing with it. I'm still going to feel like crying because a large part of my personal foundation is being taken from me. Something is being lost.

The one difference that did occur today was that I kept on moving. Tears welled up in my eyes but I was not debilitated. I got right back in the car, eyes glossed over, and kept moving. I am getting better at dealing with it, but the emotions of heartbreak and emptiness aren't things that subside with time.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Love is real. I know because I have discovered it firsthand.

In order to experience love, you must achieve the following objectives:
1. Be in touch with your emotions
2. Realize that your purpose on life is to improve the world around you
3. Know what to look for and what criteria are important
4. Know what criteria are NOT important and should be ignored altogether
5. Have an ideology that is well-developed enough to converge with other well-developed ideologies
6. Don't be self-centered
7. Be open-minded

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Rockin the Suburbs
Sentimental Guy
Your Dogs
Selfless, Cold, and Composed

^Songs by Ben Folds that I play on piano

Monday, February 14, 2011

I hate Valentine's Day.

It's a lose-lose-lose situation.

Let me explain

You are either:
1. Single
2. Taken but not totally confident in your relationship
3. Taken and confident that what you have will last.

1. If you are single, you feel left out. And that sucks.
2. If you are taken and not confident in your relationship, you will try to woo her with some material objects you bought with your material money. But it doesn't really make sense to state something immaterial with material generic stuff. It costs you money that you otherwise wouldn't spend, and it doesn't really make sense anyway.
3. If you are taken and confident in your relationship, you reaffirm your connection with her every day, and you don't need one special day a year to do so. You should be showing you that you care every day. This day should be no more special. And if you know this, Valentine's Day is pointless and useless.

I also hate it when people discuss how terrible an exam was right after they walk out of said terrible exam. It's going to be painful enough when I get the grade back. Don't drag out the pain by slowly revealing to me all the things I did wrong, so that I feel worse and worse the more we talk about it.

I'm finding, now, that when I fail at something, or I endure some form of hardship that would typically get me down, I find myself thinking, "at least I found love. And no matter what happens, I'm going to be with her. So nothing is ever all bad."