September 6, 2013

I Don't Trust Happiness

The worst day of your life is when you discover the thing that you think you might want to do for the rest of it. It's the moment of fear when the safety bar drops on the roller coaster. It's that point when you become the people you make fun of. You are genuinely happy--happy enough to get hurt.

I've always told myself and others that I'm not sure what I want to do with my life. Sure I've got a few ideas, but nothing is solid, there are no plans in place. Just ideas. Ideas are nice because you can always get new ones. Plans suck. Plans involve commitments and consequences. Plans can get people hurt. But I find that more and more I'm planning to teach again and semester, next forever.

I'm a teaching assistant at a university. And my students are good students. They take notes, they ask questions, and they follow my instructions (mostly). I walk out of each class period feeling proud, fulfilled, and of course, worried. What if I have things too easy? Is this all just an act they're putting on for my benefit? Will my class eventually erupt into chaos that I will never control? Things are going too well right now. And I find myself waiting for the disappointment like it's my plus-one to a friend's concert. Soon and very soon I'm going to get hurt.

But that's a short term worry. When my students do let me down, I'll get over it and keep on doing what I'm doing. My bigger fear is that someday I won't be able to recapture the happiness that I have now. See, right now I KNOW I love to teach. Every damn day I'm bombarded by the feeling that I'm doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. But maybe someday I'll say, I remember when I used to be happy.
"Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all."
Fuck you Tennyson! If I lose my love for teaching public speaking to students I can't just say "Oh well, I remember the good times!" Because I'll still be doing it. I'm still waking up in the morning and going through the lessons, the readings, and the tests. I'm too far down the road to turn back. Now I'm just riding til I run out of gas. If I lose my love of teaching I don't feel nostalgic and sweetly sad...I feel hopeless.

So I guess I begin to wonder which is worse: The feeling that something is missing because you haven't found what makes you truly happy, or the feeling that you'll never reclaim the one thing in your life that really meant something.

I don't trust happiness, but that doesn't mean I can't trust it.

August 25, 2013

Musicians Don't Join

As August draws to a close I ponder the sweet mystery of summer lovin, which allegedly happened so fast, and the wonderful music made specifically for us to savor those romantic moments. A summer soundtrack, filled with the latest pop songs, classic love ballads, and of course the one song whose lyrics "perfectly describe our relationship, like seriously." It may be miserably hot and humid, but 80% of love is in the air!

Why the statistical qualifier? Because according to 1 in 5 relationships are born online. In other words, 20% of love comes from your internet service provider. For all the sketchy, creepy, and downright unsafe possibilities that online dating offers, matchmaking sites do present a tempting offer. Several sites cater to specific cultural and social interests (i.e. Christian Mingle, Black People Meet, Date Hookup) and provide multiple matches--because, you know, why not relax the rules on the whole one true love element? 

Look I get it, we work longer hours, join fewer community volleyball leagues, and watch more Netflix shows (usually alone). Who wouldn't be excited about trading their email address for the chance to find their soul mate? Still, I remain unconvinced that online dating is the future of relationships for one simple reason:

Nobody writes love songs about

Music is a central element of the human experience. It is beautiful, sad, solemn, frantic, fantastic, and everything in between. Emotions are complex and hard to describe--music is not. Somehow, a specific succession of notes and chords can capture our deepest feelings. How do I know this? There are way too many love songs on the radio and in the iTunes store. There is skinny love, burning love, one love, tainted love, same love, bad love, and a few hundred other adjectives to boot. But there is no online love. Nobody composes a melody for dating profiles, inbox messages, or cat-fishin' floozies. You can't make a mixtape for a relationship that started online--well, not a good one.

So we're left with one of two options here: Either musicians just don't go on, and thus aren't able to compose these chart-topping tunes OR despite what the statistics say about success and efficiency, there's just something impersonal about the whole process of trying to make a personal connection through a computer. 

Does online dating work out for some people? Absolutely. But here's the thing that people dating is an opportunity to meet new people, not a solution to your chronic loneliness. It takes the very best effort to find somebody compatible, to go out and risk failure at a bar, concert, or wherever you want to go on a date, and to take the time and sacrifice to do it all again next week, or month, or whenever. It's a lot of work.

Even the best song about love falls short of the experience itself.

August 19, 2013

YOLO: Here's to Freshman Year Memories

Let me just get this out of the way real quick-like:

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I’ve been, well, gone. I’d make up some excuse and say that work and my personal life have just been too busy, but I owe you more than that. Honestly, I was just feeling a bit uninspired. And no one wants to read an uninspired blog post, right? That’s right—now I’m putting the blame on you. Anyway, my friend Jimmy from The Highly Questionable Blog came to my rescue with the idea that we could guest post on each other’s blogs. Inspiration acquired! And now I’m back. So thank Jimmy. Seriously. His blog is wonderful.

If you’re a reader, I’m going to guess that we know each other somehow. I might even go so far as to assume that I met you at Drury. If that’s the case, I’ve got something to say to you, friend.

We are getting old. Unless you graduated this year or haven’t graduated yet. In that case it’s just me who’s getting old. But it’ll be you next year. Or the year after.

I moved into Sunderland Hall five years ago around this time. I can’t believe it! I met some of my best friends, took the two classes that helped me decide on my majors, and had my first taste of Pineapple Whip and Andy’s. So we’re going to reminisce a little bit tonight about some of the crazy things that happened during that first year of college. I hope you’ll be reminded of some stupid times too.

The summer before I came to Drury, I spent most nights with my best friend writing obscenities in whipped cream that we'd slathered on my kitchen table. Then we licked it up. 

I also made a “slumber party” cake for two of my best friends. It was at once the cutest and most horrifying thing I'd ever made. I wasn’t ready to grow up. 

Then I came to Drury, where people replaced whipped cream for shaving cream and wrote “I win” on the mirrors instead of “I love so and so.” 

I attended my first raging dance party. There was a man in a gorilla suit (who shall remain unnamed). I was frightened.

I saw Bob Barker. He was old.

I thought this was the coolest photo I’d ever taken. I was probably right. 

Renee and I went to Blockbuster (yeah, it was still in business) dressed as Audrey Hepburn and the joker on Halloween.

I watched a completely sober dude shave his head for no particular reason.

I sang Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” over and over and over again. I seriously considered buying a Jesus chain and reenacting that scene from It’s Always Sunny.

I shamelessly watched shirtless men play frisbee on Sunderland field. And I'd do it again.

I missed my cat A LOT.

I ran around looking like a Russian Babushka doll on more than one occasion.

I played the pterodactyl game like a boss.

And I miss it all like crazy. What are some of your fondest memories of that first year?

August 15, 2013

Piper Chapman is Not My Bestie.

I had a fight with my friend the other night. Per usual she ignored every piece of advice I gave, acted as if I wasn't even there, and faded to black after an hour. The only thing more pathetic than fighting with a TV show character is not knowing if you even won.

Netflix is like a treasure chest of gold that's been laced with skin-penetrating poison (which I assume exists). It has completely changed how we watch TV and on the surface it looks like the greatest thing ever to all people who don't own a Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. know, there's still the poison thing that slowly works it's way into your system and fucks you up. I take no liberties with this analogy, Netflix does fuck you up

I have never spoken to any fictional character before, much less argued with at one. Too much time passes between shows for my feelings to boil over and blast out of my mouth. Even when I'm wasting my day with a Law and Order SVU marathon (thanks USA network!) the commercials always give me a little time to check myself before I wreck myself. But with Neflix I can instantly stream entire seasons with no commercials. Now the time I spend with those characters is really only interrupted by the occasional bathroom break. That's totally false, I have Netflix on my phone--not even nature's call can stop me.

When you spend too much uninterrupted time with characters you start to think about them outside of the episodes' context. You try to predict not only their behaviors but also their justifications for the behaviors: "Of course Picard would do that! Why just two episodes ago he..." Moreover, instant streaming almost necessitates that the time you spend watching those shows will be spent alone. I mean, who hangs out together for 3 hours just to watch Weeds? So there's nobody around to tell me how weird it is to start talking to the characters. I don't care enough to remind myself, so now talking to fake people is normal. 

But most importantly I start caring too much. I care too much about what happens to the characters because I get sucked into their world for long periods at a time. I'm like Jane Goodall in the tall grass watching gorillas. A few weeks ago I started Orange is the New Black, a show about a middle class woman who ends up in a federal prison. Now this show originally aired on Netflix and came out with all 13 episodes of Season 1 available to watch. I don't have to play the waiting game like I do for normal network shows. Sure enough, this series was prepackaged for my unhealthy interactive habits. I've grown overly attached to the show's main character, Piper Chapman--I'm way too invested in her choices. Since I'm not a Sally-spoil-the-show I won't tell you why I was arguing with Pipes, but suffice to say she didn't make a wise decision and now she's ruining her life. How could she do that?

How can I be doing this?

August 9, 2013

Santa Claus should work for the NSA.

Maybe it's a little early to start calling the highlights of 2013, but I'll put a sizable wager that the NSA ends up in TIME's 2013 year in review--wait they already published it? Shit. Whatever, I'll still put money on Eric Snowden finishing in the top 3 for "Person of the Year" status. Ever since Snowden, henceforth known as the worlds biggest tattle-tale, spilled the beans on our National Security Administration's spying practices every U.S. citizen has decided to either (a) complain about their lack of privacy, or (b) complain about the number of people who complain about the their lack of privacy.

Fair enough, the nation is outraged. Save for James Bond-type movies and MADtv cartoon mice-things, spying isn't the most respectable trade out there. I mean it's one thing to be spying on others, but it's downright egregious to spy on your own people, right? And yet anytime I hear a customer service complaint about the NSA peeping into our personal lives I can't help but think...didn't you folks ever believe in Santa Claus?

I know there's still 137 shopping days til Christmas, but let me recite a part of a festive Christmas song for you:
He sees you when you're sleeping, He knows when you're awake, He knows if you've been bad or good...So be good for goodness sake!
Take that song apart and suddenly jolly old St. Nick doesn't seem so fun anymore. Somehow this guy's keeping tabs on all of us. Maybe it's just super fun Christmas magic, or maybe Santa's got his elves monitoring our every move. To all the 8 year old's listening to the radio during the Christmas season that song is a reminder: You aren't alone. Privacy? Doesn't exist in Chris Kringle's world. But do you think 8-year-old me cared about Santa's spy program? Nope, I agreed to the terms and conditions of "good behavior" monitoring so long as the presents got put under the pine tree. To me, the reward was worth the loss of privacy.

Santa Claus isn't real, don't worry I know that (just kidding Santa!). But the concept is the same. Nothing's private anymore because we would have to give up way too much to keep our information completely secure. Let's see if I can find a few more examples...

Ever notice how good those side-bar ads are getting at showing you exactly the right products you want need? Big stores are paying companies to gather data from your previous online purchases and your search form entries to better understand how and what you shop. Legal? Absolutely. Remember those terms and conditions you agreed to? Only after completely reading of course. Chances are you signed away some part of your privacy in the agreement. But hey, now you get great deals on the types of products you were going to buy anyway. Privacy vs. convenience: Convenience always wins.

Sometimes we exchange our privacy for non-material rewards. Think about your information privacy: Are you really doing your best to monitor what you share with others online? Facebook's an obvious example of our blasé approach to information sharing, but thankfully it still has some privacy settings that we barely read. Twitter should change the term "tweets" to "future regrets" to better resonate with most of its audience. And the worst of all? 4square! What was the thinking behind this social media monstrosity? "Let's create an app to let stalkers know exactly where you are at all times!" Oh and others can tag you at the place you're going so you don't even have to give consent. What a relief! I'm surprised the app never developed GPS capabilities for large white vans.

Even if it doesn't feel like it, we put way too much of our personal information on social media sites. This is a fact not missed by frauds, identity thieves, and general hackers. But, yet again, we'd rather have the rewards of an active social life, status likes, and networking opportunities. We choose to hand over our private information to the world so people we've never shook hands with can be our friends.

I used to think that there were some things about us that were still private. Our own bodies for example. Sure, clothes are skimpy, but at least we still wear something, right? Next thing you know I'm watching Robin Thicke's new music video for his song "Blurred Lines." WARNING: That link's a risky click if you're at work. In the video the two male singers are wearing pretty sharp suits while the girls dance in a suit of the birthday variety (that means they are naked). Here's the kicker, I can find that video on Youtube. I don't even have to look very hard. While I realize naked girls on the internet is nothing new, there used to be a time where you had to lie about being 18 or older to see them.

And it dawns on me that this is the future of music videos. Even if there is a ton of negative reaction to Thicke's video, we'll eventually get to the point where we watch others dance naked to music on a public forum. So what do I tell my future son or especially my future daughter when we have the talk about the privacy of their bodies? One look at that Youtube video and it's pretty clear that our most personal privacy doesn't exist anymore. It's gone. And for what? The chance to be famous? Yikes.

So forget about the myth of privacy. It doesn't exist. It hasn't existed since Santa first came down your chimney and it doesn't exist now. People know things about you. Now it's your job to start controlling how much they get to know.

February 13, 2013

Happy Birthday, Renee!

Today is February 13th, and I have something very important to say.

Pretty much the perfect ecard for us.

My dear friend Renee is turning 23 today! Renee and I have known each other since we were 18 and living in Sunderland Hall at Drury together. It doesn’t seem like much has changed in five years.

Renee will be in Springfield this weekend, and I can’t wait to celebrate with her. And since Chuck E. Cheese is no longer an option (or is it?), we need suggestions for how to celebrate! For those of you who’ve celebrated the big 2-3, what did you do? And for you youngsters, how do you imagine celebrating 23? Any favorite birthday memories?

February 11, 2013

Don't Judge a Book by its Semi-Erotic Cover

That whole “never judge a book by its cover” advice? Total crap. Unless you mean it figuratively speaking (most people do).

You can usually tell everything you need to know about a book by its cover. Does it have a dog on the cover? The dog dies on page 287. Does it have a renaissance painting on the cover? Count on some steamy scenes, an affair, a murder, and a lot of unnecessary exposition. If there’s an illustration on the cover, it’s an actual children’s book. A sepia photo of a girl on the cover? Don’t waste your time. Trust me.  

I use Goodreads to find books to put on my to-read list. It’s an easy way to keep track of what you’ve read, review books, and find new books that might interest you. AND—you can see the covers of books before you find them on the shelf.

I recently started reading a novel called What I Loved, which I found on Goodreads. I put it on hold at my library. This is the cover I expected:

Makes you think the book has something to do with art, right? Possibly a sad story, a tale of something lost?

This is the cover I got.

You can only imagine my face as the librarian handed it over to me.

Me: This isn’t what it looks like.

Librarian: No need to explain . . .

Me: No, really. It’s not a romance novel—I’m not into that stuff.

Librarian: It’s none of my business what you’re into.

Me: Wait, wait! Goodreads says: “New York 1975—art historian Leo Hertzberg discovers an extraordinary painting by an unknown artist in a SoHo gallery . . .”

Librarian: Fascinating set-up. If you’ll excuse me.

And then I leave, completely humiliated. WHY do people choose such horrible artwork for book covers? Don’t they know that visuals sell? You see the cover of a book before you read the back of it.

Meh. I guess it could’ve been worse. At least this wasn’t the cover:

Did you ever have a book cover take you by surprise? What’s the ugliest book cover you can remember seeing?