It has been an exceptionally long time, 4 years, since I’ve updated my own home blog. I’ve been using Tumblr and Twitter for most of what I’ve been doing. There’s a community there that is hard to replicate here. So.. this stays mostly empty.
Some days, I avoid the internet. Major holidays, election days, presidential debate nights, and pretty much any major sporting event. Hell, after the first few responses to a thoughtful Internet meme, I have to stop paying attention. The boo birds come out with a vengeance. People for whom disagreement isn’t sufficient. They need to take their disagreement to the logical extreme. They begin ridiculing those they don’t agree with. People start sniping each other over their beliefs. Maybe I getting old..but I just can’t stomach it anymore.
You have all seen it. Stories, pictures, or comments that exist solely to belittle others. Every few weeks, there is fertile new ground for this behavior. Christmas is over-commercialized, disingenuous, overly religious and annoying. People who love it must be crazy. Easter is another hallmark holiday or a celebration of a delusional group of religious bigots. You may have heard that it was originally a pagan ritual taken over by the Church to help placate conquered/converted people. The 4th of July is jingoistic and patriotic nonsense. It should be renamed as a celebration of American imperialism. Columbus Day is a celebration of Europeans bringing death and disease to the native peoples of the Americas. Thanksgiving is a celebration of the American conquest of the native Americans and should be celebrated by giving back what was stolen by our ancestors. Valentine’s day is yet another Hallmark holiday. It doesn’t have anything to do with love and celebrating it is stupid. We should love our partners daily. Hell, Black History Month is never more than a moment or two old before I hear someone whine about White History Month.
Why does it bother some of you that other people are celebrating or are happy? What does my enjoyment of Easter have to do with you? What happened to people treating each other with a little respect? I’m growing tired of the constant need to belittle others for what they do or do not believe. I’m growing tired of people who lack a shred of empathy or compassion. It must be exhausting always being right or always standing in judgment. I’m tired of hearing that atheists are morally corrupt heathens or that my religious friends are mindless drones.
The funny part is that this post could have easily just been a repost of my blog about bullying from a while ago. It is essentially the same topic. Too many people use the bully pulpit of the Internet to ridicule others. Those words matter. They could matter to people you didn’t expect. It could be a friend you’ve talked to and “loved” for months who feels offended after you write a post telling the world why religious people are small minded bigots. It could be the person with whom you bonded who is hurt after you spend a few too many words ridiculing anyone that enjoys Valentine’s Day. You never quite know who might be made to feel small because of your words.
Everyone is free to do what makes them happy I choose to write from a place that makes me happy. I choose to write from a place where people are empowered and feel stronger for having read my thoughts. . I choose to think about the people who are made to feel small. I choose to not belittle. I choose to not pick on people. If someone chooses to do the same because of this, I’m happy.
Since I brought it up.. for the three of you that will read this, I’ll post my list of prized possessions too. I’m excluding family and kids. I don’t really possess them. I’m blessed to have them in my life. So.. here are the actual “things” that made the list (off the top of my head)
1 – a Union Jack that flew on a British Frigate given to me by British sailors when I was a kid living in Puerto Rico. It’s awesome and could easily cover a wall in my house.
2 – a nearly complete collection of Apple Newton Message pads. I love em and they still work.
3 – an oversized Zippo lighter given to me by my grandfather. Its about the size of a kindle.. And it is fully functional.
4 – my Camaro. It’s the first new car I bought without needing to settle or find a co-signer
5 – my house… For reasons similar to my car. Someone gave me a mortgage.. And I love my house.. I love having a place. I like the idea that my kids will have a “childhood home”, which is something I don’t have.
(this list is feature complete, but not necessarily locked in order. 1 doesn’t mean best.. 3 doesn’t mean middle of the pack. It’s just a list)
Recently, someone asked about my prized possessions. Among them, I listed an oversized Zippo lighter my grandfather gave me. Of course, that’s the kind of thing people want to see. So, I took some pics and am sharing. Yes, it works. I need to adjust the flint and put lighter fluid in. I may fix it up and record it actually lighting to prove to everyone that it does. Yes, it makes the clicking noise that all Zippo lighters are known for. I’d record that, but Marie is sleeping and it would definitely wake her up.
Link goes to Flickr Photoset: Lighter
I have known plenty of failure in my life. When I was a kid, having to wear glasses and being the chubby kid made me feel like a failure because the other kids didn’t have to and weren’t. As I got older, my family fell apart when I was 10 or so. (it was broken before that but I didn’t realize it) I always felt some responsibility for my parents falling out of “love.” My sister ended up in rehab when I was 12 and I couldn’t help her or fix her. I let her rehab (and the family meetings that were part of it) be my excuse for not doing well in school. In this story, I haven’t even gotten into high school just yet.
My 20s and early 30s were a series of epic failures. Two relationships that became marriages turned into divorce during that time. A “permanent” move to California resulted in me tucking my tail between my legs and moving home to Chicago after a few years. I never held a job for more than a little over two years at any point in my life before I turned 32.
What I saw as my failures affected how I looked at the world and those around me. I was an angry, miserable, and unhappy human being. I decided that since I was a failure no one would ever want to be around me. I pushed away all of my friends. Turned my back on people I was closest too. Amplified every offense I perceived and used those to justify not talking to people. I lost touch with my extended family and my relationship with my immediate family suffered greatly. My marriages crumbled into nothingness. My career foundered and I felt like I didn’t belong doing the kind of work I’d spent 15 years learning how to do.
Failure is a property of a person. It’s a characteristic that directly touches everything in their lives. Being a failure created more failure. I was a failure. I was broken, beaten, and resigned myself to feel this way forever.
I was wrong.
I say that I woke up one day and decided not to be who I was any more. That’s partially true. It didn’t happen over night. It didn’t happen in a single season. It took about 7 months of focusing on who I wanted to be. There are plenty of things I fixed but, as you may guess, one of the most important changes was that I allowed myself to entertain the idea that I wasn’t a failure. I no longer wanted to define myself as a failure. I no longer wanted perpetuate the myth that I was a failure.
Failure isn’t an end. Failure isn’t something that defines someone. Failure is a consequence of trying. Failure is a consequence of being alive. Failure is as natural as success. Failure is nothing to be afraid of. Failure can be painful.. but it could be fun. Embrace failure. Learn from failure. Stop being afraid of it.
I haven’t completely kicked the fear of failure. That fear is reserved these days for social situations. Comic Conventions or Snark for instance. I psyche myself up to go and spend the whole time hoping no one notices me before I duck out the back door. I fear not being who people think I am or who they’ve gotten to know without the physical being part of the equation. I fear not being good enough. I need to work on that fear. I am working on that fear.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Bullying lately. Not sure why.. maybe I’m feeling like a bully. I don’t know. The major problem I see in all of the discussion is that apparently bullying stops when you graduate high school. Look at Federal anti-bullying campaign, it discusses bullying quite well and has links to help different groups identify and cope with bullying. The problem? It’s all about bullying with respect to kids. I just don’t get it. Adults can be bullied too.
If you look a little deeper, you can find adult bullying discussions. The “focus” of bullying changes, but the feelings and effects of that bullying are the same as they were when we were kids. Some bullying is overt. People actively picking on others or degrading them. People intentionally posting passive aggressive nonsense that is clearly directed at certain people. (thank you social networks) Even something as simple as posting online about some “truism” you believe that passively degrades other people. Things like “Why on earth would anyone think blah blah blah is something anyone wants to [hear|see|think]” constitute some of this passive aggressive crap.
Hell, people need to be mindful that bullying can be directed at anyone. Your spouse or significant other, your friends, your kids, your pets. It’s a pretty insidious event in our world. Bullying comes far too easily to most people and calling someone out on their bully results in? More bullying.
What is the point of all of this? I’m hopeful people are more mindful of how their words and thoughts affect other people. I’m hopeful that people learn to self-identify bullying habits or are willing to hear criticism from others that their words or actions are classic indicators of bullying.
A year or so ago, I decided I was going to be less snarky and sarcastic. That hasn’t worked out so well. What I have done, or tried to do, is to try to be less biting and mean in my sarcasm. There is a very broadly identifiable line in any friendship or relationship that can be seen and denotes when your jokes are mean-spirited or nasty. I’ve tried to learn to see that line more often than not. If you think I’ve crossed that line, let me know. I’m grown up enough to hear it.
After I wrote this, I found a really nice website from PBS about Adult Bullying. Good stuff to read through: Adult Bullying
This is not a commentary on the person from whom I copied this.. it’s a commentary on how I view the world. I vehemently disagree with everything this picture represents. Waking up one day to find yourself in a relationship or situation that is untenable is a fact of life. It will happen to you at some point. You will have no control over whether or not this will happen. It simply is a condition of being.
The picture seems to suggest that heartache could be avoided simply by making better or more informed decisions. What if your decision was valid and your partner changed? What if you did everything in your power to foster and nurture the souring situation, but there was no hope to save things? People and things grow apart.
Personally, I’m done living with regret. I’m done worrying about whether my marriages failed because I was a failure. I’ve learned from them. I’ve moved on. I know who I am and where I need and want to be. I’ve grown as a human. I wake up every day and choose to be who I want to be. (the Iron Giant was right)
I guess at the end of the day, I don’t let thoughts like the one captured above dwell in my mind. They’re a breeding ground for self-doubt, self-loathing, and frustration. My life doesn’t suck because I lost two months of pay a few years ago when my employer ran out of money. My life doesn’t suck because I’ve had two failed marriages. My life doesn’t suck because I don’t have a collection of friends as large as I may think I want. My life doesn’t suck. I’m not about to wake up tomorrow and let myself start doubting or second guessing the events that have shaped my life and led me to the moment where I’m writing this post. I am happy to just be.
I’m getting older. It’s not profound. At the end of the day, it’s probably better that I keep getting older. I figure if I stop doing that, I’d have to start commenting on how well I’m being dead. I’m thinking more about getting older as my birthday approaches. This year I’ve been thinking way too much about it. I’m turning 37. I know, some of you that are reading this figure that’s young and that may be. That doesn’t make my thoughts less valid, so go be logical somewhere else.
Being older than I was a day ago isn’t really the point. I’m fine with being older. I guess I’m thinking about my place in life. I have a great family. A great job. I’m back in school and doing well with that, finally. I couldn’t be happier with being who I am as a human. I like me and I like where I am, fundamentally, in life. From the outside looking in, my life is probably enviable. Probably isn’t too far fetched, I’ve been told as much in the past. I can’t complain about the places I have been, am going, or plan to go. I’d be jealous of me.
What has got me thinking this year is that I login far too often to social networks. I see pictures of people I follow at meet ups having fun. I see Facebook friends at Halloween parties. I see people getting together to watch a game or tailgate. I see people doing things with people. Not with the people that live in their house. They are out with friends. Doing friendly things. I don’t. I haven’t really since I lived in Hawaii nearly 20 years ago. It’s been that long since I had a group of friends that I saw all the time and went out with. My adult experience has been that friends are no longer people you hang out with. They’re people you see at holidays, your kids birthday’s, or the rare movie. I am jealous of all of the people online who have friendships that exist outside email and instant messaging. I joke with a friend of mine that we have to schedule a quarterly event just to see each other. It honestly works out that way.
This isn’t a slight against the people I call friends. This isn’t about you. It’s about me. I am a loner and have been for a long time. I don’t want to be, but life gets in the way and having friends hasn’t been a priority for me. Friends are something I’d love to have, but I don’t work too hard at it. Partly, it’s a time issue. Mostly, it is a fear of rejection. Why would I want to invest time or energy meeting new people if they’re going to disappear from my life anyway? It seems like a losing proposition to me. I would rather spend my time with my family or a video game. They’re probably not going anywhere. Probably.
Our experiences make us who we are. Mine have made me weary of personal relationships. My parents are divorced. My dad has been divorced twice. Each time, I met a new family. Had new siblings. I know without a doubt he’s where he needs to be now and I don’t have to meet anyone new. I’ve been divorced twice. Uprooted after each. New town, new house. New state in some cases. I haven’t had many actual relationships because I don’t like investing time or energy in things that I don’t see having value.
I’ve mentioned it before, I was a Navy kid and moved constantly as a kid. Before turning 17, I lived in 7 different places. That stunts the fostering of friendships. I know precisely one person from my life before I turned 12. I “talk” to a few from my teenage years. I barely interact with anyone I met in my 20s. I suspect I’ll say the same things about my 30s when I’m 45. By then, I hope I’ve broken my cycle of mistrust and unhealthy relationships, but I have no experience to suggest otherwise.
I’m not asking to be fixed. I’m not asking for sympathy. I’m just using my blog as a place to get a thought out of my head. Trying to wrap my mind around how I’ve ended up here and maybe find a way to be a different human in the future. Some of you reading this are good people. Some of you I probably miss daily. Some of you I wish I knew better. (I actually wish I knew everyone I knew better)
I’ve been a tech geek since before I can remember being anything else. We had a computer in my house when I was 6. It was a Vic-20. Nothing to write home about. It got the job done, but it wasn’t special. When I got a chance to use an Apple II at school, that changed. There was something elegant about the way it did the same things my Vic-20 did. The first macs? Felt the same way. They were so different and so refreshing compared to the IBM PCs I had around the house. So much more functional without all of the tinkering.
As a teenager and young adult, tinkering was cool. I wanted to build my own PCs. I wanted to manage all of my own dip switches and memory banks. I wanted to know the refresh rate of everything and troubleshoot the problem of every strange noise and whir my computer made.
Until I bought my first real mac. Bought during the dark times of Steve Jobs exile to NeXt. The power mac 6116. It was a great little machine. Fast. Intuitive. Everything my IBM workstation wasn’t. It was far from my last mac. I went on to own a few older 68K macs, a Powermac 8500 (which is in my basement), a Cube, a powerbook 5300, and just about every Apple laptop since. I was in attendance the day they announced the Titanium PowerBook G4 and bought one that morning. I am officially an Apple fan boy.
What did I learn from all those machines? They were tools. Elegant tools, but tools. They allowed me to get my job done without having to worry or tinker over every little things on my machine. When Steve returned to Apple, his mission in life was to change how we used computers and more broadly how we integrated technology into our lives. He brought the NeXT OS, NeXTStep, with him to Apple and birthed Mac OS X. The iMac, iBook, iPod. iPad. iPhone. Macbook. MacPro. iTunes, iWork, iLife. MobileMe (and mac.com before it) and the various iterations of iOS that have been released into the world. Each and every one building from the success of its predecessor. Each one innovating the field again. All of them refining what a computer could be in our lives.
It wasn’t that Steve wanted to put a shine on an existing device. He wanted to reshape them. He removed the floppy drive. Eventually, he’s removed the DVD drive as well. He waited to add USB until it was useful/ubiquitous in favor of Firewire. He insisted that Thunderbolt be used in place of USB 3 because he saw a future in Thunderbolt and thought USB 3 was just the result of ‘me too’ design. The iMac wasn’t the first all in one in the world. It clearly wasn’t even the first all in one Apple ever produced, but it was so stylish and so easy to work with that it showed up everywhere. (ignore that stupid hockey puck mouse). The black powerbook was a trend setter in mobile devices. The current brushed aluminum look showed up on powerbooks and soon was everywhere.
It wasn’t sufficient for Steve Jobs to make things different just to say they’re different. They had to be different for a reason. A lesson I’ve since learned on my own and use that mantra in my daily life. The flurry of buttons and switches that exist on PC laptops? Nowhere to be found on a Macbook. Removable batteries? Gone because they can design larger batteries if they remove the latch mechanisms. DVDs? Gone because they can deliver software digitally through the App store. With every iterative change, there is a reason. Each change, leading to more and more simplicity.
Steve Jobs made me fall in love with Apple Computers when I was a kid. When I was old enough to buy them on my own, Steve had been sent off to create NeXt Cubes that I couldn’t afford. My love for Apple remained. Steve returned and made it cool to own an Apple device. Now? I wake up daily regretting the day I switched from my iPhone to an Evo. It wasn’t about the speed or power of the devices he dreamed up with his cast of designers and engineers in tow, it was about making every thing simpler. Making our lives and jobs a little bit easier.
Every time I’m asked who my hero is or was, I’ve never had an answer. Given my reaction to hearing that Steve Jobs has passed, I never realized I actually had an answer. His influence in my life and my career was obvious but subtle to me. He’s my hero in the same way my parents are my hero. It’s easy to take that kind of influence for granted. Now he’s gone. RIP Steve Job 1955-2011
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