A Farewell to Unemployment

Something I’ve discovered on the road-trip down: Virginia is the most UNIMAGINATIVE STATE EVER when it comes to naming cities. I swear, 98/99ths of them must be things like Fredricksburg, Harrisonville, or Leesburg… You know how they have those tests where you find out your stripper name by combining stuff like your street name with the middle name of your second dog? The (un)official Virginia City Naming Test: toss your best friend’s second grade teacher’s first name next to a random city suffix.

To clear things up, I’m not actually WORKING ON a road. And I’m not typing this out on the street, either. This week, HTML is traveling a bit, setting up shop about a mile and a half away from University of Virginia – Charlottesville. I’m planning on doing some sight-seeing, maybe talking a bit to some Admissions counselors about graduate programs and things of that nature. But mainly, I’m set to one singular goal: enjoy my last week of unemployment. Next week I’ll start working again, though I’ll be what the analysts like to call “underemployed:” I’ll be working as a Game Adviser at a local GameStop. I’m still on the fence about whether or not I want to look for what some would call a “real job;” to be honest, I really enjoy gaming, and I think it would be nice to work part-time and still have time to devote to enjoying life and working on my businesses/side-projects. I’d love to put my degree to work for me financially, but we’ll see how that all turns out.

The past week has really been a blur of almost-sleepless nights and memories I wish I could cement more strongly into my head. I’ve celebrated my mother’s birthday with family, and time and again had vivid, visceral memories about life back in California, times I spent with the people there. I’ve shared laughs and hard times with friends here at home. I’ve read books. I’ve sat in silence and thought. To be honest, unemployment was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It certainly helps that I was living at home, rent-free, coasting off of the income I’d banked from California. But regardless, the freedom that came with unemployment, the ability to sit around or take off on a mini-vacation at a whim, to go hang out with friends and come home at either four in the afternoon or four in the morning…I guess that, even though I wasn’t making any money, that was the richest I’ve ever been.

If nothing else, I now know the value of time. I hope I can make it count for more from here on out.

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Life’s Better With Fewer Crunchberries

The most simple, clear-cut of all facts in life: Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch is the best Cap’n Crunch of all time. Of all time. I’m just sayin’. ::shrug:: No, seriously, Peanut Butter Crunch is the shit. You must acknowledge.

Though I can heartily recognize the awe-inspiring flavors of PBC (not to be confused with PBR, which is awe-inspiring in price alone, not flavor), I once had a short-lived affair with Captain Crunch with Crunchberries. I’ll admit it outright; I was ready for a change, and the sweet flavors of those red and blue pieces were sooooo good.

Now, I don’t want to confuse people too much; our family was not a huge consumer of boxed cereal. We were more often the type to make oatmeal, egg/cheese sandwiches, or we’d have to pour a bowl of the oh-so-stigmatizing bagged cereal variety. Yes, the bagged cereal that I buy now without a second thought was SO embarrassing in childhood. I can still remember going to friend’s houses and seeing a veritable carbon-copy representation of the grocery store cereal aisle in their cabinets, boxes of Cookie Crisp and King Vitamin (who the hell buys King Vitamin, really?) lining their cupboards. They had the REAL Cap’n Crunch Crunchberries in their cabinets while I had my 23 oz bag of Berry Crunch Cereal classing up my kitchen, flopped over in a lazy heap on the top of my refrigerator. But even so, all I had to do was dump the bag in a Tupperware cereal keeper and nobody knew the difference.

Then it happened: the Cap’n made a critical mistake. Something went wrong with his Machine-Of-Cereal-Awesomeness, and it stopped spitting out the normal cereal pieces. When pried by the press, he used his mastery of the spoken word to create a simple, but effective official statement: “Oops, all berries!” A legend was born, the dreams of many children (including myself) finally fulfilled with the glitch of a simple crunchatizer: no more picking through the normal pieces to find crunchberries. Oops, All Berries hit the shelves, and I came to a dreadful realization: the crunchatizers of the Generic Cereal Company were apparently all be working fine. THERE WAS NO generic Oops, All Berries.

I begged and pleaded with my parents to please, please, PLEASE buy a box of Oops, All Berries. There simply WAS no bagged alternative, and it was FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY. IT SAID SO ON THE BOX, and I believed it (unlike Mountain Dew’s Livewire, which seems to be “back for this summer only” EVERY SUMMER). Eventually I conned them into getting it. Sitting down in front of my first box was like standing outside the gates of Heaven; all I had to do was reach for the spoon and take that first bite.

The flavor didn’t flow right. The crunch was the wrong texture. The milk turned a very odd color. It simply wasn’t right. As much as I tried to convince myself that I liked it, that what I’d done all this waiting and pleading for was worth it, I simply didn’t enjoy it. Though my younger self didn’t quite understand it, it was the balance between the berries and the crunch pieces that made the cereal so great. I never pestered my parents about Oops, All Berries again, and I went back to my bagged cereal with a little less dissatisfaction.

This is a long-winded, slightly tangential way to convey what I think is a basic fact: Having mounds and mounds of great things just brings the whole experience down.It’s the blending of the great with the good, not so good, and bad that makes the great things great. The slight bitterness of PBC makes it such a satisfactory experience, and the blending of super-sweet, whimsical fake-berries with standard-issue cereal that makes Crunchberries cereal a decent 2nd place contender.

Remember that next time you’re floating through life, eh?

Cleaning Up My Act

Today, on the verge of what some will consider to be the eve of the final act of our beloved planet Earth, I’ve made what I would consider a great stride towards advancement in my life: I deleted 2 gigabytes of Lil’ Wayne from my computer. Yep, that’s right; I went into my iTunes and found that I had all that music on my computer (most of which I never once listened to), and I kicked it to the digital curb. It feels refreshing.

People around me have known that for the last week or so I’ve gotten on this big de-junking kick. I’ve moved 4 times in the last year, and I’m simply amazed at the amount of crap that I’ve managed to gather and had to move time and again each time I pick up and relocate. Most of it consists of odd mementos and things that I’ve bought that I swear I’ll use one day, but don’t really want to get rid of right now. But I’m really sick of all the clutter in my life. I’ve gotten so into this de-junking thing that I’m even finally doing some virtual de-junking, trying to delete music and movies from my computer that I know I’ll never use or care to use.

Once more, I’m trying to make better selections about what I let into my life. I went through a pretty big hip-hop phase over the course of the last few months; I listened to Drake and Kanye West practically non-stop. Their music is damned catchy. But then I started really thinking about what they were saying in the lyrics, started thinking about the misogyny and chauvinism. For an English major who claimed to be about women’s rights and equality, I sure wasn’t representing that in my choices of music. So slowly but surely, I’ve started making a conscious effort to clean out my music and listen to more things that I deem positive. A lot more techno, more instrumentals, more 90’s music. (For those of you looking for Pandora stations along those lines, try Ohm-G’s “Island Dream,” Plump DJ’s “Intermission,” or Duncan Sheik’s “Barely Breathing.”) I have to say, I feel a bit more peaceful without all the violence and confrontation in my music.

Overall, I’m just trying to lead a better life than I have before, lead a life that’s more positive and utilizes more of my potential than I have in the past. There are tons of things that I’ve always wanted to do that I haven’t done before; write letters to old teachers thanking them for helping me out, volunteer at schools, finally write a book or two. Perhaps, with enough effort, I’ll be able to get some of those things done.

10 Days Later…nothing has happened.

Yep, ladies and gentlemen; pretty much nothing has happened since the last time I wrote. I mean, I’ve come up with a couple ideas here and there, but as far as actually turning any of those ideas into something functional or productive….well, I didn’t get very far. I did beat Assassin’s Creed, though.

In the meantime, I’ve started job searching. For realsies. Though I’m definitely still attached to the idea of starting my own businesses, I’m definitely coming to understand that it takes money to make money, and it’s hard to make money with no job, even though plenty of Craigslist ads claim otherwise. I don’t know if I’m going to go with full-time or part-time employment, but I do know that I’m enjoying being back in the Midwest and seeing my old friends and family again. Definitely missing the sun of California and my Disney/Mimi’s people, though. I think that’s maybe one of the hardest parts of making this work decision, deciding who I want to live around is difficult.

Every time I go somewhere I meet awesome people, people who are willing to help me achieve my goals and are supportive, all those great things. But every time I move, I lose those people. I hate losing those people. Yeah, we’re obviously still friends and drop text messages or Facebook wall posts from time to time, but it’s just not the same. And now that I’m getting older, whatever work I take on will likely have to be something that I stick around and do for a while, maybe a year or so. That’s a little scary to me. Call me commitment-phobic if you wish.

Anyway, here are some significant things in the Life and Times of Me:

  • I applied to Civil Service jobs for EIU, my alma mater. The couple times I’ve gone back to visit I’ve really loved it and felt at home, and I’m thinking that maybe if I can find some decent employment there, I’ll be able to stick around the job and enjoy it.
  • Somebody robbed me. Yeah, and the robbery increased my nerd points, if that’s even possible; apparently somebody hacked into my XBox LIVE account and bought a whole bunch of virtual currency, then transferred them over to another account. Apparently I can’t even get robbed without it being a nerd event. Lost $170 on that one.
  • I’ve started reading comics. Considering that comics are a pretty big part of what I want to get involved in, I’ve started reading a whole bunch of issues to get a sense of storytelling methodology and whatnot. I still need to find artists, though. What I really need to do is write a script or two, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
  • I’ve seen a lot of my friends from back here in Rockford, and I’ve really loved being here. As odd as it sounds, as often as I call the place The Rock (BOTH because it’s catchy and somewhat prison-like), I’ve loved being around my friends and back in the Midwest climate. It’s been rainy and cold a lot, but it’s really making me appreciate the sunshine when it shows up.

I guess that’ll about take care of this post. I really just thought I should put something in here, remind myself that this still exists….next time on HTML (Hey, That’s My Life, not the coding language): Something Productive! I’ve got some big plans in the works, and I should be getting them moving in the next couple days…you’ll hear about it!

Where will the Heroes be on May 21st?

So this post is going to be a little different than my typical fare, a little different than what I usually talk about in conversation or even how I usually feel about life. Still, this is a topic that’s been on my mind for the last few weeks, an idea that I first heard about last Spring but has come back to the front of my mind with some pretty sharp teeth. The operative question of the evening is: What happens if/when the world ends?

The question was first posed to me when I was listening to a random radio station in the south suburbs of Chicago while driving to visit a friend. I heard a talk radio show, rather obviously a religious broadcast of sorts, tell me that I had been lied to when I’d gone to church. You see, there’s a place in the Bible that talks about how Jesus’ return will be like a thief in the night, essentially taking everyone by surprise, that “no man knows the day or the hour,” that kind of thing that people raised in most churches have likely rather typically heard. Harold Camping and his followers at Family Radio believe otherwise. Their broadcasts and messages revolve around the idea that, based on numerology studies and whatnot, that Judgement Day will occur on May 21st, 2011. For those of you who aren’t numerology all-stars, he’s saying that it’s all over in 16 days.

Now, this is not going to be a post where I talk about my personal religious beliefs or try to convince anyone one way or the other about whether or not this will actually transpire. To be honest, I’ve got no idea. I’ve been pretty conflicted about a lot of things lately, and I suppose that if I talk about that stuff, it’ll be another time. But, seeing as this blog is about life reclamation and definition, I figure the idea has a very interesting concept behind it: If the world ends on May 21st, or any day before or after that, would I be okay with my life? This isn’t one of those “do you think you’d go to heaven” questions, because I don’t think that’s the right question to ask. But if I was hit by a bus, crashed a car, went into sudden cardiac arrest…whichever way it’s cut, life’s over. Operative question: Did I make life count?

To be honest, shoving the religious overtones of the doomsday question aside, I’ve spent some time thinking about whether or not I’ve been living my life in the best way possible. I’ve been home for almost two weeks and done virtually nothing to push me towards starting any of my business ideas or even garnering a job of any kind. (That’s kinda hard to focus on when the potential of cosmic oblivion is hanging overhead perpetually, but that’s not the point.) I’ve seen friends and family, but don’t feel like I’ve done much to enrich anyone’s life. I’ve sat at home, unemployed, and haven’t volunteered any time anywhere. And I live a stone’s throw away from our downtown, where I’m SURE there are volunteering opportunities. I’ve barely spent any time reading. Aside from these blogs and such, I’ve spent NO TIME writing. It’s kinda shameful. No, I stand corrected: It is shameful.

You know what makes heroes so significant? They do their best, try their hardest, keep swinging up until the buzzer EVERY TIME. No matter what the odds are, heroes find some sort of motivation to stay up and keep fighting until the last possible second. You see, with all the different religions and spiritual beliefs and all that stuff in the world, if even one of them is right, every action we take could just be part of a celestial egg timer ticking down the minutes until it’s all over. The threat of world’s oblivion could be hanging right there in the air, a shiny guillotine blade just waiting, waiting, waiting to drop. And it doesn’t have to be some big spiritual super power…all it has to be is one angry person who pushes the right red button and creates a brand new batch of nuclear holocaust for a section of the world. And if that’s the case, the real question is: what’s the point? Strides towards social progress, greater freedoms and happiness for people around us, trying to fulfill dreams and goals…

Heroes don’t need a reason other than what they know. They have the courage to do what they know is right. Dangerous logic, as what we “know” can become dogmatic. Still, I’m reminded of a George Bernard Shaw quote I read in Half the Sky, a book about combating women’s oppression worldwide:

“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.” – George Bernard Shaw