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Archive for the 'Humanity' Category

Welcome to the future

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

There’s a post over on Squublog about life and time and whatnot that really got me thinking, so I think I’ll post some of my thoughts here. First, though, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. 2007 sure sounds futuristic to me, and it’s sort of hard to believe it’s here.

Squub hit on some interesting points, but this one part sums things up pretty well: “If I always knew when I was doing a thing for the last time I’d spend every minute sappily bemoaning the passing of an age. What if I could decide to be twenty four again and …”

Both these sentiments are things I’ve experienced in general, but particularly recently as a part of my quarter-life crisis. I’ve felt an increased sense of nostalgia, even for some aspects of the lowest points in my life. It’s so easy to only remember the good things and forget about the bad ones, or even to view the bad things in a good light in hindsight.

I think about when I lived in the ghetto, across a big fence from an all-but-abandoned apartment building where a crazy Jamaican guy named Dread lived. Dread constantly had a joint in his mouth. He had a ladyfriend on the south side, and a Jewish woman from Skokie would, for reasons I never understood, drive him to the south side to see her.

Sometimes, I even miss taking the El around Chicago, which was almost always an incredibly frustrating experience in practice. But trains are inherently cool, and being able to look at various neighborhoods — including many where you wouldn’t want to walk — from an elevated position was pretty cool. It was a fascinating cross section of city life. I tend to forget now about the bad parts: waiting 20 minutes for a train and watching three go by in the opposite direction while standing on a platform in -30 degree windchills, surrounded by shady characters and hipsters and mothers with four children and no father in sight.

It’s also interesting how you can reconnect with these experiences. Dread used to throw movies over the fence for me to borrow, without my asking for them. They always turned out to be terrible, such as The Perfect Fit, a movie about a couple who would kill for the perfect pair of blue jeans — in fact, the woman couldn’t get off otherwise. Then there was the one about a Jewish woman falling in love with a Nazi (described as a “chick flick” by Dread). But best of all was Contaminated Man, a “bio-thriller” that has to be seen to be believed. I can’t possibly do it justice, but Sarah got me a copy of Contaminated Man for Christmas, and even though the circumstances are completely different now, watching it still takes me back somewhat to the time Dread threw the movie at me from the balcony of the adjoining building, and Sarah and I watched it on the couch that my roommate Josh and I had struggled to haul up from the alley behind our apartment.

I was going to write more about nostalgia, but it’s not really necessary because even if I do feel some at times, I know that I’m much better off now. I’ve got the greatest woman in the world, a good job, I’m close to my family and in a beautiful place. I wouldn’t trade any of that to go back to any previous point in my life. But I will continue to think about the past and try to reconnect with it in some ways, whether it’s by watching ridiculous movies, listening to CDs I listened to at that time, riding my bike, or making occassional trips to the other places I’ve lived (this is something I haven’t done yet, but need to at some point).

Not feeling it

Friday, December 29th, 2006

I think I’m having something of a quarter-life crisis. At almost 27 years old, maybe it seems a little late for this to happen, but I think that’s part of the problem. I’ve only been doing programming work, which is what I always thought I wanted to do, for the past two and a half years or so. Before that, I had assorted tech support jobs to pay the bills since I couldn’t find programming work.

And my last job, which was also my first long-term programming one, was a work from home thing that never felt like the real deal. So in some ways, the job I have now feels like my first “real” job — doing the kind of work I want, on a salaried basis, with benefits and everything — but you know what? It’s just not that great. I do enjoy the work that I do, for the most part, but sometimes, it’s mind-numbingly boring. This is true of most jobs, and I understand that. I was also hoping to be more part of a team in this job, which really isn’t the case.

I’m stressed over the large amounts of debt I’ve managed to accrue, which at this point I’ve whittled down to only student loans — but I’m still looking at paying them off at something like $200/month for the next 10 years. And that’s for just over two years of college; I didn’t even finish. And I still hope to go back to school sometime in the nearish future, but that would be at in-state IU tuition rates — a hell of a lot cheaper than Northwestern.

I just feel incredibly stifled; I lived a pretty sedentary lifestyle for a few years, including when I worked from home. All of that has changed since I moved back to my hometown this summer, got back into outdoor recreation, and got this “real” job. But now I realize how great the flexibility of working from home was, and that I didn’t take advantage of it nearly as much as I should have. These days, if I’m lucky, I can fit in one of the many things I want to do.

All of this is leading me to question all kinds of things. Do I really want to be a programmer? What would I do instead? Should I have bothered going to Northwestern in the first place? (That just seems like a real waste of money at this point.) Am I really as smart as I always thought I was? What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything? Will I ever amount to a hill of beans?

I’d really like some answers.

Festive Friday and milquetoast

Friday, December 15th, 2006

How many of you get “Casual Friday” at work? At my company, we don’t. However, the other company, which is in this same building and in fact is separated from us by only a half-wall, does. It’s also a bigger company than ours, so some two thirds of the people here get to dress in jeans or whatever they want, whereas we still have to dress nicely. The dress code here is not terribly formal — I usually wear slacks and a button-up shirt (no tie) or sometimes a polo shirt. But still, it would be nice to be able to wear jeans. We almost never have clients in the office, so I’m not sure why we can’t.

So, in lieu of “Casual Friday,” I have started a tradition I like to call “Festive Friday.” All this really means is that every Friday, I wear my “festive shirt.” The thing is, I really don’t do festive, and even if I did, the dress code wouldn’t permit it. So, my “festive shirt” is an off-white, silk, short-sleeved shirt, with an extraordinarily subtle pattern of palm trees on it.

We are talking uber subtle here. The palm trees are defined only by a slight variation in the texture of the fabric. It’s barely even noticeable now that the shirt has been washed numerous times. You have to look really close and even then you still might not see it. I may try to take a photo of it later, but I’m not sure it’ll even be clear enough to illustrate my point.

The funny thing about this is that even though my “festive shirt” isn’t really festive at all, I still walk around all day feeling subversively celebratory. I really feel I have successfully circumvented the lack of Casual Friday. I need to try coming up with other traditions like this to see if they are enough to slightly alter my mood.

In completely unrelated news, I keep seeing the (non-)word “milquetoast” on various Web sites. I swear I’ve seen it 10 times in the past week. I had no idea what that meant, and it’s not even really worth knowing, so I won’t link to a definition. It’s just one of those words that I hate. For a while, “blog” was one of those words for me. I eventually got used to it because it is a convenient, concise way of saying “weblog,” and everybody says it. I still have problems with “blogosphere.” But right now “milquetoast” is driving me insane. Google turns up an astouding 348,000 results for “milquetoast.” Well, 348,001 now, I guess. Damn it!

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