Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Best and the Worst

Over Thanksgiving weekend I didn’t know if I was going to get a ride to Rochester for dinner but was willing to concede defeat and spend the day by myself. I certainly wanted to go, believing it would be better if I could, but I was going to make the most of it either way.

Then out of nowhere three situations showed themselves that allowed me to not only get a ride on Thursday but also to go out on Wednesday night. I didn’t sweat it and things just fell into place.

Same thing for my friend Mike who found a ride from New York City to Lockport—Lockport!—with seeming ease. The two of us even talked about how easily things seem to fall into place just by expecting or allowing them to.

Now, today, with things up in the air there are certainly options that I hope to take more than others. Still, I found myself immediately drawn to concerns that the best case scenarios might not happen over the course of the next month or two and did it with a mindset that those were suddenly the only options that I have. And as it became apparent that the best case scenario was not absolutely certain to be there, for a good part of my day I dwelled upon that uncertainty and expanded it into an overwhelmingly discouraging fact that depressingly left no other possible desirable scenarios behind.

Whatever it is that makes the mind immediately dwell upon the worst situation I don’t know. That it seems so universal amongst people, where most would let the fact that the only thing worse than the job you have is actually looking for a job force them to keep one, suggests to me that it isn’t an inherent trait amongst us—nothing is that inherently universal—but instead seems to me to be an acquired state of mind that is passed around on a daily basis. But what do I know?

It certainly requires a strong concentration on my part to overcome immediate reactions such as these and have found myself even thinking of them now that I'm home.

But the very idea quitting a job is to have options. Great, so I don’t have an immediate source of income. Perhaps things won’t work out as perfectly as I can imagine them. The benefit of allowing yourself to have options is to have options. There is never only one. No need to worry about it. Because sometimes, like the best case scenario worked out on Thanksgiving, just by allowing yourself to be in the position to be able to take it, even the best case scenario does work out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm Not There

After yet another day of work that required an irritating and demeaning waste of my time thanks to incompetent people, waiting in the cold rain with wet socks for a bus that ultimately got me home just under twelve hours after I had left it for work and the unbearable realization of just how much time and energy this inane job has been sucking from me, I changed my plans on the fly and, unwilling to any longer attempt to foolishly justify the lengths I literally go to in order to keep the job, decided that I will not be quitting at the end of the year.

Instead I gave my two weeks notice at the end of the day.

The sudden possibilities of free time ahead of me, of not having to leave the Elmwood District, of perhaps finding a lower paying part-time job in the area to ease my regrets about not quitting sooner, or perhaps fixing even bigger far off mistakes before it's too late are already freely being raced around.

For now, I have two more weeks to get through. Two weeks to consider all those possibilities.

I feel the relief setting in already.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Car Borrowing/Bike Riding

Tomorrow will be the first day in almost two weeks that I won't have a car to drive myself to work. As many free drink I've still been seeing every weekend, the cars have been being loaned to me nearly as frequently.

And as incredibly convenient that they have been in cutting down the commute to work and allowing me to use them for little errands like grocery shopping, as soon as I have to fill them up with gas I am immediately reminded just how little interest I have in actually have in owning a car again.

It's an incredibly generous offer that I will take every time from a friend in borrowing a car. But as soon as I would have to pay insurance, repairs (etc) would be when my interest in an automobile would cease.

And despite the colder weather now arriving, I still haven't abandoned my bike. In fact, I used it to go food shopping today. Today was the very type of day that I had been romanticizing when living in Portland and such a day that I wanted to ride my bike on just to show it possible. Once I got past the brief moment that I thought I was fucking crazy for ever romanticizing such a stupid thought, I warmed up and made it back and forth with an enjoyable ease even with the winds picking up.

So even on a day when I was mostly lazy (but not drinking at least), I did manage to accomplish something I had set out to in my return.

Thanksgiving Weekend

The past week has been a week long reason to drink. Perhaps thanks in part to it being a five payday month I have kept my word of a previous post and have not felt guilty about the amount of money that I've spent over the long weekend. My monthly total is now approaching October's current high, but with good reason after all the fun I had these past several days.

That said, it was also a sort of farewell celebration of sorts to that free spending out at the bars as well as in my daily habits in general. With my plans to quit my job impending, I am going to have to watch my spending a bit more scrupulously once again. $3 dollar beers and shots have once again increasingly grown annoying and I'm going to be looking to instead go out to bars with some sort of bargain (ie, Essex St. Pub). As well, I haven't been as focused on posting here and have even grown sloppy in some of my daily habits--sleeping (too much), reading (too little), cleanliness in my apartment--that could use a second wind as far as attention paid goes.

It's nice to think that the cold weather alone would keep me in more on the weekends and cut back on the spending, but a colder house is also hard to stay in. Either way, beginning today I've begun to take the necessary steps to be a bit more prepared to be focused once again.

Then again, it is only one day and the bars are open everyday.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Into the Wild

It's been almost a couple of weeks since I and my roommate Daren went to see the film version of Into the Wild and have been digesting these thoughts for days now.

In the strict cinematic sense, I was surprised just how well the two and a half hours that I thought going in were going to be too much were used. Nothing felt unnecessary, like filler or even self-indulgent. It left plenty of room for interpretations and personal prejudices to influence one's own take on the movie: did Chris become a vagabond because of his parents' relationship or because he was a strict philosopher heavily influenced by his readings? Was Chris McCandless arrogant and overconfident enough to think he could master the the Alaskan wilderness or simply a naive romantic that, not knowing what he was getting himself into, got in over his head?

What I took away most from the movie, as much as I took away from the book, was a deep appreciation for anyone like Chris McCandless who can abandon everything they've ever had in order to physically carry out their personal ideologies.

But it also served as a reminder that that is the only way one can fully carry out any ideology without any compromise: alone. Let alone the fact that I find little worth in any philosophy only capable of working in seclusion from society, as well as the fact that I respect the fortitude of anyone willing to take their ideas that far, in the end, as even Chris McCandless figures out, happiness is only worth a damn when shared.

In my desire to work as little as possible, I daily face the compromises that I make to this philosophy and recognize that at the core of these compromises the desire to be a social creature is stronger in me than the desire to completely abandon work and go about fulfilling that idea uncompromised and pristine on my own; separated and alone.

I openly expose myself to stories such as Into the Wild so that I must constantly meet face to face the compromises that I am making so as to not only reconsider my stance but ultimately strengthen the stance I settle upon.

In one of the last scenes Chris is leaving for Alaska when his elderly friend asks if he could adopt Chris as his son, he being the last of his family to carry on his name. For me it was a moment heavily saturated with an unnecessary yet intrinsically basic human need to see one's name/genetic lines carried on. But more than just that it showed just how much we influence and impress upon each other's lives no matter how little we might try--perhaps out of social interactions that are impossible to escape or a universal clumsiness of human nature, I'm not quite sure.

In watching that scene I began tearing up knowing that in the past I had been selfishly unwilling to accept that truth. But even more so knowing that I would always be willing to work at least a little bit for those small moments I am always able to share between friends and family.

I would expand upon that idea if I were a better writer and yet, as of now, I am not. Such writing may only be capable for those willing to go into the metaphorical wild to better their craft which I've entered only done in ambitious talk and wordy intentions, but as of yet have been largely unwilling to do so in an even less than absolute practice.

Perhaps further testimony to my strong love of those moments my friends and I do share.

Perhaps further testimony to my willingness to compromise against my loftier ideals in order to experience the immediate physical pleasures.

And perhaps further still, yet another reason I might have teared up at that moment.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday Morning Coming Up

Today I woke up like I have not on a Saturday morning in quite some time: before 2:00pm and less than mildly hungover.

This minor victory to the beginning of my day was quickly turned into a short trip to Wegman's where my roommate and I had our jokes about the lives we were leading somehow oddly reaffirmed when I walked by my prom date, unnoticed, only to overhear a conversation that mentioned she had recently been married.

On the ride home I jumped out of the car at a traffic light to pick up two tubes to fix my bike's two flat tires. And having gotten that out of the way I began walking the six blocks home and noticed it started snowing.

I have been waiting for snow in Buffalo for two years now. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to keep walking in that weather so I hurried home, unpacked my groceries, ate and headed back out to go for a walk.

As I walked south down Elmwood humming songs from Dylan's Time Out of Mind there was an odd feeling that I was somewhere both in my past and my future--a combination of a longing romanticism of previous days and the optimism that there is a pay off somewhere down the road that says everything I've ever done had rightfully lead up to that moment--in the very moment that I was experiencing.

The snow still falling, my breath visible and an unexpected warmth derived from the otherwise dreary gray overcast above me, for the first time in months I felt comfortable right where I was as I was right where I wanted to be. Even though I was just walking, observing, passing by and not actually touching anything, it--Buffalo--was all making an impression upon me that made me feel as though I were as much a part of it as it was a part of me. These were the moments that would always be recalled when remembering Buffalo and I was conscious enough to enjoy the moment for what it was.

I made it all the way downtown on my walk, saw the new M&T building that, while still new and pristine to offer any sort of welcoming feeling, will at least give notice that there were in fact still people living in Buffalo in the '00's, made it down Chippewa and then back up Elmwood before going all the way back north to Talking Leaves on the corner of Bidwell and Elmwood.

And all the while, contrary to usually being too trapped in my head to take in the details of the scenery, I noticed all the side streets--Virginia, Edward, Trinity, Tracy, Johnson Park--that I wish I could live on though felt life's limited length will prevent me from doing so, and I took in views down alleys and through parking lots and up and down the side streets that I hadn't ever seen before despite the number of times I had walked the very same route.

And because nothing can exist without its opposite--a city must first die before being reborn--I felt that the last few months that I've been sluggishly pushing through were suddenly worth it for they allowed this day and these moments, their total opposites, to occur. It might be gone tomorrow and I might return to that limbo place soon enough, but from this serene (re)connection to Buffalo today I saw signs of a personal rebound and again being assured that this is where I want to be and this is what I want to be doing with myself at his point, these thoughts all culminating in the calm realization that this is what I could do everyday if I simply didn't work. Or at least as much and so far from my house. And so all questions and doubt were ended at that moment: I will be quitting by the end of the year and will trust that work will be found and bills will be paid and, most importantly, I will again find myself back in the moments that led me to return to Buffalo and that will, should I leave again, always be calling me back.

Curious to know if every Saturday could be like this should I only wake up early enough.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Biding My Time, Wasting My Time

If only for the sake of honesty and full self-disclosure, I will again note that at the present, I am only biding--wasting--my time until I have a little more money saved up because of my previous immediate willingness to compromise my goal of finding only part-time work. How I could possibly allow myself to waste so much of my precious time trying to save money I have an idea only in theory. But I'm still doing it. I have been tired and uninspired lately and while I know I will eventually retrospectively turn these moments into proof of the static nature of work, let them also be noted as a result of my complacency at the moment and nothing more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Things Have Changed

Every conversation I’ve had hasn’t been one to point out my hypocrisies. My same friend Dan said that I have changed since I have gone to and returned from Portland. His reasons to back this statement up weren’t entirely clear, but I was somewhat disappointed by my immediate disappointment in such a statement.

Why would I take offense at such a statement? I certainly hope I’ve changed. To be one boring consistent human being until the day I die is one of the things I hope to fight against so long as I am consciously thinking. And while he didn’t mean it as a compliment, I don’t know why I didn’t take it as such immediately. In the future, I would hope that I would react a little more appropriately.

Days Off

Coincidentally enough, today (now yesterday, thanks to not having an Internet connection yesterday) was my first day off since the last day I really made any posts here. And if the proof I have right here before me of my productivity on days off, not to mention the reminders I had all day of just how much time I could have if I wasn’t working, isn’t enough to convince me to carry through my plans to quit work soon enough, than nothing will and I am nothing but a paper philosopher unwilling to carry out his own theories and might as well go all out and go back to school and get myself a real job.

$1,000 in October

Last Month marked the first month that I cracked the “allotted” $1,000 spending mark in one month. I did have to pay a little more money in bills, but mostly I just spent a little more on dining and going out.

And after every weekend that I went out and spent that money, I spent my entire Monday putting myself through a gut-wrenching guilt trip for spending too much money, money, I argued, that could have been used down the line paying for essentials rather than entertainment.

But—and I’m hoping this isn’t yet another one of my white lies that I tell to myself in hopes of justifying a compromise I will once again regret later—I’ve finally come to the realization that allowing my moods to be negatively affected by spending money is as equally absurd as the notion that money can buy you happiness: in both cases emotions are reliant upon money.

My whole life I’ve always been happier the less I’ve spent and more unhappier the more I’ve spent. I’ve counted and calculated my spending to the point that it becomes a pressure I put upon myself not to spend so much, yet I naturally respond to pressure by overdoing the very thing I am pressuring myself not to do.

But if I instead eliminate my emotions, both positive and negative, from the equation, spending simply becomes another event free of pressure, a pressure I will no longer respond to by overspending. If I am going to count every penny on Monday mornings I will simply do it as a math equation. If I want to quantify the rest of my weekend I will do so separately and remember the number of times I thought during my nights out with my friends “these are good times” and stop feeling guilty for having had to spend a few dollars to have them. I understand that I could have the same times for free, but if my friends want to go out, they’ll go out. And in wanting to have those same good times as my friends I’m willing to make that compromise and go out with them.

Only now today, I no longer feel so guilty about that as I have in the past.

Who Needs Actions When You Got Words

I’ve been neglecting any sort of posting here as of late for what I had considered to be no other reason than it was merely a reflection of my natural tendency to lose the momentum that I create at the beginning of a project, especially in any sort of creative venture.

I’ve once again found myself in a sluggish routine of not-reading, drinking and watching television too much, and working even more to the point of becoming creatively paralyzed, indifferent and inactive. Not only has this project here suffered, but the main creative goal I had set for myself to finish in my return to Buffalo has hit an equally inactive snag as well

What I have managed to do is, as I have been slowly saving some money up, to begin thinking of ways in which I might spend it. The most enticing way that I have considered was to save enough money to buy a van, quit work and drive cross-country alone over the course of a couple of months—having no timetable whatsoever being essential—while living out of my van, avoiding the big cities, and seeing how many ways I could spend my days without the conveniences of television and the internet to distract me. And believe me, nothing would sound like a better way to spend my summer or the money that I’ve been saving.

But the daydream is one by its very definition based upon the need for money. However, the goals that I have set out to accomplish this year were set in hopes of showing that one can easily live on an average of $1,000 a month, but were also set in hopes of working as little as possible. It’s not the spending the money that is counterproductive here, but the necessity of earning the unnecessary money.

In a recent conversation, my friend Dan accused me of being amongst the hardest workers of our friends in that my work day is the longest and therefore hypocritical to this supposed cause I have taken up.

And I couldn’t defend myself. He was right. My work days have become what I previously stated in a post: nothing resembling an eight hour day but instead upwards of 11 or 12. My average day has been approaching eleven hours easily and by the time I’m finished eating it is nearly 12. Such a long work day was the very sort of things I set out to work [sic] against this year. And yet here I am correctly noted as a hypocrite.

While I can successfully argue in favor of keeping the job so I don’t have to look for another, I can no longer deny what has been crippling my creative motives over the last few weeks: the knowledge that I am compromising my intentions far too much for the sake of a little financial stability and to save up for trips that do not need to happen immediately, especially ones based on such a large need for capital, rather than compromising in favor of accomplishing the things that require free time.

Reading my last post, I have no idea what I was thinking sugar-coating the compromises that I’ve been making just for work. Yet it was true. I even began appreciating the idea that I didn’t have to wear a uniform or maintain my beard to the point of thinking that the job was a “good” job. But this will have to change.

As of now I can afford to be fired or quit this minute and survive until at least February on the money I have saved. So for now I am only working, really, to save more money. But instead of mapping out my future as far away as March or April, I am forcing myself to quit by my birthday in January, if not by as early as December. And even that seems to be a bit of a compromise when I see it written out in front of me.

If the trip can still be taken, it will be. But such a trip is not my goal this year. I must stop compromising what I have put before me at the moment, and must be willing to be a little less stable and maybe even uncomfortable and give myself the necessary time and space to accomplish the creative goals I’ve for far too long neglected and, even worse, compromised against.

I certainly hope I will take the necessary actions required to once again be fully inactive, but knowing myself, it is a matter I can easily speak of, though carrying through on them might be altogether another matter.