Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Leaving the Scene of a Crash

I may have slain one of my computers, a laptop my parents gave me the summer before I entered my freshman year of college. If this is the end, perhaps it is a fitting time for that machine to go. I've finally received a physical copy of my diploma in the last few weeks, and I'm interviewing for what would be my first paying job after graduation tomorrow. A symbol of my late adolescence may have chosen to exit stage left.

This is the computer that helped me become an atheist, helped me win and lose my first girlfriend, find and secure several jobs and internships, and stored countless memories.

It would be easy to feel that I am burning down part of my past, but that's not how I choose to see the situation. I am leaving a part of my life behind me, where it belongs, to embrace new adventures. That's not just about the computer, by the way.


I've finished my interview, and it went well enough. The job is in telemarketing, so it's probably not going to be super challenging and the hours aren't that great -- but I need the money. I got great news today that I got an interview for another job - this time, one in advocacy that is ideal for me. It's something I can do at the same time as my Hill internship, which is really neat.

I'm feeling especially adult today. I've been incredibly productive. I wrote several people to ask where they're living after the spring, and soon I hope that I'll have arrangements for where I'm living after my current lease expires.

If I manage to land a paying job, even a part-time one, and I can find another good place to live for awhile, I'll feel pretty set for the time being. I still have a lot of leads, and I'm really feeling good about my life. I feel very proactive.

Every time I go to the grocery store and get food to eat instead of going out or ordering, every time I pick up dry cleaning and put it away instead of leaving it out, every time I write someone back quickly instead of dilly-dallying and forgetting to contact them...I feel progressively better about my life and what I'm accomplishing.

I'm not doing anything monumental yet, but I am seeking to become a master of small details that should add up to a larger picture. I'm taking time to establish a good, well-ordered life for myself as best I can, and I'm trying to manage the chaos and enjoy what I'm doing in the meantime.

I realize that today and yesterday are parts of the days where I don't feel like I have anything interesting to say. Still, I'm not writing this blog only to be interesting. I need to write, and I don't particularly care whether I say interesting things or not. I need to be persistent. I can't let the perfect become the enemy of the good, because goodness knows I've done that often enough in my life already.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Poetry Digest: #5

From time to time, I hope to publish a collection of a few of my recent poems. I will refer to this series of posts as my "Poetry Digest". This is Poetry Digest #5.

The Escalator's Speech

The careful plucking of strings resonates
Between awful, desperate groans and gasps,
Straining mechanical encumbrance -
All the pride and fury of Beethoven:
Symphony seven, allegretto - two.
Thumping guttural hums and pipsqueak sighs;
An escalator for an orchestra,
Seething underneath to find the right pitch.
My pride peaks as my height rises to time
In swelling triumph with trumpets and flutes.
This raspy, tired...contrivance confounds me:
Moving people without stirring their souls?
I feel the agonies of wonder lost.
I resolve to share its humble thunder:
Wailing without end, in stale baritone --
Let us all thrust our songs into the world!

The Syntax of Things

Order is the absurdity of repetition -
the inability to see, singularly,
in the necessity of the individual moment.

Necessity is the order of the individual -
the inability to see repetition
is in the moment singularly, of absurdity.

The inability to see order is repetition -
the moment of necessity is singularly,
in the absurdity of the individual.


the dust
off your coat
fix your collar
redo the buttons
don mismatched gloves
no mirror


your breath
in focus
gazing within
the ephemeral
both in and out

smooth melodies
past the effect

just passing through
empty stereo
between spaces
what is


your best bull rush
briefcase bludgeoning
with the stiff arm
swinging by

Running for My Life

world class expert in banana triage
ripened owner of clementines
steward of much yogurt
dawn champion
I rise

daylight beckons
just before my alarm
I leap into a buzzing burst
underdog of the drowsiness relay

I win one pants leg, and also the next
I have earned the title black belt
defend my crown daily
no atrophy
no ties

but ties
I am training
I surmount obstacles
each routine is my next event
I'll finish first place on the Metro stand

In Statuary Hall, A Proud Hoosier

Oliver Hazard Perry Throck Morton --
I'd commandeer that, commodore!
Oliver P. Morton.
Among Hoosiers,

In civil war,
Staunch ally of Lincoln:
"Perhaps the shrewdest man I know".
Two men from my state who don't hesitate.

"Filled with the most Southerners in the North".
Confederate flag bumper stickers
Common in my hometown
Still testify - -
Too true.

Things change
Yet are the same:
Lead a state to acclaim -
You won't be lampooned in the East -
Which lasts longer...humor, or prejudice?

We're Borg Again in Indiana
*(to the tune of "Back Home Again in Indiana)

We're Borg again, in Indiana -
Where it seems that we can see
The growing of our might
Our crushing might
Burn the sycamores for me
So you will pay
Give us our tribute
Or we will burn down your home
And when we form a hive mind army on the Wabash
All the world will call Indiana home

Friday, February 22, 2013

Existential Sonatas in Pacific Time

I almost forgot to write a blog post for today - then I realized that even though it is technically early Saturday morning...for me...that my blog publishes my date-line according to Pacific time. So it will appear that I did write an entry for Friday! Muahaha! Of course, that I'm telling you about this insight does undercut my point, but I'm still happy to attain the technical accomplishment of keeping my promise alive for one more day.

I've been paying more attention to my experiences of time since I started my most recent internship. I've had days where I feel that I just arrived for the office opening at 9 am ten minutes ago -- when it's already past 6 pm. Some parts of my day feel especially fast or slow.

Lunch, overall, moves very quickly but each moment passes meaningfully. I am aware that I am running out of time - I know if I'm outside the office longer than I want to be - I can feel the moments expiring as they happen, individually and in sequence. But then what feels like ten minutes, when I look at my phone, was actually half an hour.

After work today, I met several of my close friends. One of these friends is a physics major. He told me that he gets aggravated by his quantum physics class which starts at 8:55 am. Or, as I told him, "you get mad about your 8:55 am quantum physics class that starts at 3 pm?"

I feel no fear when I'm with my closest friends. I say absolutely preposterous things. I utter words that would be reckless for me to say anywhere else. I am greatly fortunate to have such wonderful friends in my life. I've felt awkward and apprehensive around other people so often before now, that making and keeping friends has eluded me for some longer stretches of my life than I care to admit. (For instance, pretty much my entire freshman year of college.)

I have zero shame when I am with my friends. Even when I do something that I legitimately regret, I am able to move on and not hold onto the guilt as I would in other circumstances. My friends tolerate my quirks and don't judge me negatively.

It is now so late that I don't feel like writing any more words. I heavily resist the impulse to write further, yet I still feel incomplete. Tonight, I am thankful for my friends, my internship, my family, my senses, my learning, my home, and my creativity. I am thankful for time and change and entropy. I'm thankful that when I got really hot water from the cooler at work, that eventually it was only lukewarm so I could drink it before I left.

Everything ends, even days that you measure in Pacific time. But the most important thing is to make the most of the time you have, and that's what I'm trying to do. I am, again, exceedingly appreciative of the time I have, and to those who are sharing that time with me as we all journey into the unknown future.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

That Loveless Feeling

I worry about the first impressions I make. I'm stressed that I'm the sort of person that people like more as they get to know me better, but I'm anxious that people won't take the time to let me reveal myself to them in a way that makes me feel comfortable. I also worry that people aren't that interested in my personality. I just feel extremely vulnerable.

I work so much, and I try to deal with my uncertain work and living situations, that I don't want to put in the effort to reach out to other people. I feel like every time I try, I get burned. Maybe I'm waiting for the right moment. I don't believe in fate, though, so what am I waiting for?

I believe that I have to make my own opportunities if I want to be successful in anything...maybe that doesn't sound romantic, but why isn't it? Effort is hot. If you work hard to encourage other people to see you at your best, if you're not counting on true love that falls down from heaven, that's an even truer love. That's a love that takes everything. What's more romantic than giving everything to a lover?

I hate dating, I hate being lonely, and I hate feeling uninspired. It's a chain of negative emotions. I'm trying to remain an optimist. I don't count all the times I have failed, all the awkward encounters I have had, or all the people who haven't called or written me back. I'm an optimist, not a masochist. But, somehow, I still manage to put myself through a lot of pain in the name of pleasure.

Dating feels very superficial to me. Of course, I'm no less superficial than anyone else in a lot of important ways. Physical attraction is very important to me. I know from my experiences, though, that it's more difficult for me to feel more than a passing physical attraction for someone unless I feel emotionally and intellectually compatible.

The beginning of dating never seems to involve this element much, so I'm stuck gasping for air more often than not. I don't want to get to know someone by being glib. I'm not going to waste my time. I don't feel comfortable being real with people I'm just meeting, but I don't feel comfortable being someone I'm not. I feel genuine when I can say or act in ways that I feel other people will not understand. Their judgment is looming over me.

You like Netflix? You work? You like this food, and those movies, and these songs? This kind of small talk is like warm piss: the words are beyond use, have become stale, and are going to smell worse the longer they sit outside -- until someone acknowledges the mess and flushes it where it belongs. I'm not sure what I want instead. I really want to have someone in my life who isn't afraid to risk everything for me, but how can I earn that trust? How can I earn the love of someone as crazy and curmudgeonly as I am?

I don't know how to fix this problem. I'm not sure if there is a solution. Maybe I'll just stay home and dance uncomfortably in my apartment while no one's looking.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I'm Conflicted (For Good Reasons)

Today, my life's motif is "conflicting goals". I'm wasting time that I could spend completing some urgent and important job applications because I want to ensure that I reinforce my discipline for continuing this writing project.

However, when I was paying attention to my job applications, I had to create a statement of less than 250 words so I could apply for a position on Capitol Hill. I wanted to write something political to impress my potential employers, so I wrote about the conflicts between America's concerns for human rights and national security.

Now, I have a real life example of just how hard it can be to satisfy multiple desires with limited resources. That is not an excuse, though. I will keep updating this blog, just as the United States should keep trying to promote freedom. Any backsliding is not an indictment of the idea, but an illustration of its importance through the insufficiency of its absence.

I will find a paying job. I have finally graduated college, and now I'm taking my next steps toward adulthood. I've said a lot of baloney in my life, but now I'm trying to find a way to become someone I can believe in.

I don't want to abandon the joy of my youth, my delight in immature jokes and absurdity of all kinds. I want to add a steadiness and a confidence that will grow over time - that will propel me through many challenges, so my ability to handle crises rises every time I overcome a new obstacle.

My toughest struggle is not a gargantuan behemoth: it is the smallest, most mundane details of my daily routine. Every time I do something fulfilling and meaningful instead of searching online dating profiles or soaking in sports banter, I become closer to the person I envision. Of course, there is a place for me to relax and find pleasure in frivolous things, but I can't let my impulses consume every free moment I have. I am trying to live intentionally.

Thus, this is part of my justification for writing this blog post instead of finishing those other job applications. I want to have an idea about how I'm doing. This effort in writing helps me pay more attention to my moods, my habits, and my desires. When I am constantly worrying about work or my social life, I lose touch with my own awareness. I become less human.

It is difficult for me to talk about myself for very long without generalizing or rerouting my observations to make them about other people and what they should be doing instead. I drift easily from the concrete to the abstract. Perhaps that is why I am a good poet and otherwise a frustrating writer. "Show, don't tell". But I'm so much better at telling people things than showing them!

Now that I've made that aside, I give myself permission to tell you the following: perhaps being an adult, perhaps living, is all about conflicting goals and how you handle them. That's my tentative take. It's for the best that my observations aren't set in stone, because there is no certainty in a conflict between worthy ideas.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Poetry Digest: #4

From time to time, I hope to publish a collection of a few of my recent poems. I will refer to this series of posts as my "Poetry Digest". This is Poetry Digest #4.

No Apology

there's something to say
to credit Winslow Homer
or Edward Hopper

for longing for clouds
Socrates drank his hemlock
no more Socrates

yet, you know better:
the clouds are, in fact, still there,

even more than books
even more than life itself
I prefer the clouds

artists may capture
a brief moment of rapture --
that is all there is

The Fog Cycle

before rain arrives
my breath joins the clouds above
we are fog machines

slip into the night
filter your own outpouring
water the cycle

condensation drips
and travels through all of us
so I relinquish

the trees fill my lungs
their shadows overcome doubt
sustaining my life

I pine for a hush
that will return my silence
better than I found


do not stop
nor halt progress
keep running apace
if you sputter
will bring


gaping wounds
exposed my fears
I walked silently
no companion


is not
an excuse
it is my foil
to suspend my doubts
moving deadlines


I am
change itself
to be the change
I remain the change
that is no change
I must change
the same

Into The Void

if I am not long for the world of dreams
I can consider anything
all possibilities
stir together

yet to take shape
a place where time ceases
between everywhere and nowhere
I am on the shoals of consciousness

tell me which direction I am heading
my only guarantee is fear
I must wait until dawn
when I wake up
to know

I can relax
I will pay my respects
to the memory of each day
to a story with a life of its own


I could be the Vice President,
Since I'm great at undoing ties.
I am careful how I present.
As each one of my fingers flies,
Why do I have all these buttons?
Clocks race, adrenaline heightens:
Who is that stranger in the suit?
I forget during the pursuit.
Zipping alongside the platform,
I look for the right car to catch -
Or wait, sit down, and start to kvetch.
As a queue begins to reform,
I find a window -- look within --
To find the place where I come in.

Reference Point

I'm not the one to strike boldly.
Look elsewhere for the first to stride.
I would rather detach coldly;
Stress needs a place and time to bide.
I will change nothing, and needing
Nothing changed, I will do nothing.
Frequent madness is my advice,
But few exist to pay that price.
Above all, do not be passive.
Supply a beginning, and end -
Join them together as you bend
Timing, enormous and massive.
I warn all those who dare ignore:
There is no such thing as before.

In the Year of the Lighthouse

When I'm drifting and I'm falling,
I don't even know where to start.
I keep swimming, I keep searching -
I reach for something in my heart,
Catch that beacon, and I follow:
Not to let my love lie fallow.
I turn those pages, flip a switch --
My light and signal, perfect pitch.
Here's my harbor, here's my guidance.
Raging waters aren't what I seek,
But without waves there is no peak:
I cry out for deliverance!
Watching you, I unleash my sails,
Now I'm fearless - come tide or gales.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Another Absence

Change. Change everything you are. And everything you were.

I've been absent from this space again for the past few months. After I finished volunteering for President Obama's re-election campaign - after which he successfully won the state where I worked and won another term in office - I still couldn't find a paying job. I had a few very good opportunities that didn't quite pan out - it was an agonizing time. Since then, I have begun working as an Intern in a Congressional office. I still don't have an income or a sense of security, and my job search is still aggravating. I often feel very unsettled and uncertain.

Tumultuous times are great at producing things that I want to describe in my writing, and abysmal for leaving me time to write about those things that I want to describe.

I have been reconsidering the initial mission of this writing project - such rethinking is unavoidable given my failure until this point to see it through. If I want to succeed in my goal of writing every day, I must change my approach entirely. I still refuse to make any promises - the most likely scenario is that I will break them unabashedly. However, I want to set a new routine. Ideally, I will commit one specific portion of each day to writing in this venue, and I will not spend more than thirty minutes per day writing here. I cannot yield to laziness or to vanity.

I also cannot yield to my sense of perfectionism. Part of the reason I started this project is to increase my ability to be vulnerable in my writing. I want to open the floodgates. I need a space where I don't care what objects, values, or attitudes my thoughts smash along the way. My feelings must be what they are. If I don't like the way I am feeling, at least it will be easier to alter those feelings if I am more familiar with my inclinations. If I don't pay attention to my emotions, it will only be more difficult for me to evolve.

Yesterday, I watched a TED Talk given by Esther Perel. The subject of her speech is "The secret to desire in a long-term relationship". Perel's insights remind me of many things beyond relationship advice: satisfaction at work, satisfaction in friendships, and satisfaction in intellectual curiosity are all navigated in the same perilous and exciting way. These spheres of our lives all depend on the balance between security and discovery - the combination of what you have, and what you want.

This blog, this writing project of mine, is partly a response to that call for a precarious but necessary balancing act. I need a steady outlet to express my reactions as I have them, yet I also feel a burning need to question my understandings of the world -- so I can expand my awareness and find greater satisfaction in my life, as I acquire new ways of finding joy and sympathy in each day.

You've got to be the best. You've got to change the world, and use this chance to be heard.