The Captain and I (part 2 of 4)

18 Feb

(Part One)

The legend is that after he was killed at Trafalgar, Admiral Horatio Nelson’s body was preserved in a cask of rum, as the alcohol would preserve it. It was actually brandy, but marketing is stronger than history and Admiral Nelson’s Rum is available at your local liquor store for a pittance. This makes it incredibly attractive as a beverage for poor college students. The Admiral chose Black Friday, that violent orgy of commercialism, to come into my life. I had just worked a twelve hour day at Best Buy, and I was tired. But it was Thanksgiving break, and everyone was in town. This was a time to celebrate, and as I have previously stated, I liked to celebrate. So, on six hours of sleep in 36 hours, I drank. A lot. I drank so much Admiral Nelson’s and coke that for the first time in my life, I threw up. I then passed out in my room.

I woke up with what I thought was a hang-over. As luck would have it, some thoughtful person who desperately needed a $78 Kodak shit-cam had not only given me their money, but also their bronchitis. Given that my immune system had been punished by having no sleep, and then had been poisoned quite heavily, I can’t really blame it for giving up. I got pneumonia, which kept me bed ridden through the vast majority of the final projects which make up the bulk of any art class’s grades. Long (and too often told) story short, I failed three of my five classes.

Woops.

Now most people are very familiar with the image of someone drinking because they are sad, and we all know that this man is an idiot because drinking doesn’t make you feel better. This is an example of you not having a damn clue what you’re talking about. That man isn’t drinking to make himself happy; he, like you, knows that won’t happen. He’s drinking because when he’s drunk he won’t feel bad for telling you all about it. Sad drinkers drink so that they can let being sad out (without feeling guilty for ruining your buzz).

As you have wisely predicted, this is the point when I started sad drinking. This grand adventure in adulthood had suddenly become an enormous mess, and I was fucking it up royally. I was smart enough to know that drinking because you’re sad is also when people start worrying about you, which was the last thing I wanted (I’m a grown-up goddammit!).  So I would start each night of drinking with a smile: We’re celebrating the latest paycheck! (Because something that happens every Friday absolutely needs a fifth of Smirnoff dedicated to it). The fact that each night ended with my friends awkwardly dealing with a sobbing, snotty Mike was conveniently covered up (in my mind) by the fact we’d started so well, and they were well and truly smashed too.

I was depressed, and since I was convinced I wasn’t self-medicating, I sought professional help. I received it (God bless my parents for having health insurance), and so was prescribed a potent cocktail of anti-depressants, mood-stabilizers, and in time anti-anxiety pills. All of these were designed to put my depressed levels of dopamine, serotonin, and whatever the hell else was confused up there, right. Each bottle, along the name of the prescribing doctor and the pharmacists number, bore an identical sticker.

DO NOT TAKE WITH ALCOHOL.

I read incredibly poorly for an English major.

(To Be Continued)

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The Captain and I (part 1 of 4).

18 Feb

When I was 16 I started sneaking whiskey from the cabinets in the kitchen. This was not a difficult proposition for a number of reasons: My mother was very ill, and the medication she was taking didn’t exactly sharpen her senses. My father was working ten hour shifts what felt like seven days a week, and he didn’t really have a lot of time to check the fluid level of his Jack Daniels. Both of them were asleep from exhaustion by eleven. So at 16 I could easily sneak down stairs, pour (what now seems like) a pitiful amount of Jack into my coke, and wince through my grand rebellious gesture. I doubt I ever really felt the effects of the ethanol, but the drama of the act generated its own buzz.

Unlike 99% of American youths, I did not actually increase my alcohol intake when I (first) went to college. In fact, I more or less completely cut it off. I remember both instances of under-aged college drinking. One was a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, which I discovered was delicious when my Aunt snuck me a couple over the summer. The other was a party in Ohio, where I was also introduced to an interesting method of imbibing: binge drinking.

Now I made a point about Mike’s Hard being delicious because most alcohol is decidedly NOT delicious (or so I thought at the time, more on that later). In the great, broad spectrum of alcoholic beverages, the vast majority are vile. This is because ethanol is a poison and your body wants you to NOT put poison in it. Fortunately human beings have evolved sufficient self-control to overcome such primitive and backwards wishes.

Binge drinking addresses this problem, the taste problem, head on. One is drinking alcohol to get drunk; at 20 this feeling is incredibly novel and the lowering-of-inhibitions has the added effect of stripping you of your incredible awkwardness. Plus it’s something grown-ups do and everyone is making an enormous deal about how we’re all adults now. Regardless, you are not drinking $10 vodka because you “enjoy the flavor.” So you do not sip it, you chug it. This gets the most “drunk” for the littlest “taste.” A single shot of vodka will make your tongue miserable for two minutes, but this clock resets with each new shot. If you take the shots in rapid procession, you can REALLY cut down on the amount of tongue misery. Plus, once you’ve committed to your buzz, it does you the favor of cutting down on ANY sensation, which makes the flavor a LOT easier.

Thanks buzz.

The party in Ohio was the first time I ever binge drank along with many other new things. It would be the first time I would run around in a parking lot – shouting in what I thought was a whisper –  about how ridiculously drunk I was. It was the first time I would perform that celebrated bit of theater: pretending to be sober when in a place where being drunk might get you arrested (a friend desperately required green beans).

Ohio was also my first hang-over, and this is where a problem begins. You see, when one ingests poison, one will in time feel poisoned. That is the nature of poison, it poisons you. Unfortunately, I did not have much of a hang-over. This is unfortunate because this is when MOST people learn what is ubiquitously known as “their limit.” The miserable hang-over is like the sun, melting one’s ethanol wings for flying too high (that’s an Icarus reference, because quoting Greek mythology during my dissertation on drinking makes me seem sophisticated). I did not learn my limit. It would be four years before I would reach that point.

So, having learned only that Southern Comfort and Rum are pretty easy to shoot, I approached 21 with no consternation, only anticipation. As the oldest in the group, I had the unique distinction (for a month!) of being the only guy who could buy booze. Not having any money, this meant I had the unique distinction of being the guy who takes his friends money to buy everyone else’s booze. As the only supplier, I could do this without much complaining. We all got completely shit-faced, and it was wonderful. We had a couple of parties, accompanied by a couple of drinks. I had just moved back to Indianapolis and everything was going absolutely wonderful. There was so much to celebrate! First apartment? DRINK! First day of school at the 2nd Best Graphic Design School in the United States? DRINK! New job at Best Buy? DRINK! The girlfriend seemed ESPECIALLY in love with you? DRINK! Suddenly there was nothing too small to celebrate and life was great.

Until Admiral Nelson came.

(To be Continued)

From Act 3, Scene One of Hamlet

29 Jan

Being sad sucks. Depression is one of the worst diseases I know. That’s not just because I’ve had it, though my intimate relationship with it has certainly informed my opinion. No, the reason depression sucks is because it ruins everything. Every. Thing. That’s not an exaggeration… everything sucks when you’re depressed.

Everyone has been depressed, be it a chronic thing or a phase you went through after your high school break up. Everyone has felt the lack of energy, the lack of motivation, and the lack of satisfaction. Unfortunately, if you haven’t had chronic depression, it gets hard to understand the effect that depression can have on your life at large.

When you’re depressed for a month, your grades in that period will slip, you’ll let yourself go, and you’ll lose a few friendly acquaintances that don’t have time for your crap. Then, when it passes on, you get up off your butt, make up your homework, hit the gym, and go out and meet new people. That’s when you’re depressed for a month.

When you’re depressed for years… your grades slip… for semesters, You let yourself go… and gain thirty pounds (if you’re lucky!), and you destroy relationships you thought would last forever. And the fact that you’ve ruined your life makes getting out of the depression increasingly difficult. Maybe you will get over it, and have an energy and optimism you thought you’d never feel. Just one thing…

What the hell do you do now?

When depression has become your norm, when the bar you’ve set for yourself has gotten that low, trying to be something more is terrifying – and very, very difficult. The million things you never bothered to do because it was a triumph getting out of bed, suddenly they matter and you either forgot or never learned how to do them.

When you’re depressed you forget that the reason people get haircuts every couple weeks isn’t because their obsessed with shallow things, it’s because you look ridiculous if you let your hair grow out that long without a trim. You realize that showing up on time isn’t required because people are uptight, it’s because everyone has things to do and waiting for you isn’t one of them. You realize that liquor isn’t calorie-free and maybe that’s why you’ve got that gut.

That’s the easy stuff. As you care about your appearance, you figure out how to work a trip the barber in (note to self: barber). When your time matters to you, you start respecting other people’s more. And when you Google “calories in a shot of rum” you switch to zero-calorie Pepsi and drink a lot of water. Quick simple fixes.

What do you do about four semesters of lack-luster to awful grades? The school doesn’t really give a damn that you had some self-esteem issues, because your employer won’t either. And didn’t, that’s why you were unemployed and have that comfortable mountain of debt now. You also destroyed your social circle, so that the only people you know are either depressed themselves or uncomfortable introducing your sad-ass to their other friends.

The answer is the same as when it was a month. You work hard, and while a month of depression only requires a month of extra work, three years takes three years.  In order to recover from your three years of being miserable, you have to spend three years working your ass-off. That’s the deal.

Now you’ve got some aces in the hole here. Everyone you know by now expects absolutely nothing from you. These people love you, but they had to lower their standards. There is a reason they would go on and on about how good you look with a shave: this was a legitimate milestone for you. So now when you roll in with a 3.0 GPA, by God, it’s amazing. Cause they’ve been conditioned to hope for a 2.5 and expect a 1.8. You also feel effing amazing. You know that day every year, the first time you get to wear shorts? Remember how amazing that feels? You can’t the stupid smile off of your face, hell, the air even smells better. Imagine how that would feel after a three year winter and you start to get the idea of what it’s like. Finally, your own expectations are pretty much crap too. In order to cope with how inept you were because of the depression, you came to expect very little from yourself as well. You became incredibly skilled at making excuses that you never believed. So now when turning in homework (which it turns out, isn’t all that hard) gets you good grades, you feel like the most capable and skilled individual on planet earth.

Except when you throw a 3.0 semester on top of four semester with a cumulative 1.8 GPA… you get… a 2.0 GPA. And even though YOU know everything has changed, and your friends and family can see everything has too… the school, which also lowered its expectations, is a bit harder to convince. So instead of affordable federal aid, you’ve got what’ll turn into tens of thousands of dollars in private debt that you have to start paying off NOW. Oh, and now that you’re capable of functioning like a real person, all those lowered expectations from everyone you love feel condescending.

So here you are, and you’ve got a choice to make. This is going to be hard. Really, really hard. Everyone is hedging their bets on you, from your parents to your college to, yes, yourself. You’re broke enough that you’re considering the Ramen diet and the reason you haven’t gotten to the barber is because you need food. You don’t know a single person in your classes, and while the work seems easy and interesting, you’re sure that’s just cause you’re missing something critical. You’ve lost a little weight, but you don’t look anything like you did before everything fell apart. It would be easy… so very easy… to just slide back. Hell, people would understand! The excuses start making themselves…

Fuck that.

Life is hard. That’s not some cynical hard-ass comment, that’s the truth. You’re not the only one flailing around not knowing what to do. Barack Obama is the president of the United States and he had an absentee father who died when he was fifteen. Your great-grandparents lived through the great depression. No you didn’t ask for depression, no you didn’t deserve it, but they didn’t deserve what happened to them either. It’s never going to be easy. It’s never going to be simple. That was childhood. And back then? That stuff seemed pretty complicated and intense. This is how it is.

It’s doable. More than that, it’s possible to excel. You can do this. I don’t need to elucidate the reasons why you want to. Satisfaction. Purpose. Hell, something to do other than think about how much things suck right now. Make your own reasons.The important thing – really the only thing – is that you ARE doing this, and until you absolutely can’t?

You will.

On Dreams

1 Oct

When you grow up, they give the excellent advice to chase your dreams. Unfortunately, no one ever tells you that your dreams never stop changing. It’s one of those lessons that, if you’re lucky, you’ll learn. And if you’re very lucky you’ll learn not to see it as “selling out” or “settling” or any of those other things high school tool-bags call it when you accept something “less” than what you set out wanting. The fact is that what you want, much like you, is constantly changing.

I used to want the most mundane of the American dreams: white picket fence, wife, and kids. As I grew up, I realized I needed a job in there somewhere. Shortly after that I realized an office job just wasn’t me (I know there are few young people who think an office job is “them” but I also know few people who think I could ever be happy like that). I found the girl, I found the career path, and I figured I was heading where I wanted to be. Set a course for success.

Then my life made like a housing bubble and imploded.

When you see people after natural disasters, they are always picking through the ruins. They are sifting through the shattered rooms, searching. They soon realize they aren’t looking for their old lives… it’s readily apparent looking at that broken, splintered house that you’ll never live there again. The door frame that held the marks for your son’s growth since age two is gone. What they are looking for is something to salvage. They are trying to find what parts of their past will be going forward with them into their future.

Much like them, it took me a while before I realized that’s what I was doing. My life before then was gone. I know that’s a very, very “big” thing to say. But it’s true. Thankfully she and I both had the shared presence of mind not to draw it out any longer than necessary: it was my idea to stop talking, and despite my regret, she stuck to it. I couldn’t pretend that old life was getting built back up. It was over, in every sense of the word.

To be fair, she was only part of the mess my life had become. But she was the part I had always wanted. Not her, specifically, though I did love her very, very much (enough to let go when she made it clear that’s what she wanted). No, I loved the life I had made with her. I loved the picket fence and kids and all those other dreams I had quite nicely painted her into. But those weren’t her dreams.

And they aren’t mine now either.

I don’t know how long that will last. It’s always difficult to tell if you’re rejecting something simply to avoid a memory or if you really have changed enough not to want it. Some things, it doesn’t matter, cause you only liked it for them (I will never, if I can help it, watch Gilmore Girls again). Other things you learn to like with them (the amount of “crappy pop” I still listen to is shocking). But some things, like the dream of having children and getting married, you bring to the relationship. And when those things fall to the wayside, it’s hard to place the reason.

For now, I know I can’t ever place that much of my happiness on someone else. I was dependent on her love for my happiness and that’s unhealthy. For both people. It’s not unique to her; I’ve done it to every girl I’ve ever loved. It only became a “real” problem when I stopped being able to take care of myself at all (hah, massive depression is surprisingly massive). But it was the underlying problem behind every single disagreement (we never “fought”) we had. At least on my end; nothing like a break up to make you realize you really don’t know how another person thinks.

I have to work on that, and I can’t think of any way to do that which doesn’t involve being on my own. I can’t keep chasing a dream that depends on someone else. I’m too passionate about my dreams, too much of a perfectionist. I’ve got to find dreams for ME that are about ME. That way my dreams don’t become someone else’s cage. For God’s sake, she told me she felt liberated when she left. That’s a clear sign I wasn’t (and probably still am not) ready for something serious.

It has the added benefit of limiting how much someone I love can tear my heart out through my throat.

Beyond the logical/emotional there is the simple fact that it has lost most of its appeal. I’ve found other things I want, other things I love. Finally, FINALLY, I have dreams that are about me.

This summer I traveled (the popularity of my posts during it helped inspire this blog). My best friend since I was twelve got in a car with me and we drove West to see the country. It was, up until this point, the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. And that’s probably because it was about me. It’s one of those formative moments whose importance is still growing, as I understand what a turning point it was. It proved a lot of things to me:

I can do things on my own. I didn’t have any “adult” help beyond suggestions for places to go. I planned everything, and for the most part, it worked out. That’s huge. I did it. And not just anything. I did something most people dream about their whole lives.

I also loved it. It was exhilarating and I have never felt more free. We had no one demanding our time, no itinerary, nothing forced. Those two weeks were about what WE wanted to do. I loved seeing new places, meeting new people, and spending time with my best friend. It was an adventure. We took risks (some insane), and it was the most fun I’ve ever had.

I don’t need a girl to be happy. I know that’s a very basic and “duh” kind of thing. I also know most people never really internalize it. Before her, I had, but after three years you kind of forget it. This trip helped me remember. I had a blast, really for the first time since it ended.

She’s still a big influence on me, but that’ll happen when you spend half of your “adult” life with someone. At one point, that would infuriate me. “She shouldn’t have that power” blah blah blah. She doesn’t have any power. At least, she’s not around to exercise any she may still have, and even if I follow through with my new dream of studying Journalism in Bloomington, I don’t think that’ll change. But she was the one who initially wanted to see the world (I hated it at the time). Hell, she was the one who actually did something about her dreams.

So I learned something from her. But mostly, I learned from me. I learned, as I built myself back up, that I had changed. That I wasn’t who I was then. Which is good. I’ve “grown up” a lot. I don’t hate myself anymore, which is an odd thing for a total melt-down to do. Applying for school, getting accepted, applying for financial aid, getting it, moving, and all the other “adult” things I’ve done on my own since then… those are mine. I did it, and I did it well. It’s weird viewing basic life functions as an achievement, but when you’ve always hated yourself savagely you don’t do much to help. Now that I don’t hate myself, I’m doing a lot I couldn’t before. I’m dreaming bigger.

I’m going to write a novel that makes the news. Hell, I’m probably writing one right now. I’m going to make the news, as a journalist too. I’m going to write things that change lives. I’m going to do it with all of those who stood with me through this breakdown. And through the ones that follow. Because life isn’t a flat road. And the route isn’t ever certain. I may change my mind about where I’m going, or how I’m getting there. But one thing is for damn sure:

I am going to get there.

Trying Times

27 Sep

I used to want to be the best person. That is a fairly tall order. I wanted to be the best human being. This involves a variety of other bests too. The best listener. The best communicator. The best pancake flipper. So yeah, believe it or not, I was a perfectionist.

There is a lot to be said for perfectionism. Fastidiousness, meticulousness, and other ousnesses are all shades of perfectionism. The word “perfect” is in there for the Lord’s sake. The relentless pursuit of excellence is sort of our cultural fetish; true super hella’ hard and you’ll get everything you want. And the inverse is true, if you don’t try hard, if you don’t do it right, you don’t get squat.

That is the unspoken contract “good” young people enter into with society. The good kids decide they are going to follow the steps/rules/established mores. In exchange, the world is supposed to give them everything they want. If you are a good citizen, the good kid thinks, the world will reward you. If you break the rules, cheat, or slack off you don’t get anything.

The problem is that this is never, ever true. For one, the people who break rules very often get away (and ahead) with it. I’m all for being sensitive (lord knows I was a failure at sports when little), but everyone doesn’t get a trophy. When you play baseball, you are competing. Winners win, losers lose. Celebrate failure and you mitigate victory. On the other hand, the top is lonely for a reason: the people who populate it often aren’t really in the mood for company. Nobody at the top reaches down and lifts you up just because you followed the rules. It’s cool that you did, but if you’re not as good as someone else, for any reason, then tough luck. Your mom died so you’re emotionally drained for that interview? Ouch, that sucks. A goose hit the engine of the plane you’re in so you had to land making you late for the conference? Too bad that didn’t happen to the other guys.

As if anyone needed more reason to hate geese.

The contract isn’t a guarantee. It’s a  guideline. It’s an “all else equal.” By the time you’re old enough to realize “all-else” is never equal, you’re up to your eyeballs in commitment to doing things this way. You’ve passed by opportunities to act out, to explore, to try for something else… to look to see if there is anything else. And your role models, the products of this contract, they keep telling you it’ll work, and you keep hoping they are right. That years of hard work will pay off.

It will to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the unspoken factor no one talks about because there’s nothing to be done about it. That factor is, of course, luck. It’s fair that we don’t discuss it, that we don’t go in depth about it. What is there to say? Sometimes the other guy runs a red light. Sometimes your computer really does crash. Sometimes things happen out of your control and completely dominate your life.

But this is why we need to talk about it. Because if everything that happens to you is YOUR fault… is YOUR decision… then when you get, oh I don’t know… pneumonia, it’s your fault. When that, let’s say, gets you kicked out of school, it’s your fault. And if for the sake of argument that feeling of failure sent you into a tailspin of depression that shatters almost everything you’ve worked for… well, you had it coming.

(Where ever do I get my outlandish examples I wonder?)

Anyone who knows me knows I didn’t exactly cherish that social contract. But that’s because I was the worst kind of perfectionist: the kind that won’t do something if they can’t do it perfectly. It’s the fallout of that delightful adage fathers teach their sons: if you’re going to do something, do it right. Except what I took from that was: if you’re not going to do something right, don’t do it at all.

Woops.

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but life involves a considerable amount of trial and error. For example: dancing. You cannot do a dance move without practicing it. Someone who does not dance cannot simply watch a music video and then produce anything like that. It instead results in shame, self-conciousness, and very often injury. Given that most people need to be drunk (or otherwise under the influence of outside chemicals), this all gets exaggerated. No one wants to fail. I can gyrate with the best of them, but I fell over my first time trying to learn swing dancing steps. (That a well practiced eight year old then swept in to dance with my date, while mocking me loudly, did not help). Guess who never went back to learn swing dancing? This guy.

No.

This idiot.

I say idiot because not doing something for fear of failure, or worse, rejection, is stupid. Sometimes… maybe often times… hard work doesn’t pay off. No matter what you do… how hard you work… loved ones will die, computers will break, and yeah… you’ll get sick. That’s no reason to hold back… no reason to go at life with anything less than one hundred percent. You just need to go in knowing you’re going to fall. (And when the eight year old mocks you, just smile and remember that the little &@$% has the joys of puberty coming soon).

What it comes down to is that while we are alive, there is almost nothing that is certain. You know you were born. You know you’ll die… some day. Other than that, it’s all guess-work. I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s strangely comforting. You have to work. You have to try. And you have to fail. It’s going to happen. Learn from your failure. Understand the part in your life it plays. But remember. It’s just a part.

And for God’s sake, don’t take your failure as a moral fault. Who you are doesn’t change because you didn’t make the shot/get the interview/overcome a lung full of fluid. You aren’t a worse person because of it. Learn from it, get back on your feet, and do something with what you’ve learned.

I don’t want to be the best person anymore. Well maybe I do… but I define it a little more forgivingly now. Mostly I want to be happy. If what I’m doing is making me happy (in a sustainable, responsible way), then I’m doing a good job. I have goals, I have things I want. But if I fall short… in work, learning, or even love; I’m not a bad person. Just someone who needs to try again when he’s ready.

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
— Henry Ford

Across Face and Time

23 Sep

Facial hair, like so much about adulthood, was exciting and awesome for about two weeks. Then you realize that really it’s just another chore, and one that everyone can tell you’re shirking (unlike, say, cleaning your room). At least it can still look good when everyone knows you’re shirking.

I grew up a straight razor guy, as my parents would buy me disposable razors. I was fifteen when I started needing to shave. No matter what he make think, every fifteen year old dude needs to shave. It never, ever looks good at that age. I realized this. For like… a year.

Then came the dark times. They are called that cause I sort of emotionally imploded and jumped off the deep end. At least, that’s the official story. It may actually be the embarrassment of me trying to grow a chin beard. It is a universal law of men’s facial hair that the one type of facial hair they want will be the absolute last one to come in. For me, it was the goatee.

I couldn’t grow a moustache to save my life, and my chin had a bald patch SMACK IN THE MIDDLE. It looked like someone had come buy with an electric trimmer and just took a chunk out in the middle. Yet, with a stubbornness only a sixteen year old boy can manage, I kept trying to grow it out. Whereas most teenage boys have that dusting of dark hair under their nose that makes them look like they’ve been huffing coa-coa powder, I had an unsightly group of hairs clinging to my chin like dying trees on the tundra. Pathetic.

Eventually I abandoned the chin beard. I had sideburns for a while, and those were cool. In fact, since leaving for college I have tried most of the normal facial hair styles. I’ve had a full beard, the strip, moustaches, horseshoes, and even the Franz Josef (which made the ex literally gag). Generally I have worn what most call the “gruff stubble” which is universal for “lazy.” It’s the five day shadow you see most college guys rocking.

A few weeks ago, I tried it again. I tried the chin beard. My goatee is actually full enough now that when I have one, I shave it back some so that it looks refined instead of like I want to join Shinedown. I figured why not. I always wanted it.

Woops.

Let me tell you, what was so cool when I was all pseudo-goth/alterna-rock/emo is not as cool when I’m a grown adult most of his way out of those kind of stereotypes. I looked like an MLB pitcher thrown into some hipster clothes. It was ridiculous.

I’m back to the trim goatee now. It helps me cope with my weak chin (which isn’t actually very weak now that I’m trimming off the fat). I think I look good. I certainly look better than I did with the chin beard. It’s been a great lesson that I shouldn’t do the things I wanted to but couldn’t at eighteen.

Who knew?

Math: Hero or Evil?

22 Sep

I am not a fan of math. In fact, I don’t like it much at all. If you made a list of things I don’t like, you would have a very long list. And if it was in order of overwhelmingly hated to almost bearable, math would be near the top, along with bits of gristle in pastrami and thinking your ex is happier than you. As far as I’m concerned, math is the way the universe proves it doesn’t actually make any sense. Which is funny, because I hear math is how we make sense of the universe.

I haven’t always hated math. In fact, back in middle school it was like every other subject – incredibly easy and boring. I may have wanted to sleep through it, but that didn’t mean I hated it. I instead spent the time I should have been doing math drawing in-depth battles between TIE fighters and X-wings. (Like a true nerd, I know you must capitalize TIE. Ladies… I’m still single).

It was in high school that I learned to hate math. This is because in High School I suffered from a mental handicap known as “Self-Control Atrophy”… a debilitating disease that affects such high profile people as Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods. Math requires one actually learn the concrete principles, you can’t just extrapolate from chapter two when you get to chapter five. And unlike the English language, History, or anything that’s actually interesting, one is unlikely to pick up on Algebra or Pre-Calculus while putzing around on the internet.

So since 9th grade I have had an extremely adversarial relationship with Math. Someone would say the word, and I would begin another tirade on the vile disgusting nature of Math. Never mind that, in its way, English is far more complicated and difficult to master (with its almost complete lack of concrete rules) than much Math. Or that when I actually bother to study, Math comes to me about as quick as anything else does. No, clearly it is the devil, and I refuse to believe otherwise.

Unfortunately, some schmuck decided that being a well rounded college student meant that I needed to demonstrate at least a facile grasp of linear equations. This is… yes, the worst idea anyone has ever tried to sell me. I have tried to convince everyone otherwise, but most people seem to think this is not, in fact, the worst thing ever.

An amazing thing has happened though. A truth has been uncovered. You see… around 9th grade a magical thing happened. Puberty. At that time, my brain was flushed with hormones that not only made my naughty bits and arm pits grow hair, but also made finding a woman and making her happy basically my one over-riding goal in existence. I pursued it with literally reckless abandon. Which is to say I recklessly abandoned everything else in my life. Including me.

Now that I’m single, a horrible truth as emerged. I can do math. In fact, if I stop getting impatient for five minutes, I can do math pretty well. I learn it as quick as anything else I want to learn. It takes a little more patience, but that’s honestly because I’m out of practice. It is with this knowledge I posit my theory:

Women make me stupid as hell.

This is obviously wrong. But my bitter, shriveled husk of a heart wants to think it’s clever. Truly, like everything else, I have to make something a priority for me to perform at an acceptable level. It’s an ugly lesson, as I wanted to think I could skate by on raw talent and spend my time fawning over (and being fawned over in return by) a future wife. Instead I learn that things take work and I have to do what needs to get done before I can do what I’d like to get done.

It only took me twenty four years.