Intro To Dating

I recently mapped out my potential future and decided that my life would be more meaningful if I had my own family. I could have all the oceanfront property I could ever want and spend my time sailing around the world, but what would be the point on my own? It seemed rather empty.

So, I joined okcupid and found a few matches. Then, I ran into a big problem: distance. I don’t want to limit myself to whoever happens to be nearby, but if my soulmate is in another timezone and she’s not looking for a long distance relationship with someone she’s never even met, which is perfectly reasonable, then that’s it, nothing happens, and I’m out of luck.

This is going to be tricky.

Everything else in my life seems straightforward, I just have to figure out what I want to do and acquire the capital to do it, easy. But relationships? It doesn’t help that I’m a heartless bastard with no romantic experience; or that my main interests are Netflix, reading, and finance; or that I don’t live in a major metropolitan area; but even if I was perfect, how is this supposed to work? It all seems so mystical and vague, it involves emotions and subtlety, it can’t be rushed and it can’t be delayed.

I think my expectations are part of the problem. I hoped to immediately find the one and get married a year later. After all, I’m 27 and trying to move on with my life. Easy right? Why do relationships need to be complicated? Spoken like someone with no experience.

Of course I’m not giving up after just two weeks, that would be ridiculous. I’ll have to settle in and accept that this might be a longer and more arduous path than I had naively assumed. After all, I have the rest of my life ahead of me.

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Intro To Dating

Trapped

I see how people get stuck in a job or a place that they don’t really want to be in. Changing ones life is difficult, the more I plan and work on changing my life, the harder it gets. So many pieces have to fall into place, and it can take years of intense focus to make it happen.

Maintaining is easy. Well, not always easy, but certainly easier. To stay in this job because you know the office and you understand the work and you don’t want any instability and you’re getting a bit older and and and the excuses go on and on. To stay in this city or state or country because you have an established routine here, you know some people, you wave to the neighbors, you have a reserved parking spot, and maybe someday you’ll do something crazy, but someday never seems to arrive.

I understand. The more I plan and work toward my future life, the more I realize why most people don’t bother doing this sort of thing: it’s arduous. I’ll need a pile of money, a new job, a temporary place to stay, a new driver’s license, new plates on my car…and then I’ll need to actually buy a house, which has it’s own long list of issues and contingencies and hurdles.

But I think it’s worth it, I’d rather spend hundreds of hours working toward the life I want than spend that time idly hoping someone else would change my life for me.

Trapped

FREEEEDOOOOM!

I just paid off the last of my student loan debt and my ebullience knows no bounds. Part of me is concerned that there’s another forgotten loan out there, lurking in the dark, but after so long, I’m sure the lender would have tracked me down by now.

I graduated from the University of Maryland in May of 2011 with a BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice. The parchment, which is still rolled-up in the cardboard mailing tube buried in the basement somewhere, cost me approximately $70,000. I had to take out loans for everything. I also worked while in school, but that money paid for car insurance, fuel, and other living expenses. I kept costs low by not buying textbooks after freshman year.

The plan was to teach English in Guangzhou, China, but that wouldn’t pay enough to cover my debts. So, my first job after school was as an assistant manager at Abercrombie & Fitch. Folding jeans in the mall wasn’t what I had anticipated, but a job is a job. Afterwards, I secured an office position with my current employer, no major complaints thus far; I’m just glad I don’t have to wear skinny jeans and flip flops to work anymore.

The overarching goal was to get out of debt as soon as possible, which necessitated certain sacrifices. I had to move back into my parent’s house to cut down on housing costs. (I pay rent there, don’t worry, it’s not just a handout.) I have never owned a car with fewer than 100,000 miles on it, they have all been rusty too. I have never owned a smart-phone, my basic one costs $20/mo. I have not gone on vacation in six or seven years. I cut my expenses to the marrow, put approximately 60% of my net income against the loan debt, and paid it off within 4.5 years.

But enough about the costs, let’s not forget the benefits. By surviving this gauntlet of compound interest and debtor’s prison, I developed a few relevant life skills. First, I learned to budget my money. I have set budgets before, but none as detailed and crucial as what I live with now. Second, my credit score rose as I paid my debts, it’s around 725 and should be higher, but not bad since I’ve never had a credit card. Third, I learned how to plan well. With no excess funds, all I could do was plan for future events. I made lots of spreadsheets to compare volunteer opportunities, project car builds, and investments. Fourth, with no social life to speak of, I read a lot and took online courses on everything from IT and supply chain management to philanthropic giving and marketing. Finally, I daresay I have a much stronger hold over my personal finances than the average 26 year old.

Now, nothing really changes. The money that was going to the loan payments has been redirected to save for a downpayment on a house. But in another six months, who knows, everything might change.

FREEEEDOOOOM!

The Weasley Family

Long ago, when we were kids, it was my younger sister’s turn to pick a movie to watch on family night.  The four of us crowded around the old TV in our townhouse basement and ate pizza as we watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Not long after, I got the first four books, all that had been released at that time, and started reading.  Our parents used to pay my sister and I a penny per page for all the books we read.  This helped us learn to love reading, but the arrangement stopped since The Goblet of Fire was so thick.

Over the years I have read through the saga many times.  I pre-ordered books 5, 6, and 7 to ensure I had them in my hands as soon as possible.  Book 6 was released while I was out of the country.  A friend of mine somehow had a copy with her in Jamaica, so I avoided spoilers like the plague.  We have since fallen out, so I can’t look at The Half Blood Prince’s cover art without remembering a lot of drama and tense text messages.

My plan was to re-read them all again for the last time and then donate my hardcover set to someone for whom the magic would still be magical.  I plan on finishing the seventh book tomorrow and now I’m not sure if I can stick with my plan.  For one thing, my name is written in different handwriting inside the covers of 5, 6, and 7.  For another, this was the first story I really loved.  I grew up with Harry Potter.  No longer having these books, in varying states of spine damage, on a bookshelf for the rest of my life wouldn’t feel right.

So we arrive, finally, at the point: The Weasley Family troubles me.

I never wanted to get married, ever since I was a teenager, and I still don’t.  My reasons are ill-defined and wavering, but they are based on the theory that I don’t want to be married.  Long-time readers may remember when I went to a friend’s wedding, their love and joy was so palpable it rocked my worldview.  We can learn something new from every story, no matter how many times we’ve already turned that page.  This time around, the Weasleys have started changing my mind.  I found myself thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have a family.  Maybe it would be great, we’d be like a team.

The Weasleys are giving, just, and brave.  They’re also poor, because they have seven kids.  Even though they live in a rickety house and aren’t well respected by their bureaucratic peers, they seem to have no regrets.  They love and support one another and that’s enough.

Their example, combined with another lesson I heard recently (self sufficiency is the road to poverty) makes me think that there’s a good reason why most people pursue relationships.  It’s a flickering candle in the void where my love should be, but who knows, maybe that’s enough.

The Weasley Family

What Should I Do with My Life?

The question isn’t “What do I want to be when I grow up?” it’s What should I do with my life?  Where do I fit?  What am I here to do, specifically?  I have studied several potential vocations, from minister and graphic designer to microfinance and teaching, but I haven’t found my answer yet.

So the relevant question is not what you will do, but who you will become.  What belief system will you adopt, and what will take on heightened importance in your life?…It takes a while to learn who we are, and for our latent talents to emerge.

I have a natural talent and disposition for administrative work.  My current position involves a lot of paperwork processing and number typing in a claustrophobic back-office.  It’s great.  It’s what I’m good at.  After years of struggling through customer service jobs, it feels nice to do something well.

Three guys laying bricks are asked why they’re doing it.  The first guy says, “I’m doing it for the wages.”  The second guy says, “I’m doing it to support my family.”  The third guy says, “I’m helping to build a cathedral.”

While I am suited for administrative work, my interest lies in building.  I have given this some thought, most of my interests have building and improving as common denominators.  I like writing and editing because I can construct a piece and then make it better.  I want to build a project car.  Something about the step-by-step process of bringing a machine back to life and seeing my vision take form appeals to me.  I might get involved in nonprofit management for the same reasons; to use my administrative abilities to build an organization and improve other’s lives.  I even have some interest in construction and renovation, literally building and improving.

Dream -> Lockbox -> Fuck You money -> Lockbox -> Dream

That cold, calculated formula.  Rarer than I ever imagined…Don’t put your dreams in lockboxes, and don’t invest years of your life in a day job for the wad you expect to have at the end.

I can’t adequately pursue all of my interests, there aren’t enough hours in the day or dollars in the bank.  I have to narrow it down.  Seeing that my various desires share some fundamental characteristics helps me focus.  I can’t build a project car right now because I have to get out of debt, buy a house with a garage, and get a job that pays well enough to afford it first.  However, I can write and edit.  Someday I could volunteer and work for a nonprofit.  Because they share some foundational aspects, I can get similar fulfillment from a combination of my interests.  My drive to build and improve outweighs the specifics.

There is no conclusion, I am still trying to answer this question for myself.  I have a long list of things I don’t want to do.  I have a short list of things I want to do more of.  Hopefully I’ll have an answer in another few years.  I want to contribute in a meaningful way, but I am not yet certain how.

The Brilliant Masses are composed of nothing less than the many great people of our generation, the bright, the talented, the intelligent, the resourceful, and the creative–far too many of whom are operating at quarter-speed, unsure of their place in the world, contributing far too little to the productive engine of modern civilization, still feeling like observers, all feeling like they haven’t come close to living up to their potential…Being guided by the heart is almost never something an intellectually motivated person chooses to do.  It’s something that happens to them–usually something painful.

(Inspiration and quotes for this post are from What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson.  I highly recommend it.)

What Should I Do with My Life?

Great Expectations

I haven’t met my own expectations.  I was supposed to be stronger, better, smarter, instead, I’ve let myself down.  I’ve had entirely too many grand plans and potential life-trajectories disintegrate for one reason or another.

I was going to be an Aeronautical Engineer, until I didn’t like math.  Chef, until I heard about the bad hours.  Army Officer, but I wanted some control over my life.  Marines Officer, but I wanted something long term.  FBI, CIA, Secret Service, but I wasn’t qualified.  I enlisted in the Navy, until I thought it wasn’t the best choice for me.  I was going to teach English in China until I needed twice the pay to cover student loan bills.  Navy Officer, until I remembered why I didn’t join the military before.

Police Officer, but I don’t like cops, so I wouldn’t want to be one.  Programmer, but I can’t code.  Travel Writer, but I have bills to pay.  Auto Technician, but it’s kind-of late for me to go to trade school and start over.  Operations Manager, but I can’t afford another degree.  Photographer, but I never got around to practicing.  Micro-Credit coordinator…which I still might do someday.  Peace Corps, but I’m not well qualified.  Videographer, but I don’t have the necessary expensive equipment. 

I was supposed to have accomplished much more by this point in my life, but I haven’t lived up to my own expectations.  However, I’m still alive, which means there’s still time.  I’ve kept some goals and discarded others.

I’m not disappointed.

[Apr 21 Writing Challenge]

Great Expectations

The Great Blog Hunt

Since I’ve recently returned to WordPress, I’ve started looking for interesting blogs to follow.  Over the last few days, I’ve found a few that look promising, and I look forward to reading more of their work.  Today I waded into some travel sites, which I usually try to avoid.  You see, I want little more right now than to travel the world, see incredible sights, and amass thrilling tales of my exploits.

However, I’ve learned that pining after something I can’t achieve anytime soon, and feeding that hunger with travel journalism, is not the best choice.  I look at the clock hours later, shocked but not surprised that I tumbled down the black hole of researching my theoretical future instead of doing what I can to make it happen.  As much as I appreciate auto photography blogs, if I have no money to build a project car, there’s little I can do with that desire.  As much as I love the vibrant posts of the world-citizen nomads, I still have student loans keeping me here.

I did follow one travel blog though (so far).  They’re posting from Hanoi at the moment, and I was immediately snared.  The writing is amazing.  I’ve never read something and wanted to grab my passport more than when I perused Hanoi is for Fugitives.  I highly recommend The Squeaky Robot, for what my quiet voice is worth.

Do any of you have other blog suggestions?  I’m mostly interested in short fiction and personal posts, since my bank gets nervous whenever I stay on a travel site too long.

The Great Blog Hunt