Monthly Archives: February 2014

All I know now is that it’s okay to not know

I alternately cringe, giggle, smile and hate myself when I think back at all the things I’ve pretended to understand.

There’s the expected, excusable, stuff of course: faking your way through a group presentation on Jane Eyre when you probably only read the first 20 pages and then just listened intently to the group discussion in a desperate attempt to soak up Important Plot Points.*  Or nodding and using your Concentration Face as the professor explains the attachment of the greater anterior somethingoid process, because you know you can just ask the TA in lab on Wednesday and he’ll actually explain it so that it makes sense.

There’s the harmless stuff too: smiling and laughing politely when someone makes a funny that you don’t get – not because it uses an inside joke or another reference with which you’re unfamiliar but because the joke is just dumb, and probably doesn’t actually make sense at all – and the person making the joke is otherwise nice / elderly / in a position to determine your salary / all of the above so you know that it’s best to play along.

Or when someone just assumes you share the same frame of reference. Juanita is great at this. When I was a kid she’d quote something like, say, Mister Roberts to me when I was 4 or 5 and would be genuinely confused when I didn’t get the reference (I think sometimes she forgot that when I was born I didn’t come pre-programmed). So I just learned to play along with it, and then go through her VHS collection later to figure out what the hell she was talking about.**

The “just playing along” bit can get a little murky, though. Smiling and nodding along to pop-culture references you don’t recognize is fine if you see an immediate Out in the conversation: Oh hey I see Charlie over there I need to go say hi! Hi Charlie! Yoo hoo! Over here! Please acknowledge my presence so it looks like you need to speak with me please! Please? Charlie? CHARLIE! For fuck’s sake look at me!

But what do you do if there’s no Charlie? Or that asshat refuses to recognize you – Cheezus it’s like he’s deaf in both ears or something. Then you’re stuck, because the longer you’re engaged (or superficially so, as the case might be), the higher the odds are you’ll be expected to, ya know, participate in the conversation.

As “participating in conversations” is sorta my Achilles’ heel in social situations, this is where 99% of my “problems” originate. For so very long, just saying “I never saw that movie” or “I don’t know who that is” was basically NOT AN OPTION because (I assumed) that’d blow my shot to be part of any conversation. To me, the scenario would play out something like this: I’m in a circle with other people, talking about music. I say “Oh, what’s Digital Underground?” and the group goes silent, gives me the Stink Eye, and turns away from me in unison so they can better discuss The Humpty Dance.

(Note: if they just laugh my ignorance, it’s okay, because then I can play it off like I’m joking too. JUST KIDDING! I love his…their…beats? and use the break in conversation to steer it back to something I know. How ’bout that Smokey Robinson, guys? Motown is the SHIT!).

So… I just became good at playing along. Faking my way through. Giving the appearance of knowing what the hell people are talking about. I mean, it’s not something I needed to do all the time, but when the need came about, I rose to the fucking top of the occasion (Or at least I’d like to think so. Maybe it was too obvious, and my acquaintances too nice, to call me out on my bullshit).

Within the past five years or so, It’s been starting to dawn on me that all of the times I didn’t admit that I had no fucking clue what’s going on were, well, wasted opportunities. Opportunities to learn new things! To find other like-minded people! To just be fucking real, and not a version of myself! All very important shit, I’ve come to realize, because the longer you pretend to know everything, the harder it is to deal when you finally realize you know nothing.

Well, nothing is a bit of a stretch. I actually do know many of the words to The Humpty Dance***


*…in the days before the Internet, y’all (or at least, before it was such a Thing). I cannot even begin to fathom how easy it is for kids to cheat on shit like this now. One reason I’m thankful that I don’t have children: because it’s scary to think it might be possible for them to grow up and be even lazier than I was in school.

**…though would have been hella helpful in these cases. Maybe the Internet’s not so bad after all.

***You totally thought I was going to link to that song, didn’t you? Sorry-not-sorry.

the write stuff.

On the clearest tequila, I can see forever.

I recently found a freakin’ stack of notebooks filled with – for lack of a better descriptive – a buncha shit I’ve wrote.

…part of it reads like the journal some crazy person leaves behind before they take up with a cult and go missing: doodles and half-snippets of half-thoughts that something possessed me to jot down. Sometimes, though, the half-thoughts are clever – I laughed when I read the tequila one, and was even a little impressed. Despite how I got the (original) quote slightly wrong, it’s got a Hawkeye Pierce flavor to it, if I may be so bold.

…part of it is kind of boring. I’ve on-and-off did the “diary” thing, but never stuck with it for too long because shit like “Today I went to the store and bought an avocado because I wanted to try something different” gets a little boring after awhile. And sure, I can jazz it up a little, but my brain never knows where to stop and “jazzing it up” eventually becomes a strenuous mental exercise and by that point it’s become a short story, not a diary entry.

…part of it is silly, and almost embarrassing. Mostly lines of dialogue from characters who’ve lived in my head for years – the transcripts of conversations that once seemed so compelling become flat and trite and downright laughable on paper. Everything is SO. FUCKING. DRAMATIC. Seriously. I could write for a soap opera with this crap. Actually, no. Not even a soap opera. A “reality” show, maybe.

…and part of it ain’t half bad. I found slight promise in the beginning of a story… except I cannot remember ever conjuring up this idea. I read and read, and turned the page and found… nothing. HOW DOES THIS END?!  I thought. Which is funny, because I started the damn thing. But completely lacking any memory of its beginning, I can’t even begin to imagine where I intended it to go. Disappointing. And strange.

All of it, though, was inspiration to write more and without abandon. The stuff I’ve got in these notebooks does not a Pulitzer make. But it is a physical manifestation of the Thing with which so many of my friends and family have associated me for years. So that’s something!

Despite the guts I spill on this site, I’m not usually very wild about the idea of letting other people read things I’ve written until I’ve had the chance to polish it – to death, maybe. But I’m toying with the idea of sharing a teeny bit more here. Mostly for accountability purposes, I guess.

So here goes. Here’s the thing I don’t remember starting. A raw, extremely unpolished scrap of an idea that I don’t recall having in the first place.

*               *              *              *

It all began with a lottery ticket.
Years from now, is that how she’d begin the story? Or would she even have purpose to tell it? Would the whole thing, the last eight-ish months, sort of disappear into a pleasant fuzziness – “Oh I dated this guy once. It just didn’t work out.” Or would the wound stay fresh and festering long after that first (final?) gash had opened up? “That fucker broke up with me over a fucking SCRATCH OFF!” Or would time focus the hindsight, and she’d sighingly recall months and months of gradual apart-drifting with the sort of wisdom only cultivated through time and distance?

Whatever. He was jumping – taking great, swimming leaps, really – much too far ahead of himself. At the present moment, he stood in the hallway of the apartment they shared, and hated her with a frightening, nearly-homicidal, intensity.

Why the hell had they decided to move in together in the first place?

The living room window overlooked a municipal sports complex. The day they toured the property,

*               *              *              *

…aaand that’s it. I didn’t even finish the goddamn sentence before I folded up the paper and stuffed it in a notebook.

Story of my life.

get excited.

I saw this on the internets today:


…and I was all like “holy shit! Yes! That’s it!”*

Except, actually, I initially read an abridged version. What I saw was: “NEVER PLAY IT COOL ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU LIKE SOMETHING.” (Apologies to Mr. Pegg, but I like my shorthand version a little more).

Ooh! Ooh! Actually, here’s an even Cliffs-notes-ier version: GET EXCITED.

That’s got a nice ring to it, eh?

GET EXCITED. Don’t hold back. It’s okay to like things. It’s okay to really like things. It’s okay to feel happy or content or satisfied when you’re doing/watching/thinking about/whatevering things. And if it makes you feel self-conscious, remember: No one really cares. EVERY-DAMN-ONE OF US has got their own thing(s). There should be no shame in your game. GET EXCITED.**





*And knocked someone into a backflip, a la Lucy Van Pelt in this clip.
**Even if you get excited about making a graphic of things you are excited about with the word EXCITED written on it. For instance.

I hear you singin’ in the wire.

This past weekend, a man who worked at my current job (before I was hired) passed away. I never met him, but I spoke to him on the phone a few times because he ended up working for an outfit we contract with.

I’m not necessarily sad, but I am saddened. I’m not trying to be one of those barnacle-people who latch onto tragedy and claim it as their own – Oh! Oh! We were so close! I have so many memories! I’m so sad! Look how sad I am about it! See? See?! – because it’s selfish and ugly and more importantly: I hate those people. That said, though, the things I’m feeling about his death are pretty selfish: reflecting on how I will never hear his voice again, never get the chance to meet him, that sort of thing.

*                    *                    *                    *                    *

I’ve never counted the number of times I dial or answer my phone in an 8+ hr shift, but I’m sure it’s somewhere between “a whole bunch” and “a fuck ton.” And though I try to be pleasant I don’t always give a lot of thought to the exchange. In fact, sometimes I’ll dial out and the person who answers says something like “Hi, Miss Julie, how are you today?” and I’m taken aback because I was in robot-dial-out mode and the thought that I was just about to have a conversation with another human being somehow didn’t even cross my mind.

And that sounds unbelievable, right? Like, what was I expecting?

The answer is nothing; I was not planning on giving anything, so I did not expect anything in return.

Sometimes my tunnel vision is such that I completely lose sight of what I’m even fucking doing. Isn’t that disgusting? Every single time I pick up that phone and dial out it’s my shot to connect. With a person. Like me. Because I’m a person. Speaking with another person. This banal concept is lost on me as I become more overwhelmed or frustrated. And what a shame, really. Because that simple, human, connection is all I need to snap back to reality.

I lose sight of that, and it saddens me when I think of what I’m potentially missing.

*                    *                    *                    *                    *

I’m not going to say I knew him AT ALL. To me, he was just a voice on the other end of the line… but a friendly voice. A nice voice. One of the “how are you doing today?” voices. And that friendly, nice voice was attached to what I’m told was a friendly, nice person. So, yeah, I’m saddened. And my heart breaks for his family and loved ones and for folks who knew him far better – like many of my coworkers.

Rest in peace, sir.